Xbox One not up to the hype

I’m branching out from my usual sports reporting tonight to offer my opinion of Microsoft’s next-generation entertainment system: Xbox One.

I’ve been a loyal fan of Microsoft’s gaming consoles since the original Xbox hit the market. I was wowed by then-ground-breaking graphics that were put to shame just a few years later with the release of Xbox 360.

While the 360 had its problems (I consider myself lucky to still have two, working, WHITE 360s and have never encountered a “red ring of death”) it was infinitely better than Sony’s Playstation 3, which was released almost a year later and never really recovered outside of the niche already carved out by its predecessors.

Suddenly I find myself questioning if I made the right choice staying with Microsoft. I’ve had the Xbox One since Christmas, which has given me plenty of time to test it out.

On the one hand, Xbox finally comes with a built-in Blu-Ray player. The graphics are unbelievably crisp and clean. For those of you thinking, “so what? It’s supposed to be better.” You have no idea. I thought the same thing at first, as did my best friend who has beaten every Halo co-op with me. Then he borrowed my new system to play Call of Duty while I was at work. I came home to him marveling at how clear the screen images were compared to his 360 version.

It’s also nice not having to power up the controller every time you want to do something. I don’t know how many batteries I wasted on the 360 because I wanted to watch a movie and either forgot or was too lazy to turn my controller off after pushing play.

Unfortunately, there is a long list of things I am not happy about.

For starters, the voice control is problematic. I can be sitting right in front of my tv, speaking very clearly, and yet the device cannot understand the basic command of “Xbox, ON.” I don’t like repeating myself when talking with live human beings, so you can imagine how much I must loathe repeating myself to a machine that isn’t listening.

I also don’t like how certain commands MUST begin with “Xbox.” For example, when properly setup to control your TV, you can turn volume up or down with voice commands. However, there is no command to set the volume at a certain level. Each command raises or lowers the volume by one to three points (i.e. from 8 up to 11). To raise or lower it more, the command “Xbox, volume up/down” must be repeated until reaching the desired volume.

Commands must also be precise. You have to say the complete name of any app or game in order to open it. “Assassin’s Creed” is not an acceptable title. You must say, “Xbox, go to Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag.” What’s going to happen as longer titles get released?

My biggest disappointment comes in the fact that Xbox has repeatedly lost connection with my cable box and TV. The only solution when this happens is to power cycle EVERYTHING – the TV, the cable box, and the Xbox. Easy enough with everything plugged into the same power strip, but annoying when it seems like I’m doing it every week.

Last week Microsoft rolled out their first big software update. After getting over the “it’s about time” feeling, I looked forward to several problems being fixed. Unfortunately, a new one has now appeared. One of the few games I have for the new system is Madden 25. Until last week the game worked almost flawlessly. The most noticeable glitch being Tony Gonzalez dropping open passes (obviously a problem with programming). Now attempting to open Madden causes the system to lose picture. The only solution that works? Power cycle the Xbox.

Supposedly the new update includes a battery indicator on the home screen, but if it’s there it’s well hidden.

Lastly, there are very few games or apps available and we’re already four months since launch date. This wouldn’t be a problem if modern consoles were backward compatible. Unfortunately this isn’t the case. That means the most recent Xbox does NOT have Halo, which has been the flag bearer since Xbox was first launched in 2001. A Halo for Xbox One was announced last May at the Xbox Reveal, but a release date has not been confirmed other than “TBA 2014.”

One of my favorite apps on Xbox 360 was HBO Go. Now it is non-existent, meaning I have to rely solely on Netflix for my movies and TV Shows. It’s not bad, except that Netflix isn’t setup very well on Xbox. I mentioned the problems with Xbox voice commands, well Netflix takes the annoyance to the next level. To browse movies without a controller requires repeating “next page” until finding the category or movie you’re looking for. You also cannot search for a movie using voice commands. You have to manually type the movie title in after getting to the page (which can be selected by voice, but only if it’s on the screen and highlighted in green).

Social media is huge these days. Yet Xbox One does not currently have apps for Facebook or Twitter, and with their hesitancy to open up the marketplace for third-party developers it may be awhile before your favorite social networking site is available.

Xbox One may eventually make good on Microsoft’s promise to revolutionize the entertainment experience, but for now it is lacking.

Hornets dominate in season opener

FREMONT, Calif. – It’s a brand new year for Sacramento State hockey, and the Hornets proved that with a 21-3 victory over San Jose State (D-III) at Sharks Ice on Saturday night.

