Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Google Chrome OS Review: Almost There, Ultrabook of the Future?

When I reviewed the Cr-48 and Google's Chrome OS back in December of 2010, I was disappointed. It was a fantastic idea with endless potential. Google, the company that made Android and Docs, had finally come up with an operating system and a computing platform to compete with the big boys. And when Google made the OS cloud-based and an exclusive web browser, expectations on software and hardware reliance and price, at least for myself, sky rocketed.

Fastforward to now. The computing landscape, as it constantly does, has shifted again. Sure, tablets are popular- but Apple's introduced this new thing called an ultrabook. Long battery life, speed, efficiency and reliance on the internet are just some of it's features. Unfortunately, so is a high price. To acquire what is effectively a netbook with beefy-notebook specs will run you just a few cents short of a thousand dollars.

Google's solution found in Chrome OS is far cheaper. The similar but not as powerful specs cost anywhere from $350 to $450 dollars. And guess what, it's still cheaper than an iPad or a MacBook Pro. But for the price, what exactly do you get? Can Chrome OS fulfill my needs as a user? How costly is it to maintain or replace one of these devices? Is it worth it?

The hardware used for this review is the Cr-48 and the Samsung Series 5. The software is the latest and greatest build of Chrome OS. And obviously, all applications are always up to date. Other courses of testing, such as for durability are not needed- it's an electronic device, and therefore fragile.

I think one thing that's always stood out for me as a Chrome OS user, was the downright simplicity. We're talking simpler than Apple. The product itself also incorporates a clean cut design without all of those little visual quirks that use up so much space and RAM. Essentially, it's got the beauty and simplicity of a mobile operating system and takes many cues from both iOS and Google's own Android. This downright simplicity is also visible in the product hardware. Luckily, both Acer and Samsung have taken the obvious cues from the Cr-48, and incorporated the same level of hardware simplicity.

In terms of offline support, it' still incredibly lacking- making this thing a useless brick when there's no Wi-Fi around. The built-in 3G really helps to make things easier, and the prices make it sensible. It's not often you'll be stranded without Wi-Fi these days. For myself, I've been able to use my own mobile hotspot functionality on my Droid- but that simply isn't an option for the majority of users out there. Thankfully however, Google has recently unveiled to the world the offline version of Gmail, Docs and Calendar- which makes life on the Chromebook a HELL of a lot simpler.

For a moment, let's talk Google's most flaunted capability of the product- and that's speed. When we first tested the OS on the Cr-48, it was usable. There were just too many quirks with the OS to call it snappy or speedy. Now, thanks to the inclusion of a duel-core Intel Atom, the product is super speedy and helps to load web pages faster- which is really our main focus with this device. Performance on the Cr-48, surprisingly, has improved very well. Finally, the device feels the way it should of back in December. It really proves the true power of software updates.

There's one thing we found while using this product however- and that's usability in the real world. Although we had some doubts back in December, times have changed. Google's powerful web application platform, along with the web apps today, make this a very pleasant to use device. But if I haven't said it before, it has to be said. This simply isn't a product for power users. You'll find yourself craving more power and speed, and for some of the time, you'll wish you had a PC or a Mac to turn to. For myself, it only finds itself useful for working on this website hassle-free. And, lately- it's proved to be a very nice Netflix device.

Thanks to the solid state storage, everything is fast and battery life is able to be kept to high standards. I mean, this thing lasts longer than any Mac or PC we've ever seen- but that's likely due to it's blatant lack of processer-intensive application requirements. Don't expect to work on Photoshop, AutoCad or any graphics intensive program here. Even in Citrix, we found a few problems that we simply couldn't stand.

But where does this stand as an ultrabook? The idea of an ultrabook is great battery life, a decent processor to get through the day, thinness and a light form factor to carry anywhere. Everything minus the processor fits in here. It's just too damn slow on the Cr-48, and decent on the Samsung notebook. In fact, we've found that most netbooks with the same specs or lower outperform these. But then again, they fill their purpose and they do it well. We've yet to find a similar product.

