Category: Games

Games a-Breakin'

I can't get Windows to boot at all on my main computer -- the Win8 preview doesn't expire until next week, so I think it's because I stuck my helper card back in so I could get a stable Mac boot. Which apparently means I can't get a stable Windows boot.

I tried to play The Walking Dead on the HTPC in the living room, but the controls don't map right on my Cordless Rumblepad 2, x360ce doesn't work, and my Xbox 360 wireless controller receiver seems to have died when I tried disconnecting and reconnecting it. I've got a third-party wired Xbox controller, but for some reason that doesn't work either.

And my Wii is now ejecting every disc I put in it.

Come on, games! I've been productive this week! I finished two submissions, scheduled a job interview for Monday, and have a potential programming position lined up for a few months from now! I deserve a little time to kick back and play games!

...guess I'll just have to work on one of the several dozen on the list that aren't Walking Dead or a Wii game.

Thursday

Stuck a new hard drive in my cousin's computer, biked on up to Changing Hands to pick up my copy of Circle of Enemies, grabbed a bite of dinner with my grandparents. A little bit of the ol' job search in there, plus some work on a couple of projects I'll probably talk about a little later. (And my uncle grabbed me a copy of Dragon Quest 6 as thanks for the computer work; on the list it goes.)

Tomorrow: Uncle Garth's military funeral and maybe a birthday lunch for Grandpa if he's feeling up to it.

Something weird about my cousin's laptop: the trackpad didn't work properly. At boot the left mouse click behaved like a right-click; on plugging in an external mouse, the external mouse would exhibit the same problem for several seconds -- and then it would correct itself, and both the external mouse and the trackpad would left-click correctly. (But only the external mouse would right-click correctly -- I never got the right-click on the trackpad to work at all.)

Drivers were up-to-date (and I tried uninstalling and reinstalling them) and the Toshiba Value-Add software was installed. Any other Toshiba users have this problem?

Wreck-It Ralph: Fuck the Haters

Finally got around to seeing Wreck-It Ralph today. And I must say, it was great; one of my favorites of the year.

I'd braced myself, based on reviews, for a movie that went off the rails after the first act and descended into poop jokes, product placement, and a completely different character's arc -- and an ending with a lousy message. But that's not how I read it at all; spoilers follow.

I'll grant that there was product placement -- hell, the climax revolved around Mentos. And there were poop jokes -- because it's a kids' movie with Sarah Silverman.

And the ending -- Ralph goes back to being a bad guy but now he enjoys it? I guess I can see how some people thought that betrayed the story's premise. Hell, I'd have figured they'd go the route of Ralph's clear inspiration, Donkey Kong, and make him a hero in a sequel.

But you know, there is something to be said for the message: you may have a lousy job, but you can find ways to make it better. There's a bit of Camus's Myth of Sisyphus to it; Sisyphus may not have a choice in how he lives, but he does have the freedom to feel however the hell he wants about it. (And it doesn't hurt that Ralph's coworkers finally start treating him right.)

I'll also grant that the movie spends an awfully long time in Sugar Rush, but the game proves to have a pretty rich set of environs after all. Indeed, it almost feels like they cheat a little bit, like there's a whole lot of stuff in there that doesn't belong in a racing game.

Then again, maybe it's a franchise. Maybe it's like in Mario Kart 64 where you can go off the track and ride right up to the castle from Super Mario 64. Maybe Sugar Rush is just one piece of a larger world. Don't know -- but it's even fun thinking of examples of games that make this idea make sense.

And as for Mario Kart, the racing sequence really does a wonderful job of evoking it. The tracks have a lovely design, familiar but different, and beautifully realized.

For all that, I'd almost grant that the movie peaks early, in its opening act -- except that my favorite part was the credits.

On the whole, sure, it's not perfect -- it's probably not even my favorite animated movie of the year. (Maybe my third, after Pirates! and ParaNorman. Yes, before Brave -- though Brave would be #4.) But you know, it's a movie that steps into the shared-franchise space of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Toy Story and actually manages to be a worthy entry -- maybe not as good as those two, but that it can even stand in the same league as those giants says a lot.

