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Civilization – The Siege of Madrid May 28, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Hardware, Other PC Games, Strategy Group.
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6 comments

We setup our game for the usual time.  Loghound, who had faced a trying week, was uncertain if and when he might be able to get on with us, but since the AI will keep the game going in the absence of individuals, we kicked off at our usual time.

Potshot, Mattman, and I were all online and in the Google hangout.  Potshot started up the game and sent invites out for us to join.  I hopped right in the game and clicked the “ready” check box.  An odd aside, the ready control never works the first time I click it.  It selects and unselects on the first click, but then works correctly thereafter.  No idea why.  But while I was doing that, Mattman was having some issues.

He was trying out Civ V on a laptop… an older pre-Lenovo logo, IBM ThinkPad laptop… in hopes of being able to join in on games while he is traveling for the next couple of sessions.

I remember my old ThinkPad T42 quite fondly.  It was one of the nicer laptops I have been issued over the years.  I miss having a 4:3 aspect ratio screen, as I tend to work on things that lend themselves well to lots of vertical space, but do not benefit much from a wider screen. But considering the IBM logo disappeared from the ThinkPad line at some point in 2007, and that Civilization games are traditionally tough on the generation of processors current when they ship (Civ V can bring my quad-core i7 to its knees when it feels like it), this seemed like it might be an exercise in the purest form of optimism.

While Mattman struggled to get Civ V loaded, Potshot and I started off the nights game, picking up at turn 301.

I started off the evening with one simple goal.  I was going to break my isolation and come into contact with all of the other civs in the game.  That would open up trade and diplomatic possibilities as well as filling out the “unmet player” spots on the scoreboard.  There were still six civs with whom I had yet to come into contact according to the scoreboard at the end of last week’s round.

r2wk3turn300score

My hope was, with research leading to the compass, which would give me the caravel unit, the first ship that doesn’t need to stick to a coast line, that I would be able to sail out and find everybody else.  Scouts were not working out, as I had them mostly deployed to keep the barbarians at bay.  And the few I let go explore inevitably ran into more barbarians.

More after the cut.

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Small Items for a Cold Friday in March March 28, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, EverQuest Next, Hardware, Torchlight II.
Tags: , , , ,
4 comments

It is even a bit chilly here in Silicon Valley.  I put on a jacket last night.  And there has been some rain this week, breaking up the run of warm and sunny days we have been experiencing of late.  Not enough to end the drought, but enough to keep the lawn watered.

It is Friday and I have a bunch of little, half-started posts and other tidbits that I am going to roll up into a single entry.

It Is Just Landmark

SOE, in a good move, decided that their Minecraft-like building game, with a promise of things like science fiction areas, wasn’t Norrathian enough to be considered an EverQuest title.  So it is now just Landmark.

LandmarkChange

This is not only how I have been referring to the game for a while now, but something that was part of my 2014 predictions.  Go me.

Now SOE just has to do something about the whole EverQuest Next name, something I brought up in another Friday post.  That is a cute name for development, but not so good as a shipping title.  Unless it is also going to be EverQuest Last, the name could become an albatross around their neck at some point.  Fortunately, we now have precedent for a name change.

Thank you Landmark! 

The Gamification of Texting

A friend sent this link to the Android version a keyboard addon for mobile devices.  As you master the Fleksy keyboard and its various functions and features, you will earn achievements!

Apple product owners may get a chance to join in as well,  as Fleksy is updating the iOS version for achievements as well.  To use the Fleksy keyboard, your app must be “Fleksy enabled.”

How Old is Your Hardware?

Pasduil wants to know.  He’s taking a survey.  You can find it here.

Bully Bullied by Bullies?

Erotica 1, the pilot behind the EVE Online controversy du jour, the Bonus Round recording (I could not recommend that you follow that link), has chosen to withdraw his name from the Council of Stellar Management elections scheduled for next month.  In his statement, after opening with a paragraph that included the line, “Some people just can’t be reasonable…”, he complained about Goons and “white knight carebear moral highground people” and threats to his physical safety (but no reference to this), then said he was withdrawing because his passport had expired.

This is where we all shout, “Didn’t want that seat on the CSM anyway!”

