Archive for April, 2012

Gamewatch: Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception

by on Apr.30, 2012, under Gamewatch, Gaming, Reviews, Video Games

an I’m just kicking butt here with the game completion stuff huh?

So hot off the heels of finishing The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, I finish off Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. The end came actually as a bit of a surprise. I was expecting maybe two or three more hours of game play from where I picked it back up, but I managed to finish it in about an hour and a half, even though the final areas required me to die no less than three times each.

Uncharted is the video game series that proved the PS3′s graphical superiority to just about everything save some of the best computers out there and most of those don’t have software support to rival the PS3. The first Uncharted was a fun ride with impressive graphics, decent game play, and a good sense of humor. The closest thing to an action adventure film the game industry had seen in a long time. You controlled the main hero, who’s quips were often too hilarious for me, and solved puzzles via climbing, jump, and contextual buttons interspersed with cover based firearm combat. The second game upped the scale with more impressive death-defying scenes and interactive cut scenes, similar if improved combat, and even better graphics. Whether or not the story improved is up to personal opinion and whether or not you like the main character.

The third game, on the other hand, upped a few things but not by much. They worked heavily on having your character interact with the environment in a bit of a believable way. For example if your character runs into a wall, he lifts his hands to stop himself from hitting his head on it. Walking down a stairs with a railing or along a wall causes your character to reach out and touch the wall itself as you might do while you’re walking beside it. Little things like that. Combat improvements included a melee system that more or less worked on a basic strike, counter, grab that was neat during interactive cut scenes but less useful during actual gun fights.

Some of the nitpicking I have were that the graphics didn’t really seem to improve at all. If they had I didn’t really notice. The environment layouts were still interesting and breathtaking but I was still getting some uncanny valley on some of the characters. Additionally the game had no install time, which meant that loading the game, and then loading your save, took forever. Plus advertisement credits at the beginning of the game meant a total load time of at least a minute if not more, before I actually started to play the game.

Another weird area was the story. I’m not sure if I liked it better than the second game or if it is on par. I do not really remember the second game’s story other than Drake was having woman problems between his love interest in the first game and a new “edgier” woman who may or may not have betrayed in him the second game. The third game, however, focuses on Nathan’s long-term father-like figure, Sully, even having several flashbacks which help explain how they met, and how everything ties together. Where the story seems to fail for me is the characterization of all the new characters. There is an ally we’ve never met before who, while funny, seems slightly out-of-place. And the two major villains of the story never really explained what they were doing, what they wanted, or what was happening, other than they had a history with Sully and Nathan and were willing to use them to get the treasure everybody was supposedly hunting. It wouldn’t seem like a big nitpick except that all the scenes with the villains played out like Nathan had a serious vested interest in their failure, while I the player, didn’t really know or care.

On other aspect of the story that I felt was touched upon but never really brought to fruition was that we’re giving a back story of how Nathan and Sully meet, which involves pointing out that we don’t really know who Nathan Drake is, or his past, or that he really is or isn’t related to the original Sir Frances Drake. Given the title being Drake’s Deception, I was expecting more revelations regarding Nathan, not just what Sir Frances Drake did many years in the past.

So sadly the story did not meet my expectations. The game play, while fun, was more or less the same old bag. The cinematic nature of the game was upheld but not as memorable as some of the scenes from Uncharted 2. One advantage is that the game is relatively short although the story does seem to end a bit abruptly for me. Overall I liked it but I likely won’t play it again.

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Weird Word: Alacrity

by on Apr.27, 2012, under Articles, Weird Words, Writing

Alacrity

Noun

  • Eagerness ; liveliness; enthusiasm.
  • Promptness; speed.

Used in a sentence:

  • The horse had alacrity but it just didn’t have nimbleness it needed to dodge the obstacles.

SourceWiktionary

Commentary:

What a fun word. Unusual. Fun to say. Has a meaning that would make it easy to work into normal conversation! I have alacrity for the word alacrity!

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Gamewatch: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

by on Apr.26, 2012, under Articles, Gamewatch, Gaming, Reviews, Video Games

Seems like forever since I did a game watch, although it was really only a month ago. For those of you who don’t remember, Gamewatch is where I report actually finishing a video game I’ve been playing. Since, in the past, I’ve had difficulty completing video games in favor of starting new ones.

