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2014.10.14

CyanogenMod

About two weeks ago, I was felling my cellphone too slow. So slow I was starting to think about replacing it with a brand new one. I’ve heard excellent things about the new 2014 Moto X and it was the one that I would probably buy.

However, I believe that my Galaxy S3 is still very good. It is was once a very fast machine, so it might be a way to return it to its former glory. So I changed the focus to replacing big chunks of the software with new ones. My fear was that I was walking in a path that leads to the same place, because about 3 months ago I installed a new Android home screen app, Nova, getting rid of the horribly slow Samsung TouchWiz app, but due the same set of other apps running was still making the general impression of a slow device.

I took the radical change. I was looking for a very slim Android distro to install. The closest to the vanilla Android, with just the essential extra software. The obvious candidate was CyanogenMod. I once installed in my first smartphone, the Motorola Defy and it was a blast new experience. I was hopping to get the same good sensation in this new run.

CyanogenMod, since them, evolved to a much more professional and organized organization. Their web site is now much more clean and well documented. They now have a installer that is a total breeze. No more almost-secret recipe list of instructions that, if not done correctly, would turn your phone into a brick.

So I tried. I backed up every thing in the memory card and… removed everything. No turning back.

Oh man. WOW.

Cyanogen mod

What a difference. The first impression is generally very good. Because the lack of installed software of any new OS install, it generally seems so fast and responsive. It was not different here. The phone was responding to every command promptly. It was really nice. The whole thing was if it would keep its speed even after reinstalling all the essential apps, like Firefox, PDF reader, a To Do task (I’m my case, both Evernote and Wunderlist), and some messaging apps, like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Google Hangouts and a better TTS engine (Ivona).

I am glad to say that it is still fast. ‘Course that not like the clean state, but definitively a great general sensation.

CyanogenMod have a very close to stock Android with a good selection of apps. Their camera app is very nice, their configuration pages are well organized and the home app is fast and customizable. I did not tried the default browser because because of pure habit, but I might give it a try soon.

For all the time I’ve already spent on it, I can only say that I recommend it. If you are getting too annoying of your current phone to the point that you are thinking about buying a new one, you might first take a much more economical approach installing CyanogenMod Android in your device. VIVA the phone rebirth!

2014.08.04

Saga

What a great story! What a great universe! What a great art!

Without any further words, I loved Saga.

Saga is a epic space opera, with a rich and VERY weird universe, full of bizarre races and locations. Like Star Wars, there is a galaxy-wide conflict, but unlike the reference, there is no good-and-evil motto.

The main characters (the couple Alana and Marko) are involved, but they are not the center of the conflict. They are fugitives hunted by governments and bounty hunters and they challenge the odds to remain alive. All this with a new born girl Hazel.

The story is incredible, yet believable.

Saga

The overall look is really good. Brian K. Vaughan, the author, mention the amazing art from Fiona Staples several times in the author area over and over and I cannot disagree. It enhances the experience like it should. Comics are a mixed of visual and story and both are covered.

Probably one of the recurrent mentioned feature of the series is the sex references. Sex is part of the story but is not vulgar. It is dealt as a part of the universe.

The liberty given by Image Comics to authors really pays off on Saga. In fact, Brian K. Vaughan is one of my preferred authors of this generation. I liked very much X: The Last Man, at least the first half.

Saga

You have to read it

NOTE: I just read the first 8 issues. I totally want to read the rest.

My Rating: 9
Goodreads: 4.17
2014.08.01

Witcher Adventure (Beta)

Yesterday I played Witcher Adventure (still in Beta) again, this time I could play for a little longer. I am participating in the Beta program, to give the developers the much feedback as we can. The game is a digital implementation of the homonymous boardgame, launched by Fantasy Flight Games.

First and foremost, the beta label means that: the game is incomplete. The main mechanics are working, the graphics are there, but there are many details missing, things that you will notice when you try it.

