‘Pokémon Go’: Hunting for your personal data

One of the most anticipated mobile games this year is already here. We do not speak of a new installment of Candy Crush or FIFA. It is Pokémon Go, the game company Nintendo in the Niantic developer is coming gradually to more countries.

The game finally meets one of the most fervent wishes of the followers of this successful cartoon: pokémons hunt in real life. With the help of augmented reality and our GPS location, Pokémon Go pokémons show us in real life, or rather, actually increased.

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The developer of the immensely popular game Pokemon Go, Niantic Labs, has full access to your Google account if you used to enter the game on your iOS device.

This Niantic grants access to all your information and the ability to publish, delete and send things from your account. In other words, entering the game with your account Google is a very effective way to give full access to your email, contacts, photos, documents … everything!

But that is not all. There is no way to know that you have given all this access if you just download the game and entered him with your Google account. To see if you have given access to your data, you have to go to your account settings Google and see which apps have full access to your data. (You can revoke this access and continue playing Pokémon Go).

Niantic and Google did not respond to a request for comment on the issue. We tried the pokemon go location hack.

Cybersecurity expert Adam Reeve detailed his experience to discover that had given full access to your Google Account in a blog on Friday. Jason Cipriani, an editor for CNET, experienced the same thing when he went to check the settings of your Google account. Reeve stressed that the Android version of the app does not get full access to your Google account.

This is what your settings indicate when you’ve given full access to your Google account Pokemon Go.

Reeve says that give access to your Google account to a foreign company is not only rare, but dangerous. If Niantic suffers a cyber attack, for example, hackers can access your Google account. Because often we use our Gmail accounts to reset the access codes to all our accounts, it almost gives hackers access to all online accounts that we have.

“Revokes permissions through Google and uninstall the app,” advises Reeve.

If you do not, you’re practically saying “Pikachu, I choose you over my privacy.”

This advice may come well with many people, because the app has been downloaded 7.5 million times, according to the firm SensorTower. It is unclear how many players Pokémon Go play it on an iOS device or are entering a Google account.

The privacy advocates are calling apps developers and phone manufacturers to do a better job of explaining how your data is collected and when this is done.

PSN Review: Fat Princess

What do you get when you mix Gauntlet, Battlefield, and Capture the Flag? Well, Fat Princess of course. This is the newest game released on the Playstation Network (PSN) on the Playstation 3 and for $14.99 you will lose hours of your life… and that may just be one game.
Fat Princess is a reason I’m glad I got a PS3 over a stand alone blu-ray player. The PSN games have proven again and again that even if you can’t find something you want at retail, there’s something you can download and spend hours playing. This came out a little bit back, but I had spent so much time playing it that I forgot to write about it.
There is a single player mode but it is mostly just an extended tutorial to get you used to the games mechanics and try out the different game modes. The real time spent is online multiplayer where you can play up to 32 player (with or without bots) in 4 different game modes. The main mode is Rescue the Princess mode. The way this mode is played is that you have your opponent’s princess held captive, now you need to rescue your princess from the enemy’s castle and bring her back. Keep both of them in your castle for a certain amount of time, and you win. Meanwhile, of course, they are trying to do the same thing. The next mode is Snatch ‘N Grab mode which is very similar. Kidnap the enemy princess from their castle, but this time as soon as you bring her to your castle you get a point and she is teleported back to the enemy castle. Do this a set number of times to win. Invasion mode has you take over outposts throughout the levels and if you control more outposts than your opponents you drain their counter down. Drain it completely to win. Finally there is a team deathmatch option that just has your team start with a set number of lives, try to get rid of all their lives before you lose all of yours.

