Category Archives: Gaming

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 shoed 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) and Devices

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 that necessary, but I thought I’d add it all here, including a bit of history on how this setup came to be.

Hardware

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

  • a HP Z800 (Rev B)
  • a HP Z600 (Rev A)
  • a HP Z600 (Rev B, which I’d like to call Z601)
  • an Apple Mac Mini (Late 2012)

I’m using a (rather old) HP Z800 workstation for rendering and PC gaming. I picked it up for a song (about $180) after my previous Z600 appeared to fail, but it wasn’t anything serious so 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 of these HP 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 a GPU with it.

The Z machines take two Intel Xeon CPUs each, which make them ideal for CPU intense tasks. My main Z800 has two x5675 Xeons, same as my backup Z600 (Rev B). They’re 3 GHz hexacore, so I get 24 threads of render magic with these processors. 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 that retrospectively to my Z800. The Z600’s are on a wired connection, and if not used as standby machines, I use them as render nodes via RDP connections (from my Mac via Remotix). All my systems are SSD based, except for external drives.

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, which requires an NVIDIA compatible card for the Iray rendering engine. What makes Iray tick (and render fast) is a metric called CUDA cores. The more of those a GPU has, the faster it can render. Mine has 1664, which at the time was quite impressive. It was $199 when I bought it on Amazon in 2016.

I’ve used the GTX 970 for many tutorials on YouTube until early 2019, but have since added an RTX 2080 with 8GB of RAM to my Z800. For a while I had TWO of those in my system, and as soon as I have the cash I will add a second card of the same model. It’s a ZTOAC Amp Edition, and 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 on his render results. He had this card, and after seeing its performance, I bought one myself. Never regretted it.

The RTX 2080 has 2944 CUDA cores, which means that for a while I was rendering with 5888 CUDA cores there. I can’t wait to do that again. Perhaps I’ll try the RTX 2080 Super next.

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. My plan is to use it alongside the GTX 970 one day, and get another two RTX 2080s (or at least one RTX 2060 for my second Z600).

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.

My Mac Mini is my office computer for email, video editing and Photoshopping. It runs High Sierra for compatibility with some older 32bit apps I like to use every once in a while.

Input Devices

I have a number of input devices attached to my system. I use a mixture of super cheap and cheerful devices, as well as expensive gadgets to get the job done:

  • Logitech MX Master S2 Mouse (new)
  • Logitech M325 Wireless Mouse
  • Logitech K360 Wireless Keyboard
  • Microsoft Xbox 360 Wireless Controller for Windows
  • Elgato Stream Deck (15 key edition, for OBS vision mixing)
  • Elgato Stream Deck for iOS (on my iPhone 6s Plus, for sound effects)
  • Wacom Intuos 4 Wireless (occasionally)

Consoles

I also have a several games consoles in current use:

  • Playstation 4 (Slim)
  • Playstation 3 (Super Slim)
  • Nintendo Wii (with WaveBird wireless GameCube controller)

Other Devices

Aside from the above, I also use the following:

  • 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)
  • 3x GoPro cameras (HERO 4 Silver and 2x HERO 5 Black)
  • Blue Yeti microphone
  • 2x Zaffiro Desktop USB Mics
  • Logitech C930e Web Cam (main)
  • Logitech C922 Pro Stream Web Cam (secondary)
  • 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

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!

Hotel Dusk: Room 215

When I owned a DS console many years ago, I remember playing a game called Hotel Dusk: Room 215. It was more like an interactive book than a classic adventure game. At times a little tedious, it had a super gripping storyline and I couldn’t forget.

In the story, protagonist Kyle Hyde, former NYPD detective, has left the force and is now a door-to-door salesman. He’s still trying to find out what happened to his former partner. When his employer sends him to Hotel Dusk in LA, he finds a host of characters that all tie together into a larger plot, which appears to be connected to the disappearance of Kyle’s former partner.

When I discovered the DesMuME emulator for the DS recently, I thought I’d try running the game on my Surface Pro – and it’s almost exactly like having a super sized DS, complete with stylus.

Since the game has it’s tricky moments, I’ve made list of questions I had while re-playing the mysteries of Hotel Dusk: Room 2015.

Continue reading Hotel Dusk: Room 215