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Beer Blog Tuesday?? The struggle is real…

In the words of the immortal poet Fred Durst, “[i]t’s just one of those days!”

Granted I’m not getting completely hammered or obliterated, I still have work in the morning, but work is precisely the reason I’m enjoying my evening brew so intently on such a beautiful October duskiness.

The occupation I hold forbids me from divulging any of the juicy morsels that make up my waking hours, or that make them so interesting—which is primarily the reason I choose to bitch about videogames and comic books—but alas, I still feel the need to cathartically vent on the internet for all eyes to see. Maybe my incoherent rambling will actually inspire some deep reflection in others.

So what is there to talk about, if not for work, or videogames, or comic books? The abstract expression of “being”; the human condition for which we are all victims. Despite any social status or class by which you ascribe, we all fall quite classically in the vein children’s games such as shoots and ladders; beset to the emotion inherently connected with our super-ego and utterly divorced from the collective id.

I know I’ve written in the past about my exploits before becoming a taken man, or proclaiming purpose in my daily endeavors, the angst of youth and the road that has led me here, however, I haven’t been very diligent in keeping archives of journaling my experience. Additionally, my style—along with my prose—continues to evolve and mature as I, myself, find that I am ever closer to the reality of marriage. Even now, I can hear the whirl of a blender as my fiance works on dinner, combining the ingredients needed to form avocado and artichoke stuffed chicken breasts. I’m a lucky man. While I could get into the discussion of feminism and the paradigm of female obligation, I’ll refrain, since I’m a directly the beneficiary of an old-world style of courtesy, despite the lackluster husbandry presented by my personage.

There doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to complete the tasks I’ve set forth for myself, or to even satisfy the various personalities I must sate through the obligation of comforting emails, phone calls, and face-to-face interactions. I tell myself that I can do it, but in the end, I let myself down, and I concede to the notion that I’m not perfect, nor will I ever be. As the sun falls, my interest wanes with the waxing of the moon, I admit defeat and promise myself that, tomorrow, I won’t let others’ expectations bother me as much as they have today. Those expectations will inevitably bother me though, since, I certainly won’t kid myself. I’ve taken those expectations on as my own. But I take solace in the fact that I’ll be able to explain myself in a way that seems to curry understanding in my fellow man.

Lost in the abyss of modern consumerist character, we all lose that deeply socialist mentality and leftist psychology which seemed to serve us all too well as young idealist. Be it rent or a mortgage, a car note or repairs, the electric and gas bills; the prerequisite of social conformity and the daily deluge owed to the district of water in the morning before the start of the day. We ignore the dirty homeless based on the belief that karma and Luke 6:31 dictate a disposition toeing the line for capitalist credo. When is the common man ever a “Good Samaritan?” If I had six pack of cold alcoholic refreshments in my truck at all times, I would be happy to oblige the broken and dysfunctional compatriots of our sobrietist society, instead, I elect for the next best vice available to my grubby paws, cigarettes… Better than any spare change lying around, the act of sharing something so dear ingratiates me.

I suppose the best end to an evening like tonight is Star Trek on Netflix with my sweetie, and that’s exactly how I will end it. Save of course for walking the dog and cleaning up after her refuse. The end of every philosophical delight deserves the humility of picking up the shit our animals in keeping leave behind…

Never forget the animal in man. For we are all deserving of a kind and humane heart, to give of yourself and others–the ultimate exercise in modesty is that of digging a hole, only to spend the time filling it back up again.

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Comic Book Castigation: Reminiscing a bit too hard.

Originally written on October 8, 2014.

It’s the time of the week again boys and girls.

Of the books that I picked up last week:

Uncanny Avengers #25

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Absolutely amazing. Though, I don’t believe that my assessment should be all that surprising. It should be noted, but I won’t make a habit of mentioning it in the future, SPOILERS AHEAD.

Magneto is one of the most interesting characters in the X-Men books, as far as I’m concerned. His moral ambiguity often times makes more sense than the peaceful endeavors of Charles Xavier, and writers have been playing off of this aspect of the dichotomy in the X-verse for many, many years. What I find most interesting is how Remender views this dichotomy. On a recent podcast for Marvel’s website,“This Week in Marvel”, Remender mentioned how he hates comics from the 90s. Which is interesting, although the dichotomy I’m speaking of definitely existed in the 70s and 80s, I don’t believe it fully came to a head until the 90s and the introduction of the Acolytes, giving rise to Mr. Lehnsherr’s cult-leader status. The Brotherhood was even on par with the silliest of Mormon fundamentalists sects. The Acolytes on the other-hand were full-on Manson Family. For Remender to despise this era of comics so devoutly only to turn those stories on their heads is an exercise of literary prowess I haven’t seen since Bendis’ hayday with the House of M.

In the final pages of 25, Magneto beats Red Skull to within an inch of his life and then hurls a pile of bricks onto his head in an effort to put him out of his misery… Instead of adequately doing away with such an insidious villain, what rises from the ashes is a new and greater form of Onslaught, a shade of Max Eisenhardt’s personality we haven’t seen for many years. Personal anguish is always a popular topic, especially when your readers are so heavily involved in the characters the creators and writers have curated throughout the years. I’m eager to see what happens, and the implications it will have on the Avengers and X-Men books… And I’ll definitely call it as a I see it, if Remender pisses me off, I may very well be the first and only critic to make an attempt at castrating his creative control.

The march to Axis is complete and I’ve picked up issue #1 of Axis this week to see how this major cross-over event fairs in comparison with the Civil and Secret Wars which preceeded it. Especially now that the voice of reason once found in Professor X has all but vanished, only to be absorbed in the evil which the X-Men and Avengers now face… I haven’t read Axis #1 yet, but there was a scene whereby Rogue communicated on another plane with Xavier (Uncanny Avengers #24?), and I suspect that this will play a role in the overall resolution of the story arc and cross-over.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #38

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What is there to say about TMNT? I’m a child of the 90s, and I won’t placate the matter by stating the fact that nostalgia necessitates more than a passing interest in a comic book franchise which spawned a marketing frenzy, by which my parents are still paying for in past-due credit card debt. Even if you don’t particularly care for the art style of the new book at this moment in time, and maybe you think the Turtles and Splinter look a bit strange, simply take note that Kevin Eastman is still overseeing the current stories we are able to enjoy. Unlike the cartoon currently airing on Nickelodeon, which is intended entirely for the new generation of young punks, the standard on-going comic series is definitely setup to please us old fogies.

There isn’t much going on in the series currently, but we just came off of the City Fall story arc not too long ago. Being entirely honest, I wasn’t a huge fan of some of the changes that were made to the mythology and lore of the TMNT (as of issue #1), but seeing Leonardo straight up decked out in Foot Clan garb—looking like a bad ass—held my attention and made me take notice. This is a book to watch out for the in the future, and despite whatever the cartoon series does for you, I think the comic itself has legs to stand on its own with true aficionados. It only took thirty years and selling out for Eastman to finally realize the true potential of his life’s work by returning to the fans who embraced him in the beginning. All the classic elements are still there and the Turtles themselves are still the characters you grew to love in the afternoon hours or on Saturday mornings.

Splinter is indebted to a psychotic mutant trying to resurrect an army and the Turtles are divided on whether or not they should play into the hands of such a lunatic (Donatello in particular). Meanwhile, a cyber-ninja codename: “Nobody,” has cropped up and is eagerly testing her abilities on local thugs. In the background we have our favorite non-mutant characters (April and Casey) fighting amongst themselves; as cheesy as it may sound, I have acid-like flashbacks to the 90s live-action movie, the characters talk in the same voices I remember from those wonderful Saturday mornings, and the child inside me giggles because I’m finally able to understand the adult context for which these wholesome stories of good versus evil are predicated upon.

Witchblade #178

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Once upon a time… This comic used to be one of my favorites. Don’t get me wrong, Ron Marz is a great writer. In fact, my favorite Green Lantern story of all-time is Emerald Twilight.

When I was much younger than I am now, my parents used to own a comic book shop, and my enthusiasm for X-Men and Marvel trading cards, as well as the heavy speculation and lucrative nature of the comic book industry in the early 90s, quite variably turned my parents into entrepreneurs virtually overnight. For one of the only times they every ventured to be industrious in their sorted lives, it was something that had to be attempted… While this period of my childhood was short-lived, as the shop inevitably failed with the slow decline and ultra mass production of books, it remains a period of time in my memories absolutely overflowing with joy and pride. My parent’s attempt at obtaining the elusive American Dream flooded my pre-adolescent brain with colorful imagery inspired by writers and artists who felt the need to take risks and push a stagnant medium forward for the benefit of artistic integrity. Image, Valiant, Malibu… There were a whole host of previously unknown slaves taking charge and forging their own path to build legacies which have existed for at least a couple of decades. It was exciting, and the fact that the excitement felt across the country urged my parents into such unfamiliar territory is something that obviously hasn’t been easily forgotten through the haze of malted hops and bong resin marking the shameless angst of my teen years.

