Thursday, April 22, 2010

Gaming computer build

Before throwing ourselves into part two of the build, a quick overview of the monster itself;
  • COOLER MASTER Cosmos Case
  • Intel Core i7-960 3.2GHz
  • ASUS P6T Deluxe V2
  • Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB 7200 RPM SATA
  • SAPPHIRE Radeon HD 5870 x 2

For different reasons, the components came over several deliveries so I had the opportunity to check them out in detail days before the actual build. Whether it was because this computer is the sixth or seventh build or patience has simply come with old age, but this fairly detailed review of the components seemed to help the build go much smoother on the day.
In some ways its just as well. Regardless of the quality of the different pieces and as impressive as the components may have been, the instructions seem to fall to the low standard of disappointing.
From small scraps of paper to the manual being stored on a disc that came with the component, it seems manufacturers assume a builder will have access to not only a computer but also the internet for some much needed research. Only the Asus motherboard had a manual with any detail, but even then certain items were only made clear after some further online research.
The case
In every build before this the case was chosen with the least thought, strictly based on the best price and style over-powering functionality. But as everyone knows, a major killer of performance is heat and with modern computer components running hotter than ever,  not only is ventilation but also room for the air to flow over the different volcanic peripherals an important part of planning out this latest build. This was first and foremost in my mind.
After reading some opinions that not only the processor but also the graphics card were known to kick out some serious heat, cooling was a major concern and more time than usual was given to finding the right case. Oddly enough, it wasn't down to lights, perspex sides or even the look, more to a case that could fit eveything, help with cable management and of course keep its cool. I am not one for fan controls or monitoring case temperatures so I wanted a build and forget about kind of case.
Now it shouldn't be lost on PC Gamer readers that my gaming pc is a practical copy of their latest 'Dream Machine' outlined for most of the issues on the newstands throughout 2010. This came about from PC Gamer picking some phonemenal components as well as the sheer luck of already owning some items on the list.
The girlfriend's cat loved the unpacking of the case itself and as mentioned in the prior post, it came with everything and more. While I've never needed a manual for a case in the past, the Coolmaster came with so many options, filters and quite frankly, fiddly bits some instructions could be considered the most important accessory. A few filters had fallen out of place, but after thirty minutes of becoming familiar with the case, they eventually found their home.

The Motherboard
I had read a lot of good stuff about Asus and everything appeared to be spot on with the different accessories and of course a complete and detailed manual. Visually, the board looks good but with a full enclosed case it didn't matter.

This would ring true throughout the build, although the stuff looked good it didn't matter as much as knowing they would perform up to the high standard promised in the different reviews and recommendations.

Some nice touches; an adapter which helped plug the front panel wires into the motherboard. This saved using adult sized male fingers trying to push the connecters into an insanely small area which is always harded with these older eyes that always seem to have a depth perception problem with pins.

The motherboard was designed with the foresight and understanding it would have to house video cards of the modern, mammoth proportions. Such design considerations included moving the slot for the soundcard well away from the PCI slots allocated for video cards, lifting the worry or concern any slots would be covered or blocked.

The build itself
Like some maestro facing his orchestra of talent I monopolized the kitchen with the old gaming computer open and to my left, a clean work space on the breakfast bar and the case of the to be built gaming machine on a nearby counter to the right. It was as if one gladiator was passing the mantle, the responsibility of leading the battle to the other. With essential pieces coming from one to the other the analogies have never been more appropriate.
It should be noted that the kitchen itself was only renovated about six months prior to this build. Many men in relationships will ask how I managed to convince my better half to allow all the computers, boxes and chaos on the new, pristine counters.
The answer is simple; she wasn't in town.
Her job can pull her away from home a week at a time, giving me the perfect window to complete a build and season the gaming computer with enough games to appreciate just what it can do. Plenty of time for the all-nighters of loading up operating systems, drivers and of course games.
As for the particulars of the build, for various reasons, I screwed in the brass posts first. First, its a nice slow way to start the build, practically impossible to mess up and gives the mind freedom to run through a mental checklist over upcoming tasks and what has to be done.

Where as other cheaper cases have the post guide stamped on the inside of the case, the Coolmaster case came with a paper template taped inside the case with an easy to understand guide indicating which holes needed the posts for the appropriate board.

Speaking of boards, I used the non-conductive bag and padding that protected the motherboard during shipping to rest the Asus on while I built up the beasts engine that would bring so many hours of gaming pleasure. The computer was being bulit in the kitchen/dining room with the tall and clear countertop a perfect hieght with the rooms bright lights offering a well lit working area.

Some buyers of this particular board complained in reviews on Newegg they recieved warped boards. While not being a master computer builder, my board didn't seem anything but perfectly built even after a close inspection. After a good look at the board and a clockwise tour of what the different components on the board, what went where and anything I needed to know about the Asus, it was time to start plugging in the different peripherals.

The placing of the processor was reviewed, rehearsed and the victim of so much attention if it were a women it would have surely blushed. This was the first processor in many years that didn't have a golden triangle on the corner, instead using two symetrical indentations to act as the placement guide.

A large cooling fan for the processor was already 'pasted' so didn't have to worry about the messy job of applying silicon, but the snaps that hold everything in place just didn't feel like they were catching. After several attempts to securing the two corners which didn't seem to want to snap into place and coming close to pushing through the motherboard itself, a quick look under the board showed that they had in fact caught.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Building my way to a new gaming experience

It has been too long since my last post. Real life, a few business interests taking up more time than it should and of course the daily grind have all kept me not only away from this blog, but also gaming in general.

Aside from being robbed of the chance to lose myself in the latest electronic adventure, all those games I complained about just sitting on the hard drive, neglected like an ugly child at an orphanage are still sitting there, unexplored.

Commander Sheppard has been drydocked, my battle record for Bad Company 2 furloughed. I could go on. But there is light at the end of the cyber-tunnel.

Fate has put me in a place to finally upgrade my gaming computer. She has been one heck of a mistress, treating me so well with the very rare and only occassional hiccup. Built in December 2006, it boasted the following;
  • Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 Conroe 2.4GHz
  • 775 NVIDIA nForce 680i SLI ATX Intel Motherboard
  • GeForce 8800 GTX
  • 2 GB Memory
I would later add a surround sound speaker system I had long coveted along powered by a X-Fi Titanium  sound card.
Now the reason for buying the 8800 GTX was to take advantage of DX 10 and all the candy microsoft promises game developers would come out with using the latest graphical tools. But that never really happened and for the most part my gaming computer has handled everything thrown at her if not with the newer games dialed down a tad.
But now we are in the age of DX11, and developers are not only taking advantage of it but the games are looking like more horsepower is needed under the hood to get any decent framerates. So the decision was made to take the plunge and prepare myself for a summer of souped up gaming.
What did I go for?
I decided to take the extra step, fork out for that dream system that I read about in the back of gaming magazines. Looking back, it was plain to see if I could get another three years out of this new gaming system, the extra money for the top of the line components would make sense.
This logic translated to the following;
  • Intel Core i7-960 Bloomfield 3.2GHz
  • ASUS P6T Deluxe V2 LGA 1366 Intel X58 ATX Intel Motherboard
  • Two SAPPHIRE 100281-3SR Radeon HD 5870
  • CORSAIR CMPSU-850TX 850W ATX12V 2.2
  • Western Digital Caviar Black WD1001FALS 1TB 7200 RPM
All encased in a COOLER MASTER Cosmos Pure Black Aluminum / SGCC ATX Full Tower Computer Case.
I know there are many reviewers and gamers who post in the forums that feel the two 5870's are overkill, but have you tried to buy a 5970? I was on auto-notify and within three hours of getting an email to say Newegg had them in stock, they didn't anymore!
Besides, the dream list from PC Gamer has the two cards listed, so who am I to doubt.
One package at a time, the components arrived. What caught my eye initially was the size of the coolmaster case. The thing is huge.
But it has to be, the video cards are reportedly long and big. The rods that outline the top and bottom of the case not only gives it some science fiction look, but makes the large case easier to handle.
There is nothing space age about the thick cloth cover that comes with the case though. I'm guessing this is for moving the thing down the road. Nice touch.
I had never spent as much on a case as I did with the coolmaster, but as it was unpacked the quality and care that went into it was obvious, making me feel better about the extra dollars. Everything was painted, inside and out. Padding was inside to help with soundproofing. Four massive fans come with the case, all strategically placed around the inside to create an airflow over the various components. From the unique rack system for the hard drives to fans located on the bottom and top, the cooling jetstream can be imagined peering into the expansive case.
And the vents on the top of the case look so sharp.
The case is also designed to tuck away the different cables, a panel of inputs are located on the top and towards the front. Among the inputs is an ESata. hmmmm. Never had one of those before.
The power supply isn't only located on the bottom of the case, but the fans points downwards to a duct, obviously venting the hot air out of the case instead across the components trying to be kept cool. The case comes with a small plastic accessories case which includes screwdrivers, etc. I couldn't quite work out what the little case was for or even how to open it. Its design would have fit comfortably in a science fiction movie. Although the screwdrivers are nice, they're not to the quality I use, so they stayed in the case. What was very clever where the custom screws for the HD bays and motherbaord giving the finsihed computer a polished look.

