I Played That! #26: SimCity 2000 (PC)

The original SimCity was a game I played a lot of, even though I found it tough. I don’t do so well at games where I have to manage a lot of different things at once, preferring instead to have a single well-defined goal to focus on. I played a lot with “pause” on so that I could get one thing done before I had to worry about something else. I liked it okay, but it wasn’t an all-time favorite.

SimCity 2000, on the other hand, absolutely grabbed me. I’m not sure what the difference was, as it mainly added more things I had to pay attention to, but for some reason I took to it and played the hell out of it. I started with my usual careful and slow building, but before long I was able to play with the city running constantly, and even could handle a disaster or two.

Part of the appeal was that I loved the look of it. The cities in the original were nice, but the graphics in 2000 looked great. It was pixilated, sure, but done so well.

I also enjoyed the sandbox nature of it. I liked giving myself weird terrain to try and tame. I would come up with concept cities. I foretold the Tea Party.

I tried other Sim games, like SimEarth, SimAnt, and SimFarm, but none of those really did much for me. SimCity 2000 was what I always went back to instead.

When SimCity 3000 came out I was overjoyed, but that didn’t last. The level of simulation had become far too fine, and what had been a fun play experience turned into a work-like slog. I didn’t want to analyze traffic patterns and negotiate deals and such. In my mind, SimCity 3000 felt that what I wanted to do in SC2000 was “be a mayor” not “create a city”. That’s a big difference.

That’s where SimCity and I parted ways. I haven’t touched a Sim game since then. SimCity 2000 pretty much established my limit of how deep a simulation could go for me to still find it entertaining, and that limit has been surpassed many times over now. I never even got into games like Populous which tried to take the idea in a different direction. (I did have a brief flirtation with “Tycoon” games that we’ll talk about.) Even on the iPad, where I would think a game like SC2000 could shine, I grabbed the version of SimCity available (not the pay-to-play one) but didn’t really do much with it. Will I ever reticulate a spline again?

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State of the Blog

No, there hasn’t been an update here in a while. I don’t know when that will change.

Part of it is that I’ve been really focusing at work. A big project was handed to me and I’m working on it (and enjoying working on it) and that, along with other duties and a departing co-worker, has focused my attention there. I haven’t even been tweeting as much.

But another part is that I feel like I’ve just run out of things to say. I don’t really do anything interesting, and my thoughts on other things are pretty well recorded and established. I can only complain about nerds and Republicans and Capitalism so many times without just saying the same things over and over.

I could talk about media consumption, but that’s something I don’t do particularly well, nor have I been consuming much of it anyway.

Basically I feel like this blog has kind of run its course. I’m frankly surprised it lasted this long.

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I Played That! #25: Conqueror (TRS-80)

Either my memory has failed me or the Internet has.

In high school, the GT (Gifted and Talented) room was where we hung out. GT at my school was a joke; we didn’t do anything in there except goof off, with little to no structured activities. We had some tools at our disposal, though, one of which was a TRS-80 Model III.

There were a few games we played on it. One was some kind of Risk-like wargame. Another was called, I think, Conqueror.

The only trace I can find of Conqueror is from archives of “CLOAD” magazine, a newsletter about programming on the TRS-80. These were simple, free games, which lines up with my memories. But apart from tables of contents, I can’t find any discussion or screen shots of the games themselves to see if the Conqueror they mention is the one I remember. Let’s assume it is.

Conqueror was a dead simple game. You were a gun at the bottom of the screen, and you could move horizontally and fire. Alien spacecraft would zip along the top of the screen and you had to shoot them. They would shoot at you, but if you shot one of their missiles it would eliminate it.

The only challenge was to your patience. This was proven when, one morning, before school, someone — I don’t remember who, but I don’t think it was me — loaded up Conqueror and set a stapler on the space bar (the “fire” button). Then they walked away. When we returned at lunch the stapler had racked up a score so high it had gone into scientific notation. It simply fired constantly, eliminating aliens and their missiles. And it could have gone on that way forever.

The stapler was declared the King of Conqueror and given all rights and privileges of that title.

Not long afterwards, a sequel to Conqueror showed up. I don’t remember its name, but it was identical except for one detail: when you shot an alien, it would fall out of the sky and you had to dodge its indestructible corpse. The stapler sucked at this game and would die right out of the gate.

The “gifted and talented” kids had triumphed over their would-be mechanical master.

