I finally made the jump to a mechanical keyboard last week. Since then I've been getting a feel for it in gaming and for work/typing purposes, so, below are my impressions for those curious if they should pick one up themselves.

Before that, though, the inevitable questions 'What the hell is a mechanical keyboard?' and 'Why would I ever want one?' must be answered. Simply put, the "dome" construction underneath the keys provides a much more pleasant, responsive, and less straining typing experience versus the stuff you'll find in your average cheapie keyboard. This is great for those who type a lot, and also for gamers. If you want to know more, I recommend this guide. Naturally, to get the better gear, you've got to fork up more dough: most run $100-150.

While considering the Corsair K60, I saw this video review of the Leopold Tenkeyless Linear Touch Mechanical Keyboard and decided to go for it, which has turned out to be a wise decision.

It must be kept in mind mechanical keyboards can utilize one of a variety of 'switch' types, each offering a different feel and experience geared toward various needs. The Leopold utilizes Cherry switches, which, given my needs, are ideal as they offer a solid balance for both typing and gaming (each of which I do a lot of).

The increased 'softness' and responsiveness is immediately noticeable. It's hard to truly illustrate how much better it is through description alone, but try to imagine a more smooth, cushioned feel each time you press down.

The keyboard is especially pleasant for gaming (mainly in Battlefield 3, in my case). Note the keys don't actually have to be pressed fully down to register versus a regular keyboard, which helps it serve as more an extension of yourself during gameplay. With so little thought and effort going into your movements and actions, your performance should be more 'natural' than ever, and you'll have more energy to dedicate to the actual in-game goal. This is not to say you'll automatically double your score or something, but it definitely helps, particularly in tight situations.

Especially the first few days, I found myself making a lot of typographical errors due to the increased sensitivity of the keys and also the slightly different size of the keyboard and placement of keys versus my old Logitech EX 100. I still make these now and then a week later, but it's significantly less and seems to be lessening all the time. So, not an issue.

Testing the old keyboard now for the first time since receiving the Leopold, it feels very clunky and 'hard'; switching back to the Leopold, it feels vastly 'lighter', with only about the minimal amount of effort required to enter key presses.

Besides the price, the one potential downside is the Cherry switches here are somewhat loud, landing somewhere in between a muted standard keyboard and a typewriter. As such, if you're in it mainly for gaming, you may want to go with Black switches instead, which are more or less silent, but not ideal for typing.

I think of using a mechanical keyboard for gaming as I do guitar players: a truly talented player will be able to do well with just about anything he's given, but better quality gear certainly doesn't hurt. So, it's not an essential purchase, but if you're an enthusiast or perhaps a programmer who types a lot daily, it comes strongly recommended and will prove well worth the money.

The Leopold runs for $89 + shipping (very expensive outside USA), so that may be another reason to consider it over the competition (note we at Neoseeker have no affiliation with the company whatsoever; I'm simply recommending a good deal). UK/Euro folks should check out The Keyboard Company, who have a solid reputation.

Hopefully this helps you if you're considering a mechanical keyboard, or if you've never been introduced.

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The Witcher 2 has been out for over a week now, and there's been a lot of talk about its difficulty and learning curve in reviews, on forums, and so on. Allow me to be straightforward and say I completely do not understand it.

I'll start with the Penny Arcade comic. Like many, I'm a fan of these guys, but this is completely misleading.



Tycho writes, "It has tooltips that pop up from time to time, but if you’re under active assault by a dragon maybe you aren’t looking at that."

All needed abilities, techniques, and controls are explained quite clearly via these tooltips: click the mouse to attack, press E to block, Q to use signs, R to use bombs and traps. Not looking at it? Hit J to review all tutorial tooltips and other useful information, as it tells you (it doesn't come up during an action sequence, so there's no excuse there). Nevermind the 35 page manual, which explains all this stuff and more in explicit detail.

On the topic of difficulty, well, TW2 doesn't baby you. After the initial main tutorial section, you're thrown into your first tough fight (1:35 in the video below). The aim here is to show you all the ways you can die if you don't use your head -- attacking groups carelessly, leaving yourself open to flanking, attacking units with shields without magic or flanking, etc. are all good ways to get yourself killed.


It's at this point you'll either throw your hands up and say "that's it!" or look at it as opportunity to improve. Choosing the latter and with some moderate effort, you'll see rolling, bombs, traps, signs, flanking, blocking, and more options and techniques are at your disposal at any given moment. Use them all. This stuff isn't just here for show so the developers could brag about a bunch of needless features in interviews: use them!

After this fight, consider yourself graduated. The game will challenge you many times thereafter, but mostly you'll know how to handle it, or will soon after. And the second time you play through, even that first 'tough' fight should seem like a piece of cake.


For those that don't look at it as an opportunity to improve, that's fine, just don't whine about it the whole way through masochistically: turn it on easy -- that's what it's there for. And after easing yourself into the game on that difficulty, if you become quite comfortable, you're able to bump it up to Normal or Hard at any time if you so please.

Problem? No problem.

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PCWorld has for some illogical reason published a troll "article" titled "8 Reasons to Hate PC Gamers." I can't figure out why they would try to destroy their own fanbase (the comments are all sensible and angry -- nice to see), but despite it being obvious provocation, I thought it would be a good opportunity to debunk some myths about PC gaming.

Myth 1: PC gamers are elitists



There is some truth in this, but you must first understand PC gamers are as varied in this respect as any other audience. You have some that couldn't care less about the PC vs. console gaming debate, some "casual" players, some who just prefer the PC for their needs, some who feel strongly it's a better experience but aren't snobby about it, and then some that do feel strongly it's better but are snobs about it. I'm guessing the better/not-snobby crowd are the majority, but there's a lot of each.

Bottom line: 'enthusiast' is generally a more accurate term than elitist. And while elitism has negative connotations, for many, it just means they appreciate a more involved experience.

I'm cool with consoles. I recognize not everyone has the dedication and technical knowledge PC gaming more or less requires. Consoles still have a lot to offer, and they have their own advantages. No snobbery necessary.

Myth 2: PC gaming isn't a sport

I'm not much into semantics, so don't take this one to the letter, but I will say competitive multiplayer gaming on PC poses some of the greatest challenge for any gamer, particularly when we're talking FPS. What you want to call that is entirely up to you.

Myth 3: PC gamers are pirates

Pirates don't count -- I personally don't consider them gamers, just entertainment seekers with no consideration or passion. The majority does typically pay, especially if you treat them properly. While I'm here, between plentiful digital sales and quality freeware, there's no good reason to pirate.

Myth 4: PC gamers make console gamers look like nerds

Another semantical argument, but I consider us all nerds -- something many of us have embraced.

Myth 5: Graphics over gameplay



Oh yes, we're graphics whores, alright. But the sensible ones (the majority), know great graphics aren't worth a damn if the gameplay isn't there to back it up (Lost Planet 2 and Crysis are two games that understand this). By the same token, plenty are into the independent/digital scene and are willing to spend on smaller, cheaper titles with great gameplay and minimalistic graphics (VVVVV, Super Meat Boy, World of Goo, Bionic Commando: Rearmed, and Dungeon Defenders, to name a few of hundreds).

Myth 6: We overspend

Plenty do, for sure, but it's a misconception perpetuated largely by advertising. I've been told manufacturers, retailers, etc. typically aren't willing to advertise budget PC components and builds because profits are lower. Not sure how much truth there is to that -- I think that's a largely untargeted audience that really needs targeting.

In any case, I got into PC gaming specifically because I couldn't afford a console (I'd sold mine earlier) or TV at the time. There's a good chance if you're reading this, you can play PC games. Certainly not the latest and greatest on maximum settings, but some of it with some lowered settings and/or tweaks (Valve, Blizzard, Stardock, etc. are amazing at optimizing for the 'average' PC), and definitely some independent/digital only stuff, not to mention games from a few years back.

