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January-March 2001 (oldest-to-newest)

2 Jan 2001 - Happy holidays!

I spent Christmas with my wife's family this year. I didn't fly home to my folks since I wasn't sure if any major house crises would arise (thankfully none did). Maybe next year. New Year's was spent at Lake Tahoe with some friends. We did some skiing (we only go once or twice a year) and played some games.

Speaking of which, just when the hell am I going to have time to play all these games? Seriously. I received Deus Ex and plan to buy a few more PC titles (Sheep, the latest Monkey Island game, and others I can't remember). I haven't even started Shenmue and still need to finish Zelda. Then there's Banjo Tooie which I have my eye on. Oh, and I finally got around to starting Grim Fandango. Yeesh

I got some good play time with SSX over the break. Very fun game. Thankfully it's not one that requires a monumental amount of consecutive hours to play *cough*Zelda*cough*. So I can intersperse it in whatever other game I'm playing at the moment.

House-wise we're still unpacking, although that's almost done. There's a near-endless list of improvements to be made to the house, but we can do those slowly. One extremely cool item we purchased was a new entertainment center. This thing *rocks* if I may say so. It has a space for a TV up to 37 inches (ours is currently 27). Beneath the TV, glass doors house some 10 different compartments for electronic gadgets. Right now we have the Dreamcast, PS2, N64, NUON DVD player, input selector, and VCR. Also, I've temporarily dusted off the Genesis/SegaCD for some retro fun. The entertainment center is a monolith of fun. I don't look forward to moving it when the time comes. However, we've already forced ourselves into getting movers for the other heavy stuff so it's not a big deal.

3 Jan 2001 - Timewarp

Just for the heck of it I did a search for this website at Dogpile. It's kind of a super search engine that queries several other engines and gives you all the results. Saves having to go from one engine to the next.

Anyway, I happened on this site which has a review of the OPSM issue which contained our game. Unfortunately it's in Finnish (I think) so I can't read the blurb about Decaying Orbit. Here it is:

Decaying Orbitia ei voi syyttää ainkaan ohjeiden puutteesta. Niitä riittää itse pelissä, kuin pelin tehneen Dragon Shadowin kotisivuillakin (http://www.dragonshadow.com/decayingorbit/). Itse peli tuo mieleen etäisesti Star Control 3:n, mutta todellakin vain etäisesti. Pelaaja ohjaa pikkuruista avaruusalusta laneetalta toiselle. Siinä välissä pitää tuhota muutama määrätty kohde. Alusta voi myös varustaa paremmaksi, jos lompakko antaa myöden. Oikein näppärä pikku peli, joka pienistä puutteistaan huolimatta saattaa pitää otteessaan jopa puoli tuntia.

I'm looking for a babelfish which will translate this for me, but none of the ones I found do Finnish.

9 Jan 2001 - CES

It sounds like CES has been a good one for us. We had a good number of press releases including two new DVD manufacturers, more games, and the first NUON-enhanced movie (Bedazzled).

We still have our nay-sayers but with all the positive reviews our first two players have gotten it's not difficult to ignore those misunderstood few.

I'm itchin' to start coding again. I have two games brewing and don't know which to start first. I'll probably continue with the one I started a few months ago (before this house madness).

11 Jan 2001 - Enjoy soy sauce!

As stated in the January 2nd update, I broke out the Genesis & Sega CD for some retro fun. This was no random decision mind you. I recently acquired a couple of new Sega CD games from Good Deal Games. These are games that were produced, but never published. The guys at GDG picked up the rights and are selling the games. I haven't tried them out yet, but I'm sure they will be cheesy and grainy just like the other great Sega CD FMV games. Ah the memories of Night Trap and Sewer Shark ("Okay, we go on 3. Ready? Three!")


