Category Archives: gaming

ESO, Lion’s Cradle and Bandicam

The video above is the first part of an ongoing walkthrough of a house I built in Elder Scrolls Online, ESO for short. This house is probably the most ambitious thing I’ve built in-game, and you’ll see why when I show you what the original looks like:

Thank god a friend hadn’t built anything on her version of the house yet so I could get a ‘before’ video.

As you can see, the estate appears to be quite small, with just a single room house, a below deck area and a wide deck out front. But…this house has the best view of any house in ESO. So I built out [from the fence] and down as far as the envelope would allow.

In coming videos I’ll show views from the new areas so you can see how much extra space you can make by building out. For my money, Lion’s Cradle is an unsung gem.

And now a bit about the process of creating these videos in the first place. Let’s just say it’s been fraught. In the last three days I’ve tried out:

  • Shadowplay video capture [nVidia GEForce Experience]
  • Democreator [Wondershare]
  • Movavi Gecata
  • OBS
  • Bandicam
  • and Ease-Fab video converter

Shadowplay uses the nVidia graphics card [if you have one] to create great videos, but because they’re created with variable framerates, I couldn’t upload them to anything. It may be possible to make them compatible with Vimeo etc, but I couldn’t work out how, so, no go.

Democreator I couldn’t get to work, can’t remember why. Again a no.

Movavi was okay but I simply don’t have the money to buy software that I may only use once in a blue moon. So, no.

OBS…this is open source software and the most popular app around at the moment, but I had major problems with it. For starters, my operating system [Win 7] is not supported by the app, but I read that I could still use it. So I tried. I could get a screen capture going, of sorts, but the hotkeys didn’t work so I had to record manually from within the app. As a result, I had junk at the beginning and the end. Also I couldn’t get it to record in mp4. So then I tried Ease-Fab to convert it to mp4 but the result was…ick.

And finally, I tried Bandicam. Almost fell off my chair when it worked first time, straight away. I had to experiment with different resolutions, but I think the ones in the videos above are a reasonable trade-off between quality and size. Plus my pc is oldish so it’s not that great with super high resolution.

If you’re using Windows 10 you’ll probably find that most of these apps work better simply because your pc is likely to be more powerful. But…if you use Win 7 like me, it’s nice to know that we still have options.

And finally, to salve my conscience, I have to say that learning how to do all this will come in handy as I try to create video tutorials. That, however, is still some way off as I need equipment and a video editor, none of which I currently have. But knowledge never goes astray, right?

Have a great weekend,

Meeks


My Favourite bits…The Vintage Egg

The Vintage Egg (Postcards From Tomorrow Book 1) by [acflory]

The Egg is a collection of six short stories that I published back in 2013, but at least two of them – The Gamer and Brehak – were conceived more than a decade earlier. Both grew out of my fledgling experiences as an online gamer, and the realisation that seeing really is believing, even when you know that what you’re seeing isn’t real.

But if two gamers can fall in love with their respective avatars, what happens when reality intrudes? Or when one of them deliberately deceives the other? Readers of Innerscape will recognize both of these themes. They, and much of the backstory of Innerscape grew out of these two stories.

The following excerpt is taken from the second story, Brehak:

The dark-haired man with the impossibly long legs sprawled on his throne, surrounded by a bevy of naked beauties – all small-breasted, all blond, all wearing the same come hither look. Except he hadn’t come…

“Out. All of you. Get out!”

As the blond NPCs winked obediently out of existence, their lord and master rose from his ornate, padded throne, and strode over to a huge tapestry that hung on the wall behind the throne.

The tapestry hid an iron-studded door that led out to a windswept balcony. From there he would have a panoramic view of the icy wastes that lay beyond the battlements. His realm.

Grabbing the iron ring that served as a handle, Brehak flung the door open, and walked outside. The chill wind, and the snow beneath his naked feet made him shiver, but he welcomed the discomfort. It was nice to feel something for a change.

When he had first created this fantasy realm three months ago, everything had been new and exciting, including the sex. But the thrill of being serviced by his harem of Ktah look-alikes had waned very quickly. No matter how he programmed them, their behaviour was never realistic enough to make him believe he was with her. None of them could ever capture that strange innocence lurking behind her seductive blue eyes.

Had she even been a she?

Brehak had agonized over that question a million times since the night Ktah disappeared from the OR. Her voice had certainly been that of a woman, but he knew that didn’t mean much. When he had tried out a female avatar, just to see what it would feel like, the game AI had subtly altered his voice patterns to make him sound more feminine. His walk though, and his body language, had remained stubbornly masculine.

