Sunday, July 28, 2013

6 Quick YouTube Quality Tips for HD Gaming Content

A big shout out goes to XxDevotedGamingxX for the inspiration of this post. He recently sent me a message claiming how nice my videos looked on YouTube in comparison to his own, and requested some tips and insights on how I capture, edit and encode my videos. He's actually not the first person to have tapped on my shoulder regarding how I achieve the quality I do on my videos. There has been quite a hefty amount of similar messages to be honest, so much that I am now considering to share some basic helpful tips on getting excellent video quality on YouTube right here.

Now, we'll keep in mind as the forefront that you already have a decent HD capturing device and you already know how to utilize it to churn out footage to your computer. And by decent, I do mean an actual device that can capture in HD resolution, and not something pathetic like a pretend HD device that stretches 480i/480p to HD.

1.) Try to capture in progressive scan only (720p or 1080p and not 1080i)


This is mostly common knowledge, but you still don't realize how many people capture in an interlaced resolution on their HD capture devices, either unknowingly or even purposely. This in turn greatly degrades the image and motion quality of the video, a lot more so if the person doesn't know how to correctly deinterlace using the correct deinterlace methods. With progressive scan, the quality is constantly smooth and you won't ever have to worry about the aforementioned flaws of interlacing.

A lot of people make the excuse of evading progressive scan for interlaced with the reason that they desire full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution for their videos, but their capture device can only capture in 1080i and not 1080p.

While I agree the resolution and bitrate boost on YouTube is a benefit, I also disagree in that the process of deinterlacing that 1080i footage—or no deinterlacing at all—will in turn be actually worse in quality than a 720p final product. The biggest common issues being image blurriness, ghosting, jagged edges and horizontal scan lines present during motion scenes.

Now there are lots of ways to go about deinterlacing interlaced footage, some better than others, but I don't have the time to go through any of them. In fact, it's downright nonsense to do so as my tip here is to have you NOT have to deinterlace anything, by means of capturing everything in progressive scan.

To summarize, stick to capturing everything in 720p and 1080p. Avoid 1080i unless you absolutely know what you're doing.

2.) Disable resampling in your video editor


If your video editor is resampling your clips, make sure to get into habit of turning off or disabling resample. While I'm not exactly clear cut on what resampling actually does, it does heavily affect fast motion footage and will cause very noticeable ghosting. Sony Vegas is notorious for defaulting to "Smart Resample" every time you add a new clip in the timeline. By right clicking the clip, going to "Properties" and selecting "Disable Resample" the first time you add the clip, it will also help alleviate the need to continuously disable resample on subsequent spliced segments of the clip.

3.) Check your video settings before you encode


I've come a lot across instances where people make the common mistake of not checking their video settings in their video editor before encoding their videos. Worse, some downright ignore it and stick to using the supplied defaults, which are mostly not tailored to HD progressive scan content.

Make sure your resolution and frame rate are set correctly. If your footage is in 720p 30fps, change it to 1280 x 720 30fps progressive scan. Using the wrong resolution can cause black bars to appear on your videos or your videos to be cut off, which is something you don't want.

Disable all deinterlacing options or set them to none if possible. Remember, I don't recommend capturing in interlaced for the best quality.

4.) Encode in 30fps and not 60fps


Unless you truly want to preserve the original motion of your videos to store on your computer, it's best to encode/convert your videos to 30fps in preparation for YouTube.

Why is this so? Remember, YouTube at current still can only display videos at a max of 30fps. Therefore, uploading a 60fps video will cause YouTube to automatically convert it to 30fps.

Now, the crucial part of why you want to encode to 30fps manually is to cut back encoding time and to skip YouTube's automatic frame rate conversion. You don't know what kind of shoddy frame rate conversion YouTube has in their system, and thus you'll want to avoid it as much as possible.

5.) Use a good quality codec to encode your videos


A bad codec, bad video format or even using the wrong bitrate can transform an amazing quality source footage to sheer embarrassment. It's very important that you take in great consideration what codec, bitrate and video format you use to encode your videos.

H.264/AVC is regarded as one of the best codecs available in terms of maintaining the highest image quality and pushing the lowest file size. I strongly recommend downloading x264 vfw—a free H.264 codec that works universally on many video editors—and encoding your videos in AVI format.

In the x264 vfw codec settings, select either single pass bitrate-based (ABR) or multi pass, and around  6000-13500Kbps. Multi pass encodes the video twice and consumes twice the amount of encode time; however, compared to single pass (ABR), it gives off higher quality while having roughly the same or lower file size.

Max frame refs (Analysis & Encoding) should be increased to at least 5 for increased output quality.

6.) Enhance image brightness, contrast, sharpness and saturation


The default video image settings for your capture device is most of the time inadequate and non-vibrant in colors and noticeably blurry, so you'll want to ramp these a bit in order to make the output image more rich and realistic. This is especially important for gaming footage.

Generally brightness and contrast should be upped to about 5-10% from default, whereas saturation should be upped to about 10-15%. Sharpness should be increased until the edges on the image becomes as clear as possible without distorting the image's contrast.

Of course, the defaults on capture devices are not universally identical, so it helps to simply use the eye to determine if the brightness, contrast, saturation and sharpness is adequate enough.

If your capture device doesn't have video image controls built-in or available through its utility software, you can post apply them through a software such as VirtualDub/AviSynth and Sony Vegas.

Summary


If you want the best quality out of your videos possible for YouTube, follow all of these tips. If you like what you've read and want to know more about video capturing, editing and encoding; feel free to drop a link to my YouTube channel and post me a message!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

6 Ways to Promote Your YouTube Videos

Today's post is another tips and tricks post—specifically, I'll show you 6 good ways to promote your YouTube videos, so you can end up with more views, likes and subscribers!

1.) Submit your videos to GameFAQs


If your videos are gaming related, this method works quite well in boosting your video's viewership and popularity. GameFAQs is a huge user content generated gaming site that draws in a ton of traffic from all across the world. The best part about GameFAQs is the availability for anyone to share their own gaming reviews, screenshots and videos for any game.

Here's how you submit your gaming videos to GameFAQs:
  1. Go to GameFAQs and register for a free user account.
  2. Use the search tool to find the game of your videos.
  3. Click on the "Videos" link and scroll all the way down until you see "Video Submission Form".
  4. Fill out the form with your video details and then click "Submit".
  5. Repeat the process to submit more videos.
  6. Once your videos are approved (almost all of them do), they will appear in the videos section of the game.

2.) Post your video as a video response to popular, similar videos


If you discover a video that is similar in content to your own video, and that video additionally has a good amount of views, try posting your own video as a video response to it. You don't know how well this works for me sometimes. For instance, my Monster Hunter Tri - Deviljho Switchaxe Heroics Solo video was not heavily seen until I posted it as a video response to a similar Monster Hunter Tri Deviljho Switchaxe solo video. From then on, my video exploded and it now has more than 30x the views as that video I posted a response to!

Want to be more daring? You can even post a comment on that video, requesting people to check out your own video and why they need to. Ask your YouTube friends to help you out by thumbing up the comment so it can appear as one of the video's Top Comments.

