September 2003 Archives
The recent OTA update to my Hiptop contained an interesting little addition: Terminal Monkey, a SSH/Telnet app. I know jack-all about SSH, but I do have a history with Telnet.
Years 2 through 4 of my college experience (and real world Year 1 thereafter) involved a lot of MUSHing on TinyCWRU. A MUSH is a variant on the well-remembered MUDs of the early internet. Essentially, shared text adventures. In MUDs you trawled dungeons, fought monsters, gained experience, all in the D&D fashion. In MUSHes, the emphasis was on socializing and building. TinyCWRU had no theme and no limits to how many objects you could create, making it open season for anybody who wanted to code... I'm not explaining this very well...
Basically, you have to think of a huge database. The database contains objects - which could be a door, a coffee mug, a killer robot, whatever. Each object has a number in the database and a series of letter codes (flags) assigned to it. An object with an R flag is a room, P indicates a player character, E is an exit. The MUSH program examines these numbers/flags and controls them in a fashion that mimics an interactive text-based experience. You create a character (P), walk from room (R) to room using exits (E) and enter in specific MUSH-recognized commands to interact with the various objects in the room. The commands start with normal adventure stuff like "say" and "look" and "get," but you can quickly develop into the deep programming language involved in creating your own objects... and by extension, your own rooms, robots, toys, tools and worlds.
TinyCWRU went public in October 1990, after an initial period local to students at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. Although I had two high school chums who went to CWRU, I was introduced to TinyCWRU by a college pal at my own school, Steve (who I believe heard about it from an old friend of his.) Steve and I created our first characters in October 1993... Tolby and StocDred, respectively.
Eventually, Steve and I got the idea to create something. In about a month we accumulated a decent knowledge of MUSH coding and started planning out a text adventure. The underlying basis of our adventure was the concept of keys and locks. To complete our adventure, a player would need to travel across our land (rooms described to simulate a spooky mansion and the surrounding acreage) and collect particular key items. Those items would grant access to other areas and eventually, a clever ending sequence that wrapped up the mystery story woven throughout the adventure. It was a great working relationship. I remember calling him up and asking "Did you finish the cave maze bit yet?" while I was creating the robot puppets that populated the rooms and revealed clues and storyline. Steve christened it "The Von Till Mansion."
We made some announcements and attracted a lot of attention, as it were. Our creation managed to impress the admin, and even resulted in my being "promoted" a rank to Senior Programmer... which understandably rankled my partner Steve, since he built just as much of the Von Till Mansion as I did. However, I was probably more chatty and social than he was, and over weeks of near-constant dorm room MUSHing I had developed friendships with many of TinyCWRU's admin. I guess I kissed ass.
The point is, it's still all there. Ten years after my first login, TinyCWRU still exists. I have no idea who's hosting it these days; it was relocated off CWRU's servers years ago. Of course, it's a shadow of its former self. In 1993 you could find 30+ people logged in at a time (and the popular MUDs could command many, many more) and 100's of different players over the week. Back then, TinyCWRU was a chat room, a multiplayer game, a creative toy box all in one. Today, it's a relic. The internet equivalent of cave art.
Rediscovering TinyCWRU via my phone's new Telnet ability, I can only imagine how my college career would have been ruined. TinyCWRU consumed a crazy amount of time just on my dorm room's Apple Performa 430, and I often got distracted in class just by having a blank sheet of paper in front of me. Much less the entire MUSH in my pocket.
If you're curious, check out TinyCWRU. You'll need to create a character, naturally, and once you do, type in the command "@tel #73168". That will teleport you to the opening room of the Von Till Mansion adventure (make sure you look at the dog's tag there to refresh your memory on simple text adventure actions.) I bet it still all works. And if you see StocDred, wish him a happy tenth birthday.
I don't know why these sorts of announcements always shock and surprise me; we've known about a Kingdom Hearts sequel for some time. It's just nice to know that somebody somewhere has been working on it, since Kingdom Hearts meant so much to me as a gamer / Disney fan. Here is the first official info (from the Tokyo Game Show)... KH2 for PS2, and Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories for GBA. Yes, GBA!
Chain of Memories will take place immediately after the events of the original PS2 Kingdom Hearts. KH2 is reportedly several years later (note Sora's slightly older look). That artwork is also teasing Mickey himself in KH2... although draped in some kind of ninja hoodie.
