Category Archives: Gaming

How to setup Dead Zones for Game Pads in Unreal Engine

My old Xbox 360 controller has been in use for nearly 10 years, but it’s still going strong while suffering from very sensitive Dead Zones. Those are the areas around the untouched centre position of a game pad that can sometimes deliver erratic results, especially after years of use (although I’ve seen brand new ones suffering from the same phenomenon).

Unreal Engine lets you define the dead zones for a project, and I just found out how to do it. It’s a project wide setting that can be found under Edit – Project Settings – Input. There’s a big section called Bindings at the very top of this huge list, at the bottom of which is a small “advanced” triangle. It’ll open even more options. Scary indeed! However, this is where we find Axis Config, as well as sections for each Game Pad Axis. Open each axis to reveal a Dead Zone property.

The default is set to 0.25, which is very generous and works perfectly in most cases, yet at the same time can feel a little rough and abrupt at times. Don’t set it to 0 (that’ll be terrible and lead to drifting), but anything from 0.05 upwards might give good results. Try it out and see if it helps game pad improvements.

How to reach Black Rock Processing in CONTROL

I’ve been blundering my way through the CONTROL game, until I came up against one of those seemingly impossible to crack puzzles: I need to get to Black Rock Processing in the Maintenance Sector to move the story forward. That’s not an easy feat. I’ll tell you where I got stuck, and how I eventually got it, and how I worked it out.

We start our journey at the Sector Elevator and head down to the Maintenance Sector. From here we move forward into a room with four exits, one of which reads Black Rock Processing, on the left. These were all blocked by The Hiss earlier, but thankfully we rectified this.

A few minor goons are waiting for us, we deal with them and pass through the Security Check gates and on to a heavy looking tripe door mechanism that opens automatically as we approach. We’ve seen a smilier mechanism on our way to the Ashtray Maze, however this time the bridge that should probably get us to the other side is missing. All we see is a gap too wide to cross.

Continue reading How to reach Black Rock Processing in CONTROL

How to get unstuck in Subnautica

It happens to the best video games: no matter how much you test your environment, there will be times at which the game character may get stuck behind a rock, or intersects with an inanimate object. That’s super annoying during gameplay, especially when your last save was several hours ago.

Thankfully, there’s a tool we can employ to un-stick ourselves from such sticky situations. In Subnautica (and Below Zero for that matter) it’s the warpforward command. This utility moves your character forward by x amount of meters, no matter where in the game world you are. Here’s how to use it from the Console:

warpforward 1

This will move the player ahead by one meter, in the direction he/she is facing. You can warp yourself forward as far as you like, but keep in mind that this may teleport you outside the visible game world (do don’t get freaked out). A value of 1 should suffice to un-stick your character.

warpforward is somewhat related to the warp command, which will teleport the player to an absolute position in the game world, i.e. a x/y/z coordinate.

Enabling the Command Line Console in Subnautica

Video Games are like operating systems: you can issue commands that trigger events and observe internal states that are by default hidden from the player. As such, many games have a command line interface, akin to the Windows Power Shell or the Terminal app on macOS and Linux. Developers use this feature to debug and test the game.

In Subnautica, we can utilise it to get unstuck, switch game modes or do all kinds of other things. It’s not for the faint hearted, and it’s not necessary for general gameplay of course, but if you ever need it, here’s how you bring it up.

  • press F3 to bring up a secret settings box at the to left
  • press F8 to bring up the mouse cursor
  • disable the option “disable console” (thereby enabling it)
  • now press F3 again to close that settings window again
  • hit Enter to bring up a text input box at the bottom left

Now type your command and the game will obey. You can transfer to new locations, trigger or reset game events. and do all kinds of things. Remember: with great power comes great responsibility!

A related tool to the Info Pane on the right. You can press F1 to bring this pane up and examine internal values more closely.

Happy Game Hacking!

How to switch game modes in Subnautica

I’ve had a few computer glitches recently while experimenting with a new graphics card. Unfortunately this lead to some random crashes, which in turn damaged my Subnautica game files.

Suddenly my save games didn’t tell me how long I had been playing, and what type of game I was playing anymore, and instead only showed the message “damaged game save”. That didn’t sound good!

Thankfully though, when I loaded the file up, everything seems fine: I had the same base, was spawned in the correct place, had all the belongings I remember… except for one weird issue: my Freedom type game was now a Survival game. Not what I had signed up for!

