Sunday, June 3, 2012

So I'm currently at the airport waiting for my flight to LA. E3 is coming up, and I'm on my way. I'll post the highlights of my trip when I can.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What is the one thing you learned in your time at Sheridan that you will never forget?

I've learned that it's not the subject but the teacher.

Some of our teachers made the course a real joy to experience. Classes were fun, interactive, and we learned a lot beyond just memorizing things. Meanwhile there were some who just made their classes a bore, you'd show up and just be waiting for the class to end.

Alison was awesome, and not just cause I got an A in her Writing for Magazines class for getting published. ;)

But I took two electives, Japanese Culture and Spanish Culture. Both class basically had the same focus (simply on different countries). The course outline was the same for both. However the Japanese class was great fun. We learned some of the language, learned customs and manners, and had a wonderfully interactive class. Spanish however was boring and bland. We watched poorly done videos which didn't explain much, and had to use a "textbook" that was more of a colouring book.

The Japanese class gave me great lessons and I learned a lot. The Spanish class... not so much. We didn't even learn any actual Spanish, which was surprising.

It all comes down to the teachers. Learning has a lot to do with how the information's presented, not just what it contains.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Brian Fargo is working on Wasteland 2

The creator of the original Wasteland, Brian Fargo, has recently started a Kickstarter project to help fund the game. The original is what led to the creation of the first Fallout game, and the epic franchise that came with it.

Kickstarter is basically a site designed to let people get funding for their ideas. Fargo has had the idea of creating Wasteland 2 for quite some time. But up till now, he's not had the funding to get it going. He's gone to various companies, all of which have basically told him that his idea for a classic-style RPG wouldn't fly. Apparently they didn't believe that such a game would have enough of a following to be worthwhile.

Shows what they know. Within the first 24 hours, the Wasteland 2 Kickstarter project raised almost $600,000. That's one hell of a positive response. Considering donations can come in as low as one dollar, that's quite a lot of supporters. Add to that the fact that while a million dollars is the goal for starting the project, Fargo has commented that if the fans can raise $900,000 he'll throw in $100,000 from his own pocket.

Well, in 33 days the project has hit over $900,000. So the project is a go! Naturally, further funding is always helpful and will enable Fargo and his team to make the project even more special.

Anyone who donates at least $15 will receive a copy of the game. Higher donations will have more bonuses added. Needless to say I've already thrown in my support.

Fargo has explained that the game will be a top-down, "party centric", sandbox style game. It will be similar to the classic RPG's of old which many of us grew up with. And most importantly, it will be a game for the fans. While Fargo has endless pages of information on what will be in the game, he's also paying close attention to the forums for the game. He wants to ensure that while the players might not be writing the game, they'll at least have a strong say in how it's developed. Because unlike most of the big corporations, he knows that the players are what's important and has made them the focus.

And that's the way it should be.
All I can say is:

Friday, February 24, 2012

Science gone wrong.

We see endless movies that show scientists who believe they're "helping humanity" accidentally creating the very threats which they try to save the world from. It seems that we might be doing that right now with out livestock.

A recent article in PopSci explores the findings and beliefs of scientists who believe that the drugs we give our livestock might just be promoting "super bugs". The hormones, antibiotics and other drugs that most farmers feed their animals may just be helping the various bacteria and diseases these animals can carry become more resistant to the drugs we use to fight them.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), is a form of strep that seems to have originated on pig farms, where the animals are fed a battery of drugs to promote their growth and health. The bacteria might just be growing more and more resistant to treatment because of the high antibiotic amount in the pigs it is found in.

Are we causing our own downfall? Are we making the same mistakes those movie scientists do when they think they've found a great way to improve the world? Attempts are being made to find different ways to fight these diseases, including more "natural" cures. Progress is being made, but things take time, and hopefully we have a cure before we have an unstoppable super bug.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Journey to the West: Games from Japan that don't quite make the trip.

Japan. Home of the gods (of gaming). The source of countless video games that are enjoyed in North America, at least after they've translated and given a new voice-over cast. China and Korea also both share in the glory of being the source of many popular games.

But not everything makes it to the west. And it's not just the odd games, like Boong-Ga Boong-Ga (a game about poking your finger up someone's rear end) that don't get approval for release over here. Even some of the bigger titles, which have already had earlier releases her have been denied access.

The Warriors Orochi series, a spin-off that combines characters from the Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors games, was quite a success in North America. While not as huge a hit as the various games are in Japan, they still got respectable sales, as well as a demand for more from the fans.

