Saturday, June 30, 2007

Warhammer Online - New Screens & Video

The monthly newsletter has been sent out, with more screenshots and videos. It looks like the project is moving right along, despite news a couple weeks ago that the title would be delayed until first quarter 08.

Here are some screens and a link to a game footage video that the latest newsletter included.

“The Goddess instructs us to seek out the enemy’s weaknesses and to attack them with relentless force. Do this in all things – in love, in politics, in war. To accomplish any task – to defeat any foe, all that is needed is a keen eye, a sharp mind and the favor of the Goddess.”

- Isabella Mauro, Knight of the Blazing Sun

Read more about the Knight of the Blazing Sun >>

Learn more about the Armies of WAR >>

Click Image to Watch Video

One of DAOC's biggest shortcomings was the generic, homogenized appearances of its locations. One thing these screenshots show is that the various towns and other locations have gotten a lot more TLC than DAOC's little villages did. I do recognize some of the fighting stances as being the same basic skeletal models as in DAOC, but that's ok.

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Friday, June 29, 2007

Off-Topic Friday #2

This is what we call the news??

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WoW: The Movie

I'm curious to see what they're going to do with it, but always in my mind is the rule that movies made from video games always suck. Always. Hell, Street Fighter: The Movie was so bad it killed Raul Julia. They told us it was cancer, but we all know it was street fighter.


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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Supreme Commander Expansion Announced

Touted as a "standalone expansion" (which often is marketingspeak for "expansion we're trying to halfassedly pass off as a sequel"), Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance has been announced by THQ.

Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance is the next chapter in the critically acclaimed Supreme Commander franchise that set the standard for scope and scale in the RTS genre. The game continues the epic story following the Infinite War, featuring an all-new single-player campaign, a new faction and a myriad of innovative multiplayer features. More than one hundred new units will give players access to cutting-edge strategic options, including fully realized navies, orbital weaponry and advanced counter intelligence technologies. Developed by Chris Taylor and Gas Powered Games, Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance is expected to be available in retail outlets worldwide in November 2007.
Snide comments aside, Supreme Commander is an excellent RTS and I'm glad we're seeing more of it.

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Civilization Crossing Over to Consoles

In a surprising revelation, Maxis has informed the world that in 2008 Civ will be making the jump to "next gen consoles and handhelds" though it doesn't specify which ones.

Sid Meier put computer gaming on the map when he delivered Civilization® to the gaming world, launching the "God Game" genre and creating one of the most award-winning and addictive strategy series of all time, including Sid Meier's Civilization IV™, the Gamespy and GameSpot 2005 Game of the Year. Driven by sheer passion for the game concept, Meier is now handcrafting a brand-new Civilization experience designed and built from scratch for next gen consoles and handhelds.

"Civilization Revolution is the game I've always wanted to make!" said Sid Meier, Director of Creative Development at Firaxis Games. "We are excited to take advantage of the power of next generation consoles and the ingenuity of handhelds, to create a great and unique strategy game for newcomers to the series, as well as the millions of fans around the world who enjoy Civilization on the PC."

Read more about it here.

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Soul Calibur Legends (Wii) Screenshots

Kotaku's got some screenshots of the upcoming hack'n'slash adventure SC spinoff over here. The writer seems a bit dubious of the idea of adapting SC to this sort of game, but I'm not willing to do so for 2 reasons -

1) I'm a Soul Calibur maniac, and
2) Wii = Fun.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

I'm Losing My Hosting

I host most of the graphics and such I use, for this blog and other things, on However, I got a mass e-mail from them saying they're closing down after the next billing cycle. Oh well, I guess the free ride couldn't last forever.

If anybody knows a good low cost (or preferably free) hosting company that provides at least a gig of space, has generous bandwidth limits, and allows hotlinking please let me know, either in a comment below this post, or you can find my e-mail address over on the right -->


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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Hard Drive Frontiers

Seagate, the (in my not so humble opinion) best drive manufacturer in existence, has unveiled a new 1TB barracuda drive. That puppy would sure ease some space problems. On the other end of the field, Samsung has announced they have put a new solid state 64 gig drive into mass production, in 1.8 inch size (obviously aimed at laptops). I read on Tech Report that allegedly this drive boasts 64MB/s read time, where a conventional 1.8" 80 gig drive would have something akin to 15MB/s.

