kv0925: (Default)
So my gaming life lately has been rather focused on The Last of Us. I mentioned I picked up a PS4 back around Christmas, right? I played through Uncharted 4, which was amazing, and then went back and played the first two games in that series (having also picked up the Nathan Drake Collection). Hallie was playing through them at more or less the same time, so I thought I'd play something else while she catches up and finishes Uncharted 2. So I popped in The Last of Us, which was actually a big reason I wanted the PS4 in the first place, having heard what a great game it was.

And it is. It really, really is. The gameplay is fun, a very well-crafted mix of FPS, stealth, exploration and survival, with some RPG elements tossed in too. But the story, and writing, and performances.. man. It's all linear, of course, which puts the whole game on rails and removes the choice factor. There were a few times when I felt forced to do things I would have chosen not to do, because they were required to progress the story as written. But still, on the whole? Just an amazing experience, and one that will stick with me. Once I got through it, I played through the Left Behind DLC, and then almost immediately started back through the main game to try to find all the collectibles and see other things I might have missed or not fully appreciated the first time. And it's just as good the second time, and actually even better since I knew what I was doing in the early parts of the game. So yeah, if you get a chance to play this one, I do recommend it. And I will be very much looking forward to the sequel next year. I almost never pre-order a game, but that one I absolutely expect to. After this one and the Uncharted series, Naughty Dog have earned my trust for sure.

Otherwise, on the PC I've been playing Mafia III. I enjoyed the first game in that series, and loved the second one, so I had high hopes when 3 was announced. Reviews were not exactly glowing when it came out, but I saw a good price and figured it was worth a try. And it's not a bad game, not at all. As an open-world shooter, it's very adequate. But that's the thing. There was something special about Mafia 2, some bit of magic and serendipity, which took it up a level in my mind and made it more than just the sum of its parts. It had its weak points, but it was just plain FUN. Mafia III seems to have missed that magic, somehow. I still want to get back to it and go through it, but.. yeah, the second one is a lot better.

I've also been playing some Alien: Isolation, which is very good, but somehow hasn't sucked me in like I expected it would. I actually started it quite some time ago, and dropped it, so this time I started over again. Hopefully I'll stick with it this time.

Also spent some time with a game called The Flame in the Flood, which is pretty fun. It's a wilderness survival game reminiscent of Don't Starve, though not quite as cartoonish. Your character is traveling downriver on a wooden raft through a flooded area, stopping at dry land here and there to forage for supplies, craft, hunt, cook, etc. It's nicely done and I dig the art style and music. It's a fun diversion if you find it cheap.

Speaking of finding things cheap, a while back Amazon had the SteamLink on sale for $20, which was a price I couldn't resist. I could already stream from my main PC via the Steam client on my HTPC (which is itself rather underpowered for gaming, of course), but I figured having the dedicated device might make it even easier, and maybe more robust. And it's a pretty nifty little device, for sure. I use it with a pair of wireless XBox 360 controllers, and it works very well. My only issue is that it doesn't seem to wake up when I fire up the first controller--I have to connect the second controller too. Not that big a deal, but it seems like unexpected behavior, which I should get around to researching. ETA: I researched and it seems I might just not be giving it enough time. People say it takes the SteamLink 15-20 seconds to wake up, so I probably fire up the first controller, wonder why it isn't waking up right away, then fire up controller 2, at which point the 15-20 seconds has passed and it wakes up. I'll have to test that to see.

In other news: TGIF!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Popping back in since I know a number of my friends here are gamers. Did any of you pull the trigger on No Man's Sky, PC version in particular?

I admit, I was a bit intrigued by the hype. NMS seems like such a cool concept with vast potential, and to me the visuals look nifty. My own expectations were probably toned down a bit--I don't care about online multiplayer, the lack of which seemed to offend a lot of people, and I would be fine with a more chilled-out and peaceful exploration experience than endless survival/crafting and constant combat. It seemed like something the girls would enjoy, too. But after watching videos and early gameplay footage and reading endless comments and reviews, I'm holding off on it for now. There are clearly issues and deficits in the game, and it appears that as it stands right now it should have an indie-game price rather than the full AAA retail. So I'll wait until it drops to that range, and/or Hello Games comes out with some serious fixes (a lot of complaints from PC players seem to be that the PC version is clearly a console port and lacks many PC niceties like hotkeys, not to mention graphic and optimization issues) and feature adds (like the promised base-building element).