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Goodbye iTunes, Hello Plex

We still have two big bookcases full of CDs — those disks music used to come on — in our TV room. And we have a CD changer with a jambox hooked up to it in the hall. That’s our “stereo”. we’ve been wanting to upgrade it for some time and go digital, but it was an intimidating task. But over the past few weeks I’ve been tackling it.

The first impulse was iTunes. Put all our music on an external drive and use iTunes to access it. This got pushed aside when the simple act of transferring the iTunes library from my computer to an external drive became a task that apparently only a Faustian bargain could accomplish. And in the process, iTunes lost some of my files. Way to go, most successful business in the world.

I looked at a few other options and finally decided to try out Plex, which actually came included on my external drive. Plex acts as a server to deliver files to other devices, including our laptops, phones, and tablets. It’s even available on the PS4.

I loaded up the media into Plex, cleaned up the data some, and now it’s working like a champ. On Friday I listened to three full albums through it. The first album to have that honor was On Fire by Galaxie 500.

I’ve created several libraries. Main is, as the name implies, the main one. There’s also 70s, 80s, 90s, Compilations, Soundtracks, and so forth. And “Uncharted”, where the stuff I’ve been carrying around in my mp3 library for years and never actually listened to and processed lives. There’s also a separate directory for a ton of music that I’m the only one who really cares about:

We can each make playlists that are also available on the multiple devices. This morning I began the ritual I perform whenever I have a new mp3 library to deal with.

Here’s a side rant: Plex wants files to be named and arranged a certain way, which is fine. There are a lot of programs that do this, and I went with one I used way back when I was ripping CDs, The Godfather. What I didn’t realize is that it’s been a while and the program has update since then. One of its new features is one that automatically “corrects” capitalization in tags. So every artist, album, and song title had this “fixed” by the program, which assumes every word begins with a capital letter and the rest are lowercase. So I had bands and artists like James Mcmurtry, The Klf, The O’jays, and such. It also has a list of words it assumes should always be lowercase, and among them are “you” and “your”, which isn’t how anyone does it, so one track was “Does your Mother Know” by Abba. That this is the default setting (and there’s no way to turn it off) amazes me. Who didn’t have a problem with this? So I had to start all over from scratch after I realized what it had done.

ANYWAY, Plex so far is looking like it’s our solution. We’re going to play with it a little and, if we like it, we’ll get an Android tablet and some speakers and that will be our space age new “stereo”.

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I Played That! #24: Might and Magic I-V (PC)

I picked up the first Might & Magic game, Secret of the Inner Sanctum, at a software store located on the frontage road across from Cortana Mall in Baton Rouge. I don’t know why my memory of buying it is so vivid, but there you go. More than just a standard dungeon crawl, the back copy claimed that it had a sort of AI, that the game would change itself based on how you approached it. I don’t know if that claim stood up, but it was a fun enough game. It was a grid-based 3-D adventure with, as advertised, both might and magic adequately represented. The plot centered around the surprising revelation that the medieval world was actually a module on some kind of colony spacecraft.

When the second game, Gates to Another World, came out, I bought it right away. That was the game that really cemented this series for me. I don’t know what it was about MM2 that grabbed me, but I played a lot of it. One thing I remember about it was that in combat it would often throw a bunch of low-level enemies at you, who may have the ability to call in even more. Killing 50 goblins wasn’t any harder than killing 2, it just took longer. Although you had options in combat, you could hit control-A to just attack whatever was in front of you. My keyboard at the time had the Control button next to the A, so when one of these fights would come up I’d put a padlock I had on both buttons and let it fight the battle for me. The plot centered around the surprising revelation that the medieval world was actually a module on some kind of colony spacecraft.

The third installment, Isles of Terra, was known for its surprising revelation that the medieval world was actually a module on some kind of colony spacecraft. It also gave an indication that not only was this series here to stay, but, like the Ultima series, it intended to push itself with each new installment. The gameplay itself wasn’t noticeably different, which was fine; the controls were actually very good at staying in the background and letting you just play the game. The graphics, however, kept improving, with creature animations, visible status effects on your characters, and the fact that every single item around that main view screen did something to indicate some spell was active. For example, the little guy on the left flapped his wings if you were currently levitating or something.

