An unhappy day for new console owners

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I noticed after we came home from breakfast with family yesterday morning I was unable to sign into Xbox Live. We only had a few hours before we had to head out again for another family gathering so I didn’t think too much of it. I did notice throughout the evening I was unable to view my friends via the SmartGlass app on my phone. I had been looking to see which of my friends had upgraded from the 360 to the Xbox One this Christmas.

It was then I was first made aware of the mass outage affecting both Xbox Live and PSN. I saw a series of tweets mentioning the outages and found confirmation on both IGN and CNN. When I saw that the outages were thought to be a result of DDoS attacks I felt quite a bit of anger. Why would someone be so cruel on a holiday that means so much to so many people? I could imagine the thousands of gamers, the young especially, trying to boot up their new consoles only to be met with nothingness. From what I understand many were not able to play at all as the games or consoles themselves required updates and were not able to receive them.

I was away all day so the outage didn’t affect me, but the fact that it was disrupting the Christmas joy of thousands of others saddened me. Did the outage affect you? Is it still affecting you? Xbox Live seems to be working as advertised right now for most people (including myself), but PSN is still mostly down.

What happened (in a brief, barely informed nutshell)?

The nuisance group which calls themselves The Lizard Squad apparently took both networks down yesterday. They were demanding retweets in exchange for releasing their grip on the networks. In the end Kim Dotcom seemingly single-handedly ended the attacks by offering Lizard Squad members premium MEGA accounts.

A group called Finest Squad spent most of yesterday and today countering Lizard Squad’s efforts, and has been working to bring the “hackers” to justice. Their efforts are greatly appreciated, and will hopefully deter future “pranks”.

Guardians of Middle-Earth

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Monolith Productions may be most well known for developing the hit games F.E.A.R. and Condemned, but they’ve also made quite a splash in the downloadable ‘arcade’ market with Gotham City Imposters. It looks like they have another downloadable hit on their hands with Guardians of Middle-Earth (available on Xbox Live Arcade and PSN).

If you’re familiar with the insanely popular League of Legends game on the PC (or DOTA 2) then you’ll easily understand how to play Guardians of Middle-Earth. GoME is a console version of these games with a Lord of the Rings theme, so you’ll be playing as characters such as Gandalf or Sauron. I’ve played a handful of matches so far and I have to say the game plays great on a console. Controls are quite intuitive. Hold right trigger for your basic attack while the face buttons are used for special attacks and abilities. When you level up, simply hold RB (on the 360) to open your abilities menu and press to corresponding button to quickly add a point to your chosen ability).

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Guardians of Middle-Earth also spices things up by allowing you to upgrade your towers as you level up. The higher your level the more powerful the upgrade you can apply to any given tower. You can change their rate of fire, or build a barracks to spawn more powerful creatures.

The graphics are pretty nice and the map is well designed and nice to look at when you’re not frantically attacking (or retreating).

Guardians of Middle-Earth is available for $15 (1200 MSP) and there’s also a season pass available for an additional $15 which will grant you access to future DLC ‘guardians’ (the characters you play as) and other content. It’s certainly a great game to enjoy as you prepare to watch The Hobbit this weekend.

If you want to see the game in action, check out Giant Bomb’s gameplay ‘quick look’ which features 37 minutes of gameplay and commentary, below: