Cloud vs Local FIGHT!

cloud vs localIt seems to be very easy for journalists, web developers and SEO experts to expound upon the wonders of the network and the cloud. But then again those folks tend towards pushing text around. The harsh reality is that not everyone uses a computer the way they do. If you are a gamer or produce media then you know that the network and the cloud are far from there yet. Huge hard drives are still king as are fast processors and memory. Continue reading “Cloud vs Local FIGHT!”

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Glass – Not As Popular As The Cell Phone

glass-snlPlease stop trying to over sell “wearable computing” and more specifically Google Glass. The reason isn’t that I hate the idea of wearable computing or Google glass, simply that there is historical proof of it’s limited desire and usability. Moving the processing closer to the input and output isn’t going to change the comfort or social acceptability of the input/output. It never has. Why would you expect it to now? In short, learn from the past!

Bluetooth headsets are considered obnoxious and only really useful when you’re driving or otherwise have to have your hands full. Every one knows the dbags that walk around looking smug and talking to themselves while ignoring the rest of humanity that isn’t in their ear. Continue reading “Glass – Not As Popular As The Cell Phone”

LG Optimus L9 Review – Sweet Spot Mid-range Phone?

So what is the LG Optimus L9? Lets have a look at some specs and pics.

LG Optimus L9

GENERAL
2G Network GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
3G Network HSDPA 900 / 2100
SIM Mini-SIM
Announced 2012, August
Status Available. Released 2012, November
BODY
Dimensions 131.9 x 68.2 x 9.1 mm (5.19 x 2.69 x 0.36 in)
Weight 125 g (4.41 oz)
DISPLAY
Type IPS LCD, capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors
Size 540 x 960 pixels, 4.7 inches (~234 ppi pixel density)
Multitouch Yes
MEMORY
Card slot microSD, up to 32 GB
Internal 4 GB, 1 GB RAM
FEATURES
OS Android OS, v4.0.4 (Ice Cream Sandwich), upgradable to v4.1.2 (Jelly Bean)
Chipset TI OMAP 4430
CPU Dual-core 1 GHz Cortex-A9
GPU PowerVR SGX540

As you can see this phone isn’t half bad. Dual core at 1ghz isn’t breaking speed records but it’s also not the slowest thing on the market. For a phone at this price point 1GB of ram is pretty decent. Outside of the absolute newest phones anything that runs decent has a 1GB or more.

The one thing I was really worried about was the display not being 720p. IPS means good color and nice dark blacks so the sharpness was at question. I was pleased to find that the combination of display density at 234ppi plus the good quality of the panel results in a very nice looking image. I even compared it side by side with a friends Galaxy Nexus and speed was comparable and the image quality was as good or better.

My final point of concern was Ice Cream Sandwich. I know quite a few people ascribe to “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” but Jelly Bean does bring quite a few performance enhancements and new features. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the phone moves along very quickly and smoothly. This means if you root and re-rom to Jelly Bean you should be getting even better performance.

All around this is a large, sharp looking, fast and affordable phone that just works well. We’ll enough to satiate my gadget lust for an HTC One and rest assured that’s tough to do. Of course this is subjective.

So let’s see how it stacks up in a couple of synthetic tests Antutu and Quadrant.
Continue reading “LG Optimus L9 Review – Sweet Spot Mid-range Phone?”

Poker Night 2 Announcement Trailer

Holy buckets! That is all.

What's Your Tag?

Telltale Games has released a trailer for their upcoming, star studded, Poker Night 2!

You gotta love the poking fun of old adventure games and also… Brock FREAKIN’ Samson! Nicely done, a pity they couldn’t get Bruce Campbell for Ash but what the hell. Poker Night 2 is coming out later this month on Xbox Live Marketplace, Playstation Network, and Steam for PC and Mac.

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Hands On – Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider AntennaI haven’t played Tomb Raider extensively, in a meaningful way, since the original. I’ve put in no more than an hour in to each with the exception of Tomb Raider Underworld which I put a solid 7 or 8 hours in to.  Having enjoyed at least a few of the previous games really made me want to like a Tomb Raider game. Thank goodness Tomb Raider(2013) delivers!

Lets start with the visuals. This game is gorgeous! I’d probably classify it as a true next gen game. Even on my AMD A10 with an AMD Radeon 7660G GPU on medium settings the visuals are stunning. Expansive draw distances are everywhere and managed with no visible popping or anything of the sort. The set pieces in the game take that huge draw distance and fill them with huge, high, beautiful terrain. The attention to detail is off the charts. Not only is the game beautiful earning it that “next gen” title but there is new technology at play with things like TressFX and the Crystal Engine in general. TressFX will destroy your performance unless you are running a beast of a graphics card so flip it on, see how it runs, and then flip it back off if your system can’t handle it. Crystal understands that they’ve thrown some new tech at you and has graciously included a benchmark in the game so you can play with settings and get a feel for what your hardware can handle.

