Development

Game streaming – part 2

Posted by admin on September 26, 2020
Games, News / No Comments

On my previous post, I wrote about my thoughts on game streaming services as a whole. Since them, Microsoft launched the xCloud, which is their take on game streaming and they also bundled it with Game Pass Ultimate. If you are not familiar with the subscription, it includes 100+ games which you can download and install on your PC or Xbox One (and soon Xbox Series S/X) and play as much as you like, as long as you are subscribed to Game Pass Ultimate. It also includes Xbox Live Gold so you can play online. And recently EA added all of their games in there!

So all in all, with one subscription, you have 100s of games to play which get new games all the time (as a matter of fact, all first party new releases always get added on launch date – and since Microsoft recently bought ZeniMax, the parent company of studios behind Doom, Wolfenstein, Elder Scrolls and many more) expect to see many many more added in the coming months. Some games are also removed from time to time, Netflix style, but you always have stuff to play no matter the screen you have in front of you.

Getting back to streaming, Microsoft has launched their Android client so you can use and Android device, paired with a bluetooth Xbox controller, to play most of the games mentioned above.

I have already played for some hours using both WiFi and 4G connections on my phone and I can attest to the following:

-The streaming is superb. Seriously, the encoding they use seem to be custom tailored for games and I have not seen any serious issues on either type of connection. Even when packets are dropped, because they will, the system seems to compensate in a way that does not impact the gaming session.

-I stand behind what I said about latency and “master race” PC gamers. You will NOT get high resolutions and high frame rates here. So games that do not rely on these, and would run fine at 30fps anyway (e.g. A Plague Tale), are you best bet here. Of course, forget competitive gaming on these systems.

-Convenience is awesome. I have fired quite a few sessions when I was not near a PC or console, and tried many games I never installed on either and I had an awesome time every time. Comparing the experience to either the PC or the Xbox One X it was of course inferior, but given the small screen and the fact that I was streaming it for convenience in a situation where the alternative would be Candy Crush, this is a good trade off.

-It will never replace gaming on a real gaming system. Never, ever. But that is ok, because the target audience is NOT hardcore games. When you DO have a choice, you will, and you should, pick the alternative. The streaming service is a very nice alternative to have though.

Running xCloud from a compatible phone (in this case the OnePlus 7T) allows you to connect to a projector and get rid of the small screen altogether. Because why not.
This is Mortal Kombat streaming over 4G. Not bad at all.
A plague tale: Innocence streaming over 5GHz WiFi – cinematic
A plague tale: Innocence streaming over 5GHz WiFi – gameplay

So should you get xCloud? Well, that is the best part! It’s included in Xbox Game Pass Ultimate which was an awesome offering even before that! Just keep in mind that if you don’t have a gaming PC or an Xbox One (or better) console it might not be the best gaming experience compared to these. I would highly recommend getting at least a cheap Xbox Series S + Xbox Game Pass as the best way to play the Xbox Game Pass games. Just keep in mind that xCloud is included only in the Ultimate version and not the Console only or PC only versions.

The perfect GameBoy – The Sequel

Posted by karios on October 30, 2019
DIY, Games / No Comments

Every time I decide what the perfect Game Boy is, something happens and I reconsider. The same can be said for many retro systems, because there seems to be an endless stream of hacks, addons and mods for almost anything from the 80s, 90s and 00s nowadays.

Previously (see here), I had considered the GBA SP 101 with a new shell and fixed shoulder buttons to be the perfect Game Boy, since I love the form factor and the screen was lights ahead the GBA SP 001 and of course the original GBA non lit screen. Since then, I modded the original GBA with a very nice backlit screen that improved things dramatically and made it very playable in all lighting conditions, on par with the SP 101.

Now, it’s time to take my SP 001 and take it to another level by installing the best screen on the market, the Funnyplay v2 IPS Laminated display.

