Thursday, May 31, 2012

Rogue Galaxy session 9

It's been a while...  I've had less time for games and entertainment due to being employed.  It's my day off, so let's get to it.

I remember last session I was ascending the Gladius Towers, and noticed that I'd basically have to go into both of them to get all the goodies.  So I teleported back and went up the other tower.  It ended up being exactly as I suspected: there are two routes up the towers, and they are mutually exclusive.

Pretty much this entire part of this session was spent running around the towers opening chests, fighting enemies, and adding items to peoples' Revelation Flows.  In other words, nothing remarkable happened.

After I caught up going through the floors I'd missed, I pressed on up the towers, making sure to get each floor of both towers explored before continuing.  At the top, on the eighth floor, I finally reached the two throne rooms, one for each prince.  They had been quarreling because their father had failed to name one of them as the heir, and had caused a huge war in the process.  Both of them were initially stupid, believing that the other one had sent me to talk to them, so I defeated them both.  Only after giving both of them a good ass-whooping did they come to their senses.  After a speech, they gave me the Key Piece I was after.

Oh and as a bonus, both princes were already dead, and both refused to accept it when we told them that they were in fact spirits.

One annoying thing is that the game seems to stop triggering challenge battles at a certain point in each area.  Which means that once you reach that point, your only source of Hunter Coins is by finding and defeating mimics.  Which are annoying as hell to fight because they deplete your action bar at the beginning of the fight and have insanely high offense and defense.  Anyway.

After scouring for chests, finding an outfit for Simon, and killing two of the beasts I had quarries for, I left for Juraika and the last Key Piece.

On Juraika, I pressed northwards into the one area of the jungle I hadn't yet been in.  In a clearing I found a couple chests, a save point, and the trigger point for another beast I had a quarry for.  Killed it, and hopped two hunter ranks from 10 to 8.  With that came enough Hunter Coins to get me to 60, so I GTFOed to Zerard where I finally got my Platinum License.

After getting my Platinum License, I went and bought a whole bunch of stuff that required it.  Including yet another outfit for Simon, and a book called "The Annals of Hades" that ended up showing up on the inventory's SP tab under Rare Items.

Back on Juraika, I explored a bit more, killed a bunch of things, looted chests, and went up to hunter rank 7 in the process.  Nice way to end a session, I think.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Day of Racing 2012

Memorial Day weekend is always a great weekend for fans of auto racing.  For each meal, there's a race.  Breakfast is the Formula One Grand Prix of Monaco, lunch is the Indianapolis 500, and dinner is the Coca-Cola 600.

Formula One Grand Prix of Monaco

The F1 race is kind of a mixed bag, to be honest.  This season has been really interesting with a lot of teams showing that they can compete, instead of just the usual one or two teams that are good and then everyone else.  In the previous five races we've had five different winners and five different winning constructors.  Monaco is one of the oldest F1 tracks on the schedule, and also therefore one of the narrowest, which means passing is incredibly difficult.  The lack of passing is a very easy thing to make fun of, people do like to say that F1 is more of a parade than a race.

The more modern tracks are wider, and with everyone having both KERS and DRS there has been a fair amount of passing on the newer tracks.  KERS uses energy generated from braking to charge a battery on the car, and then each lap the driver has a button they can press for a limited amount of extra horsepower.  DRS uses a movable element on the rear wing to decrease drag and downforce and increase speed.  In combination with a detection area and one or two areas on the track where it can be used, if a driver is within a second of the driver ahead, they can open it up and get around a 10 MPH boost, which can be used in combination with the KERS for even more speed to aid passing.


After Michael Schumacher's 5 grid-spot penalty for his collision with Bruno Senna in the last race dropped him down from pole to 6th place, Mark Webber inherited the pole and drove on to win the race.  There was talk of rain and indeed it did get fairly dark towards the end of the race, but it stayed dry enough that no rain tires were required.  So, we have our sixth different winner in as many races, and the first repeat winning constructor in Red Bull.

