Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Bar hopping 2014

Here are some bar hopping photos I have taken while in St. Croix County. Wisconsin has 3580 bars in the state which is 3rd highest in the country. Since its Wisconsin, I can literally say my friends are there at any given time and most people will believe me. It's slick. I see bar photos like this all the time on Facebook (52 weeks a year). It's mainstream.
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Horrible truth: Beef up your PS Network profile for job

 The horrible truth is now mainstream true [for Gamer Bachelor Degrees]! You have to beef up your Playstation Network profile with tons of  trophies before you can HOPE to be hired as a videogame tester/developer/programmer..

A game design education is nothing without a portfolio to show employers - Neil Druckmann, Jesse Schell and Albert Shih weigh in

Games education continues to grow and evolve, as described in our last panel of video game professors, but what should students aim to get out of their education? How will they know if they're being molded into suitable candidates to be hired by leading game developers, or should they attempt going indie and starting their own studio?

GamesIndustry International tackles these questions and more in our panel below, assembled with the help of the Carnee Mellon Entertainment Technology Center (ETC), including the dev running it, an alum made good, and a current student. Our participants are Jesse Schell, CEO of Schell Games and professor at Carnee Mellon University's ETC, Neil Druckmann (creative director on Naughty Dog's The Last of Us and Carnee Mellon alum), and Albert Shih, current ETC student and designer on the student team making the museum of simulation tech.

: What do you think students should be getting from their education before they enter the games industry, and are they actually getting what they need today from most programs?

Jesse Schell: In my opinion, at a minimum, they should be getting a solid basis in craft, whether that be software enneering, fine arts, design, business, or what have you. Ideally, they are also learning interdisciplinary teamwork, since that is generally central to game development. In most cases, though, teamwork is neglected in undergraduate education.

"having solid technical skills and having a good portfolio is a huge concern for students"

Albert Shih

Albert Shih: I agree with Jesse that having solid technical skills and having a good portfolio is a huge concern for students. I also think a big part of a game-based education is ving students a bit of direction in stepping into the game industry. It's hard to find out what you don't know, and a lot of students have the drive and passion to enter the game industry but are not quite sure how to get there.

In my opinion, getting into the game industry from the outside is a bit tricky - there are a lot of options but most companies look for very specific skills. Knowing which skills or portfolio pieces are worth spending time on is a difficult problem. Fortunately, a lot of programs help students gain a lot more visibility in the industry.

Neil Druckmann: First thing is that students need to figure out where their passions lie and focus on specializing. The game industry is very competitive, especially for students coming out of school, and a good candidate needs to demonstrate deep knowledge in a specific discipline. Having said that, the most successful leaders in our company tend to have a broad knowledge of many topics. This is important because a big part of game development involves collaboration between a myriad of disciplines. A good developer can understand the different needs of a programmer, sound enneer, designer, animator, etc., irrespective of their own specialty. It's also important to note that even if you specialize in one area, it doesn't mean that you can never transition into another area later in your career. I started out as a programmer, then shifted to design, started doing some writing, and currently I'm a creative director. I always followed my passion and that helped me do my best work.

: The games industry - like any technolocal industry - changes quite quickly. Should we be concerned that students may spend four years learning stuff that could be out of date when they graduate?

Albert Shih: As a student, I'm not too worried about learning things that will be out of date. Game programs I know usually don't focus on any single replaceable technology. For example, in our Building Virtual Worlds class we switch technology (Kinect, Oculus, Leap Motion) every two to three weeks to teach students to be adaptable.

Jesse Schell: Absolutely, this is a concern. There are programs that unwisely spend all their time teaching students the details of technoloes that are soon to be obsolete. It is very important for any responsible program to do two things -- teach students that which is eternal, and to get them working in the media of the future.

Neil Druckmann: As Jesse mentioned, this definitely can be a concern - the more technical a role is, the more concern applies. A candidate that only works with a specific set of tools that a company doesn't use becomes a greater hiring risk - which could tip the scales for another candidate. That's why it's more important to focus on core foundational skills instead of figuring out the best shortcuts of a particular software package (although that's important too).

A few examples: when hiring a concept artist, we're more interested in seeing their understanding of drawing fundamentals (anatomy, perspective, use of shape & color, composition, rendering, etc.) rather than how well they use Photoshop. For level designers, we want to see their understanding of building a space (in whatever package they want) rather than how well they use Maya (a popular 3D modeling program). A character artist though, better have a deep understanding of the latest shaders that'll help push realistic skin and hair - for that role technical ability is just as important as artistic talent.

"Honestly, students are too well prepared for crunch. Crunch happens due to poor planning, and most students do not excel at planning, and are very used to burning the midnight oil to get their projects completed"

Jesse Schell

What I loved about Jesse's design class is that it never focused on technology. Instead we learned design fundamentals by creating and iterating on paper and board games. Those same principles are directly applicable in my day-to-day work on AAA titles (even though our ennes and the tools change and evolve on a regular basis.)

: Crunch is very much a reality of the AAA games business still. Are students adequately prepared?

Albert Shih: I think most students from game programs are quite familiar with crunch. At the ETC (and from what I hear, Dipen) staying late and getting only a few hours of sleep is common, if not expected, for some of the classes or projects that the students need to take. However, I think a more valuable [skill] is to be extremely productive in a short amount of time. If you can only work on game development for 6 hours a day (as some indies do), you need to be super efficient.

Jesse Schell: Honestly, students are too well prepared for crunch. Crunch happens due to poor planning, and most students do not excel at planning, and are very used to burning the midnight oil to get their projects completed. It is my hope that as time goes on, more schools will start to teach responsible techniques for project management that avoid long-term crunch.

Albert Shih: It's funny that I've never seen it this way, but that's absolutely true. Students crunch a lot because of poor planning. Often it's even a badge of honor to have worked overnight and students who go home early are thought of as lazy or unproductive. I think getting enough sleep and good long-term planning are more important in the long run.

