Archive for August, 2009

This week on twitter – 2009-08-30

  • New Belgium Hopptober almost fills the void of Mighty Arrow. #
  • Help me, memcache-wan Kenobi, you're my only hope. #

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Shadow Complex – Final Impressions

Shadow Complex is a fast paced, perfect length XBLA shooter that does a fantastic job in following the tradition of Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. At only $15, this is a steal that I would recommend to any XBox 360 owner.

Shadow Complex is a side scrolling shooter, similar to Super Metroid, but advancing that genre into some new areas. Like Super Metroid, Shadow Complex features well paced upgrades that keep the inventory interesting by frequently adding new abilities, such as a double jump, dash, missiles and grapple hook. It doesn’t start far from Metroid, however, and keeps to a similar list of upgrades.

The controls are finely tuned and let you aim quickly at your target, lending itself to fast paced combat with a nice touch of precision. The level design is very well done to compliment this control scheme. The base that you move through is a full 3D base, while you are only moving on a 2D plane. This seems awkward at first, but you quickly learn that aiming maintains its accuracy, and you will automatically aim into the background if needed.

In addition to the fully realized 3D base, the levels are full of secrets and optional powerups that you can easily miss if you aren’t actively seeking out hidden rooms. The flashlight can be shined on objects to illuminate destructible walls, and indicate what can destroy them. For instance, an orange glowing vent can be shot, but a red door needs to be hit with a missile. These colors only come up when using the flashlight, so they can be missed.

On the negative side, movement from side to side on the map was pretty slow. The large base has no quick routes from one side to the other, with one out of the way exception. The story was also pretty underwhelming, which was disappointing considering the game came about from Orson Scott Card’s Empire. The worst part of the game, however, was the brainless AI, especially on bosses. No enemies did much more than shoot, and get shot at. This allows you to make use of cover to eliminate enemies quickly, with them rarely hiding.

The game’s pacing was well done, using a waypoint system to guide you to the next location, and my completion time was a little over 6:30. This length was perfect, and I can always go back and finish exploring and getting all upgrades. All in all, Shadow Complex was a fantastically done game. It kept to a minimal scope and nailed everything it tried to do, except for decent enemy AI. I hope a sequel is made to further improve on this genre.

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This week on twitter – 2009-08-23

  • I love how when a Playstation 3 is turned on in my house, all computers lose internet connectivity for a few seconds. #
  • I just finished Shadow Complex. That was a hell of a game and I hope a sequel is made. I didn't even gather all of the upgrades… #
  • The new WoW expansion news seems to confirm that Azeroth will be overhauled. It's good that I have a few more years to fully explore it. #
  • weather man says rain this weekend. i think it's all lies. i haven't seen rain in years. there is no more rain. there is no more life. #
  • Kurayami is another reason I am glad I have a PS3. Suda 51's games are amazing, and this one looks great. #
  • The more I watch The Colony, the more I think they focused on the wrong thing and ended up making a really bad show. #

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Shadow Complex – First Impressions

Shadow Complex came out on XBLA arcade yesterday, and I eagerly picked it up. I am a few hours into the game and am loving what I have experienced thus far. This is a side scroller in the vein of Super Metroid, and it does a very good job of living up to that game. In the first few hours, I’ve already collected a decent amount of upgrades, gotten a new weapon, and explored a decent chunk of this large underground complex.

The game is running on a 3D engine, with the camera angle always to the side to keep the action moving as a 2D side scroller. However, the level design is full 3D, and sometimes the enemies will be in the background. I was a bit afraid of this idea, since it seemed like aiming would be difficult, but the use of the right stick to point your gun is actually very intuitive. It picks up exactly where the orthogonal controls of Super Metroid left off – the left stick moves you around, the right stick points your gun, and the right trigger fires.

