A Device For the Capital

Mostly, I’m having a difficult time seeing how the watch today lives up to the ideal of a  bicycle for the mind. It seems mostly to want to take on the parts of my mobile devices that I consciously turn off.

I’m with Jim Ray. The Apple watch is neat from a ‘look what we can do with technology’ point-of-view, but I sure as heck don’t understand how it came from the same company that proudly provides educational initiatives and sponsors programs about diversity.

Pretty much every other Apple product has a good, better, best segmentation that actually speaks to the capabilities of the device. If you don’t have a lot of dosh to spend, you can get a Mac Mini, or even an older iPhone.  You can still use these tools to make great things and stay connected. Maybe as not as fast as say someone with a maxed-out Mac Pro, but you aren’t left behind.  The Apple Watch is solely for the affluent with no alternative for those with lesser means. An incredibly superfluous device.

As an unaffiliated addendum, Neven Mrgan shared this tweet:

The future has arrived.

Recent Video Games I’ve Enjoyed

Here’s a short list of the games I’m currently playing or have played recently. These are all recommended if you’re looking for something new to enjoy.

Fantasy Life (3DS)

I’ve played far too many RPGs to count, and Fantasy Life is one of those rare games that gets everything right. The dialog is humorous, the experience ramp is well-balanced, and the sense of exploration is great. I’ve been playing this alongside my daughter Kari, and it’s a perfect introduction into he standard RPG structure. Go on quests, level up, learn skills, buy equipment, rinse/repeat. You can drop in and out of co-operative multiplayer with ease and all experience and items are shared with your single-player adventures. The visuals are cute and cohesive. Nothing looks out-of-place and there’s no signs of shortcuts being taken. The game has a great pedigree with Brownie Brown and Level-5 lending their skills to create a delightful classic RPG.

Pokemon Omega Ruby (3DS)

This is a remake of the classic Pokemon Ruby updated to include the most recent roster of pocket monsters, 3D visuals 1, and online multiplayer/trade features.

I usually consume a Pokemon game within days of its release, but for some reason I have yet to progress very far with Omega. I’m close to getting my 5th badge, but haven’t really felt the urge to pick this one up. It’s a solid Pokemon title and I will eventually beat it, but I lack the desire to ‘catch them all’.

Tactics Ogre (PSP, PS Vita)

Originally a Super Famicom (SNES in North America) release in Japan only this game has seen multiple versions with the most recent being for the Playstation Portable in 2011. 2

It is a classic turned-based tactical RPG and can be considered the grandfather of the Final Fantasy Tactics series of games. Interestingly enough, Yasumi Matsuno directed both series.

I played a fan translated version of the original SNES release years ago and remember it being quite challenging. This incarnation allows you to rewind your decisions while in battle, making your poor choices not as permanent. That may seem to make the game far to easy, but for me it makes it more enjoyable. I’m playing this on a portable device with only a few minutes of time to play. Not having to restart a 30 minute battle halfway in is a godsend.

OlliOlli 2 (PS Vita)

OlliOlli is a 2D side-scrolling skateboarding game. You input specific combinations of directional inputs and button presses to pull off combos. The bigger or longer the combo, the larger the points. It’s a fast-paced game and in some of the later levels near pixel-perfect controls are needed to pass a level. The location are varied and over the top incarnations of traditional Hollywood themes (Wild West, Aztec Ruins, Futuristic City, etc.).

I enjoyed the first game, but disliked that I couldn’t sustain a combo for the entire level. You could only keep a combo going between rails and jumps. One of the major improvements in OlliOlli 2 is the inclusion of manuals – where you perform tricks on flat ground instead of on rails or in the air. This allows you to chain together extremely long (the entire level if you’re really good) combinations for insanely high scores. The arcade nature and the use of a single button to restart a level at any point make this a great pick up and play game for when you only have a few minutes. An online leaderboard and daily challenges keep you coming back.

Homeworld Remastered (PC)

I am a huge Homeworld fan. I played the original for countless hours and then did the same for the wonderful Homeworld Cataclysm semi-sequel. 3 Homeworld Remastered is an updated take on both Homeworld and it’s sequel Homeworld 2. Graphics, audio, UI – pretty much everything has been touched to bring it into modern times.

The game is a 3D real-time strategy game set in space.  you command fleets of ships – from the tiny corvette class all the way to the large destroyer class – into battle. Like other games in the genre you have to forage for resources and research new technologies to overcome your opponents.

The story is beautiful and tragic. You play as a race of people who discover technology on the planet they inhabit that leads them to risk everything to travel the cosmos to find their original home. Along the way they discover the truth to their origins and fight foes who will do everything to stop them from returning.

Gearbox, the developers behind Borderlands, has spent a ton of time trying to make this play like the originals and is continuing to support and improve gameplay. There’s a few things that didn’t quite translate over and if that bothers you the original un-remastered versions of both games are included.

HellDivers (PS Vita)

Friendly fire takes on a whole new meaning in Helldivers. You play as a paramilitary trooper engaged in an intergalactic war between three hostile enemies. The bugs, cyborgs, and Illuminate (robots). Each have their own unique strategies and units and all are out to get you. It’s a top-down dual-stick shooter with strong emphasis on co-operative multiplayer. Everyone is vulnerable as friendly fire is on at all times. Even calling in reinforcements or equipment drops can kill a teammate.

