Video of the Day: Game Deaths

Classic video game deaths

This video is just to awesome not to share. This video shows death scenes from various classic games to a great remix tune. Enjoy.

[youtube width=”600″ height=”480″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJ6APKIjFQY[/youtube]

(Dir.: Rob Beschizza, BoingBoing. Music is Rob’s MIDI homage to “Mad World,” by Tears for Fears, and you can download the MP3 here:http://www.boingboing.net/2011/03/28/game-deaths-mp3.html and buy their original song here [MP3]: http://tinyurl.com/4wzqgry ).

Final Fantasy XIV: A Fantasy I Want No Part Of

FFXIV online logo
FFXIV online logo

E3 2009 took us by surprise when Square-Enix opened up with the trailer for Final Fantasy XIV. It wasn’t expected to be announced and was rather hush-hush until the presentation. What really blew people away, in my opinion, was its suggested release date. When an MMO is normally announced to be in production you expect 2-3 years from that date or more for the game to be complete and released. Releasing such a big brand name in such a short time made me insinuate that this project must have been in works for quite some time in silence. As with most utterings of a Final Fantasy game being released, high expectations are hoped to be met by their fan base. Can Square-Enix bring out a AAA title in such a short time frame? The company certainly has not released anything close to AAA quality in quite some time and this MMORPG must have occupied many of the company’s resources for its production.

Final Fantasy XI was a highly acclaimed MMORPG in Japan and did moderately successful worldwide. With the juggernaut that is World of Warcraft, a company like Square-Enix seemed like the most powerful competitor to steal some WoW’s players. The time to capitalize on the market of people waiting for the next big MMO was netted in by this announcement. With Star Wars: The Old Republic not ready to debut until Spring 2011, Final Fantasy XIV had a chance to pull in a strong player base of MMO nomads.

As the release date began to draw near, open beta was announced and it was time to check out what Square-Enix was hiding behind the curtain. After getting my beta invite email I decided to follow the instructions. I was taken to a link that I had assumed would have a registration key and login section to get this fixation underway. Instead, the link took me to a portal with the “requirements” to play the beta. There were no links to sign into my Square-Enix account and the page was outright inadequate. Their “System Requirements” section on the page just directs you to another page with the information on the minimum system requirements. This portal page was completely and utterly useless and vague at best.

I finally decided to just go to the Final Fantasy XIV official page to login and see if I can find a registration code. Finding any reference to this code in my account page was impossible and adding Final Fantasy XIV to my service only asked me for a code anyway. When I finally did find the code page, they had closed registration codes for the time being and will release more at a later date. After spamming the refresh button a million times I eventually did get this code for my wife and myself to play.

Finding the download section for the game was another hassle as it wouldn’t open up the torrent file at all. I eventually had to find it off another site to begin the patch. My download time for this nearly 8GB file was 5 weeks. My wife’s download time was an hour and thirty minutes. After some surfing on the internet I saw a ton of people were having a problem with the game patching in a reasonable time frame. I guess we got lucky my wife’s download was speedy. When her download finished I just transferred a copy of the completed files to my computer so we could get started.
Now, onto the meat of this review. The game itself.

Performance: My machine is fairly new so I’m not even going to rate the performance based on that. My wife’s unit is older and has an Intel quad-core clocked at 2.40GHZ, 4GB of DDR2 memory, and an ATI 5870. The game ran beautifully. There was little to no chopping even in the populated cities with the settings set to max. Particle effects offered zero lag and the game probably ran the smoothest out of any next-gen MMORPG we’ve played in the past 3 years. For an open beta, this was highly impressive. Any midrange computer can handle this game at full settings with just a bit of tweaking if a hitch ever came up.

Controls: Developers of this game came out straight and said this game was designed to have the UI revolve around the use of a controller. Just like in Final Fantasy XI, this unrelated sequel of sorts incorporates the use of a controller even for the PC. It is not keyboard and mouse friendly at all. For God’s sake, you can’t even hotkey anything. For some of the most simple tasks you have to take a journey through a plethora of menus for miniscule options. It is ridiculous, cumbersome, and ill planned. Yes, the game is releasing for the PS3 and these controls must be comfortable for them but guess what? They aren’t releasing the PS3 version until sometime next year. What is the purpose of releasing the PC version with this horrid UI and control scheme if the focus of its movement isn’t even releasing until the following year? It makes little to no sense. It seems to me they are releasing this version of the game just to make the deadline “promise” they made at E3 2009.

