Saturday, June 30, 2012

Emulating PS2 games on PC

I just found heaven on Earth. Those hundreds of hours I played on PS2 games may be a thing of the past, what with the slowing down of my big, faithful, black box, but I now have renewed hope in the beauty of the PC. Up to date with Windows 7, programmers have released emulators for PS1/PS2/Xbox games for the PC. HOLY YES

It works beautifully. If you had a longstanding relationship with your Playstation 2 like I did, then you should definitely try this strategy out, because--with some troubleshooting--it will absolutely work on a PC with ideal specs.

Ideal specs would be 4GB RAM, 2-core 3 GHz CPU, a good graphics card (I don't know if I'll ever understand the metrics for graphics cards).  I don't think that it even requires too much hard drive space.

Apparently you have to own a PS2 to copy the BIOS files (the basic framework of how the PS2 operates) legally. I do, so thumbs up for me.

Download the emulator.

I used a PS3 controller without a bluetooth dongle.  To use a Playstation/Xbox controller that you've connected, download motionjoy and follow their instructions. Make sure to put a shortcut (to DS3 Utility) on the desktop, because you'll probably need to get back to it many times.

SO, this is pretty much what I did that I don't think is in the instructions:

In MotionJoy, for a ps3 controller, I had to wait for Windows to say it successfully installed the driver (I needed to switch the USB port I used), I went to Driver Manager, selected the only controller option that showed up, I reset my computer, and before I wanted to play something, I opened the "DS3 Utility" shortcut, select PS3 Dualshock 3, and hit the pink button "enable" right in the botton left corner. If you don't "enable", windows might forgets the setup sometimes, and the analog buttons don't work when you play.

To get memory cards working, go to CDVD and select "no disc", so you can load to the PS2's main menu. Configure it and everything, go to the browser, and select each memory card and configure them. After that, you want to

To run a game disc, I went to the CDVD menu of the PCSX2 window and selected "plugin", then "plugin menu">"plugin settings">the drive I put my disc into. (I haven't looked into how to use PowerISO or the like to copy the files to my computer and load off of .iso [basically a snapshot of the DVD's image], but I assume it's easy).

EE represents your CPU usage (100% means it's the limiting factor to your speed), GS is graphics card usage. Now, your games will most likely run in slow motion, and the sound will be strange. The sound sucks because it's being held back by the graphics. It seemed to me that all of the configuration options available wouldn't do anything to help my running speed, so I went to "speed hacks" and moved each of the sliders to the right a bit. Play around wiht the other configuration options if you understand what they're saying (I couldn't get most of them, so I left them alone, or guessed at an optimal setting and ended up changing nothing). When I altered those settings to somewhere in the middle, I got Kingdom Hearts and Shadow of the Colossus running beautifully. If your games start to strangely run incredibly fast, then make sure you have the "disable framelimiting" option in the GS tab UNchecked, so that the emulator DOES frame limit. (this means the speed at which your graphics card creates images, measured in frames per second, will not exceed the intended running speed)

If you have any questions, drop a comment.  I had to do a lot of troubleshooting, so I got pretty familiar with the interface.  I'm not as good as google, but I am at least better than a first-level computer maintenance person you might call for troubleshooting at 3am; then again, aren't we all?

Friday, June 29, 2012

I'm Becoming a Programmer?

I've started learning programming languages.  For now, I'm starting with the major languages for websites:  HTML, CSS, PHP, MySQL, and JavaScript.  I'll move onto C++ later on.

Now, you may say that this has nothing to do with my career path.  FALSE.  Neuroscientists use C++ to design programs very frequently, apparently, and knowing how to program is a huge asset in job/grad school applications, according to the people I asked.  Moreover, what I'm planning on doing with this programming knowledge of programming will definitely help me in my future endeavors.  I can't tell you what those plans are, because I'm hoping to keep them under wraps [along with my secret organization].

In any case, computer coding is really quite a fascinating thing.  Not only is it openly accessible and all the necessary materials open source/built into browsers, you can think about programming languages the same way you'd think about any other language, with its own morphology and syntax.  You can also think about it like molecular biology, exporting machine code that's virtually meaningless into a full virtual event.  In a way, it's the magic of our world, the computer being another reality in which writing code is changing that dimension's framework, controlling what's extant, and inventing forms that have never existed.

Computers are becoming as much a part of our lifestyle as our own biological functions.  For the same reason I love the life sciences, I've always been intrigued by programming.  Only now, I finally realized that there's nothing stopping me from learning the languages and catching up with this incredibly vibrant world of invention and expressive logic.

