Gone Home: A masterpiece in modern mystery

31 08 2013

GoneHomeGone Home, by small indie developer Fullbright Games came out a few weeks ago with little fanfare on Steam.  Until people started playing it- then it seemed you couldn’t look at twitter – at least not if you follow as many gamers and game journalists as I do- without being flooded with links about it.  After a few days of hype, I finally gave in and picked it up for $20.  The best advice I saw was to go into it knowing as little as possible.  I did just that, and could not have been happier with the choice.

If you are one of the people who have not been fortunate enough to pick it up yet- here is what you need to know:  You play as a young woman who has just returned from a year abroad.  You get a ride from the airport to the new house your family moved to while you were gone.  You arrive to find the house empty- a note on the door from your younger sister that only leaves you confused.

It Begins...

Beyond that what you need to know is that this game excels in atmosphere, storytelling, and a kind-of point-and-click adventuring set in 1st person which took me back to one of my first gaming obsessions: Myst.  And like Myst the game’s story twists and turns you around constantly, leaving you feeling much like the characters in the story would.  I wish I could describe the game more, but if you have played it, you know exactly what tone it reaches, and if you haven’t played it… you shouldn’t even know that.  It’s $20 on Steam or at their website if you hate Valve for some silly reason (Still angry about Half Life?).  The game will only take you 2-3 hours to play.  Do it in a single shot next weekend.

Many have said this may be their game of the year.  I don’t know if I am QUITE in that camp, but it would certainly enter the discussion with The Last Of Us, and would give it a damn good run for the money.





Quick Hit Review 1

28 02 2013

I’ve been toying with reviewing my current-gen games for a while, but kept putting it off for no reason in particular.  Then, on Tuesday, I wrote my review for Far Cry 3.  Spoiler: I love it. Then the review disappeared into the vapor. No Bueno.  So I figured now is the time to go to my back collection, and start doing some quick hit reviews of games I played this generation.

First up: Little Big Planet

LBPThis game absolutely surprised me.  I am a “creative professional”, and as such, I am always looking for a good outlet of my creativity.  I also love a good platformer.  This game managed, on it’s own, to be the best platformer since Mario 3, in my opinion.  Some hate on the “floaty” controls, but all those things make it feel more old-school to me.  the fact that you could adjust Mario’s direction in midair is part of what made the game WORK.  A decent single player story, with lots of goofy characters, and bright colorful world brought me right back to the days on my NES, back to what made me fall for videogames in the first place.

Then you add in the level creator, which has now made literally MILLIONS of levels? It is simply amazing.  Is every level great? Of course not. Does every level have at least a bit of heart in it? Yes.  There is a reason I was first in line at the NYC Sony Store for the launch of Little Big Planet 2, where I got to play the game with people trying to set a world record for almost an hour, meet Jeff Rubenstein (AKA Zombie Blognack for the IGN fans out there), and get some nice signed swag. But mostly, it was to thank Media Molecule for the first game I got a platinum trophy for.

Gran Turismo 5

GT5This game is a tricky review, as it is so hot and cold in so many ways.  Are you using a control, or a wheel? Do you have a TV for sound, or a sound system? Do you care more about the realism of the driving, or do you want a smooth experience?  Each of these could effect your feelings for the game to a large degree on their own. Together they can create a huge difference.  I happen to have a decent 6.1 sound system, a racing wheel with force feedback, and I LOVE a sim racer.  To me, Gran Turismo 5 is ALMOST everything I wanted.  The cars sound, and FEEL great.  You can, with a feedback wheel, really feel the moment your tires are about to lose traction because you are pushing to far.  You can feather the throttle perfectly into a corner, and throttle up JUST SO on the way out to get even more grip without oversteer.

Even for me, however, the UI and menus seem straight out of GT 2.  Some things are better, but a racing series that really guides you through most of the series in the game would be a huge improvement.

And from what I hear, if you don’t have a pretty good sound system, the audio can get pretty mediocre.  Not a game changer, but it can be an issue.

