Ear Worm: Angry Birds

Angry Birds

  • Developer: Rovio Mobile
  • Publisher: Clickgamer Media
  • Publish date: December 10, 2009
  • Platforms: All Sorts of Mobile Phones, PSP/PlayStation 3, Mac OS X, Windows, Chrome

Ear Worms (from the German phrase Ohrwurm) are those songs that weasel their way into your head like uninvited guests and then proceed to stink up the inside of your cranium by playing themselves there over. And over. And over. And over. They’re those songs that just get stuck in your head, and no amount of screaming, pounding, protesting, and banging your head into your desk will get them out.

For me that song is the Angry Birds Theme Song. I never played Angry Birds when it was first pushed to the iPhone app store. I finally decided to try the game six months later and after watching the Angry Birds Peace Treaty video

I then started playing the game on the iPad. Now they have a version of Angry Birds you can play on Chrome. The song itself is rather unrelenting and on sunny spring mornings, I can’t help but hum the song in my head. My favorite version of the Angry Birds theme is covered by talented duo, Pomplamoose

Game of the Moment: Screenshot of Koi-Koi

Hanafuda (花札) are playing cards of Japanese origin that are used to play a number of games. The name literally translates as “flower cards”.

Koi-Koi (こいこい) is a popular card game in Japan played with Hanafuda. The object of the Koi-Koi to form special card combinations called “yaku” from cards accumulated in a point pile. Players can gain cards in their point piles by matching cards in their hands, or drawn from the draw pile, with cards on the table. Once a yaku has been made, a player can stop to cash in points, or keep going (referred to as “koi-koi”, hence the name of the game) to form additional yaku for more points. The point values assigned to individual cards have no effect on the score, but they are helpful to judge their value in forming yaku.

Much like western playing card games, you can also play this one online or in meat-space. Learn how to play How to play Hanafuda Koi-Koi yourself!

The Nth Time is a Charm: Civilization IV and V

Civilization IV

  • Developer: Firaxis Games
  • Publisher: 2K Games
  • Publish Date: 2005
  • Platform: Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X

Civilization V

  • Developer: Firaxis Games
  • Publisher: 2K Games
  • Publish Date: 2010
  • Platform: Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X

I’ve probably logged hundreds of hours for both of these games. The Civ series is probably the only game where I forgot to go to bed, and the only thing to remind me that I’ve should have gotten some sleep was the light of next day’s dawn. Here at the Trent House, we hold LAN parties around this game. Civ is highly addictive and extremely repayable. I’d say the big difference between the two is that Civ 4 had a better AI than Civ 5. Its like they rushed Civ 5 out the door. But to be honest, I mostly play with Sig so I don’t mind it too much. Sig will go over the multitude of changes, but to me they feel kind of the same especially after the Dec 2010 patch which fixed some of the tactical AI. And when we’re not playing, we still talk about the game we played and Civ strategy. In a way I fear Civ’s addictiveness. Civilization is probably the only game where I must make efforts to stop playing and just say “No.”

Bad Guys I Love: Big Daddies

Big Daddy from Bioshock

Bioshock’s Big Daddies are heavily spliced human beings who have had their skin and organs directly grafted into an antique heavy armored atmospheric diving suits, and are armed with either a rivet gun,heavy drill, rockets, Ion Lasers, and many others in the case of Alpha Series. Though they make low-pitched groaning noises similar to whales. They roam the underwater dystopian city of Rapture, mentally conditioned to protect the Little Sisters—little girls that harvest a substance called ADAM from corpses. Big Daddies are devoid of any humanity or free will due to a series of plasmids applied during their conditioning.

I love Big Daddies because they are a freight train of a man-turned-frankin-monster. And much like an impending train wreck, they are freaky-fantasticlly compelling to watch. I’ve never seen anything in a game look so angry as a Big Daddy when provoked. Its a scary blending lightning agility and murderous determination all packaged in an outfit that implies a tortured deep-sea dive to Hell. And yet they are also very sad, because of the loving tenderness between them and their their Little Sisters I sometimes feel regret for killing them.

BioShock

  • Developer: 2K Boston
  • Publisher: 2K Games
  • Publish Date: 2007
  • Platforms: Windows, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Mac OS X

Saddest Game Scene: Aerith’s Death

In the real world things are very different. You just need to look around you. Nobody wants to die that way. People die of disease and accident. Death comes suddenly and there is no notion of good or bad. It leaves, not a dramatic feeling but great emptiness. When you lose someone you loved very much you feel this big empty space and think, ‘If I had known this was coming I would have done things differently.’ These are the feelings I wanted to arouse in the players with Aerith’s death relatively early in the game. Feelings of reality and not Hollywood.

