Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Postal: The Movie

Uwe Boll is back, making another gawdoffal movie from a video game that never had any business being made into a movie.

I think I just threw up a little. And that was even before the part with the gratuitous weenie shot.

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Monday, January 29, 2007

Mista Vista, he dead.

The digital tubes of teh INTARWEB are all in a tizzy about the release of Microsoft's latest monolithic monstrosity: Windows Vista. Some herald it (because of the Vista-exclusive DirectX 10) as the panacaea for PC Gaming that will keep the PC up to par with the latest gen of consoles, if not surpass them.

Frankly, I'm not sure the PC is in the terrible position of "needing saving," but that's an argument everybody's already made their mind up on one way or the other.

Me, I've got a bad taste in my mouth. Windows 1.0 was crap, and so was 2.0... it wasn't until Windows 3.11 for workgroups that it found its legs. Then came windows 95... which was crap until around Service Pack 2. Windows 98 was passable with drawbacks, which got largely addressed in Second Edition. Windows Me was so bad it died an ignominious death before a major patch could address its onorous issues. XP at launch was a nightmare of security holes and bluescreens, which were fixed up by the first and second service packs.

Are we seeing the pattern yet? This is why, in my personal vocabulary, the phrase "Early Adopter" is synonymous with "Gullible Nitwit."

So, given that every single MS operating system is a cataclysm at launch, I think I'll cool my heels here on my perfectly stable XP installation while the Early Adopters get their headaches and ulcers paying Microsoft to beta test the new OS.

But, at this point, I'm honestly not sure I'll ever feel good about Vista.

There is some very scary shit I've been reading about Vista's embedded DRM management. The idea that my computer (as a proxy for the vilest humans on earth, the MPAA and the RIAA) will decide what I can and cannot view on my own computer is so anathema to me that any graphic description of regurgitative bodily processes could not be hyperbole. I never upgraded past Windows Media Player 7 because that's about when they started sticking DRM controls into it. I hate DRM that much.

Well, we'll see what happens over the next couple months. I'm sure those good and righteous champions of the end user, the software pirates [1] [2] [3] will eventually find and incapacitate the more odious portions of the software.

And that's the word from bandit camp...

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Sunday, January 28, 2007


Alright, let's just say right up front that if you don't care about World of Warcraft, you probably won't care about this entry.

Now then...

As I mentioned, the launch of the new WoW expansion has gone remarkably smoothly. I've started over with new toons on a new server... a PVP server in fact. I've come to realize that one of the reasons I got so bored of WoW before was that I was 100% safe when I wanted to be. Not knowing when some slobbering orc played by a remarkably similar person at the keys might jump on me and beat the ever-living bodily fluids out of me adds an extra edge to the game that I haven't felt since the old days of Rallos Zek back in EQ.

But while the possibility of being ambushed and juiced like a california orange is ever-present, it's also actually somewhat uncommon. The reason? The Battlegrounds.

See, there are material rewards for PVP, in the form of better-than-average gear. The currency of PvP victory is "Honor," but honor alone isn't enough to buy the nifty trinkets everybody wants. You also must have these tokens you get from participating in battleground fights. You get one of these token thingies if your side loses, but you get more if you win. So you trade in a combination of "honor" and these tokens for the Ubergear of your dreams. So, merely jumping newbies out in the bush while they try to quest, while it may satisfy your inferiority complex, won't get you gear. So WoW rewards players who "keep their game on the court" so to speak, in that they PvP themselves to exhaustion in the battlegrounds, which cuts down on the amount of "let's make life hell for the newbies" that gets played.

So, obviously, these battlegrounds are classed out into level brackets. Being that I just started over, obviously I'm in the low bracket. The lowest there is: The level 10-19 bracket of Warsong Gulch.

This level bracket brings all kinds... the raw, bewildered noob who barely wears enough gear to keep from freezing to death, the casual gamer, the powergamer, and even the most reviled: the twink. A twink might only be level 19, but he's owned by a player who has at least one much more powerful character... and the finances of that more powerful character have been funneled into the twink. Think of it like a corporate sponsor putting their F1 racer in the lineup down at your local go-kart track.

