Happy 10th, Dreamcast!

Man, it seems weird that this was ten whole years ago.  I was still working at Busy Bytes with Craig and SeanChris would stop in all the time and we'd get together on weekends and show this sucker off!  Shenmue, Sonic Adventure, House of the Dead, Ready 2 Rumble ("How 'bout that corner?") and tons more.  The web browser, the broadband adapter, the online NFL2K's.  Come back, Dreamcast! I still have two; my original and one I bought from ThinkGeek for $20.  Eventually I'd like to dust one off and fire it up again.  I'd even imported Shenmue II, which never made it to the USA.  Come on Suzuki-san, finish what was started!

The Little Things...

Sometimes, when you've got a what's leaning toward heavier things in your head, it's easier to take the focus away from them by looking at silly things.  I have an appointment today that's been on my mind for a while.  My plumbing is just a little screwy, and I'm having it checked out.

So, as a distraction, I'm thinking of ditching the newly-formed gamertag I'd created at the end of last year, and going back to my 'since-day-one' tag.  This was partially spurred by the fact that it doesn't look like Ubisoft has any desire to communicate with the fans about the status of Splinter Cell.  Rumors of back-to-drawing-board, talk that Michael Ironside bailed, they're all making me nervous.  Plus, I've always been a Spidey fan, and kind of missed that little tie.  I also think that all the work I put in on Web Slinger needed fixin'.

So now I'm looking at returning to Web Slinger.  It could be strange.  The last game I completed as Web Slinger was either Assassin's Creed or BioShock, so I've got some gamerscore to make up.  GTA4, Lost: Via Domus and Ninja Gaiden 2 are some of the first ones that come to mind that need porting over.

Opinions?  I'll put a poll up.

Testing Flash Video with a New Plugin

I'm trying something out.. I'd like to be able to host my own videos, instead of pulling from YouTube or other places like that.  So I found a plugin that might be able to help.  I'm testing it now, so if this works, we'll call it a success, and maybe I'll be able to host videos without them being enormous filesize monsters, but can still be my own. [flashvideo filename=http://www.sethcheek.com/videos/scc.flv /]

Frogress

Holy CRAP!  These guys change SO MUCH from day to day!  All of a sudden, several have changed color, and the one that was already kind of froggy has hit all new frog status.  It's breathing air and climbing the glass!  I couldn't find him last night in the water, and kind of panicked, until I got lower, and noticed that he was up in a corner, sticking to the glass!

pip2

So I realized that I need some surface for the little guys to let them explore.  Tonight, Sean is coming over to help redesign the tank.  In the interim, I built a little makeshift island for the little guys to hang out on from an old dead tupperware thing.  I also had to install the hood on the tank in case any others decide to try and scale the walls. 

Before I put the little guy on Isla Del Tupper, I had to get him off the glass, and he crawled all over my hand for a while before I got him back into the tank. 

pip1

He swims like a real frog now, too, and his tail from last night is nearly GONE now.  I'm sure in the next few days, several more will start making the change.  This one is just my overachiever, which is funny, because he was one of the smallest guys I had.  His name is Pip.

Ryu and Chunk are also on their way to changing.  Ryu's even turned green.  Chunk has just gotten more rotund.

Super Sneaky Frog Growth

I'd been paying attention to some of the biggest tadpoles because they're easiest to see, and watch the changes in, but last night, one of the smaller ones shocked me.  I saw a strange color at the bottom of the tank, and when I went in for a close look, I saw a tiny green frog with a long brown tail.  The camera in my phone is TERRIBLE, but if you squint, you can make out front and back legs, eyes and a general frog shape, albeit with a big fish tail.

fingleam

I'm going to try to get a hold of a better camera and take some pictures where you can actually identify the subject without hints.  I'm just amazed this guy slipped through the cracks.  Every other tadpole I have is brown right now, so either more will be changing shades soon, or I have more than one species in my tank. 

I'll continue to update froggy progress as I continue to be amazed with them!

Wii Woes

260px-Wii_Wiimotea After talking with Sean a little about this, I've come to the conclusion that as of now, I just don't like the Nintendo Wii very much as a gaming console.

