Monthly Archives: March 2012

Multi-player in ME3

No, I’m not going to rant further about the ending of the game or how it destroyed the hopes and expectations we had before it was released (and with that I’ve started and ended the current rant… ūüėČ )

I’ve started playing the multi-player and yes, it is fun. I’m basically a novice as far as multi-players goes – last time I tried things like that was at LAN-parties something like 5,6 or 7 years ago… hehe.

One thing I’m not sure I like is that the multi-player is required for progressing the game. Yes, technically you can finish it without touching the multi-player but the impression given by the game/marketing is that you must also do the multi-player part. Perhaps it could have been better if they made it a completely separate game (with the same background story, plot etc…)

To me the ‘Mass Effect’ games should have been a single player since it tell’s a story with a single thread of events (but of course steered by¬†decisions¬†the player makes). The Multi-player should just be ‘additional’ or ‘extra’. The fact that it is so tightly integrated into the whole game indicates that they (Bioware) used resources that should have been used to improve the ‘main’ parts of the game to do things that isn’t suppose to be central. I’m not against having a multi-player part as long as it wasn’t impacting what should have been the best part of this game. That may be why some thing in the single player seems so lacking some aspects…. like a proper ending… uh…

The other thing they obviously spent a lot of effort on was the music/sounds. I very much like it but my concern is/was that it too got more attention than the actual ‘completing the core of the game’ did.

Well, of course, that is my opinion…

 

Mass Effect 3 ending (or not)

Unfortunately I had to wait an entire week for the ending due to some ‘family responsibility’ issues so when I managed to actually get to the ending it was… well.. I’ll try to explain.

I’m aware of the whole ‘Retake Mass Effect’ movement and that many others feel that the game’s ending was, well, not exactly the best thing since sliced bread. Normally I would try to be a bit more ‘diplomatic’ or neutral but I have to (unfortunately) side with the complainers… Don’t get me wrong, I still think the game is easily one of the best games ‘out there’ but something, somehow just isn’t ‘optimal’.

If I have to summarize the way the ending made me feel it has to be sad, confusing or unfulfilled. The graphics are awesome – especially the space battle scenes. Most of the game (start, middle and up to close to the end) is really good. But the ending part left me confused, perplexed, unsatisfied. Let me try to explain (but it probably would be spoilers for some).

First of the ‘finale’ part of the game feels like just one big cut-scene with no real ‘options’. Yes, the Catalyst give 3 options but it is not implemented in ‘Mass Effect’ dialog style. The whole scene feels dreamy (or nightmarish). Shepard’s reactions/dialog really does not suit the situation – especially since I’ve always played the renegate path when I can. The character’s personality seems dull or boring with no real ‘fire’ left in the spirit like I’m used to. In fact, the most part of the second half of the game I was starting to get that impression that Shepard isn’t ‘Shepard’ any more. I suppose it was done to make the character more ‘human’ but it just doesn’t fit what we’re use to… It could also have something to do with the¬†indoctrination theory that some people have. Who knows…

There is the whole ‘saying goodbye’ part you (Shepard) must do to each character before you enter the final battle grounds. It is almost like they (Bioware) are telling you that all/some of you friends/mates will be dying (which is probably true but why so obvious? The radio dialog of some woman¬†panicking¬†and not knowing what to do¬†any more¬†– why isn’t Shepard allowed to¬†intervene?

Then, the final run towards the ‘beam’ – it doesn’t seem you can do anything useful other than running while people, vehicles and stuff around you gets blown up. What¬†happened¬†to your squad mates? How did Anderson get up to the Citadel before you? Considering he’s an older man which should be slower… Inside the citadel, you end up in a part that has never been discovered (or else someone might have figured out the place has it’s own AI). Somehow the illusive man also makes it to there (though he might be controlled by the Reapers…). You (Shepard) shoots Anderson! Like you are totally being controlled by the Reapers but somehow still have enough ‘willpower’ to argue with the illusive man (and kills him). There are more questions than answers…

Finally the¬†Catalyst explains your options, but movement is still so slow and impaired I didn’t even see where the other options are (I wanted to kill the Reapers but somehow wandered too close to the ‘merge with them option’. In the last cut-scenes the Normandy is flying through a relay and then intercepted by the shock wave of the exploding relay network – crashing on some unknown planet. Joker and EDI (in my ending) gets out both already a mixture of organics and synthetics.. plus some squad mates that happened to be with Shepard just before the final ‘run for the beam’?? How on Earth did they get back to the Ship? Why were they not still in the fight above the Earth? These events might be specific to my choices or how I played the game but you get the general picture – Confusion. Story wise things just don’t add up.