All in all, I’d recommend it to anyone who wants a sim-racer, but not an arcade racer fan. It’s not… fun… in the same way Mario Kart 64 or Need For Speed Underground was. It’s fun in the way Battletoads was. It kicks your ass, without cheating, and makes you want to keep going back to shave off seconds, because you are making yourself better, and the challenge itself is a BLAST.

inFamous

InfamousThe first inFamous was the second game I platinumed, and with good reason.  I was always in a weird in-between place when it came to superheros.  I LOVED anything I could find on TV- TMNT, X-MEN, Batman: The Animated Series.  But I never had access to the comics for some reason, and therefor I never fully got into the medium.  inFamous gave me a chance to enjoy the true origin story of a superhero in it’s original form. And I could shape the character into a hero or villain as I saw fit! Sure, to really rack up trophies and get super powerful you had to play a “good” and a “bad” playthrough, you couldn’t really walk the grey moral line. But also most of the choices were pretty black and white, so there were rarely things that in my “I’m me, a nice, decent, non-asshat” where I wanted to make the “bad” choice.

This game gave a great story of being accused of being a criminal, only to find, slowly, that you have superpowers, and have to make the choice: do you return the vitriol humankind is giving you because they are scared? Or do you rise above it, and help them to spite themselves.  Either choice is a tough one, and is legitimately made of dozens of smaller choices.  This was the first game I played that gave me that kind of organic choice, and it 100% pulled me in.  It will always have a special place to me as the first game that made me feel like I had control of the universe I was in.

OK, that’s it for now, but there will be more of these quick hit reviews to come, with more custom box-art too.





Walking Dead: The Game

6 01 2013

WalkingDeadWalking Dead is a very difficult thing to describe for the uninitiated.  It is a comic that has been turned into both a game and a TV series.  The game takes place within the same reality as the comic, where the TV show is essentially a reboot- same characters, but different timeline.  It also, on the surface, is a zombie apocalypse game.  In essence, however, it is a human civilization apocalypse game.

My wife asked me last night why I like all the zombie stuff I do: All the Walking Dead iterations, Shaun of the Dead, older Resident Evil games, the game Day Z; while I generally hate scary movies.  I realized, while trying to explain it, that the whole zombie genre does a few things very differently than any other horror movie. There is the superficial layer where zombies are unique because they are dumb, slow monsters with a glaring weakpoint to be exploited- their only strength comes in numbers… and actual strength I suppose.

There are three ways zombie media interests me: primal survival, choices, and people. First, there is the CONSTANT question of if you could outrun the hoard. I’ve been hunting a few times, and was a boy scout, but if I was in the woods, could I make a shelter, hunt for food, and find drinkable water, all while NOT being eaten alive? Secondly, in zombie movies, I am constantly thinking about what I would do in a person’s situation- hiding in the house could mean starvation, running to loot a grocery store could mean getting attacked by hoards, and running to the country could mean being killed by bandits. Now, I am not one of those people who has a Zombie survival plan, FYI, I am well aware that zombies are fake. I just cannot help but think “Oh, no man, its only two!  Throw a brick to distract the far one, kill the first one then sneak up and kill the second. Using a gun right now is just DUMB!”

Lastly, the place where a really good piece of zombie fiction gets me is when the zombies are only a backdrop.  The real threat in great zombie fiction is people.  The more I thought about it, I realized that Zombie fiction is the new forefront of sci-fi.   Sci-fi has a long tradition of pushing boundaries  addressing social issues, and confronting political wrongs before the rest of culture can in a realistic setting.  In most sci-fi this was done by taking you to a future where either a social injustice was corrected (Star Trek), or where it was made far worse via slippery-slope (1984).  Great zombie works have the same ability, because it allows humanity to be stripped to its bear bones.  What happens when someone watches their loved-ones turn against them? How hardened and unemotional do people get? In a time when the only hope is to band together, how tough is it to trust ANYONE?

