September 06, 2013

PAX Prime 2013 - Day One

On August 30th, 2013 My wife, some of my closest friends and I attended our inaugural PAX Prime event. Having been to Minecon in Las Vegas previously I thought I had an inkling of what was in store for us, boy how I turned out to be wrong!

What an event! We were lucky to be able to attend three days of in your face gaming convention goodness! The streets of Seattle were awash in geekiness, and turbulent waves of nerd surged through the gates of the WSCC (Washington State Convention Center). Our first step was to form a line in the Queue room which was bathed by fluorescent lights and green banners advertising Mountain Dew and Doritos' 'Win an Xbox One every 2 Minutes contest'. The amount of people in the room was staggering, I had expected no more than 10,000. But no, there were perhaps 30,000 people in attendance. I don't really know the actual numbers, but we'll just say that there were a lot of people there!

Hot and sweaty already we sat down and waited for the gates to open. Media outlets of all sorts where filming their intros for the event, and even getting shots of interesting 'characters' in the crowd. Dez was sporting her 10th Doctor (David Tennant) outfit with pride. Our gatekeeper was dressed up in steampunk attire the likes of which I had never seen before in person. An event enforcer or perhaps enhancer (IDK) attempted to start a wave through the crowd, but we were all too busy conversing about the impending awesomeness beyond the tantalizing entryways to the showroom floor.

Finally the clock struck 10 a.m. and the enforcers began letting us loose. They timed each line release well, staggering us to keep the entrances free of clogging, and the possibility of injury via stampede. Through the entrance we went and immediately we were inundated by sights and sounds that would make any geek shriek for joy. It didn't take long for us to seek out the closest game being demoed which happened to be Wildstar. Dustin had been looking forward to it for some time and immediately jumped into it. I tried to get on as well, but unfortunately the demo I chose decided to not work for me. At any rate Dustin played it for a while and decided that he didn't like it very much, but remained hopeful that it would become better in the future.

With so much to do and see I was a little lost and decided to try and stick with the group. We gravitated towards the Cooler Master booth and got some raffle tickets, then we went to Sony Online's booth and watched the Everquest Next demo. Steph won a dragon hat! The demo they showed made us all drool quite heavily. As a group we agreed that it was the MMO to play. Unfortunately they didn't give out any beta keys, but the Everquest Landmark open beta starts this fall, so we have that to look forward to. After that we sort of just wandered through the expo stopping to look at this and that, taking pictures along the way.

After passing through the skyway Steph, Dustin and I lost Dez and Chris in the second showroom floor. We needed water, so Steph decided to go get some. I lost track of her and Dustin, but then we met up at the drinking fountain and decided to check out Nintendo. We played the new Mario game for Wii U, Super Mario 3D world which was shown at E3 this year. Super fun!; gotta get it for Steph's family. Anyway, we then decided to get something for lunch, I think... So we met back at the Hotel and went out for Thai food.

Back at the expo I decided that I really wanted to try out the Oculus Rift, so I went there and got to demo the race driving experience. The VR was so compelling that I felt like I was actually moving. I feel like it's a really awesome device with lots of potential to be the next big thing in gaming. Later we found out that Sony is creating their own VR headset for the PS4! Exciting! The next thing we all did as a group was go to Patrick Rothfuss' panel in the Sheraton. He is a really funny guy, and suffice it to say I can't divulge anything he said since I, along with the crowd, signed an intangible NDA based on mutual trust. Yeah... So then we went back to the showroom for a bit, got some swag, and then made our way to the Barnes & Noble for the Patrick Rothfuss book signing.

For some reason Barnes & Noble didn't anticipate a huge crowd, so when we arrived the meeting place was in the children's section where only two rows of chairs were set up. Just a handful of 100-200 people were able to sit in chairs while we yet again had the treat of listening to Patrick as he spoke and answered questions from the crowd. We underwent another pact of silence which was totally worth it. I haven't read his books, but I'll be sure to read them now. Such a funny and interesting guy this Pat is.

So that was Day One! OMG so much win! I think I will leave it at that and try to collect my thoughts for another post as soon as I can.

For a better idea of what all went down on day one of PAX Prime 2013 check out the different videos and news from ign.com or gametrailers.com

Anomaly Warzone Earth - One Hour Trial

Anomaly Warzone Earth is a mobile tower defense game, no not mobile as in only on mobile devices (although it is available on them); it's mobile in the fact that you control a constantly moving convoy of military vehicles trying to get through an area whilst defending themselves. The twist on typical TD games works in favor of Anomaly Warzone Earth in a lot of ways, which I will try to list below.

