October 15, 2014

More on MicroConsoles

There were two big events in the world of MicroConsoles this week.  The first being that the Playstation TV launched in North America, and the second being the (surprise?) announcement of Google's Nexus Player.

I talked about the Playstation TV before (when it was called Playstation Vita TV, well it still is in Japan).  Basically it's a Vita in a box.  A somewhat stripped down one, it turns out, since it doesn't run nearly all the games or apps that the Vita does.  To be fair, some of the limitations make sense, since there is no touchscreen involved anymore.  However, the fact that Netflix and other video streaming apps don't work doesn't make a bit of sense.  Netflix has said they have no plans of supporting the system, either.  So if you planned on buying the PS TV for your video streaming needs - look elsewhere.  (Amazon Fire TV has it beat hands down, there - so does the $35 Google Chromecast - and basically any other WiFi enabled device you can plug into a TV via HDMI.)

But you aren't buying a PS TV for the TV part - you are buying for the GAMES, right?  Well, hold on...  Because not all PS Vita games work with PS TV.  And Playstation Now (the game streaming / rental service from Sony) is INSANELY EXPENSIVE - so stay clear.  (Sometimes it is CHEAPER to buy the games from the PS Store than to stream them.  And it is almost always cheaper to buy them in physical form - especially used.)

And, did I mention that the Playstation Vita only has 1GB of onboard storage - and the only way to add storage is through Sony's proprietary PS Vita Memory Card.  Those are retailing for more than $1 per GB at the moment.  Some cards almost $2 per GB, depending on size and store and sale.  And you will need a card if you want to download anything.  1GB of storage will not cover much in the way of gaming.  Heck, you'd be lucky to fit more than 1 PS-one classic on there.

So.... for now, unless they change a LOT of the software limitation, and significantly lower the cost of their Vita Memory - I would have to strongly advise passing on a PS TV - as much as I wanted them to be cool.

On the other hand, we have the Google Nexus Player.  I mentioned in my last MicroConsole focused post that Google had bought a game controller company which made some speculate the big G would be entering the game console market.   Well, they sort-of have now. In much the same way Amazon sort-of has with their Fire TV.  The Google Nexus Player is more of a Android Box than MicroConsole - but it is FAR better than the now-defunct "Google TV" boxes of the past.

Like the Fire TV, the Nexus Player is a MicroConsole style set-top-box with an optional game controller.  However, it doesn't appear the game controller was made by the company that Google bought.  It appears to be made by Asus.  Also, it appears to be the exact same controller as the OnLive MicroConsole with the media buttons removed (which is supper odd, since they would actually have potential use here, as opposed to on the OnLive system, which had no media apps whatsoever) and rounded mid-face buttons.

Seriously - Look at them!



Look, I know I said the same thing for the Amazon Fire TV's controller - but this is right out the same controller.  No moving of sticks and D-pads.  The angles - the contours - the indicator lights - everything!  It's the same stinking controller I tells ya!

The Nexus Player seems like a far more solid system, offering the full Android 5.0 (Lollipop) experience and a far more powerful set of specs - including the ability to handle 1080p, which the PS TV lacks.

I'm not saying you have to rush out and get either one (the Nexus Player isn't out yet, it was just announced today, with preorders coming latter this month).  But I'm saying of all the MicroConsoles I've seen, the Nexus Player is the best, with the Amazon FireTV coming a close second.

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Gotham City is Anti-Vancouver.... Lazy Graphics Editing

So apparently Gotham is anti-Vancouver....

This map is from Fox's new "Gotham" TV series, shows the location of Arkham Asylum and the surrounding area, (a place they refer to as "Arkham City" - but it is an area within Gotham City itself).

 The map is actually a mirrored image of map of Vancouver, BC, Canada. Even the labels / street names are flipped.


That is just lazy graphic work, people....

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September 4, 2014

The "New Nintendo 3DS" - Announcement Reaction & Initial Thoughts

For those who might not yet have heard, Nintendo has announced a new handheld game system.  As of now, it has only been announced for Japan, but there isn't much chance it will be exclusive for long.  The new system is called "The New Nintendo 3DS".



*sigh*

And the confusion is already clear.

Let's clarify one thing.  A lot of people online are calling this the "New 3DS" - that is not the name.  The name is the "New Nintendo 3DS" --- not the "Nintendo New 3DS", the New comes first.

I sincerely hope that they will come out with a *ahem* new name before launch - at least a new name for regions outside of Japan.  (Nintendo does have a history of using slightly different names for consoles in Japan - the biggest being Japan's Famicom / Super Famicom vs the Nintendo Entertainment System / Super NES, and the most recent being Japan's DSi LL & 3DS LL vs the DSi XL & 3DS XL.)

The first problem,"New" things don't stay "new" for long.

