December 19, 2013

2014 the year of 4's

so just a recap on how 2014 is going to be the year of 4's for tech.
DDR4 ram which coincidentally has a minimum stick size of 4gb
4k Resolution
likely AM4 amd platform
USB 3.2 aka usb 4.0
the PS4
pcie 4.0 (rumored)
many video games with the number 4 in them excluding the obvious yearly titles from sports
many revision 4.0 softwares and OS'
and there's likely a few more I'm forgetting like openGL/CL 4.0 or something suffice to say that this year we will be seeing many 4's thrown at us and I for one plan on building a sweet 4.0 system.

December 15, 2013


One thing that's preached over and over again across nearly all industries and throughout the entirety of your education is the importance of teamwork and people skills. The sad truth is that in order to get ahead in this life. unless you simply are the absolute, unequivocal, undeniable best at what you do, you have to know people. It's always about who you know and who knows you and just a small acquaintance is sometimes all the advantage you need or that determines who gets the job. It may not be fair but that's life.

Unfortunately for me because of the manner in which I'd lived my life up to this point I am unprepared for the sheer level of stupidity I have to deal with on a daily basis. It's hard to get along with people when you can't stand them. It's not that they're stupid or have a different belief or just don't know things, if that were the case I could certainly deal with it. I find myself surrounded though by willfully ignorant people that actively ignore facts as presented to them and substitute baseless notions of what they think should be the best for any random reason without support. This isn't some subjective thing either like methodology of work methods or art it's very clear well defined objective values on things that shouldn't even be argued over. To put the basis of most arguments I have in a form we can all understand I'll use a math formula, don't concern yourself with the value of the variables focus more on the form and format presented.

(me) We should do Q because of A, B, and C instead of what we do now X because of T, M, P, and E and that is in our best interest because of D and we'll be better off for it.
(them) well I think that X or Y is best and it's all the same no matter how you do it so it just doesn't matter and P will be the same either way and it's just like (other thing) ....
then they ramble on without any supporting evidence

to shorten this:
(me) Q>=A+B+C     ~   X=F+G+H     F+G+H=T+M+P+E=D and our goal is T+M+P+E<D or ~D>D and we define A+B+C<T+M+P+E thus <F+G+H thus Q>=X resulting in ~D>D aka our goal
therefore Q is a superior solution to our goal than X
(them) (X, Y> Q and Q/P=X, Y/P and F=G=H=T=M=P=E=D because ? and (~D=D)*constant) = Z
therefore X = Z <X, Y

so you might understand my frustration when dealing with people that make no sense, don't understand what they're talking about and ignore even simple facts, though that wasn't as present in this example it's present I assure you. they're the kind of people that once they say it they're locked in and will argue that 2 is greater than 3 all day no matter the evidence the whole time saying that 7 is the best anyway and nothing else matters

So the secret to life is probably somewhere along the lines of condescending tolerance of all other people and having excellent interpersonal manipulation skills, because sex will only get you so far.

November 21, 2013

Dreamware 2

When I started this dev blog I put up a list of hardware I was working with and kind of what I wanted to see in the future. Now it's time to update this list with hardware I want to work with as a dev, even if some of it doesn't even exist...

First and foremost my monitor is feeling it's age. There are times now when it just gets really dark really fast and stays that way for a while making it a pain to work. Clearly it's dying but my next upgrade doesn't exist yet and so I'm trying to extend every little bit of life I can from what I have till I can get something close to what I want. In terms of a monitor that would be OLED. As opposed to LCD with an LED backlight, OLED is a new method entirely and is actually good enough to replace CRT's as research methods on images and quality. OLED is the highest point in technical superiority at this point and quite honestly can destroy an LCD of any panel type with ease. The theoretical potential refresh rate is 100,000hz aka 100khz as opposed to the theoretical maximum potential of LCD at 400hz (no k) though as we've seen input lag is usually your main problem rather than response time. The contrast and color depth are equally superior, as well as weight, size, thickness, and shock. In addition you can actually have bendable OLED displays to curve and provide new methods of viewing, and will likely give a small bonus to any 3d viewing you might want, even if it's not really a big concern for me yet. While it's true we're making substantial strides in holographics and their feedback methods they're still at least a decade away from being viable gaming methods if not longer. The technical details of this desired monitor are trivial in comparison to the main type however they are still desired so here they are: 32 inches+ in the 16:10 aspect ratio for true 4k resolution of 4096, 160hz+ refresh (shouldn't even be anything below that I would hope...) and realistically even if HDMI does manage to have proper support for 4k the inherent nature of it means I'd still want royalty free display port which was natively capable of handling 4k without revision and locks into place better, as one of the main inputs available.

Next up is the framework for this new system, a motherboard. I've been seeing many good things coming from Asus lately, their ROG series aside their efforts on TUF components, board "armor / shield" and efforts in their UEFI (replacement for BIOS, can initialize multiple system components simultaneously) have made me a fan. However as of yet they are also the only AMD based board I know of to have PCIE3, though that's likely to change in the future. By preference and for good reason I'd like to see an 8+core 5.0ghz cpu AMD based board with DDR4 memory which crucial is planning on launching supposedly as early as next month. While the CPU is already out there to my knowledge it doesn't have any kind of control implementation for DDR4, considering as of  yet no processor or mobo does it definitely falls in the fantasy section at the time of writing.

On this mobo I want a thunderbolt add in card for the various accessories I happen to already have that can use thunderbolt among other reasons. It appears sound cards are re-implementing dedicated sound processing again, as well as now adding them to GPU's which makes me happy and certainly desired. At the minimum it alleviates the CPU a little, in some cases as much as 10%. The GPU I'm not very picky on, almost anything in the current R9 series is fine, or potentially the future R10 series (presumably?). This is picked primarily for their implementation of Mantle and dedicated sound processing hardware on GPU, though I understand that actually some of the R9 cards don't have that? While I would still appreciate a little more Ram on card the GCN architecture resolves this to some extent making it less of a concern. I'd most likely add an AMD fire card for workstation use in 3d max and the like, as well as a capture card for obvious uses. I'd also seriously consider a PCIE based SSD like the Asus RaidR express for it's fast initialization time ( a problem with other PCIE SSD's) and it's performance speed comparable to 2 samsung 840 evo's in raid0. Ideally there'd be enough ram to choke a horse, considering we're contemplating this imaginary system as DDR4 the double capacity would likely be as high as 16GB a stick or higher? meaning 64GB in 4 lanes or 128 on an 8 lane board. The perfect setup to make use of this is to load a system image that automatically loads to RAM (in the form of a ramdisk presumably?) and operates exclusively from there without ever needing to write to the drives aside from perhaps updating the image with minor things like updates and session information to some degree. It's just as likely in the process that most programs would be run in a virtualized environment or otherwised sandboxed to preserve that clean install feel, with exceptions to obvious necessities I use on a regular basis.

In terms of storage I'd be looking heavily at SSHD's as a primary large capacity storage given their additional cost is extremely minimal and worth every penny twice over. With perhaps as many as 4 relatively small SSD's in Raid0 for the sake of initial read spead, though to accommodate this speed we'd need either an add in raid card, or a new Sata controller that doesn't cap out at 1.5gb/s so this would be likely Sata4 (8gb/s [lies]) and given the nature of SSD's and their controllers to fully saturate a given sata connection in short order with advanced controllers this would likely be from the current 500mb/s a port/drive to 1gb/s (probably not...) which would hopefully accommodate a full 4gb/s via controller. Cumulatively I could be happy with 8TB of storage which western digital is actually apparently making available already to some extent means it could be inside a single drive, if it were an SSHD though I'd hope they expand the SSD side a bit more from the standard 8gb or 16 in WD case to something more reasonable given the enormous capacity, like 64gb.

I imagine it wouldn't be so difficult to modify a linux kernel to actually perform the OS concept above, and now in consideration take it a step further and give load priority with limitation, which is to say it loads obvious things first, holds off on programs till they're called for before loading them from the drives and have adjusting size with this concept to maximize memory use efficiently.

in terms of peripherals like keyboard and mouse there's a constantly evolving selection of items that are grabbing my attention. The key features I consistently for however are proper details of the mechanical switches used in a keyboard as well as more recently a mix of key types, programmable macros and profiles for them. Similarly on the mouse side I like having a wide range of dpi settings I can quickly change directly from the mouse itself, programmable buttons and profiles on it, and above all the mouse has to have some sense of style and flair in addition to fitting my admittedly large hands. It's also nice to have the option of switching between wired and wireless for both the mouse and keyboard though sadly that is an extremely rare feature in the "under 100$" price range.

The hardware is fairly straight forward, just a nice high end system of the near future, and the OS is actually somewhat believable under those conditions even right now without too much effort. Now we enter the real sci-fi area of implementing ideas like second screen / "glass" tech where I can hook up tablets and use them as secondary displays and methods of input for all my programs with minimal effort which in itself is somewhat do-able already though not to the extent you see on consoles. I'd want to also implement the methods of console input on pc, using a controller in substitute of a mouse and an automatic virtual keyboard for additional input with predictive text and a little style. It's not like a concept for daily regular use, but damn if it's not absolutely noticeable when you're playing a game and have to set it all aside to grab the keyboard and mouse to handle something small. Granted there are other virtual keyboards out there, and XPadder can emulate keyboard and mouse amazingly but we can all agree it pales in comparison to just the basic input methods of the 360 and ps3 let alone the new gen. Which brings me to the next addition of adding voice controls and speech to text. This is also already available and really wouldn't need much work to implement alongside the other concepts presented.

