Be patient

The last couple of days and my rare time on my evening got wasted by downloads and updates. It’s nice to have the opportunity to download games from platforms like Steam and everything gets automatically updated, but at one certain point it starts to simply suck.

Firstly, when you have TON of games that start updating at the same time with an amount of data far from good and evil.

Patience

Secondly, when those games that try to updates themselves don’t actually update, but prefer to rot in your data stream with 0.0001KBit/s  and the progress bar doesn’t even think about changing.

Last but not least, after everything got finally updated and patched and whatever else was happening, the game does not work as expected. I don’t want to give names, but I had application crashes, performance issues and stuff like that after my odyssey which already stole my last bit of patience.

There’s no final resume in this post. I just wanted to share my wonderful experiences I had the last couple of days.

Game of the week #10/2011 – From Dust

I’m still on my free days and I still use this time to finish and complete a lot of games I haven’t found the time for yet. These days I stick pretty much to some download only games. One of them is the long awaited “From Dust”. I personally always wanted to have a game like “Populous – The Beginning” again and Ubisoft made my dream come true and released a game that is pretty much the same. You play a godlike person that is able to manipulate the elements. In the old “Populous – The Beginning” it was a shaman that was able to control several elements. Shamans in “From Dust” play a minor role.

The game is basicly about capturing totems, these totems gives you the opportunity to control several elements, like water, lava and of course earth. It’s by far not that easy because your tiny and progressively stupid worshippers are in danger due to some catastrophes coming up, like floods, volcanos and earthquakes. The first levels of the game are easy compared to the ones you have to face by the end of the game. Unfortunately, if you’ve found the strategy needed to finish a level, it turns out to be too easy, even on the last levels. You don’t really have to solve submissions and such, it’s always the same schema. You enter the new level, you find out what the catastrophe is your people have to face and develop methods against it.

Anyhow, “From Dust” is an intriguing game that has some gameplay issues and is far too short and easy for my concerns. I used to play the game in a way that I was able to finish every level with a 100 per cent rating and it took me almost eleven hours of pure gaming. Ubisoft announced, if the game will find an audience they might add some content to the game. Even a mod function would be a nice feature, too. But games like these are pretty rare nowadays and I recommend it to everyone who just feels like playing something different. You’ll feel entertained.

Time to waste

Changes, man, changes! I’ve got two days left at work and then I’ll enter a longer period of free time. Almost the whole August is free. I’ve got a job offer that I finally couldn’t resist in a company that captured my entire sympathy within a couple of moments and that looks very promising. My new life starts on 1st September. In the meantime I’ll try to use my free time to get a little bit more time with photography and learn my new lenses. On the other hand I plan to get back to sports. As mentioned before, I’ve got a lot of free time and want to use it as useful as I possibly can.

I gained several pounds during the last few weeks and I want to get rid of them as soon as I can. The answer is simple, lots of sports is the solution. I’m really excited about this, because I never had a training period like this before. It’s just me and my free time without getting distracted by work issues or everything else that might bother you in daily life. Right now, my weight is something around 108kg and I want to push it down to at least 100kg. I personally think that this is possible within four weeks and a half.

Besides this stands my second ego, the gamer. I’ve got so many games that I haven’t already that deserve a play through that I’ll jump on these, too. My fave at the moment is the absolutely brilliant “DiRT 3”. One of the best racing games for years and as addictive as the all time classic “Colin McRae Rally 2.0”

“Colin McRae Rally 2.0” sucked hours and hours of my weekends and free time and there wasn’t a single moment where I got bored. “DiRT 3” is actually the same, very motivating and entertaining for every single moment. The only thing that bothers me a little are the DLCs. I bought Monte Carlo and Japan, but they could have made into the final retail game, too. These two DLCs cost me around 15 Euros and you have to keep in your mind, that you can get a great budget title for that money, too. Hopefully, this rip off will have an end in the near future.

Finally, and I hope the weather god is good to me. I’ll go out in my town and probably Berlin and do some photos. I’ve got this new fish eye lens that deserves a little more attention. Anyhow, I wanted to go out for pictures for such a long time, but I felt really exhausted and stressed by nearly everything over the last few weeks that I actually haven’t found the time and intention to do so.

