Saturday, August 18, 2018

The Witcher 3: Hearts of Stone (PC) Review

Hearts of Stone is the first expansion to The Witcher 3. The game is set in the same world as the main game, specifically in the north eastern part of Novigrad.

There is quite a bit of new content here, but the highlight of this expansion is the story. This may be the best expansion to a video game I have ever played.

With the Game of The Year edition, I had the option to start the expansion with a default level 30 character, but I waited till I finished the main story to play the expansions. At least a level 30 character is recommended for the expansion, and by the end of the main story, I was well past that.



The expansion has simple beginnings. It starts with a contract to kill a monster in the sewers of Oxenfurt, but it soon opens up into a fantastic adventure with excellent characters and well written dialog. I can’t really discuss the story without going to spoiler territory, but suffice to say those that enjoy good writing and storytelling are likely to enjoy this expansion a lot.



There are a couple of main quests which I found comparatively boring, but the game picks up very quickly, and ends with a superb conclusion. Often times I found myself unsatisfied with game endings, especially in RPGs (case in point, Mass Effect 3). That is not the case with Hearts of Stone. It has one of the best endings in video games I have ever played.

There are many little story details scattered throughout the game, and for those that have the time and the inclination, there is a lot of replay value. Its not just fan service either. Re-watching some of the cut-scenes made realize the effort that went into telling this story. There are some excellent analysis videos on YouTube, that will do a far better job at explaining the story. Speaking of value, I got this game as a part of the GOTY bundle on GOG for $19.99. This bundle includes the main game, and the two expansions. I can't think of a better deal for RPG fans. I typically do not recommend paying full price for games, but The Witcher 3 and its expansions are well worth the money.



The expansion also introduces new enemy types, which are much harder than the ones found in the base game. Some of the same kind of enemies that exist in the base game are now much higher level comparatively. I once wandered into the north east side of the map, and ran into level 30 enemies. I was used to dealing with them effortlessly in the main game, but I ended up getting killed, and then whats I realized I wandered into the expansion territory, which opened up a whole new set of side quests.



I would absolutely replay this expansion a few times over, if it weren't for the spiders.

+ Excellent Story
+ Great Endings
+ Interesting Characters
+ Superb Value For Money

- Spiders

Verdict - Must Play

Friday, June 1, 2018

Bootstrap Glyphicon Not Rendering ("empty box")

If you are not using a CDN link for the bootstrap library, you might find yourself in a situation where using glyphicon on your page might not work, and all you see is an empty box in place.

Glyphicon does not render

One reason for this could be because the paths for the fonts resource is not setup correctly.

If using the CDN link provided on the bootstrap website is not an option, then ensure that the directory looks like this -

Directory structure

Then, include the path to bootstrap.css in the HTML file.

Link to bootstrap.css in the html document

Reload the page in the browser, and that should load the glyphicon.


Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Witcher 3 (PC) Review

My experience with Witcher games began 9 years after the release of the first game. I played The Witcher in November 2016 and I followed up immediately with The Witcher 2. I would have started playing Witcher 3 right after, but I did not own the game. In November 2017, it went on sale, on GOG.com, and I purchased the GOTY edition for $19.99.

I spent a little over 300 hours playing the main game. This is by far the most time I spent on a single player game. I remember reading some articles leading up to the release of Witcher 3 that this game is going to have a lot of content. I thought it might be filler, and to a small extent this is true, but by and large, I was entertained enough to complete all the side quests in all areas.

Dynamic weather

Performance throughout the game has been excellent. Since I played on the PC, I had the luxury of upgrading my hardware and installing mods.

I started playing this game with my MSI GeForce GTX 1080. The game looked absolutely beautiful. However, at 1440p, I was not able to keep a steady 60FPS with all settings on high. On MSI GeForce 1080Ti, the game was running at well over 60FPS with all settings on high, and there were hardly any dips. It was an amazing experience. This is the best looking RPG I have ever played. I did not play Skyrim yet, so it remains to be seen if Skyrim manages to look better than Witcher 3.