Every Hornet recorded at least one point, led by newcomer Caden Line’s eight (one goal, seven assists) and team captain Matt Quilay’s seven (five goals, two assists). Matt Grindstaff and Casey Curd both recorded hat tricks, and newcomer David Ferguson added a pair of goals.

Ricky Davis, who scored the final goal of the year for Sacramento State last season, opened things up for the Hornets in 2013 just over six minutes in with a shot that at first glance appeared to hit the post. It bounced back over the goal line and the route was on.

Sacramento State took a 7-0 lead in the first period before the Spartans could even get on the board. Zach McKeithan’s initial shot was blocked, but he followed up the rebound and put it behind Hornet goalie Axel Ahrens at 1:50 into the second period.

McKeithan also scored halfway through the third period before things really got out of hand. The Hornets answered his second goal with three of their own in less than two minutes.

Despite having only 11 players, Sacramento State outplayed the Spartans (0-3, 0-2 PCHA) in every aspect of the game. Nowhere was this more evident than on the shot chart. The Hornets put 90 shots on goal compared to just 22 for San Jose State.

Sacramento State continues their season next Saturday at Santa Rosa Junior College.

In Memorium: Taylor Shane Ward

Saturday night I learned of the tragic passing of one of the great lights in the hockey world.

Taylor Ward, 19, from Vacaville, Calif., was injured in a car accident near Pocatello, Idaho. He was rushed to the hospital, where he was placed on life support. He was pronounced dead on Wednesday night.

I will always remember Taylor as the best teammate I’ve ever had. We played together in the Vacaville Adult Hockey League along with his father, Trevor, and his younger brother, Brandon. What set Taylor apart from everyone else was his attitude.

Adult hockey has plenty of people who couldn’t care less about their teammates or the other team. They want to score goals and win games and to hell with the feelings of everyone else. The sad truth for many is that there is a reason we’re in adult hockey. Our skills are not at a level where we can have an attitude.

Taylor had every right to be that player, but even as teenager playing in a league with 30 and 40-somethings (and older) he understood that the game should be fun for everyone on the ice. He went out of his way to make it fun.

He never tried to score 100 goals. He would rather set up a teammate and see the joy on his or her face when they scored. There were a few players, like me during the few seasons we played against each other, that he felt no shame in challenging 1-on-1, but he never took that as an opportunity to embarrass or humiliate. Sometimes he’d even skate up to you after the play and tell you what to do to prevent that from happening.

Taylor always had the brightest smile at the rink. He enjoyed being there and being around his friends and teammates. He loved the game of hockey as much as any person I’ve ever met. But I’ve learned that he loved something else even more.

Taylor was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. This quote appeared on another blog:

“I left home for the first time in my life and even went to a different country to try to fulfill my dream of going and playing in the NHL as a pro. But while I was there The Lord told me that I needed to go back home and go on a mission even though it was only half way through the season. Now a lot of people especially my teammates and coaches from past teams have asked why I would give up on that dream especially when I had a good shot of making it. My answer is because the Lord has called me to do this marvelous work and I dare not miss this glorious opportunity that will allow me to come closer to god and allow others to come closer to him as well.” -Elder Taylor Ward

Taylor wasn’t afraid to give up his dreams to serve others. He wasn’t afraid to listen to that still, small voice calling him to something greater than himself.

In today’s western culture there are so few shining lights who stand out. Taylor was one of them. He was always happy with what he had. He was always willing to work hard to improve himself, and he used his talents to make everyone around him better.

My thoughts and prayers are with the Ward family, and with all who knew Taylor. He will be sorely missed.

American Canyon defeats Wood, 38-22

AMERICAN CANYON, Calif. – The American Canyon Wolves opened their season with a convincing 38-22 win against Will C. Wood Friday night at Wolf Den Stadium.

Led by Jomon Dotson and Gary Cooper, the Wolves racked up over 400 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.

For more on this story, visit NapaValleyRegister.com

NEW ARTICLES!

I’ve updated the SacStateSports.com page with new articles from the last few month of my time there. It was a great experience and I hope everyone who followed us enjoyed the coverage we provided.

New website for photos!

Because I have so many photos and WordPress has a limited amount of storage space, the bulk of my work can be viewed at bryanmetcalf.smugmug.com. You can view galleries of school projects, personal travel photos as well as every image (and there were a lot of them) taken for SacStateSports.com.

I’m constantly looking for ways to make my sites better to help people see what I’ve been doing and to promote my work for professionals. If anyone has any suggestions please share them.

The lockout is over!

In case you’ve been living under a rock, the NHL locked out their players 113 days ago when the previous collective bargaining agreement expired.

