Book reviews, art, gaming, Objectivism and thoughts on other topics as they occur.

Dec 29, 2006

Happy Holidays etc.

It seems kind of silly to make a big deal about coming back and then not blog for two weeks, but I've been kind of distracted.

The first thing that happened was the Saga of Car Repair, which is kind of a funny story in and of itself. Events ran as follows:

1. Dad calls me asking what he and Mom can get me for Christmas. After positing several suggestions, he mentions helping me out with getting some regular maintenance for my car, which is in dire need of same. This sounds like a fantabulous idea to yours truly, so we conclude the discussion with the decision that we will look around for a good place to get said repairs.

2. The VERY NEXT DAY my car develops an ominously flat tire while I am at work. So, I wind up sitting around for two hours while I wait for Sandy's Towing (good service, btw . . . the wait was NOT their fault) to come get me. In theory, this could have been resolved more easily by me a.) having a spare and b.) changing it myself, however I'm not especially mechanically inclined and trying to change a tire in the freezing cold parking lot when I have only the most rudimentary idea what I am doing and I have forgotten to bring a coat is not my idea of a brilliant . . . idea. I'd rather pay the hundred bucks to have a professional move my car than worry about frostbite and/or potential serious injury. This is the same reason why I don't offer to jump start other people's cars.

3. I tell Firestone (my car repair persons of choice) that I need new tires (second flat in three months and they are bald) and while they're doing that I could use an oil change, inspection, etc. etc. etc. just open the thing up and see what needs to be replaced.

4. Firestone calls me back the next morning (elapsed time car in their posession: 14 hrs) and informs me that, well, basically the entire car needs to be replaced. Okay, it wasn't quite that bad, but it was still pretty bad. The catalytic converter was in two pieces (so THAT'S what was causing all the noise), the rest of the exhaust system needed replacement, I needed new brake shoes on the front wheels and two new brake CYLINDERS on the back wheels (they were busted and leaking), and, oh, by the by, the sway pins (I think that's what they said) are also broken so the car could just spontaneously roll over at some point.

5. I hang up on them and whine and complain (internally) about how fiendishly expensive transportation is for a while. Then I start trying to figure out where I can scare up some money to pay for all of this. After ritually cleaning out my pants pockets and seat cushions, I email my parents to let them know the damage and encourage them to contribute whatever amount seems best to them.

6. Mom calls me back and explains that they'll just pick up the tab.

7. Brief hiatus while I figure out how I wound up on the floor with the phone on my face.

8. Car is re-obtained from Firestone in actual working condition (total elapsed time car in their possession: 25 hours). There is much rejoicing.

So, that is my Holiday Story for the year. Hope everyone has a great New Year!

Dec 11, 2006

Neverwinter Nights 2

One of the two games that I've been waiting, literally, all year to buy, NwN2 has really turned out to be a worthwhile experience for me. The funny part is that most of the value actually comes from some of the philsophical (specifically, ethical) issues that arise within the official campaign.

For those of you unfamiliar with NwN, the general idea is to bring the 3rd edition Dungeons and Dragons rules to computer gaming in a form that enables individuals to write and publish their own stories. While both games and their various expansions contain their own "Official" campaign that you can easily play as a stand-alone game (and they are reasonably fun just to play), by far the heftiest part of the package is the DM Toolset. This is an extremely nice feature, because once you've finished the Official campaign, you can still download new playing material, usually for free or very cheap. (Or write your own, of course.)

Anyway, on with the review. The graphics are, as one might expect, much improved in this newer game, although this does mean that they require correspondingly better computer hardware to run. They've lost most of the cartoony aspects from the previous game, that's for sure. It runs reasonably well on my low-end machine, or at least it does now that I've turned down all the graphic options.

The thing that tickles me, though, is that a lot of the conflict in the game plot can basically be described as a result of bad philosophical principles. As an Objectivist, this made it fun for me to play because as the plot thickened I was sitting back thinking: "I could have predicted that," or "I knew something like that would happen." The ethical positions in the game are portrayed very consistently and quite well.

UNfortunately, there's basically no Objectivist "side" at all if you want to be consistent, so if you have limited patience you may experience a desire to smack some of the characters before you've finished. If you like CRPG's and D&D in particular, I say this game is well worth the money.

However, DO NOT BUY THE OFFICIAL STRATEGY GUIDE. This is a friendly warning, free of charge: it is totally worthless. It doesn't tell you anything you can't figure out for yourself by playing the game, and much of the information is actually incorrect since there have already been multiple 50+ meg updates that changed large portions of the game in significant ways. If you are planning on writing your own mods, it might be worth it to buy the World-Builder's Guide, but other than that don't touch it.

The Return of the Jenni

I've actually been feeling somewhat my old self (and, yes, I realize that term may be subject to debate!) again lately, perhaps because I finally gave up and spent several days sleeping or perhaps because I've returned from Computer Game Purgatory and actually started paying attention to real life again. Either way, I figured that this was a good time to start back on blogging. Plus some of my friends like Toiler and Myrhaf have been posting occasionally.

So, with their good example before me, I present a return to our Regularly Scheduled Programming.