Thursday, February 28, 2008

I Can See!

Today is my first day with my first-ever pair of glasses and all I can say is: "wow". I honestly did not realize how bad my vision had gotten. When I sat down in my car after picking up the glasses, I looked at the building and noticed all these little details I could not see without my glasses. There were cracks on the side of the window panes, there was a definite stucco finish to the walls, and I could actually read the sign that said: "Hours: M-F 9am - 6pm".

I am very excited and can't wait to play a game with my glasses on. I can't even imagine what I've been missing. Unfortunately, that may have to wait as my new motherboard isn't arriving until later today and I have a group project to work on tonight. Plus, I will be out of town all weekend :(

Oh well, eventually I will get to see the real World of Warcraft, Team Fortress 2, and Call of Duty 4 I've been missing all this time.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Stage 6, We Hardly Knew Ye

Sad news for those of us interested in quality video watching over the Internet: Stage 6 is closing down on Feb 28th.
You may only be vaguely aware of DivX's Stage 6 video site (which probably explains why it wasn't successful) but it's going to be shut down entirely at the end of February. Stage 6 was DivX's YouTube-like video site meant to provide a bunch of streamable content for living room and mobile DivX players. The fact that it's being canned speaks to how successful the effort was. Most of you won't miss it, but we'll have a special place in our hearts for the handful of nudie clips we found on it that one time.
If you never had the chance to visit Stage 6, you truly missed the REAL DEAL in regards to online video. Stage 6 trumped YouTube in every single category. Stage 6 videos were higher quality, more interesting, and rarely came with the nonsensical comments and "Leave Britney alone!" bullshit of YouTube.

Alas, Stage 6, we hardly knew ye.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

New Computer Parts = Broken Computer



TigerDirect.com had a deal I just could not resist. Quadcore processor? Check. Motherboard to support quadcore? Check. Enough RAM to support an eventual upgrade (downgrade?) to Windows Vista? Check. Essentially, this deal had everything I was looking for in my quest for computer upgrades.

At the time, this all made sense. I wouldn't just stumble into the multi-core processing scene, I would blast into it with a quadcore! Unfortunately, in my haste to capitalize on a great combo deal, I didn't do my homework. Now, I'm left out in the cold, posting this via my secondary, can't run World of Warcraft or Team Fortress 2, computer.

Everything started out great. Motherboard and hardware install went great. Booted the computer up to my Windows XP Pro CD to do a repair install to update the Windows HAL (hardware abstraction layer) to support the quadcore processor. Install completed perfectly and a short call to Microsoft and my copy of Windows XP Pro was divvied over to my new hardware. Then, I did a bit of work and reinstalled service pack 2 and several other updates.

The computer worked beautifully at this point. CPU temps were holding steady, RAM was working fine, and I was just about to throw this machine into it's first workout. However, I ran out of time for the day and shut the machine down. Unfortunately, that was the last time it was seen running.

Long story short, the motherboard died between bootups. No amount of CMOS resetting or hardware finagling can save it. Doing a bit more research, I am not the only one with a dead XFX motherboard. Every corner of the Internet seems to have someone with a dead XFX nforce 680i LT Sli motherboard. Even the TigerDirect.com customer reviews section is littered with dead on arrival (DOA) motherboards.

I am not some newb to computer hardware. I tear down and rebuild hundreds of PCs every year at work. I've helped numerous gaming friends build kick-ass rigs. I have never been stupid enough to jump on a hot deal. Yet, here I sit with a piece-of-garbage motherboard that needs to be returned. All because I wanted to catch a deal before it ended. I'm learning my lesson the hard way.

If I could, I would return the entire packaged deal, but I opened the CPU and it can not be returned. So, I will keep the OCZ RAM and Intel Q6600 quadcore CPU. However, the XFX nForce 680i LT Sli motherboard is history and I will never purchase another XFX product.

Lesson learned, be patient and smart about your computer purchases.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Heartless Needs Glasses

One of my all-time favorite episodes of The Simpsons, Last Exit to Springfield (show synopsis here), involves a discussion inside Homer's head between Marge and Lenny. Anyone familiar with what I'm talking about will recognize this quote:
"The latest contract proposal gives them a free keg of beer for their
meeting ('Ray!) in exchange for giving up their dental plan. All
rush for the keg.

