Category Archives: Online Gaming

Review: Counter-Strike Global Offensive

imageCounter-Strike Global Offensive, or GO for short, is the next title in the series of counter-strike games. I have played all of the recent games, so I figured I would give this one a try as well.

The first thing I noticed when starting up Global Offensive was that the graphics have improved. The maps have become a bit more detailed and the character models are much improved. The previous versions of counter-strike required a lot of skill and strategy and CS:GO is the same way. Due to this, CS:GO has evolved as the next big game being played in leagues and in LAN tournaments.

For those who have no idea what counter-strike involves, it is a pretty simple concept. CS:GO pits terrorists versus counter-terrorists in 2 different scenarios.

The first scenario is a game mode in which the terrorists are trying to plant a bomb at particular locations around the map. It is the counter-terrorists job to try to stop this from happening. If the bomb gets planted, the counter-terrorists have a limited amount of time to try to defuse the bomb before it blows up.

The second scenario is a hostage rescue mission. In this mode, the terrorists start by a group of hostages. The counter-terrorists then try to reach and rescue the hostages.

Maps

One thing that has stayed pretty consistent through the different versions of the game is the maps. CS:GO holds true to the counter-strike series by having many of the same maps, just with a few updates. A few of the maps have minor changes that have helped to balance sides a bit.

One great thing about CS:GO is the communities ability to create maps. Unlike other games like Call of Duty and Battlefield, counter-strike comes with a map editor which allows members of the community to create their own maps. These custom maps are a huge hit with the casual CS:GO gamers. A constant creation of new maps can really keep the game interesting.

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Weapons

In general, the weapons are pretty similar to the previous versions of counter-strike. However, there were a few small changes. A few pistols have been changed. Also, a few SMGs and shotguns have been changed as well. Most players use the rifles and these have pretty much stayed unchanged.

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Competitive Match Making and Ranking System

One huge change in the new CS:GO is the competitive match making system. In previous versions of counter-strike, you would simply have to find a server on your own through browsing. Usually when doing this, you would have to find and play in a community run public server – these rarely used competition rules. If you really only played casually, this wasn’t a huge deal. However, if you liked the idea of a playing a match, then it was pretty tough to find a game.

With CS:GO, you are able to play in competitive mode with the click of a button. If you want to play with friends – easy, just invite them to a lobby before you search for a game.

This new system gives you a rank after a few games. This rank is then used to help match you up with players that are around your skill level. If you play with friends, the system will try to average your ranks when looking for a game. I personally have seen many of my steam friends get into the competitive mode. These were people who never left a casual game in the past. I see this as a big accomplishment by CS:GO to be able to bring new players into this mode of the game.

Overall, I think CS:GO is a great step for the counter-strike series and I would recommend this game to anyone who enjoyed past versions of counter-strike.

Guest author Bio:

Guest author post  by Dominic Acito of domstechblog.com. Dominic brings a background as a high level super user and gamer, to the Blogging world.

2 Comments

Filed under Games, Guest Writers, Online Gaming, Software

Nader, The Once And Former Raider – Needs to Stay “Former”

imageRalph Nader, was identified as a “former presidential candidate” by CNET several days ago – hardly his claim to fame – old guys like me, remember him more for his 1965 expose – Unsafe at Any Speed – which took a powerful swing at the North American auto industry.

His evisceration of the Chevrolet Corvair (my first car incidentally), established Nader as a rogue consumer advocate. It is fair to say however, that all consumer advocates were viewed as suspicious by the establishment at that time.

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So, was Nader correct in his condemnation of the Corvair as a “death trap.” Not exactly. At least, not according to a 1972 study (completed well after the fact, you’ll notice), conducted by Texas A&M University on behalf of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Their conclusion – “the 1960–1963 Corvair possessed no greater potential for loss of control than its contemporaries in extreme situations.” In other words, Nader’s “study” was bullshit.

