An Update… A Rather Large Update

October 20, 2007

Another ridiculously large gap between posts, another lacking excuse. Well, actually, I can’t really think of any excuse at the moment… wait, I got something. Get this, my excuse is school – you know, school work and such, or did I use that already? Anyway, let’s get down to business. I present to you a condensed post that touches on numerous topic, from my latest obsession in the realm of video games to the most recent quip of mine that I’ve chosen to expound upon.

Halo 3. Yep, you’ve probably heard of it by this point. Even those who play no video games at all have most likely seen it in a magazine or television ad. Microsoft’s 100 million dollars of marketing was very much helpful in bringing this gaming juggernaut to the attention of all. And despite numerous claims of my own that I would wait a while before buying it, I have indeed caved in and purchased my very own copy of Halo 3. At least I didn’t fall for the ludicrously priced legendary edition, right?

I will say that I was pleasantly surprised with the improvements on the single-player campaign and got just about what I was expecting in terms of multi-player. There’s really not much to summarize considering Halo 3’s still working from the same old formula as its predecessors. A couple of new features including the theater, a tool that allows the playback of multi-player and single-player matches, and the forge, a simplified real-time map editor, were surprisingly well done additions to the typical Halo features. The production value is about as high as I’ve ever seen in a game.

Secondly is a game that has been occupying much of my time lately, a game that was simply meant to be a side show, but became an instant favorite for many fans. It’s called Portal. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s the result of Valve hiring a team of Digipen university students to create a small game to include in the recently released Orange Box, which also includes the newly released Team Fortress 2 and Half-Life 2: Episode 2.

Portal is a puzzle game that takes a simple concept and crafts a number of elaborate, fiendishly clever challenges with it. The only weapon (if you could call it that) that you will use in Portal is the ever so creatively named Portal Gun. The Portal Gun will create a blue portal if you left click and an orange portal if you right click. These portals are linked together, so going through one with send you walking out the other. Simply messing around with portals provides an enjoyable time. Infinite jumps, the house of mirrors effect, and other nifty situations can be set up with portals.

While quite short clocking in at only around 3 hours, Portal is still a source of tremendous fun and exactly the type of material well suited to re-playing.

And here comes trouble. Stop reading now if you wish, for another of my infamous rants looks to be next up on the schedule. For today my topic is social networking sites. Many of you may know I have a Facebook and formerly owned a MySpace, so I hope you don’t consider me hypocritical for criticizing that which I make use of, but it’s not that I dislike social networking sites, simply that I consider them misguided in their purposes.

The core purpose of any social networking site is to, well, network people together. While you will connect and communicate with existing friends on these sites, a large focus is put on making new friends through these sites.This seems like a ridiculous waste of time to me because the large majority of people do not reach out in any way to people they don’t know, and they shouldn’t. Social networking sites, in my opinion, should be solely focused on communicating and having fun with already existing friends.

Friendships through networking sites are forced and rarely last for long. On site like MySpace, people compete to get a larger friends list, but most of the people on the list barely even know them. Simply adding friends to your list on these sites is very different from actually considering them friends. People would be better off meeting new friends through other interactive online sites such as forums that relate to their interests.

Social networking sites, in my opinion, should take a new approach which is more prominently focused on providing existing friends the tools they need to have fun with each other through the site. Facebook is a bit ahead of MySpace at the moment because of their so called “application” feature which allows anyone to develop applications for user profiles, and many of these applications are designed for existing friends.

Well, that’s all for now folks.

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New Shiny Stuff

June 12, 2007

You read the title, that’s right, I dropped some money on a blazing fast new video card. It’s one hell of an upgrade for me; coming from a GeForce 6200. While before, I had to drop settings to the minimum in order to get a reasonable frame rate on most games, I can now pump them all the way to the max and still usually hit an FPS in the hundreds. I’m fully satisfied having scored the card at a reasonable price of about $160.

Installation was a piece of cake. I opened my computer, stuck the card in the motherboard, and restarted the machine and it worked perfectly after some driver installation off the disc. This is a rarity for me, as I usually have to screw with some wiring and online drivers before getting hardware working. I was also glad that the card didn’t need any sort of direct cabling to the power supply, unlike the slightly higher end 8800s.

