Yet another Xbox Dad article up, this one on games for the K-6 crowd

Family Gaming with the K-6 Crowd

With Father’s Day coming up, I’ve been thinking a lot about my own Dad and how I got into videogames as a kid. My parents, perhaps swayed by George Plimpton’s television commercials, went out and bought an Intellivision for the family. It was to be a Christmas gift for all of us, not just for me and my brother. It was hooked up to the only TV in the house, right in the living room where we spent our evenings. Night after night, the four of us played games like Poker, Dungeons and Dragons, Golf, Lock ‘n’ Chase and more. Since it was hooked up to the TV, this early console seemed so much more of a family activity than the computer games I played in later years.

Now that I have my own family, and my own game console, I try to make videogaming into an activity that the family can do together. Of course, since I have a six-year-old, family gaming isn’t all about popping in a copy of Halo® 2. …

At the end of the article I go through a few recommendations for younger kids, including my favorite games to play with Connor.

If you are wondering where I get my Xbox Live info…

A few people have emailed me or posted comments wondering how I grab the Xbox Info for the Twitter app and for my services.

It is not from scraping and it is not from any publicly available source. I joined the Xbox Community Developer Program (XCDP), which is an official program designed to support folks who are building community sites (forums, reviews, blogs, etc…) around Xbox related topics.

Many folks who want Xbox info, are not working on a large site like the people in the XCDP, which is exactly why I created my service. This way, people who are building a small tool or script, most likely to be used by a small number of folks, can have access to some well formed and easy to use data.

What if you would qualify for the XCDP? Well, at the moment I don’t have any direct link for you, but I’ll ask around to see if I can find a link or a contact for anyone may qualify and would like to sign up….

Using the Xbox to Twitter app? Please update your client….

Ok, ok…. so I should have built-in an auto-update, ClickOnce would have been easy enough…. but anyway…. I’ve added many features to the Xbox to Twitter application, including support for only updating when the title being played changes, not showing popups and even a preview of what your twitter updates will look like once they are combined with your template.

To update, uninstall the client using your Control Panel then click on the install link and reinstall. You should see the new and improved options dialog where you can choose to update only on title changes and also turn off the lower-right notifications if you wish.

Put up a REST API for Xbox Gamertag Data

My twitter app uses a web service hosted on my site to get all the necessary Xbox Live info…. way more than the twitter app actually uses. This is a SOAP API, located here:

http://duncanmackenzie.net/services/XboxInfo.asmx

 

I know that some people prefer a more RESTful API though, so I also have another ‘page’ that you can call with a straight GET request and just pass the gamertag in as a query string parameter:

http://duncanmackenzie.net/services/GetXboxInfo.aspx?GamerTag=Festive+Turkey

 

Enjoy!

Connect your Xbox 360 Gamertag to Twitter

UPDATE: I’ve updated this application since the original version, addressing most of the ‘known issues’ listed below

hey folks, the first version of my xbox to twitter app is done (at least done enough to share!) …

  • Install the .NET Framework 2.0 (if you don’t have it)
  • Install the app
  • Run it (from the “Duncan Mackenzie” folder in your Start Menu)
  • Right click the little ‘twitter’ icon on your notification area, pick Settings … enter in your
    • Twitter Email Address
    • Twitter Screen Name
    • Twitter Password
    • Gamertag
    • check “Updates Enabled”
    • Click OK to save these settings…
  • Now fire up your Xbox 360 and updates will be sent to Twitter every few minutes (if you are online and your status has changed)
  • Come back here to post any feedback/problems!

Known Issues:

  • ‘status has changed’ is a bit too sensitive now… if you are playing Crackdown and you go from running to driving then your status on Xbox Live actually changes (from “Running around” to “Driving around”) and the app will post an update … I’m planning to add an option to ‘only post when the game changes, not the status’
  • Time delay, Xbox.com’s data and my app are all using various forms of caching… so if you put in a game it may be 10-15 minutes before the app notices and posts an update … also if you put one in, then stop playing a minute later… you may never see an update
  • The app checks status every 5 minutes, I can make that configurable in the future (but probably limited to no more often than 5 minutes… I’ll let you make it less often though)
  • Format of the update: Currently it is “playing <game title> (<additional info>)” … and if you are into config files and user specific isolated storage you can change that… I’ll make it part of the settings in a future release.
  • You have to leave it running on a logged in machine to work… yep… I have a web based version but I thought people might be worried about giving me their userid/password for twitter so for now I thought I’d start with this local version.

Security concerns? Yes, you have to enter in your Twitter credentials. Those are stored in plain text on the hard drive… but it is on your hard drive only … I never send your Twitter Credentials up to my site, although I do send them as credentials to Twitter when I call the Twitter APIs. Worried I might be sending to my site? Run a HTTP Trace if you’d like (Fiddler), you’ll see calls to the Twitter API and calls to a web service on my site to get your gamertag info… nothing else.

Next Xbox Dad column (TMNT coverage) is up

My 2nd column is up on Xbox.com, covering the recent Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game.

To sum up, it is a pretty fun game for kids; I’d compare it to a faster paced, less scary and complex version of Prince of Persia, which is a great game to be compared to.

Renting vs. Buying

I own a lot of Xbox and Xbox 360 games… some good, some bad… but the hit/miss ratio is much better for all my 360 games, mostly because of game renting. Starting around the time the 360 launched, I signed up for Gamefly and I’ve alternated between the two and three game plans. It is definitely a good deal for me, I usually only rent my second tier list of games, ones that I think I’ll like but I’m not already positive I’ll buy. Sometimes I even rent games that I’m pretty sure I’ll never ever buy, just because I want to try them out. I suppose you could do the same with Blockbuster or some other store, but I’m big into these ‘send to my house’ programs (like Netflix…. did you know they have RSS that shows you what movies I currently have at home?). At one point, right after launch, I added every 360 game to the list, which lead to checking out some games I would never have purchased (like Rumble Roses!). I find it especially useful for kids games, because the quality can really vary on those, and sometimes Xbox Live demos aren’t really enough for me to decide if I like a game or not.

Occasionally I’ve even gone ahead and purchased the game through Gamefly, which is usually a pretty good price… you keep the game you have so you already know that it isn’t scratched up and that it is working well in your 360 (and if it isn’t working well, don’t buy that one!). Overall, it is my way of playing more games, without paying $60 bucks for each one and possibly ending up with a copy of Over G Fighters on my shelf.

Interested in checking it out yourself (they do Wii, Xbox 1 and PS2/3 games too)? Here’s my ‘sign up a friend link’ and here is one without any additional stuff on it… use whichever one you’d prefer 🙂