Monday, March 13, 2006

Also: A Picture

I mentioned the game Galactic Civilizations 2 and its 3D ship maker. Well here's my favorite I've made so far. I didn't, of course, model out all the parts, just put them together into the shape I liked and added the engines, weapons, and shields. It's a lot of fun. Amusingly, on one forum I read, someone compared it to Barbie Fashion Designer for strategy gamers.

Cool "Mad" Science

This is one of the cooler things I've seen in a while. The crazy scientists at Sandia National Laboratories have created the hottest plasma ever seen by man, and hotter than the cores of stars, even if only for a moment. The picture in the above link shows the ridiculous levels of electricity used to create the plasma.

In other "mad" science, NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter recently arrived at Mars and successfully completed its first burn to place itself in orbit. This orbiter will be aerobraking, which means that it will dip into Mars' outer atmosphere on each orbit to slow itself into a circular orbit. This orbiter will be mapping the surface of Mars a various spectrums and great detail, and has 10x the bandwidth back to Earth than any previous mission to Mars. It's not only a cool mission, but a Mars communications platform for the next decade (at least) of exploration there.

Also, NASA's popular probe Cassini has discovered what appears to be liquid water geysers on Enceladus, a small moon of Saturn. Unlike what some people in the media reported, this is not really evidence for life there, but only for a possibility of life as we know it. NASA's not asserting anything about life, so far as I can tell.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Turn-Based Strategy

It's been a while. I don't think anyone's reading this yet, but I figure I should keep posting at least for my own benefit. I've never been good at journals and such.

Recently, I've been playing turn-based strategy games. This is one of my favorite super-genres. I've gotten rather long play time out of many games in this category, such as Master of Magic, Master of Orion (2 mostly), Alpha Centauri, Civilization (3 mostly), X-COM, and so on. I guess I usually play 4X strategy games, which is what most of the above are.

So, a few months ago, I picked up Civilization 4, the latest in that venerable series from Sid Meier (sort of). It's really rather good, though it's taking a while for them to fix the bugs. It's got the best graphics of any of the Civ games, for however much that matters. It also seems to have decent battle resolution that makes sense, making tanks beat spearmen any day (except when the tanks are at <20% health). They've added better borders than the ones in Civ 3, and improved the government types.

It seems like these games keep pulling more and more from Alpha Centauri. That game is pretty close to ideal, but with a somewhat crappy engine. I wish someone would make a new game more in that style.

I've also picked up Galactic Civilizations 2, which is a space-based 4X game, along the lines of Master of Orion. It's made by what seems to be a small, independent development house, which is interesting. It feels a bit more like Civilization than Master of Orion did. I'm not sure entirely what I think of it yet, as I'm only learning the game. However, it's got an advanced 3D ship designer that's pretty impressive. You can make just about any ship you want, visually or technologically.

And now it's time to go to work, where I'm bouncing between projects. More on that later.