Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Virtual Rock Bands and new "Halo" maps

Videogaming is getting so cool and sophisticated these days. If you're old enough to remember Pong or playing hand-held football games where "players" were represented by a half-inch "line" on the screen, this new wave of technology is amazing.

Now, thanks to Harmonix, who created the Guitar Hero franchise, gamers can play Rock Band, a kind of American Idol for your Xbox. Electronic Arts will handle distribution.

With the new title, you can perform music from the world's biggest rock bands along with friends. You form a virtual group using drum, bass/lead guitar and microphone peripherals. You can play online as well.

Music publishers like EMI and Warner/Chappell are allowing access to their catalogs of incredible songs for use in Rock Band.

The record labels -- EMI Music, Hollywood Records, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Universal Music Enterprises and Rhino Entertainment -- have agreed to supply master recordings by their artists.

“Our vision for Rock Band is to completely change the way people interact with and enjoy the music they love,” said Jeff Yapp, EVP, MTV Program Enterprises. “We are striving to create a groundbreaking new platform that allows people to connect with their favorite music and artists in ways they never have before.”

Look for Rock Band this holiday season on Xbox 360 and PS3.

Microsoft Drops New Halo2 Maps

Microsoft Game Studios and Bungie Studios have released two new downloadable maps for Halo 2. The maps will be available as premium downloadable content for Xbox and Xbox 360 on April 17.

The two maps will bring new life to ancient battlefields and legendary skirmishes, as both are new, improved and redesigned remakes of fan favorites from the original Halo: Combat Evolved.

The maps are $4.

News N Notes:

-- Ubisoft and Gearbox Software are working on Nintendo DS and Wii versions of their critically acclaimed Brothers In Arms franchise. The games will release later this year.

-- A company called Video Games Live has a touring show that presents an evening of video game music performed by an orchestra.

-- Microsoft has announced plans for a new Xbox 360 (Elite) but also has distribution deals with five video Marketplace partners for its Xbox Live service that will have more than 300 games before the end of the year. The service, Microsoft says, has more than six million members.

Look for titles from Warner Bros. (Sublime, Babylon 5: The Lost Tales), A&E Network (Japanese animation) and National Geographic, among others.

-- Microsoft is sponsoring a Gears Of War contest where the winners get a free trip to Praque. Visit for details

-- WILL Interactive, in conjunction with the Washington Hospital Center has created a new serious game called Anatomy of Care to train its staff. The simulation game is designed to tackle the human dimension of healthcare, addressing soft issues such as compassion and understanding, and the human connection during a patient’s hospital stay.

Players choose one of five characters to role-play (doctor, nurse, clerical worker, patient transporter and environmental service worker) at a fictional metropolitan hospital. Learners are presented with stressful slice-of-life scenarios in which they must make tough decisions and live out the consequences of their actions.

Successful navigation of the interactive movie requires honest compassion, sensitive interpersonal dealings, and clarity of values. The goal of the simulation training is to improve the behavior of hospital employees. 'Anatomy of Care' allows users to play out difficult situations in the safety of cyberspace before they live them out in real life with real people.

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