Metro Exodus

Or a better title would be “Why I Hate Metro Exodus”

I’m pretty sure this is why they didn’t want the game out on Steam anymore.

Metro Exodus was one of the video games I was looking forward to playing and had really high hopes for, but it disappointed in about every way possible.

Although it does have its great moments with interesting new elements like highly customisable weapons, crafting your own ammo, and a bit of vehicle driving (for which they’ve taken inspiration from Far Cry and other open world games), the game disappoints with quite a few elements, starting from the very beginning with the controls.

It’s clearly dedicated to using a controller, even if you’re playing it on a PC – and in the developers’ own words, it’s a “PC shooter at heart” – so if you’re using the keyboard and mouse to play, the controls are awkward, non intuitive, and aiming with the mouse is always a chore, unless you have a gaming mouse with multiple sampling speeds to accelerate it.

Starting with the first part of the story after the train is introduced, annoyances really get into the scene, and even if you can ignore some of them, it’s impossible not to get bored of seeing floating objects and enemies above chairs and sofas, NPCs that casually clip though tables and other objects, and no matter where in the story you made it to, it doesn’t matter if the enemy has seen you or not, they always yell “die, bitch!” or looping some other thinking out loud lines like “what am I even doing here?”

The enemy AI is really dumb. Sometimes monsters are spawned instantly the moment you set foot in a room, and other times they just sit there no different than if they were dead, only to start a useless awakening animation when you’re immediately next to them and then attack you in such a way that the game is forcing you to mash the USE button.

The classic cheated enemy aiming is also here. Enemies that shot projectiles at you will have a waiting time to aim (this probably varies according to the selected difficulty), but once they do fire, they never miss a shot. Worse, sometimes bullets clip though walls in order to hit you. However, your own weapons have recoil that gets worse and worse – the weapon gets “dirtier”, even though it has no reason to do so.

With only possibly one exception, every enemy I’ve encountered once they’re aware you might be in the area, they will have 360 degree vision, and no matter if you’re sitting in front of them, behind them or above them, if there is no wall between you and them, they will immediately spot you, sound the alarm and then gather up in the area to shoot you.

The thing I just can not stand, and completely ruined the fun for me is certain enemies are invincible and they’re tied to unnecessary cutscenes (the bear in particular). I really hate that part, it disgusts me to the point I want to get my money back. I can take a lot of stupidity from games, but cheated enemies I can never forgive, no matter the reason. The cut scene didn’t trigger for me, at least not the last time I’ve played it, yesterday, by the way.

Overall, the game is a huge disappointment. Maybe a little more effort should’ve been put into the enemy mechanics and less emphasis on the graphics which wouldn’t be that much noticeable on the consoles the game seems to be dedicated to, anyway.

You know what… I will sue the next time I see an invincible enemy tied to a cut scene.


Update March 9th, 2019:
I finally finished Metro Exodus. I got the so called “good ending.” I have one last thing to say about it. The end did bring tears to my eyes but the rest of the game was awful. Maybe you should focus on GAMEPLAY & AI rather than giving male genitalia to mutant ratmoles and gorillas… Realism is about the behaviour and functionality, not about… that.

Why I keep playing games on Hard / Insane / Nightmare difficulty

I wanted to write something about this but I got stuck on the idea myself. This started right in the morning as I woke up and started getting ready to go to work. Sometimes I randomly space out and think about different things I wanted to do but forgot, or didn’t have time to, or just didn’t feel like doing them for various reasons.

A random video I watched a few days ago popped into my mind, called “A Critique of The Mind Game” – someone’s personal critique for the 2017 game Prey. Among other things, he mentioned that, because the game’s name coincides with another game from 2006, it is misunderstood and it didn’t get as much praise as it should, while it resembles the Bioshock games quite well, and those games are very highly rated. Then I remembered I never finished Bioshock Infinite.

I believe I’ve started a new game about five times, and never even got to finish half of it, let alone the whole game. The last time I’ve started a new game, I obviously selected the hardest difficulty, as I also did for the Redux version of Bioshock (which I didn’t get to finish yet). So… why am I doing this?

The answer to that consists in a few reasons, amongh which the most important to me is… bragging rights: I play games on a high difficulty because I want to get the achievements related to playing the game that way, so I have proof and get to brag about it. That’s part of the satisfaction you get after finishing a video game that way. If you do play it hardcore but don’t have proof to back up your claim, then the satisfaction you get from it is just… bitter sweet. Also, the fact that, whenever reasonably possible, I play a video game directly on the hardest difficulty possible, comes from the fact that I really doing things more than once. I don’t want to play a video game more than once, unless it really has something to give for that fact, like multiple endings or a completely different story. So, I play it once and when I’m done with it, I’m done with it.