Motavia is Bullshit

Okay. So, big empty planet, with like four landmarks on it; the rest is empty desert with nothing but the same fucking three enemy groups, one of which you will run into every five seconds.

To get to where you need to go, you must:

  1. Talk to a guy.
  2. Talk to the same guy, a second time.
  3. Wander through the aforementioned big empty desert of constant annoying monster encounters until you find a cave.
  4. Go through the cave until you come up in a town.
  5. Talk to another guy.
  6. Talk to him a second time, too.
  7. Go back to the first town.
  8. Talk to a lady.
  9. Go back and talk to the first fucking guy again.
  10. Go back into the cave.
  11. If, and only if, you have talked to all those people all those times in that order, you will find a dragon hanging out at one of the dozen or so dead-ends in the cave.

So why does the fucking dragon not show up until you've done all that shit? Does he have, like, some kind of agreement with the village chief? Does he hide until the village chief calls him up and tells him "Hey, dragon, I sent some adventurers to go fight you"?

I haven't gotten that far into the original Sega Master System Phantasy Star. This is the PS2 remake I'm playing. But I assume -- hope -- this is merely a faithful translation of a profoundly stupid set of goals from the original 8-bit version.

But hey, memo to people making remakes? Automaps and item descriptions are awesome, but it's also okay to simplify down stupid, nonsensical bullshit so I don't wind up wandering the goddamn desert until I finally get pissed off and just look up a walkthrough.

Artificial Stupidity

I really do love Red Dead Redemption. But for all that it's a big open-world sandbox game, the actual story events have very little room for player choice.

See that guy running away from the creepy, slavering weirdo in the middle of the desert? Better lasso him and take him back! Otherwise you fail the mission.

Or what about the guy beating up that woman? If you attack him, you fail the mission. Instead you have to buy her freedom and then take her away, so she can go back to him and get murdered and you end up killing him anyway.

Or how about the guy who told you where to find Javier Escuella, only to lead you into an ambush and try to kill you? Looks like you've got him in your grasp, and he's telling you where Javier Escuella is, really for real this time! So before you ride off, you have the choice of either (1) killing him or (2) letting some other guys kill him. There is no option (3) consider the possibility that the guy who already lied to you and lured you into a deathtrap may be lying to you and luring you into a deathtrap. (Spoiler alert: he is lying to you and luring you into a deathtrap.)

I mean, John Marston is depicted as a pretty simple guy -- a self-described "half-literate farmer and hired gun" --, but he's not a blithering goddamn moron. He's just, you know, a character in a video game who is occasionally forced to behave like one in order to move the narrative forward to the next event.

ROM Collection Browser in XBMC Frodo

BTW, anyone using ROM Collection Browser who's just upgraded to the latest XBMC beta and found that the list of ROMs is completely blank:

Open up C:\Users\[username]\AppData\Roaming\XBMC\addons\script.games.rom.collection.browser\resources\lib\gui.py and find the following line, which appears twice:

self.addItem(item, False)

In both occurrences, change it to simply

self.addItem(item)

You don't need to restart XBMC, but if you've got ROM Collection Browser open, right-click out of it and then reopen it. That will get the list to reappear.

If you find that it throws an "Unimplemented method" error for executehttpapi when you try to launch a game, open up launcher.py in the same directory and replace all instances of "executehttpapi" with "executeJSONRPC". (Same as above: you don't need to restart XBMC, but you do need to restart ROM Collection Browser for the changes to take.)

Thanks to versus for posting the gui.py fix and fmonaca for posting the launcher.py fix on the XBMC forums.

(And yes, I am posting this at 12:30 in the damn morning. You know how sometimes you have a thought on how to fix a vexing computer problem and know it'll be gone by morning?)

Dragon Quest 1&2 SFC

I've occasionally been poking through the Super Famicom remake of the original Dragon Quest on my cell phone -- you know, when I've had downtime and haven't had my PSP or DS or suchlike with me.

First of all: man, onscreen D-pads suck, even for games that require as little precision as DQ. I have to savestate-spam just to get around the outside wall of Rimuldar without accidentally walking out.