We really don't understand why Google decided not to blend the OS with Android. There's just such a large app market, and so much more potential in that than there is in a blatant web browser. Because of this, we're going to recommend that you carefully choose this product. It serves its purpose well, but it's probably not what everybody is looking for.

6.5/10

Pros- 

Great Battery Life

Beautiful Form Factor

Snappy Operating System

Cons-

Not much developer enthusiasm

No Android integration

Processor leaves something to be desired

Arrived too late in the marketplace

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Confirmed: Halo Combat Evolved Anniversary Will Have 3D Support



What with hurricanes, new CEOs, cheap tablets and legal problems cluttering the technology worlds, it's sometimes nice to instead speak of the awesomeness that is the Halo CE remake. Sure, Sony has had 3D (and the 360 has supported 3D HDTVs) for a long time, so it's odd that Microsoft hasn't stepped up to the plate with a competing product/platform. But, alas, the 3D fix will be here, and with it coming to Halo- you can expect those covenant shots to feel as real as they were meant to be.

Source: Joystiq

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Happy 20th Birthday Linux

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Although many people are unaware, besides Mac OS X and Windows 7, there is an existing alternative that's both free and highly customizable. One such version is known as Ubuntu, another is Fedora. These countless operating systems are collectively known as Linux- created by a man named Linus twenty years ago. So, in this post we here at The Techtile would like to commemorate his little penguin shaped baby. Here's to the next twenty years.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Editorial: Apple Without Steve Jobs



If you haven't heard the news yet, it's time you did. Steve Jobs stepped down from his position of CEO, and instead opted for a lesser title of Chairman of the Board. He didn't die, and as far as we all know, he doesn't have cancer. But he's older, weaker and thinner. He isn't as fast as he used to be, and the CEO job just isn't working out anymore. Not only that, but the company needs stability and assurance for when that day comes when unfortunately, Steve will no longer be around. As much as we like to deny it, the world only gets one Steve Jobs. And unfortunately, if his condition (whatever it may be) is any indiction- he's a spent force.

The job of CEO is a stressful one, for any company. Then imagine being CEO of Apple. How exhausting must that be? You'd need to be cold, calculating, innovating and capable of dealing with loads of stress and pressure. Sure, Apple's been doing amazingly well lately. Hell, they just re-invented the tablet computer, and they launched the smartphone business full steam ahead. Apple's products are selling like hotcakes- even though the prices really aren't as affordable as the competition. After what is approaching only a year and a half, Apple's iPad is still the number one tablet "PC" on the market. And honestly, the competition is trying too hard to mimic the product. But that discussion is for another time and place. Again, Apple is doing amazingly well- better than any technology company on the planet, and for a brief moment, even better than Exxon Mobil.

Some may argue that Steve Job's is the only innovator behind Apple and if his presence were to cease, the company would dive down like an angry flock of vultures. But honestly, this isn't even close to true. Sure, Tim Cook isn't Steve Jobs, and he's not really the innovation type as far as we know. That's what Johnny Ive is for and Phil Schiller and all the other creative people down at Apple HQ. Still, the world and the company will never be the same when Steve does pass away, which hopefully is many years from now.

The way in which Apple looks and operates years from now is not too soon to change. They will always be that creative, evangelistic, powerful and innovative company we have come to know and love. That's just the way that Apple is. Sure, Steve's departure in 1986 didn't fare well for the company. But they were in a totally different situation. The executive's keeping the company alive wasted money in useless and troublesome products that appealed to neither the consumer nor the businessman. There were too many products, a problem that's all about control.

The products didn't compete either, and they lost the fun and excitement Steve brought to the table before. As a direct result of that, the company slipped under and by 1996, there were talks of bankruptcy. And then, miraculously, Steve Job's jumped into the picture and waved his magical wand of smart business man power and turned the company around completely.