What makes Walking Dead the comic great is that it hits all three aspects extremely well. Zombies are a threat, as is nature, but so are people, and choices have consequences. It works very well.  Walking Dead the game does the same things, except you are the one making the choices, and with limited time. You have to make choices that could cost a life, or just effect a friendship. However, that relationship may later mean someone lives or dies.  Walking Dead is a great zombie game, but it is more.

Without spoiling to many plot points, you play as Lee, a history professor from Macon, Georgia.  You start the game in the back of a police car, after being arrested for murdering the man your wife was cheating on you with. Suddenly, the world is changed. Soon, you stumble into a house and find eight year-old Clementine home alone. Her parents are in Savannah, and you take her in to protect her.  This is where the game really turns.  You are no longer living for yourself alone, you are trying to protect this innocent girl.  And you will get attached to her- this game is part zombie-game, part parent-simulator. Do you try to lie and comfort her, or do you tell her the scary truth? Do you yell at her for doing something risky, or stay calm and ask her not to do it more?  All of these choices will have consequences, and combined with the fact that most have to be made in the span of 10 or so seconds, they quickly become very real.

Walking Dead is a great game. It has fun, engaging gameplay.  There are some bugs occasionally, but most I had were minor.  The thing that makes Walking Dead stand apart is it isn’t just a great game.

Walking Dead is one of a very few games that I would recommend to anyone who says games cannot be art.  I challenge you to play this game, and not be moved, to not be emotionally connected, to not feel.  It transcends its media and becomes more than a game, it becomes an experience.

And it is, in my opinion, the second best game of 2012.

Updated: Added Game Graphic





Game Reviews… Who Am I to Judge?

18 12 2012

I haven’t really written any game reviews, so you may not know much about my gaming history, unless we were friends on the old IGN blogs or Tinychat.  I plan of writing reviews in the coming weeks, and I think one of the most important things to know about any reviewer is what they like and don’t so you know how to skew your view based on how you compare to their views.  For instance, I generally pay more attention to the reviews at IGN then at other outlets.  It has little to do with who I think writes better, or is more professional, and everything to do with who I know.  On my podcast subscription list is some stuff from Nerdist, WTF, Science Friday, and about six IGN podcasts.  I have spent 400+ hours listening to Greg Miller talk about games (and Ryan Clement’s future death via boating accident). Greg and I have similar tastes in games, save for the fact that I am a racing game fan (which he is not), and he is a wrestling game fan (which I am not).  I know that if he loved Metal Gear Peace Walker, there is a DAMN good chance I’ll like it a ton. I also know if he says he cannot get into Gran Turismo that it doesn’t matter to me much.

If you are going to read my reviews, I want you to have context to put my review into, so here is my gaming history in a nutshell: I had a TI-99 since I can remember.  I mostly remember a game titled “Alpiner”, where you climbed a mountain endlessly avoiding landslides and abominable Snow-monsters. My dad also had a PC back then, which today is shocking because the family ONLY had one PC, but in the mid 80’s it was kind of a big deal.  I mostly played a game called “SOPWITH”, a side-scrolling WWII plane game. “Castle” was a game that was semi-graphic (to avoid ogres who were just Angry-face text objects), and semi-text (to look for lockets and the like).  I spent all the time I could looking for necklaces in fountains, blowing up tankers, and running from bears.

From Giantbomb.com

Then in 1988 or ’89, I my parents got us an NES (WITH THE POWER PAD!!!!). That’s when gaming really took me.  It helped that I got it with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  The original.  A game so hard I still have not beat it to this day.  I made it to the Mousers once, maybe twice, and lost both times.  It’s where I learned to enjoy a challenge in games (along with American Gladiators, which my friend Josh and I would rent every few weeks, and Battletoads, which we never got more than 50% through). I also had games like TMNTII, which the code for 9 lives and level select I remember to this day (B A B A Up Down B A Left Right B A), and Kirby’s Adventure, both of which I could have played for days on end. These, along with titles like SMB and SMB3 shaped my young gaming self, and had me locked into Nintendo’s clutches. The ORIGINAL console, and the games, are on a shelf behind me as I type. If I can get my stupid lockout chip working again and the contact board clean, it will rise again.

