Our copy of Mario Kart Wii arrived in the mail yesterday, wrapped in a box the size of a milkcrate. We broke our Tuesday TV-off rule to both play and watch post-inauguration coverage. Can you blame us? And I schooled some poor kids from New York late into the evening.
Almost exactly two years after writing THIS Karin and I cracked open our own little white box yesterday and officially joined the frenzy. And what do you want? An excuse. Yes, there is a meandering and lengthy story around the grand event, but — for now — let’s call the purchase “differently intended” and the actual keeping of the thing, “Plan E”… Huh?
I make no shame of my geekery here on this blog and I have noted on occasion     that I’m a bit of a sucker for Final Fantasy games, in particular having played through VII at least three times. That particular game was the motivating force behind my original purchase of a PSOne back in the days of university, and the only PSOne game that has been loaded into the PS2. So, you might imagine my subtle joy when I not only acquired a copy of the prequel to that particular installment of the game, Crisis Core: FFVII, but when it also turned out to be a fairly decent game in and of itself. Alas, a half-dozen hours curled up on the couch battling polygonal monsters is hardly enough to have been engrossed enough in the story to comment much further than that, but by the holidays I should be through the epic play and be craving a port of the original — though just my luck it will come out for the PS3, and in that department I’m still lacking.
… Spore is not an evolution simulator. Not even close. It has a lot of good things going for it, and the fact that it doesn’t in any way simulate evolution did not detract me from spending eight hours with it on Saturday. But it is not evolution.
In fact, if I had to argue it, I’d take the approach that Spore comes across as more of a blend of Intelligent Design and Lamarckian Inhertitance, both scientifically unfounded ideas that are often misunderstood to be viable alternatives to classic Darwinian evolution. The key misunderstanding — and yes, I’m turning a video game review into a science lesson, but only because the game is being sold as a science simulator — the key misunderstanding is that of how new traits are acquired; Simply, in Spore, traits are learned or captured from defeated or befriended species (depending on the course your game takes) and then applied, catalog-style, to your organism — thus “evolving” it to a higher level. In evolution, as understood and proven by solid evidence by innumerable highly trained researchers, the key factor in acquiring new traits is random chance changes to one’s DNA that results in said new trait that is either beneficial or counter-beneficial to one’s survival. This is significantly different from what we see in Spore.
If I were to redesign the game as a simulation more akin to evolution, keeping fun and fair game play in mind, I might (on an accelerated time line, of course) give the player more control over the environment than over the creatures. Creatures populating the world would then advance along divergent paths in a world where mutations were frequent and dramatic (comparable to reality) and when a new brood of creatures were born the player would take control of one of the multiple new offspring at a time and see how any “evolved” traits worked advantageously in the environment, increasing the chance of survival, and if the creature was satisfactory it could be bred with other creatures on other evolutionary paths, resulting in crossing of traits and ultimately a successful and game-winning species.
Instead, Spore is more like a Lego kit for creature design, the only limitations on the imagination a false impression of scientific evolution that forces the player to collect DNA and traits to gain access to the constituent parts of the new organism, that while fun and challenging, is really just another genre-blending simulation game.
That said, I do like Lego.
PS: If you want to add me to your spore buddy list, send me your user name and I’ll link up.
Karin made her way to the mall last night after Claire went to bed, and was kind enough to return home with a brand new, sealed copy of Spore for me to try out this weekend. The linger geneticist in me is curious, and the few fragmented remains of my video game addiction always did love the simulation titles. As of this morning I’ve only really had the chance to play through the “cell phase” (albeit twice) and don’t have much of a review on deck for this entry.
That said, my curiosity is always piqued whenever a game can generate a little bit of controversy. In this case there is controversy in both the scientific and the gaming community.
The gaming community is up in arms (as usual) because of some restrictive DRM. I’m not particularly a fan of DRM in any circumstance (noted by the somewhat parodied version on this very site) but the fans complaining are taking the wrong approach to fighting the implementation of these systems; boycotts, peppering Amazon with bad reviews, and class action lawsuits are attacks to the front and will only emphasize the defensive posturing of any company using DRM. What really speaks volumes is impacts down the production line with legitimate concerns — legitimate customers seeking to fairly use their purchased content beyond the bounds of the DRM, and making a stink when that becomes a difficult prospect — and effecting the companies operational costs to compensate for their choices.
