Linux on Notebook, Take 2, Mini-Buntu

Game, Linux, Personal, Programming

My notebook it not new. I bought the Yoga 2 Pro almost 4 years ago. Two years back, I got annoyed with Windows so I decided to install Linux in it. I was scared because on the contrary of most my PCs that I assembled myself, the Lenovo had a warranty and possibly custom hardware.

As I told, the attempt failed. It was giving me too much headaches. Also I generally use my notebook to also program and develop games. And because the Unity Editor was not available (not at least in a reasonable version), I was kinda forced to migrate back to Windows10.


About 3 months ago, I decided to give it a second shot. In case I was not clear, I use Linux in the desktop, in a dual boot, for about 15 years. I saw Ubuntu entering the market. But since I start to systematically be involved on making games, the necessity of Windows started too. Back to the experiment. It was a requirement for me that the general performance had to be great. Not good, great. I would prefer to keep on the Debian-like distro because I’m familiar to. Ubuntu family if possible. So I selected both Kubuntu and Lubuntu for a ride.

Kubuntu was the one that I tested before. I like KDE since version 2 but again failed in deliver a blazing fast experience. In the notebook, the boot time was several minutes. Even Windows 10 was couple of seconds. I decided then to format and install Lubuntu.

Lubuntu is a Ubuntu derivative using the LXDE desktop environment. Super light. Man! Boot was fast and when ready it consumed a fraction of RAM of both Windows and Kubuntu. However, during my 4 weeks test I was giving too much little problems. So I decided to make another switch.

Xubuntu, in a similar vain, is a light variation. And I know can say that I am really satisfied with my notebook. I is a bit more robust and complete, but that makes a lot of difference. I had to downgrade the screen resolution to FullHD (the notebook allows the at-the-time stunning QHD+ 3200×1800 ), which is fine in a 13 inches monitor. Then came to the software selection. Lubuntu was super short on preinstalled stuff, which i like because I generally don’t use them anyway, but Xubuntu came with some. The good news is that the selection does not consume much of the the drive space and are light enough in case I really want to use them.

I had to install Steam and it works nice. Unfortunately, GOG’s Galaxy does not have currently a Linux version, so the games have to be installed manually one by one. Also your play time will be not computed nor you will be alerted about updates. A second negative point is that most GOG’s games do not use the new cloud save feature, so playing a bit in the notebook and a bit in the desktop is only for games that progress do not matter. Fingers crossed for the future.

 

Finally I was looking for a game engine that works on Linux. Unreal, as I found, works, but you have to compile it yourself. GREAT 🙁 I did it. It took hours and the result was too many crashes and too big suite to work in a notebook. I was once again looking for a lightweight engine. I tested Godot and liked. But it is still lacking.

Then I found out that Unity is in fact releasing in a alternative channel (thru forums) the update engine for Linux. I installed it too. crashes a log but it works. I`ve being playing the game developer in the note book ever since. With the excellent Visual Studio Code editor, it makes my days fun.


After 2 months and half working most of the time on this notebook, I can be happier man but in general I am already one. It is fast, close environment that I face when I deal with cloud Internet stuff and free. I plan to migrate to a newer machine in the next year, mostly to get a better amount of RAM memory and battery life. Currently, it lasts 3 hours, which is by any means a shame for a mobile device.

This is currenly my desktop

Hacksaw Ridge

Cinema, Review

I wanted to watch the latest Mel Gibson movie as a director because… it was Mel Gibson. I understand that Gibson plays a nuts role in most peoples minds, but as  a director, he is a quite talented one. I did not know much about the movie, except it was about a war (probably second great war, based on the trailer) and Gibson was the project leader. It was enough to make me curious.

After 30 minutes into the movie, I had to admit that I was hooked. Cool characters, cool story, very nice production.

Now, after seeing it entirely, I have to say: WOW. What a great movie it is! I was not expecting this quality.

