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Battlestar Galactica: Deadlock Review – Time To Frack Some Toasters

 

Since it’s nice to be confident that a game is going to be good ahead of time and then to have your assumptions justified once you finally play it, but that never manages to capture the same sense of elation as a game coming out of nowhere and blowing you away can. That’s how I feel about Battlestar Galactica: Deadlock from Black Lab Games. I heard about it many moons ago, thought little of it and then was mildly surprised to get review code come through a few days before launch. I was even more surprised when I played it.

The dark, gritty and eventually hugely confusing reboot of the delightfully campy Battlestar Galactica remains one of my favorite TV shows of all time despite its somewhat lackluster ending, and even back when it was being shown weekly I can remember thinking that an RTS set in the same universe would be pretty cool.  It may have taken ten fracking years but Slitherine must have agreed, although they’ve taken the real-time bit away in favor of turn-based strategy in space set during the first war with the Cylons.

Agents of Mayhem Review – Saints of Mayhem?

Agents of Mayhem has been spawned directly from the Saints Row series, and despite not bearing its name in the title it takes place within the same universe, although this time developer Volition have chosen to take a real city (Seoul) and then chuck some sci-fi paint all over it. The game we’ve gotten out of this looks and feels a lot like the newer, crazier Saints Row games, but with a twist.

The game begins so promisingly with a 90s cartoon vibe complete with a vibrant color palette and a guitar riff that sounds so much like my Saturday morning viewing as a kid that my nostalgia gland (totally a real thing) briefly went into overdrive and nearly killed me. You’re going to be working for Mayhem, an over-the-top task force led by femme fatale Persephone who is going up against Legion, helmed by the nefarious Doctor Babylon along with his cast of barmy lieutenants, including the obnoxious popstar August Gaunt who deserves to be eaten by piranhas. Initially, quite lovely cartoon-esque cutscenes set the stage for something that could be a whole lot of fun, but a lot like the rest of the game these sequences seem to go downhill over time.

Shock Tactics Review – The Wrong Kind of Shock

When Firaxis brought back the venerable XCOM series from the dead nobody could have predicted how damn good it would be, its turned-based tactical mayhem creating a palpable sense of tension. It was difficult, too, demanding that you contemplate every move or else lose your soldiers forever. XCOM 2 had a rough launch, but it still managed to improve on Enemy Unknown, refining various parts of the core gameplay. Unsurprisingly several companies have attempted to leap onto the bandwagon. Shock Tactics happens to be the latest game trying to capture the magic of yelling at virtual soldiers because they missed a 90% chance to hit. It’s also not that good.
But let us assume for a moment that you aren’t familiar with the turn-based genius of XCOM: the basic idea is that you’ll take control of a squad of soldiers and guide them through the level. During your turn you can move them, attack and activate special abilities, all of which are governed by an Action Point system. Cover is vitally important to surviving, and because of that flanking the enemy is key to killing them, otherwise you just end up trading mostly ineffectual shots. When it comes to firing at a foe the chances of hitting will be displayed above the target, which also means lady luck plays a big part in whether you live or die; sometimes a soldier will nail a shot despite having a mere 5% chance of hitting, and sometimes you’ll miss even though there was a 90% chance of hitting them right between the eyes. If all else fails you can just stick your squad into Overwatch which means they’ll open fire on the first bad guy who moves during the A.I.’s turn.
But the truly important thing to know is that if a soldier dies he’s gone for good. Shock Tactics embraces this aspect of the XCOM series, and while you do have a window of opportunity to rescue a downed squad member once that’s over they vanish into the nether realm. The only way to replenish squad numbers is by embarking on specific missions where you have to battle your way to them, of course meaning that you risk getting even more soldiers killed in the process.
Sadly, it’s hard to get attached to your little squad, so their death means nothing more than frustration because you’ll have to find somebody else and patiently wait for them to level up and thus actually become useful. In XCOM you could not only name your troops but also play with their color scheme and facial features, which combined with their unique abilities in the field made them surprisingly endearing. They had their own stories and histories forged through prior missions and their deaths actually made you feel sad. In Shock Tactics your troops are just faceless goons with only their armor color being something you can alter.
Still, within the turn-based tactical combat there are flashes of brilliance, moments where the game nearly manages to match X-com’s tension-filled battles as one of your troops lands a seemingly impossible shot or somehow survives a barrage of firepower that should have surely mown them down. Sure, there isn’t enough variety in enemy types nor enough abilities within your own ranks, and the different classes of soldier feel much too alike, but the XCOM core, which has not so much been copied as stolen outright, remains fun. It’s just flashes of brilliance, though, amidst a lot of….well, okayness. It says a lot that the only thing Shock Tactics does well is what it lifted straight out of Firaxis’ turn-based masterpieces.
The first problem is the level design which bounces wildly from being rather good to outright annoying thanks to what I assume is random generation. There’s a nice amount of verticality to play around with, although it and the thankfully uncommon interiors are marred by an awkward camera that frequently gets caught up on scenery or hides lines of sight. More annoying are the stretches of empty ground that force you to either leave troops out in the open at the mercy of the enemy or play a boring game of trading shots over long-distance that have minimal odds of actually hitting anything.

