Sunday, March 31, 2013

Plug: Amazon Prime

Note: this blog has been migrated to Medium, with the articles here available to preserve permalinks Please see this post at

Many people don't realize it, but Amazon Prime is probably the best subscription deal on the internet. I discovered it through their six month trial for students, and I am hooked. Not only do you get free two-day shipping on most items, but you also basically get Netflix for cheaper. This year I used it to watch all ten seasons of Stargate SG-1 and all five seasons of Stargate Atlantis (which alone is worth way more than the $40 a year that it costs me.)
Prime also has another advantage over Netflix; Netflix has to wait until an entire season of ongoing shows has come out before they have it. I'm pretty sure that this is because they follow the DVD release schedule. Amazon Prime, on the other hand, usually has episodes available the day after they air. The only catch is that it usually costs $2-$3 for each new episode. For a show like Doctor Who I am definitely willing to pay that much to watch each episode as they come out.

Thanks Amazon, for replacing my TV channels and DVD collection all at once.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Bioshock Infinite Review

Note: this blog has been migrated to Medium, with the articles here available to preserve permalinks Please see this post at

Holy cow, I haven't gotten this sucked into a game since Half-Life 2! And Half-Life 2 resulted in my mother banning me from video games for two weeks. My mother isn't at college with me, so my productivity went down the drain. Bioshock Infinite came out at 11:00 on Monday evening (Central Time) and I finished it 38 hours later at 1:00 Wednesday afternoon. 

During that time I spent 13 hours in the game.

That's one-third of my time.

That's more time than I spent sleeping.

I have no self-control.

Not only did I spend a ton of my time in the game, but even when I had to leave it I was thinking about it; I couldn't get it out of my head!

So let's get into the stuff that you probably want to know about the game. It's a first-person shooter, single-player, linear, and story-based. Infinite takes the best things of the first two Bioshock games and puts them together into one game. Much like Bioshock 2, you have both your weapon and a special power (called a vigor) equipped at once, so you don't have to switch between them. Vigors are pretty much the same thing as plasmids were in the previous games, just with a different name. Unlike the previous games you can only carry two weapons at once, but ammunition is more abundant. An addition that I really appreciated was the fact that melee was assigned its own button and you didn't have to have a specific weapon equipped for it. The other addition to gameplay that they made was the skylanes. They add a lot of movement and verticality to the maps, and they are a ton of fun. Nothing quite as satisfying as zipping around, dropping down on an unsuspecting enemy and knocking them off of the city. They get a long time to wave goodbye.

Of course you're not going to pay $60 for 13 hours of fun gameplay; if you just want fun FPS gameplay you're probably playing Team Fortress 2 right now. The story, atmosphere, and characters are the real heart of Bioshock. You play as Booker DeWitt, a man with a colored past that he would rather forget. A US Cavalry veteran and former Pinkerton who is sent to the flying city of Columbia to retrieve Elizabeth. "Bring us the girl, and wipe away the debt."

This couldn't possibly be a trap.
 When I first heard about Bioshock Infinite's setting, I thought it was just going to be the City of Rapture in the sky; Columbia is so much more than that. There are two things that give it a huge advantage over Rapture: Rapture's society had already collapsed, so pretty much all of the storytelling was done through audio recordings. Columbia is populated, and is in the middle of a revolution when you show up; this allows for much richer storytelling. It also doesn't hurt that the city itself is a joy to behold. I would just spend a while walking around and looking at whatever was around because it was all so gorgeous.

No, you can't kill the children. You monster.
This cake isn't a lie.

Another huge difference between Rapture and Columbia is the ideology behind them. rapture was founded by a crazy guy who wanted governments and religions and morality to stop telling him what to do. Columbia was founded by a crazy guy who worships the founding fathers and wants to purge the sinful world below. And of course the girl you have to rescue is the key to his plan.

That brings me to Elizabeth. If you are worried about the game being an extended escort mission, you can relax. Elizabeth can't be harmed in combat, and she comes in very handy. While fighting she will often find items that you need. If you are low on health, she'll often toss you a medkit; if you're burning through a bunch of clips she'll toss you some ammunition for whatever gun you're using. She can also bring certain items into our world from parallel universes, and you get to choose which ones will benefit you the most.

