I've gotten a bit nostalgic about my old Atari home computers so after unpacking them for the third time in as many weeks I decided to actually do something with them. The result is a new series of videos exploring gaming in the world of the Atari 8-bit.
So sit back, relax and enjoy some gaming nostalgia.
Monday, July 29, 2013
Saturday, July 27, 2013
Friday, July 26, 2013
The Midagedgamer Report for July 26, 2013
Xbox Live goes dead, Battlefield 4's biggest feature, Indie win on Xbox 1 and more!
So, aren't you glad that Microsoft didn't listen to all those nervous Nellie's who petitioned to have the original Xbox 1 DRM put back? The XBox Live outage apparently took a lot of subscribers by surprise on July 23rd around noon Pacific time. The outage affected everything that had anything to do with gaming and Windows. That means Xbox live logons, Games for Windows (as if it wasn't bad enough when it did work) and Windows Phone not to mention Windows 8.
This follows previous outages on June 20th, July 3rd and July 8th. Other outages weren't as long as this most recent event which spanned the better part of 24 hours by some reports. While no specific details about the cause of the outage were mentioned, Microsoft returned its Xbox status page to all green status on Early Thursday morning.
So much for the cloud eh? All those people that dismiss these kinds of events as trivial forget how much turmoil they cause when they do happen. Cloud services are convenient but not a given.
I've got a feeling Battlefield 4 is going to suck. The story isn't all that original for one thing. I mean c'mon now, the Chinese teaming up with the Russians were the best bad guys Dice could come up with? Now they're touting their updated Battlelog service for its statistical and social features. I wouldn't buy a car based on the ability to integrate with social networks and I wouldn't buy a game based on it either.
Focus Dice, focus!
Seems Microsoft is showing a little love to independent game developers who don't have a publisher for its upcoming Xbox 1 console. In what's been described as a reversal of policy, Microsoft's Corporate Vice President for Xbox has promised Independent game developers access to the Xbox marketplace and an equal footing with major game publishers.
"Our vision is that every person can be a creator. That every Xbox One can be used for development. That every game and experience can take advantage of all of the features of Xbox One and Xbox Live. This means self-publishing. This means Kinect, the cloud, achievements. This means great discoverability on Xbox Live. We'll have more details on the program and the timeline at Gamescom in August.”
Reaction has ranged from cautiously optimistic to suspicious. Sony and Nintendo currently have similar indie friendly policies for game development on their respective platforms. That means Microsoft would be the odd man out if they didn't do likewise.
It was around this time last year that news broke that Vivendi, the majority stakeholder in Activision/Blizzard, was looking to dump the software publisher to shore up its own portfolio. This week Activision announced that it was buying back $5.83 billion in shares (429 million) from then majority stakeholder Vivendi. The move averted a potential Vivendi raid on Activision's cash reserves of 3 Billion USD in what would have been described as a "special dividend."
That could have left Activision cash poor and in the worst case, potentially in a similar position to the now defunct game publisher THQ. Activision CEO Bobby Kotick and co-chairman Brian Kelly plan to purchase another 172 million shares for another$ 2.34 billion. When it's all said and done Vivendi will only hold a 12% stake in the company and no longer retain a controlling interest.
As much as I hate the antics of the huge game publishers, I hate corporate leeches even more so this move is a very good thing indeed in my book.
About a week ago I picked up a really good deal during the Steam Summer Sale. Poker Night 2 which launched in April this year from Telltale games is unlike any video poker game you've ever played. With characters from Borderlands, Sam and Max, Evil Dead and the Venture Brothers it's like sitting down to a friendly game with a few pop culture friends.
There's two variations of play available; Texas Hold 'em and Omaha. Side bets occur automatically as do blind bets. Don't count on the antics of any of the characters giving you a "tell" either. I've lost enough hands to learn that the hard way.
I may not last 30 seconds in Vegas at a game of Texas Hold 'em but I'm sure I'll be spending many hours with Poker Night 2.
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
This video series goes through the evolution of personal video gaming from the viewpoint of my own gaming history. We start with my old Atari 800 and end up with the quickly vanishing physical media that digital delivery methods seek to replace. It's an evolution of getting less but paying more. Enjoy!