I make it sound uneventful, to be honest.  There were some lap 1 turn 1 shenanigans that saw the immediate retirement of Romain Grosjean.  Others would retire due to damage from that incident later on.  Heikki Kovalainen got to his usual going slowly holding everyone behind him up thing which led to him spinning out (and forcing the retirement of) Jenson Button.  He also basically edged Sergio Perez off the track later.  So there were some altercations during the race, but yes, mostly uneventful.  Still, Monaco is F1's "race everyone really wants to win", similar to the Indianapolis 500 for IndyCar.

Indianapolis 500

A few ex-F1 drivers are in the field for the Indy 500.  Reubens Barrichello, formerly F1's most experienced driver, moved over to IndyCar for this season.  Out of the blue, an old name pops up and Jean Alesi enters the race.  Also present are Takuma Sato and Sebastian Bourdais.  IndyCar is an entirely different animal though.  The cars are slower and don't have the extra bits like DRS, and for this season they have massive fenders around the rear wheels to try and minimize wheel-to-wheel contact, which can easily launch a car into the air.

The Indianapolis 500 has a lot of traditions, there's the singing of "Back Home Again in Indiana", the "releasing of the multi-colored balloons", and a lot more stuff that happens both on race day and in the entire month of May before the race.  Fortunately, since I'm not there, I don't have to watch most of it.  My dad and I always go to Subway and grab lunch for everyone before the race anyway.

Overall, it was a pretty decent race.  Lots of passing, in fact, a new record for the number of lead changes.  Nobody got more than about 4.5 seconds into the lead before either being reeled in from behind or someone crashed.  In the end it came down to an incident on the first corner of the last lap.  Takuma Sato tried to go down the inside of Dario Franchitti, went too far down and got below the white line, and spun out.  Yellow flag, race over, Dario Franchitti wins his third Indy 500.  I kinda wanted Tony Kanaan to win to be honest, but he got overhauled on the last restart fairly handily by both Franchitti and Scott Dixon.

The new IndyCar GoDaddy commercials with James Hinchcliffe are pretty funny though.  They have this whole thing going on with him trying to take Danica Patrick's spot on the front page.

Coca-Cola 600

The Coca-Cola 600, run at Charlotte Motor Speedway, is NASCAR's longest race of the season.  Also, it starts in the afternoon and ends at night, meaning the drivers have to contend with the setting sun during the race, as well as the change in track conditions that results.  It's entirely possible to have a car that's good during the day but horrible at night, and vice versa.  The exact setup you want is a matter of team strategy, though, and to some degree can be tweaked during the race.

Greg Biffle dominated while the sun was up, but after night fell, Kasey Kahne was completely untouchable and drove to an easy victory.

All 1262 miles of racing that happened today = watched.  Can't wait for next year.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Geek Pride Day


Sup internet, I'm both a network administrator and a systems administrator.  Looking to shed the network administrator part and just administrate our servers, but small company = can't afford to hire anyone else.  Networking on this scale and magnitude isn't really my thing.  Oh well, we'll get by.

Saturday, May 19, 2012


I found out about this game from a video that paulsoaresjr put on YouTube.  He covers various indie games periodically and mentioned that even though Brick-Force is in closed beta, you just sign up and after some arbitrary amount of time they unlock your ability to actually play the game.

So after I got the ability to play the game, I began noticing things wrong with it right away.

Specifically, you move too slowly, there are no health pickups, and I don't seem to be able to right click, which is necessary to use the alternate fire on each weapon.

Speed is kind of a relative thing, so the fact that everyone moves as slow as molasses means there's theoretically a level playing field.  No health pickups is a major insult to FPS players everywhere.  Basically, you're just doomed to die.  Which can happen instantly for reasons I'll get into in a moment.

Me not being able to right click is a strange one indeed.  I think it's because of the retardedly overzealous anti-cheat software they use with the game, called XTrap.  As you might know if you've read my previous posts, I use a program called X-Mouse Button Control to rebind the buttons on my trackball so that I can have the layout I like.  This involves moving the right click button.  Because of how XMBC works, I think XTrap thinks it's a bad program and is blocking it.

Now, on to the major issue affecting gameplay.

The game is set up as a free-to-play game.  Groan.