I got my start with Fable and Doom 3 running on integrated graphics and terrible hardware even by standards back then, and there's plenty more to choose from now.

That said, the ideal situation is to spend a fair chunk of change ($500-1000 about, depending on your needs and budget) on a solid "future proof" build, with the goal in mind of running the latest on maximum settings at high framerates for many years. Doing this, you'll have many, many great experiences and will in at least one sense save yourself money.

Depending how far you're willing to stretch it, this can actually be cheaper than console gaming, especially with the $50 vs $60 price points and aforementioned sales (they're more frequent, steep, and readily available than console sales).

Of course, you also have to factor in the added functionality the PC offers -- web browsing, Netflix, Skype, and so on. An all-in-one box for a grand or less is an amazing deal if that's what fits your needs.

MMORPGs

I'll take that one, though they're not all a drug -- Guild Wars comes to mind.

Myth 7: We're always complaining



Console and PC gamers both make a lot of noise -- I don't think one much more than the other. We do become upset when a game is poorly ported, but the same happens in the less common cases of poor ports to consoles (Lost Planet 2, Dragon Age). What's so awful about wanting a game properly tailored to one's platform of choice?

In the end

Nowadays PC and console gamers have more in common than ever. We're playing a lot of the same games and doing a lot of the same things (online connectivity, web browsing, multiplayer, etc). We each have our own needs and preferences, which is how it should be. With that in mind, it'd be nice to see more respect and tolerance going both ways.

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Sometimes it takes me years to start on something -- a game, a record, a film -- simply because I have to be in a specific state of mind for it. That hit recently with Mass Effect 2, which I finished last evening.

About one year ago I completed Mass Effect, having enjoyed it immensely. It has a solid blend of tactical and TPS-style combat complete with cool powers, a grand sci-fi story, characters you become attached to, and a hefty serving of RPG elements -- just my cup of tea.



Being the RPG nut I am, having heard reputable folks speaking ill of the changes to the mechanics in Mass Effect 2, I was worried. While for my tastes, there are some negative changes, I wouldn't call them drastic, and for the most part the experience is overall much improved over Mass Effect, great as it is.

Allow me to get the negative stuff out of the way first.

The big change for me is this: no more looting (in the traditional sense), and no more weapon stats. Project Director Casey Hudson seems to think of these elements as tedious, which is strange to me -- they're surely some of the selling points BioWare fans have loved since Baldur's Gate, and in tons of other popular games today.

In any case, this time around you find upgrade unlocks throughout levels -- storming a Geth base, for example, you'll find an unlock for a Geth Pulse Rifle which you can then research back on the Normandy. It's a fun and realistic take on looting, but the lack of weapon stats offsets it.

This is even more puzzling to me because armor has stats. It's not that you need it -- there are 2-3 choices per character per weapon type -- but giving one a calculated boost over another makes it more exciting. Certainly, some more weapons and armor added to the pile would've helped matters all around, too.

This is something I really do miss from Mass Effect -- nabbing a really cool looking and effective piece of armor for example was thrilling. Here it's just click, click, click and you have your new stuff. You can pick up a few extra things like helmets and whatnot, but it's nothing terribly significant. Most everything is unlocked from the beginning, including color customizations. A major downside however is the lack of armor customization for squadmates -- after completing each one's 'Loyalty mission' (some of the most exciting and compelling parts of the game), you can alternate with one other color set, and...that's it.



The other change is a 'streamlined' talent system. In Mass Effect, you could customize your character to a greater extent. Although the points you can put into a given ability is greatly reduced, I don't think the difference is truly significant or a great benefit. However, each character is limited to four abilities maximum this time around (except Shepard, who can borrow an additional ability from any squad member later on). In Mass Effect, you could theoretically have a jack of all trades build with 10+ abilities. Not practical, perhaps, but the point is there were more options.



Mining and hacking receive a pretty big overhaul as well. I love these new systems -- the problem is there's far too much of them. I know mining was altered so less of it is required to achieve all upgrades, but that leaves you with maybe 50 planets you never need to touch. Certainly I'd rather that, because mining does get very tedious after awhile, but it'd be nice to see a properly balanced system. Perhaps some planets could be greyed out or something and not be mined, or just a lot fewer planets overall.



Hacking is cool the first 50 times, then it's just boring and annoying as all hell -- unfortunately it doesn't let up, and you'll be hacking in every stage at least twice about until the end of the game. The fact there's no real challenge with it to begin with worsens the situation. Yeesh.

If these sound like huge downers, they're not. As an RPG fan, you may find yourself disappointed, but for me the rest of the game is so great I didn't mind the changes much. That and in some ways I found them enjoyable. So enough with the bitching -- onto the good stuff.

Graphically, this game is absolutely beautiful -- one of the finest examples of what PC gaming can do. BioWare put a lot of love into this version as always, and the results are just wonderful. Note I added Trilinear=True to the GamerSettings.ini file for improved rendering. Unfortunately I could not force AA, as recent AMD drivers don't allow it.



Performance wise, I've read it actually runs better than Mass Effect on the same hardware. I kept the framerate locked, and maxed, it never dropped below 60fps. It's a real treat to play a properly optimized PC game with a steady framerate all the way through.

The 'feel' of combat I've read has been tweaked. It's hard to pinpoint what exactly was changed, but whatever it is, for the most part I couldn't get enough of it. Not big on the regen health thing, but I can deal.



If you're the sniping type like I am, you'll fall in love when you pick up the Battle Rifle. This lovely piece of work lets you nail enemies repeatedly from far distances, without reloading or having to zoom out. The Widow rifle is even more intense, but its ammo capacity is severely limited in comparison, so I leave that to a certain other squad mate.

There were a scant few levels that devolved into zombie shooter mode. Sometimes this worked (it can be really fun to survive a wave of enemies with smart use of powers and guns), and sometimes it felt mindless, but mostly it's slick as hell, and varied, too.

Note I played on Insanity -- I would recommend this to very skilled players, and Hardcore to everyone else. Insanity has a few fights and moments that might make you want to throw your keyboard (it can feel like you've been cheated), however largely I felt it was a formidable challenge, but nothing over the top. Really you just have to watch your ass and think fast and clever.

The music is more amazing than ever -- I particularly love the club music this time around. Really wish I'd picked up the Deluxe version for the soundtrack alone. I'll do this at some point -- probably when a GOTY edition comes out and is on sale, as I want the DLC but not in its current form and price point.

Mass Effect 2's strongest point I think though is the dialogue. I firmly believe this is possibly BioWare's best writing yet. Below is my absolutely favourite scene, perhaps in all of gaming (if that sounds hyperbolic, well, it's not). No spoilers per se. Click the YouTube icon if you want to watch in full screen.



In short, this is a big improvement over Mass Effect, though in a few smaller ways, inferior. Bottom line is I can't wait to see what's to come in Mass Effect 3 (hopefully some new RPG elements to offset to minimization of the old ones), both in terms of story, mechanics, and gameplay.

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Just got this in my inbox and had to share:

quote
HAY GUYS ^____________^

Two Worlds II is coming out in a little over a month! *gasp*

And I would like to start a brand new tradition for the titles I look after. Other pubs, they might send fancy bottles of wine and Angus steaks and trips to Hawaii and water bottled from the tears of virgin fairies and shit like that with review packets. Well, F that! I’m going to hand-deliver a review copy to one lucky individual at their home or place of work to those of you who opt-in to get the chance to be stalked receive this ==ZOMG SUPER VIP TREATMENT==.