That CSM Election

It is coming up.  Should you care.

Candy Crush IPO

King, maker of the game everbody loves to hate, Candy Crush Saga, and one-time trademark troll, went public this week.  According to some, the IPO failed.  It failed because the opening price… the price King got for its shares… was $22.50, but afterwards the price dropped down to around $19.

In a way, this seems like a perfectly fitting IPO for the company.  King got the maximum value they could for their stock, filling company coffers, the founders and early investors who were in for a tiny fraction the IPO price still got their big cash-out opportunity, and the people and institutions who jumped on the stock at the IPO price got told they could sell now if they wanted to buy a $3 per share unlock or they could wait until whenever the price went up again.

A Farewell to Runic Games?

I was already wondering what was going to become of Runic Games.  We haven’t heard much from them, except about what they are not going to do.  They are not going to make a Torchlight MMO.  They are not going to work on anything new for Torchlight II.  They are not going to have a Mac OS version of Torchlight II.

So when two key founders leave to form a new studio, one might not seem rash wondering aloud if Runic Games is not going to be shipping anything else ever again.

Did burnout from Torchlight II kill the company, or was it Perfect World Entertainment buying in that did it?

Obligatory Shock About Oculus Rift Post March 26, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Hardware.
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11 comments

So yeah, yesterday after the markets closed, Facebook announced they were going to buy Oculus VR for $2 billion. Oculus VR is the company currently working on the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset.

And then a corner of the internet exploded.  I figured I ought to mark that moment in time so we can come back and revisit it later.

Sudden, and potentially rash statements were made.

A general revulsion with all things Facebook was expressed by some.

Basically, all the dislike of Facebook… and there is much to dislike about Facebook and it methods and its founder’s outlook… bubbled forth.  Answer this question: If Mark Zuckerberg asked you to strap this to your face…

Into the Rift

Into the Rift

…which movie would come to mind?  Aliens?  Clockwork Orange?  Lawnmower Man?

Would you envision fun things happening or bad things?  Or just boring things?

So we are currently in the shock phase of this announcement, which is making the whole “Disney buys Star Wars“thing look pretty tame, at least in our little corner of the internet.  After all, for a lot of people the Star Wars series was already ruined by episodes I-III, so what else could Disney do?  But a lot of people were pining some pretty big hopes on Oculus Rift being a step into the future of gaming.

And now Facebook has it.  Are we going to get Candy Crush Saga VR?  FarmVille 3D?  Are we going to get any sort of VR gaming experience at all out of this?  Zuckerberg isn’t exactly big on video games.  His past actions have been about extracting money from those games that choose to live in his domain.

Ars Technica already has a column up about what Facebook might do, which includes a lot of promises about what won’t happen… from the guy who no longer controls the company… so the brightest bit in that seems be the fact that Facebook bought Instagram and hasn’t destroyed it yet.  Maybe Zuckerberg will just leave them alone.

Then there is the Kickstarter aspect of the whole thing.  Oculus VR raised $2.4 million of its funding via a Kickstarter campaign… just before Disney bought Star Wars, to bring that back around.  People who gave money at that point forked it over for very specific reasons.  This was the way it was pitched:

…the first truly immersive virtual reality headset for video games.

For video games.  That is what they said.  Will they keep saying that a few months after the acquisition?  And will it matter if more developers step away because of Facebook?

While Oculus VR likely has no legal/financial obligation to do anything but send out the promised T-Shirts and early units that people were entitled to for their pledges, do they have any sort of moral obligation after taking Facebook’s money when it seems likely that the vision sold will not end up being the vision pursued?

And, finally, there is the “Why sell to Facebook?” question.  Why would Oculus VR sell to a company that has so little interest in video games and so much invested in collecting and selling our data?  Were things just up for the highest bidder?  Were there too many strings attached to other offers? Did current investors force the move to cash out?

Because there had to be other offers.

Anyway, among other things, this puts the whole “CCP moving closer to Sony” thing in a new light.  Was the word already out that Oculus Rift might be moving away from video games?  Was CCP hedging its bets?  Is Sony’s Project Morpheus the new leader in that arena?

