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April 2nd, 2006 - Adventures in Engineering
The wanderings of a modern ronin.

Ben Cantrick
  Date: 2006-04-02 08:19
  Subject:   [MeFi] Lego Worldbuilder 2
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http://www.lego.com/eng/create/activities/worldbuilder2/

Surprisingly difficult and addictive. You'll probably get frustrated if you jump right into it, because this one is the sequel, and assumes you already know how to play. Play World Builder 1 just for a level or two so you get an idea what's going on. You'll need Macromedia Shockwave; plain old Flash won't do it.

The music is obnoxious as heck, turn it off from the "Menu" (upper right). The window you view the map through is way small and there's no way to zoom. You can pan around with the arrow keys instead of clicking the black arrows around the edges of the window. It's still annoying, but better than trying to use the mouse. There's a (postage stamp sized) map of the whole level in the upper-right corner just beneath the menu button. You can click on it to move the viewpoint rapidly.

The level pictured above is level 10, "Crossing the River". I spent about two and a half hours on it without even noticing! There are several really sneaky little tricks you'll need to use to win this one. Unfortunately, they don't seem to give you anything special if you get all the bonus goals. This would make a pretty good PSP game, or even good console game if it were revamped a bit for better visibility. Surprisingly deep for a flash game.
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Ben Cantrick
  Date: 2006-04-02 23:20
  Subject:   [Digg] The Cell Factor: an FPS with 2 million percent more real-time physics.
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Apparently putting CPUs on our graphics cards that often out-clock our main CPUs is not good enough. Now we're supposed to plunk down $300 for an add-in card (PhysX corp's "Ageia") that accelerates physics computations. So that we can, um... throw around fifty times more crates. I'm generally loathe to bash anything that makes life easier for game developers, but remind me again, how is this making gameplay more fun and interesting? Didn't Half-Life 2 do this better, with less CPU cycles?

(Someone at the Digg story commented that rigid body/rag doll physics is not a particularly hard problem anyway, and he'd like to see more hardware focussed on something like what Jernej Barbic and Doug James are doing at CMU. Check out the falling load of baskets at the bottom of the page. Though again, one has to wonder if this is really going to make games way more fun.)

See also: Crysis, a potentially interesting Halo/Far Cry mashup by the CryTek guys. (Crazy-realistic screenshot.)

In other gaming news, a Tomb Raider: Legend demo is available. Hope you have a fast net connection, it's 476 megs.
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