Things have been going quite well around here. We are, for the most part, completely moved into the new apartment. Our game room (seen above) is where we spend most of our free time. We’re still waiting on our Cozy Sac to arrive in the mail, but other than that this room is put together. I haven’t had much of a chance to put some time into producing any music, but I have a number of ideas that are formulating in my head.
I’ve also started writing a short story/novella, just for the hell of it. It isn’t an entirely original idea, but one that I thought was compelling enough to spend the time to get it down “on paper”. The main problem is that I’m not that great of a writer, so keeping it interesting AND making it sound decently written has been a challenge. Still, there is a lot of story to tell…since this is something I’m just doing for fun, I will probably do it slowly over the course of months or even a couple of years…500 words here, 1000 words there, it will get finished whenever it gets finished, no rush.
I’ve also recently started to go back through Fallout 3. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve played it before, or I’ve gotten better at gaming in general, or what it is…but for some reason, I’m finding it extremely easy. I wouldn’t describe my first time through as difficult, but it was certainly harder than this. With only five hours on my savegame, I already have a hunting rifle at 80% repair, a combat shotgun at 75%, a sniper rifle at 80%, a missile launcher at 65%, and a Chinese assault rifle at 75%. It took me WAY longer to acquire those weapons (and get them in that condition) my first time through. The first time I played it was when it launched back in October 2008, so it can’t just be because I remember everything…. ::shrug:: whatever, it doesn’t matter. The important thing is that I’m still highly enjoying it, especially since I’m doing quests that I overlooked before and have already seen a bunch of stuff I didn’t the first time through. Oh, and in this particular playthrough, Megaton remains intact:-)
I’m also currently plodding through Summon Night: Twin Age. It’s…interesting. Not really digging the all-touch interface, but other than that it’s been mildly entertaining. Still wishing for a killer game to get into on the DS, but for now Twin Age will suffice. Look for a review of it sometime in the relatively near future.
Nearly half of my previous blog entry has become completely irrelevant. Rather than expand the music section on my own website, for now I’ve decided to just make everything available on last.fm. Compared to making yet another webpage, I’ll get far more exposure, bandwidth won’t be strained on my own server (although that honestly wasn’t much of a problem), and it’s just cool to know that I have music on last.fm now, just like the big boys! Or something…
In other related news (and continuing the theme of making my previous entry irrelevant), I created the first track for Lost on the Way to the Laundry last weekend. I was working on Solar Winds (which is still pissing me off, because I can tell there is a great song hiding underneath what I have down so far, but I just can’t seem to find it. I’ve been working on this track for what…4 months now?) when I took a moment to swivel around in my chair and look around the room. Warm morning sunlight was beaming in through the window, scattered puffy clouds were floating by, Fizzgigg and Brittnie were softly snoring away in bed…it was just a really pleasant and peaceful morning. Lotwotl was the result of that morning; I feel it represents exactly how that morning felt, and is quite possibly the closest I’ve come to taking the music in my head and making it into something I can share with others. So how does this make my previous post irrelevant? Well, as you can tell by listening to it, it doesn’t contain elements from either dubstep OR ambient. I really like the sound of it though, and I’m going to strive to make the rest of Lost on the Way to the Laundry sound similar in style. I’m having trouble finding other music to listen to for inspiration, though…it sounds like a Nightmares on Wax/Future Sound of London/some other group I can’t think of combo…any suggestions would be much appreciated.
In non-music news, The Crazies was pretty good…I was glad to see that it really felt like a proper remake, rather than just taking a concept and crapping all over it. You can catch my full review of it here. Hopefully, we will get a chance to go see the new Alice in Wonderland this weekend, so if all goes as planned, I’ll have a review of that ready on Monday or Tuesday. I also recently took the plunge into gaming on my Dell Mini 9…I wrote up an article with some tips I discovered during this so-far short journey, while also going over some of the games I tried and how well they worked. You can read it here.
Things have been crazy around here lately. Work has been consuming a large portion of my mental capacity, which is why there haven’t been any new articles in quite a while. I’m going to put some serious time into writing this weekend, to get things back on track. It’s been a relief not worrying about the website, but it’s time to bring things back to normal. Starting Monday, our normal posting schedule will resume.
