Moving my European XBox 360 to North America

XBox 360 LogoI’m writing this post in case anyone else out there wants to know what will happen to a European XBox 360 (in my case, from Ireland) if it’s moved to North America (in my case, Canada).  [update] The story started out not particularly great, but now, a few updates later, it is significantly better.  By purchasing a new power supply, you’ll have everything you need.  And although games are marked as region-specific, it turns out that many of them are not, and so by checking them against a list, you’ll find you can purchase many games in the shops, even those that are marked as “NTSC only”! 

So here’s the run-down.

Buying new games in the shop: You can NOT buy North American games and play them in your European XBox360.  XBox360s do not play games that were purchased in other regions, as per this.  [Update: It looks like the North American versions of some XBox360 games will work with a PAL (European) XBox360!  Thanks to John in the comments for the link to VideoGamesPlus at Blogspot where they test North American games in a PAL system and list the ones that work.  And here’s a chart at Wikipedia of Region-Free 360 titles.]  For titles that aren’t region-free, you’ll need to have them shipped to you.  Solution: make some friends before you leave.  And maybe give them a few Euros for future postage.

Buying games through XBox Live and XBox Live Arcade: This continues to work just fine and you can purchase new XBLA games using this method.  I had to change my Region from Ireland to Canada before I could sign in to Xbox Live.  It updated my console before I was able to sign in (this could have been a routine update, I’m not sure).

PAL/NTSC 50Hz/60Hz: My European XBox works fine on an NTSC TV. 

Watching DVDs: You can ONLY watch DVDs from the XBox’s home region.  So my console rejects Region 1 (North American) DVDs.

Power Supply:  The European power supply — you know, that LOUD, GRAY BRICK sitting behind your TV? — DOES NOT WORK in North America.  If you use an outlet adaptor to physically plug it in, the unit will not accept as input the 110V power from North America.  Trust me, I tried; the power supply gives the amber “stand by” indication, but the XBox360 console itself gives you a flashing red ring. The European XBox power supply requires an input of 200 to 240 Volts from which it will generate an output of 203 Watts for the XBox at 12V / 16.5A.  Think about that for a second.  203 Watts is the equivalent of, like, 5 light bulbs. 

If you go looking for a voltage adaptor that will step up the North American voltage from its native 110 or 120 volts to the required 200-240 volts, most power adaptors you’ll find will produce around 60 Watts, which is adequate for a toaster or a microwave, but not your XBox360.  It sounds like this guy, Mike, had better luck finding one than I did when he moved the other way across the Atlantic. 

Your alternative is to pay a fortune for a North American XBox360 Power Supply (I got mine from Future Shop.)  They are scarce though, so call before you go.  Mine cost $99Cdn.  Ouch.

So here are the options, as far as I can see:

Option A: Buy a new XBox360 power supply in North America for ~$99Cdn.  Keep your old games.  Buy region-free games, and have games that aren’t region-free shipped to you.

Option B: Buy a new Xbox360 core system in North America for ~$299Cdn.  Don’t bring your core system with you.  Take out the hard drive.  Keep all peripherals.  Sell your old games that aren’t region free.

If you have any questions about this or suggestions for me, I’d be grateful to hear from you.  I have it up and running now, and confirmed that I can play an NTSC title on my PAL XBox (Project Sylpheed, which specifically says on the package it is for NTSC only), but other than that, I haven’t had the time to do any gaming since I’ve been back.

BONUS LINK: If you’re interested in embarking on a cross-Atlantic move in either direction with your XBox360, you should also read Mike and Rion’s guide.

BONUS #2: On a simpler note, here’s my guide to moving a European Nintendo DS to North America: (1) Play it on the plane. (2) Go to store and purchase game for $24Cdn (approx. 16EUR) instead of 49EUR. (3) Keep playing.

