Tag Archives: product

First Impression: GameR-Mate Stik (Hardware) ~ Take Your Ubuntu Everywhere.

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Official website

Today I want to talk about something that has been in the works for quite a while. Last year, the folks over at BlackRangerSoftware sent me an mail promoting their newest product called the GameR-Mate Stik v1.0.0. I was going to write an article about it back then, but the devs created an updated version right after I sent them my feedback. On top of that, the COVID-19 outbreak and shipping something from the USA to Europe delayed this article until now. Now, with that said, I think it’s high time to talk about this product. Know that the developer asked for my 100% honest opinion and that’s what you are going to read in this article. Now, let’s take a look at the first physical product I’m going to review on my blog. Feel free to leave a comment with your opinions on the product and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below.

What is GameR-Mate?

So, image this. An USB stick that you can plug into any computer that can run USB3.0 sticks and with that, you can play your games without affecting the computer itself. That’s GameR-Mate. The technical term for it is a Live-USB.

The latest version I received is running a modified version of Ubuntu 16.08. Now, what is Ubuntu? Let me tell you. So, to be able to run your computer, you need an operating system. An operating system is a sort of “translator”. It translates instructions from software to actual machine code. For example, when you make a new folder, the operating system gets that information from Windows or OSX and tells the hard drive: “Hey, make me a new folder on that location”. An operating system is much more than that, but for keeping this article simple, let’s not dive too much deeper into the inner working of computers.  

Now, the two biggest operating systems on the market are: Windows from Microsoft and OSX from Apple. Of course, you have Android from Google and iOS from Apple for smartphones. Let’s not forget ChromeOS for Chromebooks. And there is a special one as well. It’s called Linux.

Linux comes in a ton of flavors called “Distro’s”. Most of these distro’s are free to use and give you even more control of your computer than Windows and OSX. In the tech community, there are a lot of people who prefer using Linux to Windows or OSX. They enjoy the greater privacy control, ability to control every little thing about the system or just don’t want to pay for an operating system. There are many more reasons why people choose for Linux.

The userbase for Linux is rather small. According to NetMarketShare.com, the most used operating systems on the market are Windows (88,14%), Mac OSX (9,38%) and then Linux with (1,89%). Now, that’s mostly in the desktop and laptop space. Now, something quite “funny” happens when we look at the server side of things. Just take a look at datanyze.com with the comparisons between the usage of Windows Server and Ubuntu… Now, this is only just one website, but let me tell you from personal experience as an IT staff guy in a big school here in Belgium, we server techies prefer Linux distro’s for our servers in most cases over Windows server because it gives us more control over the system and is generally more lightweight so it uses less resources.

So, why am I putting so much effort into explaining Linux for this article? Especially in the section where I should be explaining what GameR-Mate actually is? Well, because Linux gives you the freedom to create very specific products without a lot of modifications. Just take a look at this list and you might be surprised on how much things run on Linux.

GameR-Mate is a special USB stick. So, you can boot to it and play your games and take it with you. The biggest limitation is that you need a “host” computer to be able to run it. So, if you don’t have a computer, you won’t be able to access your games. But that’s a limitation of each USB stick is it not?

What’s included?

Now, you can buy a GameR-Mate USB-stick right from Gamer-Mate.net. At the time of writing, the stick costs 70$ (discounted to 50$) which is give or take, 65 euro (45€ if it’s discounted). In order for you to be able to run your games, you need to have a computer that supports at least USB3.0. I have tested mine on older devices that don’t have an USB3.0 port and let me tell you, it wasn’t a fun time.

But, how do you know if your computer has USB3.0 ports? Well, in most cases these USB ports are blue. You can also double check that via the instructions in this article. So, after you placed your order, you get your GameR-Mate stick.

My stick arrived in a protective envelope that had the stick in a plastic bag stapled to a quick start guide. This quick start guide helps you to boot your computer to an USB stick instead of the actual operating system of your computer. Besides that, you get an user guide with explanation and some great information to get started using the stick. You also get a thank you letter from the CEO for buying the product. And finally you get a welcome letter as well.