That brings us to my latest conquest: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. I was a big fan of Twilight Princess. Not only did you get to be a wolf, which was awesome, but the ending boss battle was one of the most memorable for in all the Zelda games, hearkening back to the old SNES and NES titles. If there was an issue with Twilight Princess, it was that it was still rather formulaic. It copied most of its game play from Ocarina of Time which was in no way a bad thing but when compared to the latest installment, Skyward Sword, makes it feel somewhat lacking.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, turns so many things about the Zelda franchise on its head, yet keeping the spirit of the game and the good aspects of the game play making the entire game very fresh and fun. I was surprised by several turn of events and not by others but I ultimately enjoyed the entire game. The most interesting change, I feel, was that there was a far more consistent plot to the game. Rather than the typical hero’s journey to save the princess, Zelda is not so much the princess as a mayor’s daughter, and while she needs assistance, she is as much apart of a the quest of destiny as you. In fact half the game is spent following her trail that she is blazing through a post-apocalyptic world. No not leather and chains just the surface of the world, which was mostly abandoned by people in order to live in the sky away from an invasion of monsters.

Some of the nitpicks I have for the game is the flying mechanic. Your character spends a lot of time flying on his bird between locations in the sky and to locations on the ground. The “skyworld” is not very large and it takes perhaps two-three minutes to fly across it without any special speed boosts but it is also very boring to fly across. Unlike horse riding in prior games, there’s no scenery to get a sense of motion. Just small floating islands getting bigger or smaller. There are some random birds with gems you can knock down, and some floating rocks have enemies that shoot at you, but they don’t provide that interesting of a distraction. Flying is fun for maybe the first hour but you spend about a quarter of the game flying places and it just gets old after a while.

One nitpick I’ve heard from others is that the game reuses areas too much. There are three main surface world areas and two major skyworld areas. Through the course of the game you open up the pieces of each surface area, which generally requires going through the initial area multiple times. I can see how people might feel a little tired being asked to run through one area a few times to get to a new area but you spend much more time in new areas than you do in old ones, and often even the most trekked areas newly accessible secrets with the gear you’ve newly acquired. The game makes heavy use of modifying the areas you’re in to be new and different, which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t, but ultimately it worked for me.

Overall I would highly suggest this game for Zelda fans.

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Free Write #22: A Very Important Question