I feel bad for the noobs. I really do. I see plenty of level 10 ragamuffins in crap equipment who have absolutely no chance, and no sane reason to be there on the battlefield. They don't even slow the enemy down any more than one more blade of grass slows down a lawn mower. The truth of the matter is they need to get their asses back to ambushing livestock, gathering fruit, and all those other newbie quests until they're at least level 17 and have some noteworthy armor/weapons/spells. All they are doing is taking up a valuable slot in a team that could be used for a competent player (each round of this particular battle limits each side's army to 10 characters). But I understand why they are out there; they are excited, and they want to play... they want to help out and fight the bad guys and revel in the glory, just like all the other players. So I cut them slack. I'm a laid back kinda guy after all.

I almost said that with a straight face.

Seriously, I just ignore the noobs and treat them as a needed handicap, because frankly I'm so awesome. Not a twink, but I definitely have opened quite a few cans of whoopass over the last week or two in particular.

Oh, but the twinks... the twinks cannot SUFFER the presence of a noob. At least, they cannot suffer in silence...

The chat line is often clogged by the half-literate ramblings of neon-clad glowing simpletons in gear so expensive it could have raised ethiopia out of economic depression if sold on the open market. Mostly the content of their nearly-illegible communiques are either demands for strategic leadership ("Give me the flag and get out of my way, except healers, they heal only me") or bilious condemnations of those who the twink believes have cost him victory (which is largely unprintable, even here).

To reinject some perspective here... there is, at any given time, 2 or 3 dozen battleground fights going simultaneously. These fights last maybe a half hour, longer for good matches, shorter for the more one-sided ones. A casual evening of PVP has me seeing at least 4 or 5 of these matches alone. You win some, you lose some. But woe betide anyone in the chat channel if there's a twink who is on the losing side of a match. And somehow, these guys are not all that keen to examine their own performance, either.

I'm just glad I don't have to sit in Teamspeak or Ventrilo with these clowns. I'm sure it sounds something like this.

And that's the word from bandit camp.

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Gamer History Lesson: Origin of the Word "Catass"

IMO, this word should be in every online gamer's lexicon.

The Surreal World

What happens when living an online fantasy life becomes an obsession? Strange things.

By Hayes Reed

THE STORIES HAD BEGUN TO SURFACE about a year ago. Our buddy had lost it. At 24, he had seemingly given up. No job. SUV on its last leg. No girlfriend. Filthy apartment. Ugliness.

My friends and I would see him from time to time. He'd show up for a poker game or drop by during Christmas. He looked bad, unwashed. His clothes, indistinguishable from those he wore in high school, looked worn and hung loosely from his lanky frame. When asked what he was up to, his response was often a pathetic, "I'm done ... It's all over for me."

Legend had it that our friend had traded his citizenship in everyday reality for total immersion in a virtual world, a video game known as Ultima Online. I needed to see for myself what his life had become. This turned out to be easier said than done, however--three months' worth of emails and phone calls went unreturned.

Finally, one evening I came home to find a flashing red light on my answering machine. The message contained only one word, a word spoken with the irritated tone of a man who had given up running away.

"Bastard," he said, and then hung up the receiver. It was Tyson Smith. I had tracked him down.

Virtually Obsessed

TYSON MET ME at the door but said little. Inside his dark and foul apartment, I was met by the distinct pungency of cat urine. The place was a mess. Boxes, magazines and clothes covered the unfurnished living-room floor. A table, on top of which sat two glowing monitors, filled the dining area. Fighting allergic reaction, I found a seat (stained) and watched through tearing eyes as house cats of varying dimension and color ran through the place. A yellow tabby bellowed loudly from the small concrete patio outside.

"Shut up!" Tyson screamed in response. He then explained, "The little one's in heat. These cats are driving me crazy."

