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Jade_Monkey Blog

Cryostasis: Sleep of Reason Preview

I have been following Cryostasis for about six months now and I think the game has a lot of potential. It has a story that interests me and it has some of the best usage of water I have ever seen. The things I was not sure about were the actual game play and the optimization. The tech demo that was released in December of 2008 showed me lots of good visuals and physics but little of actual game play. It also showed me that the game may suffer from poor optimization. I got a poor frame rate in the tech demo even though I can get much better results from games like Far Cry 2 and Fallout 3 which both look very good in their own rite. The demo did both appease some of my worries but also amplify others.

One of my worries that got put to rest was the game play. I didn't know what to expect from Cryostasis but I am happy with what I got. You actually have to manage your internal and external body heat. Every time you go outside the ship you start to lose body heat. Once your external body heat is depleted your internal body heat starts to lower. Once you are out of both you die. In most rooms inside the ship there are sources of heat that you can use to raise your internal and external body heat. The two sources I found were fires and power switches. The fire is straight forward and the power heats you by turning on power for that room and I guess the lights help out. One thing I didn't expect to experience was the BSODs I received. The most interesting I saw in the demo had to be the life echos. If you find the corpse of a crew member you can choose to live their last few moments to try to save them. In the course of this you get to see flashbacks of some of the problems the ship had that got it to this point. Cryostasis also had one of my favorite features which is quick saves. That made me a happy man. I was not able to finish the demo because after getting a BSOD twice in the same spot I just gave up. I hope the full game doesn't have these problems because it is a very serious issue.

I was pleasantly surprised by the options. The game supported my 1920*1200 resolution as well as having AA, AF, Vsync and EAX options. I would of liked to also see support for 5.1 or 7.1 sound but even as it was it supported many features that a lot of console ports don't include these days. This is why I tend to try to support PC exclusives because they tend to give PC gamers what they want.

The graphics themselves were pretty good. The water was among the best water I have ever seen. The way it interacts with the ground and walls is really something to see. The rest wasn't anything too special. The weapons and character models were both alright but nothing special. The game needs a ton of optimization though. I had to turn some things all the way to low and had to turn AA and AF off to get a frame rate I could live with. This isn't acceptable when I can get much better results on far Cry 2, Fallout 3, and even Crysis and Crysis Warhead which all look better overall then Cryostasis.

Overall I would say I will buy Cryostasis but not until at least one major patch comes out and maybe even two. The game has a very good core but the BSOD errors need to go and there needs to be better optimization because my system is better than that. The game play is solid and the game has some has some very interesting ideas not to mention a story I want to play through and unravel.

Antec 900 Review

When I bought the Antec 900 I had two main things I wanted out of my new case: lots of space to work in, and good cooling potential. The Antec 900 fills both of these needs very well. It however does have it's drawbacks and little flaws. None of the flaws are big enough to make me regret buying it but they can cause frustration to some people.

The Antec 900 features spaces for four 120mm case fans as well as one 200mm case fan. There are two case fans at the front, one on the side, and one in the rear. The 200mm fan is at the top. I have the Thermaltake TT-1225 case fans in all four spots. The 200mm fan provides great bang for your buck when looking at how much air it pushes compared to it's volume. It is able to push an advertised 134CFM while only operating at 30 DB. This is at the high setting. There is also a medium and low setting for those looking for a lower volume. Overall I would say that the Antec 900 is a very good cooling solution. You can pop any four 120mm fans you wish into it to give you whatever combination of raw cooling or silent operation you may want and the 200mm fan is a beast the likes of which I hadn't seen before.

The Antec 900 is one of the best cases I have used in terms of build strength. I have used cases before in which I was worried that the material on the inside would bend or break if pushed too hard. The 900 feels like a case that could possibly take a beating and keep on going. I don't like to punish my cases but accidents do happen and it is always better to have a case that can take a little than one that will fold. This is a double-edged sword: the thing is very heavy. Even when empty this is easily the heaviest case I have ever owned and when full it is that much bulkier. This isn't a huge deal because I can still carry it but I would of liked it to be lighter. I guess I have to ask whether I want the strength I just praised or the portability of a lighter case that might be weaker.