The front door can be changed so it swings either way and the drives slide and snap into place in the different drive bays.
More on this build as the different components are unpacked and assembled.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Peculiar paradigms

Even as the PC gaming industry seemingly conspires to drive me from enjoying the latest titles on my computer, an unexpected and unrelated turn of events has earned admiration for the same said developers.

PC gamers have watched in disbelief as intrusive DRM insists on a constant Internet connection to play a single player option. We've sat stunned as developers took a classic title such as Command and Conquer and dumbed it down to the latest flavor of the month. On screen indicators hold the hand of players and power ups not only make the challenges easier, but give that sense of achievement game developers obviously feel we have missing from our lives.

Meanwhile, traditional PC gamers are left feeling robbed of a games value and even worse, the very reason to buy a title, the challenge.

It's with this backdrop the memo comes down with a 'firm' request I get an IPhone for work. Connectivity improves productivity they say.

The gaming silver lining came with this stormy cellphone cloud when I found some familiar sounding titles in Apples App store.

Assassins Creed? Brothers in Arms? On a phone?

Having been disappointed with the $8 games bought in the past for my Blackberry, I tried not to get my hopes up. After all, these games were much less, so how good could they be?

Exceptional actually. Assassins Creed is really fun, great graphics for a phone game. Sonic the Hedgehog takes me back to my Sega owning days with the same playability programmed perfectly.

It's still in the early days yet, but things look good. Of course it's tough to find the time to test all these games.

After all it is a work phone (wink).

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:From an IPhone

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Third class citizen: PC gamer

I know its been over a week since my last post, but a few things have been happening, most important of which was learning my place in society.

England's empire was built on one knowing one's place in society's hierchy and to this day India's class system is actively maintained and observed. The gaming gods should be happy to know I have come to appreciate the pecking order of our own world.

What has brought this enlightenment? Like any good story, it was more a series of independent events that combined for one big gotcha. Because they've blurred from one to another, here they are in no particular order.

Coming off of an initial insult of being released on every other platform in every other country, Assassins Creed 2 was released in North America last week.

Why North America was slated last I'm not exactly sure, but I find some strange humor in some bizarro reality the last people on the earth would be the Americans and Canadians. Wouldn't that make for an odd movie? But why the game was released on PC last makes more sense. It was all about the DRM.

Digital Rights Management (DRM), which started innocently as laborously entering a games serial number into a screen during installation has become an intrusive and as we'll see, debilitating method of trying to defeat piracy.

You see, Ubisoft had decided 2010 was going to be the year they kicked the software pirates ass. They were going to take it to the matt, throwdown and make those pirates their b***h. An announcement was made that most of the new releases from Ubisoft would require an internet connection, which in itself wasn't too objectionable. Then the details came out.

The game, such as Assassins Creed 2 would require a constant internet connection, which if lost would also lose any progress made in the game. While this in itself is bad enough, the game wouldn't function. Not just the multiplayer which is understandable, but the single player storyline as well.

As explained by Ubisoft at the time, 'if the player loses the connection to the server, the game “will pause while it tries to reconnect,” according to Ubisoft’s FAQ. In the case that the connection cannot be reestablished, the server will store the player’s last saved game. Once the connection is restored, the player can resume from that point.'

Thats right, there was no offline mode to enjoy the single player storyline of a legally purchased copy of Assassins Creed 2. If your internet goes down then so does your chance of playing the game. In a surprising move, even the reviewers in magazines and on game sites told Ubisoft that not only did the emperor not have any clothes, but he was butt ugly as well.

Like a character from one of their titles, Ubisoft sailed into the storm swearing their new system would do fine and no one had anything to worry about.

Cue news story to prove how hard the confident (and incredibly stupid) can fall;

'For a large part of Sunday overloaded servers are the generally accepted reason for gamers left unable to play legally purchased copies of Assassins Creed 2.' Nothing but PC, March 8th.

Of course, Ubisoft saw the error in what could politely be called 'over-ambitious' DRM and released a patch removing the internet connection.

You my friend, would be wrong.

Essentially the patch allows players to resume the game "from the exact same point" when they reconnect. But whether this move will be enough to help questionable sales when the game becomes available in the North American market on March 16th is another matter. Nothing but PC

Interestingly, many reports put the official release date as the 16th, but Steam has had it available for a few days. Whether this has any relationship to the terrible PR the whole incident has brought about or not, I'm not sure.

So basically, a gaming company can deliver a full priced game ($60) which doesn't work as is generally accepted in the gaming world and no one has complained. Hardly anyway.

But this is a rarity, its not happening with other companies so why would we as PC gamers have to worry.

Wrong again my friend (you're not too good at this guessing game).

Electronic Arts finally brought the Battlefield 2: Bad Company 2 series to the PC after the game's characters had a few adventures on every other platform but ours. Looking to cash in on the Infinity Ward backlash, EA put a dedicated team on the PC development, had destructable environment, dedicated servers and promised to continue the fast paced squad based action the Battlefield series was renowned for.

Oh, by the way, EA mentioned as they left the press conference, there won't be any chance of going prone and the crouch button can't be toggled.


When the game is released, connecting the dedicated servers were fine until 3pm then bang! couldn't get on. Don't worry forums and EA said, we did such a bang up job, everyone and their granny are downloading the game and clogging up the systems a little. Give it some time and everything will be fine.

Cue news story;
Many players feel furloughed with the various technical challenges that have plagued the highly anticipated latest edition in the Battlefield series. For those taking the digital download path, a few missteps kept them waiting just a little bit longer with Steam's servers claiming they were momentarily overloaded. And that was only a sign of what was to come.

As the game found its way onto more and more computers, players apparently overwhelmed the servers with EA acknowledging the multiplayer Rush or Conquest games experienced problems with messages such as "Failed to connect to EA online" or "Invalid EA Online Account".

In this age of extra content for pre-orders, some complained of the needed codes missing.

On Sunday, problems continued to keep players away from the frontline as a message streamed across the bottom of Battlefield: Bad Company 2's game browser acknowledging connectivity problems as well as 'PB kicks'. EA noted that deleting the game's beta from hard drives and re-installing Punkbuster helped some players with the issues.

For those that could connect, play was limited to a short period before being kicked off for losing the connection with the server.Nothing but PC, March 8th.

Understanding we have to give them some time to fix the problem, oh wait is that another news story coming across the wire with perfect timing to prove a point?

EA has been shutting the servers down constantly, to improve their hardware via maintenance updates - PR Product News March 14th.

I haven't gone on for about three days, which is sad as every gamer knows that addictive first few weeks of a new title where its hard to pull away long enough to even go to the bathroom has to be captured and enjoyed at the time. Be in the moment so to speak.

But that has already passed for this game as has my delusion that I, or apparently my fellow PC gamers matter enough for developers to create and deliver an acceptable gaming experience. Although they have no problem charging premium prices for the new titles, the games themselves are either so riddled with DRM they are made unplayable, or the needed work that should have be done during the beta phase was never completed.

The further fact that none of these problems appear to have the attention of the developers, who are showing no appearance of urgency doesn't make me as a customer feel very happy.

But at least there has been a lesson learned and according to my grandpappy, no price can be placed on that (although I'm sure the $60 dropped on Battlefield Bad Company 2 is a good number to start with). Now knowing my place in the gaming world, I will head back to the kitchens like any good subservient should and wait for any PC game morsel the developers feel  like throwing my way. And when that scrap does come, boy I won't complain if its stale, tastes horrible or if its even food, just thank them and wait for more.

After all, that seems to be what the gaming developers expect.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

War can be a love-hate thing - thoughts from the battlefield of Bad Company 2

So, I'm not a huge fan of the linear, movie-type feel over realistic game play, flash instead of substance kind of guy. If my subtleness is too slight, Modern Warfare, I'm talking to you.

