Author - Jerry Paxton

Wolfking Trooper MVP Gaming Mouse Review

The Trooper MVP is Wolfking USA’s latest gaming mouse. While most gaming mice these days are meant to be controlled with your finger tips, us old-timers remember the days when mice were held with your palm. They were days when men were men, women were women….Ah heck, I’m just sayin’. So anyway, the Trooper MVP is like that – you have to palm it as it is a very large and robust gaming mouse. It is also fairly heavy. This can be a double-edged sword as while this makes the mouse extremely smooth to control, it also decreases overall ‘twitch-factor’ which can be important in open-field or QCB situations. For a sniper, however, this will probably be just what the doctor ordered. Especially when we talk about the rapid-fire modes!

But I digress, the Trooper MVP is available in three different trim colors, however the main body remains a black plastic shell, and runs a 2400 dpi Avago laser sensor. This is a good step up from the original Trooper’s 2200 dpi laser sensor (which they don’t advertise sensor-maker on). Slightly above the thumb rest you will find the forward and back buttons and on the top of the unit just below the scroll wheel you will find the rapid-fire and dpi switch buttons.

DPI switching can be temperamental with the MVP. We found that switching while in-game caused us to pull our fingers back from the primary and secondary mouse buttons in order to reach the selector. This left us open to attack for a second every time we switched. It is a functional system but we would like to see the dpi selector button moved forward a bit. The three different settings for the MVP are 800, 1600, and 2400 dpi.

The rapid-fire button is what will light many of your pilots out there. The button is marked with an ‘F’ and is located directly under the scroll wheel and above the dpi button. The rapid-fire button cycles between four modes: ‘none’, ‘2x’, ‘3x’, and ‘4x’ (and the scroll wheel lights up a different color to signify which mode you are on). When you press your primary mouse button while in a rapid-fire mode, the mouse will auto-fire additional rounds for you. While in ‘3x’ mode, one button press will cause three to go off in your game. This makes the mouse IDEAL for sniping as every physical click of your mouse takes additional coordination and causes the mouse to slightly move. Firing with the MVP needs only one button click in ‘4x’ mode. Shoot with that set and four rounds will go on target with one click. Sweet.

The MVP also has a higher frame rate than its predecessor, with 7080 fps compared to 6600 fps. The MVP also requires less power with a 7mA output while moving compared to the original’s 8mA.

Overall, the Trooper MVP is a fine gaming mouse that features a very shooter-friendly rapid-fire mode and smooth action. Unfortunately, its mass and right-handed design will alienate some gamers from using it. Thankfully, it is comfortable and only retails for $49.99, making it an excellent value as well.

Official Product Page

BitDefender GameSafe Antivirus Defense Review

BitDefender has been a well-known anti virus developer in the European market for quite some time, their history stretching back to 1996 (that is very respectable in computer-time). In 2004, they brought their security products to the US, looking to dethrone the big guys at Norton and McAfee. A market they have now stepped into is the gamer segment, and we got a chance to test drive their new GameSafe Antivirus Defense suite recently to see how it holds up.

BitDefender is touting GameSafe as the anti virus program for gamers everywhere, due to low system overhead and the ‘gamer mode’ which disables all non-essential functions which would usually slow down game performance in other anti virus programs. In fact, the GameSafe suite came about when they polled gamers to find out what anti virus software they were using and determined many gamers just disable the software regardless of type to keep their performance up. I know that while I ran Norton (a year or so ago at this point), my systems were noticeably slower and lets face it, Norton has a huge memory overhead.

theSuite: BitDefender already has a line of security suites with various functionality. Their basic anti virus program has the ‘gamer mode’, however it does not include the firewall. This product is $24.95 for a 1 user, 1 year lease. GameSafe also costs $24.95 for a 1 user, 1 year lease but does include the firewall portion of the suite. GameSafe does not include, however, the data backup or ‘tune up’ features of BitDefender’s higher-end products. An anti virus program we have fondly used in the past, ESET’s NOD32, which does not include a firewall costs $39.99 a year for a single-user license.

theInstall: GameSafe comes on one disk and installing only took a matter of minutes. Upon successfully finishing, it will ask you if you would like to perform a very deep scan on your system to get a baseline reading. This took about fifteen minutes on our mammoth system, but once it was finished and we were sure that it was not infected, it was time to begin.

theTesting: We ran our PC in two different test environments (Age of Conan and Crysis) before installing the GameSafe suite. In fact, we made sure that there was no anti virus on the system at all during this baseline reading. Then, we installed GameSafe (running in ‘gamer mode’) and ran the same tests again with the same graphical settings. We reached the following results:

As you can see, there was no discernible difference in frames per second before or after running the GameSafe Antivirus Defense program. Their claim as to it not affecting performance has been up held.

theConclusion: Running both Crysis and Age of Conan yielded no difference in performance with and without GameSafe installed and in ‘gamer mode’. This tells us that GameSafe does indeed continue protecting your system while allowing you to keep your game performance up where it would be without it as BitDefender claimed.