Neil Druckmann: It probably depends on the school, but the hardest I ever crunched was in my first year at the ETC at Carnee Mellon. I think I stayed up for two days straight trying to finish a project for our Building Virtual Worlds class.

While I don't see crunch going away, it's important for developers (especially newcomers that feel they have to prove themselves) to find balance in their lives. Without that balance you run the risk of not only creating sub-par work due to exhaustion, but also of burning yourself out and losing the passion that made you pursue this career in the first place.

: How has the rise of the indie scene in recent years affected how game design programs are structured? What changes have been made or do you think need to be made?

Albert Shih: I'm quite unfamiliar with how game design programs were in the past, but it seems that more and more students are less interested in large AAA projects and are more leaning towards creating indie or mobile projects.

Jesse Schell: It has made things far easier. We presently are in a period where students have access to the same tools that professionals do -- this was not true 7 or 8 years ago. However, it has become more necessary for schools to teach about business realities, as the idea of a student finishing school and trying to make it as an indie dev has become a reality.

Albert Shih: We still haven't seen a lot of examples of students directly transitioning into indie devs, so I'm slightly worried on that front. However, it's true that there have been a lot of examples of hit indie games being made in rather approachable tools. Game Maker was used to make Spelunky, Risk of Rain, and a lot Vlambeer games. A lot of indies have shown that it's possible to find an audience by being creative and a bit unorthodox in game design. It's very positive to see that it's theoretically possible for a small (and rather inexperienced) student-sized team to make a commercially successful or well-known game.

Neil Druckmann: The fact that students have the means to create a full game from scratch is huge. Nothing quite prepares you at making videogames than actually making a game. Showing a finished game also happens to be the strongest portfolio piece.

"I know I leveraged my professors' contacts when securing a handful of interviews while I was still in school, but ultimately it was my portfolio and the project-based experience I gained at the ETC that helped me land my internship at Naughty Dog"

Neil Druckmann

The indie scene also opens doors for students to pursue the kind of games that aren't being developed in the more traditional AAA space. There are now more and more examples of students coming out of school with a strong game (or a strong prototype) and starting their own successful indie companies.

: Ultimately, what impact do you think someone's education has on prospective employment at game companies? Have you noticed a change in the way companies view potential hires?

Albert Shih: I think having a game-related education definitely helps getting your foot through the door but it doesn't automatically translate to a job at a coveted company. The games industry is still an incredibly competitive place especially for entry positions, and companies will often hire from regular, non-game programs. However, working together with people who are interested in the same area of game development and being around people who are familiar with the industry definitely increases your chances of getting hired. Graduating from a games program isn't a golden ticket into the games industry, but it probably ves you a better chance than anything else.

Jesse Schell: I think good education helps in several ways. First and foremost, it ves a student a chance to build a solid portfolio, which is what studios care about most. It ves experience working on teams, and one of the biggest risks for a studio hiring someone new is whether they will fit in on the studio's team. Finally, it also ves access to an alumni network, which can be tremendously helpful for getting a foot in the door at a studio.

Neil Druckmann: As certain programs prove that they can produce a large number of great candidates, companies take notice, but for the most part we place more emphasis on a candidate's portfolio than the pedigree of their school. That's why it's important for a student to maintain and update their portfolio with their latest and greatest work.

Like Jesse said, a school's connection can play a big part in getting your foot in the door. I know I leveraged my professors' contacts when securing a handful of interviews while I was still in school, but ultimately it was my portfolio and the project-based experience I gained at the ETC that helped me land my internship at Naughty Dog.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

2014 in game industry

    Ask me again after the PS4 sells 100 mil. But M$ and Nintendo home console gaming is slowly but surely dying, yes.

down with consoles, long live arcades!

ditor's note: Since 2005, Blake Snow has covered video games and other male-interest topics for some of the biggest names in journalism. He lives in Utah with his family and is currently writing a book about finding offline balance in an online world.

(CNN) -- If console gaming were a first-person shooter, it would be taking heavy fire right now. A red hue would envelop the viewable screen from all sides, an ominous sign of spilled blood.

Or worse, near-death.

Despite this, Nintendo will release its new Wii U console on November 18, ushering in the eighth and possibly last generation of traditional home consoles as we know them.

Consider this: Dedicated gaming sales — including living-room consoles and handhelds — are in the midst of a four-year tailspin. You might say that's because of a bad economy, but then you'd have to explain why movie revenue and cable TV subscriptions have largely stayed the same.

Or why music sales, gutted by online streaming and piracy, have held up better than slumping sales of console games. Or why the popularity of social, mobile and PC games have skyrocketed to unthinkable heights.
Hands on with the next Nintendo Wii

The problem seems to be isolated to dedicated video games. Video game industry sales in the United States, including game discs, consoles and accessories, were down 24% in September when compared with the same period last year. Many experts believe these decreases in profits, the rise of casual and social gaming and waning consumer interest are affecting makers of the three big living-room consoles: Microsoft's Xbox 360, Sony's PlayStation 3 and Nintendo's Wii.

So is this it then? Is the death of dedicated gaming upon us? In a word, no.

"I bristle when people suggest as much," says Adrian Crook, a game design consultant. "Consoles will grow again and will never go away."

But today's dedicated gaming business is arguably in its most tumultuous period since the 1983 gaming collapse. It's nowhere near ruin yet, thanks to big franchises like "Call of Duty," "Madden," and a select few mainstream console games. But the console's influence is waning, and there's uncertainty about its future.

Here's where the shots at console gaming are coming from, and how the industry might dodge and counter them.

Trojan horses

Since the '80s, console makers have dreamed of using their "dedicated gaming machines" as Trojan horses to further control the living room with a single, proprietary device.

That time has come. Gaming consoles have transformed into entertainment hubs for people to stream movies or YouTube videos. So much, in fact, that gaming consoles no longer are being used primarily for gaming. In fact, "40% of all Xbox activity now is non-game," Microsoft boasts. Amazon and Netflix streaming accounts for most of that, as they do for Wii and PS3.

