Microsoft is Kitten Around With You to Support The Humane Society

cuteCloudYou’ll doubtless be bumbling into all manner of Internet foolery today, but Microsoft’s Bing search service is shooting straight to the heart for a good cause. Welcome to the Cute Cloud.

Yessir, Bing is decked out with all manner of frolicking furballs to celebrate the beginning of April. While web sites redecorating for April 1 is nothing new, doing it for charity is something of a rarity. What’s no joke is The Cute Cloud’s message asking folks to donate to The Humane Society.

Every day The Humane Society scrapes by on donations and an army of volunteers to prevent animal cruelty, care for unwanted pets, and offer aid to underprivileged pet owners. Even GUO’s own anime-loving Mrs. &  offspring spend several hours a week making sure our homeless, furry friends get the snuggly attention they crave.

Oh, and if you were thinking about getting the kids their very own, real-life Easter Bunny, check ‘em out. They’ve got bunnies! Cheap!

Whether you’re looking for looking to stuff your eyeball full of kittens in cups or out to change the world, that other search engine has your ticket!

Break Out Your Dead v2–Updated 3/23/2015

One year ago, I set out on a crazy experiment to make a video game from scratch with naught but two clues to rub together. The result was a lengthy series of articles about the joys and despair of making your own game. After three months of hard work, the experiment bore playable fruit in the form of a quirky little 3rd-person brick-breaking shooter I dubbed Break Out Your Dead.

While I’ve released a couple other titles here (and have a few more ready to pop out any day now), BOYD remained my pride and joy. The release of the new, fifth version of the Unity engine was a perfect excuse to revisit the first of my little digital toys and sprinkle a bit of newfound knowledge and Unity 5 magic upon my first-born.

So, what’s new? Tons! Here are some of the highlights:

  • New graphical effects including soft shadows and bloom effects.
  • Tweaked lighting, colors, particle systems, and materials for both performance and pretty.
  • Rim lighting added to tombstones for increased visibility while creeps have more natural lighting to better match the scene.
  • Holy Ball now has a new targeter effect to for better aiming of this expensive nuke.
  • A new implementation of the ‘Poly UI’ system that renders without perspective warping and features better effects.
  • More dynamic pathfinding for creeps.
  • Scaling UI so our friends with big resolutions and bad eyesight won’t need to strain so much.
  • The player now moves faster while time is slowed. (Note: This does not affect casting time)
  • Tons of performance optimizations and bug fixes.

I’ll be happy to build out a Linux version if requested. I’ve also tried to keep BOYD running on all the systems it did before. I haven’t done much benchmarking with the new post-process effects, so if I’ve blown you video card out of the water, let me know.

Update: v0.21 is now available at the links below. This update includes fixes for wizard pose in Mystery Boxes level, a new program icon, and cosmetic tweaks on the main menu.

Download Break Out Your Dead v2

Windows: Installer or Zip

Mac: Zip

I hope you enjoy this ‘remastered’ version of my humble pet project (Because diving back into your first attempt at any endeavor is a mess!). We love you! Thanks for playing.

Bricked Dead Again

Break Out Your Dead alphaV0.2 coming soon with shiny new graphics, scaling UI, bug fixes, and faster maths.

BrickDeadV2

And, yes, Against the Horde is still totally beatable with l33t skillz!

Star Trek Online Players Honor the Memory of Leonard Nimoy

News recently broke that legendary actor Leonard Nimoy, best known for his portrayal of Star Trek’s “green-blooded, inhuman” science officer has passed away from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at the age of 83.

STO memorial for Leonard Nimoy

Players of Star Trek Online, the free-to-play role-playing game based on the television show staring Nimoy from 1966, have gathered in the hundreds around the central fountain on Spock’s home planet of Vulcan to honor the memory of the actor. Many are wearing classic Star Trek uniforms resembling Nimoy’s character Spock and bringing rocky Horta pets from one of the show’s most memorable episodes. Game caretakers Cryptic Studios have added a system-wide alert to the virtual world informing players of Nimoy’s death.

