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Media and a Memory

Considering that you are, presumably, sentient, you probably have something from your past that you really liked. Depending on when you were born, it may have been anything from an old train set to a perhaps not quite as old iPad, though I’m going to take a wild guess and say most people reading this blog lived too long for an iPad to be part of your early childhood. Anyways, for me, this thing was my GameCube.

At the time, the GameCube was the newest gaming console from Nintendo, coming before the Wii. When I first saw it, considering before then I had TV and Dr. Seuss for entertainment,  it was mind blowing. You could actually interact with it and the outcome was based on your own abilities? It was unheard of! Unfortunately, it did belong to my brother, but after seeing how much I liked it, he left it for me when he went to college. I would play it at every chance I got, and it was wonderful.

Though I’m more of a PC gamer today, it was the thing that introduced me to gaming, and without it, I might not be the gamer I am today.

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Seventh Grade Reflection

When I first arrived in August, I expected it to be just another slow year. However, I quickly found out I was going to have a lot more homework than I had expected.

By October, I had next to no time to sleep. For several days at a time, I would have so much homework that I would have to stay up until midnight, only getting seven hours of sleep. Occasionally, I would even have to stay up as late as two o’ clock doing homework, as there was so much of it, or something took a long time.

Eventually, in the second semester, the homework did relent and I started getting a reasonable amount of sleep, but I still occasionally stayed up late. As the year comes to a close, the homework is really starting to slow down, leaving me plenty of free time and allowing me to stay up late when I want to rather than when I have to.

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Favourite Programs

If you’ve ever used a computer, you probably have a few programs you always use. Maybe it’s a word processor, or a communication service, or maybe it’s just iTunes, but there’s always one you always use. I, as a frequent user of computers, have quite a few programs I use, and here are some of my favourites.

First off, we have Steam. Steam is digital distribution service run by the company Valve. A digital distribution service is a service that hosts games to be bought, downloaded, and played via the service. I use Steam pretty much every day to play most of the games I own, so it’s probably the most important program on this list.

Next, we have Skype. I’m sure most of you know what Skype is, but for those who don’t, it’s a service that allows you to message, call, and stream video (usually from a webcam) to other people. You can use it to have a conference or just chat, but I use it to talk with my friends while we play games together.

The next thing on my list is a utility called the Dual Shock 4 Tool. It’s a fairly minor program, it’s only purpose being allowing a Play Station 4 controller to work on a PC, but I use it so often I felt it deserved a spot.

The final thing on my list is a little music program I like to play with called Synthesia. Synthesia is a program originally designed to teach you how to play the piano, but it’s far more fun to use it to run files called midi’s. A midi file is basically a file that tells the computer what notes to play and what order to play it in. The real beauty of it is that unlike a person, the only limit on the number of notes played at once is the power of the computer, resulting in hilariously absurd and impossible songs.

That concludes the list of my favourite programs. Some of them I don’t always use, but they are all very useful or, in the case of Synthesia, amusing, so they are all great and I would recommend them top anyone who spends any large amount of time on the computer.

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Week Two: Hopdoddy

If you’re going to Austin, there are several places you could go. You could play game at Blazer tag, go for a swim at Barton Springs, or ride a bicycle around Ladybird Lake, but if you asked me, the best place to go in Austin is Hopdoddy.

Hopdoddy is a fantastic burger restaurant in Austin taking pride in its all natural menu and locally sourced ingredients. None of their food has any artificial ingredients, so my parents will actually let me eat everything there, and the food is delicious. Their menu pretty much consists of burgers, salads, and fries, and if you have a gluten intolerance, you can get gluten-free buns. The place is excellent and has great food, but it’s very popular, and the place isn’t particularly big, so good luck getting to eat there.

So even though you might have trouble getting a table, it is a great restaurant and an excellent place to go in Austin (preferably in the morning, when nobody is there.)

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I’m beginning to notice that the tags are pretty optimistic.

Imagine trying to walk through heavy rain without an umbrella without getting wet. Congratulations! You now know what it feels like to play Touhou.

Touhou is an amazingly hard shooter in the aptly titled “bullet hell” genre. To sum up the genre, there are hundreds of bullets on the screen at any given time, but you have a small hitbox, so you can let the actual character touch the bullets, as long as the middle of your character doesn’t touch them. This pretty much describes Touhou. You have to weave through very tiny gaps between hundreds of beautiful lasers and energy balls, all the while trying to whittle down the health of the boss firing said lasers at you. However, what really sets the game apart is the amazing music.

