Tag Archives: online gaming

New & Free Online Games at Playberry!

GAMING: Fresh offerings from Playberry

As a games critic, I have to say that I am hugely impressed with the quality of both free online games and mobile games. There are of course hundreds of really unimpressive free online games, but if you know where to look, there are many gems among the rough that are certainly worth giving a bash.

One new website that offers some quality free online games, is Playberry. Described as a “social gaming website dedicated to bringing great gaming content to your browser”, Playberry both develops and handpicks some really great games. It is made by gamers, for gamers.

Playberry Website – Free Online Games

Playberry - Free Online Games

There is a great range of freebies on Playberry, from zombie shoot-em-ups such as In Death We Rise to off-road speedsters such as Renegade Racing. Games are also voted on by Playberry users, providing a user-generated list of the most popular choices.

Playberry covers every major genre of games – from action, adventure and shooters to puzzlers, sports and strategy. Best part is that all these games are free to play and require no registration of any kind. Just visit www.playberry.com and dive right in!

There are of course benefits to registering with Playberry, which is free and can simply be done using your Facebook account. You’ll receive updates of new releases, and I see that they are creating a forum whereby users can make suggestions for new releases. A great feature for any online gaming site.

Playberry is building up a steady following on Facebook, and if you register with your Facebook account, you’ll also have the option of sharing your gaming awesomeness and progress with your friends.

So if you are a gaming enthusiast and are looking for the latest offerings of free online games, check out Playberry and get your game-face on! These games are so nice and small – making them perfect for playing while waiting around or whenever you can sneak in a few minutes of quality playtime.

Steam rises to power

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STEAM: And the future of the video game industry

DIGITAL distribution giant and gaming platform, Steam, has fast become the Google of the gaming world – reaping in an estimated US$468 million (roughly R3.1 billion) in revenues through June 2011, according to mygaming.co.za. This attests to the fact the gaming industry has become one of the fastest growing industries in history.

Using Steam has become compulsory for ardent PC gamers, who are forced to use the platform to buy, install and update several of the latest gaming titles. According to Wikipedia, as of July 2011, Steam had over 30 million active users and offered over 1 300 game titles. It is estimated that Steam has a 70% share of the digital distribution market for video games.

The Steam platform
The Steam gaming platform

The idea of creating a centralised online platform to distribute games and related media online was, in part, a move towards combating software piracy – specifically pirated games. To play a store bought game that is powered through steam requires one to register a Steam account. One then has to be logged into Steam to install the game, update the game, play the game and be offered a host of promotional adverts upon exiting the game.

In bandwidth-stricken countries such as South Africa, one can imagine what a schlep this can be. In my experience, if a newly released game if bought through Steam, it can take up to two days to download and install. Thereafter Steam automatically updates your newly bought game, which can take another day or two. If your bandwidth hasn’t run dry by this point, you then have to log into Steam before you can play your new game for the first time.

The benefits of Steam

One can understand the benefits that gaming platforms such as Steam offer. They have made it extremely difficult for impoverished gamers to play pirated titles; it automatically patches and updates your game collection, and it offers you downloadable content for your favourite titles. It does also offer a lot of specials and promotions, whereby one can easily transfer and convert your money into US dollars and buy games via the web for cheap. In fact, purchasing games through Steam is so simple that it can be dangerously addictive.

This is not to mention that the Steam servers are often running at full capacity whereby one is put on a waiting list to play. I was once informed that my newly installed and updated game would launch in approximately five days. Bearing all this in mind it’s fair to say that Steam is having a negative impact on many game consumers who don’t necessarily want to play multiplayer.

Market research

Anti-piracy aside, Steam most certainly uses its cleverly crafted platform for market research purposes. A Steam user’s page includes some brief personal information, details of any games owned, as well as the number of hours played in each game. Steam admits that it collects and reports anonymous metrics of its usage, stability, and performance and uses this information to justify implementing new features.

However, a lot of this information is collected without notifying the user or offering an opt-out. Some of these metrics are also available publicly, such as what games are being played or statistics of a player’s progress in certain games. Last year, Steam announced that they would begin collecting a list of the user’s installed software as well.

