How Far Are We?

I had an idea of a text in which I would be describing how we are kind of tricked to being inside the world that a particular game we are playing is providing us. Could computer and video games bring us someday to worlds like in the movie Matrix? If that would be possible – how could you trick your mind in to believing that you are, definitely, in that fantasy world?

I will approach this subject with thinking about your senses. You basically have different kinds of inputs in your body that can determine what you see and feel and hear and so on. We are far in that we can bring you some visually and aurally pleasant sensations. What if you could add your sense of touching to these? We could probably get to some really odd situations inside this kind of gaming world. Could it be that only these three senses could flip us in to believing that we actually are in some other world? Could there be a way to trick also our sense of balance?

Our efforts in bringing virtual reality have lacked to this day something that would actually make your dreams into reality. You can totally make your vision virtual. Your hearing  can also be tricked. Balance could be tricked also. This leaves us to the ultimate question – how do we make our decisions and interact in this kind of world? Fantasy has a way that can make you feel like you are in a different world. I recently played a game that took me to a different world. And it had me make decisions and actions that defined how I proceeded in the game. It isn’t so important to think about what game it was, but let me tell you that it was actually Skyrim that I was fiddling around with as I had this idea of this blgo post.

But here’s something you can think about – what if we could dream in some kind of virtual environment that would completely capture our senses and make us feel like we are free of our limits iin this real world? Could we find something within our consciousness? Could we discover something this way that we aren’t discovering as we are awake in this reality that kind of captures us physically?

There’s certainly lots of questions in that last paragraph I just wrote. Dreams are very interesting if you start to think about it. I don’t have so much experience about dreams in sense of psychology. But I can think about it. When you dream you basically mix things that you were thinking about with your memories and your subconsciousness that I don’t actually know or understand. I think it’s somewhat what you fish and what you desire mixed with what kind of personality you have. Something like that.

So if we could dream inside virtual reality like that would it help us to heal our kind of injuries that we have in our psyche? Or what kind of an experiment would it be? Would it be pleasant or unpleasant? Would it have any value as entertainment or could we open doors to our minds and our deeply wired brains? Could we discover something that hasn’t yet been discovered? Now there’s something to think about.

I think today we are very far away from this kind of an experience. There is a sharp video picture that captures our eyes. There can maybe be a helmet in your head that captures your vision completely. You have a game pad that you can use to interact in game. Our minds are captured with stories and discussions that we can be involved in. Could there be something more? Are we actually in this kind of situation that we were in when we didn’t even have graphics in games and could this be something that could be possible in the future? Maybe? Maybe not? Would you like this kind of virtual reality in which we could dream our surroundings and even decide somehow when we would want to quit the game? We might be there in maybe 30 next years and this could be an improvement that we are facing just like graphics were back in the 80s.

Some Nice Pick-ups from Clearance

I found an interesting offer from Scandinavian Web Store. The store was Discshop. They ship to Finland. I don’t actually know if they ship to other countries. There was an e-mail in my Outlooks inbox. It got me interested. There was a text written in large font, in Finnish, but it actually promised that behind it I would find many discounts of games and movies. The prices were promised to start from as low as one euro.

So, I followed the link. I found some very good games. I also ordered the TV series Silicon Valley and it was its third season. If you don”t know this series I can tell you that it is describing a situation in a big tech company and it describes the life of the firms CEO. Mike Judge is one person that is behind the series. And he was also responsible for the well-known animation series, Beavis and Butthead. So I paid 1 euro for this whole season. Imagine that, like Nas said in the song “If I ruled the world”.

I also purchased some other items. These were physical copies. That didn’t bother me at all. I bought Resident Evil VII for 2 euros. It isn’t such an old game. When it shipped I ahd a long period of time as I had to install this game. It came with three DVD discs. So the installation as a process was time consuming. I didn’t have to download the content but my DVD drive got a bit warm during this installation operation (that rhymes 🙂 ).

The shipping was three euros so I decided to buy some other items also that were in sale. So I ordered Devil May Cry 5 for PC, again, and it cost 2 euros. I also bought Crysis 2 for Xbox 360 and Street Fighter V and also Street Fighter – 30th Anniversary Collection. Finally they weren’t able to deliver that last mentioned game and I am going to get a refund from it. My orders total price was 19 euros. So I got four games and one season of television series.