Aside from being one of the original actors in the television show and movies, Leonard Nimoy has contributed voice acting to Star Trek Online including the game’s introduction video, universal background, and a congratulatory message each time a Federation character levels up.

Member of the cast and crew here at GUO, as well as the members of out own STO fleet, The Night Watch, humbly salute the passing of this influential man who helped fire our imaginations for so many decades.

Update: Star Trek Online Executive Producer Steve Ricossa has announced that a memorial to the actor will be added to the game March 5th:

“I want to once again express my heartfelt condolences to the friends, family, and fans of Leonard Nimoy. Everyone at Cryptic Studios was saddened to hear of his passing and we want to make sure we never forget the cultural impact of the man or the character he played. To that end, the Star Trek Online team will implement a standing in-game memorial to Spock and Leonard Nimoy this Thursday March 5th with our regular weekly maintenance.

In this way, we hope to keep his memory as alive in our game as he is in all of our hearts.”

I didn’t know it did THAT! Kingwin 120mm PC Case Fan

K450-2545_vmain01x_er_mn_8139571The Green Machine’s been making a lot of racket lately. After pulling a few plugs inside my PC’s case, I narrowed it down to the 120mm exhaust fan. While I had gotten in the habit of thumping it in just the right spot on the back every 30 minutes to shut it up, the chore was getting a bit old. It was time to replace that sucker.

A quick trip out to my local TigerDirect store left me in a bit of a conundrum. They didn’t have any green LED fans. I sure as heck wasn’t putting in a red one and blue LEDs are SO blah. Then I saw it: The Kingwin 120mm Multi-Color LED Case Fan. I was suddenly struck by the most rational thought any PC pimper could have: “Why would I have just one color when I could have ALL THE COLORS!!!”. While the packaging showed the fan lit up with one color in each corner, nothing could have prepared me for the psychedelic lightshow this thing would put out upon being fed some power!

Ravetastic! Ya know, I think the 80mm fan on the top of my case is starting to make a little noise too Winking smile

Chasing GOTY: The Almost Games of the Year for 2014

While 2014 will almost certainly be remembered as the year when the video games market began finally normalizing again after the boom ushered in with Nintendo's Wii, there was one group of gamers who had plenty of new stuff to play all year ‘round: Computer RPG fans. I gotta tell ya, in a year slim on releases it’s a great irony that choosing GUO’s 2014 GOTY was the most difficult on record. It was only the rock-solid presentation and lack of technical issues that led to Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor being chosen over one other, equally Earth-shattering title: Divinity: Original Sin.

It was perhaps a little suspect when established developer Larian Studios took to Kickstarter in order to fund their fourth Divinity game. Their justification? They knew they could make one of the greatest RPGs off all time. They’ve been trying, and coming close, for over 10 years. Larian stated that in order to finally succeed and create the game they always dreamed of they would have to go it alone, free from the influence of bean-counting marketing executives. The results speak to the wisdom of Larian’s vision.

At first blush, Divinity: Original Sin is a step back into the second golden age of CRPGs heralded by Baldur’s Gate. One glance at the screenshots is enough to make old farts pine for the times when store shelves were lined with isometric, party based adventures like Icewind Dale, Arcanum, and Torment. I know my first few moments with Divinity were spent with a goofy smile on my face and the phrase “They sure don’t make ‘em like this anymore,” on my lips.

I hadn’t even finished the tutorial dungeon by the time this thought was proven incorrect.

Growing Up Otaku Game of the Year 2014: Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

It’s been quite a while since Monolith shook the world and, frankly, it didn’t seem like they had the chops to ever do it again. The studio that once excelled at creating new worlds (Blood, Shogo, No One Lives Forever, F.E.A.R, and Condemned) has languished of late with back-to-back licensed yawns in 2012 (Gotham City Imposters & Guardians of Middle-earth). Who woulda thunk that their second foray into the well-worn world of Tolkien would meet with any more success than the first one? Especially when the game bears such obvious signs of ‘inspiration’ (to put it kindly) from two other well-worn franchises: The Batman-Arkham and Assassin’s Creed games.

