Specs on our new PCs
Many on Twitter have been asking about the specs on our new Digital Storm PC rigs, so hey, here we go:
Chassis Model: Special Deal Hot Seller - Hailstorm II Edition
Exterior Finish: - Standard Factory Finish
Trim Accents: - Standard Factory Finish
Processor: Intel Core i7 4930K 3.4GHz (Unlocked CPU for Extreme Overclocking) (Six-Core)
Motherboard: ASUS Rampage IV Extreme X79 (Intel X79 Chipset) (Features USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gb/s)
System Memory: 16GB DDR3 1866MHz Corsair Dominator Platinum DHX (Extreme-Performance)
Power Supply: 1050W Corsair Pro Silver 1050HX (Dual/Triple/Quad SLI Compatible)
Expansion Bay: - No Thanks
Optical Drive: ASUS Blu-Ray Player/DVD Writer (Play Blu-Ray and Burn DVDs) (Model: BC-12B1ST)
Storage Set 1: 1x (240GB Solid State (By: Corsair) (Model: Neutron GTX Series) (SATA 6Gbps)
Storage Set 2: 1x (2TB Hitachi (7200 RPM) (32MB Cache) <b></b>
Storage Set 3: 1x (2TB Hitachi (7200 RPM) (32MB Cache) <b></b>
RAID Config: - No Thanks
RAID Card: - No Thanks
Internet Access: High Speed Network Port (Supports High-Speed Cable / DSL / Network Connections)
Graphics Card(s): 1x NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB (EVGA Superclocked ACX Cooler Edition)
Sound Card: Integrated Motherboard Audio
HPC Processor: - No Thanks
Extreme Cooling: H20: HydroLux Level 1: Digital Storm Exotic Custom Cooling System (CPU + Chipset)
H20 Tube Color:Red Tubing with High-Performance Fluid (UV Lighting Reactive)
Chassis Fans: Upgrade Chassis With LED Performance Fans (Red) (Up to 6 Fans)
Internal Lighting: Digital Storm HydroLux RGB LED Lighting System (Requires HydroLux Control Board & Software)
Airflow Control: Digital Storm HydroLux Thermal Management Control Board & Software
Chassis Mods: Hailstorm II: Bottom Baseplate Mod (Cleaner Wiring Look & DS Logo Branding)
Noise Reduction: Noise Suppression Package Stage 2 (Optimized Airflow & Fan Speeds with Noise Dampening Material)
LaserMark: - No Thanks
Boost Processor: Stage 2: Overclock CPU 4.5GHz to 4.8GHz (Requires Pro/Deluxe/Sabertooth Motherboard)
Boost Graphics Card(s): - No Thanks, Please do not overclock my video card(s)
Boost Memory: - No Thanks, Please do not overclock my memory
Boost OS: - No Thanks, Please do not tweak the services on the operating system
Windows OS: Microsoft Windows 8.1 Professional (64-Bit Edition)
Recovery Tools: Windows Recovery Toolkit (Bundled with Windows CD)
Judge or approve away!
The Reality of Virtual Reality
DISCLAIMER: I’m an investor in the Oculus Rift. I’m also a believer in the technology. I think it will be truly game changing, not only in games, but also in many, many other fields. I am NOT an official spokesperson for the technology and I consider many of the folks working on it to be friends, so please understand this is my personal opinion regarding the technology.
It seems like every time a good/great 3d game comes out one of the first things I almost always read on the Internet is
"OMG IMAGINE THIS ON THE OCULUS RIFT."
With the overwhelmingly positive response that Titanfall has gotten I’ve seen this train start up, once again.
It’s one of those things that drives me bonkers, kind of like when people refer to Lego as Legos. (Google it, dammit.)
You can’t just dump a game on the Oculus just like you can’t just throw a PC FPS on console without massive tuning. The pacing of the experience, the controls, everything needs to be re-tuned so much that you might as well just start from scratch for the Oculus.
A fast paced shooter simply doesn’t work well on the device. The device is so game changing that the experiences built for it need to be custom, unique and designed from the ground up FOR VIRTUAL REALITY. The experience needs to be much more like swimming through water or hopping around in low gravity as opposed to being an Olympic hurdler. Even horror games will need to be re-thought; instead of jump scares and intense “Outlast” experiences horror on the Rift will need to be the super subtle type otherwise your average person will only last 15 seconds in any given jump scare title before tearing the headset off.
Having seen the latest of what the tech has to offer (and I believe a myriad of experiences are going to continue to blossom for the emerging tech) there’s one sensation that I couldn’t get out of my head, and it’s the true feeling of flight. I have a recurring dream in which I’m being chased by a monster and if I concentrate hard enough I start flying up, up and away, gleefully flipping off whatever beast is in pursuit. In one of the recent demos, when I looked down, I had that very same sensation of flight and it was thrilling.
