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This couldn’t have been more horribly timed.

As some of you may know, I’m in the middle of a slew of awesome games right now. There are just too many I need to play — it’s like when two of your favorite shows are on at the same time. And, uh, you are twenty years in the past. Where, y’know, you can’t download/stream/browse on demand for/digitally record them.

But watch your back — the gaming gods get mad at you when you play with fire — I’m proof of that.

Today, my DS broke. Broke is a rather vague word, so I’ll explain.

Only a couple days ago, I noticed my L button wasn’t functioning as smoothly as it’s supposed to — one of the games I’ve been playing lately is Megaman ZX (which I haven’t covered in my rounds yet), and one of the fastest ways to travel is by using Model Hx (the biometal of the wind) to dash-jump, air dash, and repeat. Both of those moves require the L button (dash), which is how I first noticed it (of course, that constant use probably didn’t help, but hey, I didn’t do anything wrong).

Instead of being able to press it from the edge, I had to hug my finger around the top of the DS and push it down, and pretty hard.

Yesterday, it stopped functioning altogether. I was playing Geometry Wars and kept wondering, Why are all these new levels not giving me any bombs? And of course, I still don’t know which symbol means bombs and which means lives.

So yeah, point made, my L button is broken. And I’m sad. Because there are five DS games in queue for me right now (yup, those are all upcoming game loads), and I have to send off my DS to get repaired.

At least it’s in the warranty. And Nintendo’s usually really cool about this kind of stuff, so I don’t expect any problems to come up.

Maybe the gaming gods are looking out for me after all.

A second game I’ve been trying to play lately is Overlord, which, despite its lack of hype (that I’ve heard of, anyway), is actually a pretty great game (then again, it came out almost six months ago). I’ve been told by my fellow blogger that it’s extremely similar to Pikmin, which I, of course, never bought.In short, you play as a dark overlord (who would guess?), and you do battle by sending in your minions, who are a little like demonic gremlins, to fight for you. You have a huge axe you can fight with too, but according to your advisor, you’re too good for that.

An appealing part of the game is the number of uses for the minions, and the awesome ways in which they’re applied. Aside from fighting (which can get pretty awesome, what with your minions jumping onto your enemies’ backs and pretty much riding them around), the minions can do things like move large obstacles out of the way (which will require x minions to do depending on the size of the object; this makes for the revelation of new areas pretty smooth as you can command more and more minions at once), turn big wheels to open doors or drop drawbridges, and fit through or across small areas like tunnels or coincidental bridges made of small tree branches.

Your minions also pick up random stuff that can help them along their way, ranging from makeshift weapons (like pieces of fences, if I remember correctly) to pumpkin helms. That’s right; if you tell your minions to attack random things (which they will sometimes do on their own if they’re in the area) — like pumpkins — they’ll do crazy stuff like put them on their heads, even if it doesn’t help them one bit. That’s one of the things that really brings them to life: they’re not just mindless creatures who obey your every word and only your every word (although they are quite loyal) — they like to have some fun, too.

You also have a huge castle that you can customize with enough money — a nice perk, but (so far for me) has served no super-meaningful purpose.

And the last thing I’ll mention is paths. Lots of games have been adding this lately to dynam-ify storylines — you can choose your character’s personal path through the the actions you perform. In most cases, your actions end up deciding whether you’re good or evil in the end (Dark Messiah is an excellent example of this), but since Overlord‘s whole concept is pretty much based around being evil, you get to choose between evil and really evil.

As you might guess, killing innocent people leans you towards the really evil side. Every time you kill someone who would otherwise befriend you, you get their life force, and 1 life force = 1 more minion you have available to summon. You also get some decent cash from their pockets.

The disadvantage to doing this, as your advisor states, is that to rule an evil empire, you actually have to have people to rule over — so killing everyone isn’t too much of an option. I have yet to complete the game, so I’m not sure of the gameplay differences between the two paths yet, but I’m sure there will be some.

