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.

History Of Optical Drive (inside gaming)

Optical drives have existed in gaming consoles for tens of years. The technology existed way before it was used in mainstream game devices. Back in the 90s there were several consoles that were equipped with optical disc drive. One of the earliest was the expansion to Segas Mega Drive called Mega-CD.

As Compact Disc technology gained ground there was a strong change coming in the form of 3D technology. Sega maybe was one the firsts to make use of new technology but it made a slight mistake. It didn’t have a gaming console capable to produce 3D models and/or graphics. Later Sony made its entry to gaming business with PlayStation and claimed its spot as the developer of the most popular gaming system.

During this period there were several devices released from Philips, Atari and Panasonic just to name a few. The competition was tough. We can compare the amount of data that game cartridges had to what was possible through CD technology. An average CD-R disc holds 700 MB. Nintendo 64s cartridges hold only about 35 MB. This meant that there was 20 times more space for any game to be developed.

First CD-ROM made its way and later came DVDs in the form of Sonys PlayStation 2. This was back in the beginning of 2000s. DVDs offer about 4,7 GB of space. This format was followed by Blurays that hold data from 25 GB up to 100 GB depending on which technology it uses or to say more precisely how many layers the disc has. Blurays are used in the latest generation of gaming consoles but this is about to change as PS5 and Xbox Series X are making their way to the markets later this year.

Todays games can take up so much space that you have to download a large update during the installation of the game. As speeds of internet connections keep developing it is today possible to produce gaming consoles and computers that don’t have, or don’t need to have, any optical drives. This gives the consumer an ability to just pay the game and install it directly to the hard drive. Of course this makes it easier to manage game collections but maybe something is lost as there is no physical material to collect or showcase. All in all digital gaming makes manufacturing gaming devices cheaper and it also shows this way to the consumer. PS5 will be released as all-digital version and a version that has an optical drive just to mention an example.

Connecting gamepad of PS4 to your PC

I have for a long time used Xbox Ones Elite gamepad for playing games on my PC. This is fine when dealing with PC games but when it comes to PCSX2, the emulator for PS2 games, I would like to play with a good gamepad that has buttons layed out correctly. What I mean is I would like to play with a PlayStation controller. It is kind of stupid for me to play PS2 with Xbox gamepad.

This is where a program called DS4Windows comes in to play. It is very simple to use. You just run the application and connect your DualShock 4 gamepad to your computer. You can use USB or Bluetooth connection. That’s right – you don’t need to connect your controller necessarily with Bluetooth since a USB cable works just fine. You can download this application from http://ds4windows.com/ .

I am planning on buying another DualShock 4 gamepad to use for this particular purpose. I currently only have one of these controllers. They are in my opinion a great way to somewhat make PS2 games more playble and modern. So the player can concentrate to the game instead of loosing interest as the gamepad is too bad. This can be a great improvement considering FPS games like Call Of Duty series’s games that were hardly as nice to play with older gmaepad like DualShock 2.

As PS5 will be released, I think it’s going to be sometime in November this year, there is a new controller introduced to large audience. It is called DualSense. I don’t have any experience, which in this case is understandable, of this new gamepad. I am a bit excited about it and I am curious of what kind of quality and playability it will have inside. There are some great differences between Xbox and PlayStation gamepads. One of the biggest is the layout of thumb sticks on these gamepads. I hope the new PS5 pad gives us many new improvements in technology of gaming controllers.

Making games is big business

Right now video games are more popular than ever. PlayStation 4 has now sold more than 110 million copies. Nintendo Switch has sold more copies than Nintendo Entertainment System. Switch and PS4 haven’t been around so long. Switch was released in 2017 and PS4 in 2013. Let’s think about this. NES was released in 1983 and the most popular and the most sold gaming console ever PS2 was released in 2000. So PS4 has been around only 7 years and Switch only 3 years. What will these figures be after 15 years? You don’t have to be any genius to figure out what’s going on. Games are popular. Making games, and selling them, is big business.

I sincerely hope that big game companies keep bringing more quality in form of good games to growing group of gamers. Making a HD remake is sometimes okay but where are the new innovations? I don’t meen big changes, such as virtual reality, but those small things that made video games of late 90s and early 2000s so great. Game developers would have to take time to experiment with a gaming console and find its limitations and opportunities. That would be a way to win my hearth back.