With few exceptions, making it insanely hard from the very beginning, while making the game extremely frustrating, it also makes it quite fun, and it gives you the feeling that you’re playing it as it was actually meant to be played. I’m actually serious, there were times when I got bored with games quickly, because they were easy.

I said there are a few exceptions. Well, Resident Evil would be one of them.

I play video games directly on the hardest difficulty when that difficulty is completely reasonable. But, like the case of Resident Evil 7 (and probably Resident Evil 2 2018 as well), that difficulty is either locked or completely unfair and unreasonable. It may be quite an achievement to finish them directly on Madhouse / Insane / Nightmare / whatever, but because of the difference in game play, extreme frustration and lack of enjoyment, it completely eliminates the feeling of accomplishment following it.

That’s what I had to say about the Resident Evil games. I do like them, they’re very good, but they’re quite frustrating and can be really unfair at times, and there’s only a finite amount of bullshit I can take. When the game only starts being annoying and the fun factor doesn’t exist anymore, it’s not worth it, and I’ll probably cheat too, just to makes things even and fair again. Of course, playing it isn’t worth it anymore at that point.

Speaking of cheating…

A lot of times while I’m playing video games I get highly annoyed, angry, filled with rage at times, but… I’m not angry at the game. I am angry at the programmers who designed the game, and I often curse them, not the game, because making the game difficult is one thing, but making the game clearly cheat is a totally different matter. That is the case with many games in which if you’re doing too well, a random powerful enemy will be spawned somewhere close to you (or preferably immediately behind you so you can’t do anything to avoid it), dice will not even try being random anymore, every single bullet which enemies shoot at you will hit you no matter the angle, and so on (not to mention the fact that enemies always have infinite ammo, no matter what), and enemies which you have spend all your ammo on will respawn.

I’m all in for the challenge, but only if it’s fair. If the game is purposely built to annoy you, then why spend money on it at all? Oh, by the way, I’m not referring to Resident Evil anymore. I’m actually referring to a few other games I’ve played which give in game opponents unfair abilities, boosts or different stats that can not be obtained by the player in any way.

That kind of in game behaviour sometimes just makes you either completely hate the game, or rapidly become bored of it. I know a player can learn to exploit the way the game engine is built – like the limited area in which AI characters can roam, but let’s be serious, these things wouldn’t even have to happen if it wasn’t for what I’ve mentioned earlier.

Securing Windows Firewall

UPDATE:

I've just found out that sometimes a Windows bug can appear that will not make the changes permanent until after doing them the second time around, after the first system reboot. Upon investigation, I've come to the conclusion that the problem is caused by how User Account Control is managing Group Policy Editor requests.

To get around this problem, start cmd.exe as Administrator, and start Group Policy Editor from there (write "start gpedit.msc" and press the Enter key).

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For a long time, Windows Firewall has been avoided completely because it is extremely easy for programs to just use its API to add themselves to the exceptions list.

However, what most people don't know is that starting with Windows Vista, the way Windows Firewall works has been entirely different. It can actually be secured. The problem is this would only work if you had version that included the Pro features, which - in Microsoft's description - would be useful only to office environments.


I've searched the web for quite a while before I found out about this option, and it isn't documented properly either, so I've decided to make this little tutorial in order to help others who wish to make use of Windows Firewall, because it is actually a really good lightweight alternative to third party programs which may or may not work with future updates (or upgrades) of Windows.


In order for this to work, your version of Windows must be able to use the Group Policy Editor. If you have, for example, Windows 10 Pro, then you can access it by typing "gpedit" in the start menu, and the search function should point you to a Microsoft Management Console (mmc.exe) option which isn't shown by default in Computer Management. If it doesn't, you can either access it by entering the Run command window (Windows Key + R), or open mmc.exe and then from the menu bars click (and you will also need to have administrator rights):

File → Add/Remove Snap-in... → Group Policy Object.

Click Finish when a window appears, and then click OK in the initial Add or Remove Snap-ins window.

In the Local Computer Policy you can now see two branches:

  • Computer Configuration
  • User Configuration

The one you will be interested in is the Computer Configuration. Keep expanding the sub-branches until you get to Windows Firewall with Advanced Security like in the image:

Windows Settings → Security Settings → Windows Firewall with Advanced Security

In more recent versions of Windows 10, Microsoft had renamed it to "Windows Defender Firewall with Advanced Security", but it's obviously the same thing.

From here, the point is to force Windows Firewall to ignore anything you can find in the normal "Advanced" configuration window, which you can access from Control Panel. In order to do this, right click on the Windows Firewall with Advanced Security - Local Group Policy Object, and select Properties.

