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Friday, July 04, 2008

Chicago's 3rd of July

Chicago regularly holds their Independence Day fireworks on the third, although this year is a weird one because Navy Pier will also be holding theirs tonight.

It's hard to describe the urban density of the event, especially from Grant Park. There was a over a million people packed into a few city blocks to the east of Michigan. As you push and angle your way through it's obvious that humankind just wasn't designed for this kind of navigation. Nobody quite knows how or where to move.

Thankfully some friends of a friend had scoped out a place early. And by early, I mean they got there at two o' clock for a show that starts at half past nine. A show, I might add, which lasts about half an hour.

It is, however, quite a show. And the spot was so sweet that you could occasionally feel the aftershock of the explosion in your chest.

And in some ways the show doesn't end after the fireworks stop blasting. There's nothing quite like walking down the middle of Michigan Avenue with a few thousand of your fellow Chicagoans.

Yet with all this mass crowding came a grim reality. We actually heard about the shooting first by overhearing some high school kids talking about running from gunfire. Apparently if you put that many people from Greater Chicagoland into the same zone, someone is going to have a problem with someone else.

Definitely not your suburb's celebration.

Game Play: Bad Company Multiplayer

Breaking radio silence. As aside, I haven't done that kind of concentrated coding in some time. It felt kinda good in that tiring don't want to do it again for some time kinda way.

I've managed to spend a little more time with the full version of Bad Company's online mode. I stated earlier that the single player stacks up well, not exactly a AAA shooter but certainly worth some attention. The online mode, however, feels like the kind of evolution I would have wanted from the Battlefield series when I first tried it and put it down so many years ago. This iteration feels less spawn point obsessed, less vehicle obsessed and far more balanced.

Bad Company's multiplayer is a slight twist on domination point style play where attackers are trying to destroy a pair of crates (full of tasty gold bars) in succession until they clear the map. The defenders are trying to stop them. It's simple enough for people to learn the basics in a few rounds and the sandbox mechanics from the single player allow for plenty of variation.

This is a solid recipe for online games these days. While I appreciate more complicated dynamics - they require more time for players to master and increase the amount of frustrated noobs crashing tanks into walls. While everyone would like to see tighter squad mechanics - it's often hard enough to get two people to work together than four.

Instead, Bad Company keeps players working in tandem by allowing spawns to occur wherever your squad happens to be. Provided that the whole squad doesn't get wiped out right away, this means that you press the line consistently without a lot of guesswork. In addition to this, as you spot enemy soldiers and vehicles - they'll show up on your mates' HUDs as well.

Add in the tight weapon mechanics, unlockable ranks and weapons, and some great vehicle physics and you have a game which is fun even when you're team is falling behind. Unlike previous incarnations of the subgenre, there's little risk of a handful of players camping vehicle spawns and dominating the game (or simply crashing repeatedly).

It's not all wonderful, though. The invite method (at least for the PlayStation 3) leaves much to be desired. There doesn't seem to be a very friendly way to leave the game in between rounds. The PlayStation 3's support for VOIP seems to result in a series of ghostly burbles coming through your speakers.

And while the current squad mechanics work fairly well, there's still a feeling that it could be more. Whether it lacks a commander role that could paint onto the squad's HUD or bark commands, I'm not sure - but I'm willing to wait for the next version to see how it evolves.

Easily recommend.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Going Dark

Brief communications breakdown will occur through this holiday week. Nothing crisis like - but a phone call at work has kinda put us in heads down mode and while I'd love to have some time chat about My Boys, Doctor Who or Diablo III ... it'll be a little time before that happens.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Netflix Backs Down, Keeps Profiles

Just arrived in the inbox:

You spoke, and we listened. We are keeping Profiles. Thank you for all the calls and emails telling us how important Profiles are.

We are sorry for any inconvenience we may have caused. We hope the next time you hear from us we will delight, and not disappoint, you.

-Your friends at Netflix


Perhaps we aren't the only ones twisting this feature into a handy organization tool.