25 December 2008

Blog hibernation

Due to a dead video card in my laptop, this blog will not see many updates until my replacement comes in the mail. It should arrive around new years.

I am having a good Christmas and I hope you all are, too!

19 December 2008

RSS with a Beer

Part 1


Part 2


I forgot YouTube doesn't allow more than ten minutes in a single clip.

Recently Consumed Media

Forgetting Sarah Marshall
The previews for this movie portrayed it as an average romantic comedy; a serious injustice.  Lisa saw this in theaters and explained to me how much more the movie has going for it.  Written by and starring Jason Segel, seen most recently in CBS's "How I Met Your Mother" (a great sitcom), FSM adds character depth to the romantic comedy.  Stereotypical characters become realistic with positive traits AND flaws.  Best example I can make without spoiling the movie- the two characters that would traditionally be disliked as antagonists in the generic romantic comedy possess qualities, motives, and stories that bring them closer to middle ground in the moral spectrum.  This makes all four characters likable, instead of using two throw-away characters to contrast the protaganists.  Bravo to Jason Segel for first recognizing this cliche and second for writing a story that fixes it.  The funnies are also solid; I was cackling for the duration!

Russian Spy Camera - Mutiny in the Kitchen with Knives
Stop reading this, click here, and get your free album straight from the band.  Fantastic indie rock album!  I was mesmerized from the moment I hit play.  Thanks to Davy @ Ohmpark for the heads-up!  Trivia - RSC was born in Athens, GA, and Lisa used to work with the lead singer's girlfriend.  

Liquid Tension Experiment
Dream Theater minus the singer makes for exquisite prog rock!  Basically the guys from Dream Theater put together a side project to rock some tasty jams.  Two albums were released in the late 1990s, Experiment 1 and Experiment 2.  I haven't listened to the second album yet, but a song titled "Chewbacca" has me interested...

T.I. - Paper Trail
Not my usual taste in music, but I am developing a small attraction to beats & rhymes.  T.I.'s Paper Trail has several fun songs to dance and sing along.  My favorites are "On Top of the World" and "Live Your Life."  Ludacris and Rihanna probably have something to do with those choices, not to mention the sampling from O-Zone's "Dragostea Din Tei!"  Numa numa yay!

This leads me to something I've been meaning to ramble.  You know how there is a lot of artist collaboration in the rap/hip-hop/R&B community?  I think it's great, from my limited perspective.  I don't know why it happens; part of me hopes these people enjoy working together and producing fun stuff.  I would love to see something like this happen in the game development community.  It's interesting to speculate what would come of certain people working together.  If you put Tim Schafer and The Behemoth guys in a room for 8 hours, what hillarity would come out?

17 December 2008

Brutal Legend Trailer

Oh, it's beautiful....


I seriously can't wait for this game.  Tim Schafer & Double Fine make a game about metal lore featuring the voice of Jack Black?  You tell me what's gonna top that in 2009.

16 December 2008

Songbird

Songbird is the Firefox of software jukeboxes.  It's free, open-source software, friendly to add-ons, and a snap to use if you have any history with Firefox and iTunes.  

Why use Songbird over iTunes?  The add-ons.  I'm already enjoying the musical experience more with Songbird than I ever did with iTunes.  While I'm listening to a song, Songbird displays metadata about the song's artist from Last.fm, shows me if the artist is on tour and coming to my city, and scrapes the net for relevant reviews, photos, and videos.  It can also suggest me artists similar to the ones I like.  It slices, it dices, and it's dishwasher-safe.

The first add-on I downloaded, The Exorcist, scanned my library for ghosts (songs in Songbird's library XML that are missing the mp3) and displayed any possibly song duplicates.  This made it very easy to do a little maintenance on my music library.

Some add-ons I mean to try in the very near future are Seeqpod support (searches the web for an mp3 and let's you download to your library) and a display for lyrics of your current song (*bumps Rock Band mic to Expert*).

The only feature of iTunes I miss is how iTunes would copy files into your library and create artist/album folders on-the-fly.   How about it, Pioneers of the Inevitable?

14 December 2008

Computer Science, a Degree in 'Thinky'

Last night I ran a script to strip the DRM from my 890 songs from a store that rhymes with "myTunes" but couldn't be named anything further from the truth.  

When I checked the output folder (rather than strip the DRM from existing files, the application I used creates new mp3 files as "myTunes" writes to a virtual CD drive), I noticed one small problem.  There were only 889 songs.  And the DRM-stripper didn't keep a log.  Balls.

