May 31, 2008

Southern Tenkarrdun Foundry University

I have a confession to make: Everquest was my first "serious" attempt at playing an MMORPG. There's an argument to be made that I played Meridian 59 before that, but honestly, I only ever played the demo area.

Like many MMOs I've played (and I've probably tried most of what's come out post-Ultima Online - which, surprisingly, I've never played), it didn't last longer than the free trial. It doesn't hold a special place in my heart. The one that does is that's responsible the title for this post, Asheron's Call.

The land of Dereth was filled with a rich history and a living lore that expanded month by month. I wasn't there at the "Defense of the Shard", but I played on Thistledown and it made me proud. (To all you AC'ers out there: It's HUB, dammit, not SUB). I was part of the initial assaults on Gaerlan's Citadel, though I did not participate in it's initial destruction. I will say that I used Decal, and did occasionally use non-combat macros (crafting stacks and stacks of arrows is not fun, and at one point I wanted an Og mage), but I'm firmly anti-UCM (Unattended Combat Macro) and mostly anti-CM (Combat Macro).

It was a world with culture and with events and its frontiers were explored by monarchies (the game's guild system; I was a member of The Winding Path under the leadership of Eva of Dal). At least for a long while, the developers seemed to care about the community and it showed.

It's really too bad it had a pretty crappy "sequel" that probably just thinned the population out.

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Rocket Propelled Grenades?

No, RolePlaying Games. For people that enjoy them, I find there's an interesting phenomenon - maybe it's the same for almost everything that can be categorized - the first one you play is often remembered fondly, like a "first love".

I'm actually referring to computer/console RPGs right now, but the same probably applies to pen & paper as well (I know I fantasize about running a "perfect" Mage: The Ascension game from time to time, despite how insane I know that could be). For the console RPGs, the biggest offender of first timers is the Final Fantasy series. Along that series you can almost always divide people into three groups based on what their "favorite" is.

It doesn't work out perfectly (to be honest, I probably fell in love the most with FFVIII's story, but it's not a divider), but generally there are the people who prefer either FFVI, FFVII, and FFX. To break this down, FFVI was the last non-3D Final Fantasy, FFVII was the first 3D one (one of the biggest titles for the PS1, and also the first video I ever saw advertised on TV), and FFX was the first one on the PS2 (and also the first with voice acting, however horrendous it could be at times).

I came into the franchise at FFVI, though I thought it was FFIII at the time (until the release of FFVII, the US releases were numbered in order of release - this means we missed out on 3 of the titles for a long time). The things I most remember from it are the opera scene and a line from just before the end boss, "You sound like chapters out of a self-help book!"

Leave comments with your thoughts. I'll probably continue this with a discussion of the same, but among MMORPGs, where I think the same holds true.

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May 30, 2008

Mad Times

I'm gonna have a busy evening tonight.

Not looking forward to going back to work on Monday, though I am interested in the FSDNUG meeting that evening.

That is all.

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Does any of this make sense?

Brian K. Vaughan is doing pretty good writing for Buffy Season 8 - based on the 2nd "volume" of the series. That's not the point of this post, but I thought it should be said.

Last night, Andy Ihnatko tweeted, "The X-Men mythos has about as much structure, linearity, and consistency as a David Lynch movie. I just can't get interested in it". At the current point in time you can see my reply to right, but for posterity I said, "I can get interested, but I understand your point. Especially with all the 'futures that must be prevented'. Cable's still cool tho".

Thinking about it, his reply to that is pretty on the spot: "I'm sure lots of the mutant stuff is good! But I feel like I need to go to summer school in order to understand what's going on." You do really need a program to know who the players are. How else are you supposed to know that Cable is Nathan Dayspring is Nathan Christopher Charles Summers, which means that he's the son of Cyclops and Madelyne Pryor (who was a clone of Jean Grey) who was sent to the future after he was infected with a techno-organic virus by Apocalypse.

It really doesn't help that if you want to read any of the major storylines there are always 3-4 titles that you have to keep up with, possibly more depending on what point in time you're talking about.

My solution to this is to focus on following the Ultimate continuity, which was created for just this sort of problem - well, it was created to reach out to a younger audience that didn't have the background knowledge. The storyline is already getting a little messy (we've just recently had our first incursion of future people in the form of Cable - who's actually Wolverine in this version - and Bishop), but it's all contained in one book.

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May 29, 2008

Oh the Horror!

Sometimes, I think they do this just to torture us. I know I'm doing it to torture you.

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An Evil Hat Demands It

And so we must comply. Ok, not really, but I felt it sounded cool enough. If you look at the post below, you'll see that someone going by "evil hat productions" (likely someone representing the publishing company, but hey, it's the internet) asked me why I thought Spirit of the Century would be ideal for Indiana Jones-style adventures. I then thought to myself, "That would make an excellent post topic."

First, in non-spoilery terms, it "aspects" that really make it work. To be honest, I'm only vaguely familiar with SotC's system (FATE), but I think I've read enough about it to say that these are really the game-maker when it comes to situations like this. Aspects are character attributes that can be used, compelled, and tagged by the players and GM to get bonuses and achieve goals. They make it possible for players to achieve things slightly outside the normal bounds of their character's skills (this can be represented by a +2 on a skill roll, for instance).

Secondly, the Indiana Jones movies are in (or near) genre for the game. It's meant to provide an environment for pulp action with characters already at or near their prime, which Indy is - at least during the first three movies. This means that your standard story elements of coming into power are generally in the past for the PCs. It also means that trying to achieve just that takes some finagling in the system.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull spoilers below the fold. (This is something I'm testing with this post)

To give an example of what I would deem to be potential uses of aspects in one of the movies, I'll be examining the scene(s) pretty much immediately after the moment in the trailer where Indy pulls out the rocket and fires it.

Let's assume the following aspects exist: the scene has the aspects of "Jungle", "River", and "Cliff"; Indiana has the aspects "Trusting", "I've got a bad feeling about this", and "World-class Adventurer"; Mutt has the aspect "Foolhardy Adventurer" (this probably isn't the best name for it).

There's a few examples I'm gonna pull out of this. First example, though not in chronological order, is when Mutt gets caught up in the canopy of the jungle. This is an invocation, by the GM, of the scene's "Jungle" aspect to get Mutt stuck up in the trees. Of course, Mutt's player turns that right around on the GM and uses the "Jungle" aspect again to say "Well, there are vines in this jungle" and then uses his "Foolhardy Adventurer" aspect to swing from vine to vine back towards the action.

