Saturday, December 25, 2004

Couple more







Wednesday, December 22, 2004

HL2 Photography Contest

There is a HL2 Photography contest announced on Steam forums. Though it was for fun I took it as bit serious so I am planning to submit my entries. Here I am listing all of the screen shots I have taken so far, I am not including the screen shots I have posted already in previous posts (refer to them also). I have given each screen shot of HL2 on this Blog an ID, so that referring to them will be easy. Let me know which 3 entries you think I should choose? Entries in my mind are

1) B1, C6, C10
2) B1, C13, C17
3) C18, C12, C4
4) C9, A5, C15
5) C14, C11, C3
6) … Damn I am quite confused please help me

(C1) First sighting of Strider

(C2) Dead man water reflection

(C3) Good lighting effect

(C4) Another Lighting effect

(C5) Chopper first time close view

(C6) Combie soldier who dropped dead in place

(C7) Just out of train station

(C8) Fun ride continues

(C9) Alex does a surprise jump

(C10) Chopper chasing you

(C11) Head on with the chopper

(C12) Bullets through Water

(C13) Alex kissing her father after teleport

(C14) Never ending sky scraper is it your destination Gordon?

(C15) Nice reflection floor

(C16) First blood

(C17) Victim of a crow bar

(C18) Combie Attacking

(C19) Bird flying off from the roof

It is a long list and also it must have taken some time for you to load. I am giving credit to ImageShack by saying Thanks to ImageShack for Free Image Hosting.

Do glasses really disguise people?

Today when I reached home switched on TV to see Tehelka's sting operation related to Zaheera's case. It tuned to last viewed channel which happens to be pogo. At that time Wonder Women was coming. I was never interested in wonder women because it looked to me some what silly and most of all I hate her dress. I call her women in her undies.

This time unlike other appearances she was in a civil dress (disguised character). When I saw her I said to my self why every other super hero who has disguised character wears glasses?

- Peter Parker (Spiderman)
- Clank (Superman)
- ????? (Wonder Women) [Read the link it has got interesting info about wonder women]

I certainly think that glasses only help in disguising only when you try to disguise other aspects of your appearance.

Obvious signs of HL2 addiction!

Well in my recent coding of Audio interfaces I have defined some thing called Audio Stream. Can you guess what I have written all over code instead of stream? No marks for guessing; it is Steam.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Water Water!

HL2 has got amazing in game water I have never seen before. Couple of my in game photographs :-)

(B1) Fun ride on this vehicale

(B2) Water puzzles!

(B3) You see water first time here

(B4) Cross the pool Gordon

(B5) First time water in different angle

Thursday, December 16, 2004

You have commited a sin Gordon, your suite's AUX power is Zero!

Yesterday night I let the steam update happen as it has got some loading improvements and bug fixes. Then I started to tweak with settings of HL2 to see how to get good frame rates and reduce audio shuttering. While I was playing through suddenly I found a rendering glitch. Sun was shining through the walls as I come up from under water. It was a momentary shine so I tried a couple of times and finally got a proper screen shot.

Now I have posted this screen shot on steam forum and as you can see I have been accused of using a cracked version of the game!. It seems the cracked version of the game has AUX power always zero and red and in the screen shot I have taken it happened to be that way as I spent enough time inside water consuming all the oxygen. People simple jump to conclusions; anyway that’s how people are.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Half-Life 2 is here! (Part II)

Half-Life 2 made me to get an Internet connection at home. Finally I made a deal with my cable operator and got a direct LAN access, which he is providing. Speed is not that great but it is better than not having any thing. Since I am closely watching steam forums I was better prepared what I can expect so I have done some pre-work like updating my CD-ROM and DVD & CDRW combo drive’s firmware, a fresh partition for HL2 and new ATI Catalyst Beta Driver 4.12 which is released for HL2 specially.

Finally time has come and I popped the DVD in my drive, instantly the installer showed up and the installation has started in no time. It took some time as nearly 4GB of data was transferred to the disk. One more tension I had was that, this whole business is based on a simple cd-key. I have read stories how HL2 keys have been stolen from retail boxes in game stores. I have bought my copy from eBay UK (from a very reputed seller) so I had a doubt that I could be a victim of stolen cd-key. So I was eagerly waiting to enter my cd-key and get it registered with steam server.

Once the installation is finished the steam client started and it started to updating itself, which took around 30mins. Once it has finished the update it restated itself and asked me for the cd-key, I entered it and waited for it to do the registration, after a couple of seconds it said that my HL2 is registered and asked me to print the receipt. I was very much relieved and happy that I was not cheated. I want to have this receipt for safety reasons, but I don't a have printer. Also the steam client gave only a button click to print the receipt (it is not showing on the screen). I quickly created a new printer where printer port is a file and printer is a PS printer then I clicked on print button then it ask for a file name which I entered and there is my receipt in PS file.

After this steam started the task of decrypting the game contents (game you get is encrypted only gets decrypted once your purchase is validated). This took almost an hour time to decrypt the entire game, and then steam went on to download the game updates, which took around again 30mins.

Finally the time to start the game has come after nearly two and half-hours of waiting. Since every thing went very smooth I was expecting rest of the things to be smooth. I put on my headphones and selected Launch from the steam client. The drive LED started blinking fast then the hard disk LED blinked for time and every thing died down as if nothing happened. No error message not single indication. I told my self ok lets try again, well same thing repeated. I was very much disappointed and was thinking that it could be the SecureROM problem.

