v6.2.3 - moving along, a point increase at a time

Trials of the Blood Dragon | Done

Recently, another game I 'completed' was Trials of the Blood Dragon. While I did get through the story of the game, I am not sure that this is one of those games that you 'complete'.  When I got this game for free through xbox live 'games with gold' a number of months ago I thought that it was more of a Far Cry game, but it's basically a Trials game with Far Cry highlights.  I had actually completely forgotten about the Trials games which I had tried  back in 2000 when the game was a browser-based java game (which reminded me a lot of Excite Bike on the NES).

Now, despite the short amount of time spent on this game, it was a lot of fun. The story is full of 80's (and early 90s) callbacks, from the Neon signs, to the posters in the young agents' room, to the general essentially looking like Sgt. Slaughter.  I have not yet played Far Cry: Blood Dragon, but that didn't prevent me from enjoying the game, and most of my epic fails.  The game controls mostly like Excite Bike on the NES (so, it's a Trials game) but there are elements of bionic commando, and Abuse

For most of the stages I got pretty miserable 'grades' (mostly Cs and Ds, and a few Fs).  I suppose if I cared more about my gamer score and achievements for this game I'd try harder, but I was mostly interested in the story of the game.  In this game you play the children of the main character in Far Cry: Blood Dragon, who is dead.  They grow up with the General (aka Sgt. Slaughter) and they are trained to defend the US (and freedom loving capitalists) from the evils of communism (both human and Communist Insection Aliens...yeah...those exist... :p).  The cut-scenes for the game play very much like a Saturday morning cartoon, which just makes this game even better.

Overall I'd give this game a 9/10. I failed a lot, and I failed in epic ways, but the game never made me feel frustrated, and the game didn't make me feel dumb.  Yes, every time I failed insults were hurled at me on the screen, but they seemed more humorous than anything else.  If more trials games were like this (you know, they had a story), I'd play more of them :-)

Some stats (from xbox):
  • 390/1000 points earned
  • 10 achievements earned
  • inner beast level 2
  • global score 1,765,324
  • playtime: 3h 37 minutes

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Sev Trek - Picard playing poker

A reference to the final episode of the TNG series. Picard joins the crew for a poker match and says he should have done this a long time ago.  I guess this is what happens once the cameras stop rolling :-)  I liked this punchline -->      "I" "HAVE" "NO" "CHIPS!" --a reference to There Are Four Lights but it doesn't quite fit in :)

(original archive here)

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Μαραθώνιος μετ εμποδίων

Χτες είχαμε τον ετήσιο μαραθώνιο της Βοστόνη ένα αθλητικό γεγονός το οποίο συνήθως όταν ήμουνα στο λύκειο πήγαινα κάθε χρονιά να το δω. Από τότε που άρχισα να δουλεύω, και από τότε που έφυγε ο πατέρας μου από το συνεργείο στο οποίο δούλευέ στην περιοχή έχω σταματήσει να πηγαίνω διότι είναι λίγο δύσκολο να πηγαίνεις στην περιοχή όταν δεν έχεις κάποιον μέρος κοντά να παρκάρεις. Άσε που όταν δουλεύεις ή μία έξτρα μέρα ρεπό είναι πάντα ευπρόσδεκτη. Έτσι λοιπόν τον μαραθώνιο τον βλέπουμε εξ αποστάσεως μέσω τηλεόρασης ή μέσω internet.

Συνήθως αυτή την εποχή κάνει αρκετά καλό καιρό οπότε οι πιο πολλοί βγαίνουν έξω με μπλουζάκια και σορτσάκια αλλά φέτος έκανε αρκετό κρύο και έριχνε αρκετή κρύα βροχή. Είχε και αέρα που ερχότανε προς την κατεύθυνση αυτών που τρέχουνε όποτε το κρύο νερό τους ερχότανε κατάμουτρα. Πραγματικά δεν ήταν και πολύ καλή μέρα να είσαι έξω! Παρά τις αντίξοες συνθήκες αρκετοί ήταν αυτοί που βγήκαν όχι μόνο να τρέξουν αλλά και να δουν και να υποστηρίξουν αυτούς που τρέχανε.

Αυτή την χρονιά τα Μέσα Μαζικής Ενημέρωσης επικεντρώθηκαν στο γεγονός ότι αυτή που βγήκε πρώτη, η νικήτρια του Μαραθωνίου, ήταν μία Αμερικανίδα ένα πράγμα που δεν έχει γίνει όπως σου είπα από το 1985. Είναι που είναι δύσκολος ο Μαραθώνιος, είναι που είναι δύσκολο να βγεις πρώτος, αλλά το να βγείς πρώτος με τέτοιες καιρικές συνθήκες είναι κάτι φανταστικό.

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Back to the Future: the game | Done!

I've been debating which game(s) to move onto next on the xbox now that Assassin's Creed Syndicate is (mostly) done.  I realized the other day that the "free" games that we get on xbox live gold aren't really totally free.  You can claim games for free when they are available, and you can enjoy them, for free, so long as you have an active xbox live gold membership.  Considering that I often let my membership lapse (not much into the co-op or competitive type of gaming), and that I only get it renewed when it's on sale (so that I can get an added percentage off seasonal game sales), it made sense to explore some of the 'free' games I've gotten over the past year.

