Forza: Horizons 2 Review

Ok, so Forza:Horizons 2 has been out for ages now. I didn’t bother with it on Xbox360, because it was effectively castrated for that system: the only real way to play it was to do it on Xbox:One. And, I wasn’t buying an Xbox:One right away, because I need wheel/pedals to make it worthwhile for me.

But then a deal came along, and I bought a used Xbox:One, with Forza:Horizons 2, Forza 5, HALO: Master Chief Collection, and Destiny. Now, I was definitely not interested in playing Forza 5 without a wheel/pedals, but as I just ended up with a copy of Horizons, I figured I’d give it a shot.

I’m coming at this from negative space, right from the start. I didn’t like Forza:Horizons in its first iteration on the Xbox:360. I saw the Forza name on it, initially and thought “awesome! Open-sandbox simulator/racer! This is evrything I’ve been waiting for from Forza!”. And then it wasn’t. My general review of Forza:Horizons was “If I wanted an Need For Speed game, I’d have bought one”. The physics were arcade-y at best, sloppy at worst, there was none of the modification (parts) and tuning (set-up) that Forza is rightly famous for. Car’s didn’t feel particular different, and the modelling was pretty “meh” in general. I’m a car guy: I expect a lot from a brand who’ve made a name for doing car games, and specifically, a car SIMULATOR spectacularly well.

And Horizons wasn’t it.

So, enter Horizons 2.

I…

I LIKE IT, OK???

I said for months, I wasn’t going to bother, it’d just be more of the same, because Horizons sold well, so they weren’t going to fuck with the model that worked: NFS-style apparently had a market in the Forza world. Depressing, but there it was.

I was wrong.

That’s not entirely true.

The physics are not FORZA 4 or 5 accurate. But the Forza franchise is a spectacular evolution by Turn10, and Horizon isn’t made by Turn10. However. Turn10 do have a stake in it, and it’s primarily developed by PlayGround Games. It uses a heavily modified version of the new Forza Motorsports 5 engine. they physics are GOOD. They’re not awesome, but they’re good.

Upgrades.

Upgrade and tuning system is identical to Forza Motorsports. GIMMIE HALLELUJAH! This was my big thing: Forza Motorsports allows very specific additions and changes to the cars, it’s what makes it fun for me. I tend to opt out of the super-, ultra-, and exotic-cars, and racecars. They’re not that fun for me. I get the appeal for people, but again, I’m a car guy: I get more out of making something slow, fast, than just having something fast from the factory. Which means I’m far more likely to pick a 1967 Fiat Abarth 131 (Class D) and build it my way to Class A, than to buy a 2014 Corvette (Class A), in game. Tuning is the same thing: I choose my gear ratios, suspension settings, etc based on experience and knowledge, (and, honestly, I learn a lot from doing it too, about what works and what doesn’t). I want the Front Wheel Drive car I’m using to drop some of its understeer and rotate a little in teh corner? Take a few pounds out of the front springs and sway bars, add a few pounds to the rear, and remove some rear downforce, then test drive. Drive, tweak, drive, repeat.

And that was the bailiwick of only Forza Motorsports.

The good news is, that’s all now in Horizons. you don’t HAVE to do it, to win races. But if you want it, it’s there.

Better, if you’re a fan of the franchise, it’s familiar. The parts and tuning segments are lifted wholesale from previous Forza games. Awesome! So, I can make an All-wheel-drive car that balances perfectly in the corners, and I can make the same car oversteer madly if you look at it funny. Last night, on a super-tight street course, I had to turn my final gear ratio up from 3.56:1 to 6.5:1. Why? I wasn’t getting out of 3rd gear, and the engine was bogging down. I finished the race in second (just too little power to really pull it off) and was using 3rd, 4th, and 5th gears for the majority of the race, keeping the revs in the powerband.

Yes, the tuning is just THAT good, and that accurate.

