Archive for August, 2006

Comics part one

Wednesday, August 30th, 2006

Long time reader Cameron sent me some fantastic comics that fit the theme of this site: “Striving for mediocrity”

Click on the image below for the full version of today’s comic, and humble yourself before its averageness. Part two will be coming later in the week.


Thursday, August 24th, 2006

Yes, the site looks a little different today, I have decided to tweak the default colors of my Content Management System, mostly to differentiate myself from the loads of other sites that use the same default colors.

I’ll probably be fine-tuning the look in the next few days depending on user feedback.

Three Hundred

Tuesday, August 15th, 2006

It’s interesting how some things happen. You’re just sitting there minding your own business one day and then *WHAM*! Just like that, you own three hundred games. Three hundred games and you’ve played most of them through to completion, many of them more than once. Three hundred games and you realize that you’ve spent a significant chunk of your free time doing things like this, this, and this. Three hundred games and you apply to potential employers using unorthodox methods.

Three hundred games and you think to yourself: “Time to get started on my next three hundred.”

Wednesday, August 9th, 2006

Apparently, which seems to be a MediaWiki based catalog of websites, has an entry for this site. Since the entry was apparently added yesterday by a robot, the Description is woefully inaccurate (it’s just part of the text of yesterday’s article). I should probably change that at some point.

The “Killer” NIC

Tuesday, August 8th, 2006

Bigfoot Networks is apparently bringing out a new Network Interface Card (the KillerNIC) that will sport an embedded computer inside the network card to handle the complex routing and prioritzation of packets and get you:

  1. More frames per second in gaming
  2. Significantly reduced network latency and
  3. A significantly lighter wallet

For my less technically-minded readers, some definitions are in order:

Frames per second – Your computer has to draw lots of pictures to simulate motion in whatever game you’re playing, kind of like a cartoon. The more frames per second your computer can draw, the smoother the action.
Network interface card – The component in your computer that connects it to other networks, like a local area network or the Internet.
Network latency – The difference between the time you initiate some action and the time it takes to actually happen.
Bigfoot Networks – Crazy.

I would like to address a few quotes from an interview that Bigfoot Networks did with gD Hardware

GD: Why ping? Why did you feel this was an important enough thing to make a company and a product to address?

Bigfoot: Bigfoot Networks is dedicated to fighting Lag in online games, which we define as anything bad that happens in a game that is out of the gamer’s control. This could be their screen freezing, players jumping around on the screen, losing your connection to the game server, slow responses from the server, etc… Ping improvements can help all of these things, but is not the only feature of Killer.

Killer was designed to be a weapon that Gamers can use to put in their PCs that lowers Ping times AND offloads processing from the CPU, which combine to reduce problems caused by the Gamer’s PC. Killer’s strength is that you can take a high-end PC with all the bells and whistles, and plug the Killer in and get better online gaming performance.

I’m seeing some smoke and mirrors already. Firstly, they’re targeting Hardcore Gamers(tm) with this thing. Contrary to what you may have been led to believe by reading the marketing materials, networking in a typical game does not produce significant overhead, or at least not enough to cause any noticeable performance hit, especially on the machine of a Hardcore Gamer(tm). These people typically will have enough processing power that the overhead produced by processing packets would be negligible. There are situations where your network performance could impact the performance of the rest of your system, but inside the PC of a Hardcore Gamer(tm) is not going to be one of them.

GD: What do you say to the customer who already has great pings to the servers they play on?

Bigfoot: We designed the Killer for those gamers that care about winning, that care about being the best. With the Killer, your ping will be even lower. So, if you turn the corner and spot your enemy you will have more of an edge with Killer than without.

But that’s not all! Don’t forget the better Frames Per Second and overall better game play that comes with freeing up the CPU from dealing with networking tasks. This can lead to even more performance improvements and even more winning. Winning is everything, especially in online gaming.

But I care about winning! I care plenty! Okay, there are two things wrong with their answer: First, unless you’re playing on a local network, lag is going to be determined by all the connections between you and the server you play on, and no matter how fast your network card can process packets, if there’s something awry on the other side of your router (i.e. on the Internet) then you’re going to have lag, and there’s going to be nothing realistically you can do about it. Secondly, I suppose that if you removed your router, shut down all resident programs running on your computer, made sure there was a full moon, got a nice new network cable and rubbed it down with soap so the packets just glide right through, you might be able to see around a one frame per second increase in the performance of your game. Maybe. Likely whatever game a Hardcore Gamer is playing is going to push so many frames per second that one more is going to be imperceptible.

GD: What’ll be the retail pricing of this card?

Bigfoot: $279.99

So I lied. That price does not sound like a good deal for what could, at best, be a negligible gain. I apparently don’t care about winning at all.

GD: We have a marketplace of motherboard that already has low CPU-utilization on the NIC’s – why should someone shell out extra money for your card?

Bigfoot: First, the statement is false. There is no NIC or motherboard NIC other than Killer that gives significant low CPU-utilization performance. The only technology analogous is TCP/IP Offload accelerators that can be found in corporate servers. TCP/IP checksum offload and is a much-touted technology in these NICs you mention, but that do not benefit online games much at all.

Killer has checksum offload, but it is also CLEARLY different because:
1) The additional Frames Per Second that our card offers prove that better networking can dramatically impact your online game’s performance.
2) A lot of gamers run no additional applications while gaming because they want their CPU to focus on the game exclusively…with Killer’s Flexible Network Architecture (FNA) they can get their cake and eat it too. The NPU can run their apps and handle the networking, while the CPU focuses on the game.
3) Better Ping times over standard NICs.
4) PingThrottle, which allows gamers to adjust their ping for fair play reasons, or for training purposes.

