Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Years

I honestly can't believe 2010 is already over. It seems like just yesterday that I was celebrating the end of 2009 in Washington, PA while listening to Luke and Aimee argue about how terrible Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin are.  Fun Times! But anyways, New Years Eve is always everyone's favorite time to reminisce about the past, so I decided to do my own mini review of the year. I can't help but love nostalgia. 

My Favorite Game of the Year: Super Mario Galaxy 2.


Tons of attention has already been showered onto this game, so its pointless for me to talk about it much. Just know, that all of the positive things you've heard about the game are true. Anyone who hasn't played this game yet should go do that. If you have a Wii, I'm sure you can find a cheap copy easily by this point, and if you don't have a Wii then feel free to come over and play it. I'm sure Luke wouldn't mind seeing it again.

My Most Disappointing Game of the Year: Monster Hunter Tri. 


Let me just make it clear that I am not saying this game is bad. Its actually really good and probably one of the best third party games to come out on the Wii this year. However, it was disappointing to me because I had such high hopes for this game. The main problem with it, is that if your not playing it with your friends than the game is just not that fun. Its no surprise that once David stopped playing that I quickly followed suit. 

Best Game That I Played This Year That I Should've Played Much Earlier: Dragon Age Origins


This is another game that deserves all of the praise thats been said about it. I've spent the past few weeks playing this game every chance I get, and I honestly can't get enough. I don't remember the last true computer RPG I've played, and its refreshing to be playing that genre again. My original goal was to try and finish the game before school starts, but I don't see that happening. I'm 30 hours into it and I'm maybe like halfway through the game ... if that. 

Best Board Game Introduced to Me This Year: Race for the Galaxy


When I first played Race for the Galaxy, I didn't really like it all that much. I felt like the game was needlessly complicated, and to be honest, the game does have a very steep learning curve. Once I figured out how to play it, I promptly became addicted. There was definitely an era in Pittsburgh where all we did was play RFTG. I've been too scared to pick up the rest of the expansions for fear that we will get sucked in its vortex again.

Best Game Dredged Up From the Past By Us This Year: Final Fantasy VI


It had been many years since I had last played or thought about this game. This is weird for me, since it still is my favorite game of all time and I used to play through it at least once a year. It was dredged up from the past by Juliana, enjoyed thoroughly by Luke, and written about critically by me. Fun times had by all. Expect a couple more FF6 articles during the new year.

Favorite Magic Expansion From This Year: Scars of Mirrodin


Its no secret that I like Artifact decks, so a return to Mirrodin was quite welcome. The set is fun to play with, balanced (there are no overpowered Planeswalkers or cycle of ridiculous format defining cards), and has contributed to a very diverse Standard format. Scars does have a lot of problems (inclusive block design for instance), but I just enjoy playing it more than the rest of the expansions released this year. I honestly feel like 2010 wasn't that great for Magic as a whole (or maybe M10 + Zendikar was just a hard act to follow).

Well thats all for now. I hope everyone has a fun and drunken New Years Eve! See you next year! Derp. 

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Lets Talk About Pills

I was first introduced to the subject of nootropics by Ian our first year of college. Nootropics are commonly referred to as Smart Drugs, and they are usually a prescription drug which has an off-label use for cognitive and memory enhancement. The first one I was introduced to was Piracetam, and it very much defined my college experience. Piracetam is an Alzheimer medication in Europe and other parts of the world, but is not FDA approved in the US. We originally ordered it from overseas, but by the end of our college years, the US started selling it as a nutritional supplement that you could find at any GNC. Does the stuff actually work? It helped me power through so many essays in college it wasn't even funny. It has almost no side effects, so I sorta preferred it to something like Adderall, which always made me feel like I wanted to die.

I noticed something though about Piracetam: Once they started selling it over the counter in the US it stopped working as well for me. I'm not sure if this was simply a diminishing returns on it for taking it off and on for so long, or if it just became weaker when it became readily available. Regardless, it didn't help me as much when studying for the GMAT as I would've liked and I was searching for a new alternative. Luckily, Reddit has a nootropics sub-forum and I was able to continue my research on smart drugs. Apparently, when taking Piracetam, it is preferable to take a Choline supplement to help make the Piracetam work better and to avoid sometimes feeling 'cloudy' when on the drug (Luke didn't like it because of this exact problem). It was then that I stumbled onto something else which looked very promising. I saw this article posted on Reddit and I reposted it on one of my news roundups a few months ago. I was so intrigued that I immediately began a hunt for Provigil.

Fast forward a month and a half and I finally obtain a month's worth of Provigil. The stuff is interesting... Its very much Adderall-lite. Imagine the wakefulness and concentration boosting of Adderall but without the jitteriness and crashing which goes along with taking Adderall. The stuff is powerful too. Taking a full 200mg in the morning can still make you have trouble sleeping that night. If you take a full 200mg in like the middle of the day, then your sleep will be ... sporadic at best. When I tried to sleep on it, it felt like I was lucid dreaming all night. Another side effect is that it makes your pee smell weird ... take that for what you will.


