Thursday, August 31, 2006

Geek Fest -- & FREE STUFF -- coming to CPCC next week

CPCC's third annual Geek Fest kicks off Wednesday, Sept. 6, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at CPCC's Levine Campus in Matthews.

The school says the festival will feature "cutting-edge industry, media, gadgets, hardware, software, services, innovations, education," plus vendor demonstrations, guest speakers, webcasts, video game tournaments, music, contests.

The school says, most importantly, there will be lots of FREE STUFF.

Student-focused content and activities run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Professional focused content and activities will be from 1-4 p.m.

At 1 p.m., keynote speaker Dr. Mark Benno, Education Development Executive with Apple Computer, will address the topic, “The Digital Age: Teaching and Learning for Tomorrow Today.” Benno will discuss skills students need in today’s digital workplace.

Of course, there'll be plenty of information on CPCC programs that can help the "regular people" learn more about technology, including automotive technology, music, computer programming, simulation and game development, engineering, eLearning, and more.

Participants can register to win big prizes including three Apple iPods, two Macromedia Adobe Studio 8 programs, games and software, gift certificates, free CPCC corporate and continuing education courses, shirts, gaming competitions and more.


-- Aquaman has joined the characters on the upcoming Justice League Heroes video game. He joins Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, Zatanna and the previously announced unlockable Green Arrow. JLH will arrive in Fall 2006 for the PS2, Xbox, PSP, GBA and DS.

Aquaman will aid his fellow Justice Leaguers in the fight to stop Brainiac and his evil forces, including Killer Frost and The Key, and restore peace to the world.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Ready, set, go: Create games

Microsoft has released the first public beta of its XNA Game Studio Express I told you about yesterday.

The software allows anyone to create videogames for XBox 360 and the Windows PC environments.

Novice game creators can download the tool today at no charge. The games built on Windows PCs can be migrated to the Xbox 360 console system starting this holiday season as part of the XNA Creators Club subscription for $99 a year, or a four-month trial cost of $49, opening up retail console game development to anyone for the first time.

Already, more than 100 schools have requested information on how they can incorporate XNA Game Studio Express into their curricula, including Southern Methodist University’s Guildhall and the University of Southern California’s GamePipe, Microsoft announced additional support from DigiPen Institute of Technology in Redmond, Washington, a leader in the field of digital interactive entertainment education.

Through its ProjectFUN software running on XNA Game Studio Express and summer workshops starting in 2007, DigiPen will bring Xbox 360 console game development for the first time ever to thousands of children ages 10 through 16.

“XNA Game Studio Express is an incredibly accessible tool for making games for Microsoft’s game platforms and will provide our university students with modern tools and console development experience,” said Claude Comair, founder and chairman of the board at DigiPen Institute of Technology. “And now with our ProjectFun for XNA Game Studio Express, we’re eager to extend our educational offerings on Windows and Xbox 360 to include young children.”

The final version of XNA Game Studio Express launches in time for Christmas with a professional version launching in spring 2007.

-- Ubisoft has announced release of Brothers In Arms D-Day, a World War II squad-based action game developed specifically for the PSP system. Players will experience the intensity of WWII through the stories of Sergeants Baker and Hartsock and their squad of paratroopers during the Normandy invasion.

-- Gamer’s Gate announced release of Bad day L.A, a cinematic satire that plays off the “fear culture” of modern America by plunging players into a storyline where the city of Los Angeles is barraged with disasters. The game combines comedy, chaos management gameplay, a unique art style created by Kozyndan, an over-the-top ironic story and a cast of characters that find themselves in goofy, often surreal missions.

-- Capcom's Dead Rising, the company’s first game for Xbox 360, has shipped more than 500,000 units within the first two weeks of its launch. Dead Rising is an M-rated, action horror game that follows the harrowing tale of Frank West, an overly zealous freelance photojournalist in pursuit of the story of a lifetime. What he finds is a small suburban town completely overrun by zombies. He seeks refuge in the local shopping mall, but soon learns it is far from the safe haven he had thought.

