Friday, September 30, 2011

Mod Your Wii...Without a Chip!

After searching for two whole years, I think I finally found the answer to my Wii modding problems. You see, I've been wanting to play Japanese games on the Wii to help improve my language skills, but buying a pre-modded Wii requires the sacrificing of an arm or leg in cash, and buying a chip and paying someone to mod it is a.) not practical where I live, and b.) still way too expensive. There's also no way I'm going to risk my system being damaged by me tinkering around with it myself.

So, I luckily found this guy who sells a product that will teach you how to mod your Wii without one of those expensive little chips, and doing so will allow one to play not only Japanese games, but emulators, DVDs, music, and all that other stuff that the Playstation 3 and Xbox can do. Unlocking the Wii is a great thing to do, but I still haven't found a relatively inexpensive way to do the same for the PS3...

Anyway, I highly recommend you check it out. The Wii was a great idea from Nintendo, although not all games lend themselves well to the motion control gimmick, but then again, not every movie lends itself well to the 3D gimmick; the Wii's biggest problem being that in a world where gaming consoles are almost little computers in themselves that can play DVDs and share online content, Wii tried to be a basic gaming console whose only real upgrades were that you could browse the Internet and shop for games you might already own on their online store. I love the virtual console as much as anyone else, but there's too few games for some systems.

So, if you're interested, go here and see if this looks like something you'd like.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Lion King 3D

I went to see The Lion King last Saturday in 3D, not so much for the 3D, but for the nostalgia factor. I was in 3rd grade when the movie first came out, and I was more than eager to see it in theaters. In fact, I can't really remember any other movie in my childhood that I was this excited to see other than Aladdin, as that was the first movie I ever saw in theaters. No, The Lion King had me excited, and it affected me in a very deep way.

Needless to say, when Disney was re-releasing it, I was excited. Unlike others on the Internet who were crying, "Cash-in!" and taunting Disney for being unable to make anything new and original, thus stooping to re-releasing older films in 3D, I personally got all tingly inside. It was such a huge part of my childhood and created so many memories for me, seeing as how you couldn't get away from the film, even in the classroom, that I couldn't wait to see it again and watch all the parents bringing in their own children to share it with them.

Now, I don't need to review the film itself, as most people have already seen it a million times. It's a great combination of humor, tragedy, and destiny that few movies manage to mingle to harmoniously with. And, yes, it knocks the socks off of Kimba the White Lion, for those in the audience ready to storm Disney Studios with pitchforks, torches, and AK-47s. And I'll also say that if you're going to knock this film, then maybe you should take a look at Disney's The Little Mermaid, which had scenes taken almost frame-by-frame from an old anime movie - although I still admit that the Disney version is superior, even if they gave it a happy ending.

The question most potential movie-goers are asking is, "Is the 3D worth it?" Allow me to give a resounding, "YES!" I was a bit skeptical at first, especially given that it's an animated film, and especially given that 3D is still in a stage where it's usually more of a gimmick than an experience, but The Lion King lends itself surprisingly well to the medium.

The opening is amazing. It was amazing all those years ago when I first saw it, and it was astounding again, leaving me awestruck. The ending was amazing as well, and the 3D gives the African savanna a depth that makes one feel as though he's looking over an actual plane on the Pride Lands. Everything just looked great, despite the fact that the movie was animated.

I really only had gripes with a few scenes. The 3D effect disappeared at times, although it was neither completely obvious or distracting, and it kind of lessoned the song "I Just Can't Wait to Be King" - a song which could have greatly beneffited it. I also expected a little more of the infamous stampede, but I was so caught up in the emotion of that scene that I honestly didn't care that wildebeasts weren't flying into my face.

So for any last-minute movie-goers wondering if they want to see this movie in 3D, I say to give it a go. It's by far the best post-production 3D film I've seen, and it manages to leave you slack-jawed a few times throughout the film. Go ahead and see it, and if you know of any kids, make sure they go see it too. Oh, and for anybody wondering, yes, this movie is still traumatizing kids, but in a good way. Everyone should see it; it's easily one of Disney's very best.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Morrowind vs. Oblvion

Internet forums, youtube, fansite, etc. are all littered with this question and variants of it: what’s better? Morrowind or Oblivion? The flame wars start and all sorts of names get thrown around, insults hurled at random people, and, in forums, the moderators either close down threads at the speed of clicks or hide away until the members start to chill a bit. As such, I am fully aware that this post will probably get me flamed. Bring it on! You’re entitled to your opinion, too. However, here’s my take on the whole Morrowind vs. Oblivion argument.

