[PC] Die UPlay

I just bought a game on Steam and now I have to install this UPlay crap with yet another account (on top of EA’s crap Origin platform, Microsoft’s XBox Live account and Apple’s account for iTunes/Store).

I’m going to say this slowly:

I… do… not… want… this… on… my… computer.

enoughalready

In protest, I think I’m going to consider pirated video games from now on and just mail the company the money.

Dear Game Company,

I have been a legitimate software user for a long time now (over 20 years) but recently find myself frustrated at what is required of me to play your game.I already have Steam installed and yet you require I install yet another bit of software that will run on my system for no other purpose than to ensure I’m a legitimate user?

I have decided – in order to reduce my blood pressure, stress and frustrations in dealing with this ‘protection’ you dump on your legitimate users – to down load a pirated copy of your game.

Please find a cheque (that’s how we spell it in Canada) for the box prices of the game.

Cheers.

Me

I won’t lie, it is damn well tempting.

I’m just too much of a good person.

Fuck you.

[PC] 2 Games2 Down

Over the last little while I managed to complete Torchlight 2 and, more recently, Borderlands 2.

I definitely enjoyed Torchlight 2 more than I did the first which seemed more and more about delving down deeper and deeper (mostly), kill quests on those levels and the odd side dungeon. TL2 has more of a linear horizontal story, taking you outside with dips into dungeons as part of the story or as side quests. Much better than just the single town as a hub if you prefer a little more exploration.

I liked the randomness of the levels more than I did with Diablo 3 (which had better graphics). There outdoors seemed to be somewhat randomly generated. I didn’t replay too many of the levels to get a feel for how they do it (and I didn’t look it up) but it seems different enough from when I played alone or with the boys.

I also preferred the leveling/character growth options in TL2 over D3. I found the D3 abilities sort of lacking choice and customization – a direction that seems to be common for Blizzard now. I like the choices and ability to pick between trees or combine them. I like choice. I’ll stop there before I go off on a tangent.

Steam reports I spent about 23 hours on the game – this includes some time dabbling with the different classes and playing with the boys who didn’t really take to the game as much as some other games.

Borderlands 2 was completed just the other day. I started playing as Salvador with the boys (LBO was playing Axton while LLO was playing Zero) but we didn’t get too far before LBO took off playing Axton while I wasn’t around, vastly passing me in levels making playing together difficult – he was hosting on my old (but awesome) machine so enemies scaled to his level and his missions progression was much farther along.

I took to playing single player and decided to try Maya out. I got farther along with Maya, enjoying her ability more than Salavdor’s. I got her up to mid-20s when the LBO needed some help with the Bunker mission so I helped him out – even being several levels too low, Maya’s ability to do some crowd control helped out. I also had her spec’ed to do acid damage when shooting targets and explode with fire damage centered on the target she CCed – both of those were vastly beneficial against Hyperion loaders and the bunker itself.

I then proceeded to help him in the Angel Core.

Downside of that was it updated my quest log and appeared to cause me to lose some quests since I wasn’t far enough along to actually do the Bunker mission. Very strange and that caused me to stall on continuing. I popped on to help LLO with Bunker and the Angel Core then later loaded up LBO’s Axton to help LLO with the Warrior. He had was loaded into LBO’s game when LBO beat the game and so he got credit which meant he wasn’t going to face Jack and the Warrior, just the Warrior. He was really disappointed with this because only one Jack face head mod dropped and he missed out on it.

So multiplayer doesn’t quite separate single player progression. I suggest keeping a character for single player if you’re a completionist and don’t want to miss out on anything.

With Maya’s quest log in a messed up state (some quests were categorized under ‘blocked’) I decided to reroll as Zero. I started going down the Sniper tree but decided it was too similar to how I was playing Mordecai in the first Borderlands so I decided to try out the melee (Bloodshed) spec.

Damn… once you hit the top of the tree it becomes a wrecking machine. If you kill a target with melee, deception triggers again, pops out a decoy again (only one up at a time) and resets the timer. In combination with Execute (lunging towards the target in your crosshair, doing lots of damage) it works well for disabling a whole squad of enemies. For the tougher ones, you can soften them up with a grenade then zip through, assassinating them one by one.

