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RK-Mara Blog

The latest in Angry Birds clothing

Yesterday Finland celebrated its 94th Independence Day. And like every Independence Day, the president held a big feast in her palace with the whole nation following a live broadcast. Well... mostly women criticizing the dresses the quests are wearing. One of the more interesting dresses was worn by the wife of Peter Vesterbacka of Rovio. Teija Vesterbacka's one-shouldered evening gown, designed by Katri Niskanen, was completely orange, except for a face of an Angry Bird decorating the top of the dress.  For an evening gown featuring Angry Birds you could even call it... classy.

A new PC

As you might remember, my PC started acting up several months ago. In May, it finally gave up, and I've spent the summer focusing on other things such as work, my girlfriend and of course summer events. Even though I spent most of the summer working, I participated in some of the most memorable events of my life. Or how does Kaljakellunta sound to you? The basic idea is to grab anything that floats, get aboard and float along a river all day long - drinking beer of course. Anyway, last week I bought a new rig (specs below) and while I was at it, I grabbed a 27'' Asus screen as well. Everything runs and looks great, but the only problem is that games don't look that much better than on my old PC. When are there going to be games that actually take advantage of the new hardware? Developers already skipped Dx10 - I wonder if the same is happening to 11. Asus Sabertooth P67 Rev 3.0 motherboard Intel Core i5 2500k CPU 8Gb 1600Mhz DDR3 RAM NVIDIA GeForce GTX 560 1Tb Samsung HD103SJ (plus my old 500Gb Samsung HD501LJ) Asus Xonar DG soundcard Antec Sonata III case And I sure have plenty of catching up to do. Here's a complete list of games I bought during the Steam summer sale: AI War: Fleet Commander, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, Eschalon: Book 2, Crayon Physics Deluxe Gridrunner Revolution, Killing Floor, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, Left 4 Dead 2, Magicka, Monday Night Combat, Penny Arcade Ep 1 and 2, Port Royale 2, Quake Collection, Space Giraffe, Tropico 3, Wings of Prey, Zen Bound 2, Neverwinter Nights 2 Platinum, X3: Terran Conflict, Just Cause 2, Sanctum, Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Worms Reloaded After that I've also bought Dirt 3, The Witcher 2 and Deus Ex Human Revolution so I definitely won't run out of games to play!

What wonderful support EA

A few hours ago I received an email from EA Customer Service with details about my long forgotten EA Account. That's great - too bad the last time I requested the forgotten password was in 2007 when I bought Command & Conquer 3. I've always hated the EA Account service - I've somehow always managed to forget my account information and ended up making a new account for every game - then I ran out of email accounts. I don't usually forget my account information, but with EA I've always had to use the most random usernames. Whatever I usually use (RK-Mara, Marawara, Psyman) are already in use, and I have to add random numbers to the end. Then several months later when I try to play my next EA game online, there's no way to remember what the random numbers were. After C&C3 I just gave up and never played an EA RTS online again. But thank you EA for solving my problems 4 years later! In other news, Finland won the Hockey World Championship last Sunday. The tournament might not be a big thing to Americans, but it's a huge thing in Europe - or at least in the few hockey playing countries. Finns have gone completely berserk after butchering our archrival Sweden 6-1 in the final. Just look at this goal by 19-year-old Mikael Granlund in the semifinals against Russia. And this is Helsinki right after the victory. Shows what a hockey crazy country we are. First HIFK won the Finnish Championship after 13 years and now we are World Champions after a 16 year hiatus. Feels good.

We Are The Champions!