Since I got it working, I’ve been having fun with my newly bought copy of the Lord of the Rings Online: Shadow of Angmar running at max settings. LOTRO is a great game from what I’ve played so far. It doesn’t introduce a lot of new mechanics, but that’s kind of nice as I can settle into the world quite nicely. At first glance I got the impression that it was simply a World of Warcraft clone in LotR’s wrapping, but since I’ve played more I’ve determined it’s actually a much superior game. The quests, though some more  simple, tend to be much more interesting then those of WoW and other MMOs. It can be seen that a good bit of time was spent realizing each and every quest, only a very small portion seem to be simple Fedex and kill monsters missions.

Another aspect of the game I enjoyed is the accuracy to the books. Basically every aspect of the game’s lands is exactly as described. Even such minuscule details as the location of the hobbit holes in Staddle within the Bree-land are accurate. The book accurate feel has actually influenced me to go back and read the LotRs trilogy for the hundredth time.

I’m currently playing a level 8 Hobbit Hunter on the Melandor server if anyone might want to meet up with me.

Lastly, check out this website. It’s an awesome spoof like programming language that actually works and compiles. I was linked to it on a forum I frequent: LOLCODE 


3 x 3 Movies

June 4, 2007

Unfortunately, it looks as if the summer of 2007 won’t have much to offer in the way of original films, so it seems that you’ll have to quench your movie craving with a few continuations of some old favorites. Three big-budget movies have jump started the summer movie scene, these being: Spiderman 3, Shrek the Third, and Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End. Each is the third in its series and the presumed end to its respective trilogy. I’ve had a chance to catch all of these flicks, and will proceed to provide you with a quick summary of my thoughts on each.

Spiderman 3

The majority of superhero movies are passable entertainment at best, some, such as Catwomen, have even become the laughing stock of many. However, the Spiderman series has been a huge hit among both audience and critics. The series has managed to provide a perfect balance of action, character development, and romance. Unfortunately, the third in the series, though nowhere near terrible, fairs to meet the high standard its predecessors set.

It’s biggest flaw can most easily be summarized as: “too much.” Spiderman 3 simply has too much going for it. We have three villains, each in need of proper development and action scenes, a bit much to cram into a reasonably sized movie. Director Sam Raimi’s efforts to tie off all the lose plot ends are respectable, but often feel a bit too forced.

The scenes in which Peter Parker is controlled by Venom, and instantly becomes “emo”-like are laughable whether intended to be or not. However, despite it’s good share of flaws, Spidey 3 is still another respectable installment in the series.

Shrek the Third

The Shrek series has been one of the few humorous computer-generated series that I have been able to enjoy, let alone tolerate. The third movie lives up to its prequels and, in my opinion, surpasses the second. For previous watchers of the series, there isn’t much new here, some more good old fantasy spoofing. Though Shrek the Third works in some elements of the King Arthur mythos.

 

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

Pirates of the Caribbean is an extremely popular series, and one of Disney’s few worthwhile movies. At World’s End suffers from some problems similar to Spiderman 3: it’s a bit crowded at times. I’m not one who likes movies dumbed down in order to accommodate those who care not to use their brains, but, even if you have your thinking cap on, At World’s End can be a bit confusing if you don’t have the second installment of the series in fresh memory.

As with the other movies in the series, At World’s End has superb acting. Though Johnny Depp does a fantastic job as before, it is Geoffery Rush’s character Captaint Barbossa who really steals the show. Unfortunately, Orlando Bloom continues to give a somewhat stale, unemotional performance that strikes a hard contrast to the others personality filled acting.

One of my few major issues with the third Pirates movie is the overall fantasy vibe of it. The first movie, though it included that fantastical crew of the Black Pearl, still seemed to stick with the Caribbean pirate feel. However, it started to degrade into a more mythical series in the second and now the third. Fish people and godesses have no place in a good swash buckling pirate movie in my opinion. As Keira Kinghtely’s character of Elizabeth Swan announces in the movie: “With the sweat of our brow and the strength of our backs and the courage in our hearts” is how battle should be done, not through mythical means.

In then end, At World End is a great piece of entertainment, filled with well though out twisting plots. However, not all will wish to sit through a somewhat confusing three hour movie of Lord of the Rings like proportion.


