Archive | October 2013

The Coffee Break. 30 October 2013

Hello folks, and welcome to the coffee break for the 30th of October 2013. Today we will be looking at a Vancouver company that wishes to start a tend of micro homes which are around 160 square feet in size, and sold for under 25,000.00 United States Dollars. Now the first issue I can see with these homes is that they are “temporary” in the sense that once an individual gets married, and/or has a family, this home will become obsolete so to speak. 160 Square feet is definitely not enough space to accommodate a small family of two adults and one to three kids – with more if the parents wish to have more.

One can say that the individual can just move their house into the backyard of their new dwelling: remember that there are certain restrictions to what you can and cannot have on your own property, and only if you have the space to do so. Currently town homes are built with small backyards, thereby being incapable of housing this 160 square feet living unit, and single homes are only affordable if far from the city center: assuming of course that the individual is young (younger than 40 years of age), and wishes to live near the downtown core in the Canadian context.


Property taxes comes to mind when the idea of moving it to another location pops into the circle. Indeed one can simply move it to an abandoned farm, buy a small plot, and set it up. However there are bylaws that keep the farmland as strictly farmland, thereby prevent such actions, and even if you are not living in the housing unit, here in Canada we pay property taxes, and since the housing unit will be sitting on land, you pay taxes. Therefore unless the individual wishes to move their home into the lake or ocean – further putting their investment at risk – they will have to either sell it, or cough up the funds for the property tax for the respective municipality.

This may seem grim and put off people looking into buying a micro home, but remember that as a piece of affordable housing, this concept is not entirely garbage. Indeed when an individual is single, they can live in one of these units and still enjoy all the comforts of living in a condo, minus the height and noisy tenants. Couples could in fact live in one of these units as well, though it might be a little cramped, and they will need to discuss how to allocate living space for clothes, electronics, and other accessories when looking at a unit for sale.

Certainly there are a lot of downsides to these micro homes, but the concept is in the prototype testing phase, thus the designers could make something slightly bigger – though it would cost a bit more – in order to accommodate the buyer’s needs. The article will be linked at the end of this piece: have a look folks for this is an interesting idea, and certainly with regards to making use of limited space in places like Hong Kong and Singapore, the concept could help solve the housing issue alongside high rises and basement units. Thank you all for reading, and I will see you next time.

If you missed the previous coffee break, the link to the article is located below:


The Coffee Break. 24 October 2013.

Hello folks and welcome to the coffee break. Coming up in today’s edition: a mayoral candidate calls for more French in Montreal, and some “the story so far” thoughts on Guild Wars 2. Let us begin with Montreal, and how a mayoral candidate says that he will go about preserving the French language in Montreal; even enhancing it.


Michel Brule of the Integrite Montreal group has come out publicly stating that the french language is in danger in Montreal, and that the people live in an Anglo-American Empire which seeks to eradicate the French language, and assimilate others into their society, just as they had did in New England, and attempted to do with the Aboriginals. During his interview with an English language news group in which he replied only in French, Brule stated that it is his goal to increase the amount of French language and culture-related items in and around the city of Montreal. Brule cited that the mascot of the Montreal Canadiens – the NHL hockey team based in Montreal – has become a victim of Anglophone assimilation, and pointing out that there is not a lot of French music being played at these games. The article goes on to say how him and the other candidates are bilingual, but for Brule, his preference is French, and this is one of his primary goals when he comes to office.



While I find Brule’s style – if you will – somewhat disturbing, his sentiment is not entirely without base. Montreal does for the most part contain a fair amount of English that – and this goes for the new immigrant families – is preferred over French simply for reasons of being able to move around the country, and indeed the continent. However French does not seem to be on a decline as Brule, and many PQ sympathizers, will have you believe. Now with that said, there has been a case where a friend of mine who is from Quebec, stated that she is somewhat puzzled by how a mostly French speaking city can get away with using – in some cases – just English. This sort of situation is a bit touchy so to speak as on one hand the English community is old in Quebec, and has their language rights preserved not only by the official languages act, but by the provincial legal system as well. Yet on the other hand, the idea that in a democracy, it is majority rule, brings forth an interesting dilemma of what to do in order to achieve a balance.


Now Brule’s statement of a declining use of French in Quebec is odd in this particular case because Anglophones who choose to stay in Quebec understand the reality of the situation, and work hard to learn French, and develop bilingualism in order to survive there and make a living. However on the flip side, many Francophones will learn English so they can move out of the province if the job market is better on the other side; example being my friend who speaks English to me while in the halls of the university, and has come all the way from Quebec in order to study here – possibly out of an interest to expand her horizons.


