AMD retires the ATI brand name

In a decision based on market research and in an effort to strengthen the overall AMD brand, AMD has decided to do away with the ATi branding. The branding shift doesn’t just affect the ATi name, it’s a sweeping change across AMD’s products, but gamers are really only going to notice the ATi decision. AMD purchased ATi four years ago and has struggled to justify the cost of the investment ever since. AMD claims that their own brand is a more healthy and recognizable name than the ATi brand, so they hope that consolidating the names under a single umbrella will help grow the ATi technology going forward. The new logos that will be found on computer cases, laptops, and other packaging will look like this:

I don’t think that ATi has struggled against the competition due to branding. If anything AMD failed to properly use the ATi brand after acquiring it. Compare the marketing and partnership efforts of NVIDIA with ATi and immediately it becomes apparent that AMD was simply not aggressive enough in securing partnerships or creating a proper buzz within their target demographic’s community. AMD did a great job of making their CPUs “cool” in comparison to Intel, but it seems that they always struggled to do the same with ATi against NVIDIA.

I still run an ATi card and I love it. I don’t think this spells doom for the ATi tech or anything, it simply just feels like the end of an era seeing such a household name in PC gaming fade away.

Yep, PC gaming is still pretty awful

Man, what a letdown today has been in regards to gaming. StarCraft 2 showed up in all of it’s collector’s edition glory today and I couldn’t have possibly been more excited to play. As it turns out, this game is still a PC game. Right from the get go I had issues. While installing the game I got an error at 94%, and I had to restart the installation process. After getting the game installed, I was informed that I needed to update my video card drivers to avoid less than perfect performance. I download the drivers, install them, restart my computer, and fire up the game once more. I decide to start a new campaign. As soon as that new campaign is nearly loaded, the game crashes and I’m asked to submit a bug report to Blizzard. After doing that I go and finally get into the single player campaign and play the first mission. I check my options, and the game recommends I run everything at Ultra settings (so it’s DEFINITELY not an issue of my computer being underpowered). After finishing the mission I click continue to move onto the second, when the game crashes again and once more I’m filling out a bug repair to send to Blizzard. Lovely. After that I try to restart the game, and I’m told that my installation is corrupt and that I need to run the repair utility.

Awesome.

I saw more of the image below and the install screen than I did anything else on day 1. PC gamers love to talk about the superiority of the platform, but holy jeez I won’t ever fault anybody who refuses to play on anything but a console when there are issues all over the place. It’s not like Blizzard didn’t have the last decade to get this thing right…

So yeah, PC gaming is a terrible thing. It’s too bad, because there’s a lot of awesome stuff on the PC, but once you venture beyond the friendly confines of Steam, it gets real sketchy real fast.

StarCraft 2 is out tomorrow

Yeah, it’s not like I have to report this to remind anybody, but it would just be plain wrong if I didn’t have a StarCraft 2 related post this week. Tomorrow is the official launch for StarCraft 2 and I’m hoping that everybody out there has their copy on preorder, their PC upgraded to run the game smoothly, and lots of free time. Today would be a good day to get some extra chores done around the house, love up the wife real good, and take your kid to the park for some daddy time, because all your extra time belongs to Blizzard starting tomorrow.

For those that didn’t play StarCraft between now and its release back in 1999, I do feel comfortable saying that you’ve missed out on one of the ten best released games during that time period. Even by today’s standards StarCraft and its expansions are still good RTS games, so if you have a chance to pick it up (you do, it’s cheap), it might not be a bad idea to play through the original before getting StarCraft 2. And yes, you should all be planning on getting StarCraft 2.

January in Review

January gave us a chance to play through all the goodies we picked up during the holiday rush or to catch up on backlog titles that have been waiting a long time to get some play in our rotation. Here are the games I completed in January, most of which were for the first time, others just for nostalgic reasons.

Bayonetta (Xbox 360) – This was a game I reviewed for Kombo and one I was beyond excited to get my hands on after getting a few short minutes with it back at E3 last year. The game turned out to be what I was hoping to be and I had an absolute blast with it from start to finish. With fluid controls, an excellent combat/combo system, and a wacky presentation, Bayonetta will more than likely be in my top games of 2010.

Assassin’s Creed (Xbox 360) – Yeah, it took me until early 2010 to finally finish Assassin’s Creed. Like many I became a bit fatigued by the repetitive nature of the missions, so when other releases started coming out that interested me I set the game aside. With the release of Assassin’s Creed 2, I needed to go back and wrap this one up for storyline continuity sake. In the end I enjoyed the game, but I’ll always be quick to point out that it has its fair share of issues.

