Xbox Live Free Weekend and Ambassadors

This weekend (March 31 – April 2) is going to be the first Free Xbox Live Gold Weekend that will take place since the Xbox 360 has launched. I hope, and I’m sure, a lot of people will try this out on the current crop of Xbox 360 games. I really didn’t maximize my use of Live when I had an Xbox. It really was for Halo 2 and nothing else. Most of the time it was because I didn’t play the game far enough to say I wanted to go online, like with Top Spin. I wasn’t going to go online unless I had completed the character I created. Now I’m definitely playing it a lot more, and you can bet that when I pick up Top Spin 2, I’ll be hitting the online courts as quickly as I can.

The Xbox Live team is also launching a new little program with this first Free Xbox Live Gold Weekend, the Xbox Ambassadors. This is a (rather sizable) group of people hand selected to be nice, helpful people on Xbox Live for those folks who might be enjoying their first foray into Live and online multiplayer gaming. I was glad to make that group of gamertags selected to be Ambassadors for this weekend, so I could maybe get new people onto my friends list to play games with in the future. So, keep a lookout for me (and the rest of the Ambassadors) this weekend and invite us to your friends list for a game or two.

A Tale of Two Cities

A photo of the DJ and attendees at the Xbox Spring Showcase 2006

The last couple of days I have split between San Francisco and San Jose. In San Francisco, I went to an event on Tuesday night we put together with the Xbox team that was held at the Supper Club. The entire club past the bar at the entrance was turned into one big gaming and mingling room. There was a white and green DJ booth in the center of the room and what seemed like queen mattresses next to each other were completely lined again three of the four walls in the room to make lounging areas on both the ground floor and on the upper floor. They all had Xbox 360s and screens breaking up the lounging areas, and a few more on the floor itself. As best as I can remember, the following games were set up there:

Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter
Burnout Revenge
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Tomb Raider: Legend
Top Spin 2
Battlefield 2: Modern Combat
Saint’s Row
Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting
Texas Hold ‘Em Poker
Dead Rising
Ninety-Nine Nights
Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle Earth 2
Sonic Riders
Over the Hedge

This is a bit different than the initial list of games I had seen, but still far from a disappointing turnout. The titles on display was sweetened even more so when a couple people from Capcom came by just minutes before the event started to deliver the most recent build of Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting.

Anyway, the event was great and I was really glad to meet some people I had only corresponded with on e-mail, or occasionally on the phone. Of course, as I had mentioned before, I was also looking forward to meeting Splincir and ludcrouspeed again. I spent a while, probably far too long, talking to TekunoRobby and Vark from GAF there too. They will not have heard the last from me, that’s for sure!

The next morning (at 6:30 AM no less) I hopped into a car with some coworkers and Peter Moore to bring him to a breakfast we were hosting in San Jose with guys from Joystiq, GamingSteve, Kotaku, Gizmodo and GamerAndy. This was the first time I met most of these guys, as working with bloggers is someone else’s area at work. I think the breakfast went well and lots of interesting things were discussed, but I’ll let the bloggers at the table post or podcast about it. One of the guys I work with, John Porcaro, posted pictures of the breakfast at Gamerscore Blog, the Xbox marketing team blog.

Mere hours after the breakfast was over, I was on a plane headed back to Seattle ending my whirlwind two city tour.

Here are some links to posts or podcasts from the guys who went to the breakfast.
GamerAndy and his impressions from the showcase are here

I left my heart in San Francisco

Later today I’ll be flying heading down to San Francisco for a work event that’s part of the Game Developers Conference (GDC) that runs this week in San Jose. The event that we’re hosting together with Microsoft will be in San Francisco tonight and it’s titled as a “Showcase” event.

Back in early October 2005 we had a similar set of events, one in New York and one in San Francisco, which allowed us to put a bunch of people in one room, give them the rundown on the new Xbox Live and the Dashboard and set them loose to play a good number of games on preview. This event is something pretty similar, in fact the New York component of the event happened late last week already.

I’m looking forward to it as I’ll get to meet a few editors and writers of websites I haven’t met in person yet, a couple people from GAF (TekunoRobby and Chittagong) and a couple people I’ve met before from the TeamXbox and GameSpot forums (ludcrouspeed and Splincr). Frankly, it’s nice to put a face to someone I’ve talked to online for a while now.

Either way, the event will probably be pretty fun, meeting people and getting to play some preview games — especially if the list of anticipated preview builds I saw late last month turns out to be accurate. As always, I’ll be taking pictures both for work and personal purposes, so I’ll put some up on here when I get a chance.

Also, I should be able to drop by the EB Games by my work to pick up Me & My Katamari and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion this morning before I head to the airport. Oblivion will have to wait, but I’ll have some Katamari fun if I manage to stay awake on the plane.

Me & My Katamari are sad

Before leaving for the airport to San Francisco this morning I dropped by the EB Games near the office like I said I would. They weren’t expecting to get Oblivion in until after 3:00 PM today, so that was a downer. Then I found out that I should have paid more attention to release dates because I was jumping the gun on Me & My Katamari as well. I gets released today, meaning it ships today and the stores won’t see it until tomorrow at least. So instead of having something to do on the flight that I was looking forward to, I just napped and read some things I needed to read for the event I am here for. There is a little bit of extra time tomorrow before I get back on a plane to Seattle, so I hope I can find a game store convenient enough to pick up at least Me & My Katamari for the flight back.

Off to get some food and then that showcase event tonight. I’ll try to update later tonight.

Xbox 360 theme for Windows

Major Nelson was the one to push me to install his Xbox 360 theme for Windows-based Smartphones, way back before I was working on their behalf. So it piqued my interest to read today and see a post about a Xbox 360 theme for Windows. “Theme” is putting it nicely, this thing reskins all your window bars, buttons, start bar, icons and everything to have a wholly Xbox 360 look and feel. I’ve never even looked into this as the limit of my OS customization has rarely been beyond changing out the desktop background. This looks pretty cool, not sure if I’m going to go with it myself since I don’t feel like installing the WindowBlinds right now just to give it a spin. Maybe I will once I’m more committed to the theme. Somebody should do one that’s a bit more reminiscent of the blades in the Xbox Dashboard, I would like that. That might push me over into the, I’ll-buy-this-software-and-try-out-the-theme line. So how ’bout it?