Sunday, July 31, 2011

And boom goes the car

Just a short car post to finish the month with. It's a video I recorded from today's Grand Prix, in Hungary.
It might persuade more of my american readers to start watching Formula 1, as I understand, they look for excitement, crashes and mechanical failures (yeah, stereotypes! I'm just kidding with you all).

Anyway here's a video of what happens when one of the most advanced high performance engines goes a bit wrong.

Nick Heidfeld Lotus Renault blows up - Hungary - The best home videos are here

So, hope he has his car insurance papers ready, cos an F1 engine costs 150 thousand. Not to mention on last week's race he went a little airborne when trying to overtake another car:

Poor guy. Here's to hoping his car at least ends the next grand prix whole.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sleeping to the soothing rain

If there's something that calms me down is the steady noise of rainfall.
Not long ago I was in one of those situations where you're trying to sleep, but all you manage to do is close your eyes and turn around in bed countless times till you end up belly up looking at the ceiling asking nobody "why can't I sleeeeeeeeep?"

So I got up and googled rain sound. Came across this very simple website Rainy Mood which plays rain and thunder noises in an endless loop.

It has over 400,000 likes on Facebook and a bunch of retweets, so it seems there are a lot of people out there who like going to sleep with the rain. All you need is a good set of speakers and a little power of abstraction to forget the fact it's coming from your computer.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Goodbye to all that

Today, at about 5:57 local time, the Space Shuttle Atlantis touched down for the last time, ending the Space Shuttle program, after a 13 day mission. I watched it live; it felt  like it is the end of an era, and space exploration won't be the same.

For 30 years we have seen these black and white, goofy looking crafts going up roaring through the skies, it almost felt routine.
The International Space Station will now be serviced by reliable, yet dated, Russian Soyuz rockets, however it feels that we're giving up, sort of ignoring our spirit of adventure. With so much economic turmoil all over the globe, nobody really knows if this is the passing of the torch to another western program, or if a new space power will emerge. NASA's funding is being pulled out in favor of other, less noble, projects. There are no big missions planned; no mission to Mars or even going back to the moon. We have so much to learn out there; canceling space exploration instead of investing heavily on it shows how immature we are as a species yet again. Countries much rather keep bickering at each other instead of pulling together somewhere. Things like these make me lose hope in mankind. 40 years ago we could go to the Moon. 10 years ago we had a supersonic passenger plane. Yesterday we had Space shuttles. What can we be proud of today? Smart phones? Are we regressing?

I can go on and on for years but I'll let some of these pictures do the talking for me.

To laugh, or to cry?

The last mission badge added to the ISS

Mission control applauds the last undocking

Welcome home indeed.

 I digress. I'm sad. See you next time.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Free games, part 2

To continue with the free games I've been trying out today I bring you:

Champions Online

Superheros have made a come back in the past decade, which saw more super hero movies than any other in history, and it was just a matter of time before someone thought it would be a good idea to make a multiplayer game about it. The first one I can recall was called City of Heroes back in 2004. I have never played it but from it's description, the concept is simple: create and customize your hero and play with it in a world populated by tons of other heroes, or, with the introduction of City of Villains in 2005, you can be a super villain and play for "the other side".

Custom hero running at speed
Champions Online follows a very similar concept with the obvious twist that it is mostly free to play, with the traditional tokens you have to buy with real money to unlock some of the aspects of the game.
The character creating screen is very well done and there are limitless possibilities when it comes to creating your hero's costume, his most defining characteristic. Because of this you will see all kinds of people running around with their own custom made suits, some awesome, some terrible, others very funny.
It's not Batman, I swear.
Your skills are determined by your choice of character "class" or "archtype", for example, you can be a martial arts expert or an archer, a magic type or a tank 'behemoth'. As soon as you see any of the types, some super heroes will come to mind.
There are items to "wear" as in any other online RPG, but they can get really, really confusing. Everything has percentages, numbers everywhere, it's hard to tell which items are better for you right away. Since it was confusing to me, a veteran of 10 years of online games, I can only guess how it would make a total newbie feel like.
The missions you're presented with at first are challenging and fun, and as I understand there are some "adventure packs" you can purchase to further experience comic-like plots and stories.

