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Some San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) 2013 Links

July 16th, 2013

My friends and I compiled some useful links for those attending (or not attending) San Diego Comic-Con 2013.

Friends of Comic-Con International Forum — The unofficial forum for SDCC.

Tehlilone’s Compiled List of San Diego Comic-Con 2013 Exclusives — Incredibly complete and arguably more useful than what CCI posted on their own site.

Outside Comic-Con — Compilation of events and food trucks surrounding SDCC 2013. Some are paid admission or may require a pre-registration for a free ticket.

deviantArt’s Official Comic-Con Group — Mostly promoting dA’s involvement in SDCC.

Cosplay.com San Diego Comic-Con Forum — Seems like most groups or gatherings at Comic-Con get assembled through other networks but there are a few themed groups coordinating on Cosplay.com.

Any my own small contribution, a Cosplayers Twitter List. Just a handful of cosplayers and cosplayer related Twitterers who may (or may not) be at Comic-Con, but it’s a start.

OUYA Impressions

May 11th, 2013

OUYA Controller My Kickstarter funded OUYA arrived today. I can say that my experience is in line with most other reviews I’ve seen. Here’s a somewhat quick set of first impressions.

Unboxing and Physical
I had opted for an additional controller when pledging and the 2nd controller comes in thin foam bag alongside the main console box. Padding was sufficient but there was certainly room for the controller to move around.

Inside the OUYA box, there are just the essentials: console, controller, power adapter, HDMI cord and a thin booklet with some regulatory information. The included controller was intact, unlike the experience of many game reviewers a couple of weeks back. I appreciate having an HDMI cord in the box. Why can’t a popular console costing $250 to $300 pack one in?

I’d have to agree that the controller build materials aren’t as refined as mainstream consoles. I don’t like the seam along the controller handles. Spring action in the left and right triggers also isn’t as smooth as the OUYA’s big brothers. Overall the controller is workable.

Setup and Getting Started

Setup was straight forward, starting with specifying Wifi settings and the system making an unsurprising software update. A a Kickstarter backer, I already had a username selected and signing in was quick.

OUYA has custom menus for the most common functions but setting up Wifi as well as some other more “advanced” settings will throw you into a standard Android UI. It’s not a good experience as basically you’ve got a phone / tablet oriented menu system on the big screen.

This is where I first encountered one of my main issues with OUYA. There apparently is no way to compensate for TV overscan and OUYA seems to not have tested with TVs that have overscan on by default. My own TV is getting on in age at almost 8 years old now, overscans the picture and has no options to fit the image to the visible area of the screen (probably because it’s a rear projection model).

The main side effect of this is that not only do the Android menu screens all get clipped but almost all the games I tried get their UIs clipped. Apparently, OUYA doesn’t have guidelines to just use 90% of the screen like the major consoles or doesn’t enforce them. I’m sure I’m part of a shrinking minority in this situation but it’s still a poor experience.

The UI itself feels sluggish. It’s hard to tell how much is controller latency and how much is the system not pushing the menu’s pixels quick enough.

The Games

I downloaded and played a few games. It was a generally smooth experience though you’re thrown back into the Android UI when it’s time to install a game or app. The games were as you would expect: entertaining but that impressive. The positive is that all games are available as a free download to start with some kind of limited play mode built in. At various points such as completing a level or trying to activate some function, the user is prompted to purchase the full version. I’m sure there are freemium games too.

Here’s what I played:

iMech Online — A mech-based 3rd person shooter. Gameplay feels like from 15 years ago as it’s just a free-for-all destroy as many mechs as you can arena. Mechs and weapons are limited in the free trial version. The UI feels like it was unchanged from it’s original touch interface with just a highlight cursor added. If they improved the mech animation and added team or objective play modes, it might be interesting.

Vector — Basically like Canabalt but with parkour elements. The animation is smooth and there’s a decent opening animation that gives some background on what you’re running from. After a few runs I still hadn’t figured out how to do the first special move which left me a bit discouraged.

Radiant HD — I actually got this retro styled shooter from Amazon’s App Store a long time ago. It’s basically unchanged but with controller input. The overscan issue caused problems in seeing the score and remaining ships.

Twitch — This is a gaming oriented streaming video app. The UI seems to have no alterations from it’s mobile device version. I spent time watching some Injustice: Gods Among Us matches broadcast from a fighting tournament. I enjoyed it more than playing the games.

Flashout 3D — Basically a Wipeout clone where you race sleek flying cars (or maybe hover jets) in futuristic environments. The free version seems limited to a single track and vehicle. I’m not sure how to describe it but the physics seem a bit off… racing feels too smooth, compared with how racing in the Wipeout series feels.

