Friday, December 28, 2007

Mashup

This here is what I call a mashup post. That's a post where I have about 4 things I been meaning to write down, but keep putting off, because I'm a lazy git, so I'm finally incentivised to post, but I'm going to cheap out and post them all as part of one incoherent mess. That's not helping.

Real Blogs - Apparently, the fellow who coined the term "blog" thinks what I got here is not. A blog that is. I apologize, as I can not think of his name, nor be bothered to suss it out, but there was a brief article about him and his 10 pointers for new bloggers (hence my interest as I consider myself new to the field). His original concept however, was that a blog would be a Web Log of links you have visited. Which seems both pointless and boring to me. Admittedly, I do on a number of occasions include interesting foot note style links to supplement my thoughts, that's not really what he meant. He also suggests that if your posts are mostly "you" content that you should reconsider as most people will not find you as interesting as you do.

And my thought on that was "but they'd much rather go read stuff I read, eh?". So, out of respect, this is not a blog. It's a web accessible journal. WAJ for short. Say it with a long A. Waaa-j. I'm sure that will catch on.

World of Bloody Consuming my Free Time Warcraft - Bugger. That's probably all I should say there, but I won't because I'm in full WAJ mode now. I have fallen right back in. And why? VOIP, Voice Over IP for the less savvy. WoW is, as I've probably mentioned, not the best CRPG. Taken for just the single player experience, it's a poor almalgum of Action RPG and Classic RPG. Note quite enough plot and story to be a full on RPG, but too much class interdependency and time lapse combat makes it not quite an action RPG (Diablo). No it's all about the MMO part. And when you can actually chat with the people you're playing with, and maintaining HOTAS, that's almost like D&D.

Well, without the funky smelling room in your parents basement. Actually, I haven't been to your basement. Maybe your experience is just like D&D.

Warhammer - While at the annual family holiday get on, one of my cousins mentioned he was thinking about getting into the table top racket. Said he had been playing a take over the world game with his friends, but they were getting bored with it so thought they would try WH.

"You know the game, the one with the world?" He asked.

"Oh, Axis & Allies?" I asked.

"Uh, no. It has the dice and the pieces" He replied.

I gave one of those sideways looks I reserve for people who I think are obviously trying to mock me. And then, recognizing the source for what it was I deduced the answer. "You mean Risk."

"Ya! That's it!" I tried to stay encouraging after that, knowing full well that unless I devoted some serious coaching, my cousin was going to get lost in the gap. We actually discussed this briefly. I'm not sure there is a mid way step between Risk and actual strategy games. And certainly not much of a bridge between this and table top war games. I gave him the usual warnings about cost and time, something a game like WH demands a great deal of. I briefly considered sending him a set of alternate rules for the pieces of Risk. I think I may buy him a copy of Settlers of Cattan.

What you could do, to take Risk to the next level, and yet probably not change it so much that anyone who played before didn't understand, is make a supply change and a combat change. The supply rules for Risk are messed up. Ignore the cards, or at least use them limitedly. Like they always represent 21 points when cashed in. The new sets have three kinds of pieces (at least, the last set I bought did) intended to represent 1, 5 and 10 armies. Forget that, it's dumb (simplistic is what I mean, but I want to be inflammatory). If you're going to play like that you may as well invest in a set of stock six sided dice and roll them for an hour or two. Whoever rolls the most 6s wins.

The infantry units are 1 unit of infantry and they work just like you're used to. Each one you commit to battle is a d6 for you to roll and they cost 1 point for you to buy. They're the least expensive and have the best all around chance in combat.

The cavalry units are 1 unit of cavalry. They cost 2 points each, but they roll a d8 when attacking someone else's country. When some one attacks your cavalry they roll a d6, like infantry. If it's your turn your cavalry roll d8, if its not your turn they roll d6 is probably the easiest way to see it.

The cannon units are 1 battery of artillery. They cost 2 points each, and only roll a d4 when they are attacking. However, artillery is a support piece. If the artillery piece is not alone then each of your die receives a +1. Artillery by itself, not so effective. Artillery used as part of combined arms...

Leave everything else the same. Instead of the numbers for sets and normal supply and continent bonus being ARMIES, they are points you spend on Infantry or Cavalry or Artillery.
I really need to try that out.

World in Conflict - When I can get out from under the thumb of the gorilla, this game rocks. I also gave the single player demo of Crysis a shot, in spite of being disappointed with the multi player beta, and have to say I did it a disservice. I will be picking it up. I also have a taste for Hellgate London, but that's lower on my list. I have the demo of Call of Duty 4 for the PC, but need to evade the gorilla to get it installed. I did get Guitar Hero III for the 360, but as my 360 is being monopolized for watching House, MD just now, I'm not getting to use it much.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A StarCraft MMO

How much of the market can Bliz control? How much more market can there be? I'm the wrong guy to even guess, but the rumor is gathering steam.

Does this mean that Diablo III, for lack of a better term, is never going to appear? Did I mention I really need something in the ACRPG (Action Computer Role Playing Game) genre? Not that I don't think a Star Craft MMO would be cool. Actually, I don't. In a bit of an ironic twist, I've never really been all that fond of Star Craft. There are two actual reasons.

The first is, Star Craft, much more than War Craft, is a pale shadow of it's 40k ancestor. Dawn of War really nails it. I would be much more interested in a Dawn of War epic scale game with ships than in Star Craft 2. Now that I have Dawn of War, and especially Dark Crusade, I can't go back. The second is the Kerrington plot. I never liked the human/zerg hybrid idea. I thought it cheeped out on the zerg. The Tyranids are a giant hive mind. They're stealing your genes. They're making new tyranid bio forms. They're not interested in your puny human intelligence.

Monday, December 10, 2007

JP's Birthday Season

In case you've started unpacking your tree for that other holiday, I think you need to be aware that this year, JP's Birthday Season falls between Hanukkah and that holiday which I have a hard time supporting. Actually it's always before the holiday who shall not be named, but if I'm doing the calendar math right this year Hanukkah finishes first.

Days of note in the JP's Birthday Season:

November 12 - First day of JP's Birthday Shopping Season
I know that some big box stores like to start with the stuff for that holiday after Remembrance Day (Memorial Day down south). That's because of my refusal to pay shelving and marketing fees. It's a consumerists world.

December 14 - JP's Birthday Eve
Traditionally celebrated at a pub with several pints of over priced stout. Not to be confused with St. Patrick's Day, which is in March and involves considerably more green. This year, as the 14th falls on a Friday, several may in fact slide nicely into too many.

December 15 - JP's Birthday Day
Traditionally celebrated with an overpriced meal at a crowded restaurant, has more recently become a venue for Geek. The more geek the merrier. This year will be some full on geek involving multiple high powered desk top PCs harnessed to play games.

December 16 - JP's Boxing Day
There are no JP's Boxing Day sales, however this is the day JP begins his preparations for the other holiday season. There are many boxes involved.

David has been put in charge of building a repertoire of JP's Birthday Season Carols. I'm sure we'll all be surprised.

Oh, and Happy Festivus, if I don't see you before.

Friday, December 07, 2007

'Nuf! (1.1)

Ok, I've hit my Facebook threshold. I crossed the drama line and I'm quit (Prock will back me up on this). When you can actually offend someone by emailing them a request to have a terrible, compressed picture of yourself show up on their side bar, it's not cool any more.

I spend vastly too much time worrying about what other people think about me. Far too much time to be involved in a social networking web where ALL I do is worry about what other people are thinking about me. The emotional investment is just too high. And the email is choking my inbox.

I've sent an apology to the offended party (I'm too polite to just ignore these things), which may or may not have been the correct thing. It does seem like the right thing. That's what my social learning has taught me, when you hurt someone say sorry. So - sorry. (There, now I've apologized twice for something I hardly consider my fault. Yes, Canadian to the core.)

If you've come here as one of my Facebook contacts - I can be reached through the comments below or by email. If you don't have my email ... well I didn't know you that well, did I. But feel free to comment anyways. It is, after all, a live journal posted on the World Wide Web. (That, by the way, is what is referred to in the trade as "Shamelessly begging for readership".)(I know parenthetical belongs in sentences.)(Now I'm just trying to annoy you.)

Now to my regular readers (both Davids and that other guy): Sorry. I know you expect less drama and more geek. I'll be back to my regular cryptic game stuff by next post. Promise. Sorry.

December 7, 1941

"Yesterday, December 7, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy."

