Scott Hanselman

Halo 3 Review

September 25, '07 Comments [18] Posted in Gaming | Reviews
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That's pretty cool, Bill Gates sold the first copy of Halo 3 to a 17-year-old in Bellevue at the Best Buy. Why did I think of that - standing in line for 10 hours to meet Bill. Darn. I'll need to be more creative.

Fortunately, as you know, I went to work for Microsoft for one reason. Was it to "influence millions of developers?" Please. It was to get a cheap copy of Halo 3. Home delivered. Yesterday. To my home. Thank you Company Store. I can quit now.

Seriously, the wife was kind enough to let me encourage me to play "that damn game" last night from about 10pm to 3am. I don't play a lot of games, so this was a rare thing. I started on the Solo Campaign - I never start with Multiplayer, I want to get my bearings first - I did that for about four hours. I then did the Multiplayer Matches for the last two.

Here's my impressions.

First Impressions

It looks like Halo. Maybe I've forgotten what Halo 1 and Halo 2 look like, but Halo 3 looks like those, except bigger and sharper. The graphics aren't face-meltingly awesome like BioShock or Gears of War. I didn't go "holy crap, look at that water" or utter any "wow's" that I can think of.

However, it's smooth. It's calm. The framerate is clearly the number one priority of their graphics engine. You can feel it as you walk around. There's no tearing, no drops, no slowdown. It's just buttery smooth. I'm not saying that they've sacrificed visual quality for framerate, I'm not qualified nor do I have an eye for such things. I am saying that you WILL notice the smoothness. I did like the Spartan (no pun intended) opening menu. No nonsense. Gets you right into the game.

Single Player

The story picks up literally minutes after Halo 2 ends. This of course means that you should familiarize yourself with the story if you want the cutscenes to make sense. I had to read Wikipedia on Halo 2 before I went "oh! THAT was who that dude was." Then again, I have a memory like a sieve. Frankly, now that there are THREE I want to go play Halo 1 and 2 through on Single Player again for some reason more than I want to play #3.

So far the same has been very easy on Normal mode, so I think I'm going to pump up the difficulty as soon as I can. I would probably think that "Heroic" difficult would be a good default for folks who made it through the first two games.

 The dual wielding (two guns) option, combined with the addition of a pile of new weapons makes the mind work much more than with Halos 1 and 2. You're constantly asking in the back of your mind, "is this the right combo for what might be coming." Also, you'll need to watch the reaction of the enemies, as they are distinct. I never thought I'd choose a Shotgun to go after a Brute, but frankly, not only is anything better than the standard gun, the Shotgun just works. It becomes clear which weapons work against which guys and each weapon has it's reason for being.

h3logo2The story really has you on rails. After playing BioShock, another FPS that is slightly less structured (but still on rails), I had forgotten how I didn't like games that walk you from level to level. Don't get me wrong, the level design is lovely, but there seems to be a pattern just in the first few hours of walk, walk, walk, fight, fight, go back to the main area urgently!, run run run, fight fight, new door opens up, walk walk walk. We'll see if there are surprises coming that will blow my mind like the the introduction of The Flood did.

My ONLY complaint (and it's a lame one) is that the dude is just so jumpy. After playing Gears of War and being stuck to the ground with no jumping at all, the Master Chief in Halo 3 seems like he's running on the Moon an can leap really high and really slow. It's a little confusing for me, but I'm getting used to it. Pretty lame that's my worst complaint. ;) It's a really solid game.

Oh, one other thing you can do Single Player is you can play cooperatively single player online. If anyone sees me online in Xbox Live I'm "glucose" and I'm happy to play if the family is asleep. If you haven't played a single-player game as a team with someone in another timezone, do, it's a treat.

Multi-Player

So balanced. I just hate getting beat on in Multi-player games. Seriously. It's depressing. I suck and I know it, so I want to be paired with others who suck equally. How hard is that? Well, apparently it's so hard that it takes three versions - but they nailed it. You really do get matched to folks that are challenging, but not punishingly so.

There's a ridiculous number of options and choices in multi-player and if Bungie continues to offer maps (which I'm sure they will) then it will continue to stay fresh. They've even included an object placement/map editor called the Forge. You can't change terrain, but you can move stuff around and buy and place weapons.

Last night when I was playing there were about 90,000 people online. Right now there are:

  • Halo 3 Players Online: 151,309
  • Unique Players (Last 24 Hours): 529,510
  • Matches Logged (Last 24 Hours): 1,649,790

It looks like there are at least a half-million folks for us to play with. :)

Conclusion

Is it the greatest game ever? Probably not, but I'm only 4 hours into the single player mission. It might turn out that way. It's clearly different from Bioshock (which may well be the greatest game ever) and Gears of War, but if you like the FPS (First Person Shooter) genre, then all three are distinct flavors worth tasting.

