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Applications

  • RPG Maker XP (PC)

     

    boxart
    Software Info:

    RPG Maker XP
    Developed By: KADOKAWA
    Published By: Degica
    Released: September 16, 2005
    Available On: Microsoft Windows
    Genre: Game Development, RPG
    ESRB Rating: None specified (games made with this could range from E-AO)
    Number of Players: Singleplayer
    Price: $24.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    It is said classics never die. RPG Maker XP, the first of the series to be legally translated for English, is one of the older RPG creation engines available, but it still has lots of utility even in the modern-day.

    For example, RPG Maker XP is THE engine of choice for the hordes of Pokemon fan games one can find all over the internet. The Pokemon Essentials project (now defunct thanks to a Nintendo C&D) was the base used by XP developers to make strikingly accurate Pokemon fangames to the point you could barely tell you weren't playing the actual games. With this in mind, it's easy to see why this engine's age is no strike against its popularity.

    Like all others in the series, RPG Maker XP is a top-down, 2d based RPG creation engine. It was the first to implement Ruby-based scripting support, and while done in a far cruder way than VX/VX Ace, is still capable of greatly extending the engine's limits. XP also holds the distinction of having several features built-in later makers removed, which are only available if players re-enabled them via custom scripting code.

    RPG Maker XP
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Incredibly well featured RPG Maker program
    Weak Points: Crude scripting potential; higher learning curve than most other RPG Maker programs
    Moral Warnings: RPG-based violence if the battle engine components are utilized; some occult like imagery available in the stock tilesets and animation files

    Graphically, it's better than the previous RPG Maker engines, which had even cruder graphics, though its tileset style leans more towards a low-fantasy, somewhat realistic look. Later entries would be more colorful and with a bias for high and urban fantasy. The character sprites are also much taller in XP, leaning for a more realistic look. Later engines could implement the same but at the cost of foregoing the standard "chibi" or super-deformed stock art. Enemy battler art is a bit disappointing, however, as while some is quite good, some looks quite amateurish.

    Sounds and music are MIDI-based, and while the stock sounds and music are perfectly acceptable for a fantasy-based game and sound quite good for MIDI synthesized tracks, the engine does have the option for even higher quality OGG or MP3.

    Controls for the editor are keyboard and mouse-driven and are not at all complicated. Controls aren't nearly as nice in the stock engine, with the animation being somewhat stiffer than in most other RPG Maker programs, resulting in some walking controls that feel a bit stilted.

    Stability is an interesting topic, as this engine supports several features that had the potential to bring the engine to its knees if optimized poorly. Tilesets could be of infinite size, which could drastically increase loading times. The engine allowed for multiple tile layers, which could make for much more map detail and allow multi-tiered movement, such as making a bridge on an upper map layer you could walk under on the lower one on the same map. They had support for "fog" overlays, like a shadowy tree canopy overlay for forested areas, which gave the illusion of added realism. Finally, some of the database limits for XP were quite high, which later makers cut down by a profound degree.

    RPG Maker XP
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 80%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 6/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 90%
    Violence - 7/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 8/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Many of the above mentioned features were cut or greatly constrained in later makers in the series, and the playable frames per second were incredibly low by default as a consequence of attempting to keep the engine frame rate smooth. While custom scripting could extend the engine further, the already wobbly stock engine could be made much more unstable if said scripting was poorly optimized. Stock stability is acceptable for both editor and games made with it by contrast, even if the frame rates felt constrained.

    Morally, this is not all that terrible an engine by default. Violence is possible if the combat engine is used, though generally in the turn-based RPG-style way. The language is entirely up to the creator; games can be as clean or perverse as they wish it to be.

    Sexual content is pretty low to nil with the stock assets. Even the enemy battler graphics are restrained in the stock graphics, though this is partially due to most of them having low quality and a cartoonish, even garish look. There is some magic circle (with a hexagram pattern) like imagery available in the tiles and animations, but this remains strictly optional for use. Since games can be as wholesome or depraved as the creator intends, any ethical considerations are entirely at their discretion in terms of displayed morals.

    Overall, RPG Maker XP is fairly cheap and worth the price, if only as a "license" so it's assets can be used in other RPG Maker engines if you are so inclined. It's also quite worthwhile on its own if you want an engine with more creative capability than some of its successors if you can accept its flaws and cruder scripting support.

  • Speed Up My PC

     

    System Requirements
    CPU: 300mhzWindows 98,2000, XP HDD: 10MB free space RAM: 32MB RAM

    This software is for anyone interested in getting the most performance out of your machine. SpeedUpMyPC allows you to optimize your internet (dialup) connection, boot up time, page file/memory usage, and helps prevent crashes. This software is ideal for those with low-memory systems. Many of the features can be obtained freely; so the question is: Is this program worth $30?

    How do I optimize my boot up?

    SpeedUpMyPC records your boot up times for you which I think is nifty. This may or may not be accurate for me since I have a couple of boot loaders with selection timeout delays. But in either case there is a section where you can enable and disable your programs that auto start. This is very similar to the msconfig utility. Windows 2000 does not come with this program anymore but the Windows XP version will work with it. When I optimized my boot up I gained 3 seconds but your mileage may vary. My boot up times vary every time so the gain or loss is hard to determine.

