Category Archives: Games

Five Alternative Input Devices Used in PC Gaming

Since the GUI (graphical user interface) was first included on home computers, developers have been designing games that use the mouse to give fluid control over the gaming environment to the player. Over the past several decades, advances in input devices have given PC gamers a wide range of new and interesting methods for interacting with games. Here are five alternative input devices used in PC gaming:

3D Mouse
While this input device still carries the name mouse, it is very different from the 2D flat-surface device commonly associated with the term. Unlike its traditional cousin, the 3D mouse has the ability to pan, roll, tilt, zoom, and spin. Most of them accomplish all this while remaining stationary, without having to actually side across the desk at all. This input device is used in gaming and virtual worlds as a way to navigate the 3D environment without the barrier of a single plane of travel. It is also used in more serious 3D modeling applications. One of the more popular examples of 3D mouse technology is the SpaceNavigator by 3D Connexion.

A flight simulator just wouldn’t be the same without a joystick. Sure, you can pilot a 747, drive a tank in to battle, or take to the skies in a Sopwith Camel with your keyboard and mouse, but what’s the fun in that? The joystick has been an integral part of the overall gaming industry since before the days of arcades, and will likely be around for some time to come. Over time, these devices have evolved from simple sticks with a single button on them to ultra-realistic reproductions including force-feedback and more buttons than most games (or simulators) would even begin to utilize.

Steering Wheel
Do you fancy yourself a Nascar driver? Do you enjoy playing games like Need for Speed? The steering wheel, like the joystick, is the perfect solution for a particular kind of game. Over the years, the once simple steering wheel has become more full featured. Many of them include the gas and brake pedals and a multitude of buttons to make sure you don’t get stuck having to grab the keyboard or mouse during the game. Also like the joystick, many models of steering wheels have force feedback which gives you a physical indication that you’re driving over rough terrain, or in to a tree.

Possibly one of the most iconic symbols of video gaming is the gamepad. Often referred to as a “controller”, this handheld device single-handedly defined game control on consoles and it can be used in much the same way on PC games as well. In fact, the Xbox and PlayStation gamepads can be plugged in to a PC and used in much the same way (with a little setup). These handheld controllers often offer a combination of buttons. Directional controls, typically set on the left, are given through either a D-pad, analog stick, or combination of the two. Action commands are typically given using buttons spread across the right side and forefinger positions.

Hybrid Controllers
Potentially one of the most impressive and complex game controllers used on the PC today comes in the form of a hybrid controller. This input device generally resembles a section of a keyboard placed on a surface built especially for a single hand. It can combine aspects of a joystick, gamepad, keyboard and even a 3D mouse. Typically stationary, these devices are intended to replace the keyboard almost entirely when gaming. One example of this kind of controller is the Logitech G13 Advanced Gameboard.

Five Great Games Made Possible by HTML 5

HTML 5 has opened the door for web developers to expand their creations beyond previous restrictions. Picking up on some features previously associated exclusively with Adobe Flash, HTML 5 allows web developers to free themselves of the aging platform. HTML 5 is also becoming more popular as an online gaming platform as browsers become more compatible and optimized. Here are five great games made possible by HTML 5:

Angry Birds
One prime example of this which has created quite a buzz around the tech community is Angry Birds. Now, instead of having to play the game on an iPad, iPod Touch, or through a special app, you can play it using Chrome or another HTML 5 capable browser. Angry Birds is a 2D puzzle game where your primary goal is to defeat green pigs that steal your flock’s eggs by slinging birds in to makeshift fortresses protecting the thieving swine. Once you either do enough damage to them with falling debris from their structure or a strike from your feathered ammunition, they perish and disappear. Once you’ve cleared a given area of green pigs, you can move on to the next.

Torus by Ben Joffe
Another game featuring HTML 5 support is Torus by Ben Joffe. Torus is a 3D tetris-like game set on a cylindrical stage rather than a flat surface. This makes things a bit tricky as you have to be aware of what’s on the other side while pieces are falling at an accelerated rate. Another difference between Torus and classic Tetris are the slight variances in the shape of several of the pieces.