Game play rests heavily on the concepts and foundation laid down by the likes of Uncharted and of course earlier Tomb Raider games. None of that is a bad thing. While Uncharted’s some what awkward stumbling, loose footing feels a bit heavy and maybe slow at times most of Laura’s trips, stumbles and frequent falls feel lighter and faster. If that is supposed to be indicative of the characters different size and weight that’s fine but the pace and weight of Laura’s bumblings result in a much tighter well controlled experience.  Speaking of a tight well controlled experience the shooting in the game is beautiful. It doesn’t float, Laura changes stance and grip on weapons based on the cover available  and her own stance at the time(sneaking vs. upright). While I’m sure some shooter fans, tactical shooter fans no doubt, want more control over the character these auto adjustments really make the game fun. It frees you to spend less time figuring out how to approach enemies and more time looking at the environment that those enemies are in. As mentioned above its such a beautiful environment!

The story is not unlike many ship wreck stories told so many times except that the setting is some what unique for video games. That is an island that is decidedly Japanese filled with rich Japanese style and a hint of world war 2 artifacts that succeeds at both feeling real and yet fantastical at the same time. This is an island that isn’t just difficult to find but one that has been inhabited by both descendants of those Japanese souls that resided there so long ago as well as previous survivors of both boat and plane wrecks over the many years since the island was lost. The story is ultimately an intricate interweaving of both survival but also discovery of the secrets contained on the island. This is pulled off VERY well! You are sucked in to this world and want badly for both Laura and her friends to survive. At the same time you  crave finding out whats in the next room or over the next hill.

Multiplayer runs in the vein of some of the Tom Clancy games or the the likes of Uncharted. This is in no way a bad thing. The same solid shooting from the game makes it’s way in to the multiplayer and a wealth of unlockables for character skins, weapons and weapon attachments. Everything is up to snuff. The only real points I could dock Tomb Raider comes in the form of a lack of multiplayer maps. There are 4 or 5 game modes but only a grand total of 5 or 6 maps including the one currently downloadable. Some of these maps also appear to be ready made for particular game types. I played several games of death-match and every game was the same map. I also played quite a few rounds of the supplies game type and only experienced 2 maps. Sadly this makes multiplayer rather repetitive. As of this writing a new map pack has been released on the Xbox 360 but wasn’t showing up for the PC version yet. Hopefully it’s a large number of maps to make the multiplayer experience a truly well rounded experience.

While other reviewers have nit picked how these elements play out or are integrated they seem to miss the fact that they then point at the game as a whole and call it a great game. This is because all the elements are measured appropriately. To use a food analogy the ingredients are individually delicious and leave you wanting more of each but when you put them together you eat them up like a fat kid eats cake.  Having the craving for more is not a bad thing.

All in all this game is spectacular. I highly recommend it to any one who fondly remembers Tomb Raider or if you’re just after a grand adventure game that will have you climbing to the top of a radio towers on top of a mountain and then climbing to the depths of a dank tomb.

Defiance Update – Bait and Switch

Defiance-GameplayFor those who read the blog you’ve seen I’ve been checking out Defiance. An MMO in the universe of SyFy’s new show coming out soon. You’ll see that my time with Defiance hasn’t been very intriguing or interesting. I just got an additional piece of information that may or may not play in to your view and decision to play Deviance so I wanted to share it to give you a complete view of the situation.  In an e-mail sent out on 28 March Defiance VP of Development let slip that, as I mentioned in a previous post found here http://brockh.at/YRdxNd, that what they gave console gamer’s was in fact old code. That means that what you saw is not representative of the game at that time. You can have a look at the message that went out over e-mail.  http://brockh.at/YRfvx9. Take away from this what you will.

Defiance Beta Playstation 3 Extended Look

As promised I spent some more time with the Defiance beta on PlayStation 3. For those who may not know Defiance is a Third Person Shooter MMO on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. The game is part of some form of over arching story/universe being constructed to go along with Syfy’s (pronounced “sifee”?) television show of the same name.

In my last post on the subject I hadn’t had a very good experience with the game. This time around it’s gotten a bit better. You eventually work your way out in to the open world as you tend to do with most MMOs. This helped the situation greatly. Several quest lines opened up, some items like an ATV were handed over and the game got a bit more entertaining. Sadly the voice acting and facial animations through out extend not a hint of humanity or serve to draw you in emotionally. The game is not terrible but it’s not great. It’s what most would call mediocre. The shooting mechanics are pretty solid and there seem to be plenty of challenges, objectives and creatures dotting the landscape to keep you busy. Thats really about the extent of it. If there weren’t better MMOs available this game would be just fine. But as it is it has to contend with the likes of WoW, Guild Wars 2 and PlanetSide 2. I don’t see this game going any where unless they manage to slap a thick layer of polish on whats in this beta or the TV show is able to draw people deeply in to the universe it’s trying to create.

I think this video sums up the experience nicely.

My 10 Minutes With The Defiance Beta

Defiance BetaI might be breaking some kind of embargo by talking about this. If there was something telling me I couldn’t talk about this I apparently dropped it in the TL;DR bucket and clicked right past it. So if I have to take this down at some point, to my readers, I apologize in advance.

