Wednesday
Mar192014

Lightinggate and Dark Souls 2

With the release of Dark Souls 2, the deaths are already beginning to pile up by the millions. While the game has received a mostly positive reception, there has been some attention called to a few differences between the final game and some demo footage seen prior to release.

 

The issue centers around some of the lighting and graphics seen in the previews that isn't fully reflected in the final game. The problem now is that some people are claiming this was an intentional move by From Software to trick users into buying the game. watch the video below for a comparison between the two.

 

 

Before we even address the specific differences highlighted by the video, let's say flat out the notion of From trying to deceive a notoriously loyal fan base is completely ridiculous. Even so, From Software has scheduled a press release for next week specifically addressing this topic. Let me save you the time and predict what they are going to say.

 

During the development they noticed that the impact that lighting systems had upon overall performance of the game was too much, and they had to tone it down in order to keep a high and stable fps.

 

The Souls series hasn't been the smoothest playing series, with framerate issues in areas like Blighttown in Dark Souls 1. I don't think it's that big of a deal to make adjustments to the lighting in order to deliver smoother play, and in fact they should be applauded for making those changes. Remember, this game was released only on last gen hardware, that has been struggling to keep up with modern game development for quite some time.

 

That being said I fully expect the lighting system to be implemented in the PC release on April 25th. After their mess of a PC port for Dark Souls, From promised to do right by the sequel, and it's not a stretch to think they will try to harness the hardware advantages gained during their port to PC.

 

As far as the actual difference between the preview and final release lighting, the preview clearly looks better. Shadows are clearly defined, there is a warmth and radiance to the reflective light and the fires have a crispness to them. Even the textures on the floor in the second area are more detailed. Obviously this took a hit on the framerate, and has to be dialed back a little bit for the final game. Look closely at the embers trailing of the torch to see a real difference in appearance.

 

While it is unfortunate they could not get these enhancements into the final build, it is a sympton of running on old hardware, and these differences aside From has still managed to create a beautiful game. For the console owners out there, enjoy it and stop complaining. You got your game, and it is the glorious punishing sequel you have been waiting for since the end of Dark Souls 1.

 

UPDATE:

The PC edition of Dark Souls 2 was pushed back a week until May 2.

Also, creator of the original DSfix for Dark Souls on PC Durante was granted early access to the upcoming PC port  and said "I wish I was allowed to talk right now and irrefutably demonstrate just how ridiculous the idea that DS2 PC assets aren't improved over their console counterparts is." 

Friday
Feb282014

Titanfall Hyperstrike

 

With EA's newest venture into the FPS world Titanfall set to release in two weeks, this calm before the storm is the perfect time to reflect on its recent beta. I wanted to wait a little while before pushing this out in order to collect my thoughts and make sure I didn't let the Titanfall frenzy get to me. The devs at Respawn insist that gamers not feel obligated to buy the game on hype alone and it's easy to see why, the game is great.

 

Created by the guys who are responsible for the FPS empire that is Call of Duty, this is their first game since the split with Activision. This game has pedigree and it shows. Many of the familiar systems made popular by COD are present: custom loadouts, weapon attachments, a leveling system and the tight gunplay the franchise was founded on. The real game changer with Titanfall is the range and fluidity of movement, an innovation sorely needed by a genre that has devolved into annual rehashes. The speed that can be attained by the player and the verticality afforded by the wall running and double jump almost call back to the days of Unreal Tournament and Quake 3.

 

I'm going to call it like it see it, Titanfall is going to be big. Maybe not GTA V big, but it's the console-seller that the Xbox One needs and the PS4 wishes they had. While I must admit I don't find piloting the titans as enjoyable as being on the ground, the mechs play an important role in zone control similar to more conventional vehicles seen in Battlefield while also offering another layer of depth. While it has become somewhat popular to hate on recent editions of COD due to the yearly rehashes, Activision's treatment of Infinity Ward or even the idea of Bobby Kotick trying to steal the money from out of your pockets, Titanfall has the ability to reinvigorate what has become a somewhat stagnant genre.