I really couldn’t find anything about PingThrottle other than it allows you to ‘adjust your ping.’ Since you can only realistically lower your ping so much due to circumstances beyond your control (again, the myriad connections that comprise the mysterious Internet), raising it ‘for training purposes’ would seem to me to be counterproductive, since the whole reason you bought the $280 network card was so you wouldn’t have lag to deal with.

And my personal favorite:

GD: What makes Killer anything more than a glorified NIC?

Bigfoot: Winning! FNA! The answers are endless. Killer literally runs Linux OS on a sub-computer inside your computer… this is night and day different from any NIC ever!

Well, at least gD Hardware asked the question that was on my mind reading this article. The answer that was given is as humorous as it is saddening. I just know that out there, there are throngs of people that have been convinced that they need to steal their mom’s credit card and get this card so they can get more headshots in Counterstrike.


Tuesday, August 8th, 2006

If you tried to access the site this morning and were unable to, there was a bit of a server hiccup:

“This message is to inform you that at around 05:20 EDT on Aug 08 2006 the physical server hosting your virtual server has gone down, and was back up at around 06:20. This was due to a failure with one of our remote power control devices. The issue has been addressed and the service is back up.”

Of course, the server didn’t come back up completely correctly, and I didn’t know about anything until about 9:30 AM PDT. All should be well now.

Normal is Easy, Hard is Normal, etc.

Monday, August 7th, 2006

Looks like I’m not alone in thinking games are getting easier. One of the guys over at ExtremeTech seems to have discovered this trend as well. From the article:

“This is something I’ve noticed recently with PC games, too. Either games are getting easier, or I’m becoming a better gamer in my old age. As recently as three years ago, I often had to find walkthroughs to puzzle out a few aspects of a game. Usually, that meant I couldn’t find the way out, had a problem with a difficult mission or had to figure out exactly how to defeat some infinitely powerful level boss.

In the past couple of years, though, I’ve been able to figure these things out without outside help. Well, to be fair, my 13-year old daughter, Emily, sat with me during a few of the Tomb Raider sessions and offered up very useful suggestions. But I never had to resort to cheats or walkthroughs. The one exception in the past two years is Doom 3, but only because ennui set in, and I turned on God mode just so I could finish the damned thing and put it away.”

The rest of the article is mostly just about what new games the author is playing, but I found it interesting that someone else has noticed the same thing I did, and actually said something about it.

Killing Spare Time

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2006

In the past few weeks, in between working at my Real Job(tm) and upgrading my PC (more on that in a later update), I’ve actually managed to squeeze in some game playing. Briefly, here’s a rundown of what I’ve been playing in July.

Dungeon Lords

I bought this game on a whim while I was on my mini-vacation back home. Big mistake. This game is easily one of the worst games that I’ve ever played. I only managed to play it for about two hours before I just couldn’t take any more. Just some of the problems I had with the game include:

  1. The UI is confusing
  2. The characters animate strangely
  3. My mage started out with one offensive spell that had 3 charges. It took at least two to down an enemy. The spells recharge after several minutes. I rarely fought less than four enemies at a time. I died.
  4. I died a lot. When you die, your character loses stats. Like Intelligence.
  5. The first dungeon that I managed to get to was a sprawling, confusing mess. There was nothing Lordly about it.
  6. Occasionally, you will be assaulted by a random mob of monsters (around four to six). Occasionally in this sense means ‘every couple of minutes’. So, you can’t take your time exploring or trying to solve one of the ridiculous puzzles without having to stop to fight hordes of monsters all the time.
  7. When you open your inventory, all the characters on the screen that aren’t you will continue to animate in place. It’s kind of funny to see goblins running full-tilt, but not actually going anywhere… The first dozen times
  8. I now miss my $40

That’s just a partial list. If I really felt like boring you, I could keep going, but I’m sure you get the idea. This game sucks. Nobody should buy it. Ever.

Mario Kart: Double Dash

I had never actually owned this game until just recently. Somehow I managed to both not get it and unlock everything on the various copies owned by friends. I went to my local EB and snagged the last copy they had. The good news is that after all this time, the game still holds up. I also have expanded my collection of games that use my broadband adapter to two.

Indigo Prophecy

Fantastic game, although a little on the short side (I managed to finish it in around four hours). Indigo Prophecy is kind of like an interactive movie/choose your own adventure kind of thing. There isn’t really anything terribly difficult about the game. The actual game play elements boil down to tapping the shoulder buttons, pressing directions on the analog sticks in time with the game, and gesturing with the analog sticks. I played this game on PC, and it does support the keyboard and mouse, but I very quickly learned that the game controls much better using a dual-analog controller. This is easily the best $20 I’ve spent in a while.

Fable: The Lost Chapters

Since I don’t have an Xbox, I never got to play this game until recently. The game itself seems to be well put together, but there are minor graphical anomalies all over the place that just bother me a bit (the hero’s hair clips through his head, for example). But I can generally overlook these things, since the rest of the game is decent. The game seems to be a bit on the easy side; I haven’t had a significant problem with anything yet. That keeps the plot moving along, I suppose. I foolishly took my hero into battle with a particularly vicious creature without the protection of any headwear, and promptly got slashed across the face. My hero now has permanent scars. Whoops. It’s kind of neat that your hero does go through permanent changes as the game goes on, but he isn’t going to be winning any beauty contests.

And that’s all. We’re in the Summer months, and there’s going to be very little in the way of new games coming out until sometime in the Fall/early Winter that I really want to play, so now’s a good time to go back and play some of those games that I had intended to play, but neglected to pick up when they were new.