Easy September

The past week has been filled with some ongoing things happening. Aside from the sleep and the much relaxation, I’ve been trying to get back into recording more Stardew Valley on my channel. I’ve recently upgraded my 8 year old PC. Nothing too in depth, installed a new GeForce 950 GTX to replace the 430 I had and a 2 TB hard drive. After a week running the new GPU through her paces, I’m starting to think my entire PC is under powered for the new GPU. Power is running great but I think the CPU might be having a tough time catching up with processing some games. I don’t know exactly is the problem, let me know in the comments what you think stuttering and “lag” might be. The new hard drive is working fine, I’ve managed to transfer my game files from Steam to the new drive without hiccups. All save files are functional thankfully so I don’t have to restart a new Stardew playthrough.

The original intent was to buy a new PC, but an old buddy of mine convinced me to upgrade the GPU and save the $600 of new PC parts. But the cheap guy I am, I decided to upgrade this PC; hopefully one last time. When I started up Insurgency to play, I had a few problems with servers that were located out west. Then I realized I was lagging from local servers too. Of course I had to pull off something stupid to expend the $600 I saved. Luckily at the time, a local airsoft store had a P90 in stock. I’ve been looking into buying a P90 since I started playing airsoft and now here it is with only an hour ride out and a few days of waiting for the shop to open. Of course the day came and I bought it under budget, still pricey for a airsoft replica. Nonetheless, it was less than 600 with a spare magazine. Along with the Cyclone impact BB grenade and spring shotgun, I have a few things to try out. Of course I’m giving my pistol another go even though I’m shearing the feeding lips every time I’m using it. If I get a chance at the end of the month to play, I’ll definitely give it a go.

Other than that, happy with my new purchases for fall. Maybe enjoy it as much as I can until I can find something to complain about or something to talk about.

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Fallen Plans

As the summer starts, I’m starting to think all the plans I’ve set a couple months are starting to fall through. Right now I’m sort of scrambling with finding something to keep myself occupied with for the next a few months. Unlike last year, I think the internet will benefit from this scrambling.

I was hoping I was going to work for the entire summer. I’ve been in contact with my employer and it seems they don’t know what to do with me or I got it easy (or difficult, depending how you look at it). Now a week into June, I’m making some expensive plans for my YouTube channel and perhaps my new camera. I had everything planned; I was going to end my Life is Strange playthrough and start a summer hiatus, then I would spend the remaining days before I was slated to work to take up a hobby and go to the gym a bit more. At the moment, it seems the hobby and gym might be the largest component in my entire life until I have something to do. I might even seek employment all summer; if there is an employer who will hire me in short notice.

Short term futures right now, I have purchased a new game on Steam. It was on sale called Call To Arms, it appears to be a modern warfare RTS game I might be recording . Along with recording a new game, I’m jumping back into Insurgency and Borderlands 2. For Borderlands 2, I purchased the Collector’s Edition so I have a few DLC packs I can record. Insurgency received an achievement and map update so I’ve decided to record a bunch of compilation of some of these achievements as well as maps I’ve may or may not have played in the past. That should cover a month or so of content online. As for personal content, I will have to really coerce myself to the gym and spend the soon-to-be sunny summer days outside snapping photos and hopefully get into a bit of trouble. I promise I won’t end up in jail or on the evening news, haha!

This is all I have for now for updates and progress. Hopefully I have something to show next week.

Life is…Strange. Ohhhhhhhh!

I thought it would merit a blog post in itself since I’ve played the entire episodic narrative, Life is Strange. After a long 6 months since I bought episodes 1-5 on Steam, recently I finally put aside some time from work to play. All this time avoiding spoilers I can put in a review down without ruining any plot lines and there are a bunch of plot lines.

Developed by DONTNOD and published by Square Enix, you play as Maxine Caulfield who has travelled to Oregon to attend Blackwell Academy in hopes of being a photographer. Within the first month of settling in, you have premonitions of a tornado. You have 5 days to prevent it happening. Along the way of trying to save the seaside town of Arcadia Bay, you make friends both old and new.