Fun.

Downside?

The Warrior isn’t really an encounter that doesn’t really suit melee very well. I beat the stuffing out of Jack though.

For the last few parts of the game, the boys hopped on and helped me out. First the LBO showed up with Salvador (well suited to him – he tears around the maps in a frenzy shooting everything) and later the LBO popped on with his Axton (I respec’ed him to have a Longbow, Nuke turret which was impressive). Amazingly, LBO showed a lot of patience and didn’t do much more than bail me out if I was in a downed state since he was already into the second playthrough (which means he was level 40 something, 10 levels higher than I was, and geared up with far better gear).

It was definitely a lot of fun, especially playing with the both the boys. We decided we would use the skin customization for “Bandits” and be the “Bandit Clan”… okay, they decided that, I wanted to use the Hyperion skins for an extra F U to Handsome Jack but got out voted.

Again, another game with a talent tree allowing you to focus or adjust how your play your character to emphasize on different aspects or generalize.

I won’t go on a rant about how WoW’s simplification of this is a bad thing for players – really only a good thing for developers. Devs have it easier to balance the game since they don’t need to worry about predicting hybrid specs; yes, they did away with a portion of this by forcing you down one tree… now they’ve taken trees away entirely.

Sad panda. (see what I did there?)

The game itself is pretty much like the first one, only a little more story driven. The same twisted humor exists in the game, be it quests, introduction of bosses or NPCs you interact with (Tina is a nutter and Elle is … well… jeez.).

I like what they hinted at with the end of the game – a map of various systems containing vaults. Oh, that was a spoiler, by the way.

At first I wasn’t too keen on the change to the customization system – you basically find or are rewarded with skin or head customizations which are preset. After some time, the collector in me started to enjoy it and I suspect I spent a lot of time running from vending machine to vending machine to collect all the different company based skins (Dahl Elite, Maliwan, Torgue, etc.).

The multiplayer setup was much easier than the previous version. It ties right into Steam Friends or XBox friends (if you’re playing the XBox version) and lets you see (and join) friends when they’re playing. There are settings to make the game private though, so if you don’t want to be disturbed, you don’t need to be.

Steam says I’ve spent 95 hours playing Borderlands 2. Wow! That’s not to say one play through takes that long, it’s a combination of my playing Salvador, Maya and Zero through a lot of the content.

Fun game.

[IRL] Good Stuff Happening

I don’t know why it surprises me when it happens but it always does. I always find myself in a position where I’m not just working on one product but two (or three). Clearly my brilliance is evident to others but I just don’t see it. The stuff I do simply makes sense. I’m not sure why it surprises people.

I think I mentioned I was promoted into an Architect position for the QA (testing) team. I currently sit between two products directing the creation of their automation. One has a long standing automation infrastructure which had samples of intelligence buried under bandages and duct tape that has long since given way and is now using old bubble gum as an adhesive. It’s getting fixed. The team (which is a team now, not just me and the other guy) is working hard at it. They know what needs to be done and they’re working on it when they can while moving things forward. I’m pleased with where things are going.

The other team was going down the route new automation teams tend to go – just get it done! It’s only testing! Record and playback works! Look at all the tests we’ve automated! Wheeeeeee!

Yeah.  No.

Plan out your automation, investigate options early and with heavy involvement with the development team. They’re going to be writing code that you’re going to be writing code to mimic a user against – if they’re using code that won’t work with any automation tool out there, you’re starting off in a bad spot (“stuck between a rock and a crazy place” to quote Big Bang Theory). Consider your target audience, size of the team, willingness to expand and skill sets on hand. Maybe your team leverages test cases created by QA and automates them. Maybe the team puts some sort of infrastructure in place where the framework interprets what QA wants (keyword driven) or maybe the automation team builds  library for others to use.

Speaking of skill sets, you want programmers otherwise you’ll end up with a bunch of QA people creating a bunch of recorded scripts that will break as soon as you change the URL to the webserver or move something like a log in around. Heaven forbid you do a UI revamp. All those scripts are going to have to be recorded all over again.

Always investigate the coding options of automation tools; don’t even let the sales team table the record and playback functionality – you don’t want that.

