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Real Name SMA   
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Nickname Scottish Martial Arts
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Signed On Jun 16, 2002, 23:16
Total Comments 3192 (Veteran)
User ID 13410
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News Comments > Saturday Tech Bits
17. Re: Morning Mobilization Mar 12, 2017, 10:49 Scottish Martial Arts
HoSpanky wrote on Mar 12, 2017, 10:21:
I'm not really in the market for a new processor yet, but currently it's still looking like Intel's gonna get my money.

Yeah, for gaming, the i7 7700k is definitely the best bang for buck right now. If you're a video editor, or software engineer, or anyone who does work that does benefit from parallelization Ryzen become a lot more compelling: if you want to stick with Intel and go beyond four cores, then you're starting to enter server CPU land, with all the attendant price increases.
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News Comments > Saturday Tech Bits
15. Re: Morning Mobilization Mar 12, 2017, 09:02 Scottish Martial Arts
Agent-Zero wrote on Mar 12, 2017, 00:39:
seems to imply that a single Ryzen processor appears to act like a dual CPU system, is that correct? thats bizarre, because I figured that multi-core CPUs were already acting like that to some degree, but i suppose it must be different in terms of how the system buses work with that

Having now read the article in full, the CCX and Infinity Fabric architecture do indeed appear to cause the Ryzen to behave as though a Ryzen chip is two 4-core CPUs on a single die. While that may sound like a distinction without a difference, it's actually quite important, and the benchmarks are clearly showing substantially more overhead for a context shift across the Infinity Fabric as opposed to a context shift within a CCX.

As you probably already know, a process is a program that has been loaded into memory and is in a runnable state. More importantly, a process has associated with it a virtual memory space, i.e. each memory address the program references is not the location in physical memory but rather a mapping to the actual physical address. Additionally, the process maintains a series of data structures containing the state of the process, i.e. the contents of the various CPU registers at a given moment of execution, among other things, allowing it to be stopped and started with the process itself none the wiser. However, if a process needs to communicate with another process, the virtualized address space means that they are effectively partitioned from one another, and while there are several different ways to handle inter-process communication, they basically all involve one or more processes blocking (waiting) on I/O calls, which slows down processing dramatically. It would be far faster if you could just share a virtualized address space, and that's what threads do: they are mini-processes that maintain their separate execution states but share their virtualized address space allowing rapid in-memory communication without resorting to high-overhead I/O calls or context switches (switching which process is actively running on a core). The downside of threads is that the shared address space makes it extremely easy to write code where the results depend on the order in which the CPU schedules threads (race condition) which leads to all sorts of subtle and hard-to-detect bugs.

What this means for our discussion is that it's possible to have parallel execution, or at least a facsimile of it, with even a single core CPU. The OS let's one process/thread run either until it hits a specific time limit (quantum) or blocks on I/O, and then the OS saves the state of the process and swaps in another one to let it run. Since CPUs execute literally billions of instructions per second, this all happens so fast that to us slow humans, it appears like the computer is doing multiple things at once. Add more cores, and you really can run more processes/threads at once. Importantly, with a HyperThreaded (Intel's term) CPU, you're still only executing one process/thread per core at any given instant, but in the case of threads, with their shared address space, architectural optimizations allow for extremely fast context switches between the threads of a process, which in turn means the CPU presents itself to the OS as having x physical cores, each composed of y (usually two) virtual cores.

The hypothesis was that the Ryzen wasn't correctly enumerating which of its virtual cores were part of the same physical core to Windows, and therefore the NT kernel wasn't scheduling threads to the right virtual core in order to leverage the AMD equivalent of HyperThreading. But the benchmarks show that isn't the case: Windows understands which virtual cores belong to which physical core, it's just that the Ryzen architecture has a heavy context shift penalty across the two CCXs. A patch to Windows will allow it to optimize for avoiding context shifts across the CCXs, but that still won't change the fact that any context shift across CCXs will be much slower than a context shift within a CCX.

Why does this happen? Without knowing the specifics of the Ryzen architecture, it has to come down to caching. Memory varies in it's speed, it's volatility, and it's price. Accordingly, on the CPU die itself you have several levels of expensive to manufacture but extremely fast memory that loses its state on power down (volatile); then you have main memory, which isn't as fast and still loses its state on power down, but is much cheaper than on-die cache memory; and finally you have persistent storage in the form of SSDs and HDDs, which are very slow to access relative to the other memory, but make up for it by being very inexpensive.