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New AMD/ATI Catalyst Drivers

They're up to v7.6 now. Download here from official site.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Frets On Fire

Thanks be to bluesnews, on which I discovered Frets On Fire, an open source Guitar Hero clone for windows, linux and mac. You can use keyboard, or if you have an adapter you can even use the guitar controllers from the console version. It can also import songs from GH or from online, or you can make them yourself with the built-in editor. Nice.

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Save Adventure Games - Ban Half-Life

Ok, maybe that's going a little far, but it is the title of this little essay over at bit-tech where a guy named Joe laments the shortcoming of the episodic game paradigm.

My major beef with these games in particular though is that they promised the earth, but in reality only really delivered a few hours of gaming - essentially a very short retail game which normally would be faulted for its brevity. There has been no evidence of the promised innovations, such as community guided storylines (granted though, these two games have barely had a chance to incorporate this) and the major perk of having smaller but more regular releases has been proven utterly false. Games are smaller, but not more regular.

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Warhammer Online Q&A

From Ten Ton Hammer, a Q&A session with Erik Morgensen, Games Workshop's licensing manager, and they chewed the fat.

Ten Ton Hammer: Games Workshop has a lot on its plate this summer, how have things been going on your end with Warhammer Online as we near the Beta phase of the game?

Erik: ‘Very well’ is the short answer! I suppose it might be a bit boring to hear by now, but the approvals process continues to run as smoothly as ever. EA Mythic and GW continue to work closely together on every aspect of the game and I still say ‘yes’ to vastly more material than I have to turn away. The dev team have truly ‘gotten’ Warhammer and have become experts in their own right. It certainly makes my life easier!

Read on.

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Lego Universe Trailer

Kotaku's apparently got an exclusive trailer on the new Lego MMO. Watch it over here. Doesn't show much (if any) of the actual playing, but it does show you what they have in mind.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Off-Topic Friday

I think I'll start a regular fixture around here called Off-Topic Friday... and this week's off-topic Friday shall be... making music with tesla coils.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Intel to Incorporate Anti-Cheating Hardware?

First we had straight up CPUs... then they got Math Coprocessors... then video cards started having their own GPUs... and then there came physics cards to handle complex geometry and effects.. and now Intel is thinking about putting in special hardware to detect things like aimbots and map hacks.

I don't think it would work out too well.. it just forces escalation. Kinda like how the RIAA simply forced escalation by squashing napster. Sure, it might catch present methods of cheating, but to fight it you need something that can change and keep up, like punkbuster software. To incorporate it into hardware is to remove the agility required. It'd be like "virus detection hardware." Just too much difficulty and expense to keep current.

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DOJ Pushes MS to Produce Vista SP1

An interesting little read, that also at the end of the article confirms that XP SP3 is still on the way as well. Article

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Office: The Game

You know, I'm not a huge fan of The Office, but even I have my curiosity piqued by this one. (Press Release)

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Symantec = Dumb

Symantec is making amends to the owners of the PCs that were crippled by a bug in Norton Antivirus... by offering them free copies of Norton Antivirus. They ain't happy.

I have to laugh though... I'd sooner trust my computer's safety to a TI-83 Graphing Calculator than to Symantec. Trend Micro 4 evah, dog.

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EA Reorganizes - The Sims Is Its Own Division

Get a load of this - EA has undergone a reorganization, resegregating itself into 4 divisions... EA Games, EA Sports, EA Casual Entertaiment, and The Sims.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

As Long as We're Breaking Format Today...

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And Now, a Public Service Announcement

I apologize, I really try not to "break format" here, but I feel compelled to tell all my readers (yes, all three of you) the following message.

Do NOT go see the new Fantastic 4 movie.

It's bad.

Really bad. Not even "bad in a good kind of way," like the kind of bad some people love to watch? No, no, no. It's bad bad. The plot is laughable. There are some potholes in the parking lot out front of my apartment that are deeper than either the story or the characters, or all of them combined really. The only thing the movie has going for it are some special effects, most you saw before in T2: Judgement Day. Reed is some sort of adult ADHD-posterboy, Susan's a whiny little "why can't I have a wedding day" wench whose only true function in the movie is to circulate blood through Jessica Alba's body on camera, Johnny is a dick who is starting to get as moody as his sister, and the Thing had about as much personality as one of your more garden variety, non-orange, non-talking rocks. And I don't know who that Victor guy was supposed to be, because he sure as hell wasn't Dr. Doom. I think I got a better look at the inside of my own skull from rolling my eyes so much. You can't even say "at least it was faithful to the source material" because (spoiler alert, select text to read) they changed Galactus into cosmic bad weather.(Spoiler ends)

Just... save yourself the time and expense. Ignore this movie. Everyone associated with this colossal pile of moldy, nutty, cheesy turd should be ashamed, ashamed of themselves.

