30 August 2013

The Nintendo AxeBlade Tablet

You could say I have something of a love/hate relationship with Nintendo. I grew up with the original NES. We had a 2600 before, but I remember having both and generally favored the NES. Eventually, I grew tired of what Nintendo had to offer and moved over to the Genesis. After a prolonged love affair with that system, followed by a brief spell of PC gaming, Nintendo came back into my life as the 64. I didn't technically have one, my brother did, and between us we bought a few games for it. I'd say I enjoyed it, but part of me was honestly still looking at the Sega Saturn, albeit it was definitely on the way out. I'd made up a list of about five or ten games, thinking, "If I get a Saturn, and the system fails, I'll still have ten good games for it and be content with those until the next console." Not a bad plan, though I say so myself, but it fell completely out the window when I saw a commercial for Final Fantasy VII. I became obsessed and finally got a Playstation for Christmas, circa 1997, that loyalty more or less remaining to this day.
I'm generalizing here, leaving out a lot of details like my DreamcastSNES, various Gameboys, even an N-Gage, but the basic point to take away is that I became a shameless Sony fanboy in high school and never looked back. The DS held very little interest for me outside of a few games, but not enough to warrant a purchase (I was quite happy with my PSP). The thing is, virtually all my friends are big DS users, and I do feel left out sometimes, not to mention seeing more and more games that do admittedly pique my interest a tad like Crimson Shroud. Still, it was never really enough to make me start seriously planning. A lot of this has to do with the fact that I've been warming up to the PS Vita, even though I could go on for hours about everything I hate about it (despite that shameless fanboy title I mentioned). Now that the 2DS has been announced and revealed, I've been given pause for thought on which handheld to spring for. 
So, as someone who does not have a 3DS, which should already tell you this console is not for you and therefore its existence shoud hardly offend, here's why I'm genuinely interested in the 2DS. In fact, I have appropriately two main reasons: 
(.) No 3D. I cannot use the 3D effect on the 3DS at all. I've tried at least twice on a store demo, and after not even ten seconds my brain feels like it's trying to make a break for it through my nose. Most people don't have a problem with the 3D, I'm not one of them. Of course, this is where most people say, "Well, you don't have to use the effect, you can turn the 3D down." No kidding, I'm well aware of how a slider works. My issue is why in the world would I pay for a feature I'm not going to use? Yes, it's not simply a feature upgrade. The 3DS is a whole new system that's far more powerful than previous versions. That's not my problem. My problem is there's three versions of the original DS, and only about a year it seems after the 3DS came out, the 3DS XL was released. I'm not one of these guys that has to have the latest version of every console, but when you're releasing more hardware than Sega in their heyday, you're doing something wrong. It does not inspire confidence. In a way, I sort of knew there would be another version of the 3DS, possibly one that would do away with the 3D or cost less so I wouldn't feel like I was paying for a feature I didn't want. 
(..) I like the design. It has no moving parts, no big hinge in the middle. As cool as I always thought the idea of holding the DS sideways like a book is, the idea of opening and closing anything like a clamshell puts this lingering weariness in my head. When I worked in customer service for a cell carrier, long before the iPhone came out, the most popular phone we had was the Motorola Razr, which is what's called a flip phone. I wish I had a nickel for every time I got a tech support call from a customer whose screen went out because the wires connecting the screen to the main body got pinched. Couple that with the simple fact that hinges wear down anyway, and I've never gotten behind the design of any phone outside the classic "candy bar" style, which is more or less what most smartphone are now. 
Frankly, I wonder if game companies don't do enough market research and testing of their handhelds before they release them, hence minor upgrades and redesigns year after year. I always felt a little resentful at the updates to the PSP, even hating the Go version. I know early adoption is a big factor in a lot of consumer electronics gaining footholds in their various markets, but I'd rather they iron out the major bugs like size, shape, and weight before they get it out to me. Now that I've seen Vita memory cards in clearance bins, I'm  wondering if Sony has similar plans for the Vita, possibly a redesign that fixes all my complaints about the current version, like no memory stick support. I think that's unlikely, but even if a redesign is on the horizon, I'd probably be every bit a happy with a price drop in the current version. As for the 2DS, everyone is mocking it and laughing at it, pointing out all the design choices with it, while I'm thinking, "Finally." I do worry that with all this mockery that these haters will take out their whiny, first-world frustrations on the people who choose this system (or receive it as a gift). As someone who grew up during the great Nintendo/Sega rivalry that was the 16-bit era, I can tell you that system-shaming hurts everyone and it takes away the most important aspect of being a gamer: Playing games that you enjoy. 
Good night, and good luck. 

29 August 2013

How Dare You Succeed!

This sort of comment has been coming up a lot in the discussions around asking people not to use adblock on sites they frequent or on content they enjoy (and should therefore be supporting). What gets me about it is that these people are essentially either fully self-employed, or are supplementing their existing income (which, last I looked, wasn't a crime), and here they're being told to stop that and begin searching for a completely different job they may or may not find given the unemployment rates and general state of the job market. Why do you want more people lining up in front of you in the welfare office? Shouldn't you focus on getting yourself that career you've been wanting?

