Thursday, March 27, 2014

Movie Trailer Wednesday!

Good day, everyone. The topic for today's reading is movies. Below are a few movies that are coming out this year and that are worth keeping an eye on. Each of these movies is appealing in some way. Let's hope that they are as good as we want them to be!

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

The first Captain America movie was put together so well that it left us craving more. Unfortunately, pretty much the entire movie was set in a WWII setting, and we all want to see him kick ass in a modern time. Now it's time to see what Cap can really do. He's not fighting Nazis anymore... now he has to fight other supers. When a worldwide mystery comes to his doorstep, there are very few people that can help him.

This movie is probably going to have elements of the "stranger in a strange land" trope that we didn't really get to see in Avengers or the original Captain America film. While there was some of that present, the movie didn't focus on Cap as a character, thus they didn't really expand on it. With a pedigree of the first movie, expectations are pretty high that this one is going to be just as good, if not better. Look for this movie April 4.


Based off of the original animated film from Disney, this live-action film is a new take on this old story. Originally released in 1959, Sleeping Beauty was told from the perspective of the princess, Aurora. With this film, we are given a new opportunity to view the events that took place - seeing things from perspective of the iconic villainess, Maleficent. Never knowing before why the curse was placed on the Sleeping Beauty, we may now finally see what transpired.

Anyone who is a fan of Disney should have this movie on their radar. Being a Walt Disney Studios production, this movie has a pretty excellent team working on it. Despite some production hiccups, the trailers reveal a gorgeous film that will probably be wonderfully entertaining. Angelina Jolie is the lead, and she fits the part perfectly. This is one film to be excited about; look for it in theaters May 30.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

Following the events of the first and second film, Katniss Everdeen becomes a symbol for the rebellion against the capital of Panem. The people of Panem find themselves in the midst of a full uprising, and with the entire continent on fire, sides must be chosen. While the people of the districts have justice and numbers on their side, the people of the capital have advanced technology and weaponry. As the events of the war climax, Katniss is forced to choose between two equally terrible choices.

Both films so far have been much better than the books. Yes, I read all three of them. In my opinion, the second film was much better than the first. While the book tended to drag along and the first half was dedicated to a "who will she choose?" love triangle, the movie eliminated those problems. Because of this, I have faith that the director will recognize the problem areas for the final book. Hopefully this movie will be as exciting as the second. Look for the film in theaters November 21.

X-men: Days of Future Past

Taking place in the same movie universe as the third film, this movie incorporates the events from all earlier X-men films. There is a war for the existence of mutantkind that is transpiring in both the future and the past. The full ensemble of heroes will battle for their fate, fighting alongside their younger selves.

With as many characters put into this film as there are, it will be a daunting task to make it entertaining. My guess is that the film is going to feature all these people, but not give them many of them much attention. Let's be honest, having 15 main characters makes for a really convoluted/bad movie (better for TV). I have high hopes for this film as the graphics look fantastic. The cast choice is absolutely wonderful, plenty of big names in attendance. I may be biased, though, since I've actually met Sir Patrick Stewart (I should basically say that as much as possible, seriously). Even so, I find that I like almost anything with Peter Dinklage in it. Not to mention, Sentinels were a big part of my childhood; my sister and I would play with our stuffed animals and some would be X-men and some would be Sentinels (you're jealous). That story always made me happy and I've loved it ever since. Look for this film May 23.


Let me know what films you're excited about in the comments below.

EDIT: Maleficent is from Sleeping Beauty... mixing my Disney...

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Destiny and Evolve

Today I’d like to talk about two video game IPs that are of particular interest to me: Destiny and Evolve. Both games are slated to be released by the end of this year. They are planned to be released on both new consoles: PS4 and Xbox One. Since both games are going to be released this year, we won’t have to wait long to play. Hopefully we’ll get just enough time to save all our lunch money. Look for these titles by the end of the year.


Why should you care about this title? For one, it’s being made by the same company that brought us Halo… as in the entire series. Bungie is developing this game after their rather public split from Microsoft back in 2007. They stated a desire to work on new IPs. It must have certainly gotten a little old working on the same designs and world since 2000, when Microsoft acquired the company initially. Not to mention, it was stated that Microsoft had a different business culture than the creators of Bungie wanted for their own company. Thanks to great success with Halo, Bungie was able to split from Microsoft and give us their next big title: Destiny.

