I'm mad as hell and I can't take it anymore!|
After I posted links to my current games last week I got to looking at screenshots of Metal Gear Solid and Resident Evil DC. I couldn't get over how much better these still shots looked than what I was seeing on my widescreen HDTV no matter what mode I used. I had kinda resigned myself to it, maybe the Component adapter revealed the flaws of the older system's video.
Sunday I grabbed a nice looking entertainment centre to sit next to the RGB monitor in the bedroom and put it together. After I talked to Kelly yesterday I put a bunch of games together in it while I let her get a much-needed night of shut-eye. -wink- Then I settled in to play Metal Gear Solid again the way it was meant to be played--with actual alpha levels and higher resolution, non-dithered textures. The difference was like watching the sun set outside, or watching it through your grandmother's wirescreen kitchen door window. The sooner Sony dies the better gaming is going to be. It's moments like that I'm prepared to open my wallet to microsoft for that reason alone. Edit--I realise I'm starting to sound like a broken record on this so this is the last time I harp on it here. Unless of course Sony decides to take another dump all over my entertainment again.
The rest of the night (as long as I was awake, anyway) I spent stretching til I fell out asleep. Luna woke me up a few hours later demanding her dinner on my chest--which she got, but no, not on my chest.
I'm in the market for a home theatre sound system--any recommendations?
Posted on June 8, 2004 at 12:31 pm
Complete your mission, according to the simulation!|
This weekend was a comedy of errors with dad's sailboat. He had the whole thing planned to take it out this weekend--near as I remember, he cranked the engine about this time last week (for the first time since the fall) and it started right up. All he had to do was supposedly connect tab a to slot b and it would be good to go. That was last week--this week it was a domino-fest of breakdowns that prevented the champagne bottle from breaking.
But at least the sail is up. ;)
I am continuing to move through a massive backlog of games--mostly Xbox--that I haven't even opened and played. I keep coming back to the good old Playstation games, which still look like garbage on my HDTV... depressing. At least, until I put in Metal Gear Solid last night! I had spent most of the weekend trying to complete Resident Evil: Director's Cut (Arranged Version) before starting the GameCube RE--talk about frustration. Just seconds into Metal Gear Solid's load-up and I'd forgotten all about it.
I can also mimic an excellent Liquid Snake a certain someone can testify for.
I wonder how I might go about getting into the voiceover business...
Posted on June 1, 2004 at 11:30 am
|Halo: Combat Evolved
But is it, really?
As much maligned as the game may be in certain circles (i.e. amongst Mac users), yes, it definitely is.
Realise that you're reading the words of a die-hard Marathon player. Understand that I bought my first Macintosh at a time of the worst, most dire straits for Apple and gaming on the platform. Bungie's acquisition, when it happened, felt just as crushing to me as it did for anyone. There are blemishes in the history of Mac gaming. Halo is not one of them.
And this is pretty much the best time to review it as for a fairly standard G4 hardware user, the game is now--after updating to 10.3.4 and a handful of game updates--fully complete, presuming you have some powerful nvidia hardware (GeForce 3/4 Ti).
The translation from Xbox to freeform look-anywhere/aim faster mouse/trackball system has gone very, very well. Last year there was a lot of concern about placement of enemies and stage design--considering the control pad layout the game was originally created for, it was believed that with faster aiming and lack of auto-assist to targetting, Halo could become much too easy. I could understand the concerns, and even had my own doubts about the potential issues to game balance. Incredibly enough, they're not rooted atoll in reality--all enemies, weapons, items of interest and stage layout are complete clones of the Xbox original. Each stage is replicated down to the most exacting detail, and even if you manage to head-shot that Covenant Elite to his maker in a single snipe, you're not going to find Halo any easier just because you happen to have your desktop layout at you fingertips. This is really a testament to a couple of things--just how excellent of a job bungie made of translating their analogue first-person-shooter experience to a control pad, and their years of experience to creating exacting levels and objectives. The incredibly realistic, "smart" AI (which can actually be fooled) takes care of the rest--every time you play Halo feels like the first.