Combined, game consoles account for half of all Netflix users. This is great news for the movie industry. Not so great for console gaming's bottom line, especially since the industry largely subsidizes consoles now.
I'd sooner pay nothing up front and $5 to $10 later than plunk down $60 on a game and hope I like it.
Adrian Crook, game design consultant

In other words, a console isn't helping the gaming industry if it's mainly being used to stream Netflix movies.

Not only that, but gamers' tastes have evolved to include quick, bite-size gaming sessions -- something consoles have never been good at. (Gamers must go to the living room, wait for the console to power on, load the game from the main menu, wait for it to boot.) It's much slower than tapping an icon on the smartphone you already carry in your pocket.

"Most people who liked console games in the past still do today," says Alex Hutchinson, creative director of Ubisoft, "but they're also looking for a wider spread of experiences. I want some games I can play quickly after work or while the kids are asleep and have a short satisfying experience."

As the number of gaming scenarios has increased, so, too, has the number of diehard gamers, says market researcher DFC Intelligence.

"Gamers have not only increased in number, but they are playing on multiple platforms now," says analyst David Cole. "Fewer enthusiasts describe themselves in a single camp such as 'I love Nintendo and hate Sony and Microsoft' or vice versa."

If enthusiasm for a single dedicated machine has waned, however — or at least has been spread thin — then the machine that demands the most attention will invariably suffer. That machine is the console — the one you hold dear to your heart, but probably reach for less than you used to, whether you like to admit it or not.

Creative stagnation?

When it's not taking a backseat to more convenient app gaming, some say the console has stagnated creatively.

"You would think that XBLA (Xbox Live Arcade), PSN (PlayStation Network), and the rise of 'free to play' would have opened a door to smaller games that can take more risks creatively, but right now they're just cut-down versions of box-product games, or retreads of games I played on the SNES (Super Nintendo Entertainment System)," says Hutchinson, referring to the online gaming networks offered by Microsoft and Sony.

"I don't honestly think that someone who didn't want a 2-D platformer 20 years ago is going to wake up today and buy it on XBLA."
We need to offer more experiences that are understandable to people's real lives.
Alex Hutchinson of Ubisoft

In addition, even big-box games have lost some of their visual allure in recent years. What were once graphical leaps in previous generations have now become bunny hops, at least to the average eye.

"People aren't as motivated by cutting-edge graphics as they once were," says Paul Neurath, creative director at Zynga, makers of "FarmVille," "Mafia Wars" and other social games on Facebook.

"Gamers that care intensely about graphics will continue to do so, but I think there are fewer now than there were in the past," he says. "Big leaps in graphics no longer exist. Unless there's some futuristic holographic display or direct brain implement we don't know about, it's hard to get a lot better."

Cole, the gaming analyst, agrees.

"Cutting-edge graphics in the past amounted to nothing more than killer CGI videos that added nothing to gameplay," he said. "That's a problem for an industry that up until recently prided itself on "buy this console because the games look a lot better than the ones you currently own.'"

In that sense, next-generation is no longer "next." We've arrived. Looking back, NES was certainly a step above Atari and imprecise joysticks. SNES and Genesis offered a huge leap in affordable home graphics. PlayStation and N64 immersed players into 3-D worlds replete with camera control. PlayStation 2 and Xbox overcame polygons in favor of rounded and non-jaggy looks. All of these were improvements upon previous generations of gaming systems.

But this current generation of consoles? With the exception of the early Wii years, they've largely offered better-looking versions of games we've already played. There have been a lot of great games to be sure, but fewer must-haves — the kind that truly take the medium into uncharted territory.

Rise of cheap, social gaming

On the other hand, cheap, bite-size games such as "Angry Birds" and "Plants vs. Zombies" have thrived in recent years, ensnaring new players with novel gameplay.

"Virtually all of my clients are in social and mobile sectors, which have totally exploded in the last few years and continue unabated today," says Crook, who previously worked as a console designer.

As such, the demand for games has grown. "It's not so much that gamer interests have changed since the last generation, but that a whole group of new players have started playing games," says Zynga's Neurath. "These people would never have played last-generation console games. They're more into it for the social aspect."

Console makers so far have been ill-equipped to meet this demand, given their lucrative, 30-year-old model of selling games for $50-$60.
The Wii U\'s handheld controller displays a game during a presentation by developers Ubisoft.
The Wii U's handheld controller displays a game during a presentation by developers Ubisoft.

This partly explains why Nintendo, after five years of phenomenal Wii growth, is slumping. Industry experts say they're not in a position to meet the demands of most new social gamers.

We'll soon find out whether the Wii U can revive Nintendo's fortunes. The console's big new feature is a 6.2-inch touchscreen GamePad controller that interacts in creative new ways with the gamers' TV. Wii U players can play together, with one person using a TV screen and the other using the GamePad. A single player also can access additional content on the GamePad that enhances the game on the big screen.

Nintendo declined to comment for this story.

In a struggling economy, consoles also have fallen victim to the cut-rate pricing of games -- something consumers are exceedingly demanding but consoles have yet to offer.

In what has become a successful business model, many developers give away their games for free, then charge players later for status upgrades or gameplay perks.

"Say what you want about freemium, 'nickel and diming' of players, but I'd sooner pay nothing up front and $5 to $10 later than plunk down $60 on a game and hope I like it," says Crook.

Ubisoft's Hutchinson refers to it as a rising "fear" among console gamers. With so many deals to be had elsewhere, a lot of console gamers are making fewer full-price purchases than before.

"The free-to-play model has certainly impacted the industry," agrees Zynga's Neurath.

On top of that, 99¢ iPhone and iPad games are also taking a toll on the perceived value of dedicated gaming systems. Even PC games go on sale for as little as $5-$20 on occasion, a trend that has breathed new life into PC gaming and changed how some of the most ardent gamers value games.

"The business model for a five-year life cycle isn't working for Sony and Microsoft," says Cole. "They spend billions to R&D and market these new systems, they sell them at a loss for the first few years and then they don't really have the software business to make up the cost. They are better getting out of the business entirely rather than go after a five-year life cycle."

