Gameplay Statistics – Week 2

Monday, September 11, 2017 – Sunday, September 17, 2017

Days of the week in which games were played: Monday, Tuesday
Total number of video games played: 1
Total video game duration: 4 hours
Communities involved: N/A

Game Platform Duration
Mario Galaxy PC/Dolphin (Wii) 4 hours

Total number of non-video games played: 0
Total non-video game duration: N/A
Communities involved: N/A
Number of supplemental game or game-related activities: 1 (Wiimote Bluetooth Configuration)

Tags: PC, Dolphin, Nintendo, Wii, Mario, Bluetooth, Wiimote


Motivation

One of the reasons I wanted to include non-video games and video game related supplemental activities in this blog is because I really enjoy these activities.  I have known this for some time now, but haven’t really given it any deep consideration as to why.  I mean, it’s plainly obvious if you look at my Steam profile that I really enjoy Steam sales, perhaps more than I enjoy playing the games themselves (note the completion rate).

560+ games

Perhaps this will be a question I can answer throughout the course of writing this blog.  I thought it might be useful for the reader to understand that, in recent years, my free time is spent tinkering with activities that feed into gaming rather than gaming itself.  The sense of satisfaction I get from solving these problems tends to be greater than the gaming.  If you read my I Player essay, you know that I’ve been concerned with my inability to recapture the zeal I had for games in my youth (Robertson).  Seeing as that tinkering with hardware and software configurations was fundamental to my experience as a nascent gamer, it makes sense that supplemental game activities are one of the avenues I use to capture those feelings of the past.  Writing this out now, I can put it into words: a real-life problem provides a profound sense of accomplishment, not only because of the task completed but also because of the lessons learned along the way.  That being said, let’s talk about one of those configurations.

My History with Dolphin Emulator

One of the biggest issues I had with the original Wii console was that it never offered high-definition display support like other consoles of the seventh generation.  Being a PC gamer, one of the most attractive features about software emulators or ported game engines was the fact that you could run old games with brand-new top-of-the-line hardware and graphics (or, at the very least, significantly improved graphics).

I first heard of Dolphin emulator about 10 years ago when it was merely a software oddity which ran Nintendo Gamecube games in Windows, albeit very poorly.  By 2016, however, Dolphin had evolved to a point where it could interface somewhat reliably with original Nintendo hardware and play a subsection of games from several different Nintendo consoles without any game-breaking bugs or glitches.  In short, it showed massive promise.  The part that intrigued me the most was the hardware interface capabilities of the emulator.  Getting the Wii Remote Plus (Wiimote) controller to interface with Dolphin running on Windows was not a trivial task, but it was exactly the type of problem that I found extremely attractive.  So in late 2016, I purchased a USB Wii Sensor Bar, Wiimote, and an ASUS USB Bluetooth Adapter.  I also found some used games for Gamecube, and Wii for relatively cheap at the local pawn shop.  I was super excited!

Once all the components arrived, it took me several hours of trial and error to get everything working.  I could go into great detail, but the part that’s relevant to this story is that I had to force a Toshiba Bluetooth Driver Stack to work with a non-Toshiba Bluetooth adapter (something you need more than a modicum of technical knowledge to even attempt).  This was the only Bluetooth driver for Windows in existence at the time which could recognize a Nintendo Wiimote.  After several hours and failed attempts, I got the hardware components working perfectly.

I was ecstatic, elated, euphoric.  I was playing Wii games in high definition on my PC with the proprietary motion controlled remote.  This was not something you see every day.  My elation was short-lived, however, because it wasn’t long before I ran into game-breaking bugs.  Super Mario Galaxy wouldn’t even load.  Super Mario Galaxy 2 crashed at the end of the first world, and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword looked like a polygonal Jackson Pollock painting.  My efforts proved to be nothing more than a novelty, so I put everything in a drawer and forgot about it.

Dolphin 5.0

Dolphin UI showing several games

This brings me up to the point in time of last week’s blog.  To summarize, I was surprised to find Dolphin thriving and more capable than ever before with a brand new release earlier this year.  After the phenomenal initial experience I had with the Gamecube title Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader, I was eager to dust off the Wii hardware I had forgotten about and give it a whirl.

