The Obsolete Gamer Show: Frank Azor & Raymond Watkins (Alienware)


We’re talking Alienware on the latest episode of OGS with Alienware general manager at Dell, Frank Azor. Along with Raymond Watkins, technical marketing manager we decided that instead of spending time going over hardware trends and the latest tech we would discuss some of the history of Alienware and the culture behind the company.

Both J.A. Laraque and Ignacio worked several years at Alienware in Miami Florida before starting Obsolete Gamer so this was as much about reminiscing as about covering some topics and tackling some misconceptions of importance.

We had fun with this one so if you are interested in Alienware talk that is different than you normally see in articles and interviews check this one out.

The Gamers of Origin PC

Team Origin

The Gamers of Origin PC

One of the questions I was often asked during my time at Alienware was, are you guys really gamers and do you play games at work. I can tell you originally pretty much everyone at Alienware were gamers, just check out our interview with co-founder Alex Aguila and our gamer profile for Nelson Gonzalez., you can also check out our interview with Arthur Lewis. When I started back in 2001 most of us were avid gamers and would often have Lan parties at HQ or meet up to play games.

In our editorial where we asked, do you have to be a gamer to be in the industry? My opinion was that you do not need everyone in the company to be a gamer, but it does matter to have key people who at least understand the culture. When we talked with Origin PC not long after their launch it was clear the management understood games and gaming culture. It is also clear they are all gamers check out the gamer profile for CEO, Kevin Wasielewski and COO, Hector Penton. If you need more proof perhaps we can show a picture of their arcade games cabinets and Mr. Penton’s wall of PC game boxes.

In the meantime, here are some gamer profiles from Origin PC team members and if you want to game with Origin PC you can find them on Raptr and on Steam.

final fantasy 7

Name: Erika Mckinster

Gaming background: Final Fantasy series, Goldeneye, DOOM, Quake, Halo, Mass effect Trilogy, World of Warcraft, Diablo trilogy; too many to name!

Favorite classic game: Final Fantasy 7

Favorite modern game: Mass Effect

What are you playing now? Torchlight 2 & Borderlands 2

quake 1

Name: Fabian Santiesteban

Gaming background: As a child I was an avid gamer from the Atari 2600 while working my way up to the Sega Genesis to the PC’s of today.

Favorite classic game: Quake – Quake may be the most influential game of all time. Not the best game, not the most innovative, but the most influential. Nothing beats a god old fashion First Person Shooter.

Favorite modern game: MMORPG – My gaming preference roles have changed. Today I am a big fan of EVE Online – Age of Conan and The Secret World.

What are you playing now? I am currently playing Diablo 3 and looking to level up my toon to 60 so I can start my paragon levels. I am looking forward to the incoming patch that will give you the opportunity to group up to 8 players which will make it much more interesting.

mists-of-pandaria-world-of-warcraft

Name: Daniel Ovalle

Gaming background: I’ve built my own computers since I was 18 and was immersed into hardcore gaming while working at Alienware.

Favorite classic game: Quake

Favorite modern game: Too many to name.

What are you playing now? World of Warcraft, Mass Effect, SWTOR, Civ5, Guild Wars 2, Diablo3

counter-strike

Name: Jorge Percival

Gaming background: First ever encounter with gaming was an Atari 2600 that my parents had, though I was very young they tell me I wouldn’t let go of it. After that I can happily say I owned most consoles to date mostly for exclusive tittles. The fall of 1993 was when I really began paying attention to PC games when my uncle purchased DOOM for his PC, I was completely hooked on that game. Consoles introduced me to gaming the PC has kept me here.

Favorite classic game: My favorite classic game will always be Counter strike (pre source days) this was my real introduction to competitive gaming and the first game I truly took serious. I followed all the pro’s and tournaments I would fully engulf myself in the scene and what was going on during those days. Quake comes a close second.

Favorite modern game: My favorite modern game……….. would definitely have to be League of Legends, this game shows how great gameplay is still at the heart of a good game. We all love graphics but the game needs to have good mechanics and gameplay to continue to grow past its release. I am also a huge fan of RIOT as a developer they do great job of interacting with their community and are supporting the e-sports push here in the states.

What are you playing now? Right now I have lowered the amount of games that I play at a time (mostly due to League of Legends lol). League of Legends, Torchlight II, Borderlands 2. Those would be my top 3 in that order.

Quake 2 - Rocket Arena 2

Name: Tony Berry AKA Miztic1

Gaming background: Started gaming on C64/Atari 800XL then moved to the NES and all other consoles where I got hooked on gaming and once I got my first PC I discovered Wolfenstein 3D then eventually Doom and Quake 1 and those sent me over the edge of the gaming abyss.

Favorite classic game: Tossup between Quake 2: Rocket Arena 2 and Ultima Online. Consoles would be Legend of Zelda on NES.

Favorite modern game: This is a tough one, I would have to say WoW

What are you playing now? WoW, Diablo 3, torchlight and league of legends.

destruction derby

Name: Alvaro Masis in game (Propane)

Gaming background: Have been playing games since Lode Runner and have played on multiple platforms favorite PC by far

Favorite classic game: Favorite classic game would be destruction derby for the Commodore 64

Favorite modern game: Eve Online

What are you playing now? Guild Wars 2, Eve Online, Torch Light 2

Do you have to be a gamer to be in the industry?

Generally my take is you have to really care about the field you focus your life on or you just won’t be the best at it. There is a difference between being good at your job and really loving it to where everything you do is a pursuit of putting out perfection. ~J.A. Laraque

Do you have to be a gamer to be in the industry?

When it comes to jobs people often put them in two categories. One is the job to pay bills and one is the career that you really work towards and care about. Obviously for just a job you can learn what is needed to do well and even excel at it, but for your career do you really have to be “all in” to do it well. More specifically, do you have to be a gamer to work in the gaming industry? Well John Smedley, president of Sony Online Entertainment says, yes, you do.

gaming industry, gamer, john smedley, sony online entertainment, alienware

“In my opinion, people that don’t play games have no business in this business. It should be the gamers-only club, I think. I can’t stand people that don’t know what they’re talking about when it comes to playing these things,” Smedley said in a recent interview.

The responses to that comment have been mixed. Some believe he is right on saying that many of the rehashed and awful games that have come out recently are the result of suits in management positions and not real gamers and people who know the community and the culture. Others had a different view saying that one can be good at their job without taking it home and with responsibilities like family, school and bills one does not always have time to be totally engulfed in their work.

Generally my take is you have to really care about the field you focus your life on or you just won’t be the best at it. There is a difference between being good at your job and really loving it to where everything you do is a pursuit of putting out perfection. I also believe it depends on the job and the community you are creating a product for. It is one thing to work in plastics and not live it 24/7, but in some industries like politics, cars and games, if you only focus on it from 9 to 5 and then walk away there will be something missing.

When I started working at Alienware there was a proud culture of gamers there. I was even asked what games I played in the interview. Now while every position within a company, even a gaming related one, does not need a gamer manning the helm it did create a company culture that really felt like we were creating the best computers for the love of video games. With that said sometimes, and for certain things, you might need an outside view. Perhaps when going into a new market or expanding overseas you might need someone with those specific skills more than a gaming background. However, I believe you still need those gamers right there to make sure the heart of your company stays intact.

Also, the wife and kids excuse is just that. There is a difference between ignoring your responsibilities and giving up everything you used to love because you started a family. Perhaps you do not play games for every waking moment when you are not at work, but it does not mean you do not have time to put in to keep fresh. Sometimes there comes a point where you might have to step aside because of your responsibilities. If you cannot put in the time there will be those that can so you can focus on what you want to, but the point is you made that change.

When it comes to games most of us understand that it can become a part of our lives in one way or another. Many gamers do struggle with dividing life with gaming, but for people in the industry it may be even more important to listen to those of us for who gaming is a major focus. Too many suits see games like fast food and just feed us the same old crap and sadly most of us eat it up. There may be great new games out there, but they do not want to take the chance on something new. This is where we as gamers have the responsibility to let people in the game industry know what we want. Only then will things change and you don’t have to be a gamer to listen to the concerns of one, but it definitely helps.

So what is your take, do you need to be an active gamer to work in the gaming industry?

The Sentey Arvina GS-6400B

Sentey Arvina GS-6400 1

The Sentey Arvina GS-6400B

There has always been a debate over building versus buying a gaming computer and even those who have decided to build have a hard time agreeing on the right parts. I found myself wanting to put together a new gaming computer, but like most of us am on a budget and wanted to find parts that were good, but not wallet busting.

I decided to start with a case and in my search made the decision to blog about my progress as I slowly built my gaming system. I wanted to start with a case and after seeing an article on the Arvina GS-6400 in Maximum PC, I decided to give them a call to check it out for myself.

I was delighted to find someone from what I call “The class of Alienware”. Fabian Santiesteban, VP of Sales and Marketing for the U.S. and Canada for Sentey he was  also a Vice President and General Manager of Alienware computers for over 12 years before taking his talents to Velocity Micro and finally to Sentey. I knew with his experience he could help me with the information I was seeking. I decided to go beyond a review of the Arvina GS-6400 and ask about Sentey as a company itself and Fabian was more than happy to answer my questions.

Sentey

Obsolete Gamer: Where does the name Sentey come from?

Fabian: The name originated in Argentina. It is just a creative concept without any specific association or relation.

Obsolete Gamer: How did Sentey begin?

Fabian: Sentey began ten years ago. The Company has been active in the US market for two years.

Obsolete Gamer: Why did you want to make the move into the American market?

Fabian: As we were successful in South America, Sentey wanted to bring that same spark to the United States. We knew this would be a challenge, but with a history of success in Argentina, Brazil and Peru, we felt we could bring this same spark to the North American market. So far, the results of this endeavor have been outstanding

Obsolete Gamer: Can you tell us about the importance of having the right case?

Fabian: Sentey’s unique style is geared for the demands of the serious gamer, but at the same time our products make an elegant center of attention at any lan party or family’s entertainment center. Sentey cases have a ton of space, it has lots of expansion and tons of modding potential. Roominess is important to keep hot components running cool. Our cases are designed to operate noiselessly and effectively move a lot of air. Sentey is quality built to last.

Obsolete Gamer: What products specifically would you want gamers to know about?

Fabian: Sentey aims at establishing a new level of quality and performance by paying attention to the users’ needs. Our case designs serve their purpose in a smart, precise and reliable manner. Our power supply units meet the highest demands in terms of performance and quality. Sentey sells great gaming cases and power supply units at an affordable price.

Obsolete Gamer: Where can we find your products?

Fabian: Sentey products can be found via distribution channels as well as retailers such as Newegg, Micro Center, Ma Labs, Xoxide and others.

Obsolete Gamer: Where can we see Senty products, do you plan to be at more conventions?

Fabian: In 2011, Sentey representatives will be attending Pax West with various partners showcasing our products.

Obsolete Gamer: Can you tell us about what is coming up next for Sentey, a scoop perhaps?

Fabian: Currently, Sentey is focused on cases and power supply units. Before the end of the year Sentey will be marketing branded ATI cards. This product will be sold on-line via etailors as well as retail. There are no specifics on models yet, but there will be something for everyone. We are always looking ways to expand our product line and there are more surprises lined up for next year.

[youtube width=”600″ height=”480″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JMuaGehdiKI[/youtube]

The Review

So I had my information on Sentey as a company, now I wanted to test out their gaming case for myself. The first thing I took notice of was the price, at $99 it was a great price for my budget, but I wanted to make sure that the price point did not leave me with a lesser product.

I have been building PC’s since 1997 and seeing the Arvina made me think of the days of larger stronger cases before small form factors came along. The case type is called “high tower” the name fits because the case it tall, but not that wide. At dimensions, 21.65 (L) x 8.43 (W) x 20.47 (H), you will have more than enough room inside to build almost any type of system with enough room for proper airflow and cooling options.

