City Of Heroes will soon be free

 

 

Not only will it be free to download but free to play! After seven years and 20 updates, the MMO will now come in a few new flavors. Here is the breakdown.

There are 3 levels of player status free, premium and VIP.

Free is the basics, Less archetypes, no super groups, no mail, limited chat options and limited auction house functionality.

Premium is any existing players that move over to free. Essentially if you have subscribed before, you get a reward for doing so. You get more chat options, more archetypes, mail use and can join super groups.

VIP is where the mythical expendable income players hang. You pay the fee monthly, you get all the goods. All types, full auction house and form super groups.

Currently it is implied that you can go from premium or free to a VIP and back to premium, unlike other super powered MMO’s that offer free play.

No specific date is yet, just later this year as a launch window for City of Heroes Freedom.

Assassins Creed: Revelations announced!

And… Ezio is back again.

Assassins Creed: Revelations is the final chapter to the his story and it seems like it might just be the greatest one yet, as Ezio goes through a journey of discovery walking the path of his mentor Altair. The journey will take him to new lands in pursuit of the Templars as they gather in Constantinople for a takeover. Add in some multiplayer with new modes, maps and characters and the game gets even more life as it presses everyone to test their skills in a new atmosphere.

Also on the plate is the ability to play with the construct of Desmond’s memories and the Animus to uncover the mystery of his past so the future is clear.

Unfortunately for more information we’ll all have to wait, the game will be shown in detail at E3 2011 this year. I can say I’m actually pretty interested to see how the series will wrap up this time around but hopefully it wont take months to get a PC version ported.

BAMFAS budget speaker buyers guide

I’ve seen a lot of forum posts and friends looking at speakers lately, there’s a lot of mystery behind what makes for a good set and how to get the most for your money on a budget. I’ll outline below a small section of how I go about picking speakers for myself or what I look for when reviewing a set of them. Without wasting too much time lets jump into the fray and get this going.

First a few key items.

  • Be honest with yourself, what do you want to do with these speakers?
  • Do you want to listen to music? watch movies? play games?
  • How important is 5.1 to you? Do you have the space and mounts to set them properly?
  • What type of listener are you?

I’ll go by category and you can go from there

2.0 / 2.1
5.1 / surround

2.0 / 2.1
Stereo speakers are coming back into the mainstream right now, everyone is using sound field emulation to try and create a surround effect. They do work but it depends on your needs. Because this is a 2.0 / 2.1 section we’re not focused on that to begin with.

  • Frequency response, anything around 28-45Hz at the bottom end, the top end is almost always 20-25KHz
  • Speaker size is a sensitive spot with a 2.0 or 2.1 system. Without a sub you want bigger satellite speakers, most come in a 2.5″ – 4″ variety, bigger is better in a 2.0 system as it usually gives you a lower frequency response. In a 2.1 system try to aim for a 3″ speaker, it’ll still give decent midrange.
  • Tweeters are something to shoot for if you’re aiming for full range, it also means that the midrange doesn’t work nearly as hard.
  • Cabinet material – most computer speakers have a plastic shell, some are even using metal now, ideally you want MDF or some wood composite. In a 2.0 system you probably will not get this. In a 2.1 be sure that the subwoofer box is some time of wood though as plastic will sound awful.
  • Subwoofer size in a 2.1 for music should be at least a 5.25″ speaker or higher. Some older sets came with an 8″ speaker for extremely good low frequency sound. 4″ subs are punchy and often lack any good range so try to avoid them at all cost.
  • Wattage is the worst measure of a good system, most people gauge what they by on simply this rating. What needs to be understood is the following.
    • RMS – If you’re looking to go by power ratings look at this and look at the distribution by channel. If you’re lucky you’ll get something like 25w x 2 for the front speakers and maybe 30w x 1 for the subwoofer in a 2.1 system or just 25w x 2 for a 2.0 system. This is the real power rating you’ll see in daily use.
    • Peak / PMPO / Burst / Max – This is the curse that haunts audio purchases. On a 50w RMS system you may see a peak or PMPO rating as high as 1000w, this is false and honestly just for chest thumping because it’s a theoretical peak level. Your speakers and amp will fail before you ever reach it.
  • Good power on a 2.0 system is around 35-50w for a bedroom or smaller area.
  • Good power on a 2.1 system will be around 40-65w or slightly higher, the boost here comes from the subwoofer not added power to the satellites.
  • This configuration works best in games and music, movies will sound alright but you’ll need to focus on speakers with 3D surround effects if you really want to run 2.1 or 2.0 and get a decent feel.
    • Budget brands – Logitech Z, Creative Inspire, Altec Lansing
    • Midrange brands – Logitech Z, Creative Inspire
    • Expensive brands – M-Audio, Logitech Z, Creative GigaWorks, Altec Lansing

5.1 / surround
Surround sound was huge in gaming for almost a decade, every major company got in on the game and it’s actually a bit hard to find a respectable set now. For the movie fan or hardcore gamer, these can be essential for a good experience.

