Posts Tagged ‘games’

Mass Effect Andromeda 04.12.2017 - 02.05.56.32

With Mass Effect: Andromeda, it’s a tricky thing to handle when pushing 4K specs on a mid-level graphics card. It’s not a baby, but it’s not racehorse either.

It’s getting to be an older rig now, with the high-end Devil’s Canyon Intel i7-4790K processor, 2x 8GB of RAM, Asus Z97-A board, and now a NVIDIA GTX 1060 6GB OC card (Asus Strix).

I’m dealing with the following specs:

Mass Effect Andromeda
~ PC ~ i7-4790K ~ 16GB RAM ~ GTX 1060 6GB OC ~ 4K graphics resolution~ Recorded at 3840 x 2160 ~ 4K Playback ~

I’ve found this is the best compromise – a middle ground between actually running 4K at a half-decent frame rate, whilst also looking pretty good.

 

Mass Effect Andromeda 05.15.2017 - 23.58.11.01

 

This is only a small part, but it’s the key balancing combination, I’ve found. The rest of the specs are generally Ultra, except for a couple of Highs.

 

 

 

 

NOTES TO SELF:

Mass Effect: Andromeda is fun, exploitative, interesting, and has an immense amount of subtle Easter Eggs nodding to the original ME Trilogy. It even gives you a Space Hamster again – albeit and Andromeda one this time.

What it is not, though, is stable. The NVIDIA graphics have been all over the place, drivers changing constantly for all the gazzilions of games NVIDIA has to give specific support to. It doesn’t seem to restricted to just PC editions either… but I suppose at least  with a PC you have a little more ammunition to work around it than you do with a console.

Because they’re so constantly changing, the rendering has to be modified and tweaked along with, as does my ASUS Stryx overclocking software. Balancing is impossible, because it seems to change with every NVIDIA driver update.

To keep track, I’m just going to leave my notes here, so I can find them again… Hopefully.

 

  ~ Tested with GeForce v. 382.05

 

 

KEY POINTS OF SPECS 1:
  • Medium Lighting
  • Ultra Shadows
  • Medium Post Process
  • High Depthh-of-Field
  • High Shader (Maxed)
  • Ultra Textures
  • Temporal AA
  • HBAO Full
  • Ultra Effects
  • Ultra Terrain

=> Very good colour & graphics; Minor Slowdown in cutscene

 

 

KEY POINTS OF SPECS 2:
  • Low Lighting
  • Ultra Shadows
  • Ultra Post Process
  • High Depth-of-Field
  • High Shader (Maxed)
  • Ultra Textures
  • Temporal AA
  • HBAO Full

=> Good colour & graphics; Some slowdown

 

Mass Effect Andromeda 05.05.2017 - 23.20.24.06

~ Grahics Rendering Specs 2 ~  

 

KEY POINTS OF SPECS 3:
  • Medium Lighting
  • Ultra Shadows
  • Ultra Post Process
  • High Depth-of-Field
  • High Shader (Maxed)
  • Ultra Textures
  • Temporal AA
  • HBAO Full

=> Very good colour & graphics; Slowdown in cutscenes

 

 

KEY POINTS OF SPECS 4:
  • High Lighting
  • Ultra Shadows
  • Medium Post Process
  • High Depth-of-Field
  • High Shader (Maxed)
  • Ultra Textures
  • Temporal AA
  • HBAO Full

=> Good colour & graphics; Slowdown

KEY POINTS OF SPECS 5:
  • Low Lighting
  • Ultra Shadows
  • High Post Process
  • High Depth-of-Field
  • High Shader (Maxed)
  • Ultra Textures
  • Temporal AA
  • HBAO Full

=> Great colour & graphics; Acceptable Cutscenes

 

 

~ 4K Gaming ~

PC SPECS:

~ PC ~ i7-4790K ~ 16GB RAM ~ GTX 1060 6GB OC ~ High/Ultra Specs ~ 4K graphics resolution~ Recorded at 3840 x 2160 ~ 4K Playback ~

 And these are the other Rendering Spec Options:

~ Other Options Tested ~

Well… After scratching my head for some time as to why so suddenly in a new game of Skyrim on PC, I was suddenly being attacked by dragons… many dragons… when all  I’ve done is just left Helgen at the beginning and I’m a measly level 1, and the only dragon I should have met until I reached the Jarl in Whiterun was Alduin at the execution.