The environment is beautiful, and put together brilliantly. YEs, there are “hard walls” occasionally, where they don’t want you to go. But most items are deformable (ie. you can hit them with a car and destroy them) and if they’re not, they’d realistically not be in real life (ie. you’d deform the car first). The sandbox is staggeringly huge. I’ve not seen all of it yet, and I’ve covered well over 1000 miles / 1400km. The roads are well thought out for free roaming, but also tighten down into courses really well. There’s a solid breakdown of on/off road races, and you really have to think ahead before you go into a race. This is where the tuning comes in: you’ll want to have at least an on-road and an off-road tune, for any car you use regularly: you can load the tune at the start of the race, and it swaps in tires, suspension, etc, that’s appropriate to the race you’re doing. Trying to do a cross country race on road race tires is an effort in absolute futility. Speaking of racing and free-roam, the AI is excellent too. I don’t really know how the whole “Driveatar thing works, but it really DOES work. I’ve built up rivalries with AI “Players”. Some of us just get “bumpy” with each other in races.

So, where does it fall down?

Like I said, the physics aren’t Forza Motorsports good: they’re probably… I’m going to say 70% of Forza Motorsports, and 30% NFS/Arcade. Which, honestly, broadens the appeal. I don’t have an issue with this, as long as it doesn’t flop over into the simulator that is Forza Motorsports. I think having the two products is a really good idea. So, not really a failing, just not as hard-edged as FM5.

The interface.

one of the “challenges” specifically is both really fun, and incredibly irritating, all at once. Early on, you’re assigned an easy to way to make a few bucks: take pictures of unique cars: you get credits for each one, and a bonus for every twenty.

The problem is that it takes forever to get in and out of camera mode! And you might do it three or four times on one stretch of road. It’s incredibly intrusive on the game play.

Example.

You see a Ferrari you’ve not collected yet.

You hit “pause” to go to the menu.
Across twice to “camera mode”
Wait while it loads.
move the camera sight around to get your shot.
Click the shutter.
Click “OK”
Wait for it to save.
Click “B” to go back to the camera
Click “B” to go back to the menu
Wait for the menu to load
Click “B” to go back to the road
Wait for the game to reload itself and put you back in the drivers seat.

Now, do this 200+ times (I’m currently at 218 cars captured on film).

Given how important the camera usage is within the game, there must be an easier way to go in/out of camera mode that doesn’t take up five minutes of your time.

ON a personal level, for me, the game still loads too heavily to “high end” cars, as well. I’d love to see more low end stuff, and have challenges specifically for it. The game is definitely directing me to start higher and higher, if I want to progress, and I’d rather work one car up from the bottom. I’m probably in a minority in that, however, as most people just want to get in and go.

So, all in all, it’s a good game, if not a perfect one. I can see it go either way in terms of the sliding scale between arcade and simulator. Obviously, I’d love to push the slider closer and closer to “simulator”, but at the end of the day, I’ll be happy if it just doesn’t go any further back to “arcade”. That was the primary failing of the first game, on the Xbox360. The simulator side of things is what really makes this special, I think.

I’d give it a solid 7.5/10. There’s some flaws, but they don’t ruin the game by any means. there’s also room to improve. But this is a seriously solid bridge between arcade and simulator, and should continue to do well, and attract both sides of that coin.

I retract my previous statements about the Horizons franchise. I like this game, they’ve done well.

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Genesis Coupe: The Long Story of Getting a 27 Minute Upgrade

So, you go the TL:DR version (which, if I’m honest, still wasn’t exactly short) last week.

Go on. Go read that link first. That gives you the basics of the whole situation. You read it?

REALLY?

That fast? Hrrrm. Fine. I’ll trust you.

So.

I’d planned an extended weekend in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area, for those who aren’t familiar with it). It’s spring, the summer tires are back on the car, it’s looking and sounding ‘right’ again, and I do like a drive. The original plan had been to run down Wednesday after work, crash Wed/Thurs night for sure at a friends place, then maybe move onto my brother’s place Friday night, and one of the Basterd’s places on Saturday night. Thursday would be a catch-up-with-people day and evening, and Friday and Saturday would be car stuff. Then drive home on Sunday.

