Free and Spectacular! Plants vs Zombies 2 is Out for iOS

I was going to wait until I got through this one and write up a full review but, judging by the player numbers, no one is really waiting for a critic’s word on this one. And you shouldn’t either! At least if you have iOS. PvZ2 will be arriving on all other platforms soon.

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Plant like it’s 2009! Crazy Dave now has a talking time machine and a taco. Upon eating the taco, everyone’s favorite seed supplier wants to take a trip backwards along the timeline to eat it again. With nothing better to do, you’re tagging along for the ride to turn all new mummy, pirate, and cowboy themed zombies into fertilizer. With sharper graphics and phenomenal animation, PvZ 2: It’s About Time delivers that same addictive strategy fun that made it a smash hit with both casual and hardcore gamers alike.

Skeptical of free-to-play titles on mobile? Yeah, you should be. At first blush PvZ2 looks like just another shameless cash grab from EA. Buy buttons featuring outrageous prices are everywhere and a shop offers your old vegie buddies from PvZ1 for several dollar apiece. Folks sensitive to microtransactions are going to pop their corn over this one!

pvz2 endSurprisingly, none of these purchases are required to enjoy the game. There are more than enough new plants to replace the few missing from the previous title. Keys used to access side areas for bonuses and minigames are random (if rare) drops while playing. Coins used for delightfully fun and effective touchscreeny power-up moves like flicking zombies off the screen or pinching their heads drop every time you play. Only the most impatient or time constrained players will ever feel the need to trade moolah for mayhem.

It’s been a long time since the holy trinity of Sunflower, Peashooter, and Wall-nut took on the armies of cosplaying undead and It’s About Time they did it again. The plentiful weeds of cash-nags can’t drain all the nutrients from this garden of delights. Highly recommended!

Plants vs Zombies 2: It’s About Time is available now for iOS and coming soon to anything with a CPU and screen.

Want to Believe? Interviews With British Government UFO Specialist Nick Pope

QAs we’ve examined before, the hype train for mass media productions can lead to creation of interesting and thought provoking productions in their own right.

2K Games has been hitting the media circuits lately in support of their newest game, The Bureau: XCOM Declassified. The game is a strategic, 3rd person shooter set in the paranoid laden1960s suddenly faced with an alien invasion. Not content to trot out the regular stable of game producers and PR wranglers, 2K has enlisted the company of one Mr. Nick Pope for the tour.

While Nick is currently a freelance journalist and media commentator, it is his ties to secret government organizations investigating potential alien contact that got him on board. Nick was employed by the British Government’s Ministry of Defense from 1985 to 2006. In 1991, he was transferred to Secretariat (Air Staff) 2a. His duty? Investigating reports of Unidentified Flying Objects.

IGN UK also interviewed Mr. Pope regarding his time with the MoD. The interview starts at the 21 minute mark.

 

Have be been visited by extraterrestrial entities? Nick’s answer is… yes. And we need to begin preparing a global response. Like forming XCOM.

NSA Uses PRISIM to Collect More Internet Activity Than Google

productimage-picture-prism-bricks-30-pc-starter-kit-17389.jpg.436x346_q100_upscaleNumbers are funny things. People like to think that numbers cannot be mutated to twist or distort facts. As any listener of talk radio knows, this simply isn’t true thanks to percentages.

What am I rambling on about? Beats me. Instead, let’s read what the NSA has to say about their Internet-wide eavesdropping PRISIM system. Watch them numbers dance!

“According to figures published by a major tech provider, the Internet carries 1,826 Petabytes of information per day. In its foreign intelligence mission, NSA touches about 1.6 percent of that. However, of the 1.6 percent of the data, only 0.025 percent is actually selected for review. The net effect is that NSA analysts look at 0.00004 percent of the world's traffic in conducting their mission—that's less than one part in a million. Put another way, if a standard basketball court represented the global communications environment, NSA's total collection would be represented by an area smaller than a dime on that basketball court.”

Huh… So maybe the United States government isn’t really checking everything we say. At least not personally. There is no mention of what happens to all that harvested data  that isn’t selected for review. I’m sure they throw it all away. Like Google and their illegally harvested Wi-Fi data gathered while mapping streets.

Still, 1.6% isn’t all that much, right? Let’s see, 1.6% of 1,826 petabytes is 29.21 PBs. Hmm… So, how much data is that? Well, depending on if we’re using binary or not, it is somewhere between 29,210 terabytes and 29,911 terabytes. So… That’s a lot of data, but what does it mean in practical terms?

I think it’s safe to say that we all kinda know and accept that Google has its finger on the pulse of the Internet. For a lot of folks, Google is their search, email, news, photo, AND video provider. Combining all that user data together, Google is estimated to hand about 24 petabytes a day, 5000 terabytes less than the NSA.

