Opinion: Doug Thompson and Daddy Warbucks

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PC, console should be friends
By Doug Thompson
Supposedly, an Xbox 360 controller will work on some personal computers.
This was news to me. This little tidbit was mentioned in one of those year-end wrap-ups by Gamespy, a respected gamer site.
Microsoft wants two people to be able to play certain games online, with or against each other, even if one customer has a PC and the other an Xbox 360. It’s a simple idea, but not one anybody’s pursued before, at least not enough. “M$” is even insisting that PC games on its preferred label have that kind of compatibility, where it can be controlled by a Xbox controller and have other features like widescreen display.
PC gaming has been pushed into a niche by consoles, but that niche is a nice one. “The Sims” is the Beatles of gaming, and “World of Warcraft” is the Rolling Stones. (I say that at the risk of getting hate mail from “Everquest” fans, but I can’t help that. I don’t play either and don’t have a dog in this hunt. All I know is that “WoW” sales are incredible.) These are games people play online, and they are dominated by PCs.
If Microsoft can make a game like “World of Warcraft” accessible to both PC and Xbox players, then clearly it will have a larger market to sell to.
It’s not a bad plan. The bigger a game’s community is, the richer and less automated the environment. Once again, M$ and its Xbox would get them a leg up on arch-rival Sony and its PlayStation 3.
I’m beginning to feel sorry for Sony. I was a harsh critic of them during their arrogant phase, when they announced that the “next generation” of consoles didn’t start until the PS3 shows up. Their machine is far more powerful than its rivals. That’s turning out to be a big problem, however. As I’ve said before, developers aren’t making games that take full advantage of the platform’s power.
Go to the game site “Gamespot.” Look up every review they have of PS3 games. There are 19 of them. Eight of them have scores of 6.6 or less out of 10. Only a couple of the good ones are exclusive to the platform.
The gaming industry is old enough where the major game developers who don’t know how to make money have all died. They’re creating games for the platform that’s already out there and has a base of players. That would be the Xbox 360. Its list of games covers three pages. Its top game, “Gears of War,” won the site’s Game of the Year award. As I said, the PS3 has 19 reviewed games and that includes a fair share of turkeys. The 19th best game on the Xbox 360 list has a score of 8.3.
It’s too soon to declare a winner in the console wars, but the Xbox 360 is having an excellent opening. I said before that the most under-reported bit of gaming news was that Grand Theft Auto was no longer going to be a franchise that started on Sony’s platform. Putting as much of my bias as I can aside, I’m having a very hard time here finding good news for Sony.
Another niche for PCs is strategy games, which is where I fit in. I don’t yearn for a PlayStation 3 because “Medieval II: Total War” doesn’t run on it. I’d also throw in the niche of very detailed simulations, such as the combat flight simulator “Il-2 Sturmovik” and the latest “Silent Hunter” for U-Boats.
I’m starting to wonder if the console — particularly the PS3 — isn’t powerful enough to run games like mine.
Assuming I had a faster Internet connection, I wouldn’t mind giving “Il-2” a try online. I say that with the understanding that the online community is filled with people who can “fly” the simulation better with their feet and with their shoes on than I could ever do with my hands, and that there are far more who lurk around the airfields where new players show up and blast them on the ground. These poor, desperate souls are called “vultures” for simple and plain reasons.
Getting a game like that to play on consoles would bring in a whole new crop of victims and, eventually, aces.
I never plan on buying a console except for my kids, but hope that the console folks succeed in linking me up with some Xbox or PlayStation player who wants to get a first-hand demonstration of how to apply enfilade fire from a Mameluk Archer in “Medieval II: Total War.” “The farmer and the cowhand should be friends,” and so should the console nut and the PC grognard.


Daddy Warbucks

Subtle hints
Daddy W. is not big on announcing the sale of businesses in the region, but he does watch these little signs of change when a major sale – like that recently of KHBS Channel 5 or the trio of hospitals of the Triad Group (Northwest Health of Bentonville and Springdale and Willow Creek Women’s Hospital). And, changes are coming. Channel 5, for instance, has suddenly dropped (or almost dropped) their old, stodgy promotions – a hold over from their previous owner – THE New York Times Inc, The newest ads feature clips of about a half dozen Northwest Arkansas folks, locals clad in baseball hats and blue jeans, extolling how much they love news anchorwoman Bridgette Bonds, weatherman Darren Lewis and others at
the station. After some comments about how “hot” Bonds is, one begins to see the same chatty people in all the different spots promoting the station. So the new, hipper Channel 5 is going to be more local. Daddy W. gets it.