But there was something about Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (BBC2). Admittedly, some of the charm wore off with the MP demo that brought home prone and lean would be MIA from the game, the former a particular fancy of die-hard Battlefield fans. Graphics looked nice, but a trip through Modern Warfare taught me that storytelling and graphics don't necessarily deliver an enjoyable and repeatable 'gaming' experience.

The first outing of the Bad Company characters never made it to the PC, so being included on their second journey made us red-headed stepchildren feel special and certainly more loved than we have been in recent gaming memory. And DICE claiming they had a group of developers dedicated to creating the PC version put us in the front seat of the car for this first person shooter.

But whatever the factors were, there I was at the checkout screen on Steam forking over some hard-earned cash for the latest journey into the Battlefield world. The plan was to kick the download off at lunch, and have it ready to play when I got home. The annoying message claiming the Steam servers were too busy to handle my request gave a few false starts to my new deployment, but within thirty minutes I managed to sneak into the downloading queue.

So what about the game?

Good looking graphics. I mean, the sharpest thing you'll find out there. From the quality of the characters to the textures used, there is nothing bad to say about the graphics. All the Direct X candy is included, bloom, mist the whole nine yards. Each level is a living breathing world. Albeit one that occassionally runs on rails.

If there were anything bad to say about the game its just that, filled with a lot of sections that have you running or riding on a rail, spraying and praying. Its really the most disappointing part of the effort.

But what they do well more than makes up for it, at least in this early stage of playing through the game.

The game is dumbed down by removing leaning, prone and silly things like the ability to change ROF (rate of fire). Surprisingly, as annoying as this may be on paper, once in battle its not so noticeble. The SP battles are hectic, made even more so by the very buildings crumbling around you. Doors aren't opened in this game, they are busted through.

The excellent sound floods your senses with the loud, confusing battlefield that has danger coming from seemingly every direction. Trying to take a breather and heal (yes, it has the annoying auto-healing) is near impossible.

The rate of fire? Don't worry about it. The game is designed for players to put down a lot of lead and has enough ammo on each level to ensure you'll never run out. The weapons have a nice kick to them, trailing up into the air the longer you hold down the trigger. When your enemy falls, the moment is well done and a far cry from the rag-doll days of Battlefield 2 which could add a comical note to an intense battle.

The upsides to the game, even with the crisp graphics and destructible environment the game runs pretty smooth. And the game does look beautiful.

There aren't enough adjectives to describe the sound. By far the best I've heard in any game, from the atmospheric effects from your surroundings to the mutlitude of layers immersing the player in the battle. The way DICE has managed to fade the sound in and out as a player gets too close to an explosion or is coming close to croaking is by the best in any game. If there was ever a reason to justify the surround sound set up, here it is. An example to the attention to detail, during one of the cutscenes I kept looking around to see if a tv in the house was on. It ended up being a radio in the office my character was standing in, playing out of one of my rear speakers.

Downside? Not sure about the first edition, but the story for this game is weak. Stereotyping is so strong, I'm still waiting one of my NPC's to tell me how much he likes the smell of napalm in the morning. But for PC players, the Battlefield series never had storylines, so no let down there.

However, I'm only three hours into the SP, and hoping the confusing back story set at the end of World War 2 comes into play soon, otherwise what was the point?

Speaking of which, the transition between game play and scripted sequences is clumsy at best and feels like and afterthought. Its as if they came up with all the different levels in a pitch meeting and worked out how to connect them on the elevator ride down to the lobby.

And it was obviously a short elevator ride.

As soon as the developers make me feel good about all the effort they put into the gameplay and level design, I have to run along a corridor or ride in the back of a vehicle to do yet another mini-level on rails.

Glad I bought it though, no ill-feelings about paying full price. DICE seems to have made me feel good (for the most part) about being a PC gamer. The real test will be the longevity of the MP. Many will be looking to see if it can unseat MW2, most certainly reviving the arguement and true need for dedicated servers.

Check back here for my thoughts on that side of Bad Company 2. In the meantime, I need to shred some buildings.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

What is your malfunction, Mister?

So the word came out. Batman:Arkhum Asylum was on sale over at Games For Windows Live. The bargain price of $12 for a game still selling at near the original published price after being released in December 2009.

Two things ran through my mind; the few interactions I've had with Games For Windows Live (GFWL) and the possibility of downloading from a source that doesn't have the best reputation on the internet.

My interactions with GFWL was limited to the interference felt in Gears of War and Dawn of War 2. The pulsing box and message reminding me that GFWL was only the press of a button away may have been put there for convenience but  what it meant to me was the gaming division of microsoft was lurking around somewhere in the cyberbackground of my game.

I had been the picture of patience with Batman: Arkham Asylum, refusing to pay full price for a game that wouldn't live beyond the first play-through. And while the offer from GFWL was very tempting, the world of direct downloads is  dark and mysterious place. Money is given and aside from a download link, there is nothing to show for your hard earned money, wisked away in an electronic transaction.

I mentally assured myself it was Microsoft for heavens sake, how terrible or risky could it be?

Working my way through the different screens, I tried to remember login's and passwords that had been typed in the rushed excitement of conquering another planet in the role of a space marine or eliminating the Locust Horde.

The interface was nice, and the whole thing moved along quite nicely. That is until the downloading started.

This impression is given without any exact facts or statistics, I don't know how big the file was that needed to be downloaded. As with most things, it was mixed in with real life and the exact details get lost in the overal flow of things. Nor did I start a timer when the download kicked off. But I came away feeling it took so much longer than any game bought on the popular digital distributor, Steam.

At least three-quarters of my games are from Steam, and while I'm an old time gamer who misses the excitement and joy of buying the box, running home and loading up a newly bought game to take my latest gaming adventure, practicality of the new age has won me over.

I can reformat my hard drive, update my computer hardware and not worry about having all the game DVD's and serial numbers at hand. One software download to install the Steam inteface on the latest incarnation of my gaming computer and viola, I have my games ready to go.

Looking back, I was fortunate real life distracted me from the slow download. After coming back from an evening of family obligations, the game was only at 93% completed, and although not mathematically possible, the last 7% surely took longer than the rest.

Once the game was finally on my hard drive, it only seemed a matter of time before wits would be matched with the Joker and wearing clothes so tight it was obvious I was confident with my sexuality. But that wasn't accounting for GFWL and the cryptic microsoft error codes. For whatever reason, the game wouldn't install. After following the support screens from GFWL and Microsoft (they quickly become intermingled) and another download later, the game wouldn't install again.

I switched off my computer in disgust.

Even as I dreaded the call to Microsoft support to find out where my $12 game was, the thought of just waiting until I buy the game in a more guaranteed manner did cross my mind. So it was with curious interest I noticed the icon for Batman; Arkham Asylum on my start menu. But having been teased by Microsoft in the past with half-installed products, there was only a hint of hope it would work when I clicked it.

The game started.

To be fair, the demo fairly represented the final game with the scenes that were included giving a familiar air to the finished product, finally playing out before me. Sure the game is 'so console' I wanted to look for the X, 0 and triangle on my keyboard, but taking the mantle of the Dark Knight in the moody halls of a Gotham landmark made up for any key punching, power-ups and incessant on-screen tips.

While this game isn't going to make it onto the replay list, playing through the Rocksteady creation will certainly be fun and something to look forward too.

The same can't be said for GFWL.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The crossroads of enjoyment and enlightenment

Firstly, I have never necessarily followed popular opinion for PC games. If I enjoy a title, its because I genuinely enjoy playing it with no amount of wonderful reviews or awards of 'Editors Choice' coloring my opinion.

Sure, they may loosen the wallet initially to buy the game, but once a few hours of in-game time have been put under the belt, my opinion is pretty much formed. And that opinion may, and usually does fall somewhere between 'awesome' and 'why did I even buy this?'.

Show me someone who swears a game is perfect and I'll show you a 'fan-boy'.

So it wasn't surprising that I stood my ground against the different detractors of Operation Flashpoint 2: Dragon Rising since buying the game when it was released late last year. Understanding the need to play the game on hardcore to get the gaming experience desired, I argued its positive points against those who claimed ARMA 2 was the Holy Grail of the easily thrown around title of 'military simulation'. The more extreme supporters of ARMA 2 would effectively claim anyone who owned OF:DR should delete the game, burn the disc and damn the very souls of the developers who dared to soil the hallowed name of Operation Flashpoint.

