Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Disappearing Files

Something happened to me today that I must share, so that if it happens to you, you would know of a possible solution.

My PC is mainly a Windows PC. However, I do have Ubuntu installed via Wubi, which means that the entire Ubuntu partition is located in my Windows partition as an image file.

Today, that image file disappeared. A 20GB file just went off the face of the proverbial planet.

You can probably imagine how disturbing it was to me. Not that I was bound to lose any information, since I have my backups. However, in order for me to be able to work on my main project, I would need to reinstall Ubuntu, reinstall all the dependencies, and sacrifice a goat. Well, maybe not to reinstall ALL the dependencies, but quite a lot of them. This isn't a hard thing to do, only time consuming.

So I started digging around the internet, and sure enough, I wasn't the first one to have been Houdinied by his Ubuntu image file. I'll spare you the non-relevant solutions, though.

Finally, I have found a perfectly reasonable explanation for the disappearance: Aliens! But before I began acting on that, I have found another possibility: NTFS failure. Yes, it seems that files may disappear if, for some unknown reason, the file system became corrupt. No surprise there, it just never happened to me before.

So the solution was fairly simple:
  1. Run chkdsk on the drive: chkdsk /f c: (or any other letter)
  2. Find system-protected hidden folder named c:\found.000
  3. Pray to the flying spaghetti monster that your files are there.
  4. Move files back to whence they came.
  5. Pray again that the files themselves aren't corrupt.
  6. Rejoice! Sacrifice something, FSM earned it!
So there it is. It doesn't happen very often, but if you lose some files, don't lose your head, just chkdsk it!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


What is it about “important” games that makes me geek out, even if they aren’t really that enjoyable for me?

First of all, what is an “important” game? I will give you the latest example: MineCraft. Much has been said about this game. It is a Java game in which you start off in a randomized world of blocks, bare handed, with no shelter and no weapons. You acquire resources, first by using your hands to get some wood, then you can build some wooden tools, which in turn allow you to carve rocks into better tools and eventually even machines. There is no story, no ultimate goal. It is just you, nature and a bunch of horrible creatures who come for you at night. You can dig quite deeply into the earth. You may even find huge systems of caves (remember, everything was randomly generated).

Oh, and the graphics are ugly, and not in an endearing kind of way.

Uh… yeah.

And then, there is the fact that the game made 350,000$ so far. What?!

MineCraft had attracted thousands of people, and it is still in its alpha stage. People are talking about it everywhere. Known web-comics make episodes about MineCraft, it is, as they say, the talk of the town. And this is before you account for the staggering amount of user-made videos of colossal and complicated constructions that took weeks to create in the MineCraft world. Some of them left me at lose for words… so I’ll just let you get a taste:

From my short experience with the game, I truly believe it must have taken weeks if not months to build these, not to mention the even more elaborated constructs that exist out there. The game is not that big, but everything around it is: The amount of purchases, amount of time spent on it and the amount of talk about it all over the Internet, is huge, especially when taking into account the fact that only a handful of people are working on creating the game with a minimal budget. The impact of MineCraft on the world of gaming will be remembered, even if its popularity would eventually decline. One person can make a difference in the world of gaming, and this game is proof. This is why, even you don’t really enjoy it, like me, you cannot overlook its importance.


Monday, October 4, 2010


The question of why do some people love horror films have been discussed to death. Me, I believe that the reason is similar to the reason some love to eat spicy food. It is a thrill. Some people actually believe it makes the food taste better, and for a good reason. If it makes you feel good, food will taste better. This has the same effect on movies. A movie that manages to evoke strong emotions is usually better for it. And horror is an emotion that we would rather not explore anywhere else in our lives, which, in my opinion, makes the impact of horror movies stronger than others.

So it should come as no surprise that a horror game would become a hit. After all, being able to experience horror interactively could potentially be more powerful than a passive movie. For me, a good horror movie or game is not about the scare factor – I don’t care for being startled, it doesn’t do anything for me. It is also not about depressing moments. A movie about people getting slain horribly is not scary, it’s just depressing. I have enough of that in my life.

Sorry, buddy. You’re just not that scary anymore…

For me, horror is about the fear of the unknown. About being out of control in a situation I don’t understand. It’s about the feeling of suspense. That is what many people do not understand: A good suspense does not have to break with a loudly screeching monster. Monsters, bad guys, “evil”… these are all archaic. I’ll give some examples:

Silent Hill 2


Once upon a time, there was a Blockbuster near my house. In it, there were games for sale… and for rent. There are no GameStop stores in Israel. So there I was, a brand new PS2 and almost no games. So, I decided to rent something that looked nice: Silent Hill 2. Skip a few hours, it’s 22:00. I finally get the chance to boot up the game. I love playing in the darkness, and this was no exception. The game has a nice premise: The protagonist had received a letter from his wife to meet her in the city they both loved: Silent Hill. Small problem though… she has been dead for the past few years. Once the short intro is over, I find myself at the top of a mountain, about to enter the city by foot. A thick fog covers the world. There is no more background music, only some eerie, continuous sounds. I begin my descent along a mountain path down towards what, according to my map, is the city. I cannot see anything a few meters ahead. The eerie background sound and my footsteps are the only thing I hear as I travel along the path. A strong sense of unease envelopes me. I find myself in suspense, even though I have yet to encounter anything resembling of danger. It just feels as if there is danger, more horrible than anything I could imagine. And that sound in the background… The path goes on forever, through the countryside, near abandoned farms and cars. A dog is barking nearby, or at least I think it’s a dog… I am completely and utterly alone.

