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January-March 2001 (oldest-to-newest)
I spent Christmas with my wife's family this year. I
didn't fly home to my folks since I wasn't sure if any major
house crises would arise (thankfully none did). Maybe next
year. New Year's was spent at Lake Tahoe with some friends.
We did some skiing (we only go once or twice a year) and
played some games.
Speaking of which, just when the hell am I going to have
time to play all these games? Seriously. I received
Deus Ex and plan to buy a few more
PC titles (Sheep, the latest
Monkey Island game, and others I
can't remember). I haven't even started
Shenmue and still need to finish
Zelda. Then there's
Banjo Tooie which I have my eye
on. Oh, and I finally got around to starting
Grim Fandango. Yeesh
I got some good play time with
SSX over the break. Very fun game.
Thankfully it's not one that requires a monumental amount of
consecutive hours to play *cough*Zelda*cough*. So I can
intersperse it in whatever other game I'm playing at the
House-wise we're still unpacking, although that's almost
done. There's a near-endless list of improvements to be
made to the house, but we can do those slowly. One
extremely cool item we purchased was a new entertainment
center. This thing *rocks* if I may say so. It has a
space for a TV up to 37 inches (ours is currently 27).
Beneath the TV, glass doors house some 10 different
compartments for electronic gadgets. Right now we have the
Dreamcast, PS2, N64, NUON DVD player, input
selector, and VCR. Also, I've temporarily dusted off the
Genesis/SegaCD for some retro fun. The entertainment center
is a monolith of fun. I don't look forward to moving it
when the time comes. However, we've already forced
ourselves into getting movers for the other heavy stuff so
it's not a big deal.
Just for the heck of it I did a search for this website
kind of a super search engine that queries several other
engines and gives you all the results. Saves having to go
from one engine to the next.
Anyway, I happened on
which has a review of the OPSM issue which contained our
game. Unfortunately it's in Finnish (I think) so I can't
read the blurb about Decaying Orbit. Here it is:
Decaying Orbitia ei voi syyttää ainkaan ohjeiden
puutteesta. Niitä riittää itse pelissä, kuin pelin tehneen
Dragon Shadowin kotisivuillakin
(http://www.dragonshadow.com/decayingorbit/). Itse peli tuo
mieleen etäisesti Star Control 3:n, mutta todellakin vain
etäisesti. Pelaaja ohjaa pikkuruista avaruusalusta
laneetalta toiselle. Siinä välissä pitää tuhota muutama
määrätty kohde. Alusta voi myös varustaa paremmaksi, jos
lompakko antaa myöden. Oikein näppärä pikku peli, joka
pienistä puutteistaan huolimatta saattaa pitää otteessaan
jopa puoli tuntia.
I'm looking for a babelfish which will translate this
for me, but none of the ones I found do Finnish.
It sounds like CES has been a good one for us. We had a
good number of
releases including two new DVD manufacturers, more games,
and the first NUON-enhanced movie (Bedazzled).
We still have our nay-sayers
but with all the positive reviews our first two players have
gotten it's not difficult to ignore those misunderstood
I'm itchin' to start coding again. I have two games
brewing and don't know which to start first. I'll probably
continue with the one I started a few months ago (before this
As stated in the January 2nd update, I
broke out the Genesis & Sega CD for some retro fun. This was no
random decision mind you. I recently acquired a couple of new Sega CD
Good Deal Games.
These are games that were produced, but never published. The guys
at GDG picked up the rights and are selling the games. I haven't
tried them out yet, but I'm sure they will be cheesy and grainy just
like the other great Sega CD FMV games. Ah the memories of Night
Trap and Sewer Shark ("Okay, we go on 3. Ready? Three!")
