Category Archives: PC

Gunnar Optiks Long Term Review (Rocket)

No doubt in the coming week’s a wave of buzz about Gunnar’s will start to emerge while going into the holiday season. There’s a large marketing push to bridge the market and get buzz going about the style and appeal of the frames and help develop a larger culture around the product. No doubt this is a good thing, while reading it’s clear I do believe Gunnar produces a solid product but there are some things that come with the benefit of using them a year before writing thoughts.

Gunnar thrives on lightweight and sturdy construction, the Rocket frames I purchased last Fall have no actual adjustments available, everything sits firmly with machined slots and pins to prevent inevitable lost screws or broken hinge systems. It’s a relief for a product designed for people on the move and after a year of use, not a sign of wear has hit those parts. The ear comfort band has stayed in tact despite being worn practically everywhere I go, it’s a comfort when normally the paint on other frames will flake and expose the chemical process to the side of the head.

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Moving on from construction we hit the lenses, the infamous yellow and blue, does it work? Yes, it really does especially as contrast / brightness exposure from monitors increases, the ability to filter the light and concentrate for 15-20 hour days working on reviews and coding with 3 white screens filling the eyes for a year and come out with less headaches than just standard glasses is something I’ll always remember.

There are some shortcomings to the lenses though, the default non Rx lens has a love affair with smudging and smearing, on normal glasses one can use a microfiber cloth and just buff it away. The stock Gunnar lens attracts and clings to oils and smudges, if using multiple cloths owners can essentially have a cleaning cloth and a drying cloth to help resolve this but they are picky. At the time my model came with a white bag to store them in, it’s fine for stationary use but I’d never pack a travel or convention coverage bag in such a fashion, as such they do tend to attract dust more often than I’d like. In general the upkeep seems to be stronger with these versus a standard pair of glasses or sunglasses with all the coating techniques involved.

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The inevitable question is, do these improve game skills (what about my KDR bro)? If they’re prescription (Rx) I’m sure they would for obvious reasons, in standard play the biggest factor I can take away is a reduced fatigue on the eye when I really sit in with a game (anything over 30 minutes) in the day the impact isn’t as high but as the darkness sets in, it’s a massive factor. Contrast headaches are essentially absent and I’m able to lock in for as long of a period as I have available. There’s no magical skill increase or unlocked vision ability, it’s just better use of the eyeballs in a focused state for long periods that really drives it home for my experience.

I would suggest going through Gunnar if planning to invest in a prescription pair, I attempted to navigate my area for places to get lenses made and was quoted up to $580 for lenses and a basic Gunnar frame. Gunnar has an in-house system that essentially crushes the competition in pricing and multiple quality tiers available. I have yet to make the upgrade but when I have a feeling my experience will continue to increase. With only a slight correction in my vision I’m able to still get a fairly sharp experience with the stock Gunnar model that has worked so far.

The final thoughts here are simple, the metal frames are a tool free design, they incorporate lightness and functionality over all else, the lenses take off the eye fatigue that leads to headaches induced by contrast. They work even when pulling insane hours to write code, articles, edit videos and do other tasks, as long as one is pushing forward the lenses will continue to do their job and guide the eyes to a safe landing. If it’s a case of being on the fence and looking at a stock pair but need a slight prescription, I suggest taking the plunge from the start so to avoid regrets while dealing with subtle blur issues later.

The Rocket frames took no physical damage during this year of use, the ear band stayed in tact without degrading and the only shortcoming was the front lens has taken a few scratches over the year of wear. As far as product wear goes, these have probably taken less damage than standard glasses of any level would, simply solid no matter where I wore them.

I’d like to thank Woot for having these during one of their sales, well worth the purchase and I would easily pick these up at a regular price rate in the future (Rx of course) when the time comes to replace my Rocket’s as they take up scratches here and there.

Raptr and AMD evolving the desktop experience

In September Raptr and AMD released their dedicated build for PC Gamers, the app included automatic configurations aimed at AMD hardware per game and while limited it provided optimal settings per system. Flash forward almost 2 months and the gaming selection has increased greatly from that initial point.

The first thing to notice about the AMD Gaming Evolved Control Center is it uses a completely different interface from the standard Raptr affair. Delivering a game center, community, gallery and settings per title with dedicated fast access areas for rewards,  global community, profiles and free games. It’s a simple presentation but that’s what makes it impressive, users can use a slider to gauge settings or select optimal choices for their hardware to avoid overtaxing the card and it helps bridge that gap of configuration for those new to the platform.

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For classic Raptr users it may take a bit of time to avoid using the classic dock to navigate but the new UI and presentation do become familiar over time. For me, rewards, friends, game settings are the primary areas I use and they’re almost easy to reach, the friend option itself blends almost too well in the bottom, easily overlooked with bright red text or buttons elsewhere in the UI.

While the AMD branded app doesn’t support everything, they’re working hard to implement feedback and suggest the best possible settings for each product they do include.  A relief given past optimizations tended to massively reach over the recommended settings or dull textures so much it was painful to play just for performance sake.

