Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Video Game High School Season 3 Review

I've been an avid follower of Video Game High School from the beginning. I fell in love with the characters in season one and it has been an interesting journey growing with them. In season one we introduced all of the characters, underlining some of the real world challenges every freshman has when going into high school through the use of hyperbole and ironic comedy. During the second season it's all about the game. The show began to explore it's boundaries. Seeing where it could go and get away with things. also expanded on the relationships that inevitably form between classmates in high school.

This brings us to Season 3. On the surface, season three promises to be as cheery and goofy as seasons one and two but in it's own, more mature and developed way. This however is a facade. What lies beneath the surface is a boiling cauldron of problems. The people in the show don't realize it, the viewers don't realize it but the stage is set and the players are driving a car at 100mph towards this explosion of massive proportions.The developers and script writers i think were aiming to prove that there is more potential in this show to be taken seriously than it is to be considered as just a light-hearted cavalcade through an alternate universe where sports like football, basketball, and baseball have been replaced with professional gaming.

They do it successfully, A lot of the worst scenes for the characters are beautifully scripted and perfectly acted. The tears in their eyes are real, the tension is thick and you empathize with the characters in ways that are usually specifically reserved for the final episode of the final season for usual TV. Where you've grown attached to all of the characters for 7 or 8 seasons and now they're all parting ways, maybe someone does and you along with all the actors have to cope with that.

I felt the tension in the room grow and get so incredibly thick that i could smudge it with my finger, in some of the most disheartening scenes i wanted to stop watching and just give up for a little while. And some of the saddest scenes made me cry... hard.

The reason for this is the masterful script, acting and filming skills of everyone involved in the project. the script that has been written has attained a new level of reality that i don't believe I've seen in other fictional works. For a world where reality is turned on it's head, the pain is relate-able and real. They're not afraid to pull punches.

Understand me when i say that with it's fair share of drama it also has it's fair share of fun times. The night is darkest before the dawn and while the season brings you into the darkness it also leads you right back out. All in all, i have found a new respect for VGHS through season 3. They have proven that not only is the show something fun and entertaining to watch, it also has what it takes to be a continuous show and to take itself seriously.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Game Dev Chronicles - The Seed

Greetings everyone. Lately a good friend of mine and I have been working once a week on a little board game project that we've given life to, and the development process was so much more radically different than anything i could have anticipated that i figured i could provide my insight to people who might also be interested in developing a board and/or card game. Please keep in mind this will be a series of blog posts that will come out every other day just like my normal blog posts. Regardless of how long or short it is, i hope to make this as insightful as possible.

So you want to design your own game, do you? First thing you're going to need is an idea. It doesn't need to be anything grand, and it most certainly does not need to be the final cut and dry game concept from start to finish. What you're looking for is going to be a seed. Think of making a board/card game like growing a plant. You first need to plant the seed, then nurture it and if you do those things you will watch it grow into something beautiful right before your eyes.

Your seed could be somethings as simple as "game where players play as trash collectors during a post-zombie apocalypse."

Once you have your seed it's time to start growing it. You will do this with a good old fashioned pencil and paper. Growing this idea will involve answering some of the following questions:

  1. What is the play style i want?
    1. card game
      1. Collectible card game? (think even balance with very, very rare cards that are abnormally good in very narrow circumstances)
      2. Trading card game? (think Yu-Gi-Oh or Magic the Gathering where most cards are low in monetary value and capable of fine-tuning strategies based off themes)
      3. Living Card Game? (Think static card game with regularly schedule expansions that all contain 100% of the expansion set. Netrunner is a perfect example of that)
      4. Plain card game? (think games like Uno, Love Letter, Citadels, Colossal Arena, Etc)
    2. Board Game
      1. What type of board?
        1. Static board (think risk or monopoly)
        2. Dynamic board (think Betrayal at the House on the Hill or Descent)
      2. Will there be miniatures?
        1. Plastic detailed miniatures
        2. press-board tokens
        3. combination of the two
      3. will the board game have cards?
        1. how important are the cards?
        2. is there room to grow in the cards? (not really a necessary questions but one worth asking if you're interested in releasing expansions later down the road)
  2.  Will there be combat?
    1. If yes, how do i approach hits and misses?
      1. Make them automatic?
      2. approach with dice and modifiers?
      3. use a card system?
    2. If no, how will the players interact with each other if at all.
  3. How will movement be handled if at all?
    1. Static value for everyone
    2. skill based movement (don't let yourself get lost in stats and numbers. Remember the KISS adage.)
    3. Unit Based. (think small world. finite unit resources used to conquer territory, partial regeneration at the beginning of the next turn.
Once you have these questions answered you should have evolved just that little seed of an idea into what appears to be a pretty solid platform to build upon. Next you'll figure out what all assets you need to get a functioning prototype. Remember the less materials you need to play a game the more naturally simple it's going to be. These items will be listed as the following. Game tiles will fall under the same heading as themselves as long as it makes sense. individual decks will be listed separately, and any visual aides will be listed individually (dice, miniatures, meeples, whatever).

with this, you should be ready to start the next step... Designing revision one of your rule book.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Game Review: Shufflepuck Cantina Deluxe

So Thursday i had reviewed a game called Redshirt a Narcissistic view on the Star Trek universe, well today i'm going to review a tongue in cheek satire to the Star Wars universe just so i can keep all of your fanboy knickers twist free. If there was a doctor who, Lexx, Stargate, or Battlestar Galactica video game worth playing i'm sure i would have to make a whole series out of this type of thing to quiet the masses. But alas, Doctor Who has not been adapted to video game, thankfully; Lexx was too R-rated at the time to be made into a video game, i don't care enough about stargate to look for games and Battlestar Galactica Online is a sorry excuse (in my opinion) for a game that fits into the canon of the re-imaged series.

I digress. Shufflepuck Cantina Deluxe knocks out two birds with one stone, for those who have always said "man, i sure love star wars with such a firey passion that i still own the star wars white-y tighties that i had when i was 4." and the people who have always said "man, i sure love air hockey, the video game industry is really missing out on something special by not making an air hockey simulator!"

Yes folks, that's right. This game is a science fiction air-hockey simulator, featuring low-poly high res models of parodies of all your favorite star wars characters and even some they made up on their own.

Overall the game is very fun for a short period of time. Depending on how quick your reflexes are and how much time you want to invest into the game will determine how far into the "story" you get before undoubtedly walking away from the game or downloading Cheat Engine to just get the game over with already.

Basically you are a United States astronaut who crash lands his command pod onto the surface of an alien world whose only building appears to be a multi-story space casino. Instead of the normal earth casino games they have one game and it's a matter of pride for everyone, even a negotiation tool at times. That game is Air Hockey or Shufflepuck as they call it.

The objective is to build a new space ship to get the hell off this strange planet but in order to do so you need to play and win at air hockey against 13 different opponents spanning across 5 floors each opponent has their very own special move that they can employ upon you. When you beat them you gain reputation, credz and sometimes tokens. Tokens are for these machines that potentially give you credz, reputation, tokens, pucks, mallets, biographies and artwork. With the credz you can buy pucks, mallets, artwork, or biographies on the characters. The biographies are the most important piece to the game as every time you manage to unlock/purchase all 19 biographies of a certain NPC, you unlock their final quest which always involves dueling someone else, when you complete that, you get one part to the space ship.

Overall the game was pretty cool. there was an interesting variety of characters inside the Cantina that represent all of the major character from Star Wars as well as some superfluous ones that have nothing to do with Star Wars.

As i stated earlier, the amount of fun you get out of this game is strictly dependent on how much you're willing to do the exact same thing over and over and how much time you wanna blow on one of the more obscure simulation games out there.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Game Reviews: Redshirt

Space... the final frontier. these are the voyages of some random space station and it's 160-ish day mission to detonate with all of it's crew still aboard except for senior officers.

