Saturday, December 31, 2005

Games - Civilization 4

Sid Meier's Civilization - one of the most highly-acclaimed strategy game series in existence. Any serious gamer worth his salt knows about it - whether he plays turn-based strategy games or not. And the fourth installment was eagerly awaited in our home - two out of four brothers were eager to play the latest update.

And Civ4 is in many ways the same game all over again. The basic premise is still there - explore, build cities, research technologies, kick other civivlizations while they're down, race to space, etc. But several other new features have kicked in, many of them adding a new layer of management complexity to the already complex strategy game. Great Persons, National Wonders, cultural expansion, luxury resources...well, I'm not sure if some of these are new since Civ3 - I didn't play that one much. The most important change has to be the streamlining of the interface such that it becomes easy to tell at a glance what a city is building and how long it takes for it to grow.

Anyway, as expected, the game is still incredibly engrossing. I sat down yesterday morning to "just give it a try", and after what seemed like a few short turns found myself contemplating whether to nuke the Arabians in the early 17th century.

So yeah, awesome Civ4 gameplay, as expected. I finished two games in short order, one took me 4 hours because the silly Germans and Spanish kept trying to declare war on me, and I had to be satisfied with a Time Victory. The second took less than two hours - full peace/diplomacy, science/culture all the way, never entered a state of war.

But I'm not playing it again. Why? Because the game's performance is crap-tastic! You can play smoothly found maybe 5-10 minutes before the game starts slowing to a crawl. Going to the lowest possible settings and quitting all running programs doesn't help at all. Apparently I'm not alone, as I've seen numerous message board posts lambasting Firaxis for the terrible performance of the game regardlesss of the system running it.

It's a testament to both the addictiveness of the gameplay and how much patience I've gained recently that I was able to finish two games at all. But as it is, I'm not playing it again until some radical performance improvment happens.

Maybe I can still find a copy of Civ3...

Friday, December 30, 2005

How Would It Feel to Be A Developer-Slave?

As I watched my brother playing the latest incarnation of EA's FIFA game, I can't help but consider that there must be a staff of developers over at EA dedicated solely to the task of churning away to release updates to EA's flagship lines of sports games year after year.

I wonder how fulfilling that kind of job actually is...

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Games - I Give Up On Dragon Quest VIII

Not that it's a bad game mind you. From the ten or so hours I've played it's definitely a lot better than the previous game in the series. And the voice acting is really great this time, with a bunch of British people doing the over-the-top voices. The battle system is still a bit simplistic, and the main quest seems very straightforward. From what I've seen, it's probably an above average game.

That's the problem. I don't have time for above average games. It was okay when I was still in school and had tons of free time, I could afford to waste my time with midcarders like Legend of Legaia or Wild Arms, but these days there are so many things competing for my attention (thanks DSL), and work sched is a lot more tight than school, so I have to be a LOT more selective in my choice of distractions.

And "above-average" just doesn't make the cut anymore.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Moving Things Around A Bit

I was getting a bit bored with the place, so I spruced it up a bit, switched some colors, moved stuff around. You know, just to pretend something's happening. And to showcase my sorely lacking UI design skills. :p Screenshot captured for posterity.

I also cleaned up some of the global files that were being accessed from fateback, since I will eventually drop that host completely. Right now, the external files used by this site are hsoted on my geocities account (which I should also organize/clean up in some way.)

For the curious, this site is maintained in several layers:

  • the blogger template - ideally, I shouldn't have to change this too often

  • an external javascript file - ideally, if I want to do small changes to the site, I'll just modify this and use DHTML to do it

  • an external stylesheet - ideally, if I want to make changes to layout, I just adjust this one

A while back I was also wondering if it was viable to use XSL transformations for a blogger blog...but I'm too lazy to try to figure it out now.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Music - Ultraelectromagnetic Jam

I'm no music critic; often I can't even carry my own tune. But I do know what I like, and I know I like the Eraserheads' music. If you don't know who the 'heads are, they're basically the Beatles of the Philippines, galvanizing the local music industry and serving as an example and inspiration to numerous other bands that followed after them. It's only fitting then that many of the current crop of Filipino performers pay tribute to them in the form of Ultraelectromagnetic Jam. This fantastic album features several artists performing their own versions of some of the Eraserheads best hits, namely:

