Friday, April 30, 2010

Key Tweaking

My new laptop came equipped with a numeric keypad, it has been a while since I had a computer with one of those. Since I have gotten used to working without one I decided to turn it in to something more useful. I found this handy little program Key Tweak which remaps keys for other uses.

I am one of those people who uses Page Up, Page Down, Home and End expressively and their placement on the standard keyboard configuration is a less then optimal. So I remapped some of the numerical keys to take over those roles. I also added volume control, mute, pause/play, next song and last song to some of the buttons for easier music control. For easier internet use I mapped last page and next page to two of the keys. And finally since the arrow buttons are annoyingly small on my laptop I turned 1,2,3,5 in to arrow keys.

After this change the numpad went from being more or less unused to the new home for my right hand, since I am now using it constantly. This new configuration might seem slightly confusing, especially looking at the image at the top of this post but it actually makes a lot of sense and took me less then 5 minutes to get used to.

Unboxing a beauty - geek porn

I got my new laptop in the mail yesterday. It's an Acer Aspire Timeline 5810TZG, this slim beauty promises 8 hours of battery life by cutting the power consumption almost by half. It has a beautiful 15,6" LED screen, a 1,3 GHz Intel SU4100 processor, 4GB of ram and a 640GB HDD.

I took a few pictures of the unboxing to share with you guys.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The essence of gaming

I wrote a tweet earlier today where I said: New Super Mario Bros is really the Dragon Quest of the platform genre. This was a thought that struck me while playing NSMB. Since I feel unable to fully explain what I mean by this within the 140 word limit on Twitter I thought I would elaborate on it here. So if you want an explanation, keep reading.

The more I think about it the two New Super Mario Bros games and the more recent Dragon Quest Games are really a lot alike. I am also starting to think maybe this is why they are so both insanely successful in Japan.

They both offer what is basically the same gameplay as their more then 20 year old predecessors with very few updates. And since both series more or less defined their respective genres you get a very distilled quintessential gameplay experience. If you play NSMB you are playing the textbook example of a platformer, if you play Dragon Quest you are playing the textbook example of a Japanese role playing game. This makes them very attractive to gamers wishing to re-experience their childhood or get back to the basics of gaming. But it also has the downside of making them feel somewhat bland and not very exciting.

They both take the very fundamentals of their respective genres, shaving off everything but the most necessary mechanics and deliver an extremely high quality experience. But again more or less the very same gameplay experience you have had many many times before.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Holy Trinity of iPhone apps

Dear readers I have had a revelation. It has suddenly become clear to me that almost all my iPhone use, and internet use for that matter is done through three apps: Reeder, Tweetie and Instapaper. I come to all but leave my trusted web browser behind. You could say I have reached a higher plane of internet usage to stay within the quasi religious tone of this post.

First of all we have the Father Reeder. This clever little RSS reader lets me use my Google Reader account to subscribe to the feeds of all the sites I used to visit daily. Now instead I get them delivered to me in a pleasent looking, easy to read layout.

Together with Reeder we have another app which helps me keep track of what's happening in the world, in both its digital and its material forms, the latter form commonly referred to as IRL by the beings residing in the former. This second component of our set of three is the Son Tweetie. This app lets me read the 'tweets' of my fellow nerds in a much more pleasant way then the Twitter website.

Then finally, to complete this Trinitas we have the Holy Spirit Instapaper. This app is very helpful if used the right way. Through my usage of Reeder and Tweetie I often come across articles and other texts that would take me more then the 30 seconds I have available to read. Since both of these apps have Instapaper integration I can with the push of a button save them in my read it later list. That's just what Instapaper is for, it saves articles you feel you lack the time to read at that very moment and re-formats them in to a very readable format. So whenever I want something to read I always have a bunch of interesting articles saved in my Instapaper to read list, accessible both on my phone and PC.

Together these three have completely revolutionized the way I interact with the internet. You could say there has been a reformation in my consumption of web-based content.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Yes I like them big silly coins

The classic Mario games like Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World are superior to the two New Super Mario Bros. games in almost every aspect. Better level design, better looking graphics (yes those 2.5D graphics are horrible) and tighter controls etc.

But the NSMB games have improved on their old school brethren in one important way. And no it's not that you can turn in to a giant Mario, that's just stupid. The massive improvement is those big coins that are hidden in every level. By introducing this collecting element Nintendo is forcing the player to stop and explore instead of just speeding through the levels Sonic style. Plus finding secrets in Mario games has always been fun, finding those hidden warp pipes in SMB1 was maybe the coolest thing in that game. Now we have hidden things in every level and that's just awesome.

