Friday, 28 June 2013

Fun with Windows 8! (Not!)

Well, the new PC is going well. It actually makes a nice change buying an off-the-shelf computer (first time in about ten years). The last three PCs of mine have all been builds specifically designed for gaming (and in some cases particular games).

Yes, this latest computer is underpowered, but then again it cost a fraction of the price that a like-for-like replacement for my last games machine would have cost and in these days of austerity I just can't justify that sort of money. Besides, there is still the slight chance I can rebuild my old machine...Maybe.

But, to the main point of this post - Windows 8.

As a PC gamer I have always been something of a hostage to fortune when it comes to my computer's operating system. Console gamers can think themselves lucky that they basically don't have to worry about 'what's under the hood'. I've had some really stinky experiences in the past - anyone remember Windows ME? Commonly known as the 'Mistake Edition' that had everyone's computers grinding to an ignominious halt after only a months us. But naturally the complex OS is a necessary evil that fuels the innovation that still makes PC gaming the cutting edge of technology rather than gaming consoles.

Anyhoo, so despite this being a gaming blog (basically) and not a computing blog it is worth mentioning my initial impressions of Windows 8, as it will dictate exactly what I can and will be gaming.

First off - Yikes! WTF with all this tablet interface crap!

 I am not a Luddite and I know tablet computing has revitalised the flagging PC market, but to build the tablet interface processes integrally into a universal OS is crazy. I am now burdened with a lot of app screens that I do not want and which at times really become a hindrance. The least Microsoft could have done was to allow desktop users to be able to turn off these feature so that they could simply use the desktop interface which is behind all these curtains of extreme fuckery.

TIP: You can get past that shite and to the actual desktop by pressing: WINDOWS + D (Windows keyboard button plus D key).

Next we have the much moaned about absence of a Start Button.

Well this is now something of a mute point as we are now told that MS will be brining back the Start Button in Windows 8.1 because of the huge negative response from users. But that doesn't help me - or other v8 - users in the meantime. So I turned to a third party tool to bring back the Start Button.

Stardocks Start8 is a small program that does some magic to your system to bring back the Start Button and the menu behind it - just like Windows 7! It set me back $4.99, but that is money well spent if it means I can now access things like my applications and control panels from a convenient menu right on the desktop task bar.

And finally, we have the mystery of the Shut Down button!

Before I discovered Start8 I was in a bit of a quandary as to how to actually shut down Windows 8. There was no obvious 'Shut Down' button like there was in previous Windows desktops - in fact to Shut Down meant a magical mystery tour into the wacky world of Win8 'charms'!

I had to Google how to do it! And the solution was a several stage process starting by activating the right hand pop up menu - called 'the charms' - going to settings,  Power and then choosing 'Shut Down'! Er, WTF?

So, again resorting to a Googled solution, I found instructions on how to make a 'Shut Down' short-cut which I placed on the desktop - and which is as such available by default by the hideous Win8 'Start' screen - which allows me to turn off my machine with a click.

Link: PC World - How to make create a Windows 8 Shut Down Tile

...>So, that's where I am at the moment. I have the ability to use a couple of functions that were inherent in the previous OS. And I now feel I can get to the actual job of using the darn OS to do stuff! I will update you on my actual impressions of using Win8 in a months time!

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Latest kit! Finnish IL-28 Beagle

Still doing this 'relaxation' hobby thing! This time I picked up a really cheap aircraft kit and thought I would give that a go...

Crivins! The this took me right back to when I was a kid, though I don't think I will suspend this model from the bedroom ceiling with fishing line....The wife might take umbrage! :)

Monday, 24 June 2013

General update - new PC, new game?

BANG! 'Oh, can you smell  something burning?'
Well, it's been ages since I felt like doing any gaming so it was a bit of a shock (pun alert) when I sparked up my gaming rig the other day as a major electrical disfunction in the house blew just about everything!

