A Time of Plague

I’ve been trying to get some work done around here, but I’ve been kind of distracted by the fact that MK has been stricken with some sort of “stagnation o’ th’ lungs”, as the butcher of All Creatures might say. I’m not exactly certain what’s wrong with her (medical science is still working on that) but she’s been kind of zonked out for the past four days.

That’s not ideal in a small apartment, where the living room shares space with the office. Besides which, I have a hard time motivating myself to do much cooking or cleaning when I’m the only one with an appetite or an interest in the apartment’s cleanliness. So I’ve mostly sat with MK here in the shadows, trying to get some research and writing done.

As it has in the past, Good Old Games has come to MK’s rescue. She bought an old childhood favorite, Creatures, and has been happily curled around her laptop for most of the last 72 hours. She’s less miserable when she’s playing it. It seems to be such a remarkable game that I have a hard time believing it exists: it’s a late 90′s genetic sandbox game, where you monitor a population of Gremlin-like creatures and try to make them robust and self-sustaining while addressing potential problems like disease or genetic defects. There’s no saves beyond a self-overwriting autosave. You screw up genetic line or an entire species, you can’t go back and undo it. You just have to fix it.

It’s something I’m going to have to take a look at, because it seems to be very similar to the game that people once believed Spore would be. MK spent several hours trying to perfect a cross of the game’s three species that would combine the best of each, but she eventually had to admit defeat as undesirable traits kept manifesting and the mature crosses showed no inclination to procreate.

Unfortunately, we also lost an old nemesis this week: MK’s HP laptop. In the three years we’ve owned it, I would estimate that it has been broken or RTMed for at least one year. Now, eight months after yet another round of repairs and six months out of warranty, it’s videocard is dead. We will probably not be repairing it, since I have every expectation that another part would fail within a few months.

Since we primarily used MK’s laptop for media,  it seems like it is time to get a TV. And if we’re getting a TV, we might as well get a console to play DVDs and stream media. So that’s exciting. Now I just need to pick one: PS3 or 360?

  1. Don’t discount the Wii.
    I was skeptical when my girl wanted to buy one, but it’s been one of the best electronic things we have. It definitely can’t compete with my desktop for any solo gaming I do, but it’s a great way for us to spend time together.
    Last night we had friends over and stayed up all night playing Beatles Rock Band and Mario Kart. And we stream Netflix through it. How else can I watch Top Gear anytime I want?

    Unless, of course, MK likes the hardcore PS3/XBOX types of games. In which case, by all means.

    • I think the HD issue is probably more significant for us. If we’re springing for a nice TV, we’ll want a media box that can take full advantage of it. But I’ll take a closer look at the Wii. I don’t follow the capabilities of the consoles too closely. I didn’t even know the Wii had Netflix.

    • IvanHoeHo
    • May 8th, 2010 8:26pm
    • IvanHoeHo
    • May 8th, 2010 8:33pm

    Man, I fail at html.

    Seriously, though, where is this “Creatures” game you describe? I can’t seem to find it in GOG or anywhere else. I seem to remember a Star Wars game of a similar nature, though.

    I myself have a HP laptop aged 3 years, but I hardly use it (since I’m the most pathetic typist ever and am better off just writing the notes down) and it doesn’t really have any problems.

    Really, though? Just get a PC and be done with it. It’s not like you’ve got to pay through the roof like us Canadians, either.

    • Creatures: Exodus is what MK has been playing.

      But I don’t think we’re going to be getting another PC right now. We’ve already got two laptops and a desktop, so computing needs are totally covered. The dead HP served as our TV / DVD player, but now that it’s finished, we’re probably just going to get a television.

      That video was excellent, by the way. It’s all that is good about competitive Starcraft.

    • IvanHoeHo
    • May 8th, 2010 10:06pm

    Oh… thought this was a platformer.

    And I’m actually thinking more in line with a media center-like pc that hooks straight to the potentially massive plasma. The back-catalog will fulfill your platforming/adventuring/interactive novelling(?)/face shooting/hooker beating needs for years.

    You also get a shit-load of FREE streamed tv programs (as opposed to a console or cable TV – depending on your tolerance of 480p on a 50″ plasma) and most importantly, the ability to watch all those region not-1 DVDs that you’ve been itching to get. (right? RIGHT?)

    Or, you could link up your current PC and utterly destroy both your personal (work) space and your lingering sense of privacy. (not recommended)

    • Julian
    • May 10th, 2010 1:22pm

    I have both a PS3 and a 360, and the PS3 is the one I tend to use for both streaming and DVDs. The breadth of online streaming content you can access is fairly lacking compared to a PC (I hope you’re not counting on Hulu), but it works beautifully for downloaded content. As for discs, its upscaling is decent and having the option of Blu-Ray is nice.

    I prefer the PS3′s interface over the 360′s, and for some reason I have severe lag and connectivity problems when I try to use the 360′s media center app. If you do the Netflix thing, they both have streaming. The 360′s interface is a little slicker since it’s software-based instead of DVD-based, but you have to pay MS for a gold Live account to use it.

    The HD-ness is an issue, for sure, and I would never even consider a Wii for a media center device on an HDTV. It plays DVDs (without decent upscaling) and does the Netflix thing (in SD), but that’s about it. No HD options whatsoever. It’s certainly got its merits as a gaming platform, especially for party games, but it’s by far the inferior option for media.

    • Thanks for the excellent breakdown. I think it will probably end up being the PS3, since there’s less overlap between the PlayStation and the PC than there is between the 360 and the PC. I’ve never been wild about how Sony has designed its interfaces, but I imagine it’s something you get used to.

      I totally forgot that Netflix on 360 requires a Gold account, so to hell with that. Bummer that Hulu is locked out of the consoles, however.

  2. I say PS3. But we’ve discussed it before Rob.

    • Ruberton
    • May 14th, 2010 1:22am

    Until recently, I’d've said 360, but the latest PS3 iteration more or less wiped out the 360′s price advantage (no fee for online services, after all) and you get Blu-Ray if that matters to you. The menu interfaces are functionally similar; the PS3′s is a bit more elegant. PS3 also supports DLNA which is nice for lazy people like me (one button and everything’s on). Would that it would play PS2 titles.

    • OK, how easy is DLNA to manage for someone who tends to hate fiddling with software and hardware configurations? I love the idea of using the PS3 as a true media-center in my apartment, but I’m really not clear on exactly what DLNA does or how it works.

    • Ruberton
    • May 14th, 2010 3:19pm

    As far as I’m concerned, DLNA means “plug in HDMI cable, tell TV and PS3 to activate DLNA, done.” Basically just lets power control work over the HDMI interface, so you can switch the TV to the PS3 source, which will turn on the PS3, or turn on the PS3, which turns on the TV and flips it to the right source. Not life-changing but saves fiddling with a remote.

    • The Wiki entry suggested something rather more exciting. Not “flying cars and robot servants” exciting, but exciting nonetheless.

    • Ruberton
    • May 14th, 2010 7:03pm

    Well, that’d be because, chances are, I’m conflating DLNA with something completely different. My idiocy notwithstanding, at this point, if you get one console, PS3 is just more powerful technology at a similar price point. Plus you get Uncharted, which is good times.

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