Lucky for us there’s an easy way to switch from what we’re currently playing to any of the other three game types (Survival, Freedom, Hardcore or Creative) into any of the others. Here’s how to do it:

  • press F3 to bring up a secret settings box at the to left
  • press F8 to bring up the mouse cursor
  • disable the option “disable console” (thereby enabling it)
  • now press F3 again to close that settings window again
  • hit Enter to bring up a text input box at the bottom left

This will bring up a command line prompt at which we can now issue statements – much like on a Linux Terminal or Windows Power Shell. If we know what to type, we can make the game do exciting things that can come in handy when we’re stuck due to a bug or other circumstance. Developers use this tool a lot.

To change the game mode, we can type any of the following:

  • Survival
  • Freedom
  • Hardcore
  • Creative

That’s all we need to do. When you’re done, press F3 again to close the scary settings window.

Warning

Be advised that in the release version of either Subnautica and presumably Below Zero, issuing the above commands will disable the achievements feature.

Also note that in Below Zero, the changed game mode is not saved. The rest of your game state is, but when you restart a saved game a again, you’ll be back to the previous game mode (at least in the Snowfox update from April 2019).

Where does Subnautica store Game Saves?

Subnautica game save files can currently not participate in any “cloud save” options as far as I’m aware. As such, to transfer files between systems or to make backups, we’ll have to dig deep inside a system folder to find said data.

The exact path depends on which marketplace you purchased the game from.

Steam

I got mine from Steam, and the path is

  • Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\Subnautica\SNAppData\SavedGames

The folder contains an options folder as well as a folder such as “slot0001” for each save game.

Epic Games

I don’t have the Epic version, but I hear on the grape vine that save games are stored in the User’s folder. Say my user name is “versluis”, then the full path would be

  • C:\Users\versluis\AppData\LocalLow\Unknown Worlds\Subnautica\Subnautica\SavedGames

Other services

I understand that Subnautica is also available from other marketplaces such as Discord, as well as Xbox One and Playstation 4. Sadly I have no idea where those save games are stored.

Should I ever find out, I’ll update this article. Likewise, if you know any such path, please leave it in the comments below.

My Rig(s), Devices and Rendering Workflow

From time to time I get asked what hardware and GPU I’m using for my 3D adventures, including video games. Rather than typing it out every time, I thought I’d make a handy post that I can refer interested parties to, and update as my configuration changes.

This is that post 🤩

It may contain more information than necessary, but I thought I’d add it all here, including a bit of history on how this setup came to be and what it cost. I keep this page updated as my configuration and workflow changes.

Hardware

Laptops and mobile devices aside, I have a total of four systems around my desk:

HP Z800 Workstation

This is my main desktop workstation. I use it for anything from 3D work, Premiere editing, streaming video games and anything that requires high processing power. Full specs:

  • Rev B motherboard
  • 2x Xeon x5675 – 3.07 GHz CPUs
  • 48GB of DDR-3 RAM
  • ZOTAC RTX 2080 AMP Edition GPU (non-super) with 8GB

For about three weeks I had a second RTX 2080 card in that machine, and that setup ruled! If I had the cash I would buy another one just for the fun of it. Watching a render happen so quickly is a joy.

Render Nodes

I have two HP Z600 workstations that I use as render nodes. Anything that requires long calculations to be run while I keep working on other things, be that rendering a 3D animation, transcoding video files or calculating the last digit of Pi, these two are very helpful friends in my office. They’re slightly smaller than the Z800, and I used both of them before upgrading to the larger workstation.

Node 1 (Codename: Z600)

  • Rev A motherboard
  • 2x Xeon x5560 – 2.80 GHz CPUs
  • 20 GB of DDR3 RAM
  • ZOTAC GTX 970 GPU with 4GB

This was my original Z workstation, and it’s still going strong. I’ve been meaning to add another GPU to the setup, but cooling with the current two-fan GTX 970 isn’t ideal. For Blender and DAZ Studio, the two Xeon processors are as fast as the GPU’s 1664 CUDA cores.

Node 2 (Codename: Z601)

  • Rev B motherboard
  • 2x Xeon x5675 – 3.07 GHz CPUs
  • 24GB of DDR3 RAM
  • 2x Quadro K4000 GPUs with 3GB or RAM each

I bought this system as a backup for my first Z600, and the same seller had a cheap Z800 for sale too, so I bought both. The CPUs are the same I have in my Z800. They’re faster than the K4000 when it comes to rendering 3D, but due to its long cooling fin design, two cards of the same generation work great. I added the second K4000 in late 2019, and now this render node is a little faster than the one above.

