The Watch Dogs Controversy, and what resolution really means to you the viewer.

The Watch Dogs Controversy, and what resolution really means to you the viewer.

I’ve mentioned this game before on this site, last year when it hit the floor of E3 and i thought, now THAT’S a game i’m going to enjoy playing. Well, it wasn’t, frankly at the moment i refuse to purchase the thing until it has it’s “functionality” patch released. If you’re not familiar with the state of watchdogs for PC, i will return to it later below in more detail. But for now… What am i blathering on about.

currently the Ubisoft Team is under heavy fire and fierce accusations of not only releasing a non-functional game, but of also gimping an already disfunctional game so that images like this one could be gathered. Normally conspiracy theories are just that, theories, but this is an instance, as an experienced PC Gamer, I am qualified to point out a few trend defying qualities posessed by this title, which go directly against statements released by ubisoft’s PR team and developers alike.

Before I state my case and opinion, there’s a thorn in my side that must be addressed. And that thorn which is being yanked in many directions currently, and that argument focuses on one point of contention, RESOLUTION. There is a fierce debate currently over whether these things matter, but i don’t think people really understand what these values actually MEAN to the player.

Lets start with RESOLUTION. for the sake of fluidity, lets start at the bottom, As many of you know, when you buy any sort of digital screen, be it TV or Computer screen, it lists a resolution, monitors come in all sorts of resolutions, but tv’s usually stick to 2(3) options, and easily enough the resolution is the number of pixels on the screen. Pixels are of course the little “dots” on your screen that change colors to create images. If you look close enough at your tv it is pretty easy to see each individually defined pixel.
720p- 1280×720
1080p – 1920×1080
(4K) – 3840 x 2160

all of these list the width first, and then the height. So if you’ve got a 1080p tv, that means there are really 2073600 tiny dots on your tv that can each represent only 1 color at any given time. A screen may list several “supported” resolutions, but what matters is its “Native resolution, because that’s how many dots it actually possesses.

Okay now that we’ve all just remind ourselves how TV’s work, lets think about how resolution is displayed on two separate Tv/s first, a 720p tv and then a 1080p screen.

First the 720p, You’ve just purchased your new 720p tv on sale at the store and brought it home, and hooked it up, you plug in your console, which auto-detects and puts out image information similarly scaled on a 720p screen. Things are great and kosher, everything matches up, a green pixel from the screen pops up as a green pixel on the screen.

Now you’ve upgraded, you went to best buy and there was a nice big 1080p tv on sale and you just had to buy it. You get it home, you hook up your blue ray player, toss in a blu ray, and wow, check out that detail, once again the 2073600 dots the blue ray player is transferring lines up perfectly with the 2073600 dots on your tv. “This is great”, you say as you witness your pristinely displayed media. “Can’t wait to see how great my games look on this beautiful new tv.” You rush to connect your console and toss in a game of your choosing. You start to really get critical and finally state out loud. ” you know… i think my old tv actually looked better.” you’re not crazy, you’re not being hyper critical in your concerns of buyer’s remorse, You’re observing what’s called image scaling.(Or if you want to impress your friends, it’s actually properly called interpolation) Depending on your tv and the game console, there are 2 types of interpolation, Adaptive, and Non adaptive.

non-Adaptive interpolation simply tells the source to find the closest mathmatical resolution to the screen, in this case telling the source to output 990×540 (540p) if you had a tube tv over 42 inches this resolution will look familiar to you. Now if your tv has a built in up-scaler it will then explode the image to fill the whole screen (in a checkerboard pattern) and then use math to guess what color the pixels in the middle should become. ( if it is between two black pixels, it would be made black, a black pixel next to a gray pixel fills in with a gray for example.) If like most tv’s it does not, then it just makes every 1 pixel from the source dispaly as 4 pixels on your screen, bundling them if you will to output at 540p.
in either of those cases, yes the image quality is noticeably affected because less original information si being sent from the original source creating less detail.

More common is Adaptive scaling which does mostly the same thing, but uses complex algorithms to use non mathematically perfect resolutions, such as 720/900p on this new 1080p tv, and instead of exploding the image like a checkerboard, it draws an imaginary grid with it’s native 1080p resolution and then takes the average color of the information in each grid space, and tells the pixel that grid space represents to display that averaged color. This results in blurriness and loss of color fidelity and consistency, as a color average can easily be skewed by things like black outlines or white spots.
In either of these cases, yes, as a matter of fact your old tv did do a better job of accurately displaying its source material.

HOLD UP, Did i just say that a 720p output could look better than a 900p output? Well yes and no, from a perception of detail standpoint yes, the perfectly matched output will display the image in true color, as the game developers designed it. lines will be sharper, colors will be richer, detail will be more pronounced. The human does a much better job of blending contrasting colors than the algorithm can. That said however, the 900p image on the 1080 screen will look “smoother” because of the blurring affect the algorithm creates.

the real point here, is that a screen will always always always look best at its native resolution. a device can only display true color at it’s native resolution or at a perfect factor (1/2,1/3,1/4) of its resolution.

Because of this jump in the xbox era to the 720p era in the 360 era, in which game output resolution rose to perfectly match screen resolution, we saw the clarity of “hd gaming” Right now though, that’s not the case, display technology has progressed beyond what these deviced already fail to deliver, and therefore, because of all the work their up scaling tv’s were already doing, Many are not really seeing big differences in image reproduction betwen their ps3’s and ps4’s they were expecting to. That said, resolution isn’t the only thing that matters in a game, there are lighting affects, and filters, etc that also have been given improved breadth with this new generation.

so now, you’ve soldiered through all the required reading for my point ( or skipped it because you either already understood or didn’t care) Lets take a look at this watchdog screenshot shall we? Awfully similar, no? I mean really, really similar. if you were to look at the two and give an answer which you thought looked “better” which would you say?

Got your decision? what if I told you I manipulated this image and swapped the labels? does your decision stand?

Compared to e3 gameplay video they presented in 2012, this is a little bland isn’t it? Does it strike you as odd that a pc with roughly 5-10 times the graphical chops displays displays such a similar image. It’s almost like the game was designed with a visual target in mind, right around the edge where the PS4 peters out. a machine can can only display the image it’s given, nothing more, nothing less.

