June 29, 2009
For me the best part of ‘open world’ games is looking for the orbs/hidden packages/charged earth. They are a great way for the developer to show a particularly awesome view of the virtual world or highlight a tricky locomotion puzzle while rewarding the player for their efforts.
This summer I decided I needed to be less sedentary. A friend of mine mentioned that they frequently went Geocaching. Geocaching involves using a GPS receiver to travel to a predetermined location in order to sign a log and exchange trinkets like key chains or toy cars. When it was first described to me it seemed like a silly high-tech scavenger hunt and I could not be less interested. Eventually I made the connection to open world games and realized there’s a lot I haven’t seen in my city.
When my wife and I went out for the first time we were directed to go to a park a few miles from our house that we didn’t know about. A about 50 yards along the trail the aging trees and brush made it easy to forget we were inside a modern metropolis.
The cache was hidden on a floating unguarded bridge over a small lake. The bridge’s segments shifted with each step we took, a veiled threat to dump us into algae coated water. Turtles, cranes, and hundreds of tiny fish eyed us cautiously, as if ready to flee the moment we toppled into the drink. While we were looking for the exact hiding spot we looked north, where the trees had given way to the city.
After a few weeks of caching I’ve received a bonus to my constitution! I’m a few pounds slimmer and I traded my monitor tan in for a more traditional version.
So you want to get involved. You need two things: a GPS receiver and a caching community. The community provides the cache, and the GPS receiver helps you find it. Before you go hunting, it might help to know what a cache is.
In my experience caches are typically containers that are more-or-less waterproof. Film canisters, plastic food containers, mint tins, sandwich bags, water bottles, and even light posts. Often they are camouflaged to increase difficulty and prevent casual observers from stumbling upon them. Sometimes finding a location will present you with a riddle/puzzle you must solve before you discover whatever prize the owner left for you. Most of the time a cache will have a notepad so you can prove you actually found it.
I shopped around the internet for a few days and eventually found a GPS receiver in my price range. You’ll want to look for a device that has at least a 512k of internal memory and is “Geocaching friendly.” You might want to give serious consideration to water resistance, depending on where you live. These statistics will be listed on the details on the product page of the unit. Street and trail maps aren’t required, but if you have the money to spend they can be helpful. I’d recommend sticking to Garmin and TomTom devices because they have the greatest compatibility with the various web communities and software. You can find refurbished units for as little as $50.
There are several communities out there. The largest independent site is http://www.GeoCaching.com, while membership is free they do offer premium features, including special caches that presumably contain items of more significant monetary value. To my knowledge they have the largest listing of caches, and they operate in nearly every country on the planet. Directions to the cache’s general location are given by all major driving direction sites.
http://www.NaviCache.com is a popular alternative to Geocaching.com, mostly because they are not as selective about what awaits the cache-hunter at the coordinates. The unique cache types Navicache has to offer include events (cache party at x, y!) and caches that move around. They rely on MapQuest to give directions to a general location. Navicache is very friendly with their data, a lot of smaller caching sites use their engine.
http://www.TerraCaching.com is a site for the hard-core end of the sport. To be honest I’m a little intimidated by this site’s reputation. They say it has the hardest caches, either it’s difficult to get to or it’s hard to find once you’ve arrived. TerraCaching promises the most rewarding experience of any of the communities out there, but it doesn’t feel very friendly for beginners.
|Benchmark||Similar to travel bugs (see below) only they include instructions on locating government created permanently marked coordinates. The locations described are usually geologically significant, and thus a great deal is known about their position.|
|Micro Cache||Smaller caches, typically only large enough for a log.|
|Muggles||People who are not geocachers. They provide an element of danger for you while you’re carefully looking around public areas. They might ignore you. They might ask what you’re doing. They might destroy the cache if they see you find it. They might report your suspicious activities to law enforcement. Geocaching isn’t illegal in the United States, but bomb squads have been called, and no one wants to explain what they’re doing to the police. To avoid these issues stealth is strongly encouraged.|
|Multi-part cache||These are a lot like scavenger hunts. You find one box which gives you a clue to find another, and so on. Often hiders think it’s a wonderful idea to make you learn something about the park’s history in order to complete the chain. These hiders are jerks.|
|SL||Signed Log. The one thing nearly all caches have in common is the log. It’s the only way to prove you actually found the cache.|
|TFTC||Thanks for the Cache|
|TNLN||Took Nothing, Left Nothing|
|Traditional Cache||Usually large enough to hold common prizes, such as toys or keychains|
|Travel Bug||Some people purchase tokens (such as coins or dog tags) with codes and leave them in a cache. You can take them provided you put them in a different cache and announce the new location later.|
|Virtual Cache||Often these are designed specifically to show you something about the location; can be included in multi-part cache|
Generally the rules are pretty easy. Stay off private property and don’t trash the place. Parking lots seem to be frowned upon for cache locations, but you’ll find it’s pretty easy to get permission from hiking/outdoors stores; often because they sell related gear. Finally Geocaching.com runs “Cache in, Trash out” which asks you to take a garbage bag with you on your walk to pick up stray litter. I shrugged off the idea at first, but after a few frightened looks from muggles I’m beginning to seriously consider picking up trash as a “cover-id.” People are less likely to report a bomb scare if there’s an apparent reason for you to be poking around public areas.
