Where It All Begun (And Where Are We Now) With Gaming

I am a game hobbyist that started playing video games as soon as I was old enough to interact with a keyboard and a mouse. Some years later I was gaming on a Sega Mega Drive and some years after that I got my PlayStation. This was the beginning of my hobby.

Today video games are more popular than ever. There is a large amount of money involved. There are also many independent developers. There seems to be some people that really love video games. There seems to be a lot of games released mainly for making lots of money.

There was once a time when video games were a true form of art. You can take for example the game I am currently playing now. I also wrote a blog post about this game. The game is Remedy Entertainments Max Payne. You can see that this title was a success both artistically and financially.

I think I don’t have to point out any of these big companies that try to release very big games. It seems that when the stakes are too high there is a strong propability for the game to also fail completely. The failure will be financial and you definitely wouldn’t call it art in any way.

The involvement of money is one thing that is effecting the whole industry today. I kind of miss the artistic side of gaming. I have nice memories of playing all those PlayStation 1 titles. It is said that playing PS1 is kind of listening to rock music. And playing Sega Dreamcast is like listening to jazz music.

Why was Dreamcast a failure? To put it simple it didn’t sell that well. It did sell 9 million units. That wasn’t enough. We can compare this to how PS2 sold. That was way over 100 million. Even Xbox and GameCube sold over twice of what Dreamcast ended up selling. Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo are the leaders of todays game console markets as Sega has already made it clear that they aren’t going to release another new console.

Does it seem that you are getting fooled? This might not be the case afterall. If consumers keep buying those titles that they find the most satisfying there might be a brighter future for gamers and gaming. You just have to be aware of the situation. If you are a gaming hobbyist like I am you definitely want to keep up with this field. There is the mainstream. But there definitely does exist an opportunity to pick the games you really want to play. I think that there is a way to have good experiences in gaming. There is an alternative.

There are loads of games, old and new, for you to choose. Don’t have the latest console? Don’t worry about it. You can pick yourself a Xbox 360 or some other older console. It doesn’t cost you as much and you can have a really good time. There are many ways to get some good quality games for your personal computer.

There is always a way and also a place for art inside gaming. It might not be the deepest art you will ever see but it does have a value for gamers. Observe your possibilities. What you are buying is usually a way for also a gamer to influence what is going to be available in the future.

Moving Slowly Towards Wirelessness

Wireless controllers have been around already for a long time. I have been a bit slow in utilizing them. I first encountered this issue back when PS3 was the most powerful PlayStation console. The battery life wasn’t so great back then. I went and bought two three meter long cables for my two Dual Shock 3 controllers so I wouldn’t have to charge them all the  time. If there were some practical charging stations I am sure that I didn’t have one back then.

Back in 2014 I removed PS3 from my setup completely and replaced it with PS4. As you can probably imagine I didn’t have any retro consoles or at least I didn’t include them to my setup. I have talked about this earlier in some other posts in this blog so I am not going to go through this again.

So I got a PS4 that had a wireless controller. I wanted also this new Dual Shock 4 controller to transform into a wired type of device. I used the cable that I already had and bought an adapter. I had to do this since Dual Shock 3 had a different connector than this new Dual Shock 4 controller. This however wasn’t enough and I went and bought another three meters long cable. The point here is that I didn’t like wireless controllers.

I got many retro consoles. But I didn’t get a new latest console until I bought Xbox Series S. This was in 2021. It had a very good wireless controller. I was still a bit unconfortable with it being wireless. For a long time I had a cable for this controller. It was only when I got a good charging station that also had modified lids for battery slot and also two batteries with it that I got really into using wireless controllers.

If you read my last blog post you already know I got a Pro Controller for my Nintendo Switch yesterday. It is wireless. It came with a short charging cable. The first thing I did was that I charged it. It takes six hours for it to charge fully. I am trying to use it mainly as a wireless controller.

The controller feels nice. As mentioned earlier it doesn’t have those annoying trigger buttons at the back of the controller. I played some NBA 2K with it. If there would be some good quality charging station for this controller I would have a use for it. I haven’t found one at least not yet.