I should qualify.  I feel it is fun if:

  • you've never played one, and are trying it out for the first time
  • you have 4 people around who don't know how to play conventional video games
  • you're a guy trying to get your non-game inclined girlfriend to play with you
  • you're someone who doesn't know the differences between the consoles
  • you have trouble using buttons to play video games

Otherwise, I don't get it.  The entire premise behind the console is that it's a gaming console for non-gamers.  Their business model, and it IS ingenious, is to sell video games to people who wouldn't normally buy video games.  They've made a ton of money initially, but from everything I've read, the attach rate isn't so great. 

The attach rate means how many games are sold after someone buys the console itself.  Many people seem to be buying it, playing the crap out of Wii Sports until they're sick of it, and shelf it, waiting for the NEXT controller gimmick, like the Wii Zapper or the WiiFit.

It suffers from TONS of shovelware games, made only to promote the use of the controller, and not being that solid of a game.  There are definitely exceptions, like Super Mario Galaxy, Super Smash Bros, and Mario Kart, that have a more broad appeal.  These are generally games developed in-house, though, and have the highest level in quality.

Third-party games, many times made for the Wii and the other consoles (PS3 and X360), are FAR inferior on the Wii.  First of all, for a gaming console in this generation to not be able to output high def is ridiculous.  Secondly, since the guts of the Wii are primarily just a repurposed Gamecube's, the graphics are literally last-gen quality.  Tweaks can be done here and there to squeeze out as much power as possible, like Super Mario Galaxy, but nothing will ever look like Gears of War or Grand Theft Auto IV.

The games that DO have a new, fun type of controller?  Hang on to your wallets.  You can't just buy the game, you have to buy the new gimmick.  The WiiFit is nearly $100.  Steering wheel controllers for Mario Kart cost between $10-$15.

A smaller complaint I have is for the lack of left-handed support in many of the games.  I'd think maybe because it's a Japanese company, and everyone does things right-handed, whether one is or not.  But many Japanese Nintendo DS games support right- or left-handed functions, so that's apparently not it.

There definitely will be a niche market for this thing.  I'm not saying anyone who LIKES the Wii is wrong.  I just don't like it very much.  I feel like I paid $250 for the opportunity to pay for more peripherals that you use for one game then set aside and never play again.

It's like those little Tiger Electronics "TV Games" that don't have any interchangeable games, you just plug it in, and play one monotonous Spongebob game and you're done.

I still have mine, and am hoping something changes my mind about it soon.  It's just that I was also hoping something would've changed my mind long before now.  I'm not holding my breath...

My Froggies Are All Growing Up & Sad Day for Sam Fans?

Several weeks ago, my friend Sean gave me a bucket full of tadpoles.  I thought it would be cool to put them in Angie's koi pond and hope that maybe a few stuck around once they grew up.

Before I dumped what I estimated to be more than 100 into the pond, I gave my mother several for her kindergarten class.  And as I dumped them in, I ended up keeping about 20 or so for myself.  For a long time, I kept them in a bucket, with some algae flakes, plant roots and a lily pad, but have since moved them into a 10-gallon aquarium.

tadpoles

It's impossible to see, but several of them are already getting little froggy legs.  Two of them even have TOES attached to their little leg nubbins.  One of them uses his legs to help him swim along.  As of right now, that's how I can tell my two fastest-growing ones apart.  The rest are pretty hard to distinguish from one another.  But there are two that I look for each time I check the tank.  Ryu and Chunk.  Ryu because he's doing lots of kicking, and I've been playing Ninja Gaiden II recently, so he's my ninja frog.  Chunk because he's got the equivalent of a tadpole beer gut. 

Tuesday does not seem interested in them in the slightest, which is GREAT, because she used to jump into my tanks when I used to have my geckos.

I'm amazed by how fast they're changing.  YESTERDAY there were no toes, today there are.

In other news, it's being rumored now that Michael Ironside will NOT be returning to play Sam Fisher in the perpetually-delayed Splinter Cell: Conviction.

