Good Things

//Good Things

Reviews: Albert Michelson’s Harmonic Analyzer

I’m a big fan of mathematics. It’s one of those peculiar affections because I don’t actually have the skills necessary to fully appreciate it. As I’ve gotten into coding it has become a bit easier but still its one of those things that eludes me. One of the channels I follow on YouTube is Engineerguy, Bill Hammack. He covers everything from Microwaves to Thermostats and shows you all the amazing qualities that you might otherwise have missed. One day I noticed this peculiar machine on my subscription list.

Alright...what does it do?

Alright…what does it do?

What followed was between 20 and 30 minutes of video covering every nook and cranny of the Analyzer. I didn’t fully understand it but Bill’s presentation style means that you’ll enjoy yourself regardless. Included with these videos is another unlisted video covering every single page of the book. I’m telling you all this because I feel like this is all part of a singular package. You don’t need to buy this book, Bill provides a very generous series of videos that’ll give you everything you need. Even with that in mind the passion and attention put into the book though justifies a spot on your shelves.

The pictures are all high quality. The descriptions and examples are on point and succinct. It’s nice because the book doesn’t patronize you. You, like me, might not get it all but that won’t take away from enjoying it. There isn’t much else to say. If you are interested in machines that do deceptively amazing things, fueled by nothing but a person turning a wheel, this book (and the videos) will entertain you.

The book itself is alright. It’s the experience of both the book and the videos that I think is a good experience. Additionally for busy people it’s nice to have a quality experience like this without needing to invest a week or two of your time. Give it a look.

By | 2015-04-26T17:14:04+00:00 April 27th, 2015|Good Things, Reviews|Comments Off on Reviews: Albert Michelson’s Harmonic Analyzer

JustTheTip EP.11 ~ Ys I

I first heard of Ys from the HappyConsoleGamer in his New Years Ys Special. It piqued my interest but at the time I didn’t realize that I owned it. These sort of moments are why I’ve started this series. When selecting my random game for today it landed me on Ys Chronicles. What looks to be an updated version of Ys I (and possibly II).

As far as I could parse in my first hour I’m a survivor from overseas that swept ashore after a physical wall of storms obliterated my ship. I then set out from the town that nursed me back to health to try and resolve the whole demons outside the gates problem they were having. RPGs tend to start you off small because they want you to get an appreciation for how far you’ll go. If you start out as the lord of all things there isn’t very many places to go.

But start out as a guy with no armor, no shield, and no sword? That’s something. I spent about ten to twenty minutes stuck in the first town because I wasn’t paying attention. I kept trying to figure out how to unlock the armory so that I could buy gear. It turned out that all I needed to do was go to the next town to buy gear. There is an achievement for getting the sword for free. I don’t know how you do that (I believe its in that video I linked above) but I certainly missed it.

The visuals in this version of Ys are gorgeous. The intro video was delightful, the sprite artwork is just dandy, and the map certainly made me happy. It’s all dated, sure, but in no ways that I find negative. The aesthetics are there and that is what matters the most to me. The sounds both musical and effect are good as well. I enjoyed the music in dungeons and the overworld music that I heard. The town music wasn’t half bad either. It all made me jazzed up for whatever I was going to be doing, be it buying things or making bad guys explode into a million pieces.

Combat is done through something called a “Bump System” which sounds like what you’d think. Reliving my experiences on every public transit ever, I am tasked with bumping aggressively into others until they are dismembered into a pile of viscera. The challenge is to hit the enemy at an angle (or more ideally from the side or back) because then you’ll take no damage. At least initially there are no healing items to be found. This might sound like the end times but you can heal outdoors simply by standing still.

The name of the game appears to be grinding but it doesn’t feel bad in Ys. Because of the bump system you can make it through a lot of fights fairly quickly. This might turn off some people but I was having a good time. You can even find ways to abuse the terrain so that they can never look at you allowing you to kill them without danger.

Ys demands that you save it frequently. Luckily you can do this just about anytime. If you don’t you are liable to stroll up on a new kind of bad guy and get instantly killed. If you die you go back to your last save. I lost a chunk of time playing the game to this mistake. If you bounce off of an enemy you’ll want to haul ass out of that area. Because if they hit you the odds are good that you’ll instantly die.

