Monday, February 20, 2006

There Went 100 Hours of My Life . . .

From time to time, I enjoy playing a good role playing game.  Although I'm not an RPG junkie, like some of my friends, I've played my share.  But, I am very discerning when it comes to RPGs.  For me to devote dozens of hours to a video game, it has to be really freakin' good.  I've been known to get fifteen or so hours into a game and then just quit playing because I'm not really having a lot of fun.  This most recently happened to me with Star Ocean: Till the End of Time.  That game had a fun battle system, but it couldn't overcome the bad voice acting, boring story, and ridiculous amount of time between save points.

On the other end of the spectrum, however, is the game that I just finished: Dragon Quest VIII.  It took almost a hundred hours, but last night I finally finished off Rapthorne, the Lord of Darkness and saved the world.  (Of course, I still need to beat the Monster Arena.  And complete the Path of the Dragovinians.  And find all of Princess Minnie's medals.  And fill out King Trode's battle record. And . . . )

While it does take a serious commitment, I'd have to say that DQ8 is worth it.  It's a prime example of the value of making sure a game is completely polished versus breaking new ground.  DQ8 really doesn't have anything you haven't seen before (assuming you play RPGs).  The storyline is very traditional.  The battle system is quite simple.  But the voice acting is very good.  And while it certainly doesn't tax my PlayStation 2 in terms of graphics, it does look very slick and stylish.  But, most importantly, it is just a lot of fun.  The characters are balanced but unique.  You never have to do any serious level grinding just to be able to attempt the next dungeon.  The world is incredibly expansive and you can divert from the main story to do side quests pretty much whenever you want.  It's just really well done.

So, I officially add Dragon Quest VIII to my shelf of RPGs worth the hours that it takes to beat them.  It joins Might and Magic 3, Final Fantasy III (VI), Chrono Trigger, Baldur's Gate, Planescape:Torment, Final Fantasy VII, Skies of Arcadia, and Kingdom Hearts.  If you like RPGs at all, set aside a few weeks of time, pick it up, and enjoy.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Mountain is a Harsh Mistress

For the first time in three years, I went snowboarding last weekend.  While I had a blast, I'm still paying for it today, Tuesday morning.

First off, a big thank you to Scott, Kim, and Sung (and of course, honorary mention to Dude).  I flew up to DC and spent the weekend with them.  My idea of a good time has always been laying around, playing video games, watching movie, and grilling out.  And that's exactly what we did on Saturday, as Mother Nature dropped a foot of snow on top of us, more than I had ever seen at one time.

While it was beautiful, it also caused a major problem for us Sunday morning when we got up to head to the slopes.  The roads had already been cleared, but the parking lot had not.  So we spent almost an hour with a snow shovel and salt, digging our way the 50 yards between us and the street.

But we did make it out, and it was worth it when we got to the mountain (Whitetail in southern Pennsylvania).  The slopes were covered in fresh powder, something that I had only ever seen the time that I went skiing in Colorado, but never in the Appalachians.  The only problem was that everyone and their brother also wanted to ski in the fresh snow, so the place was packed.

I was really surprised at how quickly I picked boarding back up.  Like I said, it had been three years since the last time that I had gone.  But on my first trip up the green slope, I didn't bust it while getting off the lift (which had always been a sore spot for me), and I made it all the way down without falling.  But this presented a problem.  I was obviously a little more adept than Scott or Kim (Sung declined the invitation, and can you really imagine Dude on a snowboard?).  So I would go a little ahead, stop and wait for them to catch up, and repeat.  So when we were back at the bottom, I had to take my leave of them and graduate myself to the blue slope. I did fairly well there too, so I eventually tried out the black diamond course, but that was a little above my skill.  The steepness didn't bother me, but I'm not good enough at cutting back and forth quickly to handle moguls, which the hill was covered in.

So, I dropped back down to the blue course to try a different tactic to improve my skills.  Off to one side, they had set up a mini slopestyle area.  It had two jumps and two rails.  I was nervous about trying to ride a rail on a rented board, so I decided to learn to jump.  In this venture I failed.  I wasn't beaten.  I continued to attempt the jump all afternoon long.  But, when we decided to leave, I had yet to successfully land one.  Maybe next time.  The jumping is what I'm really paying for right now too.  I would probably be just a little sore from boarding, but I've got a nice purple bruise on my butt that makes sitting a little ginger right now.  I also had a pretty spectacular face-plant, but thankfully I've had no ill effects from that.

When I woke up Monday morning to go catch my flight, I was surprised by how good I felt.  But after sitting all day on the metro to the airport, at the concourse waiting to board, on the plane, and in my car coming down from Nashville, everything started to tighten up.  It was definitely worth it though.  I just wish I had somewhere close enough to go on a regular basis.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Freakin' CD Players

So the CD player in my car died.

For those keeping count at home, it the fifth time its happened since I got my first one for my 17th birthday present.  Considering I just celebrated my 25th, that's 5 in 8 years.  Does anyone else have this kind of luck when it comes to car stereos?  I've had really nice, expensive players and dirt cheapo ones, and it really doesn't seem to make a whole lot of difference.

I guess I should have seen this one coming, however.  It's the unit that was in my car when I bought it, it has never played CDs without skipping incessantly, and about six months ago the display quit working.  I should have replaced it a while ago, but hey, I'm a procrastinator. 

And, to make matters worse, I've got to drive to Nashville this afternoon.  So, anyone who happens to be on northbound I-65 today, watch out.  There will be a black Civic who's driver won't be able to hear you because he's got his iPod plugged into his ears.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Lied to Again!!!

I've been living in Huntsville for a little over two years now.  In that time, snow has been forecast about 7 or 8 time.  Each and every time, it has failed to snow.  It did flurry once, but that's it.  You think that I'd learn my lesson after a little while, but I get my hopes up every time.

I know that those of my readers who live in places where it snows often are sitting there thinking that it sounds like a pretty good problem to have.  But, dammit, I like the snow.  I don't want to be whited out for a week or anything, but a good dusting every now and then would be nice.

But, even though I'm a couple of hundred miles north of where I used to live, I'm still in Alabama, and I guess I'm stuck with just a miserable cold rain.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006


As I think I've mentioned before, I'm a big fan of listening to podcasts.  (Other than their name.  Really, 'podcast' is my second least favorite word to come out of the current tech boom . . . second only to blog).  For those not in the know, podcasts are kind of like a downloadable radio show.  I've always liked talk radio, but I find it impossible to structure my schedule around listening to a radio program.  It's hard enough to do that for TV shows (and thank God for DVRs).  If you use the iTunes Music Store, you can subscribe to podcasts about pretty much any subject you can think of, all for free.  They'll be automatically downloaded whenever a new episode is put out and you can either put them on your iPod or listen to them straight from your computer.  They're great to listen to at work (as long as you can multitask) or to break out of the monotony of long car trips.

My favorite podcast is This Week in Tech, which is put on by a bunch of former Tech TV show hosts.  It's a weekly look at most of the top stories on the forefront of geek culture.  While I already know most of the information that they talk about, they're still an entertaining bunch with interesting points of view.  The reason that I bring all of this up is that I was at school before class started yesterday and someone mentioned something that they had heard on TWiT.  I mentioned that I listened to the show as well.  As did the two other people who were in the room.  I thought that was pretty cool, to know that I'm not the only super-geek around.