Sarcastic Gamer had been on the story a couple of times this month, and in their latest story, they quoted their source as saying:

“He was getting to way too egotistical about the project and extremely difficult to work with.”

“He was also asking for a sh*t load of money..”

“He pretty much tied his own noose”

MAN, I hope they're wrong.  That character is MADE by Michael Ironside's voice.  I'd wager he's been with the franchise longer than 75% of the development team, since the first game launched in 2002, and has a vested interest in making Sam a believable character that the player can identify with. 

I've wondered what they meant about him being egotistical, because I read somewhere else that he's wanting to get involved in the story a bit.  If that's so, I'd think they'd be glad to have another consultant so close to the project that actually CARES about what's happening and not just phoning it in for a paycheck. 

So, unless he wants the first-born of each developer, or a ridiculous amount of profit from the game, I vote they give him what he wants, and maintain some consistency in this franchise.  After all, with so many delays and a rumored 'back-to-drawing-board' revamp last month, they're going to need all the help they can get to bring people back.

This is Future Stuff

I was reading today about the first commercially available prosthetic "bionic" hand.  It's one some engineering awards in the UK.  I'm just amazed by the range of ability this thing has.

The more I read about it, the more I was amazed.  This thing, that looks more and more like a real human hand, is able to be "driven" by the brain.  It's not rigged to a remote control, like special effects in movies.  It's wired to his body!  One of the people who has this i-Limb made a little montage of his life with it.  It's edited to be a little silly, and has terrible music, but you can still see the versatility this bionic hand has.

If I were an investing kind of guy, I think I'd put some money in this company.

Amazing GTA4 Stunt Reel

This is a montage of survived stunts in Grand Theft Auto 4.  For those who've played it, you will be floored by some of this stuff, and how the dude is able to pull it off.  For those of you who haven't played it, it may be cool as just a bunch of flippy cars and bikes.

Furniture Shuffle

I've been thinking about it for a while now, but Sunday, I finally decided to do it.  I've thought that it's pretty ridiculous for me to have two couches in my apartment, since I only ever need one.  I can't remember the last time I ever had more than 2 other people in my place at once.  So, the BIG couch received a death sentence, and the little couch and my grandfather's recliner are now the seating options for the room. 

The problem now is that I have a large couch standing on end to make room for all the movement and shifting.  So I have to come up with a way to get it out.  Usually, moving something of that size requires the help of my landlord, and a special trap door they had built to move really large things out of the staircase.

Pop's chair is now in the back corner by the window, and the smaller couch is against the back wall.  The TV remains where it is, and the DVD racks have moved to the side wall where the little couch USED to be.

I still have lots of work on the entertainment center/PC area, and I'm still debating mounting my TV on the wall, but it's definitely a huge improvement.  I guess I underestimated how much space I wanted out of that room, and have adapted to it, until I realized I didn't have to.

Now, if I could just figure out the best way to get a couch moved...

newlayout

Play it Again, Sam... PLEASE!!!

So UbiDays was just held in Paris this week.  UbiDays is an event held each year by Ubisoft, a game developer, that showcases what they've been working on, and what we'll be seeing in the coming months.  Ubisoft also has exclusivity on the Tom Clancy license, meaning they're the only company allowed to use his brand in their games.  Some of the most popular Clancy games are Rainbow Six, Ghost Recon and, of course, Splinter Cell. (If you didn't know, my Xbox gamertag over on the right is the name of the game's main character.)

After an hour and a half long presentation of games they're working on, including a segment dedicated to ten years' worth of Tom Clancy games, there was absolutely NO mention of the latest Splinter Cell game, subtitled "Conviction".  None.  I couldn't believe it. 

The game was rumored to have been delayed after going back to the drawing board, and we wouldn't see it until 2009-2010, but since then, Ubisoft has been non-committal in their release date, but saying anything mentioning going back to the drawing board is unconfirmed and pure speculation.  Great... an almost denial.

What are they doing?  What is going on that this tried & true game franchise is now impossible to add to? 