Gore

If you have heart problem, have kids with you watching or do not support violence and gore, keep away form this picture. It has it all. Like some super-realistic WWII movies (like the superb Saving Private Ryan), Hacksaw Ridge shows the battles in a visceral way. Gibson is very familiar with this, because Braveheart and Passion of the Christ are also displaying violence in its crudeness.

But for all of these movies, the crude violence is informative. It sets the tone of despair and importance of simple acts. You can see the real courageous and the cowards. The cost of the victory and the burden of the defeat.

Religion

One of the major themes is about religion prejudice. It dedicates half of its time talking about how the military (and society in general) are very prejudicial against religious people, specially those fanatics. It tries to convince that, despite the fanaticism, all people should be respected. Quite bold and powerful message in times that Muslim fanatics are doing so many terrorist acts.

But the political argument was not about muslins, but about Gibson himself. It is well knowing that Mel is a very religious person. In the last past movies, he always touched the subject. Passion of the Christ and Apocalypto address some religions views and practices. I felt that Hacksaw Ridge, sometimes, seems to be made only for the purpose of justification of his own behavior and believes.

But despite the original intention an violent aesthetics, it is a must-see.

My grade: 9

Metacritic: 71

Rotten Tomatoes: 87%

The Swapper

Game, Review

I bought The Swapper yesterday because I heard good things about it. And man, I loved the game.

It is a platformer puzzle game, like the classic Braid, but the major feature is the ability to create a clone of yourself and migrate the controls to it. It might be considered a form of teleportation, but your old ones will still be there. It opens opportunities for several interesting challenges. It also uses, [minor spoiler alert] at mid game, a similarly feature as VVVVV that is changing the direction of gravity. The puzzles have a nice and steady evolution in difficulty, combining the new features each time they are added to your repertoire.

The only thing that I was a bit confused it the collectible orbs. For a completionist like me, and a pleasing game like The Swapper, I felt compelled to collect of of them. But the counter that shows in the UI does not have a one-to-one relationship to the amount of orbs you collect. At the beginning of the game, it is one-to-one, but in later stages, each orb you get adds you dozens into the orb counter. It is confusing to track the general progress you are making. I guess the developers wanted to make the reward the player more the more complex the puzzle is, but I did not fell this way. This orbs are not just optional. In order to progress, you have to collect a certain number of them to open locked areas. But in most cases, you have to collect almost all orbs possible to reach the required number, so it turns out to be even more useless the multiple orb value per orb collected intended feature. Minor complain thou.

The game have a very great visuals. Dark and a bit spooky, but not in the way of horror games. It is designed to be just uncomfortable, just like Limbo and (presumably Inside, but I didn’t play it yet). But unlike Limbo, it rarely inputs pressure. You are always in a lonely and calm journey. It imprints the sense of loneliness, desolation, mystery and insanity.

The overall theme is a science fiction. During the game you face several dialogues and recordings of a technological discovery. It present the theme in a more philosophical approach, similar to Talos Principle. However, due the super short texts and obtuse ways to tell it, it does not feel very mind melting like Talos. It was a bit unsatisfying. A professional scientist would never write a log in such enigmatic way. It would be much clearer and direct to the point. This obtuse style of storytelling is typical on horror and mystery games, novels and movies. They rely on telling the audience so little that you do not understand the meaning way to the end. Despite it, I like the approach.

The game is short, which I would say that is a plus, because it gives the sense of completion and that it is not dragging you for hours for the sake of appearing more substantial.

I totally recommend this game. One of the best indies and best games overall I played this year so far.

My Grade: 8.5

Metacritic: 87

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Books, Review

I first “met” Yuval Noah Harari in a TED talk last year. He was talking about Nationalism vs. globalism: the new political divide. I like him and his ideas. Very interesting and compelling. I didn’t know at the time he was a writer. By accident, I found his book.

I read it entirely in 2 days. Love it.

