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ahren Blog


Keeping a presence on this site has been like trying to keep your eyes open after the demerol.

I try to come back and check up on things, but some years are better than others. But I remain active and if you'd like to see what I'm up to, you can find everything you need to know at www.neopologist.com

"According to my thesaurus, an apologist is the opposite of a critic but that sounded a little too defensive. Neopologist, made me think of anthropology, the study of humankind and 'neo' made me think of the future (something I often find myself thinking about). Neopology seemed like a good name for the study of the future (latin pre-fix specialists need not correct the way I put that one together) and by 'the future' I am of course referring to consumer electronics and video games. Naturally." --Ahren

Should You Discover Uncharted?

With the release of Uncharted 2 just a few short weeks ago, I would imagine many people who missed out on playing Uncharted: Drake's Fortune are wondering if they should go back and give it a try before playing the hotly anticipated sequel.The answer: yeah, kind of, at least for a little bit.Before, I continue, let me just state, unequivocally that Uncharted: Drake's Fortune is a breathtaking spectacle of a game. The biggest draws of Uncharted are the characters, their animations and the lush, rich graphical detail of the world they inhabit. Secondary, and probably most importantly to a video game however, is the gameplay. Unfortunately, the gameplay in Uncharted isn't as compelling as the visuals.As Nathan Drake, you will spend too much of your time firing bullets into ammo-sponge pirates. These pirates can take multiple shotgun blasts before they go down. In between blasts, you'll want to duck and cover, using a cover based system that, 2 years after the game's release, is starting to feel a little antiquated. What's more, is that while you are hiding behind cover you need to make sure you know where all your enemies are, otherwise you risk getting flanked.While it's refreshing to know that you can't just stay hidden behind a rock for an entire gunfight without your adversaries getting wise, in later battles it can be frustrating to have to repeat a section a couple times only because you didn't know from what vantage point your enemies were shooting you. Hiding behind cover is one thing, staying on the move is another, but the sniper on the ridge behind you with the grenade launcher just feels like a cheap shot.
But don't get the wrong impression, it's not all bad. The gunplay in Uncharted is tough and and it can also be a lot of fun, but it also accounts for about half of the gameplay you will experience. The other half of the game consists of about 40% platforming; jumping, swinging and climbing through the environments, while the remaining 10% is puzzle solving. I would have liked to see the puzzle solving element vastly expanded. The puzzles that were featured in the game seemed pretty simplistic. So, while the gunplay is lackluster, it's shortcomings wouldn't be so noticeable if there just wasn't so much of it. Uncharted does so many things right that the things that aren't quite up to snuff stick out like a sore thumb.So, should you play Uncharted: Drake's Fortune?
Well, if you've ever played a Tomb Raider game, or enjoyed an Indiana Jones film, then yes, absolutely. The game has the old-time adventure vibe similar to films like Indiana Jones or Romancing the Stone, while being more realistic and believable than a Tomb Raider adventure.Completionists may be inclined to play it all the way to the end. Just be advised that some of the final chapters take an extremely creepy survival-horror tone. I wish that Naughty Dog (the game's developer) hadn't felt the need to follow the footsteps of games like Tomb Raider and include a supernatural element. The characters and villains established early on in the game were enough to make for a compelling ending to the game, although I understand the desire to ratchet up the tension by including a new scary "element".
Trophy-hunters should be aware that hunting for the hidden treasures (little items you pick up in random locations throughout the game) should be done with a guide. You can find quite a few without the guide, but you will need help for the harder items. Luckily after beating the game you can go back through each chapter in a level select mode to find missed treasures. Another series of trophies are contingent on beating the game on the hardest difficulty setting, but I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy. The game's difficulty is already borderline frustrating on the 'easy' setting. There's a reason why the game's hardest difficulty level is called 'Crushing'.
Playing casually, on the easiest difficulty (I started on Normal, but switched after a couple chapters) yielded 24 trophies for me, which is about 40% of the number available.
In the end, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune is definitely worth some of your time. I would suggest renting it, borrowing it or getting it for cheap and play at least until somewhere between Chapter 5 and Chapter 8. At that point, you will have seen most of the great things the game has to offer. All of the major characters are introduced within the first couple chapters (some of these characters will be making a return in the sequel) and the plot, while well executed, is not overly complex, so you don't need to worry about being lost in Uncharted 2 if you've played through a bit of the original. Enjoy the spectacle that is Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, but don't stay too long. And remember that most of the shortcomings of the 1st game have been addressed in the sequel.

