Pre-order ‘Left 4 Dead 2′, receive early access to demo

For those of you that were planning on buying Left 4 Dead 2, Valve wants to give you a chance to try the game a little earlier. Gamers that pre-order the zombie-killing sequel will receive early access to the game’s demo. Valve didn’t share any details on when such a demo would be available, but with the game hitting store shelves sometime in November, we think it’s a safe bet that it’ll be sometime before that. The demo will be available for both Steam and Xbox 360 pre-orders.

Now is it just me or is offering a demo as a pre-order reward a little redundant? When someone pre-orders a game it’s usually because they’re confident that they’ll want to play it and want to do so the moment the game is released. Futhermore, while it may let impatient people play the game sooner, if the game isn’t good (which we here at GameNorth HQ doubt), or not enough of a departure from the original, couldn’t this pre-order reward actually result in the cancellation of said pre-order?

Pro Tip: Completing ‘StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty’ on Brutal

StarCraft II is a hard game. Penny Arcade has joked about it, and there is a lot going on in the game. Although multiplayer is usually the difficult part, the Brutal difficulty in campaign mode is no joke either. Completing all the missions on Brutal difficulty will not only net you some nerd points and a cool portrait to use for your profile, but a feeling of satisfaction as well.

General Strategy

Most of the campaign is not very hard if you’ve played through the game on Hard already. It may take you a couple of tries as mistakes will outright kill you on this difficulty, but nothing that makes you want to throw your keyboard. In general, if you stick to infinite Marines and some Medics, or infinite Banshees and some Vikings, you’ll likely have no problem doing whatever it is you need to do to chase down Mengsk and defeat Kerrigan.

I found that I could support 4 Barracks with Reactors and pump out 6-8 Marines for every two Medics if that’s all that I’m making. On any stage where you’re fighting Zerg or Protoss, this strategy will flat out win once you have enough Marines, as long as you remember to use your Stimpak and run right up to the things you’re trying to kill. Don’t get tricked by the shiny new units they introduce on the mission; they’re not as good as M&Ms. Even if you need to get places by air, try to just get transports to carry your army of M&Ms.

On the levels where M&Ms don’t work, in other words the levels that involve siege tanks or ones that need air mobility, you’ll have to stick with Banshees and Vikings. Remember to get the Refinery upgrades in the Protoss research tree to help you with production. Usually two Starports with Tech Reactors will suffice, or if you don’t have Tech Reactors yet then get three Starports, all three with Tech Labs. You’ll have to adjust your build according to the resources available on the level of course, but you get the idea. Micromanagement with Banshees is really simple – just remember to cloak when they’re taking too much pressure.

In Utter Darkness

Here is where the men are separated from the boys. The final Protoss mission is quite a challenge. There are very few strategies that will be effective, but the one I used with was to just pump out Immortals and start getting air upgrades (armour first), and ground upgrades (weapon first). The Immortals can tank a lot of damage and the fliers that you’re given can handle the Mutalisks and Broodlords. They also absolutely melt Hybrids, but you’ll want to lift some of them up with your Phoenixes anyway so that your Immortals will focus fire them down. Once Void Rays arrive, start making Void Rays as well. Once Carriers arrive, switch to Carriers. At around 2200 kills, you’ll have no hope of keeping your base, so a strong air army is a must for this strategy. Once I cleaned up all the ground forces in my base I was at around 2400 kills, and I retreated to the bottom right corner above the ledges there to stay out of reach of the Hybrids. Stay stacked as neatly as you can on the Mothership and kill any Overseers that head your way, and you should be able to squeeze out the 2500 kills. The only trick to this method is that you need to recognize when to stop building Immortals, and that you have to keep the Interceptor count up on your Carriers. This strategy is quite good because you don’t need to make any extra buildings, but I did make a few more Probes.

My friend, who also recently completed the Brutal campaign, used an entirely different strategy. He built Colossus, Phoenixes, and Immortals and built Cannons. He said he would hit max food with this strategy and stay there, and then get overrun later. When I tried this strategy I could not get past 1600 kills, but I never hit max food either. I’ve seen other people report this strategy working though, so I’m sure I was doing something wrong.

I’ve also seen other people claim that taking the gold base works (I tried this twice and was nowhere near plausible), and that you can block off the exits with Dark Templars on hold position and aggressively kill off Overseers with your air units.

