"Gordon Freeman is a menace to society. When he's not bludgeoning our men with cars and annihilating our demolition teams with their own ordinances, he's white-washing their corpses with paint and treating wild, endangered headcrabs like lowly mammalian bulls. Sure, we enslaved his species and all, but does he have to be such a jerk about it? He toys with us as though this were some sort of game, and we won't stand for it."
--An excerpt from The Combine Times, the final Combine paper to include anything other than obituaries.
--Gordon Freeman's reply
Yeah, Gordon Freeman isn't the most loquacious guy around. He speaks through his actions -- or rather, your actions. But that's what makes him great. He's a videogame character under your direct control. He fights like you, so why shouldn't he think like you?
As you've probably noticed, my particular Gordon Freeman is, well, have you ever imagined what it'd be like if one of the loud-mouthed, rap-prone kids on Xbox Live was tasked with saving all of humanity (and managing a classy goatee)? Am I like that in real life? No, but slipping into the hazard suit of a silent protagonist like Gordon Freeman allows me to project a side of myself into the game that hardly even exists in reality. I'm not constrained by any pre-set personality the man might have, so my imagination washes over the game, and it becomes a whole new experience.
Sure, I enjoy having the tightly braided engagement-lasso of a compelling, whip-smart lead wrapped around my neck as much as anyone, but I also think that such a lead doesn't lend him/herself well to gaming's main strength: interactivity.
So, how do you like your protagonist: strong and silent with a side of whatever you want, or glib -- fried up and delivered just as the developers ordered?
Today's Roundup features heroes of both varieties, along with a smattering of other stories about your favorite industry. From details about WoW's colossal (and free!) pre-WotLK update, to exclusive titles' death knells, there's no way you'll leave this Roundup without something to talk about. Jump past the break for more.
Life is full of shortcuts. Whether it's using connections to briskly bound up the corporate ladder, pumping out a term paper with the help of a less-than-legit online service, or simply cutting through the gas station instead of waiting for the stop light, there's always an easy way out. But no matter how much weight walking the path of least resistance may lift from your wearied shoulders, a nagging voice -- whether in your mind or from the mouth of an onlooker -- will tell you that you're cheating. "Everyone else worked to get where they are. Why can't you?" the voice asks. "You're doing it wrong, and you're only hurting yourself."
Videogames are, of course, loaded with such shortcuts, cheats, and "teh haxxors." And when a gamer admits to kicking their feet up and punching in the ol' Konami code, they're met with derision. "Wimp, wuss, lame" and the ever so fashionable "The developer didn't intend you to experience the game that way" readily come to mind.
Really though, is cheating that bad?
One of the most fascinating aspects of gaming is discovery. Games allow us to traverse fantastical worlds totally unlike our own, yet arguably with more tangible obstacles to keep us from seeing the sights. (Is "living for 21 years" a tangible obstacle?) For someone who can't play a game without hurriedly glancing at their watch every few minutes, cheats seem like the solution -- not the problem. Why drop two hours against a single foe when you can see more of the game world instead?
Frankly, I don't think a game's developers will begrudge you for it, either. You put money in their pockets and you're deriving enjoyment from the world they crafted. It may not be the straightforward, A-to-B path they wanted you to stroll down, but it's still an experience. And isn't that what games are about -- creating "stories" through our unique experiences?
So, do you approve of cheating? Have you been known to crack open the dev console and enter a few choice phrases, or will you sooner rage-quit a game than enter a code for a pithy 20 extra hit points?
Today's Roundup features the only variety of cheating about which I'll really hoot and holler, but that doesn't seem to hinder its unbridled success. Additionally, you'll find a couple of big-name game delays, and a discussion about how games compel us to keep playing. It's all after the break.
According to speculation, the ban came after a popular pro-Tibetan album, Songs for Peace, went on sale on iTunes on August 8. On Friday, Apple acknowledged the sudden unavailability of iTunes in China and said that it was investigating the matter. However, it is not known whether or not access to iTunes has been resumed there.
There was always a disconcerting political undertone to the Beijing Olympic Games besides a few controversies in the middle. Nevertheless, it was a great show with some scintillating performances by some of the world’s best sportspersons. I choose to be apolitical but you are free to voice your unbridled opinions in the comments section.
Intel’s CTO, Justin Rattner, delivered a pretty phantasmagoric keynote at the IDF in San Francisco. Invariably most keynotes by tech honchos are about future technologies. But Rattner just didn’t concern himself with the imminent future – the Nehalems and Larrabees - but he allowed his imagination take unbridled flight. He pictured what the world might be like in 2050, where computers would be smarter than us frizzled, frayed Homo sapiens.
“There is speculation that we may be approaching an inflection point where the rate of technology advancements is accelerating at an exponential rate, and machines could even overtake humans in their ability to reason, in the not so distant future,” Rattner said.
Rattner even demonstrated a couple of personal robot prototypes, which employ razor-sharp sensing technologies, though only crude precursors to the “2050 machines”. The first robot – a robotic arm actually - was equipped with electric field pre-touch technology that allows it to sense objects before even touching them. And, just for your knowledge, fish are bestowed with this capability. The second robot is capable of recognizing faces and performing simple tasks as commanded.
