Saturday, November 30, 2013

And More: Deals and Sales - Black Friday Weekend 2013 Deals Are On Now

I don't usually talk about current sales/promotions on this site [or haven't so far], but after seeing all of the sales on out there, I had to make a quick post just to say that there are some great deals on now! 

Even if you don't live in the United States (for instance, I'm in Canada [eh]) you can still take advantage of them, as most electronics and entertainment companies are on the Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend bandwagon, with tons of purchases available online - and it's all "nuthin' but good" for gamers... Steam, Origin, Gamefly and other digital gaming distribution platforms are all chock full of great sales, as is Amazon, TigerDirect, MemoryExpress and other local and online hardware stores, allowing you to finally get that Upgrade you've been wanting, should you decide to jump on a deal out there.

Some examples of games on sale are below; but whether you buy a few games this weekend or save your money and just play with the new influx of players in your own favourite online game - I hope you enjoy your weekend and have some fun:

An example of the Black Friday Weekend Sales for 2013 on Steam

A small example of the Black Friday Weekend Sales for 2013 on Origin

An example of the Black Friday Weekend Sales for 2013 on Gamefly

See You In The Games!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Gone Home - First Impressions/Mini-Review (Text-Only Version)

When beginning to play Gone Home, one of the first games that came to mind was "The Uninvited", a point-and-click adventure game from the 90's, where you did not have to have fast 'twitch skills' to kill oncoming enemies or opposing players, but you had to be able to learn; searching, exploring a house and collecting and organizing information, all the time exposing more and more of the storyline (that you did not know fully at the outset) and that's what this game is [including being scary!].

Gone Home is an interactive story game, based mainly on exploration, played in the first-person [you 'look out through your character's eyes' as you move around] so, while it is not a 'point-and-click' adventure game, like Myst/Riven, any of the Quest series' (King's Quest, Police Quest, Space Quest, etc),  Day of the Tentacle and similar games, it definitely evokes ideas of exploring and analysis of the environment, as part of developing the story, as these types of games did.

Without giving away exactly what the storyline is, I will say the game craftily led me to believe many things that it wasn't (or did not not turn out to be). I thought, with the dark and scary, empty house (complete with rainstorm happening outside and the scary noises that go with it), it was certain to be a story lined with death or gore, but this game is not rated Mature and it is not "18+" rated either [although the main plot line is more for Teens than it is for Children, but then who is letting their child play 'explore the dark and scary house' games anyway?]. There were many elements, items and scripted moments, that lead you towards inferring things that the game is not - and while that is arguably a lower-brow tactic - it still does not take away from the overall feel of the game. Indeed, the overall enjoyment of the game itself is not affected by these little 'tricks', even if it does turn out to be somewhat self-defeating and make the ending seem somewhat anti-climactic as a result. While still fun in spite of all of this, this game is a prime example of 'the journey is more important than the destination/ending' - some may see this as a caveat and some will not.

A more obvious caveat with this game, is that it is short. Very, very short. As in, 'played-on-my-lunch-break-on-my-laptop-and-completed-it' short, if rushed through. While a review found online slated the game as "feeling like a longer demo" and while the material is simplistic and can be finished in an hour or two, I feel that this game is more like a dish at a fine restaurant: yes, you could gobble it up in minutes and leave, but what would be more enjoyable is to savour each moment, enjoy each bite and spend hours lingering and sampling, looking around and taking it all in over a longer period of time. If one's time is taken in the game, every nook-and-cranny is explored, every piece of evidence collected; much [much!] more enjoyment will be taken out of the experience than if one were just looking for how fast they can complete yet another title. I feel this game is meant to be gone through slow and enjoyed, like a good book.

Technically, the game's approach is simplistic too, with simple environments and sounds. The main sounds for the game are the storm outside, the creaking of the house (doors, drawers, etc) and the Narrator herself. There is only the one house to explore, but by the end it does not feel like it needed more (again, the simplicity of the game does not detract from the enjoyment of the game). What did impress me was the collection of textures [the materials on the shapes] that were used. The detail of the textures and clarity of them was fantastic. Wood and paper looked realistic, signs and labels could all be read easily, and the sheer variety of materials from the time period (whether photographed or created) was significant. The environment itself was meant to be a North American 1990's family house and it was represented wonderfully. If one lived in this type of setting in the 90's (and especially if you were 'coming of age'/a teenager during that time), you will be lovingly enveloped in decor, music and 'attitude' [mindset] of that decade.

While the story itself is simplistic (but meaningful) and the technical aspects are somewhat low-key, the winning element of the game is how the story is presented (the exploration). By exploring everything yourself, you are delving up the story at your own pace. As you go searching throughout the house, characters and plot lines are opened up and revealed to you. It is much like an interactive book. Given the financial and work-force constraints of the 'indie' development team (only three people at the outset, I believe), it was wise to pick a solitary character exploring an environment - and they did wonderfully with what they had on-hand. Utilizing the mindset of a teenager during that time (of calendar and of age), with creepy shadows and scripted sounds, the game engine is used well, in regards to portraying the story and setting, even if it is not exercised to it's fullest extent. Indeed, not using the game engine to inject excessive effects lends even more feeling to the reality of the environment and representation of the time period - where technology did not yet permeate every aspect of daily life.