The Sony project was interesting when Oculus Rift was there as well, but alone it seems destined to become yet another proprietary piece of Sony hardware.  Sony VR will require you to purchase a PlayStation 4.  And that may keep Oculus Rift in play even with Facebook looming large over it.

As the dust settles after the big shock, people are starting to muse about what this really means.  I suspect we will be doing that for a while.

Of course, every such announcement has its bright side.

And then there is the humor aspect.

We shall see how this all develops.  If nothing else, I have a tickler now to check back on this in a year.

Hardware Updates – Headphones, Video Cards, and Connectivity October 10, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Hardware.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
11 comments

A while back I wrote a post looking for recommendations for several real world things.

I haven’t gone with a new video editing package as yet, but I haven’t had the yen to do much in the way of new videos recently in any case.

I did, however, make headway with the other items on the list.  So it is review time I suppose.

This is a long block of text and not very gaming related, so I am going to put it behind a cut.

If you are not interested in a discussion of my experiences with headsets, video cards, and internet connectivity options, you are excused from going further.

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Items from the Mail Bag – In the Material World June 26, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Hardware, lego, Mail Bag.
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7 comments

Another visit to the mail bag, which for some reason features a lot of actual things.  It also shows that press releases will go out to just about anybody these days.

A Love Letter to DOOM

I am always a fan of people who tackle gaming topics in actual printed book form.  Being over a certain age, getting somebody to publish that sort of thing lends legitimacy to the whole genre, even if it isn’t likely to make any best seller’s list.  So I was interested to see a press release for DOOM: SCARYDARKFAST.

DOOM: SCARYDARKFAST

DOOM: SCARYDARKFAST

According to the press release, this 200 page book covers the creation of DOOM, how it impacted the industry, pushed online multiplayer and modding, and spawned many imitators.  The book jacket quote:

This book is a love letter to DOOM and its various creators, written by a highly educated and devoted scholar and player. The book offers a well-grounded sense of the game and does an excellent job working its way through a range of topics: from the software company to the graphics engine to the story to the sound to the final game.”
—Katherine Whitlock, California State University-Chico

Never having actually played DOOM (I was working on Mac OS at the time, so Bungie’s Marathon kicks off first person shooters for me) and not being a particularly dedicated shooter fan, some of this will no doubt be lost on me, but it is nice to see it getting recorded somewhere.

D-Link Router for Gamers

D-Link sent me a press release for their new router for gamers.

Available in August

Available in August

This one interests me because we have to share a rather small pipe to the internet at our house and the tools available for apportioning out bandwidth seem to be to be rather primitive.  Looking at the we page for the router, it looks like they are headed in the right direction.  And, frankly, things like Quality of Service shouldn’t be rocket science at this point.  I am not going to run out and pre-order one, but I will look for reviews to see if it actually works as described.

FitDesk for the Happy Family

FitDesk is a company that sells equipment that allows you to use your electronics while you exercise.  A noble calling, or at least one with some merit.  I recall a story from a few of years back about a guy who bolted his laptop to a treadmill and spent all his World of Warcraft time walking.  He lost weight and got into shape while raiding.  So I have nothing snarky to say about the idea really, except that the picture they attached to the press release they sent me is a bit… odd.

Happy, happy family!

Just like no family ever

The thought process that lead to this would be interesting to map.  Put dad in the chair.  Have him smiling, happy that his son is getting exercise. Hand him a laptop to show he is tech savvy.  Give him a smiling trophy wife about his son’s age.  Have those two gaze fondly at the son while he plays his game completely undisturbed by this attention.  And no sweating!  We don’t need to remind people that exercise makes they moist and smelly.

Life in the world of advertisements.

LEGO Middle-earth Rolls On

And the people at LEGO continue to send me pictures of their latest and greatest stuff, like this Tower of Orthanc set.

LEGO Saruman

LEGO Saruman

Unfortunately, the age of LEGO seems to be pretty much over at our house.  My daughter is in the pre-teen stage and becomes quickly bored when forced to do things like assembling LEGO kits with dad.  Time marches on.  Now we’re worried about paying for college.

PlayStation 4 Wins June 11, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Hardware.
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13 comments

Today at E3 it was dueling presentations between Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s PlayStation 4.

Microsoft went first.  I think this sums it up.