Do the settings make a difference if you’re adept with hardware? Somewhat, there are certain assumptions made with game settings that might not apply to a specific title and only incur minimal frame loss, by default I tend to disable any AA period for the extra gains at higher resolutions, often with the AMD Raptr application it turns it back on and I’m unable to feel the impact at 1-2fps lost. It’s a reminder in gaming that it always pays to experiment and in this case, it does it for you with a slider and a click of a button.

Personally, I now use Raptr much more than I used to, I explore the community pages, rewards, profiles and have a longer immersion in the community and offerings than I ever did in the past. As a revised presentation I enjoy it and think newbie PC gamers and even veterans might enjoy the quick flip of a switch to adjust performance as needed and get into the game. It’s one thing to play casually but often it’s the performance setting that helps gain any extra FPS possible in competition.

I look forward to continued adjustments to the app (more game custom configurations please) there’s certainly room to continue tweaking for the masses, one can only imagine the day when players will be able to save custom configurations they’ve made to activate on the fly.

Check it out for yourself, if you already have Raptr there’s no additional login needed, just write over your existing install and voila. Also if you’re running AMD video hardware you can enter the ongoing Gaming Evolved Sweepstakes for games each day, although you do have to game for an hour on a supported title.

Black Ice – Cyberpunk FPS, Hacking, RPG begins a journey

Retro inspired games have a unique market, generally delivering 2D sprite based environments as a throwback to the early days of gaming. Black Ice goes in a different direction, instead focusing on the neon glow that haunted the 80’s with a dash of Tron inspired computer environments in a 3D world. It’s a game of hack and dash with RPG elements as players have to tackle difficult hacks to obtain crucial tech to advance and eventually take down the master system.

While it sounds potentially easy, it’s a mind boggling mess, shooting speed and ammo are based on available RAM (within the game world) cycle speed and other factors are crucial for survival. While it seems like a given to just beef up your memory and hacking  speed it’s not that easy, Black Ice provides an array of enemies including reaaally annoying spiders that slowly eat away at your soul / health. Normally I don’t care about insects of any level, suddenly I do and I can thank this game for that.

It’s not all trauma, the weapons are brilliant when you have the right stats, using a plasma cutter to mow through everything (yes everything) is magically rewarding given how swarms bite and chip away so often.

While words could go on forever about Black Ice in it’s early stages of development, I’ll leave it to the two current videos recorded to demonstrate what there is within. If you’d like to try Black Ice for yourself, head over to the website and grab the latest demo.

Preview – PAWS (Prime Alien Watch Squad)

Some days something just drops in your lap that you take a second look at, PAWS is one of those games, the cute and simple looking hex battle game allowing animals to go head to head against alien invaders with a minimalist battle system.

We’re using a demo build of where the game is at while they kick off their Kickstarter campaign. Needless to say it’s an easy game to get used to, it’s also an easy one to lose all your points on. Medals for behavior act as currency to summon extra hit points, satellite lasers and a full bombing run from aerial support, how they have the ability to do all this? I have no idea, in fact I would prefer not to know just so I can keep thinking that Squirrel is just a harmless fellow addicted to nuts.

The attack system is point and click with units holding certain class balances. Warriors / melee attackers have a wider net to reach across the board, although their damage points vary and critical strikes can fall short when you need them most. Range attackers have lower HP but they have a steady damage average. You also get the wildcard (turtle) who can hit multiple opponents as a melee but tends to ride on the low end of the HP scale.

It’s a game of balance and budgeting these cute animals, it’s easy to spam the bombing commands the lasers and juice up early in the game only to realize later the crucial moment of “oh… that’s why I had so many points to start with” as the aliens just reign hell by ganging up on your team.

Currently each map and opponent group are randomly selected while your team varies with its own challenges. Having double or triple medics seems great until you have to generate enough damage while keeping everyone alive to avoid a complete loss. It’s an interesting title that shows forethought into the generated levels and balance of the characters. While some later areas might initially feel impossible it’s just a situation where it requires players to apply themselves a little more.

PAWS is still in development and if this Beta is an indication of what to continue expecting then I’d say it’s a worthwhile Kickstarter project to check out and consider.

MIX LA 2013 – Bringing a flood of Indie for one night

A limited engagement opportunity was available during GDC Next, it was in fact, MIX LA being held just off-site from the convention. Taking press and independent developers and putting them on a stylish rooftop in the middle of downtown.  We were able to wait through some of the lines and check out some new titles coming to consumers in the future ahead.

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Escape Goat 2 – Magical Time Bean

Love solving puzzles? Using multiple modes of movement to maneuver the myriad of solutions to mind melting challenges? Did you love the excessive use of words with M in that last statement? Well Escape Goat 2 might be something you’re interested in, packing in tons of levels, challenges, environmental factors and a rat friend. Players save sheep, defy death traps and  take part in classic puzzle solving challenges through each space, the world offers multiple paths and the ability to return to old areas if left incomplete.

