Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Amalur crash :(

Well today I experienced my first Amalur crash, and it sucks. It wasn't a crash, actually.  It seems to be more like corrupt save data, but it's not just corrupt save data on one save, it's on the autosave too!

I had just reached the isle of Eammon on Friday. Didn't get a chance to play over the weekend, and then on Monday went to Continue my game and experienced an eternal loading screen.  I quit the game and restarted it, tried to manually load the saved game. Again, it just never loads.  So then I tried loading the auto saved version from about 10 minutes prior to the manually saved game.  Again, it wouldn't load!  Both are on the Isle of Eammon, so I'm not sure if that's significant or not.

Then I tried loading data from earlier in the week (about 4 days earlier) and it loads fine. 

Internet searches don't suggest this is a common problem, so I'm not sure what happened.  The good news is that I only have to resume from level 24 (I was at level 26), but it bugs me to lose progress like that. Not a huge deal. My philosophy is usually that re-playing will actually render better results because it usually does. Still annoying though!

The lesson is the same as usual: save often, and keep old saves around.  I didn't upgrade my harddrive to 320G for nothing!

Some people aren't clear on how much harddrive space saved games take up. Believe me, it's nothing.  We're talking about 2mb for my level 26 saves. By the time I'm at level 36 it will be maybe at 5mb.  So, save like you mean it, because you never know when you'll have to roll your game back a level.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

download sizes

I was watching a friend download Firefox 10 for her Mac and noticed that the download size was 78mb. I noticed because she (tried) to do the download while we were having breakfast, at a diner.  Not exactly the fastest internet around, so she ended up stopping the download any way.  And I had been the one to tell her to go ahead and download it, because I thought, 10 to 12mb at the most.

But 78mb for a web browser? WTF!?

So I went home and went to http://getfirefox.com on my Linux computer, and downloaded the Linux version just to compare download sizes.  Of course I wouldn't really download it from Firefox's site normally, I'd just get it from the software manager on my computer, but I wanted to compare.

Well, on Linux, the download size is 16.2 mb. If I get it from my repository, it's even less (although Linux comes with Firefox already installed but that's just a detail).

16mb compared to 78mb is not something to sneeze at, so I compared more, and generally speaking this is very common. Sometimes the gap is huge and sometimes it's only about a quarter difference or half the difference, but there's usually a big difference in file size.

I asked some friends what was going on, and most of them didn't know, so then I asked some MOAR friends (programmer types) and they of course had the answer.  Don't quote me on this because I have no idea what it means and I could be explaining it wrong, but this is the basic gist.  Mac programs come packaged up in folders that are disguised as applican icons. That part I knew, because there's that old trick of "right-clicking" on an Application and choosing Show Contents, and you can see some of the things that go into making up an application on Mac.  But the reason they are bundled up in this way is because all applications need special code (called libraries) to run.  On Mac, all the libraries are bundled up INSIDE the application.

Now get this. If you have, say, Firefox, which needs a library called XUL, and then you download Thunderbird and it also needs XUL, then guess what?  Yes, you're downloading XUL twice.

That doesn't seem so bad until you start downloading XUL four times, and OPENCL 12 times, and FFTW 8 times and FFMPEG 15 times, ad infinitum.

In other words, imagine if Mac applications could tell in advance that you already have XUL and Gecko and all these other libraries, and so instead of making you download and store 78mb for Firefox, it only sent you 12mb.  And then Libre Office knew that you already had a bunch of Java stuff, so it only sent you 165mb instead of 225mb.  And Celtx, and VLC, and Filezilla, and Chromium, and so on!

Well, it doesn't really matter that much until you're running out of disk space, or you're on a slow internet connection and can't get what you need when you need it.

Interesting, right?

Friday, March 2, 2012

20 hours of Kingdoms of Amalur: The Reckoning

My initial report on kingdoms of Amalur was positive, but after 20 hours of gameplay, I have to report that I was wrong on a few things about Amalur.  It's not a good game, it's possibly one of my favorite games ever!

Readers of my old blog will know that I don't say that lightly. There are games that I like, like Rage, Fallout 3, Bioshock, Res Evil, Dead Island. And then there are games that I love, which includes Borderlands, Dragons Age, Zelda, and Amalur. And those are the only "love" games that come to mind, so yes it takes a lot to get on my "love" list.

But Amalur has made it. Why? Well, first of all the world that it's set in. it's a perfect Fantasy land with all the traditional elements skillfully done and with just enough of a twist to make them unique, but not so drastically to set it completely apart from the genre. Dragons Age is perfect, so I'm not taking away from it when I use it as an example here, but in Dragons Age the ethnic divide between elves and humans is epic, so much so that it really sets it apart from traditional fantasy, for me. In Amalur, there's a little bit of that between humans and the Fae, but its less drastic, so the world still feels comfortingly traditional.  I'm not saying that's all I ever want (obviously, since Dragons Age is perfect) but sometimes it feels good to settle into a comfortable well worn fantasy world.

The fighting in Amalur is the next great thing about it. This is where I see Amalur as a beautiful mix of Dragons Age and Borderlands.  Amalur has all the serious RPG elements of Dragons Age or Neverwinter, but plays like a first person shooter the way Borderlands does. In RPG games, I rarely get a bloodlust and just want to go and hunt down bad guys to gratuitously kill them. It's always a very serious matter to defeat foes in RPGs for me. But in Borderlands and Amalur, the fights are a pleasure, and they make me want to kill again and again! The camera is perfect in Amalur and no matter what happens during a melee attack, I can always manage to manouver around like a pro. The targeting system is automated enough to make sure I'm not just firing blasts of fire off into a nearby plant instead of an enemy attacking me, but not too automated so all I'm doing is mashing buttons until I win. The dodging system is amazing, unlike anything I've ever used before.

The looting system is straight out of Zelda and Fallout 3. Get this, you smash boxes and barrels and urns, just like in Zelda, and you get small change and other little prizes, so if you want to nickel and dime yourself to wealth and riches, you can. The lock picking system is a mini game exactly like Fallout 3 except better. If you really try, you can feel when there's resistance, and back off so you don't break your pick, reposition, and try again. I'm getting damn good at it.

There's also a crafting system for weapons, gems (which upgrade armor and weapons, like ruins in Dragons Age), and potions. Dead Island and Rage both have something like this, and I avoid it in those games. Even in Amalur, I have no interest in the blacksmithing or the sagecrafting (like runecrafting in Dragons Age), but the potions I really enjoy, because no matter what you mix together you usually end up with some potion. The potion could boost your health or hurt you, you never know, but it's fun to play with, and sometimes you discover a recipe and then can mix together potions quickly from plants you find aroudn the world.

And the world is vast. I keep finding new places, climates, lairs, towns. There are so many side quests that in 20 hours of game play I've only bothered with two main quests points. It's just too much fun!

So, yes, Amalur is a game I love. We'll see how it ends...eventually.  But either way, it's a classic in my book.