In a land where social media is the most important meal of the day and your friend count is all that matters, Redshirt is the definition of casual gaming and satirical work on two things the world loves equally, Star Trek and Facebook. With that being said, is this game worth a buy? I'm not entirely sure what it's worth but it sure amplified my Narcissism for the 12 hours it took me to play it twice to get the desired victory outcome that i wanted.

In redshirt you play a generic redshirt in a faux-star trek universe. You're deployed to a station out in the middle of space and one of it's most important features is spacebook... oh yes, you best prepare your anus, because this game is going to throw all manner of Space-puns at you in record speed. Anyways, in the game, you have a job, you have friends and you have activities to do with your friends. How you decide to balance all three of those is entirely up to you and will probably define how your endgame looks.

My first playthrough i decided to climb the social ladder a little more than i wanted and the career ladder a little less than i wanted, what ended up happening was i was 1 day away from the end of the game, without a girlfriend and i was 1 step away from the cushy position that guarantees you get off the station alive. My second play through i went with the fuck bitches make money route and ended up in the highest job in the game with another 70 or so days left before the station explodes.

The game has a tiered job system, each tier except for level 0 and level 7 (the minimum and maximum) have at least three jobs, and levels 1-6 all have 6 jobs, those would be the lowly peasant jobs and the managerial jobs for those lowly peasant jobs. Each job requires a different set of skills which you can acquire through personal activities, purchased goods and other jobs. Each job has a hiring manager that you can get in good with and they'll hire you so long as you meet at least one of the criteria, but be careful how you tread because you could very well end up going out with someone who is the hiring manager for the position you want and achieving that 100% positive relationship only to apply for the job too soon and be told that you're a horrible person for trying to sex your way up the career ladder and never have a chance at that job again.

The entire game runs of karma credits which are the game's currency and with them you're faced with a lot of equally silly named purchased goods that give you certain bonuses. Like, for instance, the robocat which gives you experience in handling small animals and children and comforting voice. But it also increases your happiness daily which is good, because if you're sad you make less in your job.

I think overall to fairly evaluate this game i should probably just tell you that for a better and more grounded life simulator, you should probably aim for Kudos 2 which in my mind is far superior and much more challenging but equally as addicting and capable of wasting your time.

So should you buy this game? probably not. The humor is too exaggerated to be funny to most normal people and the gameplay is narcissistic to say the least.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Video Game Review: Elder Scrolls Online Beta 2/28 - 3/2

So recently i wrote a review on the Elder Scrolls Online Beta for last month shortly before the PVP beta. This week i'm going to write a review for the beta that took place on Febraury 28th through March 2nd. And to tell you the truth not a whole lot has changed in the game itself but what has changed is how much of the game i have experienced myself.

To begin with i'm a huge crafting fanatic. I love crafting with a burning passion and this game does it in a very unique way that feels right and comfortable. It's interesting now because i actually took the time to look at all the dfferent styles of gear, of which they added a few more from the last beta that i reviewed, and they've finally implemented more than one tier of crafted equipment, so i looked at all those, and this is what i can gather. They've removed recipes and tiered equipment knowledge. There are no "let's hunt the world for how to make *Insert item name here* and there is no "oh man i can't wait till i get 3 more levels in *insert craft here* so i can make the middle of the road version of *insert piece of equipment here*. This is an amazing revelation in the crafting world because you're not blowing your incredibly limited crafting supplies in an attempt to reach maximum level so you can start farming recipes/blueprints/whatever to make the not-fail versions of the equipment you want. Everyone starts off with the knowledge of how to make all basic armors which means there's none of the WoW style questers that obviously try to craft their gear (where they're running around with 2/6 pieces from a craftable set because they either don't know how to make the rest or they're too low of a level to wear it.

This raises me to another point i'd like to make: You can fully gear yourself at any level you like granted you have the materials. All Tier 1 armors (iron armors) come in almost every even level from 1-14 the only difference is the number of materials it requires to craft and the stats on the actual armor. This, i believe, is incredibly important, because i actually spent 2-3 hours of solid game time just hunting for iron ore veins so i could craft. And you know how many i found? two. And you know how much ore that gave me? 6 pieces. When it requires 10 to even craft a set of ingots, those numbers mean every resource you have is valuable.

Seeing as i covered crafting pretty extensively in the last blog about it? I'm just going to move forward from here without hesitation.

Combat in this game is very fluid. It has the appropriate look and feel of an Elder Scrolls game. you can traverse the world in both first and third person to your hearts content. There are "recommended" weapon and armor categories for each class but that doesn't stop you from playing a rogue using a restoration staff if you wanted to. The downside to that is: the skills you get are dependent on the class you take, so while you could be said rogue using said restoration staff, it wouldn't do you a damn bit of good because the damage is terrible, the swings are slow and all you skills expect you to be normal and use either a bow or dual-wield 1h weapons of some form. I think this is also equally fantastic because it pays a huge homage to traditional Holy Trinity style gameplay without defiling it and bringing a new balance to the new style of MMO's that are quickly taking over the market by storm. No one person can be proficient at every single thing as it has been in RPG's since the dawn of pen and paper and should be until the day the genre dies.I say this because if everyone could be proficient at everything? you'd just be better off playing the non-MMO version of Elder Scrolls. Where there are no real classes you just pick up some magic and magic away with a sword in the other hand.

Questing is also equally fluid which is perfect for an elder scrolls game. While wandering around the country side for quests, i managed to stumble across a small hamlet who's chief production is mining. Well sure enough there was a quest in the town, picking that up, i followed and entire campaign-sized quest line puts you in the middle of a sticky situation with the plague and a pair of questionable alchemists. This was all just looking for resources. Aimlessly wandering some more i found a cave that was inhabited by insurgents of a renegade High Elf syndicate. Fighting my way through those masses i managed to discover a note on a dead body that sent me on a quest to another major city in which i actively took a part in thwarting some major war between the true high elf monarchy and this renegade syndicate. The world is as close to living as they could possible get it in an MMO that demands structure and i think that will majorly benefit them in the long run.

The official game comes out on 4/4/14 and for those who pre-order the game they will get early access to the game which starts 3/31/14 and as with all traditional pay structures, you get 30-days free with that purchase. They've got two different versions of the pre-order. There's a standard edition, and there's a imperial edition which unlocks the race of the imperials for you to play in whatever faction you choose AND some additional cosmetic features that are not normally offered. None of which, i felt, justified the additional 20 bucks that they're asking for the imperial edition. I would highly recommend this game to anyone who's willing to shell 60 for the game itself (i know it's total bullshit [if you've read my other blog post about the price of video games]) and another 15 a month for the account. I imagine the game will eventually become free to play, and i'll welcome you just as happily when that day comes, but i would love to see you all on release day so we can play it up together.

Questing is another big thing of interest

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Game Review: Trine

Once again i'm waay behind the the curve on this game review, but i figured why not? I just finished playing the game for the first time and i figured it inspired me enough to write a review on it.

Trine is a side scrolling platformer with mild fantasy combat and full 3D effects with some wonderfully basic sprites that actually go pretty well with the overall art style that the developers went for. Basically you play a trio of people whose souls are bound together by a magical artifact called the trine, and together in the process of trying to get their souls unbound, they stop some evil plot to destroy the world. pretty run of the mill but it is strangely addicting.

The game doesn't take itself seriously. There's a lot of tongue in cheek humor referencing to previous stereotypes of the fantasy genre as well as a lot of the characters don't take themselves seriously. The whole story starts off with a thief, attempting to steal some magical artifact from the mages guild which just happens to be the trine. Then a mage overhears a ruckus in the other room, and comes out to investigate. Well the knight comes barreling in... well... because he's a knight and he likes to come barreling into places. they all touch the trine at the same time and their souls become bound.

SO, what of the gameplay? Each character has 3 abilities that they  can use in which you need to unlock as you play through the game by discovering secret and plainly obvious chests. Each ability has 3 levels with which you need to level up, each level has an level cost of either 1, 2 or 3 points. You gain those points by killing skeletons of different armor quality and armament, and finding earlier mentioned secrets and random XP bottles that happen to just by lying around.

