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Monday
May252009

Memorial Day

To all those folks running out to picnics and family gatherings or heading for the shore, have a great Memorial Day.

For many years now, Memorial Day has been closer to me than most other holidays due to my previous military career. I was a Field Artillery Meteorologist for the US ARMY throughout the early to mid 90's. I have very fond memories of my time in the military, from my see-saw time in BASIC training at Ft. Sill, OK, to drilling weekends and 2 week bivouacs in the Army Reserves. Sometimes the day to day stuff in the military can be monotonous and you question some of the decisions that trickle down- there are certainly critics of the military and its actions. But, one thing that has always stuck with me is the camaraderie of my fellow soldiers. The bond you create with these guys are long lasting, even though you may not see them for years. People are brought together by a common cause, incident, or experience. We certainly shared many together as soldiers. From Boot camp to sitting in the motor pool playing endless games of spades. It's those days that I remember the most, the laughter and no care that descends around you in the most difficult of situations- it is those times that make life tolerable. It is the most important lesson Uncles Sam taught me- no matter the situation, no matter the outcome, the human will can never be destroyed and will always survive.

So to all my comrades in the Armed Forces, I remember you today. To my brothers who fell in these times and times past, I salute you.

 

I held it truth, with him who sings
To one clear harp in divers tones,
That men may rise on stepping-stones
Of their dead selves to higher things.

                                                                             -Alfred, Lord Tennyson

                                                                                 In Memoriam A.H.H

 

Thursday
May212009

Show me the money and other funny things

Today I was sent a few funny videos that I want to share with my small audience. I just found out that one of my friends reads my posts but doesn't comment. I yelled at him for not showing the love. Comments are like crack to bloggers, it's what we live for. So if you are reading this, leave a comment (not talking to you Snabulus!).

SO my first funny video is of a guy I actually respect- a sci-fi novelist who doesn't always get his dues. I first heard of Harlan Ellison through Star Trek TOS, and then read a few of his novels and short stories. What I didn't realize was how much of a real pisser he is. I've read about the antics of Harlan Ellison many times before, watched video snippets of interviews where he has gone off. He is always a lively fellow. Well, my friend Pringle Pat pointed me to a video of a documentary of Ellison called Dreams With Sharp Teeth. Though I respectfully show you this video, I hope to not raise the ire of Mr. Ellison nor of his closest litigious advisers.

Enjoy, a funny interlude with someone who has been once called "possibly the most contentious person on Earth"...

Next on the funny block is a nice video created by the funny crew over at Sarcastic Gamer. I few weeks ago Microsoft released a few videos showcasing technologies in the future. They were artistically created to give you a glimpse of what technology could look like. So the Sarcastic Gamer crew took one of the videos and sort of dubbed it. Anyway- here is what they put together.

Finally, this last video phenom is one most tech nerds experienced last year. It was created by Joss Whedon, the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the most excellent Firefly. It is a pretty funny short starring Doogie Howser's Neil Patrick Harris, Nathan Fillion, and Felicia Day. It's about an Evil Scientist in training who is in love with the girl next door, but is trying to thwart his arch nemesis. Oh yeah, it's a musical too. I am not going to give you a full review here, but the 40 minute video is worth the watch. Very quirky, very funny, and oddly touching. A rare gem. The Phenomenon part of this movie short is that Joss Whedon financed it on his own and released it as an ad supported free stream or paid iTunes download. The experiment here was to see if there was a revenue model for a self produced movie, circumventing Hollywood and their heavy hand. I am not sure how it has done, but I would not mind a sequel.

Or perhaps some more Firefly, Joss...

 

Wednesday
May202009

RANT: QTE's suck or are rather very annoying

So this is my first rant on my new blog space. I hope to post many more since that is why blogs exist...right?

So, what are QTE's? If you have been a video gamer in the last generation or the current one, these gems have been around for awhile. Known as Quick Time Events, a person playing a game will be prompted with a series of button presses during a static cut scene in the video game. This allows a player some semblance of control over an otherwise static cut scene in the game.

I call it teh suck.

The earliest game I can recall utilizing this was 1983's Dragon Lair. The whole game was controlled by QTE's set in an animated world. At the time it was the most amazing thing to watch, visuals on par with Disney movies. Playing it, on the other hand, was an exercise in patience, memorization, and frustration. There was no skill except to have quick reflexes and hope you pushed the joystick in the right direction- fast. If you missed it, you died and had to replay the entire sequence over. Fun, huh?

Don't get me wrong many games, good or bad, have utilized this game design choice. The alternative was to have the player sit and twiddle their thumbs while watching these little movies with nothing to do. When gamers complained about the length of cut scenes and the lack of interactivity they lost when these cut scenes showed up, game designers leaned on QTE's to fill the need. Hoping to make the cut scenes more interactive, the player can be engaged while the game moves through its narrative and tells it story. 

Now, I don't want to get into the argument over story telling in video games. I think we still have huge steps to take in that direction, but the current slew of games do a pretty decent job of telling a story be it through cut scenes or purely through game play.

