Category Archives: Reviews

Review: Amnesia – The Dark Descent

This post was moved from the now no-longer-existent Brandonsoft developers blog and was originally written on April 6, 2012.

 

 

When I was first introduced to videogames when I was around 4 or 5, I was taught that there is only one way to play videogames, and that is to win. So ever since then, I have played videogames in order to win. Any single player game I would buzz through the main storyline and put the game down once I completed it. Any multiplayer game I would compete to be the very best, and that was all. It never really occurred to me that there was more to the world of videogames, especially single player games. Amnesia taught me different.

My friends told me to purchase Amnesia because they said it was the scariest game they had ever played. I never really thought that a videogame could be scary, so when the game finally went on sale on Steam, I picked it up, and I wasn’t dissapointed.

When I first started up the game, I was greeted with a message that said something along the lines of turn off the lights, wear headphones, focus, and don’t worry about winning or dying, saving will be taken care of. Needless to say, I was intimidated. However, I wanted to try this game out for what it was worth, so I followed the instructions.

A fountain in Amnesia: The Dark Descent

Amnesia has a very unique, scary, architectural style.


For those of you who don’t know, Amnesia is a first person horror adventure game for the PC, where your character, Daniel, drinks an Amnesia potion and relives his memories in order to accomplish an overall goal. The main premise behind the game is that you are a normal person, who cannot fight back against any sort of monster that you may encounter, you may only run and hide.

Well, after about 20 minutes of playing the game with my lights off, headphones on, and full focus on my computer, I was immersed. I felt myself inside the game. I would lose track of time, pick up random objects and examine them, be interested in parts of the game that were not part of my current objective, and I was loving it. This was the first time this had happened to me, I felt like I was in another world while playing this videogame. Were all videogames like this? That discussion is for later. As for Amnesia, the game was very good. The story was very intriguing, the graphics were great, the sound was phenomenal, the overall design of the game is great, and the horror.. oh my.

Since you are not allowed to attack the monsters you encounter during the game, you become very weary about encountering them. And this makes you fearful. Not only is this game the type of horror that makes you jump out of your seat because something loud and unexpected happens, but it is the game that makes you scared to turn the next corner. Often times while playing, if I heard a noise I often times stepped backward out of fear. I wasn’t scared that I was going to die and possibly lose some progress, but instead I was scared that I would see something. The game makes you feel like you are there. The puzzles it contains are very interactive, and make you feel even more attached to the game. Overall, it is a completely immersive experience that I have never actually experienced before. This game was definitely worth every penny.

Errie rooms filled with rotting carcasses are a common sight in Amnesia

With that being said, since I enjoyed the immersiveness of Amnesia: The Dark Descent so much, I decided to play some other games in the same fashion, and it has made games much more enjoyable. For example, in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, instead of focusing only on the main questline, I often times went off to explore, and this exploration led to new caves, which led to new people, which led to new quests, which led to a whole new world of fun! I am about 45 hours into the game and have not yet completed the second part of the main questline, and I am loving the game. I had the same experience with Mass Effect 2. I think this is the way games are supposed to be played, and I never knew about it before. Amnesia: The Dark Descent not only gave me a great 10 hour long horrifying adventure, but it also taught me how to enjoy videogames to a whole new level.

Review: The Shallows – What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains by Nicholas Carr

This post was migrated from the no-longer-existent Brandonsoft developer blog and was originally written on May 22, 2012.

It is not often that I post reviews of things that I enjoyed, or didn’t enjoy. It is also seldom that I post reviews about books, novels, or fictional tales, all of which may be collapsed into the former category. Reading has been an enjoyable pastime to me as of late, and I have learned many things from it. One of which being how to write in an eloquent yet simple fashion. The crafting of words has always appealed to me in a way that Legos appear to a young child, and with that being said, I shall begin my review.

The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains is a novel packed with information about how the human brain works, and what our modern information-based society changes about our every day lives. Nicholas Carr writes about this in a very personalized style, making the book both easy and fun to read. I have to admit, I was a little worried when I picked up this book due to the fact that I have no knowledge of advanced neuroscience whatsoever, and I thought that my lack of knowledge would make Carr’s arguments incomprehensible. However, that clearly was not the case. Nicholas Carr explains everything from basic ideas to advanced theories using brilliant everyday examples, allowing the reader to truly get a sense of what he is talking about. I felt like I was following Carr’s logic every step of the way.

There are also carefully placed personal digressions, where Carr takes the reader away from the argument or history lesson at hand and explains his own personal thoughts on the topic. I have to praise Carr for this, because admittedly, the personal examples he uses in the digressions would have done his central argument no good if they were placed within the text itself, but they add the perfect amount of spice when given their own personal sections. Not only do they allow the reader a break from the argument, but they allow the reader to know Carr, to feel his feelings, to take a quick walk in his shoes. This, I felt, strongly attached me to the author and helped push his argument along.

As far as the content of the book goes, I was a little dismayed by how off topic some chapters seemed to be. For instance, there is a section in the book in which the reader is led down a windy path concerned with the arguments and counter-arguments about the effects of search engines on the brain, when suddenly, the reader reaches a quick and sudden end to the path. This end: a history lesson on how Larry Page revolutionized the Internet world by creating Google. In my opinion, this was extremely out of place. There are several other examples of this style of seemingly unintended paths throughout the book.

Despite this, Carr’s central argument is convincing, and I felt myself agreeing with him and his thoughts on topics with almost everything he said. This may be due to the fact that we are both on the computer a lot, but it may also be contributed to the fact that Carr simply knows how to write and make a point. Whatever the reason, it simply works. The counter-arguments and Carr’s concessions almost seem invisible throughout the work, however, and this weakens his argument. Although there was a discussion of how Aristotle did not believe in using pen and paper, Carr did not seem to address the arguments of those believing that constant computer use does not change our way of thought. This may be because those arguments are either weak or nonexistent, but they should have been addressed nonetheless.

Overall, Nicholas Carr’s work was both enjoyable to read and intriguing. Although it makes me think twice about getting onto the computer each day, I do not regret reading it. If you are an everyday computer user like myself, I suggest picking up this book.

 

Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows: http://www.theshallowsbook.com/nicholascarr/Nicholas_Carrs_The_Shallows.html

Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/The-Shallows-Internet-Doing-Brains/dp/0393072223

CODE Keyboard: First impressions

Let me preface this post by saying that I am by no means a typer. I have never really took time to look into what keyboards were good, what keyboards I liked the best, or what keyboards allowed me to type the best. To further prove my point, all of my previous typing was done on the Microsoft Sidewinder X4, a keyboard that I am almost positive lacks merit in the land of keyboards that are “typing” boards.

The world of mechanical keyboards has interested me for quite some time now. Their clicky nature, their claims for faster speeds, the way that they feel while typing. Everyone always had good things to say about mechanical keyboards, and I’ve never had one. Thus, it only made sense that I got one. Following the recommendations of a few friends and of Jeff Atwood himself, I decided that I would go ahead and get the CODE keyboard without a number pad and with Cherry MX clear switches. What this meant, I had no clue. I was more than excited to get started.

I have been using this keyboard for about a day. So far, I love it. Typing feels great, the sound is very satisfying, and the amount of tactile feedback really is incredible. There is no question as to whether or not I hit a key or I just kinda-pressed it. The keys actually depress as you press them, and I think that’s awesome.

The CODE with LEDs turned off.

The CODE with LEDs turned off.

Build Quality

As far as the keyboard itself goes, it feels great. It’s a little on the heavy side, but I don’t think that anyone ever expects a keyboard to be comparable to a feather. After all, all it really does is sit on the desk. The material feels solid, the keys look beautiful, and the paint gives the keyboard a classic look when the LEDs are toggled off, but a beautiful modern look when the LEDs are toggled on. In fact, when I first opened the box for the keyboard, I was a little underwhelmed. Without knowing what it was, it looked just like a normal keyboard. However, as soon as I held it, flipped a couple optional switches, ran the USB wire in its dedicated slot, and began typing, I knew this was no ordinary keyboard. It felt great. It still does.

The Sound

One thing that always interested me about mechanical keyboards was their sound. They sound as if you’re actually typing. Because of that, I was very concerned when picking out a keyboard. Now, I know nothing about the different color switches and which ones are loud and silent and soft, but I wanted to make sure that the keyboard I got had a satisfying sound, while not keeping my roommates awake. This keyboard (with the help of the MX Clear switches) does exactly that. It definitely isn’t too loud, and actually doesn’t require the keys to “click” in order for them to be pressed. The most noise is produced when the keys are fully depressed. However, while typing one will quickly realize that isn’t necessary. A keypress is registered about halfway down. Thus, there is no need to actually “click” the key. Not only does this provide a non-irritating sound profile, but it also gives the typer a little bit of control as to whether or not they want to be a quiet typist or the most annoying computer user in the library (of course, this means that you would have to bring the keyboard with you to the library).

The Feel

So many people raved about this keyboard because they felt “pleasured” to type on it. It was relaxing and it felt great. Honestly, as someone who is not a typing enthusiast, I don’t feel much “pleasure”. So far, I find that it is actually fairly tiring typing on this device. Now, keep in mind that I come from the world of chiclet laptop keyboards, so I definitely do not appreciate the levels of effort required to type on such a well-built device; however, all of the wild claims about this being the “best feeling” keyboard ever made do not resonate with me. As of right now, at least, I do not feel anything special.

Of course, I am not trying to say that the device doesn’t feel good. It feels good. I enjoy typing on it because of its sleek design, it’s clicky-clack nature, and it’s beautiful LEDs. However, I do not think that I would find myself carrying this keyboard around because using anything else would be an abomination and a sign of disrespect to my fingers. If anything, my fingers will need a bit of a break after typing on this device for so long. However, for a typing enthusiast, I can definitely see how this device has potential to feel great. I just don’t notice anything super outstanding.

 

The CODE with LEDs turned on.

The CODE with LEDs turned on.

 

Overall, I am very pleased with my purchase. Keep in mind that I have only been using it for a day, so I can’t comment on much, but I am not suffering from any buyer’s remorse, which is always a good sign. If anything, this keyboard is making me want to type more and learn how to actually type properly (I currently type in a strange fashion where 75% of the keys are typed using my index fingers. I will work on changing this soon!) There will be more comments to come regarding the CODE keyboard!