Taking advantage of the truism that “bullshit baffles brains” – not a detriment it seems, to a media created legend – in the following years, Nader stayed in the public eye pontificating on issues as diverse as –

Ralph Nader on Abortion, Ralph Nader on Budget & Economy, Ralph Nader on Civil Rights, Ralph Nader on Corporations, Ralph Nader on Crime, Ralph Nader on Drugs, Ralph Nader on Education, Ralph Nader on Energy & Oil, Ralph Nader on Environment, Ralph Nader on Families & Children, Ralph Nader on Foreign Policy, Ralph Nader on Free Trade, Ralph Nader on Government Reform, Ralph Nader on Gun Control, Ralph Nader on Homeland Security, Ralph Nader on Technology, Ralph Nader on War & Peace.

Believe it or not, this is an incomplete list. The full list is available at On The Issues.

It’s clear to me, that this man is a studious expert on EVERYTHING. So his observation, that “Video game firms are ‘electronic child molesters’”, recently spewed out during an interview at Politico, must have value. It must be an astute and educated observation – one that’s denied to the average person.

We just don’t have the background I suppose, to be able to digest a complex set of issues like video games –  gun violence – and, the existence (or not), of a link between them – readily identified by Nader.

We just don’t understand as Nader puts it – that video games producers “odious fare is becoming more coarse, more violent, and more interactive to seduce these youngsters into an addiction of direct video game involvement in the mayhem.”

It’s extraordinary that none of this has anything to do of course, with the ready availability of sophisticated weapons, a culture of gun insanity, a heritage of violence as a method of settling grievances, in the United States – a set of circumstances shared virtually nowhere else in the developed world.

Nader would have us set all that aside (along with our common sense), and have us instead, be guided through the forest of his misconceptions, distorted studies, and outright lies (most particularly on this issue) – by an expert at everything – Ralph Nader.

Just thinking about this moron makes my head hurt. Why, for the love of all we hold sacred, does the media give this idiot a forum in which to push forward his nonsense – his facts – his simple solutions to complex issues. Poorly identified issues at that. But, then it’s the media – isn’t it?

The media and the “facts” – an oxymoron if there ever was one!

As regular reader and occasional guest author Mark Schneider remarked here yesterday – “Ralph Nader – desperate for attention and relevance. I’ll continue to ignore him as I have for 40 years.”

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Filed under Games, Myths, Online Gaming, Point of View

The Immense Success of the Mobile Gaming Industry

imageEverywhere you look, you see people engulfed in their smartphones, shouts of joy and frustration coming from playing mobile games like Angry Birds, Draw Something and Cut the Rope. In just a few years, mobile gaming has literally exploded into a multi-million dollar industry (the industry is predicted to break 18 billion in total revenue by 2016).

Instead of just being the applications that game developers made because they couldn’t produce something for a console or the computer, mobile gaming now comprises a huge chunk of the gaming sector.

Hardcore gamers are all about the massively expensive computer rigs with eye-popping graphics and console gamers load up their massive TVs, but casual and hardcore gamers alike can be found with their heads buried in the latest mobile game. Even people who don’t really play games are into flinging stylized birds at discolored pigs. Smartphones have successfully turned nearly everyone into a gamer.

Handheld Market Share

Back in the day, the handheld gaming market was cornered by the console makers. While the Nintendo DS and Play Station Portable still have a presence in the market, mobile gaming on smartphones is chipping away at it more and more. Far more people have a smartphone than a DS, after all, and they are always going to have it on them for every-day use.

As the technology in smartphones advances, the complexity and appeal of mobile games continues to grow, utilizing touch screens, hi-definition, and motion sensitive controls. It is more practical for an individual to simply open an application on a phone to play a game for a few minutes than to dive into a highly specialized and complicated one on a separate device.

Branding and Captive Market

Businesses have a variety of options to take advantage of the focus that mobile gaming gives them. First, it doesn’t take as long to develop a mobile game as it does to create an AAA computer game and is much more inexpensive. Where months and years of preparation go into console and computer games, mobile games are intended for short term usage thus can be more simplified and quick to produce.