The useless products were dropped, and the company focused only on four computer lines- consumer laptops and desktops and professional laptops and desktops. Then Apple changed the world with the iPod. It doesn't matter what MP3 player you are using today, it was influenced by the iPod. Then Apple changed the wheel again with the iPhone in 2007. How can you imagine a world without your smartphone? In the heat 0f fame and power, Apple did it again with the iPad, which took the world by storm and is currently killing the entire PC industry. Meanwhile, all the other companies are kicking themselves wondering why they never thought of that. And in the future, Apple will continue to launch major changes to products, or invent products like they've done on every opportunity. With Tim Cook, Johnny Ive, Phil Schiller, Peter Oppenheimer and Scott Forestal turning the wheel and executing major strategic decisions, Apple will fare well.

Steve Jobs is a control freak, a perfectionist and a product-making genius. His brain is one of a quickly calculating, innovative and powerful breed. He really is like no other man. He's arrogant, and that arrogance really just helps to make for a better boss who really, in the end, knows better than everybody else. That's an issue Apple is going to have to get used to. The idea of losing Steve, although extremely difficult to imagine, will happen one day. It's a sad, empty feeling. Things will simply never be the same.

We can't understand or begin to imagine a world without the genius that is Steve Jobs. And frankly, neither can Apple.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Meet Tim Cook, Apple's new CEO



See that man next to Steven Paul Jobs, former CEO and future Chair of the board of Apple? That's Tim Cook, and he's Steve's replacement. But just who the hell is this Tim Cook anyway? Maybe you'd like to know the man who will be overseeing (not like he did that previously as COO or anything...) the creation of your future favorite iPhones, or iPads or whatever new iDevice the company has to show off five to ten years from now. Maybe it's tomorrow. Whatever or whenever such occurs, this will be the guy making the big decisions. So maybe, just maybe you'd like to learn something about him? Well then, scroll on down!

Tim Cook has a long history of success with Apple. In 1998, he was hand picked by Steve Jobs to take on the roll of Chief Operating Officer. It's not-so-well-known that Steve sat next to a recruiter while he carefully interviewed many, many men who also qualified for the job. Yet, by some magical twist in the universe, Tim got the job. From there, Tim went on to completely turn the company around. He eliminated Apple's American factories, outsourced overseas, and specifically made sure that manufacturers were all in close proximity with suppliers, as to both cut down cost and increase efficiency. Fast forward 12 years or so, and hey, something must of worked. Tim Cook isn't the new face he's been presumed to be, in fact, he's played the role of CEO several times during the duration of all of Steve's medical leaves, including the current one.

But what about Tim as a person? Obviously, his business accomplishments are interesting, but I want to know more about the real Tim. Well, from many sources, Tim can be described as "[c]alm, quiet- and deadly". He's carefully calculating, able to make quick decisions under pressure- he's essentially the ideal business man. And that's what Tim is- a business man. He's known for waking up at four in the morning to fire out emails and check to see whats going on. At five he's exercising- something he does daily. And before the majority of us are awake, he's gotten a days work done. He's a man of commitment. Ready whenever to take on the many chores and decisions of a big shot CEO- something Steve Jobs has unfortunately grown tired doing.

Dedication is a great trait for anybody- and you'll see, Apple won't fall off the Earth, or lose the substantial power it has gained. This isn't the end for Apple; rather, it's a new beginning. For a brief while, the company was the most valuable in the world. During it's last quarter, Apple produced fantastic results- without new products, the craziness of the holidays or back to school sales. Meanwhile, companies such as Dell and HP have been struggling immensely. They will always be premium, and always be successful. Thanks to Tim Cook's service in the past, the company has grown to the top, and in the future, it will only rise higher. It's the end of an era for Steve, but the beginning for Apple. For a company that's been through corporate hell and back, the future looks to be very bright and protected. This isn't the same situation they were in back in 1986. This isn't your typical CEO either. But you'll see. The future for the world as well as Apple are in the hands of a single, powerful man. And finally, Apple will be able to move on without Steve, but this time with his legacy and the security they needed before.