With her tax return, Brittnie decided to pick up Guitar Hero 5 and an extra guitar for me. I had only played Guitar Hero a couple of times before, and have never owned a rhythm game, just like Brittnie. For once, we had a game where our skills were about equal. In the 5 days since we got it, it’s pretty much all we’ve done at home. We have both progressed fairly quickly, with myself already getting 95% on “Sweating Bullets” from Megadeth on medium, while Brittnie is getting quite comfortable playing bass for any song on medium (she always plays bass, I play guitar.) It feels almost like I’m late to the party since I never really got into the whole rhythm game thing when it was big, but whatever…we are enjoying ourselves quite a lot. The last time we gamed this much together every night in a row was right after we got our Wii. She picked up World Tour two days ago because of all the classic rock on there, so that has been super fun. I noticed that World Tour is easier than Guitar Hero 5, although the leap in graphics between World Tour and 5 is immense. Haven’t unlocked the Tool songs yet, but we are actively working towards doing so.
Hopefully, I’ll get out to the movies this weekend and see either Wolfman or Shutter Island. Look for a review in the coming days!
No doubt you have heard about the insane snow we have had for the past week here in Maryland. A storm last weekend dropped around 30″ on us, and a storm just three days ago dropped an additional 18″ on us. Right now, our back yard looks like a snow swimming pool…the snow is only about 6 inches below the top of our fence(!). Luckily, it should be above freezing for most of the next week, so hopefully a lot of it will melt. It was awesome getting some time off from work though:-)
I’m about half way through Bioshock 2. My opinion keeps shifting from “meh” to “more time in Rapture! Huzzah!” I’m still not quite sure what I think…on the one hand, it’s been cool to learn more about the Big Daddies and the various backroom deals that went on while Rapture was still a functioning city, but on the other hand the whole thing feels unnecessary and at times forced. The new hacking mini-game is far and away the best change to the formula, but I’m not sure playing as a Big Daddy was the right move…it feels wrong that I’m a Big Daddy but can be killed by a splicer pummeling me with a wrench. In the first Bioshock, if you just stood there whacking a Big Daddy in the skull you would be turned into hamburger. I realize you are a “prototype” and not as well armored, but still…you’re in a freakin’ diving suit. A wrench shouldn’t do anything to you. I’ll reserve final judgement for when I finish the game, as I’ve heard the storyline kicks into overdrive in the final couple of hours, but for now I think I’m on the “why did they do this again?” side.
In other news, I just ordered a set of Audio-Technica ATH-AD700s. I can’t wait to see how they sound with gaming, and the extra wide soundstage reported by many owners has me excited to see how they present The Transient Unknown. From what I’ve read, they are a bit lacking in the bass department until they get burned in a bit, so I’m going to put together a playlist to run through them for a while. I’m still going to actually use them during the burn-in period so I can hear them change, but I’m making sure to keep my expectations low at first. I’ll likely go for a Nuforce uDAC in a month or two, but for now the control pod on my Logitech Z4 2.1s will have to do.
Special thanks to the members over at the Head-Fi forums and the [H]ard|Forum for helping me in my purchasing decision. Keep an eye on livingwithanerd.com for an initial review on the AD700’s and a follow-up review once I have broken them in. The main page has been neglected this week due to just general insanity going on around here…I hope to get things relatively back to normal next week, although I can’t promise that. At the very least, the next entry in our Healthy Gamer series will make an appearance on Monday.
Mass Effect 2 is almost everything I hoped for. There were a couple of major changes that I kinda wish they hadn’t done, but overall it’s good stuff. You can check our full review of it here.
As of right now, I’m running a 250 gig hard drive as my primary system drive, with two 500 gig SATAII Seagates running in RAID 0 to hold my archives. My only backup drive is a 750 gig maxtor SATAII stuffed into a Rosewill RX-358-S BLK enclosure. Well, that is about to change. I just recently ordered a Western Digital Caviar Green WD15EADS to replace the two 500 gig drives. Since the WD 1.5 TB drive is going to be standalone, I ::knock on wood:: shouldn’t encounter any of the problems people are having when running them in RAID. I decided to go with the Green edition since they are supposed to generate less heat than the others…the power savings are nice, but will hardly make a dent in the power consumption of my system.
So now what am I to do with these two 500 gig drives? Stuff them in an enclosure and use them for backup, of course! I also picked up a Kingwin DK-32U-S enclosure. So, with the two 500 gig drives running in JBOD along with the aformentioned 750 gig drive I’ll FINALLY have enough space to back up EVERYTHING. It’s pretty exciting, I can’t wait!
Next steps for upgrades include getting another Asus VH236H (and giving Brittnie my Dell 2005FPW, currently used as a secondary monitor), upgrading my CPU, Motherboard, and RAM, and…well, that would be it for a while, actually. I would LOVE to replace my system drive with an SSD, but the cost isn’t worth it to me. My system isn’t nearly high-end enough for the hard drive to have that big of a difference. Still, even if I don’t go SSD, I will likely replace the system drive soon.
