Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Saints Row

I’ve been playing Saint’s Row the past few days. I’m having a great time with this GTA style game. The learning curve for this game was pretty large for me, there are so many goals, subgoals, enemies, etc. it has taken me awhile to get my head around what I am supposed to accomplish. Basically, you are a member of a gang with 3 other rival gangs fighting over territory in the city of Stilwater. By accomplishing missions, you can take over new territory. Sounds simple at first, but you are also trying to get cash to buy bling to deck out your character to increase your respect bonus and earn respect by completing various activities like jacking cars, wreaking havoc, insurance fraud, hits, etc. It’s a total blast to work through some of these activities, and some of the most fun happens when you least expect it. When fighting a gang war with a rival gang, I stole a police car. After wrecking into another car, my car flipped in the air, 360 degrees!!, and landed on the roof of the building next to where the gang war was taking place, allowing me to pop off all the leaders and save the day from the safety of the rooftop. Good stuff.

I’ve got a set of about 12 people on a hit list and I’m having a heck of a time trying to find them in their areas. No markers or anything, you just drive around hoping you find bump into them. So far I’ve only found one of them. Also, it seems you can rack up respect fairly quickly with the drug runs, they seem to be the easier of the various activities. Decking out your character in various clothing, which increases respect multipliers, is also a hoot to do. I wish on MS Live I could show an image of my character so other playa’s could see all my bling!

Overall, I’m having an awesome time playing this game, it’s a very rich, full neighborhood with lots of fun interaction, good game balance to keep it interesting, without the frustratingly outdated look of the game engine of the GTA series when Vice City was released. Also, despite about 10 hours on the game, I’m still not sure about a few things related to getting respect and motiviation. For example, why should I buy cars? I’m not sure what this does, perhaps I’ll figure it out in the next few days.

So yes, mom, I spent my Christmas jacking cars, dealing drugs, robbing stores, and blowing up various gang members. Good times!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

ps3s on ebay cheeeeeeap!

woah what a difference a wiik makes. ps3s are barely going for cost on ebay now. see it for yourself here.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Gears of War Hardcore Finished...

After struggling with RAAM for over an hour on Gears of War Hardcore and not making any visible progress, I decided to do an 'invite' for somebody online to play Dom. Turned out that was the right thing to do, we took RAAM out on the first try. Dom, when played by the bot AI, just runs up and dies in about 3 seconds on this final stage so it was me against RAAM. I didn't know if I was making progress or not, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say its nearly impossible to beat RAAM on hardcore by yourself. I did notice a couple times you could get him 'stuck' not able to shoot you, etc. and maybe get lucky that way, but it seemed that i could get a few shots off on him and he'd correct. Somebody exploits this bug here to beat him on insane, and I can confirm I was using a similar tactic on hardcore and think i almost had him but i got knocked out by the fire from the dudes flying by on the sides of the train.

Got Sneak King at Burger King today, gonna check that out, looks intereesting.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

History of Diamond Trade...

Good read here on the history of the diamond industrial complex.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Sony Bravia commercial

Friend chad sent me this link, very cool Sony Commercial: http://www.bravia-advert.com/paint/thead/. I would have made it a link but for whatever reason the buttons to make a link are not available on beta.blogger right now ?!?. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

HDTV research Consumer Reports Summary

Doing some research to round out my home theater. Led to a few interesting findings I thought I'd capture in an entry. Consumer Reports did an evaluation for December 2006 that would be required reading and well worth the time if you're going to lay out $3,000 for a new display. They review LCDs, Plasma, Projectors, etc. and provide some great advice. I'll jot down some of the most suprising stuff here:

First, if you're a gamer and/or lazy, plasma is just about ruled out. Despite lower cost per square inch, there are issues related to burn in that still exist in these sets. I tend to leave things on while websurfing, taking phone calls, etc. and just pause the game or whatever, very bad for plasmas. Also the issues related to glare rule out plasma for me since I often game, etc. with the window open behind me in the mornings on weekends.

On reviews, the brands that came out in top 5 were JVC and Sony, Samsung got a number 5. This is on 40inch and larger sizes. JVC as number 1!! While I already have JVC DVD, VCR, and TV I was buying based on price/performance ratio at time of purchase and didn't really perceive them as a leader in quality. Dumb luck and have been very happy with their products (and remotes) to date. Very reliable, solid products.

JVC LT-40FN97 and Sony Bravia KDL-40XBR1 and XBR2 were top 3 in over 40inch category.

On Plasmas the highest ranked set would have been ranked 3rd overall including LCD and plasma, but its rankings were (in order for 50 inch and larger): Panasonic, Fujitsu, LG, Pioneer, HP. Fujitsu was $5500 bucks though, not in the same price category of the rest.

