Thursday, March 31, 2011

Castlevania: Circle of the Moon

I came to a horrible realization recently. Ever since they started making the Twilight vampire movies, Konami has stopped making Castlevania games.  I used to buy a Castlevania game every year, and now, thanks to those sparkly vampires running real vampires off the stage, there aren't any games for me to buy.

And so, I decided to remind everyone just how awesome Castlevania is, by giving a recap of every handheld Castlevania game.

-==-==--

Castlevania: Circle of the Moon was the first Castlevania game I ever played.  Unless I'm mistaken, the plot of game goes like this.  Count Dracula has been brought back to life by his loyal vampire servant, Camilla.  For no apparent reason, Dracula has a patchy, homeless man beard.  Dracula is planning to take over the world, when three vampire hunters show up: Buffy, Faith and...no wait, I mean, our hero Nathan, Morris the Mentor, and Hugh (AKA Captain Whiny Butt).

Dracula kidnaps Morris the Mentor, then throws the other two hunters into a pit.  Captain Whiny Butt starts whining.  Nathan decides he's going to travel through the entire castle, save his mentor, and force Dracula to shave.  Thus, the adventure begins.

I can still remember going through the underground caves for the first time, trying to figure out to move Nathan around the screen.  The B-Button attack animation was so strange that it took me a while to realize Nathan was using a whip.  A whip?  Really?  That's going to take some getting used to.  How do you attack with a whip, anyway?

And there were skeleton enemies who threw bones at you, which were easy enough to kill, but their projectiles still managed to hurt you even after they were dead.  And there were bat enemies, which flew up and down and dodged the whip attacks.  And dripping slime enemies took away half of my health before I realized they were poisonous.  And then I died before reaching the first save point, and my reaction was, "Awesome."

It was awesome, that's all.  The gameplay felt so unique to me, with the cool whip that requires you to attack enemies in a totally different way than in other games.  Plus, the enemies had more complicated attack patterns than the basic "move up and down" or "move left and right".  And there were all sorts of upgrades, like the double jump which made exploring so much fun, and...gosh, exploring.  It was just fun, exploring the game and going through every single new area.  Especially the Eternal Corridor, my favorite section of the game.

The game also has a unique DSS fighting system, which involves collecting cards so you can do all sorts of crazy magic spells like "heal your HP slowly by standing in place" or "turn your whip into a fire whip" or "summon a giant thunderbird to attack all enemies onscreen".  The best part was that the game never told you what the magic spells did ahead of time, so you'd have to guess what the effect would be.  I thought the DSS system was great, even though the whole Internet complained about it.

The game was surprisingly large for a platformer.  I actually think it may be bigger than the Zelda GBA game.  All throughout the game, I was wondering how long it would go on before it would end.  And because I kept revisiting areas, the answer was "Very long indeed".

The other thing I really liked about this game was that I could tie a rubber band around my GBA, so it would hold down the B-Button.  That way, the character would constantly attack the zombie enemies in the first area.  I'd let the game sit like that for several hours and come back to find out I had gained twenty levels.  It was great.

As the game goes on, Nathan has a few run-ins with Captain Whiny Butt, who gets progressively more and more whiny.  Eventually, it is revealed that Captain Whiny Butt has turned evil.  Huge plot twist, I know.
Also, the game makes it seem that Captain Whiny Butt and Dracula have a...thing going on between the two of them.  Now you basically have to kill Dracula, just to get that image out of your mind.

Of course, our hero Nathan arrives just in time to save Morris the Mentor.  There's a big showdown with Dracula, and then there's a second showdown with Dracula, when Dracula is a giant flying thing that shoots laser beams from his eyes and rides on a red monster that shoots out poison bubbles.  It made no sense whatsoever, and it had nothing at all to do with Dracula, but it was a tough boss battle nonetheless.

And of course, once you beat the game, that unlocked Fighter Mode. Fighter Mode basically lets you replay the game, with different stats.  And after you beat the game on Fighter Mode, you can do Magician Mode.  And once you beat the game on Magician Mode, you can do the other mode which isn't worth playing so nobody bothered to try it.

In conclusion, I give this game a ten out of te--oh, wait, this isn't a review. In any case, Circle of the Moon was a great game, even if it had nothing to do with circles or the moon.  It was a really strong first game for the GBA Castlevania series, and everybody loved it, even if Dracula needs a shave.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Honesty, Party Three

Today, I'm writing Part Three of my mini-series on honesty.  (If you're interested, read Part One and Part Two.)

Last time, I talked about little white lies, which some people say are okay to tell.  Other people think you shouldn't tell lies, even little white ones.  So the question remains: when is it okay to tell lies?

The traditional example of "when it's okay to lie" comes from Immanuel Kant, who wrote a special appendix about this topic in one of his books. The example is this. Your friend--let's call him Hans--is inside your house, when someone knocks on the door. You answer the door, and see Gottileb, the local axe murderer. "Hi, I'm here to kill your friend Hans!" Gottileb says, showing off his axe. "Is he inside your house right now?"

The question: Is it okay to lie in this situation?

Most discussions about lying come down to this. People think you should never lie, unless something really bad will happen as a result of telling the truth.