Basically, as you play the game, you get experience and level up.  You also occasionally get tokens, which can be bought with real money.  Tokens can be used to buy various weapons and other things in-game.  As if that weren't bad enough, giving people who have more money to spare an unfair advantage, everything that isn't base equipment has a timeout, and once it counts all the way down, you lose the item.  There do happen to be medpacks available through this means, but they have limited uses and when you run out of them you'll have to buy more.

So basically the game is unplayable.

Which is a shame, because it's got a neat graphical style and includes a block-based level editor where you can invite friends in to help you build a map, and then when you're done you can play it with people.  That feature sounded really cool, but the rest of the game doesn't keep up.  The default weaponry is utter crap.

The verdict: avoid, as with all free-to-play games.

Friday, May 18, 2012

I Can't Do This

I know, anyone's first response to this post will be "you've only been doing this for a week and a half, you'll get used to it", but...  I won't.  I can tell that I won't.

A friend of mine is leaving his position as network admin/system admin at a small wireless ISP in rural Virginia, and is training me to be his replacement.  I signed on because hey, any income is better than no income, and lol I can work with internets.

Now, if you know me, you know I'm just not a morning person at all.  Unrestricted by employment hours or anything else, I go to sleep at around 4-7 AM and wake up sometime in the afternoon.  I've found that I begin to get my daily energy anytime between 2 and 4 PM.  This reaches its peak an hour or two before midnight at the earliest.

That last paragraph is relevant because I currently am having to get up at 8 AM to have enough time to shower, get dressed, and eat before having maybe 25-30 minutes of leisure time before having to drive 14 miles from my house to where the ISP is, by 10 AM.  It takes almost half an hour to get there, and I don't have a key to let myself in so I have to wait for someone else to arrive.  Lunch is at noon, or just after the boss leaves, whichever is later.

The part-time "quitting time" is 2 PM, but I usually stick around working on shit for at least another few hours, and leave no later than 6 PM.  The job is technically going to be part-time, since it's a rather small company and we're still deploying the wireless infrastructure necessary to be able to have customers in the future, which involves a ton of red tape as we try and get permission to put up antennas in various places.

Then I have that same 14 mile, almost-half-hour-long drive back home.

So, at this point, it's anywhere between 5 and 6:30 PM.  Have leisure time if it's before 6, then eat.  Now it's pretty much going to be 7 PM.  I now have 4-5 hours to try and fill with entertainment to the best of my ability before I have to go to sleep.  Which, if you read the third paragraph, you realize I'm pretty much right at my energy peak when I have to go to sleep.  Like right now, for instance.  Also, there's an extra level of crap for yesterday and today (contrary to popular belief, it becomes a new day at midnight, not when you go to sleep or wake up (I get into arguments with people about this (RRG))) because my parents are on their annual anniversary vacation and I have to take care of the dog, which means feeding her around 5 AM and 5 PM, and taking her out to use the yard a few times daily.

Now, I'm really only a self-described sleep schedule expert, but...  that can't be good for a person.  Going to sleep every day right when your body is at its energy peak, that is.  In the past, when I did summer internships where my dad works, which were full-time, I experienced a huge amount of stress that a weekend's worth of basically doing nothing could not relieve.  So basically, it's less of a physical "can't be good for a person" and more of a mental "can't be good for a person".

Now of course, if I can manage to remember my fucking login details during the drive home, I can always pick a day and VPN in to do stuff.  Then I can work on my own schedule.  The problem with this is, I don't think the boss would really like it if he hires me, I get my VPN credentials, and then he never sees me again.  He's pretty funny, but he's still the kind of guy that wants to see the people that work for him most of the time he's at work.

Hence, my problem.  Is there a job available anywhere (anywhere) that I can hold given that I want to get up in the late morning (10 AM) at the earliest, work until 5 or 6 PM, and then have my whole night to spend before going to sleep around 2 AM?  I think I could maintain that schedule without any kind of mental stress.  But I've been on this one for a week and a half and it's already driving me crazy.  When you look at that, I'm really only asking for a shift of two hours in work schedule, but those two hours would basically make all the difference to me.