Second: there's so much that's wonky about the interface of this remake. The stupid little half-steps you take instead of moving a full tile at a time, the bizarre decision to stick the action button on X and leave the menu on A (something they stuck with on up through 7 on the PS1!)...frankly I'm almost inclined to tip the Game Boy remake as the superior version of the game despite its inferior graphics and sound, just on its smoother interface.

(Also I recall the GB version having a more charming translation. I probably snorted out loud in class when I took the Princess to an inn and the keeper remarked the next morning that we'd sure been up late last night.)

(Yeah, I played Dragon Quest in class for most of CSE122. If you'd ever tried to sit through a lecture with that instructor, you'd understand.)

Fascist Theocracy

Zappa's legendary 1986 appearance on Crossfire -- pardon the audio quality.

I'd read a (maybe partial?) transcipt before but never actually sat down and watched it in its entirety. It really is quite astounding just how aggressively ignorant John Lofton is -- incest is a major problem in America because of Prince? Seriously? Jesus Christ. Good thing conservatives had their priorities straight -- not like there was anything more important going on in early 1986.

Douchebag of Liberty Bob Novak seems downright moderate by comparison.

Judging by the E-Mails I routinely get from the Washington Times (thanks to foolishly signing up for a mailing list from a local Republican politician I knew professionally in 2006), they have roughly the same journalistic standards today as they did then. But that's a story for another day. (A story titled Is Obama Ruled by Demons?)

The parallels to recent debates about adult content in video games should, of course, go without saying.

Ze Germans

Not sure if I'll stick with OpenSUSE for the long haul or not.

I quite like YAST but it doesn't have the level of package support that any given apt-based distro does.

And it's slow. I heard OpenSUSE was faster than other KDE-based desktops, but that hasn't been my experience, even switching from HDD to SSD. Firefox routinely pegs the CPU. So does Xorg (which I think is down to my keeping LibreOffice open most of the time). RSSOwl -- which does not have an OpenSUSE package and was a straight-up bitch to set up -- is frequently slow and unresponsive (good ol' Java).

So why RSSOwl, anyway? Well, I like to keep my RSS feeds synced across my desktop, my laptop, my phone -- wherever. At the moment I'm using Google Reader for that.

I used to use Akregator, but it doesn't sync with Google Reader.

I tried Liferea, but...well, it's coded by a guy like me. A power-user who wanted specific network functionality and isn't very good at UI design. It's missing such basic functionality as being able to rename a feed (a necessity when it chokes on as simple a thing as an apostrophe -- my feed list contains "Kurt Busiek's Formspring answers" followed by "Neil Gaiman's Journal"), and its syncing with Google Reader is spotty as well.

Also its name resembles "diarrhea".

So I tried RSSOwl.

Under Ubuntu, it was simple enough to set up RSSOwl -- had to add an external repo, but that was it.

There's no repo for OpenSUSE. There's a binary download, but here's the rub: it doesn't work out of the box. It requires xulrunner 1.x -- 2.x does not work. And OpenSUSE 12.2 doesn't have a package for xulrunner 1.x.

It took me ages to find, but I found a good RPM package of xulrunner 1.9. It's for Scientific Linux, but it installed fine under OpenSUSE, and worked once I symlinked libhunspell-1.3.so.0 to libhunspell-1.2.so.0 . It throws the occasional warning when I run updates, but I've been able to navigate those just fine.

And that's another thing about OpenSUSE: YAST's options, when it runs across a version conflict on a dependency, are pretty opaque and incomprehensible (and it frequently lists the same option multiple times), but at least it gives you options. Ubuntu's package management, in my experience, just throws an error and quits when it runs across that kind of conflict. So score one for OpenSUSE there. Sort of.

Still and all, for all I like about its configuration center/package management system, I'm having a hard time seeing OpenSUSE as Worth It. Maybe when I've got some time to do yet another damn reinstall, I'll give Mint a shot, or something.


Playing: Got in some good Arkham City and Mass Effect 2 time today -- after my job interview. Working my way down that list...