Dec 3, 2009

What in the WWW is Wave?

I'm starting a new segment on my blog called: What in the World Wide Web?, our first topic of investigation is Google Wave.

I finally got an invite to Google Wave. I have been interested but reluctant to join for a while because I know there has been a lot of buzz about it but I didn't know exactly what it was. I joined a few days ago but haven't used it much because I've still really been trying to figure out what it is and how it works. Google has like a 90 min video up that explains it, but who wants to watch a feature length movie just to be able to start to use a new site?

That's where this blog comes in I guess. To save the day?
So What in the World Wide Web is Google Wave?: Google Wave is a real-time communication platform.

I will wholeheartedly admit that this site is intimidating at first, if you are like me and don't even know the basic concept then it makes it almost impossible to troubleshoot through the features. I started to do some research and what I found is that this whole "Wave" thing is really an incredible idea. That is why I wish to share this video, which is one that I found that was extremely helpful in detailing the main point of Google Wave:

So now that you know what Google Wave is, now I'm sure you want to know how to use it. As usual Mashable has put up a pretty all-inclusive Complete Guide to Google Wave that has just about everything you could ever need to know.

Mashable says that Google Wave combines "aspects of email, instant messaging, wikis, web chat, social networking, and project management to build one elegant, in-browser communication client." Wave is chock-full of innovative features, Mashable details a lot of them, but I'm just going to run down a few and then show another quick video on 15 features of Google Wave.

The first is real-time, obviously, since that is pretty much the main feature of the site. At first by looking at the platform I just thought a "wave" was similar to a "tweet" on twitter. Although there is no character limit and there is so much more you can do with a single wave. But the replies show up instantly within the wave and if you are online at the same time you can sometimes see a response being typed.

Wave also has applications and extensions, like Facebook, or like widgets/gadgets on other sites, developers can build their own apps within waves. There is a Twitter application (Twave, obvi), real-time games, and probably some other really awesome stuff. I haven't gotten that far into it yet so I haven't really been able to check any of them out. I'm really hoping for a YouTube application for embedding video content, which I'm pretty sure I've seen but I have to check out how it works.

Mashable also talks about "Wiki functionality" which is basically just the idea that anything can be edited by anyone. All conversations within your platform are shared with your contacts. So you can not only reply to a wave but you can actually go in and correct information, add information, add commentary. You can write in different colors, styles, fonts. Pretty much everything is customizable.

This idea made me nervous at first because I'm an editing fiend and I usually review everything I post obsessively until it's perfectly readable and aesthetically pleasing. So the idea that someone could go in there and edit and make changes to my thought-out posts was pretty scary. BUT of course Wave has another feature that makes this much less intimidating. It's called "Playback," on every wave you can play back every little addition that has been made. From who has been added, to who has posted, to every change that comes up. It will show the original text and then will highlight the parts that have been added.

Google wave has also perfected the autocorrect function to include "Natural language" which not only corrects spelling but it even corrects grammar as far as even knowing the difference between similar words, like “been” and “bean.” It also has an auto-translate function that allows two or more people to communicate seamlessly in real time in two completely different languages.

There is still a lot more to explore, but these were just my preliminary findings in order to answer for myself and others about what the general idea and purpose of Google Wave is. At first when I saw the layout of the site and the way the communications work and the ease of ability to share information and even documents my first thought was that this could be an amazing tool for a business. But then upon finding out about all of the features like the games and the way you can add attachments directly into the message and the translator I started to see how useful this really could be. Especially because if you know me at all you know that I absolutely hate email. I am totally sold on Google Wave, I think it's exactly what I needed and I'm excited to see how it grows.

If you have an invite the first thing you should do after creating your account is go to your contacts box and click on the grey picture next to your name and update your profile. Next use the search box to type in any email addresses of friends that you know use Wave, because the site really is a little useless if you don't have anyone to communicate with. Next find the wave in your inbox that allows you to invite people and use up your eight invites to get some more of your friends on the site. Once you have some contacts you are ready to test everything out.

Good Luck, and Have fun!

Aug 18, 2009

Total Geek Crush

Felicia Day is hot. Awesome nonetheless, for many reasons, but also terribly cute. Anyone who is a geek, male or female, and doesn't have a secret crush on Felicia Day is missing some serious part of their genetic composition. This is also just the greatest music video ever made about computer gaming. lol. So without further ado, the "Do You Want to Date My Avatar" video:

RT via @drhorrible 'Do You Want To Date My Avatar' is #1 on iTunes and Amazon

Watch The Guild

Jun 19, 2009

Game Review: PlaneShift

[click for larger image view]

On my never-ending quest to find an affordable Mac compatible "Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game" (known more commonly as MMORPG, or affectionately, MMO), a friend of mine stumbled upon this little gem called PlaneShift. I am a RoadRunner subscriber so, naturally, the game took about an hour and 40 mins to download, but after that install and registration were pretty quick.

