Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Windows 10 Start Menu

Windows 10 is everything I thought it could be:
a bit fat waste of my morning

You had ONE job to do with the start menu:
let me drop stuff onto it

When I drag stuff onto the start menu it says it will pin it. Does it pin it? Nope. This is my start menu:

Why? Why do you have to be like this?

Here is a quote from a forum on Windows 10:

wtf man?

Their best start menu was from windows 95:

Those were the days. You could control the size and contents and have cascaded menus.

Now it is full of crap "live icons" you have to get rid of and all you are left with is nothing. Nothing.

This is a perfect example of politics messing with my user experience. They want their crap on there and god forbid I can put my own stuff there.

I ended up downloading classic shell to replace it (again)


Oh ... and the other windows 7 machine that crashed 2 weeks ago and I had to replace the graphics card... the windows 10 upgrade is gone and won't come back. Whatever...

Microsoft: you suck balls.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


SteamVR is coming

Today Valve announced it will be scheduling demos of its upcoming SteamVR dev kit at GDC.

Here is a screen capture of the site in case it changes over time:

What does this mean? How does this stack up against Oculus? Is this important?

This is potentially game changing. Here is why

1. VR Development

Valve has been doing VR research and development for years. Long before Palmer's Rift, Valve was secretly working on VR and determining its feasibility.

Here is  a review of someone trying out their demo last year:

 They showed an updated version here (and yea, that is bulky):

2. Oculus and Valve

Here is a quick recap of Oculus's origins by Brendan Iribe

A little later he talks about how instrumental Valve was in their success:

The Oculus Rift was a major accomplishment but it lacked presence. After Oculus's success with its kickstarter Valve invited them to visit their R&D center. It was at that point that Oculus understood the true power of VR. Valve's headset created a true sense of presence. Valve shared their secrets on what made a VR headset work.

Oculus went back to their offices and improved the Rift based on what they learned from Valve.

Later enters Facebook and their acquisition. This isn't a bad thing but I don't think it rubbed Valve the right way:

Here is the quote in case it vaporizes:

It would be sad if there's bitterness between the two companies right now:
I'm pretty sure that there IS bitterness between the two companies.
Valve helps Oculus by giving them research, and Oculus turns around and sells out to Facebook.
It's well known that Valve does possess advanced VR HMDs that they've formerly used for internal research.
It's pretty likely that they're pushing out their own consumer HMD.

To further elaborate: I went on a tour of Valve this past summer and asked them about their VR plans.
The tour guide mentioned that originally, they weren't planning to release their own VR hardware,
but that they had changed their minds after Facebook bought Oculus.

3. The Steam Machine

In 2012 rumors began to emerge about Valve offering a hardware platform for Steam.
In 2013 at CES a prototype of a Steam Machine was shown. Later that year they announced Steam Machines.

In 2014 they held a developer conference primarily targeted at helping developers port their games to Linux.

After that Valve went silent. They delayed the Steam Machine and continued to iterate on the Steam Controller. They left all of the hardware partners hanging and the steam machine and controller were declared dead by most media outlets:

Then earlier this year (2015) they announced they would be showcasing the Steam Machine.

I've been monitoring news of the event carefully and there has been no hint of what they would be showing... until now.

4. Open Software Platform

Facebook did not buy Oculus to just further VR development. They funded it to make money.
Hardware is a competitive space. Any advances they make will soon be caught by rival companies.
To me it seems like the best bet is to create a source of ongoing revenue which would likely come from an app store similar to Apple's app store. This means a closed software ecosystem.

Compare that to Steam. I love Steam. If I can buy a game on multiple platforms and it is on Steam I always choose Steam. This is because I can run the game on any laptop or PC I own. My hardware can continue to improve and my games can just be installed on the fastest rig I have.

With Steam, Valve has an open an instant delivery mechanism for software for the VR headset.

5. Game Development Experience

Oculus has some great minds working for them. No question there. Carmack and Abrash are the VR dream team. I have no doubt they will deliver great hardware. Here is Carmack talking about GearVR. He is clearly pushing the envelop of mobile displays:

The problem is that Oculus is not a game development shop. They hired Jason Rubin to head game development:

But... is that enough? Time will tell.

Other large game companies are waiting in the wings on VR. They are not willing to invest in a game for VR. Valve isn't waiting. I don't know what they have in store for us next week at GDC but it could be great. If anyone is going to make a AAA game that works well with VR it is going to be Valve.

6. Cash Reserves

Facebook acquired Oculus for 2 billion dollars. That is a lot of money but that isn't the same as their cash flow. That was acquision money. That is what Facebook valued Oculus at.