For this play-through I decided to play Telltale's Back To The Future game (Great Scott!).  The game is episodic content, with 5 episodes in the game.  It follows Marty McFly (of course) and Doc Brown on another (typically crazy) time adventure.

From wikipedia, the game starts as follows:
It has been six months since Marty McFly witnessed Emmett "Doc" Brown depart into an unknown time, and the bank has foreclosed on Doc's home. While helping his father George sort through Doc's possessions, Marty is surprised to see a DeLorean time machine, which he thought had been destroyed, appear outside the house. Inside is Einstein, Doc's dog, and a tape recorder with a message from Doc explaining how the time machine would return to this present should Doc ever run into problems. Einstein helps track down Edna Strickland, the elderly sister of Marty's school principal and a former reporter for Hill Valley's paper. Marty reads through her newspaper collection to find Doc had been jailed in 1931 and killed by Irving "Kid" Tannen, Biff Tannen's father. Marty and Einstein set off to 1931 in the DeLorean to prevent Doc's death.
Now the game time-locales go between 1931 (finding Doc, who's been suspected of arson) and saving him, and then returning back to 1986 where... ooops! timeline is messed up! New-Doc...errmm... Emmett (as he is called in this timeline) and his wife (Edna) have created a police state (Edna being a teenage prohibitionist in 1931 really takes this to the extreme by 1986!).  OK, gotta go back to 1931 to fix things so that Doc goes back into science (very STEM focused if you ask me ;-) ). OK things are fixed with the Original-Doc, but  New-Doc (aka Emmett) doesn't want to see Edna become a crazy, lonely, cat-lady.  Edna escapes in the DeLorean and then the whole town disappears around Original-Doc and Marty.  Ooops! What did Edna do???  Gotta find where she went, go back in time some more, and fix THIS situation now.  The Doc and Marty go back even further in time (late 1880s) to find Edna and prevent her acts of arson (due to her prohibitionist beliefs) which resulted in the burning down the entire city (hence the city disappearing in 1931).  In the end the timeline is fixed (mostly), and Edna has a happily-ever-after with the Tannens. But wait!  Future Marty comes to get Doc's help...then Future Marty 2 comes...then Future Marty 3...what the heck is going on?   - Roll end-credits.

This was my first Telltale game.  I did find the story enjoyable and it felt like a Back to the Future story.  The voice actor who voices Marty is really spot on which really adds to the enjoyment of the game. The game, as I found out, is mostly a graphic adventure, where you prompt the main character to speak to characters, examine objects in the world, and use them to move the story forward.  This is generally not my kind of game (reminds me of some old Amiga adventures that one of my friends enjoyed) but the story was interesting and the curiosity of finding out what will happen next got me through some boring parts.  Even though I enjoyed this game (8/10) I am probably not going to give into other Telltale games right away.  The story moves as the pace of a television episode for the most part, so you can't really skip forward (or speed up) the story.  I guess with a walkthrough you can pick the 'right' prompts to skip unnecessary parts, but what's the fun in that? If you like Back to the Future, and graphical adventures, I guess this is the game for you!   Now if only it had more episodes :-)

Some game stats:
  • 645/1000 points earned
  • 36 achievements earned
  • all 5 episodes completed
  • 14 hours playtime (well, 13h 59m)
  • 51 puzzles solved
  • 755 choices made (wonder what the minimum number is to complete the game)

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Same thing we do every night...

...try to take over the world!  A little humor retrieved in today's comics. I don't know what the video game is that is the original reference, but anything with The Brain will most likely give me a giggle :-)

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Sev Trek - lifelong companions

I wonder if this is a reference to that episode where Picard had heart surgery.  Another punchline I liked was "Is this ANOTHER character building episode?"

(original archive here)

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Stripping away the nerd-cred

A recent comic I came across this past weekend. It made me laugh a bit, but it also made  me wonder: when did we turn a page as a society where we broadcast our every move... How did this happen? (not an "oh the horror!" type of question, just curious)

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Assassin's Creed Syndicate | Done!

Well... I should probably say "mostly done".  There is the Jack The Ripper expansion story that I haven't played yet, but considering that it's almost a separate game, I thought I'd write about the core game (plus "the last maharaja" missions).

So, after I finished Unity I jumped right on to Syndicate (and with the xbox spring sale going on now, I actually picked up Origins...but I think I'll hold off on play that game for a little while, I think I am getting a little assasssin saturation at the moment).  The first thing that struck me with this game was the contrast with Unity. Whereas Unity had a rooftops parkour & sewers feel to it (you could almost avoid street level if you wanted to), Syndicate felt a bit like a combination of  Assassin's Creed II and Assassin's Creed III (with regard to hiring NPCs to do your bidding) and Batman Arkham Asylum (with regard to the rappelling and going from roof to roof with a zipline).