I’m not the only one who thought April was naked, right?
From http://nesmemories.blogspot.com

Next came the SNES. Super Mario World, and Super Mario: The Lost Levels, were great.  Super Mario Kart brought me into the world of racing games, and Quarterback Club made me start seeing the “AMAZING REALISM” that football games could bring.  StarFox was probably my first “flight sim”, and it is probably part of why I love a good flight-sim to this day.  I beat that game COUNTLESS times, and never got sick of the amazing 3-D graphics, the crew of wingmen… it was simply amazing. The SNES is back at my parents, along with the N64.

I always preferred my N64 it to Josh’s Playstation because the PS was primarily a single-player machine, where the N64 had good single-player games with AMAZING multiplayer modes, though I did love going to his place and spending hours controller swapping for Gran Turismo and listening to Garbage (that was a band back in the 90’s). Goldeneye, and Mario Kart 64 were my go-to’s, as they were for most. I spent countless hours with Mario Kart, finding every shortcut on Rainbow Road and Wario Stadium.  And this was in the day when college email at Iowa State University (which was ranked in the top ten most “wired” schools or something at the time) was done through Tel-net… Basically you checked your email via DOS prompt. There was no Youtube walk-through to consult for the fastest route on Moo-Moo ranch, you had to find it yourself through hour after hour of repetitive play and an occasional friend who knew a guy who saw a thing in a magazine.

This overlapped with the GameCube/PS2 era- Gamecube came out just as I was leaving for college, where the N64 would keep power in the common room for years to come.  I started with the gamecube only, with games like Rogue Squadron, Mario Kart Double Dash, Resident Evil 0, and  the Metroid Prime series.  This is when an ugly trend reared its head for a while.  I had trouble finishing games, not because they were too hard, but because now with 10 hour games-but a lack of extra content-I never wanted to finish a game, because at that point, it was over, and I knew I would probably never go back to it.  I knew I wouldn’t put another 30 hours into Metroid Prime, so I didn’t want to lose my ability to drop an hour by beating it.  It was a dumb, stupid cycle, but one that didn’t really end for another generation and a half… Its also when the trend of internet piracy was at its peak. Napster was a thing- there was a guy on the Iowa State intranet with something like 2 TERABytes of movies! This is in the days when having a 32 GB Hard-drive was a big deal.  Needless to say, I suddenly found that I could play ANY game I wanted on my PC, ALL FOR FREE! So I did… a lot.  I soon was no longer attending Iowa State…

Midtown Madness 2- The game that made me FINALLY love European cars.
From a site with popups. I’m not sending you there.

I got a Wii on launch Day.  The first system I ever bought on Launch Day (the Vita is the only other system I ever bought at launch), and it had some great games.  Everyone loved Mario Galaxy, but it also had some great underrated titles like Endless Ocean and Elebits.  This is the time that I started becoming and IGN fan, with the Nintendo podcast hosted by Matt Casamassina and Mark Bozon. I loved how I could connect to them as reviewers by listening to the show and getting to know their tastes. I took a chance on No More Hero’s because of IGN, and never looked back… it was a blast. Soon, the question came: 360, or PS3?

The long and short of it is, after listening to months of both TRL and Beyond! on IGN, I sided with PS3.  The exclusives won me over. I knew I wanted Gran Turismo, and I loved the first Metal Gear on my second try (I was to young and impatient for a stealth game when I first tried it in High School).  I do now have a 360, I played some of Halo Reach and Gears 3, but they just don’t grab me- Halo is to spray-and-pray for me, just like COD Multiplayer.  I like my shooters strategic- like MAG or Battlefield 3. Between UnCharted 1-3, Little Big Planet, the PSP Patapon series (Sony… really… get ON this! Where is Patapon Vita or PS3/4?), InFamous 1-2, Heavy Rain, and now Journey and Unfinished Swan; I couldn’t be happier with the choice I made in the first place.

