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Mailbag
May 24, 2000

Letters are (occasionally) edited for spelling errors , and may contain profanity.
This section contains normal correspondence as well as letters submitted to the MailBag.
Commentary by Jason "loonyboi" Bergman.

A happy fan.

Previous Mailbags
August 17, 2000
May 24, 2000
May 4, 2000
April 19, 2000
February 23, 2000
February 16, 2000
February 9, 2000
January 26, 2000
January 19, 2000

January 12, 2000
January 3, 2000
December 22, 1999
December 16, 1999
December 9, 1999
November 11, 1999
November 3, 1999
September 29, 1999
September 9, 1999
August 18, 1999
July 28, 1999
July 20, 1999
July 13, 1999
July 6, 1999
June 30, 1999
June 23, 1999
June 15, 1999
June 8, 1999
June 1, 1999
May 24, 1999
May 2, 1999
April 25, 1999
April 22, 1999
April 18, 1999
April 14, 1999
April 11, 1999
April 4, 1999
February 1, 1999
January 6, 1999

From: Scott Geppert
Subject: id software and NIN

5/24/00
-------
I just got back from the Nine Inch Nails concert with my buds Steven Word and Adam Rose, and holy shit! We had seats behind id software!!!!!!!!!! As I frantically scrambled for a pen while I wasshaking hands, Katherine Anna Kang produced one and was sweet enough to offer to let me keep it. The show was awesome, and sometime before the encores, Trent Reznor "sent a shout out to id software" and the rejoicing in the row in front of me tipped me off that these guys just might be the men of the hour. I got eight autographs before the security guards started hustling us.

Before the show, I had spotted a guy in a black Quake 3 Arena tee shirt, and went over and asked him about it, telling him that I have a shirt just like it, only white, that Donna Jackson gave to me. I was actually going to wear it for the special occasion, but didn't for fear that some drugged up crazy moshing grunt would rip it or puke on it or some other horrible thing. I am not positive which one of the guys he is, but I told him "you know, Carmack has to be at this show!" and he's probably thinking "yeah, idiot, I rode here with him in the limo . . ." Oh, well I can't possibly complain.

So I'm the obnoxious dork that was going crazy at the Nails concert asking for autographs that you all are going to read about in upcoming .plan updates, and will be honored at that. I am so happy right now, I am going to email Ms. Kang and tell her how much I appreciate the pen (that by the way, she stole from the Doubletree hotel in Dallas, but shhhh - the authorities aren't on to her yet), and I am sending her a nice Cross pen to replace it. If my scanner worked, I would be scanning this bad little ticketmaster envelope before I mount it under glass. I would definitely say that I value the envelope 1,000x more than the stupid ticket stub. Tim Willits was not too hip to the idea of letting me ride in their limo, and he was watching out for Ms. Kang making sure that I didn't steal her pen. His wife gave a beautifully legible signature, whereas all the other pen scratches will keep me up nights wondering to whom they belong.

I didn't ask for a job or pitch my 3D engine to them, but I will some day. I hope not to have made a terribly bad impression that I will be forever hated by everything id, and I hope to meet the guys again at Quake Con! Well this has been an inspiring night, and I think I will be doing some massive coding and Quake playing for the rest of the week.

-Scott Geppert

I think I'm just impressed at how good your seats at the show must have been to have id Software sitting in front of you. :)

And now, this week's token Steve Martin reference:

From: Jon Sullivan
Subject: Daikatana Appearing In Stores Nationwide

THE NEW PHONEBOOKS ARE HERE!!!
THE NEW PHONEBOOKS ARE HERE!!!
THE NEW PHONEBOOKS ARE HERE!!!

Sorry, the obscure quote seemed fitting.

-- Jon

A correction.

From: Matt Bovett
Subject: OH NO!!

You guys might remember this post in last week's mailbag:

From: Matt Bovett
Subject: Dieketana

Hello I am Matt F. and I just resently playd Diekatana and I say that I am teh only one who likse it!!!!!!!! IS this some kind of joek?????????? ITS A Great gaem wonce you get to it!!

Matt F

You guys put my name, and it was actually my friend! He used my e-mail account. Please correct it. :)

Matt Bovett

My humblest of apologies. :)

More on Xbox bugs.

