E3. Nintendo. Epic… Fail.

If you didn’t hear, the consensus amongst everyone is that Nintendo’s press conference at E3 was terrible.

The worst part about it for me was that woman who spoke during most of the conference. *ugh*

I mean, I don’t know what the lowest part of it was – The glee she had throwing a frisbee to a video game dog, or her potentially believing the dog was real.

Anyway…

If You Missed It
The fine people over at the Minus World have summed up the finer 5 points of the conference quite well AND with visual aids. So if you’re looking for something to make you feel better after losing that hour of your life, head over and check it out. Oh, and make sure you scroll down to their #1 most embarrassing moment. It was EXACTLY what I was thinking.



I Ran the 2008 Rockville Twilighter on Saturday!

Some of you may know, (and most of you probably do not), that ON OCCASION I’ll get out there and run races.

I’d honestly like to do more on the running front but constant problems with injuries usually force me to choose a few “special” races that I’ll do every year.

2008 was particularly bad year for me, with my ridiculously flat feet giving me all kinds of problems – Most notably lots of pain in my toes, instep and knees.

Despite this, I still wanted to get out and try and do my favourite race of all time, the Rockville Twilighter 8K! What makes this race so cool is that…

  • There are about 2000 runners who do the race
  • It’s a night race
  • There are a ton of Rockville regular neighborhood folk coming out to support you

Training
About 4 weeks ago I had run a 40 minute run and after that decided not to run anymore because of the upcoming race. Confused? Well after each run, my feet would be killing me for a long time afterwards (like days), so I figured it would probably be a “smarter” thing to not run anymore before the race, try and keep the endurance up by biking, and just do what I could when race day came.


Group shot before the race!
Group shot before the race.

How’d I Do?
Well, for really not running at all this year and nothing in the last 4 weeks, I was happy I came in at 51:38. Ideally I would’ve liked to have come in under 50, but beggers can’t be choosers and I was really just happy I finished. This year, the race was certainly not easy. (#):)


I'm the one on the right.
I’m the one on the right. (#);)

And Even Better…
I managed to get some of my more braver friends to do the race! A couple first timers, a couple non runners, but all warriors. Ha ha. And all of them posted better times than I did so was I really happy for’em too! I had hoped to get some better pictures of us all, but I kinda forgot about that whole thing when I crossed the finish line, doubled over and thought I was going to “lose it” all over the streets. Thankfully though I didn’t – I recovered and managed to get some cadids from a few of them.


While Siona looks like a Warrior ready to go again, Jess looks like she's ready to just die.
While Siona looks like a Warrior ready to go again, Jess looks like she’s ready to just die ha ha.

And if any of you want to see all the results, here are the men’s and women’s.

Gaming News from E3

Even though this year marked the first “tame” E3, it still was highly anticipated as eager fanboys and industry insiders clamored to find out what their favourite companies had in store for them in the next year.

Now with all the major press conferences over, the dust is starting to settle and we’re all left trying to figure out if Sony can really bridge the gap between the PS3 and 360.

Predictions?

For the Millionth Time…
I love video games and I’m a bit of a collector. I want to get a PS3. But outside of being a great Blu-Ray player, there are no games that are currently out (except MGS4) that make me want to buy the system. Plus, all reports have said that XBL is still way ahead of the PSN so that’s not an attractive feature either. So going into E3 time this year, I was really hoping that Sony would blow me out of the water and finally give me a reason to get one.





Thoughts After Sony’s Press Conference
Here are my thoughts : *sigh*. I was really hoping that Sony was going to unveil a really good exclusive that would make me buy a PS3. The 360 has many, Gears of War, Halo, XBL, etc. But Sony still looks to be lacking that one MUST HAVE game. And after looking at Sony’s press conference I find myself in the same place as before. I mean a new Ratchet & Clank game? That’s nice. Little Big World? Looks extremely inventive but a must have?