I have never, ever had that outside of a dream. Ever.
And for those of you who like to dismiss the tech saying “Oh it’s just like 3d, no one will want it” you obviously haven’t used it. When 3d is properly used in the theater for depth as opposed to a baseball coming at your face (See Avatar and Gravity for good uses) it is incredibly immersive. The problem is that most folks don’t really want it in their home. The effort of putting on the glasses isn’t worth the result in your average home setup outside of someone who has, well, an IMAX in their house.
The Rift is an IMAX in your house, and then some. The effort of putting on the headset leads to an overwhelmingly fantastic result. When you put on the latest demo and you crouch and lean around the new world around you your brain adapts, adjusts, and you’re there. I have memories of the places I visited in the latest demos. I felt like I could have reached out and touched things. It was the most magical experience I’ve had with technology since the first time I saw an Atari 2600 joystick manipulate pixels on my friend’s TV in their basement many, many years ago and decided then that I wanted to make games.
So, for the love of god, give the device more credit than just tossing random FPS games on it. It deserves much, much more. And you’re darned right I invested in it, because I’d like to think I know a good thing when I see it. :)
The one constant is change
Waking up today I was drowning in a deluge of emails, tweets, direct messages and smoke signals.
My former employer has sold the Gears of War IP/franchise to Microsoft and my friend Rod Fergusson is going to be working on it.
To be honest, I don’t think the franchise could be in better hands. Heck, Rod’s Twitter handle, to this day, is “Gears Viking.” Gears is just as much Rod’s baby as it was mine. He’ll take good care of her. (Rod, I owe you a girly drink at GDC.)
Phil Spencer went out of his way to give me a phone call to inform me of the transaction last week. Phil, you didn’t have to do that, you’re a gentleman. I appreciate it; that goes a long way. 343 knocked it out of the park with Halo and I think Black Tusk will do a fantastic job with Gears.
I suppose this puts the nail in the coffin of the question “Will Gears ever come to Playstation?”
Safe to say that’s not likely to happen. (Besides, it gives me something to look forward to on Xbox One besides Titanfall and Project Spark…oh and more Halo, of course.)
Now that that’s out of the way…
I’m not going to move to Vancouver and work on it.
I’m not going to consult on it.
My headspace is in the future now, not the past. I have come to realize that until you give people something new to focus on they will obsess about the past. (good problem to have!)
To those of you who love Gears, I love you as well, and I appreciate your support through the years. The fandom, the cosplay, the tattoos, it all means more than any amount of money could ever mean.
These recent events have steeled my resolve to make something entirely new.
Time for new cosplay, new tattoos, new fandom.
Fingers crossed there will be news soon.
Gamin’ Good in the Neighborhood!
When I first moved to Raleigh in 1998 I was, for lack of a better term, a pretty standard 20-something American Consumer. I told myself “Hey, Raleigh can’t be bad, there’s a Burger King and a mall!” Growing up in the suburbs of Boston there wasn’t much to do as a teenager, hell, I wasn’t into sports and I didn’t drink or do drugs so it was pretty much school, videogames, and The Mall. Lather, rinse, repeat, and consume, and be a good little American Target Demographic.
This blog isn’t specifically about Raleigh, however, I’m going to use Raleigh and the local areas to make my point about my gaming industry fear and the trend that I’m seeing. I joked a while back that the future of shooters is going to be All Call of Duty, all the time, much like the famous scene in the old movie Demolition Man in which all restaurants are Taco Bell. (Capitalism is about many things, for example profit, giving the people what they think they want, and outspending The Other Guy in marketing. And hey, it’s free market, and people are going to vote with their dollars…right?)
As Raleigh evolved and Epic set up shop in the lovely neighboring suburb of Cary, NC, I found myself simply drinking the Kool Aid and going to the local chains. You know, the same ones that are pretty much everywhere. Chili’s. Olive Garden. Outback Steakhouse. A decent meal for a modest amount of money, and fuckin’ hey, unlimited salad and bread-sticks, amirite?
And then, in the early 2000’s, something started to happen on a national basis, and it started spilling over into our little neck of the woods. People started waking up to what they were eating, they started paying attention. Books like “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”, “Salt Sugar Fat”, and documentaries like “Food Inc.” began to open people’s eyes to the fact that an industry driven by profit would do whatever it took to keep shareholders happy and the average American addicted to, well, Salt, Sugar, and Fat. Whole Foods realized this and began to explode nationwide. People began flocking to Farmers Markets, and the whole “Farm to Table” movement took over. Even in Raleigh, our “mini-Austin”, most indie restaurants list what local farms they acquired their ingredients from.
