London BarCraft MLG Providence 19-20th Nov

Just a bunch of BarCrafters, eating, drinking and cheering.

Get ready for another top BarCraft event hosted by @LondonBarcraft this 19 & 20th of November 2011. As per the packed out previous event, StarCraft 2 MLG tournament games will be streamed all weekend across multiple screens at The Assembly House, 292 Kentish Town Road, London NW5 2TG. Arrive from 3pm both Saturday & Sunday and join fellow StarCrafters in what looks to be the ultimate MLG final event in the 2011 pro circuit.

The Assembly House is a great bar with great food and great owners! They are killing e-sports one BarCraft event at a time and can now be found on twitter @assemblyhouse2. The pub is easily accessed by train, simply get off at Kentish Town, turn right and you will see the pub on the corner, packed with nerdballerz chanting Huk Huk Huk! There is also plenty of parking in the residential streets behind the pub, Leverton Street being the closest with a 30 second walk to the bar.

Don't worry there is plenty of room the other side of the bar

The London BarCraft team never fail to keep everyone entertained, with plenty of ‘in between’ events filling the holes that most tournaments fail to fill. With giveaways of gaming swag such as T-Shirts and signed Dignitas goodies, ‘guess the StarCraft unit’ games performed by the crowd, classic YouTube SC2 games casted by the in-house caster @JoRoSaR, and even some awful Korean Pop music videos. If you look in the corners of the bar you may even spot an arm wrestle competition, proving nerds actually have biceps thanks to hitting their mechanical keyboards all day! So bring your self and your biceps down to the best BarCraft event in the UK, and don’t forget to practise your StarCraft unit impression, My Life For Aiur!

INcontroL couldnt even take these guys down, well maybe!

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The Filco Majestouch Mechanical Keyboard

I’ve been hearing nothing but good things about mechanical keyboards over the last few months. So I decided to take the plunge and after a lot of research my Filco Majestouch Linear Action Keyboard with Cherry MX Black switches has arrived (that’s a big description for just a keyboard). I am typing this on it right now and am loving hitting every single key!

A Filco mechanical keyboard

The difference between mechanical keyboards and every other keyboard I have used in my life is sooo huge that I cannot put it into words, but I will try. It’s like the first time you saw GLQuake or Unreal with a 3dfx graphic card as opposed to running in software mode. It’s like when you first switched from a 56k modem to isdn or broadband and hit a quake server with a low ping. The instant WOW factor just hits you and your brain records a memory that you will never forget, stacked up with all the other ‘first time’ experiences that may or may not be PC related 🙂

StarCraft is the link that got me into these mechanical keyboards. Its common knowledge that all the pro StarCraft players use a mechanical keyboard, and if you delve deeper you can even find out which brand and which switch type your favourite player uses. But WTF is a mechanical keyboard? A mechanical keyboard has mechanical key switches under each key (in this case, Cherry MX Black switches) as opposed to the cheap rubber dome crap that you find on the majority of keyboards out there, EVEN a lot of overpriced so called ‘gaming’ keyboards covered in gamer crap like LCD’s. I am no expert on the technical workings so for more guidance on mechanical keyboards just read this excellent in depth guide.

Choosing a brand is difficult as there is actually quite a bit of choice now, even from major gaming brands like SteelSeries and Razer. I decided on the Filco Majestouch for two main reasons. Firstly it has the simplest layout, no extras, no weird keys in the wrong place, no 3.5mm jacks for headphones or USB hubs. Just a basic UK keyboard with the standard 105 key layout that most keyboards take and then modify with back lights and volume controls and all sorts of other nonsense. Also it has no extra dead space, like the DAS Keyboard which has a huge extra piece of plastic at the top right for no reason. It is just a plain old simple keyboard, black with all the basic keys. My second reason was the Filco is sold in the UK by a small UK company called ‘The Keyboard Company‘ and I like to support British businesses where I can.

