Archive for the ‘Video Gaming’ Category

The Family Which Plays Nintendo DS Together, Stays Together…

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007

Everyone in our family of four has their own Nintendo DS Lite. My wife has a pink one, my son and I have black (Onyx) DS Lites, and my daughter has my wife’s white DS Lite hand-me-down.

My wife generally uses hers for playing Sudoku and Brain Age, the kids play Nintendogs, Pokemon, and a bevy of other games, and I use mine mostly for Age of Empires while exercising on our recumbent stationary bicycle.


However, last week while on a partial vacation in Santa Fe, New Mexico (where we had three wonderful dinners with with old friend Ed Bott (a CNET blogger and author of one of’s top selling computer books, Windows Vista Inside Out) and his wife Judy), we discovered a new DS title (new for us) from Destination SoftwareUno / Skipbo / Uno Freefall. Uno and Skipbo are family favorites in traditional card games when we travel, and the idea that we could do away with the cards themselves, and play together electronically was just too tough to resist.

We had to buy four copies of the game at $19.99 a pop, but boy what fun it was. First, it prevented my son from trying to cheat (which he sometimes tries when things aren’t going his way), and second, it let us play while non-adjacent (or at least not near a flat surface). See photo above of Linda and the kids in a 3-player Uno game at the Albuquerque airport last Friday.

The coolest thing, though, was when we were playing during a ground delay on the plane. My daughter and I had been upgraded to first class and were in row 3, while Linda and our son were back in row 9 in coach, and we were all playing together. The only downer was when they told us to turn off all electronic devices in preparation for take-off. You can’t play with networked DSes (or PSPs) in flight, sadly.

There are a bunch of variations of Uno and Skipbo in the cartridges, and the person who is hosting the game gets to choose which variations to apply. I tend to be a traditionalist and select all the defaults, whereas my son turns on all the different wild cards (many of which we have no idea what they do, and have to learn by observing their effects when they are played).

I also picked up an extra copy of Mario Kart DS so I could race wirelessly against my kids (you can play with multiple people if there’s only a single cartridge via a game download function, but you have to wait a while for the download, and then only have a couple of tracks to choose from). We played at Macy’s in San Juan waiting for the girls to shop. That was a fun way to while away the time too.

The extra bonus of all this wireless Nintendo DS Lite gaming, besides being able to play video games as a family, is getting my wife, who is typically video game averse, into the action.

I highly recommend the Nintendo DS Lite be provided to all family members, not just the young ones you want to distract during a nice meal out (which we do as well).

And then take a look at Destination Software’s Uno-related titles, as well as the various multi-player Mario games, such Mario Kart DS, for some more fun.

Tech Annoyances – NVIDIA GeForce 7950 GX2

Thursday, February 8th, 2007

Before I launch into my latest Tech Annoyance, let me say some of this is probably my own fault for not researching as thoroughly as I should have had I been more cognizant of the potential pitfalls. The annoyance is two-fold, stemming from a combination of Dell’s design-your-own system options, and a lack of easily locatable documentation.

Part one of this is that I ordered a Dell system with 4GB of RAM, but because the system also has the NVIDIA GeForce 7950 GX2 Quad-SLI hardware (which requires 2GB of memory mapped address space) I only get to use 2GB of RAM, and have the other 2GB just sitting there collecting dust. Dell’s on-line system creation system should have warned me of this, as should have the sales person I spoke with. Interestingly, the order system did warn me that I had no more PCIe slots left when I wanted to add the AGEIA physics accelerator to the system, so it works properly for some combinations of things.

A Dell technical support representative indicated that as my Dell XPS 710’s quad core Intel CPU also had 64-bit support, should I get a 64-bit version of, say, Vista, then I would have full access to all 4GB of RAM I purchased. Nice to know that, but not very helpful as 64-bit OSes were not offered by Dell during the system configuration on-line. I am using Windows XP Media Center Edition at present.

The other technology annoyance was that this great QuadSLI NVIDIA GeForce 7950 GX2 dual-board set will not allow for dual display monitors when the SLI-acceleration is enabled. So I have to choose between running really fast graphics for games on one screen, and my more regular day-to-day work on two screens as I am used to. If I could dynamically switch between the two modes, it might not be so bad, but going from non-SLI to SLI mode requires a reboot of the system, and that is truly annoying.

So in the meantime, my second 24” Dell LCD panel is being used as the display for my office Xbox 360. Not ideal, but at least I don’t feel like I have completely wasted my money on the second display. Now I only need time to actually play games on the Dell XPS 710 and the Xbox 360.

More of My TechWatch Articles – Predictions, Prognostications, Bill Gates, and High Definition TV

Wednesday, February 7th, 2007

I have just posted a handful of my articles and commentaries from Jon Peddie’s TechWatch, an industry newsletter I write for regularly over on my Richter Scale Articles site.

