Tag Archives: games

Can we talk about video games?

I have about a million and one thoughts on various aspects of photography and tech (I got a Kindle Touch!) which I’m going to write about a little later, but just for now, can we talk about video games for a second?

I’ll start with this: nobody likes guys.

Nobody. Likes. Guys.

Or so says the Thought Catalog piece that sparked this piece on video games. What is it about video games, man? What is about video games that makes people start foaming at the mouth whenever someone even mentions DICE are working on a new title, or that Notch has something new on the horizon?

I wrote about Medal of Honor a little while ago, and it was while watching the new Medal of Honor trailer that it dawned on me: video games are all about enjoyment, and maybe, just maybe, feelings. When you play games like Mass Effect (I wrote about that too), with games that tell the same story over a period of years, you feel something for the characters. For Commander Shepard, and for you. When you play games like Medal of Honor and you’re falling off a cliff trying to escape from people you were previously hunting down, that feels real. For Rabbit of AFO Neptune, and for you.

I recently re-played the single-player campaign of Battlefield 3 and Medal of Honor, and it was then I realised why it was enjoyable. It was about the storyline, yes, but also about experiencing gameplay as a game designer wanted you to experience it. A game designer, sitting a desk in a country you’ve only read about or seen photos of, wanted you to experience a game in a very specific way. And not just you, but everyone who played the game. How crazy is that? Think about that.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the multiplayer aspect of games. Even more so when playing with friends over voice comms. But I was thinking about the Fallout 3 campaign, how your choices impacted gameplay, and I realised that single player gaming will always have my attention. Single player means you have unique experiences, exactly as the game designer wanted.

And yeah, a big part of these experiences are the graphics. I’ve been looking forward to the new Medal of Honor ever since I played through the 2010 game, and the new Medal of Honor trailer looks fantastic. Rightly so, because it’s based on the same engine as Battlefield 3. But what’s up with the trailer for Ghost Recon Future Soldier looks terrible by comparison? The graphics look like something out of 2005 — honestly, they’re not that much better than the Battlefield 2 intro (the Battlefield 3 remake of which is fantastic, by the way). Call me crazy, but I know there are heaps of games that offer brilliant gameplay experiences — but if the graphics just aren’t there, then I can’t really play the for any length of time.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s a combination of heaps of things that mean people play games. What I’m trying to say is that you should go read the Thought Catalog piece on The Games Guys Play, because it explains everything a little better than I just did.

Mass Effect, Tolkien, and Your Bullshit Artistic Process – doyce testerman

Let’s pretend for a moment that The Lord of the Rings was released not as a series of books, but a series of games. More importantly, the company behind the series decided to do something really hard but rewarding with the game — they were going to let you make decisions during play that substantively altered the elements of the story. That means that some of people playing through this Lord of the Rings story would end up with a personal game experience that was pretty much exactly like the one you and I all remember from reading the books, but that story is just sort of the default. Whole forums were filled up by fans of the series comparing notes on their versions of the game, with guides on how to get into a romantic relationship with Arwen (the obvious one), Eowyn (more difficult, as you have to go without any kind of romance option through the whole first game, but considered by many to be far more rewarding), or even Legolas (finally released as DLC for the third game).

via Mass Effect, Tolkien, and Your Bullshit Artistic Process – doyce testerman.

If you have no idea why people are upset about the ending of Mass Effect, but have watched and understand the Lord of the Rings, then you should read this.

Actually, you should read this anyway, because it’s one of the best pieces of writing I’ve read in a while (not to mention the best Mass Effect 3 ending-explanation-kerfuffle to date).

distellamap | ben fry

Seeing the operation of code in Atari 2600 games. This is a dual reprise of my dismap and mariosoup pieces that look at the code of cartridge games, and how the graphics are mixed in.

via distellamap | ben fry.

Dark Media X13 Wrap-Up

Last Friday was the day (and night/morning after) of the Dark Media X13 LAN. I was pretty excited for this particular LAN, as I’d heard it was the largest LAN in Southern Tassie – and with roughly 90-100 attendees, I’m probably right.

Having been to an aXon LAN (the biggest LAN party in the North) a couple of years before, I had high expectations for this particular LAN.

For the most part, it lived up to those expectations, but it was certainly a lot different as well.

Maybe it was the fact that outside of our little threesome (Martin, James and I), we didn’t really know anyone (personally, anyway – I knew of a couple people in attendance, and I was Steam friends with at least 1 other person there), but it seemed as though you were a part of the “scene”, you were an outsider. Held up and compared to the aXon LAN where Rob (our host) knew pretty much everyone, and where we felt like honoured guests rather than just some guys who decided to rock up and play some games, and we felt like we were in our own little bubble.

Don’t get me wrong, it was pretty good – sure, there was no DC++ trivia bot to keep the masses amused, but it was, undeniably, extremely well organised – you ordered your food run over an intranet, which was then put into a DB, checked off, etc – and there was a heck of a lot of that filesharing thing going on, but as for the actual games – well, it kinda lacked.