Many retro consoles do have wired controllers. For a younger gamer it might seem odd that I am so used to playing video games with a wired controller. There is also a one difference in Pro Controller of Switch and the one that is for Series S and X. That is that Xbox’s controller has a removable battery which makes it more modifiable compared to the Pro Controller. Also PS4 and PS3 controllers don’t have a removable battery in them. I haven’t opened a controller like this so I don’t actually know if the battery can be somehow be replaced.

This was once again such an interesting topic and I wanted to write about it. So, thanks for reading and have a very merry Christmas my Dear Reader!

Game Inside a Web Browser

As I first started getting into modern personal computers back in 2000s I first learned HTML. I eventually learned also some CSS. I didn’t learn JavaScript or PHP back then and it seemed like a tough deal for me. I didn’t get into “real” programming in years. It was 2010 when I coded my first tiny applications with Java.

Java is hard to combine with HTML and CSS but learning to code with it helped me to get into JavaScript and also actually PHP later. During my studies I also learned something about MySQL and about databases in general. JavaScript is a versatile language. It can be used in backend (Node.js) or frontend (for example React. You can also use plain JavaScript for frontend).

I actually wasn’t able to combine as effectively as possible my studies and my experiences with HTML and CSS in 2000s. But now it’s 2022 and I can’t help to still be curious about how these things called web browsers handle themselves (or actually, how do they work).

I have been reading a lot about different techniques of how to produce a web application. I don’t have currently a project that I could showcase in job application. I am still learning. I want to learn as much as possible and go through in my mind all this theory that there is. Working with solving different end users problems also helps me to achieve this. It can in best case bring some new knowledge for me. It definitely helps me to develop myself.

But how do things really work inside the browser? Basically you have ways to display shapes that have different colors, texts and images. You can read in the users input from a keyboard or a gamepad. You can ahve commands and buttons that make the user to interact. The possibilities are almost limitless. You can even bring 3D graphics to your web browser.

What can you do, if you find these sorts of things interesting? I would say that building website or two will help you to get started. Don’t set your goal too high. I for example have come up with several different prototypes of games and some of them have been based on JavaScript and HTML and CSS. Start with something small and keep building. It might help if you team up with some talents that can help you with the game, like for example a 3d modeler or a musician.

I would have started to write a paragraph about techniques that you can use when developing a game to be played in a web browser but I think I have already introduced all of them. Having a game inside a browser enables you to play and deliver the game for many platforms. Is there a device, that cannot run a website on it? I think there actually isn’t.

You have so many ways to start building your game that runs on for example Firefox. This might not be your future profession but it sure is a nice hobby. I am saying this because I’ve myself had a ahrd time in trying to be employed as a Full Stack Developer. The competition is tough. But start with HTML, CSS and maybe even JavaScript, and soon you will understand how these things work.

Games That Are Too Repetitive?

There are some good things about Nintendo GameCube and then there are some bad things about it too. I lately got this gaming console. I decided to remove Nintendo Wii from my setup for now. Wii might have been great but I just didn’t have time or inspiration to get into the games that I bought for it deeply. I did play GameCube games on it and went and bought GameCube. Now I have many games, two controllers and a memory card for it.

I absolutely love how the original game pad of GameCube works. The layout is way different from regular PlayStation and Xbox game pads layouts. It’s once again a case of Nintendo being original. I like the format in which games are delivered. GameCube is from the generation of consoles that includes original Xbox, PS2 and Dreamcast.

There are however some things about GameCube that I don’t like. I am not using, at the moment, the digital output of my GameCube since I don’t have the necessary adapters or cables. I have a 4K capable television and I have to say this – the graphics look crappy. I just have to adjust to this. An attitude of not taking it too seriously and thinking that this definitely is a retro console helps a bit. After all it has been twenty years since it was released.

I have very good games for GameCube. If you think about Resident Evil Zero you get how nice games there are for this gaming console. I have a sport title NBA Courtside 2002 that features Kobe Bryant on its cover. Then I have a driving game. That game is Need For Speed Underground. What do I think about this game? There rarely are bad games in this game series. I just like some of them more than others.

