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    The Game Guy
    By Mark H. Walker
    When is Piracy Not?
    I chose my words carefully when reviewing games. A couple dozen people have poured a quite a bit of their time into the ROM I’m looking at. I value that effort, and won’t unnecessarily devalue their livelihood. By the same token I never copy ROMs for friends. It’s stealing. Piracy is the word du jour, but stealing is more to the point. But when is piracy not?

     Is it piracy to copy your own game in order to play it on more than one computer? Say a PC and traveling laptop. Is it piracy to copy ROMs to play multiplayer on the owner’s personal LAN? Is it fair for game companies to tell you how, when, and where you can play that new fifty-dollar game?  I think not.

     Yet, as of late I’ve run through spat of games that require their ROM in the CD-ROM drive to play both single and multiplayer. Last time I gamed, multiplayer requires, well... multiple players. And if I want those multiple players to be my daughters on my LAN, that’s my business. Yet many publishers don’t think so. “You want LAN multiplayer?” they say. “Buy two games.” Again, I think not.

    Games should come with both a full install multiplayer option and a code that allows limited ROM burning in order to play single player on more than one computer. Yeah, I guess if the game owner wants to cross the country, installing games on hard drives from Boise to Baton Rouge, the publisher will lose money. On the other hand, think of the good will publishers will generate by sharing their multiplayer suites. It might just generate enough good will to make them money.

    Minority Rule
    There’s no Halloween party at my youngest daughter’s school this year.  Right-wing religious groups –ignoring the historical facts behind All Hallows Eve- have declared the holiday dark, evil, un-Christian. I was stunned, but my informal survey revealed only a miniscule number of parents were actually against the party. The vast majority of us feel that a holiday centered on candy and goofy costumes can’t be all bad. Nevertheless, the minority rules.

     I fear the same is true in computer gaming. The gaming news in inundated with press releases extolling the next great massively multiplayer game. Yet only a small fraction (less the 20%) of gamers spend more time gaming online than off. Reviewers hail the length of biblically proportioned games such as Baldur’s Gate, yet as the gaming community matures, marries, and has kids, they will have less and less time for gaming, and hence long games. The press harps on replay ability, but with the volume of yearly releases no one has time to replay a game’s opening FMA, let alone the entire endeavor.

     The industry needs to take a hard look at its audience. Despite each year’s influx of young gamers, the community is aging. Many older gamers lack the time for MMORPGs, heinously long campaigns/quests, or give a damn about replying a finished game. Publishers, stop pouring your money into the minority before the majority wises up and moves on.

    Tight Takes
    Feels like Diablo, and plays like Crusader: No Remorse... Jowood Publishing’s

    Zax: Alien Hunter lets gamers go on a three-quarter isometric alien bashing  rampage. Reflexive Entertainment (the game’s developer) has hit gamers dead center with this one. Seemingly eschewing any attempt at originality or creativity, Reflexive drew from all that had come before and created a simple-don’t-think-just-shoot good time.

    There are plenty of weapons, a few simple puzzles to solve, some game influencing decisions, and a simple story. Most of all there is the type of almost-brainless fun so lacking from today’s games. Want to relax?  Perhaps take out the day’s frustrations on some poor robotic aliens? Then this is the game for you.

    SSI’s Pool of Radiance flies in the face of the current crop of real-time role-playing games. So does my opinion. I like it. Granted, I’m playing the patched version, and I’m only a few hours into the quest, but this is great stuff for turn-based gamers. Finally, we have a game that allows gamers to appreciate the breadth and depth of AD&D rules. Rumor has it that the quest gets tedious, and the coding temperamental, but so far so good. If you prefer the cerebral pace of turn-based combat to the click frenzy of real-time role playing you might just like Pool of Radiance.

     The Last Word
    One more minority opinion... We don’t need God to bless America. We need God to bless the entire planet. Restore reason to our collective conscience before there is no collective conscience left.
      © Mark H. Walker, LLC 2001 Mark H. Walker is a veteran interactive entertainment journalist who has written over 40 books including his recently released Video Games Almanac and The Parent’s Guide to PlayStation Games.

    " "

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    Zalman: ZM-DS4F Headphones

    An affordable, ultra-portable headphone set.

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