This is my latest purchase. DVD is a bit old format. I don’t know if I continue to watch DVDs for long time. I just got a 4K 55 inch television. It might be a good idea to buy a 4K Blu-ray device that could bring me a better looking and sharper screen. It costs about 200 euros. Luckily it just might fit in my budget and also physically under my new tv.

Working Hard, Concentrating, Getting Enough Sleep

For your information – that glass has Yerba Mate -tea inside it. So, it’s not beer. It’s tea.

I am going to write about a subject that is getting more important as you mature as an individual. I mean when you get to that age, say about 30? Or 35? Well, I’m right now 37. I am a full grown individual. A man. Within his deeply technologically and advanced cave.

When I was younger, say under 25 years old, I used to play concentrated for hours. At the same time I was missing out on some things. Like getting enough sleep. Also I dind’t pay attention to my concentration. I had a bad concentration skill. I couldn’t understand about it.

Concentration in gaming is about how accuirately you can perform your input from your keyboard or game pad. You can concentrate for a long time. Actually it is maybe 45 minutes. After that you start to make small mistakes. This can lead to a “rage quit” or some other form of frustration.

Try to keep that in mind. Remember to keep breaks and especially when you are learning a new game. Gaming is also mental as almost any human activity. And good mental performance is required when you compete.

Eating and sleeping are also important. You can work hard. You can practice. But remember…as there is time for practice there is also time for relaxation and sleep. You can really get something out of you but if you don’t recover from it mentally it’s not going to make things easy for you on a long run. I think you should have different kinds of activities. Moving around or going on a walk or even jogging is good for you.

And remember – eat good so you feel better. Sometimes it’s okay to grab a burger but don’t let it become a habit. When you are younger your mental performmance is better. So I have to work a bit because I am not a 25-year-old anymore. So these things become more important when you grow a bit. I have to also mention that I don’t even have a chance in professional eSports anymore. That’s because my motorical nervous system is basically too old. So I am not going to be the best but I can assure you that I am going to have as much fun as I wan…when I keep playing…so, keep gaming folks!

Some Good and Recently Released Rally Games

I started playing WRC 9 at end of last year. So it was December 2020. I had just got a new PC. This was the first game I bought. I had heard about some earlier WRC games. Let me say that this is definitely a series of games and not only one game. But I heard that one game in this series is very bad and you should not buy it. I thought that maybe it was only one bad game. You shouldn’t judge the whole series with one game.

So I read a review of WRC 9 as players often do before they buy a game. WRC 9 received a good grade. I think it was 8 out of 10. So I decided to buy it. It was a good decision. I really enjoyed the game.

I had earlier already played Dirt Rally 2.0. I was very excited about it when it was released back in 2019. I bought it just some days after it was released. I was confident that it would offer me good time. It promised to bring you a good driving experience even if you play, as I do, with only game pad instead of a driving wheel and pedals. I don’t play with wheel and pedals. I haven’t really ever got in to it. It would be a more realistic experience but I just can’t seem to learn so much of it for me to make the transition. I have actually played with game pad since I first started playing the first Gran Turismo and a bit after it Colin McRae Rally 2.0.

The latest rally game I purchased was WRC 8 for PS4. I found it in sale from a supermarket. It’s nowadays somewhat rare to find games from super markets but I made a find. It’s price was about half the price it was originally. I found it to be a very good rally game also.

So these are some latest rally games that I’ve played. They all offer a certain and good feel of driving. WRC 8 and 9 are a bit more playable and Dirt Rally 2.0 offfers a bit more realistic feel. Of course you can tweak the settings and make the game more difficult if you wish to. I am not going in to detail with this post. Dirt Rally 2.0 is designed by Codemasters. WRC is a bit younger series of rally games. Codemasters has delivered us some very good titles in the history of rally games. You probably remember Colin McRae Rally. I wrote recently about it and…you probably guessed it…it is my alltime favorite game.

So if you are looking for a good rally game here are some recommendations. We didn’t get so deep in this text. I just don’t really know how to approach this subject. I can see how developers’s algortithms work in here. At least I can figure out how the feel of driving is getting simulated. So basically your computer reads what buttons you press in which time and defines where your car is positioned and so on…it’s very complex. But my knowledge as a programmer and player, also, bring me to the point where I can actually see what goes on under the hood so to say.