Steve Jobs Officially Resigns as CEO of Apple, Tim Cook COO is Named as Successor



We all knew this day would arrive sooner or later. And honestly, we all know it's for the better. Steve Jobs has reigned as CEO of Apple. However, he isn't leaving guys! He'll remain on the staff as chairman of the board. The company itself has released the statement "Steve's extraordinary vision and leadership saved Apple and guided it to its position as the world's most innovative and valuable technology company." Furthermore, this is a very big decision, that frankly, was a long time coming. There were rumors of this move five years ago, and three years ago, and now- it just feels right. Read Steve's resignation letter below!
I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple's CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.

I hereby resign as CEO of Apple. I would like to serve, if the Board sees fit, as Chairman of the Board, director and Apple employee.

As far as my successor goes, I strongly recommend that we execute our succession plan and name Tim Cook as CEO of Apple.

I believe Apple's brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it. And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role.

I have made some of the best friends of my life at Apple, and I thank you all for the many years of being able to work alongside you.

Steve

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Editorial: Where HP Went Wrong, Right, and How to Fix Things



On April 28, 2010, HP announced it would acquire Palm for $1.2 Billion. At this time, HP was doing great, but Palm was failing fast- their products were aging, and the new hardware and software wasn't selling very well. At the same time though, the software had a lot of potential, being the only true user interface competitor to Apple's iPhone. As the year marched on, the Palm brand died and was replaced by HP. On July 1, 2011, HP launched the first and the last webOS tablet. Then on August 18- a mere fifty days after the release of the HP TouchPad, the large, successful company announced that they were done with webOS, they were done with the Pre and they were done with the TouchPad. The product itself didn't even have the time to grow or evolve. To add insult to injury, the company also revealed it's plan to duck out of the hardware business and jump into software.

What they got right.

The Touchpad, although rather bulky when compared to the competition, was the only product that actually staged itself as a reasonable competitor to Apple's iPad. It had the speedy, simple interface that's look and feel almost mirrored iOS. Yet, Palm's use of gestures was so innovative that it proved to the perfect rival to Apple's solution and helped make the interface feel more natural. Another worthy thing to mention was the multitasking- it was real and the only solution that just... felt right. Apple uses background multitasking, and it barely takes advantage of the memory under the hood. Google's Android solution just became a RAM hog, and RIM really didn't have it together.

The Pre was a fantastic phone. It was small enough to be cradled in the palm of your hand, it was light enough to shove or slip into any pocket. The interface, as mentioned before, was simple, clean and beautiful. For myself, I found it to be more visually stunning than iOS. But hey, it's just my opinion. The Pre also happens to be one of most attractive designs I've ever seen in a piece of hardware. Sure, it's not up to iPhone standards, but then again, it's target market doesn't really care about appearances.

Where they went wrong.

The Veer was horrible. That being said, the thing is freaking adorable. But in all seriousness (can you believe we're being serious today?) the Veer was lacking in more places than not. The largest flaw, which has been flaunted as the product's greatest feature, is it's tiny chasis. Unfortunately, most people who use a touchscreen phone, expect a display with a size of 3.5 inches or greater. The Veer, although following in the same screen size as it's older brother, the Pixi, is far too small to use and feels too much like a toy. To add to it's cheapness, webOS performance feels too sluggish and it annoys the hell out of me. Sure, it's faster than the original Pre, but this half-baked sequel to the rather snappy Pixi just feels rushed and over thought. Because of this, the unit didn't sell well. That just leads to the next issue...

Why didn't HP just release the Pre3 at the same time as the Veer? The Pre3 is perhaps the best looking and most sensible continuation of the Pre line- an upgraded chasis, a better keyboard, webOS 2.0, a 1.4 GHz processor... the list goes on and on. This is what the Pre2 should have been, but wasn't. Instead of focusing on the Pre3, which would have been the savior to the webOS product family, it focused on it's iPad competitor- the TouchPad.