But I was nonetheless curious, did any of you guys and gals jump on it? Any thoughts either way?
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
-Watched a little of the first Democratic debate last night, and have been catching some more highlights and postgame action today. I must say, I was impressed with Hillary. She clearly knows her stuff and is on top of her game, and really made no missteps. My man Bernie did well, I thought, though I don't think I heard anything that was new to anyone who's paid attention to him over the past year or two. I thought his defense of Hillary on the e-mail issue was pure class, and he did a great job turning it back to his refrain of forget the nonsense, let's talk about the issues. And speaking of issues, I was impressed at how much time was spent on issues that have gotten almost no mention in the hours of GOP debates: climate change, inequality, reining in Wall Street, gun control, etc. The 3 also-rans were just that, but everyone on that stage was civil, intelligent, focused and fact-based, and that alone was a clear difference from the GOP debates. I feel pretty confident that our next President was on stage last night, whether Hillary or Bernie. I'd prefer the latter, of course. :)
-Been dealing with an annoying malware infection on my websites. I have my photography business site, of course, and there's one for my wife's sewing business, and one I built for a friend of hers who does live music performance for weddings and whatnot. Apparently my ftp login was hacked a while back, and they injected some malicious code into the websites, plus a backdoor to let them re-infect even after I changed all the passwords and cleaned up the malware scripts. I've been working with my webhost, who have been great at identifying and removing the infected files. I think they finally found and removed the backdoor this morning, so hopefully that will be the end of it once I get everything cleaned and restored. I hope so! Hackers are among the types of people I really despise, causing mayhem for no good reason, just because they can. Grr.
-I haven't talked gaming lately! Yesterday I saw a really good deal on Super Smash Brothers for the Wii U, so I snagged that and we tried it out last night. Definitely a big hit with the girls, even though we had no idea what we were doing. I read up a bit this morning, so I understand the concept a bit better now. :) I've also been having fun playing LEGO City: Undercover--I finished the story part of the game, so now it's all about exploring the world and finding the little things to unlock and complete. Fun stuff. I haven't been doing much PC gaming lately, really. Saving it up for when Fallout 4 comes out, probably! Might have to ask for that for Christmas. :)
-Our Disney World passes expire in a week or so, which is sad. We usually let them lapse for a few months when they expire, to take a break until we miss it enough to dive in again. After the NYC trip it's definitely not in the budget to renew just yet anyway. We need to get out there a couple more times before we can't, though--we went to the Magic Kingdom Sunday night, but it was crazy busy (Columbus Day weekend, I guess?) and we didn't get to do much. So I'm planning to take next Friday off and we'll go there again, hopefully spend more time and do more things. One more trip to Animal Kingdom sometime would be nice too, we didn't go there much.
-Hm, can't think of much else right now. It's almost my lunchtime, better figure out what I feel like eating! I might just go to the grocery store and get a couple frozen dinners, those are nice to have on hand anyway.

Hope everyone is having a fine week!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
I was hoping for a more substantial update by now, but the guy I mentioned early this week who disappeared? His truck and surfboard were found at a beach in the Outer Banks, but there was (and remains) no sign of the man himself. So it's still a mystery. Maybe he drowned and washed out to sea? Maybe he ditched the truck and made good his disappearance. Something seems fishy about the whole thing, though. His wife went on television about the disappearance, and declined to show her face on camera. I just found that odd, somehow. Anyway.

Coasting through the rest of the day here at work. I think I'll knock off a little early so I can go home and pack, and comb over the van. I changed the oil and air filters last weekend, but I should check the air in the tires for sure, and make sure the jack and wrench are where they should be and in good shape. The spare looks good and I made sure of where the nut to lower it is, so that's all good.

Road trip to Myrtle Beach starts tomorrow morning, see! Last year we did overnights on the way up and back, to break up the drive. But this time I guess we're planning to go the whole way in one day, with occasional stops. I dunno, I left the planning on this one to the wife. I rather feel like I'm just along for the ride (but as the chauffeur, of course). But that's okay, I'm looking forward to a mostly-relaxing time. Maybe I should bring the Wii. ;)

We do have a few things planned for the trip, of course. There's that botanical/sculpture garden and zoo that we really enjoyed last time. And I booked a spot to climb the Oak Island lighthouse, which actually looks a little terrifying. But that should be fun. Otherwise, though, I dunno. I'm sure I'll take the girls to do MagiQuest a time or two, and we'll hit the little children's museum in town, and probably the beach a time or two. I guess we'll see how the weather is. Hopefully not quite as hot as last year!

Soda cutback is going fairly well. I've been good about sticking with ice water for my morning drink at the office, mostly. So most days I just have one can of soda with lunch, which isn't too bad. I should work on cutting that back to a few times a week instead of every day, but it's been a decent start.

Scored a couple deals on cheap Wii U games lately. Amazon has Batman: Arkham Origins for $10, so I jumped on that. It arrived yesterday and I gave it a try, looks pretty sweet. And then Best Buy had the Ninja Gaiden game for the U on clearance for $6, and I couldn't pass that up. I loved the original NG game for NES, and this one is well-reviewed (though everyone says it's pretty brutal difficulty-wise). Seemed worth the few bucks, anyway.

Okay, gonna pack up and go pack some more. :) Hope everyone has a lovely weekend and a good week!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Score! There was a deal over the weekend for a Logitech USB gamepad for $7.99 at Best Buy. It's not wireless, but for $8, who can complain? But the store near me was out of stock, and when I checked today the deal had ended and the gamepad was back to its normal price of $24.99. But today was a St. Pete day for work, so on the way home I figured what the heck and stopped at the BB in Lakeland just to see if maybe I could get lucky. And I did! First I found the only one of the gamepad left in stock--but it wasn't where it belonged in the game controllers, instead it was hanging out on a random cart of PC accessories over in that department, and with no price tag whatsoever. Then I found the spot where it was supposed to go--and the $7.99 shelf tag was still there! So I took them both up to checkout, and sure enough it rang up at $24.99 but since the shelf tag was out they honored the sale price for me. Nice! I have no doubt they'd have been cleaned out if the thing had been stocked in the right spot. Pressing my luck, I stopped at another BB along the way, and they had plenty of stock but the shelf tag had been changed back to the $24.99 price. Oh well, at least I scored one! I've wanted to get a couple controllers like that so we can do some family gaming on the home theater PC, which isn't a high-end machine but should be good enough for some stuff.