It is hard to come to a conclusion besides “Total Victory for Sony” at E3.

The PlayStation 4 will:

  • have a base price of $399, $100 less than the Xbone
  • support used/traded/rented games
  • not require an internet connection to play
  • not have that creepy always on Kinnect watching your every move

I am not in the market for a next generation console, but if I were I know which way I would be leaning.

Still, it is only June and the PlayStation 4 isn’t due out until the holiday season.  There is still time for Sony to follow its tradition of screwing something up with each console launch.

Meanwhile, I thought I heard somebody mention something called a “we-you” or some such.  It was hard to tell with Shigeru Miyamoto sobbing in the corner.

Xbox One – What’s in a Name? May 23, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Hardware.
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6 comments

When it comes to the recently announced Xbox One, I am not the target audience, having no desire to get another gaming console.  That is all going to pass me by.  Gaming middle age and such.

But I have to admit, when it comes to naming,  I’m with that clerk.  Shouldn’t “one” be the first in line?  Isn’t that what we could reasonably call the original Xbox?

I get the all-in-one entertainment center symbolism and such, having paid at least a little attention to the announcement.  But still, you know some parent somewhere is going to disappoint their child by coming home with an original Xbox they got off Craig’s List for “really cheap.”

Sony will never has this problem with the PlayStation 4.

Sega Genesis Jams – 1992 April 26, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Hardware.
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4 comments

Dammit, I meant to pick Mullen, not Hardaway!

-Heard in the test lab, circa 1994

After last week, I figured it was time to fill in the gap in my posts about consoles I have owned.

Is It The Shoes?

I started off in video game arcades and such, with Pong and Tank, Space Wars, and the great invasion from outer space.

Then there was the Atari 2600, which brought video games home one Christmas many years ago and probably saved me a mountain of quarters.

And then, in 1983, after much longing, I made the jump to gaming on the personal computer.

While there are no hard lines between these events… I did not throw my Atari 2600 away the day the Apple ][+ showed up, and I still went to arcades with my friends well into the mid 80s… these were points of transition.  My main focus moved from one to another.  And by the time I was playing online games like Stellar Emperor or Stellar Warrior in 1986, arcades were a thing of the past and I had given away my Atari 2600.

The depth and complexity of games on a personal computer surpassed what was possible in the previous two mediums and I paid little attention to them.

From Downtown!

Time moved on, as it insists on doing.  There was college and a job and then another job and then a layoff and a job in a computer store where the employee discount caused be to spend more than I actually earned, and then finally the job which, when viewed from more than 20 years down the line, begins a haphazard chain of events events, populated by unlikely set of interconnected characters, that somehow looks like a career when I put it on a resume.

And I don’t even have to fudge things, except to make them all fit on two pages in a typeface readable without a magnifying glass.

It is like I MEANT to do all that… like I sat down and planned it out in advance.

But back to 1992.

At this new company I was immediately involved with a project that ended up quite successfully, made the company a bunch of money, and put us in a new market.  As a reward, everybody in engineering involved with the project was given a card.  Each card had either an “N” or a “G” on it.  The letter was an indication of what present you would be given at the company Holiday party.  (My temptation was to title this post “Christmas 1992,” but I relented.  Unlike the other two posts, the bulk of this happens after Christmas.)

Our boss, one of the key founders and an insanely dynamic and inspirational character, thought it would be great fun to keep things a mystery and taunt us with possible meanings for the two letters in the build up to the party.

Eventually it was the night of the party.  There was a big pile of wrapped boxes.  Each box had either an “N” or a “G” on it.  And, after dragging out the announcement as long as possible, our boss finally handed out the first two boxes, one of each letter.

Those who had an “N” got a Super Nintendo.  Those with a “G” got a Sega Genesis.

I had a card with a “G” on it, and I was disappointed.

I had, at that point, never really heard of Sega.  Nintendo was at least a name I recognized.

SNESlogo

I offered up mine in trade for a Nintendo, but there were no takers, which just confirmed my theory that I had gotten the lesser of two choices.

I was totally unaware of the console wars that were raging, where Nintendo was the 800 lb. gorilla and Sega was the plucky upstart.