I downloaded a few others like Amazing Frog but haven’t played them yet.

Conclusion

OUYA right now feels like more potential than fact. The UX overall is a little rough and most of the games I played could have used more tuning and polish. The Tegra 3 graphics are solid for 7″ or 10″ screens but when blown up to 50″ or 60″, it loses its punch.

It’s best to think of the OUYA as showing where home gaming can go. It used to be just a few big companies that can compete. The mobile space has demonstrated that people don’t necessary need what’s termed a AAA gaming experience to be entertained and invest a lot of time. If performance can be improved and the games on the device polished more, it might make a convincing argument that you can fill your time between Netflix sessions with home gaming from someone other than the big 3.

Updated 2013-05-11: Added OUYA controller image.

Some Thoughts on the Star Wars Blu-ray Extras

September 18th, 2011

I’ve been sick the past two days, so it was a good opportunity to stay in bed and on the couch and watch several hours of Star Wars Blu-ray collection bonus materials.

I have not watched the latest changes Mr. Lucas has made to the movies. I’m not sure I could handle them in my weakened condition!

Happy Surprises

  • The complete missing scene of Luke viewing the space battle over Tatooine and telling his friends about it at Tosche Station. This scene with Luke’s friend Biggs was in the comics and story book version when I was a kid and I’ve only seen brief clips of it in documentaries and other extras over the years.
  • The animated segment from the Star Wars Holiday Special is included as part of Boba Fett’s costume prototype in the Episode V Collection. The animation is low budget and has some odd character designs but shouldn’t be missed.
  • Inclusion of some classic fan films in the Spoofs video including Star Wars Gangsta Rap SE and Troops.
  • Several appearances of Star Wars in 70s and early 80s TV shows, including a song and dance number from the Donny & Marie show with Donny and Marie as Luke and Leia (strangely prophetic!), and Mark Hamill on The Muppet Show.
  • I really enjoyed all of Dennis Muren‘s special effects commentary in the Interviews sections.
  • There are some original episode documentaries that I’m sure were broadcast on television soon after the movies came out. I don’t quite remember seeing them but I got a warm fuzzy feeling while watching them. They’re an interesting contrast to many “making of” segments these days which often is more about selling you on seeing the movie than how the movie was really created.

Onto critiques and other observations…
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Moonraker

April 29th, 2011

This week’s episode of The Talk Show included a review of Moonraker. The Talk Show is a weekly webacast where Dan Benjamin and John Gruber talk about Apple, Mac, iPhone and related topics. They’ve also been reviewing the James Bond movies starting with Dr. No for the past couple of months. These are honest and accurate reviews, citing the good and the bad of each film. Their review and analysis of Moonraker was par for the course, noting that the second half jumps off the logic train never to return (my summarized interpretation, not their words).

However, Moonraker holds a special place for me. I was a bit young and afraid of Darth Vader when Star Wars first came out so I missed it’s initial run in the theaters. Instead, I got to see all of the pretenders to the throne that came afterwards: Battlestar Galactica, Black Hole, Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, Battle Beyond the Stars and of course Moonraker. Don’t get me wrong. I love all these films and think they range from ok to modern classics but I’m pretty sure none would’ve made it to the theater without the success of Star Wars.

Moonraker was my introduction to James Bond. While The Talk Show pulls apart the lapses in logic compared to earlier Bond movies, to me as a child it was insane fun. Sure, as an adult I can wonder why would a mock funeral be staged just to kill James Bond and why his gondola becomes a hover craft, but as a kid it was just one insane techno-action sequence after another. A boat with mines and a hang glider for escapes? Yes! Fighting on a runaway cable car? Yes! Escaping death by rocket exhaust? Yes! Marines fighting in space with lasers? Yes! Exploding bolas? I had never seen regular bolas let alone ones that wrap around and explode. Yes!

Now, on reflecting on the movie, maybe it was all too much, but for a 6 year old at the time, it was pretty damn cool. The combination of gadgets, action and sci-fi was great. Does a kid care that elaborate assassination attempts during a funeral procession, while skeet shooting or getting pushed out of an airplane made no sense? Not really. I just took it for granted that was how things work in the James Bond universe. I didn’t see For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy had no impact on me (I think I blocked it out it was so unmemorable) when I saw it during summer camp several years later. Moonraker had cemented itself as my archetype of Bond for years to come and gave me inspiration of what to do with my many space shuttle plastic models beside launch them into space and deploy satellites. But that’s another story.