The biggest problem with the TouchPad is, HP focused so hard on beating the first iPad instead of it's successor. The hardware feels the same- with the same thickness of the iPad and dimensions. To add to that, it shipped with a glitchy version of webOS, when they easily could have waited and shipped a fresher version that fixed everything. The use of plastics just makes the device feel cheap, and the display leaves a rather stale taste in our mouths. It's the iPad 1, in a world of iPad 2 copycats. Because of that, it was ignored. But then, HP decided to liquidate their stock at ultra-cheap prices. They brought it down by a hundred dollars and then three hundred dollars... until the product cost only $99. It sold out like wildfire. And apparently, the company is now processing more just so that they can satisfy the newfound desire for the product.

What HP should do to fix things.

Kill the Veer and focus on the Pre3. The Veer has no place on the market, and therefore is just cluttering the selection of webOS devices. The Pre3 is the potential savior of the platform, and so far has a lot more potential than the Veer or the TouchPad ever did.

Upgrade the TouchPad in terms of both hardware and software. Don't try and mirror the iPad 2. You should be able to say that your product not only competes with the iPad, but blows it out of the water. Get developers excited and ready to build the best applications they can, and make it easier for them to code. Focusing on just one development platform makes things a lot easier.

License webOS to other companies, and give the users more choice. Don't focus on exclusivity like Apple does. You're trying to hard to be Apple, instead of focusing on building the best products in the industry.

Support your early adopters; the people who bought the Pre, Pre Plus, Pixi, Pixi Plus and the Pre2. Those are the users who have stuck by you to the very bitter end, and like you for webOS and it's features. If you don't support them, you'll lose them to Apple or Google. Giving users 50 dollars off of the TouchPad, instead of providing software updates or new phones, is not the way to conduct business. When users purchase a device, they expect support for 3-4 years.

Just one more thing...

Selling off or even spinning off your powerful PC business is a huge mistake. Your users will never forgive you, your products will ultimately be garbage, and innovation will be non existant. Pump innovation through both business and consumer sectors. Give people what they crave for in a product. Make it sexy, make it affordable, make it easy for anybody to operate. That's why Apple's been kicking your ass these last few years. Take a stand, because if you don't, somebody else will.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Game Console Price Cuts: PS3, Wii, PSP



With a whole new line of mobile and home consoles coming in 2012, along with many of them already here, it's easy to see why prices would be cut down to give users a reason to buy last year's products (although in reality, all of these consoles are five years old or more). The PS3 will be receiving worldwide price cuts- $249, ¥24,980 and €249 for the 160 GB slim model. The 320 GB model will also be receiving a generous price reduction- to $299. The PSP will also be marked down to €99 and will be a Europe exclusive. The product is also receiving a makeover- a new matte finish to match the PS3 and a thinner body. To cut costs, Sony decided to axe the WiFi- but with all the issues it's had over the years, we don't see this as too big of a loss. Those desiring the ability to download games, will be able to do so through Sony's media go software on Windows and Mac OS X. As if this all wasn't cool enough, Nintendo also announced a price reduction for the Nintendo Wii- however, it looks as though it will be exclusive to Europe as well. The marked down Wii will also be blessed with a face lift- a new slimmer profile that's designed to sit horizontally- which should rid of issues that occurred when the current device would fall over. Check out the source links below for more details, and don't forget to write!

Source: Nintendo, This is my next (PS3), This is my next (PSP E-1000)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Ocarina of Time: The Best Game of All Time?



As a self proclaimed Zelda fan, it feels wrong not to review this game as my first. As a Nintendo follower, as somebody who has played The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, even as a gamer in general, I think that what is critically acclaimed as the “best game of all time” should be my initial review.