Kant still insists that it's never okay to lie (or do anything else that is bad).  In the above situation, he says you should say something like, "I refuse to tell you where Hans is." That's not a lie, right? But it's also not doing a bad thing by betraying your friend.
So that's one answer to the question of what to do in situations where it seems like telling the truth could be tricky: say something else.  Change the topic, or say something on-topic which is true, but less dangerous to say.  Those are both good ways to get out of a tricky situation without lying.

Of course, you don't want to push it to the extreme where you're playing word games and twisting the truth with every word, which is tantamout to lying.  But I'm sure you already knew that.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Yesterday's Blog Post

People seem a bit worried about yesterday's blog post, so let me clarify something:

There is no danger of me suddenly deleting my Youtube Channel, without explanation.

I can turn off the ability to make comments on my videos, but I'm not going to do that. People love to make comments on videos!  Especially those people who always comment "FIRST!" on every single video.

I liked Flashman85's idea of me doing a video walkthrough of something other than an adventure game.  Actually, I've been planning on doing a special walkthrough like that for some time now.  The game is sort of like a dating sim, Harvest Moon, Pokemon, and English class, all rolled into one.  I won't say any more about it now, because I'm not certain if I'll do a walkthrough for it yet.

Today, the new Back to the Future game comes out, and I'll definitely going to play that before doing any more video walkthroughs.

Monday, March 28, 2011

YouTube Messages

I've stopped responding to the messages that people send me on Youtube, after several months where 90% of the messages were not worth reading. The messages tended to fall under these categories:

1. A message sent to 100 people at once.
2. A message from someone who has a question about a game, but is too lazy to actually check one of my guides.
3. A message that you can't really respond to.  (Sample message: "HIIIIIIiiiiii!!!!")

I used to read every comment and message. Then, I stopped reading comments.  Now, I'm not reading messages.  Is this a sign that I'm getting closer and closer to the day when I stop making video walkthroughs all together?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Professor Layton Series

The Nintendo 3DS is being released today, and everyone expected it would immediately sell out.  Those hopes may have been premature, because I went by my local GameStop, and they still had plenty of copies left for sale.

I think the reason the 3DS hasn't sold well yet is because none of the 3DS games available for purchase seem very...good.  I mean, from what I hear, the best game they have is a flying sim.  Plus, the GameStop I went to has a strict "we won't let you see what the 3D looks like unless you buy the system" policy, which makes me suspicious that the 3D doesn't really work all that well.

In Japan, the 3DS sold a lot of copies, and their best-selling game was Professor Layton 3DS.  See, now that's a game people will buy.  Why don't we have cool launch titles like that?

Oh, right, because we're two years behind Japan.  For those of you who don't know about this, check out my handy-dandy recap of the Professor Layton series:

Game TitleReleased in Japan?Released Elsewhere?
1. Professor Layton and the Curious VillageYesYes
2. Professor Layton Rides a Choo-Choo TrainYesYes
3. Professor Layton Goes Back to the FutureYesYes
4. Professor Layton and the Specter's FluteYesNo
5. Professor Layton RPGYesNo
6. The Professor Layton MovieYesOnly in the UK
7. Professor Layton and the Mask of Miracle (3DS)YesNo
8. Professor Layton VS Phoenix WrightComing This Year!Probably Never.

Right now, the big question outside of Japan is, "When is Game #4 going to be released?" No announcement has been made, except for "eventually".  But as the 3DS marches on, and the Layton series drags behind, it's starting to look more and more likely that they'll just skip over the DS titles and go straight to translating the 3DS game.



There are a few lesser-known games in the series, such as the cell phone game, the other cell phone game, the special edition of the first game, and the really short bonus story for the second game.  People are most excited about the first cell phone game, Professor Layton RPG, made by one of the companies responsible for Mother 3.  It was so popular in Japan that they bundled it with Game #4.  They're going to do the same thing here...right?  Right?

...We're so not getting Game #4.  And Professor Layton VS Phoenix Wright is going to have something horrible in it, like an awkward kiss between Maya and Layton, or Phoenix Wright and Luke becoming drunken hobos together.  And the non-Japan release date won't be until 2013.  I'm depressed now.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

March Newsletter

The March Newsletter has been released by the Nancy Drew company.  It's all about Nancy Drew: Secret of Shadow Ranch for the iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch.

We also have a letter from the CEO of Her Interactive, which I thought was nice.

Have any of you readers played this game?  What's it like?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Reflection on St. Athanasius' Homily

Yesterday, I was translating Saint Athanasius' homily on Matthew 11:27. One sentence took hold of my imagination, and I wrote a minor reflection on it.

Greek: Παρεδόθη γὰρ αὐτῷ, ὡς ἰατρῷ, θεραπεῦσαι τὸ δῆγμα τοῦ ὄφεως· ὡς ζωῇ, ἀνεγεῖραι τὸ νεκρόν· ὡς φωτὶ, καταυγάσαι τὸ σκότος· καὶ λόγῳ ὄντι, ἀνακαινίσαι τὸ λογικόν.