Overall this game was addictingly fun, and for only having about a dozen or so levels, it managed to keep me entranced for a good 15 hours. That combined with the special bonus level they give you for completing the game which is a mirror of the final level in the primary story line only with different obstacles and no fancy ohh-ahh's at the end was a pretty neat little incentive package.

I did however find most of the puzzles to be a little less than challenging. Once you got certain items and certain skills the obstacles became more routine than anything. Like a scale that lets one of your characters breathe under water indefinitely. skeletons die when they hit water. So solution = jump into water and keep bobbing your head out from under to trick the AI Pathing into the water. Skeletons are dead, you're untouched and 5 experience up. All in all it was a fantastic game and i enjoyed it, but now that i've lived and seen the first game, i'm having a hard time playing the second game, but i'm sure i will get to it eventually. The humor in trine 2 seems to be even more cynical and more tongue in cheek than the first as well as a stepped up compliment of graphical enhancements.

I would recommend Trine for anyone who happens to come across it on sale and curious about it. It's definitely something you want to experience at least once and at a discounted price lol.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Pathfinder: The game of finding your own path

In the last year of me going dark (before my resume to posting last month) i had taken to a hobby that i always wanted to try but never had the time or the courage to do. Tabletop RPG's. we're talking classic pen and paper D&D shit. The game that most people would picture a bunch of 30-year-old pimple-faced nerds living in their mothers basements and working at some retarded, dead end profession like Mall Security playing. But truth be told that's only like 95% of the community and while it takes some digging and soul searching to find the other 5%, they are there and i want to write this post now because i think i may very well have finally found them.

When i originally started playing it was a lot of research trying to figure out which MMO i wanted to play.because since the dawn of D&D, the market has become somewhat diverse. After some heavy duty research i decided that i wanted to stick to Pathfinder. And i'll give you the reason why in the form of some superfluous backstory that you don't necessary need or want.

D&D, the original pen and paper rpg debuted in 1974 by Gary Guygax and his friend Dave Arneson. Together they continued to improve upon the original idea of the game until 1997 when TSR, the company run by the two original creators was purchased by Wizards of the Coast. WOTC continued to produce for D&D and came out with their very first D&D product which was now Dungeons and Dragons 3rd edition. 3rd edition did some thing radical in the sense that it unified both the basic D&D and the AD&D (Advanced D&D) rules into one game and did a lot of refinement to the systems to improve gameplay as well as releasing the entire backbone of the game on what is called an OGL (Open Game License). This meant that third parties could take the system that was set in place by 3 and 3.5 edition of D&D and create their own works out of it without any hassle.

One company that decided to create content for the D&D Game system was Paizo Publishing. They had created their own universe for the game as well as a large supplement of modules and apocrypha for this new world that they created. When paizo's products got wildly popular, Wizards of the Coast pursued them for copyright infringement which angered paizo as they were doing nothing wrong acording to the OGL. Paizo decided to break away from the D&D scene, taking with them all of the content that had made them famous, rewrite all of the rules for D&D 3.5 and release their own pen and paper which they titled Pathfinder. Pathfinder, as such has taken the world by storm and has become one of the most popular pen and papers to date and with good reason.

I digress though. Since i've started playing Pathfinder i've been playing both roles, the role of DM (Dungeon Master) who creates the story, atmosphere and direction for the players and the role of the player, the one who creates the dialog and interacts directly with the world that the DM sets up. The player side is pretty easy, the hardest part is mustering the courage to actually have a conversation in character with your fellow players who are all doing the same. But as a DM it gets very difficult you have to keep track of the players stats, the monsters, the monsters stats, the initiative rolls, the dungeon itself, creating unique and engaging prompts for each room and making it all challenging and have that fun factor that keeps hem coming back for more. For people who are less on the creative side, there are the paizo official modules which offer you a linear quest line that has suggestions on monsters and prompts premade for an engaging experience that if you follow them will make for a successful session. But for people like me? i hate that. i can't sit down and study a dozen rooms, then recite them verbatim on game day. I prefer fluid experiences for my players and to do that i've discovered that i just need to make out maps, with named locations and maybe a prompt here or there and just fly everything else off the cuff. to me it becomes a much more organic experience for me which translates to a much more organic experience for the players. Best yet, i'm currently making my own campaign which is a series of modules strung together in a linear story. 

It's important to get a feel for how you can DM Successfully. or play successfully for that matter. What is fluid for you to have a great user experience is crucial in a pen and paper because it really is all left to the imagination and without that you'll find your experience lacking and thus unenjoyable in the end.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Rise and Fall of Hobby Shops

Recently one of my favorite game shops (and by favorite i mean the only privately owned one that was even remotely close to me) closed. It's kind of a sad occasion because in this specific instance it wasn't even a case of they couldn't make the bills due to lack of sales like most other hobby shops. In this case it was a conflict with the property manager which caused the owner of said shop to decide it was no longer worth it to keep the store up and running and thus decided to close up shop of all their locations indefinitely.

So why exactly do local, privately owned game shops close so frequently? we see it so often and it's kind of disappointing to the participants of the hobbies. I am a firm believer that for whatever reason there is generally not enough activity. Unfortunately for it to be financially feasible to run a hobby shop you need to consider the market you're going to be tailoring to and then consider the largest trends in that market. You  can't afford everything under the sun so at this point you need to pick and choose what product you will stock and what product you won't. Card shops that focus on the holy trinity of card games: Yu-gi-oh, Magic and Vanguard tend to be very successful with a stable income but that income is not to the point where the company could safely make an expansion into any other market for fear of losing a large chunk of change on product that wouldn't sell. Other hobby shops tend to do alright, but most other hobbies are so incredibly expensive that the purchase rate at which these items are moved is almost detrimental.

Also, with other hobbies there are no randomized packages of items that can all be used in unison to create something successful. Generally things like Miniature War Gaming have boxes that contain only one or a small quantity of like models and they generally tend to be extremely expensive. Which leads to a lower purchase rate. Because, where you could go to walmart and drop 20 bucks to buy a deck-builder's box full of 285 magic cards and have all the essentials you need to get started in the hobby, you would need to go to an actual hobby store or a games workshop and buy a boxed army which costs 120-200, then any additional "units" you wish to purchase would range from 20-120 bucks by themselves. The investment is colossal and just that starter army is enough for a 500 point army when most regulation tournaments are run at 1500 points or 2000 points so even if you bought all starter armies and played with all the mediocre units that provides you, you'd be looking at a minimum of a $360 investment to get started.

So where does that put hobby shops? it puts them in the grave, that's where. Nobody can thrive because hobby companies hijack the prices on their product to the point where it is the epitome of a luxury item and then people shop for items from third parties with discounted prices or ebay for pre-purchased items and the same hundred thousand models get cycled except for the elite who have too much discretionary cash and too much free time. This in turn puts companies to their death.

Now granted my hobby shop closed it's doors after a long run because the dispute they were having made it no longer a feasible business model in any respect to remain open, and that's a disappointment and also an outlier in the graph of why hobby stores close. Generally they close because the primary companies price their products so that nobody can survive except for the mother shop and it's little spawn.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Game Review: Bioshock Infinite

HEY LOOK EVERYONE I'M REALLY CRAZY LATE TO THE PARTY!" i screamed one time as i barged into where a party had been only a couple hours ago, and now i found myself standing in front of two of my very close friends doing the nasty on the floor about 10 feet from me. That's kinda how i feel about Bioshock: Infinite. I'm really late to a really amazing party and boy am i embarrassed that it took me so long to get there; but what i saw when i got there was really kinda hot.

So, with all of those disgusting images tenderly laid out in your head let's get on with the review! Bioshock Infinite is a wolf among sheep when it comes to the bioshock series. A series that has constructed itself on the idea that your choices mean something in the overall scheme of life and your personal and direct effect on certain situations has been thrown out the window for quite possibly the most "on-rails" experience you will ever know in a -shock game since maybe System Shock. But this isn't a bad thing for the game and let me tell you why.