That’s still a really big number. Let’s bring it a little closer to home.

  • If you totaled up all the traffic that runs through AT&T, you’d get about 30 petabytes
  • The Large Hadron Collider produces about 15 petabytes of data per YEAR in their quest for the Higgs boson.
  • In 2009, there were 15 billion photos on Facebook. Each photo is automatically resized four different ways for a total of 60 billion images. Total size on disk? 1.5 petabytes.
  • All of the user data from all of the servers in the World of Warcraft fits within 1.5 petabytes.
  • One petabyte is enough to store the DNA of the entire population of the USA - with cloning it twice
  • Your brain is estimated to store the equivalent of 2.5 petabytes in memories.

Happy web surfing!

Review: Ultima Forever (iPhone/iPad)–Quest of the Keymaster

Boy did I oversell this title in a recent post

Ultima Forever 1While Ultima Forever does an admirable job of bringing players back to the long lost land of Britannia, the trip is fraught with the perils of laggy gameplay, repetitive dungeon grinding, and a pay-to-open-lottery boxes-and-hope-you-win scheme so offensive it could only exist on mobile.

Let’s deal with the 50-foot dragon in the room first. Ultima Forever’s (UF) economy runs on one thing: Keys. You got yer copper keys that you’ll find everywhere, silver keys that are created from crafting 18 copper keys into 6 silvers, and gold keys that represent you premium currency. Apparently in you absence from Britannia, the shopkeepers have decided that actually buying and selling items is bad for business. The only way to gain items is via treasure chests that dot every town and dungeon. What type of key you use to unlock the chest determines what loot table you’ll get goodies from. And we’re not just talking one key per chest opening. You’ll need six copper or silver keys just for a chance at mediocre gear or quest required items (yes, really), and a whopping eight gold keys for a pull on the high-roller slots for a shot at the good stuff. Get something you didn’t need or want? Your only option is to put it in the trash. No selling, no crafting, no refunds.

Free Star Trek Online Starter Pack + Cash Shop Giveaways

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Alienware Arena has an offer up for a bundle of Star Trek Online goodies for new and existing players! They’re giving away a special “Holodeck Pack” that includes two sets of batteries, a rare or very rare ground weapon, a 2500 XP boost, and 5000 bits of dilithium.

You'll need to create a free account with Alienware Arena (Spam is minimal and they always have tons of free offers for other MMOs as well), then hit the button on the offer page to get a key. Take your key and head on over to the the STO web page. Log in, go to My Account/Redeem Key. Your new goodie pack will be available in game by going to the C-Store, selecting Items, and finding the Promotional Reward. Click claim and enjoy!

Starting Monday, August 12th and continuing thru August 16th, Star Trek Online will be giving away cash shop items to celebrate to end of their Summer Lohlunat Festival. A new item will be available starting at 10AM PDT and up for grabs until the next item is announced the following morning. Check out this article for more information. And, oh, yes, there will be starships Smile

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If you’re new to the game, feel free to shoot an in-game mail to @ryte2byte for any assistance you may need or if you’d like to join us on The NightWatch, the official Federation/Fed-aligned Romulan fleet of the GUO family.

All aboard the Party Barge! The first round of Tricobalt is on me!

iOS MMO Ultima Forever: Quest of the Avatar Brings Morality Back to Gaming

SkgD8EA Mythic has just launched their latest endeavor to the gaming world in the form of Ultima Forever: Quest of the Avatar. This title is notable for two very important reasons: It is an open world, MMORPG for Apple’s iPhone (4s and newer) and iPad (2nd gen and newer). Secondly, this title, the first RPG bearing the Ultima name in, well, forever, harkens back  to the legendary Ultima IV which put the players on the path not to kill, but to master the eight Virtues and become a shining example to the people of Britannia.

While there is still a good bit of monster thumping to be had, the goal of Ultima Forever is to become a role-model. Mastering the eight virtues of honesty, compassion, valor, justice, sacrifice, honor, spirituality, and humility will take players on a trip around the fantasy world to save folks with traditional ‘hit-with-stick’ methods as well as moral conundrums to challenge your ethics. Your mastery of the Virtues in turn drives character advancement. In Ultima Forever, the path to power lies with being a good person. And free-to-play microtransactions.

It’s great to see an RPG emphasize something other than mayhem and bloodshed. Although the original morality-based goals of Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar originally appeared back in 1985 on another famed Apple platform, the Apple II, its emphasis on being a model citizen rather than a thug is something very, very few games have attempted (perhaps the only recent example being the Fable series).

Ultima Forever is available for free from iTunes.