I plugged everything in and was disappointed to find that nothing worked.  The Toshiba stack I installed was still there, but it was no longer attached to my ASUS Bluetooth adapter.  It turns out that Windows had automatically updated the drivers back to the manufacturer’s default.  Things went further south from this point as I tried in vain to reinstall the Toshiba stack.  This turned out to be a big mistake because, after several hours of failed attempts, I discovered that Microsoft Windows had been updated to provide Bluetooth Wiimote support at the simple click of a button.  No special drivers, no hacky configuration, and no more frustration.  I removed all of the previous drivers and turned all the manual overrides I had in place off.  Everything worked.  I felt amazing.  The entire process took over 2 hours, but the payoff was intense gratification.

Mario Galaxy

Super Mario 64 was a seminal game in the 3D platformer genre and an old favourite of mine.  Originally released for the Nintendo 64 console, it was one of the first 3D platformers to have achieved nearly perfect controls and camera movement. With future iterations, I felt that the Mario franchise had taken a wrong turn with the release of Mario: Sunshine (and sequels) for the Gamecube platform by adding gameplay mechanics which were cumbersome and definitely not complementary (i.e. Water hoses, what?).  Nintendo was quick to correct the course with the next-generation release of Super Mario Galaxy for the Wii console.  This was a game I had always felt I had missed the boat on, so I was keen to try it out.  I was not disappointed.

As you can see, the defining gameplay mechanic for Super Mario Galaxy is gravity.  This game is so much fun to play, and it looks great running on my 2015 gaming PC.

I enjoyed the many variations of gameplay for each new “galaxy” that became unlocked, for a time.

I managed to steal a couple of hours per night for the next two nights, collecting a couple dozen stars and unlocking several new galaxies.  After a while, collecting stars started to feel like ticking checkboxes on a to-do list.  Finding my way through the puzzles and problems was pretty easy.  Not like the original Super Mario Bros. which was ruthlessly unforgivable.  I found myself with several dozen extra lives after a couple of hours of play.  It was relaxing, but soon the novelty wore off as I realized just how easy and simple this game was.  With the obligation to write the gameplay blog lingering in the back of my mind, I noticed something.  When I grabbed a new star, essentially hitting a milestone in the game, my instinct was to save and quit thus ending the game on a high note.  Reflecting back on this as I write, I realize this was not how I used to approach gaming.  As a teenager, hitting a milestone only propelled me onwards to the next one with renewed zeal and enthusiasm.  This is just no longer true.  The obligations of reality are just too omnipresent and inescapable.  For the rest of the week, I was too busy to find any more time to play.

Key Insights

Examining the behavioural clues around my time spent on these activities has lead to some interesting questions.  Recall my problem: a lack of zeal in what used to be a cherished and sacred activity in my life.  Deliberately contrasting the supplemental activities of gaming with gaming itself has revealed something interesting; it has occurred to me that my feelings towards video games have changed over the years perhaps as a result of changing personal values.  Why is it so hard to get lost in and thoroughly enjoy video games the same way I used to?

Perhaps the answers lie in the fact that I used to be an extremely lazy person.  Challenge was a rare aspect of life, and so the challenge of video games had high appeal.  Over the course of the last half-dozen or so years, my personal ethics have changed dramatically.  In short, I have risen to meet several major challenges and have changed too as a result.  General satisfaction is a relatively new concept in my life.  Challenge is now intrinsic to my life and career, and with it comes a preceding sense purpose.  This sense of purpose has filled a vacuous hole which has been with me for nearly as long as I can remember.  It seems to me that video games perhaps filled a portion of this hole before.  As normal life has become challenging and purposeful, so too have video games seemingly become more contrived and pointless.  Perhaps this is why the supplemental activities provide so much more gratification: because they are more challenging?

This is not the only piece of the puzzle, however; and there seems more to this story.  I know this to be true because I see a similar pattern with other activities which I used to cherish yet never seem to spend any time doing anymore, like reading and writing.  Perhaps I am merely making excuses for the lack of time spent doing what I used to love so very much.

