What’s on My Bookshelf? InFamous: Second Son (Video Game)

So today on What’s on My Bookshelf, I thought I’d highlight a video game.  I know gaming is still fairly niche, but it has surpassed movies as the highest grossing entertainment genre, so I’d like to give equal time.  The game, InFamous: Second Son is the 3rd game in the InFamous brand.  Despite that, this feels like a “soft” reboot as the main character, setting, and supporting characters are all new, so it is a great jumping on point if you’ve never played an InFamous game.  The basic gist is that, thanks to an explosion in the earlier games in the series, a few people are not so “normal” anymore and have become “super-powered.”  So, essentially you get to play as a “super hero” in this game’s universe.

Characters, Setting and Plot

You play as Delsin, the younger brother to a cop.  Your parents aren’t around anymore, so you’re brother has had to take care of you and like any little brother, you’re just a bit rebellious.  How rebellious is up to you (see below).  The game is an open world game set in Seattle.  While not a one-to-one representation of the city, the game still bears a fair likeness to the city with many of Seattle’s landmarks on display (including a harrowing jaunt to the Space Needle).  As a super powered individual, you get to really let loose against the enemy forces, the DUP, who want to collar ALL “super powered” characters, regardless of their motives.  Add to the fact that you get to also “gain” new powers by absorbing them from other “super” characters that you face and the game gets quite inventive.

Morality

The thing I like most about the InFamous games is that they feature a morality system.  Actions that help the game world bring about a positive change (citizens take pride in their city and help clean it up, etc.) or you can do the opposite (being a bully and a pest drives the city into a state of dinginess and decay).  There are major choices that have this “good vs evil” paradigm along with smaller acts within the world.  Overall, the story still gets to the same resolution, but the game gives you the appearance of agency to affect the outcome of the story by giving you those moments of choice.

If you’re a gamer looking for something new to play, or maybe, you want to try out gaming to see what its all about, this is a good starting point and introduction to the gaming experience.  InFamous: Second Son is available for the Sony Playstation 4 video game system.

Have a great day!

Sidney



Advertisements

A Bibliophile’s Dream: Data Manager 2, Goodreads, and Library Thing

 

So, I’ve always been a bit of a bookish person.  Okay, who am I kidding, I’m an unabashed bibliophile–I love books in all their glorious forms.  Ebooks, print books, trade paperbacks, mass market paperbacks, hardcovers, books with dust covers, books without dust covers, magazines, graphic novels, comic books, spiral bound books, zines, etc.  If it has existed in printed form, I’ll probably love it if I get to see it. In fact, the first two places that I’m liable to visit in any new situation are the bookstores and the libraries of that town, place, or school.  Technology has made reading easier and disseminating print quicker and faster.  One day I might do a blog entry about that, but today I really want to turn my attention to the cataloging of books/media and some of the fun ways that I’ve done it over the years.

datamanager2_terapeak

Data Manager 2, Image Source: Terapeak

Data Manager 2

This is the first database program that I ever discovered.  I’d been using a pen-and-paper system before I discovered this program, but once I found that I could create record using the title, author’s name, publisher, genre, etc., I was in “hog heaven.”  I quickly converted my records into computer format and spent hours looking at the “Reports” function which combined the best of graphing functions of a spreadsheet program with a database program.  I loved comparing authors that I had, series, or most importantly genres to see where they ranked with others that I owned.  Great fun for a bibliophile!

Goodreads

After Data Manager 2, I flitted from database to database on the various computers that I owned, but none seemed as satisfying as DM2.  As much as rail against the whole Web 2.0 paradigm, it did bring in one good thing: Goodreads.  In many ways, it is a combination between a book database and a social networking site centered around books.  I have about half of my collection listed on GR along that with being a “GR Author” meaning that any of my works that are published in book form (not online) should show up (I say should because, with the variation on my name, some of the books that I’m listed in aren’t actually showing up–those periods and commas make a difference).  I really GR, but find that sometimes it is too “Facebook” for me and I actively resist all the social/community features that it pushes.  It has a yearly reading challenge that I like to participate in and you can really go in-depth on the types of books that you read at the end of the year with a year-end round up (pretty snazzy).  They also have an app that will scan your books’ barcodes and add them to your collection, but too be honest, I think the web interface is much more intuitive.

