Category Archives: Uncategorized

Quietly Rising

2016-01-28 18_35_48-Gamasutra_ Ramine Darabiha's Blog - The Quiet Rise of the Hobbyists

Screenshot of Ramine Darabiha’s blog on Gamasutra

Am I still doing it quietly if I’m blogging about it? 😀 Here’s a great quick read on Gamasutra about the increasing number of hobbyist projects in video games, etc.: “Quiet Rise of the Hobbyists,” by Ramine Darabiha. On a related note, check out this article on Vice by Joe Donnelly, “Experiencing ‘Deep’, the Virtual Reality Game That Relieves Anxiety Attacks.”

Tangentially related to my own wheelchair accessibility project, I came across this awesome Mr Mondialisation article regarding an adventurous-life-involving-a-wheelchair author. It’s in French, so if you need it, here’s a direct link for Google-ized English. Some time I’d love to get a sky car working in Ayuma Project 1….first I need to do an elevator!

As always, thank you for stopping by.

 

Wheelchair accessibility sim Ayuma Project 1 gets mentioned in Ars Technica article comments

A 3GB update to UE4.9 is downloading right now, and I took a quick break from pondering which anti-malware program to go to for the coming year to look at this blog’s stats, and noticed a spike with some incoming from Ars Technica. It turns out my VR-oriented wheelchair accessibility simulation project got a mention in the comments of the article “Virtually ready: Diving into VR’s most promising PC launch titles,” by Kyle Orland and Sam Machkovech (Sep 11, 2015).

Ars Technica VR article comment from user

Ars Technica VR article comment from user Ostracus: “Related in a way but one of the things VR may be good for is simulating what life in a wheelchair is like.”

The comment links to my first post about the project. What a happy surprise! Thank you, Ostracus. I don’t have an Ars Technica account yet, but in the meantime, if anyone that does have one sees this post and passes it on to them, I’d appreciate it.

The comment’s content provides a nice context for discussing some tricky issues; l will save that for a following post. The project has been on necessary hiatus for the summer, but now I am returning to it in earnest and will post more about progress as it goes.

Ayuma Project 1: WIP peek

A brief update; picture first – current state of a testing map:

Ayuma Project 1 work in progress

The big building at the upper left will is an art exhibition space. Thanks to this tutorial, and this answerhub post that cleared up an issue I was tangling with, it has sliding pairs of entry and exit doors as a blueprint class. The way you add things into the blueprint matters; I also ran into a similar issue before with my vehicle blueprint for the wheelchair, where I didn’t get something properly attached to the wheel handler.

I’m usually listening to music while working; a couple I played this morning that stood out: My Parasol’s chill Spacetalk (live), and Spazzkid’s quick Random Flute Guy (both with cool videos). Thanks for reading 🙂

The Music of “The Sea will Claim Everything.”

A little while ago, a friend posted about Chris Christodoulou‘s score album for the game Risk of Rain. Though the genre of music, with a lot of hard-driving metal guitar, was not the sort of album I would listen to over and over, I had to check out Chris’s other albums, so I clicked on his score album for The Sea Will Claim Everything, and was entranced. I think my favorite track is Habanera of the Sun, and the name makes me smile. The whole album is lovely, and Bandcamp made it easy to buy it and download a high-quality version of the album.

Chris Christodoulou - The Sea Will Claim Everything, on BandCamp

Chris Christodoulou – The Sea Will Claim Everything, on Bandcamp

OFF TOPIC: Building μManager in Windows 8.1…Changing the Platform Toolset for Projects

This is a bit off-topic for this blog, but I banged my virtual head against this for long enough, with enough dead-end googling, that I want to record this somewhere in the hopes that if someone else is similarly perplexed, they might find this entry.

I was working on writing a simple device adapter for μManager, which is a Visual Studio 2010 project, but I was using Windows 8.1 and had Visual Studio Express 2013. So, the solution that came with the source code was set up to use the platform toolset Windows 7.1SDK, which I did not have installed, and don’t think I could get properly installed on my system….I tried uninstalling my existing C++ redistributables and installing it, and kept getting failures. So, I looked for how to change it and was puzzled, and saw some other people in various forums asking the same thing. So, here are some screenshots for how to change it.

VS Express 2013 platform toolset screen 1

1: With the project (not solution) highlighted, click on the wrench icon at the top of the Solution Explorer

VS Express 2013 platform toolset screen 2

2: In the pop-up window, at the left, select Configuration Properties > General

VS Express 2013 platform toolset screen 3

3: Click Platform Toolset.

