Sunday, May 31, 2015

The last of it all...

Hey Everyone

So, once again I'm going to be talking about some new things.
This time ill be covering the topics of platform dependency, the operating systems that are used, the different drivers for sound, graphics, and network interface cards which are all for games platforms. I will also be looking at application software with is used to develop games and the graphical and sound API's which are used for games platforms.

I hope you will stick around for these up coming topics!

Until next time 

Fairwinds internet travellers!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Investigating game storage mediums


So when we all play our favourite games, we all want to be able to save our progress and continue next time we play the game. Well there are some different types of how we save are games with different options of storage used.

One of the forms of storage is a DVD which is also known as a Digital Versatile Disc, but usually everyone including myself just calls it a DVD. DVD’s are usually used to hold feature films and most modern games we all know, love and play. A single DVD can storage just over 4 GB of data, GB being short for Gigabytes, and manufacturers have increased the capacity for the DVDs due to the games being more complex meaning the games need more space on a DVD to hold it, if not, the game would have to be split between discs, like an install disc and a play disc like some games such as Halo 4 for the Xbox 360.
How they increase the capacity you may ask? Well the use double layered DVD’s which can usually hold a capacity total of 8GB. A specific laser is always used on consoles which require DVD’s to play game in today’s time, can you think of a console that still has games being produced for it without a disc drive? I can’t. The laser in the console reads the data from the DVD and does what it needs to do with it in order to play the game. DVD’s may sound all good but they scratch really easily and can be snapped or broken with ease, not being able to be fixed again.

UMD is another form of storage used within the games industry, it stands for Universal Media Disc and was create by Sony, the owners of PlayStation and was therefore only used on its PSP platforms. It can hold just under 2GB of data, which could include the usually media such as music, film and video games itself. UMD is not usually used in today’s platforms since the PSP due to the increased use of downloadable games from Sony’s own store, the PlayStation Store.
And one of the other forms of storage is Flash Storage, which we all must of heard of, but quite possibly not know what it meant. It’s most common within the handheld platforms, such as the 3DS, DS and PS Vita. It uses an internal flash memory system to have the video games save data stored too it, it saves the progress of the player. However because the flash memory tends to be usually quite small, some games don’t allow for the save files to be saved to it due to the save files themselves being too big. An example of this being some of the Uncharted Games on PS Vita and the Assassins Creed Liberations game.

One of the most annoying things games developers and publishers have to deal with in the world is Piracy, it’s illegal and it loses the companies money for all the work they put into the game, and no one pays back for it. Imagine your best piece of work, and you go to sell it, and someone gets it for free without your consent of it being free, you would feel all down. This is that but on a much larger scale, companies loose thousands of pounds to piracy each year and some games implement their own anti-piracy code into the games to help fight back against it. One example of an antipiracy doe would be Mirrors Edge created by EA. In this game it’s all about free running and parkour, and jumping around, well if you pirate it, the anti-piracy code kicks in and makes you run a lot slower only before key jumps meaning they stop the experience of the game and want you to buy it to fully feel the experience of the game, and give the workers and developers of the game the credit and reward they deserve.

Thats it I'm afraid drawing these topics to a close, I hope you have found them all to be interesting and you have learnt a thing or two from it all!
Until next time 
Fairwinds internet travellers!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Investigation of Memory, Sound and Displays

Hey Everyone!

I'm moving onto talking about memory, sound and displays now. So before I forget anything I'll be starting with memory.
So the purpose/idea of memory be it in a computer or a console is keep the information and store it so that it will be processed by the central processing unit (CPU). If the CPU in your computer had to constantly retrieve each and every piece of information that it needed then you would find it very hard to actually do anything on the PC as it would be very slow and it would have trouble to function properly.
So you have different types of memory and each has a different way of doing things. To start with you get Random Access Memory or RAM for short, this is the type of memory which is only available until that PC or console is turned off. Its called RANDOM Access memory because the memory data can be retrieved from the chip without being in a certain order so it can literally be randomly accessed.
There is two main types of RAM that are available which are DRAM (Dynamic Random Access Memory) and SRAM (Static Random Access Memory). These two are very different from each other as they don't use the same technology.

Starting with DRAM its the more commonly used type of RAM as its the cheaper one to manufacture, However that doesn't mean its the better one to use. So the memory chip for DRAM is created by a collection of transistors and capacitors, bearing in mind there will be millions of these involved, and these all come together to make a memory cell. The capacitors will keep hold of the information whilst the transistors act like a switch the allow the data to be viewed. Think of it like a sink with a bad plug and the capacitor holds the information like a sink would hold water. But because the sink has a bad plug the water leaks out and has to be refilled, this is what happens with the capacitor as it looses information it has to have more data added and its added by the CPU. This is the reason its called Dynamic RAM because if its not refreshed then it forgets what its holding. All of this takes time which slows the speed of the memory, and this is ones of the differences between DRAM and SRAM.

