[Fixed] FTL – Blank Maps & Invisible Ships Problem

Update: fixed! The recently-released FTL by Subset Games has a problem with the 12.8 AMD Catalyst Drivers, whereby the jump map and enemy ships are not rendered See below) due to an issue with edge detection in anti-aliasing. The fix is to create a custom profile for FTLGame.exe in the Catalyst Control Center to over-ride the settings (support thread with instructions, and setting).

Example:

FTL Game - Invisible Ship

Update: Now with video!

(yes the overlaps the menu, but there’s not much interesting there anyway!)

TF2 Connection Problems Persist

Team Fortress 2 has recently gone free to play, which I am guessing has resulted in a big spike in players (it is currently the most played game on Steam, with a peak of nearly 100 000 players today – no doubt it was busier at the weekend). As a result, my old post on fixing the “lost connection to server” issue has been very popular in the last few days.

I find it surprising this problem has persisted for over three years without apparent resolution. The fix that worked for me on my old BeBox was to forward to following ports to my PC:

TCP 27030 – 27039
UDP 1200
UDP 27000 – 27015

If this doesn’t fix the problem, there may be complicating factors. I’ve seen suggestions that the TCP timeout on a router may be set too low. I have a feeling that this may be what is causing connection problems a friend of mine is having, but since it does not affect me I haven’t investigated further. Wireshark would probably be useful if you wanted to probe further.

You can also take a look at my old post if you want more information.

Solo Runs In Alien Swarm (Optionally With Bots)

Alien Swarm is still a fun game, and after a quick session this evening I felt like giving a solo run a try. Problem is, if you go to “Play online” and try to start by yourself the game complains that “This mission requires at least two players playing”. Fortunately, the developers were kind enough to include an option to ignore this requirement. Open up the console (first you need to enable it under Options -> Keyboard/mouse), and enter:
asw_ignore_need_two_player_requirement 1

You may also want to enter the following to prevent people joining.

make_game_friends_only

For the optional bots part, you can add bots by using the following:
cl_selectm [character] [slot]

Quoting from wiki4games:

[character] is the character as a number from 0 to 7:
0: Sarge
1: Wildcat
2: Faith
3: Crash
4: Jaeger
5: Wolfe
6: Bastille
7: Vegas
[slot] is the slot number (from 0 to 3, or -1 to automatically pick the first available lot)
To remove a bot, use cl_dselectm [character] where [character] is a number from 0 to 7 as above.

Display Hit Damage Plugin For Counter-Strike Source

I’ve been getting a Counter-Strike Source server up and running for giggles, and one thing I’ve been enjoying is when damage on hitting someone is shown. Long story short, Google comes up short on searching for this (there’s a couple of commands in the old AMX Mod X apparently, for CS 1.6). However, exvel has written a lovely plugin to display damage that actually works in all Source games (at least in DODS, TF2, CSS and L4D). You can find it on the AliiedMods site.

Playing The Steam Version of Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis

As someone who still has the original floppies for Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis (or IJatFoA, it’s easier that way), I thought I’d give the Steam version a whirl. I picked it up (along with The Last Crusade) probably when it was on sale as part of a bundle.

My initial thoughts are: “what have they done to the music?”, “since when did the characters have voices?” and “this is a lot simpler than what I remember playing as a 7 year old”.
Continue reading “Playing The Steam Version of Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis”

My Short APB Review

(Note: I also posted this over on Slashdot on the story about the fact that APB is to use in-game advertisements)

Having played the beta, my short review of APB is: “drive here, shoot stuff, repeat”. Oops! Seems like I broke the embargo on reviews which was initially set at 10 freakin’ days after release! To their credit (I guess), they rolled that back to merely release day.

A more nuanced look at the game shows they have in fact done some things quite nicely. The “All Points Bulletin” mechanic works very nicely. You’ll be doing a mission when up pops up a notification that a comparable group from the opposing faction has been sent to stop you. It changes the dynamic of the mission and gives you a jolt of adrenaline as you listen out for the roar of the car engine signifying your would-be assassins drawing close. However, these adversarial matchups aren’t without their problems. Say 50% of the time they work and you get a comparable strength team sent against you, resulting in a pitched battle that culminates in either narrow victory or defeat. Perfect! Well, the other 50% of the time you get a team that is woefully underpowered, say one wee neophyte against our group of four. Or massively overpowered, so you “call for backup”, which works maybe 10% of the time. Perhaps the opposition are a full map away and have no way of intercepting you in time. Or they are already at the objective and virtually impossible to budge. The latter gets irritating as there are a few excellent camping spots should you get a VIP ‘escort’ mission. Oh, and I lied about the proportions. Things go right about 25% of the time rather than 50%.

