Monday, July 31, 2006

Rules for Parking

If you are a half bad boy, you already probably know the rules for parking. But you might be an aspiring half bad boy; a half bad boy in training; a padowan learner. Fear not, aspiring youth. Read on, and you will know how to park like a true half bad boy.

1. The enemy of a good spot is the perfect spot. Are you one of those people who agonizes over trying to determine the absolute closest spot available? Stop it - you are embarrassing the rest of us. Just pick a spot and park. Who cares if it is an extra 50 feet from the door? You could use the exercise.
2. Don't wait for people. Unless the parking lot really is empty, don't wait for people to vacate a spot. Now, I'm not talking about failing to yield to people who are actually backing out when you get there. I'm talking about sitting there, blocking traffic with your turn signal on, waiting for them to get into their car and leave. If you had just taken that spot about 100 feet ahead, you would already be in the building by now. You are wasting everyone's time.
3. Prefer a spot in front of the door - even if it is not the closest. Why is this? Simple - you will always know where your car is without having to remember.
4. Park correctly. This means parking straight, within the spot, not obstructing traffic or other parking efforts, etc. People will judge you by your parking prowess - at least, I will (you lame-parker, you). Oh, and another thing - only one spot per car, please. Only experienced half bad boys know the intricacies of how to get away with quad-parking. Leave that to the experts.
5. Exceptions for really dope rides. You have an H2? Really? Or a blinged-out Escalade on 22s? Or a Ferrari? Man, you are a half bad boy. You can park wherever you want.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

How to Play Sim Survivor

I figured since I mentioned Sim Survivor last time, I should tell you how to play.

It is really quite easy.
  1. Create a new family with eight people in it. We would do more than eight but families can only have eight people in them.
  2. Start a game with this family in a home that you will build.
  3. When you build the home, focus only on exterior walls. The home should have a fridge inside and a front door. Carpet, wallpaper, furniture, bathroom, beds - all optional.
  4. When the home is built, get everyone to go inside the home. Then pause the game and remove the door.
  5. The game is on! Eventually you will run out of money and there will be no food in the fridge.
  6. The last person still alive is the winner. Enter the cheat code to give them $1M, and then give them some food - fast!
  7. Now that they have won, they can blow their $1M on crap, just like the winners of real Survivor do.
Some considerations:
  • The spartan game (empty rectangular house with a single fridge) is interesting enough, but adding some creature comforts, like a toilet, one or two beds, or a couch can make things more interesting. This way, some of the Sims will be more rested than others, more happy, etc.
  • Building a smaller house increases the likelihood of unhappiness. Not only are people more likely to be standing (and sleeping) in trash and filth, but they are more likely to get in fights. If you are lucky, some of the contestants will give up and quit the game. They will also try in vain to leave.
  • For added zest, include a very junky stove. Odds are pretty good that they will start a fire, and with no front door for the firemen to enter, you have to hope it will just burn itself out. This is a good way to expedite the reduction in contestants, although it sometimes you end up with no winner of the game (for example, the Sims sometimes get so sleepy, that they can't help but fall asleep right in the middle of the fire).
  • You will find that the neighbors come by to meet the new move-ins, and will die of starvation trying to find the door. If you care whether the others in your game survive, you may have to intervene in creative ways.
  • The winner of the game may find his/her home haunted with the ghosts of the losers in the aftermath.
Have fun, and remember - it isn't true life.

What's In A Good Computer Game?

Is it really so hard to create a really good computer game?

One of my favorite computer games of all time is Microsoft's Motocross Madness 2. Now I'm not a big fan of Microsoft - in fact, in most cases I consider them to be at the same time a fascinating phenomenon and a necessary evil - but they did a lot of things right with MCM2.