It is a comprehensive visual of the mankind. Several sub subjects are in my top interest subjects, like religion (in a scientific perspective), politics, economics and scientific advances. It dedicate several initial chapters explaining what we know about the origin of our own species. The point when we forked our hereditary tree from other primates and from other man-like species, like Neanderthals (in fact, he argues that it is not exactly like this). It is a 50000+ years analysis of the importance of agriculture, language and religion. The origin of states. It is mind blowing.

Then he enters in a revision of the know history, also, focusing one layer at time. He explains why the Homo Sapiens because the rulers of the planet Earth. Why we managed to be so successful. The book is very centered on religion and religion-like lines of through, like capitalism (yes… very thought provoking).

The book is mostly founded on science and data. But also on plausible extrapolations and reasoning. And his writing style is quite convincing.

It is not an accident it is a best seller. It is not an accident it is a loved book by many.

Simple: READ IT.

My Grades: 10

Good Reads: 4.4/5

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Blood and Wine

Game, Review

Beautiful. This new expansion of my favorite game of all time, The Witcher 3, have a major single adjective. It all happens in a different territory of the main game. A vibrant and colorful Toussaint. It was clearly (and admittedly) inspired by southern France and Italy. The very first minutes into the expansion and your head will probably explode. It is gorgeous. The city of Beauclair is amazing. The mountain that is always at the horizon looks amazing (is it possible to climb it? I did not tried)

I started a new game dedicated to the expansion .Mostly because I player the whole game in the original TW3 game but when I bought the Season pass including both expansions, it made available the the TW3 complete edition for me. However, it does not include all the playing data from the original one, including achievements. Unfortunate. So I decided to test the feature that it generates a new game but the main mission was already finished. It works fine. Geralt started the game in level 25 or so with a basic high level armor and sword kits.

I also wanted to test the game using the Brazilian Portuguese audio, and English subtitles for the sake of from-to mapping of concepts. I was impressed the not only CD Projekt Red did a text translation of the game but a full voice over and the same for the expansions! That’s why they are my top 3 favorite developers. However, the Brazilian audio is a hit and miss. The actor choices are not perfect (Geralt is really cool, but there are some that are weird) but the most critical point is the pronunciation of the Witcher 3 specific things. They are a mess. Beauclair, Toussaint and even Geralt are pronounced differently actor from actor and even from the same actor in the same dialog tree. Using the English subtitles helped be to surpass the confusion.

[this post have mentions of the game story]

The gameplay continues top-notch. Added some extra features in the leveling system and the possibility to have your own vineyard. And getting a custom armor with the banners of your family is a very Game of Thrones coolness. However, I personally disliked one of the main recurring enemies: the giant centipedes. Not obvious why they are so difficult.

There are more jokes and culture references that the main installment. The mid-game side story in the world of fairy tales is super-hyper-mega bizarre. And I loved it! No further spoilers. Even inserted there as 100% out of nowhere plot.

The story is original but not particularly fun. The main villain is forgettable. It is a legendary character that you have to meet very few moments so you never are convinced that he is so good and powerful and charming and wisdom and cool as described by almost all NPCs that managed to know him. I would love to have more interactions with him, becoming friends and then being betrayed. The way it is now, I don’t care much about him. You companion, however, is much more likable.

The final mission (no spoilers) was a bit disappointing. There are a few problems: I locks the player in a series of events, the final boss have a multi step fight and if you die in the last stage, you come back just before the first. Even worse, it brings you back before a cinematic sequence. Arg. CDPR used the same technique on the main game. I hated it. I would never pass this unnoticed if I was called to do beta testing. I was a mix of relief and satisfaction when I finally managed to finish him.

 

 

Now I’m going to play the first expansion, knowing that I might be too powerful. If it half of the fun that I had, I would love it too.

The best game expansion I ever played.

My Grade: 9.5

Metacritic: 92

Tomb Raider

Game, Review

In just a few days, I finished the this game. It is the reincarnation of the classic Tomb Raider series from Crystal Dynamics. I was not a PlayStation gamer at the time, but this one I liked. Not mind blowing, but I had my good moments.