The steel chassis is extremely solid as are the side panels, which have 1mm of steel. The plastic outer panels are glossy giving it a sleek shinny look. However, fingerprints can show up especially in a well-lit room, so perhaps before displaying your rig to your friends you might want to give it a quick wipe down. The case itself weighs about 28 pounds so keep this in mind when you starting adding all your components.

The Seney Arvina GS-6400

As stated, the inside has a lot of room even with its five 5.25 Drive bays and five 3.5 Drive Bays which are removable. The Arvina has seven expansion slots with plenty of room for dual video cards, 4 USB 2.0 ports, Audio and Microphone ports and an E-Sata port.  In addition, the Arvina as a built in card reader that reads, CF/MD, XD, SD/MMC, TF y MS/M2. The only con here is no USB 3.0 ports, but for the price point, it is still a great deal.

As for cooling, the Arvina comes with, two 80m LED fans for side cooling, one 140mm LED fan for front cooling, one 120mm LED fan for rear cooling and two 120mm LED fans for side cooling for a total of six fans, and the fans and the LED’s can be controlled using buttons on the top front panel of the case. The GS-6400 also supports water-cooling for those who want even more cooling options.

I like a clean looking case inside and outside and the hidden cable design of the Arvina impressed me. The cables are routed beneath the motherboard out of the way of other components. The hard drive trays are easily removable and while the plastic feel a little less sturdy than other designs, I have not found it to be an issue. The outside features a mesh front panel with anti-dust protection and panels that open each individual external bay so everything remains covered.

Overall, the Arvina GS-6400 case is strong and looks great especially when the lights shine through the case and at a price of around $100 it a great case for building a budget friendly gaming system. As for Sentey as a company with the power supplies and cooling options they offer this new kid on the U.S. block may turn out to be a great destination for the gaming PC system builder. I look forward to testing out their power supplies as well as their newly announced branded video cards.

Check out the Flickr photo stream for the Arvina GS-6400 here.

For more information on Sentey check out their website here.

You can view the Arvina GS-6400 on Newegg here.

 

The Alienware M11x r2 Review

Alienware M11x r2

Let me start by saying this review is more for the casual gamer meaning it will not be filled with charts and graphs and a ton of numbers that most would not understand. There are a ton of super technical reviews on the Alienware M11x r2 that provide every benchmark number and rating score you will ever need, this, is for the rest of us.

Why purchase a gaming laptop?

For the causal gamer one might wonder why you need a gaming laptop. My answer would be that you don’t, but the great thing about gaming laptops is they have the power for everything else you would need to do so why not have the ability to play games as well?

Far too often, we as computer shoppers select a low cost laptop to save money knowing we want one that we will not have to replace within a year and one we secretly wish we could play games on. Perhaps paying $1500 plus for a gaming laptop would not be for us, but at $1000 you are not too far away from laptops you find even on sites like Tech Bargains.

If you know you like to game and especially if you like MMO’s then having the ability to pull out a gaming laptop and play those games anywhere is well worth the price.

Alienware M11x r2

Price

Most reviews do not start with the price, but this is not like most reviews. The M11x can be purchased starting at $1000 on the Alienware website. At the price you can get more than enough to run most of the games a causal gamer would playing including FPS, RTS and MMO games.

The Outside

Do looks matter? Sure, they do just ask Apple, the Alienware M11x does look sleek, like a stealth bomber. The all black styling of the laptop goes well with almost any décor and let’s face it, it looks good either at home or out in public. I have had a number of people comment on the system specifically the neon-like light coming from all over it.

Speaking of lighting there are several zones of the computer that light up from the keyboard to the grills on the front and the little Alienware heads. The great this is using a program built in called Alienware FX, you can change all the colors to what suits you and you can even mix and match them for a funky clown look if you wish.

Outside Details

Let us go into some specifics about the outside. First off, the laptop weights about 4.4 pounds and while that may seem heavy to some in the day of the iPad it is still pretty light. There are three USB 2.0 ports, to connect things like mice, a HDMI and Display Port to connect a monitor, FireWire and a headphone jack for audio privacy. There is also a place for a special Kensington lock, which you buy separately so you can lock your laptop to a desk or somewhere else it cannot be stolen from.

Alienware M11x r2

The Inside

As said, there can be debates on which processor works best with this program or that game, but for the purpose of this review we will keep it simple. For the$1000 version of the M11x you get the Intel Core i5 1.4GHz processor. From what I have found using it, it does the job for the games I play and the programs I use, but I will go into that shortly.

Next you have the memory which at that price you receive 4GB’s. If you really get into gaming big time and you want the newest game on the highest setting then people will tell you to go with an 8GB or higher system. I personally do not have that on my desktop and do fine and with 4GB you have more than enough RAM for most any task you will be doing gaming or otherwise.

As for hard drive space, that decision is made based on how much you store and install. At the $1000 price, you get 320GB’s, which is a lot of space. Considering you have a desktop at home, you most likely do not need all this space.  Even if you do not and the laptop is your sole computer, unless you install every game and have a music and video collection out of this world then you should be fine. However, Alienware offers more hard drive options that offer more space.

Video is of course very important not only because of games, but everything visual on your system. Here it can get tricky because there are desktops and even some laptops that offer dual video cards in SLI and all kinds of options. The video card on the $1000 system is the NVIDIA GeForce GT 540M and I have found it works great for the games I play and for watching video in high def.

The rest

There are other things of note that come with the M11x like its wireless network card, which is necessary for gaming on the go. The system also has a standard network port to plug it in at home, the office, and school or where have you. The operating system is Windows 7 home premium 64-bit, which I have used on my desktop for quite some time. I personally think this is the third best O/S behind Win 95 SE and Win XP, so you should not have any trouble here.

Alienware M11x r2

Usage

This is what matters, but it is also, where it depends on what you do. First off, let us talk battery life, with the 8-cell battery under normal usage I have found you get a little over 5 hours of battery life, but if you are playing games, it will be less than that.

As for gaming itself, I tried the Alienware M11x in the game World of Warcraft in its native resolution of 1366×768 and was able to run the game with full graphical features with no issues even in heavy populated zones. Perhaps the key is the smaller screen, which is 11.6 inches, which can seem small when you have a user interface with a ton of icons, but I found I was able to get used to it.

In a game like Everquest 2 that uses more CPU power, I also received good frame rates even in open zones. Now I was not able to max everything out in EQ2 specially the shadows, but I was able to crank up the texture models and general graphics to make the game look great and playable even in a raid.

Other games I have played include Fallout 3, which ran fine, a number of Steam games and emulators since I am a classic gamer. I also played StarCraft 2, which ran fine. I also run various programs like Ventrilo for communication and Digsby, which is an all in one instant messaging client. I also run Firefox with four or more windows open at the same time to check websites and information, all while playing a game usually in windowed mode.

As for sound, it sounds much better than your normal laptop, but we have to be honest that even though it has internal Hi-Def 5.1 audio it does not match what you get out of a good pair of PC speakers. What I found that worked for me was the volume does get high which was an issue on other laptops. Music and games as well as movies will sound good coming out of the M11x and even in a loud room, the speakers are loud enough so you can hear it from the highs to the lows, bass and treble.

The keyboard feels good and types well even when you are slamming the keys crying for a heal. I never liked the touchpad, but this one is built well and does not easily activate when the heel of my hand brushes against it, still, I perfect a USB or wireless mouse.

As for warranty, you receive a 1-year plan, which provides hardware support, and of course phone tech support. I cannot say much here because I have not had a need to use it yet.

Overall

I personally like this system, I am sure there are things that could be better, but for most of us this system will perfectly fit your need for work, school and gaming. The laptop itself feels sturdy and well build and the cool look is a nice touch, but most important is the price and how it performance and it does both well.

I you have questions on the m11x r2 from Alienware leave a comment and I will answer them.

 

The Interview: Nelson Gonzalez

Nelson Gonzalez, co-founder of Alienware Corporation,

Nelson Gonzalez

Is a gamer born or does it happen over time? What makes one’s idea die on the cutting room floor while the other turns into a blockbuster? Gamers and those within the culture are as diverse as America itself, but we all share similarities. When entering the PC gaming world one has to know the layout, where it came from and where it is going. We can look at the background of some of these pioneers and learn from them and if nothing else enjoy a good story.

Obsolete Gamer has had a chance to interview quite a few from the Alienware and Dell family including Alex Aguila and Arthur Lewis and we were excited when we had a chance to sit down with co-founder of Alienware, Nelson Gonzalez.

 

Can you tell us about what got you into gaming?

 

It was all about the arcade baby! The arcade was the catalyst to my immersion in those virtual worlds. Aside from video games, playing games from an early age was in our DNA. Everybody in the neighborhood was hyper competitive and we played basketball, football, chess, wargames, boardgames and of course…dungeons and dragons! We loved every aspect of gaming and competition.

 

What were some of your favorite games growing up?

 

Too many. I’m pretty old, but I will mention some of the PC games which is probably what you might be interested in:

Civilization, Privateer, Myst, Falcon, X-Com, Alone in the Dark, Red Baron, Pirates, Star Wars TIE/XWing, Aces over Europe/Pacific, Mech Warrior, SimCity, Doom, Quake, Wing Commander Series, Might and Magic Series, Unreal Tournament, Dawn of War, COD Series, Medal of Honor Series

 

Now as far as Alienware part of the name and style of the brand came from your love of science fiction?

 

Absolutely. I grew up watching great SciFi and Horror flicks. Star Trek, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Invaders, UFO, Outer Limits, Twilight Zone, The Time Tunnel, Lost in Space and of course, the X Files to name some of the TV shows. The movie list would be too long to detail. Forbidden Planet, The Day the Earth Stood Still (original), Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Star Wars would be a glimpse into my list though.

 

Alex Aguila and Nelson Gonzalez - Alienware

You and Alex Aguila were friends from an early age correct?

 

Yes, I met Alex when I was 10 or so. 35 + years…way too long! Arthur Lewis which now runs Alienware, has also been a friend since I was like 16. Hector Penton from Origin PC I’ve also known for 30 + years.

We are all big-time gamers.

 

What type of PC games do you and Alex use to play?

 

Right now I think both of us are on sabbatical. We are playing intense Warhammer 40K and its consuming quite a bit of our time. Alex plays a ruthless Space Marine Blood Angel. Hector is a brother of the Hivefleet Leviathan and my path is that of the Eldar.

 

Did you have any rivalries game wise with Alex?

 

Absolutely. Falcon 3.0 comes to mind. Quake 2 was also an immersive bloodbath 🙂

 

What was your first PC?

 

An XT 286 I believe.

 

You also began building PC’s at a young age can you tell us about that?

 

I started building PC’s with 80386 Intel processors with clock speeds of 12MHz…LOL. Then we moved up to 486’s w/VESA bus video cards. Then came Pentium processors and 3D graphic cards (gaming nirvana). The dawn of 3D games such as Castle Wolfenstein and DOOM really hooked us all. I was forced to become the technician of the group so we can play all these games. We played most of those games in DOS and they required some tinkering such as creating boot disks with Autoexec.bat and config.sys files for specific games . Ah… the good ol’ days.

 

Before Alienware you created your own PC building company, can you tell us about that?

 

Well I thought that I could build PC’s locally in South Florida, but soon realized that wasn’t my cup of tea. I really liked high performance and squeezing every bit of juice out of a PC. Building standard PC’s for business’s just didn’t satisfy me. I always felt that if we did something that was specific for the gamers just like us, we could survive as a business.

 

Nelson Gonzalez - Alienware

How did the beginning of Alienware come about?

