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Journal: Cinema 4D - Mine at last!

Well a week or so ago I finally bit the bullet, plunked down the Cdn $950 (plus taxes, shipping...), and purchased my own copy of Cinema 4D R8 Core.

I finally received it two days ago (heh well it seemed like a long time - waiting for it to arrive was like waiting for Christmas). So far I have been duly impressed - going through the 5-8lb manual (ah nice to finally actually have documentation!) I discovered that the core version has more features than I thought - ie: it has some particles (there is an extra 'Thinking Particles module with very advanced particles), and bones complete with IK ('Soft IK' is part of a more advanced animation module).

It's both liberating and daunting as I begin working with this package. Actually, daunting is an overstatement - I really love C4D's interface...the daunting part comes from the sheer amount of stuff to master.

This program seems far ahead of 3ds MAX R4 in many ways, although 3ds had some better modelling options in some cases. The rendering engine is sublime - I was worrying needlessly by not opting for the 'advanced rendering' package (although you'll need it for Caustics, Radiosity/Global Illumination, and Depth of Field which one can usually work around anyways).

I am impressed so far :)

User Journal

Journal: Cinema 4D!! 2 2

Well earlier this week I took the plunge and ordered Cinema 4D R8, core version. I'm really looking forward to the package arriving! (Probably next week as I am going through a VAR first)

I've been going through the demo a fair bit and have made some neat looking stuff, but of course I can't save so I'm limited in my projects. Even so, the rendering engine in C4D is most impressive.

3ds MAX was certainly a formidable program, but charging USD $3000 is just plain greedy IMO. Maxon was really quite brilliant in putting out a 'core' program (I got mine for CAD $950 - not exactly peanuts, but a real bargain considering the features and price when compared to other packages). I certainly hope that Maxon, who have been getting rave reviews doesn't follow in Discreet's footsteps.

So what will I be missing? Well the things of concern to me where the advanced render package - so no caustics or radiosity - now these are some nice lighting effects. Caustics models the reflected, distorted light off of objects like gold watches etc. Radiosity is a processor devouring process that simulates the reflected lighting of objects - it can produce a fair bit of realism. I can live without these effects for now - and they'd probably get in my way to start anyways (because it's always fun to play with SFX, neglecting basic modelling).

I won't have particles or their very cool fire effects either. Same arguement why this may actually be a good thing to start. Other missing bits are advanced dynamics (which is so fun to play with) and the full Character animation suite - which may actually be missed eventually.

Found an interesting site as well: Renderosity.com They have message boards, galleries and all sorts of stuff to do with 3D. You can even sell prints of your work there. It's quite interesting to go through the galleries, especially by rendering package to get an idea of what you can do. I must say though, that I'm bored with Poser pictures already...Anyways it's nice to have a place to display and discuss your 3D (and actually 2D or photography-anything computer related artwise) artwork with other hobbyiests.

I even have two pics up: A quick model car and an even quicker train picture. Heh both done without being able to save and taking a screenshot of the demo renders...

Graphics

Journal: Cinema 4D?? 2 2

I spent a few years learning 3ds MAX R3 and then R4 including a few Morrowind mods. Problem is I no longer have access to it and it costs about USD $4000 to buy! And I refuse to pirate it. So I haven't really been doing any modelling etc. for a few months.

I've been finding that I miss it! Not the Morrowind modding so much - Morrowind mods are fun for viewing your creations and animations, and seeing them interact. But I just like to model and see what I can create etc. To add insult to injury about the time I realized I wouldn't be able to do 3ds anymore I'd just created a very nice scorpion model - the joints etc, the thing was just moving in a very cool way (using forward and inverse kinematics) - it was almost spooky to watch it move. Then poof no more MAX :(

So what's a hobbiest to do? Well I purchase 3D World magazine etc., and then really realize that I miss doing 3D work. Then in one issue they have a review and a demo of Cinema 4D R8 - now C4D seems to have more features than MAX, and the demo runs well - I've been looking into some pricing and damn, this things only costs USD $595 for the basic package.

