Category: Miscellaneous

For the stuff that doesn’t belong anywhere else.

Rage and the Art of Reloading.

Alright folks, time for me to get a bit “technical,” as it were. This is one of these posts where I’m gonna talk briefly about a game mechanic and how it actually benefits the player subtly. I know most of my content is a bit more fluff, but hear me out on this one.

I recently beat id Software’s Rage, a solid first-person shooter/driving game hybrid. I was looking to play something after trying to beat Modern Combat 5, and this seemed like a prime candidate.

I seemed to go through a phase where I was playing a bunch of older id Software games to see their career trajectory, as earlier in the year I had ran through Doom 3 — the original, not through the somewhat inferior BFG Edition — just to see if it was bad as I remembered it. It actually wasn’t awful, and is a pretty good game. Hasn’t aged gracefully in the graphics department, but what has?

One of the more entertaining parts of the whole game. A shame it’s too short.

Which brought me onto playing Rage. As time has gone on, this game has been mostly forgotten by hardcore shooter fans, shoved off into the “oh right, that was a game” category that other id games like Quake 4, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars and that 2009 Wolfenstein game have been victim to.

It was also a changing of the guard, being one of the last major games John Carmack worked on at the company before he left for Oculus, and with most of the original people who made some of id’s classics gone, it just seemed like id was in a weird career limbo where they had no idea where to go next. Basically, they went from being the pioneers of video gaming to attempting to be in with the modern shooter crowd, and failing in the process.

But enough about id software’s midlife crisis. I wanna talk about something this game does that people take for granted. Rage has two minor mechanics that while aren’t explicitly mentioned, but really help out the player. It involves the simple concept of reloading your weapons.

In most first-person shooters, when you reload, you can’t cancel out of the reload until it finishes, leaving you vulnerable to attack. Secondly, the reload animation has to play out fully before you can fire again. In a fast-paced shooter, it can be frustrating to have to wait for your dude to slowly tap a magazine into their assault rifle and pull the charging handle before being able to shoot again.

Rage doesn’t do that. If you start reloading mid-magazine and hold down the fire button, the reload is immediately canceled, letting you expend the rest of the magazine. Secondly, if you’re reloading from an empty magazine, you can hold down the fire button before the player pulls the charging handle, letting you skip the rest of the reload and get back to shooting quickly.

You can see this in the video I shot from one of the bonus Sewer levels, but there’s a better demonstration if you skip ahead to 1:53.

It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a huge help. Rage has you fighting between the quick and melee-heavy mutants, common grunts, and big boss monsters. The last thing you want is to have to watch a painstaking long reload sequence while having enemies take pot shots at you.

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Doom modding in the ’90s: My recent fascination.

One day, I was checking out some YouTube videos, until I had stumbled upon this one by RottKing/Pordontae:

I was gonna write something about that Doom level set featured in the video, but I realized there wasn’t anything particularly unique about it. Some of the levels feel bland and featureless, other levels don’t have a sense of balance, that sort of thing — E2M9 has a fight between one spider mastermind and three cyberdemons, for crying out loud! — This is the epitome of a 1994 level. But that’s not the main reason why I liked this level set. It was the random sounds that the creator replaced.

Playing this level made me realize how amazing the Doom mod scene was during the mid-to-late ’90s.

Modifying an existing game wasn’t really new, but Doom was one of the few to openly embrace it in its early days. This lead to many creative levels, some made by people who’d later become famous in their own right.

Though this wasn’t always the case. Since the tools were fairly new, most people were making fairly dreadful levels, usually plagiarizing parts of the original Doom levels, or in some cases created tutorial levels.

(video from rybacksda on YouTube, playing through it with all secrets and all kills on Ultra-Violence, aka “UV-Max.”)

This above is an example of what most people had to offer. For 1994 standards, it was great to have another level to play, but it’s very tough to play today unless you’re like me and have a liking for crap. 😛

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Remembering Xfire: The program that was once better than Steam.

