star wars games

I could not sleep last night (taking a 3 hour nap in the afternoon was probably a bad idea, in hindsight), and so I was up real late just bumming around on the internets looking for something to do. I eventually got the idea to go play around on my PS3 and see what I could find. I remembered that there was a new demo for a Star Wars game coming out pretty soon called Republic Heroes that I had gotten on the playstation store, so I checked it out.

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The demo has two types of game play you can do — either as a Clone Trooper or as a Jedi. The controls are different for each one, as well as the goals and, well, game play … so it’s kind of a two-in-one thing, which is original (to me, at least, I’m not a huge gamer) and makes it pretty fun.

I fired up the Clone Trooper one first and at first it just seemed like a run-of-the-mill FPS. What struck me as interesting though is that the controls were really, really simple. I quickly surmised that this games must be for younger kids, because of how easy it is to do stuff.

The demo level was fun, though I was more criticizing it and analyzing it as a potential purchase more than enjoying it, I’d say. Took a few minutes, and I was done, fine. That was interesting, next.

The Jedi route was more fun. Again, the controls are really simple — you basically have block, jump, attack and force push as your options. Nothing hard to manage at all. And, you fight droids and just bust them up. Oh, one other thing I forgot to mention was that you have an AI character following you around — in this case, Anakin’s padawan whose name I forget right now. Asoka, I think. It’s always nice to have a little help, in some games.

Anyway, the first run was pretty annoying as I was trying to figure out how to do things. I didn’t think it was that impressive, until I clued in that this game was dumbed down a bit to make things easy for little kids, and once I realized that I stopped trying to do master force pushes and instead just relaxed a bit and started getting into it. Jumping, for example, from one spot to another is practically automated. You just have to kind of position your character in the right direction to go, and then nudge them that way when jumping up and forward. Not hard at all, thank goodness — if there’s one thing I hate about games, it’s when you have to perform, what I call, Super Mario jumps. I absolutely suck at timed leaps, and if you’ve ever seen me play Super Mario Bros., you’d quickly see why — I get really flustered and upset and crazy and mad and angry and totally, absolutely possessed with the game. I’m sure as an observer it must be pretty entertaining.

So, yah, I think I’ll probably get the game when it comes out, which is Oct. 6th. That’s gonna make me a bit backlogged on games I’m planning to get — I still haven’t picked up a copy of Overlord II. I can’t wait for that one, either.

Along with the good, there’s always gotta be some bad. The other week, I finally got a copy of the Star Wars game Clone Wars: Lightsaber Duels. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a game so poorly done, which, for a Star Wars theme, is pretty incredible to see anything this crappy.

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I had read plenty of reviews about it online, wondering if I wanted to get it or not … and then I pretty much ignored them all and got it anyway, since it was only $20 (after it’d only been out a short time, which should have been a huge red flag in itself), and besides … it was Star Wars! How bad could it be? Ugh.

I really only have two gripes with it, and I can honestly live with them just fine. The first is that the audio sync for the characters is way off. And I don’t mean Steve-with-his-psycho-timing-OCD off, but like, a good two or three seconds out of sync with their lips. It’s just embarassingly bad.

The game is really hard to control, too. It uses the Nunchuck for the Wii, which immediately makes me realize that it’s going to be difficult to start with. I bought this so me and my little brother could play it (who is *really* into Star Wars … as in, savant level), and he liked it. Well, we played something like six rounds and I won *once* (and I was really trying, too), so yah, he liked it.

I could not figure out the controls for the life of me, so we both just kind of sat there randomly swinging and contorting our bodies in an attempt to move our characters and beat the crap out of each other. I think I was more successful in almost knocking him in the head with the controller than I was with my in-game lightsaber.

Other than it being impossible to control and hard to follow who’s talking at what point, the game is pretty cool. The graphics are nice. The game is a lot simpler than I thought it’d be — it’s just a dueling scenario, one on one. I was hoping there’d be a chance there was a bit more to it. Ah, well.

If the controls were a bit more refined, I think it’d be an awesome game to use the Wii to actually control a lightsaber and run around doing some damage. From my point of view though, anything using the Nunchuck controller is notoriously clumsy — you punch with it and the game responds by just randomly moving in some other direction compared to the one you made. So, I’m not a big fan.

Last, but not least, and probably the third best Star Wars game I’ve ever played (Knights of the Old Republic 1 and 2 winning top spots), is The Force Unleashed. Man, I love this game.

Dinking around on Amazon last night, I familiarized myself with what other PS3 games are out there. I must be reading all the wrong site feeds, because I never have a freaking *clue* of all the stuff that is out there, or is coming out. Oh well, it makes for some nice surprises. What I didn’t realize is coming out though, is a new version of the game (in November) called the Ultimate Sith Edition (you can barely see that in red at the top of the image).

