Thursday, September 30, 2010

One of the most amazing news pieces lately is that a planet called Gliese 581g has been discovered that is Earth like and is almost 100% likely to support water on the surface. This means that if the astronomers are correct the planet can sustain life.


This is an amazing find and the fact that it is relatively close (in the grand scheme of the Universe) at 20 light years away is equally astounding. This is just the beginning of our location of Earth like (or exoplanets as they are called) planets. Nasa has recently launched the Keppler Satellite which is specifically designed to locate planets similar to Earth in mass, potential atmosphere and distance from their star that is not too cold or hot for water to form (called the Goldilocks zone).

By tagging these planets as potential exoplanets further study can begin (similar to studies of Gliese 581g) to see if in fact there is atmosphere, water and potentially proof of life.

Why is this important? Well we cannot travel to these places, yet, but we can send signals, we can hypothesize on what kind of life is on these planets and we can grow ourselves further intellectually about the vastness of space and the universe.

I believe we cannot be alone, the universe is too vast, too varied and the odds that we are the sole 'intelligent' lifeforms amongst billions of stars and trillions of planets is a naive and small minded concept. Discoveries like these are sometimes decried as unimportant by some when compared to the issues that plague our world and people. I think instead we should look at all the advancements made when we discovered not so long ago that we are not the center of the universe, that the sun did not orbit the Earth and that the Earth was round instead of flat.

More knowledge of our universe, our neighboring worlds and what if any life we find on far way planets could end up enriching our world and people in ways no one could ever imagine.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

One of my favorite genres of all time is Space Sim games a la Freespace, DarkStar One and especially Wing Commander.

I have many great memories of the Wing Commander series. The first 2 games were pure Space sims letting you gain ranks as you killed hoards of Kilrathi and have upgraded ships. Wing Commander 3 and 4 introduced FMV video to advance the story featuring Mark Hammil as the titular Christopher Blair with Tom Wilson as Maniac and Malcolm McDowell as Admiral Tolwyn.

Decent story and acting, compelling events (Angel being killed, Tolwyn's suicide) made these experiences instead of games. The gameplay was a nicer looking version of the Wing Commander series and was pure magic. They continued with Wing Commander Prophecy which was average and not really at the level of the previous games. There was also offshoots of the series called Privateer and Armada. Armada was a simple strategy game that I played a lot of but Privateer was a true innovation. Giving you the ability to choose your path and trade as well as fly missions much like the classic series you had a great deal of choice with the quality Wing Commander engine.



There was a sequel to the game called Privateer 2: The Darkening which took the FMV route and featured an up and coming Clive Owen as the title character. IT was a decent game with a slightly muddled story and barely advanced gameplay. Since then there have been new games like Freelancer, Freespace, Darkstar One and others but the genre has been relatively stagnant and never at it's heights again since the WC 3-4 era.

Apparently there are some other passionate people like me out there and there has been an open source 3d Space Sim engine created called Vega Strike that is making the rounds. This engine will work on Modern PC's and an enterprising group has ported Privateer to this engine and called it Wing Commander Privateer Gemini Gold. This one is out now and I have hopes for another project that is a recreation of Wing Commander 3 using the Freespace 2 engine called Wing Commander Saga.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Just look through my posts and you will see how much I love my PS3, I am a Sony fanboy, I love the machine, love the games and love the controller, but hate the UI/Infrastructure most days.

The Sony Infrastructure feels much like a hodge podge, things like Trophies were added later and feel like it. When you want to load them or compare someone else they take forever to display. Achievements on the other hand on the X360 take very little time to pop up.

The big issue, though, is how badly downloads are handled on the PS3, from firmware updates to games, to streaming:

Firmware updates - Unless you are a PlayStation Plus member you have to initiate the download manually and oftentimes you don't know there is one until you try to play a game, then it forces you to do the update whether you want it or not. last night I received a Dead Space 2 Beta invite, in order to get it I need to sign into PSN, once I do it forces a firmware update, this one is for 3D Blu-ray support, which I cannot use, nor want! Oy, the update is huge (of course), the download is slow (despite my 10Mb connection) and takes a good 30 minutes.