All In

I chose to eliminate the Nydus Worms for this playthrough as I eliminated air units last time. I really hope you chose the Planetary Fortress in the Protoss research tree, because I can’t foresee a fun time for you if you didn’t. Bunkers may work if you’re a faster player than I am, but I found that I could not do everything I needed to do to pass this map comfortably. In hindsight eliminating air units might have been the easier route.

First off, get another Starport and build Reactors on both. Build another Armory. Start researching air upgrades, prioritizing armour first. Get your infantry weapon upgrades as soon as you can. Start building 2 Planetary fortresses, one at each choke. Make a Tech lab at your Factory, and try to get to 3 to 4 siege tanks at each choke. Start making as many Vikings as you can, and divide them into three neat groups, with the third group being smaller than the other two. The two big groups go to each choke, the third group roams between the artifact platform and behind your mineral lines, where Broodlords like to kick your SCVs in the teeth. The Battlecruisers you start off with should help the chokes initially, but later they should just guard the artifact from things landing in there and doing too much damage. Get another Barracks and get Reactors on both Barracks. Start pumping M&Ms, but 90% Marines. Your Barracks and Starports should basically never stop producing, or you’re pretty screwed. Okay, so you got all that? Now the fun part begins.

The real danger, aside from being overrun on the ground, are Broodlords. These giganto kicks in the pants will invoke a messy Armageddon if you don’t have your Vikings positioned correctly. Planetary Fortresses will hold off the Broodlings decently, but eventually everything will fall, and you will cry salty tears. So make sure you’re checking each choke, and watch your minimap for the ones that are coming from behind.

The computer will try to convince you to use the artifact at inappropriate times. It’s a trap! You absolutely must have the artifact cooldown up when the Overlords start dropping in your base. The other time I felt that I absolutely needed to use it was the flying wave after the Class 10 Zerg, and after the Ultralisks that come after that (just before Kerrigan arrives).

Every time the Witch Queen of Char comes out (and by that I mean Kerrigan), she will hurt more than your feelings. Wait until she engages a Planetary Fortress, then Stim your Marines and run in and kill her. If she uses the area of effect attack, run out of it quickly. You should leave your Medics out of this fight as they’ll just take up valuable shooting space and Kerrigan will one shot anything she directly shoots at anyway. Try to rebuild your Planetary Fortresses quickly, using the multiple SCV build upgrade if you can. Remember to keep making SCVs and dropping M.U.L.E.s to keep that money coming in.

I found that at some points I just had to work with one Planetary at each choke as the enemy never stops coming and my SCVs cannot stay alive while building a new Planetary. Eventually, around 75%, a Class 10 (that’s military speak for holy crap that’s big) Zerg that spawns air units will come at you. Take all three groups of your Vikings to kill it, and make sure they are attacking from different angles. After this battle, your Vikings have a brief moment to get repaired by some SCVs, but also make sure to replenish with the right numbers in each control group. Then the Ultralisks come, so make sure you have some SCVs to repair the Planetary Fortresses that should be tanking them.

Around 90%, it’s time to bunker down for the long haul. And by that, I don’t mean make actual Bunkers, I mean essentially abandon the base and start protecting the artifact with your remaining resources. I built two Planetary Fortresses right beside the artifact and lifted a Factory and a Barracks to cover as much of the surface area as I could to fend off ground attacks. I sieged four tanks up on that platform and also had my Battlecruisers and mercenary Banshees hovering protectively over the artifact. All remaining M&Ms bravely tried to hold off the overwhelming swarm and buy us more time. When Kerrigan shows up for the final time at around 96%, take your Vikings and fly at her until she starts trying to kill them, and try to kite her away from the artifact. If you’ve done all this correctly, then congratulations! A winner is you!

If you eliminated air units, it’s a little more straightforward but you’ll have to practice to get the execution just right. Block off the chokes with Bunkers and Planetary Fortresses or Flame Turrets. Build the Psi Emitter at each choke. Get at least four or more Siege Tanks to each choke and make as many Banshees as you can. Use the Banshees to eliminate the Nydus Worms as quickly as possible. Surrounding the artifact with buildings and kiting Kerrigan at the end still works, of course.

Phew! That was a lot of stuff. If you are having any problems with any other missions, leave a question in the comments and I’ll be happy to give some advice!

Gamercamp Lv2 – Making ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game’

Surprisingly, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game almost didn’t get the green light. The PlayStation 3 and Xbox Live Arcade hit has been getting lots of praise since its release, so it’s a little hard to imagine that it almost never came to be. I had the pleasure of listening to Stéphane Boutin chat about how the game was created and what kind of research went into it at Gamercamp. Boutin has been in the industry for at least six years and is part of the secondary animation team that worked on Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.