Despite these problems, the gameplay is fun if you have a good group that you are in touch with through some kind of voice comms. The problem is that there is very little variety. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by Saints Row 2 in this regard, but there seem to be about 3 basic types of mission which leads to the game getting boring quickly – pitched battles or not.

There is also a HUGE amount of customisation, if you’re into that sort of thing. I won’t say more about this as I’m not buying a game to play dress up…

…Which brings me to my next point: pricing. Pinning down the pricing details wasn’t easy, although I did eventually find it on Kotaku or similar. I’ll quote from RPS again:

You can purchase a retail version of APB either in-store or via digital download at standard retail price (SRP $49.99/£34.99/€49.99). The game includes 50 hours of action game play out of the box plus unlimited time in APB’s social districts customising, socialising and trading on the marketplace.

Once your game time is up, you have flexibility to top up your action game time from as little as $6.99 (£5.59, €6.29) for an additional 20 hours, while more frequent players can switch to a 30-day unlimited package for only $9.99 (£7.99, €8.99) with discounts available for 90 and 180 days.

The retail package also contains a bonus 100 RTW points towards your next purchases.

An additional benefit to this evolutionary model is the ability for you to convert your own customisations and rewards to tradable products to give to friends or clan-mates or to place on the Marketplace to earn more RTW points (convertible to game time) or in-game cash. Check back later for more details

The problem is, you are paying full retail price plus a decent fraction of 10 of your local denomination (£/$/€) monthly, for what? Progression seems limited – you can gain prestige with local NPC types to do more missions, but your character doesn’t seem to get much stronger as with more traditional MMOs. It’s not even like EVE where you can claim a small section of the virtual world for your particular gang. Frankly, I’m not sure it is worth paying for a glorified matchmaking service, but that is a judgment call each individual gamer needs to make.

Lastly, technical issues. I left them till last as I don’t like bringing them up for a pre-release version of code, but they need to be mentioned. I experienced frequent crashes, something which seemed to affect a small percentage of users, mostly running 64-bit Windows 7. A redownload of the full 7 GB and reinstall *seemed* to fix it, although I did not have enough time to check this fully. I did experience some graphical slowdowns as well, even on minimal settings running on a PC well above recommended spec. Perhaps this was because optimisations had not yet been applied, again due to it being pre-release.

Lag was also an issue, which I mention in a separate paragraph as APB is a shooter after all. However, there were only 2 european servers up during the beta (EU1 and EU2, natch) and so this may not be a problem if they deploy servers widely. Except if you’re in Australia, it would seem. Sorry, mates!

In short, the game is quite fun in the short term, but I question its longevity and value. I won’t be getting it, but you might.

Little Rocket Man / Get Some Grub

A6BQXSMBXD9S [for Technorati, please ignore]

If, like me, you are looking to round off your Half Life 2 Episode 2 achievements, you’ll want to have a look at the following two guides:

Get Some Grub

Not tricky, just time consuming. Have a look at Nibbles’ guide on GameFAQs (link), which painstakingly walks you through all 333 of the grubs. My advice is to save regularly on different slots, and if the number you have doesn’t match what the guide says you should have, reload. It just saves on headaches further down the road. Should only take you about 3 hours, and that’s if you’re carriny the gnome with you…

…which brings me nicely to:

Little Rocket Man

This one is time consuming as well, but not particularly difficult. Just set him down when fighting and carry him with you the whole way. The tricky parts are the car segments, as the gnome tends to slide out. I would recommend wedging him in the back window; this way he doesn’t slide out while you are driving (unless you hit something, which releases the ‘wedge’. Or you can put him under the steering column and drive slowly.

This is all fine, until you get to the bit with the gunship. Oh, the gunship. It will fire at you and knock the gnome out your hands, hurt you plenty (even on easy), and if it could sspeak I’m pretty sure it would taunt you all the while. What I ended up doing was driving for say 300 metres, getting out, picking up the gnome, carrying him from behind cover (eg under trains), wedging him in, driving for another short bit, leaping out and getting him again, and so forth. The key is cover.

Have a look at Tommy Gun’s guide at Cracked Rabbit Gaming. It gives more useful info, like where you can safely leave the gnome for certain segments.

HOWTO: Highlighting Kill Weapons In Battlefield 2142

I’ve been playing a little Battlefield 2142 recently. Because I notice little things, I missed the weapon highlighting that I was used to in Battlefield 2. In trying to rectify this, I found that it’s actually quite tricky to find out how to do this. Most searches include posts about the BF2 version, with 2142 in the text as they by happenstance have a 2142 forum whether the HOWTO was posted.

