Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category
I wrote a article for GH101 to celebrate the 100th episode last year. However, I decided not to post it because I felt it didn’t really fit in with the site. After receiving a very touching e mail from a fan of GH101 I’ve changed my mind. It’s important to stand by your passions and I love writing, talking rubbish and being part of GH101 and this article is very much a tribute to that. Of course this is written in the past tense so take the content for what it is. Thank you.
On the 22nd of July Gaming History 101 is going to hit the milestone of 100 episodes which is a fantastic achievement. I thought I would share some of my memories listening to the podcast as well as becoming a co–presenter (co-host).
The route to G101
A couple of years ago I had taking up a job in Cambridge (a well known town in England) and commuted everyday from the outskirts of London. I was probably travelling around four hours a day either by foot, bike or train. Of course I was very much into gaming on the handheld, this was the perfect opportunity to play RPGs like Final Fantasy 7 on the PSP. But I often returned to my personal favourites, the Resident Evil games to see if I could complete them in a single day. I also read books, caught up on work on my Netbook, but I needed something else to fill this incredibly long void.
I was a big fan of YouTube and one evening I was watching a random video from YouTuber “PeteDorr,” who announced he was doing a podcast with some other members of the community called “AllGenGamers” and that it could be heard on itunes. I downloaded it to my ipod and its safe to say I became pretty hooked on gaming podcasts from then on. Since I traveled so far I listened to several podcasts including IGN UK and US, Giant Bomb, and Joystiq. I would also throw in non gaming podcasts as well like Hamish and Andy and Radio 4 film podcast.
Through “AllGenGamers” I heard another YouTuber called “Jumble Junkie” who announced he had his own podcast called Operation Kill Screen which I listened to since I quite enjoyed listening to the gamer’s opinions on news stories and games. You would be surprised how different they were from the mainstream website podcasts. It wasn’t long until I heard a plug for a little known podcast called Video Game Outsiders (VGO), and that is how I came to know allgames.com since VGO was on so late in the UK I could never listen live. So I continued on itunes and with my long commute.
Soon after that I heard a guy called Chip Cella aka “Captain Chaos” who had his own podcast called the B–Team. So I listened to this show also on allgames.com and I heard some funny fella with a interesting surname called Fred Rojas, with his enthusiastic golden voice made for radio, he mentioned he had his own show called Gaming History 101. I jumped on this show as from my experience there was no other podcast that really covered old games in a interesting way.
The first episode of Gaming History 101 I ever listened to was Obscure survival horror games. In this show Fred was a solo presenter and discussed some not so well know survival horror games like Obscure on the Original Xbox, Enemy Zero on the Saturn, and Overblood on PSone [I also covered Rule of Rose on the PS2 – Fred]. This show was right up my alley as survival horror is one of my favourite genres in gaming. I’m so sad I still have this podcast on my ipod as well as several episodes of GH101 which I listen to when I’m bored or going on a crazy long journey.
When Being a Fanboy Wasn’t Enough
Eventually it got to the point where I started writing in to Fred’s show on GH101. I wrote messages through his website most of the time it was to nit pick. After all that’s what we do as retro gamers, we correct people when they make mistakes. One of my favourite nit pick episodes by far was for Silent Hill 2. Fred did a solo game club on the show which received a lot of listener comments. I was going to jump on the band wagon but I think its fair to say poor Fred had well and truly learned that Silent Hill fans are hard people to please. Instead I had to praise the guy after all most of his shows are solo and it is hard to carry out a podcast by yourself and still make it sound interesting. I know this from experience as I presented my own radio show at University.
Eventually I wrote into Fred with some show requests specifically Silent Hill and Resident Evil. To my surprise Fred just flat out invited me on the show. My first appearance on the show was Silent Evil. It was Fred, myself, and guest Allen Epstein, a very nice guy with extensive knowledge on the Resident Evil and Silent Hill games. We initially meant to cover most of each games from the series but instead we ended up only covering the first game in each series and a little on the second game. Since this podcast we have done a follow up episode but we are still quite far from discussing all the games in both series.
At this stage I was now living somewhere new and had a new job so no more ridiculously long journeys. So I was able to listen to the show live and actually join in the live chat on all games. I had also decided to start writing articles on gaming which I was doing for a website retrocollect.com, a website that is very useful for retro game news.
Time passed I made occasional guest appearances on the show still and made comments in the live chat. Eventually, I guess Fred got fed up with my nit picking and decided why not bring this annoying English person on the show all the time. And I’ve been a co-host ever since.
Some of my favourite podcasts that I have been on so far include the Taito episode as I share a lot of nostalgia for this company. The majority of the games I played when messing around on my parents Amstrad CPC were Taito games including New Zealand Story and a game that would later become my favourite game of all time Rainbow Islands. The Guardian Heroes game club was memorable because I had been waiting on this episode for ages and Fred originally cancelled it, I remember putting in all the preparation for the podcast only to hear Fred say he was no longer doing game club episodes. Fortunately, that didn’t stick and they returned. Game Club episodes to me are great because they usually encourage me to play games I would generally overlook. Of course one of my favourite episodes is Silent Evil because it was my first, you never forget your first.
Some of my favourite episodes I have not been on include the Sonic podcasts with Ali and Andy from 42 Level One mostly because it was fun hearing the two Scots defend the blue hedgehog on a two-part episode. The Metal Gear podcast with TreesLounge which to this day is the most downloaded episode of the show of all time. One of my favourite game club episodes by far was Blue Stinger on Dreamcast. This show also featured TreesLounge and was one of the the most bizarre games I had played to this point on a Game Club and would probably have never touched it had it not been for the podcast. You will never again come across a survival horror game set during Christmas (with Christmas music as well) in place called Dinosaur Island and has no Dinosaurs in it. It’s fantastic.
Before I finish I wanted to say thanks to all out listeners especially for allowing me to be a co-host, it really is a dream come true for me. I have been out of the radio gig for quite a long time and its been great to come back to it. It’s been amazing meeting so many nice people from other podcasts and of course interacting with the fans.