Granted, whatever facet of the entertainment industry you choose to be a part of carries the risk of having essentially no job security, but isn't the greatest risk sometimes never taking one? Still, the question remains: Why does enjoying your job make it unreal? 

I mean, they say if you love your job, you never work a day in your life. Maybe the people who make that remark about getting "real" jobs take that expression literally. It's terrifying to think what kind of messed up upbringing they had to make them think the only real jobs are the ones you hate. 

I tried to make this an animated gif, but it looked terrible.

28 August 2013

This Is What It's All About

The creator of Adblock has launched a crowdfunding campaign to buy up as much ad space as possible (including Times Square, the New York Times, and The Superbowl) to promote Adblock in the hopes of creating “an internet without ads.” I’m not going to link to it because they don’t deserve that attention. Gene Lee, however, believes in this cause to the point of appearing in the campaign video and hosting it on his own YouTube channel. He disabled comments and ratings, instead “moving the discussion” onto another video on his channel (which has since been deleted). 
Obliviousemi is the artist for Jaltoid, an animation team on YouTube I recently subscribed to. The couple earns ad revenue through the partnership program, making it a notable source of income for them. They are successful because of their talents and skills. 
Gene Lee apparently hates that, and has taken the “I’ll take my bat and ball and go home.” approach to getting his way by insisting that content creators go along with this campaign and find other ways to support themselves. The thing is, he doesn’t have a bat and ball. He probably didn’t even swing, let alone get struck out and find himself sore about the whole affair. 
I asked him about this retort on the “discussion” tab of his channel, asking him why he felt like his misfortune (if he ever tried) gave him the right to dictate policy to others who have succeeded where he may well have never even tried? My comment was hidden. Maybe he found my calling him a bully for it too insulting. 

20 August 2013

BaRoW Cards: An Informal Tour

Today's been a bit on the crummy side for a number of reasons, so I decided to push my luck and try shooting a video. Strangely, it went a lot better than the last few I've tried to make. Since I'm not going to upload this newest batch of cards just yet, I thought I'd take a moment to give an informal tour of these things, much like I'd done with my sketchbooks. 

18 August 2013

BaRoW Cards One Through Eighteen

Rather than make many, many uploads with only one image each (as Blogger isn't set up that well for sharing multiple photos in a post), I thought I'd try YouTube's built-in "photostory" mode and simply make this slideshow. There's no soundtrack because I couldn't pick one and I didn't feel like dusting off my gear to try and cobble something together, so you get to make up your own soundtrack. It's fully customizable! 

15 August 2013

Das Pokemans

Deadmau5 said this about dubstep, and it almost perfectly mirrors how I feel about Pokemon. To give a little background, I was entering college when Red & Blue came on the scene. All my friends were into it. I'd seen the show and the movies, which I liked, albeit I prefer Digimon as far as the shows go. One of my favorite mangas is the Pokemon one by Toshihiro Ono, which I think is one of the best renderings of the world outside the games proper. As far as those go, my experience begins and ends with Blue (more on that in a moment). The only other Pokemon games I've bothered with have been Snap, Pinball, and Puzzle League, all ancillary titles. Here's basically how I feel: 

I don't hate it for the concept. That's all fine and dandy. It's a very well-crafted world with a solid premise absolutely bursting with appeal. The movies and the manga flesh it out nicely and really help with the immersion, between the colorful characters and surprisingly rich lore to what's in essence a very simple RPG. 

I don't hate it for the fans. I actually love it for the fans. At the risk of sounding like a total parent (which I'm  not in the slightest) or some kind of chaperon, Pokefans are the most well-behaved and friendliest fandom I've ever come across. If there's any sort of elitism or snobbery, I've never run afoul of it. Even Whovians have that massive quasi-generation gap between people who've loved it since the classic series (or that middling, limbo phase between 1989 and 2005 thanks to videos, books, and TV specials) and those who came following the revival. I guess it all goes back to that appeal I mentioned before; there's something for everyone to like and love liking. Sure, some of the memes and parodies are a tad annoying, and some people who play the card game can be a bit manic, but they're raindrops in the ocean. I can let them go. I wish Portal fans could be more like Pokefans. I wish Bronies were more like Pokefans. Even D&D nerds could learn a thing or three from Pokefans. 

I simply dislike the core gameplay mechanic. I think I've briefly mentioned this elsewhere, so I apologize if I repeat myself. Somehow, the very idea of collecting monsters to fight for you strikes me as an incredibly lazy piece of game design. I know that sounds completely ridiculous and I freely admit it. I fully deserve to be raked over the coals for painting the games with such broad strokes. I'm not pretending to have any sort of expertise on game design or RPG development, that's simply the best reason I can think up to account for my boredom. That's what it boils down to for me. After hours of playing through Blue, getting a few badges and exploring some towns, all I could think was, "I am not having fun." and instead turned to more involving adventures like Final FantasyStar OceanMonster Hunter, Samurai Warriors, and XCOM. I'm not saying the Pokefans who enjoy the core series of games are stupid or juvenile or lack skill or have bad taste. That is not the case at all. It is simply not my cup of tea. I suppose you could say that after all the buildup between that awesome world and those enthusiastic fans, the games just didn't hold up. They have an attachment to those games that I can understand and relate to, but cannot share. 

