Archive | January 2014

The Coffee Break. 30 January 2014.

Hello folks;

The Learn for Life Foundation, an Australian education organization, has released an ad which depicts students ditching school to go have fun at the beach. Just when things start to look like a happy ending, all the members of the run-away crew explode – literally. What the organization, out of Western Australia, has done is depict slacking off in school as a death wish, citing that if you skip school, your life will end abruptly.

Now the news site Elite Daily posted this video in an article earlier today, and it interpreted it as a bit of overkill. Now to someone casually watching yes, it does seem like a bit of overkill: after all when you slack off in school, indeed you will have less opportunities in life, but in general there will always be some form of work available to you, and there is always a second chance – provided you live in a country with a support system that provides education grants to those looking for a second chance.

The message that I interpreted from the video is that due to the students not concentrating in school, they thought that all rules were meant to be broken, and thus wandered into an explosives testing site. This lack of concentration in class also added illiteracy to the mix, causing them to ignore safety signs – either by will, or because they cannot read them – and as such they ended up in a dangerous situation. Much like a foreigner to a particular country who does not speak the language, the students probably lacked the literacy skills to read the warning sign, thinking it was just another beach to play on.

Ultimately the message – to me at least – was clear: stay in school because knowing how to read signs can save life and limb. Dropping out of school to indulge in pleasures can potentially get you killed – from wandering into a live fire zone, to explosives testing sites, to drinking poisons that looked like Mountain Dew.

Have a look at the video folks; it might take a bit of time to understand, but the message exists nonetheless. That is all for today folks: thanks for reading, and I will see you next time.

 
Learn for Life foundation video featured in Elite Daily:

http://elitedaily.com/news/world/stay-school-ad-ridiculous-will-make-want-drop-video/

Serving in the Coalition of Ordered Governments’ Army 3 years later.

Gears of War 3 came out back in 2011 and was at first rumored to be the last Gears of War game to be released onto the market. Later on in 2013 Gears of War Judgement appeared onto the scene, which turned out to be more or less the same. Now earlier this week there was a sudden interest to hop onto the console and power it up to get a bit of “retro-gaming” into the day – not really that old, but seeing the rate of progress gaming technology is going, it will eventually wind up as a classic/buried treasure. Back to the old COG military it was; the usual Mark 2 lancer, or the earlier Mark 1 lancer (retro-lancer) plunging into Locust infantry all the while mortar rounds were raining down from the heavens. Indeed Gears of War 3 is no longer the fresh new beast it once was, but the game still has its entertainment value.

GearsofWar3_coverArt

Now sadly there is still half a level left before Colonel Hoffman is unlocked, but the progression system for unlocking characters, as well as the medals and ribbons gives a bit of a placebo affect in that it felt good to be earning decorations for your actions in combat. The arena-style fighting still had its appeal, and soldiering for the COG is quite nice once you get back into the swing of things.

Graphics-wise, after you plug in the HDMI (at least that is what I think it is: not the standard television cable) cable, there really is little difference in the way of graphics; for all the arguments thrown between the various fanbases of their respective consoles, graphics alone never make a game good – it is only a piece of the puzzle. Getting back to GoW 3, game play-wise even after a year and a half to two years away from any controller-based combat, it was surprisingly easy to hop back into action and rack up some kills. Ribbons kept pouring in, and the bullets kept flying like there was no tomorrow – though melee executions are now reserved for when the target is closer as recklessly running out into the field to get that visually impressive execution can come back to bite thee in the rear end. Now why is it that a game like Gears of War 3 is being pseudo-reviewed all these years later? What is the point of talking about a game that seems to have no branching story arc towards it after the final cutscene rolled?

Gears of War 3 represents an improvement on the Gears of War formula not just in game play but also in story telling. Indeed the author for most of the Gears of War novels Karen Traviss was the one who wrote the script, hence the good story telling, but what is important to note is that it marked a new beginning for the title: a new beginning that could ladder off into the previously established story arc that – if done right – could add a whole new layer of entertainment to the series.

This story arc is the Pendulum Wars: the 79 year-long conflict that ended approximately six weeks before E-day, sparking another 15 year-long conflict. Adding it all up, this is effectively 94 years of continuous conflict – 6 weeks of peace not withstanding – that families like the Fenix family had to endure just to live on Sera. Karen Traviss is a good writer, her books were amazing to read, and her ability to bring video game characters to life on paper and give them a greater emotional depth than what is on screen is what will make the Pendulum Wars all the better. Should Traviss be given the opportunity to continue her work with the Gears of War franchise, there is little doubt that the Pendulum Wars story arc will be something worth experiencing. Thus far no new titles have been announced, but if there is anything to gauge from Microsoft’s purchase of the Gears of War franchise from Epic Games earlier this week, it is that Gears of War as a series is far from finished.