I guess what I’m needing is PHENOMENAL game with TREMENDOUS replay value which I’m still not seeing. Plus all the PSN stuff… Trophies, Home… They don’t do anything for me. From what I’ve heard about the trophy system, I’m much more attracted to achievements on the 360. And on the Home front… I don’t think I want to go to people’s virutal houses. If I did, I’d play Second Life. So to me, same old same old though every time the presenter made reference to PS3’s “[great exlusives]” I had to chuckle to myself. Your thoughts?





Live Updates + Console Updates + Games = 360 Fun
To me, the Microsoft press conference was everything that Sony’s should have been.

  • Big changes to Online Environment
  • Actual live gameplay for Exclusives and Non-Exclusives alike
  • Strides to bring in Wii’s audience, the casual gamer
  • Big announcement to close things up

I could go on and on about how excited I was during the 360 press conference, but admittedly that could have to do with me owning a 360 and not a PS3. Also, I’ll end up gushing so much it really should go into another post.





Nintendo Goes “Ho Hum”
I’ve also linked to the Nintendo press conference here but as my friend said, “Dude – I wish I could fast forward through the live feed.” ha ha. As I was watching it, I felt like I was in Kindergarten with that woman talking to me like I was a 6 year old or something. Plus, their (I guess) big announcement was the Motion Plus addon for the Wiimote. At this point, I really how much more this adds over the current Wiimote. But hey, what do I know?

So I know the press conferences are very very long but I think at the least they’re worth watching. Does anyone have any thoughts about any of this stuff? Excited about XBL? You PS3 owners feel good about the Sony conference or are you annoyed at their message of “Just wait…”

Mid July Weekend Recap

So I didn’t have time this weekend for a proper Monday post so I thought it might be a breath of fresh air to just recap what I did this weekend!

BTW, I don’t make any claims that any of this is fun, entertaining, or really worth your reading, so proceed at your own peril. (#):)

On my calendar this weekend I had two things on it : pick up furniture and sit on an open house for mi madre.

Not too much right?

U-Haul is a Racket
For those of you who don’t know, U-Haul is a company in the states that lets you rent trucks so you can haul your stuff all around town. I needed a truck because with the new house purchase, I was getting some furniture from my uncle. Long story short U-Haul charges $20 for the truck, and $1.20 per mile. All said and done I was charged $187. UGH. I think it was worth it though ’cause I got a nice bed, leather couch and chair, and a bunch of other stuff. Though the whole thing took up nearly the entire day and I REALLY didn’t enjoy driving around a big ol’ moving van.

If a House is Open in a Forest…
I don’t do many things right. But yesterday when I was covering an Open House for my mom (did you know I’m a licensed Real Estate agent?) I did one thing right in bringing my laptop. Why? Because on a 4 hour open house advertised all over the place, no one came in. I guess it just peaks to the state of the US Economy. Of course it was a little hot outside but seriously, only one person came through. Certainly wasn’t worth eating up the entire day. Oh well. My mom helped me out a lot recently when I bought MY first house, so I figured I owed her at least one.

Anyone out there do anything cool this weekend? Everyone I’ve spoken to so far seems to have just spent a lot of money.

XBLA – Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix DEMO

*sigh*

You know here’s no bigger Street Fighter fan than you’re boy, Bush Mackel. As a consequence my world has been pained with Street Fighter EX IV Street Fighter IV moving away from the under appreciated masterpiece that was Street Fighter III and me apparently being the only one that cares.

And recently I ponied up the 800 points for Commando 3 on XBLA to play the demo for *inhale* Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix. *exale*

“They Are Who We Thought They Were”
When my friends were goin’ nutz when Capcom announced that SSFIITHD was coming to XBLA, I didn’t get it. I mean, I already had the game under a SF Collection disc on PS2 (or XBoX) – So what did I need this for? And after playing the game I can finally tell you…

I don’t.

The graphics are redrawn and that’s about it. Sure they look cleaner than the previous sprites but sorry, I’m not going to say that THAT even looks better! On the character selection screens I really enjoyed the old faces and during the matches if you look, you can tell that the graphics are more crisp and the hadoukens look all pretty but unless you’re looking, you won’t really notice. And if you do look, you won’t care. I kind of think of it like the backgrounds in Marvel vs Capcom 2… You know the nice looking 3D ones?… No gamer really cares about them. They care about the action in the foreground.