How console makers can fight back

In wake of all these changes, what's a console maker to do? What might reinvigorate interest in living-room and dedicated handheld gaming?

A first step would be fresher consoles themselves. The Xbox 360 is 7 years old, while the Wii and the PlayStation 3 are both 6.

Newer motion-controlled gaming systems such as Microsoft's Kinect and Sony's Move, which let players control in-game avatars by moving their arms and legs, have helped sustain interest. But experts say more upgrades are needed.

"New consoles would help, and the rumblings have already started at Microsoft and Sony," Hutchinson says. As if reminded by the lackluster sales of the handheld 3DS and PS Vita gaming systems, he adds, "But I don't know that we really need a new hardware cycle at this point from a creative standpoint."

Zynga's Neurath, who's worked with consoles and PCs since the 8-bit days, says console makers would do well to act more like nontraditional platforms. A new console dubbed Ouya will launch next year with free-to-play games and a $99 launch price, but keep the focus on what its manufacturer calls "TV gaming."

Crook believes there is still plenty of time for traditional console makers to correct their downward trend.

"There will always be a big market for core game systems," he says. "It all comes down to how consoles can get back to taking creative risks again, and what the platforms can do to broaden their markets and offer innovative means of interaction."

Ubisoft's Hutchinson wants console games to deliver more meaningful experiences.

"Games need to explain to players why they made certain artistic decisions, what mood they're setting with their lighting and color choices, and less about the technical features," he says. "We need to offer more experiences that are understandable to people's real lives, either in terms of mechanics or narrative, and attract people who don't read fantasy novels or watch the SyFy channel. Our mechanics are often not the barrier, but our content sometimes is."

The good news for the industry, and for gamers, is that video games in their broadest sense are most definitely here to stay. It's just that the way we access, control and define them has rapidly evolved. Despite the weakening sales of consoles and console games, the growth of mobile, social and PC-based games means that total spending on gaming is actually on the rise.

"Inviting more people to the fun and wonderment of games isn't just good for social games, it's good for the entire industry," says Neurath.

It will likely take at least one more console cycle to gauge the long-term sustainability of dedicated gaming devices, experts say. Their ultimate survival all depends on how well console makers adapt to evolving business models and changing consumer tastes.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

forgotten books

I found a website that scans old books and resells them on Amazon for $10.   A lot of the scanned books have free PDFs.  All have a free preview.

Top 10 JRPG games, back when JRPG's used to be Awesome

Honourable mentions:
12. Secret of Mana
11. Dark Cloud 1 & 2
10. Shadow Hearts 1 or 2: Shadow Hearts 1 is scarier, its one of the best horror themed RPG's I played. It had an interesting ring based battle system which was quite fun. I miss this series. The company that made it is now defunct| Metacritic-critic & user rating:85,91 (Shadow Hearts 2)
9. Suikoden 1 or 2: good story about geopolitics, conquest and war. Although the game had 2d graphics which kind of let it down. But it didnt stop me from enjoying the game| Metacritic-critic & user rating:82,98
8. Tales of Symphonia: my first tales game, highly addictive battle system, quite of number of side quests and very difficult optional bosses. The story was average and was quite cliche| metacritic-critic & user rating:86,90
7. Chrono Trigger: epic and addicting battle system, excellent story, just 1 optional boss in the original, I wanted more. The music in the game isn't better than FF 6, 7, 9 or 10| Gamerankings (snes):95.1%
6. Final Fantasy IX: has the magic FF formula that always works=good turn based atb gameplay + mini games + hard secret bosses + epic stories=WIN, Square Enix seems to have forgotten this formula. Maybe if they played this game they would go "oh damn, thats why our games used to be great"| Metacritic-critic & user rating:94,91
5. Persona 4: the gameplay is ok & much better in the hard mode of the game. But what stood out is the amazing story, it has quite a lot of plot twists. I have not seen a JRPG with plot twists as good as this game| Meta-critc & user rating:90,91
4. Final Fantasy 6: this game possibly has the best story of all the FF games. I didnt think it was as good as FF7 or FF10 though, because it didnt have that many mini games, hard bosses (except the dragons, czar dragon was missing which was a shame) and this game has a few serious bugs. If you used the "sketch" ability it could potentially crash the game depending on who you used it on, and what their status effects was when you used it| Meta-critic & user rating:92,94 (gba ver)
3. Kingdom Hearts 1: what i loved most about this game is the gameplay & difficult secret bosses, this game should not be judged based on face value. Just because it has Disney characters in it, does not mean its an easy or rubbish game | Meta-critic & user rating:85,89
2. Final Fantasy VII: everything about this game is "cool", when I first played this, it was 1 or 2 years after the PS2 came out, the graphics did not put me off. The game has a deep story, excellent gameplay, mouth watering CGI (for its time) and bad ass characters | Meta-critic & user rating:92,89
1. Final Fantasy X: This was my first FF & JRPG, so there maybe some bias here. But even then you can't deny that FF 10 is an epic game with an excellent story, wide variety of customization and beautiful cut scenes. Not to forget the excellent emotion extracting music. Just listen to 1 tune below. If only Square Enix made FF games like FF10 and those before it again...but we know that will probably never happen| Meta-critic & user rating:92,87. This is 1 of many awesome tunes from FF10:

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Top 10 JRPG games that are not FF

5. Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together & Ogre Battle 64

14. Skies of Arcadia

13. Chrono Cross

12. Pokemon Cyrstal

11. Grandia
10. Dragon Quest VIII: in my opinion, the game has an average story and good gameplay. Sometimes the gameplay is the part which shines the most, usually when you need to be very strategic in hard boss battles. but the best part of this game is the large amount of side quests| meta-critic 7 user rating: 89,84
9. Disgaea: Hour of Darkness: a very addictive turn based rpg where you move characters from place to place, it has a lot of replay value and many side quests| meta-critic & user rating: 84,87
8. Secret of Mana: In my opinion, this is the game which is the blue print for modern day action rpg's like Kingdom Hearts. It also has a highly addicting battle system and reminds me a lot of the shining force series| Gamerankings: 86.5%
7. Dark Cloud 2 (Dark Chronicles): This game is the Legend of Zelda of the playstation. It has a very similar lock on system to LoZ, tons of side quests, a sim style mini game where you can build your own towns and a secret hard dungeon at the end to give it a lot of re playability | meta-critic & user rating:87,92
6. Shadow Hearts 1 or 2: Shadow Hearts 1 is scarier, its one of the best horror themed RPG's I played. It had an interesting ring based battle system which was quite fun. I miss this series. The company that made it is now defunct| Metacritic-critic & user rating:85,91 (Shadow Hearts 2)
5. Suikoden 1 or 2: good story about geopolitics, conquest and war. Although the game had 2d graphics which kind of let it down. But it didnt stop me from enjoying the game| Metacritic-critic & user rating:82,98
4. Tales of Symphonia: my first tales game, highly addictive battle system, quite of number of side quests and very difficult optional bosses. The story was average and was quite cliche| metacritic-critic & user rating:86,90
3. Xenogears: the game is full of robotic battles and customization. The game itself is constructed in the traditional turn-based RPG style but with several innovative features that make it stand miles apart from its predecessors. The combat system utilizes some of the same aspects of a typical Square game by incorporating the Active Time Gauge system. In my previous list, I somehow forgot about this game| Meta-critic & user rating:84,94
2. Persona 4 & Kingdom Hearts: these 2 games are tied at number 2. Persona 4: the gameplay is ok & much better in the hard mode of the game. But what stood out is the amazing story, it has quite a lot of plot twists. I have not seen a JRPG with plot twists as good as this game| Meta-critc & user rating:90,91
2. Kingdom Hearts 1: also tied for number 2. What i loved most about this game is the gameplay & difficult secret bosses, this game should not be judged based on face value. Just because it has Disney characters in it, does not mean its an easy or rubbish game | Meta-critic & user rating:85,89
1. Chrono Trigger: epic and addicting battle system, excellent story, just 1 optional boss in the original, I wanted more. The music in the game isn't better than FF 6, 7, 9 or 10. Never the less this game is a master piece | Gamerankings (snes):95.1%

bad gaming habits

1) Hoarding.

Of all the bad habits I have in gaming, this one is definitely the
most wide spread. It's odd, because in real life I'm not very tied to
material objects. I collected comics and comic cards as a kid, but it
wasn't sustained in to adulthood. The only thing I really have a lot
of is video games and consoles, and even that isn't a substantial
collection. It's probably small enough to fit in to a duffle bag.


Not my Skyrim home, but might as well be.

When it comes to playing video games, however, it's a completely
different story. I didn't realize I had a problem until I played
Skyrim. One day I was cleaning out the inventory in my Whiterun home,
and all of the sudden it hit me: I have over 800 cabbages in
my cupboard. I sat there for a brief moment as that fact sunk
in, and I only had one thought... "What in sake am I
going to do with 800 cabbages?"

Of course that was just the beginning. My eyes had been opened,
and I began to notice that I've hoarded all sorts of stuff in other
games. Specialty ammunition in my favorite shooters. Piles
of money/resources in just about every game I've played. So
  pilot lights in Fallout 3... I've since gotten
better about this, but it's actually taken some work. I re-trained
myself to be more discerning, and to remember that just because a
rusty can exists as an item in this game doesn't mean I need to pick
it up. Learn from my mistakes, folks. Don't burden your inventories
with items you'll never use, and don't save all your resources for a
crazy last stand that probably won't come. Go all out, and enjoy the
game to it's fullest!

2) Never Looking Up.

One of the best things about gaming is that feeling you get when
you come across something that is out-of-this-world beautiful. A
great example is in Halo when you first land on the ring and see it
stretch off in to the background and all the way up over your head.
Or that first sunrise that you catch as you're galloping across the
wild west in Red Dead Redemption. Or the sheer scope of
fighting Poseidon in God of War 3. These are beautiful
things that are hand crafted by developers with love, in hopes that
gamers will see them and lose themselves in the pure beauty and



3) Rushing In.


I probably should have thought this through.

When I play co-op, I tend to play more like... well, an
 Instead of using the 2nd person to our advantage and
playing like a competent adult, I tend to do something that's
significantly less helpful and more likely to get us killed: I charge
in head on. Ok, I don't do this ALL the time, but enough that I've
noticed it's a pattern. Anyone who has played most FPS games on the
hardest difficulty knows that's a pretty quick way to get yourself
killed, yet I find it very hard to stop myself. As my teammate hangs
back and smartly whittles down the enemies ranks, I'm over
here shouting some war cry straight out of Lord of the Rings as I try
to punch everything to death. But honestly, what's a guy supposed to
do when the beacons are lit and the red dawn approaches? Sigh... I'm
not proud of it, but I gotta own up to it. I'm lucky I have patient
friends. Here's to all the teammates who died while I was in
spectator mode. *pours a little on the sidewalk*

4) Constantly Reloading.

Imagine this if you will. It's a heated game of versus mode in
Left 4 Dead 2. My friends and I are trudging through The Dark
Carnival campaign, making pretty good time. As I mow down a couple
zombies with my AK-47, I instinctively hit the reload button even
though I've only shot a few rounds. Then I hear it: the sound of a
Charger as he tackles one of my teammates and knocks me on my back.
I'm the closest one to him, and as I get to my feet, I pull the
trigger only to watch in horror as my character has to restart the
reload animation. My teammate's precious life ticks away, and soon
we're overrun trying to pick him up off the ground.


Guilty as charged.

If you play lots of shooters, you may have picked up this bad
habit along the way. Sure, reloading your gun when you've still got
nearly all of the clip left probably doesn't come back to hurt you
99% of the time. Trust me though, if you play with this bad habit
long enough, sooner or later it'll come back to haunt you. You'll be
left to watch helplessly as a teammate is pummeled before
your very eyes. You'll wake up one night in a cold sweat as the sound
of them screaming over the mic "WHY WON'T YOU HELP ME" is
still ringing through your head. *shiver*

5) Button Mashing.