Imagine witnessing the siege of Anvil Gate, rather than just reading about it on a memorial in Gears of War 3, or in the novel. Imagine going through Operation Leveler, and seeing the young Marcus Fenix lose his best friend Carlos Santiago, Dom’s older brother. Imagine watching a cutscene of Tomas Dalyell as chairman of the Coalition, making key decisions and ordering troops into various countries as part of the greater conflict. Finally imagine seeing a younger Adam Fenix going off to serve his next rotation when Marcus was still a boy, fighting alongside Anya’s mother Helena Stroud as they fight to secure a town against the Union of Independent Republics, or UIR for short. 79 years of warfare gives plenty of stories to be told – assuming it is done correctly of course.

Ultimately Gears of War 3 was done right, and hopefully the level of detail put into the story arc will also be given to later titles as well – it would be a shame if the game ended up like a Call of Duty franchise where one edition came out every year just to rake in the money. This game should be virtually dirt cheap now that Xbox One is out on the market, so pick up Gears of War 3 and give it a whirl, you might just find yourself immersed into the universe. Thanks a lot for reading, and I will see you next time.

Wait, did I just find Elves who happen to be militaristic?

Oh dear people, the day seems to be creeping up upon thee. Indeed while observing the Elder Scrolls Online as it goes through its development cycle via the Shoddycast channel – the link will be provided – it has come to my attention that the Aldmeri Dominion possesses many of the characteristics I look for in a faction when looking at a particular title. Now before this article continues onward, it should be noted that this game, ESO, takes place in the second era; far into the past before the events of Skyrim – heck even far before Morrowind for that matter. Therefore the Thalmor and their ideology really do not exist in the Aldmeri Dominion as pointed out by Shoddycast as this faction is more of the cautious parent, rather than the pesudo-Nazis everyone points to before they start a Nord character and ‘Fus Ro Dah’ the Thalmor Embassy personnel to death.

Now the Aldmeri are ruled by a Queen who is voiced by Kate Beckinsale, to which I must confess her voice is quite well suited to the role of a strong yet fair monarch. Indeed it is no wonder – though I suspect those bloody podcasters are more on the humor side than actually committed to the cause – that the Shoddycast hosts Josh and Kyle (hopefully his name is spelled correctly) always fight for the Queen as every time they speak the battlecry their community made up, it is with enthusiasm and effort – sadly the Daggerfall Covenant’s battlecry sounds more like a dying mouse than a soldier’s last words before battle.

Now thus far there has yet to be more information released about the culture of the Aldmeri, but so far from what the community can tell it is more akin to the Elves from the Lord of the Rings series where they play the role of wise councilors to the hotheaded race of men – in this case the hotheaded races of Tamriel as men are not the only race to be young and naive. Combat-wise it would appear that they are pretty much the same as every other faction in the game: usual sword, axe, and magic combination, and since the developers stated that the characters will be about as open as Skyrim when it comes to customization, there really is little in the way of traits aside from racials that will give this faction an edge – if racial bonuses are to even exist in the game.

A strong Monarch, a strong – from what I can tell – pseudo-militaristic attitude, and a plan to keep the undisciplined factions of Tamriel in line in order to prevent another demonic incursion like the one currently facing the three factions in ESO; I think I might want to side with the Aldmeri Dominion in this game. After all the Empire I went to war for does not even exist in this timeline as Tiber Sceptim has not even been born yet. Thus there is a very good chance that someday – if the game either goes Free to Play, or I succumb and subscribe – I will be shouting “for the Queen” as I march on Cyrodiil to take the Ruby Throne for the Dominion. Time to play the game folks! However until that time comes, I think I will work some more on Neverwinter: I need to dig further into the game in order to enjoy it fully as doing the quests and missions around level 10 is not an accurate taste of things to come. Anyways folks thanks for reading, and I shall see you next time.

 

Shoddycast Channel on Youtube.
http://www.youtube.com/user/ShoddyCast/videos

IGN Video featuring voice actors for ESO.

Update: 19 January 2014

Hello folks;

Shame World of Tanks is suffering from some serious frames per second issues after patch 8.10 was implemented. The colour filters they have in that game under the “improved” graphics settings are really nice, and add that extra layer of character to the game. Indeed the version I am playing is too suffering from the issue of a sudden drop in frames per second: after doing some tinkering it was discovered that even if I lowered all the graphics’ settings to the bear minimum, the frames per second would still drop like there was no tomorrow. Generally when it comes to engagements, if I left my settings all on medium, I would sink to about 8 fps. Now if I lowered my settings down to standard graphics with everything either turned off or lowered to minimum/low, I would still sink to 8 fps when I drive past four on four tank brawls. Hopefully this situation will be resolved by Wargaming.net as World of Tanks is quite the free-to-play game, and it would be a shame to see this title go under especially with the enthusiasm over Ground Forces in War Thunder – which they still have not installed old hardware support, thereby leaving players like myself in the dust.

