Today, I finally got around to checking out the latest Futurama movie, "Beast with a Billion Backs." It was great, but aside from Pac-Man chess, had nothing to do with gaming. However, an awesome little bonus feature -- cut-together scenes from the disappointingly awful Futurama videogame -- did.
What really struck me about the "game," though, was its meticulous (and oftentimes hilarious) need to explain every gaming cliche in the book. See, the game itself was a trite licensed platformer, but its story went the extra mile toward making that a-okay. Additional lives, level restarts, and other gaming tropes made perfect sense within Futurama's twisted logic. But while I applaud Groening, Cohen, and co. for their creativity, I think story in gaming can do so much more.
Right now, we're sort of in an awkward teenage phase -- just beginning to shrug off the shackles of other media forms. Only now are we collectively realizing that our medium is unique, so our stories have shifted to convey that fact. Whether it's Futurama's wacky antics, Bioshock's "Would you kindly?" or other games taking sly digs at each cliche they so willfully employ, we've come to realize what our medium is, but we haven't even begun to break ground on gaming's well of potential.
So, my question to you: What topics would you like to see gaming explore? What stories need to be told? Are there any games out there that you think could very well be the next step forward for story in gaming?
This edition of the Roundup features, among other things, details on a story that could be one of this year's greatest. Additionally, you'll find an article about casuals becoming hardcores, and another about why I'm stupid for using the terms "casuals" and "hardcores." Jump past the break for more.
Intel's Core processor lineup (the parts formerly known as Nehalem) are a stone's throw away from release, and in preparation of the launch, Intel is cutting prices on a pair of existing chips and adding a few more to its lineup.
The price cuts affect two of Intel's higher end offerings, with the Core 2 Quad Q9550 (2.83GHz) and Xeon X3360 both dropping a generous 40 percent from $530 to $316. The new price points represent 1,000 tray units, so expect to pay slightly more through your favorite online vendor.
New models will also find their way into the lineup, including the Core 2 Quad Q9650 (3.0GHz) and Core 2 Quad Q9400 (2.66GHz) priced at $530 and $266 respectively. A trifecta of new Xeons will also make their way into the lineup: Xeon X3370 (3.0GHz) priced at $530, X3333 (2.66GHz) priced at $266, and the E3120 (3.16GHz) priced at $188.
It might be awhile before other popular chips in Intel's lineup see another price drop, as the company has stated its initial Nehalem parts, the Core i7, will be geared towards high-end PCs.
No one has been more critical of Nvidia then rumor and news outlet The Inquirer, who recently declared that all of the chipmaker's G84 and G86 parts are bad. The extent of the problem is still to be determined, but here's what's known so far.
A batch of bad GPUs have found their way into the wild causing an "abnormal failure rate" among certain laptop models
To deal with the problem, Nvidia said it was setting aside a one-time hit of $150 to $200 million to cover warranty and repair costs associated with the faulty mobile parts
Both HP and Dell have released a list of notebook models potentially affected by the faulty GPUs and are encouraging owners to update their BIOS as a preventive measure (the newer BIOS kicks on the cooling fan earlier than it normally would). HP has also extended their warranty for the affected models.
Nvidia has since moved on to its 9-M series GPUs, and in the process has presumably solved whatever problem affected the previous generation parts, right? Not so fast, says the The Inq. According to the rumor site, the fundamental flaw in the manufacturing process still exists, and now G92 and G94 parts are reportedly failing. The Inq claims that no less than four partners are already seeing the new chips go bad at high rates, and believes that Nvidia "is simply stonewalling everyone" about the alleged problem.
If true, another batch of parts could be disastrous for the chip maker, who continues to lose graphics market share to Intel and has seen its stock price plummet in the wake of a disappoint 8-K filing.
Is the problem bigger than Nvidia's letting on, or will it be this latest rumor that ultimately turns out to be the dud?
Not without their share of pre-release hype, AMD's 4870 X2 videocards lived up to every bit of it by obliterating the competition in this year's Dream Machine (a single 4870 X2 churned out twice as many frames as Nvidia's GTX280 in 3DMark Vantage). And they did it months before they were supposed to go public, which means there were architectural tweaks yet to be made.
The wait is over, and at long last, AMD has finally announced what it rightfully calls the world's fastest graphics card, the ATI Radeon 4870 X2. Built on a 55nm manufacturing process, the dual-GPU videocard comes with the computational muscle to deliver 2.4 teraFLOPS, and ATI can still lay claim as the only manufacturer to support DirectX 10.1 instructions. Rounding out the feature-set, the 4870 X2 ships with 2GB GDDR5, 1600 stream processors, and a 750MHz core clockspeed (reference). MSRP has been set to $549 with stock available now.
AMD also made mention of it's upcoming 4850 X2 videocard. As the name implies, this card will also be a dual-GPU solution (clocked at 625MHz), and like it's bigger brother it will come with 1600 stream processors. Instead of GDDR5, the 4850 X2 will ship with 2GB of GDDR3. Look for availability this September with an estimated sub-$400 street price.
Despite falling hard drive prices, a weakened dollar, and other economic woes, Western Digital managed to post revenue of $8.1 billion and an operating income of $1.0 billion for fiscal year 2008. That represents a full-year revenue increase of 48 percent. It gets even better for the hard drive maker, who also posted a net income of $867 million, or $3.84 per share, marking a whopping 54 percent jump from one year ago.
