The Deliverator – Wannabee

So open minded, my thoughts fell out…

Archive for the 'Gaming' Category

The Funnest Game You Haven’t Played

Posted by Deliverator on 3rd December 2007

If you are looking for some great free entertainment, I highly recommend trying out Trilby: The Art of Theft, a side view stealth platformer created by Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw. Yahtzee is perhaps best knows for his Zero Punctuation reviews of video games over at Escapist Magazine. Yahtzee is not exactly known for pulling punches when it comes to reviewing games, so releasing his own work for public scrutiny takes some balls. After having played Art of Theft incessantly for the last week, I have to say that Art of Theft rises to the same high standard by which Yahtzee judges the games of others.

Art of Theft places you in the sound muffling slippers of Trilby, a fledgling master thief who serves as protagonist in several of Yahtzee’s other games. Art of Theft takes place before the other Trilby games and places you in the role of a younger, not so world wise version of Trilby as he attempts to hone his skills and make a name for himself as a catburgler without equal in Chapow City.  Towards that end, Trilby sets out each night to perform ever more daring robberies, while confronting a secret organization only known as “The Company.” As Trilby, each night pits you against a series of guards, security cameras, laser trip wires and other hazards as you attempt to pilfer your way to your goal, usually a certain amount of loot stolen or a particular item recovered. At the end of the level, you are given an overall score and accompanying reputation points based on metrics such as number of alarms set off, number of guards tazered, time to complete the level and amount of loot stolen. In between levels you are shown a cut-scene which moves the story along and then you return to your hide-out where you can practice your moves and purchase new abilities using those hard-earned reputation points.

You can go back and re-visit a particular heist over and over again to attempt to improve your score, but you will only earn additional reputation points if you manage to improve your overall “grade” for the level. I found myself re-playing many levels dozens of times in my quest to get a perfect score (0 alarms, 0 tazered guards, very fast completion time and almost every last bit of possible loot collected). I have so far managed to achieve perfection on 5 of the 7 standard levels. Having beaten the game, you are rewarded with a 8th “master thief challenge” which requires you to run through all 7 of the previous levels successfully without stopping and with a limit of 7 alarms triggered and 7 guards tazered.

Trilby:  The Art of Theft is a game with a lot of replay value and a lot of hidden humor and bonuses hidden throughout. It is definitely a game which leave you wanting more. All I got to say is bring on the expansion pack!

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Bioexhausted

Posted by Deliverator on 25th September 2007

I finished Bioshock today in one long marathon session where I played through the last 4-5 levels straight with only short bathroom & drink breaks. I managed to get through the game without harvesting any of the Little Sisters and thus got The Good Ending. I beat Fontaine/Atlas on the first try, albeit with barely any health left. I think I would have preferred a bit more extended/challenging final fight to make taking down Fontaine a bit more satisfying. The final fight is more or less a straight run and gun in a big arena setting, which will present little challenge to the experienced FPS player. I would have preferred having to evade Fontaine’s attacks and somehow use the environment to weaken him to the point where his ADAM could be harvested. All in all, though, Bioshock is a MOST satisfying ride with dynamic gameplay and a great backstory. I haven’t felt this immersed in a game since my battle with The Combine on the streets of City 17. HIGHLY recommended for FPS fans.

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Bioawed

Posted by Deliverator on 30th August 2007

I took the day off work (not hard, since I am my own boss) to finish up the advance order form for the Toronto Film Festival and hand it off to Fedex for overnight (AM) delivery to Toronto. As a result of the waiting around for the truck routine, I had my first chance to spend some quality time with Bioshock. Readers of my prior post regarding widescreen vertical field of view issues will be pleased to know that a resourceful programmer going by the handle of Racer_S has released a fov fix utility. You run the utility before running the game and can specify the vertical and horizontal field of view. The suggested fov for both values for 16:10 monitors like mine is .84. After setting the value, just launch Bioshock and then hit the * key to set the fov to what you specified in the utility. One can also adjust the fov on the fly by hitting the + and – keys on the numeric keypad. One user on the Widescreen Gaming Forum is apparently using the utility to play the game on a three display system using a Matrox Triplehead2Go screen splitting unit. 2k Games, Bioshock’s maker, has taken a lot of heat on this issue has just announced that they will release a patch to allow for native widescreen support with no vertical clipping, while simultaneously not admitting to the problem. They claim they intended that the major of PC players would be playing the game on wide screen monitors and adjusted the FOV on widescreen monitors to best fit the game dynamics. That owners of 4:3 aspect ratio monitors have a larger vertical FOV (despite the clipped widescreen fov being supposedly optimal) is so that they wouldn’t have to do letter boxing on 4:3, which be confusing and generate complaints from those users. Damned if you do/don’t indeed.