I am particularly interested in the game because my next game, project Vaults Inc(EDIT 2021: not available anymore), can learn a lot from it.

Visuals

Visuals are great. The game is really pretty and follows almost exactly the boardgame. There are also several similarities to Blizzard’s HeartStone by giving a plain card game a 3D vivid feeling. In the visual aspect, its a 10.

Story

Witcher Adventure do not have a fixed story. Instead each player will have a mission and submissions during the match. Even being a very mechanic driven strategy game, the story elements work amazingly well. It is better than other games that just include some generic and irrelevant context.

Multiplayer

The beta is all about the multiplayer aspect. The initial menu options are all very straight forward because the game has no other options to offer. Because there was not many players invited to the beta (at least I suppose), for several moments that I entered in the game lobby looking for a companion I was alone there.

The whole lobby feature is lacking a lot of robustness. It just says that there is or isn’t people waiting to play with you, nothing else. It could be strengthened by looking into Valve’s Alien Swarm, because they are similar in terms of important variables: number of players and scenario/match duration players voted for. The “waiting for other players to join” feels so lonely.

Witcher adventure ( beta)

Bugs

The current game is full of bugs. It’s a bit unfair, because most games are full of bugs. In a action driven game, all the bugs are generally forgotten seconds later because the player’s attention is needed again But in the case of a strategy, turn-based, very slow paced games, the logic is pretty exposed. You can see and analyze quite precisely the output of a given command.

In Witcher Adventure, the forum is full of minor bugs, but there are a couple of critical ones, in which the whole match is compromised. The most critical ones were related to network. ALL of my plays stooped due a player’s network problem. Yep, I could not go to a single match to the end…

I want to play it more (if there is any people online to do so)!

My Rating: 8
Metacritic: 68
2014.03.26

Free to Play movie

Yesterday I watched the Free to Play movie, produced by Valve. I can be only seeing inside the Steam gaming platform. I’ve never knew that it has video player functionalities.

Without any further due, the verdict: very boring.

The film is about video gaming as an sport, particularly about Dota 2. It tells 3 parallel stories of players that will participate into the biggest tournament ever. The prize would be one million dollars for the winner. At the time, it was, but light years, the biggest prize in history.

Free to play movie

The 3 main characters are not particularly captivating. They are portrayed as nerds that are taking a lot of pressure by family members to work or study instead invest the whole time into gaming. The characters keep saying that they are motivated and determined to win. But that is all. You see that they are facing difficult situations, but nothing different from a teenagers entering into adulthood: what should I do with my life?

Despite the fact that the announcement alone of a such big prize created a huge repercussion in the internet gaming community and media, the tournament is poorly described. During the whole film, I was never sure what was going on in the competition.

Free to play movie

But one thing it was very impressive the the CG scenes that describe some parts of the matches in the competition. I believe that Valve CG animators entered in action. They were short but very very well done.

The bottom line is that this film is in fact a propaganda about video game as an sport and the Valve game Dota. It repeatedly say that this competition was a milestone and it might actually be the case. But even being free to watch, Free to Play is not worthy.

My Rating: 4
2013.10.13

Inferno

From the acclaimed author of Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown brought another story from his symbologist Robert Langdon.

Now, instead sitting under Leonardo Da Vinci’s works to create the conspiracy and mystery, the author drank from another Italian writer: Dante Alighieri. This fellow was the responsible for written the Divine Comedy, a narration about the 9 rings of hell.

Without revealing to much information about the book itself, I did not like the book. The character seems to know all the places too well, from secret doors, geography, history and local informants. He knows everything. Also he remains too calm and lucid even on life threatening situations.

Inferno

All the characters, good or bad, including Langdon, are also too resourceful. They need to travel across the globe now? No problem, there are always a contact that can spare a private jet, boat or helicopter. There isn’t any dead end moments, It is too much straight forward adventure.

