Wednesday, June 7, 2006

My Experiences with Halo Multiplayer via Xbox Live

I've been playing Halo for about six months now and joining online games via Xbox Live for the last five months. The online component of the game makes all of the difference in the experience, allowing you create a friends list of gamers and track their status easily.

Halo online is very addictive. You are constantly ranked and compared to others, driving the perception that you're getting to a higher level "real soon now". Right now I'm ranked a 10 which is a lot harder to get than you think. The jump to higher ranks, say in the 20s will be hard. You have to learn to use the sniper weapons effectively and also prosecute kills quickly and in rapid succession.

For example, one of the game types is "free for all" where you are pitted against 7 other Halo players of similar rank. You're placed on a map at random and separate locations and a time limit is imposed. Everyone starts with the same array of weapons, but there a weapons on the map that you can pick up and use. Game play consists of finding a target and "killing" it, thereby scoring a point. When the first person reaches 50 kills, the game is over. The ranking system is complicated, but generally, if you beat (kill) people with a higher rank, your rank could increase. All of the games require strategy on par with chess, but without the luxury of large blocks of time and the narrow rules of the classic board game.

One of the maps is called Lockout and it remains a favorite of players of all levels. It's not very broad, but it is tall which gives you several levels to see other players and head in for a kill. What makes Lockout unique are viewing angles and enclosed spaces. The map is crammed full of corridor intersections which are relatively small and that size affects how some of your munitions behave. Standard grenades have a more contained blast and are likely to cause greater damage, allowing quick kills with any weapon. Since the map is stacked tall, there are plenty of gangways that lead from one corridor or room to another and they give you great viewing angles to odd places on the map. Lockout requires someone with quick intellect and excellent spatial analysis or what fighter jet pilots call "situational awareness".

I'll write more in successive pieces about the technical side of battle, the social networking of Halo, it's class structure and even the fanbase. Stay tuned.

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Mike Arrington wonders aloud about Google

Mike Arrington writes about Google again and near the end asks the obvious question: what's Google up to?

The commenters on the post went in standard directions for the most part, but I'll shoot this out for others to read: Google is in the behavior business.


Google creates applications for the average person to use, but they aren't groundbreaking or even different. Instead the applications are designed to capture a user's time, record their actions and then infer behaviors. With a large base of behavior knowledge, a company like Google could then sell the information to others, sanitized of course.

I think Google is about capture and control of the attention of the Internet. That will manifest itself in several different ways, the first of these are the web-based apps. Applications so boring and normal that people don't think twice about using them, interacting with them and finally staying with them.

Investors: Google is not a technology innovator. Google is a data warehouse storing behavior profiles about people and computers. Don't invest in Google if you think they are going to kill Microsoft or compete with Yahoo! because they won't.

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