Lenny: So long, dental plan!
Homer: [thinks...]
Lenny's voice: Dental plan!
Marge's voice: Lisa needs braces.
Lenny's voice: Dental plan!
Marge's voice: Lisa needs braces.
Lenny's voice: Dental plan!
Marge's voice: Lisa needs braces."
While I am not currently in any sort of union struggle myself, I did have a similar conversation with my wife about two months ago. My eyesight has been bad for a while, but I've never seen an eye doctor. It finally got to the point where I couldn't read the board at school. Unfortunately, we had opted out of vision coverage for 2007, which then prompted the discussion:
Heartless: [thinks...]
Wife: Heartless needs glasses.
Heartless: Quadcore processor!
Wife: Heartless needs glasses.
Heartless: Quadcore processor!
Wife: Heartless needs glasses."
for 2008.

Well, we elected to have vision coverage this year and I visited an optometrist yesterday. It was fairly painless to determine that I needed glasses, and the optometrist was quite surprised that I've gone this long without them. The lady that fitted my glasses also assumed I've been wearing glasses forever and just needed a new pair. Of course, she figured it out when I looked like a complete newb looking at the various frames available.

Starting next week I am an official four-eyed-geek.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Gen Con Files for Chapter 11

One of the cornerstones of gaming conventions, Gen Con, has had it's fair share of trouble over the past few years. Canceled events, lackluster support, and now a Chapter 11.
Gen Con LLC announced today that it has filed for Chapter 11 protection in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the State of Washington. This action became necessary as a result of significant unforeseen expenses associated with attempts to expand its core business to encompass externally licensed events. Gen Con’s flagship show, Gen Con Indy, remains a vibrant, profitable event. Gen Con Indy will take place as scheduled August 14–17, 2008, in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Fortunately, as quoted, the big-daddy event in Indianapolis will continue, so that means that I still have a chance to attend at some point. Hopefully, the Chapter 11 will spur not only Gen Con, but gaming companies, to put a little more effort into the various conventions that so many rely on for word of mouth advertising and new product information.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Ding 70!

Over the weekend I finally hit the magical level of 70 on my Shaman, Tanglefoot, in World of Warcraft. It was a long time coming, but that was my plan. I felt no pressure to hit level 70 until I was pretty much in the later stages of level 69.

When WoW first launched, I wanted nothing more than to just be level 60. So, I raced to level 60. However, when I finally hit 60 the game came to a grinding halt. I didn't have time to run most instances and PvP was still in an infant stage, so my time was spent "farming" the Auction House. I enjoyed that, but it eventually lead to a fairly lengthy break from the game.

The Burning Crusade, WoW's first expansion, launched during that break. I wanted to be there on Day 1, but I held off for the fear of lag, server crashes, and general idiocy surrounding most MMO expansion launches. TBC, to everyone's astonishment, launched fairly smoothly, and I missed it. However, that really doesn't bother me.

There was still a crush of people flooding through the entry areas of the Outlands and resources were scarce. That is one aspect I can say I thoroughly did not have to worry about, because I started my trek towards 70 well after the flood of players had steamrolled TBC.

Also, the auction house was full of bargains when I started. I easily replaced nearly every item on my character with a TBC green for just a few gold per slot. Due to the mudflation of items in TBC, I was far more powerful than most players that started TBC at it's launch. This made the first few levels relatively painless.

Unfortunately, there are a couple things that surfaced due to my late start: lack of groups and level 70 gankers.

With the majority of players already level 70, I often found myself begging guildies or random players for help with elite group quests. This usually meant I didn't complete said quests until I was a few levels higher than them. Dungeons, on normal mode, were also extremely hard to get groups for and at level 70 I still have not visited a good portion of the Outland dungeons.

Secondly, the fact that I play on a PvP server meant that I was ganked my fair share of times. Most level 70's have a) flying mounts and b) pretty uber gear. There was nothing I could do and only once did I ever get the upper hand on a level 70 who tried to gank me. But that is life on a PvP server. Someday there might be PvP, but until then, ganking is the status quo.

In the end, levels 60 through 69 came and went and 70 arrived. In reality, I am back at level 1. I'm just a baby 70, barely able to hold my own in dungeons five levels below me. Fortunately, unlike the original WoW, Blizzard planned accordingly and there is a plethora of new content to experience at level 70. Having purchased my first flying mount, I've unlocked the Barrier Hills and Skettis. I am slowly grinding battlegrounds for honor to unlock new equipment. All-in-all, level 70 is the beginning of another journey, which I plan to fully discuss later.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

PC Gamers Rejoice!