In some ways it's like the stars in Mario 64. The way they motivated the player to explore and fully appreciate the games 3D environments. But in Mario 64 the stars were the way you progressed in the game. In the two NSMB games on the other hand they are more of an optional side quest, you can still play through the game the way you would any old Mario game and completely ignore the hidden coins. They are just there for those players who want a somewhat deeper experience, and I want that, I really do. Now that I have beaten Bowser in NSMB Wii I'm not sad that it's over, I'm happy that I get to go back and go through all those levels again trying to find their hidden secrets. That's all thanks to those silly looking big coins, that and the secret exits. Those are awesome too but I will have to write about how much I love the them in another post because now it's time for me to have breakfast.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Why iPhone should become the new shooter platform

My recent experiences with Espgaluda II has convinced me that the iPhone could and should become the new home of the shmup genre. I put together a list of my arguments for the iPhone becoming the new shooter platform.

• To my great surprise touch controls work amazingly well for shooters. They offer far better precession then analog sticks while unlike D-pads giving you the ability to choose the speed of movement, simply fantastic.

• I love shooters but I'm not turning my expensive HDTV on it's side. The iPhone screen one the other hand is already vertical so it's perfect for vertically scrolling shooters.

• No international shipping needed, the days of ordering shooters from Play Asia would be over thanks to the app store.

• More then satisfactory graphical capabilities. Shooters don't need massive power, the Dreamcast has been the home for shooters long past it's prime. And the iPhone can definitely output graphics comparable to those on Dreamcast.

• It has become harder and harder for shooters to get access to limited retail shelf space in recent years. Luckily the Internet has no shortage of space and Apple has shown that they will allow all kinds of crap on the app store so a quality shooter shouldn't have any trouble.

• Finally the type of nerds who play this type of games are the same nerds who stand in line for the iPad. It's not like the shooter fan-base is made up of housewives.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Some things should never change

I don't really like fighting games, that includes wrestling games and boxing games like Fight Night. Punch Out is the exception to this rule. But that's not odd at all since Punch Out isn't a boxing game at all really. It might look like a boxing game but it is really more like Mega Man or R-type. It is all about pattern memorization and quick reflexes. That is probably why I enjoy it so much.

Of course there is nothing to say that this can't be what a boxing game is. There weren't any other boxing games around when Punch Out first came out so back then this is what a boxing game was. We could just as well say that since Punch Out was first, this is what a boxing game is supposed to be and everyone else is just doing it wrong.

However that doesn't change the fact that Punch Out is the odd one in the boxing genre. And I'm happy Nintendo are stubbornly refusing to change and implement whatever supposed improvements have been made over the past 20 years, because I freaking love this type of gameplay.

Posted from my iPhone

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Looking good!

Punch Out for Wii looks really good. I can't imagine this game having a big budget and it is for what has to be considered an underpowered system, still it looks fantastic. This type of stylized graphics really are the way to go on the Wii. It took some time but I think finally developers are getting it. At least games like Red Steal 2 are trying it out.

I mean look at Okami and Wind Waker, those two games are for last gen systems and they still look better then 95% of the games released today. An "underpowered" system isn't an excuse for making shitty looking games. You just have to tailor the art direction to the system.

If this post looks a bit weird it's because I'm trying out a new blogging app for my iPhone.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Podcast addiction

For the past few years I have been what I would have to describe as a Podcast addict. A quick glance at iTunes tells me that I currently subscribing to over 50 podcast feeds. A few of those are no longer updated but nevertheless it's quite a large number. The majority of them are video game related podcast. It never ceases to amaze me that such a niche topic such as video games has spurred such a large quantity of Podcasts.

They are of course of varying quality, many offer what you would expect when you put a microphone in from of a bunch of radio amateurs. But others are extremely entertaining, not necessarily because they very professionally produced but because they have real personality. If radio icons such as Howard Stern have shown us anything it's that radio is best when it's personal. When you start thinking of the broadcasters as something approximating friends, even if you have never met them or even talked to them.

For the longest time RetroforceGO was my favorite Podcast, the way they communicated on the Radio made me think of them as old friends. Which probably is the highest praise you can have for a Radio show or a Podcast. Their topic of discussion; old video games was very much secondary to the personalities on the show. Sadly RetroforceGO is no longer updated, even if I will always keep all of their episodes on my iPod.

I have not too long ago stumbled upon a new favorite podcast; the Snatchcast, the official podcast of Pixel Snatch, provocatively named after Japan's censorship of genitalia. The show is really just two friends hanging out talking about video games while making borderline racist and homophobic jokes under various stages of intoxication. It's the close friendship between the two guys and the way they talk with each other as if the microphone wasn't on which makes the show interesting. The video game discussion is really secondary, which is if anything proven by their non-video game spin off show being just as amazing.

I was very pleased when they mentioned me and this blog a while ago on URA Snatchcast episode 20, I took the liberty of making a little sound clip of the mention to share with you guys.

Clip from URA Snatchcast 20