Young, Dumb and Ready to Gun

In my younger years, I couldn’t purchase the next triple-a first person shooter [FPS] quick enough and most of the time I would purchase them without reading a single review. All it would take was a Michael Bay like game trailer with explosions and in-game footage of heavy firefights to convince me I needed to buy the advertised game.

What it took to sale a game to me in the mid to late 90s was fairly simple. To get me to spend a little money all you had to do was make sure the FPS was visually appealing, show that visually appealing aspect in a trailer and make sure when people/monsters died, they died with plenty of giblets (giblets in the video game world are the chunks of body parts that are the repercussion of you, the player, shooting a person/monster – see video below). It also didn’t hurt to be a FPS game with gun heavy box art that was conveniently positioned next to a triple-A shooter that had an “oh shit” trailer – it would get purchased merely by association.

My haphazard purchasing based off game trailers with a nice pair of fake tits (i.e. visually appealing) and triple-a marketing showmanship came to an abrupt end with the purchase of the now infamous Daikatana. Daikatana was John Romero’s personal baby. Coming off his successes with id Software and the likes of Wolfenstein 3D, Doom and Quake, John Romero started his own development company  Ion Storm. Daikatana was supposed to be the first blockbuster game out of Ion Storm’s Dallas office (finally released in May 2000 after the initial plans of releasing Holidays 1997) and was meant to be their flagship, instead it was the torpedo that started their company to take on water. A marketing campaign started to tout the game as the second coming and journalist got caught up in the hype. For me, it was another potentially exciting shooter that I wanted to get my hands on and create giblets with. It ended up being the game that instigated a change in my buying habits. It was a dated looking game once it came out, the enemy and sidekick AI was horrid and frustrating (see video below) and the game just wasn’t any fun.

Looking back, Daikatana served a much greater purpose than just being a disappointment. It demonstrated to the gaming world, and especially to the reporters who worked in it, that hype could poison their industry too. It also sparked change to how the gaming  industry did their marketing and increased the appreciation of game critics amongst gamers. The most relatable change, however, was the one it had on me. I became a more sophisticated purchaser of CPU games and I also started to delve deeper into the video game world of critics, E3s and gaming publications. Daikatana, one of the hugest disappointments in video game history, made me a better PC gamer.

Soon after the Daikatana failure there was a shift in how games where presented to the potential gaming public. Commercials became smarter, funnier and better at capturing the attention of the young and old. The first game I noticed to market in a new and exciting way was Diablo II from Blizzard. Its commercials (see below) were more than just a Michael Bay trailer and the story aspects of the game were focused on creating interest without having to show giblets and death set to heavy metal music. Daikatana may have sucked more than Tonya Harding at the Olympics but at least it served a greater purpose in its failure.

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If You Build It, Kills Will Come.

I’ve been holding on to my Windows XP rig for about 4 years. It is still a fine machine with an Intel Core 2 Duo 2.8GHz (overclocked to 3.2GHz) processor, a GeForce GTS 250 video card and a XFX NVIDIA 750i SLI Motherboard but it was showing the signs of becoming elderly in online play and while running multiple programs while researching online. It will continue to be a fine machine for my girlfriend who will now be able to write her English papers in lighting speed and, when she plays, game on a rig far superior to her Deckard-Cain-ancient laptop. For me though, it was time for me to move on – to say goodbye to a great companion and allow her to benefit someone else. After shedding a few tears and deciding to use a piece of my severance pay, I started scouting out potential parts like Dr. Frankenstein and make an investment in to a rig that will outlive my last one.

I first perused my last couple of issues of PC Gamer magazine looking at the companies advertising their custom built PCs. Many spend a lot of time deciding on AMD or Intel and I will admit for my first self built rig, this was an intense debate in which AMD won out due to my budget at the time. After spending the last 4 years with an Intel processor I was hooked and admittedly, am now a brand loyal “Intel-lite”. With the processor brand in mind I took to the internet and to the custom built PCs company websites. I took a brief look at the current rigs Alien Ware were producing and then ended up on www.ibuypower.com were I built a couple of rigs within my budget and with all the goodies I required. Once I had an idea of my specs I passed on the info to a friend who did a similar build on Micro Center’s website. At this point I had the itch and only a new rig would be able to scratch it. So after determining on Wednesday that my friend and I would start the build on Saturday, I called him Thursday to start early.