I have already said this. I don’t care how excited you are about PS5. I am not going to be one of the first ones to buy it. I bought PS4 back in 2014 and I was a bit disappointed in it. That just tells about me as a person a lot. It tells us about my history in gaming. I started messing around with video games well before I even bought my first console. That’s just where I’m form and that also tells a lot about in which direction I’m headed.

I am a bit worried. At the same time I am hoping the best. I keep buying PS4 titles for twenty euros and I have now about five or so games that I haven’t even opened up. I haven’t played them. I haven’t even installed them. Why did I buy them? I don’t know the right answer. I just hope we get some very good games in the future. I have to also get to my retro games at times to get the idea of what a perfect, or at least good, game is and why. And what gaming means to me…Well, there’s a lot to think about there…

The picture is a screenshot that I took from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_best-selling_game_consoles

Original Xbox vs PlayStation 2

Xbox

+ Better controller and better feel for FPS games like Halo

+ Hard drive included so saving games is smoother

– There is actually no working emulators for PC

PS2

+ Good support for PC emulation

+ USB connectivity

+ Lots of used games available because of huge popularity

– Need for memory cards (though nowadays you can buy for example 128 MB card that holds all your saves)

There are many differences between these game consoles that had to battle against each other in the beginning of 2000s. Above I have made some pros and cons for these two devices. We can start from controllers. Xbox had a different layout for buttons in its controller. While PS2 laid out the analog buttons side by side Xbox placed them quite differently. I don’t know technically how Xbox managed to be more playable when discussion turns to FPS games.

These consoles had many games that were only released for Xbox or PS2. Xbox had Halo. PS2 had God of War games and Gran Turismo. Xbox sold 24 million units as PS2 sold amazing 159 million units. That should explain why there were more games released for PS2 and why there is now lots of used games on sale right now for PS2. I remember that players had back then an attitude against Microsoft. It was entering gaming industry and Xbox was its first gaming console. It already dominated PC operating systems markets. Many thought it to be too large company and now it entered the world of gaming.

In my humble opinion you really can’t tell which one is better. They are different consoles and have different abilities. They both reflect the time and situation that gaming was in as it was the beginning of 2000s. I like to play both of these systems. It takes me back to this time and brings up a lot of nostalgia inside my mind. There were also many identical games that were released for these systems. So I really can’t tell which one is better – you have to figure it out yourself. If you have any comments or something to add feel free to comment below.

Can you see inside the game?

There are many different views to video games. In my opinion by playing them you learn different things about the world itself but you also learn how games are played, structured and what are the rules inside it. You can also take a psychological view of what the game is trying tell you. What is the plot and what are the developers main points or what is the games message. You can also analyze the game – what are the rules and how do you proceed in this game. Some games ask for the player to make decisions that effect to what happens and how do other characters react to this. When I think about this one particular game comes to mind. That’s the first Fallout.

Some players are happy to just play and play and keep playing and enjoying these video games without learning things about the world around us. I think that’s okay. Not everyone has to be a scientist or go to university. It’s just my own habit and my personality that drives me to think about things a little bit deeper. At times I find myself reading books, skimming through texts that I find online and just having a conversation with someone at social media for example. I enjoy this a lot. I think your brain is your greatest weapon and it is even greater than a loaded handgun.

There is also a technical view to gaming and games. After I spent years learning programming I found how the logical part of games is constructed. I am happy that I graduated and even though I didn’t finally get a job as a programmer I learned many interesting facts about computers and technology. That was combined to my earlier experiences about playing video games. Now, I am not a hardcore coder. I know the basics. Still this little knowledge opens a door to understanding a lot about video games.

You basically have content that reacts to users actions. You get points by doing something. As Sonic you collect rings. As Mario you jump on enemies. These points are actually variables. When Mario jumps, or we can say that you push the button, this action triggers a function that defines how high the jump is and usually it also records how long did you press the button and did you press any other directional buttons. When Mario lands on an enemy there is another function triggered. Have you ever wondered how on earth can a game save of for example Fallout 4 fit in to so small space? This is because for the game to be saved you only need some statistical information, some variables, that have all the necessary information inside them. So it all makes sense, finally.

There are many ways to analyze games. You can view them as entertainment, learning tool, hobby, profession (maybe), subject of any kind of science and so on. You can also think what goes on in the game and what is the atmosphere like. If you want to learn more about games and maybe willing to learn how to make games I can tell you that you should first start programming some way. You can try to get to some good school to learn things out. That’s the route that I took. After you have learned basics you can advance to a tool, usually a framework, that you can build your game on. Good tools to learn are Unity, Stencyl and Phaser. And remember that programming is only the logic part of games. To make a game you need also to create all the 3D models, story, textures and music with some sound effects. It takes a lot to make a full game. Some just have what it takes and…well, some just don’t. Try to be patient. If your first game, or the prototype of your first game is awful, don’t give up. Just keep thinking, designing and learning. That’s also how you can grow as a person.