The scientific community is up in arms (though only in a passing sort of intellectual way) because the game, while based on a scientific premise, really is more of an “Intelligent Design” simulator than an “Evolution” simulator. And from my preliminary jabs at the game play, this is definitely a fair analysis. There is little spontaneous change in organisms, instead the player collecting new “traits” that are discovered and added at will to the creature. This, likely, will prove much more fun and decidedly less frustrating from a gaming standpoint, but a (hypothetical) Spore 2 could improve this by moving in a different direction, ignoring the “creator” mode of play and figure out a way for random, spontaneous changes (albeit accelerated for playability) adapt a creature to better suit an environment controlled by the user.
But it still promises to be an interesting play.
We stayed up until midnight last night trying to solve the adventure puzzles of Lego Indy. The advantage of that particular title is the cooperative play mode that not only allows two player action, but lets one progress through the game in two player mode — a feature sorely lacking on many games. This particular feature appeals to casual gamers like Karin who won’t play by herself and won’t play unless she’s making headway in the game. So, a title such as the latest Lego release — recently acquired from the nearby Best Buy — means she’ll be the one asking if I want to play. And that’s cool by me.
What did we do? Hmmm. We…
… dog-sat for one of Karin’s dance friends from Vancouver. She was in town for a wedding, brought her dog and “Tinsel” needed somewhere to crash for the night. We’re still not quite sure what Sparkle made of the company.
… went to Nina’s birthday party. I don’t have much experience attending the birthday parties of two-year olds, but I assume that will change in the next couple years. The guys retreated to play video games in the basement while the “mommies” mingled upstairs.
… entertained Karin’s mom, who showed up to lend a hand with some mounting housework (Karin’s been pregnant AND sick, while I’ve been painting, Fringing, and lazy) and also to bake us an apple pie.
… attended Karin’s annual family office barbecue that, thanks to the rain, actually turned into an indoor call-for-Chinese-food affair. We’re almost at the point where the kids outnumber the adults. Almost. I don’t think ours will tip the balance, but close.
It’s one of those self-imposed long-weekend things.
We each took Friday and Monday off to drive for five hours and visit Alice and Zach. Some of you might even know where that is.
We spent yesterday on tour. Alice, who is enrolled in a local culinary program, was working — so we invaded her restaurant and had a very tasty breakfast. I don’t know if she believed me when I said the hollandaise was really good: so I’ll publish it here, and that might put some weight behind it.
Zach then led us on a walking tour of the University and downtown. Very green, clean, etc.
One quick stop at the video game store, a swing by the coolest bookstore in the universe, Powell’s, and then we went for coffee before trucking it back to their apartment and spending the evening playing multiplayer video games interspersed with some good eating. Geeky, we know, but you’d be hard pressed to find similar well-rounded collections.
Now it’s Sunday morning… I think. Half the population is still sleeping.
Bel is parked a few blocks away, safe — hopefully — in this low-crime city.
And we’ve got reservations for a nifty five-star restaurant dining experience tonight. Mmmm… five-stars.
I think I’ll go watch some TiVo while I wait for everyone to wake up.
Barring mass confusion (to be explained later, when I decide how all parties involved deserve to be represented here) Karin’s “potter” status is (as of this writing) at 35.12%
If her promise to “stay up all night and finish the book if it kills her” holds, she should be much further when she falls asleep with her face folded into the pages sometime around 1AM this morning. My “potter” status is currently much lower, creeping in at approximately 9.79%
I feel the shame.
tuesday and I have nothing very much interesting to write
I bladed home again. Yesterday I was way too tired. Weekend hangover (I’d call it a wang-over, but I think that has a different meaning) caused me pain. Too much wedding stuff.
“Suck it up.”
