Note that my cockpit comes complete with lap warmer.
Archive for the ‘Games’ Category
Just got my Sid Sackson Signature Series box set of three games from Funagain.com today. It’s a re-release of three classic Sackson games by Gryphon and Eagle Games. This is extra cool because they did a very successful Kickstarter to raise funds for the initial printing. Unfortunately, I was too late to buy in, but found that funagain had them available for preorder. Nice!
Anyhow, I made a unboxing video and posted it to YouTube. Enjoy!
Thanks to the friendly help at Walt’s Hobby I decided to go for the Blade 120 SR instead of the smaller coaxial Blade MXC2. Both are 4 channel((Throttle, yaw, pitch cyclic and roll cyclic)) birds with yaw gyros for stability, but this one uses the conventional tail rotate for anti-torque. It’s about 50% larger (main rotor is 12.5″ in diameter), so it does pretty well outside even in a light breeze (as I proved tonight). It could fly indoors, but you’d need a pretty big space…. maybe once I get to be a better pilot.
At this point I’m proud to report I exhausted three rechargeable batteries (each about 7-8 minutes of actual flight time) without breaking anything, so I’m off to a good start. It’s certainly going to be a challenge to fly in a well controlled manner, but it’s awfully fun right out of the box.
Thanks to Stephen for this nostalgic little trip.
Only single player (solitaire) is supported, but those intense sound effects are mega-killer.
Those are air-quotes in the title, since there is a bit of effort required to land your “free” copy of Portal, but the game is worth it. Until May 24th, Steam is making the game Portal available for free download. To invoke this free-ness, you have to register with Steam (bleh), download their licensing/downloader program (yuck), let it upgrade itself multiple times (double yuck), download and install Portal through their service (pretty fast actually, their servers pretty much saturated my broadband link for the duration), and then…
Play the most novel concept for a game I’ve seen since Deus Ex. I don’t give this title lightly, but this game gets five arbitrary happiness symbols out of five for being essentially a first-person-puzzle-maze game. Imagine the classic 2D puzzle games like Boulder Dash or that-game-where-you-slide-blocks-around-to-escape-a-maze except in 3D. Not just that, but with really amazing twists on such basic concepts as conservation of momentum. I’d tell you more about how this works, but the game has such an amusing way of introducing those concepts as you go that it is marvelously self documenting. The system requirements are quite nominal that you don’t need a massive new machine to run it.
Did I mention the game was funny too? Listen carefully to the background intercom messages (and the reactions of the other entities in the game) as you proceed. This all combines to give a strong sense of being a rat in a giant laboratory. Amusing and impressive.
I only wish the main thread of the game had been longer
I will probably play again (and try the ‘challenges’), because there are probably hundreds of different ways to solve each puzzle.
Go get it. Have fun. There will be cake.
- As a combination of a particularly cranky 3 month old girl, insomnia and instant addiction, I played through the plot in one sitting this morning. It took about 4-6 hours. [↩]
Thanks to R’s tendency to only sleep when supported vertically, I’ve been putting her in the Baby Bjorn and finding other things to do. These things need to be generally stationary and relatively quiet. This means that I’ve been catching up on my Discover magazines, quickly exhausting Turner Classic Movies On-Demand and finishing off some video games (with headphones on).
As a result of this I have several random observations:
A) Watching The Manchurian Candidate (1962) while heavily sleep deprived is especially surreal. It also gives you crazy violent dreams, so I wouldn’t recommend the overall experience. 
B) I’ve now completed Bioshock which I started back in December. There was about a three week hiatus, but I made a pretty hard push to finish it over the last few days/nights. I really have to applaud the writers and designers for writing a compelling storyline with reasonable psychological and ethical hurdles. The scenery is very dark and bloody and combined with adult dialog, the game is rather squarely rated “R”. However, despite this, it rarely seemed gratuitous like other shooters I have played (and generally stopped playing). There was suitable opportunity for a ‘thinking player’ rather than a ‘rapid reflex’ player to ambush/evade/out-think the enemies with sufficient moments of sheer combat chaos to keep the heart going. I have Mass Effect waiting in the wings, but I think I’m going to evade game-commitment and install NFS:Undercover next. 
C) Every time I read another article about the plasticity of the brain, and the growing field of neural-mechanical interfaces I really feel like I’m in the wrong line of work. I am continuously amazed at how remarkably flexible and adaptable the brain is at integrating with new inputs. This is reinforced by watching N learn to spell, associate numbers with objects and generally become more sophisticated physically and mentally every day. We’re starting this road again with R, and so quickly she develops reactions to certain stimuli.