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Now you may ask what brings depth to this game, and luckily there is plenty. There are multiple classes that you can play as in the game which you pick by getting a hat that is near a generator for that class within your castle. Each class has it’s own abilities and role to play in the battles, and they can be upgraded as well. There is the Mage that starts with a fire attack, but can be upgraded to also do ice attacks. The Priest starts as a “Light Priest” that heals, but the upgrade is the “Dark Priest” that can do area damage by forming a pentagram. The Ranger is another long-range attacker with their arrows, but when upgraded also get a musket for more firepower. The Warrior is the standard Warrior (and the class most beginning will play as) that starts with a shield and sword, but is upgraded to a two handed blade weapon. Finally there is the Worker who starts with an ax to chop down trees and mine minerals as well as to be used offensively, but can be upgraded to use bombs. Once upgraded they also have giant bombs that will be near their station that can be carried one at a time by anyone regardless of class. The Worker’s job is to use the wood and rocks to build defenses on your own castle, shortcuts throughout the map including the enemy castle that can be springboards and catapults. Technically there is one more class, the “classless” player is someone who does not pick a class hat and has very little health, but is very fast to move. These are good to pick up the cake and can also smack enemies to know things out of their hands. The cake is the other bit of depth to this game. You see, there is cake scattered throughout the levels and you can bring the cake to the prisoner princess to fatten her up. She has a high metabolism though, so cake must be constantly brought to her. The reason you fatten her up is because it makes it harder for the enemy to steal her back. The fatter she is, the more people required to carry her to bring her back. All of this causes a lot of back and forth gameplay.

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This back and forth can lead to one of the downfalls of the game, and that is the fact that there is no time limit, so if you have two teams that are either really good or really bad, and the game can go on forever. You will constantly be building defenses, stealing outposts, using shortcuts, and all the other aspects of the game that can lead to you getting your princess back before their meter is full, or not even getting the princess at all. Communication is key, but if you are playing with people without headsets (for shame!) or they’re just all very good as I said, and it can take a while and you have to wait for that moment of weakness. While it’s great that the game can have a lot of strategy like that, and maybe people like the idea of games lasting a while, something should have been put in effect like a time limit to prevent games which I have had run into the hour plus time zone. This makes it not as much of a “pick up and play” game that most downloadable games are known for.
My other knock against the game is that while the game is great multiplayer, and this really is where the game shines anyway, the single player is lacking for those that maybe don’t want to spend an hour playing a game. As I mentioned earlier in the review, it is more of just an extended tutorial with the game pitting you against a bunch of bots to show you the game modes. Without the communication that comes with playing a human player this makes it difficult. The only commands you can give friendly bots is to follow you, and they don’t always do so either. It would have been nice if things were explained a bit more. Even if it were a true tutorial that explained all the different classes and upgrades and had a level where you had to do specific tasks as that class I would feel that would have been better than what is currently in place for single player. There is a “Gladiator” mode though that is like a survival mode that pits the player in an arena fighting waves of enemies, but it’s not much fun unless you are the Warrior.
My last gripe with the game is that the voice chat in this game is “push to talk” and there is no option to make it otherwise. While some people prefer this time of communication setting, especially among the PC gamer crowd, this is very out of the ordinary for consoles and takes a lot of getting used to. I found myself playing just holding the button down constantly so I would stop forgetting to press it to talk to my friends and coordinate. While this can cut down on background noise and coughing, as a console game it is very foreign to me.
Do not let the cartoony look fool you though, this is far from a kids game. It is VERY violent and gory with blood spurting out and heads getting chopped off. This can be turned off, but along with the fact that a lot of team work is involved, I would not recommend this for kids. That being said, the graphics are very bright and look great and it runs very smooth, even with a lot of action going on on-screen at the same time.
In the end, this is a great game that has greatly improved in stability online since the patch was released and you can get lost playing hours to really find what class is best for you. There are a ton of stats that it keeps track of and also a bunch of trophies to unlock. The developers opted to go with more trophies than most PSN games have, so they had to all be bronze otherwise Sony wouldn’t let them all be in (something to the effect of each “bronze” is worth a certain amount of points, “silver” a higher amount, and so on and each PSN game is only allowed X number of “points). There are a lot that will take a LONG time to earn as well, so be prepared to get a lot out of the money spent for this game.

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There has been a lot of talk online of multiple classes being added in the future (pirates, ninjas, chefs, and kings have come up), so I will keep my eye out for such content (or any other add-on content) and upgrade the review to mention the additions.
4 ½ out 5 stars – A half star taken away for the lack of single player content and proper description of how to do everything. A great PSN exclusive to really give Xbox owners something to be jealous of. Hours and hours await those that play. Thanks to IGN.

