The World According to John

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

New XaviX Games

Since my kids love the XaviX bowling so much I decided to purchase all of the other available XaviX games (actually there are only 2 other games. It's nice to be able to say that I have every game for a specific game console!). The games are Tennis and Baseball. I have only had about 30 minutes to evaluate these (15 minutes each). Baseball comes with a bat and ball. The bat is designed to detect movement and the ball has buttons where you can enter the type of pitch and movement detection as well. When you swing and hear the crack of the bat sound effect you feel like you are actually hitting a ball! Tennis feels the same, you have two racquets and you swing them at the ball giving you a feeling that you are actually playing. I can't wait to introduce the kids to these! I'll update this blog with their reactions.

While I'm talking about the XaviX, I had an idea to setup a mock bowling alley in my basement to go with my Arcade theme. I have been pricing laminate flooring to build a small 4x7' lane in front of a mounted TV. I am also planning to open my XaviX port and see if I can wire in a connecter that will allow me to run wires to the end of the bowling lane where I can put some Arcade style buttons to allow players to select game options from their seats. I'll update this blog with pictures if I manage to pull this project off. The XaviX has an expansion port so this may be clean way to add devices. I'll know more when I void the warranty!

Friday, January 14, 2005

Pinball Anyone?

I have been a big fan of the old 80’s arcade experience. Over the last 25 years I have been purchasing and researching better ways to bring this experience from the arcades into my home. Since the late 90’s it has gotten much easier with software like MAME (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator) and great compilations for more modern home console systems from companies like Namco and Midway. But over this time something was missing, Video games, although a BIG part of the arcade experience, were not the whole experience. What about PINBALL??? Well over the last few months I have been playing with a program called VisualPinball. VisualPinball along with a tool called VPLauncher have unleashed the world of pinball onto my PC. This tool allows you to download thousands of table data files available all over the internet that attempt to lovingly reproduce all of the worlds favorite pinball machines from the early 1900’s on up. The majority of them look almost dead on with the actual scans from the table artwork to the reproduction of the mechanical scoring and all of the original bells, dings and sirens of the actual machines. My future plan is to build a new arcade cabinet dedicated to pinball emulation. For now I have found some XBOX titles that emulate some new and classic machines almost as well as VisualPinball. I have these collections running on my XBOX based cabinet. The XBOX compilations are PinBall Hall of Fame and Pure Pinball. If you are a Pinball lover all of these products are well worth your download time and money!

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Be your own graphic design shop owner!

If anyone out there is looking to sell something on the web, have I got a cool solution for you! I just discovered this web site called This web site invites you to setup a FREE storefront where you can sell their items along with your designs. For instance they allow you to sell all kinds of shirts, t-shirts, sweat shirts, baseball jerseys etc. with artwork or sayings on them that you design! You select the merchandise that you want to sell and upload image files for them to print onto these items. Some shirts can have images on both the front and the back. You then tell them how much money you wish to make off of each sale and they add that to the base price. They will send you monthly checks for the money you make above their base prices. It is easy to set up an account and they give you a web site store front with a URL that you can advertise. If you are creative enough to come up with the next famous catch phrase or cool graphic you might stand to make a ton of money! This is also cool if you want to create team uniforms and sports jerseys. They allow you to create clothing, mugs, hats, mouse pads, bags, etc. They even let you sell CD’s with data or music that you send them. They let you design the CD and jewel case artwork and they will manufacture and ship them as they are sold. They allow you to publish books! You upload the manuscript in MS Word or PDF format and upload the images for the book covers, you then choose the book binding style and size and they will manufacture and ship them as they are ordered!