Indeed, they're passion flowed with such vehemence that they trolled OF:DR forums, responding to those who wanted tips on playing the games with helpful advice such as 'uninstall it' or 'why did you waste your money on this piece of ****'.

The game certainly has drawbacks, but no game comes to mind that I'm not playing but still takes me to the respective forums to lambast it further than an opinion when asked.

Interestingly, I own ARMA 2 as well and would point out that where as I could get into and fight my way through the different levels of OF:DR, the same couldn't be said about ARMA 2 which barely managed to collect an afternoon's worth of play time.

One of the complaints about Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising I couldn't understand was that of the distance detail. When first playing the game, everything appeared fine to me.

Now however, we can safely say I've run a mile in the complainers combat boots. The problem arose with a new monitor which took me from an old resolution of 1650 x 1050 to 1920 x 1080 and away my distant trees and foliage in OF:DR. Because the game is so badly designed in the options menu, I can't force it to show the distant detail.

Will this new view make me line up with the others upset at OF:DR? No. Will I stop playing the game? Nope. Where as I may have considered the game a 7.5 or 8, its now a 6 or 7. But its still great for a small squad based first person shooter with interesting missions.

But what is more interesting to this collection of events, is the new interest in ARMA 2. That too was bought when released, but the demanding game, both in hardware requirements and detailed game play kept this casual gamer away. Certainly my once high-end gaming rig can still handle the higher settings of ARMA 2, but the same can't be said for the aging gamer's brain trying to work through the complex controls and commands.

Patches have been released to address some of the annoying bugs and my tactics to get into the game have changed from a full-frontal assault on the campaign to a flanking manuever by working through the single player stand alone missions. Both of which have multiplied my time in the game over the weekend compared to the prior months of owning it.

My conclusions and comparisons between the two games?

Oddly enough, the AI in ARMA is dumber than that of OF:DR. And though commands can be issued while still moving in ARMA 2 compared to freezing the player in place in OF:DR, they are so multi-leveled in the former that you have to stop anyway to complete the order. So just as I get used to finding the right, safe spot to order my squad in OF:DR, I'll do the same for ARMA 2. Understanding the frustration of looking off into a single texture distance in OF:DR, the NPC faces reforming as they come into view in ARMA 2 kind of ruins the atmosphere just as much.

For a quick run through a small-based first person shooter, OF:DR for all its flaws will be booted up first. But when I want a challenging 'military simulator' with amazing terrain, ARMA 2 is a natural choice.

And sadly, its that reasoning and understanding that appears to be missing from those enthusiastic gamers trolling the forums to give their unabashed, positive feedback.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Logitech love

Somewhere a Logitech executive is counting his would-be bonus. Shareholders of the peripheral manufacturing company are wondering why the Logitech stocks have shot up.

Look no further than at yours truly and a spending spree in a gaming computer make-over. Even as I've been putting together the shopping list of the next computer build, my search for a new joystick had me in the peripheral aisle. Not good.

Through some inexplicable black magic, and maybe a little bit of peripheral lust, I was walking out with the new Logitech G500 gaming mouse and something that has really impressed me, the G13 'Advanced gameboard'.

Its really a fancy version of Belkin's Nostromo N52, something I feel no gamer should be without. These game pads are basically a smaller keypad with the keys perfectly laid out to fit gamers fingers and thumb, all of which are programmable. I have used the N52 and its predecessor pretty much since I've been playing computer games. Keys are and can be configured to have the same actions at the same place for every game. Sure you can (usually) reprogram the keyboard in the game's option menu to do the same thing. The challenge with that has been when you change 'E' to 'use item' the game might use 'E' for sprinting. Now you have to reprogram that.

Not sure what caught my eye and made me want to part with $70 for the Logitech G13 Advanced Gameboard. Sure it has a pretty LCD display and there are more keys than the N52. But you're not looking at the LCD display while playing and more keys mean you can a) accidently hit the wrong one while playing or b) look down to see which key to press while playing and disregarding the whole reason for having it in the first place!

But as soon this new puppy was plugged in, I was pretty much sold. The LCD display can give an array of info, game stats, ram and processor usage and according to the manual, messages from other players. Call me whipped, but the feature it has been set on in the short time of ownership is the clock function. I can't remember the number of times losing hours in a game has gotten me in trouble.

The color of the display and keys can be changed to any color in the spectrum and macros are easily programmed.

The key assignments are kept in the G13 so theorically you can take your playing preferences with you from PC to PC.

Other highlights;

25 programmable keys
Backlit keys
Programmable mini-joystick

The last point is the most intriguing. By default the mini-joystick replaces the WASD keys, leaving a whole four fingers available for a variety of death moves and game-changing manuevers. Still have to get my mind and reflexes around the idea of not using a WASD set up.

I literally just loaded up the drivers and plugged it in last night, so more thoughts and posts may come about with more gaming hours under the G13 belt.

Regardless, my desk looks like a Logitech show room. The G500 replaced my G5. Why? Based on all the reviews Logitech had made all the improvements in this G series of gaming mice that appealed to what I want in a mouse. Also, a mouse pad was never used with the G5 and for whatever reason a bunch of stuff accumulated and stuck to the bottom of it. Does a gamer really need any more excuses than that to buy a new mouse?

Finally, after a whimsical purchase of a Logitech Ultra-thin Illuminated Keyboard about a year ago for another computer in the house, I saw one on the shelves at Best Buy and snapped it up for the gaming computer. Its not designed necessarily for gaming, but the soft-touch keys feels perfect to me. Love the illumination on the keyboard and its of a slim design with a transparent bezel makes it look sharp!

Oddly enough, while I was writing this blog I popped over to Newegg to see what buyers thought of the keyboard there, and many seem to echo my feelings about it being perfect for gaming as well as everyday computer use. I guess its the worst kept secret.

The reason I snapped it up though, its really hard to find in stores, at least around here. So after the keyboard, mouse and gaming pad (all Logitech) I'm left with the same problem I had before. No joystick.

Go figure.

Offline means out of luck for Assassins Creed 2

Have you ever read something that obviously carries some huge ramifications but you're not quite sure how big or even how you should react?

This is where I am with the recent news regarding the extent Ubisoft is going to for its upcoming PC version of Assassins Creed 2. According to a brutally honest article at CVG the latest Assassins Creed game will not only require PC gamers to have an internet connection to load the game initially but to play it as well.

According to Tom Francis and his hands on experience with a pre-release version of the game, 'If you get disconnected while playing, you're booted out of the game. All your progress since the last checkpoint or savegame is lost, and your only options are to quit to Windows or wait until you're reconnected.'

Francis quite rightly concludes, 'Even if everyone in the world had perfect internet connections that never dropped out, this would still mean that any time Ubisoft's 'Master servers' are down for any reason, everyone playing a current Ubisoft game is kicked out of it and loses their progress.'

There are a few reasons this is still bouncing back and forth in my undecisive brain.

Understanding the birthmark the red-headed step children, aka PC gamers, bear in the gaming community is the ugly 'pirate' word, DRM (Digital Rights Management, the term given for steps taken to prove that game in your computer is the genuine article) will always be out there in some form or another. But when it infringes on the very ability to play a single player experience in such a dramatic fashion, then a more serious consideration needs to be given.

Also, consoles tend to be as wired to the internet as thier PC cousins but I haven't heard of any intentions to make this mandatory in those worlds.

Finally and certainly the biggest concern over this latest news, this is reportedly going to be the standard DRM system for all Ubisoft games. With the company being so large and buying so many smaller developers, trying to avoid Ubisoft games could leave a huge hole in the gaming library.

As they say in the best ongoing be continued....

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Absolutely free Command and Conquer?

Taking the industry trend of including old stuff to sell new titles, EA is giving away Command and Conquer, Red Alert Tiberian Sun and Tiberian Sun: Firestorm.

While many game developers and distributors have discounted, packaged and bundled their freebie way to increased sales, EA is just giving away the games on it's Command and Conquer 4 dedicated website.

No gimmicks, no subscriptions, just download the zipped file (rar in this case) and play the classic, again or for the first time.

The advertising guru's at EA are surely banking on a few things. Firstly, by visiting the Command and Conquer 4 dedicated website they are guaranteed exposure to every frugal gamer looking for a free title. Secondly, by bringing Command and Conquer fans looking to relive past glories, they can ensure everyone knows this is reportedly the last in the long series of the title that made RTS what is has become today.

Nostalgia is a strong selling tool and being there for a finale even more so.

While many can point to 'Dune 2' as the game that brought about the way the general public would play Real Time Strategy games, Westwood's Command and Conquer's first appearance on the shelves back in 1995 is widely accepted as the grandfather to the genre.