The other issue is, I'm fairly certain that my friend thinks I can do a lot more of this shit than I feel I'm capable of.  I'm up to the challenge, which is why I'm staying on, but...  I can't shake this nagging feeling that everything's going to go to shit as soon as he leaves.  The boss kind of needs some parts of his job done for him at certain points and is rather insistent about some of the weirdest things, and I'm not nearly assertive enough to handle that.  Even worse, I don't think I could train anyone to replace me and have it go nearly as well as my training is going currently, because my friend knows his shit, and it's not his fault that portions of it aren't sticking in my brain at all.

So what do I do, /b/?  Dilemma, thy name is employment for a nocturnal man.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Ridge Racer Unbounded: Meh.

I've been a fan of the Ridge Racer series for a while now, though I only actually own two games in the series: Ridge Racer V and Ridge Racer on the PSP.  Through emulators and MAGFest I've played a few of the earlier games in the series, such as the arcade game Rave Racer and the Ridge Racer N64 game.  While the graphics in each are different, each iteration shares some tracks from previous iterations while adding new ones that fit.  I actually quite loved being able to play tracks from Rave Racer in the PSP version.  Unfortunately, due to lack of PS3, I missed out on Ridge Racer 7, but I've heard it was just what anyone who'd played any of the other games in the series would expect out of it.

So imagine what went through my mind when I saw Ridge Racer Unbounded on Steam.  Well, you don't actually have to.  At first I was like "hey, new Ridge Racer, awesome!", but then I scrolled down and noticed that Namco only published the game and didn't develop it, and was like "don't know if want".  Reading the description further cemented the "don't know if want".  It has a track editor, which is cool, but it makes no mention of the classic Ridge Racer tracks.  That kind of thing, giving content from previous games a facelift and chucking it in the new installment, is the kind of thing they typically mention if they've done it, and it's something that anyone who's a fan of Ridge Racer expects from the series.

That all happened a month or so ago.  Then today I was browsing Steam and noticed that they'd put up a demo for the game.  Before checking it out, I figured I'd read the forums and look for issues people have been having.  Among the more notable issues:
  • No wheel support - not a big minus for me, but still, a modern racing game without wheel support?
  • No ability to rebind the keyboard controls - there are apparently a few different presets, but you're stuck with those and can't define your own controls
  • No gamepad button to reset the car - pretty much every console Ridge Racer ever has had a button to reset the car pointing in the correct direction on the track.  It's the last-ditch "oh shit" button, basically.  It's kind of cheap when abused, so I don't use it, hence, not a big minus for me.
  • A few people mentioned the lack of classic Ridge Racer tracks - confirming my hunch from the lack of them being mentioned in the game description
Speaking of the description, it seems to focus on crashing and destruction, neither of which have been themes in past Ridge Racer games.  One of the review quotes says "A brighter, sleeker, and more explosion filled Ridge Racer" (  Ridge Racer has never been about explosions.  Another review quote basically says that it has nothing to do with any of the previous games in the series.

To me this has all the look of a racing game that someone developed and then got the rights to slap the Ridge Racer name on it and release it.  Just from the description alone I can tell it has very little to do with previous games in the series.  Sure, they included the Angel and Devil cars, but is that it?

So with all that in mind, I downloaded and installed the demo from Steam.

The demo ran surprisingly well on this computer that I built in 2004.  Only my graphics card, a GeForce 8800 GT, actually meets the game's hardware requirements.  Even though I have 2GB RAM, I always treat memory requirements as "the game needs this amount" rather than "your system needs this amount".  There was slowdown, but it was generally only when things were being destroyed.  If I tried to play it like any other game in the Ridge Racer series and avoid crashing into stuff, the framerate was perfectly acceptable.

One thing I found annoying that you can't entirely turn off: when an event happens, like when you power your way through something that it goes "OMG LOL DESTROY THIS" in big letters as you get close to it, it switches to a different camera angle and shows a slow motion cinematic of your car flying through all the debris.  It also does this when you crash into something or get "fragged" by another racer, and that's what you can't disable.

