Well, I got back from the auction and ended up with what seems to be a terrible viral sore throat. It's gone from just crippling pain when swallowing to include the additional symptoms of constant sinus drainage and congestion, and frequent coughing. Fortunately, the symptoms are manageable, but it's slowed down my work on TD. That said, I've run across the boost::multi_array, which does most of the magic I needed my big, dynamic, multidimensional array to do, and has the bonus of being written by people much smarter than me. I've started to get that implemented, though I don't have the resize-and-shift operations in place yet. Being able to make a single resize call on the array and having all the pieces end up the same, correct size is going to be a great bonus though.
One of my problems is that when I'm sick, I don't really feel very creative or interested in doing work that involves thinking. As a result, I just consume content when I'm ill. I watch TV and movies, and catch back up on game playing. My game of choice this time was Alan Wake. I'd been putting off playing it to some extent because the promotional materials didn't exactly sell the mechanics as interesting or cool: "I'm Alan Wake and I fight with light" sounds ridiculous. However, the game turned out to be really enjoyable. It's a solid port, with mostly tight controls and fluid mechanics. The dodge mechanics were a bit awkward -- very much like the dodge mechanics in Arkham Asylum, actually. However, dodging wasn't such a game-critical mechanism to drag you out of the game. The writing is enjoyable and evocative, with a narrative that answers the right questions and challenges the player with others that it leaves unanswered: was Hartman really a villain, or just a guy Wake didn't like so Wake made him a villain? Is Tomas Zane just a character in Wake's story, or is Wake just a character in Zane's story? Or maybe the real answer is somewhere in between? Were the people who were Taken by the Dark Presence returned after the end of the game, or did they just disappear, never to be seen again? We don't see anyone who was Taken in the ending cinematic, so we can't know. The character writing and voice acting is just as solid. Barry in particular got a wonderful treatment -- he starts out as the obnoxious agent, but really does care about Wake. Even though Wake doubts Barry's capability, Barry always steps up and stands beside Wake at worst of times.
But the cutscenes are hilarious. The models and textures are all adequately high res to look great. It's a shame that their facial animation system is so silly. It reminds me so much of the old "hinged jaw" animated sprites of my youth. The characters' mouths move when they speak, but not in any way that pertains to the words they're saying...or even to words at all. Fortunately, as I mentioned, the writing and voice work are so solid that you quickly gloss over the weird faces people make when they talk and you're absorbed by the game.
The survival horror aspect is treated quite well, with combat usually being filled with tension, even though I rarely had a time that I was actually that short on resources. I was a little frustrated that you always started over with your gear each new "episode" or chapter of the game's story; I tend to hoard items and equipment and so I had to struggle with the game discouraging long-term hoarding even as the mechanics encouraged me to manage my resources tightly. The frustration I felt with the dodge mechanic was always amplified by the poltergeist sections; I usually found it easier to hide behind objects during those parts, where I could be more or less safe until I'd destroyed or moved past the flying objects, rather than trying to dodge around them; especially as the gentlest carress would take a quarter of the health bar.
I haven't played through the two optional episodes which are unlocked after completing the game yet. I'm partway through the first one, but it's just not nearly as much fun as the game proper. I appreciate actually being introduced to Mr. Scratch, Wake's evil alter-ego, theoretically loose in the real world as Wake is trapped in the Dark Place, but the combat encounters are very different in tone. While appropriate for the Dark Place, it's very jarring to go from a situation where I only ever got close to running out of ammunition and the encounters were very cut-and-dried: wipe out all the Taken, and then move on (you could sort of run from the Taken, but most of the time they'd just keep spawning nearby after you left a safe zone until you finished them off) to a situation where the Taken often appear to spawn infinitely, and ammunition is extremely rare. The Taken are tireless and faster than you, which makes running from them particularly difficult. As a result, I die a lot more frequently in the bonus episode and have less fun -- it's tiresome to deal with combat encounter after combat encounter where your only choice is to try to run away and then turn to shoo off any Taken that get too close. I still really want to finish them because the game's story still has its hooks in me, but as I very gradually feel more myself and my own game calls to me, the frustration of dealing with tedious combat encounters makes it hard to get back into the game.
In any event, I got Alan Wake for a song off of GOG during some sale, and if you run across it on GOG or Steam for cheap, I highly recommend it, because it's a really good game.