Here’s how it will work:

-Confirm your review copy of Two Worlds II along with address and platform(s), and let me know you want to opt-in to PROJECT “SPECIAL” DELIVERY between now and 12/31

-I will choose my unfortunate victim destination via random.org on January 1, 2011, and grin evilly and be one of those peeps who like, inappropriately laughs to themselves for no reason while walking down the street and thinking of my visit to your hizzayyyyyyyyyyyy

-Sometime between now and January 25th, I’ll announce the date that I’m making my fateful journey

-THE WINNER WILL BE A SEKRIT (LAWL PR SECRETS LAWL) literally until I show up on your doorstep on that day. FEEL FREE TO INTERNET DETECTIVE ALL YOU WANT! *shakes fist at the sky*

-I may release some clues as to where the heck I am going before PROJECT “SPECIAL” DELIVERY commences, but who the hell knows because I generally don’t plan most random things I do outside of about 5 seconds before they actually happen. :P If I do, it will be via my twitter. ;)

-Yes, Canada is OK. Have passport, will brave the arctic tundra. FOR YOU.

-<3s will be had, as well as high-fiving over 9000 times.

Alright! So if I haven’t completely scared you off by now, if you’d like to opt-in to the contest for great roflmao and win, write me back with your review copy info and let me know that you are SO IN OMG!

Xo

A
Of course I applied.

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I finally gave in and ordered Crysis Maximum Edition recently, and managed to complete both Crysis and the expansion Crysis Warhead, so I'd like to share some thoughts (the multiplayer Crysis Wars I put aside for now as my backlog is huge, plus I'm busy with Bad Company 2 already and I'm not entirely fond of Gamespy).



Most likely you're familiar with Crysis by now, but if not, it's been one of the most talked about PC titles for the last few years for a few reasons: it's PC exclusive, it's a big budget title, it's very graphically intensive, and opinions on gameplay seem divisive.

Regarding the system requirements, now is most definitely the time to get into the game if you haven't yet. Three years later, on a formidable mid-range rig (see specs in my profile if you're interested), I could still push only 40-50fps. 60 of course is generally the minimum desired, though it varies from game to game. In Crysis' case, this was very smooth, though I would've liked the extra frames. Note in a few rare sections, fps would drop to 10-30 fps -- brutal. The last level of Crysis was one of these -- aside from the poor framerate, I was very impressed.

Note I highly recommend making use of the Crysis Tweakguide as I did for optimal performance. I went with the 'Cheap Very High' settings you see here. This gives you pretty much identical visual eye candy to Very High settings, but with only the performance hit of High. Aside from that, I brought Volumetrics and Shadows down to Medium, because they didn't make a massive difference and I needed the frames. I would've liked to have left Shadows at High, but they're a known performance killer. That said, the shadows in this game are easily the best I've seen, even three years later.



But enough of that. Despite the trendiness of lambasting Crysis as a pretty tech demo, I really did love the gameplay. Weapons are highly customizable on the fly (Incendiary ammo, scopes, grenade launcher attachment, etc.), which means you can easily adapt to any situation with a key press and mouse click or two. And then of course there are the Nanosuit abilities, which let you cloak yourself for a brief period, increase your strength for improved accuracy, damage, and jumping, speed up for fast travel or escape, or up your armor for tough fights.



It might sound like god mode, and that's semi-true -- on Delta difficulty (which I highly recommend), though, there are definitely some tough fights, but toward the latter half of the game I found I could take on most with little issue by playing smart (i.e. hiding cloaked behind crates, leaning out and headshotting an enemy or group of enemies with my sniper rifle or assault rifle with single shots, and maybe a grenade or two, then hiding again). For the most part, I was having too much fun to mind, though I definitely want to see more of a challenge and more intelligent AI in the sequel (the AI wasn't too shabby, though).

But I think my favourite thing about Crysis is the incredible transition in settings and atmosphere from the first half of the game to the second. I really don't want to spoil this for anyone that is yet to play, but I will say it's made for one of the most memorable gaming experiences for me to date, in ways, similar to how The Matrix was one of the most memorable film experiences for me. If you've played it and know what I'm referring to: I was in complete awe during the entire section.



Crysis Warhead, on the other hand, I found utterly unmemorable in terms of plot, setting, and atmosphere. I realize some of my negativity may be due to playing it immediately after Crysis, and not a year later as likely most did, but regardless, that transition isn't really there. Warhead is essentially more of the same, but without the coolest sections. The gameplay is as good as ever, though, and Psycho is an enjoyable character, of course.

I'm certainly interested in what's to come out of Crysis 2. It's a bit sad it won't be PC exclusive anymore (especially as I really don't buy the piracy argument), but in a sense this might not be an entirely bad thing given the high cost of running the original title at maximum settings -- the limitations of consoles might keep things in check this time around. I am hopeful Crytek is playing it smart though and optimizing properly per platform -- word is it's going to use up to eight CPU cores on PC, so that's assuring.

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Yep, more busyness to report -- last week we released our PC & Console Gamer Holiday Guide 2010 as you probably know (definitely check it out if you haven't though -- I enjoy it as a buying guide and a retrospective). Staff has been harder at work than ever, I think. This week is definitely a breath of fresh air, not that there's any shortage of interesting things happening or coming up.

Since it's been another while since the last report, I'll do my best to deliver only the essentials.

Upcoming reviews: Arcania, Gothic 4 (waiting on a performance patch), Gran Turismo 5, Fist of the North Star, Dragon Ball 2, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood (should get this early), Call of Duty: Black Ops (PS3 review then PC-centric review), Beat Hazard Ultra (early next year), Donkey Kong Country, Marvel Superhero Squad, Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom, Sonic Colors, Marvel stuff from Sega, Epic Mickey.

Making lots of progress with Konami (loved our Lords of Shadow review, big contest incoming), Capcom (loving my mod and tweak guides and also LP2 review -- very gratifying as a fan, fulfilling as a writer), Bethesda, Microsoft, Sony, MTV, Nintendo -- 2011 will be the year of Neoseeker!!! No really, it should be huge, though. :)

Upcoming features/contests: New Vegas playthrough -- I'll be documenting my playthrough accompanied by screenshots and gampelay videos. I'll make it fun, don't worry. Might pair it with a contest -- readers share their best stories for New Vegas swag. Besides that we've got six New Vegas Steam codes to give out, Lords of Shadow copies and maybe other stuff, Lost Planet 2 codes...and a bunch of other stuff I can't even keep track of at the moment. Also it's the last day for our Black Ops contest.

Wikis: The Fallout: New Vegas wiki is getting lots of love from user Paradox and myself, and will be getting even more this week. The entire staff basically is obsessed with the game, to be honest. If you have the PC version (or will be getting it from our upcoming contest..), you'll be very interested to check out the mod guide I've drawn up. I've seen every guide like it I think so far and I honestly believe it's the definitive resource for the community's best at the moment, and I intend to keep it that way by updating compulsively.

Highlights:

All of the really noteworthy reviews are in the holiday guide, so here's the news:


Hm, come to think of it, a monthly report seems best. What do you think?

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It's been almost a month since my last report -- rather busy, indeed. I'm going to make an effort to have these up weekly as originally planned.

Let's get to it.

Upcoming reviews: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, Lost Planet 2 (PC), Medal of Honor (PC), Kirby's Epic Yarn (probably), Vanquish, God of War: Ghost of Sparta (should be published very early -- this is pleasing), Gran Turismo 5 (probably), Need for Speed Hot Pursuit, Arcania. Unfortunately LucasArts has declined us again this year, but we're working on it.

Planned coverage: X-Men: Destiny (possibly)

Wikis: BioShock Infinite wiki is started. I'll be getting into the Dragon Age series and Bad Company 2 wikis after this big batch of reviews. Lydia won't be working on the Guild Wars 2 wiki for about a month (same for news) -- feel like helping out? Leo is going to be touching up the Phantasy Star Portable 2 wiki as the design is borked.

Highlights:

A lot since last time, so bear with me. Lastly, I'm proud to announce we can call Heath Flor a 'professional' reviewer now. He's not going anywhere. :)

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Another busy week and another belated report. :)

Upcoming reviews: Atelier Rorona, Phantasy Star Portable 2, F1 2010, Etrian Odyssey 3, Dead Rising 2, Lost Planet 2 (hopefully), Civilization V (hopefully), Blade Kitten, RUSE, Top Gun, Valkyria Chronicles II, HAWX 2 -- and probably a few others!