What will the new owners of the Triad hospitals do? Well, let’s hope they can stop some of the bad, very bad, publicity of a nurse selling drugs or finding surgical towels inside surgery patients. Like Daddy W. says, business is booming and selling NWA businesses to out of state folks is not that uncommon anymore. We are in a “hot” zone, so watch for more sales ahead.

THUNDER CHICKS
Well, Bob Rich, the owner of the Wichita Wranglers, soon to be the Springdale whatevers (Daddy W. really likes the moniker Thunder Chickens) spoke at the Springdale Chamber of Commerce annual banquet. His powerpoint display of the mega million dollar ballpark and his pointing out some of the major league all-stars who have passed through the Royals organization made for good “hot stove” baseball talk. Go Thunder Chickens.

NO GUITAR HOGS
A pair of Florida firms has run afoul of the Razorback trademark licensing criteria. Lawyers have been engaged to stop Concordia Investment Proprieties and Armadillo Distribution Entertainments from using a likeness of the UA’s official mascot on some high priced guitars. A sour note to UA folks in the athletic department who guard the use of the Razorback image – well like a wild, Razorback hog would guard her piglets.

BYE, BY CARLSON TERRACE
The final swinging of the destruction hammer is being planned to take down Carlson Terrace, the last of the Edward Durell Stone designed family apartments near Bud Walton Arena. The apartments designed by the world renowned architect replaced an old WWII trailer city to house vets and their families under the old G.I. Bill. Too bad some folks don’t think enough of designer Stone to leave at least one unit for posterity. It’s all about parking…Razorback athletic event parking.

MIAMI BOUND
The aggressive folks at XNA snagged a commuter stop (twice daily) to South Beach and Miami international last week. Some of the flights out of XNA to other destinations have been scratched recently. Just how many folks are heading to South Florida these days? Does it matter? More and more airlines are finding that XNA is a good deal.

DOWN LOADING
Wal-Mart has entered the movie-on-demand service, which will be a test to see how smooth it works in the latest on-line services that Wal-Mart is offering. The movies, some 3,000 titles, will cost between $12.88 and $19.88 (remember there are few 5′s or 9′s in Wal-Mart pricing lingo). A newscast or 30-minute television show will be $1.96 – some 4 cents lower than the Apple offering at iTunes stores. ABC, NBC and CBS don’t currently offer their shows via this service, but they will soon, Daddy W. says. Just watch and see.

Daddy Warbucks reports on the local business scene. Send comments and tips to daddyw@freeweekly.com.

One Comment

Megan J Barton February 20, 2007 at 7:15 pm

I am writing this in response to the opinion piece submitted by Paua Marinoni regarding Carlson Terrace . I could not find a place to comment and Daddy Warbucks seemed a fine place to begin:
I wish to applaud Paul Marinoni’s efforts to raise awareness regarding the University of Arkansas’ intended demise of Carlson Terrace. As a previous student and mother of a young family, Carlson Terrace was a cheap form of housing in an initially unaesthetically pleasing building. As I began to know the grandmother from China next door who cooked wonderful meals for her son in graduate school and the other international students and young families, I began to appreciate the milieu afforded by this unique form of housing. The architecture had always seemed cold and non-functional until spring turned into summer. The cool cement stamped floors were easy to clean and a deep pretty red. The cement latticework on the outside of the building shielded our living quarters from afternoon sun and the sliding glass doors provided a wonderful breezeway. The grassy courtyard enclosed by the buildings provided a safe playground area for children to play and parents to congregate. The Carlson Terrace living experience was function in its highest form. Years later I learned of the architectural significance of Carlson Terrace as designed by Edward Durell Stone. While some students may find their memories of the University of Arkansas in Old Main or Mullins Library, I remember Carlson Terrace. The destruction of this building not only removes the history of remarkable architecture, but the history of my memories. What a shame that our revision of Fayetteville has lost so many structures which gave it character and so many characters which gave it structure. Like the oft-quoted bumper sticker, “Keep Fayetteville Funky!”
Megan J. Barton

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