But does it work? Can you really do work and concentrate on it? Yes, you can, but there is a catch. Taking a full dose is overkill. You experience more euphoria while taking the 200mg, but it actually hurts your concentration somewhat. Taking either a half or quarter of that amount is amazing. You can get things done easily and concentrate for long periods of time. For Provigil, less is more.

I can't imagine taking this pill everyday like the original author of that article did. I can see how it would basically turn you into a robot if you do that. For now, I am impressed with the stuff, and will be using it for any heavy duty studying I have to do in the future.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Of Might and Magic

My post last month about my most influential games sparked a bit of a resurgence in Heroes of Might and Magic 3 around these parts. It started with me picking up a cheap copy and playing it with Zach over Thanksgiving break for a nostalgia-fest. Luke's interest was piqued watching us play, and over the past few weeks we have spent many nights playing Heroes 3.


Yesterday, I was doing a bit of research for Luke about how good some of the factions were, and I realized that I knew next to nothing about the way this game is actually played. This is weird for me, since whenever I start to play a game seriously, I spent hours researching and trying to learn as much as I could about the game's strategy and mechanics. But I never really did that with Heroes 3, and I don't think I'm going to. Sometimes its nice to play a game the way you want to play it. Being too competitive and/or learning a lot about a game can oftentimes ruin the game for you. For instance, its arguable that Smash Bros is more fun to play when all items and levels and are turned on and everything is chaotic, but I will never be able to play that way ever again. I just don't think I could do it knowing what I know now about that game.

Regardless, I wanted to share a few tips for playing this game which should work on any difficulty and any play style. Most of these are things I've picked up over the years of playing this game, and some of them are things I learned just yesterday when I stumbled onto some forums I shouldn't have.

1) One of the things I learned yesterday is that Might Heroes are better than Magic Heroes. I used to think it was the other way around but it makes sense to me now. Basically, the Magic primary skills (Spellpower and Knowledge) are less useful than the Might primary skills (Attack and Defense). The reason why is that Spellpower only matters if you are casting offensive spells, and a lot of the most useful spells in the game aren't directly offensive. In addition, Knowledge only gives you extra spell points, so you only really need a couple of points in Knowledge to be sufficient. Having something like a 14 Knowledge is overkill. You can easily get sufficient Knowledge and Spellpower by visiting all of the little map objects which boost your stats. In addition, Might secondary skills are way better than the Magic ones. I would take Offense, Archery, and Logistics over crap like Eagle Eye and Scholar any day. The only good Magic secondary skills are the Elemental Magic skills, and oftentimes Might Heroes have a high chance of getting a relevant one. The only downside to Might heroes is that they are a little bit worse in the early levels.

2) Speaking of Heroes, its important to build up two heroes. You need one for exploration/conquering and you need one for castle defense. I realize its hard to train two heroes at once, especially in the early game, but you'll thank me when someone tries to take your castle and you actually have a competent spellcaster able to defend it.

Good Ol Crazy Witch Lady

3) The easiest way to take mines early in the game is to play super defensive while fighting the neutral creature stacks. Oftentimes, the creatures guarding the mines are level 1 or 2 ground units, and its easy to just defend with all of your units and shoot them down/kill them with spells before they even get to you. If you have a decent spellcaster and a fast unit, you can 'kite' even powerful neutral creatures. 'Kiting' is when you get a slow creature to chase a fast creature around the map while you shoot the creature down with spells. Its slow, but its a very potent strategy.

Proper use to kiting took down 20 Behemoths with a single faerie.

4) The elemental magic skills are amazing. If you can learn one, always do it. With an expert magic skill, status effect spells like Haste and Slow affect every unit they can. Spells cost less, do more damage, are harder to dispel etc. The elemental magic skills are some of the best in the game (second only to Logistics maybe). Earth Magic is the best, since that school has so many useful spells. Mass Slow, Mass Stoneskin, Implosion, Meteor Shower, Town Portal, and Resurrection are its noteworthy spells.

5) Use Blind. Seriously, its one of the best spells in the game and its easy to get. You can win so many battles you have no right winning with some well placed Blind spells. On the other side of the spectrum, the computer loves this spell too, so always make sure your hero has Cure or Dispel to counter the effects of the Blind.

6) Use the Wait Command.  If you choose to wait with your fastest troops, they will have the last action of the round, so you can use this opportunity to dispel a blinded unit, or rush over to attack the now undefended archers, or attack a unit with no more retaliations. The wait command also makes it easier to do hit and run attacks. Proper use of the Wait command is pretty vital to strategic combat in this game.

Damn. Now I can't wait for Luke to come home to start a new map. Lulz.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas is Officially Over

I hope everyone had a good Christmas weekend. Mine was super low key, which made it amazing. I also took my driving test today ... and failed. Lulz. I didn't do anything bad, just a bunch of random errors. I was only like 2 points short of passing and the guy was super nit picky. Oh well. Anyways, onto the news:

New study shows that video games strengthen certain aspects of the brain.

Yoshitaka Amano is making his own anime movie. He is easily one of my favorite artists.