Ocarina of Time, commonly known as OoT in the Zelda community, was released as an N64 game in 1998, and has been re-released in the Collector’s Edition set, as a pre-order gift with The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (another great game), and on the Wii Virtual Console. It also recently came out on the Nintendo 3DS. In other words, if you haven’t played it, there are numerous ways to find it.

If you couldn’t tell, I like this game a lot. With a game so old, fans are usually looking through nostalgia glasses when such a game is praised, but seeing as I had never touched Zelda until a few years ago and only played this game for the first time last summer, I hope I can be taken as unbiased.

Ocarina of Time is the age-old tale of a boy’s coming of age. You play as Link, one of the Kokiri; forest spirits who take the form of children who never grow up and wear green clothes and hats, and who each have a guardian fairy (writing this, I now realize they bear a great semblance to Peter Pan).  Link, however, never had a fairy. Link gets woken up by Navi, a fairy who tells you to go to the Great Deku Tree, the “father” of the Kokiri. The game leads you through a typical RPG village tutorial, and you go to the Deku Tree, a massive oak with an 80’s-style afro of leaves and a gigantic moustache. He asks you to clear the curse inside of him, and you are introduced to the first dungeon of the game. After saving him, he asks you to go to the Castle Town and speak to Princess Zelda; she needs your help. Before you leave, though, he announces the curse has already taken its toll; the safety bubble that is Kokiri Forest is broken with his dying request for Navi to accompany you on your journey (Navi refuses to leave you alone for the rest of the game).

And so you are released from the “rail” of RPGs and dropped into the expansive Hyrule field. Much of it is blocked off now, but it truly gives you a feel of the scope of the game. Ocarina of Time is an epic game.

You can explore and find sidequests, but eventually must confront Zelda who shows you that the evil Ganondorf is trying to take over the kingdom of Hyrule. He was the one who poisoned the Deku tree, and has been causing mischief across the land. Zelda asks you to find a series of gems that, in conjunction with a tune played with the mystical Ocarina of Time (ocarinas are a type of potato-shaped flute-like instrument), can open the door to the Sacred Realm, where the power of the Goddesses (known as the Triforce) lies. Essentially, it’s a race of good versus evil to unlock this power.

And so you begin the bulk of your epic journey across the expansive world, helping the races of Hyrule by conquering dungeons. Through solving one problem of theirs or another, you collect their spiritual stones.

In this task the game reveals its most impressive feature, the dungeon design. Aside from being fun and relatively intuitive in design, they have this sense of spatial organization that is rarely seen in video games; a great importance is placed on which room is above which other room, or where a path begins and ends in relation to the dungeon. The dungeons give a feel of an elaborate puzzle where each room, door, or button is a piece to fit into place.

Ocarina of Time also perfected the backtracking system introduced in its predecessor, A Link to the Past. In each dungeon one finds locked doors and impassable obstacles, the former of which are gradually opened up as keys are found, and the latter of which can only be bypassed with a certain item found within the temple. Ranging from a simple slingshot to magical bows, massive hammers and gloves that let you lift mountains, these items literally open up new opportunities for you, in a way any fan of the Metroid series would recognize.

Ocarina is the epitome of epic games. The world is at stake in the war of a lone boy against the power of an evil army. You must explore massive temples and defeat colossal bosses. You’re fighting against armies of monsters for the power of the Gods (goddesses, rather, but that’s not the point).

So, if you’ve never played Ocarina of Time, pick it up and give it a try. If you played it a long time ago, give it another go whether your nostalgia is good or bad. Between encapsulating puzzles and dungeons, sharp combat, gripping story, and charming retro graphics (unless you’re playing on the 3DS; they gave it a complete visual overhaul with the 3DS’s powerful graphics capabilities), there’s little to dislike about The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Minecraft: Pocket Addition Now Available on Android Market



After months of waiting (well, about two months since E3) it's finally available. Addicts rejoice, your fix is here. Minecraft: Pocket Edition- which is essentially a scaled down version of the hit still-in-beta video game is now downloadable off of the Android Market. There is really only one thing we have to say about this; buy it. It's worth all of your six dollars and ninety two cents. Check the source link for download, and we'll keep our eyes peeled for it's iOS equivalent.