Finally I just want to say thank you Mr Fred Rojas for Gaming History 101.
Lets raise a glass, take a shot, whatever your into and here’s to another 100 episodes.
Listener @Fortengard joins us to continue our earlier discussion on the art of the boss battle. With tons of community news, e-mails (thanks guys), and news articles, we don’t get there until about halfway through but then we get down to the concept of the doppelganger, the “dark” version, and attacking oneself. We then tackle roundtable discussion about our significant boss battles.
I’ve always wanted to dedicate an article to Half Life on the Playstation 2 (PS2). However, Half Life is one of those games I genuinely get a bit worried about when reviewing, since so much as mentioning anything negative about this series will cause the entire Valve fan base to storm on you with torches and pitchforks. No where is safe, you are screwed. But since so few people have even played Half Life on the PS2 hopefully, its safe to come out of my Half Life hermit cave and talk about it.
Now here is where I make my first shocking statement: Half Life on PS2 is the first time I ever played Half Life. One redeeming factor maybe that it did lead me to playing the game on the PC later when I was able to. Anyway, I was in day one for Half Life on console. I’d been anticipating the game since the hyped up Dreamcast port which never official surfaced outside of the homebrew scene (despite being advertised in leaflets that game with games at the time). It seems like a lot of the assets used to make the game on the Dreamcast surfaced on the PS2. Whether your a massive fan of the Dreamcast or not, its hard not to argue this game was much more suited to the PS2 due its its dual analogue sticks. This was the time where First Person Shooters (FPS) were finally getting easier to control on consoles, with thanks to Halo, gamers where just no longer stomaching the single analogue nub system famous on the N64 and Dreamcast.
Half Life on PS2 is technically an HD remaster (but just up-scaled, not actual HD graphics). The graphics received a massive overhaul and for the time looked fantastic. Enemies and human character models looked much more polished and some of the guns such as the assault rifle were completely remodelled. The recharge points had little probes for example, the health station had a syringe that would come out and stick your character. Though its very much a cosmetic change it does look pretty cool. The entire campaign was playable and you were able to save anywhere just like the PC version, which was quite uncommon for console games. Everything in the PC version is present on the PS2 even the humorous gore.
I actually played Red Faction on PS2 before Half Life and it was clear to see that a lot of the inspiration for that game came from the Half Life design. I also remember a article in PS2 Official Magazine confirming this from the developers.
Now the developers decided to include an interesting idea to make the game a bit more simple on the console. That feature is the dreaded auto lock-on system. I absolutely hated this and still don’t care for its inclusion to this day. This was probably a feature that was originally designed for the Dreamcast and probably made sense with its controller restrictions. Basically, what you do is when an enemy is in the area a simple press of the button will literally force Gordan Freeman to lock onto the enemy with his gun cursor pointing in more or less the correct area. It felt very similar to the lock-on feature [this is known by many as “Z-targeting” – Ed.] in Legend of Zelda Orcarina of Time (you know, just without the fairy shouting at you). Now you would think this feature would make the game a lot easier, but for a lot of the enemies, especially the boss characters like the scrotum monster on Xen (you know the one I’m talking about) the feature doesn’t lock-on properly and causes practically no damage. Its inclusion feels pointless especially when the dual analogue controls seem to work absolutely fine. Of course many would argue the controls can’t possibly compete with mouse and keyboard, but for a console port this was a fine effort.
The original Dreamcast version was going to feature the additional campaign, which later became Blue Shift, and was eventually released separately for PC. On the PS2 the developers included a co-op campaign that can be played in split screen, even if your playing alone. It’s a fantastic inclusion to the package. When you do play the game alone it’s a bit awkward because you have to control both of the female characters separately. A press of the button will switch back and forth between the characters if you are in the area alone your partner will defend themselves but will not move, they will just stand there like a loon till you move them yourself. This makes playing it solo feel very slow as you are literally travelling through the level twice. Unlike the main Gordon Freeman campaign, which is a continuous campaign with no level breaks, the co-op campaign is split up into individual levels you select from a menu. There is more backstory to the Half Life universe that even ties into the story of Blue Shift. So if you are a die hard Half Life fan and want to experience every campaign possible you will need to dust off your PS2 and get this game to experience the co-op campaign as it was exclusive on PS2. Not sure whether its worth all that effort though, since the co-op is very short. You do receive a fantastic bonus co-op mission where you get to play the aliens in the game; it’s brutally hard but its a nice touch.
So is Half Life on PS2 worth picking up? Well these days probably not so much especially since Half Life got another HD remaster in the form of Black Mesa on PC [as of this writing, Xen, the least popular portion – but also the ending – of Half Life is not included in Black Mesa although the development team reassured in early 2014 that it is coming and will be improved from the original – ed]. Die hard PC gamers will most likely laugh at this games existence despite the improvements the developers made to the graphics. The reason you may want to consider the title is if you already own a PS2 because this game is crazy cheap. Back in the day I paid full price for the game and I didn’t feel cheated. I later sold my entire PS2 collection but when I started collecting again I found Half Life on PS2 for a single British pound, and that’s still the going rate for this game. To this day I have an interest in PC ports to console even if they are most likely worse. It’s fascinating to see what developers do to a game to make it work on restricted hardware. Another fascinating example like this is Half Life 2 on the original Xbox and I may cover that in a later article.
This past week a charity event has taking place in the America called “Awesome Games Done Quick” (AGDQ). For those of you who have not heard of this event, it is where gamers from all over the world gather together to speedrun various games (retro and modern). It’s twenty four hours of gaming goodness over seven days all in the name of charity. The event is to raise money for the Prevent Cancer Foundation. Today’s article is a tribute to the internet phenomenon that is speedruning.