Saturday, July 20, 2013
This is going to be short mostly because I've spent all of 10 minutes with this game but there's good reason for that. By the way, In case you didn't read the title, the game I'm referring to is Ridge Racer: Unbounded for the PC.
Let me start by describing the fantasy that I thought I would be experiencing. Let me also admit that I didn't pay enough attention to the Metacritic user reviews. In my own defense, I didn't see anything about my primary issue in the reviews, at least not right up front.
My fantasy revolved around the infinitely playable Flatout franchise in the examples of Flatout and Flatout 2. Those games were both produced by Bugbear and were nothing less than a joy to play. Even now after 7 years my friends and I still find them a guilty pleasure every now and then. When they were new, I played them so much that they almost became a career. One I gladly accepted, mind you.
Flatout 3, on the other hand, was an example of a bad developer ruining a good franchise. Bugbear wasn't involved and the result was akin to Caddyshack without Bill Murray. Oh yeah...that was Caddyshack 2 wasn't it?
Ridge Racer: Unbounded looked intriguing. It had an interesting premise, destructible environments, and the ability to create your own tracks. If I couldn't hurl my driver through flaming rings for distance at least I could have fun confounding my friends with custom tracks and stuff that blew up.
So I expected the Ridge Racer experience would be at least on par with Flatout even if there weren't any cool stunt competitions...
Unfortunately, Ridge Racer: Unbounded disappointed me from the first setup screen.
With all of that you probably would like to know what I'm going on about, so here it is...
The game was released in 2012 and went on sale during the Steam Summer sale for a fraction of its release price and now I know why.
Need For Speed, Grid 2, Even Split Second supported a joystick and that was a pure console port! So what the hell is wrong with you BugBear!
Yes, I'm one of those. I didn't grow up gaming on PS or Xbox anything. I started gaming the hard way on PC's and all of those used joysticks. The only thing close to a console I ever played on was an Atari 800 computer and guess what, it had a joystick!
So if everyone else gets it where does anyone who demands a $50 list price for a game get off sticking me with keyboard or gamepad control for a driving game? I checked a few forums and found an avalanche of wailing from gamers with USB Steering wheels that had similar complaints. No support for wheels and no customization of controls no matter what you used. The $300 or more they paid might as well have been tossed in the crapper during an opportune flush with this game.
How can you have such promise and abandon a core component of gameplay?
No, I'm not old and I will NOT get over it. You play racing games best with a wheel or a joystick, period.
Gamepad controllers are great for FPS's, RPG's and Little Big Planet but they stink for driving. That anyone would argue to the contrary quite frankly has no clue what precise control is all about. Click, Click, Tap Tap and a vague piece of rubber sticking up that looks like a female contraceptive trapped in a plastic case just isn't the same.
With the triumph of BugBear's work on the Flatout series (which completely supported joysticks) I simply can't comprehend how they let this travesty get by with their brand on it.
I have a Windows Xbox controller, I also have a keyboard which is my only other option for Ridge Racer, I won't be bothering with them because it's just not worth it.
Sadly, I think I'll try to trade this game instead of suffer the indignity of trying to make a square peg fit into a round hole.
Sorry BugBear, I don't trust you anymore.
Friday, July 19, 2013
It's 200!, Comic Con, BF4 news, Steam's still pretty much Windows and more!
"It was a dark and stormy night.."
I'd like to think I was at least a competent writer but you never know until someone sees your work. While I could probably add a paragraph to that "stormy night" I probably wouldn't get much past that. In fact it's likely I wouldn't have gotten past the second blog post.
They say the best writing comes from focusing on topics that you care about. I hope I'm living up to that old adage. I enjoy gaming and writing and as time has passed it's become a symbiotic relationship.
Which is pretty much the reason I keep doing this. I have 3 blogs I maintain including this one (digitaldynamic & info tech as i see it are the other 2) but this is the one most regularly updated. The other two are less focused but give me an outlet to write about something other than gaming.
