About Memory

Memory is a huge part of how a computer or a gaming console operates. This blog post is my attempt to introduce to you how memory works and what kinds of memory is involved in different gaming devices. So there is basically some temporary memory that doesn’t store so much information. There is also larger memory that stores a lot of information but it isn’t used as frequently. There is also memory that has to be stored for a long time and memory that is used only for a short period of time.

This is basically how computer like systems work. They save data to memory, take user or some other input and make calculations depending on the data that they work with. They present something depending on what the user is doing. This creates the interactive part in video games.

Hard drives are the part of a gaming device that store everything that the game needs. A big part of this is saved games data. Some retro gaming consoles don’t have a hard drive. Hard drives were introduced to game consoles as Xbox was released. With for example the first PlayStation you had to get yourself an external memory card to save your game. Hard disks also store the data even if you turn off your game console.

Today it is common to have hard disks as large as 2 TB. The amount of space on hard disks has been increasing all the time. I remember a time when I bought a hard drive for my PC that had 15 GB. That PC had a 400 MHz processor. As you can figure the technology and performance of computers is advancing all the time. The data that is moving inside devices and also in different kinds of networks is getting larger. Also the size is getting smaller and you definitely can play games with handheld devices and also with your smart phone.

If you would like to get to know more about how computers operate I suggest you pick up a book about how micro processors work. I have some knowledge but I understand that my information isn’t so precise. So if you really want to dive in this topic just make a search in your favorite search engine and type in something like “micro processors free e-book pdf” or something like that. I know that there are many free resources for you to read.

 

Some changes we have seen – Gaming from 1984 to 2021

I am going to go through the most important changes that have happened inside gaming from my birthday to this day. Back in 1984 we had already NES in some gamer’s living rooms. This wasn’t the first gaming device that I ever played. That place was conquered by PC. Computer games in the 80s might have had black and white or eight color graphics. Some games might have had 16 colors from which the graphics would be presented. The resolution was much lower than what we are used to today.

For games’ sounds there was only this horrible noise that was produced by the computers own speaker. In the 90s it was possible to buy a sound card for your PC and some gaming consoles, like Mega Drive, offered a better quality of sound. We were still far from a CD quality of sound effects and background and theme music. The quality of sound progressed as more and more and better consoles became available and as the technology advanced.

Getting the input from player has progressed. From keyboards, joysticks and simple controllers to game pads like Dual Sense and Xbox Elite. We have seen the beginning of real virtual experience. If you compare the controller that is seen in the related picture to the latest Dual Shock you really can see the difference. When the NES controller has only axis buttons and four other buttons my Dual Shock 4 has way more buttons. You really cannot compare these two in the means of human engineering.

What else has progressed? Designing games has taken major steps forward. Consider for example how much games like Doom and Diablo have influenced almost all types of video games. Besides bringing more technical advancements these games brought us some improvements in pure game design. Many games today have taken influences from role playing games. These features include developing and choosing a role or abilities to develop inside the game. You can gather experience and rare items that are able to be gathered by the player.

We have also seen how social media and internet have both made an impact. Did you at some time go to LAN parties? Well, I did. Haven’t been in those kinds of happenings in a while and this is also the trend as connectivity has increased so that you can get online almost everywhere in the world. Also the size of computers, mobile phones and consoles has been getting smaller all the time.

So if you would travel back to 80s you would see a different world. I think today we are dealing with lots of devices and activities that require more and more these skills that can probably be called something like “digital skills”. These skills include using social media and even marketing and using your visibility in your own advance and in collaboration with your friends and people also that you work with. We are all connected together and there is huge amount of data moving in these networks all the time. As some of us have combined sport activities to the new digital world I think that the amount spent exercising has decreased in overall.

Time will show in what direction we are moving. It has become clear that skills with internet, mobile devices, laptop and desktop computers and different kinds of networks are required. And so are also skills in teaching and providing a decent support for the final users of this technology. Big data has already made it’s impact on games that are actually gathering all kinds of data from within the game as the player makes its moves and progresses in the game.

Do You Necessarily Need A Television?

So the world championships for ice hockey this year begun last Friday. I have so far got to see two of Finland’s games. In the first game Finland took a victory against U.S.A. but at the moment we have lost to Kazakstan in a very tight game. Both of these games were real thrillers. Kazakstan had many players in their roster that are playing in KHL which consists of many teams from many countries including Russia and Finland.

This yearly tournament receives very much attention here. I am not so in to ice hockey but it’s hard to miss world championships because it’s such a big deal in here where I live. Although NHL is more popular in northern America. How this is relating to what I have as a subject in this blog post is that yesterday I was at my friends apartment and we decided to watch the game – Finland against U.S.A. My friend doesn’t have a television at all so we thought that we could watch it, you know, online somehow. That would have been possible but we encountered an issue about having to register for a certain account that required all of my friends contact details and also his bank account number. That was stupid in my opinion and we decided to head back to my place to watch the game from television that is connected to regular cable television.