One last thing, because I know you’re waiting for it: graphics. They’re very decent. If you’re talking about sole graphics, they’re up there with Half-Life 2, but that doesn’t take into account physics, the actual use of the graphics, and the cooperation between the two. And some unrelated things could use some work.

For instance, you can set fields of dry grass on fire once you get the appropriate spell, and the trees in that field will switch to a dry and burnt model when the fire spreads to them (which all is very cool to see happen), but the trees just swap from one model to the other, and the instant change is very noticeable. At least cross-fade between the models or something.

Definitely not something to cry over, though — from the first time you set foot into non-evil lands, you can feel the happiness vibes emitting from everything from the sheep to the swaying grass — one of which you will slaughter and the other of which you will set fire to.

I’m one of those people who pretty much just has to play any game I’m excited for (a recent example of this is when I bought Halo 3 with no 360 to play it on and had to get a friend to lend me his, so long as I give him the game afterwards). And being a pretty heavy gamer, I get excited for quite a lot of games.

So often times I approach a sort of pickle in my gaming life, much like the one I’m in right now. I’m sure many others have encountered the situation: a slew of new games all come out within a few weeks of each other, and you simply don’t have enough time to play them all as much as you want. It’s a weird situation, having too much of a good thing.

This was originally going to be a post about all of those games, but let’s split it up into chunks:

One of the games I’ve been trying to work into my schedule is, of course, Crysis. I won’t waste keystrokes trying to explain the awesomeness of its graphics and physics (I’m no graphics whore, but hey — a good thing is a good thing), because I’m sure everyone who’s heard of Crysis has probably heard about it in some reference to graphical detail. Rather, I’d like to explain somewhat the opposite: the lack of possible graphics.

Before I start trippin’ up all in your grill, I’m talking about the DirectX9 version here. And I’m in no way trying to criticize its capabilities; in fact, I’m trying to bring them out. It’s been circulating around the ‘net that when Crysis runs on DX9, its graphical intensity is purposefully not as high as it can be, presumably to make people say “Oh man, DX9 sucks compared to DX10, now I’m going to go spend some money on Vista and a new graphics card so I can experience the awesomeness.”

A (somewhat) recent comparison of the DX9 and DX10 versions of Crysis somewhat reveals this — throughout the page, screenshots taken on DX9 Crysis are shown, and on rollover you can see the DX10 versions of the exact same screenshots. But at the bottom, some instructions are mentioned to allow DX9 to run on some high-end settings that supposedly only DX10 can handle — apparently Crytek has “chosen to artificially limit some of the game’s graphics effects to only the DX10 version in order to create a bigger perceived difference.”

Not cool, man.

DX10 is still (I hear) much better than 9, but why would Crytek choose to disallow DX9 to work up to its full potential? Are they trying to encourage people to get DX10 cards to prepare for the future, or did Microsoft have some say in this?

I was right. It was something stupid.

I had burned Ubuntu onto a DVD and was trying to read it with a CD drive. BLAHG!

So I reburned it and it installed fine. I actually wasn’t expecting that Ubuntu Server would be as command-line-dependent as it is (no desktop environment whatsoever), but it makes sense. I’ve just got to look up anything I want to do at another computer, write it down, then run upstairs and type it in, since my own computer isn’t at this house and I have to use the family’s.

So far I’ve gotten it hooked up to the ‘net and running Apache, MySQL, PHP and an FTP server, although I’ve only had the chance to test the FTP server so far. But before I get too bogged down on getting it all ready-to-go on the software half, I actually have to get everything in that case.

What I did (or am attempting to do) with the case is kinda stupid, actually. I just took the old case, ripped out the HDD and CDD bays with just a screwdriver and my now-cut-in-several-places hands, repositioned the former, left out the latter, and fastened (if you can call it that) the power supply on top of the bay using a seriously-bent piece of metal and a screw.

