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While I fully understand the fears of those who worry about Google's growing reach, I love google for adding in an easy to remember public DNS resolver that is optimized for speed and reliability. This wouldn't have been a big deal with the ISPs I had in Maine, but AT&T has some odd and annoying hiccups with theirs in my area now. I'll be browsing along, listening to an internet radio station and randomly lose the ability to resolve addresses for a minute or so. The music never stops, any internet aware games I happen to be playing are fine, and I can even browse to sites I know the IP addresses of (which happens to be two, for testing purposes) so going with a different DNS service should resolve this.
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Gaming: UR doin' it wrong.


I can think of at least three different ways to take the comment I used as a link to that article, and all three apply.
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I've had mixed feelings in regards to the 'fun' potential of the upcoming MMO Warhammer Online, but I just saw some news that seriously dents the game's prospects. To meet their launch date for the game, Mythic Entertainment is going to release it without four of the classes being implemented and only two of the six capital cities in the the game. To make matters worse, this includes two of the primary tank classes and this game is intended to have PvP as a major focus. I suspect that some of those things that will be left out aren't actually uncompleted, but are merely in for some polishing and to keep balance since their opposite number really was in need of work.

One of the worst trends in computer gaming recently has been games that haven't felt like they were ready for prime time. I can see why they would want to make sure that they didn't release with anything that would invoke that feeling, but leaving out features that have been in all the promotional material so far . . . well that's not going to go over any better, is it? And the shifts I foresee in the player base due to those that are scared of by this versus those who don't care will most likely reduce my likelyhood of ever spending money on it.
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With today's post on 4th edition, [livejournal.com profile] kierthos makes me feel better about my snap judgment about the rule changes. He seems to have a number of the same reservations about it that I do and, despite being able to read the books more thoroughly than my brief leafing through, not have found any answers to those objections.
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Well, I got to take a look in these books today, and I'm kind of glad I was able to do so without having to buy them. I'm sure they'll be great for some people, but probably not me. It looks like this edition makes things much easier for someone to just pick it up and halfway know what they are doing, as long as there's someone in the group who's fully read the books. On the other hand, it looks like it makes things much harder for creating your own stuff rather than using the classes and creatures in the official rulebooks.

Those who have gamed with me know of my penchant for creating characters that bend the rules. I've made both classes and races for 3rd edition, and I have to say that none of them ended up unbalanced. Some of the characters made using them got that way, but it was because of existing imbalances in the official material I based them off of. There was the giant octopus incident, for example, and the poisonous breath weapon of DOOM. (which I would never have used, even if the DM hadn't said "NO!!!") These were things that could have been done by anyone who had access to the necessary D&D books, and in one case that was merely the players guide and the monster manual.

In any case, as [livejournal.com profile] kierthos has said, there are a number of places where MMO style gameplay has noticeably impacted the rules. There are also a number of places where Wizards of the Coast's background in collectible card games is apparent. Most importantly, I think it may actually be harder for someone with experience in previous editions to get up to speed with this new one than it would be for someone with similar intelligence and experience, but who hadn't previously tried D&D in particular. It looks like there are a lot of things that work almost the same as before, but with differences that would trip one up.

Maybe my quick perusal gave me an inaccurate view of it. If anyone who reads this plans on getting it and giving it a thorough read through, I'd be glad to hear your take on it. As I said at the start,however, it just doesn't seem like it's for me.

Ironman

May. 5th, 2008 07:46 pm
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Since my dislike of crowds prevents me from seeing movies during their opening weekend, I just saw it today. With so many other people in my circle of LJ reading having already seen it and posted, I don't really have anything to add. I went in expecting to be entertained, and got what I came for.

Since this would otherwise be a rather short post, I think I'll rebut something that I read in relation to Ironman's popularity. I wish I could remember where so that I could provide a link, but someone said that both Batman and Ironman were two of the most approachable superheroes because they had no mutations or magical abilities. Anybody (who happened to be a billionaire genius) could theoretically do what they did. And that of the two, Ironman was even more approachable because Batman was also a martial arts expert. Supposedly this would than make it easier for your average comic geek to think of themselves in Tony Stark's place.