 

I was with a friend of mine (who happens to be Hector Penton’s brother) in my kitchen one day and I pitched him the idea of custom building PC’s for gamers like us. I asked him what he felt about the name Alienware and he said it sounded pretty cool. At that point it just felt right. I immediately called Alex and asked him if he would join me in this new adventure. I told him that he needed to quit his job, give me like $5K and come to work immediately. To his credit he said yes without hesitation. The funny thing is that we weren’t really speaking to each other at that time and  I can only imagine the conversation he had with the wife that night. 🙂

 

What was the first few months like running Alienware?

 

Boy it was very intense. At times we nervously laughed and secretly prayed 🙂 We had no money, no resources, but somehow we felt confident. We knew if we ‘built it’, they would come. PC Gaming was in its infancy and we had experienced how addictive it really was. We knew we were on to something, but we just didn’t to what extent.

 

What would be one of your favorite moments while at Alienware?

 

There were so many, but that first PC Gamer ’98 Area 51 review written by Gary Whitta was one of those rare moments were I felt validated.

The first online order.

When we hit one million in revenue.

When we reached 100 employees.

When we had Michael Dell visit us at Alienware.

When we sold the company to Dell.

 

Do you have a funny story about Alienware you can share with us?

 

Alex telling me that “no one would order an expensive custom PC online” and then we get 3 orders the first day 🙂

 

How did it feel to see Alienware become so big?

 

Crazy. I knew we wouldn’t have to work for anyone else if we did our ‘thing’ and we performed well. I also felt that if we bent over backwards for the customer and treated our employees like we’d like to be treated, we would be OK. I never imagined it becoming so wildly successful.

 

What was it like during the acquisition by Dell?

 

Awesome. I think Michael really understood us and because we had such a synergistic model, the transition was good and the acquisition made sense.

 

What type of PC do you play games on now?

 

Alienware Aurora i7 3.2GHz

2 X ATI Radeon 5800’s

Win 7 64-bit

 

Do you play console games?

 

No not really. I’ll load up Heavenly Sword or Gran Turismo every once in a while for shits and giggles.

 

What PC games are you currently playing?

 

I was playing DC Universe online, but stopped, we all started playing 40K. I am getting ready for SWTOR and maybe, just maybe Duke Nukem…finally?

 

What would you say your favorite classic game(s) is?

 

If I had to pick one, it would have to be Civilization. Wow… did I burn out on that one.

My second would have to be XCOM. Classic arcade would have to be Joust and Lunar Lander.

 

WarFactory PCs’ The Sentinel PC January 2011 model Review

Cooler Master HAF 912 caseThese days there are many manufacturers which make custom or prebuilt gaming PCs, but which one is the right one for one to choose? There are many factors to take into account such as price, choice of parts, real world performance numbers, the reliability of the system, the quality of construction and assembly, the availability of support as well as the duration and quality of the warranty, and especially these days whether or not the company will be around during the life of the product to be able to help you with or help repair the system. There are many brands and companies to choose from whether big or small, such as Alienware, Dell, OriginPC, IBuyPower, LanSlide PCs, WarFactory PCs, and many others. I’ve seen many companies come and go so most people will usually only want to purchase from a bigger company but even some of those are starting to disappear. It’s important to choose the right brand. Today, we will be looking at The Sentinel, the model offered around January 2011 by the manufacturer WarFactory PCs. I will discuss its real world performance, how I found the construction and finish to be, and talk about what I thought about WarFactory PCs based on my interactions with them.

What are the specifications of the Sentinel – January 2011 model?

Price As Configured: $1238
OPERATING SYSTEM: Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit
PROCESSOR: AMD Phenom II X6 1090T BE 3.2GHz stepping: AACAC AC, CACAC AC
GRAPHICS PROCESSOR: ATI 5870 1 GB
MEMORY: G.Skill 4GB DDR3 1600MHz
MOTHERBOARD: ASUS M4A89TD/USB3
STORAGE: Western Digital Caviar Black 500GB
CASE: Cooler Master HAF 912
POWER SUPPLY: Corsair CMPSU-650TX 650 Watt
PERIPHERALS: Asus DVD Burner

Performance benchmark tests:

The criteria used for my gaming PC benchmarking is shown in my Gaming PC Benchmarking Guide February 2011 article.

The Sentinel will be compared to my old gaming PC that I built in 2007. At the time it had all the parts needed to run anything and it still can run just about every game out there. That system has the following specs:

OS: Windows XP Professional (Corporate)
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-MA770-DS3
CPU: AMD Athlon 64 X2 5400+ 2.8 Ghz
Video Card: Sapphire ATI 3870 512 MB
Memory: G. Skill 4 GB DDR2 800 Mhz (limited to 3.4 GB by the 32-bit OS)
Sound Card: Creative Sound Blaster Live Platinum
Storage: Western Digital 750 GB 7200 RPM HD
Case: generic black case from newegg.com
Power Supply: generic 480 Watt
Peripherals: NEC DVD burner

Onto benchmarks…

Following the order of my benchmarking guide first we will see how well the systems compare in the RealStorm Global Illumination Bench 2006 test.

If you remember my benchmarking guide you will remember that this test shows a real world analysis of single core raw processing power. In this test The Sentinel is 43.79% faster than my machine. That means that each core is that percent faster per CPU core. This is important because not every program one uses is multi-threaded (supports multi-core processing).

The average performance in this test showed that The Sentinel is about 44.06% faster than my gaming PC in this single-core CPU test.

In this same test, this shows that at the bare minimum frames per second rendered, The Sentinel was 39.41% faster than my system. Minimum FPS tests are usually very important tests because this is when you notice the lag the most.

At their peak performance, we see a performance difference of The Sentinel being 47.35% faster than my gaming PC. Max fps is not as important as other benchmarks but I include it in my tests simply to see as high as peak performance goes.

Battleforge 1024x768 average fps

Battleforge is a free RTS MMO that I used to play a lot of and it still looks pretty amazing and is a great benchmarking tool for testing how good your system is at running a modern war game. I usually run my Battleforge settings to display 1024×768 so I wanted to benchmark it like that, as well as at a higher resolution. At 1024×768, The Sentinel performed on an average 757.60% faster than my old gaming PC. This is the proof I needed to remind myself to get a new gaming PC! The game supports all the latest graphic technologies for modern video cards as well as has modern multi-core support.

Battleforge 1024x768 minimum fps

Again, this is where a PC fails and we notice lag, which ruins the gaming experience. In this test, The Sentinel is 311.76% faster than my system. It put out 14 Frames Per Second, which is still under the desired 30 Frames Per Second that most of us would want, but then again this is with every option on, so a smart move would be to turn down some of the options before playing.

Battleforge 1024x768 max fps

In this test we see that The Sentinel is 240.61% faster than my machine. The game is obviously much smoother on The Sentinel system.

Battleforge 1280x1024 average fps

The Battleforge test gets more brutal as the resolution gets bumped up to 1280×1024 with everything on. The limitations of my own system are more obvious now and even The Sentinel has a hard time, but it’s still 845.58% faster in this test.

Battleforge 1280x1024 minimum fps

11.1 Frames Per Second are still not desirable so again, I recommend lowering the graphic settings. Still, it’s nice to bring systems down to their knees. Although in this test, The Sentinel does shame my old machine by being 2120% faster than it… Yeah…

Battleforge 1280x1024 max fps

This again is the fastest each system can run the benchmark. The Sentinel flies again, yielding performance 215.51% faster than my old gaming rig.

Dirt 2 1280x1024 max settings average fps

Like I mention in my guide, Dirt 2 is simply brutal and overall the best benchmark I recommend for testing the real gaming capability of a system since racing games require so much to run right. Lag is most unforgiving in racing games out of all games because one wrong move and you crash, so you need peak performance always. This test shows that The Sentinel is 280.25% faster than my machine. I will have to get a new machine before playing the next Codemasters racing game, although I do love how efficient they code them.

Dirt 2 1280x1024 max settings minimum fps

This is where we see that my system can no longer handle modern racing games. The Sentinel is 273.88% percent faster than mine. It’s Frame Rate at 50.1 is much higher than the 30 fps minimum we all need. This does make it a great gaming machine for modern gaming.

HAWX 1280x1024 max highest fps

Tom Clancy’s HAWX is still one of my favorite action flying games out there and it does showcase some of the best graphics I’ve seen come out in the past 2-3 years. The efficiency of this game engine makes me smile and the built-in benchmark tool does too. At peak output, which this test shows, The Sentinel is 181.88% faster than my machine.

HAWX 1280x1024 max average fps

Again, in this test The Sentinel shames my system by being 582.60% faster than mine. Its 157 Frames Per Second put my 23 fps to shame utterly.

X3 Terran Conflict 1280x1024 max average fps

This game is filled with super eye-candy and you really want to be able to run this game on a system that is totally up to par with the scalability of the game’s graphics engine. In this benchmark, The Sentinel was 397.80% as faster than my machine. The average FPS is at 84.686 which is way higher than the fabled 60 FPS that most people desire.

Trackmania Nations average fps

This test shows what a legacy game that still requires a good system to run will yield. The window closes a little but The Sentinel still beats the crap out of my system being 107.86% faster than it.

Performance Conclusion and Parts Analysis:

In the performance department, The Sentinel is sufficient enough of a gaming PC to be able to run any modern game at pretty much max settings, staying reasonably realistic.

The processor it comes with is great for both gaming and running heavy applications. It’s great for multitasking and multi-threaded programs and applications as well.

The video card has 1 GB of memory on it which is really important for rendering high resolutions. 1 GB of video memory is usually enough for most gaming needs unless you are one of those people that wants to set the resolution as high as your display can handle for every single game you play. It also has a strong GPU which keeps your framerates high while minimizing minimum framerates.

The RAM is quick but 4 GB is starting be a low number for modern PCs. It’s still enough to run anything, don’t get me wrong but this is probably one of the first areas that one will want to improve on if you are like me and run 10 applications WHILE running a game at once and alt-tabbing. The motherboard supports 16 GB of RAM max so it’s very future-proof and that’s a really great thing to have.

The hard drive only has 500 GB of space, which is not high compared to some other gaming machines but it does have enough speed to be able to load games up quickly. Anyways, I wouldn’t probably use the machine to store much on if you want it straight up for gaming and if you do want to store a lot, I would recommend adding a multi-TB hard drive for storage and using the main drive for applications and gaming. That’s a no-brainer. ;]

The case is a Cooler Master HAF 912 which looks both great in its jet black color and could pose well not only as a gaming machine but a professional server or business computer. Not many cases have such prestige to be able to pull that off. Great pick, WarFactory PCs on such an amazing case. The design of the case inside is so well done that it’s easy to install and remove components. This is highly desirable. All wiring came neatly assembled and tucked-in correctly as well.

Compared to my systems The Sentinel is relatively quiet. The fans barely make any noise even when under heavy load.

The Corsair CMPSU-650TX 650 Watt power supply is more than enough to handle the power requirements of the system and leaves enough free power for reliable operation as well as adding more parts and faster parts in the future.

Warfactory PCs emblemSupport and Warranty Information:
The basic price and system include a limited lifetime warranty. This means that you get a one year warranty on the actual parts, a three year labor warranty, and a lifetime of general support. Since there are manufacturers out there that will not provide any sort of support whatsoever for an out of warranty machine, WarFactory PCs beats them in with their lifetime general support warranty. At the time of this writing, support is available through a phone system at the number 708-667-5375 as well as through AOL Instant Messenger under the screen name WarFactoryPCs and email. It’s important to be able to call a company in the instance that the system is your only system and you have no way to get online to contact support. WarFactory PCs addresses this criteria with their phone system support channel.

