Month: February 2009 (page 1 of 2)

Race Pro

There’s been a real lack of racing games on the 360 recently. There’s always been a healthy amount of racing game from arcade through to sim like but since GRID (which i really didn’t like apart form the graphics) and Forza 2 (so long ago now) there’s been hardly anything. Thank goodness for Race Pro which was released last week.

Now unlike most games that I pick up, first impressions aren’t very good. Graphically this isn’t a looker and while proficient enough it suffers from frame rate issues, stuttering during playback and a fairly standard career mode that does nothing new.

Online options are also more limited than similar games and suffer from some issues. Hosting a game can be problematic at first as when a new player joins the game the hosts game stutters. Even worse, to change car choice you need to drop the game and restart the multiplayer room. You can change the track your racing on while using the same cars but that’s about it. Pretty poor. Scoreboards are also full of glitcher times. Sigh.

However, this is a game from SimBin, renowned for their PC racing game pedigree. Move the settings to professional, turn off all the driving aids and switch to manual gears and you’ll find the best driving sim on the 360. It feels superb and online play has been excellent so far despite the shortcomings already mentioned. I’ve spent a couple of nights now online with the game and it is very rewarding and will definetly be the racing game of choice until Forza 3 eventually appears.

The physics just feel right. Unlike other console racers where there physics, or lack off, are soon exposed everything in Race Pro feels real. You can flip your car and I have done a couple of times now. Most other racers refuse to flip no matter what you do. Also refreshing is the car and track choice. A variety of tracks are making their first appearance on the 360 and Race Pro is all the better for it’s track variety. The cars are also varied, each having their own unique feel and sound. One thing that really does annoy though is that cars need to be unlocked before you can play them online. What a daft decision. By not having at least a car unlocked on each class makes it difficult to join random races online until you’ve played quite a bit of the career mode which is fairly dull and unrewarding. It also makes it difficult for friends to pick up the game later in the year and join in online until they have unlocked some cars. Ill thought out and a lack of understanding what players want from a game, both offline and on.

The fact that it’s graphics are a bit of a let down should not put you off this game. It’s a shame but doesn’t detract from the games main selling point – highly realistic racing. While some issues may be fixed via a patch I don’t hold out much hope as we haven’t really see many games get better and better with patches (online Burnout Paradise perhaps?). I love the game and hope others pick up and enjoy it too but it will be a hard sell for Atari. It would be great if there’s enough sales for a Race Pro 2 with better graphics and presentation and a larger range of online options and tracks. The racing engine deserves it.

Balance

I like my work. I really do. It’s been a year now since moving jobs and it’s worked out well. I enjoy the variety in my job and the challenges it brings. However I’ve been doing some pretty dumb things recently and I need to make some changes.

Dilbert

Now it isn’t as drastic as the Dilbert above but recently I’ve felt like I’ve no time to myself. I’m over committing and not allowing myself enough time to complete tasks. I’m not saying no!

That’s really the issue.

I’m not saying no and over committing. To such an extent that I assume my weekends as normal work time. Sure, I can get that done by Monday knowing fine well that the task requires a full 2 days. No problem, I’ve got the weekend coming up. As I said I do like my work so at the time it makes sense. But it’s crazy. My own time for doing what I want to do has fell away in the last month. Game playing has slowed, blog updating non existent, exercise has fell away, I’ve knocked back a hill walk as I felt too tired (really I had work to do) and I’ve fell behind on a few other things I’ve supposed to have done around the house. I’ve not even got near doing any iPhone programming either.

Time to change. Time to take on tasks and set realistic time-scales and claw back some me time. Hopefully that will help the sore heads which have been more frequent in the last three weeks and also help with the weight loss which has stagnated. Not getting worse but not getting better.

This is just common sense and something I’ve been saying for a while but not actually doing so I’m posting here to act as a kick for me. To get things back in proportion. To find a balance.

Where the Hell is Matt?

This one video really lifted my spirits today…

For more On Matt and his travels visit his journal.

How to make the news interesting

STV’s Scotland Today have tried a new tactic to boost ratings – topless news.

Scotland Today

The video can be found on their site with the slip up at around the 1:50 mark. No idea what the driver was saying though.

Improving WordPress Search

One thing that’s always niggled me about WordPress is the search capability. While other area’s within the platform have improved over the years, especially in the back end, search has always felt a bit unloved. I’ve used plugin’s like the excellent Search Everything to allow for wider and deeper searching of my blog but I still wanted more, especially as content like my images are hosted elsewhere on Flickr. I’m now trying a new search solution, Viewzi Site Search, which in my opinion delivers a far better search tool than default WordPress. To see Viewzi in action type a word into the search box at the top of this page (if you visit the site that is RSS fans) and press return or click on Search.

Viewzi blog search

The search results will be returned in a far more visually rich style as seen in the screenshot above. Extracts for each post are shown with your search term highlighted. Comments and posts are also easily distinguished and you can easily turn off comment searching if you only want pages and posts to be searched. The results appear in a modal window above your blog page – click on a post title to jump to that page in the blog. So far I’m really pleased with the testing I’ve done and the accuracy of the search results.

There are four blog ‘views’ currently available. The standard blog search works against your blog but you can also set up views for Video, Photo and Timeline. Video currently supports YouTube and Viddler accounts with more coming soon. Photo supports Flickr, SmugMug or Picassa.

Viewzi flickr search

Clicking on Blog Photo will run a search against my Flickr photo’s, returning popular images in the modal window. Mouse over the image to display a higher resolution picture and click on the picture to go directly to the Flickr page for the image. Really pleased with how this works and beats having a local gallery installed on the blog.

As a side note, the picture highlighted was taken in Aug 2007, the day the Apple store opened in Glasgow and also the day that Roy picked up his first Apple computer. It’s also one of the last images of me before I started losing some weight. What a difference! I look really fat in that picture compared to now. Anyway, enough about me.

The Blog Timeline displays a nice scrolling timeline view of the search. This is really a nice to have compared to the other two views but it’s a view that I’ve looked at having before on the blog via a couple of plugin’s so it’s good to see it incorporated in Viewzi. Within the plugin settings you have some search stats available – number of searches per day, topics searched for etc. Standard fare really.

One issue that may put people off is that adverts are displayed amongst the search results. These are adverts placed by Viewzi. i don’t have an issue and they are working on ways of incorporating your own adverts into the search results. Once in place your adverts will be displayed 50% of the time and theirs 50% of the time. Sounds fair and if your desperate to set that up now you can contact them for more info and help.

Some features that I’d like to see added through time:

  • Search results return tags and categories associated to posts that can be clicked on for more deeper browsing.
  • Support of additional search views – my comments from other sites through Intense Debate, del.icio.us links, Google Reader shares etc.
  • Ability to search across all views via one search, returning results based on priority and relevance.
  • Greater control over the modal form – CSS styling to allow alignment with blog design.

As a package I’m really impressed so far. Easy to set-up, no styling required and search results delivered quickly with hopefully more sources covered soon. I did also look at Lijit which offers much the same promise as Viewzi with many more supported sources but the results returned weren’t as well styled as with Viewzi or as well integrated. Overall Viewzi is a plug-in that is well worth trying if the default WordPress search isn’t quite doing it for you.

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