It's really fun to play, though, no question. As I see it:

  • BioShock - Prettiest Game To Date. Full Stop. Amazingly deep story that's not too hard to follow. Unbelievable sound engineering - you must play it with headphones or a nice 5.1 surround sound.
  • Gears of War - Most "immersively urgent" Game to Date. I'm literally on the edge of my seat with this game. The camera work is fantastic and the human models are the best I've seen in any game, including Halo 3
  • Halo 3 - Most Balanced Game. There's something about Halo's Multiplayer Matching. I noticed it in the Halo 3 Beta, and it's even better in the Final Release. I had the most satisfying multiplayer matches last night. I suppose it could have been a fluke, but it happened time and time again. The folks I was matched against were not kicking my ass as completely as they usually do. I attribute this to being matched to folks within my skill range. It's very nice. The whole game feels very balanced.

Should you buy Halo 3? If it make you happy, yes. It is a very pretty, very balanced game. I expect I'll have a lot of fun with it.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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2007 Diabetes Donations from Our Sponsors

September 25, '07 Comments [0] Posted in Musings
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Atul (one of this blog's sponsors) over at Sky Software emailed to let me know that through the end of the month he'll be donating 50% of the proceeds of any orders for:

Atul's frameworks plug into Visual Studio with new Project Types for Shell Namespace Extensions, and the Shell MegaPack includes all sorts of interface widgetry for the hard stuff like "toast" that notifies you from the system tray as well as a clean interface to Vista-style Task Dialogs and Wizards.

After you you place an order, then email "sales at ssware.com" with the Order # (also called the ShareIt Reference number) and the name/email used on the order. 50% of the proceeds will then be donated to the ADA!

Thanks Atul for supporting our fundraiser!

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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A Blog's Heartbeat

September 24, '07 Comments [14] Posted in Musings
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Well, I've officially been blogging forever, in Internet Years. Here's my first post, from April 16th, 2002.

"Well, it's up.  After screwing with FTP permissions on and off for a week, my weblog is up.  Sigh, I'm blogging.  We'll see how long it lasts."

What a powerful first post. Moving, really. ;) A harbinger of great things.

I noticed a kind of a pattern in the numbers next to the Months, like September 2007 (21), and graphed it real quick. Looks like I post an average of 32 posts a month over the last 5 years, with outliers clipped (a trimmed mean). I started slow, with just 21 posts in the first six months, then something happened. Somewhere in October of 2002, I found my blog's (first) voice, did 44 posts, and haven't shut up since. The max? An obnoxious 64 posts in June of 2004 - of widely varying quality, but a few classics that get lots of traffic today.

Hanselman Blogging Frequency

I started on Radio Userland as a blogging platform, then decided a few short months later that it wasn't working for me. I moved to DasBlog in September of 2003, and posted about how to redirect all my old content and comments.

Aside, my original Radio blog is still out there, as Radio won't let you 301/302 your links, but the template included a META redirect and a Javascript timed redirect, and I've imported ALL that content into DasBlog (hence some of the funky generated titles - there was a time when Radio let you post to your blog without titles) and you'll get auto-redirected to the same post.

blogheartbeatNow, I've got 1914 posts, counting this one. I may start doing a "greatest hits" or maybe a Popular Posts link so folks can come straight to the 10-15 posts they most likely came looking for. What do you think? LifeHacker does a Retro Roundup each week. Kind of a "this day in history" post. I could probably do one once a month. Just a thought.

 At any rate, the point of this post. I believe that a blog has a heartbeat. Mine, without me thinking about it is about 32 posts per month or 32ppm. I think it's probably good to have a consistent one, while the number isn't that important, the tempo is. There are some blogs I read that are 5ppm or less, but they make each post count. For example, Atwood's blog is consistently about 20ppm (guess) but they are 90% gold. Slashdot's is hundreds of ppm but I've stopped caring.

What is your Blog's Heartbeat? What's your Blog's PPM?

You can click on that ppm image above for a Paint.NET layered file if you want to make your own PPM image.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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The 2007 Walk Against Diabetes approaches

September 23, '07 Comments [5] Posted in Diabetes
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Hello folks. The Walk Against Diabetes approaches - it's coming up this October 20th, 2007. You can get details and join the Walk with my family and I at the American Diabetes Association. All donations go straight to the ADA for Research, Education and Advocacy.

Last year we (meaning, YOU, the readers of this blog) raised over $12,000, blowing past my goal of $10,000. Turns out we raised more money than any single team in Portland and they made me this year's Walk Ambassador.