Works Cited

ASUS. ASUS USB-BT400 USB 2.0 Bluetooth 4.0 Adapter. ASUS, 2013. Computer Hardware.

Dolphin Emulator Project. Dolphin 5.0. Independently Published, 2016. Multiple Platforms. Computer Software.

Factor 5, and LucasArts. Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader. LucasArts, 2001. GameCube. Console Software.

Nintendo EAD. Super Mario 64. Nintendo, 1996. Nintendo 64 Console. Console Software.

Nintendo EAD. Super Mario Sunshine. Nintendo, 2002. Wii Console. Console Software.

Nintendo EAD. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Nintendo, 2011. Wii Console. Console Software.

Nintendo EAD Tokyo. Super Mario Galaxy. Nintendo, 2007. Wii Console. Console Software.

Nintendo EAD Tokyo. Super Mario Galaxy 2. Nintendo, 2010. Wii Console. Console Software.

Nintendo IRD. Nintendo 64. Nintendo, 1996. Console Hardware.

Nintendo R&D4. Super Mario Bros.. Nintendo, 1985. Nintendo Entertainment System. Console Software.

Nintendo. Gamecube. Nintendo, and Foxconn, 2001. Console Hardware.

Nintendo. Wii Console. Foxconn, 2006. Console Hardware.

Nintendo. Wii Remote Plus. Nintendo, 2010. Console Hardware.

Robertson, Aubrey. I Player. 18 September 2017. TS. Vancouver Island University.

Toshiba. Toshiba Bluetooth Stack 7.10.12. Toshiba, 2010. Windows. Computer Software.

Valve Corporation. Steam. Valve Corporation, 2003-2017. Multiple Platforms. Computer Software.

Gameplay Statistics – Week 1

Monday, September 4, 2017 – Sunday, September 10, 2017

Days of the week in which games were played: Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday
Total number of video games played: 2
Total video game duration: 2 hours, 30 minutes
Communities involved: N/A

Video Game Platform Duration
Pinball FX2 PC/Steam 30 minutes
Star Wars – Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader PC/Dolphin (Gamecube) 2 hours

Total number of non-video games played: 2 (Team building games at work – improvised games)
Total non-video game duration: 1 hour
Communities involved: Co-workers
Number of supplemental game or game-related activities: 2 (Gamecube research, Dolphin emulator update)

Tags: PC, Dolphin, Nintendo, Gamecube, Star Wars


Fun at Work

Thursday was a big day at work for me.  The team I work with had a big kick-off for the implementation phase of the 3-year software project that is going to be the primary focus of my current employment.  As part of the festivities, my boss had planned to have some team-building games at the end of the day.  First, in order to learn a little bit more about the people we would be working with, we passed around a bag of pennies.  Each person took a penny and then told a story about themselves and where they were during the year that the penny was produced.  I pulled a penny from 2008.  This was a time when I didn’t really have any major plans for my life, but I was working three part-time jobs, and also doing some freelance contract work on the side.  I think people were surprised when I told them I used to be an armoured car guard, a home theatre salesman, and a hotel night auditor all at the same time.

Lego blocks

The second game we played involved forming teams.  Each team had a designated designer, teacher, and builder.  Two identical bags of lego blocks were given to each team.  The designer went off into another room and built a structure.  The teacher then had to go and memorize the structure and then return to the builder and relay instructions using only speaking.  It was an interesting exercise, and our team finished before any of the others.  My boss had other games planned, but we didn’t have time to play them.  It’s a real shame too because Fluxx is a great card game which I suggested we play as an exercise in change management (Looney Labs).  If you are familiar with the game, you’ll know that it has no set rules.  The rules change and evolve as the game develops.

Getting Back Into the Loop

If you read my short essay for the “I Player” assignment, you’ll know that I haven’t been playing video games very often as of recent (Robertson).  Lately, I’m either too busy or too tired from being so busy to find myself engaging very deeply in video games.  For this reason, I often resort to casual games which don’t require any large investment in time or energy.  Pinball FX2 is one of those games (Zen Studios).