Speaking of gaming, a while back I mentioned looking for PC games for the girls, and got some good suggestions. They play Terraria and Don't Starve pretty frequently, and have gotten quite good at both. The Sims 2 is still a hit, as are the Scribblenauts games. Recently I introduced them to Goat Simulator, which they love because it's so silly (though it doesn't run too well on Hallie's underpowered laptop, unfortunately). Now I'm looking for a game-design software package that isn't too complex for them. I picked up a Humble Bundle with several (RPG Maker, Axis Game Factory and GameGuru), but I think they might all be just a bit too deep and quirky for their ages. Though I haven't really tried them too much myself, so I guess I should do that. I see a few geared more for beginners and kids like Stencyl and Scratch, maybe I'll check those out too. Though if any of you have suggestions, please do share. :)

Amy still plays the Wii U every chance she gets, and still prefers Super Mario 3D World. And is pretty good at it, for a 4-year-old!

We haven't played D&D much lately, I should remedy that. I also got Exploding Kittens, the card game that was a Kickstarter from the guy who writes the Oatmeal webcomic. Looks pretty fun, I think we'll try that tonight while Heather is at band practice.

Just killing time, really--I was a little too early coming back from St. Pete to go straight home, but there's not really enough time to actually accomplish anything here at the office either. Hope everyone is having a good week out there in LJ Land!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
LEGO City: Undercover for the Wii U is pretty awesome. I guess it's best described as Grand Theft Auto, if the world were mostly made of LEGO and (naturally) it's friendly for kids. It's 1-player only, so I hadn't gotten to play it that much. But lately we've been playing it more, and it's so good the girls don't even mind watching and/or taking turns at the controls.

We're not very far into it, but part of the plot involves going into an Alcatraz-style prison, and it's rife with Shawshank Redemption nods, so of course I am loving it. There's a NPC named Blue, who sounds a lot like Morgan Freeman's Red, and even has a little sidebar where he denies being "Freeman", kinda funny. Then later, in a prison cell, there's a LEGO-fied version of the Raquel Welch poster that hid the tunnel in the film. Good stuff. :)

Okay, time to go home.
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
So the Steam Summer Sale kicked off today. This is a bad thing, because I am way too tempted to buy more games to add to my already-insurmountable backlog. But the few I've been tempted to buy so far today.. I'll see the game, see the price, and say to myself, "Hm, that looks pretty good for the money!" Then I click through to the store page, and.. "This game is already in your Steam library." Heh. I think if I don't even have a clue what I already own, I probably don't need to buy more, right?

Especially since I'll be picking up my copy of LEGO Jurassic World tomorrow. Exciting!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Well, the pool pump was a bust. The plastic goo I got is pretty neat, but it only forms a chemical bond with certain types of plastic, and I guess the pump housing isn't one of those types. So it felt nice and solid at first, but when I tightened the bolt it came loose again. So on to Plan B, which is to replace the whole pump housing with a new one, with factory-fresh bolt inserts and all. This will involve a bit of re-plumbing, but I am hoping it will be within my skill set. And if not, it would be a quick (and hopefully cheap) job for a pro.

Weekend otherwise was so-so. The wife and middle kid have both been fighting off some mystery ailment or another, so they were both a little under the weather. But we went to the American Girl store as planned Saturday morning--and now need to go back again, because I didn't think I needed to check the box of the thing we bought to make sure the thing we bought was actually in the box. But it wasn't, which we discovered when we got home. Might use my lunchbreak today to drive back down there and rectify the situation.

Last night I took the girls to EPCOT Center. It was our last chance to hit a park before the summer blackout period, and between Heather's illness and general busy-ness she could use a break from the kids, so off we went. It was a pretty good time! We did more rides than we normally do, including Soarin' (which Hallie and Amy went on once before, but it was Hermione's first time). That was a hit, of course--I think that's one of the best experiences at WDW, though we don't do it much because the line is always long. They're planning to add a couple more theaters to expand the capacity, and I think they're also going to change the film to Florida instead of California, which certainly makes sense. So we rode that, Spaceship Earth, Living With The Land, the Mexico boat ride, and we checked out the store in China and had dessert at the bakery in Norway. Mmm, good. It was a bit warm, but there was a nice breeze so overall it was a very pleasant evening.

I've been splurging a bit on games for the Wii U--I see it as playing catch-up. :) But not too bad, I've mostly been getting good deals on pre-owned games. Let's see, I got LEGO Batman 3 (good game, but now we find it a bummer that the multiplayer on LEGO games is only 2 players--hopefully LEGO Dimensions will rectify that!), LEGO City: Undercover (which is as awesome as I expected, but only 1-player), Wii Party U (we enjoy the minigame collections, lots of variety and quick to play as well), The Wonderful 101 (neat game, but pretty difficult and entirely chaotic), Rayman Legends and ZombiU (haven't even gotten to try those yet!). This Friday is the release of LEGO Jurassic World, which I think I must get immediately. :) Then I'd like to catch up on a few other LEGO games, and grab things like New Super Mario Bros. U and the Zelda games. Just checked, the new open-world Zelda game (which does sound amazing) was just pushed back to next year, that's a bummer. Oh well, lots to get in the meantime!

Amy still only ever wants to play the Mario Cat Game (Super Mario 3D World), of course. And I must say, she's getting better at it! Yesterday we were playing, and she actually outscored me on a couple levels! Mostly because we died midway and had to continue with reset scores, but still. I'm a proud gamer Dad. The other girls aren't quite as into it--they'd rather play on their PC, where Terraria, Don't Starve, and Scribblenauts are the order of the day. And Sims 2 sometimes.