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In this window there are three important tabs:

  1. Domain Profile
  2. Private Profile
  3. Public Profile

IPsec Settings are not currently important for this purpose.

Each of the mentioned tabs contain the following options you will be interested in:

  • Firewall state
  • Inbound connections
  • Outbound connections
  • Settings - Customize

If you wish to force the firewall to be on and not allow programs to change that, you will have to set the Firewall state to "On (recommended)" on each of the three tabs. For that matter, every action from now on will also be necessary on each of the three tabs.

The Inbound connections option tells Windows Firewall what to do with incoming connection requests in case no other firewall rule specifies otherwise. If you wish to be able to allow some firewall exceptions, set it to Block (default).

The Outbound connections option tells Windows Firewall what to do when programs try to initiate connections from your machine to another machine, it doesn't matter if it is in your internal local network or the outside internet. Unless you have any reason not to allow yourself to access the network (but without allowing access to your own PC, of course), you want this to "Allow (default)".

If you do not specify Allow here, you will have to add a rule for every single program you wish to allow to connect to the internet or even to the network, including whatever personal file servers you may have on your local network.

Next, the important part which will make Windows Firewall ignore any other rules than those we specify in Group Policy Editor: Settings - "Customize..." button.

WinFirewall4

Since the whole point is to forbid programs from getting incoming connections unless we explicitly create specific exceptions in Group Policy Editor, all the settings will have to be set to No here, with the exception of Unicast response, which isn't important for this purpose.

The Rule merging setting will tell Windows Firewall to either accept or not accept the rules from the Control Panel exceptions list. When set to No, then the Control Panel applet becomes useless. You can test this yourself if you wish.

Like I mentioned earlier, every profile tab (Domain, Private and Public) must be set individually, so in order to set the firewall properly, you will have to repeat these steps on each tab, including the Customize button to open this window.

From now on, your Windows PC won't accept any incoming connections, unless you will add them like in the following example. Also, if you selected Block for outgoing connections, you will have to do the same for programs you wish to allow to access the network or the internet, but the procedure is the same. The only difference is you will have to do it for Outbound rules.

To allow a program to receive incoming connections:

Step 1: Right-click on Inbound Rules, and select "New Rule..."

Step 2: In the wizzard window which appears, keep the Program option selected, and click Next.

WinFirewall6

Step 3: You have to specify the path to the .exe file which you wish to allow incoming connections to. The easiest way to do this is to actually use a shortcut for the program. Click on the "Browse..." button, and browse up to the .exe file. If you have a shortcut handy, double click the shortcut inside the browse window, and the wizzard will automatically complete the full path to the .exe file.

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If you used a shortcut to specify the path, then it might look like in the image above. Don't worry if "%ProgramFiles%" appears in your program path as well. It will work. Click next.

Step 4: Windows Firewall wants to know what kind of rule this is. You can select to allow or to block the connection. The block option is useful in some cases, because even if there is an allow exception for a program, if there is also a block one for the same program, then the allow one is ignored. This is useful when you want to make sure certain services aren't accessible to the network. Select Allow the connection, and click Next.

WinFirewall8

Step 5: Remember the three tabs? Windows uses the current IP subnet to determine if your PC is currently connected to either a private local network, the public internet, or an office domain network (which unlike the other two, is activated once your PC joins an Active Directory domain).

If you wish a certain program to only be allowed to accept incoming connections when a profile you specified its type (when asked by Windows the first time you connected to it) is currently activated, then only select that profile, and click Next. Otherwise, the default is to allow it regardless of the profile, which in most cases may be what you want to do. Click Next.

WinFirewall9

Step 6: Finally, the last thing you have to do is give this exception rule a name. Since some programs have more than one .exe files and each one has to have its own separate rule in order for the program to work as intended (Virtual Box is one of these, by the way), you may want to give a suggestive name, in case you have to repeat the process for another .exe file from the required set. When you've chosen a name, click Finish.

WinFirewall10

That's it! Now the program will be allowed to accept incoming connections. To see the rule in the list, click on Inbound Rules on the left panel, where you intially right-clicked and selected New Rule. Only the rules specified here are valid. You can test this if you wish, by adding rules following the same procedure with the Control Panel application, but they will not work unless you duplicate them in Group Policy Editor.

 

You're welcome.

The Video Game Challenge 2018

I am supposed to post just an image, no explanation,
from 10 video games that had an impact on me.

So last week a little trend/meme was started, regarding video games, because it was declared the Gaming Week in Bucharest.

I don't usually do memes, and I liked the idea, so each day I posted a picture of a game that for some reason had a strong impact or was important to me in my childhood.

I got the chronological order a bit wrong, but here they are. I'm just going to post the significant title picture of each one, instead of a screenshot, which was required by the little challenge.

