Games

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.

Unity 5

Posted by admin on October 28, 2014
Development, Games / No Comments

I’ve been using Unity 4 for a while now and I have released a few games with it on Windows Phone, iOS, Android and Windows 8. I love its approach to game design and its expandability. It is also a hugely supported platform and its asset store can really make a difference when you feel like you don’t want to reinvent the wheel but lack of a multi-disciplinary team to take care of things. Recently I was in Zurich for a presentation by Andy Touch of Unity who showed off a few really exciting things about the upcoming version of Unity, Unity 5. Boy I can’t wait for the final version!

Yesterday, Unity announced the availability of Unity 5 beta for pre-orders and subscribers. Since I already had Unity 4 Pro, preordering Unity 5 Pro came with a huge discount and the availability of the beta pushed me off the edge. I was going to get Unity 5 in the end, so better sooner than later:) So I got my hands on Unity 5 beta as a bonus and I’ve been playing around with it since yesterday.

At first, the environment seems to be more or less the same as before. That’s a good thing, since upgrading only to find that everything is different can really disrupt your daily work flow. I’ve made a copy of my latest project (this is STILL a beta, so no chances taken) and loaded it up on the new system. Unity 5 happily upgraded my project and scripts and loaded everything just fine. What I noticed immediately was how faster and more fluid the dev environment feels. Granted, I have 32GB of RAM on my system and the new editor is (finally) 64 bit so this plays a role I guess. My taskbar also has quite a few different Unity icons since I am doing some … things with different platforms and up until now each platform required a special build of Unity. Unity 5 seems to … unite the platforms since now I can see more or less everything in the Build menu. The licensing thing will get sorted out I get since my “normal” Pro license it not enabled with building to my other platforms (yet). But having a Unified Unity is a good step:)

I have not played with the One Shader yet (One Shader To Rule Them All – Unity 5 includes a nice physical based shader for all your shading needs that blew our mind at the demo) and I am dying to see the global illumination part, but one thing at a time. All the new 2D stuff is there of course (with some nice additions to the 2D physics engine) and I will definitely try out the new UI system. I’ve been using NGUI so far and I am fairly happy with it, but having something integrated in the system is a good thing, even as an option. The new sound system looks intimidating, since I am less than familiar with sound editing and engineering but again, it’s nice to know it’s there:)

Finally I would like to mention Unity cloud. I think they guys over there at Unity are definitely moving to the right direction, trying to provide a really complete package for game developers, especially indies, and that includes cloud services. This includes ads for all platforms, which might end up to be a big thing if they perform well, since it’s a pain to manage so many different ad sources on different platforms. I hope they go on implementing gaming services like leaderboards and achievements since in some platforms (I am looking at you Microsoft) an easily accessible framework does not exist.

Overall, Unity 5 will be a game changer:)