I first became interested in speedruns after getting into a debate with a friend about what the fastest time Resident Evil on PSone could be completed. Eventually we headed to YouTube to find a video of a speedrunner by the title of Carcinogen, running through the game in just over an hour. There was something quite mind blowing of how precise he played through the game. This then lead me to finding more videos and consequently discover ADGQ which almost feels like an esports event, as people speedrun a game live while crowds of people roar with cheer as they pull of a difficult glitch. I then soon learned there was a entire website of people speedrunning games twenty four hours a day (speedrunslive.com). Not only are runners somewhere in the world speedrunning games right now, there are also runners racing each other. I’ve have never really been much of a Sunday football watching kinda guy, but I guess I know the feeling now since watching speedrunners race each other can be quite exciting.
Speedrunning games is easy to get into. Just pick a game and finish it as fast as you can. Then play it again and do it quicker. Mastering the art of speedrunning is a true investment of time and patience. Speedrunners literally play the same game over and over again just to improve their times by a few seconds in hopes it will beat there PB (Personal Best) and in some cases grant them the WR (World Record). Runners will study the games to exploit every glitch possible, explore all routes and break the game in whatever way they can to get through the experience as quick as possible. The community of speedrunners is becoming increasingly popular online with forums dedicated to revealing the best routes through games. Some of the runners have access to the debugged game and can explore the game design in more detail to study the additional routes and exploits in the games framework. Most of these runners spend weeks and possibly years playing a game thousands of time just to shave off seconds from there records.
Records for every game can vary as well. Take Super Metroid for example. Theres a record for finishing the game 100% as well as finishing the game with just 1%. There are multiple categories per game and going either these routes may drastically change up the way the runner plays through the game. Some runners even go one crazy step further and speedrun games like Punch-Out!! on NES blindfolded, a game I can’t even conquer with my eyes open let alone closed. With the increasing popularity of twitch a vast majority of these speedrunners are able to stream there record attempts online. Many of these runners are so popular they are able to earn some money from advertising revenue.
You really won’t believe your eyes when you see certain runners breaking games like God of War 2 and Zelda: Ocarina of Time, games that come across as solid glitch free experiences are made to look shameful by runners. Even the developers of the games have been surprised by some of the secrets exposed by runners. Last year during one of the AGDQ charity events one of the developers of Borderlands 2 was left speechless as a runner exposed glitches in the game.
Much like when players find high scores for websites like Twin Galaxies, speedrunners record playthroughs and they are submitted for assessment to see if the record is legitimate and involves no cheating. In these particular sensitive scenarios the runner will also submit a second recording of themselves using the controller to play the game. Most records can be found on Speed Demos Archive.
Speedrunning is becoming increasing more popular over the internet. Just like the fighting Evo tournaments and League of Legends live events its continuous evidence that watching other people play video games is becoming just as popular as watching sports on TV.
I’m not the best speedrunner the only games I am able to complete quickly (and that just because I play them constantly) are Resident Evil 2 (PSone), Streets of Rage 2 (Mega Drive/Genesis) and Rainbow Islands (Arcade).
AGDQ is over now but you can revisit all the runs on YouTube. Be sure to check out their second charity marathon over the Summer cleverly titled “Summer Games Done Quick.”
Jam goes solo on this short show to round up all the Game Clubs we did over 2014
First and foremost, let me preface by saying that this entire post is in no way promotional. While I may link to a slew of items – using Amazon because it’s the only location to find all of these items, but many can be found elsewhere and sometimes at better prices – there is nothing in it for myself of Gaming History 101. We did not receive any of these items, all were purchased by the reviewer (ie: me, Fred Rojas) and none of the links here involve any kickback for purchasing through them as I’m told you can do with Amazon and of course, Gaming History 101 remains completely ad free. I am writing this piece because when I looked for buying advice online it was nothing but paid promotion, a few hardware reviews that are years old and speak nothing to the current state of these capture devices, and of course none of them had accurate information when it came to capturing retro devices. In a world where we want screenshots, streaming, video capture, and just to have fun with the prized possessions in our collection and share it with the world, capture devices are a great way to do so. I have also been told that capturing and streaming emulation, especially if you generate ad revenue (we are ad-free on GH101 as well as our YouTube channel), can be illegal and get your videos taken down so use caution if going that route. We only capture actual consoles with actual game carts/discs, and use flash carts when necessary for items like homebrew. Therefore, here is the most comprehensive review I can give with about as much geeky tech background as I can provide.
As stated in the intro, I wanted a device where I could both capture retro and modern consoles that also supported streaming, commentary, and a myriad of content creation options. I should also point out that my plans were, and currently consist, of importing almost all gameplay into Sony Platinum Video Suite 13 (formerly Vegas) for editing and rendering, so that does play a part in my opinions. I tested these devices on three computers, all of which I will provide basic spec for you now. In reviews, these will be labeled as Computers 1, 2, or 3.
Computer 1: Editing Rig
This computer is a strong but basic rig that runs Windows 7 64-bit Premium, has an Intel Core Duo 3.0 ghz processor, 2 GB of RAM, some Intel integrated graphics, multiple USB 2.0 ports, and is a desktop. I run my editing software on it and it has a massive hard drive for such work. I also have a slew of software to change content types, which I highly recommend if you’re getting into higher level editing and video production, like FLV extractor/re-encoders (for taking those Twitch streams and making them .mp4), Audacity (for audio editing and adapting), and capture devices.
Computer 2: Antiquated Laptop
I think everyone needs a laptop they no longer care about, and mine is a Sony Vaio that runs Vista Premium (32-bit), an Intel Celeron dual core 2.2 ghz, 4 GB of RAM, Intel integrated graphics, 2 USB 2.0 ports, and a massive 500 GB hard drive. It was my hope to do all the capturing here since I can compress and extract the clips I want for editing and just capture forever on this computer.
Computer 3: Gaming Rig
This computer runs Windows 7 64-bit Premium, has an AMD Phenom II 955 3.2 ghz quad core (overclocked to 3.6), 8 GB of RAM, NVidia GTX 970 (although I also worked with it on a GTX 760), and twin 7200 RPM 500GB hard drives (no RAID, no SSD), and it does have two USB 3.0 ports. I did not want to use this for game capture for several reasons, most notably that this computer has one purpose and that’s gaming, nothing else. I also have a graphics card that can capture and stream through Nvidia’s ShadowPlay, which despite the complaints I’ve heard, has never really given me any problems and had incredible capture quality. Still, it’s not as dependable as a capture card and there have been times where I’ve lost significant data (not to mention it’s a performance hit, like FRAPS is, on cards that are barely meeting benchmark for today’s games).