Beauty of The Witcher 3

I felt that the developers created a fantastic world, and exploration, which is something I enjoy a lot, is rewarded in the game. For the most part, I enjoyed the main quests and side quests. Given the number of side quests, not all of them are going to be excellent, there are some fetch quests here and there, but even some of the most mundane side quests are voice acted, and they make a very sincere attempt to entertain and engage the player. Dynamic weather has a big positive impact on immersion. This combined with the excellent audio make the gameplay experience so much better.



Voice acting and dialogue are excellent for the most part. It got predictable towards the end. The final parts of the main quest felt weak in comparison. The endings were excellent, but the quests leading up to it felt boring to me.

There are some mods that make life a lot easier, such as the auto loot mod. The fast travel mod is also handy, but it is best to exercise caution when using it because it can break quests. It is useful when exploring for hidden treasures etc, but do not using when doing any quests, especially when indoors.



I thought the combat was excellent compared to the previous games, especially compared to Witcher 1. I do not like how signs have to be equipped before they can be cast...I do not understand the reasoning behind this. There is a mod that will change how this works, but I never installed it because this wasn't a huge issue. The crossbow controls are awful. After every shot, Geralt puts away the crossbow, and its tedious to put the bolt in place and the middle mouse button needs to be held down to take aim.



Horse riding is another mechanic that is not fully fleshed out. Holding down shift would make the run, and to make the horse sprint, you would have to double tap and hold Shift. There are plenty of keys on the keyboard that can accomplish this without resorting to the double tap nonsense. Slashing at enemies when on horseback feels sluggish. I am still glad for the addition of the horse in the game, given how big the game world is.

In conclusion, The Witcher 3 is the best open world RPG I have played to this date. I would still rate the story of the original Deus Ex higher than this, but the gameplay experience of Witcher 3 has surpassed Deus Ex.

+ Excellent open world
+ Smooth combat
+ Fun side quests
+ Beautiful visuals
+ Great soundtrack

- Horse controls
- Crossbow controls
- End game is not as fun

Veridct - Must Play

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Setting Up A Simple Website Using Tomcat & Namecheap

In this post, I will share the steps I used to create a very simple website using Tomcat webserver, and Namecheap DNS.

Web server configuration

1. Download the latest tomcat.

  • The version in this case is 9.0.6
    https://tomcat.apache.org/download-90.cgi

2. Create the following directory –

D:\MyWebsites

3. Paste the tomcat package directory inside the MyWebsites directory

4. Rename the package to the directory name of the website

This directory will serve the website

5. Download jdk -
http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/java/javase/downloads/jdk8-downloads-2133151.html

This step is not necessary depending on how java is installed on the machine. I prefer deploy java in this manner.

6. Deploy jdk in the following directory –
D:\java\jdk64-1.8.0_161

Java directory

7. Create setenv.bat file and place it in the \bin directory. Specify the java home in the file.

setenv.bat

8. Create an index.html file and drop it in the following directory –
D:\MyWebsites\rc03.net\webapps\ROOT

index.html

9. Run the startup.bat in the \bin directory

Running startup.bat will show the environment variables

10. Access localhost:8080 in the browser

localhost

Router Configuration

1. Gather the internal IP address of the machine that is running the tomcat server –

ipconfig

2. Open the router configuration page and find the port forwarding settings. This can be typically accessed at 192.168.0.1

3. Add a new rule for forwarding http traffic to port 8080

Port forwarding

4. Go to http://canyouseeme.org/

5. Type in the port and click on the Check Port button

Port status

Namecheap host record configuration

1. Go to http://whatismyip.com and take note of the external IP address (also known as the WAN IP)

2. Go to Advanced DNS configuration

3. In the host records section, create the following:

  • Type: A record; Host: @; Value: <external-ip>; TTL: Automatic
  • Type: URL Redirect Record; Host: www; Value: http://<domain>:8080 Masked META (We use this record because www.domain-name.com will be redirected, and “work” in the browser)


Host records

The record for the wildcard exists for creating virtual hosts in Tomcat, which I will cover in a later document.