This made it clear that in some cases you do need a television. Since we are still dealing with the corona virus it isn’t, I think, a very good idea to gather to some bar to watch ice hockey games. I don’t know if it’s already legal for this kind of gathering to take place but at least I personally think this is not possible. Last year the whole tournament was cancelled. And Finland won the championship two years ago.

I also know one person that I had a discussion with about not having a television at all. He only had a computer and he also had Nintendo Switch Lite. I have connected all of my retro and also my newer gaming consoles to a television. I also have a computer for playing games and I also have a Nintendo Switch Lite.

A television can be the center of the whole home of yours. There can be limitations. You might not just have room for such a device. Some people might even have reasons, maybe religious or in some other way ideal, for not to watch television at all. And why should everyone have a TV? As internet keeps getting faster and even more common it is nowadays possible to keep track of the most important events reading news online. Do we need a television in every home? Some people manage to survive without it.

 

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.

 

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?

Studying Physics in Colin Mc Rae Rally 2.0

Colin Mc Rae Rally 2.0 is a very interesting game in many ways. I wrote recently about different strategies you can have in this game. Now I would like to return to the physics and how this part of the game is handled. I think this game was the first rally game and also among some first racing games that I really liked (Gran Turismo was also great) and got into. It was released for PC and PS1. I played both of them.

There is no doubt that the way CMR 2.0 handles the part of physical modeling was in its time revolutionary. I know lots about games but I also have studied a bit of physics. I have learned physics mainly through school and by studying it in a school of applied sciences. However I am not a physicist. I am more of a software designer. So I know about some coding stuff also. This might open this fact a bit of how I find thinking about these subjects extremely interesting.

I haven’t seen any source code from this game. This is a commercial game and its code isn’t open source. I think for many of the fans of this game this doesn’t come as a surprise. The game was hugely popular. Releasing it as a freeware would be, well, stupid, you might say. However there are some very interesting details that open up for me as I play this rally game.

Let’s think about friction. It deals with surfaces. In a car you can have different tires that behave differently on different surfaces of road. So this is one thing. While driving on icy or snowy road you might want to use chains with tires. While driving on tarmac you want to use soft tires. And on wet surface you use special tires that perform nice on for example wet tarmac. Same goes for muddy surfaces or roads that are of gravel. You have to have a good grip on the road you are driving and friction can give you this.

There is a force that is effective on any road that you can drive on the whole planet Earth. It is called gravity. You have to have good and sufficient suspension in your car. On roads that are bumpy you have to have more suspension for overcoming the differences of altitude. Too much suspension is not good either if you drive on flat road.

You can also break and accelerate. You turn the wheel in right direction at a right time. The key is to try to steer correctly or at least keep the car moving as fast as possible. If you don’t break at a correct time you get to grass or some other surface that slows you down. Crashing also slows you down. This has everything to do with a thing called momentum. If an object doesn’t receive any push to any direction it keeps moving with the speed it has to the direction it is moving. At different time there is different amount of push to the vehicle. If nothing gets pushed the car keeps moving. Bigger objects take more power to get moving and are slower to stop moving. So the more mass you have the slower you are.

I think this is enough physics. I repeat what I said earlier. This is not so precise of a study. I haven’t seen any source code and I didn’t describe my theory so thoroughly. I hope this motivates you to learn more about physics. You can find more information using your favorite search engine. I definitely feel that you will get more excited about this particular rally game.

Breaking Down Mortal Kombat II

I’d like to spend a moment describing my experiences about the second Mortal Kombat game that was released for Sega Mega Drive in 1993. The game has some technical limitations as Mega Drive isn’t, and wasn’t even back in the days, the most powerful platform to release a game like this. Arcade version of this game might have been smoother but we aren’t going to go there today since it’s been too long time for me to talk about that here.

As a software developer graduate I can see some things while playing that I don’t know if they are so clear for people that don’t know computers, technology and programming so well. This small blog post is here for you to dive a bit deeper on how the game is played. I also understand that some people are way better at playing this kinds of games. I have only spent some tens of hours playing Mortal Kombat. Also I like to note that I am concentrating on Mortal Kombat II here instead of all two dimensional fighting games. Yes, there are many of them and I have to mention Street Fighter series here.

This stuff is very interesting for me. I can see how the game kind of “reads” your moves. The opponent, it is this time a computer, reacts to your moves. It can make a move that is most suitable for a certain situation. So the key to winning your opponent is to react with a move that is the best move in your situation. You have to time this move correctly. You have to be in a right position. And this isn’t all there is to it. You can make moves freely. You have to define when and at which position to make the move that is correct move for you to make the opponents health bar decrease.