Who knows what the future holds though right? Is there something I missed? What would you change or do differently? leave a comment.

November 17, 2013

I Live Again

Well the vacation went well. It nearly killed me being without internet and there's so much to catch up on. Sadly pop culture is as dreadful as ever and politics is as sad as ever with so much indecision and people caring about the most ridiculous things. As much faith in humanity was restored in my travels I must say that America is doing a damn fine job at destroying it all over again. Now that I'm back though I have so many ideas I've been writing down and joining together.

Perhaps my most impressive feat is that I've officially found a way to tie all stories from all of my other games together into a single coherent timeline occupying the same universe. I'm now working on a full comprehensive story to tie everything together and as awesome as I like to think it is at least it will make sense, at most someone's mind might just melt and then explode at the awesome move.

It also seems the personal points system is catching on, I've found many more people just saying out loud plus one (insert value eg. respect, cool, etc) for various things and people. Gaming news is pretty hot right now for obvious reasons, though sadly the launches both look pretty bad right now.

On the upswing AMD finally has new graphics cards, crucial is about to have the first to market DDR4 RAM before there's a single motherboard to support it or processor with controller, which we expect sometime next month. 4k is being pushed hard and the tech is looking better all the time. G-sync looks fabulous and intel is making thunderbolt available as an add in card, Mantle API is making promises that I hope it can deliver on so badly, companies are once again starting to push hardware driven sound processing for games something we lost after EAX kinda and will free up CPU power a bit. OLED is also making a big push and prices are falling fast, from like 80k for a 50" last year to 40k for a 90" this year, and supposedly some of the first AMOLED monitors making their way to consumers. To clarify LED is a backlight, OLED an actual replacement for LCD, and from what I understand they're using IGZO as a panel type for both? Samsung has a new tech for depositing the phosphors which also helps cut costs which excites me a little. It's only a short distance away from a glorious stage I almost have a nerdgasm for, which is 160+hz refresh, sub-milisecond response, 4k resolution, in the 32+" range under the $1k mark. My understanding of OLED leads me to believe refresh rates should be infinitely superior to LCD which we barely get 144hz on the high end and has a theoretical max capacity of 400hz, where as OLED by theory of it's .01ms response time could have as high as 100,000hz refresh from a mechanical and mathematical standpoint.

so yeah, in terms of tech I'm geeking out a bit, but games are also looking good and I'm happy a lot of console games are making their way to pc reasonably fast this time. Oh so many other things to take care of though, so I'll have to fill in other details next time, just letting everyone know I'm alive

August 11, 2013

Still Alive + Brand Loyalties discussion

I didn't completely drop off the map just yet I'm still around. I've been doing some interesting things lately and I'll be happy to share them with you later on. However I will be out of reach for the next month or two while I'm on a bit of a vacation that sadly after tomorrow will most likely not include much if any internet access. That having been said I felt like branching this blog out a bit and this time including some only barely related discussion of brand loyalty.

The conversation I had prompting this was the obvious ps4 vs X1 that I'm still shocked is even a legitimate discussion at this point but I digress. It's my fault for listening in on a friends conversation and then interjecting my 2 cents instead of just keeping my mouth shut but once I was in it was like a freefall face plant. (you're all in and it's going to be ugly)

Being that I don't have any given console loyalties something I learned back when my great debate was n64 vs ps1, I shared my thoughts on both consoles and how I've been loving my pc gaming the last couple years. Immediately in my own head I realized how I had sounded when I was saying what I was saying and even called myself a douche. Which right around the same time was followed up with my friends calling me "douchebaggins" which somehow has been a thing among us lately spawning from something to do with the lord of the rings I can't quite remember. Things got a little heated but there were many valid points expressed on brand loyalty to a positive light rather than pointing out the pointlessness of brand loyalty to the corporate machine. This being aside from the fact that probably one of my greater desires is unfortunately being a part of this system regardless of if that makes me a sell out.

The discussion can be boiled town to some of the following bits. Starting with that not all brand loyalty is bad and that in some scenarios it's practically a necessity. Unlike games where long term investments tend to pay off to some degree in the consumerist world we're in buying the same products and their iterations exclusively from specific companies tend not to have any benefits. In the computer world your brand loyalty between intel or AMD really is just that as there really aren't any alternatives readily available on massive scales. I am speaking about consumer based desktops to clarify not the server world or mobile devices. In that case it may be picking the lesser of two evils or just picking what you know works best for you. In my case I support a specific ideology and methodology. AMD focuses on hyperthreading, additional stream processes, better performance for a given price range and much more. In the end I tend to pick AMD products because they're right for what I need hence why I advocate them. However if this were not the case and their products and details were similar and the choice was relatively arbitrary I might make the same decision based on a distinct hatred of intel primarily for their practices and policies.

 The real problem with brand loyalties to me is more apparent in areas like cell phones where people insist on sticking with a given provider for service or a phone manufacturer for some unknown reason. For me it just doesn't make sense and while I love a lot of the smart phones out there sadly I don't have one for myself because I just can't bring myself to sign into an absurd 2 year contract mandatory with basically every phone and service provider out there hence why I just have a very basic phone. Yet consistently I hear these arguments over the new galaxy or the next iphone and I wonder while both phones are great why neither party would ever consider even looking at anything other than what they already have. I can only assume it's some psychological need for validation of their decisions.

In gaming brand loyalty is a bit harder to discern as it's nearly impossible to understand why someone specifically supports bioware as some form of supposed superiority over ubisoft which while a competitor in the world of gaming is not exactly a direct competition that I know of in any way. In something a little more clear cut though there's the regular debate of Battlefield VS Call Of Duty and thus your brand loyalty can at least be understood in some coherent fashion as opposed to some conspiracy theory sounding explanation of why mass effect is in "direct competition" with assassins creed on the same level as BF3 vs MW3. Still being the gamer that I am I've played both and actually own both games on multiple platforms though in full disclosure I only paid for each once. I wouldn't simply ignore the next battlefield because of my preference for modern warfare or vice versa. Similarly I'm not ignoring the next call of duty because I loved battlefield I'm ignoring it because I'm fed up with a definitive lack of innovation and this was already a strain to begin with as within the battlefield vs CoD there's a subset of loyalties to infinity ward vs treyarch as to which call of duty line loyalties lie with.

When it comes to consoles I heard a lot of the same arguments between the ps3 and the 360 and I might argue that in that scenario it was more valid than now as there were valid points made on how xbox was a newcomer and the original xbox didn't have a very wide library where as the ps1 and 2 both had many great experiences available with established franchises. The substantial price difference also meant that your decision as to which to get was significant and it was between sticking with what you knew and were familiar with or going with the unknown. A lot of people were blindly picking which to go with based on past experience as if it were some how indicative of competitive performance rather than the expected future performance within the brand. That is to say that somehow the fun you had with halo was effecting your judgement on how the ps3 would do, or how FF, SotC, ico, MGS, etc suggested how the 360 would do which hopefully when I clarify it like that you can understand how absurd and utterly ridiculous it sounded. Yet literally you could hear people saying "oh it's going to flop because of (this game/ or franchise)" and even worse some of the statements about how windows domination of the pc market was indicative how their inevitable domination of the gaming market without even breaking stride to consider that at the time sony was the windows of gaming. Clearly they didn't realize that MS wasn't quite the all dominating force they made it out to be. Now if G.E. ever gets in the game business... that conglomerate  is literally a world dominator they have their hands in everything and brand loyalty in that case is pointless in the face of total annihilation.

Moving back to PC for a second consider brand loyalty as it pertains to graphics cards. There are plenty of people out there who swear by a given brand which may be known for a given quality of some sort but when it comes down to it it's all the same card no matter who's name is on it and you're not doing yourself a favor blindly sticking to one brand if you can get the exact same thing elsewhere for better cost.

As you can see I'm split on brand loyalty. Generally it's a stupid idea, when it's necessary you should consider carefully, if it's for a fashion statement you deserve any punishment you receive for it, and honestly if you really wanted to support a given brand buying their product is the wrong route anyway and you're a fool if you believe that it is. If you really want to contribute support them more directly. Become an investor for example, and as a stock holder you can actually influence decisions and policies so that you can help make it the brand you want it to be. As to putting my money where my mouth is... I am an AMD stock holder and yes I'm keenly aware of their losses, equally I'm well aware of all their new products such as being the first to market with a 5.0ghz processor once again handing intel their collective asses, and then some. I would also point out that I'm aware of why some of their numbers are low given their focus on the mid range rather than high end hence why it took them so long to come out with an official 7990, not to mention the fact that they sold off some assets in order to try and minimize their deficit, and their entry into the memory market, and just so much more. I see where the company is headed and as a shareholder I vote on these kinds of things and quite simply put at this point it's not "brand loyalty" anymore. If there's something you're really into like you blindly must have the next iphone then I highly suggest you become a shareholder in apple stock so you can actually tell apple what you want in that next iphone and make it the best iphone ever, otherwise you can't just arbitrarily state it's superior by default because it also has plenty of drawbacks and I would have no problem making a solid argument against it or in favor of one of it's competitors.

