The Smallest Xbox Ever Released

I’m looking at it. I like it. It’s the smallest Xbox that is to this day released. It’s almost as small as PS2 Slim was or is. What got me to buy this thing? Well, I had been thinking about buying a newer Xbox for a while. My thoughts were centered to Xbox One. But why would I buy it for 250 euros when with 310 euros I’ll get a newer Xbox?

There are some things you have to consider when thinking about buying this gaming device. It doesn’t give you 4K video output when playing games. It only goes as far as 1440p resolution which is still a lot better than Full HD. To make this point clearer you can think about PS4 which gives you 1080p resolution and 1080 pixels being the actual height of the display. So, to make this even more understandable, Full HD means a picture that is 1920 pixels wide and 1080 pixels tall.

With not going in deeper details about the sharpness of gaming displays we shall continue this quick explanation about what are my feelings towards Xbox Series S. That’s basically what this thing is called. Why is it called this way? I guess Microsoft wanted to give it some basic name to make it clear what kind of a device it is. There is also another new Xbox model that was recently released. It is called Xbox Series X.

The main difference between these models is that S doesn’t have an optical disk drive at all while X has. X has also this 4K gaming display supporting ability. X is also a bit more expensive. It costs about 520 euros. The situation globally has been  tough. There haven’t been many opportunities to buy this new console be it the S or the X. I am also very satisfied that I got mine so fast as I’ve heard that some people have been waiting for their console for as long as six months.

What more would I want to tell you about this new console? It has been working nicely. The first game I bought for it was Remedy’s Control. I also bought Halo 5 and a remake of Final Fantasy 8. I wasn’t actually thinking about sales but I found out that there was, and actually still is, going on a sale in Microsoft’s Xbox Store. Getting a fully digital gaming console with no physical play and installation disks made me consider about getting faster internet connection. My solution to this problem was to let the game that took about 42 gigabytes to download over the night. I’m still considering updating my connection because I  might need a faster one.

I like the controller. The layout is your typical Xbox controller layout. I am not going to argue about if it is better than PlayStation’s. It is enough said that they differ a bit from each other. The controller works with two AA batteries. I am also considering some other solution as I don’t want to keep changing the batteries to it all the time. I think there is at least a cable available. That would be a USB-C cable that is at least three meters long.

One thing you should really think about is that this thing only has a bit over 500 gigabytes of storage. So you can’t really install so many games to it. You can actually buy storage upgrades. I haven’t thought about this so much as I have only three games right now and I think that is a lot for starting the experience and getting to know the device.

I went and bought this thing. Right now I am really enjoying it. I am very proud of it. One thing that really pushed the purchase for me was that there were only a limited amount of these devices available and that the price was actually as low as it was. Right now I’m playing Control. I hope I will get to know more about Halo 5 soon.

Dreams of Making a Video Game

I woke up today a bit early. I put on my headphones and started listening music and browsing internet. The sun was rising. I just had to take this picture with my phone and share it with you. But let’s get to today’s subject. Have you always dreamed of making your own game? Well, I have.

It started with playing games as a kid. As I grew older I started to get a sense of what gaming really was. I wanted to make a game. I was also fascinated with designing websites. While I was studying in high school I started to think about my future and what I would want to study after it. I though a lot about trying to study something that required creativity. I was also a decent math student. Finally I decided to go for math and physics instead of studying art.

My life has been a one big trip. I finally got to studying computer science in 2010. Since I started I had a dream of some day developing a game or at least a nice looking dynamic website. Things didn’t actually go that way. After graduating I found out how hard it was to get a job in the field. However I did program a game. It was text based adventure game.

This wasn’t the kind of game I had dreamed of making. The game I imagined was graphical adventure game that had discussions, small puzzles, some kinds of graphics and lots of interactivity. I wanted to create something special. I lacked skills in creating graphics and programming.

The dream didn’t seem to disappear. I still have it. I know some programming but the task seems to be too difficult. I have tried to get into Python (PyGame), Java and JavaScript but it seems to be too hard for me to learn effectively. I don’t know what happens to this dream as the time goes forward all the time. I admit that it’s a bit sad.

So designing games hasn’t been the job that would fit me perfectly. But maybe that’s why you dream. You can imagine what you might some day achieve. Just remember that it’s hard work to learn something so deeply. And before you try your hand in programming just remember that it’s hard to get into. But if you are really talented just go ahead. I know some very talented programmers that have made it. And keep dreaming even if you achieve your goals. There are so many different ways for a person to develop himself or herself.

Sine Mora EX – A Modern Space Shooter

I wrote a post some time ago about space shooters. I have played many nice shooters mainly on Mega Drive. So the thought about getting into a more recent game in this genre was interesting. Sine Mora EX is modernized side scrolling two dimensional flying and shooting game. Graphics are clearly today’s graphics, there are some modes to choose from, you can save the game and play with two players cooperatively.

I bought this game, again, from some sale a while ago. The price was very low. I think it was about ten euros. The game has been released in 2017. I checked how long would it take for an average player to get through this game and the website tells me that it takes about two and a half hours. I have played it now for five and a half hours. As I’m not a professional game player it takes some time for me to finish especially this type of game. The genre isn’t one that I would have lots of experience with. But things do get interesting as I delve deeper into what this game has to offer.