Important to note that, allthough the infamous attack which triggered United States involvement in World War II occured on the 7th, President Roosevelt's address to Congress was made on the 8th.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Child's Play Auction

Child's Play is a great idea for a charity. And if I had any money (well, honestly great gobs of money), I would be all over this auction. Unfortunately, that ship hasn't come in yet. Or the one before it. Or the one before that.

As the Lan Fest Winter 2007 approaches, we'll all be thinking about this, mostly because I'm forcing you to and hey, its Festivus. And if there's one time of year sick children could use some cheer, it's Festivus. Actually, make it your mission.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Notes on the Side

Just a couple of things to note down. Thing one: If you haven't read any of John Scalzi's stuff, what on earth are you waiting for. RAH is not coming back from the dead, you know. We think. And "Old Man's War" is maybe the best military sci-fi I've read since "On Basilisk Station". And if you haven't read that then how did you end up here?

Thing Two: I've begun to see a pattern in my designs. I fight an incessant need to include lots and lots of not fun stuff. And in this case I mean stuff as in stuffing or padding. I think the new cut of G.E. works because it lacks this padding. I'm starting a new anti-padding campaign!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Team Fortress 2

If I had any doubt what so ever about what a shooter is supposed to be like, thats it. Valve have really done an awesome job of it. The only real complaint I have after about 3 hours is an old refrain - more maps. There's only about one of each style of map so far. I'm sure the community is all over it already.

Maybe it's time to tap my mad level makin' skillz.

I am absolutely in love with the cool way they made classes. And as much as I thought the heavy was going to always be the way, it turns out my rocket skills are much superior. I think I mostly played the soldier. And I really don't get the spy. So like, you're not supposed to shoot things? I don't get that. But some people do. That whole knifey-ducky thing.

the one where I go on about DD


4 CPUs. I never use them all. And they're only 2.4s at that. When is all that juice cool? When you're transcoding 4 AVIs to WMV at once!!!


(That's cool. Admit it.)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Multiplayer CRPG

At this point all I really want is a new, modern inter-tube ready, multiplayer action RPG. Diablo 3d. Ish. Ish on the Diablo part, not the 3d part.
Things I'm looking for:
  • No character classes. I think the character class was a half baked attempt at game balance back in the day. It's passe. No reason I can think of why tons of options open to everyone shouldn't work if you make the whole thing big enough. Sure we can all be magic caster types. If the mechanics are designed properly, then we'll get penalized every time we face fast melee mobs. If skills are balanced, and I need to choose my way down a path, which reduces my ability to go down other paths. I haven't built it yet so, no I don't know if that will work or not.
  • No levels. Levels are lame. Skill acquisition should be about direct expense of experience. Loot use should be about skills. One less artificial mechanic, thank you.
  • Full on character customization. Sure have some basic architypes to start from (elf, dwarf, human), but colors and shapes need to be open. If you really want to see this working fair/good look at City of Heros/Villians. And I don't want to see the customization like in LotR - where the figure is all pre made, and later armor mostly changes things like color.
  • Tick Based combat, the way the MMO's do it. Unless you're going to make a full on fighter, in which case it needs to be at least as complicated as Blade of Darkness. But I want to fight the mobs, not the interface.
  • No bloody quests. Or at least not quests in the classic sense, and certainly not in the general MMO sense. The essence of "quest" should arise naturally from the system. It's too complicated for me to want to explain in this post, but imagine a system where NPCs have jobs and some of those NPCs do things like organize orc villages to attack dwarf villages. And the dwarf village, becoming aware of this, posts a bounty on orc ears and, more importantly, the head of the budding tyrant. Like that but all over, many times. I think you would be more at a loss of how to organize your time as the hero than looking for things to do. By seeking the floating exclamation points.
  • A full on crafting system. Why not. So I decide my characters quest in life is to become a farmer. It's not like a reasonable RPG doesn't include things like food.
  • Climate, which is bigger than weather effects. I mean it rained in Diablo II, but did Kurast ever experience a dry season? Did it snow near the monastery? This is a major complaint I have about all MMOs. It's been snowing on and off outside Iron Forge for about 3 years now. That can't make crop planting easy.
Ooo. Bit wordy there. And how is it that Orc isn't in my spell check dictionary?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Perspective

Perspective is a wonderful thing. Last night, I received a whole eyeful.

David, who is on assignment, and I spent about an hour messing with Teamspeak and Diablo II. Playing games on the internet should not be this much work. And it isn't, on my 360. Between the firewall and Teamspeak's really quite bad voice recognition, at least with my headset, we managed to play NO Diablo II. None what so ever. This reminds me of the bad old days.

I'm certain there are things I could be doing to minimize this. I just can't bring myself to spend the effort. This flies in the face of the games designed for online play. I suppose the real problem here is we need to get past trying to play games that were published about a decade ago. That's the perspective part. I've played lots of more recent stuff that works quite well.

That look you see on my face. That's me giving WoW the stink eye.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Spiritual Successor

...or sequel, depending on which pot you dip for ink. I'm tired of it, and you Video Game Reviewing hacks need to let it go. Let me introduce you to a new phrase - trite. That's when you use a phrase so much it begins to smell like old fish (I'm paraphrasing).

All through Bioshock's development we heard how it was a spiritual successor to System Shock 2. So much so that there are blessed few articles one can read on the game that don't include that comment in the first or second paragraph (if not the title).

And why am I on a boil about this. Well, it's got nothing to do with Bioshock. Bioshock is design-o-matically very much like Ken Levine/Irrational's (2k Boston if you insist...) earlier System Shock 2. It is a spiritual successor. It incorporates many of the design ideals of the early system, enhances and refines them and presents a new story (which actually shares a lot of plot points. Ok, Ken apparently has only one story to tell. But it's a great story and he executes well).

Hellgate:London is not a spiritual sequel to Diablo (and really not to the greater Diablo II). At best it's a clone. And don't get me wrong, from what I have of it Hellgate:London has it's charms. But it lacks many of the refinements introduced in Diablo II to the ARPG (Action Role Playing Game. Means bash monsters for loot so you can bash bigger monster for bigger loot, repeat until you get arthritis in your left mouse finger...). It is not successor to DII's crown. DII still has that crown set upon its mighty brow. Long live the king.

I dearly yearn for a modern revisit of the genre. I can only hope that Blizzard will abandon the MMO madness and produce a Diablo III in a 3d Engine, which supports heavy character customization (if I have 1 complaint about Diablo, it's cookie cutter characters - a Barb is a Barb, even if you have an axe barb and I have a throwing barb). Titan Quest seemed close, for that matter, except for the claustrophobic dungeons and lack of any real plot so does Hellgate.

But I'm still killing time on an MMO as far as this genre is concerned. That's what MMOs do, kill time.

Monday, November 05, 2007

G.E. Cards

In which it occurs to me that G.E. is not a good name to try to publish a game under, being that General Electric may object. Anyways...
G.E. Cards - Jean-Paul Lapointe's Galactic Empire: The Card Game, and yes it is a goal to have the name be so long there is no room for art on the box, is pretty cool. It is not 100%, David and I found several things which were broken, some of which will be addressed in v.002, but v.001 was playable. To be certain, the basic mechanics of play remain intact and are, dare I say it, fun.
It really seems to work. At least with two people. Having said that I will need to visually redesign about 2/3 of the cards. We've decided that square cards don't quite work with the facing mechanic for ownership. Turning the card so the ones you own are readable by you is ok, if the cards you own are all next to you on the table. When your cards are mixed in with the cards of the other players, square cards all look the same.
The game really needs another chart for tracking the Basic resources received per turn per player. Although it was easier to see the exchanges from basic resources to advanced resources, we often found ourselves counting our planets for basic production. An income chart will do the job.
I need to add in some flavor. I don't want to break any of the mechanics, so this will be a small step. But it's just not G.E. without the Jaal Riin and the U.E.P.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Costume Pictures



All righty - I finally found my USB cable for my camera so here are some shots. First Erik as Symbiont Spiderman.

And some Zachary Potter.
Yes, the only symbiont suit we could find had no mask. Probably why it was on the shelf, so dad had to figure out if he could paint faces. Turns out the answer is, "yes, good enough."

The jack-o-lantern wasn't my best, but I rushed a bit. Fortunately, you can barely tell it's actually carved.

Today, BTW, is the 30th birthday of the Atari VCS. As I mentioned previously, this was the very first machine I owned. I guess, when I look at it that way, may it's not all that surprising that I've gone back to consoles. I wonder if they have Asteroids on xBox Live Arcade...

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Zachary - R0x0rs with his b0x0rs

Zachary was super awesome older brother last night. Not only did he Trick-or-Treat well past his last years operational radius, stay off peoples lawns and remember to say thank-you, after Erik quit (he got cold) he would ask for extra loot for his little brother.

