Gaming, in at least one major way, imitates real life -- and I hate it. Year after year, the game release schedule ebbs and flows with the prototypical real life schedule, and the end result isn't pretty. Spring is simple enough; summer is a time for basking and vacationing. But winter and fall make up for summer with gusto. Papers flutter about as work and/or school top-off on the overwhelming meter, family members get traded amongst households for myriad holiday celebrations, and nothing ever goes according to plan.
Meanwhile, spring showers usually herald games that winter and fall somehow missed, summer deludes us into getting excited about games like Too Human, and fall/winter try to cram as many games as possible into what little free time we have left over thanks to, you know, life. And guess what: everyone's favorite part of the cycle kicks off yet again in only a couple of weeks.
So, my question: as a result of the so-called "most wonderful time of the year," what games do you most regret having missed out on? Are there any games you plan on sacrificing for the greater good this year?
Sadly, if today's Roundup is any indication, don't count on a dam for the annual game flood any time soon. Inside, you'll find a concrete release date for Fallout 3, the first details about the greatly enhanced PC edition of GTA IV, and tons of other news nuggets in between. Give it a read after the break.
Now Google is also providing a widget for webmasters to customize 404 error pages. This is especially handy when certain pages have been moved or removed but keep garnering precious traffic. The widget code is available at Google Webmasters Tools page. Of course, the 404 error widget is fully customizable and so can be easily and seamlessly integrated into your website. Microsoft had released a toolkit that performs the same function in June. Although it might sound like a trivial addition, it will help webmasters woo more users to their websites - or retain them to be more precise.
Vista has garnered a plethora of bad press – not a commiseration - and continues to be in the news for all the wrong reasons. Yet another survey has discovered yet another Vista failure. Although it is common knowledge that Vista has to its credit an abysmally dismal adoption rate, a survey by Devil Mountain Software has found that even the ones with Vista are prone to downgrading.
With the Internet's collective knowledge at our fingertips, we generally know what we're in for when we purchase a game; even when reviews steer us wrong, exhaustively in-depth 75-page forum threads usually give us at least something to go on. But at some point or another, we've all found our more rational sides obscured, and due to a low, low price tag that just screams "Buy me," a movie license that would make a totally rad game, or what have you, we've retched up an all-too-clear "This game sucks."
So, what's the worst game you've ever played? What factor intoxicated your poor brain into giving the game a shot? Was it a friend's recommendation? A movie/comic book/TV show license? A kindhearted, but woefully uninformed birthday gift?
Well take some solace in the fact that today's Roundup won't steer you wrong. Between quantifiable proof that digital distribution is the future, Crysis' surprising success, and one man's dirge for console gaming, the Roundup tells it like it is. See it all after the break.
On Friday, Microsoft released the production version of SyncToy 2.0, the sequel to the popular SyncToy 1.x file-synchronization program I've been using for over two years (the beta version appeared last fall).
So what's new? A few of the 16 new features include:
Native support for 64-bit Windows XP or Vista (choose the 32-bit or 64-bit version when downloading SyncToy 2.0
Support for encrypted files and folders
Folder pair rename
Dynamic drive letter assignment
For the entire list, see the SyncToy download page. Microsoft also offers a white paper (PDF format) on SyncToy 2.0, and offers a FAQ list on its forums.
When you install SyncToy 2.0 on a system that includes a previous version, it upgrades the previous version automatically. To assure that your folders are properly detected, you should synchronize your folder pairs with your old version of SyncToy before installing version 2. SyncToy 2.0 requires the .NET Framework 2.0 (you'll be prompted to install it if your system doesn't have it already installed).
From the Makers of TweakUI and Other Great Windows XP PowerToys
SyncToy has the distinction of being the only PowerToy that works on both Windows XP and Windows Vista. For other PowerToys for Windows XP, stop by the Windows PowerToys website.
For your chance to tell us your favorite file-sync programs or war stories, see us after the jump.
Yesterday Google announced on its Android Developers Blog that it is releasing the Android 0.9 SDK beta. A crude SDK build was made available in November, 2007 to give a dekko into the Android mobile platform. The Android 0.9 SDK gives developers a better chance to unravel the OS before the release of version 1.0. The release of 1.0 shouldn’t be far off as the first Android-bearing phone will be soon launched by T-Mobile, a member of the Open Handset Alliance. It is called the Dream and has been developed by leading smartphone manufacturer HTC, another key member of the consortium behind Android. To get your hands on the 0.9 SDK beta and Google’s development roadmap head over to the official blog.
The most popular game in the social activist fraternity and political circles currently happens to be “blame the videogames.” However, there are ardent gamers and researchers galore to even out the scales. Once again, fresh studies have reinforced the value of games in enhancing cognitive and perceptual skills among children; creating a breed of hyper-dexterous surgeons; and bolstering scientific reasoning capabilities in gamers. All said, there is a slight blemish with one of the studies having found that violent games lead to more violent behavior among gamers. Make the "jump" for all the justification you need to keep playing games.
Come December, directory assistance will hit the web in a big way, and it has nothing to do with the online yellow pages. Instead, ICANN has approved the creation of a new domain name, .tel, which will serve to offer a one-stop surfing destination to look up contact information on what it hopes will eventually include every individual and corporate entity.
ICANN says that .tel sites are stored within the DNS systems so that information can be "quickly accessed on any device from a game console to a PC to a mobile phone." Regardless of the vehicle, navigators could, for example, head over to WillSmithMPC.tel to gain access to a wealth of contact information, including address, phone, Facebook URL, IM, Twitter, and whatever else the MPC editor-in-chief chose to share. Companies can purchase a domain name too, meaning you could visit MaximumPC.tel to see who's on staff and other contact information for your favorite magazine.
The new Telnic-owned domains will go on sale this December with initial registrations reserved for trademark owners. General availability opens up to public on March 24, 2009. Pricing yet to be announced.
Another social news voting system gets added to the web today as Yahoo opens up its Buzz to the public. Prior to the public release, only about 400 publishers could contribute new links to the service, though anyone could see them and vote buzz up or down what they consider to be the most/least interesting news stories.
The release comes with little fanfare or hype, an interesting move for a service that hopes to contend with similar sites like Digg and Reddit. Separating itself from the pack, Buzz's algorithms also analyze search engine popularity rather than remain purely community driven, and Yahoo's editors still program the Yahoo.com front page.
While it's far too early to predict how Buzz will fare, the social service could gain some traction both by leveraging other Yahoo communities, and by luring participation by having some of the most popular news items posted on its main page.
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.