We rented “Star Wars Racer Revenge” yesternight, and though I had enough energy to learn the fundamentals of the game, I didn’t really get into it until tonight. Karin was reading. (Note: both my playing solo, and my relative lack of “potter” status are in some deep way related…) I’m just off a PS2 binge of approximately 2 and a half hours, wherein I beat the first eight tracks of the aforementioned game and in the process numbed my fingers and melted my brain. Ahhh…
The basic premise of the game is to fly around at insane speeds in one of those Star Wars pod racers, all the while bashing the heck out of the other seven participants in the race. (Hence, the revenge part of the game, I suppose.) I have gotten adept at bashing the heck out of one or two of my fellow participants (very unsporting, but supposedly “below par”) but I am somehow even better at focusing on a twisting track at about 500 arbitrary velocity points and winning the race. All those years of video games have paid off — or not.
Still contemplating the meaning of it all, but… yeah… I’ll get there soon.
Gene is now married. Gene. Is now MARRIED! Really makes you think, doesn’t it?
Woke up yesterday morning to a snowy day in Edmonton. Luckily it melted and Shannon only made a few comments about my weakened tolerance for cold since moving to Vancouver. Ran some errands. Had lunch with Karin’s parents. Went to the wedding and tortured my friend’s and their children. Especially the children. There are photos, I’m sure.
Now Derek is sitting here oblivious to the world except for what’s running through his playstation. “Derek. Derek? DEREK!”
Shannon says, as she takes a photo of the situation: What life is like. One on the computer, the other one playing video games. Oh! One picture left. Derek, you should wah, wah, wah wah…
Brad has no response.
I was rumaging earlier and discovered a thought-lost cd with Rollercoaster Tycoon. It installed reluctantly on my tired machine, and I spent most of my pathetic Saturday evening building imaginary theme parks. And now I discover that it is daylight savings tonight, so I lose an hour sometime between when I go to bed and when I get up. Why couldn’t they put DST on – say – a tuesday afternoon around 3 pm so I could leave work an hour early. No, they put it on the weekend so I get to go back to work an hour earlier. Who invented THAT rule.
Now I am watching Good Eats on Food and thumbing thru a book on how to be a wedding MC I picked up this evening. I figured I had better get some advice on that topic as the wedding is coming up really fast.
When I make it back from Victoria after this weekend I might have more interesting stories to tell. However, things being how they are — a typical sort of uneventful week — I only have a few things to say. Not that it will stop me, or anything…
It’s the end of the month and so I guess that means everyone needs to find a new apartment and move. At least that’s what it sounds like around here. I wasn’t here at the end of last month (Florida, remember!!!) so I don’t really have a point of reference or anything.
But here’s what I figure: about half the people in this building have decided to move out this week and they apparently don’t care if they piss off the neighbors. My north wall is shared by one of these people who I will politely refer to as *! because anyone who keeps me up until well past my bedtime with some sort of random banging on the wall with what sounded like Riverdance does not deserve a real name.
*! and *!’s friends have been very noisy, barricaded the doors, monopolized the elevator and made a mess of the place with little bits of packing tape all over the floor.
My only consolation is that *! no longer is my neighbor…
Chris, if you are reading this, I am quite jealous that you went to E3 and didn’t invite any of your “FRIENDS” along with you. You would think that if you wanted to keep those “FRIENDS” you would have used some of your enormous paycheck and brought all those “FRIENDS” to E3 with you. Since you didn’t, I’d better get a pretty cool birthday present: ie a PS2 or Xbox or something… hint hint hint…
Stupid magazine subscriptions
I don’t subscribe to a lot of magazines. Really. I used to.. Oh yeah, ask my family.. they’re still storing boxes of magazines at their house. (I’m coming to get them soon… really!!)
But alas, I have a word of advice: if you ever feel that those nifty brochures that they hand out all over university saying that you can get awesome deals on magazines through them, are in fact a good deal, then think again…
I bought a WIRED subscription through this Clegg company (any company called Clegg has other issues anyhow… ) back in September 2000. In November, I got a letter from them, thanking them for my subscription, but telling me that if I actually wanted the magazine I still owed them some stupid amount like $3… (their fault: they misprinted the price, but I figured it was easier just to pay the little extra)
I finally got my first issue in March of this year, and when I found out that I was moving, I sent a change of address: today, the new issue arrived: in Edmonton….
Am I impressed, or what?