If I think about it, I want my games to have a creative hook. It can be literal creativity (Little Big Planet and Mod-Nation Racers), Strategic shooters, racers that are either straight simulation (Gran Turismo) or off the wall (Burnout Paradise or Mario Kart), Sports games with depth (I prefer NCAA to Madden, in part because I can take a team ranked 123rd in the country and make them a POWERHOUSE), or an amazing story.  Don’t get me wrong, I have my simple pleasure games too- I probably logged 300+ hours into Day of Defeat on Steam- a simple WWII themed FPS that was based on flag capture (which is still my favorite multiplayer mode in shooters)- but in general I want there to be something to grab me, to make me think about… something.

This was probably more than you really wanted to know, but now you do. So when you see me say that I LOVE “X” about game “Y”, you have SOME idea of what that means compared to your tastes.  I hope to have some time to not only review newer games, but also some older titles soon to really let you get a feel for who I am as a gamer.





Patapon 3: a Pre-Review

12 04 2011

I was one of the lucky few selected to play Patapon 3 with Mr. Greg Miller from IGN.com this weekend to help him with his review.  I can’t nail down an absolute score yet in part because I am at best 25% into the story mode at this point.

What I can tell you is this: Patapon 3 is an amazing game.  It is one of the most enjoyable single player experiences for the system, as well as a game with depth you would be thrilled to find on a PS3 game.  There is a great mix of guys you can absolutely trash, and guys who you really need to work to beat.  No bosses are really all that cheap, but you have to play levels a few times to beat them, if nothing else to learn the moves and tells of different enemies.

I might like the game’s single player more then some because as I think about it, Patapon 3 doesn’t play like a modern game in many ways.  It plays like an old school NES/SNES game.  You need to study your enemy, try different tactics, and be prepared to fail.  The thing Patapon 3 is so great at however, is keeping you interested even after getting walloped 4-5 times by the same boss.

Part of the way it stays fresh is with loot drops and character building/equipping.  You start the game with the choice of being and archer, a spearman, or a shield holder.  Within each of these classes there are 8 sub-classes you can evolve into, and if you level the base character far enough you then unlock the other class trees as well.  This gives the opportunity, when deeper into the game, to have a team with you being an archer, and 3 shield-men protecting you and you’re flag holder, or three archers raining down fire with one shield protecting. Along with this each sub-class has multiple weapon and armor types, each of which you can find with fire, ice, poison, or lighting power imbued.  Part of the challenge of Patapon 3 is finding the right combination if you are going to face an ice boss, but you’re ice crossbow is level 15, and your fire longbow is only level 3.

Where this game really took a surprising turn for me was with multiplayer.  Basically you take you’re hero, and go hang out with up to 3 other Heros, and run normal missions as well as Verses challenges.  I haven’t had a chance to play Vs. yet (as the servers were empty), but the missions were amazing.  Your hero always has a bit better attacks than the AI helpers you have, so seeing 2 archers raining fire, a sorcerer launching meteorites, and a knight charging forward with flames coming off of him like a rocket is amazingly intense.  It also gives you the ability to use a bit more strategy- if you have a healer you can have him hang back by half a screen, well out of harms way, just continually casting heal spells, or you can have a knight charge far forward as a scout and to push back any small time guys to protect archers from close quarters combat.

It does have its limitations, mostly due to the limits of the system itself.  The chat system used is pre-canned phrases.  As Greg said in his running-review, once your group gets a feel for each other, you could probably live with just those, but you cannot really lay down a strategy, or apologize for setting the grass on fire, which in turn burned your other archer to a crisp.  I understand why they went this route, as allowing text input on the psp would really bog things down.  But having the option in the hideout at least would have been a welcome addition.  As it was, our group used skype chat to communicate, and it made the multiplayer a revelation.  If you plan on playing with people on a regular basis, get to know them, and, whenever possible, use skype, or AIM, or tinychat, or something to keep in touch.