Obviously this is an RPG so I can’t speak to the game as a whole. But my first hour was pretty fun! I had a real good time. I’d say this game, given its age, is pretty good. It’s not a great first hour but certainly not something I regret. There are some ways it could be improved (like having more mobs on the screen) or perhaps better XP per kill but these are not blockers for me. I had fun, I recommend it to anyone that wants an interesting RPG. I’ll likely come back to this in the future.

I’m sort of fluctuating between if I think this is a “good game” or just an “ok game”. But I think it squeaks by into the good category.

By | 2015-12-14T00:12:26+00:00 April 15th, 2015|Good Things, Reviews|Comments Off on JustTheTip EP.11 ~ Ys I

JustTheTip EP.10 ~ X-COM: Terror from the Deep

Today I played (for the second time) Terror from the Deep. I’ve played a lot of games in my life, likely a hundreds at minimum. But there are few that just chew me up and spit me out. This…well this was certainly one of them.

I played both days on Beginner. I figured that this would mean I could get a solid hour in without looking like a complete scrub. Boy was I wrong! The mortality rate among my soldiers was nearly 100%. If you signed on for the measly 40,000 dollars that I was offering you were likely surrendering your life in a single mission. Every turn ended with anxiety, every heartbeat irregular with stress. My strategies fell apart quicker than they could come together. My bullets seemed to bounce off the enemy while theirs burned through me like molten lead through butter. I was beating down a concrete wall with a load of bread.

Yet…I was having fun.

Though you probably couldn't tell if you were watching my face.

Though you probably couldn’t tell if you were watching my face.

The aesthetics in this game are wonderful. The sprite artwork is some of my favorite from the 90’s. Everything has a hard edge to it that really adds to the cold and hopeless feel of the game. The colors are vibrant enough that, usually, you have no trouble discerning what is going where. It’s also kinda fun to fight underwater. One of my favorite zones in World of Warcraft is an underwater zone called Vashj’ir. Most people hated it but I adored it. My stories revolve around the horrors of the deep dark sea and this game helps to encapsulate that fear.

The amount of content to simultaneously parse is pretty high. You’ve got a base to build with limited spots (though you can have multiple bases), soldiers to keep armed, each soldier having stats and ranks. You’ve got vehicles to upgrade and more research than you can shake a stick at. The game also comes with a encyclopedia called the UFOpedia that catalogs every single thing in the game with sprites and some fun back story (where applicable).

Different monsters have different strengths and weaknesses. My experience in the first hour put me up against taller more humanoid aliens and small little blue bastards. Both had little trouble nearly single handedly wiping my entire team of 8 to 10 men (and women) off the bottom of the sea.

The music, if I haven’t mentioned it yet, is perfect. Every note is just off enough to keep you uncomfortable. The more I listened to it the more I found myself getting sweaty and scared. My wrists leaving moist impressions on my keyboard rest. My feet and hands became ice cold. I was genuinely scared by a tiny window at the center of my computer screen. This isn’t something I feel these days. I found myself laughing through most of dead space.

xcomtftd2

But here? No, lord no. My dart guns were all that stood between my team and death. Some watched their comrades die en masse to explosives and panicked. Dropping all their gear and shivering in fear. I waited turn after turn hoping that one of them would pick herself up and get in the game. She did, and a few turns later she too was dead.

It’s a hard game. A ruthless game that will give you no more rope than is necessary to hang you with. Every moment is tense, every turn a gift wrapped in a curse. But if you are willing to put in the time you’ll find those victories to feel so great. Very few times in my life has defeating a handful of pixels been so rewarding.

I might look as awkward as a bird turd but I was genuinely happy when I won.

I might look as awkward as a bird turd but I was genuinely happy when I won.

By | 2015-12-14T00:12:21+00:00 April 14th, 2015|Good Things, Reviews|Comments Off on JustTheTip EP.10 ~ X-COM: Terror from the Deep

JustTheTip EP.1 ~ Sword of the Stars: The Pit

Today was the first day of my JTT project. It went better than expected! I had five people visit which was a surprise and two of them were very chatty. I suppose what I’ll do now is talk a bit about the game. Then, at the bottom of this post, you can find an embed of the video of me playing it. The rules for JTT are simple as mentioned before. I play for an hour while trying to commentate and then I upload the video.

I don’t examine the game beforehand. If I’ve played it that’s a lovely perk but otherwise I know nothing. I walked into Sword of the Stars (gonna start calling it Swords) completely blind. I had no idea what the game looked like, how it played, what it was, nothing. Which makes for an interesting experience when the game tells you nothing. I started off with Swords not even knowing what buttons did what. This made for an amusing experience where I tried to divine how to pick up some gosh darn meat.