Thus began an hour of looking at ways to organize the data in "myTunes" and Windows Explorer so that I could find the missing bugger.  The challenge here is that "myTunes" is no help at all.  You can only export a playlist to a giant, useless text file.  It also "helps" users by ignoring "a" and "the" when sorting.  So, when I first attempted to compare groups of filenames, song titles, or albums, I ran into problems because "The Go Team" would show up under 'G' in "myTunes" and 'T' in Explorer.

How to sort these 890 songs without relying on sorting text?  I would have used file size, however, Explorer shows size in KBs and "myTunes" rounds to MBs.  Thanks again, "myTunes" devs!  What ended up working was sorting by song length.  Then, with Explorer positioned above "myTunes," I set the window sizes to show 20 songs each.  From there, I hit page down on both windows and made sure the top and bottom songs were the same in each.  Doing this, it didn't take more than a couple minutes to find the set of 20 songs that were different.

Which one was it?  Si*Se - More Shine.  Turns out the DRM-stripper couldn't handle the asterix character in the artist name!

13 December 2008

GameFly Mini-Review

The Bourne Conspiracy (PS3)

I wanted to like The Bourne Conspiracy.  Really.  I like the film trilogy and the game previews seemed positive enough.  When I played the demo a few months ago, it did it's job: I wanted to play the full game. 

The game's problem is simple.  More time and money went into the production values than the game design.  Each ten minute segment of the game went something like this:

- "Jason, you've got to sneak your way to point X"
- "Hey, there's the intruder!"
- 3 guys run up to you
- Fight them with the same 3-4 three-hit combos
- Proceed to tougher enemy
- Fight him for FIVE MINUTES using the same. 3-4. three-hit combos.
- Marvel at the "takedown" ability which looks cool and does more damage than a combo
- Win

That's all I did for two hours.  I'm sorry, but the gameplay is terribly shallow.  I know there's some driving elements later, but I couldn't stand to play any more of it.  The gunplay is mediocre although if an enemy gets close to you, mandatory close combat fighting happens until you defeat all nearby enemies.  Just awful design decisions here.  I don't know how anyone could playtest this and not slap the developers upside the head.

The context (of the first 2 hours) doesn't feel like the Bourne movies, either.  They tried to extend the story by having a few missions leading up to Bourne's amnesia.  A good move, but Bourne isn't about beating down legions of guards to get to his destination.  He's a smart protagonist, resorting to violence only when necessary.  This isn't conveyed in the game at all.

What's good about the game?  It looks good?  Like I said, the  game has good production value, but just isn't worth playing.  Get your fill of the demo and be satisfied.

12 December 2008

Media Sharing Musings

First off, Lisa and I watched Kung Fu Panda last night and it was so awesome that I went blind for seeing too much awesomeness. Check out the movie's intro on YouTube (be sure to click the "watch in HD" button in the bottom right!)  Jack Black had me in stitches and DreamWorks did a fantastic job with the animation of physical comedy.

Now, on to media sharing.  Let me preface by saying I'm a big fan of streaming media.  If I could pay for a subscription service and access any album or movie from the net, I wouldn't even bother with mp3s or DVDs.  We're certainly getting close!

Until that glorious day when I can rid myself of gigabytes of data (and data storage), I must make do with sharing media over my network.  In the past, when I owned a single computer and had the convenience of a direct hook up to my home entertainment hub, I had no need for streaming.  Now, I live in a house with 3 computers and a home entertainment hub with a 360, PS3, and a Wii.  I also travel for at least one week a month and desire access to all of my media on the go.  What's a geek to do?

To the entertainment hub
Believe it or not, my preferred method of sharing media to the living room is Windows Media Player 11 and the Xbox 360!  For awhile I was using Orb's UPnP server and picking it up on the PS3.  This didn't work quite right... I couldn't figure out how to play music in the background while browsing other files or doing anything else in the OS.  Video files were also getting cut off before completion.  
Since PS3/Orb wasn't satisfactory, Lisa and I were watching videos straight off a USB hard drive on the 360.  I'm not even sure what prompted me to do so, but I decided to try streaming media via WMP11.  I wanted to create a central hub for all of the devices on our home network.  It works perfectly on the 360.  Files play instantly with no perceivable loss in quality.  Music will play in the background, even when loading up other games.  WMP11 + 360 gets the "it just works" seal of approval.

