Terminator Genisys: A Fart in a Wind Tunnel

Devin Faraci:

The script is the biggest problem with Terminator Genisys – it is stupid and it is riddled with cheap, lazy callbacks to movies that have technically never happened after this reboot – but the casting gives that shit script a run for its money as The Biggest Problem. Jai Courtney is a disaster as Kyle Reese; he’s wrong in every way, having none of the weary soldier qualities that Michael Biehn brought to the role. Courtney is the new Sam Worthington, who was the new Gretchen Mol, who was the new person whose name I forget because these are forgettable actors foisted upon us by the weird Hollywood hive mind. There are make-up techniques designed to baffle facial recognition software and Jai Courtney seems to have been designed with that in mind – he’s an actor who passes through your brain like a fart in a wind tunnel. Just poof, gone.

In a year where we’ve had the excellent Mad Max: Fury Road, this terrible redux of an action/sci-fi film we all love stands out even more than in an off year where your A Good Day to Die Hard or The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008) can be properly ignored and forgotten.

Windows Pretendulation Still Sucks

The Final Fantasy XIV MMO now uses Transgaming’s Windows pretendulation software to get the game on Mac OS X and so it isn’t surprising that it is having trouble running well. Mike Fahey has this article about the terrible Mac version of Final Fantasy XIV.

Over a decade ago there was an article on this site encouraging people to boycott Transgaming’s bullshit ports of games. Back then Transgaming got their start by taking open-source windows emulator code, relicensing it when the license was in flux, and promising access to the source code with their changes included only if they were to get some number of subscribers to their subscription service for Linux gamers to pretendulate Windows games. They soon deleted that promise from their website and turned their back on the open-source community.

Their tech didn’t work well then, and it’s no surprise that it still doesn’t work well.

Transgaming seems to be mostly out of the business of ruining Linux games and has moved on to their TV gaming service, but now  Virtual Programming is continuing the Transgaming legacy of non-native games that work poorly

Logitech k400r Keyboard Review

K700r

Lets get this out of the way up front, wireless keyboards with built-in pointing devices are almost universally awful. I say “almost’ but what I mean is, I’ve never found a combo wireless keyboard/trackpad that is any good but they must exist somewhere, right? Maybe the Logitech k400r will be one of those good few combo devices. There’s no need to read any further. Abandon your hope, this is not that unicorn device.

You might see the k400 and k400r mixed-up online, as far as I can tell the only difference between the two is that the k400r has a different Windows key and you might end up with either when you order one online or buy it in a store.

These combo keyboard and trackpad devices can fail in one way with either the pointing device or keyboard being awful or they can fail in both ways at the same time and have both an awful keyboard and an awful pointing device that combine to become some sort of awfulness Voltron.

How do the keyboard portions fail? Weird layouts that fight your muscle-memory for where to go to type a key combination or even a single key. On this Logitech k400r keyboard the arrow keys are smashed together with the / and right-shift keys so close that you’ll find even the simplest of two-handed typing maneuvers painful. This too-close layout is repeated throughout the keyboard. Of course the keys are also mushy as heck. How far and with how much force do you have to depress any of the keys on the k400r before they will trigger? I can tell you with all certainty that I have no idea and end up just pressing the keys as hard as I possibly can to type out a sentence.

This is bad. Keys should have some responsiveness either through a noise in the mechanism or a mechanical feeling that assures you that a switch has been triggered to let you know when your finger and the key have travelled far enough down to trigger the appropriate reaction from your computer. A slightly larger layout would enable a more natural typing process and fewer missed keystrokes where you hit the wrong key accidentally. Try entering in a slightly complex password with this keyboard, I double-dog-dare you that you’ll get it wrong at least twice.

Next we move on from the awful keyboard to the pointing device. What’s this, it’s a trackpad like on my Macbook Pro. This could be promising!

How do bad trackpads portions of these devices fail? By default this k400r trackpad enables tap-to-click, the bane of many trackpad users. As far as I can tell, the software (only available on Windows) doesn’t offer any option to disable tap-to-click. The only way I’ve found to disable it on any operating system is a secret hardware key combination of striking the blue function key and the left-trackpad pointing-device button at the same time. Of course this is only a temporary solution and it will need to be repeated every time the keyboard is switched off and back on again or when the wireless receiver is paired with a device again.