Boutin was visibly nervous while speaking, and that may have something to do with the fact that English is not his native language (he is from Montreal), but he still explained his job and the work he performed very well. He went on to talk about the director of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Paul Robertson, with whom he shares a good rapport. According to Boutin, Robertson is responsible for all of the character designs in the game; he laughed while he clicked around the screen during his presentation and remarked that Robertson does all of his animation with a mouse, which is something he has trouble fathoming.

Universal Studios helped out with the project by sending lots and lots of reference pictures to Boutin’s team so they could better understand what they needed to put into the game, though Boutin took a couple of creative liberties here and there. In addition to the pictures, he also visited Toronto one weekend and walked around the city. He took tons of pictures and visited local hot spots such as Sneaky Dee’s, but due to licensing restraints they weren’t able to use the actual logos and names in the game. Still, while playing the game you may notice familiar places with slightly altered logos in homage to the places Boutin visited.

Unfortunately in December of 2009, the project hit a wall and was cancelled. The company told Boutin and his team that they wanted to make better use of their talents and reassigned them to different projects. The team spent 6 months in Montreal trying to find someone else to pick up the game, but were unsuccessful. Eventually the project was moved to a new Ubisoft studio in China, and Boutin and his team made the very, very long journey overseas. The game seemed to be resurrected finally, and Boutin claimed he had never worked so hard in his entire life.

The hard worked paid off, and we were treated to a very cool visual presentation. Boutin showed us all of the pictures he took around the city right beside the video game Toronto, and it was absolutely amazing to see. When it came to the other levels, he says he created “puzzle pieces” out of the graphics he created, and then pieced them carefully together. Once he was finished showing us how the levels were created he flipped to another picture in his presentation, this time of the menu select screen. Most gamers will recognize the character selection screen in Scott Pilgrim from Super Mario Bros. 2, which Boutin says is “the coolest selection screen ever.”

Boutin could have probably talked all day about the game but he ran out of time. There was a very short Q&A after he was finished speaking, and someone asked him what kind of program was used to create the game. Boutin didn’t seem as though he knew how to really answer this question and said that it was a “homemade program” that Robertson used on his computer that he might’ve taken with him from another project. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World went through many trials and tribulations, but Boutin says that they all made the best out of a bad situation. If time wasn’t an issue, Boutin says that he would have loved to work even more on the game. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game is available on the PSN and Xbox Live Marketplace and features music from Anamanaguchi.

SteelSeries Spectrum 5XB Headset

The Spectrum 5XB headset fills a very important gap in the land of Xbox 360 gaming. The reference headset that Microsoft packages is a single-ear piece that does its job, but is not exactly what I’d call high quality. Still high on the SteelSeries Siberia v2, I was excited to give the Spectrum a try. However, I encountered a few more things to dislike than the other superb SteelSeries products.

First off, if you’re doing mostly PC gaming and are looking for a PC headset, pay the extra $20 for the Siberia v2. The v2 is much more comfortable and all the material feels higher quality in general. For Xbox gaming though, the 5XB is definitely a good investment, especially if you play in a noisy room or travel to local tournaments. The first thing that surprised me about the Spectrum is that the plastic feels… well, plastic. Unlike the heaviness due to gold content in the 6g keyboard and the leather on the Siberia, the 5XB features a leather veneer filled with foam along the headband, a hard plastic frame, and cloth cushions for the earpieces. The result is more comfortable than it sounds, but still not as amazing as the Siberia.

One advantage that the 5XB has in quality over the Siberia is the braided cord, thus making it much more durable if you accidentally tug your headset cord. The sound from the headphones is actually quite good and I had no problems detecting where sounds are coming from and even the distance of the sounds while playing Gears of War 2 and Batman: Arkham Asylum. The microphone in the headset retracts just like the Siberia and it does a better job of it by hiding in a nice little nook. The microphone is very clear, and in trying my different headsets, Richard enjoyed hearing me on the Spectrum the most. The headset hooks up to your console in two ways: Through the PC plug which uses the provided adapter for sound output, and through USB for the voice input. The result is a rather upsetting mess of extra cords, although to SteelSeries’s credit, the cords are long enough that it should never be a problem. Still, we’re being brought back a generation and turns your wireless controller into a wired one.