The movement is mostly fluid (I have occasional issues with manuvering around ledges), and the weapon variety is acceptable. I have gotten a pistol and a submachine gun, along with a grenade launcher. The pistol and submachine gun feel very similar except for rate of fire and ammo capacity. I wish the weapon disparity was a little more pronounced, but I’m still early in the game.

All in all, it is doing a good job of being a retro side scrolling shooter in the modern gaming world. At only 10 hours long, I should have it finished within the next few days, letting me get back to Madden. At only $15, this game is a steal.

I will probably skip the second impressions on the game, though, since it is a short game. I will write up a final impressions article once I have finished the game.


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Recent gaming – Madden 10 and Shadow Complex

Over the weekend, I decided to go grab Madden 10. This is the first Madden game I’ve owned since Madden ’93 for the Sega Genesis, so to say I’m a bit rusty is a hell of an understatement. I got it because I’ve been jonesing for a new game and there isn’t much on the horizon. Will is a pretty big Madden fan and recommended I give the demo a shot and I enjoyed it quite a bit. Even though I’m not a football fan (and this won’t make me one), I am a gamer and this is just a well done game.

I started a franchise as the New Orleans Saints and finished the preseason last night. My first few games were pretty miserable, but I didn’t start saving my record until I won at last one game, but now I’ll just take what happens, win or lose. I ended the preseason 3-1, winning my last 3 games (4 if you count me forgetting to save after my second match against the Texans).

I’m slowly getting my bearings on all of my plays and what to do in each situation. I have a ways to go before I could begin to approach Will’s skill and put up a decent challenge in a head-to-head match, but I’m enjoying it a lot. Some old gamer friends of mine are giving me shit for playing the evil Madden, but I’m not really concerned. I don’t even really care that it is a sports game. Sports is half athleticism and half strategy, and since there is no physical exertion from me sitting on the couch, it comes down to just being a good strategy game.

However, I will have to pause on it for a few days – Shadow Complex was released this morning and I’ve already picked it up and put some time into it. I’d like to do a first impressions for it, but that will have to wait a bit longer. I only played for 15 minutes, skipping all cutscenes, on the easiest setting. Tonight, I will pick it up again and go through it a little bit more thoroughly. I’ll do a first impressions later this evening once my first impression has solidified.

I will say that I enjoyed what I played. The movement is smooth, the level design is fantastic, the feel of the game perfectly carries on the torch of Super Metroid (something I don’t think Symphony of the Night was able to do) and the combat aiming is nicely done. It seems about as quickly paced as Super Metroid in terms of combat (not like the high speed Gunstar Heroes that I recently picked up again), and it looks like there is a lot to the game, as far as powerups are concerned.

I’m really looking forward to getting home and getting back into that game. I plan to focus on it pretty intensely for the next few days, before going back to Madden 10 until something better comes along. I may go back and pick up Fable 2 – a game I had a mild interest in, but never grabbed.


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This week on twitter – 2009-08-16

  • This is my first Saturday in a month where I have no plans. It feels quite weird. I need a new video game. #
  • this weekend – Sam Adam's Double Bock floats. it's like a rootbeer float, but beer, and with alcohol. #
  • Beer for Breakfast this morning was horrible. I'll never listen to that again. It was one semi-decent guy and two morons making fun of him. #
  • Last night was surprisingly boring. It seems like I no longer know what to do if I don't have plans. #
  • I really hope that my copy of Darwinia is glitched. If the dev team considered that mouse control anywhere close to usable, they fail badly. #
  • For the first time in a few weeks, I'm actually about to head straight home after work. I miss doing that. #
  • The Lost and Damned for $15 (1200 MS Points) is enough that I'll probably get it soon. I've been craving some more GTA IV for a few weeks. #
  • Steam really doesn't want me to play anything. Both Braid and Trine demos crash before I can even do anything. This year sucks for games. #

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I hit a nice security exploit on our web server

While explaining how sockets work to one of my developers, I realized something – it would be really easy to gain access to our intranet from outside the building with just a simple change to the system’s /etc/hosts file. Our intranet is set up pretty far from ideally, and still runs on the same server that our external website is running off (which in itself is a huge no no that needs to be addressed, soon). Due to this, all external requests hit the same server as the internal requests, and adjusting the /etc/hosts file can let you forge a hostname for anything and send the request to our server.

