Sunday, December 14, 2008

More further

So I got up to where I was supposed to get up to after a couple of attempts of jumping into new portals. More jumping and GLaDOS taunts later I arrive in this area:

escape_010008  Also, note the external hard drives in a nearby office: escape_010009

GLaDOS (I'm starting to hate this psychotic thing) says something along the lines of "If you don't stop now, I will kill you.  You don't even care"

This next bit, getting past the rocket launcher was actually kind of fun.  Until I got stuck at the air duct.  Should be 50 minutes after the previous posting.  Which means approximately 5.5 hours total so far.

Will continue later. 

Oh oh oh, I found this plush toy of the Weighted Companion Cube in the VAVLe store... It looked really nice, except it's USD30! Which makes it $45 Aussie dollars.  It's relatively detailed though.

Edit: I must add: What's really interesting about this section of the game, after all the actual test chambers, is that I have no real idea how long this lasts. To explain, during the test chambers 1-19 I mostly knew how long they each would last.  Generally they were about two - four rooms before you got to the exit elevator.  Some were easier than others, the harder ones having more involved triggers required to active the doors, and/or more involved processes to get to the door.  Importantly though, you knew how many test chambers you had left:  your main goal (finishing the test chambers) could be broken up into much shorter goals: finish this chamber, ok X more to go.

But now that there's still a reasonable amount of game left and no test chambers to indicate the progress, it's much more difficult to tell how far along the player is to finishing/the character is from escaping.  This is a very interesting game design technique, because if you were doing the game in real life (Heaven help you) you actually wouldn't know how far along you are and would be incredibly unnerved. It's interesting because it's in contrast to the beginning of the game, with clear, structured goals.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


So, Test Chamber 18. I won't spoil it for anyone, suffice after a few attempts, I took the turrets ... slower...

testchmb_a_140002 testchmb_a_140003 Wow they expect me to get up there?

Walkthrough time! :P Oh that's it, right... Fall back and swap portals, repeat.


Test Chamber 19.  Actually that was kind of fun.  Spoilers below.  Highlight the text to see.

And then the pysco thing tried to murder me in the fire pit.  And then goes all "I was just pretending about murdering you". Yeah sure you were GlaDOS.  And then there's still lots more game after this, it's very surprising, lots of spray paint from the previous test participants....

At this point (somewhere jumping onto ledges) I've stopped, so will finish later....

And now I'm 1.9 hours further along than last post

I'm thinking with Portals

[brrup brrup, jump fall jump

boing, boing, boing Vaaapoorised...


repeat. several times...

"Target acquired.." "Scanning" "Ouch" "Critical Error"

3.2 hours over a few days...

Then.. Test Chamber 18 came along...

Oh no, timed sequences!


Updates will come...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

So, yep

  It's been awhile I know, I basically stopped taking screenshots in game and felt it would be more appropriate to discuss each level as a whole and relate them back to each other.  This requires finishing the game first then going through and playing looking at the levels in peace.  Well actually I could do it anyway but the game is too interesting.

The other issue I had was that discussing short pieces of a level or physics puzzle ended being kind of pointless outside of the context of the level it's in.

So eventually I'll go back and take a look at the level designs themselves.  In the meantime, here's my last few.


Such a strange case. Not the medic, the computer.


Here it is zoomed in. 




At the top of the Citadel:  It's strange because all through the game wondering around through City 17 it looked deserted and run-down, now I come up to the top of the citadel and there are lots of lights, cars on the highways, working bridges...  It's also interesting that when I was on the ground the top of the citadel was obscured in fog, though now at the top you can clearly see the nightscape.  Maybe.. the "fog" has gone away in the evening..right sure it has...

So I'm going to start the FEAR expansion Extraction Point, then Portal, with Flatout as well every so often.  And umm, non-game things.  Outside.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Found this ad on my Windows Live Messenger this evening.


But hang on a second! Tokyo and "Sidney"  are not in Australia.  It's one of those stupid subscription services where you "win" the competition and then they just charge you for ringtones.