Problems I encountered

I have a Netgear C6300BD, and the router is running Firmware Version V2.05.18

It turns out that this particular router does not support loopback functionality, therefore when you have port forwarding setup, accessing http://<external-ip>:8080 does not work from within the network.

The best to test if the setup is working is by accessing your website from outside the network, and the most convenient way to do this is through a mobile device with.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Purchased a Detuned EVGA GTX 1080 Ti By Mistake

I wanted to purchase a GeForce 1080 Ti, and I narrowed down the model to the 3 fan version from EVGA. I added it to my wishlist and waited for the right time to buy.

On Wednesday 12/13/2017, I was in the office, and I decided to go ahead and buy the GPU. I went on NewEgg, bought it and went about my day.

EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti FTW3 DT DirectX 12 11G-P4-6694-KR 11GB

The next day, I wanted to do a quick check of the clock speeds of the card to compare with my existing GPU. I logged into my account, and clicked on the link to the GPU page. I noticed that the card had only 8 reviews, and I remember seeing a lot more reviews previously.

I did not think much about it, but I clicked on the reviews, and I found this review -


DT (Detuned) vs GAMING

I realized that not only did I purchase the wrong card, I purchased an "inferior" version of it. Needless to say, this was an expensive mistake to make. I contemplated keeping it, but upon comparing this card with other lower priced cards, the base clock speeds for the detuned (DT) version are lower than other factory overclocked versions, and they also cost less than the DT card.

At this point, I decided that there is no reason to keep this card. I went to the order history page to start a refund process, and I noticed that this card is covered under Extended Holiday Replacement-Only Return Policy, and so there was no way I could get initiate a refund process.


Extended Holiday Replacement-Only Return Policy

I decided to call NewEgg, and there was a 1hr wait time. They did have a call back feature, which I decided to use. Surprisingly, I got a call back from NewEgg within the allocated time.

I spoke to the customer care representative, and he told me that I could refuse the delivery from FedEx. Fortunately, I was off from work the next day, so I could do this, but just in case I missed the delivery man, he issued me an RMA label.

After I was done with the phone call, I decided to buy the GPU that I wanted. There was no point in waiting. I contemplated buying this card -

EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti SC2 GAMING, 11G-P4-6593-KR, 11GB GDDR5X, iCX Technology - 9 Thermal Sensors & RGB LED G/P/M

In the end, decided to go with MSI instead. I went their GAMING version of 1080 Ti, and it was the same price as the equivalent EVGA version.

MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Ti DirectX 12 GeForce GTX 1080 Ti GAMING X 11G 11GB 352-Bit GDDR5X PCI Express 3.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Support Video Card

I purchased this late Thursday (12/14/2017) for $769.99, and I paid extra to have it shipped on Saturday. It was worth it for me because I can use it over the weekend. So far, I am very happy with it. I am going to post the review at a later time.

On Friday 12/15/2017, I happened to catch the FedEx deliveryman, and I refused the package at the door.

I then called FedEx and informed them about this. The FedEx representative told me that it will take a day or two for the system to reflect the latest status.

Sure enough, after a day, the tracking number showed that there are two results for it. One of them was for the delivery, and the other was for the delivery back to NewEgg.

Dual entries for my tracking number, showing the return of the item back to NewEgg

After a couple of days of NewEgg receiving the card, I got a full refund for my card.

GPU refund issued by NewEgg

This was followed by a refund for Destiny 2.

Destiny 2 refund issued by NewEgg

In the end, it all worked out OK, but had I not logged in to check the clock speeds, I probably would have been stuck with a GPU that did not pass overclocking quality tests. I emailed NewEgg to let them know that the product description should highlight the fact that the card is a Detuned version.

Response from NewEgg regarding having a better product description for the Detuned version

As of today (January 8, 2018), the product description has not changed. I hope this post will prevent someone from making the same mistake as I did.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Must Play Games In 2018

I made a similar post in 2017, and I have been good about finishing games in my backlog. Last year, I said that I wouldn't purchase anymore games except Battlefield 1 Premium but I did end up buying a few.

