Sunday, January 20, 2019

Emulating Success - Part 2

In my efforts to try out PUBG Mobile on the computer using the Android OS emulator Bluestacks, I was reading for tips to try and improve the lackluster performance of the game when I came across recommendations that said that the program Tencent Gaming Buddy was the better emulator to use for PUBG Mobile. Since Tencent is the company that publishes PUBG Mobile, that seems like a good path to pursue before fighting with Bluestacks some more.

I downloaded the program and PUBG Mobile, hooked my account up, and... I was blown away. The performance was far smoother with higher graphics settings, as smooth as my phone is on low settings. The keyboard mappings controls were slightly less polished than on Bluestacks but some playing with the customization options soon allowed me to feel 90% comfortable while playing the game.

I think the big difference is that the Tencent Gaming Buddy program is a custom program for Tencent games and is not a full blown Android installation, removing a double step that the full emulator has to make to go from game to Android OS to Windows to graphics hardware.

I have already deleted the Bluestacks PUBG Mobile installation; I may still use Bluestacks for other less intensive games and apps if the need arises.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Emulating Success

Last year I tried to get into Player Unknown's Battlegrounds but found that my old reflexes meant that I could not compete in a way that felt good. I lost almost every firefight even if I had the drop on my opponent. The hyper-realism in weapons operation combined with the long time between combats and harsh penalty added up to make the experience frustrating.

However I loved the concept and decided to try out PUBG mobile on my phone since it was free. What I found was a near perfect replication of the maps and gameplay on an interface that rewarded fast reflexes less than the PC version. The end result is that I can compete satisfactorily enough to enjoy the game and not feel like I've wasted 20-30 minutes every round.

The big downsides are comfort and battery life. No matter what accessories I use to enhance the experience (see image below) its never going to feel as comfortable as a big computer screen with mouse and keyboard, and my old Samsung Galaxy S6 battery struggles to allow me to play for more than an hour at a time.

So I decided to download and try running Bluestacks, an Android emulator for the PC. Basically you start it up and its running Android in a program window and you connect with a Google account and you have the play store to download apps and run them on your PC. You can even connect to the same account you use on your phone to synchronize game accounts. I installed PUBG Mobile on it, ran it... and was not impressed.

Now, before the calls of "cheater" and such erupt, allow me to point out that PUBG Mobile detects when you are using an emulator and groups you in matches only with other players using emulators! I'm not taking advantage of poor people on phones with my mouse and keyboard. I would not use an emulator if this were not the case (and I know its working because the game pops up a message informing you that it detects an emulator and will be doing just what I said).

First off, the good: mouse and keyboard integration are spot on, it does not feel unnatural or hacked in. Playing the game on the bigger screen from my comfy chair is nice. No battery to worry about either.

Now the bad: my PC is 4 years old and not bad but the performance of the game was not great. I turned down the graphics all the way and experienced lots of choppiness. I tried some tuning to improve it and its playable, but nowhere near as smooth as on my phone. I had some crashes too, not a lot but at least 1 in a two hour play session.

I'm going to see if some help from the internet will make things better, but overall I'm disappointed. I thought for sure the more power of the PC's video card and SSD and RAM would make this game sing on the PC but so far I've decided to stick with the phone. If anything changes, I'll update the post.

Appendum: as a counterpoint, I also ran Clash Royale on Bluestacks and it ran quite smoothly with no noticeable lag or choppiness, so your mileage per game may vary.

Friday, January 04, 2019

Board Game Wishlist

I'm a sucker for grand strategy board games where players control armies fighting each other for supreme control of the world/galaxy/universe.

It started with the grand daddy of all military board games, Risk.
I owned this version.
I got me addicted at a young age to the concept. Then as a teenager I got the original Axis and Allies followed quickly by two other Gamemaster series games, Fortress America and Shogun.
With the foundations set for a love of grans strategy board games in my formative years, you'd think I'd spend the years of my adulthood enjoying board games, right? Well, no. I got into Warhammer 40K and once I had free time again after university I fell hard for the minitature wargaming scene, no time for board games.

Once I was cured of that addiction, I started to regain my love of board games and just in time the golden age of board games started to dawn. Since then I've come to own and love Battlestar Galactica, Game of Thrones, Scythe, and Twilight Imperium.

I realize that Battlestar Galactic is not exactly "grand strategy" game but its so amazing it bears mentioning.

With all that said, here are the two grand strategy board games on my current wishlist.

War of the Ring 2nd Edition

This one appeals to me on so many levels: Lord of the Rings? check. Controlling Armies? Check. Asymmetric gameplay? Check. Amazing detail? Check. Great Reviews? Check.

Its a little intimidating in the "might be too complex for fun" but you are talking to someone who played multiple times Twilight Imperium 3rd edition... with expansions.

Star Wars Rebellion

Its another game with asymmetric gameplay set in a universe I love and filled with lots of armies and ships and flavour. I played the computer game Rebellion to death (and bought it again on for good measure) so I'm pretty sure I'm going to like this one too.

Sadly these games are wicked expensive so its doubtful I'll get them, but I can dream.

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Happy New Year!

The Christmas Break came and went in an exhausting whirlwind of travel, gifts, and delicious food. The kids were all happy with their big presents: Terjoe got a GT Snow Racer, Wilmick got a record player and a Tragically Hip LP, and Aarjay got the Lego Star Wars Sand Crawler and in hindsight those gifts perfectly encapsulate the core of their personalities.

For myself I didn't get much, just some gift cards, a cheap bluetooth headset for listening to music at work, and some bluray discs for the collection: "Ant Man and the Wasp" and "Black Panther".