Planned coverage: Section 8: Prejudice, Elemental post-mortem (not confirmed yet), NBA 2K11 feature, Vindictus preview.

Wikis: Gonna start up a Battlefield 3 wiki in addition to fleshing out the Bad Company 2 wiki and Dragon Age wiki (going to work on the gameplay tips guide -- can't wait!). Once Lydia isn't so busy with reviews she'll get back to Guild Wars 2 -- why not help out in the meantime? :) Leo is settled on the Valkyria Chronicles series wiki, especially with VC3 coming.

Highlights:

Halo: Reach review - worthy of the hype, it seems!
Amnesia: The Dark Descent review - a must for horror fans
Shadows of the Damned - like Resident Evil, Devil May Cry, No More Heroes, and/or Silent Hill? Then you'll want to check this one out.
Witcher 2's nude woman torture scene being reconsidered - some English vs. North American drama :)

On a sidenote, our hardware side is in a bit of a state at the moment. If you didn't catch the notices on Twitter/FB, you should check out our affiliate Overclocker's Club for the next while until things get back to normal:

http://overclockersclub.com
http://twitter.com/occnews
http://facebook.com/OverclockersClub

They're good people!

If you're curious on the backstory, basically it's just the usual ebb and flow -- some folks are leaving because of school and whatnot, so our new guy Chris Ledenican is taking on pretty much all of the new hardware reviews, with no time for news. We hope to get sorted sooner than later.

Also, a great PC developer by the name of Arcen (AI War, Tidalis) is in financial trouble -- I strongly recommend you pick up their game or games, spread the word, etc. They're very community oriented and it'd be a shame to see them go under.

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I'm beginning to think many reviewers and also readers of reviews feel the point of a review is to look for things to hate about a game. This is particularly inspired by my Elemental review and the sentiment surrounding the game all throughout the gaming community, but by our reviews at Neoseeker in general and the subsequent reactions to them by some folks (the rest of you are great and we dearly appreciate the love).

This is not a self-righteous 'I do things this way, everyone else does it this way -- they are dumb haw haw haw' post, it's just to shed a little...sanity on the situation.

I should preface this by saying I've never analyzed my reviews before and am expressing this as I go. It might seem like a terrible way to go about things, but it really works best for me in all aspects of life, and I think it works best for a lot of readers too, in the case of Neoseeker content.

When I review, what I take in and what I write is primarily determined by two things: capitivation and fun. They can be closely tied of course, and I use both terms loosely. The point is this: I don't look for reasons to slam a game, I let myself experience it and write impressions based on that experience. I do the same with film and music and just about everything really.

Of course, it's not that I won't criticize a game. Obviously that's necessary. But this is about organics. If after or while letting myself experience a game I find it difficult to get into, or just generally unenjoyable, I'll go over the reasons why without overanalyzing to death.

Risen comes to mind. This was a game that really blew me away. Just standing in the middle of a field was a thoroughly captivating experience. Of course I won't give a game a 9.5 because standing in a field feels awesome, but moments like that comprise a very captivating experience. I feel similarly about shooters, believe it or not -- you know, that 'one more round' saying, then three hours later you realize you're overdue for sleep.

In the case of Elemental, I really don't want to get into semantics, but I'll just say this: yes, there is room for improvement. But I stand by my review. And if you're the numerical type: that's pretty much what the 1.0 left over is for.

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Sorry I haven't been keeping up with these folks, it's been a very busy couple of weeks.

Here are the highlights of news and reviews you may have missed:

- Kane & Lynch 2 review (brutal, and not in a good way)

- Lara Croft & The Guardian of Light review (lovely)

- Mafia 2 featurette: The 50s and Beyond (a neat look at some of the features and behind the scenes design stuff)

- Atari + Wizards of the Coast make up, working on new Neverwinter Nights game, likely Planescape, Baldur's Gate re-releases coming soon

- CryEngine 3 can use up to 8 CPU cores

- Risen 2 announced (RPG fans, pay attention)

- Battlefield 1943 still coming to PC, 2142 patch coming soon (something to tide you over until Battlefield 3!)

- Microsoft declares return to PC

- StarCraft 2 multi monitor goodness

And what's coming this week/soonish:

- Mafia 2 tweak/performance guide today or tomorrow
- Mafia 2 review (2K sent the 360 version, need PC copy which should be here any day)
- Elemental review (lots of early impressions, but I'm waiting for the day 0 patch coming today to really start...lots of important stuff in there)
- Likely we'll have an Elemental contest next week
- Misc reviews: Ys Seven, Worms Reloaded (Thurs), Shank, Ivy the Kiwi, Sam & Max (Monday)
- Still working on new homepage design. Currently in the polishing stage.
We hope to have it ready within a month or two.

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Quite a bit of stuff happening this week and in the future in Neoseeker land.

- Dany and Lydia will be attending the Call of Duty: Black Ops preview event September 1.
- Mafia 2 feature/interview thing.
- Sega contest.
- Fable III interview.
- Razer + Nyko peripheral coverage.
- CPU cooler review.
- More Guild Wars 2 wiki love.
- Metroid: Other M preview.
- Alien Breed wiki has been canceled. :(
- Our news recruitment drive has been going okay. For now we've got Dom back on the team...we will see how that works out.
- Possible changes to our review score system. Feel free to leave feedback here on what you'd like to see.

Confirmed reviews: Ivy the Kiwi, Ys: The Oath in Felghana, Mafia 2, Monday Night Combat, Sam & Max Season 3, Quake Live (probably), Kane & Lynch 2 (probably).

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In the second installment of what I'm calling the Neoseeker report, I'll again be going over what you can expect in the near future from the staff.

- Aksys reviews (BlazBlue, Deathsmiles, Record of Agarest War)
- More Elemental hands-on coverage (part one is here)
- Need for Speed World review tomorrow (sorry, numerous things have delayed it)
- Metroid: Other M preview (leochan and I will be heading to a hands-on event and chatting a bit with Nintendo about the game this week)
- Frictional Games interview about "unfun" games (they created the awesome, scary and upcoming Amnesia -- our preview)
- Mafia 2 feature/Q&A
- Guild Wars 2 wiki love
- Dragon Age 1 + 2 wiki love
- At least three hardware reviews this week
- Starcraft 2 features/editorials

We're also looking for a news writer on the east coast or in Europe/the UK. If you know somebody or are somebody, get on it. :)

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This is the first in a series of weekly updates I'll be doing, updating you on the latest Neoseeker happenings from the editorial staff. For those of you who don't know me, I'm the Managing Editor for Neoseeker. Let's get started. :)

Our staff has undergone some changes and rearrangements and whatnot lately, so everything is a lot more streamlined and efficient, and the quality of our news and reviews is I would say now standardized and of high quality. Very pleased about this. Besides higher quality and consistent writing, there will be more of everything happening: contests, reviews, giveaways on Facebook and Twitter and forums, and so on.

So what's on the plate this week?

Confirmed/upcoming content: Fallout: New Vegas review, Crysis 2 review, Arc Rise Fantasia review, Elemental beta coverage and interview, Hydro Thunder XBLA review (and possibly giveaway), Guild Wars 2 interview, Move preview, Dead Rising 2 preview.

There's also the usual hardware reviews (a big mouse review and an SSD review this time).

On the wiki front, we'll be working on Guild Wars 2 and Dragon Age and Dragon Age 2. Of course, these are community-fueled, so you are more than welcome to contribute.

As you may have heard, we're also working on a radical redesign of the homepage to make everything more pleasant and efficient. It's still in the early stages, but already we're pleased with it.

That's all for this week. Feel free to leave questions, feedback, or ideas for coverage we may not have thought of (keep in mind we have a pretty good eye on everything, but there's always that underground gem we'll happen to miss).