Branding and product integration is always front and center, and since the game requires interaction their focus will remain on the task at hand. By creating such a simple and identifiable interface, logos, and characters, it is easier for the user to relate and retain the information they have just engaged in. As a result, other doors are opened for further game updates, individual products about the game, and connections to other organizations.

Generating Income

Mobile gaming can turn a profit in a few different ways, by offering the application for an upfront price or through micro transactions. With micro transactions, you offer the game for free or a low cost, then provide the user with ways to purchase in-game items and other content to upgrade gameplay.

Another popular route is to offer up a “lite” version of a game to give users a small taste of the game, but not the entirety. Showcasing the graphics and the game options pulls in the user, but the game ends before too much can be accomplished. Then, to play more, they are redirected to purchasing the full version of the game for a designated price.

When it comes down to generating the bulk of its profit, the mobile gaming and application industry as a whole is centered around the nominal fee idea. Individuals will pay a small price, 0.99 cents or 1.99, for a game or application, and since the cost is so low users almost don’t care to spend it. But, with thousands and millions of users buying the application, alongside micro transactions, the amount adds up to be very lucrative.

Angry Birds: a mobile gaming empire

Rovio, the developers of Angry Birds, went through a lot of flops before they hit upon the mobile gaming success that was Angry Birds. Fifty-one games before they struck gold, in fact. They based Angry Birds off of concept art that had a special appeal and focused their efforts on the iOS application market.

It took some time to gain traction, but the game took off when they created a YouTube trailer, a lite version of the game and got featured on the front page of the app store. From there, Angry Birds captured the hearts and minds of everyone in the mobile gaming world, expanding its branding to clothing, plush toys, books and various other spin off games.

How have they done so well? By providing free updates for the game’s audience, adding hundreds of free levels, and by creating spinoffs such as Seasonal Angry Birds and Angry Bird Space, Rovio has maintained the devotion of a short attention span audience. Remaining in the spotlight of the industry and pushing the boundaries of the game and the system it runs on, Angry Birds has become a massive success, being downloaded over 600 million times and with 30 million active players daily. It’s not hard to see why mobile game development has taken off since the introduction of the first iPhone in 2007.

This guest post is contributed by Grady Winston. Grady is an avid writer and Internet entrepreneur from Indianapolis. He has worked in the fields of technology, business, marketing, and advertising – implementing multiple creative projects and solutions for a range of clients.

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Filed under Android, Games, Guest Writers, iOS, Online Gaming

Red Alert 3 Review

Red Alert 3 is a new game from EA in the Command and Conquer, Red Alert series. It is a real-time strategy game similar to the Warcraft series. This is a review of the PC version of the game. I bought and downloaded this game on Steam which was a really quick and easy way to buy this game.

red-alert-3-art-big

The Game Play

I was impressed by the game play for this new game. EA found a way to take the same concept and add on to it to make it better. The visual effects were improved from the last game in the series, and the missions were fun to play.

The thing I liked the most about the game was the new co-op mission capability. This new feature allows you to play the campaigns with another player online.

I found it to be a lot of fun being able to jump on Ventrilo (voice over IP app), with a friend, and play a few campaign missions. I feel like this is a good enough feature to make the game a success by itself.

The only downside was the campaigns were a little on the short side. I think each campaign only had 6 or so missions in it. However, a few of the missions seemed a little more involved than the past C&C games, so this may have not been as short as it sounds.

Bullfrog_concept_final

Cast

Another impressive thing about this game was the cast. They cast includes Tim Curry, Jenny McCarthy, Gina Carano, J.K. Simmons, George Takei, and more. The cast did a great job with the cut scenes and really made me get into the story more than past command and conquer games.

EA also did a good job integrating the cast into the missions themselves. It was pretty neat to have Jenny McCarthy’s character following my commands on certain missions.

natasha-red-alert-3

The Verdict

Overall, I give this game a 9/10.

