Wednesday, October 27, 2004

A few Super Mario clones | Morrowind Mods I like

Welcome back to the ultimate Modblog gaming site. Today, you’ve all asked me, but here I go with the latest Super Mario Freeware on the Internet today. Of course, the ultimate Super Mario game didn’t appear on PC by chance…but I can say if found itself on my PC. My favorite is still emulating Super Mario 64. That’s right, it’s far better than any of these 2D clones. However, second place can be pretty difficult to judge. There are so many versions.

Here are some clones I found:

Super Mario Forever 2.16 – I know the name is kind of stupid, but it’s based on the SNES upgrade in Super Mario All Stars of Super Mario 3. The only thing is it’s easily the best freeware game with Mario in it. I beat it and it’s easily the better freeware ones you can download. Polish developers made this game. The levels get more interesting as the game progresses. I recommend this game.

Graphics 10/10 (excellent)
Gameplay 9/10 (uses near perfect platform mechanics)
Sound 10/10 (he got the best Mario fan-made remixes on the net and put it in the game)
Original 6/10 (not too original, but it’s a Mario game)
Download Size 18 MB (very large for a game staring Mario)
Super Mario Forever 2.16

Super Mario XP 1.3 – I’ve known this one for about a year now. It’s a brilliant mix of Mario, mushroom world and Castlevania. For one, mushroom world never looked so dark. The graphics are rendered after SMB1 for NES. This is the only mature Mario of the bunch. Craving a Mario game with blood? You got it. Mario explodes when he dies – literally. Score 8.0/10

Graphics 6/10 (great)
Gameplay 8/10 (above average)
Sound 9/10 (great Mario remixes)
Original 6/10 (not too original, but it’s a Mario game)
Download Size 5 MB (great size for the features)
Super Mario XP

Super Mario Worlds – basically a new game based on Super Mario All Stars graphics. It’s okay, but I like Super Mario Forever much more.

Graphics 8.5/10 (great)
Gameplay 8/10 (above average)
Sound 9/10 (great Mario remixes)
Original 6/10 (not too original, but it’s a Mario game)
Download Size 5 MB (great size for the features)

Super Mario Kamek's Revenge 2.6 – a playable, but slow version of any Super Mario game. This game is probably not worth your time. I find it funny that this game is so bad after version 2.6. Haha!

Graphics 5/10 (just bad)
Gameplay 7/10 (has potential)
Sound 8/10 (has potential)
Original 6/10 (not too original, but it’s a Mario game)
Download Size 1.5 MB (tiny)

South Park Mario Enhanced 1.0 – Probably the oldest of all the freeware games. South Park Mario replaces Mario with Kenny, a South Park character, but everything else from Super Mario Bros. stays the same. Worst of all - it’s shareware! You’re better off finding a NES emulator and playing the rom. First version came out in 1999.
South Park Mario Enhanced 1.0 Download page

South Park Mario 2 – Sequel to South Park Mario. This version has Kenny star in Super Mario Bros 2. Unlike the original, Kenny is the only playable character. Super Mario Bros 2 was okay, I just didn’t like it as much as the original.

South Park Mario 2 Download page

If Mario doesn’t excite you, I advise you to check out the new fan based improvements for the forgotten RPG, Morrowind. I’m impressed at the new face models. It looks like this designer succeeded in making faces that look a lot better with lower polygon count than the original ones. Morrowind Facial Improvements. The surprise is with all the upgrades, Morrowind may look as pretty as Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion coming out next year. Khalazza Productions has a great update texture zip file. It updates all the existing textures in the game except for characters.

I am going to re-install Morrowind and apply all upgrades I downloaded within the last 2 years tonight. True, Morrowind is a slightly out-dated RPG, but it still looks halfway decent on my computer. I like to mug people at night and be a thief. I don’t like to kill people because than I will have the local vendetta after me for the rest of the game. I even played with cheat codes, because I enjoy being invincible. I do play mortal once in a while….after my characters HP level is 200. I got to a point where half the time I played an assassin wanted to kill me. I think there is a faq on that tells gamers how to make your character extremely intelligent, high charisma, high wisdom and 5 bonus skills at the start of the game.

[One day later] I installed Morrowind and the expansion, Tribunal. The game is huge and really does support better graphics than the Xbox version, Morrowind Game of the Year Edition. Since I wanted to see how far I get without cheating, I just pick knight and pick any old symbol. I save my game once in town. Then I try to hit someone with a dagger and see if I could swim away. The guard’s sword had “knockback” and that kept me from going anywhere. Three hits with that thing and I was died. I can not get anywhere without a good sword. I must get to the trading city of Balmona so I can join a guild. Balmona is the best city in the game. It is best to keep off the trail and stay clear of enemies. I join the fighter’s guild there and do some quests. The last one I barely survived in. You’d have to play the game to know what I’m talking about here. I’m kind of melee guy. No magic, no intelligence, just a sword and willpower to be brave (and pretty stupid at times) Now I could get armor, but I’m already died if I don’t have a long sword. So I am saving up for that. Putting all my money towards it. The money cheat is temping but I will not cheap this time. The world looks pretty. The faces are ugly by today’s standards, but I’ve improved it by downloading all the plugins containing improved faces from that website listed above. It really does the trick. At home I was looking for the texture service pack that Khalazza Productions made. I have the outdated 2.1 version somewhere on my November 2003 data CD. It crashed last time so I’ll have to scan the file for viruses if I do find it. It really does upgrade the textures. Most game developers are finding out that textures matter much more than polygons. If you go to that first link two paragraphs above, you can see how the artist reduced polygons in the face while vastly improving the textures. Morrowind has a prettier graphics engine than Neverwinter Nights and also Morrowind is both a 3rd person and first person RPG and I like first person view. TAB alternates between the views. Unfortunately, I can’t get the game to recognize the new face models I added to the directory. My guess is that the files only support the retail version of Morrowind. The Tribunal installation patches Morrowind to version 1.3.

I’ll post a new entry in 4 more days after I think of something cool. Until then - I’ll frag in UT2004. C-ya. Birthday’s on Monday! It’s going to be interesting what gifts I get. I’m hoping for a new iPod or cd player for my truck or maybe more memory so I can upgrade that backup PC to 1GB!

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Intel plans to stop Pentium 4 line at 3.8 GHz!

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I got some bad news for people wanting to buy a Pentium 4 at a monstrous 4 GHz because that’s not going to happen this year. P4s have been out since 2001 and it’s nearing 2005 so Intel will start Pentium 5s at 4 GHz. I Think Pentium 4s have been out longer than Pentium 3s or Pentium 2s. The highest MHz you can buy is 3.8 GHz. Intel feels that it can not have a market for 4 GHz and they are right, of course. I only have 3.2 GHz in my computer. It’s still great and very reliable although it’s a Dell PC. Dells suck, I know, but it was free so I had to take it. Actually, the motherboard, keyboard are made by Dell, everything else is made from 3rd party including ATI (video card), Western Digital (hd) , Creative Labs (soundcard) , Artic (DVD-RW), Samsung (DVD/RW). The mouse is from Logitech. I seriously doubt my keyboard will stop working tomorrow or a year from now.

I’m thinking that Pentium 5 will be 64-bit with a much higher clock speed than Athlon 64. Athlon 64 currently can outperform Pentium 4 in operation cycles. Intel says that it’s developing dual cores on a single dye with state-of-the-art technology making manufacturing costs of the “Pentium 5” less costly. Come on everyone – even though it’s not officially announced – there will be a Pentium 5 announcement soon.

Okay now for the interesting part that hurts us all. Intel has technology that stays secret like magnetic ram which are more technically advance than Pentium 4s and 64-bit Xeon CPUs. Intel is developing stuff in their labs that will come out in 2015 as quote “state-of-the-art” in consumer terms. I know - it’s scaring me too. The point is…they are using our money on their cheap technology. Instead of releasing a 10 GHz Xeon processor that will surely blow everything on the market, Intel decides to release 100 MHz every month which is pitiful. The silly part is about it is we pay big bucks for their fast processor and they know I can’t do anything about their strategy waiting until 2008 until they release a 10 GHz processor. They have a 64-bit 10 GHz processor prototype in the final stages and will not mass produce it. It’s not crazy – it’s the truth. That ensures the company will continue to grow. Doesn’t that make you sick? It makes me sick!

