Saturday, August 8, 2009

Resetting my TF2 Stats: The Great Purge (and Inevitable Analysis)

I've got a couple articles in the pipe at the moment, but I've been on holidays (and also hideously lazy, though that's a given, really).

Something I've been tossing around lately is the idea of resetting my TF2 stats, and I just took the plunge. So for the sake of posterity, here are my old statistics up to the 8th of August 2009.

See the bizarre Pyro score anomaly? That's what screwing around on farming servers gets you. It's half of why I reset in the first place.

Clearly I'm a career medic, but in the days before reset I became hellbent on getting the Pyromancer achievement, and as such wound up accruing lot of extra Pyro time, almost 20 hours worth, in order to get it.

The Pyromancer effort, coupled with my compulsive decision a few months back to delete all my unlockable items, has really renewed my appreciation for the Pyro as a class in general. They're almost universally panned as a nub class, but who else gets ludicrous close range damage, decent health (175HP), can extinguish teammates, return explosive projectiles, disrupt the aim and movement of even the heaviest enemies, guarantee melee crits, inspires terror in every single other class, and has generally awesome taunts and characterization?

You know it to be true. Turn to the dark side, and let our power engulf you.

Anyway, with that tangent out of the way, I thought I'd analyze my stats a little. My hours were as such:

Medic - 253:54:01
Pyro - 140:45:33
Engineer - 105:00:46

Scout - 74:57:08
Soldier - 46:26:49
Heavy - 33:47:39
Demoman - 26:01:19
Spy - 15:02:15
Sniper - 5:44:11

This calculates out to a total playtime of 701:39:41 - or a little over 29 days straight. Offensive classes (Scout, Solly, Pyro) earned over 262 hours, Defensive (Demo, Heavy, Engy) got about 165 hours, and Support classes (Medic, Sniper, Sp
y) rang in at roughly 275 hours.

Clearly I'm more inclined towards confrontational classes, which is evident even in my weighting towards Offensive and Support class roles (with Medic being my main, Spy/Sniper left in 8th and 9th slot, and Pyro/Scout taking 2nd/4th).

There is plenty more analyses to be done if one was so inclined; but I'll leave you with this: at the time of my reset, TF2 had been online and playable for 668 days (one year, 9 months and 29 days). This works out to me having played, on average, a little over one hour per day since release. Truly, this is the mark of an enjoyable and we
ll-designed game.

My extended statistics are available below. Much respect to for permitting a 1048x3075 PNG file without any resizing, and not requiring an account.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Of Hardware Hacks and Interface Issues

So last night I tried a new type of problem-solving when it comes to getting software to work for me. I've owned Assassin's Creed for a while now, and never really got into it, which is a real shame. The storyline is interesting, the graphics are lush, the environment is fascinating, and it's always fun to leap from a belltower onto an unsuspecting mark as you bury your concealed blade in their throat.

Mister Stabby, this is Randomdude Abouttodie. Randomdude, Mister Stabby.

The problem I'd had with it was primarily a matter of interface. Assassin's Creed, while not technically a port per se, it does seem to have been designed more with consoles in mind. As a PC user, the basic control setup seems simple enough, with movement and camera control intuitive, thanks to the WASD/mouse input system every third person game ever has taught us. Where it really fell down was the functions; target locking, fighting, talking etc. Even onscreen, the function icons are arranged in the classic four-items-in-a-diamond-pattern. It seems fine, but in order to translate that to a PC setup, the default keybinds were all over the place, using LShift, Space, E and Enter (among others) - messy, slow and difficult to get used to. It might not seem like the biggest problem, but I play for immersion and experience, so to stop and have to think about which controls I need to be using every ten seconds is a dealbreaker for me.

Rather than spending half my night screwing around with variations on the binds, and wind up with something that was clumsy at best, I decided to try another approach - a console controller. At it's core, AC is a glorified 3D platformer - and we all know the native home of the platformer is the console.

I dusted off one of the old Xbox Controller S units that we had lying around, and lootedmy brother's USB adapter for it. Ten minutes of tinkering later, I had a fully functional input device in my hands. Credit paid where credit is due, however - the driver package that permitted flawless function was released by a gentleman known as redcl0ud, and the rebuild of said drivers that enable x64 function was done by a couple of guys at the PlanetAMD64 forums; Driver and BeAvErMaTiC. So thanks, guys :)

An Xbox-to-USB cable. They replace the small cable between the breakaway point and the console plug, so you can use the controller in standard USB ports. You can lay hands on one of these babies for about $10, but if you're feeling adventurous, making one yourself is a pretty simple hack.

The install process was relatively simple (I had to hunt down a custom .DLL for x64 compatibility), and the game itself detected the device with no trouble. I was worried that I'd have to map the controller, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover the game had a set of defaults that worked perfectly. Nice work, Ubisoft.

So after a few minutes of brainstorming, googling and troubleshooting I had a controller that intuitively suited the playstyle of the title, and an evening of quality gaming ahead. And guess what? Assassin's Creed really is as much fun as I'd hoped it would be :)

What I'm taking away from all this is that while no game is perfect, sometimes a concept or idea native to a different platform is the only thing needed to complete the equation. I know I'll certainly be keeping this solution in mind the next time I face a similar issue.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Beginning

So, here I am at the beginning of a new blog. Not that I'm an accomplished blogger or somesuch, but I did have the LiveJournal that was practically obligatory for internet kids around my age.

I'm not so conceited as to think anyone will actually read this, but in case you were wondering, I'm Damon. Hi. I'm a recent graduate of the Business school at Curtin University, based in Perth, Western Australia, and an avid gamer. If I manage to maintain the steam required to keep this thing updated, I'll be mostly dwelling on business and video game topics. I might toss the occasional opinion piece in, but frankly there are already so many ill-informed mouth-breathers contaminating the web with their unsolicited statements, it's a little cliché.

I'm fascinated by systems of all kind, whether it be computer operations, programs, techniques or just general patterns, in all facets of life. When I engage with a system, I want to learn about it. I want to understand it, from the inside and out, as a consumer and an operator. I want to test it, to push its limits, to 'beat the system'. The ultimate drive for this is a sense of personal accomplishment, but popular side products include fault-finding and boosts in efficiency.

I see video games as a burgeoning form of media, with potential for a whole new level of immersion and synergy when it comes to plot development and new experiences, whether as individuals or in a group.

I'm currently working on a few basic projects revolving around new content for some of the games I enjoy, with grand ideas behind them. As they slowly come to fruition, I'll be updating and sharing them here. At the moment the bulk of the concepts are based around Left 4 Dead, Team Fortress 2, and Fallout 3. I'm pretty much teaching myself through trial and error at this point, so low volume and moderate quality will be the order of the day until I've developed some more experience.

Shortly I should have a portfolio/résumé post up, where I'll be listing my info, and hopefully I'll be able to craft the site into something that doesn't so obviously resemble a 5-minute template soon after.

So thanks for coming this far, and I hope you find something you like here :)