So! Here’s what to edit and what to change.

  1. Go to the 2142 install directory, then navigate to the mods folder, then bf2142, then finally the Localization folder.
    eg for me it is D:\Games\2142\mods\bf2142\Localization – just substitute C:\Program Files\ or whereever.
  2. IMPORTANT: Back up the file “strings.csv” in this directory. Copy it somewhere safe. Actually do this step – not having backups SUCKS. Trust me, I know.
  3. The highlighting code is |C1001. So, open strings.csv in Excel or OO.o Calc or notepad and search for the line: HUD_HUD_KILLEDBY_KILLS. The first entry is the English version. Change it from
    §0#PLAYERNAME1# [§1#WEAPON#§0] #PLAYERNAME2#
    to
    §0#PLAYERNAME1# [|C1001#WEAPON#|C1001] #PLAYERNAME2#
  4. Save and close
  5. (optional: if things didn’t work, restore the backup and try again… you did back up, right?)

Similarly, if you want to know what someone was killed with for teamkills (I do), go to the HUD_HUD_KILLEDBY_TEAMKILLS line, and change
§0#PLAYERNAME1# [§1Teamkills§0] #PLAYERNAME2#
to
§0#PLAYERNAME1# [|C1001Teamkills - #WEAPON#|C1001] #PLAYERNAME2#.
Voila! Highlighted, weapon’d teamkill notifications.

I haven’t tested it yet, but I think that other colours and size modifiers should work. Try codes used from BF2, replacing the hash (#) with a vertical pipe (|). Let me know if it works.

Left 4 Dead 2

So it’s official, Valve have announced Left 4 Dead 2;. I’m excited.  I won’t be participating in any boycott, as I’ve gotten a lot of value from the current iteration (as you can see).

Honestly, this sense of entitlement is mind-boggling. I understand that some are frustrated that it took so long for Dead Air and Death Toll to be released as versus campaigns, and we still don’t have proper community campaigns, but the rest of the product is very polished.

Actually, I can kind of see their point, especially as US players will probably have paid $50 retail for it (I paid… £27, I think). Australian users probably paid even more, but that’s par for the course (though no less irritating). However, Valve have given me a lot of value from their games, most notably Team Fortress 2. The amount of content they release for that is staggering. For free. And they are still going*. If it wasn’t for things like that, I would probably give up Steam. As it stands, the excellent value they provide just slightly outweighs my moral objections.

So, roll on November!

* They are probably releasing still releasing content for TF2 because they enjoy it so much.

Team Fortress 2 Pyro Update

To go along with the Medic update released a while back, Valve are now releasing the Pyro version. Not only is the release time shockingly soon after the medic update, they seem to have learned from that, and changed a few things.

Firstly though, the other stuff. This update also includes 2 new maps, cp_fastlane and ctf_turbine. I haven’t played fastlane but have played turbine – it is a good compact map which should provide quite a competitive experience. Although you could play both these maps previously, now they are officially released, now you will at least be able to find servers running them!

Also, the pyro is getting a treat to the vanilla flamethrower. The alt-fire will now “blow back” shit. People and projectiles namely. This could prove really interesting and I can’t wait to see how it will work. Blowing people off ledges, blowing crazy melee pyros away or a soldier while you make your escape, it should improve the survivability of the pyro greesatly.

The unlocks – first there is the flare gun to replace the shotgun, which basically launches a ball of fire to set stuff alight. Looks quite cool, and a nice contrast to the high damage close range shotgun, some long range, relatively low damage fire. Next there is the backburner, which is basically like a normal flamethrower, but with 100% crit chance on the back of enemies, and 50+ health. I am assuming the “blow back” stuff is going to be really awesome…otherwise there is a no brainer between this and the regular flamethrower. Lastly is the axetinguisher, a lovely axe that provides 100% crits on burning enemies, but is weaker against none on-fire enemies. These look like some nice unlocks that shouldn’t skew the balance too much…

Achievements – not going to list them, jsut comment. To me they look, in general, easier to get than the medic ones, as well as not being so ridiculous (3 uber scout kills anyone?). However, they will probably take longer. This suits me fine, just means I will have more to come back to over the next few weeks/months!

Another important point to note is that out of the 35 achievements, you don’t need all 35 to unlock everything, you need 15,20 then 25 for the 3 unlocks. This means you don’t have to do the really long or silly ones if you can’t/don’t want to but you still get to play with the new toys!

Overall, this looks like a really good update, and I can’t wait to get into all the pyro madness!

Oh, also, free weekend this weekend, so get anyone you know not already playing, playing, and also Meet the Sniper video has been released…and it may well be the best so far.