Wednesday, December 5, 2018

PC GAMES - Dragon Quest XI

Dragon Quest XI

Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age is a role-playing video game developed and published by Square Enix.  An entry in the long-running Dragon Quest video game series, it was released in Japan for the Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation 4 in July 2017, worldwide for the PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Windows in September 2018, and will be released for the Nintendo Switch at a later date.  Dragon Quest XI shipped over four million copies by November 2018.

Plot

The game is set in the world of Erdrea, and begins as the kingdom of Dundrasil is invaded and destroyed by an army of monsters.  The protagonist, an infant during the attack, is among those who attempt to escape, but becomes separated and ends up floating down a river and is found by an old man known as Chalky in the village of Cobblestone.  Being adopted by his daughter, Amber, the protagonist is then raised in the village.  Unaware of his adoptive status and living in the village until his teens, he eventually participates in a coming-of-age tradition by climbing the mountain Cobblestone Tor with his childhood friend Gemma.  During the trek, they are attacked by monsters, and upon reaching the summit, a large bird-like monster attacks and leaves Gemma hanging off the edge.  Noticing a mark on his hand glowing, the protagonist then summons lightning to attack it, killing it and saving Gemma.

Upon returning, Amber reveals the truth to him about his birth and adoption, and sends him to meet king Carnelian of Heliodor.  However, upon meeting him and his royal knights Sir Hendrik and Sir Jasper, the protagonist is thrown into the kingdom's dungeons under the accusation that he is the Darkspawn, a evil being predicted to destroy the world.  Once imprisoned, he meets a thief called Erik who recognizes the mark on his hand, calling him the Luminary, a legendary hero chosen by the world tree Yggdrasil to save Erdrea from evil, and says he was fated to meet up with him.  The pair then escape by using a tunnel Erik dug, and eventually are discovered by Hendrik and Jasper and escape to another kingdom by using a special item left behind by Chalky in a buried box they found during their travels.  In a town called Hotto, the pair meet two mages who hail from the city of Arboria: Veronica, who fell into a curse that transformed her body into that of a child's, and her twin sister Serena.  The two immediately recognize him as the Luminary and swear their allegiance to him, as is their sworn duty.  The four then set on a quest to reach Yggdrasil so that the Luminary can understand more about his destiny.  On the way, they gain three other companions: Sylvando, a traveling entertainer, Rab, former king of Dundrasil and the protagonist's grandfather, and Jade, exiled princess of Heliodor who helped the infant protagonist escape during the attack of Dundrasil.

The party eventually arrives at the heart of Yggdrasil, which contains the Sword of Light, the Luminary's destined weapon.  However, just as the Luminary is about to take it, he and the party are attacked by Jasper, who was following them, and are left unable to fight further.  With Carnelian and Hendrick in tow, it is then revealed that Carnelian was possessed the entire time by an evil being known as Mordegon, otherwise known as the Lord of Shadows, and that Jasper has been an agent of his.  The two then subdue Hendrik and the Luminary's party, with Mordegon taking and corrupting the Sword of Light and absorbing the heart of Yggdrasil for himself, destroying the tree and plunging the world into an age of darkness.  Separated from his companions, the Luminary is revealed to have been rescued by mermaids from the underwater kingdom of Nautica, where he learns that the fall of Yggdrasil happened months ago, with Mordegon sending his forces to terrorize Erdrea. - Wikipedia


Dragon Quest XI is features an automatic turn-based battle system where you can set TacticsI found Fight Wisely for everyone, works all the time, including Boss Battles.

The game play is mostly straight forward, but you can fine many 'Beginners Guides' that will give you nice hints on how to play, with one exception (for those who haven't played Dragon Quest before).  Automatic saves are done automatically at many points.  Manual saves are done via Churches or Sacred Statues using the Confession option.

The game is very lengthy, took me a Play Time of 58hrs (close to real time) to finish.

The plot is somewhat linear that follows a long and twisting plot.  This makes the game outstanding in my book.

My Rig:  Win7 Pro 64bit, 8gb DDR3 System Memory, 4tb Hard Drive with SSD, nVidia GeForce GTX 770 with 2gb on-board video memory

Definitely worth the play.

