Thursday, March 5, 2015

House of Cards Season 3


The release of House of Cards Season 3 on Netflix last week gave my wife and I another opportunity to binge watch a good show.  We loved House of Cards Season 1 and 2 so we were excited to jump into Season 3 right away.

It's still good, even if it has gone off the rails a bit this season.  It's definitely not as good as the first two seasons.  The first two seasons were all about the dirty and desperate power climb in the American political system.  Season 3 starts out with Frank Underwood already being president and most of the season he doesn't quite know what to do with himself.  It's a disappointing change compared to the other seasons.

Another thing that bugged us is that anyone who has looked into the actual daily life of a president would notice a ton of inconsistencies and things that aren't realistic this season.  I'm able to let it go, but it bugged my wife throughout the entire season.  Frank Underwood barely seems to have any kind of staff or interact with anyone outside of a few close allies.  The typical White House Senior Staff is no where to be seen.  It seems like a lost opportunity.

With all that said, would I still recommend it?  Yeah.  It's still a really good show.  House of Cards is a great drama and I love supporting the Netflix Original Series.  Not to mention, the way the season ends sets it up for what could be an amazing confrontation in Season 4.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Final Fantasy XIV: Patches and Endgame Content


I'm still playing Final Fantasy XIV and I'm still trying to get my head around everything the endgame has to offer.  But, I wanted to mention how impressed I am with their patches.

Patch 2.51 just released last week.  In terms of Final Fantasy XIV patches it's a "minor" one.  A minor patch in any other MMO I've ever played would include some bug fixes and small balance tweaks.  This patch in FFXIV added the Gold Saucer.  It's an entirely new area of the game that is completely visually unique and has a bunch of new activities.  They added Triple Triad, a complete digital card game, along with things like Chocobo Racing and mini games scattered throughout the area.  This patch really impressed me.  It might be what convinces me to subscribe to this game.

I mean, they just add so much content per patch.  Every "major" patch has added new storyline quests as well as 3 or more new dungeons or encounters to run.  They make other MMOs look like amateurs.  And all of these are free patches, they haven't even had a real expansion yet.

When I hit 50 I got a little discouraged.  My friend Belghast told me to check out the patch trailers.  Each one shows off just how much content they've added for endgame characters.  I was impressed, and now that I've actually played through a lot of it I'm even more impressed by the sheer amount of content they've added.

This is why I've been able to devote so much time to endgame content and not feel the normal grind and boredom that typically accompanies MMO endgame.  I've probably played over 40 hours at endgame and I've never run the same dungeon twice.  I've never run a daily quest.  I've been max level for weeks and I've yet to re-run the same piece of endgame content.

Other MMOs I've played will only have a couple viable dungeons and pieces of content to run at any time.  It's easy to burn through all the content once in a few days, at which point you're stuck repeating it.  That is not the case in FFXIV.

And I'm still on my main class.  I haven't even started playing around with the other classes my character can access yet.


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Star Wars: Tarkin


Yesterday I finished Star War: Tarkin.  It's the second novel in the Star Wars New Expanded Universe.  I must say, this novel was much better than A New Dawn.

The novel is a character piece all about how Grand Moff Tarkin became a Grand Moff.  It also details how he became involved with the Death Star.  It's a good read for the background alone, but it's actually a really interesting look at his life and how he works within the Empire to achieve his goals.

I jumped back and forth between reading the kindle version and listening to the Audible version.  Have I mentioned how much I love whispersync syncing between kindle books and Audible?  It's amazing.

The audio book version is great.  It has amazing sound design.  They manage to capture the atmosphere of scenes as well as adding sound effects as characters are acting within the scenes.  I've never encountered an audiobook with these productive values before.  It's easy to recommend it.

And overall, Tarkin is easier to recommend than A New Dawn.  It's a much more interesting book.

I've officially reached the end of the novels in the New Expanded Universe now.  I know there are only two, but its still sad compared to how many were in the Old Expanded Universe (now called Star Wars Legends).  I'm excited for the first books in the new Expanded Universe that actually have main characters like Luke, Han, and Leia.  I think the next one that releases is slated to get back to them.

While I'm still adapting to this New Expanded Universe I'm glad that I'm starting to get invested in it.  I just love Star Wars so much.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Hero Emblems


Yesterday I mentioned how I latch onto good mobile games whenever I find them.  Since my phone is always within arm's reach I can sneak in quick mobile game sessions... and I do.

I've been playing a bunch of Hero Emblems.  It's really fun, despite being a match-3 game.  And it doesn't have any predatory pricing model!  You pay for it once and get the game.  No in-app purchases.  That's always a plus in my book.

The reason it's better than most match-3 games is because there are always obvious available matches but the game is about choosing the right one at the right time.  Compared to most match-3 games It has a bigger board, with less variety of matching items.  In this case they're called emblems, but they function just like gems in Bejeweled.

The cool part is that the game is actually an RPG and each emblem on the board corresponds to one of the members in your party.  When you match that set of emblems that character will take their action.  There is a melee attacker, magical attacker, defender/tank, and healer.  It makes for a really cool dynamic that's fun to play.

In typical RPG fashion, characters level up, gain abilities, equip new gear, and can purchase skills.  It has all the trappings of both a RPG and a puzzle game.


And it can be played in quick bursts!  It's a game that I usually play in quick five minute sessions, but I've also had a few times where I played it for over an hour in one sitting.