I was talking to a former British citizen at Toyriffic. He looks about my age and he’s married – which was a little odd. I came there with the agenda of buying either King of Fighters or Marvel vs. Capcom 2. MvC2 is 50 bucks! Last time I was there it was only $20. The King of Fighters ’99 Evolution for Dreamcast was $70! So I ended up buying the Playstation version which was only 11 dollars. I believe the difference between the two is the Playstation version ran at 30 fps, and the Dreamcast version ran at 60 fps. So when I got home, I put it in the tray and play. It comes with 32 players to play and the music was 80s rock. I have Fatal Fury - Dance of the Wolves for DC, and that was a prequel to the King of Fighters. It plays a lot like King of Fighters ’99 Evolution I can now see. King of Fighters still has that old-school look too it. (mostly a art style done in the mid-90s still used in the 2000s)

I spend Thursday night reading The King of Fighters history after I learned that the Neo Geo CD by SNK was the first CD-format console running at 1x. Playstation had a 4x cd-rom in it – a major improvement. What Neo Geo had that Playstation didn’t in the early days was Metal Slug and all the King of Fighter games from ’94 up to 2001 plus all the Fatal Fury games. All three games made their way to Playstation largely to do to it’s the most popular console ever in the history of man kind. For some strange reason, Neo Geo CD is more popular now state-side than it ever was in 1994. One day SNK will release a full anthology of all King of Fighters. Expect SNK will soon re-release all the King of Fighters in the states before the PS3 comes out. They’ve already did KOF’94and KOF 2000/2001 two years ago. If you count Dreamcast’s KOF ’99, that makes 4 games that made it state-side. According to the British retailer back at Toyriffic, KOF ’97 was the best of the series because it featured the best game play and graphics. The graphics supported the engine of the KOF ’94.

The only other 2D fighters are Viewiful Joe, Guilty Gear, King of Fighters and the occasional Street Fighter.

New games to add to vg list:

1.) King of Fighters ’99 Evolution
2.) Sly
3.) Gradius V

After the game store I spent time playing UT2004. I got at the masterful skill level without ranking at the bottom of the chart. It wasn’t pitiful to say the least. The game still has its really high points. If you’ve been to my IGN page, you’ve would have seen that I rated UT2004 a 9.9/10 because it’s perfect on nearly all levels, and the only thing not perfect is the pc specs it needs to run the game. I have 3 computers that can run it though. Shooting is good way to get the stress off me.

I am going either tomorrow or next week to pick up copies of Guilty Gear X or Guilty Gear X2. I know I can get Guilty Gear Isuka at Shopko, but 50 dollars is a steep price to pay for a 2D fighter even though it looks excellent for a 2D fighter. The guy at the game store said the newest one in the series is a pretty fun game. Sammy makes Guilty Gear and is the same guys who bought out SEGA of JAPAN, SEGA OF AMERICA, SEGA of Europe. That’s one reason why Sega stopped making DCs in 2001. Also the piracy has been apparent that the GD-ROMS could be copied. I learned today that GD-ROMS were available for the PC for a short time period thus DC games could be backup to disc images and presto you’ve gotten yourself a illegal DC game. Chankast makes Dreamcast emulation possible on the PC. In 1999, there were rumors that Xbox was supposed to be backwards compatible with Dreamcast discs, but the rumors were misinterpreted, and Sega was developing games for Xbox.

I feel very aggravated see there are some 3 very high anticipated games coming out on October 25th including Grand Thief Auto San Andreas, re-release of Fatal Frame 2 (the prequel is extremely hard to find now), and Dead or Alive Ultimate. Out of the 3, Fatal Frame will be sold in the least copies. Grand Thief Auto and DoA will sell by the millions so there will always be a used copy available. DOA Extreme Beach Volleyball clearly has a graphics engine that makes every other engine outdated. I suspect the price to be reduced to 20 dollars within February 2005 – March 2005 time period. Anyways, DOA Ultimate looks awesome and will probably be playing the same way as DOA 3 back in 2001. DOA: Ultimate combines Xbox versions of Dead or Alive and Dead or Alive 2: Hardcore and allows all the characters of both games to be played in all the stages first appearing in those games. In fact, I own DOA 2 for Dreamcast, and it’s one of the best Dreamcast games that came out in my opinion. The second best 3D fighter that came out for the system at least – next to Soul Caliber. Lots of propaganda like bouncing boobies, female fighters showing more skin than usual, and realistic body movement. Those standard intros and extros by each DOA fighter either victory poses or defeat both of which are great additions.

Other news is I finally played a game I bought last year, Shenmue 2. Shenmue is mostly RPG at it’s roots, but also has Virtua Fighter moves built into it. Your weapons are your body unlike swords, axes, mauls, polearms, or magic in dungeons and dragons RPGs the USA is known for. It looked great, played great, but somehow I got Shenmue’s back pack stolen within the first 30 minutes. The thieves took it from Shenmue, and I really didn’t have time to look for them, didn’t know where to start. Some of you may not remember Shenmue 2 on Dreamcast, but it was one of Dreamcast’s exceptional titles. Shenmue 2’s version of Hong Kong is absolutely huge, and those guys could have been anywhere – that was when I turned my Xbox off.

I remember when the PC RPG universe exploded after Diablo 2 came out. Before 2000, there were few RPGs to buy, now there are 2 new releases every month. No doubt I’m getting Half-life 2 a few days after the launch date, November 16th.

Here are some reviews I like and recommend:

IGN's Review of Full Specrium Warrior
IGN's Review of Guilty Gear X2
IGN's Review of Guilty Gear X
IGN's Review of Guilty Gear Isuka

Here is the entire Xbox 2 outline I found from another website, I found it irresistible to post it on here so here it is

Xenon Hardware Overview

By Pete Isensee, Development Lead, Xbox Advanced Technology Group

This documentation is an early release of the final documentation, which may be changed substantially prior to final commercial release, and is confidential and proprietary information of MS Corporation. It is disclosed pursuant to a nondisclosure agreement between the recipient and MS.

“Xenon” is the code name for the successor to the Xbox® game console from MS. Xenon is expected to launch in 2005. This white paper is designed to provide a brief overview of the primary hardware features of the console from a game developer’s standpoint.
In some cases, sizes, speeds, and other details of the Xenon console have not been finalized. Values not yet finalized are identified with a “+” sign, indicating that the numbers may be larger than indicated here. At the time of this writing, the final console is many months from entering production. Based on our experience with Xbox, it’s likely that some of this information will change slightly for the final console.

For additional information on various hardware components, see the other relevant white papers.

Hardware Goals
Xenon was designed with the following goals in mind:

•Focus on innovation in silicon, particularly features that game developers need. Although all Xenon hardware components are technologically advanced, the hardware engineering effort has concentrated on digital performance in the CPU and GPU.

•Maximize general purpose processing performance rather than fixed-function hardware. This focus on general purpose processing puts the power into the Xenon software libraries and tools. Rather than being hamstrung by particular hardware designs, software libraries can support the latest and most efficient techniques.

•Eliminate the performance issues of the past. On Xbox, the primary bottlenecks were memory and CPU bandwidth. Xenon does not have these limitations.

Basic Hardware Specifications

Xenon is powered by a 3.5+ GHz IBM PowerPC processor and a 500+ MHz ATI graphics processor. Xenon has 256+ MB of unified memory. Xenon runs a custom operating system based on MS® Windows NT®, similar to the Xbox operating system. The graphics interface is a superset of MS® Direct3D® version 9.0.


The Xenon CPU is a custom processor based on PowerPC technology. The CPU includes three independent processors (cores) on a single die. Each core runs at 3.5+ GHz. The Xenon CPU can issue two instructions per clock cycle per core. At peak performance, Xenon can issue 21 billion instructions per second.

The Xenon CPU was designed by IBM in close consultation with the Xbox team, leading to a number of revolutionary additions, including a dot product instruction for extremely fast vector math and custom security features built directly into the silicon to prevent piracy and hacking.

Each core has two symmetric hardware threads (SMT), for a total of six hardware threads available to games. Not only does the Xenon CPU include the standard set of PowerPC integer and floating-point registers (one set per hardware thread), the Xenon CPU also includes 128 vector (VMX) registers per hardware thread. This astounding number of registers can drastically improve the speed of common mathematical operations.