The graphics--this was the kicker that kept me from spewing a great deal about this title. As a longtime Xbox owner with HDTV in tow, I have to admit that as elated as I was to get Halo in my hands back in December, I was at the same time pretty darn let down. The game functioned like a dream, as I'd rather expected it to, but graphically the game was just solid, as in "didn't suck." It was obviously not as nice as the Xbox version. "Nice" included pixel shading effects, bump-mapping, detail textures, specular highlights to lit objects, and reflective surfaces. Knowing that almost the same hardware as my GeForce 4 Ti was powering the Xbox version, but couldn't do all these things was disheartening in the least, but for the trade-off of a DirectX optimised video engine rather than an OpenGL one, I had the consolation of still getting much better performance than my PC buddy at high resolutions (1024 lines, 1280, etc). Active camoflage looked very, very nice and the framerate at these high resolutions ran beautfully, even in a furious multiplayer fracas. A couple of updates later and the nvidia renderer gained bump mapping via pixel shading. The framerate for me took a slight hit (4-6fps) but the gorgeousness of the shiney, bumpy surfaces and detail textures were worth it. Surfaces were still not reflective, the specular effects were not complete, but the game finally looked genuinely like the beauty of the screenshots that I'd dreamed over for so many years in development. I could've been happy right there, and I was. In fact I was thrilled, right up til the last update along with the newest system version (10.3.4) that enabled reflectives, completed the specular effects, fixed a fog issue, and enabled FSAA for the GeForce 4 Ti. That last bit is the most noteworthy par--with 2x FSAA turned on all jaggies are gone. The screen becomes suitable for framing with no question of its graphical superiority over the nearly three-years-old Xbox title. Incredibly enough the antialiasing doesn't destroy the framerate, and my Mac benches at the same rate both with and without.
A friend of mine gets on my case for benchmarking all the time--with everything on including FSAA, I'm getting 31fps. There is still no way to benchmark the actual game or to turn on an fps monitor, but without the AI overhead I could only imagine multiplayer (even big maps with 16 players) being faster. Which just gets me giddy inside! Seriously, little things matter. It's not that I benchmark more than I play, but I want to be able to turn on the game and think, "wow. Just wow." And I can do that here, and still not lose a firefight for all the visual beauty... I gamed on a Performa 6400 for five years in college, I should have a right to expect these things. ;)
Storywise, it doesn't get any better than Halo. I don't personally understand how it's so hip to hate Halo for its story, "worse than Marathon" is a mantra that I've heard fairly repeated without much explanation, thought, or care. I personally feel a lot of the nay-saying Marathon fans who hate Halo's story aren't very observant. If you just stop yourself for a moment to notice things, Halo is rife with references and foreshadowing. In an interview bungie founder Alex Seropian once revealed the Master Chief is in fact the same character in Marathon; nobody knows how this is possible considering the history we know about each character and Matt Soell immediately tried to spin it away from the blatant obviousness of what was said. But I'm confident and patient that Halo 2 and subsequent entries are going to reveal a lot that even I haven't expected. Bungie are all longtime fans of the hard science fiction that fueled my own interest in writing and creativity, some novels that I read in high school were direct influences on Marathon and Halo. How is loving one mutually exclusive of the other? Heck if I know, but they're both superb; had the technology existed to carry exposition in cinema instead of text terminals, I think a lot of the Halo-haters would have hated Marathon, too, even if it kept the same story.
I've completed Halo on Legendary and I continue to play. Games this visionary just don't get old.
Posted on June 1, 2004 at 8:07 am
The time has come to talk of games and things.|
I set up my PS2 and GameCube with the HDTV last night. With as much moving around as I've done this is the first time I've used my own PS2 in the past two years. Why does that matter? Well those of you who know me know that I use RGB with as many of my consoles as humanly possible. People look at me funny when I tell them "I play my games in RGB," so if you are scrunching your nose up right now and the previous page didn't clear things up, read here for a more thorough handhold--I'll just tell you here it looks good. It looks damn good. No, it isn't HDTV. But an RGB image is miles and away better than the screen you've been playing your video games on, watching Friends on, or pretty much whatever you've done with a TV before the HDTV standard finally made it into our hands. Now that I have an HDTV I can still honestly say that for most video games, RGB is still tops for most consoles in a lot of ways and I really, really wish our American TVs supported it.
