Gaming…Way too much..

But for some reason I still enjoy it.

I had gotten into Halo 3 Multiplayer (Ranked Team Slayer Matches) for a couple of weeks. After a while it started to wear me out (and began to feel very repetitive) so I stepped back, read some books, relaxed, and played other games. I have yet to play it again despite having spent more than a month away.

That does not mean I haven’t been playing games.

This month has turned out to have several new releases that I was interested in. The first was Super Mario Galaxy, which as the reviewers have stated, is the first true Super Mario game in several years. It mixes old styles of Mario gaming with new ones and includes several nods to older games (such as music from Super Mario Bros 3). It’s a fun game and an easy one to just play off and on without feeling one must dedicate a lot of time to.

The other game I was anticipating is Mass Effect, which I can’t accurately describe. Last weekend I watched a special on the Sci-Fi Channel that promoted the game and I was very impressed with what I saw. So impressed that I went out and purchased it. The level of realism, especially in the characters and character interaction, is astonishing. I can’t really describe it other than to say that the designers achieved what they were seeking. This is an adult science fiction story that the player controls. Every action has a consequence, even the dialog chosen. It’s massive and will require many hours to work through.

Wireless Home Audio Notification System

My job often requires that I check on my e-mail from time to time outside of regular working hours. It’s just part of the nature of what I do.

Several months ago I was given a different kind of cell phone to use. Not only did this one have better reception but it also had the capability to check my e-mail. Of course, that developed into a bad habit of frequently checking my cell phone at night and on the weekends. Often when I checked there wasn’t anything new that needed my attention, but there have been several times that I did need to respond to an e-mail or take action on something after hours.

What to do? I still needed to know if I received an important e-mail but I didn’t want to have to think about it constantly.

For the past few months I’ve been thinking about finding a way to have audio play from my Mac in another room to speakers in the living room. One option was to try to send standard computer audio to my home theatre receiver. A problem with that method is properly converting the signal to a different wire type and ensuring the signal would not degrade over the distance from one room to another. That wasn’t insurmountable but the other problem was. The second problem, which was the reason I didn’t run it to my receiver, was very simple. If I ran the audio into my receiver that meant in order for it to work properly I would have to leave the receiver set on a specific input. While that input is in use I wouldn’t be able to use others, which meant I couldn’t have the system working and watch a movie or listen to a game in surround sound.

Before spending a penny on this project I abandoned that concept rather quickly and instead started to look at wireless speakers compatible with a computer audio output. Those were not difficult to find, but the prices were higher than I thought they should be.

In the end, I journeyed to the local RadioShack. At first the only option was a pair of 900 MHz wireless speakers that cost about $200. The cost was more than I wanted to work with. However, after browsing around the little store for a while I stumbled upon a wireless audio transmitter/receiver set for about $70. It still wasn’t cheap but I liked having the flexibility to use whatever set of speakers I chose.

While there I also picked up a Y splitter for the computer (so I could still use the desktop’s primary speaker set) and an inexpensive three-speaker set to setup in the living room.

To sum up a rather long post I was able to get it to work using the transmit/receive set (only with audio – I ignored the USB connector) and the cheap speakers. I was not able to get the signal to work from the far wall of my bedroom to the opposite wall of my living room. In fact, I was only able to eliminate noise (usually seemingly random ‘pops’) and establish a constant, clear transmission by placing the units within line-of-site of each other (despite the fact that they are radio based). I also had to tinker with my wireless router settings. I suspect much of the problem with getting the signal cleaned up can be traced to a number of wireless routers in my area, which operate on 2.4 GHz (the same frequency as the transmitter/receiver). I also suspect that the composition of my walls is partially responsible for dampening the signal.

Now, I don’t have to think about checking my e-mail. I have a specific notification sound for general e-mail from my work account and some sounds that play only when I receive e-mail from certain people or when certain events happen.

It’s nice not having to think about my e-mail constantly.

Update 08/28/2011: The wireless home audio notification project has been revisited (and works), though I’m not using it for e-mail notification.

Overlord (XBox 360)

A while back (perhaps last September) I purchased Overlord. In the game the player controls the Overlord, who has been recently awakened to reclaim his territories and rebuild his castle. The player can choose to be Good or Evil, which affects the final outcome of the game. During most of the game you control one of four types of “Minions”, which you send forth to do your bidding (whether it’s attacking or simply finding items). Mastery of various types becomes important later in the game but initially you’ll only have Brown minions, which you’ll later use to acquire other minion hives and complete various activities.

If you’re going for Achievements on an XBox 360 make all Good or all Evil choices. Somewhere in between will not unlock either achievement tied to your level of “Corruption”.

Also, after I had acquired all three smelters and forged Archanium armor, weapon, and helmet I focused on increasing my imbued Minions and hording Minions for later use. I don’t know if it’s an effective strategy with lessor armor or earlier in the game but after I acquired Ultimate Archanium (and imbuing the items with almost only Brown Minions as recommended on other Web sites) I learned that the fastest way to build up Minion energy was to go into the Dungeon and fight the various types of Beetles. Each Beetle, when defeated, will drop three orbs. After each battle in the Dungeon I typically had acquired 75 orbs, which was much faster and easier than hunting in two areas of Mellow Hills over and over and over again. Also, I was able to take on several Beetles at once to quickly finish the round.

Earlier in the game you may still want to use the Dungeon but if your armor and weapons are not as strong I recommend approaching the creatures you’re fighting from the side of the arena to draw out only a few or even one creature at a time. Running straight into a horde of creatures, even with full armor and weapon is often not a great idea.

Typically, at my final level of power I was able to take on four or five Beetles at the same time without much difficulty. Larger numbers become a bit more troublesome and begin to cause more damage but may still be manageable.

In fact, by using the method mentioned above I was able to level up all of my armor, weapons, and helmets easily within one night and store up Minions for the last two battles in the game.

Despite spending many hours playing the game and enjoying it I don’t think I’ll go back to get the Good or Evil achievements. The game required too much time the first time around to convince me that it’s really worth trying to get every little Gamerscore Achievement point. It was fun, especially earlier in the game, but I have other interesting games to toy with.