Here is an update to the Activision vs Infinity Ward lawsuit.

Bioware continues to be awesome and defends the inclusion of same-sex romance in Dragon Age.

Former Wizards employee apparently tried to steal thousands of dollars worth of Magic Cards from their headquarters.

The Pee-Wee Herman show is coming to HBO next year.

Target continues its political contributions to anti-gay politicians.

Scientist find evidence of mental time travel.

Best of Archaeology 2010.

Ancient marine life fossil extravaganza has been found in Southwestern China.

New evidence shows that most Thrapods (T-Rex/Raptor family) were actually herbavores and not fully carnivorous like previously thought.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

2010: The Top 10 Most Amazing Music Videos

Hark! Below are the ten greatest music videos of 2010, as identified by Luke, ranked from pretty awesome to fucking amazing. By "greatest," however, I don't necessarily mean objectively great (though clearly they are). The only criteria by which I chose these videos is that, for me, they're memorable, they're interesting/ridiculous, they got watched a lot, and I basically love them. You may disagree with me, and for that I forgive you.

#10. Katy Perry f. Snoop Dogg: California Gurls


#9. Grum: Through the Night


#8. MIA: XXXO


#7. Kelis: Acapella


#6. Grum: Can't Shake This Feeling



#5. Kylie Minogue: Get Outta My Way


#4. Kaskade f. Dragonette: Fire In Your New Shoes


#3. Scissor Sisters: Invisible Light


#2. Goldfrapp: Alive


#1. Goldfrapp: Rocket


Fin.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Timez

This week has been pretty slow over here. Besides this post, there have been only two posts this week, and one of those was the news (which takes me like two seconds to do). There will not be any more posts for the rest of the week. This doesn't mean that 'Life of a True Gaymer' is dying or anything. Its just that this week has basically been Christmas break, and I'm trying to get in as much relaxing as I can before school starts.



I've also started playing Dragon Age, which has sucked up quite a bit of my time as of late. I'm trying to beat the game before classes start, which I think is entirely doable. Granted, me playing Dragon Age is definitely one of the reasons I will not be posting during this Christmas Break. But whatever, most of my readers have been traveling recently anyways. Posts will resume on Monday.




Merry Christmas assholes! 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Fortune's Folly

A while ago, Jason decided that he was going to start an Eberron campaign, and I have been shamelessly procrastinating when it comes to creating my character. Jason will be doing the campaign through a message board system, to make it easier for everyone involved to meet up given Jason and Josh's hard to plan around schedule. I am particularly excited for this since I don't have any experience as a player character in 4th edition, and I need the PC experience so that I can write an accurate 4th edition review soon. Anyways, because I need a place to put all of this stuff, here is my character for this Eberron campaign:

When not disguised, she looks sorta like this Kor Cartographer.


Martina Lin (Marris Longblade) , Level 1
Doppelganger, Fighter
Fighter Talents: One-handed Weapon Talent

FINAL ABILITY SCORES
Str 16, Con 13, Dex 14, Int 14, Wis 11, Cha 12.

AC: 16 Fort: 15 Reflex: 12 Will: 12
HP: 28 Surges: 10 Surge Value: 7

TRAINED SKILLS
Endurance +5, Intimidate +6, Athletics +7

UNTRAINED SKILLS
Acrobatics +1, Arcana +2, Bluff +3, Diplomacy +1, Dungeoneering, Heal, History +2, Insight +2, Nature, Perception, Religion +2, Stealth +1, Streetwise +1, Thievery +1

FEATS
Level 1: Blade Opportunist

POWERS
Fighter at-will 1: Sure Strike
Fighter at-will 1: Reaping Strike
Fighter daily 1: Villain's Menace
Fighter encounter 1: Steel Serpent Strike

ITEMS
Adventurer's Kit, Longsword, Identification Papers, Standard, Wine, Bottle, Traveling papers, Torch, Grappling Hook, Hide Armor, Light Shield

Background:

Martina was born in the Kingdom of Sharn. Her father is an antiquities professor disguised as human, for the Morgrave University. Her mother, also disguised as a human, was a bar wench for a tavern her father liked to frequent. Unfortunately, her mother died during her childbirth. Stricken with grief, her father took Martina to the university and raised her as if she was his human daughter.

Martina was a bit of a rebellious youth. She quickly learned of her true nature as a Changeling and liked her true appearance a whole lot better. Her father often chastised her, telling her it wasn't safe for her to walk around in her true form. She hated living at the University and was intensely bored of learning about ancient history and artifacts. Martina valued freedom above all else, and when she turned 14, she fled the university. She has not talked to or seen her father since.

The first thing she did in the outside world was assume her true form. She firmly believes that Changelings should not have to constantly hide their true nature. Her wish to this day, is that people stop seeing Changelings as evil duplicitous beings. She spent a year on her own in the city living honestly. She worked as a maid for a demi-human only inn called the Misfit Hideaway. This was the happiest period in her life. It was the only time in her life where was truly able to be herself.

