Black Mesa

Part of last week’s pre-panda gaming time was spent playing Black Mesa. I can’t believe that it’s actually out. To be honest, I had always assumed that it was the type of game that would just vanish into oblivion. I remember being really excited about it over 5 years ago and then really disappointed when I realized the project was most likely vaporware. Needless to say, I am very pleased to be wrong. To those who live under a rock: Black Mesa is a third-party Half-Life 2 total conversion modification that faithfully recreates both the experience and spirit of Half-Life 1.

Black Mesa isn’t just a cheap half-assed remake. The fact that a fan mod is effectively being treated as a ‘normal’ game is a testament to just how much care was put into recreating almost every single magical moment. Black Mesa also accurately captures the original aesthetic for better or for worse. On one hand, I don’t think that fans would have it any other way. On the other, staying this true to the original design serves to highlight outdated level design techniques (mostly the lack of reasonable proportions in certain areas). Then again, the whole point of the project to understanding was to repolish not completely remake every aspect of the game. Regardless, it’s amazing how fun Half-Life still is, especially considering its age. There really aren’t many games of that age, particularly first-person shooters, that are even playable nowadays.

I was impressed with the quality of most the voice acting. Though to be honest: I most more pleased that the voice acting wasn’t outright terrible like virtually all projects of this sort. The added dialogue is also decent and for the most art blends in with the original content. The music is fantastic, even though the mixing is a bit off. One annoying thing: I really don’t remember if the original game was like this but for whatever reason the vertical jumping speed in Black Mesa is set really low to the point where you have to literally crouch jump over almost everything. If this also bothers you, it can be changed by editing a config file.

If you are looking for a nostalgia run or if you’ve never had the pleasure of playing the original half life, now is your chance.

Mists of Pandaria: Day One


Two miracles happened today when logged into WoW (thus ending my approx 6 month hiatus). One: My user interface didn’t explode and utterly break as expected. Aside from a few errors and missing elements (my holy bar had vanished…), I didn’t have to do much of anything other than download an updated copy of my addons (against my better judgement I used an addon updater because I am lazy). Two: There were no server problems or queues on Proudmoore when I had logged in during prime time on release day. I downloaded the updated last night, logged in when I got home from work this evening, played, logged out when I was done. No queue, no serious lag, no server crashing. I’m not sure if that means anything anymore, but release days have traditionally been somewhat of a nightmare for past expansions.

I am half way through level 85. I did one of the starting dungeons shortly after logging in, leveled in Jade Forest and did the other starting dungeon. Had an absolute blast playing with friends again, which is really what much of the game is about for me; Good times all around. Jade Forest is a gorgeous zone by the way, hard to imagine that a game approaching it’s 8th year can look this good! Not planning on rushing to level 90 to raid as I did with past expansions. I think that I am looking forward to taking my time for once and not rushing through everything to stay on level with everyone else. Also, I don’t think I can really commit to a hardcore or even just a 2 to 3 night a week raid schedule anymore. I would love to raid again with a regular group at some point though.

Totally forgot how to play my paladin which was interesting considering that I was invinited into an instance right off the bat. Yay muscle memory! Also, I may actually go tankadin again this expansion but we’ll see.

Video: Airsoft 7/28/3012

So airsoft is my new favorite outdoor hobby. Dave, who has been doing this for a few years introduced me to it about 5 or 6 months ago. We go to Mr. Paintball once or twice a month, schedule pending; It’s not super close to us, but it’s a great field to play on. This video is a compilation of about 3 or 4 matches in the CQB area:

The footage from the field matches we played earlier in the day didn’t turn out so well. Apparently I wander around and stare at the ground a lot. I shot this video before I mounted the GoPro on the helmet mentioned in the previous post (headband would slip occasionally). Too lazy to edit it more or clip out the not so interesting bits in which all I do is repeatedly hide behind a box (i.e. most of the footage).

Unfortunately, since this was shot towards the end of the day the GoPro ran out of juice. Blurry parts on the top-left of the screen were from me touching the lense while dicking around with the camera. The random strands flying across the screen would be hair.

Airsoft GoPro Helmet Project

I had a big helmet cam itch since Dave got his Contour Roam a while back, so after some deliberation I ended up purchasing a GoPro HD Hero 2 a month or so ago for the sake of filming airsoft games and what not. I almost bought another Contour Roam, but I really wanted a camera that had a removable battery, an external mic jack, as well as the ability to use standard sized SD cards (I have a lot of those laying around). Contour has a more expensive model with a removable battery and the external mic jack (proprietary…) but it is about $500 whereas the GoPro 2 is about $300. Overall, I felt that the GoPro was a better deal, particularly since it comes with quite a few mounting options. I also liked the GoPro’s video quality more, but to be honest there doesn’t seem to be that much of a difference.

The big problem that I have with the GoPro and really, the only reason why I almost bought another contour was the size. There are few things less tactical looking than having a camera brick sitting on top of your head while you are running around on the field. It’s not really feasible to mount it on the side of your head and it looks kind of dumb as a gun mount (gun cams don’t work out too well anyways IMO unless you enjoy hours of footage pointed at the ground). The head strap that came with the GoPro is reasonable secure, but nearly as convenient as the Contour, which is roughly the size and shape as a scope or flashlight attachment.

Which of leads me into my newest airsoft project: The only way to ensure that the camera strap doesn’t slip or fall off of my head was to of course, purchase a replica Ops-Core helmet and the GoPro NVG mount. Unfortunately, the NVG mount on the knockoff helmet is a little off; Consequently, the GoPro mount falls off without modification. This is what I ended up doing. Black was the only color that was available in the helmet style that I wanted, which is fine color wise but gets uncomfortably hot in the sun. The only suitable can of paint that they had was in a satin finish, which has a bit of a sheen. I would have preferred a flat or ultra-flat finish but /shrug. I considered lightly dusting it with a darker color an then scuffing the paint up for aesthetics, but I figure that will happen on its own over time.

The foam inserts located at the front of the helmet are a bit too low and block the ESS turbofan outtake. I new to either cut a slot into it or move the foam block up a half inch (had fogging problems last game). I tried finding a way of strapping my existing face mask onto the Ops-Core helmet clips, but the ear protection got in the way of the chin strap. Luckily, it wasn’t too difficult to strap the mask around the back of the helmet but it’s a mess solution to say the least. One of the reasons why I wanted a helmet in the first place was to cleanup all of the straps. I ended up buying a mesh face mask without ear protection. Clipping the elastic straps and adding a few pieces of adhesive Velcro works quite nicely. Also FYI: As with the NGV mount, the knockoff arc rails are slightly off. I had to fix the secure the goggle clips on with electrical tape, otherwise they come off with a firm tug.