For another reason you should care, this game looks to be incorporating elements from multiple genres in order to create an extensive and brand-new game universe. In a style that may be similar to Borderlands, Destiny is going to be a first person shooter with strong RPG elements. Meaning that you cannot complete the game while ignoring the RPG aspects – meaning it’s not fully FPS. Of interest to the MMO players will be a new game engine that is attempting to create a living world. There are rumors of a world that can generate its own content, content that is independent of what the developers plan or control.
The world of Destiny is set in a future post-apocalyptic setting. Humanity has explored far in what was a golden age of development. What followed is what is referred to as “the Collapse,” which resulted the loss of all human colonies and the end of the golden age. The only humans known to have survived this calamity are those living on Earth near a mysterious, spherical object that had appeared 100 years prior – an object colloquially named “the Traveler.” It is from this Traveler that the Guardians – the player characters – get their abilities.

Guardians come in numerous varieties. For starters, there are 3 playable races to choose from: Human, Exo, and Awoken. The races are a purely cosmetic choice, but also great if you want to RP a character in the game. Humans are the typical race you see in Sci-Fi games – balanced, tough, and relatable. Each Exo is a pre-calamity machine who has become self-aware. Machines like this have been “rebooted” since the collapse, which has removed all memories of their original functions or purpose. Bungie has described them as being “sinister, powerful, and tireless.” Awoken is a race of bluish-gray-skinned beings. Bungie has stated that this race drew inspiration from vampires, elves, ghosts, and angels. In one of the trailers, this species is shown to speak with a flanged voice – multiple voices in one.

Which one do you think is my favorite?
There are only three classes to choose from: Hunter, Warlock, and Titan. Hunters are the gunslinger class, described by graphics designer Lorraine McLees as a “combination of speed and strength.” This class is the ranger class; people that use tracking, stealth, and precision. Warlocks are the magic users. It is said that these characters have studied the Traveler extensively in order to gain an understanding of the power it wields. They are described as “Space Wizards” along the same vein as Jedi (no laser sword!). The final class to choose from is the Titan class. These guys are what you’d expect from the name: heavy weaponry and armor. In this universe, the first Titans built the wall around the city – their heritage being one of strength and sacrifice. Bungie has described this last class as the equivalent to characters like the Master Chief or the Terminator. There are rumors of numerous subclasses from which to choose, but nothing confirmed.

This game looks terrific based on what’s been shown so far. Numerous gameplay videos and trailers have been released already on YouTube. It is recommended that everyone take a look at them. Any people who love Borderlands and Halo should also love this game. From the trailers, the game is being designed as an action game first. True to the heritage shown to us by Halo, Bungie has created an enormous world in which we can play that is rife with nuance and has deep history to explore.


Why should you care about this title? It’s being created by the same people that brought us one of the best multiplayer titles out there: Left 4 Dead. In a similar fashion to the game that gave them such fame, Turtle Rock Studios has designed this game under the four players per match principle. There will never be more or less than four characters in each game being played. It’s a great concept that makes it much easier to keep the game balanced. Hopefully the AI in this game will be better than in Left 4 Dead… here’s hoping.

Evolve is centered on the idea of a big game hunt. The four players will meet, be assigned or choose classes, and cooperate across a world to take down a giant beast. One interesting tidbit to keep in mind: the monster is player controlled. That’s right; the game isn’t just four friends against a boss. While you and three of your friends are on the same team, a fifth person is controlling the great beast you’re all hunting. This is the best kind of boss battle imaginable, and some people will undoubtedly love the feeling of being a powerful monster going after the hunters dogging it. What we usually see in video games is boss battles conform to a specific set of parameters: there’s always a time to strike and a time to dodge. Eventually we get so used to playing against bosses that we can beat them in our sleep and the challenge is no longer there. By fighting against a living person we have the opportunity to experience new gameplay every time. It’s a concept of replayability that this developer is known for.

I have bad news...
 Hunters have abilities and attributes specific to their characters. The four characters are Griffin, Markov, Val, and Hank. Their abilities are divided based on balancing – so we shouldn’t get two heavy hitters and two medics. Were this the case, how would a team track the monster down? Without Griffin, the team would have no idea how to follow the beast to where it regroups and grows. Being the trapper, it’s his job to find clues as to when and how to strike the monster. One of his gadgets is a portable arena which throws out a bubble force field that keeps the monster confined to an area. Early on, this could be a very powerful device if it traps the monster in a lesser evolved state. Markov is the assault character. His job is to carry the team by outputting as much damage as possible. A lightning gun is the main weapon of this class and does a huge amount of damage up close. Supporting Markov is a character named Hank, the pure support role. While a laser cutter can do a decent amount of damage, his most important gadget is his portable shield gun – to lend extra shields to his teammates. If a situation gets to dirty for Hank, he can always cloak and run away, or he can request support from Val. No team is complete without a medic. She uses a medgun to heal teammates from a distance, hopefully just like the medic from TF2. Besides being able to heal her team, she can also deliver status effects. While her sniper rifle can weaken the beast’s armor – giving her team a damage bonus – she also has a tranquilizer gun that will slow the monster down.

