Friday, March 29, 2013

Favorite Winter 2013 Anime

Winter 2012-2013 season is basically wrapping up with quite a few anime shows ending this week.  Even though i haven't watched all of what was available during the season I felt that I needed to make a small list of my favorites that I watched.

The second season of Haganai (Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai NEXT) is what I found the most entertaining and funniest shows you can watch this season..  It basically keeps the momentum going from the first season with Kodaka and the rest of the Neighbors Club getting into hilarious situations practicing friend making skills.
I felt this was probably one of the best "slice of life" shows out this season which is mostly about a group of high school outcasts who live in Sakura Hall which is meant for so called "troublemakers" of the school.  There was certainly funny moments, a fair amount of drama to sort of get the emotions going, and an amazing casts of characters which make you miss them when it's all over.



Blast of Tempest

What I liked about Blast of Tempest (Zetsuen No Tempest) is that it tells a well thought out story about two friends who both share a tragic past due to someone significant in their lives passing away, thus spiraling into a chain of events that involves magic, apocalyptic world trees, and a bit of Shakespeare.




A spin-off story from the Zettai Karen Children (Psychic Squad) series, if you don't know much about the universe it's more or less about a criminal organization named P.A.N.D.R.A. and their leader Hyobu Kyosuke. He commands a group of Espers(physic power users) who seem to have an agenda against normal humans and ultimately wants to wipe them out.  The action scenes are pretty exciting and the characters are fairly likable for the most part.  Add in some espionage to the mix and you get a fairly interesting plot.  For a 12 episode anime it's really well put together and fun to watch.

Robotics;Notes I found a pretty interesting because I found the story a bit of a mind twist as it definitely played the on it's strengths of tossing in a plot and turning it on it's toes just when you think you have figured it out.  Watch if you are interested in conspiracy theories, sci-fi, little bit of video games, robot building and fighting.  Not to mention that it takes place in the much heralded Steins;Gate universe.


I do watch my fair share of harem themed shows though most of the time I find them repetitive but Oreshura seems to be self aware of itself and the plot is certainly dumb but it is all good fun and comedy as you watch Eita Kido get blackmailed by Masuzu Natsukawa into a fake relationship and does his best to avoid his childhood friends finding out their relationship is a fake since they are all in love with him.





Didn't finish watching or ongoing that is still probably worth watching.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Games I've Been Playing - March 2013

I think it's been a pretty slow year in terms of games that have interested me but I'll go ahead and give my thoughts on some of the games I've been playing this month.

Starcraft 2 - Heart of the Swarm

I think what I am most impressed about Heart of the Swarm so far is the way it is telling the story.  I have not seen any other RTS deliver a proper story in the same kind of way.  You can tell Blizzard spent a decent chunk of money to create the CG cutscenes and story elements.  While interactions and conversations aren't as interesting as the Wings of Liberty stuff it is still pretty cool to go around and talk with zerg creatures about how to approach missions and whatnot.
As for gameplay in the campaign I think most of it is fairly interesting so far.  Most of it revolves controlling Kerrigan who plays a major role in each mission and is basically your go to unit to achieve victory.  It almost feels like cheating having her around all the time.  The upgrade systems work a bit differently than Wings of Liberty but you effectively enhance each of your units with a special power.  For example zerglings have two upgrade paths, one evolution is that you can have them able to leap up and down from cliffs or evolve them to spawn three at a time instead of the usual single unit.  Kerrigan also works in a similar way, she can gain levels and at various tiers she can gain a new ability from two different branches of power, you can freely respec abilities so it's not a deep commitment into what abilities you want to use which is a big change from Wings Of Liberty
Don't want to make this sound like a review as I'm only around the halfway point in the game but I still feel that Heart of the Swarm is a great RTS for what I have played so far.   I still haven't gotten deep into the multiplayer but that is mostly due to being scared of getting blown away by people who have been playing since Starcraft 2's launch.

