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12:22 AM on 01.10.2012

Freedoms End: NDAA, PIPA, and SOPA

The internet is a vast frontier and still very young industry. It has allowed us to communicate with people in ways we never thought possible. Allowing products and services to exist such as Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon, and even Destructoid. However things seem to change in time and as corporations are getting hungrier and hungrier for control, lobbyists and uneducated/corrupt politicians are looking for ways to step into your life a little bit more each day.

I went home to celebrate the holiday season this year. Looking forward to catching up with old friends and family on topics of their successes and future plans and discussion about our nations and worlds future (I make it sound deep and complex but its mostly the same conversations everyone has). However I was shocked to find that not many people know about some of the scariest ideas in politics since the Patriot Act. I'm talking about the NDAA, PIPA, and SOPA.

The truth is not many people know what the NDAA, PIPA, or SOPA are at all. Americans have a habit of pointing a finger and place blame on someone or something. I have even caught myself around the water cooler blaming others and then with out thinking I go back to living life (I don't actually work in an office as I work from home). So how do we change this? We can start by not pointing fingers and by taking action. How so? Writing a blog post? Reading and linking articles on Facebook? Heck there's more than that you can do. You talk directly to a Congressman. Then once you're done with that, tackle your state government just as easily. How can this be accomplished? The internet.

Taking action only takes a few seconds, literally. The provided links will direct you to websites with email forms where you can send an email to a Congressman. You can even doctor the emails up!

Below is a brief description of what is scary about of each of these acts and links to more information and how you can get involved.

National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 (NDAA)

For the past 49 years, the NDAA has been passed to help dictate the expenditures and budgeting of the US Departement of Defense. It has grown to strike against the Bill of Rights.

What's scary?
It declares a "police state." The NDAA authorizes the military to detain US citizens without trial. This is very scary, as it means that if the government believes for any reason you need to be detained, you can be without question.

On December 31, 2011 the NDAA was signed into law by our President. It's effective now, but can be corrected.

This act has been around for 49 years and has grown to include this. If the idea is in the Senates head now, what can possibly be next for our future?

How to help

More Info:
Wikipedia Article

Take action:
NDAA Reversal

Protect IP Act (PIPA) & Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)

PIPA and SOPA in short are two proposed acts that would allow copyright holders, US Department of Justice, and companies to sue the pants off of anyone that they feel is infringing on their property.

What's scary?
While the point of the bills are to stop online piracy, they are essentially giving the entertainment industry power to censor the internet. This will affect sites like Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, StumbleUpon, etc. If that isn't scary enough, then think again. These acts once again are threatening our freedoms in the Bill of Rights. Just so people can buy more movies, games, music, etc.

How to help

More info:
Wikipedia Article PIPA
Wikipedia Article SOPA

Take action:
PIPA/SOPA Prevention

I'm not a US Citizen
So what? These bills affect you also. If there are crazy politicians in the US, then are most certainly crazy politicians in your country. It will then only be a matter of time before these bills threaten you. What can you do? Alert your American friends and convince them to take action. Send them an email with the contained links. Heck, copy this blog post and send it to them I don't care.

While the corporations have money and lobbyists to corrupt the politicians at hand. The people of the world and users of the internet can be their own lobbyist by acting now. Next time you think about draining some time on Youtube or StumbleUpon, instead send a letter to your congressman. Once a day everyday.

Thank you for your time.   read

4:18 AM on 12.09.2008

TEAMWORK means TEAMWORK: A Left 4 Dead Campaign Survival Guide

So Left 4 Dead has been out for a few weeks and is just so much fun. However, there are many problems that can be had with the community as with dumb players in general to bad teniques. I decided to write a little blurb on how to survive Left 4 Dead's campaign mode.

1. Teamwork, teamwork, teamwork. I can not stress this enough. This means don't wander ahead, don't leave someone behind, and use a microphone if you have one (this makes teamwork even easier, with letting everyone know what you're doing). If you don't have a microphone, just simply turn the volume up on your TV so you can hear what other people are doing. While not playing Left 4 Dead, simply get a job or steal money from your moms purse to purchase the microphone.