The more I play with this thing, the more I like it. I think I may actually pony up the dough, if I can convince my wife anyways, and go out and buy C4D.

Anyone out there had much experience with C4D?

User Journal

Journal: Sleeper Playstation 2 hit? War of the Monsters!

Well I was really down to the wire - EB lets you exchange a game if you don't like it one time - they give you two weeks. This is actually quite generous compared to most places which basically refuse to exchange games at all (though I suspect you could return an opened game to Wal*Mart with a sufficient stink given their 'official' return policies...) I had picked up Hearts of Iron and while with most games I know within 20 minutes if I'm going to have to return a game, with HOI I was down to the last day before I decided it wasn't the game for me.

Anyways Master of Orion 3 is a no show thus far (probably end of February at this point), Soul Calibur 2 is two seasons away and I really wasn't sure what I was going to pick up. However last week there were some rumblings on gamerankings.com about War of the Monsters for PS2. I had glazed over that release, thinking it was just Rampage 3D. But at some point I clued into who the developers were...Incognito, and thus brought to mind their previous track record:

- Twisted Metal
- Twisted Metal 2
- Critical Depth
- Twisted Metal: Black

(games that stood out for me anyways, particularily TM2 and CD) Then I realized just what War of the Monster was: Twisted Metal with Monsters!!

Now TM2 is a 'college classic' with many hours having been burned away playing single and two player games (right up there with Star Control 2 or X-Com it was). So now my interest in WOTM had increased and finally, having an exchange to do anyways, decided to take the plunge and bought WOTM.

So far I am very happy with my choice! WOTM is like a breath of fresh air to me in some ways, it's light hearted overall and a blast to play. Twisted Metal Black was qutie difficult and a bit dark for my tastes (though coincedentally I'd been plunking away at it for the last few weeks) - WOTM is just plain fun. Grab your monster, beat the crap out of another monster all the while destroying real estate. You can throw cars and gas tankers, skewere opponents with radio towers and cause large chunks of debris to fall on their heads. If someone throws a car at you and you have a girder in your hand (or similar) you can whack it away baseball style! Or you can play catch, and hurl it back at them!

The whole game has the atmosphere of an old monster movie flick from the music to the levels. It's just a joy to play! The melee attacks are a bit redundant when compared to say, Virtua Fighter 4, but this game is about exploiting the levels and exploration as well as clobbering other monsters. And being the developers that they are, Incog has went all out with creative levels.

Haven't gotten too far yet, but so far WOTM seems to be a great action movie. It might be worth checking out for TM fans!

Games

Journal: Rygar: The game that could've been a Classic

Ugh, don't you just hate it when a game seems like it's just on the virge of getting things right and then screws it all up with a few stupid mistakes? That's Rygar.

The game should be a whole lot better than it is. It starts off well, decent graphics and sound, old school gameplay, a bit of stat building/treasure hunting built in. It's basically a Zelda type game (old Zelda), with more weight placed on Final Fight style fighting. It's got some run and jumping and the fighting itself isn't half bad, featuring combos and blocking. You can collect various power-ups and items. There are save points, but they are quite liberally placed throughout the levels. You also get level maps. The boss battles so far are fairly well done reminding me of old games like Rygar (heh), Mario, and various shooters like Thunder Force III - you know the type - watch for patterns, find the weakness and use your super attacks where necessary. There seems to be a fair amount of exploration.

If this what I got, I'd be happy and would've probably given Rygar 8/10.