A Wii Flock of Boids: Integrating the Nintendo Wii Controller with XNA

A wee flock of boidsAs part of my Last Stand demo, I showed how to integrate Nintendo’s Wiimote controller into XNA, first to navigate a butterfly around an environment by tilting and rolling the controller, and then to walk a creature across a tightrope wire by holding the Wiimote like a balancing pole.

I won’t be posting the code to this demo, but here is a description of how this works and how you can integrate the Wiimote controller with XNA, possibly to make your own Wiimote-controlled applications on the PC.

WiiMote Control:

I integrated the Wii controller using Brian Peek’s Managed Library for Nintendo’s Wiimote, which I found through Coding4Fun.  Brian includes a test app which you can use to help connect and test your Wiimote.  It took less than 20 minutes for me to integrate this library into XNA and map the accelerometers to the butterfly’s motion, but it had previously taken me 4 days and 8 (yes, eight) different attempts to find a Bluetooth adaptor that would work on Vista and speak with the Wiimote. 

Having Windows talk Bluetooth to the Wiimote is the hardest part:

The Wiibrew Wiki offers a list of Bluetooth devices which can communicate with the Wiimote.  Bear in mind that Vista seems to complicate things tremendously.  Many of the drivers for Bluetooth dongles listed as Wiimote-compatible are incompatible with Vista, and when I forced two of them to install, they sent me from Bluetooth to Bluescreen.

I used the EPoX BT-DG05A Bluetooth USB Dongle.  The Microsoft Bluetooth stack included with Vista never spoke to the WiiMote at all, regardless of dongle model on the PC.  Instead, I am using the Toshiba Bluetooth stack (5.10.12), which Toshiba supports being installed onto Vista.  Be forewarned that Toshiba’s stack, when installed on a non-Toshiba machine, has a built-in 30-day timebombed expiry.  As of today, there is no way I could find to acquire a longer license to it… so Toshiba, please offer us a way we can license your stack.

Wiimote input is limited to Windows-based XNA games:

Once you get the Wiimote talking to my PC, having accelerometer input is very, very, very cool.  Both the Wiimote itself and the Nunchuk that can be optionally attached contain 3 accelerometers each, with output normalized to gravity.

Although this provides Wiimote input for Windows games written with XNA, when I publish my XNA game to the Xbox360, I am unable to use the Wiimote.  #ifdef statements in the code make the Wiimote bits conditionally compile for the Windows version.

Animation:

My butterflies are animated with the XNA Animation Components library, which you can download from Codeplex.  Thanks to David Astle (who leads the project) for sorting out a little bug in the InterpolationController.  It’s been fun making a (modest) contribution to that project.

Now I can significantly slow down the animation, and the engine smoothly blends between frames of Phil’s animations, giving the butterflies a really natural look, even when they’re at rest.

Flocking butterflies:

The autonomous butterflies follow the rules of Craig Reynolds’ classic Boids flocking algorithm, which encourage separation, alignment and cohesion of members of the flock.  They avoid obstacles, and tend towards a target.  Here’s the Boids pseudocode that I worked from – and it’s really cool how a high-level language like C# lets you work almost directly from that pseudocode!

Mawg on Tightrope

Art Assets:

The butterfly and Mawg‘s models and animations, as well as the environment, were created by Phil McDarby and originally appeared in Still Life and Mind Balance. The skydome also appears in my Guitar Hero X-Plorer demo.

p.s. If you liked this, you’ll also like the Lego NXT Wii Bowling Robot!

Ireland’s Call – Source Code

Ireland's Call screenshotYou can download the source code from the Ireland’s Call demo here – obviously, this is provided completely free of any guarantees, and smells like code that was whipped together for a demo!  Open the file Game.cs and read the notes at the top if you want to go exploring.

If you’re looking at the code, you’re probably interested in Guitar Hero X-Plorer integration or perhaps the HLSL shaders or maybe how I did the audio.