 For the first time in 13 years, HIFK - playing against the neighbor city's Espoo Blues, won the Finnish Championship. I've always preferred football over hockey, but my home team winning the Championship is no small deal. Now everything would be perfect if yesterday's election wouldn't have gone like it did. Two Worlds II Yawn. Two Worlds 2 has been unable to hold my interest. There are plenty of things to do, but all of them feel menial. I raced with a horse three times - every time following the exact same route - and for what? My reputation with the horse racing community increased? Does that mean I'll get to participate in tedious races in the future as well? There's a huge world to explore, but the game is lacking incentives to explore. Whenever I chose an offroad path, I found nothing worth my time. Every now and then I would stumble upon a mysterious cave, but at the end of the dungeon, I never found any magical swords, or piles of money to reward me. I still feel like I should give the game another chance, in hopes of it getting better. But the chances of that happening are the same as BioWare releasing amazing DLC for DA2. Dragon Age II I have to admit that I wasn't the biggest fan of DAO. The game was great, but not the mindblowing experience some people make it out to be. DA2 has been improved in some ways; the refined qunari are great, the plot is much better than in Origins, the characters more interesting - with a few exceptions of course - and the Mass Effecty conversation system works well. Yet, I can't help feeling that the game could have been so much more. There are too many recycled armor and weapon models, all the dungeons look the same, and the combat - while fun - gets repetitive. And why doesn't anything in the game change? Years go by, but the city of Kirkwall stays the same, as does every character. No one ages or buys new clothes (yes, there's an exception to this). You'd think that in ten years, many things would change. But no, even the decisions you make don't matter. No matter what you decide to do, the consequences are the same. If DA2 ws made by any other developer, I'd be able to forgive. But BioWare's standards are higher than this. The game could have used at least another year of development to give it more substance. Rock, Paper, Shotgun has a more in depth analysis of DA2. MadWorld I picked up Madworld for 6 euros, and I couldn't have imagined paying more for it. MadWorld is all about action. There honestly isn't anything more to the game than constant beat-em-up. And at least to me, the action isn't that much fun. It's no wonder the game flunked so hard, when it would have worked better as a downloadable game at a lower price point. Paying 50 euros for something as short and simple as MW? I think I'd rather save my money. Heroes of Might and Magic III Some drunk night after coming home from a bar, I bought Divine Divinity and HOMM3 on GOG. I haven't played Divine Divinity yet, because I've been to busy playing Heroes 3 - and Heroes is the sort of game I can keep playing for years. It's been a long time since I last played HOMM3, and I have to say that it's just as good as it was ten years ago. I've even started hotseating the game again with a few friends. Definitely one of my favorite games of all time.

The most American thing I own

Also one of the coolest things I own. I've had it for years, but for a long time I had completely forgotten about it. A Coca-Cola baseball with stars and stripes hologram:  Almost makes me want to be American.