Of all the bad habits I have in gaming, this is probably the most
serious offender. Look, I've been playing games for a long time and
I'm proud that at the very least, I've given every game genre a try.
I've enjoyed some genre's more than others (RPG, RTS, Shooters,
Adventure, etc), but there are some that I simply can't seem to
master. At the top of that list, without a shadow of a doubt, is
fighting games. Not arena fighters like Super Smash Bros., but games
like Street Fighter, Tekken, Marvel vs. Capcom and the like. And the
reason for this is because... my hand eye coordination is atrocious.
Scratch that, just my coordination in general. It's why I was a
runner in High School and not a... well, any other kind of athlete.
I'm not bothered by this fact, but it's the truth.


Erm... Yeah, I'm just gonna keep slamming the buttons with my

It's also why, even after 25 years of playing video games, I still
mash buttons. I know, it's terrible, but I just can't do those tricky
combos everyone else can do in their sleep. T\

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Agenda 21 Communitarianism preventing photographing?

ave you wondered where these terms 'sustainability' and 'smart growth' and 'high density urban mixed use development' came from?  Doesn't it seem like about 10 years ago you'd never heard of them and now everything seems to include these concepts?  Is that just a coincidence?  That every town and county and state and nation in the world would be changing their land use/planning codes and government policies to align themselves with...what?

First, before I get going, I want to say that yes, I know it's a small world and it takes a village and we're all one planet etc.  I also know that we have a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, and that as cumbersome as that can be sometimes (Donald Rumsfeld said that the Chinese have it easy; they don't have to ask their people if they agree.  And Bush Junior said that it would be great to have a dictator as long as he was the dictator), we have a three branch government and the Bill of Rights, Constitution, and self-determination.  This is one of the reasons why people want to come to the US, right?  We don't have Tiananmen Square here, generally speaking (yes, I remember Kent State--not the same, and yes, an outrage.) So I'm not against making certain issues a priority, such as mindful energy use, alternative energy sponsorship, recycling/reuse, and sensitivity to all living creatures.

Considering its policies are woven into all the General Plans of the cities and counties,  it's important for people to know where these policies are coming from.  While many people support the United Nations for its 'peacemaking' efforts, hardly anyone knows that they have very specific land use policies that they would like to see implemented in every city, county, state and nation.  The specific plan is called United Nations Agenda 21 Sustainable Development, which has its basis in Communitarianism.  By now, most Americans have heard of sustainable development but are largely unaware of Agenda 21.

In a nutshell, the plan calls for governments to take control of all land use and not leave any of the decision making in the hands of private property owners.  It is assumed that people are not good stewards of their land and the government will do a better job if they are in control.  Individual rights in general are to give way to the needs of communities as determined by the governing body.  Moreover, people should be rounded up off the land and packed into human settlements, or islands of human habitation, close to employment centers and transportation.  Another program, called the Wildlands Project spells out how most of the land is to be set aside for non-humans.

U.N. Agenda 21 cites the affluence of Americans as being a major problem which needs to be corrected.  It calls for lowering the standard of living for Americans so that the people in poorer countries will have more, a redistribution of wealth.  Although people around the world aspire to achieve the levels of prosperity we have in our country, and will risk their lives to get here, Americans are cast in a very negative light and need to be taken down to a condition closer to average in the world.  Only then, they say, will there be social justice which is a cornerstone of the U.N. Agenda 21 plan.

Agenda 21 policies date back to the 70's but it got its real start in 1992 at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro when President Bush signed onto it.  Click here to see a list of the countries that signed UN Agenda 21. President Clinton took office the following year and created the President's Council on Sustainable Development to implement it in the United States. Made up of federal agencies, corporations, and non-profit groups, the President's Council on Sustainable Development moved quickly to ensure that all federal agencies would change their policies to comply with UN Agenda 21.  A non-governmental organization called the International Council of Local Environmental Initiatives,  ICLEI, is tasked with carrying out the goals of Agenda 21 worldwide.  Remember: UN Agenda 21/Sustainable Development is a global plan that is implemented locally. Over 600 cities in the U.S. are members; our town joined in 2007. The costs are paid by taxpayers.

It's time that people educate themselves and read the document and related commentary.  After that, get a copy of your city or county's General Plan and read it.  You will find all sorts of policies that are nearly identical to those in U.N. Agenda 21.  Unfortunately, their policies have advanced largely unnoticed and we are now in the end game.  People need to identify their elected officials who are promoting the U.N.'s  policies and hold them accountable for their actions.  Only when we've identified who the people are and what they are trying to do will we be able to evaluate whether or not we approve of the policies they are putting forward.  Some people may think it's appropriate for agencies outside the United States to set our policies and some people will not.  The question is, aren't  Americans  able to develop their own policies?  Should we rely on an organization that consists of member nations that have different forms of governments, most of which do not value individual rights as much as we do?  It's time to bring U.N. Agenda 21 out in the open where we can have these debates and then set our own policies in accordance with our Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Ok, you say, interesting, but I don't see how that really affects me. Here are a few ways:

No matter where you live, I'll bet that there have been hundreds of condos built in the center of your town recently.  Over the last ten years there has been a 'planning revolution' across the US.  Your commercial, industrial, and multi-residential land was rezoned to 'mixed use.' Nearly everything that got approvals for development was designed the same way: ground floor retail with two stories of residential above.  Mixed use.  Very hard to finance for construction, and very hard to manage since it has to have a high density of people in order to justify the retail.  A lot of it is empty and most of the ground floor retail is empty too. High bankruptcy rate.