Now what have I been up to some of you may wonder; well World of Tanks, The Old Republic, Guild Wars 2, and Neverwinter have been on the radar for the most part this past week. Suffice it to say out of the four games that are currently being played, Neverwinter really caught me off guard as I did not expect it to be almost the same as Skyrim with a hint a Dota 2 in the sense that the skill(s) are attached to the q,e,r, and g keys alongside 1 through 4. Left-clicking is the primary attack, and right clicking is the secondary attack (main attacks) – hence the near Skyrim/Dota 2-like controls. Whether or not I will do a review/first impressions remains to be seen: at this time I am slowly working my way through the game so it stands as more of a passion project rather than a commission.

Now I recall in my post concerning the Charr from Guild Wars 2 and how I stated that Elves were not part of the list of fantasy races I would play in a game like Guild Wars 2, World of Warcraft, Neverwinter etc. Truth be told most of the Elvish factions I have encountered seemed less than militaristic, which is something I want in a role-playing game. Now in terms of NEVER playing Elves, no I have not neglected them in that fashion: I find Blood Elf females quite visually appealing to say the least, and they are part of the Horde which has elements of militarism here and there. That said should a faction appear that features Elves alongside other races and militarism, I would play them in a heartbeat. Heck I have played Orcs before in Allods Online (outside of the “list” provided in the Charr article), and found them to be amazing when it comes to the leveling content, and within the lore in general. Though sadly the leveling experience was really grindy and I eventually left the game after roughly four months, the universe was quite interesting nonetheless.

Anyways folks that concludes this update for the 19th of January 2014: hopefully the fps issue will be fixed as it is quite bothersome to suddenly slow down in combat, only to be taken out by a KV-1 or a Hetzer because the frames just did not load fast enough. Imagine having even your best tank taken out by some 20mm-wielding light tank because your fps dropped faster than a fat kid doing push-ups. Thanks a lot for reading, and I will see you next time.

No love of home.

Hello folks;

Over the past week a few articles have surfaced on Elite Daily that spoke of traveling abroad and how it “enriches” oneself – among a host of various other “advice” bits. The thing is with this generation that is graduating from university/college and looking into the future is that many of them seem to display a lack of responsibility and an understanding of where their own means stand (specifically what are their own current financial means). Cryptic as it may sound, the concept of that statement is to draw attention to the sheer recklessness those articles – which sadly have been lost as they were not saved to either the bookmarks on the browser, or the desktop – promote, and the idea that it is okay to go abroad without an understanding of the climate on the other side of the pond.

Experience is often touted as important; for that there is no dispute. Yet understand that becoming a beggar on the streets of Paris when one spends all of their savings on alcohol and pizza does not match the description of “job experience” or “life experience” – though one can learn a lot about their own mistakes if they are driven into that sort of scenario. When the article spoke of traveling as a means of enriching oneself, it was as though the writer had forgotten just how important appreciating home is, and that going abroad has a different effect on everyone who does this activity.

The major factor in determining whether or not a young person can go abroad is money – plain and simple. No the government does not owe you anything, and no your parents should not have to fuel your stupidity and reckless behaviour when you go overseas. The idea of them paying for your tuition is to prepare you for a career, and to equip you with the tools to succeed. The money available is finite, and should you waste it, then it is gone forever. No reset button, no magical loot chest like in Guild Wars 2, and certainly no sympathy from those of whom granted you their support, and you squandered all of it in one fell swoop.

Yes there is the argument of: “but you’re young! Go abroad!” Newsflash, even the universities have no plan to rescue you should you wind up at the mercy of a loan shark. When you go abroad, you may have to study in a foreign language – which you may NOT have – and deal with the social differences that comes with a new territory (ie: different social norms and graces expected of a resident). Should you fail to present the month’s rent to the landowner of which you are renting from, good luck trying to find help in a place where help does NOT exist. Then there is the political climate to consider: based on your nationality, will they be friendly to you, or is there a danger to your life? What about the risk of victimization when it comes to crime: will you end up at the hands of thieves who want a grab at easy foreign money?

The sheer notion that going abroad is the ONLY way to enrich oneself is naive at best. Does one really want to forfeit their position of strength, where they have friends and family support, just to – what – see what the streets of Paris look like? Risk everything, and even run the chance of becoming a homeless beggar in Paris all because the brain could not forge a list of disadvantages? When the lady from the study abroad office came into my classroom and spoke on going overseas for a semester, it was comical how when I asked: “is the cost of living factored into the fees/covered?” her facial expression went from calm to a utter shock, as if she was not expecting someone to strike the bell of reality and let out the long ring that comes with it.