Puts Up A Brick!

I took the unit home and set it up.  It came with Sonic the Hedgehog which was a bright and colorful game.  It was a huge way forward from my Atari 2600 days.  But Sonic was not really my style.    I pressed on with it for a while, but never really got engaged.

Sonic gives the finger

Sonic gives the finger

I purchased a few other games for the system, but of them I can only recall Desert Strike and F-15 Strike Eagle II.  And even those two are only hazy memories.  Sonic is more vivid in my mind, though that might be because I bought the Virtual Console version for our Wii. (And it turns out I had only gotten worse at.)

The Sega Genesis languished in the family room while I went back to my computer.  The games looked good and played well.  But I had Civilization to play obsessively.  What did I need with shiny by shallow arcade games?

Can’t Buy A Bucket!

Meanwhile at work we kicked off a big project for an iconic fruit flavored computer maker just up the road.  Our boss had used his contacts to crash a party and get us in on their upcoming laptops, one ultra-light and one ultra-cool.  Basically, he talked us up while denigrating the internal team in Paris that was slated to do the project for the company.  The icing on the cake was claiming we had a working prototype for the required device.

In the end, this all worked out and became one of the most lucrative projects ever for the company.

In the short term it was a scramble, starting with making a prototype.  There were actually two deliverable, one critical and one slightly less critical.  We worked all summer and delivered the first one on time, but we had an issue with the second.

In November, when we looked to be within striking distance of finishing the second phase, I declared I would not shave or get a haircut until we shipped.  We were in serious crunch mode, with long days and weekends being the norm.  We just needed to power through and finish.

Is It The Shoes?

To cut to the punch line, I shaved off my very thick beard the following May.

In the mean time, a group of us were at the office pretty much all waking hours.  However, it wasn’t like there was always something to do.  We would run tests trying to capture this one catastrophic failure scenario that would not allow us to ship.  We would find one way to make it happen, then it would stop happening.  Then another way would be found.  And when it would happen, we would have to analyze what was happening on the machine, which was difficult as the “catastrophic” end of things really meant that the power manager would shut the system down.  So there was a laptop hooked to a logic analyzer where, once we had a scenario, we had to repeat it.  And it wouldn’t happen.  Or it would happen, but the logic analyzer would fail to capture it, having reset itself to another mode or some such.  How I hated that damn thing.

So there was a lot of waiting involved.  At one point one of the devs said we needed a video game or something.  I mention the Sega and knew that my girlfriend at the time had a 13″ TV sitting around doing nothing.  I said I would bring them in.

He’s Heating Up!

I brought in the Sega and TV.  We found a spot on one of the racks in the back of the lab where the TV fit in.  The Sega sat on the rack below.

I only had the RF connector that came with it.  Somebody noticed that the TV had an S-video port on the back and brought in a cable for it, at which point the video quality took a huge leap.

While I had two controllers, the games I had were all single player focused.  Sonic would allow two players, but you had to take turns.  But there wasn’t much interest in that.  The Sega sat there and got occasional use, though it mostly just went through the Sonic demo mode.

And then somebody brought in the game.

Boomshakalaka!

At this point in time, I cannot even remember who brought it in.  But one day we had NBA Jam in the lab.

And everything changed.

That game was the savior of our sanity.  We were there, in the office, in the lab, every single day from January 2 through to the end of May in what became the never-ending crunch time.  In at 9am, break for dinner at 6pm, back at work at 8pm, home at mightnight.  Sleep and repeat.

And whenever possible, play NBA Jam.

I am not a basketball fan and rarely indulge in sports based video games.  But there was something very special about NBA Jam.  It was an funny, engaging, over-the-top game.

He's on fire

He’s on fire

The graphics were very good for the time and the controls were simple, leading to that “minutes to learn, ages to master” magic that keeps people engaged.

We all ended up with specific “claimed” players.  Mine was the Warriors player Chris Mullen whose in-game version could hit a 3-pointer from the sideline with incredible regularity.  I had to fight to keep hold of him.  And was I ever pained when, in a hurry or just blurry from the long days, I accidentally ended up with Tim Hardaway instead.  I have no idea how he played in real life, but he was the suck in the game.

We became very good.  And very competitive.