At Micro Center, with parts and DirectX 11 graphics in my head, we went about bargain hunting without cutting quality and below are the final results:

Diabotek EVO ATX Mid Tower (w/4 x 12cm Fans & LED Lighting)

GeForce GTX 570 HD (1280MB GDDR5) Video Card

Intel Core i7-2600K 3.4/3.7GHz Processor

GIGABYTE Z68XP-UD3 Motherboard (SLI capable)

Patriot PC3-12800 1600MHz 8GB Kit (DDR3 Memory)

Seagate Barracuda 1TB 32MB CACHE 7200RPM Hard Drive

Antec 650 Watt ATX 12V V2.3 Power Supply

Sony 24x DVD RW AD-7260S

Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus Fan+Heatsink

Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit OS

Microsoft Office Home and Student 2010

Wyatt Kovich 2011 Edition (Friend with superior CPU building knowledge) – P.S. Thanks again.

Below is a summary of the build:

Mother fu... I mean board.

Motherboard (in tower) awaiting to be impregnated by processor.

Motherboard/processor sex is hot so you need to cool it.

A very hard drive (lower) and DVD RW disk spinner in place.

Motherboard tag team: GeForce GTX 570HD inserted to board.

Patriot PC3-12800 1600MHz 8GB Kit DDR3 Memory inserted into motherboard (right of cooler fan,background) and Wyatt Kovich 2011 Edition (foreground).

Final steps: installation of the Windows monopoly.

Running bright and ready for the online fight.

One of the most dreaded words in PC gaming…

One of the most dreaded words in PC gaming…PORT. Port, a reference to a game whose target platform and design basis were meant for the console and then ‘transported’ over to the PC. A game whose graphical, processing and control scheme were designed for the limited abilities of the console and then package into a version for play on the computer. Port, a game that does not fully take advantage of the graphical, processing and advance control abilities of even the average computer gaming rig.

The underlying and most hurtful reason this term is so frightening to a computer gamer is because some of the greatest franchises of computer gaming past have eventually become a CPU port rather than CPU focused. Franchises that were developed on the computer, played, moded and improved by the computer gaming community changed focus and dumb themselves down for the consoles.

A topical franchise that has gone through this transition is Bethesda’s (originally a CPU focused developer) The Elder Scrolls series. Prior to The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion this game series started and grew out of the computer gaming community. From its first iteration The Elder Scrolls: Arena, in 1994, up to The Elder Scrolls III: Bloodmoon and its expansions, The Elder Scrolls series was about freedom of choice and exploration. It was also about listening to the gaming community and incorporating mods into new games in the series, a virtual evolution. The focus on the computer gaming community changed with The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, when Bethesda focused on tapping into the console money pot and putting those who got it there (PC gamers) on the armored horses backside.

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If you were a PC gamer you could be on Bethesda's backside...with armor, for a cost.

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The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion had to dumb down its graphics and AI, lower the onscreen animations and later, gouge its players for extras that should have been included in its original release (see above). Needless to say it left a bitter taste in the CPU players’ mouths, like they had just eaten a mud crab they found by the lake – bland, brown and lifeless.

The newest game to this franchise is scheduled to release on a marketer’s day of delight, 11/11/11. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was looking pretty and hopes were high that Bethesda was looking to come back to its roots of the PC. The developer was even talking about improvements made that were moded into Oblivion (i.e. improved archery, improved NPC AI). Then there was E3, then there was Skyrim’s lead producer Craig Lafferty, then there was this interview…

http://www.pcgamer.com/2011/06/08/e3-2011-the-elder-scrolls-v-skyrim-interview-consoles-are-our-lead-skew/

Rich McCormick’s comments below the video on www.pcgamer.com makes some solid points that still gives me hope for a good game but perhaps doesn’t quite squash my port concerns.

“Skyrim’s still looking really good, and will take as long to finish as the PC RPG classics of yore. And, as Lafferty says in the interview, Bethesda are ‘still really big on the ‘go where you want’, play how you want from the very beginning’.”

Hopefully Bethesda hears our ‘Dragon Shouts’ and pays heed to its CPU roots while still tapping into the console’s dragon hoard.