Suspense is not about what you see.

And this is only the beginning. The game gets scarier as you encounter monsters and weird people. Everything feels like a waking dream, not to mention the unbelievably complex and interesting story. The sounds, the occasional music… I found myself having to take a break once in a while, regain my strength, my courage. It was an experience that I remember to this day, more than any movie I have ever seen.

Demon’s Souls

Games are not difficult. They used to be, most of the time due to bad design, which is understandable for a time when games were barely even born. It’s true that today people are less forgiving about unbalanced difficult games, myself included. However, a game can be difficult while well designed, it is just a lot harder to create such a game. I don’t know if Demon’s Souls for the PS3 is such a game, but I do know that it raised a lot of noise. So much noise, in fact, that by the time I got it, I already had a clear notion of how difficult it is. It was a game designed to kick a gamers’ ass without mercy. But in a way that would make you want to take it on over and over. Yesterday, after all that hype, all those articles and people hating and loving it for being what it is, I finally got it, and was prepared to boot it for the first time.

I had found myself feeling suspense, not unlike the feeling I had when playing Silent Hill 2 for the first time. So many people, gamers I know, had told me how difficult it was, how unforgiving. The game premise didn’t help to shake the suspense: You are a lone warrior, trying to save an entire kingdom whose warriors had failed, everything is covered in a colorless fog spouting evil creatures all around. No one is there to help you. And if you die… you don’t resurrect, not as yourself, anyway. Once you see the intro to the game, everything you feared is beginning to take shape, and in this case, it is worst than you imagined. Everything is dark, gray, and dead. The creatures look legitimately menacing. They are big, and they eat ten warriors like you for breakfast. The situation in the game looks and sounds hopeless, and I know I am getting into a game I am not even sure I will be able to survive.

It isn’t scary, but it looks like it can give you a beating.

The thing is, the game is not a horror game. You fight monsters. You get stronger, you dodge traps and you amass loot. Nonetheless, the feelings I had before starting the game for the first time were truly suspenseful, because of everything I had read, and because of its presentation, which feels like a hopeless situation.

I love it.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Game On

I have been meaning to write this post for a while now. Several things have happened since, some of which, such as my purchase of a new PS3, could seem to contradict what I am saying. However, in my opinion, they only helped me establish my sentiments.

I am a PC gamer.

Hacker Gaming is a part of my life, and so is my PC. My PC is built as I want it. It is built as I had made it. I know it from the inside out, because I have assembled it. I understand my PC. I understand its specifications. I understand what it does, how it does it and why. I know when its at fault and I know exactly how to correct those faults. The keyboard is not just a tool, it’s an extension of my fingers. I am not typing, I am communicating, and my PC reacts to every key stroke and every mouse click with precision. My control spans over the entirety of PC existence, from the abstract heights of a slick graphic user interface to the beautifully explicit depths of an assembly language – it is mine to decide. The world is my oyster dot com.

I am a PC gamer.

But more than that, I love the fact that I can see their files, modify them, understand them. Ever since Quake, it has been clear to me that some games are not just games, but a showcase of technology. It seems so natural to me that if the files are there, I should be able to modify them. On my PC, I can, even if I am “not supposed” to. Because I understand my computer, and I know what can and can’t be done; and there is nothing that can’t be done.

First time I was introduced to modding

I am a PC gamer.

The PC is not a single specific machine. It is a concept that is comprised of standards. It is the essence of technological advancement, and as such, it is always at the forefront of progress. There is no gaming machine that can compare to the PC, because a gaming machine is specific, rendered obsolete the moment it saw the light of day. It is inferior by definition for all intents and purposes, including the very reason it existed in the first place: gaming. The gaming machine’s strength is also it’s weakness: the ease of use of the gaming machine allows developers to deny the users of any control over the content they have. From the forgivable simplified interface for multiplayer gaming to the shameless On-Disc DLC (Downloadable Content)  that are re-sold to customers, the possibilities for game publishers to make easy money on stupid content (armor DLCs) grow while the possibilities of the end user are limited.

I am a PC gamer.

When a console game is “ported” to the PC, it usually is better. It has better graphics, higher resolution and usually has a lot of the issues fixed since the console release. Even if the game is not a port, I can still run it at higher resolutions and higher frame rates than its console counterpart. I know exactly what my PC is capable of, and I know what the game is capable of. While console owners count pixels (I am not joking) to find out at what resolution their game is running on (because why should the developer reveal to them that their game is running at sub-HD resolutions), I can simply decide it for the game. Developers know this. You will not find a PC game that does not support, at the very least, the full HD resolution, because if it didn’t, it will not sell. PC gamers can check. They can run high-res games, and you cannot hide anything from them. Hell, PC gamers around the world had solved the Portal 2 riddle, which included decoding video files disguised as audio files, decrypting Morse codes into a BBS phone number, username and password and finding ASCII art for the sequel!