A few days ago I had found out a memory from my PC gaming past was going away. Xfire, a game chat client, was shutting down its client and account services. This news saddened me, as Xfire and me go way back.

Memories...

Memories…

To describe Xfire, it was part instant messenger, part server browser. It was a lighter, sleeker Gamespy Arcade, or for a more recent example, AMD’s Raptr client. While Steam has basically taken over that landscape, for a long time having a complimentary client like Xfire was sometimes mandatory, almost to a point where it was bundled with some games, even being used in console games like Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom, something that Sony Online Entertainment thought was fit for a press release.

Wasn't it fun to buy a game and find out that you couldn't play it? Such dark times...

Wasn’t it fun to buy a game and find out that you couldn’t play it? Such dark times…

For those who weren’t around in Steam’s early days, Steam was mostly garbage. Games didn’t run, you had to wait hours to install games (and there was no guarantee you’d get to play it right away!), and the most important feature, the Friends/Community, was perpetually broken and unusable. This is where Xfire excelled: It was a great chat client program to keep up with your gaming friends. Though it wasn’t just for Steam games, but other games where the server browser was cumbersome, like Soldier of Fortune II, or Battlefield 2, were also helpful for finding games back before peer-to-peer multiplayer was more common.

The Xfire website — which still exists, but only in a fragile shell nowadays — also had a fairly cool profile system setup. Here you could make friends, keep your favorite game servers for convenience, even take screenshots and video. All of these were considered pretty impressive for the mid-2000s, and paved the way for competitors to adapt that into their social features.

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A dedication to Red Book CD audio.

Ah, the Red Book CD audio standard. Introduced in 1980, it set the standard for audio for the next three and a half decades. But this time, we’re looking at a small portion of that audio standard.

When it comes to video games, CDs were a god damn revelation back in the day. Before then, people were working on cartridges that barely held a few megabytes. CDs held up to 700MB, and developers found out they could use that extra size for things they couldn’t have before on cartridges. Unfortunately, this led to a lot of crappy full motion video games around the mid-’90s, but they also brought us something amazing: CD quality audio.

No longer were developers constrained by the YM2612 and SPC700 sound chips, musicians could now make the music as it was intended to be heard: with live instrumentation (or a close approximation). A fair share of CD-based systems like the Sega CD, the Turbografx-CD, the PlayStation, and Sega Saturn had CD audio support. While playing these games, the rich CD audio played through your television, giving you music that you’d never heard before in video games. Okay, that might be a bit of a stretch these days, but it was a god damn revelation if you were around back then.

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Experiencing PC gaming with Intel Integrated Graphics.

Back in December 2013, I decided to trade in my hunk of junk six year old HP Pavilion PC for a new custom built PC. Running on an Intel i5-4570, 8GB of RAM and a 1TB HDD with Windows 7, I was in PC gaming heaven at the time. I couldn’t quite afford a new video card, so my 3 year old Radeon HD5770 was put into the PC as a stopgap until I could afford a new video card. It worked out great, pushing most of the PC games I had to high settings.

But then, tragedy struck. I saw graphical artifacts while playing Crysis, but thought nothing of it at the time. Several days later, my video card started spinning its fans loudly while I was idling on my PC, temperatures rising by the second. Even with a quick dusting, the card still got loud and didn’t show a picture. It happened to me again: a video card died on me. I got the HD5770 as an emergency replacement for my dead GeForce 8800GT back in 2010, and now I had another dead video card. I was amazed the Radeon lasted that long, maybe pushing all those polygons in those two months was a bit hard on the old gal.

Intel inside. I remember when that was considered amazing. Man, I’m old.

For the past month I’ve been playing other games, mostly on console. Stuff like binging the 2010 Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit reboot and Call of Duty: Black Ops II. Annoyed that I couldn’t play much on the PC, I decided to test something.

All CPUs these days come with a integrated graphics chip inside them. The most hardcore of PC gamers won’t go this route, opting to buy a video card to do all the heavy lifting for their gaming needs. I thought I’d give my i5 processor’s integrated graphics chip a shot in the meantime. After installing the newest drivers for it, I tried a bunch of games on the HD4600, Intel’s integrated graphics chip and screenshotted the results.

