Wednesday, August 26, 2015

MIDI Week Singles: Skyrim Atmospheres - The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (PC)

"Skyrim Atmospheres" from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim on the PC
Composer: Jeremy Soule
Record Label: DirectSong
Studio: Bethesda Games Studio

The track for today's MIDI Week Single is a bit odd in that it's not a traditional "song," but mainly background atmosphere ambient music and sounds.  There are a number of melodies during the 43 minute track, but considering the length of the track, there are not many.  There's a theme (of sorts) that the chimes start at 8:18; and then there is the "Tavern Melody" as I name it in my head that starts at 14:22, fades out after a while, but is then briefly picked back up from 17:22-17:45.  Well, you get the point.  Interspersed with these fleeting snippets of melody/theme are varying sounds of nature that you would be like to find it a mountainous region.  I usually create a scenario where an adventurer (or a party) are wandering the mountain/hillsides and come across a small village and take shelter in an inn/tavern then leave the following morning at dawn while the ground is still covered with fog.  Damnit, now I want to play Skyrim again!

I have found that I will sometimes put this song on in the morning after Conklederp and I have done our morning yoga routine and while I am making coffee (I did not this morning however).  I like having music on in the background, (something I feel like I inherited from my Father), but since Conklederp is around music all day for her job, I will try to not put on something that is akin to what she would be playing or is melody heavy and "Skyrim Atmospheres" is just the thing.  Plus, aside from being the music of Skyrim itself, the music also reminds me of being in Bend (where Conklederp and I went with her parents back in 2013; I had purchased the soundtrack a few weeks before so I was listening to it a lot at that point) or Yosemite (because Yosemite is so bloody mountainous and gorgeous), and you can bet that I'll have this music with us when we head over to Bend next month.

Their Spirit Lives On

Monday, August 24, 2015

Game Review: Star Wars: The Force Unleashed Ultimate Sith Edition (PC)

So I finally got around to playing and finishing Star Wars: The Force Unleashed and boy am I late to the party on this one.  Along with most of the Star Wars loving public (although I haven't read any of the extended universe comics or books), I was excited about this game, which is why I apparently waited so long before picking it up.  Truth be told, I had considered getting it for the DS, if anything to show that I supported the DS platform, but then I saw how it looked (not comparing though) on the PSP and thought, maybe I'll get it on that system instead/too?  Then the sequel came out to less than stellar reviews and I apparently forgot about The Force Unleashed series.  Then the Humble Star Wars Bundle came out and I knew I had to buy the lot for an embarrassing low price.

I had seen a former roommate, we'll call him The Sauce, play the later part of the game, but he was playing it on Jedi or whatever the super difficulty setting is called and going for a completionist run.  Something that I am typically not a fan of doing.  I had apparently forgotten that The Force Unleashed is a God of War clone, in that you play in third person with an active and moveable camera along a linear path and when you kill enemies you absorb both heath/hp and when you level up you are able to learn combos and increase your individual stats.  I was perfectly okay with this too as I had played (although not beaten) God of War: Chains of Sparta back in 2008 and really liked the game.

The biggest thing that I loved about this game, was seeing all of the force powers being used that I had become somewhat familiar with over the years, as well as new (at least for me) variations on familiar powers.

When the game starts, you take control of Darth Vader, which in one aspect is pretty awesome as by this point in the Star Wars chronology, Anakin has been Darth for about 16 years, so he has had plenty of time to get used to how to use the force with his cybernetic body parts in what appears to be a more restrictive suit.  And because it's Darth Vader, you start out fully armed with all of the force powers, but being a player new to the world and controls, you wobble around Kashyyyk killing Wookies like a drunk child who just discovered that they're a fully grown adult who knows how to use the Force.  Again, while this was a great introduction and being able to play an evil Darth Vader slaughtering Wookies left and right, I felt odd because I know I looked like a bumbling idiot instead of the Sith warrior that know Vader is supposed to be.

After the first level, the rest of the game is played as Starkiller as he becomes more attuned to the Force and learns various abilities and combo attacks.  About three quarters of the way through the game, the various points you earn from leveling, which are used for buying stat upgrades, combos and skills, but eventually I just let my points build up for skills and combos because I felt that I had already learned (half-assed memorized) enough button combinations.  It reminded me of currency acquisition in an RPG, that you just reach a certain point where having more money ceases to mean anything.

For the most part, I really liked The Force Unleashed, although there were certain aspects that I was not all together fond of.

My first issue with the game, was that when I first started playing, I had not expected levels to take upwards of an our and-a-half in order to complete.  After I realized that this time commitment would be consistent over the course of the game, I was able to plan to have the necessary time put aside in order to get through one level.  I think I just felt a bit daunted with knowing that in order to get through a single level, that I would have to invest that much time and usually, by the end of the level, I was ready to take a break, which was also the time when I was most invested in the story.

