Wednesday, June 11, 2014

E3 Microsoft

I've been an Xbox fan for a long time. Ever since Halo 1 hit the shelves, I've been a big proponent of what that green and black box could do. It was hard to be an M$ fan from the beginning, but they managed to make me a complete convert since the 360. With that said, I've been really hard pressed to make a case for the XBox One.
Everything I've heard about Playstation 4 makes me want to buy one. Everything I've seen and read leads me to believe that the Playstation is the way to go for this generation. Having said that, my allegiance for this generation is still up for grabs. Why? Well.... because I still want to believe in the XBox. I still want to love that big green behemoth and the power it brings to the table. BUT, I know that the PS4 is more powerful, more capable, and more of a gamer machine than than the XBox.

As E3 hits, I've come to a conclusion. Microsoft is going to be playing catch-up to the PS4 for at least a year or so. Goddammit XBOX! I wanted to believe in you, but the hard facts are that the PS4 is the better console gaming platform for 2014 and probably for 2015. As of this writing I'm going to call PS4 as my console for this generation.

With that said, what do you have to do to get me back XBox?
1) Fuck Kinect: You've kind of already done this, but understand that "real" gamers don't want Kinnect. What we want is a console that caters to us and gives us a reason to come back. You didn't do a good job of convincing us that ALWAYS ON XBox was a good thing. Please give us a reason why this is good. STEAM has my allegiance, why don't you?
2) If you really wanted XBOX ONE to give us a steam type environment with special sales, etc. YOU SHOULD HAVE SAID THAT FROM THE BEGINNING. I want to give you the benefit of the doubt, MS, but you're failing!
As of this E3, I'm calling it for Sony's Playstation 4. It hurts. But it has to be done.
OK PS 4. Here I come. Treat me nicely...

Monday, April 29, 2013

XBox Illumiroom?

The game sites are all talking about this Illumiroom device, or the concept of it anyway. To simplify the whole thing: imagine a projector that extends your tv screen so that it can create effects or visuals in your entire room. It's actually a pretty amazing concept but I don't know we'll it can actually be pulled off. It's also hard to say how likely it is that game companies will support this extra peripheral with already strained budgets. Even so, this is something I really want to see become real.
I've been playing a lot of Tomb Raider over the weekend and the visual presentation in that game is breathtaking. The color desaturation that occurs when the player gets hurt is the most obvious and would be a great fit for this device. If they could actually make your entire living room turn black and white as your character's life drains away it would immerse you so much in the game.
I was also thinking about the opening sequence in amass Effect 3. Specifically the end sequence of the intro where Sheperd is flying away as the earth is being blown up. What if the image on the screen was the doorway he/she is looking out of and the entire room turns into the interior of the ship he's flying away in? This would form an interesting interaction as your tv becomes a more literal window into the game world: out there is the war, here we are safe. And once the player becomes used to that idea how interesting would it be to shock them out of their compliance? Maybe at a critical moment, that feeling of safety is shattered by having a wall get blown out or an enemy attack from that previously "safe" area.
Anyway, here's to hoping these guys and gals can pull this off. I'm impressed with what I've seen so far and all of them have my respect for thinking outside of the box.
(See what I did there? The box? XBox? Oh, never mind.)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Hidden Meanings

I've been watching (not by choice mind you) this Yoplait commercial a lot online. I didn't notice it the first few times, but whoever directed it made some really weird choices.
It starts out pretty commonplace: two women go into a coffee shop to make a purchase. Then it gets weird. And no, I don't mean the way they refer to the items for sale by caloric value. What I mean is that all the characters appear to be having some weird internal strife with every decision and question they make.
Look at the woman in the blue dress, the way she's distracted by everything around her. That's not just a normal "I can't decide" sort of look on her face. She's having some serious difficulty in making a decision, she's internally conflicted with the possibility of having coffee at this shop. Assuming that in this weird 'calorie count' universe everyone's used to referring to all food items by their nutritional value, her distraction seems out of place for the context of the events. What's her story? What's going on? Why is she so anguished by her choices?
Now look at the guy behind the register. Notice how oddly he takes the order. What's his deal? Is he confused by the way they're ordering by calorie count? If so, why isn't anyone else noticing it? Is he a visitor to this parallel universe and he's only now noticing the strange differences in this world? What's with that expression on his face? There's something going on with this guy and no one is providing answers!
This guy's co-worker is no better by the way. When he asks if the woman in blue would like "You want the 40 whipped calories on that?", he looks back at his coworker with an expression that says ... what? I don't know! What's going on with these two? Are they secret lovers? Is he indicating to his coworker that 40 whipped calories will be in play later this evening? I can't tell!
Finally, the woman in purple and brown. At the end of the commercial she looks at her friend (is she her friend? They must be, they ordered together, presumably they only paid one transaction), and looks on a bit in disgust and a bit confused. Why? Her expression seems to say "I don't even know who you are anymore."
This commercial is driving me crazy. Someone needs to let me know what's going on. And I mean what's REALLY going on.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Beads