The Capture Devices
I am not interested in integrated cards because I don’t want it in my gaming rig and the other two computers don’t support add-on hardware, so that’s that. As a result, here is my breakdown of the cards I tried.
EasyCap USB Dongle for Composite/S-Video (Link) – Price: $8.99
It really couldn’t be that easy, could it? Actually, yes, for retro consoles looking exactly as they did this device delivers at a super budget price. It’s a bit goofy in terms of driver software and I had to go on the web, download six different drivers from random sites, and eventually one worked the way it should, but once it’s running it runs wonderfully. This comes with ULead Video Studio 8.0, which I recommend using various Googled means to get the updated 10.0 version (and you can do this legally with your EasyCap software’s registration code, but it’s complicated). This is the perfect starter capture device because it’s plug and play, reliable, and ULead even has some impressive editing abilities like picture-in-picture, dual audio/dual video tracks, support for images, transitions, and animation. Not to shabby a package for less than $10. Here’s the catch: the games won’t look good in today’s competitive landscape. Ever hooked an N64 up to an HDTV? Looks like crap. It will look similar on this device because of how compressed the video signal is, there’s no mid or post processing, and this device is limited. It also supports no resolution over 720×480 (widescreen 480p), although almost everything in composite or S-Video, especially retro consoles, will be 640×480 (full screen 480i) and it does have a de-interlace so it looks just fine. You also may want to consider not editing in ULead if you can avoid it because there is lots of blurring and mosaic effects as the result of rendering, but the captures themselves (especially when thrown into an external editor) look solid. I’ll provide some links to GH101 videos that we use this with, but as you’ll see in our YouTube library, this was the capture device I learned on and it served me quite well for almost two years. This device also worked on any computer I threw at it, even a 2.8 ghz single core Pentium 4 with 512 MB of RAM running Windows XP 32-bit. If you want to grab retro vids, do basic editing, and want just good enough quality, this is the capture device for you.
- Contra running composite (famicom cart on US NES) – captured and edited by ULead
- Primal Rage S-Video – skip to 25 mins in at 480p for actual comparison (Panasonic 3DO) – captured on ULead/EasyCap, edited in Sony Platinum 13 (all retro consoles captured by EasyCap)
- N64 S-Video EasyCap vs N64 S-Video Elgato – This shows quality difference between two hardware with same connections/source (you’ll see little difference)
- SNES/Genesis EasyCap composite versus SNES/Genesis S-video upscale to 720p comparison (to show how good it can look with some serious hardware behind it)
Blurex HD Capture Box (Link) – Price $79.99
As you can see the moment you try to do anything resembling modern capture devices, the price goes up considerably. The Blurex HD almost looks too good to be true, and in some ways it is. The box promises to let you hook up any HDMI or Component video device (PS3 needs to hook up via component video unless you find a way to strip HDCP – which this device accidentally does – but no illegal activity please) and allows the capturing of video to any connected USB device without the use of a computer. Keep in mind that Component Video (red/green/blue) cannot output higher than 1080i, no matter what you’ve heard/read/or your TV says, so don’t be mad if your PS3 captures in 720p (although 90 percent or more of PS3 games are in 720p via HDMI anyway unless you force the poor upscaler). It does allow you to use audio from a headphone source (that’s the blue “in”) for those HDMI no-sound and analog audio output people (like certain PC users), has a pink “MIC” jack for embedded audio commentary alongside your video, and a green “out” for using headphones to hear the audio if you so desire. It outputs everything in HDMI only, though, so you’ll need an HDMI tv to play on and the passthrough is lag free. In truth this does an amazing job and may be your only option if you do not want to involve a computer. After using the higher end capture cards I now appreciate the fact that commentary syncs up perfectly, the device auto detects the source (only supports 480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i, and 1080p and de-interlaces 480i/1080i), and captures in great quality. Here are the down sides: it doesn’t stream, it captures all video in 1.95 GB chunks (that’s so it can support FAT32 USB drives), it won’t tell you if it runs into problems (you’ll just lose part of the capture), it has no support for composite video, and the MP4 format it uses isn’t liked by almost any software but what’s included and ULead. If you plan to capture these videos and directly upload to YouTube, especially if you only have a 15 minute limit on YouTube (1.95 is exactly 15 mins in 1080p), this is a perfect solution. The second you want to edit, stream, or even have a reliable source to capture to (ie: you care if you lose part of the recording), then it’s probably not for you. I should note that under 30 mins I rarely lost parts of a recording, but for those long 30-2 hour captures, it got unreliable consistently. Another recommendation is to use a 2.0 compliant flash media to capture (16-32 GB should be more than enough and costs about $5-$10 online) because it hated my Lacie 1 TB USB hard drive and dropped recordings constantly. As a bare-bones HD capture device it’s great, but you can rule out most retro consoles. Don’t send surround sound through HDMI on this either, it creates an odd sound signal in the capture, but also keep in mind that almost no capture device also grabs 5.1 and none via HDMI. I have no comparison videos because I decided to return this item when I realized it didn’t work with my editing software. The quality was identical to these other cards below (I think it’s MBPS encoding was 14, which is quite good and YouTube doesn’t benefit from anything over 6).