 

The controls are as tight as ever and Respawn has done with the refining the strong core mechanics that have been iterating on for years. Their choice of using the Source engine as the backbone of the game is especially adept because it allows for good scaling to ensure strong performance on both console and PC. The graphical fidelity is as sharp as any game on the market, and running the game at full blast makes the first time you jump into the cockpit of a titans truly awe inspiring. Now that I have sung the praises of the rebirth of FPS, there are still a few issues that need to be addressed.

 

When the news came out that the max player count was 6v6, there was public outcry fearing the worst. I abstained until I was able to test it out during the Beta, and I have to say the fear is partly justified. Towards the end of the beta, people developed a strategy in which the best way to win was to use the smart pistol and farm the minions as quickly as possible. While minions are worth only a fraction of a player kill, the speed at which you can farm them, both with and without the smart pistol, often lead to the highest scores owned by players with 50+ minion kills. I feel like the player limit needs to be upped to at least 8v8 and the number of minions reduced to combat this strategy because it devalues actual player vs player combat. This is less important in other game modes like Last Titan Standing, but since Attrition is their Team Deathmatch substitute and will almost certainly by the most popular game mode, this is one of the most pressing issues.

 

The smart pistol itself is a dangerous weapon. It allows a wielder to keep any enemy in a huge reticule (see above) for just a few seconds and then guaranteeing multiple hits on players or instant kills on minions. I relatively sure there will be a huge cry of people calling it a noob weapon when used against them, and can sort of see why because when combined with the cloaking ability can often leave limited room for counterplay, especially at the casual level. To be clear, I'm not saying the gun is overpowered, but I believe it needs carefully monitoring after the game is released and I wouldn't be surprised to see the lock-on time be increased or otherwise nerfed slightly in some manner.

 

Another common criticism is that there is little to no recoil for most of weapons, but I think that is a necessity balanced out by the speed of the players. With added recoil it would be extremely difficult to hit agile players, and was seen in the beta by the incredibly small amount of people using sniper rifles. While there are certain long distances that afford a sniper great visibility, the speed at which enemies can close on you and the increased exposure makes sniping a generally bad proposition.

 

Finally for PC users, it is a shame to see the lack of dedicated servers and the menus seem to be hamstrung by the desire to make sure everyone works most efficiently on the console. This is even less appealing since they have ceased their efforts to implement cross platform matchmaking.

 

I haven't enjoyed a FPS game as much as this since Quake 3 with an honorable mention for Modern Warfare 2 and the early days of Team Fortress 2. This revelation was a shock in and of itself and combined with the release of Destiny this year, I more excited about shooters than I have been in over five years. Maybe it is the new IP or just a cyclic occurance due to the current rise of MOBA's and despite being pushed back from the Xbox One release window, Titanfall will be entirely worth the wait. I'm not going to bother with a number or score, but if you like shooters even a little but have been waiting to get back in the game, Titanfall deserves your time and consideration.

Saturday
Feb222014

The Future of Pop Culture

Over the last week one stream has gone from zero to the largest channel on Twitch, broadcasting a black and white Gameboy game from 1996 no less. That channel is Twitch Plays Pokemon, and its popularity has grown to peaks of over 80,000 concurrent viewers.

 

Twitch Plays Pokemon is the perfect example of a novel idea combined with technology showcasing new forms of pop culture. The channel is a playthrough of a hacked and emulated version of Pokemon red, but instead of having one person inputting the commands the channel takes input from the chat. It has been programmed to understand all the d-pad directions and A.B, Start and Select. This is the kind of audience interaction major media groups can only dream about but are instead forced to throw hashtags and calls for "Likes" in your face. At the time of writing they are have already acquired 4 badges and continue to progress at a slow but steady pace. Even setbacks such as depositing their entire roster into the PC and the difficulty of using Cut have only gone to increase the viewers everyday. Difficult puzzles have also been conquered, like the barrels in Lt. Surge's gym which was conquered on the first try.