2. Closeting. This is a useful technique that seems to becoming more wide spread every time I play a match. The basic idea is to use a closet if necessary. Closets can be found at every player triggered event. They provide enough room for four people with enough safety from behind as well as on the sides. The closet also provides a cushion for the players to be pushed backwards, if need be; however, if you set up a closet correctly you shouldn't have this problem. To set-up a great working closet team, have one to two(depending on people playing or A.I.) people crouched in front that use the melee to push back the oncoming zombies, they also may fire if necessary. The other two people should remain behind the "pushers" and fire. This technique is especially useful on the final levels of a campaign. For tanks, simply move into the area surrounding the closet, providing enough room for people to maneuver around the attacking tank. WARNING: Do not always use a closet. It is quite useful, but other areas have their advantages. Most places have only four-six enterances. Which include windows. Good players can handle their own as long as everyone else pulls their share of the load. Shooting backs facing each other can be a useful technique as well. High up places work nicely as well!

3. Kill the witch as fast as possible. If you're going to take on a witch do it properly. By this, I mean don't throw Molotov cotails at the witch. One person should be enough to kill a witch, however, there should be others there for back-up just in case. To kill the witch efficiently, use a shotgun (preferably the automatic shotgun) and walk up behind her. Then aim just below her head just above the neck; if executed correctly the witches head will explode. If the head doesn't explode don't worry as this is a hard technique and two to three more shots to the same spot should do the trick. If done correctly she will be dead before she can turn around.

4. Friends. This is an extremely important idea that must be done especially in the early months of Left 4 Dead's release. Why, might you ask? Well, until all the Halo players and Call of Duty players return to what they covet most closely, the game will be plagued with players trying to play the game as a run 'n' gun game. With no regard for teammates what so ever. Having a sturdy friend list of good players can make your gaming session that much better. If all else fails, play with the A.I. as it is quite intelligent...most of the time.

5. Melee! Just learning to use this button can save your health meter from plummeting. This technique buys you time and works great when you need to clean up zombie hordes. If your surrounded by zombies, use the quick turn button in conjunction with the melee button to bounce zombies off you faster. A good team will help each other when surrounded by hordes. This technique can help them from hitting you with bullets.

6. Watch that fire! Learning to aim and keeping bullets away from other people can be critical (especially when playing on expert). Sometimes you accidentally fire at one another, but that's half the battle! Keeping your eyes pealed as to what is happening both in the game as to where people are currently and where they are health-wise as well. Yes that's right, some times you have to give up a health pack or some pills.

7. Zero Tolerance. This policy must be put into effect as if someone is being a jackass, then take it out on their gamertag or just return the favor. Feel free to vote them out of the game as well as submit the player review. Did someone leave you to die outside of the safe room? Well then don't ever heal them when they need it. A definite no-no is to start shooting at the other teammates and kill them. Many a time have I been in a game where someone starts shooting frantically and thinking they are funny or talking like they live in the southern U.S. in the 1800's. It might be hilarious offline, but you are ruining other peoples fun.

8. Improve. If you love Left 4 Dead a lot, then there maybe a time when you feel the desire to move to expert. However, the expert difficulty setting is a whole new ball game. Aim and timing have a whole new art of precision. However, I have found that the Uzi works best as a beginner weapon. As for advanced weapons, feel free to experiment. They all have there advantages. However, the machine guns and rifles have a faster reload.

9. Know your weapons. Yes, knowing how each weapon works can be critical (not only in expert) as things to consider are reload times, distance damage, and ammo usage (use automatics with care). Also, do not undermine the power of your pistols. If you don't have enough time to reload that auto-shotty, those double pistols do come in handy.

10. Remember its just a game. If you are having a bad time, take a break or find a new session. Don't be a dick just to be a dick. Have fun.   read

7:16 PM on 11.01.2008

Nice Things: Banjo-Kazooie Demo Impressions

I really am getting a better hold on what the new Banjo-Kazooie game has to offer. While at first I was mad that the new game would rely on vehicle creation, I have come to embrace it as a great idea. The game will appear to garner to hardcore fans as well as gather a new audience for the franchise. My final decisions on whether to buy the game really do depend on what reviews say overall. However, I don't exactly need a block buster to sell me either. That being said, here are the things I liked about the demo.

