Downloading Video Games

Here is a nice overview of video gaming downloading from the New York Times. 

I’m definitely not a fan of Valve’s Steam downloading service.  Because my husband and I share the same home e-mail address, I inadvertantly killed his Steam account when I registers the Orange Box.  Since then, actually being about to enjoy playing the Orange Box games has been touch and go because Steam is not reliable and to load the games, rather than just having the disc in the computer, you must authenicate first with Steam.  AUGH!  So horrendous!

Anyhow, enjoy this article :).


Downloading: That Other Way to Get a Video Game

Illustration by James C. Best, Jr.

By JOE HUTSKO

Correction Appended

Halo 3 and Oblivion haven’t been available in that format yet.

There is little incentive to download a game rather than buy a tangible disc: it is rarely cheaper to download. Downloadable versions of best-selling PC games like Unreal Tournament III and BioShock cost the same as the discs.

For people who like playing video games, whether they are hard-core players or occasional dabblers, downloading won’t be the main way to procure games. But online delivery is becoming very handy for the players who want to build quickly on the experience they had in a favorite game like the shooter Halo 3 or the role-playing adventure Oblivion. It will also be useful for those who want to relive an experience of a favorite game played a generation ago, like Pac-Man or King’s Quest.

Here are a few ways to get the most out of downloads.

PC GAMING The leading downloadable PC game distributors are Valve Software and GameTap. Both offer full-size games to download to a gamer’s hard drive. GameTap also offers smaller titles meant to appeal to a broader audience than the hard-core gamers Valve’s lineup serves.

Valve charges per game, with big-hit titles like Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and BioShock priced at $49.95 (Circuit City’s price for each is typically $49.99). GameTap offers two all-you-can-download subscription options, $9.95 a month or $59.95 a year, for access to its library of nearly 1,000 titles. About 50 titles are free to anyone who registers with the site. GameTap also allows people who are not subscribers to download games at prices closer to those of the retail editions.

While GameTap recently began offering Mac games, Valve is strictly for Windows users.

Both services provide system requirements and recommended specifications for any given game so you do not download a game your computer cannot run.

My download from GameTap of Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Anniversary, a 1.1-gigabyte Windows game that was available in stores and on GameTap the same day, took about 45 minutes to complete over my cable broadband connection.

I downloaded from Valve the highly acclaimed thinking man’s first-person shooter, Half-Life 2, ($19.95 on Valve, and $19.99 at a nearby Target store) in about half an hour despite its relatively compact 900 megabytes.

Both games played exactly as they would if I had installed them from discs.

But those pieces of plastic can be reassuring. If the computer is damaged, the discs would be handy to reinstall on a repaired or new computer.

But a similar safety net can come with downloaded games. A GameTap subscription allows games to be redownloaded anytime, and up to two computers in a household can run the games at the same time. Valve and other smaller download services like GameStop, IGN and EB Games grant buyers activation codes that can be used on one or more machine. The downloaded game can also be deactivated on one PC and then reactivated on another. If a Valve game bites the dust because of a crash, the registered owner can redownload and reinstall the title and jump right back into the game.

Both services offer online forums for discussing games and swapping tips, though Valve goes further by offering a feature for meeting game-playing friends that also tracks statistics and helps to schedule group events.

Many hard-core PC gamers eagerly seek free modifications, or “mods,” of popular games. Mods are created by dedicated players and programmers, usually with no connection to the company that created the game. The software adds new content like weapons, characters, scenarios and multiplayer maps. Mods hav
e been written for some of the most popular PC games, including Half-Life 2, Gears of War, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars and Unreal Tournament. Gamers say that some of the best sites for downloading mods are fileplanet.com, gamespot.com, gamespy.com, fileshack.com and filefront.com.

VIDEO GAME CONSOLES The makers of the game consoles, like Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii, want you to buy discs for new releases, even though all the machines have Internet connections and PlayStation 3 has a built-in hard drive like a PC. But they do encourage gamers to download old games. Microsoft’s Xbox Live Marketplace for Xbox 360 gamers offers more than 100 “arcade” titles like Uno, Ms. Pac-Man and Frogger, as well as add-on content for the latest titles like the Halo 3 Heroic Map Pack and new songs for the music game Rock Band. (Indeed, no discs are available for some Halo 3 expansion packs; they can only be downloaded.) The company also sells several “Xbox Classics,” the titles that ran on the 360’s predecessor, the original Xbox. Unfortunately, to buy any of them, Microsoft forces gamers to use an annoying points system that converts $1 to 80 points.

Sony’s PlayStation Store for the PlayStation 3 takes players down a similar retro game memory lane. It sells games that played on the original PlayStation. Several of the titles can be played on either the PlayStation 3 console or downloaded from the PS3 to Sony’s PlayStation Portable hand-held game device and played on that. (And like the PC game download business, previously purchased games and add-ons can be redownloaded in the event of a console crash or accidental deletion.)

