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10:44 PM on 07.01.2008

Product Review: Rock Band Drum Set Silencer

“Air strike motherfucker!”

And with that enthusiastic cry, I was alerted to how thin the walls of my apartment
were. Long the domain of squeaky mattresses and slamming headboards, gaming has
taken its place among the various sounds you have to put up with. Gaming: oh how
you’ve grown.

As many of you have probably already realized, the drums in Rock Band can get pretty
loud when you’re wailing away at them. Luckily there’s a solution in the form of foam

In an effort to bring you dtoiders reviews for gaming accessories you find on eBay and
your local China Town, I decided to pick one up from eBay. Since I’ve picked these up,
there have been tons of other sellers offering everything from rubber to foam. They
even have Official Rock Band Drum Pad Silencers.

You start off by cleaning the pad with a wet paper towel to get all the dust or lint that
might have accumulated on the pads.

Once those were cleaned you just peal back the self-adhesive backing of the pad and
carefully apply the foam making sure it’s in the middle of the pad. The set I bought
came with four colored ones and 4 smaller black pads.

The sound is significantly reduced with these pads but not so much that you can’t hear
your own rhythm over the music and other instruments. Just how much lower is the
sound? Check out this sound file (WMA - 64KB). You’ll have to excuse the whirling noise
in the background (and my near laugh at the end). My roommate was using the Wii Fit.

With an additional layer of covering, the next thing you may ask is how much harder do
you have to hit the pad to register it with the game. Since I don’t play the drums much
I felt I had to hit a tad bit harder but after a few songs, I didn’t even notice it. Maybe I
was hitting them softer before because of the noise level. My roommate, who plays the
drums a lot more than I do noted that some of the hit weren’t registering especially the
green one but that could be due to body mechanics and seating level.

So should you spend the $16 some odd dollars? If you’re in an apartment or condo, I’d
definitely recommend them, as pissing off your neighbors probably isn’t the wisest
decision you could make. Also if you’re not the best players, your drumming won’t
throw off your teammates. The only thing that’s really keeping me from recommending
this is the fact that you have to hit harder although some of you out there probably
won’t have that problem.

So there you have it; my second hardware review! Next up, the 360 off-off-name brand
rechargeable battery pack. Man do I have something’s to say about that!   read

2:23 AM on 04.20.2008

Product Review: MayFlash XBOX 360/PC RGBHV VGA Switch

So the review for this came in a little late. I remembered I left my camera at a friend's house so I had to use one of my much older point and shoot digital cameras. Hopefully the picture quality isn't too low for you.

Also, ignore the the black stuff on the carpet. ^_^;

MayFlash XBOX 360/PC VGA Switch

Like many gamers, I use a computer monitor to hook up my gaming systems. The image quality is excellent (better than component IMO) and it reduces the number of devices I need on an already cramped desk.

When I first bought the VGA cable I thought swapping out the cable when I needed to use the computer wasn't going to be a big deal. But as time went on it became more of a chore to tilt the monitor forward, unscrew the connectors, and swap out the cable. Plus I came to the realization that my cheapo Target Black Friday monitor probably couldn't hold up to the constant swapping. So it was time to find a VGA switch.

But that task turned out to be a lot of work. Old VGA switches either didn't work or produced a ghosting image. Some worked well on CRT monitors but not on LCDs. Even the newer electronic switching has some issues and you can forget using some of the KVM switches. They require both "units" to be able to use a USB keyboard and they're on the expensive side.

Through my search one product kept coming up. A black box made by an unknown company. I gotta admit I was a little weary about spending any money on a potentially busted product even if it was only $15. Plus these Chinese products aren't really known for being completely honest with their product information. Hell, even their web site looks like an IGN knockoff.

So I ended up buying one off of eBay. For those of you who don't want to read through the rest of the review, I'll sum it up for you: It works. Surprisingly so.