Most fans fear that the game will go off in a wild tangent, abandoning the core gameplay of Splinter Cell, the Light & Shadow stealth mechanic.  Early versions of the game they've previously showed off show more of a social stealth, hide in plain sight kind of thing.  I don't mind divergence from the sneaking around thing if it's done well, and complementing a good story, but it seems like this game may have been influenced by the Bourne movies and Assassin's Creed, and just be doing it because they like that style.  If that's the case, and it's just an experiment, I wish they would create a new franchise to create that world around.  But again, if a strong story warrants it, I'll be more patient with the change.

Just throw us a bone, Ubi!  Let us know what's going on, please...

sadsamSo, at least for now, it appears that Sam is walking off into the sunset, with the Incredible Hulk sad walk-off theme playing...

[audio:http://www.sethcheek.com/audio/lonelyman.mp3]

In

Ten Cool Songs

After hearing one of these songs today, I decided that I'm going to post a list of songs I think are cool.  No matter what mood I'm in, any of these songs get my spirits up.  These also translate to good driving songs, I suppose.  Here they are, in no particular order.

What are some of your favorites?

Crazy Phone, Game Fun and My Hackintosh

TF2-EApcSLP03 My phone's been flipping out over the weekend.  The icon for SETTINGS disappeared Friday, then just popped back in Sunday night.  The settings button lets me turn on and off things like Bluetooth and WiFi, changes Mail frequency settings and more.  So with my battery kind of low, I wasn't able to turn off battery-sucking things like the WiFi.  Bummer.  But, now it's back, and everything's fine.  From reading, it looked like it was a common symptom of jailbroken iPhones, but mine isn't, so that wasn't the problem.  Who knows?

Angie and the babies came to play Mario Kart Wii Friday night, and it was a game that ALL of us could play and have fun doing.  The steering wheel attachment apparently does a good job of simplifying the mechanic, making it accessible to people who may be uncomfortable with a standard controller. 

At my parents' house Sunday, I fired up an older game of mine, Portal.  It's a really interesting game where you have a gun that shoots what basically amounts to a "IN door" and an "OUT door".  Then when entering a door, you'll pop out wherever you placed the other door.  It's a puzzle game with no real time limit or bad guys to shoot.  You're basically just getting from A-B.  Well, that is, until the facility's AI doesn't like what you're doing towards the end of the course.  I need to go back through that.

Lastly, I have successfully gotten Mac OSX Leopard running on my PC.  I used a distro of OSX86 called Kalyway.  Using a community at insanelymac.com, and help from Chris in areas of my own OSX unfamiliarity, I was able to get everything in my machine working correctly, including audio and networking.  My only hiccup is with my video card.  It's not spitting out as good of quality video as other cards could, but it's pretty darn smooth right now.  I'm able to web browse, rip & watch my movies, use iTunes, and more.  This week on ACRadio, we'll be talking more in-depth about the process.  I'll post some links & pics then.

Superhero in a Little Brown Car, Friends with Knowledge

I haven't written about this before now, because the day it happened, I was still frazzled, and the days following I've been trying to catch up.  The Caddy flipped out on me Friday.  It overheated after a radiator hose split, spraying the distributor with antifreeze.  This happened while crossing Highway 41 Friday at lunch.  After it happened, I sat for a second, stunned, then climbed out and waved to the traffic I was blocking that I couldn't move.  While still doing that, I notice a little brown car pulling over, and a guy came over to me, told me it looked like I was overheating, and told me to get in and steer.  I asked him, "What about the traffic?"

He responded, "Oh, they'll stop."

He then walked into the oncoming traffic and stopped it, then rushed around to the back of my car, and pushed me across the highway and into a nearby parking lot.  I thanked him profusely, shook his hand, and he got back in his car, and asked if I needed a ride anywhere.  I told him I worked just up the hill, but I REALLY appreciated what he'd done for me. 

Looking back on it, I wish I'd had my wits about me enough to ask him his name or how to get a hold of him.  I was just so overwhelmed that I wasn't thinking clearly.  I'll find him, though.  I have a few ideas.

