from the coldness of oblivion

I’m back again, for who knows how long. Hopefully I can maintain momentum and keep this place updated now… might start tweaking the cosmetics of the site again, we’ll see.

In the meantime, go check out The Many Adventures of Ryan Hood. It’s a web series run by a friend of mine, and I co-wrote a couple episodes for it recently. Go check it out and have fun while I work on making this place presentable again.

-K

oh look i’m on a phone

Just thought I’d post a quickie while I’m on my lunch break.

I ended up getting picked up as an intern with Seifert Technologies, Inc., and started last week. So far, it’s been pretty good. I’m still over at the Stark State Help Desk (keeping my foot in the door there for a possible “promotion” in the near future), so now I can sound like a hard worker and say I have two jobs.

In other news, I was excited to get Batman: Arkham Asylum on Steam for $7, but the power supply on my main computer (also my only gaming-worthy rig) died on me shortly after purchasing it. Maybe I’ll finally get around to writing that short story that’s been swimming around in my head for the past 8 or so months…

In the movie realm, I plan on doing a general review for the series of Star Trek movies in the near future. I’m waiting for the newest one to arrive at the library so I can pick it up, after which I will be able to complete my review and put it up here.

That’s about all for now… go outside and enjoy the summer. 😀

Until next time,

–K–

An Exercise in Futility

[So I’ve been sitting on this partial draft for a good while… like since the end of May. Some of this post will jump around, and I’ll do my best to clarify on points here and there.]

So here I am, yet again. I’m not going to bother saying anything about time frames or the next anticipated update to this place. At this point, I don’t think anyone would believe me even if I did follow through with it.

Enough of that. On to new stuff.

Since I’m having a horrible time thinking of something to write about, I’ll talk for a bit about school. I got my Associate’s Degree of Applied Science in Computer Network Administration and Security Technology! I got out of the graduation ceremony (I didn’t want to sit around doing absolutely nothing for four hours), and I can pick up my diploma whenever I get to the registration office at Stark State. I was going to pick it up today, but could barely make it out the front door. I’ll have proof of acquiring the degree tomorrow evening. [I did end up getting it on Wednesday, the “tomorrow evening” mentioned. Literally, I felt like my body was shutting down on me.]

“What are you doing now?” some of you may ask. I’m going to pick up some general education classes in the fall (including a P.E. course), and will begin at Akron in the spring semester of next year, God willing. [I’m currently waiting for Akron to open up for spring applications, which isn’t supposed to happen for another couple of months.]

The job outlook hasn’t been all that great at this point. It seems like I interview well (for most of the interviews), but either don’t hear back or someone more qualified gets the job. Which makes me sad. [That was written at the end of May sometime….] Now, however, it seems that I’ve been able to make a bit of progress. I’m interviewing for two internships right now – one for help desk stuff, another for a PC technician spot – so hopefully those work out in some way or other. A part-time employee spot is open at the Stark State Help Desk, and Ive applied for that… it would be really nice if I got that. State benefits, free tuition (I believe, as I’m not entirely sure how that works for part-timers), and all that goodness.

One of my summer side-projects is to watch some rather obvious movies I’ve missed over the past several years. I kicked off the project by watching the Bourne movies. Yes, it has taken me this long to watch them. All I can say is, it’s an awesome trilogy and if you are one of the few out there who has not watched them… drop what you’re doing, find the movies, and enjoy them. Currently, I’m working through the Star Trek movies (I expect to hear a lot of hate from the Star Wars junkies out there), and then moving on to The Matrix trilogy.

In terms of books, I put Pride and Prejudice on hold shortly after I started reading it due to school woes. Once school got out, I was given a manga (Japanese comic) to read from a friend called Death Note. It’s a 12-part story, dealing with student Light Yagami and his finding of a Death Note, an object in Japanese mythology that is used by the gods of death. Light, believing he can create a perfect world, sets out to play God and separate the wheat from the tares. The story chronicles Light’s efforts to create a utopia and those who are attempting to stop him, including a brilliant detective simply named L. Darker fare than what I usually read and at times rather morbid, it is filled with brilliant mind games and cat-and-mouse chases that I doubt will be topped anytime soon. It gets a bit talky at times, but is definitely worth a gander. Once I’m done with that, I’ll be finishing Pride and Prejudice. I’m not stalling – I even bought a copy of P&P to make sure I’d read it.

I contemplated talking about video games, but decided to save that for a different post. I think I’ll start breaking up these reviews into their own posts so I can focus on the reviews and not make a novel of a blog post.

That’s all for now, I think. I’m working on a couple vignettes which should be posted here sooner than later… but anyone who looks at the frequency of my blog posts should know how that goes by now.

Until next time,

-Kyle

Random goings-on and game reviews

It’s been over a month since my last post on here… business as usual, it seems. I changed the theme to something a bit more welcoming… lemme know what you guys think.

I finished Quake 4 an hour ago (it struck me as Quake II with better graphics), and thought I should at least put something up here. And so, while I think up something original, I present to you a review of one of my all-time favorite games. For last week’s assignment in Game Design class I had to review a game – Total Annihilation being the subject of the review.

