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rumor

Steve at Cortana.org writes that the Halo Editing Kit testing is indeed going on right now. Good news!

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Computer and Video Games is reporting that the Xbox 2, code-named Xenon but referred to some as Xbox Next, may lose the small black and white buttons from its controller. Apparently some studies they've done show these buttons are hard to find and little used.

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Spenser posted in the HBO forum that the answer to a FAQ item on the website of Infinium Labs, the company currently purporting to be developing a driveless gaming console called the Phantom, will have a shooter similar to our favorite game available at launch: reportedly a two chapter "Halo-like" FPS game.

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If you look at Randy Pitchford's .plan file through Blue's News, the project listings there are the same as they've been for some time:

  1. Halo PC
  2. Secret Sauce

"Secret Sauce" might have been the Halo Editing Kit before that was announced, but it might be something else all together.

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Dean Takahashi has written an article up at the Mercury News right now that purports to be "quietly circulated" specifications for the next version of Microsoft's gaming console, the Xbox. They can be boiled down to several points:

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I don't know who it is or where they are, but the rumored Xbox 2 specs are clearly evidence that somebody is ingesting dangerous quantities of some mind altering substances.

Let's take this "information" apart piece by piece.

The first point is the lack of a hard drive. The article says on this point:

The current Xbox has an eight-gigabyte hard disk drive. That drive is useful for online games and storing game art, but many developers chose not to make use of it. As a result, Microsoft seems to have decided that saving the $50 the hard drive costs outweighs its benefits.

This makes no sense on its face, the only question is whether this is a bit of bogus information that just proves that the media will snap on any scurrilous bit of rumor they get, or evidence that after a fairly good showing with its first gaming console, Microsoft is headed for a sophomore slump of Biblical proportions after having failed to learn anything, even from its own marketing hype.

The killer advantage of the Xbox was supposed to be the ethernet port, for online gaming and downloadable content. Unless this thing is going to have a built-in optical drive with write abilities, the removal of the hard drive means no online updates, no downloadable content. Perhaps that experiment has been abandoned, although it was only a few short weeks ago that the company was talking about the success of the program with MechAssault, the first Xbox game that offered downloadable content.

Even with the platform a static development target, console games are reaching a point of complexity where bug-free games are hard to make, and the only way to fix them is online patches. No hard drive, no patches.

The speculation that this move is to control console costs and reduce loss makes no sense. All the console makers take a loss on the hardware and profit on the games. If you can't do that, you don't have a console business. Also, targeting Sony for the next round of competition is premature. Microsoft largely failed to position itself as a clear #2 in the market, in many places running neck and neck with Nintendo, except in Japan, where they got trounced. If anything, they should continue to offer superior value and a good price point-- even if that means significant losses on hardware-- and use their ability to subsidize their gaming studio with their other businesses to drive Nintendo into a software-only role like Sega. It's unlikely that will ever happen completely, as Nintendo virtually owns the portable gaming space, but still, the nearest target for Microsoft in the market is Nintendo-- not Sony If Microsoft thinks that a photo finish for second place in a three-horse race is good enough to start worrying about being a market leader, they've got another think coming. Perhaps someone should look at the Sony sales figures again.

And lastly, it isn't clear if Microsoft will include the current DVD video technology or Blu-Ray, its successor. Blu-Ray will hold much more data, but it's unclear when it will be ready for market.

This also makes no sense at all. Both the Xbox and the PlayStation 2 have DVD drives; the GameCube uses a proprietary media format that stores less space. Halo, which shipped for the Xbox on a DVD and for the Mac and PC on a single CD, is still the console's best-seller. There's absolutely no indication that the limits of the DVD format are being approached, storage-wise. There's also no indication that there's any correlation between the amount of storage space a game requires and how good it is; if there were, then companies would still be making FMV games. To top it all off, this tidbit is in direct conflict with the goal ascribed to Microsoft elsewhere in the article, which was supposedly to control the hardware costs of the box. A Blu-Ray drive would almost certainly be more expensive than a normal DVD drive; even if is equal to the price of a current-spec DVD drive by the time the Xbox 2 is being produced, a standard DVD drive would still be cheaper. So let's sum this up: there would be no point in decreasing the cost of the Xbox 2 $50 by removing the hard drive and then losing that advantage by including a more expensive optical drive that is in no way necessary or demonstrably better.

