Also 
2008.03.23 16:57 - Miscellanea, Philosophy and Religion
Happy Easter.
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Should have mentioned this a couple days ago 
2008.03.23 14:20 - Guns
If you're in the market for a new Sig-Sauer P229, P226, or P220, Larry Correia has some he's trying to get rid of, cheap.

I don't own a Sig myself, and am too cheap to take advantage of this deal right now (mind you, I'll be kicking myself later), but Sigs get consistently excellent reviews and, based on my research, he's at least $10 cheaper, after shipping and transfer fees, than anybody even remotely local to me. That doesn't sound like much, but I'm not comparing MSRP here.
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Quick Update on Videogames 
2008.03.10 17:15 - Entertainment, Microcode
So, about two weeks ago, I bought an X-Box 360. Probably not the best expenditure of funds ever, but it works, so, probably not the worst, either.

Halo 3 is, despite its warts, not terrible. Better, actually, than I'd expected, inasmuch as I've actually been entertained by the game, but not so much so that I'm prepared to deviate from my stance of the Halo franchise constituting the most terrifically overrated video games since Final Fantasy 70. This is not too say it's bad. Just that I don't find it super-impressive to somebody who's played FPS games off-and-on since Wolfenstein 3-D.

Lost Odyssey spends entirely too long on having you wander through towns to poke in vases and under posters, but became much better once I got out of the first city and got on my way. I'm still on the first disc, though. Incidentally, this game is an OCD nightmare. It's perfectly happy to drop large chunks of backstory on you, wall-of-text style, in random encounters here-and-there throughout the game. These text stories are unlockables, and getting all of them gets you an achievement. Whoop-de-doo. I'm missing more than I've got already, and am not planning on farting around with them for the time being.

Planning to pick up Eternal Sonata. The demo was great, and it looks like much lighter fare. Have a copy of Crackdown. Haven't ... err ... cracked it, yet. I'll come back to gears once I've got that EVA armor unlocked for Halo.

Footnotes
0. I actually liked FF7, but I'm hard pressed to call it the best entry in the series. Never mind that it signaled a huge change in visual direction, from the work of Yoshitaka Amano to the mostly forgettably interchangeable character designs that have followed, or the enshrinement of the terribly emo, androgynous male protagonist. It's a good game, and easily in the top half or third of the series, but I think it has done more damage to the franchise than benefit, if only because of the incessant howling of its fan(atic)s.

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ATTN: TIN FOIL HAT BRIGADE 
2008.03.05 14:23 - Entertainment, Internet Stupidity, News and Politics
Everything you think you know about US politics? It's all true.

(Maybe not.)
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X-Box 360: First Impressions 
2008.02.27 02:52 - Entertainment, Microcode, Toys, Actual Toys
The 360, like the Wii, has a mildly annoying and slightly cumbersome dashboard interface that allows access to the system's online service regardless of the individual game's intentions. This is both cool, because it lets me message or talk to, say, Pikafoop while playing Lost Odyssey, and mildly depressing, because it reminds me again that game consoles are fast becoming computers for the terminally dim, instead of being devices that play games. Otherwise, the experience is satisfactory, except that anything that removes wires from my life costs an arm and leg, sometimes without obvious cause0

So far, I've purchased three games: Gears of War, Halo 3, and Lost Odyssey.

Lost Odyssey is, basically, Final Fantasy, less Squeenix. The music is by Nobuo Uematsu, the story is by Hironobu Sakaguchi, the cinematics are endless, and we mostly seem to be a chocobo and a moogle shy of a game from the FF oeuvre. Well, and an angsty young adult of gender-ambiguous appearance for a protagonist. Our protagonist is instead an angsty adult appearing to be roughly middle-aged and at least looks like a man, if an awfully lean one.
Good:
Uematsu's music is like coming home again in an RPG. Most of the game is like that, actually, which makes sense given that the FF series are pretty much all the console-based RPGs I played in the 1990s. Intriguingly, all the cinematics appear to be rendered in-engine, often seamlessly.
Bad:
It took something like twenty minutes to get to the opening credits, and, in the following hour and a half, I have seen no combat at all. Also, I'm going to be really sick of checking every barrel, trashcan, pylon, wardrobe, poster and etc. for items by the time this game is done. The constant cinematics are, so far, distracting and cause some loading problems.
Weird:
The hats are very tall. Very tall indeed.
Overall:
On the one hand, it's nice to tread old ground now and then, and the indications thus far are that the game will be fairly traditional in many ways, including the turn-based combat. This is potentially a problem, given that the FF games were getting very, very stale (to me, at least). So far, cautiously optimistic, if I ever get out of the opening and on with the story.

Halo 3 is what it is. It's primary selling point for me is the ability to include multiple players in co-op play. From the couple of hours spent with the co-op this evening, the gameplay seems a bit pedestrian, and the control scheme exhibits everything I dislike about FPS games on consoles. None of this really surprises me: I've played other console shooters and I played the first Halo on the PC. It just seems disappointing that the premier FPS still exhibits the sort of gameplay that was disappointing me seven years ago.

Gears of War is a game I really, really should hate. The story is the sort of thing that seems to be written to appeal to teenage boys, following a Bad-Ass protagonist who Broke All The Rules, was Kept Down By The Man, but is Back, And This Time It's Personal as he and his Motley Crew must Succeed Against All Odds. It's gritty and dark, which, like bloom and the color brown (also in evidence), lets you know that it's Real. The weapons seems to be a crapshoot of fairly generic FPS weapons1 mixed in the with the odd bit of inspiration.2 The most generic stuff looks suspiciously like a real-world gun with a zillion pounds of nonsense greeblies tacked on the outside3. However, the game's controls are pretty solid, the cover system works pretty well, and the co-op is great fun. The bad news is that the game only allows one co-op player. Although you will almost always have a squad of four in the game, it looks as though storyline concerns mean that half your squad will be on rotation throughout the course of the game. Other bad bits? Well, aside from everything I made light of, the color palette really looks as though it were stolen from Quake. This seems all to be made up for with the solid gameplay, but! consult the manual for the controls. The tutorial seems to have glossed over aiming.

On the whole, it's positive. Gears is looking (to me) to be better than I expected, Halo 3 is meeting expectations, and Lost Odyssey seems to have a lot of potential.

Footnotes
0. I'm still not sure what's in the wireless headset that justifies paying $60 for something that appears to identical to either a bluetooth headset or a wireless phone without the featureset of either one, or why wireless ethernet continues to be an optional add-on.
1. This is the assault rifle, and the pistol, and the shotgun, and the other assault rifle, and ...
2. Chainsaw bayonet, and grenades on chains. Sure, okay. It's at least different.
3. I find the pistol actually offensive in its absurdity, as it possesses lines that appear to have been cribbed from the pistol used by Deckard in Blade Runner, but without any hint that the person who put the model together knew what a real gun should or did look like. The result is a 'snub' pistol that looks to be the size of a hamhock. Probably, we should believe it is chambered in something extremely manly and also impractical, like .50AE. Why any military would issue this thing as a standard sidearm, I can't figure. The actual sidearm of the future will probably look a lot like a Glock: blocky, ugly, and possessing roughly five moving parts.

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