Microsoft shuts down Flight Simulator Studio


Microsoft has closed down one of their most profitable and oldest studios, the ACES studio that makes the Flight Simulator series. Rumors were confirmed yesterday.

“I can confirm the closure of Aces Studio,” a Microsoft representative told GameSpot.

As a Flight Simulator enthusiast myself i think it’s really sad to see ACES go. I’m still flying FS9 and FSX will be giving computers something to think about for some more years, but loosing all this talent must mean that there is an enormous task ahead to re-take the lost momentum in the development of this franchise, should they decide to continue it.

“You should expect us to continue to invest in enabling great Live experiences on Windows, including flying games, but we have nothing additional to announce around Flight Simulator specifically at this time.” the same source told Gamespot.

Well I guess we’ll just have to see, but it’s sad indeed….

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Crysis: Enable Very High (DX10) Settings in XP, New updated hack


This hack should work for Crysis Warhead Enthusiast Settings, because it is using the same cryengine 2!

Enable the “Very High” quality setting in Crysis and Crysis Warhead on your dx9 or dx10 compatible hardware without having Vista and DX10 (DirectX 10)!

After building a new PC-rig, I had to try it out with the best PC game on the market today. At least as far as near photorealisticgraphics goes, Crysis. Under Windows XP (DirectX9) you can’t select the “Very High” settings in the graphics menu. These are reserved for Vista (DX10). However I don’t know if this is because of a Vista marketing thing, but the Very High quality can easily be achieved under Windows XP (DX9) , replacing a few textfiles in the Crysis Folder. (CRYSISGameConfigCVarGroups)

This  has been known for quite some time. What it does isthat it changes crysis “High” settings to have “Very High” quality. The old version of the hack just changed this. This meant that there was no way of selecting the old “High” setting, because “High” was now “Very High” and the step below was Medium.

My version of the hack changes the “Medium” setting to high quality, and the “Low” setting to medium quality.

You are right, then there is no way of achieving low quality anymore. But if you are interested in “Very High” settings, youare probably not going to want to run that on a machine that only can display low settings…

Here is some further technical explanation:

I did a remake of the Cvar files. Instead of just copying the high settings to [3] I also renamed old [3] to [2], old [2] to [1] and removed old [1]

This way what used to be:

High is Very High
(This is all the candy!)

Medium is High
(What used to be our highest setting is now activated when we choose medium)

Low is Medium
(It doesnt go any lower since there are only 3 steps in XP i had to get rid of low settings alltogether)

Before with the old cVars “hack” if I chose to lower some settings, I actually had to go two steps to medium (from very high) now since meduim corresponds to high it’s only one step in that sense. There will of course be no Low settings, since they are now like the old medium, but I think anyone who uses thisk hack does not need to have anything set at low

Before we had 4 2 1 now we have 4 3 2 Which makes more sense.

Just like the original hack, I didn’t touch the MotionBlur file which is set to 1 (Very High Would be 3)

Results

It seems to work fine, these are screenshots taken at 1280*800 scaled to 50% and auto contrast corrected with Microsoft office image editor to sharpen them a bit.

This is Low (as standard Medium):

This is Medium (as standard High):

This is High (the tweaked mode Very High):

This means that if you install these cvars files, just go back to the menu and select “Medium” settings and everything will be just as it was previously on “High”, consequently setting something to “Low” will correspond to the old “Medium” setting.

I think you get the point

Here is the zip-file with the cvars



Unzip to the folder CRYSISGameConfigCVarGroups

“CRYSIS” represents the install folder for crysis. It might vary. Thx Jonno.

If you think this was helpful, consider buying me a cup of coffee:


)

Disclaimer: I’ve had one report of losing savegames after changing the cvars files. This makes no sense at all, because the two things don’t have anything remotely to do with eachother. Sometimes updating the game with a PATCH might make you appear you lost your savegames, just see that you load the game with the same profile as before and your savegames will be back. However this hack only changes some graphics card settings and should in no way make you lose your savegames. But of course, you should use common sense when editing gamefiles. If you don’t know what you’re doing don’t mess with it, and buy a console 😉

If you want a free way to automatically backup your savegames try 2GB Free Online Backup – Mozy