Second, I could see the GM compelling Indy's "Trusting" aspect when Mac tells him that he's a double-agent. The GM would do this to get the character to accept the NPC back into the party, despite any mistrust Indy (and his Player) may have towards him.

Third, I see a similar compel when Marion is about to go off the cliff. Indy gets compelled by his "I've got a bad feeling about this" aspect to question why she's driving them off the cliff and to try to get her to stop. Obviously this doesn't work. Marion on the other hand, uses the scenes aspects to say "I'm driving off the cliff, b ut I think there's going to be a tree to catch us and guide us into the river."

Like I said, I haven't played (or even read the actual rules) for Spirit of the Century but I think it's great for this kind of thing. I'm highly tempted to purchase it, and I can definitely see myself possibly adopting aspects into other games.

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May 28, 2008

Games People Play

I really should have used that title for a better article.

That said, I'm kinda drained, so I thought I'd say: Spirit of the Century is the system to use if you want to run an Indiana Jones-style adventure game.

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Who Needs Sleep?

Sleep is strange beast. At it's most basic, get enough and you feel good, too much or too little and you feel tired.

But it comes in so many more packages than that, which often vary by the person. For example: if I nap in the afternoon, I'll generally feel somewhat refreshed when I wake, but I'll be prepossessed by a feeling that something's out of joint. That is, until I get a regular night's sleep at least.

Then there are just night's where you obviously didn't sleep right and messes with your ability to concentrate. I blame caffeine for this morning.

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May 27, 2008

Back, but not in Black

Yeah, I made it back to town safe enough. I was feeling pretty wiped out, though - I still kind of am.

While I was gone, I managed to start and finish The Gunslinger. Maybe I'll post some thoughts on it later, though I'm tempted to to wait out reading some more of the Dark Tower books first.

Even though it's not entirely surprising, it appears that a druid has solo'ed Onyxia. Bring on the claims of overpowered-ness and potential cheating. No matter how you slice it, it still seems like quite the accomplishment.

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Back Home

Well, not yet, but I'll be on my way back to the Fort later this morning or early this afternoon. At which time realtime blogging will recommence, at least for a day or two.

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May 26, 2008


It's a band that has a song in quite a few of the rhythm/music game that Harmonix has produced, probably because Kasson Crooker is the Audio Director there. Regardless of what else may be going on below, know this: the rhythm is catchy.

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Memorial Day

I hope everyone has a good Memorial Day. I didn't realize that it was such a long running holiday, but apparently it's existed since the American Civil War, when it honored the Union soldiers who who died trying to keep the country together. It was expanded to include any one who died in a military action after World War I.

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May 25, 2008

Urban Fantasy

Another genre of storytelling that I'm interested in is that of "Urban Fantasy." I don't want to go into a lot of depth on some of this, because I think I can milk it for more material later on.

Based on that link, here's what I've got that might qualify as "urban fantasy":

  • The Dresden Files (TV and Book Series), by Jim Butcher
  • Neverwhere, American Gods, Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
  • Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and Angel created by Joss Whedon
  • Everything in the "World of Darkness" (new or old) by White Wolf Game Studio, even though they're meant as horror games can be played as urban fantasy

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You Got Chocolate In My Peanut Butter!

In a similar vein to enjoyment of dichotomy between texture and text in music, I find the blending of genres in other media to be quite fascinating. I'll be the first to say that what I'm mostly referring to is mixing science fiction and fantasy.

The first time I think I really ran across this was as a young child, watching a cartoon that I doubt anyone remembers (especially my very few readers): Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light. Take a high-tech society and bust the tech, then mix in some semi-Arthurian stuff with magic that can power the tech and BAM! You have series that lasts only 13 episodes (there were some toys though - I know this because I had some of them).

After that I'd say I didn't encounter quite what I'm thinking of here until I started reading Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern series. I've only read the first 3 books, but the point is this: despite the initial introduction in the first book, until they found the last remnants of the colonization ship, I had the feeling that "this is fantasy that doesn't feel like fantasy." To which I eventually said, "Duh! They're space colonists who've lost touch with the technology they showed up with!"

In the further realms of animation, the series Scrapped Princess applies Clark's Third Law to blend the two genres. For those too lazy to follow the link, "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

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May 24, 2008

Fish, Plankton, Protein From The Sea

It's retro-post time: Back in 1976, a movie called Logan's Run. As with many such ventures, it's based on a book of the same name. They share some basic elements though: a futuristic society in which people are euthanized at a fixed, young age (21 in the book, 30 in the movie) and the main character is operative who's charged with enforcing that rule.

Anyway, you might think it's worth a look. I've never read the book, though, so you're on your own there.

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It's Only a Model

To right-hand side of the page, on the list of blogs you'll see one with the name "Shamus Young." He's a well-spoken, intelligent, and humourous writer. He's also responsible for DM of the Rings. The concept is this: take screen caps from the Lord of the Rings movies, and make like the movies are actually a D&D campaign being run by a railroading GM with uncooperative players.

Result: hilarity.

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May 23, 2008

On the Road Again

Off to visit my parents, so I'm trying to get a little bit of a backlog of posts. See, they live almost - but not quite - in the middle of nowhere, which means there's no cable and no DSL.

Last time I took off, I mentioned some podcasts that I listen to, so this time I'm going to go in a similar direction. If you're parked in front of a computer with access to streaming video between, oh, 11am and 4pm P(S|D)T, you can watch Leo Laporte record some of the many podcasts he produces each week, live. There's even a gCal schedule of "official" recordings.

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I'm a bit ahead

Oh, I love the delayed posting feature here on Blogger. I'm almost caught up to the point when I'll first be back in town next week.

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May 22, 2008

Fake Plastic Rock

As you might be able to tell (who am I kidding? everyone who reads this now generally knows me well), I'm a fan of Rock Band. I like a surprising number of the song selections (though Honest Bob and the Factory-to-Dealer Incentives are the devil!), even though I have only rudimentary skills at the fake guitar and drums. I'm theoretically much better at vocals, though whether that amounts to singing remotely well or not is up for debate.

Well, Activision decided they had to answer the call of the full band, and are making their own drum peripheral and apparently modified guitar for Guitar Hero: World Tour. To which I say: bah. I do not intend to have two different sets of fake plastic drums in my home, and the way the Guitar Hero series has been managed lately (see: Activision's stubbornness regarding GH3 guitar compatibility with Rock Band and the change, with GH3, from competing against yourself to competing against the game).