Practicing typing skills has never really been something most people would consider to be very entertaining. Z-Type combines speed typing with a fixed shooter such as Galaga or Space Invaders. Your ship doesn’t move at all, but you can fire on enemies in all directions by typing the word associated with the enemy ship. There are no themes to the words, and enemies become increasingly more difficult to keep up with. It does, however, help with typing speed and to some degree spelling.

Tower defense games are incredibly popular right now on mobile platforms, and with the help of some clever javascript, FrozenDEFENCE delivers on its promise of a simple tower defense game without all the bells and whistles.

Google Pacman
To celebrate Pacman’s 30th anniversary, Google turned their iconic logo in to a playable Pacman game thanks to the help of web developer Paul Macek. Millions of users worldwide played the popular game and demand for it was so high that Google decided to keep it alive as an alternative Google homepage for people to continue to enjoy.

So, what is your favorite browser-based game?

Would You Play World of Warcraft on an iPad?

There are a few services out there that offer streaming gaming services which can allow you to play games such as World of Warcraft on iOS devices. While these services are still in their infancy, some users are taking advantage of their capabilities and playing their favorite first-person shooter, real-time strategy, and massively multiplayer online games on them. This begs the question, if MMORPGs were designed specifically for the iPad and offered graphics of considerable quality, would you really play them there?

World of Warcraft has incredibly low system requirements compared to modern titles that are sitting at the top of their respective genres. The reason for this can be attributed to allowing the greatest number of people access to the service as possible. Even if you’re running a machine that was slightly behind the times back when WoW released in 2004, there is a good chance the game was capable of running on it. Today, tablets made to use iOS and Android have considerable processing and graphics power of their own. While they may not compete head-to-head with gaming PCs of the time, the platform is quickly evolving to include faster processors with more power in the area of graphics. Soon, they may start to catch up.

The biggest drawback, in my mind, of using a tablet to game in a 3D virtual world is screen size. In games such as World of Warcraft or Guild Wars, being able to see enemies and easily pick them out of a crowd to direct fire is essential. Typing commands and chats to your counterparts would require the keyboard to appear which would only restrict your field of view further. In order for this to really work, the entire interface would need to be redesigned to cater to the iPad, or any tablet for that matter.

Pocket Legends, an MMORPG designed for mobile platforms, has accomplished that. The interface was build from the ground up exclusively for mobile gaming. This would be a tall order for Blizzard to fill, and one that they may or may not actually feel worthwhile at the present time. If they were able to do this, without breaking your desktop experience, that would make a strong argument in favor of taking your gaming on the go.

One well-known knock-off developer has released a trailer that features their upcoming release running on an iPad. This release looks an awful lot like World of Warcraft with an extreme facelift of the user interface. The biggest problem with Order and Chaos is, it isn’t WoW. What seems like hundreds of World of Warcraft look-alikes have been release for both PC and Mac to a very limited U.S. audience. Even when these games are free and look and feel almost exactly like the popular MMORPG, they simply fall short. The only competition that does seem to grab a considerably sizable audience are games that feature an entirely different style and world such as Guild Wars, Aion Online, and Rifts.

What do you think? Would you play World of Warcraft on an iPad?

How Can Nintendo and Sony Compete More Directly with iOS and Android?

Nintendo took a giant leap forward when it released a portable gaming device that included 3D gaming without the need of special glasses. To the average user, this feature could make the 3DS a clear winner in the competition between portable gaming devices. Unfortunately for Nintendo and Sony, the iOS platform is still outselling both platforms in volume, and Sony in software revenue.

According to Flurry, a mobile analytic service, the Nintendo DS dropped from 70-57% market share by software revenue while iOS and Android platforms grew to a combined total market share of 34% in 2010, up from 19% in 2009. The Sony PlayStation Portable’s software revenue slipped as well, falling slightly from 11% to 9% between 2009 and 2010. This is only a single measurement, though it does tell the tale of a struggling market that is leaning more and more in the direction of multipurpose operating systems as opposed to a portable device more dedicated to gaming.