3.) Use Facebook and Twitter


Facebook and Twitter are kings of social networking. Millions of people are on everyday—sometimes every minute—checking for the latest tweets and posts from the people they are following. So take this amazing fact for your own personal benefit. Post all the videos you upload to both Facebook and Twitter. Ask all your followers and friends to help you out by posting your videos on their page. By doing so, you'll earn a lot more viewership for your videos.

4.) Link and intertwine all your videos to one another if possible


Whenever your videos are in a series or constitute similar subjects, try grouping them together so viewers can easily transfer from one video to another. You can do so by using annotation links, using video descriptions or even posting a comment on the videos.

For example, I often do a series of videos on a game's cutscenes. Whenever that occurs, I always link cutscene videos to each other with annotation links and links in the videos' descriptions. You can't assume all your viewers will know to check out your channel for other similar videos. This makes it a heft easier for them, and that's good!

5.) Post your videos in forums


This trick is similar to number 1, as you'll be sharing your videos to a large public community, only now you're directly sharing with them via forums.

First, find the largest forums that is in the same subject as your videos. For instance, if I was doing gaming videos, I would search for a forums that dealt with gaming and preferably that game alone (e.g. GameSpot Forums).

Next, post a topic with the link to your video(s). Try to not make your post seem like spam material by providing the forums members reasons why they should check out your video. Additionally, ask for suggestions and feedback on the videos so your topic can have some actual replies.

6.) Ask your viewers and friends to like, comment and favorite your videos


I know you might think this will make you seem desperate or even beggar quality—but the fact of the matter is, it helps improve your views significantly.

This is because every time someone likes, comments or favorites a video, that video gets posted to their public feed. Hence, all that person's subscribers will see what they liked, commented and/or favorited. They will then be inclined to check your video out.

You can ask for this anywhere: directly in your videos, in your video description or in annotations.

Just remember not to do this too much or spam your videos everywhere with "please like, comment and favorite!", as you'll then be likely viewed as a desperate ebeggar, which no one likes.


That's all of the bunch! These methods are working methods I personally use to help me boost my views, likes and subscribers on YouTube. Do you have any other methods you can think of? Feel free to give it a share!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Upgrading My HD Capture Device Next Month

Okay, so I finally decided it's time to upgrade my HD capture device starting next month—that is, the one device that I've been using for all my YouTube videos since 2008!

Perhaps I didn't shed any light upon what I actually have been using. It's no other than the Hauppauge HD-PVR. I have the very first model of it, and I was one of the initial buyers to purchase it right when it came out.

Having gone through 5 years of model revisions and improved HD capturing technology, it was starting to feel as if my HD-PVR was falling behind the times. Although the quality was still there, I felt the ease of use was not prominent as it should be, and there were features on newer capture devices that I very much yearned for.

I especially desired a HD capture device that allowed me to capture in an uncompressed or lossless format, as opposed to forcing me to use its H.264 encoder. I always edit and re-encode my videos (never uploading the raw captured file), so once you start encoding a H.264 video with the same codec more than once, you're going to be losing a lot of quality. On the contrary, by having an uncompressed/lossless video file, I would have no worries of losing avertible quality when I edit and encode the video for YouTube.

Also, let's face it—HDMI is the way forward. Component limits your max capturing resolution to 1080i only, and you are additionally plagued to deal with analog interference, which can potentially ruin your footage.

So I decided my next HD capture device was going to be a BlackMagic Intensity Shuttle Thunderbolt.


It's perfect for my needs. It has HDMI in and out, 1080p capturing, uncompressed capturing and high bandwidth thunderbolt connection. From just looking at the technical specs and features alone, this device far outclasses any other existing consumer HD capture device on the market today. It's also priced very aggressively, at $230 new and around $260 with a thunderbolt cable.

What about more popular HD capture devices such as the HD-PVR 2 and Elgato HD Game Capture? While those are a nice upgrade to my existing HD-PVR due to them being HDMI equipped, they are more or less the same box of yesterday—forced H.264 encoding with last generation USB 2.0 connection. I don't want more of the same; I want something with unlimited potential, something the Intensity Shuttle Thunderbolt can offer.

I did briefly use an Intensity Shuttle a few months back, but it was the USB 3.0 version. My laptop unfortunately was not able to fully utilize the USB 3.0 speed, so the capture device was not fully operable. I now own a desktop that has thunderbolt connections, which is quite a lot faster than USB 3.0.

In conclusion, what does this all mean? For you as my viewers, it simply means much better video quality for my videos on YouTube. And I'm even hoping to be able to start uploading 1080p videos (although none of the games I've been recording are 1080p native). You can also expect a review here on this blog once I get it as well.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Dynasty Warriors 8 English YouTube Videos Schedule

I unfortunately have nothing really worthwhile to write up today, so I thought about simply doing something a little different—writing a post about my planned schedule for Dynasty Warriors 8 English videos on my YouTube channel. This way, you'll precisely know what to expect in the upcoming days, rather than mindlessly anticipating what's next.

First off, let's get into a basic summary of the videos. There will be the obligatory rest of the kingdom CG and event cutscenes, including Wu, Shu and Wei. There will then be a few more chaos gameplay videos (with selected characters I cannot detail yet). Next, there will be some guide videos, such as a top 10 weapon attributes video. Lastly, there will be a full in-depth video review of the game that I'm hoping to finish and upload by the end of this month. Any other videos are not in my schedule at the moment, but that may change.

Dynasty Warriors 8 English Videos Schedule List (a day each):
  • Shu CG cutscenes + events
  • Gameplay
  • Wu CG cutscenes + events
  • Gameplay
  • Wei CG cutscenes + events
  • Best Weapon Attributes (Top 10)
  • Weapon Tempering Guide
  • Video Review

You may ask—what about Mega Combos Compilation volume 2? Well, I did not list it or take in consideration of it, because I do not plan on using the English version of the game to continue the combo compilation videos. Mostly because of the built-in patch 1.04 and to keep consistency.

If you have any ideas of any videos you'll like me to make of the English version of this game, feel free to either leave a post here or on my YouTube inbox/channel.

Just don't request things I won't ever do, including:

Walkthroughs - There are already an over abundance of these available on YouTube for this game and virtually ever other game. Personally, walkthroughs are super boring to me to watch even with commentary, and making one would be even worse. I also don't like the idea of spamming my subscribers feed with tons of videos per day.

Let's Plays - I don't like playing a game until I'm well versed in the gameplay mechanics and have a lot of it already unlocked. Hence, doing let's play goes against that.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Fix for Slowdown Issue with DW8 on Xbox 360?

Earlier this morning, I received a message from one of my YouTube viewers Xenith Eyes. He alerted me of a possible fix for the atrocious slowdown issue apparent exclusively in the Xbox 360 version of Dynasty Warriors 8. My eyes lit up but were abrupt to die down again, after he quickly followed up with a response basically stating it doesn't work after all (he attempted it himself).

Yet, I still have found posts of other players online claiming this method does actually work, but you need to select the correct resolution (1280 x 1024) and turn widescreen off. More specifically, this post from GameFAQs.

