Efectos Especiales

Ramblings, rants, musings, ideas and observations. Topics include (but are not limited to): programming (especially Python), books, games (especially CCGs and board games), astrology, design, writing, painting, etc.

icon:nl #799 (old comments) Switch

Google Maps swaps Belgium and Netherlands.

The mix-up only happens at a certain zoom level... when you zoom out, no names are displayed for these two countries, and when you zoom in, it shows it correctly.

/* Posted by Hans "het was te denken..." Nowak at 2005-06-22 18:44 */

icon:default #798 (old comments) Blog survey

Take the MIT Weblog Survey

/* Posted by Hans Nowak at 2005-06-22 16:10 */

icon:programming #797 (old comments) As seen in old documentation...

"Note that <program by other company> is very picky and brittle... it has been known to fail when values were too long, contained a string (empty or not) when expecting a number, etc. While this is usually a bug or oversight in <program> code, we are often expected to fix the problems on our side and compensate for the shortcomings in their code, e.g. by making sure the metatags have values that fall in a certain range, have a certain amount, etc. The rule here is: try to deliver the value in a way acceptable to <program>; when adding a new metatag, let them know when it is done; and do not engage in discussions with them."

/* Posted by Hans Nowak at 2005-06-19 22:40 */

icon:gc #796 (old comments) [GameCube] Eternal Darkness

The two previous games I discussed are perfectly safe for children. Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem is, shall we say, less safe. It's not like it's extremely gory... there are games that are much, more worse. No, it's more that it's very disturbing at times.

The story follows Alexandra Roivas, a young woman whose grandfather has been found dead in his mansion. Not just dead... his head is missing, and the local police have no clues regarding the murder. Alexandra decides to investigate on her own, starting by exploring the dark and moody mansion.

If you are used to less subtle games, then you might expect that the mansion turns out to be full of baddies and monsters, so a slugfest is in order. This game doesn't work like that, though. Rather than monsters, you find pages of an ancient book, the Tome of Darkness. Each page is about a certain character from the past, and by reading it, you get to play as that character, each with their own locations, weapons and items. For example, you get to play a Roman centurion, a priest during the time of the Inquisition, an Italian architect, a Cambodian girl, and more. Some of these encounters actually take place in the same locations, showing it from different perspectives in different centuries.

As said, each character has their own typical items and weapons. There's a hunter/collector from the 1980s who has guns, but naturally these are not available to the Persian lad AD 565, who uses a tulwar, for example. Each person can also acquire the Tome of Darkness, after which they can cast spells. Also, they *will* encounter monsters (among other things), and both weapons and magic will be necessary in order to survive.

The magic system seems difficult at first, but is really not such a big deal. To be able to use a spell, you need the appropriate runes, and a codex for each of them. You'll also need circles of power. You cast and create spells by placing runes (that you have mastered) on the circle of power; certain combinations have certain effects. You can learn these combinations from scrolls, but you can also experiment with them yourself. -- There is more to it; there are three "colors" of magic (red, green and blue), that trump each other (e.g. red is powerful against green, etc), a property that is instrumental in solving certain puzzles, or taking out certain monsters effectively.

The game's subtitle is "Sanity's Requiem" for a reason. Besides the common "health" and "magic" meters, there's also a "sanity" meter. As you meet monsters, you sanity level drops, and only by killing the monster you can regain (some of) it. If you don't, things start getting... strange. Weird things start happening, sometimes very disturbing, other times inconspicuous until you realize that they really aren't supposed to be happening. (I will not go in more detail here, as not to spoil the game for new players... these unexpected insanity effects are an important part of what makes the game compelling.)

As the game proceeds (and characters often meet a grim fate), Alexandra learns more about what happened to her grandfather, and what else is going on. She learns spells along the way too, which are often the key to finding the next page.

Personal impressions: I am not a very good player, but I made it through most of the game rather easily. (I don't know if that means that the game is dead easy, or that I suck less at this kind of games.) I haven't finished it yet, but so far I've found it very enjoyable. The different characters and settings add great variety. The puzzles aren't too difficult, although sometimes it's easy to overlook things. The enemies are generally manageable, and boss fights don't occur too often (which is a Good Thing since I hate them :-). I did find one or two characters very frustrating to play, especially the monk, who has low health and ineffective weapons (a crossbow that needs to be reloaded after every use, and a mace that is not very useful in the cathedral's many small corridors, to be precise). Saving early and often is required to survive these parts. (By the way, there are no save points; you can pretty much save wherever you want, *unless* there are monsters around.)

Recommended if you like an intelligent game and a good scare. emoticon:smile

/* Posted by Hans Nowak at 2005-06-15 22:43 */

icon:gc #795 (old comments) [GameCube] Super Monkey Ball

Hot doggy, this is a frustrating game. The idea is really quite simple... you control a monkey in a ball, that rolls around on platforms (not unlike Marble Madness). You pick up bananas and try to reach the goal within the time limit. When you fall off the platform, you die. That's it. Extremely simple, and extremely frustrating, because after a few simple introductory screens, you'll discover that it's no easy task to keep your monkey alive. Moving platforms, steep slopes, thin bridges and more make it difficult to complete a level (even though it *looks* easy). It's addicting, too -- I found myself pressing the restart button over and over again just to have another go at it.

