Sunday, April 26, 2009

One small step

Normally I don’t follow the progress of a software unless it is something that I am waiting on.  This happens to be one of them.  When Microsoft made Windows 7 beta available to everyone, they got much more than they bargained for.  Their server for generating product keys for new users crashed under load and it took Microsoft a few days to get that issue resolved so that their servers can handle the load.  After a lot of tinkering, testing, playing, and for some people, a lot of reinstalling, they found that Windows 7 is not only faster but it is subjectively better than Vista in every way.  This does not mean, however, that the system requirement when compared to Vista will go down.  They remain the same.  Yet at the very least, when Windows 7 run, it will run faster, and more efficient than Vista, partly due to how it handles some its features now.

Like previous versions of Windows that came before 7, certain features and programs are run by default, despite that they are not needed or that there is no hardware for it (like the Wireless Zero Configuration service on a desktop PC with no wireless network card).  Microsoft claims that Windows 7 will be smarter on how it runs services, shutting down the ones that are not in use and starting up the ones that are needed.  This reduces memory footprint by a good margin and makes running the OS a lot better for hardware that need to conserve resources.

And then there are the interface changes which has taken a couple of pages from different operating systems or platforms.  While the new interface is different, whether or not it is good or bad is entirely a subjective matter.  People interact better when certain visual features help them identify and do certain task faster.  And that’s something people would look at.

Not too long ago, the big news dropped that Microsoft has completed Windows 7 RC1, the first release candidate and possibly the only release candidate.  However, it is an important step and an important milestone.  It marks the end of the beta and starts the road to the final build which will be sent to manufacturing for duplication (aka RTM).  But even though the RC build is finished and distributed to select companies and testers, others who have paid top dollars to get first dibs on Microsoft products won’t be able to snatch it up until a little later.

Actually, for many, they don’t have to wait.  That build has already been leaked and is being distributed amongst various BitTorrent network and sites.  Fortunately, those who have already signed up for the Windows 7 beta can still use their product key to install and activate it.  It makes waiting for the official release and possibly an RC-specific product key a pointless process.  But that matters very little for people who were anxiously waiting for the RC to come around to see how much has changed since the beta.

So why all the talk and jibber-jabber nonsense about this?  It is because I will be the early adopters of Windows 7 from start to finish.  It is not simply because I am itching to use it.  It is simply because it is the next step up due to hardware upgrades.  After spending some small cash to acquire new RAM, I now hold on hand 4 DIMM sticks of 2GB RAM, totaling 8GB altogether.  With the 4GB limit imposed by 32bit processing and addressing, I have to step up and break away.   My free licensed copy of Windows Vista Business is only 32bit and there is no transition to 64bit that is both economical and simple.  Purchasing a 64bit Vista is not an option at the time, as Windows 7 was already readily available (in beta) and was nearing close to completion (supposedly).  Purchasing 64bit Vista would be a bad choice for me personally with a new OS just around the corner.  And since the RC will be made available to the public at some point, it makes sense to give the new OS a try and to use that as a placeholder until the final product arrives on store shelves.

But nothing will ever prepare me for what I am about to go through.  Some software may not work.  And some devices may not work.  But that’s what I will have to deal with for the time being.  Fortunately, the underlying architecture of Windows 7 is similar to Vista so anything that can run on Vista is likely to run with minimal problem on Windows 7.  At least that’s the current theory of it all.

Ah, but there’s one thing I forgot to mention.  There are a few roadblocks that will prevent me from installing Windows 7.  The first is retaining data.  The second is timing.  My previous post mentions of a celebration going on Guild Wars at this very moment.  Everything will have to wait until I have finished sorting through all the new content and that I have successfully backed up all necessary files (importantly, my Call of Duty profile).  I do not know when I’ll finally flip the switch.  But I do know that I will run into some pain after freshly starting Windows 7 up.  Reinstalling games and software can be such a major pain in the ass.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Fourth

As Guild Wars is about to celebrate its 4th year, players are now shown what’s under the hood for the 4th Anniversary update.  And with it, there are a lot of things to go through.  Some of them are questionable... but others are long in the making.

The most anticipated new feature is updates to the storage system.  Now players are given the option of acquiring an equipment pack which is used to store their armor and weapons.  Along with the equipment pack, players are now given the opportunity to purchase additional storage panes for their account.  It’s announced that they are offering the storage pane for US$10.  But some people have already pointed out that the pricing is not very economical.  In some stores, including online ones, one can get a new copy of Guild Wars, regardless of chapter/campaign, for the same price.  The cost of that new copy of Guild Wars would come with 2 storage panes plus 4 characters to use, which some people will end up using as “mules” for their items.

While the cost is indeed questionable, there are other purchasable items that players can choose from.  One of which is the makeover package which will enable people to redesign their characters and potentially mix different hairstyle, face, skin tones, and character height to their liking, including using different design options from other campaigns.

It’s too bad I won’t be able to fully look through all the new stuff that went into this update... at least, not right now.  I will be able to sort through it all.  I just need to get through several days of Nine Rings.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Disabled But Not Broken

Recently an update was published to the Call of Duty: World at War game for the PC platform.  That update came bundled with the game’s first Map Pack.  The update also comes with some fixes and changes to make the game play better, or at least that’s the intention of it.  Like many PC games that get updates from developers, there’s a list of changes that went into the game.  People would look at the change list and see what has been implemented in this update.  I am one of those people.