Yet for all the arguments that exist, I can sympathize with Brule in that the French language in Montreal may require some protection in order to survive. When you look at places like Hungary, Poland, Latvia, Thailand, etc, you see small countries with languages that are restricted to the geography, and where only their respective regions speak that particular language. Now one can argue that the majority of the Quebecers are French-speaking, but if the numbers decline over time, what sort of impact will that have on Quebec society? Richmond, British Columbia is a good example, where a lot of the store signs are only in Chinese – Mandarin and Cantonese can both understand the written format. Many store clerks that I have interacted with, speak to me first in Mandarin, or Cantonese, and then rotate to English if I ask for something in English. Though this little detail is not something that will cause me to whip out a flamethrower and set things ablaze (humor intended) diverse language groups which do little to accommodate the host language – so to speak – can create some interesting problems, and though we try out best to incorporate the people who arrive from distant lands, it does take a generation or two for them to be broken into the greater society – to use the idea of breaking in boots as a reference. Ultimately a minority should never trump the majority as the majority are the ones who have opened the doors to newcomers, who will keep the nation afloat, and are always interested in introducing “new blood” to the pool – love comes in many formats (humor intended).


Quebec is a French-speaking majority, and if the mayoral candidate wishes to express these views, he does have the freedom to do so. The man is not going about advocating a system of segregation, nor is he going about demanding the removal of all foreigners who lack a strong knowledge of the French language. The man just wants to break down barriers and go about communicating with people in the easiest manner possible: in his own language. After all, I would not be able to speak to the greater Canadian society – or write for you lovely people for that matter – if I locked myself within an enclave, and only spoke to people who understood Cantonese. This is Canada, and our two official languages are English and French. Though we will not discourage you in retaining your past identity, you must respect the provincial majorities for the province you are living in is your new home now, and we expect you to not vandalize the house, and use the front door, rather than the windows, when entering or exiting. While Anglophones have every right to receive services in English when dealing with aspects such as health or education, French is the dominant language in Quebec, and such is the nature of things. The link to the CBC article is located below the paragraph.


Guild Wars 2: so far so good. The game certainly has not failed to deliver an experience like no other as I go about Tyria looking at old landmarks from the past Guild Wars, and entering a sort of moment of nostalgia. There is always a feeling of sadness when I look upon Ascalon: the first place I ever explored in Guild Wars, now reduced to rubble and dirt after two hundred and fifty years of change. Time has not been kind to Ascalon, and though the Ebonhawke fortress still stands as a remnant of the kingdom, it just does not feel the same. Ascalon city is completely destroyed due to erosion, and years of conflict. The great wall is crumbling in certain sections, and the rest of the wall is all but destroyed in the years following the end of the war. Though King Adlbern cursed his soldiers to fight on even in death, most of the land north of the Ebonhawke Fortress has been reclaimed by the Charr, who have now gone about rebuilding their civilization – in a very advanced way.



Exploring in the game is definitely rewarding as you gain experience when you discover new locations, and gain skill points when you complete challenges. Vistas are also a good incentive to perform jumping puzzles as you are rewarded with a spectacular view of the surroundings after you reach the vista – experience points are also included.


Now the moment you all have been waiting for: based on the first impressions, and a good twenty to twenty-five hours of game play, is Guild Wars 2 worth the money? Yes, yes it is worth the money. The game offers players of the old title a fresh new take on the universe, and with constant updates to the game by Arena Net, it will only continue to grow from this point on. The game is not the same as other MMOs, and while some may argue that the interface and mechanics can easily be added to existing MMOs in the form of patches and or expansions, Guild Wars 2 is still a worthwhile experience to try out.


Alright folks, that concludes this coffee break: I hope you all enjoyed it; please share this with other people who may be interested in the topics I cover, it really helps a lot. Thanks for reading, and I will see you next time.

Axton and Gaige: Command and control.

Borderlands 2 as a game so far has been an enjoyable experience. Now before I get into the break down and review: no one told me that if I deleted images from my media storage that it would also delete them on my articles. Earlier today I scrolled through some of the articles – like Salvador the Gunzerker’s review – only to find that the images were not there! Now I just feel like a complete idiot for not noticing this earlier as before today the images still appeared on the articles I published. There shall be more caution in the near future, but anyways enough of me wallowing in my abstract pity: you want to hear if Axton and Gaige is worth your time when you are venturing through the Borderlands.