All of these games are definitely more like driving simulations instead of arcade driving games that have more play ability inside. If you want to know more about games like these keep following me and you can definitely have some experience of driving a real racing or rally car. It would definitely help you. I really think there is no right or wrong. This is just some of my thinking. And…I believe the main designer that was behind the first Dirt Rally was a real expert in his field. He had a deep knowledge of games and cars.

The Ultimate Incompatibility (of Old Windows Games)

I have games. I mean, I have lots of games. Old games, new games, interesting games, rare games, big box games, err…PC games? Yes.  I have lots of PC games. How can you play old PC games? With a PC? Yes. But what is your operating system? What is your graphics card? Processor? Do you actually have today a SSD instead of HDD and does it really matter?

The point here is that you were, earlier, playing these games with a computer that had maybe Windows 98, Windows XP or MS-DOS. Now it is 2021. The standard in Windows is Windows 10. It was only while ago when Windows 7 lost its support from Microsoft. Hardware does evolve. Operating systems keep developing. There are many changes. PC is a strong standard but its weakness is that old games that you were able to play earlier don’t necessarily work anymore.

You can have an old PlayStation or NES. You can then play these games with this device. And the strength of consoles compared to PC is just that. They can deliver games and playing them is reliable. This might have something to do with the traditional mentality of computer gamers. It used to be a good thing that your PC was fast. So basically we are having games as physical copies lying around in corners. I have made tens or maybe even hundreds of purchases from flee markets. Many times the game finally ended up not working on my Windows 10.

One solution for this is setting up an old computer that is running some old operating system. I haven’t tried this trick. Some games are so popular that there are fan-made patches that enable you to play the game. If your game is compatible with DOS you can always download DOSBox. You can also try to run your games on some virtual machine that has the right operating system. Steam is full of old games that are available for purchase. They work. That’s what you pay for.

So operating systems change. So does the hardware. So drivers play a big role in this game of games. We are forced to update our devices. You have to buy a new phone in say two to three years. Computers might last a bit longer but you can’t play latest games with a pc that is five years old. At least if you don’t update it anyhow. This problem is also visible on PlayStation and even Xbox. Basically the problem is that some old games are just so good that some gamers still want to play them.

Why aren’t there better emulators for old PC games? And this applies most to Windows 98 and XP era. There would even be some commercially interesting ideas about this subject. Would you pay for a retro console or software that you could play your old retro style games?

Tools for Building Your Game

Do you want to know how to actually make a game? Do you have an idea? Let me tell you what it is about and what skills you must learn. You might already have a friend or two that are talented in for example doing graphics or making music with personal computer. Why wouldn’t you get to understand how to make your game? And wouldn’t it be fun even if you wouldn’t actually end up releasing a game?

We will start with 3D modeling. There is this method to make a 3D featured game. You will have to make all the objects that the player encounters and also all surroundings and so on. If you want to make a game that has only 2D graphics that’s ok. But in this blog post we are dealing with 3D environment. So for making animations and 3D models you have to learn to use Blender. Or one of your friends has to. You probably need also skills in programming OpenGL which is based on C++. SO you need to know programming also to “make things click”. you have to have a way for the player to interact. So you need input from player. This is also made possible through an interface that has to be programmed. Making a game isn’t actually all programming but it isn’t all creative thinking also.

You don’t have to make your game with C++. You have a wide variety of different programming languages to choose from. You can make games with Java. I have been fiddling around with SWING. It is quite easy to make a game with a GUI but no graphics. You can make for example a role playing game with a deep plot. There are also some game engines for you to choose from (in Java). Some of them are engines like LITIENGINE and LWJGL – Lightweight Java Game Library. You can find more information about them … again … from your favorite search engine. (Or I might write about them some day). Android is also build with Java. So you need to learn Java if you wish to make a game for a mobile device that runs Java.

What about Python? You might have learned basics of programming from some course for example with it. Python is very good for many purposes. You can make games with Python. Then you would maybe want to learn about Pygame. There is also a funny library for Python for making games that have ASCII graphics (and only ASCII graphics).

