Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Welcome Back...Again

Hey There Everybody!

How has life been treating you?

It has been a long time. I know, I promised a comeback before. I did not live up to it. Lately, there has been much going on that I want to talk about. From the personal level to a world-wide level, so much has changed; yet, so much is the same. I do not even know where to start!

Where to start?...where to start?

This first post will just be a bunch of random tidbits, I guess. Get some feelings out. Hopefully some people will read and connect.

First, let's talk about my career some. I just passed my 6-year mark with Accenture. Really, despite some hard work, it is a fantastic company to work for. I have gone from being an Associate Developer to being an Associate Manager. It is funny how so many long days turn into years flying by in what seems like short-order. Everyday, I am challenged in my role. I love it and I love to hate it. Accenture has given me opportunities I would have never imagined possible. I work with a fantastic group of people that want nothing more than to see and help everybody around them grow and succeed. There is a core group on my project that really stick together through thick and thin. We are being asked to work on what seems to be an impossible task, yet I really feel that with our group we will persevere. I would really like to discuss some of the things I am learning and doing everyday, so I will devote some posts specifically to that.

Probably the single most awesome thing that has happened in my time with Accenture has been the opportunity to work with an international team and travel to India several times. A lot of people around me do not understand the allure, but I say they simply have not been there to experience it. Going to India has really opened my eyes and perspectives on the world. Being somebody that has not traveled much beyond the west coast of the US, it was really something. Before I left for the first time, many people attempted to shape my expectations and direct my explorations. On my first trip, I decided to drop all expectations and let myself form my view from personal experience. Without a doubt, my world was turned upside down (I was upside down compared to US?).

On a personal level, life has been shaky.

My son is now 5. He just started kindergarten this last week. How crazy is that? It is so amazing to watch young people grow into themselves. Every single day at that age, it is possible to witness possible growth and experience being gained.

Marriage? Hmmmmm........well.......you see.......thing is.......I hate feeling like people are trying to control me. I really do aim to please. Why does that always have to lead to being taken advantage of? I do not really understand. So, my marriage is in limbo. Really, no good reason to be in limbo. It is over; however, the lady does not want to make it easy. She has no problem collecting money each month as if we are divorced, but does not want to actually finish the divorce. What is really terrible about it is how the kids are doing. Forget us and our nonsense. There are two kids that I spent the better part of a decade with which are no longer really a part of my life. Then there is our own child together which is being torn by having to spend half of his time with his mother and half of his time with his father. Do you think a child cares that his parent's do not like each other? NOPE! Every child just wants their mom and dad to be together despite any issues. It is really tough.

Friends? Fuck them. I have disavowed all of them. It kind of goes back to the marriage thing. Thing is, I made these friends when I was young and dumb. I am still dumb, but a bit older. When we were all more or less equal, it was great. However, as I continued to grow as a person, I started seeing that it caused strains on those relationships. My mother used to tell me that if you want to be successful then you should associate with those who are more successful than you. Little did I understand that those in the same circle would go to great lengths to keep you at their level.

Video games? I wish! Although, I am one of the lucky few that has managed to secure a Nintendo Switch. Despite a distinct lack of games at this point, I love the concept of the console. I have been playing Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. At first, I did not care for it much. However, now that I have continued playing it, it is really drawing me in. Before the Switch came along, I was not gaming much for some time. I did beat Final Fantasy XIII sometime in the early winter, but even that was a bit of a rare occasion.

Why am I back? Why now? Well, lots of things have been happening. Many times I have thought to come back and simply start writing. Put it out there to the world. Those people that want to read can and those who do not do not have to. I have so many things in my head I would like to share, but no real outlet for any of it. This is my place and I plan on coming back to write. It took awhile to convince myself to do it, but I have read all of my old posts and was actually quite surprised/inspired.

I am not sure what my first topic will be, but look for it to be up before the end of the weekend.

Welcome back!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Postmortem Review: Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One - My View on The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

   Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One is the newest entry in the Ratchet & Clank franchise. Most of the over the top baddie blasting platform action is back. Best of all, 4 players can join in for co-op blasting goodness.

The Good
Ratchet & Clank + Multiplayer = Awesome

   My kids, wife, and I have enjoyed Ratchet & Clank since the first times we laid eyes on them. For us, Ratchet & Clank is to the PlayStation what Mario and Luigi are to the Nintendo. Finally, we can all enjoy the great platforming experience together. Ratchet & Clank has great potential as a multiplayer game. At the very least, it is not a kart racer.