So, I set the bar higher for 2007 with a goal of $50,000. As of this writing we are at $25,421.68! We've almost doubled last year, but only 51% of this year's goal.

What's Next

172400618_240x240_Front_Color-AshGrey However, don't count us out yet. With only a month left I've got a few ideas up my sleeve. Along with Jason Mauer and Rich Claussen, we've got a fund raising promotion idea that will truly blow your mind. If you're in Portland, SW Washington, or willing to drive from Seattle, mark your calendars for Thursday, October 11th from about 8pm to Midnight and watch the blog for details. If you don't make it, there will be pictures and video galore - of the mind-blowing, face-melting variety. Watch for the announcement coming soon.

Again, do visit the Diabetes Site to DONATE or JOIN THE TEAM AND WALK.

Microsofties

If you're reading this blog and you work for Microsoft, perhaps you've not gotten around to giving yet. Remember that Microsoft will MATCH your donation dollar for dollar. Just visit http://give on the Microsoft Intranet, and select the Portland Chapter of the American Diabetes Association and mention "Team Hanselman" in the notes. Feel free to send me a copy of the PDF or screenshot and I'll make sure things get there they should.

What have we accomplished?

Maybe you've just started reading this blog recently? Here's some of the promotional stuff we've done this year to help raise awareness:

Get Educated about Diabetes

Here's some potentially interesting Diabetes Links for you to read:

Thanks

Thanks VERY much to everyone who has given so far. This has been an amazing here.

Special thanks to our MicroISV partners:

  • Scott Cate and his EasySearchASP.NET gift! He donated all the proceeds to EasySearchASP.NET to the ADA from August 23rd through September 7th! Very generous and a great MicroISV idea. Thanks to the folks that purchased his product and indirectly supported the fight against Diabetes
  • Leon Bambrick for donating 50% of the proceeds for TimeSnapper. If you have to keep a timecard or keep track of exactly what it is you do all day? Get TimeSnapper - It's Tivo for your Mind.
  • The very awesome Martin Plante, lead at slimCODE Solutions, for starting us off by giving all the earnings from his slimKEYS product during the May 6th to May 11th to help fight diabetes. An amazing idea and a very nice gesture. Thanks Martin! Check out SlimKEYS in my post on Replacing Start Run.

Kitsch and Merchandise for the Cause

172400631_150x150_Front_Color-PinkSalmonPhil Deveau emailed me and said:

"I'm going to be riding in a 50K bike ride in November of this year for diabetes (www.diabeteschallenge.com).  I'm training with a couple other guys, every day, if you have a store or something where I could purchase a team Hanselman hat, I'd be proud to wear it while I'm training and on the race day"

172400608_150x150_FrontWhat a fantastically nice thing to offer! Of course, I have no merchandise, BUT I do have Jon Galloway on Skype Speeddial. Jon created a 2000x2000 Transparent PNG of the Team Hanselman Logo (also a Galloway creation), and fired it off to me, and 20 minutes later I present to you, Dear Reader, The Team Hanselman Fight Against Diabetes Store.

172400645_150x150_Front_Color-WhiteJust when you though you couldn't get away from my giant disembodied head, I show up on a T-Shirt. When will it end? It will never end, thanks to the Team Hanselman Diabetes Store. Madness.

 Here's your hat, Phil, along with T-Shirts, Sweats, Hoodies, Buttons, and, of course, the Team Hanselman Baby Onesie. Rock the Onesie on Oct. 20th to help in the Fight Against Diabetes.

Thanks again to you, the community. I'm proud to call you all my peeps. I appreciate you, your comments, your support, your emails. Even the anonymous cowards in the comments. Especially you. ;)

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Multi-threaded Debugging in Visual Studio 2008

September 21, '07 Comments [4] Posted in ASP.NET | Microsoft | Programming
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This might be old news but it was a treat for me. In debugging some multithreaded code recently got to use the improved debugger support for threads in Visual Studio 2008 (I'm running Beta 2) that John Robbins blogged about last month and Soma blogged last week.

Take a look at the IDE screenshot below (click to Zoom).

Multi-threaded Debugging

There's a few cool and subtle things going on here. Take a look at the current instruction location in yellow. It's right at the end of the CheckDependancyCallback method - but see the gray highlight with the squiggly "thread" in the margin? That's the current location of another thread of execution.

You can name your threads now just by entering their name in the Threads toolbox window, and some threads without names will get an automatic name. You can also flag threads you're interested in watching so you don't have to remember the Thread ID.Take a look at the Debug toolbar as well. You can see the Debug Location including Process and Thread (what thread I'm currently debugging).

What a treat.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.