Pinball FX2 can be expensive for a casual game.  It involves paying for each pinball table separately.  It’s a great game for casual players because you can pick it up and put it down easily, and also play it with a controller.  When I loaded this game most recently, I received a notice about the upcoming release of FX3 and thought to myself: “oh no, all my tables.”  But then I read further on that your old tables will automatically be converted to the new engine with better graphics and shadows.

 

Pinball FX2 Table Listing

A listing of all the tables, including those which I’ve paid for an unlocked.

For this brief gaming session, I played the Star Wars: The Force Awakens table, which I’ve shown in a video below:

I played nearly 30 minutes on my single “buy-in.”  Just like in real pinball, you only get so many lives before you have to start over.  I set a high-score on the table for myself and decided to quit on a high note.  But I wasn’t done playing games yet, despite being so late on a Friday night.  All this Star Wars music got me reminiscing…

Star Wars and Dolphin Emulator with ASTOUNDING RESULTS

Over the past couple of years, I had often found myself thinking a lot about Gamecube systems and become interested in obtaining some of the exclusive titles only available on the sixth-generation Nintendo console.  There was one game in particular that I had always wanted to complete, but never had: the Gamecube launch title, Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader (Factor 5 and LucasArts).  I had owned a Gamecube back in the early-to-mid 2000s which, incidentally enough, I had purchased for the sole purpose of playing Metroid: Prime, a Gamecube exclusive (Retro Studios and Nintendo).  In the past month or so, I had obtained a Gamecube system without any A/V cables or controllers thinking this would be a system I could use to play these great old games.  I had also obtained a copy of Rogue Squadron II.

I was reminded of this while playing Pinball FX2 (it must have been the great score by John Williams), so after I finished playing I decided to do a little research into Gamecube A/V cables.  Well, it turns out there are actually two specific models of Gamecube.  One of them supports component video out for 480p (progressive scan), and one doesn’t (Nintendo).  Furthermore, the Gamecube I had recently obtained wasn’t the correct model for 480p output and, since they weren’t in production anymore, the component A/V cables sold online for upwards of $150!!!

It was at this point that I remembered I had installed Dolphin emulator 4.0.2 last year for emulation of Wii games (Dolphin).  I ripped the game disc to an iso image file and fired it up in Dolphin.  It ran like crap.  The sound was out of sync, and the framerate was extraordinarily choppy.  I did a quick check on Google to see what I could do, and the gods must have been smiling upon me because there was a new version of Dolphin emulator (5.0) released earlier this year (on a side note, one of the reasons I had discarded the emulator software since last year was because I couldn’t get it to run any of the Wii games I wanted without crashing or glitching out on me, but that’s a story for the next blog post).

After installing Dolphin 5.0, I cranked up the resolution settings (it kept all my controller settings from the previous install) and fired up the game to ASTOUNDING RESULTS:

This kept me occupied for the remainder of my (albeit short) gameplay for the week!

Works Cited

Dolphin. Dolphin Emulator Project. 2016/2017. Windows

Factor 5, and LucasArts. Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader. LucasArts, 2001. GameCube.

Looney Labs. “Fluxx.” Fluxx by Looney Labs, www.fluxxgames.com/#fluxx5. Accessed 18 Sept. 2017.

Nintendo. “Nintendo GameCube – Component Video and Progressive Scan Information.” | Nintendo – Customer Service | Nintendo GameCube – Component Video, www.nintendo.com/consumer/systems/nintendogamecube/component.jsp. Accessed 9 Sept. 2017.

Retro Studios, and Nintendo. Metroid: Prime. Nintendo, 2002. Gamecube.

Robertson, Aubrey. I Player. 18 September 2017. TS. Vancouver Island University

Zen Studios. Pinball FX 2. Microsoft Studios, 2013. Steam.


Edits: Turned screenshot images into media links for larger viewing; Changed title to omit redundant use of the word “Games” (Sept 22).

