Sunday, March 9, 2003

Weekend Report

It's been quite a weekend. On Friday, Jean's parents arrived for a weekend visit. They visit us at least once a year, usually around February or March. See, annually, they vacation in Maui for a few weeks over the winter. It's their version of being Snow Birds. And so, each year, they stop in Oregon, either on their way to Hawaii (February), or returning from Hawaii (March). This year they caught us on the return leg.

Kelly of course was thrilled. She really enjoys visiting with the grandparents, who are more tolerant of her manipulations than Mom and Dad. I worked Friday so I don't really know what they did, but I'm sure they had a great time together. Saturday morning, Jean, her parents and Kelly went to the YMCA to see Kelly swim, and I did the grocery shopping. In the afternoon Kelly and I spent some time together before I took off for NOVA.

The NOVA meeting was typical, with the usual favorite show and the usual hobnobbing. Tom gave away a pile of anime, as he is moving into his new house soon, and doesn't need to move more stuff. After the meeting we went to his apartment. I planned to go right home after the meeting, to continue my rehabilitation of sleep patterns, but Tom insisted that I at least come over for a little bit. It seems that they had a new game they wanted to show me...

Steel Battallion has got to be the geekiest anime-inspired game on the face of the planet. Within anime there is a sub-genre which is very popular with a certain kind of geek. The same kind of geek who played micro-armor wargames in years past, I suspect. Examples of the genre in question include Gundam, Macross, and more recently, Full Metal Panic.

These are military drama shows, where tanks are replaced by giant mechanical armored suits, equipped with all the latest in firepower. Sometimes the pilots of these suits move them over the ground like tanks, other times they fly through space like spacecraft. These mecha figure prominently in the stories, but usually the stories are much more complex than simply mechanical jousting matches. But there are plenty of those.

I apologize if I've misrepresented the genre, but it's never really been my cup of tea, even after so many years of exposure by dedicated fans like James Tilton. Sorry James. Back to the game. Steel Battallion first made a splash when it's custom controller was introduced. This thing has dozens of switches, two joysticks, each festooned with triggers and buttons, a driveshift, and radio controls. At your feet sit three foot controls. Once the game starts, you have a visual representation of gauges, video screens and other cockpit instrumentation that would make a 767 pilot dizzy. In the center of the screen is the view out into the battle field.

I was very amused by the gameplay. Whenever there is a human, such as a drill instructor, on screen, what you see is a still image. Only in battle does the screen come to life. Then you get the most detailed simulation of mecha combat you could ever hope for. The care and love lavished on simulating this neverland scenario is absolutely stunning. So. No human animation, but plenty of rich mechanical combat animation. Hence the label of 'geeky'. Only an obsessed mecha geek could lavish the care and detail on this game that is evident. Oh, and the price for the whole game (with controller) puts it into that special place as well: $200.

Enough of that. I stayed until about 10:30, leaving much earlier than I would if I were not nursing my health. I got home, planning to go straight to bed. But the lights were on in the hallway, and Jean came out to greet me. Seems that Kelly had come down with a fever suddenly sometime after I left. Jean decided to let me enjoy my night out, so she didn't call me. It's a funny coincidence, but Bob, a coworker who also does the NOVA thing, was very sick with some kind of flu. I wonder if it's the same one.

Kelly doesn't appear to be in mortal danger, but we spent the entire day (it's Sunday evening as I write this) lounging around the house and pushing fluids at her. By this evening, when Jean's parents were leaving, both Jean and I had coughs and scratchy throats. Cross your fingers that no one else gets this flu thingy...

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