First issue: A storm rolled in on Tuesday, with heavy rain forecast for Wednesday. Some potential flooding on all the routes I was looking at taking. With a Cold Air Intake that sits behind the bumper cut-out, and six inches off the road, that could be bad. So, I decided to forgo Wednesday night, and leave early early Thursday morning. Which went well enough. Most of the time, I could roll with at least a window down, and just enjoy the drive. Not the sunny, windows down, sunroof open drive I’d hoped for, but hey, you can’t pick and choose sometimes.

reststop

I left around 5:30am Thursday morning, and it was decent. Until I crested a hill just west of Norwood on highway 7, and there was an OPP car going the other way. Now, I wasn’t speeding… badly. I was just following the pick-up in front of me at *mumbles* km/h. I lifted off the throttle, and saw him crest the hill going the other way. Held myself to about 85km/h and just kept rolling. About five minutes later, there’s an OPP car stuck to my rear bumper. Two minutes after that… Yup. Flashing reds and blues.

So, I pull over, keys out of the ignition, stereo off, windows down, and he comes over.

“So, where’s your front plate?”

Ahhh. SO, he rolled up behind me, saw I had an Ontario plate, and that’s the issue. Fair enough. Ontario requires you to have two plates, front and back.

“it’s right there, but it’s on the passenger side: that’s why you pulled me over?”
“Really? I didn’t see it, and yup, that’s why I stopped you.”
“Go take a look, really, it’s there, it’s just on the passenger side, screwed into the “TOW” hook hole.”
“Wait, what?”

So, he goes round the front, and starts poking at my plate. I get out, and go explain it to him:

IMG_20140517_140159

Long and short of that? Really cool, fairly young guy, no ticket, and he was interested in knowning where I got the attachment for the towhook. I’m happy to plug a Canadian company, so it’s RHO PLATE. He also mentioned that while he didn’t mind either way, in Toronto they may not look as kindly on my plate covers. Fair enough.

Back on the road, got to Missisauga without further issues, and Thursday in general was good! I got to catch up with peeps, and see my neice for an hour or two, which is awesome. Movies until far too late into the night, and then poof! It’s Friday.

Now, Friday, that’s where we get to the meat of things. you’ve read the GOOD part of my experience with ATQ. This is the bitter sweet.

I want to state right now, for the record, the issues that Tomi had were NOT HIS FAULT. They were Hyundai’s, quite honestly. He’s never seen a car as badly assembled as mine. Nor has he seen as much salt and crap built up in and arround the subframe bolts and mount points. So, when we discovered that, putting the passenger rear subframe bolt back in (or maybe even as early as taking it out) it was shredded, that’s definitely NOT on Tomi and his skills. Unfortunately, it is really difficult to get a bolt that looks like this back into the car in any useful manner:

old subframe bolt -detail

Also, because it was Friday, and we’d been waiting around for the rigid collars to be made (on site), we were already running behind by the time we discovered the problem. The first job was to find a tap/die set with a 14mm x 1.5 in it. Surprisingly difficult. By 9:30pm, we were opening boxes at Canadian Tire, and the staff were trying to usher us out the door, as it was closing time. Fortunatley, the kit we found was on sale for $99.99: a price I’m willing to pay to add a useful tool to my own garage. After dropping off food for his (understandably irritated) girl friend, we headed back to the shop… via the beer store. Because, OBVIOUSLY at this point.

Re-threading the sub-frame bolt was done and in it went… And as soon as Tomi applied any torque to the wrench, it just started spinning freely. Not going to work. And yeah, we pulled it out, and sure enough, stripped down again. The hole it was going into was clear, so after two or three tries, we gave up on that bolt.

By this time, it’s pretty late. At least 11:30pm. We’re about nine hours into that twenty-seven minute job. Tomi is unimpressed, I’m disheartened, and worried about even being able to get back to Mississauga to sleep that night, and considering where in the shop I set my tent and air-mattress up.

Which is when Tomi says: “hey, maybe I can MAKE a bolt”.

