On “Back up, Back Down”

The gods of irony got together with the gods of gaming after my recent gripe about having to do and redo things in MGSV:TPP:

Some missions have mutually-exclusive objectives – I’m looking at you, Backup, Back Down – so may require more

Well, I played through the “Extreme” version of Back Up, Back Down to do the additional objectives, and the team searching for the prisoner got there, stood around him and then… very kindly didn’t execute him.

So I ran up, stunned them all with a non-lethal assault rifle and fultoned him out! All optional objectives complete.

Plain Sight Dedicated Server Crash Fix

Plain Sight was on sale for the staggeringly low £1.60 / £1.20, so I decided to get a copy. It is a very fun, fast-paced game, with lots of great moments – where you pull off an attack a split second before an opponent does the same, or when you detonate just as three people come gunning for you. However, it is not without issues. I am writing this post as I wait for the master server to let me log in and play, and matches will occasionally crash half of the people on the server to the desktop with what looks like an array out-of-bounds exception.

Frustratingly, the dedicated server software itself has problems. One problem occurs even before running – where do you get it from? It is not well-signposted on any of Beatnik Games’ websites. As it stands, you have to go to the members’ area of plainsightgame.com (http://accounts.plainsightgame.com/), where you can download both the server and the client.

(The TLDR version: If you have Steam, use the dedicated server included with that. Strip out whitespace and comments (//) from the example dediconfig.txt on the wiki. If you don’t have Steam or don’t want to faff about, use this zip.)

Now, it is good practice to have an example / default config file available for those that want to just run the server… which the dedicated server zip doesn’t have. So if you run it, it complains about not being able to find the config file and then crashes. Right, no problem, just copy from the wiki page on setting up a dedicated server and paste into the new file dediconfig.txt. Ah, hang on, that crashes the server on launch with a System.FormatException.

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Problem signature:
Problem Event Name: CLR20r3
Problem Signature 01: plainsightserver.exe
Problem Signature 02:
Problem Signature 03: 4bc74e1c
Problem Signature 04: mscorlib
Problem Signature 05:
Problem Signature 06: 4a275af7
Problem Signature 07: c43
Problem Signature 08: 59
Problem Signature 09: System.FormatException
OS Version: 6.1.7600.
Locale ID: 2057

Stripping out the whitespace and comments lets the server run. I would be more specific, but I can’t actually tell what is causing the problem. It disappeared when I got down to two / one comments, and reappeared when I added another. My debugging skills couldn’t detect any commonality though. Anyway, it runs… briefly. Checking the log file (plainsight.log) shows that it is exiting due to not having the “Updater” directory present. eg:

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0 Connecting to master server(s)...
0 New master server connection status: AwaitingChallenge
633 New master server connection status: VersionCheckFailed
633 New master server connection status: NotConnected
633 New master server connection status: AwaitingChallenge
650 Error Updating: System.IO.DirectoryNotFoundException: Could not find a part of the path 'D:Gamesplainsightdedicated4UpdatercwRsynccwRsync.cmd'.
at System.IO.__Error.WinIOError(Int32 errorCode, String maybeFullPath)
at System.IO.FileStream.Init(String path, FileMode mode, FileAccess access, Int32 rights, Boolean useRights, FileShare share, Int32 bufferSize, FileOptions options, SECURITY_ATTRIBUTES secAttrs, String msgPath, Boolean bFromProxy)
at System.IO.FileStream..ctor(String path, FileMode mode, FileAccess access, FileShare share, Int32 bufferSize, FileOptions options, String msgPath, Boolean bFromProxy)
at System.IO.FileStream..ctor(String path, FileMode mode)
at PlainSightServer.Program.LaunchUpdater()
650 New master server connection status: NotConnected
650 New master server connection status: AwaitingChallenge

Now, you can get this from the directory in your Steam directory that contains the dedicated server (!), or from this zip file: Updater.zip. Now, if you want to continue down this path that’s grand, but for me it *royally* screwed up permissions on that folder, to where I couldn’t even run the server executable file! It is possibly due to the rsync updater running as System / nobody, but even still I feel it’s a bit harsh! Of course, it might just be a Windows 7 thing. Despite that, even when I (think) I had sorted out the permissions, the game was still crashing with an error in KERNELBASE.dll (see below). Eeep. So, what I did at this stage was to make a copy of the Steam version of the dedicated server, copy over my dediconfig.txt file and run that. Then it ran.

