World of Apex

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Stupidity in motion

As you may know, it is widely believed that human idiocy is caused by one of two things: lack of brain function or a disease of the genus Stupidica Fucktardica. We here at Apex Industries have been studying this phenomenon (herein identified solely as "stupidity") for many years, learning from the worst, dullest idiots out there (henceforth known as "Pennsylvania") to bring you the latest breakthroughs in the realm of Idiotic Science. The latest discovery is most intriguing.

Apex Industries (herein referred to in the first person) is located squarely in the heart of southern Pennsylvania, USA. Much like southern California is referred to as "Silicon Valley" due to its high amounts of computer industry, Pennsylvania is known as "Retard Valley" for a similar reason. People from a certain, annonymous county, located between Adams and Lancaster counties, has an amazingly high yield of idiots living there. Just as birds gather in flocks and cattle gather in herds, people in this area gather into subcultures and stereotypes. That bit of geographical background aside...

I have discovered what I like to call the Laws of Stupidity. Newton had his laws for gravity and motion, I have mine as well. So, I now present to you Apex's Laws of Stupidity:

Law 1: Stupidity in motion stays in motion until acted upon by an outside force. This works very similarly to Newton's first law of motion. Basically, if an idiot does something stupid, he/she will continue to do it or other stupid things until someone prevents it. Whether it be a verbal reprimand or a firm smack, something must be done to prevent the continuation of moving stupidity.

Law 2: The relationship between a person's initial stupidity s, their stupidity modifier (such as a subculture or reasoning for doing an act of stupidity) m, and their total, or sum, stupidity T is T=sm. This law of stupidity states that a person's stupidity can compound itself over time, and once steered toward stupidity, that person will continue along that path indefinitely unless the first law is called into play.

Law 3: For every stupid action, there is an offsetting, more intelligent action. Though it may seem as though intelligence rarely ripostes a stupid action, the reaction need not be immediate as in the world of physics. In bolder terms, it will "come back to bite you in the ass", so to speak.

This message brought to you by Apex Industries, leader at the forefront of research into why people are so god damned stupid. Thank you, and join us next week for more journeys into the world of science!

Friday, October 07, 2005

It's all about Chi power...

I've been keeping my eye on Ragdoll Kung Fu since it's E3 preview, and I'm not alone. Pretty much everyone in the gaming world that uses Steam (meaning everyone who has Half Life 2) has been keeping track of this oddball game, which is being made available through Steam but has no affiliation with Valve or the Source engine. This means it's the first of its kind, a third party title distributed through Valve's system...and it probably won't be the last.

Before I veer away from the point of this post and dive into the growing trend of electronically distributed games, some info on RDKF would be nice, wouldn't it? Simply put, this game is the most original game idea since Katamari Damacy. You move your character (who can be customized and modded with skins) by clicking and dragging his/her limbs. You jump not by hitting spacebar, but by grabbing any limb (head works best though) and flinging your guy through the air in an incredibly entertaining fashion. While this system takes some getting used to, as does the combat explained later, once you do your mouse weilding skills will increase tenfold and you'll be the Bruce Lee of ragdolls.

Don't quite get it? Don't worry, it definitely doesn't make sense, but it's fun none the less. The dragging system works similarly to the ragdoll posing in Garry's Mod, but without the need to freeze limbs in place. It's smooth and humorous to boot.

Moving on, that's the general idea, but stopping there doesn't even stratch the surface of the game proper. Stop here if you want the terse part, keep going if you want the big meaty review of the wackiest fighting game to date...

The real fun begins when you get into the combat of the game. While movement is done using the left mouse button, attacks are done using the right. Right clicking will automatically choose the closest limb to the mouse and thrust it toward the target upon releasing the button. This means you can punch, kick, or headbutt your opponent any way you like, including in midair. Fights become literally laugh-out-loud funny, and you'll constantly find youself trying to outdo your last insane move.

Attacking is fun of course, but you can defend yourself as well, and the method is simple. Just position your character's hands in front of him in a block position. Seriously, that's all you need to do. When an enemy attack hits your guy's hand it will block it automatically. You can also actively block by dragging a hand into the path of an attack. Not as exciting as crazy moves, but helpful none the less.

