Archive for the ‘Other’ Category

Leveling Up the Hardware: 5 Recent Tech Upgrades Worth Every Penny   3 comments

Intel Core i5

So, yeah, I’m a player of free-to-play titles, and I’m not ashamed of that. I won’t go out and buy the latest, got-to-have games, either. My brain just isn’t wired like that. I don’t feel any need to jump in to any first generation product without intense scrutiny and research first. This includes Elder Scrolls Online and upcoming Wildstar. I just don’t get the same thrill that others get from the hivemind, and I’m more apt to notice more flaws when I’m paying a premium price for the experience.

But, overall, I’m not cheap. Far from it. Gaming is a great hobby, but the software is only the surface of the experience. The only reason we enjoy the experience at all is because of the hardware we have backing it up. And when you upgrade your hardware, your gaming experience improves across every game you play, not just the latest shiny. For this reason, I’ll spend a lot more on hardware than I ever will on games. Go check out the MMO Juggler’s latest post on upgrading to a new sick 27″ Quad HD (1440p) monitor and try not to be jealous, I dare you. I mean just look at that Guild Wars 2 shot!

Look at it! It’s 1440 lines of awesome. Credit to the awesome MMO Juggler. Click on it to see the full size.

So lately instead of playing games, I’ve been researching and upgrading my hardware and tech and wanted to share the fruits of my labor with you. If you’re looking for great upgrades that are a great bang for your buck, check out this quick list.

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” – Arthur C. Clarke

5) Seagate 1 TB Solid State Hybrid Drive

The standard hard disk drive, a stack of magnetic spinning platters, has been around since the 1950′s and has been the defacto storage for computers today. Over time the platters have been able to hold more, the data transfer speeds have improved, but hard drives have hit a limit on how fast they can be. The physical and mechanical constraints of how fast the plates can spin can only go so high.

The latest storage technology, though, is Solid State, and is found in flash drives, cell phones, and other small devices. Instead of spinning platters, Solid State uses a solid block of material, usually a crystalline semiconductor, and uses electromagnetism and quantum mechanics to store and dispense information. Woah. However, Solid State drives are still relatively small, and still way out of the price range of the average consumer.

But the Seagate Hybrid Drives are well within budget. Seagate has combined the speed of Solid State with the storage capacity and price of HDD. For maybe a modest 20% increase in price, A SSHD gives up to 4 times the speed and a 20% increase in overall responsiveness than a standard HDD. During the sale, I paid $75 for a 1 TB SSHD, which is less than what the standard cost of a 1 TB HDD normally costs! Until SSD’s drop in price, a SSHD is the best value going.

And installation? Couldn’t have been easier. Installing the drive into your case is just plugging the drive into the board, making sure it’s getting power from the PSU, tightening a few screws, then formatting the drive,  cloning it with your current HDD, and finally setting the new drive as the main bootable from BIOS. That’s it. Trust me, you can do it.

So tiny, but it has breathed new life into my TV.

4) Chromecast

Without cable growing up and without cable now, we don’t watch much TV. However, that doesn’t mean we still don’t enjoy streaming video. We currently subscribe to Netflix, love Hulu, and are flirting with the idea of Amazon Instant Video. We also see nothing wrong with dropping a few bucks to stream movies or TV shows we want to see. It’s a new age.

Chromecast, at it’s basic premise, allows you to take any tab in Chrome and stream it directly to any TV with the device attached. On top of that, the Chromecast also has apps for popular services, so it doesn’t even run Netflix from your PC, it picks it up itself.

With this device, my TV is finally getting some use again, and it’s only $35, which is a lot cheaper than my XBox Gold sub was, and a lot less complicated.

Don’t give them more than you have to, especially for the “rented box”.

3) Motorola Surfboard Docsis 3.0 Cable Modem

Do you know the difference between Docsis 2.0 and Docsis 3.0? Do you know which standard your cable modem is using? Do you know what your current Internet plan is capable of? If not, you may want to do some research.

By any stretch, Docsis 3.0 is not a new thing. Over 7 years old, Docsis 3.0 is a telecommunications standard that offers significant transmission speeds and quality over previous generations. However, due to lack of consumer knowledge, it is still not widely in use, even by those who are paying for the tiers to use it. Essentially, if you’re renting your cable modem box from your provider, you’re most likely still using 2.0 and paying them a monthly fee to do so.

This modem not only gives you a significant boost in speed and quality, if your service allows it, but it also frees you from that monthly rental fee! Faster speeds and it will pay for itself over time, this one is really a must-have for any serious internet user. This has gone up in price, too. It use to be $50 when it was a lot less known, but over time it’s gone up to where it is now at $70. Still a solid deal.

Installation might require a technician to come out and install it, and probably the safest way to do so to make sure it’s set up properly, but it can be self-installed. If you self-install, talking to support might still be necessary, though.

Doesn’t take up a lot of room, but boy does it fill up a space.

2) RCA Home Theatre Sound Bar with Bluetooth

This came up on Woot for $40. I picked it up, and have been in love with it ever since. Heck, I didn’t even connect this to my TV for the first couple months I had it and it was still worth it!