For a game I was looking forward to for such a long time this is not the optimal ending I have hoped for. No, I didn’t expect that winning (destroying the enemy) was going to be the only option or that Sheppard must survive. It seems like none of the 3 options at the end is a true win in any way. Actually, in 2 of them the Reapers actually ‘Win’ while the other option is to go on without any technology at all (or restarting from scratch – literally, just to be able to make all the same mistakes all over again). The ‘story’ is left in a state that begs for more answers!

The things that made ME1 & 2 so great was the way your choices could make a difference to the ending of the game. With 3 it seems (feels like) you might as well have started the game standing next to the Catalyst giving you the final 3 options – because those are the only options that has any real influence on the ending. These options really ‘suck’.

With an ending like this it would be hard if possible at all to have any DLC’s that are meaningful. Nevertheless, this is still is great game if you look at the whole trilogy as one (with one ‘weak’ spot – almost like the Star Wars movies with their Eps 1,2 & 3. The ME3 ending is like Jar-jar… hehe)

Update: there are several articles, blogs etc where people are moaning about the issue. E.g. look at Ars Technica¬†especially the comments…

Update: Also see my additional post

The future of the PC

First of, I’m coming from a background of mostly PC background (hardware, software, development, support and admin). I’ve been in ‘this’ business for more than 15 years (more actually) and have seen and lived through multiple waves of changes in the IT world – heck I still remember the days we were worried everything is going to stop working moving from DOS 6.22 to that ‘awful’ Windows 95 with the default graphical interface… hehe Anyway, I think we are the doorstep of such another major jump… well actually it is already busy, it’s just a matter of getting use to the new direction of the ‘flow’!

Second of, I don’t think the classic PC is going to¬†disappear¬†soon. No matter what the fruit company is telling everyone. But things are changing for the PC world and we can all (each one of us) choose whether we wanna go along for the ride or hang on to the side until the wave takes us in. Lately the trend is everything is going ‘mobile’ – or ‘without wires’ at least. It is ironic that Microsoft is one of those that actually had a finger in the pie starting all of this and each time something interesting started showing up they stayed behind. Now – no matter what they claim, they are playing catch-up. But it may not be a bad thing – then again it ¬†could be…

Windows 8 and Microsoft

Personally I’m not a fan of Metro – but only if I’m viewing it from the traditional ‘PC side’. As an OS for touch devices like tablets it is really good! The issue is just that it doesn’t play nice with older stuff – like older hardware, software, users…. Hardware will eventually be replaced with newer stuff, software as well even though it might take a bit longer (some application vendors might take longer to adjust if they still exist…) and then users… that is where the ‘something brown’ hits the fan…. People get upset with change. Everyone does, its part of life. The older you are the more full of ‘brown stuff’ you become ūüôā However, even ¬†users will adapt… eventually… hopefully. The question is how much will have changed in the interim until Microsoft can reclaim their old market share in terms of users, applications etc. Are they gona survive this transition? They might be big but even they can only survive ‘so long’ on ‘old cash’. Time will tell… They might end up with two sets of ‘user bases’, the old PC world and the new hip mobile world. They are big enough (now) to support it but like explained just above, things will change. All I can say is good luck and hold on tight!

Us developers

If you are in the world of application and system development then you should already know things have been changing (unless you are living on a tropical island isolated from the rest of the world – hey I’d like to be with ya!). The changes will require some rewriting of stuff, scrapping of others and creating some new ones as well. It could be interesting. Some old applications could be ported to the newer ‘world’. Others can’t be because they fundamentally work differently and require things that the mobile world can’t or not yet support. Take something like software development itself. It is kind of hard to do writing code on a tablet for several reasons – like screen size, multi tasking (running and debugging at the same time). Compiling code also takes up some real heavy resources – when dealing with ‘real’ systems being coded/developed. Mobiles just don’t have what it takes… yet.

Then, the current generation of touch devices mostly focus on touch (ok fruit company has a voice thing as well but it is really just a toy now). Perhaps with things like Kinect things will change if there are more ways to interact with devices. Again, only time will tell.

The future of the PC

To summarize the summary of a summary: The death of the PC has been greatly¬†exaggerated. The ol grrl still has som kick in er… Shis juss putten some new dress on…

And remember’, Panic IS an option’. Perhaps not the best one but…

Mass Effect 3

The following is just my opinion and comments on the game – or should I say the¬†marvellous¬†piece of ‘art’ that BioWare gave us. I have not completed the game yet – probably over half done I suspect. Warning – some possible spoilers…

Atmosphere

Compared to the first two games in the trilogy this one is much ‘deeper’, ‘darker’, ‘sadder’ with a gripping story. As a sci-fi nut myself I absolutely love this. The actual game play seems fairly much the same as the previous ones – some changes though but nothing that is too radical. Choosing and upgrading items is different but comes down to the same idea – that you have different levels for each weapon/armor/tech etc.

