Home Theater and Gaming: The XBox 360 brings it all together

Discussion in 'Gaming' started by RAF, Nov 23, 2005.

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  1. RAF

    RAF Lead Actor

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    I'm starting this thread because it involves something much bigger than just the new XBox 360 and its software.

    For several years some people at the HTF questioned whether gaming really belonged in a "Home Theater" Forum. In fact, those of you who have followed us over the years may remember that a lot of heated discussions occurred in the gaming sections and several people were removed for getting too zealous and too argumentative rather than sticking to forum guidelines. In some circles this was blamed on the gaming community in general and how a lot of its members tend to act up online. I always thought that a lot of good people were being maligned by the actions of a relatively few (former) members and I've always championed the inclusion of gaming on our forum. My rationale was that video games involve "video" and, of course, video is a major component of Home Theater. Luckily, gaming has been retained here and with the introduction of the XBox 360 it has become obvious to me in the short time I've used it, that this device truly merges gaming and Home Theater in a way that will become mainstream.

    Yes, I understand that many of you have always played video games on large screens with surround systems and a goodly number actually were using their units to serve double duty as DVD players. But when I put the first couple of games into my new box I realized that I no longer thought I was playing a game - it was a lot more like watching an interactive movie. In fact, the opening scene of King Kong is just that - a movie followed by a game that blends with it very well. With the advent of a higher resolution picture the "cut scenes" of these "games" are no longer filler between action sequences but an integral part of the whole theatrical experience.

    The new Xbox 360 is that good, at least to me. And once a person experiences this device (and I'm sure that upcoming efforts from Sony and, perhaps, Nintendo will even raise the bar higher) there can be no doubt that Video games are a subset of home theater. In other words, our staying with gaming sections of the forum has been justified by this new hardware and software.

    Of course, not everyone is into video games, but that doesn't mean that not liking such activities means that they don't belong as a part of home theater. In fact, the Xbox 360 (and the other upcoming boxes) are much more than just video game devices - they involve experiencing and sharing music, photographs and videos as well. This is evident right out of the box when one turns on the 360 for the first time. Just as some PCs became HTPCs, gaming machines are also becoming ubiquitous devices that are at the very core of what we call "Home Theater."

    As I sat mesmerized this evening quickly sampling the titles I purchased with my unit I kept thinking how closely the experience was to having a handful of movies and watching them - but with a new twist. Is everything rosy? Of course not. There have been some reports of units overheating (we'll learn more about this and the cause of it over the next weeks, both in sensationalized reports and in more rational accounts). And no, the 360 doesn't output 1080p. Nor does it have true digital HD output (HDMI or DVI) but uses analog component video to achieve its HD. Some will fault it for that. However, it does generate 720p and/or 1080i and once you see that you realize that we've come a very long way from Pong!

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  2. CaptDS9E

    CaptDS9E Cinematographer

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    I totally agree. The 360 is a perfect addition to any HT. Im blown away by the graphics on most of the games. However im really impressed with the new Dashboard/Live interface which brings so much more then gaming to the playing field. Being able to stream music, pictures and video from your computer is very easy. You can hook up your MP3 player, PSP or any other device with music and pictures in no time. And it all works perfectly

    A funny thing about the 360 is that most of the people that bought it do not even have a HD set. People may complain about no HDMI or DVI, however hooked up via Component to my Samsung DLP looks so good, I do not know how much better it could look with the other Digital hookups. It looks that damn good.
     
  3. EricW

    EricW Cinematographer

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    how is the 360's DVD playback compared to your regular DVD player? if it's a 'good enough' then that's 1 less set of cables to switch for those with limited inputs.
     
  4. Evan S

    Evan S Cinematographer

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    I'm so jealous. I pre-ordered on 6/18 and my local EB still has no idea when I'll get my hands on one. Did you guys all camp out 15 hours or something the day prior? I just don't have the time for that unfortunately.
     
  5. Kami

    Kami Screenwriter

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    I agree. It's come to the point where the games can finally fully show off all the expensive equipment we have.

    I don't see much problem with the component video - it looks great! Besides most things with a HDMI port only have one port, and you are most likely going to want to use that for your HD-DVD/Blu-ray player since it's required. So you'd be jumping back to component for the 360 anyway.

