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December 27th, 2009

Time to dig out

It finally stopped snowing this morning.  Can't really tell how much snow we got because it drifted so badly.  There are patches where you can still see the grass peeking out, and other areas deep enough to drown a Great Dane.  Nearest NWS spotter reported 15 inches.

The mysterious stranger with the plow came around again, but although our front gate was wide open, he didn't continue inside; he just plowed up to the gate and stopped.

I went out briefly today to measure the depth of the snow drifts.  There's a massive drift running more or less down the length of the driveway, about 30 feet wide and nearly 200 feet long.  When I started climbing into it, it only measured about 24 inches deep and the snow was pretty firm about half way down, so it was fairly easy to cross.  But I forgot the ground slopes downwards on the other side of the drive, so about half way across it started getting deeper and softer.  When the snow swallowed my yardstick, I knew I was in trouble.  I had to lay down in the snow and scoot my way across.  By the time I managed to make it back into the house, I was soaking wet and exhausted.

Looks like the Ratmobile will stay in drydock for a few more weeks, at least.

I hope the whole winter isn't like this.

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KotOR

Steam was having a sale on a bunch of stuff, including Knights of the Old Republic for just $5.  The KotOR engine is the basis for Mass Effect, a game I really enjoyed, so I grabbed it right away.

Bug City.

I don't know if it's Steam's implementation or if it's the game itself, but I had to do so many hacks and tweaks to make it work.  If the game had been more than $5, I'd have been fuming.  To make it work mostly correctly, you have to run it in XP compatibility mode, run as Administrator, disable visual themes, desktop composition and display scaling, edit the ini file to run the game in windowed mode, you have to disable some of the graphics elements in the game, and you have to change resolutions twice after starting the game, just to make it run without crashing.  And I'm far from being the only person having these problems, the Steam forums are FULL of complaint threads.

I finally managed to get the game to work, only to discover it's not anything like I expected.  I thought it would be a first person shooter, like Mass Effect, but it's not, it's a graphical RPG.  You use FPS-like movement (except it's third person) to get around in the game, but when you enter combat, everything becomes automated.  Just like a paper RPG, the action pauses, you issue your instructions and the computer acts as GM, rolling dice and determining what happens.

You ever laugh at the line, "only Imperial Stormtroopers are so precise"?  That's exactly how this game is.  The majority of the characters (including my own) can't hit a target even at point blank range!  If you've got your blaster pointed square at someone's chest, how can you possibly miss?  REPEATEDLY?!  Fortunately healing is very easy (especially once you have a Jedi with the Cure power), and as long as at least one of your party is still standing at the end of a fight, everyone else gets up again with 1 HP.

It does have a lot of the game elements later used in Mass Effect, like zillions of side quests, upgradable weapons and armor, having to pick just two teammates out of a pool of several, running around in a city/space station just talking to people, even the good/neutral/evil dialog options.

Once you get the game to work, it's very engrossing (I played it for nearly 12 hours straight yesterday).  And at $5, it was an absolute bargain.

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