Examples of games with cut scenes and QTE's:

   

        RE5            Tomb Raider       God of War

Those without:

   

     Bioshock          Half Life 2           Fallout 3

My main beef with QTE's is in its implementation. I had an argument with Beerjedi, a buddy of mine, who loved Resident Evil 5, sinking almost 40 hours playing the game over and over. I enjoyed the game as well, except for the very end of the game where a series of QTE's frustrated the hell out of me, marring the otherwise enjoyable experience I had. I think QTE's are used, more so than not, to cover up sloppy development and/or story. It is a way to get away with lazy story telling or adding artificial padding in a game. Used sparingly, it is but an annoyance. Extensively using it does not allow the player to play and when you penalize a player for not hitting the right button quick enough and starting you over after an extended period of button slapping (I am talking to you Prince of Persia), to start the whole process again can make gamers like me  crazy enough to jump out a window.

When a game spends a ton of time teaching you the mechanics of the game and empowering you through their control scheme and suddenly throws out all of the things you learned so you can now hunt and peck face buttons arbitrarily, can ruin the flow of the game. I don't know what the answer is, maybe keep QTE's down to a minimum or don't use them at all. They really don't add anything since we know we are not in full control of the character during these times. The worst sin is to harshly penalize the player not for misusing the learned mechanics of the game, but because they didn't press B,A,B,Y,LT,RT,X,X correctly and quickly. I think it's bullshit and I for one hate them.

Wednesday
May132009

Star Trek

So, this past weekend I warped into my local Cineplex and was wowed with the reboot of the Star Trek series.

Not that Star Trek...


...But this Star Trek!

I saw this movie last Thursday and then again on Friday- I couldnt get enough. I've been waiting for a real good Sci-Fi Fantasy movie to come along for a long time and the Grand-Daddy of them all delivered. This movie had great effects, a good story, humor, lots of action and half naked green aliens chics- you can't beat that! The best compliment to this movie is how enjoyable it is. Both times watching it, the audience was really into it. It even impressed my best friend who hates all things Star Trek.

For me, it was a great reboot. This movie is what I had hoped the Star Wars prequels could have been. I am one of the few geeks who are fans of both Star Wars and Star Trek. I love the fantasy of the former and the science of the latter. I don't want to fan the flames, but each of these series will be forever compared and fought over. With this fresh start, Star Wars is now looking aged and tired. Enough said about the Lucas flicks, JJ Abrams is a Sci-Fi savant and his Star Trek oozes with a modern sheen.

You can read plot synopsis' anywhere on the net (or better yet, go watch the movie) so I won't bore you with that. My emotions going into this movie were pretty high. I do like me some Trek. I am not a card holding, costume wearing Trekkie or Trekker, but I do own all the movies plus the Original Series and Next Generation DVD's. I am very familiar with the story lines and I am very attached to the characters. From the trailers, blogs, and rumor sites I trolled, I have to admit my expectations were pretty high. I knew it was dangerous, but I had similar aspirations for Nemesis which were crushed when I heard Data singing...yet again...WTF!

Sylar who??

So, after my first viewing, I was blown away. Abrams , Orci and Kurtzman had a daunting task in redefining a waning, some say dying, franchise. Trying to juggle the origins of beloved characters, tying the story together to not alienate a rabid fan-base, and making the usually closed world of Star Trek appeal to a mass audience. As I said above, the story was good (not great), but the writing was sharp and witty, which left the actors plenty of room to breathe life into the characters. The new crew of the Starship Enterprise really gelled and left me wanting more. Even with that, the movie didn't slow down very much. It was fast paced and exhilarating.

It was still Star Trek, but it was so much more. I don't know how the hardcore fans will react as there are many small character changes. I had no problems with them- though I am very forgiving with movie remakes or reboots that I love. But I think most Star Trek fans will agree that the movie had potential for complete suckage but what we got was a fantastic joy ride. I for one, cannot wait for the sequel.

Trekkies Bash New Star Trek Film As 'Fun, Watchable'

Sunday
May102009

Welcome!

Welcome to my new blog page.

I moved from Blogger.com to Squarespace.com because I am intrigued and stupefied as to the power Squarespace gives you over designing a website. I am not a web developer and I don't know much about HTML or CSS, so places like Wordpress or Blogger were the places to go if I wanted to create an easy to setup and use blog experience. I stumbled upon Squarespace through one of the myriad podcasts I listen to weekly (TWIT -This Week in Tech) and checked it out. I fell in love so to speak with the power of their wizards for novice web designers such as myself to easily get a web page up and tweak every part of it if I wanted, from layouts to column sizes to you name it. What is particularly nice is the flexibility you get to move away from a robust blog to a full fledged web site with multiple pages that help you to really flesh out your site. So far, my experience has been good with it.

Squarespace is not a free web client- there are tiered monthly subscription rates depending on what you want to accomplish. I currently subscribe to the lowest tier possible. That may change as my site evolves, which I plan on. Check it out here @ squarespace pricing.

If you are a returning visitor, you'll find my previous posts from Blogger linked at the top right called Imported Posts.

 

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