While still a good book for fans of the series, and even fans of The Darkness—as knowledge of Darkness lore definitely plays into the current storyline—it falls a bit flat to grab new readers of the series. I’m disappointed mainly because I haven’t been an aberrant fan for many years, I don’t know the history that has taken place in the last hundred issues, and I’m ignorant of any retconning, or other common comic tropes and story paradigms which creep their way into an established series from time to time, often with the changing of established creators, one to the other. I haven’t seen Michael Turner’s name mentioned in popular media, or in conjunction with comics, for over a decade now. And the last time I saw Mark Silvestri was with Messiah Complex in X-Men, after the events of the House of M. Even at that, he only did one issues (and what an amazing issue it was to see him draw the X-Men again).

I would have to say that this is one to avoid at all costs, unless you’ve been following and are definitely a fan of the series… Perhaps we’ll see something interesting with The Darkness happen in the year to come, but at this moment in time, you’re merely patronizing a mediocre soap opera. Marz knows what he’s doing, but he isn’t doing it for the sake of new readers or old fans.

In my visit to the LCS (that’s “Local Comic Shop” for you newbies out there in TV land) today I picked up the following:

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Thanos: A God Up There Listing #1. Which is a print version of an online series from Marvel’s “Infinite Comics”;

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Axis #1; and

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Sabrina #1.

My local purveyor of pulp narratives tipped me off to Sabrina last night when I went in to check on my order of “Low” issues #1 and #2 (first prints)…. Apparently the guy who has been doing Archie for the last 60 years has decided to take Sabrina the Teenage Witch and turn her into an actual black witch, doing away with all of the family-friendly bullshit associated with the TV show we all remember and love from ABC’s TGIF block of prime-time viewing. Unfortunately my purveyor didn’t have the latest Doctor Who comic, so I figured that I would take a chance, and take his advice.

Next week I’ll be sure to indulge everyone on my consumption this time around. But, remember, spoilers are most definitely guaranteed. Be sure to load up on your favorite issues, or pick up the tiles I’ve suggested to avoid having your expectations shattered within in a few paragraphs of a rant from a drunken geek with an agenda.

Good night true believers.

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Beer Blog Friday: Las Vegas, OR

And apparently in Vegas as well… I already know that I’ll probably be made fun of for being too “hipsterish”, so have a laugh now.

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As goofy as this may sound, this is something I’ve been looking forward to all day. Last Friday the old lady and I went out to a punk show (to see Agent Orange, but ended up finding out about a really good duo from Denver, In the Whale), and with the exception the last two posts, I haven’t done much of any substantial writing for a couple of weeks. So I’ve been itching to do another Beer Blog Friday.

To switch things up this week I dusted off and cleaned my growlers, it’s the only way to bring fresh from the tap home with you, without having to invest in a keg that is. And since I haven’t outfitted the man cave with a kegerator yet, growler it is.

Tonight I’m drinking two local varieties, and two brews that I’ve never heard or seen before. It’s all about the local brew this evening, because the demo guy from Brooklyn Brewery at Total Wine & More gave my fiancé the stink eye when she said she wasn’t a fan of beer… Fuck him though, paper labels and mediocre beer. I almost convinced the older couple who was actually enjoying their beers to buy a growler and pick up a local variety.

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First up is “Joseph James Desert Snow White IPA.” I personally thought that Joseph James’ only IPA was their “Hop Box”. I know I’ve written up quite a bit about that particular beer, but I never save my archives, so I’ll go into a bit of detail this time around as well…. what makes Hop Box so amazing is the fact that it’s what an IPA should be, it’s right up there next to Stone, very hoppy, very bitter, and almost peels the enamel off your teeth. With it’s 8%+ ABV, it’ll get you drunk very quickly. Granted, 8%+ is being generous, it’s pretty much on par with wine, so it’s probably closer to 10-11%, despite what the label may say (I bought a six pack from a batch that was bound for Texas but ended up rejected because it was mis-labeled at 7%).This Desert Snow White IPA is about as far away from Hop Box as you can get on the spectrum on IPAs, which is a good thing. Stone runs into the problem of having too many beers that are too similar. What I find as the most interesting thing about this particular beer is the fact that it’s only 4.2%, it’ll be the first sessional IPA I’ve drank that is on par in hoppiness and bitterness with other proper IPAs. Also, because it is a “white” IPA it has a nice coriander finish to the swallow, similar to how many “Belgium IPAs” finish on the pallet. It’s utterly fascinating, and I can’t help but think this brew is also mislabeled in the ABV department, because it honestly doesn’t taste any lower than 6%. Should Joseph James decide to sell this in bottles, I’m there. It’s excellent. Though it doesn’t have quite the citrusy or grapefruit notes I would expect from a white IPA, it’s balanced enough and clean enough (the clarity is amazing, almost looks like Bud Light) that I would consider defaulting to this as a replacement for my PBR, should the price be right. IT DOES have SOME grapefruit, but not nearly enough to stop you from drinking it at the second glass. Again, very sessional, and I’m very pleased to see JJ deliver such quality, they been hit or miss in the past, with some batches being ridiculously high in alcohol content, or so over carbonated that it’s a requirement you open your beer over the sink.The head retention is average, the clarity is superb, the taste is unique and very much “Belgium” without having a heavy coriander flavor. The hoppiness is on par with any other IPA out there, and there’s just a slight hint of grapefruit, and makes for an excellent sessional brew.

9/10, two thumbs up, Joseph James is one to watch out for.

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Next up is Barley’s IPL… That’s right, I-P-L… Logic would dictate that this is merely an IPA which had been lagered…. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, what the hell is “lagering?” Lagering is the process of chilling your wort to 70 or below before pitching your yeast, and proceeding to ferment the beer at a temperature of 70 or below… That’s it, that’s the major difference between ales and lagers. However, the main reason that you would want to do this is to achieve a nice clarity and a smoother beer… Well at least when it comes to pale lagers I’m accustom to seeing a greater clarity, though I’m sure that most brewers will tell you that temperature has nothing to do with clarity. The only other reason to lager is for the simple act of tradition. With the development of refrigeration this became the default method for brewing beer, since the sparse ice-caves of old were no longer needed to produce this type of libation, the perceived value and qualities of a once rare variety became paramount and universally sought-after with the industrial revolution close in toe.Barley’s is a very cool Casino/Brewey not too far from my house. If the occasion arose, and I found myself entirely too intoxicated, I could potentially walk home. Aren’t I a lucky bastard?While I’m not much of a fan of this beer… I’m becoming substantially intoxicated with it’s hefty 7.6% ABV. I’m actually inclined to think that this beer is closer to an “ice” beer than a lager. Ice beers of course are derived from the fact that they are fermented closer to the point of freezing (at least for water), and could, for qualification purposes, may have to be fermented below freezing, but I’ll have to look that up… However, would you drink a craft ice beer? I doubt it, not when with the mention of “ice” and “beer” conjures thoughts of Natural Ice, Bud Ice, and Icehouse. It’s really a technicality, some brewers will say that in order to lager a beer you have to be down around 45 degrees, rather than up around 70. The major difference between ice and lager is the time it takes to make the beer, and the alcohol content you get in return. Given that the majority of beer sold in America is lager, and comes in at around 5%, it wouldn’t surprise me if this particular beer is more akin to an ice beer rather than being a traditional American lager. Anything labled “ice” is more likely than not at least 6% or greater, this is why you tend to see less affluent individuals purchasing ice beer at the gas station early in the morning, it’s a quick fix, and gets you more in the vicinity of “drunk” much sooner than your standard red-and-white label canned brew.

The color is off with this beer… When I look at it, I don’t think “lager”, it certainly isn’t pale. The term IPL doesn’t fit this brew at all. There’s also too much malt, even though it carries with it a nice and heavy bitterness… There’s no other flavors that come forth which scream “India”. Hoppiness, if there is any, is far too subdued. I’m inclined to be judgmental on the head retention, but then I remember that it’s a “lager” (not traditionally know for head retention).

I wouldn’t write home about this one. It’s unique, but not memorable… However, at $4 for 32 ounces, carrying a nice 7.6%, it’s worth the purchase if you’re looking for something a bit darker and slightly more bitter than your standard affair, but doesn’t quite deliver on the hop of an IPA. It’s clean to the pallet, but looks muddled in the glass. Carbonation is lack-luster and there is virtually no head retention to speak of. Overall though, it’s simply not enjoyable to drink.

4/10, half a thumb up, worth a try at the price, but unless this is your particular brand or style of beer, don’t expect to come back for seconds… Though, since it doesn’t quite fit into a nice category, I don’t see how this would be anyones particular style of beer.