This is the sentence where I tell you that of course the k400r uses a proprietary Logitech wireless RF receiver that works only with other Logitech devices instead of the bluetooth standard that has proved itself perfectly fine for gaming devices like the Playstation 3 and 4 with great power saving capabilities and excellent responsiveness. The receiver works fine and doesn’t stick very far out of a USB port on your laptop or desktop but it would be so much better if it used bluetooth which is a standard beyond one company.

The trackpad’s gestures are just as terrible as the tap-to-click and scrolling with two-fingers as has become standard to anyone acquainted with the excellent trackpads on Apple equipment will suffer mercilessly as lord Logitech laughs at their pitiful attempts at doing what they want with this monster. Sometimes it works, most of the time it doesn’t do at all what you were expecting. Instead of a scroll you get a jumping page that lands somewhere you didn’t expect.

The tracking speed of the trackpad is just as abysmal and undesirably jumpy.

Your mouse cursor is here, now it’s over there, didn’t expect that did you?” The Lord of Logitech chuckles to himself as he observes you trying to urge the cursor along.

The best thing that I can say about the Logitech k400r wireless keyboard/trackpad combo is that is possible to get used to it for minutes at a time before wanting to chuck it out of the nearest window, and you could use it for many minutes because the battery life is excellent. Recently I’ve started trying to use it with my laptop because that’s raised up a bit off my desk and it isn’t very ergonomic to type on a raised laptop and mouse from a seated position.

Instead, I find myself hooking the receiver up to my laptop only to reach over the k400r and type on my laptop’s keyboard and use my laptop’s trackpad when the k400r inevitably starts proving how awful it is to type on and to use as a pointing device.

You might argue that the k400r is supposed to be used with a computer hooked up to the TV, so it must be good at that. You would be wrong. Entering a password, trying to scroll, playing a game, these tasks are essential for using a computer and it just can’t be trusted at those. Yes the wireless range of the device does seem long. I can wander quite far away and it continues to function, but that isn’t enough, these things have to handle the essentials and be good at them for that range to be useful.

The next best thing about the k400r is that Amazon has it for only $20, which is an appropriately low price to pay to demonstrate how the enjoyment of a cheap product will be eroded by the long-term punishment of using such a device.

What do we say to the lord of Logitech when he presents us with the k400r?

Not today.

1 out of 5 Commodore 64 SID chips

Her Story

Her Story's computer interface

The rare games that don’t follow traditional formulas we’ve come to expect are extremely interesting to me. It’s very difficult to make something that still fits into a video game while getting rid of the traditional systems.

Go here

Do this

Shoot them!

Get some points and a sticker!

Wow you did a good job, you’re so good at games!

I still love RPGs and FPS games, but those mechanics just feel insulting after a while. Can’t we do a little bit more than get a prescribed shot of dopamine every five-to-ten minutes?

Sam Barlow of the excellent Silent Hill: Shattered Memories is here to throw most of that out of the window and take us to a more interactive-fiction style of play without so much reading. Though there are subtitles in his adventure called Her Story, so far the game feels more about listening skills than reading.

Her Story is about a fictional missing persons investigation in Britain from 1994. You’re to review the interview clips on a computer interface that to me is reminiscent of Windows 3.1 which is so realistic as to include a fictionally warezed Othello game, scanlines, and glare. The latter two can be toggled off if you get annoyed but I feel so much more in the game’s world when they’re on.

The interview clips are of a suspect, the missing husband’s wife, and the acting is (again, so far as I’ve seen having not yet completed the game) fantastic.

Once you’ve reviewed the first set of interview clips available to you, your only mechanism for getting more is to type in a search query into the database pictured above. It is a tiny amount of dopamine joy when you get some new nugget of information, but each clip gives me so many new keywords to try and there’s no failure or score unless you count the Steam achievements so I can sit there for a while writing down each keyword that I think of while watching the video clips and making up my mind only to find out every few times I get a keyword jackpot that there is some important fact I’ve been overlooked about the situation.

Typically I’d hold off on sharing my impressions of a game until I had completed it and turned my thoughts into a full review. This a rare case where I couldn’t wait to tell you to play Her Story, because you should.

Her Story is on Mac, Windows, iPhone and iPad. It’s a steal at $6 but it’s on sale for a little while longer at $5.

App Camp For Girls 3.0

Jean MacDonald:

App Camp For Girls is on a mission: we encourage girls to pursue app development as a career by teaching them how to make iPhone apps in a fun, creative summer camp program under the mentorship of women developers. We are shifting the gender balance in our industry. App Camp 3.0 is the next stage in bringing the program to more girls in more locations!