Anyway, I've been using Component inputs with both an EDTV and now an HDTV with my Xbox for quite some time. I had been using RGB with my Xbox previously, which had a godly appearance but the image was so good and so clear that it revealed some of its own flaws, like interlacing. This wasn't a problem with every game, but games that had very high resolution textures, like Halo, or games that had very fast horizontal movements, like Mortal Kombat DA, would exhibit the zipperteeth-like effect along edges of objects and textures. It would be very slight, very minute at only the briefest instants, but my spoiled, skilled retinas would pick it up every time, and it began to grate on me, which was why I went to HDTV. Once I had my HDTV, I could see some differences between it and RGB. The colour, I had not expected to be different--but it is. The same games do not have the exact same colour compared to an RGB image from the same game or games in question--it doesn't actually look wrong, but I have noticed a difference, one that's hard to quantify but it would appear that RGB has a brighter, vibrant saturation of the same colours. This is a little subdued with HDTV. The other thing I noticed was the motion--even interlaced Xbox games played via Component video on my HDTV do appear to animate much smoother. This has made the biggest difference in gaming quality that won me over. The third impact would be the resolution--most Xbox games are progressive so that's a large reason they animate better, but contrary to what you might expect the high resolution is the last thing you notice. There is a perceptible increase in the detail due to the progressiveness of the broadcast although the resolution is usually the same as the interlaced ones (480i/480p), it's just that you don't really notice the nicety of the finely drawn image unless you make an effort to... well, not to play, you kind of have to watch someone else play, or pause the thing, watch a demo or something, because it's tough to pay attention to this when playing yourself.
So anyway to sum all that up I've been digging HDTV, in spite of how godly my RGB monitor(s) has (have) been for all my older systems. I decided though, to use Component input with the HDTV for the current and upcoming consoles (PS2, GameCube, and Xbox) and keep the rest of them with the RGB monitor in my bedroom. I had just been having so much fun with my Xbox collection that I hadn't ever plugged in a PS2 or GameCube yet. Until last night.
I can't believe how bad Playstation games look on a PS2. It really is unbelievable. I'm really glad I didn't toss out the old Playstation. It's going to serve double-duty with RGB because even with the "texture smoothing option" turned on it looked horrible. I own a Sega Saturn. I remember back in the day, one of the biggest arguments against the Saturn that the Playstation owners bragged about was crisp clear video--meaning movies, and yes in general Playstation video playback was much nicer and clearer. But even movies that I viewed from Playstation games on my PS2 last night just looked god-awful blocky. Oh well. At least the HDTV is a big screen? Honestly, some of the 2D games like Gradius Gai Den and Castlevania looked almost as bad as RF signals.
Not only that though, I can't believe how bad Playstation 2 games look on a PS2! I'm starting to think the PS2 is one quickly engineered, sloppily made mess of circuits. Simple straight lines are never quite so straight (i.e. when they should be!), nearly every game I played had a highly noticeable dithering effect to the textures, and the blockiness along edges inherent with interlacing is in full effect here. It's like the only flaw of high-quality broadcasts in RGB is a serious, serious problem with the PS2 in HDTV, and it picked up a whole host of baggage along with it. I am going to try a higher quality Component cable for the PS2, although I am loathe to go to the "Monster Cable" level of expenditure, but the altogether shoddy quality of the PS2 broadcast is really disappointing.
