Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Programs for $0.00: Dexpot

Last year, I got a Tablet PC for school...The tablet portion I've only "needed" for my engineering class in the fall. I still enjoy having the computer, though I wish the thing had an actual graphics card. Having a laptop period, though, means limited screen space, and I typically have several apps open for several reasons. Space runs out, and the trackpad is annoying to use to reach the taskbar every time. So, I opted for more screens, and I chose Dexpot to do the job for me.

Dexpot is a virtual desktop manager, capable of giving you up to 20 customizable virtual screens to access. While I doubt you'd actually ever use 20 screens, my setup has 4 that I use consistently. Pretty minimal memory usage, hotkey capability, and several modes to actually view your screens. Also, while I haven't tested it personally, it seems to work with just about every version of windows from '95 and up.

Honestly, that's about all you would need to know about Dexpot. Beyond that, there's desktop rules you can apply to automate how your desktop works, startup programs when a certain desktop is selected, and customize every desktop's wallpaper. It's the small things, really. Oh, and of course it's only $0, so why not?

Monday, June 29, 2009

Game to Wait For: June, Week 4

...Ok, Ok, I'm gonna stop cranking these out weekly. This will go montly after this post, but at least I had a good run with it.

Tatsunoko vs. Capcom. Again, this is warranted considering my situation with Marvel vs. Capcom 2. A fighting game on the Wii, it has beautiful 3D graphics on a 2D playing field, dynamic, combo-intensive gameplay minus the apparent brokenness in MvC2 (minus waggle, hopefully), and a great cast of characters. While I know the entire Capcom team (including Rock Vulnutt, personal favorite Megaman), I unfortunately know very little of the Tatsunoko crew beyond the fact that the cast is very iconic in Japanese animation, despite my love of the TV genre. That, and I'm sure Nintendo gave homage to Tatsunoko via the Pokemon Horsea. Just means I have some studying to do before I pick this one up...that is, if I pick up a Wii by then. The best part about this game coming to the US though (it's already out in Japan), beyond the fact that we get some bonus characters, is that it shows that the crossover games can work outside of Japan. There's already a crossover game out in the US now besides TvC (although apparently it's not the greatest of examples). Now if we can get Namco x Capcom and Jump Ultimate Stars over here and translated, I'll be at peace with myself. Until then, here's the intro and a trailer for ya.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Game to Buy: Valkyria Chronicles

I've lost sleep over this game. I've missed posts because of this game. I nearly lost my voice over this game.

That's how RPGs should be, right?

Valkyria Chronicles is a turn-based Strategy RPG, in a similar realm as Final Fantasy Tactics. The story revolves around a war occurring in Europan (see what they did there?) between the Empire to the east and the Federation to the west, all over the shortening supply of Ragnite, a material that is this game's equivalent to crude oil. Gallia, a neutral nation with abundant stores of Ragnite, is caught in the clash when the Empire decides to invade. You play as Welkin Gunther, a man who, instead of joining the millitary like his famed father before him, just wants to teach about nature. If that actually happened, though, this wouldn't be much of a game, so you're caught in a battle, and from there on you become a tank commander to lead your squad and your country to victory! Like most great RPGs, this game has an epic story with very dynamic character personalities and surprise twists that at some occurances actually made me curse at the screen. I actually had empathetic feelings when events took place.

The graphics look amazing as well. Everything is in crisp 3D, but with bright and dynamic coloring and shading that made the events that took place on screen actually look like it was all hand drawn and hand-colored. Besides the enemy grunts, every character is unique, even the members that you can recruit to your squad. Unique voices, personalities, and background stories that actually play a part in their usage in battle. Most notable is the English dubbing: while the Japanese dub is still better (as it typically is), the English dubbing, besides a minor character or two, is very well done, and with popular voice actors such as Dave Whittenburg (Kakashi, Naruto), Colleen O'Shaughnessey (Sora, Digimon), and freakin' Steven Blum (Spike, Cowboy Bebop) to name a few.

The gameplay is a bit complex, but expected of a strategy RPG. Every phase, your given a set amount of command points to move around your infantry and yourself in a tank. There are 5 classes, and each class is meant for certain situations, such as Lancers (and your tank) taking out tanks, shocktroopers doing close-range damage on infantry, and snipers taking out infantry from long range. What's unique about this game, though, is that while you're moving around, if you're in range of units who can counter, you take interceptive fire from them as you move, so you can lose your unit even when the enemy isn't attacking if you aren't careful. Your units can do the same to the enemy. Most of the missions involve taking the enemy's main camp, but the methods to reach the camp differ greatly on every map; unit placement before the missions even begin can often make or break your mission. I suppose that's one of the problems within the game; once I got to the latter portions of the game, I almost always had to play the mission twice, due most often to the severe lack of knowlege of the map and the units in play at the time. Your missions are also ranked based on how few phases you completed the map, and again if you wanted that A-rank you needed to know what enemy units are on the field and what typically happens or needs to happen in at least the first two phases in order to get that rank.

Besides that little caveat, you do have to have some patience in playing this game. Your units can die permanently, and while that never happened to me, that was also one of the reasons I had to restart a mission. As you can tell, I got a bit frustrated over restarting missions that can last an hour or more from square 1. However, I always came back to the game. Unfortunately, while there is a "New Game Plus" after you beat the game, I don't feel like the game has much replay value to me; once you beat the story, you've most likely unlocked and gotten everything you could get already. The only benefit to playing again is that your stats roll over to the replay, you can do hard mode scrimmages (which only increase the AI difficulty), and you get access to one extra squad member. Not enough benefits to warrent the replay again, but I'd come back for the sheer story at a later date. Valkyria Chronicles gets a 4 out of 5.  Now grab a rifle and join the army, already.

Video of the Week: Street Fighter Bonus Game IRL

Ever play Street Fighter II? After a couple of matches in the Arcade mode, you get to a bonus game where your goal is to destroy a car in a time limit. Yeah, someone attempted it in real life, and frankly it's a pretty good attempt.

Games to Wait For: June, Week 3

Gah, forgive this post that should have been done Friday. Lost track of time that day, and never hit submit, and this weekend was my birthday, so I stayed away from my computer most of the time.

MAG looks AMAZING. MAG, Massive Action Game, is a First-Person Multiplayer Shooter, with a maximum 256 players playing on one map at the same time. To manage the chaos that would inevitalby ensue from that, all players play in 8-player squads, with a squad leader giving commands. If you've ever played games like Battlefield or Resistance 2 in online multiplayer, shooters with high player counts during their prime, this is one of those games, and I love those games. Beyond that, the gameplay really does remind me of Battlefield, with vehicles, the ability to parashute in at times, a customizable class system...basically, this game is expanding the capabilities of Battlefield, and there's nothing wrong with that. Bigger is better in these kinds of games, as long as it doesn't crumble in on itself. Look for it sometime this year...hopefully. At least there's a beta coming out soon...hopefully. If there is, expect to see me on there. Here's the latest trailer, and the E3 footage shot by Destructoid.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

New Tech: The Table Computer

Spotted on Engadget.

All this talk about me putting together a new computer, and then I see this thing. It's a computer built into a table, it looks amazing, and I want it. You can see all of the wiring and components, yet it's all put together so well that you wouldn't mind it. Of course, it's also expensive, requiring a 1kW power supply, running not only the actual PC components, but also 13 fans, glycol cooling, and the neon light show you see. Check out the article on Popular Mechanics, and you may be able to build your own (once you get the cash for it).

Monday, June 15, 2009

Daily Scribbles: Video Game Icons You Should Know

It's kinda random, but I read this post about a Senator using Pac-Man to represent the Federal Debt. That alone warrents this post, but what I found unnerving was that, once again, the News spouted out that this was "for videogame junkies" transitioning to the post.

Why the hell do you have to be a "videogame junkie" to know who Pac-Man is!?

You hear generalizations like this on just about every major news network when the post is related to video games (and not trying to defame them). National and local channels, and on some of the websites as well. Really? If you don't know who Pac-Man is by now, good sir or madam, you are either retired or have just come out from under that rock. So, here's a personal list - and I'm sure there are more the common people will know - of characters you should know. If you don't, educate yourself! You'll better yourself for it. I'll leave inatimate objects out of this, however.

Pac-Man: Why the hell don't you know Pac-Man? First gaming icon ever. Hell, if you've seen a pie chart, you've most likely seen Pac-Man and just don't know the name.

Ms. Pac-Man: Add a bow on Pac-Man and you have the missus. First "female" gaming icon, technically.

Mario: If you don't know Mario, SLAP YOURSELF. Someone needs to hit some sense into you, and you're not with society so there can't be anyone near you to do so.

Bowser: The original story of Mario: Save the princess from the giant fire-breathing turtle. Bowser is said turtle.
Princess Peach: Same as above, except Peach is said princess.

Sonic: If you didn't have Nintendo, you had Sega, and Sonic became just has famous as Mario at one point. Once you're in the Macy's Day Parade, everyone can point you out, especially if you're a blue hedgehog.


Samus: Who I consider to be the first female gaming icon. Kinda sad that when she was revealed to be female, everyone was in a state of surprise, but considering that typically females in games were damsels in distress, it's understandable.

Pikachu: You couldn't do anything without seeing him during the height of the Pokemon Craze.

Megaman: The blue robot who has threatened many a controller's destruction, and there are just way too many Megaman games to really not know about him. Unfortunately, that means multiple versions of him, which may confuse some. Just remember he's blue and has a cannon for an arm...typically.

Master Chief: Even if you've never played Halo, you most likely know someone who has at one point at a time...and he's made you play the game with you.

Now see, doing all of this...This makes me a videogame junkie. Proud of it, too. Don't pass the title around like a collection plate, please.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Games to Wait For...June, Week 2

Can't wait for Marvel vs. Capcom 2 on the Playstation Network.