The following is a very rough draft of a story I have in mind.

The man looked down at the large collection of beads filling the top drawer of the cabinet. He had filled it as high as he could with every kind of bead he could find. There were shiny ones and dull ones; red, blue, yellow, green ones; metal ones; small clear plastic ones; ones made from the small seashells and course glass ones.

He ran his hand over the top, sifting them slightly, listening to the sound they made as they ran against each other. He ran a single finger along the center, disturbing as few as he could but each one he moved disturbed its neighbor and those in turn disturbed the beads next to them. He thought about this for a moment. Surely even the bottom most beads were moved by this action, perhaps infinitesimally, but even so. He smoothed the beads into the drawer again, closed it, said a simple prayer hoping they would be enough and then he left the empty house forever.

Samantha walked into the old empty house alone, cold and afraid. It had been a windy night and the dark clouds now threatened to release their spite on her. “Hello?” she called again into the dark emptiness.

The house sat on the edge of an old, unused road rotting away with the ages. From the outside, it looked more like an old garage, the paint having been stripped long ago by the harsh rain and wind. The windows were so caked with grime they may as well be walls. The door she had come through was still on its hinges, but only barely.

“If there’s anyone here, tell me now”, she called at the stillness. “I’ve got a bat”, she lied, “and I can knock your head clean off your shoulders if you try anything.”

The wind rattled the windows in response but little else called out to her. Somewhere, far out in the fields a dog was barking. Samantha sighed with some relief and finally came fully into the house, laying her large backpack in the middle of the floor. It made a large ‘Kunk’ sound as the old wood took the weight of it. She reached into the bag and pulled out a flashlight.

The light from the flashlight was weak, the batteries dying, but even that much made her feel safer. A quick search of the building confirmed that it was a single floor house; a den, kitchen, bedroom and bathroom. The water didn’t run and there were no light switches anywhere. There was no furniture anywhere in the house except for a single dresser in the bedroom. She checked the drawers; only the top drawer contained anything, it was filled with beads. ‘Great’, she thought, ‘I’ve probably stumbled into a horror movie.’ She shrugged off the shiver in her spine and thought ‘But it’s dry.’

Having given words to the thought, the rain began pouring in sheets. Samantha lay on the floor of the living room, where the roof leaked a bit less. As she had done many nights before, her backpack became her pillow and she sang herself to sleep while stroking the unborn child in her belly.

She would look at the beads again in the morning and find a note at the bottom of the drawer. It would read “If you would repay my kindness, bring flowers to my grave.” It would be more than ten years before she understood what this meant.

Samantha looked at the beads in the drawer. She remembered the beads she had collected as a child and the first necklace she had made of them; a necklace made for him.

Samantha sat in the parking lot swap meet feeling awkward. Her table filled with bead necklaces of every kind. She had selected every bead individually, surrounding herself with the little balls in the living room. She worked from sun up to sun down, stringing each bead according to her mood. This one reminded her of spending the summer with her aunt: greens and blues and occasional gold, that one of her first kiss: lots of red and pink with a bit of blue on one end. She had poured out her memories and given them form as necklaces. Now she was selling them. She wondered if that made her feel sad or proud. She locked away that emotion. Later, she would make a necklace that expressed it.

