Andy Laub

Andy Laub is a designer & developer in the Twin Cities.

Published Dec 08

Exactly Wrong »

What did I get myself into?

On Christmas day, I found myself with a conundrum: four games with great potential, accumulated at various times leading up to the holiday season, sat before me and I had to figure out which one to play. I made Abe choose for me, and that’s why I am playing Dead Space, a survival horror sci-fi spaceship 3rd-person shooter thing with an emphasis on “strategic dismemberment combat.”

Why did I buy this game in the first place? I am not sure. I hate horror anything. I dislike being scared. Playing through Bioshock was a stretch for me. And yet, I elected to spend money on something that I knew – knew – would not be a good fit for me. The problem is, the game is good, both technically and creatively. It’s so good at what it does that I don’t want to play it anymore.

I am trying to force myself through at least a chapter a day (I started out strong, hitting the first 7 chapters on Thursday and Friday, and I’m up to chapter 10 now), and then when it ends I can finally play something I actually want to be playing. Everything about the game is too stressful for me. I’m not a fan of scary alien combat. I’m not a fan of not being able to find enough ammo. And I’m definitely not a fan of non-regenerative health, which shouldn’t even be allowed in a shooter in this day and age.

Seriously, give me a damn break. I am stuck on this mining ship, 600 years in the future, wearing what is some sort of incredibly advanced armor that allows me to store a ridiculous amount of weapons and ammunition (if I can find it) without weighing me down, but the same suit can’t restore my vitals over time? To me that just smells like an arbitrary way to make the game harder – it doesn’t really add any enjoyment or value. Alternatively, as you upgrade your suit throughout the game, make it an unlockable ability. But really, health packs? So 90′s.

So yeah, Dead Space – once it’s done, it’s done.

I got a light switch for my birthday. But to be fair, it was a really nice light switch.

Underwhelming »

As a game console, the PS3 is a great Blu-ray player.

I mentioned on Black Friday that I had taken advantage of a couple of Amazon’s video game deals, among them PS3 staples Resistance: Fall of Man and Motorstorm. I figured this would be a cheap way to beef up my library and get to know some of the franchises that laid the groundwork for this newest generation of PlayStations, and after playing them both I can see why it’s selling the way it does – poorly.

Motorstorm

Motorstorm is an off-road racing game. I’ll be honest – I wasn’t expecting a lot, and at $15, there wasn’t very much it would’ve had to do to make me happy. I played it briefly on a demo PS3 last year it seemed perfectly acceptable – all it had to do was provide some fun multiplayer and not crash. Fail.

Local play is limited to one (very bored) person. I think they made the excuse that the all-powerful God that is the PS3 couldn’t handle split-screen multiplayer. So you’ve spent months (years?) talking about how the PS3 is the be-all, end-all of console gaming, but it can’t let two people in the same room play a racing game together? Nice.

After that, I was pretty much done. The gameplay was fine, if a little unforgiving, but it’s not a game I feel like playing alone.

Resistance

There is no argument that Resistance is the better of the two. It received decent marks on release, probably because it was the only vaguely playable game available at the time. Also, it seems like it should be pretty easy to make a first person shooting game, since all you have to do is decide where and when you want it to take place. The controls are pretty much decided for you, and should never change. I am not trying to say Resistance runs contrary to this formula – I am just making an observation.

From the beginning I had intended to play through the game with Abe, much like what we’ve done with the Halo series. The story, from what I had heard, never struck me as particularly compelling (it isn’t), and so it seemed like a good “play a level here and there” type of game instead of bombing through it like I tend to do when playing alone.

And in that regard, it is good. But it’s not as good as the games it was made to compete against. The whole experience is, well, generic. The story is generic. The one class of enemy is generic. The settings are generic. And they look okay, but while the graphics go through the motions of telling you this environment is one ravaged by war and infection (broken walls, conveniently placed debris), it doesn’t hold a candle to the same style as done by Gears of War, which was released at the same time.

In both cases, multiplayer was/would have been the saving grace. Both games control just fine, and there really isn’t anything technical to complain about. But there’s nothing genuinely exciting either. I suspect that’s because I’ve seen some amazing things on the 360, and both of these games are version 1.0′s that are two years old. I hear the new Motorstorm has local multiplayer now too, so there’s that.

But as games that were marketed as AAA titles, they left a lot to be desired. I know I would’ve been pissed if I had paid $60 for either game, especially after having paid $500-$600 for the console to play it on. I’m still chafing at $15 for a racing game with no local multiplayer. Sorry. I had to.

Just drop everything you’re doing and do this instead.

Wii Fit: Day 90 Update
BMI: 22.67 / Weight: 171.1 lbs for a total loss of 6.02 BMI percentage points and 45.4 lbs.

