FNG Logo created by Nick Serr

29 March 2010

LANMania - FNG Turkey Bowl Rematch Results - March 2010 LAN Party

I know the gamers that attended the LAN Party are dying to know the results of the TrackMania tournament we held, since my app stopped correctly keeping track after 9 of the 15 tracks were played; so I'll get to the Final Standings first, then I'll talk about how the LAN Party went.

Final Standings: FNG Turkey Bowl 2009 Rematch
26 March 2010 - FNG LAN Party

GamerFinal Score

Here are some pics of the event (Names of players are left-to-right):







bomajoe and FNG_Josh couldn't make the party, so they joined our tournament online.

LAN Party Recap:
The party started at 6:30pm, with gamers trickling in for the next hour or so.  I was stoked as I'd been able to spend about 4 hours or so prepping an app that would communicate with the TrackMania dedicated server in hopes of having an automated way of tracking tournament stats.  I programmed the tracker app to report the current tournament stats back into the game (through the in-game chat) at the end of each race.  This would be our first test-run, to find bugs so I could work them out and perhaps use it at GEEX this year during their TrackMania tournament.

We ordered pizza at 8:00 and were chowing down at 8:30pm.  Many thanks to Papa Johns that night for some excellently fresh pizza; especially the pepperoni and jalapeno.  (They were probably thanking us as well, since we placed two orders with them that night!)

9:00pm hit and it was time for the Turkey Bowl 2009 rematch tournament.  We made sure we had bomajoe and FNG_Josh in the server with us... the next track loaded, I started the tracker app, and we were off-to-the-races.

There were many jeers and cheers as we all met with our successes and failures during each round.  There were also many laughs shared, especially when my son, FNG_d6Amefath3r stumbled on the pronunciation of bomajoe's name (bow-muh-joe)... he laughed and said, "What?!  It sounds like Barack Obama-Joe!!!"  I'm pretty sure my car slammed into a wall and flipped off the track at that moment.  It was a good thing we were in Time Attack mode instead of Rounds...  We laughed a long time, and I'm pretty sure Joe has a new nickname that will stick for a while.

More humor flew our way with our FNG LAN Party new-comer, MockObject.  He was certainly living up to his name when we'd hear groans about how bad he thought he sucked at the game, how "unpossible" it was to finish some of the tracks and how much fun it was to finally discover what the Finish gate looks like.

After the 9th track, my app got WAY behind on writing out the XML responses from the TrackMania server (my bad for not turning those off before launching the app... since we didn't really need them.)  It got so back-logged, that it took another 30 minutes after the tournament ended for the app to finally get everything written out so I could go copy the XML and later analyze it so I could find out the final scores.  Looks like I have some work to do on the tracker, yet... (Did I mention I only got 4 hours to invest in it before the party?!)  :)  Incidentally, the night before the party, I found a cool TrackMania Server Plugin System that I may be able to use to put an in-game UI piece in that will have the tourney stats constantly up... we're discussing ideas about that currently... we'll see how it goes.
A good time was had by all; with the potential exception of ricowan and MockObject who might have a permanent hatred for me for putting him through the ringer with our brutal choice of tracks. All I can say is that I tried to hook up with you both early enough to give you some time to practice before you came. ;)

Seriously though, I do hope everyone had a good time... I know I did.  It's always a great time to get good friends together for some LAN gaming.  I certainly hope the game developers out there don't seriously switch their models to this "always-connected" BS we keep hearing about in the latest games.  I want to keep LAN gaming around for a lot longer, without the fear of us all getting dumped out of our games when my internect connection decides to hiccup.

We finished the party off by playing some other potential GEEX tournament tracks, and then revisiting some old-school TrackMania Nations maps... some of the ones that made FNG fall in love with the game when we first discovered it.

This LAN party was good for helping me solidify ideas for the TrackMania tournament coming up at GEEX in July.  I hope to have the track pack compiled and available online in April, as well as the tournament rules and sign-up available on the GEEX site soon.  (I'm still looking for sponsors for prizes so we won't have to charge a tournament fee... so if you know of anyone, please get in touch with me!)

I hope to see you all at GEEX for the TrackMania tournament in July!


PS: All that attended, please take some time to leave your thoughts about the party here on the blog!  Much appreciated.