One extremely useful feature both Android and iOS have that the Nintendo 3DS is lacking is access to a download store where users can purchase games through the cloud instead of buying cartridges. The convenience of downloading and playing a game with a single press of a button does more to encourage spontaneous game purchases than sales at a retail store ever could. It looks like Nintendo is heading in that direction with an upcoming 3DS eShop set for release on June 6th. Sony, which has had this feature for some time through its PlayStation Store, however the cost of entry for developers and users created an environment where games came with a higher price tag than most gamers would consider convenient.

Overall, if traditional portable gaming device manufacturers really want to compete head-to-head with Google and Apple, they’re going to have to adapt even further. Sony’s “Next Generation Portable” and Nintendo’s new eShop will need to be incredibly good, otherwise they risk losing even more of their market share. Opening the platforms for developers to create games without a high cost of entry could do wonders for the popularity and longevity of these devices. This would position Nintendo and Sony to compete more directly with iOS and Android.

How to Play Windows Games on a Mac

In the world of PC gaming, Microsoft’s Windows is currently the most popular operating system by far. An entire industry of hardware and software manufacturers has been built around the purpose of giving gamers the best experience possible. Unfortunately, this market targets Windows users which only adds to the widespread assumption that you really can’t game on a Mac. Does this mean that users have to choose between having a Mac and playing the games they love? Here are a few tips that can help you play Windows games on a Mac.

Parallels, VMware Fusion, and VirtualBox
Desktop virtualization allows you to run an operating system within an operating system. In a sense, you can run Windows within OS X with minimal problems and resource issues. As long as you have enough RAM and a modern processor, you should be able to load up a virtual machine with Windows installed without an issue. Parallels and VMware are solid commercial programs that each have a wide array of features that are intended to make the user’s experience with Windows and OS X as seamless as possible. VirtualBox, an open source alternative, gets a hard time for being sluggish, but it works well enough for many users without requiring a monetary investment. You could give it a try before deciding to purchase either Parallels or VMware fusion.

Boot Camp
Boot camp, unlike virtualization software, gives you the ability to create an entirely independent OS installation on the Mac’s drive so you can boot in to Windows directly. This also creates a true Windows machine out of your Mac, so every feature of Windows and its programs should run natively. Because the hardware included with Apple’s computers is controlled and uniform, compatibility with Windows is absolute and native, so you won’t have to search the web for drivers prior to getting your game on.

Steam for Mac
One of the advantages to buying games in services like Steam is that your purchase is universal. Instead of having to pay full price for both the Windows and OS X versions of popular titles, you can install them on both without any extra investment on your part. Game developers are starting to use this model as they create games for both platforms. While there is no question that the Mac gets left out of more than a few development cycles, this process can make a big difference for gamers making the switch.

A Monster Ate My Homework Review

Imagine that a group of monsters has taken possession your homework and is carefully guarding on top of a cardboard box in the middle of a swamp. You can’t go to school without your homework, and you don’t want to do it all over again yourself. The only thing you can do is fight back in this 3D casual puzzle game made for the iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and the Mac. Currently, the Mac version of the game is free for a limited time.

Like Angry Birds or Andy Adventure, A Monster Ate My Homework is a puzzle game that takes advantage of the iOS platform’s ability to handle physics-based programs. The idea behind it is to knock all the monsters off a cardboard box that appears to be floating in the middle of a swamp. The atmosphere changes a bit from level to level, but the principal of the game remains consistent. You have an unlimited amount of balls to throw at the floating platform which have enough force to knock the monsters and your homework around. In order to successfully retrieve the homework, you have to be careful not to throw the ball anywhere that could cause something to knock it over the edge. In a sense, this game closely resembles one of those milk bottle games you might find at a carnival.

As far as casual games go, the graphics are pretty standard. There isn’t much going for it graphically beyond a cartoon-like appearance which fits well with the overall theme of the game. The monsters start off as simple boxy figures that stack well with the homework but later evolve in to several different shapes that create the puzzles you face during the game. Homework takes the form of a bundled stack of books or an apple.

Music and sound effects are put on different controls. This means that if the music starts to drive you bonkers, you can go without and still enjoy the sound effects.

Game play is smooth on all current iOS products, though it may be jerky on older iPod Touch and iPhone devices. Controls on both the iOS and OS X versions are simple and easy to figure out. You get a couple tutorial levels before you’re really challenged, and that’s more than enough to become accustomed.