*BUT* now comes the bad news:

    Camera angles. Rygar uses a Resident Evil/Onimusha/Devil May Cry type of camera system. The levels aren't static and the camera will often pan around with you in pre-determined ways (like DMC - I never played DMC, but the action and cameras seem to be similar to what I've seen of it). If the pre-determined cameras had been set up better there wouldn't have been a problem. But Rygar features some absolutely bone-headed camera work. I just can't believe how stupid some of the angles are - there are many times where *YOU CANNOT SEE YOUR CHARACTER*. This includes times where you are trying to jump up to higher platforms or even over pits! Now maybe this would've worked if you could at least switch temporarily to a first person view and look around (like in GTA:VC). Nope, no such luck here! Not only does this lead to some very frustrating moments as you grope blindly about, it makes some of the hidden areas seem quite cheap - many of them are hidden only because of the dumb-arse cameras - they in-game Rygar is probably staring straight at the "hidden" area, but you the player, will never see it. Okay knock this sucker down from 80% down to 70%.

Cameras contribute to a control problem as well - often times you'll get a camera in the middle of an area and a resulting view switch as you walk-through. This can be quite jarring, but also adds a gameplay problem. Say you are walking North, up the screen, the camera switches and you are still walking North, but North is now facing down the screen - however you are still pushing up on the controller, so Rygar turns around and heads South again - so you hit the camera point once again and everything flips back. This can easily happen two or three times in a row! It can be quite frustrating. Knock off a couple of points there too.

The other majorly annoying thing is the lack of direction. Often you just plain don't know what to do, and the game isn't sharing any secrets. I'm not going to dock the game to harshly for this, as some people may just enjoy this type of puzzle solving. Personally, when combined with the camera angle problems, it makes playing Rygar a maddening endeavour. If I hadn't received it as a gift (as opposed to buying it on my own nickel from EB), I would've been sorely tempted to return it for a refund.

The whole situation just plain sucks. Here we have this game that should've been great but it is just mired down with it's camera problems. We've had 3D games with workable cameras since Mario 64 or Tomb Raider- what is so hard about getting cameras right? Add to that the control reversing, the opaqueness of gameplay, and the odd slow spot and this game is somewhat hard to recommend. Rygar shows much potential and polish in other areas which makes the problems even more upsetting - truly it could've been a classic gaming experience.

I'm giving it a 6/10 even. I kind of wish this game was on PC so I could hope for a patch. If you are the more patient type and are yearning for some old platform/action gaming action this game could provide some enjoyment. Personally I would rent it first, or at least by from a store that accepts returns. Having said all of this I eagerly await Rygar II - assuming they can correct their mistakes.

User Journal

Journal: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City 1 1

Time for my take on GTA:VC. Yes it's a rave, I think most people can't help but rave about it. It's truly a classic game. Ah what a grand game this is. I've been playing for a few weeks now (got it maybe a week after it came out), and for once a sequel delivers! And it's out only a year after GTA3 no less.

What makes this game so great?

freedom - my wife likes watching me play because she can have a whim of 'do this', and usually I can do it. This is the core of GTA. It defines why the game is so long lasting and addictive and also why it is so controversial.

I mean it's not like the game forces you to drive a semi into a crowd full of people, then get out and fire a rocket at it to make sure they're all dead, then mow down the people to rush in and see what's going on. I haven't seen a mission yet that requires you to get your helicopter hovering just right so you can cut people apart with the rotors.

Sure there are violent missions, but really nothing more violent than in any given movie or other video game. But it doesn't stop you from executing every psychotic fantasy, and I think just about everyone can see the humour and, yes enjoyment, that comes from performing these acts in a fantasy world on their TV, and that probably disturbs them. If people don't like this, then why are reality TV shows so popular? (Real TV, Ripley's, etc.)

Now added to the freedom to do various things and go places, they've removed a lot of the penalties that other games enforce. There is no game over, and if you fail a mission you can always try again. Sure sometimes you may wish to reload instead of requipping, but that's about it. This reinforces the freedom in the game, becaues you can be in the middle of a mission, see something you'd like to try and start doing something else, knowing you can try again later.

