Rockstar’s second episodic download for GTA: IV is coming in just two long weeks, and I anticipate this to be the best experience, probably outdoing The Lost and most certainly the original. This episodic brings with it the content which was, unfortunately, missing from GTA:IV. Coming back is the glitz of Vice City, the super-weapons of San Andreas, the all-purpose tank (re-imagined as a SWAT Tank, or APC), a larger variety of helicopters (including one based on the AH-6 Little Bird from Vice) and the parachutes for those dearly-missed BASE-jumping exercises.


And, if that’s not all, we will now be able to experience Liberty City from yet another perspective. Niko was an OK character, certainly nothing stellar and sometimes just an asshole. Johnny was great, someone I could really enjoy playing as, but his was a dark world. Luis, the protagonist of the new game, will be the body-guard and assistant of the titular character, Anthony “Gay Tony” Prince. Seems like we’ll now be able to experience Liberty from a different vantage point. Some places, a tough biker or an immigrant mobster just can’t get into (at least, not without a fire-fight or an invite from double-crossing politicians).



This week at work is a bit hectic: all of my bugs have to be fixed by Friday/Monday. (It’s technically supposed to be Friday, but if I get them in my Monday then all’s good.) So that brings us to a bit of a dilemma. For the past half a year or so I haven’t been working on weekends. At all. Yeah, a huge achievement, considering that before that, for the past two years, I’ve been at work every single weekend.

So, here’s the dilemma: this weekend I’ve got scheduled a writing session, a fair amount of Lego Batman, the new Mass Effect expansion pack, the new Batman game, programming my ray tracer (of course). A packed weekend to be sure. But then, if I don’t get my bugs finished off by Friday, that means that all the plans go right out the window. Sigh.

More on the individual things I’ve got planned for the weekend:

  • An ex-coworker is organizing a writing session. For some of us it’s about planning for the next NaNoWriMo, for me it’s about just practicing writing short stories.
  • I’ve been playing Lego Batman for the past two weeks and it’s really a lot of fun, even for a silly kid’s game. And for a silly kid’s game, there are some interesting puzzles in the game. It’s taking a while to get everything there.
  • A new expansion has been released for Mass Effect. It’s only 5$, so I don’t expect to spend a lot of time on it, but it’ll still be something new to experience. Can’t wait!
  • The new Batman game, Arkham Asylum, is really quite amazing. I tried out the demo just an hour ago and I’m very impressed. From the looks of it, there’s a large amount of stealth – sneaking up on unsuspecting enemies and ambushing them while hanging upside down – as well as pure kick-ass fighting.
  • I’ve been doing quite a bit of coding on my ray tracer application, and this weekend should be no different: I’m trying to optimize the application so it’s viable to add interesting effects and construct complex scenes. ATM, it takes anywhere between 4 and 35 minutes to render a single pig (3D pig-shaped object consisting of 7,000 polygons). That’s way too damn slow, even considering that the rendering is occurring on a dinky old laptop and in managed code. So I’m implementing some accelerators, like k-d trees, lazy initialization and caching some frequently-accessed data.

If only I could squeeze in a few other things, like dim sum, reading (haven’t been reading for a while now), getting mildly drunk, watching a movie, watching a movie while getting mildly drunk, etc. Ah, wishful thinking. Ooh, maybe Labor Day weekend. 🙂

Big Lebowski

I had to go shopping on Monday, due to being out of the country for 2.5 weeks as well as being sick. So I picked up a fair amount of groceries and some generic DayQuil (same chemicals as in DayQuil, so why pay the premium?). For the medicine, the check-out clerk asked to see my ID. She wasn’t recording it or anything, just verifying that I’m over 18. That seemed strange, so I asked why it’s necessary.

I like to mess with the clerks when they ask for my ID, mainly because of the way they ask: “May I see your ID?” “No, you may not. So, what now?” “Umm…” I also ask for their reasoning, as it seems sometimes there’s no good reason for asking for an ID. Same thing in this case.

So, she answers that there are ingredients in the medicine that can be used to make meth. Well, I knew that, which is the reason I was surprised that they’re only checking that I’m 18, not writing down my ID number to make sure I don’t buy 1200 cases of cold medicine a month. My reply is “So you want to make sure that no one under 18 makes meth from this?” To my dismay, the clerk was finished bagging my groceries and could now move on to the less-obnoxious customers. Sigh.

I really don’t expect a lot from clerks nowadays. I’m used to the fact that the tweens at Best Buy know less about the high-tech gadget than the parents of the teenager they are selling it to. I don’t mind that after a week or two of researching a DSLR camera, I know more about them than the guy at Circuit City. It’s obvious that the chains are (were?) sprouting up too quickly to care about who they hire: if you have a pulse and can direct the customer to the check-out line, you’re hired. But it would be nice if they people working at said check-out lines actually had an inkling into what they are doing.

Last time I was asked for my ID, when not buying alcohol, it was because I was buying “Dead or Alive 4” at Best Buy. As usual, I asked what the purpose of this particular check was. Seems Best Buy is getting on the wagon of requiring ID’s of customers who purchase M-rated games. Good for them. We don’t need any more under-cover “investigators” for the local nightly-news station claiming that any 14-year old can purchase a GTA or an FPS title.

