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Xbox breathes the truest vision of life into video games: University professor proposes that artificial intelligence is the next step for gaming - News - John E. Laird

Liam Lahey

With the launch of Microsoft's much-vaunted Xbox video game console on Nov. 15, garners across Canada will now be exposed to what Ryan Mugford called the 'truest vision of games brought to life".

Microsoft's- Xbox marketing manager, told CDN that Canada's garners comprise a significant portion of the buying public for the 1.5 million units the company is aiming to move across North America between now and Christmas.

Retailing for about $460, Mugford said the Xbox console is defined by its ability to offer garners broadband, online access to a series of forthcoming titles (in at least six months levels of play per game, and the ability to challenge other garners via cyberspace.

"By the first half of 2002, we'll unveil our online gaming location which allow Xbox users the opportunity to play not only their friends, but other gainers from around the world."

A wide array of games was also launched on Nov. 15, including Madden NFL 2002, Halo, AirForce Delta Storm, and NHL Hitz 2002, each retailing for approximately $79, although some resellers may offer the games for less.

On the eve of the Xbox launch at Electronics Boutique Canada (EB) in Toronto, Shreyash Thakrar, a buyer for EB's 87 nation-wide stores, told CDN he expected a significant increase in sales over the holidays thanks to the new console. "What we're offering (bundled) is the Xbox hardware itself, two software titles at launch...it also includes an accessory which the customer can select either a DVD remote, a memory card, or a controller. This retail package is only $664."

While a lineup developed out front of EB, an Xbox tent set up outside in the parking lot offered anyone the opportunity to play any of the launch games. It was a party atmosphere inside the tent, as kids of all ages (and we do mean all ages) played games, answered Xbox trivia for prizes, in addition to having the opportunity to be one of the first Canadian consumers to purchase the console.

Also joining in on the fun was David Wu, president and director of technology for Toronto-based games purveyor Pseudo Interactive, and his art director Gary Snyder. The Canuck duo's debut game launch Cel Damage -- a frantic vehicular combat game -- is licensed by EA Games for Xbox as well as GameCube.

"Compared to the PS2 or the GameCube...or any of the past consoles, it's so much better (to develop games for)...it's really the platform of choice," Wu said. "I think every developer will tell you that."

Mugford said the strength of Xbox doesn't lie solely in its intricately developed graphics, but also in its sound capabilities.

"We have Dolby Surround Sound built into the Xbox," he said. "It's just another step towards (building) a holo-deck (hologram deck)."

So where exactly is gaming going? According to Dr. John E. Laird, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, advances in gaming graphics have peaked. The next logical step, he said, is artificial intelligence (Al).

"As it stands right now, video games are predictable if you play them on a regular basis. Al can help create a new, entertaining experience that concocts social challenges and you can [interact with] Al characters that are much more human, although not necessarily in a violent manner," he said.

Dr. Laird admitted he's yet to play with the Xbox, but he has consulted with Sony, Microsoft, 3D0, and other gaming companies. The thrust to his Al theory is improving the gaming scenarios and interactions with the game characters to create a more socially challenging experience.

COPYRIGHT 2001 Plesman Publications
COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group





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