This game also has an ’emotional’ aspect that is almost unsettling. This is what makes it so good. You feel the characters ‘pain’ at times and because we’ve spend so many years playing or interacting with them it feels like we ‘know’ them. So, when something happens to them (spoiler to follow) it has a real impact on the player. Some events are unavoidable – thinking of Thane here… Others seems to be because of a ‘bad’ choice that might have been made somewhere – Mordin, Tali… Either way you make a choice there will be some consequence – and you’ll have to live with it for the duration of the game. I tried to be ‘smart’ at times to choose something that might give a compromise between two parties but then it turns out no compromise is possible – Quarians and Geth… And then more than once I let a radical (Renegate or Paragon) action pass by because I could not react quickly enough – or was still shocked at the¬†cut scene¬†playing where something happened I didn’t expected – Why is suicide by some characters allowed?

There is also some aspects that makes me wonder about Shepard’s personality. Being a ‘Renegate’ mostly player the part of Shepard doubting his/her own abilities when having to deal with galactic-wide choices doesn’t quite fit – e.g. the conversation with Adm Hacket, the repeating dream of the child that could not be saved… You get the feeling Shepard is ‘more’ human than in the previous games – which is probably a good thing (sorta). And then the is Shepard’s parents… why weren’t anything of them mentioned before?

Sound

Then there are the sounds and music of the game. This is another fantastic part of the game. The sound of a reaper when you come across it is unsettling (especially if you have¬†surround¬†sound with proper bass… next to your feet… Since I got the Collectors edition of the game I got the sound track as well and it is also good hear it away from the game.

Story

The story behind the game is ‘vast’, spanning thousands of years. When you come across the only living Prothean you get the feeling (through sounds/music/dialog) that he is really out of time/place, with a feeling of sadness, regret and frustration (something similar that old Buck Rogers must have felt in the 25th century except this guy lost not just a bit of time but he’s entire civilization is extinct for thousands of years!). Anyway, first hand knowledge of what the Protheans did (wrong) should be helping but somehow it seems that even that is enough. One interesting thing that comes out in the dialog is that not all civilizations get destroyed in each ‘cycle’. Some are allowed to go on to start the next cycle. Only the ones that could be a threat are attacked. In some ways this does make sense, in others not – No one is allowed to learn from their ‘own’ mistakes… meaning the same mistakes are repeated every time. Learning from ‘others’ mistakes just isn’t the same. This sound so¬†similar¬†to real life….

Other aspects

Politics sucks, just like in real life. But this is another aspect that makes the game feel more ‘real’. I still think politicians must be locked up (for 30 years or so and only then allowed to lead the people ūüėČ ). Otherwise they don’t have enough respect for the things in life that are really valuable.

There is some humour in the game – like the two engineers that has an argument about the Mako from ME1 and Hammerhead from ME2, squad mates making comments about each other ad so on. And what is the deal about the stupid dog in the¬†shuttle bay? It looks suspiciously like some characters in Half Life…

Then there are a couple of irritating things as well. What is the deal with the security scanner inside the Normandy itself? The two girls working there are talking the most¬†rubbish¬†possible. Sometimes I wish I could just shoot them or something… ūüėČ Also, the weird walking/running locomotion of Sheppard makes the character almost look ‘unstable’ and almost ready to fall over or something.

I’m not there yet, but once I’ve completed the game I’ll post some more comments again. Unfortunately from a few things I’ve read on the net (I try to avoid it) the ending might be a shocker or tragic in a way that will let the player feel like it was almost not worth it. I hope depending on the ‘right’ choices that it won’t be that bad…

All in all so far I’m amazed at the game. I’ll be playing it through again and again…

Update:

Apparently many others also are not impressed with the ending of the game. See Facebook and Twitter for details. I know BioWare did a lot of hard work on this game and they kind of said in the past that Commander Sheppard’s storyline would end with the trilogy but… the current options for the ending just seems to be ‘too limiting’ or¬†non-existent. What happens if the want to make ME4 one day? (trilogy in 4 parts… aka hitchhikers guide… ūüėČ )

Getting month names with tsql

A quick tip using tsql to get a list of the month names.

SELECT Number + 1 as [Number],
DateName(mm,DateAdd(mm,Number,0)) as [Name]
FROM master..spt_values
WHERE Type = ‘P’ and Number < 12

Shamelessly copied from somewhere on the Internet… ūüėČ

Firefox and NTLM authentiction

I love my Firefox and it is still my no 1 browser for general browsing but one thing that really annoys me at work is that it doesn’t play nice with Integrated Windows authentication (aka NTLM) when dealing woth Intranet web applications. Fortunately there is a ‘fix’ for it that requires a tweaking the internal settings (about:config) of Firefox.