My response is pretty incredulous: Seriously, you can do that?

“I dunno. I’ve never done it before. But we can try.”

And he goes to work. And a single lump of steel becomes:

old subframe bolt, and new

That’s the new one on the right.

I gotta say, it LOOKS right. Hell, it looks better than the stock bolt. In it goes…. and… starts spinning freely. Both of us show disappointment. But, again, Tomi goes back to work, does some quick measurements, and hey, look at that, the new one is fractionally too long. A chunk gets chopped off, and it gets re-tapered and threaded again and in it goes. And the torque wrench clicks at 60lb.ft.

This is when the big grins start. The spec says 125lb.ft for this bolt. That’s a bunch. So, Tomi goes to work.

70lb.ft chunk-CLICK!
80lb.ft chunk-CLICK!
90lb.ft chunk-CLICK!
100lb.ft chunk-CLICK!

Holy shit. This is getting CLOSE. 100lb.ft is probably enough. But, hey, lets go for the gold. I dunno about Tomi, but I’m ACTIVELY holding my breath at this point.

110lb.ft chunk-CLICK!
120lb.ft chunk-CLICK!

Moment of truth…

125lb.ft chunk-CLICK! lets just check that again: Chunk-CLICK! chunk-CLICK! chunk-CLICK!

Huge sigh of relief, and the sound of me guzzling a beer.

I’ve said it to a few people: I spent a bunch of hours (many, many hours) that night talking with Tomi. He and I have HUGE ideological and political differences. But, I have no problem with that for a number of reasons. First, he’s a smart guy, and he’s willing to talk. We need more people on both sides who are willing to talk, and willing to come to an agreement (or agree to disagree). I had a lot of fun arguing with him about stuff. I think he was surprised that I didn’t hate his guts over his views, too. Second, he didn’t leave me to rot. Seriously, that’s a big deal. I can think of a couple of shops and individuals who would have just called it quits, and told me to tow the car to the dealership for them to put a new, stock bolt in. A lot of this is down strictly to his unwillingness to be beaten by a problem, which is why the parts he has for sale are so damn good. He gets it right, because, in his mind it HAS TO BE RIGHT. “Close enough” is not good enough. And that’s an attitude that isn’t anywhere near as common as it should be in almost all industries now. I have huge respect for his work-ethic and sheer ability to get around a problem without letting it beat him. This is a guy who is doing something really good for the community, and I’d like him to keep doing it. Which is why I’m buying all his shit.

So, back to the story at hand.

By the time he’d gotten the rest of the car buttoned up again, and we’d cleaned up the shop, it was 3:30am by the time I got out of there. Another forty-five minutes to drive from Guelph to Mississauga, and it was god-damn-late o’clock before I collapsed on the couch.

The next morning, I made a call. I killed the idea of going and visiting my brother, sister-in-law, and niece for the morning, and got an extra hour or two of sleep. I also made the call that I’d just head home that day. I was exhausted, stressed out, and just generally not in the best of moods. Yes, everything had worked out fine, but damned if I wanted to take a chance on anything else going wrong. What I did do, when I left Mississauga at 10am, was stop in briefly at the BTRcc tuning meet. Got to chat with a few good people in Chapter 11, and The Durham Basterds crews (both of which I’m a member of) and see SketchedOut’s car make 297hp/350lb.ft on the dyno, post-tune. For a 2.0T with bolt-ons: that’s impressive.

We also got a couple of pics of the Chapter 11 cars in attendance, with Iceman shooting from the roof (and waving at the security cameras).

Chapter 11 @ BTRcc

After that, I hit the road home, and was there by about 6pm. I was DONE.

The important things though. I wrote the TL:DR version of my review on the ATQ parts last week. I’ve gotten some more driving in since then, including a run out to the rural country where the roads are… well, what you’d expect.

So, post-honeymoon phase review. GO OUT AND BUY THE ATQ RIGID COLLARS.