April 23, 2009
Update: This is old. Click the tab above for the latest version.
I’ve decided it’s easier to have one bat file for everyone, so I went ahead and made Left 4 Dead Tweaker.
- Turn off the opening cinematics.
- Turn the opening cinematics back on.
- Switch the background movie to the original
- Switch the background movie to the lighthouse
The L4DT will first ask if Left 4 Dead is installed in c:\Program Files\Steam\steamapps\common\, and if it is it wants to be on the same drive. If you do not have Steam installed in that location the application wants to be in your \steam\steamapps\common\left 4 dead\ directory.
- Does not work in Windows 7 unless installed in the \steam\steamapps\common\left 4 dead\left4dead\media\ directory. (I hope to have this resolved shortly.)
- Will not work correctly if the Left 4 Dead demo was installed before Left 4 Dead and the \left 4 dead demo\ directory was not deleted. (Workaround: install L4DT to \left 4 dead\ . Update may be coming to resolve issue, if possible.)
- Custom background videos.
- Community suggestions.
April 22, 2009
So it was the night of the update, I was trying to get a VS game together and the damnable Lighthouse kept flashing me in the face. “Nuts to that!” I thought. I enlisted the help of Nietzsche the IT Kitty, Aggressive Taco, Nox, and my friend Ben to come up with a bat file to change it to the original background. While we were at it we made a second BAT to switch it back; you never know what you might want in the future.
There are two versions. If you’re running a 32bit operating system and have Steam installed in your c:\Program Files\ directory you can use this and everything will be done for you once you double click the appropriate file inside the zip.
If you’re running a 64bit os and/or have Steam installed somewhere other than the default location you’ll need to put these files in \Steam\steamapps\common\left 4 dead\left4dead\media\ and run them from there.
Hope this helps.
March 1, 2009
Here’s how it is: This site became my second job, and I wasn’t getting paid. The ads that most of you disabled are the only way I saw any return on the massive investment of time and money that I shelled out. So screw it, I’m not about the money anyway, I do this for the love. It’s time for me to reward myself by doing more of what I enjoy about running the site.
First off, I’m not going to be sticking to a schedule anymore. There are rss feeds all over NHR. You can use them to be notified of new posts when they happen. The technology is older than sin now, if you can’t figure it out I think less of you as a person.
I hate writing news posts. In a good month there may be four or five interesting things happening in the gaming world. The rest of the time it’s an exercize in creating something from nothing. I don’t really care about the business side of the industry, I don’t really care about what’s coming in 18-34 months, and I don’t care what Developer X had to say about Console Y. To tell you the truth, I don’t particularly care about consoles in general.
The last podcast, the one where I contomplated how EVE operates and why the L4D SDK should enable people to make great stories, is what I’m interested in doing. I enjoy writing features like the port forwarding article, or my interview with Chris Dillman. Expect to see more of that sort of thing, and less posts about an MMO in development that’s been overhyped for two years.
I’m not interested in talking about the graphics, technical flaws, and the value per dollar ratio of a game. I’m interested in art and innovation. Any reviews, more like unscored critiques, will reflect this. I plan to discuss games, not spell out a few bullet points and move on. I have come to the conclusion that bias, in the dictionary sense of the word, not neoGAF’s loose interprutation, is inevitable. I will no longer pretend I know what a game is to you. I will make sure you understand what a game is to me.
Andrew and Caleb have received the new charter, and they have ratified it.
We are not Kotaku. We are not 1up. We have no fiscial motivation. We own no loyalties. Our goal is to play games, enjoy them, and say something of value. You can get your metacritic friendly trash elsewhere.