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Long time no see.

I finally started playing Mass Effect; been at it like mad this last week. Figure I should with the sequel out (will be picking up the CE next month I think -- the regular box art is ugly as sin).

Finding it addictive as hell. I played it before though at the time my PC was I guess not awesome enough for the game, which was stuttering for me. Runs like a beauty on Windows 7 64-bit (PS I love you, Windows 7).




(click 'share' for big version)


Anyway, I recorded a bit of gameplay, and as usual I'm screenshotting pretty things as I make my way through, so click an image here to check my gallery if you like.

Sniping is too fun for words. Who would play as anything but a sniper? Crazy people, that's who. Shepard is a commando solider. Sniping is his specialty but he knows his way around an assault rifle, too. ;)



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After far too many 3-6 hour play sessions, I've finally completed my review of Risen for the site:



If you don't know about it, it's a PC RPG (coming to Xbox 360 in a few months), and is a spiritual successor to the Gothic games, which are simply fantastic.

The more attentive of you will notice it's my second review, when I said the first (for The Path) would be my only one. This was due to me being a stubborn arse that refused to score games. I still hate scores but I figured to heck with it, I would quit being a jerk and take one for the team. ;)

I don't plan to ever think very hard about the scores, or even take them remotely seriously; the intelligent folks will know from reading the review whether or not it's something they want to play, I think. But you know, Metacritic yadda yadda. :P

As I mention in the review, I didn't get time to complete the game, unfortunately. It would've taken another week at least for that, I'm guessing, so I cut myself off at an appropriate time and came out with what I feel is a pretty solid review. Hard work for that one, and I'm proud. :)



Basically if you like RPGs I encourage you to read the review, and if it's something you think you might like, try the demo. And if that does it for you, buy Gothic and Gothic II on GOG! Currently the second game is on sale for $7, until Monday. I swear we're not affiliated (though that'd be nice), I just have a healthy obsession for that site.

When I'm not tired as shit, I'll upload the Risen review notes. In the meantime, feel free to click on the images here to go to the gallery I made for the game. I've a bit of a screenshot fetish you may have noticed...

Next up I'll be reviewing another PC RPG: Torchlight. Looks quite promising; I hope it exceeds my expectations, preconceptions, etc. And then another RPG, this one for DS. It's called Wizard of Oz: Beyond the Yellow Brick Road. It should be relaxing compared to what reviewing Risen has been like (Risen is relaxing, just not to review). The packaging is pretty...

After that, well, just read some excerpts from this week's meeting notes, if you're curious (these are for all reviewers):

Reviews expected this week:
- JU-ON: The Grudge -- Oct. 23
- Kenka Bancho

Next week:
- Shank preview/interview/giveaway -- Oct. 26
- Obscure

Future:
- Need for Speed NITRO (DS)
- EA DS shovelware
- Dragon Age: Origins -- Nov. 3
- Assassin's Creed II -- Nov. 17
- Fort Zombie preview/review


If I'm not mistaken we're also going to be giving away a copy of Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days and that Mario DS RPG soon, too.

Happy trails!

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quote
Q. Will the hero have a consistent appearance or will you be able to customize your own? Will he be able to bat his eyelids?

The hero will keep a consistent appearance. Yes, he will be able to bat his eyelids.

Q. Will the trees have leaves or pine needles?

They will have a mixture of both.
(via)

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Sorry the sound sucks, forgot to turn off the music and insert my own too -- next time. But this one's for the Sagat haters. ;)


pc gaming related sagat vega street fighter iv



(Click 'share' for a bigger version pretty please.)


Catching up on my game backlog. Beat two in the last couple weeks (Lost Planet and Devil May Cry 4 -- busted up my 360 controller a bit trying to beat a secret mission in the latter :P).

Almost done this one...this godamn puzzle is killing me at the moment. I'm going to use a walkthrough so I don't go insane. Yeah you heard me. :P
Edit: misunderstood the puzzle. Beat it accidentally. :P

Got some lovely screens in the gallery, by the by. Here's my favourite:



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I'm still getting good with Vega, but a decent match I think. :P


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<Sumppi_> i almost bought a game from steam
<Long*bleep*ingWait> It's okay, man. We're here for you.
<Sumppi_> horrible =P
<Long*bleep*ingWait> When I get drunk I think about installing EA games.
<Long*bleep*ingWait> SPORE, Madden, it doesn't *bleep*ing matter.
<Sumppi_> god you are a mess
<Long*bleep*ingWait> Yeah, man.
<Long*bleep*ingWait> That's when I got religon and turned to GOG.

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I just finished Dark Messiah Might and Magic last night, so I thought I'd write about my feelings on the game, as I quite enjoyed it.

As a preface, this game received some poor reviews which seems to have led quite a few people to have not played it. After having played it myself, I've come to realize reviews really should be taken with a grain or two of salt -- and also the opinion of a reviewer you're not familiar with should typically just be tossed out the window.

I suppose a lot of the detractions come from whether or not the game is an RPG -- for those that were looking for an RPG and felt it wasn't, they came away disappointed. This brings me to a tangent...I define the game as an RPG (action RPG, specifically), I think because I define RPGs by their elements (sorcery, story, enemies, weapons, items, armor, etc) and less so their mechanics (levels, stats, stat progression, etc). This is why I'm one of the people that firmly thinks of the Zelda and BioShock as RPGs (pick your subgenre as you please), whereas many others do not.



Anyway, the game isn't very deep in terms of mechanics, so if you're looking for that, this isn't for you. But I find it just deep enough to be satisfying. How it works is you have four basic stats (attack, defense, HP, MP) with a couple of substats (critical, stealth), and then a bunch of magic (freeze, inferno, heal, telekinesis, etc. -- BioShock fans will be right at home, here) and misc. skills (poison resistance, lockpicking, archery, adrenaline, etc).

These are all completely customizable by you, based on the amount of skill points you earn by beating sections of the game. Note skill points are completely irrelevant to how many enemies you beat, so you can't just backtrack and destroy them over and over -- extra points can be earned by completing optional tasks, beating optional bosses, finding secrets, etc., however.



The game itself is quite linear -- aside from the optional tasks, it's pretty straightforward, though there are sometimes multiple routes to get to your end destination, and towards the end of the game, there are some choices you can make which will influence your weapons and abilities, as well as your ending (there are a few). How this affects your enjoyment of the game depends on your preference, and I suppose what you're in the mood for -- personally I welcomed the break from a huge open world RPG, though I love those to death.

The story is pretty good I think, along with the voice acting, though I understand if some people hate either. It's generic in some ways, but in such a way that I love it for that. This cutscene (one of my favourites of any game, actually) should give you a fair idea:



There are a few awesome twists, and I like that you can choose your ending depending on a few straightforward events -- I can't stand it in games like Silent Hill where you have to play through the entire game this way or that to unlock one of five or ten endings or whatever.

Combat is where the game really shines, at least for the assassin. I played through about 1/4 of the game as a sorcerer, but was really bored by the spells and found them kind of useless. Of course, I didn't get to use the almighty Inferno spell, but if it was anything like Fable where you basically just spammed your way through the game with that one spell, then to heck with that.

I'm not really into the warrior approach in general, so I went with assassin and found that immensely satisfying, particularly when I unlocked the hide in shadows ability or whatever it's called and creeped around everywhere, cutting enemies throats before they even knew I was there.



It's really satisfying to take out an entire room of enemies like this -- check out my previous post to get an idea of what the gameplay is like there.

I should note I played the game on hardcore difficulty, and recommend at least hard mode to anyone playing it -- normal was insanely easy. If you're going to play as an assassin, I would probably recommend hard mode, just for the ghouls you'll encounter -- as they can kill you in one or two hits on hardcore, and they're really annoying to fight as an assassin...I almost threw my keyboard a few times.

