Sony Online Entertainment has once again captured our attention with their latest free-to-play MMO offering, Dragon’s Prophet. This newest online game from the classic Runes of Magic developer Runewaker turns players free to bust up baddies via an action-packed, combo-based combat in a fantasy world. So what’s got the folks here at the GUO homestead so excited about yet another fantasy MMO? The ability to capture, ride, and battle alongside your own cadre of dragons!
Yep, it’s a Poke’gasam of dragolitich proportions as you are turned loose in a world with HUNDREDS of types of dragons to exploit. Flying dragons, swimming dragons, sprinting dragons, giant dragons, tiny dragons, dragons that look like little velociraptors, dragons that look like giant armadillos. There’s even a few with little membrane wings that can’t fly, but glide like a flying squirrel. Exponentially increasing the variety, each dragon comes with its own battery of randomly generated, RPG-style skill and stats. Some dragons even give new abilities to their owners.
I named this one Lucy.
Even better, I can tell you from my time in the closed beta test (usually played with the Mrs. grumbling over my should about how she wasn’t in the closed beta test), Dragon’s Prophet doesn’t make players wait to get their dragon snatching on. Play the tutorial, head out the gate of the first city, and hang a right. See those lizards over there (or, more likely for the first week, all those people waiting for lizards to spawn)? Walk on over and pop your dragon training skills. Tap (don’t hold!) the WASD keys to keep the icon in the center of the circle to complete the minigame (Pro tip: Charisma makes dragon taming easier), and Bingo! Your very own dragon! Hit tilde (~) to summon your new buddy to your side in combat and hit the tab key ride around in style.
Dragon’s Prophet is open to all with an “Open Beta” caveat May 30th at 5PM PDT. Grab it free from SOE.
Xbox 720, neXtbox, Infinity, Whatever You Called It, Is Now Called Xbox One. Watch the Press Conference Here
Microsoft has announced their next-next-generation console, the Xbox One. In a stark contrast to Sony’s ‘gamer’s first’ reveal of the PlayStation 4, Microsoft has positioned the Xbox One as an entertainment solution for everything for everyone. The mantra for the new system repeated ad nauseam throughout the press conference was “All in One”.Microsoft further elaborated this goal as to “Take your passion for gaming and apply to your entire TV experience.” Even the big Halo news revealed wasn’t about a game but about a live-action, “premium” TV series produced by Steven Spielberg.
So what does this mean? Instant switching between your cable TV (assuming you are subscribed with a supported provider), digital movies, gaming, and web browsing via Kinect’s voice and gesture command system. Even more interesting, the Xbox one will allow users to open multiple windows and utilize Internet Explorer along side your live content. Also sure to tickle early adopter’s fancy is the integration of Microsoft’s Smart Glass mobile integration and the ability to use your smartphone as a remote control. A cloud based DVR service is also promised, though very unlikely to be available at launch, for customers who continue to dump money into Microsoft’s Xbox Live online service.
Tuesday, May 21st is the launch of the Romulan Legacy expansion for the free-to-play MMO Star Trek Online and we’re bringing our first impressions to you live beginning at 6:30 PM EDT.
Join us in game, on Twitch.tv, right here on GUO, or search for GrowingUpOtaku on the TwitchTV app for iOS or Android as we begin to explore the plight of the once mighty Romulan Star Empire following the destruction of their homeworld. With new character creation options, a revamped user interface, and a brand new faction with a unique 50 level campaign, there’s a ton to see and discuss!
For more details on Star Trek Online’s first expansion, the Legacy of Romulus, check out our pre-release coverage.