Since I had the Genny hooked up I popped in Streets of Rage 2 and went to town (SOR2 is on both of our All Time Favorite Games lists - see the staff section). I only planned to play for a few levels, but I ended up getting sucked in and finished the game. Ah what a game. Nearly perfect in every way. Too bad the sequel ruined several aspects of the gameplay. I played that one for a while too, but got too annoyed with it and turned it off. While digging around I found a list I had made way back when SOR3 came out detailing what I thought were the good & bad points compared to SOR2. I'll have to post that some time.

One of the goals that Dave and I had way back when was to finish SOR2 on "Crazy" difficulty with only 3 lives per continue. Let me tell you it's not easy. I can't remember how long it took us, but we eventually did do it. The thought of doing the same with only 2 lives per continue makes my head swim - "friggin impossible" is the term I would use.

15 Jan 2001 - A slow start is still a start

House stuff occupied my time for a majority of Sunday. We replaced all the light switch and outlet covers from their ugly plastic to a more elegant brushed brass. Also, new towel racks and TP holders were necessary for all the bathrooms (I don't think the previous owner replaced anything *ever* over her 12 years living there).

Of course there's still more to do, but we're waiting until after taxes. We recently did an estimate of how much we will owe. I want to keep this clean, but geez-o-flip it's a humongous amount of money. We sold a bunch of stock to pay for the downpayment and will have to cough up the dough for the capital gains. We had a good ride though. Plus we lucked out into selling our stock right before the big slide it has taken recently. Sometimes Murphy's asleep at wheel I guess.

Game Progress I got the current incarnation of the game back up and running bug-free (as far as I know). All in preparation for The Big Overhaul™. You see I sat down and stared at the code like I have done many times in the past. It finally struck me how I could vastly improve things. Not only faster, but cleaner too. So I wanted to get everything hunky-dory with the current code in order to have a baseline against which to compare once the new code is up and running. Should be pretty suh-weet.

16 Jan 2001 - Up and running

Game Progress I got the new engine up and running last night. Right now it's pretty bare bones and probably riddled with bugs. But it draws what it's supposed to draw and I'm happy. I haven't spent any time with optimization yet since I want to get it functional first.

One bad thing about the new engine is that I realized I couldn't do something I wanted to do. I was hoping to be able to remove a section of code, which would have sped things up a bit. Unfortunately I need that code in the new engine too. Still, things are cleaner, take up less memory, and should be faster once I get it optimized.

17 Jan 2001 - Optimization

Game Progress I did a spot of optimizing last night and sped up the original code by 25% or so. It's still not quite as fast as the previous version, but it's darn close. I have lots more optimizations to do so in the end it should be significantly better.

22 Jan 2001 - Deuxieme Optimization

Game Progress I now have the current engine approximately as fast as I had the original. It's hard to tell since I'm not sure how functional the old engine was when I took the measurements. Anyway, I think I can do a few more things to improve the speed. Then I'll cram it through some test cases to make sure it's solid.

23 Jan 2001 - Screaming!

Game Progress I squashed a bug, the fix for which impacted performance in a bad way. Still, after getting everything happy again the new engine now soundly beats out the old one. Not by a wide margin mind you, but there are other intangibles to factor in. For one, the code is so much cleaner. Plus I've commented the heck out of the thing so that I don't forget what something does when I come back to fix a bug next year :)

Next I'll be working on what could be called a post-processor. It will handle such things as coloring, texturing, and anti-aliasing.

25 Jan 2001 - Steppin' on the brakes

Game Progress Now this is an unexpected development. I did some more optimizations to the engine and discovered that the number of objects I could draw didn't increase by a significant amount. As it turns out, I've optimized the engine so much that other factors (memory latency, etc) are becoming the bottleneck.

I should have noticed this earlier. I have some code to monitor engine performance in the program. For a lark I deactivated it (gotta love ifdef's) and noticed that performance wasn't that much improved. I didn't think much of it at the time - I just thought that the performance monitoring code was small enough that it didn't help/hurt at all. Little did I know I was hitting this other bottleneck.

Always with the rose-colored glasses, I take this as a good thing. This means I can add more features to the engine without impacting performance. So last night I added some code that takes some burden off the post-processor (mentioned earlier). Woo!