Speaking of gaming with the girls, I taught them Poker recently! When I was a kid I remember lots of fun nights spent playing penny-ante Poker with the family, so it's cool that we can do that now. I started them with 5-card draw, of course, but next time I'll introduce 5- and 7-card stud. I don't know the varieties like Texas Hold 'Em, maybe we'll try that later on. I also showed them Blackjack real quick, but they didn't like that as much. They like getting more cards, they said. So I guess 7-card stud should be a hit. :)

Otherwise I've been feeling a bit blah. I dunno, every now and then I let the 10% of stuff that isn't where I want it to be distract me from the 90% that's truly wonderful, and I stew in those negative juices for a bit. Mostly I blame myself for being the cause of my own discontent, and for not seeing how I can make it better. Same old, same old, I suppose.

Okay, back to work. Or maybe I'll hit the road for the mall, grumblegrumble. Hope everyone is having a good Monday!

Updatery.

May. 28th, 2015 02:41 pm
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
I feel like an update is overdue, but I dunno what about, really. So let's break out the bullets.

• The Wii U has been a big hit so far! Mario Kart 8 is awesome, of course, but we've also really enjoyed Super Mario 3D World and NintendoLand, both of which were in the console bundle I got. At first the girls didn't care too much for Super Mario, but it grew on them. Amy especially loves it, for some reason--she calls it the Mario Cat Game, because one of the power-ups for the characters is a cat suit. In fact, she loves it a bit TOO much. As soon as she wakes up and as soon as I get home from work, she's asking if we can play Wii. Don't get me wrong, I dig that she likes it so much, but sheesh! I can't even play anything solo--if I try, she pops in and grabs the controller like she owns the joint. Silly kid. I also got it playing old GameCube games--that was actually even more viable on the old first-gen Wii, but for some reason I didn't do much of it. But since the ghost game in NintendoLand was such a hit, I figured they'd appreciate Luigi's Mansion too since it's more or less based on that. So far so good!

Then this week Humble Bundle did the first console-based bundle I've seen, and it happened to be Nintendo (Wii U and 3DS) so I jumped on that pretty quickly. Mostly platform-style indie games, but there looked to be some pretty neat titles, with more being added next week so I can look forward to that as well. I've only tried one (Guacamelee) so far, but it looked really good. Amy kept stealing the controller, though!

• Been having a little trouble with the pool lately. The pump has had a trickle leak for a while, which recently turned into more of a mini-geyser. Not a lot, but enough to be annoying. And it's salt water, so I really don't want it spraying all over the pump motor and other stuff over there. So I figured out one problem was a loose bolt insert, and I fixed that--but the leak persists. So I'm thinking the plastic plate that attaches and seals the motor and impeller assembly to the rest of the pump got warped at some point and isn't sealing completely. So I have a new one on the way, hopefully that will finally do the trick. With my luck, though, probably not!

• Photo session tomorrow, not entirely looking forward to it. Some clients I feel great about, some are more iffy. This one is just a tad on the iffy side. But hopefully it will all be good. I only took a half-day from work, so I'll have to come in to the office afterwards. Probably after I go home for a shower, that is--gonna be a toasty one, as usual.

Hm, I can't think of much else, so.. have a good afternoon/evening, wherever you are!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
My back is sore. I took the day off yesterday, and spent a decent chunk of it pressure-washing the pool deck. Which involves stooping over slightly most of the time, and I am feeling it today. Hell, I was feeling it while I was doing it! I really need to work out more. I'd started running around the block a couple times a week, but I've fallen off that wagon. Need to get back to it, it really did make me feel like it was tightening up my core and back muscles.

Anyway, I decided to take the day because I really haven't used much time yet this year (thanks to cancelled NYC trips and such), and we're already rounding the corner into June. Sheesh, the year is flying!

I also got the WiiU hacked so it can play Wii games from an external hard drive, so that's nice. Seems to work fine so far, though there's another step or two to get there, and an annoying prompt to format the hard drive every time I power up the system. I think there's a way to fix that, though, gonna try it tonight, maybe.

We also went to a cool book sale. I guess for a week or two every year, the Scholastic Books warehouse around here opens up for a public sale. Most of the books are a simple 50% off the cover price, but they also have books down to 50 cents or so, and one area where you can fill a box with books for $25. We had no trouble finding plenty of books, mostly for the girls but a couple things I'd wanted as well. The only downside was that it's in their warehouse, which is not air-conditioned, so it was toasty in there. They did have big fans, at least! As my wife said, it was probably good because we might have spent more time and money there if it hadn't been uncomfortable!

Back to work today, seems like a pretty relaxed day. I have a meeting in a few minutes, but then my afternoon is mostly clear. Might run out and shop for some screen to fix our pool enclosure. And maybe do some ore of this silly series of online training modules I have to do for work. Security of credit card and personal information, none of which I actually deal with in my job. But oh well.

I hope everyone is having a good week!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
So I mentioned my desire for a Wii U last week. And when it comes to me and that sort of thing, desire usually turns to reality fairly shortly. :) So I looked around, and apart from used and refurb units (which typically get the stinkeye from me), the very best deal I saw was $250 for the current Super Mario World 3D bundle. Problem was, that deal was at Fry's, which is not a chain with a local presence in these parts. The deal was available online too, of course, but that's apparently the best price that's been offered maybe ever, and it sold out pretty quickly. So I'd sort of resigned myself to waiting for a price that good (or close to it) to appear again before pulling the trigger.