—Yoshinori Kitase, Edge, May 2003

After a failed attempt to foil Sephiroth’s theft of the Black Materia, Aerith ventures alone into the Forgotten City for an unknown purpose. Cloud and his companions give chase, eventually finding her praying at an altar. As Aeris looks up to smile at Cloud, ‘Sephiroth’ appears and kills her by impaling her through the torso. The materia given to her by her mother, which she wore in her hair, falls from the altar into the water. After fighting an incarnation of Jenova, Cloud carries Aeris’ body out into a lake in the Forgotten City, and releases her back to the Planet. The party later learns the reason for Aeris being in the Forgotten City; through her White Materia, Aeris was able to summon Holy, the only force capable of repelling the ultimate destructive magic, Meteor.

Though she seemed to be the token damsel in distress, Aerith had boldness that was not gaudy nor repulsive. She seemed like a plausible person who you would want to be friends with. I was totally taken aback by Aerith’s death because it was so sudden and unexpected. After the initial shock, and continuing to play, I final realized that she wasn’t coming back. I think I was about 19 when I played this game, a few months after my father passed away. Given my state of mind, it was the right moment and time that marked this scene as the saddest game scene.

Favorite Video Game Soundtrack: Arcanum

Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura Original Soundtrack

  • Composer: Ben Houge
  • Released: 2001
  • Recorded: Studio X, Seattle
  • Producer: Ben Houge, Jeff Pobst

Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura is a role-playing game developed by Troika Games and published by Sierra Entertainment. Arcanum is a fantasy world of orcs and elves that has undergone an industrial revolution, pitting new technological devices such as steam engines and pistols against the ancient ways of magic. It was steampunk with magic before steam punk was popular.

This soundtrack has more than 50 minutes of music in total and scored for string quartet, with additional percussion on two tracks, plus two ambient pieces performed on synthesizers. Composed by Ben Houge, Arcanum’s soundtrack features an unusual instrumentation by avoiding the predominantly symphonic orchestration common to RPG soundtracks. Instead, it is scored almost entirely for string quartet. The songs follow the conventional RPG soundtrack format: short, impressionistic vignettes which are looped in-game, with each area using only one song, and an alternative song for combat. The soundtrack was produced by Ben Houge and Jeff Pobst, with Leonid Keylin on first violin, Kathy Stern on second violin, Vincent Comer on viola, Susan Williams on cello, Evan Buehler on marimba, and Ben Houge on djembe, rainstick and synthesizer.

I love this album because not only did it fit well with the game, but its just a pleasure to listen. This album is really the only video game soundtrack that I come back to regularly, for when I’m working around the house, for when I’m traveling, or reading a book. Another reason why I like this album is because its the only sound track where the composer actually offers sheet music for free.

Here are a few samples for you:

Arcanum – Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura Original Soundtrack

Qintara – Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura Original Soundtrack

Tweaking Chrome: Fixing Slow or Non Webpage-Loads

Chrome has a built-in DNS pre-fetching mechanism which intends to improve page load performance. However, unfortunately the feature has known to do the antithesis of this. With DNS prefetching enabled, you may be experiencing prolonged or extended periods of web browsing resolving the DNS name, with the following text displayed in the bottom left status bar:

Resolving host…

 

Besides that, Chrome may throw blank web pages that are white without any text, or the following error message:

This webpage is not available.
The webpage at <URL HERE> might be temporarily down or it may have moved
permanently to a new web address.
Here are some suggestions:
Reload this web page later.

 

Clicking on the “more information on this error” will display the following nerdy stuff:

Below is the original error message
Error 105 (net::ERR_NAME_NOT_RESOLVED): The server could not be found.

 

The error normally goes away after a refresh button click or full Ctrl-F5 refresh or after restarting the browser. The problem really is caused by unreliable implementation of DNS caching or prefetching in the browser, or buggy coding of Google Chrome’s network I/O (input output) stack.

As a result, turning off and disabling DNS pre-fetching may actually solve and fix many web page not loading issues:

  1. Click on the wrench, then go to Options.
  2. Click on the Under the Hood/Bonnet tab.
  3. Under the Privacy section, untick the check box for Use DNS pre-fetching to improve page load performance.
  4. Close and refresh or reload the web page!

So far everything seems peachy. I have Chrome Beta 11. Sig also reports faster webpage loading and he has the latest public release of Chrome.  This could also be a DNS issue in itself. If web pages start loading slow again I may switch us to a public DNS, like Google’s Public DNS, FoolsDNS or OpenDNS, instead of the one that our ISP provides us with.

Favorite Video Game Couple: P-Body and ATLAS

Rock Paper ScissorsATLAS and P-body, called Blue and Orange by GLaDOS, are a pair of bipedal robots in Portal 2’s co-operative campaign. GLaDOS created them to complete her “Cooperative Testing Initiative” project, comprised of the most complex tests in the Aperture Science Enrichment Center, which are also uncompleted by any human.

These cute robots were designed from scraps. ATLAS’ design is based on a Personality Core, while P-body is based on a Sentry Turret. To facilitate their humanization, they were given their own personalities, and clearly anthropomorphic designs and behaviors. For instance, gender-related personalities have been applied to them, with ATLAS being masculine, and P-body feminine. ATLAS seems to be brave and fearless, willing to take on any challenge, while P-body is inquisitive and sensitive, examining the situation with care before proceeding. Both value friendship, making them the ideal testing partners.

I’m very fond of ATLAS and P-body as a couple because Sig and I were able to complete the co-op version of Portal 2 within a day! They very much remind me of Sig and myself when we play games together: solving puzzles, lots of teamwork, and the occasional hilarious death that was really an “accident”!

Most Annoying Video Game Character: Pey’j

Pey’j is an anthropomorphic pig in Beyond Good and Evil. He is Jade’s “uncle” and often acts as her sidekick in gameplay. He lives with Jade in a lighthouse on a small island on the planet Hillys. The story also says Jade was placed under Pey’j’s care when her parents felt it would be too dangerous to keep her. Using a spaceship he designed and built with Jade’s father, Pey’j escaped to Hillys, setting up a new life for him and his niece. Because of his potbellied figure, Pey’j doesn’t possess many abilities that demand endurance or agility. He does, however, have great skills in mechanic work and can fix relatively anything.

Why do I think Pey’j is annoying? Well for the soul fact he says really annoying things when I play Jade, and he’s around as her sidekick. His rather fake southern tough red-neck accent makes it worse! He also says the same comments repeatedly: “Look out Jade! Watch out Jade!”  This was a death nail pounding in my ears. I mean I can take about 10 minutes worth of commentary from Pay’j, but more than that I want to throttle his little piggy neck, rip his fat tongue out, and feed it to a DomZ Sea Serpent. What’s worse, is that I won’t buy Beyond Good and Evil 2 because of Pay’j — if it ever comes out that is.

Beyond Good and Evil

  • Developer: Ubisoft
  • Publisher: Ubisoft
  • Publish Date: 2003

 

My Video Game Character Idol: GLaDOS

If I could be a character in a game, I would be GLaDOS (Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System). GLaDOS is amoral and rather sadistic. She has a clear sense of humor, but an extremely dry, bitter, and sarcastic one; her jokes are usually dark, morbid, or outright cruel. She seems to enjoy making comments intended frighten others or to undermine their self-esteem, but does not usually express open malice. Instead, she makes snide implications, seems to malfunction at suspiciously convenient times, or claims that her insults are merely objective fact. She is very “passive-aggressive.” GLaDOS lies frequently, especially about her own emotional state, often claiming to be pleased or merely disappointed when she is clearly alarmed or enraged. She usually portrays herself as an innocent victim, no matter how obviously cruel her own actions have been. Although it is often unclear whether there is any real point to her experiments, she seems to be motivated by a sincere passion for science, which she regards as her fundamental goal in life.

Why would I want to be a character like that? Well, personality aside, she’s an all-mighty computer with the ability to build strange, deadly, but cute things like turrets and weighted companion cubes. And before Chell got to her, she had an awesome logic core dedicated to cake!

GLaDOS Logic Core Cake Recipe

  • one 18.25 ounce chocolate cake mix
  • one can prepared coconut pecan frosting
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • one cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup butter or margarine
  • 1 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups all purpose flower

Don’t forget garnishes such as:

  • fish shaped crackers
  • fish shaped candies
  • fish shaped solid waste
  • fish shaped dirt
  • fish shaped Ethel benzine
  • pull n’ peel licorice
  • fish shaped volatile organic compounds
  • and sediment shaped sediment
  • candy coated peanut butter pieces; shaped like fish
  • one cup lemon juice
  • alpha resins
  • unsaturated polyester resin
  • fiberglass surface resins
  • volatile malted milk impoundments
  • 9 large egg yokes
  • 12 medium geosynthetic membranes
  • one cup granulated sugar
  • an entry called: “How To Kill Someone With Your Bare-Hands”
  • 2 cups rhubarb; sliced
  • 2/3 granulated rhubarb
  • 1 Tbsp all-purpose rhubarb
  • 1 tsp grated orange rhubarb
  • 3 Tbsp rhubarb; on fire
  • 1 Large rhubarb
  • 1 cross Bohr hole electromagnetic imaging rhubarb
  • 2 Tbsp rhubarb juice
  • adjustable aluminum head positioned
  • slaughter electric needle injector
  • cordless electric needle injector
  • injector needle driver
  • injector needle gun
  • cranial caps

And it contains proven preservatives, deep penetration agents, and gas and odor control chemical’s that will deodorize and preserve putrid tissue.