The story itself is compelling enough to grab you by the nipples and jerk you into the story quickly and it keeps giving you occasional purple nurples just to make sure you're still paying attention. So it doesn't really feel like you're on rails any more than you were in the last super compelling game that you played where the story captured you deeply and spoke to you on personal levels.

Don't get me wrong, there are "choices" but they don't bear the same weight as they have any any of the previous games in the bioshock series, and by not bearing the same weight i mean they don't bear any weight at all. It was almost like Irrational was just making Bioshock 3 and then decided half-way through that they didn't want the same thing they had in the last few games so they rewrote just the ending of the story to help you understand why you're not getting 3 different endings.

So to help put all that i'm saying into context here's a brief synopsis (totally not giving anything away by the way):

You play as a Private Investigator named Booker DeWitt who apparently has a gambling problem with the wrong people and also has previous military experience because the game opens up with you on a rowboat being dumped out at a dock leading up to a *drum roll* lighthouse! Oh but wait, this is totally NOTHING like the last lighthouse. This one is all 1912sy and marion harris and will the circle be unbroken. oh and you go up in some rocket that's way ahead of the technology curve for 1918 than is logically safe to announce but whatever. TOTALLY not the intro to Rapture in the opposite direction. Anyways, your one cryptic objective is to navigate this pre-equal rights city in the sky called Columbia to locate a girl. Of course, there are some complications that come in the way and the society ends up being so much more technologically advanced than the rest of the world you wonder why they haven't taken over yet and of course you've got your 1910's versions of big daddies as well as pretty much all the special splicers from rapture turned into new 1910's versions of the splicers and oh they're not plasmids now, they're vigors which have really cool bottles that you can buy online in limited supply for about 400-600 dollars.

This game despite being bioshock in the opposite direction had some really cool mechanics added to it which gives the game a new breath of life to combat as well as the delivery of the story which i thought was incredibly cool. Right about the time you get 80% done with the game your head will be full of the irrational games industry standard "full of wat". But around the last 5 minutes or so of the game they'll take that and break it like they're shooting for the moon. You'll feel yourself lost and confused and a little bit disappointed at the ending until you spend another 5-10 minutes reading some dude's review on the game which will explain everything to you perfectly then your mind will explode you'll instantly want more.

Thinking that Burial At Sea would just be a continuation on the Infinite storyline during the days of rapture you'll probably drop the 20 bucks on the season pass and play it only to find out that if you think of the ending to infinite and what the whole game was about, burial at sea kind of awkwardly fits in but in reality has nothing to do with Infinite itself except for a few cheeky puns. Still worth the play though if you can separate Burial at Sea, the DLC, episodic "expansion" to infinite from infinite itself which is counter intuitive but whatever.

Definitely recommend Bioshock infinite. It was a fantastic 15 hours of play for me that proved to have some challenging points and the ending was mind blowing as usual but in a different way.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Burnout Point

Back in April of 2012, i posted a blog post that outlined some useful tips and tricks for people who were new to college. I made a Brief reference to something called the burnout point and said it was a discussion for a later time and i feel like it's time to hold that discussion.

I think part of the reason i never really wrote a discussion about the burnout point before now is because i had never really hit it until this final semester. I think it was culmination of things that led to my discover of this. First off, i have never had the unique opportunity of trying to work full time and go to school full time at the same time. another thing is after all the push-backs and delays that my college has placed in front of me with no hope of maneuvering past them quickly, i feel like these two associates degrees that i will be graduating with in 3 months have been long overdue. And i'm a little emotionally and mentally exhausted about the whole mess.

There have been a lot of changes to my life. My old car broke down to the point of no return, i bought a brand new car with 161 miles on it. I needed to get a full time job to ensure that i was able to pay for said car, but i discovered that washing dishes for just a little over minimum wage for 20-30 hours a week wasn't exactly going to cut it nor was it my preferred type of job. I've also gone from being single to being engaged and attempting to plan a wedding. Fortunately the powers that be saw me worthy to get a job in computer repair and while i'm technically making more than i did washing dishes, i'm bringing home less because i now have a comprehensive benefits package that includes a pretty nice pension and all of the medical insurance benefits. With travel time included i've ended up working over 50 hours a week trying to get this very last semester finished and all i want to do is either give up and quit or be done with it all tomorrow.

It never helped that my college board kept adjusting the class requirements for my degree so that almost every semester i had some new and usually shitty change to look forward to working out with my degree. But i think it's safe to say i'm burning out. It suck to feel so close to something great and yet so far, and then to look behind that something great and see it's only paper thin and that to get the real something great you've got another journey, equally as long, ahead of you again to do it all over.

Unfortunately this is what our country's education system has become. To be able to do anything that's not entry level you need a degree or to at least be working TOWARDS a degree. And you have to have plans of actually finishing it too.

It might just be a case of senioritus that i'm contracting because i never really hit that wall when i was in high school but it's hitting me now and it's hitting me hard. between my job, my school and my fiance and all of my previous commitments there's no time for me to just sit down, and stare off into space. Since i'm getting 6.5 hours of sleep every night on a good night, and most nights i'd be lucky to get 5.5. i'm running on fumes and low on want to.

So back to the original topic. What is the burnout point? The burnout point to school faring people and blue collar workers is the wall, not unlike "the wall" you hear runners talking about all the time, you hit when your plate is so full it affects your sleep cycle and all you want to do is give up. So how do you fix it? The unfortunate thing is, you've got to piss some people off, say you're sorry but you just don't have the time this week to do that thing they want you to do with them. Don't obligate yourself to anything else instead unless it's yourself. Spend that one day just doing whatever it is that gets you relaxed. Whether it be watching tv and eating popcorn with no shirt on, or taking an easy-paced hike through one of the local parks. Then when you're done doing that. go to bed early. get one good nights rest and monopolize it.

This can be your little micro-vacation to yourself. It's unfortunate but i think sometimes we, as humans, tend to load up our plates too much trying to satisfy others and we quickly forget about ourselves in the mix. When that happens and you've ended up with nothing left for yourself? you start to burn out. To quote bladerunner "the candle that burns twice as bright, burns for half as long." It's important to remember than when managing our time because it is the only precious resource that matters to the individual.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Why do video games cost $60?

This has been a huge question in the video game industry since the dawn of the "Next-gen consoles" which included the 360, the PS3 and the Wii. Trying to figure out why exactly the cost has gone up because i mean what is really so special about video games now that weren't so special back in 2006/2007 when the gaming industry took that big step forward? well a lot of the information i've found is pretty universal and here it is in a nutshell:

With the increasing graphical quality that newer video games required and the more intricate coding and higher licensing costs the need to raise the cost of video games grows and is justified by giving us this demographic of where every dollar in the 60-dollar schema goes to:

  1. Developer Costs - $20
  2. Retailer Cut - $12
  3. Console Licensing - $12
  4. Publisher Overhead - $9
  5. Marketing - $7
So we can take a quick look at this and go okay, that makes sense. Especially of you're a console gamer. It costs a lot because there's a lot of leg work involved in the transaction of video games and everyone needs their pound of flesh. But what about PC gamers? Why are we stuck paying the exact same cost as console gamers? Let me illustrate why we shouldn't have to. There is no console licensing cost. Most AAA companies make their own engines in the first place whether it's console based or not so that SHOULD be bundled into developer costs. With the dawn of Digital Distrbution platforms like steam and Origin, the retailer cut has significantly decreased since there are no CD's to make, no CD's to ship, no storefront employees to pay on an hourly basis, etc. AAA companies generally have their own in-house publishing service so that could also now be bundled into developer costs and decreased significantly. Marketing stays the same. So where does that put us? probably somewhere in the ballpark of the following:

  1. Developer Costs - $23-25
  2. Marketing - $7
  3. Retailer Cut - $3 - $4
so reasonably, computer games should ONLY cost about $33-36 now for PC games instead of the exact same 60 that everyone else pays. Keep in mind for companies like EA who develop, publish, and sell their own products and have their own digital distribution platform, and don't have to pay any royalties to put their ads up. all of that 36 dollars a game would translate raw profit no distributing money to other people it all just goes straight to their pockets.