25 March 2010

C&C 4 DRM gets to EA blogger Jeff Green

As I was browsing the tech sites tonight, I came across an article on MaximumPC, and found that Ars Technica had also caught the story. On March 20th, EA blogger Jeff Green posted to Twitter blog Greenspeak of his frustrations with C&C's DRM and his attempts to play single player with his DSL connection.

"Booted twice--and progress lost--on my single-player C&C4 game because my DSL connection blinked. DRM fail. We need new solutions.

Yeah, Steam's ability to have off-line play is the clear, better model when talking about SP games.

However, C&C4 experiments w/what a "single-player game" is--given it's constantly uploading progress/stats for unlocks. It's complicated.

I think if we think of C&C4 as an "online-only" game--which it basically is--then maybe we'd adjust our expectations accordingly.

Welp. I've tried to be open-minded. But my 'net connection is finicky--and the constant disruption of my C&C4 SP game makes this unplayable.

The story is fun, the gameplay is interesting and different at least--but if you suffer from shaky/unreliable DSL--you've been warned."

I figured I'd also include his next couple posts, as they are relevant to the DRM bloat as well.

"LOL-wow. My frustration w/C&C4's online scheme led me to Dawn of War 2. With THIS game, I'm forced to log into GFW Live just to play SP.

F' all this noise. I'm going back to Civ 4. A singleplayer strategy game that--zounds!--I can actually play offline."

While I will join in with Nathan Grayson (MaximumPC) in thanking an EA employee for some honesty and not hiding the problems from the public, isn't it sad when EA's own employees realize that the DRM scheme doesn't work?

I know several people have tried to say that EA's "solution" is not DRM, it's just a way of experience for single and multiplayer to build up together. I'm sorry, but it is DRM. It requires a constant connection, rather than just updating at the completion of a mission or saving the experience locally on the PC (even if it is saved locally for later update when you connect to a multiplayer game). If it tells a person when or how they can play the game, it is DRM.

So, thank you Jeff Green for your honesty! Hopefully EA doesn't come down on you for it. And please, EA, Ubisoft, and any other publisher thinking of requiring persistent internet connections for SINGLE player games, stop it!

20 March 2010

How to Find Your TrackMania United Player Key on the Steam Version

Look for the InstallKey=****-****-****-****-*** value in the Nadeo.ini file located in your Steam install folder for TrackMania United.

The stars will be alpha-numeric characters (letters are capitalized/upper-case)

The default installation paths are:
32-bit Windows
C:\Program Files\Steam\steamapps\common\trackmania united\

64-bit Windows
C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\trackmania united\

16 March 2010

Command & Conquer 4 - Persistent Internet Connection Required

Just when we thought one of the big publishers was finally listening to their customers...

Well, PC Gamers, put another nail in the Publishers-think-you're-idiots-and-will-believe-their-bullcrap-spin-on-persistent-internet-connection-DRM coffin.  "Oh you'll sooooooooo love the things we're doing with OUR game that you won't care about the SMALL inconvenience of being forced to have a persistent connection to play."

Blah blah blah, we've heard it all before from Blizzard and Ubisoft, and now EA has officially rejoined the DRM freaks ranks again with their C&C4 title released today.

I love the spin they're trying to put on it this time as well... in a quote from an Ars Technica article:
"... as a nice side effect, since C&C4 requires players to be online all the time in order to prevent cheating, we'll be shipping without any form of DRM."

Sure enough, Steam lists it without notice of DRM in the right-column where they usually mention it.  My question is, where on Earth does anyone get off passing off a required persistent internet connection as NOT being a form of DRM?

I'm starting to lose my faith in gamers, since we are responsible for this madness continuing and persistently getting worse in our lives.  Until we put an end to it by stopping the consumption of said defiled games, we will continue to see a decrease in our liberty to use purchased content as we please.  Freak, it won't be long before these software companies start telling you when you can use your computer for non-gaming related activities.

If we don't take a stand together and do it now... this will be our lot in life for the rest of our gaming lives.  And don't give me your "I don't care about being forced to have an internet connection all the time... My computer is always connected, so I'm good..." crap either.  It's a principle people.  The principle of losing your liberty.