  • Frequency response on a 5.1 set usually hits around 30Hz flat, some systems do try to claim lower but if you’re around here you’re good because most games and movies only go that low during explosive sequences or heavy crashes. Try to avoid anything that starts in the 40’s though because chances are you’ll have a lot of bottoming out from the speaker.
  • Speaker size is often pretty fixed on these sets, don’t be shocked if everything you find has a 3″ driver going for it. The response will be pretty decent.
  • Tweeters are welcome on the front or center channel speaker, generally if you get them in the front you get them in the back. If you go for smaller size enclosures expect to lose these as part of the compromise. Watch the frequency response of the satellite speakers if you get a set without tweeters, the midrange may be too high for your liking.
  • Cabinet material on a 5.1 set is almost always plastic for the satellites, try to go with something that doesn’t sound or feel too thin, you will lack the deeper tones but at least it will not produce a hollow tone. The subwoofer is usually wood composite or MDF on these systems, if it’s plastic I suggest running.
  • Input connections matter quite a bit depending on the use, I’ll outline the potential connections below.
    • Stereo / headphone jacks – These are great for PC systems to get 5.1 sound, almost every motherboard now supports 5.1 output from the back panel. If you plan to get 5.1 out of a gaming system or DVD or Blu-ray player you need something else. If you try to use it on a console you’ll just get bad emulation from the right and left front channels or sometimes stereo sound x5.
    • TOSLINK / S/PDIF jack – Perfect for the console hookup or DVD or Blu-ray player setup. Be sure to get a set that has the same input as your player or system though (most gaming and dvd systems use TOSLINK optical cables). Some PC systems also support this and it makes cabling a lot easier to setup. This is the more universal solution for most people.
  • Control pods are important to consider, are they easy to understand, do they have bass and treble control or even dedicated subwoofer volume control? Do you want theater modes as well? How are they designed? Some of the best control pods don’t need fancy looks, in fact spring tension on the knobs can be annoying when you’re just trying to up the volume a notch. Look for these qualities.
    • Surround modes – What does the control center feature? Can you adjust front, center and rear? Do you have Dolby and DTS support?
    • Stereo modes – Not everything you use will be in 5.1, for music the preferred method is stereo 5.1 or stereo x5 to just share the channels through all the speakers.
    • Input select – Was made popular by Logitech, if you plan to run multiple systems you should consider this for sure.
    • Control knob – Sounds silly but some control systems are designed around being futuristic looking while having really terrible function. If you can try before you buy I suggest doing this. If the control looks poorly built or handles terribly it will only get worse.
  • Subwoofer size matters, with 5 smaller speakers the sub will need to be located close to the user or in a sweet spot by the wall for the best spot to resonate. Most midrange speakers in this field don’t hit the lower end of the midrange, as such voices and natural sound are way too high so the sub in these sets covers that up. Aim for at least a 6.5″ speaker, although many companies are now using dual 5.25’s or 6’s instead which are okay. Few companies still give you an 8 or 10″ speaker.
  • Wattage is a nightmare on 5.1 systems, if you buy a computer set or a HTIB setup you’ll deal with insane power figures on the box. 1000W or 2000W aren’t uncommon and should only make you facepalm to see them. The following will look familiar for guidelines.
    • RMS – If you’re looking to go by power ratings look at this and look at the distribution by channel. If you’re lucky you’ll get something like 25w x 5 for the satellites and maybe 50w-70w x 1 for the subwoofer in a 5.1 system. This is the real power rating you’ll see in daily use, don’t aim too high as you’ll usually just get distortion at max power or it’ll overheat.
    • Peak / PMPO / Burst / Max – This is the curse that haunts audio purchases. On a 150w RMS system you may see a peak or PMPO rating as high as 2000w, this is false and honestly just for chest thumping because it’s a theoretical peak level. Your speakers and amp will fail before you ever reach it, expect this rating even from name brand companies.
  • * Good power on a 5.1 system is around 125-200w, most systems are high rated by default for the subwoofer power. Be sure to focus on speaker sizes and frequency response levels.
    • Budget brands – Cyber Acoustics
    • Midrange brands – Logitech Z, Creative Inspire
    • Expensive brands – Cambridge Soundworks, Klipsch
    • Legacy brands – Klipsch Promedia, Logitech Z, Creative GigaWorks, Altec Lansing

Hopefully this helps a bit, be sure to know your products before you buy them, ask for specification sheets when you need them so you can have an informed decision on those big purchases.

For those looking for buyer beware tips, avoid anything too good to be true, it almost always is. Sets from the back of a van, from a swap meet or other events are often false for ratings and use some of the cheapest components. It’s a deal until you set it up and hear the results, avoid the scams and take the time to get something with a real warranty that has been produced in the last few years.

To the audiophiles reading this, you already know what you’re doing so pretty much… this entire thing doesn’t apply to you.  Thank you for your time though, hopefully it was entertaining.