VS Express 2013 platform toolset screen 4

4: Choose the Platform Toolset you want (in my case, Visual Studio 2013 (v120) seems to be working for building device adapters.

VS Express 2013 platform toolset screen 5

5: OK out, then save or (I think) it reverts back when you reopen.

These Games I Did Not Know I Had

This morning I was pondering what the first video game I ever played was, which led me to Googling “my first video game.” Sifting through ones that were about making a first video game, I saw “An Entirely Subjective List of My Favorite Video Game Romances.”  Some of my friends were discussing the phenomenon of having real feelings towards characters in various forms of media, inspired I believe by the quote on this t-shirt (I’d link to the origin, but I wasn’t readily able to find it):

Single, taken, or in love with a fictional character

Single, taken, or in love with a fictional character?

The Mary Sue article, though, is about author Becky Chambers’ favorite portrayals of amour dans les jeux vidéo. The first entry is Johnny and River in “To the Moon:”

2014-02-17 09_02_59-Screen

Screenshot of p.2 of “An Entirely Subjective List of my Favorite Video Game Romances,” by Becky Chambers, on The Mary Sue

Chambers’ compelling description led me to look up where to get the game, and there on the Freebird site, right under “Get Full Version,” I see that it’s also available on Steam….so I open the Steam window to search the store and see how much it is, and to my great surprise, I see in green:

"You already own To the Moon," Steam Store

“You already own To the Moon,” Steam Store

This is a first for me, becoming interested in a game and then finding I already have it. It’s a milestone in my shifting relationship with games, an event that I know that many others have previously experienced.  Like some of the other recounts I’ve read, I think I got “To the Moon” as part of a collection – I’m guessing a Humble Indie Bundle – so that accounts for some of it. Still…I grew up with games, I’ve been playing them in one form or another for around 35 years. Sometimes I may have forgotten playing an arcade game before, but not a game I owned. When the Xbox library got big enough and there started to be a sizable collection in Game Stop used sections, I had to start carrying a list of games I was interested in to make the search easier, but not a list of games I already had. Not anymore. I wonder what my younger self would have thought of that. I don’t think he would have imagined in 1e+17 years having a game and forgetting about it.

Hopefully, I will get to playing “To the Moon” some today.

Steam Achievements

The topic of achievements on Steam came up in a conversation I was part of recently.  I have some seventy games in the Steam library, though I haven’t played them all – some of them came along as part of a package deal, or as a bonus for a charity donation – but I have spent cumulatively hundreds of hours among them.  I must have a few dozen achievements logged, though I don’t pay much attention to them and actively try not to. I recognize their usefulness to the Steam and the game developers, but I dislike them myself – they act as a meta-game, reminding the player that they are playing a game, and in general I go for non-competitive world simulations (my Bartle gamer psychology result skews very far towards world explorer), not things with scores, and achievements just further gamify this kind of thing, reminding me that I’m playing a game, reducing my immersion. Imagine if a bell went off when you were reading a book and had turned to page 31, and a pop up exclaimed “ACHIEVEMENT: JOURNEY BEGUN! YOU’VE READ 30 PAGES!,” and after you have finished reading the book, there was a score of 7/10 glowing on the book’s spine as it resided on the shelf, because you hadn’t completed 3 remaining achievements (maybe reading it a second time, reading it backwards, and reading the extra content that is also for sale but that you hadn’t bought yet, and you can’t get the full 10 out of 10 unless you do, when what you want is to enjoy your book) and you get the idea of how perusing my Steam library can feel.

As an example, I have 185 hours in Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, and it says “ACHIEVEMENTS: You have unlocked 30/75 (40%)” The Elder Scrolls series doesn’t really feel compatible to me with the notion of achievements – you create a character, and largely play how you want to.  I don’t need to see a big 40% grade (a failing grade in many other contexts) every time I enter that world; it’s irrelevant but still carries a “work harder” tone that just makes me enjoy the game a bit less.

thesegamesiplay_2014-01-14 14_04_40-Steam

My current Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim start screen in Steam.

