Gleich zu Anfang habe ich mir meinen Stream so eingerichtet dass jeweils der aktuelle Spieler-Counter immer im Bild zu sehen war. Ich finde das einfach eine ganze witzige Information vor allem für LuckyV-Interessierte.
Meine ursprüngliche Implementierung war etwas kompliziert – zu kompliziert um sie einfach mit anderen zu teilen.
Daher habe ich mich entschlossen den Zähler in eine eigene Windows Applikation zu verpacken die von Streamern einfach verwendet und in OBS eingebunden werden kann.
Starten und prüfen ob die Zahl auch angezeigt wird – es sollte ungefähr so aussehen:
Man kann das nun auf zwei Wegen einbinden.
Weg 1: Fensteraufnahme
In der Applikation kann man Hintergrundfarben sowie Schriftart und Farbe konfigurieren. Wenn man das erledigt hat wie man es haben will wählt man im Quellenmenü “Fensteraufnahme” und dann das Applikationsfenster.
Diese Quelle kann man dann wie man möchte konfigurieren. z.B. mit Filtern um bis auf die Schrift alles transparent zu gestalten oder oder oder…
Weg 2: playercount.txt
Wenn die Applikation läuft aktualisiert sie ständig eine Datei “playercount.txt” im gleichen Ordner. Man kann nun OBS so konfigurieren dass diese Datei regelmässig ausgelesen und angezeigt wird.
Dazu fügt man ein “Text (GDI+)” im Quellenmenü hinzu und konfiguriert diese Quelle so dass der Text aus einer Datei gelesen wird:
Hier kann man dann auch beliebig Schriftart, Größe und Farbe konfigurieren.
Disclaimer: I’ve joined for fun and not for profit – this is a new hobby.
For about a year now I was regularly watching some Twitch streamers go along their business and it spawned my curiousity when some of them started to do something they called “GTA V roleplay”.
Grand Theft Auto V (GTA V) is a 2013 action-adventure game developed by Rockstar North and published by Rockstar Games. Set within the fictional state of San Andreas, based on Southern California, the open world design lets players freely roam San Andreas’ open countryside and the fictional city of Los Santos, based on Los Angeles. The game is played from either a third-person or first-person perspective, and its world is navigated on foot and by vehicle.
So these streamers where mostly using an alternative client application to log into GTA V online servers that where operated by independent teams to play the roles of characters they created themselves. It started to really get interesting when there is dynamics and interactions happening between those characters and whole stories unfold over the course of days and weeks.
It’s great fun watching and having the opportunity to sometimes see multiple perspectives (by multiple streamers) of the same story and eventually even to be able to interact with the streamers communities.
One such fairly big german server is LuckyV. It’s an alternative GTA V hardcore role-play server creates by players for players.
The hardcore here means: the characters are supposed to act as much as possible like they would in the encountered situations in real life.
So in order to play on this server you have to create a character and the characters background story. You gotta really play that character when on the server.
When you play it’s not just a vanilla GTA V experience. There are lots of features that are specific to the server you are playing on. Some examples are:
Communication: you are communicating with people in your vicinity directly – you can hear them if they are close enough to be heard and you can be heard when you are close to people
Jobs: there’s lots to be done. Become CEO of your own company and manage it!
Social Interaction: there’s probably an event just around the next corner happening. You are able to meet people. Crowds of people even. Remember: There are usually no non-players. Every person you see it a real human who you can interact with.
The LuckyV community made a great overview page where you can watch other people playing and live streaming their journey. It’s extensive – over 200 streamers are online regularly and the screenshot below shows a mid-week day right after lunch…
Anyhow. This is all great and fun but plot twist: I do not play it. (yet)
So what do I have to do with it except I am watching Streamers? Easy: Behind the game there’s code. Lots of code actually.
In a nutshell there’s a custom-GTA V server implementation that talks to a custom GTA V client. LuckyV is using the altV server and client to expand the functionalities and bring the players into the world.
It allows for 1000 simultaneous players in the same world at a time. So there could be 1000 people right there with you. Actually since LuckyV is about to have it’s first birthday the regular player numbers are peaking at around 450 simultaneous players in Los Santos at a time.
