Tuesday, February 22, 2011

25th Anniversary of The Legend of Zelda

There was a milestone that was reached in the gaming community today…“The Legend of Zelda” celebrated its twenty-fifth year of existence. Exactly 25 years ago to the day, the game was released in Japan. Eighteen months after the Japanese release, the game came to the United States, and since then, the concept has been utilized for a TV show, books, merchandise, and a fan following that has been described by some as “cult-like.”

Link and his world were first introduced in 1986 via Nintendo’s Japanese Famicom console. When it was first presented to the U.S., it went on sale for the NES. Since the game’s first appearance, there have been 15 official versions of The Legend of Zelda that have been released on Nintendo’s different consoles. It’s safe to say that the series has done quite well.

Link’s magical world was designed by legendary game designer Shigeru Miyamoto, the man who also created the Mario Brothers series. The Legend of Zelda has currently sold more than 59 million copies worldwide. It is actually the fourth best-selling Nintendo game of all time, coming in behind the first three Super Mario Brother games.
The most recent Zelda game that was released was Spirit Tracks for the Nintendo DS. This was released in December of 2009, and I can attest that I heard about it every day for months from my twelve-year-old brother before its release. Later this year, Nintendo is lined up to release the next Zelda title, Skyward Sword.

In celebration of The Legend of Zelda, the Web has been jam-packed with memorabilia from the games that have spanned across a quarter of a century. There have been a collection of the best Zelda commercials, Zelda merchandise, and even 25 facts about the games that you didn’t know.

If you are a fan of the Zelda series, than I’m sure that today was a great day of memories. Link, Zelda, and the whole cast of characters have made it through 25 years of gaming, and they’re still going strong. Hopefully, we’ll see them continue to thrill fans for at least another 25 years!

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Nightly Online Gaming Ban Taking Place in Vietnam

online gaming banSo, I think a lot of us are taking gaming for granted. I mean, it is literally nothing for most of us to turn on our television, power up our console and hop on a game with our friends and start playing. The access we have is so perfect because nobody, unless you are 12 and have strict parents, can limit how much time we spend online playing games. That is a very special freedom in my mind and not a freedom that everybody around the world can enjoy. Just take Vietnam, for example.

If you think that you do not get enough time online with your gaming, then you should think about the things The Ministry of Information and Communication is doing over in the country of Vietnam. The Ministry of Information and Communication has called for a nightly ban of online gaming across the entire country.

According to a recent report from Vietnam news, the request was made to internet providers a week ago and demands a block on internet access to the entire country every single night from 10pm until 8am, set to begin on March 3rd.

This ban comes as yet another step in the ongoing initiative of the Vietnamese Government to limit the "negative side-effects" of online gaming. OpenNet Initiative is a global internet filtering and surveillance watchdog and has classified Vietnam's level of internet toll filtering as "substantial" due to the extremely stiff measure of internet control the government has exerted.

According to The Ministry of Information and Communication's Deputy Minister Le Nam Thang, "Provincial departments of information and communication will inspect online games activities nationwide and deal with organizations that violate regulations by cancelling their services."

So the next time you think you do not get enough time online with your Xbox, think of these poor gamers in Vietnam and be thankful you do not have a nightly ban on your gaming.

Source: IGN - Vietnam Calls For Online Gaming Ban
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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Details About the PlayStation Phone

On Sunday, February 13, Sony Ericsson finally unveiled their newest phone, the Xperia Play, which has also become fondly known as the “PlayStation Phone,” and not only did the company reveal the Play but also two other Xperia phones, the Xperia Neo and the Xperia Pro.

According to what Sony Ericsson said at its press event at the Mobile World Conference, the Xperia Play will be launching here in the United States on Verizon Wireless’ network in March. So far, there has been no talk of a specific price, but a spokesman from Sony Ericsson said that the devices should be priced similarly to the other Xperia devices, although it will obviously vary from country to country.