But still, I figured I'd go to Best Buy and see what was what, maybe drool over the demo unit a bit. And while I was there I thought I'd go ahead and join their Gamers Club thingy--it's $30, but it gets you 20% off new games 3 times a year for the next 2 years, which I figured I'd take advantage of if I did get a Wii U soon. So I did that, and while I was checking out, I asked my cashier if they happened to pricematch Fry's even though they aren't a local competitor per se. So she looked in their POS system, which apparently has a list of competitors they will pricematch--and Fry's was on the list. So she said well, they're in here, so yes! So I grabbed a Wii U bundle and a copy of Mario Kart 8 off the shelf, the system honored the pricematch for the Wii U, I used the Gamer's Club 20% off on Mario Kart, and that was that. Score!

So far the girls really like it, and I am reasonably impressed as well. Mario Kart 8 is awesome, of course, and Super Mario World is fun because all 3 girls can play it with me. And the characters can turn into cats, which they naturally love. It also came with NintendoLand, which is a sort of WiiPlay-like collection of minigames designed to show the various ways the controls can be used. There are some fun ones, like a Zelda-based one that uses the Wii remote like a sword, and a Luigi's Mansion sort of game where one player uses the big gamepad with screen to control a ghost who hunts (and is hunted by) the other players using the tv screen. That one especially is a lot of fun. :)

So now we're looking forward to getting the new LEGO Jurassic World game when it comes out in a few weeks, and I'd like to get some of the other LEGO games as well. Okay, all the other LEGO games. :)
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
I'm a teensy bit excited today, so I just have to share. Following is a bit of video-gaming geekery, so please feel free to skip if that's not your bag, baby. :)

Presently, the newest console in our house is a Nintendo Wii. For the most part that's fine--the girls and I play games on our PCs far more often than we play console games, but we do fire up the Wii (or an old-school console emulator on the HTPC) for multiplayer fun probably a couple times a week. I've considered moving to a newer console, either a Wii U, Playstation 3 or XBox 360 (the latest-gen consoles are just too pricey for me to justify, given how rarely we play consoles in the first place). But with PS or XBox, I'd be starting from scratch--I'd have to get the console, additional controllers, and games, and it would all add up really quickly, so that's a big barrier to entry. With the Wii U, I at least already have controllers since it's compatible with Wii Remotes and whatnot.

Problem is, while I have scads of Wii games, the vast majority reside on an external hard drive, and I wasn't sure if the Wii U can be modified to play them that way. We've been happy enough with the Wii anyway, so if it ain't broke, etc.

But then new games stopped coming out for the Wii, with the Nintendo versions released only for the Wii U. We're big fans of the various LEGO games, so when the LEGO City game came out and it was only Wii U, I was a little miffed. Then the new Marvel Superheroes game, which I didn't mind too much because that's not as much our style. But now the new LEGO Jurassic World game is coming soon, which I do want. And all along, I've played Mario Kart 8 a few times on in-store demo machines, and it just looks incredibly cool, so that's been tempting too.

But now! This morning I discovered LEGO Dimensions, which is the LEGO iteration of the Skylanders/Disney Infinity-type toy-to-game setups. But LEGO! And the themes they're including are pretty sweet. LEGO Movie stuff, of course, but also Back to the Future, Lord of the Rings, Scooby-Doo, Portal, Wizard of Oz(!), Doctor Who, maybe Ghostbusters, perhaps Harry Potter eventually.. Really good stuff! Unfortunately, some of the properties that have been made into LEGO games like Star Wars, Marvel, Pirates of the Caribbean, and perhaps Indiana Jones are off-limits since they're associated with Disney and this system will compete with Infinity. But still, it's very intriguing and makes me want to check it out when it hits the street later this year.

So that inspired me to look into it again today, and it seems there is indeed a way to modify the Wii U to play Wii games from an external HDD, and it doesn't even look that difficult. Not that that's a dealbreaker, we can always keep the Wii for those games. But if I can get a Wii U and have it do everything, why not?

Now to talk the wife into letting me get one...
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Well, weekend was kind of a bust. The weather was pretty gloomy, so outdoor plans weren't really happening Saturday we headed over to visit my Mom, since it had been a while and Amy had been asking to go there. Can't complain when the kids WANT to go to Grandma's house, right? So we hung out there for a while, went to a Mexican restaurant for lunch, and had ice cream cake as a belated celebration of Amy's birthday.

Speaking of, did I mention that? Amy turned 4 last week, which seems hard to believe. I neglect proper kid updates here, but they're all doing pretty well. Amy is the one who currently makes us want to pull our hair out, though. She's quite different from her sisters, that's for sure. They were always shy and quiet, for the most part. We had our struggles with Hallie as she went through these ages, but even that seems tame compared to Amy. She's just so tenacious, stubborn and determined. She knows what she wants and she wants it RIGHT NOW, as she is wont to tell us at high volume. Will not take no for an answer, everything is a negotiation, and if all else fails she resorts to name-calling and threats that are actually pretty hilarious. Last week there was an incident where she threatened to poop on our heads, which still makes me chuckle even as I type this. It's hard to maintain the requisite parental authority when your kid makes a threat that cracks you up.