So we've finally made it to 200. 200 posts on gaming topics that have run the gamut from what it's like to be a mature gamer to the latest gaming news from around the web. My first article was published on January 19th, 2011 on Wordpress. It was called "observations from a 40 something video gamer" and was my entry into the world of gaming news and views.
I got great feedback on Wordpress but if you host on their site the opportunity to make a few bucks was limited and I couldn't afford my own hosting. I moved over to Blogspot, signed up with Adsense and today I'm literally making 10's of cents per day!
I still update the Wordpress version of the site mostly because there's more reader involvement and I appreciate the feedback. That I have more than 30 followers over there amazes me. So long as someone's willing to read this stuff, I'm willing to keep pumping it out. Thanks to all of you who care enough to browse my ramblings every week.
Enough of that, on to the news!
So the San Diego Comic Con is going on till Sunday and while it's no E3 the lines definitely blur between gaming and fantasy. Considering most of the most popular movies and television shows in the past decade have been based on comics it's no surprise that the event's become a barometer of pop culture. Games fit perfectly into the medium and any game publisher or console maker would be remiss to ignore the event. Microsoft and Sony have gotten the message and showed up with their next generation consoles showing off games like "Dead Rising 3" for the Xbox 1 and "Octodad: Dadliest Catch" for the PS4 not to mention Batman: Arkham Origins for PC and current gen consoles.
If you're into Cosplay and gaming you may want to think about attending next time around.
"The world is on the brink of chaos, China is the tinderbox and you and your squad are the inadvertent spark that could ignite a global conflict"
That's the start of the latest blog post revealing the storyline behind the upcoming Battlefield 4's Campaign. Here's the major plot point...
"Upon getting back to the USS Valkyrie, a Wasp class carrier, the intelligence you’ve retrieved confirms previous suspicions. The Chinese Admiral Chang is planning a coup in China, and if this happens, the Russians would back him up."
So this time around it's not only the Russians but the Chinese which I suggested a few months back. The problem with the Battlefield series is that their running out of countries to pick on. Let me make another prediction. Battlefield 5 will probably involve the Russians teaming up with France to liberate all our shoestring potatoes. You will fight as Colonel R. McDonald outfitted with his burning grease gun and modified rocket launcher nicknamed, "Big Mac." You'll be working for the super secret intelligence organization known only as, The golden arch.
At least we know it'll look good on your 60" 4K TV and with product placements, probably come with coupons and few monopoly play pieces.
Check out the blog post here..
News a bit light this week again so to entertain myself I decided to try out Steam on something other thanWindows. We all know that Steam is available for Mac and Linux. What you may not know is that it's only available for "some" of those platforms.
I've got an older laptop running PC Linux OS that I tried to load the client on and I had success. At least until I tried to actually log in. Apparently the Steam client for Linux likes newer versions of Ubuntu while the rest of the distros are left to their own devices. After messing around with it for a day I gave up. I was never going to play a game on the laptop anyway so it wasn't worth spending much more time with it.
After that I decided to try a less "open" operating system that Steam would supposedly work with.
I've got an older G4 Mac Quicksilver that will never go past OSX 10.4.11 (Tiger.) Considering this rig is running an ATI Radeon 8500 I didn't expect to do much gaming but nonetheless I was curious to see what the client experience would be like. This poor old Mac has never done any real gaming outside of Railroad Tycoon and even that was an exercise in patience. In short, I didn't plan on doing anything more exciting than Bejeweled on a web page.
Still, it would've been nice to at least vote in the Steam Summer Sale or browse my friend's activities. I say "would've" been nice because upon downloading the client I was informed that it was incompatible. Apparently Steam only runs on Intel based Macs (mine's a dual 1GHz PowerPC).
So it's not enough to be on a Linux or Mac PC, you have to be on the "right" PC. I have to wonder how deep Valve's commitment really is to platforms other than Windows. Considering that the bulk of gaming titles for these platforms aren't exactly "cutting edge" why should the client need anything more than the wares Steam is offering?
The lesson here: Platform independence apparently has a prerequisite.
Thursday, July 18, 2013
It's the middle of summer and if you're a gamer you undoubtedly know that Steam's big sale is on. But what about the other guys? Maybe you didn't know there was anyone else.