This Lara Croft is a more mature and complete character. It was designed to be modern. She will have many more adventures for sure.

The universe of Tomb Raider always have the extraordinary and magical. The story suffer mainly because we cannot anticipate what is possible and what is not. The boundaries are not clear to the player. So when we are about to understand wadda hell is going on, the game shows a whole new layer of problems that probably involves magical items or supernatural stuff. It’s like going in a Orlando’s theme parks: one step you goes from Happy Potter to Spiderman.

The mechanics are a bit of combat, a bit of stealth and a lot of cinematic timed actions. It is decent in all these aspects but not great in neither. The collectibles are easy enough to be a valid pursue. That is why I probably finished it entirely.

At a certain point, I was a bit lost and careless about the main plot and played to reach the end. Nice but not great. Next game!

My Grade: 7

Metacritic: 86

Mad Max

Game, Review

Last year I watched the Mad Max franchise revival in the theaters. And loved it. And it seems that world loved it too. The game was launched later so it was surrounded by expectations. But the developers promptly affirmed that the game is not based on the movie, but in the universe in a broad sense. The protagonist is also Max, but like in the movies, it is a bit different Max from the original movies.

First, the visuals. The movie got a lot of notoriety mostly because its breathtaking visuals. The game… well, I will praise it’s graphics, however they are not as impacting as, just as a disclaimer. The game uses a lot of post processing effects to give a perfect look of a post apocalyptic world. The high speed camera and distortions are also very well employed. In general, the game have a good aesthetic.

It makes a reasonable good use of the franchise. The game have the same desolated atmosphere where the automobiles are essential part of living. However, it also brings a sense that that whole world is in fact empty. It’s good to traverse the map in a turbo’ed engine, but doing it often becomes repetitive and boring. It seems that they created the map but did not have enough ideas to fill it with.

The main plot, like most recent open world games, are paper thin. Max is famous for being a quite guy, the same for most of the people that lives there. The ones that talk are in fact annoyingly talkative, like your sidekick master of the technicians. Nothing against him being playing ugly, but he is annoying and pretensions. He says all the time how good he is. He says all the time a lot of things.

In contrast, what could potentially be the major companion disappears after minutes of the gameplay. I’m talking about the dog. Just like the thematic cousin Fallout, there is a dog that we presume that will follow the protagonist all along. But it is not true here. He is put away and rarely shows up. Sad.

If the main story is ok, the same cannot be said about the side missions. The mission givers are super shallow and their tasks are generally repetitive. No much fun. The collectible items and objectives are divided between the fun and achievable and the boring that you should let it go.

Reducing the threat level is really a nice concept. It reminds me of Shadow of Mordor. Not the same, but similar.

Overall, I had a good time playing it. It was a bit unremarkable, but fun.

My Grade: 7

Metacritic: 73

Batman: Arkham Knight

Game, Review

I loved Batman Arkham Asylum. I liked Batman Arkham City. I did not like this one, Arkham Knight. (I own but I still didn’t play Arkham Origins)

Upon release, Batman: Arkham Knight, was plagued with bugs in its PC appearance. So much that the developer had to pull it off from the shelves to polish it for a bit more time. I was, thankfully, not affected by this incident because I only acquired it much later. That said, I had a lot of issues regarding performance, bugs and crashes. I have faced major crashes during the course of the game. Lame.

 

Visually, the game is more colorful than ever. Definitively it makes use of more modern technology (I believe it uses the latest Unreal Engine). While it seems more realistic, I felt less pleasing. Gotham is too flashy, too busy. There are visual pollution all over the city. Back in the Asylum, the visual was more cartoony but it was consistent. The visual effects and explosions, however, are more impressive than before. I liked it.

Another strange thing that I noticed it that almost all character 3D models changed dramatically. Bruce Wayne, Batman, Harley Quinn, Penguin.. everybody had a substantial visual transformation, like when studios reboot a movie franchise. I felt a little annoyed that my character from previous games simply changed.