I started R&D with the help of Dr. Google and found a forum thread with exactly same description of the problem. Finally all the things lead to steam’s support page where they mention that if some of the steam cache files gets corrupted you will face this kind of problem, so they have given info how to verify the cache. I thought let me try my luck and clicked on the relevant link. The steam client started and said verifying the cache and it spent around 10mins doing that. Now the verification is done (if cache corrupted steam client will automatically fix the problem), I launched the game again. The drive went for a spin then the HDD, seeing this I was not sure that it will come up as it is been couple of seconds already passed and the drive spinning stopped, but at that moment the screen suddenly went blank and I have been taken to the main menu with City 17 rendered in 3D in the back ground.

I was quite relived and started a new game and roamed around initial part of City 17 to see how things are. Like most of the people I am also facing the audio shuttering problem but not too much only when some areas being loaded. I guess it is also been attributed to my integrated audio.

Kousik asked me how does it fare with DOOM 3. I played only DOOM 3 demo, from that I can tell you that DOOM 3 nothing different from original except super game engine which has great capabilities of lighting affects and other rendering stuff. Most of the game is dark (I heard it from others) to show off the lighting affects and it really scares you. Other than these things game play and story wise nothing new is there you still collect keys and open doors and blast away.

I don’t know whether Kousik played original Half-life or not, but its truly changed how the FPS games are designed with very interesting story, game play and cinematic game intro which I have never seen before.

Half-life 2 has taken original game several folds up with incredible interactivity with realistic physics, game play and taking the initial story further. If you compare DOOM 3 and HL2 game engines (HL2 engine is called Source), they have their own merits and de-merits. DOOM 3 doesn’t have much of great physics and animation, but in HL2 when Barney the guard assisted you in HL1 walks in HL2 I couldn’t believe my eyes. He walked just like a human I never saw any other game character walked like a human. Thanks to skeletal animation system of Source. Source doesn’t score much in lighting area than DOOM 3, but you will never be disappointed. Incredible lighting affects you can find in HL2 just walk in the streets of City 17 early in the morning, amazing it looks. Next thing is that art work in HL2 it so amazing that people are talking about new concept called In Game Photography. DOOM 3’s artwork is no match to HL2’s. Last thing is that DOOM 3 engine requires raw power; it cannot run with high details on my machine. But HL2’s source engine is designed to do well on low-end systems as well. Minimum support required for HL2 is DX7 card and a 1.2Ghz processor with 256MB ram.

I will just end by including couple of screen shots I have taken when I was roaming in City 17. They are just too good, so I am off to in game photography. By the way I have not yet started playing the game seriously.

(A1) Gordon's New Suite

(A2) Research Team from Black Mesa

(A3) Robotic bots photographs people in City 17

(A4) Alex being teleported

(A5) Alex smiling at you when you first meet her

(A6) Alex showing you the way standing beside lambada sign

Friday, December 03, 2004

Half-Life 2 is here! (Part I)

It took 6 years and around $40 million for Valve to create Half-Life 2 sequel to the best pc game ever made Half-Life. Half-life 2 became most anticipated game ever to release in 2004 besides DOOM 3. It was supposed to be released on 30th September 2003 but got released on 16th November 2004 for whatever reasons. You can read an interesting article about HL2 development here.

I have been keenly watching the HL2 developments for some time now. DOOM 3 disappointed me, as it is nothing much more than a super graphics game (I have played only demo). HL2 didn't disappoint fans as it has made history again and became most highly rated game on PC, with excellent game play, graphics & story line.

Valve has introduced a new technology with HL2 for game distribution called Steam. Using steam game developers can sell games directly to users through internet (of course you need a broad band for that). The games can also sold as retail for which you need to do online product authentication. This makes game piracy very difficult. Valve claims that by using steam game developers can make most of the money not paying single penny to their publisher (HL2 publisher is Vivendi Universal).

When time has arrived on 16th November 2004 and Valve has enabled HL2 on their steam servers, people started to register their product and start playing. To my surprise there has been several technical problems popped up to various users around the world. That is because I have not heard about any other game of so many problems considering Valve’s technical capabilities.

Most common problems are audio shuttering, where game sound shutter regularly, next is game doesn’t run for retail users reason being VU games added SecureROM, a copy protection software to the game which seems to be not compatible with may of the DVD writers people have. There are several other problem you can find on steam forum.

Other than these technical issues certain things enforced by Value are annoying to users. For example, retails user’s cd-key is bound to the users steam account permanently, it means that your friend cannot put the game on his machine and use your cd-key; he has to use your steam account as well. If Valve finds out that same cd-key is being user for multiple steam accounts it bans that cd-key. This means that you will never be able to play the game again (Valve recently banned 20,000 illegal accounts). What if you want to sell your retail copy? Well sell your steam account too, but if you had other purchases on steam account? Well god only can help you. The next problem for retail users is that, although the game is authenticated by steam it checks for the disk every time you play the game. Isn’t it bit stupid to do? Most of the people didn’t like this because they find it annoying for whatever reason or some people want to play from multiple computers meaning carrying the disk. Only Valve can answer why they have done that.

Many have suffered around the world with some thing or the other problem and not being able to play the game till today. This became subject of humor and here is some of it.

- Sell it as coasters on ebay
- A good cartoon (requires flash plug-in)
- A frustrated Kid (click "took a bat")

Now seeing all this should I get HL2 or not? Well certainly the urge to play this game is not goanna go away whatever it may be. I have decided to get the DVD version (I don’t like to take care of 5 CD-ROMs). Unfortunately in India only CD-ROM version is available so I ordered it from UK (UK has only DVD-ROM version), and it arrived yesterday. I was very tensed that what will be my experience of HL2.

To be continued.