Saturday, June 30, 2012

MIA: Android Battlelog

I've been playing Battlefield 3 since the day it launched.  Now, granted, I wasn't bothered by their iPhone app for Battlelog.  I figured that it won't be long until an Android counterpart would come soon anyway.  At the very least, that's what everyone had hoped for.

Recently, I just ordered myself my first smartphone -- a Samsung Galaxy S III (or S3 for short).  I've long held off on getting one because the smartphone market has been pretty fragmented and uninteresting.  That was until the S3 came along.  Here and there, I've looked into reviews and spec sheets over each smartphone.  I've looked through a lot of them.  And a lot of them had some sort of deficiency that detracted me from getting one.  Added to that is the fact that getting a phone w/o any ties would cost an arm and a leg.  So I held off on getting one.

I've watched the Android market explode and become as big as it is today.  Tons of Android phones with varying degree of features, and OS versions, as well as power, capabilities, and battery life.  You get all that for less than what most people would pay for an iPhone.  But that's the thing.  Granted, iPhone is perhaps one of the biggest selling smartphone identity since the Blackberry.  In fact, it essentially steamrolled over the Blackberry like Judge Doom.  But ever since the Android came into the market, things has been tricky yet the OS slowly got better and better, along with the hardware too.  The hardware got better and it pulled even a GPU company into diving into the mobile device market with their own SoC (System on Chip).  Today, Android is competing head to head with iOS on even grounds.  The market is basically split in two.  Things were not as shakey as they were back then for Android.  And both are viable platforms for which to make apps on.

When Battlefield 3 came out, you had two major smartphone platform -- iOS and Android.  While it was initially disappointing to see that there's an app for the iOS platform, I figured it was a matter of time before an Android version would be released.

It's been 8 months since then.  And what do we have?  Nothing.  Google had its I/O conference and they unveiled Android 4.1, along with the Nexus 7 tablet.  Android is a market that will continue to grow and compete head-on with Apple and their iOS platform.  It only makes sense to have an app for both platform so you don't alienate your audience when it comes to a mobile app.  To not have an Android app after so many months is simply unacceptable.  In fact, it's downright deplorable.

So how long would it take to really have an official Android app for Battlelog?  It certainly should not be 8 months, if not 6.  To leave so many people out in the cold without an app, it does not make Battlelog a more social experience.  It's akin to making Battlelog an Apple experience.  It's not magical to me.  It's almost discriminatory.

I'm nearing the edge of my playing time for Battlefield 3.  There's a certain game slated for a late August release.  I have a feeling I won't have much time to continue supporting my "top 400" world ranking for knife kills.  Put simply, I might have to hang up my knife and let it retire.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

One Big Pile Of...

It's been a while since I last posted anything.  It seems that I've slacked off in getting my last Gundam finished up and its photo taken.  Hopefully I'll get around to it.

For the past several months, I've been constantly playing Battlefield 3.  That isn't to say that I've been playing 24/7.  But whenever possible, I clock in about 2 to 3 hours worth each night.  Sometimes less, due to illness or just too tired to bother.  Playing the game has been a rough ride, personally, because of what DICE, the developers of the game, have done with the franchise.  At first, things were pretty okay, with a couple of things broken and some things not working as it should.  And updates would be released in order to fix that.  Along with it are changes in how the weapons work and how things are rendered on the computer.  Mind you, I play first-person shooters on PC first rather than on consoles.  Yet in each and every update, I see some improvements bout a several drawbacks.  Getting used to them takes a while and usually I just don't find it all that interesting to really do anything else.  To pass time and in an attempt to challenge myself, I set up a rather unorthodox challenge.  Unlike most who would try to get certain kills using certain weapons or whatever else, mine is more of a long-term goal in mind.  The first challenge was to rise up in the world rankings and become part of the top 1000 in knife kills.  Meaning, using whatever means, be it a front slash kill or a takedown, I'll try to get a kill with a knife.  Any potential target or chance I get, I'd try my luck.