Essentially, this speaker bar has multiple speakers, a subwoofer, and pairs smoothly with any bluetooth device, like every smartphone. Having podcasts playing or music around the house became a whole lot easier. Just pair the speaker with your phone, then start playing music. Done.

I then took it a step further and attached it to my TV and suddenly instead of the tinny embedded TV speakers, a much more rich full sound emerged. I watched The Avengers (not usually a superhero fan, but the speaker needed a good test… good movie, though) and the sound alone blew my mind. Paired with the Chromecast from above, I don’t think I’ll ever stream to my computer again. The difference in quality is that substantial.

If you see it again for $40, it’s a must buy, but that price is ridiculously low for a sound bar. Lowest price for a new one is looking around $80, which would cause me to balk. However, if you catch one on a decent sale, it’s well worth the price.

Small, but more than enough to do the job.

1) EVGA GeForce GTX 750

My old card, a PNY GeForce GTX 460, has been showing signs of aging and it has come time to replace it. A video card upgrade always rocks, but the EVGA GeForce GTX 750 is a solid card that can work in a much wider range of systems.

Going from the 460, though, I didn’t know how much of an increase I was going to get. The 460 is twice the size, took up it’s own rails from the power supply, and was a solid workhorse. In comparison, the 750 uses 60% less power, is tiny, and doesn’t need to be plugged into anything but the board. It is a few generations newer, though.

So, for the budget $105 I paid for the card, I wasn’t expecting a significant upgrade. What I got, though, was a significant upgrade. Before installation, I took the time and performed a few benchmarks to see exactly how much of an upgrade I would get, using the 3DMark11 software, which is conveniently available through Steam.

Aside from the Physics scores, which are taking a small hit, I found an across the board 35%-47% increase in graphics processing! So anything having to do with lights, shadows, surfaces, and textures are all getting a serious bump. Not bad. The increase in airflow and power savings would be worth it alone, but the performance increase makes it a solid upgrade.

My system before was no slouch, either. I could play almost any game on full settings easily. Now, though, it’s even easier to do so, and this card should last me a good long time.

Intel Core i7, GeForce GTX 460

Okay, so I’m not the best at cable management. So sue me.

So, overall, the next time you think of dropping a huge sum on the latest and greatest game that’ll cost you $60 for a few weeks play, think about possibly using that for a tech upgrade instead.

You might miss out on one game, but it’ll make the rest of your games a lot more fun.

// Ocho

P.S. – And trust me, if you miss the latest game that everyone’s playing just this once, you’ll live.

Pi Day Shenanigans #π   7 comments

Pi

It’s Pi Day, Pi Day, Gotta Get Round on Pi Day! Everybody’s looking forward to diameters! Diameters!

Alright, so this post isn’t so much about gaming. So sue me. However, it *IS* about Pi! And really, who doesn’t appreciate Pi? I’m a big fan of promoting the maths and sciences, and Pi Day is a great day to do so. So here are a few tricks, a few facts, a few nonsensicles, etc. all about our favorite irrational constant. (Sorry e, they haven’t made an e day yet)

A History of Pi

3.141592653589793238462643383279502884197169399375105820974944592307816406…

Pi (π) is, simply put, the ratio of a circle’s circumference to it’s diameter. Pi is considered an irrational and transcendental number that never ends and never repeats. The exact person or date the ratio was discovered is lost to the ages. There are those that suggest that since the Great Pyramid of Giza has a ratio of the perimeter of the base to the pyramid’s height that comes close to 2π, that the Egyptians have known of pi since the pyramid’s building between 2589 to 2566 B.C. However, this may also just be a coincidence of the efficient design the Egyptians used.

However, a Babylonian tablet from around 1900 to 1680 B.C. *does* calculate pi to 3.125. The Rhind Mathematical Papyrus of 1650 B.C. calculates pi to 3.1605. Pi is even roughly approximated in the King James Bible, in 1 Kings 7:23 in which is being described the construction of a temple by King Solomon:

And he made a molten sea, ten cubits from the one brim to the other: it was round all about, and his height was five cubits: and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about.

30 cubits (an ancient unit of length, the distance from your elbow to the tip of your middle finger) circumference / 10 cubit diameter = 3. Not bad.

It wasn’t until Archimedes, around 250 B.C. started using multi-sided polygons that it changed from being an educated guess to what we know it as today. Using geometry it became more and more refined starting with Archimedes, then mathematicians Ptolemy, Hui, Chongzhi, Aryabhata, Fibonacci, al-Kashi, Viete, Roomen, Ceulen, and Snellius. Pi was refined more and more until Christoph Greinberger, using the same polygonal method, came to 38 digits of Pi in 1630 A.D., which remains the most accurate approximation manually achieved using polygonal algorithms.