Whatever the case, a new job starts on September and I’ve got a lot of free time in the meantime. I’ll try to use it to recharge and to get back into shape. I’ll keep you informed.

A prig with the rig

In a rush and packed with a lot of experience from the previous installation I went on by the day before and re-installed my new gaming rig. It’s now a setup I actually like and what fits my quality standards. I hate PCs that include a driver farm or orphans from previous and malfunctioning drivers, like I had on the setup before. What I did before was to install everything automated from the DVD that came with the motherboard and a lot of drivers and software has been beta. Updating and upgrading was a real pain in the ass. After this whole procedure I had more failures than before.

Whatsoever, this first installment was for testing purposes only and it wasn’t intended to be for eternity. I’m now having the system with all the drivers I actually needed. The version numbers I wanted. And the hardware tools are functional. The only bug I actually had, was to be found in the Windows Game Explorer. I have to add, that I use the Vista Game Explorer Editor to get all my games correctly listed in the Windows Game Explorer. First games that I install, besides Steam, is the Blizzard bundle, like StarCraft, WarCraft, Diablo etc.

After installing these games I opened the WGE to scan for new games. The only game that got updated was StarCraft, WarCraft and Diablo II was abandoned with an ugly icon. I then tried to use the VGEE, it found StarCraft and was set up correctly. I restarted VGEE and when I tried to edit some more games I was welcomed by an error message and all the previously added games were deleted from list.

I’ll make it short, the only way to fix this very issue was to uninstall them. Check out the WGE for errors. Additionally did I go to the registry entry of the WGE and assured that there is nothing left from previous game installations. I also deleted the link files that were left in my user profile. I then re-installed the games that were causing these errors. I opened the WGE to let him scan for new games. After that I went to the registry entries of WGE and deleted the entries that were added for the new games. I also found one empty entry that was removed, too. Link files in the WGE section created in my user profile were deleted again. Et voilá, I was able to open VGEE and getting update information on games without errors our devastating my WGE list.

I’m pretty sure that there are more games out there causing errors like these and most likely they will be caused due to this empty entry key in the registry. It sure will be a good decision to backup WGE’s registry keys AND soft links before actually editing the WGE with VGEE. I first found this issue after having installed around 60 games and this made me more than just angry.

Game of the week #9/2011 – Beat Hazard

It’s been a while since writing the last “Game of the week” report and the reason for this is simple. I was playing lots of AAA titles during the last weeks and I just don’t wanted to give reviews on games thousands of websites also report about. So, this week I’ll introduce you to a title that uses the classic gameplay schema of the good old “Asteroids” combined with a little touch of modern music games. Well, actually, it is an “Asteroids” game but it differs from its predecessor. The name of the game is “Beat Hazard” and its ingeniousness comes from a very simple component, the level design, or better said, the way how you experience the level depends on the music you chose.

It’s pretty similar to a game like “Audiosurf”, you chose the music. The game calculates the level design depending on your currently chosen title. If you chose a quiet song the level is going to be a relaxed one. If you chose a thrash metal song or some techno music with a fast beat the whole things turns out a little bit more hectic. A pretty cool feature is that the fire rate of your space ship you’re controlling also depends on the current mood of the song. So if you enter a boss battle for example and the music is getting slower your fire rate will be low, too.

In this case the game also gets a little tactical and claims some planning. The easiest way to survive things like this are mainly kiting, but in the matter of a boss battle you can only try to “hide” as good as you can. It was also curious to see that pretty normal songs like Top 40 stuff turns out to be much harder than the fast and brutal metal songs I’ve tried. Classical music is an absolute no-no because you’ll die of boredom by playing with this kind of music. Everything up tempo is fine but as soon as the beat rate drops the game also gets some kind of lame.

“Beat Hazard” is a blast to your eyes. I can’t remember any game being that full of colours and flashes and explosions and things appearing on the screen. It’s weird during the first ten to fifteen minutes, but if you’ve managed to finally get into it and if you’re not suffering of epilepsy you sure can handle this game. I always find it a good thing when you are able to put something of your own into a game and “playing” your own music is definitely a lot of fun.