I did get something additional, but that’s because I got a beta version of the product so I get some forms to fill in to give feedback on the product to create a better product. Personally, I think that they should include this with every purchase, even when the beta phase is over, you never know when it can come in handy.

The USB stick itself is made out of metal and plastic. It feels quite sturdy but you can remove the metal a bit too easily from the housing. Also, if you ever created USB sticks with your own print on them, you will recognize them right away. Maybe it’s a thing here in Belgium, but I got the same design of USB from various other places at events. I have the same model in yellow, green, blue and red. But, that’s nitpicking.

Something I missed with the USB-stick is a better way to store it. Now, I added an additional metal ring so I can attach it to a lanyard. I find that a bit more secure since during the research and testing I was doing for this article, my cat Troy knocked the USB stick underneath my desk while he was sleeping on my desk. Thanks to the lanyard, I was able to get it back from underneath my desk more easily. Now, adding a lanyard to the shipment might be too big of a cost, but adding a small metal ring to add it to your own lanyard would be lovely.

The experience

Depending on the hardware you run the stick on, the better performance you are going to get. Keep in mind that you need at least a port that can run USB3 sticks. In order to test this stick out, I tested this stick on my main machine. My main computer is running an i7-4820K, 16GB of DDR3 RAM at 666MHz and an MSI GTX 1050Ti. My motherboard is an ASROCK X79 Extreme 6. While this isn’t the strongest of systems out there, my computer is strong enough to run all the games I want to play at 30-60FPS at medium to high settings.

When you boot the stick, you can select various different modes. From what I can understand is that you can choose between loading it from the USB or load the system into RAM. There is also a recovery mode included. I had to use that once since an update failed to install and that corrupted my whole OS.

In the user guide, you get the advice to make frequent backups. If I had made a backup, I would have saved my first testing version from death. But yeah, I’m to blame since I thought I would be able to fix it since I used Linux various times during my studies and at work. But when you can even boot the OS, let alone go in recovery mode… Well, then you are quite screwed.

In a future article, I’ll take a look at the games that are included in this package. The list of pre-installed software is quite expansive. You can find the list at BlackRangerSoftware’s blog. Important footnote with this list, since this list is created during the development of the stick, it might be that some games aren’t included on the stick and/or on the list. But, I’m quite certain that the amount of games won’t change. Games that I could recommend are:

0AD, which is an open source RTS game like Age Of Empires

Alex 4, a lovely retro platformer in the style of an old Gameboy game.

B.A.L.L.Z, a platformer game where you are a ball and you need to use the bounce mechanics to your advantage.

Frogatto, this adventure platformer reminds me a lot of games like Shantae.

Sadly enough, there are some repeats. A lot of repeats actually. There are various Tetris-style, Pac-Man-style, Breakout-style… games. This gave me mixed feelings. At once hand, I love the choice I’m getting between all these various games. But at the other hand, I got the feeling that all of those games were just added to have a higher number of games to try and sell more sticks.

Is this GameR-Mate fun to use? If I have to answer that question, I’m going to have to add a disclaimer. There is going to be a learning curve if you have never worked with Linux. If you are used to Windows 10, there are a lot of things you will miss that you took for granted on your Windows machine. For example: seeing the password you are typing in, loading animations while settings are changing, double clicking a window to make it full screen, a place where all settings are combined into one place, a notification center…. It’s just not there in the Linux distro on the USB-stick. Now, do keep in mind that this can be updated and added in a future version of the stick.

But, you still have to learn a completely new operating system. While Linux has a lot of tutorials, due to the huge amount of different distro’s and differences between them, it can be quite overwhelming. So, give yourself some time and keep in mind that the system might work quite different compared to your Windows machine. Now, I do think that Apple users will have a better time adjusting to Linux since in a way, the user interface of Apple systems and Linux systems have various things in common. (Sidenote: while they have things in common, Apple OSX isn’t Linux and Linux isn’t OSX. But the flow in the OS can be similar.)