July 28, 2013

Close Calls

The last couple weeks have been insane. I've started working on another game which consumed a lot of my time setting up a prototype for which I'm really trying to ignore so that I can get back to what I've already been working on for so long. It's one of my worse habits I'm trying to control. During this time I did a little traveling and while I had a great time doing so I'm a bit out of shape compared to all the walking I did and when I got back I was really feeling it. I managed to seriously pull some muscles and that had me laid up in bed all week in just excruciating pain. Coupled with a serious virus of some kind that had me running a fever, sweating my ass off, constantly vomiting, and so much more. I spent the last couple days in the hospital on IV antibiotics and some damn fine pills keeping me half way knocked out all day and night.

As to the new game idea I've been doing all kinds of interesting research and I couldn't help but notice some interesting details of russian history that just really help me put a lot of perspective on my understanding of world history. At the end of the Czars and the uprising of the communist party the royal families were basically causing hyper inflation of the money supply with workers not receiving any additional income it made every day expenses unaffordable. The working class in response had a revolution. I look at that and then look at today and must say that America looks vaguely similar to that era now in that the wealthiest families being treated like royalty essentially controlling the government are over inflating our currency to the point that our every day expenses are becoming unaffordable and we're still only being paid what we were before. I then consider how the working class established their new government as realize how America being the capitalist society it is was almost inherently bound to be threatened by this movement because the rich were undoubtedly afraid of the same thing happening here. This makes it easy to understand how they demonized communism and with leaders like Stalin it was hard to defend communism. Still While many comparisons can be drawn there's a huge difference between then and now.

As to more console news I'm just going to avoid talking about the next gen until it's actually out because xbox has once again changed their minds and with so much still in flux it's just best to wait it out at this point, they'll be out soon enough and I'll do my best to  cover details at that point.

I hope everyone enjoys their week, though I'm better I'll still be taking it easy for a while.

July 08, 2013

A Look At The Medic

People apparently seem to think our medic is going to turn out like a team fortress two medic or MAG something where it's just simple. If that were the case we'd just give the tools to everyone like they do in MAG. To some extent we do give you some medical tools but for proper medical treatment you're going to need an actual medic and anything we give you is basically to buy you time until one shows up. When the medic does show up it's more metal gear than team fortress. It is a slightly more complex role and it's not quicktime driven but it also doesn't require massive memorization. Most of your weapons are replaced with various tools for handling a wound. Being that it takes time you have to make sure to have your patient in a safe location before you operate though they will still be able to shoot.

So the average process runs kinda like this. You have an analysis tool to tell you what needs to be done. You then will extract anything inside the body which is more of a time bar than surgeon simulator but it does also have some slight interactivity to decrease the damage you do to their health. That's right you can hurt them while you're healing them potentially killing them or at least putting them in a kind of "DBNO" down but not out state. If that happens you have a revive tool which when you start out might be more like battlefield paddles but as your specialist skills and tech goes up that changes. After extraction you treat for any internal problems like poison, infection, bleeding, etc. You then seal the wound bandage it and get a move on. The end result restores some health based on how well you did and what tools you had available to you. Early on you won't completely restore all their health but you quickly get upgrades and additional steps for adding a nanite injection to repair actual damage or salves that restore health over time.

Really early on you're not going to have much at all you literally start with just your eyes for analysis, super glue and duck tape to stop bleeding seal the wound and bandage it up. It sounds very run down and that's kind of the point you learn to appreciate what you have and what you get by understanding just exactly what you start with. Some players will have their own items to help them out beyond your help or assist you in your job. For example some players have automated systems to restore their health slowly over time but they're dependent on vials of restorative fluid. You can refill their systems or temporarily make adjustments to it to rapidly increase their restoration. In the late game you can sometimes get away with just using what players already have or your own powerful tools to speed the process up to just a few seconds. Your late stage wound sealer isn't burning cauterization or super glue it's things like biofoam and liquid skin. Granted I make it sound more awesome than it really is. From a programming side and basic art it's just like a small fire extinguisher and a few behind the scene numbers and animation triggers. So realistically it could all be just the same. When I say it like that though.... it doesn't sound nearly as cool and that's kind of why we play games is that fantasy. This is about to spin off into another post... You get the idea in the end though is the progression is clearly there and it's not a weak link at any point it's quick clean effective and versatile. The game and function fine without the medic so even if you have a horrible medic it won't hurt your experience. The medic's job is primarily based on you surviving the fight and getting you in fighting shape for the next one.

If you really just want the basic info of how it's going to play in game testers have been able to complete a treatment in 5 to 7 seconds depending on how careful they are with any extractions that may be necessary. Players health bars are relatively substantial to begin with, armor and shields only help that along so the role of the medic is fairly important and can significantly sway a battle. Some late stage medics can even repair armor damage as well. As to layout and method right now there's basically bars on either side of the screen designed to look like part of the HUD that have listings for various related things to do. So for example fixing a broken leg you'd highlight the leg, select alignment holding the corresponding button, splint, bandage and then move on, it's not the best solution but it's fast and relatively effective in this case. Later on some items might be replaced with better alternatives or maybe adding painkillers but it's the principal of it that I'm explaining.

July 02, 2013

Types of Gamers part 1

While there are enough types of gamers out there and equally as many classifications to the point we could write entire books on mere fractions of them in this particular part of the "types of gamers" series of articles I plan on writing I'll be discussing types from a hardware perspective. It seems to me there are only a select few companies that understand that your average gamer doesn't just play only one game on only one format. It's as though companies assume for some reason that a ps3 gamer can't possibly play on the xbox or pc, let alone a handheld or phone.

Some companies however like sony understand the desire for portable gaming as well as in home. Being able to link your psn account with steam is one such symbol along with vita. EA for all their faults at least allows you to register your accounts and tie them to a single account within their service. Bioware has faith you'll actually buy their products on multiple hardware and will save you some money by giving you dlc codes to use from one to another, something which I would literally kill to have on call of duty or skyrim.

The thing is I end up paying for a dlc once and I hate having to buy it again and again and again between consoles and pc.

These are exceptions though as from the broad spectrum of the market you often hear statistics about how many gamers there are and where they are and what they're playing on. Many of these reports read as though these gamers absolutely don't ever play on anything else, as though those angry birds phone players don't also play it in their browsers at home. They treat each instance as a completely separate entity as though you quite literally not only are not but could never be the same person buying or playing the same game across different platforms. So in effect those 220 million cell phone gamers don't own a single console or pc of any kind. Then those 300+ million call of duty players don't play anything else ever. Then those insane number of xbox live gold members are never the same person with multiple accounts and of course they don't have cell phones. You add it up and they estimate that somewhere upwards of 500% of the total world population according to the last set of census statistics all play video games. It's completely ludicrous and so foolish I can't even begin to comprehend some of the things I read or hear from people on the subject.

I won't delve into that nightmare right now though I may save it for another occasion. Suffice to say incompetence runs rampant in this industry for no good reason. It's a reasonably good bet that your average gamer has 1 preferred hardware that they do a majority of gaming on and I'm not refuting that at all as you kind of have to have at least one to really call yourself a gamer. It doesn't matter if it's an outdated console from the 80's it still counts, even if they're not releasing games for the hardware anymore. It's an equally good bet that your average gamer has access to at least one additional platform if not more. For example it's reasonable to assume that a vita owner has a ps3 and that at some point most xbox users also had a ps2 at the same time for a while if not still. As a generation fades from limelight it tends to find a new stage in which gamers tend to grab up that older hardware and thus right now even more and more gamers find themselves having a ps3 and a 360. While that may not be any kind of majority I would say given the prevalence of smart phones and the x1 and windows 8 pushing "smart glass" so hard that it's likely most X1 owners will have a smartphone they play games on. I'm also willing to take a leap of faith that a respectable percentage of those 220+million smartphone gamers have a console or pc they also game on.

So where am I going with this? Back to the beginning on the article in which I mention the companies that already support multiple consoles to some slight extent. The real future of gaming should be universal linking across platforms. I would absolutely love to easily find friends from other platforms. For example I was talking with a friend on steam about last of us on the ps3 and neither of us knew the other had a ps3 account and we spent most of the day having a blast after that. Then there's games like skyrim I buy on pc and xbox, and quite simply put having to spend money on season passes like I did with borderlands 2, or various dlc packs repeatedly gets annoyingly expensive usually forcing me to have to pick which version I end up playing long haul and actually investing in rather than allowing me to simply play how I'd really prefer. Sometimes I want to game with some friends, other times it's different friends, sometimes I seek the satisfaction of the xbox achievement or the psn trophy over the steam achievement. Often in cases like skyrim it's that I want mods and extra user generated content I'm simply not allowed to have on consoles. Before you jump on the word mods let me remind you that it's not a dirty word in the gaming world at all, for us console players "mods" usually mean "cheats" like auto aim, map hacks, infinite killstreaks, invincibility, etc, where as for us pc players it means better textures, new features, new render modes and graphics options, new control interfaces, entire new maps and tons of content. Often the user generated content gets picked up by the developers and released as their own to the console players. In skyrim a clear example of this would be the vampire and werewolf perk trees which were literally user created content carbon copied to the consoles. Skyrim following in the tradition of elder scrolls games has an open mod resource community creating all new quest lines, stories, and turning an already 300+ hour game into a 900+ hour game. I've literally clocked well over a thousand hours in oblivion with all the mods that were available for it, and more for morrowind, and my skyrim experience is while complete from the traditional perspective, really only just beginning.