We played no other game on the system.  It was NBA Jam all the time.

And the catch phrases from the game, done in a very Marv Albert voice, became the catch phrases for the project.  The key ones are in bold in this post.  We would shout them out all the time.

There is a picture of the team at the end of the project.

Most of the team

Most of the team

We look tired but happy.  I am down front with the long hair and a thick beard.  We have beers in our hands and the device itself, problem solved after all those months, front and center.  One of the special, durable Sega Genesis controllers somebody bought… we had worn out the originals… and the NBA Jam cartridge appear as well, having been deemed vital to the project.

He’s On Fire!

And then we went outside, looked around at the mid-day light, and wandered home to see what was left of our personal lives.

My girlfriend had been asking pointedly about when I was going to be done with her TV.  When I asked why she needed it, I was told that wasn’t the point.

The point was that she had checked out of the relationship and was seeing somebody else (which given my almost continuous absence for all those months was pretty reasonable) and was collecting things up before announcing it.  I gave her back the TV and we went our separate ways.  Somehow I ended up with her cat.

Meanwhile, nobody had a spare TV to replace the one now missing in the lab.  We stopped playing the game.

We stopped doing almost anything.

We were slated to work on a new project almost immediately.  However everybody was so burned out that project status meetings all summer were basically announcements of no progress.  The lead developer took a weeks vacation after the project and didn’t show back up in the office for almost two months.  He would call in every Monday and apologize, saying he just couldn’t come to work.

This is what happens when the idea of crunch time is abused.  You pay for it later.  I have carried that lesson with me ever since and have fought back against every project manager notion around “couldn’t we bring in the ship date if we assumed people were working Saturday?”  Weekends are often the only slack time you have to make up slips, so if you schedule them, you lose that buffer.  I have also categorically refused to let myself or my team ever work seven days a week again.

Back at the office, work was shuffled around.  Despite our dazed lethargy, sales went so well that we were able to hire new people, so we brought in some new faces to actually get some work done that summer.

Then we moved buildings.  A lot of the team moved on to other jobs.  I hung around for a while.  Those who remained were eventually all as productive as before.  I sold the Genesis to a co-worker, having gone back to PC games.  One of the new kids would bring in his new Sega Saturn so we could play Virtua Fighter on the overhead in the cafeteria.  That was pretty cool.  But I didn’t want to actually own one.  And since the move included a network upgrade so that we had Ethernet in all the cubes (a serious upgrade from all those PhoneNet connectors strewn about the old place), we moved on to playing Marathon and Bolo at the office.

And thus ended my second video game console era.  It was short, but it left an impression.  For years afterwards if I ran into anybody on the project team, saying something like, “Is it the shoes?” in that right tone of voice would bring up laughs and memories of those days.

Our Wii Lingers, Waiting for Retirement April 18, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Hardware, Nintendo, Wii.
3 comments

Our Wii was unboxed six years ago this week.

Wii in the Box

Wii in the Box

It was at the height of the Wii’s popularity.  People were talking about it.  Wii remotes were breaking TV screens.  It was fair game for humor.  It spawned hilarious peripherals.  It was practically a meme on its own.

The previous Christmas season you could not find one for love or money… well, unless you wanted to spend a LOT of money on eBay… while competing consoles were sitting on the shelves, primarily due to their high price tags.  My wife was able to score one in the post-holiday season, but it had to stay under wraps for a couple months because we were moving.

But once it was out of the box, it was a hit in our house.  My daughter and I played a lot of Wii Sports and Mario Party 8 and LEGO Star Wars, various flavors of Mario Kart (though never Mario Kart Wii), and old classics from the Wii Virtual Console.  Miis were created in imitation of friends and family.

It was a time of excitement, as the Wii represented something new.

It was also perfect timing in our lives.  My daughter was just five years old when the Wii showed up, which was just about the perfect age for the games we were playing.

It became a Saturday morning tradition.  My daughter would wake me up early… before 7am early… and we would get up, jump in the giant Love Sac not-a-bean-bag-chair in the family room ( I really miss that thing… one of our cats was constantly peeing on it, so it had to go), and play games for hours.