Spore has a release date!
Spore, the sim-everything simulator, finally got its amino acids together today and plopped out a release date of September 7, 2008. Looks like EA's boss was right that the long-in-production sim would reach retail "before the holidays" on the PC, Mac, Nintendo DS, and mobile phone platforms. Maxis' main man Will Wright said, "We're in our final stages of testing and polish with Spore, and the team at Maxis can't wait to see the cosmos of content created by the community later this year." That makes, well ... just about all of us.
Mass Effect is coming to the PC in May!
Given the absurdly long period of time between releases of the Halo games on Xbox and on PC, I wasn’t expecting Mass Effect till we had a new president, at the very least. But today we’ve gotten word that Mass Effect is coming to PC this May.

The game has been optimized for PC, with a new, fully customizable control scheme which will allow you to hot key biotic powers so you can avoid those pesky menus. Between the ability to hot key and higher res visuals, I’m almost sold. There’s also a new decryption mini-game and an “enhanced inventory screen” with a new GUI which hopefully means the absolutely horrendous equipment screens won’t be such a mess anymore.
Porn is still free!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Mark Jacobs Leaves the Door Open to Canceled Classes/Features in WAR

Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning (WAR) has worried me for some time. No, it is not the numerous beta delays or EA acquisition. Actually, I am worried about the lack of information being fed to the community, which is abnormal for a Mythic developed game. Of certain interest to me lately has been the lack of class information being provided which prompted me to post on Warhammer Alliance.

In the post, I speculated that Mythic may be considering cutting classes from the game prior to release. Many argued that it was simply a marketing move. I contended that it makes no sense for a game that was already supposed to be launched to have not released basic information on each of the planned classes. Along with a addition of a new career mastery system, it is feasible that Mythic could scale back on the number of classes they had planned for launch.

Mark Jacobs happened across my post and had the following to say:
Folks,

In terms of the number of classes, marketing, release, etc. It's still pretty simple, we'll release it when it's ready but keep in mind that beta is for chucking what doesn't work in order to replace it with stuff that does work. So, if a class doesn't work out the way we hoped it would, we *might* keep it out on release if we can't come up with a good way to fix it. It would make no sense to either release the game with a broken/bad class or to hold up the game's release if we are not sure even how to fix a bad/broken class. One of the lessons from DAoC's development/evolution was that less is indeed sometimes more. Again, please don't read anything into this post other than the usual "this sort of stuff is what beta is for" disclaimer. Besides, with the new systems we have been putting in, players will have even more options to customize their class than before so I don't think players having a dearth of class/options is something you have to worry about.

Mark
I read it like this: "Folks, we're cutting stuff that isn't working." Which is fine by me, and is to be expected for games still in development. However, it is worrying that Mark, a normally no bullshit type of guy, is leaving the door open for truly blockbuster news that something big could be cut from WAR, whether it be classes or features.

Really though, why all the fuss? The game is still in development and nothing is ever cast in stone until day one of launch. Fortunately, Mythic has communicated almost all major changes to the game and I would hope they would continue to do so. However, as the PvP flagging debate showed a while ago, the general MMO community can't be trusted with information that is left up to interpretation. Thus, why this statement from Mark Jacobs has me worried.

On one hand, he assures us they are doing what needs to be done and telling us that stuff that doesn't work is going to be cut, not band-aided on to the game in some hope it will work in the future.

On the other hand, he shows us that Mythic has the capability to reveal more major changes to WAR. So far, those major changes have been welcomed warmly, but I fear that may not be the case if Mythic starts talking about removing something from the game. We shall wait and see.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Better Than I

Julie Whitefeather is my hero. Earnest Cavalli can now consider himself owned, not by some non-factor blogger like myself, but by a peer within his own field. It is painfully obvious that Mr. Cavalli wants nothing to do with my criticism of his work, but that is where Julie Whitefeather steps in. I will quote her response:
"... If a writer who gets paid to play and evaluate MMO games sees such striking similarities between a promotional video and a prior title, don't you think the average gamer might have trouble differentiating?" - Earnest Cavalli

I wasn't going to respond until I read the sentence above - so while Mr. Cavalli is busy tooting his own horn, perhaps I should give a small toot on my own. Back in undergraduate school - before BOTH master's degrees and before I GOT PAID FOR WRITING (albeit in another field) who would have pointed out the following.

The arts, of any sort, be they video games, a painting on a wall or a movie in a theater is not done for a professional reviewer. They ARE done for the "common man" (a figure of speach I use only to make a point for there is nothing common about each of us).