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Somehow I doubt this is true. I'll admit it's possible, but I think it's more likely that some people screwed up and were looking for a scape goat. Even if this was the case, Moody's wasn't the only financial institution giving the AAA ratings.

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May 21, 2008

Today in Games

Ok, so I already mentioned this morning that "On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness" was coming out today.

Also new on the block today: Wii Fit. So what if it's not exactly a game and more of a workout routine generator/monitor. Even though I'm sure it can't really help you put on any weight, it does recommend that you do so if it deems you underweight.

In game related, but non-game news, a Florida judge is recommending that Jack Thompson be found guilty on 27 of 31 charges of misconduct. It seems like we could be close to seeing him get disbarred. It probably won't keep him from getting onto TV and such, but it's a step in the right direction.

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On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness

Enough about me for at least this morning. Today the guys from Penny Arcade and Hothead Games release the first episode of "On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness". I should also be getting in my PAX 2007 DVDs, which means I'll be able to see Wil Wheaton's keynote as well as listen to it.

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May 20, 2008

The Placebo Effect

This really isn't intended to be a post about placebos, but for those not familiar with the term, the "placebo effect" refers to the effect of inert medicine (think sugar pill) or ineffective therapy.

Well, the only reason I could feel as good as I am right now is not because of medicine. Instead it is the prospect of treatment that has me feeling better. Relief at the increasing possibility that the light at the end of the tunnel is really a way out and not just an oncoming train.

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Make a Difference

Don't think for a second that I think the world revolves around me, even if I sound like it. It's weird to me that I just wrote that, but I think it needs to be said.

I had a little more introspection this morning and have come to this still incomplete, still not quite there, thought: I want to make a difference in people's lives - and I don't mean the stockholders. I don't think I made a bad choice of careers when it comes to that; it may not be ideal, but it's still doable. What I may have made a bad choice of is exactly where in that profession I made my home. At my current place of employment I may not have much choice (the only areas I can think of that might make a real difference are two of the smaller, harder to get into [IMO] groups).

I'm not even sure that I have the focus to do so on a regular basis - but that may be another problem. I've been growing to suspect over the course of the last year or so that I may have some sort of attention disorder (yeah, I know, self-diagnosis means jack squat). It would definitely explain my lack of ability to stay on task and my very erratic websurfing habits. It also provides the only explanation I've ever seen that makes sense for an outburst I remember from 2nd grade. Of course, it doesn't explain how I was able to survive schooling with as high marks as I did. The only thing could handle the two together is my old frequent caffeine usage. It's not medically recognized as a treatment but it is a stimulant, and in college I had to use some "controlled dosages" to get me through some of my papers.

I hope that doesn't bore or alarm my 3-5 readers (according to feedburner, that's my subscriber count, averaging 3) or any of the 14 IP addresses that have visited here.

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May 19, 2008

A Man Falls Into a Hole

So apparently that crappy post from this morning was my 100th post. Hooray?

This guy's walking down the street when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep he can't get out.

A doctor passes by and the guy shouts up, "Hey you. Can you help me out?" The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down in the hole and moves on.

Then a priest comes along and the guy shouts up, "Father, I'm down in this hole can you help me out?" The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on.

Then a friend walks by, "Hey, Joe, it's me can you help me out?" And the friend jumps in the hole. Our guy says, "Are you stupid? Now we're both down here." The friend says, "Yeah, but I've been down here before and I know the way out."

-- Leo McGarry, "Noël", The West Wing
I think I'm going to the doctor tomorrow to try and rule out anything physical. Maybe get some recommendations on who to go see, though I've got those coming out my ears now.

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I've got a bad feeling about this...

That is all.

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May 18, 2008

Potential Energy

Right now, I'm feeling really weird. It's a feeling I've encountered before though.

It feels like I have this mass of potential energy (energy that could be used for say, hours of programming in that oh-so-special "zone") in my mind that is staying just that: potential. It's almost like it's energy meant for one specific task, but I don't know what it is. When I get like this, it's incredibly difficult to concentrate on any one thing.

I've had this happen as a sort of recurring problem throughout my life. I remember as child going up to my parents and having this conversation:

Me: "I want to do something."
Mom: "What do you want to do?"
Me: "I don't know."

Like I said, this makes it incredibly hard to concentrate. I can't even do my semi-ADD web surfing, it's that distracting. I wish I had the insight to figure out exactly what it is that my brain wants to do.

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Know Thyself

Barely making the "time" on this one. I said I'd post something on trust between people and I will. I just need time, kinda.

Suffice to say, where this whole thing comes from is probably my inability to completely trust myself.

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May 17, 2008

Books...Lots of Books

I have a confession to make: I'm a book-a-holic. Ok, not that bad but I do have a lot of reading to do.

And that's just the stuff I own. It doesn't include the stuff I'm interested in but don't own. Most of that stuff's in the RPG department though, like Spirit of the Century or Dogs in the Vineyard.

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News of the....oh, who cares?

Firefox 3 is out in Release Candidate 1. For those of you not familiar with this aspect of software development (ha, that's maybe 1 of 3-4 people who read this), this means that they now think it's probably ready to be put out, but they want to iron out any last minute issues.

Something I'm looking forward to next TV season is Dollhouse, a joint effort between Joss Whedon and Eliza Dushku's production company, will be airing on FOX. The concept is interesting: this place has "blank slate" people that they can program according to their customers desires and then wipe clean afterwards. Of course Echo (one of the Dolls, played by Eliza Dushku), is starting to remember things from her personality imprints. Aint It Cool News has a promo picture of the cast.

In a related announcement, The Hollywood Reporter is, well, reporting that FOX is going to air Dollhouse and Fringe with only 5 minutes of commercials. It's an interesting idea, and is possibly the least of amount of commercial time that television has ever aired with. I say this because the DVDs of classic Star Trek that I have run at 50 uninterrupted minutes an episode.

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May 16, 2008

Reflections on Trusting Trust

If you've never read it before, this could potentially make you paranoid about your computer: Reflections on Trusting Trust by Ken Thompson.

For those after the "TL,DR" version, it describes a C compiler, written in C, designed to do two things other than standard compiling:

  1. If it detects that it's compiling the UNIX login command, it inserts a backdoor that gives someone the ability to run as any user on the system.
  2. If it detects that it's compiling itself (with or without the additional code), it instead produces the binary for this "broken" version.
Kinda scary isn't it? Especially considering that when you distribute it with source, you can just pull out the login- and self-manipulating code but still have a system that works. At least until they try another C compiler.

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Hurray for Mornings?

