Sunday, June 23, 2013

Surviving the Google Reader Breakup

As a long time RSS subscriber, I was devastated to hear that Google has decided to shut down Google Reader. Reader was a well received program that was very popular among blog readers. This decision left the loyal, albeit potentially small, fan base with a huge hassle on their hands.

It wasn't just a matter of finding another source to feed our favorite blogs into but the importing of so many individual subscriptions could be cumbersome. Many of the other RSS aggregators were even dependent on the Google Reader foundation. So what do you do now? There are plenty of options available but I recommend Taptu.

Much like the other popular replacement option, Feedly, Taptu displays feeds through a magazine style interface. Taptu requires a login and this allows you to manipulate the feeds and display options as well as carrying the same collection of feeds seamlessly to android and Amazon apps. These apps display brilliantly on my Kindle Fire and Motorola Atrix smart phone. 

The small downfall to this feeder is that individual feeds (such as the one to this site) must be added and subscribed to through one of the apps. After that they update, pull, sync, and display without flaw. Taptu as a provider also allows you to subscribe to "store" streams that Taptu has put together. They utilize a huge variety of websites to put together themes like fashion, books, politics, etc. and you can subscribe to them and customize them by fine tuning the sources that supply to your streams. These streams are also intended to be smart streams that analyze the type of posts that you read the most and provides those more frequently.

In my Google Reader, I had allowed it to get unseemly and the posts were 1000+ in two days, I sued this opportunity to really think about the blogs that I subscribe to and in this feeder, I can prioritize the blogs I read frequently and I can still have everything else. Not to mention, the color scheme is black and pink, and I am a sucker for cuteness.

What will your rebound reader be?

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Dragon's Prophet Beta First Impressions

I started playing the Dragon's Prophet beta that recently went open from SOE (Sony Online Entertainment). When starting a new game you have to really have an open mind to what it is going to be like and be willing to truly give it a chance. SOE has produced Everquest II and DC Universe and they're both free-to-play but each game is extremely unique.

Having played both of these games I went into the game with a notion that it would be more like Everquest II; it is an MMORPG fantasy after all. What I ended up seeing was something unique with a hint of a combination of both of their previous hits.

Character creation is one of my favorite parts of absolutely any game; I love it! I am prone to perfecting, to hours invested, and my current re-roll record is 15 times. I love it, I love creating and manipulating and Everquest II brought to the table the best character physical creation after a longtime with WoW. Dragon's Prophet takes that even further, my (utterly true) first thought was, "Wow, these characters are sexy!"

In character creation alone, there are 7 (SEVEN!) different options that adjust boob size in some way. They put some fan service into this one. The other details are laced with new options like forearm length, foot size, waist, butt, and so much more. I spent more time than I care to admit and played with all the options. Not only can you adjust everything but it also shows you a variety of outfits to fully round out your satisfaction.

I made her in the light of what I like to call "sexy anime-ness" and you can't deny how amazing she looks. I don't just mean physically, I mean graphically. This game is destined/designed to be beautiful! I spent somewhat the same amount of time also making a viking for the manly man fans and he is equally as detailed.

I don't know if it means I am just super easy to please or amaze but I was admittedly very caught up in the character creation. Even the character selection with 3 or more characters was well done (just see it to understand). But it was about this time in my gawking phase where someone reminded me that even with a great character creation screen, chances are you are going to lose a lot of the graphic detail in game. 

I gave it thought and it was a pretty valid argument. Characters in WoW look pretty different in game than on the creation screen, but rest easy. This time SOE has perfected maintaining character image integrity in game. 

It if isn't obvious by this point, I started off a little shallow but I did make it into game play. If you start to play this game, even if you have played MMOs in the past, you should still do the tutorial, it is equivalent to the opening cinematic and sets up the story line for the three starting zones. The interface and gameplay is where the DC-U part of the combination comes into play; it is manipulated with mouse combos and a limited hotbar. It takes some getting used to but rotations are easy to learn. 

Of the 4 classes, I imagine they will play out by giving you talents and trees to specialize the direction you want to go. There is a tank tank, 2 ranged, and a priest style class. You start out doing massive damage even at level 7, so its confusing to imagine where the numbers will go to from here.

Not to far into the lore and the story but I am already hooked on this game. It is going to be free-to-play and there isn't a release date set yet but with an open beta, I doubt it will be too far behind.

Based on my first impressions, you should try this one!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Nail in Microsoft's Coffin

Sony's latest press release of PlayStation4 details seems to have changed the game. This event, in the eyes of many console fans, has sealed away any chance Xbox One had...for the time being.

There are a lot of concerns in the gaming universe about the next generation of console gaming and it seems that Sony, unlike Microsoft, knows they will make more money if people actually plan to buy the system and seem open the plight of gamers.

Many fans on the official posts and even my own Facebook comrades have mentioned several things that I agree seem to have won the contest...even if I am a Playstation over Xbox fan in general.

DRM: Digital Rights Management & Used Games
In my opinion, this is the sole differentiation between the two consoles. XBox One's move to eliminate the used game market has caused a distinct uproar in gamers everywhere. The used market (and rental market) is distinctive and beneficial to players. The biggest backing for the used game market is finances, I count myself among so many gamers that cannot afford $50 for every game they want to play. The used market gets these unwanted and unplayed games into the hands of people who can enjoy them.

Microsoft also eliminated the ease of sharing games with your friends and or taking games to a friend's house to play together. It requires importing the Live account or paying a fee or buying the game.

The Japanese genius behind PlayStation had a great answer for the consumer and their used/sharing games worries:

Always On
Sony realizes that while the social aspect of gaming may be a big focus to them and a lot of players, many players don't prefer the social or simply may not always have access to the internet. Good thing you don't need it; no always on here.

Whoa! PlayStation announced they have undercut the XBox One release price by $100 at $399.

XBox One as a TV Add-On
After watching Microsoft's livestream, I noticed they are moving into a direction that wants to make the "television screen the most important screen in the living room" as they highlighted a lot of non-gaming features as equal parts. While PlayStation will have non-gaming functions as well (Netflix reports PS3 as the most popular streaming platform & it is what I stream on)...
"The most important thing we need to do is agree and understand that the PS4 is a great video game console that appeals to video gamers. If we miss that part, I don't think we get the initial establishment of the console. That formula has worked for us with all our consoles, including the PS3...Providing other non-game content is an area we will reveal and talk about in the coming months, but it's first and foremost a video game console."
I previously had an XBox 360 and within a year I sold it to make the move to PS3. I, of course, lost Halo as a title option but the satisfaction I have always had with PlayStation was easily achieved and I have been happy with the move. This latest bought of information only serves to keep me as a Sony fan though I don't know if or when I will make the move from 3 to 4.

What are your thoughts? Are you through with XBox? What is the ultimate game changer?


Sunday, June 9, 2013

Featured Game: Neverwinter

Featured Game: June 2013

Produced by Cryptic Studios and Perfect World, this game to brings to life the world of the Forgotten Realms "as never seen before". Calling out to the hearts of Dungeons and Dragons fans and the players of MMOs, this new free to play game is built of epic proportions.

With classic D&D classes and adventures, the story of the journey unfolds over the land of Faerun and the city of Neverwinter, the Jewel of the North. In this release the action is packed.

This game changes the usual tab targeting effect of MMOs and makes for a more immersive world. There are daily events and quests, dungeons and PVP.

It was recently made official that the open beta will be closing and the release date for the live launch is June 20! Check out the trailer and some of the official details!

Explore and defend one of the most beloved cities from Dungeons & Dragons as it rises from the ashes of destruction. This action RPG set in an immersive MMO world will take you from the besieged walls of the city to subterranean passageways in search of forgotten secrets and lost treasure.
Neverwinter is a true Dungeons & Dragons experience, brought to life with the dynamic Cryptic game engine. In the classic D&D setting of the Forgotten Realms, players will explore and defend one of the most beloved cities from Dungeons & Dragons, as it rises from the ashes of destruction.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Book Review: The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

Publisher: Tor Teen
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages: 378 (Hardcover)
Series: The Rithmatist #1
ISBN-13: 9781476708645
Genre: Fantasy

More than anything, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist. Chosen by the Master in a mysterious inception ceremony, Rithmatists have the power to infuse life into two-dimensional figures known as Chalklings. Rithmatists are humanity’s only defense against the Wild Chalklings — merciless creatures that leave mangled corpses in their wake. Having nearly overrun the territory of Nebrask, the Wild Chalklings now threaten all of the American Isles. 

As the son of a lowly chalkmaker at Armedius Academy, Joel can only watch as Rithmatist students study the magical art that he would do anything to practice. Then students start disappearing — kidnapped from their rooms at night, leaving trails of blood. Assigned to help the professor who is investigating the crimes, Joel and his friend Melody find themselves on the trail of an unexpected discovery — one that will change Rithmatics — and their world — forever.

Brandon Sanderson is a bestselling author. He was hand chosen by Robert Jordan to finish the Wheel of Time series. Those facts coupled with his large fan base had me going into The Rithmatist with high expectations. He is supposedly a wonderful creator of fantasy worlds and magic styles but I found only hints of these things in this book.

Starting off, the setting for this fantasy is in a re-imagined America. In the United Isles of America there are 60 American isles like Nebraska, Georgiabama, The California Archipelago, etc. This setting and lack of explanation of world was a consistent bother throughout the entirety of this book. In a time for YA literature when America is a popular setting, the idea that Brandon Sanderson created a whole new world from America to Egyptia but lacked clear definition was extremely disappointing.

The disappointment in clarity of ideas was furthered in the concept of chalklings. The idea of chalklings and rithmatics all together was a very broad and abstract idea that took no real and definitive shape until the end of the book. It was not hard to follow but it was such a vague concept that required such technical and geometric writing that it was not balanced very well, even with illustrations.

I was also beside myself with disbelief that the book took on such a religious metaphor. The idea that Rithmatists were touched by the Master (a metaphor for God) was too much. It took on connotations and ideas that should have been left well enough alone for a fantasy escape. To tie this to another point, the history of Rithmatics was dabbled in throughout the book but it only allowed for more plot holes/questions. If Rithmatics would never have been discovered by King Gregory, why would there be Chalklings in the first place to be wild? What dark force could create the things that attack Nebrask? It's too open-ended and unanswered even to be a series.

Even when an overall idea or setting is lacking, the characters and plot have the opportunity to "fix" a book. Again, I am underwhelmed by Brandon Sanderson in that his characters and plot fell flat. Joel was a likeable enough character but at a certain point he is obsessed with Rithmatics, something he can never do, to the point he is outsmarting scholars? Prodigies exist but Joel doesn't fit into that mold either. Sometimes I found myself wanting to yell and scream at him that he is forgetting to live the life he has in leiu of his dream. Joel is poor, intelligent, and down on his luck but that doesn't make him a favorite for much.

But at least he is able to find a true friend that happens to be a girl and doesn't require romance. Melody is the one redeeming factor this book had to offer. She was quirky, her attempts at her rithmatic destiny were futile, but she was determined. There are a lot of terms to define her, and in the beginning she is quite a hassle to deal with, but in the end, she is a shining win.

Overall, this book seemed to be striving to be like Harry Potter and it failed. It ended up simply being campy, cliche, and an over used fantasy idea hidden under the guise of a unique magic system.

★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Featured Read: Dawn of the Aspects by Richard Knaak

Featured Read: June 2013
Dawn of the Aspects by Richard A. Knaak

Publisher: Simon & Schuester
Age Group: Adult
Pages: ~78 (eBook)
Series: Dawn of the Aspects Part I-V
ISBN-13: 9781476708645
Genre: Fantasy/Lore Supplement

After the fall of Deathwing, the aspects no long had their role as aspects and were left powerless and confused about the future of their kind. This 5 part eBook supplement is from the point of view of Kalecgos, the former Blue Aspect. One part of this series has been released each month starting in February and the final gripping conclusion releases June 17, 2013.


Uncertainty plagues Azeroth’s ancient guardians as they struggle to find a new purpose. This dilemma has hit Kalecgos, youngest of the former Dragon Aspects, especially hard. Having lost his great powers, how can he—or any of his kind—still make a difference in the world?

The answer lies in the distant past, when savage beasts called proto-dragons ruled the skies. Through a mysterious artifact found near the heart of Northrend, Kalecgos witnesses this violent era and the shocking history of the original Aspects: Alexstrasza, Ysera, Malygos, Neltharion, and Nozdormu.

In their most primitive forms, the future protectors of Azeroth must stand united against Galakrond, a bloodthirsty creature that threatens the existence of their race. But did these mere proto-dragons face such a horrific adversary alone, or did an outside force help them? Were they given the strength they would become legendary for...or did they earn it with blood? Kalecgos’s discoveries will change everything he knows about the events that led to the...DAWN OF THE ASPECTS.

Doctor Who: Changes in the Wind

There is no denying that I am a newvian. I put off watching Doctor Who for as long as I could. I'm not sure whether it was because typically I don't like aliens or if it was because I knew I would be that person; the person who fangirls over David Tennant or the person who was hopelessly addicted. I turned out to be both and I'm totally into the whole thing and still holding out that a blue call box will show up on my doorstep.

With that said, I have to admit that I haven't made it very far in the series, having just made it to the point where Eleven is now The Doctor. I can't say that I am looking forward to Matt Smith, I am still somewhat mourning the loss of David Tennant but I am cushioned that I know I will see him again. But recent news has convinced me to propel my watching of the show into over drive.

It is now official that Matt Smith will be leaving the show as the Eleventh incarnation during the Christmas Special of 2013. He will appear in the 50th anniversary with co-stars David Tennant and Billie Piper and then by Christmas, he will be gone.

Matt Smith has propelled both himself through the role and the concept of The Doctor to a new generation. Smith is the first of the 11 to have been nominated for a BAFTA (British Academy of Film & Television Arts) Award. He also won the 2012 Most Popular Male Drama Role for his part as The Doctor.

There is no denying that in the four year stint as The Doctor, Matt Smith has left his mark; but with the announcement of his departure of the show comes speculation of who will take his place. The Christmas Special marks the beginning of a new season, but it makes me wonder when will we the end of The Doctor. What glorious end all could there ever be, I dare not think about it.

Instead, I will just speculate on someone who might be dreamy enough to take the place then continue to wonder what interesting wardrobe they will wear for their time to come.

The speculation so far is that this could be the time that the tradition breaks and the role goes to either a black actor or a female. In the Sunday papers, names such as Idris Elba, John Hurt, and Dame Helen Mirren have been suggested.

I'm just going to have to say no. Ten times a no. I saw the name Simon Pegg was suggested by fans as well. Simon Pegg is a wonderful British Actor. But there is a major flaw in the plan as having him play The Doctor in my book:

You have to be able to admit that you see the resemblance to The Master! It is quite frightening. I don't have a dream cast at this time but I will be caught up and finished before the 50th Anniversary and until then waiting with bated breath for more on 12.

What do you think about Matt Smith leaving? Do you have a dream cast or hopeful?

TL; DR: Matt Smith is leaving come Christmas 2013. Simon Pegg cannot be 12.

Picture credits are notated in images.