It’s really easy to drop into a game. There’s various levels of difficulty and you can customize your payload before you deploy. When you find other player and can work as effective team you really feel like you’re overcoming gigantic challenges. Then you accidentally blow up half the team and it gets even better.

Shadowrun: Dragonfall (iOS)

I was aware of the Shadowrun series of table-top role-playing games, but never really got absorbed into the universe it has built. However, I’m a sucker for turn-based isometric strategy games and when this recently went on sale for the iPad I jumped on it.

I could not have been more surprised at how well polished this game is. It’s a great story in a cyberpunk future incarnation of Berlin. The visuals are solid and you can almost feel the grime and smog in the air. The game is challenging, but not unfair. I’m about 10 hours in and am looking at another 12 or so until completion. What’s interesting is that it started life as an add-on to the existing Shadowrun Returns, but packs enough to stand alone. (Pro tip: Pick up Shadowrun Returns if you like Dragonfall. Dragonfall is a little more refined as it was developed later, but both are made by the same folks with the same attention to detail.)

These are just the games I’ve actually spent a substantial amount of time in. I also want to finish Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon (3DS). I’m on the last level – so close!

I just started Freedom Wars (PS Vita) as I picked it up for cheap and the premise sounded interesting. I also want to spend some time with The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (3DS) and am looking forward to the extended releases of Wasteland 2 and Divinity: Original Sin. Both are turn-based strategy RPGs that I’ve played a little, but haven’t really dug too deep into.

If you’ve played anything of interest recently, let me know in the comments.

  1. The polygon kind, not the stereoscopic kind. In fact, the two most recent Pokemon games are a bit of a let down on the 3D effect front. Most of the game is not in 3D stereoscopy and where it is available (within individual battles) it suffers from a noticeably lower frame rate

  2. It has recently been released as port of the Super Famicon version for the Wii and Wii U

  3. Cataclysm isn’t a direct sequel. Homeworld 2 is. Cataclysm takes place between both games, but in a different corner of the universe. In my humble opinion Cataclysm is better than Homeworld 2. It has more interesting ship design and story.

David Letterman and 33 Years of Experience

“I don’t know that we ever did get back the right way. It didn’t start to settle down until it couldn’t be more clear that Jay was the more popular show. And when we all realized that there’s not much we can do here — you can’t put toothpaste back in the tube — then we started going our own way again. I think it was just inevitability. The guy in the race who spends more time looking over his shoulder, well, that’s the mistake. For two years, I made that mistake. We ran out of steam.”

From the New York Time’s interview with David Letterman as he reflects on his career. I enjoy reading stories of folks who are older and more experienced than I. They often have so much good advice and unique perspectives. Letterman is no exception.


The best advice is that which you do not expect

I was invited by my friend and all around good guy Dan Shown to talk at his Digital Media and Society class at my alma mater, SLU. I was there to share with his students what a career with a Communication 1 degree could look like. I had the great misfortune of presenting after Jon Michael Ryan who runs around shooting amazing videos.

That’s right, the cubicle dude follows up a guy with slow motion videos. It was amazing that the students even stayed in the room when it was my turn to talk.

But talk I did! I don’t pretend to be a guru, ninja, expert, or any other ego-boosting superlatives, but I have learned a few things and was happy to share. The most important thing I wanted to hit on was that the ‘tips and tricks’ to succeed as an adult have very little to do with tools, software, programming languages, or social media platforms. It has to do with being a well-rounded person who is, at the very least, content with life.

What follows is a pretty version of my talk. Who knows, something I said might be correct and even useful. :)

The first thing I mentioned wasn’t about what tools to learn. I reminded students  to not work more than 40 house thinking that’s the path to happiness and success. Working 60 hours thinking your boss will recognize you for that extra effort and that it’s the only way to stand out or get ahead? Won’t happen. It’s not worth the damage it will have on your relationships. Friends, family, partners, are all more important.

You can get an amazing amount of work done in 40 hours – if you’re actually working! Just because the office culture is a particular mindset, doesn’t mean you have to follow along. Keep that strong work ethic and get your stuff done.

Reflect before making decisions – even in situation where your boss is telling you to do something. A lot of people, when given a task want to complete it immediately and without question. When the boss says, “We need a blog” don’t turn around and say “OK HERE’S A BLOG”. Use your education, your experience, your research. Think about they why of the question. What are they trying to accomplish. How will a <blog> help along those lines? Who’s your audience. Ask questions, find out as much as you can, then execute.

Have empathy. Put yourself in the shoes of the people using your thing, your service, your product, your art.

Don’t dismiss critique. Embrace it. Silence does not mean acceptance. Feedback, even harsh, direct, ugly feedback, is better than apathy.

Be able to defend your decisions. If it’s sticking to APA style, picking colors using solid color theory, or explaining typography, make sure your design decisions 2 are based in all the stuff you’ve filled your head with. Not because “I like the color green”.

I closed my dribble talk with a truncated quote from Paul Graham.

Don’t ignore your dreams;
Don’t work too much;
Say what you think;
Cultivate friendships;
Be happy.

  1. No “S”. Communication degree majors are picky about this.

  2. code is design too!

Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People

“Above all, he has shown that profitability and integrity can go hand in hand. Tim has done this while introducing, time and again, some of the most innovative products the world has ever seen. Tim Cook is proof that even the most successful companies can and should be judged by more than just their bottom line.”

I could quote the entire feature. I love that not only are the people mentioned in this list inspiring, but so too are the authors penning their entry.