Yeah, not really. I may have been doing slightly better since venting last week, but it wasn't that much help. So in order to avoid another breakdown at work (potentially wasting two people's time on the company's dime), I'm going to try and take it easy this morning.

It won't be another series, but I think I have some more stuff to talk about. Trust in both people and computers, maybe some other stuff. Whatever it is, you'll see it here, obviously.

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May 15, 2008

It's Not a Review!

Not much to say, but if you have any thoughts you'd like to add or comments to make on the four part review that's been posted over the last three days, please comment!

In other news, I'm about to finish my run through of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. I'm working through the last two discs as I type this. It's interesting to see a Star Trek series with real continuity.

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Lost Odyssey, Part 4

Graphics & Sound:
On to what I consider the least important, but still key, point of the review. Yes, that's right, I don't care that much about graphics. A game needs to look good, but if the story and gameplay aren't there (especially the story) it's not worth playing all the way through.

Lost Odyssey makes use of Unreal Engine 3, but it doesn't suffer near as much as Mass Effect does from late texture pop-in. Nearly everything in the game appears to rendered in-engine, though there are a few points - it's been a while and I can't be arsed to think of when, exactly - that look like they were pre-rendered, but at no higher texture or actual resolution than the rest of the game.

The resources of the game do cause some minor to fairly noticeable lag on entering one of the game's random combats. The game does a reasonable job of hiding it from the player, mainly by showing off the scenery while it loads in the combatants, but that can get tedious at times.

One of the odder things visible in the game are some of the accessories that you can wear. Several of them, most head/ear-pieces, are visible during the normal cutscenes. This can have the habit of undermining an emotional scene if, say, Kaim is wearing the Mimint Ears (a head-piece that looks like a pair of cat ears). I'm all for visible equipment in games, but if it's going to be disruptive like that, I'd rather not have it.

Technically I did say I'd review the sound, but unfortunately I don't really have a sound system. Therefore, I don't feel qualified to talk about anything other than the voice and music.

With the exception of the crappy pop song previously mentioned, the music was pretty good - probably Uematsu's best since he left Square. It's been way to long for me to say anything else right now.

When it comes to the voice acting, I'd also say that it was fairly acted, with the most obvious standout being Michael McGaharn as the voice of Jansen (the only notable past credit I could find is that he voiced Knuckles the Echidna in both the original and updated Sonic Adventure game). The most notable voice actor they had (and they all appear to focused on voice, for the most part) was Michael Bell. The name probably doesn't ring a bell, but he voiced Medivh in WarCraft III, Raziel in several of the Legacy of Kain games, "Additional Voices" for several of the C&C games, and voiced Drew Pickles & Charles Finster, Sr. in all incarnations of the Nicktoon "Rugrats".

It was a good game. I'd recommend it as a buy for anyone looking for a good, traditional RPG for their XBox 360. Odds are good though, that if you've never taken a liking to any of the Final Fantasy series then you won't like this.

I hear they're planning a sequel. If you play through to the end of this, you'll know why I want it to be a direct sequel and not just a brand name. There are just so many directions they could run with the world they've created.

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May 14, 2008

Lost Odyssey, Part 3

Story (& Characters):
I guess there's not a whole I can say about this without spoiling things, but I'll say what can be said. If you've seen any of the promotional material you'll know that the story centers around a man named Kaim who's lived for a thousand years, and to all appearances is immortal. The catch is, he doesn't have any memories past maybe 10-20 years ago - no...that's not familiar at all.

The story eventually boils down to a fairly standard "save the world" tale, not from impending doom but from the machinations of a villain - who should be fairly obvious early on. In spite of this, it still made me mist up in at least two places. How did a standard save the world story manage to do this?

One word: relationships. In almost every regard, the relationships between the members of your party are solid. Yes, there are several children who can be annoying at times, but they're kids - what did you expect? There are several love stories being told here, but none of them takes precedence over the entire story. Their importance is powerful throughout but it's not overpowering. The key is that these people are tied to the world they inhabit strongly (by cables like steel, you might say). The only problem I have with this is that the game has a very bad, in my opinion, pop song for its love theme.

An addition to the game beyond the standard RPG methods of story-telling are the "Thousand Years of Dreams" that you can experience throughout the game. These are purely optional mini-novellas that give you insight into the past of Kaim, as these dreams are triggered by encountering events similar to something that happened during the nearly 1000 years that he doesn't remember. There are only four "mandatorily" unlocked ones, but if you find you don't like them, you never have to read any of them. Of course, as should be obvious from the gameplay review, there's more than one immortal in your party by the end of the game, and 2 of them also have dreams - the only ones that are relevant to the story.

There's also some rather extraordinary comic relief in the form of the first mortal member of your party, Jansen. As I said above, it's hard to say anything about the characters, but just watch Jansen - he's a real standout, both in scripting and voicing. In fact, based on what I've read of the voice actor's postings on GameFAQs' Lost Odyssey forums, a good deal of what makes Jansen so funny in the localization is his improvisation of the translated lines.

Stay tuned tomorrow for the final portion of this exercise in review: Graphics & Sound.

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Lost Odyssey, Part 2

Gameplay (cont.):

Equipment in Lost Odyssey is fairly sparse. Each member of your party can generally only have three things equipped at once, two of which are of only moderate quality to your casters: a weapon, a ring, and an accessory (though two of the mortals in your party eventually learn the ability to wear more than one accessory, thus making them far more useful than the other mortals). Rings only work for melee attacks and only a few special weapons affect your caster's spells in any way.

One thing that separates Lost Odyssey from other jRPGs is the way it handles leveling. Every level takes exactly 100 experience points to gain (similar to FFVIII's 1000 exp), but each area has a soft level cap. This means that up until you reach the level appropriate to beat the area's final boss, you gain levels quickly - to the point that under-leveled party members will gain a level a battle - but after you hit that appropriate level, the experience ramps down quickly. You'll always get at least 1 point a monster or battle (I can't remember which), but that won't get you very far very quickly. You also gain the skill points from combat, which aren't affected by the level cap.

Which brings me along to skills and the division between mortals and immortals in your party. Mortals learn skills as they level, for the most part, and are stuck with whatever skills they naturally have and whatever skill(s) they receive from their currently equipped accessory. Immortals, however, can learn skills from both mortals and accessories in a manner similar to FFIX's skill system. You learn skills from accessories by equipping them and fighting with them until you're finished learning. Getting skills from mortals is similar, but you have to choose which of the mortal's skills you wish to "link" with and then have that mortal in your combat party until you've finished learning the skill. Skills give you the ability to use the various levels of magic, equip certain special classes of items, prevent casting knockback and improve casting times, and even allow you to equip more skills.

