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Product: Book - Hardcover
Title: The Dark Side Sourcebook (Star Wars Roleplaying Game)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Authors: Bill Slavicsek, J.D. Wiker
Rating: 4/5
Customer opinion - 4 stars out of 5
Generally great, but some embarrassing flaws

The Dark Side Sourcebook is largely for a gamemaster who wants to produce serious villains, or for someone who wants to run a Dark Side campaign. It contains all the tools necessary for either of these tasks, including a load of very powerful prestige classes (including the mighty Sith Lord) and jaw-dropping items (including the Sith Talisman and Orbalisk Armor). There is also included the requisite gallery of known baddies, and some monsters that will pose an extreme challenge for even the most powerful heroes.
There are only a few problems with this book. Let's start with the most obvious one: the lack of a sourcebook for the ancient eras where Dark Jedi ran rampant. Most of the prestige classes, items, ships, and individuals mentioned in this book are exclusively available in that time period, so this absence is significant. This can be addressed soon, however, and is not one of the 'embarrassing flaws' I mentioned. The charts for the prestige classes have odd discrepancies in convention that seem to be a halfway point between the original and revised core rulebooks. For example, reputation is either noted as ever-increasing or a series of +1 and +0s, and lightsaber damage is listed as +1d8 +1d8 +1d8 ... +2d8 rather than 'increase lightsaber damage.'
Some other gamemasters might have noticed another interesting problem. The Sith Lord prestige class has 10 levels, but it is impossible to become a 10th level Sith Lord (I'm assuming a 'non-epic' campaign here). The reason for this being that the class requires a reputation of 10, and it is impossible to get that in 10 levels. A more obvious problem is with the Emperor's Hand prestige class, since there can only be one Emperor's Hand. This rather limits the potential of the class, does it not?
Of course, the gamemaster is by no means held to obey the whims of this sourcebook. I simply threw out what I thought was unreasonable and went on with the game. Though I generally found the book to be a worthwhile investment of time and money, it could have been far more satisfying with a bit of improvement in the range of options available. This especially applies to campaigns run in the Rebellion Era which, let's face it, is the only really FUN era to run in!

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: MCSE Windows XP Professional Exam Cram 2 (Exam Cram 70-270)
Publisher: Que
Authors: Dan Balter, Derek Melber, Ed Tittel
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Packed with useful info

This is my first Exam Cram book. It's packed with useful information, so much so that I read it twice. It's not only valuable for the taking the exam, I think it'll serve as a useful reference tool as well.
The book starts out with some very useful info about the certification exam. The practice questions throughout the book are great for checking comprehension before moving on to the next section. And the sample test and CD work well for exam preparation. The only challenge is absorbing everything in the book.
I haven't read any other exam preparation books on XP Pro to compare this to. I don't see any reason to.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Murach's Beginning Visual Basic .NET
Publisher: Mike Murach & Associates
Authors: Anne Prince
Rating: 1/5
Customer opinion - 1 stars out of 5
Do NOT buy this book!

This author is TERRIBLE at trying to teach VB.NET. I don't know about his other books, but I will NEVER buy one of them again! He makes too many assumptions that you already know a lot about VB.NET. His "example" coding is horrible. I have some programming experience (although it is somewhat dated) but he gives about a paragraph or two to the topic, then writes a little piece of code, then sums it all up and expects you to be an expert at it. I need a sample of the code and how it works, not just the line it goes in. I would highly recommend you keep looking and NOT buy this terrible book!

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Introduction to 3D Game Programming with DirectX 9.0
Publisher: Wordware Publishing, Inc.
Authors: Frank D. Luna
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
One of the better DX9 books I've seen

I like the way this book is written. It is a good introduction for people who know how to program, but have not done any Direct3D development before. The book is written in a very straightforward and almost scientific manner. This book does not assume the reader to be a complete beginner when it comes to many programming topics like so many other DX9 books do (even though they often claim they don't).
This book simply covers the fundamental Direct3D topics as well as a bit of math, and it does so from the ground up as far as the DX API goes. Most of the samples are done soup to nuts, rather than using helper methods and API sample code that simplifies things a lot, but keeps too many details from the reader (once again: like so many other DX9 books seem to do).
I like the focus of the book: It simply only describes Direct 3D graphics programming. Other DirectX topics, such as DirectPlay or DirectInput are NOT covered. Also, if you do not know what a game-loop is, then you won't learn it here. I think this is one of the things I like most about this book: It focuses on one topic, and it does a great job at that!
But a small warning is in order as well: If you are not an experienced programmer and just want to get started with game development, then this book is NOT for you! Quite simply, many aspects of 3d graphics development are not for the faint of heart! Don't expect this book to read like a novel either. It is very much a DX9 text book.