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 PAST ISSUES
774: Too hot to trot
770-71: High touch Nokia
766: Bone up on Nihongo the smarter way
762: Catch-up game
758: Pocket powerhouse
754: Corn Celly
750: Solar sensation
746: Branding boiled down
742: Virtually real
738: Assisted roaming
734: Apple attack
730: Miike mouse
726: Touch me, I want your data
722: Aargh—pirates scuppered
718-19: Movies on your Ninty
714: Red PSP
710: Sun trap
706: Battery-powered chat
702: Brave new world
698: New dog, new tricks
694: Unwired, unnecessary
690: SK Telecom hooks a whopper
686: Pioneer’s friends are indeed electric
682: Sony snapper shakes things up
678: Gotta hand it to Fujitsu
674: Gentlemen, take your pics
670: Scale speedster
666: In living color
662: Peace of mind
658: Samsung’s swollen snapper
654: Much more than ringtones
650: Where in the world
646: Where there’s a Will(com)
641: Buckets of bits
638: Sony’s small stunner
634: Sony coming back off the ropes
630: High def, high stakes
626: Fully loaded
622: Heavyweight handset
619: Greener and cleaner
614-615: All on board
610: Talkie Walkie
606: Gadgets, gear and good things…
603: Viva la Revolution
599: Bigger just rocks, K?
595: Double data dose
591: Turtle-tastic Takara
587: Spies like them
583: Remotely entertaining
579: Tick tock, ya don’t stop
575: Two-in-one
571: Camera superba
567: Tourist-tastic
563: Square eyes
558: Small screen
554: Muscle power
550: Fat off the lamb
546: Long lens
542: The Weird and the Wonderful from Japan's Gadget Gurus
540: Picture perfect
J Mark Lytle rounds up some good-looking gear-appealing MD players, attractive iPod companions, and a svelte little cellphone.
538: High spirits
J Mark Lytle hits the high-tech sauce once again.
536: Six of the best
J Mark Lytle gets half a dozen lashes of the high-tech cane.
534: Soup’s on
J Mark Lytle tucks into another feast of innovative concepts.
532: Worth its wait?
J Mark Lytle checks in with the electronics big boys.
530: Rich itch
J Mark Lytle checks out some financially demanding gadgetry.
528: Telly addicts
Televisual entertainment is never far from the hearts of the Japanese and the ledgers of the electronics big boys, so we’ve had a twiddle with a couple of the newest gadgets in the field and pondered a groundbreaking new recording medium. Elsewhere, music soothes the savage breast.
526: Future perfect
J Mark Lytle comes to grips with a few of the more out-there gizmos around.
524: Digital delights
J Mark Lytle cooks up a storm of high-tech desirables.
522: Chips with everything
J Mark Lytle does the rounds of the nation's smartest companies once more.
520: Coming soon…
J Mark Lytle rounds up the new and the soon-to-be-great of the gadget world.
518: Ides of March
J Mark Lytle plucks some fragrant seasonal flowers for your high-tech enjoyment.
516: Coming up roses
J Mark Lytle returns with a few new takes on familiar technology.
514: What you need
J Mark Lytle uncovers a hatful of gadgety gems for the pre-spring fallow season.
512: A kind of hush
J Mark Lytle shakes himself from the post-holiday slumber to get wired all over again.
509/10: Wrapping up 2003
J Mark Lytle gets all nostalgic and picks the cream of this year's crop.
508: All kinds of everything
J Mark Lytle reports on five products that'll get your tech-hungry heart racing.
506: Apple picking
With the launch of its first retail shop outside the US, a resurgent Apple takes aim at a market that loves its gadgets. Steve Trautlein goes shopping.
504: Cleaning up
Our latest gadget grab-bag includes some odd ofuro entertainment, the world's most losable MD player, and several ways to fill that USB-shaped hole in your life. J Mark Lytle reports.
502: Show and tell
The recent CEATEC show for the electronics industry produced a treasure trove of Good Things, including Sony's PSX do-everything machine and a credit-card-sized digital video camera. J Mark Lytle reports.
500: Corn-y for you
J Mark Lytle separates the high-tech wheat from the low-grade chaff.
498: Bits and pieces
J Mark Lytle delivers the latest and greatest from Japan's high-tech wonderland.
497: Gadgets ‘r’ us
J Mark Lytle brings you more of the best from the nation’s biggest and cleverest electronics manufacturers.
494: Talkin' 'bout a revolution
J Mark Lytle checks out all that's new in the ever-evolving world of high-tech consumerism.
492: The right stuff
J Mark Lytle gets the latest word on the street from the gadget paradise that is Akihabara.
490: Good to go
J Mark Lytle tracks down more of the latest gadgets that make our stay-at-home pals green with envy.
488: Summer breeze
J Mark Lytle rounds up five of the hottest new pieces of high-tech kit to keep you looking cool this summer.
486: Space odyssey
Carlo Niederberger combs the city for spots to visualize the future.
484: Air time
As three big wireless LAN projects race to hook up Tokyo, cable-free Internet connections are as close as a local café, hotel or train station. Martin Webb reports.
480: Keep your cool
Cathy Frances scopes out some high-tech devices for the dog days of summer.
478: All blogged up
Weblogs offer users the chance to post their lives online. Steve Trautlein checks in with the Tokyo bloggers.
476: Future Wave
Today's technological fantasies are fast becoming reality. Cathy Frances peeks at the wonders that wait just around the corner.
474: Small wonders