More info, registration and download at their website.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Free games, part 1

If you're an old guy like me you might remember the concept of shareware - a software that is provided as a trial of the full version, sort of like a demo, but the difference was that if you purchased a code, you'd unlock the rest of the game.

Well it seems it's having a resurgence. More and more companies are choosing to offer their games freely nowadays. The players are given a chance to explore and try out the games, no purchase or monthly fee. I have to say I wholeheartedly agree to this, because people should be able to play games before they commit to purchase it. With single player games there are demos, but with multiplayer/online only games, this is the way to go.
The obvious catch is that some of the content, normally the high end content that you'll need to get to enjoy the full experience, is locked. The way to unlock it is purchasing some sort of tokens, gold coins or credits with real life money. However this is entirely justified, companies can't keep servers up and provide content if they don't get money from somewhere.
I've written about one of these games before, Battlefield Play 4 Free, but it seems the more I look around, the more of these I find.

Here are some of the games that I've been trying out, because I know you're gonna spend your summer indoors playing online. Or maybe that's just me.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Karting for 4 hours, fun!

This past saturday some of my friends decided to enter a local amateur motor racing competition: 4 hours go-kart endurance race. Their team was all made up so I joined in as the official pit-boy, controlling their times and helping wherever I could. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and we all had a good time.

Friday night:

Arrived at the place. In week days, it's a big market, but for the coming weekend it had been transformed into a kart track/expo center for cars. I had a couple of beers with the fellas and paid a little fee to get 10 minutes around the track. We usually go to the local indoor go-kart track, which is ran by the same people who were organizing this event, and I have to say running them outdoor a lot more fun.
There was a limit of 4 pilots per car and my friends had already organized a nice team so I couldn't run with them, however I offered my services of time keeping and organization, based entirely on theoretical knowledge of racing since I'd never done this before.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Fear 3

Well, hello July; the summer is already letting itself be felt and what other way to celebrate it than... locking myself in my room and playing some scary first person shooter.

I admit I have been a little lax in terms of posting; although I've been busy, the blame falls on me being lazy under summer heat.

So without further ado, Fear 3.

It must be one of the most awaited sequels this year and finally it's here. Before I go on, truth be told, Fear 1 and 2 haven't made their way to my computer hard drive. With that in mind it's pretty obvious the story went right by me.

With a game called 'fear' my first reaction was to open my windows and let the sunshine in, light some candles and put a teddy bear on top of my monitor so everything seemed less scary. Then I found my balls which I had lost and closed the door, closed the window, pumped the volume up and fired the game.

The environment that greeted me was not very scary at first, when compared to other games I've played in the past, getting out of a prison is not such a big deal. Then you start seeing things here and there, you wonder if you really seen them, if you're imagining things or if it's a graphical glitch. Most of what you see however is meant to be there and to start playing with your head, something this game does quite adequately.

As the levels progress you find more disturbing imagery. I wasn't sure if my character was losing it's mind or if it was me. Easy enough to trouble shoot: stopped the game walked around the house and realized it wasn't covered in blood nor there were little dead girls showing up out of nowhere, so it had to be the game. By the third level things like this greeted me:

What I've said before about being busy lately is not entirely a lie so I genuinely haven't had a chance to finish the game, nor did I write this review as early as I was planning, but I can say I find it engaging and makes me want to complete it, which is always a good thing to say about a game.

Technically it's not pushing many boundaries, specially with it's graphics or gameplay mechanics, they're adequate. There's a slow motion button that lets you take well aimed shots at zombies' heads, which is very satisfying. You can play as two characters, or so it seems, which makes me think this game fully supports cooperative mode. It's not my main way to play games however so I can't give you an insight into that. The sound is well done and it scares you at the right places. If you have a surround sound system then this can be one ... spine chilling experience altogether.

More games reviews to come this week.