Monthly Archives: September 2011

Luke’s First Trip

Well we just got back last night from Wichita.  Luke’s first real road trip.  It’s about a 2 hour drive to Wichita, and he slept (like a baby) all the way down there UNTIL we got off the interstate.  We had to pull off for a detour for road construction and he just cut loose for the last 10 minutes of the drive until we got to Andrea’s sisters’ house.

He just has no tolerance for slowing down, haha.  On the way home, Andrea was driving and I sat in the back seat next to his car seat.  He would zonk out… until we hit a red light.  He’d bawl and bawl, then once we started going again he’d calm down.  Hit another red light, same thing!  It was so funny.  Once we got on the interstate doing 70mph he was out for good.

All in all he traveled pretty well.  We had to stop once on the way back so Andrea could feed him, and after he had a full tummy, he again slept great all the way home.

It was nice to see everybody.  Always seems like so much running to see everybody when we just go back for a weekend, whether it to Wichita, or Cimarron.  But it’s always worth it.

Through the years

Here’s my gaming setup through the years.  Luke has so much catching up to do!

1987ish?

This setup started around 1997 and this picture taken in 2002. Including the gaming systems, I still have a few pieces in use today.

2004 saw a significant upgrade in the sound system.

2006

2008, new TV!

 

2011, the most recent incarnation.

 

Bad Ball Joints

We took Andrea’s car in to get an alignment, and they said they couldn’t align it because one of the ball joints were bad.  Ball joints aren’t too expensive ($25 each), so I told ’em I’d fix them myself and bring it back.  Instead of just doing one, I figure you might as well do ’em all.  After all, all four are 24 years old and if one is wore out, you can bet the others are close.

Basically the ball joints are the two points your front wheel pivots on when it turns, but also pivots when the wheel goes up and down over a bump.  It’s a lot like your hip or shoulder with a ball and socket design.  The job isn’t too hard to do, but it does require some special tools.

So with all the tools at my disposal I set off to get the job done.  I started out by using the pickle fork to pop the ball joint apart from the steering knuckle (the part where the wheel is).

 

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A Look Back: Perfect Dark

The wait for this game was excruciating.  Perfect Dark was the true sequel to GoldenEye 007 on the Nintendo 64.  Most of my readers already know how much time I spend playing GoldenEye, and probably even attended one of the eight GoldenEye Fests.  007 came out in August 1997 and it would be (after numerous delays) three long years before Perfect Dark would see the light of day.

I’d had this game pre-ordered for quite some time I recall.  And as release day would creep closer and closer… inevitably it would be announced that development was behind schedule and the game would be delayed yet again.  As I patiently waited and followed insider impressions and reviews… it was becoming clear that the Nintendo 64 was aging and now closer to the end of its prime than the beginning.  In 1998 Sega released its next generation Dreamcast system.  That same year Nintendo announced the successor to the N64, codename “Dolphin” later known as the Gamecube.

Perfect Dark was looking good in previews. But I was starting to wonder if I'd ever get to play it.

Finally, on May 22, 2000 I finally was able to get to the store to be one of the first to pick up my copy of Perfect Dark!  The game had finally materialized and instead of reading about it I was going to PLAY the game!  Was it going to be a worthy sequel to GoldenEye or would the departure from the James Bond universe kill the game?  All these thoughts were running through my mind as I rode home from the store.  In these days game releases were big deals for me.  I made sure I had a couple days off of work, and my good friend Paul was coming over that following weekend for some good old multiplayer action.

One of my favorite parts of getting a new game is watching the opening sequence.  Perfect Dark’s is great.  It’s simple and only 30 seconds long, but watching it after waiting three years to play the game… it’s enough to make you positively amped.  I don’t remember much of my initial impressions of the game, though I assume they were glowing.  What I do vividly remember is Paul coming over to play and we played absolutely nothing but multiplayer Pistols matches until the sun came up.