Warriors Orochi 2 was eventually released in North America, again getting a decent reception for a niche game. However, Warriors Orochi Z, which was essentially a PS3 upgrade of the previous PS2 games incorporating both original games into a compilation with enhanced graphics and extra features, never made it to the west. The North American and European releases were cancelled, making it the first Omega Force Warriors title to not get an overseas release.

Some speculate that it was a lack of sales which caused the decision. However the demand for the games, and the outcry at not getting a localized version, were still quite loud. Fortunately, the PS3 is not region locked, so importing games is easy enough. The problem being that if you don't actually speak and read Japanese, understanding the games can be difficult.

Now Warriors Orochi 3 is on its way. Sort of.
The game now has 132 characters. KOEI has decided against hiring voice actors to cover the translation for all characters, leaving the game with Japanese voice overs while the writing is translated to English. The game will be released in the UK in disc format. Which is great for them. Unfortunately for those of us in North America, we won't be seeing the game on shelves. According to Sony's licensing regulations for PS3 titles, a game which contains no English voice acting options is not allowed to be released as an on-disc version. Instead, the game will be available through the North American PlayStation Network. So digital is the only option available.

While the simple fact that we're getting the game over here is great news, it's disappointing to know that we won't be able to buy a physical copy unless we import it from Europe. For those who have limited space on their system, requiring a full download of a large game like this will cause problems. Many simply won't have the hard drive space to handle it.

And then there's the issues of downloadable content. While games on PS3 are not region locked, DLC is. So if you do decide to import a UK copy of the game, you'll have to set up a European account on your system to be able to access the European PSN for any DLC that is released. Again, for some this can be problematic.

This isn't the only game facing such issues. Way of the Samurai 4, the latest installment of another popular series, seems to be heading down the same path. While fans have been happy to hear that the game which was released in March of 2011 is finally getting a European release (being made possible by Rising Star Games), the American fans are still left waiting.

Rising Star Games has announced that they will be opening a new office in the United States. This has brought hope to American fans of WotS series, who hope that this will lead to a U.S. release of the latest game. Only time will tell.

There have been many other titles which have gone through this ordeal. Titles that fans have had to import from other countries simply because they weren't released the world over. The reasons for these decisions are usually never announced, though most suspect it being a simple matter of sales figures. While the games will make some profit with western releases, the companies see it as not being enough to invest in localization. Sometimes the pleas (or threats) of the fanbase has swayed the decision of the game companies, but sadly the majority of these cries fall on deaf ears.

If your favourite games don't seem to be getting a release in your region, be sure to speak up and make yourself heard. Contact the game companies and let them know that the demand is there, and that their efforts in delivering great games is appreciated, even if the sales might not reach what they do overseas. Sometimes one voice is all it takes to tip the balance.

Good luck, and happy gaming.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

U.S. Cattle prices are at an all time high.

An article in Reuters yesterday has shown that U.S. cattle prices have reached an all time high due to a recent drought.

Cattle supplies have hit a low point because of a drought that has hit the south-western United States. As a result, many younger cattle have been forced into feedlots rather than being left in their pastures. This lack of cattle has driven prices up, even despite the United States' current economic problems.

Beef prices have naturally increased greatly due to this turn of events. These increased prices will no doubt have an impact on Canadian meat prices as well, as Canada and the U.S. share a lot in the cattle trade.

We can only wait to see if the coming months bring the needed rains again to the region. Until then, you might want to skip your burgers for a while.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Namibian farm owner happy to get some of his cattle back.

Six men were arrested in Windhoek, Namibia on Monday after they stole several cattle from a commercial farm between Okakarara and Hamakari.

The New Era covered their arrest today.

Five cattle were returned and one carcass was discovered after the thieves chased the cattle away on horseback then on foot. The police were tipped off to the crime by the community, said Nampol Otjozondjupa Commissioner, Anghuwo Joseph Anghuwo.

The relieved farm owner couldn't determine how many cattle had been stolen in all, but he was happy to have the five returned to him. Local cattle prices can rise to as high as five thousand Namibian dollars.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Ontario farmers deny that ethanol is hurting their livestock's food supply.

Ontario farmers have spoken up against the findings of George Morris Centre (GMC), an independent agency which is claiming that the ethanol industry is hurting the livestock industry. This was covered by

The article explains how the Grain Farmers of Ontario (GFO) have been contesting the findings of the GMC. They have explained that a third of the corn used for ethanol is actually reused as livestock feed. Added to this is the fact that corn yields in Ontario have actually been increasing rapidly. The GFO claims that without the ethanol industry to take some of this excess corn, that it would actually be negatively impacting Ontario farmers.