Library Thing

The second major site that I found is Library Thing.  It is also a Web 2.0 paradigm site, but it focuses (in my opinion) more on the books aspect rather than the social aspect.  Make no mistake, it has social/community features galore, but for some reason, whenever I’m there, I feel the focus is on books first, community second unless you really want to make it a community focused site.  I don’t have nearly as many of my books listed there, about a 1/10th of my collection, but I’m adding books there on a weekly basis.  I love that you can order the books by “shelves” (which you can also do on GR) and that you can print out a listing of books (or just the covers) by the shelves that you set up.  They also recommend books to read based on your shelves (again, GR does this as well).   One thing that I liked that came too late for me to use is TinyCat, a mini-library interface that you can checkout books with (sort of a mini-circulation module).  This would have been perfect for my classroom library when I was a 6th grade teacher, but it was implemented until the year that I left–I tried several systems (including GR shelves), but none fit my needs like TC would have.  Too bad, as even with the half solutions, I had a fair amount of buy-in with my students as “librarians.”  Imagine what I could have done with a fully fleshed out check-in/check-out database that the students could have used with their Chromebooks–I would have probably had what I was looking for developing as a 6th grade language arts teacher–a class of readers who would also share my love for books and reading.

Well, that’s all for today–have a good day!

Sidney



Web 3.0 (Hopefully)

Technically, there is no such thing as Web 3.0 (yet), but I can only hope that this will be a “thing” in the very near future.  I’ll explain why down below, but I really think that the Web is beginning to transition into a new evolution, and for me, the transition can’t come soon enough.

Web 1.0 (World Wide Web–The WWW dot era)

So, when the web first came into its own as a way organizing and surfing information, it was revolutionary.  I got my first taste of the Web on AOL (that’s America OnLine to any younger readers of the blog) and I took to it like a duck to water (to use a Southern expression).  It was a great way to organize information for me and really fed my desire for signal (information) vs noise (communication).  I tend to be a high signal (lots of information), low noise (little of others comments and opinions) type of person.  I like being given enough information about the pros and cons of a product, issue, or debate and then making up my mind for myself based on the relevant data.

Web 2.0 (The Social Network Blight)

Then came the new “hotness” of Web 2.0 and that’s where my interest in “the Internet” dampened.  MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Vine, YouTube, etc., etc., etc., ad nauseum all popped up, became popular, and dominated the Web experience.  A few have died, a few are on life support, but most are rumbling, stumbling along cluttering the internet with opinions and such.  And yes, I know that technically blogs are a part of Web 2.0, but a blog is much like YouTube–it can be for both personal opinions AND information and I’m fine with that (one of my highest rated posts behind my ranking post of Marvel movies which is my opinion on the movies continues to be the Author’s Note for Here Be Monsters–many people seem genuinely interested in how that story came together–which is informational in nature).    My problem is with sites like Twitter (too short for REAL information, but just right for off-the-cuff opinions), or Facebook (although for families it probably is a great way to stay in touch, especially if they are flung all over the country or the world).  It just doesn’t interest me much–it isn’t that I don’t have friends, but it goes back to the signal vs noise paradigm.  Social Networking tends towards low signal (information) and high noise (communication).  I do much better with information, but I’m resistant to other people’s opinions (which are not necessarily applicable to me)

Web 3.0 (The Internet of things or AI/Deep Learning Convergence)

And now we come to the real reason that I wrote this post.  It seems like we’re transitioning into a post Web 2.0 phase and into what I’m calling Web 3.0–why the media isn’t calling it such, I’m not sure because that’s what it is (although I suspect everyone is still so much in love with Social Networking that they don’t want to see it go).  This era seems set to be dominated by connecting all of our various devices to the Internet (aka “Smart Appliances”) and the rise of AI/Deep Learning Systems (such as Google Assistant and Alexia, Apple’s Siri, Driverless cars, etc).  Now this is truly EXCITING tech to me. Why listen to someone natter on about X, Y, and Z on Twitter, with just a few simple commands, vocal or keyed in, you could have a machine (physical or virtual) do something for you now.  That’s exciting!  More exciting that the Natterverse that we currently have now, at least.

So, I’m back into the game.  I’m going to try to find an area where I can carve out a niche now that the balance is shifting from noise back to signal (I’ve already done arduinos which are little robots that you can program remotely via a simple command interface, but I think I’m going to investigate a little more).  Still, pretty much anything in the Web 3.0 paradigm would be preferable to me as it will require a high signal, low noise paradigm, which in my opinion–see what I did there–is what the Web needs now.

Sidney




Amazon Associate Disclaimer:
I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.

Barbarian At The Gates–Barbarian C64 Game (Nostalgia Review)

So this is one of those games that I didn’t really play a whole lot growing up.  I got it based on the strength of reviews and screenshots from a Computer Magazine, but it was based on the Amiga version and back in the early days of computers, there could be a whole world of difference between one system’s game and another (not like today where most games produced by companies other than Sony or Microsoft have virtual parity with their counterparts),  Barbarian (Commodore 64/C64) was a game that was essentially a side-scroller.  As I recall, you moved right or left and tried to defeat enemies on the way to a specific objective.  I don’t really recall all that much about it–except that I remember being disappointed that the game didn’t have more depth to it.

Compare the Differences

This is the Commodore Amiga Version:

and this is the Commodore 64 version:

You’ll notice that the title of the C64 video is Bad Conversions.  This is very accurate as the game does not stay true to the original and was poorly executed.  I remember that this game was released not too long after the original Conan The Barbarian movies with Arnold Schwarzenegger and while the Amiga version recreated the experience of the movies as faithfully as possible at the time, the C64 version did not.  I can’t recall if this was a Christmas present or a Birthday present–like most children, I got my games as gifts as presents and I remember the potential of this game being so great (I was, of course, into He-Man, Conan, and even Red Sonja along with all things warrior related at the time).

This is why I now rely on Reviews rather than screenshots–I learned early that media, especially advertisements can be manipulative and that it is up to the buyer to beware.

Caveat Emptor!

 

Iphone 7 Bricked

iphon7blackscreen_youtube

An example of a completely black iPhone 7 screen (mine looks exactly the same as in this image, by the way), Image Source: YouTube

Well, this sucks.  I was going to write about my experience at the writing center working on my novel, but I’ll have to save it for another time (preview: it went well & was productive, but more in a later blog post).  No, unfortunately, I find that today’s topic is that I woke up this morning to find that my 3 month old iPhone 7 is bricked.  It will not turn on, it will not charge, it will not do anything.  It is essentially a paperweight.

Color me unhappy.  I no longer upgrade the iOS immediately anymore to keep from things like this from happening.  I knew iOS 11 was out, but now I wait until the little update badge appears on the Settings icon of the phone nowadays as that usually happens when there have been one or two bug fix updates applied to the iOS.  In this case it was three: iOS 11.0.3, before it popped up to upgrade last week.

I upgraded and IMMEDIATELY noticed a drop in battery life.  I used to be able to watch YouTube and Netflix periodically throughout the day and the battery would last a day and a half.  I could get through a full day and most of the night before it needed recharging.  After the update, it needed to be charged every 6-8 hours with the same usage model, sometimes dying in the middle of the night even though it started the night on an 75%-80% charge.  I figured that this would be fixed in a future update.

Yesterday, however, battery performance was particularly bad.  I had to charge multiple times during the day, so last night, before going to bed, I plugged in the USB adapter into the wall charger and plugged in the phone hoping for a full charge in the morning (the battery indicator was on 43% and was yellow when I went to bed).  When I awoke this morning, I didn’t remember hearing the alarm, so when I rolled out of bed, I checked the phone.  Dead as a doornail.

I thought, maybe the phone overheated.  Nope.  Maybe it needed to be turned on after shutting itself off.  Nope.  Maybe I just need to reset it. Nope.  On and on, solution after solution via Google and online forums.  Nope. Nope. And Nope.  So now as I type these words I have a black paperweight of glass and plastic staring at me, refusing to even acknowledge its own existence.

And now, I’m probably going to have to miss class to try to take it into a local AT&T store to discover what the problem is and that is not something that I really want (or should have) to do as a Graduate student.  At this level, school should come first.  I buy Apple products because of the “Just works” mantra.  If that’s no longer the case, then I need to start looking around for other products that will suit my needs more capably.

Not happy, Apple.  Not happy, AT&T.  Not happy at all. 😦

 

The Death of Single Player Games?

eashutsdownvisceral_YouTube

EA shuts down Visceral Studios, Image Source: YouTube

So last week was a bad week for gaming in general and the single player game, in particular.  Two of the largest gaming companies, EA and Activision, both had stories hit the media that showed that they are not necessarily committed to the development of strong gaming experiences for their player base (especially players of single player games–like myself), but may be using the games a “vehicles” to increase their own war chests with anti-consumer practices.

To be brief, EA shuttered a well known & respected gaming development studio that was making a Star Wars single player game. They moved the game over to another division in order to (paraphrasing) open it up to better reflect their players’ wants in a game.  Activision, on the other hand, had a patent discovered by players, that could be used to match players together, not based on skill, but on the purchase of extra content and could match players with “premium” content with those who had not yet purchased the content in order to create an unfair skill gap between the players and incentivize the non-purchasing player to go out and buy the “premium” content to stay on a level playing field.

So why does this matter?  Players were incensed last week with these revelations and decried the death of the single player video game.  The problem is that this situation was made BY THE PLAYERS years ago.

“Knack is Kack”
I still remember this statement made by staff member of the Official UK Playstation Magazine on their podcast when the Playstation 4 was announced at Sony’s reveal way back in 2013.  Knack was a platform game that was developed to show off the potential of the hardware.  It was a good game, not great, but it was widely and roundly criticized in the media and online as being “old game design” and “antiquated.”  Now I personally liked it so much that I earned the Platinum Trophy for the game (do all of the in-game “requirements”) which shows how much I enjoyed it.  But if I had listened to the critics and the online community, I wouldn’t have given the game a second look as they considered it a waste of development time.  This attitude continued and now (in 2017) there are a dearth of good, triple A platforming games–their all either shooters or open world games.

The Order 1886
Here is another example of the market deselecting a type of game.  The Order 1886 was an alternate history game that full of promise and hype when it was announced.  However, that hype turned to bitterness and vitriol online when it was discovered that it was a short (5-8 hour) gaming experience and that there was no multiplayer involved when it was released in 2015.  What once was a darling of the press for its unique setting became an also-ran and a dog for its short campaign in regards to its price tag.  And based on the pricing models of games in 2016/2017 that are the same length (Ratchet and Clank remake and HellBlade) which are in the 29.99 price range instead of the 59.99 price range of The Order 1886, perhaps the price of The Order was too high, but the critical reception for both of those games (as well as the online reputation) is completely different that it was for The Order and that response to The Order was noticed by game development companies and (more importantly) game publishers.

Yes, last week was a bad week for gamers who like to play offline, single player games, but we have to remember that it is our choices as gamers that ultimately drive the market.  By being so dismissive to the single player experiences in 2013 and 2015, we gamers shouldn’t be surprised that publishers no longer want to fund or make these types of games in 2017.  Much like real life, if we say that we want diversity in our experiences, we actually have to show that we value that diversity.

Advertisers vs Creators vs YouTube

YouTube_monetization_2_Searchenginejournal

YouTube Removing Ads from non-advertiser friendly videos Image Source: Search Engine Journal

youtube monetization_9to5google

Screenshot of YouTube Monetization Image Source: 9to5google

This post probably won’t be as long as usual as I have meeting to attend in a couple of hours, however, I just wanted to get it out there since the topic (and the creators’ responses to it) mirrors my own frustration(s) this summer.

The topic is a simple one (& one that ultimately comes down to money), advertisers and Google seem to be in a war against the content creators that have helped YouTube grow and they have instituted a change in policy that is forcing many YouTubers to either change their content/format, seek alternate funding methods, or leave YouTube for another platform (like Twitch, or other streaming/video services) altogether.

Here is an example of one such YouTuber’s frustration: ACG
And here’s another: The Horror Show

Advertisers
Advertisers want viewers and they want their ads to appear in front of (and during) videos in order to sell their product or service.  They also want to control their message and how their message is displayed and on what content that it gets displayed upon.  In other words, they don’t want their message to be linked with an offensive site or offensive content.  Yet, the sprawling nature of YouTube doesn’t allow them to go in and hand-pick content, so they have (apparently) successfully and recently lobbied YouTube to create fairly restrictive algorithms so that their material appears on only the most family friendly content.  Again, this is because they want their messages to BOTH reach the widest audience possible (families) and not be associated with “objectionable” material, but they don’t want to spend an additional money to hire a person/a team of people to navigate YouTube to manually indicate whether their brand is being served or hurt by appearing on a particular video.

Creators
Creators are crying foul because of the draconian nature of the algorithms deployment.  Even if the content itself isn’t objectionable (such as review), the way it is presented (i.e., with a couple of swear words) is enough for YouTube’s algorithm to deny monetization to creators and their videos.  However, even in Avengers: Age of Ultron, there’s a running gag about characters swearing and Captain America calling them out on it, and the gag is that they call him out on calling them out (if that makes any sense).  The reason why it’s funny is that in today’s world swearing is “allowed” (which I don’t personally agree with) and to call someone out on it marks you as old fashioned.  The Marvel movies are own by Disney Studios, a company known for its “wholesome” image, yet their most successful movies are in the PG-13 category these days.  It is unfair for advertisers to require their ads play on “G” rated content in a society where even the wholesome, family friendliest of companies content is in the PG-13 arena and they have a valid point.  Most creators already don’t make enough from YouTube to qualify even as a “hobby,” let alone a full time/part-time self-sustaining job and this change really hurts them.

Frustration with the system

If you watched the two videos, you can see the frustration of the creators.  They create content for a system and yet have an emotionless set of algorithms determine what can and cannot be monetized.  This is the exact same frustration that I felt this summer.  They work within the rules of the system, but the rules keep changing and they keep changing in a way that benefits others instead of the very creators who provide YouTube with the lifeblood of content that the site needs in order to survive. In many ways, this is much like AMC all over again as YouTube (and their owners, Google) have taken their eye of the ball and given into the greed that pushes away consumers to other platforms and then decry the fact that users/consumers no longer use their service and/or their profits are down.  Google’s motto used to be “don’t be evil.”  I think that they (and other businesses) should adopt this as the first line of their mission statements, not the last.