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.
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.
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.
NZXT, the company best know for its lineup of flashy enclosures, looks to expand its horizon by getting into the gaming peripheral market with its new Avatar mouse. The uniquely shaped rodent comes ready for both left and right handed gamers and sports a rubber grip to prevent slippage. NZXT says the "small, light form factor allows for faster and quicker movements," and the company bills the new mouse as being ergonomic.
The Avatar also comes equipped with a 7-button configuration and boasts a high 2600 DPI. Other features include:
40 inches/second max speed
15g max acceleration
6469 max fps
5.8MP per second
Up to 1000 USB reports per second
One of the more interesting marketing bullets, NZXT claims the 7 buttons will last for 5 million clicks, which sounds like a really, really long time. Available now, the new Avatar has been given an MSRP of $60, which works out to about $.000012 per click.
Yesterday evening, I had the indistinct pleasure of viewing G4's GPhoria gaming awards. GPhoria is odd in that it doesn't take place at the end of a year; rather, it highlighted, in this case, the best games from the second half of 2007 and first half of 2008. Even so, I was fairly surprised when Halo 3 took home GOTSHO07AFHO08 honors. I mean, Halo? Seriously?
But GPhoria is voted for by the fans, which got me to thinking about how different audiences have different expectations, and about how those expectations can shift with time.
See, in my experience, Halo is typically met with derision and utterances of "Moar liek Fail-O" when mentioned in the presence of PC gamers. It is, after all, just a dumbed-down, slow-moving console shooter, right? The first domino in a long, weaving line that wrecked the FPS genre as we know it. Well, except for maybe Half-Life 2. Oh, and TF2. And Call of Duty 4. Also Bioshock. Portal, too. Hey, maybe Halo didn't bring the genre crashing down after all! Actually, I'd say the expanded audience led developers to try new things.
These days, though, gamers are fretting about a new scourge: casual gaming. Where am I going with this? Simple. I believe casual gaming is nothing to worry about. As with the FPS genre, an expanded audience, lured in from casual titles, will inspire great devs to try new things, as well as provide them with more cash to back their games.
So, what's your opinion on so-called "casual" gaming? Whether it be the Wii, Diner Dash, or fan-fave Peggle, how do you think these games and the audiences they attract will affect gaming? Good? Bad? Both? Neither?
At the very least, today's Roundup is dedicated to the hardcore gamer. Past the break, you'll find stories about BioWare's handheld ambitions, John Carmack's stance on PC gaming, and Star Trek Online's upcoming reveal. And more, of course.
Here’s the second part of our exclusive QuakeCon interview with John Carmack. In the first part of our conversation, Carmack discussed his hopes for Quake Live and the id Software’s new gaming direction in Rage. This time around, he gets more into the heady technical stuff with his thoughts on Nvidia’s CUDA, physics accelerators, general purpose computing, and ATI’s rumored Fusion technology. Here’s a snippet:
John Carmack – I was well known as not being a supporter of the PhysX accelerators. It’s always felt like a gimmicky plan with people setting up a company to be acquired. For years, the tack has been what do you do with any time Intel delivers something more with processors and more cores? It’s never really proven out right and there’re a lot of reasons for it.
For one thing you can’t scale AI and physics in general with your gameplay, while with graphics, you could scale. Without scaling, you can’t design a game that requires fancy AI and then turn off the fancy AI for the low end systems because practically that’s not possible. Similarly for physics, if it’s anything other than eye candy, you also can’t scale. If the building is going to fall down you need to know whether you’re going to be able to get past it on the high end or the low end.
Gamers have enough trouble trying to come up with a game plan to beat pesky end bosses and single-handedly defeat armies of mutant soldiers. Saving often gives gamers an endless advantage and cheat codes can help in a pinch, but neither of these tactics will do any good against an increasing amount of real-life threats the online gaming scene.
More than just an annoyance, time spend in virtual worlds like Second Life can translate into real currency and it's attracted the attention of organized criminal gangs. According to security software vendor ESET (best known for its NOD32 Antivirus products), "high volumes of malware intended to steal passwords for online gaming and virtual worlds" have been detected since 2007, resulting in a "dramatic upsurge."
