Once every four years, there’s a chance for the best of the best to compete for international acclaim and recognition. The competitors, who have spent their lives training for this moment, come prepared to put it all on the line.
That’s right, it’s the 2012 PC Building Olympics, held right here in the Maximum PC lab. This year we’ve put together a list of our 6 favorite events from the games—let us know if we missed your favorite.
The modern Olympic Games are a tradition over a century old. During this period, this quadrennial event, arguably the greatest sporting spectacle on Earth, has encountered its fair share of hiccups and problems (as you’d expect). From terrorist attacks to political games to outright cancellations, the Olympics have seen it all. But the 30th edition of this sporting extravaganza, which is currently being held in London, is having to contend with a completely new kind of problem -- Twitter-happy attendees.
Malware writers figured out long ago that infection rates go up when you target current trends. Potential victims who aren't particularly computer savvy tend to let their guard down when an email arrives related to current events, and with the London Olympics less than two months away, malware writers are getting a head start by sending out malicious Olympic themed emails.
Any privacy minded individuals living away from population centers may think they’re safe from the intrusion that is Google Street View. Well, they might have to move a little farther away. Google has taken to attaching their 360 degree camera system to a snowmobile. With the Vancouver Winter Olympics coming up, Google thought it might be nice to give everyone a view of the slopes the athletes will be using.
“We wanted to do our best to try to capture some beautiful imagery, and have it available to everyone around the world to see so they can really experience what it’s like to be up there on the slopes,” said Google Senior Mechanical Engineer Daniel Ratner. It’s actually a fairly interesting experience cruising down the slopes through Google Maps, and you don’t need to go out in the cold. What’s the next vehicle Google should attach cameras to?
NBC has lost many battles over the past few years, but it looks as though it might actually win the war over its copy protected media. Executives from the company claim to have found a “template” for protecting their videos from piracy, and it appears as though it’s actually working. You may have noticed lately that copy protected content from NBC and others have been slowly drying up from video swapping sites like YouTube, Dailymotion, Veoh and even Soapbox. And as a result, NBC has been very vocal about the fact that it is generally satisfied with the new systems these services have put in place. As proof NBC cites its recent successes in controlling content from the both the Olympic Games and select Saturday Night Live clips. Clearly NBC views YouTube and other similar services as the primary battleground in protecting their content and attributes a large percentage of online video piracy to being committed out of convenience. According to Rick Cotton NBC’s general council; "What has happened up to now is the ability to access and download infringing content has been trivially simple, and the lesson it teaches people is that if it's that easy it can't be wrong,". NBC however seems to recognize that it needs to find alternatives to these services or risk pushing users to harder forms of piracy such as Bit Torrent. Arguably its full length episodes at both nbc.com and hulu.com do just that. Only time will tell if NBC’s main beef was truly over controlling its content, or simply locking it down to traditional distribution models.
Does the end of copy protected media on sites like YouTube put the death nail in user submitted video? Hit the jump and let us know what you think.
Sometimes you have to roll the dice if you're to have a shot at a big payout, and that's exactly what NBC did when it scheduled no less than 2,200 hours of live streaming coverage to be available free of charge on its website. Without enough viewers tuning to turn those pageviews into advertising dollars, the decision could have turned into an epic fail for NBC. Instead, the broadcasting company was able to cash in on the virtual gold.
As of Saturday, NBC reported it had received a staggering 1.2 billion pageviews resulting in an equally impressive 72 million video stream views. Those numbers represent more than the totals for the 2004 and 2006 Games combined.
But NBC wasn't the only big winner in this years' Olympics. According to research firm Nielsen Online, search engine and news aggregation Yahoo was getting 4.7 million unique visitors a day at the Olympics' peak. AOL, ESPN, Sports Illustrated, the Beijing Organizing Committee, The New York Times, and USA Today also saw heavily increased traffic.
Each year, we ask, "Was this the best year ever for games?" A good deal of the time, our answer tends toward "Yes," with a few nostalgia-maniacs vehemently worshipping 1998 instead. "Oh, they're just raving fanboys," I've always thought of those stuck in '98. "Their opinions are rooted in so much misguided subjectivism that even a bulldozer couldn't budge them."
However, a recent post at the always-interesting Sexy Videogameland gave me some insight into another, altogether more-acceptable reason for gamers' unyielding grip on the past. The post, by Leigh Alexander, of course, took a look at our tendency to play a game once, shove it into a nice, dusty shelf corner, and leave it there with no hope of excavation. Why do we do this? Especially when, as Leigh pointed out, many of us were happy to bury months of our lives in a single game back in the day.
But the answer's simple, really: You're reading this column.
As a bleeding-edge gamer, when you're not playing a game, you're probably reading about other games -- basking in the ever-brightening glow of a new title's hype -- and getting yourself psyched to play them. This column, with its daily dose of the latest gaming news, only helps propagate this trend.