From: Ryan Eibling
Subject: X-Box bugs

In response to Robert A. Seace, who wrote:

"Basically, I'm saying, if it's really possible for them to create this new vaporware gaming system of theirs without any major bugs, as you seem to believe, then why on Earth would they not do the same thing for ALL of their products, and ESPECIALLY their high-end business OS's (NT and W2K), which I think depend on reliability just a BIT more than a gaming system does?? ;-)"

I can certainly understand the skepticism, but MS has a good chance of creating a bug-free product on a game console for the same reasons you've never seen a game crash a Nintendo - it's about hardware and limited capability. On a PC there are thousands of variables that just don't exist on a console. Every Nintendo 64 (for example) on the market has exactly the same CPU, memory, controller interface and every other hardware component. And all it's designed to do is run games - you can't get in there and mess with the OS, you can't change a bunch of settings or screw anything up. You plug in a game and it runs; that's it. As long as X-Box is a closed system like the other consoles it's likely that MS can make it just as stable as other consoles out there. It's impossible to test for every possible situation that Windows2000 will encounter on the PC, but with a game console testing is pretty easy. If it runs perfectly on your console, it'll run perfectly on mine.

-Ryan Eibling

I don't think we have to worry about bugs in the Xbox. I really think Microsoft will keep this one bug-free, despite their track record.

On the other hand...

From: Nicholas C. Weaver
Subject: Reflections on the X-box

It is considerably easier for Microsoft to make the X-box nearly bug-free when compared to most of their other products, for the simple reason that the hardware is under their control and the OS is much simpler. Even though Microsoft is going to produce it based on one of their existing OSs (probably NT), the act of cutting out huge volumes of unused and unneeded material and the necessity of supporting only a small amount of hardware.

The problem with the X-box, however, is the heavily COTS (Commercial, Off the Shelf) design. Using a standard CPU, a standard OS, and what will undoubtedly be a modified version of a standard 3D graphics chip, all save on design cost and would save on production cost if only a small number are produced.

Yet game consoles sell by the millions, so the design cost is spread over so many devices and the cost savings of using COTS parts largely diminishes, since by the time someone fabricates one million custom CPUs, they don't cost any more than buying 1M comparable CPUs.

And the performance hit of using a COTS design is substantial. The Playstation 2's CPU is custom designed to the task at hand, able to perform a massive number of floating point calculations/clock cycle. It does not need to run SPEC, it is not an attractive compiler target for high performance code, and it is really 3 CPUs in one.

Thus, Toshiba's silicon for the Playstation 2 drastically outperforms what Intel can possibly provide, for the specific tasks involved in driving an effective game console.

The additional problem with the X-box, again introduced by the COTS nature of the system, is the burden which even a stripped-down Microsoft OS places on the device. The cost of a hard disk and additional memory are potential killers when designing a device which should retail for less than $300.

A COTS design by Microsoft was undoubtedly chosen so they could hurry it out into the marketplace, but the result will probably be less then spectacular, since Sony's offering will probably significantly outperform the X-box once applications are written which can take advantage of the available computational power.

--
Nicholas C. Weaver

I suspect that Microsoft's real reason for using a COTS setup is for name-brand recognition, not necessarily performance. The jury's still out on whether or not it will work, but I think having a console with an "Intel inside" sticker might help it sell to a certain crowd.

Japanese seizure robots uncovered!

From: Fyrestryke
Subject: Japanese Seizuer Robots - Mailbag 05/04/00

I found it!!!

http://www.geocities.com/Baja/2792/goldrake.html

From a show called Super Manga Robots??

Send it on to this guy if you still have his e-mail...

Fyrestryke :o)

Congrats! Of course, it's still not as cool as Voltron or Ranma 1/2, but then...what is? :)

We got lots of letters on this subject...

From: Todd Ostermeier
Subject: The 24fps fallacy

I just wanted to comment on Peter Urquhart's recent mailbag letter where he made the false statement of, "... the human eye only actually sees at 24 fps ...", and provided as proof the fact that TV and cinema run at 24fps (which is actually false -- NTSC television signals run at 30fps, but he's right about cinemas running at 24fps, and I think PAL signals may be 25fps). Anyway, that's only empirical evidence, and actually does prove his "fact" in any way.

As a basis for my argument, let me point you to a very good page I found on this subject -- http://www.it.bond.edu.au/inft340/lecture5/lecture5.htm.

Just to point out a few items from this page:

* Frame rates of standard video broadcasts (between 25 and 30 fps) are sufficient to produce smooth motion, but not to prevent flicker.

* "In order for the human eye not to perceive flicker in a bright image, the refresh rate of the image must be higher than 50 per second."

* "To achieve non-jerky or smooth motion frame rates need to be above 24 frames per second."

* "Motion blur represents a loss of image accuracy in order to achieve believable motion. What the camera records is the 'blur' of the fast moving object (or the camera can be on a fast moving object!)" -- Computer games don't have motion blur (well, most don't, yet), which is why games need a higher frame rate to present smooth, believable motion.

I could go on and on and on, but I think that's enough to prove my point, which is that the "24 maximum fps" for the human eye is a complete fallacy.