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

Wing Commander Privateer Gemini Gold

It's been a long time since we had a good game like this, and I'm happy to see that Privateer is being retooled with modern technology in mind. Privateer was an excellent mix of economics and spaceflight sims. These guys have been working for more than a year to recreate the experience, and I'm glad to have been pointed to it courtesy of Blue's News. It is open source and free to download, so get to it! Just be aware that it is still a work in progress, much like the Ur-Quan Lords remake of Star Control 2, so there's still some spit and polish missing, as well as a few bugs.

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Friday, June 15, 2007

StarCraft 2 Protoss Unit Preview

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

CoH/V Issue 10 - Invasion

NCSoft's Superhero/Supervillain MMO has its 10th free content expansion on the way, and a preview press release indicates that it will centrally focus on the return of the invading alien force, the "Rikti." There will be new missions and inventions as well as some hero/villain co-op task forces and such. Check out the press release here.

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Soul Calibur IV On the Way

Both Xbox360 and PS3 will see this sequel (guess the Wii will only be getting that siegfried-centric hack-n-slash rpg I found a while back). The sequel will really be an interstitial "prequel" between Soul Blade and Soul Calibur. Supposedly it will also have an even larger number of characters. They've also got screenshots and video over at IGN. Go see.

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10 Most Influential RPGs

Actiontrip ran down what they considered to be the 10 most influential RPGs of all time. I don't think KOTOR should rank higher than Final Fantasy or Ultima (must have some die-hard Star Wars geeks on the payroll over there, wouldn't be uncommon). But other than kibitzing the order, I'd say the members of the list are rightfully there. Have a look.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Halo 2 and Shadowrun Headed for XP?

Falling Leaf Systems likes to develop ways to run "platform exclusive" apps on other platforms, and they've put Microsoft square in their crosshairs by announcing they were developing a way to play Halo 2 and Shadowrun on XP. Here's a quote from their jab:

“Microsoft has, in typical Microsoft fashion, decided to launch their forced migration onslaught in full force with the release of two games that will only run on Windows Vista,” stated Thomason. “First they claim that it was impossible to implement DirectX 10 compatibility atop Windows XP, and now they also want us to believe that they couldn’t successfully launch two DirectX 9 based titles on XP either. We plan to expose both theories as patently false.”

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Triumph of the Wii: How Fun Won Out in the Console Wars

With Sony laying off people in its gaming division, it looks like the Wii is coming out as the king of this gen's consoles, with the 360 being an admirable second place. The company everybody thought was dying out, fading away, has come back with a vengeance and reclaimed the throne it occupied during my adolescence.

Wired has a column that makes for a good read, summarizing how it came to this. Here's an excerpt:

"Thumb candy for dummies."

That's how, in 2003, Time magazine described Nintendo President Satoru Iwata's conviction that what consumers really wanted out of video games was simpler, more accessible entertainment -- not the photorealistic graphics and massive online worlds that the company's competitors were chasing.

Less than four years later, the machine that Iwata built around his controversial strategy is the world's top-selling game console. In the United States, Nintendo's $250 Wii sold 360,000 units in April, while Sony's $600, graphically intense, Blu-ray-powered PlayStation 3 props up the bottom of the sales chart like a doorstop, with 82,000 units sold.

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

11 Years of NES in 5 Minutes

Why? Because it is teh awesome.

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Saturday, June 09, 2007

Gas Bandit's Recommended WoW Mods

I'm not one of those people who load up their WoW UI with so much crap that they aren't even playing WoW any more. Though I am no longer a UI purist, the very concept is still anathema to me. I want my interface addons to enhance what I'm used to, not change WoW into watching the Bloomberg channel. I like addons that make what I've got faster and better, rather than redefining everything so that I have to learn to play all over again. So, I've found a few that make life a little easier, and now I'm going to recommend them to you.

The first thing you need to get is UI Central. This isn't a WoW addon, it's a standalone program that connects to an online database of addons. Using UI Central, you can browse, find, install, and update addons with ease, even to the point of a single click updating all your addons so you don't have to hunt down updates after every patch from each individual addon's dev page. It's a little buggy on my system, but still a huge timesaver.