Case in point:

One of the most amazing things about the game (besides the music) is that it’s hard but fair. In games like I Want to Be the Guy and Cat Mario, spikes might appear out of nowhere, pitfalls will open without warning, apples that seemed perfectly content sitting on their tree will fly at you in an attempt to viciously murder you, and it generally just seems it was meant for youtubers to make millions screaming at their monitors. But in Touhou, you only have yourself to blame when you die. You should have seen that bullet coming, you didn’t react quickly enough, you might have even flown straight into a bullet, but it’s always your own fault.

So to sum it up, Touhou is an amazing series. I won’t say you should play it, as the difficulty may not appeal to you, but you at least owe it to yourself to listen to some of the music.


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Kerbal Space Program

My god, a positive post!

Delta IV Launch
You mean to tell me it didn’t explode on the launchpad?

Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Jen Scheer via Compfight

The rocket had a successful liftoff, when the main engine suddenly snaps off, still running, and pile drives the ship into the ground, killing yet another member of your space program. Well, that’s just a normal day in the Kerbal Space program.

Anyways, Kerbal Space Program is a brilliant game in which you build rockets, fly planes, and defy basic laws of aerodynamics. That’s pretty much the whole point of the game, and it’s amazing fun.

In the game you can pretty much do anything you can think of with the tools at hand. You can build spaceplanes with ridiculously overpowered engines or build space ships designed to go so fast they set themselves on fire, and then run out of fuel and explode horribly upon impact with the ground. On the more serious end of things, you can construct space stations in orbit around pretty much any celestial body, design interplanetary spacecraft, and conduct scientific experiments in close orbit around the sun.

Besides being able to reenact the construction of the ISS, one of the beautiful things about the game is its realistic but buggy physics engine. It can accurately model orbiting around a planet, but you can do things like make spaceships with the aerodynamic profile of a giant pancake, build giant cannons capable of sending people into orbit around the sun, fix almost any structural instability with thin metal bars (affectionately dubbed “space-tape”), and creating a spaceship specifically designed to lance the ground, destroying the planet. Seriously.

So really, what are you waiting for? It only costs $27!

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Things I Wish Game Devs Would Stop Doing

I definitely didn’t rip this from my writer’s notebook.

Heaven's Gate

Photo Credit: Hartwig HKD via Compfight

Let’s skip the witty remarks, hooks, and all those formalities, and just let me say that game devs do some pretty stupid things. Some things are lazy, others greedy, but they’re all terrible.

First off, some people put no effort into the settings for a game, especially PC games. Unlike consoles, PCs aren’t all identical clones of each other, so you need to be able to adjust the graphical settings depending on how strong or weak your computer is. Additionally, some people may not like the way you’ve decided to map the controls for the game or don’t have a qwerty keyboard, so you should be able to rebind them to suit your needs.

Secondly, we have something I’ve already brushed on: DRM. Eh— looking back, I realise I never told you what DRM actually was, so let me elaborate for those of you that were confused by my first post. DRM  is basically anti-piracy software for electronic files. Sounds great, right? I know, it should be great, but it rarely ever is. That’s because nobody (except for Valve) seems to have figured out how to do it right, so it often ends up irritating paying customers by denying them the ability to play.

Next up is something that I’m surprised I haven’t brushed on, making highly iterative sequels. Each Call of duty game is pretty much the same thing with a shinier coat of paint, and it starts to get irritating after a while. I mean, if you have a great idea for a video game, that’s wonderful. Just don’t make it twenty bloody times and try to pass each new one off as a new and improved sequel.

Finally, we have microtransactions. If you play lots of iOS games you probably know them better as in-app purchases. Either way, they ruin games. Unless you’re Valve, you’ll probably end up using microtransactions to slow down the game, and force players to pay up in order to get it back up to normal speed. Yes, I’m talking to you, Dungeon Keeper developers. You might also use them to give people to give people an unfair advantage, again forcing them to pay in order to be competitive. This concept is aptly titled pay to win. Microtransactions are pretty much the plague of the gaming industry at the moment, and most people would actually rather just pay a set price for the game.

That pretty much wraps up this somewhat long list, and I can’t thing of anymore to say, so those are the things I wish game devs would stop doing.

Please, stop doing these things.

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Morning Fog Emerging From Trees

The mob delved into the depths expecting a dark, vile place. However, as they approached the bottom, all they saw was a large house sitting alone in a dark field. “Bah,” they told themselves, “It must be evil.” They walked up to the door, keeping an eye out for the Phantom, and found the door was unlocked. Walking in, they immediately noticed how unimaginably cold it was. They could just barely make out a long corridor lit only by the lonely flickering of a dim candle, and the only thing they could hear was their footsteps and faint organ music coming from somewhere in the house.

