Friday, August 31, 2012

Steam on LInux and Native GIMP on OS X!

All my wildest dreams are coming true. First, I find out that Steam is coming to Linux. This is flat out exciting for me, because most of my gaming has always been on a console but I would love to start gaming on my computer! It would be beyond cool for me to be able to play an A-List title on a custom-built Linux gaming PC. No, beyond "beyond cool".

OK, so enough of that. The other cool thing is that GIMP, once a second-class citizen on OS X (because X11 itself is obviously a second class citizen at Apple, since they don't lift a finger to integrate it with the rest of your desktop), now has a native build for Mac!

OK, to be honest the GIMP thing isn't that significant to me, personally. Although now when a Mac friend is complaining about Photoshop, I can honestly suggest GIMP. Will they listen to me? no of course not, they'll just go pirate Photoshop. But that's not my problem.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Mac Lion is Lyin'

A few of my friends have Macs and a few have upgraded to Lion. It's a hot mess, unfortunately, and that's pretty surprising since Mountain Lion just came out. You'd think that Lion would have all its wrinkles out by now.

There are a lot of problems with Lyin' Lion, most of which I really don't know enough about to comment on intelligently. For all I know, my friends are just doing some things wrong.

But there are some things that are just plain broken. And by broken I mean "stupid". By design.

A couple of the problems don't seem like they should be problems. Apple, for instance, decided to hide the Library folder. Since most of us don't even know what the Library is for, that doesn't seem like a bad idea, until you are installing software that also can't see the hidden Library and suddenly doesn't work on your computer any more. It worked before they installed Lion. Now it doesn't. That might not technically be an Apple problem, but Lion's been out for a year now and the problem still exists, so it's someone's problem. And the thing that broke it was Apple's updated operating system. So, Apple gets the heat for it. That's just how it works, I don't care what OS you run.

There have been a lot of issues with non-Apple software, as a whole, actually. Big name software, like Avid (which a lot of people are switching to now that Final Cut Pro turned into iMovie Pro) and Photoshop. They just don't work like they're supposed to. And people know how they're supposed to work because the same versions of that software work perfectly well on The Other OS That Shall Not Be Named.

It's Apple's right, to a certain point, to change stuff whenever they feel like it. But if they're going to do that, then it's their obligation to their users and developers, to tell people what is different and how everything needs to be changed in order to adapt. It's just not professional and not at all cool to go changing a bunch of policies without letting anyone know about it. Which is what they did. They've changed file permissions and metadata and tags and they're just letting people find out about it as the bugs arise.

That's a bad idea, and it's passive-aggressive behavior against everything that supports Apple, whether it's the users, the third-party software developers, independent developers, or entire industries.

The sad thing is that a lot of users will just keep purchasing Apple products and never complain about it to Apple, which for a big company riding the wave of monetary success is equal to permission to keep screwing people over.

I'm just glad I don't run it.

Amalur DLC

The Curse of Dead Kel and The Teeth of Naros are the two DLC's that have been released for Amalur so far and I was honestly a little hesitant to buy them. I love Amalur, I just don't always love DLC. The Bordlerlands DLC never really appealed to me (quite a feat, given that I've played through Borderlands about three or four times), and even some of the Dragons Age DLC wasn't very good.

Not so with Amalur DLC! These are amazing add-ons that really feel like a whole other chapter in the main story, not like tacked-on adventures that are just more of the same.

OK, actually it is more of the same, in both cases. There isn't anything amazingly revolutionary in the DLC itself, but come on, that's why they call it DLC. It's not a whole new Amalur game, but it is some serious new storyline, lots of fresh gameplay, and well worth every cent.

Dead Kel

OK, so I actually didn't think I'd like Dead Kel because it sounded mostly like the game developers were sitting around in a room thinking "what do people like? oh, I know! Zombies. And pirates! Hey, let's make a DLC that combines them both and stick it into the world of Amalur!"

You'd think that, but you'd be wrong. Dead Kel is seamlessly interwoven into the Amalur world. It introduces another race, the Dverga, although you never actually meet the Dverga. You hear about them in legend, though, and that gives the world that sense of history that Amalur is so full of.

The storytelling style is still really bad. That's one thing that Amalur is clunky with. Sometimes you approach a character and ask them questions and they're telling you about how they need to rescue this person, or find this object in order to solve their problem. The thing is, they haven't even told you what their problem is yet, so you keep asking questions and the third or fourth option down is very obviously the introductory line they really should have started with.

You also finally (finally) get a love interest, which seems like a good idea since Amalur up until this point has been completely devoid of any romance. But the way it's introduced is just plain silly, and it doesn't develop. Nice try though.

The voice acting is still supremely annoying, as well. I don't know where they found the actors for Amalur, but I can't stand any of them. I wish there was an option to turn off all voices; I'll settle for subtitles when the acting is bad, but Grant Hopekirk's music is so amazing that I wouldn't want to miss that.

But the linear story isn't why I play Amalur. I play it for the rich history and lore within the world, and the combat, and the destinies.

Dead Kel introduces some new enemies, provides the player with a new homebase that they can build up, introduces a "pet" system (no, you don't get a wolf that follows you around and helps you, but you can have an NPC raise a pet for you and the pet gives you permanent boosts to health and mana and combat skills). It's set on an island, so there's a new sea-faring flavor that got hinted at in Rathir but is developed more strongly here, and has some really fun and amazing combat opportunities.

I didn't keep track of how many hours I spent on the Dead Kel storyline, but I'd estimate about 2 or 3 weeks of casual play.

Teeth of Naros

I figured the Teeth of Naros would be a big troll someplace that I had to go find and kill. Turns out, it's not a character but a geographic location. The story surprises you a little, so I'm not going to provide any spoilers. Besides, I'm still playing through this one.

I'll just say that this is a fun DLC with, again, lots of new little touches and a few new enemies, and even a new form of Magic. Definitely worth playing.

As for which one you should try? well, both. These are impeccable DLC's. They're true to the original spirit of the game, they're just as fun, and they introduce enough new ideas to keep you surprised and inspired.  As usual, the art and music is amazingly beautiful and the history and lore is rich.

A few problems overall would be that it seems to be capping my level. I'm at lvl 40 with 62 XP points toward lvl 41, but no matter what I do I can't progress. The positive side to this is that I still get fate cards when I accomplish a significant triumph, but it's pretty annoying that no matter who or what I kill or what I accomplish, I'm just not progressing in my stats.

The other problem, really, are the only things I've already mentioned and that seem to be problems with Amalur as a whole: clunky storytelling with dialog choices that seem to have an intended order but are presented to you in a random order, and really really annoying voice acting. Sometimes comically bad.

Anyway, highly recommended overall. GET THESE DLC's@!!!!