Steam critiques

Steam has been criticised for allowing developers and game publishers to change prices and restrict game availability depending on the locations of users. Despite the reduction in manufacturing, packaging, design and distribution costs, this can cause some games to cost more than their retail prices. Steam has also been heavily criticised by European users for pricing games much higher in Euro-zone countries.

Furthermore, according to the Steam Subscriber Agreement, “Steam’s availability is not guaranteed and Valve is under no legal obligation to release an update disabling the authentication system in the event that Steam becomes permanently unavailable.” – www.gamefaqs.com

Ardent PC gamers can argue for or against the value of Steam. However, with Steam now being in the position of power that it is, has implications for gamers worldwide. In our liberal and democratic age, I suppose the biggest concern is a lack of choice.

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Future of Online Gaming

When gaming, the web and reality cross over

GAMING has become one of the fastest growing industries in the world today. With millions of people currently playing single online titles such as World of Warcraft, while still managing to show a steady growth curve, the sky is not even measurable as the limit anymore.

online gamingEven if you’re not an online gamer, nor are you familiar with massive multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPGs), it is still interesting to know what the future of online gaming may hold and the impact that it will have on the entertainment industry as a whole. We may even see the first attempts at a crossing over of gaming, the web and reality.

The unique aspect of MMORPGs, such as WoW is that they are constantly changing. With continual updates and expansions being developed, as well as the social bonds that are formed between players online, MMORPGs are perpetual by nature. Player activity actively changes these massive gaming worlds, keeping them fresh and ever-evolving.

For gamers, MMORPGs are exciting virtual worlds into which we escape to have countless interesting adventures. For the rest of the world, a MMORPG is a form of entertainment – comparable to books or movies, just more interactive. Games are also able to story-tell like no other genre and newer technology­ is making gaming more visually appealing than ever before.

MONEY, MONEY, MONEY!

To put gaming investment into perspective, to develop a MMORPG the same scale as WoW costs anywhere between $60 million and $100 m. With that sort of money you could theoretically buy a new game every 10 minutes for the next 20 years.

dollarDeveloping MMOs is therefore a life or death risk, but with the decade-long success of WoW (which has certainly set the benchmark — reaping in over $1 billion every year) we can certainly expect to see more MMOs being developed in the foreseeable future.

The only scary part is that online games such as WoW are designed to be played at the exclusion of everything else and thrive on how much of the player’s time they can consume. There was even that case in 2009 where a young Chinese girl died of exhaustion after playing WoW for several days straight. However, MMOs are not something to be feared, and it is interesting to follow their evolution and study their compelling nature.

FUTURE ONLINE GAMING

With WoW having monopolised the online gaming market, it may take some time before we see a new and innovative release come to our screens. However, the fact that WoW only covers a single genre, there is a lot of room for the MMO model to evolve and grow in the future. Not everyone is into orcs and elves and medieval folklore. In the near future we may see interactive home décor­ simulations, fishing games, multiplayer­ motoring games or educational puzzle titles — all playable with others in a 3D online environment.

We’re likely to see a lot more user-generated content driving the development of future gaming too. Player-driven content is the lifeblood of MMOs and the fact that players can change the course of a game’s story will result in unique experiences for every player.

We may also see development of social­ games and web-based games in the future. These have the potential to grow and compel gamers and prove to be profitable at the same time. Sponsorship could come in the form of website links and web adverts. Farmville, for example, could have you visit http://www.jerrysfarmsupplies.com to get your new watering-can game card allowing you to progress further in your virtual farming endeavours.

I like my coffee DarthWe may also see a blending in of reality-based gaming in the near future. Having you visit the nearest MacDonalds or coffee shop in your area could form part of a quest for example.

Such ventures could provide the exorbitant funding that is required to develop online gaming further. This means guaranteed customers for selected stores, exercise and sunlight for gamers­ and the neccessary funds to develop multiplayer gaming further; win-win-win. It may be aggressive advertising at its best, but at least it will get gamers­ off their chairs and into the daylight.