Basically your mission is to avoid ammunition that is shot at you and at the same time you have shoot your enemies before they kill you. You get, I think, randomly some updates to your weapon and more time and some other important updates. You can even get a shield for you plane. When you get hit you loose all your weapon upgrades that give your weapon more power and you can then collect them back to you if you are fast enough. There are also updates for your planes speed. Time can run out. You get more time when you kill enemies or get an update. When you get hit you lose also time. You have ten lives and when time finally runs out you lose one life and you have to start from the latest checkpoint.

The game is exciting. It may seem to be a bit repetitive as games in this genre might sometimes be. As I played this game today I spent many hours playing it. So it keeps you well captured while it still is a smaller and more of a casual game. It’s nice to play this type of game that doesn’t require so much work in getting into it and actually learning how to play it. It can be a nice introduction to this whole genre. I hope I have the time to learn to play this game a bit more. In overall this game is good and it delivers a nice shooting experience tweaked into a modern gaming experience.

My Personal Relationship with PS4

I hadn’t thought about PlayStation 4 yet when a friend asked me a question – Do you know when is the new console actually getting released? That was probably back in 2013. Before that comment entered my mind I had been steadily working through titles available for PS3. I had played almost endless series of driving games like Need For Speed series and Dirt 1 and 3.

I had time and energy to play video games. Back then I wasn’t so interested, as you can figure, about retro games. They were only a slight curiosity I casually worked with using emulators on a PC. So I thought it would be nice to finally buy the latest PlayStation.

I actually made the purchase after I had just turned 30 years old in 2014. My budget was, back then, low, but I managed to save money to buy the device. I bought also my first PS4 game at the same time. It was Tomb Raider that was released back in 2013.

At first I had an ambitious idea of completing every game I got for PS4. It worked out only until I got like my fifth game or so. I managed to get through Tomb Raider and Call of Duty Ghosts. Games for PS4 were pricey at that time and there was only small selection. Many games were releases of old games released as HD remakes. So I had a new gaming console but there were only a handful of games.

Was it really worth it? I started to think about this. When I am writing this I think that this device had some really nice games. Some of my favorite games are NBA 2K14 and Dirt Rally. These two really stand out in the list of my favorite games for PS4. I just think there were many titles that I didn’t really get into so much. I guess it has also something to do about that I was back then already a bit over 30 years old.

It is said that when you are young you get more inspired by the music of that time. I think this goes also for video games. One year can be very significant for a nineteen-year-old but one year for a forty-year-old is not so big deal. So I was a bit older and had already got through experiences of the first PlayStation. I just think that PS4 never conquered my hearth like PS1 once did. This personal relationship made me think that it would be not a good idea to buy a new gaming console. So tot this day I haven’t found a reason to get a new console. I have a fresh PC that I can play also some new games.

After all there is an infinite amount of games that you can play. I think the games I am going to play don’t necessarily have to be the newest anymore and PS4 kind of ended my habit of playing the newest games released. PS4 is now not the newest gaming console anymore. It isn’t retro either. It is somewhere in between of retro and new. I think it’s time now for me to take some distance to this console and try to find some other games that I can enjoy. If you did enjoy PS4 or are still enjoying it that’s fine. I just think it lacked a personality and that’s why I have not played it or enjoyed playing it as much as I did PS3 and some older devices.

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.

 

What’s Going On?

This blog is mainly about gaming. It’s also my dear hobby and it always tells something also about me. So I dedicate this blog post to describing what has been going on lately in my life. I still try to write here as frequently as possible. It just seems that I don’t right now have so much time for video games. But I do have played a bit of Skyrim. Well, I have played it for about six and a half hours. I also started working again. I was unemployed for just about three weeks. So I got my next job almost instantly. It’s been keeping me busy but at least I don’t have to work on weekends.

There are lots of games available today. I chose my next game to be Skyrim. If you haven’t played it or if you are considering whether to get your hands on it, I can describe it a bit here. It might first seem that this game is some kind of an action game. That’s not completely true. I would compare to the first Deus Ex. It combines action and roleplaying elements cleverly. It’s not turn based but the game play is strongly depending on things like developing your character. Your character develops as you do different things and gather the actual experience. In the beginning of the game you get to choose your characters class and of course you have to modify the look and feel of your character visually and of course you have to give the character a good name that you can relate to.

There are many skills in Skyrim that you can develop. There’s too many for me to start telling something about them. Let’s just say there are maybe hundreds of them. There is also some magic skills that you can learn and use. You have to choose do you want to battle with two handed weapons, one handed weapons using also a shield or maybe you want to use ranged weapons like a bow. You can carry a limited amount of equipment with you. If the limit is reached your characters get slow. You can save your game any time you want and you can even use one quick save slot.

To this day I find this game interesting. It isn’t the newest game around. And the version I am playing is for PS4 so it is a HD remake. I already had this game for PS3 and Xbox 360 but I bought this latest remake so I could enjoy a bit better graphics. It was, again, in sale so I decided to buy it. Well, I also ordered one very interesting game at same time. It was actually Tetris for NES. So I made again a small purchase that had, again, very interesting games in it.

Maybe that is all for now. I hope I don’t get too tired and get to spend also time playing more video games as I do have free time sometimes.

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.

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.

 

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