With the holiday season underway and Christmas sales being tossed left
and right, many gamers and gaming families are often left with only a
few ways to discern the right sort of gaming hardware for them,
including holiday buying guides and general hardware reviews. However,
while some products may be perfect for computer gamers that play RTSes
or FPSes, they may not be the optimum solution for massively
multiplayer online gamers. Getting a BB gun for Christmas may be great,
but what if it turns out that we really wanted the href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Christmas_Story"
target="_blank">“Red Rider” BB gun?
Do you really want that Fatal1ty Gaming Headset? We try to find out!
Since this is a dilemma that strikes every holiday season, the staff at
Ten Ton Hammer has opened our doors and we're welcoming any gaming
products – software and hardware alike – to plead
their case to you, the MMO gaming public. Our first takers during the
holiday season were the folks at Creative, who have already made a very
respectable attempt to win gamers' hearts by putting together href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/giveaways/SoundBlaster"
target="_blank">a fantastic contest and sending us
several target="_blank">review products. Their MMO
spokesperson turned out to be Nicholas Ho, the Asia Regional Marketing
Manager for Creative, who is quite the MMO gamer.
“I started playing MMORPGs with href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/154"
Online where, because I was new, got completely
owned by most other players,” Nicholas said. “I got
my first taste of being Player Killed in that game! That was definitely
not pleasant, but I learned from it and I began to enjoy it later on.
During this time, we were on dial-up, and VoIP was my Ericsson (not yet
Sony Ericsson!) mobile phone. My part-time, take-home pay was ~$100 and
when my phone bills came up to $400 USD per month, I knew I had to
“When money became less of a problem, I played href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/211"
Fantasy Online for 4 years! I was so crazy about
this game that I could play 24 hours straight without sleeping.
I’d wake up at 4am for Guild raids etc,” he
continued. “Then I went over to href="http://wow.tentonhammer.com/" target="_blank">WoW
to experience my first massive PVP – I got good enough that
my character was privileged with the Duelist rank, which was something
like top 10% of PVPers.”
“I’m currently playing EA’s href="http://warhammer.tentonhammer.com/" target="_blank"> style="font-style: italic;">Warhammer Online
(after brief tests with target="_blank">EVE
Online and Phantasy
Star Online), but as work crowds in, I have hardly time to
sit down and thoroughly enjoy one of my gaming marathons,”
Nicholas concluded. “My favourite MMO would have to be style="font-style: italic;">Final Fantasy Online.
No other MMO has met the graphic quality and gaming awe that game held
in my opinion.”
Color us impressed. It seems like Nicholas certainly knows what it is
like to be a hardcore MMO gamer, and that makes him a perfect candidate
to recommend Creative's gaming products. You wouldn't want a vegetarian
recommending a quality
steak house, would you? According to Nicholas, the Sound
Blaster Fatal1ty Champion Series is the most gaming specific sound card
in the market right now, but it takes more than a simple assertion to
convince us. “It places every audio requirement of a gamer in
both 3.5” and 5.25” docking on the PC –
your microphone in; your RCA Audio out; your headphone out; your mic
and game volume control; even X-Fi controls,” Nicholas said.
“The Fatal1ty Gaming Headset was designed with 4-8 hour
gaming usage in mind – gamers need to stay comfortable for
that long; and they need to be capable of clear surround sound and
According to Nicholas, Creative's gaming hardware is designed for the hardcore gamer.
But what if players can't afford both the Champion series sound card
and the Fata1lty gaming headset? Buying both will run a gamer a cool
$250, so it may not be a solution that everyone can afford. So, if
you're a little strapped for cash this holiday season because of the
economic downturn, Nicholas had a few recommendations.
“Creative innovates products with a complete solution in mind
– therefore, it would be ideal for gamers to get both the
Sound Blaster Fatal1ty Champion Series and the Fatal1ty Gaming Headset
for the best gaming audio experience,” Nicholas said.
“However, if a gamer HAD to choose, there’s two
scenarios: if they don’t have any audio output –
then it’s only natural to choose the headset. If they have
speakers and/or headphones, then go for Sound Blaster Fatal1ty Champion
Series. The audio processing definitely improves gaming and gaming
But are these products really right for the gaming public? Aside from
the suggestions of Nicholas, what else does Creative do to insure that
their products are created with the gamer in mind? It's almost
necessary these days to have a tried-and-true gamer (maybe not the
basement dwelling kind) to check out the product. We asked Nicholas
whether or not they had gamers on staff.
“First, we would like to make it clear that the people who
contribute to product creation and test our products are hardcore
gamers,” Nicholas explained. “They game as part of
their work (I know, some of you are preparing resumes already). They
play all sorts of games, FPS, RTS, MMOs, etc. These people give the
product teams valuable inputs on what gamers really need from a
product, and then we go about making them. The next step is naturally,
to find the best balance between a superior audio experience (through
hardware) and the prices that appeal to gamers. Not every gamer can
afford a high-end 10,000 USD audio system for example.”
Yet massively multiplayer games have been notoriously bad in the audio
department, with a few exceptions. I asked Nicholas which companies
Creative has done the most work together with, and he was eager to
point out the games that really were working with Creative to bring the
optimal audio experience to gamers.
“We’ve always made audio the best possible on the
PC, regardless of gaming or otherwise,” Nicholas stated.
“Specifically for gaming, we developed EAX / EAX ADVANCED HD,
and games since 2001 incorporated this. WoW uses FMOD (a sound
architecture) and supports EAX ADVANCED HD; EVE Online supports OpenAL
and EAX ADVANCED HD natively; href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/47"
target="_blank">Guild Wars uses FMOD and supports
EAX ADVANCED HD.”
“Like I mentioned, Creative worked on WoW through
FMOD,” Nicholas continued. “BioWare in particular
has worked with us for several years now, including on their well-known
single-player game, Mass Effect. Our Developer Relations team was
actively involved in creating sound architecture for the games and we
do have lots of successful stories. Our
sound cards fundamentally improve the performance of any game which
requires audio processing, and we will definitely try to work with them
to ensure that gamers get the best audio experience possible.”
EVE Online is one of the many games Creative has worked with to bring a quality audio experience.
So what are the biggest contributions that Creative is bringing to MMO
gaming? With so much at stake in the current MMO market, it seems
important to make sure that a gamer's audio is as intense and hardcore
as possible. As our final question, we asked Nicholas what he thought
Creative had done to improve audio in our MMO games.
“I'd say the two biggest contributions are superior headphone
spatialisation and improved VoIP interface and processing,”
Nicholas answered. “The environmental audio always makes a
big difference, which is easily noticed in WoW, for example. There was
a lot of user feedback when Blizzard disabled hardware audio in a
certain patch, which then prompted Blizzard to re-enable hardware audio
and EAX ADVANCED HD for WoW. We need to bear in mind that we are in the
Entertaining industry, and no entertainment is complete without audio;
no entertainment is awesome without awesome audio. A trip to your local
cinemas will explain this point clearer than words.”
We'd like to thank Nicholas for his time, and we urge other hardware
companies to throw us their thoughts about their own products. The
holidays are on their way, so its in the best interest of everyone
involved to be as educated as possible on what gifts to buy yourself
and/or any gamers in your family!