Each of the three cores includes a 32-KB L1 instruction cache and a 32-KB L1 data cache. The three cores share a 1-MB L2 cache. The L2 cache can be locked down in segments to improve performance. The L2 cache also has the very unusual feature of being directly readable from the GPU, which allows the GPU to consume geometry and texture data from L2 and main memory simultaneously.
Xenon CPU instructions are exposed to games through compiler intrinsics, allowing developers to access the power of the chip using C language notation.

The Xenon GPU is a custom 500+ MHz graphics processor from ATI. The shader core has 48 Arithmetic Logic Units (ALUs) that can execute 64 simultaneous threads on groups of 64 vertices or pixels. ALUs are automatically and dynamically assigned to either pixel or vertex processing depending on load. The ALUs can each perform one vector and one scalar operation per clock cycle, for a total of 96 shader operations per clock cycle. Texture loads can be done in parallel to ALU operations. At peak performance, the GPU can issue 48 billion shader operations per second.

The GPU has a peak pixel fill rate of 4+ gigapixels/sec (16 gigasamples/sec with 4× antialiasing). The peak vertex rate is 500+ million vertices/sec. The peak triangle rate is 500+ million triangles/sec. The interesting point about all of these values is that they’re not just theoretical—they are attainable with nontrivial shaders.

Xenon is designed for high-definition output. Included directly on the GPU die is 10+ MB of fast embedded dynamic RAM (EDRAM). A 720p frame buffer fits very nicely here. Larger frame buffers are also possible because of hardware-accelerated partitioning and predicated rendering that has little cost other than additional vertex processing. Along with the extremely fast EDRAM, the GPU also includes hardware instructions for alpha blending, z-test, and antialiasing.

The Xenon graphics architecture is a unique design that implements a superset of Direct3D version 9.0. It includes a number of important extensions, including additional compressed texture formats and a flexible tessellation engine. Xenon not only supports high-level shading language (HLSL) model 3.0 for vertex and pixel shaders but also includes advanced shader features well beyond model 3.0. For instance, shaders use 32-bit IEEE floating-point math throughout. Vertex shaders can fetch from textures, and pixel shaders can fetch from vertex streams. Xenon shaders also have the unique ability to directly access main memory, allowing techniques that have never before been possible.

As with Xbox, Xenon will support precompiled push buffers (“command buffers” in Xenon terminology), but to a much greater extent than the Xbox console does. The Xbox team is exposing and documenting the command buffer format so that games are able to harness the GPU much more effectively.

In addition to an extremely powerful GPU, Xenon also includes a very high-quality resize filter. This filter allows consumers to choose whatever output mode they desire. Xenon automatically scales the game’s output buffer to the consumer-chosen resolution.

Memory and Bandwidth
Xenon has 256+ MB of unified memory, equally accessible to both the GPU and CPU. The main memory controller resides on the GPU (the same as in the Xbox architecture). It has 22.4+ GB/sec aggregate bandwidth to RAM, distributed between reads and writes. Aggregate means that the bandwidth may be used for all reading or all writing or any combination of the two. Translated into game performance, the GPU can consume a 512×512×32-bpp texture in only 47 microseconds.

The front side bus (FSB) bandwidth peak is 10.8 GB/sec for reads and 10.8 GB/sec for writes, over 20 times faster than for Xbox. Note that the 22.4+ GB/sec main memory bandwidth is shared between the CPU and GPU. If, for example, the CPU is using 2 GB/sec for reading and 1 GB/sec for writing on the FSB, the GPU has 19.4+ GB/sec available for accessing RAM.

Eight pixels (where each pixel is color plus z = 8 bytes) can be sent to the EDRAM every GPU clock cycle, for an EDRAM write bandwidth of 32 GB/sec. Each of these pixels can be expanded through multisampling to 4 samples, for up to 32 multisampled pixel samples per clock cycle. With alpha blending, z-test, and z-write enabled, this is equivalent to having 256 GB/sec of effective bandwidth! The important thing is that frame buffer bandwidth will never slow down the Xenon GPU.

The Xenon CPU is a superb processor for audio, particularly with its massive mathematical horsepower and vector register set. The Xenon CPU can process and encode hundreds of audio channels with sophisticated per-voice and global effects, all while using a fraction of the power of a single CPU core.

The Xenon system south bridge also contains a key hardware component for audio—XMA decompression. XMA is the native Xenon compressed audio format, based on the WMA Pro architecture. XMA provides sound quality higher than ADPCM at even better compression ratios, typically 6:1–12:1. The south bridge contains a full silicon implementation of the XMA decompression algorithm, including support for multichannel XMA sources. XMA is processed by the south bridge into standard PCM format in RAM. All other sound processing (sample rate conversion, filtering, effects, mixing, and multispeaker encoding) happens on the Xenon CPU.

The lowest-level Xenon audio software layer is XAudio, a new API designed for optimal digital signal processing. The Xbox Audio Creation Tool (XACT) API from Xbox is also supported, along with new features such as conditional events, improved parameter control, and a more flexible 3D audio model.

As with Xbox, Xenon is designed to be a multiplayer console. It has built-in networking support including an Ethernet 10/100-BaseT port. It supports up to four controllers. From an audio/video standpoint, Xenon will support all the same formats as Xbox, including multiple high-definition formats up through 1080i, plus VGA output.

In order to provide greater flexibility and support a wider variety of attached devices, the Xenon console includes standard USB 2.0 ports. This feature allows the console to potentially host storage devices, cameras, microphones, and other devices.

The Xenon console is designed around a larger world view of storage than Xbox was. Games will have access to a variety of storage devices, including connected devices (memory units, USB storage) and remote devices (networked PCs, Xbox Live™). At the time of this writing, the decision to include a built-in hard disk in every Xenon console has not been made. If a hard disk is not included in every console, it will certainly be available as an integrated add-on component.

Xenon supports up to two attached memory units (MUs). MUs are connected directly to the console, not to controllers as on Xbox. The initial size of the MUs is 64 MB, although larger MUs may be available in the future. MU throughput is expected to be around 8 MB/sec for reads and 1 MB/sec for writes.

The Xenon game disc drive is a 12× DVD, with an expected outer edge throughput of 16+ MB/sec. Latency is expected to be in the neighborhood of 100 ms. The media format will be similar to Xbox, with approximately 6 GB of usable space on the disk. As on Xbox, media will be stored on a single side in two 3 GB layers.

Industrial Design
The Xenon industrial design process is well under way, but the final look of the box has not been determined. The Xenon console will be smaller than the Xbox console.
The standard Xenon controller will have a look and feel similar to the Xbox controller. The primary changes are the removal of the Black and White buttons and the addition of shoulder buttons. The triggers, thumbsticks, D-pad, and primary buttons are essentially unchanged. The controller will support vibration.

Xenon Development Kit
The Xenon development environment follows the same model as for Xbox. Game development occurs on the PC. The resulting executable image is loaded by the Xenon development kit and remotely debugged on the PC. MS® Visual Studio® version 7.1 continues as the development environment for Xenon.

The Xenon compiler is based on a custom PowerPC back end and the latest MS® Visual C++® front end. The back end uses technology developed at MS for Windows NT on PowerPC. The Xenon software group includes a dedicated team of compiler engineers updating the compiler to support Xenon-specific CPU extensions. This team is also heavily focused on optimization work.

The Xenon development kit will include accurate DVD emulation technology to allow developers to very precisely gauge the effects of the retail console disc drive.

Miscellaneous Xenon Hardware Notes

Some additional notes:
•Xenon is a big-endian system. Both the CPU and GPU process memory in big-endian mode. Games ported from little-endian systems such as the Xbox or PC need to account for this in their game asset pipeline.

•Tapping into the power of the CPU is a daunting task. Writing multithreaded game engines is not trivial. Xenon system software is designed to take advantage of this processing power wherever possible. The Xbox Advanced Technology Group (ATG) is also exploring a variety of techniques for offloading graphics work to the CPU.

•People often ask if Xenon can be backward compatible with Xbox. Although the architecture of the two consoles is quite different, Xenon has the processing power to emulate Xbox. Whether Xenon will be backward compatible involves a variety of factors, not the least of which is the massive development and testing effort required to allow Xbox games run on Xenon.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Why the f*** don't people come to my page?

