Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Featured Pictures and Copyrights

It would seem that one of my photo-contributions to Wikimedia Commons has been promoted to featured status, acknowledging it as one of the best items on the site and giving it potential to appear on Wikipedia’s Main Page.
This is pretty sweet stuff, selection for featured status is an intense process filled with subsequent edits and a lengthy discussion period regarding the quality of the media. The process for selection is amazingly open, as per Wikimedia philosophy, and involves an open debate to the Wikipedia community. Check it out and enjoy the picture. Its licensed under CC so you are permitted to use the image for any purpose and modify it as you wish provided you attribute it to me.

One More Thing
I'm also updating the license on this blog to make copyrights less restrictive. The new license is CC BY-ND under the terms of this license, you are allowed to share and reuse any of my work for any purpose without permission as long as you give attribution to me and not make derivative works from this site. Furthermore, I make liberal use of fair-use screenshots and images, and the license does not apply to that. Enjoy your newfound freedom!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Sunday Sites 79

Just got back from a trip to So-Cal to check out some colleges. USC, UCLA and Cal Poly all looked pretty cool. I also played a crapload of Team Fortress 2.Ă© <—Nintendo’s codename for its new console, details of which were leaked out earlier this week. That said, the article may be inaccurate given the flood of rumors surrounding it. Feel free to edit it. Strangely addictive (Thanks Sean!) Tosh can attest to that:

nyan New Record for Boston Marathon. What a beast Amy Chua caused a bit of controversy when she released her book. Here is her daughter’s opinion on the matter Another band to watch in the coming time, sweet alt-rock from my friend Lucas.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

More Stuff on the Mortenson Controversy

Well, the media circus surrounding the Mortenson Controversy has given us a few new updates, impugning Mortenson’s veracity and putting the integrity of his journalistic practices in question. For one, the leader of the tribe of Afghanis whom Mortenson claimed to have kidnapped him is looking into suing him for defamation. (Thanks Daniel!) The Christian Science Monitor comes in defense of Mortenson, saying the controversy is part of a trend of falsified memoirs coming out of the publishing industry. Needless to say, US Officials are investigating the non-profit in regards to its status as a NPO and the level of transparency it holds in regards to how it deals with donated money Furthermore, the 60 Minutes special on the Mortenson controversy could potentially spell the death of the CAI, even if the investigation upholds the NPO’s veracity as an organization. Potential donors can be lost in droves.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Commentary on Greg Mortenson and the Three Cups of Tea Controversy

A major controversy has arisen in the past few days over allegations that certain parts of Mortenson and Relin’s memoir Three Cups of Tea were fabricated. A beautiful narrative, the book deals with Mortenson’s experience in rural Afghanistan and his personal efforts to combat terrorism by building schools for Afghani children. Admittedly, some parts of the book were far fetched and questionable in their accuracy, particularly claims that he was rescued by a remote village on a failed climb of K2 and that he was kidnapped by the Taliban. In a defense, Mortenson did state that parts of the book were shortened or abridged for the sake of narrative proficiency and that the news media are exaggerating the extent of the controversy.  

Nonetheless, to reject Mortenson’s mission because of rumors Three Cups of Tea_Mech.inddregarding the veracity of his memior is to miss the mark. Even though the title of this blog is “question the answers”, I still come in defense of Mortenson’s mission. The Central Asia Institute is a real nonprofit that does construct schools for girls in rural Afghanistan. In short, Mortenson’s mission holds that if young Afghanis are given a modern, world-encompassing education then extremist groups like the Taliban will run out of people to commit acts of terrorism. If Mortenson were to exaggerate aspects of his story, the mission of his nonprofit remains unchanged and commendable. While his journalistic ethics may be impugned and questioned, the philosophy backing his educational quest remains moving and worthy of enthusiastic support.