You play in the third person in a narrative where each episode is a day until the end. As you play choices from the previous episodes can effect the story and how it will culminate. The art for the game does exude something resembling of water colours which exemplifies focus on the story while delivering a detailed (but not too detailed) atmosphere. The entire game is littered with story devices which opens the player to character development outside of Max’s journal. If you are an empathic gamer, you will find yourself thinking about these little bits of information as you interact with other characters and help make decisions throughout the game. The voice acting in itself is very professional and does feel very natural and fluid with each choice. The character animation is nothing impressive, there are parts where characters would just talk and wouldn’t necessarily interact with each other. Felt more like talking heads on the news than a theatrical performance. Definitely something work improving is the motion capture to let these characters interact with the space around than standing there and have it be consistent. Max’s time travelling provides a good plot device to allow the player to change their answer if they think their choice is undesirable considering most choices aren’t described fully. Usually the game will give your an explicit choice of actions or a vague noun like “Nathan” or “Joyce” and hope that choice is what you are thinking it would be what is summed in a few words. It makes a logical choice to have the choices concise but a bit more description would be helpful. Then again the time travelling ability really solves all that.

Thematically, the game is about choices. Choices everywhere and if you aren’t tainted by spoilers, these choices are interesting because they carry weight through the game and changes up what you can say and do. The developers seemed to explore the idea of choice in terms of a social sense with moral implications. Choices which challenge vices and virtues, needs and wants, truth and the perception of truth; the does give some good examples of philosophical dilemmas which defines our humanity. Who said video games can’t teach your anything?

If you haven’t decided to get Life is Strange yet and you want to play it, I would recommend getting all the episodes in one package. For the value of a movie ticket and popcorn (like 25 dollars-ish),  you get about 22 hours of content (That’s on my count, experience may vary). As much as the first episode is thorough in giving you a preview of things to come, the main attraction is a story which a game can only deliver. There are some faults in quality such as some bugs and some dialogue which fell flat because of the animation. It’s a good play with achievements which can be completed (for you perfectionists out there). In the end after I made all the choices and comparing similarities with my personal life, the title is indeed exclaims a truth. Life is strange, so very strange.

I Bought A Camera

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about buying a new camera. After looking over at both my computer and my wallet, I freaking did it!

It’s a logical buy considering I want to stretch out my creative side. In high school, I had a few avenues to express it. I took creative writing, strings (I joined the junior orchestra, too), and I even tried a digital media course while I was young. Now I don’t feel like that person but I itch to do something creative. I want to write poetry and take photos, maybe play an instrument in the future if I could ever multi-task singing and strumming. Just something recently has really encouraged me to go after new hobbies. Ever since my workplace gave me camera to work with, not because I am playing Life Is Strange in it’s entirety on my YouTube channel. Though I think ever since I got my camera, Life is Strange definitely became a catalyst to really observe the world to find those opportunities.

Some of you have been reading patiently, asking “Which camera did you get?” I did a bit of research and to not break the bank, I went for the cheapest and what was on sale. I traded in the next 5- 6 months of my new gaming PC for a Canon EOS Rebel T5 kit which included a lens (“EF-S 18-55 IS II”, just reading it off the box. If anyone knows what that means, leave a comment for internet points). I’ve spent the past weekend taking it out to the park and around my neighbourhood to take a few shots and started to play around with some manual settings. As much as I would like to use the automatic settings, it’s not the true purpose I got a DSLR. I want to learn to really get technical with taking pictures, I want to control everything that comes with taking the right picture. It’s a big step from point and click cameras like my phone, but I am willing to jump. In a couple days, I’ve gotten use to taking pictures but I want to control more than light sensitivity, aperture and focus. I want to full control, I’ve been slowly working up to using my Rebel on just manual. In my room, I’ve been tinkering with settings on manual. Just have to test it out there where I can take a photo in different lighting and distances.

The take away from this weekend, I can do good. Just need some time and hopefully I can blossom into the late blooming adult I’ve always wanted to be, haha! Before I go, here’s the first shot I took.

1st_Pic.JPG

See you guys next time!