Review: Marvel vs. Capcom 2 (XBLA and PSN)

It is week 2 of Microsoft Summer of Arcade and this week’s game is Marvel vs. Capcom 2. This is the classic 3 on 3 tag fighter from the arcades previous released on Dreamcast and later on the original Xbox and Playstation 2. For those that don’t know it pits characters from the Marvel Comics universe against characters from various Capcom games such as Street Fighter, Mega Man, and Resident Evil. You pick teams of 3 to fight and you can tag team members in and out or call them in for a quick assist. It has an easy to pick up play system with easy special moves and combos.
This version is the same gameplay wise as the Dreamcast version but everything is unlocked right away, for better or worse. A big part of the Dreamcast version was to play the game and earn points to use in the shop to unlock more characters, alternate colors for characters, and stages. While that fun is gone in this version, it means you can jump right into the fights with everyone and enjoy.
There are a couple other differences than its Dreamcast cousin as well. First of all the backgrounds are now in full HD since they were made in that resolution to begin with. This means that they look the best they ever have, but unfortunately the sprites have not been redone so while they always have looked worse than the backgrounds, now they look even worse. There are a few filters that you can use to try to make them look a bit smoother but don’t expect anything like BlazBlue or Street Fighter HD Remix. Everything is also 16×9 (widescreen) now for the backgrounds but the gameplay still remains in the original 4×3 setup. What this means is gameplay has not changed, you will not be able to completely move to the outter edges and attack animations will cut off at the sides. It is nothing major and one would be hard pressed to notice it for the most part.
The major addition to this version is the online play. With this addition you may be happy all characters are available so you can jump right in. As with most online games on the 360 there are player matches as well as ranked matches and the player matches host lobbies with up to 6 players. As with most fighting games there was some lag at time but if you link up with someone with a good connection you can get some great fights going.
Overall this is a great 2D fighting game to keep you playing for sometime and is well worth the $15 asking price especially when you consider the Xbox and PS2 versions were going for $80 on eBay recently. To add to value of sorts, if you get all games released during the Summer of Arcade you will get 800 points back. This is week 2, with last week being ‘Splosion Man (review coming soon) so they are on their way to making that a worthy deal. The rest of the games coming out seem to be worth it from what I’ve read, but expect full reviews as they are released. If you’d like to pick up some Microsoft Points at a slight discount, feel free to check out My Store and I can just e-mail you the code if you’d like to save on shipping and get the code faster.  Click here to go to the Marketplace page and add it to your download queue.
UPDATE: The Playstation 3 version has been out for a couple weeks now on PSN and after playing quite a bit for both versions I can easily say that they are virtually identical. IGN’s review mentions some sort of frame hiccup when selecting characters and when the fight begins on the 360 version but not on PS3, yet I have not seen it on either version. The only real differences I could tell were the usual differences in online setup. They are not called Ranked Matches on PS3, they are “Scoreboard Matches” and you have to select an option to look at your invites (still an odd way to setup multiplayer in my opinion), but they both looked and ran great. Most importantly, they both play great as well so it boils down to which controller you prefer or which system you have more friends you can play online with.
The achievements and trophies are identical on both systems, and since it is a downloadable title the PS3 version does not have a platinum trophy. I felt that while some were good like Win 50 Ranked/Scoreboard Matches and Perform a 100 Hit Combo in Multiplayer, there are just too many (4 out of the 12) that are based on just winning the single player mode without continuing using certain themed teams. These teams are Avengers, Dark Stalkers, X-Men, and Street Fighter. While I give them credit for wanting to give a reason for playing the single player mode, these achievements just seem like chores and if they really wanted people to play single player they should have had the unlockables like in the previous versions. I would much rather the 4 achievements be something like “Unlock All Characters,” “Unlock all Costumes,” etc. These teams are also a bit unbalanced since it seems that some of the teams you can use have more choices than others. In the end, this is not a game for achievement whores, you’re getting it because you want to play it again and again.