Since I had the Genny hooked up I popped in Streets of Rage 2 and
went to town (SOR2 is on both of our All Time Favorite Games lists -
see the staff section). I only planned to
play for a few levels, but I ended
up getting sucked in and finished the game. Ah what a game. Nearly
perfect in every way. Too bad the sequel ruined several aspects of
the gameplay. I played that one for a while too, but got too
annoyed with it and turned it off. While digging around I found a
list I had made way back when SOR3 came out detailing what I thought
were the good & bad points compared to SOR2. I'll have to post that
One of the goals that Dave and I had way back when was to finish
SOR2 on "Crazy" difficulty with only 3 lives per continue. Let me
tell you it's not easy. I can't remember how long it took us, but
we eventually did do it. The thought of doing the same with only
2 lives per continue makes my head swim - "friggin impossible" is
the term I would use.
House stuff occupied my time for a majority of Sunday.
We replaced all the light switch and outlet covers from
their ugly plastic to a more elegant brushed brass. Also,
new towel racks and TP holders were necessary for all the
bathrooms (I don't think the previous owner replaced
anything *ever* over her 12 years living there).
Of course there's still more to do, but we're waiting
until after taxes. We recently did an estimate of how much
we will owe. I want to keep this clean, but geez-o-flip
it's a humongous amount of money. We sold a bunch of stock
to pay for the downpayment and will have to cough up the
dough for the capital gains. We had a good ride though.
Plus we lucked out into selling our stock right before the
big slide it has taken recently. Sometimes Murphy's asleep
at wheel I guess.
I got the current incarnation of the game back up and
running bug-free (as far as I know). All in preparation
for The Big Overhaul™. You see I sat down and stared at
the code like I have done many times in the past. It
finally struck me how I could vastly improve things. Not
only faster, but cleaner too. So I wanted to get
everything hunky-dory with the current code in order to
have a baseline against which to compare once the new code
is up and running. Should be pretty suh-weet.
I got the new engine up and running last night. Right now
it's pretty bare bones and probably riddled with bugs. But
it draws what it's supposed to draw and I'm happy. I haven't
spent any time with optimization yet since I want to get it
One bad thing about the new engine is that I realized I
couldn't do something I wanted to do. I was hoping to be
able to remove a section of code, which would have sped
things up a bit. Unfortunately I need that code in the new
engine too. Still, things are cleaner, take up less memory,
and should be faster once I get it optimized.
I did a spot of optimizing last night and sped up the
original code by 25% or so. It's still not quite as fast as
the previous version, but it's darn close. I have lots more
optimizations to do so in the end it should be significantly
I now have the current engine approximately as fast as I had
the original. It's hard to tell since I'm not sure how
functional the old engine was when I took the measurements.
Anyway, I think I can do a few more things to improve the
speed. Then I'll cram it through some test cases to make
sure it's solid.
I squashed a bug, the fix for which impacted performance
in a bad way. Still, after getting everything happy again
the new engine now soundly beats out the old one. Not by a
wide margin mind you, but there are other intangibles to
factor in. For one, the code is so much cleaner. Plus I've
commented the heck out of the thing so that I don't forget
what something does when I come back to fix a bug next year
Next I'll be working on what could be called a
post-processor. It will handle such things as coloring,
texturing, and anti-aliasing.
Now this is an unexpected development. I did some more
optimizations to the engine and discovered that the number
of objects I could draw didn't increase by a significant
amount. As it turns out, I've optimized the engine so
much that other factors (memory latency, etc) are becoming
I should have noticed this earlier. I have some code
to monitor engine performance in the program. For a lark
I deactivated it (gotta love ifdef's) and noticed that
performance wasn't that much improved. I didn't think much
of it at the time - I just thought that the performance
monitoring code was small enough that it didn't help/hurt
at all. Little did I know I was hitting this other
Always with the rose-colored glasses, I take this as a
good thing. This means I can add more features to the
engine without impacting performance. So last night I
added some code that takes some burden off the
post-processor (mentioned earlier). Woo!