As you can see it has everything to need to get started. It comes with a VGA cable and a head phone extension cable. Often these kinds of products give you the bare minimum and force you to head back out and pick up extra things which pisses me off to no end. MayFlash gets big bonus points for going the extra step and including all the stuff you need.

Connecting the Cables

Armed with at least a 3rd grade education you shouldn't have any problems hooking this thing up. Everything feels stable and secure and you don't have to worry about handling the unit with kid gloves. It's doesn't have the sturdiest feel or the weight but it also doesn't have that ultra cheap cancer causing plastic some other products have.

Ease of Use

There's really no way to screw this up. The switch is silky smooth so you shouldn't have to try very hard to move it. And at the size of slightly less than a 360 controller, you shouldn't have any trouble tucking it away somewhere nice and neat and within reach.

Image Quality

OMG! WTF Spoilers!!!

This is probably what you're waiting for. Does this $15 product perform as well as it advertises? Yes! I experienced no ghosting or lag and the image quality was just as good as plugging the 360/PC directly into the monitor. It handled the switch between 1440 x 900 and 1360 x 768 with no flickering or weird behavior.

So there we have it! My first product review for something you've probably come across but didn't know if it was worth buying. Feel free to post comments or questions. I'll try and get to them as soon as I can. But for right now, time for sleep...   read

5:40 PM on 04.19.2008

The Other Product Review

I love a good deal. So much so I'm willing to spend money on a knock off to save a few
bucks. Of course it isn't as easy as it sounds. Since a lot the gaming accessories you
might find on eBay don't show the real name of the product or the company name, it
makes searching for reviews difficult. That's where I come in.

It's been a dream of mine to start a website that reviews products from things you see
on informercials, the back of the magazine ads, or chinese sellers on eBay. Since that
probably won't be a reality anytime soon, I can at least concentrate solely on video
game accessories.

For example, I wanted to hook up my 360 and PC to the same monitor. Looking online
I found that some of the older manual switch boxes produced horrible images (ghosting,
etc...) The new ones were kind of on the expensive side and I didn't want to buy some
KVM switch that may or may not work. Then I stumbled upon this thing:

Designed specifically for the 360 and the PC, this black box allows you to connect with
the audio and video outputs of your PC and 360 to one monitor. At $15 I thought I'd
give it a try.

I'll put the review up later today but I was wonder what products you'd like me to
review. Did you find an shady online store or a cheap eBay knockoff and wanted to
know if it's worth buying?

Here are somethings I have in the pipeline:

- Generic rechargeable 360 battery packs
- Rock Band noise reduction drum pads (eBay Auction #290223892518)   read

4:13 PM on 03.26.2008

Rock Band: Drop the Mic, Exit Stage Left

I aint gonna lie. I suck at the drums and cant seem to get past Medium on the guitar. Mind you thats with hours of going through the practice mode. I just dont have the level of manual dexterity these games require. I mean, just look at my hands!

So for me the only viable option is the microphone. But this post isnt about me or my awesome vocal skills. Its about the amazing power of singing with heart and energy and how it helps dump that cup of muck we accumulate during the course of our lives.

Singing is more than just repeating words to a music track. Its a form of controlled yelling thats very cathartic. Studies also show that singing is also good for your physical well being. For example, a study done in Germany showed that people who sang in a choir had increased levels of cortisol and immunoglobulin A.

Unlike other healthy activities, singing is really fun. I guess you can add Rock Bank to that list of games that help you get healthy. Dont believe me? Check out this fine gentleman.   read

1:17 PM on 03.16.2008

Where Words go to die?

Gather around children as I turn into an old man right before your eyes and tell you
how things used to be when I was young(er).

Back in the late 80's and through a lot of the 90's gamers would receive a bulk of news
and reviews from gaming magazines. Hell, there was even a "GameFaqs" feature there
outlining various tricks or moves for a particular games.

So what does it tell us about the fate of video game magazines? Some would point to
the fact that a lot of the gaming magazines are owned by big publishing companies
which look at the gaming portion of their magazine division and its gradually decreasing
subscription numbers. With Ziff-Davis filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy and stating $76
million dollars in revenue last year (compared to $300 million in 2001), it would seem
the magazine industry in general is having a hard time turning a profit.