Even speed force dashing through areas didn't shave off much time.
The second thing was that I seemed to experience some kind of sound/audio issue on a couple of the later levels, specifically on Felucia (second time), Raxus Prime and the Death Star.  I have no explanation, but upon starting the level or after reaching a checkpoint, the music would cut out and the sound effects would be muffled.  At first (while on Felucia part II) I thought this was done for dramatic effect, as if something horrible was around the next corner in the vein of horror jump scares, which would be very out of place for The Force Unleashed.  In the case of the Death Star stage, this muted music lasted during the entirety of the first area, which took me about 20 minutes to get through because I apparently take a long time to kill all the enemies before moving on.  It was a little frustrating because I didn't know if it was a hardware issue or a software one.  Plus the composer Jesse Harlin had done a great job writing Star Warsesque music similar enough to John Williams' original score.

The third issue I had, again I am unsure if it was a hardware or software issue, but during both Felucia part II and the Death Star, I experienced significant lag in gameplay and significant framerate issues.  During Felucia II, the problem only lasted a few minutes while taking tunnel from one area to another.  In the Death Star, it lasted from the beginning of the stage all the way through the end.  I didn't have the fps counter up on Steam while playing, so I can't give an accurate framerate count, but it definitely felt like it was somewhere between 10 and 15 fps.  With a game like The Force Unleashed where you are constantly avoiding enemy attacks (both ranged and melee) and trying to perform combos and using various force powers at the right time to maximize efficiency, having the game skip/lag/what-have-you is exceedingly frustrating.

I'm totally winning right?  Yes?  No?  I can't tell from here.
And having the game skip/lag while fighting the Emperor with a camera that only rotates left to right is even more frustrating.  You cannot see Starkiller at all here, but you can just barely make out his lightsaber clashing against the staff of one of the Emperor's Shadow Guards.  I also happened to find myself stuck between two of those black diamond pointy things (yay English) so all I could do was button mash and move the control stick around frantically until I became visible again; while still avoiding projectiles from the Emperor.  The stationary camera during boss battles was a little annoying, but I found that, for the most part, it was pretty manageable so I will not complain about that aspect of the game.

Overall I thought the costumes designed for the characters and the pre-A New Hope world were all very good.  The one exception was for that of Empire pilot Juno Eclipse.

Outfit #4 I feel would be the most appropriate outfit for Juno seeing as how she is appointed by Darth Vader to shuttle Starkiller around the galaxy and as a secret agent.  Since she's still an "employee" of the Empire, I would assume that she would dress as such, or maybe I'm just old fashioned.  However, the outfit she wears throughout the entire game (forgot to bring a change of clothes?) is outfit #5.  I thought, yes, we know she's a woman, do we need the top-of-the-boob-service to be reminded of that fact?  And the fact that she is just the right age to create an unneeded (and brief) romantic interest for Starkiller?  It was a little too cheesy for my cheese loving tastes.  At least she didn't have the Miranda butt going on.

The last thing that I had an issue with was how short the story seemed to be and how fast events seemed to happen.  By the end of the game, it was revealed that the Emperor's plan the entire game was for Starkiller to feel betrayed by Darth Vader and the Emperor by having him killed off, but then saved by Darth Vader in a decoy (and false) plan to kill the Emperor, so that Starkiller could root out who the powerful enemies of the Empire were (what would become the rebellion in Star Wars IV - VI).  Maybe it was because Starkiller was more of the action side rather than the diplomatic side of the formation of the Rebellion, but I felt that the missions had little impact on the actual formation.  Sure, Starkiller had to go and save Senator Organa from the Empire, then save his adoptive daughter Leia Organa as a sign that he really was trustworthy.  Then at the end, you find out that everyone went ahead and got them selves captured again, which you go ahead and save and during the final mission.  And while the family crest of the Marek is used to be what is now known as the symbol representing the Rebel Alliance.

When the Marek family crest is introduced in the game, in the first level, I felt like, "Oh hey, it's something to do with the rebels!"  Then when it became clear that this symbol was known as a crest of the Marek family, my thought changed to, "Wait, families have crests/symbols in the Star Wars universe?  Since when?"  Maybe they did before this point and I have just been unobservant.   I do not recall seeing a crest for the Skywalker family or the Organa family or the Kenobi family.  The way that the Marek family crest came about in the game for the rebels to rally behind however seemed very sudden, like "Hey we need some symbol to rally behind.  How about this one right here?  Yeah, let's do that."  It was just about that quick, with maybe a couple additional lines of dialogue, but not too many more.

"That one looks good!"
So, despite all of the negative things that I have had to say about the game, I thought it was a lot of fun.  The gameplay was solid for the most part and despite the sound/lag/fps issues, I would recommend the game to fans of the Star Wars universe.  Additionally, despite the fact that Disney has turned the game and expanded universe stories from being cannon to being "Legends," that does not take away from the story that is being told here.  Especially when dealing with prequels, you already know ahead of time that certain elements have to remain in tact in order for the original series to not be completely destroyed (Darth Vader, the Emperor, Princess Leia all cannot die so anything conflict involving them is kind of moot since they are all alive up to Return of the Jedi).  I also felt that there was no explanation as to why there would be no mention about either Starkiller or the Malek family from any of the Rebel Alliance in the future movies (obviously because the character hadn't been created yet).