So, being the curious self I am, I decided to attempt this method myself. What's there to lose?

What I found unfortunately was what Xenith Eyes has last declaredno difference whatsoever. Or if there was a difference, it was way too minor to be noticeable. I actually found at often times the default 720p settings (1280 x 720 with widescreen on) on my HDMI was smoother.

One thing I forgot to mention in that video I posted on YouTube about this issue was that the slowdown was much more prominent in certain stages. A few stages suffers no slowdown at all until you get in a semi-large group of enemieswhich given this is a Warriors game, can happen a significant amount of time in all stages.

Chibi is the worst case of slowdowns. The frame rate of the game dwindles to non-existent nearly the entire time on the stage, even if you're fighting a single officer with no enemies around.

If you don't believe me that this method did not make a difference with my tests, check out these videos I recorded: the top with default 720p widescreen on and the bottom 1280 x 1024 resolution with widescreen off.

And I apologize for the low quality of the videos. I used my Canon EOS Rebel T3i (which is a mighty fine camera) to record the footage, as I'm too lazy to take out my HD capture device.



If you're wondering about lower resolutions such as 480p, that doesn't make a difference either.

Just so I don't end up calling a lot of people liars attempting to justify their purchases, I have to also throw out that I'm using an older non-slim Xbox 360 with the Jasper chipset. Newer slim Xbox 360s have better performance, so the slowdown may be less noticeable, and this method may work better. That I won't know for sure as I don't have a slim Xbox 360 to test.

To finalize: lowering the resolution and turning off widescreen doesn't seem to work. If you are finding the game unplayable due to the slowdown, there isn't going to be a good fix until KOEI releases one themselves.

Monday, July 15, 2013

How to Transfer Region on PS3 Game Saves

This week, I'm going to show you how to easily transfer your PS3 game save to another region (e.g. Japan to US, US to EU, etc.). This method is incredibly effective most of the time and everything should work 100% once transferred—all your progress, trophies, stats, etc.

In this guide, I'll be using as an example a Dynasty Warriors 8 Japanese game save which I will be transferring from Japan region to US region. 

Requirements:
  • Save data from the game and region of your choice
  • Title ID of the game with region you want transferred to
  • Playstation 3 console (can be original firmware or custom)
  • USB stick/drive - to transfer game saves from PS3 to PC and vice versa
  • PC with Windows XP, Vista, 7 or 8
  • Bruteforce Save Data
 

STEP 1:  Copy your game saves to your PC  


You will need to have your game save stored and accessible on your PC as you will be modifying its contents. The easiest way to do this is to insert a FAT32 formatted USB stick in your PS3 and copying the game save to the stick, then copy them onto your PC. 

When copying from PS3, the game save should be located on your USB stick in PS3\SAVEDATA.

Copy the entire game save folder to your PC. Put them somewhere you can remember, such as the desktop.

Important! Always make a backup of your game save in case anything ever goes wrong. I recommend creating a new folder called "SAVEDATA BACKUP" and putting an extra copy of your game save there. I will not be held responsible for any damages caused to your game save if you fail to make constant backups.

STEP 2: Download and configure Bruteforce Save Data


Bruteforce Save Data is a powerful game save data swiss army knife for PS3. It allows one to decyrpt and encrypt game save files, add cheats, transfer region, transfer saves to another owner and more.

Download Bruteforce Save Data here. 

Once it's finished downloading, extract the RAR file and run the installer. Do not launch the program yet.

Create a new folder on your desktop or anywhere else you like and name it "SAVEDATA". This folder will be the folder where you store all your game saves for usage with Bruteforce Save Data. Make sure that wherever directory you store it in is NOT write protected

Drag/copy your game save folder (e.g. NPJB00325-SAVEDATA) to this "SAVEDATA" folder. 

Now it's time to run Bruteforce Save Data.

If you receive an error message regarding msvbvm50.dll missing, you need to install Visual Basic Runtime 5.

You may be also requested to download Microsoft Visual Basic C++ 2010 (x86) if you don't have it installed in your system. Downloading and installing this is a must!

If all is well, you should be greeted with a nice big window.


It may ask you to update cheats repository, click the "Download" button to download the latest database. This is important because it will update your game.conf file with the latest game keys to ensure saves can be decrypted and encrypted.

Ignore any of the program's requests to input a console ID and User ID. You don't need to setup a PARAM.SFO template either. Just leave them all at default.

The first thing we need to do is click on the "..." button and select the "SAVEDATA" folder of where our game save is (the one we created earlier). So go ahead and do that. Once selected, your game save should show up.

SAVEDATA folder selected as the path.

Take note of the "Key" section, there should be numbers in this field. If it's empty, you'll need to select the game save and hit F6 to Bruteforce the key. Once it's Bruteforced, press the "Refresh" button to refresh everything. The "Key" section should have now some numbers.

STEP 3: Decrypt game save files 


Back in the Bruteforce Save Data window, make sure the game save is selected on the top window and click on "Decrypt PFD" button then "Decrypt All Files". You can also simply use Ctrl + D to decrypt.

How to decrypt game save files

After it has successfully decrypted, you should see the window turn green. This indicates the game save files are decrypted. Ignore any disc hash key errors you get.

Game save files successfully decrypted

STEP 4: Change Title ID of game save


In order to change a game save to another region, we need to change its Title ID.

To do this, right click on the game save and select "Change Title ID/Region". You can also simply hit Ctrl + I to do the same task.

How to activate Change Title ID/Region.

You should now get a pop-up window requesting you to enter the new Title ID. Replace the current ID with the Title ID of your destination region. In my case, I want to change the Title ID to NPUB31234. This is the Title ID of the US version of the game I'm using—Dynasty Warriors 8. Your Title ID will be different if you're using a different game. You can use PS3Index to find the Title ID of your game in its region.

Changing NPJB00325 to NPUB31234.

After you hit "OK" it will duplicate your existing game save and convert the new one into the new Title ID you've entered. Your window should then look something like this:

Title ID/Region successfully changed.

STEP 5: Encrypt game save files


In order to actually use the new game save on the PS3, we need to re-encrypt it. If you leave it decrypted (green), the game will tell you its corrupt and force you to delete it and create a new one.

In Bruteforce Save Data with the newly created game save selected (top), click the "Encrypt PFD" button then select "Encrypt All Decrypted Files".

How to encrypt the decrypted game save.

The green will vanish and the window will return back to white color. If you get an error dialog box indicating "Missing secure_file_id", the game save needs its key first. You can get the key easily by clicking on the game save, then hitting F6 (Bruteforce). Once Bruteforced, click the "Refresh" button. The key field for that game save should then be populated with numbers.

New US game save encrypted.

As an option, you can also re-encrypt the bottom original game save as well with the same steps.

STEP 6: Transfer game save to PS3, test it out and resave


You are pretty much done. All that's left to do is to transfer the newly created game save to your PS3 and test it out.

If you're transferring from Japan region to US/EU or vice versa, you'll probably notice that the game save still retains all its Japanese or English title, description text and icon; even though we completely changed the Title ID/Region.