Samantha barely had time to sleep anymore. Between the baby and planting vegetables in the back yard and making whatever repairs she could make to the house, she felt as though awake 26 hours a day. The beads had run out. But she had somehow made enough to buy some paint, an easel and canvas. It had been just enough to paint a few landscapes and start selling those alongside the beads. She missed the beads. The 6 year old girls that came to her spot every week would make squealing sounds and pester their mothers all day with “Oh mommy, please, please, please. Can I have a pink one?” Occasionally parents would say ‘No’, which elicited tantrums and crying. She didn’t want them to cry of course, but it made her smile to think someone wanted her work so badly.

The paintings didn’t sell as well to the 6 year olds. She thought about painting something that would appeal to them, but she didn’t have a television and all the children seemed to talk about was “Princess Bubujubu: Warrior Supermodel” or “Transistor Formers: Collect all 250”. So instead, she poured her heart and soul into her paintings.

Samantha had woken in the middle of the night and listened at the stillness. The baby was asleep in his crib next to her bed. Her head spun for a bit as she cleared the cobwebs from her mind. She had been dreaming of the drawer full of beads. She kept hearing a voice in her dream that told her “If you would repay my kindness, bring flowers to my grave.”

In the morning, she would start a new painting. It would be a painting of the drawer full of beads, as she remembered it from that first morning. Within each individual bead, she would embed a tiny scene of each memory it elicited. The reds reminded her of his lips… The greens were a child’s feet running through grass… the blues were tears… and a single golden heart in the center where her baby slept in peace.

Samantha’s studio debut was a hit. She spent the night spinning around to shake hands with one person or another. Her work, apparently, was much sought after. It spoke of a life filled with heartbreak and triumph expressed in vivid tones with careful, deliberate strokes. The centerpiece of her show was the painting of the beads. She had struggled with the choice of selling it. At last, she decided against it. She had sold away all the beads; she needed something to remind her of the kindness someone had given her.

Samantha stood in front of the grave stone marked only with a name. “How did you know?” she asked. “How could you have known?”

Until this moment, she had not realized how much this stranger meant to her. Surely he could never have known what she would do with the beads, or even who she was. She lay the flowers on the grave and wiped the tears away.

Samantha closed the lid on the large box of paints and brushes. The box was filled with every type of color and brush. There were all kinds of reds, blues, yellows and every color in between. Every brush size anyone could ever need was nestled away in the box.

She didn’t know if anyone would ever come across it. She hoped someone would, and make use of it. With that, she stood up, leaving the box in the middle of the bedroom floor and left the empty house forever.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Items of Interest

I just want to give some recommendations to everyone today.

First, we've got Kevin Smith's and Scott Mosier's SMODCAST. I really enjoy this podcast and I can't recommend it enough. These two guys have such a great chemistry and it's always entertaining. Kevin Smith is always hilarious and Scott Mosier plays a great straight man and has the occasional observation that will leave you laughing your ass off.

My second recommendation is a game: Farm Frenzy. The gameplay of all the different Farm Frenzy games is pretty much the same. However, if you want to start with the best, start with Farm Frenzy 3. For part 3, the designers finally got all the elements right. The timing, the rewards system, the difficulty. Everything is perfect by the third version.

Give these a try, I love them. Listen to SMODCAST while playing Farm Frenzy. They're a great combination. You laugh, you play, you love.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Oh Yeah, Almost Forgot…

Happy Halloween and some junk.

Happy Halloween

Game Update

Over the weekend I decided to try my hand at programming the game I'm developing as this year's resolution. The problem is, I'm also trying to learn Java while I create it. It's not that the language is all that difficult, in some ways it's actually a lot simpler than C++ but the weird little conventions are really killing me.
The game programming book I bought to help me conceptualize the dynamics of the game had this very long program that I had to input manually. Why? Well, because the book's author is "remodeling" his site and all of the sample programs are nowhere to be found. But I figured, at least entering it myself will give me time to think through the logic of the example and maybe lead me to understand the material better. HA! No.
In fact, the whole thing took so long that I would end up forgetting that I had created methods to handle certain tasks only to end up using them much further along in the programming phase. I had to keep looking back between my classes in order to remember what the hell I was asking the program to do.