Ktah had not played typically female classes, yet even so her body movements had always been graceful in a way most men could never match-

…except perhaps a really good female impersonator…

Was that why she/he finally ran away? Because they’d come so close to stimming?

Some days, Brehak was revolted by the thought that Ktah might have been a man. Other days he cursed her/him for not following through. Perhaps if they had finally had sex he would be able to move on. But they hadn’t, and the questions remained.

It was not that he had been in love with Ktah – they had not known each other long enough for that – but the possibility had been there, impossible to ignore. Impossible to forget.

Brehak knew it was stupid to be so obsessed with an avatar, and he had tried to exorcise Ktah’s memory many times, but none of the women he met in OR could hold his interest for long. Most were nice enough, but sooner or later they all started talking about meeting up ‘outside’, and that always killed it for him. 

Back when the OR had been in its infancy, he had made the mistake of telling one woman why they could never be together in real life. The pity, and revulsion he had seen on her face had scarred him more thoroughly than all the surgeries he had undergone. Apparently some women could face making love to a man with no legs, but drew the line at one with no bowels

Would he have seen that same look on Ktah’s face – if he had told her the truth about himself?

“We’ll never know now, will we?”

Leaning on the cold stone of the balustrade, Brehak looked out over his empty, icy realm and laughed. It was not a happy sound.

Brehak is by far the darkest story in the Egg. The rest range from kid-friendly to vaguely funny [The To-Do List], but all deal with how human beings deal the the technology we are likely to face in the future.

The Vintage Egg is starting its five day free run on Amazon tomorrow [March 2 northern hemisphere time, March 3 southern hemisphere time], and I hope everyone grabs a copy while it’s free.

cheers
Meeks


Augmented Reality [AR] game set in Melbourne

As a gamer and denizen of Melbourne [Australia], how could I resist this New Atlas article about an AR game set in the city I love?

‘The game is the first in the True Crime Mysteries series by indie studio 10Tickles, helmed by husband-and-wife team Andy Yong and Emma Ramsay. The couple are both fascinated by true crime, history and the city of Melbourne itself, and so set out to build an augmented reality experience that tapped into all three.’

You can read the entire article by clicking the link below:

https://newatlas.com/games/true-crime-augmented-reality-game-misadventure-little-lon/

cheers

Meeks


A naughty weekend in Warrandyte

No! Not that kind of weekend…;) This kind of weekend:

The lighting effects are truly glorious in Elder Scrolls Online, and they inspired me to create classically inspired interiors for my in-game house. That involved finding recipes, gathering ingredients and finally crafting beautiful items like:

…the goblets and knick knacks you can see displayed on that shelving.

I also splurged and bought a very expensive recipe for a glass goblet and some ‘food’. In this last screenshot, you can see my wedge of cheese, the bread platter, and some kebabs. Dinner chez moi. 🙂

I loved the player housing in Final Fantasy XIV, but the housing and control in ESO are an order of magnitude better. Harder to master, but I think the effects speak for themselves. And yes, I did spend a lot of time playing this weekend. But I also spent a lot of time, and most of my energy mowing. I literally did not have enough oomph left over to write. Today, though, I will make up for lost time.

cheers

Meeks

 

 


Eyesight & Oculus Rift

As an old[er] gamer with dodgy eyesight, I’ve been worried that I’d never be able to play VR [virtual reality] games. Well, yesterday I learned that I can. 😀

But first things first: what is Oculus Rift? Basically, it’s a very expensive piece of headgear that makes it possible to view imaginary things as if they were real. The model I tried out yesterday looks like this:

As well as the goggles and inbuilt headphones, the Oculus Rift comes with two handsets that transmit Wifi data to the two ‘receiver’ units positioned in front of the ‘player’.

All of this hardware is controlled by specialist software running on a fairly powerful pc. Without getting too technical, the software sends two, separate, high resolution images to the lens inside the headset. The appropriate image then bounces through one of the lens and into the left or right eye.

To get an idea of how this works, close one eye and look at an object. Close both eyes and move a few inches to the left. Now open the other eye and look at the object again. The object hasn’t changed at all, but the viewing angle has – i.e. you’re seeing a part of the object you haven’t seen before. Put the two images together, and you get a 3D image.

The human brain interprets these separate images all the time using a process called ‘stereopsis‘. But for some individuals, stereopsis doesn’t develop as it should. The brain still gets streams of images from both eyes, but these individuals see depth using a process called ‘motion parallax‘.

