Mash Enter Key! The Words and Thoughts of William McMahon

28Feb/111

Bulletstorm – A Review

Posted by William

bulletstorm_wide

Two brothers in battle, working out their differences, seeking revenge against an unjust commander to make the past right again.  That's the story of Bulletstorm and that's the only wholesome positive moral you will get out this game.  The rest of the game is full of dick jokes, blood, gore, Hollywood cliches, and other... not niceness, but I'm not saying it's a bad game... this game is more or less mediocre.

When People can Fly and Epic group together we can expect another run and gun similar to Gears of Wars and that's pretty much what we get.   Bulletstorm seems like a combination of Painkiller (due to it's varied enemy types and arena based environments), Serious Sam (same reason) and an on-rails shooter.  The game is extremely linear allowing for not much player immersion or decision taking, but instead is action packed.  The story doesn't go too deep so don't expect the next winner of any writing awards any time soon.

The games "key-selling point" is a system called skillshots...  depending on how you "kill" your enemy you are awarded points which you can then spend on simple weapon upgrades and ammo.  There are hundreds of "skillshots" ranging from kicking a dudes head off, shooting someone in the groin, pinning people to the floor, ceiling, sticking them on cacti and other brutality.  Like with most games of this violent genre we must all take them with a grain of salt and not get too caught up in the violence.  I didn't really follow the outburst certain media outlets had about the violence, nor do I care to or address it because the bottom line is... the overall game was enjoyable and not because it was overly violent.

I mentioned the linearity and I want to go into a little more detail, as I stated this game would feel the same if it was on rails - a lot of the time I found myself standing in one place, spinning around and performing skill shots on the enemies around me.  Occasionally I would slide into cover to restore some of my health, but that's no different then letting go of the "pop out pedal" on games like Time Crisis.  The difference between this game and, say a game like Half-Life, is that I am simply an observer.  I am witnessing the story unfold in-front of me and not actively participating in it.  The issue with games like this is that after a while they become boring - there is a reason movies are only 2 hours long because after a while you start to feel useless and bored.  Bulletstorm clocked in at about 7 hours which was a little longer than I wanted it to be.  I started to loose interest after the start of Act 6, luckly for me I decided to stick it out and found that there wasn't much left of the game.  Any longer and I would feel even more disconnected from the game and possibly stop all together.

Towards the end of the game I really felt myself just rushing and over using the revolver charge.  By this time the game was way too easy, I was completing "puzzles" quicker than I could even recognize what I was doing and sliding from point A to point B.  By this time the dialogue became very dry, repetitive, and well... just down right annoying.  The ending unfolded in an obvious manner and I was left with the confusion of whether that was intentional or not - either way it was negative.

Visually, the game is absolutely beautiful and that's it's strongest positive in my opinion.  Animations are smooth, modelling is nice to look at and the environments are to die for.  There are some great levels including escaping a rogue planet grinder, stunning vistas, a great "shadow of the colossus" type moment while you fight a giant mutated thingy-ma-bob and a ruined crash site (see the gallery for images).

Each enemy has a "different" way to defeat it so there is some strategy involved, but other than that the game isn't too difficult.  The control system is very fluid which makes the game easier to deal with.  Overall - gamers shouldn't have any issues with this game on Normal and should probably try their first play through on Hard.

I didn't try out the multiplayer, nor do I want to... If multiplayer is your thing feel free to check out one of the many other reviews out there on the internet.

Overall, Bulletstorm is an OK game, not great, but OK.  I believe the developers could have taken an interesting concept (skillshots and stunning visuals) and extended it further using better story telling and a little immersion.  Bulletstorm is certainly not worth the full retail price of 60$ so if you are thinking of picking this up, I would suggest either renting or waiting for it to go on sale.

Filed under: Other 1 Comment
25Feb/113

Faeries Aire and the Death Waltz

Posted by William

My piano skills extend as far as playing the right hand of Fur Elise and playing The Office theme song I memorized off YouTube, but I know when I found a hard piece of sheet music... and let me tell you... Faeries Aire and the Death Waltz is the hardest piece of sheet music you will ever run into.

 

 

You shouldn't need to understand sheet music to understand that this "Waltz" is complete non-sense, but that doesn't stop people from trying to play it.  Notice the part with the explosions?  And the part with the penguins?  And the explicit slippage on the violins?