There is a Trainer available.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

PC GAMING - XCOM 2

My rig:  Win7 Pro 64bit Desktop


XCOM 2 is a turn-based tactics video game developed by Firaxis Games and published by 2K Games for Microsoft Windows, OS X, and Linux in February 2016, and for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in September 2016.  The game is the sequel to 2012's reboot of the series, XCOM:  Enemy Unknown.  Taking place 20 years after the events of Enemy Unknown, it follows the continuity that XCOM, a military organization trying to fight off an alien invasion, has lost the war, and is now a resistance force against their occupation of Earth.  The expansion XCOM 2:  War of the Chosen was released in 2017.
-Wikipedia


My Game Rating:  4 out of 10

XCOM 2 would be an excellent game IF it could actually be played Off Line.  You can't.

  1. When you first launch XCOM 2 you must have Steam OnLine AND be connected to your network.
  2. When you start you are forced to logon to the 2K "Social Club"
  3. Only after creating you "Social Club" account, you can take Steam OffLine (this is how I normally play)
  4. But to avoid problems you still have to play XCOM 2 connected to your network (I normally disable my network during gaming)
  5. XCOM 2 has a Crash Dump interface.  To avoid problems caused I had to disable this function by renaming the crash-dump files (CrashDumpPermission.exe and CrashDumpWatcher.exe)
  6. Another problem is with MODs you load via Steam, the game fails to see what MODs you have enabled on first launch.  I had to find a solution (see below).
  7. Last and worst, when you exit the game on a crash, you will get the 'game already running' message on Steam Launch, even though there are no [Applications] or [Processes] for XCOM listed in Task Manager.  (see my solution below)

MOD Launch fix:

I created a MOD Launcher shortcut to ModLauncherWPF.exe in my game menu.
  1. On first launch of XCOM 2 I start the game in Mod Launcher (I could have an error) I then use Task Manager to kill this version.
  2. I restart the MOD Launcher and the MODs are listed, I check all and [Quit]
  3. Now when I start my Steam XCOM 2 Launcher the MODs are listed (I ensure all are checked)

Post Crash Game Start Fix:

I simply use the MOD Launcher, count 10sec, then [Quit].  This allows your system to actually close XCOM 2.  You don't get the 'already running' notice.

XCOM 2 Console Cheats:  See XCOM 2 Console Commands
Shows how to enable the console and the cheat commands.

See:  13 Tips for Playing XCOM 2 for help.

As I said the game play is very good, if it wasn't having to have my network online.


XCOM 2 casts the player as the commander of the eponymous military organization, now reduced to a resistance force opposing the ongoing alien occupation of the planet.  Players take control of the Avenger, the new mobile base for XCOM.  Players are tasked to give commands to squad members in battles against aliens during missions, while commanding the engineering and research department of the base between missions to create and research improved and new gadgets, weapons and technologies to assist players in battle.  Soldiers can be recruited, with each soldier class having their own skill trees and abilities.  For example, the Grenadier class can gain access to explosives and grenade launchers, while the Ranger is equipped with melee weapons like swords.  Armor and weaponry can also be researched and upgraded by the player in the (randomly located) Avenger Base.  Each mission's environment is influenced by the world's state, while maps are procedurally-generated to create a wide variety of levels, in which every map features different terrain and buildings in each play-through.  Mods are also supported.  Campaign, class and enemy types can be created by users and can be shared through Steam Workshop.  A one-versus-one multiplayer mode also returns from Enemy Unknown.  New enemies are also featured, such as units from the new faction, ADVENT, and more alien types like the Viper.
-Wikipedia

My MODS:
  • Free Camera Rotation
  • Numeric Health Display
  • Stop Wasting My time - Legacy
  • New Countries

Monday, August 27, 2018

CYBERSECURITY - Offense & Defense

"Playing offense and defense in the face of cybersecurity threats" PBS NewsHour 8/22/2018

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  In the past 48 hours, findings have been released regarding attempts by hackers to influence the midterm elections.  Now, the Democratic National Committee has reportedly asked the FBI to investigate an attempt to infiltrate its voter database.  Nick Schifrin joins Amna Nawaz to discuss what groups might be responsible for hacking and what preventive measures are being deployed.

Monday, July 16, 2018

ONLINE LIFE - $Streaming

"The highs and lows of being a professional online streamer" PBS NewsHour 7/12/2018

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  As more people consume video online, "streaming" is the internet's version of live TV, but with instant feedback from fans.  How have star streamers turned activities like taping themselves playing video games into profitable careers?  Economics correspondent Paul Solman reports from DreamHack, a gaming convention in Austin, Texas.

Editor's Note:  In this report on streaming, we point out police are sometimes called to a streamer’s house after a hoax call.  In some cases, SWAT teams arrive in response.  A previous version of this story mistakenly identified a man killed by police in one such case as a streamer.  In fact, the victim was not a streamer.  We regret the error.