The alarming news comes courtesy of ESET's mid-yearly Global Threat Report, which focuses on broad trends in malware over the past six months. In addition to an upsurge in attacks against gamers, ESET notes that malicious software that tries to use the Windows Autorun facility to self-install from removable media continues to flourish.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the company reports email bound malware is in "dramatic decline," at least when it comes to dirty attachments. Malicious URLs passed through email messages have taken the place of attachments.
Further reading to keep yourself (and your virtual self) protected:
John Carmack may be the face of id Software, but he’s definitely not the only person working on Rage or the next Doom. We spoke with Robert Duffy, id’s Programming Director, and Matt Hooper, Rage’s Lead Designer, about their upcoming shooter. The conversation delves into topics ranging from art design to multiplayer modes, and touches on the challenges of developing on both console and PC hardware. Here’s a snippet:
MaxPC: With the combination of driving and fps gameplay, what’s fun and exciting that we should look forward to that we haven’t seen before in games? Matt Hooper: The thing you haven’t seen is really the mix. We’re still id software and we’re still making this intense, action shooter game. Those moment to moment, finely crafted action sequences – running around with the coolest weapons and shooting guys – that’s still there. We invented that and we’re still going to do that really well. Just around the office everyone likes a lot of cool games. What we did was pull in these different elements that don’t detract from the action but add this little bit of flavor, and the vehicles are a part of that. The vehicles are almost an extension of your FPS avatar – you’re “running” around with a vehicle. It has armor on it, it carries a cool weapon, you fire that weapon, and the other car blows up in a cool satisfying explosion. It’s not as far removed as you would probably initially think. It all feels really good together.
Matrox's TripleHead2Go Digital Edition, which enables you to drive up to three digital monitors from a single DVI port, has just received a significant upgrade.
We last encountered TripleHead2Go Digital Edition in our January 2008 review of the Hypersonic Sonic Boom OCX flight simulator PC. Hypersonic used it to drive three 1280x1024 digital monitors for a 3840x1024 panoramic view of the wild blue virtual yonder.
So, what's new with TripleHead2Go Digital Edition? Now, you can run up to three widescreen displays at 1680x1050 or 1440x900 resolutions. 3x1680x150 gives you an eye-popping 5040x1050 desktop, while 3x1440x900 provides a slightly less stunning 4320x900 desktop (and, it also supports WXGA's 1366x768 resolution).
And, the best news is that you don't need to buy a new version of the external box: if your graphics card has an ATI or NVIDIA DirectX 10 GPU with the latest graphics driver and a dual-link DVI connector running on Windows XP or Vista, all you need to do is:
Upgrade your TripleHead2Go Digital Edition's firmware to version 6.52 or later
Install the GXM software suite 2.03.02 or later
Choose your monitors' resolution from the display.
If you're not sure you're ready for the upgrade, the upgrade page also offers a link to the GXM System Compatibility Tool.
Like the sound of TripleHead2Go Digital Edition? Already using one? Your chance to sound off comes after the jump.
I find television show depictions of people playing games absolutely ridiculous. Actors, directed by people with no grasp of how gaming actually works, lean and rock like they're atop a mechanical bull. Those of us who actually game can vouch for how utterly false such depictions are. But while some of us may sit hunched over in our cushy chairs, mouths agape, displaying only the basest signs of life, a good many of us do express emotion while we play. Thing is, when the actor asks, "What's my motivation?" The director should fire back with a single word: "Pissed."
Without a doubt, most of us play games for fun, but when I'm winding languidly through Uncannily-Accurate-Sniper-Alley for the tenth time, you'd have to be Stephen Colbert to turn my frown upside-down. We're all human, so when things don't go our way, we get frustrated. We shout, we curse, we frighten small children. However, gaming is unique as a medium in that, unlike television, film, or music, it manages to evoke such fiery emotions. Good or bad, you have to admit that's kind of cool.
So, when you play games, do you let your emotions take control? Have you ever embedded a controller into your wall? A mouse? Have any stories you'd like to share?
Today's Roundup isn't intended to make you angry -- or even a little hot under the collar -- so take a load off and give it a read. Inside, you'll find an EA cash-grabbing scheme that's a tad different from the norm, Ubisoft taking piracy by the horns, hope for Crackdown 2, and much, much* more. Jump past the break and let the catharsis begin.