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It’s the same game, obviously, as the standard edition, but it also has all the downloadable extra content that’s been available on the playstation store, plus some other something or other I saw mentioned briefly on the Amazon site. Being the sucker that I am for marketing, Star Wars, and exclusive content, I’ll be buying this one. I’ll probably give my old one to my little brother to play, who happened to get a PS3 Slim for his 11th birthday. The punk. Nobody ever gave me a console for *my* birthday. Not that I’m bitter or anything. In fact, the only console I ever got as a gift was an Atari when I was like 6 years old for Christmas, and that was “for the family.” Yah. The family learned quick that Steve is sucked into such consoles for better or for worse, so I never really had one as a permanent fixture in my life until the PS3. That should give away my age. Yay, generation gaps.

Anyway, I bought about half of the extra content online, and since the other half (about $20 worth at this point) is already included in the new game, it kinda makes sense to me to just buy a new one.

I love this game, though, it is so much fun. I fired it up last night so I could kick some booty. Oh, I might also mention, that this is one of the extremely few console games that I have managed to solve *all the way*. That is really rare for me, since I have a notoriously hard time with bosses, and usually give up when I can’t win. Because the way the game is setup, though, it lets you revisit old levels and cumulatively gain more power each time, so that totally helped me. Anyway. I’ve written about the game before.

When I went to fire it up last night, it said there was an update for it (can I just interject for a moment, how awesome I think it is that consoles have Internet access? And can download updates for games, and content? The PS3 is how I thought a console should have been 15 years ago. Just saying.), and asked if I wanted to download it. Boo-yah! Of course. It was small (26 megs) for the 2.0 update.

While it was downloading, I went back to the intrawebs to try to figure out what was in there, but I wasn’t having much luck, so I just waited for it to suck it down and then install (the agony!). Turns out it added support for trophies — something I’m vaguely becoming interested in / aware of. I don’t really care about showing them off to friends (in fact, recently, I cleared out my friends list completely for the PS3, only because I don’t really care to chat online or play online games much … so, no offense if you were on there, it’s not you … it’s me), but I think the trophies are cool just to measure your list of accomplishments in-game and stuff.

It wouldn’t let me earn the trophies though unless I started with a new set of save games (rant: why are there only four save game slots?), so I just made a new profile and moved them over there in case I ever wanted to load up my old game where I have all but like 5 of the holocrons in the whole game (including the black lightsaber, woo hoo!).

So I got to start over, and I immediately noticed there were some more changes to the game. For one, Darth Vader actually *moves* in that opening sequence. Wow. Thank goodness. In the old one, it was quite annoying as he would … slowly …. move …. around …… and …. yet … be … really …. powerful … with … the … force. It just made starting a new game a real drag.

It could be my imagination — I doubt it — but I think I’m noticing a few other small tweaks and changes to the game as well. I haven’t been playing it regularly in a while, but it sure seems a little different. Can’t quite put my finger on it though. It seems to be moving at a slightly more clipped pace, and the Apprentice level seems a lot easier. I know the first boss (I forgot his name again … General Kota?) was much, much easier than before. That, or I’m getting better at the game. Who knows. Either way, it’s still an awesome game. And now I wanna go play it some more, dang it.

Hoo momma, I wasn’t planning such a long post. Good times. There’s a lot more Star Wars games I could write about, too. I have this strange goal of buying every single one that comes out. I’m not really passionate about that one, but I’m not too far away, either … I can think of maybe two or three I don’t have for the PS2 and two for the PC I don’t have. I guess that’s a lot. Like I said, they are usually a great hit, with a few random misses. Man, what I wouldn’t give for a reboot of Tie Fighter. Best. Game. Evar.

it's the great pumpkin

As usual, I feel a little awkward after posting something spiritual, so here’s something not at all. :) I found this last night at Barnes and Noble for $5. If there’s one thing I love more than Halloween … it’s Christmas. But aside from that, nothing speaks volumes about Halloween other than The Great Pumpkin! I love Peanuts. :)

the imperfect relationship

I had a really interesting thought tonight, and I thought I should write about it, despite it being something pretty personal, so here goes.  I’ll actually quote almost verbatim an excerpt from my journal:

I was saying a prayer tonight, and just suddenly the thought occurs to me that it is so amazing that in our raw, imperfect, mortal form here on earth, that it’s possible to even create a relationship with Heavenly Father.  That is just so cool.  It really takes some work, but even with just a little bit, you can recognize how He feels about you and your current condition and path that you are on.

That’s so amazing to me that its possible, because of *all* the things we have yet to learn and do in the eternities for our progression, it’s possible to create a real, recognizable connection with God right now; that we have the capacity to do that is, again, amazing.

I’m sure that, compared to how things can be in a more perfect form it’s probably not much that we achieve here, but you can still create a relationship that is as real and fulfilling as anything else here on Earth, and moreso, I imagine (mine isn’t *that* strong, but I certainly can’t deny it’s there).  Amazing stuff, I’m really thankful for that. :)

gmail smtp + custom from email address

Oh, man, I just solved a problem that has been horribly hounding me *for a year now*, and I just had to write about it.