The whole set-up consists of several services all put together:
web pages for game overlays, in-game UI and administration tools (PHP)
a SQL database that holds the item, character etc. data
a pub/sub style message hub that enables communication between in-game UI, webpages and the gamemode
a TeamSpeak 3 server that allows players to join a common channel (essentially one teamspeak room) and a plug-in called SaltyChat that mutes/unmutes players in the vicinity and allows features like in-game mobile phone etc.
everything of the above is in containers and easily deployable anywhere you got enough hardware to run it – when there are 100s of players online the load of the machine grows almost linear – and the machine is doing it’s moneys worth then…
So after the team announced some vacancies through those streamers I watched I contact them and asked if I could help out.
And that’s how I got there working on both the gamemode code as well as helping the infrastructure become more stable and resilient.
For my first real contribution to the gamemode I was asked to implement secondary keys for vehicles as well as apartments/houses.
Up until now only the owner / tenant of the vehicle or apartment had access to it. Since this game is about social interactions it would be a good addition of that owner could hand out additional keys to those they love / interact with.
And that I did. I worked my way through the existing code base – which is a “grown codebase” – and after about 3 days of work it worked!
Most impressive for me is the team and the people I’ve met there. This current team welcomed me warmly and helped me to wrap my head around the patterns in the code. Given the enthusiast / hobby character this has it’s almost frightening how professional and nice everything works out. I mean, we developers had a demo-session with the game design team to show off what our feature does, how it works and to let them try it out to see if it’s like the envisioned it.
They even did a trailer for the feature I worked on! And it is as cheesy as I could only wished:
So far so good: It’s great fun and really rewarding working with all these nice people to bring even more fun and joy to players. Seeing the player numbers grow. Seeing streamers actually use the features and play with it – handing over keys to their partner. Really rewarding.
For the first time in the last 10ish years I am back playing a game that really impresses me. The story, the world and the technology of Cyberpunk 2077 really is a step forward.
It’s a first in many aspects for me. I do not own a PC capable enough of playing Cyberpunk 2077 at any quality level. Usually I am playing games on consoles like the Playstation. But for this one I have selected to play on the PC platform. But how?
I am using game streaming. The game is rendered in a datacenter on a PC and graphics card I am renting for the purpose of playing the game. And it simply works great!
So I am playing a next-generation open-world game with technical break-throughs like Raytracing used to produce really great graphics streamed over the internet to my big-screen TV and my keyboard+mouse forwarded to that datacenter without (for me) noticeable lag or quality issues.
The only downside I can see so far is that sooo many people like to play it this way that there are not enough machines (gaming-rigs) available to all the players that want – so there’s a queue in the evening.
But I am doing what I am always doing when I play games. I take screenshots. And if the graphics are great I am even trying to make panoramic views of the in-game graphics. Remember my GTA V and BioShock Infinite pictures?
So here is the first batch of pictures – some stitched together using 16 and more single screenshots. Look at the detail! Again – there are in-game screenshots. Click on them to make them bigger – and right-click open the source to really zoom into them.
I like playing arcade games. I’ve had an “arcade” in my home town and I used to go there after school quite frequently. It was a small place – maybe 5 machines and some pinball machines.
In february this year it occured to be that with the power of the Raspberry Pi and a distribution called RetroPie I could build something that would bring back the games and allow me to play/try those games I never could because my arcade was so small back in the days.
With their basic plans I started drawing in Inkscape and told my father about the plan. He was immediately in – as the plan now was to not build one but two bartop arcade machines. He would take the task of carrying out the wood works and I would do the rest – procurements, electronics, wiring, design and “painting”.
While I took the Holbrook Tech schematics as a base it quickly came apparent that I had to build/measure around the one fixed big thing in the middle: the screen.
I wanted something decently sized that the RaspberryPi would be able to push out to and that would require no maintenance/further actions when installed.
To find something that fits I had my requirements fixed:
between 24″ – 32″
colour shift free wide viewing angle
takes audio over HDMI and is able to push it out through headphone jack
I eventually settled for a BenQ GW2780 27″ monitor with all boxes ticked for a reasonable price.
After the monitor arrived I carried it to my fathers house and we started to cut the bezel as a first try.
After some testing with plywood we went for MDF as it was proposed by others on the internet as well. This made the cutting so much easier.