LOL Wut Pirate Final Fantasy XIV
LOL Wut Pirate Final Fantasy XIV

Sound: Classic Final Fantasy sounds make their appearance in this game. It is clear and sounds great. The music really puts you in that role-playing mood if you’re into that sort of thing. It shoves you into this world and makes it come to life. As always, Nobuo Uematsu knows how to compose some grand and fantastical musical choices. Unfortunately, all this goes to hell the moment the voice-overs pop in. The studio that handled the voice acting must have hired the student’s from Ms.Spifz’s High School English Class. The actors sounded as though they were involuntarily picked to read aloud to the class the next section of The Great Gatsby. The voices are uninspired, bland, and lacking any emotion. The music sets you up for this grand adventure and then the actors from Twilight decide to make an appearance as voice actors and ruin the entire mood. I felt blue balled.

Gameplay: I know this is what you all have been waiting to hear, so here it is. The game immediately tosses you into this adventure to go kill whatever furry monstrosity is waiting for you in the newbie area, the inauguration for every great RPG adventure. If it isn’t stomping on giant rats, its killing boars or bunnies. After going through a thousand clicks to accept the quest, I opened my map to see where I should begin my journey. The newbie zone was right on the edge of town. Guess where they started me? At the OTHER side of this 5 mile city! Not only was it difficult to find my way around but I couldn’t leap down staircases to make shortcuts. And with that we bring up my biggest peeve in anything ever!
I hate games that don’t let me jump.

I don’t care how good it is.

I hate not jumping.

Walls that were two feet high were preventing me from crossing the fastest way possible. I had to trek all the way across the wall just to get around. I can shoot fireballs from my hands and cleave through the sturdy flesh of an Orc but I can’t hop over a small bump in the ground. I hate being bored in groups and not being able to prance around the dungeon as we continue onward. I hate not being able to cancel my spells with a small little hop. The lack of a jumping feature takes away from the gaming experience for me. I can’t even vault over the damn thing like in Gears of War.

Go To Hell Taru Final Fantasy XIV
Go To Hell Taru Final Fantasy XIV

Finally reaching the newbie area was probably the most frustrating part of the game. The mob I needed to kill sparsely speckled the newbie zone and the amount of new players looking to kill this mob were outnumbering its spawn rate. The hotbar techniques only correspond to the number on your NUMPAD. I couldn’t find any other way to map it elsewhere for more convenience. After spending maybe an hour searching for three of these mobs without any luck I decided to uppercut a Dodo bird which kept running by me constantly. Instead of considering its level, I shoved my lancer’s spear into his face and I was quickly dismembered in only a few seconds. As I laid dead on the ground I began to wonder when my release timer would come up so I could respawn. After a minute of waiting I began to realize why I saw so many dead players that hadn’t released their corpse earlier in my adventure. There is no release button. You have to excavate through your menu and find a “Return” button to get released to a spawn point. Nicely done, Square-Enix. Your vague manner really helped me there.

After calming down and letting my heart rate return to a safe set of beating, I decided to return to town and try out the crafting professions. I always liked fishing in an MMO so I decided to take up Fishing as my career choice. I needed some money to buy some of the equipment needed to pursue my profession so I sold some vendor trash and went ahead on my new path. After equipping my pole and bait I went ahead to begin the process of being a bad ass fisherman. After spending 4 minutes wondering how to even begin fishing since the keyboard controls were complete garbage, I got on my way. The whole fishing endeavor was much more complicated than I thought. I had to choose my depth, the quality of the water I was fishing from, and the casting point. When the message that something had bit my line appeared, I had to begin a struggle with the fish to drag it out of the water. You have to constantly “Jig” with the fish back and worth as it tries to take the line till the fish is too tired to struggle and you capture him. It’s basically the combat mechanics of a Pokemon battle. I found fishing way more enjoyable than the actual game’s combat since I spent most of the time running around with my spear trying to find rats to poke. I could easily see someone making their crafting profession their main source of entertainment in the game as it is rather enthralling.