Now don’t get me wrong, I pretty much figured this is what I’d get and this is how I’d react. I’m just disappointed is all. I mean I know people are going to download the game at 1200 pts or however much it’s offered up for and Capcom is going to make money, but I can’t help but wonder what we’d have if Capcom *gasp* put this effort into developing a new IP.

Speaking of which, want to see something else original from Capcom? Well here you have it! Something that’s brand new and looks it too! MegaMan 9!


Ok I’m done. I promise.

Philips Prestigo 10 Home Theater Remote

I think my wife is an odd person when it comes to presents.

Personally, I like presents to be fun. If you’re gonna get me something, get me something that I’m not going to buy myself and that I’ll have fun using.

My wife on the other hand hates being given anything that she can’t use. Yep. She’s one of those people.

One of those people who likes “useful” gifts.

The Problem
So when mother’s day rolled around (what’s that, like two months ago now?) I was struggling to find a suitable present for her. Around the same time, I started to notice how much she was complaining about having to use 3 different remotes to turn on the TV. If you’ve been following this blog for a while you know that I’m a big home theater fan, so in my house for you to watch something on cable you need one remote to turn on the cable box, another for the TV, and another for the receiver. Depending on the situation you can use one remote and push a different input button to control a different device but that’s still a pain and you often can’t get all the devices under that one remote anyway. PLUS it’s a lock you can’t get all the functionality of those devices into that one remote anyhoo.

The Solution
Enter the Prestigo 10! I first saw this on woot.com and after seeing the price I knew that I had found my wife’s gift! What you have here is a very solid entry level home theater remote. Now stay with me – I know some of you are saying that you don’t have a home theater system, but if you have a couple components just think of this as one of the best universal remotes you can buy for the money.

What Makes This So Special
Oh where do I start!? I know, let’s look at my situation. Before the Prestigo, the wife had to use two or three different remotes to control the TV, Cable and Receiver. Now she uses one. And that one she uses – She’s not selecting the different inputs as she wants to use them. That’s to say when she presses the volume up, it ALWAYS controls the receiver. When she presses the channel up, it ALWAYS controls the cable box. And when she presses the input button, it ALWAYS controls the TV. How cool is that!?

And setup is unbelievably easy. For me, it’s always been a frustration in the past to set up universal remotes because you had to either get online or read the manual to get the device codes. With this remote, all the codes are already in the remote! You just have to select the type of device and the brand and you can start tryin’em out. PLUS, it will keep track of the codes as you go through them so you don’t waste time accidentally try the same code over and over again. Oh, and none of that dumb code search turning the TV ON and OFF nonsense where half the time you lose the code in the process.

Oh, and did I tell you the remote can learn any function from your previous one? So in my case, I made sure to grab all the On Demand features from my cable remote so I could make sure I had them on my Prestigo. And all the receiver functions (like surround mode and inputs) – I got those copied over as well. I also programmed some basic macros into the remote too. My wife’s goto is the ON/OFF which turns on/off all the devices. Mine is probably GAME ON or OFF mode which sets my TVs input to a specific one, and my receiver to a specific one so I can instantly be setup to start gaming!

Why I’m Bringing This Up Now
Well I meant to write about this for a while now since it’s made my tech life so much more enjoyable but as we all know that lately I’ve been struggling with blogging consistently. So better late than never I suppose and I just checked on Amazon, and it’s way way way on sale for about $50. So if you’re in the market or need a gift for your favourite tech lover, check out more of its features including a color LED screen, His and Hers favourite list, Kid lock… And finally, check out the description on woot and buy one under my Amazon Affiliate Link!

XBox 360 – Lost Planet Review

Some of you may have noticed that on the ol’ XBL, I have finally put down Burnout Revenge (for the most part) and moved on over to another game that I’ve been meaning to get to – Capcom’s Lost Planet.