After booting the game up, it was nice to see the menu was first on the list of classic Banjo-Kazooie references. After I entered single player mode and a quite boring and annoying tutorial that I didn't bother to read, I found that the demo was really geared towards older fans to come and except the franchise. The only playable level is Banjo Land. While nice, I did want to see a "newer" level. The four jiggies were fun, however I hope there are more in the full game as the four challenges were rather easy to get a trophy thomas.

The next step was to jump into the vehicle creation. Rare hasn't been lying about this as the vehicles are easy to build but there is a lot of depth as well. What did become a problem was driving on a wheeled vehicle. What I found was the best way to drive was to hold the right trigger half-way down. This technique gave me a bit more control. Soon though I ditched the wheels and found wings and built a flying machine that used springs to launch me in the air. It floated as well.

However, there are a few things that have been bugging me. These annoyances are based on the fact that I'm a hardcore fan. I loved Banjo-Kazooie and had kids with Banjo-Tooie. So here is what is hard to watch:

1. Banjo-Kazooie was about platforming. The new game seems to have expanded that idea. I would still like some platforming moves to unlock and more platforming sections to find hidden items and unlockables (read: one trick pony).

2. Banjo-Tooie sported the idea that I was entering a different place in the hub world. Showdown Town is nice except that it seems incredibly disconnected from all the other worlds.

3. It is extremely hard to watch as game characters go from being playable (Mumbo) and transforming Banjo (Humba and Mumbo) enter as just side characters. Mumbo just opens boxes and Humba is a whore who sells you blue prints.

4. I imagine that the worlds will be big and marvelous, but half the fun of Banjo-Kazooie series was finding the nooks and crannies and hidden areas so you could help other characters and find the hidden jiggies. It's hard to do that with the huge open areas. Everything is seen.

Considering these problems I do have to say this in my defense. I am not usually one to hang on nostalgia. I really do like video games to move forward and improve upon concepts. Basic concepts can even still remain. There is no use trying to say "hey we are re-inventing platforming" and discarding the original feel. I am aware that platforming is still there, but the new concept tries to cover up what the franchise used to be. Which puts even more proof, in my mind, that Banjo-Kazooie was stuck on top of an original IP as more of coating of paint rather than a sequel. Don't get me wrong though, its still going to be a great game. Perhaps Rare will rethink a bit. Perhaps my fears are still a bit in the wrong direction. Perhaps that's why its called Nuts and Bolts and not Banjo-Kazooie 3.......nah!

Now if you excuse me, I am going to open the flood gates of hate.

I actually played the game again. I used the floating glitch to get some places that I couldn't reach before to get more parts and notes. As for the steering, I said in my review that if you hold the trigger half way down, it works as expected. You wouldn't hit the gas down all the way if you were driving around would you? I am actually looking forward to the game a lot now.   read

4:04 PM on 10.31.2008

Refrickendiculous: Video Game Website Reviews

Today out of boredom, I have decided to review gaming websites. While most of these websites do stand to provide the basic function of news+community=legitamate. There are few that stand out against the bunch. While the others do stand out but really shouldn't for any particular reason. Today I will discussing IGN, 1-UP, Giantbomb and Destructoid.

IGN, or the Imagination Games Network, is a perfect example of what can be a great idea that turns to shit. IGN was once a place I would go for news and updates on anything I would want to know about any game. The website soon expanded to news about all media. Which is great until it became more of a strict company with and less focus on news updates. This became even more of a problem with the recent website update. I remember when IGN had its channels with featured articles and other news articles that were plainly seen. However, with the site redesign I find it hard to find the other news. As they seem to be cast aside and cluttered in text links. The community aspect has grown juvenile and childish. Not the fun kind of childish either. As for news and reviews, they tend to appear later in the day and sometimes reviews of bigger games that should be out before or on day one never show up till a week later. There seem to be more "top ten" articles than remotely interesting editorials or game previews any more. The only part of the staff that seems remotely in tune with what is going on is the Nintendo staff which always has had that laid back gaming news attitude that attracted me in the first place. Sorry to say, but IGN scores two out of five apples.