Needless to say, I will be keeping a close eye on the investigation of the CAI and will be open to reconsidering whether or not this non-profit will remain worthy of support.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Sunday Sites 78

Here’s something you shoulda built: a not dyin’ machine!

scout Final Fantasy IV celebrates its 20th birthday this week, and multiple sites are reminiscing about its history. An enhanced PSP version comes out this week, along with the ambitious Conduit 2 FFIV may seem insignificant today, that proves its impact. Team Lincecum’s windup in 1000 FPS. Good luck Giants, kick ass. Original GTA design docs released, clues in how a game evolves from conception The Glowing Stars were, in my opinion, the best gig at last week’s concert at the DNA. Here is their site, support the Japan relief effort by buying their album! GamesRadar has compiled a video of every Mortal Kombat fatality ever made to celebrate the return of another classic.

Well, I’m headed to LA for the week, so there won’t be any posting this week. That’s why this edition is out early.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Tactile Cave 0.95 (Finally!)

After months in limbo, the new 0.95 version of Tactile Cave is out and available under a CC-license! This new version features looping music, new art assets and improved debug. Its embedded below!

Not working for you? Check out the original applet at

To progress past  the first screen, hit enter. Tap space to start the game after reading the instructions screen!
Have fun! This is Team Corsehead’s first project!

EDIT: With the current given frame size, the game will not be played properly on this site. Check out the original applet at openprocessing for the best version. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Red Dead Redemption Review

I have been playing Red Dead Redemption for four months straight. I just completed the game’s story just last night. Red Dead Redemption is a game so incredible in scope, so mammoth in its ambition, so subtly flawed and so engaging in its narrative that it will leave an immutable mark upon its players and go down in gaming history as one of the most beautiful and detailed open world games of the decade. reddeadbox


Red Dead Redemption is powered primarily by an imaginatively conceived world filled with symbolic (but not realistic) characters and very well written and often funny dialogue. John Marston, the game’s protagonist, will come across a parade of interesting people, each with their own detailed background, motives and philosophical position. Set in an unspecified region of the Southern Border in 1911 during the last days of the Wild West, Red Dead Redemption deals thematically with industrialization and the loss of cultural identity that consumerism brings. 

This theme of imperialism is communicated through John Marston’s struggle. A former gang member, government officials from the East kidnap his wife and son and will return them to him only if he were to hunt down the members of his former gang. Red Dead Redemption is a tale of a man attempting to escape from his bloody past while forces out of his control keep on dragging him back. To hunt down his targets, John embarks on an epic journey that will take him across the wilderness, through both geographic, cultural and moral boundaries.

Nonetheless, the methods through which the story is communicated are sometimes flawed. While the conversations that John has while riding with others are charming, funny and interesting, cutscenes are frequent and sometimes longer than necessary. Ludonarrative dissonance (where the player’s actions inbetween missions contradicts the behavior of the protagonist during missions and cutscenes) remains highly problematic, sometimes threatening to compromise the realism of John’s character as a whole. For example, it does not contribute to a believable character to have committed a mass murder spree in Armadillo and return to peacefully herd cattle at the MacFarlane ranch.


Red Dead Redemption, like Rockstar’s previous games, has of stuff available to do. Minigames and side-quests make up a wealth of content, making it very easy to become sidetracked from the game’s storyline missions. Gambling, hunting, collecting and questing opportunities are ubiquitous throughout the world. By simply wandering around, the player will come across strangers to help, hideouts to raid, animals to hunt, games to play and bounties to hunt. Succeeding where Grand Theft Auto had failed, all these activities are often very fun. The only dull activity available is herding, which is as frustrating as it would be in real life, which thankfully only occurs three times during the game’s missions.


All these activities would be undermined if the core gameplay were not fun, and thankfully, solid shooting and riding mechanics make Red Dead Redemption very satisfying and rewarding. Horses control perfectly, making the traversal of the vast world a breeze. Shooting however, takes a bit getting used to. On higher targeting levels, the crosshair is oftentimes too small to be useful and indistinguishable from the environment. Lower targeting levels solve this problem by practically putting the fighting on autopilot, targeting and tracking moving enemies even behind cover. Thankfully, the fantastic mission design and cover system make combat fun in spite of these limitations.