by on Apr.25, 2012, under Entertainment, Free Write, Writing

I think one of the hardest parts of free writing is coming up with good titles.

~~~~~~

A Very Important Question
by Nojh Livic

“Ye-” Daring started to say when his visor went dark. He reached up and hit the side of it once, twice, but his vision didn’t return. He also realized that the background music he had been listening to was no longer being piped into his ears. The old thing had likely shorted out. He had been meaning to replace it for a month now.

Daring cursed and ripped off the visor. He reached out and pulled the touch pad from its slot next to the main box into his lap and began tapping at it to force the machine into wide display mode. He he was halfway through the commands when he realized that the room was dark and the main box’s power light was missing. He reached out to hit it once but he already knew the problem wasn’t with the box. His apartment had no power.

Cursing more, he pushed himself from his beanbag chair and made a dash for his bag.

He was in the middle of an important conversation with Quizzical, who he had been dating for three years. Quizzical was an online handle just like Daring. More offline people knew him by Daring than his birth name, however. Daring’s avatar would be just standing there staring at Quizzical. He had been about to answer a very important question and his avatar staring blankly was worse than any answer he could actually give. He needed to message Quiz right now, vide0, voice, or text the medium didn’t matter.

He pulled out the small plastic brick from his bag that served as his MCD. Except that it was acting far more like a brick now than a communication device. He had forgotten to charge it. Daring blinked several times. He felt sweat begin to form on his brow. Forgetting to curse he made a dash to the front door, swung it wide, and then dashed the few steps to the opposite door, the front entrance of his neighbor’s apartment. He knocked furiously. “Hey! Dasher! You in?” he called to the door. Dasher had a top of the line box he could use, assuming she would answer the door. She had a tendency to zone out. He had been offline for a minute now. His avatar would likely auto log out any second. Quiz would think he had logged out on purpose.

He didn’t have time to wait.

Flying more than jumping down the stairs, he exited his apartment building onto the sidewalk. It was mid afternoon and fairly busy. A little cold but Daring wasn’t about to waste time going back up to get his jacket. Across the street was a net cafe that he sometimes used on occasions like this when his main box fried or he forgot to pay his carbon debt. It wasn’t common but he had been glad it was there. He played frogger with the traffic, pulling open the glass door wide and running to a automated kiosk that proudly listed the prices for net time. He reached for his bag and froze. No bag. No wallet. No account feeds. No cash. No net.

His heart was racing now. He wasn’t sure what to do. It had been at least two or three minutes. Was he too late? Had Quiz logged off already? This was turning into a nightmare. He considered, briefly, knocking on the door and pleading his case to an actual person when movement outside caught his attention. A woman holding an MCD to her ear walked by.

He burst out of business and waved his hand to the woman. “Hey. Excuse me. This is an emergency. Can I borrow your ceedee?” Daring panted as he came to a stop next to the woman. She was staring at him in surprise. He was flushed and sweating now. He tried to seem earnest but he could tell he was creeping the woman out. As she debated it he raised his hands. “No it’s okay. Can you just message someone for me. The id is-” He realized he didn’t have Quiz’s id memorized. Who memorized ids anymore when you had your MCDs and your boxes to keep track of them for you? He cursed again, loudly, and the woman gave up and ran away. Several other pedestrians were now staring at him and the exchange, looking worried.

“Come on… think!” He chided to himself, clenching his fists as he watched the vehicles hover past. He bounced up and down on this toes, feeling the frantic need to go somewhere, anywhere, as if he could somehow outrun this problem. He stared into the increasing traffic. A bike zipped in between two conveyors, breaking at least three traffic laws, and sped off. Daring froze in place.

Daring had a full communication suite in his bike.

His feet began moving before he had even decided to run to the garage. There was a line for the vehicle retrieval kiosk. He cut it,  the other would be motorists protesting with angry cries. He exclaimed it was an emergency which did very little to pacify them. It took an agonizing ten seconds for his bike to be delivered to one of the garage receptacles.

He didn’t bother trying to leave the garage but keyed the bike’s entry code, booting the bike’s internal ceedee. A holographic display welcoming him and offering an array of music channels and navigation points hovered an inch above the main screen. He wiped it away to the messaging system. A few more gestures and he access to his account and contacts list, showing everybody who was still connected and their status.

Quiz was still online but an away icon was being displayed.

His fingers motioned furiously, typing out a text-only message as quickly as possible. When he finally keyed send, no relief came. His heart thundered in his ears as he stared at the conversation log. He wiped the refresh nodule several times, until the new message icon flashed green with a confirmation and new text appeared. He blinked several times then laughed a semi-hysterical laugh. He then fell off his bike.

Two strangers ran over to see what was the issue. They help him to his feet. He was feeling light-headed, which helped to dull all the other raging emotions within him: worry, joy, relief, and excitement. When the strangers asked what was wrong he found he couldn’t speak and instead just pointed at the message dialog. It read:

Daring: “Sorry! I lost power! YES! Yes I will marry you!”
Quizzical: “Are you on your bike? How many times have I told you to not text me while driving? Shut up and get over here so we can celebrate properly!”

 ~~~~~~

I actually pre-planned this one out a little before writing it. Several things changed during writing. When I wrote the summary plot, it wasn’t futuristic but the present day, at least until I came up with the idea of a communication device (Ceedee? Get it? Nevermind) in a bike. I also didn’t know that I was going to keep the gender of Daring’s significant other ambiguous. Did you even notice that I didn’t even reference the gender at all? You might also be questioning the feasibility of someone asking someone else to marry them over the net. I suggest searching the web for terms like ‘geeky marriage proposals’ and see the multitude of video games, online comics, message boards, and other mediums used to propose to someone.

Oh and despite what I said at the beginning, the title for this story was actually rather easy.

Hope you enjoyed the story!

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Comic Links: Questionable Content, Girls with Sling Shots, Girl Genius

by on Apr.24, 2012, under Comic Links, Comics, Entertainment

Questionable Content: #2160: Heck of a View

In case the humor of the last few panels wasn’t enough, the context is that the hologram is a representation of the space station’s AI, who would like the woman to stay aboard because he misses her.

Girls with Sling Shots: 2012-04-11: #1372

Open Mouth, Insert Van.

Shortpacked!: 2012-04-12: Wen

I didn’t so much laugh at this as gaped at the comic. Not a usual response for me. It was awesome.

Girl Genius: Volume 12: Page 72

“Ahh. That kind of Princess.”

 

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Comic: Knite by ‘yuumei, Chapters 1-4

by on Apr.23, 2012, under Comic Suggestions, Comics

Knite is a combination of the words “Knight” and “Kite”. If you see the logo below you’ll note the “t” is used as a the Simplified Chinese character for the word wind.