The Dante’s material is fascinating, but it was over used. He is not Da Vinci, it is not believable that everything in the world somehow conspired to link to his works. Finally, Brown used too many repetitive artifacts in his writings. It annoyed me by half of the book.

I would not recommend this book. I going to read some technical books to change the air…

Inferno
My Rating: 6
Goodreads: 3.86
2013.09.05

Rock of Ages

The Chilean designers from ACE Team are back with the new crazy game Rock of Ages. Its a strategy and action game like none you have seen before.

You control a ball that will roll downhill until it crashes at the enemy’s castle front gates. Repeat if it is not damaged enough. Your adversary does the same. The first to break into the castle wins. You can put obstacles between your enemy’s ball and your castle, in a Tower Defense way. You should balance your time and money between preparing defenses and attacking.

Rock of ages

It’s overall idea is really nice but actual gameplay is not that fun. Well, It is fun at the beginning. I believe that it is fun in a sandbox mode, which you might experiment a lot. But for a single single player campaign, it is very frustrating. In the defense mode, the match is too short to allow you to test different strategies (or you win, or you lose in 2 or 3 rounds), neither gives you hints of would be a good call. In the offense ball rolling mode, the strategy is simple: avoid obstacles that make your ball weaker and go as fast as you can in the final meters in order to hit the gates as harder as you can. The problem is: that’s it. Not much else to do.

Nor difficult, especially for a strategy/action game. I was able to finish the game without complex thinking. The basic defense units, presented in the very first stages will take care of most of your needs in the entire game. The extra unities, gained when you reach later levels, are just visuals, offering almost no useful functionality. In like manner, the collectible stars, which was supposed to be difficult to obtain and would give the right to pass some portals, are also a piece of cake. So, it is more a matter to go and take them.

Rock of ages

Another polarizing aspect is the humour. I felt it is genuine and fun, but you have to give it a chance, because it is not obvious or for the masses. Each stage is thematic from historic figures like Pope, or ancient legends, like 300’s spartans. The jokes are silly and the application in the actual level is vague. Nonetheless, it reminds me the same weird fun style from Zeno Clash.

Bottom line: play this game if you want to explore an original and beautiful game. Does not expect deep strategy nor loads of LoL moments.

My Rating: 6
Metacritic: 74
2013.07.28

Ender’s Game

Ender’s game

I heard so many good reviews about this book. There is also a movie being made, staring Harrison Ford and the little actor not more that little from Hugo, Asa Butterfield.  So I was expecting another masterpiece ready to be trashed by Hollywood.

The main concept explored in the book is the war room. Like a video game, war commander see the battle and issue orders. Special maneuvers and spacial positioning are critical. It’s pure Sun Tsu. It’s Blizzard StarCraft.

However. [spoiler alert]

Orson created an story of a super hero that do not ever fail. Like… never. It is a tale of success after success. The main character knows the extension of his own abilities, knows how to master it and can perform formidably every single time. It seems that the character is cheating in an RPG game to the point to exploit the fun. Super smart, super fast, super agile. Super man.

Ender’s game

The narrative style is nice. Besides being a futuristic sci fi universe (usually hard to understand), Orson is good in description so readers always understand the world from the first time. However, the movement description, important to the story, is too visual and difficult to compreend.

Wow.

There is, tough, a nice message about training. Because for the little Ender, training brought perfection for him. It is somewhat inspiring.

Ender’s game
My Rating: 4
Goodreads: 4.3
2013.07.22

Life of Pi

Great visuals. That is by far the most commented and notorious quality of this touching movie. This film have several common qualities with Cast Away. The main character, because of an disaster, is isolated to the world. Alone, he enters into a routine in order to maintain sanity. But from external eyes, it seems that they are in fact becoming lunatic.

This piece is beautiful not only for the eyes, but also for the heart. The main message is tolerance. Tolerance specially towards religion choices. It is very linked to religion theme, while not a sermon.