I am one of these individuals, and that’s why I worried I wouldn’t be able to see in VR. But I can! I can. My spatial awareness expanded right out, and when a bunch of very large robots suddenly turned feral and loomed over me, I instinctively threw my hands up to protect my head! I also squeaked in fear, but the less said about that the better. 😀

This is a video of a bunch of older people experiencing VR for the first time:

The headset shown in the video clip is the VIVE rather than the Oculus Rift, but the experience is much the same.

I wasn’t wearing glasses when I tried out the Rift, but apparently you can fit your normal glasses inside the goggles by adjusting the fit.

And now a word or two about the quality of the graphics. I wasn’t wearing any of my glasses [I have 3, one each for long, mid-range and close viewing] and that may have made the graphics less than optimal. Or it may be that the graphics still need to be improved. Or perhaps you simply need bleeding edge computer hardware to get the best results. Whatever the reason, I was in no danger of mistaking computer generated graphics for the real thing. But…the sensation of depth really does trick the brain into believing the images are real. One day, we may not be able to perceive the difference at all.

Finally, some unpleasant aspects of the hardware. For starters, the goggles are heavy. Whilst you’re ‘inside’, you tend to forget about the weight because there’s so much there to distract you, but it does feel a bit like carrying half a brick around on your head. It’s also hot. Yesterday was only warm, but after ten minutes playing with the Rift, my hair was wet with sweat.

A big part of the weight of the Rift comes from the glass lenses that make the magic possible. Given how young the technology is, I suspect the mechanics will be improved rapidly. One improvement I would very much like to see is in the handsets. Although they are far more intuitive than the controllers used with consoles, they’re still clunky. Gloves and a full-body suit with embedded sensors would be miles better. They’d also be miles more expensive, but hopefully the price will come down by the time I can afford to buy one. 😉

All in all, I loved my taste of VR, and now that I know I can see despite the issues with my eyesight, I’m determined to own my own setup…one day.

cheers

Meeks


House hunting on ESO

I’ve been playing ESO [Elder Scrolls Online] for quite a few months now, and whilst I’ve enjoyed learning the game, I’ve also missed not having a player ‘house’ of my own. Player housing was one of the things that kept me at FFXIV for so many years. Anyway, I think I’ve finally found the house of my dreams! I can’t afford it yet, but now I have something to aim for, and here it is:

That’s my character, looking down at the house and walled garden.

The player housing in ESO comes in four five sizes:

  1. a room at an inn,
  2. a small house with no garden [it’s fully instanced and you teleport to it],
  3. a small house with a garden [I think that’s the category my house occupies,
  4. medium houses with gardens and
  5. walled estates, some of which can be truly huge.

As you’d expect, the price for most of the housing depends on size and the amenities offered. The largest estates also have game-play requirements that must be met before you can lay your money down.

Before I tell you how much my house will cost, let me show you some more views. This first one is the view that sold me on the house:

I’m stand on a large deck that leads to the front door. Because it’s so high up, I actually get a view over the top of the walled garden to the river beyond [most houses have no view]. The house is called Sleek Creek House and it’s located in an area called Reaper’s March. As an Aussie, that vista feels strangely like home. 🙂

The next view is from the shallows, looking back up at the house. The graphics are truly incredible, especially the quality of the light. Oh, and there are gathering nodes right outside the garden!:

Next up is a view of the small town that overlooks the house. It’s called Rawl’hka. Sounds like something out of Vokhtah, doesn’t it?

Apart from being very picturesque, Rawl’hka also contains all the amenities available in the large cities – stablemaster, crafting, bank, guild traders, and what appears to be a large, vibrant player population.

And now the fly in the ointment. Sleek Creek House costs 335,000 gold. I currently possess 38,000 gold. I’m not going to do the math because I’ll simply become depressed. The important thing is that I have a goal. Now I just have to find a way to achieve it.

“Everyone needs a reason to get up in the morning.” 😀

cheers,

Meeks


Elder Scrolls Online [ESO] — first impressions

This post first appeared on my Medium publication, Tikh Tokh.

Disclaimer: I’m an older gamer whose main interests are crafting, exploration, lore, game design and aesthetics. If you want to know if ESO has the best dungeons or the most exciting PVP, you’ve come to the wrong place.

So…first impressions:

“God, the characters are ugly.”

“Help! The camera is awful!”

“Bloody hell, how do you move around in this game?”