Sierras early adventure games – Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards

As I am born in the 80s this game was one of those first games I played as a small child. It was released by Sierra in 1987. It uses a game engine called Adventure Game Interpreter or for short AGI that was originally created for producing the first Kings Quest game back in 1984. Again this was something we gamers had never seen. Suddenly you had graphics instead of staring at a screen that had just some text on it.

Before Sierras innovative way to create graphics to adventure games fans of adventure game genre had to content themselves to bare text parser with no graphics at all. These games had graphics but the actions the player makes have to be written. You can move the character and sometimes when you perform some command you need to be in some place inside the games inner world. And you can move from screen to another screen. I wasn’t even born when first text adventures came to markets but I can see how this kind of an improvement would be like.

Leisure Suit Larry was based on a text based adventure game originally released in 1981. Al Lowe copied most of this games ideas. It was almost the same game with only graphics added. This is my view. You can propably find a copy of this game and play it yourself and you will understand better (I can’t publish this games name).

My experiences with this first Larry game are strongly represented in my memories of my childhood. I learned to write some words with computer keyboard playing this game. Back then I didn’t understand games details. I for example didn’t understand what is a prophylactic. And graphics of this item in this game were blurry enough to let my imagination handle it as some sort of a gem. The game has some controversial content but it is understandable that you maybe would let a child play this game. Of course there are many other games that might be more suitable for a young kid. But this is how I got started with Sierra.

Differences between serious and casual gaming

What really is casual gaming? Does it refer to playing at easier difficulty level? Does it mean not playing so many hours daily or weekly? In this article I try to explain this matter. There are many things that are or seem to be more important than playing. But sometimes you can combine playing with writing an essay or getting to spend some free time. We can go even further – what if you could also create new games and use your knowledge to your advance?

In my thoughts casual gaming means passing some time that you just seem to have to something that you don’t fully want to do. You are just spending time or even wasting time because you might be bored or you are waiting for something to happen for example waiting for the oven to warm so you can bake some pizza in it. This means that you are not so passionate about the actual game and all the difficulties and experiences inside the game are not the thing that you are interested in.

Let’s for a moment think about serious gaming. You are obsessed with the game you are playing. You want to find every piece of equipment, turn over every rock you find and reveal all the secrets that the game has. You are willing to receive everything that specific game has to offer. You are deeply inside this games world. You want to focus on the main character and side characters also. You seem to understand the story.

Studying is a lot like learning a new game. Some people try to figure what things are the most essential and learn them and even memorize some phrases or images or something that they find important. But if you want to learn things more deeply you want to understand why things are the way they are. You want to fully understand the matter you are trying to learn. Not just some phrases that some expert thinks are important. You want to understand what the game is. You want to know everything about it. So this basically is the difference. Casual gaming is a way to pass some time. Serious gaming is when you want to understand what you are doing inside the game.

As I’ve learned some programming as I was studying I came to understand games more deeply also. It opened some doors for me. My role would not be an artist or 3D modeller or graphical or texture designer. I would be the creator of games logic. That’s what game programmers do. They design the logic. You need a key from that room that opens a door to that next room. And so on. You can build on it.

This text is just one post in my blog. It appears to me that I have touched something important here and we can propably think about these matters in some other posts also. Some things like how can you get so much valuable information from games and how can you even make gaming from your hobby to a profession. I’d like to write more about game designing and eSports. I think there are many valuable things here and that gaming can be more than a simple way to pass time and it can bring you valuable things.

Solution for playing games on a smart phone

Smart phones are today very powerful devices. They are able to run many applications and it’s common to view video material and also to play games on these devices. There still do exist some problems. The touch screen of any modern mobile device including tablets is not the best way to control for example the main character of a platformer. There is a solution and I am going to introduce it to you my dear readers.

iPega is a chinese company that has brought an innovative solution for playing games on mobile devices available for consumers world wide. It is basically a small gamepad that uses Bluetooth technology to transfer players inputs and commands to the device. It has a battery included that can be charged with basic micro-USB charger. The battery lasts for long enough and if you want to make sure that it doesn’t shut down in a vital moment you can plug your gamepad to charger. You can do this to your phone also if you are conserned about how long will its battery last.