  • Alapaap by 6-Cycle Mind
  • Alcohol by Radioactive Sago Project
  • Ang Huling El Bimbo by Rico J Puno
  • Hard to Believe by Cueshé
  • Huwag Kang Matakot by Orange and Lemons
  • Huwag Mo Nang Itanong by MYMP
  • Ligaya by Kitchie Nadal
  • Magasin by Paolo Santos
  • Maling Akala by Brownman Revival
  • Overdrive by Barbie Almabis
  • Pare Ko by Sponge Cola
  • Spoliarium by Imago
  • Superproxy by Francis M.
  • Tikman by Sugarfree
  • Torpedo by Isha
  • Para sa Masa by all of them!

I wanted to comment on each track separately, but I'm too lazy :p They're all pretty good, mostly because the originals were great in the first place. Paolo Santos carried Magasin surprisingly well, and Superproxy was just the right track for Francis M. Radioactive Sago's Alcohol is hilarious, and I like the way Orange and Lemons mixed a little bit of Julie Tearjerky and Tikman in Huwag Kang Matakot. I also think I actually like Cueshé's version of Hard To Believe better than the original. My least favorite track on the album is Kitchie Nadal's Ligaya, (cute laugh on the "inaahit" bit notwithstanding) as I really prefer the more upbeat original.

I wish more bands had contributed to the effort though, as the 'heads probably deserve it. According to my brother, the participating artists were all from the same recording studio (I don't really pay attention to studios, so yeah I'll just agree here.) Still, it would've been nice to hear some renditions from 'heads contemporaries like Rivermaya and Parokya ni Edgar.

All in all, awesome album. If you have listened to the Eraserheads music at one time or another, go find a way to get it.

Monday, December 05, 2005

The Left Half of My Mouth is Numb, Thanks

I had three teeth taken out today, all of them deep in the bottom-left part of mouth. One of them was apparently a wisdom tooth that had lodged itself in a peculiar angle. That one required surgery (and was not covered by my health card).

When you're there, even when your mouth is numb, even if you're not really scared or anything, once you start to feel that pressure on your jaw, you can't help but be at least a little bit anxious. It's not so much whatever pain gets through the anesthesia that's annoying. It's the fact that you're mentally anticipating that pain. When you start to feel the dentist pushing and pulling at your tooth, you can't help but worry that somewhere, some resilient little nerve of yours has avoided the anesthesia and is just waiting to send you into a world of pain.

Luckily, not only is my dentist very good, but I'm quite comfortable with her, despite the often corniness of her jokes :p

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Random Java Programs

So, my brother needed to present 20 java programs for school. He didn't have to make them himself, he said. Just to print them out and submit them. (What kind of ridiculous compsci teacher asks for hardcopies of source instead of softcopies?)

Anyway, I said, sure. I'll make some, it'll be easy. After all, trivial programs shouldn't take me more than 5 minutes each right? It was true, each one didn't take long. But I spent quite some time thinking about what I would actually code. The usual suspects are there - Hello World, prime factors, factorial, simple arithmetic, palindromes. It was just harder than I thought making up twenty diverse trivial java programs to write. I'm not a teacher after all :p

Anyway, in case someone in the world finds these examples useful:

Twenty random java programs.

Comics - Batgirl

Cassandra Cain was raised as an assassin. Growing up, her father never taught her to read or write, only to fight. She grew up knowing only one language - body language. Her mind processes human motions as fluently as ordinary people speak their native tongue. She can see moves before they happen or read a person's intentions simply by following their movement patterns. She was an experiment to create the ultimate human fighting machine. At the age of eight, she made her first kill. Then she ran away. She wound up in Gotham, under the tutelage of the Dark Knight. She has become Batgirl.

I read through the current 70 issues over the weekend. It's pretty good. Batgirl almost always faces up against normal people - goons, thugs, mafia and whatnot. She's not metahuman either, but her superior abilities allow her to dodge bullets and kill with her bare hands (Not that she does kill mind you, but she CAN.) The fact that she's illiterate and basically ignorant of how to interact with the rest of society makes the comic all the more interesting and provides a lot of room for her to grow as a character.

The only thing I don't like about trying to follow a single comic series - crossovers. You read an issue, and suddenly there's several other comics you need to read to get the whole picture. I can see why they do it.