Join Nathan Grayson in His "Free From WoW for a Whole Year" Bash!
August 22, 2008 (Dallas, Texas) -- Nathan Grayson, a Maximum PC freelancer and unanimously-voted "snappy dresser," has, on this day, officially avoided Blizzard's World of Warcraft MMORPG for an entire year.
"It's been great finally living life on my own terms," said Nathan, flashing a gloriously bright smile. "To mark the occasion, I'll be canceling my WoW subscription tomorrow. What? Oh sure, I could do it today, but, uh, tomorrow for sure. No problem."
To be sure, the journey from his luxurious armchair into the comforting grip of real life wasn't an easy one.
"Oh, it's been a wild ride," he quipped. "On cold, lonely nights, my mind used to slip back into Azeroth, and I'd dream of raids, epics -- legendaries, even! But it's been, er, I've -- I mean, whew. Anyone have a PC handy? I, uh, just need to check on some things. Sure, I'll follow the cue cards again afterwards."
Nathan Grayson's soul is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. (www.blizzard.com, NASDAQ: ATVID). Nathan is a great guy -- single, too. Really, he's one in approximately 10 million. Among other things, he's well known for posing the following question: Have you ever found your claws locked into your keyboard, signifying your irrevocable addiction to a game? Sound off in the comments section. Passers-by don't really know what to make of it.
He also runs Maximum PC's Gaming Roundup, available every week day. Peep today's edition for all of the latest World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King news and info. Oh, there's some other stuff too -- something about how suing file-sharers is a bad idea -- but that's not really important. The phony PR-speak ends after the break.
3DFX changed the gaming landscape forever when it brought 3D graphics to the masses, and in a similar fashion, ray tracing technology looks to be the next big revolution on the horizon. The promise of photo realistic scenery has provoked both developers and gamers, but is real-time ray tracing in games anywhere close to being a reality?
In an interview with Tom's Hardware, Intel's Daniel Pohl talked about the API Intel is using to showcase ray tracing demos and what he thinks needs to happen before the technology will be ready for commercial development.
"Creating higher image quality even faster. That requires smart anti-aliasing algorithms, a level of detail mechanism without switching artifacts, particle systems that also work in reflections, a fast soft shadowing algorithm, adoption to upcoming hardware architectures. We have some topics to keep us busy," said Pohl.
In the case of ray tracing, it's a matter of the hardware needing to catch up with the software. Pohl and his team of ray tracing researchers have been "targeting future architectures that consists out of tens, hundreds, and even thousands of cores," noting an almost linear scaling of frame rates with the number of processor cores.
Intel isn't the only one looking to push ray tracing technology into the mainstream, with Nvidia putting on demonstrations of its own. Here's hoping the race to the finish line ends up resembling more of a sprint than a marathon.
DreamWorks Animation and Intel announced at IDF that, beginning next year, films under the DreamWorks banner will all be in next-gen 3D. Last month, the studio had announced that it was going to replace its AMD hardware with Intel’s future chips with multi-processing cores. Now it has been confirmed that Intel’s upcoming Larrabee (codename) graphics chip will form the crux of the partnership. The two partners even unveiled a 3-D movie image brand called InTru 3D. The technology is also targeted at the video games industry and the internet. AMD has also been touting its Cinema 2.0 tech that it claims will pulverize the wall between movies and games.
CRN recently reported on a research from internet security vendor Marshal that found out of the 622 users polled 29.1% admitted to having purchased items through spam emails.
I seriously hope this was just a particularly ignorant group of Internet users. Okay, now hear this; Buying stock through spam email amounts to lighting a match to your hard-earned cash. There is no magic pill to make your penis bigger or make you better in bed. Buying crap through spam encourages spammers to spam more. In other words, don’t do it! Those of us with a clue will thank you, if we don’t cuff you first.
We don't like taking on the role of enforcer, nor do we like bullying those ill equipped to defend themselves. But sometimes, for the greater good of all involved, as PC users we feel obligated to step in and lay the smack down when our Mac brethren come asking for it. In a way, we feel like Billy Madison did when he told a bunch of first graders "Now you're all in big, big trouble" before proceeding to pummel them in dodgeball.
Microsoft Live Labs, where Microsoft is helping to create the future of online information, released its Photosynth 3D imaging service yesterday, CNet reports.
Photosynth enables you to create a freely-navigable and zoomable 3D space by combining hundreds of photos with overlapping data, but unlike panorama-stitching programs, you get better results if you shoot your photos from a variety of different angles and zoom settings (or different focal-length prime lenses).Photosynth isn't for photography snobs, either. It works with all types of digital camera images, even from camera phones.
To sign up for Photosynth, you need a Windows Live ID (a free Hotmail account will work). After you sign up for Photosynth, you download free software for viewing synths (Microsoft's term for the 3D images you create with Photosynth) and for creating them. For best "synthiness," you'll need to shoot at least 100 pictures, and many of the examples you can view on the Photosynth website include 200 or more images. If you ever wondered why you need a 4GB or larger flash memory card for your camera, wonder no longer. A thorough Photosynth session can use up every bit of space on your largest memory card.
To learn more about Photosynth, and to give us your comments on this new imaging tool, catch us after the jump.