The fatigue system was something I didn’t really experience as I gave up just way too soon on this game from sheer lack of enjoyment. From what I’ve been told by friends and from other sources, you can’t barrel through the game. Powergamers will not find any euphoria in this game as the fatigue system penalizes you for using one class for too long. After 8 hours of gameplay, your character will hit a block in progression that will offer them no experience points. They will have to change classes and try something else for another eight hours. Each week the debuff is cleansed and you are allowed to continue on with the class that was previously penalized. What does this sound like to me? It sounds like this game is probably two-thirds complete and they are putting roadblocks so they can successfully complete their endgame. By the time the PS3 version of the game releases, I prophesize that this system will be scrapped since the game will be officially completed.

Final Verdict: This game falls short in so many places. It is beautiful and quite breathtaking. It isn’t as user friendly as one would hope. Newer gamers to the Final Fantasy Online universe can easily get lost in the complexity of its interface and mechanics. It does require a bit more patience than most MMOs and getting the hang of it right out of the box isn’t something that will come easily. A small fraction of brain power is needed to solve the puzzles of the menu and to get used to some of the mechanics for the crafting professions. If you’re looking for something to dive into right away, this isn’t the game for you. If you’re looking for a powergaming experience, this game isn’t for you. If you enjoy excelling in one area, this isn’t the game for you. If you’re looking for beautiful graphics and dream inspired settings with an enjoyable RPG experience filled with the wonder and adventure of killing large rats and Dodo birds, this is the game you’re looking for! Overall, the game failed to grasp my attention for longer than five hours.

For something that was expected to take the MMORPG genre a step forward, this title took two steps backs and one step forward. What was expected to be a monsoon of intrigue and JRPG adventure ended up becoming nothing more than a minor swell lost in a sea of upcoming MMOs.

Frankenstein Computers Make Little Girls Cry

Family Guy Six Million Dollar Man
We Can Rebuild Him

Frankenstein Computers Make Little Girls Cry

Contrary to how much of a dick I portray myself to be, I am not a heartless monster. Normally when I decide to help someone it is usually to get them to shut up and stop nagging. There are a few occasions in a given year where I actually truly help people for the hell of it. Some of those instances are rather memorable because of the outcome and how good I felt inside from helping someone in need.

Of these far and few times, I remember the night I was asked to create a computer overnight for a little girl who just came from Cuba. She was the daughter of the cleaning crew at my mother’s office, a family struggling to get by during this tough economy. Their daughter had begun school and some way or another she was qualified to be given a computer so that she may do her homework and studies since a lot of textbooks and assignments are now done via software. Of course, when someone is given something for free it is normally a bag of dicks and is made from some E-Machine abomination in the late 90’s. It was only a matter of time before it exploded into a nuclear mess.

The specifics weren’t given but the computer died. I can only assume they spilled Materva on it since that is what I believe little Cuban children sustain themselves on. It could also have been a faulty power supply. I don’t know. I like labeling people. Her school wouldn’t supply her with another computer and her parents couldn’t cover the repairs or the cost of a new one. With most of her work being done on the machine she couldn’t get anything done and was marooned in situation a lot of families nowadays must be experiencing.

Her parents told my mother their sad tale and she decided to tell them I could build them a computer for free. She knew I had junk parts all over the place. It wasn’t a secret that I hoard shinies in the computer chassis in my room. I was involuntarily volunteered to create a new but stable atrocity from the discarded parts in my possession. Normally, I wouldn’t have minded doing this but I was given a single night deadline for some reason. You don’t ask my mother for an extension because she assumes you can find compatible components and install everything in the blink of an eye. She was under the theory that this would only take me a mere two hours to complete. She was so far from wrong.

Grabbing an old Dell unit that used to belong to my sister, I thought this would be an easy task as well. My heart and mind told me otherwise, constantly reminding me that nothing is easy when you believe it will be. I was going to just delete all of my sister’s files, remove her profile, and create a new one. Wham, Bam, Thank you Ma’am. Am I right or what?