Axton was one of the original 4 Vault Hunters to be released with the main game; and similar to Gaige, he can call upon a “minion” if you will, which comes in the form of a sentry turret. The turret can then be upgraded through the tech trees to improve the overall performance, and combat capabilities throughout the game. Aside from that, the back story to Axton is essentially the same as Roland from the first Borderlands: a soldier gone AWOL (absent without leave), seeking riches and glory in the untamed wilderness of Pandora.


Now when I first played Borderlands 2 I did not care much for Axton or his sabre turret. Slowly however, as I went through the game with Salvador the Gunzerker, I realized that having a “minion” does come in handy because when you are down and no allies are nearby – or they are ignoring you to get revenge – the turret can save you in the form of kill-revives. This extra “pick-me-up” came in real handy in tight situations where I was down, and needed a revive fast. Aside from his special ability, Axton plays pretty much the same as the other three Vault Hunters. All weapons are useable, weapon drop rates are the same, and the story line is exactly the same – melee weapon and animation are somewhat different though. While Axton and Gaige share the same trait of having a minion as an ability, their play styles branch off from that point onward.


Gaige was a DLC character added into the game sometime shortly after release, and her play style has an interesting twist towards it. Similar to Axton, Gaige calls upon a machine to do her bidding – which comes in the form of a legless torso robot named Deathtrap. Gaige can – like Axton – upgrade Deathtrap via the skill trees available to her, further increasing damage output, and increasing survivability on the battlefield. Gaige also has one particular skill that takes a bit to get used to – especially for those Counter Strike players who know the value of reloading when the opportunity presents itself rather than waiting for the gun to go empty.


Titled “Anarchy” Gaige can rely on this skill to increase her damage output every time she empties her magazine into the enemy. Anarchy gives her increased damage, but at the expense of accuracy. Therefore when Gaige stacks up – and yes these bad boys stack like pancakes on a Sunday brunch – enough anarchy, she will do tons of damage, but be about as accurate as a Star Wars Stormtrooper – to separate the crappy Storm Troopers from the good, Warhammer 40,000 Storm Troopers that serve in the Imperial Guard, and Inquisitorial forces. Now this can sort of be countered with “close enough,” where bullets can ricochet off walls and end up inside the enemy. This sort of “hit me of you can” routine makes Gaige both enjoyable to play as, and challenging at the same time as pointing straight at the enemy may yield the musket-style shot in which it just flies past their heads, leaving you frustrated as they approach closer and closer, and your magazine reads two bullets left, but if you reload all those anarchy stacks disappear. When I first played as Gaige, it was strange. Stacking anarchy was about as fun as letting Thrashers impale me on their spines; however over time I got used to it, and ultimately ended up liking the ability. Borderlands 2 certainly is a wacky game, and Gaige is equally insane – with her cutting off her own left arm, and replacing it with a robotic arm that had Deathtrap programmed into it.
Ultimately both characters are worth a shot when it comes to Borderlands 2. Both are equally unique, both are quite enjoyable, and useful in tight situations where your allies might abandon you. Definitely Gaige is worth the money in terms of being a DLC character, though the Psycho Krieg is quite the enjoyable character to play as, and being even more insane than the other five Vault Hunters, he also warrants a look at in the near future.


Great, this means I need to now go and review him too (sarcasm intended). Anyways folks that is a look at Axton and Gaige: try them out, as the turret deployment skill does come in handy for games that incorporate a sort of “minion” control feature – like Team Fortress 2 with their Engineer, or Guild Wars 2 with their Engineer. Thank you all for reading, and I shall see you next time.



Update. 23 October 2013

Midnight; and here it is, being posted at midnight. Hello folks, just a quick update to let you know what is going on with the blog, and possibly what to expect soon here on Thoughts and Topics. Examinations take a lot of concentration and energy to complete, and so most of the time available was spent studying up for the several exams I have, or had these past few days. This has taken away some of the time that was supposed to be spent writing, and instead was spent on reviewing formulas like standard deviation, mean of means, etc. Thankfully that is over, and with only a bit more work left, I can return to my favourite activity: writing.