Probably my most favorite addon is the Auctioneer Pack. Auctioneer adds more tabs to the auction window and creates and maintains a database on your computer of what the "going prices" for everything is. This makes it a lot easier and faster to know the market value of an item, so that you don't pay too much for one, and don't price yourself out of the market or give away the farm when selling. It also has intuitive controls for setting up multiple auctions (like, say you have 20 of something you want to sell in stacks of 2 or 1 or 5 or whatever), and makes buying and selling stuff at the auctioneer a much more rewarding experience since it is faster, easier, and you have price information parsed and averaged going back as long as you've used the addon. It will even scan every single auction and add the info into its database, provided you want to let it do its thing for around 10 minutes.

If you are an enchanter, while you are at the Auctioneer site, you will want to get Enchantrix from there as well. It will tell you (via tooltip) what you're most likely to get from the objects you disenchant. Very handy.

If you have mining or herbalism, you're going to want the Gatherer addon, made by the same people who did Auctioneer and Enchantrix. It seamlessly meshes into your map and "radar," storing the location of each resource node you gather, making future gathering runs much more efficient.

If you're like me and you do a lot of mailing and auctioning, you'll probably also want CT_MailMod, simply due to the "open all" button it adds into your mailbox. That dumps all the items in your mailbox into your packs with one click. Fast and convenient.

For my paladins, mages and priests, Decursive is a real headache saver. It creates a small grid of translucent green squares that represent the members of your group or raid. When somebody gets a debuff, disease or poison that you can cure, their square will turn BRIGHT RED so you know, and you can cure it simply by clicking on the square. No retargeting, no hunting for the spell button, no fuss, no muss. It even keeps track of range, so you'll know whether they are in range or not by if the square is "hazy."

Then there's RABuffs. I like this one alot. It is a quick, small graphical display that lets you know what members of your party/raid are missing buffs you can cast on them, and lets you do so simply by clicking on the readout. No hunting through screens or targets, just keep clicking "Blessing of Kings" until its bar is full, and voila... everybody who needs it, has it. Saved the sanity of my paladins. Unfortunately, UI Central doesn't update this one, but it's worth it.

ReagentCrafter is good for, say, engineers and smiths who often have to make several little things and then combine them into big things. It's a pain in the ass to have to sort through your entire list of recipes to make the blasting powder, then the mithril casings and whatnot... when you could just (with this addon) go to the recipe for the final product and Alt-Click the listed ingredients you are missing, and automatically make what you need. Doesn't work for smelting, or cross-discipline ingredients, but still an unobtrusive, intuitive time saver.

Cartographer enhances the built-in map system to add instance and battleground maps, and some other good things. A few of its options are redundant with Gatherer, but I like Gatherer's way better so I just turn those few options off, here.

Extended QuestLog makes the built-in quest log easier to read and manipulate, and improves the way the quest tracker handles tracking quests (and removes the irritating 5-quest limit to the tracker). It doesn't change the 25 quest cap, but it does make it easier to see what you've got and what you need.

That's about the size of it. Granted, the big raiding guilds are going to want you to load whatever UI addons they use to take all the "actually playing" out of running their raids, but these ones I find to be unobtrusive and very handy.

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Lego MMO Dubbed "Lego Universe"

Saw this over at Shacknews:

NetDevil's upcoming LEGO-branded massively multiplayer game will be known as LEGO Universe, Denmark-based licensor LEGO Group has revealed. Announced this March, the game will be NetDevil's third MMO following the RPG-flavored space-centric Jumpgate and last year's vehicular action-oriented Auto Assault. NetDevil is also the company behind the AGEIA-sponsored, PhysX-powered destructible shooter Warmonger, Operation: Downtown Destruction.

According to today's announcement, LEGO Universe will be a "child-safe" but full-scale MMO containing the range of social and community interactions expected from games of the genre. In particular, the game's source material of LEGO bricks gives the game a strong focus on interaction and customization. Last month, NetDevil's Scott Brown indicated that the team is shooting for a "fully interactive environment" and noted that the game's construction components are likely to appeal particularly to older gamers despite the game's all-ages aesthetic. NetDevil has strong development history with real-time physics; Auto Assault featured extensive Havok physics integration, and Warmonger is heavily physics-based.