Compatibility with the original Xbox, which is based on Intel and Nvidia chips, isn't guaranteed. Microsoft is concerned it would cost too much money in hardware or in licensing fees to enable the Xbox Next to play old Xbox games. This is risky in part because Sony's strategy has been to maintain compatibility with its old consoles.

I'd like to just dismiss this as bull as well, but unfortunately there might be a basis for this. In burning its bridges with Intel and Nvidia, it may very well be true that whatever licensing they'd need to do to make the Xbox 2 backwards compatible with an older console based on a different processor architecture and a different GPU vendor might be prohibitively expensive. The original deals for those technologies might not have included future hardware, allowing them to put the squeeze on Microsoft as punishment for abandoning them as vendors. Of course, any x86 compatible processor vendor would probably do as a replacement for the Intel chip in the original Xbox, so it's not likely that Intel's position is a factor, unless there are specific new technologies in the Xbox that were licensed separately. The GPU might be an issue, but this also seems unlikely: as the Nvidia chip in the Xbox was supposed to support a special new superset of DirectX as well as OpenGL, it would simply remain to ATI to make a chip that supported the same instructions. Millions of PCs around the world play the same PC games (with varying results, of course) on video cards designed by these two manufacturers, because they're using the same APIs.

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Rumors of further delay in Halo 2's release are being fueled by changes in the expected dates published by EBGames and GameStop. Remember again, though, none of these are official, and it very likely means nothing at all. Nothing, we tell you, NOTHING. Thanks XboxSolution.

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XboxAddict is going with a rumor that an Xbox 2 tech demo will be done at this year's E3 by Artoon, the developer of Blinx: The Timesweeper.

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Halo Ops is once again trotting out the old "Halo 1.5 with XBL support" rumor, as late as the end of last month. This time not only does it have the mandatory "a Microsoft rep confirmed" bit in it, but the poster, Tycho, claims to have discussed it with Randy Pitchford, who says Gearbox wasn't involved.

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Ok, first of all, let's all keep in mind that these are "release dates" published by retail outlets, so in all probability they mean absolutely nothing. It's just a slow news day, so I'm reaching.According to Evil Avatar, two chains: GameStop and EB Games, have changed their "release dates" from mid-March to April 1, 2004. Not much of a difference.

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There is a site called GameDreamZ, which has been mentioned here and there recently, and apparently allows people to post things they think they know and have other people, who may or may not know anything but have a function

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GameDreamZ has a story up, rumoring that Halo 2 will have a multiplayer mode where Spartans face off against the Covenant in missions that will tie in to the single player story arc-- very similar to what many old school Bungie fans predicted (or rather hoped for) in the original game:

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According to a rumor site called GameDreamZ, members of FASA and the Oni team have resurrected the project known as Phoenix, which was abandoned bu Bungie, retitled it Shadowrun, and will release it as a launch title for the Xbox 2, which is supposedly codenamed "Xenon".

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This rumor just won't die, no matter how many times people try to kill it. And it seems that no one is satisfied to just wait and see when Halo 2 shows up, they've got to be speculating that something big is happening on the 15th to mark the two-year anniversary of Halo and the Xbox-- besides the DVD controller with extras that's already been mentioned.

This time, it's the revival of the "Halo 1.5" or "Halo Gold" or "Halo Online" version that was widely rumored to be following the initial version of Halo, motivated mostly by players disappointed that Halo didn't work on XBL. (Nevermind that Halo was being finished before the XBL API had even been published fully to developers... developers... developers.)

Bungie's own Matt Soell (now departed) squashed this rumor flat in the Rumor Control Database, saying: "We will not release a Halo game with explicit support for the Xbox Live network until Halo 2 ships." That's pretty unambiguous.

However, fueled by mention of a "Prima Guides Halo Deluxe Edition" (gee, think that could be the Deluxe Edition of the Strategy Guide, not of Halo? Maybe) several sites have gone right off the deep end.

But after SketchFactor killed the recent rumor that Halo 2 had been finished in secret and was ready for a Nov 15 release, it looks like the rumormongers came back to this dead horse and decided to take a few more whacks, which of course got mentioned even in places where they know better. In fact, some stories used SketchFactor's denial as evidence that Halo Deluxe exists.

Or, of course, Bungie changed their minds.

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SketchFactor posted a response to the recent rumors that Halo 2 is coming out on the 15th over in the HBO forum . The long and the short of it? It ain't so. Thanks Louis Wu.

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