Watch live video from growingupotaku on TwitchTV
Last Tuesday NASA reported a failure of the reaction wheel number four onboard the Kepler Space Telescope. Sadly, this is the second of Kepler’s four reaction wheels used to keep the craft properly oriented to have failed. Wheel number two called it quits back in July 2012. While Kepler was able to maintain its orientation around the sun in the search for new exoplanets with only three wheels properly functioning, it is unlikely that the brave eye above the sky will be able to keep pointed in the same direction long enough to continue its mission of high-precision photometry. Currently Kepler is ‘parked’ in a “Thruster-Controlled Safe Mode” in orbit around the sun, much too far and dangerous for astronauts to reach and repair.
NASA hasn’t given up on the little guy yet. The spacecraft is stable and safe. Kept in Safe Mode, the telescope has enough fuel to last for years. Engineers are trying a number of possible software solutions, transmitted via an X-band communication downlink, to fix the error. One possibility is that of a hybrid operational state that would use thrusters in conjunction with the two working reaction wheels to control the craft. There is also some hope that the busted wheel two will come back to life again following a reset of the telescope’s systems. It is possible that wheel two didn’t function due to a lack of lubrication that may have finally settled into the correct spots. Charlie Sobeck of NASA’s Ames Research Center also has a backup plan, “Like with any stuck wheel that you might be familiar with on the ground, we can try jiggling it. We can try commanding it back and forth in both directions. We can try forcing it through whatever the resistance is that's holding it up.”
Let’s go shopping! Amazon is running a “Digital Games Mayhem” sale for the next couple weeks. It looks like it’s going to be a quiet summer for big releases so now’s a good time to stuff that backlog full of interactive fun as we brace ourselves for the tumultuous times that come with the changing of the gaming generation.
There’s so much on sale, I’m not really sure where to start. There’s a Firaxis Pack that’ll get you Xcom, Civ 4 Complete, and Civ V Gold for a svelte $20. The Desert to Sea Bundle nabs you the first two Bioshock games and Spec Ops: The Line , the best narrative experience to ever to grace a modern military shooter, for $10. You can also grab the first season of Telltale’s amazing The Walking Dead game for $10. Mr and Mrs Otaku recommended!
Looks like we’re all caught up on the AAA stuff. Hmm, what else… There’s the Sega Fun Pack where a tenner gets ya Ron Gilbert’s (Monkey Island) new joint The Cave, indie platformer Hell Yeah! and all its DLC, awesome vehicle arcade shooter Renegade Ops and that DLC, the Nights remake Into Dreams, and… DUDE! Jet Set Radio got ported to the PC! OMG! AND I don’t have to use that crappy Dreamcast gamepad! Don’t tell the Mrs. I am SO going to blast that all night long after she’s in bed, LOL. Mr adored! Mrs abhorred!
Everybody loves indies, and those scrappy little guys at indie publisher Microsoft (lulz) have a bundle. $10 gets you Deadlight, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, Iron Brigade, Toy Soldiers, and Mark of the Ninja in the Microsoft 5-Game Arcade/Indie Pack (or $3.75 separately). I seem to have missed all of those, so let me just tuck that in the cart.
Looks like they’ve got some strategy games I’ve been meaning to catch up on. Top of that list is Unity of Command, an Eastern front game with emphasis on keeping your supply lines intact, for $5. That middle ages Sims-meets-strategy game of Thrones simulator Crusader Kings II is $10. Hmm, think I’ll wait for a bundle with all the DLC.
I highly recommend the Majesty Franchise for the stupid low price of $10 ($104 value). It comes with Majesty Gold, Majesty 2 and all the DLC (and it’s BEEFY DLC with all-new campaigns and you get to play as the monsters in the last one), Defenders of Andania tower defense, and Warlock with all of its DLC. Warlock is, hands down, my favorite 4X fantasy game to date! It was a steal when it came out at $20. I own and love all these titles!