The late John Arthur Stump is the composer of this piece of music and he is described as being famous throughout his family by his satirical parody's.  John not only wrote this piece of music but also countless other parody's including String Quartet No. 556(b) for Strings In A Minor (Motoring Accident) and Prelude and the Last Hope in C and C# minor.

There is another "Death Waltz" that floats around YouTube, I have yet to confirm if it was actually written by John Arthur Stump, but it is an interesting piece that has also been attempted by countless musicians.

Source

Filed under: Music 3 Comments
22Feb/111

Minecraft 1.3

Posted by William

logo

As a server administrator you dread the days when Notch updates.  As a player I love Minecraft updates - new stuff... new toys... all sorts of great things!!  When Notch released 1.2 my life was a living hell for nearly four days - hopefully I learned some lessons from that experience and I handle the Podcast 17 server a little better this time around.  Version 1.3 of Minecraft was released earlier today and with it came another big list of new features including a bed, redstone repeaters, half slabs, updated lighting and the new mcregion file format!

Yesterday Notch released the new Minecraft launcher and with it you can "choose" whether you want to update or not.  As with all updates I suggest you backup your %appdata%\.minecraft before playing around or even launching the new client (probably too late now though).

Before I get into the neat details of the update I want to take a moment to describe what's happening over at Multiplay.co.uk.  In the morning I received an email from them saying they would support 1.3 Vanilla, however, I have since noticed that they have revoked that offer and only support 1.2 + hmod and 1.2 w/o hmod.  Obviously hmod is not available for 1.3 yet, but hopefully we don't have to wait as long as we did for 1.2.   For now, until I see what Multiplay.co.uk decides, the server is offline.  I will likely bring it up tonight running 1.2 w/ hmod and clients can connect with the older version of Minecraft without taking advantage of the new features... this saddens me because McRegion is a great file format.

So let's get into update details.

MrMessiahs Better Lighting

If you are familiar with BetterLight/BetterGrass by MrM this won't be anything new to you - except now it is integrated nicely into Minecraft.  A much needed upgrade in my opinion.  It acts as a shader and you can certainly see the different between the normal lighting engine and Better Lighting in caves full of torches... I found it sorta bugs out with snow and ice though... oh well.  There is a comparison image at the bottom of the post.

New Half-Blocks

In addition to stone slabs Notch and his team have added Wooden slabs, Sandstone slabs, and Cobblestone slabs.  They can be built by putting Cobble/Sandstone/Planks in the middle row of the crafting bench.  This means that the pressure plate recipe has also changes to fit this update.  Image of the new half stone blocks can be seen at the bottom of the post.

Redstone Repeater

This is a pretty neat addition that Jeb announced earlier last week.  Instead of making manual repeaters now you can use the redstone repeater to repeat your redstone signal.  You can variate the output of the redstone repeater to add a delay in increments from 1 to 4.  This can make for neat delayed repeaters that can do cool lighting effects with redstone torches... Vegas anyone?  Expect to see some really cool Minecraft creations with the new repeaters.

The Bed

Notch announced earlier this week that he would be creating a bed for 1.3 to allow for sleeping throughout the nights.  It's a nice addition for SSP players and small SMP servers as the beds work in both versions.  You can only use the bed at night and it will allow you to sleep during the night to wait for the sunrise where it's "safer".  The bed also works in multiplayer, however everyone must use the bed at once in order to trigger the sleep event - which can get pretty crazy with more than 3 people in one server.  Also the multiplayer version is a little buggy, Stephanie and I tried it out and she couldn't "sleep" but the state still changed.

McRegion Format

This is something that very much interests me as a server owner.  If you have ever looked at how Pre-1.3 does world saving you know exactly what I am talking about.  Pre-1.3 basically filled your hard-drive with hundreds (if not thousands) of files for world saving, it was inefficient and cumbersome.  The new format, mcregion, is much cleaner and stable.  Instead of creating thousands of files you have a neat little package of under 10 files in your "region" folder.  In fact I can confirm that server stability and CPU usage has decreased since mcregion and we haven't seen a single chunk error yet.  I converted a 211MB world to only 14.8 MBs using the new mcregion format!!

Overall, good update, I just don't look forward to the next couple of days.

21Feb/114

RooftopVille – A Disection

Posted by William

Rooftop Ville

The long anticipated RooftopVille was posted over at PlanetPhillip the other day and I quickly loaded it up so I could finally take a look at the entries. RooftopVille is Phillips newest contest where the rules are simple; create a map that includes Rooftops, think Mirrors Edge meets the beginning of Half-Life 2 when you are evading the Metro Cops. Eight contests entered, but only one will be crowned the king of RooftopVille.

