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Gaming Goods, Part 1

by Erich Becker
February 23, 2001

Gaming has evolved from the simplistic keyboard commanded games of the late 70s and early 80s. With the infusion of the console industry, new types of gaming equipment have been developed to give both novice and hardcore games ways to truly playing their games and interfacing with them. PC Gaming has always had the most revolutionary ways of interfacing with your games. From keyboards and mice to gamepads and joysticks anything that the console world presents, it will be emulated and advanced upon in the computer gaming industry. This feature article is a way for us here at ESCMAG to tell you about some of our chosen "Tools of the Trade" and what new innovations will carry our gaming experience in the next couple of years and beyond. So for part one of this three-part hardware article, ESCMAG is proud to present Gaming Goods: Tools of the Trade.

The Mouse

Apple Computer first introduced the mouse back when the personal computer industry was in its infant stages. Used to interface with the new GUI (Graphic User Interface), the mouse was an integral part of the Apple line of computers, and eventually would make its way to every other platform on the market. Mice have changed over the past couple of years. Moving from Serial to PS2 to USB, tracking speeds have been increased, the designs have become more aesthetic and easier to use. Early adopters of the one-buttoned mouse probably saw one with three and totally flipped out. God only knows what happen when someone first saw a scroll wheel. Last year a new trend entered the foray. Inferred Mice (humorously referred to as "neutered mice") came upon the scene and stole the show.

Top Tool — Microsoft Intelimouse Explorer

Find out more about Microsoft’s Intelimouse Explorer at http://www.microsoft.com

The Microsoft Intelimouse Explorer is hands down the best mouse to enter on the scene in the last year. Awarded for its innovation, and the fact that it doesn’t need cleaning left computer application wizards and hardcore gamers praising the company they love to hate. The Explorer comes with two basic buttons (left and right clicking) a scroll wheel that doubles as a third programmable button, and two buttons on the left side that are also programmable and default to the back and forward buttons in Internet Explorer. The Explorer is ergonomically designed to give right hand mouse users the greatest comfort and greatest productivity. The added buttons make games (the ones that support it) much easier to play because of the added control on one hand. Binding items in First Person Shooters makes switching between your guns and items flawless. For the great software, excellent design, and no cleaning factor the Intelimouse Explorer earns the coveted 10 key rating.

10 Perfect Keys!

 

Associated Mouse Tools — fUnc Industries sUrface1030

Find out more about fUnc’s products at http://www.func.net/

Mouse pads are no longer a real necessity with the new mice entering the market but it is still nice to have a clean surface to use your mouse on. Since receiving my computer I have been using the standard pad with the Dell Computer logo pasted on the plastic coversheet. Recently fUnc Industries sent me one of their sUrface1030 mouse pads. Coming with an optional cord-clip and two different surfaces the 1030 is the best mouse pad I have ever used. One side is very smooth and very slick, the other is slightly grated to give more resistance, but no matter what side you use moving your mouse is very easy. Fitting nicely into the rubber base, the mouse pad holds in place very well, although I wish the rubber base had some better grip for underside, I found that my pad would seem to drift around my desktop a bit. For those with the need for a cord clip the optional clip fits nicely in one of six different slots on the underside of the rubber base. I didn’t feel there was a need to use the clip, but there may be some gamers who don’t want to deal with the cord in their way during midnight fragging session. The fUnc sUrface1030 earns a very respectable 9 out of 10 key rating.

9 out of 10 Keys

 

Associated Mouse Tools — Mouse Skatez

Buy Mouse Skatez at http://www.everglide.com/

"They're about as slippery as a surface can get. Most mouse feet are not as slippery as the stuff from which Mouse Skatez© are made." No truer testimony can be given to these slick little wonder pads. The Mouse Skatez are a great addition to any mouse, whether it is optical or equipped with a ball (don’t even bother pointing out how bad that sounds) your mouse does move better with the Mouse Skatez. Unfortunately for me, my review copy came with a sealed alcohol pad to clean the existing feet on my mouse. Well, lets just say that the "sealed" pad didn’t stay sealed on its trip into my mailbox because the instructions were so smeared I can only hope I put the pads on the right way. Still, the Mouse Skatez makes it easier to use your mouse, and they are slick stuff. It really makes you wonder what they are made with. Making mouse movement is always a welcomed edition to any gamer’s hardware library.

9 out of 10 Keys

 

The Keyboard

The keyboard is older than I am. Since the first computer made its way into the hobbyist’s bedroom, a keyboard has been the primary source of inputting commands and making the computer do what you wanted it to do. The keyboard has gone through many changes over the years. Buttons have been added, some have been removed, and others have been moved. Gamers still widely depend on the keyboard to make things easier. Take Starcraft for instance, why would you want to use your mouse to point and click around to build a barracks when you can hit two simple keys and it does the same thing, leaving your mouse open to give orders to your marines or SCVs. The keyboard will always be the part of a computer that you can never do away with. Sure people have tried, and with the progression of the GUI it may not become such a big part of navigating windows, but lets see someone play Quake III Arena with a game pad, and then, and only then, can you appreciate the W, A, S, D keys with mouse look ON for what they are.

Top Tool — Microsoft Natural Keyboard Pro

Find out more about this keyboard at http://www.microsoft.com/

Microsoft’s Natural Keyboard Pro is the best keyboard on the market for gamers and businessmen alike. The software included with the keyboard can be used to assign the shortcut keys to launch programs with the touch of a button. Great for launching your favorite games, Internet browser, or a word processor. With added CD functions (only configured to work with Windows Media Player, here’s looking at a Winamp upgrade) and Internet hot keys keep things moving along smoothly. If there is one current trend with all of the upcoming computer components, the American consumer doesn’t want to wait for things to happen. They don’t want to search around on their hard drive for a game, or a file, they want it conveniently located, and opened easily. Microsoft’s keyboard also acts as a USB hub with two built in ports. This could come in handy when you decide to pick up the USB gamepad or joystick (more in part two on that). With the natural set up to the keys (split set-up in Layman’s terms) typing commands or (game reviews) is no longer a chore. If you didn’t learn the home row set up in seventh grade typing class, you will now, because there is not cheating. The only drawback to this keyboard is the placement of the arrow keys. There are still some gamers that refuse to use the left side of the keyboard for First Person Shooters, and still prefer to use the arrow keys. Unfortunately on this keyboard the arrow keys are the smallest ones, and the down key is located below the left and right keys instead of between them. Aside from one glaring mistake on Microsoft’s part with the size of these keys, this keyboard goes above and beyond to be the best keyboard on the market. No longer will you be stuck with some dingy old Compaq keyboard missing half of the spacebar, pick up one of these for great comfort and awesome productivity and gaming.

Part One seems to have gone pretty well. Looking in at the basic input devices for productivity and gaming put into perspective what these devices really do for us. This part wasn’t very full of much hardware specifically made for games, but that is where Part Two comes in. The second part in this series will focus in on gamepads and joysticks as several companies strive to be the best of the best. We will also see where some massive console influence comes into play with these handheld devices.

Until next time, keep on gaming.

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