Gaming magazines were a big part of my life growing up. I remember coming home
from school and checking the mailbox everyday to see if any of my magazines had
come. I would hate to have that experience dissolve away not just for me but for other
gamers too; especially those younger gamers getting into gaming.

What then needs to be done to save gaming magazines? I wasn't born with a strategic
business mind or blessed with years of experience in business but I'm a gamer. A gamer
who is confident in his preferences and with a belief that my choices aren't that far from
other gamers' choices. With that warning out of the way, here's what I want in a
gaming magazine:

Have More Art Spreads

Recently, I've come to love gaming related books of art. It all started when I saw a
preview for UDON's Art of Capcom and decided to make my way up to PAX for the
Limited Edition hardcover. Since then I've been on the look out for these kind of things.
I know it would cost more to have it on quality paper but I'd definitely be willing to pay
more money for something like that.

More Gaming Industry Information

Even though my career path takes me elsewhere, I love to read about what it's really
like to work in a company that makes games. Everything from how artist create their
content to what meetings are like. A regular feature in a magazine would great.


We often talk about how politician are against video games but very few of us are active
in changing the situation. Maybe it's due to the fact that these politicians don't realized
that an overwhelming number of gamers are of voting age, alpha consumers, and well
educated. I would love to have a magazine like EGM conduct an interview with a
politician about video games asking them questions that we want them to answer.
There are so many outlet for politicians to bash video games on anti-video game turf, it
would be nice to have one where they have to face gamers.

Deep Guide on Competitive Games

I remember hearing about frame data for fighting games and realized that most sources
of gaming help never went into it this deep. Those few sites that did provide information
didn't have much explanation on what the content meant or how it could be helpful.
Also a lot of the advanced stuff was all in Japanese so that didn't help. I would like a
section that was dedicated to this kind of thing. With gaming tournaments being more
and more common, this kind of thing would be great for those who don't know much
about the intricacies of various competition games.

So what about you folks? What would you like to see in magazines?

Also: Happy Birthday Niero!   read

8:57 PM on 03.07.2008

Out of Sync

There's something going on in the gaming community this Friday that seems to have
everyone on edge. I've seen people get into arguments, making curt comments,
and CheapyD's unleashed some anger on this week's podcast. I'm just as guilty as
everyone else as those who've seen my recent comments can attest.

And the thing is, I don't think we mean it. The amount of time I've spent on with
community has shown me that everyone here displays a lot of community support. From
the weekly gaming sessions like Fridays Night Fights to Dtoid meet ups. We agree to
disagree and we move on from it.

Today's just weird I guess. Not "Jack Thompson defending Mass Effect" bizarro weird but
out from the norm.

So that's my brief cblog post with some advice. Hop on the FNF and say nice to another
player while they're blowing your head off.   read

7:08 PM on 03.03.2008

Game not selling? Pull an Avatar!

So I'm heading to school listening to Major Nelson's podcast when Major mentions one
of the many games he has to play through (Jumper - like the movie) and says that
while playing through the tutorial 50 gamer points gets unlocked. As he leaves the
controller to do something on Twitter, another 50 points is unlocked. He says that in
the span of 3-4 minutes, he unlocked between 150 and 200 points without really doing
much. This got me thinking.

What if you were a company that knew it was putting out a mediocre game? How could
you sell as many units as you could? The answers appears to be, at least on the 360, to
add easily obtained achievement points. This was apparently the case with Avatar: The
Burning Earth which did very poorly in terms of reviews yet sold a very decent amount
of games.

Imagine people buying a game for $50 and unlocking all the achievements within 30
minutes and selling the game back to a Gamecrazy or a Gamestop. You wouldn't have a
game, you'd have a Money for Points product. This would let game developers create
even more horrible games than the already released god-awful licensed products.
Instead of trying to actually make a decent game with that IP, you'll get products that
looks like it was developed by children in sweat shops.

