Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Broforce (Sort of) Review

Well, I've finished the built in campaign of the still early-access Broforce.  I have a few notes, some were briefly touched upon in an earlier post.   The biggest caveat to keep in mind while reading this is that I haven't played it co-op, so there's a big gap between it's desired play mode and the way I'm experiencing it.

First of all, it's fun.  I could see it being really fun with friends.  I think it was Keiron Gillen who said Diablo 3 kind of turned into something to do during a voice chat with friends, and I'd bet after a frantic hour or two with Broforce, that's the kind of game it would become.  It's incredibly simple.  Incredibly simple, and fun, but certain characters (like the corollaries for Indiana Jones and Neo from The Matrix) require a little more consideration of your play style.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Oops, I meant to publish this last Sunday, so that's the context it should be in.

Woke up this morning, checked my feeds and saw that The Grand Budapest Hotel had just broken $100 million.  It reminded me that it was still in theaters.  Since I've been in Kansas City for the week, and I've got a free day today, I realized I could finally see it.  I texted a friend of mine, and within two hours we were in a theater watching it.

I have some strange dysfunction where the first time I see a movie, read a book, whatever, it largely doesn't stick with me.  In one ear and out the other.  Some things stick, but basically I'm left with a distinct impression of how the work struck me.  What's interesting is I'm usually hyper attentive during my media consumption, but perhaps that's the problem, trying to pay attention to everything at once.   Re-reading (watching, etc) a work is usually an interesting combination of realizing something I'd missed the first time and also remembering other things a few seconds or minutes before they take place.  So I can't really talk much about this movie I just finished watching less than two hours ago.  Strange, huh?

What I do remember is that TGBH is great, I liked it a lot.  It had many of the normal trappings of a Wes Anderson movie, things that a decade ago really turned me off, but it seems to me that he's streamlined his style over the years and I've also (hopefully) become less of a judgemental dick, so I think we've met somewhere in the middle.

I want to see it again.  It kind of pains me that I'm leaving to go back to the middle of nowhere tomorrow morning, and I'm coming down with a cold so I don't really feel like going back out and seeing it again tonight.  By the time I'm back in Kansas City (around the first of May) it will probably be gone from theaters.

It is one of those movies that features a character I desperately want to be. Of course I mean the character of M. Gustave, played by Ralph Fiennes, who is downright inspirational.  He is polite, charming, yet exacting.  He gets angry only when given good reason and if he feels he went too far he immediately apologizes.  I'm trying to decide how well he fits the Cabellian definition of gallantry:
I have read that the secret of gallantry is to accept the pleasures of life leisurely, and its inconveniences with a shrug; as well as that, among other requisites, the gallant person will always consider the world with a smile of toleration, and his own doings with a smile of honest amusement, and Heaven with a smile which is not distrustful — being thoroughly persuaded that God is kindlier than the genteel would regard as rational.
In the film a comment is made to the effect that Gustave was born after the period in which he seems to belong, but he had the ability to project the illusion that the world still matched his style.  I'm not sure that his dated politeness and work ethic quite matches his unabashed sexual openness as far as time periods go, but of course I was raised in America, where everything from art to history is deemed inappropriate until all the sex has been removed (yet all the violence left intact), so my views on world and European history could be incredibly off base.

I do have one issue with the film, and this is a spoiler, so SPOILER ALERT for the following paragraph:
Zero is nearly beaten (or even killed) due to not having the proper papers when traveling near the beginning of the film.  He had been busy since, helping his friend, doing some other traveling on the down low, but there is a passage of time after all this action, and he does befriend people of means.  Near the end of the film he is traveling once again through legitimate channels, and once again the incident is repeated---after all this time, he still hasn't acquired the proper papers, even after nearly being attacked in addition to being directly told by a friendly agent that he wasn't traveling with the right papers earlier on.  If you've seen the movie then you know what this means, and it seems to me to have been too important of a thing for either Zero or M. Gustave (being his meticulous self) to have overlooked before Zero ever set foot on a train again.  Furthermore, I think it could have made sense for Zero to have had his papers in order the second time and still have been threatened, being the wrong color at the wrong time.
Anyway, I liked it, and I hope to see it again soon.

Til then,


Bittorrent Sync has just used up its last chance with me.

After ditching BTSync once, then deciding I installed it wrong on Linux and trying it again, finding errors but later discovering that it was my gaming laptop and not my Linux netbook that was causing problems, and then later facing a host of other inconveniences that were ultimately circumvented (by uninstalling BTSync from devices I don't use much), I for some reason kept using BTSync.  Today I once again went to the documents directory on my PC to see that a handful of my files have been reverted to a state so old that they are completely blank (they were placeholder files for a month or two during project planning).  What the fuck?  BTSync, that's what.  I've made a lot of concessions by using this program because I don't have a consistent connection to the internet at home and this works offline, (and also it works on Ubuntu ARM), but I'm no longer on ARM and I'll be moved back to a place with regular internet in two weeks, so I'll just suffer through it for now.