That’s a pretty lofty accusation on my part though, to have a developer deliberately shoot low, to intentionally reduce the graphical prowess of a work in progress and settle for what they expected the ps4 could handle, It’s not like they had demos or dev kits that possessed e3 demo quality graphics and effects, or had already made all the shaders and effects they dropped for release. And of course We must all remember that according to CEO of Ubisoft as well as the dev team themselves, Pc was the lead platform on this thing, It was created specifically to drive a pc to it’s potential and then be ported to consoles with tweaks for optimization. I’m sure they wouldn’t simply lie about this to appease hungry pc gamers, and there’s nothing we have aside from the game performing like garbage because the game engine was specifically designed for the shared VRAM configuration on the XBone and the PS4, to tell us otherwise.

by the way, that last paragraph was all sarcasm, every single one of those things happened, and exist, in fact, a mod was released a few days ago saturating the internet with headlines because with a mere 3.5kb of tweaks to the game’s config files, hidden inside the title were those graphics we saw at E3. Particle effects, shaders, artifacts, clearly hundreds hours of work, locked away inside the game.

Of course the question on everyone’s minds is “why?” now I have to disclaim myself right now, and say that this surely isn’t the dev’s fault, all of the issues that we are seeing are clearly matters of management, and allocation , and not “poor” management, These employees are clearly not happy about the situation wither (indicated by their silence, usually you get at least one or two employees that will anonymously shed some light on the situation. It’s beyond question that the dev’s NDA leashes are eing pulled tight right now, and Ubisoft is trying to leave everything to it’s PR department, as it’s their mess to clean up as usual.

As an amateur programmer, and full time Sys-admin with a little experience in the corporate world, I’ve come up with 2 theories.

1. the conspiracy theory, That Sony made it worth Ubisoft’s while to release a game that they could market on their system without being dwarfed by screenshots of the pc version in it’s E3-like Glory. As much as Console enthusiests say “graphics don’t matter” the worse-modded game looks completely different from the vanilla screenshots.(reminds me of that wii version of NFS hot pursuit they did, it was so comical that nfs never released ont eh wii again.) If the brand new ultra-super-mega-buy-me-buy-me-crystal-clarity-super-consoles came out with such a huge visual disparity this close to launch, there’s a genuine risk people might not buy either console and instead wait and see what the steam boxes have to offer. That’s kind of a long shot, For a developer to risk its reputation to feed the boss’s pockets, though i’d be interested to hear exactly how much money changed hands between Sony and Ubisoft, cause Sony somehow also got movie rights to the Watchdogs IP.

Eh It’s not unheard of, but I’d like to think that sony wouldn’t make such an obvious move.

2.) The more likely theory i’m betting on. The PC version was having serious problems nailing down total stability with its own version, and at some point either before, after, or during the intermediary time the game was delayed, the preliminary PS4 port was the only stable version ( indicated by the original ps4 Dev kit) The Ps4 devkit for those unfamiliar with corporate game developement, is designed to a target spec that will look best on the hardware, so unlike PC dev where they go balls out and say ” here’s how we drew it originally, and here are some quality settings you can fiddle with to find the happy median for you”. COnsole dev will take a devkit and build to the spec of that machine, working with the IPto try and get it to look as good as possible with a known performance ceiling.

Usually this console version won’t have much content above what they expect the machine can handle, because disk space is a premium, they then fiddle with the game until they find the ideal combination of smooth performance and graphical fidelity.

What i think happened, and again this is only a hypothesis on my part, Is that at some point in the shadow of an approaching deadline, That the PS4 Devkit’s became the new lead version, and it was ported back to its PC source, and try to tweak whatever they could graphically from there in patches post launch, and that’s why the files for the original lighting effects and engine configurations were left in the game download, so that if they could manage to create a patched version it could be released in a small update, rather than a large patch requiring several gb of data to be transferred, and still release on time. the press embargo on Watchdogs was longer than usual, The blackout didn’t officially lift until 22 hours after “release hour” for pc reporters at least like pc magazine and totalbiscuit. The game would release on time,and they’d cash in on release day hype and sales.

If this actually happened, It explains how something as elementary as the lack of memory segregation could be overlooked this late into the developement cycle, as the PC dev team would possibly not be as familiar with the specialized tweaks made to the (then offshoot) ps4 port. Again if this were to be the case, the only additional options for the pc player to enable would be those that were disabled as tweaks in the Ps4 dev kit. If this is all a true guess, then the Ubisoft CEO didn’t lie when she said PC was the lead platform, they were telling the truth that they didn’t “downgrade” the pc version, or that the files at the time of the re-port were indeed unstable, and unsuitable for release, at least on the original platform.

If importing them onto the PS4 port’s files did work, in some way as they seem to, then it would give us a glimps as to why the base of the pc version was scrapped and transferred to a modified base used by the ps4 port.

Asuming an emergency shift like this, objective 1 once the re-port was done, would be to take out specific coding that was added for the ps4, but without breaking the game engine in the process, all the while applying whatever pc features they could salvage to the modified engine. That too would explain why it has taken so long for a patch addressing the memory split to arrive, and why the dev team has been so uncharacteristically tight lipped in the wake of what was clearly at best a shaky launch.

By the way if you are still reading, i didn’t actually modify that image, but you looked didn’t you, did you believe me for a moment? just an indication of how similar the versions really are.

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MT. Gox and Bitcoins

MT. Gox and Bitcoins

Bitcoins have been a bit of a hot topic in media lately as all of you will surely know, The biggest headlines of which recently surely include the company Mt. Gox, one of the largest Bitcoin Exchangers.

Mt Gox will be the topic of my brief posting today, as many others have exhausted great efforts to get the facts, such as Hackingdistributed.com, which is always my go to site for the real story as soon as i hear ” hackers stole my credit cards” mentioned on any of the mainstream media.

click on the picture above to be linked to their excellent article alluding to what can firmly be ruled in/ out of the realm of plausibility.

Now, Mt. Gox’s little failing has brought doubt into the concept of crypto currency of course, which is to be expected, But i personally dislike calling the bitcoin an actual currency, it’s more of an asset really.

The use of bitcoins is more like bartering than anything else really, take a moment amongst yourselves to postulate why i would say this.

