The Road to Fitness – One Hundred Push-Ups

Fitness is something that I have been slacking on due to various circumstances… I was reading this Lifehacker post on Friday and I stumbled on to a post about One Hundred Push-Ups. The challenge has inspired me, because push-ups are one of my weakest exercises. Of course, this correlates to me being pathetic on things like bench presses when I was weight training. I did the initial fitness test and sadly belted out a pathetic 8 push-ups before my body screamed in agony. I intend to take it on and watch my improvements come in the next 6 weeks. It’s gonna be a long road, but I am gonna be stoked at the improvements when they come in time.

Meanwhile… I invite my fellow editor The Orphan to take on the challenge with me! Expect me to be updating my blog with progress notes of brutal honesty. Tomorrow’s a big day for me…

Plea for Inquiry: PC versions of Blur and Split/Second NOT optimized

So I decided to send out the following as an e-mail to Kotaku’s tip line in hopes of someone taking a look into it… Continue reading Plea for Inquiry: PC versions of Blur and Split/Second NOT optimized

Eulogy of a Phoenix

I want to say that I don’t dislike my parents. I feel they are GREAT people when they are being reasonable. I do take part of the blame for being an impish kid in my past and probably burning them out. For that I own up to it and have no shame taking full responsibility. However, I wish they would understand that after age 18… I, as their offspring, can’t be molded and shaped to their exacting expectations. I also don’t take too well of being reminded of my past. There’s a reason I say “Don’t remind me of my past or you WILL make me relapse into it” because I whole-heartedly believe that our past is just a stepping stone. Sometimes these stepping stones are what give us bruises and scrapes all over us. But you all still have the misguided opinion that if we’re in a protected bubble and live off the hear-say of others that we can be “perfect”… That’s not living and learning. It’s called being lazy and vicarious. I would much rather live through the 5 years of life with my ex than to have been under some ignorant ideal called “perfection”. In those years, I learned about finance, laws, living, romance, and friendship. I also did one important thing… I learned to become my own man.

I am sorry if I am stubborn, but I feel it will be the best thing for me.

As for my sister, she has forever lost my trust. Until she loses everything and learns not to burn people who are her friends… I refuse to speak to her. If she wants to appeal to my heart, she can wait 5-10 years to speak to me. I am sure she’ll lead the perfect life she so desires without nuisances like me around. So to her, I will warn her to tread carefully as I still hold a “tactical nuke” of data that I could drop at any time to make my point clear.

From this point onward, I shall seal off topics regarding my family. They can consider it my form of forgiveness.

Dinner Experiment – Shiner Black Lager Braised Chicken

Today I had a fun dinner experiment… I decided to see if one of my favorite beers could take on another recipe. Chicken is one of the most misunderstood meats as some people forget that the hallmark of chicken is that it should be moist and tender. A good chicken breast shouldn’t be like a piece of dry beef jerky on your plate. I digress… Onwards to the recipe and review!

1 bottle of Shiner Black Lager
2 boneless chicken breasts (thawed and defrosted)
1 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon of minced garlic
1/8th teaspoon of ground peppercorns
Shredded cheese (recommended choice: cheddar)

Tools needed: Slow cooker

Combine the chicken breasts, Shiner Black Lager, salt, minced garlic, and peppercorns together into the slow cooker. Set the slow cooker in low and let it cook for 7 hours. After 7 hours, remove the chicken breasts, discard the sauce from the slow cooker, and garnish the chicken with shredded cheese.

Notes: The end result is some seriously tender chicken that’s savory and moist. The chicken is imparted with the flavors of the Shiner Black Lager as well as the garlic and peppercorns. Pair the chicken with a rice or pasta dish. Pair the chicken with a red wine like a mixed red (ex: Stickleback) or a Cabernet Sauvignon for maximum effect.

