October 2004


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Archive for October 24th, 2004

Mechwarrior: Mercenaries and the MekTek patch

Posted in Reviews on October 24th, 2004

What better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than blasting your buddies to smithereens with massive weapons?

Today the boys and I sat down to a happy little fragfest in Mechwarrior: Mercenaries. The title is a stand-alone release that plays alongside Mechwarrior 4: Vengeance – you can load this game all on it’s own, or if you have any of the other MW titles installed, it will import your pilots and mech designs. (Including the Mech Pack expansions.)

The game includes the usual gamut of new mechs and new weapons over the original, and also cleans up some of the game play errors from earlier iterations of the game. Mission play is entertaining, of course, with the background story here being…oh, who am I kidding? The real reason to buy this game is to hear the sound of your pal’s bacon frying when you blast him with a PPC.

Now, to get the absolute most out of this game, you want to download the official patch from Microsoft, then go and download the unofficial patch from MekTek. These guys took it upon themselves to fix all of the little things they knew MS would never get around to, and expand the game to their own tastes. They know how to twiddle bits, and they think just like I do when it comes to this game: give me bigger, badder weapons and mechs with which to blow up my buddies.

The MekTek patch provides new maps, weapons and new mechs, as well as goes through the existing batch to fix problems with game balance. As a bonus, many of the ‘new’ mechs are just updated versions of older ones that MS retired for whatever idiocy. All are welcome additions to this favorite title, and give you a vast choice in arsenal and style. From teensy a 20-ton scout that goes 170 kph up to 100-ton behemoth weapons platforms that barely manage a jog (but carry enough firepower to level Tokyo in seconds).

Best of all, the prices of the game have dropped again. You can now go out and pick up a MW4: Vengeance / MW4: Black Knight / MW4: Mercenaries boxed set for $20 at your local retailer. For another $30, you can grab both of the Mech Pack Expansions, and the MekTek downloads are free. So, for the same price as a new-release game, you can get an entire universe of toys with which to wreak mayhem upon your friends and co-workers. If they don’t play, there are always games running on-line for you to join.

And if you ever get pummelled by Gauss Rifle rounds while you’re jump-sniping over a ridge, it was me :)

Flying Hamsters of Calontir

Posted in Geekery on October 24th, 2004

Ok, so it’s really rat-based, but it makes for a good headline if you’re familiar with the song.

A story at UF News tells how some folks at University of Florida dumped a clump of rat grey matter into a petri dish loaded with electrical connectors, and wouldn’t you know it, the whole blob grew itself into a neural network, establishing neural connections through trial-and-error, all on it’s own.

When DeMarse first puts the neurons in the dish, they look like little more than grains of sand sprinkled in water. However, individual neurons soon begin to extend microscopic lines toward each other, making connections that represent neural processes. “You see one extend a process, pull it back, extend it out – and it may do that a couple of times, just sampling who’s next to it, until over time the connectivity starts to establish itself,” he said. “(The brain is) getting its network to the point where it’s a live computation device.”

To see what this new mess of brain cells could do, they hooked it up to a desktop PC and ran a flight sim. Lo and behold, the fucking thing learned to fly a jet. In rough weather.

Now, they don’t go into tons of juicy details here, but the evil genius in me is going overtime on the possibilities.