A few hours ago I finally reached 100% completion of GTA:IV. What does this mean? It simply states that I’ve completed all missions and finished all the minor to-do’s, like meeting all important NPC’s, finding 200 hidden “packages” – which just happened to be pidgeons, and to “find” one I had to “shoot” it with a “gun” – and other minutiae.

Along with the 100% completion, I’ve got some other minor statistics:

  • 845 game points gained through 41 out of 50 achievements – the rest of the achievements are “complete the game in less than 30 hours” and multiplayer miscellany
  • Current money – 948,329$ (had 1 million at some point)
  • Times busted – 2
  • Times died – 57
  • People killed – 1718
  • Playing time – 97:26:04
  • Addiction level – Intervention Time (this is one of the statistics for the game, I kid you not)
  • Days passed [in the game] – 187
  • Cars stolen – 887
  • People run down – 1475
  • Miles on foot – 145.56
  • Miles by car – 1165.46
  • Bullets fired – 24,592
  • Verhicles blown up – 234

Now, I do have to mention that I also spent countless hours just messing around in GTA, not bothering to save after a series of rampages that put me in the hospital a dozen times and depleted all my ammo. That’s probably a quarter of the time listed above, and likely with more kills.

I just stumbled onto this list of Game Commandments put out by Cracked. Some of the mentioned rules include:

#7. Thou shalt let us play your game with real-life friends.

The advantage that consoles have over, say, PCs, is that you can play from your comfy sofa. The reason the sofa is considered the pinnacle of furniture technology is because there’s room for other people on it.

#5. Thou shalt not force repetition on the player.

Well some video games are like tossing cards: sports games, fighting games, racing games. The fun is in repeating and practicing them. But other mission-based games are like having sex. There’s a specific progression and goal in mind, and repetitive interruption only ruins the mood.

#3. Thou shalt admit when enough is enough.

No one has ever liked an escort mission, ever, in the history of gaming. So why do they still exist?

The average gamer has killed more Nazis than the entire Russian army. Where the hell are the World War I games?

Read the article, it’s fairly funny, especially if you’re a gamer.

I have one complaint I’d like to add to the list, as well:

#8. Allow people to map their keys.

I can’t believe that so many of today’s games are so anal about their control scheme. Honestly, is there a good reason not to allow people to, for example, switch the jump and the shoot buttons in Crackdown? It’s not like those values are hard-coded in the game. And if they are, well, we’re all up the creek at that point.

Some of the older games allowed us almost infinite freedom when it came to changing controls. Now, there are usually “profiles”, settings that affect the entire scheme and not individual buttons, but it’s becoming more common for a game not to present the user with any options at all, save for the obvious “invert y-axis” setting.

Why?! Will it cost you more money? Will it take away from the overall experience? Sure, some people might be painting themselves into a corner when they remap the controls to DOA4 in such a way that some button combinations are impossible or even dangerous to attempt, and maybe in such cases some structure would be nice, but let us make that choice!

That is all. I will now go home and play GTA IV, a game that offers no ability to remap any of the controls.

Yesterday I found myself outside a GameStop at 11:45 PM, waiting anxiously for the latest chapter in the Grand Theft Auto saga. The guy in front of me read every preview of the game, in fact he seemed to have read every word that anyone had uttered about it, and was more than willing to share. At 11:51 I was ready to kick him for peaking my interest in just the way that I attempted to prevent. See, I didn’t bother reading any reviews at all, just a few blurbs about the game on its WikiPedia page. I knew that I would go insane if I allowed myself to get too excited about the game.

It was a long 9 minutes.

Then, at 12:03, I was running from the store to my car, game in hand. I had it! Finally, after all the waiting and the anticipation!

Three and a half hours later, after a handful of missions, one date (we went bowling and she beat me), a dozen corpses behind me, two visits to the hospital and one arrest, I knew that this was a pretty good game.

That’s a compliment, actually. All of my previous experiences with the GTA games (3, Vice City, San Andreas) have started like this: I am new to the city, don’t know the lay of the land, have no idea what is and isn’t possible, am inexperienced in practically every way… Well, you get where I’m going with this. Basically, the first time I play these games, I’m not completely blown away. That comes a few weeks later, when I just begin to grok the scope of world, the intricacies of play, the infinite possibilities.

So far so good, we’re on schedule.

Oh, I do have to say that there’s an insane amount of detail in this game. At some point I stole a white SUV, slammed it hard against a railing and saw the side windows blow out, then slammed into a pedestrian at high speed. You know what I noticed after that? There was a nice pattern of blood spatter on the hood of the car. So much detail!

It’s been so long since I’ve posted here, and much longer since I’ve written something original, that I’m kicking myself. Well, sort of. I mean, there’s gotta be a reason why I’ve basically dropped the ball on blogging and couldn’t even remember my login for WordPress, right? In a few words, I’ve been busy. After the jump, more words about what I’ve been up to. Actually, it’s something like five posts all rolled into one. Though, honestly, it’s nothing interesting or worthwhile, hence the reason for not putting the whole post on the main page.


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