To other computers (local)
I was pleased with how WMP11 streamed to the 360, so I turned on my laptop to see how easy it is to browse the same content from WMP11 on another machine.  Turns out... you can't.  After an hour or so of research, I learned that WMP11 doesn't stream to Windows XP with WMP11.  What. the. hell.  
Microsoft implemented their own media streaming tunnel, called Windows Media Connect, rather than use UPnP.  This way, they can strong-arm end-users into upgrading to Windows Vista.  Hate hate hate!
After another couple hours of researching various UPnP servers and clients (Orb's web-based interface is too slow for home network sharing), I realized something incredibly simple.  Just share the necessary folders from the hub machine and map them on the other XP machines.  Then you can easily browse My Docs with Windows Explorer and play whatever media you want in your player of choice.  No setup, no streaming, no fuss.  I had a /facepalm moment when I realized I lost sight of what I was trying to enable.

To mobile devices
Orb.  Orb Orb Orb.  I can't stress enouch how this is the best solution for accessing media from my phone or from my laptop out in the wild.  It's not the speediest interface, but it's functional and it nails the bottom line.  Orb is quick to setup on your hub machine and only requires a web browser to access the goods.  Win.

11 December 2008

Almost live from funde razor

Didn't realize the msg didn't send earlier = almost live

can't see anything. sorry. I promise its awesome though. the pod is signed up to play Learn to Fly in about an hour and a half!
i'd say there's about three hundred people in attendance. not bad!
there is a stage with COMPLETE rock band setup. every peripheral is here, including the light and smoke stage kit =)

10 December 2008

Funde Razor Tonight!

Heading down to Denver tonight to attend Funde Razor.  Brian Crecente, from Kotaku, is hosting the event and it looks like a blast.  In short, the event is a fund raiser to support the Penny Arcade Child's Play annual charity.  In other words, we're all going to party, play Rock Band, and drink so other kids can be happy.  What a cause.

I'll try to send some pictures from the event in real time, but otherwise expect an update tomorrow!

Beautiful Sight

Merry Christmas to me.

A couple months ago, my only storage drive died on me and guess what.... I had no back up drive.  Long story short, I was using my back up drive as my storage drive until terabyte drives fell under $100.  Oops.  You can now see that I'm no longer messin' around with data protection.  It does indeed happen to the best of us.

My motherboard has no onboard RAID chip (I know, I went cheap-o this time around), so I'm using SyncBack to synch all my files on SAMMY1 to SAMMY2.  It's a free app and I'm pleased with it so far.

My old data is probably not lost forever.  I called up a few hard drive recovery centers; they all said based on my described symptoms that the data could be salvaged.  However, the lowest quote I got was $485.  I couldn't bring myself to do it just now.  I have all of my music on my laptop and iPod.  Most of the pictures I cared about were uploaded  to Picasa.  Mostly what I'm missing is any work I did in college and some video footage that never made it to YouTube.  It's interesting to think that had I uploaded all of my pics and videos to the web, I really wouldn't have been hit that bad by a drive failure.  If privacy is no concern, there's no reason not to backup all of your files on the web!

07 December 2008

you, sir, just got your ass beat

go manny pacquiao! I just watched him dominate oscar de la hoya on live tv. pac-man didn't even look tired, that's how much control he had...

05 December 2008

Gaming Tidbits

Three gaming blog posts caught my attention today.  

Rock Band
New DLC coming soon featuring 13 of 15 tracks from No Doubt's The Singles 1992-2003 album!  I always thought Rock Band could use a little No Doubt and now I can have two of my favorite songs from their Tragic Kingdom album... Don't Speak and Just a Girl!  Available for download (purchase (highway robbery)) this week.

Mirror's Edge
I haven't played anything more than the demo yet, but this trailer for an upcoming level pack looks quite interesting.  A major complaint from most reviewers was that the way the armed guards were implemented detracted from the true meaning of the game mechanics.  I can already tell it's going to bother me, too, when I get to play it.  However, this level pack seems to ditch the guards... and the city!  These levels look a lot like they were designed to test the free running controls without the burden of designing a complete cityscape.  As such... I feel like it's wrong to charge ten bucks.  If the whole game, with all its finished levels and production value, cost $60, how are a handful of gimmick levels worth $10?  I can't wait to play them as a free patch on the PC.

Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena
First off, if you never played Escape from Butcher Bay on the original Xbox, you are LUCKY that the game is being remade for 360.  The game just didn't get the attention or sales that it deserved.  If only more games were blessed with such an opportunity.  Anyway, it's not so much a remake.  It's kind of... a port with better graphics, a second single player chapter, and multiplayer modes.  One mode in particular caught my eye.
In "Pitch Black" mode, it's one-versus-all as one player is Riddick and the rest are the hunt.  The catch?  The entire level is lights-out and each hunter has a dinky flashlight and a pistol.  Riddick can see in the dark, so I'm dying to know how well this mode is implemented, how well the lighting system works in multiplayer, and so on.  I think it's an interesting concept and I'd certainly like to see it in action!

04 December 2008

I Watched C-SPAN Today

And it was fascinating.  The auto industry figures were back in Washington to request additional funds for a bailout.  Our senators are wary of handing out thirty-four billion dollars when there is very real evidence that it won't prevent these auto makers from going bankrupt.  To see these big-shot industry leaders actually humble themselves to preserve their companies was at first inspiring.  Here they are defending their companies, what they do, who they employ, and how critical they are to the economy was very interesting to hear.  However, I can't help but feel like they are acting.  The media burned them for taking private jets to Washington a few weeks ago.  So now they make a PR spectacle of driving themselves in hybrid/fuel-effecient vehicles that their companies are still behind the times on?  I don't buy it.

Economist extraordinairre Dr. Mark Zandi was on the panel today on the side of the automobile companies.  In his expert opinion, the proposed $34B won't save the companies, but only sustain them through fiscal year 2009.  He thinks there is a strong chance that they will be back for more money should this bailout be approved.  Doesn't sound like he's really on their side, does it?  However, he states that should these companies go bankrupt, the resulting damage to the US economy would cause FAR more damage than to approve the bailout now.  For some reason, I feel confident in his findings.  Maybe it's just the fact that he's an economist who doesn't work for the auto industry and could honestly be out to protect the economy.  Like a superhero!  Can we start an internet meme please?

The other guy who got my attention today was the senator from Tennessee, Bob Corker.  This guy did his homework and it showed.  He asked the best questions of all the senators I caught on C-SPAN today.  Really tough material like pointing out that Ford and Chrysler have less market value than BMW, a niche car company.  Or the fact that industry analysts believe that Chrysler jumped on the bailout bandwagon in order to survive just long enough to merge with or sell to another company?  The auto boys were sweating and shaking in their boots when Senator Corker took stage.

It's disconcerting that this event may have more immediate and more serious effects on the country than the presidential election!  Also, how many Americans are paying attention to this legislation?  So many people are still bitching/celebrating Obama's victory...

I was surprised that A) the coverage of the bailout hearings was interesting to watch and B) that I was able to follow along and interpret some of this deeper meaning behind what these men debating!

P.S. Yes, I know I missed my blog update yesterday.  All I can do is attempt to make it up with another post today or an extra one tomorrow. =P

02 December 2008

Auditorium is good for you

The gaming community is ablaze today with links to a sensational flash game. It's simple, engaging, and relaxing. Part of the game is to learn how to play yourself, something I enjoyed about Braid. So don't get dismayed when you get to the site and don't see any instructions! =)

Give it a go and let your mind swim in the Auditorium...

Living Game Worlds IV

For the last couple of years, I've been attending the Living Game Worlds symposium, hosted by Georgia Tech. Once a year, GT hosts an academic event where students and faculty show off their latest projects and industry folks speak on panels to attendees. The head count is low, but honestly it's been nice to attend such an event because the demos are always fascinating and personal! Students and faculty are excited to show off their work and love to let attendees get hands-on if possible. Here are some pictures of Carey interacting with one such project that captures your form via camera and inserts you into a comic art style game.






Very interesting concept: you play as a human egg in the female reproductive system. After literally hopping over a gap, the player is presented with several sperm swimming around the screen. Hovering over a sperm with your hand, you can see a preview of the future child! Bizarre!

We saw some of the demos on our lunch break and returned in the evening for the keynote from Raph Koster. Mr. Koster was the lead designer for Ultima Online and a creative force behind Star Wars Galaxies. He prepared a delightful keynote taking us from old train yards in Spencer, NC to folk singing to the decline of the opera; always making interesting analogies to the games industry. I'm going to ask him if the video of the broadcast was recorded and if possible, get it up on YouTube. It was definitely worth hearing and has been the first thing in my life to make me miss college.