The reason I was driving the Caddy was that after hitting a pothole in my van, the power steering stopped working.  After the Caddy crashed, I needed a Plan B, so while at Auto Zone with Mike, picking up stuff for him to try and fix the Caddy, I also grabbed a bottle of power steering fluid.

Mike is the chief photographer at the station, and is knowledgeable with cars.  He's also plays in Prowler, the band I talked about in this previous post.  I asked him if he could help me with the Caddy situation, and he said he could, so we ran to Auto Zone and grabbed a new hose and clamps, and some antifreeze. He put it all together, but the car still wouldn't start.  Long story ending in Caddy still not moving.

So Saturday, when I went to check the power steering fluid in my van, I noticed that wasn't the problem.  The serpentine belt had popped off, most likely when hitting that pothole, and took out the power steering, generator, alternator, etc.  Mike was able to swing by Sunday and put it back together.  So I have transportation.  Woo-HOO!  Now all that's left is reviving Caddy. 

...more to come, I'm sure.

GTA4, Toned Down

With some of the complaints about the game's violence and other adult themes, Conan O'Brien premiered a sneak peek of the new, "toned down" version.

In

Grand Theft Auto 4

gta4_logo_screen001 In a word: wow. 

This game blew away my expectations, and with all the hype surrounding the game, that seems hard to do.  I think the best feature of this game is the scope.  What I mean by that, is that while other games do some things really well, and forget other things, or seem to tack them on as afterthoughts, this game seems to do everything it normally does very well, but also a ton of what would be considered "icing on the cake" very well, too.

The Look:

The look of the game is great.  There is definitely the usual Rockstar stylization that most if not all of their games get, but it's just a coat on the surface of this SUPER realistic environment.  Many buildings have bump-mapped surfaces, including a lot of the roads, making your headlights shining on them look incredible.  The amount of "extras" in the game (the NPC's in geekspeak), are extremely varied, and though I have seem the same one a few times, it's few and far between.  The cars are also in the hyper-realistic range, with spoofs of everything from Geos to Lamborghinis, Humvees to Kawasaki motorcycles.  Rockstar never really gets much attention from their vehicle modeling, but it's not something to be ignored.

The Feel:

The control on foot is incredible, including a cover system which seems like a watered-down Gears of War scheme.  It's really great, seeing as how that was about the weakest link in previous GTA games.  I feel like I have control over who I'm targeting now, and not just at the mercy of who the the computer feels I should fire on.

The driving is taking a little getting used to, but in a few days, I'm sure I'll have it down pat.  It feels a little looser than most video game driving, but the physics engine gives different cars different weights and handling, so generally if you don't like a certain scheme, you can always bail on that vehicle and get another one.

Speaking of the physics engine, it does some remarkable stuff not only with vehicles, but with people, too.  They really seem to have realistic reactions to nudges, shots, speeding cars, etc.  I've attached a demo of the engine, called Euphoria, to highlight its coolness.

The Experience:

If there's one word to best describe this game, in my opinion, it's 'scope'.  Lots of games do some stuff well.  Some games do one or two things PERFECTLY, but I've never seen a game of this size do SO much SO well.  With as large of a city as they're having constantly streamed and at my disposal, the resources for that alone seem like they'd have the Xbox at maximum capacity, but the environment here is just a playground for all of the other stuff.  There's dating, a virtual internet with email, racing, plot missions, side missions, mini-games like bowling and darts, a comedy club with virtual versions of real comedians headlining, lots of radio stations, a social site that's stat-tracking, and more.  It's everything you've played in other GTA games, plus about six other games, thrown into one, and done really well. 

I didn't even touch on the multiplayer, because I think that will be an episode of ActionCorp.  If you've played it, please leave me a comment about what you think!

First Communion Party in the Books, GTA4 Eve

luke Luke had his First Communion service over the weekend.  He'd been very excited/nervous about it for the last few days, but he said it was easy once he'd done it.  We'd talked about him moving from boy baby status to big boy status. He also said that he liked the wine.  Nice. 

