Archive for December 2007

Hacking the Wii

Published on December 31, 2007

A couple of guys have figured out a way to hack the Nintendo Wii, opening the door for better home-brew software for the platform. The way they figured this stuff out is pretty cool, and it should be interesting to see what kind of new software is developed now that the “Keys to the Kingdom” are available.

My dad and I both agree that it seems to be in Nintendo’s best interest to open up their hardware. Why they don’t do it, however, is beyond what we can figure. Maybe they’re scared of the game publishers having to compete against “open source” (i.e. free) games? It seems to me that having lots of great third-party, home-brewed software could only help your platform in the long run. Not to mention that it would open up the hardware to great uses as assistive devices (which would be great for kids with disabilities).

Digg on the Way Down?

Published on December 29, 2007

Is Digg.com on the way down? I personally find myself visiting the site less and less, turning instead to Slashdot and Gizmodo for my news and entertainment. When I do visit Digg, there’s little that I find appealing enough to digg. In fact, looking at my profile, I find that the last story I dugg was on December 12, quite some time ago. The majority of stories seem to be very uninteresting, or (more likely) stories that are already covered on other websites.

Even the Diggnation podcast seems to be degrading in quality. The show used to be solidly funny, but I find myself laughing only a few times per episode these days. I’d much rather have the higher grade content as found in The Totally Rad Show. Neither Alex nor Kevin seem to put as much effort into Diggnation as they once did, which isn’t too surprising. Like the saying goes, ‘All good things must come to an end.’

Nintendo’s Hardware Exploits

Published on December 28, 2007

One of the things I got for Christmas this year was The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass for the Nintendo DS. I’ve played the game for several hours now, and I wanted to discuss Nintendo’s usage of the DS hardware in the game. Never before have I seen a video game make such good use of the hardware it has access to. Link is controlled entirely through the use of the touch screen (the D-pad and buttons are hardly, if ever, used), which isn’t entirely a new idea; see Kirby: Canvas Curse for a previous touch-screen-only title.

What really blew me away (almost literally) was the usage of the microphone in the game. There are a number of places where the player has to take some action: call out to a character trapped behind a steel door, blow out a few candles, etc. The neat thing is that all of these actions require you to physically do something. When you are told to cry out, you have to literally cry out. When you are asked to blow out the candles, you have to literally blow onto your DS! Is this a genius idea or what? I know that Donkey Konga for the Gamecube used a microphone (where the player clapped their hands), but this is the first game I’ve personally played that makes use of this kind of hardware.

The game also uses one other hardware feature that helps to advance the storyline (I’ll do my best to avoid any spoilers here). At one point, you are asked to perform a specific task to help locate a hidden item in the game world. In order to do this, you literally have to close the lid of the DS, and open it back up. What?!? Unfortunately, the game didn’t give me enough hints to figure this out on my own (or I was too dense to make sense of the clues it was giving me). As a result, I got stuck at this particular point and ended up reading about how to advance forward (and I hate having to do that kind of thing). But this hardware hack really impressed me! It will be interesting to see if any other games make use of this technology; here’s hoping that they will!

The End is Truly Near

Published on December 27, 2007

If there has ever been proof that we are living in the end times, it’s this: Internet Explorer 8 has passed the Acid2 test. This is the scariest thing I’ve heard all year.

Interestingly enough, IE8 only passes this test in ‘Standards Mode.’ From what I’ve gathered through brief searching around the web, this appears to be an IE8-only feature that requires some ‘magic meta-tag’ to enable, though I’m only getting the sketchiest details. The comments in this post shed a little light, but not as much as I might have hoped for.

Savannah in December

Published on December 22, 2007

I have just posted a new photo album from a recent trip to Savannah, Georgia. There are some really interesting photographs in the set, so be sure to check them out. As always, comments are welcome.

Team Fortress 2 Statistics

Published on December 10, 2007

Valve recently released some statistics on Team Fortress 2. Like their recent hardware survey, some interesting items come to light:

  • Scout, Engineer, and Soldier are the three most popular classes by far (with a combined 49% of the total time played)
  • Medic is by far the least favorite class (only 5% play time)
  • Several melee weapons (the Medic’s bonesaw, the Demoman’s bottle, etc.) get surprisingly high critical damage percentages
  • The two most popular maps are cp_gravelpit and ctf_2fort
  • The least popular map is cp_granary
  • Red team wins 70% of the matches on cp_dustbowl

Lots of other interesting data is available for those interested. Some of the items I point out above are nearly opposite my own experiences. My least favorite class is the Scout, and one of my favorites is the Medic (I guess that makes me a more defensive player than most). I never use the melee weapons, and I really like cp_granary.

I’m hoping that Valve will rebalance the cp_dustbowl map, because I have noticed that the attacking team (blue) rarely makes it through all 3 stages. Seeing that red team wins 70% of the time is a clear indication that something needs to be done. As I’ve said before, this kind of statistics tracking is really great for solving these kinds of problems.

Emergent vs. Scripted Gaming

Published on December 7, 2007

There’s an interesting op-ed article that contrasts Call of Duty 4 and Crysis. The author argues that emergent gaming (player-oriented, as in Crysis) is the future. Scripted gaming (like CoD4) is the current norm, but it limits the player in a number of ways. Unscripted gaming opens up a world of additional possibilities, at the cost of a much more challenging development paradigm. I certainly hope that games become more unscripted over time; I had a lot of fun with the Crysis demo, and the unscripted work going into the Half-Life 2 world seems to really be paying off.

Call of Duty 4 Review

Published on December 6, 2007

I recently purchased Call of Duty 4: Modern Combat, and having finished the game, I thought I’d write a short review. I have to admit that I’ve only tried out the single-player campaign, though I hear very positive things about the multiplayer experience. Team Fortress 2 is eating up all of my online gaming time right now, so I doubt I’ll give the CoD4 multiplayer any attention in the near future.

Read the rest of this entry »

Monkey Album Updates

Published on December 1, 2007

I have made a few changes to the way individual entries are handled in my photo album. The URL for a specific image no longer uses the image filename, which should help the Google bot better index my photos. I noticed recently that none of my images were being found by Google’s indexer, and I’m pretty sure that the filename in the URL was the culprit. If you spot anything that’s broken, please let me know.

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