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Posting From My Wii: The Cake Is A Big, Fat Lie

Today I had my first major "fuck you" experience with PC gaming. I've never been a big PC gamer; there wasn't even a relatively current PC in our house until Christmas 1999, and it was an eMachines box at that. Furthermore, I just purchased my first ever graphics card a couple weeks ago... and that is where our tale begins.

For $8 after a $20 mail-in rebate, I wasn't expecting much from the 128MB PCI (not PCI-E) GeForce MX 4000 (half of you just figured out where this is going, I'm sure), but $8 to have something besides Intel "Extreme" integrated graphics inside the family PC was a deal I couldn't pass up. And lo, a whole swath of gaming heretofore unknown by our humble box suddenly made itself known, as I reinstalled GTA III and turned everything up for a test drive. How I finished this game before, I have no idea. Unreal Tournament 2004 ran smoothly on decent settings where before it had chugged, to an unplayable degree on certain maps, when tuned all the way to the low end.

And the Half-Life 2 demo, which had stuttered on the opening cinematic before, now ran quite smoothly at a perfectly enjoyable level of detail. Woe is me, friends, for this single fact gave me an unwarranted sense of confidence in the newfound powers of the machine.

What had led me to download that demo in the first place was a little package called The Orange Box that had recently been made available. I was particularly interested in Portal, one game out of the five included. I hadn't followed the development beyond a vague awareness of the concept, but as Portalmania swept the Internet gaming communities like wildfire I knew I'd have to give it a try eventually, being a big fan of room-puzzle games and humorous games in general. Alas, there was no demo of this game, and so based on advice from a friend on another forum I downloaded the Half-Life 2 demo to see if our machine could handle Portal.

Let me caution anyone in a similar situation that this is not a Good Idea.

As I said, I was flush with confidence. So, with their ad proclaiming $35 for The Orange Box as part of the 2 day post-Thanksgiving sale, I walked into my nearby Circuit City yesterday afternoon and snagged the last copy on the shelf, to the "Aw, man!" dismay of one of the employees.

I open the box, register the game on Steam, install Portal, run it, and am greeted with an error message informing me that DirectX 8.0 is required to run Portal.

"What the fuck?" I gently declared. For you see, my friends, the aforementioned Unreal Tournament 2004 needs DirectX 9.0b in order to run. Therefore, I believe my surprise at this error message is quite understandable. A quick query of Google later, I find the cause my problem summed up in two little words:

"Pixel Shader."

"Fuck!" I bleated. Just two days previous I had downloaded Psychonauts from GameTap, and had gotten an error message regarding that very subject. "Your video card does not support Pixel Shader 1.0" and so on.

But... but... DirectX 8.0... I have DirectX 9... wha...?

A couple of suggestions from IRC friends didn't make any difference. Portal will not run on this card. And there was little in my experience to suggest that it wouldn't, not in the system requirements, not in the card's specs on the box; only that omen from my Psychonauts experience, which was outweighed by the more favorable experiences that I naturally chose to believe.

I suppose I could just sell th-- oh, wait, what was that? Oh yes, Steam registration means I can't sell the game, because I don't "own" a copy of The Orange Box at all, as far as Valve is concerned. Before I rant a bit, I want to be fair; I knew this already when I took the game to the register, and to Valve's credit they actually have a message on the box regarding Internet activation that includes the URL of the license agreement, a courtesy many software vendors would do well to provide.

But I was expecting to be able to run Portal when I was at that register. And when shit like this happens I'm ready to tell anyone heralding downloadable distribution as the wave of the future to fuck off and die. I'm not accustomed to giving up rights of transferrance, doubly so now that I have been screwed over firsthand. That's another rant, but before I stop I want to say that I hope everyone at Valve bought all of their college textbooks brand new, and never purchase used games, CDs, or DVDs. (And yes, I am aware of the other issues surrounding this matter, before you comment telling me why I'm wrong; save it for when/if I devote a more in-depth post to this subject specifically, or face my fist shaking at you with Internet anger. For now, back to PC gaming sucking ass.)

Right, where was I? Ah yes: PC gaming is a fucking minefield and eventually everyone loses a leg. I'll play Portal and the rest of the games eventually when I can afford to upgrade. In the meantime, I've still got to beat Elite Beat Agents and Pikmin 2.

Moral: Make sure your card supports pixel shaders, and always wait for a demo if you're unsure about a game.

Alternate Moral: Go get a Nintendo DS, it'll even play fucking Japanese games without a driver update! Just press POWER!
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About A New Challengerone of us since 3:56 PM on 04.15.2007

You may have seen me commenting on things. I'm a nerdy dude in my mid 20s. Shocking!

My Articles:
The 3rd Party Memory Card- In which I rip off Chad the C and expound upon my favorite moments in games.

It's A Secret To Everybody- In which I highlight and babble on about various Easter Eggs, cheats, and so on.


I own:
Game Boy
Game Boy Color
Game Boy Player
Nintendo DS

I like:
Fighting games, scrolling shooters, puzzle, platformer, racing games, adventure.... actually, a little bit of everything, including an occasional sports game. Also, pinball. Pinball rules.