Eventually, and I'll admit I learned a thing or two, the entire program was entered into the compiler. For about 5 seconds, I could feel the ground beneath me shake with the epicness of the moment (yes I know "epicness" isn't a word, thank you spell-check). And THEN... I tried to run it. Apparently ... in spite of the program being an applet, and not needing a "main" method, it wouldn't work as a jar file, or as an applet running on a browser because it didn't have a main class. I can't set a main class, and the compiler (NetBeans) doesn't show me any way to make a class into a main class. I can't just add a main method in the main class because it's not a application... well, I could... but that doesn't really solve the problem.


So 3 hours later after checking through several forums and googling the hell out of it (damn it, spell-checker, that IS a word... or should be), I hadn't found the answer. Needless to say I threw the book through my window and went to watch that episode of South Park that's been waiting on my Tivo. This could take a while...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Awesome Band Names 1

Just a quick, short list of awesome band names. One day, I hope to start a band and quickly switch names to make use of all of these. But until then, you’re all welcome to steal them.

1) Windmill of Death

2) Shine Get

3) Bubblegum Haircut

4) Adorably Tipsy

5)  Very Important Pagan

Impressions: Real Steel


I came into this movie a bit late even though I’d been wanting to see it for a while. The trailer gives the movie an interesting vibe that really appeals to me: Dark future where complex technology is an everyday thing. Add to that Hugh Jackman, who admittedly is hit or miss with his roles, and you have my attention.

What I didn’t expect from the movie is the interesting interchange between Jackman’s character, Charlie Kenton, and his on-screen son, played by Dakota Goyo. The first few minutes of the film revolve around Charlie’s “down on his luck”, ex-pro gone amateur persona. Yes I admit that some of it is quite cliché, but as we get further into the film we see how the character is fleshed out without resorting to the usual pound-it-into the audience methods of film making. There is some of that, demonstrated by Charlie’s gambling addiction, but as we see more of him we’re led to realize that the gambling is more of a symptom of his character flaws: Charlie is impulsive and quick to act, traits that may have served him in the past but now become a hindrance.

Interestingly, Charlie’s son, Max, is exactly the opposite at the start of the film and watching the two change throughout the movie, bringing their personalities closer to each other, is charming. Not all the dialogue is gold here, but there are some really nice exchanges pulled off very well by the two actors. One of the better scenes revolves around Max’s decision to retrieve an old, junk robot from the scrap yard. Charlie’s response to his pig-headed son’s adamant behavior is to say “If you want it, you’ll have to bring it in yourself.” Which, of course, he does. As Max pushes the old robot along on a cart towards their tractor his reply doesn’t even need words: he just starts punching away at him weakly while Charlie simply tries to parry.

Evangeline Lilly does a good job of serving as the love interest in the film, she looks good and is charming even when chastising Charlie. But part of me feels that she was directed to be a bit weak rather than the tough woman she should be. When she becomes legitimately angry at Charlie she yells at him with a partial smile on her face. Several times during the film I wish she’d just slugged the guy.

And speaking of slugging: the final star of the film is, of course, Atom the robot. I haven’t done any real research on this but the robot scenes often look like a mix between CGI, puppetry and live-action robot suits. Some of this is more evident than others during certain scenes but over-all it works quite well. The only thing that didn’t work for me was the attempt to make Atom seem more human or even sentient. We spend a lot of time seeing how these robots are NOT human and have no independent thought. The film then tries to tell us, through Max, that they MUST have feelings after all. No. No they don’t.

Ultimately I think the movie works because it’s about the characters reacting to their world rather than the world acting on the characters. In fact, the world they’re in isn’t really that different from our own. We’re told the story takes place (by inference) after 2016 but we don’t really know how much after. Other than the presence of robots and a few really big screens outside of stadiums, the technology is more of less the same as our own. I think this works in favor of the film because we don’t spend a lot of time trying to figure out how things got to where they are; we already know: time passed.

I’ll say two things about this movie to finish up: First, this movie is an interesting mix of elements but they aren’t necessarily original. Second, I don’t care because it’s charming and entertaining enough even in this incarnation. The movie has a lot in common with the movies “Over the Top” and “Rocky”, two Silvester Stalone movies. I have to wonder if the writer is a fan of Stalone’s. But in spite of noticing the similarities even half-way through the movie, I still enjoyed it. I just wish someone had interviewed Jackman while he says “Yo Adrian, we did it!”