This could also potentially screw up the whole Gamerscore idea. But how would you
regulate something like this? How can you tell if one achievement is real while the
other is just a gimme? For example, I rented The Simpson's game and it probably has
the easiest achievement ever:

I think this is a real achievement with a twist of Simpson's humor added in but
someone could always argue that it was the last achievement they added because they
needed more to hit 1000.

So what do you guys think? Is a trend starting with crappy ass 360 games?   read

2:02 PM on 03.02.2008

Self Improvement Center 01: Virtua Fighter 5 Online

I came into this kicking and screaming. There was something about the way the
characters would, or rather wouldnt, respond to my requests. Like a stubborn child my
character thought that it knew more than me and ultimately failed. I guess this is what
feeling old is like.

I grew up playing a lot of 2D fighting games and when the 3D ones came out I thought
the golden age of fighting games had arrived. But reality soon set in and I found myself
playing as if I had a fist full of thumbs. The characters wouldnt block when I wanted.
The moves were too slow. Too slow! To think, my addled mind was too fast for a
fighting game.

So I stopped playing them. Occasionally Id dip back into it maybe because I still had
some hope but in general, the 3D Fighting genre wasnt really all that great for me.
Time past and I felt like I hadnt really given the genre a fair and honest shake. So I
decided instead of just picking and playing the games, I would actually try to learn it. I
was already renewing my interest in fighting games, so I figured, What the hey. Why

Virtua Fighter 5 Online (X360)

I picked this game because I figure if I can get a handle on this game, all the other
shouldnt be much harder (easier if anything). My favorite character in the series has
always been Shun Di. Hes got style that can get so off the wall that it looks funs to play
and watch. A lot of people say thats a horrible choice to make when you start out but
Im in it for the long run so heres a good a place to start as any.

Let me run down what I know and some questions I have:

- Ive read the 5 STEPS to Memorize An Introduction to Virtua Fighters Game
System and understand Steps 1 & 2 but from 3 on it gets a little hazy.

- There are soo many moves! Im so used to having only a small handful of moves and
utilizing that. The command list for Shun Di, hell for any character, is overwhelming. If
you had to choose only 3 moves (High, Mid, Low), which would you pick?

- Why dont some moves come out? I have the game display my inputs and it shows
that Im pressing the right buttons but I get nothing.

- Whats the key to good blocking or defense in general? This is going to sound weird
but Prince of Persia Classic seems to help train my reactions.

So far Ive reached 5th Dan on Quest mode but those 6th Dan are really making me
think about how Im fighting. I can win about 1 match out of every 3 I play against

So, any hints, suggestions, or comments?   read

1:39 PM on 03.01.2008

Trigger Heart Excelica Mini Review (XBLA)

Let the weeping and gnashing of teeth commence!

There's a part of me that enjoys games like these. It's the same part that makes you
play Ninja Gaiden BLACK or Halo on Legendary mode. But with these kinds of shmups
we're talking about an entirely different level of digital sadomasochism. While those
other games let you continue without penalty or give you numerous save points, these
shmup's laugh at you with little bits of spittle hitting your face while wipe out your hard
earn score. Some of these are a bit gentler offering you unlimited continues but the fact
remains, you start at the back of the line!

I'm by no means a shmup expert and my exposure them have been mainly through
MAME and an arcade stick but I've come to truly appreciate the genre and the skill it
takes to be good at games like these. There was always something about the "bullet
hell" shmup's that drew me in more than the other ones. To me it was a stylized way to
look at flight combat and gave me the same chills when I watched 2D fighters go at it.

This brings us to Trigger Heart Exelica; one of the few shmups that have graced the
360. Originally released in the Japanese arcade market in 2006 and later ported over to
the Dreamcast (both having the most excellent NAOMI hardware) it never hit our
shores. In fact the game was made after the production of the Dreamcast stopped and
the last game was made (Puyo Pop Fever). Just goes to show you the kind of love the
Dreamcast gets.