Before I purchased it, I had only played demos of it at local game stores and it seemed mildly entertaining so when it dropped in price, I thought it’d be a nice one to pick up and kick around for a bit.

Now that I’m pretty deep into the game, I present to you my findings.

The Story
I’m probably about 40% through the game now and the gist of the story is you play this character named Vayne who’s hanging out on this frozen planet that the Earth is trying to terraform and eventually colonize. There’s apparently some other stuff going on too including losing your father in a battle with the people who are trying to colonize the planet, these big insect like creatures called Akrid running around everywhere, and more nonsense that you won’t be able to follow.

The Gameplay
So as you progress through the levels, you’ll use the regular assortment of weapons (machine guns, rocket launchers and grenades) as well as a grappling hook a la Bionic Commando. Plus, you’ll also find these things called “VS”‘s sprinkled about the levels which are essentially pocket sized mechs that you can climb into and do mech like stuff such as using gattling cannons, grenade launchers, transforming into dumb vechicles, hovering, flying… Well, you get the gist.

Oh – and whole time you’re running around, you’ll have to keep an eye on your thermal energy gauge which functions kind of like the shield in the first Halo. The thinking behind this one is the planet is so cold that you need this thermal energy stuff to keep you alive. And as long as you have thermal energy, it will repair your life as you get hit. BUT if you run out of the energy, your life will go down until you’re dead. Don’t worry – Even though it sounds like a complete pain, very rarely do you ever have to worry about running out.

Is Lost Planet Worth Your Time?
In my opinion, the answer is probably because through and through this game seems constantly a step above decent. But really, THAT’S IT. It’s one of those games that you can’t wholeheartedly say is “good” but you definitely can’t say it’s bad either. Hm. Am I making sense here or just contradicting myself? Look, take the gameplay – It’s not bad. You think you’re going to do one thing, and you do it. No weird glitches and you’ll certainly feel like it’s tight all the way around. But there’s absolutely NOTHING inspired about it. You pick up ammo and weapons, you destroy things, rinse, repeat. You won’t think any of the weapons are original, the VS’s are plain as can be and the environments (while looking good) aren’t very imaginative and they look about on par with everything else that’s out there on the market.

And when you look at the story and cutscenes it’s the same thing. The CG sequences look decent enough, but the characters are MORE than forgettable with Vayne often ending conversation with the Ryo Hazuki, “Yeah.” Oh and the plot… Trust me you really won’t care about it, but in a weird way you’ll be glad that they at least tried to put something together.

Bottom Line
Stateside, you can find the game for $29.99 and below so for what it’s worth it’s (get ready) not bad. On the achievement side of things can you can earn’em pretty quickly as you go through the game, with the other ones being fun to try and get through the levels. For me, one of the biggest gripes I have is that Capcom didn’t do more with the grappling hook and VS suits. There is really some great untapped potential there but I don’t know that this game will get a decent sequel so I’ll probably just have to suck on it. Oh well, it’s still enjoyable. (#):)

What Went Wrong – Digital Oil PM Pt 3

If you’re just tuning in to my first postmordem, I’m going back and taking a look at my design company’s first project, Digital Oil.

So far we’ve looked at what the site is and really the one thing that I did right about it.

Today we’re going to check out all the things I have GOT to do better as I continue to go forward with other projects.

Trust me kids:
Learn from my mistakes.

If You Have Tools Use Them
If you don’t recall from yesterday – The one thing that I said I did right was getting someone else to do what I don’t do well. In my case that’s designing. Using a artist to do the design and layout really freed me up to focus on “more important” things like the client and programming and saved me a bunch of time in doing something that I just can’t do fast. Unfortunately because of my lack of forethought, I released my designer before 25% of the graphics were done. How could I do that you ask? Because I simply didn’t think enough in advance to realize I needed little things outside of the basic design of the page. Stuff like rollovers, a GUI for when the users upload their photos, etc. And because I didn’t get my artist to design them, guess who was stuck with the job? That’s right. Soul Brother #1. Time = Wasted.

