Tuesday, July 31, 2007

My Kingdom For A Simple, Solid Joystick

Ok, I've been lax the last few days. Besides, there's not much coming out interesting lately, so the slacker-feed's been drying up. I'm going to make up for it now, with some original content. And what's the kind of original content I'm best at? Why, griping of course.

A half dozen or so months ago, my friend Josh who sometimes comments around here as the oh-so-subtle pseudonym "PPMcBiggs" showed me the new joystick he got. I was a little dubious about it because it looked to be one of the joysticks I hated back in the golden days of the PC Flight Sims... you know, the kind with too many buttons of too high sensibility in awkward places, flimsy plastic construction that creaks audibly in all but the gentlest of grips, and an insubstantial base which lends the peripheral the propensity to lift up off the desk when you try to operate it instead of allowing the stick to change axis with the base.

It looked like this. (image no longer exists, sorry)

In truth, he didn't seem that enthralled with his new joystick either, and it was easy for me to see why. The thumb buttons were awkwardly placed, all the buttons had unsatisfactory tactile feedback (too easy to push but too hard to know if the computer knows you actually pushed it or not), and there were all those "extra" buttons in quasi-convenient locations which meant the only finger with which you could actually grip and move the stick was your ring finger. All the other ringers were taken up by triggers, secondary triggers, thumb buttons, alternate thumb buttons, hat switches, pinky buttons and the like. And even then the plastic still creaked like it was ready to buckle.

Let me tell you about the joystick I had back in the day, playing Chuck Yeager's Air Combat on a 386 with a mono sound blaster and thinking it was all the shiznit.

Well, first, let me show you the joystick I inherited from my father. Behold, the PC Jr. Joystick -

This bad boy was an old-school 2-axis analogue joystick. No throttle, 2 buttons (the second button was up on the left shoulder), and little trim adjusters for when the thing invariably got uncalibrated. This was the king joystick for all the old games back in the days of their 4 (or if you were lucky, 16) color glory. I ninja'd the hell outta some fools with this joystick on Dad's old Tandy 1000.

Then for about 4 months I had a "Quickshot Warrior 5" which was ok... it had suction cups on the bottom to keep it attached to the desk despite the narrow base, and a switchable "autofire" mode for those games you had to hammer buttons fast on.. but its analogue bits wore out fast and it stopped working.

Then I got this, the joystick of joysticks of the day... The CH Products Flightstick. The prince, nay, KING of the 15-pin analogue joysticks.

Note the simple ambidextrous design. The wide, sturdy base. The throttle dial. The buttons had just the right amount of tactile feedback, the base was wide enough to keep it from tipping over (though at times even that wasn't enough for me, and I ended up duct taping a book belonging to my father to the bottom to add to the weight. Ironically, the book was called "Getting the most from your money." I only chose it because its width was exactly the width of the joystick base and it had a nice, thick, 2-inch-thick-book heft to it).

This was the joystick of kings. I played Chuck Yeager on it. I simulated flight according to microsoft. I battled the kilrathi as a Wing Commander and I piloted my X-Wing down the Death Star's Trench, then switched over and rescued the Emperor in my Tie Fighter.

But after years and years of service, even the old CH flightstick wore out, for as awesome as it was it was still a mere analogue joystick. But fortunately by this time digital/optical joysticks were starting to become affordable. I ended up replacing it with a Microsoft Sidewinder 3D pro, which while not ambidextrously ergonomic, did ok. It also had that "creaking when you squeeze it" problem, but it did the job well and had a VERY wide and heavy base, definitely working in its favor.

That was the last joystick I ever bought. I think it's still in a box in my closet, somewhere. Who knows, maybe it still works. The problem is, it (like all my other joysticks in the past) is an obsolete 15-pin dinosaur. Nobody even bothers with 15 pin ports on their computers any more, unless they have ancient sound cards or are enthusiastic midi-composers (and even then I think a lot of those guys have gone USB as well). These days, if you want a joystick, you have to go USB.

This is where we come to problems.

As illustrated by the logitech abomination at the top of this list, PC joysticks have gone down a dark, if not useless, path. Everything these days is taking cues from those worthless motherloving bastards over at Thrustmaster, who even in the heady days of my youth were making fragile, temperamental joysticks with too many buttons which you were never sure if they were adequately pressed or not so you ended up breaking them off.

Joysticks need to be sturdy. They need to be simple of design. They need to have heft, good tactile feedback and a slight tendency to auto-center. At least on that last one, people have gotten the hint, but look at the choices these days.. even abarring the one my friend got (the Logitech Extreme 3D pro USB, if you were wondering).

Those cornobblers over at Thrustmaster are still doing their thing, unfortunately... At least I hear they've learned the lesson of needing a heavy base...