It’s been difficult to come up with something lately. And why the fuck doesn’t anyone come here anymore. I waste all this time trying to gather information in my brain and no one comes! I promoted a good amount of time on this page. And I can’t be because I’m average because I already know that. I can list many things that make my life boring. First, all my friends are doing different things. Another is there is nothing new to do except a few new videogames which I don’t have enough time to play. It’s a lot of studying for tests and stuff. Show your symphony because I know none of you care. All you bloggers care about is facts….Internet news…and political events….not personal life. This must be the reason I do not have hits here anymore. Okay, the technical tidbits you liked a lot, but my personal life no one cares. I was even thinking about just forgetting Modblog all together. Then I realized Modblog isn't the one to blame, they are just a server. My writing is to blame. Well, fuckin’ Jesus Christ this makes me real mad.

I tried out this new program 1Click DVD to Divx Avi, and it’s the best DVD to MPEG 4 tool I have ever used. There is also 1click DVD Ripper which has more options on it. I don’t like to encode video in MPEG2 since video compresses so much better with DivX 5.2.1. Obviously, if you compress video to go through the Internet you may want the compression at the slowest to allow the best compression for your video. I have my settings at 730x440 at 1034 KBPS and LAME audio compression at 192 KBPS. All films are released on a 9.4 GB DVD and I can put 1 hour 8 parts on a single layer DVD plus my DVD burner will only allow me to burn 4.4 GB of data total. I have a little left over so I could up the video to 1213 KBPS to make full the excess 500 MB I had on my last DVD. Every hour averages 680 MB. That’s pretty good considering the picture quality is good.

The Red Soxs have won against the Yankees and are going to the World Series. It is the only time in professional baseball history that a team have came back in 3 games to be 3 -3. The MN Twins lost against NY Yankees on game 4 about 2 weeks ago in the first playoff series. The Twins lead in the central division and clenched their division title. I may have missed the greatest games ever in whole season play. St Louis Cardinals may beat Houston in the American League thus well have Red Soxs vs. Cardinals. Cardinals will win tomorrow!

I missed Homecoming again. Truth about it is its high school and it’s in the past - two very good reasons not to go. I haven’t been to home coming for 4 years now. I saw it in the newspaper. Too bad though.

Oh and another thing I found this girl who lives by me on the Internet. I was really, really surprised. Here is her personal page. Weblink
to Anne's Track and Field Webpage
. She hasn’t changed too much. What’s so important about her? Well, she thought I had crush on her in high school. It’s not that way anymore. I’m a technician. She’s something else. I haven’t seen her in 5 years. I found out in 1997, she went through the Teen University program at the UofW. It looks like she’s still in track and field. She started the last year I was at St. Croix Central.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

FFVII Dirge of Ceberus | Square's new PC MMORPG

One of the reasons I haven’t posted in 5 days was study time at home. I have 3 tests to study for – 2 are retakes so I can either not do well or do well. Friday I was playing Star Ocean 3 all day. It’s Square-Enix’s newest game. I’m at the beginning of the 3rd chapter. I have a review up at IQB. I find it interesting to see Square-Enix developing another RPG for PC and it’s called Final Earth. Final Earth looks like a space saga that’s online and is going to be another Freelancer. The only question about it is if I have to pay to play. Even then, I’ll buy it because than I can say I have it. They are also making a PC game called Junk Metal .

Speaking on Square-Enix, they are apparently developing a Final Fantasy 7 action game. You mix Devil May Cry and Final Fantasy 7 to get a game called Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII . Officially the first Final Fantasy to not be a RPG is amazing in itself. Does Square-Enix even know how to make a good action game? Maybe, but it’ll require additional help. What would be cool is if Dante guest-starred in it. It’s just that Final Fantasy characters starred in Kingdom Hearts . I admit it was cool, but Cloud Strife as nothing to do with Squall Lionheart much less Disney characters. It’s propaganda at it’s best. And why was Cloud Strife working for the lord of the underworld, Hades? What’s next? Mario an unlockable character in the next installment of Metal Gear Solid? I got something totally wacky which might be true someday: Sonic the Hedgehog, Knuckles, Tails, Mario, Luigi, Browser and Dr. Robotnic in the same game! Perhaps Super Smash Bros 3 - The ultimate SEGA/Nintendo videogame!!! Wait, I got another one…. Capcom vs. Nintendo exclusive for Gamecube. If you don’t know what I’m talking about – think “Marvel vs. Capcom” and you’ll see what I mean.

Okay, impressions of Dirge of Cerberes. Where to start? The character animation is a rip off of Devil May Cry for one thing. I can’t remember but I think the main character was a bad guy in Final Fantasy VII. This spin off is going to be a disaster - I just know it. They have the ability to push out maximum polygons rates out of the PS2, but they don’t have experience making any kind of action/shooting games.

I found out the Half-life 2 release date is on my birthday! Half-life 2 is coming in a special DVD edition. Half-life 2 is such a highly anticipated game that everyone is getting this game (It’ll be the next best selling computer game of all time) Only 13 more days!

Concerning my writing style for those who view this as making little sense. I write 90 percent of the time according to what I view off the web browser in chronological order. So since I read a lot of material off game message boards (not writing in them) on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, I usually have a discussion on videogames because there is no other way to express how I set in front of a computer monitor all day except just that – sit in a chair and read material. I don’t care what other people think – but this is fun too me. I am finding it difficult to talk about games to people. See, where I live, people I know are PC gamers and I’m a console gamer primarily who so happens to have a pretty awesome PC too. A good example of this is Thursday at WITC. The class was going on a field trip 20 miles away in Osceola, Wisconsin. The field trip was going to be pretty cool, but I didn’t make it. It so happens that there was a guy playing Unreal Tournament. Someone else asked what this game is, and I say, “It’s Unreal Tournament!” This wouldn’t be so out of case other than I was absolutely right. Apparently the person playing I was undecided if I liked or not. I couldn’t keep my eyes away from the monitor. I don’t know his name, but he was playing the hardest setting on UT. This plain and simple states he out-performs me in his ability to kill bots. I tried not to ask to play. I knew what the answer was from the expression on his face, “NO!” Plus, I could always play UT2004 when I got home plain and simple. UT2004 is an awesome game *you can quote me on that*. So the words that came out of my mouth is, “I have this game at home” This states two things: I know exactly how the game is played because I obviously played it myself and #2 I know exactly what he meant by the “graphics are beautiful” because they were beautiful in 1999. Both those things are true. I always wanted to be in a local area network party like the Xbox LAN party I went to 2 weeks ago. Did you know that Xbox can interface with one cross-over cable with another Xbox or bus topology? It’s a lot faster than using a 10/100 Base T hub. I didn’t know that. Going there was a bummer. I knew no one there and yes, they were playing Halo with 2 networked Xboxes on two TVs. I managed to kill someone twice, but than the game was over and they didn’t want me to play again. I was also scared away from the fact that I wasn’t any good at the game. I shall not get into this.

On too real life stuff - Yesterday, I was really happy that I didn’t throw away my 120 dollar sound card away when the sound stopped working. Windows did something to the sound driver last installation. Now it works no problem. The sound card is a Creative Labs Sound Blaster Audigy 2 Pro. It has 24 channels of digital audio. I can hear an instant sound boost over my last sound card.

Bob and I haven’t seen each other for a while. Bob is one of my closest friends. He likes heavy metal. Last time Bob and I met, I went over to his apartment and played a lot of games. The gang was playing Madden Football 2001. I watched and when I played, I was easily overmatched. He said he got a new AMD Seperion 2.0 GHz Processor with motherboard and RAM. It’s faster than his old Athlon that gave him problems. I feel bad about the fact that he won’t invest into a new hard drive. 20GBs isn’t enough to store half of everything he wants. It’s just enough for his OS and MP3 collection with a little left over for miscellaneous. He still will not answer his phone.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Xenon first screenshots revealed!