 

Airsoft – On Ethics And Values

Here I am again, reading and watching news footage of kids and teen getting in trouble with airsoft replicas and anti-gun folks up in arms about criminalizing guns and everything guns. Around the same time, I finally returned to play a day of airsoft and realizing the game sits between its values. I witnessed this first hand. Some people  I might put as those players who take it up as a game and some groups of people take it as a hobby; however there is some consensus on the rules of the game.

Honesty is a heavy value in airsoft. In games I’ve played, there have been instances where players don’t call their hits. As much as the players endorse people to call your hits when shot, I’ve seen some people who don’t receive this message properly. My local arena always says during their safety briefing, “Airsoft is a game of honour. Call your hits.” Which brings me to my next point, integrity.

Integrity is self reflection after the situation and able to act the same wherever they go. Meaning you are the same person with the same view at work as you would be at home. Airsofters I’ve played with have a range of integrity, which is interesting. Some people like to talk honestly and play like a foul player while some do play an honest game. When calling hits, whether you raise your hand up or not, you did indeed were shot. You are admitting a fault, you were shot! If you take hundreds of BB’s to the face and complain about another player not calling hits, you might want to check your values. Airsoft is still a game, you can always respawn and try again.

Along with receiving, sending someone BB’s is much more a demonstration of personal values in terms of respect, responsibility and fairness. Respect to the respect and obedience to field rules, I admit I may have a few times came to breaking rules. At my local field, they have a strict no vaulting rule. Vaulting meaning jumping up, over and through obstacles. I may have in my own 6 month stint have jumped over a few low windows. Respect can also be seen from player to player in terms of being fair to other players the opportunity to show mercy. The field I got to don’t have range rules, in theory you can shoot someone point blank. However I’ve seen a varying degree in restraints. As many players have shot me point blank, there have been players who asked to surrender or just swapped to melee. Respect for personal equipment; leave it where it lays or return it to the front desk. Which leads into responsibility for yourself and fellow players. Helping other ensure all equipment is still on them and helping the game marshal recover lost equipment. I poorly displayed my values of responsibility for losing a pistol magazine which I have to now replace. As well as breaking a feed lip from my spare magazine, I am not a prime example of responsibility; however I do admit my faults as a player, that’s self respect and integrity. Lastly most players I’ve seen is fairness when it comes with over shooting. Most players I’ve seen have restraint and good trigger discipline to not shoot a downed player walking away to respawn. It’s a value heavily for me since I’m usually the one being shot first.

The local field does have one value they highly enforce, safety. Personal safety on the field since plastic BB’s fly at 380 feet per second. They endorse full seal eye protection at the minimum, but full face protection is recommended. Last weekend, I was humble to my mesh mask since the games got into a team on team with 40 players on each side. I did get shot in the face a good dozen times, my face would look like pepperoni pizza without the face mask. Then their “no duff” calls, used when safety has been violated where the game must stop to assess the situation. As recommended if the googles fog up, get off the field and deal with it in the safe zone and if it’s serious, call a “no duff” to let everyone know some happened. Recently with news of someone getting shot in the eye with a replica gun, they were cracking down on safety much harder with checking fire selectors, barrel covers and heavily enforcing their “no dry fire” rules within the safe zone.

Airsoft as a game does have a lot to teach in values in ethics for those who choose to learn them. Airsoft as a political stance robs a generation of risk and pushing them closer to playing indoors, not learning anything but to play the game in front of them.

 

 

Product/Service?

As gamer, I have seen this interesting trend with a lot of publishers recently. Recently being a relative term because I’ve seen it in MMORPG’s and now in AAA publishers. Since I was about 14 years old, I’ve been going in and out of MMORPG’s. Most of these games usually have a client service, either a client maintained by the developer or a client server provided by a publisher. As I’ve seen recently this is spilling into games that do not necessarily be massively multiplayer.

To name a few services out there are some that have years of service with players; services such as Battle.net, Steam, and the defunct Gamespy. In the early 2010’s, we’ve seen new services setting up with EA and Ubisoft, Origin and Uplay respectively. Three months into 2016, I’m now seeing the master plan for this client service with Origin and Uplay; if not, services like them. As a long time user of Steam, there are are their differences with this client service.