Please, let's get the facts straight and put this myth out of its misery.

--
Todd Ostermeier

A DWANGO revival?

From: Matt Lazarowitz
Subject: re: Civility in Quake 2

Ahh, the hours I spent playing Thunder Walker CTF on Quakeworld.... The civility went beyond the friendly "nice shot" comments, I use to get some sympathy for my 700 pings. I haven't been able to play online since about the time of Q2's release, I frequently have pings of 2000. Yes, it hurts. (insert rants about crap telecommunications companies completely ignoring their customer base here). However, the result is that I've been getting together with a small group of friends for some time now to game. It's a nice setting, and if anyone gets out of hand, well, they get bounced :) Maybe what we need is a DWANGO revival.

Matt Lazarowitz

Actually, one of the things that I was surprised about at this year's E3 was how similar Sega's new SegaNet service is to DWANGO.

On Panty Raider.

From: The Pike
Subject: Panty Raider

All the groups and people calling Panty Raider offensive have the wrong idea. I think they're reaching when they mention it in the same breath as the Columbine shooting. I do agree that it perpetuates the screwed-up gender ideals for women, but the REAL problem is way, WAY simpler than these people can even see.

The game concept is utterly retarded, and the game will suck ass. It's an insult to gamers as a whole, and an ill-concieved notion.

-Demandred

-PS: Infocom did one of the best ever "Adult" games: the Leather Goddesses of Phobos. Now THAT was a good game!

You bet they did...just be sure you never play the graphical sequel. That was abysmal.

Yeah, but can you get OK cola?

From: Grayson Smith
Subject: bawls sighting...

ive found bawls soda in the san fransisco bay area! i read that this is the "official" drink of bluesnews, and its only really availible in a small handfull of area's. So its made its way out here...it tastes a lot like Jones soda's "can of whoop ass" energy drink, and i recommend it highly.

avid fan
grayson smith

Let's see...we've got a drink, a steak house (Peter Luger's) and now a cereal (Quisp!)...what's next?

The Romero joke of the week.

From: Casey Muratori
Subject: Nagging Romero suspicions

Regarding the picture of John Romero used by Games Domain for their E3 interview (http://www.gamesdomain.co.uk/e32000/john_romero_speaks.html):

I am reminded of an article from The Onion last week, http://www.theonion.com/onion3617/barry_ploegel.html. It may just be me, but Barry and John seem to look suspiciously similar. Perhaps they are, in fact, the same person? Is www.barryploegel.com an attempt by John Romero to reinvent himself after Daikatana's series of spiraling downturns? One can only wonder.

- Casey

nuqjatlh?

From: David Ruzicka
Subject: RE: Oral Commands in Klingon Academy

Oral Commands in Klingon Academy

Not that I'm a Star Trek fan, </disclaimer> but doesn't this story beg the question: Will the player be able to issue commands in Klingon, as well as English?

Silly Trekkies...

David

My guess is that you'll be able to set it to accept Klingon commands if you want, since you can add as many new commands as you want.

The no multiplayer fallout.

From: tww
Subject: No multiplayer? No sale!

It seems like the latest trend among game manufacturers is to ignore what made 3D gaming the success that it is. Max Payne is just the latest game that I was waiting to buy that's made the big announcement. I love Quake (every version in its time), I love UT, I love Starcraft. I play games and I but games. Maybe it's just me but multiplayer online is what I want. Game manufacturers may think their AI is the world's best but I've got news for them. NOTHING beats the skills of a real human being.

I don't want predictable bots. I want some fool that may do *anything* from kill me with precision to frag his own teammates. No amount of AI programming in the world will make a good game interesting forever. I still play Quake II. I still play Tribes. When Tribes II comes out, I'll buy a copy of it but ONLY if it has a multiplayer capability. The one BIG sale point of PC games over consoles is that consoles don't have multiplayer - yet. Even my twenty year old Pacman machine lets me match my skills against a real human.

Pay $50 for a limited use, short burnout title. Not me! I may be a nobody in the industry but I'll vote with my wallet. I won't buy another game that doesn't have multiplayer. I think it's time for us nobodies to tell manufacturers that, if they want to sell us product, they need to sell us what we want.

StarCrusher

You're certainly entitled to your opinion, but frankly, I applaud the companies that are dropping multiplayer. The bottom line is this: how many games do you want with mediocre mulitplayer in them? You talk about how you still play Quake II and TRIBES, but what about all the other multiplayer games out there that had it tacked on at the end? Does anyone still play any of them?

A Musical Chairs mod?

From: Linus Vernyns (Atog)
Subject: Musiscal Chairs 'too violent'

I knew it! I've always warned people about the violence in Q3A, UT and Musical Chairs.