I never watched the original Survivor thinking it was kind of
has captured my attention entirely. The reason I like it is that
whether or not you get kicked off the show is based entirely on your
own skill. Not some popularity contest like in Survivor. Plus, the
show is really interesting with all the games that they play and
things they have to do. Click here to get caught up on all the episodes.
Here's my opinions on the liklihood of each person being the mole:
- Charlie - Yes - He's my current "obvious" pick
for the mole. He doesn't sabotage the challenges directly, but he's
kind of cranky and gets the others riled up. It could just be his
nature, but it could also be an act to get the others on edge.
- Jennifer - No - Like someone pointed out in
yesterday's episode, Jennifer reacts emotionally. It seems a lot of
her reactions are spotaneous and real. If she's the mole I will be
- Jim - No (mostly) - I don't really have a reason,
just more a gut feel that Jim isn't the mole. His reaction to
Kate's potential betrayal was "well, who wouldn't have done that?"
which is totally what I was thinking. Incidentally, when Jim asked
that Charlie raised his hand, which further cements in my mind that
he's the mole.
- Kate - Yes (mostly) - I had Kate pegged from the
previous episode, but now I'm doubting that decision. There's some
tension between her and Charlie and I thought she brought it on due
to being the mole. Now I think it's Charlie that's bringing it on.
I think she could still be the mole, though.
- Kathryn - No (mostly) - Like Jim, I don't have a
reason why I think she's not the mole. It seemed odd that she
snooped in the producer's notebook when no one else did, but that
can tip my opinion either way. So I'm staying neutral for now.
- Steven - Maybe - Steven is so quiet most of the
time I can't get a feel about him. His lack of communication in
the laser tag challenge is a bit suspect. I need more info to make
a better judgement.
So I think either Charlie or Kate is the mole from being too
obvious, or Steven from being very subtle. I would be astonished
if it were Jennifer, and somewhat surprised if it were Jim or
I wanted to fix my misspelling of "January" as "Janyary" and
figure I might as well say something constructive too. This'll be
quite difficult since I've been sick the past few days. I had my flu
shot a while ago which really adds to my annoyance. Of course this
isn't the flu, it's just a cold. Still I would expect some minimal
I'm adding texturing to the rendering engine now. Hopefully I'll
have it working this weekend some time.
Funny how things work out. I spent some time thinking
about how to add texturing to the engine over the weekend.
I even started coding it into the renderer. I was hitting
lots and lots of corner cases though which was making me
quite nervous. Each corner case required more code, which
slowed down the renderer. I also had to make some
concessions about when texturing can be done and when it
can't, which didn't sit well with me.
Then I hit upon a solution that fixed everything.
Rather than put the texturing in the renderer, I'll put it
in the post processor. Not only will it make things
cleaner, but it will remove those restrictions and make the
engine a lot more flexible.
I don't have it up and running yet, but it's a rather
simple matter to do so. It's just that I've been feeling
the "game-playing urge" as they say (you know how it is).
Played a bit of Sega CD
and a bit of PSX
(Point Blank 1 and 2,
Konami Arcade Classics -
damn that disc is great). I would love to sink
my teeth into Grim Fandango
again, but every time I try the game locks up on me within
a few minutes. Very frustrating.
Last nights episode was awesome. The players have been away from
their friends & family for 3 weeks. It was cool of the show to fly
in someone for each of the people. It relieved some major stress
and let you see a different side of everyone.
Unfortunately I'm no closer to pinpointing the mole than before.
And DAMMIT Jennifer got axed. I wanted her to win the whole
thing. Now my current hope for winning is Jim. Here's my current
breakdown of the contestants:
- Charlie - Yes (mostly) - He didn't do anything mole-like
this time. In fact, when it seemed like they weren't going to get
the double cash they decided to settle for the regular money rather
than take a chance and lose everything. The producers of the show
can definitely slant each episode so you suspect a different person
- Jim - No - There's just no way Jim's the mole. In fact,
he's my pick for the next person to get axed, Murphy's Law and all.