Recipe – Simply Delicious Turkey Chili

1 lb Ground Turkey (preferably lean 93/7 meat to fat ratio)
2 cans (6oz) of tomato paste*
1 can of Rotel crushed tomatoes and chilis*
1 packet of McCormicks Chili Seasoning Mix (Low sodium formula)
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
1 tablespoon of chili powder
1/4 cup of beer (Use Shiner Black Lager for BEST results)

* – If you want a “cheater’s way” out of buying multiple cans… You can buy the Pace Taco Sauce in a bottle.

Tools needed: Slow cooker, skillet

Notes: This is a lightly spicy, savory, and sweet chili. It’s meant to just be very simple to make and easy to enjoy. The beer makes for the savory and hint of sweet in the chili while being giving a dynamic boost. The usages of the chili can be used in corn chip pies, burgers, hot dogs and fries.

1) In the slow cooker, put in the beer, chili powder, and garlic powder.
2) In the skillet, brown the ground turkey and drain off the fat.
3) Add the turkey into the slow cooker.
4) Add in the Rotel crushed tomatoes and chilis, 2 cans of tomato paste, and the packet of McCormicks Chili Seasoning.
5) Stir the contents of the slow cooker and put the cap on the slow cooker.
6) Set the slow cooker to either: low for 4-6 hours OR high for 2-3 hours.
7) Enjoy the chili! Top it with Frito’s corn chips, cheese, and sour cream. The chili can also be used with cheese burgers, hot dogs, and fries as well!

This makes about 4-5 servings.

If you want to use 2 lbs of turkey, double everything in the recipe. This includes the cooking time in the slow cooker. As far as the beer component in the recipe goes… it is optional. If Shiner Black Lager is not available in your area, pick a German dark lager to use.

Gaming Agnosticism Looms Nigh

Gaming these days can be a touchy topic with some folks… There are those on the camp of “You game on the right machine (PC) or you get the #%*$ out!” and “Consoles are made to game, so less potential for stress and headaches!” I admit that in my younger days, console was the way to go. Buy the machine, buy software and (if needed) extra peripherals… Bam, finisimo! Sadly, my family feared the very idea of me building my own computer. Fact is, I built my first one when I was 17! All because they feared I was inept as a kid and failed to let me explore the vector! I digress… When I did build my first computer… It was a beauty by 2000’s standards. AMD Athlon XP Thunderbird, 1GB of RAM, and a 32mb DDR RAM ATi Radeon VE. The fun part was I got to see the schism in quality of a game from a PC version versus a console. Continue reading Gaming Agnosticism Looms Nigh

Minor Upgrade to Byakko and Thoughts over Seiryuu

So my Geforce GTS 250 (512mb GDDR3) has had a bit of a history with overheating for the last week… So I decided to nip the issue in the bud and pick up a Radeon HD 5770 by Asus. Who’d have thought that a change to 1GB of GDDR5 would make a number of changes. To give some of you an idea of how bad the Geforce GTS 250 was overheating… Some days, the system would run about 50C – 60C (122F – 140F) on idle. While gaming, the temps would rocket to 85C – 100C  (185F – 212F) quickly. Sometimes the overheating was so bad it just plain locked up my computer and I’d just have to force it to power down and cool the card off before turning the machine back on. Continue reading Minor Upgrade to Byakko and Thoughts over Seiryuu

Shatter(ed) Dreams – A look at the inde game ‘Shatter’

In 1975 Atari released a game with the inherent influence of the timeless smash hit Pong. This game is known as Breakout! The gameplay, like many games of the time, was simplistic yet thoroughly entertaining. You bounce a ball off of a paddle and smash bricks one by one. Since it’s release, there have been a lot of games over the years that have been released in various formats. Cell phones, dollar store pocket games, even as extras in computer programs or some special package deal you get when you buy a new computer from one of many vendors all chipped in to help to not only keep this game’s memory alive but also gave the game the chance to evolve and keep pace with the constant evolution of gaming. While some kept the game simple, others attempted to emulate Breakout’s successor, Arkanoid.

Michael P. Welch forever set his name in the great stone of video game icons when he came out with his clone, DX Ball. Released in 1996 for the PC, DX Ball did what many others couldn’t. He took a classic and gave it a evolutionarily chronological make over without removing any of what made the game so great back in ’75.  The graphics were boosted to allow it to look as smooth and shiny as the original Unreal, gameplay challenging to both the casual as well as the hardcore gamers, and a soundtrack using a genre of music that was also beginning to get it’s start around this time. However, even with these aspects giving the game strength amongst gamers, the one aspect that completely overshadows all others… DX Ball was SHAREWARE!!!!!1!!!!11!1111!!11!!!1ONE!!1!1!1!1! For those of you who may not have been around during the 90’s, ‘shareware’ is a term for games that are not only free but also encouraged to be passed around any and all gaming circles as if it were crack or MP3s on a P2P network (yes, it was once legal to share PC games!). DX Ball has had three sequels released over the years, but none of them caught on as the original, seeing as DX Ball 2 was the only sequel that was also shareware.

Of course, as the years fly by DX Ball becomes more and more like the original Breakout. All but completely forgotten and left as a footnote in the pages of gaming history. That is, until Sidhe Interactive developed a game that has changed the face of Breakout forever with they’re independent game, Shatter! It takes its cues more from Arkanoid than it does from its more simplistic predecessor and then proceeds to blow the mind with its stylistic visuals, up-to-date graphics, impressive and creative music, and it’s intense gameplay. Rather than ramble on about just how much this game has changed the face of Arkanoid forever, lets dig a bit deeper and see just what makes this game so f@#%&$g epic, shall we?

Upon entering the game for the first time, you are met with how the 2.5D graphics enhance the game’s visual prowess. The opening scene of the tells the basic tale of this game, escape! What appears to be some sort of scientific testing causes an ‘accident’ to occur and thus we are thrust into the meat and potatoes of Shatter. From here, you are shown different methods of gameplay level by level. More specifically that of the game’s main strategy, the suck-and-blow method. With every brick destroyed fragments fly about. Collecting these fragments build your power meter. The use of the shards as well as an explanation of the power meter shall be explained later in this review. The ‘suck’ ability allows you to collect these fragments in abundance. It also allows you to control where the ball will bounce. This shall be referred to from here on in as the ‘bounce point’. You can set the bounce point using the suck and blow method as a means of enhancing how many bricks you can hit per re-collision with the paddle, or as the game calls it, the bat. Simply using the suck feature as a means of collecting shards is all but eliminated, as you could reposition the bounce point to an area where you are unable to bounce back the ball.

There are various bricks in the game, ranging from the standard stationary bricks, to brick that move in patterns, even brick where upon hitting them will collide with other bricks. The possibilities in this game for clearing levels seems endless. But this is only a more than direct impersonation of Arkanoid, as the game goes one step further in enhanced gameplay with its stage designs. The first level immediately reveals its innovations by taking the basic game board and flipping it 90 degrees to the right. Boards can vary from the simplistic up-and-down gravity-esque boards to boards that are circular rather than square in shape. A circular board presents a level of challenge similar to that of DX Ball, where the precise area of the bat collides with the ball can change the angle at which the ball is bounced back.

And much like Arkanoid and DX Ball, hitting bricks can also yield power-ups to drop. Collecting the power-ups with use of the bat changes gameplay, allowing the ball to become more controllable or giving the ball the ability to rip through every brick in its path. There are also power-ups to increase the number of shards dispensed per brick break, gives the power bar a significant boost, and the ever useful 1-ups. Unlike Arkanoid and DX Ball, multi-ball power-ups and ball size power-ups absent from Shatter as well as power-ups which yield negative affects. The multi-ball power-up is now an ability which can be used to increase the challenge of the game and allow you to break more bricks and clear levels faster. Using this feature also eats away at the number of lives you have. For each ball released, a life is dispensed; so unless you’re incredibly skilled at maintaining multiple balls in a single game board you’ll find yourself losing the game quick, fast, and in a hurry.