One night, when she was walking back from the marketplace, Martina was harassed by a group of local ruffians for walking around in her true form. The encounter quickly became violent. She was raped by the group and left to die in an alleyway. Miraculously, she managed to survive the encounter, and spent the next few months recovering. She became cynical and disenchanted. She finally realized that there was no way she could remain in her true form at the present time. She also realized that she needed to learn how to protect herself and be intimidating. She took the form of a human male named Merris Longblade (the name is lame on purpose), and joined Sharn's army.

Her human/anime form.

After completing basic training, Martina defected from the military as it was too constraining for her. Despite her new found pessimism, she still has a desire for freedom. She left Sharn for good, and is currently roaming around the country from city to city, taking up mercenary work where she can to feed herself. She is an eternal wanderer, longing for a day where she can return to her true form and be accepted.

When in a city, Martina usually sticks to the poor/crime ridden sections of the city (docks district for example). These areas are more of a melting pot of races, so she feels comfortable there, although she still remains in human form. As a man, Martina acts dense and tries to downplay her intelligence. Her cynicism still shows itself when trying to be a man. She rarely tells people about her true form and never discusses what happened to her on the night which changed her life. At her best, Martina is principled and pessimistic. At her worse, Martina is mistrusting and secretive.



Monday, December 20, 2010

Meow Mondays

Biggest news this week? The repeal of DADT. Everyone has read about this already, so let me just say yayayayay and then move onto to some gaming news.

As of today, Bosh, Memnrach and a few other legends are now legal as generals in EDH/commander due to a rules clarification. Also Emrakul is banned.

In other news, there are making a free to play Magic turned based strategy game. It will probably be bad, but I'll try it out once it releases soon (Holiday 2010 so basically any day now).

This is a recently released collection of interesting gaming statistics. Apparently, 360 users are about split between the time spent playing single player and multi-player online.

Here is a quick preview of all of the things gamers can look forward to in 2011.

EA CEO bashes the Wii and Nintendo's willingness to support third party developers.

Sega is making a game based on toilets that you can pee on. Amazing.

I don't see why there aren't more holocaust video games.

LA Noire's actually has decent looking people for a video game thanks to a new technology called motion scanning.

EA Employees release an Its Gets Better video. Its weird that I actually recognize one of the guys.

The New Yorker recently profiled Shigeru Miyamoto.



Only a matter of time before this happened. Also, I love Ken Cuccinelli.

Supreme Court rules against 'First Sale' copywrite doctrine.

Raptor like dinosaur has been discovered in Eastern Utah.

Study shows that Ecstasy makes it harder for the brain to register negative facial expressions.

The Sun has recently exploded in a huge eruption ... well part of it has anyways.

The state of the scientific review process.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Heroes of Newerth Flamboyant Pack

A couple days ago, Luke told me about an article he saw on Queerty about some game introducing a super gay announcer as downloadable content. I lulz at it, and figured it was not really a big deal since Queerty is a really bitchy gay news site full of the type of people who think Shirley Q Liquor is actually racist.  I had assumed that they were just blowing the whole thing out of proportion. Yesterday, I stumbled upon the article posted on a different website and decided to read up on it.

Basically, the PC Strategy/RPG, Heroes of Newerth, decided it was going to release two new announcers for the game as downloadable content.  The announcer packs are entitled the Pudding Pack and the Flamboyant Pack. The Pudding Pack is just a female announcer who says the exact same things as the original announcer. The Flamboyant Pack is basically a gay stereotype saying sassy things full of sexual innuendo. Now normally I wouldn't have much of a problem with this, but as I learned more and more of the context behind the inclusion of the Flamboyant Pack, I actually started to get a bit outraged. For reference, here is a video of the controversy (relevant section starts at the 5 min mark):























Again, normally I wouldn't have such a problem with things like this, but let's look at the context. First off, I encourage everyone to head over to this link and read the responses from two developers. One is from a current employee at the Studio defending the inclusion of the announcer pack, and the other is from an ex-employee who also worked on the game. Its pretty interesting. TL;DR: The announcer pack was the idea of the head of S2 Games and he threw a temper tantrum to get it into the game. He said he wanted the voice over to be faggoty and queer.

Obviously, the first thing you have to do is call into question the motivations of the jilted ex-employee. Was he actually speaking the truth there or is he just out for revenge against the company? Honestly, I think its the former. I've been in the industry long enough to know its views regarding homosexuality. For instance, there is a reason Augustin worked away from the rest of the QA department at EA as an embedded tester on Boom Blox, and it wasn't because the development team actually needed an embedded tester. A few years ago, Microsoft got a lot of flack for having a hostile workplace for gay developers. These are just two examples of the relatively abysmal attitudes towards homosexuality in the game industry.



Upon further research, it turns out that the head of S2 Games is just a terrible person. This forum post from an administrator at gay-nerds.com sums up everything pretty well: "It's pretty much a known fact in their community that their boss, Marc "Maliken" DeForest, is pretty, errr... outspoken. There are screencaps of him saying nigger/etc. floating around and stories of him smashing computer equipment when he loses a game. I doubt its really a surprise to anyone that he wanted the pack to be 'faggoty'." When you take all of this into consideration, it becomes clear that the intent of the Flamboyant pack wasn't to try and make funny downloadable content for people to download, it was just another avenue for the head of S2 Games to be an asshole.


