Thursday, July 28, 2016

Doom (2016) is great

I have 46 hours recorded in single player mode on Steam and the campaign only takes about 11 hours to beat. This game seamlessly combines old school running and shooting with new school collecting and achievements and it is a tonne of fun.

Favourite weapon has to be the Gauss cannon. It fires a high damage accurate single shot which works great for running and gunning. You can't afford to stand around waiting for the automatic weapons to whittle down opponents. The Gauss cannon takes low level enemies out in a single shot even the really annoying shielded guys. The siege mode upgrade path allows it to charge up a massive area of effect shot. In my opinion the most powerful weapon in the game apart from the BFG. The only disadvantage of the Gauss cannon is that it does some much damage that it kills enemies before you can pull off glory kills.

Friday, July 08, 2016

Is Humble Monthly Worth it (with Spreadsheet)?

I have been subscribed to Humble Monthly for three months. There are usually one or two games I like along with a bunch of stuff I have no interest in or already own.  Every month I dither about whether or not to cancel my subscription so I have decided to go about this in a more scientific fashion. I present to you the Humble Monthly personalised value spreadsheet.

The spreadsheet takes a conservative approach and values games at the lowest price they have ever been on sale at according to I have multiplied each price by my own level of interest in the game on a subjective 0-100% scale. In this way games I have no interest in are valued at zero. I have also set the value of games I already own to zero even though I may be able to find a home for some of the duplicate keys with younger relatives.

The summary shows that the Humble Monthly bundles are worth an average of over $21 to me which compares favourably with the monthly subscription of $12. Also of note is that there each month has paid its way with at least $18 worth of personal gaming value. A supporting piece of evidence is that every month there has been at least one game that I immediately downloaded to play. Science proves it: Humble Monthly is a good investment for me.

It is worth noting that there are other benefits to Humble monthly not included in the analysis above. It has brought some games to my attention that I would not otherwise have considered and having an active subscription gives 10% off purchases in the Humble Store (although there is a risk of the same item later appearing in a monthly bundle).

Full spreadsheet is available from the link below. Feel free to customise it for your own use:

Humble Monthly Spreadsheet (Google Docs)

Monday, July 04, 2016

More Stuff = Less Happiness.

I used a gift voucher to buy three PS3 games I don't have time to play. I am feeling somewhat perplexed about it even though the voucher was a gift. 

Over the years I have paid real money for hundreds of PC games I never got around to playing but somehow this feels worse. Most of those PC games are digital products that can be hidden away in my Steam library causing no offence to anyone. These PS3 games however will sit accusingly under the TV, increasing clutter and reminding me of the fact that they add negative rather than positive value to my existence. 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

I don't like roguelikes.

To be more specific I don't like the combination of permadeath and random chance that is a hallmark of all true rogue-likes. It has taken me a while to admit this because serious gamers are supposed to like rogue-likes and respect the many classics of the genre. 

I know that permadeath is supposed to make a game more engrossing by increasing the stakes. I know that it makes your achievements seem more worthwhile when you finally do overcome the game's challenges. 

I also know that randomness makes a game interesting. It means you never know what to expect. Randomness is one of the things which differentiates a game from a puzzle. 

However when you combine randomness and permadeath you condemn yourself to the bitter despair of losing many hours of effort due to a random toss of the dice. In most true rogue-likes a pointless unavoidable death is almost certain. You may die nine times out of ten. More likely you will die ninety nine times out of a hundred but the odds of success are heavily stacked against you and you have go into these games expecting that you will lose. 

The theory is that if you adopt the right attitude you can appreciate the losing playthroughs in their own right and will be all the more ecstatic when lady luck finally smiles on you and grants the impossible victory. 

Well I reject that theory. It doesn't work for me. It doesn't work for me because I like finishing games. I enjoy conquering the final boss and then moving on to another game. Rogue-likes are not designed to be finished. You are supposed to lose and start over again and again. If you ever actually get to kill the final boss it is an unexpected miracle.  This theory also doesn't work for me because it abuses  the one gaming talent I actually have. I don't have instant perception. I don't have  razor sharp reflexes. I don't have incredible dexterity and I don't even have have great strategic vision, All I have is dogged persistence. I tackle a challenge. I fail. I try again with a slightly different approach. I keep doing this until something works.  Rogue-likes demand persistence because they force you start over and over again but they give you no reward for it. Lessons learned in previous  playthroughs become irrelevant when the random number generator rolls against you. 

Grumpiness brought to you courtesy of "FTL Faster Than Light" which I have been playing for the last few days. To be fair I really like the game and repeatedly come back to it over the years. I have even overcome the final boss on more than one occasion. I still don't like rogue-likes though. 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Xonar DGX sound card update

I have had my Asus Xonar DGX for  few days now and I have had a chance to try it out in a few games.

First impressions are a little bit mixed. On the one hand the card sounds good and the Xonar control panel has a few nice features that work well with headphones (which I use a lot). On the other hand my attempts to use the Xonar to get EAX support in older games has met with mixed success. and has even led to a few crashes. I tried enabling EAX in the following games: Far Cry (seems to work but occasionally crashed), Painkiller (seems to work), Rome Total War (EAX 2 works EAX 3 doesn't), Prey (seems to work), Battle for Middle Earth 2 (says no supported EAX hardware found). I also tested the card in a few more modern games (Alien Rage and Fallout 4) and it works without any problems but neither of those games use EAX. Asus claims that the GX2.5 feature on their xonar cards supports EAX 5.0 so I am a bit surprised it seems to have problems with EAX 3.0. There are very few games that actually support EAX 5.0 so  it is really the earlier versions of EAX that I need.

A lot of people recommend a set of modified drivers that claim to fix bugs in Asus' own Xonar drivers: so I installed these drivers and I haven't had any crashes since. Unfortunately the creator of these "Unixonar drivers" is very scathing about EAX support and recommends against using it.

So that leaves me with a new sound card that by all accounts gives much better sound quality than my on-board sound (larger presence with richer mid tones and a hint of citrus or something  like that) but which only intermittently supports EAX. Given than EAX was the main reason I bought the card I am a bit disappointed.   In hindsight I might have been better to buy a card from Creative to be sure of EAX support. At least the Xonar control panel allows EAX support to be toggled on and off so I am going to leave it off to avoid any possible problems except when I am playing EAX games.

On the bright side the Xonar is working well in modern games and it also has one very useful feature. It can map 5.1 or 7.1 channel surround sound into the two speakers of a pair of headphones. This seems bizarre but it actually works very well and gives you a very realistic surround sound effect.