1. Commander: you control a commander who is, for all intents and purposes, practically invulnerable. He can move about the field of battle in any direction to pick up powerups and scout areas. His main role is to provide support for the convoy in various ways; repair units, drop smoke screens, drop decoy units. The commander draws aggro from fixed tower defenses and can die, but will be revived after 3 seconds, during which time your convoy can get hammered by unmitigated attacks.

2. Upgrades: you can buy units with cash harvested from tower kills and resource pickups. Each unit can then be upgraded. One of the more tactical aspects of the game is the positioning of units in the convoy. This can maximize the survivability of certain units due to their unique attributes.

3. Tactical Map: at any time during a mission you can pause the game and go to a tactical map that shows the whole battlefield. On the map you can change the route of the convoy to attack or avoid areas of contention. Some enemies cannot turn so it's a good idea to change up the route in order to avoid damage and using power-ups.

4. Power-Ups: As mentioned above the commander has access to power-ups which for a limited time perform a certain function. You can repair your units with an AOE beacon that lasts about 5 seconds. You can cover your convoy's assault with a smoke screen that causes enemy towers to shoot wildly. You can drop a decoy unit to distract towers. Using these power-ups tactically helps make each mission run more smoothly.

So after just one hour of playing I have to say that I really enjoy this game. I'll keep it installed and finish it someday. I might even buy the sequel. Good job 11 Bit, you made an excellent TD game that turns the genre on its head!

Up Next:

Atom Zombie Smasher

AYIM - One Hour Trial

And Yet It Moves is a rather strange little game, and I actually enjoyed it. Why? One word:

Physics

A 2D game with physics you say? Well yes in fact that is possible. In AYIM you control a cutout doodle-man who is trying to escape from, I don't know something terrible. Anyway the story is not important, what is important is how you get around in the game.

September 05, 2013

A.R.E.S.: Extinction Agenda - One Hour Trial


I have over 190 games on Steam now thanks to Humble Bundle and Steam Summer Sales. So in order to justify my outrageous purchasing habits I will be playing each "new" game for one hour then post my thoughts here.

So what to say about A.R.E.S.: Extinction Agenda? Well I think it's a good game, but I don't like it very much, and here's why;

Controls
Character Speed
Enemy Difficulty

August 01, 2013

The Third and Final Entry for the Damsel in Distress Trope

I'm really enjoying these videos by Anita. They are, hopefully, opening a lot of people's minds to accepting the difficult premise of gender inequality in video games. Obviously gender inequality permeates more than just interactive software, but I believe that since the media is an extension of our culture then these videos are a portrayal of how sexist people still are. Please take the time to watch this, then think about what has been shown and said.

July 27, 2013

What I've learned about Critical Thinking so Far...

On the road to becoming a more effective critical thinker there are many barriers. To overcome these barriers there are certain traits that we need to emulate in order to become good critical thinkers. In this post I will attempt to address those barriers and how to overcome them by taking on specific traits.

The barriers to effective critical thinking fall under resistance which is a part of the three tier model of thinking. There are three levels to thinking; Experience, Interpretation, and Analysis. In between Interpretation and Analysis lies Resistance. There are many types of Resistance, for example Avoidance; "Rather than seeking out different points of view, we may avoid certain people and situations." (Boss, 2012), AngerClich├ęs; often-repeated statements such as “Don’t force your views on me,” “It’s all relative,” “To each his own,” “Things always work out for the best,” and “I have a right to my own opinion” (Boss, 2012), Ignorance, Denial, Conformity, Struggling, Fear of Challenge, Distractions, Egocentrism (belief that oneself is more important), Absolutism, Ethnocentrism (belief that one's own culture is more important) and Anthropocentrism (belief that humans are more important) , just to name a few.

All of these negative ideologies and habits can be overcome by taking on characteristics that improve one's critical thinking. The characteristics of a good critical thinker are; Analytical Skills, Effective Communication, Research and Inquiry Skills, Flexibility and Tolerance for Ambiguity, Open-Minded Skepticism, Creative Problem Solving, Attention-Mindfulness-Curiosity, and Collaborative Learning. (Boss, 2012)

Good critical thinkers take the time analyze and provide logical support for their beliefs, they also strive to evaluate other's beliefs and arguments so as not to be taken in by faulty reasoning. Critical thinkers tend to use effective communications skills by listening, speaking and writing, this also includes research and inquiry so as to effectively garner sufficient information used to make correct analysis and logical responses to problems. Critical thinkers also leave room for doubt as there is a lot of ambiguity when it comes to certain issues e.g. there's always more than one way to solve a problem. They are openly skeptical of the things they hear, see or read. This means that they do not immediately take information to heart until proper research and analysis is performed and a logical conclusion is met. The next approach that good critical thinkers take is creative problem solving which goes hand in hand with collaborative learning. They try and come up with creative solutions for problems by working together. This requires attention, mindfulness and curiosity. To ignore these traits is to invite bias, ignorance, and false reasoning, amongst other negative feelings or beliefs that stifle critical thinking.