While studying, the spare time that was available was mostly spent on gaming; key reason being that sometimes you just need to play on your down time. Ultimately when it comes to writing, it is work, no matter how one puts it, and there are some days where you just do not have the interest to write, nor the materials needed to craft a worth wile piece. Every writer has their ups and downs; though do expect the Axton and Gaige review to appear sometime in the near future. Those two characters I have found were quite enjoyable to play, and the tactics of deploying either the sentry turret, or the floating robot Deathtrap has helped me practice for my currently game and class; Guild Wars 2, and Engineer. Though my Engineer is a flamethrower-wielding tank, the tactical deployment of the turrets – both healing and ranged – were instrumental in aiding my fellow players when it came to both boss fights, and mission quests.

Aside from that, there really is not much else to go on about. There was this one video I found on Youtube by VICE news detailing marriage by kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan. Now that topic is fairly interesting, though it is almost certain that I will condemn such a practice as it is seen – by me at least – to be not only primitive, but somewhat barbaric as well. Honestly, that topic will probably be avoided just because it probably will turn into a one-sided criticism of such a practice; though it is tempting to go on about such an event. The world is a dangerous place in some regions my dear readers: anyways I hope this update has helped to keep you up to speed on what is going on with this blog. Thank you all for reading, and I shall see you next time.

This is totally unacceptable.

Right so Totalbiscuit has posted a video discussing how a particular developer has lashed out at his channel, and that they have proceeded to use Youtube’s copyright strike system to take down the video criticizing their game. Now the developer mentioned in their take down that Totalbiscuit does not have the right to monetize using their material, despite the fact that Totalbiscuit did – in written form – express his interest to gain a copy of that particular game for the purposes of critique, and to also monetize the video as well. The developer has since been able to take down Totalbiscuit’s Youtube video, and it remains down despite the fact that other critique videos are still up and fully viewable – by other channels.

This abuse of the system is highlighted in Totalbiscuit’s video which I will link below. Now when it comes to criticism and free speech, it is one of our most cherished liberties as Westerners: to be able to criticize something – anything – in the name of making it better is the bread and butter of what we stand for in this society. Now I am aware of the potential can of worms that can be opened with that previous statement, but you readers are smart, and you understand what I mean with regards to constructive criticism. The right to this took centuries to develop, and at a time when even criticizing religion, was punishable by death. People worked hard to get this liberty installed in our every day lives, and it upsets me when an Indie developer goes about taking down critiques of their game, just so they can sell more copies.

Sooner or later the free market will find out, and all of a sudden that game that sold modestly well, will drop off the grid and into the abyss. When people see that a product is garbage, they will not buy it. Totalbiscuit does this sort of critique work for a living, and his work protects us consumers from bad products. Ultimately this sort of behaviour is totally unacceptable, and there needs to be some serious review by Google into how they go about protecting a company’s copyright, and their partners who – I might add – make quality content that has changed the face of media and the games industry. Should commentators like Totalbiscuit disappear from time, we will be in some serious trouble; we will be at the mercy of companies like the one that produced Day One, who will silence all opposition, and continue to feed us garbage titles because we cannot see that it is rubbish before we put down our hard earned money to play it. Thank you for reading, and I shall see you next time.
The video by Totalbiscuit:

The Coffee Break. 16 October 2013.

They gave me a flamethrower: Guild Wars 2, gave me a flamethrower with my engineer class. This fire-spewing weapon is amazing, and running through the lush vegetation, sort of gives off a vibe that I have somehow ended up in a Vietnam-sort of scenario (humor intended). After the game was purchased and installed, the main objective was to acquire the flamethrower; now that the flamer (to shorten things up a bit) has been acquired, a new dawn approaches! One that includes fire and retribution, for none shall be spared the judgement of the all-powerful flamethrower!


This also means that the sniper-high as it were, has come to an end. While playing as a sniper class has its moments, the flamethrower now dominates the psyche as the engineer character runs around Tyria lighting everything on fire with the flick of a rudimentary switch. Thus far Guild Wars 2 is an impressive game: the art assets are visually stunning, and the game play mechanics is quite smooth and easy to learn. The only downside that exists currently is that you cannot put way points on the map – though this feature might be in the game, and has not been discovered yet. The art assets however – as we go into details here – make classical art, and to a large extent modern art, look like child’s play. There is something respectable about video game art design in that – like cooking – the artwork is functional. Players can experience the art, rather than stare at it from a distance on a bench that has no back rest in some gallery that probably stinks of oil, paint, and coffee.