Clients Gone Wild
Another horrible faux pas on my part was letting the client run amuck. That’s right, similar to the Animaniacs. Trust me, I will not make this mistake again. The biggest problem on this front stemmed from not locking down “on paper” what the clients wanted. So what ended up happening was the client on Day 1 saying, “I want a site about widgets with pages named A, B, and C.” And then a couple days later they came back saying, “Can we add D and E and change A to F?” And then a couple days after that they came back saying, “I know the site is centered around widgets, but lets go ahead and sprockets too. And can you come up with the copy for all the pages?” But you know what?

I can’t blame the client. Because it was my fault for not locking them into concrete details from jump street. I mean look, clients go to businesses wide eyed and bushy tailed wanting it all. It’s the job of the business to somehow convey, “Look – We’re going to make the site spectacular, but we can’t change everything every 5 days.” Well if you don’t have that “everything” on paper before hand, things can get hairy in a jif. Going forward I’m going to get copy, pages, and solid sitemaps SIGNED by the clients before designing the site. Bingo bango.

Details, Details, Details.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, the conclusion of this tale is the devil was in the details. In my excitement to get the site rolling and finished quickly, I overlooked a TON of things that caused me a lot of pain when I was in the middle of it. Of course the biggest problem was not having the client locked into particular details about the site before I started. A solid and complete sitemap, treatments for every page, and text all signed off on by the client. That’s what I needed and that’s what I plan to get going forward from now on. Hopefully I’ve learned my lesson on this one, ’cause I can’t afford to make these mistakes again.

What Went Right – Digital Oil PM Pt 2

A long time ago in a post far away, I told you that I had finished the first portfolio piece for my design company, Bethesda Web Design.

And that was about it.

Now I’m going to tell you a little bit more about the site and look back and see what I did right, and what I should’ve done a lot better. Hopefully these lessons will help those of you out there who are trying to do the same thing as I and may save you some time and money in the process.

Digital Oil – The Short of It
As I was really just getting started in the web design game, I didn’t have any projects that I was currently working on, that is until a friend of a friend called me up about a website that he needed to get done. The concept was simple enough : A website that promoted a company that took digital pictures and turned them into oil paintings. And in addition to promoting that product, it would have to be able to accept pictures from users, allow them some basic editing features, and then process the order.

The First Project!
For me, even though I wasn’t going to get paid to do the site, it seemed like a great one to start my business with. I’d be able to work with a pretty amiable client and I’d have a pretty good test bed to see what kind of procedures worked and didn’t, but also if this would be the kind of thing that I could end up doing as a real business and consequently, exit to the rat race. PLUS, I’d have something to start my company’s portfolio so I could hopefully attract future clients.

What Went Right
It’s funny. The more I think about this project, the more I’m thankful that it was my first project and one that I was essentially doing free for a friend. Why? Because I’m not sure that much went right about it. Ha ha. At least in the grand scheme of things anyway. Don’t get me wrong, my friend was great throughout the whole thing, communication was decent, and a decent deliverable was delivered at the end of it all. But those things don’t really count, they’re more results of actions more than “what went right” actions themselves.

To re-iterate what I was saying, I think I only have one thing that I did really right about this project and that was knowing my strengths and limitations. In a nutshell : I’m a programmer. I’m not a graphic designer. In the past, I’ve wasted A LOT of my time trying to come up with designs for sites. This time around, I paired up with an old co-worker of mine who had thrown some side business my way and got him to design the site. Needless to say, he did in two hours what would have taken me the better part of a week. Now if this was a project where I was billing a client by the hours, it would be a win win situation, (instead of me trying to figure out how to tell a client it took me 40 hours to come up with something that looked like utter crap).

And in you can’t really relate to this little lesson don’t worry, that probably means you’re smarter than I. That’s to say it has been only recently that I’ve started to use my strengths and not waste time puttering about with my weaknesses. And furthermore – I think from a business point of view this “eureka” moment was a big step for me. I figure if I can keep getting more talented people to do the work I’m terrible at, things will continue to go quite well.

But enough about the one thing that went right. (#):) Stay tuned to see the many (many) things that went wrong!