But again, I am indeed looking forward to playing the apparently less than stellar (eh?) The Force Unleashed II to at least see where the story goes after the events in the first game.  I still had a lot of fun using the best example of Force powers in any Star Wars game that I've played to date.  And I mean, it is not every game that lets you pull an Imperial Star Destroyer out of the sky and into a city (although that level was a pain in my ass until I found out I could take down Tie Fighters with Force Lightning instead of trying to grab them and tossing them at each other or using other floating debris).

And those controller command prompts were not 100% accurate either.

We Serve Thee Henceforth No More

It was quite a rush though.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Existential Angst - Free to play in Browser

I didn't find this screen.  But now I want to.

The first game to which I will refer you today is called 'Ennuigi.'  In which you wander back and forth as Luigi, smoking cigarettes and venting your existential angst.  This game is worth a few minutes of your time, if for nothing else than it's fantastic ability to create a mood.  Using just minimal mechanics, music, NES sprites and choice lines of text, Ennuigi is a unique gaming experience.  Play in your browser.  Linked from Boing Boing.

Loss is similarly minimalistic and effective, as you play a small child who has been given a balloon.  There is a reasonably long accompanying background song, which I found was a perfect timer for my patience with this game.  Have a look, it's fun.  Linked again from Boing Boing.   

That's all I've got for In-browser games at the moment.  Enjoy!


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

MIDI Week Singles: "Naru and the Embracing Light" - Ori and the Blind Forest (Multi Platform)

Naru and the Embracing Light - from Ori and the Blind Forest soundtrack on multiple platforms
Composer:  Gareth Coker
Developer:  Moon Studios
Publisher:  Microsoft Studios

And the award for the most unexpected dose of tender emotion goes to: "Naru and the Embracing Light", from the Ori and the Blind Forest soundtrack.  Wow.  I have never played this game, never even heard of it- before a few minutes ago, when I chanced to click on the link in my youtube links bar.  I wasn't even sure this was a game and not a film, but I confirmed it is a game, released earlier this year.  

About halfway through 'Embracing Light', I got choked up.  It was marvelous to have a piece of music hit me that well and completely unexpected.  Honestly, this whole soundtrack is worth your attention.  I may never play this game, but you can bet I will listen to it.  


Monday, August 17, 2015

Game Review: Fallout: A Post-Nuclear Role Playing Game (PC)

So I finally got around to finishing Fallout a week or so back.  Now, rather than go into a full blown review, because that hasn't been done enough already, I will just go on about things that I liked and how I played the game in general; and a fair word of warning as there will be some story spoilers.

The character I created, ended up being named "None" because that is the default name while creating your character.  I of course realized this well into the game when something popped up about my None introducing himself as "My name's None."  So I ran with it although I never actually created a suitable backstory for why this was the case.  With None, I decided on the following stats:
I decided that since None was going to be the one chosen to leave the relative safety of the underground vaults, he would have been chosen because of some skill dependent on being able to find a replacement for the water filtration system, so I chose "Repair" as one of the three primary skills.  I chose "Melee Weapons" expecting that the first batch of weapons that I would be using would be knives, spears and such and I would want to be conserving ammunition, especially in the early levels.   "Small Guns" seemed like a no brainer since it includes both pistols, rifles and shotguns.  Trait-wise, I picked "Skilled" because again, I thought that the Overseer would want to send someone with some kind of book smarts since the others that had previously been sent out had not returned.  With some skill with small guns, I decided that the "Finesse" trait would also be a welcome addition, since criticals are always a welcome addition to any fight, with obvious exceptions.

So on Saturday December 5th, 2161, None was sent off into the Wasteland.  He came across every settlement in what turned out to be the Los Angeles / Southern California basin.  What I loved about this setting, was that I was familiar with a number of the towns in this world that were not Los Angeles, such as Bakersfield and Lakewood.  None managed to pick up a follower (NPC) by the name of Ian in Shady Sands and they did travel together for a while later recovering a functional replacement water chip in Necropolis (Bakersfield).  At the request of the Overseer of Vault 13, None and Ian set out to eliminate the mutant threat that was perceived as a very real threat to those who lived in the Vault.  Ian was later lost (or died, I cannot remember) while hunting down the Super Mutants who were taking over the Necropolis.

I should probably also mention that None never acquired the Dogmeat in Junktown.  I knew he was there as I had managed to have him join me a couple of times on previous playthroughs.  My first time through Junktown, I thought maybe I had to complete something later on to pick up the dog, but by the time I recalled that I did not have him in my service, I felt that I did not need another NPC that would seem to act as minor cannon fodder and would make me want to restart battles whenever he died.  And I know for a fact that Dogmeat would eventually be killed, so I decided to leave him terrorizing Phil in Junktown.  Plus I liked the idea of None travelling alone without having to worry about others dying under his watch.