For the first time – and I have played this game a lot, particularly the Xbox 360 edition – I’m being attacked by a very irate dragon whilst following the Stormcloak out of the cave and into Riverwood to see his sister. Then I try to escape… Make it all the way to Whiterun… Where there are three – three! – of the bastards (legendary bastards – they even have names!) are not only trying to kill me, but they’re also chasing me as I sprint away back to Riverwood. What the hell did I do to them… I’m not even Dragonborn yet?

Apparently, this would seem to be the result of a mod that was downloaded for the game – I don’t know why it’s on there; I think it was thrown in with the basic Steam download of it (it came with extra mod packets to make it look even more amazing than it already did). I bought the whole package, with the DLCs and everything it had in the Christmas/New Year Steam sale, and it was thrown in with all that somehwere.

Skyrim_Launch_WindowAfter searching for answers, I found suggestions of mod glitches – so I went looking for one. As suggested by some very clever-clogs on one forum, I disengaged the mods (under Data Files in the launch screen) five at a time and relaunched the game afterwards. I repeated this until the dragon circling grumpily over Riverwood (he must have been getting dizzy by now too…) finally vanished.

Then one at a time, I introduced the missing mods back into the game. The culprit that returned the dragon was Skyrim_DragonAttack_Culpritcalled narak.esp – and no, I have no idea what it was, where it came from, or why it’s there. I can’t find a trace of it mentioned via Google either, nor in Steam Community… Unless I’m somehow looking wrong. What I do know is that it made very confused and sent dragons to circle villages and kill me.

So… annoying, it was. This took all night to figure out what it was, then about an hour to go back and forth through it all to find out which one of them, if any, was causing it.

And now that’s finally over with, maybe I can go and work out once and for all how to be rid of the infamous floating “Level Up” glitch for high resolutions. Oh the fun of PC gaming…

 

Elder Scrolls V  Skyrim 03.08.2016 - 13.41.49.07

The annoying, evil Riverwood dragon

 

Elder Scrolls V  Skyrim 03.08.2016 - 13.06.24.02

Now the dragon is gone, I can focus on that annoying “Level Up” text sitting there on the screen…

 

 

The Elder Scrolls Online is now out, and after a break away from Tamriel, it made me interested in returning to Skyrim once again to remember what all the Elder Scrolls fuss was all about.

 

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was the game for me back on 11 November 2011… That date of 11.11.11. was one of the most exciting ones in my gaming life (later to be joined by learning that Mass Effect 3 was to be released around the time of my birthday a year later). I preordered it well in advance (paying full price despite no preorder extras, and even added the enormous guide book, all whilst jumping up and down with glee), waited on tenterhooks, and then – to my joy – actually received it a day early through the post. I then proceeded to downloaded all the DLCs as they came out — Dawnguard, Hearthfire, Dragonborn — and spent a very long time single-mindedly playing the game to death with a dedication that my employers could only dream of getting from me!

Two characters and an astounding grand total of well over 500 hours of gameplay later (I shit you not, I checked — 350+ hours for first and 150+ for second… and that doesn’t include the times I’ve had to reload after accidentally killing my horse/dog/follower. I knew I had no life!), I’m still playing it and enjoying it. I have recently picked it up once again, after a few months of respite — having playing the pants off a whole load of other games to take a break from it (specifically replying the entire Mass Effect Trilogy once again). After all this time, and playing a whole load of other games, I am still exceptionally impressed with TESV: Skyrim. I have the Xbox 360 version and it’s easily the most impressive game I have for my console. It is beautiful, vast, impressive, never-ending, sprawling — and there is never less than at least 20 quests waiting in my list (not including the miscellanies ones!). One thing the land of Skyrim is not, is boring — there is always something to do, and the one possible negativity is that there is too much to do!

 

 

Back In The Saddle… Literally!

Once I started to get the hang of the rather complicated controller mapping and menus again, I was quite away again enjoying the Nordic sandbox Bethesta created. I was fighting in the Dawnguard with my vampire follower, riding my horse, and trying to build one of my new houses as part of the Hearthfire DLC, whilst planning on getting myself a new little family to play with and greet me when I came home from those long days of wandering Skyrim and slaying dragons with my horse, dog, and chosen follower.