X-Plorer: This works just like a normal XBox360 controller.  Do a seach for [XPLORER] in this file and you can find the relevant bits about how to manage the X-Plorer (including using the accelerometers to figure out if someone is tilting the guitar up to unleash “Star Power”!).

HLSL: I tweaked the High-Level Shader Language code found in the original Particle3DSample from the XNA Creators Club to also allow passing the colour of the fireworks as a parameter.  OK, I know they look more like explosions than fireworks.  Making them prettier is left as an exercise to someone who, unlike me, has more artistic ability than a slug.

Audio: I cut up the audio manually using an audio editing program called GoldWave.  I now have immense respect for the folks who produced the real Guitar Hero audio – making it work is easy, making it sound GOOD and RESPONSIVE is really hard!!  As a first approximation, what I did was very quickly fade in the start of each audio section, making sure it was cued so that you got an immediate, on-beat acoustic response.

The goal, of course, being that if you play with a steady rhythm, the song sounds fluid.

I had each audio section overlap a TINY bit: each audio clip plays a TINY portion of the next note before fading out, to make it a bit more forgiving on the timing.  “Dead air” sounds awful between notes, as I am lacking a “background” track (i.e. all the other instruments in Guitar Hero.)

Hope you enjoy and don’t hesitate to contact me with comments, suggestions, feedback.

Ireland’s Call on Guitar Hero X-Plorer for the PC and XBox 360

Guitar Hero controller: rock on!If you have the Guitar Hero X-Plorer controller for the XBox360, here’s an XNA application that will let you play Ireland’s Call (a.k.a. “The Rugby Song”) on your PC or XBox360. This was my finale at Rob’s Last Stand last week.

This game is a bit more “free form” than the real Guitar Hero, in that you aren’t prompted visually with when you should play each chord. Instead, as you play, fireworks go off in sync with the music that match the colours of the notes you’re playing.  (Each “fret” on the Guitar Hero controller is a coloured button.)

I wrote this in XNA by starting with the Particle3D sample found at the XNA Creators Club. It was fun tweaking the High-Level Shader Language used for the fireworks. I must also say, I now have immense respect for the people responsible for producing the audio for the real Guitar Hero games.

I’ve included playing instructions below for your jamming pleasure.

Ireland's Call

Download and Installation

To install either version: You must first have the free XNA Game Studio Express installed. Learn how to do this through the XNA Creators Club.

Click here to download the Windows Version. Double-click the install file and it will unpack the game under a directory called “XNA Creators Club Games.” Plug your Guitar Hero X-Plorer controller into the PC and you are ready to rock.

Click here to download the XBox360 Version. To play this version, you need to be a member of the XNA Creators Club. Launch the XNA Game Launcher and click “Connect to Computer.” Then just double-click the install file on the PC and it will unpack the game to your XBox360.

Ireland’s Call

Ireland,
Ireland,
together
standing
tall!

Shoulder to
shoulder,
we answer
Ireland’s
Call!

(Brief interlude, during which you should press the Start button on the Guitar Hero controller to toggle from the first to the second verse.)

Ireland,
Ireland,
together
standing
tall!

Shoulder to
shoulder,
we answer
Ireland’s
Call …

WE ANSWER
IRELAND’S
CALL!!

(During the second verse, ideally just as the song finishes, tilt the guitar vertically (“Activate Star Power” – see photo below) to launch a salvo of fireworks.)

Other Controls

Press Esc or the Back button on your controller to exit.

On the PC, press Right Alt + Enter to toggle fullscreen mode.

Enjoy!!

A Few Notes

  • This recording of Ireland’s Call was taken from a recent game at Croke Park in Dublin – you can guess the significance! :)
  • I remain indebted to Phil McDarby for the skydome graphic used in the background, which also appeared in the Wii Flock of Boids demo.
  • [Update] I’ve posted the code, too.
  • One last thing:

Push all 5 fret buttons at once to show farewell message from Rob.

Now you too can look silly like this while singing and playing “The Rugby Song”:
Ireland's Call Finale