One fantastic feature of the headset is that it comes with an AudioMixer device that plugs into the bottom of your Xbox 360 controller. This mixer allows you to control the incoming voice and game volume right on the controller, which is absolutely great as you can adjust to different teammates’ microphone volumes as they join the game. I found myself fiddling with it all the time to get the perfect noise level for every gaming session, even while playing solo. This is a feature that has surprisingly relevant results, so applause to the SteelSeries Research and Development team!

The LiveMix feature on the AudioMixer is similarly great. It automatically adjusts the voice and the game volume on-the-fly for you. It is hard to gauge something like this but with it on I had no problems hearing all the different people on my team and the game sounds at the same time, so that there is no need to fiddle with the AudioMixer when your hands are already occupied. It wasn’t perfect 100% of the time though so you may want to just stick with the manual adjustments, but the option to use the LiveMix or the manual mode is a great feature.

As always, SteelSeries has made their product for gamers who travel. In this respect, the Spectrum features a neat 3-piece design to the headset. It’s much easier to carry 4 small pieces than one big one, and in addition you can lay the ear pieces flat in this disassembled mode. Well designed once again.

If the Spectrum 5XB was as comfortable as the Siberia v2, I would be using the Spectrum for all my gaming needs, not just the Xbox 360. But as it is, the Spectrum is a really good choice if you’re an Xbox 360 gamer, want all your sound coming through your headset (for example, in noisy environments) or if you travel with your gaming headset. The sound quality, design, and technology are all up to the usual SteelSeries standard I’ve come to expect, but unfortunately the material feels a bit cheaper even while maintaining good durability. The Spectrum 5XB is currently priced at $100 CDN at Best Buy.

Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City Review

Over the years, Resident Evil managed to create one of the most loved universe in the gaming industry. The gamers’ anticipation of Operation Raccoon City was overwhelming. Being able to play from the perspective of the enemy as a Secret Service Wolfpack team member of Umbrella Corporation instead of a post apocalyptic survivor was a very cool concept.

Excitement, however, quickly turned into disappointment upon the release of ORC. For once, Capcom failed to deliver under this franchise. One would be hard-pressed to find a glowing Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City -review. The critics were harsh, and they had every reason to be so. Operation Raccoon City’s biggest failure comes from every characters’ questionable artificial intelligence, it is better to read about racoons in the city on Zuma Raccoon Networks.  Having your own team armed to the teeth does not mean much when your team members constantly trip over mines, unexpectedly run into rooms you have thoroughly inspected, and basically, leave you alone every time an enemy turns up. It becomes more of a nightmare whenever you try to escape a room full of zombies and they all just stand around waiting for nothing. They even run when you try to heal them. Go a figure. The real kicker, though, happens when you can not see a single one of your team member on the screen. The only real remedy to this AI fail is to go online and team up with human players. Your main character is not any better, ORC uses auto cover, which makes you lean up against a wall whenever you try to pick up a herb. This makes you an easy target for your enemies. Auto covers are meant to be convenient not annoying. Capcom should have found a way to execute it more clearly. Not to mention, your frustration will already be at a high during the first boss battle when you realize that you can not even run. All you can do is walk backwards, shoot, and hope that your bullets will hit William Birkin. The game’s lack of consistency is best shown by your enemies. There’s no predicting when or if your bullets will affect a Licker. Sometimes a Licker dies after a couple of shots and sometimes you need to unload a whole clip. It does not matter what kind of weapon you choose. Nonetheless, the most laughable monster of the game is the Hunter. Sometimes it will chase you relentlessly and sometimes it will flail its arms around for a few seconds and then run away from you

Resident Evil’s a new game also disappoints players with its characters’ non-existent storyline. You are merely an Umbrella Corporation’s soldier. You have no background whatsoever. You are about as interesting as a cardboard box. Lastly, the graphics is nothing special. In fact, almost every scene on ORC is dark. Resident Evil has always been gloomy, but the lack of lighting in this game is bordering on ridiculous. Overall, if you are a hardcore fan of the Resident Evil universe, be prepared for the disappointment that is Operation Raccoon City. Skip this game and wait for a better one.