So I recently found out that a proper sequel to Divine Divinity was released just a couple of days ago here in North America (and a few months ago over in Europe.) I didn’t put much time into Divine, but I did play the hell out of its spin-off, Beyond Divinity. Not the greatest games in the world, but entertaining enough to check out the sequel. According to Wikipedia, it uses the Gamebryo engine, the same engine used in Oblivion/Fallout 3. Considering the progression between those two games, I am very interested and even a bit excited to see how they have further tweaked the engine. I’m glad to see that Emergent Game Technologies, the current company that owns the middleware, licensed its usage to such a small Belgian developer like Larian Studios. I’m even happier to see that Larian have kept development in-house, considering they made the first two entries as well.
In other news, 2010 seems like it is going to be the year of the tablet. A convertible tablet (one where a screen docks onto a keyboard with a more powerful set of hardware) seems like the perfect thing for Brittnie, considering her job. Right now it looks like Lenovo is the only one with such a device almost ready to go, but I’m sure there will be others. Being able to record grades or prepare lessons on it in laptop mode, then just grabbing the screen and walking around the classroom seems perfect. She could just use one of the tablet notebooks out now that have a screen that swivels, but then she is carrying an entire laptop around…quite a different animal when you have a classroom full of special needs kids all vying for your attention at the same time.
The big snowstorm this past weekend here in Maryland wasn’t the only major event…Brittnie got me a PS3! I was planning on picking one up around the time that God of War III came out, but this works just fine for me. Haven’t really decided where I’m going to start, but it will likely come down between Resistance 1 & 2 or Uncharted 1 & 2. I’ve found that when used for streaming purposes, the PS3 is superior to the 360; easier to setup, built in wireless…oh, and being able to copy entire folders of videos from my computer onto the PS3 over the network plus more extensive codec support help to seal the deal. It will be interesting to see how the exclusives compare to the 360 exclusives…although the 360 controller is still far more comfortable. I’ve never been a big fan of the Dual Shock design, and even though the modified L2/R2 buttons are a good step in the right direction, it still has a long way to go. This sounds lame, but the Dual Shock is part of the reason why I don’t have as much time /played on my PS2 as I do with my other gaming systems.
Speaking of other gaming systems, the addition of the PS3 brings our full list to the following: Atari 2600, Sega Genesis, SNES (two of them), Nintendo 64, Dreamcast, Xbox, PS2, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, Nintendo DS Lite (3 of them), PSP-1000 (aka the first-gen PSP), Game Boy, GBA (one original, one GBA SP), Game Gear, and a relatively up-to-date gaming PC.
I’ve put a couple of hours into Torchlight. The resemblance to Diablo is nearly overwhelming. I know that many of the Diablo team members worked on Torchlight (including the composer and sound designer for Diablo), and it shows. If Titan Quest was Diablo 2.5, Torchlight is Diablo 2.7. With no attempt to hide the similarities, Torchlight feels more like a trip down memory lane rather than a new single-player experience (but in a good way.) The graphics are a bit jagged, but for an independently produced game, it looks damn nice. Oh, and did I mention that it’s a hell of a lot of fun to play?
Brittnie left to go visit her sister for the holidays, so I decided to take a couple of days off from Living With a Nerd. The next article (which will be a review of Torchlight) will post on Christmas Day.
Our trip down to Hendersonville, North Carolina last weekend to visit my parents was a ton of fun. We saw the sights (a couple of waterfalls, a couple of mountain peaks as evidenced by the picture above of Brittnie at Jump Off Rock, elevation 3100 feet), took in the local cuisine (the best hot dog stand I have ever been to and a steakhouse that served steak RARE), and caught up on our manga (We both finished the Basilisk series, I finished the Azumangah Daioh omnibus, and Brittnie got halfway through the Samurai Champloo manga series.) Traffic going down was nonexistent, although we hit some insanity halfway up I-81 on the way back home.
My new mouse and monitor came in. The review for the mouse can be found here, and the review for the monitor is forthcoming. I like it a lot…it is barely satisfactory for tooling around on the desktop or browsing the internet, but it is damn near perfect for gaming. A nearly non-existent response time and excellent contrast really keep things looking awesome, and 23″is a perfect compromise between size and desktop footprint. It is taking some time to adjust, coming from a Dell 2005FPW, but I think I will manage
Modern Warfare 2 was definitely a lot of fun (review here.) It was definitely intense, but wasn’t as good as the first one IMO. I don’t know what it was, it just didn’t hit me like CoD4 did.