Monday, July 9, 2018

INSIDE YOUR INBOX - Gmail

"If you have Gmail, here’s who’s scanning your inbox" PBS NewsHour 7/3/2018

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  A year ago, Google’s Gmail said it stopped its practice of scanning users’ inboxes to personalize ads.  But it still allows outside app developers to scan inboxes, according to a Wall Street Journal report.  John Yang talks with tech reporter Douglas MacMillan, who broke that story.

Monday, May 28, 2018

INTERNET PRIVACY - New EU Rules Help Americans

"How Europe’s new online privacy rules could benefit Americans" PBS NewsHour 5/21/2018

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Long before the Cambridge Analytica scandal, new rules were being established by the European Union to give consumers greater control over their data.  Starting in May, every company, big or small, that keeps your information online or elsewhere must comply.  Special correspondent Malcolm Brabant reports.

Monday, April 30, 2018

FACEBOOK - Can Be Fooled

"How Facebook’s news feed can be fooled into spreading misinformation" PBS NewsHour 4/25/2018

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Facebook’s news feed algorithm learns in great detail what we like, and then strives to give us more of the same -- and it's that technology that can be taken advantage of to spread junk news like a virus.  Science correspondent Miles O'Brien begins a four-part series on Facebook’s battle against misinformation that began after the 2016 Presidential election.

Monday, April 2, 2018

CYBER SECURITY - Ransomware

"Why ransomware attacks target local governments like Atlanta" PBS NewsHour 3/30/2018

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Nine days ago, a cyberattack brought Atlanta to a virtual standstill.  Now the city says it is slowly making progress restoring its computer network.  Officials have not said whether they paid a $51,000 ransom to a group known as SamSam, which is thought to be behind the hack.  Hari Sreenivasan learns more from Allan Liska of the security firm Recorded Future.

Monday, December 4, 2017

U.S. SUPREME COURT - Digital Privacy

"Can police use cellphone location data without a warrant? Supreme Court ruling could have wide impact" PBS NewsHour 11/29/2017

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  A Supreme Court case centering around a piece of technology that most of us have in hand's reach has the potential to transform privacy law in the digital age.  John Yang sits down with Marcia Coyle of the National Law Journal to explain the details and the potential effects of the case.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

ROBOTS TODAY - What's New Atlas


I know you've seen a robot walk, but have you ever seen one do a backflip?

Sunday, October 22, 2017

PC GAMING - Sniper Elite 4

Weeks ago I installed Sniper Elite:Italia and some DLCs (Steam) on my Win7 Pro 64bit desktop.

I also have Sniper Elite v2 and Sniper Elite 3.

This is the best of the series from Rebellion.

It has all the elements of Sniper Elite 3 and more.

What I like about this game series is using and improving my tactics to complete missions.

In addition to the Main Mission (several parts) operations in Italy, there are 4 DLC Missions.

  • "Target Fuhrer" (one mission)
  • "Deathstorm" (3 part mission)
And there's "Bullet Time where you watch your shot in slow-mo.





    Below are some screenshots from the game:

    Your target is one of Hitler's top henchman, and what he carries, in the mansion in the far background.

    When you start a mission you can choose weapons and supplies.  Your primary is (of course) a sniper rifle, secondary is an SMG, and third is your pistol.
    Example

    Your Level changes weapons effects:

    Those bullet drop and wind.  Of course you still have the "Hold Breath" option which puts a red target where your shot will hit.

















    As you play, at the start of each mission you can adjust your "Skill Tree" with the skills you earned during missions.
    The yellow [i] means these have not been assigned, one you have not earned are grayed-out.

    Then there's your "Service Record" (aka Stats):


    I have played several rounds over the weeks and have reached the Level "Ghost" and am working on the Level "Elite" (2,481,370 out of 3,000,000 pts).  And I am Death Incarnate.

    And now videos:



    Monday, October 9, 2017

    THE RUSSIA FILE - Hacked NSA Documents

    "Report: Russia hacked NSA documents with aid from antivirus software" PBS NewsHour 10/5/2017

    Excerpt

    SUMMARY:  The Wall Street Journal reported that Russia obtained classified information about how the U.S. military protects its computer networks and conducts electronic spying.  The breach occurred when data was stolen by an NSA contractor, then hacked by Russia.  Hari Sreenivasan speaks with The Wall Street Journal's Shane Harris.