So, music and sound effects are quite good, and graphics are amazing, particularly given this is a 2006 game. All in all, I highly recommend it.



A few miscellaneous notes: have at least 2GB of RAM to run this with minimal (or no) problems -- if you have less, you'll have to apply this workaround. I had countless troubles before doing this, and afterwards, not one.

I also recommend checking out the Tweakguide on the game -- even if you're not really into the technical stuff, there's some neat stuff to check out -- on the neat stuff page.

Oh, and if you are interested in picking it up, this site I like has it for cheap -- link.

Now I'm off to play the spiritual prequel Arx Fatalis.

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Here's a tip: if you live outside of the US and like Capcom games, don't order from the Capcom Store. My pre-ordered copy of Street Fighter IV PC was held up at Customs -- took about three weeks to get here, and Capcom said it could take up to six. I had to, though, as I hate credit cards and they take PayPal, unlike any other online shop in Canada with a decent PC selection, so...

Anyway. I've been enjoying the shit out of this game! It's as great as I remembered from my Alpha 3 days. My cousin Mark had bought that for me (for Christmas or just randomly, I cannot be sure) -- one of the best gifts I've ever received. Him and I played the shit out of that game, especially the tag mode. There was a period during which he was playing the World Tour mode and building up his Bison character to the max level, then later I did the same with Akuma, and we finally managed to have a showdown between them at his place later. It was epic. I'm pretty sure I won, ultimately, but it's been awhile.

The feel of the two titles is similar enough -- quite a bit different from the last major iteration, 3rd Strike. I really like the changes they made to put the focus on regular combos and away from super and ultra combos (as you can see above though, those are spectacular as ever ;)).

I've unlocked all the characters except Seth -- slowly but surely working on that. Gotten quite a few achievements too, which I find quite addictive..I'm gonna go for the Legendary Champion one eventually, which must surely be one of the most difficult in any game, but I think I can do it once I get really good (at the moment I'm just "good"). Basically you have to fulfill the conditions for unlocking Gouken (Arcade Mode: one perfect, five first strikes, three Ultra and/or Super Combos, no continues) and then beat him, all on Hardest difficulty. This would be absurdly hard, but Akuma makes it a lot less so with those Raging Demons. ;)


The hardest single part of it is beating Seth on the first try on this difficulty -- I could do it within a few tries, sure, but one, after beating like ten guys already on hardest? Yeesh, that's annoying. But eventually.

Traditionally, Akuma has always been my guy (sidenote: the EX moves allow him double air hadoukens, similar to Alpha 3's Shin Akuma -- I was worried about this!), and as a result, all the other Hadouken/Shoryuken-y characters (Ryu, Ken, Sakura, Sagat, etc).


This still holds true -- I've gotten fond of Ken and Sakura -- however just today I've taught myself how to play Vega, something I'd always avoided cause his Super/Ultra combos scared the bejesus out of me. Apparently I've just been silly -- it's actually one of the easier ones to do, at least for me. So I've been playing as him and having a blast; it's refreshing to play as a non-Hadouken/Shoryuken-y character, especially online, cause I know a lot of players are sick of seeing them. I'm also kinda okay with Chun-Li and Abel -- those I'll get properly good with later.

So yeah, been having a blast, getting a bit better all the time. This is a game I'll be playing for many years, particularly with the scarcity of fighting games on PC, and the online play.

If you haven't picked it up yet, I can't recommend it enough, myself. Plus, there's all those mods. Chun-Li as a maid? Seriously. Can't advise purchasing the DLC though. $15 for a bunch of costumes? What the *bleep*??? Whatever, I still love you, Capcom. And they did leave the game openly moddable, so bless 'em for that.

I'll probably have some match footage up on here within a month or two, and maybe occasionally after that. For now, there's a ton of photos in my gallery -- just click any of my screenshots here to head to it.

Okay, enough typey...I'll write more in a few days about some games I've picked up recently, probably with some photos of my game collection.

peace and happy trails.

:)

(What have you been enjoying?)

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Why did no one tell me this before?
I wish they'd made an unlockable minigame for it -- it's that fun.
I don't hate the pope or anything..it's just oddly satisfying.
Take that, pope!

pc gaming related

CD Projekt's Michal Kicinski on The Witcher:

quote
What's more, we insisted that no matter how much we respect the advice of experienced publishers, at the end of the day we've got the final word on anything regarding creativity. We didn't want the vision of the game to be in any way distorted or damped. An odd example of that occured during a conversation with a publisher who said that on account of their market research players overall want their protagonist to be an elfish woman and that if we had changed The Witcher accordingly they would have considered negotiating a contract :)
(via)

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Chun-Li: lovely face, ginormous man hands.


Hi, haven't seen you in a long time, INTERNET.

At the moment I'm obsessing over one title in particular: Street Fighter IV, and I'd like to share that obsession with you, partly in the hopes you will one day join me in my obsession, perhaps even play online.

I'm planning on picking the title up for PC, naturally, when it ships July 7 -- should be pre-ordering it at the end of the month when I get some cash.

[As an aside: I'm kind of waiting to hear back from Microsoft on whether or not there are install limits on the game, as its a Games for Windows LIVE title, and word on the street (Internet) is most or all of those have 'em, independent of what publishers say (I asked Capcom and they said as far as they know, there aren't any). Sorry, Microsoft, but some (like me) do reinstall their games fairly often, and do like to play them five, ten, even twenty years or more after their initial release, so I shan't be having any of that.]

Moving on, the benchmark was released recently (if you don't know what a benchmark is, it's basically a non-playable demo which shows and tells you how well the game runs on your machine at whichever settings you choose) -- and if you're interested, you can download it here. I've been running this about 6,000 times a day to satiate myself some. Can you blame me much? This is like, the only fighting game in North America on PC, far as I can tell. Anyway I can run the game at max settings at 60fps which is lovely -- I can't get over how gorgeous it is. Not to mention the er, fan service.



By the by, we've got a video up showing off the various shaders the PC version has, which is pretty cool to watch (ignore the ridiculous English voices -- what the *bleep* were they thinking? Thankfully they're optional). I would've embedded it here, but I find the player too small, personally -- perhaps I'll ask to see if that can be adjusted.

It's been a long time since I've played Street Fighter -- Alpha 3 was the one I really got into, and 3rd Strike was quite fun, too, from what little I played. Can't wait!

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Found this (warning: there's cussing :P) on the Stardock CEO's blog..it's him talking to himself via his two Impulse accounts.

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Here's another opportunity for you to get the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to hear your thoughts on digital rights management (DRM) and now end-user license agreements (EULAs), courtesy of the fabulous Entertainment Consumers Association.

The short version of it is if you would like less restrictions (some very invasive) on your PC games, and would like to actually own them instead of buying a license for them upon purchasing, then you should tell the FTC these things and explain why you feel this way. If you don't play PC games but feel this way about other media such as DVDs and music, I still recommend contacting them as I expect a ripple effect should the FTC facilitate change with these forums. You can do so with this link.

Here is the message I sent, if you care to read:

"Obviously I understand why publishers would want to protect their games, and to some extent (serial keys, disk checks, etc.) I've been fine with this for ages. But online activation, invasive products like SecuROM, and limited installs are just plain insulting and disrespectful to anyone who plays games seriously (upgrades their hardware/formats regularly, for example), and are certainly bound to even hurt at least some "casual" gamers. And to the publishers who feel gamers who, upon running out of activations/installations should re-buy the game -- you obviously don't play games. Please listen to your customers and incorporate what they have to say in your methods or leave the industry.

Actual investigations from developers [1,2] (whom I respect for actually looking into this) and outlets like Tweakguides show there's no real effect on sales whether DRM is included or not, so I'm not sure where this kneejerk reaction comes from. It's very disconcerting. As a gamer, I avoid anything with DRM beyond disk checks, serial keys, and disk protection. Ideally, we'd be forever free even of those methods, but I'm willing to compromise. I also go out of my way to buy games that do not have DRM, some of which I normally wouldn't have bought. Not in all cases as I'm on a budget like anyone, but certainly some, and I'm very happy to do this.

