Went to the opening ceremony at 1:00 pm. We were treated to Minecraft’s backstory and the evolution of Mojang. We got to see some community stuff and a new video from the Mega64 guys celebrating and roasting Notch and the launch of Minecraft 1.0. At the end after we were introduced to the Mojang crew (still can’t see Junkboy’s face), Notch pulled the lever and formally released Minecraft to the world at large. I may have to start a new single player game again just to relive Minecraft from the get go and see how the game plays into the newer fantasy aspects that he’s been adding to the game.
Christmas is over. Everything’s back to business. I know I said that this month would be Nintendo DS homebrew month, but with family and friends and all the holiday jazz going on, yeah…that’s not really going to happen. As gung ho as I want to be about DS homebrew, I didn’t spend the money and time to come back east to sit in front of my computer to code. I’ve been spending quality time with the folks — this is the first time in a year and a half where the entire family has been back together again. We’ve watched movies together and caught up on each other’s lives. I had a lot of good homecooked meals including some succulent duck, ox-tail soup, and steaks.
And in-between those moment with my family, I’ve also been spending time playing Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass.
Hourglass is an excellent game. I enjoy everything about it and it’s my favorite game since Link to the Past — mainly because I missed the N64 generation of Zeldas and never got into the yiffie-brownish-bloom known as Twilight Princess. I played Windwaker and enjoyed it, but being all 3D made it a pain in the ass to move around and do things with some amount of fluidity. I like my top down Zelda and that’s what Hourglass gave me with all of the advantages of the DS implemented for good measure. The slideshow cutscene at the beginning outlining the Windwaker story is cute and funny. The stylus controls are superb — I caught on to them quickly and it makes doing everything in Zelda that much more fun and fluid. You point to have Link move where you want him. You click on enemies to fight them. You can even roll — though it’s a bit more difficult because of the touch screen, but I never found it totally useful — unless you enjoy ramming every tree in the game world to see what surprise it hides. But…Want to throw your boomerang? Draw a path for it to travel on. No, it’s not terribly realistic to have your boomerang do figure-eights or fly in an obscenely long twisting and turning curvy path, but it’s damn fun. The map annotating feature was awesome. I’ve wanted RPGs to have some kind of map notation system for a long time and with the stylus controls on the DS it makes that whole thing a snap. Some people complained about going through the Temple of the Ocean King over and over. Yes, when you go through the temple you have to actually go down the temple level by level trying to act stealthy. You can’t kill most of the enemies on any of the levels. Oh and there’s a time limit (the phantom hourglass). Does that sound extremely annoying?
Not if you took notes on your map. I hate shit like backtreading through levels or repeating the same shit over and over again — hence why I dislike most japanese RPGs and the grind-a-thons we call MMOs. The temple wasn’t terrible and I actually enjoyed going through it again and again and didn’t have an issue with it getting boring or repetitive — and once you get beyond six levels you get a warp to the midway point in the temple. I used the note taking ability to guide me back through all the solutions to the puzzles and annotate anything new I came across. So every time I ventured into the bowels of the temple it was like the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade — I followed the cryptic shorthand scribbles I left on each level map and it guided me to the solution. Fun, I daresay, and I like that this is a feature that isn’t forced upon you in the game — that is the game doesn’t judge you on how you do your note taking. It reminds you a great deal too through the NPC dialogue, but otherwise you’re left to decide how you will use the maps.
The multiplayer is a fun little diversion too. You play as Link or a set of Phantoms (they’re huge knights, or think of genome soldiers from Metal Gear Solid). As Link you try and get “force gems” ( i.e. triangle things that come in small, medium, and large and have increasing point values based on their size) and return them to your base and when you do, you get points. As the Phantoms the player uses the stylus to draw the path in which the knight should go. It becomes a small real-time strategy game where you try and corner Link and slice and dice him. Link can enter safe zones placed throughout the level to hide from the Phantoms. It’s a very fun, little strategic game. You can play with friends via the friend code system or just play anyone worldwide, which is what I usually opt to do. I particularly enjoyed griefing players. See, after they get points by collecting force gems, you can, when it’s your turn, go and steal those points. Being the jerk that I am, I liked to rob them blind and then chuck the force gems all over the place. Not only do they lose all their points but it’s a bitch for them to safely get gems since they’re scattered everywhere.