For 6, super awesome. Like triple cheese awesome with hand tossed crust.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Steve Jackson Ate my Brain

Alright, not literally. But the guy does seem hell bent on publishing every good idea I ever had. Have you seen Munchkin Quest? Ok, so you take the nice mechanics of Munchkin and put it on a board that randomly configures with dungeon rooms and doors, and Wham-O, you got a great game.

I knew I should have ran with that. The good news is all my great ideas are being made by a guy who I think is one of the best (if not the best) designer in the industry. The bad news is none of my great ideas are being made by me. This one only hurts because I abandoned the last prototype to play World of Warcrack.

Sigh. I hate you Blizzard. I really, really hate you.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Commence the Rebukes

All right, I signed up for face book. I couldn't help it - I wanted to view Craig's page after he sent me a clip of M.U.L.E., which we all know is one of my top ten Multiplayer Games of all time.

And then the onslaught begins... widgets, friend requests. I get why Wayne shut his account down. The email load alone is pushing me into an autistic episode. Milestone reached - First friend request from somebody I don't really want to be friends with. I honestly thought it would take longer.


"Flame shields up."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Custom Controlers are the Work of the Devil

I mean that in the best possible way. "Ace Combat 6", for the 360 looks sweet. Everybody in the room was quite impressed when we ran the demo. And now it has a joystick and throttle. This where it all starts with the consoles. Spending more and more money on fancy bits of plastic to "enhance" your game play. On the upside, these at least look like quality controllers. (But a mouse and keyboard for Halo 3, too much to ask).

Before I rant on, I should also add that my current experience with rechargables in the 360 pads is very positive. After the better part of two plus weeks, they need a recharge. Nickel metal hydride FTW.

Anyways, the package, which includes the game, is about 120. The game is going to be about 65-ish anyways, that means for about 60 bucks you get a decent looking stick and throttle. Not too shabby. I'm very, very tempted. I also remember how this went with my custom controlers on the 2600. Bad, bad, bad...

Oh yes, Cosmic Commander, I remember your shoddy butt.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

My 32nd Cut

I keep going back to this one idea. I think it should be a great game. My wheels hit the ground spinning. I play out the inertia. I run out of gas.

Is it possible that the idea itself is fundamentally flawed? Is it ok to design games you know no one will ever get to play? Is that as crazy as it sounds?

Self doubt is a necessary evil.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A Post Bioshock Note

I mentioned that I would come back to this, and I may yet again. Yes it was that good. I pulled the xBox 360 demo of Bioshock down and ran it through. I can honestly say that yes, it looks a bit better on PC, if you have the hardware. Which is what I've been saying all along. The biggest offender is the textures, which show hints of the pixelation at close inspection. Just visible. Also, I noticed the aliasing on edges a lot more. That may be the fact that I'm playing on such a large display, however.

The game still totally rocks, and when Brian finishes with his copy, I'm grabbing it off him. The controls work quite well, though the hacking mini-game is slightly harder without a mouse.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Last Days of PC Gaming

I don't mean on a big scale, I mean in my house. I'm guessing a certain amount of this is novelty. And some of it is certainly ease of use.

But my PC's been unplugged for two days and I didn't even notice. Have you seen the demo of Conan? Ok it may end up being God of War for the 360, but how bad is that. I actually spent about 4 hours playing a puzzle game. A puzzle game.

And suddenly the whole driver, windows, cd-key thing just looks like so much hassle. Guess I shouldn't have spent all that money then. If you all could just avoid mentioning it, that would be great.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

XBox 360 FTW

I am now the proud owner of a brand new XBox 360. It is very shwanky. Of course, it has also generated it's first sleepless night.

To Do:
Move TV - I put the TV a bit high on the wall, seemed a good idea at the time. It's too high. Needs to come down about 6 inches. I think we're going to re-arrange anyways, though.

Get DVI/HDMI - my TV only supports 1080i over componant. I need HDMI to go 1080p.

Get Live Gold account - I have to admit one of the real draws of the 360 is the Live Arcade. I need some of that, I mean Carcassone and Settlers!

(pwn those n00bs with the uber l33t hax...)

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The one where I prove out how I'm a gamer (yes, It's a real shocker...)

Last night I played the demo for Lionhead's "The Movies". Cool game. Because sometimes I just want to play a game where nobody is trying to kill me. I'm sure when most of the people who associate me with gaming think of the games I play, they think "Quake". That would of course be partly because they don't play games and they don't understand that nobody has played "Quake" since, like, 3d cards came out, or dinosaurs roamed the Earth.

They don't, I expect, think of me sitting down to several hours of "The Sims". Interestingly enough, it was "The Sims" that broke me out of my violent war toy shackles. I really had no intention of ever looking at "The Sims" on the shelf, let alone buying and installing it. But, my roommate at the time had a copy, and I was bored, and it was getting a lot of good press.

Two weeks later and Hank Poody was somewhat infamous. At one point my wife stopped and watched over my shoulder for ten minutes.

"What are you doing?", the tone here was giving the subtext of cautious-but-certain-you're-an-idiot. I get that a lot, so I recognize it.

"Playing the Sims." I came back. Very clever with the comebacks, I am.

"Yes. But what are you doing?!" I can sense a certain amount of exasperation. I, of course, should be able to use telepathy to discern at this point what what is what.

"Well," I said, not really able to resist a chat about my new favorite game, "Hank here needs to get these dishes done. His Need for Clean (that how I said it: Need for Clean. Like Need for Speed in "Top Gun", but no F14s) is getting in the way of his next promotion. And I really want to get the plasma TV. For Hank I mean."

There is a brief pause. "If you want, there is a whole sink full of dishes in the kitchen..." Lesson learned. I now do dishes almost every day.

So, "The Movies". It's like "The Sims", except you're building a movie empire. I like the empire bits, too. And that's what makes me a real gamer. I just really like to play games. Even games about doing the dishes.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Bioshock Complete


I am done. I give it a 9.5 out of 10.

Graphics (Technical) - 10 out of 10
In spite of my shader woes, I have to say this game utilizes some of the prettiest effects I've ever seen. And once you have a competent card (current midrange cards), it runs quite without a hitch, even when everything was on fire, and shooting electrical sparks, and partially under water to boot. Yes, I have seen all three on screen at once. With a fog effect. And shadows. And dynamic lights.

Graphics (Artistic) - 9 out of 10
The artistic design is top notch, with a couple of things I still take exception too. The period and Art Deco design of the levels was very cohesive and consistent. However, on the (many, many) occasions when I could see the standard bad guys (called Splicers) up close, they had a tendency towards a waxy-ness in finish. I'm not sure if this was deliberate or not, but I personally found them less believable than say Half-Life 2, with it's almost photo realism. It is important to note that this may be because I'm only running DX9, not DX10, as I refuse to install Vista. Looking at some of the comparison screen shots, I think this effect may be less on the DX10 implementation.

The bulk of the textures, however, are quite remarkably well done. I never once thought "Boy, upclose, that's not so good." I should note that there was at least one configuration of "Splicer" that I thought was very like the design and styling of characters System Shock 2, the legendary previous project of Irrational. It stood out, and may in fact be an homage, but looked a bit of place where I noticed it. That may have been intentional.

Sound (Ambient and Vocal) - 9 out of 10
The sound effects and voice acting is spot on. The folly sound bits, though a bit repetitive, help to set the stage, offering plenty of cues to the story and game play. The active sound effects (weapon noises, power effects, interface alerts) are all consistently well played. I did notice a few places where I would have an audio log be interrupted by a scripted voice over, but as you can replay any voice over you hear from you journal page, thats more an inconvenience than an issue. I am curious to see if the sound supports surround and the like, but on both my analog and USB headsets it was all high quality.

Sound (Music) - 10 out of 10
The soundtrack is a mix of period music and original orchestral music. It is somewhat sparse, but when used is used for excellent dramatic effect. The music has been recorded at a reasonable quality, but has often in the case of the period music been modified to sound like the device on which it is represented as being played back on. Music from an old phonograph, for example, is suitably scratchy and tinny.

Gameplay (technical) - 9 out of 10
The standard shoot controls are evident, and the mechanic for swapping ammunition and between weapons and plasmids (your special magic powers in the game) works well. I found the controls to be reasonably intuitive. Certainly if you have played any shooter before, the movement and combat isn't going to be hard for you to pick up. As a Battlefield fan, however, I missed 2 things that I consider standard. One is double tap to sprint, the other is zoom-aim.