As I looked through the fucked-up mess that plagues the franchise forums, I came across a thread in regards to the game’s bipod.  As soon as I read that, I knew something is afoot, and with it I get a bad feeling on what I was about to read.  After following a few leads, I came across a thread where the poster expresses his frustration in the disabling of the bipod while in the prone position (aka laying down).  As soon as I heard that, I was also up in arms over this.

The big machine guns in the game all has one universal feature: a bipod.  The bipod enables users to mount their machine gun on a ledge or on a flat surface.  At the cost of mobility, you gain something much more: a machine gun with high accuracy and faster firing rate.  Sure, mounting the MG on a ledge may not always be ideal.  But when you stare down a long hall or alley, it is one of the best defensive option in the game, bar none.  There is nothing like this as enemies have very little chance to survive once the gunner is locked in.

What baffles me is the reason Treyarch disabled the bipod while prone.  Their excuse is that they feel that there is a potential threat that can possibly lead to a denial of service attack.  Whether or not this affects the client or the server software remains to be seen.  And there has been no widely publicized case of a certain bipod-related bug ever happening.  Yet Treyarch feels that the threat is so big that they need to disable it without telling anyone about it.  That’s right.  The update notes that I mentioned before contained no information with regards to the disabling of bipod while prone.  This frustrates me and throws me for a loop.  It’s one thing to say that you’re going to make a change to prevent a potential problem from occurring.  But it’s another to make that change without telling anyone about it.  In effect, they removed the one defensive option that I rely on because I find the option to be the best when I have the equipment and time on hand to deploy.

This undocumented change thing is nothing new.  Such a thing happens all the time, more often in the world of MMO’s.  But undocumented changes tend to be so small and so minor that it doesn’t affect anyone.  In many cases the change tend to be visual rather than gameplay-related.  This undocumented change is gameplay-related, which changes the way people set up defenses and suppression fire.

I’m ticked off that Treyarch would go behind the gamer’s back and make such a change without saying a word.  Not only did they screw this up but this is another bullet point to add to the things that Treyarch has done wrong with this game.  I have been tolerant on how they are supporting the game.  But this one hits me really hard.  So what happens now?  What will become of this?  Who knows?  I just know that I cannot deploy my bipod while prone even though it would help immensely in keeping enemies away.  Now I gotta deal with the machine gun’s recoil... That’s just fucking terrific...

Monday, April 13, 2009

A Prestigious Undertaking

This ought to sound familiar. As with any online games, I set up small little goals. I've been doing that since Battlefield 2. And when 2142 rolled around, I laid out some goals and awards to achieve. It helps keep me focused and it helps me to continue on playing. Then again, other factors that keeps me playing is the fact that there are friends around to play with. After all, it's a bit lonely playing an online shooting game by youself with nobody else around to trust and rely on.

Call of Duty: World at War introduces PC players the grindfest of Prestige mode for the first time. This particular mode enables people who have made it to the top to simply start over again. But starting over again does not mean that one would simply start from scratch. Prestige has its own share of benefits, usually in the form of a fancier badge icon next to your name and unlocking additional custom class slots.

Some people took the liberty of going Prestige, either out of curiosity or out of boredom. Some do it for a goal. And others do it simply because they can. The latter, however, is due to a configuration exploit. But I won't delve into that. In any case, those who took the time and effort to go slow are the ones who have earned it. And out of all of the Prestige badges out there, only one remains the most interesting and fancy: 5. It's not about getting to the top. That can be done at any time. To me, it was about what looked the most different and distinguished from the norm. I have seen many different players. And Prestige 5 appears to be the most different yet not overly common amongst the general public. It was there that I set my goal to achieve this.

With over 270 hours logged into that particular profile, I have finally arrived at the final stretch. All it takes is racking up the points in order to earn the next level/rank and unlock various attachments for my weapons. But that final bump on the road is now gone. And I am on my way to finally getting as much as I can done with a variety of challenges. But there is one particular challenge that I know will never be completed: Martyrdom. I refuse to complete it, knowing that this is the one challenge and perk that I despise the most. I shall never degrade myself to using it... unless it just happens to be on a distant public free-for-all server.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Fooling Around

With much anticipation, another April Fool’s Day joke has everyone in Guild Wars becoming a miniaturized and cartoonish Gwen.  Or in the world of anime, we call it Super Deformed or SD for short.  With thousands of SD Gwens running around, it’s too good to pass up various screenshots and video presentations.  2008’s Stickman was okay at best but it didn't leave that much impact.  For 2009, it seems that this is one of the best treat so far.  And hopefully it can only get better as April trickles along.

On a different note, April 1st marks the end of March.  And with it, an empty promise from Treyarch.  When their first Map Pack was announced, it was stated that they will release the pack on March 2009.  The month came and went.  And while the console users are able to play on the new maps first, albeit with a price to pay, the PC gamers are left out in the cold waiting for their new maps to come in.  This has the unfortunate side effect of bringing out some of the worst and dumbest people known to man.

Yet while the idiots over at Treyarch are trying to fix the remaining bugs slated for their 1.4 release, “JD”, Treyarch’s community relations guy, posted an update regarding both the patch and the map pack that was supposed to come out on March 2009.  The update was not an update but rather an excuse.  So instead of simply releasing the map pack, which are nothing more than maps, they decided to simply lump the maps together with the patch/update and create a super-mega-huge download for everyone.  Terrific.  It’s confirmed that the map pack will come with the patch.  What I do not understand is why can’t the pack be released separately and independently.  This can make organizing what patches or updates are needed so much easier, instead of getting an old and outdated patch that needs to be patched over by a newer patch.