We went with standard 2cm MDF sheets and my father cut them to size with the measurements derived from the monitor bezel centerpiece.
Big thanks to my father for cutting so much wood so diligently! The next days he sent me pictures of what he’d made:
The side panels got a cut around for the black T-Molding to be added later.
electronics and wiring
After about 2 weeks my father had built the first arcade out of sheets of MDF and I had taken delivery of the remaining pieces of hardware I had ordered after making a long list.
It contains 2 standard 4/8-way switchable arcade joysticks, 10 buttons, all microswitches required and the Ultimarc I-PAC-2 joystick encoder.
So when I got the first arcade from my father I started to put in the electonics immediately.
The sound was a bit more complicated. I wanted a volume control knob on the outside but also did not want to disassemble any audio amplifier.
I went with the simplest solution: A 500k Ohm dual potentiometer soldered into the headphone extension cable going to the amplifier. The potentiometer then got put into a pot and a whole made it stick out so that a knob could be attached.
The RaspberryPi set-up then only lacked cooling. The plan was to put a 120mm case fan to pull in air from the bottom and went it out another 120mm case hole at the upper back. Additionally the RaspberryPi would get it’s own small 30mm fan on top of it’s heatsink case.
I attached both fans directly to the RaspberryPi – so I saved myself another power supply.
Now I had to make it all work together. As I wanted to use RetroPie in the newest 4.6 release I’ve set that up and hooked it all up.
On first start-up EmulationStation asked me to configure the inputs. It had detected 2 gamepads as I had put the IPAC-2 into gamepad mode before. You can do this with a simple mode-switch key-combination that you need to hold for 10 seconds to make it switch.
The configuration of the buttons of the two players went without any issue. First I had set-up the player 1 input. Then I re-ran the input configuration again for player 2 inputs.
The controls where straight forward. I wanted mainly 4-way games but with enough buttons to switch to some beat-em-ups at will.
So I configured a simple layout into Retroarch with some additional hotkeys added:
I tossed around several design ideas I had. Obviously derived from those games I wanted to play and looked forward to.
There was some Metal Slug or some Cave shooter related designs I thought of. But then my wife had the best ideas of them all: Bubble Bobble!
So I went and looked for inspiration on Bubble Bobble and found some but none that sticked.
There was one a good inspiration. And I went to design based upon this one – just with a more intense purple color scheme.
I used Inkscape to pull in bitmap graphics from Bubble Bobble and to vectorize them one by one, eventually ending up with a lot of layers of nice scalable vector graphics.
With all design set I went and sliced it up and found a company that would print my design on vinyl.
With the final arcade-wood accessible top me I could take actual measurements and add to each element 4cm of margin. This way putting it on would hopefully be easier (it was!).
Originally I wanted to have it printed on a 4m by 1,2m sheet of vinyl. It all would have fit there.
But I had to find out that Inkscape was not capable of exporting pixel data at this size and a pixel-density of 600dpi. It just was too large for it to output.
So I had to eventually cut all down into 5 pieces of 1,2m by 80cm each.
After about 7 days all arrived printed on vinyl at my house. I immediately laid everything out and tried if it would fit. It did!
Now everything had to go onto the wood. I did a test run before ordering to check if it would stick securely to the wood. It did stick very nicely. So putting it on was some intense fiddling but it eventually worked out really really great.
Now it was time for some acrylic. I wanted to get a good bezel and covering of the monitor as well as the handrest and the front buttons.
Cutting acrylic myself was out of questions – so I went with a local company that would laser-cut acrylic for me to my specification.
I’ve sent them the schematics and measurements and the panels for reference and 4 days later the acrylic arrived. We could then put the last bits together for completion!
I am really happy how this turned out – especially since with everything that required actual work with hands I am a hopeless case. With this somehow everything worked out.
I still employ the idea of a vertical shoot-em-up centered version… but maybe some day.
So with the new year started it might be worth looking into some patterns different from the ones we are usually dealing with. So how about a bit of 3D graphics, shaders and modelling?!