While I have promised a very good friend that I will give one of the latter day entries like Diamond/Pearl or Black/White a chance to see if I may feel different with those tweaks and mild alterations, I feel comfortable saying it's not likely. On the whole, the only Pokemon game that I'm genuinely interested in is the Mystery Dungeon series because they're roguelikes, arguably the most commercially successful ones ever made, and that's a genre that I find wildly fascinating
There is also the issue (which partly led to that conversation) of not having any Nintendo hardware that can play any of those games, though I'd been weighing the pros and cons of springing for a 3DS. 
What we settled on is to try and go down the dark and twisted path of emulation, specifically the GBA because that's the era of Pokemon games I'm most likely to get into. I also intend to abide by the "code of emulation ethics" and get a physical copy of the games to have. They're easy to find and some places practically give them away (and down the line I may luck out on a Micro or SP or Player for my Gamecube). After shopping around, in addition to Mystery Dungeon Fire Red, I'll pick up a Sapphire cartridge. Why Sapphire? Well, it's a translucent blue cartridge named for my birthstone, why wouldn't I settle on that one? Makes a dandy keepsake. 

11 August 2013

Unlockable Gateway

I've been a proud Linux user for several years. I started with Ubuntu, but never quite liked how it worked, dabbled in a few others I can't recall names to, and then finally settled on Linux Mint as my favorite, namely for their Long Term Support versions. At the time of this writing, I've yet to try Peppermint, a fork of Mint, though it looks very promising. My second favorite is Jolicloud (or JoliOS, or Jolidrive... they've got a bit of an identity issue they need to work out once and for all). I'd written a review of an early version of their OS, and while I didn't exactly have the nicest things to say, they've gotten much better, and the staff I spoke to while writing my little expose were surprisingly good sports about what I said about their early efforts. Despite that bit of drama, it is actually the flavor of Linux I will always recommend to anyone curious about using Linux that's not quite ready to commit to a full install (or even a partition) of something more robust. 
The Jolicrew is a strange lot with a downright baffling mission statement. Their OS is meant to mimic a tablet's interface, specifically iOS, but is not actually meant to be run on a tablet. Instead, one of their biggest selling points was "breathing life into an old desktop" which sounds a bit silly, but when you consider the elderly or even very young children, the idea of doing away with that tired old desktop interface in favor of app tiles does sound very appealing. In addition to these fairly low system requirements, the system has, hands down, the most painless trial and/or installation process I've ever seen. I wish more Linux flavors took after these methods to make their systems more accessible to weary consumers. Normally, if you want to try out a Linux OS, you've got to go into the boot menu of your startup screen... and it's possible I've lost at least half of you already. I'm not saying you're stupid or anything like that, but you'd never have to do anything like this for a game or a browser, so why should the OS be any different. JoliOS not only can be run effectively as an application (no different than a word processor or a game) that can be un/installed with the greatest of ease, but it can even be run in a browser
While I've gone back to using Windows (7, in case you're wondering), and my old desktop running Mint is gathering dust, Jolicloud never left my side, so to speak. It's a kind of OS backup. Even if I'm using someone else's computer, I can log in to Jolicloud and access most of my services through there. I still check in on it every once in a while so I don't get surprised by any major changes or upheavals to the interface or the service connections. 
Today was when I checked in on it and was surprised, then baffled, by a change to the service connections, specifically Evernote. There was a "new" flag over the "add new services" bar at the side, which I clicked on. Most of the apps were ones I'd never heard of, the rest I had no real use for, and then I saw Evernote was there with a padlock icon over it. I clicked on it and got the above screenshot. In order to use the app and have it work with my Jolidrive page, I essentially had to pimp Jolicloud on one of my social networks. 

I'm really not sure what to think about this, and not simply because I already have Evernote on my JoliOS dashboard. 

05 August 2013

Apocrypha Card

This was a practice run for something else I had in mind, a tree stump covered in red moss, not unlike my favorite scene in Akira Kurosawa's Rhapsody in August (which I've only now realized is surprisingly apt). I was worried about the inks bleeding, so I didn't want to use one of my typical ATCs. These are smaller (by about a quarter of an inch) and made by the same company that made the tags I used for the Punch Card series. 
They're an absolute pain to work with. 
They're very thin, and have a very rigid quasi-canvas/linen texture that might almost yield interesting results save for the fact that it creates hideous moire patterns when scanned. A little tweaking of the brightness and contrast helped reduce the effect significantly, though it's easy to tell there were issues. If this were done the same way as one of my silhouette pieces (where I do the colors in post), I could have simply removed color and filled in the moss with a digital brush. However, this wasn't that kind of piece, though I will most certainly revisit this, not just as a card, but also another silhouette.