Well you probably already knew about Origin but since it's nothing more than an EA outlet store it's not much of a comparison. Oh yeah, and they're not having a sale. $69.99 for Battlefield 4...sheesh..
Steam has many of the same selections as its competition but also nurtures budding indie developers many of which come from its very active communities. Community is central to Steam's business model and one of the reasons a game like Portal could become so popular where it might not have otherwise. It's one of the reasons why imitators have such a hard time duplicating Steam's success.
There's deals to be had anytime of the year but the Holiday and Summer Sales are the best times to buy. Don't look for any recent triple-A titles from EA or Blizzard though. Seems Activision, 2K and of course Valve are the big publishers on the service not to mention their independent developer program.
So enough about Steam, let's see what's up with the competition, if you can call it that. Discounts are fairly uniform across all the portals and most have the same catalog as Steam and then some.
So enough about Steam, let's see what's up with the competition, if you can call it that. Discounts are fairly uniform across all the portals and most have the same catalog as Steam and then some.
So let's look at the big deals on Origin...and we're done. :-)
Nothing to see here, just a few discounts on EA games nobody plays anymore and constant prodding for pre-orders and DLC packs. Recent developments of the Origin client include very Steam-like achievement points (that don't mean anything) and game updates integrated into the client.
Grade -- Meh
Green Man gaming has a very Steam Like front page and the deals are similar. Oh yeah, and since EA isn't at war with them they have newer EA titles too but the prices aren't as good as Origin on EA titles. No big sales right now either.
Grade -- Me Too
Good Old Games (GOG) is great for scratching that nostalgia itch. Even without a sale most of their wares are under $10 and some have been modified to work with newer versions of Windows. There's Mac support too. Their client isn't as intrusive as Steam either. No big sales here though.
Grade -- Retro
GamersGate is another very Steam like experience without the bloat. They currently have their own Summer Sale going on with daily deals and rewards programs.
Grade -- Me Too 2!
Impulse is GameStop's digital distribution portal and as such the deals aren't that great. Most of their prices are full retail on games that have been out for 8 months. They have forums like Steam but it's more of an Origin Experience than a Steam experience. No big sales going on right now either.
Grade -- Meh $$$$$
So there you are, copycats row with some copying the model better than others. Seems like Steam really does have the formula down. Truth be told, Origin wouldn't rate a mention if they didn't have a few popular Triple-A titles (Battlefield, Crysis, SimCity.) If you want to play them you're pretty much stuck plodding through the Origin client. Not that Steam is much better but at least I only have to click another tab to get to my games and not be assaulted with sales pop ups.
By the Way...
Yes, I'm a bit biased against Origin. It's feature poor, buggy and a resource pig that I'd rather not have to deal with. Every rig I start the client on grinds to a halt when it starts up. All to support a single publisher who also happens to be the 500 pound gorilla in the room.
Ahh, Internet capitalism...
Monday, July 15, 2013
The latest installment in the series of special events for the FPS, Killing Floor. This one's called "Pier of Pain" and runs from July 5th through July 23rd. The game is available on Steam during the Summer sale which is on till July 22nd.
Enjoy this lighthearted walkthrough with myself and another gaming friend as we take a stroll on the Pier of Pain!
Friday, July 12, 2013
What Else? The Steam sale and some other filler...
I called it!
I said last week that the Steam Summer Sale usually starts around the time the Killing Floor Summer Sideshow event makes its appearance and this year was no exception. " Pier of Pain" will continue till July 23rd but it isn't free to play anymore but c'mon you had a week to pick it up for $3. It's still on sale for $9.99 which isn't a bad deal in itself.
The Summer Sale began on July 11th almost to the day it started last year. This year's edition features many of the same opportunities including daily, hourly and flash sales. Voting makes a return as well with related discounts generally in the 70% or better range. .
Also returning to this year's event is the occasional "503" error on launching Steam when rabid gamers get a little overexcited. If it happens to you just think of it as delayed gratification.
New this year are the trading cards (badges) which are tied to (discounted) game purchases, random "drops" based on ownership, crafting of new "badges" and of course voting.