Somewhere between not-so-totable laptops and impossibly tiny PDAs, ultraportables offer an appealing alternative. Hanna Kite scopes out five of the latest miniature PCs.
472: Paws for thought
Cyber-pets are coming out one after another. Cathy Frances tracks down the home-entertainment companions that may give you a run for your money.
468: Photo finish
Digital cameras are getting smaller and packed with even more features. Sachie Kanda zooms in on the latest models.
466: Keitai kool
Camera-equipped cell phones have spawned a generation of gadgets that make digital photography even hipper. Hanna Kite takes a peek.
464: Mini mart
On the 10th anniversary of the MD, a new generation is hitting the shelves. Sachie Kanda listens in.
462: Internet to go
Cybird is leading the mobile Internet content revolution with help from Star Wars and SIM cards. Chris Betros reports.
460: Green Machines
Used PCs are piling up in landfills and ruining ecosystems around the globe, but innovative manufacturing techniques and NGOs are here to save the planet. Hanna Kite reports.
456: Strange days
Gadgets are becoming increasingly communicational, multifunctional, technically advanced and environmentally friendly, right? Or “goofy,” as Cathy Frances finds.
454: Match point
Teachers and students are coming together for online education—and old fashioned community-building
452: Mobile classroom
Want to brush up your kanji skills but just can't find the time to knuckle down with a decent textbook?
450: Future space
Tokyo is teeming with high-tech showrooms and technology museums
448: Virtual battlefield
Mike Lloret finds out how to meet new gaming friends online and then get in a fight
446: Fair game
Highlights from the Tokyo Game Show.
444: Clothes encounters
Technology comes out of the closet with the latest generation of wearable devices
442: Back lighting
Akihabara's hottest deals have moved from the big stores to the side streets-and even online. Justin Gardiner shops on roads less traveled.
440: Get the picture
A snapshot of the best camera-equipped keitai and the increasingly international cellular maarketplace
438: ABU Robocon 2002
Humans and machines alike head to Tokyo for the first annual Asian robot competition
436: Thin is in
Steve Trautlein looks into plasma TVs, whose flat screens are cropping up all around town
434: Nihon-GO!
Feeling shut out because you can't rap with the locals? David Chester plugs you in with online Japanese lessons
432: Byte size
A new wave of handy little digicams enters the picture
430: Lost in translation
Your ISP has just sent you an email in Japanese. Is it a service announcement? Kristen McQuillin shows you three ways to find out
428: Robots on the pitch
While the World Cup stars battle it out, their future competitors gear up
426: Class action
ESL teachers stuck for a lesson plan can turn to the web for some fantastic classroom ideas and ways to boost student interest
424: Book binge
Techpert Kristen McQuillin picks the best titles on today's shelves
422: An Apple a day
Mac gadgets galore were on display at Macworld 2002
420: Geek speak
Two years ago this month, safe passage through Y2K and dot-com hype had tech-types celebrating Geek Pride with festivals and events
418: Hot commodities
Kristen McQuillin collects gadgets for spring.
416: Smart appliances
Kick your feet up with the latest in high-tech kitchen gadgetry
413: Internet on air
Tune into international favorites with streaming audio
412: Spy story
Sneaking around with the latest in undercover gadgetry
410: PDA Personalities
The Ins and outs of digital assitants
408: Design intervention
The top tech books
406: 2002 Tech must haves
Japan's new gadgets and gizmos
404: Broadband Business
Internet World Japan 2001
398: High-tech hospital
The university of Tokyo Hospital
396: Big game hunting
Tokyo Game Show 2001
394: Wire tap
wireless networking
392: You've got mail
390: School's in session
From earning an MBA to making a webpage, online classes
388: Diaries go hi-tech
Up-to-date diarists have chucked the avocado leatherette versions
386: Why Upgrade?
Kristen McQuillin explains when to upgrade
384: Gadgets to go
Get the goods on the latest mobile devices
382: Hot software
The season's best new releases
380: Peripheral vision
How to purchase computer toys in Japan
378: In safe hands
How to avoid repetitive strain injury (RSI)
376: Kill spam
How to minimize your junk email
372: In for repair
Computer repair options in Tokyo
370: Game for a laugh
Semi-annual Tokyo Game Show
368: Knowledge is power
Empowering women in technology
366: Generation next
Cutting-edge keitai
364: MacWorld
Exploring MacWorld Tokyo 2001
362: Online translation
Simultaneous E-to-J and J-to-E translation... online
360: DIY Star Wars
Recreate your own sci-fi epic at home
358: Network gaming
Play games with friends on your keitai
357: Bad it online
Japan's burgeoning e-commerce market
355: Robotic revelations
Japanese robots leading the way
352/3: Get the point
beenz.com - a new kind of points system
350: Talk is cheap
Internet telephone technology
348: Tsukumo
RoboconMagazineKan
346: Digital Stadium
Innovative computer-generated art on NHK
344: Tokyo Game Show
The latest releases at this fall's show
342: WonderBorg
The mechanical insect
340: Fun and games
There's a new game console in town...
337: Dream on
Tokyo Dream Technology Fair 2000