Knite is a flash comic about a city without stars and a boy who dreams of them. It is being distributed for free via deviant art by its creater, ‘yuumei. Chapter four was just released. Below is chapter two and you can find links to the other three below that. The chapters are not long but beautifully drawn with a compelling story, so please take some time to read them.


Knite: Chapter 1 by `yuumei on deviantART

Chapter Links

Knite: Chapter One
Knite: Chapter Two
Knite: Chapter Three
Knite: Chapter Four

Extra Content

Gallery of Knite related content

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Weird Word: Flagrant

by on Apr.20, 2012, under Articles, Weird Words, Writing

Flagrant

Adjective

  • Obvious and offensive, blatant, scandalous
  • (archaic) On fire, flaming.

Used in a sentence:

  • The use of a word that obviously wasn’t very weird was a flagrant misuse of Nojh’s editorial power over A Singularity.

SourceWiktionary

Commentary:

Okay okay so flagrant isn’t really a weird word. I hear it a lot on television, particularly law shows. It is a word that I like the pronunciation, although I also tend to misspell the word as fragrant, which is kinda funny. I challenge you to go read something that uses the word flagrant and mis-read it as fragrant. Also the archaic meaning is kinda interesting. “That was a flagrant abuse of the law!” “Well go get some water then!”

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Free Write #21: Blurring Lights

by on Apr.18, 2012, under Entertainment, Free Write, Writing

Blurring Lights
By Nojh Livic

He floated in an infinite space, quietly watching the small bits of light as they zipped to and fro. He liked to bask here. There was probably some sort of existential or psychological reason for this odd behavior. Why hang around in the space between places? There was nothing to do and barely anything to see. With no sensation save sight, it was like being disconnected from everything, viewing it all from a distance, except there was nothing to view save the little dazzling bolts of light..

A small chime that only echoed between his head informed him that he didn’t have a second more to spend on his dalliance. Ghost wanted his attention. With a sigh he drew out a small charm from the pocket of his jacket. It began to glow almost immediately and he gave it a squeeze. “Yo yo yo, Blitz! Where you at?” A gauzy image of Ghost projected itself from the stone, from its shoulders up. The stone already gave most people a translucent quality. With Ghost he was near invisible.

“Just watching traffic. What’s the score?” Blitz asked. The lights and space began to blur as he began flying through the space, letting the tails of his jacket whip around behind him. He preferred to stand while he traveled, rather than assume some sort of pose that suggested he obeyed some sort of aerodynamic rules.

“TryTex. Off the Hou-Dal-Ft link. You’ll want to come in hot. Surly already woke the beast.” Ghost chuckled when it saw Blitz roll his eyes. Surly was Ghost’s nickname for Surreal who was the third of their little troupe and the most hot-headed. She was also on the record, having found the best scores yet, so if she got them into a little trouble now and then he wasn’t going to complain.

“I’ll be there in a cycle,” Blitz said, increasing the speed of his flight. He could have been there faster, of course, but he wanted to prepare. Stowing away the glowing stone he began pulling more objects out from under his jacket: A few rings, three bangles, goggles, a pair of daggers, a pair of ornate slug throwers with shiny black leather holsters, three different necklaces, and finally a long wooden staff. Nearly all of the items glowed in some form of fashion, as his jacket did each time he pulled out something new. Finally he buttoned the leather long coat up. As he did, it shifted from its usual brown to a shiny black with faintly glowing blue lines following the seams. Re-checking that he could reach his equipment and weapons through various pockets, he lifted his staff high and struck what would sure to be an impressive pose and readying an offensive maneuver just in case he needed to keep Surreal’s ass out of a sling.

He arrived at TryTex exactly one cycle later. Darkness and blurry lights gave way to an immediate cacophony of alarms and a kaleidoscope of shades of red intermixed darkness. He saw Surreal between the flashes of darkness, in her dragon form, but rather than tearing a swath through the entire area, was instead pinned down by hordes of tiny red skinned devils with pitchforks. He flew directly towards the melee, staffed pointed, words already on his lips that would send bursts of wind and force down upon his cohort’s foes.

Then a net surrounded him. Disoriented, he flew backwards, only to find himself caught in another net. He let go of his staff to draw his daggers but the net suddenly glowed with blue flame. Ignoring his jacket completely, the flames sent sharp painful chills down his arms. His fingers went numb, letting the daggers slide from his grip. The net grew tighter, surrounding him until he couldn’t move his arms or legs. He squirmed and each time was rewarded with another blast of cold that numbed him even more.