The reason I'm mentioning this now is as time goes on this is a more and more serious problem. We didn't really have to contend with dlc until late in this generation where suddenly it was the real selling point of a game compared to the game itself. Then already stats show up saying "well the sooner you get dlc the better because people simply won't buy it 6 months down the road" and so we end up getting tons of day 1 dlc. Then as the next generation moves in it doesn't matter if you have the game or not you can't play it and all that dlc goes to waste. Perhaps you've even decided now to forgo consoles and pick up a pc, but now all that dlc is gone and even if you replace your entire library you're faced with paying for the dlc all over again and unless it's on sale it's full price, a non fluxuating eternal price. That 30$ season pass, 8 years down the road is still 30$ even if the game which was once 60$ is now 5$ any day of the week. Now you lament the fact you ever got the dlc in the first place and wonder why the developers want to be so greedy they won't let you the "loyal customer" that bought the game twice, have the dlc you already paid for once for a game that's probably not selling as well as it used to. While in a rare occasion you might email a dev asking for a codes and they might be kind enough to set you up with one it's not a regular thing and unless they recognize in their system that your email has registered their entire library of games across all platforms including re-releases that doesn't happen often.

All I'm advocating here really is a unified platform with which to link all these game profiles and reduce the clutter. Each developer and publisher has their own special account they want you to have for just their services and adds more usernames and passwords you don't want to bother remembering for something you might not use that often and usually doesn't carry many benefits. I'm almost willing to bet if you could sign into steam, psn, xbl, origin, uplay, and any other platform you can think of using your existing facebook account alone you probably would. How many of you use your google account or facebook to login to a site rather than whatever your associated account username and password is? The convenience factor is there, it helps keep track of a lot of things and makes it easy to find your gaming friends wherever they may be. It might seem like I'm just reiterating the same thing here but I really want you to understand the concept that LESS IS MORE in some cases, and in the case of accounts and DLC that is certainly the case. Bethesda learned that fewer yet larger dlc packs sold substantially better in fallout 3 and many tiny ones did in oblivion which they partially learned with knights of the nine vs shivering isles. Keeping customers happy letting them play across platforms is another thing companies like Sony are learning that if you can play your games when, where, and how you want you'll be happier for it and they'll get more business from your glowing reviews. Can you imagine how big of a launch halo will have on steam if they announce that in addition to new missions they'll also give anyone with an XBL account access to any and all dlc they've already paid for? Comparing that to the kind of launch it will have without such an announcement which will still likely be enormous. Right now you can finagle EA to sometimes give you the mass effect dlc you already have if you've bought it for multiple platforms and also bought dragon age and other games they've sold, same going for battlefield 3. Realistically though they should just offer it right out the door like bioware. Seriously if you have your account registered with bioware and link your gaming profiles you can generate a usable code with no hassle from their site, it's one of the most beautiful things I've ever had a gaming company do for a consumer without anyone having to ask.

In summation gaming companies need to learn that cell phone gamers and console gamers are not exclusive, there's a lot of overlap, they're not different customers they've often the same and we should have access to what we buy if they've already gone through the trouble of making it available across platforms.

June 24, 2013

The Next AMD Throwdown

So it's getting around that time where you feel the shift in the air and you know something is coming. Being a red team fan (AMD) I'm sitting back waiting for the news to hit on their next mind blowing improvements. For those of you not aware the Radeon HD 8k cards I guess turned out as a rebrand then dropped and so we've had the 7k for an extended time or the 8k was scrapped and started over and will be coming out, either way it looks like we might actually just skip it and go straight to 9k. Though if you search the 9k on google you'll pop up with posts from 2k3 and 2k4 when the radeon 9k cards were still on the market, as opposed to the Radeon HD 9k not out yet. It may even come to pass that we have a whole new numbering system, who knows.

The thing I'm leading to is that the GCN architecture allows GPU's to access system memory provided you have it to spare from my understanding. So while the graphics card may only come with 1gb of gddr5 and that may not be enough for giant 4k textures and high poly models etc if you have a bunch of ddr3 ram for example we'll assume anything over 8gb it can load the textures to there and either process from there or swap from there as necessary saving it from having to swap from the hard drive even if it's an SSD it's still slower than RAM. This in itself is exciting but who knows what else they'll come out with by the time the next GPU's come out. While performance has been incremental and noticeable this extended time between gens will have a very clear difference between cards.

On the CPU side of things there are also some HUGE changes hitting. It's not the standard slight change in pin count or power or cores, they've finally pushed past the 5.0ghz range on stock where we've primarily been floating in and around the 4.0ghz range. This is a very huge leap with untold kinds of consequences provided it's used to it's full extent.

On the motherboards we're looking at some interesting new technologies like Thunderbolt 2 on some upcoming amd based boards and pcie3.0x16 with at least one board already on the market. A couple of them are waterproof as well which means there's no reason not to have liquid cooling now, especially considering how much you'll need it for that 5.0ghz proc running at 200w tdp.

If you're not familiar with thunderbolt here's the basics. It allows a mobo to connect with another set of pcie slots basically and use whatever happens to be attached to them. It also allows you to connect various devices such as a series of hard drives, a monitor, other peripherals etc. From my understanding it can even connect with 4k displays and transfer display information. The interesting part is that it can do this from just one port connecting to many devices at once at some serious speeds. basically it has 2 bidirectional 20gb lanes on the new thunderbolt2 revision as opposed to previously 4 10gb lanes and is fully backwards compatible. So if you need to connect to a few extra graphics cards, or just don't have enough expansion slots, or more likely many of them get blocked by your graphics card/s then this can really be a big help. It's also great for laptops when you need all the extra raw horsepower from a desktop gpu. It's actually a very VERY useful and interesting technology I am eager to get my hands on and play with.

While it's not directly amd related there's also new 4k displays finally hitting market, a few with very small bezel which just makes them look that much bigger even if they're the same size. Though it may seriously tax your gpu to run them now in the next year or so and probably with that next line of amd gpu's you'll be able to run a few nice games at a good speed on them. Then there's also new wifi standards out recently that are giving a nice bump in that department, though they still don't come close to matching a wired ethernet connection. Let alone a high end ethernet with cat6 cable on a fiber optic network.

Really some of the new tech just really has me excited and I'm eagerly awaiting this fall/winter releases to see what all is on the market and you know I'll probably be buying some goodies on cyber monday/black friday sales. I'm feeling it's time for a whole new pc, and part of that includes a new case even and there's plenty of new options there as well. But really I'm thinking a custom fiberglass one. I'll put down circuit lines on the fiberglass, be it green or clear, then a one sided mirror solution then another layer of circuit lines before the clear resin to harden it.  The circuit lines will be partially visible at first then when you have lights on the inside of the case the other set of circuit lines will shadow through. It's an awesome visual effect I experimented with once and I'm really liking the idea. Custom drive bays for the SSD's, everything designed just where I want it, very neat and clean management. I might even be able to design a shroud right into the case itself. That's all beside the point though, I'm thinking whole new system from scratch depending on what I hear about being able to run some games on 4k even if at first it's just a modded skyrim.

June 20, 2013

A Serious Look at Next Gen

Now that we've had a couple days to let the dust settle it's time for an in depth look at next gen. While I still don't plan on buying an X1 and I have many issues with their policies there are some things to consider in it's defense. As to the PS4 it's still feeling like a hero but it's still only licking the boots of the glorious PC which is still at least 2x better than consoles in terms of performance for this next gen. A high end now is more than 13x the performance of current gen ps3/360 and while there are many great advantages from the consoles for us pc gamers the fact that we're still stuck with 2x performance that won't be fully used for the most part is a little sad.

To elaborate games today are made with consoles in mind and put on pc with the same work having been done for both. The problem is because they're designed for consoles they're completely nerfed to keep from destroying the consoles. With this next gen all that extra power means better games. Then that remaining 2x performance can be used primarily for graphical bonuses while core gameplay is maximized. It would still be nice if we had greater hardware from the consoles but considering the price range we're looking at it's a bit of a deal. In particular because the hardware is so close to pc I actually do expect to see virtual machines running the new gen OS in a relatively short timeframe which will save me big $ in playing exclusives for the consoles. I'm quite sure any pesky verification problems we're complaining about today will be handled fairly quickly in a VM but just as much for the consoles they'll probably get hacked substantially faster this gen than before for the same reason and with a modded OS a lot of those gripes will go away.

As to the defense of the X1 in the allegations of anti consumer policies it's an uphill battle but before this generation is out I believe that under the right management they have a chance to turn it around. In particular the main complaint is that it's a stripped down version of steam with none of the benefits and all of the disadvantages. This can be fixed down the road though, maybe after a price drop or two. I'm comfortable with not having used games on my pc because of how inexpensive they can be sometimes. The problem with the X1 is that I inherently have a disc, a kind of physical property that cost me 60$ or more on average to purchase and I should therefore have the right to do with it as I please including giving it away. If the X1 had insisted instead on going to exclusively digital download this wouldn't be as much of a problem for me though I would still have issues if the price didn't come down substantially as even on steam the new games tend to only cost 50$ and there's sales for them within 3 months usually to make me happy. If the X1 fully adopts the steam model instead of one foot in the door one out like it does now it can resolve that problem. As to the always online component they've already established that it's not necessary and when the servers go down the console login restriction will I assume be patched out or somehow taken care of. Why have it in the first place? Their first immediate update from launch should at least be increasing this timeframe to maybe once a week, to once every 3 months ideally getting it down to either never or only having to login once per new game. As to the additional fees for kinect and viewing shows/movies there's no damn excuse on that one. In particular if we're paying the same initial price. If the pricing came down and went to flat rate per viewer maybe it'd be less of a gripe. Either way though you're not paying for a cinematic experience in your home, you're paying for convenience of not having to go to a theater and pay full price for each person plus theater price stacks plus gas/travel expenses, etc. Right now renting the movie from the console can cost as much as the theater but you can have your own snacks from home, no travel, as many viewers as you want, pause/rewind etc controls over the movie and that's what you're paying for. You pay to save money, and if they're going to charge you on top of the initial price then it's a horrible deal, if however instead of paying 8$ for a rental it were only 1$ or 2$ and maybe 1$ per person then I would be less concerned assuming the stupid kinect didn't think there were a bunch of people in the room when you're all alone as it sometimes will do. For the record after my last post before this one a friend gave me a kinect he was going to throw away so I figured I'd test it. Total failure. It also caused a red ring on one of my consoles so thanks a lot for that one. Moving on there isn't a huge defense for the X1 at the moment and it's really trying to sell you on promises and pipe dreams, and if you've ever taken a business class the first thing you learn is NEVER BUY A DREAM. Maybe we'll revisit down the road and some things will be fixed but for the moment until we at least know actual details and firm numbers which M$ is adamant in not releasing to us at this point then I would say don't even reserve the console.

