Welcome back, Commander

Command & Conquer 4 came out yesterday, and I thought I’d write a little about my beloved fondness for the series.

I’ve been a huge fan of Command & Conquer ever since the very first one came out way back in the mid-90’s.  The original C&C was one of the very first games we bought back when we got our first Windows 95 computer, and I’ll tell ya, I loved the hell out of it.  The awesome (albeit extremely cheesy) custscenes, the awesome units…nothing better than watching an Obelisk just slaughter an entire army.

I did play C&C Red Alert, but could never really get into it.  I don’t know if it was the fact that the units weren’t as advanced (ie sci-fi like), or that I just didn’t care as much for the story.  Either way, I did play it, and its 2 expansions, but the teaser in the game for C&C2 just made me more excited for that.  I did also play all the subsequent RA games, but again, didn’t enjoy them near as much as the original, Tiberium series.

Tiberian Sun, the followup to the original, was delayed a fair bit (especially considering Red Alert and the re-release of C&C on Windows 95 came with a trailer in 1997), but finally came out in 2000, 5 whole years after the original.  I don’t think the entire fanbase liked it as much as the first, but I sure did.  They really focussed in on the story this time…super cheesy of course, but they were still pretty fun to watch.  Michael Biehn (Kyle Reese from the first Terminator) and James Earl Jones (the voice of Darth Vader) made appearances, along with Joe Kucan reprising his role as Kane…this time, much more sinister and dark.

When C&C3 – Tiberium Wars was announced in 2006, it shocked everyone.  I don’t think anyone was expecting another C&C game from the original series anymore, especially after they made C&C Generals a few years before that.  But I couldn’t have been more excited.  It was the first game in the Tiberium series to use a 3D engine, and did it ever look beautiful.  AND, we even got a 3rd playable race, the Scrinn, who were hinted at in Tiberian Sun.  Great custscens again, with lots more Hollywood talent, including Micheal Ironside, Tricia Helfer and Grace Park.  The gameplay was a little stale by this point (with games like Company of Heroes taking RTS’s in an entirely new direction), but it was still fun as hell.  There was also 1 expansion, Kane’s Wrath, that filled in a lot of details in between the 2nd and 3rd games (from Nod’s perspective), and continues a little beyond too.  I find it didn’t add a whole lot to the gameplay, but the story was cool.

We are now at the final entry in the Command & Conquer Tiberium series, Tiberian Twilight.  The name comes from the original name of C&C3, before the entire Westwood studio was scrapped and absorbed into EA.  EA held a poll online to choose the name of this game, and the fans overwhelmingly chose Tiberian Twilight.  A fitting name to the final entry in the series.  All the cheesy (although more serious in tone this time around) cutscenes are back, but they totally revamped the entire gameplay experience from previous C&C games.  This time around, there’s no base building, and it’s all about control points and micromanaging your units.  I’ve just started playing it myself, so I can’t really give any opinions on it yet.

I just wanted to show my love for one of the grand-daddy’s of the RTS genre (yes…Dune II was first modern one, but C&C made it popular).  It’s sad that this is the end, but I’m sure Red Alert 4 is still in the pipes, and also really excited to see where they take the C&C franchise as a whole after this.

Until next time…

Steam bugs

Here’s a funny little one….I just signed up for the new Steam UI beta, and I was just sitting on my games screen when I noticed this:

If you’ll notice, in the Last Played column for Galcon Fusion, it says I last played the game tomorrow (click on the image if you want to see it a little better)…hmm…maybe Steam’s got some new kind of time warp machine that can predict the future?  Or maybe it’s just a bug, as things like this can happen in betas.

Still, funny none the less.

Oh, by the way…you can pick up Galcon Fusion for only $2 on Steam until Friday morning….it’s part of Steam’s Midweek Madness sale this week.  It’s a pretty cool little game.

Until next time…


So yeah….apparently we won some big hockey game or something this past weekend. Who would have thought that, eh?

For those who have been living under a rock for the past 2 weeks, or just don’t live in Canada, the Winter Olympics were on, and they were hosted right here in Canada, out in Vancouver. I won’t bore you all with the nitty gritty details of every single event, but I will touch on the 2 sports I followed during the 2 weeks: Curling and Hockey.

To start, I’ll just say that Olympic curling is some of the best curling you’ll ever see. I think it’s better than the world championships they hold each year. Just the quality of the teams, the games played, the environment, everything. This is only the 4th Winter Olympics where curling was an actual medal event (in 1994, it was just a demonstration event), and I think each time, it just gets better and better. On the womens side, we had Canada’s Cheryl Bernard (who’s in her first Olympics) face off against the Swedish veteran, Anette Norberg. It was a tight game for the most part, but Sweden battled back being down 2 in the 10th end to tie it up off a missed shot by Bernard. Then, in the 11th, Bernard also missed her last shot, and Norberg won her second Olympic gold medal.