It's good.  It's worth your time and a few bucks if you have an iOS device.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Star Wars Legends

After writing my other post about the Star Wars Expanded Universe I learned that the old Expanded Universe is now called Star Wars Legends.  It's actually a pretty good name for it, since it is essentially it's own separate universe now.  From what I can tell, there's no official name for the New Expanded Universe, but from now on I'll refer to the Old Expanded Universe as Star Wars Legends.

I've decided to do what I was contemplating.  I'm going to re-read a big chunk of the Star Wars Legends in order and rekindle my fond memories of the series.

I've been referring to this handy chart while planning my reading.  I suggest you glance at it, just to see how many novels are in the Star Wars Legends collection.  It's impressive.

I've read the majority of the Star Wars Legends book, from all the eras represented.  Going back and reading absolutely everything isn't something I feel like doing right now.  But I do have a plan for which novels I'm revisiting.

I'm going to start with some selected readings from the Rebellion Era.  There are a lot of books in the Rebellion Era, but they don't actually add that much of interest.  This is the era in the timeline where the movies are taking place, so the novels are super constrained to fit around the movies.  I'm skipping the entire era except for Shadows of the Empire and The Truce at Bakura.  They're both one-off books.  Shadows of the Empire takes place between Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi in the original trilogy.  The Truce at Bakura happens immediately after Return of the Jedi.  They both add a little bit and help round out the story in the Rebellion era.

After that I'm going to read everything.  There are three eras that exist after the Rebellion era.  Those are where the best books in Star Wars Legends are.

The New Republic Era is all about what happens after you overthrow an empire.  How do you deal with the fallout and establish a new government?  What are the ramifications and unforeseen consequences?  I've read over half of the novels in this era.

The New Jedi Order Era is the next generation of Jedi trained by Luke Skywalker.  It includes the children of Han and Leia.  The Solo children are some of the best characters in Star Wars Legends.  This is where the novel series starts to get amazing.  The authors are finally free to stretch their imaginations beyond the Rebellion/Empire dynamic.  This is my favorite era in the Star Wars Legends universe.  I've read every book in this era.

The Legacy Era deals with how the next generation of Jedi handle the fallout from the events of the New Jedi Order Era.  In the New Jedi Order era there is a war with a new group of enemies and it leaves that generation of Jedi changed and scarred in interesting ways.  This is the era where the long term consequences of all that is shown.  The Legacy Era is much more about personal relationships and threats from within.  I've also read every book in this era as well.

That's my master plan.  It'll take awhile, and I'm ok with that.  For the most part I will be revisiting books that I loved the first time I read them.  I'll have a better perspective on them now that I've read so many Star Wars books.  It'll be interesting to see which novels and book series hold up well.  I'm also excited to read all the books in the New Republic era that I missed the first time I went through these novels.

Now that I have it down in writing I actually need to do it.  Better get started.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Gaming Plans

Well I had a crazy week.  I barely played any games at all.  But I had some time to scan the headlines and keep up with gaming news.

I realized that there aren't actually that many games announced that I'm excited for.  I was thinking ahead to everything I know of that is supposed to release this year and I only game up with a couple that I'm really interesting in getting.


Final Fantasy Type-0 is the game I'm most excited for.  I obviously love the Final Fantasy series and this is the first time Type-0 is getting released in the U.S.  It's a gritty, mature take on war and it has the Final Fantasy name attached.  It's also an action RPG which is a departure for the series.  I've purposefully avoided most information about it because I know that I'll pick it up day one.  I'll always give a new Final Fantasy game a chance and I like discovering the world on my own.

Because of my love for the series I'm also excited to get my hands on Final Fantasy Record Keeper.  I don't have high hopes for it, but it should be interesting to at least try out.  It's a mobile game that lets you relive many of the scenarios and epic battles of the Final Fantasy series.  My biggest worry is that Square Enix loves to put shitty free to play models in place for their mobile games.  Just look at All the Bravest.

The last game on my radar, which doesn't actually have a release date, is Hearthstone for iPhone.  I love Hearthstone but I never have time to sit down and play it.  If I'm sitting at my computer I have a wide selection of other PC specific games to play and I don't actually sit down to play games on my iPad all that often.  But I'm constantly doing stuff on my phone.  I love finding mobile games that I can play in quick bursts.  I already know that I'm going to play a ton of Hearthstone once it's in my pocket at all times.

Besides those games I'm mostly just working through my backlog, which is always a good thing.  I also want to dive into the Final Fantasy series spin-offs soon.  And somehow Final Fantasy XIV actually keeps dragging me back in.  I'm having a good time in a MMO and it's really surprising for me.  I should probably write about it more often if I keep playing.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Interconnected World of Majora's Mask


I'm through the first dungeon in Majora's Mask and I'm really enjoying the game.  I haven't played it since it originally launched on N64, so it's fun to dig in and discover things I had completely forgotten about.

It's amazing how all the characters interact and have daily lives.  I love the three day cycle of this game, it's such a perfect fit with how they've constructed the world.  You can learn where characters will be at certain times on certain days.  They are all interconnected with quests, objectives, and masks.

To this day, there's still no other game like it.

I think the multi-day cycle is a really cool thing that other games could take and run with.  I would like to see it redone by modern game designers, but it seems like a concept that was left alone after Majora's Mask.

At this point I'm mostly focusing on exploring the world.  It's really fun just exploring and doing sidequests for masks even though I'm only through the first dungeon.  I'll get back to the main questline soon but for now I'm having a good time taking in the world.