This display is hands down the best one yet. IPS colors, 5 brighness levels (and it gets REALLY bright on the highest one), 4x the pixels of the GBA resolution, resulting in no distance between pixels, very fluid (no tearing like previous Funnyplay displays), infinite viewing angles and the display is laminated to the glass, so no dust between the glass and the screen ever and the screen seems to pop. Oh, and the price is very competitive compared to backlit aftermarket displays.

I am really struggling to find anything bad about this mod, but if I had to I would say that it may use a bit more battery. And that’s about it.

The display came in a nice orange box that kept everything safe. In there you will find the display itself, a ribbon cable with a small circuit board and a very thin wire. Oh, and a square white foam that you have to put behind the screen.

If you plug the display on the ribbon cable and plug the ribbon cable where the old SP 001 (or SP 101, works there too) display was, it just works. So if you don’t care about the different brightness levels, you are done.

I modded my only SP 001, which looked like this before the mod:

Modding was relatively easy. The hardest parts was trimming the back cover of the display to allow it to fit and soldering the thin cable to enable the brightess button to switch between the 5 brightess levels.

You have to trim only one side as shown below, and don’t forget to put the foam behind the screen before closing.

For the easy soldering part, which you should do after you pass place the display, connect the ribbon cable and pass it through the opening, the thin cable must be soldered on:

a) the solder point on the ribbon cable itself, as shown here:

b) the solder point marked Q12B on the motherboard of the SP, as shown here:

The soldered wire should look like this (with better cable routing):

This is it. Close everything up and you are good to go.

Now all my GBAs have backlit screens. Funnily enough, the original 101 screen is the worst of them now (on the SP on the left), with the aftermarket backlit taking second place (on the GBA on the right) and of course the new Funnyplay IPS taking first place (on the center SP).

Here are some close ups of the 3 screens. See if you can spot the new IPS (hint: it has 4x the number of pixels, so it’s super sharp compared to the others with no visible gaps between the pixels).

Click for larger image

Half Life: 3 screenshots

Posted by admin on August 20, 2016
Games / No Comments

Here you are. You are welcome!

3
21

These people at Gamescom in Germany made lots of people laugh:)

http://www.pcgamesn.com/half-life-3/hl3-gamescom-2016

My thoughts on VR gaming

Posted by admin on August 12, 2016
Development, Games / No Comments

So VR is here, and this time it will not be like like the 80s, or so we are told:) Actually, it is kinda true, since the technology was just not there during that time and the results was for VR to die out fairly soon back then. It was not only that the display technology made people wear something like a CRT TV on their faces:

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but also the sensor, 3D graphics and algorithm research did not allow us to pass the threshold that actually fools the brain in a convincing way. This time around, all the pieces seem to finally fall into place so using the Oculus Rift or Vive of today actually accomplishes this goal with today’s technology, which means that if upon launch the technology is already here, there is a bright future for the platform.

But…

There is a but there. The technology is one thing, the adoption of the new platform is another completely. At the moment of writing this, you need a fairly expensive gaming rig to meet the minimum requirements for VR gaming on top of the actual headset cost. This means that this is a pretty expensive platform to get into and to make things worse there just aren’t any “must play” games out there that would justify the high cost of admission. Most of the software is actually bite-sized “experiences” and the deeper games could actually be played on a normal monitor like always.

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Like any new platform, there is the circular problem of user base and software availability. Game devs will make games, if there are customers to play them and the customers will get on board if there are games to play. This is why at the point there is a high-risk gold rush happening, with developers that believe in the medium to want to be there when mass adoption finally occurs. Another path some studios are taking is creating special versions, or simple updates to existing games to support VR. This works well on only a few titles, and namely titles that assume players are sitting on the same spot in the virtual world anyway (such as driving, space or flying simulators) since VR game design differs significantly from other platforms when it comes to handling motion. Best practices of VR game design dictates that the user must not move much and have full control of the camera view using head tracking in order to avoid nausea and dizziness due to view-movement differences. It is still work-in-progress and some games are trying alternative approaches to movement, such as teleporting to new fixed spots or fast-dashing to fixed spots (like Doom seems to be doing) with more or less success.