English: All things were delievered to him [Jesus], as to a priest, so he could heal the sting of the serpent, as for life, so he could raise up what was dead, as for light, so he could brighten the darkness, and being the Word, he could renew man's nature.

---

This sentence, though complex, contains many great mysteries for our personal reflections.

All humans were delivered to Jesus the Priest, so he could heal them. Here, the primary role of Jesus as priest is that of a healer. Healing is an essential part of the theology of the priesthood. It is why the healing sacraments (confession, annointing of the sick) can only be performed by priests. A priest who does not heal his people is no priest at all, but he is instead a burden to his parishoners. "The priest is not his own," as Archbishop Fulton Sheen says, and the priest who does not live for his parishoners, to help and to heal them, harms both himself and others, and undermines the mission of Christ. They are like the Pharisees of Jesus' day, who put heavy burdens on the shoulders of their people but did not lift a finger to help people support their burdens. Let us pray that all priests may be healers, not wounders.

And what is the wound that needs healing? It is the sting of the serpent, the bite of the snake. In other words, it is the incurable wound which overwhelms God's people (Jeremiah 14:17), the great destruction that was brought upon all creation through the cunning of the serpent. This great destruction is still taking place today, as Satan tries to do everything in his power to destroy the hope of humanity. Only Jesus is able to heal the wound of original sin. Being the Word of God—i.e. by his dual nature of God and human—Christ was able to renew humanity, to restore humanity to its original position. The priest has healed us, the wound is cured, and we are no longer slaves of sin, but now we live in Christ.

At the end of the sentence, which reads "Jesus could renew man's nature", St. Athanasius uses the word logicon. This word means "nature" in general, but it specifically refers to rational nature, as opposed to irrational nature. (This is why logicon later became the word logical in English.) By using this word, Athanasius indicates that, before the Fall in the Garden of Eden, humans were more rational than they are now.

This is a hard statement for people to accept today, because people like to believe that we are more rational now than previous generations. But Saint Athanasius is speaking the truth here, because sin is irrational. In all sins, you can see an element of irrationality, an element of complete and utter foolishness. The people now are more sinful than they were before the fall; therefore, the people now are more irrational.

This is why the wisdom of the saints is sometimes contrasted with the foolishness of sinners; only a fool would willingly choose to pursue anything other than God.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Nancy Drew: Stay Tuned for Danger Speedrun

There's a speedrun of the second Nancy Drew videogame, done by someone called FancyJake.



It's a good speedrun, but I bet I could do better. How? I would use these two glitches to save five minutes or so:



The first glitch lets you skip the "travel to WWB from Maddie's house" sequence, which I think I saw about six times in the speedrun. The second glitch lets you skip the "travel to Dwayne Powers' talent agency" sequence, which you do twice. It also lets you skip the various cutscenes that lead up to Nancy being able to visit Dwayne Powers' talent agency (such as the conversation Nancy has with Maddie about Dwayne).

Another timesaver is to turn off the voices in the options menu, so you can skip through phone conversations in seconds. If I ever get a lot of free time, which is unlikely, I think I'll make my own speedrun for the game, utilizing the tricks I've outlined here.

I really like that someone made a speedrun for this game, because it lets you know what you have to do in order to beat the game. Usually, whenever I play the game, I get stuck, and I can't figure out what to do. Now, if I ever get stuck again, I know where to go for answers!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Super Mario Galaxy 2 -- World 5 Complete

And the video walkthroughs keep on coming!  World 5 of Super Mario Galaxy 2 is now complete. I know that the Green Star challenge is kind of boring compared to the real game, but it's almost over.

Here are some highlights! First is the video where I make an awesome pun about the Bee Mario suit:



...And I can't think of any other highlights.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Adventures of Willy Beamish

There are three more videos in the video walkthrough for The Adventures of Willy Beamish. In these videos, Willy gets beaten up by a singing gang, gets saved by ninjas, and enters the frog jump competition.

The commentary for these videos was done by me and my friend Paul.





Monday, March 21, 2011

Honesty, Part Two

People seem interested in talking about honesty, so I figured I'd say more on the subject. I personally believe that you should never lie, ever. I actually came to this conclusion in second grade, when I read a biography of Abraham Lincoln, which said he never lied.  I thought that was really neat, and I wanted to be just like Abe, so I decided I would never lie, either.

A lot of people think you should generally tell the truth at all times, except when it's not important. That is, they think it's okay to tell little white lies, to avoid hurting people's feelings.  The idea is that it's okay to tell little white lies because they are about unimportant things, and they have the good intention of making someone feel better.  People usually give the example of a friend asking for your opinion on her new (but totally ugly) clothes.  In that case, it seems like it's better to tell a little white lie, because if you tell the truth your friend will be upset.

But in my experience, people are more mature than you'd expect, and their feelings don't get hurt that easily.  Nobody's going to cry because I told them their shirt is ugly.  So I don't tell little white lies, either.  They're not worth the trouble.

Look at it this way.  People say you're not talking about anything important, so it doesn't matter if you lie.  But if what you're talking about is really not that important, then why should you be afraid to tell the truth?  The argument goes both ways.  If you're in an ambiguous situation, where it doesn't matter if you tell the truth or not, I still say you should always tell the truth.

