Thursday, August 27, 2009


I've been playing Wheelman lately. I haven't gotten extremely far, in fact there are a few side mission types that I haven't unlocked yet. So far it's been pretty fun. It's like a simplified GTA 4 but with more emphasis on driving. I've been enjoying the driving combat. You can hit the right stick while you drive to slam the car in that direction, which can push other cars into walls or obstacles.

Here are some things they get right. The car combat action is fun. It's frenetic and you find yourself driving through all kinds of breakable objects, fighting back and forth, and it achieves the cinematic recluse driving scenes that they're going for. The PDA/map page is great in the fact that they let you just start a mission from there; no need to drive all around town to get to the starting point. The dialogue is nothing spectacular, but then again you don't go to an action movie for the words of wisdom. The voice acting is good, for the parts they were given.

Sounds like a fun game right? Well it is, but it's not a great game and it's because of the small things they miss. Little things that add aggravation and detract from the fun. One thing I could not believe is a problem with the y-invert option. Now, I had this problem in the demo, so I wasn't too surprised to still see it in the game. Here's the issue: in the options you can select whether the y-axis is inverted, like most games, but when you do any of the car-shooting special moves (either spin the car and in bullet time shoot at cars that were behind you, or just go into bullet time to shoot a blockade in front of you) the game has decided not to pay attention to your y-axis choice. This is ridiculous. If I want the y-axis inverted, I want it that way ALL the time, not just when I'm running around with a gun (which doesn't happen nearly as much as the driving, it is called Wheelman).

Another thing that's off-putting is you get emails after every story mission. They don't really add anything, it's just a reminder of what you have to do next. The problem is that to read emails you have to pull up your map and hit another button. Of course, while you're looking at your map there's no way of knowing if you've gotten any new mail. Combine this with the fact that after every mission, they take you to the map to show you where you're new mission is located, and you have an annoyance. This means you'll finish a mission, be in the map screen, see where your new mission is located, exit, and then be told "You have new email!" Now you have to go back into the map, and then from there go to the email screen where your email will basically say "You have a new mission!" There's no need for this. The only reason to have it is to try to disguise the map as a "PDA" screen. That's kind of pointless in my mind. Just keep it as a map, it shows where the next mission is, I don't need another reminder.

Another issue I have is the AI for street racing side missions. I enjoy some of the street races but the way it's set-up, it seems like it's me versus the pack and not a street race where everyone is fighting for first. When I'm in the middle of the group I get smacked around like nobody's business. But if I'm in the back, I don't see any of the cars slamming each other. With each other they'll play nice, but for me they try to shoot out my tires and slam me into walls. That is definitely not an example of taking care of the player.

Speaking of side missions, I can say that I approve of the way they have been doling them out. At the early point that I'm at now, they have been giving me a story mission that is basically the form of the new side mission. Once you complete the story mission, the side missions open up, all of them of that type in that area. I think that's just bad pacing. What I would have done is open the first side mission of that type, maybe two. After those have been completed, the player need to race another story mission. After that they have now unlocked a few more side missions of the old type as well as the new type. Just keep repeating this process until all side missions have been unlocked. This way the player switches back and forth between story missions and side missions. I understand that some people may enjoy the side missions more than the story mission, but the point of the game is the story, let's try to keep them down that path.

Bottom line, this game is a fun game and has some interesting takes on the criminal driving game, but it definitely has some missteps along the way.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

When It Rains It Pours, But It Also Brings Flowers

As you may have heard, earlier this month things were just going crazy, financial-wise. The car broke down and took weeks to fix. Some unexpected bills popped up and to top it all off, Emily's Paypal was hacked and charged a little over $1500. Now, however, things seem to have turned around. We got the Paypal charge refunded; Wells Fargo reversed all of the overdraft fees they charged; I got a second job at Just Food; and we just recently refinanced our house so that we have a fixed 30 year mortgage with no balloon payments and on top of that it's for roughly $35,000 less than the previous one and is going to save us about $200 a month in mortgage payments. It's been a relief. Now we can start getting ahead instead of just treading water like we have been for a while.