After quitting a fairly lucrative job as an MCI customer service rep more than a year ago, Tyson has spent his savings and now lives on unemployment. Since he left his job, the only constant in his life has been a video game known as Ultima Online. It was 9pm on a Friday, and Tyson had already been logged on for the better part of the day.

He looked emaciated and sickly. Gray circles surrounded his eyes. For a guy his age, he simply did not look right. I asked him whether he was eating. He motioned to the processed cheese and tortilla chips scattered around his PC but admitted he hadn't eaten that day.

"I don't eat, dude," he said. "I'm what you call a 'weekly poo-er.'"

"I hate to be the one to tell you this," I told him, "but your life sucks."

"No," he quipped in response, "your life sucks. With your diamond rings and your cell phones ... your forks and knives. You think you're so cool." We both laughed, but the situation was unmistakably bad. Tyson was living a junkie's lifestyle and jonesing for a high delivered by a video game.

The Game

ONLY THREE YEARS after its release, Ultima has proven to be one of the most successful online role-playing games ever released. Selling off the shelf for about $30, Ultima then requires gamers to pay a monthly fee of $9.95 to log on and play a real-time part in a landscape reminiscent of Dungeons and Dragons. In Ultima, thousands of people can log on and interact at once. A chat room and adventure game rolled into one, the game can be entertainingly addictive.

According to Origin Systems Inc., the game's creator, Ultima currently attracts more than 150,000 players across three continents. Players log into a virtual world known as Britannia, a color-rich, two-dimensional landscape filled with knights, sorcerers, oceans and cities. The island of Britannia is also a "persistent world," meaning that if your virtual horse runs away today, it'll be gone tomorrow, too. Castles can be built, battles can be fought and virtual lives can be lost, all with permanent ramifications.

Once you have chosen a virtual character to represent you on this lively continent, your next task is to get a job, and quick. Britannia is a land humming with commerce, awash with virtual swordsmen, tailors, fishermen, animal tamers and murderous thieves. People come to the game to participate in a unique economy and social structure--players form guilds, wage war and, in some unfortunate cases, actually spend hours fishing.

The goal of the game, if it can be described as such, is to gain power and respect, and ultimately to wield influence over your fellow players. How one goes about gaining that power is up to the individual player. Anything from fashioning virtual armor to baking virtual pies can earn you Britannian gold and have an impact on this increasingly complex marketplace.

The real weight of this new economy is being measured on websites such as eBay. After a quick search, you can find everything from Britannian gold pieces to castle deeds for sale, with prices often topping the $1,000 mark. Entire accounts may also be transferred, allowing a new player to step into a character that has already been built up over a series of months or even years. According to Origin, the price tag for certain coveted accounts can approach $3,000.

The New York Times Magazine took notice of this growing market last summer when it commented on the fact that the Britannian gold-to-dollar exchange rate had surpassed that of the Italian lira. Even Rick Hall, an Ultima Online producer, is surprised by the game's emerging economy. "Games like Ultima Online are crossing the boundary," said Hall. "We've discovered that UO's economy reacts in many ways like a real economy. Believe it or not, we have to be careful that changes to the game don't devalue Britannian gold. It's simply amazing."

It is a game in which thousands of people from around the world are working, playing, hunting, fishing and making friends. It is also a game that requires colossal dedication from its players. As Tyson put it, "It's really all about status."

And status on Ultima Online don't come easy.

Enter the Iron Monkey

THIS IS TYSON'S WORLD. In it, he is Iron Monkey, the grand master of a well-known guild, a master armor smith, owner of a nice three-story castle, several houses, a few boats and a number of highly valued horses. Tyson estimates that his Iron Monkey account is worth well over $1,500. I asked him how long it took to build the character.

"Well," he said, "I've been building Iron Monkey for about seven months."

How many hours a week, I wondered aloud. Thirty hours?

"Way more."

Forty hours a week?

"More like 70. You've got to realize that this game is for retired guys, high school rejects, the unemployed ..."

When Iron Monkey rides into town on the back of Onyx (a rare black horse also known as a "nightmare"), you can immediately discern the level of respect afforded a powerful player. Other players surround him, attracted by his nightmare and unique blue armor.