Now i know what you're thinking? is it really fair that PC gamers should get to pay less than console gamers for their games? Well i think so. The initial investment of a decent gaming machine (not even a ship of the line) is much larger than the initial investment of a console. If even if you build it yourself. And by doing this you have an individual platform with which you can do with whatever you please. Is it the fault of PC gamers that they have chosen a system that does not have licensing fees and has improved access to video games? Not in the slightest. So why exactly should they be slighted for exactly that?

Console gamers walk into console systems knowing that they are purchasing the video game equivalent of an MRE and with that comes more loyalties because companies need to do more on the back end to make your experience as close to a PC's experience as possible. Convenience pays, so i think it's entirely justified. However with the introduction of the XBM and the playstation store could the prices go down a little on microsoft games and sony games? absolutely because it goes back to the most basic argument that i was making that companies like that, who own all the pieces to make games from start to finish independently really don't have the $40 dollars of third party expenses that a third party developer of lesser wealth and status would have.

Take it as you will this is just my belief that game companies are getting away with a lot of things they probably shouldn't be getting away with these days in terms of their pricing structure. in 2006 and 2007 a pricing structure like this was necessary but it has no longer become necessary in a lot of situations in the last 2 years. And the reason they cling to it is we're used to it. 7-8 years used to it and it works for them.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Game Review: Elder Scrolls Beta 2/7-2/10

I know the version of the beta i'm reviewing is a little long gone, but i really felt it necessary to discuss the beta because this game has resparked a passion for the MMORPG genre in me that started dying with World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King and officially died a few weeks after the release of Cataclysm.

Let me start though by explaining what, for me, ruined the genre. Because it was a myriad of reasons, not exclusively World of Warcraft or it's short comings. For starters, i was abrasive towards the free to play movement at first. When it first hit the ground, nobody really had it dialed in with how to do it. It was one of life's great mysteries "what do we do with this? Even if we open a store we won't make the fat wads of cash that we used to make with a subscribe to play format!" Well time went on and it got a little better with the general removal of pay to win stores (i say general because there are still some out there, sadly) and the implementation of fair scaling for everyone regardless of whether you're a monthly subscriber or dumped entire paychecks into the Pay to win store all at once. Another huge reason i got tired of the system was the community. It seemed like World of Warcraft spawned this community of hateful, rude and just overall terrible human beings. I will avoid calling them 12-year-olds because that's largely a farce according to the studies i've read. but never the less that community spread like the plague from one MMO to the next ruining everything in it's path. Even in the ESO beta the chat was constantly alive with the generic "let's compare this MMO to WoW" conversation which is really old and annoying but at least those same players didn't try to ruin the game for everyone else because they see it as WoW's inferior. It's like there's this WoW nazi-esque regime that's out there to create the one true MMORPG master race which consists of nothing but heartless human beings all playing WoW and refusing anything else.

Finally after the Free to Play structure came around this mass exodus from what is commonly called "the holy trinity" gameplay happened where there were no longer identifiers such as tank, healer, or DPS attached to the classes, it was more of a "everyone puts in their fair share" mentality. This approach to MMORPG's is all fine and dandy except for the fact that the earlier games that took this approach, went about the classes in a very definitive holy trinity manner and yet threw all of their trinity specific abilities at the wall repeatedly until they broke. So for instance Tanking classes would exist with real tanking abilities like shout for instance. It would draw aggro for a few seconds until the rogue would use it's new tanking ability and since the rogue did so much more damage, the tank would lose aggro. This caused for a lot of anxiety across holy trinity players and a lot of angst on the forums where tank players would complain that their class was broken and everyone would ignore them because according to some arbitrary master play, they really weren't they were just sharing the wealth. it also had one other effect on the game though. It got to the point where like 60% of players all played rogues because they were a nice well-rounded all-inclusive class. They could do crazy damage, they could tank with the high aggro amounts they pulled and they could keep themselves alive with the crazy high amounts of dodge they could stack.

Now i firmly believe that ESO should be considered a game planted securely in the second generation of this style of MMORPG's because of the way this system has been refined. It is not going to be a free to play with a pay to win shop, it is going to be a subscription based game with AAA-title level graphics. The classes have all been refined so that while no one class performs a specific task they all perform well and balance with each other in a way that won't dismantle the classic make-up of a group, Which may not really be necessary becasue every dungeon can be run with 1-4 other friends depending on the level of the dungeon and the level of you and your friends. As far as i can tell classes generally come with at least some minor healing ability as part of removing that official healing class and spreading the burden of staying alive to everyone in the group.

Anyways, i digress. ESO feels like just the next installment to the Elder Scrolls saga. The race you pick dictates the faction you play and the faction you play dictates the starting area you find yourself in. As a Nord, Argonian or Dunmer (drow elves) you will find yourself on a small island off the coast of skyrim and you fight your way to the mainland, then quickly get transfered to morrowind before you have time to explore all of skyrim. (which is fine with me seeing as Skyrim probably wasn't even recreated for this game, it was probably just copy pasted from Skyrim to ESO). Morrowind gets a breath of fresh air from it's graphical enhancements and takes on a new life of it's own with it's new overtones. As Altmer, bosmer and khajiit, you start on a small island in the summerset isles that is predominately Khajiit and you fight yourself to the small official summerset isle island and i imagine from there you would go to Valenwood but i never made it that far. And as Redguard, Breton, and Orsimer i do not know of where you start or find yourself as i never made a character of that faction to check out but i'm sure i will next time the beta window opens up and then i will revise this blog post.

The questing feels fluid which is important in the Elder Scrolls universe. Where in World of Warcraft all of the quests for the entire zone were clumped up at a central hub that usually has some form of housing near it and then there were a few quests to be had at the actual questing areas themselves, There are very few quests in the central cities in ESO, and the rest are pretty naturally scattered across the entire map. You could be running in the middle of nowhere and notice the little carrot on your compass that lets you know there's a quest to be had somewhere nearby, you go and  grab that, and it takes you out into the middle of nowhere again. Or you could be running along and in very Elder Scrolls fashion find some old ruins to go exploring. Come out of those ruins with more experience and a bag filled to the brim with loot to show for it.

The currency in the game is gold. Nothing else, just gold, and to make it fair, most items will not sell for more then 10 or 12 gold pieces. The reason why this is fair is because there is a quick travel system where you can actually travel from one resurrection spot to another for a certain gold quantity that generally starts at 44 gold a jump and goes up from there depending on how far the jump is. I think their goal was to make the quick travel appealing but also make it expensive so that it's not something you just go out and buy every time you travel. They want you to experience the world in the same method you experienced it in the elder scrolls 3-5 and possibly 1. New gear from the store doesn't really help too much with the gold quantity as a new piece of gear in the first major city you land yourself in will cost you anywhere from ~300-750 gold. With the amount of gold you get from gear and exploring at the first 10 levels, that equates to about 4 hours of work per piece of equipment. It's actually much more cost effective to not sell any gear and just craft your own.

Which brings me to the crafting system in the game. It's very intuitive. There's no "pick two professions and have at it!" With this game, everyone starts as level one in every profession. Everyone starts with the ability to make every weapon, and every piece of armor imaginable with the materials they can craft with. The starting metal is iron, starting wood is maple, starting leather is made from hide scraps collected from dead animals with hides and cloth is collected either from other clothes that you dismantle or plants. The catch is: it's only slightly less time consuming to craft your own gear as it is to buy gear, the only difference is, you save boatloads of money, and you get better stats.

You start with Raw materials, you have to "extract" craftable materials from those raw materials at a ratio of 10:8 raw materials to craftable ones. You need a minimum of 10 to craft materials. You can't do any other denominations. So if you have 23? you're only making 2 batches of craftable mats with 3 left over. Once you craft them, every piece of gear (weapons or armor) has a different base value. This base value give you a level 1 piece of equipment. For instance an iron helmet will cost 5 iron ingots to make a level one. 6 iron ingots will craft a level 4 helmet. 7 will craft a level 6 helmet and from there it goes in level increments of 2 per craftable mat. The materials have a max level pre designed in. For the level ones i think it's 15 or 16.