In retrospect, all this did was make the final assembly one power-supply-worth-of-height shorter and give me a computer that was held together by nothing more than twisted metal and a few of the original screws. Not to mention, now the power supply is on the other side of the case compared to the graphics card and motherboard — so I’ll end up plugging in the power cord into the front of the computer.

Talk about deranged.

Oh, and just an update on one of my previous posts: we never actually lost a cat like I thought; she was just hiding somewhere. I sure as hell don’t know where, because I pretty much used all my wallhacks to look for her, but whatever; she’s here and safe.

I’ll finish off the post with this: almost every day I have a song stuck in my head (usually a good one). Today it’s Time Warp from the movie The Rocky Horror Picture Show (which was made after a musical containing the same song), and I can’t figure out where I’ve heard the mini-chorus part of it before, but I have to say, it’s a really good song, despite its unusual containment in this movie. I just want to get up and do the dance. It’s kinda weird. But good, too.

But weird.

I was working on juven last night, and something occured to me:

I have no idea what I’m doing.

In the abstract software world, I can navigate around as easily as a limo driver with on-board navigation. In the physical hardware world, I am a kid on a bike in San Fransisco.

My first night didn’t work out to what I had hoped for. I stripped one of my old cases down to (and past) its base structure to attempt creation of a smaller case, but only succeeded in forcefully ripping out both sides of the hard drive bay and giving my finger a small (but rather deep) gash.

In the very least, I was happy with myself for plugging all the scattered cords into the motherboard in the right places. I’ve built millions of gajillions of computers in my life (by millions of gajillions I mean three), so I’m at least somewhat familiar with this stuff, but it’s more fun when, instead of taking the labeled cords from your brand spankin’ new case and plugging them into their corresponding motherboard slots (i.e. power LED, hard drive LED, power switch, reset switch), you end up salvaging those lights and switches from other computers in their most basic forms (a cord with a light or a button on the end) and duct taping them to the front of the case — if you can even call a heap of metal like this a case anymore.

I decided to take a break from all this hardware stuff you guys like to call real life and just try to get Ubuntu installed. I hooked up a loose hard drive, plugged in a keyboard and mouse that seemed more like dust bunnies than peripherals, and fired it up. But wait — what’s this? YOU’RE NOT BOOTING FROM MAH CD?! Is the BIOS checking for it? Let’s see…yes. Is the CD drive hooked up? …Yep, it looks like it. WHAT’S WRONG?!

Find out next time on this nonexistent show!

I’ll be trying some more stuff with it over the weekend, when I get back to my dad’s house. I’m sure it’s something stupid.

I’ve decided to try to rebuild one of my current webservers (named palae, and yes, I name my servers) into a smaller, quieter, and more efficient machine without spending much money. Right now it’s got a fairly oversized case, a very loud power supply when turned up to full blast (which, for some reason, is required for the server not to overheat even when idle), and a hard drive with too much old stuff on it (including two operating systems which enjoy conflicting with each other).

So I’ve decided to try toning it down quite a few notches by stripping it of everything and starting almost anew with more power-conservant (and less noise-producent) parts. Which, I guess, actually works out fine, considering that most devices which don’t require much power are simply out-of-date ones, which I have plenty of.

So assuming that I actually decide to go through with this project, I’ll be posting about my progress off and on. My tasks will include:

  • swapping out the current 500GB hard drive for one or two 8’s that I have in my closet
  • using a suckier graphics card that doesn’t gobble down so much power
  • installing Ubuntu Server Edition (with LAMP)
  • fitting it all in a less obtrusive case

I’ve got extended hours at work this weekend because of Halloween, so I probably won’t get to start this until Monday.

Oh, and by the way, if you haven’t guessed, this new, rejuvenated, server, will be appropriately named juven.

EDIT: In other news, my favorite author has responded to a comment by me at his blog! I feel special.