We would highly recommend BitDefender’s GameSafe to any gamer looking to get a good anti virus suite they won’t have to turn off before firing up their favority game.

Official Site

PAX Heading East and Perhaps Worldwide

On the latest Penny Arcade blog, Tycho has laid out some plans to move or copy PAX from Seattle to somewhere on the East coast and, perhaps, across the pond as well!

From the blog: ‘People sometimes call PAX ‘The New E3,’ but that never sat right. It’s
better to say that PAX is everything E3 isn’t. We made it the opposite
on purpose – public instead of private, fun instead of work. It’s about
people who make and play games, instead of the games themselves. This
is all pretty obvious in retrospect, but for some reason no-one else
had done it. It deserves to be on the East Coast. Frankly, it should be
global. I’m working on it.’

Via Penny Arcade

PAX 2008 – Pre-Registration Ends Thursday

An official reminder had been sent out by the Penny Arcade Expo folks letting us all know that ‘pre-registration’ will end this Thursday. So make sure to get yourself all registered nice and tidy. They are expecting at least 45,000 people, making this the biggest PAX yet.

Official Site

Official Release:
The organizers of the fifth annual Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) today issued a reminder that July 31 is the last chance to pre-register for the gaming festival at the Washington State Trade and Convention Center in Seattle Aug. 29-31. Based on current pre-registration numbers, attendance is expected to break 45,000, guaranteeing a packed house for this year’s PAX.

The keynote speaker for 2008, respected screenwriter and developer Ken Levine, will kick off the festivities, including gamer-themed music concerts, an Exhibition Hall crammed full with over 70 companies, console and PC tournaments, the Omegathon competition and a wide variety of industry panels. Significant panels and presentations will include:
– History of Harmonix: THE ROCKENING
– How to Make the World Notice Your Video Game Blog
– The Mega64 ‘Panel! At The Expo’
– The Power of Gaming Communities
– GamerDad’s ‘Gaming With Children’

Comic Con 2008 – Stargate Worlds Hands-On Impressions

At a hotel across the street from the San Diego Comic Con convention going on last weekend, we got a chance to checkout Cheyenne Mountain’s Stargate Worlds and even play it for a bit!

The first thing we saw was a video showing off various landscapes in the game. Stargate Command looks amazing, and we were told that they have fleshed the base out quite a bit more than what was seen on the show. It will be interesting to explore the locations we remember from the show as well as all the new nooks and crannies in Cheyenne Mountain.

Then it was a bit of Q&A with the dev team showing us the game. We learned that human characters will still loot mobs in the field and equip any items they wish. Items that are not wanted can be sold, traded, or broken down into their constituent components for crafting later on. Also, new items can be researched and, if you are good enough, you will gain new item blueprints to build from later on. The weapons are being custom designed by Cheyenne Mountain, based off of real-world weaponry but the P-90 will definitely be making an appearance (much to the delight of fans everywhere).

The game will initially ship with a 32-bit executable, but there is a possibility they will create a 64-bit version later on down the line (obviously, no eta given). Stargate Worlds will be a DirectX 9 title, however there could be a DirectX 11 upgrade, because of its backwards-compatibility, later on down the line (again, no eta given).

The dev then played a bit of the game, showing us the ropes and, most importantly, the cover system they have devised. Combat is handled with old-school ‘internal dice rolls’ ala EverQuest. Players will, of course, have special attacks and abilities (with cool-down timers)to use as well. This cover system is what will really separate the combat in Stargate Worlds from other MMOs, however. Players have a circular indicator on their screen which will tell them from what arcs they are covered by surrounding objects, etc. Enemies will also appear as blips on this display. If they are inside one of your covered arcs, you will receive a defensive bonus. If they are outside of it, then you better move your butt to some better cover! When you target an enemy you will see their cover arcs as well. If you maneuver outside of their cover, you will gain an attack bonus against them.

The enemy AI is based off of different sets of behaviors, which not only allow the mobs to react based on their own needs to find and exploit cover, but also what is happening to other mobs around them. According to developers, an AI opponent might decide to change tactics in mid-combat if, say, their stronger friends get taken out. The enemy AI could decide to go into a totally defensive mode against the players. Then again, if they are the only one left, they might decide to charge you (not a good plan).

Also, players can run and shoot at the same time (albeit with a to-hit penalty) which makes combat a cool mix of old-school MMO and contemporary actioner as players move from cover to cover as necessary to gain a tactical advantage over the enemy. Teamwork will be crucial, as having multiple team members at multiple angles of fire is one of the greatest ways to overcome an enemy. This feature will, hopefully, keep the Leeroy Jenkins’ charges to a minimum as without thinking through your tactics your goose is surely cooked.