My favorite TV shows

[size=16]Cowboy Bebop[/size]  Listing an anime first... I wonder how this is going to turn out. I grew up watching Hayao Miyazaki's films - which I absolutely love - and one day my sister brought home a VHS of Cowboy Bebop the Movie. While the film was certainly great, it doesn't hold a candle to the original TV series. Before Cowboy Bebop the only TV anime I knew of were Pokemon and Dragonball Z. Because CB lasted for only one incredible season, it left me craving for more. I haven't been able to find a TV anime that surpasses it, but that only tells how good Bebop is, and doesn't mean there aren't other anime worth watching. I haven't actually told what makes the show so fantastic because I'll rather give you a chance to find out yourself. If you haven't seen the series, you should - whether you like anime or not. [size=16]The Wire[/size]  The Wire is simply television at its best. But hey, rather than go through the trouble of explaining why the show is so brilliant, I'll let Charlie Brooker do it. He does it much better than me anyway. There are a total of sixty episodes spanning over five seasons, and while every season isn't as good as the previous, I've yet to see any show do better. The Wire is an epitome of American television. [size=16]Top Gear[/size]  Who said a car show can't be fun? If a motoring show has even people who couldn't care less about cars hooked, it must be doing something right. And Top Gear certainly is. TG has the perfect blend of action, humor, celebrity quests, actual motoring facts (which isn't really much), and of course an enormous budget. The show's hosts, Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May, undoubtedly have the best job in the world, test driving concept cars, and participating in the looniest challenges around the globe. The humor might sometimes be a bit immature, but with an occupation like that, it's no wonder they let their inner children roam free. If there's anything crazy you've ever wanted to try with a car, Top Gear has probably beat you to it. [size=16]The Sopranos[/size]  For a long time The Sopranos was my favorite HBO show, but then The Wire came along. Both of the shows are intelligent, humorous, brutal and boast dozens of fantastic characters. Never before or after have mobsters been this likable. [size=16]The Simpsons[/size]  The name of The Simpsons is misleading. While the series was initially about the Simpson family alone, over the years the show has accumulated an incredible number of side characters. The town of Springfield is 20th and 21st century pop culture in a nutshell. What would The Simpsons be without Flanders? Or Apu? I suggest the series name to be changed to 'Springfield'. [size=16]Battlestar Galactica[/size]  For a long time I thought nothing good of sci-fi. Even when BSG originally aired in Finland, I couldn't get into it. The problem was that I didn't understand what the series was about. It took me a couple of years before I realized that TV sci-fi could be so serious and multi-layered. BSG sports a terrific cast (Edward James Olmos, anyone?), even better characters (Gaius Baltar, where can I join your cult?), a superb soundtrack by Bear McCreary, and offers pretty much everything you could ever ask for in a TV series. The only bad thing I have to say about BSG is the made-up swear word 'frack'. The series can be very dark at times, but then someone sputters out this stupidity, originally used in the 70's BSG, and the atmosphere is gone. [size=16]Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex[/size]  Based on Masamune Shirow's manga, Ghost in the Shell offers arguably the most believable futuristic setting on TV. While at first it might feel like GITS is all about action, the show is extremely deep and wildly engrossing. Because of its complexity, I won't even try to explain what makes GITS what it is. GITS might not be for everyone, but it deserves a chance. [size=16]Monty Python's Flying Circus[/size]  What would the world be without Monty Python? Probably a very boring place. [size=16]Firefly[/size]  Ever since Fox cancelled Firefly, nerds around the world have cried themselves to sleep. There aren't many ''scifi westerns'', yet somehow two of them have made my list (the other being Cowboy Bebop). Firefly is packed with interesting characters and great humor, but the best of all - it has real swearing! In the future world of Firefly, Chinese and other Oriental cultures are heavy influences, so rather than use a silly made-up swear word like 'frack', the characters swear in Chinese. How cool is that? [size=16]Castle[/size]  Castle is a small oddity on my list. It looks like a normal cop show and in many ways it is. In a few years, it might not even make the list, all depending on the quality of the upcoming episodes. But right now, Castle is my favorite drama still on air. I don't know if it's because of the show's balance between light-hearted humor and serious crimes, the undeniable chemistry between the leads Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) and Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion), or has my man crush on Fillion simply blinded me. Firefly might be long gone but the charming Nathan Drake... I mean Fillion, keeps its fire lit. There are many other great cop shows, but Castle has stolen my heart. [size=16]Moomin[/size]  I was lying when I said that before Cowboy Bebop, the only TV anime I knew were Pokemon and DBZ. As a kid, I just didn't know that Muumilaakson Tarinoita (directly translated 'Stories of the Moominvalley') is in fact Japanese. The series is an anime adaption of the Moomins books, originally written by the Swedish-Finnish Tove Jansson. The Moomins have long been a part of every Finn's childhood, and I'm of the age group which grew up with the anime Moomin. I just wouldn't be the same person without the adventures I've had with the Moomins. It is a shame the English voiceover is horrible, at least to my ears. Just listen to these tunes of the Finnish version.

Like the phoenix it rises!

It's hard to believe but I just resurrected my graphics card by baking it in an oven. I posted about my PC's state on the DPCS union board and in less than two hours, I had a solution on my hands, albeit a shady one. I didn't have any options left - except using the card as a paperweight - so I gave the crazy idea a whirl. 9 minutes in the oven at 200 Celsius degrees and the card seems to work just fine now. If this hadn't worked, I would have tried throwing the card in a fire. Thank you with_teeth26 for such an absurd idea! [size=9]And if you are interested in joining the Drunken PC Snobs Union, leave a comment. The only requirements are a sense of humor and being an avid PC gamer.[/size]