But then there came a moment when I saw my first ‘mansion’…

…and the graphics whore in me kicked in. Jaw agape, I wandered through this empty mansion and was transported back to my favourite game of all time – Vagrant Story. Created by Square Enix, Vagrant Story was probably the most beautiful game ever developed for the first PlayStation console, and the graphics had the same effect on me.

But this article isn’t about Vagrant Story, it’s about ESO, and the reason I bring the comparison up so early in the piece is because this was the moment when all my other first impressions faded into insignificance. I still hated the appearance of my character [and all the npcs]. I still found moving around difficult, and battling excruciatingly hit or miss, but…the beauty of the ‘world’ had me hooked.

The following is a watery vista just to the north of Balmora:

The next is a close-up view of the texture of a wall in Balmora. The dark shapes are shadows from a tree:

Before playing ESO, I honestly thought Final Fantasy XIV [FFXIV] was the most beautiful MMORPG currently available. I still think FFXIV is beautiful in that distinctly Asian, manga-esque way, but I no longer think it’s the best out there. ESO is.

The grass and bushes in ESO are thicker, richer, more real looking. The textures are a million times better, and the abundance of fauna, both large and small, make the environment feel alive. Plus the whole landscape is full of things to find, but more on that later. Time now for some negatives.

I began this article by saying that ESO characters are ugly. I stand by that. Nevertheless, I do acknowledge that my aesthetic may not appeal to everyone. I have played Western MMOs [WoW, GW2 and a couple of forgettables], but the bulk of my playing time has been on Japanese or Korean MMOs. Bear that in mind as you look at the following screenshots. The first is of a Dark Elf male and a Nord female:

I love character customisation, but I found it next to impossible to create attractive characters in ESO. The faces shown above are two of the most attractive ones, but I don’t think either is that attractive.

The two characters above are from Asian MMOs. The character on the left is from my brief foray into Blade and Soul. Loved the aesthetic of the characters, hated the game. The character on the right is from FFXIV. Both are gorgeous, and as a female player I make no apology for prefering them to the ESO offering.

I’m not impressed with the ESO body aesthetic either:

To me, the legs in ESO look too short for the bodies, but that could just be me. The monotony of the faces, however, is not my imagination. It is possible to create some differences between races, but within races, all the faces come out looking almost identical. As for the Cat and Lizard races…rolls eyes. Really? Stick an unmodified cat head on a human body and that’s it? Instant Cat race? The less said about those two races the better.

And now to the camera and movement settings in ESO. Having the camera locked to the head of the character may work in first person shooters, but for those of us who prefer a 3rd person perspective — i.e. seeing our characters from behind as they move about — the camera is nauseating, literally. You can’t just point to some ‘object’ with the mouse and look at it. You have to move the character until the cross hairs at head level pan over the object you want to check out.

The camera setting also means that the character has to be pointed at and looking at any enemy it needs to fight. Getting that ‘head camera angle’ just right in 3rd person view is tricky, very tricky. Again, I imagine that the camera setting would make fighting in PVP easier as you wouldn’t have to worry about lining up the crosshair, it would just be ‘there’. Pity I don’t do PVP.

You can change the key bindings for actions and weapon skills, but after much effort I finally gave up and learned to use the default setup, more or less. These settings include:

  • left mouse button for ‘Attack’ [with your weapon]
  • right mouse button for block, and
  • left & right mouse buttons together to interrupt

Actual weapon skills are handled by the number keys, 1–5. This means you can only ever have five of the total available weapon skills active at the one time. [I haven’t reached the level at which I get weapon swap which will effectively give me another 5 weapon skills to work with and I’m ignoring Ultimates for now].

Do I enjoy the battling? Not particularly, but I’m now able to hold my own. In time I may actually become reasonably proficient at fighting. -sigh-

Still on the subject of fighting, I have to say that the solo ‘dungeons’ [delves?] are fast becoming my favourite parts of the game. Most of these instanced, solo events are part of a quest chain and occur underground, or in some dungeon-like area.

This is the map of the Vassir-Didanat Mine dungeon:

These instanced dungeons can be completed on your own or by casually joining other players who are in the same place at the same time. No need to join a party, just tag along helping each other as needed. Great fun.

Returning to the camera settings, another problem is that you can’t just sweep the mouse over the environment when you’re looking for something. This can make gathering tricky as collectables aren’t marked in any way. You have to get up close and personal, and touch the object with the crosshair before you can see its label.

