Saturday, January 22, 2011

Tigers in My Pants

I've been telling this tale a lot lately to co-workers, but I don't think I've intimated this tale to any of my readership (if I have one), so here it is.

It starts in the year 2006 when I was doing my Basic Training, well on my way to being an actual military member. I was in my cubicle (we lived in these 9 by 9 foot boxes strung along a circular (kinda) corridor similar in design to a prison) minding my own business when a guy comes along and says to me, "Hey, Carey, you wanna put some Tiger Balm on your nuts?"

I look up at him.

"Do I look stupid to you?"


"No. Are you going around asking everyone that?"

He just shrugs, walks over to the next cubicle and says, "Hey, Cloutier, want to put Tiger Balm on your nuts?"

"Fuck off!"

So, he continues on down the line. Eventually, as I sit polishing my boots, I begin to hear this high pitched screaming. He found a guy. The screaming gets louder as the guy in question rounds the corner wearing his boxes, holding his balls and screaming. Felix. Not the brightest guy and now he's hurting for that lack of intelligence.

I hear someone yell, "Hey, Felix, put water on it! It'll cool it down!"

All I can think is "Oh no. Oh fuck no."

You see, if you know any form of chemistry, often times water acts as a catalyst, speeds up the reaction. So, Felix, taking this ill-intended advice, runs into the washroom. And the screaming rising an octave or so. I could not believe it. He comes whipping out of the bathroom, face red, eyes watering, balls being crushed in a vice-grip with wet boxers and then a loud shout pierces the halls: "GROUP!"

When an NCO comes onto the floor, the first person to see the NCO must come to attention and yell group alerting all persons that the NCO is present and that they too must come to attention. So, the NCO comes around the corner and sees Felix standing there, fidgeting at attention, jerking up and down like he's having a seizure while standing up.

"What the fuck is your fucking problem, troop?"

"I- I- I- h-have T-t-t-tiger B-balm on m-muh-my nuts, S-s-uh-sergeant."

At that point all of us begin to snicker, holding in laughter. The NCO looks around, eyes scanning above the cubicle walls at everyone standing at attention. I can only imagine what was going through his mind as Felix stood there fidgeting with Tiger Balm on his balls, but he said after a short pause, "Carry on" before leaving the floor.

Felix slumped into a pile, shiver and shaking as he cried for his pain. So, remember, if someone asks if you want to put Tiger Balm, or Icy Hot (a later incident involved this to much the same development), just say no and save yourself the pain.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Gran Turismo 5 -- Shoddy, But Maintained with Love

Originally posted Monday, January 17, 2011

When I read on Joystiq that Gran Turismo 5 was going to be released on the 24th of November, I was anxious, if not a bit excited. I wanted to believe that that release date would be true, but too many delays made me a bit cynical. However, my long wait would be over and I'd get to play the game from a series that got me into video games. Gran Turismo, the original from back in 1998 was the whole reason I got my first job -- to buy the original Playstation so I could get the game. And boy, did I play the fuck outta that game. Oh, there were bouts of anger and rage, to be sure, as I wadded my way through the horrendous license tests. But you know what? I endured them and got nothing but gold.

Fast forward to this year, in 2010, and I've been playing GT5 for more than a month, on and off. A few hours here, a few hours there. Suffice to say, my experience isn't what I hoped it'd be. While the game itself is a good racing game, it isn't a great racing game. There are far too many hiccups along the way that turn what could potentially be a great game into a mediocre simulation racer. And even then, in some parts, the simulation part is lacking.

My first experience with GT5 was finding out that there was a forty-five minute install to play the game. You of course have the option of not installing and playing right away, but installing lowers load times -- load times that are already thirty seconds to a minute in length when you've actually put the effort in to actually install the game onto the PS3s HDD. The second thing I note isn't just load times, but a menu system that detracts from the game.

An example would be this. I want to change cars. I enter my garage [1], select my car [2], cycle over to the 'change car' [3] -- and wait for the engine start up noise, which stops my ability to move the cursor, hit the cancel button [4], which takes me over to the 'exit' button -- or I can cycle over to the exit button -- which I then click to exit [5] the car screen which takes me back to the garage screen [6]. Hitting circle again [7] takes me to an exit button -- or I can again cycle over to it -- to click on it to leave the garage [8]. So, to change cars, I'm expected to make anywhere from six to eight button change cars. There is another option, though, and that's pressing triangle over the car you want to change into, which brings up a menu allowing you to select 'change car'. The end result is that the button presses end up being five instead of possibly six to eight. Barely faster.

And just changing cars, which is a trial, isn't the beginning. Races are split into A and B-Spec modes. Not like in GT4 where you could just B-Spec a race from that race, it is its own particular mode (and as an addendum, you cannot speed up B-Spec races like you could in GT4, so a grueling 24 hour race is still a grueling 24 hour race). Furthermore, to get to the races...well, you need to cycle over to either A or B-Spec mode, click that, cycle to the Beginner through Expert series you want, click that, cycle through the nine possible race serials they have, click that, and then depending on the race, click that. About four button clicks...if you're in the correct car. If not, back to the garage to get into the car you need. Luckily, they were kind enough to put a garage button at the race menu, but it still requires those five to eight possible clicks to get into that car. We haven't even started racing yet...

Racing is as you'd expect from a Gran Turismo game. The graphics are pretty and polished (even the standard cars, despite others complaining of 'horrible' graphics). The feeling of speed is excellent. The sensation of the car driving along the road is good. As a racing game, Gran Turismo 5 excels. But it is the hardships required to actually get into that race that detract.