The GFO have made it clear that the GMC's findings are false. And that there is no cause for livestock producers to blame the ethanol industry for any issues they may face when seeking feed for their animals. The GFO point out that livestock prices have been at or near a record high of late.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Farmers in the UK are worried about a new livestock disease.

This past Monday, multiple farms in the United Kingdom reported an outbreak of the new Schmallenberg virus (SBV). The BBC News has taken a look into this new concern.

This new livestock disease was first discovered in the Netherlands last year, and has now been spotted in the sheep populations of three farms. The farms, located in Norfolk, Suffolk and East Sussex, have had their sheep tested by the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA). The AHVLA and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) believe that the cause of the infection comes from infected midges which blew across the Channel.

Very little is known about the disease at present, but research is ongoing. The lambs which were found to be infected were either stillborn or died shortly after being born. The farmers who owned the infected animals reported that it seemed similar to the bluetongue disease, which is also spread by midges. There is question though, as to whether the cause of the infection is truly midges, or from livestock that was imported.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control do not believe that this disease will be infectious in humans.

Farmers in the region are asked to stay vigilant. There is currently no vaccine for this new infection, so preventative measures should be taken, and farmers should avoid importing livestock from infected regions of Europe.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Kingdom of Amalur: Reckoning... the next Fable.

So I've spent quite a bit of time playing the Kingdom of Amalur demo that was released on Steam. Including making use of the convenient glitch to get around the 45 minute play time limit. This let me explore all that the limit area in the demo has to offer. And gave me a good feel for the game overall (at least of what we've been given access to).

I have to say, it's a pretty good game. A very fun action game. Hack-n-slash done very well, with some RPG elements implemented in interesting ways to make it more than just another Diablo style game, where you kill everything without much explanation.

When rated as an action game, along the lines of Fable and such, it scores very highly. Giving us a large linear world to explore, and many interesting battles to enjoy. On the flip side, if you're looking for a deep RPG, this is definitely not the game for you.

While the writing is absolutely brilliant, thanks to R.A. Salvatore's contributions... the way the game is designed, all the story and plot is essentially optional. You can easily skip all conversations and just run around killing everything, progressing quite easily. However you can't do the opposite. There's no "non-combat" route through this game. The best you get is the occasional option to skip a small fight here and there, though you're forced into 99% of the battles in the game.

There's not really much in the way of character options. You have one type of character to play as, the combat god. All your skills are essentially just a choice of HOW you're going to run around and kill everything in sight. While the game supposedly offers you the classic "warrior/thief/mage" selection, they all play mostly the same. The mage will run around smashing enemies with a staff instead of a sword, but the play style is mostly the same. The thief can sneak around (as can the warrior and mage), but combat with daggers or a bow will work the same as for everything else. All in all, the character options are very disappointing, and lack much depth.

The combat system itself is decent. Very similar to Devil May Cry or God of War. Where you string together combos with your two equipped weapons. As you level, you unlock skills which expand your combo selection. Though honestly, relying on the basic attack-stun two hit combo will get you easily through most encounters. So if you're not good at stringing together big combos, you can survive with minimal action skill.

Back to the story. The world is beautifully designed, and many of the larger story elements are just as beautifully written. Many characters unfortunately have very little story or background to them, and just seem to be there to serve as filler for the world. And there's not too many who you'll really get attached to beyond the main cast.

Quests generally are very linear, and involve you going to a place, killing everything there, and coming back to the quest giver. Now and then a quest might have some options to it, usually the typical "nice guy or jerk" options. But for the most part, your decisions have no real impact on the world. You can cause the slaughter of a town, betray people left and right... and you'll still get praised as a hero. Even being caught committing a crime in a town only lasts until you leave the town. After which you can stroll back in as if nothing ever happened. This is quite disappointing.

Overall, if you're looking for a good action-RPG along the lines of Fable or Jade Empire, this game should fit well in that niche. Like most modern games, it's been dumbed down to accommodate the casual gamers of today who have very little experience with depth in their games. But it's still quite enjoyable. If you're looking for a deep RPG, move on, because you won't find it here.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

India might be facing a livestock disease crisis.

The project directorate on animal disease monitoring and surveillance in Bangalore has spread the warning through The Telegraph in Calcutta, India. The Telegraph has released an article on this issue today.

According to the directorate, who have made a study using information gathered over the past 25 years, an outbreak is due to hit Northeast India in February and March of this year.

The affected region consumes about 50 per cent of the country's pork. They are facing the threat of swine flu, haemorrhagic septicaemia, black quarter and foot-and-mouth disease. The directorate is working with the government to try and take all possible steps to combat these outbreaks. It is their hopes that by ensuring such information and warnings are readily available, outbreaks such as the ones predicted can be contained and even prevented.