Which brings me back to the question I've been asking all along: "Is Ridge Racer Unbounded really a Ridge Racer game?"  To which the answer is a resounding "No."  It looks great, and it could be fun in multiplayer with some friends and with rebindable controls, but it's carrying the Ridge Racer label while doing nothing that anybody expects of Ridge Racer.  Hell, you even have to push a specific button to drift.  If you do the old method of brake-steer-gas, that works in all other Ridge Racer games, it doesn't work.

In summary: For me to get any enjoyment out of it at all, I'd have to play it like all the other games in the Ridge Racer series.  You know, the whole "avoid crashing into stuff" thing.  Which is clearly not what they were going for here.  To reiterate what I said in the previous paragraph, this is not a Ridge Racer game at all.  It doesn't even come close to offering what fans of the series are used to.

The verdict: Don't bother.

Rogue Galaxy session 8

I realized between sessions that I've kind of gravitated back towards my normal style of playing RPGs, which is of course to farm stuff at every available opportunity and grind levels/skills.  It makes the gameplay a lot more repetitive and boring, and is only going to artificially lengthen this playthrough and make it take longer for me to get to Project 'Bout Fuckin' Time.  I only really needed to do it for Deego anyway since he's rather underpowered when you get him in comparison to Gale.  So from now on I'll try and keep the farming to a minimum.  The farming would be more suited to a playthrough that's supported by a guide, and this is not one such playthrough.  I'm going in totally blind and trying to have a completely organic gameplay experience, similar to how one would have played the game right when it came out.

That said, I still need Hunter Coins so I can get that Platinum license, which I really really (really) want ASAP.  Ah, conflicts of interest.

So, final list of stuff I will do (and anything not on it I won't do, except for anything unforseen):
  • Follow the storyline
  • Unlock abilities as I get the necessary items
  • Go up hunter ranks if I have the points to do so
  • Weapon synthesis as I am able to do so
  • Backtracking for missed chests once I can see them on the map
Now, on to session 8.

Since I had the Key Piece from Vedan, I set out to get the ones from Juraika and Zerard.  But as I did so, a new planet became available, named Alistia, that's apparently 90% water and travel is blocked to it most of the time.  So instead I headed there.  It seemed like a pretty big "um, hey, you might want to go there" flag to me.

After exploring a bit I overheard a conversation involving a local racial war and how they really needed to put aside their differences and fight against Daytron, who apparently polluted the ocean.  You know, the ocean that makes up 90% of the planet.  Reason for being on this planet discovered: beat the living shit out of Daytron.  The way this is going, Daytron is really shaping up to be the main enemy of the game.

Working my way towards Daytron's underwater lab I got the notice that I'd hit all the transporters on the planet and could now see chests.  Scrolling back through the area I'm in revealed two things to me:
  • three chests I somehow missed entirely, in addition to the Sun Key chest I made note of
  • the entire planet is one big explorable area
I guess this fairly well cements this area in place as a side quest, if it wasn't obvious from how it was just suddenly brought up.  The reward?  A new sword and costume for Jaster.  Plus all the other weapons I found in chests along the way for the rest of the crew.

I moved on to Zerard, despite really wanting to stay and get a few more challenge battles.  That pesky Platinum license was only nine Hunter Coins away, after all.  But regardless, I figured I'd probably get some challenge battles while ascending the two towers I need to ascend to get the Key Piece there.  Pretty early on I got a cutscene showing that Zegram's still being a douchebag.  Basically, the cone-tits woman that works for Daytron knows where we're going and what we're doing.

Well, they're not actually conical.  It's just that her dress has concentric circles over each breast...


I got up to the fourth floor of the towers before getting really tired and deciding to get some sleep.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Rogue Galaxy session 7

It's been a while...  Let's get to it.

Loaded up and remembered that the path to the ruins had enemies I needed for the hunter rankings as well as items for Revelation Flow, so I decided to get whatever sorted out that needed it.  After quite a while of farming, I had a lot more abilities, including some combination attacks that require a certain party to use.