-- Konami has shipped Bomberman: Act Zero for the Xbox 360. In the game, players are challenged to survive through 99 stages as they try to escape an experimental underground facility and destroy their opponents to fight for survival in a terrifying industrial future. Zero features a breakthrough “FPB” (First Person Bomber) mode that gives players complete control over the camera, allowing for a tight over the shoulder view of the action or a birds-eye perspective of the entire battlefield.

-- The latest official Oblivion plug-in, Spell Tomes, will be available for download on Xbox Live and at Thursday.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Want to design videogames for Microsoft?

You've been around the pool, at the mall, or in your best friend's living room -- spanking him in Halo -- and you've thought, "I can design a game this good."

I know you have, or at least some of you have (judging from my emails).

Now, Microsoft has created a way for you to create your own XBox 360 or PC titles with its new XNA Game Studio Express. The company says it will "democratize game development by delivering the necessary tools to hobbyists, students, indie developers and studios alike to help them bring their creative game ideas to life while nurturing game development talent, collaboration and sharing that will benefit the entire industry."

Sounds interesting.

The development tools drop in time for Christmas and will be free to anyone with a Windows-based PC.

By joining a "creators club" for an annual subscription fee of $99, users will be able to build, test and share 360 games and download materials to speed up the development process.

The XNA Game Studio Express beta will be available Aug. 30 as a free download on Windows XP, for development on the Windows XP platform.

Of course, there's always the chance that you'll create the next big thing and your title will be bought by Microsoft. I think it's a good move that -- like American Idol -- may deliver some new stars from unexpected places. Better yet, it may give us the groundbreaking games we've craved as well as present some new ideas to make current games better.

-- Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson is the cover boy for EA Sports' upcoming NFL Street 3, due in November.

“This is a big honor to be selected for the cover since street football was the first step to learning our moves for our pro careers,” said Johnson, now sporting a blonde mohawk. “I really like this game and it is so much fun to play with all the new airborne moves you can do now.”

Johnson, a member of the Bengals since 2001, is widely regarded as one of NFL’s elite wideouts, leading the AFC in receptions and receiving yards in 2005-06 and has earned three straight Pro Bowl selections.

In the new game, players can now jump into the air to collect items and game modifiers that exist above the playing field which can change the way the game is played. Once airborne, players can pull off style moves that rack up even more points. Also new to the game is the ability to control the Gamebreakers and pull off extreme power moves that are available to both the offense and the defense.

-- The technology Paris Hilton used to instantly upload her video to YouTube is called ShoZu. ShoZu has given various Warner Brothers artists ShoZu enabled cell phones that instantly upload pictures and video to a wide assortment of photo sharing and viral video sites.

No longer is there a time delay and need to upload content from a PC, with ShoZu it is done straight from the phone with the click of a single button. The technology also lets the user add comments, tags and will notify them once somebody posts comments on the website creating a totally interactive experience strait from the cell phone.

-- DISH Network subs will have on-demand access to Warner Bros. current and catalog titles on the satellite net's video on demand service and its pay-per-view services, including HD.

DISH Network's On Demand service gives customers the power to enjoy movies and other programs whenever they want and is currently available on the DISH Player-DVR 508, DISH Player-DVR 510, DISH Player-DVR 625 and ViP622 DVR receivers.

"Warner Bros. is a great addition to both DISH On Demand and Pay-Per-View," said Susan Arnold, vice president of Programming for EchoStar. "Hit movies such as "V for Vendetta" greatly enhance the variety of movie titles available to our customers."

-- In the Xbox Live marketplace this week, you can play a demo of the new Madden game. You play 1 minute quarters, Pittsburgh against Seattle.

-- Electronic Arts selected the Dallas Mavericks’ Dirk Nowitzki, Memphis Grizzlies’ Pau Gasol, San Antonio Spurs’ Tony Parker and Phoenix Suns’ Boris Diaw to join the Houston Rockets’ Tracy McGrady on the NBA LIVE 07 All-Star team as worldwide cover athletes and spokespersons.