In the later game, I had None participate in the Adytum Massacre of 2163 that resulted in the deaths of a number of important town members such as Joe Zimmerman, Smitty, and local fortune teller Chuck.  The resulting massacre was the event that freed the citizens from the Regulators.  None was also instrumental in relieving Junktown from the corrupting influence of Gizmo, as well as the Skulz Gang with the help of a local guard by the name of Lars.

None also became an initiate in the Brotherhood of Steel, where with the help of a small contingent of Paladins, destroyed a military facility in the north west of the region.  This would prevent the creation of additional Super Mutants, but the Overseer felt that the Master of the Super Mutants would need to be taken out as well.

None eventually discovered the location of a figurehead in the Children of the Cathedral, who was most likely this Master that the Overseer was after.  As the game progressed, I had None pick the "Swift Learner", "Educated", and "Action Boy (2)" perks, with my final stats as follows:
You will have to excuse the Perception of 1 (V.Bad) as I took this image after the final boss fight and I had suffered "Eye Damage," otherwise my Perception would have been at 7.  I read that level 21 is apparently some kind of holy grail, but I only read that after I finished killing off the Deathclaw and her eggs, so they would no longer infinitely respawn in East LA.

On Sunday July 10th, 2163, 583 days after leaving Vault 13, now armed with additional technological support from the Brotherhood of Steel (which included medical enhancements to his perception, endurance, agility and strength), None was able to infiltrate the Church of the Children of the Cathedral and was able to take down the creator of the Super Mutant army.

Now, my tactic for fighting The Master was pretty cheap.  Since the battles in-game are turn based, I would save after every successful attack.  If my attack missed, I would reload from my previous save.   Sure it is not the most ethical thing to do when going up against the game's boss, but it is what I decided to do, rather than spend another I do not know how many hours grinding out a couple of levels in order to maybe kill The Master or have him kill me with a critical hit; although with the power armor, taking damage from The Master's twin gatling guns never did a whole lot of damage.  It was primarily the two Super Mutants who came at None from behind that I found troublesome.  There did seem to be a glitch of sorts that occurred during this battle.  Whenever I reloaded after a really bad miss or being killed, the two Super Mutants would start out back towards the entrance of the long hallway, or they would be where I had left them in the middle of my turn, but they would start their turn by walking forward and shooting at me.

After killing The Master, the two Super Mutants were in the hallway and while attacking them, I noticed too late that an auto destruct sequence had begun and the entire complex exploded before I had time to escape the basement of the cathedral.  Upon restarting and planning on running past the Super Mutants at all costs, I discovered that after killing The Master (again), that the hallway was clear of any additional enemies.  My escape turned out to be a lot less dramatic, but a lot easier.

As None made his way back to Vault 13, an epilogue of sorts was given for each of the settlements in the Wasteland.  What makes me think that the final result of each of these areas can change based on your actions was that I was told that, with the exception of Junktown which was being watched over by Killian Darkwater, all of the other settlements had been invaded/taken over/pillaged by Super Mutant armies.  This ending made me a little sad, although ultimately confused as I had heard from a traveling musician that Shady Sands had been overrun by Mutants, but when I "ran" to investigate, I found the citizens living quite peacefully without any interference by Mutants.

Once reaching home, None was greeted by the Overseer of Vault 13 and after a bit of one sided conversation, None was told that he could no longer come back to the vault and was banished out of fear of how his presence might inspire the rest of the dwellers in the vault to explore the Wasteland.

None apparently also got rid of his power armor at some point, but I completely understand the power of the image of the Vault Dweller walking off into the distance with practically nothing more than what he wore when he first left home.

Things that surprised me was how many well known actors did voices in this first game in a series.  Ron Perlman did the opening monologue, with Keith David, Jim Cummings, Tress MacNeilleClancy BrownTony Jay, Richard Dean Anderson, Pamela AdlonBrad Garrett, Richard Moll, Tony Shalhoub, and David Warner.  I feel like it is quite an impressive line up.  If you do not recognize the name, go ahead and follow the links to IMDb and you will most likely recognize them by their body of work.

The music was quite subtle, with the only track that stands out in my mind was the track played in Shady Sands, titled "Second Chance" on the soundtrack.  The music was composed by Mark Morgan and while I could list a handful of his past projects, just follow the link if you are at all interested.  For the most part though, the music was very ambient and atmospheric, with very little melody, but considering that Fallout takes place in the Wasteland, the choice was very appropriate.