31 Jan 2001 - The Mole

I never watched the original Survivor thinking it was kind of silly. However, The Mole has captured my attention entirely. The reason I like it is that whether or not you get kicked off the show is based entirely on your own skill. Not some popularity contest like in Survivor. Plus, the show is really interesting with all the games that they play and things they have to do. Click here to get caught up on all the episodes.

Here's my opinions on the liklihood of each person being the mole:

  • Charlie - Yes - He's my current "obvious" pick for the mole. He doesn't sabotage the challenges directly, but he's kind of cranky and gets the others riled up. It could just be his nature, but it could also be an act to get the others on edge.
  • Jennifer - No - Like someone pointed out in yesterday's episode, Jennifer reacts emotionally. It seems a lot of her reactions are spotaneous and real. If she's the mole I will be very surprised.
  • Jim - No (mostly) - I don't really have a reason, just more a gut feel that Jim isn't the mole. His reaction to Kate's potential betrayal was "well, who wouldn't have done that?" which is totally what I was thinking. Incidentally, when Jim asked that Charlie raised his hand, which further cements in my mind that he's the mole.
  • Kate - Yes (mostly) - I had Kate pegged from the previous episode, but now I'm doubting that decision. There's some tension between her and Charlie and I thought she brought it on due to being the mole. Now I think it's Charlie that's bringing it on. I think she could still be the mole, though.
  • Kathryn - No (mostly) - Like Jim, I don't have a reason why I think she's not the mole. It seemed odd that she snooped in the producer's notebook when no one else did, but that can tip my opinion either way. So I'm staying neutral for now.
  • Steven - Maybe - Steven is so quiet most of the time I can't get a feel about him. His lack of communication in the laser tag challenge is a bit suspect. I need more info to make a better judgement.

So I think either Charlie or Kate is the mole from being too obvious, or Steven from being very subtle. I would be astonished if it were Jennifer, and somewhat surprised if it were Jim or Kathryn.

2 Feb 2001 - Colds suck

I wanted to fix my misspelling of "January" as "Janyary" and figure I might as well say something constructive too. This'll be quite difficult since I've been sick the past few days. I had my flu shot a while ago which really adds to my annoyance. Of course this isn't the flu, it's just a cold. Still I would expect some minimal protection.

I'm adding texturing to the rendering engine now. Hopefully I'll have it working this weekend some time.

6 Feb 2001 - Texturing

Game Progress Funny how things work out. I spent some time thinking about how to add texturing to the engine over the weekend. I even started coding it into the renderer. I was hitting lots and lots of corner cases though which was making me quite nervous. Each corner case required more code, which slowed down the renderer. I also had to make some concessions about when texturing can be done and when it can't, which didn't sit well with me.

Then I hit upon a solution that fixed everything. Rather than put the texturing in the renderer, I'll put it in the post processor. Not only will it make things cleaner, but it will remove those restrictions and make the engine a lot more flexible.

I don't have it up and running yet, but it's a rather simple matter to do so. It's just that I've been feeling the "game-playing urge" as they say (you know how it is). Played a bit of Sega CD (Space Ace, Silpheed, Sol Feace), and a bit of PSX (Point Blank 1 and 2, Konami Arcade Classics - damn that disc is great). I would love to sink my teeth into Grim Fandango again, but every time I try the game locks up on me within a few minutes. Very frustrating.

7 Feb 2001 - Mole Update

Last nights episode was awesome. The players have been away from their friends & family for 3 weeks. It was cool of the show to fly in someone for each of the people. It relieved some major stress and let you see a different side of everyone.

