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Title: I'm gonna get me an education.
Posted: November 12, 2010 (03:42 PM)
A few nights ago, I was browsing online (as I am known to do) and I saw ads for online degrees in web design. This interested me, so I clicked to request more information. Now, a few days later, I find myself enrolled in an online university and taking the first classes on my way to an Associate's degree in that field.
So far, I'm learning things like how to use a computer, what inputs are and software and all that sort of thing... but looking ahead it won't be long before my classes move into much more interesting and useful topics. This path represents the absolute most expensive way in the world to find someone with the skills necessary to take HonestGamers and my other sites to the top of the field. I'll come through with a proper education and a degree in a field that often pays people more than $40K per year. I'll have knowledge that I can put to use myself or use for others. So it's very interesting to me, naturally.
I previously had been working toward a degree in English Education. There's a possibility that some of those classes will transfer so that I can get to more of the good stuff even sooner. Either way, my plan this time is to stick to things and go through all of my classes in a straight shot so that in a few years I finally have an education that I can talk about with pride.
Naturally, all the time that I will be spending learning will cut into my gaming time, but my day job is part-time and I'm only attending classes 3/4 time (that's all I can afford), so you'll still see me around here and Gameroni a lot. I will also still be doing freelance work, now with the added goal of paying for my classes. I'll just have to do even better at managing my time.
Anyway, this could benefit all of you who love HonestGamers, somewhere down the road, so I thought I'd let you know. Cross your fingers for me. This will definitely be a challenge, but I'm excited at least for now...
Title: Anime review: Toradora! Volume 2
Posted: November 02, 2010 (04:50 PM)
When the second volume of "Toradora!" finally reached my apartment just recently, I tore into the packaging, tossed aside the deluxe episode guide that comes with the limited edition for just a moment and stuck in the first of the two discs. YOu'd think I'd just brought home the latest blockbuster video game or something, to look at me.
I doubt anyone would guess that "Toradora!" would appeal to me. My wife calls it my "cartoon soap opera" because she prefers anime with swords and sorcery or possibly big explosions. There's none of that masculine sort of thing in "Toradora!" and she dismisses it for that reason.
I feel a little bit like a girl as I watch "Toradora!" and blame moist eyes on allergies to the salty ocean air that blows through our apartment (that could be the cause, right?), but there's something about the story of Ryuji Taksu and his friends that resonates with me and prevents me from caring that I'm a 31-year-old male watching a dramatic cartoon about high school kids in Japan. I suppose it's because "Toradora!" gives me the chance to remember what it felt like to be in high school, only without the personal heartache.
Volume 2 provides plenty of heartache, though. That seems to be the primary goal in most of the episodes contained within this second and final volume, actually. While the first volume contained a lot of comedy and warm, fuzzy moments of fan service, there's precious little of that in the second half of Ryuji and Taika's story (though a scene in a closet has some real comedic value even as the words that are overheard lead to new complications). From nearly the first of the new episodes, it's clear that this is a story that can't possibly end happily for everyone. Too many of the girls like the same guy, and it was hard for me personally to decide who to root for. Broken hearts were a given.
In a general sense, the story now sticks more aggressively to Ryuji and Taika and the relationship that the two of them share. They're still trying to help one another with other conquests, but the sense quickly develops that neither of them are being honest with themselves about who they really want to pair up with. So the light-hearted social events that they embark upon--a Christmas party, a class trip and such--don't have the same casual air about them that you might anticipate after viewing the first volume. The students are growing into adulthood and that's clear from the way that they respond to everything. It's clear from the heavier drama. "Toradora!" is less "fun" to watch now because it feels less like a fantasy and more like life, but that's a sort of payoff and hard to criticize.
Though the content itself has taken on a more serious tone, though, NIS America's presentation hasn't changed much at all. The two discs included this time around still are accompanied by an episode guide, like I already mentioned. As before, that episode guide includes interesting interviews with the voice actors (actresses, mostly) and there are some neat photos and plenty of artwork that depicts the characters in different attire. The hardbound book still feels like it belongs on a coffee table, with thick pages and a spine that crackles as one opens it to admire the lovely artwork.
As NIS America has noted, anyone can head online and find free anime. Anyone can download episodes--probably with subtitles, like those available here--and enjoy free cartoons. "Toradora!" as presented by NIS America, though, is a special treat. It's a shame that it had to end so soon.
Title: Announcing Gameroni
Posted: August 30, 2010 (02:43 PM)
Some of you know that for the past several days, I've been working feverishly during nearly every one of my waking hours. The product of that work is a new web site that I am now ready to unveil to the world at large: Gameroni.
Some of you remember that I've used the domain name in the past for other sites that didn't work out. The difference between those sites and this site is that this site is definitely going to receive ongoing attention from myself and others. I'll be making sure of it. There's going to be a lot of great content and I can't wait to see how things evolve. You can find the site at the predictable URL:
Gameroni is a blog-type site with an emphasis on news, reviews, previews, interviews and features. You'll be able to browse many of those content types alphabetically, or you can just enjoy reading the site as you would a standard blog. RSS feeds are available for either all content updates, or for just reviews. The plan is to update daily, throughout the day. The staff team is still growing and will likely cap out at 8 members, including myself, as well as a team of guest contributors. This should ensure fresh and varied content from a good number of talented and interesting writers.
Naturally, the fact that I am starting a new site will lead some to question my plans for HonestGamers and its continued existence. Let me hopefully lay any fears to rest by saying that HonestGamers is a key component of my future plans. While some of the current HG staff has jumped on board the new venture, I doubt you've seen the last of any of us here at HonestGamers. Additionally, some staff are remaining here to make sure that things continue to run smoothly. This is a great community. We'll work to maintain it and to help it grow. I'm confident that Gameroni isn't the only place where exciting things will be happening over the coming weeks.
I hope that each of you will continue to participate here at HonestGamers, whether with user contributions (which Gameroni is not accepting), cheats, guides, artwork and screenshots. I hope to see continued reviewer contests and RotW should continue as usual.
In the future, I'll be working to provide more reasons than ever to continue contributing to HonestGamers. I'll be putting more of my own money into both sites in the months ahead. It's not a lot of money, but it's a start and I hope that in time I'll be able to run regular contests (with prizes and everything!) on both sites, as well as do other things.
By the way, I still haven't filled my team at Gameroni. If you're interested in writing for the site as a regular contributor, do let me know. Regular contributors need to manage the following output:
* 5 or more high-quality blog posts per week, spaced out over 5 or more individual days.
* 2 or more high-quality reviews per month, spread out so that there's a new review at least every 2 weeks.
You can reach me by e-mail, on AIM and via HG Mail.
This is an exciting new period and I look forward to seeing both communities grow for a long time to come. Thanks for making it so much fun to reach this point, and let's continue to enjoy what we do here for a long time to come!
Title: Anime review: Toradora! Volume 1
Posted: August 06, 2010 (07:30 PM)
I hadn't heard about "Toradora!" before NIS America announced that it would be localizing the series for a North American audience. A bit of reading on wikipedia explains that a little. Though based on a manga series, "Toradora!" is new enough that it hasn't had much time to develop a proper following outside of Japan and production seems to have been limited to 25 episodes. Of those, 13 are featured in the "Volume 1 Premium Edition" collection that made its way to my lowly apartment. The remaining 12 episodes will be released later this month, as well. Or so I hear.
"Toradora!" tells the story of Ryuji Taksu, a young gentleman who seems roughly equivalent to your North American high school junior in terms of age and responsibilities. He lives with his mother, who spends her nights working at a club and her days sleeping or making groggy pronouncements. Ryuji's father is out of the picture and left behind one gift for his son: "evil" eyes. Despite his cuddly neat freak interior, Ryuji is typically mistaken for some sort of anti-social menace by most of his classmates and even the faculty at the school that he attends.
As the first episode begins, Ryuji memorably bumps into Taiga Aisaka, a pint-sized girl who you might say has the attitude to match Ryuji's evil eye. The two students don't get along at all from the moment they bump into one another in that crowded hallway. Taiga clearly is cut from the "spunky anime girl" mold and Ryuji isn't used to sticking up for himself, but that dynamic works just fine.
Subsequent episodes reveal depth in the characterization and they expand the plot to focus more extensively on other characters, such as Minori Kushieda (a red-haired vixen who Ryuji fancies) and Yusaku Kitamura (a serious classmate who is best friends with Ryuji and who also serves on the student council). Ryuji and Taiga wind up pairing up as allies, with each of them working together to help the other make strides toward romantic conquests. That odd little relationship square is soon further complicated by the arrival of Ami Kawashima. She's a gorgeous student who models on the side, the perfect ingredient for the writers to toss into what already was an interesting mix.
Though it's difficult to say that "Toradora" is a particularly eventful show, even with the odd romantic pairings and the struggles the students face as they come to grip with what they really want from life and each other, the are at least interesting ones that benefit from engaging writing. The characters seem mostly willing to adhere to anime stereotypes, but there is about them a degree of unpredictability that keeps them entertaining and allows them to come across as a great deal more human than you might suppose. I was hooked from the first two episodes and now that I've finished the 13th (with embarrassingly moist eyes, it pains me to admit), I find myself looking forward to the second volume while regretting the fact that it will serve as the conclusion to a story that I am enjoying a great deal.
"Volume 1" features over 5 hours of good fun, doled out on two DVD discs. There's not a single bit of English voice work, but I was able to quickly adapt to the subtitles without missing much or any of the quality animation in the process. The characters really come to life with vitality and if you miss any of that, NIS America has helpfully included a deluxe hardbound book in the Premium Edition that includes plenty of character portraits, profiles and key terms. There also are interviews with the actors who voiced the show, so it's definitely a nice collector's item if you find yourself loving "Toradora!" as much as I do.
If you're having trouble finding where the series can be purchased online, it is currently available from NIS America's online shop. I tried Amazon.com and strangely had no luck. The premium edition I have is apparently a limited run that'll be gone once it's gone (fancy that), so you might want to look into it sooner rather than later.
Title: Happy birthday, Canada!
Posted: July 01, 2010 (01:28 PM)
You're a great neighbor, you don't suck at hockey and you're almost always cooler than we are... if only because it's so freaking cold up north! Enjoy the day of celebration!
Title: Fable III to be released in episodic format
Posted: July 01, 2010 (01:44 AM)
Kotaku is reporting that Fable III is going episodic. You can read the article here:
The phrase "Fable III is going episodic" had me a bit concerned when I started reading, because to me that implied self-contained chapters that break up the story a bit much. However, it seems to me after reading further that the term is misleading. "Episodic" means that the game's distribution will be handled in that manner--on an optional basis--which I actually find pretty cool.
If I'm understanding things properly, players will be able to download the first hour or so of gameplay absolutely free, without buying the retail package that contains the whole game. If they like what they've played during that first hour, they can buy the next chunk of the game and they can keep going as necessary until they reach the end (if they continue to have fun).
This actually strikes me as a bit genius. It's different than a demo, which to me so seldom represents an accurate experience of the final game and often even includes abilities that aren't normally available during one stage or another that the demo may happen to feature. Instead, this is like the episodic manner in which novels were released in merry old England. Dickens wrote his stories in an episodic manner, I've read. We read those now as novels, and when we reach the end of a chapter we want to keep reading because we're having a good time and we want to see what comes next.
Episodic game releases, at least for an action-RPG such as Fable III, seem like the perfect solution. An hour is enough time to let me know if I'm likely to abhor the game, or it's enough for the game to hook me if it has something that I'm likely to like. Breaking the game up like that and giving me several chances to back out without continued investments is nice, too. Some games can manage a few good hours before they start to suck. The other good news is that the developers in this case must be confident in what they've put together.
I've been wanting to play Fable III. When it comes out, I'll pick up the full retail version if possible, right from the start. But it's nice to know that I don't ahve to. It's nice to see a developer/publisher taking a chance with new distribution models. I can imagine this really working well and I can imagine coming to love it.
Title: You are always on my mind (an ode to retro game coverage)
Posted: June 25, 2010 (04:27 PM)
I've been thinking a lot lately about retro game coverage and how much I like it. Current games are great. I really believe that. There's exciting new stuff nearly every week, and certainly I can't remember the last time that a month passed and I didn't see two or three titles that seemed like they'd make a nice addition to my growing collection of games. Yet for all of the strengths that gaming currently has, there's a part of me that can't forget retro gaming.
I haven't been playing a lot of retro games lately. The new games are coming so frequently that I can't, and even if they weren't, a lot of newer games are a great deal more time-consuming than the older stuff because gamers have complained for years that games need more content or they're not worth buying. Developers have responded with mountains of filler--some of it engaging, some not--and so the job of a reviewer is becoming much more difficult.
But I think I'm going to change my focus. I plan to keep playing and reviewing new games, sure, but I'm finding it increasingly easy to send out new games to staff and freelancers for them to cover instad of tackling them myself. There are reasons to continue in that direction, too. Most of the time when someone I meet online for the first time has heard of HonestGamers, he comments that he likes our retro coverage. When I see incoming links to the site on other forums and such, they're links to our retro coverage. Unless we review a hot new game with a controversial score (or review a major release ahead of most of our competition), we're not going to get a lot of links.
So I'm thinking that as the year continues, I'll play more retro stuff. I've been saying that for awhile and I might be lying when I say it now, but still... retro coverage is something I like, it's something I do reasonably well and it's something that helps the site a lot. Don't be surprised if you see me covering a lot of stuff that wasn't even released this year in the months ahead.
Besides, there are lots of great retro games that have no review coverage at all on the site, and in some cases lack any real coverage at all. They deserve better. Anyone plan to help me with that?
Title: How useful is sensitivity on a d-pad?
Posted: June 24, 2010 (03:26 AM)
I was having an AIM conversation with someone today and I finally figured out a way to put into words just what it is that I hate so much about the d-pad on the Xbox 360 controller: it's too sensitive.
Now, I know that such a comment leaves some people scratching their heads. Isn't sensitivity on a controller supposed to be a good thing? The theory is that you can press the button slightly and your plane will bank only slightly left or right. You can nudge the controller at 93 degrees and it'll go at 93 degrees, not 91 and not 92 or 94 or 95. That's good, right?
In my opinion, no. Using the Xbox 360 d-pad, play any game other than a fighter--or even a fighter--and tell me that the sensitivity is good. I don't know that you could convince me. I've played Pac-Man and I've seen Pac-Man dance in circles instead of going left or right down an alley. The game gets confused if you don't push just left or just up or just down... and the sensitive d-pad on the Xbox 360 controller likes to register all sorts of things. Or play Mega Man. Until you adapt to the sensitivity, good luck climbing a tall ladder. It goes on like this, for every old school game that you'd care to play.
What about newer games, though? Surely they benefit. Well... Okay, how about Street Fighter IV. Sensitivity must be good in a fighting game, mustn't it? Take your typical move: down, down+right, right+punch. Sensitivity means that-- oh, wait. It doesn't mean a dang thing. You don't throw a more powerful fireball if your finger roll is 99% perfect. You don't throw a weaker one if it just barely registers. There's no difference either way, and movements don't register on-screen that are precise enough for all of the differences in the d-pad to matter.
In fact, just to save time... how about you name for me one game that makes heavy use of the d-pad that is better on Xbox 360 for the inclusion of an ultra-sensitive d-pad.
Lest you think this is me just complaining about the Xbox 360, by the way, it's not. I don't like any gamepad with an extra-sensitive d-pad. Xbox 360 is the most prolific offender, but there are a host of PC gaming pads that I avoid for the same reason. There are other d-pad controllers that have left me frustrated with the d-pad for other reasons, too, like the tiny d-pad on the GameCube controller. But for my money, nothing mainstream tops the disappointment of the Xbox 360 controller's d-pad.
Title: 1080P is great and all, but so not a Sony thing...
Posted: June 23, 2010 (01:00 AM)
I continue to be baffled (and a little amused, I'll admit) by Sony's support for 1080P. On the one hand you have Blu-Ray, which is pretty terrific. I really enjoy the format. I also like that the PlayStation 3 supports it and has made it such a success. It's great that the PS3 has 1080P support. You just hook up an HDMI cable and go, a real blessing for me now that I have an HD television that I've been enjoying for... almost a year. Wow, has it really been that long?
Anyway, Sony deserves props for making all of that so easy to enjoy, but then there are the games. You know, the reason I bought a PS3. And sadly, they're just not 1080P. There are a slew of 1080P titles available for Xbox 360, but many of those same games arrive on PS3 with a maximum resolution of 720P. Which still looks good, but it's not 1080P. So, why is it that a system like the Xbox 360 (which for many people can't show more than 720P due to the lack of an HDMI output on most Xbox 360 units, including mine) gets 1080P support on many of its big titles yet the PS3 does not?
At first, I thought the answer was "Because third parties don't care," but that's not all that there is to it. I looked into it and God of War III doesn't support it. Heavy Rain didn't support it. Ratchet & Clank Future didn't support it. I don't think ModNation Racers does, either. Sony seems to have decided that 1080P just isn't worth worrying about, and that worries me. Why would Sony give up on one of its most obvious selling points? Why isn't Sony out paying developers to make games look as good on PS3 as they do on Xbox 360? Isn't the PS3 supposed to be the more powerful machine?
Anyway, I just find it rather odd. I have over 40 games for my PS3 and the only ones I can think of that support 1080P are Final Fantasy XIII (which looks incredible at that resolution), Toy Story 3 (which looks pretty good but doesn't really need it) and Katamari Forever. What PS3 games have you played that support it?
Title: VideoCritics enters beta phase
Posted: June 13, 2010 (06:23 PM)
In my efforts to pretend that VideoCritics.net is a game in development, I am now announcing that the site is in 'beta' mode. Users can register, post on the forums, contribute content and browse the site, while staff members can approve content and moderate on the forums as necessary. There aren't many listings in the database and there likely won't be for awhile, but I encourage you all to head over to the site and to use it as you normally would. There's a forum where you can report any errors you encounter and the like. Activity will be minimal at this point because, although Google somehow picked up the site and has spidered pages, for the most part no one but this community knows that the site even exists. I'm hoping that you all can help me catch any of the biggest issues before a proper launch.
And yes, I realize that the timing (day before E3) is bad, but later this week and from there out another few weeks, I'll have freelance work occupying much of my 'free' time. I wanted to get the toughest parts of the site coded and up and running, which I have just barely managed to do.
Now, it's off to work! The day job, I mean. I'll be checking in later, both here and on VideoCritics.net, in case any of you have any comments or questions to share.