    Monday, July 31, 2017

    SIMULATIONS - X-Plane Flight Sim (updated)

    Finally done something I've been thinking about for years.  Got me a flight simulator and joystick.

    Way, way back I did try Microsoft's flight sim but I had only keyboard-mouse.  Flight sims are almost impossible to use with keyboard-mouse.

    So, finally, I got X-Plane 11 fight simulator and the Thrustmaster T-Flight Hotas X Flight Stick.

    X-Plane 11

    Example Cockpit View
    You can change your view from the cockpit including exterior like looking at the airport tower.

    You can use your mouse to click on most controls and switches.  Like when starting engines, turning on lights, etc.


    Where you chose your aircraft and customize for your flight
    Usually the first screen you go to after launching X-Plane is to start [New Flight].  This gets to  the "Flight Configuration" window.  This is where you choose your aircraft and customize it, set weather conditions and Time of Day (includes a checkbox to use your system time).

    The 'stock' aircraft:
    • X-15
    • Beechcraft Baron 58 
    • Cessna Sky Hawk 
    • McDonnell Douglas KC-10 Extender
    • Boeing 747-800, 747-400, 747-100
    • Boeing 737-80
    • Stinson L-5, L-5G, L-5G Uurated Sentinel 
    • ASK-21 glider 
    • Boeing B-52G Stratofortress
    • Skorsky S-76C  helicopter
    • Beechcraft King Air C90B
    • Lockheed SR-71
    • Blackbird F-4 Phantom II
    • Space Shuttle Orbiter
    • Beechcraft Baron 58
    • Cirrus Vision SF50
    • Beechcraft King Air C90B
    • Cessna 172SP
    • McDonnell Douglas MD-82
    You can buy/download more aircraft from X-Plane Org.


    Thrustmaster T-Flight Hotas X

    This version can be use for PC or PS3 via USB.  Features:
    • Wide hand-rest for optimal comfort
    • Programmable:  The 12 buttons and 5 axles are entirely programmable
    • Dual-system aerodynamic control, by rotating handle (with integrated blocking system) or by progressive tilting lever
    • Internal memory, to save all of your programming, even with the joystick disconnected
    • High-precision joystick with adjustable resistance
    • Programmable:  12 buttons and 5 axles are entirely programmable
    • Detachable, real-size, ergonomically-designed throttle control
    • Exclusive "MAPPING" button:  All functions may be instantly switched around between each other
    • High-precision joystick with adjustable resistance
    • Exclusive "PRESET" button to switch, while playing, instantly from one program to another
    • Plug & Play for ultra-simple and fast installation with all functions pre-configured for immediate takeoff (without worrying about configuration)
    • Trigger for brakes (civil flight) or for rapid fire (military flight)
    • Multi-directional Hotas button to change views (panoramic view)
    • Weighted base for greater stability
    This is my setup

    This pic was taken while going to "Flight School" sims included in X-Plane.  Note I have Thrustmaster 'detached' for easier use.


    The things I learned while using X-Plane:
    • This is a simulation, which means if you fly from San Diego International (aka Lindbergh Field) to Las Vegas and your route takes 2hrs, you spend 2hrs at the sim.
    • To fly, you need a Flight Plan.  X-Plane comes with just one default Flight Plan.  You have to go to various WEB sites to get a flight plan:  Online Flight Planner , SkyVector (professional flight planer not for sims, but easy to get basic info, including airport charts and info), SimBrief (this is for sims, use it to actually produce a Flight Plan file for X-Plane)
    • Flying ain't easy.  Really.  Especially landings.
    So far, I've spent 3 consecutive days on X-Plane (Fri-Sun).  Now it's time to give it a rest.


    FINALLY!

    I made/published a Flight Plan via SimBrief from KSAN (San Diego International aka Lindbergh) to KSDM (Brown Field Municipal Airport) with routing.


    I actually made it!  The full flight in a BeechCraft Baron 58 (twin prop).  OK, very sloppy landing but I didn't crash.  It only took me several weeks (only 'flying' weekends), with much frustration.

    I also created the reverse Flight Plan, KSDM TO KSAN (same routing).

    My next challenge is to figure out how to use the Baron's autopilot.


    Found an outstanding site for Sim training videos:  WEH Videos
    Provided many of the answers I had about Sim flying.

    Today 8/20/2017, I completed a Flight Plan "Montgomery Field" to "Palm Springs International Airport" and landed without crashing.  Although I missed the designated runway.