Gameplay wise, the Batman Arkham series was migrating from a stealth game towards a very action driven. I remember in the first installment the tutorials were always very serious about being stealth is the way to play. The super vision goggles was implement and was unlimited just to reinforce the behavior into players. Gas bombs, grappling from above or bellow, use of remote gadgets were all crucial for this play style. More than a play style, it was proposed gameplay.

It was all lost with City and mostly Knight. There are so many enemies spread across the map that it is simply not practical anymore to solve problems using stealth. It would take ages to complete the game. Instead, most of the time you will to a frontal assault, eventually using hit-and-run tactical. For me, the open world feature, while amazing at the first glance, was detrimental to the series. It was better when it was confined in compartments. It was about solving puzzles, not brute force your way.

The main attraction of the game is the use of the Batmobile. Unlike the Arkham City, the game encourages the player to traverse the city using the car. I was positively impressed who responsive and fun was to use it. It’s dual mode, car and tank, makes the gameplay very fluid. However the developers force the use of it by inserting several plots into the story that requires it. After a while, it gets repetitive.

The side missions and collectibles are forgettable. The trademark Riddle riddles are more repetitive than ever. After a while I knew that I would not be interested in completing it entirely. I would only go for the main storyline.

Story wide is once again very convoluted. The whole plot is thin and even the twists are not that interesting. So twists are so intense that makes you fell that everything that you did until that moment was kind irrelevant. The same for the villains actions (if he knew that form the start, why he did all this?). Batman is too much powerful to be believable. Even on the brink of the death, the player never fell that he is actually in danger. Joker plots against Batman and Batman plots against the player. The main villains are boring with weird motivations.

Overall, I had a negative experience. I cannot recommend this game, unless you already have played the previous games and really want to give a Batmobile a ride.

My Grade: 4.5

Metacritic: 70

Carnaval 2017 – Rio de Janeiro

Personal

It’s Carnaval! One of my favorite times here in Brazil. I always have a lot of fun and this year was no different. Some dear moments…

IsThereAnyDeal

Game, Web

A couple of years back I was following a site that had a great insight: track Valve’s Steam prices and point out the best deals over time. It was great because if you are interested in a particular game, it was just matter of waiting to get a big promotional discount! Unless you are super duper fan and want that game now or it has a very heavy multiplayer component, here is no need to buy a $40-$50-$60 game. It will eventually get much cheaper (and much sooner than you imagine).

Unfortunately, I forgot the name of it and I am a lazy writer that is not in the mood to search.

The good side is that is not needed anymore. That site closed doors and I discovered IsThereAnyDeal.com. It follows the same basic idea but in much bigger scale. It tracks Steam, GOG and dozen of other online portals.

Also, it offers a chance to create custom alerts when a desired game get a price bellow a threshold. Indie games are often bellow $5. AAA also often are promoted bellow $10. It opens a great window for great deals. My wanted list now have about 30 games!

It sounds unfair to the creators. But with so many good games in the market right now, I can play them all if I buy them cheap, or choose one one or two with full price. Indies gets much more opportunities this way. The big players, that invest millions on a single title hopping to sell millions at a full release price, will suffer more and will have to adapt.

Just like Netflix, the abundance of games opens great business opportunities for those that have a long tail catalogue instead only high-demand products.

So if you are a game developer, never count on making most of the sales with the full price. Is was not true before and it is even more true now. You projections should include several strategies for promoting your product so 2-3 years at least.

With proper marketing and positioning, companies still can attract audience during launching. Mario, Zelda, Fallout, The Witcher, Doom and many many other titles are recently launched and have massive initial sales. Of course there are always a EA, Ubisoft and Activision that tries to implement some weird and fake mechanism that forces players to buy or play in very specific way. Disasters like SimCity happens to them…

Otherwise: have fun buying!