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus may feature more blood, amputation and beheadings than most timeless works of art, but in its own way, that’s what Sweden-based developer MachineGames set out to do with its take on the Wolfenstein franchise.
In New Colossus, players – through the role of William “B.J.” Blazkowicz – are first transported to and then fighting against a tyrannical America – a place in which Nazis haven’t just taken root, but are its guiding light.
The game takes place in a 1961 Nazi-occupied America. But the occupation is, at least at first blush, mostly hospitable. Americans have taken to the fascist party like fish to water.
It can’t help but elicit the question: Is The New Colossus meant to be, in any way, a parable of modern times, a warning of what could be to come under a far-right American leadership. When asked, Matthies called the game “timeless,” and said it was certainly not meant to be commentary. According to him, he and the team drew more inspiration from films like Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained than they did reality.

The Wheelchair

The two levels that press were granted unfettered access to included one in which BJ awakens in a sub, lying on a hospital bed. Nazis have discovered them, so he must pull himself from the bed and into a wheelchair.
The rest of the level is played from within the confines of that chair: BJ expertly maneuvering the chair around corners to pop off shots at encroaching Nazis, hurdling over bumps and down passageways in what can only be described as the world’s most handicap-accessible submarine in existence.

Nazi America

Once the wheelchair level wrapped up, we were pushed forward through the game, to a save point much later on. It opens with BJ, now walking, visiting a small town in Southwest America, deeply ensconced within, happily embracing the new order of Nazi rule.
BJ is here to blow shit up. But first, he has to wander this cozy little town to find his contact, a man who runs the local soda shop.
Matthies tells us that he and the team deliberately avoided watching the Amazon Prime series The Man in the High Castle – which also takes place in an America ruled by Nazis.

The Big Bomb

My final mission in my time with the game was to sneak into a command center and nuke the whole place.
Where the earlier missions were bookended with clever dialog and tight writing, this was more classic Wolfenstein: a steady, bloody churn through endless Nazi enemies using an increasingly diverse – but always lethal ¬– mix of weapons to part Nazi life and limb from Nazi body.
The melee death-dealing of a stealthy BJ is only less satisfying than BJ methodically mowing down Nazis with a weapon in each hand.
The developers spent a lot of time building out the gore system, which enables BJ to do things like grab a Nazi by the shoulder and then lop off his leg before killing him.

5 Pieces of Gaming Gear You Need Today

In the world of gaming, your experience is often determined by your equipment. If you’re looking for ways to stay current with gaming, then check out these 5 pieces of must-have gaming gear.

 

A Gaming Keyboard

For PC gamers, a run-of-the-mill keyboard isn’t going to cut it. Instead, look at specialized gaming keyboards with ultra-responsive and tactile keys. These will allow your character to react faster than with your average keyboard, and should easily help raise your kill count.

 

Wireless Bluetooth Headphones

Regardless of your preferred console, wireless earbuds are a must-have for any serious gamer. Things can get intense sometimes, and when you’re jerking your controller around during a fight, you shouldn’t have to worry about headphones being yanked out of your ears. As an added bonus, wireless Bluetooth headphones will usually have a remarkably clear sound quality, which can be a huge help in letting you feel immersed in your gaming experience.

 

Gaming Glasses

It’s no secret that playing hours of your favorite game can lead to eye trouble down the road, but you no longer have to choose between mastering your game or having 20/20 vision. New, specialized gaming eyewear is designed to simultaneously reduce strain on your eyes while eliminating glare. This means that you’ll be able to play at any time of day, and for as long as you want without worrying about the health of your eyes. It’s important that you keep your glasses clean and clear for optimal vision, so invest in a specialized, non-toxic, non-scratching glass cleaner. You might want to try Melaleuca Clear Power, which does a better job than store brand glass cleaners according to online Melaleuca reviews left by customers.