Really though, does it matter? As Leigh pointed out, our consumer-focused society breeds hit-driven industries. Movies, TV, sports -- you name it. "15 seconds of fame" is an apt phrase. So we're just like other media. Big deal. But I think it does matter. I think games, by virtue of their interactivity, are meant to break the typical, rapid-fire hype cycle. And that's why so many gamers love 1998. The year was chock-full of top-notch titles, but gamers still spent hundreds of hours with their favorites -- testing boundaries and pushing limits. Why? The hype train as we know it hadn't quite picked up steam. Print was still strong and the Internet wasn't the all-knowing force that it is today.
And therein lies the problem. As the gaming industry grows -- as the press expands and the hype train takes on new carts -- it defies its own potential. Someday, games will shrug off the shackles of linearity, but will gamers stick around to experience those trailblazers in different ways? Or will our own anticipation for The Next Big Thing get the best of us?
Today's Roundup details a couple of initiatives that could grab at gamers' ankles and never let go, but will they work? Can't say. But for now, my commentary will have to suffice. It's all past the break.
If not for the fact that I was able to actually make physical contact with David Hayter at this year's Capcom E3 press conference, it would've been a total letdown. The whole thing was just a giant shill for Capcom's Lost Planet film, and its reception was nearly as icy cold as the movie/game's setting. But in between cracking big, corporate grins and repeatedly uttering the Japanese equivalent of "So awesome," the Capcom big-wigs dropped a tiny bomb. See, as it turns out, Lost Planet had popped from Capcom's collective womb with a ticket to Hollywood in hand. The game was born to be a film.
As we've seen with movies like Doom and Resident Evil, and games like Guitar Hero, media convergence is inevitable. United we stand; divided, we make less money. And that just won't do. However, whereas other instances of convergence have taken two (or more) disparate media forms and none-too-subtly mashed them together -- casualties be damned -- Lost Planet, if all goes according to plan, will straddle the line between games and film. Instead of removing what makes the game special -- effectively neutering it with a rusty knife -- Lost Planet: The Movie has the potential to usher in an era of game-themed movies not unlike what we're seeing with comic books right now.
But is that what we want? Last I checked, comic book fans were a tiny niche, nearly fit for a somber, "Don't let these beautiful creatures die" commercial from the World Wildlife Fund. Yeah, I'm not sure comics are the greatest role model. Plus, do we really want cherished characters having their in-game appearances altered just so they can more aptly fit their roles as movie characters (See Nick Fury, among others)?*
So, are you ready for some top-notch game-to-movie conversions, or would you rather our hobby stick to the small screen, interactive and proud?
Today's Roundup features a big-name title that's already being preened for stardom, and wouldn't you know it, Electronic Arts is the, er, preener. Inside, you'll also find Rockstar decrying the hardcore/casual divide, a top-15 list of Olympic proportions, and massive success from a WoW competitor. Hurdle past the break for more.
It might not be well publicized, but there's a major war brewing between Microsoft and Adobe, and they're fighting for you. Each one of them wants to be your provider for rich media content, a task that has traditionally been served by Adobe with its Flash player, but one Olympic sized loss could change the game in Microsoft's favor.
It was Microsoft who won the deal to supply NBC with video-viewing technology via Silverlight for the Olympics in Beijing, and while Microsoft and NBC have ties that go back to their collaboration building MSNBC, Adobe could have been considered a favorite to the win the account based the mature nature of Flash technology. So how did Microsoft secure the gold?
"We talked about features like adaptive streaming, the ability to automatically keep checking how much bandwidth you have and deliver the appropriate quality stream and how to be smart about knowing what's coming up in the stream," said Rob Bennett, the general manager of sports for MSN.
In other words, Microsoft won the account on a combination of Silverlight's feature-set, and convincing NBC that Flash's scalability had never been put to an Olympic-size test, unlike Silverlight's underlying technology which is based on Windows Media technologies.
Of course, it's only one account, but it's not so much what Adobe lost, but what Microsoft gained. While download specifics have not been disclosed, we do know that it's registering 1.5 million downloads a day, and according to a spokeswoman for Microsoft, "in the last several days, more than 50 percent of the visitors to NBCOlympics.com on MSN already have Silverlight 2 installed."
The last thing you want to see while hanging from a wire high above a crowd of spectators is Microsoft's Blue Screen of Death lingering in mid-air, but that's exactly what happened to Li Ning, one of China's sporting greats. The incident took place during the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, and as Ning geared up for the torch lighting climax inside the Bird's Nest, stadium projectors beamed the BSOD onto the roof where it was clearly visible for all to see.
The BSOD came as an unfortunate side effect to using specialized theatrical computer controlled lighting equipment to light up the Bird's Nest, making the process not only automated, but susceptible to software failures. But hey, at least Windows was only running the light show and not the high wire act!