The menu interface, though artistic, actually has some minor difficulties. In at least two places the only way to go back to the previous screen is to press escape. There should always be a 'go back' button. In spite of this, the interface is clear and otherwise precise. Options are labeled clearly and organized logically.

In fact the only out of place bit of information as I saw it was the markers for Little Sister/Big Daddy pairs in a map. This information is only displayed on the 'esc' menu, not anywhere on the 'Map'/'Hint'/'Goal' screen, which was a bit odd, but easily over looked.

The game has a goal arrow implemented which is fairly useful. I believe it only actually confused my twice. And there was only one spot where I was certain there should have been an arrow and there wasn't.

Gameplay (Story, length and artistic merit)
Hands down, this is a well crafted game. The story is worth following. And deep and dark. Irrational (ok, 2k Boston, if you insist) has not failed to live up to it's reputation established with System Shock 2 as crafters of great, immersing stories.

Length, a long standing issue of mine, is about right. I'm sure a hard core shooter type can rocket through in less than 10 hours, but you're only experiencing about half the game if you play it that way. If you spend the time digging into the environment, sussing out the audio logs and things, you will, I expect get closer to 20~25 hours on a single run. Your millage will vary according to skill, ability and difficulty setting.

Re playability, on the other hand, is not high. It is after all a story game. Once you've seen it, you've seen it, and I have to expect you're not going to want to go through it again right away. I'm not, at least. I will try a run through at the hard setting at some point, but I would not be surprised if I did not play all the way through.

Final Sums:
You should not hesitate to buy Bioshock brand new if you have the PC horsepower to make it work. If you don't have the PC horsepower, you may want to consider the 360 route instead. I have yet to try it on the 360, but will shortly (if that should impact this statement I will update), and have it on good authority that the differences are minor. All reports in, after you settle into the controls the experience is highly similar. At a bare minimum you owe this one a rent with a console, if that's your shortest path to the goal, the down side being it probably represents a solid weekend of fending off the partner to get it done.

Friday, September 28, 2007

A Brief Note on Facebook

And/or Social networking webs in general. If you look over to the right, you'll see a horrible picture of me. That's purposeful. First if I don't know you, I really probably don't want to talk to you on the street and this makes that less likely to happen. Second, I'm not what one might refer to as photogenic, so it is a bit of the "best of a bad lot" as they say.

I blog because I have a need to put stuff down. It's a live journal; that's how I approach my presence on the 'tubes. It is a bit of marketing, though I haven't made mention of Galactic Empire in a while, and eventually it will be a meeting place for fans of Castle Games.

I'm not going on face book. And I don't have a widget for you. I've "browsed" one of the social sites once (looking for a friend of a friend's record shop). As a search/info tool it was useless. Oh don't get me wrong, if I wanted to endlessly click through interlinked pages of pictures of people I have no connection with and read their muddy comments, I would be set.

It seems to me that blogging is about me. Me centric, let us say. That fuels me and I suppose at a core level I'm at least partially a narcissist. It seems to me that social pages are about who I "know". Except I don't know them, I've simple been allowed to "install" their widgets. I think it may be the most modern example of the office cocktail party. You know the one where every body walks around mentioning how they met Mr. Guy, who's on TV or Mr. Politics, who voted against that thing, or Ms. Hottie from accounting.

Maybe the duality is a deep - shallow comparison. Blogging is deep, requires my effort. Often an effort I'm not up to. Face book requires me to ask people for their pictures. And then I can procalim I know them. And then I'm, like, cool.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The one where I show I'm a HALO fanboi

There's a really keen article about Bungie (Bungle? It's an "EYE", idiot. Oh, BINGO.) on the Escapist. It makes a really interesting point, or rather highlights one made by one of the Bungie crew. Some of the folks there have been working on HALO stuff for 10 years. And apparently, they're ready to move on.

And I thought, 'Hey, I've been hacking away at GE for over 10 years'. I guess thats how you know it's done. When you don't feel a need to change it anymore.

(I think I used really really often in this post. Really.)

Anyways, by this time next week I should have a brand new 360, and Brian has already lent me his copy of HALO 2 (thanks!). I really enjoyed HALO, even if I did play it on PC which meant no co-op mode. The vehicle control still stands out as the most intuitive ever. Going to take some effort to get past the mouse thing, though.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Not quite flawless

As in DD, or Hank as some have preferred. I am experiencing some visual tearing/artifacting while playing SFC II. The game otherwise runs flawlessly, but there is a white flash line accross the tactical display pane. It's weird.

Battlefield 2 and Rune both ran admirably. I should have run the server, but was forced due to an oversight in LAN components to run the wireless, which had no effect on my game play (that I could see), but I guess would not have been good for server-ness.

I'm going to experiment with an old Dell box, borrowed from David, and see about bringing up my own dedicated servers. SFCII and 1942/Vietnam for sure I think. I might try BF2, but I'm not sure the box I have is up to it. On the other hand , you don't need a lot of juice to run a server, no graphics and all.

I may try to see about an arrangement for faster internet connectivity.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

DD

I think I might be half way through Bioshock. Certainly, I've reached the point where the tools I have are making the game easier. I'm still downloading my Tabula Rasa client because my connection has been flaking out. I miss my old reliable cable provider.

'DD' shall officially be refered to as DD-532. Which is listed in the 'official' SFB lists as U.S.S. Lysander. But DD will do.

Big game weekend, both because of DD and David hits the road next week.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Why EA R0X0Rs (uhm, not)

I had a terrifying experience last night. Technically two terrifying experiences, but I'm not going to explain how after three hours of Bioshock I tried to go to sleep and woke up screaming. It happens.

No, no. I;m talking about not being able to remember the password for my primary Battlefield 2 nickname. 105 hours, slipping through my fingers. And EA's version of technical support is more like technical jello. The pudding kind, because not only does it not support, you can't see through it.

I'm thinking people must forget their passwords all the time. Especially if you're like me and leave the "Remember my Password" box checked. Did you know that there is no way to reset that? That's right, EA's thought full support response is to simply create a new id with a password you remember. 105 hours. I'm going to remember something alright.

After two hours of desk-head connecting, I figured it out. BF2 runs just top on DD. It's maxed. It's smooth. I'm starting to see how those guy's in the jets can shoot guys on the ground. With everything cranked you can actually see the guys on the ground...

Monday, September 17, 2007

Passing into the Fourth Age

And Larry goes on the road. Now fully replaced by the penultimate gaming rig "DD". Bioshock rocks. No doubt in my mind. Certainly best game I've played this year (new this year, that is). Possibly in my top ten. It's simply gorgeous to look at and the game play is very well done. Bioshock is very much a "System Shock" game. I will not be surprised to find that Andrew Ryan is a time traveling Shodan.

But, this does not come at no cost. The former Mk. VIII is now broken out into a pile of bits, soon to be sold piecemeal. It's like a post cold war Russian military base, everything must go.

I now need to spend some time updating all of my utilities. I notice that Nero fails to take advantage of my multi-core goodness, and therefore takes only slightly less time to encode a DVD. That's a bit disappointing. Vista is still out. From a gaming perspective, it's too much waste. I did not spend the better part of 2k on parts just to give 20% of my processing horse power back to the OS. I suspect that will change as drivers reach maturity, but until then HALO can wait.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Gnab Gib

I was there. At the end. They just turned it off. Well, from my perspective anyways.

As of 12:00 AM Saturday September 1, 2007 (CST, +/- a minute or two), Auto Assault was no more. I went out the way I came in, blazing away at PvE targets, looking for some or other quest text specific entity. And then they stopped reacting. And then it disconnected.

I suppose, truth be told, as MMOs go, it lacked. A lot of people have been pointing out how the game really didn't lend itself to group play. You can't drive a car and type chat with your mates at the same time. Or at least you really, really shouldn't if you want to survive. VOIP should have cleared all that up. Any body with an IP address can run a ventrilio or TeamSpeak server. You can rent a real server (if you worry about bandwidth and such) for lunch money if you need to. In the end though, not lending yourself to group play seems a bad characteristic to have as a massively multi-player game.


The upside is I have reclaimed almost 9 gb of hard drive.

Monday, August 27, 2007

You're only making this harder, you know...

David and I sat and played the Bioshock demo Saturday. Well, David played, I sat. Actually, now that I think about it, jumped around like a child with sugar candy might be closer. His tower has the bare minimum ATI gpu required. And I have to say, this game's bare minimum is not too shabby. One of the things I certainly noticed was textures. Even running with reduced settings, as I said - minimum, when you get close to a surface you don't have those blocky, muddy textures you're used to. The lighting and water looks awesome, but I expected that.