Scheduled for release September 25, NBA LIVE 07 introduces a new, more intuitive AI system, advancements to fan-favorite features like All-Star Weekend and Dynasty Mode, and for the first time ESPN Motion and streaming ESPN radio podcasts.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Nintendo ready to tangle with Sony, Microsoft?

With all the attention being heaped on Sony's upcoming PS3 and Microsoft's excellent XBox 360, I still have a feeling that the biggest winner from the upcoming console wars could be Nintendo.

I don't think the Mario Company is going to topple the big two in sales, but I think it's going to create its strongest niche market yet, harkening back the days of its original console machines.

And in the hand-held market, Nintendo continues to thrive. Last week, the two millionth unique player logged onto the company's wireless gaming service. Nintendo issued a press release claiming that the population of its Wi-Fi Connection now surpasses the population of 15 U.S. states, including Montana, Nebraska and New Mexico.

In just nine months, more than 70 million game connections have een made.

Star Fox Command: One of my favorite Nintendo console games ever looks great on the handheld DS, where you play again as Fox McCloud -- leader of an elite team of space pilots.

Star Fox is now Wi-Fi enabled, so you can play up to five players over local wireless connections or take on three players around the world via Nintendo's Wi-Fi service.

But it's also cool to play the computer, using the DS touch screen to drop bombs, steer your plane and even rubbing the screen to send your craft into a barrel roll. The creativity allowed by the screen, at least in the console and handheld world, is unparalleled.

Overall, the game's cool, too (Rating: 3.5/5)

-- PNY Technologies has released three new Verto GeForce graphics cards, which are built to support the upcoming Microsoft Windows Vista. These cards will allow gamers to run the latest releases at the highest resolution settings on PCs.

"Video card buyers demand the highest quality graphics they can afford based on their PC's hardware requirements and primary applications," said Nicholas Mauro, senior marketing manager for PNY Technologies consumer graphics cards and memory. "For instance, all cards that feature Microsoft DirectX 9.0 will allow users to take their Vista operating experience to the next level. The recent additions to our Verto graphics card lineup support DirectX 9.0 and provide users with the flexibility to enjoy the latest HD gaming and video applications without sacrificing dollars for performance."

A little about each card:

• Verto GeForce 7600 GS AGP 8X – Features high-definition, home-theater quality video via an AGP platform. The card includes a 512MB frame buffer, 400 MHz core clock, 128-bit memory interface as well as a DVI-to-VGA adapter, S-Video Cable and HDTV Break-Out Pod. MSRP $199
• Verto GeForce 7600 GS PCIe – Equipped with 512MB of frame buffer memory and NVIDIA SLI ready, users will enjoy increased bandwidth and up to 2x the performance of a single GPU configuration. By allowing two graphics cards to run in parallel, SLI dramatically scales performance on today's hottest games. MSRP $199
• Verto GeForce 7300 GT PCIe – Users will enjoy home-theatre quality video with the 7300 GT's 256MB frame buffer, 350MHZ core clock, 128-bit memory interface as well as a DVI-to-VGA adapter, S-Video Cable and HDTV Break-Out Pod. MSRP $149

-- Want to take your Hi-Def movies with you? Toshiba’s new Qosmio G35-AV660 laptop can do that. It's got an Intel Core 2 Duo Processor, an enhanced version of its industry-leading digital entertainment notebook PC with HD DVD-ROM drive.

The increased processing power also enhances the standard capabilities of Toshiba’s Qosmio notebook line, such as viewing live TV from a cable or satellite feed with an integrated TV tuner, recording and pausing live TV or recording future programs through a digital video recorder (DVR), managing or playing video or audio files, or multi-tasking with other applications. In addition, the Qosmio G35-AV660 incorporates two 5400 RPM serial ATA 120GB hard drives for storage of TV programs, music and other files as well as 2048MB DDR2 memory.

Bottom line? It'll blow your desktop out of the water.