Indie Soviet Era Paperwork Thriller Game ‘Papers, Please’ Released Today

Working at a border checkpoint is no joke. Working a border checkpoint in a fictional analog to Soviet occupied East Germany with a starving family at home, a book of rules that changes every day, and an endless line of immigrants who will live or die based on your decisions, is downright nightmarish. And that’s before you factor in the human trafficking ring, secret societies, and spies using your booth as a drop point. Enter the world of Papers, Please: A Dystopian Document Thriller. Get ready to leverage your arsenal of rubber stamps, nude scanners, panic buttons, and questionable morality as you confront on of the most original and ingenious game of 2013.

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For more information and a video walkthrough of the beta, check out the Mrs. and myself arguing over whether or not to let a suspected murderer with perfectly valid paperwork cross the border in our Mr and Mrs Otaku Play: Papers, Please feature.

To import your own copy of the final version, head on over to papersplea.se and rubber stamp your choice of Steam, GoG, or Humble Store. *Pro Tip: The Humble Store gets you not only the stand-alone, DRM-free version, but a code for activation of a Steam copy as well.

Pikachu Blows Up in Summer Fireworks Festival

pikachu fireworkThe explosive artists behind the Itabashi Fireworks Festival in Japan popped the top off a celebrity guest star at their 2013 show. This latest show’s finale featured fireworks cunningly created in the forms of Pokeballs and the very familiar visage of none other than everyone’s favorite high voltage rat-thing, Pikachu. Electrifying!

Video: Curiosity Mars Rover’s First Year of Wandering the Red Planet

marspanornew1Guess who enjoys long walks on the beach, collecting rocks, traveling, and just turned one year old? That’s right, it’s been a whole year since NASA’s revolutionary lil’ remote-controlled rover Curiosity landed on Mars. To celebrate NASA has compiled this two-minute video montage of of our favorite little eyes on another sky as journeyed where no man has gone before.

So what do you do when you’re working an average distance of 225 million kilometers from home on your birthday? You forlornly sing Happy Birthday to yourself, of course.

Japanese Robonaut Kirobo Voyages to ISS on a Quest to Keep Humans Company

On Sunday, August 4th, the newest member of the International Space Station blasted off from Tanegashima Space Center.

As opposed to the usual bevy of scientists conducting experiments in microgravity, Kirobo’s mission is to chat up the squishier members of the crew. Measuring less than 14” tall, Kirobo is part of the Kibo Robot Project. The project’s ultimate goal is “To help solve the problems brought about by a society that has become more individualized and less communicative.” They explain that, “Nowadays, more and more people are living alone. It’s not just the elderly – with today's changing lifestyles, it’s people of all ages.” The Kibo Project aims to create a small, mechanical companion for such people.

Kirobo

In an act of indignation that will surely become a rallying call of mechanamen everywhere during the Robopocalyse of 2525, Kirobo traveled to the ISS via a cargo transfer vehicle and will remain packed away until the experiment’s start in November when fleshy astronaut Koichi Wakata arrives.

Behind the Blog: August 1, 2013–Summer Sabbatical

Still kickin’. Not too much to say. I’ve been doubling down on some home improvement projects lately. I REALLY need to schedule big yard work projects for another time of the year. You think I’d learn by now. With traffic having died back down to it being just us for the first time in several years, it seemed like a good time to get off of the constant posting treadmill.

I’ve also needed some time to do a little unplugging. The constant barrage of media coming into my brain via the Internet these days can be overwhelming if not properly mediated. And I do not properly mediate Winking smile Internet press/media has really gone down the tubes (pun!) the past couple years. Internet news used to be good for supplementing mainstream news stories and catering to niche interests. Then it became a replacement for traditional news outlets. Now, every little detail and off-handed Tweet is front page news. Did you know the Playstation 4 will have 4.5 GB of available RAM. I did. You know why? It was front page news of 17 different sites, and not just video game ones. I mean, really guys. I know you feel the need to throw every single scrap of information about anything onto the web as its own article to generate hits (and, hence, ad views) from random search traffic, but things have gotten WAY out of hand. The noise-to-signal ratio of my RSS newsfeeds is so absurd that it’s unreadable most days.

And that’s another reason why I’m not posting much. It’s becoming harder and harder to find the interesting little niche stuff amongst all the pop culture buzz. Did I mention the PS4 will have 4.5GB of available RAM? Zzzzzz.

Anyhow, things are doing fine here. I haven’t quit or forgotten this place. I just need a little less Internet for a while. In the meantime, there are THOUSANDS of cool goodies lurking in the bowels of GUO waiting to be rediscovered. If you find yourself craving a little of the good ol’ bloggy-bloggy, click around and see what you find.

As always, we send our love to your and yours.

Thanks for reading!