Kinect

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Last year on Christmas I bought the Kinect & Xbox 360 for my three year old daughter. OK, I play on it too sometimes (although I’m mainly a PC gamer) so it was for us both ūüėČ Now after about three months I have to say I’m a bit disappointed by the overall experience.

  1. The Kinect needs a sensor holder mounted to your TV in order to see small children. Putting it on the recommended height for adults (your eye level) won’t work for children. You have to buy that extra.
  2. There is no HDMI cable included. The image quality with the bundled AV3 cable is terrible. You have to buy that extra too.
  3. The recognition of player profiles for small children is poor. The Kinect sometimes doesn’t recognize my daughter or asks her again to select her profile and at that point the most annoying bug occurs: Suddenly the recognition fails and she can’t get into the game! Very annoying. Waving at the Kinect sensor doesn’t help. Here is a photo of this profile selection screen:
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  4. The gamepad should have a trackball. Without auto-aim the sticks are useless IMHO. There is a 3rd party trackball controller on the market but it’s a bit expensive: http://trackballcontroller.com

If the Kinect sensor works as it should my daughter and I have a lot of fun with it (like here in Happy Action Theater)!

Here a few games that are 3+ years old friendly:

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Batman Arkham City with hybrid PhysX on AMD

Batman Arkham City is just like Mafia II a Nvidia-sponsored game with exclusive CUDA-based-PhysX support:

AMD users don’t get full particles, debris, fog and smoke effects. I bought this game but the exclusive support for Nvidia-owners-only pissed me so much off that I decided to get an additional Nvidia card that would do¬†dedicated CUDA-PhysX calculations after watching a video on YouTube of someone who did it:

I paid 30 Euro for a GT430/PCI-E on eBay as it seemed that this card is sufficient for¬†normal PhysX setting in the game with its 96 processor cores. I build it in next to the HD 6870¬†but had to switch my Asrock AOD790GX/128M main-board from PCI-E 16/1 mode to PCI-E 8/8 Crossfire-mode in order to detect the card. The GT430 barely fit in as the HD 6870 is a 2 slot card but it worked. After doing that I installed the latest Nvidia drivers 285.62¬†that come with¬†PhysX 0621 and then applied the patch that makes this all possible…

http://www.ngohq.com/graphic-cards/17706-hybrid-physx-mod-v1-03-v1-05ff.html

… it made possible what Nvidia says is impossible: you can use an AMD card for the 3D acceleration¬†and an additional one from Nvidia for PhysX rendering. Nvidia is using PhysX as a unique selling point for their GeForce cards and is pushing it into the market by paying developers to implement exclusive support. That’s not fair and the poor success of the Bullet Physics Library shows how serious Nvidia is about it. They push this proprietary “standard” by all means.

The setup with the GT430 in hybrid-mode together with the¬†HD 6870¬†is maybe not the fastest and my system is mid-range (Phenom II¬†@3,2 GHz, 6870 1GB, 4GB RAM) but it’s enough to get 30 FPS average in the in-game benchmark and play the game smoothly on DX11 normal tessellation normal PhysX settings (rest is set to very high). Before it was ~50 FPS without the PhysX effects but in this game¬†the performance hit is¬†worth it IMHO. To get high PhysX effects you would need to use a GTX460 BTW and to get more FPS something in general like a 6970 with 2GB.

AMD’s HD3D


Since I read that the new AMD 6000 series supports stereoscopic 3D I’m obsessed with the idea of getting a 3D monitor + one of the new AMD 6850… the first monitor that will have HDMI 1.4a (needed for an AMD HD3D) is the Acer HS244HQ and I think I will get it. After reading many reviews I picked the XFX Radeon‚ĄĘ HD 6850 1024 MB dual fan Black Edition as my first choice.

More Infos:

http://3dvision-blog.com/acer-hs244hq-is-the-first-3d-monitor-with-hdmi-1-4a-stereo-3d-support/ &

http://xfxforce.com/en-us/products/graphiccards/HD%206000series/6850.aspx#3

DDD TruDef Ignition seems to be also the best 3D driver for games (although I’m a bit disappointed that I need to spend additional 50 bucks ): http://www.tridef.com/ignition/3d-games.html

There are voices about AMD HD3D that are skeptic but I think I will give it a try! (source: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/radeon-hd-6870-radeon-hd-6850-barts,2776-3.html)

This whole stereoscopic 3D idea is everything but not new. I think for me it’s now cheap and technically mature enough to go for it. About 10 years ago my neighbor bought the ELSA 3D Revelator 3D glasses together with a Nvidia Riva TNT2 board but we never made any game really work with it. The 3D effect has been very poor and barely visible.


More info: http://www.stereo3d.com/revelator.htm (BTW: ELSA went bankrupt and doesn’t exist anymore)

Even more funny is that Sega tried to introduce this technology with the Sega Master System around 20 years ago:

Of course a Blu-Ray player makes sense for 3D… why not even a writer? LG has a n1: LG BH10LS

AMD site: http://www.amd.com/us/products/technologies/amd-hd3d/Pages/hd3d.aspx

Make your XEOX gamepad Xbox 360 compatible

This is the controller I bought for GTA IV as the game supports only the Xbox 360 controller from Microsoft since one of the latest patches. Guess what… it just looks like a Xbox 360 gamepad but it’s not compatible with it. OK, it’s much cheaper (around 20‚ā¨) and it has rubber panels that are really nice. Overall a decent gampad but not compatible with the original Xbox 360 controller.

