Outdoor Gaming Ep. 2

The sunlight was inviting, so I set out to gain a little altitude. Have a better view, better knowledge of where I am in this blasted valley and perhaps find out some details about the fish-frog people.

It did not take long for the first sign of their cult to appear beside the road. This time it was made out of iron and was much more intricately decorated than the wooden one I had last seen, so it was probably also more powerful:

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Outdoor Gaming Ep. 1

Gamers spend way too much time indoors. And why is that? Because our gaming systems have screens that can’t be viewed outside! Yes, sometimes you see a gamer hunched over their super-reflective mobile phone screen, squinting and trying to make out what the hell is going on, playing a game in the park. It might work if they’re sitting in the shade of a tree, but it’s a very bad gaming experience in broad sunlight.

There are (or were) a few systems that can be played just fine outdoors, though. That even prefer strong sunlight: the Game Boy, Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance all have transflective or reflective screens. So did the Neo Geo Pocket and Neo Geo Pocket Color. There was also the WonderSwan, but you can’t play any of those because Kelsey bought all of them. I’m ignoring the backlit Game Boy SP AGS-001 and Game Boy Micro for the purpose of this article, since what would be the point taking those into the sun?

Owning all those Game Boy iterations, I tried thinking of an excuse to avoid being outdoors and couldn’t, so I decided to work this the other way and actually go somewhere. Just take the first road I find and walk until I’m bored, but at least for an hour, then play some Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins.

Here’s the story, with pictures.

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Review the Reviewer: HexDSL

I know I’m late to this party and those of you who play their games on Linux surely already know this channel, but to me one bit is new: HexDSL has been doing hundreds of Linux gaming videos over the last two years. And that’s because he releases one Linux gaming video per day! That doesn’t mean the quality sucks, though.

I first encountered his channel when it was mostly about comics with a Linux game here and there, but nowadays it’s mostly about Linux games, which I can’t complain about. And what an array of games he’s covered! He looks at any genre, but he’s quick to tell you whether a review was sponsored and if he’d even normally buy or play this sort of game.

It also shows that he’s been playing long enough to know what to look for in a game and to spot the danger signs, always good if you’re on the fence about a title and need another solid opinion.

The level of polish in his videos has certainly increased a lot over the last few months as well, today he uses chroma keying/green screen, a proper microphone, a pop filter, I guess some encoder card — everything you could possibly ask for. Nothing to complain about in the quality department.

It may seem like he’s rambling sometimes, but I find I always get all the information I wanted about a title if I try to pay attention. And I think his voice work is entertaining, no monotone put-me-to-sleep stuff, so there’s no need for you to replace your ASMR videos with HexDSL.

He also covers bits of Linux hardware, games running through WINE and other stuff you’d figure a Linux gaming nerd might like to hear about. So it’s not all just games, but mostly, and the things that aren’t games are usually Linux-related in some way.

There doesn’t seem to be a channel trailer I could embed, so I’ll link you right to the main page. You can also support him on Patreon.

Fix crackling audio in some games in WINE

Some games happen to have wonderful audio (and music), like Wolfenstein: The New Order. Some games happen not to be available natively for Linux, like… err… also Wolfenstein: The New Order. So we play them with WINE, and sometimes there are slight audio issues.

But have no fear: If you get audio crackling in such games (especially if your audio device is not running at 44.1 KHz), the following environment variable might fix it for you like it did for me:

PULSE_LATENCY_MSEC=60

You can either start WINE in a terminal with this env var prepended:

PULSE_LATENCY_MSEC=60 wine Steam.exe

or if you’re using PlayOnLinux:

PULSE_LATENCY_MSEC=60 playonlinux

Or you can export it in your ~/.profile file if you want it to be set for all your applications (don’t forget to completely log out and back in, since .profile is read only once per session):

export PULSE_LATENCY_MSEC=60

Does this work for you? It works for me. I can’t remember where I found it first, but it’s a hint that’s been passed along, so pass it along I shall.

May the Flying Spaghetti Monster extend its noodly appendage to guide the hands of Lennart Poettering so that such issues become a thing of the past (if indeed Pulseaudio is to blame, but we always blame Pulseaudio, so we shall blame it one more time).

Now to enjoy the screams of expiring Nazi cyborgs in ultimate smoothness.

Diary of a year of not buying video games (or books): Conclusion

About 9 months ago, I stopped buying games because I had a huge pile of unplayed ones already, like most gamers. I told myself I won’t be buying any more games for a year, to finish what I already have, and so I can decide what I don’t even want to play. 9 months in I broke my vow when prices for used Playstation 3 stuff hit their lowest point yet and something told me that missing this opportunity wouldn’t be wise, so I stopped my challenge and bought a PS3 with piles of games to last me years. You can read all the details month-by-month here.

