Saturday, November 10, 2007

WoW: Cont'd

Back to World of Warcraft I suppose:

WoW has always been a game that stresses individuality. To start, it provides the player with 10 different races to choose from, each with different strengths and abilities and looks. From there the player gets to choose from countless body and facial traits to make their character look unique. After looks though, the player also gets to choose from 9 different classes, and within these classes a player can choose their own unique style of play.

The 8 races are human, dwarf, night elf, gnome, draenei, undead, orc, troll, tauren, and blood elf. In addition the 9 classes include warrior, paladin, mage, warlock, priest, shaman, rogue, hunter, and druid. Within each class is a series of talent trees, each with different abilities and stat boosts that players can use talent points in. A talent point is aquired for every level gained starting with level 10. So a level 70 player has 61 talent points at their disposal. Each of these talent trees represents a different class of moves and stats that the class can have. For example, the mage has the fire, frost, and arcane trees, each tree representing the fire, frost, and arcane spells that he/she can cast. These talents often boost the effectiveness of a players favorite spells and attacks or sometimes even give the player a new ability. However, since the talents are set up in the "tree" form, the more powerful talents cannot be attained until higher levels when a player can put a certain number of talent points into the tiers below.

Wow, I just threw a lot at you didn't I? Um, sorry. I get carried away sometimes. Basically what that all means is that you pick a race, pick a class, and within that class you get to choose talents that boost your favorite moves and make you more powerful.

Class balance has always been important to Blizzard as well. Despite all the complaints posted in chats and forums around the web, the game does a fairly good job in making each class valuable and equally powerful in their own respect. The different traits of each class are also built very well around each other, and combined in the right ways, make for very very formidable teams against even the most insanely powerful bosses.

Overall the game is huge, fun as hell, and ever changing. If you have any questions about it feel free to ask me and I'll do my best to answer since out of all the games I've talked about, I probably know this one the best. I encourage you to at least dip your toe into this game. It really is a gem and a real joy to play.


Continuing with my Blizzard theme this week, I shall tackle the ever infamous World of Warcraft (WoW). I know one of my colleagues on this blog already wrote about WoW, but I'd like to give you a little more of an insider's look.

From personal experience I'd first like to say that WoW lives up to its name of "Warcrack." This game is the only thing that I will openly admit has drawn me away from homework and school enough to make my grades drop. I'll also admit that I willingly quit the game one week before coming here to Purdue out of fear that I'd flunk everything and waste thousands of dollars.

Besides all of that though, WoW is probably the greatest gaming experience I've ever encountered. Granted you have to pay montly to play, but in my opinion the money is well worth it. Blizzard provides many, many servers, to play on, and each one has its own slight difference. For example, each server can either be PVP or PVE. In PVP servers, there are certain areas where players of the opposite faction can always fight with other players. In PVE (Player vs. Environment), however, less emphasis is put on PVP and areas that would be contested or hostile in PVP are often safe and friendly as long as you don't attack the wrong NPC. Also the game itself looks stunning for a world of its size.

The game is almost never lacking in new content either. Every few months or so a new major patch comes out that releases new dungeons, quests, bosses, and items. With this constant patching of major material and not just bug fixes, even the most hardcore gamers can usually keep themselves entertained with new challenges.

Another feature of the game that is one of my favorites is the emphasis on teamwork. A player can go it alone all they want, but they will never experience any of the most rewarding and challenging areas of the game. The first step up from solo leveling and questing is dungeons. Each normal dungeon requires 5 people to team up and work together to defeat enemies and more importantly the bosses. Up from normal dungeons are raid dungeons. These are areas that can require either a team of 10 or in many cases a full group of 25. Even with a well-equipped team of 25, these dungeons can not be successfully overcome unless the group communicates well and gets along. Often times a well organized group can do better with lesser gear than the most powerful players with no organization at all.

Anyway, I think I've rambled enough for now, look for more about WoW in my next post.

Diablo II

So I've been avoiding Blizzard for a while but I can ignore them no longer, and I think I'll start with Diablo II.