Shadow of Mordor (SoM) reportedly began life as another Batman game and it shows. The combat favors rhythmic, well timed buttons presses with random button-mashing frequently resulting in failure. One wrinkle SoM introduces to the combat is that you are very much behind enemy lines. Uruks are wandering around everywhere and a protracted battle can lead to more attention than you originally bargained for, both from the enemy minions as well as some particularly monstrous wildlife. This is a title where discretion will get you a good deal farther than valor. Fortunately, the stealth system works admirably and the toys in your arsenal cater equally well to both stealthy and aggressive approaches.

The environments are large and chunky with an obsessive amount of detail lavished on character models. Much like Arkham City, the game world feels a bit small at first blush, but turns out to be quite adequate for providing plenty of room for your open-world hijinks. Lacking Batman’s grappling hook, our hero has instead been blessed with an Assassin’s mobility. It requires all the same skill (That is to say, hold one button to clamber up darn near anything), but continues to look and feel awesome. A bevy of special skills and gadgets ranging from a ghostly bow, to rideable monsters, to a teleporting sneak attack provides players with a good range of tactical options for both locomotion and combat prowess.

Still, for everything SoM borrows from games that have come before, it also concocts some welcome twists to alleviate the more tedious or aggravating problems associated with these types of games. A fall/stumble move that actually speeds you up? Why, thank you! A short QTE to avoid the final killing blow of an enemy? Beats a load screen! How ‘bout a crouched stealth run? Where have you been all my life!

Bolt on an utterly forgettable plot (The main character’s name is… Talion, I think. He’s possessed by some long dead elf because… Reasons.) complete with several horribly forced Gollum cameos, sprinkle in some unremarkable collect-a-thon items, and you’ve got a title that would have been a polished, fun, if unremarkable, game. So how does it end up as our pick for Game of the Year?

Merry Christmas from the Cast and Crew to You

As is tradition here at Growing Up Otaku, we turn to the Internet’s favorite troubadour, Jonathan Coulton, as he checks in with the residents of Chiron Beta Prime.

From all of us at GUO to you, Happy Holidays! We love you!

Remember, it could always be worse Winking smile

For more holiday hijinks, check out these features:

Santa Prepares for World Tour with CISR Haptically-Enabled Universal Motion Simulator
Christmas Light Display as Video Game
Fan Made Original Star Wars Trilogy Christmas Cards
Stop the Spread of Holiday Cheer with Garden Gnome Carnage
World’s Oldest Christmas Recording Now Available Thanks to Digital Transfer
The 12 Geeks of Christmas (Decorations)
Crafty Christmas
A Festival of Geeky Christmas Lights

And out newest feature: Santa Ready for Takeoff!

Get SimCity 2000 for Free from Origin

simCity2000Widely praised as the best (or at least fan-favorite) of the Sim City games, Sim City 200: Special Edition is being given away for free! Grab it directly from EA’s Origin service.

While you’re at Origin, you may want to check their New Year’s Doorbuster sale going on for the next couple of days. New games like Dragon Age and Sims4 are $20 off and there are a few other tempting deals like Titanfall for $10 (Scratch that. GameStop has Titanfall for $5!).

In the 21st Century, We’re Tracking EVERYONE : NORAD Santa Tracker is Live!

norad santa trackerIt’s Christmas Eve and  the North American Aerospace Defense Command  is on full alert! Today’s aerospace anomaly? An portly old man has been sighted circling the Earth in, of all anachronistic things, a flying sleigh. It get weirder! The sleigh appears to be powered by a squadron of nine flying reindeer. This target has thus far proven too fast to be intercepted by any known means. The unidentified flying object, now dubbed SANTA,  appears to be carpet bombing the planet with packages ranging from Hello Kitty dolls to socks stuffed with coal.

Is this the end of civilization as we know it? Almost assuredly! And thanks to the Internet, you can watch it live from the comfort of you own PC at NORADsanta.org.