I truly don't understand how the company didn't stop and think that maybe this was a bad idea. I really can't even fathom how any executive can be that irresponsible. I just want to be clear that I don't find this pack super offensive or anything, nor do I think this is the worse thing to ever happen to the gay rights movement. Its just troubling to see gay portrayal in video games take such a huge step back after finally being treated with respect for a change (as they have been recently with games like Dragon Age and Fallout: New Vegas). Its stuff like this which affirms my decision to get my MBA and go back into the industry.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Introduction of Mythic Rares

Recently, everyone was been pointing to Mythic Rares when they need an example of Magic's downfall. You basically can't browse any Magic forum without encountering people bitching and moaning about the introduction of mythic rares. For those of you who don't know, Mythics are a new rarity for Magic cards which started about three years ago with Shards of Alara. They basically are super rare cards which only show up every eight packs. When Wizards first created the Mythic Rarity, they said they were doing it mostly for Planeswalkers and big splashy cards and that they weren't going to make tournament staple Mythics. It didn't take them long to back down from that promise and start creating tournament Mythics, which these days usually run about 40-50 bucks per card. This is the main cause of uproar among the Magic community as no one wants to drop 200 dollars for a playset of a card which just came out. Let me let you in on a little secret though: Mythics are really not that bad. 

Guys Like This Were Fine at Mythic.
I realize that what I just said is blasphemy to all but the most hardcore of tournament players, but let me explain. The biggest impact Mythic rares have had on the game is making regular rares dirt cheap. This is because dealers need to open more product in order to get enough supply of Mythic rares to meet their demand. This leaves them with a huge supply of regular rares which are subsequently slashed in price to help the vendor get rid of their huge surplus. So what does this mean exactly? It costs about the same to make a good tournament standard deck as it did before Mythics were introduced.

Okay lets break it down further and go back in time to Ravnica/Time Spiral Standard. If you were trying to make a deck like Solar Flare, Zoo, or any kind of three color deck really, then you would need to have to be running 3 full playsets of shocklands. Since rares were more expensive in general, these lands at the time were going for about 15 each. So a playset would be about 60 bucks, and 3 playsets would be 180 bucks. Thats close to 200 dollars for just your manabase. The rest of your deck would not be that expensive. Lets compare that to something like Valakut, a current top tier Standard deck. The deck runs a playset of Primeval Titans, which are about 40-45 a pop. A playset comes out to between 160-180. The rest of the deck is relatively cheap. Both decks would basically cost the same, the only difference is that these days, the price is concentrated within only a couple of cards.

Mythic price inflation all started with her.
There is a downside to this though. Spending 180 bucks on 3 sets of lands is amazing because these lands can go into a huge variety of decks. Cards like Primeval Titan and Koth, are very limited in the types of decks they can be in. If you're a tournament player on a budget, you can only really afford to pick up one playset of Mythics, and then your basically stuck playing that deck for the rest of the season. For instance, I bought a playset of Koths when Scars of Mirrodin came out, and now I'm stuck with playing decks like Red Deck Wins and Boros for the rest of the season since I can't afford to go buy a set of Jaces and switch decks. I'm very much pigeon holed into only playing a couple of archetypes at the moment, whereas if dual lands were still the top priced thing in the format, I'd have several options available to me. 

Its funny, because the people who benefit the most from Mythics are the ones who are the loudest complaining about them. Players who are strictly casual benefit the most from the printing of Mythics. Since Mythics drove the price down of every other rare in the set, you can buy like every card you need for your casual or edh decks when a set comes out for dirt cheap. 3 dollar dual lands?! 50 cent dragons?! Every set now, I spend about 40 bucks getting every relevant card I need for all of my EDH decks, and that 40 bucks goes a very very long way now. Seriously, in Scars of Mirrodin there are only two rares which break five dollars (Mimic Vat and Ratchet Bomb). That is ridiculous, and used to be completely unheard of.

This guy will be a hundred a piece by the end of this Standard season.

Pros and PTQ grinders tend to have play groups who borrow cards from each other for a tournament, or they ally themselves with a store and borrow cards from a dealer in exchange for wearing their t shirt to a tourney. As I said before, these players probably don't even see a difference in price when buying a standard deck now as opposed to in the past. Basically, Mythics don't really affect high level players at all. Obviously, people who only play limited aren't hurt by Mythics, since they don't buy singles to begin with. Plus, Mythics help balance limited by ensuring that powerful cards don't make it into quite as many draft or sealed decks. 

So who do Mythics really hurt then? The Friday Night Magic player. These players tend to be on strict budgets, and even if they had the money, they wouldn't spend it on expensive cards just to play in low stakes tournaments. The thing is though, building a budget deck for FNM is just as easy and effective as it was before, and there will always be cheap and powerful tournament decks for them to play, like the recent B/R Vampire decks, if they want to play something tuned. 