Hey, everybody! Today is October and the leaves are changing color – yet, I do not see neighbors very well, therefore, it must not be Fall yet. I believe fall is when all of the leaves start turning color. That means we all have to add 1 hour to your clocks. Anyways, the first Xenon images are leaked! It seems that Microsoft will hold their unrevealing of “Code: Xenon” to the world at the Game Developer’s Conference 2K5. As you can see, the new first batch of Xbox 2 titles look very similar to movies – like mine almost, but has great cost. My computer cost $2300 and Microsoft will sell Xbox 2 at approximately $300. My point is for playing games – you get a great deal on technology here. It’s true everyone. Either spend money on a high end processor, 512 MB of dual channel RAM and a 256-bit Radeon 9800 XT or Geforce 5900 FX (your pick) or buy the simple “insert disc in console and play” Xbox 2. Most people like consoles for this reason. I am unique in that I own all the consoles and a nice PC. The gamer who likes to spend all his money in one place may like to choose one console every generation. The average gamer has about 10 games for his gaming platform. Serious gamers may have twice to three times that much. Most people would be buying every new Playstation on the market every 5 years. Let me tell you a story:

Xenon/Xbox 2 demo shots

The year was 1999 and N64 is nearing the end of it’s life. Much hype talk about owning a Playstation 2 is about both in cyber space and the real world. Then Sega announces the Dreamcast which is coming out in 3 months to be precise 9/9/99. It has four worthy launch titles, Sonic Adventure, Soul Caliber and Sega Rally Championship 2, and NFL 2K. Of course, the Dreamcast came out in December 98 in Japan. So knowing that it’ll have 3D Sonic the Hedgehog in high-res (at the time looked pretty spectacular) – I go out and buy a Dreamcast for 199 dollars at Toys R US with a copy of Sonic Adventure. Back when our computer was a Pentium-133 piece of crap, I was aching for some high resolution games – and Christmas was coming up fast. I said to myself, “I know what I want – maybe I can buy a Dreamcast for myself than ask for a PC for Christmas.” If I remember correctly, in September 1999, AMD just came out with their ‘powerful’ Athlon Thunderbird Processor that could do high-res with the 16-bit video card and 128-MB SDRAM.

Micron P-133

Windows 95
16 MB of SDRAM
Pentium Classic @ 133 MHz
5 GB hard drive

Compaq Presario 5900z (state-of-the-art at the time)

Windows 98SE
128 MB of SDRAM
Athlon Thunderbird @ 650 MHz
20 GB hard drive
Nvidia Geforce 256 16-MB GPU

At the time, I couldn’t imagine how I was going to fill up 20 Gigs of space (every game back then was only on 1 CD). I soon got everything I wanted on it with space left over. To my surprise, Unreal Tournament ran in high resolution. It didn’t look quite as good as Dreamcast, but was quite close. Then 2 years later right before I got an updated Compaq Presario with better hardware, I bought myself a Gamecube. The only reason why I got a Gamecube was a found out that Dreamcast was dead around that time.

Second discussion is how fun videogames are to buy – but it’s even better if I buy it a year after they come out. I save 65% most of the time on those games. That might force most budget conscience people to get 1 console and 5 games at the most for it. Playing games is just to pass the time…and the game doesn’t even need to be the best of the best to be fun. Then there are those “Oh my God! I have to have this game” customers whom buy several times a month to get the next best game everyone else is playing. This month it’s Fable for Xbox owners. Fable was supposed to be that Revolutionary Xbox RPG 4 years in the making that’s suppose to be the #1 RPG for Xbox. Even though it’s #1, Fable hasn’t quite met that revolutionary status given too it by many magazines and websites 2 years back.

I believe those people who want “the next best game” finally realize that those games can be easily attainable 8 months later at a Game Stop for only $20 or less. There is me, whom is more apart of the online community who only buys the best games available (by review score) so that he/she can discuss the game online with friends on message boards or At least that is the way I see it. The bad turnout is those people are usually run out of spending money really fast.

I’d finally had a chance to play Super Mario RPG. Okay, it’s not the first time. The graphics are really good though. No complaint there. It seems simple compared to RPGs of today (Final Fantasy X, Xenosaga, Grandia, Tales of Symphonia). I hear that most of the game’s most talented artists keep everything simple such as it was with Super Mario RPG. Being simple can sometimes outweigh the complicated which is why retro gaming is making a come back and is which why I bought a NES, SNES and Genesis within the last year. I thought I would have loads of fun playing the games in their original form. I was sorta right. It was fun for a while – but it didn’t last like I thought it would. I still have this image in my head that newer is always better which in most cases is true – new is better!

I am going to continue with my third discussion. I was reading a little on FIFA and it stands for Federation International Football Association. It has “football” in the name. As I spoken in my last entry there are several footballs, Chinese football, our football, soccer, and probably another one. Okay, let’s take the obvious two, football and soccer. FIFA Game Rule History

The NFL rules have never changed since the early 1980s when football didn’t have salary caps and the rule that football players had to have more protection. This is killing me to announce this, but the perception of football is contact sport. In elementary school all kids wore those stupid belts with plastic strips to pull off. This was also used in capture the flag, but it basically took the contact out of football. I don’t know if schools keep doing it – but it would ensure no injury amongst students. Recess could be played with a standard football, knowing the rules weren’t as necessary as knowing which way to run. Score a touchdown was always the focus. I never played the game during recess.

Here is Wikipedia’s definition of American Football:

“American football, known in the United States as simply football, is a competitive team sport that rewards players' speed, agility, tactics, and brute strength as they push, block, tackle, chase, and outrun each other, trying to force a ball further into their opponent's territory for one hour of game time, which translates into three to four hours of real time.”

For people who aren’t in the USA here are the top organizations: NFL (professional football), NCAA Football (college football), NFL-Europe (pro football in Europe)

Here is Wikipedia’s definition of soccer or football (whichever you prefer):

“Football is a ball game played between two teams of 11 players, each attempting to win by scoring more goals than their opponent. A goal results when the ball passes over the goal line between the goalposts and under the crossbar. Football is played predominantly with the feet, but players may use any part of their body except their hands and arms to propel the ball. The goalkeeper is the only member of the team allowed to handle the ball in the field of play.”

Yeah, I know - there is no need for examples but here they are anyways for good posture: MLS (American Pro Soccer/football), FIFA (international football), Canadian Soccer Association and 50 more.

Finally, my fourth discussion - about the new axis of evil. I haven’t visited a Russian news site for a long while so I just thought I check out their national issues. They are the largest country in the world. 900 years of conquering territory must have its positive turn-outs – but sooner or later they got what was coming to them (a revolution, a civil war against Georgia, and a lot of confused citizens all in a 14 year period). states “USA declares Russia, Iran, and North Korea as the new axis of evil.” I would think that the site is not happy with that. See in Russia - there is a Communist party and Democratic/Republican party running for president each election. If the communist party gains the President of Russia title, the country will turn into the USSR for 5 years, but if the democratic/republican party win the title - all is good. That’s one of Russia’s key problems. Russia is known as an Industrial Federation Republic. It was once an Industrial Socialist Republic. Ya, I don’t think Russia could go through with it – they enjoy all the “free trade with other countries” benefits too much to go back to their old ways. If the communist party won the next presidential election, the first thing to go would be everyone’s Internet privileges. Russia’s also troubled by US’s interests in “securing” nuclear ballistic missiles left over from the USSR. They don’t agree nor disagree with the friendly proposal. If you haven’t heard about it on the news this week, our government key worries is to disarm every nuclear ballistic missile on Earth that’s outside the USA. Doing our part would be to disarm half of existing nuclear ballistic missiles in our country. This would be simple if not for the fact that we have 10 times as many as the Russians do. All these missiles are underground surrounded by 20 inch thick reinforce concrete. Radiation wouldn’t get very far and worst case scenario could result in contaminated water and soil within 50 miles radius. The missiles transported by truck receive full military escort and are tracked by global positioning.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Day at Randy's

Howdy! I’m back with more small chatter. This articles main topic is how fun it was at Randy’s house. First of all I wanted to burn him a Sims 2 DVD. I thought well I enjoyed it why not let him enjoy it as well. Graphics were really good. You can make out the character’s faces. Textures are nice. I had the burn speed on 1x which was a little bummer for me. Didn’t notice it until the DVD was 60% done. Burn process took almost an hour to do. It soon was dark out because we live in the upper atmosphere of the world when it almost snows. Right now it’s too warm to snow – but give it 2 or 3 weeks and it will. Nights get down to around 60 degrees. Randy had his girlfriend over. He asked me when I was getting one. I answered, “I really didn’t need one.” I was going to say my girlfriend is my computer, man. Sometime crazy like that, but I didn’t. His girlfriend asked something stupid (she didn’t think so) “So are you going to play football or NFL?” she asks. She was talking about Soccer because she knew I was brought soccer over.) She calls soccer - football and football - NFL. And I answered, “This is the US we call football soccer” Then she said, “No it’s football.” My point is I called her stupid. She’s only a high school student. Who ever doesn’t know what soccer is must be stupid. She got confused and I felt guilty so I apologized calling her stupid. Anyways, we played ESPN Football 2K5. Randy agreed with me that ESPN Football 2K5 had better graphics, better music selection, and tighter controls than Madden 2005. He even likes the cheer leaders in my game than in Madden 2004. The cheerleaders were a bit more detailed and all of them were wearing mini-skirts which gave them the “edge”. There is nothing like low-poly cheerleaders in a football game to make you pissed off. They also, to my surprise, do a lot of movement with their cheerleader dance—thing they do. Score one for Sega for even caring! The control is really good although my friend doesn’t think so.

