Monthly Archives: October 2008

Fallout 3 Review

I have been waiting ages for this game to come out (specifically since its announcement, which was over 5 years ago) and I’m proud to say it has finally been released. Fallout 3 came out yesterday (October 28th) and was released to retail stores and on Valve’s Steam. Since I’m a big fan of digital downloads, I opted for Steam as I hate dealing with CDs and serial numbers. Plus, it was less expensive than the boxed copy. Within 2.5 hours, I had the game loaded onto my computer and ready for me to start playing. Here’s my initial review and thoughts on the game.

First, let’s get the less important matter out of the way: the graphics. All I’m going to say is “Wow”… the wastelands, characters and the whole post-nuclear environment never looked so great. I am running the game at the highest quality settings, and it’s a real treat. The 8800 GT 512MB I bought a few months back is really paying it off right now.

Now that the graphics topic is out of the way, time to move on what the game is really about: gameplay. I consider the game’s predecessor, Fallout 2, to be my all-time favourite game. If there’s one game I’d like to have on a desert island, it would be Fallout 2. The gameplay, multiple scenarios and story were what stood out in the original. How does Fallout 3 compare, you may ask? Let’s find out.

Just so you know, I have only played the game for about 3 hours now, so I don’t know what awaits further down the game. I could, however, tell you that it looks quite promising as the developers, Bethesda Game Studios, really hit the nail on the head with the first few levels and quests. The interactivity, character development, weapons, skill system, perks… it’s all there and well done. You can definitely tell the developers sat down and played Fallout 1 and 2 from scratch to make this game. When you first start selecting your character’s stats, the way they presented it really got me laughing (you have to play the game to see). They make it really easy and fun, just the way a game is supposed to be.

In my game, I managed to venture out into the wastelands and get some combat action with some raiders. Fallout 3 is not just a FPS — I’d like to think that’s its a bit more evolved. You can’t just run around shooting and wasting bullets on your targets: you’re limited on ammo and if you take your time to use the V.A.T.S., you can do a lot more damage and become a more efficient marksman. However, I must say that using VATS is a bit too easy and almost cheating-like, as you get to pause the game, analyze your enemy’s weak points and shoot efficiently. I guess the developers added this feature to please the turn-based action crowd. I, for one, am not complaining about this mode as it’s crazy fun to see your character do some serious damage in slow-motion.

Finally, the game’s player controls and overall user-interoperability: moving around the wastelands is easy as pie and plays like any other first-person shooter (keyboard and mouse). There’s not much to say here, as a company can’t really screw up player controls these days. If there’s one gripe here, it would be the weapon selection process. In your basic FPS, you can use the scroll wheel to cycle through your weapons. In Fallout 3, you must go through your Pip-Boy and select the weapon you wish to arm yourself with. I don’t think I can really argue about this aspect of the game, since I don’t see Fallout 3 as a first-person shooter. Going through the PB3000 pauses the game mind you, so this function of the game is tolerable.

If I have one more complaint about this game, it would be the following: I noticed Bethesda crammed every aspect of the game into the Pip-Boy 3000, which I find can be a pain sometimes to navigate through. I find the Pip-Boy screen is a bit too small for inventory management, and there’s a lot of stealth menus and buttons that the player must figure out to click on.

If I were to develop a Fallout game in 3D, Fallout 3 would be it. Bethesda managed to do an excellent job at recreating the post-nuclear environment in all its eye-candy glory. I honestly don’t know what the general public and hardcore fans think of this game, but I’m pretty sure there will be the ones that hate it and ones that love it. You can’t always please everyone of course. One must realize that Fallout 3 is NOT Fallout 2, and that’s a good thing. Fallout 3 isn’t even considered a sequel to the two previous games. What we have here is an excellent alternative in the Fallout universe, giving us a look at what happened on the eastern side of North America.

I believe this game is going to kill my social life for a while. I suggest you snag yourself a copy if you want to hide under a rock for a while. :)

How to get Clip-Share 4.0.9 Working on FreeBSD 6.3

REVISED: Mencoder 1.0rc2 has too many problems with WMV files. Modified the guide to work with Mencoder 1.0rc1 instead. Also, added the necessary steps to install GCC 4.2 to compile FFMPEG correctly.

Introduction

For the past week, I have been trying to figure out how to get Clip-Share 4.0.9 working on a FreeBSD system. Uploading script files are easy, but when it comes to compiling and installing binaries, everything can go wrong and then some. I wanted to install everything from ports to keep the system clean and organized, and to make future upgrades easy. I also wanted all the options in CS 4.0.9 to work with minimal customization of the scripts, so if I ever update to the next version, I don’t have to worry about overwriting files that are heavily customized. This guide is for the user who can’t get Clip-Share to work on a FreeBSD 6.3 system. Basic understanding of the operating system is required to follow this guide.

My installation guide works with the following installs:

FreeBSD 6.3, Apache 1.3.41, PHP 5.2.6, MySQL 5.0.51a
Mplayer (mplayer-0.99.11_7)
Mencoder 1.0rc1 (compiled from sources)
FFMPEG (ffmpeg-2008.07.27_7)
libvorbis-1.2.0_2,3
libogg-1.1.3,4
lame-3.97_1

You will need root access to perform certain functions in this guide. If all the binaries are already installed for you, you might want to skip down a section or two and probably go to the convert.php file modification part.

While I have tried to simplify and remove unnecessary steps from this guide, I might become a bit redundant during the ports install. I have listed all the ports that you will need to install. Sometimes, installing one port (e.g. Mplayer) might install everything else for you automatically. Chances are that x264, xvid, speex, libtheora, faac, win32codecs, lame, etc. will all be compiled & installed for you as they can be dependencies (if selected during the configure step).