That's not to say it isn't a lot to take in.  Like, for real, there is a hell of a lot to learn.  But it's totally worth it in my book.I'll be spending many hours a day for many days futilely trying to catch up to my programming buddies.


I just hope I can get done a lot of learning done before school starts up, because I assuredly will be busy as hell for at least the latter half of the semester.

A couple side notes: music lessons make people more intelligent and I'm eating lunch with my grandma tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Mass Effect 3 Anti-Rant

[This post is about the Mass Effect 3 ending.  A hearty rant supporting a minority opinion that will delve into many spoilers.  Disclaimer:  I'm right and everybody who disagrees is wrong.  I take no responsibility for your opinions being completely rewritten... actually, that's a lie; I'd love to be responsible for changing your mind]

In regards to every person who has a problem with the ending of the series, lord explain to me why they continued playing after Feros in Mass Effect 1.  Seriously, you're frustrated with a holographic AI in the form of something Shepard can relate to... but you can dig the whole "Let's take a plant who shares the "memories" of an entire civilization, make it eat an asari commando, clone her a bunch of times, and have her command legions of zombies!  On top of that, let's turn her green, because, I don't know, PLANTS.  Oh, yeah, and did we forget to mention that the plant controls the minds of an entire human colony."

There is no point in arguing about plot holes, because the biggest damn ones were not in the ending.  Seriously,  the only possible impetus for making an ending that closed all of the stories would be utter destruction of the galaxy - but even this can't happen, because that's not the goal of the reapers, and the only options for the future are the cycle and a new life.

What Casey Hudson meant (or at least what is true) when he said 'it's not just endings A, B, and C,' is that  your experience in coming away from the Mass Effect series is not defined by the final pre-rendered scene you get after making your catalyst choice.  After it's all over, you know how the universe turns out, whether they tell you or not.  Unless you spontaneously forget everything you've done, you can put the pieces of your own post-crucible galaxy together and use your imagination.

Most of the inconsequential plot holes are filled up by e-mails to your terminal.  The consequential plot lines are all completely fleshed out, and although they may not end concretely, the overall experience was complete.

When I beat the game before EC, on both of my 2 playthroughs (1 was synth, 2 was destroy) I felt upset that I was sacrificing way too much to win this battle on top of everything I gave up on the way, and I didn't feel like I was really making an informed decision.  If you've successfully engaged yourself to the story (and the other way around), then you should feel the burden of the decision as pretty hefty.  Before EC, I had no problem with the endings - I had a problem with my interaction with the decision.  I felt like it was hasty (first time, I literally didn't know how to decide and walked forward into synth, expecting to get a wheel of choices) and I didn't know what to base my decision on.  I hadn't enough time to think about the consequences.  Consequently, it didn't really sink in like it should have.

Post-EC, that issue was fixed.  I understood that the fighting really was worth it when I realized the greatest dilemma facing me was not necessarily what to sacrifice, but what kind of galaxy I wanted to exist in the future.  +, instead of being a pithy gesture of grandeur, the dialogue felt more real.  It felt like I was an agent; once I had the ability to ask questions that I needed to, I felt like I was really weighing all of the factors adequately.  Then I could act on the beliefs of the Shepard I crafted through three games.

Aside from that, the romance lines were drastically improved by the simple gestures added.   With my femshep/Garrus, I broke in half in the scene before the beam.  Later, I cried when he held up my plaque, because regardless of the fact that I was going to get the breathing scene and he could hypothetically come find me or vice versa, I could really connect to the moment.  The pre-EC goodbye you say before the final battle was great, but he wasn't the last person I spoke to - which is dumb, considering that's what most would do if they were actually going into a final battle.  The structure was much better for the romance, and the scene they added with Joker was also very poignantly placed.

And in the end, the differences in people's endings WAS and IS, irrespective of EC, quite large:  in the sense that you're role playing, making decisions along the way that define your Shepard, you internally develop a mentality--a system of beliefs and a paradigm of thought with which you have likely been consciously consistent as you played the series.  I think that once people get that, they'll understand how profound the games really were.  They required you to understand the saga from a perspective that may or may not have been your own, but nonetheless a good player would have been cognizant of that perspective throughout the series, and experienced many profound feelings and concepts from that synthesized mentality.  If the point of art is to communicate an experience beneath the story, then Mass Effect does so like no other game has done, and probably will do for a while--because everybody's moaning about how they didn't like it.  Good art requires you to see things from a new perspective, which was absolutely done in this game. More so than people wanted, probably because this is a grey area that makes some people instinctively lean towards what they're familiar with in video games, or they clamor for the developers to read their mind and allow them the option that they would choose if they were photoshopped up onto the Crucible after eating a Hotpocket.