World Of Warcraft - 5.2 patch

I've sort of been playing Mists Of Pandaria the past few months, though I pretty much don't log in as often as i used to.   But 5.2 content patch was released recently and I've been doing a few of the new LFR(Raid Finder) instances.   While the difficulty isn't up to par with normal raid instances I still enjoy them but I don't know if it's MMO fatigue or what I feel that the boss encounters just don't feel unique anymore.   It's like all the design aspects of a raid encounter have been exhausted, some may be due to some mechanics being stripped out for LFR and some of it is just reuse of older boss mechanics.     I think my time in WoW is winding down to it's end but I still enjoyed Mists of Pandaria alot more than Cataclysm.

Bioshock Infinite

The game is under my radar so i'll leave this spot blank for now but it's probably the biggest release to come out this year so far.  

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Pet Girl of Sakurasou - Short Review


The Pet Girl of Sakurasou is a little mix of everything. If you want humor, love triangles, drama and life lessons to be learned then this is probably something you should watch.  It's mostly about high school teens who get outcast from their dorms into Sakura Hall which is meant for trouble making students.

The plot revolves around Sorata Kanda who was kicked out of the dorms and moved to Sakura Hall for taking care of a cat and meets Mashiro Shiina who is a very talented artist but so inept of taking care of herself that Sorata has to do it for her thus you sort of get the idea where the title of this anime comes from.  Sorata ends up inspiring the other students of Sakura Hall with his actions and in the process they become friends and work on projects together(mostly anime and video game related) which strengthens their bonds and friendships as they experience success and failures pursuing their goals.

The story is well told, the animation is really nice to look at, and voice acting really well done. I certainly hope they decide to continue the anime with a second season as this first season was definitely one of the best anime for winter 2013.

5/5

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions - Short Review

Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions or Chūnibyō Demo Koi ga Shitai! is a 12 episode anime that I watched over the weekend which certainly made me laugh and pulled at my heart strings at the same time.  The story revolves around a few teenagers who have experienced or are experiencing "8th grade syndrome" or Chunibyo, which is basically another way of saying that they escaped reality by imagining they had powers that they do not really have and hide themselves behind that persona.

Yuta smacking Rikka
While the entire cast of characters were all fairly interesting you couldn't help be drawn to the main characters of the story which revolves around Yuta Togashi a guy who is recovering from his delusional past and trying to live a normal life in his new high school who ends up meeting a girl named Rikka Tanashi who lives above his apartment and is currently in her own delusional world while always wearing an eye patch to cover her "wicked eye".   Their awkward relationship evolving from annoyance to mutual love for each other was something very interesting to watch as the tone and pacing of the story is very comedic at first but eventually becomes very serious in the last few episodes as you find out about the true issues behind why Rikka hides herself behind her delusions.

Rikka showing her "Wicked Eye"
I enjoyed this anime a lot as it has a good mix of humor, action, and serious moments that don't get overly complicated.   The production values are excellent as are most anime's done by Kyoto Animation and visuals for the action scenes are very nice contrast to the every day high school scenarios throughout the series.  Without getting too philosophical the message this anime tries to portray is fairly simple.  We all have embarrassing quirks about our personalities and we shouldn't force ourselves to hide it as those qualities are a part of us and who we are.  At least that's what I got out of it.

You can currently watch this anime on the Animenetwork.

Rating: 5/5

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Making Money Playing Video Games

So you play a lot of  video games and you want to know how you can make money doing it?  Well beyond going to school to learn to specialize in getting into the gaming industry itself or being a professional gamer, maybe that's a little beyond your current situation at the moment.  I want to emphasize what you read here isn't going to change your life overnight.  It's not going to bandage the hole in your pocket and is meant mostly to guide you with some supplemental income just for doing something you already do (play video games). In other words, don't quit your day job.  Also age requirement for some of the methods below require you to be of legal age which is usually 18+ depending on your country.

Youtube

Youtube is one of the most well known ways to play video games and make money but to be honest it's not that easy. Once you apply for an Adsense account you are one step closer to monetizing your videos.  Youtube is very strict in what you can monetize and many game companies are putting up copyright claims on video game footage so most of the time you have to get permission or find something in the video game's license agreement or terms of use that doesn't say you can't make videos.  A good way to avoid this is that you really need to have a goal in mind as raw gameplay videos aren't going to earn you anything because they will usually get rejected for monetization.  So by goal I am referring to the type of content you want to present to the viewer.  For example you could do a review of a game or another example would be to make a comprehensive strategy guide for a particular boss fight in a game that you have played.  As long as you are somewhat informational and educating the viewer then it should be easier to convince youtube that the video game footage is being used under "fair use" copyright laws.

Youtube isn't going to make you instant cash because someone with 0 subscribers will find it hard to get views on their videos.  So you need to build an audience which will take time and you need to label and tag your videos very well so that search engines can find your video.  You can also post a few interesting gameplay videos which you don't monetize but can bring your channel to their attention and from those more popular videos you can link annotations to your other videos which you are trying to monetize.

So to start off capturing and encoding video game footage for Youtube you'll need to get a few programs and maybe some external equipment to make decent video game videos.  So below is a basic list of what you'll need, i'll list mostly free programs that you can start off with but if you do get serious consider investing in some of the better paid programs.  Console game capture requires investing in a capture device such as a capture card or external video capture box. While PC game capture requires more of a higher performance desktop which can handle the stress of real time encoding while playing a game at the same time.  Video editing also requires an investment to make higher quality videos but it's possible to use free programs to make an enjoyable video.

PC Game Capture
-free- Open Broadcaster - MSI Afterburner - Razer Game Booster
-paid- Fraps - DXtory - Bandicam - Xsplit

Console / Capture Device - Elgato Game Capture HD - AVerMedia Live Gamer HD - Hauppauge HD PVR 2 Gaming Edition

Video Editing Programs
-free- Windows Movie Maker - Avidemux - Microsoft Expression Encoder 4(some options locked under pay-wall) - EZvid
-paid- Adobe Premiere Elements 11 - Sony Movie Studio Platinum Suite 12 - Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 - Vegas Pro 12

Microphone / Headset
You can use basically whatever you want but I personally use a Blue Yeti USB Microphone because I enjoy the quality of the sound it records.

Live Streaming

Beyond Youtube you can also try your hand at live streaming which has been gaining a larger audience the past few years on sites like Twitch.tv and Ustream.   The biggest hurdle jumping into live streaming is mostly dependent on the speed of your connection.  I'd say a good minimum upstream you would need to have is about 2-Mbps as this will give you a good bit-rate for 720p+ and give you enough bandwidth if you happen to be playing a game that requires internet access.

On a site like Twitch you can start streaming whenever you want but you won't earn any ad revenue until you get partnered or get very lucky with donations.  Donations are  probably the only way to earn money while live streaming without a partnership and you basically do that by adding a Paypal or Chip-In link on your personal page.  There are also subscriptions available for the more popular channels where you'll split each subscriber with Twitch but this requires you to be very well known.  There aren't any specifics on what you need to do to get partnered on Twitch but you need a sufficient amount of followers and viewers.  I can bluntly say that gaining an audience live streaming is very personality driven and although being very skilled at playing games can net you some viewers people usually stick around because they like what the person brings them in terms of entertainment value.  It's also a pretty good idea to specialize in a particular game as people tend to get comfortable watching their favorite games being played.  As of this writing League of Legends and other MOBAs are some of the biggest live streaming communities at the moment yet there are many different personalities from pro gamers to casual gamers who seem to do well for themselves.

As for what you need to start live streaming is somewhat similar to what you need to capture game footage.  You need broadcasting software like Xsplit and Open Broadcaster and a capture device if you are streaming console footage.   Also it helps to have a microphone and a webcam if you really want to be interactive with your viewers.


Other Methods

While I outlined only a few methods you could try by using video it's definitely not the only way.  You can always write about your experiences, make a blog, do some freelance journalism, fan art, quality assurance game testing and other things that don't require a major investment.  Though i would say my experience in any of those fields are fairly limited so I won't try to give you advice on how to approach these ventures.  I wish you luck as even my own experience with making money playing video games has been a pretty long journey as well but if you have a lot more ambition you can certainly make a name for yourself.