You'll notice I mention mortals and immortals as members of your party. Because of the way they handle skills they're very different beasts. Generally speaking the mortals are physically weaker than your immortals as well - to the point that you have to revive mortals in combat, but immortals will actually revive automatically after a few turns. This doesn't mean you should use them, and use them well, though. In fact, as a warning to anyone picking up the game after reading this should be warned: keep your mortals leveled up. There's one stretch of game where the party is split up into four groups, including a 2 mortal pair. Given what I said above, though, you shouldn't find it too hard to do so.

One other warning and possibly a down note for potential players. Odds are pretty good that the hardest boss fights in the game are actually the first two real bosses in the game. Make sure you've picked up all the available skills and get a good grasp of the GC mechanic.

Looks like no story this time, so story next time!

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May 13, 2008

Lost Odyssey, Part 1

Well, I said I'd write a review for Lost Odyssey. Here's the first part.

At its gameplay core, Lost Odyssey is a fairly standard jRPG. It's the second outing from Mistwalker - their first being Blue Dragon - which should say a lot about the people who made the game. You walk around, talk to people, get in random encounters, etc. Like recent jRPG outings, the game lacks a true "overworld" map (that is, one which you actively walk over), except for when you're traveling in a ship over the sea. Instead, when you reach the end of a zone, you're presented with a map and a list of areas - actually, end-points of areas - that are available for you travel through at your current point in the game.

Battles are strictly turned-based, though in my experience this means many things, so let me explain. At the beginning of each turn you choose what each member of your party is going to do that turn. Then, based on each participant's speed and the speed of the chosen action, the actions are executed. This means that you have no way of knowing when a character will act, other than rough estimations that you'll have figured out later in the game. The one consolation to this is that item usage is the fastest action in the game and regardless of who uses it, they generally get to go first.

As part of the nature of a turn in Lost Odyssey, spells have a casting time. That casting time is measured by a number-letter sequence. For instance, a spell with a casting time of 1-A means that it should be one of the first spells cast on the turn in which it's chosen, while one with a casting time of 2-E will probably be one of the last spells cast on the turn after the one in which it's chosen. That's right: a spell can take more than one turn to cast. If your caster gets hit? They can get interrupted and it will push the cast back - this also works in your favor versus enemy casters. Luckily, if a spell does take more than one turn, you have the option to cancel it.

Regarding melee combat, your attackers can (and should) make use of "rings," pieces of equipment craftable by you and combinable by a traveling vendor of sorts. When your attacker has a ring equipped and they make there attack, the idea is to hold down the right trigger until an outer ring overlaps with a smaller, inner ring, thus gaining the bonus of the ring. These bonuses are things like extra damage, elemental damage, HP/MP drain, and Guard Condition (GC).

Guard Condition is the other thing that Lost Odyssey adds to combat. For quite a long time jRPGs have presented characters in the back row as much more unassailable by at least physical attackers. Lost Odyssey takes this a step further by quantifying that protection. At the beginning of each combat, each party (if they have members in the back) starts with a GC relative to the total current HP of each front row member over their max HP. The lower this GC, the more damage the back row takes from all sources. As the battle continues, attacks against your frontline subtract from the GC, and only skills that explicitly recover GC can bring it back.

Tomorrow I'll be back with a little more on gameplay outside of combat (mostly), and possibly the beginnings of the story portion of this review.

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Morning Update

So, after a four day weekend, I'm still not feeling that well. I'd say I'm feeling better than before I wrote my big treatise on why I wasn't feeling well, but that it probably just pushed back the tide for while.

On a lighter note, I think I'm going to do a multi-part review of Lost Odyssey, a game I finished a few months ago.

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May 12, 2008

The Culture of Ownership

We live in a "culture of ownership". Well, there's been an interesting development in one of the "owned" pieces of property out there. Apparently, "Happy Birthday," is very likely not under copyright, despite the protestations of the supposed copyright holders (thanks, Molly, for letting everyone on Twitter know). Let's hope someone has the guts to challenge them on it.

In similar news, until recently "Mass Effect" for the PC was going to have some rather draconian DRM attached - requiring you to have an internet connection on installation, with a re-activation mandatory every 5-10 days. BioWare/EA has apparently changed their mind about that, but it still remains that they were planning on severely inconveniencing their paying customers. Seriously: anyone who pirated this game would have no issue with this, as they'd never see it. The only thing this kind of scheme would achieve is stopping so-called "zero-day" piracy.

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Video Game Update!

Now that we're back to normal posting routines, this one will be short.

The next game on my list to complete is one I'm having to start over from the beginning (I don't have a memory card with partial data on it in this case): Star Ocean: The Second Story.

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May 11, 2008

Fast Weekend

This has been my busiest weekend in a long time. The shortest thing I can say is that I finished FFXII just about an hour ago.

I did actually achieve everything I posted about last night. Iron Man on Friday was good and is promising for the future.

The Ren Faire in Muskogee was fun, though tiring. It's really too bad that there's almost no good seating for the human chess match. It seems like no matter where you sit, you're going to have some trouble hearing/seeing what's going on.

Rock Band was pretty fun last night, too. I think I'd have a bit more fun with it if someone else would step up to the mic. Kudos to Travis and Deidra for stepping up, even if it wasn't for very many songs.

Even though they may not be clear, we played Munchkin after a few people had left. There are pictures, though some of them may not be big enough to show what happened. (I'm surprised, given my history of losing games, that I managed to win).

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Output, Part 5

This is actually going to be the last part of this. I know I said six parts, but the sixth is really just about software development in general and not about my current situation in particular.

I find that there are certain things beyond my control that still manage to frustrate me. Most of the time I'm able to adopt a certain stance about such things that lets me live with them, but some I just can't.

The biggest one of these is that, at work, we're expected to shepard projects through the entire software development life cycle. Sure sometimes it gets broken up because the person who got the requirements, designed, and estimated the thing has higher priority tasks, but generally speaking we have "teams" with very few team projects - even those team projects we do have rarely require high levels of interaction between more than two people. Ideally, we'd have true business analysts who'd get requirements, designers who do the design, and programmers who work with the guts of the applications. Honestly, I think I could deal with being the last two, possibly even any two of the three, but being all three at once puts a bit more of a strain on me than I'm entirely comfortable with.