Our old Victorian house has been living on borrowed time with it's ancient electrics - yes, I put up our hands and say it was something we knew needed attention but we constantly put on the back burner. We needed a complete re-wiring but always had 'better' things to spend that amount of money on. Lesson learned!

For the wife it was the washing machine that went pop, for me it was my computer (and yes I did - supposedly - have a surge protector fitted). Long story short(er), the electrician took one look at our under-stairs electrical box and did that (expensive looking) head shake and tutting sound! Oh dear!

New PC and new game...
Well, that was about a week ago and it did cost us a small fortune to have a whole new board installed. Additionally this meant a trip out to Currys/PC World to look at a new washing machine. And while we were there I just happened to notice a nice little HP Pavilion PC on clearance. It was on buy now pay in 6 months, so I was sucked in!

Now I can play with the lads online - as it's easily good enough to play World of Tanks, but do my Adobe Illustrator work as well - while I have my main rig visit the computer hospital to see what can be salvaged. It's just a home office spec box, but at least has a 2GD AMD Radeon HD 7570 graphics card in it.

So that's the new PC, the new game was released last night and that is 'Company of Heroes 2'...

This is now out on STEAM and I am sorely tempted having enjoyed the first one so much. It's all about the Soviets this time, but that will provide new challenges and even though I can't seeing the guys from BIG clan playing this (it's not an FPS) it can be played multi-player if you wish.

Windows 8
One last thing. You can't seem to buy a new PC these days without it coming with WIndows 8, my Pavilion is no exception. My original intension was to retro-grade it to Win 7 64 bit but I decided to have a quick look at WIndows 8 first.

Well, do you know, I quite like it! Yes, the whole start button issue is a pain (it took me 15 minutes to figure out how to 'shut down' the darn thing) and the OS does feel like a bit of a Frankenstein's OS, as it is a desktop system with a 'made of touch-screen' OS bolted on. But to be honest there IS a desktop there in the background and so most of the time you feel like you are using Win 7.

I will be looking more into how you can customise the OS to make it even more like Win 7, but I do like the speed and solidity of Win 8...So far!

Monday, 17 June 2013

More Battlefield 4 screens - custom vehicles

If you asked a player of World of Tanks what they might like to see in Battlefield 4 they might want to see a level of customising that they are used to in WoT, whether that might be a choice of weapon, ammo or camo. Well EA, it seems, are putting some thought to this for BF4...

One of the things I always wanted was greater inclusion of naval warfare,
including the chance to board ships or oil rigs and have ship to ship combat.

You can read a little more about this over at PC Games, but depth of information is teasingly scant.

Customising one's individual gear is always a nice thing, we are all geardos to one extent or another, but we have been here before - anyone remember Host Recon's Advanced Warfighter's hype over their weapon customisation? In effect this concentration on these cosmetics was an attempt to hide the fact that the game was so poor.

Now I am not judging BF4, I can't as there still isn't enough detail yet, but there are certain things I really want to hear about the latest BF game - here's *MY* tick list...

1. The return of the commander mode - DONE (tick!)
2. Larger less console-centric 'linear' maps with more opportunity to flank
3. Multiscreen support for tactical planning - DONE (tick!)
4. Increased focus on rewards for team play/team mission completion
5. Increase fire support options to help 'uncork' map bottlenecks (drones to counter snipers for example)
7. Greater simulation of 'asymmetric' warfare with differentiation between 'high tech' faction and 'low tech' faction for the armies, each with their specific advantages and disadvantages (the ability to use IEDs, for example).
8. The return of the Chinese!

...Suddenly realised that I could go on and on!

BUT - concentrating on getting this game back to a PC-centric format one of the biggest things that hard-core PC users would like to see if the support for mods and maps. But with the greater integration of dynamic physics - like the ability to break buildings - it seems that games like this will be harder to mod. But I hope some thought will be given to clan war tools and server support to run tournaments.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

World of Tanks - Tiger, Tiger burning bright!

Finally achieved the infamous Tiger I on my free WoT account! This was a LONG grind!