The story takes place in Victorian London (and you actually do meet the Queen, as well as other notable characters such as Arthur Conan Doyle, Marx, and Florence Nightingale) and you play as the Frye twins. Evie and Jacob have some shared assassin skills that you can build from their skill tree, but they also have their own custom skills, weapons, and clothing that you can use to customize each character. London, at the beginning of the game, is a Templar stronghold with just one lone assassin (the descendant of Abaaz from Assassin's Creed Chronicles: India).  Here is the beginning of the story on wikipedia:

In 1868, Henry Green—born Jayadeep Mir, the son of Indian Assassin, Arbaaz Mir—writes to the Assassin Brotherhood begging for aid. Green explains that the Brotherhood in London has fallen, leaving the city at the mercy of Templar Grand Master Crawford Starrick, who controls both London's industry and criminal underworld. Starrick plans to use his wealth and influence to seize control of Britain and, through its holdings, the world. Outside of London, the Frye twins begin their work, with Jacob assassinating a corrupt factory boss, Rupert Ferris. Evie infiltrates a lab owned and run by David Brewster and Templar occultist Lucy Thorne. Inside, Evie finds Brewster experimenting on a Piece of Eden and assassinates him. Brewster tells Evie that Starrick knows of a second, more powerful Piece of Eden when the first Piece of Eden becomes unstable and explodes, forcing Evie to flee. With their missions successful, the Frye twins decide to disobey orders from the Brotherhood and head for London. In the present, Rebecca and Shaun spy on a meeting between senior Templar figure Isabelle Ardant and Álvaro Gramática. Rebecca and Shaun attempt to capture Isabelle but she had anticipated the ambush, revealing that Sigma Team leader Otso Berg and Violet da Costa were there to intercept the two assassins. Nevertheless, the two manage to flee when Bishop detonates a pre-planted explosive.
The twins grow apart during the game, one being a little more reckless (jacob) and one (evie) clinging to tradition and her actions basically being guided by asking "what would father do?".  At the end they reconcile, and all is well, after they've saved the Queen and kingdom, remove the templars from London, and solved some mysteries for Marx, Doyle, and the rest of the gang.

In this game, unlike Unity where you got Helix points (to buy skills) via challenges, you basically get 1 Helix point every 1000xp that you rack up.  Once you reach level 3 you can just head into a street-fighting club and basically participate in boxing matches to win money, crafting goods, and xp.  I opted to level up to level 10 (final character level) before taking out all templar neighborhood bosses, and before proceeding with most of the missions.  While this made the game a little "easy", I prefer grinding a bit so that I can just take in the story when I've reached a good enough level.  The only thing that I didn't uncover in the game were the specs for the advanced berserker poison, so that was one tool that I could' really use near the end - my low level poisons were not match for level 10 enemies. The one thing that was a disappointment was that Eagle Vision could not be used while running.  In Unity it was time constrained, but you could use it while running (hence uncovering positions of crates, helix points, etc.) but in this game, while the power is unlimited, it goes away as soon as you start running (or start galloping on a horse).

The game was a ton of fun, and I really liked that it was designed as a single player game.  While Unity was "fixed" by the time I got to it, there are still team challenges which are doable in single player (with enough time or skill), but are really meant for two players.  This game also seemed to focus a little more on the modern day story. You still don't know who the initiate is who is running these simulations, but we do get to see some modern-day action, and a surprise!  While Unity had the more profound end with Arnot's end-game narration, Syndicate ended with a "happily ever after" tone in the past, and a WTF in the present.  In the present (for wikipedia): the Assassins find out the Templars plan to use the Shroud to construct a living Precursor. The recording also shows that Juno is secretly manipulating certain employees within Abstergo from behind the scenes to sabotage the company, and has her own plans for the Shroud. Juno also contacts the Initiate through the simulation, leading them into a new memory segment of Lydia Frye, where she tracks down and kills a Sage in a war-torn London during World War I.

Whoa!  I was not expecting any of the ancients (aka precursors) to be around any longer. I wonder what happens in Origins!

Overall, I'd give this game a 9/10.  There are still things left to do in London (crates to open, helix points to collect), but I don't think I'll be coming back to this game any time soon.

Have you played this game? What do you think?

Some game stats from xbox:
  • 2 days, 8 hours, 20 minutes played
  • 4037 kills
  • 899 assassinations
  • 32 achievements
  • 680/1300 points

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Review: Engaging Students Through Social Media: Evidence-Based Practices for Use in Student Affairs

Engaging Students Through Social Media: Evidence-Based Practices for Use in Student Affairs Engaging Students Through Social Media: Evidence-Based Practices for Use in Student Affairs by Reynol Junco
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked this up when it first came out, and I have thumbed through specific sections over the years (as needed for work), but this is the first time I've read from cover-to-cover. While some technologies may be dead already (I'm looking at you, vine!) this is still a worthwhile read. Yeah, some things have changed, but I think that the core is still the same, it's just that instantiations may have changed. I think that it's actually a little more interesting to read now, especially with things like the Facebook and cambridge analytica scandal out in the news, and to read about social media in learning and student affairs through that lens.

View all my reviews
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Χριστός Ανέστη!

Χρόνια πολλά! Χρίστός ανέστη!  Του χρόνου ελλάδα;  ίσως, πιος ξέρει ;-) Μακάρι. :-)

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