The biggest retro download store belongs to Nintendo, the maker of the Wii. Its Virtual Console feature offers downloadable games created for the original Nintendo Entertainment System as well as the subsequent Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64 consoles. Donkey Kong, Super Mario Brothers and Pac-Man can be found there. The store also sells games that were first released for Nintendo competitors like the TurboGrafx, the Neo Geo and the Sega Genesis.

Although games cannot be transferred to the Nintendo DS hand-held game system, Nintendo recently announced that it would soon offer DS demos to be downloaded to the hand-held’s main memory and playable until the device is powered off, at which point they disappear.

But don’t expect the old-fashioned game discs to disappear so easily.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: March 7, 2008
An article in the Circuits pages of Business Day on Thursday about downloading video games referred incorrectly to the availability of hard drives on game consoles. Only the PlayStation 3 from Sony has a built-in hard drive. The Microsoft Xbox 360 has three models that come with detachable hard drives. The Wii from Nintendo does not have a built-in hard drive or the option of adding an external hard drive.

HP Home Server Update: External Hard Drive Added

I finally finished migrating all of my data off of my Western Digital World Book Drive to my HP Home Server.  In the process of doing so, I ran out of space on the home server.  I blew away some anime series that I knew I would not watch to make everything happy again.  After that, I decided to see whether I could add the 1TB World Book to my home server.  I was very worried that it wouldn’t work because to run in on the computer it was currently connected, it required a huge software package, and even then, it didn’t always work.  In the back of my mind, I was grinding away on ideas for a proper sacrifice to make this work.

I tried the most obvious thing first.  That is opening the home server control panel and then connecting the drive into one of the many USB ports on the back of the home server.  I did this and within a minute, the drive was visible but not active in the storage tab.  I clicked on the drive and selected to add it to my server.  The control panel asked if I wanted to format the drive.  I clicked “yes” and away the server and the drive cranked.  Within 5-mins, the activity was done and the server alerted me that the drive had been added and that I now have a whopping 1.82TB of storage.  Yippee!  And so painless!

I plan next to move our laser printer to the home server, so I now have no reason to keep my poor little laptop on 24/7.  I still have not enabled any of the sharing functionality, yet.

Busy Weekend

My weekend started early Saturday morning with a wake-up call from my parents at ~8:45AM.  They invited me and my husband to our favorite pancake house for breakfast.  They told us to meet them at 9:30AM.  Knowing full well it takes my husband ~1hr to get ready in the morning, I told them 10AM, but my Mom insisted on 9:30AM — okay, whatever, we’ll see you at 10.  My poor husband was undisturbed by the phone ringing and when I finally shook him awake, he kinda looked at me, face scrambled and mumbled about having an error while booting his brain and then fell asleep and then tried again to reawaken.  Sigh … while waiting for him to get the lead out, I learned of the tornado in downtown Atlanta.  I looked at some of the pictures of the damage and became quite worried because my little brother lives quite close to the area where this all happened.  Since my parents were calm, I became doubly worried.  Did they invite us to breakfast so early and urgently for bad news?

We made it to the pancake restaurant at 10AM as predicted.  My parents were jolly as usual and enjoying their coffee.  I asked them about the tornado and my brother and they said, “Oh yeah, we heard from him.  Apparently he was playing video games when it blew by.  He said it sounded like a freight train.  He says the streets around him are torn up so he can’t go any where.  By the way, your aunt Fannie called.  She said the folks in her condo went down to the basement to wait the storm out.  People brought wine and glasses with them, so it turned into an all night wine party.  It was the most excitement they had in years.”  Steve and I, being the cynical people that we are, turned to one another and said, “Figures.”  Sigh … one pecan waffle and strip of bacon later, we were heading back home — to laundry — when my husband reminded me of a St. Patrick’s Day party invite he had accepted.  NOOOOOO!!!

The party of course was in Temecula, a fun 50-min drive from home and it was threatening to rain.  My husband had designated my teetotaling-self the driver.  This party was a perfect storm for me:  lots of people I don’t know, alcohol, and dogs.  As you can tell, I’m absolutely no fun.  Dinner was supposed to be served at 6PM, but wasn’t ready until 9:30PM.  Fortunately, the dogs were the mellowest creatures on Earth.  Unfortunately, the drunk people felt the need to touch my afro-furry head.  It was a long night for me, but the corned beef and cabbage were a real treat.