No, I was wrong. There was something seriously wrong with my sister’s old computer. Out of nowhere a blue screen erupted forth, the harbinger of ill omens. Being the totally awesome guy I was, I knew it was the memory being a dick so I switched the sticks from some other cadaver unit sitting in my closet. The storm had cleared and the unit booted into Windows. As I began my purging of the registry I noticed there was a virus in the unit. Well, let me rephrase that. There were 28 high risk trojan viruses and I could only remove 14 of them. Normally after running three different antivirus softwares, if you fail it is wise to just reformat the computer since it is the easiest resolution. For this who know me, though, I hate reformatting a computer because it means I gave up on finding a true solution to the problem.

After attempting to remove them multiple times manually, I managed to have only two viruses left that would not go away. I googled many operations I could conduct to remove these annoyances but I couldn’t figure out how to do so. I spent a good four hours trying to avoid the inevitable. I decided to reformat.

It wasn’t until after I reformatted using my own Windows 7 CD that I realized I should put Windows XP on the system and use an old COA from one of my trash units. Unfortunately, I lost my Windows XP CD and this is where I began to curse to the Heavens. Why would God do this to me? Why would he make children in Africa starve and I had to suffer a similar fate by losing my Windows XP CD? What a cruel maker, I thought. The only option was to torrent the Windows XP software and burn it to a disc. As I torrented I began to search for a CD to burn it to. Turns out I ran out of CDs. I made the ultimate sacrifice and burned the operating system onto my Hulk VS Wolverine disc. My heart was shattered and broken.

Once the unit had Windows XP installed, I decided to put in the stable software I normally put into a freshly made computer: AVG, Malware Bytes, Google Chrome, Flash, Open Office and VLC Media Player. As I made my attempt to connect to the internet to install the drivers for the video card, I realized I couldn’t establish connection and that I didn’t know the name of any of the components on the damn system! My blood boiled with rage! It was already 4 am and I began my quest at 10PM! This was a travesty!

Murder filled my thoughts as I traversed the Dell Support site looking for the components that matched this unit. I couldn’t pin point the make and model specifics and I ended up having to mix and match the drivers till I found the correct ones. After multiple attempts at trial and error, the unit began to function. Hastily, I installed all the software and made sure the unit worked.

There was one thing missing though. I forgot this little girl needed a monitor, mouse, and keyboard since her school took her computer and all the components associated with it. Scurrying through my treasures I found an old mouse, keyboard, and an old 17″ LCD I thought I lost. Being the paranoid person I am, I made sure about three times that the system booted up, everything worked, and that all the components were properly functioning. Finally, I turned off the unit and put the entire thing on the table for my mother to pick up and take to her office. It was 6:45AM and I collapsed in bed.

It wasn’t until that night that my mother told me she gave the computer to the little girl. I really didn’t care what the girl’s reaction was. I just wanted to make sure the computer didn’t break or explode or something and all my trials were in vain. Turns out, the family was shocked I actually did it and that it was running better than their old computer. They thanked my mother for being so generous and asked her to thank me for staying up all night to build this perfect abomination for them. I don’t like to be thanked. It feels weird every time someone thanks me. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s some crazy psychological thing. Maybe I was molested by Mickey Mouse at Disney World and he thanked me for the feel up which I just blocked out but subconsciously get defensive when I am thanked. Crazy shit man… crazy shit.

Anyway, the part of this story that actually made me feel that I did something positive for this girl was what my mother told me next. She said the girl cried when she received the computer. She wasn’t used to people being so nice for nothing in return and broke out into tears. I felt good inside. Not because I made a little girl cry. I’m not some sick freak that enjoys watching children lose control of their emotions. I felt good because the “thank you” I got from this girl was genuine. This humdrum activity which I thought was more trouble than it was worth actually repaid me in full and I felt good about it.

I never met these people and I don’t really need to. Just knowing that I may have actually changed this girl’s life by showing her not everyone is a communist dickhole is something I will always remember. Sometimes not being a total douche and actually accepting someone’s need for help while not being promised anything in return pays you back in ways you didn’t really expect.

There Are Games On Macs. It’s True!

PC vs Mac Steam
PC vs Mac Steam

For those late to the party, Macs are finally getting some PC gaming love from Valve’s digital gaming distribution service called Steam. With this new cross-platform addition to the Macs arsenal, the chic liberal Starbucks drinking hippies can now play Left 4 Dead 2, Team Fortress 2, Portal, and other Valve games built on Source. For those who weren’t aware, there was an offer to get iPod ear buds for the purchase of a Mac copy of Team Fortress 2 which could carry on to your PC version as well since the Steam Cloud works cross platform. I mention this because it also means that whatever saved state you have on your PC will move over to the Mac and vice versa so you don’t have to start all over again.