Times up, The bitcoin has no physical value, literally none, doesn’t exist at all. It’s entire value (similar to currency) is drawn from its value to other people. An analogy i like to use when explaining the concept of a bitcoin to someone is likening it to a coin, a rare collectible coin, or even a postage stamp, or really any collectible.

Imagine a bitcoin is like a defective print penny with lincoln’s head having 6 eyes or something. You could take this coin into any store and spend it as a penny, its value is 1cent, however to a coin collector, this value could be much much higher, stemming into thousands of dollars depending upon the rarity. After some research you find an interested buyer willing to purchase your poorly punched penny to the tune of $5,000. this item now has 2 values, it’s endorsed, regulated CURRENCY value, which guarantees that this backed item will always be worth the amount it depicts (1 cent), and it’s situational value, which is the 5,000 the buyer you’ve found is willing to pay.

I think you should be able to see now the difference between currency, and an asset. an asset is only ever worth it’s value to the buyer, Currency on the other hand is worth what it’s creator and backer DECREES that it is worth, and promises for all of time that if you return it to its source, that its value will be the same.

So now, we’ve got the difference between an asset and a currency pretty well defined. Lets look at the qualities of a bitcoin.

A bitcoin is worth exactly what the buyers and sellers say it is. the source of a bitcoin isn’t ever going to guarantee that if you buy a bitcoin for 5$ that if you return it you will get your $5 back, So a bitcoin is just that, an Asset, It has value, but it is not a DEFINED value much less a BACKED value.

So what could possibly make a bitcoin with no guaranteed value attract so much interest and attention to the point where it is actually USED as currency? Well, for the exact reason that it is an asset, not a currency. It is not federally regulated, It is not taxed ( though it is technically an asset which needs to be listed for tax purposes) and most of all it is secure, from the perspective of theft anyway.

The online world is a completely different monster from the cash based world we grew up with. Before online shopping, you handed cash currency to store keepers in exchange for goods and services, which is about as secure as you can get, unless it is physically take from you.

Credit cards came along and made online shopping possible, but presented for the first time the issue of sending secure data over the internet. No petty challenge indeed.

Here comes another analogy, imagine you’re sitting at long feast table, you are at one end and the king of the land, amazon is at the other end. You cannot simply get up and walk over to the king or his guards will have you slain, so your only option is to pass your credit card to him along the table, hoping along the way that nobody pulls out a piece of paper and jotts down that all important number. What needs to be done is to have your information passed along in such a way that nobody else can alter or get any information from it.

Thats where the bitcoin excels A bitcoin may not have a set value, but it is secure. it consists of two keys, the first key is passed along the table and anyone could indeed write it down and try to claim it, however nothing changes hands until you recieve your notification that someone tries to claim it,, see the account number of whoever is claiming it, which you can confirm belongs to king amazon, and then type in your OWN password key, that has never left you.

without both of these keys a bitcoin cannot change hands, and therefore nobody’s assets are transferred.

For the holder of the coin and the recipient it could not be more direct and protected, however much like real currency, You need a bank, a place where the bulk of your money is stored and handled, and an account exists with your name on it whose ledger says you have 12 bitcoins. Enter MT Gox, who act as the Bitcoin equivalent of a bank, your coins sit safely in their vault until such a time as you go to claim them.

Needless to say, security At Mt. Gox needs to be just as stringent as any other place that holds assets for its customers. Mt. Gox did not have that, Lackluster security and poor practices abounded, and as a result their vault was robbed, completely outside the consumer’s hands. Just like any credit card company, bank, or loan provider, They are tasked with protecting your assets, and MT. Gox failed to do so.

In reality the failure of MT. Gox has nothing to do with the plausability of the bitcoin concept, it was merely a bank that left it’s vault open with doors unlocked and the security cameras turned off.

A lot of fault likes to be assigned by mainstream media onto their new favorite scapegoats ” Mysterious computer hackers” which often fills me with fury, because it spreads the message that. ” These poor poor businesses that did nothing wrong and some horrible life destroying hacker came in and ravaged our virgin data.” when really, the blame falls to the companies offering the services.

Why do you store Money in a bank rather than under your matress? Because you know that if your house burns down, the money is safe in the bank, protected. So that someone robbing the place gets ahold of only petty cash and not your life savings safely stashed away at the bank.

That is what you are paying credit card companies, companies that ACCEPT credit cards, and bitcoin holders for. I firmly place 90% of the blame for high profile “hacks” such as the sony debaucle, the christmas credit card gathering at target, and now the coin loss from Mt. Gox on the companies that promise to protect your data, and failed, (through gross neglegience.)

If you don’t take steps to protect my data, what the hell am i paying you for?

What Verizon is now allowed to do

AS of today, Verizon Internet is no longer bound by the laws of net neutrality,

What is net Neutrality? Net neutrality essentially says that an ISP can sell connection to the internet, but not sell its content. Essentially this is what separates Cable service from internet service.

I fully condone that these ISP’s are businesses that need to make money, and they ARE! If you want to charge me more for a fast connection? fine by me. I currently pay for nearly the top tier of service my ISP provides, which costs me $1100 a year. which I don’t even contest, I pay for the service it is their right to charge me whatever they want. As their consumer I have the choice to either pay for their service, or to go elsewhere.

HOWEVER, I REFUSE to accept any ISP that charges me extra for content that IS NOT THEIRS. Netflix, youtube, facebook, google…. these aren’t things my cable company owns, or supports in ANY way. In what way should they be able to chop it up like cable and then sell it back to us on top of what we already pay to access it.

http://www.theverge.com/2014/1/14/5309268/comcast-verizon-and-others-promise-net-neutrality-ruling-wont-hurt

this site shows each of the major IPS’s current standing on net neutrality.

Verizon’s response is quite vague and filled with buzz words, but responses from time warner and Comcast are a bit softer. I’ll be watching my bill and internet access closely for a while.

I only wish i was a verizon service holder so i could call them right now and cancel it. I am a consumer, I am willing to pay what’s fair for what i want. If they want to charge me $90 a month for their high speed “BLAST!” package, fine by me, i PAY for the bandwidth, I RECIEVE the bandwidth. I can’t dispute that, but now they can charge for how fast AND to what i can connect? buddy stop right damn there?

