Thursday, January 31, 2008

Yahtzee Rocks The Gaming World

As exciting as shaking dice out of a tumbler is, that's not what I'm talking about. Instead, the subject of this post is Yahtzee, the author of Zero Punctuation, which is by far the funniest gaming video blog I have ever seen. As mentioned by (via Digg), Ben Croshaw, aka "Yahtzee," is a fresh new face to the gaming reviews industry. While he has had a strong fan base on YouTube for at least a year, he effectively "turned pro" in 2007 when he joined up with The Escapist, an online gaming mag, and started pumping his hilarious video critiques out regularly. This has been exacerbated by the server-wrecking force of Digg following every video.

Here is his review of Guitar Hero III (a game I've heard one or two people play here at Mason). They say a picture says a thousand words, but since the following is a whole lot of little pictures at high speed, go ahead and add it to the list of books you've read. I must warn you that this particular video happens to be one of his more profane and any attempt to not be offended by some part of it will ultimately result in an epic fail.

(from The Escapist, direct video link)

Oh I forgot to warn about homophobia too, my bad.

Anyway, one of the things that has really driven Yahtzee's silly little videos to massive fame is the way he resonates with the average gamer. Many people have a "Wow, that's exactly how it plays" kind of attitude after they watch the video about their favorite game. He's also not afraid to throw a few punches at games like Halo 3 and Assassin's Creed (though the Creed actually ends up with a decent rating). Even when he does, he does a remarkable job of explaining why his criticisms are justified.

I should have prefaced this (but I wisely didn't) with the fact that I am not really a gamer, having played only the requisite amount of WoW. That being said I religiously watch every new video because they are so incredibly funny. It helps to know the various terms most gamers employ, but really I would recommend this to my mother if the profanity wasn't so likely to burn off her ears. Really, I would!

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

NationStates: Your Own Little Country

Over the break, without the benefit of a constant social life, I was quite bored. Fortunately, a friend recommended a great little text-based game, NationStates. Founded in 2002 (per their change log), the site gives each user their own (free) private empire which they may govern as they please. NationStates is unlike other simulations because it gives the ruler issues to decide on instead of a complex option-setting mode. The game (which you really can't win or lose) is challenging, especially if you have a certain type of society in mind, because your choices aren't always clear cut and sometimes the lesser of two evils will still send your country into a tailspin.

I've built up a fairly good-sized nation (about the size of the US at the time of this posting) and the home screen is shown below:
NationStates Home Screen
I hope you like my snappy name (the currency is the "click" to represent traffic on a site...I thought it was funny anyway). The description is always a direct representation of the choices the ruler makes for each issue they are presented.

Here is the stats bar:
NationStates Stats Bar
I feel proud that as a self-described moderate, my country is currently an "Inoffensive Centrist Democracy." From time to time I find it slipping into a full blow Socialist country, but I can always count on a few Libertarian decisions to bring it back into the middle and lower the taxes to boot.

NationStates Nav BarOnce you have established a country, you may join a region, of which there are many. Some regions are simply fun role-playing groups and others are tightly organized multi-national organizations. The point of the latter is to give that region power in the United Nations. The UN is an international body which decides policies that all member nations must obey. I haven't really gotten into that part of the game thus far because I use it mostly as a thought experiment, but for some, the politics is what it's all about. All these things, along with the settings can be controlled by the sidebar on the left.

When you're just starting out, the game will be slow to adapt to your views. I suggest that you go into settings and have it give you two issues a day, otherwise it will take you weeks to develop anything. Beyond that, I have no more's your nation, make it your own.

P. S. - Oh and a commenter recently asked what program I use to create my screenshots. The app is called WinSnap and it's completely free (I love it). Edit: Looks like they've made it shareware :(

All screenshots come from my account on

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Google Throws a Swingin' Party!

I've seen this video on a number of blogs and on Digg, and I just think it's an awesome representation of what different web users are like on their respective websites. Check it out:
(via Cracked)

More articles coming your way soon!

Edit: Video link restored!

Friday, January 18, 2008

MacWorld > CES

maccrossstitch.jpg Yeah, I said it. Just read the title again....

It's not that I'm really a Mac fanboy, but CES was as lame as it usually always is (though Veronica Belmont did do a cool interview with a robot with weak AI). Ok, CES wasn't even lame...I'd flip out if I won a trip out there or something...but while my east coast but stays here in the east coast, gadget-heavy events without any major announcements will always be a little tough to get excited about from afar. There were some shake-ups in the high-def format war (Blu-ray seems to have stolen over a lot more partners and I have heard some shout that the format war might be over), but even that really didn't do much for me.

MacWorld on the other hand, which I'm not really that interested in once Steve Jobs' Keynote is over, proved to be as cool as it usually is every year. Of course the iPhone didn't come out this year (I fear that the space-time continuum may not ever let it be released again for the first time), but Apple didn't disappoint attendees already weary from an unspectacular CES. Here are a couple of the things that "Mad Dog" Steve Jobs brought out of his magic hat:
  • iPhone firmware update: included moving around of home-screen buttons (finally), creation of home-screen buttons (fairly useful), pseudo-GPS in Google Maps (very awesome when it works; was released a few weeks ago with most other mobile devices that can use GMaps), and texting to multiple individuals (they didn't have it already?!?!?).
  • Time Capsule: pretty much a home server that acts as a wireless router as well, nifty for people who want only Mac products in their home, comes in 0.5 and 1 terabyte drive capacities.
  • Macbook Air: a subnotebook that is small enough to fit into a manila envelope and has fairly decent specs; some people think the notebook is too restrictive and too hard to replace the parts of, but I would say that this could be a very important move for Apple, even if their first try isn't dead-on.
  • iTunes Store Movie Rentals: like pretty much everything else listed above, this was leaked out pretty far in advance (surprising actually how much got out this year), but the big surprise was that they have every major movie label on board and that means this won't suffer from some of the growing pains that its other services have had in the past; movies can be kept for 30 days and must be watched 24 hours after the beginning of viewing...a tad bit restrictive, but the prices seem reasonable.
  • "One more thing...": there wasn't one :(
So, what's my take on MacWorld? Well I agree with pretty much everyone else who has been echoing the "not a revolutionary year but an evolutionary year" mantra (I think the CNet people coined the phrase initially). Both CES and MacWorld were developements of new directions and enhancements of preexisting products. Is this bad? No. Is this less fun? Yep.

Image from Flickr user
under an Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic CC License.

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Tuesday, January 1, 2008

New Year, New Tech!

Happy New Year from Mason Tech Beat.  Get ready for some exciting changes this year.  The Consumer Electronics Show may hold some untold jewels and my syndication will probably be changing from Broadside Online....(more details to come).  Beyond that, who knows!  With a Presidential election coming up, MacWorld, and some burgeoning technologies on the rise, it promises to be a very interesting year.

All the best!

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The content of this page is completely the creation and opinion of James Rogers. He is affiliated with Connect Mason and formerly Broadside Online but the relationship only governs republication, not content.

Further, in the interest of full disclosure, this author holds minor financial investments in Apple, Inc. and Advanced Micro Devices.