The principal of giving up your freedom to use something you purchased because you "have to have the game" or you don't feel like a hard-core gamer.  I've got news for you folks... having the game first doesn't make you any more of a hard-core gamer than the next guy... I promise you'll live for a few more weeks while we all put our foot (and our wallet) down and let these companies know we're not going to take their crap anymore.

And if you really can't pull yourself away enough to stand up for what is right... then go enjoy your game as a slave to the man... and I'll just finish my career as a gamer with what little time I have left with the games that I have freedom to play how/when/where I want.

It's too bad... there are a lot of good creative developers and game creators out there.  It's a shame these greedy publishers are ruining it for all of us.

So, to the pirates and hackers/crackers out there... Enjoy your short challenge of beating the system this time, and enjoy your stolen copies of the game; whilst the rest of us suffer for our honesty/integrity... I'll be waiting for the articles soon where people who did buy the game don't get to play because the EA servers are down, just like the Ubisoft ones after Assassin's Creed 2 release.

[sarcasm]Good Game[/sarcasm]

13 March 2010

Bomajoe, Rally A4 is almost mine!!!

It's in my grasp... oh yes, it's in my grasp.

07 March 2010

Ubisoft's DRM fails again

Well, I hate to overshadow the amazing work Valve has done with the Portal 2 ARG and announcement (wtg Valve!), especially with a new post about DRM, but here goes.

Ubisoft's DRM servers have been down for Europe today. That's right, people in Europe have been unable to play Ubisoft's recently released games because Ubisoft's servers aren't working. According to reports from the escapist, at about 8am GMT (1 am MST) customers began posting in the Assassin's Creed 2 forums that they were unable to play their games because they couldn't access the authentification servers. As of 11:30am MST the issue still hadn't been resolved, and there was a post from an Ubisoft employee.

"I don't have any clear information on what the issue is ... but clearly the extended downtime and lengthy login issues are unacceptable, particularly as I've been told these servers are constantly monitored," said 'Ubi.Vigil', adding, "I'll do what I can to get more information on what the issue is here first thing tomorrow and push for a resolution and assurance this won't happen in the future."

This is one of the things MANY potential customers, as well as blogs/reviewers/tech sites were worried about. There are so many potential issues with this DRM. If Ubisoft's servers don't work right (even though Ubisoft was so excited about how great their servers were going to be) you don't have access to your game - even a single player one. If your connection is flaky, you could lose your access to your game. If their servers are shut down, they have promised they'd like to release a patch to remove the authentication. But what if they don't have the resources at the time to devote to it? Or what if they just decide it isn't worth their time? I mean, EA didn't plan on taking so many of it's games offline 2-3 years after they were released, did they?

I hope that Ubisoft will see reason. I hope.

05 March 2010

Confirmed Co-Op in Portal 2!!!

See the GameInformer article...
(Thanks to portalwiki.net for the picture)

Also, don't forget to keep track of GameInformer's bi-daily updates all throughout March...
GameInformer's Portal 2 Hub

"This was a triumph..."
   - GLaDOS

Portal 2 Magazine Cover Leaked

GameInformer's magazine cover with Portal 2 pics has been leaked, and a cool Kotaku article titled "An Insider's Guide to Portal 2" shows it and discusses some of the things being discovered about the highly anticipated game.

The cover is awesome... Go check it out!

Portal 2 Announced!!!

It's official!!!
This morning, Valve officially announced Portal 2 will be coming this holiday season.

See the official Steam annoucement.  (There's not much there yet, but I'm excited to see more over the coming months.)

Another Portal Update Today?

Valve has been messing with our minds, and making us return to thinking with Portals!  And it's been a fun ride to start March out... here's what's going on:

01 March 2010 - Portal Update Released;
"Changed radio transmission frequency to comply with federal and state spectrum management regulations"

... which spawned this viral thread on the Steam Forums that, as of this morning has 656 pages of replies, and is constantly growing ...

It also brought a new achievement called "Transmission Received" that has us all replaying the game, frantically looking for radios with red lights on them, playing "Still Alive".  When radios are found, the player must run around the level with it until they find a point where the radio goes to static.  As they find the right spot where it can "tune-in", the radio light turns green and different sounds are heard (morse code, etc.)

Most levels have one radio, two to three of them have multiple radios.  Some of them are very cleverly placed and the hunt is an enjoyable way to replay the game.

Even more interesting... the audio files that were added with this update contained embedded images that people have been extracting and attempting to decipher.