-- Time Warner Cable in Charlotte has debuted "Carolina On Demand," a new on-demand channel that produces its customers free, on-demand content from News 14 Carolina on Channel 814.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Nintendo selling eight games per minute?

The PSP is cool and all, but Nintendo's new DS Lite is the coolest hand held game you can buy right now.

On Sept. 13, Nintendo will add two new colors, Onyx and Coral Pink, to the roster, to go with the sweet Polar White, the one I am playing as am I writing this blog.

The smaller and lighter DS Lite fits into little hands perfectly (just ask my 6-year-old son who won't put it down) and it's helping Nintendo do some crazy sales figures. New Super Mario Bros has hit the 1 million sales mark in three months in the U.S. Nintendo claims that's eight games sold each minute since launch.

Overall, DS system and game sales are both up more than 300 percent in July alone.

"Not only are the DS Lite screen and battery life incredible," says George Harrison, Nintendo of America's senior vice president of marketing and corporate communications. "But the new colors just add another element of fun, allowing people to 'personalize' who they are by the color, or colors they pick."

Other hot DS games are Animal Crossing(R): Wild World (800,000--plus sold), Brain Age(TM): Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day (4 million units plus worldwide) and Big Brain Academy (nearly 2 million sold to date worldwide).


-- 2K announced that Seth MacFarlane, creator and producer of the popular hit television series Family Guy, along with the rest of the cartoon's main cast, will voice characters in the first official Family Guy video game, which is scheduled to ship this fall.

-- By the time Microsoft Windows Vista operating system is launched in early 2007, an impressive lineup of titles will be available for gamers looking to get next-generation features, including quicker installations and increased platform stability. Vista will feature DirectX 10, which, combined with hardware provided by graphics processor creators, will result in the most graphically intense games experiences ever seen in a computer or video game.

LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy (LucasArts) is the sequel to the best-selling “LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game,” combining the fun and endless customization ability of the LEGO play pattern with the epic story, characters and action from the revolutionary “Star Wars.”

Zoo Tycoon 2: Marine Mania (Microsoft Game Studios), the latest expansion pack for the award-winning “Zoo Tycoon 2” franchise, allows gamers to turn their dream zoo into an aquatic extravaganza with 20 new marine animals and the ability to create extraordinary aquatic shows.

-- Xbox 360 will be the only place players can experience the next generation of soccer games this holiday. FIFA 07 from Electronic Arts will take you to the pitch with an all-new soccer engine and online technology allowing you to play with and follow your favorite teams from around the world. Also, Konami will bring Pro Evolution Soccer 6 to Xbox 360, which will have gamers controlling their favorite teams in matches spanning the globe.

-- Guild Wars Nightfall, the next game in the award-winning and critically-acclaimed Guild Wars franchise, will be available in stores worldwide October 27. In the new game, players must fight to hold back the night as a mad ruler attempts to free an outcast god and bring darkness to the continent of Elona. But players won't fight alone.

Guild Wars Nightfall introduces new customizable Heroes who level up, follow player instructions in combat, and use skills and equipment of the player's choosing.

A special Collector's Edition will include the Guild Wars Nightfall game as well as a Making of Guild Wars Nightfall behind-the-scenes DVD, a collector's art book, collectible skill pins, a character mini-standee, a poster-sized map of Elona, the Guild Wars Nightfall soundtrack CD, and more.

-- SEGA's Virtua Tennis 3 will allow you to challenge top women's players as well as men's. You can now choose to play best-of-5 set matches.

Virtua Tennis 3 will be available in spring 2007 on the Xbox 360, PS3 and PSP. Players on the game include 2006 Wimbledon Champion Amelie Mauresmo, Maria Sharapova, Venus Williams, and Martina Hingis. Nicole Vaidisova, Lindsay Davenport, and Daniela Hantuchova.

Male stars include four time Wimbledon Champion Roger Federer, as well as Rafael Nadal, James Blake, Andy Roddick, Tim Henman, Lleyton Hewitt, David Nalbandian, Sebastien Grosjean, Juan Carlos Ferrero, and Tommy Haas.