Roxio Game Capture HD Pro (Link) – Price $99.99
After my failure with the Blurex I decided to get back to a true capture device. My next step was the Roxio Game Capture HD Pro, which I selected over the half price Game Capture HD because it did both component and HDMI, whereas the the regular Game Capture HD is Component only. It needed a dual core processor of at least 2.0 and 2 GB of RAM, so I liked that all the PCs I had could work with it (especially the laptop), and the included software allowed me to capture and stream. I had also heard that it could capture composite video if I hook the yellow video cable into one of the three component video inputs (either blue, green, or red and just try each and see what works). This turned out not to be the case, the device never detected a video signal and thus never even allowed me to try composite, so I returned this almost immediately due to the fact that it did not capture old school (although my EasyCap does quite well in the old school world but I wanted to stream retro). It also has the same HDMI problem that all capture cards do with the PS3 (see my review of the Blurex above to remove that headache, if you wish), but otherwise I was impressed with the capture and stream. Then, like always, with two weeks of testing and longer runs of 1 hour+ streaming and 2 hours+ recording I started to see problems. Recordings would get jostled around, pixelate, blur, and at times even repeat themselves. Furthermore the streams would get goofy and I would end up with Twitch streams that my viewers said were unwatchable, out of sync, and it would result in my video library having like 100+ 30 second clips that were glitched to high hell. I wouldn’t mind all this if the software ever told me, but according to the software everything was great. Even more odd was that I had the most problems, as you would suspect, on Computer 2 (it barely made spec), but Computer 3 (gaming rig) tended to have major issues too and it had a powerhouse of hardware behind it. It just seems to me that a particular build type of computer was in mind for this Roxio and if you moved outside those designated lines it wouldn’t work properly. If you try this and it works for you, that’s great, because I assure you the quality of the videos is not in question here, just the consistency. Without retro streaming and with these hiccups I gave up and decided I would have to spend a bit more. I also decided I would not accept a capture card that didn’t allow me to stream retro consoles either.
Elgato Game Capture HD (Link) – Price $149.99
Given that it was at price parity with the other option (Hauppauge HD PVR 2 below), the most popular and widely regarded capture device I could find was the Elgato Game Capture HD. There was a recently released Game Capture HD 60, which captured at 60 frames per second and not 30, but it was incompatible with the retro console dongle (a $10 add-on from the Elgato web site that adds composite and S-Video) so I went with this one. It had steep requirements for a PC, namely at least 2.0 ghz dual core and 4 GB of RAM (the RAM being the bigger and more expensive problem), and if you scour the web you will find that the Elgato acts really goofy if you use antiquated software (ie: streaming issues, audio sync issues, bad recordings, etc). This little box really does it all: it streams, it captures, it does both at the same time automatically, it has a 15 minute buffer in case you don’t want to capture and just want to grab cool moments after they happen, it supports all video formats and allows you to manipulate them (ie: capture at 1080p but stream at 720p, etc), and it has its own editor and MP4 converter (because all high end streams are usually in raw MPEG-2 .ts format). You can also plug the yellow composite into the red component video slot (putting the audio in the separate audio ports) for retro gaming right out of the box, the dongle is just for S-Video (with a quality boost, of course). The down side for me was that only my gaming rig (computer 3) worked with it – Computer 1 didn’t have enough RAM and Computer 2 was min specs and had all of the problems I had seen. I did not like having to install all this software and screw with my gaming rig one bit (had to update my Win 7 to SP1 and install .NET Frame 4.0, both of which may be ideal from a securities and regular use standpoint but I had avoided by only playing games on it). Furthermore it still didn’t work properly most of the time without a bunch of fiddling with. For starters the software is now at 2.0 (or so) and it had all kinds of install issues, then once it finally started it needed me to disable video and audio preview to not have audio sync issues, and every now and again the software would crash while converting to MP4 format, leaving me with lost footage. Now I’m sure some people out there had no software install issues (well I did), Elgato claims that a “decent” rig doesn’t need to disable these features (I can run Shadow of Mordor at ultra in 1440p, what the hell does this thing need?), and my editing software can easy work with .ts to make an MP4 but not everyone has 3rd party editing software nor should they be required to. I also had problems with the microphone in that on my computer it would sometimes cause the Elgato to not be recognized (and visa versa), which according to Elgato support (great support staff, btw) is a “known issue” but they have no good solution. The old Twitch issue with 100 30 second vids came back as well, which they suggested is my Internet, however I’m doubting that more and more given that my speed test is a consistent 30 mbps down and up (I have a fiber optic line) and I don’t have those streaming problems with my PS4, Xbox One, Nvidia ShadowPlay, or other capture devices, so it’s gotta be some odd hiccup with the Elgato on my rig. With all those compromises, hundreds of cords, and the need to hook my gaming rig up to another display device than my TV (not to mention the lack of portability), I just couldn’t take it. After re-installing drivers a few times, having tons of problems, and whatnot I decided that this wasn’t going to meet my needs. Although if you don’t have these problems the quality is amazing, my entire Conker’s Bad Fur Day LiveStream (in S-Video with the retro dongle) used the Elgato, which worked flawlessly for almost 14 hours and my Resident Evil HD Remaster video was also captured on it with impressive results, but that is two rare cases out of the nearly dozen I tried over two weeks. I should also point out it has the highest recording and streaming quality options, it automatically drops the game sound when you speak in a mic (although it suffered some lag issues), and it allows you to adjust livestreams and recording with tag info on the fly as well as telling you how many live viewers you have. Fortunately you can return it to retailers (in my case Micro Center) with ease if it doesn’t work for you.