Desktop Email / Browsing / Text PC

  • Apple Mac Mini – Late 2012
  • Intel Core i7 – 2.3 GHz (quad core server edition)
  • 16 GB of DDR3 RAM
  • Intel HD Graphics 4000 with 1536 MB of RAM

I use my Mac for all kinds of text related tasks like email and web adnminsrtation, video editing and a bit of Photoshop, as well as coding and web development. It’s still running High Sierra due to its compatibility with 32 bit apps. While not suitable for 3D intense tasks, it’s a very reliable source of communication for me. I prefer typing on a Mac, because it’s less laggy than Windows. I also use this machine for editing my bike videos in iMovie and for editing audio books in Premiere Pro.

Workflow

When I stream things from my main Z800 system on the left, I can monitor the stream on my Mac Mini on the right. The two are connected to the same mouse and keyboard, a Logitech Craft and and an MX Master 2S. This allows me to switch from one system to another while only having one keyboard/mouse on my small desk. Thanks to some Logitech magic, I also have full copy/paste functionality between two different operating systems, thanks to a helpful piece of software called Logitech Options. In addition to the mouse, I also have a Magic Trackpad next to my Mac. Sometimes I prefer that when I do Mac things, it depends on the task.

I administer the remote nodes using either Remotix from my Mac and iOS devices, or a regular RDP connection from Windows, often with the help of No Machine (the latter is the only service that will let Blender startup in GUI mode from a remote connection). When I render animations, I split them across all systems and have each node render a part of the sequence. The resulting image sequence is saved into a shared folder that is accessible from everywhere, so I can even have cloud machines contribute at times.

While some softwares have a master/slave or “render node” concept, in which one machine takes control of the other computers and makes them render what is necessary, I don’t tend to use those. Some of these features are unreliable, or cost money to activate, and I find it more convenient to keep a list of which node needs to render what frames instead.

How those systems came to be

I’m using a (rather old) HP Z800 workstation for most of what I do. This series was introduced by HP as far back as 2009 for a cost of over $10k, depending on configuration. Back then it would have been unaffordable. There have been several updates to the Z series, the current one being the Z8.

However, as technology goes, I picked mine up for a song (about $180) after my first Z600 appeared to fail, but it wasn’t anything serious and I could fix it. Hence I still have it. In fact, I replaced it in 2019 with another Z600, and liked the idea of a render farm so much that I currently have THREE such HP Z workstations. Although vintage, they’re spectacular bang for your buck.

I first got into this type of hardware in 2016, after a discussion with Jonstark on the Carrara Forums. My Mac Mini was too limiting for anything that required a GPU, and I bought the first Z600 specifically to use with DAZ Studio’s Iray engine, which required a GPU for any meaningful results.

The Z machines take two Intel Xeon CPUs each, which make them ideal for CPU intense tasks too. My main Z800 has two x5675 Xeons, same as my Z601 node. They’re 3 GHz hexacore processors, so I get 24 threads of render magic with these. My original Z600 (Rev A) has two e5560 Xeons, slightly slower quad cores, but still packing a good punch for the price (a pair is about $50 on eBay). Those give me 16 parallel threads.

Those workstations do not come with WiFi or USB3, so I’ve added those options retrospectively where necessary. All my machines are connected via wired LAN through an Apple TimeCapsule router.

GPUs

The fastest GPU I could find that would fit into my original Z600 (vintage 2009) midi tower case was a GeForce GTX 970 graphics card made by ZOTAC, with 4GB of RAM. I bought it specifically for use with DAZ Studio. I didn’t want to spend too much money, because my budget was tight and I wasn’t sure just how good this GPU adventure would turn out. What makes Iray and other engines tick (and render fast) is a metric called CUDA cores. The more of those we have on a compatible GPU, the faster it can render. The GTX 970 has 1664, which at the time was quite impressive. It was $199 when I bought it on Amazon in 2016.

I’ve used this card for many tutorials on YouTube until early 2019, but have since upgraded to an RTX 2080 with 8GB of RAM with 2944 CUDA cores. For a while I had TWO of those in my system, which means that for a while I was rendering with 5888 CUDA cores! I can’t wait to do that again. Perhaps I’ll try the RTX 2080 Super next (as soon as I have the cash).