"It's the way I dress," Tyson says. "I always draw a lot of attention."

But it's more than that. A character riding a nightmare into town is equivalent to someone parking a Lamborghini in front of Starbucks. It means that this is someone with power, wealth and clout. The other characters just quietly stand next to him, apparently waiting for him to speak.

Soon, a player calling himself Thorn approaches and asks Iron Monkey whether he has horses for sale. Iron Monkey then leads him to a public stable where he keeps a multitude of tamed animals. He dismounts and brings out a gray steed.

"Do you want this one?" Iron Monkey asks, the words floating above the tiny character's head.

"How much?" asks Thorn.

"Just take it."

Thorn climbs onto his new horse.

"cool thnx man."

"np =)"

"That's how you make a name for yourself here," Tyson tells me.

Rick Hall, the Ultima Online producer, might agree. "We've worked very hard at the social engineering in the game," he says. "Many, many features are specifically provided as a means of promoting friendships, interactions and community spirit. And, of course, once people have established friendships and communities, that's a strong reason to stay."

Unfortunately, not all Ultima players value the altruistic possibilities presented by the game. Player killers, or PKs, have posed a problem for Origin Systems since Ultima's debut. From the onset of the game, cities have served as safe zones, places where non-player (game-driven) characters serve as guards and come to the defense of crime victims. Anyone venturing outside a city, however, is on his own. Lose your life in Britannia, and you've also lost whatever your character was carrying, which can be a lot.

Murder for profit became so rampant when the game was first released that Origin programmers, or game masters, eventually made certain changes. In an attempt to inspire vigilante justice, murderous characters now appear red and may be killed by anyone, even within city safe-zones. While some feel that murder should be made impossible altogether, most players, in addition to the game's creators, feel that the ever-present possibility of being slaughtered makes Ultima "dynamic and exciting."

Even game-hardened veterans such as Iron Monkey steer clear of PKs. Aside from the fact they often belong to PK guilds, which as a gang can attack even the most powerful of characters, it is often just not worth the risk.

"Those guys all have cable modems or DSL lines," said Tyson, "I could have a bad connection and just get lagged out."

A bad Internet connection can cause a character to become helplessly frozen. Such occurrences can spell disaster, and this is something Tyson knows all too well.

Grail, the Silver Steed

TYSON RECOUNTED the story of Grail with heavy regret. "It was, without question," Tyson said, "the worst thing that happened to me in 1999." In a strange series of errors, it seems, an Origin game master accidentally released a number of creatures into Britannia that were never supposed to be introduced. Developed for Ultima's research and development test center server only, the silver steed was, by all accounts, a magnificent creature.

As soon as Tyson saw the horse as it wandered through a desolate area, he knew he had hit pay dirt. Iron Monkey quickly claimed the silver steed, using his long-practiced taming skills. He named the horse Grail. While all nightmares are capable of breathing fire and casting spells, this horse was unequaled in its power. By the time Tyson had figured out what he had captured, he also had heard about the mix-up and knew the game masters at Origin would be hunting for the misplaced steeds, deleting them from all servers.

"I knew I couldn't put Grail in a stable or in my castle," Tyson said. "The GMs were doing sweeps every night. So I logged off the game while I was sitting on the horse; that way the horse disappeared with Iron Monkey." The plan worked. For a gloriously short period, Iron Monkey seemed to be the sole owner of a silver steed.

"The thing was easily worth six or seven hundred dollars," Tyson reported.

"I would go into a town, and people would surround me, asking me if they could take screen captures of their characters standing next to me and Grail. That's how rare that horse was."

Sadly, however, the duo was not meant to be. While out looking to tame desert ostards (read: lizard/ostrich hybrids), Iron Monkey and Grail were coaxed into engaging in battle with an ophidian (read: snake person).

"I was basically showing off for these two other players," Tyson recalled, "being a real tough guy. And that's when I lagged out. My screen just went blank. My only hope at that point was that the guys I was with would cast a healing spell and resurrect me, but I guess they were just too taken aback by the whole ordeal."