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NZXT H2 Classic Silent Chassis arrive

NZXT has been making waves in the market over the past years, coming up as a relative unknown group and emerging as a mainstream PC manufacturer. Today the H2 Classic strikes from their labs, a silent powered ATX case offering low noise case fans and expansion room to suit most users.

Spec sheet from NZXT
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MODEL H2
CASE TYPE Mid Tower Steel
FRONT PANEL MATERIAL Plastic/Steel
DIMENSIONS (W x H x D) 215 x 466 X 520 mm
VGA Clearance Maximum
310 w/o HDD, 270mm with HDD
CPU Heatsink Support 170mm
COOLING SYSTEM FRONT, 2 X 120mm @ 1200rpm ( included )
REAR, 1 X 120mm @ 1200rpm (included)
TOP, 1 X 140mm
BOTTOM, 1 x 120mm
DRIVE BAYS 3 EXTERNAL 5.25″ DRIVE BAYS
8 INTERNAL 3.5″/2.5″ Slots
Screwless Rail Design
MATERIAL(S) Steel with painted interior
EXPANSION SLOTS 7
WEIGHT 8.9 kg
MOTHERBOARD SUPPORT ATX, MICRO-ATX, BABY AT

—————————

Looking at the gallery below it’s easy to see how tempting these cases are, with color matched interiors it turns the system into a full show piece instead of just an external piece of eye candy. The hot swappable drive dock on the top, the USB 3.0 connection support and countless expansion zones are enough for anyone wanting a powerhouse on a dime.

Is this enough to separate it from the likes of Antec, Corsair, Coolermaster and more? No one really knows, the silent factor may be the single selling point to consumers in that market. Keep an eye out for it at your favorite e-retailer or B&M store.

Champions Online goes Free-to-Play

For many gamers, online subscriptions are a luxury that often face the first stage of budget cuts, taking this into account Cryptic Studios has jumped forward with a Free-to-Play initiative with Champions Online to help maintain and possibly grow their population as a whole.

Here are some quotes from the team on their latest move.

Beginning Q1 2011, Champions Online will offer a free-to-play gameplay option. Everyone can download, play and enjoy Champions Online at absolutely no cost!

All you’ll need to do is download the game and begin playing. It will be a great opportunity to head back to the Champions universe to see what’s changed, spend time with your friends and enjoy a top-tier MMO without spending a dime.

We plan on entering our free-to-play beta on November 9, and to launch the new, free-to-play version of Champions Online in the first quarter of 2011. We can’t wait to grow the game with you, and we hope you’re as excited as we are!

Having participated in the beta I can say I was tempted to pursue Champions Online but I never had enough free time to commit to a subscription for the game. With a free gaming model I can see myself jumping into the game for casual fights and character creation. Hopefully I will not be the only one taking advantage of this shift.

NZXT Sentry LXE hits market

We’re one step closer to holodecks and transporters, NZXT unleashes their latest accessory to the PC market today. The Sentry LXE is a touch screen LCD fanbus allowing users to dial in the speed of each fan; also maintaining other functions such as date and time.

The LCD is fully adjustable with the ability to disable the display when gaming to enhance the atmosphere. 5 thermal probes monitor active temps for hot pockets of air allowing for users to dial in the Sentry to provide more flow. The whole package is sleek and reminds me of a Star Trek interface.

The Sentry LXE will be in stores soon with an MSRP of $59.99

Sniper: Ghost Warrior Launch Trailer

Sniper: Ghost Warrior plays to the niche audience of the FPS crowd, the enthusiast who strives for digital perfection in the art of sniping. With multiple variables controlling each shot, Sniper: Ghost Warrior is one of the finest exclusive sniping games in the market. Check out the trailer and see some of the technical kills possible in the new shooter from City Interactive.

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Continue reading Sniper: Ghost Warrior Launch Trailer

Blacklight: Tango Down – Dev Diary

It’s tough being a super soldier in a digital age; with countless weapon combination’s, fast pace action and an all knowing hypervisor the battle never stops. Blacklight: Tango Down is a new game coming from the folks at Ignition Entertainment, the game packs Unreal Tournament style matches with eyecandy for all.

The latest dev diary is here for those interested in the game, with a value price there is little reason to skip over it unless Shooters just aren’t your thing.

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Left 4 Dead 2 – Dark Carnival shots

Ok this time we have a variety of shots from the latest level shown at PAX this year, the game is shaping up really well from the stills and limited video going around right now, hopefully we get a hands on preview as we come into November for the final piece of the puzzle.

Check out the shots below and we apologize for the resize on the artwork, it was 30mb and that’s just insane for a JPG

Left 4 Dead 2 – Dark Carnival

DarkCarnival_shot1

Ok, so we’re not going to PAX this year, but we can bring you a teaser from the upcoming Dark Carnival campaign in Left 4 Dead 2 and a slew of new pictures to enjoy.

I know I said that I had no idea when more info or assets would drop and I really didn’t at the time. Anyway enjoy this and as soon as more videos or pictures come out we’ll have them here.

Enjoy!

BTW: yeah that’s right we just posted a boatload of amazing Left 4 Dead 2 concept art in full res. 😀

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