Those articles/commentaries are as follows:

From the December 11, 2006 issue of TechWatch:

What Was Significant in 2006

Forecasts for 2007

From the January 8, 2007 issue of TechWatch:

Bill Gates’ Digital Lifestyle Vision – Putting the Pieces Together

LG’s New BH100 Super Multi Blue Player for HD-DVD and Blu-ray

One size fits all, says Warner Bros. – New THD disc is both HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc

To HD, Or Not To HD, That Is The Question

Hope you enjoy them even if they are a little dated (I only repost articles after the issue the articles are in has been superceded by a newer issue).

Cheap HD-DVD on your PC

Wednesday, January 31st, 2007

Last night I tried an experiment to see if I could get relatively inexpensive (sub-$300) HD-DVD playback going on my PC. The components of this experiment, other than the PC, involved an Xbox 360 HD-DVD Player and Cyberlink’s PowerDVD Ultra software.



I’m pleased to say the experiment worked. The $199.99 Xbox 360 HD-DVD Player (which I raved about here) is a USB 2.0 device. I merely plugged in the HD-DVD drive, waited for Windows XP to recognize it (I allowed Windows to go to the Windows web site to look for drivers too), and after around a minute or two, the drive was fully installed and usable as a DVD drive.

The next step was to install the $99.95 Cyberlink PowerDVD Ultra software. The current version of the software (pictured above) installs for either HD-DVD or Blu-ray Disc support – you have to choose, although company officials tell me that as soon as next month, a free upgrade will be made available to all purchasers of the current version which will support both versions for folks fortunate enough to have both HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc drives in their PC.

The PowerDVD Ultra software comes with a tool called HD Advisor, which scans your system for compatible drives and to ensure your system is powerful enough to do a real-time decode of the high definition formats. The minimum requirements are actually not insubstantial, as processing high definition content requires a lot of CPU and graphics horsepower. However, if you do have a suitable system, it works very well. The only minor annoyance I found was the inability to turn off subtitles, but I suspect that is user error (or at least a lack of reading relevant documentation).

The other nice thing about this combo is that you get a free copy of the remake of King Kong in HD-DVD (at least as of last week), and a spare Xbox 360 remote control (not much use on your PC, but maybe you can sell it on eBay or use it with your Xbox 360 if you have one).

So, for $299.94 (not including any possible shipping costs or sales tax), you can watch HD-DVD movies on your PC. Not a bad deal at all (assuming your PC is powerful enough, of course).

Microsoft’s List of 160+ High Definition Xbox 360 Games

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2007

As 2006 came to a close, Microsoft did a lot of chest thumping to declare themselves the winner of the next generation console battle, touting console sales (over 10 million Xbox 360s sold) and content (160 high definition Xbox 360 titles). Disregarding the fact that the next generation console battle is really just starting in earnest, and Microsoft merely had an early lead, the 160 titles proclamation puzzled me. After all, I think I am probably one of Microsoft’s best individual consumer clients – I have three Xbox 360s and a couple of dozen Xbox 360 packaged titles – and I add another few every month as they are released, and I did not realize I was missing well over 100 games in my collection. Nor have I seen that many games on shelves at BestBuy or GameStop. So, I asked my media contact at Microsoft for a current list of high definition Xbox 360 titles, and this is what they sent back:

2006 FIFA World Cup

A Train HX

Amped 3

Aqua Zone*

Assault Heroes*


Bankshot Billiards 2*

Battlefield 2: Modern Combat

Bejeweled 2*

Bionicle Heros

Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WW II

Blitz: The League

Blue Dragon

Bomberman Act: Zero

Bullet Witch

Burger King: Big Bumpin’

Burger King: Pocketbike Racer

Burger King: Sneak King

Burnout: Revenge

Cabela’s African Safari

Cabela’s Alaskan Adventure

Call of Duty 2

Call of Duty 3

Chanbara Beauty X


Cloning Clyde*



Crystal Quest*

Culdcept Saga


Dead or Alive Xtreme 2

Dead Rising


Dig Dug*

Disney/Pixar’s Cars


Dynasty Warriors 5 Empires

Earth Defense Force 3

Enchanted Arms




Far Cry Instinct: Predator

Far East of Eden ZIRIA

Feeding Frenzy*

FIFA 06 Road to World Cup

FIFA 2007

Fight Night Round 3

Final Fantasy XI

Football Manager 2006

Football Manager 2007


Full Auto



Gears of War

Geometry Wars Retro Evolved*


Hardwood Backgammon*

Hardwood Hearts*

Hardwood Spades*


Hitman: Blood Money

Import Tuner Challenge

Jewel Quest*


Just Cause


Kengo ZERO

King Kong (Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie)

LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy

LMA Manager 2007

Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle Earth II

Lost Planet: Extreme Condition


Lumines Live*

Madden NFL 06

Madden NFL 07

Major League Baseball 2K6

Marble Blast 2*

Marvel Ultimate Alliance

Moto GP 2006

Mutant Storm Reloaded*



NBA Live 06

NBA Live 07

NCAA College Hoops 2K6

NCAA College Hoops 2K7

NCAA Football 07

Need For Speed Most Wanted

Need for Speed: Carbon

New Rally X*

NHL 07





Open Season

Outpost Kaloki*

Over G


Perfect Dark Zero

Phantasy Star Universe

Pimp my Ride


Pro Baseball Spirits 3

Pro Evolution Soccer 6

Project Gotham Racing 3

Project Sylpheed

Quake 4

Ridge Racer 6



Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis

Rumble Roses XX

Saints Row

Samurai Warriors 2


Senko no Ronde Rev. X

Shin Sangoku Musou 4 special

Small Arms*

Smash TV*

Sonic the Hedgehog


Star Trek Legacy

Street Fighter II Hyper Fighting*

Super Robot Wars XO

Superman Returns: The Videogame

Tenchu Senran

Test Drive Unlimited

Tetris Grand Master 3*

Texas Hold’Em*

The American Civil War

The Conveni 200X

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

The Godfather The Game

The Outfit

Tiger Woods 2007

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 06

Time Pilot*

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Vegas

Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Double Agent

Tomb Raider Legend

Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland

Tony Hawk’s Project 8

Top Spin 2



Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3


Viva Pinata

Wik & the Fable of Souls*

World Championship Poker 3

World Series of Poker: Tournament of Champions

Wrestle Kingdom


Xbox Live Arcade Unplugged Vol. 1

X-Men 3: The Movie Game (aka X-Men: The Official Game)

Zegapain NOT


Zoids Infinity EX Neo


Okay – I am not into sports games, certain car racing games being an exception – I love Burnout: Revenge, although calling that a sports game is a real stretch. But sports games make up a healthy percentage of the titles on the list. There are also a number of games on the list that are only available outside the U.S., including Bullet Witch (Japan for now, U.S. in the next couple of months) and Chanbara Beauty X. And a few others appear to not be shipping yet anywhere as best I can tell (e.g. Super Robot Wars XO).

But, the other group of games I was surprised (or maybe not) to find Microsoft touting as high definition games were Xbox Live games for the Xbox 360. They may be high definition, I guess, but in Bejeweled 2 that only buys you nice looking cut scenes and prettier sparkles. I guess, however, they really still are high definition titles. And Microsoft never said 160 “packaged” titles, did they? (Although that’s what I thought was implied.)

For now, I guess I actually have all the games that I want and can easily get my hands on and be able to play/read – my Kana and Kanji skills are lacking, so I prefer games in English. And I am eagerly awaiting Lost Planet, which arrives here on Bonaire for me in less than a week. Not that I will have much time to play it. One more thing to delegate to my kids, I suppose.

Novint Falcon Haptic Input Device to Ship in June 2007

Tuesday, January 9th, 2007

One of the more creative PC game input devices I have seen in some time (and first reported on here), is the Novint Falcon.

At CES here in Las Vegas this week, Novint finally announced a ship date and pricing for the device. The Falcon will ship on June 18, 2007, and is available for pre-order now in a limited edition bundle at for a price of $189. The pre-order bundle includes the Novint Falcon game controller device, a copy of Newton’s Monkey Business (a set of mini-games strangely reminiscent of Super Monkey Ball on the Nintendo Wii), a free game download from Novint’s Online Game Service and membership in the Falcon First Club.

The full retail price of the Novint Falcon will be $239 when it ships in June.

What makes the Novint Falcon so different is that it is a haptic device, meaning that it provides physical feedback. For example, in the Half-Life 2 demo I tried, I could actually feel the recoil when firing various weapons because the Falcon would jerk up and to the right, just as a real gun would. Similarly, when opponents were firing upon me, the controller would jerk in a direction to indicate the force of being hit, allowing me to quickly locate the source of attack. The use of the Falcon is very intuitive, although I suspect that with extended game play my arm would tire. Although, arguably, that means it might be good exercise too.

The launch price for the device is significantly higher than the $99 price Novint had bandied about last May at the E3 Show in Los Angeles, but for a haptic device of this complexity, probably not unreasonable. The biggest challenge that Novint faces is getting game developers to support their device natively in PC games, but they assured me that they were working on that effort.

I certainly look forward to playing with it when it ships because it really is one cool device. And I hope they overcome the market hurdles such innovation and uniqueness tend to face.