March 31, 2004

My Experience with Interactive Fiction

For a Change, 9:05, and Galatea all were interactive. They all operated with restrictions as well, but while the first two games allowed movement, Galatea only offered a one-room setting and disabled a lot of the verbs on our handout. To compare the first two games to the latter, then, would be like comparing apples and oranges. However, I can honestly say that even though I played For a Change longer, Galatea was the most enjoyable. 9:05 was all right for a quick read, like a short story. I found it slightly annoying however that I was forced into an end, of which there were only two I believe. For a Change, on the other hand, is set up, according to the creator's notes, to be played in roughly two hours. After playing it for more than two hours though and feeling like I had just read a complicated novel, I was still not finished with it, and just wished that my brain would stop hurting.

Galatea was different in that it wasn't an adventure game at all. It was more like the author was having fun with words (although I doubt anyone could have more fun than the creator from For a Change) and more than forty endings, according to Dr. Jerz, can occur depending on the reader's questions and statements. I experienced several different endings in Galatea and only a little bit of overlap when I wanted to get a twist. I was fascinated how the program could respond to what I had said. It would often say, "You'd rather know what she thinks on the subject" when I tried to tell her something. This let me know that I could ask her about that subject. Also the building effect was great. For instance, when I read the placard and told Galatea that Pygmalion had committed suicide she grieved, but when I told her of the suicide before I read the placard (and so wouldn't have known about it) the program said, "You don't have anything to say on that matter." When I asked her about death after telling her about her artistís death, the game ended with her saying that she didnít know what purpose she had to live any longer and when I restarted and asked about death, she shrugged the question off. I found this if then playing fascinating.

When I turned her too many times she broke my wrist (I went back to see if I could somehow get away with it but she just kept hurting me). Then I restarted and tried to talk to her but left in disgust when I couldn't communicate what I wanted. However, I restarted and tried another avenue because the ending mentioned that I hadn't even touched her and I wanted to see the response after I touched her and left. I also told her that Pygmalion had committed suicide and she thanked me for telling her that when I said goodbye. An interesting ending was talking to her all night, sitting beside her on the pedestal, and thinking that "educating her is going to be a long but highly amusing project." A cool ending was her turning into stone fully, but the best ending so far was when she morphed into a sand sculpture, then wood, and then finally disappeared into a shadow.

Posted by JohnHaddad at 02:34 PM | Comments (1)

March 25, 2004

TiVo, What a Great Idea!

Before Brendanís blog I actually had no idea whatsoever what TiVo was. First of all, TiVo is a service. It allows subscribers to digitally record up to 140 hours of television. Then, like a DVD, whenever a viewer wishes to watch his or her favorite show, they are empowered to do so with the click on a button. The recorder is called a digital video recorder and TiVo.com sells them as low as $150. Not bad considering the convenience that the service lends. A viewer that wanted the power of 140 hours however is going to look to pay around $350 and that's after a $50 rebate. So, the recorder really could be kind of expensive depending on how large of a hard drive a viewer wants.

I actually thought of this idea when I was a kid, as Iím sure lots of other have done, but of course, as always someone went ahead and did what I did not have the power to do. Oh well, more power to them. TiVo has actually been around since 1997. That makes them the most well known but not the only one. Itís kind of the same phenomenon as a person asking if anyone has a Kleenex instead of a tissue. Sometimes a famous brand becomes synonymous with a product, even when thereís no monopoly operating. At any rate, TiVoís main competitor is ReplayTV. After looking at discussion boards, it appeared that both TiVo and ReplayTV have their advantages and if I were in the market, Iíd just pick up the one that was the best value. For specific comparative information, check out PVRcompare.com's site.

One interesting dynamic to TiVo that I wouldn't have expected but probably should of is the fact that TiVo contains advertising. Evidently, as TiVo viewers fast forward past all of the advertisements, a fantasy to TiVoless viewers everywhere, icons pop up which are linked to three minute promo videos. Hey, if money can be made, technology will find a way.

Lastly, TiVo.com is not the only place to buy DVRs. Digitalrecorder.com offers the boxes at just over the price that TiVo.com offers them but boasts outstanding technical support. Naturally, Ebay is a main competitor to the others for Replay TVs and TiVos and a savy shopper can get a great deal there. Amazon.com is also selling the units and as Brendan pointed out, provides consumer reviews.

Well, I'm pretty sure that I'm doing alright without a TiVo or Replay TV considering the fact that even if I did have the time to watch TV, I don't even own one. It does sound like a cool idea though, just fast forwarding through all of those annoying commercials!

Posted by JohnHaddad at 05:44 PM | Comments (0)

March 17, 2004

Video Games are Addicting!

My video gaming history is quite scattered, occurring in a newspaper store, numerous friendsí houses, elementary through high school, and more than not arcades. My earliest recollection of gaming was the Number and Word Muncher games and Oregon Trail, all three played in my elementary school. They were often used as an incentive for good behavior and I thought they were incredibly fun. At home I would often got hooked on games like Tetris on Game Boy and Mario on NES. Itís kind of funny that even though my family didnít own a TV, I always seemed to be over at friendís houses playing their Nintendos.