Bullshit… bullshit, bullshit BULLSHIT!

I hope that the big boys like google and youtube REFUSE to pay the isp’s for their “FAST LANE”

How can we stop it though?
Well if the biggest contenders,
Netflix 32%
Youtube 19%
Bit Torrent 4%
Itunes 3.3%
Amazon 2%
facebook 1.3%
hulu 1.3%

refuse to pay the isp’s more for this “fast lane” service then it will prove to have no benefit whatsoever to 76% of all internet usage. If of course they get slowed down, like of course the isp’s are claiming they WOULDN’T do. well then all they’ve accomplished is slowing down the internet, and hopefully a new isp that DOESN’T employ such tactics will rise in popularity, such as google fiber.

We can’t afford not to act on this one guys and girls, we need to be active, we need to get involved to remind these giants that we are customers, not brainless consumers.

Steam Box Beta units have shipped. and I like what i’m seeing.

steamboxAlright, I’m going to have to start RIGHT off the bat with three bright shiny disclaimers

1. this image is from Ifixit.com because it is simply beautifully laid out, I love their articles check them out.

2. I am not PERSONALLY one of the lucky 300 beta testers to receive a box, again i am using photos and info on HARDWARE from IFIXIT. I am currently running a live version of Steam OS however though so i can gladdy claim to have first hand experience there.

3. I am UTTERLY biased, here, any regular readers will know that i am HEAVILY biased in the direction of PC gaming, and furthermore could not be more in bed with Steam/ Valve. I’ve been playing their games and using their software since counterstrike, and am still quite happy to buy anything shiny they place in front of me and can show me that i want.

now that that’s all covered lets dig in.

 

Since this is a beta I’d like to focus primarily on 3  main areas, Hardware, Software, and Impact.

 

HARDWARE – 9.5 / 10

The picture above illustrates one of the beta units given to IFIXIT.com  fully disassembled, and i was almost GIDDY when i saw it. The outside box isn’t anything groundbreaking to write home about, but these guts are a thing of absolute beauty.

ifixit-steam-machine-teardown-linux-gaming-deskop-pc-610x462

Now Someone else might be looking at this right now and saying what’s so great about it, but compare it to this disassembled PS4 and perhaps you’ll see a bit better what i mean.

Y1cIvgG3uIhTQsYN.medium

If you’re looking at this and seeing just two indiscriminate piles of computer parts then let me expand.  Everything in the ps4 except the hard drive and arguably the disk drive are completely one off and unique, if something breaks you’re replacing everything, and upgrade ability is little more then a laughable topic in this device.

The steam box on the other hand (except for that marvelous little motherboard which i feel sure will be available for purchase elsewhere) is off the shelf, 100% consumer purchasable parts, standard pc parts to be precise. want to upgrade your processor a year later? rock on bro, that’s a 100% market standard LGA1155 processor slot. new graphics cards come out and you wanna be on the cutting edge with the PC elitists? That’s just a riser card with a PCI express 3.0 x16 slot bro, pick any one you like. The steambox has done amazingly to create a completely modular PC that fits under your tv, which is what i’ve been dreaming of for a decade now.

 

SOFTWARE – 7/10

as mentioned in the disclaimer above, I wasn’t chosen to be a hardware beta tester, however the beta operating system is available for free download in multiple locations and is completely open to the public to test, so I did. I’ve been using the software on a specialized machine i built for precisely this purpose ( CORE i3-4330, 8 GB DDR3, EVGA GTX 660) The software runs pretty well, and you’ll be pleased to note that it is essentially a mirror image of steam big picture mode, tit for tat i see no difference in the end user experience whatsoever.

if you want to see for yourself what it’s going to look like just download or open your steam client and click big picture mode on the top right, couldn’t be much simpler really.

Within the software you have a really neat display of all your steam games as well as access to the steam store to buy more games. a very well integrated friends and chat system, and the steam web browser which i can confirm supports streaming video from 3rd party sites such as youtube, Hulu, netflix, vimeo, and other sites.

It is worth nothing that many “free streaming” sites like funimation.com,. crunchyroll, and DAiyusuke work as well, in addition to the copyright skirting sites such as streetfire.net, veoh.com, animefreak.tv, etc. I found no instances where video would not play, though sites that incur pop ups or pop-out video are a tad tricky to address, because of the way the steam browser handles tabs.

Right now I believe the OS is worthy of a 7/10 rating because of its wide compatibility, ease of use, and its open source code which always scores big points by me, as well as it’s openness to the public regarding its features and willingness to recieve consumer feedback. Once AMD support is added i feel confident giving the OS an 8/10, it is still in beta of course, so i don’t expect amd driver support to be far behind, but i can’t consciously give it an 8 without those features, or some sort of software manager like the one actually housed in the parent OS Ubuntu, or a way to reach  full linux desktop.

The Biggest risk right now is the need for linux support for the games, which will only come with sufficient interest. very few games are working with this new OS yet, and hopefully this continues to grow, but this is again a concern.

 

IMPACT – tough at this point

It will have to be seen that the same build methods shown in the beta units are what actually hit your living room.

it will have to be seen if the Steam OS is considered by developers when creating the game given that all consoles still run on xx6 architecture

it will have to be seen the final price and performance of these machines

most importantly, if the console market can be struck by these boxes.

 

The biggest question can only be answered with releases and there are tons of possible answers, but what do YOU think will come of the steambox.

 

Knowledge is power… and also a curse…

Knowledge is power... and also a weakness...

To take a break from PC gaming which seems to be in a slight lull at this time, I want to talk about something I’ve been made aware of recently. I’ve encountered a strong weakness in my character, that seems to have stemmed from last year’s new years resolution.

Last year around this time I had just gotten back into hanging regularly with two of my friends that i was super tight with in high school, One of them whom went on to accomplish my dream of becoming an experimental physicist, and is currently employed at an un-named military proving ground. The other an accomplished computer programmer/ studying soon to be PHD physicist in training. With my friends return My love of physics and science was reignited, and we talked regularly in great length on the topics of science and chemistry. Unfortunately, my time and brainpower diverted to computer science caused a bit of a knowledge gap between their understanding and my own university trained minds. Last year I resolved to spend this year with the ever present intention of closing that gap, at least conceptually, the math is still to follow. My goal was to understand the concepts to the point where at least i could hold a conversation with them about the topics we all three were passionate about without having to duck out when things got involved, I was willing to accept that I’d need to put in a lot of work to accomplish the math proficiency BACKING these concepts, but at least i could follow the concepts presented.

