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2:26 PM on 09.07.2010

PSA: ME2 Lair of the Shadow Broker broken for PC

Hey guys, might wanna hold off on downloading the latest Mass Effect 2 dlc for now. Upon trying to install the dlc, users are getting compatibility error messages on both 32 bit and 64 bit systems. The issue however has nothing to do with your computer. Some tech savvy people on the Bioware forums have looked at the 1.5 gig download with a hex editor and found that it is just full of zeros. I am sure Bioware will address the problem and upload a fixed file.   read

3:46 PM on 05.04.2009

Other Worlds Than These: MMORPGs and the Allure of the Dark Side

I live in fantasy--Not genre-esque Tolkien inspired narratives involving elves, but fantasy as in that ninety percent of the time, my mind is occupied by things not of this world. This is true more so now than ever since I've been blessed with having nothing to do for school other than to work on the novella that I am writing for my creative writing thesis. I make breakfast in the mornings, and then write until about three in the afternoon. After pretending to get some sort of physical exercise, I'll spend a good portion of the rest of the day reading science fiction or playing a variety of video games.

For a few years one of these varieties have been the MMORPG. My gateway drug was Star Wars Galaxies. I was in high school at the time and Charles, a friend in my English class had introduced me to the game. While the class discussed books like Jane Eyre and The Scarlet Letter I sat in the back of the class and listened to luring stories about my classmate's new Tie Fighter and how he was on the path to becoming a Dark Jedi. So what do you do in game? I would ask him. How many levels are there? Is it a shooter or an action game? He laughed at my questions,but after an initial bout of frustration in trying to explain the concept of the game to me, he said, You can do anything you want. You can be a Jedi or a Bounty Hunter. Hell, you can be a doctor or play in a Cantina band if you want to. My curiosity outweighed the fifteen dollars a month, even on my busboy salary.

I became addicted. Not since I discovered Counter Strike in the ninth grade had I regularly pulled all nighters to play a video game. I would stop at the gas station on the way home from work and double up on Full Throttles to make it through the night. I had been a fan of Star Wars since watching the original trilogy at end of my fifth grade year, and the ability to not just witness, but interact with the world that I had been enamored with was intoxicating. I started on Tatooine. After showing me the ropes a little bit, and giving me tips on how to go about questing, Charles gave me a speederbike and a fistful of credits to get me started.

I ran rampant on the desert planet, gradually becoming a master fencer and doing odd jobs for the Imperial outposts. I gave up public transport in favor of my own Tie Fighter, and my in my questing for the Imperials, I even met Vader himself. Gradually I became more integrated with the guild that Charles had introduced me to, and after one of the game's updates, we founded a city and shopping center that we called the Mos Eisley Mall. My house was littered with Jedi Crystals with old suits of armor hanging on the walls. We had doctors and a band on autopilot, as well as a few thriving businesses that we shared profits from.

The legendary combat upgrade came out igniting rage in the player base, and members of the guild began to drop like flies. Eventually the Mos Eisley Mall became a ghost town, and I left the game after the guild fell apart. According to emails from SOE in my inbox, the Empire has most likely destroyed our mall and city, grinding the buildings back into the sands from which they sprouted.

Since I left Star Wars Galaxies, I've weaseled my way into every MMO beta and tried handfuls of trials looking for that same spark of magic I first felt when I revved up my speeder bike on Tatooine. As I played through games like Guild Wars, and World of Warcraft in short bursts, little by little I began to understand the genre, and the mechanics upon which these games relied upon. Guild Wars was a good fix for awhile, but I felt constricted; the game was fun, but the lack of freedom killed its long term appeal for me. In WoW, I felt a bit of the old spark, but gradually stopped reading quest texts, and used in game add ons to streamline my leveling before joining in the gear race of raiding, burning out and repeating the process. Through my adventures in Age of Conan and Warhammer Online, I found myself constantly thinking of things like how the endgame would work and if the classes were balanced correctly. Everything boiled down to technical game play elements like hit points, gear stats, and skill trees. I was never quite immersed or invested in these worlds like I had been in Star Wars Galaxies.

My experiences had jaded me. With every MMO I try, my concerns for the artificial constructs that govern them grow, taking me farther away from what I am looking for in the genre. To this day, I still try beta's and trials, occasionally buying a title to give it an extended test drive, hoping one day that when I sit down to try a new title, that I will forget about how much mana I have or what the next piece of gear should be, and just enjoy the damn game.   read

4:15 PM on 04.24.2009

Logitech G35 Review

Logitech's G35 really sets a mark for PC gaming headsets. Other surround sound headsets that I have used have been large and uncomfortable after sustained use, however the G35 has an adjustable headband and comes with three different cushions for whatever shape head you may have. The cups are padded rather nicely and do a pretty decent job of blocking out ambient sound. The USB cord is sleeved and the whole thing really feels well crafted. Features like the microphone automuting when you put it in the upright position make you wonder why this hasn't been done with every headset on the market.

The software is simple and easy to use, however i found it somewhat limited. The only balance controls are for bass and treble, with no presets or anything like that for types of music. There is no control over the surround sound to balance your own levels or test it; the only thing you can do is turn the surround sound on and off using the manual switch on the back of the left cup. The customizable buttons are a great concept and comes with custom actions for programs like Itunes, Windows Media Player and Ventrilo, however it lacks Teamspeak support. The voice morphing is fun, but superfluous. For the price of this headset I would like a little bit more technical features and control over the sound. Note: the program uses 19MB of memory when you are using the headset, but on my laptop (Intel core 2 duo 2.2ghz, 2 gigs of ram) I haven't noticed a performance decrease.

The sound quality is superb for a USB headset. It doesn't sound as good as my Creative X-Fi sound card, but it definitely gets the job done. I haven't heard any distortions or crackling while gaming, and the directionality of the sound is very distinct and enhances gaming for sure. The low end is undistorted and you can actually feel explosions and things of the sort. The microphone records crisp and clear, and while the microphone is advertised as noise canceling, it occasionally picks up some background noise.

130$ is a lot for a headset, but these things deliver. I'd prefer some more control over the more technical aspects of the sound, but I am satisfied and have enjoyed using this device. If money isn't an object, go ahead and pick yourself up a pair.

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