The first three Might and Magic games were fun, but holy cow, what came next! Number four was Clouds of Xeen and number five was Darkside of Xeen. These were not just two new entries in the series, they could be installed together to form World of Xeen and played simultaneously, along with some extra content. This was huge! In addition, there were the usual graphics enhancements but also voices. My friends and I still make references to the characters in this game, especially the skill trainer. “Looking to train?” he’d say, and “Good job!” when you went up a level. If you couldn’t train he’d go, “Not today!” Since trainers were in towns and you’d often do a bunch of stuff before returning to town, you’d usually build up a lot of levels, so it would actually go something like this: “Looking to train? Good job! Good job! Good job! Good job! Good job! Good job! Good job! Good job! Good job! Not today!” We played the hell out of World of Xeen. By this time the series had also introduced randomly generated weapons, so it was my first experience with getting a Sparking Platinum Sword and seeing if it was better than what my characters were already using. Armor was divided into several parts, so there was a lot of loot to sift through. The plot? So it turns out that Xeen, despite looking like a medieval world, was actually something something spacecraft.

After the Ultima series, Might and Magic was the series I got the most mileage out of. Something about it really grabbed me, even as other, similar things (Bard’s Tale, the D&D Gold Box Games) failed to. I’ll talk about the later Might and Magic games in a future post.

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My Tweek on Twitter

What I did this past week on Twitter, a world of pure imagination.

* BEST OF THE WEEK imo:

* David Bowie is mad.

* ok maybe I don’t know how to bake a cake

* do it, y’all

* Old Custer

* and then Emilio shattered that glass with the power of dance and breakfast

* I think I will be disapppointed

* I saw the trailers and magazine covers for The Phantom Menace. I’m ok with waiting for the movie.

* Bethesda, help

* RT of the week

* less funny RT of the week

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Space Cabby by Mathew Digges

There aren’t that many Space Cabby stories, but the ones there are work hard on giving a personality to a character who never got an actual name. So it’s always a blast to see that personality come through in a commission. Matt Digges has absolutely homed in on the character here, with good old Space Cabby giving himself a daily affirmation before heading out for another day on the job. I love it.

Mathew Digges created the webcomic Sequential Life and was also the artist for Awesome Hospital. He’s working with Dylan Todd on The Creep Crew, two stories of which have appeared in the BOO! anthologies, available on Comixology. Recently he drew Brassfist of the Gore for the Death Saves anthology.

That last comic was written by pal Andrew, who it seems also got a Digges commission in the mail today!

Are YOU an artist who would like to draw Space Cabby for me? Please let me know!

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Week Five Done, After Only Three Months

This morning was a big day for my ongoing Couch to 5K project. I finally finished Week Five.

When we last spoke, two months ago, I had finished Week One. After that I made slow but steady progress. For most of the weeks I did them fine but ended up repeating them just to make sure I’d be ready for the next one. Then I hit Week Five.

Week Five starts with alternating five- and three-minute jogs broken up with walking breaks. On Day Two, that becomes two 8-minute jogs. That one was tricky, and the second eight minutes were often tough (it didn’t help that it was pretty hot those days, even in the morning.) And then, on Day Three, you do one 20-Minute jog.

Twenty minutes. All in a row. Previously the most I’ve done at a time were those 8 minutes from the previous workout. I was so not ready to do 20 minutes.

The first attempt I almost made it to 10 minutes. After that I would top out around 12, and sometimes could do more afterwards. I gradually extended the amount I could go at once, but it was a slow increase. On Monday of this week I went 16 minutes and then three more after a short walk break. This morning I felt like I could probably do the whole twenty and lo, I did.

I can finally move on to Week Six, which briefly brings back walking breaks before another extended jog, but I think on Friday I’m going to try the 20 minutes again. That will not only get me back on schedule, it will prove to myself that it wasn’t a fluke.

There have been a lot of nice side developments. When I started this, my knees were hurting so much that I started to fear I’d done permanent damage to them. But then they just stopped hurting. My legs get a little stiff and sometimes I feel it in my shins, but for the most part I’m now pain free. For a while my Restless Leg Syndrome was acting up in a major way, as apparently exercise can aggravate that situation. It’s now stopped again.

And there’s this:

I’ve lost about ten pounds! I’d been hovering around 210 for ages and now I’m at 200, also known as a deciton.

Three months ago I could barely get my butt moving for four one-minute runs separated by walking breaks. Now I can do this. It’s pretty amazing to me.

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