To my surprise, by April i had begun to consider my goal nearly complete, there were few concepts I could not grasp, and those were concepts being submitted by men and women at the top of their fields in the medical industry and those being proven and dis-proven by those incredibly lucky fellows operating incredibly sophisticated equipment like the LHC in CERN. I felt somewhat proud imagining that I in some small way I was privy to ideas that had been derived by the greatest minds humanity can currently offer.

It was an amazing feeling, conceptualizing in my mind the world around me. The mere thought that i am just a joining of incomprehensible numbers of atoms interacting with countless others, I am using the term countless here because the numbers are so large that i would spend my whole day typing out the number of atoms in this desk on which my keyboard sits.

For those that are curious about this in terms of actual numbers  at the end of this post beneath the segregation line I worked out an estimative calculation below, but without any of the math using numbers and symbols that can be extremely intimidating, I was able to gain a simple understanding of the incredibly complex and breathtaking world around us. It felt to me like i was looking down a long seemingly infinite hallway, and with every new concept i encountered the small click of an unlocking tumbler mechanism rings out, and the soft creak of a long sealed door being opened invites me forth into another idea i wish to understand completely.

Occasionally a door opens to a broom closet,  or a small room with maybe a closet inside it, but most of the time these doors branch off into their own seemingly infinite hallways, filled with even more doors. patiently waiting to quench my thirst for that soft click that it holds tightly from me.  It’s like a Game, the best game. Every day my mind investigates and analyzes the world around me, it’s purposes to gather the pieces and clues to solve the puzzles within. This puzzle is the greatest puzzle, the puzzle of human knowledge that no one challenger could ever solve alone. Some might argue that challenging an unsolvable puzzle is an exercise in futility, but i disagree. I proudly accept that i can never finish this puzzle, but there are a lot of people out there happily sharing the pieces they’ve found, maybe with enough of us puzzling together, we’ll compile enough pieces to figure out what the resulting image is.

getting enough pieces to solve this puzzle is a lifelong dream, one which encompasses all subjects and topics. Really the goal should be considered ultimate universal knowledge, but by any stretch, there also seems to be a clear disadvantage to my mentality as well.
Internally, knowledge brings me great joy, but as i progress along this path, i feel the separation that knowledge seems to bring.

I am a compilation of molecules, a congregation with a quantity so large that the english language doesn’t even have numbers to describe them outside repetition or scientific abbreviation.  I am a vibrating mass of particles walking among fleshy creatures who neither know, nor wish to know what they are made of. They paint their ignorance on a flag and wave it in front of them proudly as they repeat the process their ancestors did of life and death. in pursuit of what matters most to them.  You know not what you are, how can you know what you want? You antagonize me for being a vibrating mass of particles, and not a human like you. Your twisted desire for self elevation causes you to believe your own words when you say you are above me.

I look upon your endless quest to feed your brain the molecules the organ itself produces.  How can you be so happy knowing that all the joy you receive from doing useless or counterproductive things, in the pursuit of “happiness” is just chemicals circulating in your brain. Some would call this motivation practice preservative to the species, but I would argue. A preservation system that issues reward for destructive acts, can never be considered preservative.

To consider your life more than empty is simply cruel optimism.
You deliberately manipulate others for a splash of Oxytocin.
You wrack your body seeking Endocannabinoids.
You regularly generate conflict to fill your Endorphin thirst.
You happily spread misery and pain for a few micrograms of Seratonin.
You harm others  for a mathematically insignificant secretion of Adrenaline.
You fight, assault, and kill one another for that tiny blast of dopamine.

Is it worth it? are those nanogram secretions enough for you to justify your actions? is momentary happiness really something you are willing to destroy yourselves for? Is a moment of chemical pleasure worth more than the consequences of your actions? not just on yourself but on others?

To those that answered yes to all those questions. Allow me to assign a value to your life. Nothing. I’d liken you to dirt beneath the feet of productive society, but dirt is more valuable than you. Dirt was once rock and organic matter that make up this planet, and continues it’s service nurturing our crops and giving us something to stand on.

To those willing to harm others in pursuit of this chemical fulfillment, the value of your life is directly correlative to the equation I’ve just invented

You= (caloric energy@ time of death + positive behavioral impact)  – (Lifetime caloric intake + suffering you’ve caused as a result of your chemical dependence + energy spent promoting negative behavioral practice)

 

My perception has changed, I can see exactly why you do what you do. As the title indicates, it’s a curse. Idealism in religion conveys feelgoodery and lies through their manufactured messages.  It’s a nice band-aid to help people cope with the fact that no one can come out positive on the formula I’ve presented.  But there’s one thing that Religion always promises but can never deliver. Reason.

Through the world around us, we have been able to examine exactly how and why our bodies work the way they do, morality is an ideological concept that bonds tightly to our physical state, so it’s not completely unfounded, but as I said, my perception has changed, Religion isn’t a safety belt, it’s a scapegoat. It is a man made device created to make us feel like all that bad things in the world are not our fault, when really it is.

knowledge really can feel like a curse, a worthwhile curse, but a curse that comes with truth and understanding.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DISCALIMER NUMBERS BELOW ALL ROUNDED TO 3 DECIMAL PLACES, so consider this number an EXTREME estimate
_____________________________________________________________________________
for example, using the following equation one can simply calculate a rough estimate of the number of atoms making up your human head right now.

# of molecules = N * (density) * volume / (Molecular Weight).

N in this formula represents a Scientific constant also known as Avogadro’s number 6.022*10^23. This is the number of atoms in a given mole of ANY substance.