So what?  Most of your towns provided funding and/or infrastructure development for these private projects.  They used Redevelopment Agency funds.  Your money.  Specifically, your property taxes.  Notice how there's very little money in your General Funds now, and most of that is going to pay Police and Fire?  Your street lights are off, your parks are shaggy, your roads are pot-holed, your hospitals are closing.  The money that should be used for these things is diverted into the Redevelopment Agency.  It's the only agency in government that can float a bond without a vote of the people.  And they did that, and now you're paying off those bonds for the next 45 years with your property taxes.  Did you know that?  And by the way, even if Redevelopment is ended, as in California, they still have to pay off existing debt--for 30 to 45 years.

So, what does this have to do with Agenda 21?

Redevelopment is a tool used to further the Agenda 21 vision of remaking America's cities. With redevelopment, cities have the right to take property by eminent domain---against the will of the property owner, and give it or sell it to a private developer. By declaring an area of town 'blighted' (and in some cities over 90% of the city area has been declared blighted) the property taxes in that area can be diverted away from the General Fund. This constriction of available funds is impoverishing the cities, forcing them to offer less and less services, and reducing your standard of living.  They'll be telling you that it's better, however, since they've put in nice street lights and colored paving.  The money gets redirected into the Redevelopment Agency and handed out to favored developers building low income housing and mixed use. Smart Growth. Cities have had thousands of condos built in the redevelopment areas and are telling you that you are terrible for wanting your own yard, for wanting privacy, for not wanting to be dictated to by a Condo Homeowner's Association Board, for being anti-social, for not going along to get along, for not moving into a cramped apartment downtown where they can use your property taxes for paying off that huge bond debt.  But it's not working, and you don't want to move in there.  So they have to make you.  Read on.

Human habitation, as it is referred to now, is restricted to lands within the Urban Growth Boundaries of the city.  Only certain building designs are permitted.  Rural property is more and more restricted in what uses can be on it.  Although counties say that they support agricultural uses, eating locally produced food, farmer's markets, etc, in fact there are so many regulations restricting water and land use (there are scenic corridors, inland rural corridors, baylands corridors, area plans, specific plans, redevelopment plans, huge fees, fines) that farmers are losing their lands altogether.  County roads are not being paved. The push is for people to get off of the land,  become more dependent, come into the cities.  To get out of the suburbs and into the cities.  Out of their private homes and into condos.  Out of their private cars and onto their bikes.

Bikes.  What does that have to do with it?  I like to ride my bike and so do you.  So what?  Bicycle advocacy groups are very powerful now.  Advocacy.  A fancy word for lobbying, influencing, and maybe strong-arming the public and politicians.  What's the conection with bike groups?  National groups such as Complete Streets, Thunderhead Alliance, and others, have training programs teaching their members how to pressure for redevelopment, and training candidates for office.  It's not just about bike lanes, it's about remaking cities and rural areas to the 'sustainable model'.  High density urban development without parking for cars is the goal. This means that whole towns need to be demolished and rebuilt in the image of sustainable development.  Bike groups are being used as the 'shock troops' for this plan.

What plan?  We're losing our homes since this recession/depression began, and many of us could never afford those homes to begin with.  We got cheap money, used whatever we had to squeak into those homes, and now some of us lost them.  We were lured, indebted, and sunk. Whole neighborhoods are empty in some places.  Some are being bulldozed.  Cities cannot afford to extend services outside of their core areas. Slowly, people will not be able to afford single family homes.  Will not be able to afford private cars.  Will be more dependent.  More restricted. More easily watched and monitored.

This plan is a whole life plan.  It involves the educational system, the energy market, the transportation system, the governmental system, the health care system, food production, and more.  The plan is to restrict your choices, limit your funds, narrow your freedoms, and take away your voice.  One of the ways is by using the Delphi Technique to 'manufacture consensus.' Another is to infiltrate community groups or actually start neighborhood associations with hand-picked 'leaders'.  Another is to groom and train future candidates for local offices.  Another is to sponsor non-governmental groups that go into schools and train children.  Another is to offer federal and private grants and funding for city programs that further the agenda.  Another is to educate a new generation of land use planners to require New Urbanism.  Another is to convert factories to other uses, introduce energy measures that penalize manufacturing, and set energy consumption goals to pre-1985 levels.  Another is to allow unregulated immigration in order to lower standards of living and drain local resources.

Fanboy Annoyance

Square peg for square hole

Before you can effectively annoy a fanboy, you must asset his/her state. This is partially dependent on the exact type of software the said person worships. For example, you cannot use the same strategy to bait Windows users and Mac users. Firefox fans require a different approach from those using Internet Explorer. GIMP is not equal to Photoshop. Nor should you mix separate categories of software either.
Your plan must be based on the target user base intelligence and skill, their socio-economic status, the recent comings and goings in the software news world, the popular and controversial topics running in the blogosphere, individual personalities of the key players involved, and finally, the fanboy you are facing. All combined, these factors should present you with the right formula for the most useful trolling.
Going through each and every category is probably boring and too cliche, but I will use this or that software to illustrate how certain attributes, so to speak, can be used to leverage - now, there's a corporate word - and enhance your fanboy electronic warfare.

Tip 1: Tell something that is mildly inaccurate

Say you tell a Mac user how their laptops cost 50% more than a contemporary rival product running Windows. If the actual figure is only about 23%, the fanboy will surely rush to correct you. This serves you on two levels. One, a normal person will not bother to address the slight inaccuracy of your statement, nor will they possibly be aware of the price ranges and differences unless they recently bought a laptop. Second, the fanboy will get angry by your blatant disregard of the marketing figures, which should serve your purpose. Target identified and acquired.