Comics Roundup for 3/28/2011

March 28th, 2011

One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to blog more. It’s now about a quarter into the new year and I’ve not posted a thing! So, I’ve decided to try posting semi-regular commentary on comics I’ve been reading. Here goes with some quick commentary on FF #1, Ultimate Doom #4 and Ultimate Spider-Man #156. Beware of spoilers!
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Thriller

June 25th, 2009

It’s been a sad week with the passing of Ed McMahon, Farah Fawcett and now Michael Jackson. I identify all three with different parts of my childhood. I feel the worst about Michael Jackson. His was a life that was derailed along the way, his childhood never quite fulfilled and an ongoing struggle for him to find his place in the world on his own terms. But, beyond his personal troubles, he was a singular entertainer and artist. There can be no doubt he’s one of the greats of pop music and entertainment.

Like pretty much everyone else in the world, I enjoyed his music. I’ll admit I never found the need to purchase any of his albums. He seemed so ubiquitous in the 80s it didn’t seem necessary to pester my parents for his music. Oddly, I did long for the over $100 “Beat It” jacket but settled for a much less expensive, nylon/polyester one that only evoked a feeling of being inspired by the original. By the time the 90s came and I had my own buying power, I had moved on. In our iTunes collection of over 5900 items (we have several hundred CDs as a starting point), there are just 3 songs with Michael Jackson singing: “Thriller,” “Billie Jean” and The Jacksons’ “Can You Feel It.”

Why those songs? I can’t speak of “Billie Jean” since that came as part of my wife’s music collection, but I can trace “Thriller” and “Can You Feel It” back to a birthday party in elementary school. Read the rest of this entry »

I’m really annoyed with [as]

March 31st, 2009

I know I have better things to do right now: pay bills, finish my taxes, take care of some chores that have been sitting incomplete for weeks. Still I have a need to take a minute to vent about [Adult Swim]. I haven’t posted in months and yet tonight’s showing of the awful, sad, depraved The Room was just the last straw. Maybe I needed Tom Servo and Crow to guide me while watching but I just didn’t get the April Fool’s joke here.

This isn’t the network I used to watch for a solid three hours every night. This isn’t even the network that I would tune into every now and then and be presently surprised to find something new on. I’m wondering if I’ve changed as I’ve grown older or has the staff of [Adult Swim] transformed over the years? They’ve been on what I view as a juvenile, downward spiral of low budget animation and cheap live action shows for a few years now. I know that money doesn’t make a show necessarily better but can we consistently have animation that doesn’t look like it was drawn by a three year old? Can we not attempt a parodies of old Krofft shows filmed in a garage with a green screen, annoying characters and inane plots? Half of the new shows over the last few years make me wonder if I need to be on something to fully enjoy them. Why? I expect better than internet quality programming on the TV, not worse.
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More FP Remake News

November 5th, 2008

Ain’t It Cool News has some additional news on the Forbidden Planet remake. Not many details but sounds more like a remake than a sequel and they’re keeping a “retro” look and feel. Hopefully the project will be kept hot and this all isn’t another false start.

Straczynski on Forbidden Planet Remake

October 31st, 2008

I normally don’t post straight news stories but this one’s special. After what seemed like forever without much news on the on-again/off-again remake of Forbidden Planet, the HollywoodReporter noted today that J. Michael Straczynski is now set to write the new version. This is great news.

Of course I watched B5 in the day and generally enjoyed the supernatural slant added to Spider-Man while JMS was writing ASM, so I’m confident that he will do FP right. Still not clear when the new FP will be out but hopefully this will help move things along.

I was also pleasantly surprised to see that JMS is also working on a Lensman project. Nifty!

Tokyo Game Show 2008 with LightRoom 2

October 29th, 2008

TGS Cosplayer I’ve posted the photos of Tokyo Game Show 2008. I can’t believe another year has come and gone. This time I was in Japan on vacation and, since I didn’t need to be there on a “business” day, I attended on the weekend when the cosplayers are out in force. It was a welcome change of pace, though traveling long distance with a family was new and challenging in its own right. I was on my own that day and took a little bit longer than usual to get going in the morning. By the time I got to Makuhari Messe, I had less than four hours to look around and take pictures before I needed to start heading back to Tokyo.

I’ve been looking at ways to improve my photo workflow. Though I’ve been actively taking digital photos for eight years now, I’m still just a part-time hobbyist and don’t really take time to tweak my photos. My current workflow is Adobe Bridge and PhotoShop CS2. It’s real basic usage: exposure tweaking, leveling, cropping and downsampling / sharpening for posting on the web. Occasionally I’ll need to do something more like try to correct the picture’s temperature or white balancing (typically if the home lights are too strong). I could probably get away with just GraphicConverter but I’ve been using PhotoShop since version 3 in college and it feels more natural. Since the majority of my photoshopping is so photo oriented, I’ve gotten trial versions of LightRoom 2 and Aperture 2 to play with.
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