Anyway, here's what I learned in using it for the past few months:
  • Using BTSync to sync any files you don't ever intend to edit or alter seems fine.  I still intend to use it to quickly transfer video and comic files across devices (though 250kbps isn't that fast it's still better than my devices being tethered to one another during a transfer).  If you want to sync text files you regularly edit, for instance, then BTSync will occasionally replace your newer versions with older ones. If you want it to sync mp3 files, and then edit the tags on those mp3 files, they will become corrupted.  These are not things that have happened to me just once, these are things that have happened many times and across versions.
  • If you have a directory that sees its contents change regularly, you can use BTSync, but only if all the devices are regularly connected.  I had my tablet set up to use BTSync, a tablet I only use once every few weeks.  Lo and behold, the last time it was on BTSync started reverting all the files on my netbook to the much older versions on my tablet.  This included deleting folders I'd recently added in a fit of organization.
  • If you lose something, if a file is ever replaced by BTSync, you can usually find the desired version in the ".SyncArchive" subfolder (if you catch it soon enough).  But let's be honest, you (and by you I mean I) should be backing your (my) stuff up regularly in somewhere where no sync app can touch it. It's not that hard to set up a 7zip command to run daily.  I've been burned enough that lesson runs deep in my workflow setup.  The problem is I can't easily replace a file if I don't know it's been automatically depreciated.
All this said, they do disclaim that this software is in a beta state.  I feel bad as I haven't submitted any bugs,  but every time I have an issue it burns up so much time trying to fix it (I was using it for work) that I don't have any more time to spend on it.

Maybe I'll give it another shot when it loses it's beta tag, but I suspect that by then I'll have found a better solution.  Right now I'm eying git-annex, which certainly seems promising (but its Windows build is in alpha, so the joke's on me all around).

Til then,


Thursday, April 17, 2014

My Experience with Image's Digital Comics Store

An Open Letter to Image Comics
I just bought Stray Bullets.  All 41 issues of it.

Image's digital comic store is a bit rough around the edges.  But I'll get to that in a moment.

In a previous blog post, which was really intended to be a companion piece to this one, I talked about how I want digital, not physical comics, and how I won't be buying (or reading) any comics I can't purchase as DRM free files.  Which pretty much leaves everyone out but Image and (very few) indies.

And, surprisingly enough, I've spent more money on digital comics in the past few months than I ever remember spending in a comparable amount of time on physical comics, even back when I used to visit shops regularly.  Part of this is because I'm playing catch up, and part of this is because I make way more money now than I made back then. Anyway...

Dear Image Comics:

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

PS4 Controllers

Last night I downloaded BroForce (I'm liking it so far, wish there were some custom options like playing a campaign as just one character, no switching.  It would be a nice challenge and would also allow me to get a feel for certain characters), fired it up, but my controller wouldn't work.

I normally use a wireless Xbox 360 controller with a USB dongle.  To be honest I'm not a fan of this setup, because the cord on the dongle is long, it's another thing I have to carry around, etc.  And it requires AA batteries, I have a few controller rechargeable packs, but they didn't work with my controller (I bought the specific Windows model).  Also the dongle is just one more thing that can break, which is exactly what happened.  I don't know what exactly is wrong but the dongle isn't lighting up anymore.  It is dead.

Well shit, do I go out and buy another one?  Hey, what about the Xbox One controller?  Oh, not compatible with my PC (says a handy MS page, but it doesn't tell me what criteria it uses.  Do I need Windows 8?  Surely their controllers don't use Bluetooth LE?).  I have two PS3 controllers here, but I've never been a fan of the Motion to Joy drivers.  Don't remember why, just have had a lot of problems with them.

Okay, what does that leave?  Well, it's kind of complicated.  While I'm sure Logitech or whoever makes great gamepads, the problem is the Xbox 360 controller has a distinct advantage on the PC.  You see, besides the feel of the 360 controller, which I prefer over the PS3 controller, the 360 has better software support. Not just in the Windows OS itself, but in games.  Many games are mapped for the 360.  You plug in a generic controller and the game doesn't know which button is which---they don't map out every controller on the market, do they?  Most games recognize the 360 controller, they have custom on-screen prompts for the 360 controller.  It's just easier all around.

Okay, well let's see how PS4 controllers are working in Windows.  Enter DS4Tool.  It's a wrapper that makes the PS4 controller show up as a 360 controller.  And it allows you to use the touchpad too. 

A brief aside: while using it, I was reminded of an old, old media center PC setup where I'd set up Xpadder to allow my 360 controller to register as a mouse, with the triggers as the right and left mouse buttons.  It was a little hard to use at times, but it worked okay for playing the next episode of whatever shows I was watching at the time.  I could see the PS4 controller working even better for this with it's touchpad.

There are some problems:
  • You have to launch the program every time you want to emulate the 360 controller. (no biggie)
  • If you don't tell it to hide the PS4 gamepad from Windows you can have some really messy gameplay moments as both profiles may fight for control (there was a very comical instance in BroForce where it detected two controllers, and when I hit a button it activated player two, who mirrored half of what player one did).
  • In order to hide the PS4 controller, no programs can be using it.  Steam constantly monitors your controllers, so you have to close it every time you start DS4Tool.
Also once, even though it claimed to be running successfully, it wasn't and I had to restart my computer to get it to work.  But regardless it's pretty cool.

I have to say, I'm really liking the PS4 controller.  Nice feel, no dongle, can charge it with the cord I already have on my for my phone.  And let's be honest, it's totally the controller Batman would use if he were a gamer.