Faced with the daunting task of being a symbol of labor stability for the first time in recent memory after 2011 saw lockouts in both the NFL and NBA, followed by the embarrassing saga of the NFL officials lockout this year, the NHL chose to follow their peers into chaos.


Sunday morning, the owners and players struck a tentative agreement that will hopefully have hockey back sometime next week.
Read the full article on JARSports.com

Article updates!

The SacStateSports.com page has been updated to include more recent articles about the Sacramento State men’s basketball team. There’s also a new post about the Sac State women defeating rival UC Davis this afternoon.

I’ve also added a link on the photography page to a photo gallery of the Sac State cheerleaders performing at halftime of a recent men’s basketball game.

Congratulations to Justin-Siena, CIF North Coast Section Champs!

Friday night I braved the cold wind and rain to watch a team I’ve covered for the past three seasons earn their reward. The Justin-Siena Braves finished the football season the way seasons are supposed to end for the Braves: as section champions.

My first year covering my former school was 2010. Justin-Siena entered the season having lost to Fort Bragg in the championship game the year before. Most of that team had graduated.

The team that remained was demolished by almost every opponent they faced. The Braves won one game that year, and were on the wrong end of blowouts most of the season. It was the year that could’ve, would’ve, and should’ve been.

Roddrick Sweeney Jr. missed the first half of the season with an injury. The unanimous team captain returned in week five and rushed for almost 1,000 yards in six games. What would’ve happened those first four games had he been available?

Sweeney was also the victim of a bad call against Redwood. He stretched out his arm to get the ball over the goalline, but the officials ruled it a fumble instead of a touchdown. Redwood took over and never looked back.

I asked the official at halftime what he saw, and his explanation was that he saw the player down on the ground stretch out with the ball and drop it. As Sweeney put his hand back on the ball the Redwood defenders dove on it and recovered it. See the problem?

If Sweeney was on the ground when he reached for the end zone, it’s not a fumble. He is down and the play is over. If he’s on the ground when he touches the ball, the play is dead at that moment. I was standing right beside the official who made the call, and I can tell you he got it wrong because I saw the ball break the plane BEFORE it came loose. Therefore, it should’ve been a touchdown. How different would that game have been?

The 2010 football season will go down as a season of lost opportunities and unfinished business.

That was a rallying cry at the start of 2011. The Braves felt they had cheated themselves out of a chance at redemption and wanted to prove it.

Justin-Siena made the playoffs, but I’m not sure they really learned how to handle adversity during that season. There were times things would go wrong and they would quickly recover, and others they let slip away.

It all culminated with an overtime loss to Willits in the first round of the playoffs. The Braves thought the play was over, but no whistle had been blown. The Wildcats’ runningback kept going into the end zone for the winning score. Justin-Siena was heartbroken.

So for the third year in a row the Braves entered the season with unfinished business. This time, they finished it.

I could not be more proud of these young men. Marcus Armstrong-Brown has gone from struggling sophomore quarterback, to senior standout. Austin Connolly went from being one of the running backs to being THE running back (don’t worry Diano Pachote, you’ll get those carries next year). Brandon Weaver, Stephen Panis, all the seniors on this team have worked so hard for four years. They earned this section championship long before Friday night’s matchup was scheduled.

Congratulations to you all. You’ve made the Justin-Siena family very proud.

Sac State Hockey ends losing streak at 7

VACAVILLE, Calif. – After a disappointing 7-0 loss last weekend to rival UC Davis, the Sacramento State Hornets club hockey team responded with a 2-1 win against the Fresno State Bulldogs Friday night.

The Hornets took advantage of the Bulldogs short bench and kept Fresno State (2-7) on their heels most of the game.

The score was tied at 0 after the first period because of great play from both goaltenders and a lack of shooting from Sacramento State (2-7).

Team captain Anthony Malisaukis broke through in the second period for the Hornets. After seeing his team struggle to get the puck out of their own zone despite minimal pressure from the Bulldogs, Malisaukis chose to take it himself and skated end-to-end and beat netminder Jeffrey Duggan to put Sacramento up 1-0.

Thomas Berriesford made it 2-0 with his first career goal for Sacramento State. An initial shot from the point was deflected in front of the net. Both Berriesford and Bryan Metcalf had chances in the scramble that ensued, but it was Berriesford who ultimately got it by Duggan just inside the right post.

Fresno cut the lead in half a few minutes later, but that was all they would get past Brad LaForce.

The Bulldogs had chances in the final couple minutes, including a powerplay with 34 seconds remaining and their own net empty, but the Hornets penalty killing was just too much for a tired Fresno team.

Sacramento State’s next game is an exhibition game against Cal Saturday afternoon at the Cow Palace in Daly City, Calif.

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