Anyway, I keep telling Heather that it will pass, and eventually these characteristics will serve her very well indeed. Imagine if she always retains this level of stick-to-it-iveness and tenacity! Her focus sometimes is really quite amazing, especially when you consider her age. If she's on a roll, she'll sit for literally hours focused on one activity. I have trouble with that at MY age, and she's barely 4! She started violin lessons about a month ago, and she's amazingly good at those from what I hear. She'll occasionally disengage from the lesson and go over to Heather (who hangs out in the room) and ask when she can be done with the lesson. But then she goes right back to it, does what she's told, and apparently impresses the teacher with how well she does. At home, sometimes she'll head straight for her violin when she gets up in the morning, and she's been equally eager to work through the 100-lesson reading book with Heather. She gets excited to learn the next letter or sound, and it's pretty awesome to see her try to read things around the house or when we're out and about. Again, for someone who just turned 4, it's pretty amazing. But those bits definitely come at a price. :)

So anyway. Sunday there was a good chance of rain again, so we just ran around some stores and planned to spend the afternoon relaxing around the house. But then Heather mentioned that she'd noticed some water in the cabinet under the kitchen sink, which I determined was coming from the garbage disposal (garburator, for any Canucks in the audience). The old one came with the house, so it was probably due for replacement anyway, so I bought a new one and was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to swap out. Of course, today Heather tells me that the dishwasher isn't draining, and I immediately realized there must naturally be a plug in the dishwasher inlet of the new unit since not everyone has a dishwasher, and I didn't knock it out. Oops, there's always something. So I know what I'm doing when I get home from work!

Oh, a quick update on my post about gaming and the girls. Tomb Raider: Anniversary has remained a hit with Hallie. We even started watching the first TR movie, and she likes that too. Some parts are tough for her, but she's doing fine for a 7-year-old, I think. I thought Portal would be good too, since it's all about navigating the environment and problem solving (plus the portal mechanics are cool), and she likes that one too, though I think some of the later levels are beyond her until she really gets the hang of WASD+mouse. I played through it myself, and can't help but wonder what took me so long. The humor baked into that game via GLaDOS is just my cup of tea, and I was utterly tickled by the "Still Alive" song at the end. :) So Portal 2 is probably next on my agenda. I also introduced the girls (including Amy!) to Terraria, and they've been having a blast with that one. They love the building and crafting part of it, and mainly play it for that rather than to advance through the game. But hey, whatever! We've been having a little emulation fun on the new HTPC, too. I'll have to see what they think of some Commodore 64 classics next!

Speaking of old video games and computers, have any of you read Ready Player One? I'd heard of it, and it sounded good. A friend gave it high praise on FB so I bumped it up to the top of my list, and wow, awesome read. Just a lot of fun, and irresistible to me. While I enjoy a lot of books, I can only recall a few that really grabbed me and made me impatient to get back to it so I could see what happened next. This one goes on that list!

Okay, better wrap up and get home to fix that dishwasher! I hope everyone's week is off to a good start!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
In other news, my shiny new home theater PC was waiting for me when I got home from work yesterday, so I spent much of the evening getting it set up with Kodi (the HTPC interface formerly known as XBMC), VLC player, media server software, etc., and getting it set up in place of the little nettop it's replacing. About the only thing I didn't do was actually test video playback, but it seems like a pretty zippy little box so I don't see that being an issue. Overall I'm very pleased so far--it's much more responsive than the nettop, and I can already see the benefits of utilizing a USB 3.0 port to connect to the external HDD where my media files live. MUCH faster access times.

And I got to thinking.. with a decent little PC attached to the tv, finally, there's a great opportunity to get it set up as a little emulation machine for playing the classics. NES, SNES, Sega Master System and Genesis, even the Commodore 64 games which so defined my adolescence. So I ordered a pair of USB gamepads that look like SNES controllers, and those should arrive today. I think I'll try firing up some Super Mario Brothers to educate the girls with this evening. :)
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Since video games were such a great part of my own childhood, and something I still greatly enjoy (yet feel guilty spending too much time on, but that's another topic), I've been glad to inculcate an interest in them in my girls. We play Wii, they play on their computers, and we even fire up the venerable PS2 and Dreamcast now and then, not to mention the MAMEd arcade cabinet I have hiding upstairs. And they're pretty good, I must say! But mainly they play things like the LEGO games, girly dress-up games on the Internet, point-and-click type adventure games, etc. They see me playing first-person shooter type games now and then, and have seemed interested, but obviously I haven't wanted to just drop them into those since most are pretty tough, not to mention M-rated with murder and mayhem and language and blood and guts everywhere.

So it came to mind that maybe the Tomb Raider games would fit the bill, especially for Hallie with her love of Indiana Jones. I'd mentioned it but then dropped it, until this week when Hallie came to me asking me to put a game on her PC, but she couldn't tell me the name or even anything about it. I was thinking it was something she'd already played, but she said no to everything I named. Finally she said she thought it started with a T and was about a girl adventurer, and finally it clicked. So I took a look at the newest Tomb Raider game, but found that it too is rated M with the ultraviolence and adult language, so it's out. But then I thought, what about the old-school TR games? And I found that there's an updated (Anniversary) version of the first one, which is still rated T. So I installed that for her, and so far she's digging it (er, so to speak?). I was afraid that the controls and gameplay might be too much for her (she's only 7, after all), and indeed she doesn't quite grasp the WASD+mouse control setup yet. But she still does pretty well, and I think we can work up to getting both hands involved properly. The game itself is pretty cool--I'd never actually played any TR myself, but so far it's mostly just navigating the environment, jumping around cliffs and ledges and ropes, with the occasional beastie (bats and wolves so far) popping up. So I think it's a fine introduction to this sort of game. Thus far we've only jokingly mentioned the fact that Lara Croft is running around a snowy mountain cave wearing shorts and a skin-tight tank top, so I hope it's not warping their minds too much, you know? At least it's a strong female character so there's a Girl Power angle in there somewhere, I hope.