There’s also a category for “casual games” on sale. Here’s you’ll find your usual assortment of time management, seek-n-finds, and a few miscategorized surprises. The first game on Amazon’s “casual” list: S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat , the brutal, hardcore, first-person RPG-shooter that puts you gun-to-claw with mutants in the radioactive wastes surrounding Chernobyl. This was the height of the STALKER series. If you enjoyed Fallout or Deus Ex and don’t mind a game that isn’t afraid to kick you in the teeth, don’t miss this for $2. I also saw a few classic Microids adventure games like Post Mortem and Syberia for $3 a pop. The Mrs loves those! Anyway, DO check out the casual list even if you don’t think they’re your cup of tea.
Broke yet? Good. This sale even covers free-to-play stuff. Topping of the list, if you sign up for the online city-builder Stronghold Kingdoms, you get a voucher for a free download of Stronghold Crusader HD, the remastered version of the RTS, castle builder classic. Do this! The Mrs and I are big, big fans of those original Stronghold games. There’s also The Troobles Pet Pack for Second Life (that’s still going, huh?) and a couple other deals.
Thanks for going shopping with us! Now, where did the Mrs hide that credit card this time?
Firaxis Games is no stranger to strategy titles. The house that Sid Meier built is home to some of the most compelling exercises in tactics known to gamers like the Civilization series and the recent reimagining of Xcom. The strategy game powerhouse has something a little more intimate in mind than a globe conquering Incan Empire or an Earth threating alien invasion for their this original foray into the iOS games space. This time you’ll be recruiting a team of Hollywood monsters and racing against a single opponent to scare to bejeezus out of the local townsfolk while battling the horror of overpriced in-app purchases.
Haunted Hollow is a board game styled experience that pits you against a friend, or a rather weak AI, in the role of the dark lord of a spooky mansion. Each turn you’ll draw and build a random monster lair from your deck and spend Fear Points (actions) as you see fit to add extra lairs to your haunted house, create monsters, move, attack, and activate special abilities. Monsters come in three types: Scary monsters used to gain ground, Fighty monsters to put the smack down on your opponent’s minions, and Special monsters that usually do both. The goal is territory control as your monsters race to Scare (claim) every house in town. As more houses are claimed and frightened townies flock to the local church, a tough, neutral third party enters the fray in the form of a torch-wielding mob that burns everything, monsters and houses, in its path.
Turn-based tactical depictions of aerial combat have long been a mainstay of miniature wargamers’ tabletops for decades. Armed with millimeter rulers and protractors, armchair air commanders have fussed over tiny miniature planes on fiddly adjustable bases for decades. Strangely, this form of gaming has never garnered much attention in the digital space, and all but vanished since Windows stopped sporting double digits on it’s splash screen. Enter legendary game designer Sid Meier, whose past credits include some of the most loved flight simulators of the DOS era like F-15 Strike Eagle and F-19 Stealth Fighter, with this latest mobile title that brings the high-flying heroics of World War I aces to a touchscreen near you.
Sid Meier's Ace Patrol (SMAP!) gives you command of a squadron of pilots during the first War to End All Wars tasked with a variety of missions including bomber escort, blowing up supply trains, gunning down observation balloons, and generally furballing it up with opposing aircraft. Ace Patrol takes a number of cues from Firaxis’ recent rebooting of the vaunted Xcom franchise and features both the engrossing tactical action of the air duels themselves and a strategic metagame that sees your best pilots and planes improving while your worst ones sit grounded for healing and repairs.
Refueling on Earth is something that we all have to deal with. Pull up to the gas station, insert pump, and fuel up the car until you get a full tank. Spacecraft on Earth refuel in a very similar way, when they are on the launch pad, liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen are commonly pumped into rocket fuel tanks just before takeoff. These super cold gases are loaded just before takeoff because they will turn from a liquid to a gas. As they naturally warm up and simply boil off the surface of the liquid, they are vented so that pressure in the tanks doesn’t become so great that they burst. Most of this propellant is used up on launch because it is very hard to keep these freezing cold liquids at low temperature in outer space for long periods of time. This ability to keep liquified gases cold would greatly enhance our ability to reach the outer solar system as well as decrease the amount of time needed to reach closer objectives.