December 12, 2008
I like D.I.Y. projects in theory. I have not gotten around to teaching myself the required skills to make neat gizmos, but after watching this I want to make my own blu-ray laser pointer.
You’ll need some parts.
- A PS3 Blu-Ray laser assembly (eBays for about $45)
- A Star Trek phaser (or similar housing)
- 9-volt battery
- A 90volt batter snap
- 150 Ohm resistor
- Some sort of switch
- Soldering and Dremel skills
Friend of the site Master Flinter tipped me off to this article at Wonder How To.
January 18, 2008
It has come to my attention that there is an exploit emerging for Universal Plug and Play. In very (overly?) simple terms this means a bad guy can trick your router (and thus every computer on your network) into thinking www.YourBank.com is actually www.PhishingSiteThatWillStealYourIdentity.com, among other things. If you’d like more in depth coverage of this topic I suggest clicking here.
This guide is aimed towards Xbox 360 users, but you can skip any parts that deal with the 360 specifically or adapt those steps to fit your needs. For 99% of the people out there you simply need to connect to your router, switch a radio button, save the settings and reboot. For the rest of us, you need a lesson in port forwarding. This guide is using a late model Linksys router. The general idea is the same for other routers but names, IP address, and appearances may change. I’ll try to give you the information you’ll need to progress.
To begin with we need to be able to identify your Xbox 360 when we’re inside the router. Start the console and tab over to the “Settings” blade and select “Network Settings.” You should see something that looks like this:
You’ll need to write down the IP Address. In my case the address is 192.168.1.102. I’ll refer back to this number later.
Now you’ll need to log in to your router. Open your web browser and type in your router’s IP address. Usually you can take the first three sets of numbers from your Xbox 360’s IP address (in my case 192.168.1) and add a .1 to the end (in my case 192.168.1.1) to connect. Here are a few router addresses for the major manufacturers.
You should be prompted to enter a username and password. You would have created these when you first set up your network. Once you’re inside navigate to the “Administration” tab and you should see a setting for Upnp. Other router manufacturers may hide it under a different menu, but the word Upnp should be universal. Here’s what it looks like on my Linksys.
Make sure to click “disabled” and then save.
Now we need to make sure the Xbox 360 can still get the access it wants through a process called Port Forwarding. First we have to tell the router where to find the Xbox by giving it a Static IP. Navigate to your DHCP server settings page. On my Linksys it’s on the “Setup” general menu and the “Basic Setup” sub-menu. The button to access it is labeled “DHCP Reservation.” Some routers may have your Xbox named and it will be easy to find. Mine doesn’t, so let’s look for the IP address we wrote down earlier.
On my router I simply need to click the check box in the same row as my Xbox’s IP address and then “Add Clients.” Some routers will only show you a list of MAC Addresses. If you’re in this position look at the logs in your router for the IP address you wrote down, near that you’ll see a series of two characters separated by a colon (“:”) which will be the MAC address for your console. Jot that down and go back to the DHCP server configuration page and enter the IP address where appropriate. Be sure to save your settings.
Now we’re going to do the actual port forwarding. We only need to do two ports, which makes this relatively easy. Typically routers will have a “Port Forwarding” menu, but my Linksys uses the nomenclature “Applications & Gaming.” Some routers will let you choose between single port forwarding and port range forwarding, as mine does, others will put it in one large group. If you have the option select single port forwarding. We need to point UDP 88 and UDP/TCP (sometimes called “Both”) 3074 to the IP address for our console that we entered earlier. Make sure to label your port forwarding rules so they are easy to find if you need to modify or delete them later. It should look something like this:
Be sure that you save your settings.
Turn off everything on your network, including your router and cable/DSL modem. Wait about 30 seconds and bring your network back up starting with your modem, then your router, then your Xbox 360. Go back to the network settings tab and make sure it was assigned the same IP that you gave it earlier. If it isn’t you messed up the Static IP setting on the DHCP server step, start up your computer and try again.
Now for the final challenge, go to the “Test Xbox Live Connection” test in the settings blade. The result we’re concerned with here is “NAT.” The ideal result is “Open.” It should look like this:
If everything looks like what I’ve got here, congratulations! You’re now a lot more secure and your XBL connection won’t suffer because of it.
If it doesn’t you either forgot to disable Upnp or you messed up on Port Forwarding. Try again.
If you have any problems feel free to contact my bipedal minion, Bill. I don’t offer him much spare time but I’ll be sure he gets back to you eventually.
Nietzsche the IT Kitty