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Waiting for the One

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I preordered an Xbox One and have been somewhat patiently waiting on its release. In the meantime I have been playing way too much Borderlands 2 trying to get a third character to level 50 as well as getting back into the driving groove with Forza 4 in preparation for the new version. Its only a few weeks away now and the past week has been resplendent with news about the limitations of some of the new games. The Xbox 360 version of Call of Duty Ghosts was pre-released and the news that it ran on the Xbox 360 at 720p instead of full 1080 HD while the PS4 is somehow able to accommodate the full resolution did not go over well. For more on this story, please read Infinity Ward’s explanation of the difference between the consoles at Twinstick Gaming. Then came the news that Ghosts had already been hacked. Not even officially released and already hacked. We were all hoping to get a few months of decent play out of it before it was compromised, but I guess we will have to rely on patches from the developers. To read the full story about how the hack was uncovered, please read John Heatz’s post Call of Duty: Ghosts already hacked. Today, it came out that the hugely anticipated Titanfall will only be available for the Xbox but that it too will run at 720p. You can read more about Titanfall at Twinstick Gaming’s blog.

While all of this news is a bit annoying, I cannot really appreciate the way in which some people are reacting. I have read gamers who are cancelling their pre-orders (for both the Xbox One and the PS4) complaining that none of the upcoming games look all that enticing. Really? Maybe we are all getting a bit jaded. I have pre-ordered Battlefield 4, Call of Duty Ghosts, Assassin’s Creed IV and Forza 5 and am looking forward to each regardless of the news. I would like to judge them for myself. I bet that my reaction will not be one of disappointment – most likely will be more of the “You have to come over here and look at the detail on this” variety. I can almost feel my wife’s humoring me when I ask her to come over and examine the carbon fiber on another of Forza 5’s supercars.

Then I hear people say that the Xbox One costing $100 more than the PS4 is a deal breaker. No one wants to pay more than they need to but this thinking seems ridiculously short-sighted to me. Over the life of my consoles, I have purchased hundreds of games. Many were at reduced prices, but I don’t really want to try to calculate how much I have spent on them in total. Needless to say that the $100 difference is inconsequential at best when you look at the whole picture.

In the end, all of this is talk anyway. The consoles are moving forward and there will be less and less marketed to and available for the current generation of consoles. Upgrading will be the price of entry just to keep playing. With hopes set so high and wish lists so long, there are bound to be disappointments. But this is just the beginning. I wish I could remember whether there was this much chatter when the 360 launched. Social media and the further expansion of the Internet probably also play a big role in making the rumors and news circulate so quickly.

My Favorite Game

Alfa Romeo

The last two weeks I have been getting back in the groove with a few games that I overplayed and set aside. These include Call of Duty Black Ops 2, Assassin’s Creed 3 and Forza 4. Though all three of these have new versions coming out in a few weeks for the Xbox 360 and a bit later for the Xbox One, I am waiting for the new console, so I have about five more weeks to go.

I played a few rounds of Black Ops 2 and started feeling more comfortable again and my scores reflected it, but then the inevitable happened. During an online match I encountered two guys who apparently are very angry, racist and homophobic. They were, if nothing else, verbose and shared their opinions freely about everything and everyone they encountered. Typically, I mute the entire group, but this time had not and kept thinking that eventually these idiots would just tire out and shut up. No such luck. I cannot blame the game developers that their creations attract this kind of person, but it is a simple fact that other great game types do not.

I am sometimes asked if I have a favorite game and I have always replied that Forza would be my first choice and then add a list of other excellent games. Playing Forza the last two weeks I was reminded why I love it so much. There are many realistic racing games out there and some are quite good. I own many of them and have played them extensively. Although Forza offers one of, if not the most realistic driving “feel” for each vehicle, that is only part of what makes this game unique. The ability to collect, upgrade and paint your vehicles is more advanced and better integrated than any other driving game I have played. You don’t have to want to race every time you play Forza, you just need to want to be around cars. It is a chance to own, drive, tune and augment some of the greatest cars of all time. It is also a way to learn and to teach.

My three boys all love cars, and because of my interest in cars, my sons can identify most exotic makes when we see them on the road (a fact of which I am hugely proud). Years ago, one of my sons who was about six at the time, saw a sleek Granturismo Sport in the lane next to us and yelled “Look, Masirata!” That one is a keeper and I will much more gladly trade Maserati for “Masirata” than Porsche for “Porsh.” Recently, while driving locally, my oldest son asked the make of a car stopped at a traffic light. I told him that it was a De Tomaso Pantera. Not a car that one sees very often as over its twenty-year production run, only 7260 were made. That night I added the exact model we saw to my collection in Forza.  The accuracy of Forza in terms of the details of the car models and their distinct driving qualities allows the game to be a reference even for those that don’t yet know how to drive in real life.

I also enjoy being part of an international community that appreciates cars and car culture. Users have been posting custom and replica liveries, tunes and graphics for years and the collection is impressive. I have created a few of my own. My focus is taking a lesser known model and making a replica of an actual winning car. I have made a half dozen or so, the most popular of which is for the 1965 Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GTA Stradale. This livery was purchased 62 times over the last two years. This is hardly impressive as some designs are downloaded thousands of times yet I find it impressive that 62 people selected a design for Rafael Barrios’ n24 which won first in class and the overall win in the 1971 Premio Ciudad de Alcaniz. (See my reference materials here.) Not a well-known racer nor race, yet players sought it out and applied to their cars. These are my people.

