amethyst73: (mii)
I've been playing more Zelda - surprise!  The last(?) of the Twilight is banished from the land, and Link is in human form once more.



The huz wanted to play Ocarina the other night, and since I felt like playing a game as well, I loaded up Xenogears for the first time in a few months.  It was a distinctly strange experience in a few different ways.

First, in Zelda and other (at least semi-) real-time battle systems (e.g. Vagrant Story or Chrono Trigger),
the player gets to see all possible enemies on the screen and often has the option of simply not fighting them.  The random battle system of Xenogears feels distinctly weird.  It disrupts the player's orientation to the walkaround world, and attempting to escape battles works only sometimes.  In some turn-based RPGs, escape isn't even an option (e.g. Final Fantasy 7 for most of the game).

As a corollary, there are simply too many random battles.  The sequence of events the other night seemed to consist of: Take a step, maybe two.  Bam - enter random battle!  This sequence grew tiresome rather rapidly.  Now admittedly not all areas of the game are quite this bad and there have been times when I've been keen for XP or money when I wished the fights would happen more often rather than less.  I think the real issue is one of control: in Zelda, I have a choice about whether I fight some of the time , and I can see the possible fights coming most of the time.

The second difference is going to sound very weird to anyone who's familiar with my computer game habits.  I used to swear by turn-based RPGs (and similar games such as - heaven help us - Rogue), because I preferred games that depended on the character's ability to swing a sword rather than my ability to push buttons.  But I have to admit after a few months of playing Zelda that there's a certain immersive quality, an immediacy, that results from real-time battling.  The player pushes a button (or swings the Wiimote or shakes the nunchuk) and Link does his thing with minimal delay, giving a very strong feeling that it is the player himself who is carrying out the action.  The typical fight sequence in an RPG generally goes something like this : Press buttons to choose action (attack, spell).  Press more buttons to choose sub-action (attack or spell type).  Press yet more buttons to choose opponent.  Then the onscreen character does whatever you've told it to.  Fun though it is to see your giant robot (or character of whatever sort) whack those baddies, it doesn't feel very much like the player is doing the whacking.

Finally, the whole focus of gameplay is very different.  In Xenogears and other RPGs, there's not a lot of puzzle-solving.  There is a bit, here and there, but for the vast majority of the time, the idea is to get into fights and kill monsters, thus increasing your characters' stats, getting them goodies, and advancing the plot.  Which is fine - as far as it goes.  But as I've mentioned previously, there's quite a mix of gaming elements in Zelda.  For someone who never put much stock in being able to mash buttons, I find (much to my surprise) that I kind of like the occasional bit of platform-like play, and I've enjoyed most of the puzzles I've come across so far.  And, well, low-level monsters aren't bad to fight - or I can just run away.  The variability itself is really rather nice.

Don't get me wrong. The final dungeon in Xenogears WILL be pwned!  I'm too close to done, and I want to see how the game ends.  I bet it will be nifty.

... After I've taken care of this stupid horseback sequence in Zelda.
amethyst73: (mii)
... both you and the huz look at this fountain (90° view) and think:

"Okay, so obviously you're supposed to do a series of jumps up to the top, and then maybe the arc swings round, and a door opens to an underwater dungeon!"
amethyst73: (Default)

IGN has a pretty amusing Top list this week: they chose to determine the 25 Worst instances of game box art.  There are several apparent categories: too much flesh (male - e.g. Rambo), too much flesh (male+female - mostly consisting of heroes'n'heroines dressed in their Brassieres Of Protecting), plain old Bad Art (e.g. Wonder Boy, Mega Man, several others), inclusion of odd elements that have - presumably - minimal amounts to do with the actual gameplay (like the Appalachianesque banjo player on the cover of the space war game Phalanx, the bizarro baby face on the cover of Super Bust-A-Move)...

.. and finally, the "What were they thinking when they came up with the game concept?" cover: Ninja Golf.  A clear winner. 

As a side note, I'd never seen the box art for the home console release of the original Pac-Man (heck, I'd never seen the art for, much less heard of, most of the games listed, and I'm sure that's for all the right reasons), but I thought it had a certain charm to it.

I've now logged over 5 hours (yeah, woo!) of gameplay on Zelda: Twilight Princess and so I feel like I can make some early comments on the game.   
In non-gaming stuff:

- The boxes that arrived at work had everything!  And there was even a packing slip enclosed!

- The little lilac bush in our back yard, which has never had more than one spray of flowers on it (and more often had none at all) has FOUR SPRAYS of buds!!!  *happy joy dance*

- I bought myself new ice skates!  I'd been using my mom's old skates for a while.  Said skates were probably 20+ years old, and had no support in the boot above about the height of a pair of dress shoes.  Not useful when you're trying to do 3-turns and mohawks and stuff.  I'll probably spend the rest of the current session of skating classes just getting used to them, but it'll be a good thing overall.

- We had a lovely time hanging out with friends this past weekend, and listened to several chapters of At The Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald driving to the meeting point and back.  Delightful story.  But do move along, sir.  There's no religious symbolism to be seen here.  ;)
amethyst73: (Default)

Yesterday evening I caught sight of this headline over at Google News, about PS3s being used in distributed computing problems.  It reminded me about a project that the huz and I had been slightly involved in some time ago, largely due to his PhD work in simulating protein folding.  Vijay Pande's lab over at Stanford University has been running the Folding@Home project for some years now.  The basic idea is that simulating a protein folding over any reasonable length of time with any reasonable amount of accuracy takes a huge amount of processing power.  The folks at Folding@Home are running a system where small bits of the processing are farmed out to many many many individual computers all over the world.  The individual computers then send back the results of their itty bitty bits of processing to the main computers back at the Pande lab, and the lab puts all the results together.  It's a pretty neat project.