    Internet

    For those of us with 56K we can use all the bandwidth help we can get. There is an internet speed detector which can help you gauge your kb/sec download rates. From this section you can have the program automatically optimize your internet for you. Again your results may fluctuate as internet connections do. I was getting varied results after testing out my internet speeds. I am getting from 49.2 to 56.3 kb/sec. If you are unhappy with your optimizations there is a restore internet settings button. Phew! Again if you swing by www.download.com you can do a search for \'internet optimizer\' and you will see some shareware and freeware applications that do this. Make sure they have an undo function because they do modify your registry!4MemoryIn the memory section of SpeedUPMyPC you see graphical charts of your memory and page file usage. There are some options you can enable like Free up memory automatically if it exceeds 75% usage. You can even set quick keys to free it on the fly. There is an option to display a warning when the page file usage exceeds 90%. These % variables can all be changed. There are also Free RAM and Deep RAM Recovery buttons at your disposal. I really didn\'t get to test this feature since my Windows 2000 machine has plenty of memory and hard drive space. :)

    Anti-Crash

    Don\'t you hate it when your system locks up? Ever want a key sequence to try and recover it? Well this program tries to offer that plus detect the problems before they happen! If it does happen you can enable it to restart the Windows shell for you. To run the crash recover you can click the button or try the default key combo CTRL+Shift+R. You can set your own key combination if you like.

    CPU optimization

    This is the part of the program that impressed me the most. In here you can select processes to run silently in the background. There is also an option to prioritize Windows system functions when the CPU reaches 80% usage. My favorite area is the Assign more CPU resources to a certain application. By default you can scroll down to what\'s currently running but you can also type in the exe you want to optimize. It does not keep the settings so you have to manually type in your executable names each time you change programs. Feature request: Remember the programs to optimize for future uses! I typed in the UT2003 executable and the 3dmark03 executables and ran them with and without the CPU resources feature. Both times I got a performance boost. So this program DOES work! In UT2003 without the optimization my lowest frame rate was 38. With the optimization running I got a low of 73! The overall benchmark score jumped from 147 to 149 with the optimization. The 3dmark03 score went from 1452 without the optimization to 1464 with it enabled. You can get the same results from running the programs with a high priority level. In order to do that you have to either make custom batch files, tweak your registry, edit the shortcut, or execute it from a command line. This program just makes it a little more convenient. It would be even more so if it allowed you save the exe files you add.

    Final Thoughts

    This program does do what it promises. Although I didn\'t see a huge difference in internet or boot time, this will vary from system to system. I was very impressed with the convenience of the CPU optimizer though. I\'d say if your looking for ways to clean up and stabilize your system you\'re better off getting Norton System Works for your $30. But if you\'re a gamer and would like get an edge in your games this software is worth looking into! I\'d get it for the CPU optimizer and consider the internet and boot up tweaks a bonus. :)

  • VR Toolbox

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    Software Info:

    VR Toolbox
    Developed by: MyDream Interactive
    Published by: MyDream Interactive
    Release date: December 26, 2016
    Available on: HTC Vive, Oculus Rift
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: $13.99

    Thank you MyDream Interactive for sending us this application to review!

    When we were sent this software to review it was titled LightVR which has positive reviews on Steam.  The first VR application this company released is called MyDream Swift, which is still available despite the negative Steam reviews.  MyDream Swift only costs .99 cents now, but it was originally released for $30.  MyDream Swift converts games and movies into an immersive VR experience while VR Toolbox does a virtual living space with customizable windows/desktop screens that you can configure.

    To get the immersive experience in a movie or a game you simply have to enable the First Person Mode (FPS).  While neat, I found myself feeling too close to the movie or game I was in. It’s kind of like being in the front row at the movie theater; it works, but it’s not ideal.  Playing games in this mode is a little laggy, but still usable.

    Gaming in one of the many screens ran flawlessly and I didn’t experience any slowdowns in playing Pinball FX2 - Star Wars™ Pinball: Rogue One.  In fact, I managed to get my two highest scores while enjoying it in my virtual living space.  

    vr toolbox
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Cheaper than having multiple monitors, but you get the same effect
    Weak Points: Out of date browser bundled with it; application crashes; hard to use the browser with no virtual keyboard
    Moral Warnings: The camera pass-through mode is called ”beer mode”

    Besides my desktop/gaming window, there’s a tutorial window that shows the controls, how to access the in-app menu, and how to move/resize windows.  The desktop window shows everything on your primary monitor while the other windows are only visible in your virtual VR space.  

    A browser that defaults to Google images of cat wallpapers is available for browsing without being seen by anyone else.  This can be useful come Christmas shopping time!  The browser appears to be Chrome based and is out of date and prompts for updating.  That problem is easy enough to fix, though it did crash the application after telling it to update.

    Since everything is movable in your virtual living space, it is possible to completely ruin it.  There are some reset to default options, but I had to delete my user data completely to fix it at least one time.  The other time I had to reset my data was when the application got a new name and incompatible settings.  When you reset your profile, the browser becomes out of date again. 

    vr toolbox

    I like how customizable the virtual living space is.  You can have the exterior be different planets, busy cities, serene mountains, or surrounded by molten lava.  My favorite background was the alien moon.  By default you have a couch and a chair as props in your room.  There are plenty more available to add by browsing in your Steam folder.  You can also import your own object files if you desire to do so.  

    There are many different windows you can add to make your virtual living area more functional.  Since I don’t have a camera on the Oculus Rift, I added a webcam window so I could see what was going on around me.  Other presets include YouTube 360, Skype, Twitch, and many popular websites like Reddit and Google finances for tracking the stock market. As handy as these gadgets are, using them is a bit complicated without being able to type on a keyboard without losing focus on the virtual application window.  If there was a virtual keyboard you can use, that would make surfing the web in this environment so much easier.

    Despite being a little rough around the edges, this application is pretty useful and is worth looking into.  The price is a reasonable $13.99 and is worth adding to your wishlist if you already own a VR headset.  If you’re just looking to transform games and movies into a VR experience, the .99 cent MyDream Swift is a little easier on your wallet.  I would normally I say that I look forward to more titles from this developer, but since they have changed the name so many times, I’ll just say that I look forward to new offerings from them!

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About Us:

Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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