Sunday, November 23, 2014

Warning: Construction Ahead

I've decided to make some changes around here, unfortunately that's difficult with the site in its current shape. The first step will be to transfer this site into Blogger, and in that way it can live through the transition. Once it's there, I'll tear this down and start anew. Hopefully it won't take too long, but I'm not very good at keeping promises on this thing so all I'll say is "just wait".

In the immortal words of the T-1000, I'll be back.

Saturday, July 19, 2014


HOPE XA few months ago some friends of mine asked if I wanted to head to NYC for a conference. At the time, I knew very little of HOPE (Hackers on Planet Earth), the biennial hacker conference put on by 2600. Honestly, I had no idea what to really expect, I was just told to show up at the Hotel Pennsylvania and prepare for a long weekend.

Midway through the first day, I'd already decided that this would not be my only HOPE.

It's exactly what you want out of a Con: an eclectic mix of people from all over, brought to one place by their love of hacking, here to share what they love with each other. There are panels for Makers, panels on web security, panels on telecommunications, panels on whistleblowing, and even some cool "look what I made!" panels. Given the recent revelations about government surveillance, much of this year is devoted on how to properly maintain confidentiality and privacy in communications. And of course, topical as ever, the keynote began with Daniel Ellsberg and finished with a teleconference with Edward Snowden.

So far, the panels I've seen have been interesting and enlightening. The people have been open and friendly, always excited to share and learn from each other. The one complaint I would have is the hotel itself; while it's historic, it seems barely maintained.

The best part? If you'd like to play along at home, all the panels are available online via live streams. I highyly recommend them.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Wii U: Great fun missing a market

Wii U Console and GamepadThis past holiday season saw the introduction of the Sony PlayStation 4 (PS4) and the Microsoft Xbox One (XB1). This guy, however, bought neither. Instead, I went and bought The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD and Super Mario 3D World for my Nintendo Wii U. I've had it for over a year now and enjoy it immensely, however it seems the world doesn't agree with me...

This past holiday season, the PS4 and XB1 enjoyed a great holiday season selling 4.4 million and 3.1 million consoles in 2013 respectively (according to VGChartz, which should be taken with a grain of salt). These numbers are only from the holiday season, as each were released in mid-November. Meanwhile, the Wii U sold 3.2 million consoles over the entire year, even when having a price point below the competition. In addition, Nintendo just changed their Q1 2014 forecast from a nearly $1 billion profit to a $335 million loss after seeing sales tank much more than expected post-holidays. Overall, people simply aren't buying the console quite as much as hoped.

Now, full-disclosure: some people would likely call me a Nintendo fanboy. I grew up on a NES and later, an N64. I didn't own a non-Nintendo console until I was almost out of high school (PS2). Today I tend to enjoy most consoles equally, but it's still difficult for me to not get and enjoy Nintendo products almost immediately upon launch (to prove my resistance, I didn't get a Wii U until December 2012). Although this love persists, I do not claim myself to be a Nintendo fanboy simply because I also enjoy the other consoles as well (and even PC *gasp*). It comes down to one simple thing: very few things are more fun, and I mean pure-unadulterated-children-running-and-skipping-fun, than Nintendo games.

Sadly though 2013 simply wasn't a great year for Nintendo and the Wii U. The "Year of Luigi" (only took 30 years to celebrate the best brother a man could have) simply did not pan out. As someone with both a Wii U and a 3DS, I'll say it wasn't for lack of good games.

Instead of continuing talking about how unfortunate this recent turn is though, how about we focus on why I'd buy a second Wii U before a PS4 or XB1?

To begin, some people think the GamePad is a gimmick, but after using it I can say it's actually a great feature. It really is simply if the DS and Wii had a child. You get a touchscreen right in your hands that you can interact with directly and/or play on the TV. And then it also enables off-TV playing for most of the content: playing New Super Mario Bros U on the TV and someone wants to watch something else? Immediately play it solely on the GamePad and let them do whatever they'd like. The one missing killer feature is the ability to play DS games (or even 3DS) on the Wii U, similar to how they had the Super Game Boy for SNES or Game Boy Player for GameCube, but given their track record here I'm sure it's just a matter of time. If anything, the GamePad is before it's time; Android and Chromecast (or iPhone and Apple TV) will likely bring a lagless feature like this in the near future, and gamers will rejoice.

Next, the games are solid. People might find Mario games childish, but there's no negating the joy and fun that comes from playing one (which holds very true for Bros U and 3D World). NintendoLand is a solid launch game, introducing the features of the console in a new and exciting way. Wind Waker HD is the only current Zelda, however it's a beautiful remake of an amazing game (nothing quite as free-feeling as sailing). I'm sure PS4 and XB1 will get there, but at the moment there's nothing on either of them which excites me.

Overall, while I hope it's not true, if the Wii U is a swan song for Nintendo's home console business, it's one so beautiful I would truly openly weep.

Monday, January 6, 2014

If you don't use it...

Thankfully the old adage isn't true and this blog isn't going anywhere. Some could say that it hasn't gone anywhere in a long time, but those would be jerks who I choose not to listen to. If you can believe it, this site is regularly on my mind, but if thinking were as good as doing then I'd be a much more interesting person.