Vehicular combat is missing from the base game, as the developers said they wanted to get the ground-game as the primary focus of Stargate Worlds. Although, it seemed fairly obvious that vehicular combat would be in serious consideration as an expansion at a later date should things go well for the game in this helter-skelter world of MMOs.

We also learned about the Archaeologist and Scientist character classes (available only to humans). The devs want to make these extremely necessary in the grand scheme of the game, as in many MMO’s the specialty classes end up being an after thought. These two classes are vital for not only researching and creating new weapons, etc, but also in completing special ‘mini-games’ encountered on missions. These mini-games are how players hack into doors and other technologies. Early on, anyone will be able to do them. However, at later levels they will be virtually impossible for anyone else to do other than the non-combat oriented classes, which get special abilities and tools that allow them to complete these tasks. The mini-games are all done on a Flash layer (though processing is still server-side so don’t get any funny ideas).

Then it was our turn to take the reigns. Unfortunately, the hotel’s network connection was being flooded at the time so we dealt with some lag here and there, but the cover system kept the action moving nicely. It was a pleasant mix of taking cover then running to new cover when needed and helped capture the gun-battles of the show, in which the small SG teams take on outnumbering foes by the use of tactics instead of raw force. And in the Lucia Flats where we were engaged at, there was plenty of rubble to use. Those pesky Lucian Alliance guys…

We were impressed by Stargate Worlds and can’t wait to get a chance to go through the gate again.

Official Site

Gameplay Footage:

Comic Con 2008 – Rise of the Argonauts Impressions

Also at the Codemasters’ booth during this year’s San Diego Comic Con was a dev-run demo of Rise of the Argonauts, their upcoming Greek mythology-steeped action-RPG. Steve Cornett, a designer at Liquid Entertainment took us through the demo and we send our thanks to him for his VERY in-depth knowledge of Greek mythology which served to greatly enhance what we saw.

You play as Jason, and proceed on your quest to obtain the golden fleece, which is said to have the power of resurrection. On your journey, you are accompanied by the other Argonauts which include the likes of Hercules and Achilles. In addition, you will meet several more throughout the game who will join your crew. What we saw was an awesome display of brutality which reminded us, slightly, of watching the battle scenes of the movie 300.

Combat is reminiscent of God of War only in that opponents often come at you and your two companions (you choose the two you want by your side, usually, when you disembark your sea vessel) by various directions at the same time. Jason will block with his shield automatically as is possible and damage, due to the fact that there is no UI in the title, is shown directly on the characters. With combat being very realistic, you usually do not have to wear down your opponent’s health bar. A couple well-struck hits depending on your weapon-type should kill the standard-variety mob. A big emphasis in combat is placed on getting around armor, and in the demo I saw being played, Jason used his spear to counter-attack and take out a well-armored foe. His spear, while not the best against groups of enemies, is excellent at exploiting the ‘chinks’ in even the best armor. In addition, when Jason or his companions score a brutal hit on the enemy, they are often dispatched in the goriest of manners…hehe.

Jason has an awesome assortment of weapons which include the types of a spear, mace, shield, and a sword on his person all the time. There are many different versions of these weapons in each type to be found throughout the game (as there is armor). Unlike other titles, Jason does not ‘loot’ mobs in the game as he already uses the best of equipment. Only items of the most awesome quality (and usually a long back story of their creation and/or usage) are taken by him to use on the quest.

A HUGE element of the game comes from which patron god you have the most favor from. Just about everything you do in the game from conversational choices to weapons you use more than others will affect which god you gain favor in. The patron gods are Ares, Hermes, Apollo, and Athena all have different focuses. For instance, Apollo favors the player with the options of learning more defensive skills while Ares will favor the player by giving them thee option to learn more offensive skills. As such, you increase their favor by using items that reflect that. Using your mace, which is very slow but very powerful, will increase the favor of Ares. You can gain favor in whatever gods you see fit in order to customize your character’s abilities to the fullest.

Another aspect of the game which we liked was the ability to directly-influence the storyline. For instance, after battling Medusa, it is up to the player whether or not to kill her or bring her back from damnation, in which case she will join the crew of the Argos. While there is only one ending in the game, the player can take many different routes to reach it.

Official Page

Comic Con 2008 – Damnation Impressions

Yesterday, we got the chance to take a look at Codemasters’ upcoming third-person action-shooter, Damnation. Set for release sometime in late 2008 / early 2009 on the PC, Xbox 360, and PS3 platforms, the game is shaping up very well and keeps with the recent Codemasters’ trend of designing games without user-interfaces (save for showing an icon of the currently selected weapon and ammo count) in order to increase the cinematic quality of the game as well as immersion. There is also no mini-map, the game relying on careful level design to give the player a ‘sense’ of where to go next.