1UP is quicker with its news updates and certainly does have a better direction than IGN. 1UP sports a network purely set towards gaming. 1UP contains better editorials and news articles and reviews. The website is a little iffy on the navigation front but is usually on top of things. Plus, if you don't have time to surf the web daily, 1UP also sports the magazine Electronic Gaming Monthly or EGM. 1UP scores four out of five pomme.

Finally saving the best two for last. Giantbomb, takes a different aspect towards gaming websites. It seems to flowing towards the wiki aspect and takes professionalism to a whole new level by delivering on a platter of honest truth. They only report news that is substantially important to the gaming world and cater to the community by allowing members to build on the wiki pages of the website and develop any sort of guide you would like for video games. The site seems to on the track for delivering even more community features along the way. However, it would be nice with a couple more editorials and better news updates. Overall Giantbomb scores four out of five manzana.

Finally, Destructoid. Do I have to describe? With oustanding community support, users can have their blogs promoted directly to the front page if so chosen by gods of Destructoid. The forums are a bit clunky but don't weigh the website down as they aren't used much. The news is updated every twenty minutes or less. Contests are held by members and the website owners as well. Anyone can win or be apart of this cummunity and can customize it to their liking. Destructoid lands a five out of five apfel.   read

9:10 PM on 10.23.2008

The FEAR: The George Lucas Effect

Pictured above: Money Grubbing Whore

When I first saw the "Monthly Musing" for October, I thought long and hard what possibly could scare me. With such good topics appearing such as The FEAR: Ravenholm and The FEAR: Addiction, I knew that I couldn't put out an overused idea. So what is my fear for video games? Well, like most people, my fear started out as a general fear and grew to acceptance. My fear is of course about ruined video game franchises. I like to refer to this phenomenon as the George Lucas Effect.

Why the George Lucas Effect? Let me list the reasons:

1. I hate him. He is one of the worst writers and directors to date. The only reason his stuff is well done is because his actors improvise. George Lucas has only made three good things: Star Wars 4-6, Indiana Jones 1-3, and American Graffiti. He has great ideas but can't seem to put pen to paper.

2. Since he has only made three good things. He has chosen to take him money and run with it, and loves to never expand and to keep churning that money mill. Face it fans, you can hope for Star Wars to pick back up, but it wont and never will.

3. I've been meaning to talk about how much he sucks and this was the perfect chance to do it.

My first disappointment came with Halo 2. Now before I am shot in the head by a Bungie board member, I just want to say that the past two Halo games have had quite a disappointing storyline. While it did present some unique ideas there was no reason for me to care or be interested in Master Chiefs' fight with the Covenant. The focus had shifted from huge battles and small skirmishes in big maps with puzzle and exploration elements to tight close combat in smaller areas with very little puzzle elements. I do realize that the Halo multiplayer experience is great; I don't play games for purely the multiplayer experience if it isn't a multiplayer game. This seems to be the Halo franchises more direct focus which leaves my rich single player hunger still hungry.

However, Halo and its story and whether it is well made is a topic that can be debated for infinity. Halo isn't the only offender. Why most notable franchises include Star Wars episodes one through three, Indianna Jones: Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Sonic the Hedgehog, Starfox, and Tomb Raider to just name a few. This problem doesn't necessarily plague just the single player experience and sequels. No it can be found in the hype of new titles also. While this isn't a major problem. It does cheapen the video game experience a lot. Especially when a great game is supposed to come out. The game doesn't even have to "revolutionize the way we play [insert genre here]."

In conclusion, the problem cant be fixed. It isn't caused by uncreativity or laziness. But rather pressed deadlines and poor budgeted productions. Sure you can say that the developer is being lazy but when it comes down to it. It's all about money and what the companies what to spend on a title. It's just another sad fact of life.   read

9:59 PM on 10.17.2008

Microcessory: What Microsoft Needs to Do for its Accessories

We all have considered purchasing or have already purchased the camera, the chatpad, and the wireless headset. However, with the current prices and separate packaging these things can be a hassle to buy for our Xbox 360. How can Microsoft improve on sales of these little must haves? Simple. Bundling.