When you give this USB stick a chance, I think it might have the same effect on you then it has on me. I love to play around with unique ways to play games. I don’t mind honestly if the game is a retro or a current game. As long as I’m having fun while playing my games, it’s all that matters to me. So, I personally recommend this stick to people who love playing a ton of different games and/or people who travel a lot and aren’t able to take their main gaming rig with them. I think that the asking price is well worth it for the amount of value you are getting. Plus, you can always install more games from the various store fronts.

With that, I think I’m going to wrap up this first article on the GameR-Mate Stik. I want to thank BlackRangerSoftware for being so patient with me and also for giving me the opportunity to test out this product. I want to thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article and I wish you a great rest of your day and take care!

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First Impression: Dungeon Kingdom – Sign of the Moon (PC) ~ Moon Time

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Steam store page

Official site

A few weeks ago, I got a press key for a game sent to me. I’m so glad that the developer reached out to me since this game looks amazing. This game is being created by a small team based in France. It’s still in early access so a lot of things can change between what you read here and what is in the final game. I have played the June 2017 build in order to write this review.  While I got this game for free, the developer wanted that this article is 100% my opinion. I hope you are ready to dive into a new fantasy world since we have the sign of the moon and have to save the land. As usual in my articles, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the article and/or the game. 

The sign of the Moon

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So far, I haven’t gotten too far into the game. I have only been through the first few areas of the game and been exploring and testing out different set-ups and just learning the ins and outs of this game. I could write a whole paragraph to talk about the story, but the press kit sums it up quite nicely.

At the dawn of the Fourth Age… You, a poor young man struggling to make ends meet, have been summoned by a strange man claiming to be a member of the prestigious Mages’ Guild, to join him on a great quest. In the hope for a better future, you accept his request, for who could refuse to follow such a seemingly eminent member of the Mages’ Guild?

A feeling in the back of your mind tells you that this is related to the strange symbol of a moon on you hand… Your quest will require you to explore the Dungeon Kingdom world, to uncover hidden treasures, solve puzzles and battle dangerous creatures in many areas, from dark dungeons to snowy mountains.

The story sounds quite interesting, so I can’t wait to see where the developer takes it. So far, I haven’t experienced the story too much. The writing is good. There isn’t a lot of world building at the start. You are thrown into a fantasy world and you expect to understand everything. While this could be seen as annoying to some people, I like it. Since you learn about the world in various scrolls and books scattered around in the world. I highly recommend that you read them since they might be useful to solve some puzzles.

The good exploring

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Let’s talk about the things I think were really good in this game. The visual presentation of this game is really well done. The game looks amazing.

I loved to walk around in the dungeon and towns since they just look amazing. I really love the fact that you can hold the left mouse button down to look around at the position you are standing. The only minor complaint I have is that there is no button to quickly snap the camera back into place. Apart from taking one step. This snaps the camera back in the right place.

The music and sound effects are really quite well done. While there isn’t a lot of music in the game, the sound effects and sound design more than make up for it. You really feel that you are in a dungeon or palace and it helps to add to the atmosphere. There is one sound effect I didn’t like, and that is the sleeping sound effect. It didn’t click with me. I think something that would add to it is a sort of “waking up” sound where you hear a tent zipper go open or something along those lines.

Something that adds to the immersion is as well the voice acting. It’s really well done. The dialogue also changed depending on your course of action.

The only nitpick I have when it comes to the presentation is that the game doesn’t use its own custom cursor. It would be amazing if the game uses some sort of custom glove/hand icon instead of the white arrow that Windows uses. It would fit a bit more into the visual presentation of the game.

Something I found really impressive is the dynamic light system. You can pick up candles to light up your way. And they do, in a very pleasing visual manner. Something I didn’t like here is that when a candle runs out, it looks like you can still light it. I didn’t find a way to do that. Also, it would be amazing if you can light candles in the environment that have gone out.

The tutorial does an excellent job of teaching you the basic mechanics of the game. I highly recommend that you play through this at least once. The tutorial is really short and sweet. Also, it doesn’t hold your hand too much, it lets you explore at your own pace. And if you want to read the last explanation again, you click a button and it’s explained again.