Why am I going on and on about food and capitalism and chains versus indie restaurants? Because I can see a similar thing happening in the video gaming space. My greatest fear right now is that in the triple A space, in the next 3-5 years, there are only going to be a handful of uber brands that are known entities. Just like in your average American town you get Taco Bell, Applebees, and all the other Same Exact Stuff, in gaming you’re going to see Assassin’s Creed 6, Call of Duty 9, Madden 2016, and Halo 6. And each progressive title is progressively going to take less risks than the previous one because of the sheer amount of development costs and marketing necessary to push these titles on an annual basis. (Shout out to Rockstar for NOT annualizing.) The fact that Watch Dogs even EXISTS as a new IP is a testament to some bold folks at Ubisoft on both the creative and business side having the tenacity and strength to push for something new, something fresh, something that should not exist in AAA.
When you go to most American suburbs (and many cities), you see the same restaurants, over and over because whomever “wins” is given the golden rubber stamp and then is able to spawn clones everywhere. I can see this happening in gaming right before our eyes, hell, even Activision’s marketing department knows it and they played into it this year with the “It’s Call of Duty Time!” ad campaign. (“Only in Battlefield” > “Call of Duty Time”, by the way.) I see an ad for a new Call of Duty and I have the exact same response whenever I see an ad for Applebees.
Sure, it’s there, it’s consistent, and it doesn’t really seem to take many risks. It can’t. When a franchise hits that level of success it runs into the classic sequel conundrum, the Innovator’s Dilemma. Change too much and you’ve “ruined” the franchise, change too little and you’re just a re-skin of the product. You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t, but as long as you make your minimum sold in, hey, time to annualize the product.
I don’t meant to slag AAA games, or the console business. There are thousands of developers who have worked themselves entirely too hard to bring these products to market. I’m merely calling out a trend that I’m seeing, a trend that’s easier to see now that I’m not in the thick of the console wars this time around.
This is why, as of late, I’m doing the majority of my gaming on PC and in mobile. There are risks being taken in this space that one seldom, if ever, sees in the disc based AAA market. These markets feel wild, unruly, a market where a mod like Day Z can take over, League of Legends can fill the Staples Center, or an experience like The Stanley Parable can happen. In mobile you see games that are high quality, free, and actual strategy titles that are cleaning up. The ecosystem is built for it, slightly gated by the likes of Valve or Apple, but less of a guarded wall than a console approval process. I want a space dogfighting simulation on my Oculus Rift.
I don’t want scripted sequences and quicktime events any more, because they yield only one Youtube video.
I do believe that the major console manufacturers do finally grasp the importance of indie games (Sony somewhat more than Microsoft) and things are starting to shift. The biggest challenge to having these unique experiences on the consoles will be the accessibility of these experiences and how visible they will be made to gamers. (Making them as cheaper digital downloads instead of $60 disc based experiences is one of the clear and obvious steps. I love to see more grassroots campaigns for unique games with lower budgets and more risk taken over bloated game and marketing budgets.)
At the end of the day I’m simply at the point in my gaming life cycle (as a lifelong GAMER) whereas I avoid the suburban chains and I seek out the locally owned unique eateries that will surprise me and provide a more pure experience over an extremely well laminated and produced menu that sells ad space between the pages.
(And yes, we’re getting both new consoles on launch day. I hear the controllers are pretty sweet.)
Butch Walker came through Raleigh last night and once again delivered an amazing show. If you don’t know who he is, look him up. He’s sometimes more known for producing acts like Avril Lavigne and Pink, but his original music is absolutely heartfelt and stellar. His fans are incredibly loyal and enthusiastic and every time I’m fortunate enough to see him live I make sure I don’t miss the show.
Needless to say, the show is a bit of an emotional roller coaster for me, because his music has been there for me during some of the best and worst moments of my adult life. Great things were happening for me, guess what, there’s a fun Butch song that goes with it. Heartache? Butch has you covered.
After reflecting on the show and recovering from the beer and the ringing ears and the hoarse voice that I have I remembered that there was a personal story that I meant to blog about for some time now. I’ve told it to many friends, and it’s always a fun one to hear. (It starts sad but later goes into a rather interesting place.)
Several years back my nephew Ben was suddenly killed in a car accident a month after his 20th birthday. He was my older brother’s first born, and he was really a great kid, and to this day I swear he’s haunting me on Facebook. (Weird thing, that is, when someone you known or love passes, and their profile remains as almost a digital memorial for them. I have this strange obsession with reading the last thing posted on these profiles.)