By the time Tyson was able to log back on, Grail was dead, and Iron Monkey's corpse was being ransacked by his fellow citizens.

Iron Monkey was eventually resurrected. Grail, however, was gone. And so it goes in Britannia.

Killer Player: 'It's really all about status' is a mantra that some have taken to extremes in this online adventure that requires an insane amount of dedication from its devotees.

Logging On

I HIT THE Ultima website and was met with the disturbing news that my registration code had either expired or was already in use. After sending a couple of unanswered emails to my contacts at Origin, my next option became disturbingly clear. I had no choice but to return to Tyson's Den of Cat Ass and Murdered Time.

He answered his perpetually unlocked door with a mop of unwashed hair and baggy pajama bottoms. It was 4pm. He had been in Britannia all day. "I'm getting evicted," he said as he sat back down at Iron Monkey's controls. "My roommate's check bounced, and today's the last day of our three-day notice."

I consoled him for a bit and then relayed my own situation. Tyson went about setting me up with an auxiliary character he had named Phife; then he showed me some of the basic controls. Before leaving with his roommate to borrow rent money from a third party, Tyson took everything of value out of Phife's possession. Books of magical spells, armor, gold, silverware and various other pieces of junk were carefully clicked and dragged off Phife's body.

It went without saying that, in my novice hands, the character would be brutally killed and stripped of all belongings. Tyson did, however, leave me with a sword and some tips on how to engage in combat.

"After they kill you," he instructed, "you're going to become a ghost. You won't be able to talk, and everything will appear gray, so go back to town, and someone will resurrect you."

Then, suddenly, I was on my own.

Britannia is a big place. According to Origin, it would take a football field of monitors to display the entire continent. Even so, the place seems kind of crowded. Run in any direction for a couple of seconds, and you can't help but meet up with other players. But unlike a typical chat room, people don't really want to be bothered. Converse with a group at random, and you'll be treated as if you're interrupting, and most likely, you are.

These people are busy. They're chopping wood, killing goats, whatever. My attempts to start conversations were met with: "What do you want?" "What are you doing out here?" and "Why don't you know that?"

I quickly began to feel like a new kid in school. I felt awkward. I didn't know where to stand. I didn't know where to go. Occasionally, puddles of blood caught my eye. I decided to head for the library.

Most of the public buildings I entered had shelves of books. Double-click and the books opened up and could be scrolled through. At random, I picked up a book titled On the Diversity of Our Land by Lord Blackthorn. It turned out to be some sort of treatise on interspecies tolerance. An excerpt:

"Can we not regard ratmen, lizardmen and orcs as fellow intelligent beings with whom we share a planet? Why must we slay them on sight rather than attempt to engage them in dialog?"

Ugh. I dropped the book and headed outside. Behind a castle I noticed a group of players fighting a posse of ratmen. I drew my sword as quickly as I could and began stabbing one of the ratmen in the back. It was fun.

"I got it," said a character in a blue cape, chastising me for engaging one of his targets.

I then stood aside and watched as the computer-controlled ratmen were slaughtered, and the gold planted on them victoriously plundered. I felt a strange kinship with the dead ratmen, their bloody mouths agape. I, too, felt unwanted. Somehow, there seemed a quiet dignity in their virtual death.

I was alone and wanted to die. It would not prove difficult.

Death soon arrived in the form of a giant, two-headed troll. I happened to catch his wandering eyes as I strolled through a neat neighborhood of houses just outside of town. Sword in hand, I fought back, but proved meek resistance. Phife was subjected to a deadly rain of club blows and collapsed within seconds. The troll got my sword.

I did my best to guide Phife's ghost back into town, but Tyson's computer mouse suddenly would not cooperate. I took the thing apart and made the mistake of sticking my finger inside the most disgusting mouse the world has ever known. Hair. Grease. Food. Slime. Enough, I thought, as I washed my hands in the kitchen sink. I popped the mouse back together and headed for the door. I left the game defeated, but also with the realization that the game is really about player interaction, something that can't develop overnight.