 

Upgraded Mouse

For PC gamers, it’s all about how quickly you can react to what’s happening on the screen. Having good reaction time is a good place to start, but that can only take you so far. If you’re looking to take your gaming to the next level, invest in a gaming mouse with programmable buttons and a high-speed scrolling wheel. Otherwise, you’ll waste precious seconds scrambling to find buttons on your keyboard, which can often mean the difference between winning and losing.

 

Footboards

Anyone who played video games in the early 2000s already knows that, historically, footboards have been underwhelming. Thanks to new technology, though, footboards can now be an excellent tool to up your game. Simply program in-game actions to your footboard, and you instantly free up your hands to perform different functions.

 

Game On

Gaming is only going to get more competitive, which means you’ll need the latest gear to keep up. Use these 5 gaming tools to make sure you’re staying at the top of your game.

The Truth About Video Games and Violence

It has long been thought that violent media exposure can lead people to commit violent acts. In fact, this it is not unheard of for a criminal defense attorney to include exposure to fictional violence – such as that seen in video games – in defense of a client. The belief that fictional violence is a corruptive force goes back to the Victorian Era when penny dreadful and explicit dime novels caused an outcry from the church, moral and government authorities, and many in the literary world.

 

The Case Against Exposure in Young Children

In the 1960’s, Stanford University psychologist Albert Bandura conducted experiments designed to test the connection between exposure to violence and aggression. In his experiments, young children were given a variety of toys to play with including non-aggressive options such as crayons and blocks and more aggressive items such as toy guns and punching bags. He found that children exposed to adults behaving aggressively with toys behaved more aggressively whether or not the aggression took place in person or via media. The shortcoming of this study, however, was that it failed to show a strong link between play violence and real-life violence.

 

Research Continues

This shortcoming, however, did nothing to dispel the belief that video game violence can cause real world violence, and several high-profile cases – including Columbine in 1999 – renewed the debate. In 2015, The American Psychological Association released a study noting that routine exposure to video game violence affects behavior and the ability to empathize with others to varying degrees. This, of course, depends on the child and his or her coping abilities in different situations.

That is not to say, however, that everyone who plays violent video games will commit criminal acts. It should also be noted that those who do not commit criminal acts may still suffer ill effects from violent video games. In fact, the effects of exposure may be seen in relationships instead. A child may exhibit verbal aggression or inability to cope well with frustration. In fact, emerging research suggests that whatever tenuous link exists between violence and video games might have nothing at all to do with how violent or non-violent the content is, but more to do with how frustrated the player becomes during gameplay. Who hasn’t thrown a controller after losing to M. Bison or the Water Temple for the umpteenth time? These findings would be more consistent with anecdotal evidence such as the nation of Japan, which has one of the lowest crime rates among developed nations despite being the undisputed epicenter of violent, pornographic media.

 

In response to the long-standing belief that exposure to fictional violence has a negative impact on children, many states now have laws on the books requiring someone over the age of 18 to buy violent video games, and parents are encouraged by lawmakers and psychologists to consider long-term effects when approving video games for kids.

 

References

Scientific American

Psychology Today

Houston Criminal Defense Attorney

University of Rochester

Civitas Crime

The Truth About “Making a Murderer”

The docuseries Making a Murderer brought Steven Avery’s longtime battle with the Manitowoc Police Department and the judicial system to the forefront and Netflix another hit. The 10-part series highlights the mistakes, twists, and turns that resulted in Avery’s rape conviction being overturned after 18 years.

The saga turned into a murder mystery when just as Avery was due to receive monetary compensation from Manitowoc County for his wrongful conviction, photographer Teresa Halbach was murdered. The evidence quickly pointed to Avery and his nephew Brendan Dassey who were both convicted. They claim they were framed and have filed multiple appeals.

But while the series highlights genuine concerns about corruption and conflicts of interests, damning details were left out by filmmakers Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos that puts their motives and Avery and Dassey’s innocence in doubt.

Downplayed Animal Cruelty Details

In the pilot episode, goofing off leads to the family cat landing in a fire pit resulting in Avery spending some time in jail for animal cruelty. The fact that the cat was doused with gasoline then set on fire was completely left out.

Phone Records

Phone records indicate that Avery called Halbach’s employer, Auto Trader Magazine, and requested Halbach’s presence using a fake name on the same day she was killed, but that fact didn’t make it through the editing process. Halbach had photographed cars at the Avery salvage yard before and she wasn’t comfortable going back because Avery answered the door wearing only a towel.