I suppose that might be true, for people that are far enough away from the "genius" part of that to not notice the minor intelligence difference between the two. Batman has all sorts of gadgets, to the degree that he is what everyone thinks of when someone mentions a gadgeteer. However, he does all this work back at the bat cave, and he mostly just improves existing technology. I suspect that he would rather learn two or three new martial arts from scratch rather than try and develop a fundamental scientific breakthrough while being mistreated in a cave using only what he could scavenge from weapon systems. Maybe I'm the one who has a skewed perspective, but I know which I'd have an easier time following in the footsteps of. (assuming, of course, the whole billionaire part was taken care of)

coding

Mar. 30th, 2008 02:47 pm
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Well, today could be seen as a continuation of yesterday, I suppose. Except that today what I'm doing is trying to take three World of Warcraft user interface add-ons that sort of do what I want and weld them together into one that does precisely what I want. The reason why I need to devote a day to this (and also why I said trying) is that while it is strictly speaking accurate to say that WoW's UI is basically the same as an active web-page processing the information handed to it by the program behind it, the reality is much more complicated.

While the scripting language has it's similarities to javascript and this implementation of XML roughly parallels HTML, they are both different enough to cause confusion. Add to this my rustiness with this type of coding and the commenting skill of the makers of the three add-ons I'm trying to deconstruct (They're almost as bad as I am about it) and this is taking far longer than I had anticipated.

Back to the data mines.
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So I woke up today, turned on my computer and got a primary HDD S.M.A.R.T. error. Okay, no big deal, I've got everything important backed up and from past experience I can usually clone the drive so I don't even need to do a reload. Of course, first I need to get a drive to clone it to...

So I ended up having to go out and buying one. Which ment going into an electronics store. This close to christmas. In a big city. Well, it could have been worse, at least I was shopping at an odd time of day so the crowds were somewhat less. But the real reason for this post was the prices. I ended up $10 more than I wanted to because I didn't want to wait for an internet order to be delivered, and that was for a Maxtor on clearance so it can't be returned. Please note, that wasn't $10 dollars more than my prefered price, that was $10 more than I feel the drive is worth. They did have some Seagate and Western Digital drives there, but they were all far past the size/price range I have any need for at this time. And some of those were marked up to $50 above suggested retail. I think I'm going to order a spare now that I'm back up and running, and keep it on hand so that I don't have to do this again. Especially considering that even retail is higher than I'm used to paying.

At least Maxtor was bought by Seagate, so I don't have the same quality concerns I would have had a few years ago...
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I was persuaded to try out a 14 day trial of the game Eve Online, and so had been expending my free time on that. For those keeping track at home, yes, it has been less than fourteen days since I started playing it. In just five days I have come to the firm decision to not continue playing it. Unfortunately, the game does many things right but has two glaring flaws that overshadow the rest. Strangely the play control, which I thought would be a problem, turned out to be one of the points I'll miss about the game. At least once I made it past the steep learning curve. I learned back in the Wizard's Den days that I have an impressive knack for puzzling out this sort of thing, but this game gave me some trouble with the things that were "assumed," and I know from the chat channels that I wasn't alone. But once mastered, and I was able to master it in just five days, it was remarkably easy to do any thing my character had the skills to attempt.

But back to the two reasons I'm not going to play. )
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Steampunk wins! I've seen impressive case mods before, but rarely do they reach this quality. And Datamancer did this with a laptop. That's a whole nother level of impressive right there, even if it is now more of a portable and less of a laptop.


Edit: Good lord, this guy has way too much skill at making things!


Edit²: Gah! He goes above and beyond when it comes to keyboards too.
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I just ran across an alternate PDF reader. 1/10th the size of Adobe's program, it has provided equivilent functionality with every documant I've tried it on so far. Foxit Software seems to have successfully broken that monopoly, and I'm glad.
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Well, since not only did someone read through my post about Half-life 2, but it also turns out that I have someone who likes the game who reads my journal, I figure I should give what I liked about the game equal air time.

First and foremost, the game is beautiful. Sure, in the 3 years since it came out games have gotten even prettier, but we've definitely passed the point of diminishing returns for such effort. This is a first person shooter we're talking about, so there is a definite upper limit to the amount of detail the user is going to notice while drawing a bead or running for cover.