"LEGO Universe is being built as a place where fans and community members can discover nearly unlimited play possibilities," said lead producer Ryan Seabury. "Given the strength of the LEGO community, a large part of bringing the game to life will be working hand in hand with them to ensure that the core values of creativity, connectivity, and imagination are reflected in the end product."

LEGO Group has seen success licensing out its popular toy brand to video games. Traveller's Tales LEGO Star Wars and LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy were well received by fans and critics, and the studio is currently developing a LEGO game based on Batman.

NetDevil plans to ship LEGO Universe in Q4 2008.

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Friday, June 08, 2007

CoH/V Double Exp Weekend Coming

I got an e-mail that informed me of the following:

School’s out! Father’s Day! Positron™ ’s birthday! So many reasons to celebrate! Yes, Heroes and Villains, the time has come again. Roughly twice a year we turn up the dial and invite players to rack up XP at double the normal rate. Next weekend Hero and Villain characters will receive double the XP, Prestige, Influence and Infamy for all of their accomplishments in the game.

The fun begins Friday, June 15th! Take advantage of this opportunity to level up your favorite heroes and villains twice as quickly as normal. Good luck and have fun!
So, looks like some good fun coming next weekend for you CoHeads.

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

In Soviet Russia Video Game Plays You! Or Just Sucks.

Wired's got a gallery of pictures from a nostalgia museum some dedicated communerds have set up showcasing arcade games of the Glorious Revolutionary People's Soviet Union. Have a gander, comrade? Spasibo.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Adventures with HP/Compaq and Microsoft Vista

A couple weeks ago, I took advantage of a really good deal that Office Depot had going for a laptop. Dual core intel processors, a gig of ram, wireless lan, everything pretty decent, all for 500 bucks. Only down side is, like every prefab computer you get these days, it comes loaded with Vista. Yuck. But hey, I'm a computer-savvy kinda guy, I can install my own copy of XP with SP2, right? Right???...

I order on a friday. So the thing is in "processing" for a week, then gets shipped the following friday out of Shanghai. Much to my surprise, it arrives here monday morning. I guess fedex works weekends in China.

I was pumped. And I decided, against my better judgement, to just go ahead and give Vista a try, even though I know that any machine with less than 2 gigs of ram and a 500 dollar video card is going to run like ass on a platter... and all the other myriad reasons I've described before that Vista is a terrible OS... but never was I actually prepared for this -

The design is terrible, too. Even if Vista were running at peak efficiency, it's designed for people who do maybe 3 or 4 things with their computer and have no organizational skills whatsoever. The new interface is absolute dreck, especially if you need to go rooting around in folders for anything.

Hey Microsoft! There's a reason why the way directory structures and files are displayed hasn't changed in 20 years! Think about it! The way you view the contents of a hard drive hasn't changed from DOSSHELL 5.0, up through windows 3.1, 95, 98, NT, 2000, XP, and even ME. But now in vista, everything's freakin' wonky.

If it wasn't for DirectX 10 only working on vista, I could not think of a single, solitary reason to want this abomination on your computer. It's an incredible step backwards, sideways, or anything but forward on every front, and it's bloated and laughingly backward-incompatible to boot. I knew Vista was malevolent... I didn't know it was also useless.

And that PC/Mac commercial wasn't kidding about that "you're trying to do something, anything at all. Cancel or allow?" thing.

So my mind was set.. I gave it a try, it's crap. Vista must go. I get out my XP CD, and begin the wipe and reinstall.

Everything seems to go well and good... in fact, too well and good. The installation process goes FAST, and that sets off warnings in my mind... that obviously, it must not be finding appropriate drivers for some of the peripherals, and is just skipping over them.

I had no idea how right I was. Even XP with SP2 already preloaded in the install didn't have drivers for not only the video interface (which really is to be expected), but the sound card, the network interfaces (wireless, cat 5, and modem, no drivers for any), and a number of other things XP identifies merely as "unknown device."

Well, I'm disappointed, but not entirely surprised. I head over to the HP support website, and look up my laptop... and am provided only with vista drivers.

This doth not bode well.

Against my better judgement (I have to stop doing that.. you'd think by now I'd learn to GO WITH my better jugement... often times the little cynical voice inside my head is the only one in the world who knows what the hell is going on), I decided to try and give HP tech support a call and see about some drivers.