Like I said, it’s still uncharted territory and very interesting from an experimenting point but since things settle down, risky from a market point.

I personally believe that products that will make VR mainstream in the end will not be the Rift or Vive but rather Playstation VR or Project Scorpio VR. The reason is not technical, I am pretty sure that PS VR and … errr… PS VR (damn, Project Scorpio is also PS), will have lower specs than a good gaming rig (they always do) but they will also provide an affordable entry barrier for a larger amount of people to actually experience VR games. And this is important, since it will break the circle I described before and make more game devs make decent VR games. Of course, if the VR hype does not die down (and the consoles VR will help there) VR on the PC will also become affordable in time (a GTX 970 for example, which is now the minimum spec for both the Vive and the Rift, has already become VERY affordable due to the introduction of the 1060, 1070 and 1080 from Nvidia) which will eventually make VR gaming on the PC a no-brainer.

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So in conclusion, I personally believe there is a future in VR gaming, but it will take a few more years. The wow factor is definitely there, I’ve never seen anyone try a VR headset and not come out impressed by the experience, but the market is very limited. I chose here to to focus on VR gaming and not VR applications which is a whole other discussion altogether. So if you feel lucky, go on and make your VR game, there are lots of incentives from stakeholders to do so and some investors are actually actively betting on the success of VR. But if you want to play it safe, just wait a bit longer so that you actually have an audience for your game.

Build 2015 started

Posted by admin on April 29, 2015
Development, News / No Comments

And I am already amazed by the general direction Microsoft is taking with Windows. I just finished watching the keynote and one thing is absolutely clear to me: Microsoft is pushing hard and in every direction to make the new platform (Windows 10) the dominant and unquestionable leader in worldwide computing. Let’s count the way it’s doing that:

-Making it a free upgrade to Windows 7 and Windows 8 users. That’s a first of course and it makes perfect sense. Take everyone on the same page and a potentional user for universal apps (more on that later). By the way, MS keeps mentioning that W10 is a free upgrade for the first year, and they still haven’t clarified this in a big way but I am pretty convinced that this means that if you upgrade during the first year it’s free for ever and not that it’s free only for that year. That wouldn’t make any sense.

-Getting people with Android and iOS development skills on board by allowing the reuse of the same codebase they already use (Java and C++ for Android and Objective-C on iOS) to create Windows apps. By the way, we will have to get used to saying Windows apps from now on since from the looks of it, Windows is one platform and it just happens to run on different devices, small, big, with or even without screens.

-Making writing universal apps actually worthwhile for developers. They are actually trying to make apps more visible (although i get the feeling that they need to try harder on that front), but being able to run the same app on every conceivable screen (or even as a hologram ffs) is huge. And on top,of that, I was really impressed with the idea that the phone is just a PC trapped in a small form factor is awesome. This is of course, a more clever iteration of the Windows RT fiasco, but it makes sense this time around, since nobody expects running desktop apps on your phone, but running the same universal apps on a bigger screen using the phone is just brilliant, so well done there.

-The wow factor called HoloLens. Although I had seen the previous demo about 3 months, I could not believe my eyes with what they demoed today.  The though that kept going through my head was “they cannot really have pulled this off and be so casual about it”. But they did. And they were! And universal apps are still part of it as is Windows 10.

So overall what impressed me today most was that the vision was, for once, coherent and focused. They want everyone to use Windows 10 in all of their devices and universal apps will be what people run on that. Everything else was there to support this vision and I loved this. Win32 apps running in isolated space as universal apps? check. Universal apps using every web technology, iOS and Android codebases? check and check.

There are no excuses now. When did Apple become the boring one?

You can watch the keynote here:

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