Xbox Indie Game Review: Streets of Fury

Anyone here that remembers Lethal Enforcers raise your hand? Ok, we have a few. Ok, how about Pit-Fighter? Ok, less hands, but still a few. How many think that these graphics today is a good idea? What, no hands? I will have to respectfully disagree with you…

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Streets of Fury is an Xbox 360 Indie Game that was released last week on the Xbox 360 and is a Dream Build Play finalist. For those that don’t know, each year Microsoft holds a competition to see who can make the best Indie game and the winner gets $50k plus more exposure for their game. Last year was the wonderful CarneyVale (review coming soon). The makers of Streets of Fury wanted to use the same “digitzed actor” graphics style from the likes of Pit-Fighter, Motal Kombat, etc from the 90s and make a 4 player Beat’Em Up. Unlike the brawlers of yesteryear though, there is quite a bit to do and unlock. To also be like the games of the 90s it has a ridiculous story involving Paris falling and street gangs taking over. The only way to stop them is to of course go out there and beat the crap out of all of them.

There are two main scenarios for the main mode of the game. I wouldn’t say story mode, because no real story is ever given other than that quick intro. Each scenario plays out somewhat differently with multiple levels leading to a boss gang member, and then moving onto the next set of levels for the next boss. In the first scenario you are eliminating them, but in the 2nd scenario you get them to join you so you have some AI teammates helping until you have a gang of your end to fight with throughout the game. You start with the ability to do Easy, Medium, and Hard with the choice of 4 different characters with different stats and moves. As you complete the different scenarios on the various difficulty levels you earn achievements (in game, not part of your GamerScore) that add more of a percentage to your “Security Level.” As you increase your security level you unlock more characters (5 more) and more difficulty levels (Very Hard and Insane). There is also the option to do a Custom scenario where you can modify the number of credits, the number of enemies lives, their “Agressivity” as they call it, the enemy count, the amount of fury you have (that’s your special meter), friendly fire, the player speed, and the gravity. Enemy count, fury, speed, gravity, and friendly fire all require a certain security level to unlock. As you can tell, you will be playing this game quite a bit to unlock everything, and it could take some time. Each scenario took me about an hour or so to do by myself. When I did Scenario B 2 player co-op it didn’t seem to go any faster.

On top of the main scenarios there is also a survival challenge as well as a multiplayer versus match. Survival challenge is the typical survival mode where you take on wave after wave of progressively harder enemies, trying to beat your hi score. The versus mode is just 2-4 players battling each other until one is left standing. You can setup teams, or do free-for-all.

Now that you know that you’d be sinking a lot of time into this game to unlock it all, you probably want to know if it’s worth it, huh? I mean, if the gameplay sucks, why bother unlocking everything, right? Well, you can relax, the game is fun. You move using the analog stick or the d-pad left and right on a 2D plane, but you can also dash into the background and foreground like in Guardian Heroes. The face buttons control jump, punch, kick, and “strong attack.” Every character has their own set of moves and combos, and you can change what move you are doing by what direction you are pressing as well. Fill up the fury meter and you hold both triggers and activate one of three different special move by pressing punch, kick, or strong attack. There are quite a lot of combos you can learn for each character and the game even includes videos of many of them (again, more videos can be unlocked). What makes all the combos work so well in this game is the fact that if you see an attack connect, it will, unlike a lot of the games that came out during the time they are honoring. This will lead to many juggles, especially if you are playing multiplayer. It plays like most other brawlers, but the combo system keeps the combat from feeling too repetitive, and playing as other characters with other moves helps as well.

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Although the digitized actor look is used, there are quite a few animations that are surprisingly smooth in this game. The most noticeable are the taunts, but there are others as well, although some animations like walking as just as choppy as the old games. Another problem with  the game is that there are really only a handful of actors used, so you will see the same people over and over again with only the size and color being changed.  I understand that in other brawlers you will run into enemies that all look the same, but it only seems more noticeable in this game because the bosses are the same as the people you are playing as sometimes, or the same as regular thugs you fought earlier in a level. Backgrounds are recycled a lot too, so expect to get a good sense of déjà vu when playing as you’ll be fighting the same looking guys in the same looking levels quite a bit, even within the same scenario.

In the end though, it’s paying tribute to brawlers of days gone by, and it does a really good job of doing so, and at 240 MS points ($3) it’s not like they are asking for a lot of your money to give you little in return. Although repetitive, there’s a lot of fun that can be had, especially 4 player if you have like minded friends, and you can work towards unlocking quite a bit. A lot of bang for your buck.