I do need to point out that it is very possible that Mythic rares hurt dealers the most, since they have to open up much more product to get the Mythics, which means a larger investment for them to sell singles for each set. In addition, if they get unlucky and don't open enough Koths, they might have trouble trying to swing a profit for that set. I have no data to be sure about this though, and most dealers don't like talking about their business practices.

Honestly, I think they should get rid of Mythics. It was an unnecessary change to begin with, and they hindered the ability for part of the community to play Magic. Things were fine before, and the introduction of the Mythic Rarity was an obvious cash grab for Hasbro. However, they really aren't as bad as people like to make them seem, and they certainly are not the downfall of Magic as a whole.


Monday, December 13, 2010

Quite a Bit of Video Game News This Week

The VGAs were last weekend. I didn't watch them but I heard they were as painful as I would've thought. Long Story short: Red Dead Redemption won Game of the Year.

They did however, announce Elder Scrolls 5 during the award show.

This is an interesting take on Metriod: Other M. I still haven't gotten around to picking this up, but that article gave me a couple of things to keep in mind as I play through it.

New Resident Evil for the 3DS looks amazing.

Kratos will apparently be a playable character in the next Mortal Kombat. Lulz.
Q

Possible ending for Starcraft 2's Next Chapter has been leaked.

EA Games Label President, Frank Gibeau, says that single player video games are a thing of the past. EA and Activision executives sure do love to make grandiose trolling statements don't they?

Top Ten Mysterious Video Game Characters of all time. Of course, Q is on there.

Senate Rejects Defense Bill (DADT repeal). Duh.

Study shows that a babies' biological clock does shape some personality traits. For instance, Babies born in Winter have a higher chance of neurological disorders.

Now that Arsenic life form finding announced a couple weeks is being called into question. Apparently, NASA jumped the gun on this one.

There is some evidence that the universe has existed forever.

This is the kind of shit that makes me glad I left Archaeology: The American Anthropological Association removes the word 'science' from its long term goals.

Cupcake Lulz.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Reddit: Helping Me Pass The Time on Unemployment

When I was in Pittsburgh, Aimee was constantly hounding me to join and start using Reddit. Although I didn't tell her at the time, I was adamantly opposed. I basically hate most general internet communities like Something Awful or 4Chan, and I assumed that Reddit was going to be like those, so I dismissed it immediately. However, towards the end of my time in Pittsburgh I found myself looking for a good news aggregate site. Fark had been terrible for a long time, and Digg was starting to get very stale. I, along with thousands of other users, ditched Digg once they did their new awful redesign in the summer, and I found myself looking at Reddit again.

It took me a while to get into Reddit. I didn't care for most of the articles making the front page, and I sorta disliked the general format of the website. Eventually, I registered a user name and discovered that I can customize my homepage so that it only shows me certain topics. Once I did this I was in love. I ditched every other news site I used to go to and started to only use Reddit. However, after using it for a while, Reddit started to show its ugly side.

First off, trying to get good political news on Reddit is a nightmare. The problem is that the community on Reddit is extremely sensationalist. Everything that happens in the world is a direct attack on their sensibilities. "OMG Obama is compromising with the GOP?!?! I guess I'm never voting for him again! I'd rather the GOP win! I've lost all faith in everything!!" Seriously, most of Reddit needs to calm the fuck down. Secondly, Reddit gets into these political fads where thats all they talk about for a long time. The past two weeks have been entirely Wikileaks based, ignoring every other piece of news out there. Before that was all about the TSA and the Full Body Scanners, and before that Prop 19. I generally agree with their sentiment on these issues, but seriously sometimes the front page of Reddit looks like this:

Yeah we get it already.
In addition, the Reddit community is the typical internet community, which is one of the things I wanted to avoid when I joined the site. People on the site want to be both Liberal and Libertarian at the same time. They are militant carnivores with a hardon for all things bacon. They love internet memes and every time someone posts a picture you can be sure its like a rage comic or something equally played out. They hate Facebook and all social media outlets. They are PC elitists both in regards to computer type and gaming. They hate Hipsters despite sharing lots of qualities with them. They are also incredibly misogynistic (although most nerdy communities tend to be since they are so male dominated). I realize I'm generalizing, but these seem to be the dominate views on the site. Basically, I don't read comment anymore because I can almost predict what the top voted comment will be on any particular link.

lolololololol
Do you know whats awesome about Reddit? Subreddits. Subreddits are small specific categories that are like micro communities with only a couple thousand users on each one. Most of my links during my Monday News Roundup are from subreddits. The comments are usually constructive, the links are relevant, and they are everything you can ask for in a news aggregate. Some of the awesome subreddits I subscribe to are:
r/magictcg, r/vegan, r/malefashionadvice, r/space, r/cogsci, r/japan, r/losangeles, r/space, r/archaeology, and r/nootropics. These are easily the best thing about Reddit, and you can tailor your main page so that only these specific things show up.