Also: we have no standards for automated testing. Currently, most testing is done by hand. Admittedly, this is probably largely due to barely having set foot into the modern era of programming. The company is still a mostly COBOL shop with some ASP (not .NET) and Javascript. Only in the last 3 or 4 years did they start dabbling in VB.NET, and any sort of entrenched business position is going to take quite a while to ramp up to more modern practices. It will take some of our people's retirements before it can ever fully happen.

Anyway, I hope I can find it in myself to accept my current position for what it is, whatever that may wind up being to me.

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May 10, 2008

For All Those Who Are About to Rock!

By the time this appears on my blog the following will have happened:

  • I will have seen Iron Man (I'm actually seeing it in about an hour - I'm writing this on Friday).
  • I will have gone to the Renaissance Festival in Muskogee with some of my friends (you may even see the pictures in my Flickr stream in the next day or two, though we don't dress up...yet).
  • At the time this post actually becomes visible, we should've surprised my graduating friend with a party of pizza and Rock Band! I expect there to be pictures of many of us making fools of ourselves after that as well.

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Pain, Death, Life

Another tangent. Feeling like sharing some quotes with you.

"Everyone is down on pain, because they forget something important about it: Pain is for the living. Only the dead don't feel it."
-- White Night, Jim Butcher
"Everyone dies alone. That's what it is. It's a door. It's one person wide. When you go through it, you do it alone. But it doesn't mean you have to be alone before you go through the door. And believe me, you aren't alone on the other side."
-- Dead Beat, Jim Butcher
"'And what would humans be without love?'
RARE, said Death."
-- Sourcery, Terry Pratchett
"The pencil was hovering. Around it, the world turned. It wrote things down, and then they got everywhere. The pen might not be mightier than the sword, but maybe the printing press was heavier than the siege weapon. Just a few words can change everything..."
-- Monstrous Regiment, Terry Pratchett
"And when the two hearts began to beat together, they filled the heavens with a terrible sound. For the first time, the gods knew fear. They tried to flee, but it was too late. The Klingon hearts destroyed the gods who created them and turned the heavens to ashes. To this very day, no one can oppose the beating of two Klingon hearts."
-- "You Are Cordially Invited", Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

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May 9, 2008

Life Begins at the Intersection

Alright, time to move into a tangential topic or two before finishing up the tale I've been telling.

I've been a fan for long time of spiritual music that mostly skirts of the edge of naming any one particular religion. I don't know why, but it rings truer to me. This has led me to the likes of Switchfoot, Anberlin, and others like them.

This one's about a dream
I had last night
How an old man tracked me home
And stepped inside
Put his foot inside the door
And gave a crooked smile
Something in his eyes
Something in his laugh
Something in his voice
That made my skin crawl off

Said I've seen you here before
I know your name
How you could have your pick
Of pretty things
You could have it all
Everything at once
Everything you've seen
Everything you'll need
Everything you've ever had in fantasies
In the depths of a dream the man is offered everything he's ever wanted or needed. But the figure giving the offer is fairly creepy and it makes the deal seem off. (I realize I may not be saying much "new" here, but bear with me)
You've one life, you've one life,
You've one life left to leave,
You've one life, you've one life,
You've one life left to leave
This bit isn't immediately evident to me. It subtly changes at the end of the song, though. It's important though: we only have this one life to be who we want to be.
I woke up from my dream
As a golden man
With a girl I’ve never seen
With golden skin
I jumped up to my feet
And she asked me what was wrong
And I began to scream
I don’t think this is me
Is this just a dream
Or really happening

You've one life, you've one life
You've one life left to leave
You've one life, you've one life
You've one life left to leave
The man wakes from his dream to find that the offer in the dream was true, and it's worse than he feared.
What direction, what direction
What direction, what direction
I’m splitting up, I’m splitting up
This is my personal disaffection
What direction, what direction
What direction now
This is the first of two parts that really hits me at home. The man wonders what path his life should take. The one he's stumbled into clearly isn't it. But this lack of direction is his "personal disaffection."
I looked outside the glass
At golden shores
Golden ships and masts
With golden cords
As my reflection passed
I hated what I saw
My golden eyes were dead
And a thought passed through my head
A heart that's made of gold can’t really beat at all
I wanted to wake up again
I wanted to wake up again
Without a touch of gold
Without a touch of gold
This has two important points. The man is vehemently rejecting this world of gold, the offer of his soul for all his earthly desires - because, as it turns out, he doesn't really want them. The second, that a heart that's may of gold isn't real, can't beat, can't sustain life.
What direction, what direction
What direction? what direction?
What direction? what direction?
What direction? what direction?
What direction? what direction?
What direction? what direction?
What direction?
Death or action,
Life begins at the intersection!
What direction? what direction?
What direction now?
And again, to the part that moves me most. I wasn't actually aware of the "death or action" bit until just now. That makes what comes after even more power: life begins when we make the choice of how we want to live, and make it for ourselves.
I woke up as before
But the gold was gone
My wife was at the door
With her night robe on
My heart beat once or twice
And life flooded my veins
Everything had changed
My lungs had found their voice
And what was once routine
Was now the perfect joy

You've one life, you've one life
You've one life left to lead
You've one life, you've one life
You've one life left to lead
The man wakes up from his second dream to realize that his life is back to normal. You know what? He's figured out that the life he's in is the one he's going to live, and it brings such joy and harmony to him. You'll note the change in the ending lyrics: he's not going to leave this life, he's going to lead it.

Sad that I feel adrift so often, then.

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Output, Part 4

For today (I wrote this all on Wednesday, in case you didn't know), I think this will be the last part of this series. Not just because this incessant worrying has tired me out, but because I'm struggling to come up with more things that have to do with my current situation (I think I've got one more part in me somewhere though).

Ever since High School, at least, I've been a definite procrastinator. Not usually the "get things done the last possible second" type, but more of a "start things when I think I have just enough time" type of procrastinator. To give an example: my freshman year of college, I waited until the last week or so to truly research and write an 8 page (I think, my memory's fuzzy) history paper that was supposed to be our "final" project for the class.

I've worked out a few semi-effective semi-habits for dealing with this (since obviously this approach shouldn't/doesn't work in my current office environment). I call them semi-habits because I lapse periodically from adhering to them. These include a slight auto-prioritizing and self-prioritizing of my inbox, and keeping track of things that need to be done on my whiteboard. It's always a good sign if I can strike one or two the sub-tasks on the board out in a given day. It means that I've effectively used my time (usually) and that I broke the parent task down into at least one achievable sub-task. Unfortunately, not all my tasks are SMART.