The trick for an operating system is to place the code that is most likely to be needed, and needed repeatedly, in the fastest levels of cache, so as to optimize the CPUs instruction retrieval speed (it can't execute what's still in transit over the various busses). Aside from repeatedly executed procedures and repeatedly retrieved data, the OS is probably also going to put some or all of its process bookkeeping data in some level of on-die cache, so it can minimize the time necessary to context switch between processes. Again, without knowing the specifics of the Ryzen architecture, if the two CCXs are maintaining separate, likely L3, caches, then any context switch across CCXs loses the context switch optimization which the shared cache within the CCX provides.

So where does this leave us? A patch to Windows can make the NT kernel's scheduling algorithm aware of the Ryzen context switch penalty across CCXs, and allow it to be smarter, but the penalty will still be baked into the Ryzen architecture no matter what Microsoft, or any OS developer does.

tl;dr Operating Systems leverage shared L3 caching to minimize the overhead of swapping processes and threads across multicore CPUs. Since Ryzen partitions its two CCXs, no such optimization is possible for context switches between CCXs. Windows can be patched to minimize cross CCX context switches, but when such a switch is unavoidable then there's nothing Windows can do but incur the extra overhead baked into Ryzen's architecture.
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News Comments > Saturday Tech Bits
7. Re: Morning Mobilization Mar 12, 2017, 00:09 Scottish Martial Arts
Agent-Zero wrote on Mar 11, 2017, 17:38:
Im not a Windows or OS programmer, so I have no idea how true this may be - but I would have suspected the lack of performance of new AMD chips in terms of 1080p gaming and other gaming related tasks would be more likely due to the way games themselves are coded...

It's an interplay between how parallelizable the computation is, i.e. how much work can profitably be done simultaneously, how much of the computation is actually parallelized and how well that parallelization is implemented, i.e. how the game/application is programmed, and how the operating system spreads the parallelized computation, e.g. processes and threads, across the multiple cores, and how the OS schedules those processes and threads that have been tasked to a given core.

If the same program on the same hardware produce different benchmarks for different operating systems, then you are probably seeing the results of different operating system process/thread scheduling algorithms. After all, the purpose of an operating system is to A) provide a clean abstraction of the hardware for programmers to access through an API, and, more apropos to this discussion, B) maximize the utilization of the hardware. In other words, it's an OS responsibility to schedule the CPUs workload to make best use of the hardware.

However, parallel programming is a really difficult and sticky business. Even though we've long had the ability to parallelize computation, first through software abstraction and later with the hardware itself, we still haven't found an effective, generalized approach to parallel programming that allows us to consistently yield substantial performance gains while simultaneously avoiding a set of very subtle and tricky bugs specific to parallel execution, e.g. race conditions, bad data synchronization, and deadlocks. In other words, parallel programming presents a series of unsolved computer science problems for which we only have haphazard solutions. If you ever solve this stuff, you'll definitely earn yourself an ACM Turing prize (the Nobel of computer science).

If I had to guess, the Windows 10 version of the NT kernel is using a different process scheduling algorithm than that of Windows 7, and that while that different algorithm almost certainly yielded gains in some key areas, it has led to performance loss with respect to Ryzen and certain game benchmarks.
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News Comments > Morning Mobilization
17. Re: Morning Mobilization Mar 8, 2017, 17:19 Scottish Martial Arts
Ozmodan wrote on Mar 8, 2017, 17:02:
Bullshit! Been supporting PC's and Mac's forever and there is virtually no difference. Most support calls are how to use software not OS problems. My best friend is an IBM'er and they don't even use Macs except for a few pieces of select equipment that require them. Your info is faulty.

So you're saying IBM fabricated the data they presented to the conference?