Later, the Nintendo DS and Pokemon took over our Saturday morning focus, though the Wii still found ways to stay a part of the picture.  There was Pokemon Battle Revolution, which was deeply integrated with Pokemon Diamond and Pearl (but not any of the subsequent Pokemon titles) and Pokemon Ranch, which let you store and track your Pokemon collection.

Time went on.  Pokemon began to fade.  My daughter got a Nintendo DSi XL, which could download demo software on its own, without having to connect to the Wii, a restriction we faced with the DS Lite units.

But there were still things to do.  Rock Band was a big hit.  We actually had adults coming over to play.

But things were starting to sour a bit.  There was that horrible Wii Music, which actually prompted my wife to suggest Rock Band.  The unit itself started making noise.

And my daughter started playing Wii games that I did not like, such as Super Smash Bros. Brawl, or at which I simply sucked, like Super Mario Bros. Wii.  But her friends liked those games and played them with her instead.

At that point I was pretty much done with the Wii aside from Netflix streaming service, which at the time was free for any Netflix subscriber.

Time passed, the old TV died and we got a new, high def TV.  That, in turn, prompted me to get a PlayStation 3, as the Wii does not support anything beyond 480p.  We could now stream Netflix in HD and watch movies in Blu-Ray.  The Wii started to get used less and less.

Then Little Big Planet showed up on the PlayStation 3.  That became pretty much the only console game getting played.

My daughter’s interests are better served with by her iMac.  She has PhotoShop Elements and a Wacom tablet hooked up for art.  She has Minecraft.  WoW doesn’t thrill her any more, though maybe if Runic could get to work on Torchlight II for the Mac as they promised, that might be of some interest.  I already bought her a copy.

But my daughter, now very much a pre-teen, is not so interested in the Wii, or even the PlayStation 3.  It is all about her phone, her Nook Color, and her iMac.

And I am a PC gamer from way back, so console games, which always feel limited to me, have little pull.

I think the Wii went from Christmas to Easter without getting used once.  At Easter we had friends over, and their kids have a Wii, and Super Mario Bros. Wii is still on the list for them, so we broke that out.  Our Wii got played with a little bit.  But it will likely make it from Easter to Thanksgiving without much of a workout in between.

Its days are numbered.  Even Nintendo is beginning to shut down services on the Wii as they try to push people towards the Wii U.  We have no interest in the Wii U around our house, which seems to be a common theme.

Wii U in white

Wii U – Not for us

It is probably just the small size of the unit in the entertainment console that is keeping it around.  And the fact that the Wii Fit balance board fits under the whole setup.

At some point it, the controllers, and its games are going to get boxed up and stored away, waiting for somebody to get a pang of nostalgia.

The Wii was a fine console for our family, and showed up at just the right time.

Wii Sports was great, Mario Party 8 and its mini games were lots of fun, and all the LEGO games were great until they started doing split screen, which gave me a headache.

But that time seems to have mostly passed at this point.

I have said in the past that I get a game console every 15 years.  There was an Atari 2600 in 1977.  A Sega Genesis in 1992.  And then the Wii in 2007.  The PlayStation 3 doesn’t really count as it only gets used for Blu-Ray, streaming video, and, since I set up the NAS service with a hard drive on our router, a bit of music streaming now and again.

So I guess the next stop is in 2022.  What will we have then?

Looking for Recommendations on Real World Things March 1, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, General, Hardware.
Tags: , , , , , ,
31 comments

I am going to lump together a few things I have been looking for into a single post to see who recommends what in the hope that it might help break a log jam or two.  Normally I save these sorts of “not quite gaming related” posts for the weekend, but I figured I would try to catch some of you bored at work on a Friday.

USB Headset Replacement

I have a five year old Plantronics .Audio 510 USB headset that performs very well.  The sound is good and the mic boosts my very quiet voice so that people can actually hear it.  And it kills background noise very well.  Using it was a requirement when appearing on podcasts, back when I was getting invited to appear on podcasts.

And as a unit, it remains simplicity itself.  One USB plug and you’re done.

For the visually oriented

For the visually oriented

The only problem with the whole thing is that they are a bit too small for my head in just about every dimension.  I can wear them for an hour at a stretch no problem, but after that they start to annoy, irritate, and eventually hurt at about the three hour mark.