I’m disappointed in Barley’s, but I’m glad they’ve decided to try something different, and not simply try and brew what the popular style of the season is. Good effort. Poor execution.

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Thursday Throwdown: Destiny: I purchased the game, I didn’t buy the hype.

Originally written on October 2, 2014.
While there are a multitude of different topics I could get into: an interesting article about a recent lecture/speech that Michael Pachter gave; #gamergate; an awesome short interview of Tim Schafer regarding “the machine” of the gaming industry; and several other topics such as Gamestop actually entertaining the idea of selling “pre-owned DLC”… I’ve really been too busy playing Destiny to bother polishing up the five pages I’ve written on those topics.Despite all of the nerd rage surrounding Destiny’s lack of story, the repetitive nature of the missions, their recurring settings, the lack-luster voice acting, the lack of voice acting and interaction with the NPCs, etc. I still find the game to be amazingly fun and addictive. Regardless of the fact that I wasn’t given the Mass Effect-level narrative I was promised, I enjoyed the public beta enough to not cancel my pre-order, and I haven’t regretted my decision with the final product.

Sure, there are plenty of articles and opinions out there regarding this game (some of them premature in their execution and analysis), and there’s certainly no reason for you to listen to me, but for all of the students and unemployed out there who have run through the soft and hard level caps in less than three weeks, bitching and moaning at Bungie for not delivering a perfect game, I would like to offer a voice of reason. Unlike the multitude of lvl 25+ characters running around in the game world, I just reached lvl 17 last night, and I couldn’t be happier with my experience. This game suits my schedule and offers what I expect from video games. It’s a short escape after coming home from a rough day at work where I get to blast a bunch of aliens in the face with cool guns, and watch as satisfying yellow numbers spawn from their decapitated heads. With the exception of a strange graphics glitch which has caused me to have to run a few story missions over again, and lose some intense crucible battles, all is well.

Seriously Bungie, you should fucking fix that shit, it still creeps up on me every now and then, and it’s really a bummer when I have the opportunity to sit and play for more than an hour at a time…

What I’ve found though is a complex system of mechanics that mesh well and play very well within the financial models that Activision has helped foster (namely Call of Duty and World of Warcraft). Really, it isn’t an MMO and it isn’t an FPS. It’s an experiment in economic viability during a time when the industry is shifting in various directions.There are two articles I’ve read recently where the writers seem to have their heads on straight, and their perspectives firmly planted in the realm of sensibility… One which has been published by a professional website, and the other was a Reddit post. Both of which fully describe exactly my sentiments regarding the game.

http://www.gamesradar.com/if-youre-worried-about-destinys-longevity-or-l…

http://www.reddit.com/r/DestinyTheGame/comments/2hteye/a_modest_reality_…

The first article details the reality of what “Destiny” the game actually is, versus all of the bullshit hype that most people have bought into. The second deals directly with the struggle of developing a AAA title in the current climate of the industry.

Though I wouldn’t know from personal experience, I have been following some Twitch streamers and watching various Youtubers… Destiny definitely doesn’t start until after lvl 20. And that’s when the game systems really start to open up, you have the ability to utilize and combined light infused armor to better your character, you’re able to get in on the epic raids (as opposed to just the Strike missions), and flesh out that sub-class that unlocked at 15.

Let’s face it, one of the greatest games of this generation has to be The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the development cycle of which was roughly 5 years. TES IV: Oblivion came out in March of 2006, Skyrim was released in November of 2011. There was no multiplayer component, and even after multiple patches, vanilla Skyrim is still fraught with senseless game-breaking bugs often ruining your saves. In this era, is there any reason you should be harboring multiple saves “just in case” the game screws up and you don’t want to lose the last 10 hours of your life?

The time between Halo Reach and Destiny has been about 4 years, almost exactly to the day even. Reach was released on September 14th, 2010, and Destiny was released on September 9th, 2014.

A shortened development cycle combined with an untested formula and grandiose ambition was bound to result in much of the fat (IE: the hopes and dreams of Bungie devs) being trimmed, and inevitably–yet unfortunately–the story being removed from the game. What kills me is that the story is there! But you have to access it through the mobile app or Bungie’s website via the “Grimoire”, which is analogous to the Codex found in the Mass Effect series. It makes sense though that this feature isn’t in the game, especially if they didn’t have time to complete it. The game was essentially done when they unveiled the “alpha” at E3 earlier this year. I’m sure the Grimoire was constructed as a way to shoehorn all of the story content into the game (though not quite successfully). All of the story which couldn’t be voiced and programmed in during the 4 months that Activision gave Bungie to push out a final product. Unfortunately for us–the gamers–much of the reason one would actually play an RPG is for the story, to feel important, and to know that your actions in game effect the universe as you experience it. And that isn’t there in Destiny. Your Ghost, the Speaker, the shopkeepers, the Queen, the mysterious ghostless Exo… None of them have any real personality, and there isn’t a way to speak with them between the menagerie of bullets and plasma bursts to find out what they have to say about the universe they inhabit. Nor do your actions have any effect on their disposition towards your character.

To put things further into perspective though, development of Bioshock Infinite started in February 2008, with the game finally being released in March of 2013 (again, we’re talking 5 years). A game whose sole focus is on delivering an FPS narrative, no multiplayer component to speak of. And, it’s a story which is entirely linear from start to finish, there’s no deviation or interaction with the characters other than what has already been predefined for you to experience…Game of the year all year! I do like the game, don’t get me wrong, but it isn’t fair to expect that level of narrative to be delivered in Destiny. Halo’s story isn’t even that epic or fleshed out.

Destiny was either going to be one or the other, it couldn’t be both, and if it was going to be, something had to be sacrificed.

Quite honestly, I purchased Destiny as a CoD replacement. I love competitive first-person shooters, what I don’t like is the fact that my character in MW3 has absolutely no relation to my characters in BO2 and Ghosts. And I can’t stand the fact that a bunch of 12 year olds are yelling at me screaming obscenities and insinuating that they plan to do malicious things to my mother, or, even worse, fantasizing about foul and grotesque sexual acts with my other relatives… Destiny solves this, I’ll get to keep my character and his progression, the chat system is simple and out of the way, and the community seems far more respectful. Also, regardless of my apprehension at playing campaigns when it comes to first-person shooters, I’ve actually gone through most of the “story” missions in Destiny. Unlike with Call of Duty, where I would invest maybe 2 hours maximum, and if I hadn’t reached the end I was right back on multiplayer not giving a flying fuck about the story. While the Crucible only has two real game modes for most of the week, “control” being the obvious and standard go-to, I didn’t play much else besides domination and search and destroy in CoD anyway.

For $60, the game is well worth it. It’s a solid FPS with every bit as much polish as the original Halo. It’s a game that offers a complex and intriguing leveling and skill system which has been promised to carry over into further iterations of the franchise, and while it doesn’t directly deliver on story, there has been a carefully crafted world full of lore to exploit further down the road. It certainly isn’t a 10, or a perfect game, but it has fulfilled its obligations in my eyes, and I look forward to seeing what Bungie can do in the future now that it has overcome the burden of releasing a new IP and introducing players to this strange new future.

If you aren’t a fan of Destiny and somehow feel slighted or cheated out of your hard-earned cash, keep your eyes peeled, because I have a feeling that Bungie will eventually make good on their promises and put your money to good use on the next go-around (possibly even with the upcoming DLC).

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Comic Book Castigation: It’s Wednesday!

Originally written on October 1, 2014

Wednesday… The time of the week that has different meanings for different people. For the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco company marketing troupe, “hump day” comes to mind. However, for those of us who indulge in the ancient tradition of pulp narratives, it’s new comics day!

After a brief affair with my local chain, I’ve finally found a smaller comic shop that I enjoy. It’s proprietor is old enough to actually appreciate Valiant Comics and have an intelligent conversation regarding the recent appearance of Neil Gaiman’s Angela in the Marvel universe (I’m sure it was especially irritating to McFarlane that Quesada was the one to draw her promo illustrations when the announcement was made… “Ash” was cool and all, but Spawn would’ve kicked his ass and sold his soul to Malebolgia). The court case between Gaiman and McFarlane was certainly an interesting one, especially considering the nature of Image Comics and what the studio stood–and was started–for, the ideals that it embodied. The artwork it embraced, and the absolute defiance of traditional conventions, namely the fact that creators owned their own intellectual property. I can’t hate on Todd McFarlane (even though I feel his position regarding the character of Angela was a bit petty), he and Spawn and are the reason I became serious about comics. So, for the character of Angela to wind up in the hands of the publisher Image was founded to get away from is ironic in and of its own right. However, the fact that Thor is now a woman definitely trumps any other morally ambiguous or condescending arguments I could make at this point in time. The fact of the matter is, Marvel, now under the auspices of Disney, has actually done quite a bit for society’s views on equality, at least partially challenging standard social mores and perceptions:

A woman god, far more prophetic than a queen of the Amazon.