The coming of Perfect Dark meant the end of the GoldenEye Fests.  Though just like PD carried on the spirit of GoldenEye, so the Perfect Dark Events carried on the spirit of the GoldenEye Fest.  Though nostalgia can color GoldenEye the better game, in reality Perfect Dark was better in every way.  There were so many more options to customize multi-player matches.  More characters to choose from, you could mix and match the heads and bodies.  But probably the coolest addition to multi-player was the addition of profiles.  Where it would track your stats and allow you to name yourself something other than “Player X”.  These additions brought everything I always wanted to GoldenEye’s multiplayer and more.  If only I could have ALL the classic GoldenEye maps available with such great flexability!  That alas I suppose I’ll never see.

Reproduction of the Perfect Dark Event 3 banner. My last and largest tournament.

So here it is, 11 years later.  I dusted off the cart for the next re-review.  Without recalling being too attached to any data on the cart I wiped it clean so it was just like pulling it out of the box in 2000.  I’ve been playing a lot of N64 recently so adjusting to the blurry graphics wasn’t too difficult… but one thing I couldn’t handle, was Hi-Res mode.  The visual improvement was marginal, but the decrease in framerate was too much to handle.    I just couldn’t deal with the choppiness of hi-res mode and decided to play normal mode.

I played clear through the Single player campaign, and enjoyed the varied level design, though the story still seems pretty goofy.  Introducing aliens though did open up the possibility for some pretty interesting weapons, and I’m almost convinced that’s the sole reason the developers went that route.  Story aside the gameplay is solid.  All the mission objectives make sense.  You get to use cool gadgets and devices in addition to just shooting things up.  Occasionally it’s not quite clear what you have to do to progress to the next objective, but truthfully that makes it a little more interesting.

After the N64, I really never continued playing First Person Shooters.  Interfaces and controls have evolved greatly since Perfect Dark, but one of the things I always wondered why it didn’t stick around, was Perfect Dark’s weapon select.  In the heat of battle if you wanted to switch to a different weapon, instead of tapping ‘A’ until your weapon pops up, you simple hold the ‘A’ button and a quick menu pops up, then just tilt the control stick the direction of the weapon you want.

Weapon selection is innovative and intuitive.

Multi-player is where it’s at though and I could seriously play this forever.  There are so many options and the gameplay is so refined.  This is as good as it gets on the N64 when it comes to multi-player.  Of course I don’t have anyone to enjoy the game WITH anymore… luckily Perfect Dark give you the option to add Simulants.  You can play against computer players of varying skill level from “Meat” all the way up to “Perfect”.  You can have sims that prefer using shields and defensive abilities to stay alive.  Frantic seek and destroy.  Or just balanced all around sims.  It makes not having any friends a little easier!

My feelings about Perfect Dark today are probably quite different from most others who are fans of the FPS genre.  After this I shied away from them because I pretty much got my butt kicked.  And after doing a whole lot of butt kicking in GoldenEye and Perfect Dark… I didn’t take it too well.  Therefore I look at Perfect Dark as a highly polished shooter that just makes a ton of sense on every level.  There’s not much I’d change about it.  GoldenEye is still my favorite… just because of the nostalgia… but when I’m ready for some multi-player, it’s Perfect Dark all the way.

3DS

Well I dunno what to say about this one.  Sometimes people just do extraordinary things for no reason.  A buddy of mine, got ahold of me a few days ago and said, check your mail in the next few days.  I sent you something.  Turns out it was a brand new Nintendo 3DS!  I’d seen these in the store and thought they looked pretty friggin amazing, but they were out of my price range.  So for him to just send me one is… baffling for one… and totally awesome.  I hope someday soon I can return the favor.

So basically it’s the standard DS, but with some very siginifcant enhancements.  Most obviously the upper screen is in true 3D.  It takes a little getting used to, but after a while you adjust to it and it is pretty amazing how well it all works.  And no glasses required!