Why? Well, record and playback tools do not allow for modular code (yet). They might break steps into functions but they don’t call those functions again or from another script. Imagine you have over 100 scripts and each one starts with logging in as a specific user – maybe the same user, maybe a different one. What happens if you have to change the user? The password? The procedure to log in? That last one means changing 100 scripts. Sure, you can do a find replace in files or a bunch of copy/pastes but why should you when you could have that log in code centralized in a library of methods to interact with your product? One method or function – 100 scripts calling it. Log in changes? No worries, change the steps in the method/function and no need to change the 100 scripts.

That’s the sort of thing you don’t think about or consider with record and playback tools.

Another thing record and playback tend to miss is a verify/validation step. Sure you just recorded a script that successfully added a user to a database… but are you sure? Did you record checking? Does the tool include a means of ‘looking’ at a value to ensure it’s there? Ensure there is only one? You’d be really surprised at how many record and playback tools do not have that.

What about reporting? Yeah, that’s a pretty result to give me, the person running the test but it means nothing to my manager or my manager’s manager or the product manager. What about previous results? What about results for the same test in older versions? Again, not something built in to these tools.

Let’s not forget source control for all this code, possibly some of the collateral as well. You don’t want to lose it and it serves no one if Ted has all the latest stuff while Nancy doesn’t and is writing scripts based on old code that doesn’t work. You need it central, shared and backed up. Source control – use it.

That’s where I’m at with the other team. I’m pushing them away from the bad and into the good.

And they’re doing a great job of it – really!

So that’s where I’m at. Work work work.

Though they did give me a raise to go along with the new position and I’m no longer on probation.

I’m feeling good :)

[ROT] Dear AMD,

I’m trying to upgrade the drivers for my Radeon HD 5850 card but every attempt fails horribly.

If I uninstall the default MS Certified driver that loads in (it is from 2009) then try any of the recent AMD Catalyst packages it fails to even find the hardware.

If I leave the MS Certified driver on then try your AMD Catalyst package it realizes a new driver should be installed and installs it… poorly. On reboot it loads up in worse shape than if I had no driver installed at all.

Good job.

I tried calling tech support but your hours didn’t offer 24/7 support or if you do have that support, it’s not listed anywhere obvious like under the “Contact Us” section.

I then went to your web form to report the issue – because I like firing information off into the void and never hearing back from it – but while trying to pick the issue from the drop down, there wasn’t an option that sufficiently described my issue: Your drivers suck ass now, please address.

Thank you,

A new nVidia supporter.

In all fairness, I realize this is an older card, but when I run their application which is supposed to autodetect my card and download the drivers for me, it grabs the same ones that aren’t working. I’m now in a state where I can’t install the ones that did previously work.

I’m in no mood to do an entirely fresh install of the OS (I really shouldn’t have to) so I figure I’ll yank the card out, perform an Irish jig on it then pop in a new nVidia card.

Sad thing is that driver support used to be so much better. You could easily find and download just the driver you wanted without all the bullshit getting rammed down your pipeline.

 

[GEN] I Finally Caved

After much debate with myself and despite the go ahead from TheWife (which never stopped me before) I went ahead and picked up an iPad2. I have to admit, it is a handy little device but I might still be in the honeymoon phase where the novelty hasn’t worn off.

First apps I picked up were a few games such as Plants vs. Zombies which plays better on the iPad than on the PC for the sole reason that you poke the screen directly as opposed to the round about way of using the mouse as a middle man.

I then picked up a bunch of other ones; local news an television apps, IMDB, Movies (Flixster), Idea Sketch (one of the guys at my RPG night had it and it looked neat), Yellow Pages, recipe book, Facebook (wife), some comic book apps (I’m not sold on these yet and haven’t purchased anything), Angry Birds (three flavors; kids/wife), Bejeweled 2 (wife), Final Fantasy 3 (me), Solitare, Infinity Blade (me – already beat it), Math Drills (kids), Bakery Story (wife, but I’ve been poking away at it a little too much) and Restaurant Story (LBO asked for it, I’m guessing he didn’t find the Bakery Story manly enough for him).