Between the free games and the recent appeals and efforts towards PC gamers with Battlefield; Bad Company 2, many who had condemned EA as the big bad corporation killing all they knew and loved about gaming must be wondering about now.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

GR PC Players RTB Roger, Roger

Either the best things come to those who wait, or the humble PC player has been snubbed.


In an announcement of the latest Ghost Recon edition, Future Soldier, Ubisoft's senior community developer Kimi Matsuzaki said both PS3 and Xbox 360 versions are confirmed. PC's, hmmmm, we'll get back to you on that.

And, as if to single out the red-headed stepchild in the cyber-room, Ubisoft also said they have a Wii, DS and PSP version of the game planned, but no PC.

Rightly or wrongly, PC gamers and especially the followers of the Ghost Recon series can be quite vocal about what features are included, AI and technical issues console players never appear to think twice about. Has this verbal ferociousness managed to get PC gmare un-invited from the party?

Console players won't have time to give us there input on the matter. They'll be too busy playing Xbox 360 version of Splinter Cell: Conviction to get access to the Ghost Recon: Future Soldier.

Future Soldier is being developed by Ubisoft's Paris studio and is already set for a Q4 2010 release, with an apparent hope to get a slice of the Christmas crowds.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Loveless relationships (Mass Effect 2 Spoilers)

Anyone who has glanced at this blog may know I never played the original Mass Effect until about a month before the much hyped release of the sequel Mass Effect 2. The original idea was to see if I liked the RPG/action feel of the game leaving time to buy ME2.

Somewhere between the period where I was still looking for my happy place in ME and the amazing trailers for ME2, bang (!) I found myself as the new an improved Sheppard in an updated Normandy the day the sequel's release.

And I'm still not finding my groove.

Sure I've flirted with the ladies, got drunk with the Doc and even shook my thing with some strange alien in a run-down mining colony, but the game hasn't lit the passions yet. Even while playing the game, in the back of my mind, I'm trying to reason why the game jasn't kicked in for this old gamer.

It's certainly not from lazy game development. The graphics look amazing, the design of the game appears incredibly open-ended and enough people are raving about it in the various forums.

Maybe its the little things that lose any possible passion for me. Navigating across the galaxies feels like playing a prettier version of asteriods, but instead of a limitless triangle I'm piloting a fuel hungry spaceship. When seeing the galaxy map for the first few times, I wondered why they had fuel depots everywhere. Although I don't remember Sulu pulling over for gas every other trip or seeing fuel canisters bungied to the Milennium Falcon, The Normandy is obviously a thirsty beast.

When I visited the crash site of the original Normandy, collecting dog tags reminded me of Gears of War, just a lot more boring. There was definitely the idea of a very moving mission, but it was lost in the presentation.

Flirting is fun, that is until you run out of the conversation tree and then your left with the stiff, "I'd better be going" from Sheppard, that smooth talking devil.

While inventory and character maintenance seemed intimidating in the first game, I keep looking for more options in the sequel with this horrible feeling I'm missing something.

The wonderful moments are enough to keep me coming back for one more shot though. Having the room tilting after I finished drinking with the doc made me laugh out loud. Getting slipped a mickey at the bar was a funny surprise. Who knew I'd waste the bartender though.

The story certainly is intriguing to warrant roaming through a few more galaxies. I just have to make sure I have enough gas.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

2K humor

You have to love a game developer with a sense of humor.

While the 'uber-edition' may have been cancelled, the special edition has certainly caught my eye. Normally not a big fan of special editions, including a record, huge art book and all the design thoughtfulness that appears to have gone in the package is impressive.

This is what you get;

•Vinyl 180g LP with BioShock orchestral score

•Audio CD with BioShock 2 orchestral score

•Three vintage Rapture advertisement posters (rolled)

•BioShock 2 Art Book, 164 pages and hardcover

•BioShock 2 game
May have to make my way to a GameStop next week.

We've got movement!

SEGA has sent word that an online multiplayer demo for Aliens vs Predator will be released simultaneously on Xbox Live, PlayStation Network and STEAM tomorrow February 4th. The multiplayer demo will deliver the chance to play as all three species – the Colonial Marine, the Predator and the Alien – and go head-to-head in Deathmatch mode on Refinery, one of the game’s multiplayer maps.

“The team at Rebellion has created a truly immersive multiplayer experience with three completely different and compelling playable species. We believe that Aliens vs Predator offers gamers a unique alternative to the current FPS multiplayer games on the market, and sets a precedent for the evolution of multiplayer gaming in the genre,” said Gary Knight, European Marketing Director of SEGA Europe.

“Multiplayer was a huge part of our original AVP game back in 1999, and we’ve kept the spirit of that classic experience in creating the multiplayer for our new Aliens vs Predator. With the demo now gamers can get to grips with each of the three iconic species so they can hone their skills and be ready for when the game launches and battle commences,” said Jason Kingsley, CEO and Creative Director of Rebellion.

Speaking of the original game, it appeared to have become a surprise hit when made available on the digital download websites such as Steam.

The latest edition of Aliens vs Predator is an entirely new title for PC and high-definition consoles from acclaimed British developer Rebellion, the team behind the 1999 original PC gaming classic.

Bringing the most intense war between two of science-fiction’s most popular characters FPS fans, AvP delivers three outstanding single player campaigns and provides untold hours of unique 3-way multiplayer gaming.

Experience distinctly new and thrilling first person gameplay as you survive, hunt and prey in the deadly jungles and swamps surrounding the damned colony of Freya’s Prospect.

- As the Marine, you’ll experience a claustrophobic and terrifying experience where light is your friend, but there’s never enough. However, the United States Marine Corps are humanity’s last line of defence, and as such they are armed to the teeth with the very latest in high explosive and automatic weaponry.

- As the Predator, you will stalk from the shadows and from above, passing athletically through the treetops to ambush your victims. Although equipped with an array of powerful, exotic weapons and tracking equipment, honour ultimately dictates that you must get in close and take your trophies face to face.

- As the most deadly species in the universe, the Alien offers you the chance to play as the very stuff of nightmares - the monster in the dark swarming forward with countless others, jaws like a steel trap and claws like blades.

- Play all sides off against each other in a series of unique 3-way online modes and go tooth-to-claw-to-pulse rifle in the reinvention of one of multiplayer gaming’s defining moments.
Aliens vs Predator is set to be released on 360, PS3, and PC on February 16th in America and February 19th in Europe.

BioShock 2 - Midnight release, pre-order bonuses and new game trailer

2K is moving with the lumbering focus of its legendary Big Daddy for the February 9th release date of BioShock 2.

Harkening back to the excitement of midnight purchases at good old fashioned retail stores, 2k Games are tempting players back to the underwater city with two bonus characters playable in the multiplayer versions of the game.

As a further enticement, a new trailer!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Bioshock 2...when the clock strikes midnight

2K Games announced today its nationwide Return to Rapture with midnight openings celebrating the launch of the eagerly awaited BioShock® 2, the shocking sequel to the 2007 Game of the Year. On February 9, more than 2,500 GameStop and Best Buy stores will open their doors when the clock strikes midnight to the hordes of Big Daddy fans hungry to get their hands on and devour BioShock 2. Additionally, those who pre-ordered the game through GameStop will receive two bonus characters* - Blanche the Actress and Zigo the Fisherman - to use in the game’s multiplayer mode. The road to the launch of BioShock 2 kicks off tonight, with the debut of a 3 minute 15 second trailer during the first commercial break of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

“One of the most exciting aspects of the original BioShock was how our fans responded with adoration for the game, from creating homemade Big Daddy suits to their own BioShock-inspired art and videos,” said Christoph Hartmann, president, 2K. “We felt it was only fitting to reach out to those passionate fans with nationwide Return to Rapture midnight openings where they can pick up their copy of BioShock 2 as early as possible.”

Debuting during the first commercial block of NBC’s Late Night with Jimmy Fallon exclusively in North America, the launch trailer is a realization of the elements that BioShock 2 fans have been clamoring for. Breathtaking action set against the backdrop of a decaying underwater Utopia provides players with the slice of Rapture that awaits them next week, all presented in a style that is distinctively representative of the BioShock universe.

BioShock 2 will provide players with the perfect blend of explosive first-person shooter combat, compelling storytelling and intense multiplayer to form one of 2010’s most highly anticipated titles. Set approximately 10 years after the events of the original BioShock, the halls of Rapture once again echo with sins of the past. Along the Atlantic coastline, a monster has been snatching little girls and bringing them back to the undersea city of Rapture. Players step into the boots of the most iconic denizen of Rapture, the Big Daddy, as they travel through the decrepit and beautiful fallen city, chasing an unseen foe in search of answers and their own survival.