Oh, one issue about multiplayer that I wish Nintendo would address. Sometimes players find themselves on the losing end of a battle and suddenly the game gets slow and lo-and-behold your opponent has opted to leave the game. They don’t get penalized for that. So a message to all you quitters — and I don’t care if you’re 8 or 80 — you’re a quitting douchebag. Since there’s no way to call out the r-tards that play this game, I changed my user name from “albino” to “uraquittr.” I thought that was more appropriate without getting profane. I suppose this means that no one wil play with me anymore, since as soon as they see that name, they just quit, like the quiting douches they are.
I made it back east. I swear to god, United Airlines’ planes are falling apart on the runway. Everytime I fly with them their planes are always requiring extra maintenance. One day one of those planes will fall apart in the sky and I don’t want to be riding that, not unlike Albino riding Kasumi like a horse. Sorry ladies, but I don’t own that fine statue of Kasumi bent over fixing her stockings with her ginormous rack billowing in the breeze, that belongs to my brother. I do own the big headed rabbit riding her like a horse and he’ll tell you one thing and only one thing: “never bend over around an Albino! High five!”
I picked up Zelda: Phantom Hourglass on my way back. I was stuck in O’Hare for a couple of hours. Thanks to United’s delayed flight out of SFO I missed my flight out of Chicago by mere minutes. My consolation prize was to go on a pirate-y adventure with Link (who I named Albino) and his pirate chums. So far Zelda’s not a bad game. The ability to annotate maps is the next best thing in RPGs since Aeris getting stuffed through the back with a 10 foot long sword. Just like never bending over in the presence of an Albino you apparently don’t just randomly get on your knees and start praying either. Let that be a lesson learned.
I actually do like using the stylus for all of the controls. It’s easy to pick up and it keeps the action where it’s supposed to be: all over the screen. I have to admit though that I end up covering parts of the screen with my big ass hand as I play, but I can get over that. The ability to tap on monsters to attack them or to draw a circle to do a spin attack works really well since you’re already on the screen moving Link (Albino) about. I hear there are some repetitive and annoying parts, which makes me wonder if I’ll continue to enjoy the game, but I’ll find out as I get to them. The game puts all of the DS’s features to nice use. You can use the microphone to blow out candles, or start up windmills, or even call out to someone in one instant — which I didn’t because I would have looked like a big(ger) idiot at the airport for yelling at my DS, but thankfully it’s not really about yelling as much as it is about blowing into the microphone really hard until the event trigger is activated. The 3D is rich and beautiful for a portable game. Sure it’s not a PSP game, but damn it looks nice on the DS. It’s amazing what you can do with the DS hardware. From my homebrew studies I know the DS can support toon shading, fog, and up to 2048 triangles on screen at once, and they’re put to really good use here. You can annotate just about every map — your sea charts, town maps, and dungeon maps. One aspect of the map I enjoy are the geometric line-intersection puzzles that have you physically marking locations on the map and then extrapolating lines to find a hidden treasure. I haven’t done that in a game and it’s a neat little not-coded-within-the-game feature that is a side effect of drawing freely on the map.
“Work, work, work…” At least that’s what I think the Elite in Halo 1 was saying while trying to kill me.
But this Wednesday I’m going back to sunny and plastic Los Angeles to spend a couple of wholesome days smack dab in the ghetto, where I used to live while as a student at the University of Southern California. It’ll be like the good ole times except I won’t have any homework, which I wasn’t doing anyway — I swear to god, I still have some minor nightmares of being back in college and realizing I went the entire semester without going to class, taking a midterm, or doing any of the assignments. That was like that shit-ass-retarded database class I took, like I need more SQL in my life. It’s nice to be out of that rat race.
Who knows, maybe I’ll run into the General of God’s Army — I bought him some fried chicken at the Market 32 once, and I did it out of the goodness of my cold, cold heart. God bless that supermarket and the cockroaches that ran rampant under the shelves. The food was never bad, but I never once got posioned by their second hand wares and week old produce.