Borderlands 2 was on sale along with most of the DLC (as of 7-12). Grid 2, Bioshock Infinite and all your favorites are either on sale or soon will be. Most were discounted 50% or more as of this writing.
Daily deals generally run for 24 hours starting at 10AM with incidental offers running for 8 hours or less. The sale ends 10AM July 22nd.
The Steam Sale is dominating most of the news this week but a rather amusing tidbit came from CNET. It seems Microsoft is trying to position the Xbox 1 as a replacement for all that conference room videoconferencing and multimedia clutter.
It sounds like something a gamer in an IT department would come up with but the assertion isn't that far off base. The Windows 8 core, Skype, Skydrive, Wi-Fi and connectivity features do lend themselves to conference and presentation duties.
It appears the XBox 1 is aiming to be the device to rule them all from the living room to the board room. Considering the console is more HTPC than gaming console the crossover to business isn't a big stretch. Its capability and versatility could capture a whole new segment of the market that could care less about Halo.
Here we go again...and again...
In the department of: Are you Freakin' nuts!
Seems some so-called "fans" of Microsoft's original DRM policies want them back citing the desire to digitally store games instead of swapping media and of course entering the always enticing land of Microsoft licensing.
"This was to be the future of entertainment... A new wave of gaming where you could buy games digitally, then trade, share or sell those digital licenses. Essentially, it was Steam for Xbox. But consumers were uninformed, and railed against it, and it was taken away because Sony took advantage of consumers uncertainty. We want this back. It can't be all or nothing, there must be a compromise.”
For one thing, it's just a console and you're making it sound like universal health care. That beloved Steam Box is still in absentia and nobody knows for sure if it'll be more Ouya or Xbox. What everybody got upset about was effectively killing the secondary market and forced connection to the Internet "Just Because."
Not to mention the often dismissed reality that not everyone can afford upwards of $60 for a game or has reliable Internet connectivity.
There's been speculation that this "petition" is little more than a publicity stunt orchestrated by Sony to further tarnish the Xbox 1. The only way that's going to happen is if Microsoft flip-flops again.
Steam really does dominate the news this week but the rumblings from Redmond come in a close second. Along with the potential for a new market for the Xbox 1 comes a new division head after the departure of Don Mattrick.
Following this week's companywide reorganization Julie Larson-Green will take over the reins of the Xbox. If the name's familiar it's because she occupied one of two spots created after the end of Steven Sinofsky's rule over the former Windows division.
She oversees the new Devices and Studios Engineering group that includes the Xbox and anything else with a button and a Microsoft logo.
By the way, if you hate Windows 8 and the Office Ribbon you can send your hate emails to her. She was in charge of both of them.
Tuesday, July 9, 2013
You may have seen my video on Steam Cloud saves a few months back where I showed you how to deal with the problem of the Steam cloud going offline. In that video I basically showed you where saved games and saved settings are stored locally.
Sometimes you have to dig a little deeper, however. Not all games follow the rules and end up spreading their files in multiple locations.
So what do you do when the saved games aren't where you expect them to be? Well, you get a shovel but you do have some help.
The old fashioned way Steam saved games was within Steam's own directory structure. It's ugly, full of numbers and can be confusing but I'll give you a few tips to make it easier to navigate.
First of all, you need to know where that super secret Steam save directory is. The path looks something like:
C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\userdata\31999578
That last directory full of numbers will likely be different on your PC. It's part of the Steam tracking that allows the cloud sync to find your profile and saved game settings and sync them across different machines. The screen capture below is what my Steam directory looks like...
All those numbered directories correspond to your installed games in Steam. Nothing very descriptive about them but this is where you need to be if you're worried about a Steam cloud synchronization problem or corrupted saved games which can happen.
The best way to find specific game saves in the midst of this numerical directory nightmare is to do a search at the top of the directory tree as shown. Filter on the date then choose the files/folders that match what you know to be the last good game save.
Below shows A windows 7 search dialog based on date. Other versions of Windows similar...
And the result...
What you see in the example above are all the files within the steam profile directory that were changed within the date(s) specified. It may not be as obvious as a directory called "SavedGames" in the windows user profile directory but once you know where to look it's not that difficult.