Both the tanks prior to this - the VK 36.01 (H) - and the un-upgraded Tiger I were absolutely abysmal tanks to play. The un-upgraded Tiger I - with the 'inferior' L/56 88mm gun - was just a big lump of target which asked to be arty fodder. In the end, just to grind to the upgraded L/71 88mm gun, I used the un-upgraded Tiger as a turreted tank destroyer and kept to long range sniping with Gold (silver) ammo!

Even upgraded the Tiger I has to be played very wisely and ideally still at long range as it has a tendency to catch fire very easily. Do not try an brawl with this tank (unless you definitely know you can win)!

As for upgrades, I have stuck in the gun-rammer - of course - and the binoculars to aid with long range sniping. General opinion seems to suggest that camo isn't worth it with this tank - it doesn't have that much effect, so I will go for ventilation to aid crew effectiveness. For crew training sixth sense is a MUST, and you can cut down on the fire issue by training for preventative measures. Driving skills help with mobility and any skill that aids view distance is an advantage.

Still, I proved my point, you can earn some of the bigger tanks using WoT freely (as opposed to Premium membership) if you are willing to put the work in grinding them...

As to what next, I think I will switch back to the Tank Destroyer line now and see how far I can grind up that tech tree.

Monday, 10 June 2013

BF4 - The return of the commander?

For hardened veterans of the PC irritation of the Battlefield series of games there seems to be no more divisive issue than the absence of the commander mode in BF3. It was certainly one, but not just THE, issue that turned me off to the console influenced sequel to the hugely popular BF2.

Eurogamer highlighted the latest news and teasers from DICE in a short article - and among the tasty tidbits on offer to the skeptical BF2 PC fan at the return of the commander mode and a greater level of dynamics when it comes to how the player can affect their surrounding environment.

What is perhaps most exciting is that the commander mode seems to be designed so that the PC player can utilise this using a second platform - such as a iPad! This is something I always wanted - accessing the finer points of the 'strategic' tools of Battlefield separately from the main screen (something advanced flight sim players have been doing for years).

Imagine you are a platoon leader flighting your way - in FPS - on your main screen, you want to check your map BUT not loose sight of the tactical situation  As things stand you either have to bring up a tiny picture in picture map of your location or - worse - replace you main screen with a detailed map. Neither good, but with the new game mechanics you can quickly glance to your iPad to check your battlefield map, just as real platoon leaders would do. Great!

Next there is the environmental dynamics. This isn't - apparently - just busting certain breakable buildings as has been tried out in BF3 and BC2, you will now more subtly be able to affect the tactical situation like cutting the electricity of a specific department block or indeed collapse that department block.

All in all quite exciting stuff, particularly the commander mode and offers some hope to dissolute BF fans like myself. My only hope is we will see enlargements of the game environment that will not be linked to just what a console can cope with.

My biggest gripe with BF3 was the restricted latitude for movement or flanking as every flag seemed to be within sniper range from the next flag. This was in complete contrast to the beloved BF2 on the PC which was a rangy game that positively encouraged long range flanking missions that had game changing implications.

I will remain skeptical until I see for myself how these, and future, changes in the game will be implemented in the final game - or indeed whether they actually appear! But I am mildly happy with teh news so far...Stay tuned.

Eurogamer: Battlefield 4 reintroduces top down "Commander Mode"

Thursday, 6 June 2013

World of Tanks - 'free' Tiger!

Finally managed to earn the infamous Tiger on my free WoT account (as opposed to my Premium membership account). No money was expended whatsoever on getting this tank - which just goes to prove it can be done!

At the moment this is just the non-upgraded Tiger with bare minimum equipment - PzKpfw-VI-Tiger-I-Turm Ausf.H2 turret (as with my earlier VK 30.01 (P) tank) and L56 88mm gun.

There's a lot more work ahead of me to get the better engine - it crawls at the moment - better Tiger turret and the lovely L71 8,8cm gun.