My Impressions of WarFactory PCs:

They were very attentive to my many, many annoying questions that I used for formulating this review as well as asking them questions that showed me that they are a reliable and trustworthy company worth buying products from. If you guys know how annoying I am and how little life I have, you very well know that I am the kind of person that will contact a company in the middle of the night when normals are sleeping or having dinner. Gamers don’t rest! WarFactory PCs understand this.

Conclusion:

If you are looking for a gaming PC machine right now that DOES have a manufacturer warranty and is set at a reasonable price, I would recommend The Sentinel to be among the systems you look at before making a purchase or build decision. Some manufacturers which I will not name right now (or yet) offer really shitty entry-level gaming PC solutions, but this is not the case with The Sentinel. Even the basic configuration is worth getting as it will be able to run every modern game. You can’t go wrong with a system like that for only $1238. This recommendation is coming from someone that only builds his own systems and never buys any built PCs. It might totally be worth the difference of spending 100-200 dollars more knowing that you have the manufacturer’s expertise to help you out when something goes wrong.

***

This review was done on a Sentinel PC lent to me by WarFactory PCs solely for review purposes. Stand by for upcoming reviews by other gaming PC manufacturers. Once I get a good list of reviews going and more data for my benchmarking database, stand by for a competition to see who is the best bang for the buck out of these gaming PC manufacturers!

The Interview: Alex Aguila

Alex Aguila from Alienware
Alex Aguila from Alienware

Alex Aguila

Alex Agulia was the co-founder and former president of Alienware, but long before that he was an avid computer and console game and collector. In our Gamer Profile of Alex, we peeked inside the world of a real gamer and while there I had a chance to stir up an old Temco Bowl rivalry between him and current president of Dell Gaming at Alienware, Arthur Lewis. In Arthur’s interview, he talked about his early days of gaming all the way up to the Alienware days. We wanted to go back to Alex and this time get a bit more of a history of his gaming and to take one more shot at their competition.

Obsolete Gamer: When did you first begin playing video games?

Alex: The first video game I ever saw was Pong at a Miami Beach hotel in 1975. I was 8 years old. A few years later I played with the Odyssey 2 and all the hand held electronic games but my first love (that I still love it today) was the Atari 2600.

Obsolete Gamer: When did your love for video games turn into a full time hobby?

Alex: Games have always been a part of my life. It is something that is just part of me since the late 70s.

Obsolete Gamer: Can you tell us about collecting video games and consoles?

Alex: I hate to throw away anything that I enjoy, so my collection of video game started back in the late 70s. I now have a huge collection. In the last 15 years or so I have almost strictly concentrated on very rare games for the different consoles and when I say rare I mean really, really rare.

Obsolete Gamer: How big into the Arcade scene were you?

Alex: I feel blessed that I was there from the very start. Arcade gaming was bigger for me in the early 80s than consoles were actually. I spent every quarter I could get my hands on playing defender, stargate, zaxxon, Ms pac man, Galaga and many, many other classic etc. I got really great at some of them. I was the dude people gathered around to see a game ending. I actually could finish dragon’s lair with my back turned away from the machine simply relying on audio queues. That’s a lot of quarters.

Obsolete Gamer: At what point did you move into PC gaming?

Alex: The commodore 64 opened up an entire new realm of more sophisticated games. There was a period where I shelved all consoles and stopped going to the arcade around the mid-80s. Commodore was simply too strong. The simulations were great (playable today), the text adventures were great (playable to this day). It was a given that I would graduate from the commodore 64 to the PC in the early 90s.

Obsolete Gamer: Can you tell us the differences in your experience playing console games of the 90’s and PC games of the 90’s?

Alex: Super Nintendo’s Donkey Kong Country was a classic masterpiece. I have finished the game beginning to end 4 times since it was released (I have not done that with any other game PC or console). That being said, there was nothing that Sega or Nintendo could do that would even come close to some of the stuff the PC was doing. When the CD-Rom and CD-Rom games were released, the gap grew even larger.

Obsolete Gamer: Was your love for gaming a major reason for co-founding Alienware?

Alex: Yeah, I was a gaming guru. Nelson was a gamer that built PCs, it was a natural fit.

Obsolete Gamer: Can you give us a little history of the gaming “friendly competition” between yourself and Arthur Lewis?

Alex: You know a lot has been made out of this through the years but before there was any “competition” there was a lot of “cooperation”. We played Atari 2600 sword quest series and raiders of the lost ark quite a bit and we worked together towards a common goal. The real competition started when Nintendo released Tecmo bowl and Bases Loaded. The era of cooperation was over, It got ugly, what can I say…

Obsolete Gamer: Arthur stated you guys are about even as far as gaming, would you agree with that?

Alex: Yeah I guess, I’ll give Arthur Robotron and sports games (any era any console) but gaming encompasses quite a bit. Saying “gaming” is a big statement. He is really great (legendary) in specific areas. So am I, I’ll leave it at that.

Obsolete Gamer: Do you plan to have a rematch of Temco football since Arthur won last?

Alex: He won’t play me or give me a rematch since the early 90s. I get it since the story and the myth grow larger that way. I made peace with it.

Obsolete Gamer: Are you active in the gaming community?

Alex: Yes I am the founder of www.combatace.com a site dedicated to combat simulations, I play DCU universe right now and we have a pretty cool super hero team with a website.

Obsolete Gamer: What are your thoughts on the number of classic games being rereleased on today’s consoles?

Alex: I’ll give you a worn out cliché answer but the truth is the truth. A good game is a good game any era, so of course there will be rereleases but I encourage the developers doing it to stay as true to the original source and code as possible. No one wants someone messing with their Mona Lisa.

Alienware & Verizon take gaming on the road

The Alienware M11x at the Verizon booth at CES 2011
The Alienware M11x at the Verizon booth at CES 2011

At CES 2011 I had a chance to check out the Alienware M11x notebook that will soon allow you to take Verizon’s 4G network along for the ride. I ran into Raymond at the Verizon booth while he was playing Need for Speed Hot Pursuit on the M11x connected to a large flat panel monitor. You can take a listen to my interview on the M11x from E3 2010.

E3 – Alienware M11x

The Alienware M11x laptop won a best in show award at last year’s CES. Since then the system has undergone some upgrading including imbedding Verizon’s 4G LTE into the laptop. The goal here is for the ultimate gaming experience on the go. When I tested the M11x it did have the power to play pretty much any game out there at decent settings and with the addition of 4G they just might have a winner on their hands. Just imagine all you World of Warcraft addicts being able to do dungeon runs with no lag or bad frame rates from anywhere. It’s a night security watchman’s dream system.

So what can you expect? The word is the Verizon network will support anywhere from 5 to 12 MB download speeds. For those that do not know this is faster than many people get in their own homes even with high-speed internet. In productivity terms this means you can play an online game, run Ventrilo and even ALT TAB out to look up information without slowdown and bandwidth to spare.

Currently all this is in beta and Alienware hopes to have the system ready to go later this year. We will keep you updated on its progress and bring you more once it is released. You can listen to my interview with Ray from Alienware below.

CES – Alienware and Verizon

Cosplay: Booth Babes

Alienware True or False

Alienware HQ always had gaming going on: False

While many of us were originally gamers we did employ many who were not. We did not have an official gaming room until a few years back, but there were frequent LAN parties held at the various buildings.

Alienware outsourced to India: False

In fact during our time we never technically outsourced as our Costa Rica team was full Alienware employees that enjoyed pretty much the same things we did. Also many teams had members from the U.S. and Costa Rica and keep in mind Miami has a large number of Hispanic people so just because you heard a Spanish voice does not mean it came from out of the country.

Alienware Chat was not in the U.S.: False

I pretty much started the chat department and ended it as its head and I can tell you every member was from Miami.

Alienware had gaming clans in many games including World of Warcraft: True

For the most part with out FPS clans we would list ourselves as Alienware members, but for games like W.O.W and other MMO’s we kept it on the down low.

On with the show

Depending on how many people like this special edition featuring booth babes we will do more periodically, so if you liked this one please leave a comment.

Check out the rest of our Cosplay images.

 

Cosplay: Angel

No good Deed goes unpunished

I wore many hats during my almost ten year span at Alienware and one of those hats was of an RMA clerk. RMA stands for Return Merchandise Authorization which means when you have a product that is broken or in need of exchange you send it to RMA and you either receive a repaired part or a brand new part.

As you can imagine with high end gaming machines you get a lot of parts mostly because people wanted to continue upgrades. I will take credit for introducing a better way to keep track of merchandise which came out of me not wanting to write everything by hand. The result of this was at the end of the month when we did our count it was easy to keep track of everything I received and sent out.

Now I won’t get into to many details, but when you do a monthly count there can be mistakes. Sometimes something was entered wrong or something is missing or mislabeled. Believe me it happens everywhere and when you have hundreds and thousands of parts you are bound to misplace some without it meaning it was stolen.

When a count is off there is a secondary audit. Yes, sometimes you have to write off a loss, but remember, Alienware used high end parts not cheap stuff so we did not like writing things off or losing things for that matter. So when an audit is done everyone has to hand count everything and do their best to make sure all items are accounted for.

At the end of an audit if there is still missing items it has to be written off, but this makes us look bad even if it happens everywhere. The key of course it to make the write off as low as possible and for the most part we did every well in not having to write off stuff as far as I know.

However, sometimes it happened and we were all reminded to double our efforts to make sure the next count would be better. I prided myself in not having to write off much in my department that was until one day when a large number of COA’s were missing.

COA’s are those windows stickers with the windows product keys on them. For Alienware those COA’s are the same as having the disc and are needed when we send them to Microsoft. We take the COA’s off of systems that were returned and cancelled.

My job was once I had a large batch of COA’s I was to take them to our returns accountant. Well when the COA’s came up missing I told my boss I gave it to her. Honestly, I thought I had. They asked her for them and she could not find them and so they were written off, but they were upset because it was a lot of money and was a mistake she was not known to make.

After the audit I cleaned my work space and found the COA’s stuck to a stack of papers I had printed just before the audit. Now I could have kept quiet and no one would have known, but the return accountant lady was my friend and damn me for having a conscious.

I took the COA’s to my boss who just gave me the “You screwed up look.” Here I thought they would be happy it wouldn’t be a write off, but I guess they had already sent notice to Microsoft so to undo it kind of looked bad and so the raff came back onto me.

In the end all I got was a write up which really didn’t mean anything considering my good record before and since then, but it still pissed me off to have gotten one. The important thing was the accountant lady did not take the rap and I apologized to her for the mistake and we became great friends even to this day.

Alright, enough of this text stuff, on to the sexy ladies!

Check out the rest of our Cosplay.

 

The Interview: Arthur Lewis

Alienware Armageddon
Alienware Armageddon

Arthur Lewis

The great thing about gamers is that we come in all shapes, sizes and colors and though we move forward in life doing many things, for most of us the gamer inside never dies. When you have a chance to work in an industry that stems from your love of gaming there is not much better than that.

Arthur Lewis is the president of the Alienware Corporation and GM of Dell Gaming at Alienware. Obsolete Gamer had a chance to talk with Arthur at E3 where we learned of his gaming background and an interesting friendly rivalry between him and co-founder of Alienware Alex Aguila.

 

Obsolete Gamer: When did you first get into gaming?

Arthur Lewis: The term “Gaming” is all-encompassing.  I started playing video games when I was very young, but my friends and I played all kinds of games as kids.  Games were very, very important.  We played video games (arcade, console, handheld, computer), and we played board games (from games like Line in the Sand to Talisman to Space Marines), role playing games based on fantasy (e.g., 1st edition D&D), the future (e.g., Warhammer 40k), the wild west (e.g., Boot Hill) and comics (e.g., Marvel) – just to name but a few.  My experience gaming has actually taught me a lot and I find myself looking for the game in all I do.