Step 2: Look for the weakness in the defenses

Now that you have their attention, it is time to tune up your offensive. You must not be too obvious. You must be subtle about it, as they could spot your intention, and then the game is lost. To get their sympathy and make them feel confident, agree with them on the price issue, or any other subject you may have used in the warmup phase, but then elaborate on something else that may be bothering you, only this time introduce a personal angle. For instance, complain how FireWire has been flaky for you on your Linux box. If the enemy agrees for some weird reason, find something else to complain about, like a USB printer or maybe an SD card or something alike. It should be a combined hardware-software component for best effect. The fanboys are likely to accuse you of having bad hardware or perhaps missing the right skills to debug such trivial issues.
Printer error

Getting warmer: Get those spirits flying

At this point, it's time for a demo. Some things will be hard to demonstrate, others trivial. When planning your troll campaign, make sure you come ready and fully equipped for the task. Having some gadgets handy is always a good thing. With your adversary intrigued and mildly riled, you now need their interaction.
Pretend to be clueless and demo something that has a simple and obvious solution, but which might indicate you are at fault and not the software. For example, you might want to complain about Firefox opening tabs right next to the active one and not placing them at the far right end as it used to be in the past. At this stage, you are letting your foe get cozy. You observe but do not attack yet. You wait.
Geek configs

Prototip 4: Oh, the sh!t just got real

Now, you step the drama one notch higher. Time for your second demo. This time, it should be a complex one, with multi-component interaction. For example, playing a media file that is both unassociated with your player of choice, as well as not having the right codecs for the task. Make sure you demo two or three times in a row, rapidly, ignoring any comments and suggestions. Complain most loudly how the software does not do what it is supposed to do. Don't let the fanboy take physical control of your asset just yet. Bait them for a few minutes before you relinquish control to their supposed assistance.
Meaningful message

Level 5: Ceasefire

Let the fanboy defend their honor. You part ways. Now, google for your woe, whether real or simulated. Make sure you find at least a dozen references. Look for those that sound angry or desperate, go for unanswered forum and board topics. Try to single out those that seem to involve a whole range of unrelated problems, like people having hardware problems and yet complaining about the stability of their software and alike. Blue screens of death are always a favorite. But so are application traces and /var/log/messages errors in Linux.
The next time you meet the fanboy, complain how the problem is back and obliterate them with mail spam, pointing out to a million online horror stories that justify your frustration. Normal people will refer you to technical support, recommend you switch to an alternative program or just give up. Fanboys will take personal offense at your software issue. You should be highly emotional at this point and resistant to help. Make sure you point out how that program sucks at least twice in the conversation. Now, you go back to the comparison, and you tell glowing stories how the competition does it better and without any problems.

Jedi bonus 6: Resistance is futile

If you've done your work well so far, the fanboy should be angry and fairly derailed. If not, go back to state three and try a different scenario. You must remember to be thorough and methodical. Anyhow, back to our strategy.
Every time you meet the fanboy, restart the conversation about your issue. Tell stories how you made some progress, but how at every next step you were hindered and hampered by a completely new problem that wasn't there before, and how it only further emphasizes your initial claim. Occasionally, resend online stories that point out the software failures. Ignore user incompetence and environmental issues. Now, you must also look for stories with a charged political theme that add spice to your work.
Not only do you bombard your foe with mails full of problems and misery, you fire at them with stories that mention conspiracies, the suppression of freedom, the community voice not being heard, the locking out of rivals, intellectual property, patents, the mass market exploitation, and so forth. Even if they are not quite related, dig for an angle that makes them relevant. For instance, always remind the Windows users that Microsoft stole DOS from someone, Linux is for communists and Mac is made in Chinese sweatshops. Google must not be trusted with your private data, all your Playstation is belong to Sony, how come you cannot run z/OS on it, what's up with that?
DOS in VMware Player

Secret ninja star 7: The power of Youtube

Believe it or not, videos are a hundred times more powerful for trolling than any amount of text. Because few people have the mental capacity to read long blog rants. But they will watch videos and get ultra-rage when faced with facts, true or not, that humiliate their favorite software. You should use a balanced mix of news snippets that seem reasonable as well as rants by USI-riddled people narrating to their camera about things they barely understand and yet feel arrogant enough to babble about. Nothing like a combination of some company's CTO speeches about the business practices of their chief rival and barely intelligible responses by 14-year-old boys pretending to be young techies. The videos should be lame, unfunny, annoying, badly choreographed. The message is less important, but if they can manage to strike a nerve, that's good too.
To find relevant material quickly, look for videos that have re: and response in their title plus the related software, the Latin word versus (or vs.) that indicates would-be comparison, mega-zoom face-in-the-camera litanies, and videos with a lot of dislike votes.

Nukelar weapon: Use with caution!

Now the best part. If you're really keen on annoying those fanboys, you should write your own personal blog entry, rant about it, curse, spit and foam, then disable comments or allow comments but never publish them. You should also use a blogging service that looks cheap. Your post should appear as if someone with a reduced mental quotient got hold of a secret keyboard and spilled their share of angst before being detected.
Then, send that to your fanboy victim to let them know your precious opinion is out there, refuting all the facts they gave you and re-emphasizing how right and correct and awesome you were in the first place. Again, normal people will disregard your oligophrenic piece of prose as a classic Internet turd, but the fanboys will take grudge forever. I've shared many a joyous moment reading various forums where even simple, obvious, blatant jokes made with the most lighthearted and benevolent intentions were greeted with so much hate and zeal that you really start wondering about the planet as a whole. Mac boards lead, I must admit.
so then i installed unubtu and tried to run explorer on it, but it threw an error. i mean wtf! i never had problems like these on windows. my computer just rebooted and i was downloading this softwaer to get the icons. all this talk about linux makng it big on desktop, forget it. never gonna happen. and this spying in kernel, what about that. this is bullcrap, im going back.


And that's all. This is the ultimate strategy that should help you get those fanboys worked up. It's like rough parenting. It's all for the better cause. Or some cause. Maybe. Either way, you win, which is the important thing here. Loving software is all nice and well, but there's a limit to how much enamored and emotionally attached you can be to a bunch of code.
Well, hopefully this blissful piece of article has taught you some useful tips that should bring you much rejoicing. Remember, you must exercise flexibility with your ideas and never falter, even when faced with ultimate zeal. It is important to innovate, have a backup plan ready, as well as be persistent and consistent in your trolling. Do not laugh, break down or show compassion. And you must never give up. It's all for the greater good. With your help, one day, we might live in the world where fanboyism is restricted to Star Wars versus Star Trek. Now, there's a tricky topic.