"Working with Sony Ericsson to build the world's first PlayStation Certified smartphone to the nation's most reliable network builds on our commitment to deliver the best mobile gaming and entertainment experience to our customers," Jeff Dietel, vice president of marketing for Verizon, said in a statement.

Sony Ericsson said that the phone will feature a 4-inch screen, a 5 megapixel camera and will run Google Gingerbread. On top of that, the president of Sony Ericsson Bert Nordberg said it is the "first mobile device to deliver an immersive gaming experience."

When the Xperia Play launches, there will be 50 different game titles that will be available for the device. Sony says that this number will increase each week. To start off, titles including “Guitar Hero,” “Assassin’s Creed,” “Battlefield” and “Dead Space” will be available. The Play will come pre-loaded with seven games, some of which include “Asphalt Adrenaline 6,” “Tetris,” “Star Battalion” and “The Sims 3.”

So that you can truly have a fantastic gaming experience on the Play, the devices features slide out gaming controls. In place of a sliding keyboard, the Play has 4-way directional buttons and AB keys. These keys not only allow you to utilize them for gaming commands but also let you use them for navigation of the phone itself.

The device is powered by a Snapdragon, 1-GHz CPU and the Adreno 205 graphical processor. It allows for advanced gaming and 60 frames per second play-back. It comes standard with 8GB of space but can be upgraded to 32GB.

It was last month when Sony went ahead and unveiled the PlayStation Suite. It is what allows Android phones to run PlayStation content. The Play will be the very first phone to feature the PlayStation Suite. Content will be provided to the phone via a PlayStation Network Store that is scheduled to be launched by Sony by the year’s end.

Sony is also promising that there will be social media features that will allow users to somehow play against each other.

There have been rumors and speculations floating around about a PlayStation phone for months. Despite that, Sony stayed quiet until a Super Bowl ad confirmed the existence of such a device. The tagline of the ad was, "The smartphone with everything you need and the one thing you want."

Just this year at CES, Sony Ericsson went ahead and unveiled the Xperia Arc. The slim, 4.2-inch screen smartphone will run Android 2.3 and will feature a 1GHz Qualcomm second generation Snapdragon processor. Sony said that they will begin shipping the device worldwide in March. After the company’s announcement at the CES, they decided to add the Xperia Neo and Xperia Pro to the Xperia lineup as well.

According to Sony executives, the Neo will feature an 8 megapixel camera, mobile Bravia engine, TV-related features, HDMI access, HD video support, and the ability to use the Neo as a TV remote.

The Xperia Pro will include a slide out QWERTY keyboard and “smart keyboard” abilities. This feature will supposedly try to intuitively guess what application you want to use. For example, if you are reading an email and you slide out the keyboard, the Pro will automatically switch to a “reply” function.

Sony Ericsson said that both the Neo and the Pro will be running Gingerbread like the Play. Pricing has not yet been released.

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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Building a Custom Gaming PC

When it comes to video games, I have always considered myself a console gamer. I loved the PlayStation 2 and was blown away by the Xbox 360 but I never really got into PC gaming. Now a friend of mine had always told me of the superiority of PC gaming and to be honest it never really interested me. But then I started getting into a lot more. I have always loved real-time strategy games (RTS) like Age of Empires and the Total War series but maxed out graphics was never within my reach and performance issues were constant.

That, coupled with the release of StarCraft 2 and the upcoming release of Star Wars: The Old Republic, was what really got the ball rolling for me on building my own custom gaming PC. Now sure, you can go online to Alienware or head on over to your local tech shop and buy a powerful gaming PC but I would only recommend that if you insist on emptying your bank account in one fell swoop. My method not only got me a gaming PC that can max out nearly any game on the market but also saved me a lot of time and money.