Secondly, a physics engine plus a greater level of destructibility in the scenery allows for much greater congruity with the real world. Enemy is hiding behind a wooden fence? It can't stop bullets indefinitely. You collapse a pile of junk on top of an enemy? They're probably not going to just stand back up. See also: prettiness (shot out windows and the like aren't just GONE) and Gravity Gun

Third, the AI. I didn't mention it before, but I am quite familiar with how hard it is to make a believable AI once you have more than a few availible courses of action. It doesn't necessarily need to make the right decisions, we've all seen people do dumb things, but it has to make reasonable choices for behavior. And the fact that the enemies don't always react the same way means that they aren't just following a script, so bravo.

And fourth is the Gravity Gun. A gravitically propelled sawblade or cast-iron radiator really is the preferred zombie killing mechanism. for one thing, you can just pull it back and launch it again so that the hordes don't drain you of ammo. Plus, it's a useful tool allowing for all of the telekinesis puzzles from other genres to work in a straight up Sci-Fi setting.

Really, I think that this is a situation where something that gets really close to the mark generates a worse reaction than something that missed by a mile and didn't invite comparison. not that have anything current to compare it to, my video card doesn't support Pixel Shader 3 so I can't even try out Bioshock. (I'm very disappointed with 2K games for that maneuver, hopefully a patch will come out to fix that oversight)
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I decided to try the other (single player) game that came with Portal today. Yes, I know, Valve marketed it the other way around, with Portal as the add-on, but they were wrong. From just that, I suspect you know how my review is going to turn out. I can summarize what I think went into the design process in 5 "words". "I can haz physics engine!"

Cut because I doubt anyone cares about the specifics )
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Portal was very fun, if short. I still have a bunch of challenges I can go back and do, but the estimate of 3 hours for a first time run through from beginning to end was just about on the money. Some of the dialog (well, not actually dialog, but not a monologue either. I don't know what to call one character talking to another with no responses) reminds me of the Fallout series, while other bits harken to System Shock. And the gameplay, I want more. The amount of puzzle variation possible with just the abilities of moving, picking stuff up and dropping it, and creating portals is amazing! The portals are so versatile that one of their main design criteria had to have been "Okay, were must we not allow the creation of a portal to keep the play from simply bypassing this section?"

I do have to admit to checking a walkthrough site once during my play through. I ran into a section where I had tried everything imaginable and couldn't get to where I knew I needed to go. It turned out that one of the things I tried, in fact the one I was most certain should work, was the correct solution. And trying it a second time, I succeeded. No idea what I did wrong the first time.

Oh, I do have to offer one warning: there is a certain amount of platform jumping in this. Some sections can be bypassed by judicious portaling, but if you hate that game mechanic, this is not the game for you.

And now I have Half-Life 2 which I can install and play through if I want a first person shooter at some point. Kind of amusing that I bought a pack containing the "highest rated pc game of all time" (according to a quote on the package) for a 3 hour sideline. But an FPS is an FPS, while the portal gun is honest to goodness innovative gameplay. I'll probably be replaying this as soon as I've had a chance to forget the puzzle solutions, well after going back through to see if there were any fun little secrets or conversational snippits I missed :)
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Today I broke down and gave in to the rave reviews that Portal has been receiving everywhere. I have not played it yet, or even installed it, so that is not what this post is about.

What this post is about is that while I was purchasing said game, I had to stop a CompUSA employee from selling a desktop internal DVD drive to a lady with a laptop. She was completely clueless on this whole "technology" thing and her accent was quite heavy, but she had brought the computer in question with her. Not only did I save them several tech support calls and an angry customer but, judging by the price tags and my memory of purchasing cost at my previous job, I probable also made them an additional 10 dollars of profit by steering them to the next shelf over. Why do companies like this think they can hire people with this little knowledge, not provide them with the necessary training, and think it won't effect their bottom line?

Oh my ow!

Oct. 26th, 2007 02:48 pm
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I am pained in two completely seperate ways by my ability to read the snipits over at LOLCODE. Well, more precisely, the snipets of code over here becuase these ones actually do something.

Yeah. Part of me cringes at my ability to translate catmacro speak, while another part is concerned about my ability to pick up the basics of a new programming language without reference to anything but examples. And then there is my sheer horror in regards to the fact that there are people who are coding actual programs in this language. Can you imagine the reaction of that person's replacement when asked to alter the code for some reason?

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