Look, I will concede to you guys currently working in IT that your anecdotes suggest that IBM's conclusions are faulty. They may well be. On the other hand, my anecdotal experience suggests that their conclusions are reasonable, and the actual data presented by IBM backs that case up. Maybe they're a special case, maybe not. My biases are such that if my employer mandated tomorrow that we were all switching to Windows 10 and we're going to start writing Win32 native apps, I would immediately begin looking for another job. Your guys's biases are such that you're gamers first, enterprise IT support second, and with those priorities, a Mac doesn't offer the performance for the first, and has traditionally been too end-consumer focused for the latter. All I can say for certain is that using Macs seems to be working out for IBM, special case or not, and that my MBP is an ideal mobile workstation for software engineering.
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News Comments > Morning Mobilization
13. Re: Morning Mobilization Mar 8, 2017, 16:43 Scottish Martial Arts
Creston wrote on Mar 8, 2017, 16:13:
Please. I have ~ 30 users that use Macs, and they open just as many, if not more, tickets as my Windows users do. Their apps are just as shitty as the Windows apps, but now you have to find another way to fix it.

I've also been trying to unlock two iPads where the users forgot their unlock codes, and literally no solution works. They won't go into recovery mode, they won't go into DFU mode, nothing. No combination of arcane button presses works. (And why can't you just boot into a simple menu where you CHOOSE which mode you want? Oh wait, Steve Jobs hated buttons. Ugh.)

I'm taking them to the Apple store tomorrow in the hopes that they can get something done.

"Ready for the enterprise." Uh-huh.

Then take it up with IBM: I'm only repeating the data-supported position they presented when explaining why increasingly they're deploying Macs over PCs. Maybe Macs do make life hell for the IT department, but that's not been IBMs experience, and they're as big a company as they get, and they've presented compelling data to make their case. As a software engineer, I could give a shit about which is easier for IT to support because it's not my job. I just need a Unix-like system to write code on, preferably with more cores, so as to speed up the highly parallelized job that is code compilation, and more memory, to support running multiple VMs for test deployments. For desktops, Linux is fine and I actually prefer it. But for laptops, spotty driver support for proprietary devices on laptops mean Linux wastes too much of my time to be a daily driver. Hence, my laptop is a Mac.

And of course my gaming machine runs Windows.
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News Comments > Morning Mobilization
8. Re: Morning Mobilization Mar 8, 2017, 12:28 Scottish Martial Arts
Timmeh wrote on Mar 8, 2017, 12:17:
Said the crack smoking apple employee

Lol, Google engineering employee actually. On my team, our workstations all run Goobuntu (Google's custom version of Ubuntu), and our laptops are all... 15" MacBook Pros, with a few opting for 13" MacBook Airs.
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News Comments > Morning Mobilization
6. Re: Morning Mobilization Mar 8, 2017, 11:42 Scottish Martial Arts
Ozmodan wrote on Mar 8, 2017, 11:38:
Huh? Was over at IBM yesterday, not a MAC in sight. I have never heard an IBM'er ever mention Mac's as a replacement for PC's. What koolaid are you drinking?

Top Google hit for "IBM mac savings"

The article enumerates the reasons for lower cost of ownership better than I could, but the bottom line is that they require less man hours to administrate, have fewer security holes, and generate fewer user support tickets. Extend that across an enterprise, and the economic viability of Macs for enterprise becomes clear. As for not seeing a Mac anywhere, IBM's global workforce "only" has 100,000 of them deployed right now.
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News Comments > Morning Mobilization
2. Re: Morning Mobilization Mar 8, 2017, 11:31 Scottish Martial Arts
There are reasons to complain about Macs and about Apple in particular. But IBMs well documented switch to Macs for enterprise resulting in drastically lower total cost of ownership makes it pretty clear that Macs are a viable enterprise computing device. They cost more up front, but they also require vastly less user and technical support, leading to smaller IT budgets overall.