In the end, I spent anywhere between 25 - 30 hours.  Storywise, I was very taken in with the world.  I could see creating a new character and playing through a second time with varying starting stats, skills and feats.  One noticeable difference is that if your character has below a certain level of intelligence, communicating with NPCs becomes a difficult task.  It would be amusing to go through an entire game without fully knowing what your character was saying, and only being able to assume based on the response of the person you are talking to.  It might also be fun to play a fully evil character who sides with the Skulz and Gizmo.  So replayability is a plus and will probably happen after I make my way through the rest of the games in the Fallout series.

I guess I should say, although it is fairly obvious at this point, that I wholeheartedly recommend Fallout: A Post-Nuclear Role Playing RPG, but only if you feel that you can play through turn based battles in an isometric view, and with a constant feeling that you might end up mucking up your dialogue choices resulting in not being able to complete an objective leading to the death of all your friends and family in Vault 13.  Just plan on taking 20+ hours especially on your first playthrough as well as depending on how you roleplay your character.  I do not know how interesting the end-game will be as I will feel that I will need to end up with a character clad in power armor and an initiate of the Brotherhood of Steel in order to survive the two end battles.

It's a fun game in a bleak familiar world.


MTG: Magic Online

MTG Online
Another important piece in my MTG playing experience these days is Magic Online (MTGO). Magic Online has been around for a number of years, but I just started playing it a few months ago. I had some trouble with the interface at first, but I’m getting used to. (From what I’ve heard, it’s a lot better than it used to be.)  An account costs $10, and comes with a starter kit of cards and some new player event tokens. You can build a deck from the cards, and enter into constructed or limited events held many times daily on MTGO.

Playing Magic online has advantages and disadvantages. One advantage is that now you I can play magic whenever I like. I don’t have to arrange a meeting with friends, working out scheduling and location in order to get in a few games. I can hop on, play a game against a random opponent, and leave, if I so choose. It’s also rather interesting to play against random people. And I certainly find it much easier to do so than it would be to play in person, at my local game store (LGS). There is a chat window, which is not necessary to play games. But when I have chatted with my opponents, I’ve only encountered courteous people. Part of the advantage of being online is that I can spew all of my taunts and swear words at the screen, which makes me feel better, but my opponent never has to hear it. It really is quite nice.

This is what magic online looks like

In contrast, the loss of the social aspect is significant. I like playing magic with my friends because I also get to hang out with them, shoot the shit, taunt one another and generally have a good time. Perhaps it is for this reason my friends and I haven’t made any effort to move our collective magic game to Online.
A different advantage of Magic Online is that it helps to clarify some of the rules. Because the computer does a lot of the work, the rules are no longer open to interpretation. This has positively impacted my real-world experience of magic playing. We’ve gotten better at turn-taking, which is a highly complex matter where magic is concerned. Of course, the disadvantage to this is that it is very easy to make a simple error, and have no way to take it back. In a friendly game, you can usually catch an error right after you make it, and the game can continue with minimal impact. But in Magic online, the moment you click your mouse button wrong – too late! You made the move and you can’t take it back. I’ve lost games, or nearly lost games based on these sorts of errors-- it can be pretty frustrating. So while it sharpens my playing to be held to such an unforgiving standard, it also increases the stress level when playing.

Another fun element of Magic Online is the number of tournaments that are available. I never played a real magic tournament before MTGO (except one time when I was like 13, and I got my butt kicked). Now I enjoy playing tournaments a great deal. It’s fun to draft live, and it’s fun to win prizes. Of course, the opposite side of this is that it costs money to enter tournaments, and the competition is pretty fierce. While I have won prizes here and there, overall, I’ve lost more than I’ve won. It is possible to win enough to break even, but it is very rare. They call it ‘going infinite.’ And that is a topic for another day.

All in all, I think that MTGO has been a positive development in my magic playing life. It’s given me convenient access, and allowed me to try different styles of play against an unlimited number of competitors. I don’t recommend it to beginners, but to veterans who are interested in giving it a try, I definitely think it’s worth the initial $10 investment. Just watch out for the tournaments, they are habit-forming and expensive!


Pros: Convenience, Huge pool of players, Tournaments, Sharpens the game, low start-up cost, cards are cheap and reusable

Cons: Tough interface, Less Social, Habit Forming, Can become expensive- especially if you enjoy limited format

P.S. if you're into constructed the best thing ever is that you can re-use cards in multiple decks. Like, if you have just one of a card, you can use it in all of your decks simultaneously.

Technically you could do this in real life, but it would require you removing these cards after each play, and putting them back into a different deck. This is very cumbersome and I've never heard of anyone actually doing this.

Read my previous posts about Magic The Gathering, why not?

Friday, August 14, 2015

SteamBoy Update

Back in June of last year, after E3, I talked a little bit about the SteamBoy, which looked a lot like a PSP, but was designed to play games on the Steam platform on a portable gaming device.  There was very little information at the time, with only the name and the general concept being publicized.  Well, now thanks to Gamescom 2015, there is now an update about this pretty awesome sounding project.