Anyways, once the FOV issues were fixed using Racer_S’s utility, I played Bioshock for a solid chunk of the day and finished off the first “big boss” of the game, a plastic surgeon gone mad in search of aesthetic perfection. My technique for him was to hack a security camera in an adjacent room, then lead him in sight of it, which causes the camera to call in a number of flying security drones. I let the security drones soften him up for a while, using my lightning bolt emitting fingertips on him from time to time to stun him, creating a stationary target for the security drones. After the good doctor had killed off the security drones, I hit him with a couple more electric blasts and then moved in for the kill using my shotgun. Simple, straightforward and efficient. I lost hardly any life and only two full bars worth of EVE in the encounter. I’ve heard some really creative ways of killing him. My favorite technique thus far is to hack the health dispenser in the rear of his surgery room (which has a few feet of water covering the floor). You light him on fire using the immolate power up, which will cause him to run into the water to put himself out. Once he reaches the water, you electrocute him using the lightning bolt power up. He will be very low on health from this, so he will run to the hacked health dispenser, which is now programmed to damage, rather than heal opponents. There is a particular elegance to the design of the game in that it encourages you to find creative ways to kill your opponents. This is not your father’s FPS with plentiful ammo and constant run and gun the only technique. The lack of resources (roughly broken into health, EVE (mana) and ammunition will have you searching every desk drawer and trashcan you come across and really encourages you to find creative ways to kill your opponents, using the environment itself wherever possible.

Speaking of the environment, it is as graphically rich as I have seen in a game, with great lighting effects used for your augmented powers, smoke, fire, water, etc. Screenshots of Bioshock gives you a little sense of the eye candy, but you really have to see it in full motion to get the full effect. The sound design really sucks you into the game and will make you sweat and shiver with lots of ambient noises and the muttering of Rapture’s deranged inhabitants. FEAR is the only recent game that comes to my mind where sound contributes as much to the feel of the overall game as in Bioshock.

Despite some major ranting in the last few days about technical issues with Bioshock, the game itself has sucked me in and I anticipate some very long nights spent in its thrawl in the next few days.

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Upgraded to Play Bioshock

Posted by Deliverator on 28th August 2007

As mentioned previously, I’ve been contemplating some upgrades to my current machine in order to play Bioshock and some of the forthcoming games like Crysis and Half Life 2: Episode 2 in all their eye popping glory. I went ahead and upgraded my Nvidia 6800 GTS to an Nvidia 8800 GTX with 768 MB of ram. This new card is definitely a monster. It takes up two full slots, requires two PCI Express auxilary power connectors and extends well beyond my full size motherboard’s edge. I try to keep the cable routing in my case very clean, but had to do some major revamping to shoehorn the card into place. It is hard to describe how massive this card is without seeing it. I have a very hefty Lian Li V-1000 full tower case and it barely fit! I can’t imagine the physical/logistical difficulties that people run into when trying to run SLI rigs with these massive cards.

After installing the latest “Bioshock capable” Beta drivers from Nvidia, I went ahead and downloaded and purchased Bioshock through Steam. After finishing the rather hefty download, I went to play the game and got a lovely back screen and the hard drive light flashing furiously for the next few minutes. I initially figured it was just taking a long time to load, but eventually got fed up and hit C-A-D, which revealed a lovely crash message. I searched Bioshock’s and Steam’s forums and found several hundred other people complaining of the same problem, but no immediate solutions. I went ahead and ran a number of graphically intensive games and benchmarks just to ensure it wasn’t a card/driver issue with the video card, updated the drivers for every device in my system, etc. Finally, I went to Microsoft’s website and downloaded the latest redistributable copy of Direct-X. Turns out the Bioshock needs some updated Direct-X 10 components and not just the ones that came with Vista. Bioshock’s makers don’t bother to tell you this in the game documentation or ensure that you have the required components by bundling the latest version of DX with the game (as has been done by many other game makers in the past) and Microsoft hasn’t rolled the updates out over Windows Update or make people aware that Direct X has been updated. Way to go guys! Virtually every DX 9 title runs significantly slower on Vista than XP and Direct X 10 titles are few and far between and seem to add little in the way of compelling eye candy over their DX 9 modes/counterparts. Not a great start for DX 10 gaming, imo.