Depth: Okay you've got the freedom to go whereever you want in Pacman's world - but there's no place to go! GTA gives you lots of places to go - well really you could probably drive around the whole city in less than ten minutes, but there's so much to see and do packed in the city limits that I doubt if many people would ever complete a circuit without getting distracted by something

There is even a fair bit of flexibility in most of the missions, even when they have strict requirements for success. For example there's a mission where you have to rub someone out at a golf course. The golf course doesn't allow weapons and is guarded by a metal detector which will make you drop your weapons when you pass through it. The game suggests using a golf club, which you can certainly do; although the bodyguards are quite tough and the guy drives off in a golf cart in the mean time. I found chasing him around in another golfcart to be quite annoying. After a couple of attempts I decided to try something a bit different - I 'activated' the mission (run through a pink marker) at the golf course, but then didn't proceed through the metal detector. I got back in my car and drove up to the gate and managed to jump over the gate off of the car....I was now inside the golf course with all my weapons! I decided to really push things - I took a manual aim weapon and sniped the guy while he was practicing his swing - and the mission was a success! Many other games would not allow such activities, or if you found a way to do it a different way it wouldn't work out right. Many times in Vice City you can try a different approach. It's really quite liberating - I could also have entered the golf course by boat or helicopter if I'd thought of that. Heck maybe i could have hovered in front of him and slashed him with heli blades :)

(Structured) Activities:

- finish the main missions
- finish the optional missions
- purchase businesses and finish missions for them
-- collect cars
-- deliver 'ice cream'
-- get rid of the competition
- Race cars, boats, and bikes
- Find crazy jumps and stunts
- Go on kiling rampages
- treasure hunt for some 100 packages via land, sea, and air
- become a firefighter
- become a paramedic
- become a taxi driver
- deliver pizzas
- become a hitman
- become a vigilante

That wasn't a full list by the way, and it doesn't begin to describe every mission and activity in the game. Then there's the unstructured stuff - crusing the streets checking out the radio stations, causing accidents, flying helicopters, causing mayhem

The Details

To top it all off RockStar has put a fair amount of polish on what is in the game. The details really add up - blowing out tires, trees bending from the downdraft of helicopter blades, weather effects, comments by citizens, police radio traffic, several radio stations of actual 80's music plus amusing talk shows, nice cut scenes and an okay story. It's amazing some of the little detals you'll find in there

The negatives

It's not 100% perfect yet! There are still some annoying things - missions that are frustrating, the odd control or camera problem, etc. But on the whole there is little to complain about while you are playing the game. The tough missions are softened because there's always something else to go and do for awhile until you're ready to tackle the mission.

Well there you have it, yet another positive overview of GTA:VC. If you don't have it, buy it! If you don't have a PS2, this may just be the game that should put you over the edge and get one - there'll be plenty of other games to play as well once you finish it! Heck the next GTA could be out before you hit 100% (you can finsih the game after a fair amount of play but it doesn't end at that that point- to do *everything* is quite difficult)

User Journal

Journal: The day approaches

Hmmmm Linux seems to swing ever-closer to the day when I actually use it. Really it's just a matter of time now.

I've been sniffing around Mandrake and checking out Red Hat (which I actually installed once a few years back, but didn't really go anywhere - and I needed the PC for something else hehe).

Between all the reviews of distros, etc and news of what now works, it's just a matter of time before I pickup a box from the store (that being simpler for me, then trying to figure out how to make an ISO, etc....although I may download for Mandrake or something yet...)

Even more interesting - while troubleshooting our P.SQL database I noticed that P.SQL has a Linux server (and presumably client). The entire ERP system that I administer runs on P.SQL... interesting no?

The main obstacle in my way is lack of games. But seeing as I can still use Windows, I can get around that for now. Plus this issue is slowly resolving itself anyways.

Another obstacle is the intimidation factor - there are so many distros and such, and I've been a DOS/Windows user my whole life (except when I used C64, Amiga) - it sucks thinking about the propsect of going from a guru level Windows user to a know-nothing newbie.

We shall see...

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