Ok, this was a given, considering all of the ranting I've done about it...but if MvC2 does online gameplay properly, I'll be playing this game for days after I grab it. It's no MvC3, but it'll do for now. I already own the PS2 copy, and it works fine on the PS3...but damn it if I'm not a nut over this game, and I'm not the only one. Get the download, and maybe a free bonus soundtrack, June 29.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Video of the Week: Gotcha!

Kajetokun, creator of the 9000 meme and more, has posted another favorite of mine, and is now one of the reasons I'll be picking up Monster Hunter Freedom Unite when it comes out on the PSP in America.

Friday, June 05, 2009

What I See: The PSP Go, and Digital Distribution

E3 had Sony announce the PSP Go (though it was leaked out just beforehand), and personally, if I didn't already have my new PSP-3000, I would jump on it the second it came out. While the smaller screen is a bit of a deterrent, I love the convenient size of it, The slide-out feature, and the fact that it has a 16GB Solid State Drive (I've recently become a fan of these things). But while they added the drive, they took out the UMD access, which means all the UMDs I've purchased would be incompatable with the PSP Go. Following that, however, is this news post stating that they are currently working on a solution to allow people with UMDs to exchange and get digital copies. While some, including me, think this is pretty good, there's a storm of people furious over possibly losing their physical UMDs and boxes.

I know everyone's freaking out about the loss of hard copies of games if they switch to Digital only. Losing a physical means of the game is, honestly, a little messed up in my mind, especially losing the box art. The risk of losing the data on an HD is pretty intimidating as well...

However, I honestly look at it this way: I buy the game, I download it to my PC, and I burn a copy of it to CD/DVD. It's an extra step, both from getting your solid media and then transferring it from the disk to the PC to the PSP, but at least the only way you can lose that data is if the disk is scratched beyond repair, just like any other solid media today, and there is still the chance of re-downloading it even after that point if the service is still available. Yeah, it may not be as pretty, but since this is the way technology will advance, the consumer may simply have to deal with it in this way if he still wants physical and wants his product. Besides, then I get to customize the covers as much as I want.

I would loathe Sony if they forced us to go digital via repurchasing the games I've already had. And yes, they should have this whole situation worked out already, but at least they are working on it now to hopefully remedy it before the PSP Go actually debuts. The method in which they do this, however, does worry me a little. The trade-in system...That would be very cumbersome, trading in every individual UMD for a code to download a game. However, you can't simply do the "get the serial off the box to download" because I myself have a couple of UMDs w/o the box or missing a serial number because I got it used, plus the disks don't have a serial on them...

To those who mention the piraters...they're already doing this kind of thing to the digital downloads anyway, those who act as pirates with their custom firmware PSPs. It is, however, more difficult to modify a digital download PSP game to play on a CFW PSP, than to simply create an ISO of the UMD via the CFW and then play off said ISO on the PSP's memory stick.

Used game sales...Yeah, that's what is going to be in trouble. Good luck selling digital copies...

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Programs for $0.00: Paint.NET

Paint.NET is essentially a dumbed down Photoshop that can be downloaded for free.

...What, you wanted more? Oh, alright, I guess I should put actual effort into this.

The program has many of the simpler capabilities for modifying and creating images, such as cropping, creating new shapes, photo effects such as grayscale and blurring, a layers system, gradients and alpha transparency...believe me when I say that this really is just a simplified version of Photoshop, or if you want to think otherwise, a greatly upgraded version of Windows' default Paint program. This is by no means a bad thing.

The interface, while it overall requires a .NET 3.5 download, is quick, intuitive, and simplified. An info bar at the bottom of the program tells you what tools can do based on what you do next with said tool, and it can export to various file formats. Still want to do more with Paint.NET? There are plugins for extra features and file format exports on their forums, developed by other Paint.NET users.

I actually own an older copy of Photoshop, and I got rid of it for Paint.NET. Who wants to wait a good minute for everything to load up on Photoshop properly when all I'm working on is a simple screenshot modification most of the time? 5-10 second boot time, I'm seeing a blank canvas and I can get straight to work. Don't get me wrong, if you need to do the professional stuff, pay the money and pick up Photoshop (or use GIMP, another $0 product). Otherwise, save the cash for something really worth purchasing, like a Wii, and grab Paint.NET instead. Also, 5 points if you can name the thing (if you can call it that) I drew.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Games to Wait For...June, Week 1

New segment! With E3 going on this week. I'd figure now would be the best time to start up "Games to Wait For." Every week, I'll be featuring one or two games set to come out soon in the US that I will most likely buy.

I'd have done Infamous if the segment started last week, but since that's already out, let's talk Prototype. I've always been a fan of sandbox games, and Prototype seems to be following up on that quite well. You're a shapeshifter, essentially, and not only can you kill and destroy...oh just about anything besides some buildings (maybe), you can change your combat style to do as such, run and jump like a superhuman parkour expert, and absorb other people for knowledge and to copy their looks. Makes for some interesting stealth missions, in my opinion. It all looks amazing, too.
I can't wait for this game, it'll be one of those games I'd pick up and play after I've already beaten it. Look for it June 9th.