Category Archives: Uncategorized

Those darn Kickstarters are eating my money

Last year I spent $100 in total on PC games (for 36 games IIRC, that year in gaming summary post has been lost with the previous version of the site). This year I already passed that, and Kickstarter is largely to blame (with Steam Gifts taking another part of the blame). I’m not one of the people paying hundreds of dollars, but considering that most of the games I bought last year were under $5, and the most I paid for a game total (City of Heroes MMO) was about $15, the $30 I paid for both the Double Fine Adventure and Wasteland 2 are way beyond what I would have expected.

Still, it’s pretty exciting to be part of something new, and these Kickstarters can be quite good value for money. In the case of games I’m sure that waiting a few years will allow me to get them for $5 or less, and there’s a chance I won’t play them until the drop that low (simply because my gaming time is very limited), but they still come with so much stuff (videos, concept art, etc.) that I feel like it’s not a complete waste of money. Took me about 6 hours to watch the 20 minute first video of the Double Fine Adventure, but I watched it, and I’m happy I did.

One Kickstarter I’m backing (which is about to end in 2-3 days) is particularly good value for money. It’s called Spirit of the Century Presents: The Dinocalypse Trilogy, and for $10 it will get you 7 e-book novels plus two RPG books.

Another Kickstarter I’m backing which will give me nothing but satisfaction is the Hermes Spacecraft. These guys are just looking for a little money to create a bigger prototype of their rocket engine to get more investment money, and I’d love it if that managed to get that money. Unfortunately it looks like they’re not getting enough interest.

Windows 8 – new veneer over the old 95 interface

(Funny how any time I want to post something which requires work, such as capturing images, that stops all my posting. I guess it’s better if I just stick to short text messages.)

It amazes me that in this day and age Windows still has dialogues which go back over 15 years. I tried the Windows 8 preview a while ago (when it came out), and was surprised to see that it still has small non-resizeable dialogue boxes, such as for internet options. The device manager also goes back many many years.

When I beta tested Windows 7 I filed a bug about this, but I guess Microsoft just doesn’t care that behind the UI-du-jour there’s stuff which hasn’t been changed since the invention of fire. This bugs me, because it just feels unprofessional.

Infinity Bundle – Brian Kramer never ceases to impress

I mentioned Faerie Solitaire before. It’s the single player game I played the most in 2011. It’s simple but addictive, and I mentioned that I pre-purchased the Faerie Solitaire 2 Collector’s Edition and got promised a spare copy, which was a nice surprise. Well, Brian Kramer, founder of Subsoap (the company behind Faerie Solitaire) is now offering the Infinity Bundle, a chance to get access to every game the company will ever make (or has already made) for a one time sum as low as $27. The amazing thing is that anyone who bought any of the company’s products before now (that is, Faerie Solitire or the Faerie Solitaire 2 pre-order) will get an Infinity Bundle key (one for each game bought).

The bundle is only available until the end of the month. Here’s a countdown widget:

Back to the drawing board

MediaPortal worked out decently enough. A little painful to install and configure, and I couldn’t get the Android remote to work, but it did play my movies and looked good while doing it, and worked with a generic remote. A little .NET exception message here and there, but I figured I could solve it.

Problem was, the USB capture card didn’t work. I know, I should have listened to the advice to install 32-bit Windows, but I’ve been using x64 for years… Well, that EasyCap 60+ only has a 32-bit driver apparently, and while there’s a driver that’s supposed to work with it that I downloaded, I guess it only works for NTSC, because the picture was cut at the bottom and the colours were way off (very bright, mainly).

So what I’m going to do is install everything from scratch on a 32-bit Windows 7, and hope for the best. I’ll lost a bit of RAM from the 4GB in the PC, but hopefully that won’t matter in practice for anything, and hopefully that driver will work out fine. I backed up the MediaPortal configuration so hopefully that will be easy to recreate (though it will probably mean I’ll recreate the exception message, too).

Would you pay $1000 for Faerie Solitaire 2?

Faerie Solitaire was the non-MMO game I played the most last year (as I mentioned in my year or gaming post on the old site), so I was pretty excited to see that Faerie Solitare 2 will arrive shortly. Developers Subsoap took a page out of the Kickstarter book and are offering a multitude of packages starting from $10 and ending at $1000, giving all sort of bonuses as well as access to the pre-release game starting at the end of this month. I couldn’t resist temptation and bought the $10 Collector’s Edition (the lowest tier), and was pleasantly surprised to find out I will also get an extra copy to gift (the sneaky devs didn’t mention it up front).

With all these Kickstarters and special offers, it looks like my resolution to reduce game spending won’t hold. I’m not gaming right now, so these expenses look unwarranted, but I will probably play some of that Faerie Solitaire 2 when I have access to it.

Adventures in HTPC-land

I’ve been dreaming of an HTPC for a while, especially since I won a passively cooled half height Radeon HD 5550. I finally convinced my wife it was a good idea and inexpensive, got the parts and now have a reasonably small PC that would fit in the living room. I plan to discuss the hardware and the software I’m trying and using in further posts. For now, here’s the hardware spec:

  • Enermax Laguna case. It’s a decently small and good looking case that can fit a microATX motherboard.
  • Phenom II X3 710 CPU. I upgraded my desktop a few months back to a Phenom II X6, so had this lying around. Used it with its stock cooler.
  • Gigabyte GA-M68MT-S2P motherboard. A cheap AM3 microATX motherboard.
  • HIS HD 5550 Silence graphics card. Won it at XSR a few months ago.
  • 4GB DDR3 1333 RAM (single stick).
  • 320GB hard disk (from an old PC).
  • DVD burner.

