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again with the vita

Posted on March 6, 2012

Mobile gaming has come a long way. Some people may not desire the power afforded by the Playstation Vita; they may be content with gaming at home on their couch, and then just passing the time with Angry Birds when they're on the go. But even they have to be impressed with the ability of the Vita to provide a console-like experience in a mobile form factor. Never before has a mobile device achieved such a level of parity with its console cohorts. That's not to say that the Vita produces Xbox 360 or PS3-level quality, but the experience gets dangerously close.

Which is to say, I'm enjoying the Vita. FIFA Soccer is basically FIFA 11 from the PS3, and MLB 12 The Show lacks the presentation of the PS3 version, but these games are much more faithful adaptations of their big siblings than previous mobile games have been, and certainly miles ahead of any discounted "app store" offerings. I'm not sure the day will come when large, ambitious titles (e.g. the next Elder Scrolls game) are released for the Xbox 720, PS4, and Vita simultaneously, but that would be a nice dream.

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vita-lity

Posted on February 22, 2012

The Playstation Vita was officially released today. For those who haven't kept up, the Vita is Sony's new portable Playstation (originally codenamed "NGP") which boasts a quad-core CPU and GPU, a 5" OLED screen, dual analog sticks, two touch panels, and optional 3G and GPS. The device is exceptionally powerful, but it's expensive, and Sony made some typically frustrating decisions in its design that keep it from being everything it could be (namely, no TV/HDMI-out, proprietary memory cards, no internal storage, sealed internal battery, low-resolution cameras). Still, I managed to save around $80 off retail value and still got it on release date; I received a free retail game, a free memory card, a half-price pre-ordered game, and I didn't have to pay any tax, so I can't complain too much.

But I can't play anything. Amazon utilized an obscure shipping service to get my memory card to me, and the Vita does not allow anything to function without having a card installed. My game card copy of Uncharted: Golden Abyss is sitting here, unplayable, until my memory card arrives. The fact that Sony did not include a paltry amount of internal memory to store game saves, or at least force every game card to allow for gameplay without an external memory card is borderline insanity. My stacks of unused microSD cards are weeping from disuse.

From what I've been able to try out so far (which is very little), the system seems nice. It's not particularly sturdy feeling, but it's a good thing for a device of this size to be lightweight. The interface could be worse, and the quick standby and resume is well-executed. I'm awaiting arrival of FIFA Soccer (Amazon was sold out when I ordered) and...Hot Shots Golf. Yes, I bought a golf game. But I couldn't play it even if it had arrived.

The box of Uncharted sure does look fun though. :|

Postscript: Why the Vita Is Not Overpriced

At $250 for the base version, the Vita is expensive compared to a selection of groceries, or a month of rent, or other things in life that are important. But as far as consumer electronics go, it's really not so bad. The technology within the Vita is superior to the average smartphone, which retails for $550 when not subsidized by the carrier. Portable devices have always carried a premium due to the difficulty in miniaturizing components, and there's always research and marketing to consider in the overall price of the device. The Nintendo 3DS retailed for $250 a year ago, and it's only $170 now (and can be found for less); it's unlikely the Vita will drop that far that fast, but the price will come down. And finally, people still consider the Kindle Fire tablet to be a great value at $199, and it's not nearly as impressive a device as the Vita.

Also, happy 280th birthday to George Washington.

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stopping sopa

Posted on January 18, 2012

We should probably stop this SOPA thing before someone gets on his high horse and tries to take Magner's Farm and Stock Book from the web...

bf3: a disjointed, angsty impression

Posted on November 1, 2011

A History of Violence

What do you want in a war game?

It's difficult to sum up what made Battlefield so appealing to me when I first played 1942 so many years ago. Most likely, it was because my friends were playing it, and because it was different from other first person shooters. This distinction was found in its huge, open battlefields, its diverse class system, and the myriad of vehicles that made the game a completely different experience every time you joined a server. The developers tinkered with the mechanics of their open-world battles through several subsequent games, all of which more or less retained the original aspects that made it so engrossing. The formula was successful, but being PC-exclusive as gamers tired of perennial system upgrades and immigrated to the 360 and PS3 caused Battlefield to slowly fade from relevance.