Follow these steps to enable NTLM for specific web servers:

  1. In the URL bar type about:config and accept the warning you might be getting…
  2. Look for or filter for the property ‘network.automatic-ntlm-auth.trusted-uris’
  3. Edit (double-click) this property
  4. Add the server names or addresses separated by commas. .i.e localhost,serverA,serverB,…
  5. Save changes (click OK)
  6. Open Firefox’s ‘Options’ and go to the ‘Advanced’ tab -> Network
  7. In the Connection section click ‘Settings’ and add the same server names in the ‘No Proxy for’ text box. This is to make sure it doesn’t use the proxy to access these servers which will break the NTLM authentication as well.
  8. Save any changes (click OK)

Too bad Firefox can’t automatically figure out which local ‘Intranet’ servers require NTLM authentication like IE and Chrome does…

 

 

 

 

HTMLWriter 1.5

I’ve updated this little utility library by¬†simplifying some method overloads plus added a static method for getting escaped html special characters.

To make the code more maintainable for the special characters (like adding new ones in the future) I’ve added an enum that use some .Net ‘attributes’ so you can see, use and reference everything about these ‘things’ in one place. To do that I had to add a special helper class so the enum can carry some additional properties (like the actual strings for the special character and the escaped string). To do this I created a custom attribute class called ‘StringValueAttribute’ like this:

public class StringValueAttribute : Attribute
{

public string StringExpandedValue;
public string StringValue;

public StringValueAttribute(string value, string stringExpandedValue)
{

this.StringValue = value;
this.StringExpandedValue = stringExpandedValue;

}

}

To retrieve the associated values from an enum another static helper class is needed: StringValueAttributeUtil

internal static class StringValueAttributeUtil
{

public static string GetStringValue(Enum value)
{

// Get the type
Type type = value.GetType();

// Get fieldinfo for this type
System.Reflection.FieldInfo fieldInfo = type.GetField(value.ToString());
// Get the stringvalue attributes
StringValueAttribute[] attribs = fieldInfo.GetCustomAttributes(
typeof(StringValueAttribute), false) as StringValueAttribute[];
// Return the first if there was a match.
return attribs.Length > 0 ? attribs[0].StringValue : null;

}
public static string GetStringExpandedValue(Enum value)
{

// Get the type
Type type = value.GetType();

// Get fieldinfo for this type
System.Reflection.FieldInfo fieldInfo = type.GetField(value.ToString());
// Get the stringvalue attributes
StringValueAttribute[] attribs = fieldInfo.GetCustomAttributes(
typeof(StringValueAttribute), false) as StringValueAttribute[];
// Return the first if there was a match.
return attribs.Length > 0 ? attribs[0].StringExpandedValue : null;

}

}

 

Then to actually make use of this helper class you decorate the enum like this: (showing only part of it…)

public enum HTMLSpecialCharacter
{

[StringValue(“<“, “&amp;lt;”)]
LessThanSign,
[StringValue(“>”, “&amp;gt;”)]
GreaterThanSign,
[StringValue(“\””, “&amp;quot;”)]
DoubleQuote,
[StringValue(“‘”, “&amp;#39;”)]
SingleQuote,

}

Happy HTML’ing ūüôā

Update: Version 1.6 has now been released since…

Event Scavenger 4.4.1

I created a new release with only Viewer application changes. *.elvw files are now associated in Windows Explorer with the viewer so you can launch them (or from the Windows 7 jump list) and start the application with a predefined set of filters.

 

Lets take a step back…

Just could not resist posting this. Was reading a article on ‘TechReport.com‘ where one of the comments on the article goes like this:

What’s the deal with ruining interfaces everywhere? It’s almost like everyone is competing, who will make the worst one.

Ribbon, Linux Unity, now Windows 8… Why?!” – Madman

This is so ironic on so many levels… But it’s so true. Lately a lot of things feel like they are moving in the wrong direction (don’t even start on politics…).

The only good ‘step backwards’ is the one where you¬†retreat¬†a few steps to look at this bigger picture – just to realize it might actually look worse! haha (in a chokingly desperate voice…)

Event Scavenger 4.4

Another update to this ‘old workhorse‘ tool of mine. This time just a few UI changes to the viewer app. I changed the interface to be much more compact so the essence of the app – the list of events, is the most prominently visible by default. The detail filters can accessed by just clicking F6 or the button above the event list.

Except for the admin module where only the ‘About’ window was modified nothing else was changed.

As luck would have it, just after creating the 4.4 release I started thinking of another improvement… again with the viewer… Being able to open the .elvw from Windows Explorer with the viewer app. This way you can create short cuts to different views (say on the¬†taskbar) or from the jump list in¬†Windows¬†7.