I installed Windows 7 Ultimate on it, for which I have a license from beta testing Window 7 (my main PC is still using Vista; haven’t seen the need to upgrade).

I tried using XBMC. It’s supposed to be an easy to use and good looking media centre solution, with a nice Android remote control (both me and my wife have Android phones), but so far has proved problematic. In particular, it’s unable to play my MPEG2 movies, created by a standalone LG DVD recorder. These movies play without problem on Windows Media Center and on my standalone streamer. I guess I’ll have to use something other than XBMC.

What would you like me to post?

I like giveaways which is why I share them on my Facebook page. I post mainly giveaways that interest me (even if I’m not eligible). I normally post PC hardware giveaways, and occasionally some others. I don’t post any giveaways which require having specific hardware to enter, such as a specific brand of product or overclocking and folding contests, unless they also give random prizes.

Given that my number of fans have grown I decided to ask you, my fans, what you’d like me to post. Are you interested in more varied hardware, such as smartphones or even media players? Are you interested in winning even small, inexpensive things? Would more game related posts interest you?

The poll can’t be comprehensive, of course. Feel free to add comments and clarifications on this post or on Facebook. Note that I’m not ignoring Mac giveaways, just bundling them as PC hardware. I apologise if this is a too PC oriented point of view. Note also that I will always only be able to post giveaways I come across, and these often come from PC hardware websites, because these are the sites I frequent.

Unity is nice, and free right now for Android and iOS

The Double Fine Kickstarter project made me want to write a game of my own. Not that I expect to end up with a full game, but I do have an idea I want to try. I haven’t done any game related programming for a while, and though my experience is mainly in Direct3D I initially decided to write it using OpenGL, because it’s cross platform and because more experience with it will help my current job. That didn’t go as smoothly as I’d hoped though (it never does), and I started thinking about using existing engines.

I decided to try Unity. Its free version is rather simple, lacking shadows for example, which I consider a basic feature. Still, I only really wanted to prototype, and I figured that would be enough. I want something simple, and while the Unreal Engine is free (in the form of the UDK) and so is the CryENGINE, I figured something simpler and more lightweight would be better for prototyping.

I have to say I’m impressed with the ease of development using Unity. It took me just a few hours to get something basic working. Nothing game-like at all, but it has objects and camera movement, and I like it. It will take me a lot longer to implement what I really want done, but I like that I can move there step by step. Being able to update scripts and watch their results from within the interactive design environment makes for a very development cycle. Perhaps the other engines would have worked just as well, but for my current needs Unity is very good.

Another benefit of Unity is that if I do decide to make a full game and I’m willing to make do with the limitations of the free version I don’t have to pay anything unless I make over $100,000 a year. If I want the extra features it’s $1,500, but that’s a one time sum, not a percentage of sales that the big engines want. Which is good and bad, but I think in these days of crowd funding it’s more good than bad.

The nice thing is that it’s also easy to make the game run on iOS and Android with Unity. I have the game Shadowgun on my Motorola DEFY, it was created with Unity, and I’m impressed that such a good looking game can run on my lowly phone (most hardcore Android games say they’re incompatible), so that’s nice credentials. The best thing is that the iOS and Android versions are currently free too (they’re normally $400), until the 8th of April.

Will anything come of it? Probably not. But I enjoy trying my idea in Unity and knowing that I’ll be able to try it on my phone also gives me pleasure.

Post haste

I’m still waiting to see what effect WordPress will have on my posting. So far the ride hasn’t been as smooth as I’d hoped. The problem is that WordPress defaults to a font size that’s bigger than what I want, and while the theme I first selected, Admired, has font control it doesn’t have control over the size.

Problem was the moment I tried to touch the page Javascript the font became incredibly tiny and impossibly to read. I’m sure I reverted any changes, but that didn’t help. The only way to reset a theme that I could find by googling is to create a new database. I decided to just switch to another theme, selected a font in it that looked a little smaller, and that’s it. The purpose of switching to WordPress was to get away from having to tinker at the low level, so I’m not going to get sucked into that.

Going mainstream

I have to admit, I enjoy using stuff that’s not mainstream. I like finding out that special software or platform which looks to fit my needs, which I will dedicate time to getting to know and tailor in non-standard ways. I don’t like going the easy way.

But sometimes that’s not the best way to go. Sometimes going with a well known platform makes things easier, and that makes them work. I learned that when I created my Facebook page to post about giveaways I come across. Facebook isn’t the perfect platform for what I want. I’d love to let people sort giveaways by ending date and eligibility, for example, and that’s just not possible on Facebook. But it’s easy enough to post and reach people, and that’s the most important thing. If the list wasn’t on Facebook, I would probably have quit it a while ago.

Which is why I decided to move to WordPress for my site. I liked glFusion and even customised it a bit when I used it. At some point I even thought of becoming a contributor. When I decided to switch to Tiki Wiki it was because all the features in one place in a way that’s appealing to me. But it’s too much work, and all I really want to do at its base it post the occasional blog post and have a few pages about me. WordPress can handle this easily, and the good thing about it is that because it’s so common everything just works with it. I should have no problem posting Rafflecopter giveaways on these pages. I would not need to do extra work to integrate Disqus with it. Everything should just work.

I might not be able to easily do some things I could have done otherwise, but I have to face it: I just don’t have the time to play with these things that I once had, and it’s likely that I won’t get to do many of them even if I wanted. Even on the old version of the site I had incomplete pages and features. It’s better to use a platform that does the main things easily and doesn’t get in the way.

I hope this will mean more posts and a faster rebuilding of the site. It’s by no means guaranteed, but I think it’s currently the right decision.