There are specialty metals that you can use to make your gear look faction specific. For instance, bone makes your gear look like Bosmer gear (Wood Elf). Molybdenum makes your gear look nordic, etc. and you can add gems to the crafting process to give your gear special abilities like +2 to armor value and spell resistance. But the catch with those is that you need to have researched them to use them on that specific piece of equipment. Every piece of gear starts at the rating of common (White titled) even if it has gems crafted into it to give it special stat increases. you need craft leveling items to increase the quality of the creation. For instance smithing from common to uncommon (green titled) will require grinding stones. Each grinding stone used will give you a 20% increased probability of succeeding in increasing the quality of the equipment. if you fail at increasing the quality, the piece of equipment disappears as well as it's gems and materials.

For combat it feels just as fluid as it did in all of the other games. There is no more dual wielding magic/weapons like there was in Skyrim as far as i can tell and if you're not paying attention too much, the other players just seem like other inhabitants of the universe which makes for a unique individual experience when you want to play alone and an equally unique group experience when walking through tows.

Overall i would strongly recommend this game, even in it's beta state, to anyone whose a fan of the Elder Scrolls series and willing to pay a $15/month sub fee after purchasing the game. I'm sure we will get years of entertainment out of the game so long as we continue to Support it for Bethesda.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Game Review: To The Moon

So where do i start about To The Moon? Well, i honestly have to say that i wasn't quite sure how good the game was going to be just by looking at the screenshots that were provided to me on the steam page. I wasn't sure if it was going to be a Final Fantasy 2 meets Prince of Persia style game or what because the screen shots given don't really give too much away. And neither will i except for giving you a brief synopsis as well as a description of some of the gameplay bundled in with my overall review.

To The Moon is a classic 2D rpg with forced perspective. ALL of the controls can be summarized in 9 different keys/buttons: The left mouse, the arrow keys and the WASD keys... in that order. The developers, Freebird Games seemed to realize that in order to make a game of this graphical simplicity work really well for them they needed to keep the controls deadly simple. Everything is intuitive to a T which is necessary since this game is so literally story driven.

Story is everything in ths game and i would like to emphasize this point. If you're not one to do a lot of reading in the text box devision or if you're just looking for another game to spend $10 bucks on and troll your way through expecting enjoyment, you should probably stop reading here because no amount of anything i say or do will make this game pleasurable for you. You really need to be willing to sit down, have zero combat and read everything for this game to be a pleasurable experience.

So enough of the fore-warnings. What is this game about? Well, in a way, the title says it all. What way is that? Probably not the one you're thinking of, and it's definitely not the reason you think it is until you're about 2/3rds the way through the game. Basically you play as a pair of employees from a company that specializes in "granting wishes" to people who are a few days from dead via the manipulation of memories. As this not-so-dynamic duo, you receive a new client who's wish is to go to the moon, and the entire game is the story of not only how you achieve that wish for the client, but also about the clients life, and how even the smallest things can leave a huge print on our souls. So large that they can never be erased.

I was seriously sucked into this game. it took me roughly 8 hours to complete which seems like a short time but to sit down and start playing then finish the game without even so much as getting up to move is the test of an amazing game. And even with that short of a play time, i was able to attach myself emotionally to every character in the story, and i experienced genuine emotion for them as they went through their own arcs.

SO, to anyone who is reading this looking for a reason to buy or not buy this game, i'm telling you right now, it's worth the 10 dollars on steam that it's going for right now, it's definitely worth whatever discounted price it's at when you read this. Buy it, play it, cry a little, get pissed off a little, and get some new material that will make you seriously question the print that you have left on the lives of others as well as the prints that people have left on you.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Laptops vs Tablets

Today i wanted to touch on one of the subjects that has been near and dear to my heart for the last month or so, and that is the discussion of whether laptops or tablets are a more fiscally sound purchase option. And to be honest, the short answer to that question is very much like my answer to whether i prefer Windows or Mac: it depends on the application that you plan to use it for. Now i just want to preface this with a little tip of the hat to the fact that i am aware there are laptop/tablet hybrids that are starting to surface on the market (Microsoft Surface 2, i'm looking at you) but the real question is whether those thrive well at all when being used for either application when compared to a dedicated unit from either side. I think it would be safe to say that the surface 2 performs much better as a tablet compared to other tablets of the same caliber than it does as a laptop compared to other netbooks and ultrabooks of the same caliber. So what exactly are the applications that make these two platforms thrive? lets start with Tablets. Tablets thrive on being hand-portable. Given the average size is only marginally bigger than phones like the Samsung Galaxy Note series most of these items will fit comfortably into the pocket of a good pair of cargo pants/shorts and with the utilization of Solid state memory they work well with being portable as there's no spinning parts to accidentally scratch the shit out of when you accidentally drop it while reading your free copy of Aesop's Fables from Amazon Kindle going down the stairs. Which leads me to the next thing they're really good at: Reading. For those of us who can accept digital books with open arms and recognize within ourselves a viable use for digital books, these items are fantastic. Pretty much any tablet out there can be readily converted into an e-reader with software such as Amazon's Kindle reader, Barne's and Noble's Nook reader and Adobe reader for PDF files. Tablets also succeed well with modern casual games since the smart phone industry has made it their sole duty to monopolize on that market as much as possible. With casual games spanning every conceivable genre there is they've all been pretty much ported to the Android and Iphone systems which makes them readily available on 90% of tablets seeing as There are more makes and models of Android tablets out there than any other platform to date. Apple is the most readily accepted and Windows is quickly creeping up to Android in the tablet market. Where do Laptop's Stand? they also excel in the realm of portability and that world is quickly becoming more readily accessible. It is no longer the case where Apple produces the one and only solid-body aluminum chasis laptop on the market anymore. Almost every primary laptop manufacturer in existence has now jumped on the band wagon and made a solid metal-body chasis of some form or another. These laptops come in all shapes and sizes, the most lightweight of them all being the Samsung Series 9 ultrabooks which come in at an astounding .4 inches in thickness or something crazy thin like that and go as large and traditional as some of the new HP's which come in at the HP standard 1.5 inches or thereabouts. So what do these excel in besides being much more durable than they ever were a year ago? well, they perform better than tablets at most gaming applications because they don't run off of what is called the ARM architecture for their CPU's(Central Processing Units) or GPU's(Graphics Processing Units). ARM Architecture is the same type of processing power that has been built into every smart phone you have ever known, it is a miniaturized processor that emits minimal heat under light to medium load and processes things at almost the same speeds as regular processors but do to their size restrictions generally yield less effective throughputs. Laptops from netbooks all the way up to premium gaming laptops all utilize real processors with regular outputs which allow them to work on difficult information much more readily. Primarily though, these guys are word processing and internet browsing first and gaming second. Unless you buy extra peripherals like a game pad or a mouse to go with it you'd be hard pressed to play Call of Duty on a track pad. So where does this put us in the grand scheme of things? Well tablets have a lower price point than anything laptop that runs on windows and has a screen larger than 10.1 inches, which is a big selling point, and if you're just going to be using it for possible some very brief note taking and reading of textbooks for example. or possibly as a device to store all of your recipes so you have something to look at while you're cooking in the kitchen, the lower price point is going to make this the system for you. If you want high end gaming on your tablet you're going to end up spending a bit more on your tablet than you'd probably care to do so and at that point it might be worth it just to look into a low end gaming laptop as companies like Dell offer a laptop with one of the higher-end GeForce 700 series graphics cards (the really nice ones) for $650 before shipping and handling. That will come with a 14 inch screen and a decent resolution for your enjoyment. But if you're not planning on using this in the kitchen, if you work in a business environment and travel a lot, or go to school and need something that you can take notes on quickly and naturally, chances are an ultrabook or a regular old laptop would probably be the choice for you, and you can decide on the degree of sturdyness you need for that system depending on the average level of abuse you see it going through. Anywhere from 100% plastic shell (for those who use their laptop as a stationary computer for around the house and don't move it around much or if at all). all the way up to solid metal body ones that are coming out which will probably withstand some of the harsher rigors of being moved around a lot cross country, or to and from school. So, once again, i would like to reiterate, whether you should buy a tablet or a laptop is purely dependent on what you expect the system to do or how durable you want the system to be. Right now is a better time than there ever was before to buy into the computer market, because there are more options than ever before, and with all of these options, you can really purchase the system that is not only right for you, but is also inside your budget range.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Not So Educated Education System

