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A triptych of mini-reviews

Sunday, August 26th, 2007

Twitter – I first experienced Twitter back in February and didn’t really get into it at the time, letting my Twitter page fade into distant memory. Recently I got the unlimited SMS textng plan from AT&T and decided to give it another go via my mobile phone – a much better experience all in all. I’ve been having much more fun with it of late – not only are more of my friends on Twitter, but I’ve found new meaning and writing inspiration in the art of concisely crafted content fitting within the 140 character confine put in place by the medium.

iPhone – I still love my iPhone! I’m really surprised at how long the honeymoon is lasting – I’ve had my iPhone for about two months now and I still find myself quietly gibbering about how cool it is. Most gadgets have a 2-3 week honeymoon phase with me before I take a flight of fancy to some new toy, and the best of gadgets sometimes make a month – my iPhone has not only blown past that limit, but doubled it. What makes it so worthy of praise I ask myself: a fun to use, well implemented device that does pretty much everything I need it to.

PAX – The Penny Arcade Expo happened this year in the Washington State Convention Center, a big improvement over the overcrowding of last years shoulder to shoulder overly-olfactory cluster of un-bathing gamers. The extra breathing room this year helped make for a more open experience – much easier to get around. When compared to other technology conventions I’ve been to PAX has a certain charm in that it’s much more focused on the consumers (gamers in this case) than the technology. This leads to a more causal vibe than so many other events.

Mirror

Saturday, July 7th, 2007

My non-vacation vacation is turning out beautifully! Yesterday I had a bunch of friends over for my ‘drinking and driving’ event featuring 2 Xbox 360′s, 2 Xbox 306 Wireless Racing Wheels, Forza 2, and Project Gotham Racing 3, and a pair of displays for some drinking, driving and mayhem!

Today I decided to go for a walk downtown with my camera. I walked down Olive, around Westlake center, and then back up Denny. I found the below shot of a worn down sticker on a power transformer:

Mirror

I took a couple of other shot’s including a nicely framed Space Needle iPhone wallpaper, an antique power connector, and a neat stack of chairs.

Mirror” by sparktography

Forza 2

Wednesday, June 13th, 2007

Last night was driver-racing-tastic! Mike picked me up a copy of Forza 2 and the Microsoft Wireless Racing Wheel for the Xbox 360 and boy is it fun! Forza 2 is not a racing game, but rather a racing simulator. Rather than focusing on being a fun game to play and tossing physics out the window it focuses on accurate physics simulation, and really creates a highly immersive and realistic racing experience. Forza 2 makes every effort to correctly calculate all the forces taking effect on your engine, car, and tires and calculates their interaction with various road surfaces and the laws of inertia to make your in game car handle identically to a real world car with the same conditions and engine tuning. The difference makes it much more difficult to control your car and takes the fun out of the game for people who just want to go fast and crash hard – but bumps up the fun factor for geeks like me!

The Wireless racing wheel only helps in this endeavor: the force feedback and ‘intuitive’ interface make for a drastic improvement in game play. I’ve never really gotten into racing simulations before – a few ‘racing’ games like Burnout Revenge caught my attention for moments here and there, but the true sims were rather boring without a steering wheel, paddle shifters, and gas/brake pedals. Being able to feel understeer and oversteer make all the difference in understanding the laws of physics and their effect on my car, and gives the driver a much stronger connection with their virtual car.

The icing on the cake? They have over 300 cars to choose from including the 2003 RS6, which is close enough to my real-life car to give me the chills. Obviously a single night into my Forza career I haven’t earned nearly enough in-game currency (credits) to buy the RS6 but the mere thought of buying, tweaking, tuning, and painting the car of my dreams keeps me coming back for more! Until I manage to come up with the 100,000 odd Forza dollars I’ll have to be happy with my starter car: a 1995 Volkswagon Corrado VR6 – a decent track car, and one that brings back fond memories of when my friend Eric used to have (and tinker with) a Corrado.

Caught up

Monday, May 7th, 2007

After spending a final weekend catching up on stuff around the house and resting I finally am 100% healthy again! I got out of the house on Saturday long enough to finish up all of my errands, and went downtown to pick up a few things I’ve been out of for a while. I picked up a copy of Marble Mania, and got my place kicked into shape from being sick.

On Sunday I had planned to hang out watching the BBC/Discovery channel miniseries “The Planet Earth” on HD-DVD (my copy arrived earlier this week) with Troy, but he ended up sleeping most of the day and I was still feeling slightly under the weather and ended up not doing much. In watching a few episodes I highly reccomend it to anyone even remotely interested in nature – It’s some of the most stunnging footage I’ve ever seen, it’s beautifully mastered for 1080p on HD-DVD, and so far it’s done a great job of exposing me to facets of the worlds I didn’t even know exsisted previously. I’m looking forward to watching the rest of it over the next couple of days (and yes Troy – I will gladly watch it again with you).

I watched a couple of episodes of Planet Earth on Sunday, but for the most part just played Marble Mania and relaxed. In doing so I finally feel like I’ve shaken the last of my Pneumonia and feel ready to tackle my big week at work. Here’s to health and hoping the sickness is behind me!

Kororinpa: Marble Mania

Monday, May 7th, 2007

One of the delightful things I found this weekend was a copy of Kororinpa: Marble Mania for the Wii at Gamestop downtown. It was a Japanese Wii launch title, but the localized version has just recently to US shores. It’s another marble game similar to Archer Maclean’s Mercury for the PSP, Marble Blast Ultra on the Xbox 360, or the Super Monkey Ball series available on various platforms, but this is the cleanest control implementation I’ve seen yet. It uses the tilt sensors on the Wiimote to control the playing field, but with far more precision than any other game I’ve played of the genre. It even allows (requires even on a few levels) turning the wiimote sideways or upside-down to navigate the 3-demensional mazes and catch your marble on a platform as it falls through space.