Need For Speed Underground is a bit repetitive. What that means is that it forces you to drive same tracks over and over again with a same car. Although there is some sort of experience score that keeps updating even if you don’t finish first in a race. In some races you have to finish first to get to the next race. The progression is slow and of course this makes the time to complete the whole game a lot longer.

It is said that Sega Mega Drive games were in overall too repetitive. You cannot say that about all games released on Mega Drive. Let’s take an example. Think about Gynoug. It is a very nice shooter that sadly is awfully repetitive. It is very easy to get stuck in Gynoug. Then you will find yourself playing the same part of the game and starting from the same point over and over. You cannot say this about Sonic the Hedgehog or Streets of Rage.

What are some things in gameplay that make game to have variability? The ability to save at any time is one key to this. Or the ability to not save at all. Then you will have to start playing the game all over again. But it keeps you from going the same short part all over again. Some games  have passwords instead of an ability to save a game. Constant progression is one thing. You might have experience points that you get from for example every race even if you don’t win the race. This gives you a feel of progression. And when your experience score unlocks a new track or a new car it makes you also progress.

Having a difficulty option is in my opinion a way better for increasing the amount of times that you can keep yourself playing the game all over again even if you have finished already on a low difficult level. You can decide for yourself if you want to keep playing the same game with a higher difficulty. Sometimes you get stuck in a game. Then it might help to look up for help from a walkthrough online. Today there is lots of help available. You can for example use YouTube if you like. It is nice to know that there are these specialists of gaming available here in the internet.

To make the conclusion for this blog post we can say that GameCube is a very nice gaming console that has some games on it that are a bit repetitive. Being repetitive is only a cheap way to make people play a game for longer time. It should be a lesson for game developers working today and in future also. Mega Drive also has games that are repetitive. But it is clear that not all games on it are as dynamic as can be when it comes to gameplay. Enjoy your games, be them retro or new, and have a nice day!

 

I am Keeping my Xbox 360 (and here are the reasons)

Some days ago I got myself a Xbox Series X. I finally managed to purchase one. It wasn’t easy. The availability of this new Xbox console was poor and it was so for over a year until this week as I noticed that it was actually finally possible for me to actually just buy it.

Xbox Series X is a great console. It can play a lot of these older or so to say retro titles. So it can play games of original Xbox, Xbox 360 and Xbox One. But all of them aren’t playable. You can probably just check this from your favorite search engine. If you type in the search field something like “original xbox games compatible with xbox series x” you will get a list that can tell you actually which of original Xbox’s or Xbox 360’s games can you play with the latest Xbox.

So we now have this information. It turns out that only 63 of all original Xbox’s and 632 out of all Xbox 360 titles are playable on Xbox Series X. I have also this older gaming console that is Xbox 360. It, of course, can play all of Xbox 360’s games. Also, it can handle 464 out of all almost 1000 officially released original Xbox games.

Of course, if you have original Xbox, you don’t have this issue of owning some games that you just cannot play on any device. Since my original Xbox broke down about two years ago I am going to have to rely on my Xbox 360 and I am still not able to play all these games I own. Actually, also my PlayStation 2 broke down about the same time. I don’t think I have so much trouble playing it’s about 60 games that I own since I have reliable emulators available on my computer. Xbox however doesn’t have so solid emulation on a PC.

I actually removed from my own game shelf all of the titles that I currently am not able to play today. There were several games I liked involved. Sadly I only have a limited amount of space in my gaming setup. So, I could have bought a new used original Xbox that would have fixed my issue. But  decided not to. Also what might disappoint a real game collector and game hobbyist is that I at least currently lack the skill to repair my original Xbox. If you actually want to try to repair your game console there are instructions for you in internet.

I had to give up on some of these Xbox titles. But at least there are tens of games in y game library that can be played with my Xbox 360. And that’s one reason for me to keep it and try my best to maintain it’s condition. Xbox 360 was first released back in 2005. So it is an old gaming console. The original Xbox was released in 2001.

Some of my favorite games of original Xbox that I can still play utilizing my Xbox 360’s backward compatibility include Forza Motorsport, Halo 1 and 2, Colin McRae Rally 04, Black and Shadow the Hedgehog. Titles like Second Sight and Silent Hill 3 and also Colin McRae Rally 3 aren’t playable on Xbox 360.