Extreme bang for the buck! – Core 2 Duo E2160 and Radeon HD 3850 512MB


It’s alive, it’s aliiiiive! The beast is born! This is my story about my new rig. Cheap and extremely powerful. If you are thinking about upgrading your PC, take this as a recommendation! Intel’s E2160 and ATI’s HD 3850 is a match made in heaven for gamers on a budget. Low price, great performance. If you have any questons regarding these products or anything regarding building a new computer, just drop me a comment and I’ll try to answer as best I can. Read on friends…

A few days ago my trusty Raeon 9800Pro died on me, and I decided to buy a new graphics card. I realized I’d have to change my motherboard to a PCI-E one, buying an AGP board now is like getting a VHS.  I started looking for most bang for the buck (no not in that way…) and I read Tom’s Hardware’s praise of the Radeon 3800 series. I found a 512MB Asus EAH3850, with custom cooler said to run 20 degrees cooler than the reference design. The DX10.1 compliant 512MB DDR3 card put me back about 190€. I had a new graphics card. Now where to put it?

So, a CPU and motherboard then. Again Tom’s Hardware came to the rescue and praised the overclockability of the Intel Core 2 Duo E2160, so I figured why not. 1.8GHz at standard and was said to overclock to 3 GHz on pretty much standard voltage. Cool, 70€ for a 3 GHz Core 2 Duo can’t be bad. For motherboard I went with the one Tom recommended in the same article, the GA-P35-DS3R, except I went for the same one but without SLI- the DS3. It was 30€ cheaper and I figured I was not going to use SLI anyway. It’s a really high quality board with all solid capacitors, great components and solid build. Unfortunately i got a 2.0 revision instead of the 2.1. The 2.1 has some fancy power saving options, but they don’t work when overklocking so maybe I shouldn’t cry that much. 90€ – And its the size of a stamp:

I figured a new PSU would be needed, I had a 350W for my old Athlon XP system, but having used up about 3 no-name brand PSU’s I decided to go quality here, and I got a Corsair VX 450 PSU. It is rated at 80+, which means It’s efficient (less than 20% of the energy gets transformed into heat). Good for the forest,  good for my electricity bills, and it makes it run quiet. Its large 120mm fan would be my main source of ventilation in the chassis. It has all cables running in black kevlar socks. Well maybe it’s not kevlar but they look cool! The whole thing looks cool, and it came in a white Corsair cloth-bag. I’m gonna use that as my beach bag this summer 😉

Excellent!I also bought 2 sticks of 1Gb PC6400 DDRII RAM. Now, that means the ram can take 800Mhz (I wish they stopped using the PCXXXX markings, It just makes it hard to know the RAM speed.) 19€ a piece, 38€ for 2Gigs. RAM is incredibly cheap nowadays.

The building process
I put the thing together after a hard day of work, and slammed on the stock cooler that came with the cpu, and I mounted everything in my old chassis. From the outside it looks like my trusty gray box, but open it up and you see a monster 🙂

Everything worked great from the beginning, I decided to reinstall Windows XP though, since the upgrade seemed to cause the old install some headache.Even without any overclocking I soon realized this rig was a great gaming rig! It ran Crysis at High settings 1280×800 without problems. FPS was around 40 and very playable. The ASUS included Company of Heroes was smooth, with about 60fps straight trough. 3DMark gave me a score of about 9000 marks. It did run a bit warm though, as if the stock cooler was not really cutting it. I had a 120MM Zalman lying around that I couldn’t use on my old rig so I decided to slap it on instead.

I bought some isopropyl alcohol (No not for calming my nerves, but for removing the one day old heatsink gunk from the CPU), and I followed Arctic Silver’s (no, it’s not a fox fur i think) instructions on how to apply the thermal paste to a Core 2 Duo. Just basically make a string along the center of the CPU, the same way the CPU socket handle is facing. It was a really quiet solution, and about 5-10 degrees cooler. Cool! )

The Overcooking – sorry, ~clocking
The Core2 Duo clocked nicely up to 333Mhz and with it’s 9x multiple it gives me 3.0GHz to play with.

Warning Science Content: With the Zalman heatsink and fan it idles around 33 degrees Celsius (Tcase) and Prime 95 stress test makes the Tcase heat up to 63 degrees. That gives a Core Tjuncition reading of 73 degrees celsius, 28 degrees below Tjunction max at 100′C (Tjunction Delta = 28′C)

The Radeon 3850 Clocked nicely up to 720Core and 950Mem, from it’s standard 668/828. The ATI Radeon 3850 is simply amazing! I have never seen price/performance ratios like this. Compared to the competition it just blows anything away.