And if there's one thing I can say to sell this game, its this. Before we fired it up, I got the distinct impression David was humoring me. He does that a lot, knowing my enthusiasm for a game can often get the better of me. By the end of about 20 minutes of play, he was making plans to swing by "Big Box o Electronics" to pick up a copy, and possibly a second x1600 to go in his other crossfire slot.

Download the demo. I suggest Steam. Or Torrent, but make sure you have your anti-virus turned on and up to date.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

RFQ

Official Request For Quote: I'm looking for parts.

The upgrade hunt is on. So if you know a guy who knows a guy, no names, tell him I need an SLI mobo what supports a quad intel, an 8800 GTX (SLI ready), about 2gb of pc6400 (4-4-4-12 latency would be good), a 19 LCD (prefer wide and glossy with a high refresh) and a power supply. I got the rest.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Pixel Shader Model 3.0

I'm boned. Bioshock has been out for almost 12 hours now, and I can't even look at it. Larry doesn't support Pixel Shader Model 3. Using the latest valVe hardware survey as a source, almost half of the machines out there do, so I can see why you wouldn't hesitate if you had to make a choice. Of course, slightly more than 1/3 of respondents are in a similar boat as me.

Oh, well except of course that Larry is a desktop replacement. He can't be upgraded. He can only be replaced. And I'm not going to do it. Yes, I will now see more games come to market which will be unplayable on Larry (and yes, Bioshock is unplayable - it renders most of the scene as black). And it will build to a critical mass. But I'm not going to replace a $4000 desktop replacement because of one game.

Even if it is going to be the game of the year. Which is going to get spoiled for me. Because I won't get to play it before somebody spoils it.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

the one where I go on about TV (1.1)

Over the weekend (a 3 day weekend here in Canada, btw) I put down some serious volume of TV watching. I finally got around to watching the last 4 episodes of series 3 of the new Doctor Who. Over all, not bad. The episode entitled "Blink", a POV piece is very good. The finale (of the season, not the Blink episode - the Blink episode was solid) was a bit of a let down Imho. I won't say why, if you haven't seen it I don't want to spoil it, but I didn't like some of the story choices and thought the antagonist was a bit too corn ball. It fits well with a David Tennant Dr. Who.

I also watched the first 5 episodes of Heros. 1) If you like mutants/super heros meets xFiles meets 24 (I shouldn't say that - I've never watched a whole episode of 24. I only presume what it's like.) you should watch this show. The writing is top shelf, as are the visuals. The cliff hanger per episode gets a bit tiring, but the long story is a refreshing change for somebody who usually watches pure episodic content.

I keep trying to watch more Boston Legal, which is a very well written show, but never seem to get to it. Maybe it's not as good as I want it to be.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

New Header Bar


Yup. I drew it myself. Really.







No, I didn't. And 20th Century Fox will probably sue my butt off. But you can make your own Simpsons Avatar by going to the Simpson's Movie web.


Hey, they gave me the tool. That's, like, an invitation to abuse it. And it does look alarmingly like me.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Harry Potter

Just about everyone I know has now read the seventh and (what appears to be) final book of the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. No spoilers here, BTW, because I haven't and probably won't.



No disparagement on the part of J.K. meant there - I have read a few chapters of the Philosopher's Stone, and it seems reasonably well composed. It just happens that there is a wealth of other material I wish to read more.



If, however, you've read it all and now find you want to read some more, let me recommend a few things. Thing one, before I go any further, avoid the Lord of the Rings. You're not ready for that yet. It will just put you off reading again and all that will have been wasted.



The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien

Now, I know I just told you to stay away from one of Professor Tolkien's greater works. However, I do believe if you made it through "Goblet of Fire", you are more than ready for the Hobbit. You will find it a well crafted tale of high fantasy adventure. Elves, dragons (well, just one great dragon), goblins and trolls. Dwarves and treasure. It is crafted originally as a children's tale, and although there is a great deal of back story and legend built in, it does not get in the way of the fun.



Master of the Five Magics - Lyndon Hardy

This is a more complicated read, best introduced to the teenage types. The characters themselves are a bit forgettable, but the system of magic is the real star anyways. Mr. Hardy has taken great pains to craft a very detailed and plausible set of rules for the use and control of magic in his books. The sequels are less entertaining, but feature different characters on different journeys, so are not so very important.



Magician: Apprentice & Magician: Master - Raymond E. Feist

(originally published as a single volume, entitled Magician)

These two novels (or one I suppose if you found it before me) comprise the first portion of what is more widely know as the Riftwar Saga. I consider them among the best fantasy written in the end of the 20th century. They are a bit long taken together, but well worth the effort.



Start with those three recommendations. When you've completed that come back and we'll talk about this - Robert A. Heinlein. It will change you.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

And another thing!

What's the one technology we can't let go of? The one technology to make regular cable look less like poo?

That's right , the VCR. Oh no, it doesn't make the cable look better in the improved the look way. It's just so much worse that cable becomes acceptable collateral damage.

Unfortunately I have a large investment in children's programing on VHS, which refuses to find it self in the refuse. Last night I watched (actually, glanced at out of the corner of my eye, more like) Jumanji from VHS on the '42. That. Looks. Terrible. I mean really, really bad.

I look at my collection of Star Trek on VHS. I look at the TV. I look at the tapes. This going to go bad.

And how am I going to tape my shows? Oh sure I can torrent TV, but what if my ISP decides a cease and desist is in order? They've been doing that, by the way. The A/V guys insist that DVD recorders are old news. Hard Drive in a Box boxes are still 400 to 600 CDN.

And my VCR gets to cling to life.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

720p


Hawsome.

I just can't say enough about how totally rockin' cool Star Wars Lego II is on 42" of widescreen 720p goodness. Even movies look more better. An Xbox 360 just has to be in the works now, for this arrangement. And I think, for pure style points, it's going to have to be the Halo 3 limited edition.



This version has the HDMI, but only the 20gB hard drive. Of course Halo 3 is not included. Wait, not included? Who thought that up?




(Image shamlessly stolen from Kotaku)

Monday, July 16, 2007

Black Hole Warning!


Don't go to this link if you want to remain productive: You Don't Know Jack!


That's right, one of my favorite social PC games is now all flash. And it rocks. But I'm never going there again...

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Regular TV is Poo

I mean that. In the worst possible way. And I'm not referring to the content either. The real drawback of buying a giant, hi-end display? The worst possible signal is the most common one. Yes I'm talking about SDTV. That's Standard Definition television, which decided it wasn't cool anymore and needed a new name once High Definition television came along to ruin it's day.

Low definition, pixelated, drifting crap might be more accurate. LDPDC. Try it, you'll see.

I really like my new TV, especially now that I've narrowed down the fact that only my most recent DVD player has 480p, my PS2 can't because only the slim ones do, and I'm better off just downloading or renting the show I want to watch.

My TV service (a phone company who shall remain unnamed) provider will do me the honour of providing some HiDef content. A whopping 8 channels. Two of which are sports channels. For 5 bucks a month. Which I suppose isn't to bad. Except I then need to purchase a new set-top box. For $350. And I can have it installed for just $99 more.

w00t.

Not impressed. Not really impressed.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

First Time?

(Hey - no titles! For some inexplicable reason the title box for the post form is "un-clickable". Some IE security measure no doubt.) Got it - the box is offset from the hotspot - no idea why.

Like seeing it for the first time. Last night I spent some serious quality time configuring my new TV. 42 inches of LCD goodness. I remembered that I had the THX set up tests on XMEN (they may be on other THX discs, but I knew they were on that one). After tweaking the contrast and colour even 480i looks great. So much so that when I watched The Incredibles, I noticed a whole bunch of animated goodness that just doesn't show on the 27" CRT (which, in its defense, is over 15 years old).

I literally felt I had never seen the movie before.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Larry, the Return



Larry, it seems, may be on the brink of a come back tour. Over the weekend I upgraded my TV experience with a 42" Wide Screen LCD. It's pretty cool. It goes all the way up to 1080p, but of course I don't have any devices that put that much screen out.


Except one.


DVI-D can be converted via cable to HDMI. And Larry can, technically speaking, produce a full 1080p image over this connection. Larry would be the only device in my house ready for HD.


Eventually I will probably invest in a PVR, or a better DVD player or both. The guys at Krazy Krazy said DVD recorders are old news, just go straight to PVR. I might build one out my old tower.


Actually, I should double check, but if the tower video card has a DVI port (and it may), it may be almost ready to go. No capture device right now.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The Zackman Cometh...