I replaced the Plantronics set with a Turtle Beach Ear Force X11 set a while back.  The new set was very comfortable, I could wear it for hours on end.  The mic was decent and sound was okay, even if connections were a bit more complex.  It isn’t just a simple USB plug.

X11 Exposed

X11 Exposed

So I started using that at home while I brought the old set to work where having the USB powered mic helps with speech app work I do and lets people actually hear me on conference calls.

The problem is that the X11 has not proven to be a very durable unit, and less than two years down the road, the headset was coming apart, the mic was crackling (much to the annoyance of the rest of the instance group), and the volume adjust/mute fob on the cable was clearly on its last legs, feeling loose and likely to break at any moment when I used it.

So the X11 set had to go.

As a stop gap, I now drag the Plantronics set back and forth with me to work.  But I would really like to get a headset that works as well and is as durable as the Plantronics.  I would buy another one of the same model, except that they don’t make it any more (I am not buying used) and all of the new Plantronics models are different enough that I won’t buy them sight unseen.  And, of course, there is no place I can go to try them on.  I am not one of those people who can rip open sealed boxes at stores just to see if something fits, and my wife won’t return things to Fry’s for me.

So, I am looking for, high quality, durable, USB powered, headset with noise cancelling mic.  Comfortable for fat-heads like me would be a bonus.

Video Editing Software Upgrade

Over the last couple of years now I have have created a few video for YouTube related to gaming.  They have tended to be pretty simple  Part of the reason for that was because simple was what I wanted;  import video, trim video, add credits, add music, and upload to YouTube.   But another part is that the video editing software I use, Windows Live Movie Maker is really geared towards simple.  It doesn’t do much more than I have already done with it.

But now I feel I want to do more.

That means going out and spending some money on some better software.

However, within my budget, which is the ~$99 price range, there are a number of options, and choosing between them is hindered by my inability to articulate what the “more” I want to do really is.  I’ve only been in the video editing kiddy pool so far, so I am not sure what the options really are.  The only aspect I am pretty sure I don’t need is any high end audio editing, as I have a couple of such packages for doing just that sitting on my shelf already.  Audio I do at work.

And, of course, I don’t wholly trust the end user reviews (when did shipping problems become a reason for a 1-star product rating?)  or the glossy data sheets one finds at the company web sites.  So if you used a video editing package in my price range and are happy (or even unhappy) with it, let me know.

Should I Sell My Soul to U-verse or Xfinity?

I think I have a quorum  now that agrees that our seven year old DSL plan is not giving us the bandwidth we clearly need as a household.  Basically, even my wife is complaining about interned speeds now, while my daughter thinks YouTube is a radio and streams videos just to listen to the music while she draws on her iMac.

Due to where we live… Silicon Valley FFS… I cannot just call up AT&T and ask them to boost my DSL package.  I have all they offer for losers like me who dare live so far from their local CO.

So, to get a speed increase, I have to buy into one of the separate upgraded services.  This leaves me with only two choices at my address, AT&T’s U-verse and Comcast’s Xfinity.  Both can theoretically bring me an internet only upgrade, though I wouldn’t be surprised to find strings attached or other barriers in place.

Battling for my immortal soul...

Battling for my immortal soul…

The question is, which one to choose.  Having the phone company on one hand and the cable company on the other is clearly a no-win situation.  I have no love for either company, neither the reassembled AT&T deathstar nor the Comcast cable anaconda.

So the question probably is, which one will hurt me the least?  I have heard bad tales about both running with “up to” bandwidth numbers that are nowhere near what you end up getting or that either company will screw you on bandwidth if you try to order without their TV package.

Thoughts and/or experiences with either service?

Bonus Questions

Anybody have any experience with devices like the Lag Buster that Cringely wrote about a while back?

And, to totally leave computers and electronics, is anybody else in the market for a new dog kennel… I mean a new mattress?  My wife’s work and research has come up with the Simmons Beautyrest as the most likely candidate for us at this time.  But to me, buying a mattress seems to be somewhere just behind buying a car in anxiety about making the wrong choice.  The end result, in this case, is literally “you made your bed, now sleep in it!”