Fighting games have come a long way since the days of 1993. It is very different to play against the computer than it would be to play against a player. I know that games like Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter are very popular as genres of electronic sports. So you can have a competition against human players. This is how the game was designed. It sometimes feels like the computer is cheating but what else would it do than read your input and position and react as fast and powerfully as possible.

But to talk more about the game. It’s a great game. I find it very fascinating. The graphics are better than the first Mortal Kombats were. It seems like the development team have done a great work. The game has twelve different characters that have their own strengths and weaknesses. This makes the game even more interesting. To beat the game you have to know how to play with not only one character but many different characters that have their unique special moves and so on. You could actually compare and describe which characters are best against a specific opponent.

I am not sure what the basic attributes of all the characters are. I haven’t touched or even seen the source code. I am not aware if this code is available or is it “open source” or closed code. I know that Mega Drive didn’t have so much memory to use. Graphics and movement took a lot of processing from this gaming console also. When considering that this game was released in 1993 it is a game of very good quality. There is also a port for PC. If you are a big fan I can recommend to getting your hands on Mortal Kombat X. And to be honest I have to say that I just some days ago ordered Mortal Kombat 11 for PS4. I had to do it because the price was, I think, this time good. I hope this short blog post can give you inspiration wherever you are and in what situation with work or studying you might be.

Some Nostalgia from The Dawn of 3D Modeling

Sometimes I find myself going back to where it all began. It was my beginning inside gaming. Somebody else might feel different about this. For me the 90s was an inspiring period of time. We saw the rise of 3D modeling and textures. The development of technology enabled players to enjoy more and more realistic graphics. First came Doom. It brought a realistic environment that you could move in. Soon games like Tomb Raider and Quake were released.

One of my favorite games of this time was, and still is, Kingpin – Life of Crime. This articles featured image is from that game. There are some reasons for me to like this game. A rap, or hiphop, posse Cypress Hill was very deeply involved in this games development. They appeared as voice actors and also produced the music that was in this game. What is the game about? It takes place in some ghetto somewhere. The player takes a role of a gangster. Basically this game is a first person shooter.

3D modeling has come a long way from these days. It was 1999 when Kingpin was released. I think about this as I just a while ago have played a really nice rally game – WRC 9 that was released recently. I think about how much the job of a 3D artist has changed. Back in the days you could see the models edges. Now you don’t see such edgy graphics. I also think about how much it affected gaming that there suddenly were graphics processing units that could reliably convert 3D graphics for players to enjoy.

3D acceleration in home computers brought computers that had more performance. Earlier it was thought that processor in computer was the component that made it faster and stronger. There was more to it. Some time ago we saw also some other components that can bring your PCs performance stronger. I’m talking about solid state drives or SSDs.

I strongly believe in the development of technology. We are going to see many advancements that are also somewhat related to gaming. Be it virtual reality or the development of sharper screens this is bringing us as human beings more advanced games. Technology has many qualities. Bringing games for players to play is just one side of it.

If you are interested in Kingpin – Life of Crime go check this website : https://www.kingpin.info/

Going Digital

They say that nowadays most PC games are sold as digital copies. I buy latest games today for PS4 and I am not so keen on latest PC games. I had to face this problem as I was planning to buy a laptop computer back in this years July. I assumed that my new laptop would have an optical drive of some kind. At least I was hoping it would have one. Finally it didn’t.

I have a large, well okay, huge, collection of games as physical copies. This includes lots of PC games. I find my retro kinds of games mainly from flee markets or from game shops bargain sales. I know there is these kinds of shops on the internet that you can buy a huge collection of games and they can be old, new, classic or not so known. I know there are lots of people doing this. This could be a way for me too to collect and buy games.

So this issue was current when I had a new, fresh, laptop computer, that had latest Windows operating system on it. But there were no games. There were no software applications. If I wanted to play something I would have to install it from somewhere. And I didn’t have an opportunity, this time, to install from CD-ROM or DVD. I actually went and spent (nice rhyming there) about 45 euros for an external DVD drive, but lets explain my next point first…

The way I remember Steam was mainly as irritating obstacle for me as I was trying to install a game to my own PC. It didn’t allow me to install a game that was registered by another user. I have bought all-in-all about ten games from flee market that I wasn’t able to install or eventually play. And I blamed Steam for it. I became more cautious. If a game had “Steam” on its back side I didn’t buy the used game. This was my view.

As I installed and activated Steam on my new computer I suddenly noticed that Steam enabled me to import all the games that were synchronized to my Steam account. I mean I was able to play any game that I had bought and that were supporting Steam. That’s very good. I think that’s amazing! I don’t have to depend on the physical copy of a game. I can pay for it and register so I can play it on any PC. I say this once more – this is very nice.

Are we going to see more this kind of movement towards digital markets when we are talking about purchasing latest games for latest gaming consoles and computer? The time will tell. I might not be ready for my PlayStation to be only digital but maybe I will buy someday in the future a PC that doesn’t have an optical drive.

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