 

While the recently implemented site wide 30 second delay between video and chat has made even more challenging, like a million monkeys banging away on million typewriters they production continues on like an unstoppable force.  The channel has even already spawned copycats and followers in its wake, with channels showing a RNG generator playing through the same game and a crowd sourced playthrough of Final Fantasy I and II.

 

And in a week or two when the chat conquers the Elite 4 and vanquishes their rival the channel will probably fade into obscurity again, albeit while leaving behind a legacy of Twitch Plays All the Games.

 

But it goes to show how with the invention of the internet, pop events spring up and pass by before the mainstream even notices. This trend will only continue and accelerate, and that's fine. It has become so easy to reach out to others with similar tastes and interests that there's no time to stand up and shout so others will notice, they won't care anyways. The point is, get deep into what fascinates you, as deep as you can and stop caring about what the Jones's think. Otherwise the only one really missing out is yourself.

Tuesday
Jan072014

AGDQ 2014

 

It's that time of year again to highlight one of the best speedrun events of the year with Awesome Games Done Quick 2014. The event started on January 5th and runs all the way until the 11th. The best runners from Speed Demos Archive will be blasting through some of the best games of all time and raising money for the Prevent Cancer Foundation at the same time.

 

At the time of writing they have already surpassed $185,000 on the way to a hopeful goal of over half a million dollars. Tune in to see your favorite childhood games bent and broken all for a great causes. Donations also make you eligible for prizes such as figurines, plushies and more. 

 

Who says games are a waste of time? Check them out at gamesdonequick.com

 

Update: Markus Persson aka Notch and creator of Mincraft just tossed in his yearly support for AGDQ with a $10,000 donation.

Wednesday
Nov202013

Make Youtube Yours Again

 

 

 For anyone who’s been on Youtube recently, you’ve probably noticed the havoc that the recent Google+ integration has had on the commenting system and overall performance of Youtube as a whole.

 

It’s gotten so bad that some major content producers are claiming that Google is gaming their own system to reduce negative feedback and criticism about the recent changes.

 

Others like TotalBiscuit, Boogie and PewdiePie, Youtubers with over a million subscribers each, are turning off comments for their videos and instead using Reddit and other sites in order to correspond with their viewers.

 

It’s times like this that remind us that there really aren’t very many alternatives for Youtube. Dailymotion and Liveleak are slow and riddled with clunky players, and while Vimeo has great quality, their supporting infrastructure is a little weak.

 

So until this mess is resolved here are some tips and tricks to make Youtube work the way YOU want it.

 

Slow Playback 

Youtube has changed the way it’s cached and buffered its video often resulting in poor playback. One option actually comes from Google themselves in the form of the Youtube Feather Beta that for many videos can increase the speed and responsiveness of their player. You can opt in and out whenever you like, so don;t be scared to give it a try.

 

Ads

The Adblock extension for both Chrome and Firefox is a great way to get rid of those intrusive ads, especially when the ad you are forced to watch is longer than the video you are trying to get to. There is even a mobile version for smartphones. Adblock also remove ads from website during general borwsing as well, helping keep clutter to a minimum. Just keep in mind that Youtubers and many of your favorite sites depend on those ads for revenue, so be sure to help them out and whitelist their pages.

 

Comments

To disable comments for your videos you can go to the Video Manager > Select which videos you want comments disabled  > Select actions > Scroll down to advanced > Select comment > choose the option you want.

Alternatively if you want to get rid of comments forever, the No Youtube Comments extension for Chrome and Firefox is also available.

 

User Interface

 

The layout for Youtube is constantly under construction, whether you know it or not. For older users of the site they may remember the wonderful grid layout for the subscription page which made is much simpler to keep track of the latest uploads from your favorite subscribers. Download it for Chrome and Firefox.

 

The Kitchen Sink

 

Magic Actions for Chrome and Youtube Center for Firefox can fix a whole litany of Youtube issues such as always quality auto-select, disabling comments, Cinema mode, auto-play options and more. 

 

There's no reason to get pushed around by changes that make your experience wose, and with these simpletricks you don't have to.