This game is probably the best real time strategy game to come along in the past year or two. I would suggest that any RTS gamer give this game a try.

Download the demo at BigDownload.com, an amazingly fast game download site. I downloaded this terrific demo of 1.8 GB, in just over thirty minutes. Fast enough?

Guest Writer: This is a guest post by Dominic Acito, who brings a background as a high level super user, to the Blogging world.

Why not pay a visit to Dominic’s site at Computer Too Slow.

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Filed under Digital Media, Games, Guest Writers, Interconnectivity, Living Life, Online Gaming, Software, Windows Tips and Tools

Video Game Addiction – True or False?

Let’s cut to the chase immediately – video game addiction is a real addiction, just as Internet gambling is a real addiction; just as an addiction to Internet pornography is a real addiction.

The question that needs to be explored more thoroughly however is: is video game addiction the kind of serious problem that the media would have us believe?

Or, do the media, for the sake of sensationalism, take isolated instances of computer addiction and create a frenzy of concern that is unwarranted and not supported by the facts?

The media and the “facts” – an oxymoron if there ever was one!

This past week, in a small city just outside of Toronto, Canada (where I live), a fifteen year old boy, Brandon Crisp, disappeared following an argument with his parents over his access to his Xbox, and the video game Call of Duty 4.

According to the boy’s father, Brandon was exhibiting what some psychiatrists consider classical signs of addiction, since he reportedly began to skip school, stay up all night, and steal money.

This tragic case is still unresolved, and the boy remains missing as of today’s date – October 25, 2008, despite a massive effort by both Police, and hundreds of volunteer searchers.

According to the CBC (one of Canada’s national television networks), Microsoft (the developers of the Xbox), has now become involved, and has added $25,000 to an existing reward pool of $25,000 bringing the total to $50,000. In addition, reports indicate that Microsoft is cooperating with authorities in providing information regarding the 200 or so Xbox gaming site contacts, that may be relevant to the investigation of Brandon’s disappearance.

I have a problem however, with how this tragic story has been reported in the mainstream media. Uninformed news reporters, and editors (both print and T.V.), who have little experience with the Internet or technology, except perhaps as casual users, have used this story as an illustration of how video game addiction is a major hidden problem.

For example, according to news report in the Toronto Star, Bruce Ballon, a psychiatrist with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto, is quoted as stating “We’ve been receiving at least a couple of calls a week asking, ‘How do you deal with Internet addiction?’ Ballon goes on to say “(Society is) just starting to realize – oh my God, it’s so huge. This is why people have been afraid to open the doors.”

Sorry Dr. Ballon, but there seems to be a major disconnect here. Consider, “a couple of calls a week” versus “oh my God, it’s so huge.” I’m not a mathematician, but I do know this, the number “two” is hardly “huge”.

A more balance reporting of the facts surrounding Internet, computer, or gaming addiction, would have included those of Dr. Jerald J. Block, M.D., who, in an editorial published on The American Journal of Psychiatry website earlier this year, made the point that 86 per cent of “internet addicts”, including gaming addicts, also have some other form of a mental disorder.

Dr. Block goes on to say, in his editorial, that Internet addiction is an “increasingly commonplace compulsive-impulsive disorder” and should be included in psychiatry’s official guidebook of mental disorders, the DSM-V.

For those who are unfamiliar with DSM-V, it is an American psychiatric handbook that lists categories of mental disorders, and the criteria for diagnosing them.

Despite its controversy in certain quarters; controversy, in part, caused by a perceived need to add new mental illnesses, it is used worldwide by clinicians and researchers as well as insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and policy makers.

There is no doubt that mental illness is a complex and mystifying subject that includes a multitude of variables. My real problem is with those people (including the mainstream media), who use, or more properly misuse, isolated examples of tragic events to achieve their own ends. In this case, to generate additional readership in the guise of providing a public service i.e. computer gaming addiction is a major hidden problem.