I’m rolling at speed over railroad tracks that I have previously crawled over, and the suspension isn’t making suicide sounds. The whole car tracks truer, and more predictably. Yes, with the Eibach springs on, and five-year-old stock struts, it’s still a … sharp… ride, however, the bangs, thunks, and terrifying the-suspension-just-fell-out-on-that-pothole sounds are completely gone. The steering is more accurate and has more talk from it: I know what the road is doing in a way that wasn’t being communicated to me via the chassis previously. I’ve noted that there is a new rattle from the exhaust, but that is, I think, a matter of me ‘shortening’ the exhaust with the proper TurboXS racepipe AND straightening where it’s hung on the chassis (due to the rigid collars aligning everything). I know where it’s tapping the body, and I actually just have to lower it very slightly. That shouldn’t be a particular difficult job, but it also illustrates just how far out my car was, and now isn’t. there’s a good chance I can hold over for another season on the coilovers, unless a deal comes along (in which case, I’ll jump on ’em).

I’m also lovin’ the shifter bushings. The shifts, despite my super-light knob, are tight, linear, and I hit em without a thought. Once I get the ATQ shortshifter, I’ll be laughing.

So, that’s the “Long” version. Is there any surprise I went home early on my long weekend away?

Genesis Coupe: Upgrade Season Comes Once Again, with a Roadtrip, and Strange Occurances, wherein I Develop the Love of ATQ Products

Got that? Hah. I’m the king of the run-on subject line.

Ok, so, I’m going to give you two versions. I’ll give you the long, whole-weekend version, and the TL:DR version. I’m even going to be nice, and give you the TL:DR version first.

TL:DR

As part of a weekend trip to Southern Ontario, I dropped by ATQ . ATQ is relatively new on the market in terms of parts for the genesis coupe, but working with some pretty illustrious names in the community: ie. Snoopy. So, when SketchedOut asked if I was gonna come along to meet the owner, Tomi, I pretty much couldn’t say no.

SketchedOut was having (as I ended up doing) both the front, oval shifter bushings, rear shifter linkage bushing, and rigid collars installed on his 2013 Genesis Coupe. I have a 2010: there’s some minor differences. I’ll make this very simple, and in all caps.

IF YOU OWN A MANUAL GENESIS COUPE, GO BUY THE LINKED PRODUCTS ABOVE, IF YOU OWN AN AUTOMATIC, GET THE RIGID COLLARS NOW. Not only is Tomi a fiend for quality and details, he does his homework, and makes the best product possible, for the best price possible. Driving home with all of these items installed was eye-opening to say the least.

The Shifter: The shift in the Genesis, 3.8 or 2.0T is sloppy to say the least. The combination of the front and rear bushings tighten the whole linkage up, making the shifts tighter, more precise and accurate, and generally don’t feel like you’re flailing through the gearbox, but actually selecting a gear. I can’t wait to get my hands on his next batch of short shifter. Why? Because it’s the only one on the market that keeps it all “right”. Need to know what I mean? Go watch Snoopy’s review:

The Rigid Collars: This is where things reall get good. For the price, this is on a par, as a handling and car-feel upgrade, with the (stock on GT/Track/Rspec) $60 strut-tower brace. You can watch what rigid collars do here. I was going to link to a short description, but they were all for competitors sites, so go watch Snoopy’s video, because, yeah. . Now, I had some issues, which will be delved into in the Too Long version, but, as a whole, the car feels much tighter than it did before: Enough so that I’m not sure my shocks/struts are completely done yet. They still bear replacing, for sure, but with the chassis being better sorted out, I can put them off again a little bit. Which is nice. I don’t get the slamming and cracking feeling over rough roads that I had been getting, and the steering has a much better, more on-target feel to it. For the price, you simply cannot do better than this upgrade. If you drive a 2010 Genesis Coupe, however, especially an early build, you’ll want to read the Too Long version (coming soon to a blog near you). In the meantime, hit up ATQ and get these bits ordered. Just stay away from the short shifter, because they only make so many at a time, and I want to make sure I get mine. My preciousssssssssssss.