Remember a few years ago - Apple came out with the "New iPad".  That was the official title.  Not the iPad 3 or the iPad 2012 or the iPad 3G or the iPad 3rd Generation... no, it was officially titled and marketed as "The New iPad".  It was replaced and discontinued in less than 8 months.  It took less than 2/3 of a year for the "New" iPad to go from "New" to "Not-the-Newest-One-Anymore" to "No Longer being made or sold".

I'm not saying the "New Nintendo 3DS" (which I am now going to call the nn3DS because - it's faster) will be obsolete in 8 months.  But what I am saying is that at some point in the future, it will no longer be the newest handheld console from Nintendo.  And before that even happens, it will simply no longer be "new".  The PS Vita is Sony's latest handheld - but it's not "new".  It has been out for over 2.5 years and has already seen a hardware refresh.  It is not "new" by most technological or video game standards.  It is still the new-est - but it is not new.  And the same will happen with the nn3DS.

The second problem - probably the bigger problem - that name is confusing as *#^~@!

It is bad enough that we have currently on the market the 3DS and its follow-up the 2DS, (not to mention the 3DS XL).  Now we will have the 3DS - the 3DS XL - the 2DS - the nn3DS and the nn3DS XL.  So let's say your 3DS breaks, and you want a replacement.  You go to your local game store and you say "I want a new 3DS" - and since "your local game store" is a GameStop, because they are a complete monopoly - they sell used consoles.  So the clerk asks you "Do you want a new New 3DS or a used New 3DS?"  You assume the second-place "new" is lowercase and referring only to the fact that it will be "new-to-you".  ...

Ok, it's late, and I haven't thought the joke all the way out, but you could have up to 3 "new"s (not to be confused with 3 news).  If it is a not-used nn3DS that you have never personally owned before, it would be a new-to-you new New Nintendo 3DS, or just a new-new-new 3DS.  As opposed to a new used New 3DS or a new used 3DS or a new new 3DS or a ....

I hate the name.

I seriously hate the name.

None of this would really matter much if - like the 2DS - the nn3DS only played 3DS games.  But they don't.  There will be exclusive titles to the nn3DS.  Meaning you will run into all this confusion everytime you want to buy a new 3DS game... or a New 3DS game....  or a new-New.... $*#@)#*!#*!!!




Now....  Name aside - what is so... *ahem* "new" about it?

A second analog disc - much smaller than the main one.  The 3DS already has an awkward optional add-on device that adds a second control disc.  So it would be possible for nn3DS games to use that to be backwards compatible - but that is not all that separates the 2.

The 3D is better.  The 3D can now be seen from a much wider angle - and not just directly on.  On the current 3DS, if you tilt either your head or the 3DS screen even slightly it can - and does - break the 3D effect and blurs the screen.  The nn3DS promises to change that.  This will be really helpful for anyone wanting to share their screen with someone else (which doesn't make a whole lot of sense on a handheld... but it is good to have the option).

A feature a lot of reviewers aren't even mentioning is there will now be 2 shoulder buttons per side.  This, with the new circle pad, will finally bring the 3DS to have the same number and type of controls that virtually all other consoles have had for the last 3 generations or so.

The thing that will make nn3DS games impossible to run on the "old" 3DS is that the new hardware will have a faster, more powerful processor.

It will also have NFC to communicate with Amiibos. (Something that yet another optional add-on accessory for the 3DS will be able to do.)  Potentially, this could be used for Disney Infinity and Skylander figures as well, but I am far from familiar enough with the tech to know if that is even possible.

It is moving from an SD slot to a Micro SD slot, which isn't horrible, but it is more limiting.  At least it is an open standard format and not some proprietary garbage like Sony uses on the Vita.

Some of the button layout is different, not just the addition of the new controls, but the star and select have been moved - and the XYAB buttons are now color-coded like the Super NES/Famicom buttons were.  This is a nice touch.

All-in-all I like the system just fine - but I hate the name.  I look forward to seeing it in action.

What do you think?

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August 23, 2014

Online Learning - Knowledge is Meant to be Free

I finally got a smartphone.  I know - "welcome to 2005, Chad..." but, at least I'm here now.  I was using an iPod Touch and a flip phone to fill that role until I got here.  So I've had the Internet in my pocket for a long time, as I'm sure most of you have.

When I talk about the nearly-universal, always-on, instantly-accessible Internet - I often say that I have the ability to tap into the sum total of recorded human knowledge in an easy to search format.  In fact, I remember reading before that something like that was pretty much the goal of Google when they got started - "To index all of human knowledge".  I don't know if that was or is ever really their stated goal, but it might as well be.

The fact is - there has never in the history of mankind been an age where so much information was available to so many people.  It's pretty amazing.  The Internet is more than cat videos and 90's kids quizzes.  In fact, I'd like to share with you some cool sites and apps that can help you learn just about anything.