I had two copies of Ant Man and the Wasp so I exchange one back at Walmart and used the credit to pick up a Magic the Gathering deck, and Terjoe used some gift money to pick one up as well. I got a Boros pre-made deck and he went with Dimir. A long time ago my wife and I got into Magic before disagreements made us put it away (I was right for the record but please please do not tell her that), but now that the kids are growing up and we are both more mature (well, older and wiser at any rate) we are going to give it another try. After all, Yugioh and Pokemon CCGs are pale imitations to the grand daddy of them all.

On the computer front I played Overwatch and Pubg Mobile when I could, enjoying the winter events and the new map on the latter. I didn't get any Steam Gift cards so no new games at this time (my google play cards went to adding to my music library).

My family also spent a fair amount of time catching up on movies such as Captain America: Civil War and Lord of the Rings : The Two Towers.

With all the kids at home and myself we've been using the internet like never before so I did some research into VPNs for.... reasons. I came across this guide on the 5 Best VPNs for Overwatch that might be handy if you are unfairly blocked (if you were fairly blocked, I suggest you re-evaluate your life choices and strive to be a better human being).

Anyway, I'm back at work now (ugh) and it sucks. Happy New Year.

Friday, December 21, 2018


I played Overwatch when it first came out for a while and tried the competitive seasons 1, 2, and 3. I discovered I am horrible at it. Our company has a few developers that play Overwatch together at lunch so I kept with it for a while but the sameness of the matches eventually got to me and I took an extended break.

I came back to the game recently and am enjoying it again. The new-to-me characters of Wrecking Ball and Brigitte were something to try out and the new character Ashe (and B.O.B.!) are my new favourites. The latest maps of Riallto and Busan are quite nice as well.
B.O.B.! Do something!
Overwatch is unique in that as soon as you buy the game you have access to the same characters as everyone else, but not only that they are all at the same capability. There are no levels that increase power or abilities that are unlocked. Someone starting today has access to all the powers and abilities and damage of all the characters that someone 5 years in has. That is so refreshing.

The real limiting factor between players is experience and raw skill, something I've argued that EVE Online should consider doing.

They still have levels and loot boxes that are earned as you level up (and other things) but they contain only cosmetic items like skins, emotes, voice lines, sprays, etc.

My current favourite characters are Ashe, Roadhog, and Moira.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Writing Fiction Is Hard

So I've decided to try and write about an idea that has been rolling around in my brain for the better part of 5 years.
God, its hard. Writing a short story in the EVE universe is liberating because you have do not have to build a world and you can to cut right to the point. But writing a story that is going to require you to build a world in the process and decide how that world works and what living in it would be like is daunting.
But I'm not getting any younger, and now is the time to try.
Wish me luck.
I have good news and bad news.

The good news is that I've been making progress at this project; the bad news is everything else.

I don't have as much free time as I thought, life is just busier than anticipated and a bi-weekly teaching position at the dojo I train at has sucked even more of that precious commodity. And I'm tired like all the time from everything.

But most of all writing is hard!

I mean, writing short stories in the EVE universe has some advantages: I don't need to build the story's universe because all the readers know about it, I don't need to flesh out characters very much because its a short story, and even the long form story telling I did had the advantage of not having a larger overarching plot, they were small self contained events.

What I'm trying to write now requires me to not only tell a story, but introduce a universe, its unique rules, what it feels like, how it works, is it logically consistent, where everything is, what everything is named, and will it all fit together in the end.

And then I could get past the block I ran into in the second scene of chapter one. *Sad face*

I find as I make progress my confidence in this project has diminished somewhat, as in am I making a good compelling story? Or am I just indulging the day dreams of a middle aged man?


But I am making progress. Slowly, word by word, and hopefully I can complete at least this book, even if no one reads it.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Moving On: Let's Talk About Clash Royale

Clash Royale is a mobile game that I've been playing for about a year and a half, maybe more.
Its a PvP game where you make a "deck" of 8 "cards" and compete against another player (or AL trainers when you first start out) trying to win by killing more towers than the other player before the 3 minute timer runs out (with overtime if tied), or winning immediately by destroying the opponent's king tower.

Each card has stats such as how much elixir it costs to play, how much damage, how many hit points, range, speed, etc. Most cards are units you play, but there are also buildings which don't move and spells that don't create a unit but cause damage.

When you start out there are not many cards to pick from to make your 8 card deck, but as you battle and win you get chests to open that give you gold and cards. Sometimes they are cards you already have and you can save up to level them up to more powerful versions of themselves, and sometimes you get new cards from which you can add to your deck.

It sounds very simple when I explain it like that but it gets quite complicated when you factor in all the combinations of the different cards. You might think "oh just load up on the most powerful cards" but they are balanced by rarity for upgrading them and elixir cost, and some cards have natural synergy and some do not work well together at all. And once you settle on a deck you may find it works well against some archetypes and weak against others.

Here's my current deck:
 A Hog Rider / PEKKA beatdown deck, with a freeze spell to maximize on when I get some damage on the tower. I just recently switched out electo wizard for the fireball so I'm lower than my past high trophies of ~4800, but hope to climb into the 5000s when I get that fireball leveled up to max.

"Ok, Kirith, but how much money have you sunk into this game?"

Not a lot actually. When I started I bought some gems for ~$14 but have not spent any other money since then. If you want to get all the cards to max quickly, including any legendaries, you will have to pay but a casual player like me doesn't worry about it.

"Doesn't it get boring after a while?"

The basic 1v1 battle can get boring but there are tournaments, clan wars, 2v2 battles, special event challenges... there is almost something other to do besides 1v1 so it keeps the basic battles fresh since you can switch it up. Being in a clan helps too as you can do some 2v2 battles together.

If you give it a try, let me know! If you play and are looking for a clan, let me know about that too!

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