The only wrinkle so far is that Hermione wants to play it now too, so I installed it for her as well. But I'm using Steam with their family sharing feature, which means only one of them can play it at a time, which is kind of a bummer since they often like to be playing the same thing. I guess we'll see if that becomes enough of an issue to justify me finding a not-so-legal copy to install instead. :)

Do any of you gamers have suggestions for other games they might like, in this or any other genre? I'd considered the Half-Life games as another FPS they might dig, since the bad guys are monsters and mutants instead of people. Maybe the newer Fallout games for the same reason, though there are some human adversaries as well. I guess I'll just see how well TR holds their interest, and if they might want to explore more in that genre. I should find some things to install for LAN gaming, like Worms. Any other ideas?

While I'm on the subject, Amy's taken nicely to having her own PC as well. Though yesterday evening I had to run to the store to get her a new video card. Night before last she was playing and I started smelling a strange odor, which I finally determined was coming from her PC. So when I got home yesterday I popped the case open and found that it was coming from her video card--the fan on the heatsink had seized up, so it was overheating even at idle. Hopefully that also explains why some games would make her PC shut down after a few minutes. Slapped in a new card and so far so good.

Oh, and the other day there was a really good NewEgg deal on a mini desktop PC that should be great to replace the little nettop I've been using as my home theater PC. I like the old one from a size and power-usage perspective, but it's just clunky and underpowered as a PC, and it only has USB 2.0 ports which means the USB 3.0 external hard drive where my movies live doesn't work as well as it could. The new one was only $140 after rebate, and that's with Windows 8.1 included, so I couldn't pass it up. I was hoping it would arrive by Saturday so I could get it set up this weekend, but I guess that is not to be unless UPS is mistaken. Hopefully this one won't take a wrong turn to Abu Dhabi.

And speaking of games, we haven't played much D&D or other tabletop games lately. We've done Munchkin another time or two, and are getting the hang of it, though the last time we played I resolved to be more evil and never got the cards to do so. Maybe this weekend. I also signed on to the Kickstarter for Exploding Kittens, since that seems right up our admittedly-skewed alley. It won't be shipping for a while, but I am looking forward to it.

And that's the latest geeky news in the cp household!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
For Christmas I got the girls (and, probably more accurately, myself) the Munchkin Deluxe game. We like family game time, though we don't do it enough, so I'm hoping that adding some more games to the mix will make us sit down and play more.

Munchkin seemed like a no-brainer since the girls have enjoyed playing our bastardized version of Dungeons and Dragons. If you're not familiar, Munchkin is a card game with a loose D&D-type theme, but without the role-playing and bookkeeping, and with a lot of humor baked in. Everyone starts as a classless level 1 human character, and are dealt cards which can give them a class and a different race, equipment like armor and weapons, other cards that give one-time combat bonuses, and monsters that can be played into combat.

A basic turn works like this: The player draws a Door card (symbolic of kicking open the door to the next room of the dungeon). If the Door card is a monster, combat begins. If the card is a curse, it takes effect immediately. If it's something else like a new race or class, the player can use it immediately or hang onto it. If the card wasn't a monster and the player has a monster card in their hand, they can fight it--defeating monsters is the primary way to move up levels, and the first player to level 10 wins. Otherwise the player can just loot the room and get a new Door or Treasure card (defeating monsters also earns Treasure cards, which are the aforementioned equipment and items which provide combat bonuses). The combat mechanics are simple: each monster has a level, and if a player's level (plus bonuses from their equipment and any other cards they want to play into the fight) exceed the monster's level, they win (the Warrior class can also win on a tie). If not, the player can attempt to run away with a dice roll--if the roll fails then the monster catches them and something bad happens, usually losing some cards and/or a level.

Where things get interesting is in the dynamics between players. Players can help each other by joining forces in combat--or they can undermine each other with curses and items that take away combat points, or by helping the monster (or even adding more monsters to the fight).

We've only played twice so far, and we've had fun, but we've only played nice. I think next time I'm going to have to take it up a notch and actually do some backstabbing. Because what's a little treachery amongst family, right?

Oh, there are also scads of expansions, which are additional card packs to spice up the game and reduce repetition. The expansions add new monsters, new equipment and items, even new themes like zombies and pirates and the Old West. I have one on the way, I'm looking forward to mixing it in.

So to sum up, fun and funny game, good for family and friend get-togethers. A little complex on the face of it, but easy enough to learn once you're underway. I'll have to follow up once we've played a few more times and learned the joys of screwing each other over. :)
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
So the weekend was pretty decent. Still mired in the hot and sticky mess that is the neverending Florida summer, but it's starting to get a little better since the days are getting shorter. We start out just a tad bit cooler, and the air's just a tad bit drier, and the evenings get a tad bit more pleasant. I wish we could have gotten the tiniest shred of that big cold front that dipped down across the rest of the country last week!

Anyway. After running the aforementioned D&D idea by the girls, they were excited to dive right in, and loved the idea of heading to ACME, a big comic/toy/game store not too far away. So we went to a park we like in the area, did lunch, and then ACME. And.. kind of a bummer, really. I guess D&D is rather passé at present, as all they had was a few smallish cardboard trays of miniatures and a stack of old books. My main notion was to see if the girls could pick out a miniature to represent their characters, but since there wasn't much to choose from we figured we'd stick with the LEGO idea for now.

So the D&D Starter Set arrived in the mail that afternoon, and I spent a bit of the afternoon looking over the rulebook and the included adventure, The Lost Mine of Phandelver. The first encounter is a goblin ambush along a forest road, so I had the girls build a tree-lined road from LEGO while I built the wagon our party was using to haul a delivery of goods. I also assembled some LEGO goblins and other things we'd need. We took those (and our LEGO characters) to the dining room table, I set up the wagon and told them the basic premise so far. Then I plopped down two "dead" LEGO horses on the road ahead, which their characters investigated. Then I sprung the goblin ambush, and the game was afoot!