Diablo II was, to be honest, my first real PC gaming experience. Nowadays its a fairly cheap game, about $20 for the main game and another $20 if you want the expansion too. Its a 3D, angled top view down dungeon crawler RPG. Wow, that's a lot to swallow. Anyway, basically you pick a class like many other RPGs. You start out at lvl 1 with very basic weapons and armor. From there you run around and kill things such as goblins, orcs, bears, harpies, zombies, bats, and other assorted evil things you'd expect. The game plays very easily too. You point and click where you would like your character to move. Also, the right and left mouse buttons are each assigned a specific spell or attack and using said attack is as easy as pointing and clicking on the enemy you want to use it on on the screen.

The real kicker about this game is the ability to play online with others. This only play along with trade amounted to a massive economy. However, items can freely become traded between people after they have been used, which after a while made too many items too widely available and ruined this system of trade. Today most people place value in runes and certain sets which are on the rare side. These runes (along with jewels) can be used on items that have sockets to give them added attributes. In addition certain combinations of runes can make "runewords" which add even more attributes than just those runes alone.

Online play also brought about the popularity of powerleveling or "rushing." This is accomplished by having a player of much higher level defeat key bosses for you which "rushes" you through the storyline. (There are 3 levels of difficulty Normal, Nightmare, and Hell.) Once you've gained access to the final areas of the storyline, you team up with as many other players and run through the final minibosses before the final boss, Baal. These minibosses along with the extra people give you crazy amounts of experience and allow you to powerlevel your way through the game. Since there are 3 difficulty levels, people most often will do this untill it becomes inefficient in one difficulty, then rush through the next untill they reach the high 80s and 90s. The level cap in the game is 99. Also you have to have the expansion to be able to experience this form of rushing, along with the final area and many new items.

Another fun thing to do once you've become good at the game is try the level on its hard mode. In this mode your character becomes a little more... life like... Basically if you die even once, all of your items and progress is lost. You only have one life. Pretty hard core if you ask me.

Despite all the corruption and cheap tricks in the game, the storyline is fairly well done and the game is rewarding, especially if you play through the game at least once legitimately before you stoop to buying items online and powerleveling. I also highly encourage you play it with friends. People you can trust and who treat you with respect make the game a lot more fun.

Life Saving Helmets

I am a klutz, I won't deny it. I have broken 12 bones, sprained my neck and had two concussions, all of which were not involved with any car accidents or anything that was fully out of my control. So reading this article scares me a little bit.

There is new evidence that football players, who literally use their head to win games, might suffer from a disease related to boxer's dementia called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, CTE. It seems to be caused by repeated concussions, which was the scary part for me. CTE is characterized by confusions, memory loss, slurred speach and mood disorders, like an elderly person who has dementia.

There was thought that this condition existed long before scientists got more concrete proof. To me, its seems like more than a coincidence that many football players that had many concussions would die early and usually from something they had caused. Proof came in the form of an autopsy. The medical examiner found that the player that had died has suffered brain damage.

The problem now is that people, namely the NFL, aren't exactly convinced that this is a risk they should worry about. To give their side a chance, the symptoms aren't fully consistent with boxer's dementia and there isn't a lot of proof for separate cases. But different injuries will lead to different parts of the brain being damaged and that will lead to different symptoms.

There is a helmet out now that can prevent this whole problem. It is full of sensors that relay real time information to the sports medicine people on the sidelines about everything that's hitting the head of the player wearing it. This bit of technology can be used to gage how severe a brain trauma is and can help the people on the sidelines know when to bench a player. It can also help a lot with research in this condition. So far seven universities and five high schools use the helmets to protect their players. The NFL is still dragging its feet, but at least they are considering the technology.

In my opinion, it is much better to play it safe than sorry. I would rather my star player live a long happy life that kill himself at 40 after having severe depression. I would also like one for myself, just in case.(I'm sure you know I'm kidding.)

Thanks again Popular Science for the content and the picture. Go ahead and read more on the subject at their website.