The way I see it, Steam is a platform for publishers to reach out to a potential demographic for their game. With their features like Greenlight to support independent publishers, their early access and free to play listings have grown immensely. Compared to Origin and Uplay as of the moment contains the games their developers have created. There is no cross pollination; no games beside EA games on Origin, no games beside Ubisoft games on Uplay. Their properties are highly popular on the mainstream with Battlefield and Assassin’s Creed to name a couple, there is no incentive use of the service. While Steam has the opportunity to explore and group players together as a social network and if this is true, then likely the last remnant of a 90’s social network!

What is more interesting now is triple-A publishers are experimenting with client services. Specifically using the service as a DRM gate, the “always online” trend. As much as I’m all about fairness for online games especially in multiplayer games; in singleplayer games like Watch Dogs and Assassin’s Creed, you spend most of the time by yourself with no interaction from the online system. The only exception is just for small systems like achievements, rewards and (I would guess) DRM. Fairness for achievements and integrity to keep players to play a genuine copy of the game are honest motives for having games always online, however I am concerned for the offline brother and sisters who play games on dodgy connections. Where does it get to the point where being always online does hinder and alienate the target audience?

More interestingly as I ponder the future for these amazing titles as they embrace having multiplayer features, when does the product become a service? Publisher-only clients really gain an income from having microtransactions, the in-game items or rentals. The only problem I see is most of these titles are leaning towards a heavy price on a game and microtransactions post-purchase. The problem I see is the mainstream demographic and titles usually push for better sequels which usually includes and iteration of a more integrated client. I wouldn’t know for sure but as more and more games to seem to be priced at premium while churning out gimmicks like pre-order content and DLC. Especially with recent games, games seem to have fallen into the “Day 1 patch” curse where broken games are being updated upon release. It really begs the question if that 60 dollars is worth the the extra money and the fact you have to stay online with a chance of paying DLC to keep up with everyone else.

Learning Lightworks

This week since work has been a bit slow, I’ve been working on learning to use Lightworks. Though a new version has released, I thought I would give it a chance to see how it differs from Movie Maker.

At first I found the interface to be simple. However going from MM to Lightworks, I realized I might have to pick up the user manual and read through a few things before I start editing. The terminology is different and the techniques were a bit hard to pick up at first. There was hardly any simple drag and drop method. I use to splice clips, not I have to focus on moving a pointer on a timeline then marking two points to be added to a storyboard. This was the first thing I learned from the program.

Next I had to learn about the intricate bits of Lightworks since I noticed there was a large blank space at the end of the video. Apparently I can add blank spaces wherever I choose however the program will start with about 20 minutes of blank and would slowly empty out as you fill it.

Lastly saving is now exporting the storyboard, this is where the features drop off immensely. As a basic free user, I have access to one option; YouTube (as of 12.6, they have Vimeo as a second available option). Unlike Window’s video editor, I have no control of the sound and video quality. I’m stuck one setting and a few smaller settings to change resolution to a maximum of 720p. As my first video saved, I looked through these export settings and found a lot of these locked out settings to add a variety of formats available only to paying users. As a person who just needs YouTube, I didn’t mind having the one setting. However in the sub sections, even the resolution is capped out to 720p even though the settings include resolutions beyond.

Curious, I began to experiment with using both in conjunction and found my old settings in Movie Maker is more space friendly than Lightworks. The quality is about the same but I could drop a 1 GB file down to about 700 MB.

The upper hand I can see from using Lightworks at the moment is I can simultaneously export multiple videos as well as have more precise editing of all my videos. Though I hardly have space for files on my hard drive, the software does seem to catalogue and save each file it encounters so I can easily switch between raw files of my gameplay.

As well as helping me edit videos, it does also include some effects I can use. Most are much like MM but I have more control to each effect. Example is having effects on top of videos, transitions and wipes. Most I doubt I will use regularly. While I wait for my batch of edits to finish, there is no harm in experimenting.