Now the human Body varies incredibly, but it is universally accepted that when it’s all averaged out, we posses roughly the density of Water. So moving on, lets break down water a little further to get the numbers we need.
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Fun fact, Water is the simplest substance to use in this formula, because 1 cubic centimeter of water ways exactly 1 gram, that’s not just some crazy coincidence,  the kilogram and the liter are linked measures DEVELOPED using water as it’s base. when science was still in its infancy it was mandated
A kilogram- shall be defined as the weight of 1 liter of water.
A Liter-shall be defined as the volume of space 1 kilogram of water occupies.   thus the universally observed metric system was born.
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

So back to the math, Water as we know is made of 3 atoms, 2 hydrogen atoms, and 1 oxygen atom.

Hydrogen has an atomic weight of 1 while Oxygen’s is 16. so  simple arithmetic dictates that weight per molecule of 18.
meaning 1000 ml of water /18=55.556 moles.  from there we plug in the constant to find out the actual number of molecules in a liter of water
6.022*1023 * 55.556 = 3.346*1025
so how are we doing, we now have
# of molecules = N * (density) * volume / (Molecular Weight).*
# of molecules = N * (1kg/m^3)* volume / (18grams/mole)

almost there, now some quick googling found that an average head weighs 10 lbs, which brought into PROPER scientific terms, is 4,540 grams. since we’re working with the miracle substance of water here, we know that  4,540 grams of water occupies 4,540 cm^3 which conveniently divides to 1/1

# of molecules = N * (1kg/1m^3)* (4,540 cm^3) / (18)
# of molecules = N * (4,540cm^3) / (18g/mole)
# of molecules = N * (252.22)
substituting the actual constant of N back in time to get our answer
# of molecules = (6.022*10^23) * (252.22)# of molecules =1.519*1026

don’t forget now, the whole question was how many ATOMS are in the head, so since Water (H2O) has 3 atoms, multoply your result by that number

# of atoms= (#of molecules) * (atoms/molecule)
so that comes to 4.56*1026 

Now I personally have a squabble with scientific notation because as values get extremely large all sense of scale is lost, so lets turn this into an actual number  as we humans would normally write it.
456,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. that’s 456 quintillion, AKA 456 trillion TRILLION atoms.

pretty crazy huh?

 

 

 

 

Attack on Titan, It has the potential to become one of the greats, at least I think so.

Since I’m currently boycotting some of the latest games because of their horrific porting practices, I’ve been spending a good deal of time watching anime with my fiance, and there are ALOT of great animes out there, special mentions to some of them, Aria of the scarlet ammo, Aesthetics of a rogue hero, and Infinite Stratos which all gain my glad recommendation. This however is about a relatively new Anime called Attack on Titan, a pretty recent anime ( original run from april 6, 2013 to sept 28, 2013) That grabbed me tightly and through great story telling and innovative concept enthralled me to the extent that i scrambled for the controller to cue the next episode as soon as the end credits started.

I’ve deliberately put off watching this anime until it was completed, because i am the kind of person that doesn’t do well waiting to see what happens next, so when i saw that it was completed and on Hulu i knew that the time had come.

The premise of the anime Is that giant creatures dubbed “titans” which eat humans simply for fun became the dominant force of earth, causing all of humanity (or at least all of humanity that this established group of humans knows of) to take refuge within a city consisting of three concentric 50 meter tall  walls:  Maria, Rose, and Sina. Within the Walls humanity survives for a hundred years unmolested by the titans, except for the military group known as the scouts, whom lead expeditions outside the walls with little to no success, and frequently facing fearfully high mortality rates. Humans go as far as worshiping the walls as their Protective Gods as even the monstrous 15 meter class titans can’t reach them, That is at least until a 60 meter tall “colossal titan” appears in a bolt of lightning to destroy the gate and overrun the Human civilization, orphaning our main character  Eren Yeager (Jeager) who vows to join the military to destroy the titans and find out what lies outside the walls behind which humanity has hidden for the last century. Humanity is forced to abandon the wall maria and take refuge behind wall Rose. With their sense of untouchability shattered, the remaining humans are at constant political odds, debating whether to fortify the walls and completely seal the gates to the outside world  so that even the Colossal titan couldn’t breech them, or  to continue as they are and fortify their forces to try and reclaim the wall maria.

The anime follows the path of Eren and the friends he gained in his military training as they try to survive, and against all odds, hopefully prevail against the Titans.

Diverting now from facts to opinion, attack on Titan has some incredible writing, and tremendously original concepts. This anime has a tight rope to walk as fantasy aspect of the titans balances with the militaristic principles of humanity in its losing battle.  Quite impressively, it does this spectacularly, the titans are monstrosities with immeasurable strength, which demonstrate their role exceptionally as a seemingly insurmountable threat to the existence of humanity, and amplifying the feeling of risk that the soldiers are fighting to protect, which is the remaining portion of humanity’s existence.  The level of detail and explanation demonstrated is really superb, extending even to insert slides with interesting information and facts about titans, the walls, and the devices humanity uses to fight back.  The pace of story telling along with these details facilitate the feelings of human vulnerability, and reinforce the classing of humanity as the underdogs in any confrontation with the titans.

Now, excellent writing and original concepts are relatively plentiful in the ever growing library of animes that for most of us are only a few clicks away, so I couldn’t blame you for asking at this point what really sets this apart from other great options. To that question I can present a few itemized reasons that I submit Attack on Titan for consideration alongside the hallowed anime A-List.