Monday, August 21, 2006

This time, Madden is worth the wait

Let's take care of this right off the bat. Madden '07, for the XBox 360 is the greatest video football game ever created. It's better than any previous Madden. It kills the first Xbox 360 version, released hurridly last season, and it stomps on NFL 2K5 and any other video football game you played.

It's does everything well. My only quip: No John Madden or Al Michaels in the game, again. This is probably due to the fact that Madden's partner wasn't named during much of the design of the game (remember, work begins on the new title pretty much as soon as the current one releases).

So next year, I'm expecting to see Michaels, Madden and the entire NBC feel integrated into the game -- plus the pre-, halftime and postgame shows featuring the new roster of NBC talent, or the kind of things that are present on a two-year-old game from 2K Sports, NFL 2K5 for PS2 and the original XBox.

That said, there are tons of new features on Madden 07, including the ability to control your lead blocker to open a hole for you. This is a complex operation that took awhile to master. But once you do, it opens up new doors.

In Franchise mode, you can scout college prospects and real plays from your favorite teams' defensive playbook are used.

The all-new highlight stick allows you to make moves that real players would make, that are specific to the type player you're controlling, i.e., a 300-pound defensive tackle is not going to dyke a 200-pound DB with a spin move.

On PS2, you can transfer an entire season in Franchise mode to your PSP system and take it with you.

You have the ability to create a player, take him through tryouts, hire an agent, do interviews and get drafted. Then you can control only that player during games. It's a neat feature to mess around with every once in awhile, but it didn't hook me.

What hooked me, on Xbox 360, was how beautiful everything was. This is one of the best looking videogames, of any genre, I've ever seen. You may remember how the first 360 Madden was rather cartoonish, as the new NCAA game can be at times.

This one looks so much better. It plays faster. Control is better. Animations are improved. I didn't see any players running through each other. I saw video Dan Morgan leaping over video Daunte Culpepper after video Julius Peppers had twirled Culpepper around in a realistic 360 degree tackle, slamming him hard to the ground.

Realism is way up and so is the fun factor. It's not hard to start playing this at 10 p.m. and forget what you're doing, and suddenly it's 3:30 a.m. on a worknight and you've got to get up in three hours.

Online play is fast and smooth with 360. I experienced zero lag times (though I did notice players fatigued very slowly online as compared to the real life type fatique in head-to-head or me vs. the computer).

There are a lot of people who complain about this game saying EA only updates the rosters each year. To an extent they are right. This is essentially the same game engine we've played on for years. But I think it's a smart move. People know how to play this immediately. They know what to expect.

And EA's plan seems to work. This game made $250 million last year and has earned about $1.5 billion since being introduced in 1989. Essentially, this is EA releasing a "Spider Man" or "Pirates" movie every summer.

There's been plenty enough tweaks to satisfy the hard-core gamer. Ultimately for me, I want the Madden experience to be as close to watching an NFL game as possible. The gameplay is about there right now. We need announcers and highlight shows to really take us to the next level, and I want the fans involved even more. Have them chant "DE-FENSE" at home when the home team needs a stop, boo poor play or get loud at the right times.

These new crowds are eons better than what we've seen in the past, but they mostly bounce up and down.

It's about the only thing I would change. But it'll have me waiting for next year. And right now, things are pretty sweet (grade: A).

Coaches Corner

Every year, West Charlotte High football coach Pete Gilchrist, the biggest Madden-head I know, offers his expert opinion of the new game. I gave him the Xbox version two weeks ago and let him have at it.

His thoughts:

"This game is made for all levels of Madden players. The "AI" is set up to take away the go-to plays -- used by those players who find one play and run it over and over -- and for the more experienced player the "A.I" defensive response is on the money with the defenses you call.

"The game checks are set up to help you change responsibiltys within a certain defense easier. The QB vision is still a part of this game (which I hate) but after a year of this unwanted feature it is not as distracting. The plays are more realistic: precision passing is a big, welcome return to the game. The juke moves were hard to work, mainly because I'm used to the PS2 controller.