Everything else was exactly how I remembered it. The detail, colour, use of light indoors and outdoors, the change in weather… it is all still beautiful and outstanding — even now, having played it so much, it still does not cease to amaze me, and I still love just sitting and watching it. The music is also something that still holds me captive: Each bard’s song is simple and medieval, relevant for the premise of the game. Each music piece played in-game is beautiful enough that I can sit and listen to it as it plays, and I still love the grand theme tune, Dovahkiin.

The NPCs are also just as odd as I recalled, and they are still as irritating and random as I remembered them to be (having beaten the ass off an Elder Dragon that had come to invade Falkreath, the guards had the gall to walk past with a snide remark of, “Guard might get nervous, a woman approaches with her weapon drawn…” — I mean come on… seriously? I just killed a damned dragon that was about to eat your head, it would be questionable if I didn’t have it drawn!), and the dragons are just as inconvenient when they come swooping in without warning, particularly when after you’ve eaten their soul no one bothers to clean up the bones left behind… However, all this is also part of its charm. When everything looks this gorgeous, detailed and vivid, it really doesn’t matter about the idiosyncrasies of the simple NPCs that lived their simple lives in their simple towns. The game is still so fantastically impressive and all and any such things can easily be entirely forgiven, simply seen just as part of the world created. It’s just the ways of the Nordic life of Skyrim. I guess all the way up here in the northern cold region of Tamriel, they’re just not that smart…

 

 

Life as Dovahkiin

Skyrim Travel Poster

The life of a Dragonborn is as easy or hard as you want it to be. You can do as little or as much as you want, and you can be anything you want to be. It’s pretty awesome to have such a free reign on your in-game life and I thoroughly enjoy making what I want of it. What you can most definitely count on, though, is that there is always plenty to do and enough ways to go about doing it. It reminds me so completely of the days I used to get all my dolls and play make-believe with them all over my bedroom, garden, lounge, or wherever else I wanted to go, where only my imagination was the limit. In Skyrim, I get to do it on a big TV with gorgeous graphics and an entire country to do it in, which is very cool and very fun.

Playing this game just never gets old. One of the biggest reasons for this is that it just never stays the same. Even just having to reload an area can bring a completely different scenario with it. These random events were something I had somehow forgotten all about, and I was taken by surprise a few times by it at the start. Somehow, it had completely slipped my mind that most encounters and the like were not scripted or set in stone, but instead ran by some kind of algorithms in the system. Reloading a save would make certain people or creatures vanish, and others seemingly attack from nowhere — something I had to get used to all over again, which once again upped my esteem for this game. You cannot have the same game twice with Skyrim — or even the same re-load. The exception is the the few scripted encounters where you’ll find certain people, creatures, or items in certain places when following certain quests. But even then, when following the same quests, you do not get the same experience twice.

This is what makes Skyrim so repayable, even nearly two years after first buying it. The wonder it creates is still there, even though I’ve played it to death. The sandbox element of it means it can just never gets repetitive. My Skyrim guide looks more like a well-worn textbook for a Master’s Degree than a simple game guide, with its notes stuffed inside, post-its scattered over pages and bookmarking important areas (this is because I have no patience for looking things up via the index!). I still know and remember where everywhere and everything is, know how to navigate the towns, cities, and Reaches, I love my horse, love my dog, look after my family and housecarls, … So I’ve already probably played it far too much! Of course, this is testament to the great game that Bethesta has made. It never gets old, and the familiarity makes it feel more and more like home, that I live there, that I get to make up whatever stories I want. It’s Minecraft, but without the blocks. There is a skeleton story of a kind in the “main mission”, but it’s thin and you really can even make of that what you will. That is my favourite thing about it — it’s my own game and no one at Bethesta has even tried to tell me how to play. I’m not restricted by anything, and that is what makes this game has to be my ultimate favourite (so far, at least.. There’s a whole new generation to go now!).