When I was naught but a tiny nerd, there were few flights of fancy that could stand up to the creature packed features of visual effects mastermind Ray Harryhausen. Widely considered the father of special effects (well, pre-computer generated ones, anyway), Harryhausen’s stop motions creations elevated movie monsters from mere puppets to characters in their own right.
Mentoring under Willis H O’Brien, the stop motion artist who brought King Kong to life in 1933, Ray would strike it big with his amazing animation of a dinosaur ripping apart New York City in the 1953 film The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. His list of credits doubles as a 'Best of…” list for the greatest flights of fantasy from the 50s, 60s, and 70s: Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, 20 Million Miles to Earth, The 3 Worlds of Gulliver, Mysterious Island, One Million Years B.C, Jason and the Argonauts, Clash of the Titans, and the Sinbad trilogy (The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, and Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger) which he also helped write.
Sadly, Ray Harryhausen departed this mortal realm Tuesday, May 7 2013, at the ripe, young age of 92. In this very special edition of the Weekend Watchlist, we’re capturing one fame at a time while waving a fond farewell to The Master of Movie Monsters, The Sultan of Stop Motion, The Vizier of Visual Effects, Ray Harryhausen.
We kick off this Watchlist with a tribute from Jack Perez, a true fan and director of such delightfully kitschy films like Monster Island and Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus.
Teams from 22 countries around the world are donning full plate and hoisting a sword for the honor of king and country once more this weekend in Bataille des Nations (Battle of Nations). No mere cosplay event, this western martial arts tournament has participants wielding metal swords and axes in fights to the non-fatal finish. Matches include everything from single duels, 5-on-5 (pictured above), and “mass combat” featuring 21 knights per squad.
The event runs from May 9th thru the 12th in Aigues-Mortes, France, but you can catch the spectacle live on YouTube from anywhere in the world. Head on over to the official YouTube channel and check out the latest live stream. Replays of past events can be found here.
It could be argued that the original Zeno Clash never should have made it to market. Born out of the Source mod scene, its gameplay took the first-person shooter engine and retuned it for melee combat, a strategy that’s rarely met with success. It’s surrealistic art style brazenly thumbed its nose at overused, mass-market friendly settings filled with elves, space marines, and dude-bros in camo with assault rifles. It was a fantasy boxing simulator spliced Through the Looking Glass with the works of Salvador Dali. Yes, Zeno Clash was the sort of title hardcore gamers clamor for: New, bold, and wholly original. Now, four years later, Zeno Clash is back, thanks to the help of Atlus, famed publisher of strange JRPGs, and it is bigger, bolder, and more beautifully original than ever.
Zeno Clash II is a direct sequel to the original first-person puncher and picks up shortly after Ghat’s return from the End of the World with the Golem and the reveal of Father-Mother’s horrible secret. The sequel’s opening has Golem taking a guiding role to the city of Halstedom, teaching the barbaric inhabitants new terms such as “law,” “criminal," and “jail". These concepts don’t sit well with many of the Zenos, including the notoriously rebellious Ghat. Spurred to action by his sister, Ghat begins a new journey to reunite the family of Father-Mother, break her out of jail, and discover the means to fight the Golem at the upcoming trial. Along the way, he’ll face-punch the many unique people and critters inhabiting the world of Zenoziok while trying to stay one step ahead of his nemesis in an effort to stave off civilization. Yes, really.
One of the largest publishers of video games in the Western World is trimming the fat in their budget. EA has decided that it can save a few bucks by nixing a deal with firearms manufacturers to use likenesses of their weapons in games. They’re still going to use the likenesses anyway, they’re just not going to pay for the privilege. EA claims that they are within Fair Use rights to go ahead and continue offering virtual Colts and Remingtons to players without striking a licensing deal with the gun manufacturers. EA President of Labels Frank Gibeau explained to Reuters, “We're telling a story and we have a point of view. A book doesn't pay for saying the word 'Colt,' for example.”