Having to resort to the phrase "..if a writer who gets paid..." is nothing short of the same response a politician gives when he or she says "I don't think you understand all the issues involved." I see this all the time in MY PROFESSIONAL field. Phrases of that sort are used for one reason and one reason only and that is a cheap last ditch defense that is tantamount to a journalist who, lacking any other sufficient arguement, stands in his own virtual back yard and yells...

"Nyah, nyah, nyah - and so's your mother..."

And while Mr. Cavelli is busy responding to Heartless with "Thank you Heartless for providing an excellent example of why deigning to respond to criticism is generally such a terrible idea" I will respond in kind...

Thank you Mr. Cavelli for such a trite and meaningless response and "deigning" to respond to us all here - you didn't hurt yourself when you climbed down off your pedestal did you? I might also thank you for a response that proves to US the lack of originality in the article you wrote - surely a journalist who deigns to responds to us poor downtrodden masses is worthy of more originality in his work.

I will end with a phrase my dear departed grandmother was wont to use...

Mr. Cavelli, if you can't take the heat - get out of the kitchen

And yes, I will see you on line...

again, and again and again.

p.s. the hours spent on the figurines were for the grandchild of a board member.
While he passes it off as an opinion piece, the truth is that Mr. Cavalli posted an article that has no journalistic integrity! His article shows obvious signs that he paid no attention to the disclaimers given within the video he criticized and more than once he directly contradicts what he is stating. That folks, is not journalism.

I'm glad that my angry rant can be so easily backed up by people that Mr. Cavalli might consider "worthwhile". Respect +1 for Julie Whitefeather.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Following People Are Wrong

I hate mis-information. Funny to say that, because I'm responsible for my fair share of it. However, I am fairly willing to correct myself. The following people are wrong and need to correct themselves.

NOTE: None of the following have deleted any comments.

1. Someone at DungeonRun.
2. Cameron at Random Battle.
3. Earnest Cavalli, the guy who originally drug out the dead horse, over at Wired's Game|Life blog.

I don't really want to put a lot of energy into this post, but I need to outline a bit of my argument here. First of all, it has been proven, beyond-a-doubt, where the Warcraft universe originated. Mr. Cavalli even states so in his article:
"Of course, I realize the Warcraft universe is functionally lifted wholesale from the Warhammer universe..."
Point numero uno, Warhammer's look was here first, not Warcraft's. Therefore, Warhammer Online has every right in the world to look the way it does without a copycat tag being applied.

Next point on the docket: the game-play in the video sucks and looks staged. Well, that is correct, as stated by Paul Barnett in the video!

Lastly, the proposal that someone could mistake this video for World of Warcraft. We've covered the "similar looks" debate in the first point. I'll bend a little bit here, as WAR is shaping up to play and feel a lot like WoW. However, that is a bit misleading and I'll explain it a bit here.

WoW does a lot of things right. Not just in terms of MMOs, but in the terms of just being a game. I will not play games that do not follow the benchmarks set by WoW. If that means WAR feels and plays a lot like WoW, then so be it, but that is what games (not just MMOs) need to do in today's PC gaming market. However, don't for a second call that a "clone". The whole clone debate is something fairly restricted to the elite MMO circles out there and is a dead horse beyond worth beating.

To reiterate the points presented here. The Warhammer look came first and was liberally used in the creation of the Warcraft universe. The game play in the WAR video is staged and is not representative of the way players will eventually play. Finally, WoW is a great game and other games should LEARN from the aspects that WoW has perfected.

I know, I'm not being nice. Go here for a nicer version of what I'm trying to say.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Deleted Post

Update: 16 Aug, 2009 - Deleted post, because I lost the picture. /sadface

Friday, February 01, 2008

Awwww Hell

Tick.... screech.... tick, tick, tick....

Those are the sounds my hard drive is making! Fortunately, it is not showing any signs of failure yet and checks good through Western Digital's drive checking software. I know better than that and commence with the backups I shall.

Reading Goal for 2008

Upstate Geeks, a new online hangout opened after the fall out of my local non-video gaming scene, spurred me to consider my reading plans for 2008.

While the original poster plans to do five books a month, I don't see myself hitting five books in the entire year. At one point in my life, two books a month was a good average, but I never read hardcore (probably due to my gaming addiction). So, my goal is four books read by the end of 2008, not including the few hundred pages left in my current book, A Storm of Swords by George RR Martin.

My tentative reading schedule:

Finish A Storm of Swords by George RR Martin
A Feast For Crows by George RR martin
His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik

...and if I like the Novik novel, I'll finish the year out with the trilogy.

What are your reading goals for 2008?
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