On the ground, Surreal jerked spasmodically, frozen, then slowly began to grow transparent. The devils began cheering, pumping their pitch forks up and down. Blitz tried one last effort, summoning all his strength to try to break the net that surrounded him. That is when he blacked out.

Ronald tore the headband off and threw it on the ground. The pain lancing through his head was enough to blind him but despite that he leapt for the wall and jerked the connection cord out of the socket. That done, he curled up into a ball of pain, trying to ignore the smell of charred metals and plastic that used to be his hacking rig. After an eternity he let his eyes open. The tiny enclosed space that was his apartment surrounded him. No star filled landscape. No flashing lights. Just darkness, smoke, and pain.

~~~~~

So I wanted to go for a fantasy vibe that turned out to be kinda science fiction. The premise is based on a roleplaying game I used to play called Shadowrun. Think The Matrix, but less “super real” and more “fantasy real”. I’ve also recently read Ready Player One and The Dresden Files, which made its way unconsciously into this story I think.

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Weird Word: Gubernatorial

by on Apr.13, 2012, under Articles, Weird Words, Writing

Gubernatorial

Adjective

  • Of or pertaining to a governor.

Used in a sentence:

  • Carl’s demeanor was anything but gubernatorial, which is likely what earned him the praise of his constituents as much as it rubbed the nobility wrong.

SourceWiktionary

Commentary:

So you rarely hear this word except during election time in the United States. I like it because it has the sound “guber” in it, which sounds kinda fun. Goooober. One word which is very similar that you hear far more often is presidential.  So if you can use the word gubernatorial in any place where you might use presidential, assuming you’re talking about a governor instead of a president.

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Free Write #20: Keeping Score

by on Apr.11, 2012, under Entertainment, Free Write, Writing

Gotta get this done before I eat. Enjoy!

~~~~~~~~~~

Keeping Score
By Nojh Livic

“A22,” Clark said, leaning forward slightly in anticipation. Andy’s eyes searched the grid in front of him. He cringed dramatically and pressed a button on his console.

“Hit,” Andy sounded resigned but Clark grinned in excitement.

“A23,” Clark said with only slightly concealed glee.

“Hit.”

“A24.”

“Score. Carrier 3.” Andy’s shoulders had slumped and he was hunched over his console.

“That just leaves your support vessel,” Clark reminded his opponent. His attention was half on Andy, half on the grid in front of him. The little abstract symbols representing his opponent’s various units. All but one group had a red outline while his own units remained a nice neutral blue, showing Andy’s superior strategic skills.

“C1,” Andy said after taking a sip from his cup of coffee. There was a pause and Andy lifted his head from his console to look over at his opponent. “Clark? C1.”

“Score. Support Group 3, 4, 2, and Carrier 5.” Clark intoned, his voice barely audible, his face hidden from Andy by his own console. Andy gaped in astonishment.

“You mean you-” Andy began but Clark raised his head and glared back in response. Andy quickly ducked and began searching his grid, now that he understood his opponent’s supposedly superior strategy.

“F3.”

“Score. Support Group 1. Frigates 1 through 4.”

“Y31.”

“Score. Carrier 3 and 4.”

Clark watched his forces slowly disappear in gleaming red borders, his face becoming more and more flushed with each score. Systematically Andy discovered all the pocket grid points that would allow multiple units to cluster and targeted them until all but one of  his units remained. He had yet to discover where Andy’s last support vessel was hiding.

“I’m sorry to interrupt gentlemen,” a female voice intoned over a speaker in the war room. Clark looked up towards the ceiling, momentarily distracted from making what he was sure his last decision. Andy too looked up.

“I regret to inform you that we have received communications from Commander Clark’s homeworld. A cease-fire has been declared effective two standard hours ago. Your battle shall now be terminated.” To punctuate her words, both consoles flickered and ceased projecting the battle grids. “Thank you for using WarCom’s intergalactic battle command center. We hope you will consider our services for your future intergalactic conquest needs. Please follow the blue and yellow lines respectively to your delegations.”

“Close one,” Andy said as they stood up, gathering its things.

“Yeah,” Clark said, offering a shaky smile.

“Same time next week? Assuming negotiations break down?” Andy asked, offering a hand.

“Sure. Your turn to bring the coffee though.” Clark shook his hand.

~~~~~~~~~~

Ever seen a movie called Robot Jox? It was about nations of the world using giant robots to determine the outcomes of war. People controlled the robots from inside them. It was very cheesy but I loved it as a kid. I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of civilized warfare. So the question remains, were they actually controlling real forces or was it all simulated?

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