The Empire Strikes Back

Electronic Arts was sick of Call of Duty stealing all the glory on the consoles. So they came up with a simple, devious plan: lure potential Modern Warfare 3 players into the new Battlefield game by infusing it with stuff that made them feel at home: shiny lights, focused action, a slew of unlocks (to keep players coming back, masking unrewarding gameplay), and a low threshold. DICE played their part to keep the hardcore franchise fans sticking around - they said they'd develop the game for PC first, then consoles. They maintained this throughout development, despite a disappointing alpha and beta showing.

And now they've admitted that this was a lie.

Waiting...

I put up with the beta, despite the signs that the game would be lackluster. Now that the game is out, it's clear that DICE have screwed this thing up. They've contradicted nearly everything they originally said about the game design in an attempt to pander to a new audience. I can't begin to list all my gripes with the game here, but I'll put a few out: the maps are small, players must unlock the most basic functions, flashlights are blinding, snipers frequently out-duel machine guns at close range, the squad system is dysfunctional, and the game lacks any semblance of balance. They've fixed the terrain glitches from the beta, but the maps are patheticBF3 does nearly everything worse than Battlefield 2 did it years ago, and there's really no excuse for that.

I didn't want to play Call of Duty; that's why I sold back my copy of MW2. I wanted a different game, a sequel to BF2 like they tried to convince me I was getting. Having said all that, it's not a terrible game; it's probably worthy of the ~7/10 rating the users have given it on Metacritic (the critics' reviews are useless, because EA hand-picked favorable outlets). It's possible patches will bring it to a point that it's an actually great game, but that may be wishing for a bit much.

In some alternate universe, motivated purely by the desire to make an awesome, open-world battlefield with teamwork and tanks and helicopters and jets and aircraft carriers, devoid of the pressure from Activision and EA's bickering, and wanting to give the people who play the game what they want, Battlefield 3 could have been great. At least we only waited six years for this mediocre sequel to BF2. The silver lining is that Skyrim is only a few short days away.

(Editor's note: I wrote this on a cool head. Imagine what I would've put in here if I'd just been the victim of the auto-knife lock-on kill system they've implemented in the game...)

bf3 beta thoughts

Posted on October 1, 2011

Writing this now is probably futile, as much of this will be changed in a few weeks (or, more likely, years), but I still want to give my initial impressions of the Battlefield 3 beta. Perhaps it will serve as a benchmark for review years from now, seeing how far the game has come - hopefully for the better.

The Battlefield 3 beta is a flawed thing. It's beautiful, but not in the way Red Dead Redemption is beautiful; it's more technically capable, but less polished and refined. So begins the litany of shortcomings that one must forgive at this stage of the game's development. But with only a couple of weeks left before the game must "go gold," the developers still have plenty of work to do.

inane gaming conundrums

Posted on August 11, 2011

Two thousand eleven is shaping up to be a great year for gaming. By this holiday season, Battlefield 3, Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and FIFA 12 will all be vying for my attention. But I've got a difficult decision to make: where do I want to do my gaming?

I recognize that it's fairly absurd for this to be my most pressing concern, but that's simply because there will be plenty of time to worry about "real life" coming up. These issues need recognition as well. So with BF3 and Skyrim each on Xbox 360 and on PC, and with my upgrade to a gaming-worthy PC last year, I have options.

Of course I'm getting BF3 for the PC; there was never a question about that. Shooters have never felt right without a mouse and keyboard, and, despite DICE's pandering to the masses, I'm sure BF3 will be far superior visually and otherwise on the desktop. I'm still buying a physical copy, despite the encroaching era of digital distribution, so I have something to show for my money.

In the same vein, there was never any doubt that FIFA is better suited for the Xbox. We all know the numerous reasons sports games can work better on consoles, and that it really comes down to having multiple people hunched over on the couch, squinting at the screen unblinkingly. Plus, you need the ability to toss the controller out of disgust when Messi chips it over your keeper's head from 20 yards out.