Unfortunately I'm no closer to pinpointing the mole than before. And DAMMIT Jennifer got axed. I wanted her to win the whole thing. Now my current hope for winning is Jim. Here's my current breakdown of the contestants:

  • Charlie - Yes (mostly) - He didn't do anything mole-like this time. In fact, when it seemed like they weren't going to get the double cash they decided to settle for the regular money rather than take a chance and lose everything. The producers of the show can definitely slant each episode so you suspect a different person each time.
  • Jim - No - There's just no way Jim's the mole. In fact, he's my pick for the next person to get axed, Murphy's Law and all. Seems like the person that is most obviously not the mole each show gets kicked off. In a way this makes sense though. The person who is obviously not the mole has to decide amongst everyone else when taking the quiz. On the other hand, everyone else can automatically eliminate that person from consideration, making their quiz easier.
  • Kate - Yes (mostly) - Like Charlie, she redeemed herself a bit in the first challenge. However, she insisted on swapping with Jennifer on the meet-your-friend challenge. That seemed kind of odd.
  • Kathryn - No (mostly) - I still just get honest vibes from Kathryn. Maybe I just sympathize with her since she's engaged to be married and I just got married (just? it's been 6 months, how time flies).
  • Steven - Yes (a little) - Steven is still a question mark. He didn't seem too distraught over failing to get to the hotel in time. Maybe the show is not focusing on him as much because he *is* the mole and they don't want to tip him off.

13 Feb 2001 - Finally

I figured I should post a bit of info before my Mole update tomorrow. I'm avoiding just about every news site about the show just in case someone leaks the outcome.

I FINALLY finished Zelda last night. Holy mother of video games, that last battle was one of the hardest things I've encountered in a while! Luckily I happened to have all 4 of my bottles full with fairies. I ended up going through 2 of them before catching on how to beat that last guy. Thank goodness for the shield! Now I can go back and finish up the side quests I missed (with a little help from GameFaqs.com). I was only missing one mask at the end so there's not too much to do.

Next: Shenmue

14 Feb 2001 - Mole update

I'm going out on a limb here. Rather than give impressions of the four remaining contestants, I'm going to flat out predict that the mole is Steven.

It's not that I know for sure, but I want to put a stake in the ground. Steven is always quiet and suspicious looking. I'm guessing that Charlie actually *is* a cranky guy. The way he snapped at Kate and called her fat just rubbed me the wrong way. I hope he gets axed soon. As for Jim, the producers definitely wanted you to suspect him this episode. I'm not falling for it though. With Kathryn, she seemed to fumble with the gun on the first challenge, like she was really trying to shoot the guy.

If either Jim or Kathryn is the mole then they would deserve an Emmy for their acting performance. To be honest, I would rather the mole be Charlie because I don't think Steven has done anything especially subtle or sneaky.

On the other hand, that's how I would play it if I were the mole. In any group of people there will be conflicts. As the mole you can just sit back and let those conflicts take over and let the suspicions fly.

I don't know what the mole gets out of playing the game. I suspect that we will be told at the end that the mole gets whatever money they prevent the group from earning. Still, what's the incentive for the mole to remain hidden? I still haven't figured that one out.

21 Feb 2001 - Whew!

I felt like I would be eating my words until Charlie got offed from the Mole last night. Playing the cranky guy would have been a great cover, but it turns out he *was* a cranky guy. So Steve it must be, or else Jim and Kathryn are both bang up actors. Of course they have to draw it out by making it a two-part finale.

Worked a bit on the texturing code. It's not quite ready for prime time, but it's getting there. We're heading to Los Angelas this weekend so no coding will get done then.

26 Feb 2001 - Mole finale

The Mole finale is tomorrow and Wednesday. I hope they don't do a cliffhanger thing between the two, but I'm not holding my breath. I read that the one on Wednesday is just a reunion of the contestants so it's possible they'll reveal everything tomorrow. Speaking with some friends this weekend, they believe the Mole is Kathryn. Should be interesting :)

As predicted, I didn't get to programming. I'm getting rather frustrated with myself at the lack of progress. I have so little free time now that it's difficult.

1 Mar 2001 - Holy cow!

No friggin way! Kathryn was the mole and Steven wasn't as dumb as I thought :). She played it almost perfectly I must say. She certainly duped the heck out of me.

