February 23, 2020
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Author: Blackshawk Send Me Email
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I Can't Feel My Torso

iMac - Dev Tools

Well, it took a little while longer than I thought it would but I finally got around to buying an iMac today from Best Buy. As I write the developer tools are being downloaded and installed (they don't ship on the discs anymore??).

After I'm done importing everything to this computer I'll probably give Xcode a spin around the block.

As for the computer - I'm in love. I absolutely love Snow Leopard (I was still on Tiger with my last computer) and everything feels much tighter and sleeker with the UI upgrade (since Tiger). My only beef is with the keyboard - I have pretty big hands (that's what you get when you're 6'3) and this thing is clearly for petite fingers. I think I'll be swapping this guy out with one of my others.

Posted on February 8, 2010 at 6:53 pm
Building An iPhone/iPad Game - Intro

I've had many pursuits over the course of my life and one the latest additions to my vitae has been to try my hand at computer programming. I actually do work as a PHP/.NET programmer now (weird mix but then..... I'm pretty weird) and I didn't think that adapting myself to building iPhone apps would be that much more difficult. So over the coming months I'll be chronicling my attempts to create a working iPhone game.

I realize that computer programming can be a harrowing topic for some people and is filled with technical jargon so for everyone's sake I'll post links to appropriate descriptions when I feel the need arises. Or just do what I do and Google it you lazy bum ;).

Starting Out

The first thing I'll need, obviously, is a Mac to work on. "But Jarrod", I hear you thinking, "this is a Mac gaming web site - surely you own a Mac!" This may come as a bit of backhanded slap to some of you but at the moment I don't have a Mac computer in my house that works. I have an iMac that I bought in either 2006 or 2007 that finally breathed its last this fall and I just haven't had the need or inspiration to purchase a new desktop computer when my life has become increasingly mobile. I have a Windows laptop (work) and two Pentium 4 towers that are both running Ubuntu Linux (programming work). No big deal - the Linux boxes will probably come in handy at some point as one is already configured as a file server and I already have a working Subversion repository (which will be invaluable later, trust me).

For hardware I'm going to buy an iMac at roughly $1200; the base model is more than adequate for my needs (I could probably get away with doing this on a Mac mini).

Software-wise I'm a bit easier off. Most of the development work will be done on free software: XCode, which will ship free with the new iMac (and can be downloaded freely from Apple's developer website, not to mention a whole host of other amazing development tools).

A game will obviously require graphics and having done some graphics work on the side over the years I already have Adobe Creative Suite 4 - I'm sure that at some I'll need to use other tools for graphical purposes. I intend for this to be a 2D game to keep things easy on myself but that's not to say that I might not want to toss the occasional 3D model in there for added realism. Actually, a lot of games that you think are 2D are actually comprised of 3D models - the camera has simply been locked into a single orientation (like the new Super Mario Bros. for the Wii).

A book. Call me old fashioned but I like learning things from books - the comfort and security of knowing that I have an official, peer-reviewed, tech-oriented publishing house approved programming manual is an indescribable comfort to me. At the moment I'm still considering options but I'm considering picking up a book on actual iPhone app development rather than jumping straight to games. I've never built a Cocoa-based application before and honestly I find the API a bit daunting so I'm going to be taking things slow and insuring that I have a decent grasp of the necessary concepts before I jump into the deep end. Cocoa apps are written in Objective-C, and while you might think that having done PHP and C# that I'd have an intuitive grasp of the Objective-C language going in.



int main( int argc, const char *argv[] ) {
printf( "hello world\n" );
return 0;

Except for the "printf" and "return 0" this is largely gobbledegook to me. Now don't get me wrong - I know my programming and I'm a firm believer in Object-Oriented programming and the MVC methodology but here's how I would achieve the same result in PHP.....

PHP (not that PHP needs a main function.........)
function main()
echo "hello world\n";

Unfortunately, I'm apparently used to the easy way of doing things and I probably have my work cut out for me. I shall persevere, however!

So that's where I stand for the time being. I'll make another post when I have an idea for a game (if anyone has any suggestions please post them!) or when I get the new computer and I'll detail how I'm approaching setting up the development environment.


Posted on January 29, 2010 at 10:15 pm
He's Alive!

Yeah - still kicking around here somewhere. Those of you who thought that you were free of my tyrannical narcissistic pontificating had best cower in fear!