TL;DR: Reddit is an awesome news aggregate if you tailor it for yourself. Otherwise you'll have to sift through a bunch of chaff in order to get to real and interesting news stories. The community is exactly what you'd expect from an internet community.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Rock Band - A Gaymer's Reflection


I am indebted to Harmonix for shaping my teenage Gaymer identity. If it wasn't for their Karaoke Revolution series, then I wouldn't have developed my karaoke song repertoire to contain the music styling's of St. Cher's "Believe", St. Augilera's "Genie in a Bottle", and St. Spear's "Toxic". But the days of digital karaoke have passed onto the golden era of the musical gaming industry that has been pioneered by Rock Band.

As most of our readers know, each player in Rock Band is asked to select a role - vocals (lead and background), guitar, bass, drums, and now keyboard - and function as a group to trek along the road to fame dome. While teamwork is always a positive, we all know that everyone is going to judge you on your ability to perform, regardless of what instrument you pick. So I present this gaymer guide to Rock Band to help prepare you for future jamming sessions!

Vocals: If you're a gaymer and grab the mic, then you better be prepared to own it or succumb to your inability to tap into your inner diva. Don't be scared to sing out because Rock Band has the ability to auto-tune your pitch - just make noise and own the stage. And don't forget the key rule of performing - the more off you are vocally, the more you need to bust out your dance moves and inspire your team mates. Or flail your arms around and moon them. Your choice.

Guitar and Drums: Be prepared to bust out your skills. Guitar and Drums are the most demanding positions in Rock Band because you're required to go at an intense speed with strong finger coordination...which make them both the most entertaining and challenging. While the guitar is easier to pick up than drums, it's critical to not be overcome by the waves of adoring fans awing over your skills.

Now if you chose drums, be prepared to demonstrate how much of a man you are. Everyone loves a player who is a drum expert because no one else dares to make a fool of themselves on the orange peddle. However, be warned. Once you play the drums, everyone else will glue you down to your seat and force you to keep jamming out.

Bass: Guitar training wheels. If you're not in the mood to give yourself carpel tunnel, then this is the best role to play. Strap on the bass and enjoy your beer, it isn't like much will be demanded from you. But if you need to make yourself look important, make sure you bust out your whammy bar and score those bonus points on those long notes.




Keyboard: The most recent addition to the Rock Band family. If you're Asian, then you're pretty typecasted to this role. If you're Asian and wear glasses, then you're expected to be a prodigy. Not many songs have the keyboard incorporated into them, but the keyboard can be used as a substitute for the guitar/bass which makes things so much easier since you can play with 2 hands!



There you have it friends. Now go rock out with your c*ck out.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Some Like It Hot Seat



Over Thanksgiving break, Alex and I played a casual ode-to-olden-tymes match of Heroes of Might & Magic III. It was a miniaturized version of the kinds of Heroes games we used to play in high school or over summer breaks. Alex chose the smallest map size and only three players, but after we half-drunkenly chased away the evil, CPU-controlled Orange player, it was enough to remind me how much I liked playing turn-based video games.

The term "Hot Seat" is a negative term in the land of multi-player computer games, where "Real-Time" is considered a more advanced style of game design. Even these newfangled European board games, like Settlers and Race for the Galaxy, try their best to spice up the turn-based process with sub-turns and simultaneous actions. "Hot Seat" computer games are to modern video games as Monopoly is to whatever board game Jason most recently purchased.



Heroes of Might & Magic is like Monopoly in many ways. The X-Large map games with multiple CPU players are rarely played to the very end, and even though it becomes clear which Hero isn't going to last, it takes turns and turns and turns before inevitability catches up to that player. And yet, for some reason, I find that game very fun. When it comes to boardgames, I'll probably choose modern to Monopoly every time, but when it comes to computer games, I still enjoy the Hot Seat.

Of course, the Monopolyest of Hot Seat video games isn't Heroes. No, that award goes to the one-and-only Aerobiz Supersonic (Air Management II), because to this day, despite the number of times we've played this game on emulator, I have never finished a game.



Sigh... I miss Aerobiz Supersonic. (Though not this much)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Monday Articles

Wizards has announced that they are making EDH pre-constructed decks with brand new cards specifically designed for Multi-player. Also, the format is now called Commander.


Epic Mickey is officially out.  It currently has a 79 Metacritic score, which isn't bad.

This is for Jules: Guy hacks marriage proposal into Earthbound.

Judge for a case involving Xbox modding berates the prosecution on the usefulness of the case.

Interesting opinion piece about sex in video games.

Penatgon study says that gays can serve in the military with no harm. The release of this study still won't speed along the repeal of DADT.

9th Circuit Judicial Panel has been revealed for the Prop 8 case. The panel consists of two liberal judges, which is good news for Prop 8 opponents. The judge panel has already been challenged, however the panel will remain the same. Hearings start this week.

I didn't know this until recently but, The Salvation Army is a pro-life, anti-gay, evangelical Christian organization.

U.S Judge says lesbians can be 'cured' by male soldiers.

Mercury poisoning makes male ibises gay (wow there was a lot of gay news last week).

I'm sure everyone knows about the new arsenic life form already.

The universe holds 3x more stars than previously thought.