Overall, A Monster Ate My Homework is both simple and difficult, at the same time. While it’s easy to learn how to play, the puzzles can be a real challenge. With over 80 levels and more coming out regularly, it is sure to keep someone occupied for quite a while.

How to Play Classic Atari Games on your iPad

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Last night, a long-standing dream of mine came true: Atari released pretty much its entire classic library on the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch. I am beyond ecstatic. If you’ve ever heard me talk about gaming, you’ll know that I’m a casual gamer. I don’t get into first-person shooters and I don’t lose myself in RPGs. I do, however, love a great old-fashioned game Pong.

Atari’s Greatest Hits is absolutely free in the app store! Pong comes pre-installed at no cost and additional games are relatively inexpensive. You can pay for game packs or buy the entire library for only fifteen bucks. I have a feeling that this thing will end up being the highest-grossing app for the entire year. Yes, people, I really just predicted that this will beat out your beloved Angry Birds.

There are 18 arcade titles and 92 games from the Atari 2600. You’ll enjoy favorites such as Missile command, Breakout, Centipede and even Asteroids. Certain games – like Warlords – give support for Bluetooth multiplayer mode. From what I’ve found already, the games which are played using some type of paddle work very well. Those which would have used a joystick seem to be just a tad jerky.

You’ll find the original box art, along with several different ways of searching through your collection. Thumb through the tiles, click a button to see your recently played games or list them in alphabetical order. It will only take you a moment to find exactly what you’re looking for to quench your classic gaming thirst.

One game that I’ve noticed is missing makes me rather sad. The title began with the letter “E” and was played on the Atari 2600. Can you guess what that is?

If you have long since forgotten how to play or beat your old favorite, you can read through the game’s manual right on your device. Those are included with your purchase so you’ll have them whenever you may need some additional help.

Which title was your favorite back in the Atari days? How quickly will you be downloading this app?

Homefront for Xbox 360 Review

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Brandon is a writer over on Lockergnome and has helped our community behind the scenes in many ways. He also just happens to be an avid gamer, so decided to create a video for us with his review of the new Homefront multi-player game. This title is available for XBOX 360, Playstation and Windows computers.

Some may say that this is THQ’s answer to Call of Duty or Battlefield, Brandon feels it plays more like the old Dynamix Tribes 2. Homefront’s most popular game mode – Ground Control – pits two teams of sixteen against each other. These are domination-style matches. The longer you hold control points, the more game points your team will receive.

Ideally, teams will communicate with each other and break into small groups. More likely, snipers kill a few people and unlock a vehicle. They then devastate a lot of people, unlock a helicopter and win a round. The best two out of three rounds wins.

The levels are large, open and have lots of places for cover. There are very few places for close-combat scenarios. For the most part, that’s only useful during the first few seconds of a round. The leveling system is different than Call of Duty’s leveling system. This game has weapons which get better as you advance.

In truth, Homefront is more like HALO with modern-day weapons. The game is less about the first person shooter aspect and a lot more about the vehicle aspect. Battle points allow you to unlock vehicles, and the team who unlocks the most vehicles tend to win.

Homefront is a faster-paced game than Call of Duty. There’s no camping and nowhere to really hide. With no building and cover, you’re forced to run, shoot at someone, hide behind a rock for a second and then run again.

  • Take the battle online, experiencing large scale multiplayer action like never before in epic infantry and vehicle warfare.
  • Discover a terrifyingly plausible near-future world in which the familiar has become alien in this nightmare vision of Occupied USA.
  • Fight for a cause joining a cast of memorable characters as your resistance cell wages a guerrilla war against overwhelming military odds in the name of Freedom.
  • Witness the human cost of war in a gripping story from the pen of John Milius is told through immersive, interactive 1st person cut scenes.
  • Experience explosive FPS gameplay as you battle through a dynamic mix of infantry and vehicle combat in a gripping single player campaign boasting intense, memorable set pieces.

Due to the faster pace, Brandon feels there’s not as much adrenaline. Since you tend to not live as long, your life doesn’t feel as valuable. There’s not much incentive to staying alive during the game. You come back to life a few seconds later and continue on. The only thing you lose is a few battle points. Battle points accrue whether you live or die. You can actually earn them faster by running into the fray, tossing grenade spam, dying and coming back to life.

