It's no surprise that massively multiplayer online (MMO) games have caught on. They're unique to the video game industry in how they portray social interactions. In fact, they rely on that element to draw players into their worlds. And, beyond the capabilities of one's avatar, whether it be orc, human or goblin, there's a lot more to MMOs than people realize. Author T. L. Taylor's goal in Play Between Worlds is to make sense of it all.
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Months after the release of Sony's first handheld, people still found new features built into it they didn't even know were there. Those a little more inclined dug deeper and broke open the world of PSP homebrew. Whether you're playing it safe and using it as intended or breaking it open to find things to play with, PSP Hacks covers everything.
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Setting a new standard for characters, The Simpsons is a TV show that can barely be followed anymore by someone who hasn't been around from the start. It also makes it one of the deepest shows on TV, and with only a half hour of airtime, it's not always easy to learn the basics for each character. That makes these small Library of Wisdom Books invaluable.
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Catching The Simpsons on a Sunday night is a religious experience for some. The new episodes bringing with them a new set of laughs, most of which are easy to miss. That's what makes these guides so necessary for the die-hard fan. In fact, you probably shouldn't even consider yourself a fan unless you have them for each season.
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Now is the time for something like Halo 2 Hacks. The fans have ripped it apart inside and out, and this book goes deeper. While it starts somewhat like a strategy guide, it quickly dives into actual hacking of the game's code. This is where you can have the most fun with the game, creating textures, maps, and new features for weapons.
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If you've been on eBay for any amount of time, you've surely dealt with someone we'll call "the idiot." This person can be either a buyer or a seller, but the stubbornness of some people is what makes the otherwise necessary online auction site a pain for some people. The eBay Survival Guide will get new people started, providing far more information on "the idiot" than the actual site does. Veterans know everything in here though.
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Until I picked up a copy of the paperback the other day, my familiarity with Max Barry's ubercorporate dystopian Jennifer Goverment came only through its corresponding web site, Nation States. The site, where you can design your own little government and shape its fate, was meant to generate interest in the young Australian novelist's 2003 book, which was much applauded by critics, named a notable book by New York Times and a Campbell Award finalist for best sci-fi of the year. And even before publication, Soderbergh and Clooney's Section 8 films optioned the rights, which they and Warner Bros. recently renewed.
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Unlike a lot of recent set of game design books, Start Your Engines has a focus, and it's a good one on top of that. A dominant genre, racing titles take up a large market share, and this is a book that will get you moving on designing one. That's assuming of course you know what you're doing.
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Clickers is one of those great throwbacks to classic sci-fi, just with a hard, brutal, gory edge. It's not one for the weak stomached, and that's the books strongest asset. It does lose itself as the final act starts in, but that doesn't mean getting there isn't fun enough to make it worthwhile.
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Game characters are probably under-valued due to the glut of character-based platformers in the 16-bit era. Remember Rocky Rodent? There's a reason you don't. Now we have fully realized 3-D worlds and of course, characters need to populate them. The Art of Game Characters tries to make sense of it all, explaining the basic process, interviewing those who have created them, and showcasing both rendered and hand drawn art to show off the process.
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The mainstream media takes a shot at pop culture every chance it gets. Politicians join crusades to ban video games. Reality TV is brain-dead entertainment. Steven Johnson says it all makes us smarter, a gutsy cry for people to use common sense when dealing with these things, and he pulls it off.
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Chances are you don't know who Ralph Baer is. It might help if you knew that he started a multi-billion dollar industry, but if that's not enough to jog your memory, nothing will. What he's credited with is creating the home video game, working alongside Magnavox to create the first home console, the Odyssey. He would of course go on to create much more, setting standards and creating ideas still in use. "Videogames in the Beginning" tells his side of the story from the start back in the early 1960s up until the early 1980s.
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With a title like "Opening the Xbox," you should likely assume it's one of many hacker type books geared towards Microsoft's game console. It's not. There's not a single line even mentioning the hobby. What author Dean Takahashi has written is an excellent history on the console and how it came to be. It's a great companion to other books like "The Ultimate History of Video Games" which don't have the space to discuss the latest systems at length.
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Out of the three major consoles vying for dominance, the Xbox is easily the most confusing. With it's built in hard drive, Xbox Live, DVD playback, and variety of connections, this is the system you'll spend the most time with. "The Xbox Fan Book" tries to make owning the system less of a trial, but most of the information can be found in the user manual included with the system.
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"Gaming Hacks" is yet another in a recent string of books on the topic. What's different is that author Simon Carless approaches it from a unique viewpoint that varies wildly from that onslaught. It's a book that is probably wildly different from what you would expect when you first pick it up, but contains enough pertinent information to make it a worthwhile purchase.
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Hacking video game consoles is a popular pastime for many gamers. It's amazing what some of these people have discovered by opening their systems and looking around. "Game Console Hacking" puts all the information you need in one convenient place. It's not just a great source for those who have already taken their systems apart either. The basics are all here too.
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Video game history has made its way into the pages of books more than just a few times. Steven Kent, Leonard Herman, and J.C. Herz are just a few of the authors to tackle the subject. "High Score" is the first to do it with such style, however. Every page is filled color photos, but it's a shame they don't follow the console industry closer, like one would expect.
"High Score" gives fans over 300 pages to flip through, covering games as ancient as "Space War" all the way up to a brief look at the current crop of consoles in stores now. Each section of the book is supposed to follow ten years of history, though it never really seems that way once you begin reading. A second, revised edition is also available which covers imports and adds more information as well.
Co-authors Rusel Demaria and Johnny Wilson hardly hide their love for PC games. They constantly quote themselves on their love for "Dungeons & Dragons" styled games. If it's some sort of strategy game or one that features orcs and warriors, they like it. Countless pages are devoted to companies who specialize in this style of gameplay.
In fact, starting with page 57, over 200 pages are devoted to computer gaming companies. The 70's and 90's combined don't account for that much. Even more jarring is that most of those pages talk about games that clearly came out later than the 80's. It makes for very disjointed reading.
Granted, no book has ever so thoroughly looked at the PC industry like this. Almost every book written on the subject focuses on the home consoles and arcades, rarely (if ever) getting involved with the home computer side of things. The main problem with this though is the book's full title, "High Score: The Illustrated History of Electronic Games." If you say you're going to cover it all, do so. Even more saddening is that on the single page they devote to Sega's ill-fated Saturn, two obvious errors are made (NiGHTS was not a launch title nor did Virtua Fighter 3 get ported to the console).
Not all is lost of course. The pictures of rare documents, hard-to-find games, and game schematics are great. It's obvious that much time was spent gathering up what they needed. How they even found some of the featured items is even more baffling. The cover price alone is likely worth it just to see some of the great pictures, just don't take all of the text as fact.
If you spend hundreds (if not thousands) on your PC to enjoy all the latest games, this is certainly something that should be in your home. Die-hard console gamers should also probably pick up a copy, but everyone else can do better elsewhere. Steven Kent's "The Ultimate History of Videogames" is probably the way to go though a strong case can be made for the latest edition of Leonard Herman's "Phoenix."