Last weekend I played paintball with a couple of co-workers in this big wooded field. It was a blast and a big difference from running around between plywood boards. We played for quite a while, and being the dumbass that I am, I never thought to put sunscreen on and burnt my face and head. It wasn't as bad as it could have been, but it certainly wasn't necessary. It's now starting to heal (i.e. peel), another scene of recovery.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Thunderspire Labrynth, 1

Last weekend I played Dungeons and Dragons with my usual group, only this time we played at Alex's instead of at our place, which was nice. It's not that I mind having people over, I kind of like it, but it is nice to go to someone else's place every once in a while. Besides, it was fun seeing their new puppy running around. Here's what went down:

The adventure started with party in Winterhaven, enjoying the celebration that was going on in their honor. They had a drinking contest, which Nachi failed on the first drink. They also took advantage of Bairwin's good spirits and drunken state to buy a bunch of stuff at a big discount, although they did have to do a favor for him afterwards. After much carousing and quest gathering (stop the slavers and collect history for Valthrun), the party headed off to the Thunderspire Mountains.

They traveled along the main trade road without any ambushes, but tried to take a shortcut which ended up adding another day to the travels to Fallcrest. It was here that Hannibal decided to return to school. Since his school doesn't allow goblins, he left Splug in the capable hands of Saul. Nachi traded Aeris with a follower of the Platinum Dragon who could appreciate the power of the sword for an equally powerful weapon, but with less back story.

After a short rest, the new party headed into the mountains, all the while Nachi discussed with the party the beliefs of a follower of the Raven Queen and why his resurrection was still making him feel uneasy. He was cut short before he could explain to Sophana the intricacies of a particular ritual when a flash of lighting lit up the entrance to Saruun Khel (the ancient underground Minotaur city below Thunderspire Mountain), framed by two 50 foot tall minotaur statues. They cautiously entered and traveled down a massive hall lined with statues of demons holding burning torches. Tasil slipped from shadow to shadow while Splug cowered close to Allyria and Saul.

As they traveled deeper and further into the mountain, Tasil could make out some sounds coming from a small room in a side passage. “We could get 10 gold pieces for this halfling “That's a shame, I'm easily worth 20. I'll pay you myself.” The group ran to the halfling's rescue. They were met by a group of hobgoblins lead by a warcaster, who pulled Nachi into the middle of them. Tasil climbed up on to some empty casks and got behind them while Allyria and Saul picked the soldiers off. Sophana made sure Nachi didn't die. With these Bloodreaver gang members eradicated, they got to know Rendil Halfmoon a little more, a plucky little halfling who lives with his aunt, Erra, the owner of the Halfmoon Inn located in the Seven Pillar Hall, further into the mountain.

To show his graditude, Rendil gives them a quick tour of the Seven Pillar Hall, which is more of an underground village than a hall. They share a few ales and Erra sets them up with some lodging and delicious halfling home-cooking. Afterwards, everyone decides to make the delivery to Gendar, a drow shop owner, that Bairwin requested. They make the trade off and Gendar requests they keep an eye out for a scepter that was stolen from him. Next, they decide to do some snooping at the seedy Rothar's Taproom and get their first encounter of Brugg, the Ogre enforcer, and hear that Dwarf is upset over his lost pet.

They find Dwarf in his office at the Deepgem Mining Company and invite him to share an ale, which he promptly accepts. Over a few ales, he shares the story of missing Boar, named Bubbles, who was traveling with a group of his fellow miners when they were attacked. No one was killed, so Dwarf believes that his pet is still alive, some where in the labrynth.

After some discussion, Nachi and Tasil determine that the best route to take would be to go after the rest of the slavers. Rendil gladly gives them a map to the Bloodreaver's hideout, or at least where they're rumored to be. Sophana shows off her dungeoneering skills and gets them safely to their destination, an old temple dedicated to the evil god Torog.

The front door is locked and guarded from behind by some goblins. Tasil comes up with the plan to set Splug and Nachi up as trap, (the old Chewbacca-prisoner trick). Unfortunately, Splug was so nervous he couldn't pull it off very convincingly and the guards called an alarm. They opened the doors and out charged a Bugbear followed by a couple of goblins on a balcony to shoot arrows at them. With some teamwork, the party cleared their opponents and captured one of the goblins. Nachi tied him up, threw him over the banister, and with the help of Tasil, intimidated him into giving them the lay of the land as well as their numbers. When the goblin had given them all the information he knew, Tasil slit his throat and left him hanging there to bleed out. Allyria whispered a silent prayer for the goblin as Splug fought back the urge to throw up.