Big Booms Sound Good on Big Speakers
   For me, the biggest excitement in R&C came from ganging up on the bigger enemies. When players focus their fire on a single enemy, they get a damage multiplier and a meter on the enemy begins to fill. When it gets to a certain point, the enemy blows up. If you have a proper sound system, the KABOOM! is fantastic. While it was the same boom every time, it never got old to me.

Visually Stunning
   The Ratchet & Clank series has always been one of the most aesthetically pleasing games on the PlayStation consoles. The environments are vibrantly colored, there are all kinds of objects to look at, the character skins and movements are great, and the explosions are absolutely wonderful. This latest entry does not disappoint in the visuals department and reminds us all why high definition and 3D were simply meant to be.

The Bad
Can we fix the interface next time around?

   Insomniac Games has come up with a very intuitive system for selecting weapons in the Ratchet & Clank and Resistance series. Unfortunately, it fell apart in Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One. The player selects weapons and gadgets from a wheel that comes up when the player presses the right analog stick. There are a few different wheels to select from, which can be sorted through by pressing L1 and R1. Pretty straight-forward in theory. When you are playing though, your finger is likely on the R1 button when you bring up the weapon wheel. This can lead to you selecting a different weapon than you intended. Add the frustration of having the game pause when multiple people open the wheel at the same time and you constantly have the wrong weapon selected. I tried to use the hot-key system, but then I found that I was constantly trying to swap things in and out of my four hot-key slots. If it is too much of a pain, it should not be.

Nothing New
   As far as innovation goes, All 4 One is a step backwards in the R&C franchise. Multiplayer is great, but why does it have to be at the expense of great gameplay? The platforming has been oversimplified for this entry; perhaps to make it easier for multiple characters at one time. At the same time, the arsenal is less fun than it has been in previous games. Where is the Groovitron? Why isn't Mr. Zurkon that great of a weapon anymore? The lack of more or new makes this game seem as if it would more appropriately fit in with the oldest entries in the franchise.

I Want Six-Axis Control
   I miss six-axis control. Since the beginning of PlayStation 3, the six-axis has gotten a bad reputation. Now that The Move is out, the six-axis is long forgotten. Our controllers still have the functionality though and Ratchet & Clank was one of the few series to put the functionality to good use. With a little bit of creative thought, we could go back to having segments where the heroes are controlled with six-axis movements instead of directional buttons. Sure, it can take a little getting used to, but cleverly placed six-axis control segments adds to the level of immersion in the game.

The Ugly
Wait a second.....this isn't a Ratchet & Clank game!?

   When the first announcements for R&C: All 4 One came, I wondered to myself, "Why isn't 'Future' in the title?" When we started playing the game, the answer became immediately obvious. All 4 One is not here for the story. It does not bother to follow the Ratchet & Clank storyline at all; nor does it attempt to make excuses for it. At times, I wondered if this were truly a Ratchet & Clank game or just another top-down shooter with Ratchet & Clank character models dropped in.

PS3 Multiplayer Done Wrong
   Game publishers should look to how local multiplayer is implemented in the Little Big Planet games in order to gain a good idea on how to do it right. Most often, when I am playing a multiplayer game in my house, I am playing with my kids whom also have their own profiles on the PlayStation. All of the bonuses we earn for playing together on my profile should also be reflected in their profiles. To be fair, Little Big Planet is pretty much the only game I know of to do this. I understand that implementation of a design could get sticky; but really, we could work a system to allow character progression in the particular player's profile.

Did it Save?
   Especially when just starting to play R&C: All 4 One, it is not obvious when exactly the saving is taking place. After a while, you learn it is after points are counted, but even so, there were times that it seemed like we played the same area over and over again because the game simply did not save. We can fix this easily, but nobody seems too concerned. The text "SAVING" with the icon would be a lifesaver for the fans, but instead we insist on having an icon that looks similar to every other icon that appears in that exact location on screen. Is it saving now? Oh, no, that was the stupid loading icon again.

   For a four player game, Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One is great fun. Anybody that has played the other R&C games will love to have a shot on the co-op. Unfortunately, fans looking for some new weapons and gadgets and some innovating platforming will have to keep waiting.

Welcome Back

   Welcome back everybody! It has been a long time, but I think I am ready to continue on with blogging. I have been considering coming back for a while, so I have read most of my old posts. One thing I can say for sure: my life has changed incredibly since March. Even more since this time last year.
   First thing I have to say, I am having a baby boy! We are expecting in April. This is an exciting time in the pregnancy. First, because we just found out the sex of the baby which means we can continue preparing for the baby. Second, we can feel the baby moving all day every day. He is going to be a very active kid it seems.
   The second big change is a new job. I had spent a lot of time working on resumés in the last year; even wrote a bit on resumé writing here. I was starting to feel the pinch for money, so I put my resumé to good use. Apparently, I write a decent one, because I got the job on the first try. I work for a gigantic technology consulting firm, Accenture. I am an associate software developer for them. So far, it has been a wonderful experience. I am also still working in quality assurance on the side.
   I have several other things going on too, but really, I will start talking about what I am here to talk about.
   I have been doing a lot of gaming, and I have a couple of reviews going into editing, almost ready to post. Some of the games I have completed over the last few months include Ico, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, NBA Jam, and Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One. I am playing a couple of other games as well, so blogs for those will be coming. I bought an iPad, actually, two. They are awesome and I will have a tech blog for that. I also have some programming discussions in the works as well as some process discussions. I do believe I will continue with Wednesday's Wallpaper too, so check it out.
   I think I have given enough for a quick read today. I hope everybody had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I also hope all of you Black Friday shoppers are getting a good rest by now. It feels good to be back. In leaving, I will give you a new track from one of my all-time favorite bands, Cake.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Weekly Plan: 3/14/2011 - 3/20/2011

   Well, I hardly made it back to the side projects last week. However, the shape of my plans are changing a little bit this week. I have not yet gotten my own Android project off the ground, but a friend wants to do a collaborative project. We started brainstorming game ideas today. Hopefully, by the end of the week, we will have a solid idea as well as some code going.
   I will be having some busy days at work, so most everything else will be on the back-burner at the moment. I am trying to get some games finished so I can write some good game reviews. Also, due to popular demand, I will be hunting down a fun to play free game this week. I have not had time to look for free games with everything else going on, but really, getting the word out on some free games benefits everybody. The developers love some buzz about their games, even if it is a bit critical. They still like having people go play their games. Besides, I always recommend you form your own opinion on any game I review. Just because I do not think it is the greatest does not mean you will not have serious fun.
   Finally, I will have at least one book review this week, if not two. I am within 20 pages of finishing The Parent Plan. This is an excellent parenting book. I also read Sam's Teach Yourself Android Application Development in 24 Hours which I think was HORRIBLE.
   This is the first week since we have been back in Sacramento that we do not have plans for the weekend. Of course, this does not mean we do not have a list of "want to do's" to attend to. I believe we may be taking a trip to Old Sacramento and a museum this weekend. I also have a remote control helicopter that has sat in its box the whole several years it has been in my possession. I am going to charge it up and we will give it a shot. Hope for no rain. If there is rain, well, Rock Band is always a great rainy day filler.
   Between work and trying to get a collaborative project going, my week will be pretty busy. As you can see, have plenty more going on though. What is going on in your life this week?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Cool Stuff Watch: Brain Quest

* What? Brain Quest *
* Why? Trivia Fun *
* How Much? $10 *
* Where? Barnes and Noble *
* Really? It is like "Are You Smarter *
* than a 5th Grader", Only Your *
* Kid Shows You Up *

   My wife bought Brain Quest earlier today. Those that do not know what it is, look at the listing, here at Barnes&Noble.com. Wanting to be a bit above our kids' level, she bought the fourth grade version.
   While it is my personal belief that trivia itself is worthless in most educational settings, I think practicing it is great stimulation for the mind. Apparently, my wife feels the same thing. She has been randomly spitting fourth grade trivia in my direction all afternoon. I have to admit, try as I might, I cannot stop myself from answering any question she throws my way.
   I can see many a drinking game evolving from the Brain Quest deck. If you have kids, or nothing to do, go pick one up and read up on your trivia. Next time you are at my house, you might find yourself taking a shot if you do not know the answer!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Wednesday's Wallpaper

   Welcome to Wednesday everybody. Being on the West Coast of the US of A, I am guessing most people's days are right about over by now. I know many of you may be having a bad week, which is too bad. Unfortunately, I cannot solve your problems for you, but I can do something. I can give you a little piece of me, or at least, a link to the wallpaper that I am currently using as my desktop background.
   Of course, Wednesday's Wallpaper is a direct ripoff of Life Hacker's Wallpaper Wednesday (click to go to site).
   This week, I give you a wallpaper that I found at my old favorite wallpaper site, animewallpapers.com. (Click to follow link) This wallpaper is based on an anime series that I have never seen, Nadia: Secret of Blue Water. This was posted by the user, Lavabug, whose blog you can reach by clicking here.
   I hope you like it. Next week, I will try to give you one of my originals!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Experiment with Ubuntu - Buh-Bye Windows XP

   Recently, a friend of mine has been talking about wanting to switch his operating system (OS) from Windows Vista to a Linux OS. His reason for wanting to switch over is to lessen the memory footprint from Vista in order to be able to run World of Warcraft more responsively. Being the proud owner of a laptop that once ran Vista before it fried its own motherboard, I feel the pain of any Vista user that just wants out; especially the 64-bit users.
   I have also taken a personal interest in the Linux OS currently available, but for different reasons. I have a lot of hardware that is loosely connected in the very much insecure ways of Windows 7 OS. Not only that, but I have multiple monitors hooked up to single machines. Windows 7 only offers a simple selection to either span the screen across the monitors (with much reduced functionality on the secondary monitor), duplicate the displays, or use one or the other display. Most people with multiple monitors hooked to one rig; myself, namely, would actually like to have each monitor work as its own workspace; with functionality that is wholly independent of the other workspace. Linux supposedly offers quick and easy solutions to both network security and multiple monitor support.
   In order to help my friend out as well as serve my own needs, I have decided to switch my Windows XP laptop over to Linux. Most people in America know next to nothing about Linux. The first thing to know is that many major distributions of the OS are free. It is an excellent go to if restoring a paid OS will cost more than it is worth. There are many flavors of Linux, definitely some are worth more than others. I decided to do some research on which OS I might go with. One article I read at Linux.com (click to read) had some great information on different popular OS in the Linux family.
   In the past, I have worked with Red Hat Fedora, which I do not care for much. The OS certainly does everything it is supposed to. It also works with most devices that Windows works with. That is, you really do not need to worry too much if your hardware is compatible these days. Most hardware that came stock in your machine will have a Linux-compatible driver either from the manufacturer or the Linux community. Plug-n-play devices also tend to work very well with the drivers available. The thing I do not like about Fedora though is that it still leaves many of the low-level OS processes up to the end user. This is a great choice if you want a Windows-type environment, but next to no processes running in the background.
   Being a typical end-user type of guy, I am okay with background processes, especially if they do not add up to the footprint left on a machine running Vista. However, I really like the fact that the computer is capable of handling processes itself and seek to keep a lot of that in my OS. After reading the article linked above, I decided Ubuntu would be the OS for me. Ubuntu supposedly offers a great end-user experience and also has strong offerings in terms of multimedia and applications support.
   So the transition begins. Now, anybody looking to do the same should understand something important. The transition will not be seamless, but a 100% rate between hardware and Ubuntu should be very possible. One way to ensure all of your hardware comes online as expected is to go to the manufacturer's website for your computer and write down all of the hardware in your computer. Because Microsoft and Apple want owning one of their products to be similar to being part of an exclusive club, you should expect to have to hunt down drivers for a lot of your hardware when switching from one of these OS. Luckily, the Linux community has gone a long way to making this process painless. Google searches should return quick and reliable results. Microsoft and Apple believe that if they make the process of change difficult, people will not change. For most, this may be true; however, there is no need to be deterred by their bumps in the road.
   In reality, the hardware transition is the easy part if you are accustomed to the application suites offered by Microsoft. Many things do have Linux equivalents, but not all. You should be able to find a productivity suite that provides the same functionality as Microsoft Office and is even compatible with all Office standard formats, but be prepared for the fact that they are simply not Microsoft Office. A bigger concern to some is that many games do not even consider Linux an OS. In some cases, there are workarounds; however, in many more cases, you will have to accept that you simply cannot run the game on your OS. DirectX, a popular format for developing games, is a Microsoft thing. Good luck getting any love from Microsoft on that.
   For those of you still not deterred, I say, give it a shot. So far, I do not have everything set up the way I would like it. However, I am very happy with the look and feel of Ubuntu. Hopefully I will be able to help my friend set up his rig in a similar fashion and his WoW playing days will be better than ever. I do not yet have the multiple monitor support fully worked out. I also do not have the server working yet. However, I will write another post in about a week with an update on how it goes. If it goes well, I may very well become a nothing-but-Linux type guy.