Then came the era of infinite series, or using the sums of terms of an infinite sequence, and more refinement by mathematicians such as Somayaji, Madhava, Gregory, Leibniz, and Wallis. Isaac Newton and Leibniz’s discovery of calculus in the 1660′s led to even more refinement.  Abraham Sharp using infinite series calculated pi to 71 digits, finally surpassing Greinberger’s 38. Machin came around in 1708 with a new method that reached 100 digits, and his method culminated in Ferguson’s 1946 620 digits.

Then came the computer era. Around 1949, Wrench and Smith using a desk calculator, reached 1120 digits. Technology kept progressing and the number snowballed finally reaching 1 million digits in 1973. As of 2011, the number of found digits, as I’m sure has been beaten by now, is up to 10 trillion digits.

The funny thing is that as far as functional computations go, no more than 39 digits are necessary, as that is the amount needed to accurately calculate the volume of the known universe to a precision of one atom. We had that in the 1600′s.

So What Use Is Pi To Me?!!!!

That’s all well and good, sure, but what use does the average person need Pi for?!! Well, math is essential to all of our lives. Sure, you may not need it on a daily basis, but you know of it and so probably use it unknowingly. For example, here’s a favorite bar bet on mine:

A height of ~ 3.75 in.

Which is Taller, The Height of My Cup, or it’s Circumference?

Say you’re in a bar. Take your pint glass, or any cup, really, turn to the person next to you and say: “Hey, for the next drink, I bet you are terrible with distance.” If you don’t get punched, take your glass and ask which is longer, the circumference of the top of the cup, or the height. A person who isn’t fluent in math will generally say the height… and they are incorrect. A person who is fluent in math will say the circumference. And they’d be right. “Cool”, you say. And then start stacking. Put under the glass your cell phone, a pad of post-its, etc. and keep asking. Eventually, they’ll say “Okay. The height is bigger.”

The height of the stack finally matches the circumference of the mug, at ~10.5 in.

… and most likely, unless you really put a ton of stuff under it, they’d still be wrong. It’s funny like that, our brains tend to overestimate vertical height, and underestimate horizontal length. The circumference of my mug? ~10.5 in. (Forgive the inadvertent advertising, this is just some of the stuff I have around me… I like tea.)

Get More Pizza For Your Buck

So, pizza, right? Who doesn’t like pizza? Hot sauce and melted cheese over a thin, crispy crust is the thing of gods. So simple, and yet, so complex. But should you get a medium? Should you get a large? How much MORE pizza does an extra 4″ really giving you?

As it turns out, a lot.

I took the menu to a local pizza place and compared some prices, all inches listed are for the diameter of the pizza:

10″ Personal Cheese Pizza – $7.75

14″ Medium Cheese Pizza – $9.75

16″ Large Cheese Pizza – $10.99

Using the simple formula for the area of a circle:  Area = π * (radius)^2, we can calculate the total area of the pizzas. And really area is what we’re going for, as that is a true determination of the quantity of pizza you’re getting.

10″ Personal Cheese Pizza – $7.75 – A = 78.5 sq. in. = 10.13 sq. in. / $

14″ Medium Cheese Pizza – $9.75 – A = 153.86 sq. in. = 15.78 sq. in. / $

16″ Large Cheese Pizza – $10.99 – A = 200.96 sq. in. = 18.29 sq. in. / $

Well damn. Look at that. If we use the Personal Pizza as a baseline, we see that the Medium pizza is almost twice the size! The large is not as big of a difference, and is only 2.5 times the size of the personal and only ~30% larger than the medium. However, even if you get the large, you’re still getting the most pizza for your dollar.

Your results may vary, depending on what your local places charge, but most likely the results will end up about the same. Also it depends on how hungry you are. If you’re only hungry for 78 sq in of pizza, by all means don’t pay more for wasted food.

Speaking of Pizza…

I’ve definitely seen this make the rounds, but to figure out the Total Area of a Pizza, you use…. PIZZA! Crazy!

We aren’t talking about the area of a circle, though, but the area of a cylinder. Afterall, pizzas have height, too.

The formula for the area of a cylinder is thus:

Area = π * (radius)^2 * height

If the radius = z, and the height = (just roll with us here, these are totally legit substitutions) then:

The Area of a Pizza becomes: Pi * z * z * a

BOOM!

Test the Speed of Your Computer’s Processor

Occasionally I build computers. So far, I’ve built them for myself, for friends, and for family, but I definitely know my way around the interior of a PC box. Not too long ago, I upgraded my system to a nice, probably overkill, but wicked Core i7-3770 Quad Core processor. It is a thing of beauty. I had upgraded from a much older AMD Dual Core, and wanted to know exactly what kind of upgrade I had received. Sadly, the exact figures have been lost to time, but let’s just say it was a very healthy difference.

I found out, though, using a very simple benchmark program that involves, you probably have guessed it by now, calculating Pi! It’s called Super Pi, and it simply calculates how long it takes your processor to calculate to 1 million digits of Pi. In fact, you could even tell it to keep going, but most time 1 million is enough to get a decent benchmark, and with today’s computers it’ll be done in seconds. Go ahead and put your system through it’s paces, too. A medium-end system generally takes about 15 minutes to calculate 32 million digits.