Don't worry about this regardless, just copy it over and replace your current game save with it. When you save over it again in the actual game, it will then convert all the Japanese or English text and the game icon to the Japanese or English counterparts.


NEED HELP?


Please post a comment directly in this post or send me an e-mail.

Other Posts You May Like:

How to Resign PS3 Game Saves
How to Resign Xbox 360 Game Saves

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Remembering the YouTube Times

In celebration, or dis-celebration of almost nearly 2 months of YouTube's "One Channel", I decided to look back in the past and see how much YouTube has completely dis-evolved in 7 years.

2006-2009


YouTube's first channel layout. The design is plain and simple, yet it worked. Navigation was super easy and effective. Everything including full profile, featured video, activity feed, uploads (which was entirely customizable), playlists (also customizable), friends, subscriptions, subscribers and comments are all in one single page. You didn't have to click multiple times to get to see the content you wanted to see. Bulletins and special videos section are also great.

Background and all the colors of the channel can be altered, and full transparency of all sections were available so your background could pop out.

This is highly regarded as YouTube's best channel layout by the majority of YouTubers.

 

2009-2011 "Version 2.0"

 


YouTube's first channel layout change. This is probably the most highly criticized action YouTube made by the public, and rightfully so. Thousands upon thousands of comments were posted on YouTube's forums and videos, and 99% of them were against it.

What's wrong with it?

First off, the organization and placements of sections are completely clumsy. User profile has been pushed down the page into semi-obscurity, and the featured video and its player is now always on top. The new channel video player has the ability to play all videos without having to leave the channel. I find this feature actually useful and nice, but a heft of options are disintegrated when playing videos using this method: viewing full sized, leaving and viewing comments and exploring related/recommended videos. To be able to access and do any of these, you would have to click to view the video in its original video page (which a lot of people will be too lazy to do). In the end, this punishes the channel owner the most, and would make views and comments diminish greatly. Somewhat good for the viewer, bad for the uploader.

The video sidebar, is the only place where you can store your playlists, favorites and uploads. You can no longer see all of them at once, requiring multiple clicks. Also, there's finger numbing scrolling you have to do to go through the videos since the sidebar is tiny. Bugs even makes it worse—sometimes it forgets where you were at during scrolling and you have to start scrolling over again from the beginning. Arrghh...

The design was also ugly.

I did appreciate the ability to watch videos on the channel without leaving the page, but there's simply too many bad implementations and design choices. It's still better than the next one though, which is even worse...

2011-2013 "Cosmic Panda"


Here is where customization and personalization really took a dive into non-existence. In cosmic panda, the default and only theme you could choose from was a plain looking gray/white appearance. Coupled with the removed ability to set transparency on anything, everyone's channels look exactly the same, besides the background. Speaking of the background, since the main gray/white content took over 90% of the display estate, the background can hardly be seen by most users. So why even bother?

Content is now even more separated into different pages, and some don't even make a lick of sense. To be able to view a person's channel comments, one would to click on "Browse Video" and then click on "Comments". Say, what does channel comments have to anything to do with browsing videos again, Einstein?

Mentioning channel comments, YouTube now cuts off comments after a certain period of time. So you can no longer view older comments at all, not even if you are channel owner. BS.

The ability to watch any videos without leaving the channel is now gone. That's funny, I thought they believed that was one of the greatest features and advertised so much out of it. Now they removed it entirely? But that's how the upgrade downgrade process on YouTube works, incorporate a feature that's remotely useful and then remove it for no reason on the next iteration.

The only thing I like about the new channel layout is that video thumbnails are very large. So it's easier for viewers to see them. Other than that, the previous two layouts were much superior.

2013-???? "One Channel"

 


A few months ago, YouTube decided it was going to change its homepage layout for the 63 gazillion time, going from a fairly graphical multi-grayscale layout to one so white it would give snow a run for its money. The most noteworthy bit of this change was the new sidebar, which YouTube claims allows a user to instantly see all of their subscribers activity and uploads on any page with a single click. I honestly could care less about it, especially since the new layout made my eyes bled with it having so much empty white space everywhere.

With this one feature in mind, they thought it was so radical and so crucial that channels must have it too! And being the brilliant minded folks they are, instead of just simply attaching the sidebar to the current channel layout, they went with yet again an all out entirely new layout. Remember, a new layout from YouTube means a POS layout that's another step worse than the previous.

Thus, the ugly duckling "One Channel" was born.

I don't think I even need to do much explanation on this layout as it's been forced down everybody's throat now for months.

Devolution is right.

So, what is your favorite and worst YouTube channel layout?

Friday, July 12, 2013

Wii and Xbox 360 Case Mods

I just finally got around to finishing modding the cases of my Nintendo Wii and non-slim Xbox 360. As you can see, the finalized design sort of compliments the consoles well. The Wii is seen as a friendly, cute console with the anime case. The Xbox 360 is seen as a more hardcore geek machine with its dark case and illuminating red lights.

Nintendo Wii

Xbox 360 - Regular Flavor

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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Shin Sangoku Musou 7 Weapon Modding

GUIDE LAST UPDATED: 8-28-2013

 So you're tired of the mundane and time killing process of strengthening weapons in the game, which is still not as accessible and true to form as Warriors Orochi? Perhaps you just want the perfectly tailored weapon of your choice so you can stop wasting time and start jumping on the battlefield kicking ass.

Well look no further, as in this post I'm going to teach you an easy way to mod any of your weapons and change its affinity, attributes and attribute levels to anything you desire. And no, it requires nothing crazy like a modded console and hours of work. Let's face it, this would be wholly superfluous if it costed more or the equivalent time as doing it in the game. Honestly, all you really need is a PS3 (with any official or custom firmware), your current game save and a Windows PC. That's it!

Requirements:
  • Playstation 3 console (on OFW or CFW)
  • USB stick or drive - to transfer your game save from PS3 to PC and vice versa
  • PC with Windows XP, Vista, 7 or 8
  • Shin Sangoku Musou 7 game save
  • Bruteforce Save Data
  • HxD hex editor (built-in with Bruteforce Save Data)

 

STEP 1: Copy your game save to your PC


You will need to have your game save stored and accessible on your PC as you will be modifying its contents. The easiest way to do this is to insert a FAT32 formatted USB stick in your PS3 and copying the game save to the stick, then copy it onto your PC.

The game save should be located on your USB stick/drive in PS3\SAVEDATA. Copy the entire NPJB00325-SAVEDATA folder to your PC and leave it somewhere you can remember.

Important! Always make a backup of your game save in case anything ever goes wrong. I recommend creating a new folder called "SAVEDATA BACKUP" and putting an extra copy of your game save there. I will not be held responsible for any damages caused to your game save if you fail to make constant backups.

STEP 2: Download and configure Bruteforce Save Data


Bruteforce Save Data is a powerful game save data swiss army knife for Playstation 3. It allows one to decyrpt and encrypt game save files, add cheats, transfer region, transfer saves to another owner, and more. For this specific scenario, we will only need to use it to decrypt and encrypt files.