It didn't take long to really rise up in the world rankings.  And soon I've surpassed that mark of 1000.  Okay, challenge is over.  What's next?  Again, with nothing else to really do, I've continued what I've been doing.  It's gotten to the point where I'd know how to do a knife takendown almost proficiently.  The days go by and I'd fly past 900, 800, and 700.  So I figure I'd set up 500 as the next marker.  It's a nice round number and it isn't too drastic.

As I was climbing up the world rankings in being the top 500, I noticed that the rate of which I skip past others got a bit slower.  It's probably because the kill gap is continually changing.  Just how much is changing is beyond me.  Still, I didn't let it stop me, as I've been consistently going to a particular server and playing on a certain map to get those stabs.  Eventually I'd finally break the 500 mark and breathe a sigh of relief.  Yet I still do not know what else to do.  Granted, now that the new "expansion" has come out, there are new weapons to unlock and something for me to try out.  But that doesn't really stop me from constantly looking for lonely stragglers and gutless snipers to stab.

Another thing that I've been doing is doing video capture of my knifing runs.  The clips were nothing more than chances and spots where I've managed to hit the 'record' key and get a knife kill in the process.  There were several short clips but some were long and worth the HD space it consumed.  After processing 51 clips, it's time to edit it all and creating a montage video out of it.  But there's a problem with that.

To see what it's capable of, I installed some Windows Live Essentials programs and made sure to include Windows Live Movie Maker.  Editing in this software isn't too bad, and is capable of doing what I wanted it to do, at the basic level.  And when I finally got around to finalizing the whole thing for export, the only format I could save it under is a WMV file.  To me, this is an inferior format and I had wish they would use a more open or usable format, such as MP4.  Another drawback is the lack of encoding option.  There was no option to choose a different video encoding such as H264.  So I was stuck with encoding using Windows Media.  I saved the exported file for a trial run and gave it a quick view.  It only took me 2 seconds to see that the whole video look like crap.  The video was blurry and the video was saved using a very high bitrate too.  I looked high and low for ways to improve this and found nothing.  I was frustrated at the result of constant searching, reading, and the repeated trial & error that resulted in no improvement.

Another program that I tried was also free, called Lightworks.  This editor seems to have a good reputation as being the premiere editor of choice when it comes to film editing.  But I was looking beyond film editing.  Still, I gave it a trial run to see what it's capable of.  Sadly, there's little I could do.  Granted, editing is probably top notch but its video format was very lacking in almost every way possible.  Importing Motion-JPEG encoded videos is fine.  But it could not even support a lossless encoding format like Huffyuv.  And that really drags everything down.  Worse is that in order to support Motion-JPEG is that I was forced to install QuickTime on my system, which I could easily live without since I use iTunes as a music player.

In some YouTube videos, I see there are people using Sony Vegas.  I gave it a quick look through but there are things that doesn't make much sense and it felt very foreign.  I wasn't able to give it enough time to really examine the software throughout to see if it was truly worth using.  Still, it didn't feel like things fell into place when I tried it.

Frustrated, and feeling that there's no other option, I installed parts of Adobe Master Collection CS6, Premiere included. I have not used Premiere in a very long time. Still, some of the basic editing tools are still around and their concept of layers still applied despite their lettering to be reversed. After spending a few days with it, I got used to how things worked and started viewing their exporting option. While it is a bit disappointing that I do not have an output format of Matroska for a container, I'm relieved that it can encode in H264. For audio, it did not matter to me what encoding I used as I am fine with either MP3 or AAC. The biggest factor is always the video encoding and H264 is my preferred choice when exporting videos for upload.

The resulting export gave me a file that weighs in at 1GB for 15 minutes worth. Initially, I had thought YouTube would not allow me any video uploads longer than 15 minutes. Yet when I went in to upload the video itself, I get a blue banner notification saying that my account is approved for uploads longer than 15 minutes. "DOH!" Well, no use in dwelling over it. The cut was already made and I finalized the video. I have no intention of keeping the original and processed videos for long since they eat up so much space. I plan on doing some more but that's if I ever get around to doing it. I still need to do an example video showcasing the immense peripheral view difference between single-monitor gaming and triple-monitor gaming. I hope that I will have such a chance at some point. And then there's the idea of doing a full-round recording with a possible commentary mixed in.