After ESPN, I put in Winning Eleven Soccer 7 for PS2. It’s supposed to be the best soccer game in existence. EA Sports franchise may have gotten into the Guinness’s Book of World Records as most realistic 3D soccer simulation, but I have to disagree on this footnote. WES7 is pretty much makes FIFA (EA Sports) look small compared to it’s superior graphics. Xbox owners never fear – Winning Eleven 8 International is coming to Xbox as well as PS2. The Xbox controllers have less buttons than the Dual Shock controller which might be a problem. WES is made by Konami and published by Konami. I played him and the first game was really cool. He scored a goal in the first half (Argentina) against me (England) and I scored on his goalie in the 2nd half in which we didn’t score in the first or second overtimes. He’s mastered the goalie shootout and beat me more times. Interesting enough mine kept hitting the goal post in which it should of when it…meh. But all is good! The game did this on purpose because I had the joystick all the way right for this too happen. Never happened to Randy. After Soccer, we watched Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. Randy never seen this movie. He doesn’t even like RPGs. He thought the movie was good though. Only cost me 10 bucks at the Toyriffic. I told him that it’s like Final Fantasy 10 FMV for 1.5 hours. Didn’t answer. There is a lot of razzle dazzle in the game! Like the Japs say it …… razzal dazzle. I read some reviews and the reviews all basically say that the movie comes from a game and has no real story. The animation is meant to look real – which if it was that case they would use real actors right? Wrong! This is a technical achievement – would have one Academy Award for special effects if most movie critics hated it. They didn’t see it was way ahead of it’s time – just like 2001: A Space Odyssey. Instead they gave the awards to Shrek, a kid’s movie. Three years after the film was made, Shrek and Shrek II come close but not beyond The Spirits Within. Yet I can see that it’s not a brilliant movie and has it’s flaws – it’s a fantasy movie like the name applies. Maybe Final Fantasy means (fantasy adventure) at the end of phantom’s existence. Squaresoft actually used Maya (which is a modeling program), and applied the highest resolution models to this movie. The movie was staffed by 100s of character design talent, background artists, movie script people, etc. At least Square didn’t have to pay the actors as much to voice act the whole movie. The voice acting was done in a studio like any cartoon. (watch the screen and speak at the same time – really this is how it’s done) The graphics engine if you will is Square Picture’s graphics engine is called “Scooby” (like Scooby-Doo) or “SQuare Batch Processing.” Most character’s averaged out about 300,000 polygons. And most interesting to me is probably the most obvious is the programmers used American (white and black people) instead of Asian. The game takes place in post World War III in year 2065. World War III wasn’t a fight against man or territory, but instead the existence of man as a species.

If you techies find this interesting I found this off Arstchnica which had an exclusive technical discussion about the film in general.
The movie technical specs :
• Number of Sequences = 36
• Number of Shots = 1,336
• Number of Layers = 24,606
• Number of Final Renders (Assuming that > everything was rendered once) = 2,989,318
• Number of Frames in the Movie = 149,246
o Average number of shots per sequence = 37.11
o Average number of rendered layers per shot = 18.42
o Average number of frames per shot = 111.71
o Estimated average number of render revisions = 5
o Estimated average render time per frame = 90 min
• Shot with the most layers = (498 layers)
• Shot with the most frames = (1899 frames)
• Shot with the most renders [layers * frames] = (60160 renders)
• Sequence with the most shots = (162 shots)
• Sequence with the most layers = AIR (4353 layers)
• Sequence with the most frames = (13576 frames)

“Using the raw data (not the averages) it all adds up to 934,162 days of render time on one processor. Keep in mind that we had a render farm with approximately 1,200 procs.”

Another Interesting note in the movie making is to turn off all the hot pixels, the whole film went through a “smoothing process” eliminating artifacts (what ever they are) from the film. Pixar (which created Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Monster’s Inc for Walt Disney) has it’s part in this movie as well. Pixar actually let Square use their software, “Renderman”, to help render the movie. I couldn’t imagine how powerful the processing movie they needed to render the movie.
Anyway, I read Randy like a book. He wanted to beat me in all those games and say that he was better than I. I, of course, attempted to prove him wrong. Hey, I wonder since it’s a CGI movie that it’ll automatically look better when it’s released on HD-DVD, which is going to start appearing in 2005. What’s stunning about Final Fantasy - The Spirits Within is Square-soft broke even on production at Home Box Office and DVD/ VHS sales. They didn’t make as much money as they would-have hoped, but a profit none-the-less! Finally, what I agree with the film is the film isn’t realistic. You’re talking about computer animation not real life. It’s a cartoon really. Cartoons move and talk like humans too. This is just a very high resolution life-like computer animated movie that acts and feels like Earth AD 2065! Ever watch Titan AE? AE stands for “After Earth.” That was an animated film also based on futuristic Earth although the movie was animated (I call it American Anime or Western Anime), it did have computer generated background effects with it.

His computer was down – it was in a sense, a worthless piece of crap. The OS had boot-up errors. He wants his OS up and running and it has the blue screen of death on after the Windows boot logo. AKA someone’s been deleted System files O_o. Randy won’t admit it though. Randy’s computer data is screwed – but he thinks there is a way out. I told him there is a way He won’t tell me what happened. I told him I could get it too work for him. He’s a stubborn little fella. I wanted to help get his data back. Secret…KNOPPIX :)

Source: Interview

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

MRAM to replace dynamic RAM in 7 years!

We know how that computer technology is advancing rapidly. In fact, it was nearly a year ago I got almost the fastest computer out with a monster GPU along with it. Now there is two ways I can go with this – the super computer route or the consumer route. I decided to go the consumer route partly because I already wrote an entry on Super Computers. It’s not how fast computers are getting as much as how small you can get them. The most obvious thing is lap tops – a miniature desktop computer. I mean I’ve seen this neck and neck. Laptops now come with a Pentium 4 at 3GHz and 1 GB of RAM which was pretty much how fast my XPS was a year ago. Computers soon are used in videogame consoles. In 2000, a PS2 essentially had to raw data processing power of a 800 MHz Intel Pentium 3 CPU. The Xbox actually uses a modified Pentium 3 at 733 MHz, 64 MB of SDRAM, and a 128-bit Geforce 3 to power its graphics. The Xbox costs less than the less technically superior Playstation 2 (it was 3 before LOL!). I don’t think a shelved Geforce 3 had a 128-bit cache in it besides the Xbox version. PC graphics surpassed Xbox graphics in summer 2002.

- Best New Technology of 2004 -

MRAM (Magnetic Random Access Memory) This one I find the most interesting. This RAM uses magnets to store large amounts of data in its memory banks temporary which of course is good for graphics applications. This will soon make electronic pulse SDRAM and RDRAM obsolete. It also has better power usage making this RAM more efficient than SDRAM or RDRAM. I don’t know if MRAM is made for Super computers now-a-days or what’s the case. Super Computers would benefit for this new RAM and be able to do a lot more in less time. Wikipedia states that MRAM will start appearing in home PCs in 2005. Remember this is only the first generation. Two months away – I remember when it was mid 2003 and I got out of high school. Maybe my next PC should have 1 GB of MRAM in it?