Miles Morales, a half-black half-latino Spider-Man… There’s only been one black “Superman” and Shaquille O’Neal ruined that for everyone.

The Falcon becoming Captain America… Granted, John Stewart comes real close, especially given the fact that my favorite DC superhero of all-time is the Green Lantern. And his first appearance came at a time when Marvel was looking towards Blaxploitation for inspiration on the fashion of their heroes, rather than simply placing heroes of color into already established and recognizable costumes (as was the case for Green Lantern at the time). Then again, Green Lantern-Green Arrow was really the only book DC had at the time willing to step up their game and challenge white patriarchy, additionally all super heroes at the time had pretty ridiculous costumes (in retrospect of course… hell even some of Jim Lee’s X-Men designs for the early 90s are starting to become seriously dated, even through the lense of nostalgia).

There’s a reason they call him Stan “The Man” Lee. And while he may no longer be at the forefront making decisions for an empire, it was certainly his inspiration that has created the culture at Marvel which has survived to this day. But I digress (as always).

Personally I’m excited about the coming Axis event from Marvel, unlike “Battle of the Atom” and my horrible distaste for Bendis, this event is being helmed by Rick Remender, and should prove to be superior to the last few events headed by Bendis. Remender has continually proven himself, in my eyes, and even friends of mine who aren’t into comics have somehow stumbled upon his work only to be blown away by the depth. His take on Onslaught should prove wholly entertaining, while not drawn by Joe Mad! the promo art has me excited. I only hope that I don’t get myself too worked up in the hype that my expectations far exceed the ambition of the guys behind the scenes.

This week I picked up three books:

Uncanny Avengers #25;

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #38; and

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Witchblade #178.

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I would have picked up Thor #1, but it must have sold out, because I didn’t happen to see it on the shelves. If other reviewers find it to be interesting, then I may pick up on the second or third printing.

Looking forward to indulging myself and I’ll let you know what I think next Wednesday.

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Learning to live with Open Source in a mobile world: CyanogenMod

Originally written on September 8, 2014

For whatever reason, I have a sadomasochistic personality when it comes to computers and computing devices. This unhealthy relationship is only compounded when Linux enters the picture. It’s something I’ve been fascinated with since the days of The Screen Savers… I love to torture myself by trying new things I don’t fully understand.

Vivid in my mind are the days when Red Hat was the only distro included with books about Linux, while the mysterious Slackware was touted as the way to learn true *nix… In fact, I never did have much luck with Red Hat initially, it wasn’t until after I learned Slackware that Red Hat actually started to make sense. There wasn’t anything quite like the feeling that you were doing something… iniquitous with your computer. Making it do something that it shouldn’t be doing, something that the original manufacturers and programmers never intended.

In a way, that aspect of Linux hasn’t changed. With the exception of a brief affair Dell had with Canonical, and System 76 building systems meant for Linux, unless you’re in the server space, the only way to get Linux on your machine is to do it yourself. Although, this isn’t entirely true. Because, the reality is, the most pervasive and ubiquitous internet-enabled device these days is the piece of kit you carry around in your pocket. Sadly, although Android is built on the Linux kernel, it doesn’t share much with Linux distributions in the server and desktop arenas. It comes bloated with unneeded software, and shit that ruins the experience of holding more power in the palm of your hand than the entirety of which the astronauts had for the Apollo missions. These devices are plagued with the same type of shit I used to spend hours as a kid removing from brand new HPs and Compaqs with Windows 98, “restore disks” became common place, it was the first signs that giant tech companies didn’t trust the average consumer, they started omitting the basics like the operating system disk in favor of their bloatware… It seems old habits die hard, each hardware manufacturer seems to want to throw in their own graphical enhancements and tweaks too… It reminds me of looking at altered BIOS and Windows loading/login screens. Luckily there are alternatives, and once again, the community saves itself. ACTUALLY, there are several alternatives, but my favorite thus far isCyanogenMod.

Basically, it’s just a fork of Android without all the bloat (and god knows what else… Let’s face it, you basically have to sign away your first born to use the Facebook messenger app, who know what the hell Motorola and Samsung have thrown into their custom spins of Android). CyanogenMod is true open source and is optimized to run efficiently without all of the vendor-specific bullshit, yet still offers a nice unified user experience which is comfortably familiar.

Until now I haven’t had a device I’ve wanted to try it out on. I was a Crackberry user for a number of years, with my first Android device being the myTouch 3G. OR, for the rest of the world, the HTC Magic. There really wasn’t much of a reason to look for any alternatives to the pre-installed firmware/OS, since Android was only at version 1.6, and hadn’t quite taken over the market yet, it was essentially untouched, with only slight carrier branding. I literally wore the phone out, the track ball stopped working, the buttons became unresponsive, and eventually I had no choice to but to get a new phone. I wasn’t keen on extending my contract for another two years, or paying out an additional $30-40 every month on top of my regular bill, or for that matter, shelling out a wad of cash which could easily purchase a brand new laptop, one of which I’m sure would have gotten a lot of use, at least as much as the Dell Latitude D520 I’m currently writing this post on. That’s when I found the Star W007, an unlocked iPhone-clone from China running Android 4.0.3 ICS. The best part, it only cost me about $120 with shipping… Granted, it fucking took forever for them to get it to me, I must’ve waited at least 6 weeks for it to arrive off the boat, but I did eventually get it, and it has been a great phone. Though there is plenty of propaganda out there to desuetude you from using a phone manufactured in China… I mean, it’s not like official Apple iPhones are made in China…

Recently though, my fiance felt the need to upgrade. She had completed her contract, and she was ready to take on another $20-30 tacked on to her bill every month for the privilege of being one of the cool kids and getting a new LG phablet. She had been complaining about her Galaxy SIII’s battery life, the heat that it was now generating, a slow and unresponsive experience on the phone when playing games, or just surfing the web and getting on Facebook. Knowing that CyanogenMod has had great praise running on the Galaxy line of Samsung phones, I told her that I would take the phone if she decided to upgrade. I couldn’t be happier.

The whole process took me about 3 hours. Once completed though, no more issues with the phone itself. In fact, it’s running better than it had after a standard factory reset. And it’s getting better than 3G speeds as well as improved signal quality (H+ in areas where my fiance used to get little to no service). There’s no more overheating, and with the exception of poor battery life—which will soon be solved when the $10 aftermarket 2300mAh battery arrives—the phone is running better than it did when it was brand new.

Below are the links I visited and the guides I used:

 

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Thursday Throwdown: Let’s talk Twitch and life just before marriage…

White America, on the cusp of thirty, something happens… You’re about to get married, and you find yourself in the grocery store with a cart full of salt for your water softener, a 20 pound bag of dog food, and a bottle of liquid plumber while you peruse through the romance novels in the book section next to the gift cards. Is there a reason you’re buying the latest Susan Wiggs novel? Well yeah, your nana’s ninety-third birthday was this past Tuesday, but you’ve been too busy to invite her over for dinner like you said you would. You know she’s thinking it, that somehow you forgot, but she won’t say anything about it so long as you rectify the situation as soon as possible. So, while you read the back of the book, you also start to make a mental checklist;

“John Wesley Hawkins,” three names, dreamboat, check. “[W]as condemned to hang, accused of treason and heresy[,]” intrigue, check. “He’ll have to seduce the rebels’ secrets from a headstrong Irishwoman, but that shouldn’t be a problem for a man of Wesley’s reputation[!]” Dreamboat with a giant phallic personality, CHECKMATE! But, let us keep reading… “Caitlin MacBride is mistress[,]” using the word ‘mistress’ to describe the main protagonist, check…. WAIT a second. OF COURSE! This novel is published by Harlequin, you’ll be fine, and nana will probably tear through this four hundred thirty-nine page epic in less than a week, but she’ll be glad you thought of her.

As you make your way to through the 15-Items-or-Less cash register line, you’re thinking to yourself, “what will the lady behind the counter think? This is a strange combination of items to be purchasing on a Thursday evening in the mid of summer…” But you shrug it off and try not to notice her precariously snide smirk as the romance novel glides across the lasers, it’s a moment caught in slow-motion. And even though the other day you gave your nephew one of your Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle comics, it isn’t about being ‘cool’ anymore. At least not like it used to… You’re living life for different reasons these days. It does get better, and the insecurity you once had as fat pimply-faced adolescent seems to melt away with the years and the more booze you consume. But it doesn’t hurt that you’ve finally found a woman who appreciates your sensibilities, the same personality quirks you once questioned as peculiar are the very reason she loves you, and it’s her idiosyncrasies and peccadilloes which are the reason you love her. Yes, I did just rip off Robin Williams from “Good Will Hunting”, I’ll be happy to see the lawsuit in the mail, it’ll mean that someone actually gives a shit enough to read what I have to write about.