Seriously though, I don't get the whole ringtone thing.  Every phone on the market today can be configured for any mp3 (or other format) as a ringtone, it's not like it's hard to get the song on to the phone...  Getting the cable's the hardest (and most expensive) part though.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Half-Life 2 commentary

So I've decided to start a commentary on HL2. Inspired by Phil Reed's commentary, I decided to do one.  However it couldn't be the same sort of thing, for two reasons.  He's already done it (doing it) and I'm not that wordy.  I'm going to try to focus on the level design itself, what would it be like if it was just normal, how the Combine are using it now, and some of the puzzles.  Be Warned, if you haven't played this yet, there may be spoilers

Ok, so a bit of background before we start. I bought The Orange Box of Steam the other month (late last month) and have been playing Half-Life 2.  It runs really well on my machine, X-Fire reports 120 fps, I have everything on High.  Oh, and here's a tip I learnt from the Steam forums, if your card can't do 6x Anti-Aliasing, it won't even try.  Which actually makes sense.  So I put it down to 4x AA and now I have some atleast.  Makes it look alot better.

Spoiler space.

A space for spoilers.

What? no no not quite.

Yeah, I'll get to the content later...  Eight <p> </p>'s later in fact.









To start:  I am up to the chapter Sandtraps.


(Actually this isn't the beginning of the chapter, but the beginning was inside another tunnel so not really much to tell)

This whole section from Highway 17 chapter seems to use tunnels to separate battles and levels; they also provide a convenient point for the designers to load in the next map and autosave the game...

I'm going to have to skip some parts here as I didn't grab screenshots of everything I wanted to and couldn't be bothered to go back and get them..

 d2_coast_090003 This little gem is another electricity puzzle (turn on something, give something power, turn off something etc.).  It's pretty, though I wonder what that thing on the wall is.

And, oh look it's another battery, in a car, actually a good spot really:


Stay on the rocks!  This section is quite nice, a change from the shooting, mainly because if you fall, you will die.  F6 is your friend.  It seems a relatively well designed, normal looking beach, strange but believable.  I mean I have been to beaches that are that rocky in parts and sandy in others.

d2_coast_110010d2_coast_110011 d2_coast_110012

That is all for now, mainly because that's all I'm up to now.  At some point I might go back and comment on the earlier chapters, or particular sections.  Feel free to request any.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Seriously What??


How on earth does anybody get that from 'folder'??

After a bit of experimentation I found you have to put it in "" - that's stupid IMO.

Friday, April 25, 2008

New Keyboard Part 2

Installed the software today, and I'll say that it's functional but not actually wonderful.

image   image    image

Some of the interesting phenomenon:

you can change the keyboard connected and have different functionality than if using the actual connected keyboard.  For instance by changing it to the Bluetooth Deluxe Keyboard it can show an OSD for CAPS lock etc.  Which begs the question: why can't that code just run all the time if I want, why should I have to set a different keyboard than the one that is actually plugged in?


Another quirk:  with some buttons you can make it do anything thing from a list of pre-existing command or any arbitrary software program or web page as in the above screenshot.  With some other buttons  the zoom slider and the "My Favourites" key you can't change the functionality.   So, why can't you change the Zoom key function or the My Favourites funtion?  The My Favourites  button brings up a list where you can change what each of the five favourite keys (1-5) do.  But.. what if I don't what to change that list often enough to warrant a dedicated button?  Or if you can't change the function, it should bring up the list of five keys plus say 5 more commands you can run from the menu (or change the commands). 

Now, what if I don't want to use the zoom slider to zoom? Instead it could be... actually I can't really think what else you'd do with it as it's a slider not a button (apart from turning it into a digital control (up for one thing, down for something else, and doesn't matter the amount)).  But still, I think you should have some other option.


Apart from those quirks and strangeness, the software itself is fine and doesn't appear to take up much memory.  (Not that it actually should, considering it's not really doing much.)  And it integrates with the Control Panel which has been the case with MS mouse and Keyboard drivers/extra software since they started.  Still it helps to de-clutter the Start Menu.  Oh, and I needn't mention it works with Vista fine...

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

New Keyboard

Bought a new keyboard a few days weeks back. Originally I was using an old one from the old family computer it was ps/2 and had no special keys or anything like that. It was mainly a case of not wanting to spend any money on it that I just the old one. Then we gave the old computer to the local opportunity shop/charity here and the keyboard went with it (which I anticipated happening sometime anyway). So I was left with buying a new one. Didn't really want to spend any money on it still, so I bought a $9.95 USB bare-bones (so to speak) one from an electronics retailer.