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Title: Total Annihilation
Author, Publisher: Cavedog Entertainment, Atari
Description: A real-time strategy set in the far future, the universe has been ravaged by a war over the technology that could transfer human consciousness to machines. The game is rated T for animated violence and appeals to a broad age group – the action in the game does not lose its lethality for sake of appealing to a younger crowd, but does not become so lethal that only older players are drawn to it.
Hardware/Software requirements: PC, 1 GHz Processor (1.4 GHz recommended), 256MB RAM (512 recommended), 3D graphics card compatible with DirectX 7 (compatible with DirectX 9 recommended), Mouse, Keyboard; Single player and multiplayer capabilities.
Price Range: $5.99 from Good Old Games (best value and cheapest price)

Review of the game:

Directions – Total Annihilation is from a day and age where digital distribution was unheard of – 1997 wasn’t exactly the time to distribute a game nearing 1 GB in size – so in-game instructions are almost non-existent. (3)
Rules – Rules and game limitations are easily defined – Resources (Metal and Energy) are supplied in order to build structures. To gain more resources, collecting structures must be built. If you run out of resources, you must wait for them to re-accumulate at a set rate. This sets Total Annihilation apart from other RTS games of the time (Age of Empires, for instance) where often the game devolves into a resource grab. (5)

Goals – In Total Annihilation, the goal is simple – destroy the enemy forces. If proper strategies are applied to the battleground, victory is realistically achievable. In the Campaigns, goals may vary slightly. In one mission, it is your duty to lead a convoy through enemy-infested territory. In another, it is to aid a besieged outpost. No matter the goal, however, it is spelled out for you in the pre-mission briefing (and briefing in-game menu) in an easy-to-understand manner. (5)

Story – This is the game’s weakest point. A war began thousands of years before the game’s current time over the transference of consciousness from man to machine. Since then the universe has been destroyed and only fragments of the Arm and Core armies are left. It’s never fully explained what the motivations of each side are aside from “complete domination,” nor is the audience told which side is “good” or “bad.” Aside from your commander unit, there are no unique characters. This makes the overall plot and premise of the game forgettable. If you are looking for a gripping story with memorable characters, you would be well advised to look into Total Annihilation’s spiritual successor, Supreme Commander. (1)

Story Immersion – In lieu of the above, story immersion is pretty much nonexistent. As far as story immersion goes, since there are no characters and a lackluster storyline to begin with it is near impossible to become immersed in the story. (1)

Play – This is where total Annihilation truly shines. While the story is on par with that of many shovelware games, the gameplay was so groundbreaking (and is still unique) that it gained quite a following. The idea of resources that slowly refill over time is a concept that at first seems risky, but over time plays out much better than other games. I’ve played many LAN games of Age of Empires and Stronghold only to have the game boil down to which army had enough resources to scrape together a final muster. Total Annihilation does not have this problem – the winner of the game is who manages their forces and resources properly to gain the most efficient army in the shortest amount of time. This allows for large, fast-paced battles. Each unit has unique advantages and disadvantages, from the mighty, multi-story Krogoth to the simple Scout. The versatility in commands was phenomenal – one could set a troop of bombers to routinely bomb the enemy base, return to home base, and then return to the enemy base for a bombing run. Repair vehicles could be assigned to units – in event of damage, the repair units would automatically jump into action. At the time, few games had attempted this level of detail. (5)

Replay value – One does not revisit Total Annihilation for its campaign – that, to be blunt, is quite forgettable. Skirmish mode is what really has kept Total Annihilation alive all these years. While few people play Total Annihilation now, the fact that it has retained its notoriety after 13 years (an eternity in gaming) speaks volumes. (5)

Rewards – Total Annihilation was released in 1997. In accord with the times, achievements were unheard of. Simply conquering your opponent was an achievement enough. It hearkens back to a simpler time, when the ending victory screen was the greatest achievement of all. (3)

Termination Condition – There are several terminating conditions in Total Annihilation. Whether it is assassination of the commander unit or total annihilation of the opposing team (you knew it was coming), the terminating conditions are very clear. (5)

Challenges – Challenges vary widely from game to game, whether it is campaign or skirmish. (5)

Fairness – The AI may not seem fair at first for its ability to almost expertly utilize resources (even if can beat the AI in under ten minutes, it still wins the resources score), but once you get past the learning curve this is no problem at all. (4)

Ethical – Total Annihilation is one of the few games that I feel is devoid of ethics in the sense of the story. Most of the humanity in both armies is destroyed, left with only the remnant robot forces. Multiplayer, however, poses some interesting ethical quandaries. It is one of my gaming group’s house rules that no nuclear weapons will be used – if they were to be used, the game becomes an arms race. In order to force the players to utilize their full army, we place a ban on nuclear weapons. While we don’t explicitly ban the missiles from gameplay, we expect that ethical standard to be upheld. (3)

Originality – While the story is on the generic side, and it was overshadowed by the release of Starcraft, the gameplay and units of Total Annihilation are unique. (5)

Aesthetics:
Graphics – While many RTS games of the time used sprite-based graphics (Age of Empires for example), Total Annihilation used a models-based system. This allowed for a far more detailed world. Looking back 13 years later, the game can initially be an eyesore. Given time, the graphics begin to grow on you. Each unit and building is unique with a plethora of different locales to choose from – if you tire of one form of landscape, simply move to a different set of included maps. (5)

Camera Angles – The camera is presented from a top-down angle. This angle takes some getting used to over other games (even those from the time which used an angled camera view), but this can be corrected with fan-made mods. (3)

Sound Quality – Sound is top-notch. From Jeremy Soule’s sweeping score to the rumblings of the battlefield, everything is toned to perfection. (5)

Voice quality – There are no real voices in this game – merely the beep-boops of the robot forces. Each unit has a different “voice,” making each unit sound unique. (4)

Artificial Intelligence – The AI may at first seem hyper-intelligent, but after the player grows accustomed to the game’s style he can see flaws in the AI’s army development. The AI tends to rely on ground forces, while neglecting air force until far later in its army’s development. If the player is quick, he could scrap together an army of bombers and destroy the AI before it has time to set up a defense force. In the campaign, however, the AI is set to do its task well – whether it is to lay siege to your fortress or patrol the map, the AI will get it done. For this, the AI gets a score of 3 out of 5. (3)

Game controls – Controls are quite simple, involving primarily the mouse (using a one-button command scheme as opposed to many other RTS games’ two-button command scheme), and moderate use of the keyboard for display control and command shortcuts. As whole it does not diverge too wildly from other RTS games, past and current. (4)

Glitches – None that I am aware of at this time. This section receives a rating of 4, as I am not definite on the topic of glitches, but have never experienced one personally. (4)

Overall quality – Total Annihilation is a lost gem in the RTS genre. It was not widely marketed when released, and as such it has become somewhat of a niche in the RTS community. Pick this game up, give it a try, and I guarantee you’ll find something special even after all these years. (5)

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…so yeah, that’s that. On a side note, it has been literally forever since I played Total Annihilation’s campaign. When I did, I was not as appreciative of RTS games as I am now. In lieu of that, my remark on how forgettable the campaign was may not be entirely correct. Although, the fact that I remember next to none of it does say something.

Keep an eye out for more soon… hopefully it’ll be a bit faster than a month next time.

-Kyle

Okay, so…

I’m not even sure why I’m doing this. I’m not sure why I chose right now to sit down and write this. We all know I’ll just write another pointless “I’m not dead” paragraph that promises more articles to come soon.

It happens every time.

What should I put here? Should I put up funny pictures of cats? Obscure memes that no one uses anymore? Pictures of the half-eaten breakfast from this morning? I don’t know. Time will have to tell.

I do know that I have to give a review of some sort over books that I’ve read. The problem is, it’s been a while since I finished reading the book on my “to review list.” In lieu of that, please forgive me if this review is a bit on the generic side.

The book in question is Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I had heard a lot about the novel for years, so decided to read it and find out what all this was about. It has inspired an insane amount of movies… seemed worth a shot.

Dracula - Barnes & Noble Classics edition

The first thing that struck me about the novel is that everything is told in the first person. There is never an external narrative explaining the inner workings of a situation – the only information you receive is what the characters gather. While the story is told in first person, Stoker tells the story through a collection of journal and diary entries, along with dictated phonograph records and news articles. This allows for the first person perspective to be fully utilized while giving Stoker leeway to use several characters to tell the story to the reader.

The first thing to know about the book is that its darkness is unrelenting. There are lulls, but never true breaks from the darkness. It’s oppression adds to the story, choking the light out of everything surrounding the events told in the book. Stoker keeps building on the suspense, never letting up until the climax.

The climax. The only climax of a book that I’ve gotten worked up over. Not in a bad sense – Stoker builds the tension up to an almost palpable level. Having invested myself in the lives of the character for several hours, I didn’t want to see their mission fail. I won’t say much about it here, but the final portions of the story alone are worth a second reading.

Being a book about vampires, it isn’t necessarily a pleasant read. Unlike modern horror writers, Stoker doesn’t really focus on gore so much as the evil of the villain. Dracula does some rather nasty things throughout the book, but they are not described in detail. This leaves your imagination to fill in the details… which can make it worse, now that I think about it.

If you want a warm and fuzzy reading experience, I suggest you move along. But if you want a gripping, harrowing tale of a band of ordinary people against an evil, shadowy foe… then you may like Dracula.

There you have it – my first somewhat-official book review. I didn’t want to go into too much detail… I want to save the experience for those who end up reading it. Next on the list is Pride and Prejudice (yes, you read that correctly). We’ll all learn something from that review.

That’s about all I have for now. I miss writing… I think I’ll have to keep it going. I know I’ve said it before, but I mean it this time – another article will come sooner than later. As long as people will read my stuff, I’ll keep attempting to write.

…oh, and for those who noticed – yes, I did change the name of this place. Methinks the new title sounds more official.

Until next time,

-Kyle