Needless to say I have taken full advantage of this FREE opportunity and have integrated them into my website to promote my website and video games! Visit my CafePress storefront here: Tactical Neuronics Merchandise

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Video Game Advice for Parents

As a parent who loves to share his love of video games with his kids (and anyone else who is interested), it is exciting to stumble across one that gets some real play time. I must say that I purchase 10 times more games and systems than actually catch the interest of my kids. It is an expensive hobby and I’m sure many parents get bit by the marketing hype only to see it tossed to the side and never played and enjoyed. Since I’m thinking about games that my kids like (I like them too) I think it would be a good idea to mention another big favorite in case anyone is interested:

Animal Crossing (Nintendo GameCube): This game allows your kids to become citizens of a small town populated by little 3D cartoon animal people. You live life in this town as you would in real life, you have a job a house (complete with a mortgage) and you can have hobbies, collect or create art, make things and sell them, fossil hunt, plant flowers, design clothing, catch fish, hunt bugs and discover secrets hidden everywhere. The town has a general store, post office, train station, light house, town square, museum, police station, city dump, boat dock, streams, lakes, beaches, forests, gardens, trails and waterfalls. The game uses your system clock to know the true date and time. The game has real seasons to match the real weather outside and current time of day. All of the clocks in the game are correct and the town has events throughout the days, weeks, months and years to match real events and holidays! They have fishing tournaments, Halloween festivals, monthly lotteries, Saturday night concerts, birthday celebrations and you even get gifts from the towns people like Nintendo NES system games that you can actually play! You can decorate your home any why you like and upgrade it as you make more money. The town has occasional visitors that sell and trade goods or simply challenge you to a friendly game. This is a game that plays on forever. My daughter has put in over 100 hours to date. The in-game money is a unit called a Bell and she has earned enough to upgrade her house 2 times and spent enough to allow the town general store to upgrade from a small one room store building to a huge supermarket! My daughter is really learning the basics of earning and saving money, paying bills and how to avoid impulse buys in order to save for something more substantial. These are valuable life lessons that are certainly better learned in a simulation than in real life. I wonder how many other 8 year olds understand these concepts. The town supports up to 4 human players. The game allows you to create other towns using additional memory cards and each one can have up to 4 human players. The cool thing is that the hourly train will let you board in one town and visit the others. Each town has a unique layout and its own special plants and goods. You can do some shopping and bring them back to your town to sell plant or farm for more money. This game is very open ended and it seems like it can go on forever!

Monday, January 10, 2005

Addicting my Kids

Update on the XaviX Bowling game: My kids have played it for 4 days straight. I can’t remember that last game that had them both hooked like this. The graphics on this system are nothing special but they are more than ample for a bowling game. The kids also like the mini-games. My 3 ½ year old son likes the one where the pins move across a triple wide lane like ducks in a shooting gallery and he also like a game where colored bricks fall from the ceiling and you have to hit them to clear them out similar to playing Tetris. My 8 year old daughter likes a time challenge game where the pins are setup in different configurations and you have a time-limit to knock them down with one ball. All of these are fun diversions but they still enjoy playing each other in the regular bowling game mode the best. The game supports up to 4 players in a single game and twice that in tournament mode.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Bowling for Robots

Well I finally received the XaviX Bowling kit. I inserted it into my XaviX PORT and I witnessed my XaviX come to life for the first time since I purchased it 5 days ago! I only had the chance to test/play it for about 45 minutes. It is very fun. I'd say the experience is somewhere between real bowling and those small bowling games you find in old bars. Even with the 16oz bowling ball, my arm was starting to get tired. Tonight I plan to let my kids see/play it.

In order to give myself enough room to set it up for bowling I had to move around a few things including a large table that my daughter and I are building and testing our robot projects on. Currently we have two prototypes cobbled together, one to test out obstacle navigation and anther to test out quick acrobatic movements. We are using Lego MindStorms to do this. My daughter's ultimate goal is to build a robot cat. If you haven't heard of MindStorms, they are a collaborative effort between Lego and MIT. MIT chose Lego's as a simple media to develop quick prototypes while teaching engineering concepts and developed a component called a Brick. The MIT Brick is the brain that has a computer and several input and output ports. Lego redesigned a smaller version called an RCX which is the core of the MindStorms technology. The RCX has its own computer, operating system and programming language interpreter. You write the programs on a standard PC and download up to 5 of them onto the brick using a infra-red transmitter. There are several operating systems available that allow you to program your RCX's with languages like java, C, VB, Logo and LegOS or you can use the default Lego language (RCX Code) which comes with the MindStorms out of the box. I have managed to merge several MindStorms Kits and accessory sets into a large assortment including several motors, gears, lights, wires and sensors or many types. My daughter loves to invent things and this is a great way for us to do something together where she can learn something real and have fun doing it. She is pretty sharp for an 8 year old and loves science. I'm doing all I can to stimulate her and my sons imagination in these areas. Between all of my computers, video consoles, arcade games, Robotics lab and electronics gizmos of every type, add to that my new bowling alley simulator and my basement is quickly becoming the nerd’s version of the Wonka factory!