You can choose C and C++ and then you are again going to the direction of using OpenGL for so many things. Have you ever made websites? Then you must be familiar with things like HTML, CSS and JavaScript. This is one way for you to make a game also. You can even use a library like Phaser that is based on JavaScript. You can also make your game with C#. You can also make something out of SQL or databases.

There are also some other ways to make a game that I haven’t yet mentioned here. There is basically tools that are built for making games. So they act like software that you can code and design your game with. Some of these tools are Game Maker Studio, Stencyl and Unity.

We have dealt with programming and 3D modeling. But you need also something else. You need graphics or to say it more precisely you need textures. Textures form the surface to your 3D models so they will look like they were actual objects in actual real world. Or that is their goal since a clever player always recognizes that he or she is playing a game and it’s never a real life situation. But, you need textures, right? Your tools for accomplishing this are free tools like GIMP and/or Paint.net and actual paid software application Photoshop. These tools are powerful and you have to learn to use them if you wish to make a game.

Some graphics can be made from sprites. So animation needs many still pictures that finally form the desired animation. But let’s think that we are building a game with 3D environment so we will stick to using Blender for the purpose.

Okay. What about music? What about sound effects? A good game has a dedicated soundtrack, right? You can make your own music or you can try to contact some independent artists. You can find these artists from SoundCloud or if you can speak in Finnish or at least in English you can try to talk to some artists in Mikseri which is a Finnish platform for releasing songs as mp3s on internet. But those are your options, basically. And music you can also find from YouTube. Try asking from some artist you dig.

You can find lots of sound effects online. You can try Freesound.org for example. Sound effects might be hard to make. It helps if you have a good quality condenser mick. These come nowadays with USB connection and they cost about from forty euros to several thousands. I would myself prefer a good and cheap mic for testing to record something. You can get creative with this. Slice an orange maybe and record that sound. You need to handle the audio clip. So you need skills in using an audio editor like Audacity or any other audio editor.

If you really want to make your own music to be played on the background you need to master some DAW. There are free DAWs, like LMMs, and ones you have to pay to use, like FL Studio or Renoise. There might be free to use demo versions that have some limitations. Some free DAWs I actually haven’t tried to this day are Pro Tools First, Ohm Studio, Cubase LE and Ableton Live Lite. I make my music with FL Studio.

You probably need some instruments. And I mean “virtual instruments”. There are lots of free VST instruments and effects. Some tools come with VST plugins and you can also buy them if you really need. A MIDI keyboard is a good thing to have. So you can make all the melodies with your virtual instruments. It doesn’t hurt if you have samples or if you have a friend that can play some guitar so you have all the diversity that is needed.

You will also need some gear. If you want to record vocals while you are listening to your instrumental at the same time you need headphones. Want to know why? Your voice starts to circulate if you don’t use head phones and you basically don’t want that to happen. You might also want to use monitor speakers. I have spent under 1000 euros for my studio, well if you leave the computer out…But you don’t actually need a super fast computer for making music. You can use your parents desktop really well. Just something that runs your audio software and has some space for your music. And you can buy for example a licence for OneDrive pretty cheaply so you would have 1 terabytes of space.

The last thing, I promise this is last in this long long blog post is about big data. What the f has big data to do with gaming, you might ask. It has every effing to do with today’s gaming. You ever think about how much data is moving in mobile activity all the time. There is also data to move in games. This can be something about how you make your choices in the game or what kind of weather happens to be or what time of the day it is. All this makes games very realsitic. But you know what? It makes them more boring. This is purely my opinion. But keep in your mind that there is a lot going on inside the game when you play it.

 

My Story

Oh. Where do I begin. I was born in 1984. Two years later my little brother was born. As any parent my parents noticed how clever I was. Or so they thought about it. They thought I was special. We lived in Helsinki for the first four years of my life. We moved to Vantaa in 1988 as my father got a job in high-tech electronics factory. He ended up having a thirty-year career in that company. Later I got to solder some components together but that’s another story.

So it was about 1987 when my father bought our family our first personal computer. I was very interested in it. I started to figure out some characters from the keyboard and I even wrote something with a keyboard before I learned to read. Our family didn’t teach me or my brother to read until we went to school and we learned to read and write actually there.