Just so you know, there is no need for ffmpeg-PHP or phpVideoToolkit. Lastly, you can follow this guide whether or not you have DirectAdmin or any other control panel installed.

Installation

First, let’s do some basic httpd.conf configuration. Open up your domain’s httpd.conf file (or global httpd.conf) and find the VirtualHost section for the domain you’re installing Clip-Share on. You will have to insert the following lines between the <VirtualHost></VirtualHost> directives of your domain.

DirectAdmin users: login as Admin, go to “Custom HTTPD Configurations”. Select the domain you are installing Clip-Share on. Add the following lines in the top box (“Httpd.conf Customization for yourdomain.com”).

php_value upload_max_filesize 100M
php_value post_max_size 100M
php_value max_execution_time 1000
php_value session.gc_maxlifetime 14000
php_value output_buffering on
php_admin_value suhosin.executor.func.whitelist exec //if using suhosin

Ports, Binaries & Sources

Using your favourite SSH client (putty, SecureCRT, direct console access, etc.) login to your server as root.

While this is not required, I put this setting in make.conf to prevent any of the ports from installing X11 garbage. There is no place for X11 or GUIs on a web server, so this little setting enforces the rule.

In /etc/make.conf, put:

WITHOUT_X11=yes

Now, we get to install the necessary applications and libraries via Ports. Before you actually start installing everything, make sure your ports system is up to date. If you don’t know how to do this, check the FreeBSD handbook, section CVS.

Installing ports is very straight-forward and fun.

  • Install GD Library 2: cd /usr/ports/graphics/gd && make install clean
  • Install Flvtool++: cd /usr/ports/multimedia/flvtool++ && make install clean
  • Install lame: cd /usr/ports/audio/lame && make install clean
  • Install libogg: cd /usr/ports/audio/libogg && make install clean
  • Install libvorbis: cd /usr/ports/audio/libvorbis && make install clean
  • Install GCC 4.2 (for proper FFMPEG compilation): cd /usr/ports/lang/gcc42/ && make install clean
    Note: this may take a few minutes, as compiling GCC 4.2 takes a while.
  • Install FFMPEG: cd /usr/ports/multimedia/ffmpeg && make USE_GCC=4.2 install clean
    Note the USE_GCC=4.2 argument to enforce compiling of FFMPEG with a more recent version of GCC.
  • Install Mplayer: cd /usr/ports/multimedia/mplayer && make install clean
    (make sure to disable X11 stuff and select the codecs you want to support)
  • Install Mencoder: The one from ports is version 1.0rc1 (which doesn’t work well). We’re going to compile this binary from source instead.As root, do the following at the console:
    # wget http://www.mplayerhq.hu/MPlayer/releases/MPlayer-1.0rc1.tar.bz2
    # tar zxvf MPlayer-1.0rc1.tar.bz2
    # cd MPlayer-1.0rc1
    # ./configure
    # gmake 

    Next, we’re going to copy the compiled binary to /usr/local/bin/. Just type:
    # cp mencoder /usr/local/bin/

We need to do a small tweak to get things running smoothly. Flvtool++ installs itself under /usr/local/bin/, while Clip-Share looks for this utility under /usr/bin/ (beats me as to why). Rather than have duplicate binaries, we’ll create a symlink. Just do the following (as root):

# cd /usr/bin/
# ln –s flvtool2 /usr/local/bin/flvtool++

Upload Clip-Share Files

Now it’s time to go ahead and upload the Clip-Share files. Don’t forget to transfer the files in Binary mode (as recommended by the developers).

Make sure the .htaccess file is uploaded correctly and that it’s present in the root directory of your website. On an OSX workstation, you won’t see this file as Leopard hides files that begin with a dot. Your best bet is to upload the entire Clip-Share archive file and extract it via console, this way making sure all the files are uploaded correctly and are present.

Make sure the CGI-BIN directory is chmod’ed 755, and both the user AND the group belong to YOUR username on the server. Double-check this now; it’ll take you 30 seconds and save you a lot of trouble. If it is different, do the following via the console:

# chown username:username cgi-bin

Where username is your login name on the server.

Follow the rest of the CS installation file. Change the absolute path in ubr_upload.pl accordingly and verify that it is correct. On a FreeBSD system with DirectAdmin installed, it’ll look like: /home/username/domains/yourdomain.com/public_html/

Changes to Script Files

Modify the convert.php script as follows:

*** Removed previous $encodecommand changes as we’re working with Mencoder 1.0rc1 now. ***

Replace:
exec($config['metainject']. ‘ –Uv ‘ .$config['FLVDO_DIR']. ‘/’ .$vid. ‘x.flv ‘ .$config['FLVDO_DIR']. ‘/’ .$vid. ‘.flv’);

With:
exec($config['metainject']. ‘ ‘ .$config['FLVDO_DIR']. ‘/’ .$vid. ‘x.flv ‘ .$config['FLVDO_DIR']. ‘/’ .$vid. ‘.flv’);

Testing, Verification and Miscellaneous Configuration

Login to your website’s administration panel (/siteadmin) and go to “System Checks”. Make sure there are no binaries missing, other than THEORA and FAAC support.

Go to “Media Settings” and enable “Video resize” if you want.

Upload several test videos of varying sizes and formats. Make sure the audio is in sync and that Clip-Share is resizing them accordingly. Take a look at your server load and see if everything is looking ok. The videos you upload must be error-free and encoded properly. I’ve noticed that videos that are poorly encoded or corrupt won’t convert correctly.

Pay attention to Apache error log file in case something goes wrong. If you get “No file given” errors, it’s related to Mencoder from my experience. Make sure you have 1.0rc1 or 1.0rc2 installed and nothing else.

I hope this guide helps someone out. Feedback is much appreciated. Enjoy!