As there are lots of popular titles in all of the released title library of all Xbox consoles that may not be playable on these more recent devices I wouldn’t be so much surprised if there would some day be some kind of Xbox mini classic console released for all of these retro gamers and fans of classic Xbox titles. There is also an ongoing and huge effort on bringing PC emulation for Xbox to be the reality.

Maybe these were all the reasons for me to stick to my Xbox 360. I am currently playing Forza Motorsport 3. After I have completed it I am planning on starting to play Colin McRae Dirt 2 which is a very good game in this Colin McRae Rally series of rally games that I haven’t yet had the opportunity to play a lot. I am hoping to complete it also. You can find today a Xbox 360 game console from any gaming store online and it doesn’t cost you a lot. You can probably get one for around 100 euros.

SteamOS – An Alternative to Windows

For a long period of time Windows has dominated the scene of playing games with a PC. There is always an alternative and that is Linux. If you have played video games on your personal computer you have most likely stumbled on Steam. It is Valve’s, yes, the company that brought Half-Life to us, brilliant piece of software turned as a game shop application for buying and installing and also maintaining your library of PC games.

There are of course other ways to get your favorite games delivered to you. I have to mention Good Old Games or GOG.com. Some of you might still be buying physical copies of games. You know, those optical discs. They might be CDs, DVDs, Blu-rays or even 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs. That is if you even have some sort of an optical drive in your personal computer.

Windows was my choice when I bought my desktop computer almost two years ago. I thought that for the way I use my PC it would be perfect. I have to mention that if you don’t get Windows on the system you are buying you are going to have to pay a lot to get it. I just checked the price of just the operating system Windows 11 and it was 145 euros. That all is just for the operating system.

Linux on the other side is free. It is also open source. What this means is that anyone can participate in making Linux better. I find this kind of comparison between Linux and Windows to be very interesting. In my current job I have had the pleasure to work a bit with PowerShell. This is a deep topic and I am going to just scratch its surface a bit. But let’s say that Linux is open and Windows is closed for what it comes to modifying the code that lies beneath the surface of the operating system.

But what about SteamOS? I can tell you that it is a Linux based operating system. It is free. And it has Steam installed on it. But what is that? I can already hear you talking about how Windows games aren’t compatible with Linux? Well, actually, now they are. Do you know what is “wine”? Let me, again, explain this a bit  further.

Wine is a tool that basically let’s you run software applications that were meant to be launched and run on Windows on Linux. This involves a lot of fiddling with settings and probably some deeper understanding about how software is commonly run on any platform or operating system. But the main point is that it indeed is possible to work with a game or application this way.

Now, when I made my decision of what is going to be my personal computers operating system, I thought a bit how am I going to use the computer. I wanted a machine that could be able to produce some documents so having office tools was important. I also wanted to be able to program on it. This actually works fine in both Linux and Windows. I am also a hobbyist musician as you may recall so it was important that my DAW would work and also that all my VST instruments and effects would be available. And last but not least, as I had a powerful device already, I wanted to be able to play latest PC games on this computer.

What was my choice? It was Windows. If I would have had to install and buy my operating system separately this would have meant that I would have had to buy a Windows license for 145 euros. The alternative would have been to install some Linux distro. Since SteamOS is currently free why not download it? It supports all of the games right?

Valve has had some success as it has brought a working market place and also a place for your gaming library for you the gamer. If you think about also Steam Deck you can clearly understand what is going on right here. Steam Deck is a very good and practical handheld gaming device. And it supports also Steam. I have been using Steam since I got my PC and that was about two years ago.

But would I go and trade my current and working system to SteamOS? I have to say that I am not right now yet ready for it. I am too concerned that I won’t have an opportunity to use my computer to other matters that aren’t about playing games. But I can say it is tempting. I have thought about testing SteamOS and maybe I will install it on some older PC someday.

The Original PlayStation Controller

So I bought Tony Hawks Pro Skater 2 about a week ago. I was going to play it with the PSOne console that I’ve had for about five years already. I got my PSOne from a flee market for a low price of fifteen euros. It has worked since the day I bought it. I’ve had no issues.