Posted on January 12, 2010 at 5:09 pm
Halo 3 A March To Glory

As a warning, there are spoilers present in this review. I will not reveal the final ending, but expect major plotlines to be detailed here. If you don't want any part of the story to be spoiled for you, stop reading now.

Halo the Third the final, climactic chapter to the epic Halo saga. The pinnacle of the war with the Covenant, the rise of the Flood, and the final fight of the Master Chief to save Earth from utter destruction. I went into Halo 3 with a fully justified sense of excitement the first two Halos have been nothing short of glorious: gripping stories, superb gameplay, and stunning visuals. Halo 3 promised from the get-go to deliver on these unspoken promises from Bungie, and more.

The game begins with the Master Chief arriving back on Earth, and in spectacular fashion. At the end of Halo 2 we saw the Covenant armada in high space, as Earth's final orbital defenses were in their death throes in the intervening time the Covenant have landed sizable ground forces on Earth and have begun the excavation of a major Forerunner artifact under the surface of Africa. The Master Chief Petty Officer slips right into the action, bolstering the feeble human army with his three hundred kilograms of walking death. Even the Master Chief, though, is incapable of stopping the entire Covenant war machine by himself the confederate alien races quickly unearth their artifact, creating a portal to the "Ark", the structure referred to by the Monitor at the end of Halo 2. As the portal opens to the Ark, Covenant, Human, and Elite forces all enter to begin their struggle for control of the deadly world.

The Elites have forsaken their former religious beliefs, and, believing their Prophets to have betrayed them to the Brutes, align themselves with the humans in their struggle to survive and bring down the Covenant. As the war between the Covenant and the Allies (Humans and Elites) heats up, the Flood crash into the Ark and a savage three-way war for supremacy breaks out. As the Covenant hegemony continues their quest to light the "Holy Rings", their once mighty empire begins to crumble beneath the withering fire of the Allies and the overwhelming onslaught of the parasitic Flood. Their great capital, High Charity, has been wholly subsumed by the Flood, and the remaining religious leaders of the Covenant are hunted down and murdered by the Master Chief and Arbiter.

The storyline in Halo 3, however, feels rather weak compared to the previous two games. Gone are the beautiful, cinematic sequences that made you feel as if you were watching an epic movie. Halo 3 feels like..... a video game. Bungie has created a worthy game, rich and deep, but when compared to the first two installments Halo 3 underdelivers. The game's ending is satisfying, with every storyline neatly tied up just make sure you watch the ending credits.

Gameplay in Halo 3 is incredibly tight and fun. The controls have been tweaked to give players more fine control over their movements and weapons, and you've been zoomed into the action a bit more than in Halo 2. The game feels a lot more like the original, but with faster gameplay and more refined controls. The beloved assault rifle is back, but with a shallower clip and less accuracy at long distances. A heavier emphasis is on grenades and equipment this time around. For instance, you can carry up to eight grenades two of each type. Trying to win this game or multiplayer matches solely with bullets and you'll find yourself bleeding in the dust.

The graphics are mind-blowingly awesome some of the cutscenes are as realistic looking as a movie and each level sports an astonishing level of detail. A few naysayers have decried the game as not sporting graphics comparable to Gears of War I've already waxed lyrical about this foolishness before, and I'm convinced that only people who know nothing about game design spout this nonsense anymore. Gears of War features very tight, enclosed levels and environments, allowing them to pack more pixels into the visible space around the player. The environments in Halo 3 are frequently vast and open, and even then the graphics are gorgeous, particularly the lighting effects. I know several people (who shall remain nameless) that said the game looked like junk based upon its multiplayer beta textures the game has since been revamped, and the graphics in multiplayer don't look anywhere near as good as the campaign in all of its glory.

Halo has always sported beautiful sound, and Halo 3 is no exception. The great Martin O'Donnel (from the first two games) returned to create hauntingly beautiful music and incredible sound effects. Grenades explode with such force that you actually feel the concussion in the air, you can hear the crack of automatic weapons fire in the distance, the echoes of an exploding rocket ricocheting off a canyon's walls. The score, while not as epic as Halo 2's, is still excellent you'll hear nostalgic tones drifting eerily from your speakers as you war with the Flood, or stare down the sinister Prophet of Truth.