As it stands now, I have a tough time nailing down a score for this game.  Its definitely more than an 8.5 in my book, but it is also not a 10.  It really could range anywhere from a  9 to a 9.5, but that could move depending on how the rest of the story mode goes, and how vs multiplayer feels.

I again want to thank Greg, and IGN for this.  It really was amazing to get a glimpse into his day to day of having games before anyone else, and having a job where at least one component of it is making great friends while trying to slay dragons.





An Advanced Course in PC Hardware: Choosing Components

8 01 2011

The first step in picking what components you want in your computer, whether you are building a custom setup, or buying one off the shelf, is looking at what software you expect to use.  I was looking for a rig that would work for Photoshop, AutoCAD, SketchUp, Thea Render (3D-Rendering Engine), and of course, games from time to time.  The next thing is to figure out what each one of these software packages rely on most heavily- Processor, RAM, or Graphics Card:

Photoshop: Here are the system requirements:

  • Intel® Pentium® 4 or AMD Athlon® 64 processor
  • 1GB of RAM
  • 1024×768 display (1280×800 recommended) with qualified hardware-accelerated OpenGL graphics card, 16-bit color, and 256MB of VRAM

The newer Photoshop versions make use of graphics cards more and more, but in bigger file sizes they also rely heavily on Processor and RAM.  The amount of layers, filters, and file sizes you normally work with will determine how much of either of these you need.  As I am looking to do plan graphics, printable high quality at 36″ x 48″, with many (40+) layers, I, in short, need a LOT of both RAM and Processor.

AutoCAD: The stated system requirements for 64-bit AutoCAD11 (2D) are:

  • AMD Athlon 64 with SSE2 technology, AMD Opteron® processor with SSE2 technology, Intel® Xeon® processor with Intel EM64T support and SSE2 technology, or Intel Pentium 4 with Intel EM64T support and SSE2 technology
  • 2 GB RAM
  • 2 GB free space for installation
  • 1,280 x 1,024 true color video display adapter 128 MB or greater, Microsoft® Direct3D®-capable workstation-class graphics card

First, you can run a PC at either 32-bit or 64-bit, 32-bit can only see up to 4 Gb of RAM.  Generally if you are building a new system you will go with 64-bit to increase the amount of RAM you can use now, or could upgrade to in the future.  None of these are amazing stats, but the RAM is slightly more powerful than the rest of the system- if all the components were equally important I would expect to see a Pentium 4 paired with 1 Gig of RAM and a 256 MB Graphics Card, or a P4 3.0 GHz (processor speed)/Dual Core Pentium 2.0GHz, 2 Gig RAM, 256 Meg Graphics Card.  This basically tells me that for 2D CAD the RAM is a bit more important than the Processor (which comes more into play with CAD’s modeling tools), and that while you need a Graphics Card, it does not need to be a great one by any means.

SketchUp: Recommended resources:

  • 2+ GHz processor.
  • 2+ GB RAM.
  • 3D class Video Card with 512+ MB of memory or higher. Please ensure that the video card driver supports OpenGL version 1.5 or higher and up to date.
    *SketchUp’s performance relies heavily the graphics card driver and it’s ability to support OpenGL 1.5 or higher. Historically, people have seen problems with Intel based cards with SketchUp. We don’t recommend using these graphics cards with SketchUp at this time.

While Processor and Graphics card are needed, RAM is the biggest limiting factor, in my experience, when you have large scale and or detailed models.

Thea Render: I could not find any system requirements, likely because the program is still in beta (testing phase), and while it currently only uses Processor and RAM, they are adding Graphics Card based rendering in a future update.

Games: For this I took the example of one of the newer PC games that has come out, and one that I wanted to be able to run at full bore- Civilization 5.

