Friday, May 31, 2013

Games to be the focus for Microsoft at E3

In a recent twitter response from Microsoft's Major Nelson (Larry Hryb) confirmed what we've all been hoping for from Microsoft at E3; games.  Hopefully this redeem Microsoft from their Xbox One reveal conference earlier this month.  Just a little over a week before the action gets started at E3!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Xbox One Vs. Playstion 4: Battle of the Cloud

Now that the two giants of the gaming world have had press conferences announcing and describing some of the features of their 8th generation systems, it is time to start deciding which console is right for you. To do this, you have to take a few things into consideration. Are you looking for an all in one media system, or a pure and simple gaming powerhouse? Do you have any system exclusive franchises that you want to stay loyal to? When it really comes down to it, the decision comes down to your own personal preferences. I'll try to break a few different aspects down of each system to hopefully make your decision more cut and dry and less of a shot in the dark.


Let me just say that first off, this is not the category that you should make your decision on. If you remember the 7th generation consoles, the PS3 had a major performance advantage, however, the games being released now, nearing the end of their generation are pretty close, if not equal in quality.

The hardware between the Xbox One and PS4 are almost identical.  The CPU is based off of a 1.6 GHz, 8 core, x86 64-bit AMD Jaguar. Two of the cores on the Xbox One will be dedicated to apps, while the PS4 is not, which could give the PS4 a dramatic boost over the Xbox One, but that remains to be seen.

Each system has 8 GB of ram, but the PS4 will be using GDDR5 (48 GB/s), while the Xbox One will use DDR3 (24 GB/s).

 The hard drive size for the PS4 has not officially been released, but Sony described it as being "very large." Microsoft divulged that the Xbox One will have 500 GB hard drive, but I'm sure that it will come in varying sizes eventually.

The PS4 will reboot their "Eye" camera for the PS4 and use the new Dualshock 4 controller for motion sensing technology. Microsoft is bringing the Kinect 2.0, a more robust version of the original. Let's delve into the motion sensing and controller aspects of the systems a bit more.


Sony and Microsoft had two of the best controllers in console history during the 7th generation, and honestly I didn't see how they could get that much better. However, each company has done it again and refined their controllers further to create the optimal experience.  Let's start with the new Xbox One controller.

The few issues that the Xbox 360 controller had seemed to have been fixed.  The imprecise D-Pad had been changed to a new cross shaped version, which should be a huge improvement.  The clunky battery pack has been changed to an internal one, which should keep batteries from coming loose and add a little extra room to grip on the back of the controller.  The thumbsticks have a heavily textured rubber to allow for more precise control. The guide button has been moved up higher on the controller to prevent accidentally going to the guide screen while trying to simply pause the game or during intense gameplay. The biggest enhancement that was announced is the new impulse triggers. Basically, this new feature adds in a rumble feedback in the triggers of the controller. It should add a lot more developer possibilities. The controller is basically about to have "surround feel." I'm sure we will hear a lot more of the changes at E3 when it seems Microsoft is planning to unload a lot of information.
Sony is pretty conservative with its controllers, and we don't see too many tweaks between generations. The new Dualshock 4 is the biggest design change we have seen thus far from Sony. The controller still has the major button layout we have all grown used to in the same places, with the exception of the "start" and "select" buttons which have been changed to "options" and "share" respectively.  There are two major differences in this controller that should be noted. Sony has added a touch pad to the front of the controller. How this feature will be used remains to be seen, but it could be similar to that of the PS Vita. The Dualshock 4 also sports a light bar at the top of the controller, to allow it to be easily tracked by the Eye camera. The one downside I see from this controller is that it still rests on the bottom shoulder buttons, which could make it easier to break if stepped on, or cause accidental button presses.

The Cloud

Each of the new systems will use the cloud, but in very different ways. Microsoft, with the backing of the Azure cloud platform, will allow developers to unload some of the game computation into the cloud, freeing up internal resources for more immediate calculations. The cloud will be used for things such as physics modeling, fluid dynamics, cloth motion, and other non latency-sensitive computations. Microsoft said that, "A rule of thumb we like to use is that [for] every Xbox One available in your living room we'll have three of those devices in the cloud available." This is very promising and could lead to some exceptional graphics in the future once the developers get the hang of the timing and flow of cloud computing. Don't worry though, all single player games should be able to be played without an internet connection, but it seems like they may run a bit slower or at lower quality.

The PS4 features cloud-based backwards compatibility.  Sony will stream older titles through Gaikai. Perhaps in the future they will do something similar to what the Xbox One is attempting, but for the moment it seems that Sony will only use the cloud for older titles. The reason for streaming the games instead of downloading them straight to the hard drive is probably due to Sony's change to the AMD x86, which won't work well with the architecture from previous consoles, so streaming will help them to get around this problem.  How they will price these games, and the exact way in which it will all work has not been released yet, but I'm sure we will hear more during E3.

Media Integration

This is really where your decision will be made.  Through the last console generation we saw PS3 take the route of being for the hardcore gamer while Microsoft emphasized other media options for their console. It doesn't seem like things are going to change in the 8th generation.  The Microsoft conference was chock-full of different media options and the seamless changes between them all via the Kinect software. They have also promised exclusive TV series such as HALO produced by Steven Spielberg.  Sony may have more in store for us at E3 on media integration, but at their conference, they revealed game after game, showing that they are here to stay as the console for gamers, and that everything else will only be a secondary concern for them.  So if you are looking for a more family concentric console, the Xbox One is the system for you. It will allow everyone in the family to use the console, even if they aren't gamers.  If you are happy with your current media set up though, and are just looking for a powerhouse gaming console, the PS4 is your go to system.  

Confirmed Games

Sony Playstation 4

Assassin's Creed 4: Black FlagUbisoft
Battlefield 4EA Dice
Blacklight: RetributionZombie Studios
Call of Duty: GhostsInfinity Ward
Deep DownCapcom
Diablo IIIBlizzard Entertainment
DriveClubEvolution Studios
Dying LightTechland
EA Sports UFCEA Dice
FIFA Soccer 14EA Dice
Final FantasySquare Enix
Infamous: Second SonSucker Punch
Killzone: Shadow FallGuerilla Games
KnackStudios Japan
Madden 25EA
NBA Live 14EA
Need for Speed RivalsEA
Sniper Elite 3505 Games
ThiefEidos Studios Montreal
War ThunderGaijin Entertainment
Watch DogsUbiSoft Montreal
The Witcher 3: Wild HuntCD Projekt RED
The WitnessThekla, Inc

Xbox One

Assassin's Creed 4Ubisoft Montreal
Battlefield 4DICE
Call of Duty: GhostsInfinity Ward
Dying LightTechland
Fifa Soccer 14EA
Forza Motorsport 5Turn 10
Madden 25EA
NBA Live 14EA
Need for Speed RivalsEA
Quantum BreakRemedy Entertainment
ThiefEidos Studios Montreal
Watch DogsUbisoft

As you can see, Sony has confirmed many more games, but this is most likely due to the different marketing strategies of the two companies. Microsoft wanted to show off it's Kinect capabilities and the consoles ability to be the all-in-one media device, while Sony focused in on their game reveals. 

For me, I'm leaning towards the Playstation 4 at the moment, but only slightly. Sony seems to have hit the mark at the first conference unveiling their system, and Microsoft should have followed suit and revealed more of their games and opted to debut their Kinect technology at E3. I will however, hold my final judgement on this until after E3. 

I hope this has helped you make your initial conclusions on which system is right for you.  I'll be writing again after E3 to breakdown all of the new information. Let me know if there is anything you'd like to hear more about in the next post or any questions you might have about the systems in the comment section below and I'll do my best to answer them. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A Recap & Review of Doctor Who: The Name of The Doctor

Proceed with caution as this review contains SPOILERS from the 11th Doctor's storyline.

The season finale of Doctor Who came with the promise that the Doctor's greatest secret will be revealed.

At the end of series 6 (The Wedding of River Song), Dorium Maldovar prophesied that,

“On the fields of Trenzalore, at the Fall of the Eleventh, a question will be asked. It is the first question in the universe, hidden in plain sight. A question that must never be answered: Doctor Who?”

Does the season finale answer this question? Are other questions from earlier in the season answered, such as who Clara Oswald is and why she is the "impossible girl"?  Read below for all of the answers and more.

The openingto the episode was a phenomenal initial sequence for the season finale. It shows Clara falling through what seems like some sort of void; lost in time. It then moves through a montage of every incarnation of the Doctor, and the fact that she was involved in each of their storylines. The meaning of this intro isn't revealed until the end of the episode. So, let's dive in.

The true opening scene of the show begins with a few familiar character from the Doctor's past.  Vastra calls a meeting with Jenny, Strax, Clara, and River Song, who we haven't seen since "The Angels Take Manhattan" where she left the doctor crying and alone.  This meeting is made possible by a sort of dream conference call in which every member is asleep during the meeting and enters a lucid dream together from a particular fragrance. A little confusing, I know.  Nevertheless, during this meeting they discuss information given to them by a murderer who knows about the fields of Trenzalore.  As I've mentioned, this is the site of the "Fall of the Eleventh" according to Dorium Maldovar, which can't be good news.

During this meeting, The Great Intelligence (GI), send his Whisper Men to kill the members of the conference while they are asleep.  Clara wakes up to find the Doctor in her home. She immediately tells him what happened, which causes him to cry as he knows he must go to protect the lives of Jenny, Strax, and Vastra. However, this is the most dangerous place for the Doctor to visit, as he is crossing his own timeline at the point of his death, which is the most dangerous thing a Time Lord can do.  

Clara and the Doctor travel to Trenzalore, to the angst of the TARDIS. Trenzalore is the site of a large battle it seems as the area is strewn with tombstones, one of which is the remains of the TARDIS, not in it's normal state, but much much larger. When the TARDIS breaks down its dimensions, and it is no longer bigger on the inside.  The TARDIS is actually the tomb of the Doctor. 

The GI's evil plan is to gain access to the Doctor's tomb and insert himself into the Doctor's time-stream to change the past and make all of the Doctor's past successes failures. 

The Doctor, along with his companions make their way to the entrance of his tomb where they meet the GI face-to-face.  The Great Intelligence threatens to kill all of the Doctor's companions if he does not utter his own name, which is the only way to open the door to the tomb.  The Doctor refuses, yet the doors still open. River Song, who is linked to Clara throughout the episode, whispers the Doctor's name, leaving us in suspense as to the ultimate secret, as if we really thought Steven Moffat would tell us that. 

Once inside the tomb of the Doctor, the cast comes upon the time-stream of the Doctor, a mass of whirling lights of wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff. The GI goes through with his evil plot and enters the Doctor's timestream which obliterates him into billions of pieces all along the Doctor's timeline, and things begin to change, such as the disappearance of Jenny and Strax becoming evil again.  Clara realizes what she is supposed to do. Her reason for existing is to jump into the Doctor's time-stream to stop the GI from thwarting the Doctor and keeping time as it should be. 

Even more shocking than Clara sacrificing herself, the Doctor then jumps into his own time-stream to find Clara and pull her back out. However, before doing so he looks to River, his ex-wife, who we thought was only visible to Clara throughout the whole episode as she tried to tell him not to go into the vortex of his own time-line. He grabs her hand, and she asks how he did that, that she wasn't really there. In a heartfelt, tender, loving moment, the Doctor exclaimed, "You are always here to me, and I always listen, and I can always see you." These words, written by Steven Moffat, along with Matt Smith and Alex Kingston's faces and delivery in this scene is the brightest spot of the entire series, if not the entire Matt Smith timeline. After they kiss they say their quirky goodbyes and the Doctor enters his own timeline to find and save Clara to bring her out of the never ending void of being born, growing up, and helping the Doctor. 

At the closing scene of the series, the Doctor and Clara come upon a figure, standing with his back turned to them. The man turns and the words, "Introducing John Hurt as The Doctor" come onto the screen.  Just as we thought the questions had all been answered, Moffat brings on another for us to ponder until the next series begins, keeping all of the fans waiting eagerly for the 50th anniversary episode. It will be interesting to see how this Doctor fits in to the series. Is he a future version of the Doctor, or a pre-doctor version? Or perhaps he is the Valeyard? Only one way to find out and that will be to tune in to the next series starting later this year.

Something I've always enjoyed about Steven Moffat's writing for this show is the fact that while the Doctor has amazing abilities and has fought and saved a countless number of times, he still is the one that needs saving from time to time.  This is definitely the case at the fields of Trenzalore. 

It seems that this is probably the last time we will see River Song in the Doctor Who series, and while I'm sad to see her go, I'm glad that Moffat was able to write a proper ending that suited the actors to make a truly beautiful and heartwarming close to their storyline. The Doctor's confession to River about his fear of saying goodbye to her revealed so much about his character and divulged emotional layers that we haven't seen in the past from the Doctor. Which is really why we want to know his name in the first place if you think about it, to find out something new, to see something we haven't seen from him before.  His actions say so much more about him than his name ever could.

I loved seeing Clara interacting with the Doctor throughout all of his incarnations. Seeing her nudge William Hartnell's version of the Doctor towards a specific TARDIS, along with the scenes of her in many of the other incarnations such as Tom Baker, and Patrick Troughton was exceptional.

I'm sure that a lot of Doctor Who fans will be upset with this episode, but I personally found it to be amazing. Moffat delivered on everything that he promised. The story of this episode was about the name of the Doctor, and we did find out who Clara is. This episode changed so much of what I knew about the show, but doesn't detract from the things I've seen before.  To me this series was a little slow, but it packed a punch in the end that is one I won't forget.  Needless to say, I can't wait for the next series and the 50th anniversary special where we will see Matt Smith, David Tennant, and many more of our old favorites. The special is slated to air on November 23rd, 2013.

The Ginger Engineer: An Intro

My name is Andrew Brown, and I am the Gingineer. I recently graduated from North Carolina State University with my Bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering. Since I was a young whipper snapper I've always been interested in "nerdy" things. Video games, sci-fi/fantasy TV, and technology have always been a major interest of mine.  This may or may not be because I'm a pale ginger who has to stay inside a lot to stay away from the suns evil fury. Now that I've graduated I've found myself with a lot of free time outside of work and need something to preoccupy my time. My goal for this blog is to review and discuss some of my favorite shows, games, tech toys, gadgets, comics, and maybe even sunscreen. I really don't intend to make my skin tone and hair color a major part of the blog, it just happened to be a clever portmanteau that I thought would work for the blog and represents who I am in some way.  I hope you enjoy my posts and if you have any comments or requests about something you'd like to see, feel free to let me know and I'll see what I can do. 


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