Happy birthday Zachary, who is now 6.

No, you can not play World of Warcraft yet.

360?

Or no? I can't decide. I suspect there's still a bunch of PC games coming my way. I haven't ruled out assembling a new Frankenputer. There will never be a Dawn of War on a console. And Larry is still kinda cool.

But,

A 360 (or even a PS3, I suppose) is half (possibly less than a third) of what I would spend on a new PC, even if I build it. And building a high end PC becomes more and more difficult when you don't make the effort to stay in the loop.

Ah, the good old days of the ASUS P3B-F. A Pentium III 450. 256 MB of RAM (what kind of ram, I have no idea. PC 33? PC 66?). The Riva TNT, 64 mb. And Diablo II to rule them all...

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

No Post Apocalypta? (v1.1)


NC Soft has announced that they will shutdown the Auto Assault servers at the end of August, for the final time. I will not be billed for my account up to then.

Interestingly, I read recently (can't say where to credit it) that this is how all MMOs end. They have to be killed. There will always be a few people willing to go back and pay to play the game. I have to assume that this game has slipped so far below profitability, that it's just not worth it anymore.

Since I started playing WoW, I have wondered what happens at the end of the universe. I guess, in the end, it's just a "Gnab Gib".

Now I really need to get cracking on GURPS - Apocalypse.
EDIT: If you'ld like, I found a nice article summing up here.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Larry Crosses the Rubicon



Some of you may be aware of the love-hate relationship I have with my gaming PC, Larry. Larry, for the un-technical, is an Alienware M-7700 Desktop Replacement class Windows/Intel Personal Computer. He weighs about 13 pounds, without the power supply, produces heat like a desktop, and is reasonably powerful for his vintage. Larry is also going on 3 years old. Which, in the PC world, translates into Ancient.

And last night, he crossed over into "inadequate". He is no longer adequate in his adequacity. The culprit is the demonstration version of Overlord. This game is an absolute blast of good times. At least it should be. Or would be. If Larry was up to the task. Which he is not. Unless I turn all of the fancy effects off and turn the screen resolution down to 1024x768. And even then, sometimes, not so much.

Upgrade? No dice. About the only bit I can upgrade in Larry is the processor, and I'm not 100% certain I can do that. I think what I bought might be the best that will fit on the mother board. And it's not really a processor issue. It's the ageing x800 graphics processor that's bringing him down. And that's a custom bit that Alienware has categorically stated will never have a replacement part.

Build New? Ya right. That's not even going to make it to committee. I was lucky to survive my last $4500 PC purchase.

Bioshock isn't even going to run.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Big SciFi 4x (1.1)

I've had this post kicking around for a few months. Not sure where I was going with that, but it's got lots of fibre to chew on.

Anyways, the idea is to make the galaxy big. Big enough that you can't blow it off in a solid 12 hour day of power gaming. Now that you have a really big, persistent
galaxy, you start your fledgling space empire. You have just developed ftl travel. Commence the explore. Look for colony worlds. Watch out for hostile aliens (which may or may not be other players).

The turns should take at least a day to process. That is the system should be capable of handling the maths in short order, but you should then have a day to respond to the changes. Shorter if you're slightly off-center and your work doesn't care about you logging in from your workstation during work. Longer if you need more time to schedule conflicts (and plan). Conflicts should be scheduled as much as possible between players. Conflicts with simulated opponents can be resolved at your convenience. Now that's not all that realistic, but is a concession to the fact that the
average player of these games is often better at tactical combat than the
average simulated opponent (SO for short).

The combat module needs to have layers (like an onion). On the top is the strategic layer. You can have input on this from three perspectives. One is as an aggressive combatant. Two is as a defensive combatant. Three is as an observer. In case one and two you probably want a facility to have doctrine in place ( a common set of rules for encounters) to help you quickly set out your game plan for the engagement.
This will most likely be related to your objective in the engagement. The battle planning sub-module needs to encompass all of the possibilities of the battle simulation. Each side needs to commit it's forces to a plan before proceeding to combat (battle simulation).

Battle simulation should take place in the largest definable useful area, which I figure is a star system. The combat in space around the bodies of the system should take place while the combat on the bodies is occurring. So the ground invasions are occurring while you're fighting in space. Morale needs to be a factor for a "truer" simulation. Not everyone will fight to the death if they are given a more attractive option.

You should simulate the model in 3 dimensions using "pseudo" Newtonian physics in "real time". With the acknowledgement that these things need to scale into a "playable" time frame. Using the Solar system as an example, we probably need to
scale the time frame up relative to the speed and range of weapons. We are dealing with a truly tremendous volume of space. The amount of scaling needs to relate to the achievable speed of the ships involved and the range at which weapons become effective, and perhaps more importantly, the sensors become effective.

I'm neutral on your level of input on what happens on the ground. Certainly, if the pace is slow enough, you could have a secondary UI which allows zone by zone control of invasions, or bombing. I do think that the minimum will be the ability to organize your ground forces into armies and give them objectives. The destruction of planetary targets (weapon control points or ground based weapons and infrastructure,for example) should be one alternative to total subjugation.

I think I was thinking about how I would work a MMOSG. I'm not sure the game community is ready for MMOSGs, or ever will be, but I think it would be neat-o.

(1.1 - Cleaned up extra line breaks. Note to self - do NOT precompose in Notepad!)

Monday, June 25, 2007

House and Home

Painting hurts. Up down, up down. Now my legs hurt. And I haven't gamed in 3 DAYS. That has got to be some kind of record, or travesty, or some broken by-law.

On a golf note: I hit my best drive ever. Must have been 200 plus yards. Great arc. Smacked it. Missed the fairway completely. Ball is buried deep in the brush. That's golf. Score? When I hit 69 on the front 9, I stopped realy paying attention to score. It's more like practice at that point anyways.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

And I'm Spent

Finished the System Shock 2. Great ride right up to the end. The end features two relatively un-inspired boss battles, back to back. And, like most people, I have to say relative to the rest of the game, it feels rushed. For the majority of SS2, you creep around, sneaking and shooting, hacking and hunting. These last too confrontations are straight run and gun. And the 'organic' level is just major aggravation.

If you're going to give it a go, at least seek out one of the hi-res texture replacement packs. I may fiddle with one of the model upgrades as well, but now that I've been through once, I'm probably done. Being very story driven, I've seen it, I'm not sure it will have the same impact the second time around.

Bioshock. Fallout 3. Lots of good gaming coming up. And at some point I should play the main story of Oblivion.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Randomizer

Hey, my profile has had 203 views. About half of those are me checking to see if any one has viewed my profile. That's a guess, not a statistic. But I'll bet it's accurate 9 times out of 10, plus or minus 5.

After over dosing on Tom Chick's column "Shoot Club" (Quarter to Three Archive) (the Escapist), I was inspired by one of them to re-install Doom 3, which I never finished. It took exactly 5 seconds of play to remember why I un-installed it last time. Because of Battlefield, I now always map "zoom" to my primary thumb button on my mouse. This wasn't the way my key map was set in my Doom 3 profile, so I mapped it. And picked up my pistol and zoomed and panned, a quick test.

And then it occurred to me that most of the monsters in the game we're going to lean out of closets and bulkheads, effectively making the game mostly a melee effort. Not to mention in the dark. I down loaded the "Duct Tape" mod. A helmet light would be better (shoulder light? That might actually look more like a Colonial Marine.). Or UV/IR settings for my helmet. Oh, wait I don't have a helmet. You know there are zombies, right? And you know how zombies have the whole "brain" thing, right? So, like, no helmet at all, seems like a bad idea. Just saying is all.

Ooooo! New shoot club! Go!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

MoM dot Net

Hey if you haven't been by in a while, skip over to MoMDotNet. Justin's been hard at it and got A LOT done recently. I've contributed a bit.

Some.

We're still trying to figure out the best way to get models from Blender to the app, but we're diligent and the results are surprising. Yes, we're using MAGENTA as the transparent key, so
No it wont be pink in the game.

This would be one of about 1000 models I need to make. And technically this one isn't done - I still need to create proper textures and map them (that what you see are blender base materials, which are great for rendering but no good for games). Further I may be going overboard as far as model complexity is concerned. It's possible I could get away with a simpler mesh with a nice texture.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Vacation Off

I'm back. Three weeks is about one week too long. My dad says never take more than 2 weeks off, because you forget where you work. Deliberately.