Minimum system requirements are:

  • Intel Core 2 Duo 1.8 GHz
  • 2 GB RAM
  • 256 MB nVidia or AMD Graphics Card

When running it with these specs on a laptop I could play it, but far from maximum settings.  The recommended settings are:

  • Quad Core 1.8 GHZ
  • 4 Gig RAM
  • 512 Graphics Card

Gaming is generally more Graphics Card intensive than productivity software, in part because the architecture of the graphics card is better at drawing faster – for better frame rates, while processors can do more math faster.  So in an enclosed system like a game where it is working with a small set of parameters, Graphics Cards shine.  But when you have many layers of images all affecting each other, the processor takes the lead back.

What am I left with after all this?  To get the best out of all my software, I need a good Processor, RAM, and Graphics Card- I can’t save on one to improve the others.  I also know I use a lot of this software more intensively than most, and I want to be future proof for a bit, so I need to exceed these system specs.  One place where I can save a little money now is in the RAM and Graphics Card.  That is because these are fairly easily upgradeable- with the right mother board you can add RAM to your existing RAM without replacing it.  Also, with the right Motherboard and Graphics Card, you can run in SLI or Crossfire – a method of tethering two Graphics Cards together in your system, and having them act like one, much more powerful card.  The nice thing both both of these is that you can spend, say $300 now on a Graphics Card, and in a year spend $200 on another card, and get nearly the same performance that you would have gotten by spending $700 now.

That being said these are the basic specifications for my new computer:

Processor- Intel Core i7 (Quad or 6 core) with a speed of at least 2.5 GHz and I want the ability to overclock in the future to upgrade slightly.

RAM – 6 Gig (Most motherboards can now handle in the range of 24-36! Talk about future proof!)

Graphics Card – 1 Gig at least, unsure of if I am going to go nVidia or AMD, it depends on the exact card (more later)

Hard Drive – 1TB I use some HUGE files (200 Megs for a single photoshop file), and I don’t want to worry about space for a while.  I may do a solid state boot drive down the road.

Optical Drive – DVD RW for sure, I probably don’t need a BluRay drive, as I could add one once burners get cheaper

Motherboard – Needs to fit my processor, and at least 2x my graphics card

Case – needs to fit everything, have great cooling, and have lots of room for additional Hard Drives, burners, and maybe even water cooling (if I overclock in the future).

Next time I’ll start looking at each individual item, and how I picked which to go with.

Ignoring the odd artifacting, this is what Civ 5 Looks like with the laptop:

And this is what it looks like with the new build:





Who I am: A re-introduction

20 09 2010

The following is a post I made on MyIGN, a site for gamers.  It also serves as a pretty good introduction to who I am in terms of Landscape Architecture, Design, and Technology, so here you go:

I suppose I owe this post to altoidyoda and justsomedude899, along with a martini and a few High Life’s.

I have been a semi-active member of the IGN community since around 2006, with a blog I started in 2007.  I never posted regularly, as I suppose I’m to self conscious about my own writing abilities when I don’t have a bit of a buzz going, but I followed many of the “big time” bloggers in the old system (Reillymonster, Fozzy, Altoidyoda, Justsomedude, nextgengamer, dillaweezer, teh_red_baron, etc), and commented enough that I like to think I had a familiar face at the least.  I was excited to see the new MyIGN as I thought it would become a new iteration of the original blog community, but it seems that at least so far it is something more.  I don’t know if I think it is something better at this point, as it feels somehow, diluted, but it is what it is.  Some of this may come from the fact that the old blogging tools were somewhat of a pain in the ass, and that meant that the only people blogging were people who really had something to say, and that made it a little more of a tight knit community.  Its the same thing that makes your best friends often come from the WORST jobs, you suffered through the BS together, and managed to make it enjoyable.  MyIGN is the easy job that was never hard, and paid decently.  You make friends, but, from my experience, the friendships and comradeship just aren’t as strong as they were back on the old blog system.

But, I think its time to try to make the move more official, so let me tell you about me.  I started blogging here at IGN because, at the time, I was questioning my choice of profession.  I, at that point, was all-but-thesis for my masters, and in a job with a small landscape architecture firm.  The commute was murder, and I just wanted to be doing something different.  I remember thinking about how AMAZING it would be to design games back in the 80′s when I was playing BattleToads and Galaxy5000 on my NES with my best friend Josh.  I moved away from that dream over time, first deciding engineering was the best outlet for my dual loves of creativity and science.