Day 1 of 10: Super Mario Bros.
The first video game I've ever played in my life, and sadly one I've never got to finish... but don't blame me. Tell me the name of one kid who ever managed to finish this without any help.

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Day 2 of 10: Worms Armageddon
I've played the demo of this game countless times, and I've even got bad grades at school because I played it instead of studying. The Worms series holds a special place in my childhood.

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Day 3 of 10: Super C / Super Contra for NES
The only NES title I've ever finished, and one of my favorites.

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Day 4 of 10: Doom
The game I never got to play in its glory days, but I did get to play on the PC I had before I managed to get my first ever gaming dedicated PC, with a proper 3D accelerated video card. It is the game I was playing in the last days before the exam at the end of 8th grade.

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Day 5 of 10: The Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen 2
I've also played this game many times, as it is one of the best vampire stories and vampire video games out there.

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Day 6 of 10: Legacy of Kain: Defiance
The game I've played for days on end, literally non stop from the moment I got out of bed to the moment I couldn't keep my eyes open anymore that day, Christmas and New Year's Eve passing by me without noticing. This one holds a special place in my childhood.

PS. Somedays I even forgot to eat. I only got off the PC's chair because I needed to go to the bathroom or to get some Pepsi Blue to drink. 🙂

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Day 7 of 10: Prey (2006)
Based on the Doom 3's game engine, this is one of the first, if not the first game to ever feature portals, even with the same colors as in the game Portal, and also ground braking new concepts such as gravity shifting, player size shifting, pseudoplanet containers and more.

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Day 8 of 10: Aliens vs. Predator 2
The sequel to Alien vs. Predator, I had read about it when it was still in development (or I could even be able to play it, for that matter), and I've played it about 20 times after it came out.

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Day 9 of 10: Return to Castle Wolfenstein
This sadly is a game I couldn't finish when it came out, as I didn't actually know how to play it properly. I managed to get to the first boss, but since I didn't know I had to prepare for a boss fight, I couldn't get passed it without cheating... then 10 years later I tried again and succeded (on the "I am Death Incarnate" difficulty of course, because "Bring'em on!" is for sissies).

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Day 10 of 10: Hitman 2: Silent Assassin
I didn't say Hitman: Codename 47 because... well... although it was the first one, and it was forgiveable for that, it was very clunky and not fun to play. I would have had the same impression even if I didn't play Hitman 2 before I played Codename 47. Hitman 2 is the one that got me interested and turned me into a fan of the series. A much better game not for the graphics, but for the overall mechanics.

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Fallout 76

Fallout 76

I’m having quite a lot of fun reading about how players rage over Fallout 76.

I have to be honest, I can understand them, I bought the game as well, but I knew what I was getting into right from the beginning, and I completely understood the implications of not having human NPCs.

The thing is, Bethesda is pretty good at making single player games, but not so much when it comes to multiplayer ones. In fact, remember that they’ve outsourced the multiplayer part of Doom 2016 to another developer? That’s why. Now they wanted to take their chances and try making a specifically multiplayer game - like, you know, there’s a first time for everything?)

It’s important to understand that they had to (I’m quoting someone else on this, because I can’t think of any better words) “translate a single player experience into a multiplayer one,” and not just a classic lobby multiplayer one, but an MMO. The big problem here is… well… you really should know better if you’re expecting much from playing solo. I am playing solo as well, but unlike most customers who don’t like their purchase (and start taring up game shops, click here if you haven’t seen the video), I knew playing solo was going to be boring, and I didn’t expect otherwise.

However, I bought the game because I love exploring the Fallout world and doing various stuff there, and to some degree I sometimes actually enjoy tedious things in games. So… I am playing it as one of those games you play for relaxation and out of boredom, and I really don’t mind. I need more games like that. Having specific goals in mind sets a stress factor that, although I know nobody is imposing on me, it’s just the way it is.

Regarding the story and the lore, the fact that you have to get quests from dead people via their log entries in terminals is quite funny and creepy at the same time, when you think about it. It gives me the impression I’m somehow uncovering relics of a ghost town. When I’m in the right mood, it’s enjoyable. The story seems interesting and somewhat believable to me. I’m not sure if it’s original or not, but I haven’t played any other game with the same kind of story.

I kind of expect Bethesda to someday soon close the servers because not enough people buy the game, and maybe they’ll release an offline patch when they do - I hope.

Until then, if you’re really a Fallout fan but at the same time don’t care much for, how reviewers call it, “lack of content” (lack of humour is a more adequate description), you can give it a chance. Expect boredom at times, especially if you can’t find anyone to play together with - but if you’re looking for a true Fallout game, this is probably not the one for you, because the typical Fallout humour isn’t really here.