The graphics of Homefront aren’t quite as good as they should be. The characters look sort of HALO-ish without much personality. They don’t vary from level to level. You don’t feel as though you’re in a virtual world.

Overall, Brandon feels Homefront is okay. He definitely doesn’t feel that it is worth sixty bucks. Have you played Homefront yet? What has your experience been like?

Create New Games with Kodu and Win from Microsoft

The Kodu Kup contest is here! This is a game design competition for kids aged nine through seventeen residing in the United States. The contest began on March 11, 2011 at 12:00 a.m. Eastern Time and ends on May 10, 2011 at 11:59 p.m. ET. There are two categories to enter: the 9-12 age group and the 13-17 age group. You can win any one of some seriously cool prizes – including a copy of Microsoft Office Professional 2010 just for registering – even if you decide not to enter the contest!

Microsoft has provided a Kodu tutorial to help kids get started. Every child who has ever played a game has dreamed of creating one that’s even better. This is their chance! Encouraging their creativity in this contest can help bolster their skills and confidence. Heck, you never know – your kid may be the one to create the next best-selling computer game!

At the end of the contest, qualified judges will select the top six games (3 from each Category) and each finalist will be judged on the following judging criteria:

  • Innovation – How creative and technically unique is the Game? (25%)
  • Fun Factor – How intense, exciting, and entertaining are the attributes of the Game? (25%)
  • Production Quality – How complete is the Game including its polish of design, functionality, and thematic execution? (25%)
  • Presentation – How clear and precise is the Game Summary and Game Play Instructions (25%)

The finalist that receives the highest score in from each of the two categories will be the Grand Prize winners, and the remaining finalists will be the First Prize and Second Prize winners! I know… you want to know what you’ll win, right? Hold your horses, I was getting to that!

Grand Prize Microsoft Prize Pack

  • $5,000 Cash Prize
  • New York Trip for 2 to the Imagine Cup including roundtrip airfare, transportation, 3 nights occupancy at the Marriott Marquis Hotel, and $250 cash
  • Xbox 360 250GB Console with Kinect
  • 3 month Xbox LIVE Gold
  • Toshiba – Satellite Laptop
  • Microsoft – Arc Laser Mouse
  • Microsoft Office Professional 2010
  • Grand Prize Trophy

First Prize: Microsoft Prize Pack

  • Toshiba – Satellite Laptop
  • Microsoft – Arc Laser Mouse
  • Microsoft Office Home & Student
  • 1st Runner Up Trophy

Second Prize Microsoft Prize Pack

  • Zune HD 16GB MP3 Player
  • 1 year Zune Pass subscription
  • 2nd Runner Up Trophy

There will also be four (4) copies of Microsoft Office Professional 2010 given away at random just for registering. Additionally, one “School Award” will be presented, with the winner receiving $5,000.00 in cash and a 1 year Gaming Magazine subscription… from a choice of Computer Gaming World, EGM, GamePro, or PC Gamer.

Get your thinking caps on, and let your creative juices flow! Good luck to anyone and everyone who enters this awesome contest.

Teen Knocks Out Competition on App Store

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Bubble Ball is taking the world by storm – and it was created by a quiet young teenager as his first ever iPhone game. 14-year-old Robert Nay is an eighth grader in Spanish Fork, Utah. He and his mom Kari worked together to create what is now the number-one free game on the App Store, usurping Angry Birds Seasons.

Since its launch on Dec. 29, the game has been downloaded 1.5 million times. Nay did the work on the programming and the art and his mother helped him by designing most of the game levels. He just began the entire process in November, with the game launching just over a month later to pretty huge acclaim.

The game has bare-bones graphics, where you try to get a ball to roll from one part of the screen to another by manipulating objects such as a stick or a triangle. People are quickly becoming addicted to it, and word is spreading like wildfire.

Nay is proving once again that “kids” can certainly have what it takes to succeed at a very young age. Here’s to hoping he finds ways to improve on his skills even more and make an even larger impact on the mobile gaming world in the future.