Keycon: Yes, that was a glorious mess. My table ran fine, though I have yet to actually make a profit. Scott, now officially dubbed Henchman #1, was very successful at selling stuff. This will be of great benifit as we move into phase 2 - Portable T-Shirts. We also have begun the planing for a hospitality suite themed around a viking long hall. I've got it half planned in my head.

Gaming: Played out my free month of City of Villians. And hey, it's OK. The client is very stable, the content is well designed, and the characters are fun. I think the secret base is a bit wonky from the design end, at least as a solo player, but it's not a necessary game element, so skip it. If I had $15US just lying around, I would play more. Which evolves nicely into my feelings about MMOs in general at this point. Don't hook up for a long subscription. Yes you can save $0.50 per month by agreeing to pay for 6 months at a time. But what if you want to take a break and pay something else?

Further, all of the games I've played keep your data after your account goes inactive. I can still flip Blizzard $15 and play my same old WoW characters for a month, even though I haven't been on in about 6 months. Along this thinking I've cut my LotR:OL subscription down to monthly (which is still only $10USD because I pre-ordered, thanks Turbine!). Yes if I do cancel I lose my special rate. So what?

Costumes: Kudos to David. I wore my Ghostbusters uni most of Keycon and got at least a dozen comments about how cool it was, and not all of the comments were from attendees. Not my design, so Good on You.

The potential of selling the house and moving has appeared on the horizon. I am apprehensive. There's a lot of effort to go into my shack if I want to get out what I need to move. And you know how I feel about effort.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Half Life - the Death Match Experience

Back in the day, I used to be pretty heavy into the death match. A little capture the flag was ok, sure, but I really could get into the death match. David, hated the death match, at least in so far as it was presented a la Quake II.

Half Life changed all that. Here's how.

Imagine a map made up of an indoor play zone. There's me. There's David. There's one health spot. Looking down over the health spot is a mostly enclosed catwalk. The catwalk provides an almost ideal sniping spot. Knowing that a) David is going to need to go to the health spot eventually, this based almost entirely on my knowledge of his ability to hurt himself as effectively as I can, and b) I can hear his footsteps when he runs up puts me in a pretty decent tactical position. I think.

And I continue to think that as I hear his approach. I zoom in my weapon of choice, the Colt Python, hoping the red dot from the laser won't give me away. I inhale, exhale, hold. He's getting closer. I can hear him getting ... closer...

BAM!

Now, imagine the most girly-girl scream you've ever heard.

Yes, that would be me screaming. Yes, he snuck up behind me. No, it never occurred to me.

Now a days, I mostly go for the squad based shooters, Battlefield and the like. But we had a really good run based on that moment. Half Life, Unreal Tournament (two or three versions). And some days, I kind of miss the no bots action.

Friday, May 04, 2007

l33t posts

This was supposed to be a r33l leet post about Sytem Shock 2. About how I'm all impressed with a game that came out the same time David and I were learning the joy of crow bar dueling in Half Life. Which as an aside, is also a great story that I should write down.

And then you pwned by Murphy.

Will Wheaton's agreed (at least tentatively) to be the keynote speaker at the next PAX.

So in a Force = Mass * Velocity kind of way, I neeeeed to go to PAX.

Penny Arcade Expo = Roxor
Tycho & Gabe = Roxor
Will = Roxor
Sum of = pwnage!

I wonder how long it takes to walk to Seattle?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Slacker Blog Web Ring

Hi and welcome to the SlackerBlog Web Ring.

Oh , allright, it is a bit harsh, but it would seem that most of the blogs I link to don't get updated all that often. With exception of Wheaton, who updates very regularly (and is an uber l33t god of bloging, not somebody I actually know or anything)(yes i'm trying to buy cool).

Thing 1: I learned about my video card last night. By spending some serious time with City of Villians, it's frame rate tool and config panel, I was able to crank 23 frames per second up to 53. Not bad, eh? I like it. It looks like my card has trouble with their bloom shader (makes stuff glow). I've seen this setting elsewhere (in other games I mean) and I may experiment a bit more tonight in other stuff, to see if its driver/hardware related rather than implementation related. Maybe the x800 has a poor implementation of shaders? I don't remeber seeing that in any of the reviews. It could be that CoH/Cov has a poor implementation of the driver calls/directX.

Thing 2: A face normal is the direction you expect the render engine to draw the side of the polygon on. This is all great unless you get the normals twisted to the inside of the cube. Which make the side facing you transparent and the inside of the othe side render. Which could be a cool effect, I suppose, just not what I wanted. Oh bother.

Thing 3: Bioshock

Cool. Very, very cool.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Dustballs and Mutants

I'm must actually really like Auto Assault. I'm certainly semi-obsessed with the theme. Mutants, cyborgs, cars with missile launchers.

I can't remember how playable Carwars was, but I'm very tempted to seek out a copy of it and inflict it on my regular P&P victims. I wonder if there's a GURPS post-apocalypta?

I listened to Steve Jackson's "State of the Company" podcast recently. The good news is that SJ Games is rolling on. Munchkin has put them way over, and they are in serious jeopardy of making money. Assuming they can keep enough copies of Munchkin printed. The down side of this is that keeping Munchkin in print requires that all new development be effectively shoved to the side. That doesn't make me feel good about gaming as a whole.

He also mentioned that Eagle Games, who produced the board game adaptation of Sid Meier's Civilization, closed their doors. This is bad for me, because it means my supply of super fancy cheap figs just dried up. I guess that could be why they closed the doors.

Car flying.
Bullets screaming.
Cybers dying.

Friday, April 27, 2007

BF 2 Progress

At my historical rate I will achieve the rank of Gunnery Sargent in 137 days. That seems a bit much, but I only play an average of less than 15 minutes per week. My concern: BF2 server numbers continue to dwindle.

Right after 2142 was released, it seemed like there was not going to be much of a change. In fact, I was surprised at the number of people playing 2142, considering the number of people still playing 2. It seems this has changed. Actually, I haven't bothered to play 2142 in a while, so it is possible that players are leaving the franchise in toto.

The number of servers available for a given size filter - small, medium or large maps, has gone down from about 150 to 200 per band to more like 25 to 50 per band. Now, my methods are perhaps not the best gauge of the playing population. I don't play any of the mods, and can not say how many people or servers the are for this.

In general, this is not too bad. I believe it has reduced the number of jerks playing in general, which is OK by me. On the other hand, I'm not sure how I'm going to get all of my ribbons if I can never find a server running the "Night Flight" Special Forces map.

It may be that Battlefield 2 is drawing to a close.

I like 2142, but as I have said before, I think 2 is a better game. It also runs just a titch better on Larry.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Random

1) A-H says he's been offended by Larry. That's not really surprising, Larry has that effect on people. He's loud, full of hot air - especially after a round or two of Battlefield 2 or anything which demands graphics juice, and honestly has the manners of an ape. No help for some people or notebooks in this case.

2) I think I'm going to start on a new bit of science fantasy. I'm about due. I haven't revisited the U.E.P. - Holy Earth Empire for a while, so I'm thinking about something in that vein. Maybe.

3) Never start numbered lists if you only have two things to list.

4) See three.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Defined Me

I am not my job. In fact I bear a marginal and shoddy resemblance to my job, often to the great pain of my colleagues and superiors. I point this out because it appears that David, does.

Now, I always knew that. Which is not to say he is wholly defined by his job, just very majorly. I'm also not saying this is in fact a bad thing. He has a good job, when he is occasionally allowed to do it, and he avoids letting other people re-define him by their impressions of his work. This is a modern take on the job definition of self, and certainly I think a healthier one. Recognizing that in spite of the malignement of misguided direction, one's work has value, is very important in this gestalt.

I am not defined by my disease. I am constantly exposed to people who do this, and in fact exist in close proximity to a person who's entire definition of self is composed of a complicated (and occasionally wrong) impression of the aspects of several illnesses. Many of these are long term and incurable. As someone who has an incurable (if well controlled and relatively common, as well as treated) condition, it would be easy to allow this to happen.

I am defined by three major roles - Husband, Father, Gamer. An occasional dash of son, though my parents and I are not so close as some. I realise this only because of the effort I will spend to mix these things successfully, and because of the torment which an imbalance of these three aspects can/will bring.


Monday, April 16, 2007

Cold V9.6.5

Or something. I hate being sick. Somehow I suspect I'm not entirely alone in this.

Productivity is in the toilet and I'm dragging my self into work just to avoid sleeping all day (which usually makes me feel worse, contrary to popular wisdom).

Someday I will fix the Diablo Message of the Day. Fix is a bit of misdirection in this case, as the bulk of the code was embedded in the template (bad me!) which got wiped when I changed it. Meh. This time I need to remember to copy it to a file someplace.

