games / Columns

Living LIVE News Report 01.30.12

January 30, 2012 | Posted by Trace Aber


A decent password would take, according to a security calculator available online, roughly 10 years to crack at 100 attempts per minute. There’s no way they’re hacking Live accounts that way, unless they belong to a moron who uses ‘password’ as their password.
Posted By: lol (Guest) on January 24, 2012 at 07:05 PM

I don’t have any official numbers to back this up, but the IT guy for my department at college once said that the number of people that use “password” is astounding. I don’t know if that holds true for Xbox LIVE users, but considering how families are often targeted I suppose it’s possible that they wouldn’t know much about cyber security. And who knows how deep this scheme goes – nobody is sure if it’s a one man operation, a small group, or something much larger that allows for a widespread attack. Only time will tell if the security added to the login page by Microsoft will be enough to stop them. Something tells me it won’t.

Max Payne 3 delayed again? It’s annoying, but I still can’t wait to play the game when it’s finally released.
Posted By: Guest#6029 (Guest) on January 25, 2012 at 02:31 PM

And let’s be honest – when Rockstar delays a game it’s generally worth it. Besides, there’s plenty of other games coming out to hold you over.

Kinect needs to improve drastically. The integration with Mass Effect is a start but they really need to push it towards natural language. In navigating the menus with voice commands, you can only use the terms that are on the screen. If you said “scroll right” nothing happens or “more” again nothing, you have to say “next” even though it means the same friggin thing. It’s a good start but hardly perfect.

Oh and so far Dance Central is the best Kinect game, not that it’s a bad game, but come on, it’s Dance Central.
Posted By: Wii60 (Guest) on January 27, 2012 at 09:51 AM

The Mass Effect integration video is the only thing that has even remotely made me consider picking up a Kinect, and I’m not sure how much of that is me simply loving the Mass Effect series. Kinect has a lot of great potential, but as you alluded to, as of now it’s overrun by dance games. Yeah, they’re fun party games, but at the end of the day I tend to play more core games. I feel like we’re still in the beta for Kinect, as it’s far from perfected and I don’t think even Microsoft knows what they want to do with it as far as core gaming goes. And to your point about the voice navigation, if that’s true that’s disappointing.

Welcome everyone to another issue of the Living LIVE News Report, and as always, I’m your host for the evening, Trace Aber. Over the last week I’ve been playing a lot of the UFC Undisputed 3 demo on the Xbox 360 and I have to say I am thoroughly impressed with how the game is coming along, and cannot wait to get the full retail version. You can check out my preview and get my full thoughts, but for the uninitiated – you want this. I played about an hour of it last night and every fight turned out differently – and that’s with the exact same fighters. Valentine’s Day cannot come soon enough, but this time it’s for MMA action as opposed to love. But if my girlfriend asks, it’s totally about love.


Ok, on with the news.

Latest Batch of New Xbox Rumors Include Video Card and No Used Games
It’s time for another round of NextBox rumors, and now things are starting to get interesting. First off, the current release window is somewhere around October/November of 2013, and it should have six times the graphical processing power of the 360. With the proposed video card, based off an older PC card Radeon HD 6670, the system will also feature 20% increased performance over the upcoming Wii U. In addition, it’s likely the NextBox will upgrade to Blu-Ray disks, which holds a lot more data.

That’s all fine and dandy, but what’s rather alarming is the unsettling rumor that Microsoft plants to incorporate an anti-used game system. Nothing has been confirmed as to what the system is, but it could potentially mean that the every game purchase will only be linked to one console, essentially cutting out used game stores such as Gamestop.

To me this would be a drastically stupid idea. Many gamers play only used games, and this move would prevent them from ever getting games .The only way this could effectively work is if the price of games lower dramatically, which I personally don’t see happening. If anything changes, the price is likely to go up, making this move even more insane.

In more positive news, it does seem as though Kinect 2 will come bundled with the console, which would feature an onboard processer. This processer would allow the Kinect 2 to make much more likely to detect more precise movements, and would allow for more complex gaming experiences.

Out of all of the rumors, these are some of the more interesting ones as of late. I’m definitely interested in where this anti-used game measure goes, as it could have serious repercussions for many people. Hey, maybe their system will simply having every game digital, and thus there was no way to sell them back.