Windows is great for gaming, and Microsoft dominates the enterprise market share, but market dominance does not imply the best, or even a good, choice for enterprise computing. Anecdotally, with my East Coast move next week, I'll no longer be able to zip over to my parents house to provide tech support, and as a consequence I've switched them to Apple products. My mom, a dictionary definition of a techphobe, for whom the switch to digital ruined her hobby of photography because she was too lacking in confidence to use a computer, is now an active iPhone photographer, editing and ordering prints from her Mac, with only a little bit of up front training on my part. My dad, for whom I was constantly removing malware (presumably acquired from porn sites lol), suddenly doesn't need my help anymore. Extend that to an enterprise, and suddenly the Apple platform is a viable alternative to Microsoft, for which you need an entire dedicated department, i.e. the Help Desk, just to keep your worker bees able to do their job.
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News Comments > Sunday Tech Bits
14. Re: Morning Mobilization Mar 6, 2017, 18:03 Scottish Martial Arts
A few thoughts:

History Lesson

Win32 is the combined systems/applications programming interface developed for Windows 95. I've not studied the Windows 9x kernel in any depth (no longer relevant) but my understanding is that it was a hugely improved version of the MS-DOS kernel, with things like true multiprogramming (i.e. multitasking), virtual address spaces and memory management, etc. but was nevertheless still built on the (shaky) foundation of MS-DOS. Individual applications no longer took the whole system down, but individual drivers sure did.

Parallel with the development of Win9x, Microsoft developed the Windows NT kernel, a fresh start, influenced by some of DEC's operating systems for their VAX series of computers (NT and some of the VAX OSes shared a lead developer). By the time MS was ready to drop the Win9x kernel and completely switch to the NT kernel (with the release of Windows XP), the Win9x line of operating systems had been hugely commercially successful, and not having backwards compatibility would have killed any chance of XP being adopted. Accordingly, the Win32.dll became a wrapper library for NT system libraries and NT kernel sys calls, so as to maintain backwards compatibility. Despite attempts to gradually replace Win32 with things like the .NET Framework, Win32 has stubbornly stuck around, and will likely never go away.

Win32 as an API

Win32 is a colossal piece of shit from a software engineering perspective.

Functions with 14 parameters are not uncommon. Some functions trap to kernel mode, i.e. are sys calls and incur additional performance overhead, while others are handled entirely in user space, yet which are which is not fully documented and changes from version to version of Windows. Functions rarely do one thing and do it well and simply (perhaps THE essential principle of software engineering), but instead do many things through as complex a mechanism as you can imagine.

The API operates at mixed levels of abstraction, handling everything from process and thread creation and management, memory management, and low-level I/O, to GUI programming, windows management, and user event handling. Compare this with Linux or macOS, where low-level sys calls are provided by the Linux and Mach kernels (respectively), and various APIs are layered on top in increasing levels of abstraction, so that systems programmers can use one API to deal with systems programming concerns and end user application programmers can use another API, further up the stack, (like the macOS/iOS Cocoa/Cocoa Touch framework) to deal with application programmer concerns.

Win32 sucks, but we're stuck with it.

UWP as an API

I don't have any direct experience with .NET or UWP, so I can't comment on it's quality as an API, but it is difficult for me to imagine it being worse than Win32. To the extent that UWP improves the programmer's experience developing for Windows, then it might also means Windows development might be something I'd be willing to consider (as opposed to being an impetus for suicide).

UWP as a Walled Garden

Microsoft would be fucking retarded to let UWP become the basis of building a walled garden. Likewise, they would be committing suicide if they dropped Win32: there's simply too much software, both legacy and current, running on it. Microsoft has been acting smarter as of late, so there's reason to hope that UWP simply becomes a better end-user applications level API that makes Windows software development more palatable to the engineers tasked with doing it. On the other hand, Microsoft's history gives plenty of precedent for assuming that they'll do the stupid, shoot-self-in-the-foot thing.
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News Comments > Morning Consolidation
8. Re: Morning Mobilization Mar 6, 2017, 13:36 Scottish Martial Arts
Sounds like the initial release is a clunker. Too bad. I was definitely rooting for Nintendo after the surprise of the NES Classic Edition (yeah, yeah, emulators have existed for decades and the system isn't extensible but it's still a fun little system that's totally worth the $60).  
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News Comments > Morning Safety Dance
3. Re: Morning Mobilization Mar 6, 2017, 10:59 Scottish Martial Arts
Quboid wrote on Mar 6, 2017, 10:09:
They're soldiers. Being mean to the enemy is what they are supposed to do. Being mean to their own side is not what they're supposed to do.