 

 

The Game of a Generation

If you have never played Skyrim… Well, I have sympathy for you to have missed this gem! It’s an inspired game that is a never-ending sandbox with never-ending quests, random creatures and meetings, and has stats on everything, including Bunnies Slaughtered (…just who is that evil?!… poor bunnies…) — and where you can have played over 350 hours of it and still be nowhere near completing it.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has to be the most amazing game created for the last generation. It’s vision was inspired, the quality is incredible, and it is a world that is truly immense. It is quite literally the never-ending story that just keeps on going. Just like I will keep going. Because it is simply just too awesome a game to stop playing!

 

One Just Does Not Stop Playing Skyrim

 

 

Cancer Research released an amazing app from an ingenious idea – a basic mobile app game that could also analyse complex cancer DNA data at the same time: Genes In Space (covered in Gaming More Than Games). When my friend read about it, she was amazed and incredulous  – she couldn’t work out how this could possibly be done. She is a cynic and expected it to be untrue – I expect many without some idea of how tech applications can work, and who have never heard of such things before, would not believe that a simple space-travelling game could help geneticists unravel DNA codes of cancers.

So I have the very simple answer right here, for those of you who care to know.

*

The Background

The story behind this particular model for data analysis is based on one simple fact – the human brain is better than any computer. Scientists can run lots of certain data analyses on computers, but some things can only be seen by people:

… this research produces colossal amounts of data that need to be analysed.  Advances in technology mean our scientists can process data faster than ever to identify new patterns and faults in tumours. But much of it still needs to be analysed by people rather than machines. The human eye can detect subtle changes that machines are not programmed to look for – leading to serendipitous discoveries providing clues to the causes and drivers of the disease.

This work is currently done by our trained scientists and can take years.  But with the collective power of hundreds of thousands of people across the globe helping our scientists to analyse this data we could drastically speed up research – hopefully saving lives faster.

Citizen science is a new way of including the public in our scientific research outside the laboratory.

The upshot of this is that they need to develop a way to get as many people as possible in on this – and this is the best way to get a hell of a lot of people – with absolutely no knowledge of science, but a wealth of commuter time to kill – to help them do as much data analysis as possible.

But then you may be left with the same question my friend had – just how did they do it? How is this complex data mapped and analysed by a simple game? Amazingly enough, she worked it out herself after a brief interlude of logical thinking, having played the game and slept on it (she wanted to work it out on her own). This part is for everyone else who doesn’t share her enthusiasm for solving logical problems for the hell of it.

This idea first started back in March 2013 with a GameJam (for those who do not live in tech-land, this is a group brainstorming session for game developers, programmers, designers, and the like – where they all get together and brainstorm ideas on how to develop something new). This GameJam was arranged because they already thought turning the analysis program into a game was a good idea:

The first step [was] for forty ‘hackers’ – computer programmers, gamers, graphic designers and other specialists – to take part in a weekend ‘GameJam’, or hackathon, to turn Cancer Research UK’s raw gene data into a game format, with a working title of GeneRun, for citizen scientists to play.

To make something like this – a game that is more than just a game – is not even a new idea. Others have already come before to use this model: Fold It is already an established organisation that has been evolve with this in mind, with the subtitle of:  Solving Puzzles for Science, and available on Windows, OSX, and Linux platforms. There are others.

It is therefore no wonder that Cancer Research UK decided this was a really good way to go. But just how did they manage to turn a massive data analysis project into a little spaceship game?

*

Here Comes The Science…

It took some time to go through this idea (the full story can be read by clicking on the quote above). The result of this lengthy collaboration process resulted in the game we now finally have: Genes In Space. The collaboration for this game involved behemoths of the online industry, including Amazon Web Services, Facebook and Google developers, who joined academics, scientists, gamers and designers. The final product, a year later, was Play To Cure: Genes In Space.

The process of its data collection focused on two key aspects:

      • firstly when you map your route through the Element Alpha
      • secondly when you fly your spaceship through the intergalactic space course to collect this substance

 

What happens behind the scenes of the game is that these functions correlate to analysing data the scientists require:

In the game, you take the helm of a spaceship to collect valuable and powerful ‘Element Alpha’. The stroke of genius is that in doing so you are actually helping our scientists to analyse piles of real life data.

… the game is actually a fun interface to allow the public to assist our scientists in the serious business of spotting patterns in gigabytes of genetic information from thousands of tumours.

… in a nutshell, by finding the best route to pick up the most Element Alpha, you’re actually plotting a course through genuine ‘DNA microarray’ data.