Now, since we're all new at this, and I'm trying to keep it as loose and as fun as possible to maintain their interest, I have a feeling that the way we played it would look very little like "true" D&D to anyone very familiar with it. I left out all the stuff that I thought would go over their heads or bog them down in details (which is a lot) and all the stuff that I myself am clueless about at this point (which is even more), and stripped it down to the very basics. We rolled for initiative, and then I just let them choose which goblin to attack and how, giving them some options. I didn't even (gasp!) worry about attack rolls, I just presumed every attack was successful and let them roll the damage. Hermione's character is a wizard, so I'd suggest a spell or two she could use and what the effect would be (without bothering about the memorization aspects of spellcasting), and she grasped that well. Hallie chose a rogue, so her basic MO is to sneak around behind the monsters and backstab them. To increase the size of our party (and to make it even more fun for the girls), I let their characters have "pets" which would also make attacks--Hermione's is a little unicorn, and Hallie picked a LEGO ant named Bob who is amazingly good wielding an axe. :) And I had a character in the party as well, in addition to trying to get the hang of running the game as DM. So yeah, as a proper D&D experience, I have no doubt it was terrible. But the girls and I had a ball, and at this point I consider that a lot more important. :)

Sunday I thought giving Heather a quiet morning at home would be a good idea, so I packed up the girls and we headed to Downtown Disney. It was already too hot, and it didn't help that I had to park pretty far from the stores we wanted to go to because of the major construction Disney has going on down there. But we played at the LEGO store for a while, and we played in the Once Upon a Toy store for a while, and then it was time for lunch, so we made our long way back to the car, did lunch, and that was that.

About as soon as we got home, Hallie started asking when we could play the game some more. So I guess that's a good sign of success as well! But I'd been meaning to change the oil in my car, so I did that, and confirmed my belief that it is impossible to do that job neatly where my car is concerned. Oil everywhere, and as a bonus I accidentally dropped the drain plug into the container of used oil, which meant plunging my hand in to get it, and eww. But that was done, eventually.

After dinner I gathered a bunch of our pre-built LEGO buildings to represent Phandalin, the little town at the center of our adventure. We finished the goblin hideout cave part of the adventure that we'd started the first night, and then I took us to the town to cover some of the NPC interactions and whatnot on the agenda there. And the girls had a great time again, but the actual playing of the game was rather lost in their exuberance this time around. They were more interested in just playing with the LEGOs and characters and going off on their own tangents, so I slipped in what story elements I could, but mostly just let them have fun. I don't even really consider that a gaming session, more like playtime with a tiny bit of game thrown in. But oh well. I know they'll want to play again tonight, so hopefully I can get them to settle down a little as we explore the hideout of the gang of ruffians terrorizing the town. :) I'm debating how to present the map for that one, though. LEGO, dry-erase board, something else?

Already almost time to call it a day! I hope everyone's week is off to a fine start.
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
So recently I fixed my arcade cabinet. Have I mentioned I have an arcade cabinet? I got it ages ago, when we were living in Texas, and I've since hauled it around with us even though my wife thinks it's hideous and would like nothing more than to see it spontaneously combust, probably. :) It had been monitor-less for a while, so when the wife switched to a netbook as her personal computer, that freed up an LCD monitor I finally got around to installing. So now it works (though the controls are a bit flaky, probably need to blow some dust out of there), and the girls and I have been having fun playing it again. Their favorite game seems to be Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom, like so:

<

Unfortunately my cabinet is only built for 2 players, otherwise we could do 3 or 4, which would be awesome. Maybe I should rig up a controller of some sort for a third player, at least.

Anyway, so there's that, and of course I'm thrilled that they like playing a game that's right up my own alley--pretty sure I spent more than a few quarters on that one myself, back in the day!

Then yesterday I came across a blog post where a guy said he'd had the notion to pick up the new D&D 5th Edition Starter Set, which runs just $12 on Amazon, and try it out with his kids (7 and 9 years old, just like my older two). He adjusted the play to make it a little simpler and easier, of course, and lacking miniatures they used LEGO to stand in for their characters and also to build their map/board for the adventure, and he reported great success. Now the LEGO thing I'd never considered! And it really got me thinking that the girls might thoroughly enjoy that as well. They already have an affinity for the D&D sort of fantasy world--remember how enthralled Hallie in particular was with the MagiQuest thing we did in Myrtle Beach--and combining that with family game time and building stuff with LEGO just seems like something that would be a big hit for us all around. I've never really played the tabletop version of D&D myself, but I've sat in with friends on occasion so I kinda know how it should work, and I certainly consider myself well-versed in the D&D world as a whole since I grew up with their computer games and books.

So what the heck, for $12 I took the risk and ordered the Starter Set, and in the meantime I'm misusing office resources to print up the free-to-download Player's guide from the D&D website. I told Hallie about it yesterday and she was pretty excited, and immediately took to the LEGO to replicate the sort of adventure maps I was showing her online. Hopefully Hermione will be willing to give it a shot as well, and maybe we can even drag Heather into it. Amy's a bit young, of course, but who knows, maybe she can roll a character and I'll play it for her when she tunes out. I can also imagine the older girls creating and DMing their own adventures once they get the hang of it all. So hopefully we'll try that out this weekend and see how it goes. :) I may also foresee a trip to ACME in Longwood, a nice big comic/toy/game store where they can maybe pick out a miniature for their characters. Exciting! And geeky! WIN!

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