Moving onto SRAM so unlike DRAM, SRAM doesn't need to be refreshed. This is because Static RAM has an electrical circuit which holds the different bits of memory. Each of the memory cells include 4 or 6 transistors along with the wiring and this is the bit which makes it better than Dynamic RAM because no refreshing is needed! so it allows it to be much more quicker. However like everything there is a down side to Static RAM which is that due to the more parts and that the memory cell takes up much more room on the chip than the dynamic memory cell, it just costs alot more to create.  
Rambus Dynamic Random Access Memory (RDRAM) is another type of memory and kinda works in the same sort of way to DRAM but is alot faster as it has a high speed data bus. IT has been used in past consoles for instance the Playstation 2 which had 32MB of RDRAM and also the Playstation 3 that had 256MB RDRAM, there is a sex year gap between the two consoles and in that time Sony was able to allow the PS3 to have a much larger memory capacity. 

So we all know how different modern TV’s are compared to old TV’s, and how older ones look bigger width wise and effectively looked like boxes, well that’s not the only new enhancement to TV’s.
Most modern TV’s to this date use something called Liquid Crystal Display technology, or when your reading a label or a description of a TV it would say the shorter name for it, LCD Display. How these work are by the pixels get switched on and off by using the liquid crystals to rotate light which travelling from the back of the TV to way up front on the screen.
Most people of this day and age have colour monitors, meaning each pixel is created through 3 different sub-pixels. There is a Red Sub-pixel, a Green Sub-Pixel and a Blue Sub-Pixel. These 3 colours could create up to 16 million and possibly a bit more when they are paired up with at least 256 shades of each of the sub-pixels. The shorter name for the sub pixels is RGB, for Red, Green and Blue.

So we all know what a handheld platform is and how they also too include a small display to work from, one example of a handheld platform which has a display would be the Sony PSP which has an LCD display of a resolution of 480 x 272 (Length by height). Handheld devices such as the iPhone 4 has a LCD screen at a resolution of 640 x 960. 

Okay Sound is the final part that I will talking about for this post. Right, before sound cards were developed computers weren't able to make any real sounds the only thing they could make was a singular beep. This beep was able to change depending on the length it was playing for and the frequency it was playing at. When this beep was first used it was there to point out that there was a warning or it was signalling something, however later on PC game creators developed music for early games. This music was made up of beeps of different lengths and pitches, so it wasn't quite as you and I would picture video game music to be nowadays. The game music we know of contains much more realistic sounds which are of a high quality and fit well with the depending on what happens in the game. 
Most modern day PCs allows 3-D audio for games and Surround sound playback for DVDs. It can also allow you to capture and record sounds from external sources. The most simple sound card includes four components:
  • analog-­‐to-­‐digital converter (ADC)
  • digital-­‐to-­‐analog converter (DAC)
  • ISA (Industry Standard Architecture) or PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect)
  •  interface which connects the card to the motherboard
  • Input and output connections for microphones and speakers
Unlike computers some gaming consoles have a processor which is there to create the sounds instead. These are called Media communications Processors (MCP) and are rather powerful and are capable of created 3D sound of an extremely good quality.
Like I mentioned earlier there are two types of sound that PCs can play, these being 3D sound and Surround Sound.
 3D sound which is used by game designers to allow for realistic and dynamic sound in which changes based of the players position. However, it can be played from different directions. So this could be an explosion being on the right hand side but say if you were wearing a headset then you could hear it through the right headphone. 
Surround sound unlike 3D sound produces sound from several different directions. Change on the listeners action doesn't affect the sound and where it would be coming from. home theatre systems commonly use surround sound as it brings the viewer more into the film. 

I hope you enjoyed reading until next time 
Fairwinds internet travellers!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Investigation of Human Computer Interface (HCI) developments for games platforms.


Okay so lets start with an understanding of what I will be talking about, Human computer interface or HCI is the planned design of human and computer activities. It looks at the productivity, safety and entertainment to support and fulfil the needs when using any kind of peripheral such as a games console, controllers, headsets and keyboard & mouse. The study of HCI focuses on user satisfaction and is there to make sure that the user will be comfortable and happy when using the product. HCI is important, because a poor interface can make it harder for users to benefit from even the simplest systems there for making the experience less enjoyable and may cause serious consequences to the manufactures. 