Seems like the person that is most obviously not the mole each show
gets kicked off. In a way this makes sense though. The person
who is obviously not the mole has to decide amongst everyone else
when taking the quiz. On the other hand, everyone else can
automatically eliminate that person from consideration, making
their quiz easier.
- Kate - Yes (mostly) - Like Charlie, she redeemed herself
a bit in the first challenge. However, she insisted on swapping
with Jennifer on the meet-your-friend challenge. That seemed kind
- Kathryn - No (mostly) - I still just get honest vibes
from Kathryn. Maybe I just sympathize with her since she's engaged
to be married and I just got married (just? it's been 6 months,
how time flies).
- Steven - Yes (a little) - Steven is still a question
mark. He didn't seem too distraught over failing to get to the
hotel in time. Maybe the show is not focusing on him as much
because he *is* the mole and they don't want to tip him off.
I figured I should post a bit of info before my Mole update
tomorrow. I'm avoiding just about every news site about the show just
in case someone leaks the outcome.
I FINALLY finished Zelda last night. Holy mother of video games,
that last battle was one of the hardest things I've encountered in a
while! Luckily I happened to have all 4 of my bottles full with
fairies. I ended up going through 2 of them before catching on how to
beat that last guy. Thank goodness for the shield! Now I can go back
and finish up the side quests I missed (with a little help from
GameFaqs.com). I was only missing one mask at the end so there's not
too much to do.
I'm going out on a limb here. Rather than give impressions of the
four remaining contestants, I'm going to flat out predict that the
mole is Steven.
It's not that I know for sure, but I want to put a stake in the
ground. Steven is always quiet and suspicious looking. I'm guessing
that Charlie actually *is* a cranky guy. The way he snapped at Kate
and called her fat just rubbed me the wrong way. I hope he gets axed
soon. As for Jim, the producers definitely wanted you to suspect him
this episode. I'm not falling for it though. With Kathryn, she
seemed to fumble with the gun on the first challenge, like she was
really trying to shoot the guy.
If either Jim or Kathryn is the mole then they would deserve an
Emmy for their acting performance. To be honest, I would rather the
mole be Charlie because I don't think Steven has done anything
especially subtle or sneaky.
On the other hand, that's how I would play it if I were the mole.
In any group of people there will be conflicts. As the mole you can
just sit back and let those conflicts take over and let the
I don't know what the mole gets out of playing the game. I suspect
that we will be told at the end that the mole gets whatever money they
prevent the group from earning. Still, what's the incentive for the
mole to remain hidden? I still haven't figured that one out.
I felt like I would be eating my words until Charlie got offed from
the Mole last night. Playing the cranky guy would have been a great
cover, but it turns out he *was* a cranky guy. So Steve it must be,
or else Jim and Kathryn are both bang up actors. Of course they have
to draw it out by making it a two-part finale.
Worked a bit on the texturing code. It's not quite ready for prime
time, but it's getting there. We're heading to Los Angelas this
weekend so no coding will get done then.
The Mole finale is tomorrow and Wednesday. I hope they don't do
a cliffhanger thing between the two, but I'm not holding my breath.
I read that the one on Wednesday is just a reunion of the contestants
so it's possible they'll reveal everything tomorrow. Speaking with
some friends this weekend, they believe the Mole is Kathryn. Should
be interesting :)
As predicted, I didn't get to programming. I'm getting rather
frustrated with myself at the lack of progress. I have so little
free time now that it's difficult.
No friggin way! Kathryn was the mole and Steven wasn't as dumb as
I thought :). She played it almost perfectly I must say. She
certainly duped the heck out of me.
Whew! Life can go on now that that's out of the way :)
I systematically went through the 5 Namco classic discs and played
every game I hadn't already (and a few I had). There are quite a few
gems on those discs. Bosconian, Grobda, and Tower of Druaga are great
games I never played in the arcade. I especially like Tower of Druaga
since it has that Dungeons & Dragons feel.
