2 week hiatus

My dearest readers,

I apologize for my two weeks of not posting, but I was working for internal Drive‘s programming academy, a two-week program where kids go to learn how to program while also experiencing a camp atmosphere. I have to say, being an instructor was challenging, but very fun. I now have a lot more respect for my professors in terms of physical endurance and patience. I walk to DePaul and back every day during the school year and I dance; I think it’s safe to say my legs have pretty high endurance. That’s not the case when I taught. The first day of teaching, I was giving lecture and after 3 hours my legs were killing me. It was painful to walk and they hurt the rest of the day. After a couple days I had to sit down and let one of my co-instructors give lecture because my legs just couldn’t take it. Professors have to have the legs of gods. It’s the only reasonable explanation! I don’t know how they do it.

I worked at Lake Forest College the past two weeks, and I can’t wait to work again in two weeks when I go to Princeton University! As a forewarning, I will not be posting entries for that two-week session, as well. I work almost 15-hour days, so there’s just no time for me to be writing. That window of free time is used for sleeping and sleeping only!

But let’s move on to something a little more relaxing… VACATION!!! It’s that time of year where I take a trip down to Florida with my family, and I couldn’t be more excited. To celebrate, I’ll be reblogging my Vacationing 101 entries from last year in the next couple of days.

Expect a review of Animal Crossing: New Leaf next Monday!

Just sayin’.

April Fool’s!

Okay, SO, my last blog post (for any who didn’t know) was an April Fool’s joke I played on my parents. It was a success (and to add icing to the cake, I got my girlfriend, too!). I actually passed all of my classes and got good grades. LOL.

My parents pointed out that, while the joke was very good, some people (potential employers, current employers, etc…) may see that blog post and take it seriously, so I’m making this special follow-up post to make sure no one believes that post.

That is all.

Just Sayin’

Global Game Jam 2013: My Experience

Last weekend, I participated in Global Game Jam 2013, an event where, in the span of one weekend, people from around the globe makes games. And let me tell you, it was an awesome experience!

Friday, everyone met up at DePaul who was participating, singed up, and we watched the Keynote, which was very cool. Then, we got the theme our game was supposed to center around, which was a heart beat (something that can connect everyone from around the world, they said). I thought the theme was interesting, and after forming teams, we went right into brainstorming. Unlike a lot of those at DePaul, my team consisted of people I didn’t know. I think next year I’ll go into it with friends, but I figured being in a team with strangers would be a good experience, and it was. I had a lot in common with them, and when I find someone to talk about MegaMan Battle Network with, it’s always awesome!

By the time 8PM rolled around, we had our game idea, Murica. We went with a fat guy rolling around and eating various junky foods, trying to balance how much he was eating with how full he was and how fast his heart was beating. You lose when you have a heart attack or starve. It was supposed to strike at a theme about America’s obesity problem due to fast food while being funny and silly.

Saturday, I woke up at 7:30, got to DePaul by 9:30, and began working. At first, we were mainly doing some level design and getting lists of tasks we needed to get done while we waited for our programmer to finish the content pipeline for his engine. Because I was one of the producers, I dipped out now and then to check on some of my friends’ teams (and troll them. LOL), which was very fun, especially when I had one of my friends text someone, “We in there! #swag #yolo.” By the time 5PM rolled around, we had almost all of our art assets done, and by 9PM we were switching engines from our programmer’s custom engine to XNA because his engine didn’t have the ability to rotate a certain way (in programmer’s term, he had no forward Vector, which is bad. LOL). After XNA finally installed on his computer, he began translating everything to it, so the rest of the team relaxed and chatted. Unfortunately, we had to switch engines again due to a content pipeline problem XNA was giving us, and so we switched to Unity so more of us (there was only him and I programming, and since he had his own engine I really hadn’t been programming) could work on the project. By the time 3:30AM on Sunday rolled around, many of the teams looked very tired, and a couple teams were done and polishing. We had just finished a beta minus our heart and stomach features in Unity, and it was awesome. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find the time and means to learn the many aspects of Unity and put everything in that we wanted, but what came out of it was a playable demo, and I think that’s what’s important.

By 11 AM, most teams were done and submitting (you can see a screenshot of my game as the header image for this post), and so everyone was pretty much relaxing and chatting about how they wanted to sleep. I know I sure did! At 11:30 judging began, and after all of that, I went home.

Global Game Jam 2013 was really awesome, and I will definitely be joining next year if I can! I learned a lot about producing, a lot about Unity, and I realized that I still have a long way to go before I can program with the big boys. Also, I should’ve taken more pictures so I could’ve put some in this post. LOL. Next time!