The future of online gaming will certainly be something exciting to behold, no doubt. I leave you with one of my favourite gaming quotes:

“When we look at the future of MMORPGs, we think virtual reality. We dream about being able to lead another life where you are the boss and control everything. In real life, you are influenced by everyone else. In virtual reality, you get to choose your paths and if you think something is wrong, you change it.” — http://www.astahost.com

Exergaming, blogging behind bars and Das Spiegel

Witness This

Exergaming & The River Gym

GAMERS are subjected to a cruel stereo­type that we all live in our parents’ basement and are rendered lifeless if exposed to direct sunlight. While most games are not physically demanding, there is a growing market for exercise gaming — known more commonly as “exergaming” … Continue Reading

U.S. Prison System: Blogging Behind Bars

WEB 2.0: Prisoner-generated content: When prisoners are not tinkering away for 25 cents an hour, several are engaging with social media and contributing towards what largely makes up web 2.0. Social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter are becoming more accessible to those incarcerated in the U.S. prison system, and there are even a few that are blogging from behind bars … Continue Reading

Future of online gaming

When we look at the future of MMORPGs, we think virtual reality. We dream about being able to lead another life where you are the boss and control everything. In real life, you are influenced by everyone else. In virtual reality, you get to choose your paths and if you think something is wrong, you change it … Continue Reading

Jack the Ripper in KZN

Evidence has been found that suggests that the character known as Jack the Ripper once resided in the Dargle in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. He is known to have frequented Singletons bar, which is now located in the hotel called Tanglewood Country House. The Ripper also never paid for his drinks. Check out this very professionally made mini-docy from Witnessonline
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Fable 3 sees Hollywood voice talent

FABLE 3: Featuring the vocal delights of Stephen Fry, John Cleese, Simon Pegg and Academy Award winner Sir Ben Kingsley. Fable 3 will be available
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Das Spiegel — Euphoric music

THERE are very few songs that give me goosebumps, but lately I have come across a few musical gems that instill feelings of euphoria within my dark, squishy center. Das Spiegel by The Chemical Brothers is one of them
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DotA – A n00b’s guide

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DotA is probably one of the most addictive online games around and has brought with it a whole new lingo and even has it’s own music video.

If you are new to the game (i.e. a ‘n00b’) it is useful to know a few things if you wish to last more than 5 minutes in the game. I’ve compiled the following hints, tips and useful information (regarding experience, items, game modes, dotA lingo, and maps) with the help of some dotA diehards.

Download the latest dotA map here

Awe ye!

EXPERIENCE:
Besides making your virtual fortune (gold) by killing creeps the main objective is to kill. However, to be an effective killing-machine, experience is crucial.

You gain experience by being near (within a 1000 radius) to an enemy unit (i.e. enemy heroes, enemy creeps and neutral creeps) when they die. Standing by, or just behind your ranged creeps when they attack is about right. If there are two or more players in a lane, you share the experience.

The map is divided into three main lanes – top, middle (mid) and bottom (bot). Note that if a comrade types something like “top solo” it means that they want to be in that lane alone. The benefit of this is that the player gains experience and levels up quicker, yet there is a greater chance of dying without support. In other words, do not solo if you’re a noob!

ITEMS:
To improve your gameplay you need to know what items suit the different heroes. You also have to look at what heroes you’re playing against if you want to try and counter them.

Like anything else, nothing comes for free. Items cost gold. Killing (or “farming”) creeps gets you gold, but you get more for destroying buildings and pawning the enemies head for a quick buck.

A general guide for you to work with is that you must get items that will compliment your hero’s abilities. For example, if your hero has a high agility you should focus on getting agility items (such as the Butterfly or a Lothar’s edge, (or at a simpler level , the boots of speed or elven skin boots). These will greatly increase your movement and attack speed.

Items that increase your hero’s attack speed are generally good to go for (something like the gloves of haste at the simplest level). Items that compliment these are ones like a buriza (which has a % chance to critical strike). These are best for heroes with very fast attack speeds (generally agility), because they’ll have a greater chance of getting in more crits.

You may often see the pros wielding items such as Battle Furys and vladimir’s. However, these are designed for melee heroes, so don’t get them for a ranged hero. If you’re a noob I would recommend that you choose a ranged hero as this will allow you to fight from a distance and escape death faster.