Ok…if that happens I might skip out next gen.

Say Goodbye to Microsoft Points?
In news that I’m sure will hurt everybody very personally, Microsoft is getting rid of its arbitrary currency system by the end of the year, according to a new rumor.

Inside Mobile Apps reports that the points, which are used to purchase things on Xbox LIVE, the Zune Marketplace, and Windows Phone, would be discontinued in favor of using real money based on the user’s region. This is similar to the Droid and App Stores, as well as Sony’s Playstation Network. The rumor comes from some mobile developers being told to plan their upcoming DLC and app purchases with real money prices.

I don’t think most people would argue that the points system was difficult to understand, but it certainly seemed strange not to just use real money. Another criticism is that due to the nature of purchasing Microsoft Points, which requires buying bundles as opposed to exact amounts, oftentimes leaves you with extra points and less money when wanting to purchase content. As somebody to buys a lot of stuff on the Xbox LIVE Marketplace it’s never been a problem for me, but the complaint is certainly valid.

It should be noted that some of the LIVE Marketplace is used purchasing real money, most notably the Games on Demand section. Of course, most of those games are horribly overpriced and/or not worth playing to begin with, so maybe that’s a moot point.

For those worried about any unused points disappearing before the switch, fear not. Apparently those points will be converted into its dollar amount, though nothing was explicitly implied about whether customers would get their money back or have it stored on an account. Time will tell, but I for one won’t be too affected either way.

Notch Promises 360 Version of Minecraft Won’t Be Buggy
One of the world’s most popular indie PC games came out on the iOS late last year but the results were pretty mixed. Many people were wondering what had happened, as they got a paid game that was half of what the PC experience was, and featured plenty of annoying bugs and glitches that made the whole thing a mess.

Thankfully for 360 fans, Minecraft shouldn’t have that problem when it lands on Microsoft’s console. In their defense, members of Mojang (developers of Minecraft) explained that with the mobile experience, you’re getting something different, comparing when people purchase Street Fighter IV on the iOS, they don’t expect the 360 version to pop up on their screen. It simply isn’t possible.

While I agree with his analogy, Daniel Kaplan is still wrong about the iOS port of Minecraft. While it was problematic that the mobile version didn’t feature adventure mode, yeah, we can accept that having an essentially limitless world in my pocket is good enough, regardless of the journey. But the amount of bugs that were in? Unacceptable, and at the $7 they were asking it’s pretty damning considering all of the goodwill Notch and his crew has.

Kaplan did promise the 360 version will not feature as many bugs, but seems to be saying Microsoft’s strict gatekeepers make it that way: “The Xbox has different release cycles, so it’s much harder to release something as buggy as Minecraft was, or is… But we will eventually update it, the Xbox version, and put in new features, just like with Minecraft PC version.”

Minecraft is a great game, but this interview and some of their past action make me wonder why so many people defend the team as though they were infallible. Kaplan, who may have just had a bad day when he said this, comes off like they willingly released a buggy version of their game on the iOS, charged $7, and then called it a day. Shame on you, Mojang. Shame.

THQ Blames uDraw for Recent Failure, Staff Disagrees
Following the failure of its uDraw tablet, and amidst rumors of the company shutting down, THQ has shutdown the children’s game division. Anyone upset about the lack of Spongebob games in the future? Didn’t think so.

One angry ex-staffer, however, feels that the company is misplacing the blame for their recent failures, and instead should start looking at those at the tippy top of the company. While it’s a rather long public letter, the former worker brings up a lot of interesting points and makes you wonder if the uDraw truly is responsible for THQ has their stocks hit as low as seventy cents last week.

The uDraw was an interesting idea, but they simply spent too many resources on something that’s so unproven. Especially when you consider all of the other peripherals to choose from, most children would rather have a Kinect than a drawing pad. Anyways, here’s the full letter, courtesy of Kotaku;

To: THQ Board of Directors

Lawrence Burstein, Uhf Incorporated
James Whims, Gigex, Inc.
Henry DeNero, Arcturus Capital
Brian Dougherty, AirSet, Inc.
Jeffrey Griffiths , Lumber Liquidators

From: Current and Ex-Employees, Shareholders, and The Public

Dear THQ Board,

I am an ex-employee at THQ. I saw the tweet-started headlines over the past week from an “industry expert.” This expert is one who I and my friends and co-workers in the industry have never heard of after a long time in the field. I had been reading the various following articles and accounts and it generated sympathy for friends both recently laid off and currently still there. I thought it would be a good idea to send a note with their input. This note has honest facts and thoughts about THQ and the current problems there. Most of these facts are public knowledge and they have been confirmed by public records or can be confirmed by current and former THQ staff there both before and after my and their time.