I finally got the game to launch and tested it enough to ensure that it plays well on my computer, but I was dismayed to learn of a few issues while browsing the Bioshock forums. It appears that Bioshock doesn’t currently properly support widescreen monitors. To see the full intended field of view, you need to play on a 4:3 aspect ratio monitor. If you play it on a widescreen monitor, the game clips the top and bottom off what you would see on a 4:3 monitor, so you actually see LESS of your environment by playing on a widescreen monitor…you just see it bigger. These two issues really pissed me off, as pretty much every major title in recent years has had proper widescreen support and any halfway decent QA process should have caught the widespread “black screen” crashes. There are a lot of people that are speculating the Bioshock was rushed to market in order snatch $50 out of gamer’s wallets before Halo 3 hits stores.

I also went ahead and ordered an AMD Opteron 185. The 185 is a dual core 2.6 GHZ with 1 MB of ram per core. From what I have been able to find out, this is the fastest CPU on the market which will work with my current motherboard. Although much faster Intel cpus are available at a similar price, I would have to upgrade my motherboard and play the reinstall dance, which I really have no desire to do in the near future. Between the 8800 GTX and the Opteron, I should be able to squeeze another few years of gaming life out of my box.

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Games that make you want to upgrade.

Posted by Deliverator on 19th August 2007

It has been quite a while since a game came out that made me want to upgrade my computer to better experience the game. The last game to motivate an upgrade was Half Life 2 and my system has remained relatively unchanged since that time. My current main gaming computer is a dual core Athlon 64 3800+ with 3 GB of low latency memory, a Nvidia 6800 GS graphics card on a Asus A8N32 Sli Deluxe (socket 939) motherboard. I am also unfortunately running off onboard audio due to Creative Lab’s lack of support for my SB Live 5.1 Platinum under Vista. Two games are coming out in the near future that make me want to upgrade my system to experience them properly. The first is Bioshock which has built an incredible amount of buzz around it and is receiving unparalleled ratings from various game publications. The second is Crysis, a quasi sequel to Far Cry, a game which really raised the stakes when it came to creating vast outdoor environments and less rigorously scripted gameplay. Both games have substantially higher realistic system requirements than my current system is capable of handling. My system meets minimum requirements to be sure, but “minimum system requirements” tend to be a joke on games like these which would lead to a very unsatisfactory gaming experience. I am not opposed to some upgrades in order to play these games at their best, but really don’t want to spend the time and effort to completely overhaul my system.

My current thought is to upgrade my processor and leave my motherboard alone. Intel currently has the performance lead by quite a bit, but moving over to an Intel based platform would require quite an overhaul. AMD has moved away from Socket 939 for their dual core offerings and moved to the AM2 platform. AMD has basically discontinued production of Athlon X2’s on the 939 platform, which makes it difficult to simply plop in a higher clocked version of what I have in there now. I did find that I can still get a few Opteron processors that are socket 939 compatible and that my board is listed as supporting. The best I could get would be a dual core Opteron model 185, which has two cores clocked at 2.6 GHZ with 1 MB of L2 cache each. This would be a nice improvement over my existing dual core processor which is clocked at 2 GHZ with a smaller cache size per core. It looks like a retail boxed version of the Opteron would run me around $300 with a OEM version running maybe $250-260.

I would also upgrade my video card at the same time to something in the Nvidia Geforce 8 series. I would like to be able to play these two titles comfortably on my 22″ monitor at its native resolution of 1680×1050 with a decent amount of eye candy turned on. Hopefully I won’t have to buy one of the higher end cards in the series to accomplish this or move to a two card SLI system. The top of the line 8800 GTX card with 768 MB of ram runs a rather pricey $600, while a lower end GTS model with 320 MB of ram is almost half that price. Running two cards in an SLI configuration might also be beyond my current power supply’s 500W capacity. My UPS monitor agents tell me I am currently using about 235W of power, but that is essentially at idle. With a faster video card and CPU thrown into the mix, I expect to be pushing several hundred watts beyond my current usage.