Exactly. A female Marine made it through boot camp, which means she gets to wear the eagle, globe, and anchor, and should be accorded the respect which that accomplishment is due: if other Marines refuse to give that respect, by illicitly sharing nude pics, then that's a fundamental breakdown in military discipline.
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News Comments > etc.
1. Re: Morning Mobilization Mar 3, 2017, 10:49 Scottish Martial Arts
Interesting article. It really sounds like Spector was going to use the Deus Ex concept to create a Command & Conquer spin-off for EA and Westwood, which in turn might explain the origin of C&C: Renegade, announced in 1999 (a year after this hinted-at deal would have fallen through). I'm glad we got Deus Ex rather than Spector's C&C spin-off, but at the same time, for all it's deep flaws (non-existent AI, horrendous shooting mechanics, floaty movement, etc.), Renegade genuinely had some interesting ideas in it. The second to last Renegade mission where you're taking down a Nod desert base, piece by piece in the order you choose with the vehicles and tools you choose, so that you can blow open an entry point into the Temple of Nod, certainly seems like something with Spector's fingerprints on it.  
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News Comments > NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti This Month
46. Re: Morning Mobilization Mar 1, 2017, 17:52 Scottish Martial Arts
Ozmodan wrote on Mar 1, 2017, 14:37:

Sorry but I have to disagree with that comment. The difference between 2k and 4k is minor, especially so if your monitor is under 48". I bought a 4k monitor and guess what I run it at 2k all of the time on games. There are only a few games I can really tell the difference. So ask yourself do you really see that much difference between 2k and 4k or are you just being elitist?

Don't look at games: look at text rendering.

Maybe it's just a matter of continuing Windows fucker-y when it comes to HiDPI displays, and the differences are less apparent than they otherwise would be. What I can say is that whenever I go from my Retina MacBook Pro (15" 2880x1800 native resolution scaled to look like 1440x900) to the 27" 1080p monitor attached to my gaming PC, then my eyes begin to bleed the moment I look at text. Text looks like the printed word on the MBP; on the PC, text looks like a grid of pixels (a hi-res grid, but a grid nonetheless). Doubled pixel density, at least on the MBP, makes for a gorgeous display; while I don't have a 4k display, I would have to imagine that a 4k 27", with twice the pixel density of my current 1080p 27", would look similarly amazing.
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News Comments > NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti This Month
11. Re: Morning Mobilization Mar 1, 2017, 10:53 Scottish Martial Arts
RedEye9 wrote on Mar 1, 2017, 10:22:
Creston wrote on Mar 1, 2017, 10:06:
Price drop on the 1070 please.
Not yet, The GTX 1070 is unflinched for now, from its $349 baseline pricing.

Absolutely worth it at that price. The 1070 was the best single upgrade performance boost I've ever gotten from a piece of hardware. Of course I was coming from a Radeon 280X, but that wasn't an ancient piece of hardware either.
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News Comments > Into the Black
6. Re: Morning Mobilization Feb 28, 2017, 21:54 Scottish Martial Arts
RedEye9 wrote on Feb 28, 2017, 21:42:
new Alien Covenant trailer

I'm feeling pretty meh on this one, particularly after the clusterfuck that was Prometheus.
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News Comments > Out of the Blue
21. Re: Morning Mobilization Feb 26, 2017, 15:56 Scottish Martial Arts
El Pit wrote on Feb 26, 2017, 12:32:
Get well soon, Cutter! Take care, okay?

Cutter has me blocked so he won't see this but I just wanted to extend the same well wishes. Get well soon, Cutter! I kinda think you're an asshole, but Bluesnews wouldn't be the same without you. So stay on the mend, and get back to doing your thing!
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News Comments > Out of the Blue
20. Re: Morning Mobilization Feb 26, 2017, 14:35 Scottish Martial Arts
Wallshadows wrote on Feb 26, 2017, 10:47:
Bill Paxton died.

Game over, man, game over! What the fuck are we gonna do now? What the fuck are we gonna do?

Hey Creston, not sure if you saw it but I wrote up my promised mini-review for the Deus Ex DLC here. The tl;dr is that it doesn't add anything to the Deus Ex Illuminati storyline but if you enjoyed Human Revolution and Mankind Divided then it's totally worth the $12.
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News Comments > Deus Ex: Mankind Divided Criminal Past Released
16. Re: Morning Mobilization Feb 26, 2017, 01:01 Scottish Martial Arts
Creston wrote on Feb 25, 2017, 12:23:
Congrats on the apartment, SMA!