"All in all, I would give this game a B+ , mainly because the QB Vision feature is a drawback. One suggestion? Allow the Vision to improve or falter as the season goes on depending how the season is going for that QB."

Madden Challenge Starts Sept. 1

Think you're a great Madden-ite? The 2006 Madden Challenge, the only official EA tournament, kicks off Sept. 1 to try to find the best Madden player going.

This year, the tournament expands from North America to Mexico, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany and Hong Kong.

The winners from 26 US cities and five international tournaments move to the finals, held during the Pro Bowl week in Hawaii in February. The winner pockets a check for $100,000. The regional winners each pocket $1,000.

The challenge will be played on Xbox and Xbox 360. It hits Charlotte Oct. 28 at Concord Mills.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Madden about to get some competition?

It appears that the folks from 2KSports are planning to launch a new professional football game, based on a fictional league called the PFL.

As you recall EA Sports, owners of the Madden franchise, signed an exclusive rights agreement with the NFL so that it would be the only company licensed to use NFL players, logos and stadiums in its games.

It essentially wiped out the competition.

Now 2K, which was nipping at Madden's heels with its excellent 2K series of NFL titles, is apparently planning to get back into the game with teams like the Miami Hammerheads, Pittsburgh Iron Men and New Orleans Soul.

Now we know the folks at 2K make an excellent sports game. In many ways their NFL games, when fully licensed, were a more immersive experience than Madden titles, and 2K's NBA line is clearly better than what we've seen on NBA Live lately.

But will gamers play with fake teams in fake stadiums? We know they're willing, to a degree, to have fake names, as we've witnessed from college games. And true gamers know who No. 89 from the Panthers is or who No. 12 for New England is.

This might get interesting. All that said, I'm not allowed to release my official review of Madden '07 until Aug. 22, but after first blush, the game is the best Madden ever, so 2K7 or 2K8, which I'm hoping comes out, will have to be on point. I think competition makes everybody better.

Sudoku Gridmaster: Dude, I love puzzle games, especially this mindless game which has you arrange numbers in order. It's like Seinfeld, a game about nothing. Like Seinfeld was (at least to some people; I never saw a single episode), it's terribly addicting.

Do a google search on Sudoku and you'll find hundreds of games to play on your PC. You can find them in papers and paperbacks to play on the road. Played on the Nintendo DS with this game, you don't need a pen and paper anymore and you don't need to sit at your computer table, either.

There's four difficulty settings and hints (really cheats) plus more than 400 Sudoku puzzles to keep you busy. I am enjoying this one. Mindlessly (Rating: 3.5/5)

Barnyard: This is based on an upcoming movie that I'd heard nothing about and it is really one of those life-based games where you just walk around and talk to people, or in this case animals. You solve a few puzzles and check out your 'hood, sometimes on a bike.

I wanted more action, and the worst news of all, my 6-year-old son, Trey, didn't go for it, either. His response after five minutes? "Dad, where Tiger Woods?" (Rating: 1.5/5)

Magnetica: Kind of like pinball for your Nintendo DS. You use the little stylus thingy on the DS to deal with this game, called Puzz Loop, in the arcade.

Your mission is to fire marbles at each other and make them blow up, while not letting the chain reach the end of the line.

This is one of those games I usually play while I'm waiting for my barber, Bernard Monroe, to call me to The Chair. I got so into this thing, beeping and buzzing and exploding, I almost lost my turn. It moves fast and sucks you in. It's one of those, "I can't believe I'm into this but I am" type of titles. Give it a shot (Rating: 3/5).

Dead Rising: Now, this is a great looking title on the X-360 system. You play as a freelance photographer chasing a big story. He lands in a sleepy town only to find out it's Zombie-ville. OK you've heard this before.

What's cool is you find safe haven in a shopping mall and have to try your hardest to keep the bad guys out of South Park and figure out how all of this started. The zombies are truly gruesome looking and just about anything you see in the game can be used as a weapon. We're talking lights, poles, books.