Guild Wars 2

While Guild Wars 2 is doing well, Warhammer Online is not doing so well at this current time. Earlier in the fall Mythic Entertaiment released a statement saying that they will be shutting down Warhammer Online this December after five long years of success. The statement goes on to say how Games Workshop and Mythic have decided to part ways, citing differences within the company’s vision of the future. While this is sad news indeed as the Warhammer fantasy franchise is one of the more interesting, and lore-intensive franchises, companies come and go, and people move on. The link to the PC Gamer article is located at the bottom of this paragraph.

Alright folks, sorry to cut this short but I need to return to Tyria. The flamethrower requires my manly touch, and well – to be honest – that Moa bird looked at me funny, so I need to turn it into a giant turkey. Thank you all for reading; hope you enjoyed today’s post, and I will see you next time.


If you missed the last edition of The Coffee Break, the link to that article is located below:

The Coffee Break. 14 October 2013.

Well this is interesting, Blizzard entertainment has released a PC desktop application that collects all their titles you own – and the starter editions – into one program similar to Steam. Now the program itself works fairly well, and there has been little in the way of issues related to launching a game, installing a game, or updating the files on your computer. This idea is quite appealing as the use of Steam has taught us the importance of a well organized digital distribution system, which can collect all titles into one, organized file for easy access. What Blizzard have done is not something new as evident by the common use of the Steam platform, however there is one thing I would like to throw in there: why is there no feature to add older Blizzard titles into this application?


Starcraft 1 still has a fair amount of users, and though there is generally a low expectation of Blizzard to continue to support this title with patches and expansions per say, it would be nice to see them implement the ability to add the older titles into the system so that players can enjoy their entire archive of Blizzard games without having to open up different Battle net accounts because these older titles are not registered with their current account.

Apart from that however, the application seems to be running quite smoothly. There have been zero crashes thus far, and installing and uninstalling games is as painless as the Steam feature; all of which spell success in the long run for this application. Right now the application is in open beta, so go check it out if you feel like organizing all of your Blizzard games into this application. Key feature is that you only have to log in once, and all your games – World of Warcraft, Starcraft 2, and Diablo 3 – will all be accessible at a click of the mouse button. Hearthstone is a soon-to-be released title, but it will be included in the system so do not sweat people. When you access the Battle net website the application open beta download should appear in the upper right corner of your screen: they make it obvious to attract more users to switch over to the application. A link to the application will be provided below this paragraph: please keep in mind that it is in open beta, but it appears that the build will be semi-permanent as Blizzard intends for users to switch over to this system in the near future.

Recently there has been a slow trickle of Games Workshop or Games Workshop-related boardgames flowing onto Steam: Chainsaw Warrior being a card game, Space Hulk being a limited release board game, and now Talisman is soon to be released on Steam. One would guess that the board games market is slowly shrinking as digital entertainment continues to increase in popularity. This move would therefore be a smart business decision as it can increase the longevity of a particular board game title, and produce better sales margins than simply keeping to the board game market alone. One would guess that in some places where there is a limited amount of players, a digital version would be preferable as it allows a player to connect via the internet to other players worldwide. Having this flexibility is also nice when – in particular countries like Canada, Norway, Sweden etc – the days become shorter and the nights become colder. Staying at home, with a hot drink and a cozy blanket is generally the preferred way to enjoy such an evening, and having access to multiplayer games is even more preferable as it removes the need to go out into the -30 degree winter just to play a round of Talisman. Southern Californians will probably be laughing at this, but when they get a taste of a bone-chilling winter like the ones experienced in Northern Alberta, they will keep their mouths shut.


This variety in titles is refreshing as many of the Games Workshop board and card games were enjoyable in the past, but sadly were left to fall into the pages of history by the company which produced them. Now that the titles are suddenly re-appearing in the digital format, it will breathe some life into these long forgotten names, and possibly help build the titles into a successful game, and/or possibly a series – if the market permits of course. This will also add more hours of distraction on top of already popular games like Planetside 2 and Call of Duty: sorry family, friends and pets, your loved ones will not be showing up to this year’s Thanksgiving dinner, or they will not be staying for too long (humor intended).

Alright then, now that these two news bits are finished, this would be an appropriate time to conclude this edition of the Coffee Break. Please check out the link below if you have missed the previous edition of the Coffee Break for more bite-sized reads on gaming news and Canadian affairs (broadly speaking). Thank you all for reading, and I will see you next time.