Starting in the 1977 you had the Atari 2600 which was the first games console. Come pared to the controllers of today the 2600 had a simply designed controller which was just a joystick that the player could use to interact with their game. Because this controller may have been quite restrictive Atari also brought out Paddle controllers which were commonly used for the games Pong, Night driver and Breakout. 
In the same year Atari also brought out 5200 controllers which consisted of a joystick controller with added number buttons and also the Trak-ball which was more commonly used for the 5200 console. 
So in 1983 the Nintendo NES console was released and to this day the controller is iconic and know everywhere. It was the beginning of the Directional Pad (D-Pad) which is still used on new controllers today, it consists of the for individual buttons in a diamond shape which allow you to go up, down, left and right. In the centre it had select and start buttons and it also had A and B buttons which allowed you to interact with the game more so say you were fighting it would let you attack or maybe you were on a quest and you had to either select or pick up with those buttons would allow to do that. 

Three years after Nintendo released their NES, in 1986 Sega tried to replicate it with their Master System controller. Just like the NES controller it was of a rectangular shape with A and B buttons, however to try and not seem like they were copying Nintendo they renamed the buttons 1 and 2. Buut obviously everyone could see they that had copied Nintendo.   

Sega in 1988 did change the look of controllers to fit your hands better by curving them, so instead of the previously used rectangles they had curved sides so you would have a better grip. Sega also added an extra button so they had A, B and C buttons so it would allow better interaction and options within the gaming experience.  

Stepping up into the 90's and Sony brings out their first Playstation console with controller. This controller sets the path for future controllers as its the most comfortable shape by far and it has a new easier layout of buttons which consist of Triangle, Square, X and Circle shapes that represent the action buttons. Sony carried on the usage of the D-pad like its Predecessors as it was preferred by the gamers.
Also in 1997 Sony decided to released the Dual Shock controller for the Playstation which allowed the player to not only have the D-Pad but they also had two analog sticks which gave more freedom and better handling of the games, they allowed more precision and were favoured alot when they were introdced.

Jumping ahead into 2006, The Nintendo Wii is one of those consoles that took off at launch, and one of its biggest reasons for it was the controller and the motion control aspect to it, people wanted to feel as if their physical actions make a difference in the game they are playing and with the Wii remote, this is what they went for. 
With the controller you can easily see it resembles the old style controller with it being of a rectangular shape like the NES for example. The Controller was also built like that for the ease of use, such as swinging a bat, or a tennis racquet. The D-pad was at the top of the remote and the traditional “A” and “B” buttons were located at about halfway down the controller. The Wii Remote always came with a nunchuck in which you connect to the Wii remote through a cable. The nunchuck also have motion controls, such as shaking to allow for more action in your game. Soon many third party companies started to make accessories for the Wii remote, such as steering wheels, tennis racquet look a likes, and a gun look alike accessory, this was to give the player even more experience in the game and make it feel more alive.

And in one more final attempt for the Wii to gain superiority in the motion control gaming side, Nintendo created the Wii Motion Plus, which was a small attachment to the Wii remote for even more motion precision for the game, one of the popular games played by the Wii motion plus was swordplay on the Wii Sports Motion Plus, which was a whole game exclusive to people who had the Wii motion plus. The Wii and its accessory’s and motion plus was popular among families and many people until things like the Xbox Kinect came out which was the exact same, except without a controller and was even more precise again.

The 3DS was one of, if not the most influential platform of this time, due to its 3D experience and enhanced DS features. If you had a DS back as a child, you may have really wanted a 3DS when it was announced because of its 3D features. It was released back in 2011. The 3DS uses a 3D feature which does not need the use of 3D glasses to have the full experience, this was another selling point of the 3DS. The internet functionality was massively improved from the previous DS’s, and also came with an analog stick which was the first of its kind for the Nintendo handheld platforms. The top screen is also a bit bigger than the 3DS’s predecessor the original DSi. 

So, the newest controllers for the newest generation of consoles which came in 2013, these being the Xbox One and the PS4.
Xbox One features a controller which has been almost redesigned with a few tweaks, such as the added rumble feature which was implemented in the Xbox 360, its predecessor, and have re done it. On each of the prongs of the Xbox One controller it features enhanced rumble pads for, as Microsoft say, realistic rumbling. The Dashboard is located at the top centre above all the buttons as you can see in the image. Some people really like it because it’s out of the way and, however people do dislike it due to the awkwardness of reaching over to press it.

