the motherboard calls

Woke up today to find my computer running and the monitor off. This is a normal occurence, as my computer generally runs 24/7 with only occasional breaks when I’m out for a few days. After fifteen minutes the monitor goes to sleep while the machine just hums quietly to itself. It’s rather pleasant at night, really.

No, the odd part came when I pulled the keyboard out and saw that it was off. It’s a backlit keyboard, so to have the computer running, but the keyboard inexplicably deactivated was…abnormal. Upon trying to wake the computer up, I got no response. It appeared to be on–the fans were running, the power lights all on, everything seemed normal. But it was entirely unresponsive.
I hit the reset button, and the computer rebooted…sort of. There was no video output whatsoever, no POSTing, no beeping. But everything seemed normal, once again. At this point I noticed my CPU fan wasn’t running. After switching the fan to another header, it spun up normally and continued as normal.
So, the next step: experimentation. I transplanted my processor, memory, and power supply into another case with another AM3 motherboard. Same behavior–no POST, no output, no response. After changing the power supply on the first machine, same thing. I think…think this points to the motherboard being faulty, as if it worked and the CPU was shot it would still POST, and then report the error. But I suppose both could be shot? Hope not. Either way, time for an RMA…

staying low

I pulled up to a stop sign earlier today, and glanced into my rear view mirror. Behind me was a blue sedan, and behind that, I could just make out a Schaumburg Police car. I made sure to come to a complete stop, checked traffic, then rolled across the intersection and on my merry way.

As I crossed through, I checked my rear view again, and saw that the cop was taking a right turn onto the cross road. Inside, I let out a tiny sigh of relief. I had evaded attention once again, and was free to continue with my mission.

Time to get rid of the body.
I’m playing this game too God damned much.

resolution devolution

Dragon Age 2 was released a few weeks ago, and from what I hear it kicks ass. EA’s in some hot water for sneaking SecuROM in under the radar, which they certainly should have known better than to attempt. But that’s actually not what grabbed my attention. On March 7, BioWare announced the release of the DA2 high resolution texture pack.

March 7 was one day before the game’s retail release. What?
I’m a little baffled about this, but more concerned. This seems to be riding the wave of cut-corner game development that’s been plaguing the industry for several years now. Bethesda is known as the worst offender on this front, but this move by BioWare seems to be a more subtle form of the infection.
This is said to be a move by the developers to appease PC gamers, who claim that the PC version of the demo was inferior due to its use of the console version’s textures. While the textures certainly weren’t the ultra-sharp textures the hexacore users with triple-Crossfire video cards have wet dreams about, but they’re nothing to ashamed of, either. They certainly don’t hurt the experience. My initial reaction to hearing about the texture pack was, “A game newly released in 2011 already needs a texture upgrade?” But there are implications worse than caving to the demands of slobbering keyboard jockeys. Something like this could be leveraged as marketing material.
I wouldn’t hesitate to believe that the release of the texture pack drove a significant number of sales of DA2, maybe not more than a few percent, but even that would have earned BioWare spare tens of thousands of dollars. How many more future games will be released, with high-resolution textures, or other things that should have been in the game from the start, announced at the last second and causing thousands of fans to flock to stores to pick up the game and then immediately download the content they should have already had. Or, in the case of Steam, they’ll download the game, and then download said content.
This could get out of hand badly. Here’s hoping it doesn’t.

cruise control

Two types of gameplay do not work on a mouse and keyboard, no matter how staunchly one stands behind PC gaming: platformers, and driving. At heart I’m a console gamer, but when it comes games involving shooting, PCs have always held the high ground. PC enthusiasts, be quiet for a few minutes, because this is the undeniable truth and you know it.

I recently started playing Mafia 2 via Steam, and buried within the game’s climactic turf wars and lookalike Studebaker Champions was a teensy little mechanic that would never be noticed, if it were not pointed out to the player: a speed limiter.

The main deterrent in the realm of driving mechanics is that in driving, some form of progressive input is required. Turn the car a tiny bit, or turn the wheel hard over for a hairpin at top speed. A joystick (or better yet, a steering wheel) achieves exactly this. Tip the stick a small fraction and the car meanders to one side; get to maximum tilt and the car will swing around. A keyboard is a collection of binary switches–each key is essentially on or off. The best you can do with this mechanic is constantly tap the key for a fraction of a second, making the car turn a smaller amount over time. But it’s awkward, at best. The same problem happens when trying to control one’s speed:

By pressing the L key while driving, the player invokes a “safe driving mode” that limits the vehicle’s top speed to 40 mph. Being that this only has the one setting, and is essentially a binary switch, its usefulness is limited, but it has its uses. Some of the roads in the game are marked as 40-mph zones, thusly I was able to activate the limiter and then just cruise with my finger on the gas, always moving at a good clip with respect to traffic, but never too fast to lose control.

This wormed its way into my brain after a few minutes, planting a parasite of an idea.

What if these games incorporated a form of cruise control?

Say you’re driving around in a car. While some people don’t mind fracturing the rules and blazing down side streets at ridiculous speeds, others may prefer to stick to the speed limits, not just for the law-abiding-citizen factor but also because zipping around in slow traffic may cause some…physics issues, shall we call them. Anyway, you drive off, and when your spedometer hits 20 mph, you double-tap the “accelerate” key (in most cases it’s W). This locks your speed at its current number, freeing you to worry about making turns. To unlock the spedometer, you double-tap either the “accelerate” or “brake” keys, and viola.

And perhaps a complementary system of double-tapping the turn keys, to lock the angle of turn? Not sure if that would work out so well.

2K Games, I hope you’re reading this.