Here's my angle:  Stop crying for fan service, because if you do it long enough, that's what you'll get.  BioWare games will go down the drain instead of culminating in the most profound artistic medium ever to exist.  Other companies will follow suit, and nobody will be happy.  And civilization will be hopeless.  And crap games will ruin our brains.  And we'll all die.  The end.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Utopia Experiments

Why don't we have more Utopian societies?

It strikes me as strange that rich people aren't chartering up countries in islands or otherwise empty geographically isolated locales, running social experiments by having idealist constitutions. Here's the process I propose for doing this type of anthropological research:

1. Write a constitution.

2. Obtain funding and willing colonists.

3. Find a location that isn't currently occupied by anybody.

4. Have constitution ratified by the United Nations to make sure it doesn't violate human rights. Get permission from the country to which the territory belongs to run their Utopian experiment there.

5. Run colony with documentation of all economic and social data. This would be done without an invasion of privacy, but with enough oversight by the UN that they can step in at any time. Defense of the region would be the responsibility of the country that owns

6. Participants are free to leave at any time at no cost to themselves.

7. After a century, if that style of social governance has proven to be stable and reliable, then it can be granted status as it's own nation-state.

There would need to be systems of protection against ethics violations for each of these steps, especially regarding "willing colonists" and defending these territories, but this is a viable system. It would allow humanity to find out what economic structures and social organizations work and which will simply never cater to human participants (*cough* laissez-faire economies). Isolation from society would be a very strict no-go, though, for reasons demonstrated by Andrew Ryan.

Honestly, we need more Oneidas in this world. And more, ethical social experiments. Bring on the science! Otherwise, we'll never get over worshiping modern day deities like "capitalism", or conversely "communism", and "The American Constitution".

Some similar kinds of microcosms already exist today, albeit without the aforementioned purpose.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Video Discrimination

There are two kinds of people.  Those who play video games, and those who don't.
OK, yeah, right.

Just like any group of people, people who play video games are often lumped together as a demographic with just as many stereotypes as any of the more prominent.  This frustrates me very much, for two reasons:

One, I am a member of that group and face subtle discrimination from people who forego video games for "higher" forms of entertainment or more "wholesome" ways of spending time.  I'm not exaggerating, it's discrimination that has the same implications as any other nonviolent and watered down discrimination you see in progressive places all the time.

Two, video games are evolving in a way that is intensely ambitious, following a path that will ultimately branch into video literature, video poetry, and video art.  There is massive potential for there to be created, anon, computer program-based simulations of fantasy and the world as we know it, each of which could provide an incredible medium for the communication of the valuable experiences that are contemporaneously the domain of codex literature, poetry, film, and academia.

Can you see the literary merit of a medium that incorporates visual art, soundtrack, narrative, character development, and [reader] engagement in a developed product that has an enormous amount of space to develop?

Contemporary video games are not literature, and they are not art.  Almost unanimously, they are still games that have yet to develop past the threshold into what academics would study and analyze with theory.  What reason do we have to believe they will change?  Well, we have no reason to believe they will ever be any better, unless the people who delve into the complexities of literature expand their pool of media and work with the "game" producers and software design teams who create these epics. Video games actually have a ton of potential, only to be realized if people are willing to look beyond the negative media image that the "shocking" and "vulgar" games have wrought for the medium as a whole.

I play video games because I am completely drawn to that intersection of intensely engaging style and emotional, philosophical depth.  And yet, when I tell people that among my other, ostensibly more respectable hobbies, I play video games like Mass EffectDead Space, and Final Fantasy, the interest drains from their face, regardless of what me may have been talking about.  It's almost as bad as bringing up philosophy in a conversation with any normal person.  I don't know what assumptions they have about video games they have, but the effect is always the same to non-gamers.  Immediate dissatisfaction.  Sure, they may claim their opinion of me hasn't changed, but it is definitely a subject to steer away from.  Change the topic, immediately, PLEASE.  It's also often the end of other, more worthwhile conversations.  'Oh, you've been playing video games?  Well, I'll let you get back to that,' as if I can't have multiple interests, or else the other interests I do have must be inherently limited to those that are inane and unrefined.