Can you guess the class by the face?
 Lastly we have the final character: the monster. Called, the Goliath, this monster has the ability to evolve and grow, hence the game’s title. When you begin, you’re big and strong enough to take on the hunters one on one, but this isn’t a fair fight. At the beginning, it’s critical that the Goliath run and gather strength to come back and deal with the pesky humans. As you evolve, you learn additional abilities like throwing boulders and breathing fire. Since the world comes with various types of docile creatures big and small, it can be important to decide which animals to kill and which to leave. Some of the animals take longer to kill and devour, meaning you need to be careful how much time you invest at different points of the game. Once the evolve meter is filled, be careful where you decide to evolve – it takes time.

You'll probably be fine.
 One thing that makes this game terrific is how quickly the tides can change. In one minute, the hunters are laughing and going after the beast with ease. In the next minute there is screaming, panic, and general mayhem as the beast comes to kill you. The game should be called “Hunter” since you can never know at which point you become the hunted. Based off of their previous track record, this game should be a lot of fun to play, and it’s one to look forward do in the coming year. Thankfully, Evolve will also be available on the PC to play.

I’m really excited to play both of these games when I get a chance. Thankfully, neither game requires me to purchase a new console or system. Since Destiny will be released on the Xbox 360 and Evolve will be released for PC, it makes it a lot easier for those of us without money to play these games. Which of these games do you prefer? In Destiny, which class do you think I want to play? Which would you play? In Evolve, do you think the Goliath is the best character because of the Gargoyles TV show like me?
Leave comments on Facebook or below.


-For more information on Destiny, watch Bungie’s GDC panel in 2013 here.
-For more information on Evolve, there’s an excellent video on YouTube here.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Next Gen Consoles - Don't Get One

 As some of you may have heard, there are brand-new consoles out there for us to spend our money on. Recently released where both the Xbox One, colloquially named the “X-bone,” and the PlayStation 4, called the PS4.  Since both consoles were released this past November, we’ve had plenty of time to take a look at which is better. However, I’m here to tell you that you shouldn’t buy a next-gen console, at least not yet. Let’s start by talking about the consoles themselves. Since the systems have similar hardware stats, let’s focus on the differences.

The Consoles

 Both systems hardware capabilities include Blu-Ray players (FINALLY, XBOX!), game DVR, 8GB of RAM, 500GB hard drive space, 8 core processors, cloud storage, play while downloading, remote download, multiple account access, no required internet connection, no used game fee,  and no digital game sharing.

Features that both systems offer are almost identical as well: no backwards compatibility (this is a big deal so I’ll emphasize it), there is no backwards compatibility. They do offer game chat, rechargeable wireless controllers, motion sensing controllers, voice commands, online subscription services, USB ports, Live streaming, Web browsing/connection, HDMI output, and neither unit is regionally locked. For the majority of gamers, these are the things that matter.

Most of the online features between the two consoles are different. However, there is one thing that they both share: online play must be done through subscribing to their online networks, PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold.

Let’s talk about differences (edited list from IGN):
Xbox One
Game DVR
Yes, PS+ subscription not required
Yes, XBL subscription Required
AMD Radeon – 1152 Shaders
AMD  Radeon – 768 Shaders
Peak GPU Shader Throughput
1.84 TeraFLOPS/s
1.31 TeraFLOPS/s
External Storage
Yes, USB
Removable Hard Drive
Mandatory Game Installs
USB 3.0
2 Ports
3 Ports
HDMI Output
HDMI Input/Output
IR Out
Power Supply
Power Brick

Online Apps and Features:
Xbox One
Free App
XBL Gold Required
Amazon Instant Video
Free App
XBL Gold Required
Redbox Instant
Free App
XBL Gold Required
Hulu Plus
Free App
XBL Gold Required
Free App
XBL Gold Required
Free App
XBL Gold Required
Game DVR
Free App
XBL Gold Required
Streaming Game Video
Free App
Via Twitch App
Free App
Web Browser
XBL Gold Required
XBL Gold Required

Look at all that! When you break it down, it’s hard to choose which console to buy. The features are pretty comparable… what one has, the other doesn’t. One might have better games, but worse gamers; the other might have better online features but require you to pay for it. It’s all difficult enough to choose which to buy… in the end, I don’t think you should buy either of them.
That’s right, don’t buy either of them, and here’s why:

Backwards Compatibility

As I’ve already mentioned above, neither station is featuring backwards compatibility. This probably won’t hold true forever, as it didn’t with their predecessors, but for now, this is not a reason for you to buy this console. When my friend’s little brother told me he spent his X-mas money on an XBone because his old 360 was “dying” I laughed and said “Bad reason, since you can’t play your games on the new console.” Why he even tried to convince me of that is a strange thing in itself… but whatever. If he’d simply said “because I wanted it” I would have been more okay with his decision.