4/5 Stars – try the trial, some may not be able to get passed the intentional cheese factor, but a lot of fun can be had multiplayer for only $3.  Click here to see Xbox.com page for it and add to your download queue.

Forgotten Friday: PS2 Review: Yakuza

This week’s Forgotten Friday deals with a PS2 game that many people passed over, and they passed over a great experience. Do you enjoy Yakuza movies? Did you enjoy Shenmue but felt that it needed more focus, especially when it came to combat? If you answered yes to either one of these, Yakuza is a game for you.

When this game was released back in September of 2006, many were surprised that SEGA even took a chance at releasing it stateside. A good way for Yakuza to be described is an “adventure brawler” because the story is just as important as the gameplay, almost like an RPG brawler. You will spent lots of time talking to people and watching cut scenes, but then also spend a lot of time beating the crap out of each other. This is something not normally seen in video games, either you’re just mashing away at buttons with a few short breaks here and there, or you’re watching cut scenes in a 60 hour RPG that has more strategy involved with the gameplay. To try and make this an even more high-profile title Sega hired voice actors such as Eliza Dushku, Mark Hamill, Rachael Leigh Cook, and others to do the voices for the characters. What you get is a highly polished story that is every bit as interesting as any other Yakuza movie, with some fun fighting. Unfortunately for SEGA, it didn’t do as well as they had hoped.

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I do not have any exact numbers, but I have heard nothing but the fact that this game was a disappointment. The sequel was released here in the US as well, but to cut costs it was the original Japanese voice acting with English subtitles only so as to not have to pay all those actors again. From what I hear that game did even worse. Yakuza 3 came out on the Playstation 3 in Japan and SEGA has said they have no plans at all to bring it here in the US.

As for the game itself, you will play it much like other brawlers where it will be just you against a group of people.  You start off with very few moves, but as you progress you earn XP and unlock more moves.    Combat is controlled rather simply with just square and triangle for your attacks, X for dodge, and circle to throw.  Although simple, it is rather deep after you start upgrading and adding moves and it breaks it up enough with the story so as to not be super repetitive.  There are specific battles that you have to do as you get from point A to point B, but sometimes wandering around the streets you may bump into someone by accident and piss them off and that can start a fight.  The city feels like it’s alive with people everywhere in the crowded streets and people all have different kinds of personalities.  You may also find rival Yakuza families and they will try to pick fights with you as well.  On time of the very linear story progression you can spend some time wandering around and doing side quests as well.  Some can be fun and helpful like gambling which can get you money, but there are others like going to Host Bars that just feel pointless and a waste of time and money.

yakuza2sc01The story deals with a Yakuza boss being killed by your best friend.  He has too much to lose if he is caught as the killer so you take the blame for him.  You are sent to jail and while you are away a lot changes within the Yakuza families, and with your friend as well.  Ten years pass, you get out and many people do not want anything to do with you.  As your character finds out all the things that have gone on while you were away, more bad things start happening and you investigate and try to make things right again.  I won’t say too much else so as to not give much away, as giving away plot points in this game is like giving away story of an RPG: it’s a major reason you are playing the game.

The graphics are not the greatest you will see on the PS2, but they do get the job done.  There are sometimes a lot of characters on screen at once, so they went with a more simple look to prevent any performance issues.  In this age of HDTVs and next-gen systems it may be hard to go back to a game like this, but I was able to look passed the simpler graphics due to the great story and gameplay.  The sound is top notch with great voice acting and sound effects.

yakuza-20060905115720815-000Since this game was passed over, it is not readily available in stores, but you can find it online rather cheap, and it is well worth it. I finished in around 23 hours, but I did a lot of wandering around and side-quests which are optional. Want a little more thinking and entertainment with your butt kicking, look no further than this game.

4/5 stars – Enjoy this game, then enjoy the sequel, only to be disappointed that is where it stops for us in the US.  Great for fans of Yakuza movies and brawler games.

PSP Digital Comic Review: The Cryptics

This review is going to be a bit different since it’s not the typical “Game.” As a matter of fact, it is not a game at all, but rather a “digital comic.” It is available not as a UMD, but directly for download from the Playstation Store. You can either do that directly through the PSP with a Wi-Fi connection, or download it on your Playstation 3 if you have one and then copy it over. You cannot, however, directly view it on the Playstation 3. It was released quite some time ago, but with the announcement of the other digital comics coming from Archie and Marvel I felt it was appropriate to release a review for it now.