I’ve been trying to be interested in Twitch.tv, I really have. But there’s a part of me that feels as if my ill-fated attempted is a half-assed one at being cool. Suddenly GameTrailers is streaming live via Twitch, and Greg Miller, and Colin Moritarty are posting videos of them playing “Infamous: First Light” and “Super Mario Bros. 3” (respectively)… It feels too phony–very much in the Holden Caulfield sense of the word–it feels contrived, it feels like a last ditch effort to jump aboard a ship which has already sailed. Let’s face it, most things stop being cool the moment greedy corporations get their grubby hands and hairy palms all over it. That’s exactly what happened.

Last week we found out that Amazon had purchased Twitch. Granted, I’ll echo similar sentiments as Lorin Balmgarden, I use, and happen to like Amazon… But I like Amazon for purchasing unneeded crap to fill my house with, and tarnishing my credit score–HEY, it’s not my fault they issued me a credit card, and I can’t use it anywhere else BUT for Amazon.com, so I may as well take advantage, fuck the interest rate–but I digress. I like Amazon because it’s the bazaar of the masses, and even though I have Prime, I rarely take advantage of their video service, it sucks in comparison with Netflix (at least in terms of documentaries, which is my primary viewing experience with both companies).

I don’t feel that Twich has fully found itself yet, and had it continued on the path set by Justin.tv, we probably would’ve seen something quite beautiful flourish from the bud which started to flower. But, at this point, it’ll only be a matter of time before it degnerates into some crazed and schizophrenic service which requires Prime or [insert colloquial slang mis-used for a subscription service here]. But that’s okay, because I was never one of the cool kids to begin with, I didn’t, and don’t, get it. Sure, I’ll spend time with the occasional Let’s Play, and I agree that YouTube has taken their copyright infringement algorithm a bit far, threatening gamers when there is no reason to… And I could get into the whole “let’s play” argument, but first let’s finish with Twitch.

I’m a full grown adult with a nine-to-five job, I don’t have time to watch hopeless gamers demo an alpha version of Star Citizen, or cam whores play World of Warcraft. This is wherein lies the problem with Amazon’s acquisition. Does anyone think that the Amazon execs are really the type of people to sit at home on a Tuesday morning at 3 a.m. to watch someone stream World of Warcaft or Hearthstone? I sure as shit hope so, because if my own personal apathy is any indication of the typical Amazon executive, the service you hold so dear is fucking done with… Granted, it’ll be a slow and gradual change, but you can’t throw a frog-slash-lobster into the pot at full boil, you have to slowly increase the heat so they don’t know they’re about to be cooked and eaten.

Please don’t think I’m a cynic for no reason, I’ve been trying to figure out how I could go about streaming or doing a Let’s Play of Persona 3: FES for the longest time… I almost solved it too. Castawesome was just the project that I was looking for. I never got around to playing Persona 3 when it was originally released, and I was looking forward to sharing my experience with the world. But now I’m hesitant, I don’t want to be the next thirty-something trying to be cool like Greg Miller and Colin Moriarty…

Really, the only hope that Twitch has at this point is to become the only source for e-sports, or in the least, the first stop… For Amazon to broker deals with Valve to broadcast the International, or get into talks with EVO for 2015’s tournament, because, while the majority of gamers who broadcast their play for a small percentage of ad revenue will stick around because it’s all they know…Most gamers, much like the rest of the hacking and tinkering communities, will look for greener pastures, and eager to found new territory to call their own. It always happens, much in the same way that pornography continually pushes technological advances (the VHS, HD streaming, entirely all-too complex pay walls, etc). All of the cool kids are hipsters amongst hipsters who continually foster unbridled and unrivaled creativity… It’s the spark which can’t be captured, the firework which cannot be repackaged and sold but only held dear by those who were there to witness it at the inception, art which will only be revered after the artists’ death…

In the spirit of one of my favorite gaming industry commentators, god fucking speed.

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BIG Beer Blog Friday: Empathy, Apathy, and a bit of Frustration… Rationality wins in the end.

Originally written on August 22, 2014

My “Monday Madness” turned into another “Thursday Throwdown,” and here it is Friday now… So I’ll make this post a Big Beer Blog Friday. Sit back and relax, it’s going to be a long one.

Firstly, I realize now that I didn’t mention this on EBA, welcome back Viking Brent! Glad you’re feeling better. I honestly didn’t think that you were going to do the podcast this week, so when I arrived at work this morning, I was pleasantly surprised.

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Starting the night off with some fucking Clown Shoes… This particular variety is their “Brown Angel”–let’s just ignore the fact that the label shows a hot chick from behind and squatting… I MIGHT go there later, but for now, I’ll simply talk about the beer. It’s definitely more malty and more hoppy than I’ve ever tasted in a brown ale, this particular beer being a “double brown ale”. It’s rich without being too thick, refreshing but still creamy. I think the crème has a lot to do with the head. Trust me, I know how to properly fucking pour a beer, there was no escaping the monstrous foam that bellowed forth, like the Wonka-Mobile. I’m a fan. It’s bitter without having much of an after-taste… well, not much of an after-taste compared to the IPAs which I normally prefer. And, it’s dark and a bit chocolaty like a proper imperial stout without blowing your hair back with its ABV… Only 7% with this one, however, even though it’s labeled at 7%, I think they’re just being safe, it tastes closer to 6-6.5%, I’m certainly not complaining. This isn’t a beer that I’ve had before, and I have had other Clown Shoes varieties before, I’m not disappointed in the least with this Brown Angel. It’s definitely a brew I would recommend for any stout fan who wants to venture out of their comfort zone and experience some flavors they might not be used to, all the while still being able to enjoy a hearty and creamy brew. The label boasts a “floral finish” from the East Kent Goldings used, but, I’m not really tasting that personally… It’s mild at best, more akin to an “herbal” rather than a “floral” taste.

For the second half of the bottle, the pour didn’t yield quite the unruly head as it first provided… PRO TIP: you may want to drink this beer closer to room temperature if you’re planning on pouring it into a glass. Also, much like with any craft brew, you’ll get a different taste spectrum depending on the temperature you consume the beer. This Brown Angel has a lighter, less-thick flow the closer it gets to room temperature, which, may be more of what you’re expecting from a brown ale in general. It’s cleaner, less muddled, easier to pick out the “layers” described on the label. Yet, easily enjoyable at any temperature.clownshoes_brownangel_2

Obviously, it was slow news week, Jenna Pitcher felt the need to inform the gaming community that “FEZ 2 IS NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN”. I suppose the Zoe Quinn rumors were too salacious to report on. Last I checked, Fish’s twitter account was disabled/private, but apparently he was back at it again (if only for only a day or so) busy pissing off gamers who pop half-stock at the thought of the next Polytron game. Why this was on the front page of IGN I’ll never know, perhaps the keywods “Phil Fish” and “Fez 2” have some hidden SEO magic to them, thus generating enough clicks to sate the hunger of IGN’s commercial overlords. Initially, I couldn’t find the tweet that was mentioned in the article, but I found this to be interesting;

That particular tweet was sandwiched in-between a plethora of liberal pathology about Michael Brown and other more appealing tweets…

Clearly there’s no reason unarmed men should be gunned down by those who proclaim to “protect and serve.” And, the para-military nature of law enforcement is a scary proposition, especially when they’re armed with DoD hand-me-downs in a post-9/11 world. But I digress, as much as I would love to talk about the news media circus surrounding this particular moment in history, I don’t have much of anything enlightening to say regarding the topic. Other than possibly pointing out the parallels I can draw with other “riots” in post-industrial America. But, I’m not really in the mood to pontificate on the intersections between race and class, and have this blog post degenerate to a level somewhere between a social science lecture and a history lesson.

Upon further inspection, and wading through the psychotic ramblings of a brilliant game designer, I did find the tweet IGN felt was newsworthy (and it was finally linked in their article);

Additionally there were several new, but, entertaining tweets whereby Fish was apparently, and sarcastically, mocking the world at large for making fun of his proverbial melt-downs. I do find it odd coming from a Canadian living in Tennessee, that might just be the way my mind works. It’s interesting none the less, did anyone actually think that Fish might still be working on Fez 2 in secret? Maybe this is his perverse way of letting us all know that development is coming along nicely. Anti-marketing, if you will.