Conclusion: A 450€ Killer game rig!
I’ve just managed to hack Crysis to enable the Very High settings (DX10) on Windows XP. The FPS on this Very high setting is around 30 for 1280×800. Not bad considering it’s a 450€ rig! ) I’m happy, I can play all the new games on high setting. My system is extremely responsive,

I’m having a blast!

Check out my screenshots!

And read here about how to enable Very High Quality in Crysis in XP

So what do I say?

Five Gnomes out of Five!

Out of body experience explained. Not!


Reality by Eran

“The experiments, described in Science, provide a scientific explanation for a phenomenon experienced by one in 10 people. Using virtual reality goggles, researchers managed to fool the brain into believing the body was located elsewhere. The visual hoax plus the sensation of their real bodies being touched made volunteers sense that they had moved beyond their physical bodies.”

This is what it says on Cognews regarding the new experiments on the out of body phenomenon.

This is what I have to say about this:

“provide a scientific explanation for a phenomenon experienced by one in 10 people.” No it does not provide an explanation for the NDE phenomenon.

It does however show that the feeling of where one’s body is, can be altered using virtual reality and haptics. Nothing new. This experiment is not that dissimilar to a simple 3rd person computer game. Combined with said haptics that would immerse the player even more. This is, again, well known to anyone working with VR. The whole point with VR is to immerse the player into a world where the body is not. We do this by providing the senses with artificial cues. Eyes with visual cues, auditory system with sound, and we are starting to use haptics (touch) to also fool the body’s sense of touch. These inputs are all made by some sort och gadget. VR-goggles, haptic gloves, headphones. Just like in the experiment.

“Scientists have long suspected that the clue to these extraordinary, and sometimes life-changing, experiences lies in disrupting our normal illusion of being a self behind our eyes, and replacing it with a new viewpoint from above or behind.” news.bbc.co.uk

The question is, how is that possible? This is a virtual reality and immersion experiment, it can not explain the extrasensory perception phenomenon of NDE. In a real out of body phenomenon you don’t wear VR goggles and have a camera in the roof pointing down at your body, to feed your eyes with the altered viewpoint. How is it possible to have another viewpoint unless something somehow connected to your awareness changes physical position? This experiment tells us nothing about that.

The NDE and VR implications of this experiment are seriously exaggerated, and people seem to not understand what it actually tells us.

A good example of how important it is to explain an experiment and findings in an easy way for the public, to avoid misunderstandings.

More on NDE (Near Death Experience) here

And more on VR (Virtual Reality) here

Also check a fellow Blogger’s input on this!

Eve Online – Flight Simulator on steroids


I just downloaded Eve Online and signed up for their 14 day free trial. I felt i need to drop a few lines about that game.

Eve online is a mmorpg (massively multi player online role playing game) that takes place in deep space. Kinda like descent freepace, or any other 3rd person space strategy game. You learn how to explore, mine, fight and so forth. The client is free to download, about 600 megs, but you need an account to be able to play the game. (I can see this might be a favourable solution for game houses to still make money in the new and upcoming filesharing world that they so fear, but so far the gaming industry is far from bankrupt with huge revenues each year.)
Eve online is not a new game, it’s from 2003, but it really looks beautiful, and has won several awards 2003-2005 for its graphics and playability. The light bleed effect around stars and how these illuminate your ship when you are partly covering the lightsource is spectacular. (Microsoft could learn a thing or two here about lighting…) I’ve always wanted to check this game out since it came out 2003 and now i got a chance to sign up for the 14 day trial. I got my link from Gamershell.com, so try to go here if you are interested in signing up for the trial.

To start off with the game features a really long tutorial session, but due to the complexity of this game I really suggest strongly that you follow the tutorial, and try to remember what you are being taught. The game universe is VAST, and the complexity of the game interface and gameplay is rather mindboggling at first, and it does have a steep learning curve but after a few hours things start to fall into place.

The best thing about Eve Online is the community. You have the chance to talk to other players and let them help you in Your carreer. Most people are really helpful. I talked to a guy who had been playing the game as a miner for three years, and now owned a big mining corporation in the game. He was really helpful and ended up giving me some startup money for a new spaceship. The key here, as usual, is to be polite and use your manners. Or You will literally be shot down. If not by other players, you’ll be shot down by the Concorde. Eve-Online’s ever-watchful police squad. Stay in line and you will have no problems.