Logos and such on the front of game boxes for DRM implementations should be mandatory. I'm shocked they aren't already -- this says to me developers, in most cases, know they're doing something they shouldn't be. If it's so perfectly fine, why aren't you open about it?

EULAs are long outdated, and yes, should be uniform -- this would solve the problem of customers not knowing what they're buying and would also put everyone's minds at ease. The part of course which is of particular concern is "owning" vs. "licensing". This language desperately needs to be revised -- of course no one is asking for the licensing rights for a game when they purchase it, but they are asking to own it, as they are for anything else in life they buy. The creation itself forever belongs to the creator, but copies of said creation, sold to the public, belong to the public, and the new standard EULA should definitely reflect this.

Thank you for your time and for choosing to listen to the public on these issues. I hope together we manage to find a means by which to make at least most people in the gaming industry happy on these matters."


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So, all upgraded. In fact, my rig is basically complete now. I'm still getting some stuttering in some games it seems..and after upgrading everything else I suspect the CPU is the problem..I've heard people have had problems with AMD dual core CPUs so I'll probably get a quad core one or something sometime this year..but I'm not remotely in a hurry.

I've been playing a lot of games, of course..new ones and revisiting games I've already beaten, like BioShock:



Another thing I'm extremely happy about is Good Old Games...it's a digital distribution service for PC games if you haven't heard about it already (from me, since I dont shutup about it, or wherever else). I've gotten my tax refund for 2007 back recently (apparently I forgot to do my taxes), and I spent a nice chunk of it there because it's my favourite source for PC games..DRM-free, cheap as hell, contests, and modified to work with modern operating systems..plus they come with a bunch of free crap. So I about doubled my collection this morning after my money went through to Paypal (I dont have a credit card yet, which isnt entirely a tragedy for me):



Sands of Time looks freakin' gorgeous on this monitor by the way:



Augh!

Add that to my own list here on Neo, and you can see I have a sick habit. The list isn't as bad as it looks though..most of the Valve games I got practically free after finding a used copy of Half-Life for cheap..which was apparently apart of a Platinum Collection or something, as I found out upon activating it on Steam. Though it's going to get even worse than it seems once I clear out the want list...

(Hm..I'll probably post a picture of my physical game collection sometime. Too lazy now and I've already posted enough crap today hehe.)

On a related note: I encourage everyone who frequents this site to use the own/want lists...they keep me sane.

So, the second thing is The Path. If you haven't caught it yet, my one and only review was posted for the game last week, a horror title based loosely on Little Red Riding Hood. I highly recommend it if you're looking for something different. And if you're not..give it a shot anyway. :P
(Psst..we have a contest if you wanna win a copy.)

Anyway, I thought it might be neat to kind of show you how I wrote the review. I don't have a laptop so I just wrote notes on paper (remember that?!) while I played, which I kind of like anyway..it reminds me of a simpler time. :)
So, here are the notes:





(You'll have to click them and then click the 'original' button to actually read them.)

At first I was planning on going through the journey of each girl, as you might be able to tell..but quickly realized this would ruin much of the experience. But I used some of those parts in the end, which I'm happy about.

Okay, thats all for now lovelies. Happy trails. Be good to your fellow countrymen and friends from abroad.

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Haven't updated in awhile as I've been busy reviewing and writing and interviewing and not quite settled in OS land, so I'm just gonna make a couple large posts and hope they keep your attention. If you're not fond of a lot of words, feel free to just look at the shiny pictures.

Soo yes, recently I switched to Windows 7 but had to switch back to XP due to repeated blue screens when gaming. Not cool. Hopefully when the release candidate comes out everything will be gravy. I have a thing for desktop screenshots so here is/was mine (it's on my other HD I upgraded to -- 640GB!):



One of my favourite things about W7 is the Aero Peek feature, which comes in real handy:



You can just hover your mouse over any sub-window and it will preview it for you, without you actually ever clicking on it. So you can just go through like 10 windows if you want and see whats up. Its very fast and efficient! :)

I also like the level of customization that comes built in it with it. Thanks to that, I didn't even have to modify my OS theme, I really quite like it how you see above. :)
Between this and countless other things, especially judging from the Engineering W7 blog, it really seems like Microsoft is paying attention to its users and incorporating as much of their feedback as possible into what will be the final product. For a corporation with as massive a userbase as Microsoft, this is a hugely positive thing, and I commend them wholeheartedly for it.

You may notice the desktop images, if you make a couple clicks to their full size, are rather large..because, yes, I finally just got this baby:



(My desktop is inside the picture of the desktop to really mess you up.)

Keep in mind I upgraded from this 15 inch. The new one is lot bigger than it looks in pictures for some reason. But yeah, I'm up to 22''@1680x1050 resolution. It's a whole different world..I'd probably say it is, on many levels, like watching a movie at home versus the theater..or playing a game too, I suppose. :)
Couldn't be happier with it -- got it on sale too. I'd like to thank Kevin for encouraging me to upgrade. While LCDs of this size do cost a lot, it IS worth what you pay, for sure. Of course you have to shop around and research and stuff..

Oh, and this is what it looks like when I mix Drambuie with work (what did you think was in the mug?):



Not a smart idea!

If you wanna read about game things and sort of a 'behind the scenes' thing on my review for The Path, here is a follow-up. :)

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Well, it's terribly late, but as I said last month, I have some further Mirror's Edge impressions.

But first, the reason for the delay is those errors I mentioned. Well, they're gone! I'm not sure if I fixed it or if it was the upgrading of hardware, but anyway it's gone! Unfortunately I seem to be getting some stuttering still in games, though it's only really bothersome in Prince of Persia (as in, to the point I don't like to play it), which I think is a problem with the game itself, as many people on the internets suffer the same thing.

As for hardware, I recently picked up some sweet RAM for dirt cheap (up to 2GB now, and the speed is much higher), and thanks to Kevin and Redemption (as you know him), I acquired this gorgeous video card for cheap (considering). I've been telling people it's a beast in a tank wrapped in a tornado. It's true!

So the only thing really left to get to complete my rig is a monitor. My current one is fine for werk and all, but for gaming, it's crap. Kevin says using the R4830 on my monitor (which only supports a max 1024x768 resolution) is "like driving a Ferrari in a parade". Worse, I've been playing ME in 800x468 to kill the letterboxing...how awful. This is the one I'm going to get, hopefully sooner rather than later. Naturally I'll be blathering like an idiot once it's mine. :)

Regarding the stuttering issue, I'm wondering if it might be related to this crap arse monitor somehow. Hopefully everything is (vegetarian) gravy once I get that.

So, Mirror's Edge. It's *bleep*ing FUN. The only real complaint I have about it is you maybe get stuck too often, which interrupts the flow of the game. However, I'm starting to become more accustomed to the game idiosyncrasies and am finding myself welcoming its challenges (mostly anyway). BUT, I am still bent on this 'free run mode' idea, and feel this would be the perfect counterpart to the challenge story mode presents. Especially with the DLC...it could be so fun. If it or something like it isn't in the sequel, I'm gonna be pissed.

Also, runner vision is for wusses. I can confirm this, and my speculations about the 'exploration' feel being there without it were accurate..the game is not too challenging without it, though naturally you will probably die more often (from the Blues, most likely), especially if you try not to rely on the help function like I do. Similar thing for not using guns -- you just kinda get used to it. I certainly prefer not to use them.

Combat is annoying as hell til you get the hang of it. Once you do though, it's the best thing ever. So satisfying. Speaking of which, partly for you guys, I redid this one section in the game until it was to my satisfaction, and recorded it. Check it:



(Full screen version can be found here.)


The game is also gorgeous, even on this monitor and at such an awful resolution..so I can't wait to behold it on the new one. Yum!