Books also don’t have exacting 3D recreations of a Colt accompanied with sound recorded directly from the weapon either.
Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, Illustrator, Premiere, etc) Ditches the Box for Subscription. Still Expensive.
Adobe is “reinventing our desktop apps to make your creative process seamless, intuitive, and more connected than ever.” Publication of new versions of Adobe’s legendary Creative Suite of products that includes notable titles such as Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, Premiere, Prelude, and more has been suspended. CS6 is the last version of these programs that will see stand-alone, buy-to-own releases. So, what’s next for these mainstays of desktop production? A subscription model that that keeps all your apps cloud connected and takes ‘em away if you decide to stop paying.
Meet the next generation of Adobe products: The Creative Cloud. Under this new model, customers are required to sign up for a monthly subscription ranging from $20 per month for a single product like Photoshop, or $600 per year for the entire suite. While this pricing pales in comparison to current boxed copies of Adobe products (Adobe Photoshop CS6 retails for $700 USD), the value proposition is a good deal more questionable for those who don’t need the latest and greatest version every couple of years. This new form of software delivery also comes free with the problems that afflicts all always online software: What if can’t connect? What if I don’t like the new version? What happens when the server is too busy?
"The Senate passed a bill Monday night aimed at making it easier for states to collect sales taxes for online purchases, but its final prospects remain uncertain. Even so small online retailers are already thinking about the bill's potentially large impact on their operations." - from a recent USA Today article.
After the retirement of the Space Shuttle fleet, America’s hopes for spaceflight were put into the hands of commercial spaceflight. The idea was to fund competing corporations so that they could handle orbital space operations and free up NASA for other tasks like planetary probes, robotic exploration, and even manned lights to other planets like Mars. This would mean that NASA would be working on a new rocket, the SLS project, and not just abandoning manned spaceflight altogether. This SLS rocket would be designed for deep space flight to the Moon, asteroids, and beyond. Since this would be a extremely large and powerful rocket, low Earth orbit missions to the I.S.S. wouldn’t be a priority, as smaller rockets could do that job at much less cost. So the corporations received their government funding and after a series of trials to make sure that they were meeting their goals, they are showing that they have what it takes to take care of everything in Low Earth Orbit.
Happy Star Wars Day! Yessir, we nerds sure do love our puns! The fourth of May is a day reserved for celebration of science fiction fandom’s most beloved franchise, Star Wars, due to how “May the fourth” reminds people of that classic line “May the Force be with you” that Spock managed to shoehorn into every episode. While May 4th has only recently (2011) come to be officially recognized as Star Wars Day, the origins of the pun can be traced all the way back to 1979 when Margaret Thatcher was elected as the first female Prime Minister. A political party advertisement in The London Evening News wished Thatcher good luck stating "May the Fourth Be with You, Maggie. Congratulations."
And yet, as much as that classic trilogy of films did to set our imaginations free and revolutionize the process of filmmaking, where would it be today with the
consumers fans. And so it is that we here at Growing Up Otaku celebrate the cash flow love of all those stargazing dreamers who have toughed it out through the intervening decades of mass produced crap, canon twisting ‘expanded universe’ stories, and atrocious prequels to nurture the love of the greatest sci-fi films of all time.
In order to get us all in the proper mood, ladies and gentlemen, our opening act. I give you YouTube sensation, Erock.
Manuelito Wheeler, director of the Navajo Nation Museum, has partnered with Lucasfilm and Deluxe to bring the original Star Wars film (that’s Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope to you kids out there) to the big screen once again. While Star Wars has long been a staple of sci-fi fans around the world, this latest version of the 1977 classic is being redubbed in a most unexpected language: Dine’, the language of the Native American Navajo Nation and the most widely used of all Native American languages. From The Hollywood Reporter:
There are not direct translations for many words in Star Wars, notes Wheeler. Dine, the Navajo language, often uses a description of what a word does to convey meaning so that several English words are needed to produce a translation.