Supplemental rant on the X1 is the hard drive. Given that we are having to install and verify every day and thus going back to why not just go full digital, the fact that we only get 500gb internal drive is laughable and insane. In particular considering the price and size, if you saw the hard drive pics the casing is huge and I don't know why they went that way, and my understanding is it's proprietary another laugh. I think I saw 7mm 1tb drives at computex, tell me how this happened honestly. I bet it cost the same price or more for a smaller drive as it would to get a larger one.

As to the PS4 not a lot of news to add on top of my previous posts about it. I'm a little sour about needing the PSPlus service for online play but honestly I'd say at this point it's for the better as it still comes with all the benefits and it's cheaper than XBGold. Though I am leery about them adding the same problematic restrictions as X1 in the future at least for the time being they seem to understand that first and foremost they are a gaming company designing gaming hardware for gamers and the battle for the living room is secondary to the core consumer base which is paying for a gaming console not a fancy DVR. I don't doubt Sony will be pissing us off at some point but at least for the time being we can relax a little.

I'm still waiting for official news on if the consoles will support 4k out of the box or if they're planning on adding that through an update later on somehow. It may not seem like a big deal to some of you but truly 4k is just as big of a difference to 1080p as 1080p was to standard definition. It's worlds more effective than the best anti-aliasing out there at the moment and is a serious selling point for me. Ignoring different panel technologies, input lag, response time, refresh rate, etc. Though I'm also worried at the console's ability to even render it at a full 30fps under significant load like what you'd expect from some of the high end shooters running on the next engines.

I hope that you learned something even if it didn't change your mind about anything at least now you know more and can talk about the subject knowing what you're saying and maybe have counter arguments for specific points. Now we sit and wait patiently for AMD to start laying down the law with new GPU's. Which as a side note I would mention that all the consoles use AMD gpu's, specifically wiiU, X1, and ps4. I may be wrong because I'm a little rusty on this gen console hardware specs but that might also be true of wii, and 360, though I'm pretty sure ps3 uses something else.

Addendum Forthcoming:
I wrote this last week before the xbox 180 announcement in which a lot of the DRM was stripped away along with some of the features I might have actually liked such as 10 consoles for "family" or w/e with sharing. That having been said there isn't much to clarify other than now the X1 will only require a one time validation. This whole thing is only getting worse, by caving and trying to give in to our demands they look weak and flimsy and even worse they're cutting more features for the sake of appeasement without adding much back in return. While it's a big step in the right direction as their policy as it stood was horrific especially for someone like me that frequently changes ISP's where I might not have net for an entire week waiting on the new setup I simply wouldn't be able to play games and that's not the kind of state you'd ever want to see me in. As it stands the X1 is trying to save face but is really showing both shame and disappointment in the process and at this point honestly it's not going to bring them many new customers and might just as likely drive some away. Not to mention paranoids like myself that wouldn't buy it now on principal that they even considered it to begin with and thus could at any point go back to it and I'm not willing to take that risk. 

June 11, 2013

Tomorrows Headline: PS4 Assassinates X1

Chances are if you've taken a glance at the internet today you've heard how Sony just pimp handed the X1 so hard that Dr. Pepper had to come revive it. *joke* In all seriousness the PS4 laid the smack down today basically saying "ps4, it's not the xbox one" to the praise of all those that would listen. While I said before the ps4 isn't all sunshine and rainbows as of right now it's really looking up and cleared up a lot of concerns I may have had about it.

Coming in with a left hook touting no used game DRM or authentication of any kind just like the current ps3 of the mindset "if it's not broke don't fix it". Then a solid right hook basically doing the opposite of all other xbox one policies remaining. Then the final uppercut for a grand knock out and kill shot of no required camera which is sold seperately, better hardware specs, and a lower price at only $399 likely due in large part to not requiring a camera. It also learned from their ps3 mistakes by now including an HDMI cable and headset which were some of my biggest gripes of ps3. Then it was time for a victory dance of jack tretton giggling his ass off as they roll their 40+ games that will be on ps4 trailers with more exclusives than X1 has launch titles.

The icing on the cake is sony has stated they intend to make sure all your psn purchases are backwards compatible even if the disc based games aren't. Though you will still be able to stream them to a vita if you happen to have one. Sony's behavior really moves me, to the extent I might reconsider my position on next gen and pick up a ps4 and vita sometime in 2014 though as of yet still seems somewhat unlikely. Though given that sony is very active in making sure indie devs gets what they need to develop on their console I may not have to buy one, we'll see.

The small downside for us playstation users is that playstation plus learned a little from xbox and will now be required for multiplayer access. For me it's really not nearly as big of a deal since I love the service and it's cheaper than XBL also giving us lots of really good free games for some time now adding many extra features for the ps3 that I would not have considered essential or ever demand as freebies before. All in all the playstation plus service is everything the XBL gold service should aspire to be, the offer for halo 3, fable 3, and assassins creed 2 was practically a slap in the face and a last ditch effort to save face.

Quite honestly this battle may be over before it begins. Sony has officially declared war on microsoft in the gaming department at this point and they're doing a damn good job at it so far if they keep this up the rest of the year and through next year it will be the end of the xbox and rightfully so considering the circumstance. Though it's not like it's easy to lose when all you have to do is not completely alienate everyone including yourself. At that point you REALLY have to work at failing in order to not win. Even if FAIL was your dump stat you'd still have to have negative attributes in every category and a natural +1 to socially repugnant to even come close to the shear level of insanity and practical suicide the X1 did.

June 10, 2013

What they did RIGHT!

So I ranted a bit... or a lot, depending on your view, about the next gen at least with regards to the ps4 and next xbox. Now it's time to take a good long look at both and point out what they've actually done right, and what I'm excited to see from them, the stuff that almost makes me consider what it would be like to own one.

Starting with the ps4 I'm glad to see a wider controller for my hands and the various improvements to it overall, I'm excited to see what we can do with the touchpad. I'm also happy to see how the share function was implemented even if I'll likely have little to no use for it. The fact that it won't force me to connect to the net to play games as far as I know is also a really big plus for me especially in stark contrast to xbox. It's not like I have any difficulty with connecting or that I'm in an area with bad net, though I often go up north for a week in the summer or go to a friends without net and other such instances where having to connect could be a problem, and at the same time I've never liked any DRM headache and the ability to borrow a friends game really helps me appreciate how much consideration was put in to making the ps4 a social gaming console. Having the best hardware specs so far is a technical bonus in addition to the fact that their gaikai streaming acquisition will be able to let me play basically anything from the ps4 on a vita from my understanding is a huge plus. Simply put when buying a ps4 I have a pretty solid idea of what I'm buying and what to expect and it's not bad. It's not great, but it's not bad.

When it comes to the xbox one, or as it'll likely be shortened to "the X1" I doubt that the benefits will ever outweigh the drawbacks of ownership but here they are all the same. The inclusion of standardized ddr3 ram rather than the graphics proprietary gddr5 ram can make the console easier to design games for potentially, though how much is uncertain. With amd's GCN architecture the console will be able to share both resources easily also making it better to an extent. To compensate for the pitiful 500gb internal hard drive they're allowing external storage which doesn't mean a whole lot but it's at least considerate and I can give it a slightly positive note for including it. It's hard to say if the inclusion of smart glass is a positive or a draw back but for the time being I'll mark it up as a positive though pointless inclusion as it will be a very under utilized feature. The same could be said of voice commands though they might be of slightly more use. The forced inclusion of the kinect at least means we'll have a camera and area microphone to work with. I'm happy to say this time they're actually including wifi out the door as it took them quite some time to do so last gen, and thankfully unlike ps4 it's actually supposedly going to include the latest standards, though at the time of writing the official announcement is only for a/b/g/n so we'll have to see... if it doesn't actually include the newest standards then just ignore this part. They've finally also gotten the clue to start giving gold members more benefits including two free games a month for gold member subscriptions. Apparently as of right now you can hop on and grab Assassins creed 2, Halo 3, and Fable 3? I don't know if you can only pick two or if you'll be able to pick at all they may just say which titles are available each month, who knows if you'll actually be able to keep them after you let your subscription lapse or even if you can carry them from month to month though that will most likely be the case. It is a new announcement so I don't have all the proper information and I actually haven't logged onto my xbox yet to confirm though from what I'm seeing this appears to be the case. The wording of the announcement was also a little off as it suggests gold members will only get free games in the months leading up to the new xbox and not through or after it's launch which sounds very disappointing if it's just a trial run. I'm equally inclined to rant on the selection as we pretty much all have halo3 still or aren't interested in it anymore, same for assassins creed 2, and fable 3 was such a horrible game that's a complete waste of your life to play, it's a real slap in the face, and I would bet my controller that they don't include any DLC with the games either. Lets also not forget the X1's complete lack of ANY BACKWARDS COMPATIBILITY, meaning these will be worthless to anyone that actually buys the new console.