That’s it for the TL:DR review. I had planned on just diving into the “how the weekend really went” version, BUT, I’m going to separate that into another post. It never goes easy for me, BECAUSE REASONS.

Friday Wants: The Everything Edition

Friday Wants:

Oh, the world is speedin’ up, and slowin’ down, all at the same time. It’s also almost Christmas, so, I can do my gratuitous “I want stuff” thing.

  • Monster iSport Intensity earbuds. I’m not normally a huge fan of Monster, but apparently the sound quality of these is good, they’re a lot less issue-y with staying in your ear, and not being painful than the silicone-tip type, and they get a thumbs up from one of my co-workers too (and he’s really into his music). So, these are lookin’ pretty good. And at $100, they’re pretty reasonably priced, too.
  • SuperLux Taillights I still want ’em. They’re awesome. $400.
  • 7″ Galaxy tablet, Stereo screen/tablet relocation kit, and the various bits’n’pieces that are involved in the installation in my car. This is something I really want to do in the next year: with an off-line map-pack for the tablet, and the right set-up, this completely replaces an external navigation unit, while providing a ton of other functionality. And, the install will be fun and educational!
  • Campbell Hausfield 3/8″ air ratchet (50lb.ft) or Stanly Fat Max Air ratchet. Because I have a compressor, and a bunch of car work to do.
  • Maybe even more than the air ratchet, a 1/2″ air impact gun.
  • As my beloved MEC cycling pack is giving up, after nearly fifteen years of hard service, I’m looking at either a Chrome Barrage or Chrome Bravo, but heavily towards the Bravo, just because of the doubling capacity for grocery runs on the bike. That said, Chrome’s prices for Canada are ridiculous (40% mark-up between USA & Canada, before shipping and duty), so, here, at motosport.com. Sadly, even there, it’s $250 (after shipping and tax) for a $160USD backpack.
  • Green Earth ceramic fry pan. I still miss my ceramic frypan, and good solid ones are hard to find. this one looks decent.
  • ATQ Rigid Collar Kit $100. This is a must-have for me, for the spring. And cheap, too!
  • Chuck Wendig’s “The Blue Blazes”. Because, it’s the only thing on my reading list from this summer I didn’t pick up yet.
  • And hey, while I’m dreaming of camera stuff: Nikon D7100 body-only Because my D70s is now eight-going-on-nine-years-old and is really starting to show that age. I’d really like to move up to more light sensitivity, a more effective sensor, and a lot less left-over noise in the image. I’ve said that for about four years now though, and I’m still soldiering on with the D70s.
  • SeaSucker suction bike rack. Watch the video. How freakin’ cool is THAT?? I saw one of these in use on a Genesis Coupe on Sunday, and the only issue is, you still have to store the front wheel inside, because the ‘attachment’ to the rack is with the front fork of the bike. Otherwise, EXCELLENT option.
  • And, obviously, impact sockets to go with the air tools. A starter kit. Or, you know, the ultimate comprehensive set of metric and imperial, in 3/8 and 1/2″.
  • Oh, and extensions for the GoPro. A couple of these should do it.
  • All The Things

    Wowzers, it’s almost that time.

    Spring is three things for me. First, biking. And, as I did, in fact, buy the SE Bikes Lager at Joe Mamma, I’m just waiting for the roads to clear properly so I can go pick it up. Between that, and my Opus Stern, I’m looking forward to a lot of riding this summer, both distance/exercise, and casual gettin’ places kind of riding. I want to keep my behind-the-wheel driving to a minimum, to save some cash, and so that I can do it when it’s enjoyable, rather than for errands and commuting.

    I am, of course, going to nearly immediately modify the Lager. Because just like everyone else is never good enough for me, apparently.

    Speaking of just like everyone else being not good enough, and not driving, it’s also almost time for my second spring-thing: car season.

    Because I can’t wait to get the Genesis looking proper again.