DNA Evidence

Avery and his lawyers insist that he never touched Halbach’s the car yet his DNA was found under the hood and in the car. Ricciardi and Demos also failed to reveal that a rivet from Halbach’s jeans, one of her teeth, and her bones were found in separate fire pits on Avery land.

These revelations, however, are not slam dunks for the prosecution. In fact, it was ultimately DNA evidence that exonerated Avery.

Victim’s Belongings on Avery Property

Halbach’s camera, phone, and handheld device were found in Avery’s burn barrel but the Netflix series did not reveal this fact to viewers.

There are more truths intentionally absent from Making a Murderer (Avery’s history of violence towards women, ballistics, recently purchased restraints) but Ricciardi and Demos defended their choice to focus on how Avery was failed by the system, and once he tried to make Manitowoc accountable, he was back in the system charged with a more serious crime.

 

War Machine Bridles….

Equines are adored not simply for their natural splendor but also for their strength and momentum but as battle weapons. Also, the rider must be able to connect with equines well in order for them to function proficiently and demand respect and strike fear in the enemy. One of the many resources that can help in the efficient interaction between the rider and the warhorse are the bridles. Horse bridles are found on the equine’s head. It is one way to boost the connection between the rider and the equine with regards to direction, flexibility and speed.There are various types of equine bridles which are regularly used everywhere.

The rider should know how to make use of the tool correctly to acquire good results. It must be used with patience, light pressure and it should be released when the horse responds and leg pressure can be used to support the cues of the bridle. On top of that, a precise size to the horse is an excellent aspect to its glorious performance. A mismatched bridle can detrimentally affect the equine’s ease and comfort, stride and cooperation. Even though you will discover different types of equine bridles, they have common qualities which make them exceptional.The strap that rest across the forehead of the horse, just underneath the ears is called the browband. It is essential to prohibit the bridles from being pulled back over the ears and down the neck. Be certain that it suits snugly and would not pinch the horse. Various horse lovers who prefer western horse-bridles because it does not use a browband, alternatively it uses two ear loops attached to the headpiece. Having either a browband or ear loops, a noseband is also being used to force a horse to drop its head. It is found above the nose but its efficiency and exact position can vary based on the style of bridle employed and riding discipline. Sometimes, cosmetic nosebands that usually do not apply any pressure to a horse’s nose are preferred by owners.

The Cheek piece horse bridles for sale are another significant portion of the horse-bridle is the cheek piece. It can determine the level of interaction between the reins and the bit. It has to suit properly because if it is fitted too freely the bit will rest low in the horse’s mouth. It will lead to the bit to hit the horse’s front teeth and the tongue to be subjected to uneasy pressure. This is unquestionably a detrimental experience for the horse and can negatively influence its operation. A suitably fit cheek piece lets one wrinkle in the corners of the horse’s mouth.The Throat lash is a piece that is situated under the upper jaw near the neck is called the throat lash or also called throat latch. It holds the bridle in place and keeps the horse from rubbing the bridle off his head. Be certain that these horse bridles have the proper clearance of about three fingers to prevent constriction in the horse’s breathing.

How to Build a DIY Starship Simulator

I’ll never forget the day I walked into the Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center as a starry-eyed twelve-year-old. I was a NASA enthusiast and a chronic sci-fi fanatic. I knew all the Star Trek lore up through the Next Generation, and I could quote the original Star Wars trilogy by heart. I knew that the Space Center was named after Christa McAuliffe, a school teacher who was on the Challenger VII shuttle when it exploded one minute into flight sixteen years earlier.

 

After a mission briefing by the Director of the Space Center, we were taken through a “transporter” (a darkroom door) into the Galileo – one of the smaller Starship simulators, where we began our mission. I was the navigation officer. I had to steer the ship through a nebula to try and rescue a disabled alien ship, which turned out to be a ship full of Klingon drug mules that turned on us. After dodging several photon torpedoes and coordinating closely with the tactical officer, we destroyed the enemy ship and returned to Federation Space victorious, having not only survived the ordeal but also shut down a major drug ring that was plaguing the Klingon empire, improving otherwise tense relations within the quadrant.