The next choice to make is which mechanical switch to go for. The three main choices are Cherry MX brown, blue and black. The Cherry MX Blue’s are the most noisy being tactile and clicky so I steered clear of those. The Cherry MX Brown switches have a tactile feel half way through the key press and a lot of StarCraft players use these, they have no click so they are slightly quieter. The Cherry MX Black switches have no click and no tactile feel, just a linear key which is good for all sorts of gaming, especially FPS. As I was brought up on FPS I figured this would be best for me, as I am used to bottoming out the key (hitting it so hard it hits the table). For a more technical explanation check out this guide on switches. Also the Filco I went for with Cherry MX Black switches comes with red LED’s, I love red stuff. It’s worth noting the red LED’s are extremely bright when viewed direct on.

Bright red LED's! Blinding

Another cool feature with these keyboards is the ability to buy custom color key caps. The Keyboard Company sell ESC and WASD keycaps in red or blue. As I dont use WASD I use arrow keys, I have had to order some red keycaps from Hong Kong on ebay, they come as a pack with all the letters so I can swop out some of my favourite StarCraft keys like ‘A’ for marines with a red key.

Red keycaps for your most used HOT keys, like A for marines in SC2 ;O) Marines are OP!

Another cool function which has prevented me from changing keyboards over the last decade is N-key Rollover. I use an odd combination of keys, that just so happens to be on the same membrane on all but one 10yr old Dell Keyboard. Which means if i try to press my ‘gaming keys’ all at the same time, they dont work on most keyboards. NKR (N-key Rollover) allows you to hit any combination of keys all at the same time, providing you use the PS2 port not the USB port. Thats right, PS2 > USB for keyboards anyway, as per the super Mechanical Keyboard Guide

PS/2 or USB?
PS/2 wins on three fronts: First, it supports full n-key rollover. Second, PS/2 keyboards aren’t polled, but are completely interrupt based. And third, it is impossible for it to be delayed by the USB bus being used by other devices. There are two types of USB transfer modes – the interrupt transfer mode (USB polls keyboard, when key is sensed the USB controller sends the interrupt to the CPU), and the isochronous transfer mode, which reserves a certain amount of bandwidth for the keyboard with a guaranteed latency on the bus. Unfortunately, there are absolutely no keyboards made that use the latter, because special controllers would have to be used, thus making it cost prohibitive. So if your keyboard supports both PS/2 and USB, and your PC has a PS/2 port, there’s no reason not to use it.

And that is that, I think I have convinced every one of you to go out there and blow £120 inc VAT on a mechanical keyboard? Yes I left the price till last as they are expensive, but they are worth it. No doubt this will last you a life time. Take my word for it, if not, take my fellow StarCrafter’s word for it on his excellent Keyboard Quest post. See you on Bnet newbz, hitting high APM’s like a BOSS!

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London BarCraft MLG Orlando 15-16th October

This weekend @londonbarcraft are hosting the biggest baddest StarCraft BarCraft event in London yet. Head down to The Assembly House, 292 Kentish Town Road, London NW5 2TG from 3pm this Saturday & Sunday 15th & 16th October 2011, for non stop StarCraft. The Assembly House is a great bar, excellent food, hot bar staff and of course, loads of fellow NerdBaller StarCraft fans. Extra screens have been added due to the increasing crowds at previous events, the third being a projector, with 2 supporting screens which should mean you can see the games from every point in the bar now. The last London BarCraft we had a HUGE crowd, take a look for yourself below.

There are a few surprises this weekend, with the first LondonBarCraft Awards taking place for the ultimate in StarCraft swag. Thats right, team-dignitas have donated signed pictures of the awesome Select, Naniwa and others, as well as team-dignitas hoodies (the height of NerdBaller fashion). The CheeseMonger Award sounds most entertaining, and the winner of each award will have his (or hers) StarCraft replay casted live in front of the audience, so get submitting your replays NOW to awards@londonbarcraft.com. I also overheard (sshh its a secret) a couple of trips to DreamHack, flights and hotels included, are up for grabs from a team-dignitas sponsor!