Get your gear:
Blender is the free and open source 3D creation suite. It supports the entirety of the 3D pipeline—modeling, rigging, animation, simulation, rendering, compositing and motion tracking, video editing and 2D animation pipeline.
eXoDOS is an attempt to catalog, obtain, and make playable every game developed for the DOS and PC Booter platform. Striving to find original media rather than using scene rips. This collection uses a combination of Dosbox and ScummVM to play these older titles on modern systems. All required emulators are included and have been setup to run all included titles with no prior knowledge or experience required on the users part.
This pack includes 7,000 DOS games. The focus is on games that were either released in English or are fairly easy to play without a knowledge of the native language. This is not every DOS game ever made, however it is a very high percentage of all commercial releases. There are thousands of freeware, homebrew, and shareware games that will continue to be added in future packs.
The games have already been configured to run in DosBOX. Games which are supported by ScummVM will give you the option at launch as to which emulator you would like to use.
This application generates a random medieval city layout of a requested size. The generation method is rather arbitrary, the goal is to produce a nice looking map, not an accurate model of a city. Maybe in the future I’ll use its code as a basis for some game or maybe not.
Can you display VGA and play audio on a Cortex-M4 in pure Rust? The short answer is yes, yes you can! Minus the hand-unrolled assembler loop for fixing the phase error in the RGB output. But we don’t talk about that in polite company.
The Atari Joystick interface works, but two Joysticks would be more fun
The PS/2 Keyboard via the Atmega works, but the pinout was mirrored so you have to put the connector under the PCB :/
The RTC works
VGA Output works
The MIDI Out seems to work when looped to MIDI In, as does the MIDI Though.
The MIDI In seems to receive data when connected to my electronic drum kit
The Audio output seems to work quite nicely
The SD card works, but the power supply can’t handle hot-insertion of the SD card and it makes the TM4C reboot. More capacitors / some current limiting probably required.
I can load games and programs from the SD card into the 24 KiB of free Application RAM. You can interact with these games via the PS/2 Keyboard and Joystick. I can play simple games (like Snake) and play three channels of 8-bit wavetable audio simultaneously. I’ve even got a 6502 Emulator running a copy of 6502 Enhanced BASIC, if you want to go old school!
The word diorama can either refer to a 19th-century mobile theatre device, or, in modern usage, a three-dimensional full-size or miniature model, sometimes enclosed in a glass showcase for a museum. Dioramas are often built by hobbyists as part of related hobbies…
I then stumbled on this very early version of a PSX Emulator in C#.
Now, if you were to theoretically have a Playtation SCPH1001.BIN BIOS and then physically owned a Playstation (as I do) and then created a BIN file from your physical copy of Crash Bandicoot, you could happily run it as you can see in the screenshot below.
Preserving old software is all about storing it and keeping it running.
With the most important part being the later one. The best way to keep things running is by emulating the old and obsolete hardware as accurate as possible.
In computing, an emulator is hardware or software that enables one computer system (called the host) to behave like another computer system (called the guest). An emulator typically enables the host system to run software or use peripheral devices designed for the guest system. Emulation refers to the ability of a computer program in an electronic device to emulate (or imitate) another program or device.
There are a lot of different types of emulators for all sorts of purposes.
There’s things like bochs which is effectively emulating the hardware of a PC on chip-level and can run virtually anywhere:
Bochs is a highly portable open source IA-32 (x86) PC emulator written in C++, that runs on most popular platforms. It includes emulation of the Intel x86 CPU, common I/O devices, and a custom BIOS. Bochs can be compiled to emulate many different x86 CPUs, from early 386 to the most recent x86-64 Intel and AMD processors which may even not reached the market yet.
Emulators of game consoles are alike that – they are emulating the whole system hardware and are able to run original and unchanged code by replicating the exact hardware. Sometimes more and sometimes less exactly.
Hardware emulation in itself an extremely interesting field of software engineering. There’s the hard way to emulate everything accurately (and slowly) by doing what the actual old hardware would have done but maybe in software (or even in replicated hardware).
In regards of old game console hardware there are even now specialized distributions of lots of hardware/system emulators available for specific and readily available hardware like the RaspberryPi. Some of them recently have gotten some nice updates.
You can get a grasp at the beautiful side of science with visualizations and algorithms that output visual results.
This is the example of producing lots and lots of complex data (houses!) from a small set of input data. It is widely used in game development but also can be helpful to generate parameterized test and simulation environments for machine learning.