Angie has been planning for the last few weeks a HUGE party to celebrate Luke's achievement.  We had Angie's parents, my parents, lots of Angie's aunts and uncles, my aunt and cousins, Luke's teacher and more come through.  Angie did a great job getting all kinds of food ready, including a WONDERFUL pasta salad, and has been working hard to make her house look pretty for the big day.  Liv was the official present starter, making sure that by the time Luke was handed the present, it was already well-started, or nearly open.  Everyone seemed to have a great time, and we had a lot of fun doing it.  Angie does a mean First Communion party.

It was a great day, but MAN, does my back still hurt.  It's been bad since Wednesday of last week.  I went to the doctor Thursday, who said that it was most likely a pinched nerve from my spine to my right arm, because after futzing with it for a while, my right arm got tingly, then numb.  I'm on anti-inflammatories and steroids, and it has gotten better, but it's still not good.  Not even 30, and already with the bad back.  Great.

Tonight at midnight, GTA4 goes on sale.  Keep an eye on my Twitter account for updates, and I'll be posting all kinds of impressions and photos in the morning.

A Sad Day for the Cheeks

cloudMy mom called me yesterday to let me know that the family dog, a sweet, goofy Golden Retriever named Cloud, had passed away Tuesday morning.  It was really sad to hear.  That dog, though wild and silly, was SO sweet and friendly, and just kind of thought he was a lap dog.  He always wanted to be right with you, with his big nose in your face.  That or playing fetch with his "meat".  He had a recurring toy that was just a rubber squeak toy that was shaped and colored like a big cut of beef.  And when he wore it out or lost it, we'd just get him another.

It really made me kind of sad, because as silly as this sounds, it's one of the first real pets that I'd known his whole life.  Dad and I went to go pick him out in between my freshman and sophomore year of school.  I did some obedience training with him pretty early on, which he retained COMPLETELY, though we didn't continue it for long, so he didn't learn much more than sit, lie down and stayStay was tricky for him, but he could hold it for a while.

I know my parents and brother are sad about it, too, since they had more day-to-day interaction with him.  He was part of the family, and he'll be missed dearly. 

Regan sent me some pictures she had of Cloud after she heard the news.  The one I attached to this post stood out to me as great, because he was all wet and messy, which he loved, and he had his "meat" with him.  That dog always looked like he was smiling, too, and I can see it really well in this picture.

Earthquake, Podcast & A Surprise Party

I slept through the first part of it.  It was very strange.  Around 4:30am, I was sleeping on my side, and slowly started to feel like someone was rocking me a little, trying to get me to wake up.  As I slowly woke up and looked over to see who was shaking me, I saw NO ONE.  Instead, I saw my computer's monitor rocking back and forth on my desk.

At this point, I figured my upstairs neighbor was having a party.  She has had people over before, and if they get rowdy, sometimes some stuff in my apartment rattles.  But it kept going.  The next thing I noticed was the sound of birds.  It was way early, still dark outside, but because my window was open, I could hear the birds going nuts.

Then it stopped shaking, and still almost in a dream, I rolled over, grabbed my phone, and texted Angie, asking her if that was an earthquake.  I got a "Yes" back, then checked on Tuesday, then went back to bed.  About 45 minutes later, I got a call from the station, to help get our streaming video fired up.  Then I crashed again.

After I woke up and headed for work, I got stuck on the Twin Bridges.  Standstill traffic.  They apparently shut it down for a bit so they could either weld or cut some steel.  While I was sitting there, more shaking.  I rolled down my windows, just in case I shook off into the river, at least I could get out of the car quickly.  When I got back to the station, I learned that the first quake was a 5.2, northwest of Evansville.  The one while I was on the bridge was a 2.6.  Then, while AT the station, another 4.6 aftershock jiggled the station.  All in all, this was a very cool day.

 Map showing earthquakes

Last night was pretty fun, too.  The Busy Bytes boys, minus Craig, sat down at our own computers, hooked up with Skype, and recorded an audio-only podcast.  Chris and Sean and I talked for a little more than half an hour discussing games, camcorders and more, but it's not quite done yet, so I'll post again when it's ready for

Now enjoy this.  I'm starting to really like the stuff Kristen Wiig does.  She's silly.  Plus, you can't go wrong with Walken.