Now that I think of it, it might be a good idea for a mod :).

regards,
Atog

Go for it, dude.

A disappointed fan.

From: TQ
Subject: My heart is broken...

Hi guys,

I read much about Hitman: Code 47 when it first peeked its head over the horizon. It promised Thief-like stealth combined with assassination. Two elements that sound very appealing when combined in a game. I'm one of those that love to play defense in Unreal-CTF, picking off opposing team members with my sniper rifle. And, yes, railgun camping is my preferred way to play Q3.

All the early indicators were this would be played from a first-person perspective, my view of choice.

Now, I read that Hitman will be a third person game. With that little "over the shoulder and behind my head" view that, at least for me, prevents me from becoming truly immersed in a game. I'm very disappointed in this decision. Yes, I know that Hitman will switch to first person for sniper shots, but this is still unacceptable, because when I shoot real firearms, I'm not shooting from behind myself. Don't think I could hit anything that way...except perhaps myself.

I'm sad. Hitman: Code 47 sounded like it would be great fun. For some, I suppose, it will be.

Thomas Quarles

Hmm...what do you think?

From: Saman Sartipi
Subject: Another Customization setting

Hi,

The "set focus" option is pretty handy, and I'd like to suggest another option under the customization menu. How about "Open all links in new window" so that whenever a link is clicked, I still have bluesnews open so that I can click other headlines.

Somehow, I don't think I'm the first one to suggest this, but how does it sound? Good idea, bad idea?

Thanks,
SS

That would be easy enough to implement...what do you guys think?

On T&L benchmarking.

From: Alex Balcanquall
Subject: T&L+Benchmarking

RE: http://www.nvnews.net/articles/clrespondsto3dfx.shtml

I do not know why people still insist on using Q3 and SOF as a benchmark of T&L vs. non T&L cards. Tthe speed difference T&L provides is negligible (IMHO) and not a good way of comparing T&L and non T&L games together. T&L primarily functions (currently) at its best when in D3D (like it or not). A much truer and fairer comaprison would be if a game like Messiah from Shiny had a benchmark mode.

Messiah is the first game that i have seen that IS most definitely improved with T&L; however I do not know if it has a benchmark mode. Additionally the proponents of T&L always use tech demos like tree and that 'Zagoths moor zooilogical (or whatever it is called)' the use of these is just as unrealistic in comparing both non T&L and T&L hardware.

I think it is time that the benchmarking community move to a new standard when trying to compare T&L with standard cards. Quake3 and SOF are good at showing you what cards are good for Quake3 and SOF, but to extrapolate this for all new games, cards and technolgies is a nonsense. The only difference I have seen that the T&L makes in quake 3 is that one can make the surfaces as curvy as possible without and major hit in visible performance.... hardly relevant

Thanks for you time

Alex

Ooof...the MSX.

From: Datoyminaytah
Subject: MSXBox? Wow, it's like, deja vu all over again

Back in the 80's there was a type of computer called "MSX", which stood for "Microsoft Experimental", as stated in the documentation accompanying it. The one I had was a Yamaha CX5M, but they were also made by other manufacturers, mostly in Japan, from what I understand. I think the CPU was the same as was in the original NES system (Nintendo.) MSX-BASIC was virtually identical to MS-BASIC, and MSX-DOSw as virtually identical to MS-DOS.

The only thing the MSX had going for it were a few exclusive Metal Gear games. Besides that, it was a remarkable piece of junk.

On game boxes.

From: Trent A. Pancake
Subject: HA!

I submitted a mailbag article a while back recommending that game boxes be eliminated and y'all seem to think I was loopy....well ha! :) I picked this up from Ars Technica.

Goodbye to big boxes

PC game packaging is taking a turn for the streamlined. Games should start appearing on shelves bearing the nifty little plastic cases that DVDs are sold in. If you've seen Sid Meier's Antietam, then you know what I'm talking about. It's already on shelves in this packaging style. And hell, it's about time, my room looks like a friggin' attic

Yeesh...I hope not...can you guess how they would cram one of those uber-sized RTS manuals into those little DVD cases?

It's all true.

From: wannabe aquaker
Subject: dated logo

dear mailbag,

While we all know and love the logo of that Baldheaded Blue guy reading the News, I can not help but wonder if he we ever venture back into the tattoo parlor to modify that Q2 into a Q3. Or is keeping the Q2 some kind of statement about the relative merits of Q3?

Judging by how often the mailbag gets updated, I should not forget to consider laziness.

Sincere and daily reader,
wannabe

The logo, and the site in general, is in desperate need of an overhaul. Hopefully this will be addressed in the near future.

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