Hauppauge HD PVR 2 Gaming Edition (Link) – Price $199.99
Finally we come to the last, and my personal favorite, the Hauppauge HD PVR 2 Gaming Edition, which is a half step down at 30 fps from the Gaming Edition Pro that supports 60 fps and 5.1 via optical port, but you guessed it, doesn’t support component or retro consoles. The PVR 2 Gaming Edition was the capture device of choice as recently as Black Ops 2, but in recent years the quality and options of the Elgato have blown it away. I’m not about to claim otherwise, so I highly recommend doing as I did and trying these devices before committing (ie: buy from a store, not online), but for my setup and my needs it is by far the best with some major caveats. Since all of the video capturing, processing, and output is handled by the box you can use older hardware with it. Hauppauge recommends 2.0 ghz dual core with at least 2 GB of RAM, but frankly I’ve read online about people using 1.5 ghz dual cores and even 3.4 ghz single cores without much issue (I tried it on a super old laptop I had that was 1.3 ghz dual core and 1 GB of RAM, and it worked but not too well). On the other hand, my Computer 2 (laptop), that just skirted by at minimum spec handles this like a dream. I can capture really anything and at this point have zero concerns about audio sync, capture quality, stream quality, etc. and that peace of mind is priceless to me. Now, this all comes with some acceptances you need to make first. On the forefront of those problems is that the Hauppauge software is quite rough, does require the SP1 and 4.0 NetFrame to work, and if you don’t have it all installed at first will fail on your first installation (just install a second time and it’ll work fine after that). Also the software itself is so GUI and user friendly that it’s almost a disservice to the custom user because very little can be adjusted or tweaked. Basically it’s true plug-and-play: open the software, pick the video/audio source, add the microphone if need be, choose record or stream, and go. There’s even a massive black button on the top to start/stop recording from the box if you don’t want to deal with the computer part. This box only allows you to capture at 13 mbps, which is more than twice what YouTube can handle but some still swear that if you capture/render in 22 mbps or higher it looks better on YouTube, not my experience with the Elgato or ShadowPlay (which can capture at up to 50 mbps). For the record, YouTube compresses this stuff heavily and never has a higher stream than 6 mbps and it rarely gets that high. You also can’t stream and record (at least as far as I can tell) so if you stream and want to keep it you have to stream to Twitch (at, say, 720p) and then pray that when you export it to YouTube or download it back from Twitch that it keeps the resolution because that’s the only way to get your hands on it. It’s also so precise at capturing video that I thought there was an audio lag issue with Final Fight on my 360, but it turns out that lag was from the game and I was noticing it on the capture card (it was a test recording), so kudos to that and I have had no audio sync or even mic sync issues at this point. On the other hand, the streams I take are MPEG-2 .ts files and if you try to convert to .mp4 within the provided software, there will be an audio lag issue. On the net most suggest to use a 3rd party converter like Handbrake (which is free and works well but takes a long time to convert) and luckily Sony Video Suite 13 has no issues working with .ts (all HD captures in the Primal Rage video came from the Hauppauge), but keep that in mind if you go this route. The fact that it works with my laptop, records/streams with ease, and just plain works allows me to forgive the lack of high end quality, lack of record and stream simultaneously options, and of course this thing needs a lot of cords (power, USB, and HDMI) and a bit of space (box is just above palm size). It also has a composite/S-video dongle that’s $15 on the Hauppauge web site, but you can also hook composite into the component area (yellow into blue on this particular box) and it works just fine. It’s the most expensive and kinda dated, but for my needs the Hauppauge rains supreme.
- Composite SD Capture in 480p
- SD upscaled to 720p by PS3 then captured in 720p
- HD capture (all arcade captures)
PS4 and Xbox One: Both of these have built in streaming, which is great but my few issues and why I generally don’t like using the included capture solutions are limited 15 minute recordings and a compromise while streaming of either real estate on the screen or not being able to see the chat via the console. Oh, and there’s also like a 30-60 second delay from when it’s typed into chat to when it shows on screen, which usually defeats the purpose because the comment is no longer relevant. I also hate that the video on my screen is 1080p, streams in 720p, and often gets converted by YouTube when I export to 480p (according to Twitch and YouTube this is a process that happens on the back end and there’s no getting around it). Then again, these are free solutions.
Nvidia ShadowPlay: When it was first in beta I wasn’t a big fan, but now that it’s in later revisions, has desktop capture, and I have a 970, I love this software. It can capture or stream with literally the push of a button, I can add my mic, and there’s no lag anywhere. Also the quality is by far the best I’ve ever seen for both capture and stream and the desktop display allows me to grab items like Hearthstone or Strife that I used to not be able to. The down side is that even with a GTX 760, a decent mid-range card, I had issues with performance drop on most games when I used it. Thankfully with the 970 I’ve had little issue, but that’s some steeply priced hardware so I feel it better work well. Anyway, for the PC Elitist, it’s a decent option.
Keep in mind that when you check out my YouTube, I’ve used all combinations of these devices to capture, but you can easily get by with just one or two. This is meant to be a buyers guide and less of a formal review. What has been your experience? Let us know in the comments below.
I really wanted to write a article on this port but rather than doing an actual review I thought it may be more interesting just to discuss what this game does differently from the arcade version it is based on.
Several ports of Ghouls’N Ghosts came out from the microcomputers like the ZX Spectrum all the way to the consoles like the Sega Mega Drive (Genesis). For the time it was practically released on everything except Nintendo consoles – yep, look it up, this particular game has never graced a Nintendo console. One port that certainly deserved recognition is the attempt made on the Sega Master System.
When you boot up the Master System version of Ghouls’N Ghosts you are greeted to the familiar soundtrack from the original version in cute Master System form. Pretty much any soundtrack that is successfully converted on the Master System brings a smile to my face. This port really is one you have to try not judge by its cover. The box art for Master System version looks like some young persons fan art doodled on the typical Master System grid paper background, saying it it is still better than any box art I could come up with. Put this next to the far superior Mega Drive box art and you would be forgiven for choosing the later to take home. Saying that I do have a lot of nostalgia for the awful Master System box art, its so bad its brilliant.
Just like most ports of the game this does include all 5 levels from the arcade version. All the boss fights are also included. The graphics take a massive 8 – bit hit to them and character animations are not as smooth. Unlike the Arcade each level is split into two sections and the boss fights are also fought in a separate room as well to accommodate for the Master Systems limited processing power. There are less enemies on screen which you would think would make the game easier but you’ll find your constantly dealing with enemy threats as you venture through each level. Sure it looks pretty poor (like the box art) compared to other versions but its very impressive that the developers managed to cram the entire game into this little cartridge.