Wheeler said he hopes to avoid "what people saw in the old Kung fu movies when the lip movements didn't coincide at all with what was said. I don't want to disparage the Kung fu movies because I loved watching them, but this can become very distracting and we don't want to see that happen here."
Wheeler explains the importance of this translation, "By preserving the Navajo language and encouraging Navajo youth to learn their language, we will also be preserving Navajo culture."
The translation project has been underway for three years now. Auditions for actors to portray the leading roles of Luke, Leia, Darth Vader, and Han Solo began today.
Scribblenauts! You guys know how much we love to bring the nauty scribbles over here at GUO (our thoughts on DS/iOS/PC versions). The wacky puzzle game series gives players a chance to stretch their vocabulary skills and conjure up anything they can think of to get the job done. Need to get a cat out of the tree? Why use a Ladder when you can leverage the powers of a Kindly Heroic Flying Fireman or a Hungry Pink Undead Beaver? Now it looks live publisher Warner Bros. is destined to try some wordplay of their own with the help of a Smart Rich Professional Lawyer. It seems the owners of some of those cats are none too pleased that their furballs have moved into the Scribblenauts universe.
An Easter egg in last year’s Scribblenauts Unlimited gave players the power to conjure up a few popular characters from the equally wacky world of Internet pop culture, apparently without the permission of their creators. Nyan Cat originator Christopher Orlando Torres and Keyboard Cat owner Charles Schmidt have joined forces to sue to video game developer. It seems both creators have registered copyrights and pending trademarks for their respective felines.
Frankly, this is kinda sad. I could understand if it was “Scribblenauts Unlimited featuring Internet Cat Memes!” but to issue litigation against such a minor shout-out to a couple popular geek fads of the moment seems like overkill. I also have to wonder if the copyright holders even attempted to contacted the game developers to have their creations removed or if the first shot was cha-ching sound of an IP lawsuit. Regardless, you can bet that these cats of the Internet, as well as any other hidden popular culture references, will be patched out of your copy of Scribblenauts Unlimited shortly thanks to the ‘miracle’ of an always connected world.
The Telegraph cites unnamed psychiatrists in declaring that the number of people classified as “digitally dependent” has risen 30% over the past three years. The latest demographic afflicted by an addiction to our always-on lifestyle: Toddlers.
Dr Graham said that young technology addicts experienced the same withdrawal symptoms as alcoholics or heroin addicts, when the devices were taken away.
He warned that the condition prevented young people from forming normal social relationships, leaving them drained by the constant interaction.
"Children have access to the internet almost from birth now,” he told the Sunday Mirror.
“They see their parents playing on their mobile devices and they want to play too. It's difficult, because having a device can also be very useful in terms of having a reward, having a pacifier. But if you don't get the balance right it can be very dangerous.
"They can't cope and become addicted, reacting with tantrums and uncontrollable behaviour when they are taken away. Then as they grow older, the problem only gets worse. Even the most shy kids, when they hit their teens, suddenly want to become sociable and popular."
The article opens with a warning about how experts agree that babies and toddlers using tablets and smartphones for several hours a day are in danger of long-tern addiction and social dysfunction. It goes on to cite the case of a four-year-old girl for the United Kingdom that has been enrolled in therapy for compulsive iPad usage.
Dude, seriously, if your toddler does ANYTHING for “several hours a day,” you’ve got a problem.
Ah, good ol’ BtB! My reserved space to do a little blogging on this ‘ere blog. So… Guess what? I don’t feel like blogging. I’ve been particularly sullen and cranky lately. I also need to go in and tweak my video settings. These old eyes o’ mine are getting a bit cranky themselves about reading text. Lord knows I’ve got no room to complain with a blind guy coming in here on Sundays to carry the show, LOL! So, anyway, short monthly rap session this time.