Thanks, man! It's really my dream apartment in my dream neighborhood of Manhattan, and a less than 10 minute walk from my dream job. It took a crap load of work to get to this point, and I'll certainly be working hard at the new job, but after feeling pretty lost and adrift through most of twenties, it finally feels like the pieces of my life have fallen into the places I always wanted them to be.

Anyway, Deus Ex DLC Review:

  • The story is entirely self-contained. Although it deals with a number of the same themes as Mankind Divided, and there are a handful of subtle Deus Ex lore references, this doesn't have anything to do with the Illuminati. It's an undercover op in a maximum security prison. It's a super cool scenario, but if you were hoping for further revelations in the Deus Ex mythos, you won't find them here.

  • The early gameplay in particular is phenomenal. You don't have augs initially, and no items or equipment either. You have to be resourceful and engage in some genuine puzzle solving to make progress. Not puzzle solving in the sense of Bioware putting the Towers of Hanoi in every fucking game they've ever made, but puzzle solving as in "An inmate gave me a tip that something useful is in this room, but how am I going to get there with the extremely limited tools I have?" Obviously, that kind of puzzle has more than one solution.

  • The way the story unfolds at least suggests that there are some branches, but of course to know for certain I'd have to give it a replay. In any event, the game presents you with a series of choices that tend to boil down to "do I enhance my personal resources (i.e. get more augs reactivated) or do I get more inmates to owe me favors?) I am guessing the more favors you are owed, then a major turning point in the plot will play out differently. But without a reply I don't know for certain

  • As the DLC progresses, and you accumulate more resources, the game starts to lose it's "undercover in a supermax prison" vibe, and starts to become a standard Deus Ex infiltration mission. It's still a pretty good Deus Ex infiltration mission though.

  • The environment designers payed very close attention to detail, and there's lots of little insignificant bits of the environment that nevertheless are perfectly consistent with the other insignificant details of the environment. It feels like a prison inhabited by real inmates, even if only a handful of said inmates are fully realized NPCs.

  • Length is comparable to Human Revolution's Missing Link DLC. Looks like it took me a bit under 7 hours to finish, but that was with very thorough exploration and stopping to smell the roses. A race to the finish would probably take the average player between two and three hours

  • There are some minor bugs, but nothing game breaking.
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    News Comments > Deus Ex: Mankind Divided Criminal Past Released
    14. Re: Morning Mobilization Feb 25, 2017, 09:30 Scottish Martial Arts
    Wesp5 wrote on Feb 25, 2017, 03:51:
    ItBurn wrote on Feb 24, 2017, 18:16:
    The story is way shorter than in the first game though, so if you don't procrastinate that much, the game is definitely too short.

    Exactly. Also although Prague looked great, it was only one hub to which you returned three times and which was split with a long loading time in the middle too! Compare that to the several real hubs in the older games...

    Yeah, I did all the side missions and explored every nook and cranny (having a blast as I went) so the game felt long to me. But it's definitely the case that the main story was much shorter than Human Revolution. Of course, Human Revolution also had many fewer side missions and nooks and crannies to explore. Like I said earlier, Mankind Divided did some things better and some worse than Human Revolution. On the whole, Human Revolution is probably the better game, but I'm still of the opinion that Mankind Divided was extremely good, and if you are at all a fan of Deus Ex, particularly the original to which MD makes plenty of references and callbacks to, then it's absolutely worth the money.

    I got held up finalizing my new apartment lease last night, so I only got to play a few minutes of the DLC before more pressing matters demanded my attention. I'll play through it today as my reward for the stress of a successful NYC apartment and post my review later.
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    News Comments > Deus Ex: Mankind Divided Criminal Past Released
    10. Re: Morning Mobilization Feb 24, 2017, 17:56 Scottish Martial Arts
    Initial impression is very positive. There's a ton of detail in the prison and the yard, and your conversations with other inmates often get cut off by guards, so you typically only have the chance to ask one question out of several avenues of investigation. I'm just at the beginning, but the atmosphere is great, and there's definitely some Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher's Bay vibes going on. With only 45 minutes of playtime so far, I think it's still safe to recommend provided you enjoyed the base game.  
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