I’ve had a steam account since 2003, so unsurprisingly I’ve accumulated a bunch of games over time thanks to summer sales, winter sales, humble bundles, … As a way to give users a means to sort and categorize games, Steam introduced categories a while back. You can add arbitrary categories, and have a game in multiple categories, and categories are synced to your account so they appear on multiple devices. The downside is that you have to set categories for each game manually.
It provides a user friendly interface for organizing your categories, making it easy to mass categories games. But it’s most useful feature is the ability to auto-categorize games. It can do so via various criteria like genres, Steam flags (e.g. “Single-Player” or “Steam Cloud”), Steam tags, Developer & Publisher info, How Long to Beat times, release year, and/or Steam review user scores.
Once automatically categorized it is easy to find games on your library that are Local co-op, or maybe you are feeling like playing a Dungeon Crawler game today, or just want to browse games you have with an Overwhelmingly Positive rating.
I use a unique prefix for the different auto-categories so it is easy to tell them apart in steam. It also doesn’t mess with existing categories, so it’s easy to manage both categories from depressurizer and your own manual ones.
And this is an example of how the end result looks like in Steam
I’ve played PAYDAY the last few weeks, it is a 4 player CO-OP FPS (think of Left 4 Dead in a different setting). One of the maps has caused me a bit of difficulty (Diamond Heist). There is an achievement called “Are Those The Blue Ones?” where you have to collect all the sapphires before the alarm goes off, and I kept forgetting where they were. Also keeping track of the cameras was a bit of a pain, so today I threw them all together on a map for easier reference (right-click “Save link as …” to download):
I recently started playing Battlefield 3 and remembered that I have a Fraps license so I installed it and started recording some stuff. Unsurprisingly the performance made a big dip when I recorded. A glance at my PC told me the harddrive was at fault, probably bringing the whole system down due to IO.
Since my PC has more than enough RAM I decided to set up a 5Gb Ramdisk to see if that helped. It did, when writing the video files to the ramdisk I hardly had any performance hit. Unfortunately 5GB isn’t going to last long while recording 1920×1080 @ 40FPS (a few minutes footage at most).
Here is my little cmd file to create a 5GB ramdisk as drive J: and format it for usage:
So my next thought was to see if I could write a script to move files off the ramdisk when they were done being written to by Fraps. This obviously was going to cause IO load … the reason we were having performance issues in the first place, so I was skeptical about if this was going to help any. Especially since I also had to move the files away quick enough so that the drive wouldn’t fill up completely with the next file Fraps was writing. I wrote a little powershell script for this (yeah, a *nix Sysadmin writing scripts in powershell …)
Here is my little powershell script to copy the finished files from my ramdisk to a normal HDD (please excuse possible ugliness, I’m a powershell noob):
The last little problem I noticed is that the 5GB ramdrive wasn’t big enough (Fraps seems to create some dummy files and fills them up). Forcing Fraps to make smaller files by toggeling the recording fixed that though -> pressing F9 twice fast will drop a few frames though. I used my Logitech G13 for that, just had a key mapped to press F9 quickly every 60 seconds. The shortest gap I could get working reliably is 50ms.
This all probably sounds awfully complicated, but it works and solves my problem. Fraps is great software, but it would be immensly helpful if you could set the file size in the settings (instead of it defaulting to 4GB). Or, even better, if Fraps could rework their IO system to work more efficiently.
So to sum everything up: – create ramdrive – start script that copies files from the ramdrive to a normal HDD – set fraps to store videos on the ramdrive – start game, press F9 to start recording and then press the G13 key to toggle the F9 periodically
For the release of their latest game Portal 2, Valve went to great lengths marketing wise. They set up an “Alternate reality game” (ARG) with tips and puzzles hidden in 13 independent games (to promote indie games). Some of the games even added extra levels just for the ARG. Solving puzzles, finding passwords, and triggering special events led to the possibility to gain “potatoes” as a sign of progress. If all 36 potatoes were found in the 13 games involved players got a golden potato.
After the ARG was solved by the community, Valve added a countdown a few days before the release of Portal 2, allowing the community to get Portal2 to release early by collecting potatoes and (in the end phase) playing the 13 indie games.
Last Friday Valve announced in the official blog “There’s also still time to collect all 36 potatoes. Anyone accomplishing this feat by the time Portal 2 launches will receive a very special, non-hat-based reward.” An extra incentive for people to play the games involved and collect the potatoes. I spent most of the last days collecting all 36 potatoes, got the last one just hours before the deadline.