One way to make money and a carreer in the game is to mine minerals off asteroids. These are then converted to minerals in spaceports that you dock to. And the minerals are sold on the market. Spaceports allow you to do other things, like upgrade or repair your ship, research skills, buy stock, you name it basically. You can join factions that master different parts of the universe. And speaking of parts of the universe, how do you get around this vast space? Well in good ol’ sci-fi fashion style; By teleporting and warping between spaceports in different solar systems. You will soon be soaring through lightyears like they were nothing more than fractions of a second. Sort of like Microsoft Flight Simulator on steroids.

You can also make money from hunting down wanted spaceships with a bounty on their heads. To do this you need to beef your ship up a bit. Your civilian gattling cannon isn’t going to do much damage to a hardened pirateship with cannons the size of the lastspaceport you visited… Poof, and You’re dead. Now when this happens, luckily you are not blown into space, but rather you get a chance to quickly warp away in your lifesaving pod, to the nearest spaceport, where you’ll get a new ship. You’ll loose anything in your cargo hold though, so if you had been mining all day, all your prescious ore is ejected in a cargo container that the pirate probably lootered. You can always go back and check and see if it’s there. If you find your way back that is. You can bookmark any location in space, so that would be a good choice when dying. Be careful not to linger too long though or you can be podkilled, that is someone blows your pod, and consequently your body to smitherines.

That is what I have learned so far, after playing the Trial for one day. I think the Eve marketing guys are really smart. After two weeks of free trial gaming, you will probably have established a social network in the game, perhaps just managed to get those skills needed for a bigger and better ship, upgraded your pulse laser and cargo hold, or otherwise stepped up your carreer ladder. You will be pretty hard pressed not to give up all that, and just might sign up for a 30 day account, or more. Perhaps you will end up like my mining friend, sucking minerals out of asteroids for three years 😉

For more screenshots and information about the game go here

Not everyone on Eve-Online is a jolly good fellow, there has recently happened some rather interesting scams in the Eve-Online universe. Check here

Here’s a book on online worlds that has received pretty good ratings afaik.

FSX Demo – Holy Crap! (Microsoft Flight Simulator X)


Phew!Reality check, (Pinching my arm…)

Check out those waves! I just came back to reality from trying Microsofts Flight Simulator X demo.To start off with; I’ve been into Flight Simulation for years, and I’m currently in the progress of building my own cockpit for FS2004. That means i have been tweaking FS2004 to my heart’s content the last 2 years. I feel I know everything there is to know about addons and how to get the most of that installment. I had seen some demo footage of FSX before but I didn’t believe that the change to FSX from FS2004 would be so dramatic.

flightsim468-2

The computer I tested the demo on is old. By that I mean it’s a 1.3gig AMD Thunderbird, 348MB ram, with a Radeon 9550 Graphics card. I didn’t even think it would run the demo, but it did! Framerates were at times completely satisfactory for some non-precision flying. One thing that might have saved the game was the fact that the video card has 256MB onboard memory.

(Edit: I later tried on a faster machine, Athlon XP 3000+ , 1Gig ram, Radeon 9800 128MB card, and the framerate was almost worse. So graphics card memory seems crucial for this game!)

I started up with the introductory flight, and the default display settings were at some kind of medium settings. The scenery looked nice, perhaps a bit better than FS2004, but it also ran slightly slower on this machine than I’d say it runs if I turn up the settings in FS2004.I took a few turns in the DeHavilland amphibian plane, and then decided to go and up the display settings.

First thing I tried was the aircraft self shadowing. Low and behold, it worked on my Radeon 9550 Card! It truly brings life to the aircraft, I remember turning off the taxiway after a landing, and I had shadows move over the virtual cockpit, litting it with the reddish setting sun. Holy Crap! Even the knobs in the cockpit and the gauges left trailing shadows on the instrument panel. From the outside the effects were just as good!

The second thing I tried was the Water. I turned it up to 2.X High settings, and took off. Remember the old FS2004 water addons that really spiced the water up? Remember though that it had problems with tiling, and repetitive motion? Well forget about that. And the framerate? Longer loading times but Hardly any less fps. A pretty steady 19fps! The water was smooth, and had little creases in it just like in real life. The wave action was terriffic, and when I landed, the Plane reflected itself in the water in an amazing way. Check this out:

holycrap9.jpg

Click on the picture to get a larger view.

That’s all for now folks, with graphics like that I’m gonna practice some water landings. Stay tunded for more info!

( Download fsx demo here )