Let's get on with the review shall we?

Like with most vertical shmups, a lot of screen real estate isnt used and the situation
becomes more apparent when you have a widescreen display. In order to remedy this
problem, Warashi included a special mode accessible through the options menu that
allows you to rotate the game either right or left to utilize that extra screen space.
Oddly, the menus themselves dont seem to rotate along with the setting. My advice is
to adjust the screen orientation setting last to avoid any unnecessary neck cramping.

Another issue with this option is the view angle on a lot of LCD displays. Mine in
particular made it hard to play because the angle wasnt that large. I had to keep my
head level with the plane of view otherwise the contrast would shift in and out which is
a lot more annoying that you think.

When you start the game asks you which character youd like to use. One has a wider
spread of fire while the other as a much narrower line of fire. I guess it comes down to
your preference. While the wider shot covers more ground, it seems to send out less
shots per angle than the linear based fire.

The difficulty level in this game varies depending on the settings and how well you do.
Playing through it on easy to hard wasnt that bad in the beginning levels but it begins
to ramp up on you if youre not careful. One thing I noticed on the easy setting was the
ability to shoot down certain types of enemy fire so those of you new to this genre
might want to start there.

The other system for increasing difficulty, as far as I can tell, is the collection of these
gold little objects that determine the level of the V.B.A.S. (Variable Boss Attack System).
Basically this attempts to put you in that sweet spot while playing. I guess the logic
behind it is that if you are able to collect a lot of gold objects then youre good enough
to fight harder boss battles. You can definitely see some influence from shmups like
Progear. Even the mechanism for sucking them into is the same.

Another game play aspect is the Anchor. You can fire it at various enemies with
different results. Hitting a boss or ground enemy will initiate something of a lock-on
system allowing you to concentrate your firepower on a single enemy (or any enemy
that get trapped in its wake). The most interesting situation is when you fire at flying
enemies. You have the option of either swinging them around and knocking into other
airborne crafts or using it as something of shield where you can get right up close to
them and knock them out of the sky.

So how does this game compare to something like Omega 5? To be honest I like this
game better and it has more to do with the controls and the orientation rather than the
content of the game. Ive always had a preference for vertical shooters and the control
on Omega 5 are somewhat off-putting to me. It has that Geometry Wars kind of control
that seems to be so popular these days. I like the classic 2-3 button set up from the old
days. Maybe I'm becoming like that old guys who keep talking about the golden age.   read

12:01 PM on 03.01.2008

Achievements: How I Learned to Finish What I Started

Looking back on my gaming youth I realize that I didn't finish many games. Out of all
the games that came my way, I maybe finished 2. Maybe it was due to the difficulty of
the game or just my lack of dedication to anything in my life but I would get midway
through and just stop preferring to catch reruns of Captain N The Game Master instead.

Even well into my teens I remember getting a gift certificate and buying up three
Dreamcast games and ended up not playing one of them until I let my friend borrow it.
It wasn't until I got my 360 where I started progressing through at a regular pace and
actually finishing games!

With the achievements, I can gauge how far I've progressed through a game.
For example, a game like Gears of War outlines how many Acts you have to complete to
finish the game. Sometimes I get the urge to pick up a new game and achievements
give me a sense of whether I'm just buying a game to have one or if I've actually put
the time and effort into completing a game. If I've netted a good amount of points then
I can walk into the store and confidently hand over my money knowing that I started a
task and finished it.

Another aspect that didn't hit me until recently was the fact that people can see your
progress through a game. Being a little kid with no one to really share my love of
gaming with probably contributed to my inability to finish any games. One of the things
I enjoy is going through my friends list and seeing how far people have gone in
a game or how "good" they are. Likewise, I want to share with people my progress
through a game. Grant, nobody but me will look at my record but it's nice to know that
it's out there.

So with that, check out the picture below. Maybe my score is a sign of things to come.
:D   read

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