You can win this team-dignitas stuff @LondonBarCraft

So go grab your favourite StarCraft t-shirt, wash and iron it, and get ready for the ultimate weekend, MLG Orlando, fellow StarCrafter’s and plenty of good food and drink, trust me I’ve tried nearly everything on the menu. See you there, GL HF.

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How to bind the arrow keys in Battlefield 3

Bind the Up, Down, Left or Right keys, turn OFF Num Lock.

This one is simple so I will get straight to the point so you don’t have to trawl through the EA Battlefield 3 forums. If you want to bind the ARROW keys in BF3 you need to have Num Lock OFF. If you leave num lock ON you will get the error message ID_InvalidEnumValue. I hope this helps you get into the game with keys other than WASD. Not everyone plays WASD as we found in Mass Effect 2, some of us prefer the arrow keys.

As for the rest of the the Battlefied 3 beta, I’m pretty pissed off that the options menu can ONLY be accessed whilst in game. You need to find somewhere to hide, which is difficult and ends up with abuse from other players calling you a camper when they find and shoot you down. Why on earth would you only be allowed to access the options menu whilst in game, it is the worst time to be binding your keys, changing your graphic settings and adjusting your mouse sensitivity. Who tests this stuff? Who thought that was a good idea? It creates a server full of newbs doing nothing but testing binds and graphics settings, and free kills for other newbs. I know it is a beta, but how did this get past alpha with such a basic flaw?

Anyway moving on, the web based interface is ok as I got used to this with Quake Live, so not much to say on that. Generally it works although a few times I have had the A generic game error was reported, please try again. ( code: 1) message but this just seems to be random, keep trying and eventually you can get on a server. Otherwise try clicking the MULTIPLAYER text rather than the QUICK MATCH button, this will bring up a manual server browser and has prooved to throw up less errors than the match making of ‘QUICK MATCH’.

Keep retrying, or failing that, click Multiplayer for a manual server browser

This is really where you want to be to select a game anyway, the server browser. After all match making and quick match are for console gamers right? Here you can select a server of your choice, see the stats before you jump in. Well hidden EA!

Oh look, a server browser, well hidden EA!

So how is the beta? It’s ok, I wasn’t a fan of and still am not a fan of COD/BF style multiplayer but hey, its something to do other than StarCraft 2 right? GG

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London BarCraft

I must apologize, I’ve not had much to say lately here on gamdo, but there is good game related reason. I’ve been playing StarCraft II, watching StarCraft II tournaments, watching VODS, following SC2 casters and pro’s on youtube, twitter and generally getting involved in the ‘community’.

Since the SC2 launch night that myself and G-r0 attended and covered here on gamdo over a year ago I’ve been playing, and it’s a great game. It feels like the second coming of Quake 3 for me, the community, the pro scene. Infact, its bigger, because back then we had no youtube, justin.tv, no twitter or MLG and no internet faster than ISDN. It’s a shame I’m not 16 again, because I would be able to play for 16hours a day 24/7 like I did back with Quake 3.

So anyway, StarCraft II is an RTS (real time strategy) game where 2 or more players build a base, then an army and then send them at each other to war. This is how I had to explain it to the girl behind the bar on Sunday, at the first (I think its the first?) BarCraft event in London. BarCraft is a when people go to a bar, and watch StarCraft live streams, luckily the term was invented in America as PubCraft would have sounded stupid. Thanks to @LondonBarCraft who organised it and thanks to @djWHEAT who retweeted during this weekends MLG, reaching out to his 25k plus followers. I could go on but instead I made this little video which should tell the story. Enjoy. Marines are OP!

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Dinner Date the game, is not really a game

Dinner Date?