It was heartbreaking. I held this boy as a baby and watched him grow into a young man. In hindsight I wish I had visited him more, but regrets can eat you from the inside out, and it’s important to appreciate the time we get with someone while they’re around. Life can shatter or change in an instant. (Getting a phone call from a relative super late at night or super early in the morning scares the shit out of me now.)
I booked the flight up to Connecticut for the funeral. The whole experience was surreal and I think I watched myself in third person through a fog while there. My brother Tyler (Ben’s uncle) delivered an amazing eulogy and he ended it by quoting the Shawshank Redemption, which was their favorite movie to watch together:
"Sometimes it makes me sad, though, Andy being gone. I have to remind myself that some birds aren’t meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright and when they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up does rejoice, but still, the place you live in is that much more drab and empty now that they’re gone. I guess I just miss my friend."
I still to this day do not know how Tyler managed to deliver that without losing it. But he did, because my brother, as emotional as he can be, is an incredibly strong man. I wouldn’t be able to pull through it.
Cut to the barbecue afterwards in which the family and community came out to send their regards and to remember our beloved Ben when Tyler and I are talking to some of our other nieces and nephews, Alicia and Andrew. Their father is our brother Jeff. (Five boys in my family, and yes, I’m the baby.)
Alicia is 11 years old and precocious and sweet, and asks us what it was like growing up with her dad in that house filled with five boys.
I tell her:
"Well, Alicia, growing up with four brothers we were packed in fairly tight and we had to share a lot of things. For example if we wanted a soda my dad would make a pair of us split one. That sort of thing."
Alicia “What else did you share?”
Me “Well, we only had one bathroom for the boys. We had to share the shower, the sink, and the towels. Frequently we’d have to use one of the towels to dry off that one of our brothers had recently used.”
Alicia “That’s kind of gross.”
Me “I know. So one day I get out of the shower after your dad and I grab a towel and start drying off my face when suddenly I realize… it smells like poo.”
Alicia starts laughing hysterically at this.
Me “And then I pull my face away from the towel and happen to see brown streaks on it.”
Alicia is nearly in tears.
Me “Now you have to understand this is a failure on multiple levels. Not only did your dad forget to wipe his butt on the toilet, he also failed to wash it out in the shower.”
Alicia is rolling on the floor, literally.
Me “So, Alicia, what’s the moral of the story?”
The child looks at me, dead in the eyes, and deadpans:
"Buy dark towels?"
In Joss We Trust
Outstanding interview with Joss Whedon in this week’s EW that further reinforces his wit and creative genius and incredible insight.
"Every time somebody opens their mouth they have an opportunity to do one of two things - connect or divide."
"Subtlety is for little men."
"I took my first paycheck and I put it in the goddamn bank. Then I took my second paycheck and put it in the goddamn bank…I never wanted to take a job because I needed money, and I never have…The one thing a creator can bring to the table when everybody else has all the money and power is a centeredness and the ability to walk away. Never sit at a table you can’t walk away from."
"The Twilight thing, and a lot of these franchise attempts coming out, everything rests on what this girl will do, but she’s completely passive or not really knowing what the hell is going on. And that’s incredibly frustrating to me because a lot of what’s taken on in the oeuvre of Buffy is actually a reaction against it. Everything is there except for the Buffy. A lot of things aimed at the younger kids is just ‘Choosing Boyfriends: The Movie.’"
"You don’t go to see a movie about a guy who already knows he has a wonderful life. We used to call Sarah Michelle Gellar ‘Jimmy Stewart.’ We realized every time we turned the screws on Buffy, the show got better."
"Everything is a drug. Family, art, causes, new shoes…We’re just tweaking our chem to avoid the void."
I will watch anything this man touches for the rest of his career.
"Going Back and Going Home"
I finished Gone Home early this afternoon after playing it into the wee hours last night. I gushed on Twitter about it but I feel that the experience was much more profound than 140 characters will allow me to express how much this game hit me in the gut. I’ll attempt to put feelings into long blog format here, but again, remember I’m no Tom Bissell or Leigh Alexander. I blog from the heart in straightforward conversational style.
(And if you’re going to read this blog through the lens of “dudebro game creator guy who made brown games about buff guys” kindly close this window and go back to whatever cave you crawled out of, thank you. I may love entertainment that is often seen as “dudebro” but I also love musicals and I cried while playing not only Lunar but also during Phantasy Star 2. People can be dynamic and not simply one dimensional.)
Okay, now that that’s out of the way…some spoilers below, beware.