Saitek's got THIS little gem, careful you don't touch it at all or I have a feeling all your missiles will be firing simultaneously.

And then there's the Logitech "Freedom" cordless joystick... Too bad I get the feeling it'll be tumping over to the bottom left and bottom right constantly, and the only thing multiple thumb buttons does for me is ensure I never hit any of them correctly.

Are you starting to see what I'm talking about? Too busy, often too flimsy, and just plain downright not fun. I think the demise of the PC Joystick has been largely to blame for the demise of the PC Flight Sim game genre. There have traditionally been three areas where PC games far outshone their Console counterparts, and those 3 were First Person Shooters, Real Time Strategy, and Flight Simulators. And the PC gaming industry has just let the flight sims go straight to fallow. Hell, half the "flight sims" like Freelancer that came out in the last 5 years have actually been geared for mouse, not joystick.

Maybe if there were some decent, inexpensive yet sturdy and dependable joysticks to play with that weren't concerned about finding places to mount 58 impossible-to-program buttons somewhere on the surface of the stick, devs might actually see a market for some good flight sims again. And that's the word from Bandit Camp...

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Harvey Birdman ... the Game?

A cam of the game from the Tokyo Comic Con. Looks to be for PS2.

So, as you can plainly see, that man is on fire.

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Friday, July 27, 2007

EA: Your Gaming Degree is Just a Fashion Accessory

EA came out and said what most of us were thinking already, that those video game design degrees you see advertised late at night aren't actually all that worthwhile.

Jeffery also stated that EA prefers graduates who have completed more traditional courses such as maths, physics and computer science over those with more specialised game-related degrees. He expressed concern these courses were creating too many graduates trying to break into the industry and the degrees themselves were not providing students with the skills that EA needs. Of the most concern to Jeffery were courses in game design--of the last 350 hires made at EA, only two were in entry-level game design, and neither of them had took a degree in that area.

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Off Topic Friday #5 - C-Span Prank Calls


Go see this guy's youtube profile for more.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Warhammer Online Newsletter 21 - Elves, Chaos Marauders, Etc

Work is well underway on WAR’s final racial pairing – High Elf vs. Dark Elf – but we’re not quite ready to show them to you yet. The official unveiling of these armies will take place next month at the Games Convention in Leipzig, Germany. Until then, we offer you this brief introduction to the Elves with the hope that it gets you through the next 30 days. Enjoy!

Tell me more about the High Elves >>

Tell me more about the Dark Elves >>

"Say what you will of us. Call us heathens because we deny your weak pretender-God. Call us savages because we strike at your homes. But know this – it is we who are closest to the Ruinous Powers. We most favored of the Gods shall raid your lands, revel in your suffering and destroy you. Despair! For all that remains for you is the taste of Northern steel and the end of your world. Such is the will of the Gods."

- Hallbjörn, Norscan Marauder

Read more about the Marauder >>

Learn more about the Armies of WAR >>

The great city of Altdorf is, in many ways, the heart of the Empire. The seat of the Emperor himself, Karl Franz, lies here in Altdorf within his grand, towering palace overlooking the vast city.

Beyond the palace, the streets of Altdorf are lined with blocks of tall, aging row houses that have been built up and onto repeatedly with each passing generating. On the winding streets, merchants peddle their wares including various sundries, weaponry, “rat on a stick” snacks, apothecary leeches, and anything else that will fetch a price.

The goal of the art design for the city was to relay the feeling of a living and thriving city, bustling with activity, while still showing a gritty and aging place as war and Chaos takes its toll. Some buildings are in disrepair. There are beggers and refuse in the streets. Sewers are rumored to be home to unspeakable things...

Even with this decay, the city is still a grand sight to see. You can find yourself walking in narrow corridors of high row houses only to round the corner and enter the decorated plaza surrounding the Temple of Sigmar, one of the great landmarks within Altdorf. Altdorf also has a large dock district with many Empire war galleons and smaller, mercantile vessels making port.

Another noteworthy landmark within Altdorf is the ever-burning Bright Wizard College. Huge gouts of flame and choking smoke billows from within this stone and metal citadel where wizards of the Empire learn their craft. The neighboring buildings have been reduced to ash and ruin by various, fiery experiments gone awry.

Any visitor to Altdorf will have a memorable experience, as this key city is a glorious testament to the achievements of the Empire.

Glory to Sigmar!

The Age of Reckoning draws near and the armies of Order and Destruction are filling their ranks. More than 300,000 willing participants have registered so far, making this one of the largest ever beta tests for an MMORPG. However, we are always looking for new recruits so sharpen your sword, unleash your mutation, and prepare to meet your destiny on the battlefields of Warhammer Online.

Sign up for the WAR Beta at:

WAR is coming! Are you ready?

