Archive for the 'Hardware' Category


Myst V: Still Trying to Get Started

I haven’t been doing much gaming for the last week or so. I’ve been busy, and expect to remain busy for another week or two. I did, however, take the time to do a little experiment. The company I work for has given me a Dell laptop — specifically, a Latitude D620. I installed Myst V on it, and sure enough, it gives a quite acceptable framerate in the part where it was bogging down to unplayability on my usual machine, which has a faster CPU and more memory. I may eventually just hook up the laptop to my monitor and mouse and play it from there, but this would be inconvenient for various reasons, so I’ll leave that as a last resort.

By now, I’ve played through the opening several times. After an intro sequence with a voice-over by Atrus, the game starts in the world (or “age”, as the Myst series calls them) of D’ni, in the chamber where the original Myst ended. Exploring from there, I soon met Yeesha, last seen as a little girl in Myst IV, now grown up and resembling the creepy messianic figure she appears as in Uru. 1 For those not hip to Uru: It’s basically a multi-player online Myst spin-off, set some time after the games in the series proper. The online part was cancelled shortly after launch, then the content packaged as a single-player game, and more recently the online game has been launched again. I may join Uru Live after I finish Myst V. She said a bunch of stuff that I didn’t have enough context yet to understand. I remember from Uru that Yeesha has this annoying habit of never explaining what it is she’s talking about, as if she were one of the fragmentary journals that litter the series. Then I was teleported to another “age”, where someone called Esher gave me another spiel, mainly about not trusting Yeesha. This is the point where the framerate started really degrading, and I gave up shortly afterward. (There was a tunnel leading to some content, but I didn’t spend long on it.)

So I got speeches from Atrus and Yeesha and Esher, and after hearing them repeated, I’m starting to make a little sense of them. Atrus and Yeesha said things that might mean that Atrus is dead, although they both couched it in terms vague enough to admit other possibilities: in a game where people routinely travel between worlds, to say that someone is no longer of this world doesn’t mean much. Also, Yeesha spoke of a “tablet” that “responded” to me, and which would be “released” after I did some stuff. I’m starting to think that this is a part of a certain small table-like structure of stone slabs that I was examining just before Yeesha appeared. Or maybe not. It would make sense of the claim that it “responded” to me — the table glowed or something the first time I poked it, although there didn’t seem to be any other effects, beyond triggering Yeesha’s cut-scene. It would be easier to interpret these speeches if they were written down rather than delivered orally.

Come to think of it, doesn’t the UI provide transcripts? Something to look into the next time I try it.

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1. For those not hip to Uru: It’s basically a multi-player online Myst spin-off, set some time after the games in the series proper. The online part was cancelled shortly after launch, then the content packaged as a single-player game, and more recently the online game has been launched again. I may join Uru Live after I finish Myst V.

PSX-to-USB adaptors

Acting on the advice of many, I finally gave up and bought a different PSX-to-USB adaptor that has a better driver, one that allows me to arbitrarily reassign axes. Such devices are not expensive, but still, it rankles, because I didn’t really want or need a different adaptor. In terms of hardware, my new adaptor can’t be very different from my old one. Both devices take the same kind of signal, and produce the same kind of signal. All I really needed was a better driver. The driver for the new device was available for free download on the web, but Windows wouldn’t allow me to use it with the old adaptor.

I know very little about Windows device drivers, and less about USB, but presumably the two devices send some kind of signature that lets the USB host figure out which device it is. So it should be possible to hack the new driver to work with the old device by changing the signature it looks for. But figuring out how to do this would have involved more work than it took to earn the money I used to pay for the new adaptor.

Anyway, at least I should be able to play GTA3 properly now.

GTA3: Still Getting Started

I still haven’t got the right joystick to work correctly with GTA3, and I’m on the verge of giving up. There’s a part of the registry under HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\MediaProperties\PrivateProperties\Joystick\ that clearly corresponds to my gamepad. Indeed, I can disable rumble effects by deleting certain keys under it, so it’s not like I’ve been completely unable to affect the way the joystick operates. According to various websites, including Microsoft’s joystick driver specs, I should be able to remap the axes by altering the “Attributes” value of the various sub-keys under “Axes”. Nothing I have done affects the axes at all in any way other than miscalibrating them. Like I say, I’ve almost given up, but I’d really like to get this working right, not just for GTA3, but for all the other games in the stack that don’t have in-game axis reconfiguration.

Anyway, in the process of testing my alterations in GTA3, I’ve noodled around in cars a bit. I’m beginning to see why this game was so popular. This is a very different game from the first two. The switch from top-down fixed camera angle to a more street-level view has a greater effect on the experience than I thought it would, mainly that it gives a better sense of motion, that you’re careening along the street and onto the crowded sidewalk and so forth. It also has a different feel from its imitators, such as Jak 2, which tend to be set in more fantastical environments. Liberty City is based on New York City. I live in New York City. The sites in this game — the decaying tenements, the tiny fenced-in parks, the storefronts jammed into grey concrete — are familiar to me, and modelled well enough to really evoke the real thing. I can’t explain why it’s enjoyable to play with an imitation of someting that I could see just by walking around outside, but it is.

GTA3: Getting Started

Surely, Grand Theft Auto 3 is one of the games that any game-literate person must know, one of the defining games of this decade. Not only has it been tremendously influential to the industry, it’s controversial enough to have become one of the few games that even non-gamers have heard of. It’s even been satirized in a soda commercial. Strange to think that it’s taken me this long to get around to playing it.

My reasons for not playing it yet are not good ones. They stem from my completist leanings: I don’t like to play series out of order if I can help it. Thus, I didn’t want to start GTA3 until I had finished GTA2, even though there’s no continuity of story or anything like that. And it took me a while to get around to playing through GTA2 simply because it wasn’t all that good. Its faction system was an interesting experiment, but it encouraged somewhat tedious gameplay. The easiest way to complete many of the missions was to pacify the gang whose turf you’d be invading in advance, which you could do by killing your unresisting allies in the target gang’s rival gang. Still, I finished GTA2 a few months ago, and then took a months-long break from the series.

Even now, I haven’t really made a serious go of it. I’m having some difficulty getting it to work properly with my joystick, a PS2 Dualshock controller connected to my PC via a PSX-to-USB adaptor from Radio Shack. The problems I’m having are problems I’ve had before: the right analog stick seems to have its axes swapped, so that pressing forward and back rotates the camera and pressing left and right zooms in and out. Various websites suggest registry hacks to fix this, but nothing has worked yet. I suppose I could just go to keyboard/mouse controls, but that just seems wrong for something that’s primarily a PS2 game.

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