Monday, January 22, 2007

My Firstborn

Did I tell you Maria de Guadalupe gut punched me last week? Nearly doubled dad over. I'm not really sure I had it coming...

I was tickling Dulce and Alejandrita and grabbing onto them and keeping them from getting away.

So she comes into the mix to rescue them, and I grab her and we start tussling, but I'm still grabbing her sisters, as I know she won't actually leave them.

Her mother called her, or Jose Francisco fell, I forget which (I think it was the latter) and I wouldn't let her go, she told me to and I was tickling Dulce and didn't hear her, she got loose, I grabbed her upper arm and she swung around and nailed me with her opposite elbow, part accident part reflex.

I let go after that *chuckles*

Then, get this... at a public playground some pre-teen black boys were playing football. Well apparently they thought it was cool if they bumped into other kids while they did this around all the swings and slides and climbing sets.

Anyway one of them hits Maria in the right shoulder and she nails him - once again, in the gut - with her right elbow. He twirled a bit and stumbled, gave her this wide-eyed look, and ran off.

Another boy about her age decided to play tag with the girls she was with - apparently so he could shove them while tagging them.

He didn't try it on her but when a little white girl asked him to stop and he didn't, she warned him "You do that again I'm going to shove you." I asked him what his response was and she said "He didn't say anything." I asked what he did after that and she said "He didn't push them."

My Credo for Training my Judgment

From "The Painter, in Oil" written around 1920 by Daniel Burleigh Parkhurst

"Train your judgment. - Let us say, then, that you must train your critical judgment. How you to set about it?

In the first place, don't set up your own liking as a criterion . Make up your mind that when it comes to a choice between personal taste and that of some one who may be supposed to know, between what you think and what has been consented to by all the men who have ever had an opinion worthy of respect, you may rest assured that you (myself -ed) are wrong. It is when you have made up your mind to that, when you have reached the mental attitude, you have taken a long step towards training your judgment; for you have admitted a standard outside of mere opinion.

Another attitude that you should place your mind in is one of catholicity - one of openness to the possibility of their being many ways of being right. Don't allow yourself to take it for granted that any one school or way of painting or looking at things is the only right one, and that all the other ways are wrong. That point of view may do for a man who has studied and thought, and finally arrived at that conclusion which suits his mind and his nature, -- but it will not do for a student. Such an attitude is a sure bar to progress. It results in narrowness of idea, narrowness of perception, and narrowness of appreciation. You should try all things, and hold fast to that which is good, and even while holding fast to it, you should remember that was good and true for you is not necessarily the only good in true for some one else. You must not only hold to your own liberty of choice, but recognize the same right for others. If this is not recognized, what room has originality to work in?"

Neverwinter Nights 2: Nevermind

Neverwinter Nights 2 appears to be a disaster. I'll show my concerns in three parts...

1) The frightening "Top 12 Bugs/Problems in Neverwinter Nights 2" concerning online play and persistent worlds yields such highlights as:

  1. The DM Client crashes the server regularly. This makes it unplayable.
  2. The server itself tends to crash "quite a lot."
  3. There is no Linux server, nor will there ever be in all likely hood. Windows server hosting games is rare and expensive.
  4. The Toolset crashes so regularly I read of several people giving up until it was patched. I gave up "The Movies" for being buggy with large films and have yet to "go back" a year later.
  5. Disconnects while loading new zones: players experience this while changing zones. It's more than frustrating.
  6. Connecting to new servers should be easier than this 5 step process that involves manually installing a 3rd party application and configuring ini files...
  7. Network Use Spike: Random bandwidth killer times out players on the server.
  8. As with NWN1, Hak Paks and server specific files are loaded after you create a character, which means you spend time doing that before the server unceremoniously dumps you.
  9. Scripting commands give limited information about objects, some of which NWN1 had solved. You have to create a creature/destroy a creature to figure out the height of the ground, for example.
  10. The large size of modules combined with the 2 gig RAM limit severely limits the current modules. A module might take up 600mb of memory but still hit this theoretical limit.
  11. Builders updating the module make it next to impossible for players to rejoin, as it's not as simple as downloading the latest module file and finding out what files need updating is not automatic, let alone knowing where to put them. People are trying to make jury-rigged tools to circumvent this.
  12. Graphics engine bogs down nearly any PC for no good reason at all.
2) The game itself sucks. Atari told Obsidian to, essentially, "release it now!" and rather than say "But, it's not done" Obsidian meekly replied "okay." The ending is a single image with text on it saying the dungeon collapsed and everyone was killed, while the game starts with 5 CGI intros of the distributor, developer, Wizards of the Coast, etc. The game is so rail-roaded XP is doled out by scripts, not by in-game calculations. Even so the ending is so woefully unbalanced you have to reload constantly because every encounter rates as "impossible." Why? Because the game wasn't finished, and now it's dying so quickly it never will be.