Story: So, which game had the best story to tell? Before I go on, I’m going to declare this one a tie. Both Oblivion and Morrowind had great stories, in my opinion, and for different reasons.

I loved how Oblivion just threw you into its tale and gave you this sense of urgency that Morrowind lacked. The king himself is killed whilst trying to flee his castle, but not before giving you your task and some mumbo jumbo about destiny. After which, you hear that the town of Kvatch has been destroyed. Who doesn’t want to just rush in and help those poor people? That was always number one on my list!

Morrowind’s plot was more subtle, allowing you to immerse yourself fully in the environment before unraveling your character’s role in the story. Morrowind gets points because the story seems more intricate. I didn’t feel any sense of urgency when I landed in Vvardenfell (no town to rescue and feel that surge of accomplishment), but I felt more part of the world when things finally did start picking up. That’s what is so great about Morrowind, in my opinion.

So, yes, I enjoyed them both. I have no real preference. Oblivion’s epic plotline was great for its game, and Morrowind’s plot was great for it. I know that some people bash Oblivion’s unoriginal and generic you-must-save-the-world-from-total-evil story, but, hey, that story works fine! Yes, it’s in-your-face, but it really fit with the high fantasy atmosphere of Oblivion, I think.

Setting: I’m going to get killed for this, but I preferred Oblivion’s high fantasy setting (or “familiarity” for those who insist on bashing) to Morrowind’s weird look. Morrowind’s world just looked like a place I wouldn’t want to live, whilst Cyrodil was a place I kept thinking, “You know, I could settle down here,” just about everywhere I went. Vvardenfell almost looks like the Mordor of Tamriel in certain spots, which is a real turn off.

Now, some of Morrowind looked great! The northern regions I liked well, and some of the countryside was breathtaking with the right mods, but Oblivion just looked good all around. Its architecture, city layouts, etc. all just made me feel good inside.

However, Morrowind has one huge advantage over Oblivion that made the developers look lazy: it’s not randomly generated! O how amazing Oblivion would have been if every cave and every dungeon was hand-made the way that Morrowind was! Oblivion did get bland sometimes after you’ve seen your umpteenth cave and it’s not too terribly different from any other randomly generated cave you’ve been to.

I suppose another advantage Morrowind has is that it’s a politically diverse world. Vvardenfell has many political structures and people vying to influence policy. For the politically-inclined, such as myself, this was great and added a sense of realism to Morrowind. The closest we got to that in Cyrodil was a certain racist Countess, and nothing interesting ever came of that.

The graphics, the artwork, the look: I don’t care what anybody says; Oblivion’s characters look a million times better than Morrowind’s. Sure, some of the people in Cyrodil look bloated and kind of ugly, but at least they don’t look like walking corpses! The first thing I did after booting up Morrowind and seeing the deplorable faces I had to choose from when creating my character was go get some mods! Now, I don’t consider myself a shallow person by any means, but I do want to be able to distinguish the characters I’m interacting with from Ocarina of Time’s Redeads!

Morrowind characters look like someone took a picture of someone else, cut their face out with scissors, and tried really hard to bend it into a 3D model. It just looks wrong sometimes.

Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to get a decent looking character in Oblivon. It takes a while, as the character creation tried to be the Sims 2 and just didn’t get it quite right, but it is, nonetheless, possible.

Apart from the character designs, I’m not going to nitpick. Oblivion was a newer game, and it looked better than Morrowind. I would have been shocked if the graphics didn’t improve during that time, so it doesn’t count.

Animation: Again, I’m going to go with Oblivion. I know what you’re saying. “You just said that you weren’t going to compare the two together in graphics, but you’ll compare how well animated it is?!?” Well, there’s one thing bugging me about Morrowind that has nothing to do with the level of technology as it existed back then: the way Argonians and Khajits walk! Seriously, Argonians look like constipated chickens when they’re out on a stroll. I like how they move in Oblivion.

Content: Morrowind, hands down, although it pains me to admit it. I’m going from the vanilla standpoint here (vanilla including official expansion packs and plugins), so the amount of modding for each game doesn’t count. Let’s face it, you ran out of things to do in Oblivion much quicker than you did in Morrowind. It was kind of crappy, because I found that role-playing in Oblivion was more fun than in Morrowind, but there was nothing more to do without resorting to mods! Sure, Shivering Isles added some new, and bizarre, fun to the game, but it was the only expansion pack, and it just sort of paled in comparison to Morrowind’s. Granted, this is because I love werewolves and Bloodmoon introduced them, thus radically changing gameplay if you became one.

The problem with Oblivion is that the quests, while fun, aren’t exceptionally challenging, and there just aren’t enough of them. You could try and shake things up by becoming a vampire, but vampires are treated as savage beasts in this game (no “factions”), and there’s really only one vampire-related quest. I also didn’t get how your character becomes stronger by avoiding blood. That just didn’t make much sense to me.

Now, I enjoyed some of the guild quests more in Oblivion than Morrowind. The Thieves’ Guild had some amazing twists in it and I was fully absorbed init, and The Dark Brotherhood had the Who Dun It quest has got to be one of the very best in any Elder Scrolls game ever, but Morrowind still had more to do. It takes a lot longer to get through everything in Morrowind than it does in Oblivion, and after a while, everything in Oblivion starts to look and feel the same.

I’d say the only thing Oblivion really has over Morrowind is the ability to buy and own houses. If you’re like me, you like to have a house full of your crap to really make you feel a part of the world. Oblivion does this in spades! If Morrowind had this feature, I guarantee its immersion factor would have gone up.

Gameplay: I’m going to go with Oblivion, although Morrowind has one huge advantage. A lot of what Oblivion did was pretty innovative in terms of how much interactivity a player can have with his environment. You can not only take anything you want, but you can pick it up and manipulate it. You can drag bodies all over the place if you want, or arrange something on a shelf for viewing purposes. This was a huge bonus in my book!

I also really like how it was easier to sneak and tell whether your actions with an object would count as stealing or not. When sneaking, you had this eye thing in the middle of the screen that would turn gold if you could be seen. Not to mention, you also knew when something belonged to someone else, so I didn’t run into the trouble I did in Morrowind.

I’m also going to say that I greatly enjoyed combat in Oblivion whereas it was a huge pain in Morrowind. Morrowind’s combat played like a table-top RPG; every swing of your sword and every draw on your bow had a success rate dependent on the roll of the dice, basically. That’s why my Khajit can’t hit anything with a sword to save his life, even though he’s standing right in front of the darn monster, whereas my Nord has practically zero long-range capabilities. Was Oblivion a button masher? You bet, but I enjoyed it. And it wasn’t like it took player skill in Morrowind; rather it was all chance-based.

Did Morrowind have any advantage over Oblivon? Yep, it does. Oblivion does this annoying thing of leveling monsters based on your character's level. It also gives you better items the higher leveled you are. This is bad because when your character reaches a certain level, the best armor is found in every shop, the best items can be drug out of any cave, and every cave is easily beaten. Now, I don’t mind leveling for some of the events, such as Oblivion gates or story-based battles, but I’d like to go into a cave and run away with my tail between my legs and the sad realization that that cave is just way beyond me right now. I’d also like the best armor to be hard to get, not readily available once my character’s level gets high enough. Immersion, people! As Gandalf would point out, some foes are just beyond us!

NPCs and Stuff: Yeah, what a wonderful name for a category, huh? Anyway, here we go on the non-playable characters and everything surrounding them. I don’t really have a clear-cut winner for this one, quite frankly. It’s not a tie, but it’s not like one vastly triumphs over the other. Let’s start with Oblivion, then, shall we?

The NPCs in Oblivion are much more complex. They have schedules, seem to live lives of their own, and have their own personalities. In other words, they seem more real. There are a few downsides to them, though. The first being that they have voice actors to portray them. Now, Oblivion is one of the few games that I can stand the voices in. They’re acted very well and don’t sound like dubbed characters from a Japanese RPG (stares at FF). However, there’s not much diversity among the voices, giving the (false) impression that each NPC is basically the same.

This also limits the number of topics you’re able to talk about with them. In Morrowind, the characters don’t really have voices. A few key characters do, but most characters just grumble their mandatory line as you walk past them. This is bad for Morrowind because each character really does seem to sound the same, but, because the dialogue itself is just text, you’re able to have longer, more in-depth conversations with the characters.

In Morrowind there’s was always a large variety of topics available to talk about. Granted, once you talked about “rumors” or “specific place” or whatever with one character, you probably won’t get a different response from any other characters (they all talk relatively alike, which is a negative point), but at least you can ask about so many different things. Oblivion just kind of gives you one or two topics, and if that topic proves interesting, you might get a few different options to talk about. In a way, it makes conversing more streamlined, but it also feels very limited compared to Morrowind. I’m willing to bet that they did this because of having to pay the voice actors.

As far as both games go, I was kind of sad that they each would sometimes present a very interesting character and then never really delve into anything special with him or her. I found the racist Countess in Oblivion to be very interesting (even rumored to have a torture chamber under her castle where she kills Khajits and Argonians), but this wasn’t expanded upon at all! There was also a certain man who was a vampire, and I really didn’t expect someone like him to be one, yet he’s a relatively background character, aside from a quest. The Gray Fox was interesting, and Sheogorath was another well-developed character, but they seemed to have skimmed over a number of potentially interesting characters.

My Dream Elder Scrolls Game: So, what would be the very best game, in my opinion? Off the top of my head, I can say that there are a number of things I’d like. The first would be Skyrim-style graphics. If the trailer actually represents the game’s actual look, I’d say that’s a good sign. Definitely good graphics, and, of course, I prefer the high fantasy setting as opposed to a more alien landscape, although a few weird spots (think Shivering Isles) is just fine.

On that note, wouldn’t it be awesome if it was as large as Daggerfall, yet as hand-crafted as Morrowind? No randomly generated crap, please. It gets very stale, very quickly. That was Daggerfall’s biggest problem, although I loved how huge it was. I know, budget is king, but remember, this is my dream game, not what I actually expect to be accomplished.

Since Oblivion taught me that voice acting in video games can sound realistic and not overly hyper or melodramatic, I wouldn’t mind voice acting again, as long as there’s more diversity. A handful of people trying to provide voice for all the characters per race is just too much to ask. Every Redguard can’t sound the same, and why do Argonians and Khajit sound pretty much the same? Please, diversify the voices.

On that note, I would love a heavily-populated game. Cities should have more than twenty people or so. In my dream game, where budget, lag, technological limitations, etc. wouldn’t exist, I’d have a hundred or more NPCs per city, each with his own personality, topics, interests, etc. It would also be a plus if Bethesda could figure out that Radiant AI thing they were trying with Oblivion before declaring it a failure.

Let’s see, I’d also vote for no scale leveling, unless it’s an essential part of the story. I don’t want to feel confident enough to face any enemy the game throws at me, knowing that it’s automatically scaled to my level. No, Skyrim’s leveling thing doesn’t sound like a good fix to me, because it still means that all the new bad guys you face are scaled to your level; the only difference being that when you go to an area and encounter the enemies you’ve already faced, they’re going to be that much easier because they’re locked on the level you first faced them at. Hopefully I misinterpreted that, but this just seems wrong. Nope, I’d have locked levels for most of the random enemies you encounter.

Also, no level scaled items, either. This goes without saying, but rare items should be rare. I don’t want to come across a traveling merchant (yes, the NPCs in my dream game would include traveling merchants), selling all kinds of amazing armor because I’m at a high level. That kills the point of it being amazing armor, in my opinion.

I don’t mind having fast travel for the people who enjoy that kind of thing, but horses should be available as well as a transportation system Morrowind-style. A hybrid of the two games would be best. A hardcore mode that requires you to sleep and eat at regular intervals would be great, too, but only as an option.

I’d also like professions. Skyrim seems to be fixing this problem by allowing you to farm, mine, etc. in their game, and that’s going to be a plus, if done well. I would love to roleplay my character as an average guy if I really wanted to.

I’d also like instruments in the game. Why? Well, wouldn’t it be awesome to be a traveling minstrel or something? A Morrowind plug-in allowed for an instrument to be played in one of the inns, but it wasn’t special. It really wouldn’t be hard to implement the kind of freestyle playing I’d like, either. Ocarina of Time did it with its title instrument, and The Lord of the Rings Online does it extremely well.

The act of enchanting could be a little more immersive. Maybe mini-game styled. Yeah, I know, I’ll get killed for that, but was Oblivion’s lock-picking “game” really so bad?

Last, but not least, mods are a must. They seriously increase the longevity of the games. Both Morrowind and Oblivion are still around for one good reason: mods. You can expand upon the game in virtually any way, even to the point of creating a whole new land and story if you’re so inclined. It takes some knowledge and a lot of time, but a good mod is definitely worth it.

So, there we have it. My take on this debate. Flame away!

Monday, December 7, 2009


Just letting everyone know that these blogs aren't dead! It's been a very hectic time for me, and I'm getting back into the swing of things. Just to let everyone who might be following this know, I have recently begun teaching on eduFire, so that'll be taking up a blog post in the future. So, here's some articles you can expect to see here and on my other blogs.

Nerdy Goodness:

An article regarding the upcoming movie, The Last Airbender
Much more!


Bashing Rosetta Stone (I hate this program)
Review for The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
Much more!

Politcal Retreat:

Ranting and raving about our crappy administration.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Seagates are Tough Little Buggers

Today I’m .advertising Seagate’s FreeAgent external hard drives. Why? Because the manufacturer isn’t kidding when they say it’s built to last!

I got up this morning, laptop and external in my arms, and scurried down the stairs only to find that my brother had neglected to unlock the door at the bottom before he left for school. It’s one of those locks that is basically like a latch. I can’t remember the exact name for them, but the purpose of them isn’t security. It’s a little metal latch that fits into a little metal ring, thus preventing the cats from opening doors they shouldn’t.

Anyway, I was in a rush because I had to start on Duke’s medication and physical therapy, so I quickly shuffled back up the stairs to find a piece of notebook paper I could use to the unlock the door. On my way back, I took the first step down and the external slipped out from under my burdened arms!

I could feel the blood leaving my face, running cold and turning me pale. The little box was bouncing on its corners, down every step, and not stopping. I could hear bits of plastic breaking as it turned the corner and my heart just about stopped. I’m sure that even non-computer geeks can understand that feeling, as it’s about the equivalent of realizing you just dropped your infant kid down the stairs.

When that horrible noise stopped, I slowly began my descent, wondering what I would find at the bottom. I found the external hard drive sitting at the very bottom of the stairs, one corner busted off and its wires exposed. The first thing I did was, naturally, pick it up and shake it, hearing a faint rattle inside, presumably a piece of the corner. The top and bottom pieces of the outer shell had popped off. The top managed to go back on easily, despite a corner missing, but I still haven’t gotten the bottom on nicely.

I thought to myself, “Well, it’s gone. How much data did I have on here? What can be replaced? What is going to send me into a prolonged grieving period?”

I unlocked the door and mournfully set the computer up, not expecting the little hard drive to even kick on. I plugged both the laptop and external hard drive in and booted it up. Sure enough, I could hear the drive making its normal sounds and the lights came on. I breathed a sigh of relief that perhaps it could be repaired, although I didn’t expect it to load any files.

It takes my laptop an interminable amount of time to boot up, probably because of all the junk I have on it, so during this time I managed to take care of Duke and come back out for a look. Seeing as how it had loaded, I went into My Computer and found the FreeAgent icon happily waiting there. I held my breath and double-clicked the icon, wanting to look away as my cursor became a little hourglass. However, within seconds I was looking at all my folders on the external, not believing that it was actually working. I went into a folder to play a video clip, figuring that if it could load that, it could load any picture or word document on there, and it played. The sound seemed to fade out a bit every now and then, but it was great.

So, I got to work on burning a DVD for my negligent brother. I wasn’t about to lend him my DVD, as that would be the equivalent of kissing it goodbye, but the whole thing burned and works!

So, buy Seagate! I don’t know how long my little external will last, but it survived the initial falling down the stairs episode. I didn’t expect it to! Now, if only I knew where to send it for repairs…