Changing My Game

Because of this error:

  • You have encountered a forbidden .html error, and have may used one or more of the forbidden words while trying to include a link in your message. There are certain words, including 'class' and 'style', that we do not allow while creating links in your messages because they are a doorway into several js exploits. Unfortunately, if you should have words that have 'class' in them (e.g., classify, classic, etc), they will also be forbidden. We are looking to find the best solution for this problem, and we apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

You'll have to go over to GiantBomb to read this entry. I've tried to play nice with Gamespot's WYSIWYG editor and I have given up. Copying and pasting plain text from TextEdit should not generate this kind of garbage.

Too Little Too Late


This is like a WAP site from 2004. I have been waiting for mobile version of GameSpot since I got my first cell phone with a color screen about 4 years ago, and after all that time, this is really disappointing.

Automatic browser detection doesn't work. You have to manually change the URL. Other than that it's almost all text, which is fine, I guess it makes for faster load times on a slow cell network, but who are we kidding? With the proliferation of 3G, there's almost no such thing anymore! I'm running an iPhone on the Edge network (widely maligned for it's slow speeds) and I can still get Gamespot.com (the full version) to load in a little over a minute and a half and that is a huge, bloated, php driven site with all kinds of superfluous flash and other garbage.

I'm comparing Gamespot Mobile to other mobile sites like Youtube and Facebook and Google Reader. These are rich, attractive mobile websites that still load quickly even on a slow Edge connection. I suppose if you're still using GPRS, it's probably pretty slow, but if you're still using GPRS at this point, it's time to upgrade anyway.

In the meantime, I suppose this new mobile site is better than nothing, but with the infinite resources of CNET and now CBS (and whoever owns CBS) at their disposal, I really thought that when Gamespot did a mobile site they would put out one that put all the rest to shame.

Oh well.

"I'm staying. I'm finishing my coffee."

Actually, it should read "I'm coming back." It's kind of ironic that this whole Jeff thing that has thousands of forumites running for the hills is actually what's gotten me to come back.

Ricardo said that during the crisis every single ex-Gamespot employee checked in with GameSpot to lend their support or just let them know they were thinking about them. I kind of feel the same way. I still tune in for On the Spot and download the HotSpot every week, but by and large I have been almost non-existant here.

I can't promise a full-blown comeback, that will probably never happen. I have a full-time job and I'm getting married in a year so my time is more precious than ever. I will, however, make a concerted effort to check in as often as i can.

It sucks to see so many people leaving, especially the crowd over at the VU, but I understand exactly where they're coming from. I feel a need to stay and reconnect though.

Coined: Zombie Microwave (with bonus story!)

"I got eight hours of sleep last night. I should be good to go. Usually, eight hours is about all I need. I've never been one of those people to spring out of bed throw open the windows and great the morning in song, but usually after eight hours of sleep I can slide out of bed into my slippers and get the morning started.

This morning was... not that easy...."

Read more.

Coined: Meta-Privacy

I came up with a new word in class the other day and it actually turned out to be pretty good. I had planned on using these 'coined' entries to just post my rejects from the urban dictionary but this word actually has some teeth.
In my Information Policy forbidden talking about the different types of privacy. On the one side we had physical privacy (the right to not be touched the right to avoid bodily harm etc) and so I suggested that we needed another side. A side that pertains to all of the intangible aspects of privacy.
Meta-Privacy pertains to all of the information about yourself that you would like to keep private (or wish you could). Examples include your medical records, financial records, criminal record, your web-presence (what comes up when you Google yourself?), sexual orientation, even what the neighbors down the street are saying about you. These are all elements that would fall under meta-privacy.
In essence, it's information about yourself, some of which can be kept private and some of which cannot.

Opening a Door Instead of a Window

"Windows Vista! Windows Vista! Viva la Vista!

I don't know if you are aware, but Windows Vista is now available in stores... “Well, don't worry. I'm not going to do what you all think I'm going to do, which is flip out!” This isn’t a Mac nerd's reactionary musings on the release of an OS that can finally compete with OS X. This isn’t a rant against Vista. Actually Vista has nothing to do with this post, except for the fact that it was the catalyst. (And for the record, I actually think that Vista is pretty cool)..."

To read the rest click here.

How Much is $2,900,000,000,000.00?

The national budget for FY 2008 is 2,900,000,000,000 (that's trillion with a 'T'). That's more than enough pennies to stack as high as the Sears Tower here in Chicago.


Kinda makes you scratch your head, huh?


Two trillion,
six hundred twenty-three billion,
six hundred eighty-four million,
six hundred and eight thousand pennies.

For more size comparisons check out The MegaPenny Project
watch this funny video at CNN.com

New Posts

I had a couple new blog posts but never got around to re-posting them here. I have to leave in a few minutes so I'm not going to bother now, but you can link over and check them out. One has to do with some interesting stuff I found on Sivacracy.net and the other (today's) is the weekly round-up of nerd-tastic headlines. Have a great weekend!