So before sending you over to the more detailed explanation the visual example:
This is a lot of different house images. Those are generated using a program called WaveFunctionCollapse:
WFC initializes output bitmap in a completely unobserved state, where each pixel value is in superposition of colors of the input bitmap (so if the input was black & white then the unobserved states are shown in different shades of grey). The coefficients in these superpositions are real numbers, not complex numbers, so it doesn’t do the actual quantum mechanics, but it was inspired by QM. Then the program goes into the observation-propagation cycle:
On each observation step an NxN region is chosen among the unobserved which has the lowest Shannon entropy. This region’s state then collapses into a definite state according to its coefficients and the distribution of NxN patterns in the input.
On each propagation step new information gained from the collapse on the previous step propagates through the output.
On each step the overall entropy decreases and in the end we have a completely observed state, the wave function has collapsed.
It may happen that during propagation all the coefficients for a certain pixel become zero. That means that the algorithm has run into a contradiction and can not continue. The problem of determining whether a certain bitmap allows other nontrivial bitmaps satisfying condition (C1) is NP-hard, so it’s impossible to create a fast solution that always finishes. In practice, however, the algorithm runs into contradictions surprisingly rarely.
Every month there are free games to download and try out with the Playstation Plus subscription. There was a game named “Conan Exiles” included and so my Playstation started the download.
After the download taking unexpectedly long I checked the download queue and found the reason why it would take so long to download. This game is over 82 Gbyte in size. This is quite unexpected.
Conan Exiles is an open-world survival game set in the brutal lands of Conan the Barbarian. Survive in a savage world, build your kingdom, and dominate your enemies in brutal combat and epic warfare.
Start with nothing but your bare hands and forge the legacy of your clan, building anything a small home to gigantic fortresses and entire cities. Wage war using swords, bows, siege weapons, and even take control of giant avatars of the gods and lay waste to enemy cities.
Explore a vast, seamless world full of challenge and opportunity. Hunt animals for resources, slay monsters for treasure, and delve deep underground to discover the secrets of ancient civilizations.
A modder going by the handle DerKoun has released an “HD Mode 7” patch for the accuracy-focused SNES emulator bsnes. In their own words, the patch “performs Mode 7 transformations… at up to 4 times the horizontal and vertical resolution” of the original hardware.
The results, as you can see in the above gallery and the below YouTube video, are practically miraculous. Pieces of Mode 7 maps that used to be boxy smears of color far in the distance are now sharp, straight lines with distinct borders and distinguishable features. It’s like looking at a brand-new game.
While we were visiting Japan we usually stay quite close to Kawasaki. And with some hints we found that a replication of “Kowloon Walled City” had been put up as a video game arcade there.
Kowloon Walled City was a largely ungoverned, densely populated settlement in Kowloon City, Hong Kong. Originally a Chinese military fort, the Walled City became an enclave after the New Territories was leased to Britain by China in 1898. Its population increased dramatically following the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong during World War II. By 1990, the walled city contained 50,000 residentswithin its 2.6-hectare (6.4-acre) borders.
A partial recreation of the Kowloon Walled City exists in the Anata No Warehouse, an amusement arcade that opened in 2009 in the Japanese suburb of Kawasaki, Kanagawa. The designer’s desire to accurately replicate the atmosphere of the Walled City is reflected in the arcade’s narrow corridors, electrical wires, pipes, postboxes, sign boards, neon lights, frayed posters, and various other small touches that
I did not know a lot about the Kowloon Walled City before we found this arcade. And it’s – as you can imagine – a very colorful reproduction of the ambiance that you – according to documentations and reports from the time – would have experienced. Especially in the entrance area, the theming of the rooms and some game cabinets as well as for example the rest-rooms.
Of course there is a full blown quite nice but – as it is good custom – extremely noisy arcade in there as well. We’ve easily ‘lost’ 3 hours in there. Be aware that smoking is allowed in these places in Japan.
The first floor contained the UFO catcher machines and a good portion of vintage and modern arcade cabinets. I’ve had a go and Gradius and greatly enjoyed it. There’s a battery of Mech-Pods as well as racing and rythm games.
The second floor had lots of pachinko and other medal and slot machines. Even more noise than any arcade cabinets could do.