This month’s WAR Beta Journal comes courtesy of the Beta Forums and describes a heart pounding adventure for a new Oathbearer.

I opened my eyes. Was it the cannon that woke me? I'm used tothem, but not even a weary Dwarf could sleep through the reverberating thunder of Helga firing, and the cheers that always follow. Even I, tired as I am, sit up and raise my arm, hollering out with the boys, "For Helga!" What a story that is, and I hope that when my day of peace comes, Dwarfs will celebrate the memory in such a fine way.

Standing up, my fingers find their way to the reassuring presence of the spanner at my side, the last living memory of the Dwarf who gave it to me, before he bore his oath to a darker place. A finer Dwarf there never was.

Read more about the Dwarf's adventure >>

This month we travel to the Grand Principality of Reikland, the home to the sprawling city of Altdorf, capital of the Empire.

Compared to their fellow countrymen in the north, the people of Reikland live a blessed existence. Lately however, a shadow has fallen over the province and the threat of invasion that once seemed so distant has now reached their borders. The warhost of the north has come, and it seems increasingly clear that no force in the Empire can stop it.

Read More About the Reikland >>

Painting the Bright Wizard College

Click Image to Watch Podcast

The artists working on Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning have a reputation for being a bit talented. Now see the proof. With audio commentary by our own Paul Barnett, this time-lapse video shows an entire day’s worth of painting boiled down to five minutes, as concept artist, Jonathan Kirtz, creates a color concept of the Bright Wizard College.

Work has begun on the Bright Wizard College in the game and it will soon be towering over the rooftops of Altdorf. Here is a sneak peak at the work-in-progress.

Warhammer Online Podcasts are now available on iTunes! Subscribe today!

Each newsletter, the Video of the Month brings you a fresh, new look at WAR in action! These videos are not highly polished marketing trailers, but clips of raw game footage showcasing many of the cool features of WAR.

Click Image to Watch Video

This month we present video from around the world of Warhammer Online, including a look at Empire and Chaos RvR Scenarios, monsters and Public Quests. The team is hard at work bringing more of this goodness to life and we'll have much more to share in the coming months. Enjoy!

Bonus Video of the Month - Beta Bug Burns Cows

During Beta we run into all kinds of little bugs, but we just had to share this one with you. The cows just wanted a nice bite of grass, but every time they took one, fiery death reigned down from above. Hope you like your burgers well done!

Click on Image to Watch

Join Creative Director, Paul Barnett, and his trusty video phone for a truly unique look at the making of WAR. This month, Paul watches his teammates inside the belly of a monkey, gazes upon a lake of fire, and entertains fans across the country.

View the Video Blog >>

The 2007 Road Show is in full swing and we are bringing WAR to a town near you! Visit our booth and be one of the first to play the NEW Dwarf and Greenskins starter zones, as well as Empire and Chaos zones. You’ll also get the chance to go head-to-head with other attendees in one of our new RvR Scenarios. Plus, meet members of the team and walk off with cool giveaways.

Upcoming Events

• July 25-29 – Comic Con San Diego
• July 28, 2007 - Games Day Chicago
• August 5, 2007 – Games Day Germany

WAR Invades ChinaJoy

Check out recent photos from the WAR booth at ChinaJoy.

WAR is coming! Are you properly dressed?

Now you can show the world that you are ready for WAR with these exclusive t-shirts and hats available only at the EA Mythic Store.* Supplies are limited so order now and start your WAR collection today!

Visit the EA Mythic Store!

* Offer valid for U.S. residents only

Fan art submissions are coming in on a regular basis, and we thought we’d share this month’s favorites. Keep the artwork coming!

Serinur the Witch Hunter
By Justin Kimball

By Louis Green

Witch Elf
By Rebecca Orr

Warrior of Tzeentch
By Jorge Del Poyo

Witch Hunter Comic
By Jorge Del Poyo

Paul Shows His True Color
By Josh Muir

Visit the Fan Art Gallery >>

Feeling creative? Send us your WAR-inspired art. We will choose the best entries and feature them in upcoming newsletters and on our website. Note to aspiring artists: Color submissions will usually get more love than ones done in pencil!

Submit your artwork >>

Have a knack for creative writing or a story you are dying to tell? We are looking to “publish” the best WAR-inspired fan fiction written by our readers. We will choose our favorites and feature them in upcoming newsletters and on our website. Submissions must be no longer than 2000 words.

This Month’s Featured Stories

Night upon a Hill off Yonder, Logan Ross
Tainted, Aaron Frederick

The Music of the Gods, Shaun Bennett
What Hope Remains, Alluvian Est-Endrati

The Legends and Lore section of the WAR Herald is only as good as the community can make it! Check out the stories from the Armies of Order and Destruction, and let us know how many mugs of ale each tale is worth. (Votes do not immediately display.) Think you can do better? Submit your own!