With their intimate knowledge of the area now, they made their plan of attack. Instead of coming in head on, they thought it would be smarter to attack from the sides. They sneaked down a side hall and opened the door to discover a couple of duergar's milling around a lit hearth. Everyone jumped into action, with the duergars calling for help and Nachi trying to take them out as fast as possible. Helped did appear, in the form of a warcaster and Krang, the leader of the Blodreaver Gang. Battle ensued and when the dust was all cleared only out heroes were left standing. They looted the bodies and ransacked the rooms, as they have done so many times in the past and discovered Krang's personal treasure chest containing some jewels and gold pieces.

Next it was off to the kitchen, where Sophana could hear some ruckus going on. The party set-up an ambush in an adjoining room and locked the door on their flank. It was up to Tasil to be the bait. He opened the door and viciously flung a dagger at the first creature he saw while shouting insults at them. This got the attention of everyone in the kitchen and they quickly chased after him. Half of the gang members ran directly into the room Tasil led them into, while the remaining members tried to circle around behind and one guy ran off to get reinforcements. As soon as the first hobgoblin entered the ambush, he was hit by Nachi, Splug, Tasil, and finished off by Saul.

The gang member looking for reinforcements stopped short when he entered the previous room our heroes cleaned out and saw the carnage and dead bodies littered on the ground. He quickly turned tail and ran out of the base, screaming to his comrades that Krang was dead. After hearing that, the rest of gang ran as fast as they could to get away, but Nachi and Tasil weren't about to let them get away that easily and chased down and cornered as many as they could, allowing only two to escape to safety.

The only room left was the empty slave holding room. The party split into two with Nachi and Splug covering a side entrance and the rest of the party entering through the main door. Tasil busts through the door and comes face to face to huge sleeping wolf. Instead of single handedly taking on such a beast, he decides to take care of one of the archers. The wolf isn't about to let such a tasty morsel get away and chases after. Nachi kicks in his door and almost knocks down a goblin archer in the process.

Nachi and Splug kept the rest of the Archers busy while Allyria and Sophana threw spells at the wolf and Saul created a fire warrior as well as a massive fireball to try and take down the beast. Once the giant dog was dead, it was long before they had cleared the room out. Again, the captured the last foe remaining and forced him to tell them everything he knew, before viciously ending his life.

With the hideout all cleaned out, the group takes one more look around. They find a few secret halls but no more Bloodreavers and no slaves either. They return to the Seven Pillar Hall and rest up before heading back to Winterhaven to deliver the package Gendar gave them for Bairwin.

This and That

I've been working on a post about last weekend, but it's getting kind of long. It's basically a recap of our D&D session. I'll post that when it's done. In the meantime, I've gotten a second job, again. I'm now the new cashier at Just Food. I've only started yesterday, so I can't really say how well it's going yet.

Our car is still working, so yea to that. We got a refund on that whole Paypal issue, though it hasn't transferred from Paypal to our Wells Fargo account yet, so I still have that battle to fight, but at least it's progressing along.

Games I'm interested in right now, of the video variety: Batman Arkham Asylum, Shadow Complex, Wheelman (because it was $20 at Target), Trials HD, Secret of Monkey Island, and Scribblenauts. (So little time, and now even littler)

Oh, game night at our place this Friday night. Say 7pm?

Friday, August 14, 2009


Here's a tasty tidbit. And yes I know it was on the Daily Show.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Yesterday, I was checking our bank accounts and discovered that Emily's Paypal had been hacked and some used it to purchase 8 internet security packages. Now we have a huge charge on our account that's creating all kinds of overdraft fees. We have contacted the internet website and are getting a refund and Emily's changed her Paypal password and questions and all. I called Wells Fargo to tell them of the problem and I was told that they can't do anything until the refund comes through, then they can adjust all the fees that occur from this, which I think is a little ridiculous. I can't really do anything about it though and have to hope that Wells Fargo is willing to help like they said when it comes in.

I also played paintball yesterday. It was a really hot day out and there was a lot of running around. I won a few rounds and lost a few rounds. I have a few momentos, one on my chest, a couple small ones on my arm, a gruesome one my thigh, and one on my neck. I have to say, I feel very sore right now

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Our next D&D session is this Saturday and I still have quite a few things to do to get ready for it. Honestly, I don't have to do most of these things, but this is the curse of being the DM. You keep thinking of things that would make the game fun. Plus, we're starting a new module, so there's the whole getting-to-know-it thing. But I'm trying not to stress over it too much and realize that everyone will still have fun even if I don't get all of the prep done that I want.