You should support App Camp for Girls in their latest crowdfunding campaign.

Thanks to John Gruber for the heads-up.

Apple’s App Store Delisting Civil War Games

Tasos Lazarides:

If you’ve been watching the news recently, you’ll know of the huge debate in the U.S over the role of the Confederate flag in contemporary America. Many see it as a reminder of the many pre-Civil War injustices while others see it simply as a way to honor the soldiers who died for the Confederacy. Many large US companies, like Walmart and Amazon, have already banned the sale of any Confederate flag merchandise as a reaction to the recent events. Now, it appears that Apple has decided to join them by pulling many Civil War wargames from the App Store

All of the Wolfenstein games and their sequels had to be altered in order to be released in Germany due to laws in that country. It takes some of the fun out of virtually kicking Nazi ass in those games, but to be fair it does give game developers a chance to be more creative in the depiction of them.

It’s not difficult to see how an overreaction like this takes place after recent events and that overreaction could be corrected by removing any games that are truly hateful and offensive but Tasos’ article pulls an official quote from Apple that these American Civil War games won’t be allowed back in the App Store without removing or replacing the flags entirely. It just doesn’t make sense to pull games that contain those flags unless the games are white supremacist bullshit, which these American Civil War games aren’t.

Stores choosing to not sell literal confederate flags is reasonable. They can choose to sell or not sell anything they want. I’ll still be disappointed the next time I want to kick some confederate ass on my iPad during a long plane ride and these games either aren’t there or have been altered.

Xbox One Backwards Compatibility

The four most interesting announcements at the Xbox E3 press conference were the Hololens demo with Minecraft, Microsoft’s new Early Access-esque program for the Xbox One called Game Preview, and Xbox 360 backwards compatibility. The fourth most interesting announcement was a lack of any Call of Duty exclusivity. That torch was passed to the Playstation this year, on a Treyarch-running-Call-of-Duty year, it’s clear that Activision knows who can butter their bread with money.

Backwards compatibility came across as an insurmountable goal that didn’t make sense anymore. Who buys a new generation of consoles to play old games? As a marketing goal it didn’t make enough sense to support the engineering effort when interest in games that are from the Xbox 360 isn’t as high as newer games and with no new 360 releases Microsoft wouldn’t generally see a dime from licensing costs. The only direct financial upside for Microsft could be from a very temporary boost in console sales and in purchases of Xbox 360 games online for download through their store.

One more knock against backwards compatibility was the high technical effort. The Xbox 360 was a powerful enough machine with a different enough processor (PowerPC on the 360, x86_64 on the One) that it would be too demanding. Even Sony didn’t attempt it as their switch in console architecture was similar and they had acquired Gaikai and OnLive’s patents so they could offload the task to server-rooms full of Playstation 3’s streaming their video signal to the Playstation 4 at a high price ($180/year for access to 350 PS3 games.)

Almost two years after the launch of the Xbox One, against all of the technical and business hurdles, Microsoft announced backwards compatibility available immediately in an invite-only beta program with a short list of games and more to be added towards the end of 2015 when the feature launches properly for everyone with an Xbox One.

How does it work, and is it any good in this early stage? Eurogamer’s John Linneman has answers.

 

Unlike the spotty backwards compatibility available on Xbox 360, which required a custom wrapper for each individual game, Microsoft has taken a more extensive approach through the use of a virtual machine that runs on the Xbox One as a game in and of itself. This virtual environment includes the Xbox 360 OS features, though they remain unavailable to the user, enabling the software to behave as if it is running on original hardware. The Xbox One then views this “Xbox 360″ app as its own game allowing features such as screenshots and video sharing. The emulator supports both digital downloads and original DVDs, though discs simply act as a key, the core data downloading over the internet via Xbox Live.

Even considering its current flaws, the state of the virtual machine’s capabilities is remarkable: those precious few moments when performance actually exceeds the Xbox 360 gives us just a bit of hope that in the long run, we may actually end up with an improved experience in some games.

If I were going to purchase a console today, the backwards compatibility available on the Xbox One might be a deciding factor if it weren’t for one more thing. There was a lot of turnover towards the end of the last console generation with publishers and developers going out of business and spawning many smaller indie developers. With Microsoft putting the burden on developers to approve their games for backwards compatibility, how many are still around to do that and if they are wouldn’t they rather do a re-release to get more money instead of giving it to used-game retailers who will sell old games for pennies? We’ll find out later this year. Even Microsoft announced a Gears of War 1 remake at the same press conference.