I remember my early excitement for Kingdom Hearts, a game I was tracking well over a year before release. And despite my storied misgivings while playing the game, that excitement is back. Even stronger, since the natural inclination is to believe that Square Enix has ironed out the ugly wrinkles.
The other side of the coin is what the Mouse House themselves intend to do with Kingdom Hearts. Rumors have whirled around breathing of a Kingdom Hearts movie or cartoon. The format? Who can say. Could be a fairly pedestrian half hour cartoon series... or a direct-to-dvd animated film, maybe even CG animated. Or it could be a project doomed to Disney Development Hell, never bubbling to the surface.
Another announcement of interest from TGS is Nintendo's wireless GBA adapter. This gadget will finally break the ties of the venerable Link Cable. My gut feeling is that this was planned as a built-in for the GBA's successor, but Nintendo re-engineered it to trump the wireless claims of the N-Gage and the Sony PSP. Tomorrow's technology today, thanks to capitalism. Bad news: this adapter will not work with old games, only new ones. You're stuck with the Cable there. Good news: Nintendo is giving it away for free with next year's Pokemon Red and Green revamps. Kickass game and essential peripheral? Terrific. The only remaining blank spot is how long it will take Nintendo to release a wireless GBA adaptor for the GameCube. Any way you look at it, this is a sure sign that Nintendo has every plan to keep the GBA on top of the pack.
We've come to the point where we don't expect Toys R Us to have anything in stock within a week of the release date... much less when the week includes a hyped-up hurricane. But mysteriously and happily, we found Simpsons: Hit & Run; in fact, the last GameCube copy available.
That's not to say it wasn't a Geoffrey-sponsored scavenger hunt. My first pass of the racks came up empty, so I checked the PS2 side of the aisle. The PS2 stock is much better organized. Alphabetized, even. When Hit & Run appeared in PlayStation format, we figured the Nintendo edition must just be well-hid.
It was. The slips were part of a spastic mess of identified tickets attached to a support pillar in the middle of the GameCube display. I was so excited I completely forgot to look for Boktai, that GBA game with a built-in sunlight sensor.
The second surprise of the day came when the game didn't suck. It's GTA-lite, a weapons-free driving and exploring game set in a fully-realized Springfield. It's a shame that Simpsons: Road Rage was ever released (now more than ever), because having played RR steals a lot of the visual thunder from Hit & Run. In both games, you drive around Springfield, so lots of settings and sight gags necessarily appear in both. Kind of a shame. If RR had never been existed, Hit & Run would come off a lot funnier and fresher. So if you've never played Road Rage, you have no excuse to do so now. Hit & Run trumps it on every level. If you have played Road Rage, hopefully you'll find driving Marge's vaunted Canyonero just as amusing... again.
In other car game news, Rhonda and I are playing the heck out of Starsky & Hutch, a PS2 driving/shooting game based on a license that has no right to shelf space these days. If you'll recall, this game was the reason I bought a light gun a month ago.
You would expect that a Starsky & Hutch game would get a lot of bad reviews, and you'd be correct. But I'm here to say that the game isn't all that bad, and it has one huge mitigating factor: $20. For some reason, this game is $20 brand new (I saw it for $20 at both EB and TRU, so don't assume it's a retailer-specific deal. Plus, at EB you got a soundtrack record. Yes, a record. While supplies last, I'm sure.)
I've already leaped to the game's defense on GameGirlAdvance.com and I'll continue to do so here. This is a mediocre-looking game that is perfectly playable. There's some slowdown, average graphics, indistinguishable cartoon voices for the leads, and an unforgivable amount of Huggy Bear lionizing. But it's fun regardless. Let me paint you a picture: I'm sitting on the couch in the driver's seat, controlling the Striped/Red Tomato with the Dual Shock. Rhonda is in shotgun position, armed with, well, a shotgun... in the form of the GunCon2, anyway. I drive like a madman through the streets of Bay City, chasing and ramming whatever vehicle I'm told to chase and ram. (It's all very Grand Theft Auto at this point.) Rhonda then acts as the muscle, shooting powerups in the sky and peppering the enemy cars with lead. She even gets to peg gun-toting baddies along the sidewalks or leaning out of the car. As if to emphasize the game's quick, dirty style, she doesn't even need to reload! ...which in most games turns into a request for carpal-tunnel anyway.