Virtual battlefield

Mike Lloret finds out how to meet new gaming friends online and then get in a fight.

The lush world of "Unreal II" beckons gamers

If you overhear someone talking in the office about how he spent the previous evening dodging machine gun fire, blowing up pillboxes, vanquishing ogres, and making off with his Jeweled Cuirass of Frost Resistance, you may think overwork has eroded his brain. But it's more likely that he's been playing games online.

Online gaming has actually been around since at least 1972. That's when an amateur cave explorer named William Crowther wrote what was probably the first text-only interactive fiction game, Adventure. For a glimpse at the early history of the format, check out the discussion at www.rickadams.org/adventure/a_history.html

But things have come a long way in 30 years, and now it's possible to play amazingly realistic and absorbing games with friends or strangers. Multiplayer gaming is done either over a Local Area Network (LAN) or on the Internet. "LAN parties" in which friends meet, usually at someone's house, and set up several computers for networked play, are quite popular in some countries, but don't seem to have caught on in Japan, probably due to logistics and space. Recently, Internet cafés such as CafeJNet New New (www.cafejnet.ne.jp) in Shibuya have begun to offer group setups, but with the increased availability and reduced cost of high-speed connections, online Internet gaming is much more popular.

Usually gaming websites charge membership fees to join their competition community, and there are also games you can buy that are specifically designed for multiple players. It's very big business, with various estimates putting online gaming revenue by 2004 at US$1.2-5 billion.