That's the bad news. The good news is, my modded PS2 got fed lots of great Japanese games! Well maybe I should start with the bad first. I got Transformers Tataki, from Takara (developed by "winkysoft"...) because I'm a Transformers nut. I have the complete DVD series and almost every Transformers comic ever printed, I even have all of my old Transformers toys still, many of them boxed and everything. To say I love Transformers is a bit of an understatement. To say you will not like Transformers Tataki unless you are like me is even more an understatement. The rendered movie that starts the game is incredible. It's everything I dreamed about when I was thirteen years old, and more. The music is all original, seemingly "inspired by" Ford Kinder & Ann Bryant's theme, there is a sample of the heavy metal band, Lion, singing the theme from The Transformers movie which is used briefly and actually easy to miss if you aren't aware of it. Contrary to a lot of information I had read elsewhere about this game, it is in fact in Japanese--at least all the configuration screens and such were in mine. I may have the "Asian" version, as opposed to the Japanese one; I mention this because ordinarily, the Asian releases contain Japanese, Chinese, English, and some other languages for the Southeast Asian market. There may be an option to turn off the Japanese subtitles or substitute them for English--at least I sure hope so, because I actually plan on the self-flagellation that is playing this game to completion. The movies are all spoken in English so it's easy to undertand "the story," for what it is. But it is so horribly done, it is literally beneath the original Resident Evil 1 voiceovers. I came away from my half-hour spent with Transformers Tataki, not exactly wishing I had that lost time back, but my head was sore from laughing so hard. And it was still slightly cool. Sorta. Something tells me the game was made for very young Japanese children, primarily. It is really too simple (in addition to being so bad) to be targeted at anyone else.
The next two hours I devoted to the game you see here, Sega's completely remodeled Space Harrier. I have almost every version of Space Harrier ever made. I have it for the Sega Master System. I have Space Harrier II for the Sega Genesis. I have Space Harrier for the TurboGrafx-16. I have Space Harrier for the 32X, and once again for the Sega Saturn. Space Harrier was a wonder that took the wind out of me, a huge hydraulic seat of an amusement park ride that I didn't think I could dare to conquer, a pillar of my world at the age of thirteen. And I'll always be thirteen, as long as I can play Space Harrier. This Space Harrier is a remake and incredibly, after spending my evening as a thirteen year old, I think there's a lot to be said for it that no sequel has ever captured. Rather than try to stretch out the magic, Sega revisited it. The musical score is totally different as well, transformed into a synthetic, atmospheric J-pop anthem that, when the Harrier shouts out for your inspiration, becomes almost cinematic. This is Sega at their purest form--a force that Nintendo had nothing but legal defence against, a creator that exists for its own sake, and its games are played for the same reason, because it's a game. The magic is all there, every bit of it, the hairs that raise on the back of my neck and the tingle that trickles down my spine are no less powerful today than the first time I wielded a laser cannon.
And I don't even care that he doesn't say "Welcome to the Fantasy Zone!"
Posted on May 27, 2004 at 10:43 am
Sometimes you get what you pay for.|
I bought a vacuum cleaner last week.
Considering how small my apartment is (815 square feet) I almost didn't think it was worth doing, but the sneezing, wheezing, and red eyes in the mirror got the better of me a few weeks back. Maybe it was just springtime, but I felt like eliminating all suspects. I did some research at c-net, googled a few air filters, I even consulted my much maligned TechTV if you can believe it, and came to the conclusion that yes, a good vacuum cleaner was needed.
Everything that I had come across told me to steer clear of the air filters--they don't do enough work, or they don't at all filter the things that actually cause allergies. (Although there are some really pricey ones that filter out bacterials and other microorganisms.) I just wanted to be able to live in Miami like it was a pleasant thing, not sneezing like a winter in Canada. So once I'd decided to go with a quality vacuum cleaner I had another search-fest on my hands. At almost every serious destination, the Dyson brand was recommended the most.
Using my refund-ready credit card I went to best buy and got the Dyson animal hair vacuum, because between my cat and myself, surely that had to be the biggest contaminant. I let the vacuum percolate in the box for a week before opening. I cleaned around the apartment with it yesterday and let me tell you something, this vacuum really sucks.
In a good way. I couldn't believe all the hair I saw in the hopper at the very first sweep across my living room carpet. By the time I had finished with the bedroom, the thought of what I had been walking on for the past month or so (since I'd been here) made me ill. The Dyson line guarantees against losing suction, no matter how much garbage it pulls in--I don't know if I care to put that to the test or not, but I'm breathing a lot easier this week and my otc sudafed is going back in the medicine cabinet.
There may be all of two people who care about reading this, specifically (and maybe I'm one of them) but I feel very good about the five hundred clams I blew on the Dyson. :)
Posted on May 25, 2004 at 10:59 am
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