3) I've heard that folks are pleading with players to not Uninstall Neverwinter Nights (1), because that actually works and there are Persistent Worlds still out there for it. That's nuts.

Supreme Commander Beta Review

Executive Summary:
Supreme Commander is, along with Company of Heroes and Rise of Nations, one of the best Real-Time Strategy games I have had the pleasure of playing. However, it's taxing to a $3,600 gaming rig.

Review Proper:
I found a MOD that allows me to play skirmish mode online, choosing how many and what kind of AI to go against, which is of immense value. I've played many games, one with a human ally, and here are my findings:

  1. Pharra's E6700 Core Two Duo (2.66GHz) cannot handle four players with a 750 unit cap, which is a notch above the default 500 unit cap. 750*4=3,000.
  2. There are up to 8 players in a game. 500*8=4,000. Pharra, a $3,600 computer, won't be able to max out the number of possible players in the game.
  3. Three players at 500 unit cap appears to work fine - I'm not sure what four at 500uc would do. So while 3,000 killed, 1,500 was fine, and hopefully 2,000 will be too. I'll have to test this.
The AI is refreshing because most games feature: Easy, Normal, Hard, and Cheats; Supreme Commander, on the other hand, offers flavors. When playing RTS games you're really interested in changing what kind of game you're playing against the AI - are you attacking or digging in for a defense? Usually you can only control this by hand-selecting what kind of maps you play or making your own maps. Supreme Commander allows you to choose AI's that rush, build up a great economy and then rape you, or turtle in a difficult defense (and also still attacks, but not as much as the other two). This makes Supreme Commander highly enjoyable.

In my playtesting, I usually played against a Turtle AI with one ally, a Balanced AI. The Turtle is more than capable of countering everything the balanced throws at it until the Balanced AI reaches tech level 3, and then it can get hurt. However, Balanced AI never won by itself, it always needed me to help tear town Turtle AI's incredible defenses. Never in an RTS have I seen an AI turtle so well, with force fields galore, and so many AA guns even spy planes can't survive. We're talking SPAM amounts of AA guns, it's just incredible. I sent my ultimate Spiderbot monstrosity supported by waves of airpower and it was annihilated before it could tear down the shield generators, or even get in range of them. Nothing survives. Turtle AI lives up to the name.

Where Turtle AI falls short is defending it's perimeter. It usually picks two or three main bases and bulks those up like Sumo contenders, and leaves its outlying areas unguarded. It will respond via airpower when attacked, but if you just SPAM air superiority fighters, you'll counter it's counter-attack and win.

Where all the AI I've played with so far falls short is Navy. On a map where Turtle AI and me and my Balanced AI ally were separated by water, neither attacked each other except by air, and I saw no major troop landings from air transports. On ground maps, Turtle AI killed me once by overwhelming me with lame Tech 1 and Tech 2 units after it had built it's impenetrable defense - I'd wasted my resources trying to get to Tech 3 and didn't have enough forces to stop him.

In short, Supreme Commander looks brilliant, but I'm saddened that the game is so taxing. After the poorly coded Oblivion and Gothic 3, it is the only game that slows Pharra down. If the release is just as bad, than it will be the first well-coded game to do so. (If you don't believe Oblivion and Gothic 3 are coded poorly, then look at their bug fix logs and research Oblivion's development for the XBOX 360 prior to PC release, and how much money was spent optimizing for the XBOX 360, not the PC).

Multiplayer Review:
This is for those who love getting their game on against humans. Supreme Commander is all about pacing and balance. Resources cannot be depleted, the only thing that limits your growth is how fast you are gathering versus spending them. With the games revolutionary cueing system, the likes of which I have never seen done so well before, this game flows like water.

As I am, now being a father of four, mostly neutered and don't care to OwnZor other males in videogames as much, I can't speak further. I will say that the possibility remains that this game will net an intense multiplayer following. Longevity is based on MODdability, and Chris Taylor (Dungeon Siege) loves to make his games moddable.