I mean, sure, we had a couple of decent rounds of Counter-Strike:Source and Killing Floor with other people, but those were pretty much the only games that were actually played with other people. The rest of the time was spent trying to find free slots from people who were sharing terrabytes of stuff over DC, or just amusing ourselves in the DC++ chatroom, or even just going off and playing our own single-player games.

I’m not sure how many other people there were constantly enjoying games in the company of others, but organising games turned out to be hellish – getting people to join (and stay!) for any length of time was nigh-impossible.

Will I go again? Sure, if only to leech more HD content that my home internet couldn’t suck down if it tried, and I’ll probably play a few games of CSS and Killing Floor here and there.

At the end of the day though, going to DM X13 taught me one thing – games are better experienced with other people you actually know. Otherwise, you’re probably better off staying home and playing with randoms over the internets in pub servers.

Choose Your Weapon


As with so many people, video games have been a major contributing medium of my cultural education since as far back as I can recall. One of my earliest memories is actually being four years old and pushing a stepstool up to a video game cabinet so I could play Q-Bert (for about 12 seconds). For this design, I wanted to highlight some of the most awesome 'weapons' from the history of video games including some of my personal favorites (but less obvious ones) like the Arkanoid paddle, the line piece from Tetris and the Katamari.

via The Limited Edition Cheap T-Shirt, Gone in 24hours! | TeeFury.

Why you should use OpenGL and not DirectX

It's common knowledge that OpenGL has faster draw calls than DirectX (see NVIDIA presentations like this one if you don’t want to take my word for it), and it has first access to new GPU features via vendor extensions. OpenGL gives you direct access to all new graphics features on all platforms, while DirectX only provides occasional snapshots of them on their newest versions of Windows. The tesselation technology that Microsoft is heavily promoting for DirectX 11 has been an OpenGL extension for three years. It has even been possible for years before that, using fast instancing and vertex-texture-fetch. I don’t know what new technologies will be exposed in the next couple years, I know they will be available first in OpenGL.

via Why you should use OpenGL and not DirectX – Wolfire Games Blog.

Pot Luck Pies

The thing about luck is that it’s always unexpected. No one ever expects good luck to happen to them, and if you’re the kind of person who does, you’re certainly bucking the trend.

A food that is found perhaps a little more often than strictly necessary, but certainly welcome during the holiday period in my house is pies. Yes, pies. Mainly beef pies, but sometimes chicken/vegetable pies also make an appearance as well. That’s all well and good – there’s nothing wrong with pies, and they make an excellent lunch when combined with a couple slices of toast or similar – but sometimes my dad will cook a whole batch of pies at once, eat some, and then refridgerate the rest. Which is cool, fine, I can deal with that.

I should point out at this stage that the pies mentioned above are almost always store-bought – while homemade pies have ocassionally been spotted in the Ling household, they’re usually too much effort to bother with on a regular basis. But damn, they are tasty.

Anyway, the point I tried to make is that these pies all look the same. Combine that fact that my dad likes to cook a whole batch at a time for later consumption, throw in the fact that he mixes different varieties of pies (beef, other assorted meat, vegetable, chicken etc), and you get: pot luck pies. There’s no way to distinguish between them when they’re in the fridge, short of taking their tops off and inspecting them manually. There’s just no way to know what flavoured pie you’ll get before you eat it, hence, pot luck pies.

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Windows 7 Shenanigans

…well, that didn’t go as planned.

What happened yesterday was completely different to what I actually thought (or had planned) to happen. My original, original plan was to move as much freshbytes stuff over to here as possible, but then I decided to use my time more wisely and play Dragon Age: Origins instead. 😀

If only that had been what actually transpired.

You see, I have this file system scheme with my Windows machine where as much as possible is moved off the OS drive. As I format my machines regularly, it just makes sense to dedicate a hard drive to Windows, and have two 1TB drives for storage – one for installed programs (okay, just Steam) and another for all my media, legally acquired or otherwise.

The way that it worked before I decided to play with it was that my User folder was on my OS drive, but the Documents, Videos and Pictures folders underneath that were moved to the Program drive. Truth be told, there’s nothing wrong with this setup.

However, I must make a special mention to those developers who think a special hidden folder in my User folder is an excellent place to store save games and other important info. Usually games store their save information, profiles etc, in either their own program folder, or under the Documents folder, or even under the My Games folder in the Documents folder. Such is the case with games like Dragon Age, BioShock, TrackMania, Rainbow 6 Vegas (1 and 2), and so on. There are certain games, however, that decide the hidden folder AppData is an excellent place to store this information instead, and without naming names, we’ll just say that a certain indie physics puzzler inolving Goo and a recent driving arcade game involving Paradise are the main culprits here.

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