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Today I have two things to be excited about.

The first one is that a group of people who enjoy a game I wrote are banding together to revive the community aspect built around my game. They have put together a fan web site and are preparing to hold tournaments starting in February. The game is A.I. Wars (The Insect Mind) it is a game that allows its players to develop artificial intelligence for a robot insect (Cybug) that you place in battle simulations against up to 10 other player’s Cybugs. I first wrote the game just before the birth of my daughter in 1996 and I have been improving it ever since based on player feedback. A community of fans started to form after an article was written about it in PC Gaming World (European version of Computer Gaming World). Tournaments were held, fan sites sprung up and players generally enjoyed helping each other out. Somewhere in late 2003 interest started to taper off and the fan sites started to drop off or froze without updates. Every two or three months someone would ask about new tournaments but no one would answer. I wrote a new simplified version of the game named A.I. Wars (Armor Commander) that used tanks instead of Cybugs but this didn’t seem to ignite any new interest. A Chinese company had me write two new Chinese language versions of the game for a planned national scholastic competition in China but seemed to drop off of the face of the earth overnight. I was just about to concede that the game had run its course until all of the sudden a new player came on board that wanted to startup a tournament. He managed to contact some of the old players and now they are putting together this new fan site along with tournaments that are already attracting new player interest. This looks very promising, I am very excited!

The second thing I’m excited about is a package that is being delivered to my home as I write this. It is a video game cartridge / peripheral that I ordered online Monday for a new game console I just purchased. Anyone who knows me, knows I love video games; I have been playing them since the late 70’s and writing them since the late 80’s. I have hundreds of PC and console based games and even some full size custom built arcade cabinets. This new console system will go right along side my other modern console systems (XBOX, GameCubes and PlayStation 2). This new system is so new, that I have only seen two commercials for it, and that was after I purchased one on Monday. Its name is XaviX PORT. The game that is being shipped to me is called XaviX Bowling. What makes me so excited about this game/system is that it uses live human body action as its interface instead of a game pad, keyboard, mouse or joystick. Each game comes with hardware that simulates a real interactive piece of sporting gear. For example Bowling comes with a bowling ball that is laced with sensors. The XaviX PORT will watch you simulate rolling this ball (you don’t actually let it go = not a good idea if you like your TV screen) and it will record every micro movement in real time and translate that into a ball that hits the floor and rolls down the alley on your TV screen to hopefully knock down all of the pins. I love bowling games and have many great childhood memories from actual real bowling alleys to those little electro-mechanical bowling lanes you used to see in bars. I’m hoping for a similar feel to those little bar versions at least. I’ll let you know how it actually is once I’ve had the chance to play it. If I like it enough, I’ll probably purchase the Tennis and the Baseball games that come with tennis racquets, baseball and bat. I don’t know how popular this system will become but I like to see these new ideas. I hope they make millions.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005


Welcome to my blog! Opinions are my specialty. My coworkers have named my constant ranting ‘WAJ’ (World According to John). My favorite topics are computers, games, gadgets and politics. I am married and the father of two wonderful young children. I enjoy playing and writing my own video games (see My Website). I build simple robots with my kids. I design and build full size arcade cabinets for fun. I write clinical software for a large pediatric hospital for a living. I am a U.S. Navy veteran. I tinker in electronics (I love to modify things and take them apart). I am a GOP flag carrying right wing lunatic!