We now live in a highly reactive society; one in which there are individuals, groups, and organizations waiting in the wings ready to pounce with great gusto on established, or emerging technologies.

If you think that statement is excessive, then consider this published comment (just one of many like it), I came upon recently, regarding computer gaming:

“I have a direct experience with the subject and can tell you that with this opponent you can not win. Online gaming industry is investing a lot of money to find the most addictive ways to hook their customers as addiction = profit.

It is even more problematic then other addictions as it is not recognized as a vice by the general public. Parents easily succumb to requests to allow it and peer pressure is enormous as it is not controlled in any way. I see only radical solutions to this, either tax it so it becomes uneconomical as a source of entertainment or ban it all together”.

Computers/connected devices will always be the target of modern day Luddites – a term used to describe those opposed, in some form, to technological progress and technological change.

Despite the possible negative psychological effects of video game playing for those who already struggle with some form of a mental disorder, overall there are many positive effects associated with video game playing, but that’s an issue for a future article.

If you’re a concerned parent, how do you determine if your child qualifies as an Internet, or computer gaming addict?

It is generally agreed that exhibiting any of the following symptoms while online, or offline; excessive gaming, sexual preoccupations or excessive email or text messaging, meets at least one, or more, of the criteria needed to establish Internet or gaming addiction.

However, the following symptoms must also be in evidence:

Withdrawal – including feelings of anger, tension, and/or depression when the computer is inaccessible.

Tolerance – including the need for better computer equipment, more software, or more hours of use.

Negative Repercussions – including arguments, lying, poor achievement, social isolation, and fatigue.

For another view on this topic check out “Is Your Inner Child Addicted to the Internet” by my good buddy, TechPaul.

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Filed under Interconnectivity, Internet Safety for Children, Online Gaming, Parenting Help, Personal Perspective, Windows Tips and Tools

Protecting Your Online Gaming Assets – It’s No Game!

I love computer gaming. In a real sense computer gaming was the driver behind my interest, in the early 1980’s, in becoming computer literate, and then taking that literacy to new levels of expertise.

Computer gaming has changed enormously of course from the early 1980’s to the present. The technical changes in both the games themselves, and the platforms the games run on, would have seemed like science fiction viewed from the perspective of the early days.

Online gaming has effectively opened up a whole new world of computer gaming, both literally and figuratively, and has changed the face and the complexities of computer gaming.

Played over the Internet, online games allow gamers to become part of a virtual world, consisting of literally millions of players who form online communities with all the associated social aspects of real world communities; the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Just as there are crooks and cyber criminals in a real world community, these same type of characters also inhabit the virtual worlds of Internet gaming.

You might wonder why virtual reality would mimic real life so closely that it would include virtual criminals. The answer is very simple – money, and lots of it.

In many virtual worlds, virtual currencies are used to purchase virtual possessions. You may be surprised to learn that these virtual possessions have real world value, in real world cash, and as in real life; a market exists for stolen goods in these other worlds.

The first step cyber criminals employ in stripping gamers of their virtual possessions (remember, real world cash), is password theft – an activity that has increased dramatically recently.

Stolen passwords for games such as World of Warcraft and Lineage are particularly valuable, since in these games it is common for less skilled gamers to buy/pay for, the virtual possessions they have been unable to acquire through skilled game play.

Increasingly, the thieft of passwords relies on specially designed malware, whose function is to steal online gaming passwords, allowing crooks access to gamers virtual possessions so that these possessions, just as in real life, can be sold.

Explaining just how this works Greg Hoglund, CEO of HBGary, developers of advanced software security technologies says, “Once a criminal learns a gamer’s username and password, he can log into the game and sell the victim’s virtual possessions for virtual gold coins. Those coins are then handed to another character in the game who sells the gold for real-world dollars at an online exchange such as IGE. IGE operates a network that deals with the legitimate buying and selling of virtual currencies and assets on the Internet.