At the same time, I have been meaning to find a replacement sound card for quite some time. My current onboard sound card has very poor sound isolation, which means I can hear things like hard disk activity noises being amplified when the volume is cranked up. I would like to find something with good Vista support that also has an integrated headphone amp and 1/4″ outputs. I didn’t have much luck finding such a beast last time I looked and would rather avoid a Creative Labs solution if I can at all help it. I have been burned by Creative Labs one too many times.

If anyone has any thoughts on the matter, I would love to hear from you.

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Desktop Tower Defense Addiction

Posted by Deliverator on 5th June 2007

I have been playing Desktop Tower Defense quite a bit *ahem* this week. I have experimented with a number of map layouts of my own design and have hit on one which seems to work quite well. I managed to get 9929 points and get to wave 78 in “The 100” gameplay mode. I still think there is some room for improvement with this map, especially with regards to ensuring that the lower areas of the map are better used and can come under effective firepower. The map still has some difficulty with the “spawn” type of creature splitting across rows and escaping the most effective areas of fire. Here are a couple of pics you can use to replicate the design should you care to fool around with it.


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Biggest Time Suck Since God Invented Black Holes

Posted by Deliverator on 29th May 2007

I present Desktop Tower Defense. Do not click on this link if you need to be productive sometime in the next decade or so…

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Is that a Shub-Niggurath in your pocket?

Posted by Deliverator on 20th February 2007

For quite a while, it has been possible to play Doom on the Nokia 770 and Nokia N800 internet tablets. Recently, it became possible to play Quake 2 on the n800, thanks to a port of Quetoo, a speed optimized Quake 2 engine, to the Maemo platform. The port requires the user to copy the original game files to the external SD card slot manually, after installation of the applcations itself, and then edit a config file to set key-bindings and other options. The game clips along at a decent pace at 800*480, although for smooth frame-rates you are better off sticking to the default 400*240 resolution. I found playing Quake 2 on my n800 using a Nokia SU-8W Bluetooth keyboard to be almost tolerable. Having to drag the stylus across the screen left something to be desired, however. I hope someone gets bluetooth mice working on the n800 pronto! Quetoo on the n800 really demonstrates the power of these amazing little internet tablets. It really is like being able to carry around a full fledged computer in your pocket. Quetoo also demonstrates the benefit of using Linux as a basis for portable devices. To my knowledge, this port was pretty much a straight recompile from the Linux source. I can’t wait for OpenMoko! Now that will be a real smartphone!

Here is a video of Quake 2 running on my n800.

Posted in Gaming, Linux, Portable Computing/Gadgets | 1 Comment »

The Great Dalmuti Party of ’06

Posted by Deliverator on 31st December 2006

The McElroy family invited the Marsh clan and various others to their house for a New Year’s Eve’s Eve party. Much fun was had by all, especially by Ryan, who held the throne of The Great Dalmuti for much of the evening. Ryan required the person whose ill luck it was to be the Greater Peon of any particular round of the game to show his respect by bowing down, kissing his ring, doing the Hokey Pokey and other silly things. The Peon had to sit on a particularly uncomfortable folding chair, while The Great and Lesser Dalmuti’s sat in wonderful high backed chairs. This is a wonderful party game and I highly recommend it. After about a dozen rounds of Dalmuti (and after having spun around in circles to show my obeisance), I was feeling a bit ill, so I went into the other room and lay down for a bit. While away, the game switched to another game called Set, which also appeared to be quite fun.

A general gallery of the evening is available here

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Half Life 2: Episode One

Posted by Deliverator on 4th June 2006

Valve recently released the latest installment in the Half Life series, Half Life 2: Episode One. Valve has done something quite different this time around. Instead of making you wait six years between installments (the period between Half Life 1 and Half Life 2’s release), they are switching to an mini episodic release cycle of a year or two. Source Engine, argueably the best gaming engine around will receive technology bumps with each episode’s release, but the focus is going to be on generating the high quality content that has made the Half Life series argueably the most successful in FPS history. Each episode will cost about as much as your average game expansion pack, and can be purchased and installed through Steam, or purchased on cd. The cost on Steam was $20. Frys had it on cd for $12, but I decided to go the Steam route, as I dislike cd checks, greatly.

Spoiler Alert!!!

Read the rest of this entry »

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