  1. Mad Max - $4.99
  2. Battlefield 1 Premium - $49.99
  3. Mortal Kombat Komplete Edition PC - $1.89
  4. Hitman: Blood Money - $1.79
  5. Helldorado - $1.99
  6. Humble Saints Row Bundle - $1.00
  7. PLAYERUNKNOWN'S BATTLEGROUNDS - $21.89 (By far the worst purchase. After playing it for a few hours, I do not see myself playing this game ever again)
  8. Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, The - Game of the Year Edition - $19.99 (By far the best purchase. 100+ hours into the game, and I am still enjoying it)
  9. Blood Omen 2: Legacy of Kain - $0.97
  10. METAL GEAR SOLID V: GROUND ZEROES - $3.99
  11. Just Cause 3 - $7.49

The story for 2018 is very similar. The only game I am looking forward to buying is the new Battlefield title, assuming that it will be released this year, and that it won't go the Battlefront route.

Here is the updated list of Must Play games, updated for 2018 -
  1. Alan Wake
  2. Assassin's Creed
  3. Assassin's Creed III
  4. Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag
  5. Batman Arkham Origins
  6. Batman: Arkham Asylum GOTY Edition
  7. Batman: Arkham City GOTY
  8. Battlefield 1 SP
  9. BioShock Infinite
  10. Borderlands
  11. Borderlands 2
  12. Call of Juarez
  13. Call of Juarez Bound in Blood
  14. Call of Juarez Gunslinger
  15. Commandos Strike Force
  16. Crysis 3
  17. Dead Island
  18. Dear Esther
  19. Dishonored
  20. Doom 3
  21. Dying Light
  22. Fallout: New Vegas
  23. Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon
  24. Hard Reset
  25. Hitman: Blood Money
  26. Just Cause 3
  27. Mad Max
  28. Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes
  29. Metro: Last Light
  30. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
  31. Painkiller Hell & Damnation
  32. Rainbow Six Vegas
  33. Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter
  34. Spec Ops: The Line
  35. The Witcher 2
  36. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt GOTY
  37. Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas 2
  38. Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Blacklist
  39. Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory
  40. Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction
  41. Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Double Agent
  42. Tomb Raider 2013
  43. Trine 2
  44. Watch Dogs 2
  45. Wolfenstein: The New Order
After Witcher 3 is done, I would like to revisit Commandos Strike Force. I wanted to finish game for over a decade...just never got around to it.


Sunday, December 10, 2017

Cat School Gear Upgrade Diagrams - Part 2 - Enhanced Feline Trousers Bug

This is a bug you could encounter if you are using the Fast Travel From Anywhere mod.

In order to find the Enhanced Feline Trousers, you will need to go underground through an iron grate on the floor in a house in Oxenfort, however but the grates are closed. This is because a cutscene that was supposed to trigger after the Get Junior main quest, was skipped because I used the fast travel option out of the compound in Novigrad.

As far as I can tell, there is no way to trigger it once it is skipped.

The only way to finish Cat School Gear Upgrade Diagrams - Part 2 treasure hunt at this point is to use the game's debug console to add the Enhanced Feline Trousers diagram, and manually set the quest status to complete.

Here is how it is done.

NOTE - Ensure that you got all the other items before you attempt this.

1. Enable debug console

- Go to E:\GOG Games\The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt GOTY\bin\config\base
- Edit general.ini file
- Add the following line - DBGConsoleOn=true

Enabling debug console in The Witcher 3 (PC)

2. Start the game and load a save game

3. Hit the " ~ " key

4. Enter the following commands in order -

additem("Witcher Lynx Pants Upgrade schematic 1", 1)
addfact(th1003_fdb_pants_upgrade1_explored)

This will add the diagram, and set the status of Cat School Gear Upgrade Diagrams - Part 2 to Completed.



Here are some screenshots -