    1080p is what we have to look forward to next-NEXT-generation. You'd have to sacrifice too many other things to get the games rendered (not upscaled) smoothly in 1920x1080p. I'd rather have the extra visual goodies and 1280x720. The 1080p support on PS3 is just on paper. It makes no sense to develop a game for 1080p when less than 0.0001% of users will be able to take advantage of it.

    I have a lot of games and am enjoying them all, but the most recent one I played was Condemned: Criminal Origins. This game is creepier than any movie I have seen in recent history. Playing it in the dark at 90 inches in high res with the 5.1 turned up is one of the best HT experiences I've had. [​IMG]
     
  6. Jon_Liu

    Jon_Liu Stunt Coordinator

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    1080p is not next-next gen... PS3 is gonna be displaying things at 1080p.. whether or not ALL games are gonna be... that's a different story... but it's gonna display it!

    Either way.... still waiting until I can get my xbox 360. Waited in several lines during launch... with no luck!
     
  7. Sean Eldridge

    Sean Eldridge Second Unit

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    I don't think he meant that like you took it. It will be in the next-next-generation by default of practically no one being able display 1080p. So even if games are being output at 1080p, almost everyone will still be using 720p or 1080i. 1080p TV's won't be common place for several more years. Personally, I won't be updating my TV until it breaks or becomes unwatchable for I just bought it two years ago.

    Sean
     
  8. Kami

    Kami Screenwriter

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    What Sean said.

    The 1080p spec is just on paper. "Our hardware can output 1080p" basically. ATI has stated the Xenos could as well. When you think about it, it's just a video card...they can output at whatever they want.

    It makes no logistical or financial sense to render games are 1080p when the greater majority will be viewing them in 480i, and the remaining in 720p or 1080i. Then in the corner there will be 2 or 3 enthusiasts with displays that can actually accept a 1080p signal. [​IMG]

    Sony will tout "1080p graphics technology! 2 times more resolution than xbox 360!" but it's just going to be 720p upscaled. I hope I'm wrong and they don't try to play me for a sucker, but after the Emotion engine and it's "Toy Story-like graphics technology" call me a skeptic. [​IMG]

    Maybe we should be discussing this in the hardware thread.
    :b
     
  9. RAF

    RAF Lead Actor

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    No problem, Kami! Just as most games have made the transition from "linear" mode to free-form, I don't see why we can't let threads meander a bit as long as they are still talking about the XBox 360. The topic headers are meant as starting points. Some of the most illuminating things come out of a bit a rambling as long as it doesn't go so far afield as to make the thread unwieldy.

    As to the 1080p "issue" with gaming in general. I wasn't really knocking the 360 for not providing digital HD output at this point, 1080p or otherwise. Like it was stated, most of this is "next" generation as far as being mainstream. I'm perfectly fine with the jump the 360 has taken from the first XBox. There are and will be some remarkable games in HD. Heck, I even like the little "Hexic" game included on the HD!

    My hope for digital output was based on the fact that I will soon be adding a 1080p capable DLP set to my home theater - i.e. one that accepts 1080p as native input (very few do at this time). It would have been great if the 360 was a 1080p native source, but it's not a deal breaker. Obviously, all 1080p sets have to process the incoming signal to 1080p for display, but you are at the mercy of the set's internal scaler to do this - unless your set accepts 1080p input from external 1080p sources. And why is this important? Because scaling technology always improves during a set's lifespan and being able to process the signal externally (or not having to process it at all because it's already 1080p) allows you to upgrade the processing without having to replace the set. Not accepting 1080p input eliminates being able to use your own scaler with 1080p output capability. Just as important (or maybe even more importantly) if a 1080p set can't accept a 1080p signal then you have to downconvert it to 1080i and then the set scales it back up to 1080p. Two additional processing steps that can't be good for the final picture quality under the best circumstances and two steps that are totally unnecessary if the 1080p input signal can go right through to the set.