I had a cheap accessory controller for PSOne. I figured that I would need a gamepad that would be more accurate and that would feel better. I first checked some prices of DualShock controllers. DualShock 1, which was for PS1 originally, was sold for about 25 euros. I found DualShock 2 and it would cost from 35 to 40 euros. As you might already know DualShock 2 was the original controller for PS2.

I have a PS2 console also. It is currently broken. It was finally not able to read any of my game discs. I still have about fifty or sixty games for PS2. So I still have some controllers. I just didn’t yet know or remember if they were in a reasonable shape and could I use them with my PSOne.

As you might also know PS2 was backwards compatible with controllers of PS1. So these controllers work with PS1 and PS2 and of course PSOne can use also them. You can play PS1 games also with PS2. And to mention also PS3 can be used to play them.

Unfortunately my only DualShock 2 controller was a  bit broken. It had been for many years in storage. It didn’t fully recognize a press to the right on the controller. I had another controller which wasn’t original one. It felt a bit wack also. I had to buy a new Dual Shock 2. I thought it was worth it.

Only a week had gone since I had ordered my fresh and cool skateboarding game. I made a new order to the same store one more time. I just had to buy also some other games. I might write something about them later. I have tested the controller and it works very nice.

Tony Hawks Pro Skater 2

Today I received package from a game shop. I bought Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 for PS1 along with some other games. I decided to write a word or two about this game. I got also some great Mega Drive games and the first Rayman game for PlayStation.

This game is a great skateboarding game. I played the first THPS a lot back in the 90s. I remember getting to play its sequel with PC. I had of course a game pad I could hook to the computer I had back then. I played this game for hours. It’s amazing to think that it has been already twenty years or so.

So I went and bought this one. It was cheap. It cost me only seven euros. Graphics aren’t as good as they were in the version that was released for PC. It was originally released in 2000. I have a wack controller at the moment but I am planning on getting an original controller for my PSOne. Also my game pads cord is way too short. It’s barely two meters. I would prefer three meters.

Compared to this series’s first game the sequel brings a bit more challenge and variety to the game play. You can do manuals and add them to the run or combo of your tricks. Basically in this game you try to make different achievements that give you some cash that you can spend to get some more stats for your skater. There are of course some professional skateboarding legends for you to choose to play as. I for example went with Chad Muska. You can choose from thirteen skaters and there are also some characters, like Spiderman, for you to unlock.

One big part of every Tony Hawk Pro Skater game is the soundtrack. I think the second game has maybe the best one and definitely best out of three first games. I do like the original game’s music and of course the third Tony Hawks Pro Skater had an awesome soundtrack also. I can clearly imagine myself starting to skate as Xzibit”s Paparazzi starts playing in the background.

The game play is as fun as it always has been. It brings me back to this great era of just great games. So it brings me also nostalgic feelings. Really takes back in to my memories of the time that has passed oh so long ago already. I am very content on buying this game. I hope I have some free time to get into this some more. I only played it for a while today.

So it’s a work day for me tomorrow but then it’s weekend again. Time progresses so fast right now. And every year that passes is added to my experience as a game collector and player. I have been a bit lazy for some time in writing this blog. I hope you will get to read some more of my stories, ideas and everything that is related to my life inside gaming and of course the life itself. Thanks for reading.

Best Friend of an Old Game Cartridge

You might recognise this issue. You have a game cartridge and it seems it doesn’t work. It probably is from some console that’s older than your PlayStation. It might be even produced for Nintendo 64. The graphics are usually blurry or the game doesn’t load at all. Hold on. I have a perfect fix for you.

Let’s talk a bit about basic practical electronics. You might know a metal called copper. Do you know how it works in electronic devices and why it is used a lot? Let me try to explain this. I promise it won’t be boring. I am actually very interested in things like how copper works in these devices we use every day.

Copper conducts electricity very nicely. There are also some other metals, like gold and silver, that also conduct electricity very fluently but of course, they are so much more expensive that copper is better to be used. Copper also conducts nicely heat. There are also heat sinks made out of copper for this reason.