Crysis 2 previews

Game developers just need to stop. Seriously.

They just need to slow down with releasing one quality game after another.

I'm not alone when I either decide to play through a game just before the next title in the series is released. However, it may be a more unique situation with my limited gameplaying time to find myself facing the release of a much anticipated title to only realize I never got around to playing the game before it.

Happened with Mass Effect 2 as well as Modern Warfare 2, and the list goes on in its long and illustrious fashion.

Now its Crysis 2.

I was all over Far Cry as it came out in the days of having more time for gaming. Crysis though, didn't get around too. Messed around the the beta, never got to the full fledged game.

But with the news this morning that there will be a new Nanosuit (2.0 no less), which adds a new 'tactics' mode to the skills roster with 'power' and 'speed' modes being combined its time to look in the cyber bargain bins.

Leaving behind the jungle and being set in a destroyed metropolis setting allows Crytek to introduce more vertical gameplay to the game, encouraging players to plan their attacks from above.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Command and Conquer opens its ranks for worldwide beta

The grandaddy of Real Time Strategy Games, Command and Conquer latest title is rolling into its worlwide open beta.

Electronic Arts Inc. is inviting PC gamers to get an early hands-on experience with Command & Conquer™ 4 Tiberian Twilight by joining the open multiplayer beta before the game’s release in North America on March 16 and in Europe on March 19, 2010. The multiplayer beta gives players a unique opportunity to experience all-new RTS gameplay in the game’s new, fast-paced, strategic 5v5 multiplayer mode across four different maps. Gamers can get access to the beta by signing up online.

"We could not be more excited to give fans a taste of what’s in store for Command & Conquer 4 Tiberian Twilight with the new multiplayer beta,” said Lead Designer, Samuel Bass. “Players can expect the fast-paced strategic RTS action they’ve come to know and love in the Command & Conquer franchise augmented with new gameplay elements that really ratchet up the intensity, especially in our 5v5 multiplayer modes.”

The Command & Conquer 4 Tiberian Twilight open multiplayer beta features four maps including the new Afflicted Arena. This new map features a once lush, Polynesian landscape transformed into a military dock by the Global Defense Initiative (GDI) and currently besieged by Brotherhood of Nod forces aiming to claim the tactically important location and take control of the Pacific Rim. Players in the roles of the Offense, Defense and Support classes will engage in strategic battles to win key vantage points across the map and secure a majority of the TCN Hubs to take control of this vital location. Experience earned through the new Persistent Player Progression system during the multiplayer beta period will be transitioned to the full game upon its release.

Command & Conquer 4 Tiberian Twilight brings the 15 year-long fan-beloved Tiberium saga to an epic and stunning conclusion, giving players a new innovative and compelling strategic gameplay experience through the epic battles between the GDI and the Brotherhood of Nod, with its enigmatic leader Kane. With its new experience and class-based systems that are persistent across all game modes, Command & Conquer 4 Tiberian Twilight sticks to the action-packed gameplay fans have come to love while offering them entirely new ways to play Command & Conquer. Whether conquering alone, in co-op mode or in an all-new 5v5 objective-based multiplayer mode, Command & Conquer 4 Tiberian Twilight delivers an innovative social real-time-strategy experience never seen before in a Command & Conquer game.

The extra that comes with a pre-order of the game is the official soundtrack of Command & Conquer 4 Tiberian Twilight, as well as an exclusive bonus mission.

Command & Conquer 4 Tiberian Twilight will be available in North America on March 16th 2010 and in Europe on March 19th.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Battlefield Bad Company 2; misstep or flanking maneuver?

So two strangers walking across a desert meet and decide they'll walk the next hundred miles or so together to the nearest town. The both have plenty of water for the trip but one is carrying a car door. The two men talk about a variety of topics for about an hour when they finally run out of conversation.

After about twenty minutes of silence, one man turns to the other carrying the car door and says, "Listen, I've been meaning to ask you, whats the deal with carrying the car door?"

Without blinking he replies, "If it gets too hot in here, I'll roll down the window."

Stupid joke, but with a point. Is something really something because we're told it is.

DICE, the company developing Battlefield: Bad Company 2 appeared to jump on the complaints from PC gamers over Infinity Ward's decision to exclude dedicated servers and instead build in a matchmaking system for Modern Warfare 2.

Don't worry DICE said, our game will have dedicated servers and players can continue to enjoy the legacy of the Battlefield series.

Although it was the battle call against Infinity Ward, the multiplayer portion only headlined a list of complaints from the serious wing of first person shooter fans which included; an omission of leaning and being able to heal thyself from bullet wounds simply by ducking out of the battle for a minute or so. None of these appeared to adjustable in the options menu.

Now the Battlefield: Bad Company 2 beta/demo has come out and while the promise of dedicated servers is still on the table, there appears to be no opportunity to lean or go prone, both of which were in previous titles in the series.

Will the dedicated servers be enough of an incentive for players to look past such shortcomings? Maybe the further enhancement of a destructable environment will help players along the map to forgiveness.

Then again, there are those players that find the smallest thing to complain about in forums and swear to never buy another game from the development company concerned.

Let the gaming soap opera begin.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Mass Effect massively affecting media and sales

Having ventured into space as Sheppard one more time, I'm more than willing to let BioWare toot their own horn.

And they are.

Claiming '40 perfect scores. 2 million units and one pop culture phenomenon' BioWare says Mass Effect 2 has sold over two million units worldwide in its first week of release.

Mass Effect 2 has earned 40 perfect scores, amassed over 30 editor’s choice awards and has donned the covers of 45 magazines worldwide. On launch day, the term “Mass Effect” was in the top 10 trending topics on Twitter and most searched on Google News. said, “Mass Effect will go down as one of the most influential video game series of all-time."

Dr. Ray Muzyka, co-founder, BioWare and Group General Manager of the RPG/MMO Group of EA said, “Mass Effect 2 is poised to be one of the biggest games of 2010. We could not be more proud of the game’s universal acclaim and early commercial success.”

It seems patting yourself on the back without major injury is a power-up in the game I've yet to find. The same obviously can't be said for EA.

FIFA for free?

Financial experts and gaming developers have long tried to find economic success with free PC games. First person shooters and role-playing games all dot the internet landscape with free offerings, looking to optional, paid downloadable content for their income.

Electronic Arts is venturing into this gratis world with the announcement of a free (internet required), downloadable game called EA SPORTS™ FIFA Online that will make its popular videogame franchise available to soccer fans with a broadband internet connection. Developers are promising the game will be able to run on an average spec laptop computer or desk-top personal computer.

“Listening to and engaging soccer fans has been one of the driving forces behind the success of our FIFA franchise and now we are inviting European football fans--in mass numbers and earlier than we ever have before--to help us develop a new soccer game,” said Executive Producer Kaz Makita. “Fans will determine the features that matter most, and at the end of this process, our goal is to deliver a game for fans looking for a quick soccer fix at home or at work.”

The first to enjoy the free-to-play EA SPORTS FIFA Soccer videogame will be soccer fans and gamers in Europe for the open beta release in June 2010.

Beginning February 3, soccer fans across Europe are invited to register to participate in the closed beta development and testing of FIFA Online. More than 20,000 fans will be involved in the first phase of closed beta testing and then, during open beta in June, hundreds of thousands of fans will test the game, providing feedback directly to the game’s developers through exclusive discussion forums.

EA SPORTS FIFA Online will be released around the world in stages. The English language version will be available to all soccer fans in June, 2010. Over the next 12 to 24 months FIFA Online will launch in other languages across Europe and then in North America. Non-English speaking soccer fans will also be able to participate in the development process of these games.

EA SPORTS FIFA Online will offer an authentic soccer experience with 30 licensed leagues, 500 clubs and more than 15,000 players. During the first closed beta stage beginning February 3, the game will feature a 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa tournament mode and a control system that uses the mouse only. At the second stage of closed beta, the game will feature a League Mode that enables fans to manage and compete as their favorite soccer club, and the ability to play online matches. FIFA Online will enable soccer fans and gamers to build their favorite club into their dream team by developing or acquiring players, upgrading skills, and getting unique apparel by earning in-game currency to acquire items or through micro-transactions. Additional content will be designed for the game based on feedback by fans.