Ever since I first saw it, I have been completely infatuated with Cottage Living‘s 2008 Idea Home. I want to live there.

Edit: the online version kind of sucks. I will try to get a copy of the floor plan – that was the part I fell for.

Penny Arcade on PlayStation Home:

…this is what happens when your marketing department tries to make a game. Here is everything you need to understand about Home, if you should accidentally launch it from your XMB: press and hold the Playstation button in the center of your Dual-Shock or Sixaxis controller. From the menu that appears, select Quit.

Sound advice.

This thing called fring seems promising.

Upgrade »

Little things can make a big difference.

The other day Kottke pointed out this thing on MetaFilter that basically talks about quality of life and how it can be dramatically affected by some of the things we use every day.

I find the concept fascinating, and it hits close to home for me. When I reached a point where I became self-sustaining, I started to adopt the philosophy that if I’m going to buy something, I might as well do it right the first time. Otherwise I know that I’ll just regret it down the line, and eventually buy it again. Since then I’ve still found myself burnt on occasion, but that’s not what this post is about. Nope – I think it’s time for a good old-fashioned meme:

  • I love my iPhone. I am convinced it is the best phone in existence for me. I realize this is not the case for everyone, but regardless, something you use every day should be something that works with you, not against.
  • Intel Macs are phenomenal. I can’t see a reason to go with any other brand for day-to-day computing.
  • Get the biggest, nicest, highest-resolution LCD you can afford. There’s no such thing as too much screen.
  • High-speed internet should be obvious.
  • One year I spent my tax return on a really nice office chair. It’s a Herman Miller Mirra, and it’s awesome. I can’t say that it’s the chair for everybody, but everybody should have a chair that is equally awesome for them.
  • Dyson vacuums suck so hard. In a good way, though. Especially the ones with The Ball™.
  • The filtered water from our GE Profile refrigerator is the best water I have ever tasted.
  • If you’re into TV, then you should have some sort of DVR. We went with TiVo, and will probably be shopping for a TiVo HD shortly. But it’s so nice not to be chained to your TV (or worse, a VCR).
  • On that note, Hulu and friends are awesome, but they’re even better when you can watch them on your TV. There are a ton of approaches to this, so whatever works for you. But the ability to lay on the couch and watch the internet go by is key.
  • Finally, one of the best things about no longer living in an apartment is a garage. Especially in snow country – I think I cleaned my car off a total of 5 times last season, and I can live with that.

Those are a few that came to mind as I was vacuuming this evening (ha!). What do all y’all think?

I’m a little late on this, but the videos from the Ben Folds Five reunion from back in September are on Youtube.

More Dash »

How can something that looks so good look so bad at the same time?

Last month I spent some time rambling about Microsoft’s new dashboard for the Xbox 360, and the general verdict was that I liked it more than the XMB used by Sony’s PS3. But the slight preference exhibited here was just that – slight. The two experiences are both consistent, attractive, and refined enough that you can’t complain too loudly about either.

Which is a good thing, because that means I can save all the complaining for whatever that crap is that I see every time I power on the Wii. Honestly – Nintendo can do product design. They can do packaging. Even the DS GUI isn’t bad. So how did the crapshoot that is the Wii dashboard even happen?

I admit, this started out as some sort of diatribe but turned into an excuse to play with FancyZoom.

I am assuming “Nuevos mapas para MirrorĀ“s Edge” translates to something like “Look at these ridiculously amazing new levels for Mirror’s Edge”

Docks and Docking »

Unexpected compatibility of the backwards/forwards sort.

You may know that I am some sort of dock fiend – if I own a gadget, I’d like to have a dock for it. At least, if it’s a gadget that I actually like. My 3G iPod came with a dock; I bought one with my 5G iPod, and I bought a dock with the iPhone.

I was happy to learn that the two iPod docks were basically interchangeable, which meant that the older one always stayed at work while the newer lived on my desk at home. But what makes me even happier is that the iPhone 3G works in both, in addition to its own. This is good news, but it’s not without its hangups:

  • The “work” dock was plugged into a wall charger – the FireWire charger that came with my first iPod. It always worked to charge the two iPods, but will not charge the iPhone – you’ll need a USB charger for that.
  • My stereo at work is unshielded, which means some nasty GSM buzz in the speakers every so often. This isn’t a symptom of the dock so much as two incompatible technologies having it out, but it’s worth mentioning. I’m still trying to figure out how I want to approach that.

Still though, it works out nicely – for whatever it costs me to buy a new USB cable I can now have a nice charger for my phone at work, and there’s no additional unplugging going on when I need to sync the iPhone or the iPod at home.

Well, this is somewhat reassuring.