Download Bruteforce Save Data here. 

Once it's finished downloading, extract the RAR file and run the installer. Do not launch the program yet.

Create a new folder on your desktop or anywhere else you like and name it "SAVEDATA". This folder will be the folder where you store all your game saves for usage with Bruteforce Save Data. Make sure that wherever directory you store it in is NOT write protected! Please do not put the folder inside Bruteforce Save Data program folder, or else you may run into issues.

Drag/copy your JPN Dynasty Warriors 8 save folder (NPJB00325-SAVEDATA) to this "SAVEDATA" folder. 

Now it's time to run Bruteforce Save Data.

Windows Vista, 7 and 8: Run Bruteforce Save Data as an administrator by right clicking the program icon and then selecting "Run as administrator". This is very crucial! If you don't wish to do this every time you re-open the program, go to the BruteforceSaveData.exe in Windows Explorer, right click and select "Properties", then go to "Compatibility" tab and check "Run this program as administrator". Alternately, you can simply disable Windows User Account Control (UAC).

Windows XP: You can just simply double click the program icon to launch. Although, if you run into strange issues, you may want to try running as an Administrator.

If you receive an error message regarding msvbvm50.dll missing, you need to install Visual Basic Runtime 5.

You may be also requested to download Microsoft Visual Basic C++ 2010 (x86) if you don't have it installed in your system. Downloading and installing this is a must!

If all is well, you should be greeted with a nice big window.


It may ask you to download the latest cheats file, select "Download" to download it. This is very important because it will update the game.conf file with all the latest game keys. If you get an error updating, it is because you are not running the program as an administrator.

Ignore any of the program's requests to input a console ID and User ID. You don't need to setup a PARAM.SFO template either. Just leave them all at default.

The first thing we need to do is click on the "..." button and select the "SAVEDATA" folder of where our game saves are (the one we created earlier). So go ahead and do that. Once selected, your save files should show up.

SAVEDATA folder selected as the path.

Take note of the "Key" section, there should be numbers in this field. If it's empty, you'll need to select the game save and hit F6 to Bruteforce the key. Once it's Bruteforced, press the "Refresh" button to refresh everything. The "Key" section should have now some numbers.

STEP 3: Decrypt game save files


Back in the Bruteforce Save Data window, make sure NPJB00325-SAVEDATA is selected on the top window and click on "Decrypt PFD" button then "Decrypt All Files". You can also simply use Ctrl + D to decrypt.

How to decrypt the game save files.

After it has successfully decrypted, you should see the window turn green. This indicates the game save files are decrypted. Ignore any disc hash key errors you get.

Game save files successfully decrypted.

STEP 4: Open APP.BIN with hex editor


The APP.BIN is the file that contains all of our actual game save data. Since we decrypted it earlier, we can now open it directly with a hex editor to modify its contents. You can do this by double clicking the APP.BIN file within Bruteforce Save Data. It will open the file in HxD.

Initial opening of APP.BIN in HxD.
Once opened, you should see a bunch of scary looking hex data that no regular being can decipher. Don't worry, you will know exactly what to edit soon.

STEP 5: Obtain hex values for weapons you want to edit


Since there's no easy way to locate the exact locations of where certain weapons' values are stored on the APP.BIN file, we need to refer back to the actual game to fish them out.

With that being stated, leave your PC and go to your Shin Sangoku Musou 7 game running on your PS3. Head into any mode where you can access full information about your weapons. Select a particular weapon you want to edit and take a note of its attributes.

Now, take a look at the table below. This table details all the weapon attributes available in the game and their respective hex values.

Click to view full size.
Look at the weapon you want to edit again, and match up the attributes on it with their hex values. On a notepad or piece of paper, write down the attribute hex values in the order they appear on the weapon.

Need an example? Say my weapon attributes are 旋風 怯懦 神速 高揚 疾走円 方円. So looking at the table, I would write down 0C 1E 07 12 10 01.

The weapon I chose to edit.
A weapon will not always have six attributes. So in these cases, simply write down all the attribute hex values it does have, then append FF to each attribute that it doesn’t have until it equals six total (e.g. 0C 1E 07 12 FF FF, for a weapon that only has 4 attributes). To be certain you don’t edit the wrong weapon during the actual hex editing process, you’ll definitely need a weapon that has at least 4 attributes attached to it.

If you plan on editing more than one weapon, take this opportunity to additionally write down the attribute hex values for all those weapons you're going to edit. Make sure you are using memorable labels for each, as you can get easily confused as to which hex values belong to which weapons later on.

STEP 6: Edit weapon hex values in APP.BIN


It's finally time to actually edit your weapons!

With the APP.BIN file still opened in HxD, hit Ctrl + F to open the find tool. Enter the hex values to the weapon you want to edit in the “Search for” text box. Change the datatype to “Hex-values” and check “All” under "Search direction".


The hex editor should now find your exact weapon location in the file based upon the hex values you provided it. If it fails to find anything, check back in the game and ensure that you did not write down the wrong hex values for the attributes or write them in the wrong order.

You can now alter the hex values to your liking, i.e. changing the affinity, attack power, attributes and attribute levels the weapon is currently stamped with. To change the attributes, simply change the current six highlighted hex values to hex values of the new attributes you want—using the table mentioned earlier as a guide.

You can use the picture below to see where each weapon data is positioned:


Changing affinity:  
The hex values for each affinity are as follows -
00 = 
01 = 
02 = 

Changing attack power:  
You can’t just simply input any number here you like and expect it to work. You will need to use a decimal to hex converter first, such as http://www.binaryhexconverter.com/decimal-to-hex-converter.
I never change this value as doing so will break the game's rules, which I don't condone.

Changing attribute levels:  
Attribute levels are from 01-10, but in hex format 10 is actually 0A. Hence, if you want to edit the level to level 10, you must use 0A as the hex value. Values for non-existent attributes are marked with 00.

To edit another weapon, bring up the find tool again (Ctrl + F) and input your next weapon hex values, hit "OK" to find its location, edit it to your content, then simply repeat the process as necessary.

Once you're done editing, save the file by hitting Ctrl + S. You can then close the hex editor.

STEP 7: Encrypt the game save files   


This step is simple and quick. In Bruteforce Save Data with NPJB00325-SAVEDATA still selected, click the "Update PFD" button then select "Update PFD (Partial)". You can also just hit Ctrl + U. Do not use the Encrypt PFD option! The green will vanish and the window will return back to white color.

Re-encrypting the game save files.

This will now re-encrypt the file, allowing it to be then safely transferred back to your PS3 without any issues. If you forget to do this step, the game will tell you the game save is corrupted and force you to delete it and create a new one (when you transfer it back to your PS3).

STEP 8: Transfer game save to PS3 and test it out   


You can now copy the modified save data back into your PS3. If all is well, you should have your weapon(s) modified to your desire without having to deal with any of the game's annoying in-game nuisances. Best yet, you can modify a weapon into a dream weapon in under 5 minutes compared to hours doing it in game!

