Winter Wonderland Games and College Decisions

2004-11-09

Well, it's been a long week already and it's only Tuesday. The new students at school have been here for over a week now and I think they're getting used to things and opening up faster than any other group we've had. The only exception to this is Jessy. For some reason she's staying extremely quiet. Either she's put off by the whole thing and thinks she's made a mistake, or she just hasn't opened up yet. Either way, time will tell.

It's getting cold outside as we move into the Winter months and from the way things are going, it looks like it's going to be a harsh one. Oh well, I guess you can't have everything. I also found out today that Max will not be coming to visit for Christmas this year because he has no money. Bummer. He's disappointed too and I can understand why.

On a lighter note, I got Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas tonight and my first impression, it rocks! From the first cinematic which includes the voice of Samuel L. Jackson, to the much more realistic in-game physics, it is simply and purely better than the other GTA games. The sheer size of the city is also amazing. It took me 20 minutes to get from one side of the island to another and the only reason I couldn't go further was because I hadn't completed any missions. The amazing part, that island wasn't even a quarter of the map. I found out very quickly what happened if you try to go outside the bounds of your play area though. Immediate four star wanted level and snipers in the choppers. Definitely something to avoid. I was able to survive for quite a while in the speed boat though. The police patrol boats are easy to avoid and don't pack much firepower (or accuracy). One of my favorite new features is that you character actually grows and gains skills based on what you do in the game, adapting to your playing style. For instance, if you spend a lot of time in the car and not much time walking around, you will start to get fat. I think that this is pure genius on Rockstar's part and applaud them for the deep thought that went into this game. You can really tell that everything was well thought out and thouroughly implemented. If you haven't played this game yet, I highly recommend it. Well worth the $50.

Another game that I had a chance to take a look at tonight was Halo 2. My brother got this game for his Xbox and is loving it. I caught a couple glimpses of it over his shoulder and noticed a few key differences from the first game. First of all, the graphics detail looks a lot better. It appears that they completely tore apart the graphics engine and rewrote it from scratch. It needed it. Secondly, they upped the screen resolution under the assumption that gamers will be playing this game on larger, higher-quality, screens that make it much easier to read small text. This helps to get the status displays out of the way so that you can focus better on the action. From what I heard my brother saying, a lot of the other annoyances about the first Halo game were resolved including the ability to now set unlimited frags in a multiplayer game. This has been a definite hinderance on our kill-fests until now. Good job Microsoft! All in all, Halo 2 seems like it's just a souped up version of the first one. If you didn't like the first one, don't bother with the second. If you even remotely liked any part of the first one, it's worth the money, every aspect of the game has been improved in one way or another.

Aside from gaming, things have been pretty quiet around here. I met with Matt Haas, my Unix professor last week and spent a good hour talking to him about various topics, mostly centered around distributed computing. He has me and one other student working on a problem to prep us for the upcoming distributed systems class that he'll be holding next summer. We're working with some matrix multiplication code and learning how to thread, multiprocess, and distribute the load of the program to more than one system. It has been an interesting study in high-cpu software implementations. It's been a lot of fun except that Matt is in Pittsburgh for the SuperComputing 2004 conference so we really haven't had much time to talk about the progress of the program. I think I'm to the point where I can start threading it out and distributing the work across more than one function call but I'm not quite sure how I'm going to go about this. It won't be too hard to solve, just an implementation problem. I'll get back to it when I get a few minutes.

Finally, I'm working on college applications for Arizona State and Rensselaer Polytech this week. It looks like I've got a good chance at either one. Honestly, I can't wait to start college. It looks like it's all going to be a ton of fun. Well, I think I'm done talking for the moment. Ciao!

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