Basic Advantages:

1. Boot up computers without BIOS boot-up processes (which isn’t that big of deal)
2. Because it’s very cheaply made, MRAM will be so small current technology in PCs will not be able to compete very well from what the net says
3. In the works for 30 years
4. First successful MRAM chip built in 1998
5. Major leap from Dynamic RAM
6. Random Access Memory based on the same technology used of DVDs and CDs only they are ROM or read only memory.
7. First Generation can store 128 GB/sec and 40 MB per/second
8. Beats the crap out of SDRAM technology so badly it’s not even funny anymore.
9. Probably will be 1 to 2 years before products start using magnetic technology
10.) First Generation will use .18 micron technology.

Just think about Magnetic memory – think in the future you can burn data to a magnetic circular media more advanced than DVD (like a hard drive) only saved concretely. Okay for the average person – it would like a 10,000x DVD-RW drive. Pretty cool huh? That would make your portable DVD player have twice the battery life. Some people disagree with it. MRAM seems very cool and all but it takes 6 seconds to boot up my computer if you count at a normal pace and not really fast. Much like the issue with Playstation 3 I think the only reason I’ll need CDs in 3 years is if I want to play older games. Unreal Tournament 2004, Doom3, The Sims 2 come on DVD now and there is hardly any slow down playing DVDs on DVD-ROM vs. playing CDs on DVD-ROM. By the time that most games are on DVD format, everyone will have DVD-ROM faster than 8x reading speed which is the minimum anyone would want to read game discs.

One thing I don’t understand about MRAM is that every computer today needs a BIOS to recognize optimal drives, hard drives and operating systems, PS2 ports, video card.

In an MRAM chip, only a small amount of electricity is needed to store bits of data. This small amount of electricity switches the polarity of each memory cell on the chip. A memory cell is created when wordlines (rows) and bitlines (columns) on a chip intersect. Each one of these cells stores a 1 or a 0, representing a piece of data. MRAM promises to combine the high speed of static RAM (SRAM), the storage capacity of DRAM and the non-volatility of Flash memory.

- 2nd best computer technology of 2004 -

BD disc (Blu-Ray) – This new media can store up to 25 GB on one side. However, if it’s dual layered than it can store 50 GB. This new technology is developed by Sony and Panasonic and a 1x BDRW can burn 36 MB / second. First customer device with this new technology probably will be Playstation 3. The discs can be made cheaper than DVDs and the drives can read data 10 times as fast. Single layer "BDs" will come in 23.3GB, 25 GB and 27 GB storages. It looks like 23.3 GB disc will be the most common amongst PC drives to prevent piratacy of 25 GB and 27 GB BDs. Besides compression wise - I bet anyone could fit 25 GBs worth of data on a single 23.3 GB BD. The PS3 will use a Blu-ray drive to run it's software. This doesn't mean that all games have to be on BD and can continue to support DVDs like Xbox and PS2 have done for 4 years. These high priced BDs are already out.

I found interesting news also on BD movie's video-codec. Since BD-ROM players will be unique might as well support a new video codec as well. This new codec is called VC-1 and it's developed by Microsoft. It's suppose to be as compressed as DIVX or XVID except all quality will be very high resolution. It will do a better job at compressing high def video than MPEG 4 probably can. BDs can be made less expensively than DVDs are, but knowing that techicially they hold much more than DVDs - BDs will sell twice as much at Best Buy or CompUSA whereas online stores can sell them a bit cheaper. BDs are coming out next year to the masses! Yay!

Company alliance developing Blu-Ray includes :

Hitachi, Ltd.
LG Electronics Inc.
Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd.
Pioneer Corporation
Royal Philips Electronics
Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.
Sharp Corporation
Sony Corporation
Thomson Multimedia

Concept Art

One thing I did do is update I.Q.B. to version 2.0.6 which I worked on October 08th. As usual I like to search Google for Xbox 2 specs impressions. I already know the real specs were leaked onto the Internet since June. One thing is true – Microsoft likes to loose money on CPUs because a 3.5 GHz CPU will cost them a lot of money. My point is I’ve bought 25 games for my Xbox and even though 2/3 of them were pre-owned, I probably paid Microsoft their debt to make my Xbox with new games. I bought Fable, Rallisport Challenge 2, and Tony Hawk Underground totaling 120 dollars when I bought them new.

Well here are some Photoshop concept art of Xbox 2 and Nintendo Revolution I found off various places so I shrunk them into a much smaller size and posted them on my server.

Is Nintendo Nitro the official name for Project Revolution? It’s only a rumor, but it’s funny because I mentioned “Nitro” as a possible Xbox 2 name in my “Will Videogames play PC games?” post about a month ago. It originally was supposed to be the ‘real’ name for Nintendo Dual Screen. Strangely, I’ve gotten 145 hits within a month on that entry. Not to common for me. Something about that post must interest people. I’m guessing they all want to see my ‘real’ videogame collection images, but I’m not sure since the title was about pc games playing on videogame consoles. I posted something 5 months ago listing every videogame I have and it since then became the most popular post on my blog.

Share your comments on this MRAM deal or comment how realistic the Xbox 2 photoshop art is. I think the concept is really cool. I like the second picture.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Bought a Genesis today at Toyriffic

I bought a Sega Genesis today. Added more old school to my collection. This so happens to be today’s topic. Let’s see, I asked a Toyriffic personnel and Super Nintendo was bigger than Genesis. Genesis also had a bigger life by 1 ½ years as many people know. Sega’s main mascot was Alex the Kidd before Sonic was became their big mascot. Yes, according to him, Super Nintendo was THE top competitor in the 16-bit era. Sega was 2nd best until 1993 when Sega pulled ahead for a bit, probably because they released Sonic 3 and Shinobi 3. For 100 dollars I got a Sega Genesis version 3 in good condition, Contra Hard Corps, Contra III, and Sonic 3. For 10 more dollars, I could have gotten a 2nd X-Box. The thought passed my mind at home and than again when I’d got back home. Toyriffic didn’t have Shinobi I, II, or III. O-well. All I wanted was Contra Hard Corps. I knew what I was getting because luckily I had the ROM. It’s pretty good game I think. For some reason I got farther on CHC on the emulator then playing with a Genesis controller. I hope I got a Genesis for the right reasons and not just to add more games to my collection. Yes, I was playing Contra Hard Corps for 3 hours after I got home. The sad part is there is no one I can share my opinions on any of my games. I feel really bad about it.

Here are the conditions of the Sega Genesis and software:

1. Genesis – condition 8 out of 10 – no problems playing the games although the RF input has to be tight against the console for anything to show for some reason. Some scratches too.
2. Sonic 3 – condition 7/10 – This has been a rental game, but it was free with purchase, game works great though, but looks like it’s been played a lot.
3. Contra Hard Corps – condition 7.5/10 – also a rental game when I bought it. Plays well. It looks like for Hard Corps – the publisher Konami, manufactured the game as well. Cost 16 dollars
4. Contra 3 – condition 9.0 – looks very nice – no visible scratches on the cartridge, but the sticker looks slightly worn around the edges. 25 dollars.

I learned that the prequel to Contra 3 wasn’t Hard Corps, but called C2 – Contra for Super NES. The original was published for NES. The later games for Playstation and PS2 aren’t very good, but the originals are a lot better. I don’t hate my decision though.

Games I want for Genesis are:

1. Gunstar Heroes (side shooter made by Treasure which makes one of the top 5 games out for Saturn, Radiant Silvergun, a very hard game to find)
2. Alien Soldier (side shooter made by Treasure after Gunstar Heroes was released)

I saw Shadow Hearts Covenant at the Toyriffic. I really wanted it, but decided to go forth with my Genesis purchase. For some reason, it wasn’t at Target or could have been sold out. I might buy this next time because I’m into RPGs. I read the reviews and I usually trust IGN or Gamefaqs and learned that this game is a dramatic improvement over Shadow Hearts. The RPG takes place in an alternate 1911 at the beginning of World War I. It’s based on anime (which I don’t think I support – but it’s got an awesome weapon system from what I hear). I don’t know much about it except some people say that it’s one of the best RPGs out for PS2. This is hard to except because I haven’t heard about this game coming out until it was out.