This potential breach could be combined with other types of exploits to gain access to our client control systems from outside the building. The simple solution was a modification to the vhost file for the intranet site. I simply added this directive to the <VirtualHost> node:

<Directory "/var/www/admin">
    Order deny,allow
    Deny from all
    Allow from 192.168.0

This prevent any requests from being handled unless the IP address is 192.168.0.*, which limits allowable requests to just those on the LAN in the building.

Of course, this is only a bandaid that addresses one symptom of the problem rather than the real issue – our intranet should be located on a different server. I would like to do some work to move the intranet and mysql database to a single server that is completely inaccessible from outside the building, and use our current web / db server to just host the externally accessible website. I already have the green light to get another server, so it is just a matter of taking a Saturday to implement these changes.

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Jarate Sandvich #16 was chock full of drunken debauchery

Last night, I recorded episode 16 of Jarate Sandvich (although I’m wondering why 14 and 15 aren’t on yet, and in the RSS feed, 15 isn’t up) and the episode got interesting as the four of us got increasingly drunk. Our choice of beers may have been a bad call, since 3 of the 4 were strong drinks – Stone Ruination IPA, Samuel Adam’s Double Bock and Dogfish Head Ancient Ale. The fourth, and the only reasonable drink, was Samuel Adam’s Cherry Wheat. The Ruination was surprisingly delicious. I guess my palate is finally starting to accept the taste of an IPA. I didn’t much enjoy the Ancient Ale,  but the Double Bock was amazing.The Cherry Wheat was also quite good, although by the time we got to that beer, we were well trashed.

The Double Bock is to malt what Mighty Arrow is to hops – the bottle says 1/2 lb of malt per bottle. In comparison, the Porter being brewed by Will, Dan and myself will have 1/10 lb of malt per bottle. This Sunday, when we bottle the porter, I plan to bring over some ice cream and a pack of Double Bock to make some Double Bock floats – just like a root beer float, but better and with alcohol.

Also during the episode, we talked about the Team Fortress 2 classless update, Madden 10 and the Steam Indie Games Pack.


World of Warcraft – Bargas is now on Proudmoore

As of last night, I switched Bargas, my level 65 paladin, over to the Proudmoore realm. I originally went to Stonemaul due to a friend being on there, but I have not grouped with him since I was level 33, and mostly just solo or find random groups. A few other friends are all on Proudmoore, which is a non PVP realm, and I finally decided to make the move. It cost $25 and took about an hour to complete (much less than the 3 days Blizzard said it could take), but I think it was well worth it. I don’t like playing on a PVP realm – it is just no fun to be hunting and questing and suddenly get ganked by a level 80 who is bored.

This group that I am going to join now has a 70 Deathknight, 60 Hunter and 62 Paladin, which is much better than the Stonemaul realm, where I had almost nobody to group with. This might get me back into World of Warcraft much more solidly, since the fear of ganking is now gone.

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New hats and arena_offblast

Even though I’ve been out of Team Fortress 2 for about two months now (it happens, a lot, I’ll be back in eventually), I am interested in this Classless Update that was announced today. Thus far, they have announced that there will be more hats (yay?) and a new map – arena_offblast (yay!).

In my later days on TF2, the arena match type did become one of my favorites, and this map looks decent. However, Will pointed out that this would make a great King of the Hill map, and that match type was somewhat hinted at in a recent post by the solder. I would like to see a king of the hill match type added to Team Fortress 2. I think Valve could do a good job with that old standard in FPS gaming.

In the meantime, this news may be the spark that gets me back into Team Fortress 2. I have barely played in several months, instead playing inFAMOUS, Psychonauts, Dead Space, World of Warcraft and now Braid.

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