Either way it's a new year now. I've mostly recovered from the holidays so here's a promise: my goal is to outdo myself this year. I'll post more than you've ever seen me post! In fact, my goal is to post more than I did in 2012 and 2013 combined! That's right, I'm promising an entirety of 14 posts this great year of 2014!

Is such a thing even possible? Yes, it is.

How can it be done you ask? Why, it's easy, I just have to not be quite as lazy as I have been in the past. In fact, this post itself counts! I'd say I'm well on the way to being a slightly less lazy person, wouldn't you?

1 down, 13 to go...

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

DuckTales Remastered, Rewriting History

ducktalesupdatedBack in 1989, Capcom released DuckTales for the NES. Whereas a lot of licensed franchise games exist only as a tie-in to make a quick buck, surprisingly DuckTales was a masterful game, being unique, fun, and challenging. So suffice it to say, DuckTales quickly became a hit.

In fact one of my earliest gaming experiences, aside from Mario, Zelda, and Tetris, took the form of Scrooge McDuck's pogo-ing and golf-swinging adventures. My family never even owned DuckTales, but my sisters and I still rented it over and over, continually trying to master the mysteries of Transylvania and the Moon. Given that the game came out when I was three, it's no surprise that said mastery never occurred (at least for me). However, the game left a lasting impression nonetheless.

That's why I was giddy to hear they were remaking the game for modern consoles.

Of course as my formative years were in the early 90s, DuckTales (and all of "Disney Afternoon"s great shows) had a large impact on me as well. I remember always wanting to keep up to date with the adventures of Scrooge and his grandnephews. This just goes to say that DuckTales, for someone my age, hits all the proper notes of nostalgia and childhood to forever occupy that warm, cuddly place in the heart where such things go.

That's why I've made sure to pay attention to the details surrounding the game.

And then, a few weeks back I was at San Diego Comic-Con and attended a panel held by Capcom and WayForward where they talked about making DuckTales Remastered itself. They went into their techniques for trying to be as faithful to the original game as possible while mixing the art up to look more like the TV show itself. I was really impressed at the lengths they went through, including an interesting technique of playing both the original and their remake side-by-side to ensure the controls are as 1-to-1 as possible.

That's why I purchased the game.

And now, lo and behold, I've bought it and played it, and you get to hear all about my thoughts on the subject.

The main thought: Woo-hoo!

So this game hits me in the feels. I didn't realize until now how much I actually remember of the original game. The remixed chiptunes themselves call up some deep memories and make me channel my inner 5-year-old. The only level I've finished so far is Transylvania, but I look forward to attacking the others one at a time. One of the best features of the original game is that, a la MegaMan, you can hit up the levels in any order you'd like. I am loving the voice acting as well, and am impressed by how many of the original actors from the TV show returned (the only ones that were replaced are sadly no longer with us). And the levels look so awesome and feel the same.

The one thing that caught me off guard: when I started playing it the controls actually felt really weird and slightly off. I realized it was that I had "Hard Pogo" turned off. Basically, the old NES way of pogo-ing was considered too hard (good ol' NES games!). As such, they replaced it with a simpler mechanism. Well, once I turned "Hard Pogo" on, my hands knew exactly what to do. Surprising how long muscle memory can survive! It's amazing how easily I slipped back into the feel of the game, and how good of a job WayForward did at emulating the original moves.

If you have any nostalgia for the TV show or video game, you won't  go wrong with this game. Even if you never saw the show or played the game, it's an amazing platformer with a unique play-style that's worth a go. And if you have any youngin's around, get them this game and make them watch the show, as it surpasses most kids shows today by a mile.

Meanwhile, I hope to plunder the game of every last treasure as soon as I can get back at it!


P.S. Apparently Capcom sent out the original DuckTales on golden cartridges as a promotional package. Shut up and take my money!

P.P.S. If you'd find it interesting, Capcom and WayForward posted a video about their strategy for updating the art without leaving behind the feel of the original. A lot of this was in their presentation at San Diego Comic-Con (and other conventions as well), and it's a good take on what lengths people go through when they've fully invested themselves in making something be the best experience they can.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Re: Geek Week - Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?

...continued from...

And for my final post celebrating Geek Week, how about this delight from PBS in the early 90's? I'm betting that you're already humming the theme just from reading the title of this post!

There's been rumblings that it'd return, and while it's not new episodes, I'll happily take a rebroadcast. This show had such a profound affect on me as a child, making me the trivia buff I am today. After all, you never know when a small piece of information about South America will be all that stands between you and the capture of a master thief!

I'll leave you with this. Sadly, while Lynne Thigpen as passed away, I'll always fondly remember her as The Chief.

And yes, this is from one of the video games, but she's The Chief no matter what medium!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Re: Geek Week - Square One TV

...continued from...

I decided to celebrate Geek Week myself by highlighting a couple of my favorite (and very geeky) PBS shows as a kid. To start, how about Square One TV!

It was hilarious and did a great job at making education fun for all ages, like this song for negative numbers:

Or how about it's own (mildly scary) version of Pac-Man:

And don't forget Mathnet, the gritty world of crime colored by math:

I can only hope that when I have kids there are shows like this on TV.