Then I took college physics and calculus.  I then was looking for a new direction.  Luckily, I found landscape architecture.  It is a little understood field that involves everything I love.  On every project you need creativity to create a design that will inspire, scientific knowledge to know what soils will work with what plants, engineering to know what to put under and behind walls to keep them retaining soil instead of collapsing.  And you are working not with “cold” materials like an architect does (No offense, believe me, I have often thought about going back for an M.Arch as well), but with the living earth and nature.  And you aren’t taming nature in some god-complex way, but working with nature.  Trying to find ways to create a design that will look amazing both the day you install it, 30 years down the road when the trees finally are reaching maturity, and 50 years in when things want to get overgrown.  Finding those balances, and designing so that nature will HELP the development of your design instead of hurting it is an amazing challenge.  I also brought my LOVE of all things technological to the field, including a love of 3D Studio Max rendering and photoshop.

Now I am in a VERY different place.  I am no longer in Chicago (Hello Queens, NY!), and, after getting laid-off in August of 2008, I have yet to find another position in the field.  This has been a very sharply double edged sword.  First, I realize that while, yes, I do LOVE videogames, I don’t really want to be a developer- I just want to be a landscape architect.  And yes, I had time (while working 30 hours a week at Best Buy) to create a new rendering style, combining the depth that photoshop gives with the life that hand line-work gets, and I am now learning Thea and Rhino.  But it is really all in the effort to try to get that extremely illusive job that fits me, a non-entry level, non-mid-level person with 9 months experience in a field that was definitely hit by the recession, or even a contract gig doing a few renderings for a firm that maybe would mean I can stop working retail.

For the time being, however, here I am.  I’m playing the few select games I have cash to spend for.  I’m playing some of them on a 360 that my AMAZING former Best Buy coworkers in Chicago bought for me, and others on a PS3 I got on Metal Gear 4′s midnight launch (which has since yellow lighted, and been replaced thanks to Best Buy’s Black Tie Protection, minus all my saves), and a few on the Wii I bought on launch day.  I listen to Beyond, Scoop, and Knockin’ boots every week (Knockin’ boots is the new Love-line), and Voice Chat on occasion (Matt and Bozon are still that podcast to me, and I can’t get around that, sorry Craig and koopa-lings).

In terms of my gaming background, my first gaming memory is playing “alpiner” on a TI-99 back in the Early 90′s on vacation in Duluth MN.  I then played “Sopwith” on my Dad’s PC in 1986ish (I’m 29), and soon graduated to an NES, complete with Power-Pad.  I was instantly hooked as a Nintendo Fanboy.  I stayed loyal all the way through the GameCube years (RE4, Metroid Prime, and Rouge Squadron were AMAZING), and it was only in 2005 when I finally got a non-nintendo system, the PS2.  I got it for DDR, and stayed for the GT4, Burnout, and Guitar Hero.  As I said, I now am lucky enough to have all three major systems, along with a DS and a PSP (2000).  Metal Gear, inFamous, Uncharted, LBP, Mass Effect, Red Dead, Zelda, Endless Ocean, and No More Heros are my favorite franchises from this generation.

In the morning I have to learn another 100 pages of Rhino, and tweak fonts on my resume (welcome to the life of a designer who is under-employed), and my martini buzz is wearing off, so I’ll leave this post at that. Hopefully you will see more of me, and with better news on the employment front soon.  Until then, take the time to sit and listen to some good music.  Seriously. Find some good headphones (throw the earbuds away, your Mom and Dad might have some decent stuff), put on a good CD (MP3′s sound flat and bassy), I recommend Feel Good Ghosts by Cloud Cult, or Eraser by Thom York,  and just LISTEN.  Sit in a comfortable chair, put your phone down, and enjoy the music for what it is.  An experience.