Having always been a fan of the marble maze genre I’m happy to see it continue to gain traction in the gaming market. Kororinpa: Marble Madness is tied for best implementation with Mercury in my book, although by using the tilt sensor on the Wiimote I would have to say it edges out Mercury in the controls book, but lacks the depth of Mercury – Marble Mania only manages to have about 50 levels, (with a mirrored option after you beat them all) and I was able to ‘beat’ it in an afternoon. I still will get some playability out of it as I need to improve my time in most of the levels to get the gold medal (and thus unlock a few more secret levels, and some new marbles to play with), but for most gamers it will be a fairly short lived title.

Here’s to hoping that Archer Maclean’s Mercury gets a Wii port at some point in the future, and that Marble rolling games in general continue to find homes on consoles, both in this generation and the next!

Catching up

Friday, May 4th, 2007

Recovering from my pneumonia is becoming more and more grating of a task. I’m finishing up the antibiotics today, but the lingering cough and “run down” feeling is really starting to get old. Combine that with the fact that I’m ridiculously busy trying to catch back up after missing nearly a week of work and personal appointments.

Aside from recovering my health I’ve been relaxing with video games quite a bit, and doing some reading. I finally beat Super Paper Mario for my Wii, and have been getting back into Oblivion for my 360. I had managed to put down the Oblivion addiction a while back, but with the Shivering Isles expansion out I’ve found myself spending more and more time in Cyrodill. I’ve built (yet another) new character and am focusing on trying to work through not only the new expansion pack, but also all of those miscellaneous little quests that I’ve never bothered to go through – shadow over Hackdirt, Aleswell, and other little one-off quests that really add some depth to the game.

Aside from gaming my reading has been quite interesting. I picked up a copy of Inside the Machine, and illustrated introduction to microprocessors and computer architecture by Jon Stokes. It’s an interesting read and offers a nuts and bolts view of how a computer works from the ground up. I’m about half way through and am simply fascinated by the view it’s giving me into the “world of the machine” that so often slips under the average computer user. Modern computers, operating systems, and programming languages have done a beautiful job of abstracting hardware from software, but the hardware still exists, and knowing how it operates has given me some insight as to why some weird things in the more abstracted levels “work the way they work”.

Sick time with Mario and Skype

Monday, April 23rd, 2007

It’s been a long and unpleasant weekend for me. It started off on a positive note with my father in town and dinner with him and Brien at Wasabi Bistro, but then descended into a 2 day plague of fevers, chills, coughing, and generally feeling like crap. The whole sickness started last Thursday as what I had through to be a mixture of quitting smoking (again – hurray) and allergies, but quickly descended into something far more sinister.

Luckily the weekend before I had picked up my copy of Super Paper Mario for the Wii at Costco and found it to be the perfect accompaniment for fading in and out of consciousness on my couch. Over two days I managed to log almost 10 hours of play time and made it through 5 of the 8 worlds. It’s a fun little mix between the classic Mario platformer game and a kid-oriented RPG. Sometimes the storyline got to be a bit childish for me, but overall I like the concept of leveling up your hit points and damage in a Mario style game. Super Paper Mario also features a delightful number of puzzles which can be solved by various pixl’s (our hero’s new helpers – equivalent to special abilities in other RPG style games), sometimes involving a large number of steps to be orchestrated over several screens.

Skype was very patient with me this weekend. Even being a dog he can tell when people are sick and I could tell he was worried about me. He spent 95% of the weekend squeezed up next to me on the couch licking my arm from time to time as if to say “I’m here dad – get better soon”. I feel bad for not having given him more exercise (it was all I could do to walk him three times a day) and once I’m better I’ll have to make it up to him with some extra time at the dog park later this week.

For better or worse I’m back at work today – I’m hoping to make a quick day of things here and get home to rest further. I’m still stick, but no longer floored (or couched as the case may be) and am able to make it up and about. This morning I have one really important meeting I can’t reschedule, but after that I should be free to go work from home if I feel the need.

Civ4 hole

Thursday, March 8th, 2007

Just… One… More… Turn!

God this really is a good game. A peak of technical entertainment with all the right things to make me click through turn after turn after turn. That is all.

Thankfully it’s all over…

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007

It’s been a long and stressful day – luckily it’s pretty much over. The day started late with taking Brien to the auto shop so he could get his bumper re-wrapped, and finished with a minor production emergency at work (which I just saw through to resolution now at about 9:30) with all sorts of stress, struggles, politics, and other trials at work.

After struggling to get my network up and running yesterday it just seemed to continue on into a full 24 hour saga of network, application, and other issues at work. Thankfully it all seems behind me and I can get back to focusing on writing specs again tomorrow at work – one of the few things I really do enjoy about being a PM. Analyzing requirements and writing them into the living spec is fun!

Now I’m curled up in bed with Skype about to settle into one of life’s true joys: Chrono Trigger. I have my trusty (and newly updated) version of Snes9x for the mac, and my rom image. And yes – before anyone comes and knocks in my door I do actually own the cartridge (thank you eBay). And yes – as I was just reminded on IRC this is the 5th time I’ve played this game in my adult life – it’s just that good!

I would play on an SNES if I had one. I wish they would release Chrono Trigger for the virtual console on the Wii, but from what I’ve heard thats unlikely due to the IP owners splitting paths years ago. Oh IP law and your silliness.

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