Sky Diving Taken to New Heights

And by that I mean literally. There have been dreams from people who write for Popular Science about sky diving from space. I think they should rename that extreme sport space diving.

Two senarios were set up for the reason that you would have for space diving. One was sport and the other was for survival for those who had malfunctions in the space craft they were traveling in. I don't know about you, but I couldn't jump out of a plane, let alone a space ship, but the other application for the future technology seems to actually be useful.

The suit was the main focus of the article though. When falling from space, objects (including humans) experience lots of heat and lots of force. The suit that these space divers would wear would be specially designed to regulate heat, not burn up, and keep the helmet pressure just right. Other features that would be absolutely necessary is the parachute system. There would be two chutes that the diver would use, one in the upper atmosphere to keep from thrashing around and getting torn apart and the other would be used at the more traditional time too keep from hitting the ground too fast and dying.

The concept drawings make the suit look more like a superhero suit with a jetpack and other gadgets at the ready, but that may have been the goal of the artist who drew them. Its the superhero look that makes the suit look really cool and futuristic though.

Oh and one last thing; this whole idea is actually plausible. That's the icing on the cake, especially because it reminds me just how far we have come. The sky isn't the limit anymore.

Thanks Popular Science again for all the content and the picture. I suggest you all take a look at the full article at the link.

Musical Instruments

In the fifth grade, my mother wouldn't let me take up an instrument. I think that that was a good choice but still, it would be nice to be able to make music with my hands and not just my voice. So, when we got a piano, I taught myself how to play some. I'm not a concert pianist, but I can play parts and things like Canon and Auld Lang Syne. Of course, I'll never be as good as these people playing a new instrument that was developed in Japan called Tenori-On.

The name means "sound in your hand" in Japanese, for a good reason. The instrument looks a little bit like a Light Bright with the face of it covered in led lights. Each light is a button, which makes a sound. The longer you press the button, the longer the note plays. Its a bit like a reformatted key board.

The instrument appeals specifically to techno musicians and has lots of features. Songs, stored in blocks, can be composed on the instrument itself or can be transferred to it from a computer using an SD card. Up to 16 blocks can be stored on the Tenori-on, each block having 16 layers to play with.

I think this is a really cool idea and plays a lot on how musicians can be. My choir friends and I used to get together with our pianist and just read through lots of random music, making some of it up as we went a long. The instrument has an option so that many can be played together so that lots of people can jam together. It's a really cool instrument. And it glows, so of course it gets extra points in my book.

Thanks to Popular Science and Tenori-on for the content and Tenori-on for the picture of it's own product.

Matlab VIII

If You Were to Read This Article...

Hello everyone, how are we all doing this evening? If you answer good, then I would have to output a "I'm glad" statement. Else if you were to answer bad, then I would probably output a "That's really too bad" statement. My else would just be "Try again". Yes yes, I did just write that opening with poor, incomprehensible English. But I was speaking in terms of Matlab language. This week on Matlab Tutorial, I was going to focus on talking about If, Elseif, and Else commands while working on Matlab programs.

The basic function of an If, Elseif, or Else statement chain of commands is to give the program some options of what exactly it will be computing. Based on what is inputted and what certain variable values are, the if statements help filter and sort these values based on parameters that you set within the code so that the program runs through different choices of computations. Basically if you want the program to do a certain calculation when an arbitrary variable has a certain value, then you write an if statement there along with what the program does when it meets those needs specified.

For example: Lets say you have the user input (back from Matlab II) a value for the variable X. You then have a line of code squaring the value of X. Now you want to have two separate chain of commands depending on what the new value Y (X^2) is. Write the "if" command on the first line followed by a condition. For this example, the condition will be when Y = 4. You must use double equal signs when writing conditional arguments. So now if Y does indeed fit the statement it will do whatever follows that code. So this example will then have Y be divided by 2 to equal the variable Z. Now that is one option. If you finish the if statement with an "end", then you have a simply if statement. But you usually want an if statement to have outputs for every possibility. So you can either write the "else" syntax after your first computation followed by a line telling it to simply make Y = Z, or I will take it one step further and add the "elseif" statement in this example program. After the if statement and the equation for Z, a line of code should start with an "elseif", telling Matlab, "if Y didn't equal 4, see if it equals this". Let's just say if Y = 5. If this is true then our next line with ask the program to multiply Y by 2 to get Z. If Y doesn't equal either, then Y will just equal Z. End your if statements with the end command and output Z. Whew, that was a little rough. Lets see this example in the correct syntax:

X = input('Value for X= ')
Y = X^2
if Y == 4
Z = Y/2
elseif Y == 5
Z = Y * 2
Z = Y

As you can see, the syntax and the process of the if statement is simpler to that of a loop. the only difference is that an if statement won't loop around multiple times. It will only go through the statements once. Unless of course it is nested in a for loop! Not only does it go through once, but understand that it goes through in sequential order. So make sure that the more important arguments and decisions you want the program to make be the first if statements in your chain of commands. Slowly but surely we are putting all the pieces together.....Good luck and stay tune for more exciting adventures of BATMAN AND -...oops, I mean MATLAB TUTORIAL!

Ok, I'm done.....

Resources: While Loop Help with Cyclismo, HTML Tags at Web Source


Have you ever needed a programming language that's incredibly difficult to understand, has an extremely small compiler, and is still Turing complete? That's brainfuck.

Brainfuck has only 8 commands.
<> Move pointer right
+ Increment the number the pointer points to
- Decrement the number the point points to
, Store input in where the pointer points
. Print the ASCII representation of the number the pointer points to
[ ] Repeat the commands in the loop while the number the pointer points to is not zero
Any other character is considered a comment.

For the non-programmers, here's an analogy. Imagine, you have a very, very long line of boxes, arranged left to right. Each box holds a number, and you can only look at one box at a time. When you begin, all boxes hold zero.
<> Means you look in the box to the immediate right of the box you're at now.
+ Means you add one to the number in the box you're at.
- Means you subtract one from the number in the box you're at now.
, Means someone else tells you what number to put in the box you're at.
. Means you tell that other person what number is in the box you're at.
(Note that input and output use ASCII, so if the input is A, the number stored is 65, and if the number stored is 49, the character output is 1.)
[ ] Do everything within these until the box you're at is zero.

Here's an example of the "Hello, world!" program in brainfuck:

Here's a program that takes two numbers from the user, adds them and gives the answer.
Here's what happens:
, Stores user input in the first box
> Moves to the second box
, Stores user input in the second box
[-<+>] while the second box is not zero, subtract one from the second box, move to the first box, add one to the first box, move back to the second box.
< Move to the first box
. Output result.

Obviously, complicated programs quickly become extremely difficult to understand. Brainfuck really doesn't have any point, except for its very small compiler. But it's fun anyway.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

I'll say it right upfront: I am far from the best person to be reviewing a Zelda game. I'd only played Ocarina of Time before yesterday, and I never even finished it. Nonetheless, I got the chance to play Twilight Princess last night, and I have some opinions.

I was only able to play for a couple hours, so I didn't get very far, but here's the plot as far as I got. Link is a young man in a small village, where he works on Ordon ranch, herding goats, and in his free time plays with the village children and, being an adventurer to be, helps fellow villagers with their problems. At the beginning of the game, another villager gets summoned to go to Hyrule. There's a reference to a delivery, but I didn't get far enough to find out what it is. Link gets a day off work, which he spends solving problems in the village. He finds a lost cradle, gives a cat a fish, and knocks down a bothersome bee's nest. Over the course of the day, he collects traditional Link accoutrements, such as a fishing rod, a slingshot and a (wooden) sword. After he gets his sword, he teaches some children sword fighting techniques. Just as he finishes, a monkey appears, and the kids chase it, oh so eagerly, to practice what Link taught them. Link chases after them, and it quickly becomes apparent something is amiss. He kills various enemies, and frees them from a cage. And that was as far as I got.