Anyway, it occurred to me that my computer at work is on all day, largely sitting and running a screensaver (if it's not doing something terribly exciting such as running an Excel spreadsheet - that's most of the work-related business that this computer does!), and that I could very easily put it to work doing something that's actually useful to someone.  So I've downloaded the graphical interface module and am currently watching a model of supervillin bounce around.

If you're more into space stuff than proteins, there's also the SETI@Home project, which I believe was actually first on the block to come up with the massively-distributed-computing idea.  It distributes analysis of radiotelescope data in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.  I probably wouldn't get into any trouble with running that at work as well, but I'd rather be running something which is a bit more closely related to what I actually work on.

If you've got some computing power to spare, do consider contributing to one of these projects.  If you start it running before you leave for the weekend, who knows what your computer might fold or find by the time you come back on Monday?  :)
amethyst73: (Default)

Two on the gaming scene, and one in real life.

Gaming 1: The Game Developers' Conference (GDC) was held last week. There were a number of things that looked pretty darn cool (like Mario Galaxy, which looks like the first true 3D platformer, and LittleBigPlanet, in which players can design platformer levels for other online players to mess with - the game has been described as 'a big toybox'). But I have to say that the very neatest thing was the demo trailer on this page demonstrating one of the key concepts for the upcoming Fable 2 RPG for the (sigh) XBox 360. In this half-hour video (don't say I didn't warn you!) Peter Molyneux demonstrates the bit with the dog. The dog is a fantastic bit of AI that, well, acts very doglike. And he loves the player totally and unconditionally. It's a wonderfully cool-looking thing.

Gaming 2: In Zelda, I figured out the business of getting a fish to the cat! The solution struck me as a bit less straightforward than it really ought to have been; perhaps the game developers just really didn't want to let Link equip a fish. (Can't imagine why not. Maybe they're waiting for the Monty Python/Zelda crossover game.) Anyway, Link now has all kinds of neat toys as a result! He's got a half-full bottle of milk (the huz is jealous; in Ocarina, he's found a potion shop, but the shop will not sell stuff unless you have your very own bottle in which to store the potion), a slingshot (and *enemies* all of a sudden - convenient that none happened to be about till a weapon was acquired), a sword, and - woo woo - a lantern. Now Link can finally find out what the heck he's got in his basement. Surely the kid lost in the forest will be fine while Link goes home and finds this out, right?

amethyst73: (Default)
I gotta say, this is one of the damncoolest things I have EVER seen.

Now it's time for bed.  :)

(EDIT: LJ has turned my 'w00t' up in the title to 'woot'.  Please read as 'w00t'. 

Thank you.  That will be all.)
amethyst73: (Default)

It's not quite that straightforward, of course.  And this is not going to be the clever, jubilant entry I'd originally planned on because lack-o-sleep is starting to seriously catch up.  But here's what happened.
amethyst73: (Default)
So, you remember the post last weekend about how we'd decided that we would get a Wii and all. 

After poking around online vs brick-n-mortar Costco, we found that no, in fact you couldn't just drive to your local Costco and get a Philips 23-inch LCD HDTV; Costco.com and the real-live stores tend to not carry overlapping inventory.  So we ordered the TV online, and got told it would take 2-3 weeks to arrive.  Fine.

The TV, rather astonishingly, showed up in two days.  It works, at least to the extent that we can turn it on and see non-reception, fairly low-def snow on it.  No, we don't have any receiver, and the thing doesn't have one built in.  No, we don't plan to acquire reception anytime, not even to see [personal profile] antoniusrex on Survivor.  Sorry.

However, the presence of the TV on our living room floor did get me to make a few phone calls around to the local sellers of Nintendo products, as pointed to on Nintendo's site. 

Result #1: None of the department-type stores (Target, Circuit City, Best Buy etc) would admit to knowing when they would get a shipment in.  Only our local EB Games and GameSpot would specifically say, "Yes, we'll have some on Sunday."

Result #2: If total non-techie Amethyst is calling gaming stores to ask about Wii console availability, you can bet that several hundred people in the greater area are doing the same thing.  The huz stood in line at both places. (One store said they opened at 11, the other at noon.  The one who said noon was mistaken - they opened at 11 too!)  I joined him in line at the second place... the first place having had 15 units, and the huz being twenty-somethingth in line.  The second place had 18 units, and, well, we were something well over 18th in line there.

Not surprising.  But I did pick up the useful piece of information that if some stores admit to having units in on a certain day, the chances are good that all the other local merchants will have theirs on the same day.  We heard from another gent in line that Best Buy, Fry's, Target, etc had all had units when they opened that morning - long gone by 11:45 or so, of course. 

Happily, both the huz and I are in the middle of other games.  He's playing Final Fantasy 7 (I get to watch over his shoulder for the interesting bits, and not have to wade through the random battles!), and I'm well into the second disk of Xenogears.  (No, not Xenosaga. Xenogears.  For the PS1.)  Of course, at the moment, it's mostly like watching a movie with the occasional bit of gameplay - [personal profile] hoshikage did warn me about that.  I think her hypothesis that they hit a really serious deadline oh, about a third of the way through coding the game is right.  Maybe more like a quarter - there's a really insanely high ratio of plot to gameplay through the second disk.

I'll be calling around later this week... seeing if I can find out when the next area delivery is.  Wish me luck!

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