She's also the most emotionally engaging video game character that I can remember encountering. Even though there isn't any player choice, I legitimately felt guilty when she got mad at Booker for lying to her, and I rushed through a few levels after she was captured because I was desperate to rescue her.

The whole alternate-realities thing is more than just a convenient gameplay tool, it pops up quite a bit in the storyline. For example, the technology that keeps the city floating has to do with quantum entanglement or some such fiddle-faddle. It starts getting pretty crazy about halfway through, which is one of the reasons that I was so engaged; I wanted to find out how it would all get resolved.

On a related note you should all buy the game and finish it as quickly as you can because I want someone who I can talk to about the ending of the game. None of my friends have finished the game yet, and it is driving me crazy.

Issues of racism and classism come up quite a bit throughout the course of the game (that's the whole reason the rebellion is happening after all) and from a modern perspective we can all agree that having separate bathrooms is wrong. So I don't feel the need to go into it.

Random screenshots time!

Somebody watches Doctor Who.

If you want to see all of my screenshots you can head over to my Steam profile. They have a nice spoiler tag now so it will warn you about any screenshots that might give away important things.

Instead of giving games a 1-10 score I like to give them a reasonable price point. Bioshock Infinite is definitely worth $60, even though it isn't very long. When I finished I felt extremely satisfied with the game, I wasn't longing for the story to continue or anything. The awesome story, Elizabeth, and gameplay are the huge selling points of this awesome title.


There are a few DLCs planned, and I have purchased the season pass because I have faith that they will be worth it.

EDIT: you can now read my review of the Burial at Sea DLC.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

First They Came...

Note: this blog has been migrated to Medium, with the articles here available to preserve permalinks Please see this post at

Google Reader is one of my favorite products from Google, but it is one of their lesser-known ones. It is a feed reader, which means that whenever certain sites post new content it tells me and in many cases it presents the entire content of the post right there. This means that I don't have to go and individually visit every webcomic, blog, podcast, and news site that I like to read. I just keep Google Reader open and when there are unread articles I open them right there. Pretty powerful, huh? I know that many of you visit this blog when you see me posting about a new article on Google+ or Facebook; but that method becomes pretty bad if you are trying to follow many blogs.

One of the blogs that I read is the Official Google Blog. About two years ago they started "spring cleaning," which means retiring old products that nobody uses anymore. I followed this news with interest, and while a few interesting products got taken down (Google Wave) I had used almost none of them (Google Desktop and Related Pages were the exceptions, but I didn't use them extensively.) But today I saw another post with the spring cleaning title, and as I read through it my blood ran cold.

Google Reader is retiring on July 1st 2013.

After I finished swearing at my monitor and sending a distressed email to +Ryan Rampersad (who is also an avid feed reader) I calmed down enough to think about it.
I can understand that not that many people use Google Reader, because most people don't know what an RSS feed is.
However, Reader had enough users to warrant a switch to the almost-flat design that graces most Google pages. Compare it to Google Code's homepage, which looks like a webpage from over five years ago.
Does maintaining Reader really take that much work? Can't Google just keep it as it is for minimal cost?

I guess I know hoMartin Niemöller felt when he wrote these words:
First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.
Then they came for the socialists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Catholic.
Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.
Okay, so this isn't nearly as serious, but still. Somebody tell Google that Reader is a wonderful, easy-to-use tool that many people love!
I guess we all know that the only thing to do is to find an alternative feed reader. I'll take a look around, see what's out there. If anyone has suggestions, shoot me an email.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Mass Effect 3 Citadel Review

Note: this blog has been migrated to Medium, with the articles here available to preserve permalinks Please see this post at

Unfortunately Origin doesn't have a built-in screenshot function, so I don't have any pretty pictures to show you.
This DLC was definitely aimed at Mass Effect veterans, those of us who have played through since the first game and have a history with each character. Bioware specifically wrote it to be one final hoorah with your favorite crewmates. Just watch the trailer, you'll see what I mean.

There are two main parts to this DLC; the first is the mission where somebody is trying to kill you and you have to get the crew together to take them down. Since my Shepard is already at level cap, it wasn't really a challenge. The real appeal was getting to hear my crew members bantering the whole time. Even when there was a major plot twist and I was expecting them to get serious, they just took it in stride and even made fun of the new situation. I love my crew. Some crew members got more time in the spotlight than others, but everyone had at least a few good lines. Even crew members who aren't part of your combat squads (Cortez, Traynor, and of course Joker) got a few good moments.

The second part is just hanging out in your new apartment. You get to throw a party and invite whoever you want to. I of course invited everybody, and we had a wild good time. Tali is hilarious when she gets wasted. I loved every minute of that party.
Even after the party is over there is a new area of the citadel for you to check out. There is a casino, an arcade, and a combat simulator that you can use; you can also meet up with a few of your crew members and hang out with them. Garrus is terrible at hitting on chicks.

I enjoyed it more than any of the other DLCs in the franchise, and I would definitely recommend it to anybody who is a Mass Effect fan. $15 is a very reasonable price for the great time you'll have.

In case you were wondering if you should get any of the other DLCs in the series, here is a quick recap:
Mass Effect: there are no DLCs for the original game.

Mass Effect 2: if you are on PC you have to go to to buy the DLCs

  • Obviously you should get all of the free ones, especially Zaeed and Kasumi. They are cool characters.
  • If you are willing to pay anything for any of the DLCs, the Shadow Broker is the first one you should get. It was awesome; you're tracking down the Shadow Broker and you get to hang out with Liara again. $10.
  • Arrival was pretty cool too, and it's scope is huge. It also has ramifications at the beginning of Mass Effect 3. $7.
  • Overlord was alright; it had an interesting moral quandary but it's not an essential buy. $7.
  • The rest are alternate costume packs for your crew or weapon packs. If you're into that kind of thing you can get them. I didn't.
Mass Effect 3: you can buy the DLCs through Origin, which is a much better solution than Bioware's website
  • Again, get the free ones.
  • Get Citadel. Just do it. $15. You can afford that.
  • Leviathan was really interesting, and it gave us some insight to the origins of the Reapers. I liked it. $10.
  • Omega was a fun romp through everyone's favorite seedy space station. You get to work side-by-side with Aria, but you can't take any of your crew members with you. I had a good time with it, but again it isn't essential. At $15 you might want to skip it, depending on how much you enjoy talking to Aria.
  • From Ashes adds a Prothean crew member to your squad. It was one of those day-one DLCs that everyone was pissed about, and I didn't get it. $10.
  • There are a bunch of multiplayer weapon packs and stuff. If that kind of thing matters to you, go ahead and buy some.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

A New Era of Journalism

As anyone who will listen to me for more than five seconds knows, I have a podcast. Inspired by +Ryan Rampersad and +Matthew Petschl's show At The Nexus +Ian Decker and I hatched the idea to start a weekly video game show. And so Eight Bit was born.

We recorded our first episode almost exactly six months ago, and so far we haven't missed a week. We've also managed to have guests on the show for most of the episodes. All of the guests to date have been friends of ours, and we usually brought them on to review games that neither of us had played.

Imagine our surprise when we get this email:
Hi! I was told I should get in touch with you about potentially talking about our new project, Net Gain: Corporate Espionage.
If you'd like to check up on it, you can see our popular Kickstarter here:

Thank you!

~John Gosling
 My initial reaction was "There is no way this is real. No way a real developer heard about us. Did one of our listeners tell them about us? No way."
But lo, the Kickstarter looks legitimate, and his email address is in the domain. They even have a few games that they have already made! So I had to come to terms with the fact that a real Indy developer wanted to be on our show. Now how did he hear about us?

I started snooping around the Kickstarter page, and after determining that the game sounds worth it, I backed it. Then I looked at the list of other backers. One profile picture jumped out at me. +Chris Thompson was one of the backers! Chris is one of the hosts of Control Structure, the Computer Science-themed show on the network.

Long story short, Chris had contacted John about being on Control Structure, and John found out about our show. Since ours is the gaming show he wants to be on our show to talk about the game, and he will also be on Control Structure to talk about some other topic.

I am super excited about this opportunity, and I am still a little flabbergasted that it just fell into our lap the way it did. John is scheduled to appear on our show on March 17th, so look for that episode on the website right after St. Patrick's Day.