The graphics were pretty terrible. My friend that found the game plays WoW so I was expecting a harsh critique from him, but after I started playing I realized that he wasn't just being a game-snob. The visual character customization was almost nonexistent. While there were very few options for differentiation most of them didn't work. Not all of the races were even available, and some were only available in one gender, and the names of the races were pretty lame and unusually hard to pronounce. The character naming system was also lacking... Instead of going with a general username system where the entire input is taken into consideration, you are required to have both a unique first and last name. Which means that in any combination you cannot have the same first OR last name as any other player.

The character background/history customization was pretty cool. You did have the option of skipping through to just choose a class. But if you decided to customize you start out with a certain amount of CP (I'm assuming either character points, or customization points) and using those you could select a birth month, a religion, parents names and occupations, life events, hobbies, etc. Each option had a certain amount of CP cost, and you choose your options until you run out of points. Each option also has a description with a short story or background information that hints towards what traits it would contribute to, and once you finish it essentially makes a custom "class" for your character based on the history.

Once I got into the game though I was a little more disappointed, mostly amused by the graphics, but I didn't even make it through the tutorial because the gameplay was so painstaking. Before we started playing we read that there were a lot of bugs, especially mac bugs, but of course it is only an Alpha game so it was expected. The biggest bug the game has is that your character can very easily get stuck in walls, it is apparently so bad that they even tell you a command ("/unstick") to use when you start up the game. Talking to NPCs, though, was probably the most painstaking part of the game. To begin with there are massive amounts of unnecessary/repetitive text to keep up with, and then when it is your turn to respond you have to type your response to the NPC. The difficult part about this is your phrasing and spelling has to be just right or else you can't continue. Very reminiscent of the classic, but primitive, text-adventure games.

One of the bugs I came across personally (and spent pretty close to a half hour trying to figure out) was how to give something to the NPC. Normally if you right-click on an NPC an options menu comes up, but as those of you who own Macs know that unless you have a mighty mouse (which I do) there is no right-click button. For those of you who are tech saavy you already know this, but the game does also point out the ctrl+click method which does act exactly like the pc-version of the right click menu. The problem was that using both the right-click button on my mighty mouse AND the ctrl+click method with my touchpad, yielded no results. I tried every combination of buttons I could think of, as well as every combination of text commands I could think of and all I got was the line "This NPC is impervious to attack!". I finally came up with the "/give" command, with the help of my friend, which seems like a given but the tutorial hadn't even mentioned "/" commands yet. Up until this point it had only used basic verbal commands like "yes", "ready", "continue", and "give me the book".

Okay, so yes it is a free game and that explains a lot, but I have played other free MMOs that were actually pretty good (of course the problem was that they were all on PC, because free usually doesn't mean "mac compatible"). But I don't even really think that I could say, for what it is, that this game is worth it. Graphic were lacking, gameplay was obnoxious and visual customization was nonexistant. So I guess I'll either just have to wait until PerfectWorld or Runes Of Magic makes a mac version, or until I buy a copy of windows and start running boot camp (which I really don't think I have space on my harddrive for). Overall I would consider this a Mac MMO Fail.

Apr 19, 2009

Finally something to really write about, and how fitting.

As you should know by now I am a huge Harley Quinn fan, as well as pretty obsessed with anything Batman-related. If you have read the "Harley and Ivy" mini-series by Paul Dini you will see that Harley is a very sexual character, especially out of costume. Her and Ivy use the fact that they are hot women to their advantage- but the difference is that it is in a way that doesn't objectify them as much as it empowers them.

Harley has also always been a very stereotypical "dumb blonde" despite the fact that before her villain days she was a Doctor. She is extremely co-dependent, which is part of what makes her so great as a comic relief character. Although she kicks ass, she is still this happy, bouncy little gymnast that has very relatable human flaws, and more often than not she just forgets something and messes everything up.

I had mixed feelings about the new Arkham Asylum game trailer because Harley Quinn became this highly dangerous force-to-be-reckoned-with character, which added a new level of power that she's never really been given, but it also makes her kind of scary. Very dark, very much like the distinction between the comic book/Heath Ledger Joker and the cartoon/Jack Nicholson Joker. But I think that it takes away from a lot of her essential "Harleyness", so to speak.