THE POWER of the game is in its community. Like any other place where people live, work, play and own property, its inhabitants have a vested interest in maintaining and building that community. The more you play, the less reason you ever have to leave. This fact is, to some degree, programmed into the game.

Tyson, for example, has a list of Ultima chores he must perform each week in order to maintain his account. If Iron Monkey fails to visit each of his properties and holdings, they will decay. A $1,000 castle without a dedicated owner will eventually crumble. It is actually an extremely clever human trap.

Ultima players, however, see things a bit differently.

On one Ultima-related website, a player calling himself "Delusion" had this to say about the game:

"... My community is centered around playing UO, but it's a lot more than that. It's people. People I love, people I hate, people with stories to tell ... and people I would miss greatly were they to disengage from our community. My community exists regardless of what servers are down or who's currently playing. My community plays a game called UO, [but] I'd prefer you not think of it as 'just a game.'"

From Tyson's point of view, the emotional highs and lows provided by the game are hardly different from real life.

"It's like when you finally find a nightmare, or finding a place where you can build a house after months of saving gold and searching," he said. "It's just the best feeling in the world."


SHORTLY BEFORE this story was completed, Tyson emailed me at work. His message read as follows: "well its official the second worst day in my life has arrived my nightmare is dead I'm too pissed to type out the story but ill tell ya late how it happened man I'm an idiot."

Several days later, I managed to get Tyson on the phone.

"It was a thief," Tyson recounted. "His name was Care Bear. He took something from me. I'm not sure what he took, but suddenly his character appeared gray to me, meaning that I was free to kill him. I wasn't going to stand there and just get punked."

Tyson ordered his nightmare to attack. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a trap. Care Bear was fast, probably a player with a DSL connection, and he led the horse outside of the city. There, a large group, perhaps a thief guild, lay in wait; they attacked Onyx and Iron Monkey. After Iron Monkey was killed, Tyson realized he was in real trouble.

"I jammed home," Tyson said. " I resurrected myself and went back. It took about 20 minutes for them to kill Onyx. I asked Care Bear why he did it, and he just laughed, telling me how stupid I was to risk a creature worth, like, 4 million gold."

"Well," I said, "maybe now's the time to quit. Onyx being killed could be a blessing in disguise. This could be your opportunity to walk away. Sell your account; get your car fixed. Get a new hobby, for Christ's sake."

"I know," he said. "It's just that I don't want to feel like I've wasted my time. I've got so much shit ... and I've got friends there ..."

"Seriously, man," I said, "either way, you've wasted your time. They've got you trapped."

"Yeah, they do," Tyson finally admitted. "That's what really pisses me off. The designers are geniuses."

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

WoW:BC Launch Surprisingly Smooth

I must say, that I was pleasantly surprised by how (technically-wise) smooth the first day of Burning Crusade's launch was.

I have to be honest, I expected to patch for hours. I expected servers to be down, then up for a few minutes to come right back down again for another patch. I expected the expansion newbie zones to be clogged to unplayability...

Well, ok, that last one was nearly true, but as for the rest of it, smooth and slick as snot on a doorknob. Gotta give Blizzard the kudos for that... and up till now they've been seriously deficient in the kudos department.

Well, at any rate, there are a bajillion blood-elf noobers now unleashed upon Azeroth, and I'm one of them. And believe you me, being in a situation much like the one on the right did not do much for people's goodwill toward eachother. But, fortunately I got off early from work yesterday (bad, bad weather in Texas, as I'm sure you've heard), so I had a head start on most of the churning masses. So I made it to level 9 last evening.

So far, it looks good.

I just wish I was actually able to LOG IN to my level 50+ characters over on silver hand so I could see the other side of the dark portal... but that server is... well, reference the above picture AGAIN.

More to come when I experience more...

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Ghostbusters VG in the Works?

Check it out:


From the look of it, I'd say it's a console game, which is a shame... if you ask me, it's the PC demographic which will be the most nostalgic about this old 80's movie.