Marching onwards, they walked past several doors they were either too scared or too determined to open, until the corridor opened up into a large room, furnished only with a small, wooden table and chair sitting in the middle of the room and a simple chandelier on the ceiling barely managing to light the room. As they looked around, they saw a door on the side of the room. Behind the door was a dark staircase, which they promptly marched up in hopes to find the Phantom.

As they marched up, the music got louder, and the mob could have sworn they could make out the voice of the Phantom. However, when they reached the top, they only found a small, unadorned room with an organ sitting against the back wall. On the organ, they saw a cape, a rose, and a mask.

Photo Credit: A Guy Taking Pictures via Compfight

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Dungeon Keeper

I exist!


Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, others, I am here to tell you that EA has once again outdone themselves. They have managed to screw up one of the most beloved games of all time, the one heralded by many to be one of the greatest real-time strategy games ever, Dungeon Keeper.

Dungeon Keeper  is  was a brilliant real time strategy game in which you build and maintain a dungeon while trying to keep heroes from breaking in an stealing your gold. It was wonderful. And then, EA decided to make an iOS (i.e. iPhon or iPad) version of it.

Now, there is nothing inherently wrong about iOS games, (although there might as well be) but they did do something very terrible that is really only present on iOS games and Facebook games, and really terrible. They made everything take forever to do.

Before, there were two kinds of blocks, those that take seconds to mine, and those that can’t be mined. In the iOS version, the blocks take anywhere from three seconds to twenty-four hours to mine, just to free up one tile of space. That really ruins it, because the thing about making a dungeon is that you make several different rooms, each serving a different purpose. The rooms can be any size, but the smallest you can get with the room still having practical purpose is about a three by three area of tiles. It can take days to make anything even vaguely useful!

But not to worry! You can speed it up! How, you ask?  By paying money! Yay— wait, that’s terrible. Basically, the currency they use to speed things up is called gems. They go at a rate of one hundred to one hundred forty gems per dollar, depending on how much you’re willing to buy at once. One of those delightful blocks I mentioned that take a day to mine will set you back two hundred forty-nine gems. That’s two and a half dollars to mine a single block!

That’s pretty much all I have to say about this blatant cash-grab. Now go torrent the original two or something.

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Call of Duty: Ghosts

Heaven's Gate
If only the game looked this good.

Photo Credit: Hartwig HKD via Compfight

Dear god why.

So I’m told Call of Duty: Ghosts came out. Also, the PC port is abysmal. There are quite a few problems with it. Lets start from when you first try to play the game. There is a fifty gigabyte install, making it ridiculous to even get it on your computer. Once you do, only the upper third or so of the PC gaming community will be able to play, as it artificially requires six gigs of RAM. One may (mistakenly) think that it means it is an amazingly beautiful game, but more on that later. If were to actually get to play it, you will find that it only takes up a fraction of that in processing power. You can even use a mod to circumvent this artificial requirement, and it works just fine.

Considering you are probably an intelligent person, you might first go to the options menu once you start up the game. It falls flat. First off, you will probably be noticing frequent stuttering in the background for no apparent reason. Looking into the options menu, there is a nice slew of options for graphics, but only one slider for volume. In most games, you will probably want at least two or three, as you might want the voices or sound effects a bit louder than the music. You might look in the gameplay options, and find a distinct lack of an FOV slider. For those uneducated in the ways of gaming, FOV stands for field of view. The field of view is how wide your cone of sight is. Now this might not be a problem, if it weren’t so low. This means that you will frequently be shot by people standing next to you that you can’t see. Also, many people will get motion sickness from a low FOV, as it is sort of like looking through a window. If you are close to it (i.e. in front of a monitor) you will see more than if you are far away, and if this isn’t the case, you may get sick.

But I digress. Onwards to gameplay and graphics. Once you get in, you will find that it is reasonably hideous. It looks like they never updated the engine from the older Call of Duty games. This leaves me wondering why the game is so taxing on your system. 50 gigabytes of memory and (sort of) six gigs of RAM for this? The thing can bring a gaming machine with the best parts you can get for it to its knees, without even looking pretty. If you can survive the lag, the gameplay is highly iterative, uninspired, and bland. There is almost nothing new from previous Call of Duty games, and those were just run of the mill first person shooters.

Now go buy Battlefield 4.