This particular port truly feels unique and different from any other version of the game. The main draw here is you can permanently upgrade Arthur’s abilities. When you open a chest during gameplay you will often get the evil magician guy who turns you into a duck or a old man. However, once in a blue moon you will get a door instead, entering the room will present you with three upgrade options (though there are actually four abilities to upgrade). You only get one choice each time the door appears but the effects are permanent even if you have to continue to game after loosing all your lives. Upgrading your Helmet will give you a new magic spell which can then be selected in the pause menu. Of Course this being the Master System your expected to get off your backside and walk over to the console to press the pause button. You start with lightening and fire spells but soon unlock shield which is probably the most helpful spell in the game as it makes Arthur temporarily invincible (this feels similar to the game Psychic World also on Master System).
Upgrading your shoes makes Arthur walk quicker and jump further which seems essential in the second level of this game when you need to jump across very distance platforms. When I started playing the game Arthur’s movement and jump are so slow I thought there was something wrong with the port. Once you start upgrading the guy zips around a lot more smoothly, probably on par with the arcade port. Upgrading the Armour upgrades your hit points and changes the colour of Arthurs armour it goes Silver, Red, Green then of course Gold. Upgrading to Gold will give you 4 additional health points making the game significantly easier,. You don’t get stripped down to your undies after one hit like other ports of the game. You can upgrade your weapon which essentially cycles through the weapons available in the arcade version like the dagger and the axe. This upgrade can actually be a bad thing as weapons like the axe throw in a arc making some enemies harder to hit when compared to the far more useful javelin. Once you upgrade your weapon you can not go backwards. Fortunately the final weapon upgrade which is the spell required to defeat the final boss is very useful and works just like the javelin.
Just like the arcade you still have to finish the game twice through to get to the final boss. Unlike the other games this is where the Master System has a glaring problem. You are expected to fully upgrade all your armour and weapons and then get the final weapon. Upgrading is very rare in the game and it is not uncommon to finish a entire level without upgrading anything, when you have to upgrade each ability three times each this can be quite a chore. If you reach the final level on your second playthrough and still haven’t upgraded everything you will literally repeat the final level over and over again until you do. I literally played the last level about six times before I finally got every upgrade making for a ridiculously tedious experience. I probably would have found it more enjoyable just to play through the entire game again a third time with the new upgrades. What I found hilarious is once you finally make it to the final boss encounter, Arthur is so overly powerful the boss is a complete white wash. He is literally easier than the boss in the first level and stands no chance. The Master System port is by no means perfect but it is a ton of fun to play especially if your a fan of the system. The ports legacy did inspire some design choices in the SNES game Super Ghouls’N Ghosts where a shield can give you more than one hit point.
At the end of the day the question remains: is the Master System port worth playing?
Answer: Absolutely, yes the game has graphical flaws and works with hardware limitations. But this is a great example of developers using such hardware restrictions and building on the game creating a unique experience that stands proudly on its own.
Did you know we did an entire episode dedicated to the Ghouls’N Ghost franchise? You can find it here.
The PSP, the portable console that really failed to catch a audience in the west. In this article I come out and defend the poor console which seems to receive a surprising amount of hate in the gaming community. Ok, so the little analogue nub is a bit irritating and the battery life is a bit naff and there are some questionable models of the console that are just flat out awful.
A little background on my experience with the console. I avoided this system like some handheld plague mostly due to the horrific world of mouth the console received from my brother who owed the system as well as the gaming media itself. Its not hard to find some entertaining YouTube video that pokes fun at the attempts Sony made to market the system and how it was destroyed by the Nintendo DS in sales. Anyway, one fateful day I was visiting my parents and on clearing some junk from my old bedroom I came across my brothers PSP model 1000 which was so unloved it was shoved behind the radiator and just left there. Since by this stage in my life I was doing incredibly long commutes on the train on a daily basis which would take up to five hours of my day I was desperate to fill the void of boredom. IOS games at this stage were starting to be a big thing but they just didn’t do it for it. Try playing Bejewelled for 5 hours, you will have the most creepy nightmares you never thought possible, or maybe that’s just me. So I refurbished the poor PSP, gave it a new battery, brought a large memory card off ebay at a incredibly cheap price and then proceeded to load the system with PSone nostalgia. I owned a lot of games already as I owned a PS3 by this point. From there the rest is history, my train commutes suddenly flew by as I listened to podcasts and played PSP. Some time later I managed to acquire a red PSP model 3000 which is lighter and just runs better. I also started to enjoy games for the console itself as opposed to just sticking to the oldies. Despite owning a Psvita I still find myself reaching for the console everytime I go away, have work trips or just want to play on the sofa while my partner waches something on telly. So yeah I dig the PSP
Even with more modern handhelds now on the market like IOS and android mobiles, the 3DS and even PSVita, let’s see if I can convince you that the PSP is a console still worth adding to your retro collection.
Number One: It’s very cheap right now
As most collectors know the consoles go through their traditional pricing cycle. They start expense and with time slowly get cheaper, then once the console and games start to become uncommon the price begins to rise. Well collectors the prime time is now to nab the PSP deals at most retailers are selling the consoles and even the games for a very cheap price to make room for the new consoles like the PS4 and Xbox One. Car boots, charity shops, Craigs list are more stocked with the system and games because for similar reasons people are getting rid of stuff to make room for the new. This is especially the prime time to pick up those rarer games like RPGs before they spike in price.
Number Two: Games for every gamer type
Something that really stands out on the PSP over other platforms is just how unique a lot of the games are and how wide spread the genres are. There really is something for every gamer here, you won’t see tons of FPS here flooding the catalogue. Yes, a lot of the games are dumbed down ports available on better systems at the time but believe it or not some PS2 games were ports of PSP games.
Crisis Core: Final Fantasy 7 – action RPG
Disgaea series -JRPG
Silent Hill Origins –survival horror
Lumines – Music Puzzler
Motorstorm: Artic Edge – Racing
Daxter – Platformer
Resistance: Retribution – Third person shooter
Patapon – Rhythm Strategy
Half Minute Hero – Awesome speedy RPG (probably my favourite game on the console)
There are a surprising amount of hidden gems on the consoles too. There are many experimental games on the consoles that developers took a chance on before deciding whether they were worth releasing on other consoles. Since the console obviously didn’t do that well most these games never saw a console release leaving a huge catalogue of hidden gems you can only find on this device.