So let's start off with the basic components and pieces you will need to make your PC gaming dreams come true. Your basic pieces consist of a motherboard, hard drive, graphics card, RAM, power supply, disk drive, processor, tower, monitor(s), keyboard, mouse and speakers. Now knowing what to get and what makes a good deal is tough if you do not know the lingo of the computer world, so if you do not know what is good, it isn't hard to find with a quick Google search.

So let's break down my computer. We will start off with my power supply, the life force of the computer. My computer is powered by a Cooler Master Silent Pro M600 RS-600-AMBA-D3 600W power supply which I purchased off of Newegg.com for $99.99. This power supply currently has an average 5 star review (out of 5) from 184 reviews.

Next up is the hard drive. I have a 1TB Western Digital Caviar Blue hard drive that has 7200 RPM, 32MB cache and Satat 3.0Gb/s. This 1TB drive only cost me $64.99 from Newegg as well where it has an average 4 star review based on 364 reviews. A drive like this is perfect to store as many games on as you want.

I'm running 8GB (4 x 2GB) of 240-pin DDR3 SDRAM with four sticks of Corsair XMS3 RAM. Once again yet another great purchase from Newegg. This ran me $89.99 and is a perfect match for Core i5 or Core i7 processors.

Speaking of processors, I am running a used Core i7 first generation processor. Now this is where you may get hit with an added cost. Since the release of Intel's second generation processors, it is extremely hard to find the processor I am using. Newegg has a slew of new ones running anywhere from $280 to $350, but if you can find an old version somewhere that is in good condition, then I would highly recommend getting it.

For my motherboard I went with the Asus Sabertooth X58 LGA. This board is really slick and supports Core i7, Quad-GPU SLI and Quad-GPU CrossFireX and USB 3.0. It has seven USB ports total and was only $199.99 on Newegg.

For my disk drive I went with a Lite-On 24X DVD+R drive. It can burn and write CDs and DVDs and even came with Nero in case I decide to make my own movies and edit the menus or tweak other settings. This is your standard disk drive and can be found on Newegg for $17.99.

Now if you are going to game on a PC, you need maxed out graphics. There is really no sense in building a gaming rig if you are going to skimp on the graphics. I chose to go with the XFX HD-487A-ZWFC card from Radeon. This card has it all, like PCI Express 2.0 x16, 750MHz clock speed, 800 Stream processing units, 900MHz effective memory clock, 1GB memory size, DirectX 10.1, two DVI slots and a max resolution of 2550x1600. This card can max out any game you want with the exception of something like Crysis. I got this card on Newegg as well for $154.99.

That takes care of the insides and now we are on to the outside. All of that power is housed inside the Antec Nine Hundred Two tower. This is a medium-sized case with a bottom mounted power supply, side panel window, three external 5.25" drive bays, six internal 3.5" drive bays, an internal bottom-mounted 2.5" SSD drive, two USB 2.0 front ports, one USB 3.0 front port and audio in and out. The case itself glows blue and has a very quiet fan. You can pick this up on Newegg for $119.99, but I have seen it cheaper at places like BestBuy and other computer stores.

I am writing this review on two 23-inch emachine wide LCD flat panel monitors. They both have a 16:9 aspect ratio, full 1080p HD (1920x1080), on-screen display controls and a 5ms response time. All the function buttons are on the bottom of the display right under the emachine logo and are very easy to get to. They look great and have a very crisp picture. I was running StarCraft 2 earlier on max settings and the picture was very very good. I got these as a part of a Black Friday deal at Microcenter for $118.00 each. The catch was a limit one per household so I hope you have a good friend that is willing to go out with you. Average price is about $140 and higher.

I have Logitech speakers, the Logitech X-530 to be precise. They offer 5.1 surround sound with a bass speaker. So far, they are working perfectly and offer excellent sound quality and let's just say that Dead Space is pretty scary with surround sound.