The X1 also now has new twitch tv support? For me with all the amateurs maybe not a plus but at the same time it may help some people that are good that couldn't broadcast before, and either way it's a plus because I'm sure it'll make people happy even if it upsets just as many people or more. Though again betting my controller I would say you probably have to have a gold subscription for such things.

Previously I complained both consoles wouldn't have 4k, turns out that I'm probably wrong as a few reports suggest they will both handle 4k though I highly doubt that this will include the 3d they're going to undoubtedly force on us, as from my understanding on bandwidth of HDMI and it's cables is limited to the point it should in theory be incapable of properly supporting both at the same time. Though the new revision of HDMI 2.0 in the works may be capable it's not yet finished and may not be ready come the promised november ship date.

Given that E3 just started I'll probably have a few more of these posts coming in the next couple days.
For my fellow G4 watchers it's horribly depressing that they as of yet to my knowledge have no E3 coverage forcing us over to Spike which is some BS but I guess it doesn't matter considering I haven't watched much G4 since Kevin left AotS and less since it was cancelled. I hate NBC and their BS especially the person they put in charge to "revamp" the network which has gone on record as planning on changing G4 "from geek to sheik" which I could literally feel something in me die when I heard that. So don't expect anything out of G4 for E3 news just stick with Kotaku and hope for the best. Also don't forget to stop by the PS@Home E3 booth for some cool items and some trailers.

On the Used Games side of things

As a dev I get the wanting my fair cut of used game sales I really do, but I've got to say everyone is going about it all wrong because they don't know what else to do. They're enforcing all this BS DRM and relying more on dlc than actual disc content in the hopes of making up these sales. The end result is everyone suffers so I can get what I deserve and that's just not right because then I feel guilty about it.  As a consumer I'm more than enraged at the manner in which console developers think they can treat us hence why I plan on sticking with pc for at least this entire next generation and assuming I ever break down and get a console this next gen it would be ps4 as I wouldn't consider touching the X1 unless my life depended on it.

I'm all for tightening the screws on gamestop to get what I want but not at the cost of the consumer as a direct result. If as a byproduct gamestop were to do something to the consumer I'd probably be fine with it. All the more reason I probably won't even launch for consoles at this point.

I can't even comprehend how some of you are actually defending the consoles already it's beyond insane, how much are you willing to take for the sake of a sub par gaming experience marred by an endless stream of practices they remind you of how much they hate you every time you look at them.

The question then comes "well what would you do". To me the answer is simple, reward not punishment. Offer incentives to those that chose to validate and activate their game with some kind of registry service. Have a built in system for game loans, trades, and sales between friends or on an open market. Taking the steam market as a somewhat partial existing example when I no longer want a game I can look at the market and see the average buy/sell prices and list my game with an automatic portion of the sale being sent to me the developer or if it's between friends then possibly forgo my cut, ignoring potential profits from game trades or gifts in favor of moral dignity and happy customers. Offering rewards to repeat customers or bulk buyers.

The game loaning system might work like blizzards spawn where you can both play as long as one of you has the game lasting until someone in the party leaves and nobody has it anymore. Possibly having full on loans that just keep you from playing while it's on loan allowing you to recover it at any time and start playing, with the person it's being loaned to simply having their access removed next time they connect. Rental fees could be applied towards purchases. There are a lot of options out there and most of them are just as easy to implement as any DRM and make people like me infinitely happier.

Realistically gamestop should be absorbing the fees on used game sales with this next gen. If you buy a used game from them then they should be obligated to provide you access to play it which means covering that nasty fee publishers want to charge us for buying it used. I don't know how else to articulate my feelings on the slap to the face this DRM setup is and what needs to be done to fix it. I hope someone gets the message soon that this won't stand, I'm sure I'm not the only one that's just not going to be buying into the BS anymore, I'll be sticking with less hassles and forgoing exclusives for the sake of less stress by sticking with PC till things change.

On the note of piracy provided we're somehow still using game boxes with discs and manuals I would say that probably your most effective tool would be including something physical the players must rely on to some degree to play the game. Looking at the Metal Gear franchise in various games they had it where you needed to consult the manual or look at the back of the cd case to continue playing the game. Perhaps in a future game they might include a cypher in the manual you need to decrypt messages to continue, randomly generated text with a key code so you can't just look up a guide online to bypass it. There are a number of ways you can go about handling piracy other than aggravating the consumers with intrusive and unnecessary forms of DRM. 

Rising Flames over the X1

I was watching the news channels all day a couple days ago as the massive flaming ball of fodder that is M$ unloaded on us with all the nonsense I mentioned before. This time adding the extra fee for each person watching a show that the kinect detects which from my understanding if it doesn't detect at least one person every so often it'll automatically pause whatever you're doing? A reminder that even though you can "turn it off" some games if not all will require it to some extent and it's always "listening" even when the whole console is off. They managed to confirm the publishers having control over used game fees and daily connect which somehow I'm reading across the board as "not so bad" compared to last time I read it as "they must burn for this". I'm equally enraged at having to connect every day not as some student abroad or military personnel which have their own problems aside, just as a matter of considering myself there are sometimes days I go without playing other times I may play with the console disconnected, sometimes I'll come home and decide to grab it and run to a friends to play something without having it on for a few days prior and of course it would be the friend that doesn't have internet, or visiting a cabin in the north for a week in the summer and wanting something to do at night, any number of times where I simply won't be able to play if I have to connect every day. The heavy reliance on the cloud still worries me especially when considering games that won't be able to run without it especially if they're big titles that lots of people will be playing.

Then the nightmare over loaning games or even just playing them on your account at a friends house. If you're at a friends house your "once every twenty four hour validation" bumps up to every hour, that's right if you don't validate at least once an hour at a friends no more gaming for you. Granted the 10 family members sharing should cover most friends you'll play with but it won't cover any gaming events you go to like competitions or dorm room throwdowns. Who knows how it'll interact if two people one of which is on share folder with you are playing and one of you leaves? I'm still steaming over the idea that if the kinect sensor detects more than one person watching a movie with your for example then it's going to insist on charging you an extra fee for each person watching, I mean honestly WTF!!! Somehow despite all this the pre orders for it are through the roof according to apparently ... blockbuster? since when were they a legitimate source of pre orders? Now that my initial awe at the controller is out of the way I can confidently say that it isn't that great either the buttons are actually a bit horrific the only thing they did right might be the sticks and that's a matter of personal preference I still would like the crosshairs, that having been said apparently batteries are not completely gone as I once thought, it will not be shipping with native 4k support, and using a usb cable on the controller will not stop battery drain only slow it down and from what I can tell will not recharge any rechargeable batteries or LION packs w/e it is they're going to use.No backwards compatability either not even for the arcade titles.

Really just at the end there's probably two dozen or more other things I'm not even going to mention the end result is that if you buy an X1 (xbox one if that wasn't completely obvious by now) for any reason other than a portable grill or to have something to laugh at then may whatever deity you worship have mercy on your soul and know that I pity you and your clear self hatred and foolish spending habits. Excuse me while I go save hundreds and thousands of dollars getting my games from steam or online shops at amazing discounts all day every day all year and have access to my games when and where and how I want. Granted it still doesn't have game loaning, sharing, selling, etc but at least I know the deal and honestly with the kind of money I save I can buy copies for all of my friends if it's that big a deal. Let's not forget the awesome marketplace either that lets me sell in game generated items for real cash, the mods I'm free to install at my leisure even encouraged to do so with official workshop support, my free multiplayer, and all the other awesome things I get from being a pc player. The main thing is I know my deal with steam I know what to expect and what I'm getting and it's nowhere near the headache just listening to the X1 announcements is.

I'm as tired of writing about their nonsense as you are of reading it so I'll leave this as a small reminder that it doesn't matter what M$ says at E3 their console was burned from inception and I refuse to rant on it further wasting both our precious time.

June 07, 2013

Off The Clock

What do I do when I'm not working? Well I like to think that I never truly stop, even when my fingers aren't flying away I'm always thinking, but the truth is I try to start my mornings slow and end the day with a little relaxation. Mostly if I'm not working I'm either playing or watching. Games I play are all over the board but most often I hit up whatever I have installed on steam (290+ games) using some random picker or whatever I have selected from my last play through. Sometimes I'll grab a mod tool and make something lately that's been starcraft 2 map editor. For my random game picker I use " " and if I'm watching games it's usually though sometimes it's a random stream from or a random site. I try to make time at least once a week to catch up on all my shows which I faithfully aquire through non standard means in order to watch them all as quickly and efficiently as possible with the most control and the least commercials. I also take time to read up current gaming news and developer articles/journals to keep my skills up to date. Really it's a fairly boring line up, same as most anyone, I doubt most of you can honestly claim your regular routine is anything so amazingly fantastic that you have a new and unique life changing experience every day.