Ultimately, we want to be able to play our game libraries on our new consoles and get new life out of the games. For now, however, we’re stuck playing both consoles… for people with other responsibilities than gaming, this can make life difficult.

Console companies usually offer a feature to digitally play previous games which takes both hard drive space and emulation software. Since someone is building these programs, that usually means you have to pay for it. How many of you like to buy your games twice? As I said, this is not a good reason to buy a next-gen console, so don’t do it.

Hardware Issues

On launch, Xbox 360 featured as much as a 30% failure rate. One article states that as many as 68 out of 100 consoles coming out of manufacturing were nonfunctional. For the PlayStation 3, this article shows failure rate was much less, about 10%, which is still more risky than I want to deal with. What this tells me pretty clearly is that all the hardware kinks won’t get worked out for the first couple of years. I hope that these companies have a better plan going into this generation of consoles but I wouldn’t expect it. Any one of you that has worked for a corporation can tell me how forward-thinking they are… and it’s not very much. Really… why buy this console now?


On launch, game consoles are EXPENSIVE. I’m not saying that consoles are more expensive now than they used to be, since that’s not true, for the most part. Most consoles that have gained wide popularity have hovered around the $400 mark, with the exception of the Wii and the Gamecube, both cheaper options than the hard-hitters these days. Today’s money is one thing to spend $400 dollars on a console, but back 10 years ago would have meant something different. For the most part, these consoles have had costs that have risen along with inflation. Unfortunately, our wages have not. According to a few different articles, the median annual income since 2000 has fallen by 7%, not increased like is typical over a decade.

Since the recession in 2008, there has been both a sharp decline in wages, and an increase in inflation. Depending on whom you ask, our inflation is between 4 and 14 percent. Even the low end of that spectrum is considered high.  Prices for consoles typically show their first drop around Christmas time of the year following launch. This is not something that’s really all that easy to figure out though. On one hand, XBone and PS4 consoles have already said they won’t have any price cuts until 2015. So unless you want to sell one of your children, I’d avoid getting one of these consoles right away.

Game Library

From where I’m sitting, the best reason not to get a new console on launch is that the game libraries are typically atrocious. Meaning you don’t want to get stuck with only one game for the next 6 months, unless you’re one of those gamers that only sticks with one or two games a year, even though you’re probably not.
Regardless, let’s look at the games available on each system so far (taken from IGN):

Italics are console exclusives – released nowhere else
Xbox One
DC Universe Online
Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag
Crimson Dragon
Battlefield 4
Dead Rising 3
Don't Starve
Call of Duty: Ghosts
Forza 5
FinalFantasy XIV: Realm Reborn
EA sports UFC
Killer Instinct
Killzone Shadow Fall
Infamous Second Son
Just Dance 2014
Powerstar Golf
Madden 25
Ryse: Son of Rome
Tekken Revolution
Need For Speed: Rivals
 The Playroom
NBA 2k14
Zoo Tycoon
Blacklight: Retribution
NBA Live 14
Zumba Fitness World Party
Peggle 2

The Pinball Arcade
Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare


Skylanders Swapforce

Have you read any of the reviews for these games? I’ve read a couple, and they suffer from typical AAA game problems. Some of them missed the mark entirely, others just some of the time. The point is that these game libraries aren’t exactly spectacular. As much as I enjoy Zumba Fitness World Party, I don’t think I want to be playing it for 6 months. Additionally, how many of these games are exclusive to those consoles? The majority of these games on that are found on multiple platforms are playable on PC, a good argument for becoming a PC gamer.


Since this is already rather long, I’ll have a short conclusion. These consoles are pretty similar in most characteristics… make the decision which one you’d rather have, and then wait to buy it. At the very least, I will probably wait 2 years to purchase either of these consoles. In this time, it should be more clear which technology is better, which console has the better games, and which one is  going to be more gamer-friendly. If it weren’t for Titanfall, I’d say pick up a PS4, so we’ll wait and see if that game ends up being any good.
Until next time, enjoy the games you have, and beat the ones you haven’t beaten yet… since you probably don’t beat games anymore.

- Jack