Needless to say, the community is buzzing around the clock trying to solve the mysteries.  And we're all anticipating an announcement soon of either a sequel, a new episode (or new version) of Half-Life, or both!

Valve has an Aperture Science BBS up that people have been dialing in and finding more vague and bizarre clues.

Two days later...
03 March 2010 - Portal Update Released:
"Added valuable asset retrieval"

This update added an extra 5-10 seconds to the ending of the game... which sparked more conversation and theories about what is going on.

Today is another two days later... will get get another update through Steam which will bring us any closer to knowing what's going on and/or give us more reason to continue replaying the fantastic game that is Portal?

Here's to hopin'...

One thing I have to say, is a HUGE kudos to Valve for doing something so fun in the PC gaming community (again - since they had similar action before Portal was originally released.)  As of late, it seems the hype around new killer game announcements is always quickly stifled by rantings and ravings (including my own) about crappy DRM and DLC schemes that other big publishers seem to be so into lately.  Thanks, Valve for giving us something fun to chase instead.  It's an incredibly nice diversion, and breathing new life into the PC gaming community.

I can't wait to find out what's going on.

If you haven't checked out the updates yet, and you're a Portal fan, you owe it to yourself to snag the updates and go replay Portal.

"There was even going to be a party for you. A big party, that all your friends were invited to. I invited your best friend, the Companion Cube. Of course, he couldn't come because you murdered him. All your other friends couldn't come either, because you don't have any other friends, because of how unlikable you are. It says so right here in your personnel file: "Unlikable. Liked by no one. A bitter, unlikable loner, whose passing shall not be mourned." Shall NOT be mourned. That's exactly what it says. Very formal. Very official. It also says you were adopted, so that's funny, too."

04 March 2010

Ubisoft's "Online Services Platform" Cracked in Under 24-Hours

While following the rant thread I created on the TrackMania forums, someone posted this gem of an article from InfoAddict today about how Ubisoft's new DRM was cracked in under 24 hours!!!

Most game publishers have been changing the video game scene's focus as of late from the actual game's content, to the "bonus game" on-top-of-the-real-game called DRM.  This "bonus game" is intended to promote hacking/cracking of the game, giving pirates/crackers the challenge of seeing if they can hack this new one faster than the last one.  And they're very good at it, good enough that it seems to be pleasing the publishers enough to continue dumping countless resources into providing said "bonus games" with all major releases of their new games.  It's not about the real game's content anymore, it's about the pirates...  And they continue to win.

When will enough be enough?  When will companies finally realize that if they re-channeled the DRM resources (development time, licensing money, etc.) to the actual content of the real game, they may be able to make a higher quality game at a fraction of the cost and time taken to release said game?!

Imagine that... they might actually be able to lower the price of the game some, which would make it even more alluring for customers that actually pay for their products and not leave them high and dry with games that don't work, while the pirates who never plan on paying enjoy their game problem free, because there aren't any draconian DRM systems in place anymore that hamper their experience (and sometimes violate their computers.)

Will we see another class action lawsuit against Ubisoft this time around, like we did with Starforce back in the day?  Couple those costs with the costs it takes to implement the crap to begin with... and add the costs to support the paying customers riddled with problems after it's released, and I'm thinking net loss for everyone, publishers, developers and paying customers alike.

Wake up people, and STOP THE MADNESS!

Go read the InfoAddict article, and pay close attention to LordCancer's comment at 03 03, 2010 04:03 that brings up a Gun Control analogy.  Bob Barker's comment at 03 03, 2010 06:45 is good as well...

I'm still hopeful that Ubisoft will pull-their-heads-out before the release of TrackMania 2 and rid themselves and we gamers of this garbage. 

Alas, my hopes have been semi-shot-down some, thanks to a Voodoo Extreme article entitled "Ubisoft: More Sequels, More Often" that states: "TrackMania 2 for PC will feature innovative content purchasing options."  They'd better be talking about the existing copper system from TrackMania United Forever, because if they're talking about real money for content, the TM community will be angered.

Anyway, all who know me know I'm the last to advocate piracy and cracking, but I'm glad this happened, in hopes that these companies will wake up and realize they're only hurting their paying customers... Oh, and keeping one gaming community alive and thriving... those that relish the challenge of a new DRM system to break.