Since the GTX series, third part manufacturers make NVIDIA cards. Specifically, mine is a ZTOAC Amp Edition. I was attracted to it because of the price point ($749 in early 2019), and because Brian Cramer was kind enough to leave me a comment with his render results. He had this particular card, and after seeing its performance, I bought one myself. I have never regretted it.

With my second Z600 came another NVIDIA card, an old Quadro K4000 with 768 CUDA cores. At its launch in 2013 it had the hefty price tag of $1249, but by the time I got it in 2019 it was thrown in. Later that year I bought another K4000 for only $60.

My plan is to expand the GPUs in my systems gradually, with another RTX in my main workstation, ultimately more RTX cards in my render nodes. This will depend on my cash flow, GPU prices and demand of what I need to render with them. I may even buy another Z workstation if I can find the space.

Operating System

Although my original Z600 came with a Windows Vista Professional license, I’ve installed Windows 10 Pro on it pretty much immediately. It needs the Pro version because it has multiple CPUs, which cannot be addressed by the Home version. All of my Z workstations run on Windows right now. I may try out CentOS 7 on one of them.

You can read more about how I built the Z600 system here.

Other Devices

Aside from the above, I also use the following equipment:

  • a quad Mac Mini 2012 (on my desk)
  • 27″ Thunderbolt Display (on my desk)
  • two quad core Mac Minis 2012 (in Las Vegas)
  • Microsoft Surface Pro (First Generation, often on my desk)
  • 4x GoPro cameras (HERO 4 Silver, 2x HERO 5 Black, 1x HERO 8 Black)
  • Blue Yeti microphone
  • 2x Zaffiro Desktop USB Mics
  • Logitech C930e Web Cam (main)
  • Logitech C922 Pro Stream Web Cam (secondary)
  • 3x Elgato Stream Decks (one physical, two via software)
  • various iOS devices
  • various lapel microphones
  • Bose Soundlink II Speaker
  • 2x 27″ Acer S271HL Monitors (one for me, one for my wife’s desk)
  • a MacBook Pro 2011 when I’m out and about
  • a Samsung NC10 NetBook as internal web server
  • a Samsung Q330 Laptop for CentOS 7 experiments

I will keep this list updated if/when I add new things to this setup. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask below.

How to play the Mass Effect 3 Demo on PS3 (2018)

The other day I downloaded the Mass Effect 3 Demo on my old Playstation 3. I had enjoyed Mass Effect 2 immensely, I own the trilogy for PC, and I wanted to take a look at how the Playstation 3 version looked.

To my surprise, the demo didn’t start up. All I got was an error message telling me that the EA Origin or Alliance servers are down, and then the demo quits. Which sucks.

Turns out those Mass Effect 3 demo servers have been switched off many years ago, and the game is obviously coded so badly that it thinks it can’t live without an answer from those servers. Seriously flawed design there, folks!

Lucky for us, there’s a simple trick we can use to start that demo anyway! 

Continue reading How to play the Mass Effect 3 Demo on PS3 (2018)

How to aim left/right in Mass Effect Andromeda

Ryder goes into cover automatically when you enter cover. However, by default he/she only aims to the right. That’s no good when your enemies are around the left corner. 

So how do we change that?

If they had only told us during the tutorial, ey? On PS4 and Xbox, it’s the R3 button (i.e. press the right stick). On Windows it’s the ALT key.

How to play HALO on Windows 10

The other day I bought a brand new copy of the 2001 classic HALO – Combat Evolved for Windows. I really liked this game and played it on the original XBOX quite a bit – even thought I must admit that I neither liked nor got it the first few times I picked it up. A colleague told me to stick with it, and I began to love it over time (probably when I “got” the story and the controls).

Fast forward 16 years and I thought, perhaps I’ll pick it up again. My HP Z600 with Windows 10 next to the TV is extremely capable hardware for this type of entertainment.

Imagine my disappointment however when the game installed fine on Windows 10, but refused to start. Nothing doing! I ran it as Administrator, went through all the compatibility options, but nada – HALO did not want to start up. Monkeytrumpet, I thought.

Thankfully we have the internet, and I soon came across an article that explained that I needed to download Patch 1.10 of the game from the Bungie website. A 16 year old game is still supported with updates? Go figure! Here’s the link to that patch.

Enjoy!