Microsoft has two current bundles out for its accessories and it would be nice (as well as smart) to see the peripherals selling better than they currently are. Here are the two best solutions I could come up with:

1. Console Bundles

Xbox 360 EXTREME Bundle:

This bundle would include The Elite console, Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise (or some other family friendly game...perhaps Banjo-Kazooie...or both!), the chatpad, the Live Vision Camera, a headset, 3 months of Live, the charge and play, and anything else that comes standard. All for $500-$550. Other flavors include the Pro EXTREME and Arcade EXTREME; with reduced prices and consoles respectively.

2. Update Bundles

Xbox 360 EXTREME Kit:

This bundle would include 3 months of Xbox Live, the chatpad, the Live Vision Camera, the charge and play, and the wireless headset. Other flavors include the EXTREME+ which would add 120 GB Hard drive. All for $100-$150.

Xbox 360 Messaging Kit:

This kit is already out, however I think an update with the Live Vision Camera and 3 months of live would be good. Price stays same.

The last peripheral would be the Wireless adapter. I didn't include this one because it can be useless. Microsoft should of added wireless when they made the Elite. However, while we are in the middle of this gaming generation of consoles I do not see a redesign near. As it would probably appear by now. Although it is unlikely.

Please keep in mind these are not actual bundles, but would be nice if the peripheral department would get their act together.

What do you guys think? Does Microsoft need to rethink their bundling or are the accessories not worth it?   read

10:51 PM on 10.16.2008

Nice Things: Tom Clancy's End War Demo Impressions

I really wanted to add another topic I was worried about for blogging. I was first going to say that I was disapointed that they had neglected their Xbox Community with no Orange Box updates in sight. However, I found today that they are in fact doing so after Left 4 Dead. So I thought I would complain about what "full multiplayer" standards should be. I decided to save it for a rainy day. So, at a loss for topics I finally found something that interested me. I downloaded the demo for Tom Clancy's End War. Boy am I impressed.

I was really skeptical on how this game would work. I thought it would be displayed from a birds eye view so I could see a good section of the battlefield. However, its much more zoomed in and very pretty looking. I tried the story mode and jumped straight to the mission after I configured my voice. I was suddenly thrown with all these commands and thinking that I would have no idea what half them meant. I was wrong here also. The game does a really good job at recognizing your voice and what you say. It also makes things easy to do. However, the single mission I played was really short. So I decided to give Live a try. That took too long to find a game for my interest so I started a single player skirmish. Which proved much more fun than the story. Here I got really into the game with only a few complaints.

There needs to be a an "All units" command so I can tell them to rendezvous at a location, retreat, or attack something. It seemed to not recognize what I say sometimes which wasn't a big deal as I'm sure it was because I wasn't speaking up. The only other complaint I have is that this game is in the future, not that far in the future, but it would of been nice to have some more futuristic units.

If you don't prefer the mic. Then you have the choice of using the controller. I never used this, but it looked a little harder to do. I imagine a very good player will be able to manage their troops while using the controller to manage other things or check things out. Making this a faster paced game.

Overall, the game was really fun to play. Micromanaging everything kept me busy the whole time until I lost the mission. If you never enjoyed Sim City or anything like that, this game might not be your cup of tea. However, I deeply enjoyed this experience and recommend this game to anyone who like war or simulation games.   read

6:38 PM on 10.15.2008

Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts Pre-game Preview and the One Trick Pony

Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts is a game that I have been waiting to see. With numerous previews coming out and first impressions. Here is my pre-game verdict on this new title. When I first heard that the game is more oriented towards vehicle creation rather than platforming, I was a bit worried. So worried, I began to think that this game would not do well. However, after a recent preview I read of the game, I started to think logically on what this game truly means for the series.

Do keep in mind that this article is based on reading other journalists first impressions and previews of the game. I have not had any hands-on time with it at all.