See, that's just great. Easy, cooperative fun. When these sorts of multiplayer console games were discussed five years ago, the standard line was "Gaming is a solo activity. You can't expect people to buy games that require two or more people to play." Well, Adventures of Cookie & Cream did it. Starsky & Hutch did it (for $20.) And the forthcoming Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles will do it with a cherry on top.
Today marks my one year anniversary of playing Animal Crossing. I've played every day since September 17, 2002. I was hoping that something cool would happen today, but nothing did. I can't say I'm surprised; that would be a pretty awful way to hide a secret in the game, wouldn't it? Very very few players would hit that goal. But it would have been great to get Super Mario Bros. in the mail this morning. I would have went straight to the message boards and posted in all caps.
So let's reflect on what I've accomplished after a year living in Animal Crossing.
- Catalog completion: fossils, stationery, K.K. songs.
- Completed the fish and insect collection screens.
- One painting to go, and my entire museum is finished.
- For several weeks, I had every single villager wearing the Noble Shirt.
- Collected the complete Harvest series, Jingle series and Igloo item sets.
This is not a complete list, but here's some items I still have never found... even after a full year of playing plus tons of eCard purchases: Well (from the Western set), White Bishop, Red Corner, Lawn Mower, Surfboard, Diver Dan, Life Ring, Pagoda, Bonfire, Propane Stove, Daisy Meadow, Pulse Shirt (plus several other Gracie designs), Green Pinwheel, and about 20 different gyroids. Feel free to contact me about trades, but no universal codes please.
So do I continue? Honestly, yes. I missed several special events over the last year... like next week's Fall Sports Festival, for example. But get this: once you get the special rare item from an event, you can never get it again. I found this out at the recent Harvest Moon party. Last year, Tortimer gave me the special Moon item, and I sold it for quick cash. This year, no item. Just small talk. I assumed that every year you could collect the event-exclusive items again, but that is not the case. I'm more than a little pissed about that. Seems like playing one particular day over the course of a damn year should earn you the right to multiple copies of rare items. (Or in this case, replacing one that was foolishly sold.) I guess Nintendo anticipated cheating time travellers that would beam from year to year to collect a house full of Moons. Thanks again, you cheating bastards.
You may have noticed the text ads over in the sidebar. They're from Google AdSense, a relatively new pay-per-click ad service. If fourhman.com delivers X amount of clicks on those ads, I will eventually receive X dollars.
But what I find interesting about it is the kind of ads it creates. It's supposed to "read" your content and select ads based on what your page is about. I actually kinda respect the concept here, because at least the ads are trying to be relevant to people who are reading the site... people like you. It's not like going to a TV station's website and seeing ads for refinancing your mortgage.
So on fourhman.com's video games page, you'll see ads for video games for sale. Perfect. On the card games page, it's currently generating links for Yu-Gi-Oh cards. I guess that's more or less okay.
It gets a little hazy from there on out. The Pokemon Sapphire Diary turns ads for precious gems... despite the word "pokemon" being 10x as common as the word "sapphire." Perhaps I need that accent over the "e". The Animal Crossing Log has the service completely stymied, so I added a short introduction using the words "Nintendo" and "game" as many times as I could.
As for this weblog stuff, who knows. Everything was video game related until I wrote that posting about showtunes and now I'm getting ads for Annie sheet music. Always in motion is the future.
Anyway, although it would be nice if those ads would cover my hosting bill, I'm not worrying about it. Consider it more of an experiment in robotic intelligence, as Google's spider apps do their best to understand this site and create ads that make sense. And if you see something you like, I hope you don't get ripped off by the end vendor. Now for some random keywords I hope will generate some Good Deals For You.
Wireless router. Apple Macintosh. Comic books. The Simpsons. Harry Potter. T-Mobile Sidekick. iPod. Resident Evil. The Muppet Show. Star Wars. Dragon Ball Z. Yoga DVD. Surround Sound. Super Monkey Ball. Maine Coon. Superman.
Or maybe you'll just see more ads for Broadway shows.
