Go Supersonic!

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Thanks.

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Bungie’s Marathon Home Movies, Resurrected

Here is a 26 minute making of, found on the Marathon Trilogy CD-ROM*, hidden as an invisible file inside a folder containing Bungie’s first game, Gnop. Nowadays it’s harder than ever to dig into a Mac Classic OS 9 CD-ROM and watch this clip. So I’m posting this here. For posterity and because long before Halo hit the mainstream, Bungie brought many of us joy with the Marathon and Myth series.

As if you’re going to watch a 26 minute video featuring a hoard of young game developers making one of the best all time game series for the Macintosh. Many of these same folks went on to make Halo, which even takes place in the Marathon universe.

It appears that this tiny bit of gaming history has been widely forgotten, or it was never seen much in the first place. As of this writing, there is one searchable mention of it here, which is probably where I found out about it back in the day.

Highlights include:

  1. The bug list was written on a Dominos pizza box lid
  2. “The Shaft”
  3. Jason Jones miraculous hair, better than the average developer
  4. Comments on Quake by Jason Jones
  5. Crazy Mac OS 9 (aka Classic) crash dialogs we all forgot
  6. Fat CRT monitors (shot with a video camera unable to sync to the slow refresh rates)

A young Alexander Seropian, founder of Bungie.

A young Douglas Zartman, the voice of Bob.

Jason Jones

The Shaft, a PVC implement that appears fearsome

Unprotected memory equals hard crash dialog boxes

Bungie made many games beyond Marathon, was bought by Microsoft, then released to be independent again after the success of the Halo series. Many of the core individuals in this clip no longer work there. If nothing else this is a great reminder of the hard work and challenges that a small company endured to ship what has become one the more beloved games on the Macintosh platform.

Download the clip here: Marathon Home Movies

Notes: the original clip was 240×180 pixels and encoded in the now nearly forgotten Cinepak video codec. For modern playback I converted it to an iPod/iPhone/iPad/Playstation 3/etc. compatible H.264 clip.

*Yes, I still have the original Marathon Trilogy box. I never used the stickers either.

Update: Bits of footage from this appears in an hour-long 20th anniversary video.

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The Problem With Improvisation

The problem with improvisation is, of course, that everyone just slips into their comfort zone and does sort of the easy thing to do, the most obvious thing to do with your instrument.

Brian Eno, from a Pitchfork interview

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Fallout New Vegas, Week 2 Impressions

I’ve played a little bit of Fallout New Vegas almost every day in short spurts since it launched about two weeks ago. My takeaway is that New Vegas is much truer to Fallout 1 and 2, in a very good way. The writing, environment and myriad of not-so-black-and-white factions and alliances feels like playing the original games, especially Fallout 2 where some quests had bleak outcomes no matter what choice one made.

I’m not going to comment too much on the infamous stability of the Bethesda RPG engine other than to say that I’ve played Fallout 3 on a Playstation 3 and late in the game suffered lock-ups, slowness, etc. I found my own workarounds along with the occasional console reset (something you should rarely do, if at all). New Vegas has the same engine and seemingly the same bugs, but it feels faster of the developers adjusted the timing on the UI for the better.

The game quest or script bugs are one thing (we’ve already had one patch with 200 fixes), the engine bugs are the worst part of the revisited Fallout games. Bethesda has probably developed itself into a corner by building a massive system that never got a good foundation. From what I’ve read it appears that New Vegas PC users have had the worst experience so far. Fallout 3 left the PS3 users in turmoil, so something changed with this port. My PS3 experience has had two hard locks-ups, one during loading and another early in the game when I was about engage in combat with Powder Gangers for the first time. A few cosmetic glitches have existed with some of the character meshes, but nothing that has stopped me from playing. Here’s to more patches, especially if it’s true that New Vegas has already sold 1/3rd more than Fallout 3.

On to the game itself; I’ve seen some comments on forums that the story/scenario isn’t interesting because there are no historical landmarks (other than the Hoover Dam). What we do have, and what is so much like the original games, is a lot of long walks with surprise locations that have more connection to micro quests and characters than Fallout 3 did. I’m OK with that after exploring far too many Fallout 3 metro tunnels and buildings that felt the same and had no point other than to extend gameplay without adding anything to the story. Fallout 3 was still a good game but here we have a sequel that isn’t dropping the ball.

This isn’t an urban map. New Vegas is the most urban area in the game (so far) and is much smaller than the Washington D.C. area. The shacks, buildings or camps that you stumble upon in the Mojave desert are more special or interesting — or they seem that way — simply because there is more space in this game. It’s still more of the same Fallout 3 mechanic of collecting trash to sell or use, but the sameness has a bit more going for it because of the details with the added concoctions you can make from picked flora and fauna. There is less useful junk out there too, though some of it can be used to make something useful if you’ve got the know-how.

