From WoW to Rift

WoW - Eris and Lich King
Me and the Lich King (WoW)

After over 2.5 years of playing World of Warcraft, Nick and I finally called it quits in early February. In that time, I played all 10 classes (every class except for two (rogue and hunter) up to level 80+). We had fun questing, raiding, and PvPing together, with friends, and from people we met from all over the world… but eventually we grew a bit tired of it. And the task of leveling my eight level 80’s to level 85 with the new expansion, Cataclysm, was daunting… having to repeat the same quest chains over and over again did not sound fun. 🙁

We had (or, are having?) a heck of a time finding a good replacement, though. We played Little Big Planet 2 for a while. Then, we started playing old favorites like Age of Empires 2 (best game ever?), Warcraft 3, and Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.

Nick and me (Rift)

A month ago, we started playing Rift with some of our friends from work and personal life. It feels a lot like WoW. It has a couple of nice features, like rifts and invasions, that keep the game interesting. It also handles groups well. In Rift, you are able to easily join public groups and merge groups to form larger groups. This comes in handy, especially during a zone invasion, when everyone in the zone is working together to extinguish the rifts and invasions. When it’s over, hitting “unmerge groups” removes your original group from the larger group. Very cool. Nick and I are still learning a lot about Rift (so we haven’t made our minds up about it yet), but for now, it’s a fun outlet… even though there aren’t any gnomes. 🙁

We’re also looking forward to playing Diablo 3, Torchlight 2, and Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. 🙂

New Domain: MarieWest.me

Since February, I have been working as the Web Content Administrator for Wayne State University. The position is only temporary, however; I am filling in for someone who will be returning from maternity leave in June. Consequently, I am on the lookout for a new, more permanent job! 🙂

And to help with the whole finding a job thing, I acquired a new domain for a more “professional-esque” website: mariewest.me. The site has a custom design (by me) and uses WordPress.

MarieWest.me

More Time for Reading

One thing I have really enjoyed since I graduated in December is that I finally have time to read again… at least, read something other than Computer Science textbooks! :geek: So far, I have tackled Going Bovine and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I just started reading Don Quixote today, but I realized that the version I have is an abridged version, so I haven’t decided if I should continue reading or hold out for an unabridged version. I happily ordered four more books from Amazon over the weekend (including the next two books in the The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series), so I am excited for them to come.

Going BovineMy mom sent me her copy of Going Bovine and insisted that I read it. It was bound to be a book I would like… a quirky novel about a teenage boy who gets Mad Cow Disease and goes out to save the world (as he was told to do by a pink-haired, punk angel) with his companion, a Mexican-American, video game-loving dwarf. Along their journey, they encounter a lawn gnome that is really the Norse god Balder. Silliness? Gnomes? Norse mythology? Awesome! 😀 It is evidently based heavily on Don Quixote, which is why I decided to start reading it. 😉

The Girl with the Dragon TattooThe Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was also recommended to me by my mother (can you tell she enjoys reading, too? :P). I didn’t know anything about the book (other than the fact that it takes place in Sweden, woot!), which made it a very interesting read; I never knew where the story was going to go. I had tried to start reading it earlier (during the school year), but I lacked the time and motivation to really get into it. This time, I was able to plow through the first few dozen pages (that had failed to captivate me before) and I really enjoyed the book. Just a warning, though: parts of it are gruesome! 😮

Jeopardy: The IBM Challenge

For the first time ever on Jeopardy, a machine (named Watson) is competing against human opponents… and they aren’t just any humans, either. Ken Jennings holds the record for the most consecutive Jeopardy wins. Watson’s other opponent, Brad Rutter, has won more money than anyone else in Jeopardy’s history (over $3.2 million dollars).

Jeopardy’s IBM Challenge started last night and will continue tonight and tomorrow night. My husband and I eagerly watched last night’s episode to see how Watson would fare. He did a decent job and ended the night tied with Brad Rutter at $5000 apiece. Ken Jennings had $2000. Watson, however, made a humorous mistake last night when he buzzed in with “the 1920’s” after Ken Jennings had also just incorrectly answered ” the 20’s.” Whoops! 😛

What surprised me was that Watson is not connected to the Internet, so I wonder what Watson’s information database is like. I think it would be interesting to see what he can do with access to the Internet. Also, Watson is currently given the clues in text form. I don’t know if Watson gets the clues immediately, only after Trebek has finished reading them, or if there is some other sort of delay before Watson gets the clue. If Watson gets them immediately, it obviously gives the machine an advantage, because it can begin searching for an answer before the human contestants understand the clue. Human players, on the other hand, would have an advantage over the machine if they are able to see and start thinking about the clues before the machine gets them. It seems like a good solution would be to make Watson able to hear and interpret the clues audibly as the clues are being read and then be given the clues in text form as the clue is being read or after the clue has finished being read. On the other hand, I am sure that any good Jeopardy player must speed read through the clue, rather than listen to Trebek read it. *Shrugs*

Anyway, it was definitely fun to watch last night’s episode and I look forward to watching the two remaining episodes of man vs. machine. 🙂 As someone mentioned on Twitter last night, though, “IBM missed a HUGE comedic opportunity by not programming Watson to sound like Sean Connery.” 😛

EDIT: I found a PBS NOVA program on Watson and I would recommend watching it if you have an hour of free time (I :heart: PBS). Apparently, Watson’s information database consists of 10 million documents (mostly downloaded from the Internet), including encyclopedias (Wikipedia and others), dictionaries, thesauruses, IMDB, The New York Times, The Bible, etc. Watson does not have access to his opponents’ incorrect answers, which is why he repeated Ken Jennings’s response (he does, however, get to hear the correct answers). And, to answer my question from above, Watson gets the clues as soon as they show up on the board.

EDIT 2: Haha, someone suggested a final Jeopardy question of: “What word is displayed in the following captcha?” Funny stuff.

Eskimo Escapades I: The Land Bridge

As mentioned on the Projects page, Eskimo Escapades I: The Land Bridge (EE1) is a game I created in C#, using XNA and Torque X, for my Game Programming Class (Fall 2010). It was designed to be used with an Xbox 360 controller, but it also works with equivalent keyboard input. My professor is involved in researching a narrow land bridge that spanned across Lake Huron thousands of years ago and he wanted us to create a game based on the land bridge. EE1 is a classic-style, turn-based, role-playing game (RPG) in which the player controls a team of four young Eskimos (warrior, mage, hunter, and healer) to get them across the land bridge to Canada. As the player moves across the game map, he or she encounters three bosses along the way: The Angry Snowman, The Lonely Yeti, and Scott the Mountie. These encounters trigger battles with the bosses and the player must defeat each of the bosses (using the four characters’ unique abilities) in order to get to Canada.

I want to go a little more in depth about the game, with more screenshots and a more detailed description.

Continue reading Eskimo Escapades I: The Land Bridge

Computer Science Websites

Today, I decided to take a look at some of the Computer Science websites from universities across the country. I could not believe how awful the majority of them were. Out of the 100 (yes, 100) Computer Science websites I looked at:

  • 68% looked extremely outdated
  • 26% looked moderately outdated
  • 6% looked fairly modern

Being Computer Science departments, I was expecting much more modern websites. Prospective CS students are going to be going to these websites and to advertise your department as outdated and out-of-touch is not going to impress prospective students.