This weekend is going to be a big gaming weekend. I just recently got GTA Chinatown Wars for the PSP…I thought the DS version was fun and it was awesome going back to the overhead view of the first two GTA games, but the stylus use felt tacked on and unnecessary. I’m looking forward to the bigger screen, better visuals, and control-only input. I’ve also got Darkest of Days for the PC. I know it got terrible reviews and that the graphics look really dated, but I enjoyed the demo. It seems like it could have some really intense sequences, and bad graphics don’t really bother me all that much. Besides, what with the new Zelda game being released in a few days, Mass Effect 2 coming out soon, and some other non-shooter stuff on the way, I figured after going through Borderlands and Modern Warfare 2 I should get in one more FPS before getting into Torchlight and the RPGs that will be released shortly thereafter.
I do think I’m going to pick up Serious Sam HD if some crazy Steam sale happens during the holidays, though…I LOVED that game when it was first released, and while graphics aren’t that important to me, being able to play a nostalgic game like that with updated visuals would be awesome.
I finally finished my first play through of Dragon Age a couple of days ago. Total time: 47 hours, 52 minutes. The replay potential on this thing is insane, seeing as even minor decisions made a huge impact on the game world. I’m not going to go back through it immediately, but I will be revisiting Ferelden very soon.
In other news, the slow upgrade process of my PC has begun. Unfortunately, my power supply crapped out a couple of weeks ago due to an electrical mishap, but there is now a shiny new 700W OCZ ModXStream Pro powering my system, as well as a new DVD-RW drive. Over the next couple of months, I plan on dropping in an Phenom II X4 965 (the new 125w version…I care about less heat and less power use rather than overclock-ability), as well as a Gigabyte AM3 motherboard. After that, I plan on upgrading my current 1 TB raid into a 2 TB raid. The two 500 gig hard drives currently used for archiving will likely get tossed into an mATX case (along with the mATX board and Athlon X2 5400+ currently in my tower) and be made into an HTPC. The other possibility is that I will take the 750 gig that I have laying around, put that in the HTPC, and get a dual external enclosure so I can have a 1 TB RAID backup. This would be the more expensive option, but I think it would be best…this way, I have a decent size backup, I only have one hard drive in the HTPC instead of two (noise and heat considerations), plus I get to go through the awesome process of choosing an external dual-bay enclosure that would look sweet on my desk. My 750 gig is currently sitting in a gorgeous Rosewill single-slot enclosure, so I’m not sure what I would put in its place were I to move the 750.
Over the next month and a half leading up to Mass Effect 2, I plan on going through Torchlight, Assassin’s Creed 2, New Super Mario Bros. Wii, and MAYBE Modern Warfare 2 (although I will likely forgo MW2 for Torchlight). After Mass Effect 2, however, nothing else I am interested in comes out for a couple of months. That will likely be the time I spend going through Dragon Age again.
All the while, I’m going to start putting some time into Street Fighter IV again in preparation for Super Street Fighter IV. Cause you gotta keep your skills up, right?
Dragon Age has been taking huge amounts of time from my life lately. I bought it only 5 days ago, and have already logged 21(!) hours. Excluding World of Warcraft (because WoW doesn’t count when discussing comparative time sinks), I don’t think I have logged this much time /played on a game so quickly after obtaining it. Ever.
The fact that the story can be so vastly different for people despite gamers eventually encountering the same situations is astonishing to me. We’ve seen how small decisions can have a big impact on a game’s world before (Mass Effect and Fallout 3 immediately come to mind), but Dragon Age takes this theory to a whole new level. It’s such a huge game, and even the smallest action or missed quest can change things so dramatically, I can’t comprehend what it must have been like trying to develop it.
Even more impressive is that the storyline is entirely unique to each player based on their decisions, race, class, etc…yet somehow still flows as if your version of the storyline is the way it was intended to play out. Changes in the world based on your actions are so organic that you don’t even realize just how much influence you wield. You, the player, are essentially creating the story as you go along, but no matter what order you do quests or how you complete them it always feels like it was a full storyline written start to finish instead of bits and pieces of different story lines stitched together.
I’ve played games with a more engrossing story before, but never have I seen anything that even comes close to the way Dragon Age brings its story to life. Dragon Age is an amazing leap forward, and I hope other developers and writers are able to take inspiration from it for years to come.