At work, we use Microsoft Exchange for our email, which doesn’t really bother me that much.  I’m not the calendaring / scheduling / whatever fool that cares about all the advanced crap, I just want to be able to send and receive email.  I don’t get a lot here at work, and I send less, but when I do it’s always a painful experience.  The reason is because I haven’t been able to get anything on my Linux desktop (I’ve been using Gentoo as my workstation OS for about 6 years now, all at different jobs, nyah!) to actually send mail out on the Exchange server, and I’ve tried everything.  I can get mail just fine using POP3 or IMAP, but no SMTP love.

Anyway, I won’t go through what I tried to get working, because it didn’t work, and who cares anyway.  What does work is using GMail to provide an external SMTP service.  Now, the problem I anticipated, and what it does, is it munges the From: email address to force it to your GMail account name.  I wanted it the email to look like me@workinghard.com though.  What I didn’t know until today is you can set that up.

Just open up the GMail interface, click on the Settings link then the “Accounts and Import” tab.  There’s a section labeled “Send mail as”.  Just take it from there.  Add another account, and it will verify that you have access to the one you are wanting to send it from.  Then, when you setup your email client (Thunderbird, in my case) to send through gmail’s SMTP server (smtp.gmail.com), and you send from me@workinghard.com, your From address will no longer be munged.  Success!

Oh man, I’m so glad I don’t have to battle with Exchange any more.  Or the web interface.  Or my dedicated Windows box I use mostly for Outlook.  *wave of relief* :)

three ways to install alsa drivers

One thing I’m noticing a bit of confusion on in general online is what the docs or me mean when it says to install the ALSA sound card drivers as modules.  So, lemme clarify real quick. :)

There are two *places* to get the drivers from: either in the kernel, or from the alsa-driver package.  But, when using the kernel drivers, like many other drivers there, they can either be compiled in statically or loaded as modules as the computer is booting up.  So, there are actually two ways to install the drivers as modules, which could be a bit confusing.

So, a quick list:

1) In-kernel drivers (statically compiled)

2) In-kernel drivers (modules)

3) External drivers (alsa-driver package, modules)

The first two are the officially supported methods by the ALSA team, so I’ll quickly focus on those two.  Now the, recommended way to do things is #2 — select them as modules in the kernel and build them that way when you are setting up ALSA for the very first time.  Why?  Well, the answer is really that it gives you a lot more options.

Let’s say, for instance, that you aren’t sure which driver your card requires.  So, you flip on a few that look like it’s the right one, and set them to be installed as modules.  Once they are there,  you can run alsaconf, which is a part of alsa-utils.  The alsaconf program will do the detective work for you by looking at the modules that are available on the system, and the cards that you have on your box, and then load the modules and update your module list so that they will load up the next time you boot your box as well.  Pretty simple, right?  It sure is a lot faster than compiling one driver in the kernel, rebooting, testing if that works, trying a separate one, rebooting, etc.

Another reason is that there may be some options you need to pass to your module.  This is rare, but it does happen.  If you are loading them as modules already, then it’s just a simple tweak to do change the settings, again, without having to reboot and re-test everything.

So, that’s the reason we recommend you load them as modules.  It’s just gonna make life a bit easier the first time around, as you are trying to determine what you have.  Once you know what driver is required, you can always go back into the kernel and compile it in statically, and be done with it.  There’s no reason to keep it as a module, unless you want to.

Finally, a quick note about the alsa-driver package.  It’s often said that it is unmaintained, and the reason for that is because I, personally, am the only one who is keeping it on life support.  That is, I’m the maintainer, not the ALSA herd.  It’s only in the tree as a convenience to people who need to use it for whatever reason.  Some of the reasons could be that you needed to see if the latest release from upstream is fixing some issues of yours, so you’d use the live ebuild.  Or, you may want to use an older kernel but still keep the newer version of ALSA.  Or whatever.  The problem, though, is that I don’t have the technical skills to troubleshoot your issues if something goes wrong.  My solution every time is  pretty much going to shrug and say “Sorry, that sucks.  Try the live ebuild, or something else.”  It’s not that I don’t want to help, it’s that in this case, I can’t.

Anyway, that’s it … I hope that clears up a few issues.  When I have time, I’ll be revising the ALSA docs.  No idea when that’ll be though.  Don’t hold your breath.  In the meantime, if you have issues, my recommendation is to post on the Gentoo Forums in the Multimedia forum and ask for some help, or there’s always bugzilla.  Chances are you’ll get a response faster on the forums, though.  Good luck, and God speed. :)

alsa 1.0.21 released

I caught the news yesterday via Phoronix that a new version of ALSA libraries and utilties came out.  I went to go bump them in the portage tree, but Tony (chainsaw) already beat me to it.  Thanks, man! :)

Looking at the detailed changelog, there are a lot of updates for the *hda cards, which is just what the world needed.  I haven’t ever had any problems with them myself, but they are the de facto chipset on desktop motherboards right now, and it’s awesome to see support getting improved.  Hopefully it’ll fix some of the countless issues Gentoo users are experiencing.