In other words, the real data the scientists are working on is entered into the game, then these data sets are “translated” into the flightpath of the in-game spaceship, to fly through in space.

By plotting the key points for your flightpath to maximise the collection of “Element Alpha”, you are in fact actually plotting your way through the real cancer DNA code, to maximise analysis of the DNA data they have – as you can see below in the comparison between the two versions:

Real Data

Real Data

Element Alpha FlightPath

Element Alpha FlightPath

By playing Genes in Space you’ll be analysing significant amounts of genetic data which would have taken scientists hours to do. This data can then be used to develop new life saving treatments.

Once you know how it’s done, it’s not so mystical, is it? Like a magic trick, knowing how it’s done makes it far more realistic. So now you know how it’s done, you might realise that now you – yes, you! –  can actually help in the battle for the cure for cancer. You might realise it’s completely realistic that you can actually do something proactive to help. You can actually help fuel treatment methods to fight against cancer. You can help your friends, family, colleagues, other fellow human beings – Heaven forbid, one day help yourself – in this long battle to keep our lives from this silent enemy.

Innovations like this give us some of the power back – we can each of us do something useful to help. Hopefully, you may already do something useful – donate money (even sporadically into one of those little plastic pots for a pretty sticker), take old stuff to Cancer Research charity shops, volunteer in helping people… But this is even better. This is helping do something we really otherwise couldn’t do. The battle for cancer is in the lab, and we all can’t fit in there (and nor are we all scientists to do the work required…) – but we can all take a few minutes to launch a game and drive a cute little spaceship through an asteroid field to suck up as much Element Alpha as possible. If we all (with compatible devices) did just one of two of them every other day, imagine how many of those data sets would be getting analysed for the scientists who need them done?

I really like the idea of these things. I imagine a world in the future where Triple-A game devs and publishers collaborate with scientists and charities to run some kind of data analysis into the big-name games that millions of people play hundreds of hours of, so games can do more behind the scenes than just be played. Imagine if the 100+ hours you sunk into Skyrim, or all that apparently pointless scouring for minerals in ME2 actually went into things like treating and curing illnesses like HIV and cancer? Or managed mass analysis for scientific breakthroughs we can’t even dream or. Or even helped raise money for starving children, or victims or war? What if analysis of playing COD play on real-world maps analysed safer ways for solders to fight in combat in the background?… Computers can never replace how a real human thinks – we have our own logic, and computers can’t replicate that.

*

*

*

The Incredibly Loose Analogy: 

Yes, it is fickle to say you can help cure cancer in your lunch break, or on your commute – but it’s not that wide off the mark. With each data set analysed, these scientists who work tirelessly to unlock the secrets of cancer to find its weak spot, so it can be conquered, come one step ever closer to defeating it.

If you think about it, the journey to curing cancer is not that much different than playing a Bioware videogame (just humour me here… this is just how my brain generally works… skip it altogether if you prefer!) – there’s something of ME3 in here I would say… There’s an evil, a “big boss” fight out there, one that threatens humankind, one that the protagonists must defeat to save us – enough lives have been lost already. To do this, they will require as much help as possible to do so – using science, data, friends, allies, and anything else they can think of that will help overcome their adversary. With each addition to their cause, their “Readiness” grows ever stronger. They learn secrets, weaknesses, ways of conquering the strong monster that infiltrates silently and can kill so quickly. Innovations such as the Genes In Space game will inevitable boost their readiness to take down the enemy once and for all.

If the scientists are Shepard and his crew, we can be the allied support desperately required. If this is so, Cancers are the Reapers – a deadly enemy who only wants to destroy and annihilate all organic life and leave us extinct. If we can actually help to defeat and conquer this evil that takes the lives of our loved ones, then we should take the opportunity to do so. We should stand by those who are smart enough and strong enough to take this enemy on, and one day destroy it. One day we might see cancer as unobtrusive as other once-lethal diseases that we now walk away from unscathed, and with our lives. Unlike ME3, though, we will have a happier ending where we all survive, and no sacrifice of more lives will be made. This will only happen though, if we stand together, work together, and help those who are fighting it in the small ways that we can.

This is one of them.