All in all good critical thinkers are made up of more than typical thinking processes, they are highly skilled individuals that are constantly striving for improvement of their understanding of things. Everyone is capable of becoming a good critical thinker, but it takes time, practice, patience, and the willingness to improve upon what you've already learned.

References:

Boss, J. A. B. (2012). Think: Critical thinking for everyday life, second edition. (2nd ed., p. 7-15, 20-25 ). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill. Retrieved from http://vizedhtmlcontent.next.ecollege.com/CurrentCourse/bos38200_c01_xvi-033.pdf

May 28, 2013

200th Post! Another Feminist Frequency vid

It's been awhile since I posted anything on this blog but I just recieved an e-mail with a link to the next Tropes vs. Women in Video Games documentary project by Anita Sarkeesian (sic?). I think it's important to be critical (serious) about the types of entertainment we engage in. This is an interesting video, though I don't expect everyone to agree with what is said. There are some troubling images, so be aware. Do not watch around children. This is safe'ish for work, but probably best not watched around one's boss. Yes, blah blah blah. I talk too much.

Feel free to leave your comments below.

March 08, 2013

Damsel in Distress: Part 1 - Tropes vs Women in Video Games

I backed this Kickstarter project last year, and by doing so I'm (unofficially) contractually bound to support Anita Sarkeesian in her effort to educate the masses about true feminism and the role of women in video games. I bet you never guessed I'd be a feminist eh? (Also men can be feminists, look it up.) Well guess what, women are awesome, and we still treat them pretty badly. So if you want to see an interesting and enlightening video please watch this.


Also, check out their tumblr of games where the Damsel in Distress trope is used.

Life

Well... Lots to say here. I'll try and make it short and sweet. If I fail, well you can just get over it.

Life has been going a million miles a minute it seems, which I know is impossible given that the light barrier is unbreakable. But suffice it to say, I am totally beat! As you may or may not know Emma G. Russell, our first child, was born into this world on January 4th, 2013 (hey, that's the year that's this year!). Since that moment, I've had little time for, well... anything it seems. School, work, chores, and playtime have taken a backseat for now; not that I'm not doing them. I'm just a great procrastinator.

But I digress.

Life has been interesting; full of joy, and frustration. Winter is all but gone now (finally!), and the fertile bounty of spring is about to burst forth, only to suddenly die and turn into blisteringly hot summer.

Anyway, after all that crapola: in September Steph and I, along with some high school buddies of mine, are going to attend PAX Prime in Seattle. It'll be a rich experience; one that I've never had before. To be among a bunch of smelly nerds exploring the landscape of new consoles and video games as well as card games and tabletop board games. Minecon came a little close, but it'll be nothing compared to this.

Speaking of which, I'm still hosting a Pathfinder nights on Monday's. It's the longest I've ever been DM for a group. I think we started back in June of last year. It's been a fun adventure, but I long to be a player again.

I've also started a new Minecraft server; Survival only. It's in its early days, and nobody seems to care about it's existence, but it is mine and I enjoy playing on it. (man, I said 'it' a lot in that sentence.)

This year Sony is coming out with the PS4 (big freaking surprise), and I can only assume that the next Xbox is ready to launch this holiday season as well, whatever it's going to be called (720, Nexus, whatever . But due to a restrictive budget I doubt I'll be able to afford any of these new consoles for at least another year. In retrospect I got to upgrade my PC last year so I'm happy with what I've got.

In other news, Steph and I have been binge'ing on Star Trek TOS and TNG episodes, as well as other notable Sci-Fi Television series such as Eureka  Red Dwarf (which apparently got renewed for a 10th season after so many years...weird.) and Futurama, which starts up again this Summer. I can hardly wait.

I finished reading Dune, finally, and I've started reading the Shadow and Claw, which is the first two books in a series I can't remember the name of.

Well, that's my life in a nutshell. Stay tuned for more crap you probably don't care about because it has nothing to do with you. However, try to enjoy life, because it's pretty crazy and goes by quick. Heck I lost two months on my blog due to a new child. That shows you where my priorities are... I think. Well, don't read into it that much, just grab life by the hojos and don't let go.