Gamercamp Lv2 – Sword & Sworcery EP

You may not have heard of Sword & Sworcery, but you will. Not only because I’m telling you about it right now, but because I think pixel artist Superbrothers (The Children of the Clone), musician Jim Guthrie (Now, More Than Ever), and Capybara (Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes) are really on to something. Together, the Toronto talents are trying to create a game that is truly a work of art as well as a game, and they’re approaching it in a way I haven’t heard of before: They’re starting from the music.

sword_and_sworcery_2At a Gamercamp demonstration, Craig Adams of Superbrothers explains that they wanted it to be sort of like “an album you can hang out in.” To illustrate the importance of music to the game and game development process, he demonstrated a tiny piece of the game where the protagonist had to attune one of the spirits. The sequence that unfolded – the atmosphere of the song combined with the pixel art – was actually quite touching, similar to the way I would imagine it in a film. Even though they jokingly referred to the score as “The Ballad of the Space Babies”, the song was beautiful and matched the sequence perfectly. And that is a feat not easily accomplished, as Mr. Guthrie tells us that the hardest part about scoring a game is that you don’t know what the player will do ahead of time, and yet the music has to match.

Aside from the great music and the carefully made pixel art, the game promises some combat in addition to old school gameplay. Mr. Adams tells a packed theatre that he wanted to bring back the days when there wasn’t a tutorial about every little thing that goes on. Sword and Sworcery gives the player a chance to feel the wonder of discovery by working out what the game is about. The whole thing reminds me of Prince of Persia mixed with Zelda, and I’m now lamenting the fact that I don’t have an iPhone or an iPad.

Why did they choose to produce for the small screens? It all comes down to money, of course! With a smaller screen there’s less art to produce, but the group did feel that the microscopic world worked well. Interestingly, Kris Piotrowski, Creative Director at Capybara, reveals that they are resisting getting external feedback about the game until very late in the development process. He explains that all creators have some gut instinct or intuition about where a project is heading, and it’s important to let the creators work on it within their vision as much as possible. And I’m glad they did let the team do their work, because it is the first iPhone game that I’ve seen that I would actually call evocative.

Sword & Sworcery EP is being released for the iPhone and iPad, and Craig Adams claims it’s about 96.7% done. [Update from the man himself!]

Pantsless Edition of ‘World of Warcraft: Cataclysm’ available

Lazy folks such as myself won’t need to go outside in the cold December air in order to get a copy of World of Warcraft: Cataclysm. Blizzard has announced that there will be a digital pre-sale for the newest expansion, so you won’t need to even put on any pants when midnight rolls around on December 7th. Which is great, because in the wise words of our very own Don Tam, “what are pants but prisons for the legs?”

You can purchase the digital copy right now on How this works is that you will give them your money like you do every month anyway, and then your account will be flagged for automatic Cataclysm access at 12:01 AM PST on December 7th. Keep in mind that once you purchase the expansion you’ll need to log on at least once prior to December 7th to enable the background downloader. Blizzard also wanted to make it clear that if you’re buying the Collector’s Edition of Cataclysm and had your hearts set on Lil’ Deathy, you must buy a physical copy. The Lil’ Deathy vanity pet will not be available through the digital download.

In addition, if you’re a current World of Warcraft player, you may want to keep an eye out for Deathwing. Blizzard let it be known at Blizzcon last week that the giant dragon will be popping in unexpectedly to certain zones to mess up your day. Blizzard made an official statement on the World of Warcraft forums:

“Once free to terrorize the world, Deathwing will randomly choose territories in Azeroth to attack each day until his ruinous reign is brought to an end. A blackened sky will be the only warning before every living creature caught in his approach is consumed by his terrible fire. The unfortunate victims of his malice will receive a rare Feat of Strength… as well as a repair bill and corpse run.”

Well, at least you won’t die in vain, right? You get a feat of strength. Who knows if that will be enough to silence the whiners, though. This could very well end up being a repeat of 2008’s zombie invasion. According to the forums, it sounds as though the random deaths may not stop until Deathwing has been finally put down…and knowing Blizzard, that could take quite a while. Better get used to those repair bills!

PSA: Grab your free ‘Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light’ DLC starting tomorrow

For 30 days starting tomorrow, October 27th, 2010, Xbox 360 owners can grab the first downloadable content, All the Trappings, for Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light for free. Details are slim on what the DLC includes, but we do know that a title update that is happening at the same time will enable online co-op. I love online co-op, so hopefully fans of this game will get some enjoyment out of the new mode.

“We’re delighted the Online Co-op is ready and going live – as a thank you to the patient Xbox gamers, and for a limited time only we will be giving away our first DLC pack for free. Download it, have a go and while you’re there try the online co-op mode, it’s great fun,” encourages Darrell Gallagher, General Manager of Crystal Dynamics.

The DLC and title update will be coming soon for the PS3 and PC, but no word about whether the DLC will be free for those platforms also.