When I first heard that Fish canceled Fez 2, and the rumors that somehow Marcus Beer was involved, I was saddened (Invisible Walls is still missed, and Bossman can’t quite replace Satterfield). But I wasn’t surprised, at least, not since watching Indie Game. It’s hard for me to excuse the irreverent masochism of Mr. Fish, but I do understand it (to a certain extent). Clearly there’s a reason people like Kojima make very few appearances in the media, and when they do, those events take place in heavily controlled environments. Additionally, when you have corporate backing there’s someone on staff who is paid to be your publicist, watching the things you say in public forums. I feel for Fish, his genius makes sense to me, and it’s a bit pathetic that he’s even spending his time on Twitter engaging in mindless dribble with phantoms and trolls, rather than working on a project that could change the way we view gaming, or alter our perceptions about what interactive media truly means. Then again, maybe I’m the only one that feels this way, but I LOVE “Fez”. My fiance and I have purchased the game for multiple platforms… Granted, if Fez had been published by EA I’d be complaining and whining about how my one purchase didn’t translate to owning multiple copies for all of my chosen gaming platforms. But since we’re talking about essentially a two-man operation, I’m more than happy to shell out the cash.

Is the gaming industry really that fucked up right now? Even as I write this, the news is changing by the minute…IGN is now reporting that Fish is selling Polytron and the rights to Fez. Of course there is no actual citation to their rumor. Where’s the link to the auction house? I’m in… I’ve got some investors that would be interested in purchasing an established IP currently generating revenue.

In other news, when is “The Witness” going to be released? As much as I would love to rant about the same topic as Jim Sterling , who really gives a fuck that Tomb Raider is going to be temporarily available only on the Xbone, I’m far more interested in the new vanguard of Western game design, a renaissance of developers only matched by the likes of Sir-Tech (ala Andrew Greenberg and Robert Woodhead), Lord British, Will Wright, and Sid Meier. The train wreck that is Phil Fish will have to be excluded from my list though, since he’s not making games any longer and selling his studio, but we’re at an interesting time in the industry. Below are the notable studios or individuals who have projects coming which I’m personally interested in;

 

  • Jonathan Blow
  • Capybara
  • Basilik Games (proudly declaring their games to be DRM-Free)
  • Sean Hogan and Jonathan Kittaka
  • Harebrained Schemes
  • Choice Provisions (formerly Gaijin Games?)And, I’m sure that I could go on… I’ll definitely be addingDynamighty to that list.rogue_bruatalipa

    To finish out the evening I’m joining the Rogue Nation with their “Brutal IPA”. My apologies for the picture quality, I don’t know what’s going on with the light in my computer room right now, but it’s apparently not bright enough for my web cam… I love Dead Guy, it’s definitely the beer that put Rogue–as a full-fledged brewery–on the map, but every now and then it’s nice to see what other beers they have available. This particular brew caught my eye based solely on the artwork of the bottle. As I’ve mentioned before, painted bottles are the way to go, it’s clean and classy, makes you feel like you’re buying a high quality brew because they’ve actually taken the time to do more than slap a paper label on their piss water. That being said, this particular IPA is FAR from “BRUTAL”. In all actuality, it’s kind of a sissy IPA. The ABV isn’t even listed, which means that it’s less than 5%. Light and watery, not much body… Definitely bitter, it’s got some Chinook going on, but nowhere near the levels needed to truly be an IPA. Not much of a head… This beer was poured pretty aggressively too. I noticed while the glass was tipped that I wasn’t getting any head formation, and thus my glass was set down vertically and filled without much care. The head you see in the picture is about 5 seconds after it was poured, and clearly the retention is terrible. That means of course that they went extremely light on the malt with this one. And it’s noticeable in the overall flavor as well, there’s bitterness without much to carry it down the gullet. Somehow they managed to fuck it up even worse by not being able to maintain any type of clarity to the beer either.rogue_brutalipa_2

    If you’re drinking a light bodied and watery beer, you at least want it to have some translucence… Some might argue that this isn’t possible with “ales”, I disagree, and I’ll be sure to pick up some New Castle next time for comparison photos. You don’t always have to lager a beer in order to get to clarify. Overall, I’m highly disappointed in Rogue, I expected so much more from the term “Brutal”. It is bitter, and it does have some slight citrus hints, but it just falls short in every other area. There’s virtual no after-taste (some people, like myself, actually do enjoy scraping the bitter residue from their tongue the next morning), and I don’t think I could get drunk off of a 6 pack of this…. The 6-pack test is a good one. If you can drink a beer for 6 consecutive beers in a row, and you are still able to enjoy it, combined with the fact it fucks you up, either on or before the 6th beer? That’s a good fucking beer. Anyway, allow me to further admonish the gaming industry.

    There’s probably about a 5 year window before we see the collapse of the gaming industry as it is today… I don’t foresee giant corporate publishers surviving in a world where pay-to-win, micro transactions, and mobile casualness is a reality. Granted, Squeenix has had some success. While I haven’t ponied up the cash for Chaos Rings, or any of it’s sequels, I haven’t seen a bad review for it either. And a number of reviews mention it’s just like the JRPGs of olde, which is highly intriguing for me. Especially given the fact that it’s one of my favorite genres overall. I cut my teeth on Final Fantasy, for whatever reason though, it’s hard for me to start an RPG on my tablet (I’ve tried with emulators). The tacticle sensation of a keyboard or controller isn’t present, without proper feedback, that sensation we’ve all become acustom to since the late 80s, I don’t think I could finish a full-on 30-40 hour epic. Despite my hesitation though, they’ve seemling done nice for themselves releasing the 3DS ports of Final Fantasy III, IV to Android and iOS, but I can’t say as I’ve been tempted to purchase them… Really I have, I just haven’t justified the money… Why spend $16 on a game that I’ve already beaten, a game that I already have on Psone, or a game that I would be more apt to purchase in original SNES cart form?rogue_7hop

    Alright, so maybe I lied… This 7 Hop IPA is much better than the aforementioned “Brutal” IPA by Rogue… Still a Rogue breed, and I would definitely recommend this one before I would the last beer. This particular brew is actually an IPA in proper form and presentation, it’s bitter with an aftertaste, not watered down, it’s got citrus rind to the flavor and full body to the texture… The clarity is even better than the Brutal. This one may even push me over the edge. But not before I’m able to discuss some seriousness as it relates to the games we love and cherrish, and the game we soon will find to be classic.

    One of the topics I wanted to tackle tonight was “procedural generation”. It’s now become a common buzzword when describing games these days, or more precisely, when describing a method of game development, it’s a choice early on in the planning stages. “No Man’s Sky” sort of put it on the map for buzzword of the year, and placed it on the tongues the currently engaged. However “procedural generation” has been around for a very long time. In terms of games actually having been released in the last few years though, “Rogue Legacy” and “The Binding of Issac” make notable appearances in the general gaming lexicon, both of course are indie titles. But, I’ve been told that even Daggerfall and Oblivion have had some procedural generation components to them… My own personal experiences, particularly as of late, only deal specifically with a game released this past week; “CounterSpy”. FUCKING AMAZING.

    The fact that every playthrough is a bit different definitely makes this game what it is, don’t get me wrong though… What this game does right is in alignment with old-school platformers more than anything else it has to boast for features (IE: RPG mechanics with enhance equipment and unlocks, and online competitiveness with leaderboards). Blackthorne-meets-Metal Gear Solid comes to mind. A lot of the reviews took issue with the story and the cliché tropes used in conveying the story, or lack thereof, when in fact, the game doesn’t even need a story to begin with. It does just fine on gameplay mechanics alone. Fuck Polygon for their score of 5, and fuck Moriarty for his score of 7 on IGN… CounterSpy is easily an 8+ in my book. It’s a new game with an oldschool feel and infinite re-playability. I thought for sure there would be a plot-twist, as I’m sure Moriarty and Frushtick were expecting the same thing half-way through, that’s why they bitched about the story to begin with. And I’m sure they played it on the advanced difficulties–only unlocked once you do a full playthrough–which is why they’re bitching about the mechanics, instead of focusing on the game up until the point where it becomes infinitely harder. OR, they were just playing a beta build and wrote their reviews before the embargo dropped. In which case, their insight doesn’t take into account the update that accompanied the actual release of the game, in favor of trying to meet deadlines, and release their reviews simultaneously with the game itself. Not willing to admit that the exponential difficulty increase was meant entirely for those folks that found the game fun from the get go, only jumping to the higher diffcitulties once they’ve mastered the controls. Personally, I’m glad to see a couple of LucasArt devs striking out on their own, away from Disney, or farmed out to EA, and working on a project that they feel passionate about. Moriarty has even talked about how he can’t play Dark Souls, for him to bitch about gameplay mechanics in an indie title is absolutely laughable. I’ve never received a tweet from Disney, but I did receive a tweet Dynamighty, and that makes me happy. On launch they weren’t looking to the press to comfort and console their conscience (yes that’s a fucking play on words, deal with it), they were on Twitter and eager to hear what actual gamers had to say. It’s an important distinction to be made in this new era. Especially when it’s not the media which makes a difference in sales, it’s the average person deciding whether or not they want to spend $15 on a game. Although, given the PS4’s library, it’s hard to imagine PS4 owners not purchasing this game, since they don’t have much else to play until Destiny comes out. It should be noted that I played the game on PS3, so it’s a very real posibility that the PS4 version does suffer from some of the bugs that Frushtick and Moriarty experienced. I didn’t see or experience them at all.