One other neat little quirk is that Mac players don’t play with only Mac users as some other games seem to segregate them to their lonesome selves. The battle against the PC and Mac can now take place with more than just words. Someone in your L4D2 team using a Mac? Let a tank flip a car on him while you rush to the safe house. Tired of the shit talkers on the PC talking down to your little apple? Become a spy, pretend to be his friend, sap his sentry and take a nice stab to their back. Finally, the war can be waged.

The scenario I described does sound a bit immature but I assure you that the internet is serious business. From personal experience, playing TF2 since the Mac launch I have seen Mac and PC users alike verbally assault one another in a brutal fashion and even personally attempt to dominate the OSX or Windows lovers specifically. It has brought a new flavor to gaming online in Source games and it’s a welcome rivalry that I think many are glad to finally play a more aggressive stance in. The only downside I find in all of this is when someone asks me if they should buy a Mac I can’t say “There are no games on a Mac.” With World of Warcraft and Source’s amazing multiplayer online games that’s all you’d really need to have as a Mac user. Before someone begins the debate that Call of Duty is better than Team Fortress 2 and that is reason enough to not buy a Mac… you need to eat a bag of dicks. Team Fortress 2 is superior to Call of Duty. I know this may cause some internet rage but that’s my stance on it and if you haven’t given Team Fortress 2 or any Valve games a chance yet you can purchase the entire Valve Library for $66.99 this weekend. That’s 22 games for the PC and 6 are available for the Mac. For those who have yet to play Steam on the Mac, what are you waiting for? Let the shit talking and rocket flying begin!

Only Amiga

[youtube id=”dbWwgI4-DFo” width=”633″ height=”356″]

Only Amiga

You know I loved my Amiga, but I don’t think I loved it enough to sign about it. It seems there are a lot of people who are willing to. This commercial features an original song sung by a woman who looks a lot like Mary Lou Retton.

Amiga 500

Sure the song is a bit cheesy and has a heaven’s gate cult feeling seeing all the people talk about how great Amiga is, but it’s all in good fun.

Though it is kind of catchy in a subliminal type of way, seeing all those people chant Only Amiga at the end of the commercial sends a chill down my spine.

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

Building versus Buying PCs – The great debate

custom computer vs bought computer
custom vs bought PC

Building versus Buying PCs – The great debate by J.A. Laraque

When you get right down to it, the two main factors that come into play when deciding to build or buy a gaming PC is, costs versus time and service versus support. Normally when a gamer reaches the level where he or she has the skill and knowhow to build a PC it becomes a no-brainer in their eyes what to do. If one can search the internet for the best deals and build their own system, then it is all in their hands.

The question is asked; why pay for something I can do myself? It is a valid question and when you read more and more about how many computer companies are outsourcing their support and their service quality level continues to nose dive. Anyone is completely justified to ask themselves, what am I paying for?

Would there be resistance to buying versus building be lessened if top level service is provided from day one? Many who care a great deal about their car may spend hours maintaining it themselves. However, if they can take their car to a place where it will receive the same care as they provide then not only is it worth the cost, but the time you save is also of great value.

Too many computer companies have lost their perspective. They forget that PC stands for personal computer. A computer, for many, is much more than a tool; it is part of their daily life. To return to the car analogy, it is not just to get from point A to point B, it is the journey. When you call yourself a custom computer gaming company it should mean that you understand gamers who want a custom PC and who want to feel they have gotten what they paid for.

If you provide the best support from a support staff that understands their customer’s needs then people, even in tough economic times, will spend the money on a product they know the company they bought it from will stand by.

In the end a person’s budget will make the final decision, but knowing that the company they choose to go with will not only provide them with the system they want, but the service they demand then going the extra step in not a leap of faith, but a wise investment.

You cannot expect someone to pay for an elite system and not receive elite support. It is not just about lights and a paint job. It is more than processing and video power. Elite goes beyond the hardware and software and a company that truly understands that will earn the respect and hard earned money of the price savvy gamer.