So basically for anyone open to it, it's a must have, especially on PC! :)

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I've never felt like a game was going to make me cry from fear before but I swear I think I'm gonna. Oh god mommy why. :(

And yeah, that's me getting gutted to hell by some *bleep*ing anthropomorphic product of religious zealotry *bleep*. I'm low on everything and its dark and there's a million of these *bleep*s that want to kill me and I'm pretty sure the big one can regenerate everything including its head and the door I need to get through is locked and I dont know how to unlock it. Oh god. Someone come over, I need a hug. :(

pc gaming related

Some of you may be familiar with all the ragging I do on DRM, especially with Electronic Arts who seem to be the most notorious for it overall.

Well, me being the diplomat I am, ended up in a discussion with one of the customer support people at EA following me stating I would no longer be purchasing Mirror's Edge upon seeing the DRM it had (the copy I played was borrowed if yer wondering).

Anyhow, I think it's really quite something, so maybe you'll enjoy it too.

(Note that for efficiency, these are excerpts, though most of the dialogue is retained. Keep in mind in my original email, I was being a bit of a jerk, so I'm not at all opposed to his reactions. DRM gets me crazy!)

---

EA:
I have many EA games that use SecuROM and I have, not once, had any troubles with this form of DRM. Generally the only people that have issues with SecuROM are pirates. Furthermore, purchasing games funds these developers that make the games that you like so much. So you deny the developers this money which could go towards developing a new game. Good job.

moi:
Even if you want to discount the troubles (which, yes, would not arise with everyone, but do have an effect for some, and do potentially negate testing to some extent), there are still the principles (I'll get to those in a moment).

"Generally the only people that have issues with SecuROM are pirates."

What do you mean by this? Technical issues or just opposition? If technical issues, this is completely untrue as pirated versions do not have SecuROM. If you mean opposition, this is not true either. I know many people which buy games with SecuROM on them but do not like it, it's just worth it for them, and that I understand.

I know it means I'm not supporting the developer (financially, as I do it in other ways). Look, anger aside, I'd like to have a truly open dialogue here. I LOVE these games. I've been playing games since I was a child and have happily paid for everything and supported these developers up until DRM came along, where it became a mixed bag. I love these games so much it honestly hurts me to personally not be able to support them. I WANT TO. But I can't let myself because I just can't support the DRM.

As for the link you sent (http://www.1up.com/do/newsStory?cId=3170057 ), I respond with this one:

http://www.gamepolitics.com/2008/11/08/new-class-action-suits-target-ea-securom-sims-amp-spore-creature-creator

I don't intend it as any kind of personal attack, it's just.....your link is why so many people hate EA. Bully tactics? Really? That's what you expect will make people want to buy your games? You don't understand the community. We want to support publishers that love games too and don't believe in scaring people into buying games, that trust their customers and believe in the games they publish enough to let them remain free. I want to pay $60 for the truly amazing games you've been publishing, but I NEED to be able to do what I want with them when I want and not have to worry about whether or not I can play this game in so many years, or why SecuROM is still on my computer after uninstalling one of your games and is nigh impossible to get off, or whatever else. It's just unsettling and not something I want to be associated with.

Please consider these things, perhaps pass them to the execs as well. Would love to continue this dialogue if you or anyone else there would too.

I love your games..please let me buy them.

EA:
First off, here is a link to manually remove SecuROM from your machine: http://support.ea.com/cgi-bin/ea.cfg/php/enduser/std_adp.php?p_faqid=20763

Second, SecuROM was applied to EA (and other company's) games to stop pirates from illegally downloading and also reproducing our games. Obviously this was needed as people would copy their games and give them to friends or simply download the game free of charge. So now that EA implemented some sort of copy protection to protect it's intellectual property some people have decided to pirate the game. Basically pirates caused the need for DRM which made it irritating for the rest of the paying players, which in-turn has caused people to pirate the game. Quite the conundrum.

The bottom line is gamers either buy the game and support the developers with future games or pirate the game and contribute directly to the need for more DRM. The way I see it is if you don't like the product, or something that comes with it, don't buy it.

These are just my personal thoughts and are not directly affiliated with EA. Unfortunately I cannot engage in further discussions as this is more appropriate for the forums.

Please do not pirate our games.

moi:
See, we see pretty eye to eye after all. :)

Thanks!

pc gaming related

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-It's purdy
-Widescreen only is annoying as hell (anyone know a fix?)
-Not too demanding
-Cutscene animation style is kinda weird -- works for everything but the characters?
-Keyboard/mouse *bleep*ing rocks
-Runs smooth as a peach
-No runner vision is awesome, though I've only played the first chapter which, yeah, is easy

I have a 7800 GT, AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core 5000+, 1GB of RAM, and ran it on medium settings perfectly. High it seems to not like. :)
It crashed once, so I installed the latest C++ Redistributable as advised, and it seems to have fixed it up like a charm.

More impressions later. :)

Update: Still crashing. Seems I have some mysterious problem causing most new games to not work. Ack.

pc gaming related

So yeah, I received my copy of Prince of Persia for the PC in the mail the other day. Unfortunately I haven't been able to actually get into it as it's had multiple game-stopping bugs. First its my audio driver (doesnt like it apparently), then the thing just keeps crashing/freezing, sometimes giving me an exe error (research says this is due to single core processors, but I have a dual core), then its the video driver (some common nvidia problem). Sigh. I seem to have fixed the first and last problem -- but it crashes/freezes on me all the time. Still waiting on Ubisoft to get back to me via email -- should be today or tomorrow. I cant even call them because their support line isn't toll free! Augh.

What tastes I've had of the game I've really enjoyed..but I'll wait until this gets rectified to post my thoughts.

Update: got back to me first business day. Testing now. :)
Update 2: still crashes, just less often. :(
Another email from Ubisoft soon, I hope..

pc gaming related

Something cool I came across whilst obsessing over Prince of Persia:

quote
1. Concept
The first thing decided upon for any trailer we make is the overall concept of the trailer, what’s the purpose behind it, what we want to show and how we want to show it. In order to fit with the game’s artistic mood, it was clear from the beginning that we needed to have beautiful trailers with strong music to really move people when they watch it.
And so on. :)

Found this lovely article on piracy/drm on tweakguides. Seems to be about the best thing around:

http://www.tweakguides.com/Piracy_1.html

I smirked at this bit:

quote
While in reality, sea pirates to this day are often brutal, murderous thieves, in popular fiction they've become quite romanticized, particularly during the last century, and are widely seen as sea-borne adventurers, seeking freedom and rebelling against authority. Thus while content owners used the term Piracy to equate copyright infringers with thieves, the infringers themselves like to consider the more romantic, freedom-loving image of Piracy when they use the same term for themselves.


pc gaming related

Hello, this is just an advance e-mail in light of the expected DRM for the PC edition of Mirror's Edge which I am hoping you can forward to the appropriate sources.

While I would delight in the irony, I'm praying and begging you not to put DRM in the game, at least not "heavy" DRM (i.e. install limits, SecuROM, online activation), and hopefully not any games of yours in the future. I realize this is a lot to ask, but as a gamer I feel it is vital to do so.

I love the game dearly and thank you guys so much for taking the risk with it and continuing on with the series despite what seem to be less than stellar sales. I would love nothing more than to support this by paying for it, but I need to know the company which publishes it trusts its customers and respects them enough not to install unnecessary protocols on their machines or limit their experience with the game to any great length. I know there are big names at your company which don't fancy DRM but still feel it's necessary. I understand the perspective, but there's got to be a better solution than this. In the meantime, can you at least keep it to a minimum? CD checks and/or serial keys I've long felt are an okay compromise between gamer and publisher.

It would be nice to hear back on this, too, but I understand if this is not possible as you are a busy company.

Sincerely,
Sean Ridgeley

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Sean Ridgeley

  • CA
  • Joined Mar 6, 2008
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