An Idiots' Christmas
December 25th, 1998

Randy: Hey, Gary. What did you get for Christmas?

Gary: Nothing but ashes and coal.

Randy: Figures. I got all kinds of neat Mac gaming stuff.

Gary: I don't care.

Randy: Oh, but I think you do. Look! It's a copy of one of MacSoft's many hot titles this year, Unreal.

Gary: I said I don't…Okay, well, actually I do care about that.

Randy: Holy Shnikies, is this game cool or what?. I'm sure most of our readers have checked out a review of this title by now, so I'll dispense with the long version and get right to the chase. What Quake was to Marathon, Unreal is to Quake.

I'm not just talking graphics here. This is a new level of sophistication in first-person shooters.

Gary: You've got that right! Unreal takes the first-person shooter into the puzzle-solving zone. In Unreal, you have to not only blow away the beautifully rendered alien enemy, but you also have to solve your way out of problems by moving objects and manipulating the control panels in the prison complex you are trapped in. However, be sure not to pop a cap in your fellow four-armed prisoners. They can help you and show you where hidden stashes of weapons are.

Randy: Gary's PowerBook and 266 MHz minitower both have the Rage Pro chipsets for 3D acceleration, and the game looks beautiful. However, my older ATI Xclaim VR card with the old RAGE II doesn't handle RAVE, so I play in software mode only. I was pleased and surprised to find some of the effects like light flares still worked. But to be honest, Gary and I are both pining for a 3Dfx card to experience this title in all its accelerated glory.

Gary: Speak for yourself, my unusually hairy friend. Amongst the coal and switches under my tree I found a VillageTronic Banshee card!

Randy: Joy!

Gary: This is the one I have been waiting for. Banshee not only supports 3D acceleration for games like Unreal but it supports 3D in a window for my Bryce and Infini-D work as well as 2D acceleration for my video and PhotoShop work. 'Tis truly a card for all seasons.

Randy: It is a far better card you have than you have ever had before. It is a far better game than you have ever played before.

Well, except you have to stack it up against my new RAGE 128 Xclaim VR card. It does screaming RAVE acceleration and video in and out for full screen captures at 30 frames per second. Or so the box says. And it has been comparing very favorably against cards with the VooDoo2 chipset. Do we have a new king of the hill?

Gary: Wow, we are the 3D kings (of Orient are)! What more could we possibly want for this Christmas/Hanakua/Khuanza?

Randy: More days off from work! And Reality Bytes' new title, Dark Vengeance.

Gary: Right on both counts. However, I think Dark Vengeance is a little more likely to actually happen.

Randy: Think so?

Gary: Yep, cause I got it RIGHT HERE! I thought it was a big square piece of coal, but it was just the wrapping on the box.

Randy: You really need new glasses.

Gary: So I can see all the cool effects packed into this third-person adventure game? Since we are doing a review of this game in the very near future I won't tell our readers too much about it right now, but suffice it to say turn on the 3-D acceleration and hand me down my head choppin' sword. We're eating goblin tonight.

Randy: This is turning out to be an unbelievable holiday. Just when you think it couldn't get any better…it does.

Gary: I sense another cool game under the tree.

Randy: Not quite, how about an extra cool gaming accessory: ThrustMaster's T2 steering wheel and pedal set for the Macintosh.

Gary: Carmageddon will never be the same. This wheel kicks some serious butt. The tension control in this wheel makes it really seem like you are behind the wheel of a real car. This is a must for any driving sim fans.

Randy: And there has never been a better time to get a T2 wheel. I have it on high authority from a source at ThrustMaster's marketing office that the T2 is to be axed from ThrustMaster's line of Mac offerings. They will soon be moving all their Mac products to the USB standard. While they do have a USB steering setup in the works they have not committed to writing Mac drivers for this product yet. This is a great opportunity for all you Mac gamers out there to drop a line to ThrustMaster and voice your support for Mac USB drivers for their great gaming peripherals.

Gary: That's right. Make yourself heard. But in a polite and Mac-like way. In the meantime, Mac heads can grab one of the current T2 setups from our friends at ThrustMaster and Small Dog Electronics. They currently have the T2 listed for $139.00. If you don't have USB connections yet, this wheel is a great buy.

Randy: And for you forward-thinking gamers, I think a new USB PCI card is just the ticket. Even if you don't have an iMac, you can still begin the journey into the next generation of Mac peripherals. Companies like ThrustMaster, Gravis, Iomega, Imation, Hewlett-Packard, and Umax are already making great USB devices, and with one of these inexpensive USB PCI cards, you can start using them right away.

Gary: For example, try Keyspan's two port USB PCI card for $59 and say good-bye to restarting between plugging and unplugging devices and say hello to hot swappable components. And SCSI ID problems will be a thing of the past as well!

Randy: Wheew, boy! This has been one incredible Christmas. Anything else under the big tree?

Gary: Well just one more thing for me. With its sleek dark plastic form factor, I almost missed it. It's a new Apple Studio Display! After gaming on my new PowerBook's active matrix LCD screen, I just couldn't go back to a flickery, old CRT monitor. Apple's flat panel LCD is brighter than most CRT monitors and has a solid picture with no such thing as a refresh rate, and thus, no flicker.

Randy: That's because LCD displays maintain a constant image instead of using a cathode ray gun to constantly redraw line after line on your picture tube. This makes it much easier on the eyes after hours of warfare in a Myth II showdown and it doesn't emit potentially harmful radiation like a CRT monitor.

Gary: Oh, and it has a USB hub built right into the base. It just doesn't get any sweeter.

Randy: Except maybe for a quad-processor Yosemite box with Firewire!

Gary: Now you must be dreaming…dreaming …dreaming…

(Cue wavy lens effect and dream music)

Gary: Wake up, man. You're dreaming.

Randy: What? What the hell…what day is it?

Gary: It's Christmas day! Let's go open our presents!

Randy: You mean I haven't missed it? There's still time?

Gary: Missed what? Time for what?

Randy: Time to get all the fantastic Mac gaming stuff I was dreaming about. It was a great dream. And you were there. And so was the tree, and my Mac.

Gary: Come on, Dorothy. Let's go meet the Ghost of Christmas Presents and get busy.

The Idiots: Happy Holidays, everybody! Best wishes from the Idiots and everyone here at The Mac Observer!