Partway through the farming the game gave me a challenge: "Defeat all enemies in 30 seconds with Zegram alone!".  My party at the time was Jaster, Kisala, and Deego.  It was this moment where I discovered that you can swap your party around during battle.  I swapped Zegram in, switched to him, and told the rest of the team to stay back, but the enemies were so spread out that I couldn't find the last one until after the timer had run out.  Oh well.

Once I'd decided I'd farmed enough, which involved maxing a couple of axes for Deego and doing some weapon synthesis, I decided to continue on into the ruins.  It turned out I should have gone in there at the end of last session, because there's a guy who sells Ancient Scroll IIs there, which unlock people's Burning Strike Lv2, and there were some Star Earrings in a chest, which let me unlock a significant portion of Kisala's Revelation Flow because there's a whole subsection of it that starts with those.

So anyway, I worked my way further into the ruins, found a bunch of items, and unlocked more abilities, when I finally approached the place where Daytron was taking the tablet.  Through cutscenes I'd found out that we hadn't really beaten them there, but we did get there before they started with the tablet.  It apparently has three Key Pieces that it gives clues as to their whereabouts, and whoever gets all three gets the knowledge of the tablet.  We eavesdropped on the scene and figured that much out before we were noticed by this weird artifically-created guy named Seed who attacked us.  Right when I got his health down by about 25% there was a "omg we can't do this he's too strong" cutscene, and of all people to come to the rescue, Desert Claw showed up and saved our asses.  By allowing us to escape, that is.

Back on the Dorgenark, everyone gathered around and figured out where the three Key Pieces must be.  One happens to be on Vedan, which was great for me because I wanted to see if Angela had rebuilt her bar or not.  It turned out she had, and I got the Star Key that I'd missed earlier.  This is where making notes of all the keyed chests' locations came in handy, I could easily go back to all the places I listed and open the chests.

I figured since one of the Key Pieces I needed was on Vedan, I might as well go get it.  Along the way I got a bunch of good stuff including new boots for Kisala, and the very last transporter in the area was apparently the last one on the entire planet, and I unlocked the full map of the planet, which includes treasure chest locations.  Now that I know this feature exists, my notes about keyed chests are a little less important...

After getting that save point and getting the three chests it revealed that I'd missed, I skipped the planet.  Hopped on over to Zerard and hunted down the Star Key chests there (without advancing into the new area with one of the Key Pieces), and then hopped over to Rosa and grabbed the Star Key chests and the save point by the Great Tablet.  Jumped to Juraika and saved.

Then I had dinner.

Once I was back, I loaded up the game again to grab the chests on Juraika.  Then I realized I hadn't done a clean sweep of Vedan for chests, so I went back and got to experience the fun of jumping off of the top of a train not once, not twice, but three times, twice while it was moving, to get to a platform with a chest on it.  One of the chests had a new outfit for Kisala.  The outfits really don't change a heck of a lot stat-wise, they're mostly about looks from what I can tell.

Anyway, then I looked at my hunting record and noticed I still needed a few of the new enemies from Vedan, so I went into my usual dual-purpose farming run outside of Angela's Bar: getting kills for the hunter rankings, and maxing out crappy weapons so I can use them in weapon synthesis.

Partway through this I got tired of playing, saved, and shut the game off.

Edit: I'm getting pretty close to the Platinum license.  I think I have a bit over 20 Hunter Coins left.  I think getting that will be my next priority, since it means there's stuff at certain vendors I'll be able to buy, and there's a guy on Vedan I'll be able to talk to who says "you gotta have a Platinum license to see the secret menu!".

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Problem with HTML5 Audio/Video

HTML5 introduced the brand new <audio> and <video> tags, in recognition that the internet needs a way of delivering multimedia that doesn't depend on a resource-intensive browser plugin (i.e. Flash).  This is a good thing.  Except for one part: There are only three different video codecs supported on video tags, three different audio codecs supported on audio tags, and not all browsers support all the codecs, meaning if you want to use it you have to have your file in all the formats, which wastes space.

I look at this, then take a step back and say "but hey, even though Firefox 9 doesn't apparently have an h264 decoder built in, I have a perfectly good GPU that can do it.  Why can't they just use decoders available on the user's system as opposed to relying on software decoders loaded by the browser?"