Art for MoMdotNet has stopped for the moment, mostly because I can't draw when I can't see through watery eyes. Good news is, based on what I was doing last week, I think I can draw horses that will at least be up to the level of the unit art.

If you're a Blender person (the 3d tool, not the kitchen appliance), check out makehuman. This is a project still in alpha, I think, but basically it's a person modeler. You can use it to create fairly complicated humans, the export the figures as .objs, which can then be brought into Blender and finished for use.

Stuff to do: figure out how to reduce the number of polygons. I'm sure this mesh is way to complicated for use in a game.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Aw. Crud.

Well, I started my page revamp (you may have noticed).

I blew away the motd code. I'm sure I don't have a backup. Ironic.

Intertubes. Must be full.

Enjoy art:

Mysteries of the Universe Revealed

There's this guy, his name's Justin. He's working on a redeux of Master of Magic, which I may have mentioned in passing is one of my all time favorite games, ever. For those of you not familiar with the original, check it out at Wiki. The original game had some short comings, many of which were probably platform driven constraints (read DOS based PCs really didn't have the juice back in the day), but overall the game had all of the fantasy empire you ever wanted, and probably a bit more.

Back to Justin. Justin has been hammering away on re-creating MoM in a nice Win32 environment. His primary goal seems to be a faithful recreation first, but in a desing which should then be easily expandable. Based on the screenies available, he's doing pretty good so far. But it's a hobby project, so the waiting is par for the course. And a couple of weeks ago he posted a note that he was taking a break, just after he started working on the combat module.

I have to admit, I've identified the combat mechanics, especially the simulated opponent, as one of the truly daunting tasks to design and code. There's a lot of think box stuff in there. Honestly, if he can get it working, I think he will have passed one of the higher hurdles. I have faith. Also about this time, he put a general request on his page for art submissions. You see, Justin, unfortunately, can't draw.

Now, this is not to say that I can draw. There's plenty of evidence kicking around here to indicate that in fact it may be against the law for me to refer to some of my electronic scribbles as pictures. On the other hand, he seemed suitably impressed.

So I'm doing the art. La. I've started with the "High Men", and I've made them over in a pseudo-Napoleonic style. I've started making notes on other races. The down side is we (and now it's become we) will eventually want to have 3d models for in the game. And I've really just started with blender. Nothing if not challenged.
Oh, and if anybody has any recommendations on horse drawing tutorials, I'm all ears.
Most importantly if you would like to contribute, let Justin know. I defer to his choices, as it's his project.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

OMG!

Whole new levels of slack. I'm not even going to look and see how many days I've skipped. It just hasn't been there. Of course I do have tonsillitis. Again.

Actually, I've got a major thing I know I should write about, but I'm avoiding it. For a very load, cranky individual, I hate confrontation. Especially with myself. Not today.

But, on a total r0x0rs note, I spoke (via email), with a guy who's working on a game project that is absolutely hawsome. I mean Hawsome. I'm going to try to contribute some art assets to his project , because it turns out the ability to draw is not in fact necessary for game design. I don't want to say too much, mostly because it's his project and I haven't asked if I can go on about it. I'll ask and if he gives me a green light I'll write it up.

Problem is, that's bumping directly into my desire to blow a bunch of time on Lego Star Wars with Zachary. Which is already being crowded by the impending release of the open beta for Lord of the Rings. Which is forcing me to ignore the two major costuming projects I still have outstanding (ARC Trooper, Ghostbusters).

If you are thinking of getting me a gift for, say, Festivus this year, a pay-as-you-go card for LIFE would be good. Know I don't think you can get them at the Future Buy. Or Quicki Mart.

But I'm always good with a Slurpee.

(Oh, and I did not don't didn't did forget to call my DAD ON HIS BIRTHDAY. Smooth, Poody. Smooooothe.)

Friday, March 16, 2007

Old. Again.

Amy (I'm using the most conventional spelling - if you met Amy you might guess Aimee or aMe or some unusual spelling. She looks the type.), my coffee barista, has never heard of M.A.S.H. Well, not to say never as in never ever, but she thinks her mom used to watch it.

Nice.

This all came about of course because of B.J.

Amy - "So does J.P. mean something?"

J.P. No not really, he just shows up for work in this rote kind of fashion, buying coffee on the basis of an arcane schedule, and passing the time until he can play video games again, or maybe chase his kids around. - "Yes. Jean-Paul."

Amy - "Oh, John Paul."

J.P. - "No, no. JEAN-Paul, the french way. It's not like B.J."

Amy - slightly confused look - "B.J. ?"

J.P. - "Yeah, you know B.J. on M.A.S.H."

Amy - "Mash? Oh, I think my mom used to watch that."

J.P. - "Your mum." eyes narrowing slightly

Amy - "Yeah. No, wait, I'm not trying to say you're old as my mom..."

Of course you're not, Amee. Of course your not.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Not My 100th Post

But I was looking over the history, and I was surprised to realize, I've only been blogging for a year. That's an average of 1 post every 4 days (+/- 1 day, accurate 1 time out of 2). Some of it, has been, well, good.

And some of it has been rules mumbo jumbo. Par for the course I figure. If your wondering, yes sometimes I actually talk like that. I can tell when I've been talking like that to people by the mystified (and, honestly slightly revolted) look they get. Assuming they don't just wander off while I'm mid sentence.

I'm hoping it has helped me to expand my creative horizons. In game design, if I have a weak suit it is in the story telling. I'm reasonably competent at hacking together a coherent set of instructions, but I don't really write stories. Much. But I'm getting there.

There being far from here. And I'm walking.

Monday, March 12, 2007

100!

This post will have little to nothing to do with it's title. But it is my 100th post.

I'm chewing on a bit of game design philosophy. Here's the rule: No effect, change or alteration to rules "in play" should require heavy or extraordinary measures to counter act. Change should be small and incremental. Change should build over time.

For example, leveling up. Leveling up is a game mechanic that many of us are familiar with, and has varying degrees of effect depending on where and how it is implemented. I think it produces artificial hurdles in the system. At level 5, my mojo is sufficient to take on 3 level 5 monsters, 2 level 6 monsters and perhaps 1 level 7 monster (if I really grok my character and get a few lucky rolls). When I promote to level 6, suddenly that level 7 monster becomes "easier".

I don't really like that. I think your ability should gradually increase from 5 to 6. And when your ability reaches a certain point, your title upgrades, recognizing your increased skill. And how that affects what you do should also gradually increment. So, the level 7 monster starts out being all difficult to vanquish at the beginning of level 5, but you can tell you're getting close to 6 when the same monsters are not challenging you the same waythey once were.

Just a stray thought.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

frak

That's all I could say about that.

I mean this: http://scarstuff.blogspot.com/

The thing is, I knew I was using a template, I just didn't expect to ever SEE it anywhere.

And people post comments to this guy's posts.

Just frak.

And I just got the Diablo MotD working.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Italian Cola

A friend of mine, Chris, who lives in Maine (Bangor actually. Yes they have tea with Steven all the time. Yes, that was sarcasm.) sent a care package of decidedly "Maine" stuff to my family over Christmas this year. I had put the whole incident out of my mind until asked about one particular item included in the package, a bottle of "Moxie", which looks to be a cola. Well, it's dark like cola.

When asked about my experience with Moxie, I was reminded of Italian Cola. I replied with this message by email. I decided to share. I should like to point out first though that I have nothing but respect for Italians and people from Maine. I do not mean to disparage either community. However, sometimes it is important to remember your strengths.

Way back in the day, David Badilotti and I had a bit of a tradition going on where whenever we went shopping together we would buy and try a funky drink. Among the highlights were WoopAss cola (blech), Arizona Green Tea (yum) and something called simply Italian Cola.

The highlight of Italian Cola is that it features quinine, which of course is critical in the prevention of malaria. It also tastes like medicine. And not that good medicine you look forward to when you have a cough, even though it's not going to help. Italian Cola makes Buckley's Cough Mixture seem tame by comparison (which I find is mostly related to how you feel about pine). It turns out that if you want great calzone, go Italian. Pasta, go Italian. Cola - stick with Pepsi or Coke (as you prefer it).

Italian Cola was the last time David and I played the funky drink game. We sometimes still use the words "Italian Cola Incident" to taunt each other.

Moxie reminds me of Italian Cola. Gone bad. Not in a good way.

As always I appreciate you giving me an opportunity to broaden my horizons. Please never send me any more Moxie. Ever. Please.

Cheers;
JP


Well, I thought it was funny.