Oh, I'm searching to see if there's a faster/easier way to track initiative and conditions then the way I have been doing it. I've been printing out monster blocks and attaching them to index cards and writing on them and using those to keep track of initiatives and conditions. It works out pretty well, but there are usually a few conditions that get by me every once in a while. If anyone has any suggestions I'd love hear them.

Emily is recovering very well. She has had some uncomfortableness, but nothing major. She apperciates all the well wishing. Melanie, Cherish (her sisters), and Colin (her our nephew) came down last night. We ate at The Tavern, which we haven't been to in a few years because it used to be fairly bland, especially for the prices they were charging. We learned that they got a new chef, and it shows. It's pretty good now, certainly a viable option now.

We also played Bang!, a cowboy card game. Colin played the sheriff and ended up winning (Emily won as well since she was playing the deputy). He seemed to really enjoy it, probably because you pretend to shoot people and he won. I died because I set-off some dynamite and it blew-up in my face. Once you know how to play, it can go pretty fast.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

All's Well, sort of

Emily had surgery yesterday. She got some work done on her women parts. It was a simple procedure and everything went smoothly. When she coming back out of her drugged stupor, she was saying some funny things, well, it was more like she was saying some things funnily. She resembled that kid on youtube. She kept asking about getting a kitten. It was cute. She's recovering well, she didn't start feeling any uncomfortableness until late last night, so we'll see how she's doing today.

Our car, however, isn't faring as well. I had to take it back in, it was doing the exact same thing, only more so now. I dropped it off again and they're going to have to replace the transmission again. Luckily they told me the last one was covered for 60 days, so there should be no extra cost. It is getting annoying though. It'd be nice to have a car that works.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Car Troubles

The car should be fixed, for reals, by the end of today. The problem was the transmission, which I was afraid of. The transmission would slip out when it idled and at times wouldn't quite catch when accelerating fast (something they caught). The total's going to be around $800, so not a cheap repair. Luckily I was able to work out a payment plan with them, so we'll be able to pay them for the repair.

I'm fed up with this car and wondering if it might be time to get a new one, but I also feel like with all the repairs and replacement parts we've added to it, maybe it'll run fine for a good long while now. It's hard to tell. Maybe, if we do get a new car, we'll keep this one as a back-up of sorts.

Thursday, August 06, 2009


Damn it! The car wasn't fixed! It runs slightly better than before but the main problem, the reason we brought it in, is still there. Yesterday we thought we would drive to work for the first time in a few weeks, and it started acting up again. Not a happy drive. I took it back to Churchill and had Jeremy (one of the mechanics there, good people) ride with me to see what I was talking about. He thinks it might have to do with the fact that the car was idling a little low the pull of the vacuum that operates the brakes was stalling it. They looked over it all of yesterday, upped the idle RPM's and checked out the vacuum tubes. After that they were never able to get it to do it again. They tried three or four times throughout the day, but no luck. I drove it last night after work, but I couldn't get it to do it either. We decided to leave it there over night and they'll give it a try today and see if acts up again. Maybe they fixed the problem. It'd be odd if that's all it took, but as long as it's working again, I'll be happy.

Last night I finished Halo 3 for the first time with Alex, Dimitri, and Connor. Of course, they had all finished it before, so we skipped through the videos. Now I wonder if there's a way to just watch the videos, or does that not even matter? Is the story not really worth the trouble? Do the videos even explain what the hell was going on? I don't know. I don't understand the draw of Halo and never have. It's enjoyable, but I don't see the draw. Maybe I'm not skilled enough to see the cleverness of the level design, or ai, or gma edesign in general. I've heard that the game really shines once you play on a difficulty harder than normal, but I played that up to a point and then just kept dying. I didn't see how that was awesome. Is it the challenge and the excitment of overcoming such daunting odds?

Oh, we're going to have another game night tonight. I'm not saying we'll play Battlestar Galactica again, but I wouldn't be against it. I haven't told too many people about it, so we'll see who shows up.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Exciting Night

Last night we watched the most recent episode of True Blood. I can't get over Sookie, she's so aggravating. They seem to promote her as a spunky, strong woman. One of those princesses who rescues herself, but she's worse than a damsel in distress because they at least get into their predicaments unknowingly. Sookie is warned about the possible consequences and decides that nothing bad can happen and she can handle it (or even worse just runs her mouth off with no thought of who she's insulting). Then, of course, she gets into trouble and her response is to scream for help and wait for her rescue. In this last episode she was captive in this stockroom-like-cage, and one of her captures comes in to harass her and her human partner. To stop this obviously strong man she jumps on his back, instead of grabbing one of the many various items locked in there with her and smack him over the head. Unsurprisingly, he overpowers her and she starts screaming for help. If it wasn't for the side stories, we probably would have stopped watching by now. I wonder if her character is any better in the books?