And the info is all free.  
(Note, some apps may offer "in app purchases" - but they aren't needed to get the info.)

Khan Academy
All levels of learning - from Kindergarten to Graduate level

Duolingo
Learn languages - for free

Coursera
Tons of free courses from "Top Universities"

Udemy
18,000+ free "real-world skill" courses

My Open Courses
Focused on Engineering
Android App - Website - (no iOS App)

Grace
A "catch-all" app - basically a front end for other learning programs
Android App - Website - (no iOS App)

MOOCs4U
Free online courses, aka Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)
from different providers in one place
Another catch-all front end

Ted Talks
Not really courses, 
but interesting high-level-thinking talks from leaders in their fields

iTunes U
Access complete courses from leading universities and other schools
plus the world’s largest digital catalog of free education content
right on your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch
(it says iOS 7 needed - but you can download an older version
if you are like me and have an older iOS device)
(No Android App - obviously) - Website (for support)iOS App

Find what works for you.  Never stop learning.  Whether you are a high schooler who wants to see what college might be like, and maybe what field you want to go in, or a recent graduate who isn't quite sure if college is for you yet - or what you want to do with your life, or if you are in college and just want to learn stuff that isn't a part of your major - or if you are like me, and well passed your college years, and you just want to get the knowledge that is out there... learn a new skill... hone a current skill... whatever - just do it.  It's free.  :)

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July 4, 2014

Happy Fourth of July, Everyone! (Yes - EVERYONE - not just Americans)

I made an infographic.  I hope you enjoy.
Even if you aren’t American (which must suck) you should still celebrate The Fourth of July here’s why...  If you like having electricity in your house... You can thank America. If you like listening to the radio... You can thank America. If you like watching movies... You can thank America. If you like watching TV... You can thank America. If you like the fact that Human Beings have been to other celestial bodies (IE - THE MOON)... You can thank America. If you like surfing the Internet... You can thank America. If you like Hamburgers - you can thank Germany....  BUT if you like BACON CHEESEBURGERS... You can thank America. If you like Pizza, don’t thank Italy... You can thank America. If you like listening to Rock-n-Roll, Jazz, or Rap... You can thank America. And if you like NOT BEING A FREAKING NAZI... You know what to do....

Some have questioned this...  So I'll explain.

Electricity - Thomas Edison & Nikola Tesla - Americans
Radio - Nikola Tesla - American
Movies - the Kinetograph  by Thomas Edison - American
Television - Philo Farnsworth - American
The Moon - NASA, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin - Americans
The Internet - originally ARPANET - Created by the US Department of Defense - AMERICANS
Bacon Cheeseburger - the "Teen Burger" introduced in 1963 by A&W's - Americans
Pizza - Italian-Americans in New York - AMERICANS
Rock-n-Roll - Trixie Smith, Sam Phillips, Alan Freed,  Fats Domino, Bo Diddley, James Brown, Elvis Presley - AMERICANS
Jazz -  Buddy Bolden, Freddie Keppard, Joe Oliver, Louis Armstrong, Original Dixieland Jass Band  - AMERICANS
Rap - James Brown, Bob Dylan, Sugarhill Gang, Gil Scott-Heron, Coco La Rock, Rudy Ray Moore - AMERICANS

And the last one... come'on....

Didn't even mention: 

the Telephone - Alexander Graham Bell - American
or the Celephone - Martin Cooper - American
or the VCR - Charles Paulson Ginsberg - American
or the Optical Disc (which lead to the CD/DVD/LaserDisc/BluRay) - David Paul Gregg & James T. Russell - Americans
or the Personal Computer - Henry Edward Roberts - American
or the Video Game - Ralph H. Baer - American
or the Graphical User Interface - Xerox, Apple, Windows - all American Companies
or the Computer Mouse - Douglas Engelbart - American
or the Laptop - Adam Osborne - American

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June 11, 2014

Super Nostalgia Bros.

People in your 30s(ish), please look at this.  Please stare into your own childhood imagination.  I give you - that which could never be, yet is.


That, dear reader, is the impossible made real.

For those who don't know what you are looking at - that is a press release image from the makers of Super Smash Bros. - a video game that will be released later this year for the Nintendo Wii U and the Nintendo 3DS/2DS.

In it, we see four characters, (from left to right):  Sonic the Hedgehog, Mega Man, Pac-Man, and Super Mario.  Those four characters are owned by four different companies:  Sonic = Sega, Mega Man = Capcom, Pac-Man = Namco, and Mario = Nintendo.

Sega and Nintendo were rival companies who both produced video game consoles.  They were like the Microsoft and Sony (Xbox / Playstation) of today - only the rivalry wasn't just confined to boardrooms, fanboys, and the occasional soft-jab at tech conferences... "Sony's optional camera..."  it was straight-up, in-your-face, called-out-by-name marketing campaigns.... Namely "[Sega] Genesis does what Nintendon't."