The side quests seem plentiful as well and so far there seems to be less backtracking when doing small quests. Granted, I’m really playing this game by jumping all over the place because it’s harder to get past the combat-specific quests than Fallout 3 was. It didn’t take long for me to become an invincible badass in F3, but so far I’m having a hard time keeping decent armor or ammunition for more than a few game days due to the changes in New Vegas. Sure I can make ammo or repair what I have, but you gotta have built up stats to do this, so you have to level up more even if you are toting some kick-ass weapons.

I have found some great guns early on but ammo just isn’t easy to come by so I’m using more melee attacks to get out of sticky situations such as entering an abandoned motel room only to find it full of Bark Radscorpions. As such my favorite weapon so far is a freaking huge heavy super sledge simply called “Oh Baby!”. And it is. I was about to sell that because I thought melee combat in Fallout was a joke, then I got attacked when I thought I was somewhere safe and had no ammo to speak of. Out came “Oh Baby!” and seconds later I was victorious like never before. So perhaps the melee combat is worthwhile now. There are new perks associated with it so I may give that a shot if I ever play through the game again.

Getting “Oh Baby!” came after walking a long, long way up into the mountains to deal with what seemed like a minor quest. In typical Fallout fashion this minor quest triggered several others, all in a remote area that seemed like it had little to offer. The walk was epic in first-person-shooter terms, I got attacked very little for the amount of game time I was traveling by foot – there were plenty of side paths I could have explored but I was literally miles from anywhere so I wasn’t keen on stumbling into a hidden vault filled with ghouls, especially since my best armor is a spacesuit. Somehow this was satisfying, but I know many gamers are probably hating this sort of thing (to be fair you only have to do this once). The sensory deprived long walks are really great for pacing and it’s not like you’re doing nothing, there are tons of natural ingredients to discover and you’ll need them to make chemicals.

So New Vegas is harder, which is good. The extra challenge isn’t all combat related – the quest choices aren’t easy to make sometimes. I’ve racked up more unfinished quests because I’m not always ready to commit, as if I’ll get over the thought of siding with somebody I detest later on just so I can say I completed the game (I probably will). Also, many quests get hard suddenly and have to be put on hold while you work out more than one requirement, often related to stats you didn’t think you’d need. This was true in Fallout 1 and 2 as well, so I’m feeling the love.

It’s been fun so far – bugs aside.

And one last thing, the mentions of previous Fallout 1 and 2 events are great fun, my favorite being the Deathclaw that is locked in a shed in Fallout 2 that you find early in that game and (hopefully) kill. I won’t give this away, but the explanation for that Deathclaw being there is revealed and it’s a pretty funny little story.

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HTML 5 Now

The big difference with HTML 5 compared to HTML 3 or 4 is that it’s still in draft form yet already supported in many browsers.

Then you have to consider that HTML5 gets mentioned in mainstream tech news, partly thanks to Flash issues with mobile devices or more specifically the Adobe vs Apple spat. I don’t recall any mainstream buzz about web technologies that came before it. We’ve turned a corner it seems.

HTML5 has already gotten more momentum than any previous web standard I’ve ever used. And CSS3 is right there with it. I’ve heard that HTML5 is “not going to happen” (unnamed Android developer I know) and I respectfully think he’s wrong. The snowball is already beginning to roll.

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iPad Irony

Apple's iPad is a touch of genius versus Why I won't buy an iPad (and think you shouldn't either)

As seen within the masthead on Boing Boing.

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UDP Port 4310

Who would’ve thought that I’d have to open up UDP port 4310 on a Sonicwall firewall to get IMAP working on a new Windows Server 2008r2?

All was fine with the same server software on an old Windows 2000 Server behind the same firewall. We’re talking about moving a DNS record and a few gigabytes of user inboxes here, not having to diagnose a completely new non-standard port.

As usual, no decent site exists for explaining just what port 4310 really is. Most search results are link bait or lead to useless sites. Note: I even consider Experts-Exchange useless.

One of these days I’m going to start an actually useful IT site or forum if this keeps up. Even Microsoft’s own Technet is riddled with 404′s and badly written content for most of the admittedly obscure errors I’ve run into over the years.

Anyway, port 4310 is for the “Mir-RT exchange service” which I assume means Exchange (the Microsoft email server). Makes sense until you consider that I’m not using Exchange at all. All third-party this time. Apparently that port had to be open on our firewall to get normal IMAP with SSL working on a Windows 2008r2 Server. If this is standard in any way nobody has it documented.

Until now.

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