In the example above there's actually a few files that begin with "savedgamexxxx." Pretty obvious what they're for. If you right click on those files and choose "Open file location" you'll be taken to the appropriate directory. Simply copy the contents to a safe place and if things go wrong simply copy these files back into this location.
The next time you start steam you may see a message about a Steam cloud save conflict. Choose the local files to ensure the recovered saved games are restored properly.
Friday, July 5, 2013
The Midagedgamer Monthly Wrapup for June 2013
Let's start off with a little Steam News...
If you can remember what you were doing in 1995 (assuming of course that you weren't in diapers) then there should be at least some small memory of a game that was groundbreaking yet overshadowed by its contemporaries.
Around the time Doom was driving the office network guys nuts and 3D gaming still looked like a first person version of Donkey Kong there was Apogee's "Rise of the Triad. " Known for, the then new, level- on-level design (that made Unreal Tournament possible), dynamic lighting and destructible in-game objects it foreshadowed features we now take for granted in an FPS.
But it was never as popular as its rivals Doom, Quake and eventually Unreal. Ironically, all of them benefitted from Triad's many firsts.
So who cares, it's an old game but wait. Due out July 31st on Steam, Rise of the Triad is back and it's been updated. Mind you, the screenshots and game videos aren't exactly ground breaking and look like something from a decade ago. Still, if you enjoyed the original and wish you could play it in Windows 7 your wish may have been granted. Both Single and Multiplayer (but no co-op) game modes are available.
Steam is offering a pre-order of the game for $14.99 with a 4-pack available for $44.99. Both of those offers include the Apogee Throwback pack consisting of 4 classic games in addition to Triad.
So Steam's Summer Sale hasn't happened yet but you know it's coming. It usually follows the latest installment of Killing Floor's Summer Sideshow. This year's installment is entitled "Pier of Pain" and the entire game can be played for free till July 11th. But at 3,99 why not just pick it up. It's good old zombie blasting fun without any of the commitment. Well aside from the new "Objective mode" but this is Killing Floor not Battlefield 3. So try it out, pick it up and start shootin' and scootin'.
Seems Steam has all the news this week especially if you're into retro gaming. Is Final Fantasy your thing? Then the release of Final Fantasy 7 for $11.99 may be right up your alley. It's available now and that's all that's worth saying about it.
Now let's take a look at the month behind us...
June was actually a fairly quiet month except for E3. We finally got concrete details on the next generation of consoles from Sony and Microsoft and a few surprises as well.
E3 finally gave us the price for the Xbox 1, $499 and in a surprise move $399 for the PS4. It also showed us the power of public opinion when Microsoft reversed its official position on DRM for the XBOX 1 but only after Sony touted its much more relaxed DRM and secondary game market position.
That move and the $100 price drop at the last minute before E3 made the PS4 the apple of the console gamers' eye, for now.
The price, however, may be more than they planned for when the PS4 finally hits the retail outlets. Seems Sony's price cut came at the expense of the camera bundle. Roughly the equivalent of the Microsoft Kinect Sony may have thrown a wrench into its developer network and its customers. If most PS4 titles end up requiring the camera, consumers will end up having to pay the extra $100 anyway. At least the games won't be any more expensive. Both companies committed to the current consoles $60 price point.
If the gaming news was a little slow the hardware news wasn't.
June saw the release of two new discrete and one mobile GPU from Nvidia (the 780, 760 and 780M respectively)
Intel finally released the first Haswell CPUs . With better power efficiency and performance Haswell PGA designs are the new darlings of the enthusiast market even if the processors are actually very much in the mainstream. Unfortunately Intel has decided to continue the practice of limiting features of K series processors that started with Ivy Bridge. Related posts below...
Finally in the department of "Why???"
Nvidia released Shield and priced it at $299. The new android based game device/controller may be the greatest product in search of a market to show up in the last decade. Time will tell if Nvidia's read the tea leaves correctly.
So pretty much E3 and hardware dominated the news in June. So far, July seems to be focused on retro games and an impending Steam sale.
Should be fun.