(Or for the video impaired...)


Namco and Capcom never made consoles - that I am aware of anyway, excluding tabletop arcade cabinets and plug-in-play controller type things - but both made, and make, video games.  The Manly Men Pac and Mega might not have ever been rivals in the same vein as Mario and Sonic - but it is still nearly unthinkable to the 1980s / 90s childhood mind that you would ever see them in the same game.

Imagine an Angry Bird in Farmville, or Vault Boy giving advice to Nathan Drake, or Cortana and Kratos playing cards...  It's just madness.

But really, this is part of trend.

Before I expound on that, I want to take a step back.  No matter what your age, think back to your childhood.  Walk into your 8 year-old self's bedroom and get out your toys.  Like at least 10 different toys.  Now start playing with them.

Maybe He-Man is fighting Shredder... or a Transformer is battling Cobra Commander...  or Luke Skywalker is riding Twilight Sparkle to Mount Doom to battle Ken and his army of Hot Wheel Trucks...

The point is - when you play with toys, the vast majority of kids don't keep different "worlds" separate.  Star Wars and Star Trek and Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia and Muppet Babies....  They were all the same thing.  They were all toys.  And in our imaginations, there were no barriers, no reasons to keep them apart.  We didn't care about which toy company made the toys, which stores sold them, which content creator owned the intellectual property....  If we wanted our Super Mario figure to race our Sonic plushie...  then - by gum - they freaking raced!

Now, we who were children in the 80s or 90s or 70s.... we're all adults now.  To some extent, according to our driver's license anyway.  Our generation is in a place to make decisions regarding what entertainment we produce for ourselves, and for the generations after us.

And we want them to play with all the toys.  Not just the ones from this "walled garden" or another.

I mentioned this was a trend.  Wreck-it-Ralph is a good illustration.  In fact, it pretty well foreshadowed this game.


It's hard to tell because most of them have their back to the camera - but here we see the villains from Mario (King Bowser), Sonic (Dr. Robotnik... I will never call him "Eggman"... seriously, why did they do that?), and Pac-Man (Clyde the ghost).  The only one missing is Mega Man.  (Although it is possible that Dr. Wily was actually intended to be in that very scene.)

Other movies - like the Toy Story franchise, for example - do similar things. Like putting Barbie and Mr. Potato Head and a Speak-and-Spell in the same universe, one character just as real and alive and relevant as the next.

Actually, fighting games have long been the one place that fictional universes collide on a regular basis.  Virtually any time a fighting game has the word "Versus" in the title - it's smashing (puns!) two or more worlds together. Capcom did a lot of this (SNK, Namco actually, Mavel, just to name a few).  Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Tekken... they've all had multiple "Versus" fighting games against each other, or other fictional universes.  And even if a fighting game isn't a versus style game, they will often include cross-over characters.  Yoda, Darth Vader, Freddy Krueger, Kratos.... they've all made fighting game cameos over the years.

In fact, the entire Smash Bros. series of games is based on this concept of cross-overs.  Mario and Link and Samus...  they may all be owned by Nintendo, but they are still different franchises.  (Even if the argument can be made that they exist in the same "universe".)  It was very much a cross-over game.

To bring it all home, the ending of the very first Super Smash Bros. on the Nintendo 64 (SPOILERS for a 15 year old game!) revealed that the entire "game" took place in a child's bedroom.  (Edit:  It's actually "revealed" in the intro as well.) The characters were merely toys and the kid was just making them fight for fun.  The Boss character of "Master Hand" was the kid's own hand fighting the toys directly.

In the end - fictional characters are toys - and being able to play with them the way we want - regardless of copyrights, trademarks, and patents - is what makes the characters truly "ours".  And I am very happy to see that reality being reflected in this game.

How cool is it - Pac-Man, Mario, Mega Man, and Sonic... side by side - in a real legit game.  Not some fan-fiction, homebrew mashup, but a real Nintendo-Seal-of-Quality game.

Keep dreaming, kids.  Crazy things happen everyday.



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May 20, 2014

All my PS Vita Games

I've been a Playstation Plus user for a while now.  The main reason is the included games.  That's really about the only reason.

To illustrate, I just counted over 30 games in my available downloads for the PS Vita - everything from PS1 classics to current AAA titles like Uncharted.

I do not own a Vita.

But thanks to my continued PS+ membership, if I ever do get one, I'll instantly have dozens of games to play for it out of the box.  (And that's not counting any bundled games that may come with it - or any additional games I'll get thanks to PS+ between now and then.)

There is a reason Microsoft had to change Live Gold.  It just wasn't in any way competitive.

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