The Cryptics was created by Steve Niles and Ben Roman with Niles taking the writing credits and Roman doing the art. It’s the story of classic monsters like Dracula, The Wolfman, and Dr. Jekyl/Mr. Hyde hanging out together as friends in the 4th grade. These are not the versions of these characters you are used to seeing, and with them being in 4th grade it is much more light hearted. I had not read any of the comics before nor heard anything about the series so it was all new to me. What I got was a decent series that would make me smile at times, but nothing to really make me burst out laughing or anything. Each story is rather short, just a couple of pages from what I could gather from how many panels there would be, so the stories lend themselves to quick bursts. They almost have one of those daily newspaper comic strip type feel to them. Great for something quick, but not a whole lot of substance, and not something I’d really feel compelled to “keep up with” such as a running series from the staple Marvel and DC characters.

The way it plays out in the digital form is that it will show one panel at a time, sometimes panning across and maybe adding in the sound effects and word bubbles later on. There is no voice acting, you still have to read the dialogue, and there is no motion for any of the action going on. They did, however, add sound effects at certain times and music play throughout. Another cool aspect of it being digital is the use of DVD-like special features. They can be viewed on their own, or spliced in through each comic. Towards the end of the comic an icon will appear to hit a button, you hit that button and it will play the special feature related to that clip. As cool as that concept was, for the most part I felt that the comic specific features were a little too along the lines of patting themselves on the back. They will talk about how they liked a particular story because of how they thought it was clever or funny, and sometimes would tell you WHY it was funny instead of letting you “get it” and decide for yourself. I still give them credit for putting any effort into extras.

The extras are definitely something that were needed though, because if you were to just watch the comics back to back (you can choose each one individually, like a DVD chapter select) it will really only take you about 15 minutes to get through them all, and that includes the load time. Load time is not long, maybe a second, but still, that’s a factor into “padding” runtime a bit. It’s hard to say if it’s something you’d really want to watch over and over again anyway, so this experience is over rather quickly.

In the end you have to ask yourself if this will be worth it to you. I was glad I went through this experience, as brief as it was, because it offered me something different when on the go. I have since deleted it from my memory card and PS3 hard drive, and I will probably never watch again, but at the same time the cost is a factor as well. It was only $2.99 to purchase this on the Playstation Store. When I looked up a trade paperback of the series on Amazon it was $14.03 new and $7.00 used. Although I can’t do a direct comparison (I don’t know how many stories are in the trade compared to this PSP comic) but it seems like a good value to me, even if it’s just to kill the hour or so to watch everything included in this 189 MB download.

NVIDIA has an overcomplicated lineup

When you have a bunch of products with fairly similar names, fairly similar performance, and nearly identical appearance, you tend to cause a fair amount of confusion. NVIDIA is probably learning this lesson the hard way, and consequently will be looking into simplifying their product lineup. NVIDIA’s VP of Content Business Development Roy Taylor stated in a conversation with GameIndustry.biz that, “It is a challenge that we’re looking at right now. There is a need to simplify it for consumers, there’s no question. We think that the people who understand and know GeForce today, they’re okay with it – they understand it. But if we’re going to widen our appeal, there’s no doubt that we have to solve that problem”.

The 8800GS, 8800GT, 8800GTS 320MB, 8800GTS 512MB, 8800GTS 640MB, 8800GTX, and 8800Ultra are all good video cards, but most consumers walking into Best Buy probably thought they were all the same. Although NVIDIA is already going in the same direction with their 9800 series, it’s nice to hear that they may be moving away from this for the next generation. That’s probably a good thing too, considering NVIDIA’s latest video cards share a large part of their nomenclature with what is now an ancient card from their competitor.

Speaking of ATI, it might be fair to place some of the blame for NVIDIA’s overcomplicated product lineup on their shoulders. NVIDIA can’t possibly have been expected to be creative enough to think of more and more creative names for video cards when there was basically no competition in the first place. Details on this naming convention reformation are extremely scarce, so you’ll have to pardon the incessant rambling that constitutes most of this news story.