  • First of all, All the humans feel like just humans, there is difference in human ability, but nothing ridiculous, you know what to expect from the humans, and their basic capabilities. This level of expectation allows for the demise of humanity to remain a valid danger, and backs up the feeling of the Humans being underdogs.
  • The Humans have a special weapon against titans, the 3-d maneuvering device, which gives them a fighting chance to reach the titan’s  weak spot at the back if their necks. With this device, a few swords, cannons, and only flare guns to communicate, The humans attempt to hold their own against the advancing titans. I cannot overstate how happy i am with the realism and level of detail Attack on Titan employs on everything from the 3d maneuvering device, to complex military maneuvers and concepts ( i was speechless watching the scout regiment’s long-range reconnaissance formation in action.)  It’s all sensible and incredibly creative, there could have been big cop-outs here, but there were not, and I appreciate that.
  • The titans themselves are largely not understood, they can vary wildly even the characters fighting them clearly do not fully understand them.  This isn’t a revolutionary story telling tool, but it is still great when used well, and this is a great example of perfected use of that tool.
  • The overall sense of reality, characters act “Human”. Corruption and fear-mongering present themselves realistically and do well to add to the sense of uncertainty in both the characters and the viewer. It does well to capture the sensation of soldiers blindly following orders they do not understand, and later justifying them clearly as Commanding Officers reveal information, and explain WHY that information was to remain hidden in the first place.
  • It’s Focused, there is one story, and one objective. I really Like the feeling of importance this assigns to the titan threat.  There is one solid feeling through the anime, that rises and falls naturally through the flow of the story, but never to “off the wall levels”.
  • Doesn’t feel like typical anime-
    Now this usually isn’t something I would consider a major standout point, but combined with the clear focus and demonstrative story telling, I am extremely glad that this took on such a serious tone.  There are none of the common anime quirks , except maybe from Sasha on occasion, but even they are rather reserved.  What this means is that people who are usually turned off by the concept of anime because of the strange behavior of it’s characters will still like it.  There is no chibi/Kawaii/harem feel to this anime at all, almost to the point of feeling western, but still demonstrating that epic storytelling that the east is known for.

The final point i listed is my biggest, and somewhat favorite point of Attack on Titan.  In that it doesn’t FEEL like an anime, it just feels like an incredible story told with great animation, and in a way that would just be simply impossible in a live action setting.  This is a feature somewhat shared by Sword Art Online where the eastern influence is similarly muffled, but clearly present.  For this reason, I have simply recommended Sword Art Online and Attack on Titan to more people, because lets face it, all of us have friends that aren’t super into anime, and there are a few animes that no matter how much we enjoy them run the risk of getting you looked at weirdly if you recommend them to someone not into that sort of thing. A good example of this would be one of my current favorite animes, Highschool DxD.  Personally i thought DxD was more entertaining to me than Attack on Titan, however excluding this blog, I have recommended DxD to exactly 6 people, where as I’m somewhere between 30-40 people I’ve recommended Attack on Titan to.

People have different tastes and that’s something we need to accept in this lifetime. So if you’re someone who likes good story telling and really interesting story concepts, but are really not into really eastern things like fanservice, chibi, ecchi, “kawaii”, etc, i really suggest you check this one out, even if you’re not usually into anime at all, just think of it as an animated version of the film “Independence Day”.  If that’s you, and you do by some chance check it out and like it, let me know, because my favorite thing to hear is.” You know, I usually don’t enjoy that anime stuff, but I liked this.” Almost feels like you’ve opened up someones mind a bit, ya know?

also if you’ve read this whole thing, thanks

The impact of new consoles on PC gaming right now.

The impact of new consoles on PC gaming right now.

Okay It’s been nearly a month now since I’ve found motivation to write something here, not at all because I haven’t been playing, but because the culture has changed in a way that i am not fond of, and there is enough negativity on the internet already.  Right now so much stock is being placed on what you are playing ON that it stopped being about the most important thing in gaming, which is of course GAMES ( i think i can say that pretty factually considering it’s what the franchise is all about) no matter what’s displaying images on your tv/ computer screen, or whether you jump with A,X or a space-bar, we buy these devices to do one thing, and that’s play games (unless you’re buying a ps3 as a media server, in which case good on ya, but why are you reading this?)

NO ONE can argue that the new devices are driving a spike between the community, of course they always have, but this is unprecedentedly bad.  I think part of it is that it’s pleasing to us psychologically to argue about something fun for a change, rather than arguing about taxation and legislation, we can read up and argue about something FUN for a change. it’s a matter of personal preference on the most open forum to ever exist, the internet.It’s par for the course really, it’s been this way ever since the release of the ps3/xbox 360 in 2006, I even remember being 11 years old in the year 2000 studying up on the consoles as they were released and having to pick a side.  Most of us are already tired of hearing it really, personally i have a feeling that the XBone will be the better device, but that’s unimportant. What matters is that the release of these systems has DESTROYED several games with their hype and marketing,

Surely over the last year or so, Microsoft and Sony have been sitting on game publisher’s heads to make sure the game runs well on their console, specially weighed texture definitions, painstakingly balanced graphics settings to try and obtain that perfect balance of pretty but playable that console systems have spent the last 15 years battling with. That’s fine really, It’s your console… your baby… as is evident right now, when consoles launch there are only a few titles available for them, and it is really up to these games to sell the system, it’s a lot of pressure, so naturally great time and effort are spent polishing those items, but at the cost of other things. often gigantic costs.  So it’s clear that PC ports are probably not going to be the top priority right now, which is odd because 3.4 billion more dollars were spend on pc games in 2012 than all consoles combined [source:destructoid]

Still makes sense though, because right now the sales of consoles are going to be reliant on launch titles, so I’ll let it slide if the PC ports aren’t especially innovative right now, I CANNOT forgive, however, games that aren’t even FUNCTIONAL as PC ports. Now if you’re a console gamer or just not an avid pc gamer in general the term “PC port” should probably be elaborated upon for the purpose of my writing here under my own definition

a PC port, is a term assigned to a game that was clearly designed with consoles in mind and then “ported” to PC at a time long after creation.  They are held to a high standard and judged very differently by many reviewers, therefore the accusation of being a bad PC port  is thrown around somewhat loftily, somewhat masking the issue.  I think this is a bad practice, because it makes pc gamers look like “master race” snobs, shich sadly some are.  Below are some examples of GOOD PC ports in my opinion, with absolutely no regard to the actual gameplay content whatsoever, this is strictly based on the port quality.

 

Call of Duty Black Ops 2: an excellent PC port if i ever saw one, some may bash the call of duty series, but that doesn’t matter, The pc version of this game is excellently ported, one of the best I’ve experienced.

  • built in FOV slider at release (85) with an update promised to patch it to a higher cap (delivered 3 days later to 95)
  • Good sound quality settings allowing those of us with unique sound setups to compensate for it appropriately ( i don’t mean sound whoring, just balancing volumes and supporting 5.1)
  • mouse optimized menus, and numeric representation for mouse sensitivity (thank you so much treyarch, really it’s dumb but thank you for making it so i just have to choose 9.5 when i got to another pc)
  • really good keymapping options ( included both toggle and hold options for many things which is a big plus with me)
  • Excellent optimization and feature rich video options
    • Already mentioned FOV slider
    • Optional Vsync
    • Built in user changeable framerate lock. (30,60,120, unlimited)
    • Video options accessible while in game and can be changed at any time including mid match

     

Crysis 2: Judged as a bad port by many, just because it didn’t push the technology of the time, but i think that was just because it was so well optimized,  overall a great port.