On the men’s side, it was a different story. Canada’s Kevin Martin faced off against Norway’s Thomas Ulsrud. This was Martin’s 2nd Olympic appearance, his first being back in 2002 where we won a silver medal. This time around though, he had an easier time, and never gave up the lead all game, and came away with a huge win in 10 ends. Although, the bigger story may have been Norway’s pants. They were a site to be seen, that’s for sure!!

For the hockey, the women’s gold medal game was a predictable site. As per usual, it was the US facing Canada, and it was one hell of a game. I’ll be honest, I didn’t see the entire game. I only caught the last period, but I could still feel the excitement. Canada ended up winning gold, with a final of 2-0.

Now, the men’s game…that was epic. It was Canada vs. the USA, and it couldn’t have been a more exciting game. The media really played this one up, of course, but it sure did deliver. Going into the tournament, Canada was of course favored to win, and the US was only expected to place, at best, 5th. That all changed once the tournament started. Canada was sharp, but they did show their weaknesses, mainly in finishing periods. They did have 1 loss in the tourney, and that was to none other than the US. Team USA, on the other hand, was practically flawless. They won every game they played, and pretty handidly too. Their goalie, Ryan Miller, was unstoppable.

As for the game itself, it was close. Canada did go up 1-0 in the first period, and finished the 2nd up 2-1. Though, as Canada has shown throughout the Olumpics, they lagged in the 2nd period, and it showed with a US goal. The 3rd started out well for Canada, but they slumped again. It almost looked like Canada was gonna win though, but with 24 seconds left, Zach Parise scored on Luongo to force overtime. In the Olympics, teams play a 20 minute sudden death overtime period, followed by a shootout. Both teams came out strong, and both goalies made some pretty decent saves, but a play developed in the US end, with a pass from Iginla to Crosby at the right of Miller. Crosby just shot the puck, and somehow it went in. I’ll tell ya…I don’t think I’ve ever felt so much excitement and happiness in my life. It was amazing. All the players poured out onto the ice, and even did laps with a huge Canadian flag. I will give props to the US though…they played a hell of a game, and Ryan Miller even recieved the MVP of the tournement. This game I think will forever be cemented in every Canadian’s memories.

Now, I watched the final at home, but decided after seeing all the excitement that was developing downtown, I hopped on the subway and proceeded to the center of the action, right at Yonge and Dundas. I managed to snag a few pictures too…take a look:

Now, that was the scene right from just south of Dundas all the way up to Gerrard on Yonge street. The police had the entire section blocked off, and as you can see, it was nuts. Here’s a video I captured too:

All in all, a great Olympics for Canada. We won a record 14 gold medals, and finished with 26 in total, 2 more than in 2006. I can honestly say I feel so proud to be Canadian….it’s the best country in the world!!!

Until next time….

C#/.NET trick for catching exceptions

Here’s an interesting little tip for anyone who’s writing a C# and/or any .NET application.

I’ve been writing/maintaining a relatively large application used by many different users, and have discovered many bugs that can come up over hours and hours of use. Well, us programmers are all just human, and don’t always write bulletproof code, especially when that code is run by 10’s or 100’s of different people. Most of the time when something bad happens, an exception is thrown by the application. If this exception goes unhandled, the program just crashes. It would be kinda handy sometimes to be able to catch each and every one of these unhandled exceptions, and at the very least log the problem and gracefully exit the program.

This is pretty trivial to do in any .NET application, and for an example using C#:

  1. Application.ThreadException += new ThreadExceptionEventHandler( OnThreadException );
  2. Application.SetUnhandledExceptionMode(UnhandledExceptionMode.CatchException);
  3. AppDomain.CurrentDomain.UnhandledException += new UnhandledExceptionEventHandler( UnUnhandledException );

The first line adds an event handler to the ThreadException event, which will be fired every time an unhandled exception happens inside the main UI thread of the application. So, if you have, say, 2 separate components to your application running on 2 different threads ( the main UI thread…Windows forms stuff, and a processing backend), you could gracefully shut down and restart the UI.

For the 2nd line, this tells the application to handle all exceptions, regardless of what the user has set in the application settings. This is directly then made use of in the next line, where we add an event handler to the UnhandledException event on the Current Application Domain. This way, any other unhandled exceptions from any other threads that are running in your application will be caught and this event will be fired with all the information you need. In my case, I gather up the exception details, allow the user to enter a description of what they were doing, and send an email to myself with all these details.