Have fun, and remember—don't use this method to purposely gain an unfair advantage in the game. Meaning, create legit weapons and not illegit weapons that has impossible stats. Don't go just starting into the game and decide to mod your weapons either. You should only use this to shed time off attempting to get good weapons with the game's poor strengthening system.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Dynasty Warriors 8 (Shin Sangoku Musou 7) Review

Note: This review is based on the Japanese version of the game.


INTRODUCTION


Dynasty Warriors 8 is the 8th installment in the Dynasty Warriors franchise, or if you’re living in Japan, it would be the 7th as the original Dynasty Warriors fighting game wasn’t included as part of the official series there.

It follows the same familiar hack and slash tradition as the previous games—taking place in giant, densely populated battlefields, and bases its characters and storyline around the ancient Chinese Three Kingdoms area, sprinkled with some fiction and fantasy elements to spice up what would be a rather dull concept otherwise. Nevertheless, as with all new Dynasty Warriors games where the storyline and characters rarely differs, it does incorporate enough new features and changes to warrant it being acceptable as a different entity of its own. Dynasty Warriors 8 is perhaps the most highly rich in features and storyline of the bunch, and fortunately brings a lot of ideas and features back into the game that has been neglected or simply dismissed in earlier titles.

GAME MODES


The game is split into three game modes: Story Mode, Free Mode and Shosei Mode. Story Mode is the primary mode of the game and takes you through the storyline of the kingdoms of Wei, Wu, Shu, Jin and as well as an Others kingdom. Similarly to Dynasty Warriors 7, the stories are kingdom based, so you’ll follow one story based around the kingdom you have chosen and not the stories of individual characters. Although, once you have unlocked the Others kingdom, you’ll be able to play as individual short stories of a few characters such as Lu Bu and Meng Huo. These however are only one stage long in comparison.

Each kingdom’s story is branched into two different scenarios that you can partake. The regular branch is a historical scenario and also the easier of the two to traverse to. You’ll likely be getting this scenario the first time you go through the story mode of any kingdom. The second scenario is interestingly a fictional scenario—that tells you a what if story. For example, what if Wei never lost the battle of Chibi? You’ll often run across fictional scenarios that involves the three kingdoms working with each other to help unify the land at questionable times, which would be the total opposite in true history. And don’t be surprised to see the supposed to be deceased alive and well with their sons and family well after their real time in history is done for. You'll grasp what I mean once you actually play through these fictional scenarios.

Branching storyline paths makes a return in this game.
The fictional IF scenarios can be unlocked by completing a set of tasks in various stages throughout the story. These tasks can be easily viewed when highlighting a stage before engaging in the actual battle. After you complete all the tasks prior to the branch point, you can play the branching stage to unlock and traverse to the fictional IF scenario.

You’ll also get additional branches other than the two main branches. However, these are mostly one stage long, but adds some more insight to why certain events happen later on.

Story mode stage structure is mostly unaltered from Dynasty Warriors 7. You’ll get a voice over briefing of the battle you are partaking in. Thereafter, you have around two to four characters to select from. Unfortunately, this limitation means any other character selection is restricted. This is a bizarre implementation, as in each stage the amount of playable characters on your army are multitudes more than the two to four you are allowed to choose. Why not be able to select all of them? Nevertheless, you can always play as any characters in any of a story’s stage in Free Mode, to counter that one negative.

During certain stages, you’ll start out in a camp rather than directly in the midst of battle. This allows you to interact with other characters and further understand what’s going on. It also allows you to quickly purchase and sell weapons you’ve gathered on the battlefield, which is quite handy and important as weapons seem to pile up in your collection very fast. The camp is also crucial for the branch point stage, where you would be allowed to select to either traverse to the historical or the IF scenario.

Actual battle is not that different here. You’ll be assigned various tasks to complete, enemy officers to defeat and after doing so, allowed to advance further into the stage and then onto often a buffed up enemy officer boss. There’s plenty of siege weaponry on the battlefield that can be used to benefit your army, such as catapults, siege ramps and ballistas. Of course, the enemy has their own to use on you as well. Those damn ballistas.... Strategy also plays an important role in a lot of stages, as succeeding to execute an enemy devastating strategy can greatly improve the morale of your army, and in some cases, necessary to unlock additional branching stages and the IF scenarios.

The battlefields are mostly all huge and quite varied, where in one part you’ll be treading a vast grassland and in the other inside a dark, dwelling cave maze where your surrounding vision are greatly reduced. Cutscenes are littered throughout each story mode’s kingdom, both in game rendered and in FMV. The quality of the cutscenes are top notch and contains a lot of the emotions and high budget values missed in previous games.

Cutscenes are very engaging and excellent.
Overall, story mode is quite excellent and is perhaps one of the most decent of all Dynasty Warriors games, primarily due to its great stage design coupled with branching scenarios.

Free Mode is the second game mode of the game. This should be familiar to a lot of veteran and earlier Dynasty Warriors players. It’s simply a mode that allows you to play as any character in any of the game’s stages, story or otherwise. In addition, you’ll have at your fingertips a lot of extra options and features that aren’t regularly possible in story mode, such as the ability to equip a different horse or support animal and changing the costumes of NPCs. There’s also quite a few reverse scenario stages available you can select from. These allows you to play as the opposing enemy army instead while keeping the stage layout the same, which is pretty cool and something we’ve been looking for in a Dynasty Warriors game for a long time.

Shosei Mode takes on a more interesting approach. It tasks you as the player to create a social base for peasants called the “Tongquetai Tower” and make the Emperor visit it. In order to raise the tower’s status, you must engage in three different kinds of battles: skirmish battles, raid battles and large-scaled battles; each with its own central objectives and rewards. 

Shosei mode is the new unique game mode in Dynasty Warriors 8.
You’ll initially start off with just a bare bones village with a weapon shop as your sole facility, acting as a hub to interact with people, purchase and trade goods, ride into battle, as well as other things. Unlike other modes, your main character selection here is permanent throughout the entire mode, and you’ll only be allowed to switch characters once you recruit them as your followers after battles.

Once you’re ready to set off for battle, you have the aforementioned battle types you can partake in. Skirmish battles can help you obtain weapon materials and build materials, raid battles grants you more fame and large-scaled battles can help you recruit more followers. After a series of battles, you may be requested to engage in a historical battle. By completing each historical battle, you’ll be awarded with a stylized trophy for that battle. An in-game trophy, not a Playstation 3 trophy.

Battles can go on infinitely after being victorious, and your health does not reset back to full per battle if you choose to continue on without quitting. Hence, this mode is essentially a survival mode. The higher amount of battles you complete, the better the rewards will be (as marked by an x multiplier). Occasionally, battles may be marked in red text, indicating that all enemy officers will be buffed up. However, the rewards will be doubled or tripled than regular. You’ll also be awarded with rare items, such as weapons and support animals, after a set series of completed battles. If you happen to die in a battle, you will lose experience and gold you have obtained and return back to your village.

After obtaining enough build materials, you can level your departments using them. Raise the levels high enough and the department will automatically be upgraded to the next rank. Upgraded departments allows you to do many more things with them, such as if you rank the blacksmith enough, you’ll be able to have options to build new weapons, strengthen weapons and gamble weapons with the weapon materials you collected.