Einstein

Other Fun Pi Facts

π – The Alt-Code for the greek symbol representing Pi is Alt-227. Just hold down Alt and type ’227′, and Pi will appear on your screen.

π – All in a bid to improve math and science in our country, in 2009 the United States House of Representatives designated March 14th as “Pi Day”. July 22nd is even designated as “Pi Approximation Day”, as sometimes 22/7 is used to approximate it, but we don’t really want to celebrate an approximation, right?! (Oh wait… since Pi can never be fully calculated, we use an approximate, huh? Ah well.)

π – Pi Day is also Albert Einstein’s Birthday! The man, the myth, the legend.

π – My wife and I celebrate the day we started dating on February 7th. If we were to give other transcendental irrational numbers days, then February 7th would be “e Day”! How awesome is that?! (e ≈ 2.71…)

π – Salvadore Dali was a big fan of the irrational Pi and used a lot of mathematical principals in his art. The Dali Museum in Flordia even celebrates Pi Day in his honor with all kinds of events!

Wow

Longest post ever? Yeah, but so it goes. If you made it here to the end, please have some pie! Compliments of CSTM.

So go out, my awesome readers, and see the wonder and the majesty that is Pi. Appreciate the history, the search for knowledge, get more pizza than you can eat, check out a Dali painting or two, build a computer, and win a bet.

Happy Pi Day all!

// Ocho

P.S. – Pi Day Shenanigans has also been brought to you by Math Happens. Follow it on Twitter at @YouGotMathed. Why? Because You Just Got Mathed!

Sources: 

Happy Pi Day: Fun Facts About Our Favorite Irrational Number

Bible Gateway: 1 Kings 7

Wikipedia: Pi

Wikipedia: e

Wikipedia: Cubit

The roles of altitude and fear in the perception of height

Today I Found Out: The Mathematical Volume of a Pizza is Pizza

www.SuperPi.net 

The Dali Museum, Calendar

www.Alt-Codes.net 

CNET: National Pi Day? Congress Makes it Official

Wikipedia: Pi Day

Woojer, Kicking Gaming Up A Notch   Leave a comment

When I was younger, I attended more than a few rock concerts. I loved them. Especially the long, all day, 20+ band affairs. You name it, pretty much every rock band of the 90′s I’ve seen. So now here I am, in my early 30′s, an adult, an avid gamer, and, well… let’s just say I didn’t escape some permanent damage from all those concerts. My wife just asked me if I could bring up her smartphone, but I clearly heard her say “Can you bedazzle my trombone”. Yeah…

Also, in any given social situation, if the level of ambient noise reaches a certain volume, I completely lose the ability to hear someone even a foot away from me. Combine this with my inability to read lips, and I might as well have stayed at home. I haven’t lost all of my hearing, but it’s definitely not as sharp as it could be. That’s why, being a gamer, a fan of live music, and having some hearing damage, this new Kickstarter I came across really looked like something I’d be into.

It’s called Woojer, and it looks like it’s going to be a necessary addition to my gaming habit. Woojer is essentially a “woofer” you attach to your clothing and headphones that allows you to physically “feel” sound. It has, at it’s core, a proprietary polyphonic transducer that “plays” these low frequencies. When you hear the audible sounds from your games, and then feel the corresponding vibrations from Woojer, your brain picks up the slack. Using Perceptual Inference, the ability for your brain to essentially make up what is not there but what it thinks should be there, it translates the two stimuli as one. So when you listen to music, it feels as though you are at the concert. When playing a game, that helicopter will feel like it really just passed over you.

Secret World, A Time to Kill, Woojer

As Neal Naimer, one of the people behind Woojer, states in this PA Report interview:

The principle of operation is perceptual inference, or auto completion. The product simulates the sensation of live music or a very strong sound system. Using a Woojer on a single point on your body is enough to convince the brain that the entire body is receiving sound…

Placing Woojers on your body makes the sensation even more immersive. Imagine adding an augmented reality device such as Woojer which transforms any audio signal into silent, harmonic tactile sensations that resonate throughout the body to other existing immersive devices like the Oculus Rift VR headset.

I’m not a huge fan of putting on any extra headwear to experience more immersive gameplay. I already wear glasses, so adding an extra layer in front of them feels a little awkward. However, wearing a simple device that I can attach to my shirt? Done. I’ve already signed on as a backer, and since the Kickstarter has successfully funded, I hopefully WILL be receiving one of these fantastic devices next Spring.

The Kickstarter funding period will conclude very soon, in about four days, at 10:10 AM EST on Friday, December 6th. So if you want one, you better hop on it while discounts are still available.

Half-Life, Woojer

This won’t obviously cure my already damaged hearing, but if what the site says is true, I may not have to keep my headphones turned up that loud, either. So more immersive gameplay, more intense music and movies, and not having to keep it at levels that could further damage my hearing? This sounds like a huge win all around.

// Ocho

Posted December 1, 2013 by Ocho in Other

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Some MMO Poetry, Because Why Not? #NBI   9 comments

Star Trek Online, Space

This is for you, Syl… and you as well, Jeromai.

For your reading pleasure, here is a collection of MMO haiku, made up on the spot. Random, creative, MMO-based poetry goodness. If you’re feeling creative as well, how about starting up your own site, or joining up with other writers? It’s not as hard as you might think. Enjoy.

Guild Wars 2, Puzzle

Fiction or Real Life?

Friends we meet in game are real.

Reality blurs.

—————————————–

I level crafting,

but can’t make good leveled gear!

Why is this useless?!

Elite Polaris, Draugh, dungeon

Knights, Templars, Castles.

The sword was overpowered.

Still true to this day.

—————————————

“Hey! Big bad boss guy!

Look at my big armored butt!

… Whoops… I lost aggro.”

Star Trek Online, U.S.S. Split Aces, Foundry

“Captain, it’s the Borg!”

“My tribble is in the bank.”

“GTFO, Noob!”

————————————–

The Bad-Ass Templars,

Sneaky Illuminati,

Confusing Dragon.

Guild Wars 2, Lion's Arch, Environment

I love Guild Wars 2.

It’s like walking through fine art,

with mass violence.

————————————-

One more special mark,

until I’m finally done!

Wait… there is more grind?!

Newbie Blogger Initiative, Poetry Slam

Fin.

// Ocho

How To Earn MMO Store Credits Just By Web Searching   1 comment

Neverwinter, Bing, Rixty, Earn Free Points

I know, it sounds like a scam. Trust me, that’s exactly the way I thought of it, too. That is, however, until I started to receive tangible rewards.

The process is simple:

1) Sign up for Bing Rewards. – Bing is Microsoft’s search engine, that is simply not as popular as Google. The main difference between them, though, in my opinion, is negligible. Searches in Bing turn up decent results, image search is spot on, etc. The big difference is that Bing offers a reward program for using it’s service.

2) Earn points for daily searches. You can earn, on average, 16 points per day. There are days that they give out more points, too.

3) Redeem points for many different rewards, including a Rixty Universal Game Card. The $5 card, like many rewards, will take about 30 days to complete.

So, the catch is simply that you use Bing as a search engine, and it’s only $5 worth of earned rewards per month. That’s it. Max out the daily points stipend (easy to do if you use the recommended search function), and redeem them when you have enough.

Of course, you don’t have to JUST get the game card. There are many, many other offers. For example, I just redeemed all of my points for $20 worth of Amazon gift cards. Aside from Rixty and Amazon, you could redeem points for Starbucks, ProFlowers, RedBox, Skype, Groupon, Hulu, charities, or sweepstakes. I’ve primarily been using mine for Amazon, and have yet to try Rixty, but I may now that it’s offered.

The hardest part, I’m sure, will be switching from Google. But think: every time you do a Google search is points you could be earning using Bing. Or, heck, don’t switch at all. Just use Bing for the rewards, and still use Google. You really don’t have to 100% switch.

The games that Rixty supports is pretty extensive, too. Age of Conan, Age of Wushu, Aion, Allods, Champions, EvE Online, Kingdom of Loathing (which I just started playing), Lineage II, MapleStory, Neverwinter, Runes of Magic, Rusty Hearts, Spiral Knights, Star Trek Online, TERA, World of Tanks, and hundreds of others I’ve never heard of before.

So, yeah. $5 per month isn’t going to go a long way and isn’t going to be hugely worth it when you have to save up 5 months of points to buy a single starship, but it’s a trickle effect. Get into the habit of maxing out the searches when you first sign on (takes about 2 minutes), and eventually, the points will just be there.

And plus, it’s a much better alternative than sketchy surveys or credit card offers, and allows you to check out game shops without having to spend any real money.

// Ocho

P.S. – There is a Refer-A-Friend program, too, but that’s not why I’m telling all of you about this. The points earned through referral can be made in a few days. However, if you care to go through under my referral, please use this link.

Posted October 7, 2013 by Ocho in Other

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The Genius of Steam’s Trading Cards   2 comments

I popped open Steam today and saw something unexpected; a number one surrounded in green next to the letter icon by the top of the screen. I wasn’t expecting anything, so I found this curious. Lo and behold, I had received a Space Pirates and Zombies Booster Pack! SPaZ is a surprisingly fun and deep indie space arcade shooter title I recently picked up from a Humble Bundle that has since ended. Quite a fun title.

So out of all the games in my collection, and out of all the titles I just received in the Bundle, why did I decide to try out SPaZ? Simply… the cards.

If it’s a mentality that Steam knows well, it’s that of the gamer. We collect, we hoard, we have long term digital goals and there isn’t much that will stop us from reaching said digital goals. One of the first questions asked of new MMOs is always “What is there to do at end-game?” A new title can be months or years away, and we have already planned out that we will play it to it’s completion and want something more to do when we reach it’s highest peaks.

SteamCards2

If you haven’t heard of them by now, Steam Trading Cards are collectible cards acquired by playing participating games through Steam. You collect a full set of these cards, combine them together, and receive more cards, items to customize your Steam background, emoticons to chat with your friends, and possibly receive a coupon for another Steam game. So, essentially, a collecting game on top of a game. Just what we need, a meta-game, right? Well, even if you have no interest, but still use Steam, it definitely behooves you to join in the Trading Card circus. 

So, okay, say you don’t care about backgrounds, hats, or other fluff. That’s cool. For you folks, there’s the Steam Community Market. Don’t like a card you have, sell it! Just like any MMO’s auction house, you can sell any card for a small profit. I do mean small, though, maybe about 10 – 20 cents per card. But they add up quick. Especially if you acquire randomly dropped booster packs just by logging in to Steam. $.40 here, $.20 there. With the funds, buy a small indie game that drops more cards, collect more cards, sell them, etc. No money needs to be invested to start on it, either, just sell them to other gamers. The more badges that are created, though, the more cards are handed out, to keep the card economy stable.

From my good buddy Windcaller. Play games to pay for other games. Simple and elegant. I like it.

Here’s where it’s a genius strategy and a Win-Win for everybody. We all know this and it’s the fact casinos use and was made famous in the movie Office Space: Small profits multiplied a million times over equals huge profits. This IGN article sums the math of Steam cards up nicely, so I’ll quote it here:

“…The company takes a 5% cut of every transaction, and a 10% cut goes back to the game publisher (encouraging widespread adoption of the trading card system). So those 115 booster packs sold yesterday? They made Valve $10 and 2K Games $20, as well as $175 for gamers directly. Of course, the “profit” gamers make goes back into each seller’s Steam wallet, ensuring Valve eventually gets a bigger payday.

$20 doesn’t sound like much, but individual Borderlands 2 cards and items are also for sale, to let people fill gaps in their collection. Around 2,000 were sold yesterday alone, for around $0.30 each. That’s another $40 for 2K and $20 for Valve. Around 225 ultra-rare “foil” Borderlands 2 cards were also sold yesterday, for around $1.85, generating $36 for 2K and $18 for Valve.

Suddenly, these numbers aren’t so small. Totaled up, Steam users selling Borderlands 2 digital goods generated $96 for 2K and $48 for Valve in a single day. That’s $35,040 a year for 2K and $17,520 for Valve. For one game. There are 144 (and counting) Steam games that support trading cards.”

See that? It’s not just Steam making the money off the sale of cards, it’s the developers of the games, too. Trading cards helps the companies who make these games, especially these great indie titles, even more money at practically zero effort on the part of the developers.  In the above example, $35k might be chump change for 2K games, but that’s not chump change for someone like Team Meat, makers of Super Meat Boy. That’s a nice payday and extra appreciation for their work.

So, overall, Steam wins, the developers win, and gamers win. What’s not to like about that?

// Ocho

Posted August 14, 2013 by Ocho in Other

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A Plan to Chip Away at my Gaming Backlog   8 comments

Ack! Zombies!

Have you ever taken a look at your Steam list of games and thought “Damn. By the time I get to playing all of these, we won’t even have computers anymore! We’ll be downloading games directly into our brain-chips!” I think this a lot. And yet, it doesn’t stop me from seeing that great 80% off deal and adding onto the list. There is some tricky psychology at work here, and I’m sure it’s pretty obvious, something like False Scarcity or The Sunk Cost Fallacy, but hell if I’m powerful enough to stop it.

To that end, I need to get to playing some of these eventually! And what better time than the present. But how do I go about it where I get the most out of the limited time I already have available?

Syp over at Bio Break has his gaming time scheduled down to the day. I like it, but then what happens if real life responsibilities or just other events cause you to miss a day? Do you then have a two week stretch in between sessions? Can you even make progress at that rate?

Nicole over at Mama Needs Mana takes a different turn with scheduling ahead of time, but still keeping it loose. This also has lots of merits, but sometimes I find it even harder to schedule even what I’m going to play tonight! If there are other people involved, I tend to back off as I know how flaky I can be.

And finally, the prolific Rowan at IHTTS tends to just play as long as a game holds his interest. This is how I normally roll as well, but at this rate, I’ll drown in my backlog. If I wait until I’m jonesing to play a game, it’ll never happen as something new and shinier will have surely come along.

So to recap so far, I want to play different games, not to have too long of a stretch in between game sessions, not schedule ahead of time (as I know myself pretty well), but still make some progress. Seems like a tall order.

Well, this may not be perfect (but what first attempts usually are), but based on all of this I’ve devised a system that I think will work:

1) To start, on the first day, play whatever game you like. Anything.

2) On your next play session, you can’t play any game you played the previous session, but you can play any other game.

3) Quick maintenance sessions, like a holiday daily ala Star Trek Online, or setting up graphic requirements after installation Do Not Count as a play session.

4) Enjoy as you start ticking games off your list.

So, as my above spreadsheet shows, I started off on the 29th with The Secret World, so on the 30th I couldn’t play TSW. So I played Bully instead. On the 31st, I could play TSW again, but decided to give Torchlight a shot, as its a quick easy game and I didn’t have a lot of time. On the 1st, I only couldn’t play Torchlight, but the next chapter in The Walking Dead was calling me. Friday and Saturday I didn’t have any time to play, although I did buy the last Skyrim expansion, Dragonborn, so on Sunday I played that.

The way I see it, it could roll that I then end up switching off on two separate games as I get hooked on them, but then I’ll be making headway in two games. If I’m really getting into a particular game and have the dopamine flowing nicely when I play it, it’ll only be a single day minimum in between when I can play it again, and during that time I can make progress in other games. I see this as a win-win.

Of course, the saying that keeps flashing through my head is “The best laid plans of mice and men / often go awry.” We’ll see if this works for me in the long run, but I think it’s a good start.

// Ocho

P.S. – Voting has concluded on what YOU think I should play, and at 20 votes, it ended up being a really tight race, but with a majority of 5 votes, Half-Life ended up the big winner! So, on my next play session, Half-Life it will be! Thank you to everyone who voted!! Ended up being a few more than the 3 votes I thought I would get. :)

Posted August 8, 2013 by Ocho in Other

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So Much To Play, So Little Time [Poll]   3 comments

So, tell me, what exactly do I play now?

Welcome to my summer gaming habits. I know, I know… I haven’t updated since May 12th. Bad Ocho, very bad Ocho. So sue me. I have this thing that happens during the summer where suddenly my want to sit behind my computer screen playing games suddenly falls off the table. Going for walks, grilling on my deck, visiting friends, impromptu bar runs, it all suddenly becomes a much greater priority than gaming. Hence why I shall always remain in the “casual” category of gamers. It’s not that I don’t love my hobby, it’s just that it’s still just a hobby and as such, takes that low position amongst my priorities. So, during the summer, I may not update as often as other times, and also sometimes I don’t feel like I’m adding a whole bunch to the conversation, so this leads to periods of inactivity. That is just my introverted, worrying, insecure side talking, though. And sometimes it’s right. However, I’m sure I’m not inconveniencing my legion of readers by taking periodic breaks.

But ANYWAY, I’m starting to see a trend among my fellow bloggers, a trend of… exploration. And I, being an intrepid explorer myself, am willing to leave the choice of which game in my collection I should play up to the fates (that would be you). Now, my collection is pretty big, what with Steam and GoG.com being sooo tempting at times, so below is a list of 5 games that I have never touched, or never really got that far in, that I would like to give a shot.

Some are MMO’s, some are not. Some are newer, some are older. My tastes are very eclectic. So, please, pick the game that you would most like to play vicariously, and I will try my best to live up to it. If you have any suggestions, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below…

All 3 of you. :P

Posted July 31, 2013 by Ocho in Other

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The Newbie Blogger Initiative – 1 Year Later   23 comments

Would you look at that… a full year has passed, and Casual Aggro is still up and running. Believe me, I’m as shocked as you are. Although I had a few warm-up posts, I claim the real starting date of this blog to be May 1st, 2012, when Syp of Massively and Bio Break started a movement to help new bloggers find their footing in this crazy interwebz.

So, Happy Anniversary to all my fellow NBI brethren! To which, I’m happy to say, there are many still around.

After taking a look at the full list of blogs posted back on May 30th, 2012, there were 111 new blogs formed during the initiative. I opened up every single one to take a look and see how many were still active (yes, I had 100+ tabs open in Chrome and my PC didn’t blink… this thing is a BEAST), and the results surprised me. One would expect a great number of these blogs to have slowed down or stopped updating entirely, and a great number did. However, a large number did not close up shop and are still updating today! In figuring these numbers, any blog that has updated anytime in the past month qualified as being “active”.

And, guess what? Out of the 111 starting blogs, 28 are still active today, giving a retention rate of over 25%!! So, yeah, I’d call it a huge success!

So, out of the 28, I’d like to spotlight a few of them as blogs that you should add to your RSS feed immediately.

Ravalation

Spearheaded by the fantastic Ravanel Griffon, Ravalation is all about the adventures and misadventures of her time gaming in Lord of the Rings Online and Star Wars: The Old Republic. She is also the most prolific blogger in the entire group of 111, and her words jump off the page with so much energy that you can’t help but be a fan! I know I am. If you check out one blog from the NBI 2012 group, make sure it’s this one.

Most recent post: LOTRO’s 6-Year Anniversary!

MMO Juggler

If there’s a game-jumper who even out-jumps myself, it’s the MMO Juggler. Everything from Lord of the Rings Online, to Age of Wushu, to EVE Online, to Guild Wars 2, to The Secret World. You name it, he’s probably played it and has a comprehensive write-up about it. Now THAT’s dedication.

Most recent post: GW2 Lowbie Zone Exploration

MMO One Night A Week

No, I didn’t just pick Kanter‘s blog because he based his latest blog post after something I wrote (which I’m very flattered about, by the way). I’ve been reading his blog for the past year, and I love the premise as it’s a universal one: Not enough time, but a love of gaming. Although most of his gaming time is spent in World of Warcraft these days, a game I’m not too terribly fond of, I still like to hear about his exploits from the perspective of an uber-busy gaming fan.

Most recent post: MMOs and Gambling

Conveniently Placed Exhaust Port

Forgive me Jason, but I did not start following you on Twitter until today. However, I’ve been following your blog for quite a while!

For those of you who aren’t Jason, yesterday’s rant on Candy Crush Saga, for example, is a must read. Seriously. Go check it out. Jason mixes his impressions of games with a humor that is spot-on and 100% relatable.

Most recent post: The aforementioned Letter to Candy Crush Saga

Trust me when I say that these are not the only worthwhile blogs out there from the Newbie Blogger Initiative group. Here is a list of the remaining active blogs, please go and check them out:

Why I Game / Healing Mains / Stynlan’s Musings /  Neurotic Girl / Warp to Zero / Dreadblade / White Charr / FunSponge / World’s End Tavern / Wynniekins’ Adventures / That Was An Accident / Altaclysmic / The Adventures of Danania / Red’s Roid Rage / Bloodthorne / Unwavering Sentinel / Sephora’s Closet / Warlockery / Elfkina Vezicka (Slovak) / Beyond Tannhauser Gate / Noob Raider (Japanese) / The Delver / Geotia’s Letters

That’s a much easier list to swallow than the whole 111 that started.

So, again, I wanted to give a huge Thank You to Syp for starting the movement in the first place, and an even bigger Thank You to all of my friends, supporters, and readers who make me look forward to creating my future posts.

You all rock!

// Ocho

P.S. – I still can’t believe I lost the “Promising Star” Award by only 3 votes… to a blog that is not even active anymore! Ah well. So it goes…

Posted May 1, 2013 by Ocho in Other

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A Personal Argument Against the Always-On Trend   5 comments

So last Sunday I was all set up to write a post about crafting in The Secret World, how there is no real guide for it, and essentially make a guide for those not really knowing what to do with the random runes and dust they pick up. However, my Comcast internet would have none of it. Trying to play the game for research was an abysmal failure. Every mob I fought would straight-up slaughter me during a lag spike. My once strong download speeds without packet losses, lag, latency, or jitter, great for gaming and watching streaming video has, over the past week, degraded to the point that my primary hobby is fully out of commission.

Now, I’m relatively tech savvy. I built my own gaming rig, I know a thing or two about the multitude of OS options out there, and I’m asked frequently by friends, family, and strangers for tech advice. So, when I encounter network problems, I generally know how to approach them. After going through all the checks and rechecks, the problem is not my router, it is not my cable modem, nor is it my computer. The problem lies outside of the tech that I can affect, and now I must rely on Comcast to come and attempt to fix the problem, which could take weeks (or as a friend lovingly told me about dealing with Comcast, possibly months). Lovely.

Gaming wise, though, I have been stuck on The Secret World. Trying to play it now is utterly futile. Any MMO I would play is futile. Without a stable and reliable internet connection, there is no point in even trying.

But ANY game needing a full-time internet connection is out, for possibly weeks. With the current trend in gaming this would also means games like Diablo 3, SimCity, and if I had the next generation XBox, literally any game I would own for that console. These aren’t just MMOs, games where always being connected gives you the benefit of community, these are single-player games with unnecessary multi-player extras tacked on. But yet, if I owned them, I would now be completely unable to play them.

So, tell me, honestly, who hasn’t this happened to? Who hasn’t, at some point, lost usable service? Apparently,  if you have Comcast as your service provider, which in my area Comcast is the ONLY choice for wired internet and holds a monopoly, service drops are frequent and the norm. Getting lines repaired could cost me more out-of-pocket expenses (on top of my monthly fee) and take weeks or months to fix. I’m sure it’s not just Comcast, though.

If there is any physical component, and hardware involved in your network, that hardware is capable of failing. Sometimes there is nothing you can do about it, either. It’s not a question of how or why, but when.

So who is this shift in the always-on trend really supposed to be benefiting? With Microsoft telling us to just #DealWithIt, EA being named the worst company in America due to gamer backlash from it, and Blizzard straight-up not caring, it is certainly not the gamers. And yet, gamers will still throw money after money at these games and think nothing of it. Think nothing of the possibility of having their single-player games servers being shut off, or the possibility their hard-earned money is going  to a purchase that can instantly become as useful as a paperweight (less, even, a paperweight can still hold down papers).

I hope companies like EA and Blizzard really are getting the message that this is not acceptable. We, as intelligent people making intelligent purchases, should not give them a single dime for any product that demands these always-on connections. We’re simply paying them for the privilege of giving them more power. Power that they, frankly, don’t deserve. Give us real reasons as to why an always-on connection is beneficial, or options to use it or not, put the power back into the consumers hands.

Until then, I’m voting with my wallet, as it seems the only language these companies understand.

// Ocho

Posted April 16, 2013 by Ocho in Other

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