Thursday, 28 April 2011

Advance on all fronts

Not much really happened last month, by which I mean a lot of things happened, but I don't know how to present it all. I'll do my best not to bore whoever reads this. Got a bit busy so this post is a few days too late even.

The foil device has arrived! It has been installed for testing, the stepper motor driving is working (somewhat), details are slowly being wrapped up. Lots of things to get running still, the setup must be aligned etc. At least there's a clear idea and material to work with. The uncertain aspects are mostly some remaining manufacturing.

I changed gear just as I was about to pack my lightmaps, which was a little unfortunate. I was really interested in trying out some unorthodox, stochastic packing algos. Instead, I turned my eye to lower level problems like networking and other "basic" problems.

On to a review of Portal 2 (possibly spoilers, but I will try to keep them discrete):
I played through co-op with my brother rather quickly (5 hrs or so), we were both disappointed in the short campaign and easy puzzles. Co-op is supposed to be extra hard since there are two brains available to solve things. Some puzzles even relied on breaking conservation of momentum between portals. Sure, it's a game, it's supposed to be fun, but it's pushing the word "science" in your face every 10 seconds so you think they'd do it right. In fact, after the co-op campaign, I was regretting buying it this early. Aesthetically, it was very nice, but the concept of the game was thrown away. Puzzle game that was too short and too simple, disaster combo. That was until I played through the single player campaign.
Many puzzles in SP are much more interesting and some of the later level designs are wonderful. The majority of other reviewers seem to complain about how the pacing suffers in the second half of the game, that's when I thought the puzzling really started to shine. The first and last parts are so incredibly artificial and forced upon you (here's a test chamber, here's a test chamber, here's a test chamber...), whereas "down in the deep", you almost feel like you're exploring (it's all linear still of course). Loved the feeling of the vast undergrounds, although I was never really happy about how big it all was. It was mentioned somewhere in the game that "some scientist" or whatever had bought an old salt mine to explain it a bit, but those caves were HUGE. Also, when I played it through, I never thought about how the white gel was made out of ground moon rock which is mentioned in passing during the game. One thing, which was made obvious you had to do by the developers, made a lot of sense when I thought back on that. Fun detail.

This is not completely relevant, but I wanna say it anyway: Why are robots with human traits, which is pretty much completely detached from robots in reality, hailed as excellent actors and the writing praised along with that seemingly because they are tightly integrated? Glados, Wall-E and co. How can they even be considered to compete in the same top tier as HAL? Good writing creates entities like the city of Baltimore in The Wire, or the troubled group of small village people in the Deer Hunter. Excellent actors find their place in the story like Vito Corleone (that's kinda low hanging fruit, but failing to appreciate what Brando did there is simply not tolerable :p ). Not cute puppies with an expressive eye and eyelid or a supposedly evil computer (we already have them). The voice work was very nice, but the voice acting? No way, critical reviewers wanting to commend voice acting better get their sh!t together.

Anyway, really good game, co-op is really lackluster but the sp campaign is really, really good. I think it ended up being worth 45 EUR in the end.

This post is short, it will probably grow larger...