My dad and older brother, two of the men my prepubescent self idolized, were absolutely addicted to pinball. Almost every night, my family would make the trek across town to the newspaper store where weíd play pinball for hours, often on just the few quarters weíd arrived with. Weíd simply rack up replays until we got bored then leave. I still remember running down to the store the next day just to see if there was still a free game on one of the machines. Often there was. As I grew older, Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, fighter games on arcade and later on Sega, took up a lot of my friendís TVís time, and the majority of my meager paper route paycheck.

My absolute favorite game was a first person shooter played on Nintendo 64 called Goldeneye 007. It was the original and it was my life. During summer break one year, a group of friends and myself would have contests playing hard levels or challenging each other (up to four people at a time) and battle all day, often into the night. Looking back, it was a great time but also kind of a waste of time. I sometimes wonder whether I should have devoted my summer break to something other than mere recreation. I am still mechanically and construction-wise gimp, always having to rely on a friend to get me out of a jam. Hours, and days, even weeks at a time were wasted away in my youth as Link battled though mazes or Final Fantasy I, II, III, IVÖ you get the point, took my waking hours and flushed them down the proverbial commode. Homework went undone as my character, Rames, gained experience and cool weapons/armor on Ravenís MUD (an online Role Playing Game much like Zork but played with hundreds of other players). I actually went back and played it again just for kicks while I was writing this blog. I died after the first five minutes, lol. I guess some things do change.

Even good buddies of mine started getting mad and felt like I was only using them for their fun toys when I would go to ďsleep overĒ but instead just took over their computer or television. I remember one bittersweet memory where both sleep and food went by the wayside as I ďslept-overĒ at a friendís house just to play a continuous eighteen hour, broken up only for bathroom breaks, game of Warcraft II! My addition was only broken when I started getting serious about my commitment to let Jesus take over my life and use me completely to spread His message of love and salvation, got involved with a couple of clubs at school like Youth Education Association, Chess Club, and Reading Club, and started to take my grades more seriously. My usual habits of playing lengthy games of online chess before any homework got done, playing my MUD way into the night, and going over to friendsí houses to visit with their televisions stopped and my video game addiction was put on hold for a while. Today, Iím a college student with too many pokers in too many fires to play game much and it seems that all my spare time is taken up with homework or volunteering at my church. I like my life, as it now feels like I have meaning, but video games still call me back to beat high scores and advance to high levels whenever a free moment and a spare quarter combine near an arcade.

Posted by JohnHaddad at 01:47 PM | Comments (3)

March 09, 2004

My First Hack, Kinda...

What I call my first hack was really just a prank that I pulled on my vo-tech Computer and Information Science shop president in my first year. For a full explanation of the prank you can check out my awful web-site. It's got a look that only its creator could love, but it's mine, all mine!

Anyway, so when the shop president, Nick, stepped out of the room, I hurried over to "hack" his computer. I then created the illusion that everything was normal by capturing an image of his computer screen, making it the new background, deleting all of his icons, and removing the bottom toolbar from the screen. This basically "disallowed" any normal movement on his computer, but made it look the same as when he had left! When he came back, he tried to start working, but was of course unsuccessful. It was great fun and I made a name for myself right away.


Posted by JohnHaddad at 11:29 AM | Comments (1)

March 03, 2004

Some Mythology in "Dorian Gray" Explained

Although I absolutely loved Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, I found chapter ten a bit annoying because of all the "over-my-head" refrences." To that end, I have linked many terms here from one large as well as defining a couple of words I was unsure about. I have copied and pasted sections and have hyperlinked the specfic terms.

For, while he was but too ready to accept the position that was almost immediately offered to him on his coming of age, and found, indeed, a subtle pleasure in the thought that he might really become to the London of his own day what to imperial Neronian Rome the author of the Satyricon once had been, yet in his inmost heart he desired to be something more than a mere arbiter elegantiarum, to be consulted on the wearing of a jewel, or the knotting of a necktie, or the conduct of a cane.

Yes: there was to be, as Lord Henry had prophesied, a new Hedonism that was to recreate life and to save it from that harsh uncomely puritanism that is having, in our own day, its curious revival.

The hero of the wonderful novel that had so influenced his life had himself known this curious fancy. In the seventh chapter he tells how, crowned with laurel, lest lightning might strike him, he had sat, as Tiberius, in a garden at Capri, reading the shameful books of Elephantis, while dwarfs and peacocks strutted round him and the flute-player mocked the swinger of the censer; and, as Caligula, had caroused with the green-shirted jockeys in their stables and supped in an ivory manger with a jewel-frontleted horse; and, as Domitian, had wandered through a corridor lined with marble mirrors, looking round with haggard eyes for the reflection of the dagger that was to end his days, and sick with that ennui, that terrible taedium vitae, that comes on those to whom life denies nothing; and had peered through a clear emerald at the red shambles of the circus and then, in a litter of pearl and purple drawn by silver-shod mules, been carried through the Street of Pomegranates to a House of Gold and heard men cry on Nero Caesar as he passed by; and, as Elagabalus, had painted his face with colours, and plied the distaff among the women, and brought the Moon from Carthage and given her in mystic marriage to the Sun.

I hope those hyperlinks helped you as much as they helped me.

Posted by JohnHaddad at 03:01 PM | Comments (4)