I’m noticing some trends here. Practically every app is labeled with “HD” which is making me question whether I really understand what HD means. A lot of the free apps (games mostly) have created their own little economy so it sounds like they’re knock-offs of Farmville.

I’ve never played Farmville but I suspect the two ‘Story’ games I have are much like that. Lots of waiting for things to be ready, mild customization and design and a lot of things tucked away that require a special currency you can acquire slowly by playing the game or quickly by forking over the cash.

This also appeared in Infinity Blade where you could spend 50$ for one million gold. This didn’t have the draw that it did in the other two Story games because gold in IB didn’t really save you much time, you could beat the game if you were skilled enough. The gold just got you better gear and could be used to pay for ‘mastering’ an item.

In the Story games you have two currencies; one used for basic materials and a super currency that is used for advanced recipes, materials and speeding up the game including expanding your shop. I think this had the better design for getting you to buy their second currency as it could be use for more.

I can see how these games can easily appeal to the fairer sex who are generally better at multitasking. The tasks of the game (sense of being productive), the lead in to create social groupings, tip and gift friends and the creativity available just screams designed for females. (Doesn’t mean I can’t have some fun with it too!)

One thing I didn’t like about the ‘Story’ games is that you have to be online to play them. I also didn’t like that you couldn’t ‘close’ or ‘open’ the store allowing you time to prepare things. Also if things take two hours to create and you don’t prepare them, they go to waste. Sort of encouraging you to stick around and poke at it all day long. Not the best thing for people to be doing.

Of course, I also absolutely hate the idea of spending real money to get fake money to buy fake stuff that isn’t tangible or lasting. This is something I’ve tried to explain to the kids but I don’t think they understand that.

I’ve got another list of games (Google search for top iPad games) kicking around that I’ll get to. It’s a mix of things for me and things the kids might enjoy.

I’m still kicking around looking for a suitable app for closing running apps – anyone have a good one? It sort of irritates me that some of these apps run without any means of actually closing them.

Back to the iPad itself, I have to admit it seems quick, functional and capable of lasting most of the day of constant use. I do worry that the charger heats up a lot when charging, but no meltdowns yet. Unlike getting a smartphone (which was free so it’s more about the service costs), I don’t regret this purchase, yet.

Okay, It Was Us

 

A short time ago I posted about blowing my monthly bandwidth allotment and tracked it down to being the day the kid up the street was over with his laptop. He stopped coming over and the bandwidth use (particularly the upload amount) went down, but not as significantly as I thought.

Here’s more recent bandwidth use – note (at the bottom) AUG 28-30 had some pretty high upload again – no, the kid wasn’t at the house playing, but my kids were…

Daily Usage
Download Usage (MB)
Upload Usage (MB)
Daily Total (MB)
  September 08, 2011 1,437 36 1,473
  September 07, 2011 763 104 867
  September 06, 2011 659 171 830
  September 05, 2011 1,955 622 2,577
  September 04, 2011 996 369 1,365
  September 03, 2011 979 325 1,304
  September 02, 2011 1,455 229 1,684
  September 01, 2011 847 31 878
  August 31, 2011 233 166 399
  August 30, 2011 899 1,838 2,737
  August 29, 2011 1,237 1,396 2,633
  August 28, 2011 1,917 2,724 4,641
  August 27, 2011 978 632 1,610
  August 26, 2011 226 59 285

I did some more investigating, focusing more on what they were playing which was Roblox.

It seems they have some sort of experimental system which puts the bulk of the processing on the client which then uploads data either to the other clients or the server (I’m not sure which).

On the 31st I adjusted these settings and you can see the results. Much more reasonable upload rates. Yesterday night the kid from up the street came over and brought his laptop so I adjusted his Roblox settings too.

And uninstalled about five different browser toolbars.

To get at the settings for Roblox you have to fire up the Roblox Studio (which is in the Start menu), go into Options/Preferences and expand the Network section. Uncheck the option to use the experimental physics engine, check the option to do with the bandwidth cap, lower the numbers for upload rates and maybe turn on caching (I did). (Sorry, I did this about 10 days ago and I don’t have the GUI in front of me.. I’ll try to post  a screen shot of the settings later.)

The kids haven’t complained about lag or anything so it’s all good.