Starcraft 2 Announced

June 1, 2007

I swear, if I hear one more forum n00b raving about Starcraft 2 I’m going to poke the person nearest to me with a very sharp object. It still escapes me how someone can declare a game absolutely amazing when it’s more then a year away from release and only a few lackluster screenshots have been revealed. Sure, the original Starcraft was a good, if not great game, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the sequel will be a grapically updated version with only some slight game play updates: maybe a new unit here and there.

 All together it just seems far to early to judge. So, I recommend that you wait to pass judgement on it’s awesomeness until something more substantial has been released. This is for the sanity of myself and many others.

On the topic, here’s a strip from Ctrl+Alt+Del that I found to be quite amusing, as well as realistic since it seems most Koreans worship Starcraft in some kind of weird unearthly way. ::link::


The Creed of the Assassin

May 24, 2007

Chances are you’ve heard of Ubiosofts new Assassin’s Creed, in production by the well known Montreal studio. I’m not one to get very hyped for a particular release, but I can hardly wait for Assassin’s Creed. You take the guise of a professional assassin, capable of performing the most extreme of stunts and the most bloody of kills. Assassin’s Creed boasts a detailed climbing system which will allow you to grab onto anything you realistically could, as well as an impresive crowd simulator. It seems that Assassin’s Creed could most easily be summed up as Prince of Persia in mideval times… but better from what I see.

Also, some leaks which I’ve read against my better judgment suggest somewhat of a sci-fi twist. That present or future day scientists may be gazing into the memories of the playable character using some sort of “genetic memory.” However, I’ve decided to stop looking for developments on these rumors as I think a nice suprise in the game would be much more satisfying.

So, why’ll your waiting for this masterpiece to hit stores I’d suggest taking a look at some of the amazing trailers.


Not Again…

May 24, 2007

“Why,” you ask me, “Why must you create yet another blog.”
“W- Well,” I nervously reply, “I felt like changing the name.”
You quickly dismiss the pathetic excuse. “Get me something better,” you demand.
“I- I was hoping to go in a new direction with the style of the blog,” I again reply nervously.
“Heard that one before, but never seen you actually change. Same lack of updates and unentertaining posts.”
“Fine, I got nothing left,” I reply, defeated. “Hell, it’s because I wanted a new banner with blueish bubbles.”
“Actually, I do like that touch,” you respond all too seriously, “I suppose I’ll let you go this time, but don’t let it happen again.”

Yep, you heard me correctly, I’ve trashed my previous blog in order to start with yet another clean slate. I’d attempt to explain the reason, but I have a feeling you’d rather hear about some of my more entertaining ventures then listen to my mouth run about my infuriating perfectionism.

Down to business. I just got myself the trial for EVE: Online a couple ‘o days ago. A sort of MMO space-sim that had long interested me, but never grabbed my attention enough for me to bother downloading it. Well, I’m glad it came to mind, because it’s really a dream game for me. In EVE, you begin by selecting which faction you wish to be in and then choose a sub-set of the race similar to classes in most MMOs. One you work your way through the complex character creation proccess you are launched into EVE’s mind-blowingly large universe. The game can be quite daunting for newcomers, with only a quick tutorial to instruct you, but after a couple days time and some glances at the online documentation you’ll become fairly comfortable with EVE’s universe and interface.

EVE: Online is by far the most sophisticated MMO I’ve seen, unlike most MMOs, combat is not the dominant aspect. It has a deep and realistic economy with detailed supply and demand charts and the ability to invest in companies, player run corporations (guild) that engage in real-world-like politics, and many more suprisingly developed features. However the overall complexity of the game slows it down a lot, and may turn off newer players. Nevertheless, I found EVE to be perfect for me and plan on subscribing once the generous 14 day trial expires.

The graphics are also of note. Perhaps the best I’ve ever seen in an MMO. The backdrop of space is made simply breathtaking by a number of impressive effects. Even menial tasks like mining are made fun as you watch the cool effects. The visuals are one aspect that not many can disagree with.

In the end, the degree to which you enjoy EVE boils down to how much time you’re willing to invest in it. In the beginning you’ll be forced to complete boring tasks such as mining and fedex missions, but later, if you are dedicated enough, you’ll aquire gigantic cruisers capable of engaging in jaw-dropping battles, and have chances to head enourmous corporations. Basically, you get what you put into EVE back 10-fold, but if you don’t put in much you don’t get back much of anything.