The game is set in an alternate history where the American Civil War has spanned for 8 decades. The technology seen in the game has been designed as modern equivalents of older tech seen during the war. Damage is all shown on the screen through a visual de-saturation effect. The more damaged you are, the more the screen loses its color. The game will support 2-player drop-in/drop-out coop through the campaign as well as some as yet unannounced multi-player modes.

Gameplay has been said to be a cross between Prince of Persia and Gears of War. While the similarities seem to exist between the titles in terms of navigating the landscape and freneticism, Damnation does not feature a cover system but does allow the player to fire (when it makes sense) while climbing/scaling objects. In the demo we saw, the dev sent the protagonist hurling himself through a window in a very cool combat roll. The levels are vast, spanning many kilometers. The level we saw had the player slide down an electrical cable strewn over a vast chasm. The level of detail adjusted very well and the gameplay was smooth and without any stutters.

The player has the ability to enter a mode called ‘spirit vision’, in which they can see other character’s auras through walls and other terrain. This is said to make multiplayer matches very interesting, with the focus on constantly moving to keep your opponents off-guard. In the single-player/co-op campaign, it will help the player locate the position of enemy snipers and other hidden baddies.

We will bring you more information on this title when it becomes available (probably at Leipzig).

Product Page

SUBSONIC Laser Sword Raises too Many Questions

SUBSONIC, a French peripheral maker, is developing and marketing a device they call the ‘laser sword’ for use in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed on the Nintendo Wii. Personally, we think it just looks too hilarious to attempt to try out. We will leave it to you to come up with your own explanations. But just think what the first thing many people will do once the vibration function starts rumbling…

Ground Environment X – USA and Canada Review

Ahhhh yes…the world of flight simulation… We love flight sims here at the Shogun office, well, some of us do. Others can’t understand what we find so enjoyable about the simulation of flight, no goals or mission objectives, just you and your machine cruising about on your own terms.

For those of you who ‘get it’, you know what we mean. And you will understand why we are so excited about Flight1’s Ground Environment X – USA & Canada. Normally, our reviews are very objective and give a good pro vs con argument of a product. Not so in this case. And that is primarily the fault of Flight1, who has such a great product in GEX, it is hard to find a ‘con’ to it.

The basic world textures in Microsoft’s Flight Simulator X are much improved over its predecessor’s (FS9). Unfortunately, they are still way too pixelated and low res to promote the needed realism to match the rest of the incredible graphics of the title. You have this beautiful aircraft, weather, and lighting…then the frumpy ground texture.

Enter Flight1, and their add-on to the game, Ground Environment X. GEX replaces all those ‘frumpy’ ground textures with photo-realistic ones that cover the entirety of the US and Canada (yay Canucks!). The difference is very noticeable in FSX and amazingly noticeable in FS9, where the ground textures are considerably worse than FSX to begin with. The textures are extremely crisp and have better organized auto-gen in most areas, meaning that you shouldn’t have trees popping up on top of buildings, etc (although this still happens now and again).

The textures will cover every area, season, weather condition, and time of day possible with realistic changes depending on the condition. Night time is especially brilliant with street lighting, etc to guide you in your difficult VFR journey. They even have ‘blend’ textures when an environment changes (such as daytime to nighttime). We were also impressed with the fact that game performance was not significantly affected by the add-on.

For $34.95, you would be hard-pressed to find any better texture replacement for Flight Simulator 9 and X that has the quality and feature set of Flight1’s Ground Environment X – USA & Canada.

The full feature list:
   * Complete coverage of the USA and Canada (including Alaska).
* 1m/pixel – 1024 x 1024 Texture Size – Hand Crafted To extreme Detail.
* High Performance, extreme density and perfectly aligned autogen.
* Realistic custom designed night textures.
* All seasons including snowy winter.
* Textures derived from licensed Arial and Satellite imagery.
* Fine tuned add-ons and ongoing updates and enhancements will be made available through the built-in update feature, based on customer feedback.
* Textures have been enhanced to provide even more texture clarity.
* Enhancements to produce simulated 3D depth in texture foliage.
* New winter textures which display vegetation within the snow.
* Better season blend so seasons such as fall fade into winter and blend naturally.
* Enhanced color processing which upgrades all seasons.
* Enriched desert and flatland details, no more bland yellow deserts or flatlands.
* Structured texture layout to assist in covering all major landclass products.
* Special features for Ultimate Terrain X USA and Canada Customers.
* Completely redesigned night lighting environment.

Ground Environment X is available here.