Just sayin’.

REVIEW: Django Unchained

Let’s talk about Django Unchained.

Plot:
 
The plot is simple – Django, a slave, is freed by a Dr. Schultz (I’m probably spelling that name wrong. LOL), and is told to help him find the Riddle brothers. Afterwards, the two journey to find Django’s wife. The story is an adaptation of an old german legend, and to be frank, I think it’s pulled off quite well.
Acting:
 
For me, Tarantino‘s films are at their weakest when it comes to the plot, and their strongest hen it comes to acting and atmosphere. Django Unchained is no exception: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Samuel Jackson, and Leonardo DiCaprio are all brilliant. I love a film where you can tell the actors are enjoying their roles, and you can definitely tell it here.
No word in this film is wasted, the dialogue is as witty as ever, especially during the KKK scene (which is my favorite scene in the movie)!
Atmosphere:
 
Django Unchained is set in the United States just before the civil war. That means there’s slavery, and in classic Tarantino style, the film throws political correctness to the wind and makes sure the film is true to its setting, and that’s something I like about his films. Apparently, some people are taking offense to Django Unchained, and all I can ask is why? If you can’t bear to hear the word ‘nigga’, don’t watch this movie, but don’t feign offense just because the film tries to emulate what it was actually like back during those times.
——
Anyone who is a fan of Tarantino (like myself) should go see this movie. I think it’s one of his better films, and is definitely my favorite amongst them.
Rating: 5 out of 5 (stars)
Just sayin’.

REVIEW: The Last Story

A week ago, I finally got my hands on The Last Story. For those who don’t know, The Last Story was one of the games that was made out to be a Japan exclusive, but a couple weeks ago it was released to the states, much to the happiness of many a gamer. But does The Last Story live up to the hype it had before it was released to the US? I think so. Let’s jump in!

Plot:

The plot is your standard JRPG. I’m not going to go too in-depth, but to nutshell it, you’re Zael, a mercenary who finds a mysterious power and uses it to accomplish missions and strive to fulfill Zael’s dream of becoming a knight. Along the way, Zael encounters typical themes like corruption, power, following your heart, being the ‘chosen one’, worldwide disaster, etc… And while it may be typical story fare, it’s pulled off well. There are a few twists (although can be seen if you’re looking for them), but the plot paces itself nicely and it’s always interesting. The best part is the plot is almost entirely character-driven, with very few plot-driven elements. I found myself really enjoying it. The only part that was iffy is the somewhat rushed romance between Zael and Calista. There was so much potential for it.

Characters:

The characters are all great. They all have personality and definitely clash with each other because of it, and that’s great, because the dialogue is fantastic between the characters. And, they all grow by the end of the game and go through complete arcs, which is (sadly) pretty rare these days. The NPC characters in the hub world also have some personality, which is pretty surprising, but they’re all very cookie cutter in the way they act. Still, it’s better than them being ridiculously bland and being the same over and over.

Atmosphere (Music/Graphics):

The Last Story is your typical atmosphere for a JRPG. A little bit of a steampunk, a lot of medieval, and plenty of ancient technology and magic. Still, like the other elements of The Last Story, these are represented really well. Lazulis City (the hub for the game) is awesome, and it really feels like a city. Stuff is always happening, and the entire city moves with the plot, so you’ll always see people talking about something different. The caves, Lazulis Castle, and the many other levels all are nicely detailed. I never once found myself bored with how the game looked.

The music is great. I have a thing for violins, so hearing the violin in the title screen music was already awesome, but the music in-game is also great, and it always feels like it’s supporting the mood rather than being completely intrusive. I got the soundtrack for preordering the game, and already have most of it on my iPod.

Gameplay:

The gameplay is interesting and incredible at the same time. It’s interesting because combat is, literally, running up to an opponent and attacking. You don’t press a button to attack. Now, I find that weird, and I still find it weird, but thankfully the designers thought, “Hey, most people use the A button!” and they give you the option to attack with the A button. That’s the only bad part about combat. Otherwise, combat is fantastic.