Duck Tales (NES) – One of my favorite games ever made (look for an upcoming Best Game Ever feature on this), I will come back to this one for a few speed runs or high score challenges. Never do I put this game into my NES and feel like I’m only enjoying it for the nostalgia effect. This game is a timeless winner from Capcom and Disney.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (PS3) – Simply a fantastic game that deserved the many awards it picked up in all the game of the year voting for 2009. The action, story, presentation, and overall experience all combine to make Uncharted 2 a must play for all PS3 owners. The behind the scenes content on the disc is pretty fun to watch as well (you can also find the videos on YouTube).

Castlevania (NES) – Another game I commonly go back to for a quick play, Castlevania is a challenging title that tests my ability to stay sharp when it comes to retro gaming. Much like Ninja Gaiden on the  NES, these old action games really keep the enemies coming nonstop and have very basic but solid level designs. This is definitely not the last time I’ll be playing through Castlevania.

King’s Quest VI (PC) – Ah, the Sierra On-Line classic. I was a big fan of the King’s Quest, Space Quest, Quest for Glory, and Police Quest games and I tend to play through one or two of them every couple of months. They’re great to have on your laptop to play on the go or to casually experience while watching TV. King’s Quest VI was probably my favorite in the KQ series, though they’re all pretty fantastic if you don’t recognize King’s Quest VIII (it NEVER happened).

So here’s what I’m working on in February so far, and I’m hoping to get to Dragon Age: Origins, BioShock 2, and Mass Effect (yeah, the first one) by the end of the month.

Assassin’s Creed 2 (Xbox 360) – Wow, what an improvement over the first iteration in the series. I put this disc in almost immediately after finishing the first game and right away I could tell they had upgraded the graphical engine. The first game looked nice, this one looks fantastic. The free running feels more accurate and the mission variety is way better. More importantly, the game really does a great job at urging you to explore the landscape, but there are also plenty of helps to make it an easy going experience rather than a frustrating one.

Retro Game Challenge (DS) – A funky little game that came out a few months ago, this is one I’m glad I didn’t pass on. It’s hard to explain this one in a few words, but basically you’re playing retro style games to meet specific challenges laid out for you such as a high score to beat or to achieve a number of kills in a certain manner or time period. The game has tons of nods to classic games, magazines, and industry professionals. It’s just a great package overall.

Star Control II (PC) – I come back to this game a lot. A lot.

Best Game Ever: Star Control II

Star Control II.
Originally on the PC but also ported to the 3DO with enhanced sound and added speech, this game was easily the best open world game of its time. It’s really rare, even today, to find a game that offers the same level of freedom, non-linear progression, and sense of scale. Here’s the lowdown.
Game is set way in the future after a big galactic war in which the Earth and its alliance lost. Earth is trapped under a slave shield and a race called the Ur-Quan rules the galaxy along with anybody else that chose to join up with them and avoid being annihilated or enslaved.
You’re a descendant from science team that left earth way in the past that had colonized a new planet where you’ve found alien tech. You go out to find out what happened with earth. After finding out that the alliance basically got curb stomped you decide to take it upon yourself to fly around the galaxy recruiting races to start the fight back up again against the Ur-Quan. Depending on the alliances you make the game changes and the storyline can get altered quite a bit.
Game is split into three main styles of gameplay. First there’s exploration where you’re looking for resources (money), new races to ally with, and alien technology to augment your ship. Secondly there’s the political aspect where you need to convince races to join your fight and keep them at peace with one another. Finally, there’s combat that plays out as a 2D top down battle. It’s all great stuff.
Here’s the intro video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J4GB3FeqQVk
[youtube]J4GB3FeqQVk[/youtube]
Here’s a battle sequence:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cRg6MfG7UUY
[youtube]cRg6MfG7UUY[/youtube]
A conversation with the Spathi, a coward race that you still want to recruit as allies because they make awesome starships.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=afuWQonf4D8
[youtube]afuWQonf4D8[/youtube]
You can get the game for free here: http://sc2.sourceforge.net/downloads.php
Versions of the game are available on Windows, OS X, Linux, and a few other devices (including PSP).
I know it’s a busy time for gaming, but honestly, I doubt any game coming out in the next few months will be as good.