Ultimately the moral of the story is only go abroad for fun, because education is the same everywhere, and unless you plan on immigrating to that country, set up a strong home base and live well below your means. Never measure yourself to others who can go abroad, always appreciate what you have at home, and never forget that there is always something to do in your home country and someone to do it with. Thanks for reading folks, I’ll see you next time.

Charr: have I been cheated?

Another “guilt” post per se folks, good lord this seems to be a reoccurring theme on this blog at the present time. Got back into Guild Wars 2, and this time the flamethrower engineer has been mothballed in favour of the Charr warrior. Now there was a bit of skepticism at first with the Charr as generally in fantasy RPGs it is either Humans or Dwarves that spark the interest. However upon walking around the Black Citadel and realizing what a – in a rough manner – “mistake” it was to go human, the Charr race in Guild Wars 2 was suddenly given a second, rather enthusiastic, chance to show their quality.

The Charr are a race of feline creatures that exist in the Guild Wars universe: they are extremely militaristic (a major attraction point for someone such as I) and thrive on conflict – not so much in the Mandalorian sense where they absolutely must fight ALL the time. Their government is structured in a similar fashion to a military unit, and their society is built around the notion of cooperation and strength in order to achieve a common goal – win wars. The Charr are also the most technologically advanced race in the Guild Wars universe, mastering steam engines and gunpowder before either the typical Dwarves or Humans could, alongside manufacturing and industry. The Charr will therefore satisfy the type of gamer who is big into military/military-themed characters and/or societies: the Charr always look good in plate armour – sadly to the detriment of everything else though – and their racial skills are geared towards a war theme as well.

Now being a militaristic person, it was natural that the Charr race would eventually enter the radar and peak the interest. Prior to this however the reason why Humans were selected was because they were naturally relatable. Seeing how Humanity was doing in a universe like Guild Wars is part of the immersion factor, and being able to relate to a character in the most realistic manner possible brings the level of immersion to new heights. However it is a fantasy setting, and as such fantasy creatures like Dwarves and Charr should be given consideration as they do offer some attractive characteristics to which a player can relate to – though not in the more realistic sense of course. Having fun should be the key directive here however and not realism; this hard lesson was half-solidified yesterday when the level six Charr was re-visited.

Ultimately it was not a poor decision to go Human because it was within the interest of the said player to do so; yet it came as a surprise when the Human faction ended up only satisfying half of the player’s personality, leaving the other half to be swallowed up by the Charr. Who knew Charr would end up on the list of fantasy characters/factions that would display virtues of strength, honour, militarism, etc: to think that once upon a time only the Humans were seen as having such values, while Elves were the “pseudo-hippies” of the fantasy universes, and Dwarves were an after thought. Now Dwarves, Humans, and Charr comprise the list of races that peak the interest: sorry Elves you just do not satisfy the need for militarism as soldiering is not an Elvish pursuit, only a “side job.” Now if you will excuse this soldier, he has some duties to perform for the Legion before lights out at 2100; I’ll see you next time.

Charr_Legion_artwork

StuG III: did I make a mistake?

Now normally I do not post more than once per day on this blog – or write in first person as I attempt to write in a more formal manner – but my goodness watching that StuG III pummel the opposition with its 7,5cm stu.k. 40L/43 gun is just – I am at a loss for words here. Earlier today on the 12th of January I sold my Marder II as I felt I was no longer interested in tank destroyers in World of Tanks. While progressing through my tech trees and reaching my daily limit, actual in-game limit, I played a match where a StuG was part of my team; I was amazed at how good the tank destroyer was when pitted against enemy armour.

The StuG pilot definitely knew what he or she was doing because at the very last minute, when it was down to the StuG and a single enemy tank, they managed to take out that pesky enemy armour from the rear with their main gun and win us the match. Now everyone knows a game is good when people go back and forth on which vehicle to choose from as they are all equally fun to pilot, but did I make a mistake when I sold my Marder II? Did I falsely place my faith in my light and medium tanks while ignoring the benefits of having at least one tank destroyer?

Now normally in a game like World of Tanks I would go ahead to purchase a slot with real world currency, but due to my financial limitations at this time I am unable to do so – hence the near “Stalinist-purge” approach to keeping some tanks and selling off others from the garage. Yet watching the StuG in action made me think of my tactical decisions earlier today, and question whether or not they were good ones.

Ultimately it is the operator that makes a tank good and not the tank itself – or in this case the tank destroyer. Only I can make my machines dance, for if I fail to pilot my vehicle correctly, then even with the best guns and armour mounted onto a given tank it will all be useless when going toe to toe against an enemy who has less armour and a slightly smaller caliber gun, but can move their tank and fire without even blinking an eye. Ah decisions, decisions; I’ll see you next time.

Stug-III