I went for consistency with my peripherals. My mouse,keyboard and headset are all made by Razer. My mouse is the Razer DeathAdder gaming mouse which has 3500dpi. My keyboard is the Razer Lycossa gaming keyboard which features blue illuminated keys, WASD cluster lighting and a touch panel in the top right. Finally, my headphones are the Razer Carcharias gaming headset which has a noise filtering microphone as well as an inline remote. The mouse, keyboard and headset can all be found on Newegg for $49.99, $79.99 and $79.99 respectively.

I like how my mouse, keyboard, headset and tower all glow blue together. For me it makes everything flow together nicely and match perfectly so everything looks nice together. So let's do a quick run down on every piece and how much this will cost you in total:

COOLER MASTER Silent Pro M600 RS-600-AMBA-D3 600W ATX12V V2.3 SLI Certified CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Bronze Certified Modular Active PFC Power Supply - $69.99

Western Digital Caviar Blue WD10EALS 1TB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive - $64.99

CORSAIR XMS3 8GB (4 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Desktop Memory Model CMX8GX3M4A1333C9 - $95.99

ASUS Sabertooth X58 LGA 1366 Intel X58 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard - $199.99

XFX HD-487A-ZWFC Radeon HD 4870 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFireX Support Video Card - $154.99

LITE-ON Black 24X DVD+R 8X DVD+RW 8X DVD+R DL 24X DVD-R 6X DVD-RW 12X DVD-RAM 16X DVD-ROM 48X CD-R 32X CD-RW 48X CD-ROM 2MB Cache SATA CD/DVD Burner - $17.99

Intel Core i7-2600 Sandy Bridge 3.4GHz (3.8GHz Turbo Boost) 4 x 256KB L2 Cache 8MB L3 Cache LGA 1155 95W Quad-Core Desktop Processor BX80623I72600 - $299.99

Antec Nine Hundred Two V3 Black Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - $69.99

eMachines E233Hbd Black 23" 5ms Widescreen LCD Monitor 300 cd/m2 DC 80000:1(1000:1) - 2 at $118.00 ($236.00)

Logitech X-530 70 Watts 5.1 Speaker - $69.99

RAZER DeathAdder Precision Optical Gaming Mouse - 3.5G Infrared Sensor - $49.99

RAZER Lycosa Black USB Wired Game Keyboard - $79.99

RAZER Carcharias 3.5mm Connector Circumaural Professional Gaming Headset - $79.99

That brings our grand total to $1,587.89 which is not bad considering some of the base Alienware computers are around that price and that is without a monitor, peripherals or sound. Now mine was slightly less than that. I didn't have to buy a brand new $300 Core i7 and my speakers, keyboard, mouse and headset were gifts which knocks off nearly $280 right there. If you pick your pieces right and buy in increments, you will definitely have no problem affording a high powered gaming rig like mine. I am thoroughly impressed by all my components and could not be happier with my computer's performance and style.

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Monday, February 7, 2011

New Virtual Keyboard UI from Circboard

Do you ever get tired of having to deal with attempting to type things out with your game controller? If you don’t have a keyboard for your game system, typing anything out can be a very frustrating thing.

Well, Circboard is trying to eliminate some of that frustration. They have been working extremely hard to reinvent the virtual keyboard UI (user interface).

Instead of having a traditional keyboard format like a QWERTY keyboard or even a ABCDEF-style keyboard, Circboard has formulated an entirely different kind of keyboard format. They decided to consolidate the characters into groups of four that then allow you to press the corresponding buttons on your controller for the letter. For example, on the Xbox 360’s controller, in the first group of four you will press the Y button for A, the X button for B, the A button for D, and the B button for C. The shoulder buttons then take the place of the space and backspace buttons, the left trigger takes the place of the caps and shift buttons, the D-pad navigates through the text, and the right trigger brings up a second layer of symbols and numbers that can’t fit on the primary wheel.

This new innovation is currently just being utilized for games and applications, but it could definitely be integrated into more than that in the future. The technology has not yet been released, but the development team said on its site that “a fully functional PC demo for everyone to try will be coming out very soon!"

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