The unique interface of the Wii makes the game interesting. Sword fighting with the wiimote is much more satisfying than hitting A. But as cool as that is, I think they should have done more with that. Without pushing buttons, the only attack you can make is the basic horizontal slash. If you try to move the wiimote to slash vertically, or stab, it just does the horizontal slash. I think it would be even better if Link held the sword however you held the wiimote.

Some other small things: Link is right-handed. I imagine this is because most people using the Wii would be right-handed, but Link is left-handed. It's just not right for Link to be right-handed. Also, as far as I got, Link never had his trademark green tunic and floppy hat. I've seen pictures of him with them, so presumably he gets them later in the game.

Unsung Technology: The Lens

Without the lens, there would be no Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering. Without the lens, your car wouldn't be able to give you live directions. Without the lens, millions of people would die yearly from smallpox. Without the lens, I couldn't be writing this.

Although lenses have been used for more than 2500 years, they took a while to take off. The were first used to start fires, though it's not known if they used them to burn ants. Some emperors used them for sight correction.

It wasn't until the 17th century that the lens got its day in the sun. That was when telescopes and microscopes were invented. Telescopes aided in astronomy, allowing astronomers to verify the heliocentric theory and defined astronomy as we now know it. Accurate knowledge of astronomy was necessary for the space program, which led to commercial satellites and GPS. Microscopes allowed the first glimpses at microbiology and led to cell theory and germ theory. These form the foundation of modern medicine, and allowed the development of antibiotics and vaccines.

Of course, just because lenses gained all these new roles, doesn't mean it ever gave up its original uses. Without lenses, I wouldn't be able to see two feet in front of my face.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Guitar Hero III

Bringing Back the Old and Mixing in the New

So I know someone has already posted about Guitar Hero III, but I am not here to ask who wants to go head-to-head with Slash or anything. I am not here to give you a review of the game. I am simply here to discuss, if you will, the publicity that the artists get from having there music on such a popular game. Not only does it let old school rockers reminisce on some old school tunes, but it broadens their horizons to the new and up coming bands. All three of the Guitar Hero installments have new songs from the garage bands and indy bands alike, trying to get a name for themselves. Having their song come after Bark at the Moon or More Than a Feeling really makes them look good. I know when I played Guitar Hero I and saw Freezepop for the first time, I was like, "WTF, who are they?" After you hear them, you can't help but love them. My friends actually went and saw them in concert just after Guitar Hero came out. Now who saws that Guitar Hero doesn't sell? It helps all bands just like Freezepop gain popularity and some name recognition goes a long way.

Who can't forget some of the best classics that they brought into the 3 Guitar Hero games. Some of my favorites are Frankenstein by Edgar Winter Group, Carry On My Wayward Son by Kansas, Free Bird by Lynyrd Skynyrd, School's Out by Alice Cooper, and Cities on Flame and Rock and Roll by Blue Oyster Cult.

Overall, I love the games. I'm not that great on them just yet, still have to play on a Medium and Hard difficulty, but it is fun and exciting and the music is the best picked. Rock on!

Resources: Wikipedia

Monday, November 5, 2007

Pandora: A Closer Look At Genius

I have previously mentioned the website pandora. At the time I had mentioned it, it was very new to me, and I was just discovering the amount of genius put into this website.

Once again, pandora is a website where you create your own radio station to your preference of music. You can register for pandora with an email address, and then you can either listen for free, or subscribe to pandora. I registered as a free listener two day s ago and I haven't stopped listening to 5 different radio stations I have created yet. With Pandora, you either enter an artist or a song, and it generates a radio station for you to listen to playing music similar to what you selected. I have found this to be a great way to listen to the music you like, plus more music like your music.

With something this great, you may be wondering how it is even legal, and if there are any limitations. The only limitation I have came across so far, is that you can't skip too many songs on the same radio station because of the song copyright agreement. But the way to get around this is to simply create a new radio station.

With this station you get to listen to all the music you enjoy for free. Someone could perhaps argue that this isn't as good because pandora generates the radio station for you. However, if anyone says that, they are very picky, and most likely listen to the trends of whats popular, instead of the actual music. So if you life music, for the art it is, you will like pandora.