December 29, 2012

5 Reasons Why Final Fantasy VI Is The Best Final Fantasy Ever


I don’t think I've been able to adequately explain my love of this particular Final Fantasy to anyone. Perhaps it is because it’s practically impossible to quickly sum up such an immensely influential Final Fantasy. In terms of overall Final Fantasy game experience it is the complete package. As far as I’m concerned no other Final Fantasy comes close to topping it, but I digress. This is a list, nay an explanation of the 5 reasons why Final Fantasy VI is the best Final Fantasy. Hopefully you will understand what I’m getting at here, and you will see how it influenced my life as a gamer and maybe even how it still does.

   Final Fantasy VI was not the first Final Fantasy game I played, the very first was Final Fantasy IV, but back then it was known as Final Fantasy II. However, that wasn't even the first Square title I ever played, the very first was Chrono Trigger, which is one of my more favorite Square games, but I won’t go into that.

December 12, 2012

The Inevitable

I was just thinking about this earlier today. Now that Disney owns Lucas Film and all it's subsidiaries. They could totally incorporate Star Wars, Indiana Jones and whatever else they own into Square Enix's Kingdom Hearts games. So, I did this little mockup of such a game. It's not great, but I thought it was funny.

November 30, 2012

Gentlemen, A Blob

Here's a quick little blob character I made in Illustrator. It didn't take long, but he was fun to make. Heck, he looks like he could just start moving.

Illustrator Doodlepoop

I enjoyed making the color graphic earlier, and I really liked how the Blood piece turned out. So I decided to create this in Illustrator. Using vectors is much better than what I was doing in Photoshop, the overall balance, and cleanliness of this simple design makes me extremely happy. This could be on a T-Shirt someday. I used Neutraface Bold Type for the text. The blood puddle was done with the brush tool, the cross with the rectangle tool, and the blood droplets with the ellipse tool. Just for fun I made a variant with rounded corners for the cross.

November 29, 2012

Colors: Positive Connotations

I'm in a color theory class right now, and I thought it would be fun to create a simple design that touts a singular color attribute for the primary, secondary, and neutral colors. (Blood is positive in the sense that it embodies life, determination, and passion.) I used the Jeopardy font, a.k.a. Korinna Extra Bold for the text. (the same font is used by Capcom for their logo.)

November 23, 2012

Long Live House Atreides!

I started reading Frank Herbert's Dune series. (I also watched the movie adaptation by director David Lynch, which is pretty cool actually.) Anyway, it's a really awesome book; kinda confusing, but awesome.

Anyway, enjoy this 1920x1080 Photoshop'ped bit of artwork. It's a combination of a stock image of sand dunes, stock image of a dust cloud, and a Shai Hulud from a book cover of the novel. I used Futura Heavy typeface for the title. I also used various filters, and a paper texture to get a sort of washed out look.

November 08, 2012

Faux Webpage

I decided that I would make up a website, and then draft a single page for it. It was a lot of fun. I used various weights of the Univers typeface, and Frutiger at the bottom. All images were pulled from stock.xchng except for the twitter, facebook, and google+ logos. For the speech bubble effect I used the pen tool. For the background and header I added noise to spice things up a bit. I created cells with the roundrect tool, but instead of a fill I used a brushstroke.

Disclaimer: All company names appearing in this design are fictitious. Any resemblance to real company names, active or inactive, are purely coincidental.

Anarchy!

This is a joke. I'm just testing out different fonts. Smash the state is the anarchist's battle cry. I remember it from Deus Ex (PC) where it was used as a password in the very first mission. It made me laugh because it sounds so childish. Also the AI in that game is kinda goofy, so in my mind this phrase became synonymous with the terrorist group known as NSF (National Secessionist Forces) in that same first mission. Silliness aside that game is amazing, hilariously amazing.

November 01, 2012

Strange Things on Netflix

I was just perusing Netflix, mostly looking at the different typefaces of movie titles, and their designs when I happened upon something very strange. I don't know if it is intentional, but there is a whole series of videos featuring the Netflix HQ and a performer doing different things. I capture some screen shots to illustrate my find. The link to this 'series' is here.


Curious, I've never seen a show like this.

Seems legit.

October 24, 2012

I Made an Animated GIF!

It's incredibly easy to create basic animations in Photoshop. If you have PS, just click on the windows menu then select animation. From there on you can create any type of animation you want. This one is really basic, and it took about 15 minutes to complete. Enjoy! :D

October 11, 2012