Life of pi

The main problem of the film is the somewhat long sequence of loneliness. While important to give motive to the religion, it is long enough to make some people sleep.

In the end, I recommend you to watch to reflect. Probably the book that inspired the film is more deep, but this piece is strong enough to provoke some thinking about religion, personal choices and differences.

Life of pi
My Rating: 7
Metacritic: 79
Rotten Tomatoes: 86
2013.07.14

Bastion

I’ve heard about Bastion for quite some time. People love it as a very refined indie game. This review aims to confirm all you heard elsewhere: Bastion is a lovely game and I’m both happy and sad for finishing it.

Core mechanics are the main success factor presented. The fluid gameplay makes it accessible for almost everyone. He combat is satisfying and challenging. There are enough weapons to make you believe there is a variety, but not much to make you think there are just for filling in content. Each weapon requires a different play style

The graphics are great. It was given a lot of work to give Bastion a singular look. Its cartoonish characters and hand maid painted scenarios are richly detailed. You will believe in the universe.

Bastion

The enemies are also nice looking as well animated. They have different tactics and you have to fight them with a strategy, specially in the later levels and the arena.

But the most notable and unique feature of this game is the narrator. The whole story is from the point of view of an old man that follow the trajectory of the Kid to restore the Bastion to its former glory. The uniqueness is: he speaks the whole time! In the middle of the action, the narrator comes with fun comments. Sometimes it might get a bit annoying,  but I personally felt as a amazing immersing technique.

You must try it. It is available on every platform, including browsers, so there is no excuse.

My Rating: 9
Metacritic: 86
2013.04.29

Geralt of Rivia 2

It has been almost 2 years since I bought, at the release date, The Witcher 2. I played it furiously for a whole week. Maybe 40 hours. But one day I went to a 4 day travel and I totally lost the momentum.

I must confess that the review I wrote by 2011 I had not yet finished the game, but very much close to the ending.

Lately, news about the third installment emerge every day. I was caught by a nostalgia and shame. I recommended the game to all people that I talked to. I love the series. I found an inner strength to re-enter it’s universe. Loading an more than a year ago saved game, I was able to finally finish the game. I originally bought from gog.com, the CD Projekt distributing company. I don’t even remember why I got it again from Valve’s Steam, but there it was.

Now I revisit my original review with new insights.

Geralt of rivia 2

How superb are the visuals!  A totally unknown polish company manage to create a top 5 best looking game of all history, imo. The lights and color palette are amazing. The details presented in their 3D models are also incredible. Geralt of Rivia is very richly designed, with nice clothing. The same for the other characters and the scenes. Castles, dungeons, forests. Everything seems to be designed with care.

The story is for adults: strong on politics, sexual interests, loads of anti hero characters. It makes the game stand out among others, but it is not for everyone. However the story is also very confusing. My perception it happens because the game is based in a established book universe. The authors know the geography and history, but the players do not. When they vomit geography details as part of the main plot, I felt like listening mandarin.

Geralt of rivia 2

Once thing I disliked quite much in the game’s design: auto saving just before cut scenes. Generally, after important cut scenes, there is a battle. But if you lose, guess what: you have to see again the cut scene! Holly cow! How many times, specially at the end, I died but I had to see the whole dialogue all over again. Also noting that, but the ending of the game, the among of dialogues sky rocketed. Based on your choices on the dialogues, you will face one of the 16 endings. Almost all of them decided by the very last hour or two.

Re reading this, I fell like i hated the game, judging by the amount of complaining. Do not think this. It is like complaining about your son or girlfriend: it is because you liked them very much that you point the weak points. This Polish company gained my heart. I loved their work. I liked the first one very much. But this one shows how much effort were put into the game. 2 years later, it still seems as fresh as a new release. I feel sorry that i wont play it again for a second ending, but the third game is coming… I cannot wait!

My Rating: 9
Metacritic: 88