In numbers, I’ve played somewhere around 40 games, finishing about a dozen and discarding or shelving the rest. But I also added 43 new games to my wishlist. In the old days, these 43 games would have been immediately purchased and added to my existing queue of 100-something titles. Horrible to think of that now. Instead, I have a physical pile of PS3 games that goes up to my hip to worry about. Much better!

I learned a lot, and I believe I can condense it into a few paragraphs of hints for those addicted to game purchases. And I’m saying game purchases, not necessarily playing. Some of these games sat for ages in my library until I finally stopped buying new ones and actually played them. Is it the same for you? Then read on.

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Diary of a year of not buying video games (or books): September 2016

Last month I told you about my magical rediscovery of console gaming. I had been so focused on PC that I had completly ignored entire generations of console games. I got cut off at the early days of the Wii. Now what I discovered was:

  1. I really enjoy the Wii titles that have a childlike appearance but some tough core gameplay. All those colors! Super Mario Galaxy! It’s not just grey and brown and somber like the PC titles are sometimes.
  2. I don’t know even half the good titles that came out for the Game Cube, and there are some unique ones there.
  3. I’ve missed most of the good PS2 stuff, and all of the good PS3 stuff.
  4. Guitar Hero was real fun. Why did I stop playing Guitar Hero? Why did I never pick up Rock Band and the drum set?

All of these needed to be remedied. So in a very desperate move, I dug into the PS3 scene just as the PS3 is dying. Dying or dead consoles are the best for collecting, and I’d put this under the heading “collecting”. Once they’re no longer popular, you can get used games for single-digit prices. Some of them are even collections. I bought God of War 1 – 5 in a big set for USD 12, for example, and that’s the remastered HD edition for PS3.

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Diary of a year of not buying video games (or books): August 2016

It was a month with one or two strange revelations, but it started pretty mundanely.

Life is Strange’s first episode became available for free. I downloaded it but I don’t dare to play until next March, because if I like the first episode, I might want to buy the rest.

Other than that, my mind was reasonably calm, the game-buying urges seemed manageable as long as I didn’t look at online stores for games. I started to enjoy my home-built virtual pinball  machine without feeling anxious about getting good at each table in order to have “finished” it. I simply played and had fun.

All was serene. All was calm.

Until my phone beeped and told me there was a new Humble Indie Bundle. A new Humble Indie Bundle! I am a cunt for forgetting to turn off those notifications.

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Diary of a year of not buying video games (or books): July 2016

This month I was thinking about a new trick. Once I’m done with all this, I’ll start buying games again. So far, so good. But I also told you that when I was a kid, games cost so much more, and that made it more satisfying and much rarer to be able to buy a game. To sort of get this feeling back, I’ve decided that for every game I buy, I’ll donate 5 times the game’s price to a decent charity (as identified by GiveWell or other effective altruism organisations). I also vow to simply buy whichever game strikes my fancy at the time with no regard for sale or not sale. If there’s one thing I found out by going through my old games, it’s that appetites for certain genres don’t last long for me, so I’d have to act on the spot. That could mean 20 bucks for the game and 100 for charity.

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Diary of a year of not buying video games (or books): June 2016

The month the dead came back, again

I had the original Dead Island but never really played it much. But this month the devs, who were one of the first major studios to add GNU/Linux support to their titles, released the Definitive Edition (DIDE) at 85% less for owners of the previous one. Hmm. Dilemma!

I remember not playing the original one because I was one of the people who had massive loading issues with it, so by the time it had loaded (5 minutes!) I didn’t feel like playing it anymore. In the Definitive Edition, this issue has been fixed.

Can I pass this off as upgrading something that I would not have played in its un-upgraded state? Yeah, I guess! So on the rediscovery list it goes. I’m also putting Dying Light on my wishlist for next year’s opening of the hiatus. I’d like to give developers Techland (cześć!) some money.

One of the advantages of this whole experiment is that I think a bit more about the companies I want to support with my purchases. Good GNU/Linux porting houses like Feral Interactive, tiny indies that care and offer day 1 Linux releases like Maschinen-Mensch UG, or companies like Techland who have been solid Linux supporters from early on.

The disappointing bit here is that DIDE never worked on my machine and I had to get a refund. But hey, I tried!

Old stuff

Screenshot_2016-06-12_08-14-17
My current favorites list in Steam. Doesn’t count GOG games

This is month three of no new game purchases, but it’s the month of rediscoveries. The list you see on the right is my current Steam favorites list. If you follow these ramblings you must remember it being much shorter. You’re right, it was.