    I'm planning to get a 1080p capable scaler shortly (the DVDO VP30) and this unit will do the XBox upconverting for me to my new 1080p monitor (58" HP unit most likely). And with a 1080p input capable set, I'm ready if and when the next boxes (PS3? Blu-Ray?) pump out 1080p source material.
     
  10. David Galindo

    David Galindo Screenwriter

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    The 360 is indeed amazing. I was able to show off some pictures on my big screen for Thanksgiving, use the visualizer and have some great music running the entire day, and sat down with some pals for some Call of Duty action. When we weren't playing, my non-gamer cousins (aka girls) would play some XBL Arcade games like Zuma and Geometry Wars.

    Man, I love my 360. Truly next gen stuff. [​IMG]
     
  11. RaymondSteiner

    RaymondSteiner Stunt Coordinator

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    Didn't work out that with DVD's ?(Support for widescreen TV - Anamorphic, even with a very low presence of that type of tv).

    If sony put 1080P in their new machines, it will be great
     
  12. Travis Hedger

    Travis Hedger Supporting Actor

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    Excellent thread start here.

    I feel the same way. High Definition gaming has arrived. I pretty much stayed away from the last round of consoles up until about a month ago when I started reading about the 360. It was pretty much everything and then some that I wanted in a console and have been loving mine for about a week now. (Samsclub purchase)

    Sony will support HD Gaming as a given with their Blu Ray support.

    Nintendo on the otherhand just baffles me. Will they wont they will they wont they? It seems to teeter every week that passes.
     
  13. Romier S

    Romier S Producer

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    They won't. Nintendo has no interest in competing with Microsoft and Sony on that level. They are going a completely different route with the Revolution, and have stated several times HD support is not in the cards with their new system.
     
  14. Adam Bluhm

    Adam Bluhm Supporting Actor

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    I agree with that. With better graphics and sound continuing to improve, 5.1 gaming is extremely satisfying on a HT setup. I first found that out when I hooked up my pc to the HT and played Doom 3 in the dark with full surround.

    What an experience!
     
  15. RAF

    RAF Lead Actor

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    What the XBox 360 and those HD boxes that follow accomplishes, Adam, is to bring to the mainstream the ability to link games and HD. Lots of people with technical savvy and HD equipment have already connected their gaming PCs to their HTs either on a regular or at least a sometime basis. But the average person probably hasn't. I've played PC games for more years than I would like to admit and I always make sure that my latest desktop has the ability to handle the graphics, etc. As I familiarize myself with the Xbox 360 I notice that the graphics are great - but not really a leap ahead of PC gaming. It's just more convenient to the general public.

    And on the question of whether or not Nintendo will get involved in HD, I agree with those who state that they won't at this point. The ironic thing is that their games will probably continue to be as much or more fun to play - they just won't look as pretty. [​IMG]

    I can't help but make the comparison between my PSP and my DS. The PSP has a great looking display and some fine games (especially sports). The DS has titles that actually draw me in for repetitive play. The only PSP game that has affected me that way so far is Lumines.
     
  16. Adam Bluhm

    Adam Bluhm Supporting Actor

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    Don't use that tone with me! [​IMG]

    I get your point. I was just sharing my first theater/gaming experience.
     
  17. Jay Mitchosky

    Jay Mitchosky Producer

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    Personally the lack of DVI/HDMI doesn't concern me so long as the quality is still there. A direct digital connection does not guarantee better performance then component. All else being equal it should, but there are often other variables at play.

    What RAF says in his introduction is so true. Consoles such as the 360 will become part of many high-end theaters as it can deliver an extraordinary multi-media experience. And an interactive one at that.
     
  18. RAF

    RAF Lead Actor

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    Speaking of sharing, the only downside to using a huge screen in your home theater to play HD video games is that if you have friends and family over, once they see this they never want to leave!

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  19. Trevor Harveaux

    Trevor Harveaux Stunt Coordinator

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    I just got my 360 on Tuesday. I'm loving it so far.

    Quick question though....

    My HDTV doesn't have digital input, so does that mean I wont be able to play PS3 games in high-def? Everything I've been able to find points to needed a HDCP compatible tv in order for Blu-Ray to work in high-def.

    Are all of us earlier adopters going to be left out in the cold?
     

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