The other day Rhonda asked me "What are you doing humming showtunes?" I stopped in mid-walk. I was humming something from Les Miserables; who knows how I got that stuck in my head. I did have to do an internal double-take though, because I never really considered Les Mis showtunes. I guess it is, by definition. I've always thought of showtunes as the simple, silly, dippy musical songs. Like from freakin' Oklahoma, or The Music Man. Where the corn is as high as an elephant's eye indeed.
So in my little brain category cubbyholes I ranked Les Mis over and above that sort of thing. I guess it was mainly a matter of content... the melodrama of love / justice / war winning out over the likes of Big Trouble in River City. Dead Orphan Gavroche over Little Orphan Annie, if you will.
Either way, I never considered myself as a guy who hums showtunes.
I didn't even own a copy of Les Mis, except perhaps for an old dubbed cassette which I would rightly refuse to listen to today. So I figured a trip to the iTunes Music Store would be fruitful. I downloaded a "Highlights from Les Miserables" album and quickly shuffled it off into the iPod.
As a rule, my family never watched musicals growing up... much less entertaining exposure to Broadway shows. Except for The Muppet Movie, I suppose. Plus, I was a kid during the weird time when Disney was between musical productions... the era enclosed by Many Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh and The Great Mouse Detective, all of which averaged about one song each. And none of which would be considered "musicals," I'd say. Hell, except for Pooh, they aren't even considered great films. Disney is still waiting for the planet's last remaining Black Cauldron fans to die off. I'd wonder aloud why I even grew up loving Disney stuff except that I know the answer: marketing.
And now "On My Own" is stuck in my head again.
(By the way, that drawing of Kermit is from Muppet Central, a great Muppet fansite.)
All I really need is a long list of unlockables and I'll play any game you hand me. So it is with Soul Calibur 2, a game I probably would have skipped were it not for the list of hidden weapons and costumes and other such junk. I don't play a lot of fighting games, but I believe the equation went something like this: unlockables + Link + unanimous gushing reviews = purchased. If you're going to buy a fighting game, you might as well buy the best one around.
Our neighbor kid came over to play SC2 the other night, and he kicked my ass. He even cranked down his life % and he still beat me around. Ah well, he has a Dreamcast, so he's probably well-versed in mad Soul Calibur skills. Plus his part time job is to haunt the store game kiosks whenever his mom takes him shopping.
He cracks me up with his views and opinions on video games, and I often wonder if I was that way when I was 10. I guess he gets these ideas from school friends and crappy magazines, but he always has some crazy notion about the best way to beat a game. Months ago we played a lot of Lord of the Rings: Two Towers together; he finished off the last couple levels of my saved game and unlocked the Orthanc bonus level. This week he decides he wants to play TT again to beat Saruman (we never did beat him back when we first unlocked it.) But he's convinced that Legolas is the best character to do it, so he starts a new game to train up Legolas since I had concentrated mainly on Aragorn in my file.
All those younger-skewing game rags feed into that: BEST CHEATS INSIDE! UNLOCK SECRETS NOW! UNBEATABLE MOVES! And schoolyard legend bolsters it up. It reminds me of when he knowledgeably informed me that my best chance of getting a Charizard card was to buy only boosters with a picture of Blastoise on the wrapper.
Here's the staff of the first video game magazine I ever read:
These guys are from Game Informer Magazine circa 1992, although it sure feels like more than a scant decade separates the magazines of today from those chumps. Who knows how I even subscribed to this mag, since I didn't even own a Super Nintendo or a Sega Genesis. And anyway, it was produced by FuncoLand, so it was primarily a means to encourage kids to buy games. It was basically a catalog dressed up with articles and reviews.
From an article on "The History of the CD-ROM": Only time will reveal the winner between CDTV and The Imagination Machine. ... Already waiting in the wings is Sony's Play Action Station CD-based system. ... Nintendo is also in discussions with Sony to make their CDs compatible on the Play Station.
From an interview with Bart Simpson: Anything you'd like to say to your fans? "Stay cool and don't have a cow, man."
The highest reviewed game in this particular issue is Kid Chameleon, a Genesis game, with an overall score of 9 out of 10. No game reviewed scored less than 6.25 (Super Golf for Sega Game Gear, and that's only because Ross the Rebel Gamer gave it a withering 4.75. Ah, the days when games were graded to the hundredths column!) The cynic in me suggests that all these high scores are simply to keep FuncoLand in business, but perhaps I'm forgetting the innocent, exciting, every-game-is-cool times.