Saturday, August 28, 2010

Phone a friend

I just installed the new voice & chat application from google. A test run over our spotty wi-fi connection was surprisingly good.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Around Oregon

We just finished up a "tour de Oregon", this summer's family vacation. It all started at Depoe Bay, moved down south to Roseburg, and finished up in beautiful Crater Lake. Some of the trip's highlights:

* Watching wales outside our condo in Depoe Bay.
* Chasing the kids around the Newport Aquarium.
* Sampling the various tasty brews at the Rogue Brewery in Newport.
* Exploring the Sea Lion Caves near Florence.
* Driving through the Wildlife Safari in Winston.
* Sunset vistas on the rim at Crater Lake National Park.

This was the first, real opportunity to put our new Canon T2i DSLR camera to work. All I can say is "wow", but you be the judge.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Backpacking the Strawberry Wilderness

Aaron, Allison, and I recently finished a 20 mile loop in the Strawberry Wilderness. Among the many highlights were Slide Lake, High Lake, Strawberry Mountain, and Little Slide Lake. Check out the image gallery to see pictures I took of the trip. I also found this video, which my hiking partners are in (3:15).

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Mt. Washington Climb

Last Sunday I had an amazing technical climb up Mt. Washington with a couple of guides from Timberline Mountain Guides. This was my first, true technical climb with multiple pitches of belayed and short-roped sections. It was a fantastic day and the summit views were outstanding. The total round-trip time was 9hrs with 1 hour on top. It was also nice to finally put some of my gear to real use:

Friday, August 6, 2010

Alan Wake (mini) Review

I just finished up playing Alan Wake and the subsequent DLC "The Signal" on the X360. Of course you can get all your review goodness at MetaCritic or GameRankings, but let me do a quick summary.

The Good

  • Environments: Some of the best forest and mountain environments I've ever seen.
  • Writing: The narrative, characters, plot twists, and back-stories were all superbly crafted.
  • Mood: Remedy did an excellent job evoking dark, foreboding, and oppressive feelings.
  • Production: High production values. I loved the episodic feel and story recaps.
  • Lighting: Outstanding ambient lighting worked in harmony with the flashlight.
The Bad
  • Controls: The controls (both player movement and camera rotation) seemed sloppy to me. It's like the designers got it to an acceptable level and moved on to other tasks. This was unfortunate because the game requires you to be nimble with the camera control in respect to enemy spawning (more on that later).
  • Animations: Overall, your avatar's animations were generally good. What I found frustrating was the "extra steps" the character took after running and jumping. I died on a couple of simple platforming scenarios because of this. Where's the blending? You mean to tell me the animation has to complete before additional player input is accepted? Unacceptable.
  • Questionable world population: I understand the design choices that were made to create the sense of "make every shot count" a la the Resident Evil Series. I also love ammo-conservation gameplay as much as anyone else, but there were a few occasions that I ran completely out. With no other options available, I would end up running back to the beginning of the level searching for precious bullets. From those early experiences, I learned right away to scour every building, shadow, and pixel before moving onward. "Forced Discovery"... really?
The Ugly
  • I propose an addendum made to the "How to design games" handbook that reads: "Thou shall not spawn enemies behind the player". Look, I understand that design philosophy is subjective, but in the case of this game, it was unfortunately exacerbated by the imprecise controls and flashlight mechanics. Yes, I realize the designers tried to mitigate it by giving the player visual and audio feedback (preview cam) but I still don't like it.
The Truth
Buy this game. Not only will you enjoy it, but it will stay with you long after you hit the eject button.