Obviously they should still have the software decoders available in the browser.  In fact, every browser should have all of them.  There's no excuse.  However, the web browser should then take a look at your system to see what codecs you have installed and automatically prefer those over any that are built into the browser.  That way, people like me with lower-end computers that can decode h264 just fine thanks to having a decent GPU can actually use what they have available.

These days, there's no excuse for not having a decent codec pack installed anyway.  All the people who whine whenever groups switch codecs need to realize that there are all-encompassing, simple to install and configure codec packs out there that will make any codec switch a moot point.  The Combined Community Codec Pack is one such pack, and comes with my personal recommendation.

I might sound like a hypocrite for saying what I said in that previous paragraph and still complaining about retards who use 10-bit h264, but I'm not.  10-bit is simply a color profile of the h264 codec.  It's still the same compression and decompression algorithm, just with support for more bits per color channel.  The issue is that nothing else in any system that 10-bit will be used on actually supports 10 bits per color channel, so the video has to get dithered down to 8 bits per color channel once it's decoded, adding to the overall time it takes to decode any given frame, and contributing to frame dropping on systems that can't do software decoding smoothly.

To be fair, if it can be done in hardware, then why the fuck would you ever want to do it in software?  Hardware is going to be so much more efficient at it.  Of course, I have proof to back this up.  Playing an 8-bit h264 video on my system, using the GPU to decode, takes around 30% CPU.  Which, since the GPU is what's actually doing the decoding, I can infer that the CPU is simply being tasked with reading the file from disk and sending the relevant parts to their relevant decoders.  When I play a 10-bit h264 video on my system, it uses anywhere between 60 and 100% CPU.  This is because the GPU can't do it, so it has to be done in software using the CPU.  For relatively low-action scenes, this is fine, but when things really get going, the decoder has to start dropping frames (because they're taking too long to decode) to even try and maintain audio/video synchronization, and even then it fails sometimes.

As for decoding audio, no matter what I play in foobar2000 (wav, midi, mp3, ogg, ape, flac), I barely ever see foobar2000 use any CPU at all.  I honestly don't know if my (integrated Realtek AC'97) sound card does any form of hardware decoding, but regardless, audio is going to take a lot less effort to decode than video.  This is evidenced by how when a video desyncs, it's always the video that gets behind the audio and never the other way around.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Defense Games

Since I generally hate on the genre as a whole, while every now and then saying "this is one of a select few defense games I actually like", I figured maybe I should list the ones I do like and maybe say a bit about why I like each one.  Also, links to where each game can be played or otherwise obtained, for your convenience.

Plants vs. Zombies (demo available) - It's a rather novel concept of plants as your weaponry to kill zombies.  The game has a great sense of humor and offers a lot to do within its design and mechanics, including a minigame where you get to play as the zombies.  I actually like the Xbox 360 version a little more, because it has co-op.  It's a little low on the replay value, but then again most defense games are.

The Arrow of Time - You're shooting arrows at things.  As you progress you can unlock and upgrade different types of arrows and even combine two types into one arrow, allowing you to make a variety of different combinations.  The music really adds a lot to this one, especially once you realize it's the same song in each area, with a different style representative of the time period.  The music geek in me really loves the different interpretations of the same melody.  The game itself is kind of short, but if you feel like clicking madly for a while, give it a go.  My personal recommendation is the combination of homing and piercing arrows.

Shopping City - This game where you have to put up stores to drain peoples' wallets is a defense game in disguise.  Their wallets are essentially their health bar, and you need all the money you can get to build more buildings and get upgrades in later levels.

Dungeon Defenders (demo available) - Just the right mix of defense and role-playing.  As you level up you can distribute points into various stats that control various aspects of each of your defenses, or boost your own stats, or even give yourself special abilities.  Also, you have equipment, including weapons, and can run around beating the crap out of things.  I played a few levels solo during a Steam free weekend a while back, but it's really a multiplayer game.

Yeah... only four to date.  I should mention that I was vaguely interested in the combination FPS/Tower Defense game Sanctum, but have never actually played it.  There is a demo available, though.