Onto Sunday … my husband declared that we needed new pillows, as his head had consumed the last pillow.  So off to the E-bar first for a lunch pitstop and then to Target for pillows.  My husband decided to buy many types of pillows with gimmicky odor, sweat, cooling, and allergen promises.  I didn’t even attempt to resist him.  Sigh … and off to the post office to fullfill an order from my Amazon store front (somebody bought an awful manga from me called “My Dearest Devil Princess” (As “Devil Princess” was already taken).  I hope it was nobody from work.  If so, I’m sorry, or, enjoy it, depending upon your persuasion.)  And then back home, where I spent the rest of the afternoon doing home server maintenance and fighting Blurb as I made my Mom’s birthday present.  Night fell and “Gundam Seed” called.  This is a 50-episode anime series that is basically an animated soap opera (don’t tell my husband).  We watched 13-episodes.  Yep, it’s that addictive.  We are now on episode 36.  (If you like space operas, giant robots, and tormented young heros, then this is the anime for you.  Actually, it is a really good series and if you’ve never watched anime before then this would be a good introduction.  The show is not under 13 friendly, though, but if you have older children, then you will all enjoy it as a family.  Steve and I angrily shake our fists at  the female character “Filay.”  Oh, yeah and there’s the occasional singing, but nothing like Macross’s (“Robotech” in the US) Min-May.)

As for the pillows, while my husband was off in pillow land, I picked up a vinyl pillow cover.  I put it on his pillow in it last night.  My husband slept well.

Getting User Generate Content Through Contests

Blurb announced a photobook contest this week.  This is a good way to drum up business if some authors want to PRINT those photo books, as well as get more user generated content to fill their online store, so reader can PRINT those photobooks.  

Here’s the e-mail announcement I was sent:

Be a part of the modern photography book movement.
Photography Books
Photography.Book.Now celebrates the most creative, most innovative, and finest photography books – and the people behind them. Enter this international juried photography book competition and compete for worldwide recognition and great prizes.

Submit your book here by July 14. The Photography.Book.Now international book competition is juried by a panel of world-renowned editors, publishers, curators, and photographers, led by head judge Darius Himes. This is an opportunity to win the $25,000 Grand Prize or one of many other prizes to be awarded.

Photography books can be entered in two categories, General and Themed. The winners will be showcased at an awards ceremony in San Francisco, and winning books will travel via a salon to New York, London, and Cologne. The books will also have visibility online and at the half-day symposium featuring panels and presentations exploring photography books.

Get more information on the jurors, entry rules, event dates, locations, and prize levels at photographybooknow.com.

Vuze Interface on Azureus Bittorrent Application

I updated Azureus at home to the Vuze interface a couple of weeks ago.  Vuze is a open source platform for the sharing of high definition video content (and more).  The interface is very slick looking with buttons for the various channels and thumbnails of the videos available.  Here’s a picture of the Vuze interface on the Azureus website.  The actually program UI looks very similar.

A new download window is also presented.  It is extremely simplified compared to the previous versions of Azureus.  While “pretty”, I find this view to be useless, so I still use the “advanced” interface to manage my downloads.  BTW:  There is now the ability to download series to specific folders via the RSS feed filter tab.  Yippee!

To be honest, I haven’t fully explored the Vuze yet because there was no programming available that I wanted offered through any of the channels.  Today I see there is some worthy content, so I will take a look and write more on this.  In the mean time, here’s a link to Vuze so you can play with it yourself.

GE Demos Printed OLEDs

This looks really neat!  I can’t wait to see what folks do with this new form of lighting. 


GE official website: http://www.ge.com/research/grc_2_9_1.html
LED Magazine:  http://www.ledsmagazine.com/news/4/3/29

Breakthroughs in Practical-Sized, High Quality OLED Light Panel Source

General Electric Global Research has achieved a major breakthrough, developing a fully functional 2 ft. x 2 ft. light panel that produces more than 1200 lumens of quality white light with an efficacy of 15 lumens per watt. This device offers 50% better energy performance than their previous device, breaking two world records.

The goal of this three-year project was to develop an OLED light panel that delivers white light with brightness and quality comparable to a fluorescent source, and with an efficacy better than an incandescent source. Key challenges involved achieving the correct white color (critical to market acceptance), increasing OLED device efficiency and lifetime at high brightness, size, and fault tolerance. In the first year, GE developed a small area efficient white light device that produced 2 lumens of light with an efficacy of 4 lumens per watt, setting two world records. This achievement involved utilizing blue polymers developed by Cambridge Display Technologies to fabricate and evaluate device performance. One polymer was selected for white device development; in parallel, new polymers and device designs were investigated for increased efficiency.
Anil Duggal, Manager of GE’s Light Energy Conversion Program, and Mark Ginsberg, Senior Executive Board Member, DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, are illuminated by the 2 ft. x 2 ft. OLED device at a demonstration held at DOE.

In the second year, GE focused on developing a new scalable, fault tolerant architecture compatible with low-cost fabrication methods. The result was a device measuring 6 in. x 6 in. that produced 70 lumens of light with an efficacy of 7 lumens per watt — another world record. In the third and final year, the team focused on increasing lumen output and efficiency, developing a 2 ft. x 2 ft. illumination-quality OLED array using a tiling approach to link 16 panels together.

These breakthroughs demonstrate that the light quality, output, and efficiency of OLED technology can meet the needs of general illumination. The next goal is to demonstrate that organic electronic devices can be made cost-effectively on flexible material in a continuous roll-to-roll process.

For more information, see the DOE SSL Project Portfolio or visit the GE Global Research web site.