The third floor finally contains Dart and Snooker / Billard tables.
All in all it was one of the nicer arcades. Much nicer than others because there was a lot more room. It did not feel half als claustrophobic as an arcade usually feels in Japan.
There are some things that influenced us over time. I’ve never played a lot of computer games. But I’ve played adventure games. Most notably those of LucasArts.
The “Day of the Tentacle” – being the sequel to “Maniac Mansion” – was one adventure game that I have a lot of great memories of. I have played it through a lot of times since it’s release.
At the beginning of the game the main villain (the purple tentacle) of the game is making a statement:
Bernard: Ok, you’re free to go. Green Tentacle: Thanks Bernard! Purple Tentacle: Yes, thank you, naive human! Now I can finish taking over the world! Ha ha ha! Green Tentacle: Wait! Bernard: Oh, yeah. Now I remember. He’s incredibly evil, isn’t he? Green Tentacle: Uh… I’ll try to talk him out of it.
LucasArts (June 1993). Day of the Tentacle. DOS.
And because of his aspiration to take over the world the picture of the scene this is being said ended up as my phones unlock screen background (and if lots of other places) ever since.
Have you ever asked yourself what those generations coming after us will know about what was part of our culture when we grew up? As much as computers are a part of my story a bit of gaming also is.
From games on tape to games on floppy disks to CDs to no-media game streaming it has been quite a couple of decades. And with the demise of physical media access to the actual games will become harder for those games never delivered outside of online platforms. Those platforms will die. None of them will remain forever.
Hardware platforms follow the same logic: Today it’s the new hype. Tomorrow the software from yesterday won’t be supported by hardware and/or operating systems. Everything is in constant flux.
Emulation is a great tool for many use-cases. But it probably won’t solve all challenges. Preserving access to software and the knowledge around the required dependencies is the mission of the Video Game History Foundation.
Video game preservation matters because video games matter. Games are deeply ingrained in our culture, and they’re here to stay. They generated an unprecedented $91 billion dollars in revenue in 2016. They’re being collected by the Smithsonian, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Library of Congress. They’ve inspired dozens of feature films and even more books. They’re used as a medium of personal expression, as the means for raising money for charity, as educational tools, and in therapy. And yet, despite all this, video game history is disappearing. The majority of games that have been created throughout history are no longer easily accessible to study and play. And even when we can play games, that playable code is only a part of the story.
In 2012 I’ve experienced streamed game play for the first time. I was a beta-user of the OnLive service which created a bit of fuzz back then.
Last week Google had announced to step into the game streaming business as well. They’ve announce Google Stadia as the Google powered game streaming platform. It would come with it’s own controller.
And this controller is the most interesting bit. We have seen video live streaming. We have seen and played streamed games. But every time we needed some piece of software or hardware that brought screen, controller and player together.
The Google Stadia controllers now do not connect to the screen in front of you. The screen, by all it knows, just shows a low-latency video/audio stream.
The controller connects to your wifi and directly to the game session. Everything you input with the controller will be directly sent to the Google Stadia session in a Google datacenter. No dedicated console hardware in between. And this will make a huge difference. Because all of a sudden the screen only is a screen. And the controller will connect to the “cloud-console” far-far away. As if it was sitting right below the screen. This will make a huge difference!
“0 A.D. (pronounced “zero-ey-dee”) is a free, open-source, historical Real Time Strategy (RTS) game currently under development by Wildfire Games, a global group of volunteer game developers. As the leader of an ancient civilization, you must gather the resources you need to raise a military force and dominate your enemies.”
Back in 2006 I wrote about a new technology which the also new company Geomerics was demoeing.
Back in 2006 everything was just a demo. Now it seems that Geomerics found some very well known customers and without noticing a lot of the current generation games graphics beauty comes from the capabilities real time radiosity lighting is adding to the graphics.
“Geomerics delivers cutting-edge graphics technology to customers in the games and entertainment industries. Geomerics’ Enlighten technology is behind the lighting in best-selling titles including Battlefield 3, Need for Speed: The Run, Eve Online and Quantum Conundrum. Enlighten has been licensed by many of the top developers in the industry, including EA DICE, EA Bioware, THQ, Take 2 and Square Enix.” (Source)
There even is a more updated version of the demo video: