Saturday, June 10, 2017

SWITCH!

It's been too long since I last updated here! I have some things in the works of course, but they just aren't ready yet. I do want to get back in the habit of updating this blog more regularly. The current plan is to switch over to more of a video blog format that I can update often. If I can share my desktop I can give more tutorials for building graphics as well.

Today I want to geek out on one of my favorite things, video games! Specifically, the Nintendo Switch, this game system has been nothing short of amazing since I have had it. I know there aren't a lot of games out for it in stores yet, but that is a bit deceptive. There are more games available for it online than what is currently in stores. Many of those games are Neo Geo ports of ancient games. There are some indie games available that are well worth the price of admission as well. So, let's talk about the games!

Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Let's face it, if you get a Nintendo:Switch this is a game you must have. I'm not the biggest fan of RPGs that put you in an open world to roam around without any kind of objective. Fortunately you do have a vague initial quest that sets you in the direction you need to go. The game has a lot of side quests. Most of which will reveal hidden shrines. Zelda like its many previous iterations is amazing.

There are a couple of things that are annoying to no end with this game. The first is cooking. You can't get around it. You have to hunt and cook. Hunting is not a big deal as you come across plenty of animals during your travels that become drumsticks or steaks without much trouble. The problem arises when you have 32849237923 things to cook and you can only cook them 5 at a time. It's annoying, repetitive, and also very necessary. Travelling by horse is also extremely annoying, at least initially. It seems like every 5 steps the horse gets spooked by something and you have to calm it. While you are calming it the horse pulls you off in a direction you don't want to go. It's a constant struggle. I gave up. To travel in certain areas you can't take the horse with you. It seems like it is more trouble than it is worth.

Mario Kart 8: Deluxe

This is also a must have game for anyone with a Nintendo Switch. Mario Kart is Mario Kart. It is the pinnacle of kart race gaming as it has been for many years. The biggest addition to Mario Kart 8 is online play. I can't tell you how many hours I have spent on this game playing online. It adds another dimension to the game. If you have the WiiU version then it might not be as big of a deal as the Deluxe version only adds a few extras, but if the last version you played was on the Wii or prior to that then this game is enough to consider buying the Switch on its own.

Other Available Games

While MarioKart and Zelda are the only must have games on the system there are a few other games to consider out of what is available. Fans of JRPGs and puzzle games will find the Switch worth picking up right now. Disgaea 5 Complete is a JRPG in the same vein of other tactics games like Final Fantasy Tactics (which needs a sequel). I am Setsuna is a JRPG made by Squaresoft in the vein of their older RPGs and is supposed to be similar to Chrono Trigger in gameplay. Isaac: Afterbirth is a dungeon crawler RPG that has multiple endings for maximum replay value. The makers of World of Goo have 2 other games and World of Goo available on the Switch. Puyo puyo/Tetris is another puzzle game that is another battle/tetris style game with a twist. Outside of a few indie games, old Neo Geo game ports, and the new/old Street Fighter 2 rehash there isn't much else available right now.

Testfire!

One of the things that has been interesting for early adopters of the Switch has been the global testfires they have had for Splatoon 2 and ARMS. These early demos of the online version of these games has been a lot of fun. I particularly enjoyed Splatoon 2 and cannot wait for that game to come out. Fans of fighting games should love ARMS which I thought was fun, but I am not a big fan of fighting games. I was surprised at the amount of strategy needed to play the arm bending fighter. The team up boss battles were my favorite. Hopefully Nintendo will continue to make these free online limited time demos available going forward for upcoming games. It's one of the ways they can mitigate the issue of having a massive lack of available games.

Conclusion

If you enjoy JRPGs and puzzle games or simply cannot live without the latest Zelda/Mario Kart then you should snag the Nintendo Switch right now. Otherwise you might want to wait until there are more games available. I'm hoping that by the end of the year there will be more games available especially from 3rd party developers. As it is now the cabinet is bare. I know there will be Splatoon 2, ARMS, and a new Mario game by the end of the year. For now I'm spending a lot of time playing MarioKart online.

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Writing Progress Updates


Virtual Wars: Running (Writing First Draft)
Current word count:42,136
The Ghost Season 1
5th Edit Run: Page 35 of 47

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Review of Armada by Ernest Cline

ArmadaArmada by Ernest Cline
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Armada follows Zachary Lightman who is your average teenaged nerd who has an unusual love for older video games. If you read Ready Player One then this sounds familiar right? This time Cline's main character is a prodigy at a game called Armada which is a star fighter simulator and his father is gone in a freak accident. He works at a dead end job at a video game store that is hemorrhaging money due to his boss not caring about his clientele. It turns out he's being recruited for something bigger and the fate of the world rests on his shoulders.

This second novel by Ernest Cline suffers from some of the same problems as Ready Player One, but they are magnified in this novel. All of the characters are, for the most part, too agreeable. The dialogue is filled with statements that show perfect empathy and consideration for how everyone else feels. In situations where there should be conflict, all of the characters do their best to avoid it. All of the characters essentially acting the same can be annoying. Armada fails to detract from this weakness where Ready Player One was able to minimize it.

Armada is also quite a bit more predictable than it's predecessor. While it provides a unique story and ups the ante quite a bit, the novel falls a few notches short of Ready Player One. The main difference in the stories is that one focuses on what is happening and the quest for something that seems impossible and the other focuses on the relationships of its characters. Cline does better when he pushes the characters through the story rather than crafting the story around the edges of the characters.

Armada is still an enjoyable read in the same vein of Ready Player One. Both are thick with video game and pop culture references that will give you a heavy dose of nostalgia for the 80's if you remember that era. I was solidly stuck between rating this 3 or 4. I rounded it up since I couldn't give it a 3.5 star rating.

View all my reviews

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  Writing Progress Updates


Virtual Wars: Running (Writing First Draft)
Current word count:42,136
The Ghost Season 1
5th Edit Run: Page 18 of 47
The Witch (Working title)
Outline: 100% Complete!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Feeling Lucky?

Vacation is always a wonderful time to recharge the batteries. This past week I went to beautiful Cherokee, NC to play in a few ring events in the World Series of Poker Circuit. Texas Hold 'Em poker is a fantastic and varied game that has a large array of possible outcomes. If you enjoy poker I would highly recommend any of the WSOP Circuit events as the way it is run, the dealers that travel with the circuit, the blind structure, etc. are all excellent for higher level poker players.

Poker, like life, is about taking chances. Sometimes they work out, and others they end in a loss. More often than not fortune favors the bold. Taking those chances and aggressively pursuing opportunities is a strong trait that will often times win a pot without having to show your cards. In poker pushing your chips in gives you added value as the aggressor because it puts pressure on the other player to fold even if they have the better hand. Of course, the opponent doesn't always fold.

Patience is one of the most important skills to have when playing poker. In contrast with poker on TV, the vast majority of hands received will result in the hands being folded around to the aggressor before or just after the flop. For TV they routinely edit out those hands. Twitch and other live streaming options will give you a much more accurate feel for how the game is actually played on that level. It is like going through the submission process as an author. Rejections happen. Stay patient and keep grinding.

Also while on vacation I got an email for a new review that was posted for Initialization which I thought captured the essence of the novel. I now feel somewhat confident that I hit on exactly what I was going for in this first novel of the series. I recommend checking out her other reviews as well. This is currently my favorite book review website.

http://havingfaithbookblog.blogspot.com/2017/04/initialization-by-brian-basham-4-stars.html


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Writing Progress Updates


Virtual Wars: Running (Writing First Draft)
Current word count:42,136
The Ghost Season 1
5th Edit Run: Page 10 of 47

Monday, March 13, 2017

First Impressions: Nintendo Switch

The Nintendo Switch is now available for purchase if you can find one (more on this later). I just got my hands on the new offering from Nintendo this past Thursday. With a few days of experience I have a few first impressions that I want to share. To be honest I haven't been this excited over a console in a long time. The Wii came close to capturing my imagination, but I wasn't an early adopter. I usually wait until the console drops in price a few times before picking it up. I'm currently waiting for the PS4 to do this while I try to catch up on PS3 games.

The Switch is different. This is what I think Nintendo envisioned for the WiiU, but for some reason had to take a baby step to get here. This is a marriage of console, mobile, and tablet gaming. I see this console as being everything gaming in one package. It's capable of appealing to all gamers like the Wii did for a short time, but the Switch is more. Let me get into it. Just as a disclaimer, I have only played Breath of the Wild so far. Any references to gameplay elements will be referring to that game.

The Joy-Cons

The Joy-Cons are what they call the controllers for the Switch. The first thing I noticed was how light these things are. Compared to the Wii controllers these are tiny and they have a lot more buttons. Each controller has 9 buttons and a control stick giving you a total of 18 buttons to play with. You have 2 trigger buttons on the top, 4 standard buttons above or below the control stick, 1 home button or screenshot button, pushing down the control stick is another button, and a + or - button which are functionally like start/select. There are 3 ways you can use them, attached to the console while using it as a tablet, attached to the grip that comes included, or connected to included attachments with lanyard-like toggles similar to the Wii controllers. The grip I will likely never use, but if you are planning to I just read an article saying there is a bug with it that makes it almost unplayable in that mode. My preferred method is to use the free hand approach similar to the Wii. If you have kids, I can see these small attachments being the first pieces destroyed or lost even though when using them properly they are attached to the controllers and your wrist.

Now let's talk about actually using the Joy-Cons. There is no curved backing to make these things fit in your hand. It is like holding a light smartphone in each hand that is half the width while trying to manipulate them both at the same time. I've fumbled them more than once. I am used to my Galaxy Note Edge phablet which feels huge in comparison. If they weren't attached to my wrist I would have dropped them at least a dozen times while playing. I have not had any issues with lag or responsiveness thus far. The motion controls on these are super responsive. While playing I have had to make sure I'm not tilting them because it causes my aim to drift. I don't plan to use the grip because of multiple instances where I needed to flip the controller upside-down for tilt controls which would be awkward using the grip. The controller's battery life thus far has been impressive. I charged them once, and the battery has not gone below half way. I have yet to switch them out for my 2nd set of controllers that I have attached to the console to charge.

The Console Itself

I haven't tried out the mobile capabilities of it yet, but so far no complaints about the console itself as a device. Connecting the Joy-Cons to it gives a solid and satisfying click sound. The Joy-Cons charge while docked into the console without any further connection. The console is just as thick as the Joy-Cons, probably by design. The screen is smaller than I was expecting with it being slightly larger than my smartphone. It has all of the standard connections you would expect for a device like this. The kickstand on the back looks a bit flimsy, but I haven't tried it out yet. The slot for expandable memory is right behind the kickstand which is a bit of a weird spot for it, but as long as it works I don't see it as being a problem.

Some of the slots have a rubber-like cover to them that has to be peeled back to reveal the slot. The slot for inserting games is one of them. These could easily end up being ripped off or loosen over time with repeated use. I usually take good care of my electronics, so I'm hoping it won't be an issue. The screen on the Switch looks clear with bright colors, but it isn't scratch resistant. This is the main reason why I haven't tried many of the mobile functions yet (more on that below).

The Other Stuff

The most frustrating part of this console so far is how everything feels like it was rushed to market. The quality of the actual console and the Joy-Cons is undeniable, but everything else feels like it was thrown together last minute. The docking station for example has no heft to it at all. It feels like cheap light plastic that could fall over at the slightest nudging. When setting it up the HDMI cable was nudging the docking station. This caused the docking station to float in the air at an angle when attached. The console would have weighed it down, but removing the console from the docking station can be problematic. I also didn't notice a wired network slot, only USB slots.

The general lack of launch games and accessories is concerning as well. Every store has 50 copies of Just Dance and Breath of the Wild, but none have any consoles (Seriously, who would buy a Switch right now and NOT get Breath of the Wild??) or accessories other than extra Joy-Cons. I can't say anything about the touchscreen or any of the console's mobile capabilities because I have to wait for an online retailer to ship a screen protector. Many accessories are things you figure out you need later. If it isn't at the local retailer then that means a longer wait.

The most concerning part of it all is the lack of games. Breath of the Wild will keep most of us busy for the time being, but other than that it is pretty slim pickings. I plan to get I am Setsuna once I finish Breath of the Wild and I also have Bomberman which should keep me busy until Mario Kart comes out, but then there is a long gap until the holiday rush comes. I might actually have to get back to writing!


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Writing Progress Updates


Virtual Wars: Running (Writing First Draft)
Current word count:42,026
The Ghost Season 1
Editing: Page 35 of 47

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Adjusting Sails

There is always a time that comes where changes must be made. A change of course to get back on the right path toward the stated goal. This is one of those times for me. I also have a bunch of announcements and a contest, because it has been way too long since I last wrote my last blog post.

Recognize

The first step in having a problem is admitting you have a problem! Recognizing the problem can be harder than it seems. So many of them are unanticipated until they pop up and beg for attention like a dog wanting to be petted. Do you ignore the puppy? or do you pet the puppy? YOU PET THE PUPPY WHAT KIND OF QUESTION IS THAT?

Many of the issues I have been dealing with are self-inflicted. Like my poor dietary choices that have led to my weight problems. It is something I struggle with every day. I know how to reverse the trend. I have done this before. Others are writerly things that I am not sure how to handle. What do I do with Night Reads? I don't wish to abandon the project. It is a way to help fellow indie authors, but I want to liven the experience up a bit. I plan to start filming for that very soon, and it will most certainly be a whole new experience.

I also haven't been writing as much lately because I am helping to clean up 40 years worth of accumulated stuff that my mother hoarded. It has been hard to watch what feels like the erasure of my mother from the house that I grew up in. I have found a few things that I can keep to remember her by including a nice writing desk. I will use the crap out of that desk.

Course Correction

So now I am getting back into writing after a short break. The first draft of my second novel is nearing completion, but I still have the last bits of conclusion that lead into the third installment. So far this second novel feels like an adrenaline rush that I can't wait to finish and push it out to you all. Writing again after taking a short break can be difficult. My daily word count isn't that impressive to begin with, but I do try. Sometimes I get that 1,000 words daily that I set as my goal when I sit to write, but there are many more days where I get half that. I need to do better with ramping up my productivity by eliminating distractions so I can focus on the task at hand.

I mentioned Night Reads which is getting an overhaul. It will be much less about performing readings and more about putting the focus on the book featured. I will also have episodes where there is no featured book and I talk about writing news, the book I'm reading, plot devices, or how sentient dust bunnies could organize to take over the world. Hey, it could happen!

Announcements

I do have some happytime announcements for today. So let the sponge ball pit dance party begin!
  • Initialization is now available for Nook and Kobo - So yea, this is a thing. You can get it at the links below!
    Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/2940157386917
    Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/initialization-1
  • Contest! - To celebrate the release of Initialization in ePub (Nook/Kobo) format, to random winner(s) of the contest I am going to give away a copy in their choice of Mobi (Kindle) or ePub (Nook/Kobo) ebook formats! Entering is super easy. Log into twitter, use #VWars, and write a tweet about Virtual Wars, virtual reality, dystopian societies, apocalypses, wearable tech, or the future of cellphones. All of those subjects relate to this world I created, and I would love to talk about them! You can also enter via Facebook at my author page here: https://www.facebook.com/authorbrianbasham/
    Contest ends 3/31/17.


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Writing Progress Updates


Virtual Wars: Running (Writing First Draft)
Current word count:42,026
The Ghost Season 1
Editing: Page 27 of 47