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 -












Sunday, November 26, 2017

Call of Juarez: Gunslinger (PC) Review

After the disaster that was Call of Juarez: The Cartel, I thought that this series is gone for good. It would be difficult for a game to redeem itself after a game like that. I was very surprised when they announced yet another game and this time around, they went back to the roots, with the game set in the Wild West.

Gunslinger is one of the most fun FPS games I have played. The last western FPS game I played was way back in 2005 called Outlaws. Great game, but western games never caught my attention since. Gunslinger looked very interesting, and when Humble Bundle offered this game for $1 as a part of Humble Ubisoft Bundle, there was no reason to not pick it up.

We are back in the Wild West once again...

The story is told in the form of flashbacks, as recalled by the main character Silas Green during his days as a bounty hunter, to a group of patrons at a bar. This has allowed for some creative gameplay techniques, because at times, the story is questioned by the patrons, and the game rewinds as the narrative changes.As the story is told, the environment also changes in real time to reflect the details being recounted.

You get to fight against historical figures in the campaign, such as Billy the Kid etc., as Silas recalls his encounters with them. Silas does not let the truth get in the way of a good story, and it leads to some funny dialogue.

A Star Wars reference...?

I felt the reason this game is so entertaining is because the developers did not take the story too seriously. It felt as if they wanted to create a game that was fun to play, first and foremost. It s weird weird saying that because you would think fun gameplay would the main motive behind all games, but I don't often get the impression when playing modern AAA games.

Shooting is so satisfying in this game. There are three classes of weapons, revolvers, rifles and shotguns. Based on your preference, you can pick any weapon to specialize. There is an RPG aspect to this. The selection is limited, but the shooting is excellent. I personally liked the rifle and revolvers the most. It is possible to dual wield revolvers, and its a lot of fun to dual wield in bullet time mode.



Speaking of which, bullet time works as a combination of slow motion time and x-ray vision. Using this is a lot of fun, they did not try to innovate on this too much by adding QTEs (which do exist), they kept it fairly simple, and as a result, when it is activated in a tough situation, it is very useful, while being stylish.

A note about QTEs in the game, I don't mind the way they are implemented. The game prompts the player to press a button in some situations, but it can be ignored. The game does not punish the player for not engaging in QTEs, for the most part. Ideally, I would like for them to not exist at all, but as it stands, its not as bad as Battlefield 3.

I have not used shotguns a whole lot, but when I did, they have a lot of impact, and fun to use, unlike the last game I played - Spec Ops: The Line.

Enemies range from natives to other outlaws, and the combat is always entertaining and frantic.

The developers did a fantastic job with the atmosphere. The art style has a comic book feel to it, reminds of the cel-shaded game, XIII. The intros to some of the characters are very well done, and this is one of those games where I did not mind watching the cut scenes. The visuals are beautiful. Its not all set in a desert, you travel through ghost towns, lush green forests, swamps, canyons etc. The level design is beautiful. For the most part every chapter has its own setting, and they are expertly created.



Audio deserves a special mention here. Voice acting, music, gunshots, and  atmospheric sounds are excellent. The term immersion is overused in gaming media, but that perfectly describes the audio. It captures the Wild West theme perfectly and adds to the immersion.

This maybe the first time I played a game set in Wyoming...

However, all is not perfect with the game. There is one aspect I did not enjoy, and that is the duels. The mechanics are vague, and although the game does try to educate the player on how the system works, I still had trouble getting used to it. The part that I hated the most about the duels is how the reticle does not obey player input. It feels as if the input lag is increased, and the dip is decreased. I found this system to be very irritating and unnecessary. I hope they scrap this feature in future titles.

I enjoyed this game a lot, and now I want to play the Call of Juarez, and Bound in Blood. Its unbelievable that I got this game for $1. It took me about 6 hours to finish the campaign in Normal mode. I am not sure its worth the $14.99 price tag, but I would definitely recommend this for the current price of $7.49.

On 11/26/2017, the game is on sale for $7.49

Conclusion

+ Wild West setting
+ Excellent gunplay
+ Beautiful visuals
+ Audio
+ Story

- Duels

Verdict - Excellent game, buy it for under $10.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Spec Ops: The Line (PC) Review

Spec Ops: The Line is a 3rd person shooter developed by Yager Development. It was released in 2012. I remember watching a review about how this game was better than most of the military shooters released at the time, so I was interested in playing this game for the longest time. I never got to play it at launch, and having just finished it, I am glad I didn't buy it at the time.

It is not a terrible game. Its functional, and thoroughly boring. There is nothing original about the gameplay. I understand that this is supposed to be a narrative driven game, but that does not prevent the game from being boring because of generic the gameplay. Gears of War is a much better cover shooter, and that came out years ago.

Upside down American Flag is a sign of distress. Here is a link to US Flag Code - http://www.usflag.org/uscode36.html
The game is built using Unreal 2 engine, and it handles a lot like Mass Effect. What this means is, the game does not have jump, and shooting involves diving behind cover and peaking out, and taking shots at enemies. Just about every single encounter turns into this. Like most console ports at the time, the controls are not optimized for the PC. Spacebar is used for both sprinting and taking cover. I did not enjoy this in Mass Effect, and I did not enjoy this in Spec Ops.



The gunplay is weak, and the weapon variety doesn't add much to the game because other than ammo capacity, all rifles felt the same. I understand that they cannot stray too much from reality because of the military setting, but that is no excuse of the weak weapon handling. The reason I did not like the weapon handling is probably because I am playing this game in 2017, and as a Battlefield player, I find most other shooters to be not as good as Battlefield 3 and Battlefield 4.



The game tries to incorporate squad play, but the system is not very fleshed out, and I felt it was awkward to use. There are few instances where giving orders to your squad is useful, but overall it is possible to play most of the game without ever giving any squad orders. The much talked about environment interaction is basically shooting some objects during combat to take out enemies, such as shooting a window to cause a sand slide etc. Do not expect Red Faction like environment destruction.

The main selling point  of this game was the story. I am playing this game 5 years after its release, and having played other games which attempted something similar, I could see the twist coming well in advance. Like Modern Warfare 2, there is one section in the game that this game is going to be remembered for, and I could see that coming as well. That said, the story itself is not too bad, but I think there are some instances where they left things to interpretation and this doesn't provide closure. Also, the suspension of disbelief required is a little too much for me. The main character and his two friends take on what looks like the entire US army, get thrown off buildings, survive a massive truck crash, and a chopper crash with no broken bones...



It is difficult to achieve the level of engagement they were asking for, because they want to tell a story that is grounded in reality, but the gameplay just does not lend itself to that.

I purchased this game as a part of a Humble Bundle for $1, and for that price, I am not disappointed, but I really would not recommend paying any money for this game because it has no replay value, and there are so many great games out there for cheap.

Conclusion

+ Decent graphics

- Over hyped story
- Extremely linear
- Weak gunplay
- Controls not optimized for PC

Veridct - Not recommended.