A new feature in Red Dead Redemption is “deadeye mode”. By pressing R3 with a weapon drawn, the player can temporarily slow time down to precisely target specific spots of the body and make extremely stylish shots. Deadeye is not as essential as it otherwise is on higher targeting modes, but nonetheless it remains integral to Red Dead Redemption’s appeal.


Red Dead Redemption is not perfect, its initial hours are tedious, exposition-heavy and gameplay light. The first few missions have Marston attempting rather menial tasks around the MacFarlane farm. Oftentimes, these tasks are frustrating (AKA: herding) and punctuated by frequent and lengthy cutscenes. Only when the player unlocks new areas and abilities does the game become much more involving. 


Graphically, Red Dead Redemption is both artistically and technically years ahead of other games. Running on Rockstar's RAGE engine, the game features advanced lighting effects, incredible character animation, detailed textures and dynamic weather effects. These engine features are used to realize an incredibly atmospheric art style featuring an incredible variety of living ecosystems and environments. Practically every kind of conceivable Western environment is present in Red Dead Redemption, forests, plains, chaparrals, deserts, canyons and mountains are all depicted in incredible detail and color. Rockstar’s art team has utilized the technical prowess of its engine to create some of the most jaw-droppingly breathtaking vistas ever seen in a video game. In a time where more and more developers create dark urban and postapocalyptic worlds, seeing a setting inspired by nature is both refreshing and pleasant.

Need more persuasion? consider the screenies below.





The game’s animation is also beyond superb and features the incredible attention to detail that permeates throughout its every part. Characters are affected dynamically by physics and move realistically, seeing the muscle ripple underneath a horse’s skin is unlike any thing seen before. Hair, long a problem in realistic games, is a non-issue here. Shots and falls look painful and will make the player wince in their mo-capped brilliance.

Finally, Red Dead Redemption is an auditory treat. Voice acting is some of the finest I have heard in years; the game is spearheaded by strong, funny and emotionally involving writing and the nuanced performance of Rob Wiethoff as Marston. Powerful sound effects lend combat special intensity and natural environments a lively placidity. Music frames narrative moments nicely and gives a strong emotional backdrop for the story to take place.


I am really just nitpicking Red Dead Redemption’s few flaws, those of which are a perpetual element of any open-world action-adventure game. Although ludonarrative dissonance and an overly slow start detract from the game’s impact, Red Dead Redemption is still one of the richest, most inspired and involving virtual worlds that Rockstar has conceived in the past decade. Highly recommended. 4.75/5

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sunday Sites 77

Missed prom to take the ACT. How wise of me. Also working on a new game, more on that later. (If someone wants to make a logo, email me at As scout would say, FREAKIN’ AWESOME. How Call of Duty Destroyed the World, could Call of Duty’s monopoly of the shooter market mark the birth of a new Standard Oil? Considering going into gaming for college, interesting introductory article on the subject matter and now for something completely different, all you TF2 players would love this (creds to Theresa)  Anyways, check out the conceptual sketches for the new game I’m working on. They’re under newest deviations. Anyone is welcome to contribute to this ambitious project with many ideas and not much funding or talent.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Metroid Prime Trilogy Review

This was one of the last reviews I did for Radical Reviewers and one of the better pieces I have written. Things have changed in the past year, the game is out of print and is now super-rare. 

Hey there, it’s Kevin with yet another Radical Reviewers Review. This time, for what is in my opinion, one of the greatest collectors edition products in video game history. We’ll be reviewing Nintendo’s Metroid Prime Trilogy for Wii.
After skipping an entire generation, Nintendo decided to reboot the Metroid_Prime_TrilogyMetroid series on the GameCube. To do this, they purchased a Texas-based independent development company called Retro Studios, made out of alums with portfolios varying from Half-Life to Starcraft. The decision to use an American studio to develop a Nintendo game was already a radically different decision. It would only continue to change from there.

In 2001, a trailer was revealed for the final build of the game. It showed gameplay from a first-person perspective. This immediately drew a huge backlash from fans of the series, who feared that their beloved Metroid would turn into shooter like Quake or Halo. These fans decried the game, feeling that it was dishonest to the adventure themes of previous games. Nonetheless, Metroid Prime succeeded in drawing a massive amount of hype, with a live-action advertisement and a marketing ARG. 

When it was finally released in 2002, Metroid Prime defied all expectations. Drawing a metascore of 98, it is the highest rated game of the sixth generation. Critics praised the tight controls, atmospheric visuals, intense action and adherence to the Metroid formula. Metroid Prime made a perfect transition to the third-dimension, and would soon spawn a series.

Retro immediately agreed to create two new games in the subseries. Metroid Prime 2: Echoes was released in 2004 for Gamecube to rave-reviews, praising its darker atmosphere and gloomy story. Nonetheless, Echoes failed to generate the record-breaking sales of its predecessor. A Wii sequel was released in 2007, bringing the best graphics of the series, perfect pointer-based controls and improved action.

Historically, Metroid Prime games have all brought high metascores of 98, 95 and 92 respectively. Noting this, Metroid Prime Trilogy rivalsThe Orange Box in terms of value.  For fifty dollars you are receiving nearly eighty hours of gameplay and three of the finest Nintendo games ever created. Even if sold in a standard white plastic box, Metroid Prime Trilogy would still be an epic deal. But in addition to the games, a Collector’s Edition tin-casing is supplied as is an art-booklet printed on glossy photo-paper.

The list of upgrades and bonuses does not stop there. Metroid Prime 1 and 2 have been ported to the Corruption Engine, featuring stylish bloom lighting, 16:9 widescreen and updated textures. This effectively makes the aging Gamecube games look state-of-the-art on the visually challenged Wii. Of course, precise pointer-based controls have been implemented along with a new difficulty level. Topping it off is an integrated achievements system, which gives the player tokens for accomplishing certain objectives. These tokens can be traded for concept art and music. These additions make the Gamecube games far more enjoyable than before.

Despite the first-person perspective, the Metroid Prime games can hardly be considered first-person shooters. Emphasis is moved from linear-combat to exploration of an open world. Metroid games revolve around the collection of items and upgrades. New items give access to new areas, which behold boss fights, platforming challenges and adventure aspects. Simply put, few other games provide the experience of developing from a feeble bounty hunter to a one-woman army with integrated rocket-launchers, cloaking-mechanisms, personal anti-gravity devices, grappling-beams, morph-balls, bombs and energy cannons.
By far the most important aspect of the Metroid Prime games is the scanning-mechanic. By using an item called the “Scan Visor”, Samus can collect information about enemies, environments and items as well as decode logs. All information is saved into an internal logbook, which tells a gripping backstory. This mechanic effectively makes Metroid Prime one of Nintendo’s strongest story-telling games.

Many first-person action games have made attempts at integrating platforming into their gameplay. Half-Life is infamous for attempting to integrate platform challenges in Xen, to no avail. The first-person perspective and lack of visible feet made platforming imprecise and frustrating. Unlike its influences, Metroid Prime provides the best first-person platforming in gaming history. To compensate for the first-person perspective, platforms are amply-sized and spaced from each other. Making movement a speedy and pleasant experience. This contributes to an excellent shooting mechanic. Pointer-based controls make combat more intense and fun than it has any right to be. A large variety of foes with varied AI scripts makes shooting radically different from other games.

The Metroid Prime games are very well known for their atmosphere and backstory, and this sentiment is easily echoed. Numerous effects and details have been added to make Tallon IV, Aether and the GF System one of the most inspired, detailed, memorable and believable virtual-worlds ever made. Extensive craft has been placed in giving the world a history and a backstory. The player can simply spend hours at a time researching the backstory of Metroid’s sci-fi/fantasy world. Thus, exploration is fun and rewarding and the player is given great motive to thoroughly scour each area for secrets.

Recently, Nintendo has announced that Metroid Prime Trilogy will soon go out-of-print. Go after it now to pick up this fine collectors-edition before it becomes super-rare.

Metroid Prime Trilogy is easily one of the finest compilation titles ever made. Three history-making games have been put into a package of legendary value. To be rare in the future, the only reason not to buy it is if one has played the compiled games before. 4.5/5

The Good
  • Insane value, 80-hours of gameplay, plus Collector’s-Edition Specials, for the price of a standard game.
  • The games serve as the paragon of first-person action-adventures
  • Gamecube games ported to Corruption Engine with motion controls.
  • Incredible story and atmosphere
  • Much improved multiplayer
The Bad
  • All old games
  • Not much value if you’ve already played the entire trilogy

Monday, April 4, 2011

Five Tips for Bloggers

Today is the fourth birthday of this blog, and in the past year, the site has reached a surprising level of success. With over 800 pageviews a month, the content of the site has improved considerably.

In a medium that has grown as saturated as the internet, being heard becomes a tremendous challenge. Being interesting is even harder. Having a url diverts many from a site and getting regular readers is difficult. In addition, many sites run by people my age consistently feature uninteresting and non-compelling content worth only a cursory glance. Through my few years of experience, I hope to impart advice to other teenage bloggers. Without further ado, I present Five Tips for Bloggers. blogging

5. Keep it Concise: Considering the massive range of content available on the internet and the sheer pace at which information moves, it is no surprise that readers have short attention spans. In order for content to be read, it must be presented in a format that would support such attention spans. Coming across a "Wall of Text" is intimidating and will drive readers away. Indeed, in past months, the problem of conciseness has been the single biggest challenge this blog has faced. With the last three important posts being well over 1500 words, some of my better pieces of content have not yet received the attention they deserve. In general, short paragraph structure keeps readers interested and keeping posts under 1000 words ensures that readers will read entire posts.

If it is any consolation, Diana Hacker writes in her stylistic manual The Bedford Handbook: "Don't expect web site visitors to read in the traditional way: word by word. Most will scan your site, looking for information of interest and ignoring the rest. To keep the attention of a Web audience, make your page layout and writing style as user-friendly as possible"

4. Post Regularly A regular and predictable blogging schedule will keep subscribers revisiting your site. While the majority of my pageviews come from Google, I still have a few subscribers. Nonetheless, predictably so, the months where I have lapsed in my writing have shown a reduced number of site-visitors. As with the body, staying active will keep the blood of your site flowing. Generally, I attempt to write a new post each week. This is especially important in the early months of your site, as your site will come off as an abandoned project. Stay consistent, stay lively.

 csb3. Nobody Cares About You: I try to avoid discussing my personal life and relationships in this blog. This is done not to protect my privacy, but because no one would take interest in it. Sociologically revelatory musings are fascinating and keep readers entertained, but musings about personal feelings and issues are not. While there may be the occasional exception like Tynan of lifenomadic, who lives a nomadic life interesting enough to enthrall people unfamiliar with him, the vast majority of us are not blessed with the wealth and opportunity to enable such a blog-worthy lifestyle. Indeed, a stranger's baby pictures and a teenager's histrionically antisocial meditations would be interesting only to the writer. Avoid such kind of writing to ensure that readers will give more than a cursory glance at your content.

2. Be Awesome: Even though nobody cares about you, this does not necessarily entail that what you can make and do will not be interesting. Everyone has something to teach to another, and it should be a goal for the blogger to enliven his/her readers with interesting content. Show your best self in your work by seeking to teach your readers something that only you can teach. For me, this interesting subject matter takes the form of video games, and by reviewing games that I feel strongly about, I hope to leave my readers with a deeper knowledge of the games that they play. A journal of an uninteresting life will bore readers, a journal of an awesome life filled with awesome ideas will entertain them and leave them happier.

1. Learn from Your Mistakes Perhaps the most important piece of advice I have to give: learn from your mistakes. In retrospect, most of your early work will suck and look bad in comparison to your most recent stuff. More often than not, you might want to delete them in embarrassment. Don’t delete them! They serve an important purpose in charting your growth as a writer. You will make mistakes and you will have your share of failures: sometimes the idea for a post will fall flat or a previous post might not reflect who you are now. Being honest to yourself and learning from these failures is critical to success anywhere. The content of these five tips were developed from my own failures as a blogger and I hope to impart this piece of wisdom to you.


Thank you, and best of luck in your online endeavors.