Christianity in Egypt may have started earlier than expected. Wouldn't BYU doing biblical archaeology be a conflict of interest? Surely their interpretations have a high chance of being biased.

Friday, December 3, 2010

More Updates

So it is official: I did not get an interview at USC. There is still a small chance that I could get accepted or wait-listed without an interview, but I'm pretty over it at this point. I have also decided that I don't want to mess around applying to Berkeley or UCLA. I can't be sure that it was my GMAT score and GPA that made me not get an interview at USC. If it was simply not having enough work experience that did me in, then there is nothing I can really do it about it at this moment. And applying to those schools means spending most of next year trying to find a job at the same time and doing more of the same stuff. I liked taking a break and playing housewife for a bit, but I'm itching to start doing something real again. Overall, it just doesn't really seem worth it.

Where I will be the next couple years.

So I spent all day yesterday getting my stuff together for LMU. If I hurry up on my financial aid stuff, I can get everything sorted out in time to start on Jan 10th. I am going in on Wednesday for academic advising so I can start registering for classes. I'm excited to be going back to school again. Expect this blog to slow down a little bit, since I'll be busy trying to get my shit together during the next couple of weeks.

Other than that, what else have I been up to? Well, I have officially given up on making my Big Red deck work in Standard. One day while I was play testing with Zach he asked me, "Why play that deck over Red Deck Wins? Are the match-ups different at all?" I basically had no real response to this. The match-ups were about the same, except my deck was clunkier but didn't roll over to Kor Firewalker. Basically there was no reason why I shouldn't be running Red Deck Wins. The problem though, is that Red Deck Wins isn't even very good right now. It hasn't been showing up in top 8 lists recently nor has it been getting much press. I wanted to play a deck like Red Deck Wins that was actually good. The solution was to play Boros.

This chick is so good.

I have started testing a Japanese list I found, and so far its been promising. You can see my list here. It was easy to switch to this deck since I already had like 90% of the cards for it. The next real Standard tournament is the Star City Games 5k in San Jose on January 15th. I think Luke and I are going to try and do a road trip up north for this, but we'll see. I start classes on the 10th, so going on a weekend trip at that point might be awkward.

Awesome Donkey Kong Fan Art.

The last thing I wanted to say is that the new Donkey Kong is amazing. It is also incredibly difficult, so its probably going to take a while for Luke and I to finish it. I imagine it will take Alito and Sotomayor even longer.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Today is Judgment Day

Today I will find out if I got into USC ... sorta.

Courtesy of Aimee

At some point today (tomorrow at the latest) I will find out if I got an interview at USC. Getting an interview doesn't mean that I automatically get in, however not getting one basically means that I'm fucked. Last year, they interviewed 60% of applicants and admitted around 25%, so the chances of me getting at least an interview are high. To be honest, I am not sure if I'm going to get an interview. When I submitted my application, I thought my chances were super high. I had awesome recommendations, a good GMAT score, and wrote some amazing personal essays. However, the more I research, the more I realize how mediocre my application packet really is. My GMAT score is about average for USC, so I won't be able to use my GMAT score to compensate for my low undergradutate GPA. Most applicants have about 4-7 years work experience doing real business stuff like management and finance. I have like 2.5 years working as a pseudo video game test lead that has been unemployed for the last year and a half. My resume definitely can't compete. If I get an interview, it will entirely on the strength of my essays. Speaking of which, if anyone wants to read any of my essays, hit me up and I'll share.

So what happens if I don't get this interview? I have two options, I could retake the GMAT and apply to UCLA and Berkeley, or I can just go to LMU. I had originally considered applying to both Berkeley and UCLA, but I had missed their deadlines for Round 1 of applications. I believe that the Round 2 deadline for both schools is in February. The problem with applying to these schools is that they are both ranked higher than USC, and if I didn't get an interview for USC, then I probably won't get into these schools. Luckily, since their deadlines are a couple of months away, I could try and retake the GMAT to get a higher score and thus have a better chance of getting in. There is no guarantee I could get a significantly higher score on the GMAT to really matter, plus it is harder to be accepted when applying to Round 2.


Alternatively, I could just go to LMU. Here are the pros and cons:

Pros:
- I could start as soon as next month. This is huge for me since I'm getting a little bit bored lately.
- LMU has some ties to the video game industry. They get a lot of people from EA and Activison that go there and thus a lot of alumni at those and other game companies.
- Cheaper than USC/UCLA/Berkeley
- I would get to have a more intimate relationship with my professors than at USC. When I heard I got into LMU, it was because the Dean of Admissions called me personally to talk to me about my personal statement because she liked it so much. I don't think I will get that level of attention at USC or any other top tier school.

Cons:
- Its not top tier, which means employment opportunities post graduation could be shaky. This is a big one. I don't want to end up like a lot of my friends who went to tier 3 law schools and can't get a job for the life of them.
- Less known outside of LA. If Luke and I moved to the Bay Area, it might be harder for me to get a job.
- Worse international studies program.

Honestly, if I don't get into USC I think I'll just go to LMU. Regardless, I'll obviously let everyone know what happens within the next few days.