Video gaming companies are now fighting back through the use of authenticators. An authenticator is an electronic device (see pic), which generates a unique, one-time use password which combined with the user’s regular password provides an increased security level against malicious attacks, including keyloggers and Trojans.

Blizzard Entertainment, the company behind such popular games as World of Warcraft, Lineage, Diablo and StarCraft sells an authenticator for $6.50 – although I noticed this morning that the Blizzard store is currently sold out.

Nevertheless, if you are one of the millions of virtual gamers, purchasing an authenticator to help protect your virtual assets, it seems to me, is vital.

In you’re interested in FREE online gaming then checkout an excellent article by Simon, one of my fellow writers on Makeuseof.com – Top Five Free Online Shooter Games.

2 Comments

Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, authenticators, Encryption, Geek Software and Tools, Interconnectivity, Internet Safety, Internet Safety Tools, Malware Advisories, Online Gaming, Online Safety, Windows Tips and Tools

Are You Virtually You? – Protect Your Virtual Gaming Assets

I love computer gaming. In a real sense computer gaming was the driver behind my interest in becoming computer literate, and then taking that literacy to new levels of expertise.

Computer gaming has changed enormously of course from the early 1980’s to the present. The technical changes in both the games themselves, and the platforms the games run on, would have seemed like science fiction viewed from the perspective of the early days.

Online gaming has effectively opened up a whole new world of computer gaming, both literally and figuratively, and has changed the face and the complexities of computer gaming.

Played over the Internet online games allow gamers to become part of a virtual world, consisting of literally millions of players who form online communities with all the associated social aspects of real world communities; the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Just as there are crooks and cyber criminals in a real world community, these same type of characters also inhabit the virtual worlds of Internet gaming.

You might wonder why virtual reality would mimic real life so closely that it would include virtual criminals. The answer is very simple – money, and lots of it.

In many virtual worlds, virtual currencies are used to purchase virtual possessions. You may be surprised to learn that these virtual possessions have real world value in real world cash and as in real life; a market exists for stolen goods in these other worlds.

The first step cyber criminals employ in stripping gamers of their virtual possessions (remember, real world cash), is password theft – an activity that has increased dramatically recently.

Stolen passwords for games such as World of Warcraft and Lineage are particularly valuable, since in these games it is common for less skilled gamers to pay for the virtual possessions they have been unable to acquire through skilled game play.

Increasingly, the stealing of passwords relies on specially designed malware, whose function is to steal online gaming passwords, allowing crooks access to gamers virtual possessions so that these possessions, just as in real life, can be sold.

Explaining just how this works Greg Hoglund, CEO of HBGary, developers of advanced software security technologies says, “Once a criminal learns a gamer’s username and password, he can log into the game and sell the victim’s virtual possessions for virtual gold coins. Those coins are then handed to another character in the game who sells the gold for real-world dollars at an online exchange such as IGE”. IGE operates a network that deals with the legitimate buying and selling of virtual currencies and assets on the Internet.

Video gaming companies are now fighting back against cyber criminals through the use of authenticators. An authenticator is an electronic device (see pic), which generates a unique, one-time use password which combined with the user’s regular password provides an increased security level against malicious attacks, including keyloggers and Trojans.

Blizzard Entertainment, the company behind such popular games as World of Warcraft, Lineage, Diablo and StarCraft sells an authenticator for $6.50 – although I noticed this morning that the Blizzard store is currently sold out.

Nevertheless, if you are one of the millions of virtual gamers, purchasing an authenticator to help protect your virtual assets, it seems to me, is vital.

In you’re interested in FREE online gaming then checkout an excellent article by Simon, one of my co-writers on Makeuseof.com Top Five Free Online Shooter Games – Must Read For Gamers.

3 Comments

Filed under Anti-Keyloggers, Anti-Malware Tools, Geek Software and Tools, Interconnectivity, Internet Safety, Internet Safety Tools, internet scams, Malware Advisories, Online Gaming, Online Safety, Privacy, Spyware - Adware Protection, System Security, Windows Tips and Tools