First off, in case you missed it: StarCraft 2 before you die.

In less happy news, Valve has decided to axe one of their planned upcoming box sets for Half-Life 2: Episode 2. Around Halloween, they were going to release a "Black Box" and an "Orange Box;" the orange box was to contain all the Half-Life 2 releases up to this point (including Episode 2, Team Fortress 2, and Portal,) while the black box would contain just Episode 2, TF 2, and Portal. The black box is no more. Now the only option for retail buyers will be the orange-y box, meaning that those folks still unconvinced by Steam are being forced to double-dip, essentially, if they already own the base releases. How to soften the blow on the consumer? Valve marketing man Doug Lombardi had this to say: "Those who purchase the PC version of The Orange Box will get three separate Steam product codes: One for the three new games, one for HL2, and one for Episode One. This way a PC Orange Box owner can give away their Half-Life 2 or Episode One unused Steam product codes if they don’t need a copy of those games." Smooth. As an incidental: the box will cost $50 on the PC, and $60 on the consoles.

To assuage some of that acidic taste in your mouth, here is an extensive preview of Half-Life 2: Episode 2 from Eurogamer. Occasionally, I forget that there are more episodes in the game. That way, I always feel like a giddy schoolgirl when new information surfaces. Valve hope that this episode will provide players with six-to-eight hours on a first run-through, which, honestly, is about how much time I took going through Episode 1, because I’m a pansy and dark corneres scare me.

Anybody miss the glory days of Ultima Online? (I don’t.) EA has been undertaking a revamp of the game, titled Ultima Online: Kingdom Reborn, and Shacknews reports that beta signups are now open. The Ultima Online team remain co-developers on the project, alongside the EA-acquired Mythic.

This is kind of a fun cross-promotion: Xbox 360 users who purchase the Complete Matrix Trilogy on HD-DVD will receive a coupon code that allows them to download the complete Animatrix collection of shorts from the Xbox Live Marketplace.

While my 20GB 360 hard drive gently fills to capacity, Sony have unintentionally announced an 80GB version of the PS3 in Japan, going for about $556 in USD. Using the 360’s diminutive drive reminds me of the days when I’d download game demos from the local BBS; each downloaded game came with a prerequisite couple hours of my deleting individual files off our 320MB hard drive just to make space. Those are actually fond memories, though, so I’m afraid I’m straying off-message, here.

You’re not a hopeless consumer, I say: Games are not wasteful!

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

Dawn of Mana
Odin Sphere
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

Brooktown High: Senior Year
Diner Dash
Legend of the Dragon
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

XBOX 360:
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
WarTech: Senko no Ronde (no, Ronde, don’t!)

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

Death Jr and the Science Fair of Doom
Diner Dash
Marvel Trading Card Game (surprisingly good on the PSP)
Naruto: Ninja Council 3
New York Times Crosswords, The
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

A Console I Just Invented:
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End