The design choices made by Antec on the 900 is by far it's only poor features. If you ever have to replace the 200mm fan (which I have due to my own carelessness) you are in for a horrible experience. The sheer amount of little screws and bits needed to be taken off and put back on to get access to the fan is mind boggling. It literally took me about an hour to replace what is essentially a case fan. Then you have the front case fans which to install those you need to take off the front panel, remove the Hard drive cage, screw them on and then put it all back in the case. This is a true pain just to install case fans and hard drives. The front does have mesh panels in front of the fans which help keep a great deal of dust from the actual fan so cleaning is made easier. SLI users may want to worry a little. By the looks of where my one GTX 260 is if I added a second I would have to remove the hard drive cage altogether and mount them in the 5.25" bays. My last gripe with design would be the lack of a tool free setup. It is so common on recent cases that I was surprised to not have one with the 900. I'll admit it isn't something that needs to be there, in fact most tool free expansion slots at the back I have to remove for modern dual slot video cards anyway, but it seems like something that could of been added with minimum pain to Antec.

So overall I find myself giving the 900 a recommendation to users, but with a warning that it is not a pain free case for many and will come with quirks. If cooling and space are prime concerns though, you will find few better cases for it's price range.

Final Score: 8/10

My Top 10 Favorite Games

Here is my Top 10 Favorite Games of All Time. I will update the list as I beat games.

1. Mass Effect (PC)

2. Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne (PC)

3. Fallout 3 (PC)

4. F.E.A.R. (PC)

5. Half-Life 2: Episode 2 (PC)

6. Max Payne (PC)

7. Bioshock

8. Battlefield 2 (PC)

9. Super Metroid (SNES)

10. Deus Ex (PC)

February 19 2009: I added deus Ex

My Thoughts on Project Origin Demo

I just finished the Project origin demo and I thought it was pretty good. Here is a breakdown of my thoughts:

+1 for putting in fire mode selector

-1 for taking out lean

+1 for letting me use objects for cover

-1 for taking out quick saves

+1 for putting in sniper rifle

-1 for taking out pointman

+1 for putting in mech

-1 for having half-baked excuse as to why this random delta dude (becket) can do slo mo

-1 for regenerating health

Overall i think Project Origin will be a pretty good game but it won't be quite as good as FEAR for the ways they have consolized it.

My Game of the Year

I beat 30 games in 2008 but only three of them actually were released in 2008. These were Fallout 3, Mass Effect and Crysis Warhead. I can say hands down that Mass Effect is not only my Game of the Year but my new favorite game of all time as well. Fallout 3 was extremely good and Warhead was also great but Mass Effect took the cake for me. from the epic story to the dialogue options and choices I loved it more than any game I had played before it. I do have to give Fallout 3 serious props as it has made my 10 favorite games of all time list. Hopefully I will be able to play more in 2009.

The Starcraft 2 Trilogy and it's Unfortunate Existence

Lots of games become trilogies, but they are usually three full games. You can argue that the length of each campaign will be some absurdly long one that will blow my mind, but in the end they are still campaigns to the same overall story (unless I am wrong about that) so essentially you are paying extra to play from a different point of view. The only way I will approve of this move from Blizzard is if each piece of the trilogy is $20 or if the second two pieces are $20 each. There is no reason whatsoever to sell all three games for $50 or $60 each besides being greedy. There is also no reason to go with this format in the first place (aside from greed) except that Blizzard has gotten lazy.

People can argue space but they are wrong. The option of multiple dual layer DVDs (8.5GB each) is there and is not a hassle. If you put the game on multiple discs and don't require any more than one disc to play or no disc in the drive at all (trhe best idea) then very few people will complain about the longer install time of the multiple discs and having to switch them out. If they really want to have it on one disc and be a groundbreaker in PC games they can also use Blu-Ray.

Blu-Ray players for a PC now cost as low as $123.99 (at Canada Computers closest to where I live) so while it isn't $25 like a DVD burner hear me out. Blizzard could strike a deal with a Blu-Ray manufacturer, lets say LG. Blizzard will supply LG, and only LG, with copies of Starcraft 2. LG bundles their Blu-Ray player with a copy of Starcraft 2. Blizzard will be given a lump sum payment and a share of each Blu-Ray drive sold. People are forced to shell out $150 (lets say they raise the price due to the game) but you get a copy of Starcraft 2 with the Blu-Ray drive. Plus if they decided to sell all three games at $50 each you would be paying $150 anyway. At least with this way you get a brand new Blu-Ray drive and your game will be on one disc.

Now the other factor I mentioned is laziness. I do believe that Blizzard is releasing the game in three parts because they are too lazy to finish the whole thing first. They just want to get this thing out there to tear up the sales charts that they don't want to finish the other two campaigns first. They have another MMO in the pipe, Warcraft 4 announced, and Activision probably breathing down their neck about getting their product out there. Thye might be a little pressed for time to finush up those other campaigns right now.