Time is key. Zombies are stronger -- and faster -- at night. Time moves on even if your character is at rest. Inside the mall, you'll find a variety of stores with a variety of weapons to help you stay alive. You'll also find some other survivors who may help you out.

The time tool used here is really cool. You have a set time to solve the mystery and if you're not careful you'll miss key plot developments. Oh, and you got to eat, too, to replinish your strength (rating: 4.0/5).

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Working out at home or in the gym? What do you say?

This year, I made a resolution to try to get back in shape. I bought some size 38 pants in the fall, and I took a picture with wifey over Christmas and my face was, well, a bit more rounded than in some I remembered.

I have been a member of the YMCA since 1988 and used to play basketball in the Dowd location like a demon. I met a lot of lifelong friends there, but after breaking my wrist badly in '95 -- trying to dunk a rebound -- I gave up hoopin' and hoopin' pretty much was my only exercise.

So I slowly gained weight because I ate the same. Finally I decided to do something after seeing that picture over Christmas.

Getting to the YMCA was going to be hard because I have two kids and a full time job that has me running all times of the day and night. I went to the YMCA and met with a trainer and got a workout regimen even though I knew it would be hard to follow.

I figured I'd better try working out at home. We have had a treadmill here for a number of years (one of my previous failed experiments), so I dusted it off and began using it. I found, for me, it was much easier to hop on, turn on "Golf Central" and go, any time I felt. Didn't have to get dressed or drive to the gym.

As it turns out, the people from EFI Sports Medicine recently sent me a Total Gym to test. It's much better than the cheapy version you'd buy at Dick's and better than the one you see Chuck Norris advertise on television, too. She's not cheap, at about $2,400, but EFI offers several payment plan options that make it cheaper than buying a gym membership in some cases.

And let me tell you, Total Gym works. I get just as much "burn" as I do on the YMCA machines and I don't have to wait in line to use them, so I get a consistent cardio workout too.

I asked two friends -- one who works out regularly and one who has never worked out -- to come by and test out the Total Gym with me. I'll be reporting the results here over the next few weeks. And, if you have home exercise equipment or prefer working at the gym, I'd love to read your comments here.


-- iH7 has a couple interesting back to school products. One is an iPod alarm clock with dual speakers. So instead of waking up to your favorite radio DJ or some music you hate, you can wake up to music you love (and your parents hate). Plus, with the great speaker array, it'll sound better than any clock radio you ever tried.

The other gadget is iH31 boom box. Yes, it's a boom box for your iPod. I remember my first cool boombox. Used eight C batteries, which would last for about two hours.

I took mine to West Charlotte High, pumping some sweet go-go ("Drop The Bomb") and had everyone rocking -- until I ran into the assistant principal. He confiscated my box on a day when we were having an outdoor festival and I was going to be sure to have all the cute girls around me, plus that upperclass junior cheerleader I liked so much.

Monday, August 07, 2006

New twist on NFL Fantasy Football & Proof Women Play Games, too

You like Fantasy Football leagues? Well, CBS Sportsline has a regular league but is adding a new one this season, "Head's Up Fantasy Football," that allows users to challenge players, whether they are fellow league members, other friends or even total strangers to a head-to-head game of Fantasy Football on a weekly basis throughout the regular season and all the way up to the Super Bowl.

In Heads Up, the pool of draftable players consists of NFL teams participating in either the early or late Sunday games. From these pools, participants in the Heads Up game will hold a draft along with their opponent where each selects a starting quarterback, two running backs, two wide receivers, a tight end, a kicker and a team defense along with three reserves.

Participants conduct add/drops as well as activate and reserve players while live games are played. Changes are reflected in the following quarter of action.

Heads Up Fantasy Football launches August 31st and is free of charge.


-- Capcom's Street Fighter II Hyper Fighting, the company’s first title for Xbox Live Arcade is doing big business on Xbox Live. Since debuting Aug. 2, it's become the fastest selling Xbox Live Arcade title to date with hundreds of matches being played every hour.