At first, try and focus on items from the level 1 shop (the little peasant at the base). It’s also probably a good idea to focus on items that provide you with a few extra hp (hit points) to ensure that you live a little longer. However, don’t be fooled by items such as the heart (that pink item); rather get a couple of bracers. These are cheap and effective (available at a level one shop by combining a gauntlet of strength with a mantel of intelligence).

The essential item that you should carry with you at all times is the town portal spell. Pros know the best order in which to cast their spells and will annihilate you in a second if you get to close. If you are alone, far from your base, and you can’t see any of the enemy heroes on the mini-map, then run/fly/creep home or use a town portal because they’re probably coming for you.

LEARNING THE LINGO:
You’ll often see people type ‘mia’ during a game. This is an army term which stands for “missing in action”. It means you don’t know where the enemy hero is, so basically you are warning your teamies to be careful (“care”).

If you are in a lane against someone and they move away so you cant see them on the minimap, tell your team “bot mia” (or whichever lane you’re in), because the enemy hero might try to gank (surprise attack) one of your teammates, and they will be bleak with you if you didn’t warn them.

Pros love to say ‘imba’ a lot, which stands for “imbalanced”. This means that someone or their team is extremely good and therefore the contest is unfair or imbalanced. E.g. people type “im imba” instead of e.g. “I’m f’ing invincible”.

‘b’ stands for “back”, it means “get the hell back or else they are gonna pawn yo ass!”

Other acronyms include:

  • gl (good luck)
  • hf (have fun)
  • gg (good game)
  • wp (well played)
  • wd (well done)
  • np (no problem)
  • ty (thank you)
  • ffs (for F***’s sake)
  • omg (oh my God)
  • nvm (nevermind)

If you type “-di” you will be shown your creep stats in the top right corner of the screen (how many kills and denies you have). If one of your own creeps or towers are very low on health, you can actually kill (deny) them to prevent the enemy heroes from killing them and getting gold. They will be the ones who get the experience though.

GAME MODES:
If you are hosting a game (which you probably shouldn’t do unless you have a 512kbps ADSL line or faster) as soon as the game starts you have to set the mode by typing one of the following commands:

  1. -ap (allpick): you can pick a hero from any of the buildings (even from the buildings on the opposing team).
  2. -ar (all random): you are given a random hero.
  3. -sd (single draft): you are given three random heroes to choose from (one with high agility, one with high strength, or one with a high intelligence).

These are the 3 main modes, which are useful to know before diving in and joining a game. You’ll also often see a number next to a game, e.g: [3]apem. This indicates the level of the game. No one lower than lvl3 (in this case) can join the game.

Other modes can be used in conjunction with the above modes:
-em (easy mode): you get more gold and buildings are weaker. This is usually typed in conjunction with another mode eg. –apem (allpick, easy mode).

Try to avoid em games though as they will make you a worse player. However, they are usually shorter than normal games so if you have limited time to play they’re rather useful.

There are other, less common modes which are explained in the ‘map info’ menu when you are in a game. One’s you might see are:

  • -sp (shuffle players): shuffles the sentinel and scourge teams before the game starts
    -dm (death match): when you die you are given a different hero
    -mm (mirror mode)
    -sc (super creeps)
    -wtf (what the fuck): spells do not have cooldowns and do not cost any mana. (These are rather hectic and best left to the pros)

You can even string a whole lot of modes together e.g. –aremdm (all random, easy-mode, deathmatch).

How cool do you think you are?
To find out what your character’s level is and how much experience you have, type the following commands when you’re in any channel:
/level (tells you what your current level is)
/exp (tells you how much experience you have and how much you need to level up. Usually about 5 min after finishing a game it tells you that you have gained exp from it)
/pm shows you how many times you or any other players have been punished
/p reveals your ping and that of other players. Players with a ping of more than 200 or so are likely to cause the game to lag.
Type /help for a list of other commands

It is useful to type /level before a game starts which will provide you with the levels of all the players you’re about to go up against. (Just because a game says “for noobs” this is often not the case but rather a trap to lure you in). If the levels of the other players far exceed your own join another game).