“There are a large number of soccer fans who do not want a console gaming experience due to time and other priorities in their personal lives but they still want to be able to play a top-quality soccer videogame,” explained Makita. “FIFA Online will be designed specifically for them.”

While the business model hasn't been openly discussed, any fan of the sport knows there are numerous billboards around the stadium as well as on players. Something tells me EA would be open to discussing terms with interested advertisers for that valuable cyper 'space'.

Activision classics to roll out on the GOG website

Whether its just the vocal gamers being the most heard or the community simply doesn't like DRM, recent news could be cause for celebration.

In what has been called a 'landmark deal for the DRM-free digital distribution movement', Activision Publishing Inc. is bringing a wide range of classic games to With a wealth of PC-gaming gems tucked away in the Activision vaults, the deal gives all types of gamer - from the long-time devotee to the laptop-carrying "newbie" - an unforgettable glimpse into the rich history of the PC gaming. - or Good Old Games offers more than 180 PC games at low prices and free from what is considered by some as intrusive copy protection. The arguments are long and passionate about the merits and drawbacks of Digital Rights Management (DRM) a generic term used for access control technologies that can be used by hardware manufacturers, publishers, copyright holders and individuals to try to impose limitations on the usage of digital content and devices.

"Signing the agreement with Activision is the biggest thing that's happened at since the actual announcement of the service. This is a huge step forward for our site and for digital distribution as a whole, as Activision is one of the biggest publishers in the world with a long history in the games industry," said Adam Oldakowski, Managing Director at "We're even happier to bring Activision games back to gamers, as is the only place right now, where you can grab the announced titles. We've also managed to work on those titles to provide full compatibility with modern operating systems."

The recently struck agreement will see games from the vaults of Activision gradually unveiled in the coming weeks so as to encourage maximum enjoyment of the classic gameplay. The first two titles should be instantly recognizable to any fan of games in the adventure and role-playing genres.

Available now for $5.99, Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magic Obscura (Role-Playing Game, 2001) is the masterpiece from too-quickly-shuttered Troika Games. Heralded by The Electric Playground as "the most diverse and open-ended RPG to date," Arcanum was conceived by many of the same minds responsible for the Fallout series and places players in a refreshingly unique setting, as ogres and other fantastical creatures come to grips with life in the midst of an industrial revolution.

The second title now available for $5.99, Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers (Point-and-Click Adventure, 1993), envisioned by legendary game designer, Jane Jensen, stands as a shining example of adventure gaming at its best. As writer and bookstore owner, Gabriel Knight, players set off to investigate a series of murders, in hopes of using the research to write a new novel. Sins of the Fathers is the first part of Gabriel's adventures, considered by many as the best Sierra adventure-game series.

Bioshock 2's multiplayer shocker

Could one of the most anticipated games of 2010 become the biggest disappointment?
Thats the question facing PC gamers as developers 2K games revealed the company is following in the circuits of Infinity Ward and impelenting Bioshock 2's multiplayer without dedicated servers.
The original game harkened to the golden years of PC gaming. The developers of Bioshock had spent many obvious creative man hours building an underwater world immersed in art deco and technology frozen in time by the deep cold sea.
Creating an alternative past with 'Rapture' being able to 'splice' amazing abilities into the player brought a unique style of gameplaying layered onto a mystery storyline that would make Hitchcock proud.
The only dimension missing from the brilliant breakout hit of 2008 was a multiplayer feature, so when 2K revealed the follow-up would include the opportunity to pit Big Daddy's against in an online arena, forums filled with excited pc gamers and fans of the Bioshock title.
Now we're learning the multiplayer may not be with the dedicated servers so enjoyed by our genre.
On it's website in a FAQ titled 'Multiplayer and matchmaking Q&A', 2K answered the question 'Do you support LAN play on consoles or PC? Do you support dedicated servers?'
Short answer, no and no.
There is always a finite amount of time for the development of a game. Bringing Multiplayer to BioShock was a daunting task between the tech (there was no multiplayer support in the codebase from the first game) and the expectations of the community. Either you try to do everything and so nothing feels finished or you focus your efforts to do a smaller number of things really well like an accessible online experience. We chose to spend the time we had creating a solid game foundation and unfortunately that did not include LAN play or dedicated servers.
According to developers, Bioshock 2 will use the Games For Windows – Live servers. The absence of dedicated servers leads to the next obvious question, 'How do you deal with people who grief or cheat or are otherwise not making a good ranked experience? Can you kick them?'
Even though we are doing everything we can to try to find exploits in our own game, there will always be people who will find a way to grief a game. There is no kick option as we felt like it often leads to more unfair kicking than fair kicking. We hope that because there are a variety of player goals and a multitude of options for ranking up and killing, the player will always feel like he or she is gaining something in a match with mean people and griefers. If you do get matched up with one of those people, please report it, leave that game, and we'll try to smooth out the online experience as best as we can.
In other twists and Bioshock features to the familiar online world, the multiplayer doesn't have ranked/unranked distinctions, but a hybrid system where there is an in-game party system where you can invite up to four of your friends into your party to take into online matchmaking. You can also join in-progress games on any of your friends if there is space available.
Matchmaking will be done on player proximity in both distance as well as ranking, using it would appear 2K's hybrid system.

Tech Stuff
For those interested in the details of what the game will look like;
Bioshock 2 will support single-screen 4:3, 5:4, 16:9 and 16:10 resolutions. The game has been optimized to ensure that all game elements such as menus, HUD, UI, etc appear exactly the same regardless of what resolution the user is running the game at. The only major difference for 4:3 and 5:4 users will be the smaller Field of View compared to a widescreen resolution.

The FOV cannot be changed, and it is set to 75 degrees vertically. The default for users with widescreen monitors will be that they have a horizontally expanded viewport as compared to 4:3 or 5:4 monitors.

2K has implemented some DX10 specific options for users with DX10 compatible Graphics Cards which include DirectX10 Detail Surfaces and 3D Stereo Vision . Bioshock2 will auto-detect whether the user has a DX10 compatible Graphics Card and adjust the settings automatically.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Is Battlefield:Bad Company 2 declaring war on players?

There is only one thing PC gamers hate more than an obvious console port and that is any kind of DRM.

The arguments are long and passionate about the merits and drawbacks of Digital Rights Management (DRM) a generic term used for access control technologies that can be used by hardware manufacturers, publishers, copyright holders and individuals to try to impose limitations on the usage of digital content and devices.

Could war be declared between the latest First Person Shooter and fans as word comes from EA and DICE of a DRM loaded up not only with the upcoming game, but even the demo. The demo has only just been downloaded onto player's computers worldwide.

But DICE's lead programmer, Mikael Kalms revealed a DRM system making use of the controversial SecuROM DRM, that will be put in place for the final and beta versions of Battlefield: Bad Company 2.

Reportedly, two versions of the DRM will be Available to players, off and online. The offline authentication is intended for those who don't have an internet connection or who aren't comfortable with the idea of an install limit and is a basic disc check system that requires the CD to be in the drive whenever the game is run.

The online option means you only need the disc to install the game, but limits you to only ten concurrent installs. Install credits are automatically refunded, so to speak, whenever the game is uninstalled - though you'll need to be online for both the installation and uninstallation. The online authentication only needs to run once though, then you can run the game for 10,000 days (27 years) before being forced to authenticate again.

A version of the SecuROM DRM will also be applied to the closed beta, which is only available to those who have pre-ordered the game. The beta is set to start on January 28th, while the full game ships on March 2nd.

This news follows the lovefest felt in a recent interview with Gamespot UK where DICE expressed respect for the PC gamer.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Command and Conquer 4 beta going public!

Would be generals and tacticians should be preparing for the long awaited beta of Command and Conquer 4!

Starting at 9AM PST, EA is creating and alliance with Gamespot, to open the Command & Conquer 4 Beta to the public. Joining is reportedly simple, interested warhawks need to head over to Command and Conquers beta page and do the following;

Log in to your free GameSpot account, or register for one.

Once you are logged in, you will see registration fields already populated for you, based on your GS profile. Just hit Submit.

The page now includes new information, including your key (the URL), and instructions on what to do.

There is no reregistering if the beta keys run out. EA and Gamepsot are promising to track of everyone and hand out the keys in the orders players registered. After the initial disbursement, additional keys are reportedly going to be handed out everyday.

The beta will be testing the 5 v 5 multiplayer part of the game.

Because we apparently live in the age of pre-order specials, Command and Conquer 4 will offer access to our exclusive prequel bonus mission "Night Moves", the official C&C 4 soundtrack, and a personal autographed headshot of the Messiah, Kane!