The Crux of the Issue

What to do with Skyrim. I enjoyed Oblivion and Fallout 3 on the Xbox, but I bought a physical copy of Fallout: New Vegas for the PC. It plays well, but I didn't appreciate having to register it with Steam - it seems like I had to hand over something I paid for and can only use it when they grant me permission. I imagine Skyrim on the PC will be the same way. Some things to consider: I have an Xbox controller that works on Windows, and I've got my computer hooked up to my TV through a 50' HDMI cable, so it can feel a lot like Xbox play if I choose to make it. The benefits to getting the game on each system, as I see it, are as follows:

PC

  • Higher resolution textures, improved DirectX 11 effects, and overall better visuals
  • MODs (although I don't know how much I'd mess with these)
  • Flexibility to bring the game to a new system
  • Video/screenshot recording
  • Steam achievements?

360

  • Fewer bugs and a guaranteed performance level (at the expense of greater potential performance)
  • "Full couch experience" - I won't have any choice but to play the game in comfort, on the big screen
  • Enhanced portability (both the game and the system)
  • Xbox Live achievements
  • Five bucks cheaper on Amazon at the moment (hey, that's a whole burrito)

I can convince myself that either is the way to go. At first blush, PC seems far superior, but I like knowing I can more easily bring the game with me on trips, or even play it in someone else's Xbox if I needed to. It's also nice to know that it should run smoothly on the 360, whereas (although my PC is pretty capable) lack of optimization could lead to stuttering, crashing, and downright heartache. Still, I paid a grand for a gaming PC and all I have to show for it are some older games...and BF3.

That said, I've got Skyrim preordered on the console at the moment. Should I switch to PC?

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droid, doing what it does

Posted on July 18, 2011

The DROID line has come pretty far since launching on Verizon near the end of 2009. Beginning with the iconic Motorola DROID, it has expanded to encompass devices from several manufacturers (Moto, HTC, and Samsung, at least), with unique combinations of radios and screen sizes and processors. In 2010, the DROID 2 (and its world-roaming variant, DROID 2 Global) were underwhelming followups to Motorola's original flagship device. Now Motorola has, with no fanfare, released a third DROID that should help reclaim some respect - if they would actively promote it. Here's my take...

sites, themes, and screens

Posted on July 10, 2011

There are a couple of changes to be noted in regards to the site over the last couple of weeks:

  • Some may have noticed slow loading times within the last month. After some consultation with tech support, I've had the site moved to a new server. Load times are now much improved.
  • CGHM Nature has been revamped with a stylish new theme and a couple of new nature photos. Remember that it's a good alternative to going outdoors in the centurial temperatures.

And now for the bad news: the right quarter of my Droid's touchscreen is no longer responsive. The digitizer appears to be defunct, and as a result navigating the phone is a real hassle (as I knew would be the case when the winds started blowing in an all-touchscreen direction). As was the case with Inspy, a hardware failure has forced me to consider upgrading sooner than I'd anticipated.

Now there are dozens of nearly-identical high-end Android devices available, and I have serious designs on getting the Droid 3, or waiting and getting a Droid Bionic. There are numerous gripes with the Droid 3, including its lack of 4G, limited RAM, too much BLUR, and less-than-stellar screen, but most of those may end up being issues with the Bionic as well (except the 4G thing). I've really come to appreciate the physical keyboard when using various emulators, and the Droid 3's keyboard is top-of-the-line.

It's a shame to have to upgrade now, with a new Nexus due later this year and quad-core devices on the horizon. But there's always something new on the horizon.

We'll see.

androidify!

Posted on February 14, 2011Google's getting on the bandwagon, offering up a slightly unique take - the ability to turn oneself into an Android robot.

It's a rather simple system at the moment, allowing you to resize your Android and change features, but it ultimately produces a flat, static image and there's not a lot to do with it - other than show it off.

My first creation is a soccer player with a parrot, and the second resembles a misanthropic woodsman: aviator glasses, beard, camo jacket, and a Magner tome. Hopefully Google will come up with some purpose for these creations in the future. Right now they pale in comparison to real soccer players and misanthropes.

bf3: what really matters

Posted on February 8, 2011 There are some features that are considered to be of high importance by many players of the Battlefield series; for any feature, however, there are those who see it as unimportant, and that could include the developers of Battlefield 3. This post contains a summary table that will be updated with specifications and details as we determine the status of these controversial features in the upcoming BF3 game. Information is subject to change as new sources of information become available.

The chart is split into three sections: gameplay, maps and vehicles, and technical. Sources are indicated in the chart and linked at the bottom of the page.