Links: Official website

The mystical cat report

Hello out there, it’s been a while since my last update on what’s going so far. First of all, fitness is still existing and starts kicking ass again. I cannot deny that I had some serious difficulty to get back on the track, but with this week, everything seems to be on a satisfying level. My stamina feels like it was the day I let the whole fitness thing fade away, for say, it’s still on a high level. For my circumstances. Actually, I still have like 15kg of weight too much on my bones, but like I said, I’m not facing any serious trouble during training. I’m running solid 30 minutes on the treadmill followed by 30-40 minutes on the cross-trainer.

I decided to take no prisoners and I also increased the weight on many exercise machines. I’m doing very well with this and I’m making a lot of progress in this particular area of my training. Besides losing weight is gaining muscles one of my main goals for now. I know, it sounds weird, losing weight and gaining muscle mass on the other side but according to the serious amount of overweight at the moment a goal that can be reached. Like losing at least 15kg of fat and getting like 5-6kg of muscle mass.

What else happened? Well, I got a little bit more into photo editing and developing of RAW pictures. I’m not making great progress but it finally is some progress to be found. I also joined a couple of new groups on deviant Art to get a little bit more feedback on my works. And of course a few eyes more watching my stuff. I’m also looking for a new camera, not for now but for the end of this year. I’m thinking about buying a Canon 7D, this camera got all the features I want and is not that expensive as the Canon 5D MarkII. At least, it would be a total waste of money according to the fact that photography is just a hobby mine. It’s like 1,500 bucks that ring on the bill, but I’m sure it’s totally worth it.

Gaming, another passion of mine. If the days has like 36 hours I would definitely play some games, but currently I don’t really have time to play some more story based games. I play a lot of “Bad Company 2” these days, for like one hour a day. There are still some games in queue that I need to play. There are plenty of games, as there are “Medal of Honor”, it can’t be more worth than “Homefront”. The “Dead Space” games, I started “Dead Space 1” several times, but never managed to finish or do any larger progress. Several LEGO games are waiting and so on. Most importantly, “Portal 2” is hopefully in my mailbox these days and I’ll definitely play this game as soon as possible.

Last game I played through was “Homefront” which was a kind of disappointing. Weird performance issues. Weird story and pace of the game. I can’t say that I didn’t like it, but, well, I don’t know. They whole concept was promising but the presentation was a big and epic fail on the whole line. I instantly switched back to my beloved “Borderlands” after finishing the four hour campaign. I barely had any interest in the multi player mode.

Game of the week #8/2011 – Amnesia – The Dark Descent

After games have left the uncanny valley, talking about scary does not always mean the horrible graphics, nowadays it can also mean that the game itself and his whole plot and story is scary and frightening. In the early nineties there were games like “Alone in the dark” that scared gamers to the bones. Nothing really was able to follow up this game and the first real horror game that can remember again was the ingenious “Clive Barker’s Undying”. Based on Unreal Engine I the look of the game still was almost artificial, but it was well scripted and was definitely able to give you the creeps. There were lots and lots of bloody and gore rich games in the late nineties and early new millenium years but nothing with a subtile horror feel. Even though games like “F.E.A.R.” and “Dead Space” are scary and claustrophic as well, in my personal opinion, they are still gory action games with a few frightening moments. The only game that had this special horror touch was “Silent Hill”, but it was stuck in the previously mentioned uncanny valley. If you really want to feel a cold chill floating down your back and shaking every single bone of your spine you should, no, you MUST play “Amnesia – The Dark Descent”.

First thing that I really like about this game, you cannot fight, you can only run away. But let’s start at the very beginning, you wake up in a probably abandoned castle and you don’t even know how you got there. You suffer from amnesia, only your name, Daniel, and after finding a note you get to know that your memory was erased with intent and that you’re the chosen one to kill someone in this castle. During the exploration of the castle you’ll find more and more hints that make you come to several conclusions why you are here. Needless to say, that there are lots and lots of bone chilling moments while wandering deeper and deeper through the halls and floors of this mysterious castle.

Like I mentioned before, you cannot fight in this game. You have no real weapons. You can only run away and hide. Another important thing is, that you have to keep an eye on your health status. A rapidly beating heart is everything else than helpfull and also your brain might play some tricks on you. Did I already mention, that Daniel is afraid of the dark? As you can see, lots of elements that are actually needed to give you a nice and intense horror feeling with a nice dash of claustrophobia. I wasn’t actually able to play this game longer than thirty minutes because I found it too scary. Mostly played at the dark hours and home alone. Which is not a good idea, well, in this case it is.