In the following screenshot, the object circled in red is a maple log:

If you love gathering and crafting, you will eventually learn to recognize the appearance of collectables from a distance, but as you can see from the above screenshot, collectables don’t exactly leap out of the environment at you. Yet despite this, or perhaps because of it, each rune, flower, or lump of wood I discover feels like an achievement.

This sense of accomplishment is in stark contrast to FFXIV where gathering is ‘easy’ but horribly boring. Sadly, crafting in ESO is the exact reverse. You rock up to a crafting station, choose the item you want to craft and hit a button. If you have the required materials, the item is crafted without any further input from the crafter. Boring….

By contrast, crafting in FFXIV is a mini-game and actually requires both strategy and skill.

In an attempt to make crafting in ESO a little more substantial, higher levels require ‘traits’ that must be researched. Researching a trait involves the destruction of an ‘item’ [weapon, gear, whatever] in order to learn the trait it contains. Researching a trait takes 6 hours and again, requires no further input from the crafter.

There are other bits and pieces involved in crafting, but at this point I haven’t discovered anything in ESO that makes my heart go pitter pat. I’m still at a very low level though so I’ll reserve my final judgement until I learn more.

Before I finish this preliminary overview of ESO, there are two further positives I really have to point out. Despite the fact that my character is only level 12, the quest lines have already given me a mount and a room at the inn which I can furnish as I wish.

None of the MMOs I’ve played have ever been this generous to a newbie player. It’s almost as if ESO believes players should be enjoying themselves right from the beginning instead of having to level up for weeks before being rewarded with something ‘nice’. I’m not saying ESO is perfect, far from it, but I will say that I’ve never enjoyed these low levels in an MMO before. That has to mean something. Oh, and it’s free to play. That means something too.

cheers

Meeks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Steve Bannon and gaming cheats

It’s not often two of my passions combine, but this Washington Post article links the 45th US President’s chief advisor, Steve Bannon, with a company called IGE:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/steve-bannon-once-guided-a-global-firm-that-made-millions-helping-gamers-cheat/2017/08/04/ef7ae442-76c8-11e7-803f-a6c989606ac7_story.html?utm_term=.969894a83c07

In a nutshell, IGE was the brains and money behind what we gamers call ‘gold farmers’. Think virtual sweatshops in which players from poor countries earn a tiny wage for accumulating desirable ‘goods’ from online games. These valuables are then sold to lazy gamers for real money so that they can have all the goodies…without having to work for it themselves.

Most gamers hate gold farmers, and so do the developers of the games they play. It’s a despicable practice that most games do not allow. In fact, most games ban players caught farming for gold, or trying to sell these items back to players. And guess who worked for IGE during this time? Yup, Steve Bannon. And no, there is no way he could not have known what was going on. Making money off gold farmers and players was IGE’s only business model.

These days, bots have put most flesh and blood gold farmers out of work, but the practice is still despicable.

My thanks to Candy Korman for alerting me to this mindblowing article.

cheers

Meeks

 


Can you see what I see…?

Life’s been rather hectic of late, so my posts have been more sporadic than usual, but today I want to show you something that I think is quite wonderful. And no, I’m not going to tell you, I’m going to show you.

Have a look at these three screenshots and tell me what you see:

Yes, all three screenshots are computer generated. And yes, they are all from a game, but the amazing thing is the mirror.

I’ve been playing games of one sort or another for close to 20 years, and in all that time I’ve never seen a mirror used in any game I’ve ever played. Now, it may be that I’ve played the wrong sort of games, or it may be that mirrors use up too many resources, or… Whatever the reason, mirrors haven’t been a part of the graphics, and I have always felt the lack.

Reflections are such a fundamental part of how we see the world, and ourselves.  Think about it. We catch sight of our reflection a hundred times a day – in mirrors, shop windows, highly polished tables, glossy cupboards, ponds, even spoons. They are everywhere in the real world, but not in the virtual world, and to me it feels odd. Like not having a shadow.

Remember when gaming graphics were so primitive that no one even dreamed of adding shadows? Now they’re commonplace in most games with high end graphics. I predict that one day soon, reflections will become just as commonplace as shadows because they add an almost subliminal element to our ability to immerse ourselves in a virtual environment.

For now, though, my friend George is the trail blazer in this area. The mirror is his, as is the game, and I think both are going to be quite extraordinary.

cheers

Meeks


#FFXIV – decorating my new room

Non-gamers look away now!

Just a couple of pics of my room in the Tonberry FC. Absolutely adore the ‘rust red’ of the walls:

and…

Okay, back to work now. -waves-

Meeks

 

 

 


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