Mass Effect 2 charms the critics

So the reviews are in for Mass Effect 2 and the game managed to charm critics.

According to EA the game won aclaim across both the Xbox and PC platforms.

This includes perfect scores from 360 Magazine (5/5), Destructoid (10/10), Eurogamer (10/10), Eurogamer Italy (10/10), Eurogamer Spain (10/10), G4 TV (5/5), Game Daily (10/10), (5/5), GamesRadar (10/10), gamesTM (10/10), Official Xbox Magazine UK (10/10), TeamXbox (10/10), Total PC Gaming (10/10), (10/10) and X360 Magazine (10/10). Time Magazine says Mass Effect 2 is “the Avatar of video games – except it’s better written”, and says “Mass Effect 2 sets the bar high for 2010.”

The rave reviews earned Mass Effect 2 the second highest rated game of all time for the Xbox.

Popular pre-order Bad Company dominates Steam sales

Open warfare is more popular than solving the latest galactic mystery. According to Steam's weekly sales numbers anyway.

The chance to join in the beta process with a pre-order of Battlefield: Bad Company was enough for the game to storm into number one. The multitude of preview trailers and television advertising didn't help lift the presales beyond number 6 in the weekly chart from one of the leading online digital distributors of PC games.
  1. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 LE
  2. Psychonauts 
  3. Modern Warfare 2 
  4. BioShock 2 
  5. Star Trek Online: Digital Deluxe Edition 
  6. Mass Effect 
  7. Global Agenda 
  8. Aliens Versus Predator 
  9. Cities XL 
  10. Left 4 Dead 2
And the numbers always tell a story. The bargain price of $2 was enough to give Psychonauts a number 2 position in the charts while gamers just can't wait for Aliens Versus Predator and BioShock 2 with bot games till in the pre-order period but charting at eight and four repsectively.
Now the real question is, will the great reviews of Mass Effect 2 across the gaming world be enough to help the BioWare game with next weeks chart or could it become the best game of 2010 no-one played?

Mass Effect 2 takes off to stellar reviews

The blanket of commercials did what they could. The gaming community was taken to the edge of anticipation with trailers, articles and developers videos.

Now Mass Effect 2 is out with Sheppard streaking across the depths of conflicted space continuing in the second installment of the successful series.

Across North America and Europe RPG and science fiction fans counted down the hours until the pre-bought, pre-loaded games could be digitally unlocked and played. Mass Effect peaked at 10,790 players today according to Steam and those who ordered their copy through the popular online service.

Reportedly, within eight hours of the much-anticipated release Tuesday, nearly 100,000 people were playing it online, according to Casey Hudson, BioWare's project director.

The rush of players could be seen in the delayed digital unlocking of the game through online delivery stores and bombardment of EA's site with new account openings slowing their servers down. Many players complained on various forums of  having to wait while new accounts were created and existing ones seemed to take too long to verify.

Hopefully things will settle down for the strong DLC Bioware is planning for Mass Effect 2. Purchasers of the game will be able to activate the ‘Cerberus Network’, which serves as an in-game portal to offer downloadable content and news at no extra charge. The first piece of DLC is available today, featuring a new mission around the Normandy crash site, and BioWare plans to announce more content in the "coming weeks."

But what about the game
So I gave in. The original plan was to make my way through the $5 bargain of Mass Effect to see if I liked the gameplay enough to invest the full price of a new release and a more valuable expense, my limited gaming time into Mass Effect 2.

With one great review after another hitting the web, I caved, preordered and downloaded the game so it was waiting and ready by the time I got home.

I'm glad I did. The cutscenes and in-game graphics weren't bad in ME. The follow-up is just amazing.

I won't discuss the opening storyline as not to ruin any surprises, but an attentive player can see all the current influences and gaming trends sneaking their way into Mass Effect 2.

Fast paced action scenes that lead to the same conclusion, but allow the player to feel as though they have control in the situation is the most promenient addition. The fantastic voice acting is back and the universe the game is set in is as believable as any big screen blockbuster. Although I've only played about three hours into the game, it seems to be an X-Files meets Star Wars.

Where as the universe was a clean, controlled place before, Mass Effect 2 pushes the player through the back alleys of Deep Space.

The developers included instant gratification for the players who can't quite take the slower place of an RPG game. Achievements pop up on the screen, ranging from how many more times a deed needs to be done to reach a particular badge of honor to a mouse click to initiate an action which will influence your renegade or paragon characteristics.

Combat is improved, even if the onscreen indicator for taking damage just so happens to blend tackiness and a degree of gross.

Bit-Tech gave the game a perfect score, Gametrailers slightly less with 9.7, CVG weighed in with 9.3 while Gamespot ,Maximum PC decided on 9, which was still good enough to win the editors choice/Kick Ass awards.

Ea continues to woo PC gamers

With PC gamers still warm from the great big group hug the other day with DICE developers and their obvious love shown in the upcoming Battlefield: Bad Company, EA is becoming the game company that keeps on giving.

Long considered a nasty word among die hard gamers, EA seems to be on a campaign to win back the hearts of the PC crowd. Tweets have brought smiles as it was revealed by EA Community Manager Matthew Pruitt promising an electronic makeover for the Medal of Honor series.

To take the creaky title into the gaming of tomorrow, not one but two gaming engines will be used. And it appears EA likes the one-two punch with not one but two teams working hard to deliver the singleplayer and multiplayer aspects of the game.

Its hard to not smile while reading this.

The singleplayer portion of the game will be handled by EA's internal LA team and will use a heavily modified Unreal Engine 3. The multiplayer on the other hand is being put together by DICE and will be built using the game developer's Frostbite engine.

This last engine is the same one being used for Battlefield: Bad Company.

For those worried about more of the same, DICE president Patrick Bach says thats not necessarily the case

"We're using the Frostbite engine and it's amazing to see how it can build a completely different experience," he said.

Medal of Honor is scheduled to be released in the fall of 2010 and battles its way out of the World War Two era and into modern conflicts in the Middle East. The promotional videos give a Green Beret Special Forces feel with the featured characters wearing the long beards and casual combat uniforms.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

PC Gamers wait for Assassins Creed 2 is nearly over

Its been a long wait, but after four months of looking over the gaming shoulder of our console cousins. Assassin's Creed 2 will scale its way to the PC.

Gaming magazines were full of Ubisoft's announcement of a March 16th shipping date for the sequel which has already managed to sell 6 million units worldwide on the Playstation and Xbox.

But coming from a lineage of assassins will cost more for this generation, the M for Mature-rated title will be available for a more-expensive-than-usual $59.99. The upside is some include extra content such as the Battle of Forli and Bonfire of the Vanities add-ons. A digital-delivery-only "Black Edition" will run for $64.99, and will include even more content that has not been specified.

Assassins Creed two is set in Leonardo Da Vinci's Italy with a new face taking the cowl, Ezio.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Console game creator digs PC Games

It can be hit or miss reading the Game Hunters column in USA Today. Don't get me wrong, the column's hosts Mike Snider and Bret Molina seem to have a passion about games, but the topics are always covered with the USA Today's fluffy feel to the story.

It was interesting to read the list of the top games of the last decade from the man who made his name for spearheading the best known game on the XBox, Gears of War. Four out of the five games named by Epic's Cliff Bleszinski started life on the PC;

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (2002)

Half-Life 2 (2004)

BioShock (2007)

Portal (2007)

And the console game that made a token appearance on the list? Resident Evil 4 (2005).

The article can be found here.

DICE loves PC Gamers...and they're not afraid to say so

As much as Infinity Ward pushed away PC gamers with their development considerations, DICE is opening up their arms full of presents with theirs.

Not only are they promising the full flexibility with the multiplayer component, but have only just revealed a single player campaign for Battlefield: Bad Company 2. Continuing the love-fest for PC Gamers, senior producer Patrick Bach spoke about a dedicated team of game developers for the PC version of the hotly anticipated first person shooter.

Just released on the website tonight, in an interview with Gamespot UK Bach seemed excited about the host of gaming treasures coming to the PC.

Acknowledging Battlefield's heritage with PC gaming, a full blown computer version was promised along with more players in mutliplayer, rendering features which couldn't be done on the consoles as well as 3D features thanks to Nvidia.

Call it a backhanded dig, but developer Patrick Bach said, "We want to treat the PC player with respect because of our long heritage with PC Gaming."

Oddly enough, the footage used during the entire interview came from a console version of the game.