The presentation of the game is up to date. Based on Unreal Engine III you’ll barely have anything to complain about and the level design is done perfectly as well. You’ll also find some nice physics elements which leads to the grade of realism that was missed in the horror genre for such a long time. I missed that aspect personally. So if you’re tired of being a nearly immortal super soldier fighting hordes of monster in the dark with oversized weapons, you should, no, you MUST play “Amnesia – The Dark Descent”. It’s worth every minute of play, because it’s very intense and of course something different in these days of stereotype game mass production.

Game of the week #6/2011 – ScummVM

I have to apologize that I haven’t made it to announce the game of the week for such a long time, but finally I’m back and I have to apologize again, because this week I don’t have a specific game that gets the title, it’s just an emulator. Actually, this whole thing happens because for one simple reason, because I can. As you may know, I was modding and coding on my cellphone for a while to improve its performance and gain a couple of features of it that I actually haven’t had before. One side effect was the installation of ScummVM, which is in some kind of way this week’s “Game of the week”. ScummVM is an emulator that lets you play all the good old Lucasfilm/arts adventure games from the early to the mid-nineties. Actually, this emulator made me revisit a couple of games that I still love and I recommend to everyone. I’m talking of games like “Maniac Mansion”, which was like my first comedy, horror adventure game ever and it was only topped by the ingenious “Day of the Tentacle”. Secondly, “Zak McKracken and the alien mindbenders” which was for me, back in 1991, the incarnation of open world gaming. I mean, you could travel the whole world, while in other games you where simply walking from the left to the right to free the princess.

ScummVM is such a great tool, you can play these adventure games on nearly every platform. I started playing “The secret of Monkey Island” on my Android and it’s such a nice experience. If someone told me 20 years ago that I gonna play Lucasfilm adventures on a cell phone you would have found laughing on the floor. Back in the pixel days you needed monstrous computer with a large amount of nearly 2-4 MEGABYTES of RAM and hard drives with at least 80 MEGABYTES of space. My first PC actually had 2MB of RAM and a large 85MB hard drive. I wasn’t able to play a game like “Doom” since I got my first Pentium PC in 1995, but that’s another story.

I don’t want to get too much in detail with the games of Lucasfilm, but I can only advise to everyone who still does not know any of these games give it a try. I also recommend these games to everyone who is simply interested in videogames history, because if you don’t know the Lucasfilm games, it’s truely a lack of knowledge. Once upon a time where adventure games where the strongest and biggest genre in PC gaming and these games are one of the reasons why. If you tried these games and you found them great, give Lucasfilms competitor a try and play the Sierra adventures. But when it comes to Sierra, you can no longer use ScummVM, for most of the games (like 99%), the DOSBox is doing a great job. Sorry for the short and minimal description on the games, I just wanted to give a short introduction to them by presenting ScummVM.

Links:

Official Website

For the rare time being

The last couple of days has been very busy for me, not that I had too many “private projects” but some too intense of time. First things first, my gaming system got crashed during the Windows 7 Service Pack 1 update process and I wasn’t able to revive it any way. I had to reinstall everthing, had to setup a lot of applications and so on. Good thing about this, the system can now be rebooted again without getting a raid failure, which was one big issue with the previous setup. I’m nearly finished with the system, like 90 per cent, and I only have to restore most of my games profiles. Actually, this whole thing wasted a lot of time on my last weekend and is also responsible for missing, once again, the game of the week feature here in this blog.

Besides all this were I still in modifying and hacking my Motorola Backflip cellphone. I now managed to install Android 2.2 aka Froyo including multitouch, which isn’t a stock feature of the phone, and I also installed an unlocked kernel that I’m able to overclock and also underclock it. The phone now runs with a stock Android, without any Motorola software features, and it’s, compared to the default Android 1.5, as fast as hell. I’m testing the battery at the moment to see, if my also also increased the lifetime of this particular part of the phone. It’s such a hilarious feel to finally have features on my cellphone that aren’t supposed to be there actually. And most importantly, for my subjective estimation, the phone has now a status, where I would say, that one can use it instead of just getting angry about it.

