Microsoft X-Box: A First Look

Feature written by Ewout Stam on Tuesday, April 11, 2000

from the BSoD-on-your-tv dept.

Thanks to the diligent efforts of our Vast Spy Network(tm), we've been able to obtain a pre-pre-pre-alpha prototype of the X-Box, Microsoft's new gaming console designed to monopolize the console market. We spent several hours of quality research time playing the games included with the unit, although, in the end, we really weren't that impressed with it.

When we first obtained the X-Box, we wanted to know what underlying platform it used. Recently several Anonymous Cowards speculated on Slashdot that the system was actually based on the X Window System. "The X-Box is a box with X on it. QED," one argued. Another AnonCow rebutted, "No, the X-Box runs a modified Win2K kernel. Bill Gates is purposefully using the name X-Box to attract and deceive Linux fans. It's all a conspiracy."

After setting up the X-Box in the Humorix Lab of Doom(tm) it was immediately clear that it was running Windows 2000. The blue screen was a dead giveaway.

Eventually we were able to successfully boot the X-Box and fire up several pre-installed games, including:

Penguin Bash

As a Microserf character, you must hunt and squish penguins, Linux longhairs, Linux converts, anti-trust lawyers, and men wearing red hats. After completing each level, you must defeat a Boss, such as Richard M. Stallman (who rants and raves about "GNU/Linux", causing your eardrums to explode), Eric S. Raymond (who is quite a skilled Geek With Guns), Tux Penguin (who can charge at speeds in excess of 100 MPH), the BSD Daemon (who holds an extremely sharp pitchfork), and other assorted Open Source characters.

After killing each Boss you receive a Borg implant with additional powers, including "Assimilating Linux Converts", "Slinging FUD At Your Opponents", and "Firing Competition-Keeper Missiles". Levels include The Bazaar, The Anti-Trust Court, The Linux User Group Meeting, and The Command Line.

Age of Monopolies

This is a simulation game in which you are the president of your own computer business. Starting with a small store located in your basement, you gain knowledge and skill by selling Microsoft products. When your knowledge reaches a certain level, you are able to sell the store and raise enough capital to buy expensive programming software (i.e. Visual Batchfile and ActiveEdlin) to open up a software design firm.

Then you can set up your own network using cheap software such as FreeBS(o)D. If your network becomes popular enough, you can have your own kind of Internet called MSN (My Slow Notwork).

Eventually, when you become the World's Richest Monopolist®, you are accused of violating archaic anti-trust laws by the Department of Injustice. You'll have to talk, talk, bullshit, talk, delay software release dates, talk, talk, bullshit, and give hype-laden speeches. The game is incredibly difficult to win from this point on.

Valley Rally

In this game you race through the streets of Silicon Valley, hoping to avoid the traffic and not run over any Venture Capitalists. Some of the vehicles you can drive include:

  • The Microsoft Darn-fast Open-roofed Smooth-feel-car (MS-DOS)
  • The FreeB(u)S-D
  • The Real Mach3 Speed-thing (RMS)
  • The Windows (a 100% glass car in the form of one big window)
  • The X-windows (a 100% glass car with Xs on it. This car is fast and cheap, but not optimized for every track. It will need a reconfiguration for every new track it comes along)

This game's playability was ruined by an insidious bug that affected the vehicles, particularly "The Windows". Braking and throttling at the same time invariably caused the car to change into a blue color and come to a sudden halt and start beeping endlessly. We also discovered that when driving The Windows, the stop lights on the track would sometimes turn blue (with white unreadable letters) instead of green, preventing the car from advancing. A well-placed Microsoft source tells us that this is a normal "feature" and will be included in the final version.


Of course, no Microsoft product would be complete without Solitaire, FreeCell, and Minesweeper. If the X-Box does become successful, we suspect that the total productivity of the world will drop by at least 5% as everyone wastes countless hours playing Solitaire in front of their TV.

The X-Box does include the capability to take screenshots, but they are dumped to an unusable proprietary file format. It's our understanding that this format will only be readable in Office 2003 (Both the X-Box and Office 2003 are expected to be released in 2005).

Overall, we were not that thrilled with the X-Box. Of course, the big "Microsoft" logo on the front is a definite minus. Also, we really can't take any gaming platform seriously unless it has the ability to play XBill.

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