The one catch when dealing with unhandled exceptions is that once they occur, even if you catch them with this method, you won’t be able to recover from the crash. The programs is going to exit, regardless. But, like I said, at the very least you can log the error in some way, so you can figure out what went wrong and prevent it from crashing again.

I just figured this might help any potential .NET developers out there. I pulled most of this from Microsoft’s MSDN site here.

Until next time…

Super Bowl XLIV

Well, it’s that time of the year again, where the whole world (or at least the US and Canada) sit down this Sunday to watch one of the biggest sporting events of the entire year, the Super Bowl. Some people watch it for the game, others watch it for the ads. Some people just watch it to see what all the fuss is about. To me though, I’m a die hard football fan through and through, and there’s no bigger event than watching the game that will crown the champion of the league of your favorite sport. No different than the Stanley Cup finals or the World Series are to hockey and baseball fans respectively.

This year, the “big game” is between the New Orleans Saints and the Indianapolis Colts. For the first time in 16 years, the #1 seed out of each conference will face each other in the Super Bowl. New Orleans went 13-3 this season, and played very well in the playoffs. They handedly beat the Cardinals 45-14 in the Divisional round, and beat Brett Farve and a turnover-ridden Vikings team (in overtime) 31-28 to make it to the Super Bowl. For the Colts, they shut down Joe Flaco and the Ravens 20-3 in the Divisional round, and promptly dismantled the league’s #1 defense in the Jets for a win of 30-17. For the Saints, it’s their first trip to the Super bowl in franchise history, and for the Colts, this will be their 2nd trip in 3 years (including 1 win).

As for who I would pick to win, it’s a tough call. Emotionally, the Saints will be there. They’re playing for a devastated city and franchise pride. Not to mention they have a great offense, both passing and running, along with a very good defense that can mess with the heads of their opponents. But, the Saints have also shown their weaknesses. They played horribly during the last stretch of the season, losing to my Cowboys (which was awesome, by the way), and then lost against 2 divisional rivals (and 2 very poor teams) in the Bucs and Panthers to round out the season. They had a great game against the Cardinals in the Divisional round, but even after forcing 6 turnovers from the Vikings, they only managed to beat the them in overtime (and arguably would have lost had it not been for Brett Farve making a huge mistake and throwing an interception while the Vikings were in field goal range at the end of that game).

For the Colts, it’s “been there, done that” for Peyton and his crew. Offensively, they stack up pretty much equally. Defense is a bit more questionable (especially if Dwight Freeny is out), but the one thing the Colts are good at is consistency and poise. They never get worried. They’ve been down going into half more than any other team this season, and have mounted so many 4th quarter comeback that is ridiculous. And Payton Manning is a coach right on the field. It won’t matter what the Saints throw at him. He will adjust and promptly score at will come the 2nd half. For the Saints to keep up, they will have to match the Colts point for point.

In the end, I think it will be the Colts, 31-28. But, that’s just me. I guess we’ll see in the final result in a couple days.

Until next time…

Mass Effect 2 Initial Impressions

Mass Effect 2 is awesome…that is all….

I suppose I should back that up a bit, eh? I’m gonna warn you though, in the interest of full disclosure. I’m a bit of a Mass Effect fanboy, and therefore my views may be a bit biased. So, take these impressions for what you will. For that reason, I won’t be doing a full review on this game either.

This game is such a huge improvement over the first. I won’t lie and say the game is much different overall. It still feels very much like the Mass Effect we’ve grown to love. But, what Bioware has done is they practically took every single complaint about the first game, and either removed it, or fixed what was wrong with it. No more randomly driving around planets in the Mako. No more horrible inventory management. And no more long elevator rides!! There’s a lot more that they improved/changed, but to me, these were the big glaring problems in the first. The rest of the problems, for example framerate (which they fixed this time around) wasn’t so much a problem because of the style of game.

I’ll expand of these 3 things in particular…

First of all, the planet exploration bit it totally gone. Well, maybe not totally, but it’s completely changed. Instead of driving around on every planet you can land on, you now fly (actually control your ship) from system to system, planet to planet, and scan the planets, one by one. The scanning only takes 2 seconds, and if you happen to come across an anomaly, the system will alert you. You can then choose to land, and you’ll be placed on a very specific mission, with totally different environments every single time. No more cookie-cutter warehouses. You can also choose to scan the planets for natural resources, which are used in upgrades….I’ll go into that next.