Actually, is there such a thing as an ambiguous situation, where it doesn't matter if you tell the truth or not?  I'm not so sure.  Actually, scratch that thought.  There is no such situation, where human action is completely divorced from morality.  Whatever you do or say has moral consequences.  So I guess there really is no situation where it doesn't matter if you lie or not.

In general, I have found that if you tell the truth all the time, you don't hurt other people's feelings all that much.  No, being honest with other people is actually quite easy.  It's being honest with yourself that's difficult.  For example, I'm afraid to look stupid in class or something like that--afraid to be honest about the fact that I don't know something--and I feel like lying to cover up my ignorance. For me personally, that's when I get most tempted to tell lies: when they're about me and my faults.

I have more to say, but six paragraphs is enough for today.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Release Date for Captive Curse?

There is an interview with Megan Gaiser, the CEO of Her Interactive.  It's an interesting article about Secret of Shadow Ranch, but my attention is drawn to the last statement she makes,
"Our next big focus thought is #24 in the PC/Mac adventure series. We’ll be revealing details about that game soon. It’s slated to launch in June!"
That sounds like an unofficial release date for Nancy Drew: The Captive Curse, if I've ever heard one!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Birth Rates in Europe

I know a woman who has three kids.  She says that sometimes, when she's in the supermarket, complete strangers will stop her and say, "You're not going to have any more children, right?"

That is one of the rudest things I can think of, and I can't believe this has happened more than once.  What's wrong with having more than one kid?

It's not just the people here who think it's bad to have multiple children.  Almost everywhere, people today are having less children than previous generations did.  In fact, in some European countries, the birth rate is less than one.  The governments are started to become seriously worried, because if this keeps up, their populations will be cut in half.

It'll be interesting to see how Europe deals with this in the future.

Okay, so that's the bad news.  Here's the good news: not everyone in Europe has decided to stop having children.  In fact, there are two big groups in Europe with a high birth rate.  Can you guess who?  It's the Catholics and the Muslims, because both those religions have a strong anti-birth control policy.  Makes sense that they have a higher birth rate than others.

Now, I'm not a biologist, but if I understand evolution correctly, this means that in a few generations, the percentage of Catholics and Muslims in Europe is going to skyrocket.  Again, it'll be interesting to see how Europe deals with this in the future.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Honesty

So, I couldn't help but notice that people disagree over the concept of honesty.  Some people think honesty is the best policy, and other people are filthy liars who should never be trusted.

Er, other people think that lying is a good thing to do, in certain situations (i.e. whenever it will get them out of trouble).

So what do you readers think?  Who's right--the people who say you should tell the truth 100% of the time, or the people who say you shouldn't tell the truth all the time?

Personally, I think you should never tell lies. People tell me this is an unrealistic mindset.  I would believe them, only I don't, because they're liars. Is it really that unrealistic to tell the truth constantly?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Patrick's Confession

Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone!  To celebrate, why not read this bit of St. Patrick's autobiography, which I translated from Latin?  I only translated three and a half paragraphs, though.  There are still ten pages left.

---

The Confession of Saint Patrick,
From the letter written to the Irish

I am Patrick, a sinner, the most simple and least of all the faithful, and most contemptible to many. I had the Deacon Calpurnius for a father, the child of the Potitius the Elder, now deceased, who was in the village of Bonavem Taberniae. He had a nearby village, Enon, where I was taken captive. I was roughly sixteen years old then. I did not know the true God, and I was taken in captivity to Ireland, with a thousand men, according to what we deserved, because we wandered from God and did not keep his precepts, and we were not obedient to our priests who reminded us of our salvation; and the Lord brought the anger of his being upon us, and he scattered us in many countries, all the way to the end of the Earth, where now my small self is seen among foreigners. And there the Lord revealed my unbelief to me, so that even at so late an hour, I would remember my offenses, and I would return with my whole heart to the Lord my God; who looked upon my lowliness and had pity on my youth and ignorance, and who guarded me before I knew him, before I could think sensibly or distinguish between good and evil, and who protected me and consoled me, as father does his son.

Therefore, I cannot be silent, and certainly it is not useful to be silent, seeing how much kindness and grace He showed to me in the land of my captivity. For this is my repayment: that even after my correction, I would praise the knowledge of God and openly confess his wonders to every nation which is under heaven. Because there is, never was, and never will be another god besides God the Father, who is unbegotten and without beginning, from whom everything has its begining, and who holds everything together in himself, just as we have said. And his son Jesus Christ, whom we believe was undoubteldy with the Father before the beginning of time, one in being with the Father, indescribably born before all beginnings, and through him all things were made, things visible and invisible. He became man, conquered death, and the Father received him in heaven. And he gave all power; the name above every other name in heaven, on Earth, and under the Earth, so that every tongue would confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and God (Phillipians 2: 10, 11). We believe this, and we look forward to his second coming, when he will be the judge of the living and of the dead, who will reward everyone according to their deeds. And he abundantly poured the gift of the Holy Spirit upon us, the Spirit which is the promise of immortality, which makes us believers and obedient, so that we are children of God the Father and co-inheritors with Christ, who we confess and adore, one God in a Trinity of sacred names. As he said through the prophet: Call upon me in the day of your trial, and I will free you, and you will glorify me (Jeremiah 29:12; Psalm 80:8). And again, he said, Therefore it is right to reveal and confess the works of God (Tobit 12:7).

However, even though I am imperfect in many things, I wish for my brothers and kinsmen to know my condition, so that they will be able to understand the desire of my soul. I do not forget the testimony of my God which is said in the psalm: You destroy those who speak lies (Psalm 5:7) and again, He who lies kills the soul (Wisdom 1: 11). And the same Lord says in the Gospel On the Day of Judgment, men will give account for the careless words they utter (Matthew 12:36). Therefore, I earnestly fear this judgment on that day with terror and trembling, that day when no one will be able to cover up or hide himself, but all people will report their reasons for even the smallest sins before the seat of Christ the Lord. Because of this, I have thought about writing in the past, but up until now, I have hesitated to write anything. For I feared I would be attacked by men's tongues, because I have not been educated like other people, who combine the highest law and sacred scripture togther equally, and they have never changed their speech since infancy, except to always improve more and more towards perfection.

But my speech and words have been translated into a foreign language, as anyone can easily determine from a taste of my writings. You can see how educated and instructed I am from my speech; because Wisdom says, sense and knowledge and true doctrine will be discovered through the tongue (Sirach 4:24). But why should I make excuses?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

If You're Happy And You Know It, Clap Your Hands

Last week, I asked what people think about clapping at movies.

I asked this because my mom insists on standing up and clapping at the end of every movie she sees, and it is basically the most embarassing thing ever.  Everyone in the movie theater turns around and looks at the weird woman who is giving a standing ovation to Gnomeo and Juliet.

People seem to agree that clapping at the end of a movie is okay, if it was a good movie.

I worked at the movie theaters as an usher in 2001, and I got to see the end of every single movie at least 20 times.  Nobody clapped at the end of movies back then.  In other words, this movie-clapping thing is a recent phenomenon.  When did this begin?  Why did it begin?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

New Tags?

I'm considering adding a "news" tag to my posts.  I seem to talk about current news with some regularity.

For example, I was looking at the news last week.  They say that oil prices have fallen by 3%.  Economists think this means the price of gas will increase.  Cheaper oil clearly means more expensive gas.

The next news story is that 26,000 new people filed for unemployment benefits this week.  Economists think this is a sign that the economony is improving.  As the economy improves, they expect to see more people file for unemployment.

In other news, I no longer believe that economists have any idea what they're talking about.

---

I'm also considering making a regular feature out of the poorly-informed movie reviewer.  I've already written two entries about this guy, who writes a column about videogames in my local newspaper.  He is quickly becoming my favorite source of videogame news, because he knows next-to-nothing about videogames.

This week, his column was about Minority Report, a movie starring Tom Cruise.  This movie doesn't have anything to do with videogames, but there is a scene where Tom uses a computer with a 3D camera.  And that's kind of like the Microsoft Kinect.

Of course, Tom Cruise has a much better 3D camera than the Kinect.  The Kinect needs to be calibrated before it can be used, because it only has a resolution of 120 by 120.  I've never used the Kinect, or seen one, but 120 by 120?  That's really bad.  My outdated phone can take pictures of a higher resolution.

Monday, March 14, 2011

New Byline

Hey, everyone! This blog needs a new byline at the top of each page!  The 1,000 videos celebration is over, after all. So give me ideas and suggestions as to what the new byline should be.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

College Writing

Continuing with yesterday's topic, I did a lot of writing in college, too. I stopped writing poetry and moved towards short stories.  At one point, I wrote a short story every week.

Mostly, though, I wrote plays. This is because I got an English minor by going through the playwriting sequence.  I have about forty to fifty different plays from that time period, and they're all less than ten pages.

Then, something horrible happened.

I took English 20--Introduction to Literary Criticism--and I completely lost my ability to understand literature.  Suddenly, metaphors were stripped of all meaning.  And themes?  I don't even know what themes are.  From what I can tell, the professor decides what the story means.  Then he reads the story and pretends that his meaning fits it perfectly.  I'm on to you, Professor.  I know you're just making things up as you go along.

But then when I asked all the other English-y people, they couldn't explain things either. I mean, they were good English majors, so they knew that Shakespeare is awesome.  But they couldn't really explain why.  I think it has something to do with metaphors.

And metaphors are where the words in the book mean something completely different from what they mean, right?  I still don't get it.

Anyway, that pretty much ended my English career.  I used to be able to understand themes and metaphors and subtext.  Now, it seems like these are things people make up out of nowhere, and I can't enjoy the books I liked reading when I was in high school.  And I can't understand any of the metaphors I used in my poems, either.  It's a really weird experience to read something I wrote that used to make so much sense, and now it seems like complete nonsense.

The same thing happened when I read Descartes.  The first time I read his work, it made perfect sense, and he was a genius.  And when I re-read it six months later, it was all confusing and ridiculous.  I don't know what happened to cause this complete reversal.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

High School Writing

When I was in high school, I saved all my stories and poems, because I was going to become a Famous Author, and everyone would love to see the genius things I had written.  I had everything all sorted, and put into a fancy binder, and on the first page, there's a bolded warning which says nobody but me is allowed to read this, unless I'm dead, in which case, the contents of the binder should be put in my offical literary anthology.

Now, I can look back and say that I was totally full of myself.  But back then, it made perfect sense to me that I would have my own anthology of literature, just like all the other famous authors.

I can barely remember the stories I wrote back then.  One was O, which is a novel separated into five parts.  Part 1 is a portrait of the main character, when he is 17.  Part 2 is him at age 34.  Part 3 is him at age 51, and in this section, he drinks a magic potion that turns him into a 17-year-old.  Part 4 is him as a 17-year-old again, with scenes that echo the ones in Part 1.  Part 5 is him as a 34-year-old again.  The book ends there.

(By total coincidence, this plotline was later used in the Zac Efron movie, Seventeen Again. )

I only wrote one and a half pages, but I was pretty sure it'd be a great book.

Let me see...what other stories did I write?  There was one that took place during a war in the 1400's, and someone was killed.  And there was one that takes place in a futuristic world where smart children are systematically "removed" from their schools.  And there was one about girls who dig holes in the ground with shovels.

All of these books went unfinished, and up until last month, I had about five of them left on my computer.  Eventually, I decided to delete them.  It might have been interesting to try to finish writing them, but I have long since forgotten the characters and plots I originally intended to write.

The only thing I have left are the works I actually completed, which are mostly poems.  There are maybe a few stories.  I haven't read them in years, so I'm not exactly sure.

Where are these stories?  Believe it or not, they're inside the binder that served as my official literary anthology. The binder is located somewhere in my family's house, if my parents didn't throw it away when I moved out.

I should try to find that binder someday.  It could be interesting to read.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Quick Question

Quick question, everyone.

In movie theaters, I've noticed some people like to clap when the movie is over.  Why?  It's not like anyone who is in any way related to the movie can possibly hear you.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Nancy Drew Dossier: Resorting to Danger

This weekend, I uploaded a few videos for Nancy Drew Dossier: Resorting to Danger.



I think I'll release videos at a rate of three per week, until the game is finished. That'll stretch out the project for a month or two and keep the viewers happy. Plus, I don't have enough free time to make all thirty-two videos in one go.

As I mentioned over a year ago, this game has six different endings, one for each of the six suspects. There are minor differences between the six versions of the game, too. I think I'll try to show all different versions of the game, even though it'll take a lot of work.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Five Videogame Reviews

During my recent two-day break, I got a chance to play some videogames.  And by "play videogames", I mean "play free trials, instead of actually buying games".  I love Big Fish Games' policy of offering a one-hour trial for all their games!

So, for your reading pleasure, here are five quick videogames reviews!  Each game is a different genre.

1. Phantasmat, a hidden objects game


Phantasmat could be the greatest casual game ever.  It mixes all of the most popular casual game genres--adventure, puzzle, hidden object and match 3--and it is currently on the top ten bestseller list for all four of these categories.  The thing that makes this game so good is that it lets you switch genres whenever you want.  This only applies to the hidden object and match 3 genres, but still.  A game that can be played in multiple genres at once?  Nice!

Here's how it works.  Every hidden objects scene is connected to a match 3 screen.  You can solve the hidden objects scene, if that's what you like, or you can solve the match 3 mode, if that's more your style.  Alternately, you can do what I did and constantly switch back and forth between hidden objects and match 3, whenever I couldn't find a hidden object or make a particular match.  It's basically the best interface ever, and I want to see this implemented in other games, immediately.  The ability to switch genres at any time has such great potential in the world of gaming!  You could switch between a fighting game and a platformer.  Or in an RPG, you could  switch from turn-based fighting to real-time combat.  Or you could switch between an Xbox Live Indie game and something that's actually worth playing!  The possibilities are endless.

Unfortunately--and this is why Phantasmat isn't the greatest casual game ever--this game is way too hard, even on Easy Mode.  The unnecessary difficulty is their way of forcing gamers into using the  "switch genres instantly" feature, and this basically ruined the game for me.  It's a great feature, Phantasmat! You don't have to spoil the game by forcing people to use it!  And seriously, Easy Mode in a casual game should not be so ridiculously hard that you wonder if you picked Master Difficulty by mistake.

2. Ella's Hope, an RPG

Ella's Hope is an RPG with nice 16-bit graphics. It kind of has a strange control scheme; you only use two buttons to control everything.  The idea is that two buttons you'll use are the mouse buttons, but this didn't work so well, and I had to use the escape button and the space bar instead.

In this game, you star as Ella, who is unhappy with her life as a maid.  She has one friend in town.  Then, she joins a mysterious group called "The Guardians", and they send her on an adventure.  That's as far as I got before the trial expired.

The game was kind of interesting, although I had a really hard time figuring out where I was supposed to go.  When 60% of your playing time consists of wandering around lost, that's not a good sign. Also, the enemies were ridiculously tough for level 1 enemies. In every battle, I took about 80 damage from enemies with only 10 HP.  After thirty minutes, I finally realized that I was losing every battle because, thanks to the weird control scheme, the game thought I didn't equip any weapons or items at all. Not good.

3. World Mosaics IV, a puzzle game

World Mosaics IV is basically a renograms (or picross) game. You basically just solve a bunch of ten by ten renogram puzzles, and each time you solve a puzzle, you get a special picture.  I think there are about 150 puzzles in all.

I can see why the series has made it all the way to four games.  This was a great casual game.  It's very easy to spend a minute or two, solving a puzzle.  The puzzles aren't too complicated, and the interface was really friendly.  Of all the games I played, this is the one I would buy.  (Sorry, Phantasmat!).

4. Mushroom Age, an adventure game

Mushroom Age was recommended to me by one of my friends.  It's a humorous adventure game that involves time travel, dinosaurs, and mushrooms.  Sounds interesting, right?

But when I played the actual game itself, I quickly realized that this game is not for me. The adventure game challenges were not well done; they basically involve clicking everything on the screen at random, until you chance upon the right item by pure luck.  And in between the adventure game sections, you have hidden objects screens, where you have to do the exact same thing.  Ugh.  Next!

5. Jewel Match 3, a Match-3 game

Jewel Match 3 is a game where you match three jewels in a row, over a series of different screens and, okay, fine, this game is just another version of Bejeweled, with different screens.

In between the various rounds of matching jewels, there's a storyline about a bad guy taking over the dwarf kingdom.  Or something like that.  You also get a hidden objects scene in between each round of matching jewels. By this time, I was sick of doing hidden object scenes, so I decided to stop playing games for the time being.

Gas Prices

Thanks to the reaction to yesterday's blog post, I have decided I must read Nancy Drew: The Crooked Banister.  I put in a request for it at my library at home.

But I have no idea when I'm going to return home again.  I used to go home every weekend, but I can't do that anymore, now that gas prices are RIDICULOUSLY HIGH.  In my neighborhood, they have gone past $4 a gallon and are headed towards $5.  It's weird, because prices will drop ten cents one day, and shoot up twenty cents another day.

I'll be driving as little as possible, until gas goes back down to an affordable price.

It kind of upsets me that there is nothing we can do about this.  It seems like the oil companies pick and choose the gas prices whenever they want.  And it seems like all attempts to move towards alternative fuel, going back to the 80's, have been universally stopped, because the oil companies have been buying off the government.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Nancy Drew: The Crooked Banister

I was in the library the other day, when I noticed this book:



It's a Nancy Drew book. If the cover is any indication, she goes to a pink house with a crooked banister. And then she fights a robot.

I looked up a few book reviews, and they all say this book is great. However, they say that Nancy doesn't really fight the robot.  It's just a wacky robot that lives in the strange old mansion where she's solving a mystery.  Nobody's mentioned whether or not the mansion really is pink.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

1000 Video Celebration!

The 1000 videos celebration is now complete! All 100 questions have answers!



















Friday, March 4, 2011

The Lowdown on the 3DS

Nintendo has released a video, promoting their new videogame system: the 3DS. The video features "real life" people, giving their "real life" responses to the amazing 3D graphics...but if you look carefully during the video, you will see that none of the people are actually using the system. They are simply holding it and pretending that it's on. That's close enough to real life, right?



This video raises many question. What's the deal with the 3DS? Is it a system made for people who don't play videogames? Is it a system for gamers who only care about graphics? Or is this just an elaborate prank?  I wanted to find out more, so I decided to check in with the only videogame news source that I support: the movie reviewer who doesn't play videogames.  After writing his recap for the 2011 Oscars, he wrote two whole articles about the 3DS this week, with help from Nintendo's press release.

1. First off, the 3DS has six gyros, in its axes. The movie reviewer does not explain what this means, but it sounds dangerous.

2. The 3DS comes with amazing Internet technology, which works even when the system is turned off. The idea behind this is to make Internet downloads easier. For example, in Dragon Quest 9, you can manually connect to the Internet and download bonus levels. The 3DS will automatically connect to the Internet and download the bonus material for you. Even though you're not playing the game.  Even though you didn't ask it to.  Even though the system is turned off at the time.

The movie reviewer thought this was a great idea, but personally, I think it's a little strange.  I don't like the idea of my possessions connecting to the Internet and downloading things without my permission.  Especially because there's no way to prevent this from happening.  What's going to prevent my 3DS from going out of control and downloading a bunch of horrible junk I don't need?

3. The 3DS will not only connect to the Internet, but it will also connect to other DSes.  Say, you walk by a coffee shop.  The DS which is in your backpack will automatically connect to every 3DS in the store.  They will trade information, like characters from Dragon Quest 9.  This will happen for up to sixteen games at once, but the 3DS doesn't even have sixteen games yet, so there's no need to worry about hitting this limit.

4.  The 3DS has a pedometer.  It keeps track of how many steps you take while using the DS, and gives you e-coins as a result. You can use e-coins as currency in videogames like Dragon Quest 9, and jeez, that's the third time the movie reviewer has mentioned Dragon Quest 9.  Hasn't he played any other games this year?  Like, I dunno, the Pokemon games which inspired the pedometer feature?

As for me, I don't think the pedometer is a very good idea, simply because it's impossible to play the DS while outside.  The glare from the screen is too difficult to work with.  I can't imagine that a 3D screen is going to make this glare problem any easier.

5. The 3DS comes with Augmented Reality cards, which are apparently the coolest thing since Indiana Jones IV (which the movie reviewer gave a two out of five). He is definitely going to play with the AR, cards instead of playing the games for the system.

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In conclusion, the 3DS has creepy ninja powers. It will connect to the Internet and other 3DSes, without your permission and without your knowledge. Even if you turn the system off, it will do these things. If they ever decide to go rogue and attack us with their axes, we are in big trouble.

Also, the coolest part about the 3DS is its pedometer and the AR cards, not any of its games or the fact that it's in 3D.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Do Animals Have Souls?

A few days ago, I entertained a brief discussion on the nature of the human person, as opposed to the nature of machines.  People seem surprised (and upset) that the most common version of the "humans have souls" argument says that animals don't have souls.

Since this argument is in question here, let me try to explain it in more detail.

If you say "humans have souls, which is what makes them different from machines", then you can't believe that animals have souls.  Why?  Because scientists have already created machine animals, such as robot dogs and...robot cats.



But seriously, there are robot flies that look like flies and act like flies. So in a sense, scientists have a point when they say animals are just complicated machines; after all, they've duplicated the "machinery" of a fly.

If having a soul makes you different than a machine, then flies don't have souls.  Because flies are basically machines. Kind of.

Anyway, that's the argument.  You can't build a perfect robot human, because humans have souls.  But scientists have built perfect robot animals.  Therefore, animals don't have souls.  They're just complicated machines.

I don't really support this argument--I think animals are more than just machines--but that's how it goes.

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In any case, I think the "humans are different than machines because humans have souls" argument isn't going to be settled, until we get a good definition of the word "soul".  Right?  Right!  Because if two people disagree on what a soul is, they'll probably disagree on whether or not animals have them.

So here are some common definitions of "soul":

1. Aristotle says the soul is the source of knowledge in humans. If you have a soul, you can make logical deductions. Therefore, animals don't have souls.

[Technically, he says animals have a different type of soul than humans do, but let's not get complicated.]
2. Cicero (or someone like him) says the soul is the animating principle of the body.  In other words, if something has a soul, it can move by itself.  These people say animals have souls.
3. Isaac Hayes informs us that he is, in fact, "a soul man".  The psycho-spiritual aspects of this claim have yet to be fully explored.

What do you readers think?  What is a soul?  Let me know.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Josie is Now Lost in Space

My favorite TV show, Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space, just got cancelled.

Okay, well, it was cancelled back in 1972. But in my neighborhood, they aired it every night at 9:30 for the entire month of February.

But now that February is over, Josie and her friends have disappeared from the airwaves.

Now I'll never know if they make it back to Earth!

I hope they make it back to Earth.  They have to make it back to Earth, right?  They don't die in outer space, alone and forgotten.  That would be downright depressing.

If it turns out that they got killed by an evil alien, such as Bonebeard the Dinosaur Pirate from Space, I'm going to be so disappointed.

Normally, I would check the fanfiction site and read several stories that end the series.  But the folks at Archie Comics sued the website, and they managed to ban all fanfiction based off of their characters. So now I can't even see made-up versions of the series.

Anyway, farewell Josie! You and your ridiculous adventures will be missed. I'd buy your DVD, but it's too expensive.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

What is Man?

Recently, they had a supercomputer compete on the TV show Jeopardy.  The computer ended up winning the game, and there have been a lot of reports from people who are worried that computers are going to take over the world.

After all, if computers know more trivia than we do, it is definitely time to worry.

Personally, I'm confused as to why Intel spent $25 million to build a machine that can win Jeopardy.  Didn't anyone stop for a moment and wonder if this was really the best way they could have used their money?  After all, we are in a depression.  And even though the computer is really fancy, it can't exactly be used for a lot of different things, you know?

The big question behind all this is what Pope John Paul II called the most important question of the 20th century--"What is a human being?"  Scientists have decided that humans are simply machines.  The brain is basically a computer that controls the human body.  Humans are really complicated machines, to be sure, but they're still just machines.

This is why scientists think it's worthwhile to build humanoid robots and supercomputers.  If they can build a machine that looks and acts and thinks just like a human, it will prove that humans are just machines.

Opposed to these scientists are people who believe in souls.  Humans have souls, which is what makes them different from computers or animals.  The soul is a non-physical part of the body, so people claim scientists will not be able to duplicate it in their experiments.  Psychologists who believe in the subconscious usually side with the soul-supporters.  They say that humans are more than just machines.

There is a third group of people who say that humans are more than just machines, because humans can feel emotions.  I've never heard a very well-developed version of this theory, though.  Scientists tend to disregard the argument from emotion, because you can control a person's emotions by giving them drugs.

So, here's my question for you readers.  What do you think humans are?  Are they complicated machines?  Are they more than machines, because they have emotions?  Or are they more than machines, because they have souls?