Preview – Vindictus (and beta key giveaway!)

Being from a World of Warcraft background, Action MMOs have always intrigued me. Actually having to dodge and use skill in order to excel at combat seems like a great addition to an already addictive genre. So when I read all the positive feedback about Vindictus, I could not resist. I’ve only played it for a few short hours, but here are my impressions: It plays like a 2D brawler in a 3D world, with RPG mechanics and leveling elements, and an MMORPG society and economy. Oh, and Japanese RPG style art and storytelling.

What does that mean? Fast paced action, customization, throwing and grappling enemies, and kicking them while they’re down. It means dyeing your armour, and crafting items and selling them on the marketplace. It means crafting hooks that you can use to immobilize enemies while your teammates beat on them. Sounds glorious right? Well, we are going to give you a chance to try it yourself. Below are four keys that you can use at the Vindictus registration page. The only catch is that we ask you to leave a comment telling our readers which key you’ve taken, and then leave at least one of the two keys that they email to you in the comment. That’s it.

Now, the early access beta is not without it’s limitations. Right now you can only pick between two classes and they implement this channel system that essentially changes your instance of the town, but it does this randomly as you’re playing. Even when you’re partied with someone, you won’t be stuck in the same channel for long, so you will not be able to see each other around town. However, as soon as your group is ready to journey to an instance (called Battles), you will all be brought together.

Anyway, enough talk! I encourage everyone to try it. Here are the four keys:





SteelSeries helps you pimp out your ‘Cataclysm’ with some new peripherals

When the expansion hits on December 7th, World of Warcraft-ians can pick up some new non-virtual gear to help in their quest to kill the new virtual dragon. If you’re finding the Xai gaming mouse to be lacking some buttons for the keybind-heavy MMO, then the new Cataclysm MMO Gaming Mouse might be worth checking out. More than just a technical upgrade, the SteelSeries R&D team actually took the feedback of the customers of the original MMO mouse and sat down with Blizzard in order to redesign the ergonomics of the mouse. This brought the number of buttons down to 14 as opposed to 15, but all the buttons are easier to reach. As for the technical aspects, the mouse is very similar to the Xai, with 12,000 FPS (Frames Per Second) and up to 5001 CPI (Counts Per Inch). If you don’t understand what these metrics mean, just trust me when I say that these numbers mean that the mouse is incredibly accurate, precise, and responsive. The Inches Per Second has also been brought on par with the Xai at 150 Inches Per Second, up from the 65 of the old World of Warcraft MMO mouse. This translates to about 400 Haste rating.

For gamers on the go, bringing the mouse also lets you bring a profile that’s saved into the hardware. This feature is also one that’s borrowed from the Xai and really handy if you play at LANs, tournaments, or at a friend’s house. There are up to ten software profiles that you can save as well, of course, so that you can have one for each class.
The entire keyboard is your sandbox

The entire keyboard is your sandbox

In addition to the new mouse, SteelSeries is also branding a keyboard for Cataclysm. Based on their Shift keyboard layouts, which uses their Z Engine software, the Cataclysm Shift will provide 8 extra hotkeys along the top as well as a predefined keyset for players to maximize their play. But really, the entire keyboard is nothing but hotkeys as every single key is customizable. And if you’re a player like me, you’ll often want to be holding Q or E while pressing ctrl+shift+C (yeah, I use a LOT of keybinds), so the Shift’s anti-ghosting feature that allows you to press 7 buttons at once without clashing is really handy. You can even record macros on the fly with delays between keys so that you can time your Moonfire spam with your GCDs built in. Right on! Another really cool feature about the keyboard is that it has a statistics engine so that you can calculate your actions per minute. No more relying on that harsh APM calculator in StarCraft II. The standard features, such as media keys and gold-plated headphone and microphone connectors, are also included. In fact, the only thing missing seems to be a LCD screen to tell you who’s talking on Ventrilo and when you’re receiving whispers!

If those two products are still not enough to fill every inch of your desk with Deathwing’s mighty jaw, SteelSeries is also releasing some of its high end Qck mousepads with various Cataclysm art designs. I use one of these unbranded mousepads and let me tell you: Not every mousepad was made equal. I didn’t believe a mousepad could make a difference, but it does! The crappy ones that the Collector’s Editions of World of Warcraft and its expansions come with are so unresponsive compared to the SteelSeries one and I highly recommend you try one out to see if it’s worth the money for you.

Here are some official links to the mouse, keyboard, and mousepad, and check out the gallery below for more pictures.