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.