Well that turned out to be no-so-good. The W and D keys would hardly press and overall it just felt “odd” and lacking tactile feedback. Consequently when I went to type something, I would type the W as I would any other key and it wouldn't be sent. Obviously rather frustrating and not really tolerable. Probably “Get what you pay for”. So I took it back and got a refund.

So not wanting to make that mistake again I bought a brand-name keyboard with quality (shock horror!) and extra functionality (especially if I'm going to pay $60 for it. So I bought a Microsoft Digital Media Pro for .. well.. for $59.95.


Actually mine's ever so slightly different from that one: I don't have writing printed on the front of my letter keys. Which is fine for me. Unfortunately my camera is out of battery so the photo from Microsoft will have to do.. I would have liked to take a photo of the box and contents but anyway. (Which were neatly packed by the way)

Well the performance is good, fairly soft-touch, you can feel it (which is sometimes helpful) but it's quieter than cheap keyboards. The media keys work without having to install any extra software but some other buttons (like favourite folders and favourites) either don't work by default on Vista or need the software installed for the system to detect the path to run (like the Messenger button (which I don't really need anyway)). Eventually I'll install the software and probably all the buttons will work OK. For now though I'm happy with just the media keys and volume.

I'm happy with it... Now I'm just starting to need a new mouse as my current one's not-right clicking always...Another month, another blog I imagine..

Monday, March 31, 2008

"ooh ooh, cashback"

Finally my cashback arrived in the mail today. Acer was giving $29 cashbacks on their monitors, so I wasn't going to knock that back. So that brings my monitor down to $195 (from $224). Of course the cashback wasn't the sole reason I chose this monitor, the price was good, and it seemed to get pretty good reviews on the shop's site and the specifications seemed decent too.

I find it an OK-good monitor, good brightness, I guess the colour is OK, I haven't done comparisons yet... Anyway, anything I design probably won't be important enough to require super-accurate colour reproduction, it would only be personal projects or small time projects that I would have complete control over. Which was one of the considerations when I was looking for one, but I figured it's not that important, so I concentrated on other features...

Like pixel response time which was a big factor because I'll be (and am) playing games and watching movies on it.
As much as 22inch would have been really nice, I felt that the cost wasn't worth it, and a discovered another reason why I wasn't too concerned about not getting 22inch. All of the 22" had native resolutions of 1680x1050 which admittedly is really nice, I also felt that higher resolutions would just push games even further down the track so a smaller one is fine (yeah, I know in three or four years a new graphics card will solve that, running at a higher res... but truly it was more of a price saving justification than really caring about the graphics performance at higher resolutions (oh, apart from Crysis))

And it came with a piece of marketing clear plastic (with words) stuck to the front, which doubles as a handy dust cover, if I remember to flip it back over each night. Actually it'd be really great if I could get a clear piece, because then I could just leave on the front all the time and still see through it normally. (If you look closely on the 2nd-last photo on My New Computer Part 2 - Pictures posting you can just see the tape and the top of the plastic. Anyway, so that's it. Maybe I'll put a photo up of the "cover" and some wattage measurements later.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Just a little something...

On a side note: Blogger can be awkward sometimes...

Monday, February 4, 2008

Vista (and machine in general) Experience

The System in General

Overall the machine works fine, Vista performs quite well, which I suppose would be expected given the RAM and CPU I have. Aero also runs perfectly fine which again you'd hope given my graphics card....

Yep, that's it then.

My Windows Experience Index in detail.

Unfortunatly my CPU is the slowest thing according to Vista. I think that a quad-core would get a higher score. But really that doesn't matter because the score is so high up and only demanding tasks (encoding and some games etc.) would really benefit from quad-core and beyond. (Having said that I intend to be doing some encoding but I'm not really concerned... My CPU will still be current for a long time yet.)