So since last tuesday and the time i wrote a blog before that i've had the great fortune to start working at the school as the resident Tech Specialist. I pretty much just fix computers for 8 hours a day or when there are no computers to fix i just sit at my desk and wait (or occupy myself with other means). But i recently was invited to the 2014-2015 techcnology planning committee for all of my school district where we sat down in groups of 5 and attempted to point out the issues that we saw with the 2010-2013 technology plan. We did make a lot of suggestions for the new plan that is getting a preliminary draft as we speak, but i noticed something huge: Public schools are grossly under funded. As a Tech. Spec. i am paid about 33% of the national average wage for other people in my position. Granted i'm at the bottom of the ladder but even my entrance wage was just a blip on the map compared to what most IT guys make walking in. That and i generally am required to work harder than most iT Guys. Let me explain: the proper tech spec. to tech items ratio is at the max 1:400 but is usually appropriate at ~1:300. This will ensure that the tech spec has enough time in his day to get to every problem with no hiccups at all. The average ratio at my school district (something like 22 different schools each with their own tech spec) is around 1:850. On top of that, our technology is grossly out dated. it wasn't until October of last year that we finally shipped off the very last batch of computers that were purchased in 1999 and ran windows 98 natively. XP barely. The upgrade frequency for us is supposed to be every 4 years but we're sitting at roughly 15 or 16 years per upgrade. Why do you ask is this a big deal? The state i live in, Arizona, had passed a bill in 2013 that said they were going to increase the state-wide sales tax by 1% for 3 years and dedicate all of that money to education to improve wages and technology. What actually happened? They increase the state-wide sales tax by the 1% and then pushed all that money in to the state coffers from where it will never see the light of day. In Arizona, Education i almost at the very bottom of the list when it comes down to funding, and when they write bills, they use it as a point of guilt to get people to approve said bills. I'm sure it's not just the state of Arizona, but it's disappointing when Schools fall so far behind on technology when technology is exactly where the future is headed. Technology now has a set of fundamental skills, that may not have been considered fundamental 14 years ago, that should all be taught starting at a very early age to encourage a successful future. These are things like how to understand a computer desktop, typing skills, presentation software, word processing software spreadsheet software, anti-viruses, public speaking with the use of modern technology, basic computer skills and dare i say just a smattering of programming. Not a whole lot but if you can teach a kid just enough in program to get them interested in it or evoke some thought in their minds then chances are it could very well improve problem solving and logical thinking skills. But do we mandate that first graders should learn how to type appropriately? do we mandate that fourth grades learn how to use powerpoint in a professional manner and speak effectively and confidently in front of their peers? not in the slightest. So what gives? I know that there are some of you that highly doubt that K-5th graders have the level of thought required to program but you and i both know that's a load of bullshit. At that age they're in the formative years where their brains are the most malleable and the most susceptible to impressions. If there's any age they can be imprinted with the logical reasoning of programming it would be at that age. Would it be every kids cup of tea? absolutely not, but it's definitely worth a try. I'm really not sure how other states education funding measures up to Arizona, i imagine it could be worse, about the same or better because there really are not other generalized answers to that question, but i honestly think that education needs to become of larger importance to this country. We want our kids to be prepared for the future and to be better than their fathers when they grow up, but where they're most malleable? we refuse to supply them with all the tools they need to grow into something better than we were.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Finally Graduating

It's been a long and arduous road for me to go from graduating high school to graduating college but as of this semester i'm finally going to be able to do just that. Not only will i be able to graduate with my Associates of Applied Science majoring in Computer Programming/ Systems Analysis, but i also found out at the start of this semester that i was exactly 1 class away from graduating with an Associates of General Studies majoring in General Studies. It just so happened to be the worlds most basic computer class as well, CIS-100, Intro to Computers. So i figured what the hell. Put in an extra $213 for the class and finished it within 5 hours. It has taken me almost exactly 4 years to get my first Associates degree and if it wasn't for my discovering how dangerously close i was to my AGS, i'd only be walking away from 4 years of school work for a 2 year degree which seems rather un-fulfilling. And i think here-in lies the major problem with higher education. In higher education establishments they always advertise to you the wonderful dream of "oh finish your Associates in 2 years, bachelors in 4, masters in 6 or Doctorate in 8!" but it's never that easy. For all the new students walking into college for their first semester next semester (Fall of 2014) i want you to understand something. Those numbers when referring to the years it will take you to get your degree are after you've completed all of the pre-requisite general education credits. Depending on where you land in your placement tests, if your school even has placement tests to void your some of your core classes, your general education credits could take anywhere from a year to three years to complete just by themselves. And if you're not going full time (for my college that was 12 credits or more a semester for most others it's 15 or bust) then it will take you even longer. Then, once all that is said and done, you finally get to move along to what are called your degree classes, These are the classes that are always listed as the only classes needed for the degree on any college or university website. This list will take you x years depending on the type of degree so long as you fill a couple of requirements: 1) you take a minimum of 15 credit hours every semester or at least average it out to 15 a semester until you graduate. 2) you can manage to navigate which semesters the classes are offered and create a master key of sorts determining which semester exactly you're going to take what. In order to do this you need to consider things such as semesters offered, number of credit hours the class is, the actual time scheduling of the class so you have no overlap, where is it offered, and what pre-requisites you are required to have taken in order to even have access to the classes. 3) you also need to manage to keep a flexible schedule because the parameters you need to factor for in number 2 can and (chances are) probably will change from semester to semester. 4) you always acknowledge that the advisory team in your college/university are a bunch of turkeys in a thunderstorm. if you leave them alone for too long they'll drown themselves from stupidity. So always have a game plan going in, And be sure to only ask them yes or no answers. They're going to dodge the answer with a bunch of mouse clicking, tabbing through screens, printing papers and saying very sophisticated jargon. but generally if you press hard enough they'll either say something along the lines to "yes, it seems like you know what you're doing" or "No, this is how it really works *insert a bunch of convoluted bullshit here*". at which point it doesn't matter if your question has been answered you've reached the end of your conversation tree. it's time to move along to the next checkpoint. Seems easy enough right? well i promise you there will be at least one required class, gen ed or degree that you will unexpectedly fail. At this point you have one of three options: 1) tack that class onto the end of your degree plan, which will add another semester to your plan 2) Try to find a low credit hour semester that you can cram it into, and then desperately try to cope with the now heavier workload when that semester comes around. 3) take it over summer if it's even offered over summer. none of those options are that glamorous but unfortunately it's what you have to do to graduate. There is a a silver lining to all of this. Every stormy cloud and all that bullshit. That siler lining is that if you do decide to go with an associates first like i did, then you have the unique opportunity of getting all of those general education credits done before you step into your bachelors program. This saves a colossal amount of money and once you do get into a real college you can avoid all of the gen ed classes at the uni which is where professors go to die. and you can just focus on degree courses which is where professors go out of passion. Granted, you'll still just be a number and most of what you do still won't matter but at least you'll matter a little more walking through the door. To those who have not experienced College yet, i hope this helps you on your journey. To those who have gone already and have survived, i hope this has provided you a laugh or at the very least a subtle head nod in acknowledgement that you experienced some of the same problems i did.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