The dungeons themselves aren’t randomly generated. They are all handcrafted and all the loot is placed everywhere. If you look around enough, you can equip yourself with all the weapons and armor you will need. The game also allows you to tweak the stats to each character in your party to your liking. When you have enough stat points to do so that is.

The gameplay itself is amazing. You explore and fighting through various locations. There are also various secrets to discover in each area. Those secrets will be really beneficial to you on your journey. It’s also wise to keep some items that at first serve no purpose since you can use them to leave them on pressure switches. You can throw items to anywhere you want.

While this game has permadeath, you can save and load anytime you want. There is also an autosave.

Something personal and minor I really like in this game is the fact that there is a feature to change the controls to an AZERTY layout. 🙂

The automap system is amazing. The only thing I miss is to be able to put notes on the map. Maybe I’m too much spoiled by games like the Zelda DS games and Etrain Odyssey.

The RPG elements in this game are great. There is realism in this game thanks to the hunger and stamina system. You need to give your characters a rest and a meal or otherwise they won’t be able to survive.

Things that need improving

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Something that I didn’t like was how slow you were able to attack and how quick your enemies were. I died various times when I discovered the first secret to some enemies. There is a cool down time before you can attack again.

At first, I hated the controls of the combat. I had to use the right mouse click on the hand to attack. I thought this was the only way to attack. But then, I looked at the “Help & Shortcuts” menu and learned that there are buttons to attack. I think this would be really handy to mention in the tutorial.

I also think that the early game enemies are too strong. It just takes too long for you to be able to either counter-attack or use a spell against enemies. I lost two characters before I was able to slay one enemy. The combat system needs some polishing up in my opinion.

Speaking of shortcuts and controls, I think it would be lovely if you can rebind them. While the current control scheme does work for some people, some controls don’t work for me.

This game could use some polish here and there. This game could benefit from a lot of tweaks that seem minor but would go a long way. Like a bit more sound effects, like when you open a door. The game is good, but with these minor improvements, it would be great. But, I think that this is something they are working on since it’s still in early access.

While it’s challenging that you need to find your weapons in the wild, I find it very odd that when you hire an adventurer, he or she doesn’t have a weapon at their disposal. I think it would be an improvement if they have a basic knife or a basic weapon at the start.

Final thoughts

In conclusion, this game is amazing. I fell in love with the amazing visuals and the gameplay that this game has. I’ll follow the development of this game for sure. I also think that this game is worth your money. The asking price is perfect in my opinion.

The game is still in early access and the developer listens to the feedback that it gets. If you have ideas and suggestions on how to improve the game, open a topic on the Steam forums or write them an email.

I can’t wait to see where this game goes. I can’t say it enough, but I have to say that this game is worth your time if you enjoy dungeon crawlers. I do have to warn you that it’s still in early access, but report each bug or oddity since I think this game will become better because of it.

When this game leaves early access, I’ll surely take another look at the game and write a full review here on my blog. But for now, I enjoyed my time in the early access and will continue to play it. Before I repeat what I said too many times, it’s time to wrap up this article. Thank you so much for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, take care and have a great rest of your day.

NekoJonez’s November Update – Plans for 2016 – 2017

SpartaDeary me, is it already mid-November? October flew by and I almost didn’t notice that we were almost midway in this month. Seriously, the older you get the more time flies. I’m currently 23 years old and I work full time. Besides that, I go to evening classes to get a bachelor’s degree in computer science. Besides writing this blog as a hobby, I’m also a part of an acting group. Also, I fix people their computers for fun too. So, yeah. My schedule is easily filled with all sorts of activities. But hey, I’m writing this article to update you guys on what is going on with me and what is important to know for my blog. 

Update on my computer troubles

So, in the last article, I posted that my PC had issues with some heavy-demanding games. I thought I fixed the problem when BioShock Infinite and Alan Wake stopped crashing and rebooting the system. But, since two days ago, the problems restarted.

I got tired of trying to fix the issues. I have been trying since late September. So, I dropped my computer off at my uncle’s place. My uncle and I had built my PC together and I’m hoping that he will be able to fix my problems or at least tell me what’s wrong since I think I’m looking in the wrong places.