I guess the main point I wanted to make about this trilogy is that it is a trilogy for no good reason. There is no good reaosn as to why it can't be released as one game. People have waited ten years for your game they will wait another six months to a year for a finished product. If each trilogy is $60 I will say right now that I will still buy it, but I won't feel good about it.

ConsolePro

From the years 1997-2001 I was a loyal subscriber of the gaming magazine GamePro. I did so because I found them to have the best overall coverage of all platforms. These days all I buy is PC Gamer because the only consoles I own are the PS and N64. Well the other day at work I wanted something to read on my break so I go looking for the new issue of PC gamer but it hasn't hit shelves yet. Still in need of something to read I picked up the October issue of my old favorite GamePro. What do I find has become of it: nothing good. The size of the magazine is much smaller than I remember them being and the PC is not even in there. The only articles mentioning PC games are when they happen to say that a multiplatform game is also going to the PC. There are no reviews, previews, or anything else about any PC exclusive games. They might as well change the title to ConsolePro if they won't pay the PC any respect. I just don't get how a gaming magazine can ignore an entire platform, especially one that sells more games each year than the PS3, the 360, and the Wii (individually not combined). I will not be buying a GamePro magazine again and if I can find the time I will be writing them an email soon, not that they will care what I have to say.

My PC

CPU: AMD Athlon X2 6400+
RAM: 4x 1024MB OCZ DC Platinum PC-6400
Video Card:BFG GeForce GTX 260 OC
Hard Drive: Seagate ST31000340AS 1000GB

Sound Card: Creative Audigy
Motherboard: Asus M2N-E
Power Supply: 700 Watt Tagan PSU
Optical drive: LG GH22NS30
Case: Antec 900
Monitor: Samsung SyncMaster 245B

Consolization

You have probably heard the word consolization thrown around, usually by PC gamers explaining why they dislike some multi-platform games the last few years. They believe consoles are to blame for some of their issues. This is where the term comes in. It may mean different things for different people and in this blog post I am going to explain what it means for me.

To me consolization means that a game has borrowed heavily on ideas and concepts that are more popular on console games than on PC exclusives. I will name a few common things that I am referring to:

  • Regenerating Health
  • Checkpoint Save Systems
  • Menus that have "press Enter to continue"
  • Lack of graphics options

I dislike many of these ideas and usually become frustrated with games that have some of them, especially if they use all of them.

I dislike regenerating health because it makes the game too easy. All you have to do is hide in a corner and your well again. Some games claim it is better because health packs are a little unrealistic, the idea being where can you find a health pack on the real life battlefield to instantly heal your wounds. They forget that the body doesn't regenerate in real life like it does in games either so neither one is realistic. I prefer health packs because a game that has a health packs well placed can be more of a challenge.

I absolutely hate checkpoint save systems. There is very few things worse than playing a game, getting past a difficult portion and not being able to save it. If you die shortly after but before the next checkpoint you have to go all through it again. I see no reason not to use quick saves except that it is more difficult to implement on console games because you would have to either pause the game and save or map a button to the gamepad (they have too few as it is). See that, the only reason not to use quick saves has to do with console games, not PC games. Some games that use the checkpoint save system aren't too bad. Gears of War had checkpoints placed in decent intervals so it didn't cause me much trouble, but I am playing Stranglehold right now and it has horrible placement. Some checkpoints are 10-15 minutes apart. I like to have freedom to save whenever I please, and any developer who doesn't give it to me either doesn't care about PC users or is lazy. Oh and I also hate when you have to watch cutscenes over and over and over if you must redo a checkpoint.

The menus thing is a small gripe but I see no point in having them. Why have a menu that makes me press a button to get to the main menu I wanted to go to anyway ? It is just a waste of time.

Lack of graphics options can be a real dumb move on developers parts. One of the strengths of the PC platform is being able to make a game look as good or bad as you need or want it to look. There are many games out there that have far too few options to do this. There is really no excuse for it than laziness or not caring about PC users, same as the checkpoint problem.

Want to know why PC gamers call this consolization ? it is because most of these ideas became popular on console games and slowly became incorporated into a growing number of multi-platform titles. You will rarely see a PC exclusive game that exhibits more than 1 or 2 of these problems, and many that have none of them. I and many other PC gamers would like to see a return of quick saves, non regenerating health, no stupid menus, and plenty of graphics options. Many will blame piracy on the decreasing PC game sales, and piracy is a problem, but us getting sloppy console ideas dumped on us doesn't do any good.

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