These updates are bloated, happen way to often and are not distributed intelligently at all. Take a hint from Kojima Sony, add a torrent option for them so all the users who already have the update can distribute and share the load. make them happen automatically overnight, make them optional unless they are security fixes as well.

Game Downloads - There is a ton of content on the PSN now, the issue is how you get it. On the Xbox you choose the download, it comes down faster then lightning and as soon as it is downloaded you can play. On the PS3 you need to download (which is slow (of course) and then install the game separately. Completely stupid and a huge waste of time.
Something is wrong with wireless on PS3 - Streaming on the PS3 via the new Netflix is super easy to start but it stutters over wireless. My Laptop however streams in HD perfectly over wireless with never any issues. I am not sure if it is the PS3 adapter, the software or how it transfers the data, but so far I am disapointed with Netflix on the PS3, good thing I have HDMI out on my laptop.

Sony has made a great business and network out of copying the successes of Xbox Live and keeping some of their weaknesses away. They need to now go the extra mile and fix these last few things and then we will all finally have nothing to complain about...oh and add cross game chat of course.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Saw this great Tweet this week:

O+P+T+I+M+U+S = 15+16+20+9+13+21+19 = 113 is a Prime number; Optimus = Prime. Your mind = Blown Again

Since I hated Rodimus Prime from the original Transformers movie I wanted to make sure math was still my friend to disprove his existence.

R+O+D+I+M+U+S = 17+14+3+8+12+20+18 = 92 Which is NOT a prime number! Hot Rod should have never been made a Prime and this mathematically proves it was never meant to be!

Yes I am a nerd!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I was incredibly excited for Dragon Age: Origins and I did have a lot of fun with the game, but it was completely ruined by playing Mass Effect 2 in the middle of it. Mass Effect 2 was so much more polished, complete and slick that Dragon Age ended up looking clunky and clumsy once I returned to it.

It is a shame because the core game has potential and the world itself is truly amazing. I am hopeful that the more focused experience the sequel is offering will bring it to the level I was hoping to see. Regardless I played a shit ton of the game and am at the very end with no interest in playing the DLC (maybe Awakenings, but not at the current price) so this is the end of the game for me. The problem is the final boss.


All through the game you can approach battles in a strategic sense and generally you can find tactics that work against the groups you are facing. Whether it me a melee rush or a pre-planned spell blitz, if you thought ahead you could succeed. The Archdemon is a huge and very mean Dragon that can only be killed with sustained pounding. I have tried the fight many times (and saves can only be done before going to the keep which is VERY annoying) and it always ends the same. My party dies one by one and then after much attrition of health my main character dies.

This departure from the ability to plan and strategize really annoys me and feels like lazy design choices and is very disappointing. I will finish it, but expected much more from the game...plus as I mentioned it is a really, REALLY ugly game.

Monday, September 13, 2010

So I am a sucker for new technology and out of morbid curiosity I am interested in the Playstation Move motion controller.

The concept is simple now that Wii is a mature console and a fixture in pop culture. You have a main motion controller and an 'optional' navigation controller. These two things interact with your PS3 via the PlayStation Eye camera and Bluetooth for the Nav controller. They say you can use the left side of your DualShock 3 instead of the Nav, but I am unsure how comfortable that would be, hence the quotes around optional.


At it's heart Playstation Move is an HD version of the WiiMote and that is not a bad thing. In well done motion games it truly is a fun concept, but the poor quality and last gen graphics of most Wii games have made me never want a Wii. The added sensitivity and potential for Move support added to legacy games (Socom, Resident Evil 5, Heavy Rain) make this a much more attractive sell for me. let's not forget soem decent new games (like Sports Championship) that use the system.