First off, the SteamBoy's name has been officially changed to "Smach Zero."  Is the "Smach" pronounced like "smock," or "smach (like the ch in cheese)," or like "smack," until I exert the energy to hear a press conference report about it, I'm settling on either the "smock" or "smack" pronunciation.  Anyway, the main reason that I speculate as to the name change was a possible copyright issue that either Nintendo and/or Valve had with the use of SteamBoy.  The "Steam" because it's not a Steam product developed by Valve and may not be under the Steam Machine license (if that is in fact a thing that Valve licensed out to only specific companies), and the "Boy" as potentially being confused with Nintendo's GameBoy.  So I'm a little bit up in the air as to the new name Smach Zero.  Maybe there's more to the meaning of that new name that has yet to be revealed.

Back on June 18th, Smach Zero did release a specs video with the following information:
  • 5" Touch Screen 
  • 720p Resolution
  • WiFi & Bluetooth Connectivity
  • 4G Connectivity on Pro Model Only (no word as of yet how the Pro Model will differ besides a 4G feature)
  • 1000+ Games Available at Launch (available by purchase through the Steam Client)
PC Gamer relates additional specifications such as:
  • 4GB RAM
  • 32GB Internal Storage
  • HDMI Output
  • AMD embedded G-Series SoC 'Steppe Eagle' with Jaguar-based CPU and GCN-based Radeon graphics
The most recent video released by Smach Zero has the system being released in the 4th quarter of 2016, so the system itself is still over a year away, which might end up changing/updating some of the hardware a bit.  It currently also has a MSRP of $299 for the US and €299 for Europe (except the UK because they still have Monarchs).

Their price video also mentions that the Smach Zero will have "USB OTG," but what that means in terms of the system was not exactly clear.  Will it be chargeable via USB connection, can you download/transfer games from your PC to the Smach Zero via USB, can you use a USB cable to play against other Smach Zero users like the good ol' days of GameBoy's Game Link Cable?"

My other biggest concern, before I go ahead and use Conklederp's money to preorder a system this upcoming November, is what is the battery life like?  The New 3DS touts a 3.5 - 10 hour battery life depending on the 3D setting and the PS Vita has a 3 - 6 hour life depending on the model.  I would like the Smach Zero to have nothing less than at least 5 hours of battery life, if only because I'm a demanding person, but again, I feel that this is information that I would need to know before considering buying a system.  What I'll probably end up doing, is waiting a year or so before buying a system just to see if it goes the way of the DS and an updated system is released to fix any kinks.

So that's all that I have to report, or I guess more like relay since I'm just repeating information that I've read as opposed information that was given specifically to me.  But, that's just the way things go.


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

MIDI Week Singles: "Cowboy in Town" - Gunman Clive (3DS)

"Cowboy in Town" from Gunman Clive on the Nintendo 3DS (2013)
Composer: Arne Hörberg

I really like this song.  Ever since I first played the game two years ago (2013), I thought, "Damn, this a great song!"  It's got that Ennio Morricone feel to it, or at least I think it does as I have yet to actually see Once Upon a Time in the West or The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.  However, not having seen (many of the) classic westerns, I feel the music still conjures similar feelings as to how music in this type of a world/setting should sound.

Granted it's not the most raucous tune to play along with a side scrolling shooter, but it's not overpowering, but it works perfectly in how it's used.  In-game, all of the songs continuously play when you die and return to the beginning of the stage, which is great in keeping the flow of the game going.  By itself, it's a great song with western flair with perhaps a slight hint of Manami Mastumae's Mega Man 2 score, but that just might be the game play influencing how I listen to the music, both in and out of the game.

And pick up the soundtrack if this one song is of interest to you as the entire album is only $1 for just under 20 minutes worth of music, available over on Arne Hörberg's bandcamp page.


Look Past The End

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Proper Way To Do A "World of Warcraft" Movie: Special 1993 Edition.

Since I couldn't really fit this all into my previous post and didn't feel that it was the right place for it, I decided that it would work better as a stand alone / accompanying post to the above/below that I posted earlier about my thoughts on the Warcraft film.  And yes, I know that World of Warcraft wasn't released until 2004, but it'll work better this way.  Trust me.

What I feared the movie would be when it was (was it ever?) a World of Warcraft film, was that it seemed like it would have come out of an early 1990's executive's brain on what the popular masses wanted from a movie based on a video game.  Product placements by Mt. Dew, Funyuns and NoDoz aside, the only way I could envision this WoW movie happening was a sad abomination with a misguided target audience.  Kids play video games, so let's market it towards kids, right?

I thought the film would be focused on a kid (probably a Google image searches idea of a video game dork. . yeah, that's about right) who plays WoW and outside of him attending public high school, has very little interaction with other people.  Maybe he sees his family during dinner and only for a few minutes at breakfast.  The rest of the time, let's call him Carl, spends in his room playing WoW.