When my computer is fixed, I’m planning to write a few articles about some PC games I wanted to write about. But because my PC is giving me issues, I can’t play the games enough to write about them. In any case, I have learned a lot from my uncle. He knows a lot more about computers than me.

Currently, I’m using my laptop that I use for my evening classes. So, I can still write articles!

Blog updates

So, various times I started to work on updating my blog. What I mean by that is going back to an older article to fix typos and grammatical issues, expanding the overview pages, updating some old information, fixing dead links, resizing pictures when they are too big amongst other things.

But my schedule doesn’t allow me to spend a lot of time on it. Also, I enjoy writing new content a lot more than I enjoy fixing up my blog. But I’m trying to fix up an article here and there.

When I do some upgrades, I usually write an article on Tumblr about it. Or when it’s possible, I simply tweet about it.

If you want my latest updates, you should follow me on Twitter or look on the Twitter page. When I have small updates, I post them on my Twitter. When I want to post something that’s longer than 140 characters but isn’t enough to put in an article, I post something on Tumblr. And Tumblr makes a tweet about it for me.

I mostly tweet about things that happen to me, things I want to do, computer science-sy stuff, things I want to share with you guys & girls and so on.

Updating my blog will still happen, but it will take a backseat. I will update my blog when I find the time for it, but I don’t make any promises. But if you find some dead link or a big typo, feel free to let me know. I’ll fix it as soon as I can.

Oh, speaking of blog updates, yesterday was my WordPress-anniversary! So, yay me!

Plans for 2016

So, my plans for 2016 have changed since the last update I posted. At first, I wanted to write about games I haven’t written about yet but I have talked about other games in that given series or talked about it in my other series.

But that’s going to change. I have gotten a few emails from developers to take a look at their games or promote a service with an article.

A note about promoting a service. I won’t promote a service I don’t believe in or when it isn’t relevant to my blog.

A note about taking a look at games from a developer; I always ask the developers if there are things I should point out like for example that the game is in alpha or that the game is multi-platform. Something I won’t do is lying in my articles. I want to give constructive criticism to the developer. I will always talk about the positive and negative aspects of the game.

In December 2016, I have a few things planned. Of course, there will be an article about my favorite games of 2016. Back in January, I made a text document listing all the games I have played this year and I have almost reduced it to ten games for this year!

So, for the rest of December, I have a list of the games I want to talk about. I won’t tell them here yet since they are subject to change.

Plans for 2017

I think that this might be the last update article I write in 2016. Since I have planned for the rest of 2016. But what will I do with 2017? Well, I have a few things in mind.

If I have the budget for it, I might buy myself a Nintendo Switch. But that all depends on the price of the system and if there are games in the release line-up that interest me.

At this moment, there aren’t a lot of games I’m hyped for in 2017. The games I’m looking forward too that are going to be released in 2017 are The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild, Dragon Quest 7 on the 3DS (I own the game already on PS2), Ever Oasis (3DS), remakes of the Zero Espace games (PC) and that’s it.

My current plans for 2017 are that I’m going to try and talk about a lot of games that I have played in the last years I have been blogging but never got to an article.

But 2017 is a long period of time and is 1,5 months away from us… So, yeah. Who knows, I might change my mind later down the road. So, keep an eye out for my Twitter where I’ll post the latest updates.

Closing off

That was another lengthy update. I’m not planning to write an update every month. Yet, I’m thinking that I post an update about my blog every so often. Very 2-3 months maybe?

That way I can update you guys on what’s going on behind the scenes and such. Yet, I feel like that might pull away from the focus of my blog. I write this blog because I wanted to write about the games and my opinion on them. Another option is that I post an update on my Tumblr and keep this blog only for the gaming articles.

So, what do you guys and girls think? Feel free to let me know in the comment section of this article. Should I continue to write these update articles in the future and if so, on this blog or on my Tumblr blog? Should I write them monthly or every so often? I’m curious to know.

I think I said everything I wanted to say in this update. Thank you for reading! I hope to be able to welcome you in another article on my blog but until then, take care and have a great rest of your day!