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Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is one of those games that came out a while back and I knew nothing about. All I saw was that it was a RPG, so I added it to my list of games to get at some point, whenever the price got low enough. Last month it was on sale so I got it. I was pleased to find that it is a pretty good game.
On the plus side, I would say that this is a very complete world with quests, races, cities and a very large world. It took me 33 hours to finish the main quest and most side quests, which is pretty good for a role playing game. Everything is voiced and the graphics are nice enough. You have quite a bit of customization and a good variation. It reminded me of Oblivion with things like guilds that you can join and quest for, and also Fable with how colorful the world is.
On the negative side I would have to say the choices you make aren't reflected as much as I would have hoped near the end, and the combat can be a bit repetitive. Overall I would give it a 8/10.
Cord cutting, people who give up any type of broadcast TV and go strictly for Internet streaming, is a popular phenomenon these days. More and more people are giving up their cable TV and living off their Internet connections alone. I was part of that crowd, not having cable TV for many years, and using a simple antenna for local stations. But now, this week, I'm going back to the world of cable TV, I'm subscribing again. Part of the reason is because here my antenna is barely able to get two channels clearly, but it's not so much because of that, nor because I have money to throw away, nor do I miss the good old days of channel flipping. There are many reasons which I will talk about, and they have to do with a lack of choice here in Canada along with a system that incentivizes you to subscribe.
Canada doesn't have the broad Internet-based choices that the US has when it comes to TV and other streaming options. Amazon Instant Video is a great option many Americans have, but it's not available at all here. Google Play is quickly growing its selection in the US, but is pathetic in Canada. Hulu is US only. Netflix has a Canadian catalog but it is a far cry from the US one. In fact, what I found is that the only option that offers any decent choice in this country is Apple. They are miles ahead of anyone else when it comes to TV shows and movies, with an almost parity between us and our southern neighbors. So it's no surprise that I bought an Apple TV back in November.
However, this caused two immediate problems for me. The first is cost. Apple is expensive, and that goes for TV shows and movies. They hardly ever have sales, and usually you have to pay full price for anything you buy. The second is bandwidth. Like most other North American Internet providers, my cable Internet company only gives me 150GB of download per month. The past 2 months saw me go over by quite a bit, in large part from my heightened use of streaming videos. What's the point of a fast 30Mbps connection if you're limited with download caps? So while doing some research on cost structures, this is where their pricing tactics come into effect.
My provider does offer an option for unlimited downloads, but you need to pay for it. It's $30 extra if you have one service, but $10 if you have two. Similarly, the cost of Internet goes down when you take another service with them. So all told, it ended up costing me only $25 more to get cable TV, and get unlimited downloads. Sure, I could go for Internet streaming options, but they would all cost more because the unlimited Internet option is so much higher when you only want your cable company to be an Internet pipe.
So in the end, I will now pay more on my cable bill than the base price I had, but less than what I was ending up with by going over the limit. Plus, I feel like having cable TV, I will likely buy less items on my Apple TV, so it will likely be more economical. The whole debate that cord cutters have is much more nuanced than many make it seem to be. People are quick to point at abc.com or nbc.com for live streaming, Hulu for TV shows, and Amazon for streaming movies. But none of those options are available in Canada. Even if they were, watching them would bring me over my download cap, which would require me to pay much more for unlimited, making the primary reason for cord cutting, saving money, pointless.
Network neutrality? When you only have one cable provider for both Internet and TV, setting up prices for both, it hasn't been neutral for a long time, and there's no need for deep packet inspection or stream degrading tactics. So for me, cable TV is coming back home.
...or why I upgraded to 16GB of RAM.
When looking through web sites and forums, I see that there is a lot of misinformation about system memory, and how much you really need. A lot of people say arbitrary values like 8GB of RAM is fine for everyone, or get the most you can since it will speed things up. Truthfully, memory is a hit or miss thing. Depending on your needs, you will use a certain amount of RAM. If you have more, then it brings you no performance increase whatsoever. However, if you don't have enough, then suddenly you will experience a massive drop in performance, because your applications will suddenly have to swap back to the hard drive, which is much slower than RAM.
So how much do you actually need? It all depends on what you are doing. In any modern Windows version, you can go to the Task Manager (by pressing CTRL-ALT-DEL) and then selecting the Resource Monitor. That will tell you how much CPU, memory, disk and network usage your programs are using. Many people may be surprised at how much RAM is actually being used, same as I would suspect a lot of people may be surprised how many watts their systems use. Typically, simple tasks like web browsing, editing a document, email and so on, use very little RAM. You can get by with 2GB easily. Gaming also doesn't use that much memory. Most games will use around 2GB to 4GB. In fact, it's only when you push up graphics settings to extreme levels will you start needing that 8GB of memory. Very few games will see any performance gain at all when using 16GB.
However, there are applications that will use an impressive amount of memory, and that's graphics apps. Things like Photoshop or 3D renderers will definitively make use of that memory. So to get back to my first question, why did I upgrade to 16GB on my system? Here is an example maximum load for me. I routinely run two games (in this case two instances of World of Warcraft), make 3D renders in the background, and I sometimes run virtual machines as well, this time a beta build of Windows Server 2012 R2.
As you can see, under a maximum load I do need more than the 8GB that I used to have. Here I only have 3.6GB of free RAM left. But this is an extreme case, which most people won't need. As you can see, a single instance of WoW is only using 1.1GB. A more demanding game such as a first-person shooter will use a bit more, but even the latest titles won't go above 8GB, if that. But again, it's best to test things out yourself, as there are interesting exceptions. For example, I've seen Half Life 2 with some mods use over 5GB of RAM, even though it's an old game now, while some of the latest games can use barely half. It all depends on how many assets (textures, 3D models, etc) they need to load, and how optimized they are.
I've owned Vue 6 Infinite for over five years now. But like so many products these days, it comes with Digital Rights Management, or DRM. That means you never fully own it, you always need to check with the home office to prove you actually have the right to use this product, which is the worst business model ever.
Now tonight, 11 PM on a Saturday, I try to open the software which was working fine last week, and it says the activation code is somehow invalid. I go through all the annoying steps to try and get it reactivated, and surprise, the site tells me I activated it already, with no apparent way to remove those older activations.
Of course, this company only offers phone support if you pay for it, and if you send an email, they say that they will get back to me in a couple of days. So I have this product that I bought, that I paid hundreds of dollars for, and now cannot use, all because DRM is and always will be a broken model.
I hate DRM.
At the end of each year I think back on which title I had the most fun with during the year, and try to decide which was the game of the year. For the past couple of years this was a difficult process, as it seems there just isn't that many good games being released anymore, or maybe I'm more difficult than before.
This year, one high contender was Saints Row 4. I loved the third one, but unfortunately the 4th proved to be a bit of a disappointment. I didn't end up playing a lot of games, and some of them were past games that just happened to be on sale. The Walking Dead for example is one I found excellent. Also interestingly enough this year I started to watch a few games on YouTube, and if I included those, I would say without a doubt The Last Of Us would probably be my game of the year. It's not a PC game however so I can't actually play it. So if I had to decide on the single best game I played this year, I would have to go with Tomb Raider.
As for 2014, I'm not sure yet what is coming that should be keeping my attention. A lot of the hype titles are still mostly unknown, like Blizzard's secret Titan project, the Fallout MMO, and the next Mass Effect.
I've always liked the concept of Tomb Raider games, but in the past when I tried them out, I found them too focused on puzzles rather than action or story. They were for the most part puzzle games, and I dislike puzzle games. So last year when the latest Tomb Raider came out, it looked interesting but avoided it because of that. Last week however it was on sale for $10 on Steam so I decided to try it out. I didn't have very high expectations, but I was pleasantly surprised.
The graphics in this game are excellent, and so is the camera work. This is far more a story and action game than a puzzle one. In fact what they did this time is put most of the puzzles in optional areas, so you can play it as a traditional RPG instead. I found the mix between action and story to be very good, and in all it took me about 15 hours to complete the single player campaign.
Tomb Raider has always been a linear title as opposed to an open world game but I found this one to be hiding that fact very well which is a plus, and the weapons all handled pretty well. I also really liked how they evolved Lara's look throughout the story. If I had to say anything negative it would be the over reliance on zip lines, and the lack of any meaningful single player DLCs. I would give it a 8.5/10.
As a heavy PC user, I tend to upgrade or change my system every few years. My previous desktop had 3 years now so I started to look for replacements. I hesitated between a laptop, upgrade parts for my current system, and something that seems to be gaining traction: an all-in-one PC. I tried a laptop some years ago and found the experience displeasing. To get the same amount of performance in the smaller form factor requires a lot more money, and I dislike having a screen so close to the keyboard.
I was very tempted by the all-in-one since to me, Windows 8 only makes sense with a touch screen. But the problem is that even though the form factor is much better, you still end up with laptop components, capped in wattage and without a discrete video card, meaning you need to pay far more for the desktop equivalent. Since I play games and make renders, I need a certain performance. In the end, I decided to buy parts and build an upgraded desktop. This is what I ended up with:
* Intel i5 4570k 3.4GHz
* Gigabyte GA-H87N-Wifi board
* Cooler Master Elite 120 case
* 16G of memory
* 500GB hard drive
* Zotac GTX 650 Ti
* 27'' LG 27BW IPS monitor
I have to say the much larger monitor is what makes the biggest difference, and a fresh Windows install helps also. I kept the drive and PSU. The case I picked especially because of its small, more compact size, and the new 4th Gen Intel chip is much faster (I'm no fan of AMD). As for the board, I had some issues getting it installed and would not recommend it. Overall, it gives me much more power than a laptop or all-in-one would and costs several hundreds less.
So Blizzard revealed the next World of Warcraft expansion, something I was looking forward to since I still play WoW rather regularly, despite MoP not turning out all that great as I had predicted, and the rumors pointed to an epic storyline about the Blood Legion invading. Unfortunately this isn't what we got.
- New level cap at 100 with ability to boost to 90 instantly. This can be good for altoholics I suppose, but I feel this will empty out 90% of the world as nobody levels up anymore.
- Expansion centred around Orcs, starting with Garrosh. This is so disappointing. We just got done dealing with him and a million orcs, and now we go back to Draenor, the land of the orcs. Then there's the whole time travel deal which is worth a massive facepalm.
- New character models. This I was worried about, having experienced the same back in EverQuest, but it seems they are just improving the resolution of current models, so that's fine I guess.
- Garrisons. I personally like player housing as a place to customize and display achievements in a visual way, but the way they explain it I fear it will become too much like a RTS inside of a RPG. I never got into the FarmVille they added in MoP for that reason.
- No new race or class. It's a slight disappointment, but it does seem too bad.
My main issue really is that they could have made a great expansion with an epic storyline, and even a hero class with the demon hunter. Instead we get orcs and more orcs, along with time travel. I am pretty pessimistic once again. I felt MoP was the worse expansion to date, and WoD may manage to be pretty close.
I hesitated a lot before buying an Apple TV. I don't use a Mac, but I have an iPhone and iPad. My TV used to share a connection between my BluRay player and PC, which I used to play stuff like YouTube, podcasts, TV shows and such. The main issues I had was dealing constantly with the TV being seen as a secondary monitor, and the awful iTunes interface on the PC. As I buy more and more things on iTunes, it made sense to look at Apple TV.
On the plus side, it's very easy to play bought movies and TV shows. Everything can be accessed easily from the main screen, and regardless whether I use my phone, tablet or TV, all the content is there. It also works nicely for podcasts, with pretty much all the popular shows available there, and again it all syncs between devices. Everything is responsive which is a nice change from my Samsung player which is slow as hell. With the addition of AirPlay and the ability to stream to the TV, it's a pretty nice device.
On the down side, the YouTube app is terrible, barely usable. Fortunately I can use the iOS app and AirPlay the videos over. Also, I wish iTunes had more sales, especially for older shows, but that's not really an Apple TV issue. I'm happy with the purchase and would recommend one to anyone who lives in the Apple media universe, at least partially.
Games used to be about a lot of things for me. The lore, the story, graphics, but also the challenge and gameplay. I still remember the original EverQuest, a game I played for so many years back in early 2000s, and the challenge in this game was the epitome of MMO gaming. Raiding a new area took 72 people and many hours of practice. I never got bored of it, and was among those complaining when the industry eased the challenges, making the game more approachable. I also remember early Dungeons and Dragons titles from the 90s, and the hundreds of hours spent killing monsters.
But as I become older, I just don't have the same drive anymore. What used to be a challenge now seems like a chore, and what used to be core gameplay, like killing endless amounts of monsters or collecting virtual loot for hours is now a grind. I used to care deeply about weapon handling and recoil in shooting games, now I can't be bothered. I'm still very interested in the story, but the gameplay just isn't what it used to be, to the point that for some games, I find it far more pleasant to watch a Lets Play session on YouTube than play through the actual game. I now spend more time and money on movies and TV shows than on games.
So did I go soft, and join the crowd to which these easier and easier games seem to be aimed at, or am I just getting old? I think there's a physiological change that happens and explains why most gamers are around 15-25, and I'm just physically out of the gaming generation. It feels strange.
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Hi, my name is Patrick Lambert and I'm a freelance content creator living in Montreal, Canada. I have over 15 years of experience in technology and I create content for many different industries.
I've written for...
...and many more!
Movies: Star Wars, Planet of the Apes
TV shows: The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones
Devices: PC, iPhone, iPad
Games: Half Life 2, KOTOR, Fallout 3
MMOs: World of Warcraft, SWTOR
- Steam - My Steam profile
- IMDb - My movie ratings
- TideArt - Web site for artists.
- Presentations I made:
- Android Apps - The Android Apps I've created.
- Commissions - Information if you want to commission art from me.
- Aurebesh - Learn the language of Star Wars.
- Two-Factor Authentication - Google Authenticator demo.
- Crypt - Free online encryption and hashing service.
- Vue Tutorials:
- 3D Models - All the 3D models I've done and released for free on ShareCG.
- Old C Projects - This is a zip file of my old (10-15 years) Linux projects that probably don't even compile anymore.