Note: Best Game Ever is a series of posts I’ll be doing dedicated to the best games ever made. Each game I profile will be a game I’d accept as someone’s answer to the question, “what do you think the best game ever is?” So please, do not email me and tell me I’m stupid for posting about game X when game Y is clearly superior. And you never know, game Y might be the next game profiled. For more in the series, check out the “best game ever” category in the side bar.

Star Control II.

Originally on the PC but also ported to the 3DO with enhanced sound and added speech, this game was easily the best open world game of its time. You can now download it FOR FREE (link at the bottom of the post) as it’s been made open source. It’s really rare, even today, to find a game that offers the same level of freedom, non-linear progression, and sense of scale. Here’s the lowdown.

Game is set way in the future after a big galactic war in which the Earth and its alliance lost. Earth is trapped under a slave shield and a race called the Ur-Quan rules the galaxy along with anybody else that chose to join up with them and avoid being annihilated or enslaved.

You’re a descendant from science team that left earth way in the past that had colonized a new planet where you’ve found alien tech. You go out to find out what happened with earth. After finding out that the alliance basically got curb stomped you decide to take it upon yourself to fly around the galaxy recruiting races to start the fight back up again against the Ur-Quan. Depending on the alliances you make the game changes and the storyline can get altered quite a bit.

The game is split into three main styles of gameplay. First there’s exploration where you’re looking for resources (money), new races to ally with, and alien technology to augment your ship. Secondly there’s the political aspect where you need to convince races to join your fight and keep them at peace with one another. Finally, there’s combat that plays out as a 2D top down battle. It’s all great stuff.

Here’s the intro video:

Here’s a battle sequence:

A conversation with the Spathi, a coward race that you still want to recruit as allies because they make awesome starships.

You can get the game for free here: http://sc2.sourceforge.net/downloads.php

Versions of the game are available on Windows, OS X, Linux, and a few other devices (including PSP).

I know it’s a busy time for gaming, but honestly, I doubt any game coming out in the next few months will be as good.

1up: No LAN support for Starcraft 2

Oh great, so I guess I won’t be able to lug my PC rig to a central location with a bunch of my idiot friends to play Starcraft 2 while we all feed from a giant bag of Doritos and suck down bottles of Mountain Dew. People are already freaking out about no LAN support in Starcraft 2 and the news just broke. I don’t exactly see why they don’t include it in the game, as it would be an easy thing to support, but let’s be honest here…99% of the time you play with friends it will be online. I’m sure if enough of a fuss is made it will be added in at some point as well.

Back away from the ledge, Blizzard fans.

Source: http://www.1up.com/do/newsStory?cId=3175004

Pictures of the next Fallout 3 DLC – The Pitt

I won’t pretend that a lot of people didn’t feel that Operation: Anchorage was a bit of a let down (I personally loved it), but it was certainly a departure from the regular style and pacing of the rest of the game. With The Pitt DLC coming our way, Bethesda is promising that it will be much more like the main quest and will not only give gamers access to a new city (Pittsburgh), but it will also introduce new weapons, quests, and a chance to interact with the Wasteland Raiders in a more personal manner. Here are some screens that Bethesda released.

fallout3_dlc

fallout3_dlc2

fallout3_dlc3

Left 4 Dead DLC will be free

How awesome is Valve? The upcoming Left 4 Dead DLC, which is actually pretty significant, is going to be absolutely free for both PC and Xbox 360 users. In a recent press release, Valve gave all the tasty details. Here’s the direct quote:

San Francisco, CA – February 11, 2009 –The recently announced Left 4 Dead Downloadable Content (L4D DLC) will be delivered to Xbox 360 and PC gamers free of charge.Due for release this spring, the DLC for 2008’s best-selling new game property on the PC and Xbox 360, is dubbed the L4D Survival Pack and introduces a new multiplayer gamemode entitled, Survival, plus two complete campaigns for Versus Mode (Death Toll, Dead Air). A Critic’s Choice Edition of the game will be heading to retail stores this spring, and will include access to all the content introduced in the L4D: Survival Pack. Left 4 Dead is a survival action game from Valve that blends the social entertainment experience of multiplayer games such as Counter-Strike and Team Fortress with the dramatic, narrative experience made popular in single player action game classics such as the Half-Life series of games. Released in November of 2008, L4D has earned over 25 industry awards from outlets around the world.

For more information, please visit www.l4d.com

It sounds like Valve is basically willing to give us what most devs are charging between $10-$15 to receive. That’s pretty generous, and I hope other developers follow suit.