 

trekkies

 

I was floored! To say that this was the most thrilling experience of a young geek’s life to date would not be hyperbole. How many hours had I spent fantasizing about cruising the galaxy at warp speed to seek out new life and new civilizations? My imagination was stimulated – a seemingly hopeless fantasy finally realized. The experienced was diminished only slightly by the technological limitations of the day. The Gallileo’s “control panels” were really cheaply-designed software on an old iMac G3. Any Trekkie knew that what the ship really needed was screen-accurate touchscreen controls. But that technology was only in its infancy in an age that still hadn’t fully escaped VHS tapes and dial-up modems.

 

With all the drama in the headlines, it’s easy to forget how far we’ve come since then. For DIY-minded geeks like myself, the fantasy of a screen-realistic space adventure isn’t limited by 90’s technology or the whims of the Space Center Director. You have all the tools at your disposal to create your own Starship Simulator for the ultimate gaming experience!

 

The Bridge

star trek

A screen-realistic command deck requires a space large enough for a captain, a navigation officer, an engineer, and a tactical officer, bare minimum. The latter three should have a control console, but all the captain needs is a comfy chair. Depending on the complexity of the missions you want to design, you might also incorporate a science officer, a communications officer, and marines or security personnel. Ideally, a multi-teared space such as a home theater room could provide the frame for the bridge. Alternatively, if you are confident in electronics and air-conditioning, you could build your bridge into an exterior fort or treehouse.

 

The Controls

Lcars_wallpaper

Tablet technology and the ubiquity of fan-built apps makes this once unconquerable hurdle much more manageable. Apps such as LCARS 47 run well enough on a Tablet PC. Alternatively, ADT Touchscreen Keypads lend a certain verisimilitude to the experience. Ideally, you want to set up a system to monitor and mirror the controls from a central location, so that you can manage the mission in real time. You’ll want to set up a microphone with voice-altering tools like Voxal broadcasting into your bridge, so that you can act as the computer or allies or villains on other ships. Finally, you should set up a large LED TV at the front of the bridge, tied to a graphics interface you control. This will serve as the crew’s main visual reference for what is happening outside the ship.

 

Boarding or Landing

If you want your mission to involve crew detachments leaving the bridge and exploring an alien world or an eerily abandoned space vessel, you need not be a world-class set designer. VR technology is becoming accessible enough that you could design your own 3D environments for your crew to walk around and explore. 3D Modeling is still a complicated, labor-intensive process, but the result can be immersive and flexible. Free tools exist for designing these environments to wow your crew with strange and unbelievable worlds. If you’re feeling really ambitious, pair your Daydream View VR Headset with a CPR Mask to create space suit helmets for your crew. Just tell them not to wear the red shirt.

 

The Weapons

sci fi2

Weapons for your mission can be very easy or very painstaking depending on the level of screen accuracy you’re looking for. On the easy side, Nerf guns and Super Soakers work great. If you want them to be a little less comic-book feeling, airbrush and spray paint the components silvers, blacks, and greys. For more screen-accurate weapons, novelty toys can be purchased, or DIY Prop Shop has some great DIY tutorials.

 

The Mission

Design of the mission is by far the most challenging piece of the simulator experience. The critical piece of mission design is the impressiveness of the experience, which requires each crew member to be constantly engaged. Everyone must have some task or crisis that requires their position. Maybe during warp speed, an antimatter explosion threatens the warp core, and the engineer must find a way to bypass the core to avoid a meltdown. Maybe the communications officer intercepts a coded transmission and must decipher it. Keep the captain engaged by constantly placing him or her in difficult situations that require courage and decisiveness to manage. This series of crises should follow a basic Aristotelian plot curve, in order to maximize the emotional impact of the narrative. At the same time, the story arc has to be a little bit responsive, because the crew is actually in command of the ship and should be able to control the direction of the narrative. All this immersiveness must be balanced against the difficulty of managing and multitasking on the back end, which can be labor intensive.

 

Space really is the final frontier. The explorer’s spirit is alive and well in the rising generation. A starship simulator is a lot more than a fun DIY project – it’s a way to get your kids excited about science and technology. Despite increasing competition on the world stage, the United States is still the world hub for innovation. If we hope to maintain that status, we need more students pursuing careers in the STEM fields – especially girls. We don’t do that with grants, quotas, and subsidies; we do it by exciting the imagination the way my imagination was excited in that 2002 Space Center. We can inspire the next generation to boldly go where no one has gone before.

GODSANDHEROES

Rome Rising is a mature, full-scale, action-adventure, massively multiplayer online role-playing game that immerses the audience in Roman mythology.

Players strap on gladiator armor, lay waste to monsters and command minions while seeking favor from the gods.

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