I began to write this a while back but forgot to finish and publish it. So here goes. Dinner Date by Stout Games assumes you are the stereo typical gamer, male, single, young and desperate for a date with a mysterious oriental girl who (spoiler alert) lets face it, is not going to turn up, ever!

Now times have changed, that stereotype I thought had phazed out. Everyone I know who plays games does not fit that description. Infact I cannot think of anyone who reminds me of the role you play in Dinner Date. Furthermore you play this role from a first person perspective, which should make you even more immersed into this character. But still I could not connect with the character, yet something kept me thinking about this ‘game’ experience for weeks, there is something special in Dinner Date, but don’t expect it to be fun.

I hate the voice, everyone raved about the audio in Dinner Date but I found the voice annoying, heck I even found the gameplay annoying, and disappointing! At the end I was left feeling empty, Steam had sold me a game which left me feeling empty, thanks Steam. But for over a week I kept thinking about Dinner Date, it was stuck in my head.

The experience is what you are paying for. I’m starting to believe feeling empty and crappy at the end is the entire point of this ‘game’, after all, your single, drunk and alone in a shitty flat, your job sucks and your date is not going to arrive. If that doesn’t make you feel like crap then I don’t know what will, and the fact that this game makes you feel like that makes it a success, and worth the few pound just to try out this potential new genre, ‘Make you feel like crap ‘game’ experience’ genre.

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The Death of Piracy…and online cheating?

Following Kotaku’s recent interview with an ex-pirate who chose Steam over BitTorrent, I figured it high time that the death of piracy should be upon us. In a world moving more and more into the cloud, services like Steam are providing a place to buy, collect and socialise as a gamer. With a friends list requiring a scroll even on a 1920×1200 display, a sale nearly every week and a constantly patched and updated game Steam offers a complete gaming solution. Why buy anywhere else? Where to buy is not the problem. Choosing to buy at all is the biggest issue on the PC as some simply choose to download for free via torrent, especially with games often appearing on torrent sites days before Steam/retail stores.

Piracy statistics from torrentfreak.com

Looking at the piracy statistics for 2010 (above) at first glance piracy seems to be up over 2009 for this years Call of Duty (see stats below). 4.27 million illegal copies of Black Ops were downloaded this year vs 4.1 million copies of Modern Warfare 2 last year. So in 2010 there were 170 thousand more illegal downloads of Call of Duty over 2009 through the first two months of release. However, if we look at sales a massive 5.6 million copies were sold in 2010 within 24 hours of release (across all platforms) vs 4.7 million in 2009. I’m no accountant (ed. lol?) but that’s almost a 20% increase in legitimate paying customer demand over last year, yet pirated figures show only a 4% increase. So is this a sign of a slow down in piracy? I think it is. Piracy as a whole does appear to be getting bigger, but so too is the industry and at a faster rate. The number of gamers willing to pay, at least if not only for Call of Duty are increasing.

2009 piracy statistics from torrentfreak.com

The question is why would piracy slow down as we all become more digitally download aware? If digital downloads are slowly taking more and more of the market especially on PC, why are people choosing to pay for digital downloads over torrenting them for free like they have been for the last near decade. Steam is why!

Retail purchasing on PC died along time ago for me, first the high street and then even online ordering became a chore. Leaving the house to purchase a physical disc, having an optical drive hooked up to your computer, getting the disk out of the box to install it, manually finding the latest patch…very 1990’s. Steam offers one central ‘app’ for the gaming community, you know what your friends are buying, what and when they are playing, what they have played for precisely how long, what they have achieved and now even what they want to play if they had the money a.k.a Steam wishlist.

Gifting on Steam is a joy. I often buy gifts for relatives and friends, with a few clicks Christmas and birthdays are sorted without having to leave my seat, delivered direct to their email/Steam account. And don’t even get me started on Steam sales, games for a few pounds, why even waste time torrenting and searching for key gens and nocd.exe’s? Steam have perfected the process so well, I would rather pay for a game on Steam than to get it for free not on Steam, that’s capitalism at its finest.