Boy, I was surprised at what worked and how it ran. Pretty much every game I threw at it worked mostly fine with little problems, albeit with considerably lower graphical fidelity. For several of the games, I had to kick the resolution down to 1280×720 and lowering the graphics settings as far as they could, but most of them ran perfectly fine. Here are a few examples I decided to try:

Grand Theft Auto IV

Niko looks surprised at how ugly Liberty City looks.

One of the few times “This looks like a PS2 game” is right in this case.

I never thought this could run GTA IV. The game was notorious at the time for its ridiculous hardware requirements, though we’ve made significant advances in technology since its PC release five years ago. It ran pretty well even with the HD5770, so I was totally not expecting this to work with the Intel graphics. Yet, I could run this, with everything on low, at about 15-20 frames per second. There’s a lot of model and texture pop-in, so it’s not the most ideal way to experience Liberty City, but it’s playable.

Surprisingly from what little I played, I enjoyed it. Then again, I was never into the goofy antics that plagued the earlier GTA games like San Andreas, so maybe this game is perfect for me.

Saints Row IV

Look at that view of fake Steelport. Zinyak has quite the eye for detail.

Jumping off a building, to the tune of Stan Bush’s The Touch. Only in Saints Row.

I remember slogging through Saints Row: The Third on that junky old PC. Everything on low quality at 640×480, with framerates well into the teens. Some very dark times.

When I upgraded to the new PC, being able to run that as well as Saints Row IV here on high settings with a solid framerate was a godsend. Even with the integrated graphics shown here, I can still run and jump through cyber Steelport with little problems. Drastically better than what I suffered on the old PC.

I need to get back to this game sometime, this game is pure dumb fun.

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NOT FOR RESALE: The mystery of this weird message.

A few days ago, I had snagged this wonderful gem:

Streets of Rage 2, a Sega Genesis classic, for $5. Initially I passed on this, but then I realized it’s Streets of Rage 2, a freakin’ Genesis classic. That Yuzo Koshiro soundtrack! Who could pass that up? The dummy writing this. Thankfully, I was able to correct my mistake and grab it as a wonderful addition to my Genesis collection, along with a Sonic cartridge compilation called Sonic Classics.

Granted, it’s just a cartridge copy and it isn’t in the best of shape, but it’s nice to have. There’s something special about this cartridge: The giant “NOT FOR RESALE” label on it. Anyone who’s into collecting Sega Genesis stuff may have also seen the big “NOT FOR RESALE” stickers on copies of Sonic the Hedgehog. My Sonic the Hedgehog 2 came with my Sega Genesis long ago also with a “Not for Resale” sticker on it. Many pack-in games on the Genesis also came with the “not for resale” sticker on them. It made me wonder: Why is this ugly text on there, and what was its purpose?

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Super Power Supplies: The Fall/Winter 1999 Nintendo Power Catalog.

I’ve been in a funk lately. I’ve had no drive to write any new entries or make new videos. Since I come from a pack rat family, There’s bound to be something in my room that’s worth talking about. Hold on, what’s this?

Oh boy, it’s a Super Power Supplies catalog! From 1999! Everybody loves old catalogs, right? I do, at least.

I honestly don’t know how I got this, but judging how it’s from Nintendo Power, I likely got it when I had a subscription to the magazine from 1998-2000. That was an interesting time: Pokemon was becoming a big thing, the Nintendo 64 was winding down, the Game Boy Color was a new and colorful way to play handheld games, and there were magazine covers dedicated to stuff like Tonic Trouble. This makes me realize we’ll never see anything cool like this again, now that Nintendo Power’s gone.

By this time in my gaming career, I was still a hardcore Nintendo nut, but my interest in the Big N started to fade, looking at the cool Sega Dreamcast, and later, the PlayStation 2. I still respect Nintendo, they make good stuff on occasion, even if my mom uses the Wii more than I do. But enough waxing nostalgic about Nintendo, let’s crack open this catalog.

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