There is another game called Sly 2 I want but it’s not as important as SHC. I’m getting a little old for platform games although this one is truly as good as the best which is Rachet and Clank. I got far in Rachet 1, haven’t played Rachet 2 though which is too bad. The first game was very fun until I got stuck - it probably was very simple too. I deleted the game save so it may be too much trouble to start over.

Will the top game for PS2 always be Final Fantasy X or Madden Football 2005 long after PS2 is dead? Square-soft always comes out with a better Final Fantasy every year with better visuals, better game play, iffy music (review sites say it’s better when in fact SNES had some of the best tunes), but to make up for it - breathtaking FMV and fully voiced in-game cutscenes. I only completed Final Fantasy X one time through and played half time through 2 times. It was really good, and the ending was alright for anime, but I don’t think I will play it again for another year. We might see Final Fantasy XIII on Microsoft Xenon as well as Playstation 3, but it’s only a rumor ever since Square-Enix announced a game in development for Project Xenon. There has been new news according to the Xbox technology team is developing a heavily modified Virtual PC X86 emulator so that it would emulate XBOX games and is great news for future Xbox 2 owners. If Xbox 2 becomes a hit (MS states that their in this for long term), the development team labor and research will more than pay for itself.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Random thoughts

To begin my Friday, I had a lab project to do with a group and I showed up at WITC at 12:30 like I was supposed too, but I drove in a frickin rain storm which probably has everything to do with why no one showed up to complete the lab project due Tuesday. So the night before I did my own project, it wasn’t very difficult. Like most storms, the wind shield fogs up and I need to put on some heat to prevent this. I was going to go to the Gamestore at around 4PM, but I wanted to be sure what I was going to spend my money on. Later today, I might invest money into a Genesis version 3. I don’t know but I might get Shinobi II Revenge of Shinobi. Genesis is 40 bucks anyways. I already have copies of that popular hedgehog trilogy for Gamecube. Sonic on Nintendo – this isn’t right – did Sega finally sell out? Ya, it may have been a bit of a culture shock when he first appeared on Gamecube though. At least I know I had to stare at the box for 10 minutes first time I saw it. I guess I could also buy Contra Hard Corps or Alien Soldier at Toyriffic. Still have to decide whether or not I want to support a 12th platform or not. I was thinking of owning that “other” 16-bit platform even before I bought SNES earlier this year – but because I favored Mario over Sonic, it sorta reversed my final decision. Why do I pick Genesis after all these years you ask? Different games and Sega published games for that matter. I could just as easily spend money on the other 11 platforms I have. In fact, I doubt I’ll go forth with owning a 12th platform this month.

I thought this would be a great topic for today. The topic is can anyone imagine a videogame console without Japanese animation? Even Xbox has it. Today, I had a discussion with my cousin via MSN Messenger. He normally doesn’t like to run the discussion so I have too or there would be no discussion. David is in the Navy and he’s in Japan (14 hours ahead of me) I asked him “Why does Japanese imports always have anime or hendai” in them?” He wouldn’t ask that. I say anime look bad. Okay? Metal Gear Solid is based on Solid Snake, a commando anime character with attitude. So the plot is why are these Japanese culture-related “R” films or “M” games have animation that look similar to Pokemon or Sailor Moon? I do understand that it all started with Astro Boy in the 1960s until the mid-80s when it exploded. In Game Informer Magazine, half the page contents are focused on anime or hendai themed games of some sort. America should be against this. To most people it’s just another form of animation. To me it’s the Japanese imposters trying to over-throw the American game industry and who knows what else. They are – seriously! They want all of the game industry to belong to them! We must boycott Japanese imports. It’s bad enough we have G4-TECHTV showing their Anime Unleashed block 4 hours every day (I was a fan of TechTV, not G4-TechTV), but then why is Metal Gear Solid 2 so popular then? I don’t completely know why computer geeks like anime? MGS2’s game play is better than 95% of games out there on PS2, and it’s voice acting is unmatched from what I read off IGN. Solid Snake sounds very professional. It does sound like a Hollywood film. I can say this because I own the game too. My cousin got me because I told him to download Cowboy Bebop episodes off Kazaa. The truth is I haven’t seen that on Cartoon Network for months and forgot all about it. Really - I did! I know many of you could care less about which I should do, but I either support Japanese animation or am I totally against the whole thing? I want to say I’m against it, but I would loose all my RPGs that I play off and on. I’m an anime hater RPG fan that plays Japanese imports anyway. See, I’m not afraid to admit it. For some strange reason I like Dead or Alive Extreme Beach Volleyball. In this case “graphics” has double meaning. The game is technically advance over 90% of console games out there, and there are virtual babes on the scene, but nothing to wet my pants over. I would only wet my pants when Half-life 2 comes out – oh yeah - I almost did when I first ran Doom 3 on my home PC. Agree with the extreme polygon ratios – damn, it’s like 300% that of any PS2 game. Yes, it’s true if I set it too near MAX everything. But still though – no one can deny Doom 3 is currently state-of-the-art in graphics and a step ahead of 9 out of 10 games out for PC today.

I’m trying to imagine PS2 without anime or hendai would be like:

Erasing all RPGS off the system including Final Fantasy, Star Ocean, Grandia, Nippin Inchi titles, Suideoken games, Kingdom Hearts, Dark Cloud, Tales of Destiny, .Hack, Xenosaga, Shin Megami Tensei games, Shadow Hearts
No Devil May Cry
No Castlevania
No Dead or Alive 2
No Soul Caliber 2
No Resident Evil games
No Zone of the Enders
No Front Mission
No Fatal Frame franchise
No Virtua Fighter
No Shinobi
No Nightshade
No ridge racer
No Tekken

And then trying to imagine Xbox without anime or hendai would be like:

Erasing all the 3D fighting games
No Panzer Dragoon games
No beach volleyball games from Tecmo
No Japanese games whatsoever and there aren’t that many to begin with

My second discussion about this was when David and I use to play Sonic 2 and Jungle Strike on Sega Genesis. I bought him Sonic 3D Blast for his birthday which means we played within a year of the next generation consoles’ debut. I know now that Sonic 3D Blast was the worst Sonic game ever name. Oops. I was a little confused because I saw Genesis version 3 on the shelf so as a kid I didn’t realize that Saturn, N64, or Playstation were out. I know Genesis has been died for 8 years – some say 10 years ever since Sega brought Saturn to stores. This was before I owned any electronic game console of my own. This is SEGA though. I told him that if SEGA made a Dreamcast 2, I would buy it. That’s the climax. Now SEGA games are scattered across 5 platforms (PS2, Gamecube, Xbox, Gameboy Advance, Nokia Ngage) In 1999 and 2000, he and I played Dreamcast like most would normally play Playstation 2. I was shocked that Dreamcast would be short lived. In fact, I was going to buy the successor to Dreamcast if there ever was one.

I found out some interesting polls on which console is better:

PC Engine place 1st
Xbox place 2nd
PS2 place 3rd
Gamecube place 4th

For Xbox, the best thing that it has a hard drive to store game saves and the worst is the bulky controller. 75% of the poll suggests that the Xbox controller is too big to play on and the Gamecube controller is very oddly configured. The real answer here is how to make a controller as close as the PS2 controller (Dual Shock 2) without getting into a law suit with Sony. The biggest disadvantage of PS2 is that it’s graphical GIGA-FLOP power, but the best advantage is the variety of good games out for it. To give you an idea of how much 1 gigaflop is – the Dreamcast could do a maximum of 1.2 Gigaflops like in games Quake III Arena, Sonic Adventure 2, Grandia 2 or Skies of Arcadia that really show the consoles abilities. The PS2 can do about 6 gigaflops. Gamecube’s advantage is often seen that it comes out with the best 1st party titles of the 3 competitors. The worst part is that it can not play movies which are totally out of whack since the Panasonic Q DOES exist, and this wouldn’t be the case if the most wasn’t referring to the norm. PC Engine is preferred to the best because it has the most games (which is kind of unfair in this sense) I would think that this answer is illegal although it is true according to a few polls on the net.

The way I see it is I’m never buying new again. Used Xboxes are not only less expensive, they come with the previous user’s game saves most of the time. The only time I should buy new is if I collect them and want an unopened Xbox to show off when it is antique. I buy to play it – not for showcase. Therefore, buying used doesn’t bother me.

This is Ian signing off.