    I’m slightly pissed that this is a PS-only exclusive (not that I would play it on an Xbox), but I have to hand it to Sony for their ability to court these guys, and somehow convince them that PSN is the platform they need to embrace. What we have is a game that could very well define the next generation of gaming, if only in its infant form. Not because it’s a spectacular game, but for what it represents in the long run. My props go out to Dynamighty, and I will cheers them with my final sip of this Rogue 7 Hop IPA. I wish them the best, and I’m looking forward to any game in the future that can bring forth the same type of emotion I felt when playing CounterSpy. It’s been a long time since I was able to sit down with my fiance and trade the controller back and forth between missions/levels, in fact, it’s been since “Might and Magic Clash of Heroes”. No gimmicks, no fucking 3D goggles, no motion controls. Just solid, straight-forward fun.

 

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Thursday Throwdown: The State of the Gaming Industry Today.

Originally written on August 14, 2014

EDIT: As I’m sure was probably evident to most everyone that actually took the time to read this rant, I was a bit sauced, or three-sheets, if you will. After working myself up into a drunken nerd rage it became apparent (to my inebriated mind) that I needed to share my thoughts with the world… EBC’s slogan of “Cry havoc and let your voice be heard!” was a call to arms I couldn’t ignore. That being said, after reading this sober, I’ve gone back and made a few edits to improve the overall readability, and make sure this piece of writing is actually English, despite the overall lack of cohesion to the myriad of paragraphs, at least it can be somewhat more cogent now. Welcome to the Hemingway School of Wrtiting: Early-Access Style.

Casey Hudson has officially left BioWare, my mind explodedwhen I read the news on IGN. Let me guess, Todd Howard is next on the list to leave his respective corporate master to form a small team and create truly innovative games?

I’m a huge fan of the Mass Effect series, and even with the debacle that lead to the release of the Extended Cut, I was still on BioWare’s side, and defended the decisions they made. Admittedly, I didn’t have a chance to play ME and ME2 prior, so ME3 was my introduction to the series (since then I have gone back and played ME and ME2). My interest in the series, and BioWare in general, really began with KotoR. That particular game was a phenomenal RPG experience, and it truly made me believe that Western RPGs had finally attained the same level of quality and status once held by Square Soft and Enix (prior to the merger). Far be it for me to mention “Western RPGs” without at least giving honorable mention to Morrowind and Bethesda. Morrowind in particular, however, is less narrative and more exploratory. Mass Effect, and even Knights of the Old Republic, are somewhat akin to Final Fantasy with branching dialog and skill trees

Being a huge fan of the KotoR games, the action-oriented gameplay of ME3 threw me back a bit, but I was coming straight off of Oblivion and Skyrim, so I was ready for the more shooter-oriented style. Some have complained it was a poor knock-off of Bleszinski’s Gears of War, but I wouldn’t go quite that far, there was obviously pressure from EA to try and capitalize on that market, and make ME3 as universally appealing as possible. Overall, the mechanic is decent and works (despite five different actions all being mapped to one button), and the Character stats—while dumbed down from the previous two games—offered enough of a statistical experience to not feel too watered down. Despite my defense of BioWare for ME3, I was still slightly annoyed when I realized it didn’t really matter which decision you made at the end of the game. But, when I think back, KotoR didn’t do much in the way of changing the ending depending on your alignment and decisions, but it didn’t matter, your own personal disposition was enough for the final battle to be satisfying in its own regard. Fans were right to be pissed—don’t think that I’m that much of a sympathizer—a game series that lets you port your characters from game to game, and it was a game based on choices, for those choices to have little effect on the overall outcome of the ending and story was kind of shitty. And I suppose we should have seen the writing on the wall—some that opined negatively DID see that writing on the wall and have for quite some time now. If you don’t believe me, feel free to go back to Razorfist’s review of ME3.

By the same token, the PSX-era Final Fantasy games sold a shit-ton, they had no branching dialog, no decisions to be made, everyone experienced the same story… and it was fucking glorious! More focus was put on the characters you developed and whether or not you were able to beat Ruby, Emerald, and Ultima weapon. Or, how badly you got fucked up by your own GFs in the final battle. Were you able to find all the parts for the ultimate gunblade? All this, and with limited choice in character progression, and no skill trees to speak of. The fact that I was even given a choice at the end of ME3 made me replay it just to make another choice at the end. But it wasn’t the destination, it was the journey, and I loved every moment of it. Completely satisfied by the ending presented to me (both times, even though they were essentially the same with different color schemes). My third playthrough was with the Extended Cut installed, and I wasn’t disappointed there either, it was enough extra story based on the decisions made to make it worth it. Admittedly however, the EC was clearly just a compromise in response to the backlash from fans. Though, it wasn’t something they had to do. For me personally, to date, ME3 is the only game that I’ve gone through and beaten four or five times.

So why am I even reminiscing over Mass Effect? I can’t help but draw parrallels to the fact that Casey Hudson’s leave from BioWare comes shortly after the news story which broke about EA’s plans for their “Access Program.” As was brought up by the crew at EpicBattleCry (TG in 3D, DK, and Viking Brent) and pondered by likes of Chis Plante at Polygon, the DualSHOCKERS, and IGN’s mirepoix of various staff writers. It clearly looks as if EA is gearing up to win worst corporation award yet again. If it’s anything like the release of Sim City or BF4, then we’ll probably see the resignation of Andrew Wilson just like we did with John Riccitiello. Besides, how much more streamlined can Mass Effect get? It could very well be on it’s way to becoming a Gears of War clone with an annual release schedule. And I wouldn’t be surprised either. Especially with the latest news of I also love how Hudson praised BioWare’s new IP, “Shadow Realms”, before the public had a chance to see anything about it. Which, it appears to be a very blatant rip off the upcoming Turtle Rock endeavor, “Evolve.”

Does EA seriously think they can become the Netflix of video games? Quite possibly. As delusional as they may be.

This sort of brings me to the topic of Digital Distribution… I’m still not sold on the idea, despite my meager investment in it thus far and enjoyment of gems like;Starbound, Shadowrun Returns, Savant – Ascent, BIT.TRIP Presents… Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien, and a few other really good indie titles. The key there is “INDIE.” Dev studios are definitely poised to defend digital content delivery. However, the industry really only has one company to look to as a case study. But what you have are corporations loosing touch with reality and attempting to adapt to an environment which doesn’t suite the corporate culture, or mentality in the least.

Valve stands as an anomaly amongst its peers. Granted, GOG has come on the scene, you have Desura, Green Man Gaming, and I’m sure whole host of others that I don’t even know about…. There are alternatives if you’re so inclined. Lord knows that even EA has tried it’s hand with Origin (but can’t seem to make it work properly). And, at the end of the day, I think Steam is awesome, it works great, and their push toward Linux support is what caught my attention (you won’t find a game on my Steam account which doesn’t have Linux Support).

Footnote: For those of you who don’t know, I’m a console gamer at heart with very little PC gaming experience (Counter Strike, The Elder Scrolls, and Emulators are the only things of note on my resume), but I’m a hardcore Linux advocate. Thus, to have those two worlds merge is a thing of beauty.

But I hate purchasing Subscriber Agreements rather than being able to actually purchase a game. And I will say, with the exception of Counter Strike back in 2000-2002, the few hours I’ve actually played Portal and the tutorial sections of Dota2 (I haven’t played any real matches), I have no affinity for any of Valve’s games. As much as you want to lick Gaben’s nuts over Half-Life, I just don’t get it. I couldn’t give a shit less if Half-Life 3 is ever released. But I’m eager to see a proper version 1.0 of SteamOS.