I'm not on hold very long. That cheers me up a little, which is good because it was all downhill from there. I get a guy whose name is either unpronounceable or garbled by thousands upon thousands of miles of telephone line. I can barely hear him. He takes my information, and as soon as I say I'm looking for XP drivers, he immediately goes to find a "Level 2" technician, assuring me that while my question is beyond the scope of his ability, the Level 2 technician can easily solve it for me. He says this with the steady, fluid measure of someone who has said it hundreds of times.

A couple minutes on hold and I am transferred to a man with an unmistakably east-indian accent as thick as a pot of spicy curry. I can barely understand him at all. But after explaining what I'm looking for, he informs me that when I wiped the hard drive to erase vista and install XP, I was now beyond the scope of my warranty. If I wanted, I could pay 70 dollars per 45 minutes to talk to a "Level 3" technician who would work with me on it. I audibly scoffed, balked, and harrumpfed, and said "well, look, if you can just tell me the name or model number of these devices, I am sure I can just go find the drivers myself." But even that would require the vaunted Level 3 technician.

I shouldn't have expected any better. I guess I'm just being turned into an optimist.. I will have to do something about that. I wasted much less time when I was a cynic.

So, what I end up doing is blowing the whole night finding the support pages for similar models of laptop that came installed with XP and not Vista, and trying their drivers. I quickly find the graphics driver I need (Intel 945), the wireless network interface is a bit more tricky, but I eventually manage to find the drivers for it on my 3rd guess (turns out it was a broadcom somethingorother 802.11b/g)... then comes the sound card. It took a while to figure this out, but getting the sound (ended up being something called merely "Conexant High Definition Audio) to work required not only the audio driver but a 50 meg "universal audio architecture" bus driver.

So after a night of much gnashing of teeth and uttering of oaths, I'm rather happy with my new purchase. It's running like a well-oiled champ on XP SP2. I still haven't found drivers for the 10-base-T ethernet adapter or the modem, and there's still some "unknown devices" but everything I can think of that I need is there and works... so I can deal with it. But screw that vista noise. And screw that HP "3rd level tech." Right in the ear.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Check Your Purchase from CompUSA Before You Leave

Cause apparently, if this Boingboing article is correct, sometimes they're selling Rockses-in-a-Boxes.

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Apple Smacks Down Quicktime Alternative

Yeah, uh, remind me which computer company is the populist friendly one, and which is the evil empire? Cause I forget.

Apple has struck a blow against efficient computing in their squelching of the open source "Quicktime Alternative" codecs, in an attempt to force anybody who wants to watch .mov or .qt content to load their bloated, slow, annoying Quicktime package.

A lot of those Mac hippies don't like to talk about how Apple has been assholishly stomping people who dare touch their precious IPs way longer and more violently than Microsoft.

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Name the F.E.A.R. Sequel

There is gonna be a sequel to F.E.A.R., and they want submissions to be voted on to see what it will be named. Hopefully, they'll raise the bar already raised by S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and come up with an even more egregiously long and dumb acronym, like F.E.A.R. 2: Project A.N.A.R.C.H.O.S.Y.N.D.I.C.A.L.I.S.T.

Check it out.

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Monday, June 04, 2007

Where Does Mario Go When He Dies?

He don't go to heaven where the angels flies. From Spacepope

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Saturday, June 02, 2007

The 50 Worst Game Names EVAR.

Really. These are some BAD game names. Especially the number one entry. It had tears rolling down my cheeks.
Read on.

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Review: Pirates of the Caribbean at World's End (the Game)

So you've seen the movie, and think you might like to try the game. But you're nervous. Movie tie-in games almost always suck. And not just a little, but a lot. Most often, they are just yet another merchandising attempt to squeeze just a little more cash out of John Q. Moviegoer. So what's the story here, trash or treasure? Read on...

Well, I'll mostly be dealing from the perspective of the PC version here, so my opinions will sometimes be tinged by the fact that this game was clearly designed with consoles in mind, and ported to the PC toward the end of the development cycle.

The game runs in 3 resolutions for the PC - 640x480, 800x600, and 1024x768. I'm assuming this is because these three resolutions are the ones that conform to the standard, enhanced, and high definition scan codes of televisions. Additionally, there's a toggle for "widescreen." This toggle doesn't actually change the resolution of the screen, but rather makes the renderer alter the way it draws things to that they *appear* to be at the correct aspect ratio on a widescreen monitor, but in fact the actual resolution is still at a 4:3 ratio. This is of course a design decision that makes me go "bhuwhuah?" until I remember that it isn't really a PC game, but a PC port of a console game.