The PlayStation 4’s controller on the other hand has a very similar style to the previous dualshock controllers such as the PS3, PS2 and PlayStation One. The PS4 controller has a new touch pad in which developers can programme and bind the touchpad to a function in their game, like move around the mini-map etc. The light bar is also a new feature on the PS4 which tells you when the controller is on, and can also be programmed by the developers for their game. An example of this being when you get shot in a battlefield game, let’s say, the light bar on the PS4 goes from blue, to red. This may not be practical but people like it aesthetically. 

Straying away from the history of controllers and more of why they are how they are you come across Ergonomic design. Now this is how comfortable and intuitively that object can be used. So for us we will be talking about Video Game controllers but this can fit in with any product that is being designed be it a chair, glasses (not wearable glasses but drinking glasses but it would also be looked at for them too), phones, headsets anything really that would be used on a daily bases that needs to be comfortable and easy to use.
When a controller is being designed, those who are designing it would be thinking about types of things that they know have worked in the past and what haven't and the things that they like in a controller. So they could be asking about how comfortable it is to hold and if they use it for long periods of time would cramping or any pain start to occur and if so then what could be changed to avoid those types of problems.

Button Configurations is also something that has to be kept in mind. The easiest way to explain it would be that its the amount of buttons on the controller how and where they are put for quick and easy use. Looking at old controllers you can see how things have evolved and advances in technology has allowed more buttons with more uses as you can change the functions whilst on the games to your preference and there has been changes in ergonomic design which fit the consumers better.  I mean personally I really like how the xbox 360 controller is because I find that it fits my hands better and everything is easy to reach, I used to always be a Playstation kind of person but when I more recently bought a 360 my feelings changed alot and I found that it was better for me. I know that some people would disagree but each to their own. 

Moving onto User-Centred Design (UCD) this is when any questions about who the user is and their tasks/goals within the games are answered so that the findings can help to make decisions on the design and development of the controller. Usually the types of things that would be asked are:
  • Where do the buttons need to be so goals can be completed quicker?
  • Who are the users going to be?
  • What type of experience are the users going to have with existing controllers that could be similar to the one in the making?
  • What preference do the users have on how it should work?

So the final thing I am talking about for this post is portability. This covers things like the console itself maybe a Nintendo 3DS or the Sony Playstation Vita and it covers the controller instead which you could maybe take somewhere else to play with friends. Because of technology advances it is possible to take away controllers with you to different places without having to deal with wires, bluetooth and wireless technology has helped heaps with this task so yeah thank advances in tech for your easy gaming get together's with your friends.
But saying that its not always easy because there are faults in the systems, for instance sometimes with wireless xbox controllers and wii remotes you loose that signal from the controller to the console which can be very frustrating at times. Also the same controllers have the problem of if you have normal batteries in them then you need to replace them on a regular basis depending on the types you use and how long you use them for. Playstation 3 controllers do have a wire that allows you to connect the controller back up to the console with if its running low on battery which keeps everyone happy, and the Xbox also has this option but like most things with xboxs you have to pay extra to get hold of it.

Thats where I finish for this post, I hope you have enjoyed this one 
until next time 
Fairwinds internet travellers!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

CPU & GPU Processors

Hey Guys!

I'm just going to  go straight into this one because its a log winded kind of topic, so enjoy. 
You may or may not have heard of a CPU, and if you have, you may not fully know what it’s all about. It. The Central Processing Unit, or CPU for short, is pretty much the brains of the machine, whether it’s a video games console, a computer or your mobile phone. Everything you wish to do on your device like turn on the machine, or open a programme has a command sent to the CPU which then sends a command to the area of the machine, like a human brain if it’s easier for you to think of it like that. 
However a CPU can’t just work by itself, it’s not able to work hard without something helping it, like humans, the more we work out, like playing a sport for example, and we get hot and can get dizzy due to the heat right? Well this is effectively the same, the CPU gets hotter the more work it has to do so it has to have both a heat sink and a fan to help cool it down whilst the CPU does the work like receiving and
sending data to and from parts of the machine, such as the RAM or the Hard drive.