Submit your WAR Story >>

Welcome to the WAR Grab Bag, where our friendly neighborhood community team answers the most pressing, the most popular, and the most interesting questions from fans. Keep those questions coming, as we’re eager to hear what you have to say!

Check out this month’s Grab Bag >>

Send us your questions about the game >>

"I sincerely hope that millions of folks from all over the world rise up and play WAR, forging a new world order of peace and love and… I’m sorry I’m tearing up, we should move on."

Developer Profile >>

"I’ve been a Warhammer fanatic for years, and so the very idea of playing in an MMO that reflects the world I’ve grown up with is excitement enough for me. Warhammer is the perfect setting for an MMO, it has just enough heroes that the concept isn’t foreign to the world, but the setting isn’t generated around a specific set of heroes that everyone wants to be. With so many races, people, places in the world, there is a ton of rich lore that will be perfect to take and expand upon, bringing the world to life for the players."

Developer Profile >>


WAR has entered into Beta and now is your chance to secure a spot in the test. Each month we'll randomly select 20 names from the newsletter subscriber database for entry into the Beta Test.* If you are a current Warhammer newsletter subscriber, then you're automatically entered into the drawing every month. If you are not yet a newsletter subscriber, visit betacenter.eamythic.com to register for the Beta and subscribe to the monthly newsletter.

July Winners:

D. Nucci/Europe S. Armistead/North America
D. Ortiz/Europe E. Chambers/North America
J. Diedrichsen/Europe P. Lim/North America
F. Migliorini/Europe K. Reinholdt/North America
I. Vilar/Europe M. Luc/North America
E. Chabiron/Europe A. Franke/North America
B. Kaltenecker/Europe K. O'Brien/North America
G. Tetard/Europe J. Pavlek/North America
H. Busch/South America S. Sutcliffe/Australia
S. Koubarev/Russia D. Mackerill/Australia

This month decorate your desktop with more images of WAR.

June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007

Each month we’ll be shining the spotlight on WAR fan sites that exemplify what we consider to be
the best in WAR community spirit.

Ever wonder what happened to
the folks you played with way
back in the day in UO? How
about that fun little guild you ran
with in the early days of DAoC,
but have since lost touch with?
Head over to Guild Café;
reconnect with old gaming
friends from years back and
make tons of new ones!


Is your WAR fan site doing
something cool, informative,
or fun? Let us know by sending
an email to rduffek at ea dot com
and you could be featured in the
next community spotlight.

Download the WAR Fan Site kit.

What is going on in this picture? Send us your best caption and we’ll send the winner into the Closed Beta! Please keep your captions clean if you want them to be printed!

Enter your Caption:

Enter your Email Address:

Last Month’s Contest Winner

Hank idly began to question his decision to enter a pole-vaulting competition sponsored by Grok’s ManKabobs.

A pink-skin a'day keeps d'em docs away

I dun no's whys bossa want da clothes on when cooked... maybes it's for the fiber.

Fust ya Killzit, den ya ramz dis big stik up its butt and outz its head. Cook fur 10 minutz each side and datz how you roastz humans

Cover A – Vogel in Forest

Cover B – Vampiress

Written by Dan Abnett and
Ian Edginton

Illustrated by Rahsan EkedalColors by Scott Vanden BoschLettered by Ed Dukeshire

Warhammer: Forge of War,
from BOOM! Studios, features exclusive new screens and artwork from Warhammer
. And be sure to look for the special WAR Alternative Cover!

For special sneak preview of Warhammer: Forge of War #3, click here.

Visit www.boom-studios.com to order, or call 1-800-COMICS to find your nearest comic book shop!

Visit the WAR booth for your
chance to play the latest build
of the game!

2007 Games Days

Games Day – Chicago
July 28, 2007

Games Day - Germany
August 5, 2007

Games Day – Los Angeles
August 11, 2007

Games Day - UK
September 23, 2007

2007 Shows and Conventions
(Attendance plans subject to change)

ComicCon San Diego
July 26 - 29, 2007

GenCon Indy
August 16-19, 2007

Games Convention, Germany
August 20 - 22, 2007

The Penny Arcade Expo (PAX)
August 24-26, 2007

  • The Elves!
  • The New Lighting System!
  • The Chaos Wastes!
  • The Inevitable City!
  • News from Leipzig!
  • And so much more!

  • * Beta test participation is subject to the signing of a beta test agreement.

    If you prefer to no longer receive the Warhammer MMO newsletter,
    please login to your account to edit your profile for this mailing list.

    Attn: Customer Support, EA Mythic, 4035 Ridge Top Road, Suite 800, Fairfax, VA 22030 U.S.A.

    'Warhammer' ©/™ and/or ® GW Ltd; Newsletter © 2007 Electronic Arts Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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