A further example lies in Just Cause 2, which I have enjoyed mostly because for its helicopters. In the context of the game itself, killing is a necessary evil – the player character, Scorpio, is a CIA operative sent to promote US interests in an South Pacific island nation run by a cruel dictator that recently came to power through a coup.  The national militia has orders to find and stop Scorpio, so he gets shot at a lot, and does have to return fire. Scorpio is presented as somewhat conflicted about this, though he is willing to do what it takes to “free” the nation. His superiors inform him that collateral civilian damage and casualties are regrettable but not prohibited.  If Scorpio injures a civilian, he utters an apology (usually from a distance that they wouldn’t hear – if they survived, but it shows the character’s mind set).  As the player, you can decide some for yourself whether Scorpio actually cares at all, but at least his cause is implied to be just (or, alternatively, he’s doing what he’s just ’cause…).  For me personally, I’ve played the game mostly for the helicopters, as JC2 (somewhat bizarrely) has the most fun and engaging helicopter semi-simulation I’ve played so far (it’s not very realistic, but the controls are easy to understand and feel good, and the scenery supplied by their excellent terrain modeling is quite cool, which makes it fun to fly over.  The disposable and easily replaced nature of the helicopters reduces stress, yet they still feel at least a little valuable. Yes, this parenthetical is going a bit long).  However, every time I start the game:

thesegamesiplay_2014-01-14 14_04_21-Steam

My current Just Cause 2 start-up screen in Steam.

Among the Steam “achievements” I have remaining to be attained are:

  • Unarmed and Dangerous: Kill 50 enemies with melee attacks
  • Piñata Party: Kill 5 enemies with melee attacks while they’re suspended with the grappling hook.
  • Wrecking Ball: Kill 5 enemies by smashing them with an object tethered to your vehicle with the grappling hook.

These goals are purely sociopathic, and don’t fit with my understanding or enjoyment of the game at all, but they are what the game shows me at start up, even with a progress bar telling me that I haven’t gotten around to having Scorpio committing these virtual atrocities and so my play experience is as yet incomplete (84%), while the game proper disagrees (a bug keeps this from ever saying 100%):

My current Just Cause 2 start screen.

My current Just Cause 2 start screen.

The Steam “achievements” completely unnecessarily temper my enthusiasm for what otherwise was generally a good play experience.  Furthermore, I have a firm belief that there is massive potential for interactive simulation to promote (at least) individual well-being and development – intellectual, emotional, and physical – and this stuff is basically the opposite. If there have to be achievements, I would like more like “Bridge Limbo: Fly an airplane under 30 unique bridges in Panau.”

Not an airplane, so I don't think this was lining up for Bridge Limbo...

Not an airplane, so I don’t think this was lining up for Bridge Limbo…

Another sunrise seen from the Rowlinson.

Another sunrise seen from the Rowlinson.

Speaking of the 3D monitor, my old Benq mentioned in a previous post is now in my lab, and for my home monitor I traded up to an Asus VG278H 27″, which I am liking.

Kirby’s 100% Epic Yarn

Here’s something I did a few weeks ago:

Kirby's Epic Yarn - 100% complete load screen

Kirby’s Epic Yarn – 100% complete load screen

For the most part I had good fun getting to here. My only previous experience with the character Kirby was maybe a half-hour spent with a Gameboy game on someone else’s Gameboy, so it may have been more accessible to me than for those that were hoping for a true sequel (which, as I understand, has arrived since).  I especially liked the sense of joyous playfulness throughout all of the main game.

Kirby's Epic Yarn - completed Patch Plaza bells.

Kirby’s Epic Yarn – completed Patch Plaza bells.

I felt it was a missed opportunity that unlocking all the bells was not accompanied by any fanfare at all. I don’t mind that, so far as I can tell, ringing them has no further purpose than just to ring them, which I suppose you could use to play a tune but with stilted pacing and no rhythm, but even a celebratory “YOU DID IT” moment, and maybe a tune played out on the bells would have been nice. Kirby’s friends showing up and being impressed would have been cool – particularly since Buster kept expressing his personal disappointment in Kirby whenever one of his challenges was failed, it would have been nice for him to have a scene were he said he sees now why people praise Kirby’s skills. Actually, one of the things I really like in some games like this is when you reach 100% and you get a little thank you message from the developers, like with Muramasa: The Demon Blade. 100% in Epic Yarn didn’t have this, but thanks to our more connected world, at least I get to do this the other way around, so, to the people of Good-Feel and HAL Laboratory, thank you for making a game that was this much fun to play 🙂

Hunting the Depths….at the bottom, at the bottom of the sea…

I’m sure there is a lot going on in blogging this weekend about The Stanley Parable, as it just released on Steam a couple of days ago.  I spent several hours playing it yesterday, and while I don’t have my thoughts collected on that yet for a post, I did enjoy my time with it thus far and part of that was because it played well in 3D.