Source: Android Market

Saturday, August 13, 2011

City of Cupertino Releases Detailed Apple Spaceship Pictures



We really wish we could live in this thing, it's so beautiful. The city of Cupertino, who will be approving Apple's new building plans for their new spaceship-like campus that'll be completed in 2015 has released some new pictures of the super structure. The new building, which is replacing an old Hewlett Packard parking lot, will be able to house over 20,000 people and takes up a small part of the 150 acres of land the company has acquired, and will feature a beautiful surrounding of trees and landscape that will actually increase plant life in the area. Since the mayor himself has gone on record as saying that there was no way they would possibly reject the plans- with consideration that Apple is the largest taxpayer in the city- production and final approval should probably be coming up soon, and we're likely to see construction sometime in 2013. In retrospect, this new building is comparable to the Pentagon, and is actually able to properly contain the same number of walking meat people- which brings us to ponder whether or not Apple plans to begin world domination with this new mothership of a building. Don't hesitate to check out some more beautiful renders of the building at the source link, and don't forget to chip in your two cents in the comments below!

Source: 9to5Mac

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Official Bastion Review



On July 20, 2011, Bastion was released on the XBox Live Arcade by SuperGiant Games as part of the Summer of Arcade promotion. Selling for 1200 Microsoft Points, or $15, this game, nay, work of art is worth every penny.

At first glance, Bastion seems to be a fairly standard action-RPG; the main character, “the Kid,” wakes up one morning to find his entire world destroyed by “the calamity,” an ambiguous apocalyptic event. He rushes to a safe-haven, the Bastion, and meets the only other survivor, “the Stranger,” an old man who instructs him to help repair the Bastion. To do so, the Kid must travel to different parts of the world to slash through enemies and collect pieces of “the Core” that will eventually allow the Bastion to fix everything that went wrong.

Bastion manages to put an interesting twist on most classic RPG elements by allowing the player to change their chosen upgrades at any point throughout the game. For instance, when the Kid levels up, instead of spending points in a class system, he unlocks one more open spot in the Distillery where the player selects drinks that act as passive power ups for the Kid. These drinks can be changed at a Distillery at any point in the game, which makes it easy to change play-style depending on either necessity or the player’s mood.

Similarly, all upgrades to the 11 different weapons can be modified at any time through the Forge. Each weapon has a unique feel of its own, but by making use of the different upgrades, the player can entirely change the way a weapon handles. For instance, when the Kid first finds the Army Carbine, it is extremely powerful and slow to aim. However, by upgrading its speed, it becomes a relatively quick long-range weapon with high firepower. Or, by upgrading critical hit chance and maximum damage, the gun maintains its low fire rate but becomes massively more powerful. Bastion gives the player the power to experiment with the two, or to land somewhere in the middle, at all times throughout the game.

Control in Bastion is tight and accurate, all of the weapons are fun to use, the enemies are varied and challenging, and there are many, many levels and challenges throughout the game. However, these qualities only make for a fun game, not a work of art. Bastion qualifies as a work of art because it moves beyond the typical confines of a video game. The most important detail of Bastion’s gameplay is the storytelling. See, throughout the game, the Stranger narrates everything that happens as it happens. At first this concept sounds irritating, but the narrator’s smooth voice is endearing and his narration is interesting to listen to. If anything, the narrator acts as a companion for the player rather than as an irritating sound effect. The narrator makes Bastion feel alive and vibrant; it makes the player feel like they are bringing a story to life as they play. Like a good book, this game is best enjoyed alone where every last detail can be soaked in and the imagination can run wild.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Editorial: The Death of Borders Doesn't Spell the Death of Books



