Xpadder

I need to use a proper game controller for PC games, because I get RSI from using a mouse and keyboard.

Unfortunately, a lot of PC games don’t support controllers very well. Some have no support, others have very limited or broken support (for example, one of the analog sticks won’t be recognised). This happens even in games where controllers are a better choice (Beyond Good and Evil and Fahrenheit have broken support) and/or the game is a console port (or also available on consoles, e.g. Bioshock 2 has no controller support(!)).

For these games, I use special keyboard/mouse emulation software – programs that accept input from a controller and translate it into mouse movements and key presses.

I’ve used a free one called ControlMK for years, but it has it’s limits:

  • It doesn’t work with every game (not sure why)
  • It’s a bit tricky to configure – hard to figure out which button maps to which button number.

The end result is the eternal problem of PC gaming: the time wasted configuring the game before you can play it properly. Tweaking graphic card settings and fiddling with control mappings was actually somewhat fun  when I was a kid (and beneficial; it taught me a lot about computers). Now I have very little time to game, and I’d really like to spend some of it actually gaming.

So, of course, I asked a question about it on the Gaming StackExchange.

As one answer recommended, I ended up buying one called Xpadder.

It’s interface allows you to use an image of the controller (make your own or use one of the many images on the Xpadder site), with each button in the correct place, which really saves a lot of time – like this. So far, it also works in games which only partially worked with ControlMK. It seems to have an active community and lots of extra features too.

There is a functional (but older) free version if you want to try it or can’t afford the $10 (or so, depends on country/currency, I think) to buy it.

Saved me a lot of time, I recommend it.

Steam holiday sale has started

As usual, some incredible deals, and check every day for new ones.

I’m off to buy every Prince of Persia game on steam – from Sands of Time to the deluxe edition of Forgotten Sands (even though I already have the older three on Gamecube) for less than $20 (total!)

P.S. Sands of Time is easily one of the best games of all time. Excellent story and characters (not “excellent story and characters for a video game”) beautiful exotic environments, brilliant acrobatic/parkour/combat gameplay, all extremely polished at every level. Very highly recommended (content warning: rated M, some violence and a very mild “adult” romance scene – nothing actually shown).

Humble Indie Bundle 2

In case you haven’t heard yet, the second ever humble indie bundle is out!

Games in the bundle:

  1. Braid (which I highly recommend)
  2. Machinarium (which I was planning to get anyway)
  3. Cortex Command
  4. Osmos
  5. Revenge of the Titans

Pay whatever you want, and choose how much of it goes to which charity (including the games’ developers, EFF and child’s play)!

www.humblebundle.com/

P.S. For those of us who bought the original Humble Indie Bundle last year, they just released it on steam too, so you can download the games from there, etc.

Braid

As usual, I’m behind on this one, but: if you haven’t yet played Braid, please do.

For one, it’s pretty:

… with a unique art style something like a swirling, living painting.

It also has a mysterious, multi-layered story with genuinely interesting themes.

But the best part is the gameplay. It leads you in a perfect difficulty curve from simple platforming to absolutely mind-bending puzzles. Many of the solutions were so far outside-the-box that I felt like my brain was stretching; like the game was actually teaching me to think more creatively.

You don’t need a new PC with a fancy graphics card – an oldish pc will do; you can get it from steam for less than $10, (or get the free demo first, or wait for it to go even cheaper during a sale – there’ll probably be a steam sale or two around Christmas). It’s also on Mac (through steam), XBOX 360 and PS3.

One warning though: don’t use a walk-through if you get stuck. I did use some non-spoiler hints I found, towards the end when I was really stumped. But use them sparingly, if at all; the satisfaction of solving it yourself is worth it.

Bioshock

I finally finished Bioshock.

It is a truly extraordinary work of art. Beautiful, frightening, thought-provoking.

If you haven’t played it (and you’re an adult, and not too squeamish) you might like to know it’s on sale through steam for $4.99 until November 1st.

Warning: It’s a horror game. It’s shocking, frightening, very graphically violent, and includes a bit of offensive language and a few sexual references. I do not recommend it for kids.

Note: This is not in any way a paid product endorsement.

Just wait

The beta run of the video game StackExchange is chugging along nicely.

Recently some poor soul, stricken with buyer’s remorse (I bought an awful game, what now?!) asked about any recourse for bad, expensive PC games.

My answer (surprisingly well-received – top answer):

I think research before buying is the best answer (as many have already said – especially demos, videos of actual gameplay and reputable reviews sites).

But I’d like to add: wait. The game will still be there in 6-12 months, but:

  • Less $ wasted: you can buy it on sale on steam (often for as low as $5-10 at some point in the first year or two after release)
  • More honest reviews: the reviewers will get over their initial excitement. If the game was really good (once they look back, with the benefit of hindsight) they’ll put it in a “best games of the year” list.
  • Maybe even better visuals: you may have upgraded to a faster PC by then

It may seem hard to wait, but there are a million other things to do while you wait: sports, social life, novels, movies, study, family, travel, learning… and if that doesn’t appeal to you: have you really played through all of the best games of all time already?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.