For those of you who don’t have Steam, I have created a zip containing the dedicated server with a working dediconfig.txt file: DedicatedServer.zip

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Problem signature:
Problem Event Name: APPCRASH
Application Name: PlainSightServer.exe
Application Version:
Application Timestamp: 4c6e7ef9
Fault Module Name: KERNELBASE.dll
Fault Module Version: 6.1.7600.16385
Fault Module Timestamp: 4a5bdbdf
Exception Code: e0434f4d
Exception Offset: 0000b727
OS Version: 6.1.7600.
Locale ID: 2057

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.

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.

TF2 – ‘Lost connection to server’ Solved

Even though I have exams coming up, I still manage to squeeze in the odd round or ten of Team Fortress 2. I blame Valve for releasing the medic achievements recently.

(7 to go! One of them is ‘Family Practice’, so I need some more Steam friends to deploy an ubercharge on, hint hint. Also, for all the spies out there: FYI I am a medic – please call for me sometime eh?)

Anyway, I had been playing for a while, but had developed a problem connecting to servers. The problem was that most of the time I would get into the game, take a few steps, then it would freeze. A second later I would get the red “Connection to server lost. Disconnect in 29…28… seconds”. Sometimes I would only get to “retrieving server info” or “sending client data”, and sometimes I could play for as long as 30 or more seconds before I got ghostbusted (yes, netrek jargon). I’m sure I even got a kill after being disconnected.

Trying to rejoin would give me a “This Steam ID is in use on the server”, while my friends saw many “BertieB(1) has connected”. And I saw a lot of “Disconnected from server. Reason:” … connection to server lost… this steam ID is already in use…

This is not unique problem. Fortunately the fix is fairly straightforward.

You need to open some ports on your router:

TCP 27030 – 27039
UDP 1200
UDP 27000 – 27015

For people with a BeBox (a Speedtouh 780 WL I think, so it should work for similar Speedtouches, like those with BT internet) you can simply log into the router (at, go to Toolbox -> Game & Application Sharing -> Assign a game or application to a local network device -> Half-life 2. Easy!

This may not solve the problem for everyone, but it did for me and others. Good luck!

Update: Thanks to Jeroen, who pointed out the typo that has been there for about 3 years.

Irritation: Xbox 360 Games on PC

Everyone’s heard a great many things about Kane and Lynch, and it sounds great on paper: by the makers of Hitman; squad-based action shooter; co-op mode; innovative multiplayer mode. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work quite like that.

First of all is the annoying Live! screens:

Kane and Lynch Profile

If I wanted an Xbox experience, I’d play it on the Xbox. Points off for making me feel like I’m not playing a PC game.

Second is the fact that, contrary to expectations, the PC mode doesn’t have a co-op mode. Well it might, if you can hook up two 360 controllers to your PC. If this is possible, you might be able to play co-op mode.

Third is that you need a Live! account to play all the game modes – 2 are for gold members only. I don’t like the Live! integration in this game; it’s cumbersome and unclear.

Fourth is the crashes, reported by a number of people. To date I have had 5 crashes, which is better than some other people, but still pretty bad.

Fifth, though it doesn’t really affect me, is 64 bit compatibility. Apparently the launcher for the game is 16 bit, which means Kenny can’t play the game. If turns out to be a widespread issue, it’s going to look bad for everyone involved (IO, Eidos and Microsoft). The “Games for Windows” certification is meant to ensure the game runs on 32 and 64 bit versions of XP and Vista.

Update: Turns out it wasn’t a widespread issue. See Kenny’s comment below. Of course it still crashes like feck, so my “Games for Windows” comments still counts.

Of course, if the game hadn’t been just a rushed Xbox 360 port (or indeed recompile), these problems may not have happened.