I almost started this blog actually as a tv show review guide. Aside from the manner in which I tell my friends about tv episodes which tends to be humorous I also happen to catch a large number of shows. The reason this blog isn't that blog though is because I am a bit selective, if a show is clearly not to my interest I won't watch it, I've got plenty of other things to fill my time than to waste it with something I won't enjoy. I tend to watch a show to completion even if it's bad assuming it's a finished series, if it's ongoing I'll finish a given season then quit. Though I'm getting the feeling I've shared this with you before mentioning what a mistake tru calling was and how not even eliza dushku could save it...

Moving on I would mention the recent show with kevin bacon "the following" which apparently kevin bacon tweeted a spoiler though I must've missed it. I would say it's not a spoiler though and there's actually room for "Joe" to come back. If you remember that extra guy in the cabin they killed? they only found one body at the lakehouse when there should be two. Not to say it's a giant possibility but it's not impossible and I like the idea of Joe as a return villian as opposed to the wild cult in the wind idea. Just something to consider.

I also have this nasty habbit of picking shows that just don't last. I bothered to calculate it once and around 76% of shows I like to watch get cancelled within a year of me starting to watch them and new shows not making it past a second season. How bad is this you might ask? Given how many shows get canned all the time. I started watching "House M.D." after avoiding it so long on early season 7 maybe late season 6, before I remember them announcing season 8 would be it's end. Terminator sarah connor chronicles, dollhouse, fringe, legend of the seeker, jericho, the riches, chuck, heroes, prison break, the cape, deadzone, farscape, lexx, leverage, dirty sexy money, the tudors, hung, reaper, las vegas, oz, six feet under, weeds, lie to me, breaking in, my own worst enemy, ringer, nip/tuck, arrested development, cult all meet the criteria I listed in that they either did not survive past a second season with me watching from the beginning or were cancelled shortly after I started watching with some like fringe I knew I'd love so avoided watching for a long time so as to avoid jinxing it by chance then getting canned the second I did. Not to be so self obsessed to say that it is my fault but it's a statistical anomaly. Granted some of them clearly deserved to be cancelled or were bound to fail from the beginning.

Shows that survive this or clearly didn't follow under the same setup even if they're ending now or have ended lasted longer than 2 seasons of me watching, burn notice, dexter, attack of the show, warehouse 13, game of thrones, rookie blue, revenge (I hope), lost girl, being human, shameless, walking dead and breaking bad. I watch a lot of other shows some of which also survive however the key difference is I hate them, I hate watching wilfred and yet for some insane reason I keep watching the new episodes. The list is also a little incomplete given that I can't remember all the shows that I've ever watched that have been cancelled and yet at the same time I can say that it seems like the shows I don't watch tend to survive substantially longer than the shows I do, and as of right now there are a large number of shows in a state of limbo, either they haven't yet made it to season 2 or have only just begun or are currently in season 2 pending official renewal for a third season. if you're interested in knowing more shows I watch I suggest you visit my pearltree where I have a fairly comprehensive list of all the current shows I keep track of that haven't been cancelled yet though some are off season.

if you want to hear more of my thoughts on tv shows and various episodes leave a comment and if I get at least 3 or 4 of you interested I'll start adding it to my regular posting routine. Though we'll have to decide if I should include spoilers as in some cases like the recent game of thrones ending I knew that was coming and after it happened it was spammed everywhere but maybe you really didn't want to know? I know a lot of friends were very upset that I didn't tell them while I sat laughing at their horrified faces.

June 03, 2013

An Actual Game Update

So I've been discussing a lot of things lately, different theories and details on upcoming hardware, etc. The question then is what's up with my games right? Are they dead in the water or what? The answer is I've been doing some very heavy updates. I managed to get a budget and around 5 people to work with me on a per project basis, it's not stable income for them but it's all I can afford at the time.

So basically what we've been working on is primarily graphics for as nice as my work might've been it was nowhere near where I wanted it to be, which of course is a very substantial problem given that I also needed it to dynamically fracture, keeping in mind I started this before I knew about UE4 coming out anytime soon. I managed to with the help of my new workforce create a dynamic coloring system and a new mesh painting system. Sadly for me supposedly all this was already available in UE4 which I guess some devs can get their hands on already but I clearly don't have that kind of money. Anyway the new graphical system we setup is fairly wild and it'll be making good use of those 4+ million colors monitors claim to be capable of displaying. Lately I've been playing a bit with some of our color saturation levels and color bleed/blur to really give the whole game a very unique look and maybe if I can afford to setup shop at a small booth at pax east or something then I can really get a foothold and some publicity. This has actually come in the form of yet another mod on how meshes are treated in the game for the most part and some revisions on particle effects all of which I would really love to get my hands on UE4 to play with by default to see how we compare. One of the interesting things though is now we actually have the ability to make blood trails for one things, if you shoot someone and they're bleeding all over the place but run away you can follow them from their blood trail, which I also made some new equipment items to highlight this and make it easier. I also added some new functions to some existing weapons to leave things like plasma trails you can trace back and such. Lots of fun getting all that done and now the game is actually looking like something I'd really want to play.

I also revised the controls a bit for improving how movement was handled and it's far less convoluted now though not quite as free form as before. I also removed the tier play and instead set it up as tech level playlists if you want restricted play. I took a lot of what I read from alpha reviews from the UofM testers I had for a while and put it to heart to make revisions. It's really almost a complete overhaul of the game. I'm very happy though at what I managed to accomplish with the leveling system and that hasn't been touched much beyond balancing.

I also added a few dozen accessory items and weapons etc along with another type of tracer round this kind lodges itself inside of a target's body and if they escape it shows them like a heat map through walls so there's no hiding, this kind of ammo however is only available on the very high levels and is a very expensive upgrade. Speaking of which I managed to finally include a money system I think players will be happy with though we'll wait and see how testers react. Basically upgrades are now divided into genetic/experience upgrades, and monetary upgrades. Some upgrades will cost you exp/mutation points, and others will cost you money, however these upgrades are one time expenses non recurring as what you're essentially paying for is research more than anything. Some of the lvl upgrades for the tracer ammo for example are it's range, how close you have to be to detect them, and if it leaves a trail behind to follow if they do get out of range, the color of said trail so you don't confuse it with other players, and a few other nifty things. I also had to make it so medics can learn how to remove these things and treat any residual effects like some versions can be upgraded to inject something in the bloodstream so even if the tracer is removed the effect lasts. I also added sub-upgrade menus for some items that can diverge like that. The medic field is probably one of the most heavily revised sections of the upgrade menu and specialist classes are also now their own upgrade menu rather than tying them in with the existing soldier upgrade menu. So this means you gain separate experience when you play on team 3 and 4 which are support as compared to teams 1+2 which are objective based. As a refresh team 4 is vehicle drivers and their support gunners tied to the vehicles, where team 3 is medic, sniper, heavy artillery, and mech/tank. Support xp is not exclusive to that team or any specific role in it. For example most players on team 2 are also supporting team 1 which is the primary objective completers and killing anyone aiming at one of them will award some support xp, rather on team 3 you just gain more, and any such xp earned can be spent on any role. I am still working on the matchmaking bit of it giving preference to track record then to xp based on who wants what roles randomly assigning someone to the role if no such person exists or has opted out. Indeed you can actively deny wanting to be a support member. If everyone opts out then the game will just pick someone at random but I don't see that as being an actual problem as the odds are quite low.

All in all I've been hard at work and while I am still working I'm still looking for work elsewhere because I'm working out of pocket so far and that requires income something which I'm sadly very very low on. I really need to properly thank my few team members for working in such a manner and with so little to show for it so far. If you're interested in joining them feel free to contact me and I'll set you up with something to work on. Maybe in my next post I can include some screenshots.

June 02, 2013

What advances in SSD's mean for future gaming.

With the blistering speeds of a couple of SSD's in raid 0 today can accomplish will likely be just standard speeds for a single disk in the coming years and when you're capable of transferring multiple gigabytes of data per second well... you can do some very interesting things. Up until now we've either had to deal with waiting on loading screens or have them hidden in the background while we do other things. Granted we've gotten much better at making them shorter and less obvious and they're not exactly going to disappear anytime soon, yet we can now consider doing things we wouldn't have considered before given that we're not as restricted. It may also come to pass that we simply load the entire game all at once when we start it up and actually do end up getting rid of loading screens, except of course the one, which would still likely be shorter than your average screen these days.

Consider that some if not most SSD's released in the last year have transfer speeds upwards of 500mb alone and easily reach 1 to 2 gb with an extra drive or two in raid 0. If future drives transfer at 2gb/s and the generally largest games of right now like max payne 3, witcher 2, etc are usually around 25gb having 15 seconds to load the entire game is comparatively short and could easily be optimized to load priority materials first getting you to the main menu and / or game much quicker. I would say that it's unlikely that game file sizes will increase much beyond that in this same near future. By the time these drives are a reality I would wager 25gb a game would still be considered quite large as the average right now is usually between 4 and 8gb with larger games like skyrim being 13gb by default before mods. This is where things start to get interesting as once you have the entire game at your disposal the question can then become what can you really do with it?

For starters provided your graphics card can keep up with it you'll be able to have substantially higher definition textures and resolutions. Larger high quality worlds to play around in will also be a likely reality. There's room for some innovation in the idea however as much good as it does it also opens an easy door to developers in a crunch in that they might not focus as much on optimizing everything.