In the report, Western Digital says that 63 percent of Q4 revenue came from non-desktop sources, while 37 percent came from hard drives configured into desktop PCs. By contrast, those numbers sat at 46 and 54 percent respectively one year ago.
"Fiscal 2008 was an outstanding year for WD, capped off with the strong fourth-quarter financial performance," said John Coyne, president and CEO. "Our outstanding financial performance demonstrates the efficiency and effectiveness of the business model that we have built and refined over the last several years, underpinned by our industry leading cost structure."
WD's financial performance is also indicative of of the growing mobile market, in which the company shipped 11.7 million 2.5-inch mobile drives.
Last September, Dell became the first major computer maker to announce plans to go carbon neutral, saying it would do so by the end of 2008. That gives the OEM five more months to reach its self imposed deadline, but now the company is saying it has already achieved its goal.
"We're driving 'green' into every aspect of our global business," said CEO Michael Dell in a statement. "This includes setting new standards for energy efficiency and green power, delivering environmental and cost savings for customers, and aligning key growth priorities with our focus on preserving our shared Earth."
In the quest to become carbon neutral, Dell has been working with Conservation International to protect nearly 600,000 acres of tropical forestland in Madagascar that might otherwise have been destroyed, allowing the OEM to claim a half-million ton of carbon emissions savings over the next five years. Another big boost came from reducing indirect emissions from facilities energy use. Dell has upgraded light fixtures at its Texas campus, updated heating and cooling systems around the world, and installed occupancy sensors for light. By doing these things, Dell says it was able to reduce its annual carbon dioxide footprint by 20,000 tons.
Innovation. In gaming, it's a weighted word, but really, what does it even mean? Portal was "innovative" because it allowed players to slap portals onto walls and travel into their depths. But at one point, Warcraft III was declared "innovative" for mixing basic RPG elements with tried-and-true RTS gameplay. And then we have things like the Wii, which can (potentially) add brand new dimensions to the way we play games.
So, in your opinion, what actually makes something innovative? Do you think an innovative game has to blow minds and shift paradigms, or can it be something as simple as Call of Duty 4's experience system -- subtle, yet effective?
Today's Roundup sees so-called innovators both succeed and fail, with one highly unexpected title snagging an award for Interactive Innovation, while another causes its creator to drop out of the gaming industry altogether. Also, in the "And More" section: data that shows PCs beating consoles at their own game. Hit the break for the full scoop.
There's no stopping it folks, the text messaging revolution is here and it's sweeping the nation from the pre-teen crowd all the way up to the potential presidency. Don't believe it? Let's have a look at the evidence.
Morgan Pozgar, a 13-year-old girl from Claysburg, Pennsylvania, wins last year's text messaging championship and takes home a $25,000 purse for for typing Supercalifragilisticexpialidoucious! Even though the sound of it is something quite atrocious in just 42 seconds. To become the champion, little Miss Pozgar estimates she sent 8,000 text messages a month in preparation for the contest.
Democratic candidate Barack Obama and his team have set up a website where you can register to receive a text announcing Obama's choice for a VP running mate the moment it becomes official (and it won't be Hillary).
Republican candidate John McCain has accused his rival of being too much of a celebrity and not enough of a political leader, but could this latest move be a way to gain supporters among the tech savvy crowd? Post your thoughts below.
As we told you last week, Microsoft rolled out two new security programs, Microsoft Active Protections Program and Microsoft Exploitability Index, during the Black Hat USA 2008 Conference. Unfortunately for Microsoft, the same conference saw a presentation by security experts Mark Dowd and Alexander Sotirov that renders these and other protections for Windows Vista, including its much-touted Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR) and Data Execution Protection (DEP) features, effectively null and void.
How did they do it? The full presentation (available here in PDF format) is quite technical, but here's the short version. according to SC Magazine:
In explaining the problem, the researchers said that most memory protection mechanisms are based on two things: detecting corruption and stopping common exploit patterns, and attempts to reinforce these are integral to Vista. But in many cases, some of the built-in protection mechanisms in Vista are not enabled by default for compatibility reasons.
“At the desktop level, compromises had to be made because of compatibility issues. Exploiters have a lot more control over browsers,” Sotirov said.
And in many cases, third-party applications are not compiled to use the Vista memory protections. For example, Java and Flash are not compiled using the critical protection called ASLR.
What can be done? My take: Microsoft needs to rethink the balance of compatibility versus protection, do a better job of informing users of what's protected and what's not, and get third-party application vendors to take advantage of the protection features in Vista. What about ordinary users like us? Watch out for compromised legitimate websites, and, as always, as our own Will Smith says, think before you click.
What's your take on Vista and other browser security issues? See us after the jump for your chance to sound off.
Power users know how critical it is to change their passwords often and to avoid using easily guessed characters. Creating a login for your bank account based on your first born's birth date is a good way to share your financial information with anyone who cares to look, and the best passwords are the ones that contain a random mixture of letters and numbers. But is it enough?
An article in the New York Times points out that all password-based log-ons are susceptible to being compromised in any number of ways, and they're right. We're constantly warning users against falling for phishing schemes, and new forms of malware have become so adept at sneaking past common security fronts that a host of vendors have begun looking at new ways of dealing with the latest threats (see Internet Security 2.0 in Maximum PC's February 2008 issue, or download the PDF).
Hit the jump to see why security experts are now saying we should abandon passwords altogether.