Personally I made a complete embarrassment out of handling the ice levels and minor gaps, instead of using the tools available I simply thought too hard around every challenge. It happens and it’s likely because there’s often much more to environments so we expect so it’s easy to use excessive movements. It’s still in the revision phase but Escape Goat 2 is something I really want to play more of, even if I horribly botched my initial shot.

Constant-C – IGS

Left to yourself to investigate and fix a damaged ship, that’s the objective for players in Constant-C. Now add gravity control sprinkle in magnetic fields for activity and environment rotation and we’re seeing something special. Constant-C isn’t a regular puzzle solver, it’s hundreds of levels of challenge balancing  the magnetic field of our hero, speed and gravity while trying to reach doors to advance.

Being a helper bot on an occupied ship it makes perfect sense to include lasers, spinning blades and other death devices throughout. It wouldn’t be much of a challenge if it was that easy, we did step in for a few rounds with the upcoming release for Steam (already out on Desura) and it was amazingly hard yet fun. If you’re in for a puzzle solving field day, just slap this and Escape Goat 2 together for the full range.

It’s incredibly simple to lose yourself in the rotation and field control as deaths mount but how it happens is what makes Constant-C a challenge I’d always come back to.

Videoball Videoball… Videoball… – Midnight City

There’s nothing to really say about Videoball, it’s all expressed as you play in heated frustration against your opponents and partner. Teamwork isn’t a natural element in most games, many have to train to operate with others and stop acting like the ultimate hero on the planet.  Videoball forces that cooperation in the wild, get on the same page and play as a group or get decimated, you can amplify the embarrassment depending on the skill of your opponents also.

It’s a game of timing, skill, shooting and defense. You don’t just try to score or move the ball in the step you’re taking, you’re anticipating the extra moves ahead because it’s almost a given your opponent is already plotting numerous ways to completely ruin those plans.  It’s frustrating, it’s magical, it’s Videoball and it will allow you to ruin souls or get yours trampled.

Personally, the leveled up shots bring in extra challenge elements as they cause different velocity levels if you can execute them. For players who always want to go big, you can create an array of blocks by holding in too long for that level 3 shot. Sure it’s almost an instant goal but if it goes wrong it’s just a massive joke when the match is heated. The reality is that a block defense only works if you block the entire goal grid and maintain it without being stunned. It’s not an easy task at all and it removes 1 player from being in the action to generate points. In it’s current state, Videoball is easier and more rewarding to play it on the live field for offense with a partner than it is with 2 stations.

Aztez – Team Colorblind

When I first sat in with Aztez my brain kept pumping “Mad World” constantly, the intense contrast, the bath of blood on the screen, Aztez strikes a comic like element that I can’t help but be drawn to.  We got our hands on the battle arena, while it’s not the primary focus of the game mechanics, it’s certainly one of the most brutal and appreciated of the group. Our goal was to last through the clock against incoming hordes of swordsmen and spear wielding angry fellows. The first run, well that went terribly, something about not dodging or blocking and being impaled by enemies because dancing around in a group of them is a bad idea.

The second round was much more rewarding, jumping, dodging, slashing, using melee attacks and surviving the hordes. While it wasn’t a total win in that 5 minute counter it was still something that felt like a victory to last more  than a few minutes. Hopefully it’s just as challenging when it hits in early 2014, it’s always nice having a game that absolutely shuts the idea of an easy victory down. If you want to win you need to earn it and Aztez lives by that example.

The evening was packed with indie developers, while we saw many games we selected this group to showcase in our impressions from the casual night up on top of 1010 Wilshire. We hope to see more from these devs in the future and bring more highlights as they near their release.

Valve reveals SteamOS as part 1 of 3 major announcements

Last week a mysterious word went out about upcoming Valve announcements, today we see the first of those coming to light. SteamOS, a Linux-based operating system developed strictly with a gaming focus, allowing users to harness titles developed specifically for SteamOS or stream their existing library from their Windows or Mac machine to their Steam box. Users may recognize a similar setup with the Vita and PS4 using Gaikai technology, we’re not seeing it with PC’s within the home network.

Part of this push brings Big Picture mode to the forefront as a HTPC GUI, Valve plans to supplement this push by including music, tv and movie services within SteamOS to allow users a seamless experience as they dive within the offerings. No jumping to a new browser or switching inputs, just one massive entertainment OS for all.

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We also found out about Steam and Family Sharing, SteamOS will include that feature out of the gate, allowing family to share games from their libraries with no hassle, allowing full functionality including individual save games and cloud storage. As a living room centerpiece it’s a bit of a worry to have everyone seeing everything available to each member, family options will also allow users to control visible games, features and other personal details from being widely displayed to everyone.

We still have 2 more reveals, we’ll just have to hold tight to see what Valve has up their sleeve next. Many were aware Valve would explore Linux as an open platform for computing after their statements on Windows 8, if it was to this extent is entirely in the air, using Big Picture and a heavy focus on developing a performance environment for gaming is a huge task and they’ve excelled at it as we’ve seen with performance reports on in-house titles they’ve ported in the past year.