Super Mario Galaxy is awesome. I beat it. Here’s how lamer0z I am: that’s the first Mario game I ever beat. I had Super Mario Brothers, but I couldn’t get past Lakitu as a small child. His ability to drop spiked balls thwarted my stupid-finger joystick acumen and feeble young brain and I never did cross the threshold of level 4-1. I had Super Mario 3 (who didn’t after watching the Wizard) and Super Mario World. Played the hell out of them, but never finished either of them. I played Sunshine but the camera controls were terrible and I swore off games where the camera was total shit. I can’t stand running around and then having the camera face the backside of a blurry, low-resolution textured quad. If that’s your fear, Mario Galaxy has allievated it. The camera is 99% of the time, excellent. You can always see what you’re doing. You never have to futz around with the best camera angle or lining the camera up for a jump. You can just play, and that’s what I want to do. I don’t want to direct the game. I just want to platform. The levels are bite sized and manage to pack some mind-bending gravity defying puzzles. Excellent shit.
One of my good friends doesn’t like waggling the wiimote to do a spin attack or pointing at the screen. It makes me wonder, does Super Mario Galaxy really require the wiimote to be an excellent game? Most of the game seems to be playable with a regular Gamecube controller. Sure you can’t point at star bits, so you need a wiimote for collecting those. Waggling for spin jumps? Could they be replaced with just a “B” button press and we could all live happily ever after? Why not the waggle? I have to admit, sometimes when I was waggling like mad to spin jump and kill some enemies (and missing) I was annoyed that it wasn’t as responsive as I wanted it to be. I figured madly waggling would make Mario into the tasmanian devil but it only plays a pre-canned animation. Maybe if Nintendo changed it that the constant waggle motion would make him spin like a top the feature would be more in-line with what you’re doing with the controller. I liked point and collect for the star bits, the star pulling, and all that fun stuff. It’s really nice to be able to collect things like that.
Whoever says the Wii can’t do good looking graphics has to check this game out. Galaxy’s graphics are amazing. Everything is nicely lit, there are some shader effects at work to do specular highlighting, bump mapping, and making platforms appear metallic. Sure it’s not the Crysis Engine or Halo 3, but the color and lighting are amazing. Nintendo has a way of making a very unique look with their games and it’s such a breath of fresh air after the harsh and gritty worlds of Halo and Half-Life that I love to inhabit most of the time. I don’t know if I read the credits right, and if you beat the game, and how could you not, it’s not that difficult, check out the credits, I counted at least a dozen engineers who worked on this game. Granted those 12 folks probably had 5 years to work on the game and perfect every little bit of it engineering-wise, but come on, that’s damn amazing work.
Oh and I also enjoyed Rosalina’s storybook but then I like all sorts of fairytales. And Rosalina’s hot. There I said.
What’s the next game on my list? Assassin’s Creed.
P.S. There was a project I was working on for this month: Nanowrimo.org
I’m 27,000+ words into my 50,000. Will I finish? Will I let you read it?
So, finally, here’s the code I wrote for my Boid simulator in C# using the XNA framework. Keep in mind: not everything is optimized, documented, and so on and so forth. The code is probably ugly in general, and I’m not using the best C# coding practices. I understand how to code 80% of C# because it’s in the same family of languages as Java, C++, etc., but I don’t know the true ins and outs. If you are a C# aficionado with 1337 C# skillz or any other programming skillz for that matter and would like to pass on helpful information pertaining to coding in C#, why I would be very glad to listen and absorb your expertise.
I suppose I should release this software under some license. So I will. Not to screw you, the end-user, over but to generally absolve me anything detrimental that might happen to you, your loved ones, your pets, and your computer if this software horrendously goes wrong and say, kills you instead of performing the flocking algorithm. It’s a very slim, minute and improbable probability that such an event will happen but I can do nothing about the aberrant possibilities that may bring about these circumstances. So you are thusly forewarned.
The Boid Simulation code for XNA/C# is released under the “Courne Supremacy Licensing Agreement.” By clicking on the download link below you agree to everything I said in the second paragraph of this blog post:
Oh, now you’re complaining that you can’t run it. Well…you might also need to get the Microsoft XNA Framework Redistributable 1.0 Refresh download.
Or you can get the XNA Game Studio Express 1.0 Refresh and start check out the project workspace and modify the code and get yo learn on.