    Sunset on the High Road IV

    I mean, the winter (ie. stock) wheels aren’t bad, by any means. But I miss my flush 19″ wheels, even if they’re not baller. I had hoped to do at least one or two additional things this summer, but given the expenses I’ve incurred recently, and that we’re likely to incur over the next few months, it looks like those things are on hold again. Which is too bad, but that’s life, right? There’s no reason I can’t put off a new exhaust, tune, and Coilovers under next spring. I’m also going to have to look for a clutch soon, as I’ve got slipping in 4th and 5th gear (hit 3800rpm at full throttle, revs jump to 4400rpm, then drop to 4000rpm and continue climing: slip’n’grab). I assume I’d have the same thing in sixth gear, too, but I’m honestly not brave enough to really get going THAT fast and try.

    The only thing I definitely have to do is replace the Ixion Grill that shattered on me, last fall. I’m tempted to go either Sequence, or just get the Ixion again, or maybe even RoadRuns. But any way you look at it, I can’t run the awful stock grill all summer.

    What the new car season also means is… car shows, and car events. I know the Toronto GenCoupe guys are planning a gokarting weekend at MoSport again (we did it last year and it was awesome) in June, and there’ll be the requisite local meets, runs up to Champlain Lookout, and probably a Toronto and/or Montreal meet or two. or three.

    On top of that, I’m finally getting the Condensation in my taillights fixed, under warranty, with a new set of taillights. Installation happens Tuesday, which is awesome. I’m inordinately looking forward to that.

    And the third thing is… PAX EAST. Yes, our annual gaming pilgraming is next weekend. This means video games that no one has played yet, hours of merch booths and mechandising freebies, nerdcore concerts, industry parties, and of course…

    The PokéCrawl. Yes, A pokemon themed pub-crawl, through Boston. I cannot think of a better way to start PAXEast than drinking with five hundred other like-minded idiots. And yes, that me and the Ottawa crew in the “TRON” Style Pokemon sweaters. And yes, we built ’em. And yes, they are JUST THAT AWESOME.

    This years will probably be even more epic. One can hope, no?

    However, I’ve got a week to check out what panels I want to plan to hit: I’m getting more and more interested in the social culture and influence side of gaming. there were some fantastic poltical/social discussion panels last year, and I expect no less this year, as well. I just have to figure out which ones I want to hit.

    In the meantime, I gotta finish my PokéCrawl costume before we leave on Thursday.

    [cars] I Loved An Import (and I Didn’t Know it)

    Once upon a time, somewhere around 1989, when I knew a lot less about cars, I made fun of a friend, for his “Imported Escort” that I thought he paid too much for, and got too little. I did this because my dream car at the time was a GM G-Body: a GrandPrix, Monte Carlo, Cutlass Supreme. You know, V8 in the front, drive the wheels out back, and push a lot of Iron around in a 2-door, t-top chassis.

    So, Omar, if you ever read this, I’m sorry. I was wrong. Oh, in hindsight, he did his mods wrong (a big subwoofer under the passenger seat “for the ladies”), but he got the car right.

    Because today, I would buy that “Ford Escort” in a second.

    Because that Escort wasn’t an Escort at all. It was something a little… better. It was, at least in North America, a Merkur XR4Ti. It was, undressed for the North American Market, a Ford Sierra Cosworth at its heart.

    And, today, it hits all my buttons. It actually has done for about ten years.

    Rear wheel drive. relatively high-pressure (14-17psi) turbo. Relatively light. And … distinctive… in appearance.

    I would buy one today. I took a quick look on Ontario Kijijji, and you can get a well-maintained manual transmission 1988 model for around $4500. And yeah, that seems like a lot. But there weren’t many of these to begin with, and they’re becoming more and more scarce. A notable percentage of the ads I saw stated “Comes with parts car”. That’s good and bad. Good, lots of extra stuff to work with. Bad, another one of these that will never see the road again.

    They’re a cool car, for a lot of reasons. In the land of affordable speed in the late eighties, there wasn’t a lot. My little brother had a ’91 Mazda MX6 GT Turbo which was fantastic, and again with the Mazda, the 323 GTX. FWD and torque steer of the gods in the MX6, and the GTX was … unusual, but both awesome.