Girls love headshots too… It’s not just boys. And by “headshots” I don’t mean those Photoshopped glammed-up pictures you get just before you go to your singing/acting/dancing/prancing/showing off auditions. I mean the ones where you put a bullet into an AI enemy brain and they stay down, a puff of mist emitting from their brains, just before getting Xbox Achievement for making 100 of them. They’re way more fun!

For some reason – known to stereotype alone – it’s assumed girls don’t like games. So I rather like the fact that I was actually introduced to gaming by two girls. Ironically I wasn’t even vaguely interested in games when I was young. It was my little sister who ended up with the latest PlayStation incarnation in her bedroom and all the games, and I played hers – but nothing caught my attention. Then came a rather awesome game called Eternal Darkness, on the Nintendo GameCube, shown to me by my girlfriend. She wanted to prove games weren’t all about bouncing Marios – and I realised games could be more than bits of floating pixel platforms for gorillas, hedgehogs and plumbers. I was introduced to a different style of game, where there was a real story, realistic characters, and looked pretty close to a movie you played the leading role in. I never really looked back.

Now, a proud owner of an original Xbox 360 for oh-so-many years, I have the magazines, visit the game-sites, and follow them on Twitter. I’m a Gold Member of Xbox Live and particularly attached to my Game store Reward card. I love single-player RPGs, preferring fantasy and open world games.  Skyrim, Oblivion, Dragon Age, Mass Effect, The Witcher – even the Albion-based Fable series – are now all huge favourites of mine. And yet, I’m a girl.

 

I suppose one reason it’s assumed boys prefer games is because they’re easier to please with more “typical” genres – guns and football pretty much hit all their spots head-on. I prefer good stories, good relationships/interaction, and very good reasons for those huge battle sequences; basically a more complicated story than Point ‘n’ Shoot. This story-based idea used to be more popular with the Point-and-Click PC games of old, though only two have ever really stood out even there (The Longest Journey and Dreamfall). Thankfully it’s now getting more common in console games. Perhaps it’s not that we’re adverse to shooting something’s head off (actually, I find it very cathartic to ram a Katana into somebody’s face when I’m having a bad day!) – it’s just that we like to be given a good reason to. Otherwise, why go to all that bother?

Improved quality in storytelling is surely a must to get us more interested. Girls seem to prefer becoming engrossed in a great story they can take the lead in – we are typically lovers of strong, interesting story-arcs. Too many games are based on testosterone-fuelled shoot-to-kill stats and hypersexuality of girls, which don’t tend to impress us – after all, we’re women not teenage boys. We need more than guns and boobs to keep us interested. Hiring more female writers would be a good answer – and it was inspiring to find the lead writer for the Tomb Raider reboot, giving Lara Croft a new voice, was Rhianna Pratchet. An accomplished games writer with a great writing heritage, she’s recreated Lara as a realistic young woman we could identify with. I somehow doubt a man could’ve managed it quite the same.

I expect one thing that is helping girls become more interested in games is character customisation, with male/female protagonist choices – because what woman prefers a man buffed up on steroids as their virtual avatar? Regardless of engrossing story, this makes a huge difference in how I connect with characters and immerse myself in games, especially RPGs. I enjoy identifying with the character and making them a part of myself… And I can hardly do that with Mr Buff-Muscles running about on-screen, grunting and yelling everywhere, can I?

 

Thankfully, with Social Networking, we now know there are lots of other girl-gamers out there. There’s apparently less than ever directly involved with making games and writing about them, though. But those that do fly the flag high and do a great job. With trail-blazing women such as Kiki Wolfkill – executive Producer of Halo 4 (http://www.bigissue.com/features/interviews/1680/kiki-wolfkill-gaming-viable-career-path-women) – and Jade Raymond – Head of Ubisoft Toronto and producer of the Assassin’s Creed franchise (http://www.computerandvideogames.com/343886/interviews/ubisofts-first-lady-jade-raymond-on-building-ubisoft-toronto/#) – standing in the limelight as beacons of “girl-power” in game production, there is great hope that the girl-pool in games is going to get bigger.

They’re inspirational and show there’s no real room for sexism in gaming – hopefully encouraging the next generation of female under-grads to consider choosing Programming and Gaming as their major choice when applying to UCAS.

 

 

Strong Female Characters in Games - No Naked Required

Strong Female Characters in Games – No Naked Required