- Great movie though. Angela Lansbury as the manipulative Mrs. Iselin is fantastically dark. [↩]
- Yes, I purchase and play games well after their initial release dates. Both Bioshock and Mass Effect have recently released sequels. I do this to keep my PC costs in check and to get a true bargain for my entertainment budget. I think I picked up Bioshock for about $10, and got a ridiculous number of entertainment hours out of it. [↩]
Cooties took a bit more effort to model in Excel than HHCO because the game has distinct states. The objective is to collect all the body parts of your Cootie bug which include: 1 Body, 1 Head, 1 Mouth, 1 Pair of eyes((A single molded piece)), 1 Headgear and 6 Legs. However, you must collect the Body followed by the Head before any other parts may be collected. Each part is selected based on the throw of a standard 6-sided die. If you successfully add a part to your bug, you get to roll again in the same turn. I didn’t model this, but rather did the statistics based on number of rolls required.
The average number of rolls required to complete the bug, based on 100 Monte Carlo runs, is 44 rolls. I’d estimate a tolerance of about +/- 5 rolls. Any individual player is not likely to reach this number, however, since any one lucky player at the table will end the game considerably earlier.
There is about a 20% chance of victory by 28 rolls for any single player. For four players, the game is over 60% of the time by this point. By 40 rolls, about 45% of players will have won meaning our table of 4 will have completed over 91% of the time. I did have one ‘simulation’ exceed my modeling table with no victory after 100 rolls. The next highest was 77 rolls, but the density increased significantly below that.
Now if we can just get Nate to settle down enough to roll when it’s his turn we might actually get through a game in under 30 minutes.
- In the modern version this includes antenna, a hat or a bow. [↩]
Nate got a series of classic kids games for Christmas: Hi-Ho-Cherry-Oh, Candyland, Memory and Cooties. With the exception of Memory, these are all games of complete and total chance. For those that haven’t played, three of them basically go like this:
- Invoke a random event.
- Execute required action.
- Has victory condition been met?
- If so, yippee.
- If not, repeat from step 1.
For Hi-Ho-Cherry-Oh, the randomizer is a spinner with 7 positions. Four positions let you take from 1 to 4 cherries off your tree, two positions penalize you 2 cherries and the last causes you to loose all of your cherries. Once you have collected 10 cherries, you win.
So being the geek that I am, I found myself wondering the average number of cherries gained per spin. At first this is simple (1+2+3+4-2-2)/6=1. Unfortunately, there is that nasty bucket which is a variable penalty. Rather than create the entire statistical equation, I simply created a Monte Carlo simulation in Excel. After about 100 ‘games’ it was clear that the average payout is between 1 and 1.1 cherries per turn.((This is determined as the 10 cherries needed to win divided by the number of spins required to get there. Even though the last spin might put you over 10, you can’t get that many off the tree.))
The shortest game is three spins (4,4,4;4,4,3;4,4,2;4,3,3). There are 10 winning series as the spins could come in any order and 343 possible outcomes. The odds are 2.9% of winning in the minimum amount of time. Of course the odds of a shorter game improve with more players as the game ends if any of the players succeeds, so roughly this increases to 11%. The maximum game is theoretically infinite, but about 40% of the time 10 spins or fewer are required (85% of the time for four players). By 20 spins, a solitaire game is over 75% of the time (with four players this would increase to 99.6%).
Ok, I now return you to your regularly scheduled intra-holiday period.
Maybe I’ll work on Cooties tomorrow. Candyland is just too annoying.
To celebrate Mike and Becki’s engagement, the college crowd staged a photographic scavenger hunt in Albany, NY. Although most of the ‘tag’ pictures were just simply not worth sharing, some were odd or aesthetic enough to post. This wedding shot was certainly a highlight.
I also snagged some shots of central Albany.
The next day K,N & I got up early (or more specifically Nate got up early) and we went for a walk to spare the other ex-revelers a few more moments of rest. This shot taken by Kristin really says it all:
Misty morning in more ways than one.
After another round of Killer Bunnies, we headed out into the Sassatelli woods (not on your map) to enjoy the warm fall day. Eventually, K&N turned back (Nate was walking too slowly to keep up) and I ended up meandering about by myself taking pictures of whatever caught my eye.