I have to end this article by saying that some players and reviewers (especially in regards to the length of the game) have said that this is less of a 'game' as it is a 'demo' or 'art project' - but in the sense of competition or completion, they are somewhat correct - there are no other players to combat and no ending antagonist to overcome and you are seemingly placed in the middle of a story, playing out 'chapter three' in a person's life and then it is over. In that sense, it is not really a 'traditional' video game. If anyone were to ask me about the game, I am going to refer to it [as I have above] as more of an 'interactive book'. I could say that it is basically a point-and-click adventure game [like the ones stated at the beginning of this post] made after they were able to have "3D" graphics and as far as technology and storyline development, that's mostly true. But to me, overall Gone Home really is more akin to a short story. The characters aren't deeply developed and you experience only a portion of events in the life of the persons involved. Still, in the end these limitations don't go against the enjoyment of the game itself. You may or may not identify with the characters and what they are going through; but even if you do not, the presentation of the game is lovingly crafted and the overall experience of the game is enjoyable - even if that experience does not last as long we would like. But then, isn't that the same with every good experience in life?

See You At Home

Friday, November 08, 2013

And More: How To Pronounce "ASUS" (Text-Only Version)

This is a subject that is only lightly debated on the odd game or tech forum, and like the 'how to pronounce GIF' argument/discussions, I almost don't want to clear things up... but as with my earlier article on 'How To Pronounce "GIF"' [found here: ], I suppose with only this little post on this lowly blog that is mostly about games (with the odd article on editing), I won't really change things.. so here'goes:

The reason this came up at all, was that I am increasingly hearing people say their differing versions of how to pronounce the word in videos. Although most people seem to utilize either (i)"ay-zeus" (which sounds like saying, "Hey, Zeus [the Greek ruler-god of the sky], how are ya?"), or they say (ii)"ay-suss" (which sounds like a way of saying, "hey, sis, how are yah?"), some even say (iii)"ass-uhs" (which sounds like "Ask us a question" (with a silent k) or almost like "Asses" but with an 'ugh' at the end) [although I think that last version is just an excuse for some to say "ass" while at work, haha]. While I myself was mainly using the second version since I started working as a Computer Service Technician, there have been a couple of "Official" sources published on the intertubes since then.

Wikipedia, [arguably] a source of good information [I say arguable because 'anyone' can edit it to say almost anything, many people with their own agendas; but mainly it remains a source of 'good' info], lists phonetics for the word's pronunciation in their article as: (/ˈss/), which is closer to the first form (i) from above, than the others (but with a softer 's' sound than a 'z' sound)..

Engadget, a technology and-related-science information site, posted a video in 2010 [found here: ] which gives a "from now on"/Official way of pronouncing the company's name, from the company itself: "ay-suss", which is closer to the second form (ii) from above, than the others.

Prior to this, around the turn of the millennium, I myself was searching for some 'official' form of how to say the word, and the only source at that time was the ASUS website, which stated that the name came from the concept of the Greek mythological creature, Pegasus. This suggested to me (there was no 'official statement' on the website itself of pronunciation) to say, "ah-sus" (the second half of the name Pegasus), which is actually closer to the third form (iii) from above, which sort of sounds like "asses" but with more of an 'uh' sound near the end instead of an 'eh'. This is how I would type it: "ah-sus".

So where does that leave things today and how is ASUS actually pronounced, then?

Since there has been an 'Official" statement, with example, we have no choice but to go with Endgadget's exposé on the issue, which gives the pronunciation of "ay-suss" (ii).
What is important to note here though, is that it is not just said the way it is typed here. In the video at Engadget's site, the woman demonstrating the Official way to say the word purses her lips when she says, "suss". Therefore, it is not just a plain "suss", it is more akin to "soos", which sounds almost like the Dr.Seuss name that is on all those kids' reading books.
If you ask me, this makes things a little more confused than it should be, because the sound [I don't know the phonetic symbol for it offhand but it is present in how French-speakers say the letter "Y" in their alphabet, with pursed or puckered lips] is almost exactly between "suss" and "soos", and yet it is neither of those.
At least the video does clear up one thing: the beginning of the word ASUS. It is not "ah" (short form of the letter A) it is more like "ay" (long form of the letter A). So then, the officially-demonstrated way of saying the company name is:

"ay" (almost, but not quite, the long form of the letter A) and then a sound that is exactly between "suss" and "soos" (with pursed/puckered lips)

That ended more complicated than I thought...

Personal Note/Opinion:

While that issue is now solved and 'written in stone', as it comes from ASUS itself (thanks mainly to Engadget), I have to end this post saying that I am left wondering why they changed the pronunciation from [what appeared to be] their etymological starting point. What I mean is: their website states the name came from the name "Pegasus", but [in English anyway] we do not say "peg-ay-suss", we say "peg-ah-suss".
Nevermind, I think I just figured out my own query, just by typing that in and saying it out loud: I believe that they changed the pronunciation from [how we say the mythological creature's name in English] "ah-suss" to something more akin to "ay-suss" to distance themselves from the sound of, well, "asses". I guess I can't say I blame them. 

I hope this article has helped, even if it only made things more complicated. That's helping, isn't it?

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