For the inventory system, they’ve scrapped the entire system from Mass Effect 1, and have gone with something completely new. You don’t pick up individual guns anymore. Instead, you pick up sort of these blueprints for the guns. These blueprints are sent up to the Normandy, and you can now equip any team member with that gun (as long as their trained to use that type of gun). For armor, you no longer equip individual teammates. You can only customize your own. You can purchase armor upgrades for your own armor at the various stores, but all are variations on the stock N7 armor (unless you got some of the collector’s edition or pre-order armors). As for the upgrades, you can buy the upgrades (or I guess I should say the right to upgrade), and then use the raw materials from scanning the planets (as I said above) to actually unlock the upgrade, which is automatically available to everyone. Really, really slick.

Oh, and no more elevator rides either. In the first game, the long rides were used to mask loading times, and loading times still exist, but they’ve gone and created a custom load screen for almost every situation in the game. I won’t go into much detail here, but it’s just an incredible amount of detail and polish….just awesome. They even make fun of the old elevators during once scene. Hilarious.

Well, I suppose I’ve spouted on long enough for now….I’ll post again in a few days with some more impressions.

Until next time….

Artisteer and Menu Bars

When I was building this site, I decided to build it upon WordPress.  For those who have used it before know that it’s a pretty damn good piece of blogging software.  It’s really easy to use, and extremely extensible.  Themes are also a big part of WordPress, and there’s tons of different ones out there that you can use.  I did look through many different ones, but none of them really stuck out to me.  I wanted something that was different…something that was me.

I’m not much of a designer though.  So, I did a bit of research, and came across a nifty little piece of software called Artisteer. Artisteer is basically a GUI-based theme generator.  It’s great because I didn’t have to much around with a ton of PHP and CSS code to get the theme the way I wanted.  I recommend anyone try it out if you have a WordPress site.

Anyways, the main point of this post is not only to tell you about how good Artisteer is, but also how picky it can be.  In the tool itself, Artisteer shows a Categories and Archives dropdown menu, as seen on my site here.  But, the problem is when you export the Artisteer theme, it doesn’t come with those menus, and it wasn’t very clear on how to add them.  After spending a few hours fiddling with WordPress functions and PHP code, I ended up adding this code to my functions.php file for my theme, inside the art_menu_items() function:

  2. /* Already existing code */
  3.     if (true === $showHomeMenuItem || ‘page’ == get_option(‘show_on_front’))
  4.         echo ‘<li><a’ . ($isHomeSelected ? ‘ class="active"’ : ) . ‘ href="’ . get_option(‘home’) . ‘"><span><span>’
  5.                 . $homeMenuItemCaption . ‘</span></span></a></li>’;
  7. /* Code for categories */
  8.         wp_list_categories(‘title_li=<a href="#" title="Categories"><span><span>Categories</span></span></a>’);
  10. /* Code for archives */ 
  11.         echo ‘<li><a href ="#" title="Archives"><span><span>Archives</span></span></a><ul>’;
  12.         wp_get_archives("type=monthly");
  13.         echo ‘</ul></li>’;
  15. /* Already exsisting code */
  16.         add_action(‘get_pages’, ‘art_header_page_list_filter’);
  17.         add_action(‘wp_list_pages’, ‘art_list_pages_filter’);        
  18.         wp_list_pages(‘title_li=’);
  19.         remove_action(‘wp_list_pages’, ‘art_list_pages_filter’);
  20.         remove_action(‘get_pages’, ‘art_header_page_list_filter’);

By adding the title_li parameter with a link tag for Categories in it (even in this case it’s blank) for the wp_list_categories() function, it allows for the CSS to pick it up correctly, like the rest of the pages that are used in the header. For the archives section, a bit more work was needed. You need to add a new list item tag for the archives manually, start a new list inside that, and then just call wp_get_archives(). Then, finish off with the closing tags for the inner list and the list item itself.

Anyways, I hope that’s of help to anyone looking at adding categories and/or archive menu items to their navigation bars.

Until next time…

Welcome, welcome

Hello there everyone,

This is the first blog post from my new presence on the web, DarinCasier.com.  I’ve been working the past 3 weeks on getting this site up and running, and I feel now is the time to show it off!!

As for the purpose of this whole site, I just felt it was time I had my own little corner of the internet where I could be myself (not that I’m not normally).  I’ll be writing about all sorts of random things here.   Anything from gaming to tech news, or just random stuff I feel like blogging about are all fair game.

I’ve tried to get many blogs started in the past, but this time I feel is a bit different.  This time, it’s my own site.  And I hope this time around I’ll stick to it too.

Feel free to comment on the site too.  How’s the theme for everyone?  Does it work in your browser?  Any oddities?  Let me know.  You can reach me at darin [at] darincasier dot com (sorry…spam bots like to scroll over sites…).  You can also follow me on Twitter, or check out my About Me Page for other ways to find me.

Anyways, I hope you enjoy the site.

Until next time…