I was about nine years old when I got my Sega Mega Drive. I really liked Sonic The Hedgehog, Streets of Rage II and NHL 94. I had already played some Sierras games, some casual games, like Space Commander and many others. Space Quest, Larry, King’s Quest, Indiana Jones, Operation Wolf, Bubble Bobble, Sim City and so on.

This was only an introduction to the world I said Hello to as I got a PlayStation. Playing Mega Drive was fun. But the cartridges didn’t bring so much content. You can think about it. A Mega Drive game is about 1 MB. There is about 650 MB on a CD-ROM. So you can figure out how the games would be more longer and they also had more to offer as more and more people and even adults became aware of this situation.

PlayStation really sparked things for me. I played. I enjoyed. Other things in my life were playing basketball and going to junior high as I was studying here in Finland. I really enjoyed life. I even got myself a skateboard and actually also a snowboard. We hang around in Helsinki or Vantaa at parks and had really fun time. It was a fun period in my life.

I played so many games. I had about forty titles and I was eager to loan any games that my friends had. I didn’t get to modding then. I played Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil, Gran Turismo, Oddworld, Colin McRae Rally, Medievil, Fear Effect, Final Fantasy, Silent Hill and Diablo.

I finally sold my PlayStation for so little money. I don’t recall the actual sum but it was about 120 euros. Damn. For all those 40 games, memory cards, two controllers, cables and everything else included. I would have liked to save them for me to use later. But I didn’t think about it then.

I went to Finnish Army in 2003. I had just graduated from high school and I had a place to study in a university. So things were looking up to me. I was not home playing games. I was shooting targets in the woods. So there were some years that I was, lets say, “lost in the woods” with my plans and my life. I believe this is not uncommon at all. I was then 20 years old.

Then in 2006 my mother found an original Xbox in sale. She bought it for me. The first game was Need For Speed Most Wanted. I was back in the game. Later I got to know my wife. She had a PS3. So I bought Final Fantasy XIII to it. I started really getting into gaming again. I started a school in programming. It was a school of applied university from which I graduated in 2016 at last.

So this brought me to my roots again. I started collecting retro in 2017 when I got a PS2 for me. Today I have a bit tens of devices and hundreds of games for them. I enjoy playing. It is my work, hobby and the thing I get most out of.

What is your story? I would like to hear something from you, my readers. Please leave a comment here or contact me some other way.

Different Platforms For Releasing Games

You might have thought about releasing your own game or you might just be curious about what platforms can be used for playing games. This is interesting for me as a programmer so in this blog post I am going to open up a bit these different ways you can today play and even design games.

I have been making websites as a hobby for very long time. I started back in the 90s. To be precise it was the end of 90s. Back then we didn’t have any mobile devices at all. Bluetooth wasn’t where it is today. I think there even wasn’t this thing we call USB standard. So if you had a PC you had to plug in your gaming pad some other way. I don’t recall what that way was. Basically if you wanted to play with game controller you would be preferring PlayStation over PC.

But what I was saying is that one platform that you can make games on is the web browser. You can develop your game with only HTML, CSS and JavaScript. If you make a game this way it is very easy to release it. You just have to upload your game to a web host. There are places on internet that actually sell these games also. So this is one way to make a game.

You might want to go mobile. This means you have to learn Java and after you have mastered it you must learn software development in Android (or iOS and ´the programming language that is used with it). I have tried my hand at Android development. I found it to be very hard. So I gave up on this idea. But this isn’t what you should do. If you have an interest there’s nothing that can stop you from downloading the appropriate IDE (Integrated Development Environment) and start working on it.

One way to release a game is on some gaming console. This is a bit harder since manufacturers of gaming consoles tend to have a sense of control over what kinds of games are being released on their systems. Sometimes you even need a specific development kit for the desired console. So this is a hard way for an independent software developer. It can also cost a lot of money. This way includes also handheld consoles like Nintendo Switch Lite. You might notice that Nintendo is going in it’s own direction as it doesn’t really care so much about mobile gaming.

You can also release a game for an old gaming console. You probably don’t have an appropriate development kit but I can assure you that there are lots of software tools for accomplishing this. So you actually can make a game that is playable through emulator. You can use emulators to play old games on a wide variety of devices that include smart phones, computers like Raspberry Pi and personal computers. There are emulators for playing games of for example Commodore 64, NES, SNES, Master System, Mega Drive, MS-DOS, PlayStation 1 & 2, Dreamcast, GameCube, Wii and many others.