However, the simple action of breaking bricks in multi-versed levels would get boring to players that don’t have the basic nostalgic love for Shatter’s predecessors. Sidhe Interactive has thrown in yet another twist to this cocktail…boss battles. Yes, you read correctly! Boss battles are an element in the game that not only enhances the gameplay but also challenges your skill in the game as now, simply clearing bricks has become a less than secondary task. Bosses have their own life bar which depletes every time they are stuck with the ball is a specific area. This area is clearly marked by the game, but the real skill comes in being able to hit this area as bosses tend to move about as a means of defending themselves. Bosses also have bricks as part of their ‘bodies’ which allow you to further collect shards and power-ups. Some bosses even use their bodies to strike at your paddle, sending it back and preventing you from being able to collect fragments and power-ups as well as bouncing the ball back for a brief moment.

No need to panic, however, as Sidhe Interactive compensated by not letting you go at it with simple Breakout skill alone. As mentioned before, the shards from the broken bricks you collect fill up your power meter. The power meter is a very unique feature to the game that grants you the ability to use two key tools in the game. The first you learn is the shield. At times, bricks as well as bosses will be sent flying in your direction. The collision causes the bat to be sent off course and spins uncontrollably for a short time, which can prove to be rather costly in completing a level. The shield will destroy any stray bricks and protect you from incoming boss attacks. This allows you to continue your assault as you chip away at the bosses life meter, but depending on your basic Breakout skill and use of the suck-and-blow method, simple ball hits to the boss’ weak spot will take a considerable amount of time. Again, no fear, as you are given one more special ability…needle shot. You can use the power bar as ammo and send needles flying at bosses, thus increasing your chances at total victory. There is one more perk to the needle attack, once you are able to completely fill your power meter, you completely drain it and send a barrage of needles flying at your enemy in a Matrix style slow-motion effect. The needles are not exclusive to bosses, however, as you can also use the needle barrage method to quickly rip through bricks and clear levels in record time.

With all these perks in full effect, Shatter is enhanced one step further with its in game music. The music is created and composed by artist Module, and can be heard on such mediums as iTunes, Rhapsody, last.fm, Zune and AmazonMp3 and consists of over 90 minutes of original music to help tease and tantilize the senses during gameplay. Each level has its own ‘look and feel’, and the music reflects this with seamless and flawless effort. During the boss levels, the music intensifies and gives you the sense of dread and urgency similar to what you’d expect from any epic boss battle from games such as Prince of Persia or Unreal.

For any of you nostalgia freaks out there, you may make note of a failure to mention the Ricochet series from Reflexive Entertainment, developed back in 2007 just two years before Shatter. In all honesty, Ricochet could be seen as a reimagining of DX Ball, as the graphics and gameplay are similar if not identical. Where Shatter exceeds Ricochet is in the gameplay, as Sidhe Interactive created something with more of a progressive aspect to Shatter. One could also make mention of the fact that Ricochet is adding to it’s levels each week, thus increasing game replay value, Shatter is a relatively short game. However, this is not as much of a ‘short’ coming for Shatter one would think. Shatter was originally released for the PS3 via the Playstation Network back in ’09 and released this year for the PC via the gaming network Steam. Currently, Ricochet is only available for the PC also through Steam. The game’s small size is also a valuable merit, as it downloads in little to know time at all. One more thing to consider is while Ricochet was released in ’07, Reflexive Entertainment has had valuable time to establish a fan base as well as the ability for its players to download updates and new level sets. Shatter is still in many ways a relatively new game and is still developing its own fan base. And with Shatter being a part of the Steam network, addons and updates are much simpler, as Steam has a reputation of offering excellent deals for game updates. A prime example of this is with the Left 4 Dead updates being available on Steam for free while XBL gamers had to pay for the same updates.

In conclusion, Shatter picks up where many others left off in the evolution of Breakout by not only updating the graphics, gameplay and music but by surpassing all it’s predecessors with something innovative by all aspects of the term. Should you come across this game via Steam or PSN, definitely pick it up, for it is more than worth the price!!!

The Orphan

References:

Shatter’s official website
Sidhe Intereactive’s forums
Steam’s store
Wikipedia

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