Another reason for piracy decline and the eventual death of piracy is the big brother account integration of these services like Steam as well as Xbox Live and PlayStation network. If you are caught using pirated games or even cheating, the risk is you lose your entire account, either a ban or complete account deletion. All those achievements, digital downloads and the ability to play with all your friends, gone in an instant! All to save a few pounds by pirating? It’s just no longer worth it.

This year has seen a huge clamp down by the powers that be, with the most extreme example when Blizzard banned over 5,000 Starcraft 2 players for cheating. Back in 2009 Valve even gave everyone a gift for not cheating, a free hat which I wore with pride, obviously the cheaters didn’t get anything. With more recent and a touch more serious tone Sony is attempting to sue the hackers who opened up the PS3 for all manor of piracy, which this year has been a constant battle by Sony releasing countless patches to stay one step ahead of the pirates. Will I patch my PS3 to play Gran Turismo 5? Of course I will, I did straight away even though GT5 sucked! Do I want to lose any of my online accounts to save a few pounds and spend hours illegally obtaining pirated software? The answer is no, my time and my avatar is worth more than that and most importantly I want to support the games industry, and so should you.

I’m not anti-pirate although I may sound it. Piracy has changed the world often for the better and I highly recommend a favourite book of mine The Pirates Dilemma which covers this subject in far more depth. When there is a solution out there that is better than piracy, I’m all for it. After all that’s usually why we pirate in the first place, a rubbish system. Now if only the movie industry would take their fingers out of there ass…

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Kinect Review

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It seems like only yesterday the internet was in awe of Microsoft’s Project Natal. I remember watching videos of gamers in their huge showroom living rooms fighting, talking and dancing around with no controller in sight, amazed at a new technology that felt light years away.

Yet here we are, and Project Natal now renamed to the quirky ‘Kinect’ is with us and has been in my living room for over a week already. I’ve waited this long to share my thoughts so I could have a chance to watch friends and family interact with it, to get an overall view of Kinect as a gaming platform rather than just my so called ‘core gamer’ opinion.

Firstly I skipped the midnight launch, sorry folks but there were plenty of main stream sites live covering the London launch with Call of Duty Black Ops one night followed by Kinect the next it was just too much hard work, plus it was freezing! So the next day I tried a different journalist approach, actively turning into in a casual gaming consumer in my quest to source a Kinect in London the same way that the target audience would, by hitting the high street. Similar to the Wii launch stock was sparse, but determined to get a Kinect without pre ordering I found Argos had stock, albeit only a few and only in one store which luckily was local to me. Fellow Gamdo staff G-r0 had alot less luck in his quest to source a Kinect in central London, unable to find a store with stock on day one.

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After collection and mandatory twitter post, I rushed home complete with what felt like the only Kinect in London and began unboxing and setup. This is where Kinect shows signs of first generation technology, teething problems which as a techy I can deal with but I can imagine alot of casuals would find annoying and confusing. To be fair Microsoft has done a great job, getting this technology to market so quickly and providing a reasonable step by step on screen setup process. The main issue which is going to be a huge problem is setup when space is limited, especially in London and other densely populated cities which makes the process a tad frustrating.

Kinect requires 6 feet minimum, only due to reading piles of previews and reviews did I know this. Yes there is a tiny warning on the box but for the average joe buying this as a gift its too late. I can see alot of space issues popping up, and alot of refunds when people realise they just don’t have the room for Kinect. The advertising doesn’t exactly warn you that you need an airplane hanger sized room to play it in, although every scene in the adverts are set in gigantic over-sized spaces which aren’t just there for the wow factor, you do actually need to upgrade your house.