 

Obsolete Gamer: What were your favorite games to play?

Arthur Lewis: This is a tough one because there were (and are) so many, and I’m sure I’m gonna miss a bunch.  From an arcade perspective, my favorites were (and still are) the oldies but goodies:   Asteroids, Defender, Stargate, Galaga, Space Invaders and, of course, Robotron.   Superbowl Sunday on C64 was classic.  You could pick teams from previous Superbowls and match them against each other.  We played this quite a bit.  Pit Fall, Paper Boy, Mario Brothers definitely were played extensively, and all the sport franchises on PCs, consoles and handhelds.

Then on the PC of course it was Quake, Doom, then Counterstrike.  Neverwinter Nights was also a game I played quite a bit.  Then there was a period that I was into RTS games and played games like Civilization and Age of Empires for many years.  Hats off to Sid Myers for such a fantastic franchise.  Civ was a game we really burned out on.  For the past three years, I’ve been on the MMORPG kick, playing Lord of the Rings Online mainly.

 

Obsolete Gamer: Did you know you wanted to do something gaming related or was it more of a hobby?

Arthur Lewis: Gaming was always (and will always be) a hobby.   The fact that it’s also my job is a HUGE plus!!

 

Obsolete Gamer: Talking both with Alex Aguila and yourself we know you have known each other for a while can you tell us about how you first met?

Arthur Lewis: Alex and I have known each other since 7th grade.  We met in Ms. Stamatinos English class I believe.  We went to the same school through high school.  And we’ve been playing different kinds of games together for the better part of 30 years.

 

Obsolete Gamer: We know from our interview with Alex that you two had a gaming rivalry; can you tell us a little about that?

 

Arthur Lewis: It’s not so much a rivalry as it is friendly competition.  We both like to win.

 

Alienware at E3 2010

Obsolete Gamer: Overall who is the better gamer between you and Alex?

Arthur Lewis: I’d say we’re pretty even.  I’m sure there are some games he’ll win and others I will.  He, however, definitely has more time to practice.  And he has more tools.  He has a full blown arcade in his house!!!

 

Obsolete Gamer: At E3 you told us you still had upcoming Temco football matches against Alex. Alex says you still haven’t played him again. When do you plan to have your Temco football face of and who do you expect to win?

 

Arthur Lewis: LOL.  I don’t know.  I think I like the memory of being the last one to win, so I may leave it at that.

 

Obsolete Gamer: What was it like seeing the company grow and peoples response to your gaming PC’s?

Arthur Lewis: One of the most fulfilling parts of our job is seeing the dedication to the Brand by our customers.  And then to see it translate to all places around the world.  It’s truly amazing.  Last year, we launched Alienware into China for the first time.  We had over 400 media show up!!  Every question I got was around “why did it take you guys so long.”  To see the reach our Brand has, and to see how it’s valued in all of the different parts of the world where we didn’t even know people knew us is both amazing and humbling.

 

Obsolete Gamer: How did you feel during the joining with Dell?

Arthur Lewis: I felt a combination with Dell would enable Alienware to do the kinds of things we otherwise would not have been able to do as a closely held company.  For example, over the course of the past 24 months, we expanded our geographic footprint to the point that we are in every major country in the world, and we support 3.5x the number of languages.  I think we now reach close to 90% of the World’s population.  Another example, is we can leverage Dell’s scale to develop PCs that are conceived from the ground up for truly differentiated products.

 

Alienware Booth E3 2010

Obsolete Gamer: Can you tell us about running the gaming division for Dell/Alienware?

Arthur Lewis: What can I say, at times, I have the best job in the world.

 

Obsolete Gamer: What is your opinion on the high end gaming PC market today?

Arthur Lewis: It’s an exciting time, to be sure.  There is so much going on.  There is a proliferation of great AAA titles on the horizon.  Customers are buying their games in entirely different ways from just a couple of years ago.  And there’s a massive installed-base of 100s of millions of gaming capable PCs.   In our industry, high end gaming has been the bridge to many new and useful technologies.  Over the next couple of years, I see history repeating itself.

 

Obsolete Gamer: Do you think 3D is the future of PC gaming?

Arthur Lewis: I do not believe that 3D is “the” future, but it’s certainly an “important part” of the evolution of video games and all video content for that matter.

 

Obsolete Gamer: What changes do you think need to be made to keep the high end PC market going in the future?

Arthur Lewis: We need more connected devices that allow, in a very simple fashion, content to be shared across multiple, open platforms.

Cosplay: Rumble Roses

Truths about Alienware

There was too much cake:

Alienware is a Miami based company and as such there were a lot of people of Spanish decent. Well, if you don’t know Spanish people like to celebrate events, perhaps more so than others and those celebrations always have food and cake.

Remember the Seinfeld episode where Elaine hates the large number of office parties? Well, at Alienware there was some event at least three times a week. During my time in the Critical Issues department I must have had cake or some kind of pastry every other day. Now granted, it was my fault for eating so much, but damn who can say no to awesome Cuban cake?

Employee Sales were awesome:

I remember some people claiming we sold returned or damaged parts sometimes. Well let me tell you that is completely false. If a product had even a scratch it would either be returned to the manufacture or sold at the employee sale.

The employee sale was great because the leadership was nice enough to price the stuff real low so we all could get some stuff. We were surprised at the great condition of the merchandise and that was because we did not let bad stuff get by us. I was just glad we were so strict, I built several awesome computers for myself thanks to the employee sale.

There was an attack bird:

When we moved into our latest building we had a crazy blackbird that would swoop down and attack us while we walked from our car to the building. At first we thought it was a mother bird with a nest, but there was no nest and this went on for months.

It was weird too because the bird was smart and would only attack us from behind. We use to say it must be a Falcon Northwest bird. In the end they did some bird away service that gets rid of birds without hurting them. After all, we came in peace.

Enough of that

On to the Cosplay.

 

 

Cosplay: Xtreme Beach Volleyball

 

Dear Warner:

The times we worked together on the night shift were quite fun at first. You are a very funny guy and the various websites you showed me made the long nights of chatting with mostly spammers manageable. Honestly I looked forward to you being on the night shift with me that was until you started playing that awful song.

It started innocent enough. “Hey, mind if I play some tunes?” You asked. I said sure, why not. After all everything else you had done up to then was cool. As I sat back and relaxed expecting to hear some rock or techno my ears heard the most peculiar sound. I asked; “What is that, turn it up.” That was a big mistake.

The beat was simple and the lyrics mind melting. Only a few moments went by and I knew the sound would haunt me forever. “What the hell kind of song is this, Warner!” I screamed. “Dude!” He responded. “What, you never heard Banana phone before?” Clearly I hadn’t because if I had I would have already gone insane. He just kept playing it over and over and as much as I didn’t wanna hear it I couldn’t get myself up to turn it off.

“I can’t get it out of my brain!” I cried.

“That’s Banana phone” He replied with an evil grin.

The song still rings in my head today. Warner cursed me with that damn song destroying the peaceful calm of the chat support night shift.

I hate you Warner!

Via Cosplay!

 

Cosplay: Team Rocket

So a few people actually liked the little stories before the sexy pictures, I guess it made them a little happier about the Cosplay. This week you get some pictures from Alienware with descriptions, so it’s like something good wrapped within something awesome. You guess which is which.

Blizzcon 2008

Clan PMS & H20

My first time going and it was a blast. We were with the Dell guys over in the back with our awesome Semi truck. We had a lot of contests and gave out some cool prizes. We had a beat the pro tournament there where fans could play against Clan PMS and Clan H20 which are pictured above. Those guys and gals were really cool and we had a great time. The final day of the show I filled in as MC for a bit and while it took some getting used to I think I did and okay job.

Blizzcon 2009

Blizzcon 2009 Warcraft 3 DOTA contest winners

These are the guys who won our Warcraft 3 DOTA contest. It was a lot of fun working Blizzcon because honestly the people there were so nice and though our section was smaller for this event we still had a great crowd. You may have even seen me testing out one of the laptops on G4TV’s coverage of the event, but for some reason I just can’t find the footage.

Halloween 2009

We were always allowed to wear some type of costume for Halloween at Alienware with a few exceptions. Last year we had a contest for the best costume and it was voted on by other employees. It was good fun, but there was bias. I mean the warehouse guys stick together and my small team had no chance to win. Then again we didn’t dress up; maybe that was part of it too.

Happy Now?

Alright, enough about me and my time at AW on with the pictures!

Via Cosplay!

 

Cosplay: Leadership

A small posting note, the Fappathon Cosplay can now be found every Friday on Obsolete Gamer so no more random days. End your week with some FAPP!

Shout, shout, let it all out

One of the many jobs during my time at Alienware was taking chats from customers. It was simple, you clicked on the chat box and it opened a java chat window and we would try to answer customer’s questions. For the most part it was a good job, but for some reason people though it would be fun to spam chat agents. There was even a message board event telling their members to go out and spam and prank chat agents at various computer companies.

We had two teams for chat one in the day and one in the evening. I was working the evening shift with one other person and after a long hard day I received one of those spammers. I tried my best to remain professional, but the chat was going on for over an hour. Every time the guy would get rude to where I could cut him off he would turn back to computer stuff because he knew I had to help him.

Well I couldn’t yell at the customer so I yelled out loud to myself. We were the only two people in the entire building or so I thought. In the middle of a yelling rant with some choice words I turned to the other worker to see a look of deathly shock on his face. Sure, I used some curse words, but it wasn’t bad enough to warrant a look like he was giving me. Then I noticed he wasn’t looking directly at me, but behind me.

I turned to see one of the big bosses behind me and a chill of death came over my body as if Sub-zero had touched my spine. The boss just said “come with me” and walked toward his office. I was sure I was fired, but the boss knew about the pranks and my hard day and gave me a break, but warned me other bosses might not have been so forgiving. I was thankful that he was so cool and make sure to only rant and yell in my head while at work.

Via Cosplay.

 

 

Cosplay: Red Alert

Alienware Facts: Behind the scenes edition

Instead of a story for this week I will instead present some facts about my time at Alienware.

Fact: We were gamers:

Pretty much 90% of us were gamers of some sort back during my time at Alienware. Some of us were true gaming geeks playing everything from PC to Console games going back to the 80’s. Often we would have LAN parties at the office and would go to various people’s homes to play console games. As long as the work got done reading and talking about gaming was allowed (well for most of us) and this did help us become better sales, customer service and tech support agents.

Fact: We had a mystery bathroom destroyer

9 times out of 10 the bathrooms were clean and pleasant, but at least once a day someone would go in and total destroy the bathroom rendering it useless for at least an hour. You would think it would be easy to figure out who it was, but we had multiple bathrooms and the person changed which one he or she (read: he) destroyed. We even considered pointing the cameras toward the door, but we didn’t.

Fact: The Bosses were pretty cool

What made even the toughest times fun was that most of the upper management were pretty cool people. They did not have the mentality that the workers were nothing more than paid slaves. In addition they were gamers as well and understood what it is like to be a gamer and to work in an environment of gaming. This allowed the workplace to be relatively stress-free. Not feeling the bosses breathing down your neck 24/7 made going to work much more enjoyable and I believe it showed in our productivity.

Fact: The Roach Coach had no Roaches

We called the lunch truck that came around every morning around 10:30 the roach coach, but in fact the food was really good and the truck was nice and clean. The guy who ran the truck was also nice and would even allow us to owe him if we were short. Now surly you could find fatty foods that any gamer would love on the coach, but it also offered some healthy choices such as fresh fruit and 100% juices. It was a nice break in the early part of the day.