Ben Kuchera of Polyon had his own thoughts on the death of physical media, and hailed digital distribution as the next step in a flourishing industry, the end-all, be-all evolution of piecemeal game content perhaps. An industry leaning ever closer to episodic content, where you purchase levels rather than complete games (OH, I’m sorry, you pruchased a license to access levels of a game, you didn’t actually purchase the level). A world where you pay for an idea rather than a finished product (I’m looking at your Early Access and Kickstarter!). But I think Kuchera’s opinion is more akin to fanboy-ism than anything else. Digital distribution may be one avenue for the future of video games, but I can’t see physical copies of games dying entirely. Collectors like myself will gladly pay $17 for a copy of Persona 3: FES, or $60 for Lunar 2: Eternal Blue, and bypass the $3.74 sale on Sanctum 2 Complete on Steam. There will always be a market for games distributed on a physical medium, just as Djs revitalized vinyl in the 90s. Don’t fail to forget that this push towards digital distribution is being perpetuated by the giant corporate cocks that are used to saliva dripping from their tips. And the only reason they even care is because of Valve, not because they think it’s a good idea, they’re only chasing the money. Not so surprisingly, in the interest of their own profits, I can’t foresee them honestly trying to improve our experience as gamers. Origin, the release of Sim City, and BF4 should be part and parcel to my argument. There is absolutely NO FUCKING reason my game should be launching Internet Explorer if I want to play the single player campaign, or that my physical copy of BF4 is essentially usesless because the data contained on it is a half-finished piece of shit that requires an internet connection to work. If I’m not going to be taxing their servers with my unadulterated shit-storm of pejorative and foul language, as a bunch of 10 year olds hand my ass to me in chaotic bout of Capture the Flag, then leave me the fuck alone with your Uplay and sorry excuse for compliance to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Furthermore, there’s a deeply organic component to digital distribution that lends itself heavily to indie developers. Many of which do not support DRMing their software to begin with. It works for those studios, but I don’t think it’s realistic for big-budget AAA titles. And I don’t think the culture of “release now, patch later” is doing anyone any favors. For small developers who don’t have large marketing budgets or the ability to host large scale closed betas, or organize focus groups, “Early Access” and Steam Greenlight are great. However, major corporate publishers and studios have way too many resources at their disposal to take an indie approach to development. And they can’t afford to take the risks associated with a FEZ or The Binding of Issac. Granted, No Man’s Sky looks fucking ridiculously awesome, and is essentially a AAA rogue-like MMO, but we haven’t been able to actually PLAY that game yet. I know what they’re trying to sell us on, I just don’t know where the touch of grey in that silver lining is yet.

Meanwhile, as EA finalizes its plans to rule the world and convince us that the broken ass Origin system is somehow better than Steam, Chris Roberts and Keiji Inafune are deep in development of Star Citizen and Mighty No. 9 (respectively)… More big name developers and industry innovators have gone the way of indie development in the last year than could have ever been predicted. I don’t think anyone expected that Ken Levine would have left the gravy train of Take-Two Interactive, but he did, and it will be interesting to see what he comes up with. This massive exodus is fairly indicative of the state of the industry, and the bubble of annual releases that is sure to crash in favor of organically evolving projects which are better likened to open source development of software than subscription-based services like Netflix.

If you honestly think that the EA Access Program is in your best interests, please feel free to pull the giant corporate phallus from the back of your throat for a moment to breathe in some fresh air. Give yourself a moment to sit back and think without gagging on the glorious bullshit fountain that keeps flooding your stomach.

What happened to the days of hosting your own server? Haven’t our corporate masters learned that distributive computing is a far better avenue? They should seriously start researching the topic, because Netflix is even toying with the idea of distributed content delivery. Partially because they’re being out-paced by a bunch of hackers…But also because the cable and internet companies are a bunch of tools looking for methods of maximizing profit without enhancing the infrastructure of connectivity we call “the internet.” You can bet your wasted dollar that EA, Activision, Ubisoft, Take-Two, or [Insert Corporate Whore HERE] will partner with the same folks that want to bleed your wallet dry with a tiered system of internet access. You’re already paying your ISP, and you’re also paying for PSN or Xbox Live (possibly both), what’s to stop publishers from restricting access to their games entirely behind another pay-wall?

All I know for sure is, if Casey Hudson and Ken Levine are drinking the same Kool-Aid as John Carmack, we’re all fucked. And you may as well go back to playing table-top Dungeons & Dragons (or better still, Pathfinder) andTwilight Imperium, because it’ll be the only gaming which doesn’t flood your mental real estate with consumerist garbage and drain your wallet.

firestoneipa

Beer Blog Friday: The Continuation… Sturdy Resolve.

Originally written on August 1, 2014

Tonight’s selection is an IPA that I’ve had before, it was actually one that my soon-to-be father-in-law brought over for my birthday BBQ a month ago. The Union Jack. Not to be confused with a proper English pint though, this particular brew hails from Paso Robles, CA. Fairly standard IPA affair, heavy on the hop and bitterness. A slightly darker caramel color than would be expected, and there are definite malty undertones that aren’t present in other IPAs, almost bordering on amber territory. It does remind me a bit of Fat Tire with a more garden-like bitterness, floral without being rosy. Lime rind without being citrusy. Dry on the finish. And, fuck you, “cirtrusy” is a real word… The only reason I bring it up is because LibreOffice doesn’t seem to have that word in its dictionary.

But I digress…

I’m sure if you read enough of my ramblings you’ll soon discover that is one of my favorite phrases to use, “but I digress…” Though I don’t know when I recruited the saying into my own lexicon. It’s been many years since then.

Continuing to talk about beer seems odd on this evening of tense sensitive zeal, the world (as in, the United States, and those concerned with the 4th branch of the government known simply as the “news media”) is wholly concerned with Israel. I even got into a heavy discussion with a good friend of mine over the whole issue. He is normally on my side when it comes to propaganda, but he felt the need to bring up the subject based on some shit that Noam Chomsky said in reaction to the current escalation. I do respect Noam, but at the same time, I can’t really have a dog in the race. At least Chomsky is Jewish. I’m a fucking pasty gentile, I can’t have the same opinions that he does, and I don’t think my friend understood where I was coming from. It’s one thing if you’re Muslim or Jewish, or if you’ve been to Israel (like my Aunt has), and you’ve actually experienced the social climate for yourself. It’s entirely another issue if you form an opinion based solely on the observations of other people. This is not a history text book to be studied and dissected, it’s current affairs in the very heat of the moment, and my reality is unaffected, at least not in a deep introspective manner, rather, it is only spiced with the conversations floating about the water cooler… Superficial opinions formed because we feel that there is some need to have an opinion at all on the matter. We aren’t discussing our survival, we’re waxing intellectual about people whom we don’t interact with on a daily basis and subjugating their horrific experiences into bullshit interpretations of scriptural fairy tales and false empathy.

Secretly I’m cheering for the Jews… But God forbid I’m labeled as a Zionist. Though, it’s even worse to be labeled as a Terrorist in this day in age, so I’ll take Zionist.

Really what I have is more than 3,000 years of history and no context… I know that I have no context to accompany the strife because I don’t know Hebrew or Arabic, I’ve never been to the Middle East, and I wasn’t raised in a family which held a particular disposition toward this ageless conflict, there is no cultural relevance or connection for which I can grasp as my own as reference to the matter… And this right here was essentially the conversation that my friend and I had. I explained to him that if he actually cared about a particular sectarian conflict happening more than few thousand miles away, he should focus his concentration on Los Angeles—concerning the Crips and the Bloods—something that he actually had contextual emotion for, rather than being brain-washed by the mass media into sensationalism without a personal frame of reference. Though, this expression of logic was met with a hostile interpretation of “humanitarianism.”

As far as I’m concerned, let the militia currently persuaded by Cliven Bundy to rise up with Alex Jones loudly proclaiming the revolution from a megaphone, while the ghost of Bill Cooper rides in angst on a wave of armed conflict against the powers that be. THEN, and only then, will I actually give a shit and take a side, I’ll have contextual emotional guidance for my decision, and it will be much easier to take a side in that situation.

“When deep space exploration ramps up, it’ll be the corporations that name everything, the IBM Stellar Sphere, the Microsoft Galaxy, Planet Starbucks.” ~ Chuck Palahniuk

I’m less concerned with my national or ethnic identity as much as I am the global ambiance in which all of these conflicts take place. It’s no longer about black or white, brown or yellow, red or blue…. It all falls within a speculative and subjective realm of grey, sketched and defined by those who have and those who have not. If you don’t choose one of the polar dispositions, you may as well not have an opinion at all. It’s no longer noteworthy. It’s not sensationalist enough to warrant conversation, despite the fact that an object disposition in the middle, and removed from the deep seeded romanticism that these conflicts are steeped in, may very well be the best perspective to have. Perhaps the most logical position to take for those not directly involved in said conflicts.

Many might see this as apologetic apathy, but I see it as the road to enlightenment. Perhaps if we can see the conflicts we are directly and emotionally involved in from outside of ourselves… To acknowledge those things which define us as individuals and embrace the experiences which bind us to the universal actuality of the human condition… At that point, does it really matter what each of us stands to personally gain from triumph?

A false sense of morbid inflation of the ego perhaps?

As long as I am able to enjoy my daily experience, to eat and drink, and feel happiness… Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is never more prevalent than when an individual is removed from the basic needs of existence. That is the moment when we devolve to the level of dumb beasts and become no better than the animals which we study.

“If you pick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us shall we not revenge?”

I shouldn’t need to credit William Shakespeare on the above quote, but I will, because I can honestly admit that I’ve never actually read The Merchant of Venice in its entirety. That particular play never held the majesty or importunity that Romeo and Juliet or Hamlet and Macbeth carried with them. OR, for that matter, even Othello.