Frankly, I spend a lot of time on the gaming PC I built with a chunk of my scholarship money, so when somebody asks what I've been doing for the past couple weeks of my summer, I really have no other answer than that I was playing through my favorite blockbuster video game trilogy.  'Really,' they may ask, 'is there no better way for you to spend your time?  Aren't video games just bloodbaths that encourage delinquency and short attention spans?'  I try to elucidate the mystical experience in a way that would appeal to them, connecting the game to something they find a valuable use of their time.  And these aren't exaggerations or lies; as with good artwork, many video games provide material that facilitates a variety of experiences, depending on whether you want to watch a person adapt as they face a series of tribulations, or analyze the coalescence of many social and religious and political factors into a greater conflict, or even just an amalgam of aesthetically innovative art and music.

It seems impossible to communicate about this subject to a wide variety of people.  I think what I'm trying to say is that people are never going to be receptive to new thought, and will always be conservative.  Being open-minded to changes in cultural paradigms is not the same as being politically liberal, evidenced by its distinctly greater rarity.

To drive this point home, I'll address specific reasons you may believe you should refrain from video games.

"They require too much time and energy."  Really, this an incredibly weak argument to refuse doing something that is rewarding both emotionally and intellectually, AND that offers you entertainment.  You most likely partake in less rewarding/challenging activities with just as large of an investment of time.  Take reading a book, for example.

"They're expensive." I'm betting you have a friend who's fanatically offered to share their games with you as any other friend would share a good book.  Granted, this is harder with PC games, but this is a problem that leads to a specific advantage of video games:  if you frequent your friend's residence to play a game on their HDTV or their handmade monster computer, you're building a friendship in a unique way, such as you would in a pickup game of basketball.

"I don't have the attention span." That's because you watched too much TV, and is a problem you should amend if you hope to sustain long-term, fulfilling relationships or any other living conditions.

"I'm too old." It's terribly sad when people give up on life by relinquishing contact with the newer generations.  Are you dead?  If not, then you're not too old.

"I need to spend my time on academics." Please, I played over a hundred combined hours of Skyrim and the entire Mass Effect Trilogy in my last semester at college, and I got a 4.0 for all of my 20 credits.  I'm not better than any other hardworking student, and I'm not special.  I do, however, choose entertainment that's mentally stimulating and keeps me at peak intellectual capacity 24/7.  If you don't think about things creatively, you're not going to be a much better student.  If not video games, you should absolutely have a stimulating hobby to keep you happy and to alleviate stress.  Perhaps surprisingly, violent video games do a great job at releasing tension, as do massages.  If you're cognizant of the need to keep that behavior confined to games, you circumvent the proposed psychological damage over which the uninitiated invariably fret.

"They don't appeal to me."  No, the ones you've heard about don't appeal to you.  If you've ever enjoyed a good read, then you'd have an incredible time with a Final Fantasy game, Mass Effect, Assassin's Creed, etc.

"They're pointlessly violent."  Celebrity effect.  Many of the games that are becoming increasingly popular are those that stress other production elements, such as appealing graphics, stunning plot, and thorough character development.  Others only use violence as a device to further a point.

"Sure, you CAN think about it... but they don't MAKE you think."  Portal.  The subtlety is incredible, relying on ambiance, concise dialogue, and genius puzzles that demand you have the full experience that is their video game.

And now, the one that I'm sure you're weighing subconsciously, if not overtly and explicitly:

"I don't want to be lumped together with those other gamers." What you mean to say is that you're prejudiced against a demographic because of how you were raised and in part due to the celebrity effect of mainstream media.  Do some research, and you'll find that, besides being incredibly diverse, gamer culture, as one may call it, is largely comprised of very passionate people with very loud opinions, many of which are valid and interesting to consider, if not entirely developed.

Many of the people most opposed to video games are those most capable of forcing their evolution towards a more sophisticated domain of human experience.  Their extensive versatility, combined with their inherent multidisciplinary nature, make them the ideal spearhead for a richer communication of genuine, universal, and personal experience than any media before.  The consumer-producer relationship is one that must evolve positively, towards an enlightened culture, or else there will remain an unfortunate divide between people who devote their intellectual capacity to a beautiful but limited medium, and those who put stock into entertainment.  By looking at the recent history of the world's increasingly globalized cultures, it's easy to see how this divide will inevitably fall to a state with less dissonance.  Why not hasten that advancement today, rather than wait for generations down the road to do it on their terms?  It is in liminal epochs like these at which the lay person can have the greatest effect on the future.