Fact: Not everyone was discreet with their desktop wallpaper

Everyone was very professional at Alienware even the younger guys for many of whom this was their first non-fast food job. We knew all the rules about privacy and we understood ourselves that we wouldn’t want our private information being seen or read by others. However, some people forgot that we need to boot the PC before we begin work. We made it clear we would format a customer’s hard drive before returning the system and warned them to insure all items they wished to keep was backed-up.

In most cases this wasn’t an issue and we knew that even if the system was backed up it didn’t mean the original material would not remain on the PC. Since we knew this we made sure not to open folders or files on a customer’s PC, but there was nothing we could do about one’s desktop wallpaper.

One day while I was working in RMA I heard a Depot technician yell out “Holy Shit!” I turned and looked through the chain link fence dividing our departments to see a picture of a woman preforming an oral act on a man. The tech quickly selected a solid color background and went back to work. The PC was fixed and formatted and returned. Weeks later we receive an e-mail thanking us for fixing his machine and he included a picture of him standing next to the PC smiling with his wife.

Funny thing, the guy in the picture matched the guy on the wallpaper, the woman did not.

On with the Show

And now here’s something you’ll really like, Cosplay.

 

 

Cosplay: Curves

Alienware Rocks:

You can’t please everyone no matter how hard you try. The common wisdom today is that customer service and tech support doesn’t care about their customers. I can understand that feeling because of things like massive outsourcing and stories of how dumb people think customers are. However, I can say truthfully that during my time in Customer and Tech Support we did everything we could to make people happy.

Now of course that was up to a point. We all knew our stuff and knew our products and since the company was small at the time it was easy to go check on a system personally. Everyone knew everyone so it was simple to ask that something be double checked, triple checked and so on.

You rarely hear from happy customers, but the angry ones last forever. In one instance we had a customer who built a system for her son. A few weeks after he received the system he said it was full of viruses and crashed and had software issues. After checking it out we told his mother it was due to lack of an anti-virus and the fact that her son was going to sites that let’s just say are known to carry viruses.

We that just didn’t sit well with the mother, she said it was our fault and her son is a saint and would never surf bad sites. We did clean up the system and had proof it was due to viruses, but we were not there to prove her wrong, we wanted to help. Unfortunately, we knew the future.

As the weeks went on we continued to hear from the customer about how the system was “broken again”. No matter how we tried to explain it we were in the wrong and her son was in the right. Then the lemon law talk started. Believe me, we tried everything including giving her free anti-virus software and even monitoring software, and still time after time he would call in saying his system “sucks”.

We agreed to have the system come in to do a full look over. At this time she wanted a new system, but we knew it was not something a new computer would fix. If nothing else we hoped to get the system in and set it up so that no matter where her son went the computer would not get infected. We eagerly awaited the systems arrival and when it came to our shipping depot the manager told us it seemed really heavy. When we went to look at it the box seemed fine, but when we opened it inside was tons of small to medium sized rocks and a note that just said Alienware rocks.

I won’t go into what happened next, but in the end it was proven her son did cause the issues. I doubt the mom forgave us, but you can’t win them all.

Alright, if you read all this thanks. If not, it’s okay. Now on to what you came here for.

Check out the rest of our Cosplay.

 

Cosplay: Sexy Pirates

I figure I needed to put something in this space because just posting pictures is just not enough for me, so from now on all Fappathon Cosplay posts will be accompanied by stories of my time at Alienware.

The Big Boss’ Smile:

I had only been at Alienware a few months and was still pretty shy and quiet even though I knew people there from my LAN group Red-Eye. My friends told my bosses about how outgoing and funny I was and when I did not show it on the job it made them wonder. Also, at the time I worked customer service and was known for being direct to the point with no small talk. In addition I was timid on the phone and did not want confrontation.

I got a call from a lady claiming her system was broken. I tried to assist her as I always did but she quickly became angry at me and began to blame me personally for everything. She took every word I said and twisted it. I wasn’t too concerned, but I did my best to get done quickly and keep her anger to a minimum. Unfortunately, it didn’t work and she claimed I was no help and hung up.

Moments later my direct supervisor comes over and asks me about the call. I tell the truth and then a worried look comes over his face.

“That was the boss’s niece.” He said. “She called the boss and said you were rude and hung up on her.”

Now I was panicking. I tried my best to explain it wasn’t true, but my supervisor just directed me to stand up and follow him to the boss’s office. The look on my supervisors face was one I had seen before; it was the same as when he had to fire someone. To say I was shaking in my boots would be a mild statement.

Now the big boss was known for being tough and did not take any lip from anyone. He would fire you on the spot if you screwed up and was never known for playing games. He had a scowl that could frighten the grim reaper and a presence that was stronger than Darth Vader. I knew I was a goner; the question was how bad would it be.

We arrive at his office and he just stares at me with Ghost Rider like eyes, not filled with fire, but a cold darkness that could freeze your soul. I started to plead my case and he just said;

“I don’t want to hear it, you know what you did and you know what happens correct?”

I just lowered my head, there was nothing more to say. I admit, I almost cried.

“Do you know what day this is?” He asked.

I didn’t know what he meant. I just looked up at him puzzled.

“It’s April Fool’s Day”

 

For the first time that I could remember he smiled and his smile did not make me feel any better. It was the kind of smile a serial killer gives his victim. Then my supervisor came in laughing and said it was all a setup and the lady on the phone was his cousin. I laughed and took it well which in the end helped me earn cool points with the upper staff. The big boss shook my hand and I returned to my seat. I didn’t even know it was April fool’s day, but I never forgot the day after that.

Hope you liked the story and now on to the girls!

Check out the rest of our Fappathons.

 

What impact did gaming have on your career path?

Career Path Drive
Career Path Drive

Often something during the growing up stage is what leads people to what they will do later in life. It can be an experience where you saved someone’s life and go down the path of helping others or that you were exposed to a situation that led to a field you want to work in. Although many of us will change our minds on what we what to become many times before we reach working age there are some jobs where the people doing them can easily trace it back to a time when they were young.

For me personally I always loved video games from my Atari 2600 to my first computer, the Texas Instruments TI-99. Even before that I loved to take apart electronics just to see the parts inside. I also loved to make up and tell stories so playing a video game took on another dynamic because I would visualize storylines even for games that had them like Yars Revenge.

When I moved to Miami in 97’ the first thing I wanted to do was get back into computers and meet like-minded people and that led to my time at Alienware where my love for gaming flourished. It was then that I took my love of storytelling and turned it into a writing career.

If I was not exposed to computers and video games at such a young age I am sure I would not have developed a love for them in a way that would lead me to work in the computer and gaming field. In addition, my mother always supported my love for gaming even when dragging her all across Chicago looking for a Nintendo.

For this week’s insider discussion we asked our panel what impact did gaming have on their career path.

Jason Shankel from Stupid Fun Club wrote:

I first got the idea to go into game development in Middle School after seeing _WarGames_ and _Tron_.  I remember being especially impressed with _WarGames_.  I wanted to create my own Joshua.  Later on in high school, I read _Goedel, Escher, Bach_.  I became fascinated with machine thought, particularly how it differs from human thought.

As a game developer, I’ve always been more oriented toward using games to help people understand how computer systems work, what their capabilities and limitations are.  Games make machines more relatable, infuse them with some personality and engage human emotions.

If I had to break it down to one moment, though, it’s the first time I saw the end of _WarGames_, when David asks if there’s anything that can be done to make the machine learn faster and Professor Falken says “yes, number of players: zero.”

Of course, since then, I’ve always hoped to have a somewhat larger market than that 🙂

Corey Dangel from Detonator Games wrote:

When I was in college words like “desktop publishing” and “WYSIWYG” were new and exotic sounding. The notion of pursuing a career as a game artist, at that time, was inconceivable. So upon graduating from college I hit the pavement with the dream of being a graphic designer. I experimented briefly as a post production artist for video but ultimately started my own tiny graphic design studio to create album covers for Seattle area musicians. It was the late 80s/early 90s and the music scene was really taking off. Turns out getting the work wasn’t nearly as difficult as getting PAID for the work…

After scrapping for a few years I got an opportunity (thanks to a good friend) to contract at Microsoft. I was employed to create the “coffee table books of the future”…remember multi-media? My friend and I worked our butts off in the multimedia group and were eventually offered full-time positions. MSFT didn’t make games at the time but they had publishing agreements for Flight Sim and a Golf game. I soon discovered that the business unit in charge of these publishing contracts was preparing to grow so I made it my mission to get them to hire me.

You see, I had been a gamer since the first day I played Parcheesi with my grandmother and a fanatical gamer since first playing Dungeons & Dragons in 1980. Thanks to D&D I discovered that making games is as much fun for me as playing them (possibly more fun). I’d never considered that I could do anything but create games as a hobby…which I had for years. I’d written programs on the TRS-80 coco, the Atari 800XL, and made my own games (creating story, game design, and art) both digitally and traditionally.

Once presented with the possibility of working on games for a living I pursued the dream I didn’t know was possible like a ravenous cheetah chasing a meat wagon. And somehow I caught it!

Fifteen years later I’m still amazed that I get to do what I do for a living.

Juan Gril from JoJu Games wrote:

In my case, a few hours with a friend’s Atari 2600 made me realize that I wanted to make games for the rest of my life.

Aaron Hunter from Playtechtonics Inc wrote:

Gaming was everything in my career path. I started developing as a child, also playing them at the same time. Richard Garriott was already a millionaire from PC games by the time I started high school. Making games appealed to my self-motivational tendencies and preference to learn at my own pace.

So what about you, has gaming steered you toward your career or do you feel it will?

Has playing video games ever affected your life negatively?

Video Game Addiction shirt
Video Game Addiction shirt

Everyone has heard the saying that television will rot your brain and I guess it is true depending on what you watch. However, just as a general statement such as that does not differentiate between “good” T.V. and “bad” T.V. the long running opinion that video games are a waste of time leaves far too much truth uncovered.

We can easily talk about the negative side of video games. Obviously one can spend way too much time in the video game world which can have a negative impact on their lives from work to school, social interactions and health. Then again the same can be said about almost anything deemed recreational. Moderation is always the key, but it is not just about managing time, it can also be about getting the most out of your gaming experience.

For example my love of video gaming led me to my love of computers which turned into a job where I learned I loved to write specifically about games and gaming culture. Long before my work at Alienware my experience having to quickly and accurately type out commands in games such as Everquest increased my typing skills to executive secretary levels. Before that my search for gaming companions led me to a group of people who became not only lifelong friends but valuable contacts that assist me even to this day.

Now to be fair not everyone will take their love of gaming and turn it into something worthwhile. In fact gaming may actually suppress your will to do other things which might prevent you from finding your love in life, both in career and personal form. I know far too well what can happen when you spend hours on end in front of a screen with no regard for life outside of gaming. It can and will take its toll on your mind body and soul if you allow it, but there are many simple steps you can take to prevent that.

Something as small as drinking water and eating fruit while gaming can make a drastic difference in your overall health. Taking the time to pause or step away from the game when interacting with a real life person instead of firing off one word answers during play can mean the difference between a healthy social life and becoming the stereotypical pale faced basement dwelling troll.

Today video gaming is like standing in front of a buffet. There are tons of things to try, but take your time. There is no need to try it all in one sitting, come back later, it will still be there. Small modifications in your behavior now will mean a longer happy life in the long run which will allow for more gaming. It’s a win/win situation and as gamers isn’t the goal to win?

This week we asked our panel of insiders: Has playing video games ever affected your life negatively, even a little bit and if so how and if not how do/did you keep it from doing so?

Aaron Hunter from Playtechtonics Inc wrote:

Yes I’ve stayed up too late playing a video game before, causing me to sleep through school or work the next day. Since developing games turned out to be my career though, I guess it wasn’t too negative a deal for me!

David Warhol from Realtime Associates wrote:

Definitely.  Nothing like putting off real problems by visiting a virtual world.