The aesthetics of the game immediately piqued my interest. I’m a big fan of the pixel art style in the game. It hits all the right notes and feels genuinely fresh. From the get go I felt like this game was a passion project. The variety of characters was numerous. My first time playing through I picked a female lizard ranger, the second time through a human male engineer. In both cases I had access to the dozen or two skills, four stats, and what appeared to be innumerable items. The game tasks you with surviving down a series of increasingly more dangerous rooms. This appealed to me because it very closely matches a story I wrote last year called “Five Stages”. Maybe that inspiration will get me to edit and release the darn thing finally.

But I digress, the first floors start off being very simple and unassuming but before you know it robot death machines are spawning out of fabricators and absolutely destroying you. At one point I was blinded by a trap and then robbed senseless by a trio of asshole green robots.

Stop robbing me you assholes!

Stop robbing me you assholes!

This moment should have been soul crushing, like when one of those bastards stole my one and only crowbar. But it ended up being funny. The game punishes you and it seems like death is an inevitable part of the experience. But there is progress too. Each item you find, each enemy you see, each item you craft, and quite a few other features are shared between characters. Each play should, in theory, make you better than before. So there isn’t really any losing in this game. Just winning a little bit at a time. I’m told that 2.2% of all players have beaten this game on easy.

This intrigues me. The game in general intrigues me. I can’t decide now if the game is too vague or perfectly informative. Does it do what it wants to do and is that acceptable? As a first run I’m not sure. But I had genuine fun. I don’t remember when I bought it or why but this was definitely something I don’t regret playing. Perhaps it’ll win out this week to be my Saturday splurge game!

Only time will tell.

By | 2015-12-14T00:12:09+00:00 March 16th, 2015|Good Things, Reviews|Comments Off on JustTheTip EP.1 ~ Sword of the Stars: The Pit

Reviews: Don’t Cross Your Eyes…

In an effort to catch up on my reading posts I figured today was a good day to review another of the books I’ve read this year. The final of the three Aaron Carroll books that exist (as far as I’m aware). Not to discount Rachel Vreeman who co-wrote it. I only mention him first because he’s the one that most people are aware of. Anyways, sociopolitics and whatnot out of the way. What did I think of the book?

Carroll and Vreeman herein called Carman are an amazing writing duo. Their books delight me from the first page until the last. I’ve mentioned it before I think but these books do an interesting job of telling you things you already knew and then once your confidence is at its peak they drop a bombshell on you. A “Fact” you thought you knew that turned out to be a lie. There are a surprisingly high number of things that I hear once and then they just kinda fester in my brain. I think they are true because the more time between you and a piece of information the more you’ll believe it to be true, regardless of merit.

In particular the book talks about Artificial Sweeteners and their connection to cancer. There really is none. Fascinating then that so many people at my job think this to be true. They talk about the inevitable and early onset death that you’ll suffer if you take any of the variety of artificial sweeteners provided by our company. You’d think something as important as our health would have our undivided attention. But more and more it looks like people take positive news with skepticism and negative news as gospel. This is why it is so easy to convince people that vaccines cause autism. Sure there is absolutely no credible evidence, at all, anywhere, that finds a connection. Not a single country, state, or institution has found anything. Yet people choose to endanger their kids and innocent people. Why? A porn star told them there was a connection.

Fascinating really. How about the title of the book? I remember being told that if I crossed my eyes or made a funny face it would be stuck that way. These things are completely preposterous when you think about it but it never really crossed my mind. Heck, you’d have to put some effort into screwing up your eyes in general. Unfortunately one of those things IS rubbing them. Thanks Carman…go and make one of my favorite activities a no-no!

Ah well. Anyways, the book is well written. The topics are fun even when you know the answer. Every joke is solid, every word has its place. If you want a book that’ll educate and entertain you (two things that should always be siblings) this is a great way to go. All three books are good. Some of my favorite gifts of the last year. I know this sounds like I should put them under “great” and maybe they deserve that?

Though I tend to think of great things as things you shouldn’t miss out in life. These are damn close. Though I’d say that Aaron’s YouTube show is much more unskippable. So go grab this book, grab the other two, and then watch his show. You’ll learn a ton, have a great time, and meet a great person you otherwise might have missed!

By | 2015-03-09T20:41:14+00:00 March 9th, 2015|Good Things, Reviews|Comments Off on Reviews: Don’t Cross Your Eyes…