First Impressions of The Witcher 2

The Witcher 2 thus far is a deeply uneven game in it’s first chapter.   I just finished it and it gives you a handful of choices.  A handful of really cool moments.  And a lot of really frustrating unexplained mechanics and quests which expect the player to dig a lot more than the norm in  modern gaming conventions.  

Just one example of this, there’s a pair of quests in the first town where the player is expected to do some research on monsters in order to get started.  They don’t give you any directions about this just that you need to learn about the monsters.    

To find the books you’ve got to sort of randomly go into every house in town till you find the librarian, and get the books from that guy.   The combat system is a bit opaque too.  This gives the player a lot of freedom in terms of how to proceed but it also gives you a lot of chances to try and fail at things.  How much of this you can put up with is going to be a case of ‘your mileage may vary.’

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Geralt of Rivia

 

I feel like this would be a better game had their been a bit more scaffolding in the beginning.  A bit more of a primer on how the various systems work–especially combat, crafting and character development.   There is a tutorial but it really has a lot of mysteries.  

If you’re the kind of person who likes those things, then you’ll probably enjoy puzzling out the Witcher 2.  So far it’s led me to feel a bit frustrated at times with it in Chapter 1.   I am going to keep going–but it’s not yet a game I’m absolutely committed to finishing.   

What I’d like to see Disney do with Lucasfilm

 

So, that happened.  Disney, owner of among other nerd things Pixar and Marvel, bought Lucasfilm for 4.05 billion dollars.   A lot of money by any standard, but I have to believe between all the possibilities for merchandising and theme park attractions and media that this acquisition will pay for itself fairly quickly.  I’d imagine Mr. Lucas to a degree just wanted out.

The really interesting thing to watch in this announcement is the announcement of several post-Jedi films.   This has  until now been considered the realm of the non-cannonical expanded universe material.  I wonder how they’re going to handle that.  Is it sort of tabula rasa and they’re going to just start fresh with Star Wars, the emperor is dead now what?   Is it going to honor the fiction? And what of the stars, will they recast people?  Start sufficiently later that they can just cycle through a new story with old dudes?

There’s no real answers to this.  I mean every  Star Wars nerd I know is going please make the Thrawn trilogy, please make the Thrawn trilogy.  At least that aren’t casting doom and gloom across the whole franchise.   You’ve got to wonder if anyone even cares about old-man Star Wars fans.  I mean they’ll farm nostalgia where they can but when I went to Star Wars weekend at Disney World stuff from the animated show and films were really the centerpiece.  If you’re under 10 today that’s probably the way you’ve experienced Star Wars.    Maybe even the only way you’ve experienced Star Wars.

Microsoft Surface Hands on Impressions

So I spent 30 minutes or so sitting in a Microsoft store and got to play with the Surface.

First I guess I’ll start with the good things.   It’s really well constructed.  I mean I don’t know that I’d say make a skateboard out of it.  It feels really solid.  The kick stand concept is great and it seems really strong.  All the reviews say the battery life is really good.   The software is pretty snappy, switching between apps is relatively painless.   The type keyboard is very impressive.  The touch keyboard, well I imagine I’d get used to it but if I bought one I’d REALLY want the type keyboard.

The thing that really shocked me about the Surface is how darn big it is.   It’s a 10 inch tablet so I expected it to be about the same size as an iPad and it’s much much bigger.   Using it tablet style just seems unwieldily.   Like I can’t imagine say sitting on a bus and using a Surface to read something.   It would just be awkwardly large.  It’s really designed to sit on a desk with the keyboard out.

I want through many of the core apps, and looked around in the store.  It’s kind of barren in there.  Evernote, Netflix, a handful of big important apps, but after that it’s a barren wasteland.   No Facebook or Twitter really stings me as I imagine these things would be great for social networking mavens and yeah I’m sure there are other ways to go about getting them on there.

I have no idea how i’d go about getting all my Mac data on to a Surface.  I assume someone will come up with  an app for that eventually but for right now I’d have to manually transfer it over file by file.   I would not look forward to that–Android without the established ecosystem of apps for weirdos like me who like owning multiple platforms.

The real damning thing about the Surface came down to the price.   It’s 499, but really 599 as a keyboard is a necessity; and frankly you want the touch keyboard so it’s really $638; that’s a lot of money.   Yes it is comparable to an iPad with keyboard–but there’s an established app ecosystem there.  Like I can say for certain that I can get a great set of apps there.