Phillip choose Imprudent trek above the streets as the winner and I would have to agree with him on this selection.  Samuli did an excellent job of combining visuals, great gameplay, roofs and and some form of puzzle elements.  This was a great selection and a great addition to the collection.  The only complaint I would have about this map is the ending, I hate it when maps fade to black after a big battle - there is no... denouement.

My second choice is Senescence by Jacob Heywood.  I sympathized for the author as Phillip wasn't able to play this map to the full extent due to hardware limitations, but I had no issues running it on max settings.  I had areally good time and would almost choose this as my top selection except the lighting was a bit off.  There were lots of running from rooftop to rooftop and crawling across scaffolding.  There were plenty of difficult moments to overcome, but not too frustrating at the same time.  I especially liked the ending with the attack chopper - added a spin on things.  I felt this entry stayed true to the spirit of the competition.  If the author put a little more time into optimization I feel it woulda been a good contender for this contest.

Thirdly, Roof1 would be my bronze choice.  As Phillip outlines, the beginning of this map really stuck out and even though it lacked some "rooftop" elements it still is my third choice.  There was enough crawling around rooftops and shooting bad-guys to make this just as enjoyable as the other entries.  Unfortunately, where it fell short, was the ending - too abrupt and not enough compensation for my time.

Hostile Rooftops and Overcast were two great maps that seemed to be from newcomers.  It's good to see new people getting involved in contests and hopefully they can take some pointers from the positive criticism over at PlanetPhillip.  Both these maps had excellent designs, even though some of the objectives were difficult to find, and proved to be an enjoyable experience.

Rooftop Retreat was a sad story... you can really tell Leon put a lot of work into this map and it truly shows, but it fails to follow any of the rules outlined by the contest.  Not enough rooftops, too many enclosed spaces, but it sure has a lot of awesome.  The non-linearity of this map added extra points, but unfortunately not where it counted.  Sorry Leon - keep up the great work anyway!

Finally, Above the Clouds. I'm not sure if Phillip choose this for second place (as the order might suggest), but it is my last choice!  This map lacked any direction - some of the objectives were just downright awful and the combat was overpowering and unfair.  It's really hard to find anything nice to say about this map except, as Phillip puts it, it really did contain imagination.   Other than that... well I won't beat a dead horse.

Overall though I think Phillip had himself another successful contest... still my favourite is HunterVille; however... RooftopVille is a very close second.  Good job Phillip and great job all you mappers!

21Feb/113

Parov Stelar – My New Ear Drug

Posted by William

I was browsing Reddit yesterday, as I do every day, came across this interesting video:

There are two things going on with this video, one is a dude in a snazzy white suit dancing on Astroturf and the other is the orgasm that is happening in your ears.  Welcome to my near Ear Drug - Parov Stelar.  I've been trying to label this type of music with no such luck until I visited his Wikipedia page.  Parov Stelar is the founder of Electroswing, an excellent fusion of Jazz and Electronica.  He seems to have some roots in Moby, Prodigy and old school Eletronica from the late 80s and early 90s.  I've always had a secret passion for Ska, specifically Ska with trumpets and other winded instruments other than screaming and Parov Stelar even has a taste of that!  Overall his music appeases to all my interests, Eletronica, House, the Drum'N'Bass in me and classical.  It's hard to find a musician who is as all over the place as I am.

Check out this youtube playlist which I have had on loop for the past 3 days... yea... I can time travel:
Parov Stelar Youtube Playlist

Filed under: Music 3 Comments
21Feb/110

Welcome to M.E.K.

Posted by William

Out with the old in the with new as the old saying goes.  A long time ago in the Milky Way Galaxy I started a personal blog called The Rabbit Hole whose purpose was to document the adventures of the Windsor Gaming Center (RIP) and at that time the only useful domain available to me was wmcmahon.net.  Well not no more says ICANN; through some weird turn of events wmcmahon.com became available - I guess domain squatters didn't see the benefit in it - and I jumped on the opportunity to buy it.

Queue Mash Enter Key; the latest, greatest blog by me... William McMahon.  I was going to call this Finite Technorealism, but in the end that sounded like some newage art installation... Mash Enter Key is way more professional... or Kablamo... seriously Kablamo woulda been a great name too!