Portal 2 
Viral marketing for Portal 2 via the first game, Morse codes and a freakin’  BBS!

I am a PC gamer.

I can download most of my games legally. I can customize them. I can listen to my own music while I play them. I can chat with my friends on multiple types of chats while playing. I can watch any type of video. I can emulate games from older consoles.  I can distribute my games without authorization from anybody. I can develop games without specialized hardware. I can do whatever the fuck I want.

I am a PC gamer, and I’m loving every minute of it.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Culture by the dozen

Dear Internet,

I wanted to share with you a surreal experience I had last night.  It involved a huge field of grass, some hot dogs, an extensive amount of apes and an Opera. You know, the usual.

Imagine, if you will, the following scenario: A crowd of literally thousands of people gathering in a park around a big stage. As the distance between the throng to the stage gets smaller, the density of human flesh per square meter grows ever larger. The weather is hot and humid, as if the park resides in the very center of god’s armpit. The crowd thickens and thickens. Brawls between sweaty, angry people sprout randomly for dominance over their 1x1 patch of grass, their swears drowned only by the shouting voices of the teenage hot-dog vendors and the sound of enormous electric generators. Some of the more “innovative” people climb onto those generators in order to both escape the crowd and maybe catch a better glimpse of the stage.

This whole sight might have been typical for a soccer game, or a rock concert. What made this whole ordeal so surreal was that it took place in an opera concert. The absolute polarity between the cultural significance of an opera and a crowd of aggressive, sweaty commoners shoving and hitting each other to get a better look – believe me, it was… something else.

Everything took place in an event called Opera in the Park, which is an event organized by the city of Tel Aviv, in an attempt to expose the general public to some culture. While the idea seems good, it just isn’t applicable for the type of people who live here. Hearing the sweet voice of the singers while seeing people hurting each other like animals was a sad experience for me. Having never been to an opera, I am a little sorry about this being my first experience with it. This is something I will have to remedy.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Speaking of Remakes…

In my previous post I talked about remakes and my ambiguity towards them. This week I have played a little bit of Street Fighter IV, which is mostly a remake of the good old Street Fighter II. Why mostly? Well, there are some new characters, and (if anybody cares) there is a new story for each of the characters.

In any case, I consider this game a remake, and, in my opinion, it is a good thing. I loved playing Street Fighter II at the arcades as a kid. I loved playing it years later on emulators and consoles. Street Fighter IV is almost identical in gameplay to Street Fighter II. The graphics are “next-gen” and there is a more than functional multiplayer mode and other goodies, but the core gameplay is the same. Even the moves for the old characters are played in the exact same way, so old geezers like yours truly can find themselves right at home from the get go.

Fast action flawlessly combined with spectacular graphics. I can almost feel her pain… 

And still, the game feels fresh, and I believe new gamers will find it no less attractive even without the nostalgic factor. How can this be explained? Is it because other fighting games, such as Tekken, rely mostly on button mashing while Street Fighter still requires some tactics and finesse? Or maybe I really am blinded by nostalgia? Whatever the reason, I am enjoying this game, whether its when I perform an ultra combo finish or when a friend wipes the floor with my dignity (you know who you are!), I am having fun with a fighting game like I haven’t had in a long long time.

So here is a remake I know exactly how I feel about. Maybe this is the answer I was looking for. I cannot have a specific opinion on all the remakes in the world. Some could be really good and polished such as Street Fighter IV, some might not.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Doing and Redoing

I don’t know what to make of remakes. It seems to me that a gaming company that releases a modern remake of an oldie is either doing this to please the fans of the original game, or just because they want to milk the franchise to death. What I cannot decide is whether or not the reason even matters.

No doubt that the remake looks amazing. But then again, we all know that the original was great.

With the impending re-release of The Secret of Monkey Island by Lucasarts, I am trying to focus on whether or not I am excited about this release. After all, this was an adventure game that stood above all other adventure games of its time and gave me hours of fun and laughter. And pirates. lots and lots of pirates. So a modern remake of the game with new graphics, music and voice casting must certainly swash my buckles, right? Who cares that Lucasarts are releasing this game really close to Telltale’s own version of Monkey Island that was released 3 days ago? Why should it matter that Lucasarts, who abandoned the adventure games genre years ago in order to focus on releasing tons of Star Wars games is suddenly releasing an adventure, which is a remake of an old favorite? Why would I mind that they are publically saying that they promise to release more adventures only if this new remake sells well?

At least Telltale is trying something new.

Well, I don’t know why, but I do mind. It does matter to me. Where Telltale attempted (with more success than not) to recreate the franchise and came up with a brand new Monkey Island adventure, Lucasarts is reusing its old material and is also “holding hostage” its other franchises unless their demands are met. It just feels wrong to me. Its the difference between a company that creates and therefore contributes to the advancement of video games, to a company that recycles for money. Lucasarts used to be the first type of company when it came to adventure games. I really hope that there is at least some soul behind their actions.