New Laptop

Well, it finally happened. It seems to happen to me a lot unfortunately but my old laptop finally fell to the point where i got tired of using it. My old laptop which had seen me through the last two years of my schooling died, and that is a concerning number for someone like me because the average laptop life-span should be right around the ballpark of twice that. Way back in 2010, i graduated High School, was preparing to go to college and i felt the need for a laptop so that i could take all my notes and do all my homework on that instead of wasting paper and wasting time with my incredibly slow and sloppy hand writing. As a solution, i had purchased a netbook when they were brand new on the line. my whole thought was that maybe the compactness of a 10.1" screen coupled with the extraordinarily low price point of 250-350 for the laptop would make it a worth word processor that is easy to transport back and forth to and from school to keep all my notes on. Well that netbook didn't last very long as one especially crappy night i had set it on the roof of my car and forgot it there until i made a u-turn and threw it off the car, onto the street where it exploded. I had a friend of mine retrieve all of the information they could from the reasonably destroyed hard drive, to which i put on my new netbook that i had retrieved that night and started over again. That netbook lasted much longer as i was able to hold onto it for roughly a year and a half before it was stolen from my bedroom during a vacation trip with the family to Big Bear, California. That theft was exceptionally agitating for me because i was actually planning on bringing my laptop with me on the trip to do some writing when my mother and step-father insisted i leave it at home, only for us to get video footage the day before we were supposed to go home of my step-father's ex-wife breaking into our house and stealing it out of my room. So from the insurance claims on that one i decided that perhaps it's time to go a little bit bigger. We went to best buy and there just so happened to be a brand new ASUS laptop which had a 13" screen and one of the first or second generation i3's in it. It was originally marked at roughly 1000 dollars but since it was a display model that was no longer on display, i got it for the smashing deal of about 600 dollars after tax. that laptop has been the one that i have done all of my blogging on up until now. Living in Arizona, we tend to get very hot summers. We're talking 104 in the shade. and with me being a college student and also running around frequently to do computer service work, my laptop never really left my car very much. Well it can get up to 300 degrees inside the cars in Arizona in the heat of summer. So problems started to arise with the laptop. The LCD screen started to warp, the hinges started to break, the seams of the laptop split causing the second issue to get worse, touch pad got less and less responsive. But i kept it repaired with healthy supplements of super glue and willpower. Finally, the other day the seam of the body split up by one of the hinges, and the screen started flickering in and out so it was time to get a new laptop. I decided that i didn't really care too much about the price tag so long as it filled a couple requirements: 1) The laptop needed to have a solid aluminum body, like the MacBooks 2) It needed to run Windows natively for school because i don't have time to try and make a macbook dual-boot. I managed to find my laptop. It's from a company i wouldn't normally purchase, but the price is so competative for a solid aluminum bodied ultrabook that i really just could not pass it up. So far i'm loving it. The whole thing is built really sturdy without being incredibly bulky or pricey and the performance off the specs are surprising for what i need it to do. All in all i have to say i'm rather pleased with the machine and am praying to god that this is the last machine i need to purchase for a very long time. We're talking 8 years minimum.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Linux Discussion: What happens to Windows

Recently i've been experiencing some customer woes of using a windows machine. I have to admit i'm growing really tired of the Windows Platform, i've been growing tired of it since windows 7 and the new Windows 8.1 really isn't helping much at all. But why am i do i have so many problems with the Windows Platform? It's their ruin everything and make people believe that what they currently have isn't good enough anymore mentality. I understand that for a company to survive it needs to sell product, don't get me wrong and i'm not slighting them for doing that, But the recent release schedule for Microsoft products is getting dangerously close to the release schedules for NFL games for most consoles. In the year 2012 it was buy NFL 2012!! now with enhanced graphics and all new players! In 2013 it was Buy NFL 2013!! Now with even enhanced-er graphics and all new players! Now you can play the water boy! and for 2014 they've got enhanced-er-er graphics and the ability to launder your uniforms or something like that. Why do people continue to buy the newest NFL Game every single year? the strategies and maneuvers in football have hardly changed since the 80's or 90's. the only thing really that's been updated are the people on the team and the uniforms. It's the same Thing with Microsoft and Windows lately. Microsoft hit a boom with Windows 98, rode that wave until they skid to a halt on the beach and then swam back out with XP and rode that wave even further (Seeing as XP isn't going to be officially de-comissioned until April 15th, 2014 which will mark the end of it's 13-year run on the market. most of that being the number one operating system even over some other Windows Platforms like the horrific mistake we call Vista). But Right around the time that XP popularity was beginning to wane Bill Gates stepped down as CEO and went into early retirement which is where Steve Ballmer stepped in and became the new CEO. And now it's all about re-releasing the same crap with a couple new features every year. The last brand new operating system to have come out of Microsoft was Vista. No really, look it up, Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 8.1 are essentially to Vista what Puma, Jaguar and Panther were to OS X. Just the next three updates. the x.1, x.2, x.3 of Windows Vista. Yet what does Microsoft do? Well, much like the NFL Industry, they charge full price for the product again, and they remove all of the old stock off the shelves. Why? Because they don't want you to use the old stuff. In their mind they're completely done with that already. They want you to use the new and improved stuff so that your computers are walking billboards of product placement. So to curb this problem i've switched to linux which has raised an interesting question in my head. Because the very popular and very free operating system Ubuntu, has a graphical user interface (GUI) that could be the spiritual sister to Windows 8 if Linux liked to rip people off. Whats the only problem with Linux that i can find to date? well... software's a little bit harder to install and there's no native game support which is a massive killer for the operating system. Mainstream game companies need to make the switch over to Linux, which companies like Valve are doing (with their introduction of the Steam box which runs a completely open source completely free version of linux designed by Valve for their machines and their DDP). Once more companies follow in the footsteps that Valve are placing there for everyone to see then linux should gain traction and then Microsoft will be a thing of the past. It will just be another company like Apple: Foo-foo labels and overpriced shit. By the way? if you're not agreeing with me, i might have some bad news for you: If Valve's SteamBox hits it off well then it may come to reality. Granted Microsoft support will always be a thing with them, but if a massive player base makes a paradigm shift over to a linux based DDP console? I promise you, you'll see companies flocking to linux like flies to shit.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Movie Review: Ender's Game (2013)

I know i'm a little late to the band wagon, but i feel i really needed to get on here and post something new and this movie sticks vividly in my mind since my last post about it last may. The movie has come and gone, it is now available on all the mediums we've come to know and love/hate depending on how comfortable you are with the internet (if you know what i mean). The first thing i've got to reiterate from my last post is the fact that i am in the process of reading the Ender's Saga in chronological order according to the canon. now keep in mind that there is a lot of time travel involved in this series which shows itself in the form of light speed ships ( going off Einstein's theory that the closer to the speed of light you get the slower time goes) so it's a little hard for me to really sink my teeth into the chronological later books a little since it jumps around a bit. None the less, the 2013 movie adaptation of the most popular "middle-of-the-canon" book and also the first one in the saga to ever be published (and even that started out as a short story in a magazine before it became a book) was without a doubt one of the best movie adaptations of a book i have ever seen. Please understand me, did they mutilate the book beyond recognition? yes. Did the brutally dismantle the original literature for the movies so that i would be extraordinarily difficult to make any of the other books aside from the original three(Ender's Game, Speaker for the Dead, and Xenocide)? Absolutely. But did they convey the messages they needed to convey in the time they had? Most definitely. Ender's Game is a movie adaptation of a book where you walk in knowing it's not going to be the same as the books because the trailers show that and once you start watching you really just can't will yourself to care. The characters are all there, they all do their inevitable job, they show the critical points in the plot, and at the climax you'll cry like the little bitch that you refuse to acknowledge that you are because even with all the extra information cut out and even with a lot of the build-up that leads to some of the key points missing, they still manage to give you that emotional connection to Ender and his merry men and you still feel just as betrayed as him when you know what happens. All in all, i would highly recommend Ender's Game for those who have and have not read the book, it's a fantastic movie that's full of fun, action and emotion. Really good job converting this iconic text to film.