Other things to note: for some reason, possibly the beta BIOS code, I can't resume from standby, and the machine instantly powers up again after going on hibernate... Not really a problem just means that I can't put on standby for a couple of hours like I might like to sometimes.
And the other thing: Antec made the front audio ports too far back from the holes in the case, so I can't really plug headphones or microphones in. (Unless they are thin)

Friday, February 1, 2008

My New Computer Part 2 - Pictures

Pictures First
Yep it's my processor.

My computer just before I turned it on ititially. Apologies for the blur.

All set up on my desk. (Running Cascades)

Yeah, well. Inside.

Friday, January 25, 2008

My New Computer Part 1

Research and Purchase

After much deliberation and research I finally came up with this list:

Linksys WMP54G Wireless-G PCI Network Adapter 802.11G (54Mbps) $39.00
Seagate SATAII NCQ 250GB 7200RPM 16mb Cache $84.00
Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate 32bit version (OEM)purchase with Hard $249.00
Asus P5K 775, CORE2EE, P35Chipset, 1333FSB, PCIEI6, AUDIO, GbLAN, ATX $155.00
2GB (2x 1GB Kit) Value Select PC-5300 (667MHz) Corsair $69.00
Antec Atlas Server Case - BLACK 550W PSU $195.00
Asus DRW-2014L1tT 20x DVDRW SATA LightScribe Retail $42.00
Acer X193W 19 Wide LCD Monitor Silver DVI (HDCP) 5ms 2000:1 ACM $224.00
Gainward GF8800GT 512MB DDR3 600Mhz PCI Express Dual DVI HDT $355.00
Intel ATX E8400 CORE 2 DUO /3.0GHz/6MB/1333FSB/LGA775 $268.00

Prices at Umart Online around the 10th January 2008.

Originally I was looking at an MSI motherboard with an 8600GT but as the weeks went on the 8800 GT came out and became cheaper still.

The problem I had was that as I kept putting it off, the technology kept changing and every-so-often I had to reasses what I wanted to buy. Originally I was looking at getting XP Pro... Then I quickly realised that for only $30 more (OEM - with hardware purchase) I could just get Vista Ultimate!

And in hindsight it would have been easier to get a more expensive motherboard but with built-in Wi-Fi then getting the slightly cheaper mobo and seperate Wi-Fi. Though at the time I chose the Wi-Fi card I chosen a cheaper mobo so the price difference was more acceptable. Then my original mobo ran out of stock so that's when I chose the one I did, and subsequently I didn't think to check the price differences on the new equipment. But oh well, if it's a problem in the future (say like, I actually want an extra pci slot :P) then I can do something about it then.

The Build

Skipping getting it all home, unpackaged and reading the manuals... My first problem was getting the case back panel sheild cover to fit the motherboard. (The mobo supplied one of course) Or more correctly getting the motherboard to fit in the shield. Eventually I worked out that some of the little pointy things that originally were stamped out of the holes, had to point out, some had to be bent all the way back and some could just stay as they were. Once I got the sheild to fit the mobo ports I could easily get the motherboard to fit in the case. Screw it to the standoffs and that was that.

Putting the CPU on was fine: lift up locking lever, take out and keep PnP cap, align the gold triangle on the CPU with the corresponding bit on the mobo, close the lock, and lock down lever. Follow the instructions in the motherboard and cpu book and it's fine.
Followed the instructions in the heatsink and fan assembley however and they didn't tell me how hard we were actually supposed to push to afix it to the motherboard. We had to push the clips in really hard and it was surprising how much the motherboard flexed in the process, but apparently it's ok. Plus it didn't seem to harm it.

The RAM was fine getting in, but you have to push hard, and the locks have to go back to 90 degrees.

The graphics card was pretty good getting in too, execpt for the power cable, as the back of the card was kind of tight with the drive bays.

At this point things get interesting... Connect everything, power cables etc. and try to boot, no POST. Re-seat GPU and ram and try again, no POST

Bring it to a friend's place and swap components (yay, I didn't break anything on installation) , everything works, but I find out that the BIOS needs to be updated to understand my ultra new CPU... So we put his in, flash the BIOS with a USB stick and it works all good. (Thanks again :) ) Put the hard drive, DVD burner, and WiFi card in and install Windows. That's all good.

Windows was installed fine too. I'll put up pictures and my experiences with the system soon hopefully.