While some encounters are random and you fight, most of them are a sort of preview where you get to see the formations of enemies and you see the characters discussing a strategy. Sometimes they’ll tell Zael to decide what to do, but other times they give out orders and if you don’t follow them, the AI do get obliterated because they’re expecting you to do what they told Zael to do. And to lead into AI – they’re smart. They’re the best AI I’ve ever played with. They heal if they’re low on health, they take cover during stealth missions, and they try to cover you when you’re being attacked. Of course, you can command your allies if you want them to do a specific spell or unleash a special movie, but it’s really awesome to have competent AI that you don’t need to babysit. Even the enemies are smart; they take out mages first every time, and to combat this, you have a special power that makes every single enemy focus on you exclusively. However, having every single enemy focus you means that you die faster and it can be overwhelming, so you can’t just rush in every time with it, making it an interesting balance between using and not using the power you have. It’s a very tactical game for a real-time RPG, and pulling off tactics that you’re ordered to do and see it work perfectly is awesome!

Non-combat wise, the side quests and missions are actually pretty good, even though some of them are pretty lame (one of them is literally buying ingredients from a market), but a lot of them are awesome and are actually mini dungeons, which is really cool and helps you to prepare for the later levels. You can also revisit dungeons to get bonus stuff and face much harder enemies.

The actual flow of the game is nice. I never once had to legitimately grind in order to proceed. Tactics win the day over that, and that’s really nice. There are a few places where you can grind, but the focus is on progressing the story, so those are very few and far between.

Overall, The Last Story delivers, and I’m very happy it came to the states. If you enjoy JRPGs (or real-time RPGs), get this game. It’s worth every single penny!

Score:

Plot: 8/10

Characters: 9/10

Atmosphere: 9/10

Gameplay: 10/10

Final Score: 9/10

Just sayin’

Apex 2012: Meta Knight’s Last Hurrah

I would have posted this entry yesterday, but my head decided to transform into an anvil for a cold to strike down upon. I was sick three days before Christmas, and now, 17 days later from yesterday, I’m sick once again.

The other reason was the bracket for Apex  2012 had yet to be completely updated, which is what I’ll be writing about today. In the world of competitive fighting games, Super Smash Bros. has never really received a lot of attention (at least from I’ve seen. I could be wrong here). That ended last weekend when Over 1,300 entrants for both Brawl and Melee came (around 50 of those being international players) to attend Apex 2012, Smash’s biggest tournament in history.

While I wasn’t in attendance (I compete in Brawl), watching the stream was a lot of fun. I watched both Melee and Brawl, with a little bit of SFIV: 2012 and UMvC3 (two of the more traditional fighters that were also being played at Apex 2012). The highlight for me was Nairo vs Otori (Apex 2012’s Brawl champion). I usually don’t enjoy MK dittos due to most players not being too aggressive, but these two put on a show of skill souped up with flash, and it was very, very exciting.

If you’d like to see most of the videos from Apex 2012 (including Brawl, Melee, SFIV: 2012, and UMvC3), the links to those channels will be below!

Now, let’s get into one of the more interesting topics that I felt Apex 2012 really brought to the table: America‘s ban on MK.

Let me catch those who don’t know up. MK is the best character in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. As such, a lot of players use him, and a lot feel that he is too good a character. Ever since I joined the Smash community a year and a half ago the debate for MK has been strong, and it had only continued to escalate in the past couple of months. After pages upon pages of debate, a consensus was reached: after Apex 2012, MK would be banned from all URC-run (Unity Ruleset Committee) tournaments.

Now, at Apex 2012 we had two Japanese players in Grand Finals for Brawl: Nietono, an Olimar player, and Otori, a MK player. While Otori plays MK, Nietono ran through many of America’s top MK players. I realize that Nietono is only one player, but this still brings a big question to the front lines of the ban debate – is the ban really the best choice?

I think it is, but not because of how good MK is. I’ll admit, I hate playing against MK, and all around me I saw players put in the work and beat him while I continued to lose to him. Apex 2012 gave me some new insight into how much work you need to put in to be the best of the best, and so I withdrew my stance that MK should be banned because of how good he is. Clearly, he can be beaten. You just need to put in the work. The Japanese have proven that.

However, I still support the ban because of how over centralizing he is. That’s simply it. A lot of players use MK. I believe over half of the players in America either main MK or use him as a secondary. And I believe that’s poisonous to a meta game in itself. I like variety, so I’m hoping there’ll be a lot more variety of characters now. I’m crossing my fingers that everyone doesn’t pick up Olimar.

What are your thoughts on Apex 2012? On the MK ban? Let me know!

Oh, and I think double MK is actually too good in doubles. One MK per team would be brilliant.

Just sayin’.

Link to apextournament:

http://www.youtube.com/user/apextournament?feature=g-u

Link to Jaxelrod:

http://www.youtube.com/user/Jaxelrod?feature=g-u