Version Date Description
0.1 15-Sep Initial definition
0.02 17-Sep Reduced data collection parameters & implemented tagging system
0.03 18-Sep Added timeframes for blog posts & finalized initial parameters

Introduction

In this blog post, a formal methodology will be defined for future blog posts.  This methodology will define the data points which will be collected during each week of gameplay.  Furthermore, the overall nature of the blog, outside of a data collection perspective will be described.  This exercise will likely be most useful from a subjective/reflective perspective; however and in addition to the reflective and critical exercise, data collected may determine further avenues for research, conjecture, and hypothesis in statistical analysis.

Caveats

If additional data attributes are identified or some flaw in the methodology is detected within the first two weeks, the methodology will be adjusted to accommodate these revelations.  In this manner, the methodology can adapt to additional insights or approaches that were not identified at the outset, or discard approaches that are deemed unfeasible or too unwieldy.  Conversely, some data points laid out may not be collected within the first two weeks of play.  As a matter of fact, almost no data at all were collected during the first week of play.  Any modifications to the methodology will be noted in a version log at the top of the document.  Consequently, any formal analysis on the data should exclude the first two weeks of the collection to accommodate for modifications.  Data quality analysis and descriptive statistics should also be performed prior to any formal statistical analysis; due to the ambitious nature of the dataset definition below, it’s highly likely that the data collected under this methodology will be incomplete if any gameplay is performed without necessary instruments to take measurements. As such, the overall approach to this exercise will be philosophical in nature, rather than analytical or statistical.

On Failed Approaches

At first, detailed qualitative and quantitative statistics were to be recorded for each gaming session.  Examples of initial qualitative statistics included subjective attitude, ambient environment, and ambient stress levels.  Examples of quantitative statistics included heart rate and blood pressure. Quickly it became obvious that this approach was unsustainable due to its highly constrained nature  This approach ultimately proved to be at odds with the spontaneous nature of gaming, having a negating effect and tainting the quality of each gaming experience.  When gaming sessions were too-constrained by data recording considerations, the sessions themselves ceased to feel like gaming and began to feel more like work, rather than play.

Data Collection

Each week, data will be collected from Monday-Sunday on games played.  This will allow a one-day additional buffer, and make things more nicely aligned (i.e. if I’m playing a game on Tuesday, it’s likely the same game I was playing on Monday, but not necessarily the same game I was playing on the weekend).

The following data will be collected for the weekly gameplay blog post:

  • Days of the week in which games were played
  • Total number of video games played
  • Total video game duration
  • Communities involved (video games)

For each video game played, the platform and duration of play will be listed (cumulative for the entire week).  For emulator platforms, the original system of release will be listed in parentheses.  This information will be followed by non-video game related data points:

  • Total non-video game duration
  • Total number of non-video games played/game names or descriptions
  • Communities involved (non-video games)
  • Number of supplemental game or game-related activities/activity names or descriptions

In addition to these data points, a taxonomy (tagging system) will be used to attach the following attributes to the blog post.

  • Platforms used
  • Publishers
  • Distribution platforms
  • Novel hardware
  • Any other interesting categorical information

Reflection and Additional Topics for Discussion

Each week, gameplay analysis will be provided from both cursorily critical and more deeply reflective points-of-view.  If obvious ethical considerations become apparent, they will be covered in this section of the blog as well.  This will constitute the majority of the blog.  Data points may or may not be recorded for non-video game activities including, but not limited to: disc golf, board games, bowling, dancing, etc. Reflection will be provided on these activities in the main section of the blog.  Activities that supplement gameplay, such as novel approaches, configurations, tools, software, hardware, and other activities that facilitate gameplay, will also be discussed in the blog.  Additional activities which do not constitute video gameplay, but may support, resemble, be seminal to, or constitute games in a more general sense will be discussed. At some point in the future, data attributes may be collected for these activities in a similar manner to regular gameplay.At the outset of data collection, there are no plans for statistical analysis of data.

Some examples of supplemental activities could include:

  • Software/firmware installation
  • Hardware configuration
  • Shopping/purchase of games and gaming-related software
  • Content Generation
  • Computer Programming