There are also many operating systems that games for PC can be released on. There is Windows, right now it is Windows 10, and many versions of Linux (like Ubuntu). There are also Linux distributions that are dedicated to retro and emulator gaming. I can name some of them. There is Lakka OS, RetroPie and Recalbox just to name some of them.

If you don’t want to release your game for free there are many online software stores that can be used to sell your game. There is Steam and GOG which are big names that have numerous amounts of games available. There are also lots of other options that you can find using your favorite search engine.

I didn’t go to what tools you can use for developing your own game. This might be a good time to have a break. I will come back with another post for you very soon. It would be a good idea to present for you some tools that can be used for developing a game for Android, Windows, Linux or for web browsers. This would be interesting wouldn’t it?

Some Titles from Capcom

I got the idea for this blog post as I was playing the first Devil May Cry. It was actually an HD release and it was for Xbox 360. I find this game to be of good quality especially considering it was first released for PS2 in 2001. I find many familiar features inside the game. For me it brings especially Resident Evil to mind.

I think it’s not possible to not notice what company made Devil May Cry. It was Capcom. You just can’t miss their logo from the beginning of the game. Actually, when you think about it, there is a huge amount of video games of very good quality that were released by Capcom. Many of these games are familiar to me. So it makes an impression.

First memories that I have that are related to this company are from the game Street Fighter II. I have strong nostalgic feelings when someone even mentions Resident Evil. Do you still remember Dead Rising? Do I have to tell you about Mega Man? Dino Crisis? This list is very impressive.

The story of Capcom started in 1979. It was originally part of a company called I.R.M. It started concentrating on video games software instead of gaming hardware of arcades and was actually named Capcom in 1983. They released their first game ment to be played with a video game console in 1985. It was a game called “1942” for Nintendo Entertainment System or, as shortened, NES.

I personally have enjoyed many of their games. Today they have over 2500 employees. One of their games, Street Fighter, is still a very popular game in eSports. There are many players that wish to compete in this game of this genre. I think it has these certain qualities that make it perfectly suitable for competitive one-against-one matches.

You can read more about the history of Capcom here

Interesting Book About PlayStation

My goal in this blog post is to introduce this subject and this book to my readers. At the beginning I have to make clear that this book is only available in Finnish so don’t get too excited. I am afraid that you won’t enjoy it if you can’t read Finnish text even if it would be possible for you to buy this book. I don’t know if any libraries in Finland have this book. It was pushed only a limited amount of copies and I am afraid that there aren’t enough books for everyone. But that’s not actually a problem for me because I received the book that I had paid already earlier. There were some problems in delivering the book but I think this is understandable since this publisher isn’t a big company.

But to get to the point – this is a book about how at first the first Sony’s gaming console, PlayStation, hit this country and how it was received. We are a small nation of only a bit more than 5 million people that are currently living here. But as players of video games we are very enthusiastic. So thinking proportionally there is a large amount of players in here. People in Finland are basically doing fine and the standard of living is good. To say it truthfully – we buy a lot of games.

PlayStation was a big hit in Finland as it was also world wide. It is said in this book that Finnish people are also faithful to the brand to some extent. The name of the book can be translated to “PlayStation People” or “PlayStation Nation” (rhymes funnily). There were PlayStation fans already waiting when it was time to release PlayStation 2. Have you heard of Sing Star games? Well, it was a series of games that was particularly popular in here. It started from games for PS2 and ended with a game or two released for PS4. It’s a bit sad that new games aren’t being released no more.

The book goes on to explain how PS3 was released. It also tells about a game company called Housemarque. It’s first hit game was Supreme Snowboarding. It developed lots of games for different PlayStations. It is still developing games for PS5 also. The book describes latest and greatest games for PS4. It ends with some words about the release of PS5.

I liked this book a lot. It has 184 pages and lots of pictures so it isn’t a long read. The books availability is a bit limited. I did order it in November and I received it in January. So it was a bit delayed. If you set aside these small problems it is a great book. I ordered a hardcover version of my book. There was also paperback version available when I ordered my book.

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