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The Video Game Quiz

I am humbled. I consider myself (well, duh) a video game aficionado/expert, and I only scored an 88. Well, to be fair, there was a bunch of console crap...

Give it a shot yourself.

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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Blizzard Patches on a Sunday

You think somebody might have pointed out that it might kinda be a bad idea to roll out a fix on a sunday with insufficient testing... welp, par for the course... amazing how unconcerned a company can get when it is collecting 14.99 a month from over eight million people.

The forum thread about this is about 27 pages long thus far... but I'll save you the reading. It all goes pretty much like this:

"WTF BLIZARD oMG cnt u stop braking my gaem?!! KTHXBYE la~~~~"

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Friday, January 12, 2007

Interesting stats on Console Sales

Have a little read:

Wii outsells PS3 by almost 2:1 in the US - Pro-G

Everybody knew the PS3 was going to bomb, what with Sony's constant stream of bullshit and hubris, but I was surprised to find that the 360 was outselling the other two combined... I guess getting to market early really helped build up the market share.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Next-Gen Consoles Explained

Saw this over at God Mode. All I can say, is it's just a brilliant metaphor.

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

My New Toy: Chimei 221D Widescreen LCD

So yesterday, I finally joined the 21st century when my new monitor arrived. Previously, I had been using a pretty nice Compaq 21" CRT, but as I'm getting a new rig going, I wanted a nice widescreen LCD. I managed to find one for less than 300 bucks.

What I'm using now is the Chimei 221D 22" wide LCD monitor, and I'm really digging it. It is bright and beautiful, has both DVI and the old style VGA inputs, and at 5ms response time I have had no ghosting whatsoever. I'm really happy with it. Especially that it was 299.99 before the 100 buck Newegg gift certificate my friend and compatriot Josh (AKA "ppMcBiggs") got me for Christmas.

Of course, every piece of equipment has its caveats, and this one seems to have three:

1) The stand is a little on the light side. While providing adequate support for the monitor in most cases, the structure isn't as meaty as one might expect, and on an unstable platform the monitor could be prone to wobble. However, as I have a great big stable (and herniatingly heavy) oak corner-desk (also courtesy ppMcBiggs, incidentally) that isn't too much of a problem for me. Plus, it's got wall mounts, so there's always that option.

2) Some people are extremely picky about light leaking through, and this one has a little at the top... but you can only see it when the screen is totally black. When there's color all over the place (IE, playing a game or if you have a wallpaper) then it isn't an issue.

3) This is the one that gets me... there's no built-in enforcement of the 16:10 aspect ratio. Sure, a 1680x1050 desktop is really really nice, and the vast majority of the new games support widescreen resolutions, but I like a lot of old games, and their resolutions are all married to the old 4:3 CRT aspect ratio. Some LCDs have an option to keep the dimensions correct (kind of a reverse-letterbox, with the black stripes at the sides), but this isn't one of them. The picture gets stretched out to fill the whole screen, leaving the game looking a little warped. Fortunately, I'm in the process of getting an entire new machine built, and it will use this monitor... so I can play the games that support widescreen on my flashy new box, and my current box and its 21" CRT will play the older games just fine.

So, with the above things in mind, three hundred bucks for a 22" widescreen LCD with 5ms response time and 800:1 contrast ratio is a hella-sweet deal. Can't beat that.

And that's the view from bandit camp.

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Warcraft Expansion Gold and Ready

Burning Crusade apparently is days since sent off for mass duplication and is allegedly on track to hit the shelves January 16th.

We'll just have to see if it lives up to all the expectations set by the mass amounts of hype it has generated. Personally, I'm not exactly looking forward to grinding 10 MORE levels to hit the new level 70 level cap... but maybe the content will make it so I don't even notice I'm exping. After all, that's what they did with the first half of the game. It was only after 45 or 50 or so that it turned into a boring grindfest for me.

Also, we'll see how the new PvP goes... I sure hope it's better than it was over a year ago when last I quit the game.

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