(grumble) Highly recommended, unless you value a good night's rest.

[Update #1] I forgot to mention that this is just one of the games (although it's the main event). There are also other activities, like racing, "monkey target" and "monkey fight", and mini games, all of which can be enjoyed alone or with up to 3 other players.

/* Posted by Hans Nowak at 2005-06-14 20:49 */

icon:python #794 (old comments) Easy as Py

You know why there are so many Python web application frameworks? Because it's so god-dam easy to write them.

I'm not saying it's easy to write a robust, secure, full-featured and easy-to-use web framework. But it's easy to get started. It only takes a few lines of code to write your own web server (hello, BaseHTTPServer). Once you have that, it's not difficult to make pages dynamic, allowing for embedded Python code (much like ASP). Python's introspective nature also invites to use clever URL hacks (/foo/bar/x=3&y=4 could map to foo.bar(x=3, y=4), for example). And before you know it, you're on the road to writing Yet Another Web Application Framework.

I ran into this because I am writing a simple HTTP server for work (just needs to serve one or two pages, really). After poking around a bit in the documentation, I now have a proof of concept server in, oh, 30 lines or so, and I'm fighting the urge to write my own flavor of a web framework. No! The world doesn't need any more of these. <slaps his own knuckles with a ruler>

Anyway, I believe this is the main reason why the Python web framework world is so scattered. It's just too easy to roll your own. If it were more difficult, I think people would be more likely to use (and maybe contribute to) an existing framework, rather than writing a new one from scratch. I don't know if this is going to change once a particular framework is gaining popularity... it would still be easy to write your own. emoticon:nosmile

/* Posted by Hans "ze hebben die python veel te makkelijk gemaakt. het zou verboden moeten worden." Nowak at 2005-06-09 13:05 */

icon:music #793 (old comments) The great will always soar above the mediocre...

A 3rd Bass fansite. Rumors of their reunion have been greatly exaggerated. emoticon:sadley

/* Posted by Hans Nowak at 2005-06-09 00:01 */

icon:gc #792 (old comments) [Gamecube] Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg

I don't know what's more embarrassing, that I'm enjoying a children's game, or that I need gamefaqs to get through levels... emoticon:sweatdrop

Anyway, this is an enjoyable game. The story is something we've seen a gazillion times (darkness falls over the land... elders are imprisoned... go on a quest to free them), but the gameplay is highly original. You pick up brightly colored eggs, and roll them around collecting food. The more food you pick up, the bigger the egg grows, until it has reached its maximum size, in which case you can hatch it. Out come beasties that help you in your quest, or powerups, or items.

Of course, there are enemies too, in the form of crows that can take the shape of all kinds of animals. You have various defenses; you can just run over them with the egg, or throw the egg at them, or do jumping, dunking or diving moves.

Simple, clean fun. Perfect for a Type B gamer like me. emoticon:smile

(For a more thorough review, see here.)

/* Posted by Hans Nowak at 2005-06-05 00:51 */

icon:wax #791 (old comments) Who wants to work on Wax?

I don't have much time to work on Wax these days, and I don't foresee a change in the near future. But I keep getting mails from people who want to contribute. They usually end up sending patches, which take a while to be processed, much to the frustration of all parties involved.

It's time for a change. I am willing to give developer rights to people who want to work on Wax. (Developer rights on the Sourceforge project, that is.) For now, I think there is room for about 4 new people on the development team. So if you are interested, and will be able to contribute regularly, please drop me a note (in the comments or via email).

There aren't any real requirements, although it helps if you have contributed before, so I more or less have an idea what to expect.

I will still be involved, and still reserve the right to have the last word (within reason). Although developers can basically check in whatever they want, it's probably a good idea to discuss new code/features/ideas on the mailing list first. I am also going to write some guidelines for new developers.

Well, let's see what we get...

[Update #1] Note: I see that Wax has been added to the code project ideas for the Google Summer of Code. It doesn't really matter to me if someone wants to contribute through the Google project or otherwise. Everybody who wants to help out is welcome.

[Update #2] I put up a Wax/Summer of Code page.

/* Posted by Hans Nowak at 2005-06-01 22:59 */

icon:music #790 (old comments) The history of sampling

(via ni9e blog) The history of sampling. A Java applet that shows songs that were sampled, and who sampled them. You can click on an album to see which songs it samples, or on the "samplee" to see who sampled it.

Unsurprisingly, the most sampled artist is James Brown, while the albums that use the most samples are Public Enemy/Fear of a Black Planet, De La Soul/3 ft High and Rising, and Public Enemy/It Takes a Nation.

/* Posted by Hans Nowak at 2005-05-31 20:44 */