If you aren't familiar, MCM2 is a motocross racing game. Although I do truly enjoy racing games, there are a few key things that make this game special.
The track builder is the biggest thing. Microsoft made available the Armadillo track editor, which admittedly is a pretty poor piece of software. But enough people have figured out how to use this thing well enough to create some amazing tracks. For example, you can download literally hundreds of different tracks, including replicas of almost every track on the AMA Motocross circuit, as well as replicas of supercross tracks from past series. This alone makes the game. Why is it that almost no other racing games offer this feature?
Skins are another big thing. In fact, I went through the work to create a skin that looks an awful lot like my very own 1998 KX 250 with the Factory Effex graphics kit. I have another skin that looks an awful lot like my own Thor Core 5 gear. So, yes, I can play myself, on my own KX 250, flying down Mt. St. Helen at Glen Helen if I wish. This way, I only virtually break my collarbone, again.
I first bought this game in 2001 and I am still playing it. If you can find a copy, you can usually get it for pretty cheap (I'm seeing them on eBay right now for less than $10). Personally, I wouldn't sell you my copy for $100. I'm still improving, too. For example, after I thought I had the game mastered, I realized that you can actually seat-bounce off the jumps. Yes, you do really go farther if you do it right.

The price point, the replay capability, and the variety afforded by the skins and the track editor is what makes this game.

Oh, and one more thing: The ability to go anywhere in the level I want to, not just on the track. Sure, you have to go into practice mode, but at least you can ride the track backwards, or go anywhere else for that matter.

Let's compare to another racing game I have, NASCAR Thunder 2003 for GameCube. There are a lot of available tracks, but I cannot create new ones. Skinning options are limited. And, no driving backwards on the track!
When the newer version came out, I went into the local game store and asked the salesperson about it.
"It's a pretty good game," he said.
"Hmm," I replied. "Can you drive backwards on the track?"
He looked at me pretty funny. "Uh, no. Why would you want to do that?"
"Because it is fun," I said.
What is wrong with these people?
Sure, sometimes I want to race for real, and see how well I can do. And sometimes, I want to start the race, turn around, and race backwards, and see how spectacularly I can crash head-on into the oncoming traffic.

It seems like the game making folks forget this. A computer game is meant to be an alternate reality. It isn't true life. In true life, Chad Reed doesn't race my KX 250 on a track of my own design, but in MCM2 he does, whenever I want him to. In true life, I'm much too chicken to seek out hostile aliens armed only with a crowbar, but I dare do it in Half-Life. And in true life, I would never dream of driving the wrong direction on the road into oncoming traffic, for a myriad of reasons. But it is pretty fun to do in a computer game.
At least, I assume it would be, if EA hadn't been so dumb as to disallow it in NASCAR Thunder.

This is why The Sims is a popular game, and why it is fun - but only if you play it right. Most people I know who play The Sims try to play it the "correct" way. Playing the correct way goes like this:
  • Get up in the morning when you are still tired
  • Skip breakfast so you can be to work on time
  • Spend all day at work
  • Come home and eat
  • Have a brief moment of enjoyment before you have to go to bed
  • Rinse and repeat
Gee, that sounds just like real life. You know what - I do that routine every day. Why would I want to play a game that is just like my real life? Yuck!

Now, when you use the cheat codes, the game becomes fun! Ctrl+Shift+C will open a command box where you can type "klapaucius" or "rosebud" (depending on the version you have) to increase your bank balance. Instead of working every day in order to sleep in a tiny house, you can play all day long in a mansion! You can build an indoor pool! You can play basketball in the house! You can put a full-size jacuzzi in your bedroom! You can hire a maid to clean up after you! See? Alternate reality!
This is also really the only way you can find the time to quickly create meaningful relationships with multiple people. If you want to create Sim soap operas this is a necessity. For example, you can get several of the girls across the street to fall in love with you, or you can pick a fight with your neighbor, and then trap him in a room with no door for as long as it takes. Hey, he should be nicer to you in your own house.
This cheat code is also an absolute necessity if you are going to play Sim Survivor.

It's too bad that you have to contort the game in order to make it fun. Did they forget what normal people do all the time? Did they forget that a computer game is supposed to be an alternate reality, not a depressing reminder of how lame your real life is?

This is why MCM2 is a great game. Playing it the way it was intended to be played means that you can do whatever you want. Sure, ride your motorcycle down that ski jump if you want to. Make your own supercross track with whoops that are 50 feet high, just to see what happens. Or make a rhythm section that can only be done quickly in exactly one way, if you seat bounce the section in the middle. And for only $10. Highly recommended.

If you do pick it up, which you should if you don't already have it, you will want the following two links:

You can download a lot of great tracks, rider skins, and bike skins from these locations.