MAPS:
You can get started by downloading the latest dotA map from www.getdota.com. New maps are released quite often so keep checking the site for updates. You’ll be kicked from games if you don’t have the latest map.

New maps usually have bug fixes and balances (i.e. if it is felt that a specific hero is too good he/she/it will be made slightly weaker or vice versa). Sometimes new heroes are added as well.

NB: if you see a ping count (ie. an increasing number next to your username) when you join a game then you do not have the latest map. Go download it (takes 5 mins) else, if you aren’t kicked, you will slow the entire game down.

Every now and then someone will write AI for one of the dotA maps (where you can play against bots for practice), but it doesn’t happen too often so best to play custom games in War3 by selecting the dota map. You can also modify these in the war3editor.

FINAL TIPS & TRICKS:
When you hit Enter to chat only your allies are able to read your message. To quickly chat to “All” hold down shift when you press Enter.

When your towers are under attack they are automatically pinged (that red circle that makes a noise is a ping). To do a ping yourself hold down Alt and click anywhere on the map. It’s a quick way of communicating with your team mates, but don’t go overboard and become ping happy.

One last word of advice: try not to die. The less you die the more you own! Good luck, have fun, pawn passionately! 😀

If anyone has anything to contribute to this beginners’ guide please add it as a comment below.

Related post: The World of Warcraft

Useful links:
God of DotA
Dota Strategy.com
Official Dota AllStars website
War3 forum – Dota Allstars Guides
So you want to play dota? How to do it

The reality of the virtual

Just when one thought it was possible to escape the confines of real life by emerging oneself into a virtual world, Second Life as a popular example, is becoming rife with destructive practices from child abuse to prostitution, and is now becoming a site for religious convergence.

Catholic missionaries have trekked the Earth to spread the word of God since the colonial era, and are now finding ways to Christianise the virtual world. An article set to appear in the August addition of the Vatican approved journal – Civilta Cattolica, is aimed to encourage Catholic missionaries to immerse themselves into the virtual world of online computer games in an attempt to convert cyber souls.

If you are not yet familiar with Second Life it is basically a vast computer-generated online world in which players can create virtual versions of themselves (known as Avatars) and can buy or sell virtual…stuff and interact with other users in several ways. The game is huge, ‘housing’ roughly 8 million ‘residents’ at present.

A Vatican priest named Father Spadaro, has been quoted in several online publications saying that “sin has flourished in the various towns which make up Second Life”. According to the same publications, acts of gambling and prostitution have become rife within the game. To give a fact closer to reality, $1.5 million (R105 million) is exchanged in the online world each day, according to Linden Labs – the creators of Second Life.

Spadaro has also said, however, that “while the virtual world might be a refuge for some people seeking to flee the real one, it is also full of people seeking something more from life, including, possibly, religious enlightenment”.

Angle AvatarThus there appears to positive light on either side of the ‘Christianising of the virtual world’ argument. However, the penalties for such virtual sin is becoming very real in some countries where virtual misdemeanours constitute real crimes. Germany as an example has already called authorities to investigate cases of paedophilia and virtual child abuse in the online world. In other countries virtual gambling has been completely banned.

The erotic dimension of Second Life may be a little extreme, offering players the opportunity to buy unique genitalia for their avatars, but just how dangerous is a virtual act of prostitution or paedophilia? It might not say much for the mindsets of the ‘sinful’ players, but what real damage do such acts constitute?

Second Life has already been penetrated by commercial conglomerates such as Adidas, Nike, Calvin Klein, BMW, Mercedes and Vodafone, which are seizing the commercial prospects the game offers. But is there really still room, or a necessity, for religious penetration too? If the virtual world is as close to reality as it appears, then what’s there to prevent the formation of religious cults? Or the outbreak of religious wars from occurring within the game as they do in real life? To me it seems that the real danger is a blurring of reality with virtuality.

Related post:
Experience the Internet in 3D

Links
The New Game Plan: Virtual Reality
10 ways online gaming will change the future
Jesuits say take word of God to Second Life – REUTERS