On warranties, my logic would be if you're buying a $3k product and can get a $200 warranty (the one at video only) its almost a no brainer to protect the investment due to its high cost of replacement of the LCD, etc. after the first year. Consumer Reports says keep the money in your pocket as the failure rates for LCD and plasma sets requiring repair (one to two year old sets because that is all they have data for) is 3% for LCDs and plasma. The failure rate is 10% for Microdisplays which to me is outrageous and enough to say I wouldn't buy one of these anyway. Not sure I'm going to take their advice on this but was suprised to see it, maybe i'd have more confidence with more data on a 4 year life span for example.

Also did some checking around the portland area for pricing, and while i tire of the radio ad it really is true that the prices at video only are SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper for these products than best buy. Sometimes as much as $600 or more at the $3k price point. Get clarification on their return policy though because I am not sure its the best in town (30 days swap out, no refund or some such, but once you have money with them you really have to keep your money with them). Sales rep seemed well read and was the one who referred me to the consumer report article in the first place. Walked over, pulled out his laptop, and pulled up the article right there in the store for me to read! That's the kind of service that makes me return.

A Tax Question

My job is in gaming and graphics. At a very high level, I spend my workday developing technologies and tools to create better games. Normally, I wouldn’t have thought twice about this and just dismissed it as even a possibility, but the fact that I have now been asked 3 times in the past 2 weeks about this issue I thought I’d ask it myself: Can I declare my Xbox360 as an unreimbursed business expense? It is without a doubt that using the device better equips me for my job, but I can’t say I ever considered it as a deductible expense. Just wondering what others thought.

Gears of War Storyline

Lots of the online forums have complained about a lack of storyline in Gears of War. I really think this has more to do with a lack of the storyline being exposed in the game. After playing through a second time I’m starting to understand more of the world the COG lives in and what is happening. I also took a glance at the strategy guide when at EB Games the other day. After reading through the backstory I think its much more thought out than people are giving the design team credit for.

Props to Cliff Bleszinski Lead Designer at Epic

I am super appreciative of the time and energy the team at Epic have put into making a great game experience. Cliff Bleszinski is a new hero for me, a master of game balance and design, its as close to perfect as I could imagine. Having taken a quick crash course writing my own 2D physics based game at the Indy Game Jam 2004 I realize that this is an area of specialization in its own right and one that is difficult to do well. Few can profess this at the master level, but Cliff B. is one of them.

Gears of War Co-op

I had a question the other day when a friend came over. Not wanting to lose my progress on hard-core, I was concerned about starting a new game because of a warning that came up about ‘saved progress will not be saved’ . Turns out that our confusion (I say ‘our’ confusion because the question was posted on several online forums as well with various incorrect answers) is because the save system is so much better done than we’ve seen in the past and allows for the dropping in of friends to play online, in person, etc. and not losing your progress on various difficulty settings as well as being able to play all the scenarios you’ve worked through. Here’s the result: the last menu option that says something like ‘play previous checkpoint’ or something like that is a confusing label: what this actually does is bring up a menu of all the previously saved checkpoints and what difficult you have completed that level on so you can pick the level you want to play with a friend or otherwise.

Gears of war Hardcore setting

After finishing Gears of War on the casual setting I’ve moved to hardcore. I’ve found the AI much more strategic and wise in its action, more like the feel that I’m playing something with some intelligence and not so much just a drone. Its taking me many more tries to complete the various scenarios. I’ve just completed act 3 on hardcore. Entering the base inside the earth was made difficult due to the theron (?) guards and their use of the torque bow. I spent about 3 hours before finally successfully finishing off the guards.

I have a great deal of respect for the entire team at Epic at this point. I am extremely picky and quickly bored with most games and have never played through at another difficulty setting, but this game is fantastic. I am frustrated of being sneaked up on from behind and on the sides, so Friday I bought a set of rear-speakers so I can better hear when enemies on their approach.

Despite gears of war being probably the best balanced game I’ve played, I am still frustrated as a player at the fact that I have to play scenario components over and over again despite having mastered them as I learn my way through a particular scene. For example, when the guards come through in waves, why am I always forced to go through wave one again and again to get to the part I am actually stuck on? When I was a kid it drove me nuts and it doesn’t make me any more pleased now. Gears of War does an especially annoying thing, which is repeat dialog you’ve heard a hundred times and doesn’t let you escape out of it. When the dialog does start, you also move slower while it is playing. If I had to guess its to load content in the background and the slowdown in activity allows CPU resources to be used to do the load of content for the upcoming battle (keeps you in the same region of space, no BSP node transitions, for example). Still frustrating and wish they’d have allowed mini-checkpoints more often in these scenarios for adults that have jobs, perhaps not save points but in the same game session you would not be forced to start over, I’ve played games in the past like this. Maybe the settings should be ‘novice’, ‘employed’, and ‘unemployed’?