The AI, though? Well, it's as bad as ever, following the stringent master racing line to the letter. It will not deviate. You can park your car front and center of that line and every computer controlled car will ram you because it must not stray, lest Kaz become angry. This works well in your favor, as the races are for the large part extremely easy if you know what you're doing. As for B-Spec, this changes things up, because your driver will be just as retarded as the rest of the AI to the fault that it is. If anything, B-Spec is the headache of the game for me, and merely for completionisms sake do I continue with it despite it manifesting all of my hate.

Probably one of my biggest gripes with the game is with the new-fangled, and I don't say this lightly, bullshit level up system. Why in the hell would I want RPG elements in a racing game? What possessed the Polyphony Digital team to put this there? I'm not allowed to buy a car or race in a race because I'm not the correct level yet? I never really needed to grind in any previous Gran Turismo game, merely going from race to race without care or worry, but now, now I must grind to earn, to unlock, that race and that car, and the money to buy the car. Now, I can understand unlocking stuff. That's standard. Gold this race, get this car. But ... earn this many points to increase this bar to gain this level to earn this race to be able to buy the car to race in that race to win the race to win a car that won't ever be used for anything else... And, I do mean that half the cars you win in the game are useless. They will never be used for anything. If anything, they will be sold. And you can only earn the prize car once, which means you must now grind for money. The license tests, which used to be the measure for which races you could enter, such as a "you must be this tall to ride," aren't even necessary. At best, they give you a car. At worst, bragging rights and a trophy/achievement.

Now, before I wrap this up, there are also a couple tie-in elements. Rally, NASCAR and Top Gear. In my opinion, the only thing that should've been kept of it all was Rally, since it's been with the series since GT2. NASCAR felt like a bolt-on, and the Top Gear TV show tie in is just wasteful in my opinion. There are of course a few other quirks about the game that give me something to rage about, but I think I should leave off with this:

So, to finish, bad AI, unnecessary RPG elements, bad menu system, great graphics, good racing... The end result is that if you're a fan of the series, you like it. If you like racing in general, same thing. If you're new, I'd suggest passing it up for something else. Polyphony Digital needs to work on their product.


You know, when I was talking about GT5, I lapsed over two very glaring issues. The first being the license tests, and second behind the special events. Now, with the first (the license tests being absolutely unnecessary this time around except for getting a car and bragging rights), there are a number of tests that inspire my unfathomed hate. This being any of the tenth challenge to these tests, which usually involves some kind of over-take scenario where you start in last and must get to first, all within one lap. It sounds easy enough in theory, but the actual practice of it is mind-bogglingly retarded! Touch the walls? Disqualified. Touch another car, a special car? Disqualified. Touch an average car while braking? Disqualified. Touch a car while accelerating? Disqualified. Have the AI set to its rigid "perfect line" path ram you? That's right -- disqualified. The entire scenario plays out like an attempt to make it utterly impossible to win. You can win. I have. I've read on the forums of people winning against these odds in only a couple tries. My first attempts were met with much failure and a whole lotta rage.

Of course, with the special events, it's like license tests...only they're races, and yes, there are disqualifications. All the same ones listed above. But you can't just have normal styled races when they're called special events, so you have to make them interesting by forcing people to race in things like NASCAR or go-karts or specialty cars with less than fifty horsepower that drive slower than a grandma taking a nap going over a cliff. The only up-side is the rally events, which are difficult until you discover one minute detail: turning off traction control turns what could potentially be something difficult into something absurdly easy. As for the go-karting, I figured out the twitchy nature of the machine and began to enjoy it...somewhat. But that isn't saying a whole lot.

As a last aside, I absolutely hate the "new car" animation. Whenever purchasing a car or winning a car (after using a ticket in the new car delivery menu), you get this absolutely stupid animation of the car starting up, turning on its lights, and driving forward all of two feet. Upbeat music plays, and I swear I can hear some roid-raging body builder screaming like Joe off Family Guy, "YOU WON A NEW CAR!" And this happens, even if you win a stupid piece of shit vehicle with barely fifteen horsepower that could never be raced under any circumstance. Yeah...won a new car indeed. An example?

Wolf: A Cube X!?

Yeah, that happened.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

My Day Was Good

Lies and slander.

I started my morning pissed off the moment I walked in the door at work. I was told by the only other person in the store, who showed up about ten minutes before me (myself already ten minutes early) that the truck I was arriving before 5 AM to unload would be thirty to forty-five minutes late. The reality was that the truck was an hour late. This meant I had to find things to do before the truck showed up... But that wasn't hard when I soon discovered that the garbage compactor bin that was supposed to be re-delivered to the store last night at 4 PM hadn't shown up.

So, all the departments in the store, with all the common sense of a mole with its head bashed in by a mace, thought it'd be hilariously funny to dump their garbage at the farthest end of the store, the receiving bay, so as only stink up that area and effectively blocking off the area.

Well, now I've got to clean up the garbage from multiple departments and pile it onto pallets to get it out of the way for when the truck actually, FINALLY, shows up. My milk order showed up before my actual, true order shows up. So, I've at least got something to do at 5:30 other than paperwork after cleaning up the trash.

When I finally get the order offloaded, more than an hour behind schedule of where I actually should be at, I find out that I've been shorted a number of necessary items. So, not only is the truck late, the bin not there, a mess in my receiving bay -- I don't have all the items I had ordered to plug holes in shelves and there's a head office tour coming on Thursday.

My day was great. What about yours?