Chris Skaggs from Soma Games wrote:

Probably the only place I can think where a game ‘hurt’ me in some way would come to down to lost sleep. There certainly have been nights that went way too late ( curse you Mass Effect!) but that’s really about it.

Jason Shankel from Stupid Fun Club wrote:

I’ve had some experience with MMO addiction.  Nothing too serious.  On a scale of zero to South Korea, I’d be at about a 0.1 SK.  But I did find myself once or twice neglecting my relationships in order to spend more time grinding.  I’m off the pipe now.  EVE Online cured me of any potential addiction.  That game is just a job you pay to do.  What’s next?  Corporate Due Diligence Online?

Jacob Stevens from Riverman Media wrote:

Early in my career, I worked for a small company, and we used to play StarCraft every Saturday night. All of us loved Starcraft, but unfortunately none of us loved losing. Unfortunately, our games were often so competitive that it affected office social dynamics. Losers would call winners “cheap” and winners would call losers “whiners.” Feelings could get hurt for days. We’d always get over it and get our work done, but there were definitely times when StarCraft pushed us apart rather than bringing us together.

Josiah Pisciotta from Chronic Logic wrote:

I can’t count the number of times video games have kept me up later then I wanted to stay and caused a shortage of sleep, but I would say the most negative impact a game has ever had on me was the MMO Ultima Online.  I spent several years of my life playing it as often as possible often neglecting personal relationships.  It was highly addicting and took time away from other activities which would have been more healthy, creative and financially constructive.

Mathew Anderson from Petroglyphgames wrote:

“Spending 12-hour clips late at night fighting the same creature in an MMO over and over again to gain one level was perhaps better spent on other things, but it was fun for me! I don’t regret it since I have no idea how my life would have turned out otherwise anyway, and it’s pretty good right now regardless.

I certainly haven’t eaten worse (better if anything since I sometimes forget to eat, so I don’t eat too much!), lost a friendship or relationship with a loved one because I wanted to get that next level instead of attend a wedding or something… but if that does happen, then it’s certainly time to rethink priorities.”

Grace Snoke from EOGamer wrote:

I can answer this question honestly.  Yes, it did.

There was a time when I was under a lot of other stresses and video games became my escape.  Except I started escaping into it too much, not getting my college work done and other stuff.  Now, I rarely play during the week and most of my game time is on weekends, when I don’t have to work in the morning.  Perhaps it’s part of growing up, now that I’m 30, but I’ve put restrictions on myself and live by em now.

What about you, has gaming ever negatively affected your life?

The Obsolete Gamer Show: Episode 8

Build vs Buy PCs
Build vs Buy PCs

The topic of building a pc or having it built for you is not new, in fact I wrote about that very subject earlier this year. However we wanted to ask some of the people who make a living offering custom built systems what they thought of the building versus buying debate and so we reached out and ended up having three great conversations on the subject.

We began the show with my recounting my first showing up at the Red-Eye Lan party with my Compaq PC and being almost laughed out of the building and from there learned that being a real gamer meant building your own PC. Then I began working at Alienware and from that side I saw how having a great team put together and support your own rig is pretty awesome in itself. Both Ignacio and I agreed that while it is true that almost anyone can put together a system it takes a little bit more to build a great gaming or high end PC and if you can find a good company who will offer you support and a reasonable price then why not go for it.

We wanted to get our guests take on it and were happy to be joined by Chris Morley, chief technical officer for Maingear PC, Justin Melendez, co-founder of LanSlide PC and John Blain, consumer public relations for Dell/Alienware.

Each company has a different way of doing things, but the overall goal is the same and that is to give the customer the best computer they can at a price they can afford with a support staff they can depend on. In fact they will tell you that if you have a love of building a PC then go for it. However, it is not for everyone and if you decide you want a well-built system then do you research and be informed before you make your final choice.

Obsolete Gamer would like to thank our guests for coming on the show and we covered much more than just PC building and buying. So have a listen and tell us what you think.

Click here to listen to the podcast on the OGS page

Or download our podcast from Itunes

The Obsolete Gamer Show 4

J.A. Laraque and Ignacio/honorabili from Obsolete Gamer

This week the production value on OGS has gone up 100%. The boys of classic video gaming are back with a brand new podcast featuring an interview with Origin PC co-founder Hector Penton.

We started out the show looking back at a clip from the previous week then dove right in to the OGS question of the week which was, “When was the golden age of video gaming.” We weighed in with our own thoughts and briefly discussed the great video game crash of the eighties with our producer Joe Cassara.

Our Gamer profile of the week was from Michael Jorgensen of Zombie studios and his take on XCOM UFO defense and how it was far from the easy mode of many of today’s games. From there we moved onto a developing story within a story.

During Obsolete Gamers gaming profile of Alienware co-founder Alex Aguila he talked about a Tecmo Bowl challenge between himself and current Alienware president Arthur Lewis. After playing the clips it was clear the rematch has not yet taken place and we hope to make that happen soon.

Our first interview was with fan, writer and long time gamer Paul Hernandez. We talked with Paul about StarCraft II and fact that Acti-Blizzard does not allow LAN play for its game and discussed the worth of the collector’s edition.

In our main interview we talked with Origin PC co-founder Hector Penton on his days at Alienware and starting Origin PC. From there the topic turned to gaming where we asked what game he would play if he was sent to hell and could only pick one. All in all it was a great interview with a lot of laughs and some good information to boot.

We will be back next week with an all new show, until then let us know what you think.

The Obsolete Gamer Show 3

Alienware Breed logo
Alienware Breed logo

You ever watch a tv pilot and the set, the lighting and everything else just doesn’t seem network ready? Then next week comes and the show looks completely finished as if polished and shined to look better. Well that is what we are doing with The Obsolete Gamer Show.

For podcast number three I was finally able to get Ignacio/honorabili to join me and if that wasn’t cool enough we are now recording from a radio station. I always wanted to be a radio broadcaster and after the show I realized I still have a lot to learn.

However, it was a still a good show overall starting with Ignacio explaining how Obsolete gamer came to be and from there we moved on to discussing how our Gamer Profiles feature has grown leaps and bounds in just a few months. We covered our Facebook question that asked if anyone had ever said anything game related during sex which somehow led into a conversation about Lindsay Lohan’s gamer profile.

Ignacio informed us of the reason he has not posted much on Obsolete Gamer. He has had a good time playing games like, Global Agenda, Need for Speed World and Battleforge. We also had a take on young kids coming up playing games such as Pokemon.

After a time it was back to business and we were able to have a conversation with Yusney (Jay) Garay who created the Breed campaign for Alienware and his opening of a new creative studio in Miami.

All in all it was a good effort and we plan to bring you a weekly show with more interviews and less of us going off topic and on a tangent. For now have a listen, tell us what you think and stay tuned for more.

Arthur Lewis: Alienware

Alienware Performance Systems logo

Arthur_Lewis

Arthur Lewis – Alienware

Name: Arthur Lewis

Title: President, Alienware Corporation & GM Dell Gaming at Alienware

Company: Alienware

Favorite Classic Game: A ton of them

Quote: So this gamer profile is a bit different, Arthur Lewis was kind enough to talk with J.A. Laraque at E3 about his love of classic video games.

Arthur Lewis Gamer Profile Interview


The Obsolete Gamer Show #1

J.A. Laraque from Obsoletegamer.com
J.A. Laraque from Obsoletegamer.com

After an exciting week at E3 Obsolete Gamer is back and we brought a podcast with us! It was a wild week in L.A. starting with a late arrival to E3, a Hummer rent-a-car, getting caught in the post Laker win riot and tons and tons of games. We learned a lot being our first time at E3 and yes, we made some mistakes too, but all in all it turned out great.

We’ve already posted a ton of pictures from E3 on our Facebook page and you can find a series of E3 related videos on our YouTube channel. Our first podcast brings you interviews recorded at E3 from various companies including; Alienware, EA,Square Enix, Origin, Bigfoot Networks, Indicade, En Masse Entertainment and a special one and one interview with Arthur Lewis, president of Alienware.

In the future we plan to bring you more podcasts with interviews, videos and more but for now have a listen and tell us what you think.

P.S. We have a bunch of swag to giveaway so stay turned to our Facebook and Twitter pages for information.

State of the LAN Party IV

LAN Party sign
LAN Party sign

 

If you missed it you can read part 1 here , part 2 here and part 3 here.

We saw how the LAN party evolved with new technology and how it inspired Alienware and how Alienware helped change the look of many LAN parties. With faster, more portable systems we saw LAN parties rise. With high-speed internet and MMO’s we watched as membership diminished.  Everyone grew older, but we were still gamers, the question was, what games will be played and how will that affect the LAN party.

When the XBOX360 was introduced, Microsoft realized with the success of XBOX Live on the XBOX that pushing forward with online community gaming was the future of console gaming. If there were a few gamers who still did not utilize the online universe of gamers beforehand, once the 360 hit the shelves even they joined in.

The 360 also brought a new type of LAN to gamers, the Console LAN or Local Play Lan was established where people would bring together multiple XBOX systems and connect them in order to multiplay. This allowed gamers to use separate television screens since for many the split screen was not a viable option.

What made XBOX live so successful was the variety it brought to gamers. You could play the hottest games like Halo 3 or classic favorites such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  For better or worse you could chat online with fellow friends and gamers which gave console gamers pretty much all the tools a LAN member would use when gaming at a LAN party.

Software developers also realized the market created by the 360 and the Playstation 3. More computer titles were being ported over to the console. Not only that, but there were much more FPS and RTS games developed for consoles than ever before.

Many in the industry knew that computer gamers also owned a console and wanted the switch from the PC to the console to not be a shock to the system. Both 360 and PS3 were designed with top end processors and video cards. This allowed players to experience games on par and sometimes better than their PC counterparts.

Those looking for a lower cost gaming system turned to consoles to experience high end graphics and gaming without the high end price tag of computer gaming units. With online play complete with patches, demos and downloads, the console gamer had everything they needed.

By the time consoles invaded my LAN party we had reduced in size to just a few friends, but the new presence was noticed. Games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero replaced the twitch action games we played before. It saddened me at first. I believed some of us were getting too old for fast paced FPS games. Honestly I thought it was a fad, but numbers don’t lie. Interactive party games are as hot now as FPS games were ten years ago.

I embraced the change. I enjoyed playing those games (even those on the Wii) and I remembered the point of the LAN was to have fun with friends which we did have. The connectivity we have today can bring us closer together if used correctly. Having access to your friends 24/7 through XBOX Live, IM programs, FaceBook and Ventrilo can be a wonderful thing even if it does lessen the need for LAN parties.

In the end those of us who grew up during the gaming revolution will continue to be gamers for a long time to come. The games may change and the way we play them. Friends come and go and places we play will change, but the main goal stays the same, have fun.

The future of the LAN party may be more virtual, larger groups of gamers playing from their home with others across the world. With gadgets such as the iPhone sporting multiplayer capabilities, we may find ourselves having impromptu LAN parties from our phones while waiting for our oil to be changed or at the doctor’s office.

The great thing about technology is it adapts and changes the landscape. More and more people will have access to the tools to allow them to play the games they want and with that will come a community to join and interact with. The LAN party is ever changing, but will never die. As long as there are gamers there will be games and a means to play them.

State of the LAN Party III

LAN Party dark
LAN Party dark

If you missed it you can read part 1 here , part 2 here .

Everyone thought that growing older, getting married and having kids would be the only thing to bring an end to the LAN party. While it was true that as we got older we did not have LAN parties every two weeks, we still had them once a month. What did risk putting ours and many LAN parties to an end was Massively Multiplayer Online Games or MMOs.