CPU’s are measured in a speed of GHz, which is short for the word gigahertz. The higher number for the GHz, the quicker the processing speed is, and can get more work done at once. The Xbox One, Microsoft’s console that came out in 2013 has a processor speed of 1.75 GHz, which is equal to 1.75 billion cycles the processor has to do every second!
Manufacturers of the CPU’s can make the processing power more powerful if they so wish, so how do they do this? They create multi-core CPU’s, this could range to having 2 or 3 or even 4 more cores onto the CPU for a lot more power, being able to process quicker and do more things at once, its effectively giving the CPU more brains to process and carry out commands. The overall workload of the CPU is shared between the cores to ease the use and saves it overheating quicker. One example being of how the cores are shared is that one core could be used dedicated to the physics and engine based processes, and another could be dedicated to the sounds and animations of a game for example, and this is all done by the games developers, they can pick and choose how they wish to share it out.

One of the most important thing with the CPU is the CPU cache, it’s a component with the CPU which works effectively like our memories (another reason to think of it like a brain) it’s used to reduce the average time to access memory. Like humans, if we need to write about something and we need to remember something to write, we would get it written down quicker than if we forgotten it and had to go on the internet and search for it, this is pretty much the same. If a process needs to write or read from a location in the memory, it checks the CPU cache, to see if there is a copy of the data stored for it to use, if there is a copy, the CPU would use it and it would save time, instead of having to go and search for it and complete the process that way.

Data Buses are a collection of wires which transmits data to and from areas of the computer, and is called a data bus for that reason, like real buses, except for data in a computer. There are two parts of a data bus, one being the address bus and the data bus itself. The actual data is carried thought the data bus itself and the address bus transfers the information on where the data bus is meant to be going to. Now, you may have seen on your computer whether it’s a 16-bit computer or a 32-bit computer and you may not have known what it meant. It’s the size of the data bus, its important because it determines how much data a data bus can carry in one trip.  16-bit would be 16 bits of data being carried at once by one data bus,whilst 32-bit means 32 bits can be carried at once.

Moving on..
Okay so like most people, you may have thought GPUs were a type of CPU? Well in most cases they are and here’s how. A Graphics Processing Unit, or GPU for short is a single chip creates and enhances lighting effects and transforms a 3D object every time a 3D scene is redrawn.

Video games graphics but a ton of stress on the CPU, the brain of the computer, and like humans, we don’t like stress and now and then like some help, and this is where the GPU comes into place. It’s built specifically for video games graphics and allowing the CPU to free up some of its processors for something else, this takes a lot of stress of the processor and is a great help to it. Without it the processor could have got really hot and not work as quick and you would intend it to do.
There are in fact different types of GPU, you could have an integrated graphics processor, which uses the memory from the main computer to run graphics, the bad side to this is that it could really slow down your processor which is never a good thing. Another form of GPU would be dedicated graphics cards.

Consoles such as the Xbox 360 and the PS3 have dedicated and specifically built GPUs for their machines for memory intensive games.
Here are some examples of GPUS, NVidia GTX 680, GTX 770, and GTX Titan.
Similar to the speed of the CPU’s being GHz, GPU’s are measured in MHz for their speed, which is short for megahertz. An example would be the GPU speed of the Xbox One being 853 MHz and comparing that to the Xbox 360, the Xbox One’s predecessor, it has 500 MHz, now you know how much faster it is, quite a lot faster.
You need to consider how much memory is available to the GPU because it will also have an effect on the performance of the game, the higher textures and details in a game, the more power the GPU needs.

Random Access Memory, also most commonly known as RAM for short, is available in the video card, this helps with better resolution settings, and smoother game performance in general. The smoother the game, the better experience you have playing it. And we all like at least over 30 FPS at least when playing a game.
You may not realise it but 3D models also have an impact on games performance, and GPU performance. There’s two types of 3D Modelling, one being a long winded name being, Non – Uniform Rational B – Spline, or a much easier term for it, NURBS. This type of modelling is used t create curves, this takes up a lot less memory from the GPU. Polygon modelling on the other hand is a lot more strenuous on the GPU due to the fact the object it’s created from a lot more smaller number of elements.

This is all CPU and GPU covered, it’s fairly simple once you understand it, it’s effectively the brain of a computer and its best friend, so yeah until next time. 
Fairwinds internet travellers

Saturday, May 9, 2015

New Topics!

Hi Everyone! 

So I'm Moving onto some new topics now so think of it like a new chapter in a book, a book about games and how they work. The topics I'll be covering are, Human Computer Interface (HCI) and how they have developed for game platforms, Central Processing Units (CPU) and Graphical Processing Unit (GPU) within game platforms and then looking into things like Memory, Displays and sound technologies.
Of course I will also be dabbling in the realm of game storage mediums as well for game platforms, so really I'm covering more of the current hardware technology now instead of the history. 

I hope this one will keep you interested as much as the last topics! 

Fairwinds internet travellers,
Until next time