    But, at the end of the day, if you like performance, then RWD > FWD pretty much every time.

    I’d love to have an old Merkur, gigantic wing and all (didn’t I mention the wing? That distinctive appearance? Here’s a picture) as a project car.

    Because they give you a base to work from. There’s a ton of aftermarket, and great potential. Tons of information out there too. And, they hail from a simpler automotive time. You, as an enthusiast, get to explain that it’s not an Escort, it’s not even a European Escort, it’s a SIERRA; TOTALLY DIFFERENT CAR!

    And, it’s got quirky stories. fr’instance, Car and Driver gave it a “10 best of 1985” award. Then, in 2009, took that award away when they made their 10 most embarassing award winners list. Personally, I think they were looking for a tenth car for the list. Every other vehicle with its award rescinded had actual issues: the Merkur had a wierd name, and “wasn’t a terrible car, but it sure was odd looking.” and “in sum, perculiar”.

    There’s even a webcomic loosely based around one: Misfile

    What can I say? Something about them screams “this needs to be fixed up”. So, again, I’m sorry Omar. You bought the right car back then. And sometime in the last twenty years, I bet you junked it, too.

    Updated Out of Boredom

    I’m in limbo right now. I’ve got a ton of topics to talk to myself (and I guess anyone who’s reading this) about, but no energy to do so. I’m on my third day off work, sick, and I’m so bored my teeth are grinding.

    See, the thing is, I feel guilty taking sick days. Justified as they may be (and they are: I’ve been completely energy-less since PAXEast, due to a bug I picked up there, aka PaxPox, aka ConFlu), I don’t like sick days, because I don’t feel I’m allowed to do anything productive. That means no gaming, no going out, no chores, no ‘fun’: you’re sick, you took a day off, if you’re well enough to do the above, you should be at work.

    So, I’ve watched a lot of Netflix the last three days, while I drifted in and out of consciousness. Mostly old horror flicks, like LifeForce, and Phantasm II, as well as schlock (Doom) and TopGear.

    Phantasm II was cheezy, for sure, but surprisingly, I really enjoyed it. It’s actually kinda like a Supernatural movie, twenty years before Supernatural.

    Meanwhile, I’m percolating my thoughts on PAXEast (which was, in a word, awesome), prepping the car for summer, working on the house, trying to fit some gaming in sometime in the next few weeks, and finally, shopping for a new bike.

    The bike bit is tough. I’ve had the same bike for the last ten years. It’s got somewhere in the ballpark of 35-40,000km (28,000 miles?) on it, and it’s definitely worse for wear. I might have another year in it, but I’d rather replace it now and take the old Devinci down to Mom & Dad’s for casual riding when I’m down at their place. The problem I’m having is that I know enough about my riding habits, and what I want in a bike to be really dangerous to myself. You don’t accumulate that kind of mileage on a bike without learning about what you like and dislike about the bike.

    What that means is, I’m starting to look not at hybrid bikes, but cyclocross. I’m also looking up a step or two in componentry (my hybrid has all Shimano MTB components: the cyclocross bikes use road components but can go on trails) to extend the durability, while still giving me multi-position handlebars (good for my back) multiple-options for brake levers (good for commuting and racing) and a good gear range for distance. Also, light. My bike was light, and the bikes I’m looking at are another 5-10lbs lighter than mine.

    I don’t know quite enough to say definitively what I need though. So, I get lost in the research. I’ve got about fifteen tabs open right now with bikes, lists of components, and hierarchies of parts and manufacturers. It’s not that this confuses me, but trying to find out where i should make the trade-offs makes me indecisive. Because my other target is that the bike can’t be much more than a thousand bucks. That’s my cut-off for my willingness to commute and lock it up outside whereever I happen to be for six to ten hours. So, basically I’m looking for “the best bike for a thousand dollars that suits my riding habits and city”.

    It’s a tall order.

    Time for more research. And maybe I’ll watch Hellraiser in the meantime.