What we have come to recognize in the Banjo-Kazooie series as four things:

1. Platforming with useful moves to get around.
2. Developed characters and story.
3. Item collection.
4. Massive worlds to explore.

First assume that this list isn't respective in any nature. Now, assume when Rare first started developing Nuts and Bolts that they considered all of these things. Let's say they first considered the characters; where the story was going from the end of Banjo-Tooie and what they could do with it. After establishing a story, they considered the world creation. Now with updated hardware Rare could create massive worlds and areas to explore. Finally they would consider the platforming and item collection aspect. Item collection would turn out not to be a problem. However with the addition of massive worlds, Banjo and Kazooie would need a vehicle to get around. BAM! That's where the idea probably started. Why not give Banjo and Kazooie a vehicle to drive around. They could even upgrade it or drive different ones. Hey, why not make part of the game, building the vehicle from any parts they want. Wham! This is where your platforming aspects get pushed aside for a while. While I believe this will be a great game, I do believe they finished the vehicle idea and fully explored it before coming back to the platforming aspects. From the multiple previews and first impressions I have read, I believe that the developer just threw in platforming aspects secondary.

While this will probably prove to be okay this idea can lead to angry fans. Sure, lots of fans are angry and the platforming elements and vehicle elements probably should of been developed equally (I like my moves). There is plenty of time for improvement in later titles. Hopefully Rare won't come out and say during the sequel something like:

"Yes, we decided to go back to the pure platforming elements as the vehicle sections were not received well in the last game."

This is only okay if Nuts and Bolts fails. This probably won't happen though as the game seems to be getting fairly decent reviews. As for my pre-game verdict on Nuts and Bolts, I do approve of this new addition to Banjo-Kazooie. All though if they do want to improve the franchise it would be advised well to spend probably a little more time with the games roots and not throwing most of the formula away. The old saying goes: If its not broken, why fix it? However, if its not broken don't hack away the good parts to add something new.

Overall, Rare's new title looks great if not good. What they can do for the sequel though is balance the platforming aspect a little more with the vehicle creation and anything else they want to add in. Keeping the fanchise safe from the one trick pony brigade that seems to be sweeping a lot of titles with potential.

With recent titles such as Fracture, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, Lego Batman: The Videogame (this game as there hasn't been anything new to the series), Rocketbowl, and Mercenaries 2: World in Flames just to name a few, there seems to be a growing industry standard that if a developer can market a cool feature for this game then it will flesh itself out.

This is a very bad and ignorant idea. Such to say that cool and original features can add to a game and possibly revolutionize a genre. However, when in game development studios should consider that a mechanic needs to be balanced and smaller or equivalent features should be added to flesh out the game. These features can be based off of the original marketed idea or stand alone themselves. Via new capabilities, redefining, or puzzles. Also a combination of these doesn't hurt.

Puzzles are the most common way and while this tends to add to the experience , the puzzles tend to repeat themselves. Another aspect that causes a one trick pony effect is no enviromental variation. Environments in this current generation, older generations, and hopefully next generation should have variation. Environments can effect how the player moves or how a puzzle is solved as it can provide new problems as well as create new solutions. Thus ultimately changing the puzzle. Whether it is adding an ice level where you slide a bit before stopping and thin ice or mine field in sand. These would of greatly varied Fracture even. As the game featured a terrain deformation however only covered ground as the only thing to be deformed. Terrain deformation shouldn't of stopped at moving the ground up and down. This mechanic could of been fleshed out as much as possible. Water can make ice or be melted for rafts and traps as well as be made into cover. The ground could of been deformed into lava traps. Not exploring every possibility and turning out something generic is no exception.

My point is that developers should spend time fleshing things out till the game is fat and beautiful. Not coming to terms with a physics engine and expecting to make an amazing game with out competing with ground breaking games or building on something and no cutting something good is not a worthy or logical idea. Production dates can be pushed back, especially if its marketed correctly and explained correctly how the game can be enhanced.

Hopefully developers will get this message eventually especially if they want their games to be hits. Smaller titles and independent titles are no exception. If there is enough devotion and care for a game, then there should be a quality competitive product.   read

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