I have long felt the need to explain to outsiders how this beaten-down company has wound up in this position. It is to the point where having it on your resume is not a point in your favor. And that shouldn’t be the case. I’m/We’re sending this note anonymously because some of us are still awaiting final checks and others know how little corporations like employees who air their dirty laundry. We feel the need to say something to combat the partial misinformation being written.

THQ had been known through the years for having a formula. They find a hot license, make a cheap game, barely advertise it, and make money. This formula worked during the Playstation and Xbox and Gameboy days and made the company a lot of cash. Unfortunately, THQ’s old guard executives seem to be stuck trying to manage the company the same way they did back then and haven’t realized the industry has changed.

The beginning of the end came years ago as Brian Farrell lead an executive team to acquire a large number of studios. A large amount of cash was used in the acquisition or setup of game developers with different degrees of talent. The problem was they were bought without strategic reasoning or specific plan on to use them. So after awhile another large amount of money was spent as those studios failed and were sold off and shut down. The executive team at the time were an entirely different group of people with one key exception in the CEO. The CEO/the then executive team wasted the cash that the company had built up with these massive investments and selloffs.

The studio purchase errors were not helped by the mistakes in the licensing deals that were signed by the same CEO. Millions and millions of dollars were wasted on acquiring licenses at the same time the kids, family, casual business was declining at a rapid rate. Instead of slowing those acquisitions he overpaid for more of them until again cash was wasted in paying for brands that didn’t sell well anymore.

The mistakes in decisions and cash losses triggered wave after wave of layoffs. In the most recent wave, about 40 people lost their jobs this past December through no fault of their own. The reason why is the chronic and constant mismanagement of their company. The fact is that the CEO and executive committee were so focused on trying to hit an unrealistic financial goal that they bet everything on an extremely risky proposition in the uDraw tablet. When they lost, they further displayed their lack of management skills by not having a contingency plan. Three weeks after the game launched, an entire business unit was wiped out when it didn’t meet its goal due to relying on that one product to hit an unrealistic target.

After the layoffs many ex-employees walked around shell-shocked and trying to figure out who was responsible. They came to the understanding that most of us do after leaving the company. The issue with THQ has never been one of lack of staff creativity, intellect or business intelligence. It all rests of the failure of its management team and you the Board of Directors.

This Board has allowed the Brian Farrell, the CEO, the ongoing ability to take a cash-rich profitable company and drive it from a $30 share price down to around $.70 without acting despite numerous mistakes that even for those lacking business training, could see were errors. Even without glaring mistakes how can the same CEO stay in charge after a 99% share price loss? Aside from the board, who is responsible for the current situation and who is accountable for the current and future job losses at the company? When you ask the recently departed who are a good source of information, you get the same answers. This uDraw failure is the largest and most recent one in a string of them that were hushed over and hidden. The answer aside from the Board is the current executive team that allowed this uDraw implosion to happen.

Brian Farrell, CEO with a 2011 salary of $1,289,558, for a lack of business intelligence or fiscal accountability. A vocal inside group pointed out the mistake of trying to launch a year-old product that received almost no software support in the last 12 months. Instead of listening and having a back-up plan, he went ahead and invested a ridiculous amount of money in the manufacturing and advertising of the product and failed miserably. It is passed time for him to go. We are wondering what is taking so long for you to act. We have been wondering this same question for a long time.