I made some progress on the texturing code again. Shouldn't
be long now before I get a non-optimized version up and
We spent the weekend at a cabin near Yosemite with some
friends. Should have been a great opportunity for some
gaming, but it didn't happen. There was some Ready 2
Rumble 2 action, but I'm not a fan of the game so I didn't
partake. It was fun to watch though.
My French class ends this week and I'm probably not
taking it again next quarter since it ate up a lot of time.
Three hours of class plus another three-or-so hours of
homework a week. Not very condusive to other activities.
I've found nearly all the heart pieces in Zelda. When I
finish that I'll go fight the last boss again and call it
quits for the game so I can start playing Shenmue.
Once again I ran across the list I had made which details
what Dave and I thought are the good and bad points between
Streets of Rage 3 and its prequel. Streets of Rage 2 is the
best game of the type we have played. It's still fun today -
I recently broke out my Genesis and played through the
Dave and I had high hopes for its sequel. When SOR 3
came out we had mixed feelings about it. They improved
some areas while made others worse.
- Esacpe holds w/o using
specials - In SOR2, certain enemies could get you in
a headlock and the only way out of it without getting hit
was to use your special move, which consumes a small portion
of your life. SOR3 fixed this by allowing you to perform a
techinique that was in the original Streets of Rage, but
removed from SOR2. It lets you flip the baddie over your
- Use specials w/o losing life
- Each character has two special moves - one when they are
stationary and one for when they are moving. In SOR2
performing either one subtracted a portion of your life,
even if you didn't hit anyone. In SOR3, while the moving
special always consumes life, you can charge up the
stationary one and when fully charged it will not take life.
- Throw enemies off edges -
This is another feature brought back from the original SOR.
Throwing enemies off a ledge will kill it instantly. While
not very fair to the enemies, it makes fighting dozens of
enemies at once a bit more doable.
- Falling off edges does not kill
you - While throwing an enemy off an edge will kill
them, it will only damage you. Not very realistic, but it
makes for a more playable game.
- Rolling up and down - By
double tapping up or down your character will roll in that
direction. Very useful for evading enemies quickly.
- Running - Double tapping
left or right will make you run in that direction. Again,
very useful for escaping as well as providing a vehicle for
- Roo - The kangaroo was just
- Weapon uses (double moves)
- I'm not sure what I meant by this comment.
- Picking up weapons revamped
- Previously in SOR2 to pick up a weapon you stood over it
and press the attack button. While it works well, if you
are carrying a weapon and are standing over another one on
the floor, trying to attack an enemy will cause you to
constantly swap weapons with the one on the ground. The
new scheme gives a special button for picking up weapons.
- Ninja bosses - Not sure
what I meant here either, but I suspect they were cool.
- Enemies pick up weapons -
Previously when you knocked a weapon out of an enemies hand
it would never pick it back up. In SOR3 they do which makes
things more challenging, but not in a bad way.
- Use of 6-button controller -
More buttons let the designers stay away from having make
players hit multiple buttons at the same time to perform
- Don't have to "special" bosses to
death - In SOR2 the only way to beat bosses was to
use your special moves, which consume life.
- Background effects - When
you slam a baddie into the ground various objects in the
background will shake or react. Bottles fall off shelves,
chains rattle. Neat.
- Graphics - Improved over
the already great SOR2.
- Variety of enemies - Lots
of different ones.
They didn't get everything right though.
- Enemies inflict too much
damage - While bosses are expected to kick your ass,
just your standard punks shouldn't take off a third of your
life with a single hit. Very frustrating.
- Skate - I hated the
character Skate in SOR2 and I still hated him in SOR3.
Get rid of him.
- No Adam or Max - I always
played Adam in SOR and Max in SOR2 mostly because they were
the hardest hitting characters. Neither made a return
apperance in SOR3. Boo!