So the connectors in your game cartridge are made out of copper. This material has also a tendency to wear out a bit. There is also a phenomenom called oxidation. This happens when over a long period of time you have some copper, like in those connectors, that reacts with oxygen in air. This makes the connection of all of the interfaces to get weaker which produces these issues.

Do you need a electrician to get your physical copies of your games to work? No you don’t. I first encountered this issue when one of these Mega Drive game cartridges wasn’t working. It might not be easy to detect if the copper in the connectors is oxidised. I then purchased this small spray can that is called “PRF 6-68”. It was recommended for cleaning electronic connectors. It didn’t cost so much.

You have to be a bit careful when using this stuff for cleaning electrical connectors. It evaporates quickly. You just basically spray it to your target and then you have to have some kind of cloth, maybe a soft one, that you can try to rub the copper so that the oxidised part wears off. It’s not a good idea to breath in a lot of this stuff. So try to avoid this and also be careful with this. It’s not something you could let small kids to handle.

Using this spray to clean the connectors of a game cartridge has saved many of these retro games that I have bought and that first seemed not to work. Just remember to be careful. It doesn’t hurt for you get some deeper information about this product. And if you are interested in physics or chemistry behind this be free to search from your favorite search engine. I have given you some of my knowledge here but while this is not a science blog I am leaving this a bit open for you to find out.

That Certain Randomness

There is this certain randomness in video games. There is fast learning involved especially when you start playing some game. Games are usually easy to pick up but hard to master. That gives you a feeling that you want to play this game some more. You learn a lot. How much does your skill develop when you are playing? It seems to develop a lot. That isn’t although the only thing your success in playing the game depends. It also has a lot to do with good luck. We can name this element “certain randomness”.

This idea became clear to me as I was one day playing again Need For Speed Hot Pursuit Remastered. I had to catch at least 5 racers as a police officer. The task seemed hard. I kept failing and failing. After trying as hard as I could I got lucky. There were several bad guys captured. It didn’t have so much to do with my skills as it had to do with pure luck.

You might be familiar with randomness in programming. While it is debatable if the random number generated is actually random or not there is a nice way to generate a random number between certain values that can be defined in almost every programming language. At least this is possible in Java and Python. How I first got to know this type of numerical behavior was as I had to deal with a Java application that had to generate a value of a dice getting tossed. You basically had to generate a number between one and six and do it as randomly as possible so that it would describe in the source code how a dice would act in real life.

If you know anything about dices and how are they used in games like Yatzy or some roleplaying game you can figure that their role is to create this random feature that gives you a nice feel when you are playing. It gives you an element of luck. For example if dice gives you 1, 2 or 3 your hit of axe has hit and if it gives you 4,5 or 6 you have missed. You can also define the enemy’s body part that was hit and define the amount of damage caused. A common way to use dices in board games is how many times you can move your character. You get to move the character the amount of times that the dices value is showing.

Playing video games is not only about your skills or your reaction time. It would be very boring to play games that only required skill and would have nothing to do with luck. But if everything in a game is random that isn’t satisfying also. Take poker for example. It is nice to play a game or two of poker. Would you play poker for three hours? Would you enjoy the game if there were no money involved? Of course the answer to these two questions are both “no”. Poker is such a game of luck, isn’t it?

I think the best games are the games that mix randomness smoothly to the skills needed to succeed. If you succeed all the time doing exactly the same thing it gets quickly boring. You want challenge. And you want some surprises. Nowadays video games are getting more complex. This makes things more interesting to us players and I think for also game designers. While you can mix things up by making them abstract and random you always don’t even have to. That’s because games are more complicated than this. You can watch the statistics, like how many kills you have in a shooting game, and make these figures random but in this case the number of kills depends also about the players skills and this forms the players performance. Some things can be simple and random while others can just be thought to be like that.

Anyways. Thanks for reading, again! I am going to continue to have my couple days of since it’s the mid summer party here in Finland. I am probably going to play, make music and read some books. We already had a small meeting with a friend. I have also something more to tell you about our game that we hope to have for sale soon. See you next time!

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