Number Three: Its like a portable PSone
Though I understand graphics are not everything especially when it comes to retro gaming. My nostalgia for this system reminds me very much of the launch of the PSone. Yes I am aware the PSone slim had a LCD attachment turning the system into a kinda portable device. Here in the UK I have never seem anyone lug around a Psone. The PSP was one of the first handhelds to do 3D gaming well and it looked amazing on a portable device. Of course compared to consoles they did not look amazing. But it was different and stood out as something a bit different especially when compared to the handhelds main competition the Nintendo DS. It really felt like you were playing a more refined PSone in your hand. Some will debate the graphics at times are on par with even the PS2 but that is very much up for debate.
Number Four: Load up on those games for on the go. Good times!
This probably speaks more to those who travel a lot like myself. One of my favourite things about the PSP is you can shove a massive memory card in it for a small price (I go for the 32Gb) and then you can just download literally tons of games onto it. Yes the Playstation store is now dead on the PSP and you no longer go to the store to buy games but if you own a PS3 or PSVita and buy any PSP compatible game through the store you can still download it to the PSP. For reasons unknown there is still some PSone titles that are compatible with the PSP and not the PSVita. I have over thirty PSone games that are ready to play all loaded on the PSP so if I have a long journey, or I am going away on holiday I know I will unlikely be bored as I have plenty of choice from the download catalogue. Also if you are good with emulation this system is widely considered one of the best handhelds to play emulated games on having hundreds of games at your disposal. Emulation also allows you to play games from other systems like the Mega Drive/Genesis and the SNES.
Number Five: That cool standby feature
This point is so awesome it deserves its own spot. By far one of my favourite things about this system is how you can literally pause whatever you’re doing in any game at any time by flipping the standby switch on. Say you have to change trains, take a phone call, go to work whatever. You can leave the PSP in your bag for several hours and continue exactly where you left off later. This feature alone has allowed me to replay games like Final Fantasy 7 and other long games which have awkward save features all the way through without having to turn the system off early because something has come up. Imagine you’re on the last boss or watching some stupidly long cutscene but you have to go because something came up this feature saves your bacon. Of course this feature has become more popular in more handheld devices like the 3DS and continues to be a feature on the PSvita but it’s certainly a lesson the modern consoles can learn from.
So there are a few points I missed about the system such as it can play movies and music. To be honest most of that stuff is not what retro gamers look for in a system and a lot of the features such as the Playstation store and viewing comic books have now been shut down on the system.
At the end of the day the system stands out as very unique by itself. If you’re a fan of the PSone era of gaming this system is an absolute must. To most gamers I recommend the system the same why I got into it, find a cheap model, test the water with the games and let the good gaming times roll. Maybe I convinced you, but more likely I probably displayed what a fan boy I am for the forgotten portable.
Recently I’ve seen a disturbing trend with contemporary console gamers, which is the hatred of console exclusives. I don’t get this. I get that there’s almost no reason to do so because from a business standpoint the publisher wants a game as available as possible, the developer definitely wants as many gamers to get their hands on the game and enjoy the fruits of its labors, and gamers definitely want everything available to them. I also know that most gamers hate to hear about all the development studios that close on an annual basis and if the console exclusivity amounts mitigate or remove the risk of releasing a new game, I can admit I would probably “sell out” too. There are also benefits to exclusivity that can include getting the highest quality game for that console because all resources will be dedicated to that single piece of hardware and lets not forget the fact that in cases like Bayonetta 2, it was the only way certain games would see the light of day. Without third party exclusives there’s little that differentiates these consoles from one another – don’t get into that stupid “who has more ‘p’s debate” either, I can’t stand it and almost no one can visually see the difference. If we get more third party console exclusives we may also get more games coming out because development studios don’t have to worry about supporting each and every version that releases and can move onto the next big project without worrying about those first month sales.
There was a time when third party exclusives were an ongoing way of life. My cousin wanted to play Mortal Kombat with blood just as much as I wanted to play Super Mario World, but the reality was we just had to deal with the hardware we had. Aladdin was different on the Genesis and the SNES and to this day can spark an unwinnable debate that will go for hours. In the end the purpose for the argument, and most likely what side you are on, has to do with which one you played growing up. It all makes business sense when you think about it. Microsoft wants Rise of the Tomb Raider so that in fall 2015 they can compete with Uncharted 4 just as Sony hedges its bets on the fighter community with Street Fighter V while Microsoft tries to close its grip on first person shooters with Titanfall. It keeps things interesting coming off of the nearly identical worlds that were the late Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 days. Lets face it, those two consoles were nearly identical in the end, with your preference coming down to trivial facts like which one still worked or which one was hooked up to your main television. I don’t like that, I want differentiation. Give me exclusive content, give me exclusive games, give me sides to pick when deciding which is best. This is exclusivity.
I know many will complain that they cannot afford to purchase multiple consoles and that plenty others will argue that gamers should be able to play whatever they want provided the hardware can sustain it, but if that was true you may risk to see the end of competition. The Playstation 4 had a clear lead over the Xbox One right out of the gate and that lead has continued for nearly the last year, so if it weren’t for console exclusives and the need to push into the marketplace, the Xbox One would be forced out and you would have to play every game on a Playstation 4. I don’t like that, especially because as of late I’m growing more fond of my Xbox One (I own both). Also, what’s to get you to buy an Xbox One if all of the games are on PS4? Before the majority group, PS4 owners, gets all snarky and asks what’s wrong with that, realize that if that logic held true you would have no Playstation 4 because the Playstation 3 would have been forced out of the market by the Xbox 360 long ago. Competition is good, exclusivity is good, and gaming is better for it. Keep that in mind every time you jump into an online board and complain that it’s the worst thing in the world that your console isn’t getting a game you want. Without that fact, we wouldn’t have competition.