Take this whole thing with a grain of salt. I only made it about 10 minutes before deciding to quit playing. Now don’t read to far in to this. It was late and I had been unloading a pretty large quantity of housing goods at my new place so I was extremely tired. Even so the initial experience wasn’t one of wanting to stay up, despite being tired, to keep playing. First impressions are important. Thank goodness it’s a beta. So lets hit the key points.

The story pics up on a giant ship flying over the golden gate bridge. A fairly generic military, very UN peace keeper looking, officer barks some orders.  There are words exchanged, a brief reason for your non-military presence is given and then BAM! True to Sci-Fi, or should I say SyFy, we start the story in the same way as almost every other science fiction story ever. Waking in a flaming wreck with little idea where we’re at or what the state of things are.  That is probably the first fault I saw and sadly probably not one that can be remedied since it’s story and not a technical problem. I was bored right off the bat.

The first technical problem I noticed was the character animation. Mouths moved like poorly timed muppets and expression was no where to be found. It felt like something from the mid 90s. I have high hopes that this is just some polish that needs to be done and by launch we’ll have some characters to at least begin to care about.

Building your character is simplistic with only a very few number of options and there doesn’t seem to be enough options  to let you make a truly distinguishable character. Hopefully quickly in the game you’ll get some unique armor options and/or the ability to color and customize things to give your character a unique look. Obviously I didn’t make it far enough to see if this is the route they went.

Once you’re on the ground the game looks pretty good over all. You don’t get close up on faces like the initial cut scene so character interactions aren’t nearly as grating. There were some issues with the subtitling that was on by default. The text provided is white and one of the characters is also white and large in the foreground. That’s easy enough to fix so I presume we’ll see that corrected.

The final thing was just how dark some of the areas were and the enemies were and how tall the grass was. I found myself frequently just looking for the enemy title to pop up above where the enemy was and then aiming until the reticle turned red and firing. I wasn’t seeing enemies much unless I was almost on top of them. While it’s playable it’s certainly analogis to using a fly by instruments situation only in a first person shooter and it’s not very fun.

As you can see Defiance can still use some work. True to what a beta is it’s pretty rough but it looks like a ton of work still to be done for what is supposed to be an April 2nd release. Lets hope they are just toying with us by feeding us an old build so that when the full game hits we’ll all be surprised and impressed with what a giant leap they made in such a short period of time.

Rest assured this is just a first glimpse or a brief taste. I plan to put a good amount more time in to this in the hopes that the epic battle scenes depicted in the screen shots and promo material are enough to overcome the immediately apparent issues mentioned above. Keep an eye out for a more extensive look at the beta some time in the near future!

Sim SaaS – Ravings On The Sim City Failure

simcity-mayorSim City failed pretty hard. If you’re a gamer you’re probably either still pissed that your game hasn’t worked for quite a while or have at least heard complaints about it. For those who may not have heard let me outline what happened. Sim City is a game published by EA that as far as most people knew resembled something like the Sim City games of yore. That is a heavy emphasis on single player city building and management. This as you might guess is not what people got. What people got was an Internet connected game that they were told is required to be always on and could not be disjoined from it’s online components. To put it bluntly the server portion of the game failed hard for unforseen reasons and stayed failed for upwards of a couple weeks.  As is typical for EA they haven’t been forth coming about what the cause of the outage/failure was and we may never know.

I didn’t buy the game, I’m glad, and I don’t plan to either so I think, unlike many of the game reviewers and owners of the game, I’ve got a little bit of perspective. I’ve also been dealing with software and hardware on both sides of the system being a Gamer, System Builder and Workstation Technician as well as being a System Administrator and Enterprise System Analyst. In the industry we have a similar system to what Sim City is. Software As A Service or SaaS.  It’s a system of software reliant on a server so that it can be controlled and shut off when not being paid for. We’re seeing more and more such SaaS systems in gaming. The primary examples are MMOs but even things like online first person shooters that do not include a form of single player.

Now two things tend to seperate regular corporate SaaS from video game SaaS. The first thing is that SaaS is usually a continuing payment so at least MMO’s meet that requirement. The second is that SaaS usually has some kind of SLA or service level agreement. This second requirement brings me to my point. We, gamers, almost need to insist that publishers and developers provide an SLA for our games. Software that we seem to pay ever rising prices for. I’m sure some may scoff at this but if you think about the fact that when services and products of almost every other kind are broken it’s not okay. When you buy something at a store and it doesn’t work as advertised you take it back or exchange it. When software as a service fails to work and the SLA isn’t met the provider pays a penalty or you cancel service for breach of contract. And yet with games we have no recourse. You can’t return a digital downloaded game and get your money back. You can’t hold EA in breach of SLA/contract. You are simply left out in the cold hoping maybe they might be forgiving and give you a nugget to make you feel better. This simply isn’t right. So what can we do?

We have agencys and groups like the Better Business Buerau and the EFF and many other types of groups that seek to protect consumers. And yet here we are, gamers, and seem to have no such groups. There are also many watch dog groups for other industries but we don’t seem to have that in gaming. This is the only way I can think to hold these companies accountable.

So who will rise to champion for the gamers? Does any one know how such groups come to be? What other ways can we protect ourselves from the fleecing of the masses that EA continues to embark on?

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