-- In the tradition of myspace, is a social networking site, a virtual community giving users an online getaway. You can interact with others through text, voice chat and compete in games like paintball, get in an online fashion show or card games. Basic membership is free!

-- Soccer fans rejoice. FIFA 07 is coming Oct. 3 to North America.

All the top leagues are including, including MLS and 26 other leagues from 20 other nations. This year, Electronic Arts has added Interactive Leagues, a new online mode that enables you to pit your club against supporters of your real-world opponents.

The online interactive leagues feature the F.A. Premier League, Bundesliga, French League and the Mexican 1st Division. This allows games to play according to the real-world schedule. When they play, you play.

-- From the "you never would guess" files:

Thirty-eight percent of all game players are women. Women over the age of 18 represent a significantly greater portion of the game-playing population (30%) than boys age 17 or younger (23%) according to the Entertainment and Software Association.

Thirty-five percent of American parents say they play computer and video games . Further, 80 percent of gamer parents say they play video games with their kids. Sixty-six percent feel that playing games has brought their families closer together.

On a similar note, women make up 59 percent of all consumers who play games on cell phones , according to Parks Associates, a research firm. And they drive more than 60 percent of the revenue in almost every genre of mobile games, according to research firm Telephia Inc. Women play cell phone games because they are easy to pick up and play and are not time intensive. That is exactly the types of games Nintendo is launching under their Touch Generations brand like Brain Age, Big Brain Academy and Nintendogs, a game where you raise and train these realistic and very visual puppies.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

John Madden on his famous game

John Madden says his famous football videogame was never planned.

"I went from a player to a coach to a broadcaster and along the way the video game thing happened," he said. "We started the video game thing before they even had video games. It was going to be a computer game and more like a teaching tool but then all the hardware for video games broke out and we already had the software."

Madden says he always has to laugh at how he's recognized nowadays.

"The people that were around when I was coaching have known me as a coach," he said. "I'm known as a broadcaster from people who have been watching television, and I'm known as 'Madden' [to the gamers]. That's how I am always able to know the difference. Some call me 'coach,' and there is a group that says, 'Hey Madden.' When I get the 'Hey Madden,' it's the group that plays the video games."

-- The World's First Internet age and ID verification system for kids is launching Wednesday, Aug. 2. The developers claim it will help prevent Internet "grooming" and make social networking and communication online safer.

A British company is developing the technology --
a virtual ID card that can be swapped online. More info as I get it.

-- SEGA announced Total War: Eras has shipped for the PC. Total War: Eras includes every currently available Total War title and also delivers limited edition content including "The Total War Story", a 40-minute documentary detailing the past, present, and future of the Total War series, exclusive preview material for the upcoming Medieval II: Total War, an art booklet detailing the creation and evolution of the Total War series, a collectable poster for Medieval II: Total War, and five art cards spanning the entire Total War franchise.

Rated "T" for Teen by the Entertainment Software Review Board, Medieval II: Total War for the PC is available at retailers nationwide for an MSRP of $59.95.

-- SEGA also released Super Monkey Ball Adventure for the PS2 and GameCube. Super Monkey Ball Adventure is an all-new platform-based journey through five amazing worlds filled with puzzles and quests.

Super Monkey Ball Adventure is the first platform adventure for AiAi and an all-new cast of monkey friends. The story begins when Prince Abe-abe and Princess DeeDee of opposing kingdoms fall in love but are forbidden from marrying. Rated "E" for Everyone by the Entertainment Software Review Board, Super Monkey Ball Adventure for the PlayStation 2 and GameCube is available at retailers nationwide for an MSRP of $39.95.

-- EA’s boutique studio in Montreal will be releasing a new third person shooter called Army Of Two for PS3 and Xbox 360 next year. Whether playing online or with the game's "parnter AI'' (artificial intelligence), the game focuses on two man play.

On or offline, players can seamlessly transition from AI to a live partner as they fight their way through war, turmoil and a conspiracy so vast it threatens the entire world. When one man is not enough, it’s going to take an army of two to save us.