We got our car repaired, with the help of our awesome neighbor Todd (who's trying to sell his house, for those looking to move to Northfield). He offered to go with me to Car Time to have them look at it, because he's been there before and can get a good deal with them. They checked it out (for $20) and discovered that the rotors were warped. The mechanic quoted us about $200 to fix it. We called Churchhill Tires, because I've been going to them lately, and they said that they could fix it for $156. That's a better deal so we figured we'd pay for the brake inspection and take it to Churchill. While we were in the process of paying them, the Car Time manager-type who was handling the payment process said that he hadn't had a chance to look over the mechanic's estimate (there were quite a few people coming in and out of there while we were there) and that the correct price is $165. Todd figured we might as well get it fixed at Car Time since we were already there, which made sense with what we knew at the time. I called Churchhill one more time, because the last time I had talked to them there was some talk about a warranty coverage possibility. After talking to them for a little bit they said they could cover it for free under the warranty. Todd had to hear this for himself, which they confirmed for him, but told us they couldn't cover anything that the Car Time people did. So we jumped up and had the Car Time people take the car down, paid the inspection fee (they said "We can't beat free"), and got it fixed at Churchhill. Since the replacement part and labor was covered, they upsaled us on better parts and it only ended up costing me about $50 ($70 if you count the inspection). Both places were curteous and I have no ill will against Car Time, but I think this just strengthed my loyalty to Churchhill.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009


For some reason I've had the song "Leaving on a Jet Plane" in my head for a while now. It's a little odd.

Right now my computer is being very annoying, it keeps going slowly. I did a virus search and it came up clean, though it could be that I awoke the anti-virus programs and that's what's slowing it down now. Either way it's frustrating.

I was able to schedule the next D&D session. It's within the next 2 weeks, so I have a lot of reading to get done for this new module. There are definitely some interesting encounters later on in the module, but right now there a lot of NPCs to try and get right and remember, and a whole lot of side things to think up and take notes on. Plus I was thinking of printing up some maps and various other prop items. That reminds me, I need to get more ink for our printer.

Oh, another Emily gift: salad spinner, and she's into pretty dice as well (Yea!).

Monday, August 03, 2009

iTunes Tirade

Sometimes, iTunes really annoys me. I hear things like "Apple really takes care of their customers" or hear praise of their design choices, but I end up frustrated with them more often than not.

For instance, why do I have to manually add a new folder when I add more music? Oh, that's right, because iTunes doesn't have a "Search for new music" option because it assumes that you either purchased the music from them or ripped your cd with them. Heaven forbid you download someone's free album off the internet and want to add it to your music library easily.

And another thing, they have a nice display for album art, but shame on you if you got your music files before such things were commonplace. Now you have to hope you have the correct album, title, and artist information. If any of them are the slightest bit wrong, then iTunes can't help you find the art. And if you find something yourself, but later find something better, tough luck. You should have picked the perfect picture the first time. Now you have to do some crazy searching and hunting in the iTunes files to find that picture and remove it.

It's all very aggravating and doesn't make me an apple fan. I guess that makes me a PC.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Sunday Plans

Today looks like a busy day. We're going shopping at Costco and possibly Source Comics and Games with Alex. But first we plan on dropping off some stuff at my sister-in-laws to sell at their yard sale. Really it's just a good excuse to get rid of some of our stuff. Although we could use some extra cash.

I meant to go through our things yesterday, but I ended up getting sucked in to watching a Burn Notice marathon. I did get some laundry done and put away some clothes, so that's good right?

Well, anyways, I'm feeling a little overwhelmed because there always seems like so much that needs to get done. This is a little exacerbated by the fact that any "relaxing" activities usually end up just being another thing on my "things to do" list, so end up not feeling nearly as relaxing as I would like. I don't know when this happened. I used to just goof off and not feel as anxious as I do now. Is this just what it means to be a responsible adult? I didn't think so. Why is there always so much to do?