Now to the issues I have with the hardware. Price, plain and simple. They are pricing the Move Wand at $49.99 and the Nav controller at $29.99. The camera is $39.99 and is necessary as well, games will be $49.99. There is a Move bundle at $99.99 which has the camera, wand and Sports Championship game. The problem is I have the camera already (hello Eye of Judgement bundle) so the Move is priced badly for me. If I want to enter the market I need to get the Wand, Nav controller and at least one game - $49.99 + $29.99 + $49.99 = 129.97 which is way to much money. And if I want to play with at least one friend I am looking at another $79.98.

Sorry Sony, this is priced ridiculously for a family friendly concept platform. The Wand + Nav should be bundled at 50 bucks and there should be a pack in game. This will get adoption and more units in peoples hands which is what you want. Hopefully pricing and alternate bundles develop in the consumers favor and then I will take the dive. At least there is a new and awesome Kevin Butler campaign in conjunction with the launch. Vikings FTW!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Great Googely Moogely, Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep is out and apparently all kinds of awesome. I am a huge fan of the series, especially the mainstream PS2 games, even though I have still not completed the game to get the proper ending. I have been trying for a LONG TIME.

The Portable games have always been a divergence from the series. Chain of Memories had a battle system based on cards, so no real action sequences you directly controlled. It was fun. I finished it, but it was an anecdote and not the game proper. 358/2 Days was so mind numbingly repetitive and bland that I could not care much about it. The tutorial reached FFXIII levels and lasted way too long before giving you your full abilities.

Birth by Sleep aims to change these perceptions. Featuring three new characters unburdened by Sora, Roxas and Co's backstory they can simply be Keyblade masters and interact in the world while affecting the overall story. It sounds great and looks even better:



The gameplay is no longer a gimped version of Kingdom Hearts, it is a full fledged action RPG with improvements apparently. When Square Enix gives games this treatment we have real gems like Crisis Core, Dissidia and now Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep. Cannot wait to pick this up and dive back into this unique blend of Disney infused Squeenix RPG goodness.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

I find it funny that huge franchises like Halo and Gears of war branch out to beverages, comics, novels and potentially movies but truly interesting games in the universe are foregone in favor of playing it safe. Halo Wars was interesting, but really nothing new was brought to the genre and the game itself was fairly vanilla. Here is what I want:

Gears of War tactical strategy game - Turn/real time hybrid with Delta infiltrating the enemy using tactics instead of third person action. You could deploy in a pre-planning phase and the action for the turn is real time (no turn versus turn, you tune the reactions and readiness of your gears). There could be dozens of mission types, environments and upgrades for the Gears. hell Carmine could even be in this one.

Halo action RPG - Think Mass Effect with the huge allure of the Halo Universe. Start with a new Spartan and progress through a conflict that results in him achieving glory. hell this could even be Master Chiefs origin story...

StarCraft action RPG - Hell we almost had Ghost, instead as described above start with a newly created Ghost that progresses through her adventure meeting companions gaining allies and eventually stopping a galaxy spanning conflict. The richness of units and characters gives this a huge base to draw from when creating the environments and scenarios.

There are many options out there and I would love to see more developers get out of the comfort zone for franchises and spread their wings a bit.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

I am going to take a cat lady moment and talk about the latest member of my family, an amazing and absolutely crazy bundle of fur called Indy.

I started thinking about a cat almost as soon as I moved on my own. I love cats and couldn't have one in the past so once the opportunity was there I seriously thought about it. I had trolled a number of the humane society sites but one day the girl sent me a link to a really cute female tabby located at a Pet Smart via the humane society. I went the next day to check her out but she was already adopted but her brother was still there. They mentioned he was actually a lot more affectionate and the moment I touched him he purred up a storm and curled into my hand.


The kids fell for him as quickly as I did and on June 12th of this year Indy became part of the family. I bought him and all the supplies and took him home and he immediately settled in, no issues feeding, no issues with his litter box. He is insanely friendly and almost from the start he cuddles with you and purrs louder then my Xbox 360. The girl fell for him as soon as she saw him and despite minor allergies spends many a night petting and cuddling the bundle of fur.

I mentioned he is crazy right? Well we discovered that on top of his insane cuteness and affectionate nature he has no limits on what he feels he can do. Climb on the table, your shoulder while you eat, repeatedly sniff at your food despite moving him off the couch. Hell he even has the gall to drink my beer!