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Setup takes a while but is dam exciting with the sci fi music playing in the background and the anticipation of being in the Minority Report. It’s also dam frustrating even in what I thought was a moderate sized living room. I started with the Kinect sensor in front of the TV, which seems sensible if you have your TV on a bench or stand. The problem is unless you bring the Kinect sensor forward to the edge of the bench it cannot see the floor which is a requirement and will halt your setup progress. Already short on space moving your Kinect sensor further foward will remove more room to play. So I balanced Kinect on top of my TV and began the setup process again. By placing Kinect above your TV you give yourself an extra foot of playing space, which really helps. Ideally you need the official TV mount, or you can make your own like this guy, or you can risk it and just leave Kinect to balance on its own, I chose the latter as I just wanted to play!

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Kinect has its own dashboard or ‘hub’ as its called, which is a bit of a let down. I was expecting to control the Xbox dashboard with gestures and voice but alas this is not possible (yet?). But what this does give you day after day is that pretty cool moment after you turn your Xbox on to say ‘Xbox Kinect’. In a calm and quiet voice from anywhere in your room (or even in the room next door as I accidentally discovered) you can access the Kinect hub with voice, or by waving (a set motion wave not any old wave). Once in the Kinect hub voice and gestures can be used to navigate around. At this point you say Xbox Kinect Adventures and boom, the game loads. It still takes a while getting used to voice commanding your Xbox, not because it doesn’t feel natural, but because it’s so dam cool.

Each time you start up Kinect Adventures you have to run through a short setup process, why it doesn’t remember this each time I have no idea. It is SO important to get this bit right. You have a visual indicator on screen as to what part of the room you are standing in, and it is grouped off into two areas, GOOD and BEST. Standing as far back as I could without landing on the sofa I was borderline between the two, so believing ‘best’ would be best I chose that. Big mistake. The best area was basically where my sofa and bookshelves behind my sofa were, so Kinect kept losing me and my first in game Kinect experience was terrible. My Xbox kept pausing the game and telling me to step back. I can imagine plenty of people have had this same issue with Kinect Adventures, as you are lured into thinking ‘best’ is the best way to play when infact if you don’t have the room you need to play in the ‘good’ area. Restarting the game and selecting ‘good’ changed everything. Kinect Adventures is so much fun.

I’m not going to review Kinect Adventures as a game because I don’t think it is a game as such but more as a technology demo for Kinect, and that it is. Your entire body is tracked, I knew this but I began just standing still waving my hands in awe, slowly discovering I could kick, headbutt and even pelvic thrust the incoming balls. (ed. innuendo?) I then realised I could step left and right, back and forward and all is tracked and portrayed on screen. This is the point when you start to want to upgrade your house, or just clear everything in your living room out the way. Luckily my L-shape sofa is detachable, and now remains unfixed so I can quickly move the L part of it out the way to make room for Kinect. I don’t have a coffee table, coffee is gross, but if you do, move it and any other junk out the way and watch out for overheard light fittings or nearby children otherwise you could end up like this poor kid below or find yourself ripping out your lights Penny Arcade style.

Kinect also has facial recognition, which works perfectly. Spend a few minutes scanning your face from different angles around the room and linking it to your gamertag and as if by magic when you stand up Kinect will sign you in to Xbox Live. Combine this with voice commands and full body tracking this technology is really amazing, Kinect takes us one step closer to Red Dwarfs Better than Life and Star Trek’s Holodeck. And that is exactly what everyone is forgetting, this is a new technology like nothing we have seen before. Most reviewers put me off Kinect with mediocre scores, but the lure of this new tech still made me go out and get it, and I’m glad I did. Kinect has to be experienced, and everyone who has tried it with me is left in amazement at how well it works.

Yes there is a bit of lag most noticeably when you jump, and yes there are setup bugs and space concerns, and yes Kinect Joy Ride does suck. But putting all that aside the technology is so advanced and such a good attempt for first a generation commercial release that I can look past these teething problems, bad games and space requirements, because Kinect really is fun. Even for a hardcore gamer like myself who thought the Wii was a terrible gimmick with low accuracy and crap games, I can highly recommend Kinect.

9/10 Great technology, great fun, just make sure you have the space to play

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