By the time the game Everquest had come out our LAN party was in full swing. We had met with many other LAN groups across Florida and made a name for ourselves. I personally found working atAlienware, that the growing attendance to LAN parties translated into more buzz around our products.

One effect was peoples request for a smaller more LAN friendly sized system. People were torn between the massive power and size of our Dragon case and the prospect of having a small portable case to take. Remember, at this time there really wasn’t a gaming laptop and smaller form factor cases were not widely known of or used.

In the midst of larger LAN’s and more attention to networked gaming, a new fully 3D massive multiplayer role playing game was being released to the public. Now Everquest was not the first MMO, but it was the first to do fully interactive three dimensional game play and it brought in gamers who loved Dungeons and Dragons and the other successful MMO at the time, Ultima Online.

Over the next few months hundreds of thousands of people began to play EQ. At first this did not change the attendance of our LAN parties, but it did change much of the conversation within them. Many of us got into EQ and spent much of the LAN talking about our characters. We did continue to play normal LAN games like FPS’s and RTS’s, but somehow we always came back to talking about Everquest.

This was not just an occurrence at my LAN group. All across the U.S. people were talking about how Everquest, or as it was soon to be known as, EverCrack, was taking away gamers from their normal LAN games.

In our LAN group there was actually a divide between those who played EQ and those who did not. The pure gamers, as they called themselves, hated the fact that we talked so much about EQ and one said our LAN party officially died the day we connected a DSL line and played EQ at the LAN.

From my and many other EQ players point of view nothing really changed. We still played other games and interacted. MMO’s were just a new part of the landscape that we enjoyed, but we did find some took to EQ more than others. On the EQ main boards there were daily discussions of people becoming less active in work, school, their social life and LAN parties due to EQ. However, I felt in the end we became even more social because of it.

As high speed internet became easier to come by many LAN goers opted instead to play online. Gaming clans regained much of their strength because of this and LAN parties grew smaller and less frequent. Some of this was also blamed on MMO’s, but also because many companies decision to hold massive yearly LAN parties. It was felt that there was no longer a need to have a LAN party ever month when you could play over the net and then go to the larger sponsored LAN events.

Oddly enough, the EQ players were the ones to stay in touch the most. Since we all played on the same server in the game guild, we would often meet outside of EQ to talk and hang out. We found that many of our non-MMO playing LAN members did not want to attend these social gatherings. Perhaps it was because we talked about EQ, but we were skeptical.

As time went on many EQ and MMO players found themselves going back to LAN parties to get away from MMO’s and to do something different. LAN parties became much more social and private, except for the company sponsored ones.

At Alienware, we knew what our customers wanted and launched several gaming laptops which helped many LAN party members return to their LAN’s now being able to quickly and easily transport their gaming system.

In part 4 of the series I will talk about the evolution of the console and the affect new technology has had on the LAN party and the future of the LAN and its place in computer history.

State of the Lan Party II

LAN Party 2
LAN Party 2

In case you missed it you can read part 1 here

Originally posted on Direct2Dell Blog.

Thousands of led lights flashing and blinking illuminate the otherwise dark room at the LAN party. At first glance you might think everyone is playing on a uniformed system, but with a simple question; what kind of rig do you have, you will find out how special and unique LAN goers systems are.

Originally you were only cool if you had a self build custom computer. Still today many who build their own system will swear by it and turn their nose up at anyone with what they call a stock system. When Alienware came on the scene this all changed. It can be debated which one prefers, but once Alienware systems started showing up at LAN parties it became clear that you did not have to be a computer building whiz kid to have a sweet rig.

When I was introduced to Alienware I had already built a system with the help of my friends. I was proud of my system and it was pretty awesome. I have to be honest that when I saw the original hydraulic case in purple my jaw dropped. Here was a system just as powerful as mind in a custom color that looked like it was built by its owner. I later came to realize this was because Alienware employees did indeed hand build their own systems.

To be fair, there were those who compared prices and specs in an attempt to validate their own systems, but for the majority it was accepted as a LAN worthy rig. This may seem silly to those on the outside, but to the LAN member our PCs are as important to us as a powerful engine is to a mechanic.

A lot of time and effort was put into system building. Often one would spend days just building it and then do all sorts of tweaks and fixes to it to get it just right for game day. While it was a badge of honor when you did build your own system it was not for everyone. I never bothered anyone about having a store bought rig considering my first LAN system was store bought. This did not stop others who believed you had to build a gaming system and nothing else was good enough.

Today we have systems that can run most of the games we want to play. Many people still build, but with high performance options at reasonable prices like, Alienware this allows gamers of all ages and economic statuses to own a powerful system. Back in the late nineties this was still not the case. The 3D video card market was just taking off and newer games required quite the system resources.

The downside was that to keep up with the newer games and products you had to upgrade pretty frequently, but to the hardcore LAN and gamer this was all part of the process. Alienware allowed those who could not build or did not have time to troubleshoot the opportunity to have a system that had the power to play their games and the ability to upgrade whenever it was necessary. It was no wonder as time went on that you saw more and more Alienware rigs at LAN parties.

Many who built their own systems also owned an Alienware because of its unique look and upgradability. In the end some will always swear by their own hand built rig, but custom company systems have earned their place among gamers and LAN attendees alike.

In part three of the series we will explore how games and game play have affected the LAN party.

You can read part 3 here and part 4 here

Left Behind: Alienware’s Legacy Problem

Alienware Dell
Alienware Dell

There were rumblings from the fans base when Alienware was purchased by Dell that everything would change and that the cool, elite name of Alienware would be forever lost. That aside many felt that the support that Dell provided to home users was less than stellar and that level of service would become Alienware’s. There were also those who already felt Alienware support was on the decline and felt this would push it over the edge. For the most part these were concerns that would come up no matter who the company was, but in the end it was not new purchasers of Alienware/Dell that felt frustration it was the old ones.

Any transition is difficult and it is expected that there will be growing or in this case merging pains. You must also understand that in the gaming world it is common to hear many more complaints that compliments. The rule is, if you are doing good you don’t hear about it, but if you are doing bad you will clearly know.

At first the change came with little notice, customers began to see Alienware products on the Dell website and the name Alienware was mentioned more and more alongside Dell. As time went on there were more changes like links on the main Alienware page taking you to a Dell website. Again these were small changes that did not bring much change to the common user.

When the new Alienware systems were launched by Dell they came with much fanfare because they were well built machines and a decent price. Even some of the more harsh critics felt that perhaps Alienware would retain its status and even gain from the acquisition by Dell.

Soon after that, personnel began to be laid off from Alienware’s Miami based headquarters. Word spread across the net that changes were coming to the company as Dell took over more roles from the Alienware team. The question for many fans and owners of Alienware computers was what would become of the service team they were use to working with if Alienware HQ was shut down.

Before that question could be answered a new issue came to light with Alienware Australia. Customers began to report they were not receiving service for systems they purchased from Alienware AU. They stated they called the service line and would never reach a person and send e-mails that would not be responded too. Right away the forums fired off posts that this had to do with Dell and that all support would be moved and Alienware AU was the first to go. In the end, it was the Alienware Miami team that reached out to help the AU customers receive support.

It seemed as if there was a fire burning and at the same time firefighters were being laid off by the truckload. As 2010 came, past customers of Alienware began reporting frequently that they were not receiving support for their systems. They reported that when calling the same 800 number they always have for support they were being connected to Dell agents who could not pull up their information.

It was then the pre-Dell Alienware customers discovered their new title, Legacy. A legacy member was someone who purchased a system before the acquisition. Customers said that the way information was stored and accessed was different from the Legacy Alienware customers and new Dell/Alienware customers. What this meant was the Dell agents only knew how to bring up information on post-Alienware customers.

What became confusing was that the same support number was still in use, so customers would sometimes reach an Alienware agent who could assist them, but more often than not connected with a Dell agent who either could not assist them or had to scramble to help them and sometimes transfer them somewhere else.

Unfortunately, the troubles did not stop there. Fans began to post on popular sites such as Notebook forums, Notebook Review and Alienware Niche that the long time support e-mail of support@alienware.com no longer worked. This caused more frustration because service men and women who purchased systems had a harder time contacting Alienware for support.

As for the Alienware, official forums customers stated they no longer received support or feedback from that support line. Many customers said they wrote and posted to the forums, but their posts never showed up. It was believed that the forums were perhaps closed or moved to Dell forums and as one forums member noted there are Alienware subcategories on the Dell forum page, but the Alienware page still has a working link to their forums.

Where does the problem lie? It is unclear. Though there have been complaints about support for the most part when someone did reach Alienware Miami personnel, they reported their issues were solved at least to a satisfactory level. The main disconnect looks to be between the Alienware Miami staff and the Dell parent company.

One thing to note is that those who purchased any of the newer Alienware products made by Dell received a warranty by Dell. Therefore the conclusion anyone can draw is that those under the legacy brand had warranties under the old Alienware banner. Perhaps it is a matter of running out the clock and as those who had old warranties under Alienware legacy fall off the books the problem is swept under the rug.

Now to be fair this issue has not affected everyone under the legacy banner. There have been reports and praise from some legacy customers that they did receive support not only from the Miami HQ, but from Dell agents as well. There are still however those who feel left behind and have resorted to contacting the BBB, writing to online publications and posting on popular forums about their less than satisfactory experience with legacy support.

It is not clear what changes if any will be made. Some legacy customers believe they will be forgotten and once their warranty expires it is over. There as some who have said that support has improved and that calling the 800 number works, but as of this posting, the support e-mail is still discontinued and the Alienware forums seem abandoned.

It is an unfortunate turn for Alienware and for Dell. We can only hope something will be done for the customers who helped turn Alienware into the company Dell wanted to acquire. We also hope this treatment of legacy customers does not further hurt the Dell name which has shown improvement in home customers support and has always had excellent business support. However, you are judged on how you treat all your customers not just the latest ones. We will be watching to see if the legacy customers of Alienware will receive the support they paid for and deserve or if they will be left behind.

State of the LAN Party I

LAN party
LAN party

Originally posted by me on the Direct2Dell Blogs

A good friend of mine asked me what would become of LAN parties with so many people having access to high-speed internet and online games like, World of Warcraft. To answer his question I thought back to when I first arrived in Miami.

I did not know anyone my age, so I asked my mother for a computer; this led to me buying Warcraft for the PC. I did not know much about online gaming so I did an Alta-Vista search and found a site called Dawango.

Dawango, called that because it stood for, “Dialup Wide-Area Network Game Operation” allowed people to dial in and play with other people over their network. The big games at the time were Doom and Duke Nukem 3D.

It was in the Miami channel that I met my first real online friends. Over the next few weeks we played a ton of games together and then one day they told me about a LAN party they were going to start called Red-Eye.

Now I had never taken my PC out of the house and with all the warnings about giving out information to people you meet online the idea of going to some warehouse with my PC to meet people I never had seen in person was just crazy. However, I decided to give it a chance and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

The LAN party allowed me to meet great new people and make lifelong friends. In fact, if it was not for the LAN party I would not have become an Alienware employee. It was at that LAN that I learned how important a person’s computer is to them and where I saw my first Alienware. It was a jet black hydraulic case and had everyone there asking about it.

The LAN however, is more than just gaming and competition. I thought of it as a fraternity for gamers. Often you had people who were more seasoned in gaming or had been with the LAN group longer and so they were looked upon as elders.

You earned your place not only by how well you played, but your rig (computer), your knowledge of gaming and computers and your overall personality. When I showed up I had a small computer I purchased from a discount store and knew little about the inner workings of a computer. Less than a year later, I knew how to build my own PC and how to connect and troubleshoot networks without ever stepping into a classroom.

In part 2, I will talk about how personal a person’s computer is to a LAN member and the debate between buying and building your own. Also I will cover the evolution of the LAN and the friendships created within.