This gamepads model is PG 9017 S. There are many different models available. They don’t cost so much. I remember buying my gamepad for just under 30 euros. It uses Bluetooth, so you have to pair it with your phone and also connect to it. This happens by pressing two buttons for couple of seconds. There are different modes so you might have to test which mode to use for the connection. The gamepad has nice amount of buttons. It has axis-button, X, Y, A, B buttons and select and start buttons and two shoulder buttons on left and right. It also has two thumb buttons. It can signal the user when battery is starting to run low. The user can attach this controller with some kind of a clip. So the phone goes on top of this mechanical system placed horizontally. The clip is strong and it doesn’t allow the phone to slip out or move at all.

I haven’t any serious issues with this product. It’s a cool gamepad that you can take on a trip too as its battery doesn’t require so much power. You can install some emulators and transfer some ROMs to your device. Be aware of your phones memory capacity as ROMs can take some space. You can even buy a memory card if your phone is compatible. Just remember the thumb rule – if you don’t own the game don’t copy it. That’s illegal. But you can really have fun with this kind of a setup. You can for example play games of consoles like NES, SNES, Mega Drive or even Nintendo DS. Earlier gaming consoles don’t require so much from your hardware but when we are talking about more modern systems, such as PSP emulators, there might be some system requirements that you will have to take in consideration.

My personal history with first PlayStation

It started back in the 90s. I don’t remember the year exactly. I think it was 1997. I was a very young boy then. I had some money on me and somehow I decided to get a PlayStation. I had been thinking about buying a moped with this money but as I thought about it my mind changed. I could play for years with this new console and time for moped riding would be over in some years, maybe three years or maybe until I’ll get a car to ride. I don’t recall clearly how this idea of spending my money to a gaming console went but the decision was finally made. I got a PlayStation.

My parents then allowed me to have a television in my room. It was nice. I remember the time when I first picked up the package that was delivered to the nearest post office. And do I remember? Yes I do. I had some games. Gran Turismo was the best of those games that this so called bundle had in it. The package was a used console and I think it had two games. There was two controllers included. The console, games and controllers and a memory card were delivered to me as used. But the console and all things included were in a good condition.

So back then, if you had a Sega Mega Drive, you were just a loser. That system was ten years, practically a bit of an eternity for a thirteen-year-old kid, old. I had my friend teasing me about it. Yeah, I remember I was a bit sad also. I had to pack my Mega Drive and place it somewhere for preserve. I actually took it later and placed it next to some other retro consoles, but back then I really didn’t have so much space for different kinds of consoles. I had to choose one and that was PSX.

I remember so many games. I played Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil 1, 2 and 3, Gran Turismo, Driver, Colin McRae Rally 1 and 2.0, Final Fantasy VII, Fear Effect, Tony Hawks Pro Skater, Silent Hill and many more. There were loads of games available. More than ever. And then older people, I mean older than a thirteen-year-old, started to get curious about gaming. This was time before the release of Sony PlayStation 2 and Microsoft Xbox. I have to mention also Sega DreamCast here, because that’s the best gaming console that Sega ever released. It was sad that it didn’t survive longer.

So I just played and played and also made my way to High School. I had much fun back then but at the same time I started to get more into studying and that somehow pulled me away from games. I started getting into music production that has been my dear hobby for many years. I finally sold my PS1. All of my games, my controllers, memory cards and the console. I got about 120 euros by selling the whole package. That was it. Or so I thought back then. Could it be that this was my gaming hobby?

Well, it wasn’t. I got into gaming again as I was studying. I was still a young adult. Games were all around and new titles were released. So I first got a PS3, PS4 and then it suddenly got me hooked on again. I bought several new consoles. I bought original Xbox and PSOne. I brought Mega Drive back to my cave, where it belongs. I ordered new stand that could hold all my gaming consoles. It had space for eight devices. I really planned it, but I was surprised when I, after lots of years, started playing Colin McRae Rally 2.0 again with the old controller of PS1. It brought back so many memories. It felt like I had met a friend that I had spent so much time with. And my friend hadn’t changed a bit.

So that is it. This was my story. Today I’m glad I can grab my DualShock any time I want, or anytime my wife isn’t watching telly, and start playing some PS1. I really was away when PS2 made history, but when it comes to playing the first PlayStation nothing in my mind can replace this nostalgic feeling that I get when I have this kind of a session. First PlayStation wasn’t as popular as the second one, but in my scale it’s always going to be first. It made history inside my personal history. And I can keep it that way. Always.

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