Hype Machine 2011

It's a new year and with it comes the hype machine. Which will be the biggest hit of 2011? Is it Bulletstorm? Or Dragon Age 2? Or maybe The Old Republic? I'm sorry to disappoint but it will more likely be Sims Medieval than any of the above. In reality, I couldn't care less. I'll leave the speculation for people who get paid for it. Unfortunately we can't all be Michael Pachters. I am a gamer, not a market analyst. Sadly many people forget that about themselves. They rather spend their time on System Wars squabbling over trivial matters than spend the time playing games. I used to be there - I hyped every promising game to heaven and back. As a result I only enjoyed the games less. Too often games weren't what I expected them to be. But that shouldn't be surprising at all. The whole point of marketing is to make the product sound more appealing than it actually is. Every preview, every interview, every trailer is marketing. Video gamers are hungry for commercials.
 [size=9]''Hey come check this out, it's the latest trailer for Duke Nukem Forever!''[/size]
Do you remember what it was like to be a kid when you hardly knew what a game was like before you tried it? Do you remember the feeling of discovering something great? I hadn't heard of Super Mario Bros. before I tried it for the first time and I still remember the moment like it was yesterday. That and the time my friend's older brothers introduced me to DOOM are some of my best childhood memories. There are plenty more like them but rather than listen to me, take a moment to think of your own. Oh, the good times... I hadn't heard of Divinity 2 Dragon Knight Saga before I was purchasing it last Christmas. I had tried the demo for Divinity 2 Ego Draconis and thought it would be an ordinary RPG where you slay dragons for a living. Imagine my surprise when I flew as a badass dragon for the first time. It took me back to my childhood when every feature in video games didn't come as granted. Hyping games only ruins them. I haven't read a preview since Age of Conan came out and I'm extremely happy about it. Now I'm pleasantly surprised by games. It's much more fun to learn about a game's features by playing, rather than reading about it a year before release.

You Will Be Sorely Missed

My video card is dying and with it, the whole PC. A long friendship between a man and a computer is ending. For a couple of weeks now I've had some problems with my computer, such as Windows Explorer freezing every time I try to open My Documents. Nothing that a clean install of Windows couldn't fix. But today it took a turn to the worse; I was playing Grand Theft Auto 4 Ballad of Gay Tony, when the screen was taken over by graphical artifacts, a complete freeze and then a blue screen of death. Now every time I try to do something GPU heavy, the same thing happens. When I was in the market for a new PC in late 2006, I found a great deal for a pre-built rig that had basically all the components I was looking for: Asus P5B Deluxe for motherboard, GeForce 8800 GTS 640Mb, 2Gb of Buffalo 800Mhz DDR2 RAM and an Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 processor - and the price wasn't bad either. It was a great deal I didn't want to miss and the computer has served me over the years with breeze. The only upgrade I've had to make is add another 2 gigs of ram for 40 euros. Talking about breeze, the only gripe with the setup was the case, Nexus Breeze 500. The thing was supposed to be quiet, but it turns out it wasn't. The secret behind its ''quietness'' was the lack of sufficient cooling. The bad cooling had already costed me a PSU and now it's also taking my beloved 8800 GTS down. PC hardware has gone a long way since I bought the rig, so I won't be buying a new GPU, but I'm looking to buy a fully new setup once I get the money for it. Unfortunately that might mean late July or early August in the worst case. It seems like I'm limited to DS and Wii gaming until then. My Wii gaming backlog has gotten quite large and this gives me the chance to spend more time on studies. Let this be my computer's swan song.


My military service ended last Friday and I couldn't be happier about it. It was the most frustrating time of my life and I'm thrilled I can decide for myself again when to eat, when to speak or when to take a leak. At least I made a bunch of new friends, got some good memories that will last for the rest of my life, and gained new respect for the war veterans.

In many ways the army is a cakewalk to what it used to be (or so I've heard). Our training camps are shorter (though a week in the woods in -10F weather with 2 hours of sleep every night is quite enough for me), we get to go home almost every weekend, and fancy electronic devices such as smart phones and laptops exist. I'm not sure if I'd still be sane without my DS to take my mind off of things every now and then.

In the last six months I've had the time to play several DS titles: Dragon Quest IX, Pokemon SoulSilver, Ace Attorney: Miles Edgesworth, Advance Wars: Dual Strike, Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks and Puzzle Quest, but no other game was as engrossing as Infinite Space. The game could use improvements on almost every aspect, but it's still one of the best and most refreshing JRPGs I've played in a long time. The story is great, the combat is difficult yet rewarding and it's not like there are too many space combat RPGs out there. I congratulate the developers for doing something bold.

I've also had the time to play one PC game: Divinity 2 Dragon Knight Saga. This game caught me completely by surprise. I tried Divinity 2 Ego Draconis when it came out but thought it was horrible. Now a new polished version of the game has come out and what an improvement it is. Ego Draconis hardly ran on my PC and DKS is a technical marvel compared to it. I can't believe they've made such a beautiful game on the Oblivion engine. If you are looking for a game to pass the cold winter, D2DKS offers over 100 hours of gameplay – try to find better value than that.