Whew! Life can go on now that that's out of the way :)

6 Mar 2001 - Weekend

I systematically went through the 5 Namco classic discs and played every game I hadn't already (and a few I had). There are quite a few gems on those discs. Bosconian, Grobda, and Tower of Druaga are great games I never played in the arcade. I especially like Tower of Druaga since it has that Dungeons & Dragons feel.

Game Progress I made some progress on the texturing code again. Shouldn't be long now before I get a non-optimized version up and running.

13 Mar 2001 - "Vacation"

We spent the weekend at a cabin near Yosemite with some friends. Should have been a great opportunity for some gaming, but it didn't happen. There was some Ready 2 Rumble 2 action, but I'm not a fan of the game so I didn't partake. It was fun to watch though.

My French class ends this week and I'm probably not taking it again next quarter since it ate up a lot of time. Three hours of class plus another three-or-so hours of homework a week. Not very condusive to other activities.

I've found nearly all the heart pieces in Zelda. When I finish that I'll go fight the last boss again and call it quits for the game so I can start playing Shenmue.

15 Mar 2001 - Streets of Rage 2 vs Streets of Rage 3

Once again I ran across the list I had made which details what Dave and I thought are the good and bad points between Streets of Rage 3 and its prequel. Streets of Rage 2 is the best game of the type we have played. It's still fun today - I recently broke out my Genesis and played through the game.

Dave and I had high hopes for its sequel. When SOR 3 came out we had mixed feelings about it. They improved some areas while made others worse.


  • Esacpe holds w/o using specials - In SOR2, certain enemies could get you in a headlock and the only way out of it without getting hit was to use your special move, which consumes a small portion of your life. SOR3 fixed this by allowing you to perform a techinique that was in the original Streets of Rage, but removed from SOR2. It lets you flip the baddie over your shoulder.
  • Use specials w/o losing life - Each character has two special moves - one when they are stationary and one for when they are moving. In SOR2 performing either one subtracted a portion of your life, even if you didn't hit anyone. In SOR3, while the moving special always consumes life, you can charge up the stationary one and when fully charged it will not take life.
  • Throw enemies off edges - This is another feature brought back from the original SOR. Throwing enemies off a ledge will kill it instantly. While not very fair to the enemies, it makes fighting dozens of enemies at once a bit more doable.
  • Falling off edges does not kill you - While throwing an enemy off an edge will kill them, it will only damage you. Not very realistic, but it makes for a more playable game.
  • Rolling up and down - By double tapping up or down your character will roll in that direction. Very useful for evading enemies quickly.
  • Running - Double tapping left or right will make you run in that direction. Again, very useful for escaping as well as providing a vehicle for special moves.
  • Roo - The kangaroo was just cool.
  • Weapon uses (double moves) - I'm not sure what I meant by this comment.
  • Picking up weapons revamped - Previously in SOR2 to pick up a weapon you stood over it and press the attack button. While it works well, if you are carrying a weapon and are standing over another one on the floor, trying to attack an enemy will cause you to constantly swap weapons with the one on the ground. The new scheme gives a special button for picking up weapons.
  • Ninja bosses - Not sure what I meant here either, but I suspect they were cool.
  • Enemies pick up weapons - Previously when you knocked a weapon out of an enemies hand it would never pick it back up. In SOR3 they do which makes things more challenging, but not in a bad way.
  • Use of 6-button controller - More buttons let the designers stay away from having make players hit multiple buttons at the same time to perform actions.
  • Don't have to "special" bosses to death - In SOR2 the only way to beat bosses was to use your special moves, which consume life.
  • Background effects - When you slam a baddie into the ground various objects in the background will shake or react. Bottles fall off shelves, chains rattle. Neat.
  • Graphics - Improved over the already great SOR2.
  • Variety of enemies - Lots of different ones.

They didn't get everything right though.