Am I looking forward to the new games? You could say that. The new versions of all of the games look really impressive on the new consoles and certainly Forza 5 is no exception. I am glad to see that they have added and improved without losing what makes the game special. I am bit saddened to learn however, that my Xbox 360 Wireless Racing Wheel will not work with the Xbox One and my Wheel Stand Pro will most likely not accept the new wheels. You can learn about the new wheels at the Forza website. I guess even virtual racing can get expensive, but from where I sit, it’s really all for educational purposes.

My Cousin Finny, Smartphones and Drive-Ins

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Yes, I’m getting older and it’s true that there was a drive-in theater not far from where I grew up and we did go a few times, but the heyday of the drive-in, the symbol of the baby-boomer’s car-centric teenage culture, was long over. Still, the car was what provided the freedom that made being a young adult fun. Most memories of my teenage years revolve around a car.

Admittedly I am a “car guy” and always have been, but I can completely understand those who feel that cars are just appliances to get you to where you need to be. The same can be said of clothing and food I suppose, but there are entire industries that exist only to provide haute couture and haute cuisine for those who want more.

Over the last year or so there has been much attention paid to the Generation Y’s apparent indifference to driving. There are many reasons for the feeling that cars do not represent what they did to previous generations.

Gen Y has been dubbed Gen N, as in Generation Neutral — which is the way some describe how millennials feel about car ownership. Studies have shown that fewer young adults have driver’s licenses, that this group  hates the traditional car-buying process more than other demographics, and that they prefer urban living and socializing online and therefore  have less need for cars.

The Great Debate: Do Millennials Really Want Cars, or Not? | By Brad Tuttle | Time

“That moment of realizing that you’re a grown-up — for my generation, that was when you got your driver’s license or car,” said Tony Dudzik, a senior policy analyst of the Frontier Group, a California-based think tank that has studied this phenomenon. “For young people now, that moment comes when you get your first cellphone.”

America’s Generation Y not driven to drive | By Deborah Zabarenko | Reuters

The economy is also a huge factor. Many young people face soaring tuition costs, and the money they’re earning in their part-time, summer and first jobs is going to pay for school and rent. Even if they can afford cars, insurance is expensive, and just getting a license can cost hundreds of dollars in driving instruction fees. 

Why Generation Y Sees No Need To Get Behind The Wheel | by Micheline Maynard | Forbes

In an effort to attract young people to cars, automakers have set up shop in Silicon Valley and are looking to the digital world as a way to lure them.

What the savvy people in the car business say is that they have to look outside their industry to learn — from cellphones, apps, computers and video games.

“We can make the car that’s becoming part of your digital life,” says Chuhee Lee, the deputy director at Volkswagen’s Electronic Research Lab in Belmont, Calif., a little town at the north end of Silicon Valley.

Volkswagen’s vision boils down to this: bring its cars into the digital world and make them an extension of all the services millennials already love.

“The car should be intelligent enough to interact with other intelligent systems around you, like a smartphone being very intelligent about … your schedule, trying to propose and make arrangements for you,” Lee says.

Lee describes turning your whole car into sort of a voice-activated system like Apple’s Siri. And GM’s (John) McFarland says his company, like VW, is working on cars that learn your habits — your schedules, destinations and radio stations. And, McFarland says, ideally, these cars get better with time.

“We think there’s opportunity to make it so that the day you drive it off the lot is the beginning, and you continue to personalize it and customize and add new content just like you do with a phone,” McFarland says.

To Attract Millennials, Automakers Look To Smartphones | Noah Nelson and Sonari Glinton | NPR

While I applaud the integration of many of today’s technologies into most parts of my life I recognize that sometimes advancement is in the eye of the beholder. I do not need a car that drives itself. I like the feeling of being in control and feeling the road. It is important that the tactile sensations of driving are not lost on the younger generations and what better way to lure them then with racing? I regularly play driving and racing games with my sons and their friends. Some of our favorites to play together are the Forza series, especially 3 and 4, Driver San Francisco and Midnight Club LA.

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This last week, we had Josefina or “Finny”, our fifteen year old cousin from the Czech Republic staying with us. She was drawn to our Xbox racing wheel and spent many hours driving, racing, crashing and having a good time. Whether smashing a Bugatti Veyron into the back wall of the Mulsanne Straight at Le Mans in Forza 4 or clearing traffic amid the constant sound of breaking glass and crunching steel in Driver San Francisco, she thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  She tried to outrun the cops all over Los Angeles in Midnight Club LA and tried not to get hit by our various projectiles in Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. We even tried motorcycles playing MotoGP 2006 and 2007. I was looking for the Prague track but I think that it is in a different game, so we settled on Brno. We took to off-road motorcycles and ATVs in MX vs ATV Alive and while we played we talked about driving. She has none of indifference displayed by teenagers in this country. She really made my day when she said that in America drivers seem to all prefer automatics. I reminded her that my car has a six speed manual and many of my friends still prefer them as well.

I guess that I have never realized how much of my day is spent thinking about cars. I was recently stunned to learn that Fox removed the Speed channel from my FIOS line up. I watched Speed more than any other channel and there is nothing to take its place. Although Fox has apparently stated that the majority of the racing content would remain on other Fox sports channels, every time that I have tuned in they have been showing football.

After visiting some of the more typical tourist attractions we thought that it would be fun to try go-cart racing at Pole Position, a local indoor track. A great time was had by all. Here is a short excerpt from one of the races. No, I do not have flesh-eating bacteria on my legs. I am recovering from sunburn.

We didn’t even get to try our slot cars. Next time I guess.

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