None of these are new games, but my brain is really, really pushing me to buy new stuff. It’s a bad feeling. I found that I can somewhat placate it by just trying new things, so I first downloaded several free-to-play games. They all sucked. Then I went through my list of old purchases, gifts or bundle titles once again and this time picked out games that I might not normally play.

Some of these are genres that I don’t actually like that much, like tower defense or puzzles. Some are games where I suck, like Screencheat. Others I’ve put down earlier because they frustrated me, like Shadowrun.

This time around my brain is calmer, though. Why did I leave these games untouched back in the day? Because I knew for sure that I would hate them? Not really, but my brain made up that story because there was so much other stuff coming out that I didn’t think I’d have the time to play these.

Now I still have nine months, and I suspect that even just checking, thoroughly, whether these games are fun will take up all of that time. No need to buy something new.

They’re all on the rediscoveries list. I will probably not try them with the same fervor as the main games, that’s why the list is separate for now. But if you’re like me, and I suspect you am, why would you even read this, you have a list just like that. You probably bought six, seven Humble Bundles too and ended up with this many titles. Probably more if you’re on Windows — I gave every single one of my Windows keys away, so I have a subset of your problem.

What’s left

  1. The Banner Saga
  2. Chaos Reborn
  3. The Curious Expedition
  4. Duke Nukem 3D: Megaton Edition (Really, really liking this)
  5. Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition
  6. Dropsy
  7. Hand of Fate
  8. The Long Dark
  9. Nuclear Throne
  10. Quake
  11. Shadowrun: Hong Kong – Extended Edition
  12. Star Wars: KOTOR II
  13. Tales of Maj’Eyal
  14. Transistor
  15. Victor Vran
  16. Wasteland 2: Director’s Cut
  17. XCOM: Enemy Unknown

Rediscoveries

Strikethrough for the ones I’ve already shelved again.

  1. Antichamber Wonderfully done, but too hard for my brain
  2. Blocks That Matter Not my style at all
  3. Breach & Clear Don’t like the subject matter
  4. Closure
  5. Cogs So not my style.
  6. Crimsonland Suddenly WASD no longer registered. Shrug.
  7. Din’s Curse Too clunky compared to e.g. Victor Vran
  8. Divine Divinity & Beyond Divinity (via WINE) No time for what feels too much like a slow Diablo clone. Would play if I hadn’t played Diablo back then.
  9. EDGE Not my style at all, even after retrying
  10. Eets Munchies Not my style at all, even after retrying
  11. Eldritch Very well done, but slightly too random
  12. Enclave
  13. Freedom Planet
  14. Galcon Fusion I don’t see the appeal
  15. Galcon Legends Neither here
  16. Harvest: Massive Encounter Doesn’t start anymore, needs some outdated libraries.
  17. HOARD
  18. Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet Quite enjoyable! Wouldn’t have expected it.
  19. Ittle Dew Charming, but don’t like the combat
  20. Joe Danger 2: The Movie Camera makes me nauseous
  21. LISA I see what they did there. Also, crashy.
  22. Massive Chalice
  23. Mercenary Kings Not nearly tight enough controls, gameplay too sluggish, camera makes me vomit.
  24. Mount & Blade: Warband
  25. The Novelist
  26. OlliOlli Whew, my reaction isn’t good enough for this
  27. Outland Pretty, but those bullet patterns belong in manic shmups instead of platformers. Sorry, being conservative here, I know.
  28. Race The Sun Woo, my eyes are too slow for this now. Beautiful, though!
  29. Reus Sooo sloooow
  30. Revenge of the Titans Hey, I don’t hate tower defense as much as I’d thought. Cute game! Almost finished it
  31. Risk of Rain Gamepad support is broken
  32. RUSH Not the kind of game I play
  33. Screencheat It seems no one plays this online anymore
  34. Serious Sam 3: BFE (head bob makes me vomit)
  35. Shadow Warrior Classic Redux
  36. Shadowrun: Dragonfall – Director’s Cut I want to love this game, but I can’t. It feels too thick, too slow
  37. SteamWorld Dig
  38. Strike Suit Zero Feels boring, I think I had enough of this with Wing Commander
  39. Wizorb Nice concept but breakout games bore me too easily
  40. Ziggurat Too much running backwards

Enjoyed this? Read the other posts in this series.

Diary of a year of not buying video games (or books): May 2016

Hey! Hey you. Yeah, you. Psshhhhht! Over here. Look over here. See that? That’s what a guilty feeling looks like.

With considerable guilt I started playing the two free tables offered in The Pinball Arcade and Pinball FX 2. I’d played TPA before some time ago, but after visiting the French alps and finding a company that makes virtual pinball tables, I became more convinced of the viability of simulated pinball than before. I’ve always wanted a real pinball table, but I lack the skills to repair it. And since they constantly break, a virtual one is probably better for me.

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