GAMEPLAY AND CHARACTERS


As with all Dynasty Warriors games, you’re always going to have a huge roster of characters to choose and play from. There is now a total of 77 playable characters in this game. Like every new game, a few new characters have been introduced as well, including Guan Yu’s two other offsprings and other important military generals such as Yue Jin, Jia Chong, Wen Yang and Lu Su.

Guan Yingping is one of the hot new characters in Dynasty Warriors 8.
Fear has always been geared towards the dreaded moveset cloning of a lot of characters, where one character will share the same moveset with extremely minor differences with another, breaking the uniqueness of several characters. However, I can safely assure that no such fear exists for this game, as every single character now has an entirely different and varied moveset plus weapon combination. Awesome...

Every character also has the option to equip four different abilities. These abilities range from increasing your health, attack and defense, to being able to get better weapon drops. They are unlocked and leveled by completing specific tasks in battle according to the ability. For instance, you may have an ability that requires you to defeat an officer with a musou in order to level it. Once you leveled your character high enough, you'll receive special abilities that increases certain weapon compatibility to max regardless of character selection.

Now let’s get into one of the most significant gameplay change/feature in the game: the new weapon affinity system.

Weapon affinity: more despicable than lovable.
The weapon affinity system is a new system that is incorporated into every weapon in the game and is broken into three different elements: heaven, earth and human. One element is always dominant over the other, as well as inferior to another. Each weapon can have one element only. Thereby, using a more dominant element over a weaker element grants you special advantage properties. The same can be said using a weaker element against a dominant element, where you’ll be punished instead. Using an element against the same element retains a neutral outcome, where nothing special happens.

How does this actually tie into the gameplay itself? Well, enemy officers all have their own individual weapon affinity on the battlefield, and dependent on what weapon affinity you are using yourself, you’ll be able to either take upper advantage of the battle with him/her or be at a disadvantage. It’s just that simple.

What are the advantages if you use a weapon affinity that is dominant to an enemy’s? You’ll get something called Storm Rush. This is an extremely powerful multi-hitting attack that instantly rushes the enemy, depleting a huge chunk of their health. It is triggered automatically after a blue shield icon on top of the enemy’s head is all destroyed. Depleting the shield is done by using any kind of attack against the enemy, whether it is actual hit or blocked.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you use a weapon affinity that is inferior to an enemy’s, you’ll be treated with the enemy being buffed up—as displayed with a warning sign above their head. The buff includes the inability to stagger him/her with most attacks, and they can additionally counter any of your attacks by using their own Storm Rush. However, you still do get one advantage over them, which is the switch counter. Counter one of their attacks successfully, and you’ll switch to your secondary weapon and get a very brief attack up bonus.

The weapon affinity system itself has a few pros and cons. Let’s get into the pros first.

The first pro is that it helps balance the game’s usually unbalanced difficulty somewhat. In previous games, you can easily run across entire battlefields slaying everything in your path without much effort, even on harder difficulties. With the weapon affinity system in place, it helps alleviate the feeling of being overpowered to an extent, especially when you approach a group of officers that all have dominant weapon affinities over yours. It’s not so easy to rush in and kill them all in a few swipes without getting hurt and moving onward.

The second pro is that it encourages diverse gameplay and the actual concept of weapon switching. Meaning, you are always going to have be switching weapons often to counter your own inferior affinity or take advantage of an enemy’s. In previous games, sticking to the exact same weapon is all that’s necessary to be victorious in a battle, which kind of defeats the purpose of carrying two different weapons in battle. Coupled with storm rush and switch counter, the variety of the gameplay is greatly increased in addition.

Now onto to the cons. Oh boy...

The entire system feels too much like playing a game of dice. Unless you memorized all the officers’ weapon affinities in every stage, it is pretty much a game of chance and luck per officer you encounter if you’ll be superior to him/her or be inferior. You won’t know what weapon affinities to take into battle due to all the various different weapon affinities the enemies all have, so there is very little to no strategy involved in picking the right two affinities—especially since you can longer switch weapons during battle at all.

Secondly, storm rush is unbalanced and broken. It deals way too much damage, has way too much range coverage and can be triggered repeatedly with the enemy not being able to do much of anything. If you approach an enemy and can storm rush them, they are pretty much done for. In groups it is more broken, as you’ll be needing only one enemy to storm rush and all the enemies nearby will get damaged in the storm rush as well. Rinse and repeat and the entire group of enemies are quickly dead. Well, there is the rare occasion that an enemy may switch weapon affinity, and they can do that, but I have seen them do this maybe only three times in 100 hours of gameplay. You can partially blame to the enemy AI for that, which we’ll dive into later.

Another annoyance of storm rush is rather than being manually activated, is automatic. Sometimes, you don’t want to storm rush, as it breaks and interrupts your combo. The only way to alleviate such is to switch to a different weapon affinity, but often times, you may be in a situation where you are now inferior in weapon affinity and can no longer stagger them, making combos therefore ineffective. Nice...

Speaking of combos, the weapon affinity system makes comboing in this game a huge chore. Have a super stylish, awesome, lengthy combo you wish to pull off on an officer? Your chances of actually being able to fulfill that combo is 1 in out of 10. Even regular ho-hum combos becomes terribly frustrating to execute. That’s because either your weapon affinity will be inferior and unable to stagger the officer at the get go or during a combo, or storm rush comes in automatically and breaks it.

Well, I can’t complain too much about it, as they did dealt away with the god awful infinite prevention system in Dynasty Warriors 7 Xtreme Legends and Empires.

Overall, the weapon affinity system, albeit being unique and does have some of the benefits mentioned, is mostly poorly implemented and turns the game into a game of chance and luck, that is toned down for the more casual, button mashing masses.

Another new gameplay feature is called awakening. This can be simplified as the rage token of Dynasty Warriors 5 for Dynasty Warriors 8, except it has a few enhanced features.

Awakening turns you beast mode, maybe too much beast.
First and foremost, there are no rage tokens to collect, but you instead build up an awakening meter to activate it. This is simply done by attacking the enemy or building up your chain. Once activated, you’ll be in rage mode. Your musou bar is automatically filled, your attack speed is increased, you’ll have anti-stagger properties and if you execute a musou during the awakening state, you’ll do an awakening musou. The awakening musou is sort of similar to earlier Dynasty Warriors’ and Samurai Warriors’, as you’ll do a repeated loop of an attack animation as long as you are holding the button down. However, once you racked up enough damage during the awakening musou, you’ll enter true awakening musou. This is a more powerful musou than the regular awakening musou, and any enemies you killed during it will drop a +5 EXP scroll.

It’s nice to see that the rage mode of Dynasty Warriors 5 gets a reboot; however, it does make the game a little too easy, especially since building up the awakening meter multiple times quickly is a no hassle procedure.

WEAPON SYSTEM


Dynasty Warriors 8 adopts the familiar ranked weapons that are droppable and purchasable from earlier Dynasty Warriors games. In addition to rank 1 to rank 4 weapons, there is now ranked unique weapons as well, and an ultimate treasure weapon, which is rank 9. The treasure weapon can be obtained by the traditional method of completing specific tasks in a stage on hard difficulty dependent on the character.