Although It was interesting to see a darker side of her because I always thought that her character would never fit into a more Nolan-esque Batman world. So its nice to see her adapted to fit into the game setting and given such an important role, when she could have easily been overlooked and probably not missed by most.

I did feel extremely uncomfortable while watching the trailer though. My exact words were "Thats pretty awesome and yet sufficiently creepy at the same time." I couldn't figure it out at first, but it was mostly because of the costume. I disliked it immediately, from the second she said "hiya b-man, how d'you like my new uniform?" in her little squeaky voice. There were two main reasons, the most obvious being that she is oversexualized, and also my initial reaction that it wasn't the Harley I knew and loved.

So although it's not the fact that she is objectified that bothered me first and foremost, I do agree with Less Lee Moore from Toronto Thumbs that the oversexualization of female characters is a huge problem in the gaming world. It definitely evokes a lot of misogynistic and purely sexual commentary that detracts from the characterization. Although I'm not sure if I could say that "portraying her as a sex symbol is detrimental to the essence [of the] character," because in my own mind I see her as a sex symbol already as both the innocent little pigtailed blonde and the spandexed mischief maker.

I don't want to say they made her a "sex symbol" as much as I want to say a "sexual object", because I feel like the term "sex symbol" is empowering whereas the latter is extremely negative and embodies more of the kind of detriment that I think Less was talking about. I can say that while I was absolutely floored by the raw power of her soliloquy, even I was totally distracted by her perfect digital cleavage and butt cheeks that were hanging out. And this is even considering that I love this impromptu french maid/oktoberfest wench Harley Quinn doll's costume so much that I have considered having one made for myself.

I just kept trying to make sense of the costume in my head; "how does this fit into the joker/playing card theme?", "Where are the signature three diamonds?", "How is this an adaptation of her other costume?", "Which parts of this did they get from her costume?". I couldn't come up with anything. It just aesthetically made no sense, except to add shock value and provide some "tits" to the part of the game playing population that can't take the time out to go find some real ones, which is a pretty big reason why most people played Tomb Raider in the beginning. Its really sad that a female character, more often than not, has to be a sexual object to be a likable video game character.

There also was a whole other level to the costume, aside from its overtly sexual nature, that really bothered me. It was especially weird seeing her in a costume that shows that much skin as well as her hair! Going back to my initial comment about the sufficient creepiness of the trailer... Usually the main distinction between her villain side and her human side is when we can actually see her hair. In costume her hair is always covered by a jester hat, there has even been some cases where she has shown more skin but the hat and mask always remains.

When all of her innate human characteristics that make her so relatable are gone, but her physically human characteristics and the "Harleen Quinzel" part of her is still completely there and visible... It is quite a stark realization of who she truly may be. It is one thing to make her darker and creepier as a villain, but makes it even creepier to feel as though the Harley I know and love might really be this dark, creepy, angry, destructive character.

Although it just hit me right now that I started thinking about it... they did emphasize her "real name" in the trailer, and the costume was sort of "nursey", with the nurses hat and the name tag. Especially also now thinking about it more in relation to the first trailer and the idea that the patients were taking over the hospital. The costume could have that sort of a relevance if the premise of the game is about the seduction and her initial transformation and Joker's escape from Arkham Asylum after turning her into a villian.

In that case she would be very dark and probably wouldn't have a specific villain's costume just yet, which would explain the hair, the human-ness. Also the "new uniform" quote would obviously be a reference to the change from her traditional Doctor's uniform (when she was a normal, sane psychiatrist), into the crazed lunatic that sets all of the patients free to wreak havoc on gotham.

If that is the case there is still room for her to seem more human and submiss to him at least little bit after her power trip. Which actually makes things a lot more interesting, but also brings up some new points. Aside from the fact that she is still unnecessarily objectified, NOW she has essentially been demoted from a "doctor" to a "nurse". From a women in a pretty powerful position, to a sidekick. But then again the trailer shows her very much in control, which intrigues me. Maybe we have it all wrong and the nurses uniform is a power-parody?

I think either way I choose to look at it, this is definitely not the Harley I know, although I'm not totally giving up on them yet. Especially with Paul Dini behind the scenes, I trust him enough to know what he's doing since he was the man behind bringing the original Harley Quinn to the screen. I would love a video game based on a Harley origin-story, and I would like to wait and see what else the game has in store before I completely condemn it. There are certain parts of the new side of this character that I am definitely interested in seeing and how they decide to play it out.

Original Post from Xanga:
Layout base designed by Yummy Lolly