Café culture
Internet cafés are cashing in on the boom. Shibuya's CafeJNet has special offers that include up to five hours of play for a flat rate of ¥1,000, a considerable saving over standard charges. They also stock safety razors, presumably for those who play all night and then stagger off to the office.

But for those who like to game in the safety of their own homes and have a reasonably fast Internet connection (at least 56kbps), there's no need to leave the house. You can join online games either by connecting with servers and seeing who and what is available to play, or by logging on at the same time as friends. There are a lot of sites that show what's out there; http://games.yahoo.com/ and http://gamesondemand.yahoo.com/play are good places to start. Other popular sites are www.gamespy.com and www.gamespy.com/software/.

Some games themselves include functions for connecting to servers, with instructions in the game's manuals. Soldier of Fortune, for example, has a built-in searcher for servers. The ping time shown next to the list of server names can indicate whether it's physically close enough to be a good choice.

One recent trend is for online gaming sites to be designed and run by specific game developers, for a monthly charge. Beware, though: not all of them manage to apply sufficient technical and personnel resources to keep customers satisfied. Issues include difficulty in connecting, extreme lag (where a player's inputted action takes a long time before it appears on another gamer's screen), and disputes among players regarding cheating and the like.

 

Spoiled for choice
But if that doesn't put you off, there are three basic types of multiplayer games to choose from. For a good overview of each, check out the nominees for "GameSpot's Best of 2001" in the areas of Multiplayer Action, Multiplayer Role-Playing, and Multiplayer Strategy at http://gamespot.com/gamespot/features/pc/bestof_2001/index.html. The GameSpot site is also a good place to check on the newest reviews and previews. The Tokyo PC Users Group tpc.games newsgroup offers advice for local gamers at www.tokyopc.org

Action games are typified by first person shooters (FPS), and gamers can find demos of this kind at most computer shops. This type of realistic gaming is also one of the most popular. "It's easier to get immersed into a virtual world that looks and behaves (mostly) like our real one," says one veteran gamer. "This is becoming that much easier with the increase in graphic detail possible with the latest games." This seems to be the main reason why games like EverQuest and Anarchy Online are gaining in popularity over those with an isometric view, like Ultima Online.

Real-time strategy (RTS) games like Warcraft 3, Age of Empires or Empire Earth, by their nature, call for a more or less overhead view. Although there are many games in each genre that allow cooperative play, multiplayer RTS games also allow players to conduct trade with one another, negotiate treaties and alliances, share resources, and support-or betray-one another in war or economic situations. Some empire-building-type RTS games are especially appealing to those who prefer less overt violence in their gaming.

Finally, you might want to test the water at a nearby Internet café before going out and buying a game yourself or joining a site, and do some research on the games and the gear that you might require to play from home. The following selection of links should be a good beginning.

www.unreal2.com/
www.activision.com/games/wolfenstein/
http://mohaa.ea.com/
http://avp2.sierra.com/
www.ati.com
www.nvidia.com/view.asp?PAGE=geforce4ti
http://everquest.station.sony.com/
www.anarchy-online.com/
www.uo.com/
http://westwood.ea.com/games/ccuniverse/redalert2/english/index.shtml
www.blizzard.com/war3/
www.blizzard.com/worlds-starcraft.shtml
www.microsoft.com/games/empires/
www.ensemblestudios.com/aom/
www.civ3.com/
www.lucasarts.com/products/battlegrounds/
www.microsoft.com/games/PC/mechcommander2.asp
www.independencewar.com/products/IWAR2/home.htm
www.microsoft.com/games/PC/mechwarrior4bk.asp
http://tribes2.sierra.com/
www.il2sturmovik.com/
www.interplay.com/bgate2/
www.eidosinteractive.com/gss/legacy/commandos2/main.html
www.darkageofcamelot.com/
www.avalon-rpg.com/
http://rogerwilco.gamespy.com/
www.blizzard.com/diablo2/

Image courtesy of Infogrames Entertainment


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