Bad things:

  • Enemies inflict too much damage - While bosses are expected to kick your ass, just your standard punks shouldn't take off a third of your life with a single hit. Very frustrating.
  • Skate - I hated the character Skate in SOR2 and I still hated him in SOR3. Get rid of him.
  • No Adam or Max - I always played Adam in SOR and Max in SOR2 mostly because they were the hardest hitting characters. Neither made a return apperance in SOR3. Boo!
  • Falling knife dudes - They must be annoying if I wrote this down.
  • Enemies pick up your food - Talk about frustrating. You have a life-replenishing turkey sitting nearby which you will take as soon as you get close to dying. Then some baddie walks over and eats it instead! What the hell were the designers thinking? The ultimate in frustration!
  • Lack of hard-hitting sound FX - The reason why I played as Adam and Max is for the bone-crushing sounds their moves make. I cringed whenever Adam planted his baseball bat upside a punk's skull. And Max's backbreaker? Magnificent! By comparison all the attack sounds in SOR3 are weak and hollow.
  • Music quality is lower - No memorable tunes here. Just a lot of repetition.
  • Shorter game for 50% larger cart - There's only 7 levels in SOR3 compared to 8 in SOR2 and yet the cartridge is 50% larger. What gives?
  • Plot? - While you can skip the cinematics between levels (which are nothing more than slide shows), they shouldn't even be there to begin with. Let me get on with the beatin' already!
  • Level with ninjas (too many of them) - It must have been bad if I wrote it down.
  • Inconsistent life bars for identical enemies - One enemy will have a short life bar and another of the exact same type will have a humongous one. What gives?
  • Use of "x2" instead of stars for enemy life - In SOR2, if an enemy has more life than can fit in one bar, the excess is given by stars. One star means one extra bar of life. In SOR3 they changed the stars to a multiplier. Not bad, except the numbers are hard to tell apart. "x2" looks like "x3" and "x4" looks like "x1". Fix the font at least.
  • Difficulty tweaking - It seems they made the game more difficult by increasing the damage enemies do rather than making them smarter or more aggressive.
  • Unblockable hits - Attacks such as Roo's special where he sends out a flurry of punches or the boss Soozie's attack where she slaps you quickly. They're just annoying and frustrating.
  • Sound cutting out - Didn't happen in SOR2, shouldn't happen here.
  • Guided missile can't hit robot - Maybe they did this to make the robots harder, but it just makes it more frustrating.

At the bottom of the page I also included some suggestions for future SOR sequels:

  • 3+ player action - The previous games were always 2-player. Let us play with more friends at once!
  • Alien locales - While the title of the game implies that you're fighting on the streets, I'd love to battle some alien baddies.
  • Bring back Adam & Max!
20 Mar 2001 - What the heck

Sometimes you just gotta try. I'm currently making my audition tape for the next season of The Mole. I know the chances are small, but I figure they're better than winning the lottery. And you never know...

26 Mar 2001 - GDC - sort of

GDC was last weekend and while I didn't get to go this year (VML didn't have a booth) I did meet up with Bob Shand and Nick Ferguson. I met Bob and Nick through the Yaroze program. While the program has mostly died out now, we have continued to keep in touch. In fact I probably see those two more often than my own sister. Sorry sis!

I finally got my Mole audition tape done on Sunday. My wife helped me out quite a bit as the first attempt I did was quite dull and boring. I plan to digitize it and post it at some point, but probably not until after the selection process for the show is done. It's probably just paranoia, but I wouldn't want to get cut just because I made it available on the web.

29 Mar 2001 - You are dead. Try again.

I got into Tempest 3000 a bit last night. I'm pretty lousy at it, but it's still fun. I recently learned the advantages of hovering as I finally passed level 30. Too bad you only get new passwords on every odd level. I died on 31 and had to go back to 29 again. But at least I know it's possible!

I sent my audition for the Mole via certified mail with return receipt so I will know when they've received it. I just found out that the deadline has been extended until May 1st so I probably won't hear anything before then. (If I hear anything at all.) Even if I don't get on the show it'll be cool watching the next season knowing that it could have been me.

I've been playing Grim Fandango off and on lately. Fun game - AWESOME voice acting - so-so puzzles. A couple puzzles I've solved just because I tried stuff, not because I knew it had to be done. Still, the story and voices are so great I'm just having a ball.

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