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 " whatthefuckshouldiplayonsteam.com " and if I'm watching games it's usually insomniacgamers.net though sometimes it's a random stream from twitch.tv 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.