And the final nail in the coffin as far as my interest goes was walking up and standing by an Acer laptop with pretty reasonable specs–Ivy Bridge and all that bussiness  with a 15 inch touchscreen for 699–only $60 dollars more than the surface with type cover.   And it’ll run all the software I already have.  Only 60 dollars more and it does a ton more stuff.

I don’t understand who the Surface is meant to appeal to.  It doesn’t make me love the iPad or Nexus 7 any less.  It’s not as good of a consumption device as those.  It seems like it’s poised to compete against a Macbook Air and other Ultrabooks.  If this were a 399 with keyboard device then sign me up this would be my next computer.  But at 499+139 bucks for the real keyboard it’s just outrageous.

Hear me on The TechPort Podcast

So, I was on the Inaugural issue of The TechPort podcast.   We talked about Tuesday’s Apple event, Microsoft surface and some other odds and ends.   Give it a listen.  

 

The other Mini

 

Most of the buzz today, is about the new iPad Mini.  At $329 it frankly doesn’t excite me too much.  However Apple updated another Mini and it really excites me.   At $599 the mac Mini with Ivy Bridge is a very interesting piece of kit.   Unless reviews give me some reason that I don’t want one then I’m probably going to buy one by Christmas.

The first point I’ll make was something my Podcasting partner Brent said.  “The apple tax almost doesn’t apply.”  599 for an Ivy Bridge computer is a pretty good price in my estimation.  I’m sure if you searched around you could find a PC at a competitive price.  Which brings me to the next reason I’m interested in the Mac Mini.

It’s an amazingly portable computer for a desktop.  You might wonder who cares about portability in a desktop but I move fairly frequently.  I’ve moved at least once a year, sometimes more for every year in the last four years.  Anything to move isn’t so bad.

Also I’m just not all that comfortable having my computer’s long term health tied to the monitor’s long term health.  I like keeping these separate.  So that’s a plus.

So then it just comes down to a Windows machine or a Mac and frankly, I just prefer working in a Mac.  Games notwithstanding it’s a better work environment for me.

Newsweek kills Print

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So, Newsweek, one of the venerable magazines in news, is killing it’s print edition.  At the end of the year, it’s going online-only.  It makes me sad.  

What strikes me as unfortunate about a lot of these people making Kindle and iPad magazines is it’s principally a cash grab.   Not moving to where the ad money is, but juicing their subscribers for stuff that used to be provided for free.  

Newspapers, and magazines cost money to cover the overhead of printing it out and shipping it.  That stuff costs money.    Now they get all that money taken from them.  Now they still get ad revenue, albeit less because it’s online.  

Then they want a huge premium for every issue depite having drastically less overhead to deal with.  All the while there’s an amazing bonanza of free news content on the ‘net.   

Flipboard’s amazing interface for reading blogs is teriffic.  You can just flip through stories like a magazine and they’re not asking for ridiculous rates like the magazines.   

Tweetbot for Mac

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So I used the Alpha and Beta of Tweetbot for Mac.   It’s a great program.   It’s much better than the official Twitter app or the web app.  In my estimation it was easily the best Desktop Twitter client around.  I also use Tweetbot on iPhone.  I was excited for it to go final.   And then, I found out the price.  Twenty dollars is just more than I’m willing to spend on a desktop Twitter client.  Especially one that won’t work on many of the desktop machines I use.  

I’m what you would call a fairly casual Twitter user.  I use Twitter, I like Twitter.  I think it’s more useful than Facebook for sharing fun stuff with friends and colleagues.   I love it as a way to surface cool stuff that I wouldn’t have found otherwise.   However, I hardly know anyone else who uses Twitter to post things.  Almost all my friends are on Facebook and active posters, pretty much none of them are active Twitter users, and the ones that  are are just promoting their work, or duplicating their Facebook statuses.    So in that regard 20 dollars is a lot to ask.  

Secondly, as good as Tweetbot is, the fact that they are charging per platform while a reasonable decision doesn’t work very well for me.   I’m a Mac and Windows user.  Sometimes i’m on one sometimes I”m on the other and for a client that only works on my computer half of the time that’s a huge ask.   

Thirdly, I sympathize with their position.  Twitter is being totally unreasonable by limiting the number of keys a developer can have so they have to maximize their profit out of each one.   I can’t understand their decision.

Like i said the Mac version of Tweetbot is a pretty good piece of software.  However, it’s only for serious Tweeters, people who really need it for their job.   Not for people who like following people and reading updates.    For 3-5 bucks on iOS it’s a great value.  For 20 bucks, just too much for me.   

 

 

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