  • variable FOV
  • good sound settings
  • good graphical settings
  • absolutely outsanding optimization, anyone with a $150+ card could run this at max settings 60 fps, and it looked great
  • “ultra high res” texture packs as day 1 DLC (free to anyone with the game)

I think that should illustrate the features of a GOOD port, now lets see a list of the new console Triple-A  launch titles shall we?

Assassin’s creed Black FlagBattlefield 4
Need for speed Rivals
Call of Duty Ghosts

I’ve played 3 of these 4 so far, because black flag doesn’t come out until the 22nd, and unfortunately the laws of time still say it’s the 21st here.  I was quite excited for this line up of blockbuster titles all at once, even informed my boss ” for the next two weeks in case your wondering, no I’m not on drugs, there are just a lot of games coming out. Good, lord , it’s just upsetting really, there seems to be NO care tossed into the PC ports whatseover.

Battlefield 4: performance issues, hitbox detection issues, frame dropping, and poor optimization topped off with a 3/5 crash liklihood in game which will take from you all xp and unlocks gained through the match. I have faith in dice however, because similar issues presented themselves in Battlefield 3, and were solved in a reasonable timeframe , so odds are it’ll be fixed in the comings weeks.

Need for speed Rivals: I was looking forward to this game, really i was, Need for speed hot pursuit was something amazing and i was looking for that again. I was excited beyond belief at the possibility of playing online and busting other racers, and of course myself trying to outrun any cop that thought they could collar me, It is with great sorrow that I must refuse to buy this game, as it is the only message we can possibly send to this company. Unskippable cutscenes, LOTS of them, and absolutely zero keyboard and mouse optimization, ( which didn’t bother me because i was using a controller, but it’s still there and dumb) make menus infuriating to navigate without a gamepad or controller, Insulting tutorials that make the first 3 hours more of a game of simon says than a racing game, and a COMPLETELY unplayable online community have forced me to steer clear of this one.
The framerate in this is capped at 30, which is annoying, but not the end of the world, I’d even be willing to tolerate this really, if not for the absolute CRUSHING failure that it brings with it. there is a console command that can be run to change the framerate lock, but it has the hilarious side effect of doubling the speed of the game, which is kinda cool and funny in single player, because your car is traveling twice as fast as it should so any pursuit becomes laughably easy. That’d be fine though, i can just play at 30 fps.  Unfortunately online however, It is filled with people playing with unlocked fps, I’ve seen instances of supercars flying by other players at what must be speeds approaching the sound barrier, it ruins the game having cops that can fly in at 600mph and total your car in a single impact or take you out with near-instant lock on emp. Of course it’s equally impossible to catch a racer doing 400 mph when your police issue lamborghini murcialago can only do a paltry 202.
This can’t be fixed either because the frame rate is directly tied to game play-speed within the program, there is absolutely no way for Ghost labs to fix this issue, which is ultra-depressing, because this game’s online feature  AI Drive looks amazing.

Last but not the most oderous turd in the pile of dogshit that are the PC ports of the console launch titles

Call of Duty Ghosts: this one cuts me to the core, because i bought this on day of release, and i was ultra excited to get in on the ground level of the new call of duty, unlike black ops two where I joined at the end of the cycle and every person i play against has prestiged at least twice. What i got was Ghosts, easily the worst functioning game i’ve ever played ( this includes ride to hell retribution).

  • AWFUL optimization, I play on my rig which has an I7 4770k 16 gb of ram, and 2 Xfx hd7870 black edition Overclocked Graphics cards, not the most impressive array possible, I know, but by normal means, a machine that should play ANY game with no problem ( battlefield 3 117fps ultra settings, black ops 2 flutters between 190 and 200) so expecting 60 fps out of Ghosts seems like a fair request to me.
  • mouse acceleration issues  (bad ones) unless every time you launch the game you open up task manager and set memory priority to normal.
  • A memory leak that over the course of 1-2 hours of play can completely fill up 8 gb of ram,and cause the system to start pagefiling
  • horrible game connections, it is getting better, but on day one, i was getting more kills holding down fire and spinning then i was actually shooting “at” people
  • random frame dropping and freezing including in menus
  • artifacting and texture issues that are rather rare, only seen them a few times, but when they pop up they block out entire screen and force you to restart the game.
  • framerate lock at 90, so on a 120 hz monitor vsync is pointless.
  • vsync doesn’t actually work, it still tears frames even at 60 and 60
  • NO FOV OPTIONS, LOCKED AT 65 which make me physically ill playing the game, especially combined with the fish eye effects of sniper rifle scopes ( activision suing FOV mod creators)
  • random crashing and freezing
  • single volume slider, which means for me to hear anything at all around me (including other players gunshots) I need to turn it up to the point where my own gunshots are deafening, i played one match like this and my ears were ringing by the time the match ended.
  • gameplay effecting glitches, such as diving below floor and shooting people from under the map

I could go on for a few more pages about all the things that make me want to go visit infinity ward and cut the game disc into shards and start inserting the shards into people’s eyeballs, but I am getting angry just remembering all the things that make me hate  that i spend 60 dollars on this. I have been online regularly hoping for updates or patches, and the most players I’ve seen online at any one time is 8,000, comparatively at 7pm est last night there were 2,800 playing call of duty black ops 2.

 

so there you have it, The new consoles are apparently diverting so much time and apparent necessity for polishing that the games i play are drastically suffering, I feel somewhat justified holding that against the console makers really, their competition is drawing so many resources that game developers are forced to try and cater to them, and it’s hurting game quality in the process. I don’t care what pops up on your screen when you grap your controller, mouse, flight stick, whatever, but I do care about marketing tactics forcing the release of crappy games that make more money from pre-sales, than they will on actual sales, because people reealize it’s utter crap once the press embargo is lifted.