Android

Far from all this nerdish stuff did I come back to a more healthier living style without all this unhealthy, calory rich and fat food. I also visit the gym from time to time and as expected, it’s giving me a boost in many ways. Say whatever you want, after a fine session in the gym, you feel refreshed and the essence of life creeps back to your bones and you feel recharged. I mentioned it in one of my previous posts, I don’t want to exaggerate anything at the moment and I want to keep it on a level where I still have fun with all this too. Getting into a boot camp like training plan as I had it once before is not my intention, even though I can say, that this was fun too. Anyhow, I’m losing weight, I start feeling better now and hopefully my cardio will increase once again. There’s no particular muscle training on the schedule right now, I just want to sustain my back and belly muscles at the moment to get a strong centre for future training plans.

Unfortunately, I haven’t found any time for photography or any creative stuff in that kind of way. I also haven’t managed to get a little bit more into the whole Photoshop/Lightroom thing that was actually on my schedule for this year’s beginning. Saying that there was no time is not totally correct, I actually wasn’t in the mood to do anything like this. Maybe later, when my bike is fixed and I’ll be able to get out a little bit more often and most importantly further away.

My media centre – A field report

It’s been nearly 9 month since living with a media centre PC in my living room and it has become a regular part of my daily life. The balance between the simple watching of TV broadcasts and the common use of a PC, like surfing the internet, playing games has changed. Nowadays I do watch more and more content that is streamed and published via the internet and old school TV makes only a minor part in my daily life. The point actually is, that I don’t have the time nor the will to watch specific contents on TV at a special time and nor do I have the will to spend like half an hour to setup the HDD recorder that I don’t miss a show on TV. This is old-fashioned in my opinion, especially by regarding the fact that if I use the media centre I can watch whatever I want and what I subscriped to at any time I want. If I watch TV I’m bound to a fixed schedule and like I previously said, I’m not going to waste my rare free time to TV programs.

Another, and in my opinion, very important point that the media centre has become so popular for me is, that the content it offers is mainly customized to my needs and interests. As you may know, I’m a gamer and I love to watch broadcasts with videogame content, so I watch like GameTrailers.com, GiantBomb or GameSpot contents any time I want. If I’m more in the mood to get a little relaxation and enjoy earth’s beauty I lay back and watch the marvellous shows of Earth-Touch.com. I’ve also got tons of subscriptions on Youtube, mainly gaming content but also channels with subjects like sports, news , photography or simply comedy. As you can see, I’ve got this large variety of things to watch at any time I want, I’m near the point to think about cancelling my cable provider subscribtion because it makes barely sense.

Besides simple watching of different contents the media centre also offers another ability to serve me well, it’s a gaming platform. I had to make a compromise between ultra silent media centre PC and gaming PC. This PC serves in both ways and is not as quiet as a media centre usually used to be, but this doesn’t really matter, because while watching movies or anything else like this, you can barely here the PC and it’s not as disturbingly load as a regular gaming PC. This case, where the hardware was built in, is a silent case and I also avoided the use of unnessecary fans the gain a low noise level and I’m pretty happy with the final result. I can’t deny that there’s still some room for tweaking the system to gain a little less noise, but it’s fine the way it is.

Anyhow, the media centre is a well balanced and efficient gaming PC as well and I use this PC very often for some relaxed gaming sessions. I used to play a lot of games that are played console style (with a gamepad) on the media centre PC and left the FPS and RPG to my main game system. It’s way more fun to play a soccer or a basketball game on the couch watching the stuff on a giant TV instead of seeing this on a small 24inch PC monitor. It also fulfills some social aspects because I personally play much more games with friends visiting me as I’ve done before by just having the “normal, regular” gaming PC. Another important point for me is, I don’t have to waste money on an expensive console, even though I would like to have a PS3.

As a final conclusion can I say, that the media centre was a good investment. Ordinary TV becomes less and less important for me and like I said, I’m near the point cancelling my cable provider subscription. I gain more information in a much smaller space of time and most importantly information that I actually need instead of getting tons and tons of crap information, e.g. celebrity stuff. Some of my “gaming habits” have changed too because I’m more willing to play “casual games” like sports games and games regularly played with a gamepad. Yap, I like the media centre, everyone should have one.