While on the subject of sound, I was sorely disappointed by the voice acting in this game. While the original Halo had passable voice acting (it was great at the time of release) Halo 3's voice acting is nowhere near as good as Halo 2's. I really felt that Bungie dropped the ball here. My first major disappointment was the removal of Michael Wincott as the High Prophet of Truth. If you played Halo 2 then you will remember his smooth, low voice that gave you chills as he mercilessly condemned the Arbiter, and called for the destruction of humanity. His replacement, Terence Stamp, has your traditional deep villain's voice, with no depth or eerily sinister quality whatsoever. The dialog was poorly written, and I struggled to find any emotional attachment to the characters whatsoever. The deaths of certain major characters truly felt, "meh".

Multiplayer is as good as Halo has ever been Halo 3 is clearly the pinnacle of the series when it comes to multiplayer. It brings back all the glorious days of the original Halo, while mixing in several of the excellent additions that Halo 2 brought. The gameplay isn't quite as fast as Halo 2's you definitely move more slowly but the explosive action more than makes up for it. The weapons have been more properly balanced (except for the needler, which is overpowered now, believe it or not) and several additions to the lineup have eliminated some of the unfair advantages that the previous lineups had. The missile pod has been introduced to counter the rocket launcher, the mauler to counter the shotgun at close ranges, etc, etc.

Co-op mode has been added, and was done very well. Gears of War had an excellent co-op system built in, but Bungie did it better. You can campaign with up to four players going at once, the host as Master Chief and your three friends as the Arbiter and two Elite cronies. With four players fighting, it has become a necessity to play the game on Heroic at the least anything easier than this will simply become ham and eggs. I recommend giving the game a once-over on Heroic (if co-opping) and then going back through on Legendary for a little extra spice (not to mention an additional cutscene at the of the game).

Two incredible additions to the game have made Halo 3 great the Theater and the Forge. The Theater is an option where you can go and relive the glory of any multiplayer match you've had recently. Had an amazing quintuple kill that you want your friends to see? Call up that game in the Theater and let them watch as you deliver the smackdown to all five chumps in a row. Even better, the Theater lets you detach the camera from your player and swing it to any angle that you want. This is another testament to Halo 3's glorious rendering capabilities you can truly see any part of a multiplayer match at any time, meaning that the map and all of its fine details are being rendered continuously throughout the match. Halo used to be about playing with your friends and having a good time, but now its about revisiting your past games and watching that scopeless headshot you pulled off over and over in slow motion. Even some of your more generic-feeling kills can seem truly incredible when viewed from the right angle.

The Forge is an interesting oddity, and one that takes a little getting used to. It is essentially a multiplayer match where you are in control of every weapon, vehicle, and object on the map. Items like trees, rocks, and structures are outside of your control but anything that can be picked up and manipulated in-game is potentially editable in the Forge. Pinned down by that Scorpion tank your friend is driving? No problem just spawn a missile pod or two at your feet and lambaste his metalness. Sniper keep nailing you from all the way across the map? Spawn your own, or better yet, simply transport yourself behind and deliver the beat down. The Forge is only available when you specifically select that game option from the main menu, so don't expect to be spawning a rocket launcher during that ranked Slayer match you're having.

All in all, I found Halo 3 to be a solid game that suffered from poor voice acting and a mildly weak storyline. A couple of levels in the campaign really began to bog down (I'm looking at you High Charity) with repeating elements and enemies that became more of a nuisance than a challenge. However, the game makes up for it with its incredible multiplayer and solid additions like the Forge and Theater. This game was built to last, and Halo 3 will undoubtedly be the multiplayer game for the Xbox 360 for years to come.

Posted on October 4, 2007 at 10:56 pm
Halo 3 Review is Cominggggg!!

Yes! Its in the works! But give me a day or two people, I've a busy life.

To the three people who emailed me asking what the game is like and when the review will be up, I can only say sometime this weekend. Patience!

EDIT: I hate me. I had the thing almost entirely ready when I got sidetracked and ended up quitting out of Firefox. Must retype.....

EDITTTTT: Normally I appreciate emails but one got out of hand. No more emails until the review is posted, and no more asking me when it will be up. I have a day job, you know.....

Posted on September 27, 2007 at 3:20 pm
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Ian Beck
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