This game moved me in a way that I’ve never been moved by a game before. (Bioshock Infinite moved me, but I’m also in the camp that can get “the feels” from the ending of a game where you shoot 4000 people in the face, so it was a different kind of feeling.) In order to understand where I’m coming from, let’s get a bit personal.
I was born in 1975 and raised in the suburbs of Boston. Comfortable middle class; my dad worked for Polaroid. You know those holograms on your license? He was part of the team that helped prototype those. I remember seeing boards of them in the back of our wood paneled station wagon as he’d drive to the General Store to pick up his Malboros.
I’ve always been a big dreamer, and nearly every other night I dream of my childhood home. Some nights it’s a lot like the atmosphere of Gone Home, empty, dark, creepy, and dream-like. Other nights I’m on the rooftop fighting off wave after wave of cybernetic ninjas while my mother is in the kitchen cooking up potato pancakes. Regardless, I can picture every nook, cranny, wallpaper, piece of furniture from that place. At the end of the day your home is just some wood, concrete, and materials, but it’s what occurs in that space that makes it truly home. Family, and the family dynamic.
The house OOZES 90’s. I could identify with so much of the setting that I found myself outright laughing in parts. The I Want To Believe poster. The Magic Eye posters. When games are at their best they can act like a time machine of sorts, or a transportation device, and while the graphics weren’t exactly taxing my PC they were certainly good enough to give me that “My god I’m in someone’s house snooping around in the rain in 1995” feeling.
Impossible love is always a theme that I’ve found incredibly compelling. (Romeo and Juliet, anyone?) Halfway through the game when you realize what Sam is feeling and her obvious parent’s disapproval I immediately thought of Peter Jackson’s “Heavenly Creatures” which was confirmed to me via Twitter by one of the developers as a movie he’s a fan of. If you look at what’s happening in this world in 2013 and the gay rights movement it’s really astonishing that a game like this might cause a stir for all the wrong reasons had it come out in 2002. Not only did this game manage to make you care about a love story, it made you care about a love story between two young lesbian girls.
In a video game.
(I had chills and my eyes were watery when I was listening to the last bits of audio narrative.)
After playing this experience one of my favorite songs came to mind. For those of you who don’t know who Butch Walker is, look him up. As an artist he’s one of the most underrated rockers out there who has actually had more commercial success producing pop acts like Pink and Avril. His music has always spoken to me on many levels, but one track in particular has always resonated - Going Back, Going Home. Long story short Butch’s house burnt down a few years back and crafting this song was a sort of therapy for him. (look it up) I had this song in my head because the theme of going home has always resonated with me since I moved out of North Andover at 15.
Going back home for my high school reunion I swung by and saw my old childhood home for the first time in years. And as fondly as I’ll always think of that home (and remember/dream of it) I’ve accepted that it’s no longer truly home. Where I live with my wife in Raleigh is now my home, and I plan on keeping it that way. Yet somehow while playing Gone Home I had that feeling of going home, wrapped up in a tasty mystery of player driven narrative. It stuck with me, and I think it’s going to resonate for some time. (Not to mention the discussions Lauren and I will be having about what I found and what she found.)
I love that this game was crafted by former AAA traditional developers (look them up) who said “screw it, let’s make a game that no traditional publisher would ever want, make it personal, and put it out there.” Bravo to that.
I love the fact that you could burn through this experience in an hour, or spend three hours in it.
I love that through platforms like Steam a $20 experience like this could even be released and flourish due to word of mouth.
I love the lack of cutscenes, the “Sleep No More” game mechanics (look it up) and the fact that the “What Happened Here?” genre from games like Myst are coming back.
I love that the protagonist doesn’t have a lot of personality. Katie is mostly a blank slate for a reason. In first person games, especially, there’s a reason why the lead is often silent, or barely there. It makes it easier for you, the player, to slip into that person’s skin and inhabit their world. If your hero suddenly starts crying and you’re not feeling very emotional an immediate disconnect hits and you think “Uh why is my character feeling this when I’m not?!”
I enjoyed this game/experience more than many console games I’ve played in the last year.
Chew on that for a minute.
I wasn’t thinking about if the experience was padded, I wasn’t bombarded with a slick marketing campaign, I wasn’t sold microtransactions. I just…went with it.
Even though I’m running Windows 8 and the game was darned near entirely black due to a bug the entire time - it was still that compelling for me…So much for a graphics dominated world.
On a final note in this scatterbrained blog, I wanted to point out that a game like this is ideal for the Oculus Rift. Not Team Fortress 2, not Doom 3, but this. A game that you drive at your own pacing that is just as much about atmosphere as it is about exploration.
I can’t wait to see what’s next.