Martin Good, EVP and head of Kids, Family, Casual with a 2011 salary of $1,198,023, for bringing no strategic thought or business sense to the role. He was brought out from Australia sales to replace an outgoing head of the business unit and rapidly displayed a complete lack of leadership skills, vision, and any sort of analytical sense. Looking at his compensation package, he is an excellent negotiator as his salary is higher than anyone’s except for the CEO. On the plus side he lost his job with the rest of those laid off. On the minus side, he will be floating down on a golden parachute while the rest of the former employees scramble to look for jobs in this challenging environment. Most of those jobs will be at studios in other parts of the country, so they will be forced to relocate their families in the middle of their childrens school years. It is incredible that he made this level of income while doing such a poor job, but it serves as a reflection of the lack of Brian Farrell’s ability to staff well and manage.

Paul Pucino, CFO with a 2011 salary of $674,855, for not planning for this possibility and having a safety net or a plan to cover THQ just in case of failure. We have a line of credit that we likely used to buy the plastic that is not selling to customers. It is like taking a cash advance to buy THQ stock and just as worthless of an investment. Paul is known as an absentee executive who is missing when business situations gets complicated. While he was in the loop at the point of the risk, with the following failure he has been clearly unavailable. It is another example of Brian Farrell’s inability to staff.

Ian Curran, EVP and head of global publishing with a 2011 salary of $1,037,047, for not flagging an unrealistic sales goal to the CEO or the Board when a big part of the corporation felt the numbers were unrealistic. He blindly held up an unachievable target and didn’t act when multiple people told him he was aiming to high and out of step with the marketplace. If a sales executive’s job is to anticipate the market, he has done a poor job of it. Another example of Brian Farrell not being able to find the right people for the right job.

Ed Kauffman, EVP of Legal and Business Affairs who clearly was signing bad deals on licensed products, not factoring in the changes in the business and being more critical with financial terms with partners. uDraw by itself cannot possibly explain the companies poor financial health. It is a combination of that product and a string of bad licensed deals that the company took on against better judgement. While Brain Farrell would logically be the final decisionmaker for deals, Kauffman is either unpersuasive in his arguments to not do them or supported them. Either situation equates to another example of poor staffing choices by the CEO.

uDraw was failure and the only people to blame are the people listed above. THQ and its current financial situation is also their responsibility. And they were paid around $4.5 million dollars for their poor decisions. If there is any doubt we would recommend talking to current and former staff to get the straight story. Don’t read this note as bitterness on their part, but more as long overdue truth.

So, Board, it is time. Passed time for you to act and passed time for you to do something about the mismanagement that has gone on for too many years. We’ve watched the stock from the outside and read the comments and the reason why the company is valued so low despite its sales is because of this underqualified management team.

Board it is time for you to act before your names are added to the list above of things that must change.

The Formerly Mismanaged

Random News and Notes
Dead Island‘s first piece of big DLC releases February 1st, 2012 and puts you in the shoes of Ryder White, the core game’s antagonist. The DLC promises to have your decisions “define you,” and you can find a trailer below in the theater.

-The public beta for the upcoming Gotham City Imposters is now available, and it really worth checking out. It’s available on both Xbox LIVE and PSN, for you Sony lovers out there.

-Ian Frazier, developer of Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning gave some advice to 360 players of the game: “If you have a hard drive, for the love of god, please install. If you’re on 360, please install. You will have much, much smaller load screens. Please, please, for the love of all that’s holy, install.” Seems reasonable.

The Digital Downloads
Arcade Games
Puddle (800MP)
Quarrel (400MP)

Games on Demand
Duke Nukem Forever ($19.99) (wow)

PowerUp Heroes [Kinect]
Jimmy Johnson’s Anything With An Engine
UFC Undisputed 3

The Theater
Soul Calibur V Launch Trailer

Mass Effect 3 Special Forces Trailer

SSX Patagonia Trailer

The Witcher 2 Console Release Date Trailer

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3: Piazza Map Gameplay

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Liberation Map Gameplay

Dead Island: Ryder White Campaign Trailer

Armored Core V Multiplayer Walkthrough

The Darkness II Launch Trailer

UFC Undisputed 3 Pride Walkthrough

411 on Twitter!

Signing Out
That does it for me this week. Be sure to check back next week as we discuss all of the latest Xbox 360 news, including releases, rumors and reviews! Also, don’t forget to bookmark 411Mania! And a note to all of the Indie Game developers out there – if you have an upcoming title that’s going to be released soon drop me a line at [email protected] and let me know. I’ll write a full review of your game to be posted on, which is a great way to get your game promoted!


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Trace Aber
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