The weapon compatibility system makes a return in this game as well. It is now upgraded to four stars instead of just three, making it a bit more difficult to fully max out compatibility for each.

Six weapon attributes can be attached to a single weapon, and there is a lot of attributes that do a lot of different things. Elements such as flash and wind are now directly integrated to the weapon as an attribute instead of being its own separate category. Hence, obtaining a weapon with an element is increasingly more difficult and rare. Attributes can be up to level 10 each, and some attributes are level independent, so these will have no levels attached to them.

Weapon upgrading in this game is not fun nor sensible.
The weapon upgrading in this game is partially a lottery system, mostly pertaining to obtaining specific affinity and attribute types. Upgrading or strengthening a weapon can only be done in Shosei mode, after you have leveled the blacksmith with level 30 with build materials.

While you can upgrade attribute levels and amount of attributes just fine, getting the right affinity and attributes can be a mundane to virtually impossible task. This is simply because affinity and attributes are always entirely randomized, no matter what weapons you are using for the process.

Although this randomness has been greatly diminished in recent game patches, the weapon upgrading system itself is still not as accessible, logical and true to form as the Warriors Orochi series is.

AI AND DIFFICULTY


The AI in this game to bluntly put it: not very impressive. NPCs are often seen running into walls and obstacles over and over again, and at times completely fail to move to their destination points, requiring you to manually maneuver them with your own bodily self.


During battle, the enemy AI isn’t going to win any intelligence awards either. In higher difficulties, being the turtling fools they are, they will usually attempt to block all your attacks as their first move. Once in awhile, they may actually attack you with their weapons. These however usually consists of a single C1 or a small combo that they abruptly stop in the middle of it for no reason, giving you a chance to return fire on them for their foolishness.

When they are in dominant affinity mode, they’ll always counter your attacks with a storm rush. Otherwise, they’ll continuously stare at you in the face while you attack them like bloody lunatics.

Difficulty options are the usual standard of easy, normal, hard and chaos. Easy is the cakewalk option if you are a baby. Normal is somewhat tougher, but still relatively easy. Hard things gets a little panicky, as the damage dealt to you increases by a noticeable amount; however, it can still be played through without a sweat if you level your characters correctly. Chaos is at first extremely punishing, due to its significant increase in damage dealt to you compared to hard. Nevertheless, the enemy AI isn’t improved by much here, and once you leveled to 99, it suddenly becomes rather easy. Probably one of the easiest chaos mode in a Dynasty Warriors game when utilizing good stats and a good weapon. You can blame the sheer brokenness of an abundance of things for that, including unbalanced stats, storm rush, wind element and others.

MUSIC AND AUDIO


The signature rock style music returns in this game. Moreover, a mix of oriental instruments are incorporated to a variety of songs as well, something that has been vastly missed since Dynasty Warriors 4. The downside to it all is that the music in this game is definitely not as memorable or catchy as music from previous games—there is no “Welcome to China” or “Eve” caliber songs here (although “Welcome to China” is included as a remix in the soundtrack). This may be purely just my opinion, however.

The audio side is great as usual. Although you don’t get any English voice acting yet, the Japanese voice acting is very well done and the subtitles are large and easy to read.

REPLAYABILITY


As with the bulk of other Dynasty Warriors games, this game just oozes heaps of replayability compared to most other game series. The simple reason behind it is the sheer amount of characters you can play and level, huge amount of treasure weapons and rare items to unlock, branching storylines and a Shosei mode that can go on infinitely. 100+ hours is just a bare minimum to expect to play this game like a casual.

Regardless, due to the nature of being a more simplified hack and slash title, playing the game for a large amount of time without a break isn't a welcomed feeling. The game starts to feel repetitive by then, and the amount of finger smashing on the controller will wear out your fingers and hands quite swiftly.

CONCLUSION


Dynasty Warriors 8 may be one of the best Dynasty Warriors releases this console generation, marred by some unfortunate poor implementations such as the weapon affinity system, lottery styled weapon upgrading, unbalanced difficulty and lackluster enemy AI. Even then, the complete decloning of every character and excellent branching storyline makes those issues highly ignorable.

Would I recommend this game to a Dynasty Warriors fan? Of course. Would I recommend this game to a gamer who’s never even heard of Dynasty Warriors before. Of course. This, besides Dynasty Warriors 3, 5 and 7; would be the first Dynasty Warriors game I would introduce a person to, as a matter of fact.

OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10


Wha, 7.5/10? THAT'S TOO LOW!


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Pristine Quality Screenshots with Hauppauge HD-PVR

The Hauppauge HD-PVR is perhaps one of the most well known HD capture devices on the market, and is actually the first HD capture device to include H.264 hardware encoding. This hardware allows the unit to seamlessly encode to H.264 on the fly without any impact on the CPU performance of the  computer.

While this is great for videos, it's an absolute nightmare for taking screenshots. This is mainly due to the automatic H.264 compression which cannot be cancelled into uncompressed, and lower maximum 13.5Mbps bitrate limit. Most of the time, attempting to capture a scene featuring heavy motion, then pulling a certain frame out of that clip to use as a screenshot will result in an image that is full of compressed artifacts. It doesn't help either that the HD-PVR—or at least the original model—didn't have any way to directly capture screenshots.

Here is an example of exactly what I'm talking about: capturing a video, then opening it in an viewer/editor and taking a frame from somewhere and making that frame into a screenshot. Note the compressing artifacts.

Wrong way to create a screenshot with HD-PVR.
There is a secret to being able to capture pristine, excellent quality screenshots on any certain part of any scene with any motion, however. And while this tactic works as intended, it does require some extra work, particularly good timing and a little luck.

The secret is really simple actually, just recall this—the first frame (frame 1) of any video the HD-PVR captures will always be in clean, pristine quality with no compression artifacts, no matter where it is taken. Although it's not as perfect as an uncompressed frame, it still comes very close.

So instead of trying to pull a frame out from the midst of a video, capture the frame you want as soon as it appears on the screen, quickly stop the capture, open up the mp4 or ts file—with something like DGAVCIndex—and just copy the first frame to be the screenshot. If you fail to get the right frame as frame 1, just simply keep trying until you get the frame you want, or closely to the frame you want.

Tip: If the time the device takes to start capturing a video takes too long, try capturing a scrap video first. Doing so will cause the HD-PVR to capture nearly instantly on the next and subsequent captures. To avoid lags and stuttering from high CPU usage, you can in conjunction toss the entire Total Media software altogether and resort to command prompt capturing using rcTVCap.

The right but more difficult way.
 Walla! All compression artifacts are gone and we have a very lovely screenshot to share!

This method may also work for other capture devices that can only capture in a compressed format. This may additionally be invaluable to those who own the HD-PVR 2, as it now has a built-in take screenshot tool. Nevertheless, I'm not sure how that function works on that model, so if your screenshots are looking too pixelated and nasty, it doesn't hurt to try this out.