Sometimes the procrastination has to do with my social anxieties (I'll put off meeting with users or other developers if I have other things I can work, sometimes even if I don't), sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes I think I have ADD with the way I flit around between ideas and tasks. It's an odd brain I have overall, and I hope that this has given you some insight into it. Now I think I'm going to finish listening to the BSG episode 403 commentary podcast I started earlier.

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May 8, 2008

Output, Part 3

One of my friends, a different one from the one mentioned last time, has occasionally reminded me that they think highly of me because I "don't change myself for other people". This much is true, for the most part. I do avoid certain topics around people who've expressed strong disinterest, but that's about it.

What you don't see from that description though: I crave validation. So, I may not change to make people like me but I really, really want them to.

I also don't believe in myself all the time. One of the "slides" on the TV's at the entrance to my office building this week has a quote from Liberace, "Nobody will believe in you unless you believe in yourself." To which I retort in my head, "But how do you start believing in yourself if no-one believes in you?"

I suppose it may be more correct to say that I don't have particularly high self-esteem either, although that depends. In general, I tend to not think highly of myself, but I think the reason that I don't is because of the standards that I set for myself. They're so high, I think it's rare that I ever meet any of them. Admittedly, they may only be too high once you factor in my limitations (see the other parts of this series).

To repeat what I once told someone years ago, this morning I felt that "the world had fallen out from under me".

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Output, Part 2

I haven't mentioned that the only reason I'm doing this is because one of my friends thought that if I went home "sick" because of this I shouldn't treat it like I did last time where I just distracted myself for about a week (and took some Xanax, though I still dislike the idea of psychological-use medicating when not necessary). So instead, I'm trying to voice these issues I have, over the medium that has the most potential for advice. So what if it gets me labeled as a "emo" kid.

So last time I mentioned that I have a tendency to try to do things by myself, even if it's not necessarily the best idea at the time. For example, I moved my TV and its stand up to my second floor apartment all by myself (it's a 37" LCD, so not the worst it could've been). Looking back at my admittedly short-so-far life, I think I know why this is.

I picked it up during my K-12 days. I was always one of the best performers throughout my schooling and I was always irritated by how slow some people seemed. I got griped at during "read-aloud" sessions of class because I read in my head faster than another kid did aloud; this meant that when I got called on to read, I may have read the section in question, but I didn't know where the last kid had left off. Anyway, those two attributes combined to make me highly likely to just do all the work if the group I was in didn't have firmly delineated tasks for each member and/or the other members were disinterested in actually doing the work.

That changed in college, when generally people (at least past the first year or so) were as motivated to get things done as I was. It didn't help me unlearn my bad habit though. I'd learned too well that I was the only person I could depend on to get anything done.

This is something I need to overcome as well, but I'm really not sure how.
(edited in prior to publication but after writing: for those wondering, this is probably going to be a 6 part series. I've written and set up scheduled publishing on 4 of them, and have "focus" topics for the other 2)

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May 7, 2008

Output, Part 1

As I've said before, I have some major anxiety issues. They've come to a head again today. Those of you who know me well, also know this isn't the first time it's happened.

Obviously, because of my anxieties I find it hard to talk to people. Mostly those I'm not familiar with, but also people in positions of authority above mine. That second group isn't too bad if they've managed to prove to me that they're normal people too. That sounds a little odd, but what I mean is that they've proven their someone who's been in the trenches - someone who's been where there subordinates are.

As an example of the former group: I once spent three days on a couple of beaches in Southern California and it wasn't until the near the time we left the beach that I asked if I could borrow someone's board - after the first day, we were pretty much on surf-only beaches too. For the second group, I only have to point to my immediate supervisor. I'm sure he's a perfectly normal guy who knows what I'm going through - I have reason to suspect he takes a while to open up to people - but I never see much of that (to be honest, I don't see much of him anyways since at most talks to me once a day). Since I haven't connected with him, it's hard for me to talk to him about some of the problems I have. A year and a half ago I had a project that was destined to go way over-estimate, and it took me breaking down - I was basically away from work for a whole week or so of sick-time - to get me to talk to him about, to get some help, and finally put the project to bed.

I've come to a point like that one again. In this case though, I'm don't think the issue is that I need help to bring things to a close; I just need someone to understand where I'm coming from. I work on the project for over a month and suddenly, after one demo with a user, my whole sense of direction on the project is swept out from under me. I haven't been able to find it since, despite the non-result of one poorly organized/unnecessary meeting and suggestions from my supervisor. I'm to the point that I'm thinking maybe it needs a fresh pair of uninterested eyes turned to it for a redesign/reorganization of ideas.

I honestly don't know how to overcome these anxieties, but they're there and right now they're crippling my ability to enjoy life and do my job.

This is getting to be quite the ramble, so I'm splitting it up. Thanks to Blogger's recently added "scheduled publish" option, I should be able to type all of this up and then just schedule the pieces to let themselves out over the next day or so.

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This does not feel like a good morning.

In other news, Earth may have had multiple moons at some point.

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May 6, 2008

Random Stuff (1)

Apparently, Twitter is turning Japanese for some people.

A Florida judge has smacked down one of the RIAA's member corporations.

Peter Gabriel's servers were stolen from their data center. Apparently this isn't the first theft like this to happen recently.

That is all.

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Some Reminders

First of all, I forgot to mention something that was brought up last night at the FSDNUG: the upcoming (as in, this Saturday) Tulsa School of Dev. It looks interesting, but I'm not sure that it seems worth the ~2 hour one way trip without some company. Plus someone I know, even if they aren't walking, is technically graduating that day, so I may be tied up anyway.

Secondly, don't forget: this Sunday is Mother's Day. I'm not a big proponent of gifts (this is mainly because then you're buying into the "just another excuse to get people to buy expensive gifts" aspect of the day), but you should show appreciation: call, visit, send a card - something to show her that you care.

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May 5, 2008

Going Mobile

So, tonight was the third meeting of the Fort Smith .NET User Group, and the second time I've attended. First things first, I got no swag. I suppose that's what I get for winning that copy of ReSharper last time.

Tonight's speaker was a someone from my place of work, a man by the name of Kerry Jenkins, talking about the .NET Compact Framework. It was a good, though quick, look at what is and isn't available along with some of the challenges involved in programming for the varied Smartphone/PocketPC landscape. Just some general notes follow.