At school, Carl has been having problems with other kids, specifically a group of goths (because stereotyping "jocks" would be inappropriate) lead by a kid named Dennis who likes to be called Dark.  Dark teases Carl about him playing WoW to the point where Carl is experiencing tell tale signs of depression and developing what his concerned yet constantly absent parents think is agoraphobia.  So basically, Carl is being bullied by Dark because Dark has been bullied in the past (revealed later).

At home one night, maybe the Friday night of the senior prom, Carl is playing WoW when Dark attempts to break into Carl's room for the sole purpose of wrecking his computer, preventing him from ever playing his "lame-ass video games ever again!"  Then something straight out of Weird Science happens and the two boys are pulled/sucked into the World of Warcraft game.  

Through a series of predictable events, Carl sides with the forces of Lordaeron (or was is Azeroth?) and Dark sides with the Horde (after Dark accepts the fact that he's in a video game).  Both kids learn important things about themselves (what, I don't rightly know).  Leading up to the final battle, Dark realizes that he's sided with the wrong side and defects to the good side.  Dark and Carl are instrumental (Dark, because he knows the plans of the evil dudes and Carl because he's the main character) in foiling the plans of the Horde in taking over the kingdom; let's say they're battlefield generals.  At some point during Dark's redemption it is revealed that Dark played WoW too, but only during its first year and stopped because he too was bullied about playing video games, and the two boys become friends/comrades in arms.

A massive CGI battle ensues.  They manage to help win the battle and are transported  during the celebration feast back (how?) into the real world, with all of the life lessons they learned during their (week/month/season/year-long?) ordeal to find that no time had passed in the real world.  Maybe one (or both) of them still has some token that they were able to bring back from the WoW realm into the real world.

The next time they see each other at school, there's no mocking on Dark's part and the two give a casual nod, all in slow motion as maybe a track by AC/DC plays over the credits.

I probably should have written screenplays back in the 80s, if I hadn't been, you know born in the beginning of the 80s.  But this was one of the few ways I thought a studio would end up doing a World of Warcraft film.


My Own Thoughts About the Warcraft Movie

I had a few thoughts about the upcoming (2016) Warcraft movie, but I wanted to get them down before I find out anymore information that might either cloud my already established point of view or make my point for me before I can spew it out on the electronic page.

Up until pictures of the movie posters surfaced at San Diego Comic Con 2015, I had been under the impression that the movie being produced from the intellectual property of Blizzard was a World of Warcraft movie, to which I was only slightly less than interested. A few months back, I also found out that Travis Fimmel was involved with the movie, my interest piqued just a bit.  At the time (so before the time then?) I was simply hoping that a video game based movie would do well enough that it would cause the public at large to stop bashing every single movie that was derived from a video game (and a new Hitman movie is being released soon. . .Friday?).  

Granted some of those criticisms are valid, when you look at such films as, well, just go and read the Wikipedia article as there are a lot more than I had previously thought.  It doesn't help the cause though that the first movie was Super Mario Bros., which has never gotten a good wrap.  No, I have not seen Super Mario Bros., and yes, I kind of want to see it, if only to see what all the hubbub is about.  So getting back in the movie that I came here to talk about.

As it was revealed (to me anyway), the World of Warcraft movie is in fact, just titled Warcraft, to which I am greatly relieved.  

I was never a fan of World of Warcraft, mainly because I never played it, but also because, at the time, I didn't understand paying for a video game, then paying each month in order to keep playing it.  I had felt that I would then be compelled to only play that one game that I am paying for month-t0-month because I am investing that money into one game rather than, potentially, 12 new/used games.  I also never played Warcraft III,  and I cannot presently remember the exact reason why.  I think that I was waiting for a Warcraft III chest similar to what Blizzard did for Warcraft and Warcraft II, which included the expansion Warcraft IIx: Beyond the Dark Portal, all in one schnazzy looking bundle.

So that is where my history with Warcraft lies, with the first two games and the one expansion.

When I found out that the main Orc, being the one in the film is Orgrim Doomhammer, this made me happy because my introduction to Orgrim was from Warcraft II, as the lore did not exist in Warcraft: Orcs & Humans the way that it did with Warcraft II.  I am now hoping that the game takes into account most of Warcraft I and II, but again, that's only because those are the games in the series that I've played.  Someone (Dr. Potts? or Señor Guzay?) told me that in Warcraft III (I think) that it was revealed that the Orc Horde were never bad to begin with and that they were under the control of some evil shaman Orc (or something similar) and that when World of Warcraft takes place, they've patched things up with Lordaeron?  I'm not really sure, again, because I haven't played anything in this world since it was written back in 1996.  Oh, and I've never liked the idea the the Orcs (as well as Trolls, Ogres and Undead) are actually good and misunderstood guys who just need a chance.

Those who are actually versed in the lore of Warcraft are probably cringing at my half-assed attempt at thinking that I am even barely knowledgeable in this arena, so my apologies.