- Falling knife dudes - They
must be annoying if I wrote this down.
- Enemies pick up your food -
Talk about frustrating. You have a life-replenishing turkey
sitting nearby which you will take as soon as you get close
to dying. Then some baddie walks over and eats it instead!
What the hell were the designers thinking? The ultimate in
- Lack of hard-hitting sound
FX - The reason why I played as Adam and Max is for
the bone-crushing sounds their moves make. I cringed
whenever Adam planted his baseball bat upside a punk's
skull. And Max's backbreaker? Magnificent! By
comparison all the attack sounds in SOR3 are weak and
- Music quality is lower -
No memorable tunes here. Just a lot of repetition.
- Shorter game for 50% larger
cart - There's only 7 levels in SOR3 compared to 8
in SOR2 and yet the cartridge is 50% larger. What gives?
- Plot? - While you can skip
the cinematics between levels (which are nothing more than
slide shows), they shouldn't even be there to begin with.
Let me get on with the beatin' already!
- Level with ninjas (too many of
them) - It must have been bad if I wrote it down.
- Inconsistent life bars for
identical enemies - One enemy will have a short life
bar and another of the exact same type will have a
humongous one. What gives?
- Use of "x2" instead of stars for
enemy life - In SOR2, if an enemy has more life than
can fit in one bar, the excess is given by stars. One star
means one extra bar of life. In SOR3 they changed the
stars to a multiplier. Not bad, except the numbers are
hard to tell apart. "x2" looks like "x3" and "x4" looks
like "x1". Fix the font at least.
- Difficulty tweaking - It
seems they made the game more difficult by increasing the
damage enemies do rather than making them smarter or more
- Unblockable hits - Attacks
such as Roo's special where he sends out a flurry of punches
or the boss Soozie's attack where she slaps you quickly.
They're just annoying and frustrating.
- Sound cutting out - Didn't
happen in SOR2, shouldn't happen here.
- Guided missile can't hit
robot - Maybe they did this to make the robots
harder, but it just makes it more frustrating.
At the bottom of the page I also included some
suggestions for future SOR sequels:
- 3+ player action - The
previous games were always 2-player. Let us play with more
friends at once!
- Alien locales - While the
title of the game implies that you're fighting on the
streets, I'd love to battle some alien baddies.
- Bring back Adam & Max!
Sometimes you just gotta try. I'm currently making my
audition tape for the next season of The Mole. I know the
chances are small, but I figure they're better than winning
the lottery. And you never know...
GDC was last weekend and while I didn't get to go this
year (VML didn't have a booth) I did meet up with Bob Shand
and Nick Ferguson. I met Bob and Nick through the Yaroze
program. While the program has mostly died out now, we have
continued to keep in touch. In fact I probably see those
two more often than my own sister. Sorry sis!
I finally got my Mole audition tape done on Sunday. My
wife helped me out quite a bit as the first attempt I did
was quite dull and boring. I plan to digitize it and post
it at some point, but probably not until after the selection
process for the show is done. It's probably just paranoia,
but I wouldn't want to get cut just because I made it
available on the web.
I got into Tempest 3000 a bit last night. I'm pretty
lousy at it, but it's still fun. I recently learned the
advantages of hovering as I finally passed level 30. Too
bad you only get new passwords on every odd level. I died
on 31 and had to go back to 29 again. But at least I know
I sent my audition for the Mole via certified mail with
return receipt so I will know when they've received it. I
just found out that the deadline has been extended until
May 1st so I probably won't hear anything before then. (If
I hear anything at all.) Even if I don't get on the show
it'll be cool watching the next season knowing that it
could have been me.
I've been playing Grim Fandango off and on lately. Fun
game - AWESOME voice acting - so-so puzzles. A couple
puzzles I've solved just because I tried stuff, not because
I knew it had to be done. Still, the story and voices are
so great I'm just having a ball.
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