My computer is actually set up for my scientific rendering work, so I have an Open-GL-oriented NVIDIA Quadro 4000, which includes “3D Vision” compatibility. So, I also replaced my older Samsung monitor with a Benq XL2420TX “3D Vision 2” monitor – as far as I could tell, the difference between 2 and non-2 is that the infrared signal LED is built into the monitor.  I have used this combination to make a couple of 3D side-by-side stereoscopic movies animating topography obtained from atomic force microscopy, and it’s a dream. The monitor is also supposed to switch to a lighting mode that is better for 3D when you have a 3D thing going, and that it does, but at least mine often fail to switch back when you quit the 3D app.  Right now my screen is looking washed out, even though I quit out of the game last night, and I’ve even power cycled the monitor – I think I will have to reboot to make it switch back. And yes, I do have the most recent drivers. Now that I look, I see that the monitor has since been discontinued…I wonder if this was part of that.

Whatever marketing and review sites and blogs keep bandying back and forth about the merits and appeal of 3D displays, I think it’s great when it works well and the viewing material is suited to it, and the Source Engine games I’ve played so far on it – the Half-Life 2 set, the Portals, and now Stanley Parable – have all worked very well.  So, this put me in the mood to revisit NVIDIA’s 3D Vision Ready game list to see what else was out there now that would would work completely correctly – that is, the game has been set up to be totally 3D compatible, with no odd non-3D placed sprites or other weirdness; Saint’s Row 3’s rendering, for example, is fine in 3D, but the game has a number of effects that are not 3D located, so they appear to just hang in the monitor’s viewing plane and are all wrong. Just Cause 2 works almost completely right, except for the sprites used to label enemies…and also, even with the detail level set to minimum, my card doesn’t handle parts of it at a tolerable frame rate, especially cut scenes for some reason, but tooling around in the Rowlinson helicopter works pretty well in 3D, and that is a good time.

So, back to the list, one of the games under “action” is “Depth Hunter,” a game I had not heard of, so I go over to Metacritic and see it has only two reviews listed there, and only one of those is clickable, but it’s at gameover.gr, which is in Greek. Of course, these days Google Translate can make that something I can try to read, so I go for it – and got some great amusement for my day.

I’ve preserved the translation in the two jpgs below. There’s no trouble discerning the meaning of nearly everything there, but, the section titles – awesome! Together, they’re like a surrealist beatnik poem.

At the bottom, at the bottom of the sea…

The fish … my sleep …

Please … Your dreamy waves …

Not … my snub …

Now I’m looking to see where I might be able to get the game from, and whether the game has time limits or if it will permit just wandering around.

Gameover.gr review of Depth Hunter - p1

Gameover.gr review of Depth Hunter – p1

Gameover.gr Depth Hunter review - p2

Gameover.gr Depth Hunter review – p2

Poor Sportsmanship in the World of Tanks team chat

Wikipedia says this about poor sportsmanship:

A competitor who exhibits poor sportsmanship after losing a game or contest is often called a “sore loser” (those who show poor sportsmanship after winning are typically called “bad winners“). Sore loser behavior includes blaming others for the loss, not accepting responsibility for personal actions that contributed to the defeat, reacting to the loss in an immature or improper fashion, making excuses for the defeat, and citing unfavorable conditions or other petty issues as reasons for the defeat. A bad winner acts in a shallow fashion after his or her victory, such as by gloating about his or her win, rubbing the win in the face(s) of the opponent(s), and lowering the opponent(s)’s self-esteem by constantly reminding the opponent(s) of “poor” performance in comparison (even if the opponent(s) competed well).

Tonight I’m collecting examples of poor sportsmanship while playing World of Tanks (green text indicates message was just to their own team; white text indicates statement that opposing team can also see).

"moron team"

“moron team”

"you all suck balls. just sayin"

“you all suck balls. just sayin”

"stupid ******* team"

“stupid ******* team”

"fail team on cap"

“wowww fail team on cap”

"awesome team" "fkn idiot"

“awesome team” “fkn idiot”

A pretense of helpful critique:

"******* useless heavies at E0 the entire match. IS-8 and the E-75, learn to play already"

“******* useless heavies at E0 the entire match. IS-8 and the E-75, learn to play already”

"******* cowards don't hide when some one pushes fu"

“******* cowards don’t hide when some one pushes fu”

Singling out teammates and opponents:

"idiot"

“idiot”

"stupid KV-5" "not that stupid"

“stupid KV-5” “not that stupid”

"you suck"

“you suck”

And here, nestled between the gg-ing:

"gg" "wow, epic fail" "gg"

“gg” “wow, epic fail” “gg”

Man hands on misery to man. These were collected from just a couple of games in a row, and during those games, I think I saw one positive comment.  It may be because of my search history, but when I googled “blaming the team,” the first result was a WoT forum post, followed by one on League of Legends (which I have no intention of playing).