Another welcome addition is the analogue thumbstick.  It’s like a compact joystick that really works rather well.  Nothing against the ole D-pad, but this is what’s kept me from enjoying some of my old N64 stuff in portable form on the DS.  Speaking of which, they’ve already remade a few N64 titles in true 3D.  Zelda, and coming out soon… Star Fox 64.  Gonna have to sock away some cash for those now!

The 3DS borrows a lot from the Wii.  You can make Miis, and there’s an online store where you can buy (or find free) software.  They have a virtual console where there’s all sorts of retro Nintendo titles available.  And you can get online and play multiplayer with friends.

Of course right now the only other person I know that has a 3DS is the one that gave me this one!  But after spending some solid time with it and playing PilotWings Resort.. I HIGHLY recommend the 3DS to anyone, especially since they just had an $80 price drop!

New Shoes

Got new tires for the Cutlass. You know me… I dig whitewalls… but it’s not my car. Haha.

I’m Still Just a Kid

Well one of the things I was worried about was that after Luke got here, I wouldn’t have time for “the old me”.  You know the geeky, obsessed nerd that I am.  That’s entirely not true.  If anything I’ve learned that if I’m going to sit down and do something, just make sure I’m easily interrupt-able.  Running GW missions with friends probably isn’t the best idea anymore since nobody wants to stand around in Yak’s Bend waiting for me to finish changing a dirty diaper.  But playing some N64 is super easy, because you can just pause it whenever.

Been playing a lot of Nintendo 64 lately.

I’ve actually been playing a lot of N64 over the past few days.  I ordered a replacement thumbstick for my worn out green controller.  While not exactly as advertised, it’s a very nice replacement.  More like the GameCube version on an N64 controller.  It was only $8, so I’ve been putting it through a Mario Kart torture test over the past two days.  It works well enough, I’ve been able to tie one of my old records, and now have a mild case of Nintendo Thumb.  So far it’s holding up pretty well.

I can’t wait to introduce Luke to a bunch of this stuff.  Although I know that when he’s older, all the games are going to be so much cooler, that his interest in this old stuff probably won’t be that great.  Though the nephews were over last weekend and had a blast playing the old N64.

I’ve spent a lot of time on eBay lately looking at cheap stuff to fill in my collection.  I’ve got this hairbrained idea that I know enough about this stuff to be able to find good deals and could buy low and sell high.  Not enough to make a ton of money, but enough to support my gaming habit.  Haha!  Andrea’s not too enthusiastic about the idea though.  I guess that’s understandable.

I just see a lot of cool stuff on there.  Like brand new original N64 controllers (which are regularly going for $100 a piece now!  Geeze).  I definitely couldn’t justify taking hard earned money to buy one, but if I had play money from selling crap on eBay might make it easier to pull the trigger.  I realize most folks have a LONG list of stuff they’d rather spend a Benjamin on but that’s the stuff I get a kick out of.

So I decided to focus on what I DO have instead.  Which is a pretty nice collection as it is!  I stumbled on a new website, called Backloggery.com it’s similar to IGN’s old collection feature, but it helps you keep track of not only what is in your collection, but the games you’ve beaten and the ones you haven’t.  It’s very retro themed, and a fun way to organize my games.  So far 105 games owned, 35 unbeaten, and 35 on my wishlist.

Since I’ve been so recently entrenched in my gaming vice I decided it was time to go ahead and finally unpack a bunch of my Nintendo stuff from when we moved it.  I set it up all nice and neat in the basement.

Nintendo and Friends. We're both crazy.

Ready for multi-player action, but all my friends grew up. Haha.

So I’m definitely enjoying the holiday weekend.  Tomorrow I’ll be outside getting the Oldses shined up since it’s going to be another nice day.  Maybe after that my Nintendo Thumb will have recovered to the point I can lay down some times again!  Haha.