Weapons are also an interesting and fun part of your kung fu fighting experience. You'll nab your first pair of nunchucks at the end of the first tutorial level (about where I failed to get the required 10,000 points...bah!) and might be so swing-happy with them you forget to finish the objective. All you need to do to slash/swing your way to victory is grab the weapon with a hand and throw some loops with the mouse, the physics engine will do the rest.

Speaking of physics, while this game wasn't made on the Source engine, and subsequently its Havok physics, it does a great job of making you think it was. The physics are great, and true to its crazy Kung Fu wire-fighting origins. You'll always land on your feet, or at least somehow contort onto them when you slam into the ground. The stretching and pulling of limbs has a refreshingly comedic look, and upon release will snap back like a coiled spring. The physics are entertaining to say the least.

So, what's left? Ah, the visuals. First of all the graphics are brilliantly outrageous, offering character choices ranging from a raspberry-giving ninja to a comic book character gone bad. Top that with mixing and matching of half a dozen parts and your possibilities are endless. The backgrounds, arenas and the like are top notch, offering great oriental style and multiple teirs to check out. The video is hilarious, and the haphazard group that made the cutscenes should be nominated for an indie film award. Their blatantly outlandish style that takes Kung Fu flicks to the extreme, complete with bad lip synching and chittery not-quite-Chinese voices will have you chuckling all the way through the game. The only problem I have here is the intro video actually plays while the game loads, which causes it to play at about 5 frames per second or so, though that might be due to my laptop only having 128MB of video memory.

The only other topic left is multiplayer, which is something I've not toyed with much. You start with a vanilla deathmatch mode, some levels to fight in, various options, and the ability to add up to 7 AI opponents of varying toughness. There are four modes total, but the other three are locked from the start, so you'll need to beat a few story levels to unlock them. You can create your own character for online play the same as single player, and import a custom skin as well, which will be visible to all players in the game. Note that attempting to cheat by making an invisible skin will result in a character wrapped in police tape. Busted.

Fear Apex the pwn*

So what's the verdict? While the learning curve is a bit steep, the tutorial is great, and you can always poke around against a weak level AI opponent in deathmatch mode. The visuals, sound and overall presentation are excellent, giving the game a wonderfully refreshing over the top feel games seem to lack these days. If you're the kind of gamer to try the unique, strange and wild, go for it. This game is a must have.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Bandwidth Nazis strike again!

Alright, for those that haven't been lurking on #zodiacgamer, you probably don't know the premise to this rant. My school recently installed two Netgear wireless routers, one in the CISCO/C++ computer lab, and the other in my history class. Now, for a week or so it was hunky-dory, no one bothered to ask if I was even using it, which I wasn't save one day out of seven. However they've tightened the networking noose this week and I'm pissed about it.

Now, before you jump to saying "it's their bandwidth!!!", yes it is. Though they barely scratch the surface of how much bandwidth they get on their T3 line, and one person using it for general internet browsing maybe a total of an hour a day won't hike the cost up any, that's not what ticks me off. It's how they went about telling me I can't use their network.

Rather than simply saying "hey, that bandwidth costs money, could you stop," an email was dispatched to every teacher in the school about "unsolicited use of the school's network" telling them to "be on the watch for suspicious usage of electronic devices during school hours." So, what's that mean? It means in every single class all day, I was picked from the group, called to the teacher's desk, and interrogated about the use of my laptop. I was under more scrutiny than an Arab man in an airport. I was actually threatened by the network admin that if he ever finds out I'm using their network I'll be "in serious trouble". Basically I had to endure six classes of "it's the kid with the laptop, he must be the one using the network!". For an administration so keen to advocate dispelling stereotypes, they sure are doing a dandy job of following them.

Sorry guys, but I'm not the geek you're looking for. I know for a fact of three people who have used the school's WiFi on their PSP to play online, and regularly at that. Ever stop to think there are other things capable of using your holy bandwidth besides my laptop? Of course not, jumping to conclusions is something the school system is great at, just ask any kid who had to defend himself against a bully and landed a three day suspension for fighting.

My last point here is their reasoning for doing it. While I understand it's their bandwidth, and they pay for it, they're getting overly paranoid about it. Just ask me nicely, I'll remove your network from my list, and we can all get along. Hell, even if they just plain MAC filtered the routers and locked me out I wouldn't mind all that much. You need to go through their incredibly tight-assed proxy anyway, it's not like I could do anything useful on the network, none the less anything illicit.

Glad I got that off my chest. Now to plan my non-violent, non-destructive revenge. Suggestions are welcome.