The game doesn't look as pretty on the PC as it does in the commercials. I'm assuming this is because the commercials are showing the 1080p scan version for consoles, which is of course more conducive to being pretty on television. The PC version's textures are a little on the blurry and simplistic side, and the models are a little low on the polygon count. This is most apparent in the game's cutscenes, where the problem is then exacerbated by the stiff and unnatural movements of the characters as they converse and move around. However, in the actual gameplay portions, this is less of a problem.

It's less of a problem because first of all, the camera isn't so zoomed in, second of all, there's always so much going on, and third of all, the motion suddenly becomes fluid and believable in the combat sequences of the game.

The movies' soundtracks are reproduced rather faithfully, and serves its purpose well in accentuating whatever is happening on screen at the time. Either the movie actors reprised their roles for the video game, or they found some voice actors who really sound like Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom. The Keira Knightly character I'm not so sure about, but the other two are dead on.

That said, the dialogue is eyeroll worthy at best. There's lots of standard "shiver me timbers" and "where's the rum?" sound bites that are all well and good, but when two main characters actually have lines to deliver to each other, more often then not I cringe as I tap madly at the action buttons hoping to skip the dialogue and get back to the action.

This is a hack and slash platformer that will feel very familiar to anyone who's played Power Stone, Kung Fu Chaos, Devil May Cry or any other number of melee-oriented 3rd person 3D-beatemups. You have buttons for movement, block, fast hit, powerful hit, grapple, inventory management, use inventory item and interact with world item/person.

Between sessions of hacking and slashing and minor puzzle-solving, there are also what they call "Jackanisms," which is a lot quicker and easier to say then "action-oriented cutscenes the idea for which we lifted directly out of Tomb Raider: Legend." In these "Jackanisms," you must hit the correct button or direction in a timely manner when prompted in order to bring the sequence to a succesful conclusion. Some of the sequences are manditory (and you have to start over if you fail) and others are elective (but you only get 1 try at the elective ones, and if you blow it you lose out on the reward). There's a bit of a learning curve to it, too, because the prompts are given in the symbols that the game uses rather than for the actual corresponding key or button.. as in, the "icon" for "quick attack" (a cutlass with a silver flash below it) rather than just a button with an "X" on it. It can get a little irritating, but within a couple sequences you start to get the hang of it.

The action loosely (and I use that in the strongest possible meaning of the word) follows the events depicted in both the second and third POTC movies. The plot is often a laughable thing, but the action is light and quick and easy to get into. All the major arcade-game type chestnuts are here - eat whatever food you find lying on the ground and it will immediately heal all lacerations and contusions you might have sustained, weaponry and vehicles are easy to operate and require no training, you know the charade. But the game is not meant to be a great intellectual stimulus, it's a cotton-candy game for a cotton-candy movie. You'll play through it in a day, enjoy it, and then probably put it away forever.

Unless you're one of those poor bastards that has to "unlock" every last little thing available in a game. See, POTCaWE uses that hated replayability crutch, "unlockables." Tantalizing you with optional content or characters, they want you to replay through each level looking to complete their little subobjectives. Now, unlockable reward content is all well and good if it's a truly, spectacularly epic game such as Final Fantasy VII, but too often these days it's just the fastest, lowest developer-brainpower-using option to inject an arguable element of replayability into a game that you would otherwise play straight through once and then put back on the shelf.

Technical Merit-
The game gets a bonus in my book, because installation is fast and easy and doesn't copy the entire contents of the DVD to your hard drive. True, it still takes up a gig, but it COULD have taken 4, and probably would have if it had been developed by certain other developers.

The Final Word-
The good - decent fighting, engaging play, not overly complex, ergonomic and intuitive controls, easy to chain combo attacks, tied-in to a fun movie.
The bad - standard sub-par PC port job, groanworthy dialogue, confusing iconography, minimal replayability.

The verdict? C+ to B-. A worthwhile renter, but no real reason to own. Or, conversely, you could get it for somebody's kid. The violence in the game is bloodless and largely cartoony or centered around flamboyant swashbuckling.

And that's the word from Bandit Camp...

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Friday, June 01, 2007

New Drivers Available

Choose your flavor, NVIDIA or ATI.

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