And just yesterday I found out that Mr. Clancy Brown (Highlander, Carnivàle, Spongebob Squarepants) will be voicing Rend Blackhand, presumably for a short time before Orgrim kills him and takes over the Blackrock Clan.

Basically, I want the Warcraft movie to be based off of the lore from the early games and have nothing to do lorewise with World of Warcraft has come out, if only "because" the film is called Warcraft and not World of Warcraft.

I realize that this point of view makes me kind of a dick, and I'm okay with that.  I'm getting old and with that comes curmudgeonness.  I feel the same about certain theories in The Song of Ice and Fire universe, but that's a post for another time (probably before the next book and Season 6 are released).


Friday, August 7, 2015

Monthly Update: August, 2015

Did I talk about possibly updating the logo for our Monthly Updates?  I think I did. . .yes I did.  And since nothing has changed logo-wise in that time, I think I'll continue to sticking with sure things.

So July I was able to complete a couple of games that I'd been working a while towards, Half-Life and Fallout, both great PC games from the late 1990s.  Shortly after finishing Fallout, I decided to start up Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel, seeing as how it's the next game chronologically whereas Fallout 2 was the second game in the series released.  I'll be coming out with a First Impressions article later in the month.

I also played a handful of rounds of Team Fortress 2 with Chreekat earlier in the month and was amused when he said that I was almost voted out of the game because I was idle for less than 30 seconds, as I was also in the process of making dinner and I didn't want whatever I was cooking on the stove to potentially burn.  I forgot how much fun TF2 was as I hadn't played it in well over a year (the last time might've been with Coolman and SneakyTiki) and I had to reinstall the game and re-figure out the interface and the various characters.  I should play it again soon.

With the mention of more games, I made a decision, probably around the time of beating Half-Life, that I would decrease the number of games I play at one time in order to try to finish games a lot sooner than I have previously been.  I of course say that now, but we'll just have to wait and see what the fates decide.  

I of course am still working my way through Radiant Historia and have had to peruse Gamefaqs in order to find out where to travel back in history to find the right time to talk to my target in order to influence them in either the present or the alternate present.  Time travel can be a bit confusing.  Thankfully dialogue scenes can be fast-forwarded.

And don't worry, Conklederp and I are still playing through Elder Scrolls Online, but we just haven't quested in a while due to her work schedule and my homework needed to be submitted by a certain time schedule.  I did recently find out that there was a new species of Orc, Wood Orcs, that apparently live in Valenwood along with the Bosmer, but that area is traversed around level 35 in the Aldmeri Dominion; we're playing in the Daggerfall Covenant.  So about 100 hours on another side of the war and I'll be able to see what's going on with them.

On the physical gaming front, Exploding Kittens, the Kickstarted card game tri-created from the creator of The Oatmeal and admittedly some other people I'm not familiar with (Elan Lee and Shane Small) arrived in the mail yesterday.  I'm excited to play this fun and ridiculous game that apparently can take about 15 minutes to play an entire game.  I have read over on The Reddit that the packaging of the cards in their respective boxes hasn't gone as well as the creators would have liked, although the response from the boxing/shipping company seems to be positive.  But ours arrived just fine, all stickered, shrink wrapped and sealed with all of the cards where they were supposed to be.  There might be an article about this game (along with the rest of the Intern Nets).

Dungeons & Dragons is still happening and I would say that we're about 2/5s of the way through the quest, maybe more, maybe less, but all depending on the number of side quests that the PCs want to take and how confident Dagnar Ungart is that her cousin Gundren Rockseeker is being kept alive by his captors.  Or how confident that Tula Tealeaf is that Glass Staff won't kill her aunt Qelline Alderleaf and nephew Carp as well as their other captive, Sildar Hallwater.  It's a bit of a clusterfuck right now, but as the DM, it's the best kind.

August, I'm not 100% sure what will entail.  I'll have half of the month off so I might get a fair amount of gaming completed and I'll probably be posting more frequently.  Ah, and I'll probably have some pictures up of the miniatures that I finally got around to painting.


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

MIDI Week Singles: "Tal-Tal Mountain" - Link's Awakening (GB)

"Tal-Tal Mountain" from Link's Awakening on Game Boy (1993)
Composer: Minako Hamano and Kozue Ishikawa
Producer: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo EAD

I've been listening to the Link's Awakening soundtrack lately, and boy, that's a great soundtrack!  All the more impressive for having been composed for the gameboy's limited sound processor.  There are many standout tracks, but I decided to run with this track for three reasons.  

First, it's an exciting, upbeat, adventure track, a style I enjoy.  Second, it's a cool variation on the Zelda theme, retaining the intro notes and general excitement, while heading in a different and fun direction.  Third, it makes great use of the gameboy's tonal range without ever spilling into ear-grating territory.  

I have a love-hate relationship with the beep-boop sounds of the gameboy,  and there are many great tracks on the Link's Awakening soundtrack that are a little hard to listen to because some of the tones just plain hurt.  But not this one!  Enjoy.