I hear it everyday, all the time and everywhere. They defend it so strongly, and refuse to listen to the truth and the data points and instead rely on their own standards. I'm talking about people who read, and actually, people who don't. I read very often. In fact, I constantly immerse myself in books, I read news everyday and I use those things to manage this blog. I am not a book hater, I am not illiterate, and I don't think the book industry will ever die. Sure, we've all seen a complete disappearance and loss of book stores in our neighborhoods. And it's not likely to stop anytime soon. Reading is a pastime, a hobby, a dedication and a purpose. We read because we want to learn, we want to live, we want to love and enjoy life through the eyes of others. We want to relate to other people and enjoy their stories- fiction or non. We read because we are human. And books, just like television, radio, gaming, music and even the internet is a form of media... and a popular one at that. Books can never die. But that doesn't mean they can't change.

Books have been the same way for so many years for a big reason- it just works. Books are amazing because they quickly and easily manage to disappear and allow the reader to experience and enjoy the world as created by the author. There really hasn't been a sensible replacement for books until now. Actually, there has been only one major change in how we read texts. Before books were made of paper (thus being made of trees) they were made of silk spun from silkworms- making literacy a rarity. However, once the medium shifted to paper, text became dirt cheap to own, easier to read and collect, and nicer to transport. Thus, the book hasn't changed since. But, after all these years, who's to dictate that change is so bad?

Books are also hard to mange when the collection becomes large, causing owners to go out an spend money on expensive book shelves and other means of storage to feed their obsessive reading and collecting habits. In the end, this not only costs more of your hard earned money, but also space in your home. Not to mention that books use up paper and cost money and energy to make. In contrast, ebooks are just simple files that are easy to edit, import, export and share- as they're very small in size. In the end, you pay more for standalone paper books than you do for ebooks. The Amazon Kindle costs only $114 for the ad-supported model, which only displays ads on the homescreen and as a screensaver- never getting in your way during your reading. It also supports PDFs and documents, allowing you to read your important files on the go with the click of a button. If you want internet access everywhere, it only costs $139 for the ad-supported model. Or, if you hate the barely apparent ads, it'll run you $139 for the Wi-Fi only kindle and $189 for the 3G model. But really, the ads are barely there and only help you out and give you deals on the Amazon store, so they're more of an advantage than a disadvantage.

People always worry about ebook readers and their readability in the strong sunlight. Thankfully, all good ebook readers make exclusive use of a technology called eink- which is just as clear and clean as paper. Not only that, but the device is thin and light for easy prolonged reading and transportation in bags, purses or backpacks with ease. In fact, most ereaders are the size, if not smaller and lighter than most paperbacks. You really won't have a problem transporting this thing where ever you need to go.

So, is the book dying? Not at all. The book is simply changing form and becoming something better and easier to use and own. In reality, the idea of a book is to become a convenience and not an experience. It's simply a vessel to allow the words of the author to thrive. If we can make it easy, why not do so? What's so great about carrying around large, clunky books and having the magical ability to physically turn a page? Do people use it as a workout or is it some strange nostalgic feeling that makes people feel better about reading? Whatever it is, it's time you stop making up excuses and at least take a little time to look at the ebook. You shan't be disappointed.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Playstation Vita Missing From Holiday Launch in UK, US



Ugh. Even after passing FCC inspection, a UK leak and a promise from Sony themselves, it's now becoming possible that the Vita will miss holiday launch in both the US and the UK- instead seeing life in Japan. But we really wonder why Sony would pass up the change on all that beautiful money they would be able to pocket? Don't they need the green anyhow? Also, according to the source, there will be no price cuts to follow the recent mark downs of the Nintendo 3DS- which means they must really be betting on some dedication from gaming fans. Hopefully though, if we all wish hard enough, Hanukah Charlie and Santa will come through bearing beautiful Sony treats in their sacks instead of lumps of coal.

Source: Bloomberg