Valve, on the other hand, is sitting on mounds of cash. In 2012 they were valued at 3 billion dollars. I imagine that figure is even higher now:

7. High End Developers

Both Oculus and Valve have high end developers. Oculus's does have 2 things going for them:
1. Their primary focus as a company is VR
2. They have Carmack and Abrash

Valve's hiring and org structure are very unique. Gabe has spoken about it several times:

Here is Valve's employee handbook:

Final Thoughts

What does this all add up to? I thought I'd make a grid of who has what:

This is by no means a complete picture of the VR landscape but illustrates some of the dynamics between the 3 main contenders. I haven't included GearVR because I wanted to focus on a high-end VR solution.

If Valve can deliver a high-end VR headset with the Steam Machine and a great AAA title it could be a the perfect sweet spot between functionality and game play.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Diablo 3: Monk: Gungdo Build

Someone just beat Great Rift 52 on PS4 with the Monk's Gungdo Build.

I run an exploding palm Monk in the season and thought I'd put the build into a succinct image so I can refer to it on the ipad as I build my gear.

Reddit Article:


Monday, December 22, 2014

Video Game Photography

As games continue to become more realistic, there is a new niche for video game "photography".

This is where you take a screen shot as if you were shooting with a camera. I apply the rule of thirds, make sure everything important is in frame, make sure the image tells a story and evokes an emotional response.

Here are some sample shots from games I've played recently:

 Bioshock Infinite

 Half Life 2

 Remember Me

Vanishing of Ethan Carter

I may play around with taking them into Photoshop and applying some of my tricks.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Our Christmas Movie Schedule

I went searching on google for the best Christmas movies. Hugely disappointing and annoying lists were returned. So instead of relying on google for help...

I've put together a Christmas movie playlist from tonight through to the 24th.

Some of these I haven't seen before and some are family favorites. The Grinch is always the last thing we watch before Christmas.

December 19th:

Santa Claus is Coming to Town

The Santa Clause


December 20th:

Frosty the Snowman

Miracle on 34th Street


December 21st:

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

It's a Wonderful Life


December 22nd:

A Charlie Brown Christmas

A Muppet's Christmas Carol


December 23rd:


Buddy's Christmas Musical


December 24th:

Polar Express

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Project Tango Available for Developers

I got an email to purchase a Tango this morning.

I placed an order. Let's see what I can do with it...

Here is a prior post on the tango:

When I get it I will do a detailed unboxing of it.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Half Life 2 for the DK2

Half Life 2 for Oculus DK2

So you've got the DK2 and are itching to play Half Life 2? Well... put down your beer. You've got about 15-30 minutes of work to get it all ready to go.

These steps are a succinct visual walk through of instructions and comments found here:

Download Oculus SDK 0.4.4 Beta (as of 12/8/2014)
I was originally using an older version of the beta and Half Life 2 wouldn't recognize the DK2.

Turn on the DK2

Update your DK2 firmware

Put Rift in extended mode
Half Life 2 does not work in direct HMD mode.

Set the monitor resolution so that the frequency is 75hz
If you don't do this, you will get judder in the game. It makes it unplayable. Finding the right resolution that supports 75Hertz may take a while. I had to go all the way down to 1024x768 before I found a resolution that worked.

Enable Half Life 2 beta
Right click on the Half Life 2 game in steam and it will open this dialog. Go to the betas tab and enable beta updates. Half Life 2 will download new stuff when you close this.

Add launch parameters
Half Life 2 must run at 75 Hertz so there is no judder. You need to pass a few launch options.

Enable Virtual Reality 
Within Half Life 2, go to options and enable virtual reality mode. You will also need to run in a window.

Disable Motion Blur
Turn off the motion blur. It can be found in video - advanced.

Enable Developer Console
Turn on the developer console in the keyboard tab.

Set refresh frequency
Open the developer console by pressing the ~ (tilda) key when you are at the menu.
Enter this:
fps_max 76

Enlarge Camera Tracking Bounds
The tracking camera's default boundary is very tiny. Lets fix that.
With the developer console open, enter this:
vr_translation_limit 100

Start Virtual Reality Mode (May require restart of Half Life 2 to see it)
You should be good to go. Start up Half Life 2 and enjoy. If you don't see it you probably don't have the DK2 on, its firmware is old or you don't have the latest Oculus Run time.

Side Note:
developer console settings must be re-entered every time you launch the game:
fps_max 76
 vr_translation_limit 100