  • Get access to Battery level and other system related information
  • Tap into the received SMS messages to trigger program execution. To more securely handle this than Kerry did, you'd probably want to setup the interception based on the "Sender".
  • PocketPC and Smartphone environments differ, although the Smartphone environment maybe a subset of the PocketPC environment.
  • Due to varying aspect ratios and resolutions, if you want to make a truly universal application you'll need to do some multi-platform setup and testing.
  • There are actually internal database setups available/deployable in the environment.
The most interesting thing Kerry demonstrated was small, roughly built application that saved off GPS data from his phone to an internal database and then posted that to his website, creating waypoint map of sorts. He chronicled a recent recruiting trip using it. Nifty thing was, he started it using a text message reading "start tracker".

While I was there in the room and while I've been typing this I was thinking: you could totally set this thing up to help you/the police track down someone who's stolen your phone. Like I said above though, to prevent erroneous starts, you'd want to tie the interceptor to the sender of the message, and then scan the text of the message to determine what to do. Once you've done that, if it's a "start tracker" message, start the application and periodically send GPS data to a website, a personal email account, or even the phone that sent the text message.

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There! Are! Four! Lights!

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May 4, 2008

Takin' it to the Streets

If you haven't managed to hear it or see it yet, GTA IV is out in full force. Of course, this has managed to pull a troll out of his cave.

Apparently, he's written a letter to the mother of the chairman of Take Two. I think this topic says everything on it's own. Suffice to say that I feel people need to look to the underlying problems and focus less on the more surface issues. It sickens me to think of this man making money/fame from laying the blame on society's woes away from their real sources.

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This is Serious Business

So, when I was writing my bit on Avatar the other day, a I had a thought I hadn't had in a while. It annoys me to no end that people can't see animation as a valid and serious art form. In a way, the same problem plagues the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres regardless of medium, but part of that concern is a topic for another post.

As I understand it, the argument goes something like this: "It was only used for kid's programming in the past, it can only be used for kid's stuff now." That's just a silly point though. It's the same kind of problem that actors run into when they have one major defining role: they get typecast.

Anyway, it's something that gets under my skin. Perfectly serious stories can be told in any medium, the same goes for funny/sad/exciting/etc. stories.

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May 3, 2008

The Hook

It's a good general rule of most media that your heavy-hitters are going to do something to grab your attention right away, then they're going to manage to hold you until the end.

I think Final Fantasy XII does the first well enough, but hasn't managed to do the second (and arguably more key element) all that well. It doesn't mean I won't finish the game, but I probably won't get as much out of it as I did the 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th installations of the series.

As to why I think this is, I believe I have issue with the fact that Vaan is 100% pure cypher in the story. It's not that other "main" characters haven't been cyphers to some extent, but it honestly seems like he serves no other purpose in the story but to represent you, the player as the outsider. To illustrate the point further let me take a look at each of those other games.

  • Final Fantasy VI - Terra. As a half-human/half-esper young woman, her history and her future were tied directly in the Empire's (and later Kefka's) plans.
  • Final Fantasy VII - Cloud Strife. Not as integral to the back story as he thinks he (futzed up memory and all that jazz), his connections to Aeris and Sephiroth make him key to the outcome.
  • Final Fantasy VIII - Squall Leonhart. His connection to SeeD and eventual love of Rinoa tie him into the story of the Sorceresses.
  • Final Fantasy IX - Zidane Tribal. His history as part of Garland's plans combined with his relationship with Garnet pull him to the center of the tale of two worlds.
  • Final Fantasy X - Tidus. So what if he's a bit of whiner or a girly-man, as a dream of the fayth and son of the latest Sin, he's wrapped up in this story even more than most of the above.
So, as someone without a love interest or a real place in the political power struggles of FFXII, Vaan just really doesn't keep me interested in the story.

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More Changes

So I guess I'm chickening out on writing about something more substantial yet again, but as you can see, I have been making quite a few changes here.

  • Profile Picture
  • Flickr Photostream (already mentioned)
  • Latest Tweets (yes, I'm on twitter)
  • 3 Column layout (biggest design change)

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May 2, 2008

Water, Earth, Fire, Air

No, not Captain Planet. I referring to the four nations of the world in the series Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Don't get fooled by the fact that it's a "Nicktoon" - this series may be focused on children, but it's written on many levels. I think that may be the reas that Nickelodeon hasn't aired it recently, actually - I think it draws the wrong demographic, which is to say: older teens and adults. Despite that, it's the finest specimen of dramatic writing in animation on American TV, in my opinion.

It follow the journey of Aang, last remaining member of Air nation (the Air Nomads), who is also the Avatar: the umpteenth reincarnation of the bridge between the material world and the spirit world. Destined to return balance to world, he and his friends journey across world so that he can learn each of the "bending" techniques - elemental manipulation crossed with martial arts - and try to bring peace to a world that's been at war for over one hundred years.

One of the coolest aspects is that each of the martial arts styles - one per nation/"bending" technique - used in the series is based on a different, real world style. And the major techniques used on the show are based on recorded footage, but not motion capture, of Sifu Kisu of the Harmonious Fist Chinese Athletic Association.

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MIT is a pretty big name school, but I'm sure you all know that. What's more interesting is their Open Courseware initiative, providing resources covering more than 1800 courses in MIT's curriculum.

In particular, I've come to enjoy listening to the lectures from a Fall 2004 section of Introduction to Psychology, taught by Dr. Jeremy Wolfe. It's quite an interesting course, though I'm more fond of the later lectures. The lectures are informative and at times entertaining.

If you have the time I recommend considering listening through the course, or one of their other offerings.

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May 1, 2008

Why I do this...

So, it's been a whole month and I don't think I've addressed my purpose here. First of all, I want to start a dialogue between myself and the people who choose to read this. If you know me in real life, you know that I'm pretty quiet. What you may not know is that I almost constantly have ideas and things I'd like to say running through my head. This is partly a place to air some of that too.

It serves two other purposes. I want to document some of the things I've thought about - too often, even with this blog, I think of things to talk about and manage to forget them. In the process, I'm exploring my own thoughts. Trying to nail down who I am a little better, I guess. Either that or I'm doing that for people who read here. Not really sure.

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Alright, we've got a few changes happening here. First, you'll notice I finally have a profile picture. Below that, I've added in a slightly modified flickr photostream. Unfortunately, I couldn't figure out how to get a nice one (I'd prefer something smaller and horizontal). If anyone has a suggestion on that point, contact me.

Currently I have two sets of photos up on flickr: a bowling night from a few weeks ago, and last night's going away party/get-together for Sully (who's leaving, as mentioned earlier).

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