First I started mapping keyboard keys to the gamepad with Xpadder (http://xpadder.com/) but then I found out that it’s pretty hard to drive like that as such an A-S-W-D control mapped to a gamepad stick it not very precise. Now I managed to emulate the Xbox 360 gamepad with the XBOX360 Controller Emulator by Racer_S. I had to fine tune the .ini file in order to make all the buttons work but it runs perfectly now.

So if you have the XEOX gamepad and want to turn it into a Xbox 360 gamepad then get the emulator and install my .ini file. It should work with every game that supports the Xbox 360 gamepad!

Instructions and D/L of the emulator: http://www.fragtheplanet.com/808/emulate-an-xbox-360-controller/

My custom .ini file for the XEOX: http://www.pazurmapping.com/misc/x360ceini_02.zip (replace the original file with this)

Mirror: http://cid-d3011d77266e15a4.office.live.com/self.aspx/xeoxini/x360ceini^_02.zip

Specs of the XEOX: http://speedlink.com/?p=2&cat=3132&pid=22714&paus=1 (in case you look for a good but not expensive gamepad)

UPDATE:

The latest version of the Emulator has a preset for this gamepad that also supports vibration! Download it at: http://code.google.com/p/x360ce/

Here is how to use it:1. Unpack the file you downloaded from http://code.google.com/p/x360c/ (download link is on the left hand side – current version is x360ce.App-2.0.2.158.zip)

2. Run the exe included in it
3. If the program asks for it allow it to create an .ini file
4. Select from the drop down on the bottom the preset for Speed Link XEOX USB Gamepad (SL-6555-SBK-A)
5. Save the preset
6. Now copy the content of the unpacked folder to the folder that hosts the .exe of your game (i.e. Batman Arkham City\Binaries\Win32\BatmanAC.exe)
7. When starting the game you should hear a soft “bing” when the game starts that indicates the controller is working

Please note that with the Xeox you can’t press the left and right trigger at the same time as shown in this video I recorded: http://www.screencast.com/users/ypiotr/folders/Jing/media/6af6e44d-031a-4c1c-bad2-d1059712293a . In GTA IV for example this means you can’t aim by pressing the left trigger and then shoot by pressing the right trigger. I’m using the gamepad for driving in GTA IV and the mouse when shooting so this works for me but there are games you might want to play with the controller only.

One of the readers of my blog commented below telling that the new product line of XEOX gamepads (6556-wired and 6566-wireless) has got an interface to switch between Xinput and Dinput (like the Logitech F series) so there is no more need to use an emulator. Only the 4446 model (for PC and PS3) still needs it.

Games for Windows


I always thought that the “Games for Windows” badge is some compatibility badge that games get when they run well on Windows machines but it turns out that Microsoft tries to market their Xbox 360 controller with it! Grand Theft Auto IV doesn’t work with my Speedlink Striker 2 gamepad… it needs this Microsoft Xbox 360 controller for Windows although Grand Theft Auto Vice City works with it. I noticed the same with Star Wars Force Unleashed. IMHO this Xbox controller is absolutely ugly!

More: http://www.microsoft.com/games/en-us/aboutgfw/pages/gamesforwindows.aspx

Apparently there is a workaround to play with the gamepad I have (It’s a Speedlink Strike 2 – see picture below – is basically a PS3 gamepad that looks much better than the Xbox 360 gamepad)

A software called Xpadder can simulate the gamepad by using keyboard mappings and works according to their support with GTA IV: http://xpadder.com/forum4/viewtopic.php?f=54&t=1812

What does Xpadder let you do?
*****************************
– Play PC games with poor or no gamepad support
– Add gamepad support to emulated, internet and DOS games
– Play multiplayer games with each player using a gamepad
– Control video/music players using their shortcut keys
– Use a gamepad with a browser or any Windows program

Download: http://xpadder.com/ – it’s 10$ so pretty affordable

Lifetime Achievement for Carmack

John Carmack will get a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) 2010. Well deserved! For me he’s the father of all 3D games… Wolfenstein 3D by id Software has been my first 3D game! EPIC!

More info: http://www.gamespot.com/news/6251702.html

Gamepad on a PC

I’m a gamepad-hater and I always wondered how console players can have something like that as a controller. Now I got one that very much looks like a PS3 gamepad from Speedlink (Striker ¬≤). Yesterday I tried a few games on it and I have to say that the PC version of Ghostbusters: The Videogame is much more fun with the gamepad. Nearly unplayable is Collin McRae Dirt 2… although there is a vibration effect depending on the road you are on the control is inaccurate (comparable to the keyboard).

Need to check Streetfighter IV, Batman Arkham Asylum and Star Wars Force Unleashed with the gamepad.

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