He is also a very aggressive player and has many a cat fit running pell mell across the place, he has even vaulted across the girls book and my laptop using them as steps when zipping around. He frequently erupts into scratching and nipping fits, funnily enough not with the kids, but with the girl and I and sometimes he takes it too far. He recently lost two teeth and we think it is associated with that, but boy can he leave marks.

He also can fetch and loves to play that game. There are a couple of stuffed animals he loves, a little cat and rabbit we got him being the favorites. If you through it he will tackle the animal, fight it for a while then pick it up in his teeth and drop it on your lap. He loves this game and also loves to chase crumpled papers for long periods at a time.


At night when he sleeps in the bedroom he will play around for 5-10 minutes then settle next to me (always next to me) and curl up to sleep making body contact. He will generally wake up when the sun rises and want to play, but for the night even if I shift he relocates next to me and this amazing furry weight is next to me all night. When I am at leisure on the laptop or playing games by myself he will always curl in my lap (if he can) and purr away or fall asleep with me.

I lucked out with this cat, he has a great and quirky personality (he suspends himself on my screen and has climbed a fake rubber tree a number of times) but he is very affectionate. He has some loyalty and playful features of a dog, but all the independence and self reliance of a cat. He is amazing and a great companion around the house, the boys adore him and so do the girl and I.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Blogging is something I mean to do more of every day, but the hours and days go by at times in an alternating blur and molasses like crawl. Today I want to start with a recap post and maybe do another more geeky post later. First I am listening to a Mix of Prince B-Sides and Alternates and it is awesome.

So what has been going on you ask? Well nothing as exhilarating as Trapeze, but life has been busy. I had to work from home most of last week as my kids did not have any daycare available and we had to scramble to make sure they were cared for. This week we are in a similar boat, Mini B doesn't start school till Friday as the first week is staggered but the school neglected to remind parents. I worked from home today and have short days Wed/Thurs so I can pick him up. The older one is fine as his new gifted school is in full swing.

I was able to make it to the eldests school before he entered class for the first time and I could tell he was grateful to see me. He is a pretty stubborn and self sufficient kid but he has his insecurities and he knows he has trouble with people at times. He made some early friends and really likes the class. I had a heart swelling moment as he was brimming with excitement over his first day. I am fiercely protective of that little guy and I was really nervous with him in this new class, new school and new kids. He did me proud and I love him like crazy.

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Things with the lovely girl are going well. She is able to join me in Halifax for a friends wedding even though she has to take unpaid days and will join us on the Monday instead of the Sunday I am heading out. The geeks and I need to settle and arrange the night before festivities which ultimately mean getting the bride and groom drunk so we are there a day in advanced. I am really happy she can make it as we had a great time in Halifax and she is a great travel companion and all around amazing person.

In her neck of the woods the girl has been going through a couple of things with family and friends and she has been putting herself deep emotionally into these other people. I don't want to mention details as it is not my place to say them but she has a huge heart and is an amazing friend and daughter and I am proud of her and how wonderful a person she is. Nuff said on that, she is good people and I am lucky to know her.

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And as a tie in to both parts of this post is the fact that the girl and I have been dating for a while and while I don't think she or the boys are ready to meet I have been thinking of talking to my oldest at least about the concept of her. This is something I don't take lightly at all and will discuss with all affected parties before I do anything. Really all I want to do is talk about the idea that I am or might be seeing someone so he can ask questions or make comments. I owe that to him and don't want to surprise him or have them meet to early.

This has to happen eventually and I want to introduce the idea in a fairly slow way, how to do this and what the reaction will be I have no idea, but I know it has to happen eventually. Life goes on and his Mom and I know that we are better apart so the kids will see this one day from both of us. How to do it the best way is a mystery and something I will work through.

That is it for now, have to smile that the song playing now is Gett Off (Clockin the Jizz Mix), Prince used to be such a dirty little man. Now off to play some Gears of War 2 unless I get inspired to make another post.