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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Links for all game stories and feature articles from the 2011-2012 Sacramento State men’s basketball season are now available on the SacStateSports.com page.
I’ve also posted links for the articles we have so far this season, and I’ll do my best to continue to update the archives throughout the year.
What I won’t post here are non-basketball articles or game previews. You’ll have to follow the SacStateSports.com site for that.
I’m proud to say that I am now an official contributor to the website Jarsports.com. My first article, a look at the top five off-season winners in the NHL’s eastern conference, has already been posted. The link for the site is listed in the blog roll on the right-hand side of the page. Take a moment and check it out.
The Justin-Siena Braves improved to 3-0 with a rout of Piner Friday night at Dodd Stadium in Napa, Calif.
A link to my article has been posted on the “Justin-Siena football 2012” page.
The Braves had to battle not only the other team, but the officials as well. The first half was excellent, but they let the game get out of control in the second.
A late hit was called against the Braves when the d-line was pushed into Piner’s quarterback, but when the Piner line started piling onto the player after the whistle there was no foul.
It wasn’t the only time they missed a personal foul, either. There was also an illegal cut block on a blitzing linebacker. Cut blocks are legal in one-on-one battles between down linemen, but nowhere else. They are dangerous because of the potential for serious knee injuries.
I would love to be giving these officials praise because they were great for 90 percent of the game, but unfortunately the 10 percent they weren’t was irresponsible.
I’ve finally caught up with posting links to articles written for the Napa Valley Register. There are now pages for Justin-Siena Football 2010 and 2011, as well as an archives page for stories that aren’t part of any specific collection.
Most recent articles will always be at the top of the list, and please remember that all work is copyrighted property of the author and appropriate publisher.