Also consider how it might effect services like steam when you're capable of having multiple games fully loaded at a time to rapidly switch between. I'd wager to say the steam overlay might end up including a new game launcher feature down the road and games more often getting split up into sections like they do for call of duty in which single player and multiplayer are considered separate parts. If you have related games then hopping from one to another like mass effect 1,2,3 you might not want to exit and rather just skip right over bypassing the normal exit and launch steps. This might also have a mechanical advantage to game devs for some creative ideas of having multiple games running simultaneously. This might include playing a minigame puzzle while playing the main game for added bonuses or as a trial to proceed, rather than traditional boring mini games you can design a fully featured stand alone game to launch within the game. Just one of many considerations.

What it comes down to is SSD's will have you playing bigger and better games or at the very least newer games faster than ever before while opening doors to amazing potential. I'm excited just to see what I can do with the tech and how it might change game development processes.

May 27, 2013

Xbox Losing Sight

It's going to be a long and upsetting post, if you didn't know much about the next xbox buckle up it's going to be a bumpy ride.

Browsing through this month's game informer I'm a bit more worried than ever about the state of xbox. While I've been a pc man these last couple years prior to that I was an avid xbox gamer for a multitude of reasons. I also experienced the headache of xbla publishing yet that wasn't my reason for leaving. Simply put the playstation plus service was so great it made me ashamed to pay for my online play of xbox and prompted me to switch heavily to playstation and pc. This is also part of why if I had to choose the next round of upcoming consoles it would probably be the ps4 though at this point neither really excites me. The only major launch title that has me hyped so far is the new Metal Gear and even that isn't going to move a single console in my direction.

To the point though given the article on indie devs I must say the guy they interviewed clearly didn't have a good grasp on how bad the situation is or was seriously downplaying how many people have jumped ship. If they don't start paying better attention to details they're going to get another shock like they did with the always-on backlash.

I'm still eager to see though just how everything will actually turn out, and I always love checking out new interfaces even if they completely suck. Though I will say that I miss the old xbox blades looking back on them now they were kind of obtuse and the NXE is a better flow that's just more efficient but look at how much style they cut from it an how simplistic it's become. The xbox is suffering from the designs being placed on this extreme multimedia center and family friendly garbage they've been forcing on it. I understand the desire for market share but at some point you have to ask if you're alienating your loyal customers, the ones that come back for more and generally buy the bigger ticket items with some frequency. It won't help you to have more customers if you lose the more important market share.

Really the vibe I'm getting is xbox is trying to move out of the gaming market all together. Rather than branch out into other areas it looks like it's practically abandoning it's roots. It's moved from a more mature gamer orientation to more child and soccer mom friendly. Abandoning the mature games in favor of E and T ratings leads me to believe they'd rather compete with nintendo than sony. Clearly the Xbox has lost sight of where it came from and what it was meant for. The controller design itself was meant for shooters, a natively mature rating and often the home of hardcore gamers. Late in the generation suddenly xbox decided to focus on copying everyone else to get more grandparents and children playing simple minded games for some reason. The xbox was never intended as a "baby's first console" and the sooner they realize that the better they'll be for it.

I'm not saying it might not be nice to have some of these multimedia features they've detailed or for it to function like an HTPC but when it comes down to it, it should not be to the exclusion of gaming given that it's intended for games first and other entertainment second and as of yet he have heard barely anything to do with it's gaming abilities, at least in comparison to it's all important role in the family living room. You know that room... the one where everyone is constantly walking in front of the tv and everyone argues about who get's to control the tv for how long and depending on how young you are and how old your parents are might not even be allowed to hook up the console to the tv at all. I remember back when I had my first psx and n64, my mom was convinced that consoles ruined the tv, bleed the color out, and generally destroyed them. Thankfully I had my own little screen I'd had since back in my early nintendo days still working like a champ. Over the years I've since replaced it probably a hundred times or more by now and yet I've never been without a screen of my own for my console, and I've never bothered having it anywhere near the cable box. I happen to think that's the real common place of it too, is that most people keep their consoles by their computers, maybe the largest tv they have without being pestered by someone else about it, or otherwise not generally so important that it be near the cable box. The average family home now as at least 2 tv's if not more and I am quite sure that if you live with someone else that might ever complain about you hogging the tv an they want to watch cable then you probably don't have it hooked up to that tv.

Side note of the day being that cable is losing market anyway. People such as myself are finding plenty of other ways to watch what we want how we want. From hulu, to netflix, and torrents we watch only what we want to skipping most if not all commercials and for those of us that just can't give it up there's always the dvr and I'm fairly sure nobody intends on actually replacing that with their xbox especially if they only have one. It just invites a headache and I know I'm going to love hearing the rants about this kind of nonsense down the road.

With the big reveal having been said and done there are plenty of other things to gripe about. The xbox team has clearly gone out of their way to change a lot, and that sadly is not a good thing in this case as they're changing too much and all the wrong things. For starters your after market equipment like those expensive turtle beach headsets won't work on the new xbox. The awesome controller has been altered in a lot of ways, some for the better some for worse but my real complaint is probably the shell design. From what I can see the side for your hands is at an annoying angle and perhaps too long and clearly a significant step away from the ever so comfortable design we have now which I would be happy with only a slight redesign to incorporate some of the other features they plan on forcing on us. For example the battery is finally on the inside but can be removed and replaced if need be.  Back to the bad news the next xbox is coming up short in up front processing ability compared to the ps4 which we've already established is lacking for what we expect of next gen, however it appears that both consoles will support 4k after all, though that most likely does not include 3d. Apparently the wizards over at MS decided to go with cloud computing to address this issue which might've been alright if it weren't for a few obvious things like the fact that if one thing is going to be needing more processing than the console can handle then there are likely other such consoles also offloading their work to each other which means that likely nobody will be able to play some kind of supreme call of duty in 4 years so intense you need the power of 2 whole consoles to handle it, add to that the fact a lot of people turn their consoles off when not in use which means they're not free to do computations for everyone else, and down the line, in the end it can't be relied on to solve the lack of up front power. Though you may not have a choice as the always-on rumors continue to rage, with microsoft not giving any clear answer on the subject which at the very least has said you'll likely have to connect to the internet at least once a day to play or do anything with the console. Forced installation of games to the hard drive doesn't help much either in particular when you consider how small the hard drive is likely to be and how large your collection will inevitably grow to the point in which you have to delete things which you might not be able to re-download even with the disk. Speaking of which there's plenty of rumors flying around about their DRM which has lead many to believe that you may not be able to play used games, you can buy and sell them sure but good luck playing them without the one time use only code that's hard locked to a single profile. Maybe they're trying to take a page from steam, the problem is they're taking the wrong page, as it's the one we kind of all wish they'd tear out and replace with something nicer and friendlier. To clear that up a bit my understanding is that you'll have to pay a "used game fee" which I hope to hell gamestop takes into consideration somehow because I can tell you right now I absolutely will not be paying for a game twice under any circumstance no matter how cheap. As to the presentation itself from what I understand we pretty much agree that it was a big let down with M$ focusing more on the absurd tv watching capability of the whole thing than games or more importantly exclusives. Basically showing the EA sports line up which is on all the consoles anyway and isn't even a big deal considering most gamers aren't big sports gamers either, and COD ghosts which again will be on all platforms, and they rushed through even that. I guess we'll have to wait and see what they do at E3 as they promise that will be all the gaming related material, but why wold they even have a press conference if they're not going to get it all out there to begin with? instead they just keep abusing the people that actually are interested in finding out and ticking us off so that we clearly don't want the console. If I had to pick today which I'd be getting and it had to be between the next xbox and the ps4 it'd be the ps4 absolutely for as much as the ps4 might irk me it doesn't at any point actually anger me because they know better by now, xbox on the other hand every time I turn around it's trying to push something on me that I don't want, that it clearly doesn't fully understand/comprehend, and isn't even implemented all that well. They're also insisting all consoles come with a connect which apparently will have to be always connected and that is almost a deal breaker for me, the chances of me buying the next xbox are next to 0% and I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if they decided to also force you to download patches for everything along with those mandatory game installs. Let's also not forget your kinect is almost mandatory and must always be connected and it can not be replaced. That last one is a really big potential problem.

You might be wondering "well... what did they do right?" and that's a post I'll reserve for after e3 and more info comes out. As of right now it appears the only thing they've actually done right is including enough fans to keep it from overheating and causing rrod like last time, and even that's not a sure thing as they've designed this one to be "more dense" which likely means a lot more heat.

Final side note is supposedly this next xbox will include multiple gpu's which might either be interesting or a fatal flaw that destroys the console like the cell processor for the ps3 did. If it's too complex to work with then it's game over for xbox. If however it's a hardcore gpu for games and a kind of softcore gpu for basic multimedia or even an apu considering the processor is designed by amd then perhaps it might be a very powerful addition in helping ensure smooth operation across the board for all this proposed multimedia functionality which will likely not get used very much. I hope they see how much of what gets done with their next console and learn what people really want in a gaming machine which is what they're labeled as, then implement it because they clearly have no idea what they're doing anymore. The entire xbox concept has almost destroyed itself trying to conform for this idea of being for everyone and getting this kinect up and running as a motion controller etc it's just constantly chipping away at itself and sooner or later it's going to completely break itself. I really hope someone sues them for forcing kinect on us in this manner btw. Just someone that gets a game that uses the M$ official "assumption of voice and gesture" that can't play because of some disability and they just lose it and sue everybody. If you're reading this start building your class action now because there's actually a good chance it'll happen, as evidence I present every suit filed over the RRoD in all it's forms, the disc tray ring problem, and really every other suit ever filed against xbox, I find it particularly funny the guy that won his case after he got banned for some reason and sued them because he couldn't access the services he paid for and wasn't given a refund.