Today everyone with a golden potato got the reward, a valve complete pack and a copy of portal2. I’m honestly impressed. I never would have expected them to not only give out all their previous games ($100), but also a free copy of their latest game they just released yesterday ($50).
Impressive move Valve, even if I was irritated at buying the game on steam on pre-order and then seeing Amazon and Best Buy drop the price shortly before release by 10$, the ARG and the potatoes blew everything out of the water. So now I have a few copies of games I already owned to give out 🙂
I finished up my “grid clicker” script. it is intended to simplify testing of games where you have to click certain patterns (a grid). Typical facebook games like farmville or funfari are great examples of this. just download the file (here is the sourcecode), execute it, and an eye should appear in your task bar. Double clicking on the icon in your task bar will start the script, just follow the instructions and everything should be fine.
Last weekend was full of stuff. Saturday we took a train up to the Gamescom in Cologne. Even though the media has been hyping it in the news and says how great it is now that it moved from Leipzig to Cologne this year, I was pretty disappointed by the convention. Even if it is closer (to me) and easier to reach now, the fact the half the games there were clones of Singstar or Rock Band didn’t make things better.
Anyway, after the convention we headed over to the Hard Rock cafe and had some good food before we took the train home.
Haven’t posted here for a while, so I’ll catch up on events. I got two new lenses for my camera, both Nikon. The 50mm 1.4 and the 18-200mm 3.5-5.6. Both very good lenses, and it seems that either Nikon heard the complaints about the 18-200 and fixed the design, or I am just plain lucky because mine has no creeping when used vertically. Very cool. And words can’t describe how great the 50/1.4 is in low-light situations.
New games: Street Fighter IV (PS3) and Wii Fit
I played Street Fighter IV at the Games Convention in Leipzig last year, and it was fun. I liked the good old Street Fighter II Turbo on the SNES, so I went and pre-orderd the new version on Amazon. Since the British pound is so weak lately, I bought it on the Amazon UK website. Importing it from the Brits is about 15€ cheaper than buying it in Amazon DE 😉 Anyway, the game is tons of fun, and I can safely encourage anyone who like the II Version, to go out and buy it. Probably the best 2D Fighter out there. Even though you play on a 2D plane, the 3D graphics are good. The comic like shading is cool. But there are also some downsides to the game. First and foremost: it is f***ing hard. Now I know I’m not the youngest anymore, and I never was an uber-pro at this kind of game, but I kinda expected to have a slight chance at winning when I set the difficulty setting to super easy mode. Nah, it’s not hard, but you can still run into opponents that will kick your ass. Medium is … hard, I can’t say much about medium since I cant seem to get farther than 3 or 4 rounds before the computer starts whipping my ass. And don’t even get me going at the ranked online matches. Selecting “Find someone near my rank” seems to have zero affect. More often than not I’ll end up with some “hyped up teen drinking red bull” as an opponent and I feel like the match happens in fast forward and I’m just a spectator.
Wii Fit: Yeah, we finally got around to buying one. Not much to say here that hasn’t already been said a thousand timea before on the Internet. It’s fun and interesting 😉
I think I’ll add another widget here on the right with my online gaming pseudonyms so friends have an easier time keeping track of me.
Ok, here is another cool flash game: “Auditorium”. It is a puzzle game with a twist, divert a flow of particle around the playing area with different tools trying to reach goals. It’s hard to describe, have a look for yourself: http://www.playauditorium.com/
I stumbled across a cool text adventure today (it was mentioned on a mailing list a work). Even if you have never played a text adventure before, you should really have a look at it. It’s really good, kind of mind bending at times.
Bought myself the Orange Box (Half Life Portal, Team Fortress 2 and Episode 2) and I must say I had a lot of fun yesterday. Playing Portal was a blast. I don’t want to reveal too much of the “story” but it was really well done, had you thinking around corners the whole time.
After I got done with Portal (haven’t tried any of the special challenges yet) I gave Team Fortress 2 a look. The graphics are simply “lol”, you have the feeling you just landed in a Pixar film. After playing all the classes i must say, if you have 3 or less players on each side, the Scout dominates most other classes. You often run into one-on-one situations where the sheer speed of the Scout gives you the upper hand (and I find the shotgun is a bit too powerful at range). I even managed to take down two “Heavy Weapons Guys” with the Scout. So that kinda makes the Scout my personal favorite, closely followed by the Engineer (which is a wuss without his turret). And yes, planting a turrent in the enemy base on the “2fort” map is still hilarious.
Yeah, Team Fortress 2 for Half Life will be release with Episode 2. This is going to be a “must have” on my gaming list. I just noticed that 2 more videos were released, grab them and have a look at the engineer and soldier class: