Saturday, 14 December 2013

Blog ate my drafts

In yet another turn of unfortunate events, blogger seems to have consumed my drafts, including one about Contrast that was rather difficult to write as it hits home on a few fronts. Especially now I happen to have family issues with my parents which has also been taking more of my time and energy than I'd like it to. I had to rewrite several parts and was going to finally publish it soon.

I'll try to do a post on it nonetheless because it's a cool game with a soundtrack that's different from most things out there but certainly has its fair share of flaws.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Nostalgia and why it's so hard to beat Mario 64 and Ocarina of Time

It's pretty much inevitable that every time a new Zelda or Mario game comes out, Super Mario 64 and Zelda: The Ocarina of Time are brought up. There are great reasons for thinking that these games are the best ever.
But I can't help but think of one important aspect that makes these games unique; eternally so.
Super Mario 64 in particular as it was a launch game for the N64. After so many Mario games that were all 2D side scrollers, all of a sudden this game stood out. It was everyone's favorite mustachioed plumber in 3D where you could run around and perform various different jumps, slide around and everything!
I believe that an important component of the nostalgia that people associate with SM64 is this transformation to 3D that simply will never happen again. Only kids who you bring up playing the old 2D classics and suddenly expose them to the next 3D mario game could you reproduce that same awe.

It's kind of funny how it's similar to how some jazz musicians wish they could forget more about their musical training. To have less knowledge upon which to improvise on. Kurt Rosenwinkel once said that to him, improvising is like taking everything you've learned and bringing it to an altar to sacrifice. I have recordings of many of my lessons at the conservatory and while my playing was wonky and lacking in many places, there are many concepts I now hear and think "wow, that was actually a really neat line!" and wish I could play with whatever was going on in my mind.

I wonder how it would be if I could erase my experience with certain games and play newer incarnations of its series, like the recent Super Mario 3D World - which by the way I'm not planning on buying as I'm biding my time with other games until Mario Kart 8 and Bayonetta 2 release for the Wii U.
How would it be to have had Twilight Princess, Wind Waker or even Spirit Tracks on DS as my first ever Zelda experience?

Is this the perspective of those old folks who wish they could be kids again?

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Blog update


Just a quick update here before I put up a proper post. I got my laptop back and am trying to get all my software to run again. I'm looking to post a simple jazz tune to see if most of the stuff works before continuing on with the game music stuff. Sorry for all the delay, it's not fun for me either =(

I'm picking up a PS4 this Friday, I'll see if I can put a fancy link to my twitch channel for if/when I stream on the side of my blog. But just in case you want to follow my channel or what have you, it's right here. And yes I'll have a camera so you might catch me with my mug up on screen! I'm not responsible for any damage done to your eyes or monitor as a result of having my face projected to either one.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

What's with all the bugs this year?

This might be a rant post, but I can't help but ponder about the level of polish some of this year's AAA games have launched with. This year's CoD looks and runs bad on PC, EA's Battlefield 4 is flooded with stability related bug reports, I'm stuck in the loading screen going out of the Batcave to anywhere else in Batman Origins and this year's Need for Speed (on PC, at least) is atrocious. I'm probably missing a few.

The launch of two next gen consoles has to take some of the blame as a lack of focus in development is never good. So many games this year are coming out on a lot of platforms: PC, 360, X1, PS3, PS4 and Wii U is a pretty basic and automatically assumed setting. And considering the install base of the last generation this situation could keep going for quite a bit longer. If it goes on for too long we will be stuck with smaller worlds to immerse and get lost in. But there's been a first light ray of hope in the past week of news.
A trademark for Fallout 4 was made, and we all know how great that was. I have to confess that I never finished that game, nor did I clock many hours in to it. It's on my backlog, but I know I loved what little I had played.

After having played over 15 hours of Batman: Arkham Origins I'm still on the fence. It has a slight sense of new and/or refined elements, phenomenal writing paired with a generally boring and straightforward story, slightly enhanced but very familiar visuals and the polish is everywhere and nowhere. I really wish they had simply waited until around now to start development on a new Batman game, making it next gen only. Instead it denies Arkham City being the last great game of its series on last gen while also denying itself an amazing entry to next gen.
And in that aspect I'm kind of happy that they got a more lukewarm reception from the press and gaming community because hopefully that will get the message across and get their stuff sorted out.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

The Fit Meter

 I thought it'd be nice to do an article about a game (if you can really call it that) that surprised me, and a little gadget that surprised me even more.

Paying attention to yourself

There's plenty to criticize the whole Wii Fit stuff for, and a lot of it is quite justified. The emphasis on BMI in the body test can give an awful experience if it doesn't make sense for your body like if you're already a mass of muscle. Which I'm not, though I'm by no means obese either.
There's also the issue that the game doesn't take your entire form into consideration when doing some of the workouts where you'd really need it like Yoga. I think most fitness coaches who have checked out any of the Fit games have said that it's far from perfect, but it does do a great job of getting you interested in personal health. And that's where I have grown to embrace it.

The fit meter is great. It's small and low profile that I can attach it to my belt, hidden under my T-shirt. But it's a lot like Street Pass on 3DS. I don't want to leave the house without it. I almost always take the stairs instead of an escalator with it on. I didn't think it would affect my way of moving around so much as it has.
In the short time I've had this little gadget it's become a part of my standard kit when leaving the house - wallet, keys, phone, fit meter...okay, good to go!

The best part is that together with actually doing the workouts in the game, I already have results. My weight has mostly stopped going up and my belly is starting to deflate again. For a dude, I had a pretty good figure but as always you take those things for granted and miss things when you don't have it anymore.

Yes, I'm one of the twelve people that own a Wii U. I never thought I'd get a Fit game, let alone like it and get anything out of it.
If the whole offer of getting a Fit Meter sync'd with your system lets you keep the game forever hadn't existed, together with getting a bargain on a Balance Board wasn't a thing I wouldn't have jumped in to this so soon.
So for the relatively little the Wii U has done for me in its first year in the living room, it's managed to change my life a bit on the long term and I feel thankful for that.

I'm looking forward to next year's warm days for new plethora of reasons now!

Man, I never thought I'd blog about this...

Grrrr(video update)

My Macbook Air is one of the bad lemons of the bunch, the SSD has died and my visit to the Apple Store in Amsterdam yesterday was useless and I needed an appointment. As I use this machine to do my video editing, I don't know when I can actually get back to work on that. This is incredibly frustrating.
The good news is I think I can bring it in tomorrow at a different place so hopefully the delay won't be so bad. If they can't do it, I will be without a machine for at least 2 weeks more. The agony!!

Next post could be about Wii Fit U (the Fit Meter to be precise) or Pokemon! Coming soon(tm)

Monday, 11 November 2013

Blog update

Alrighty! I'm finally back from Suriname and I survived the intial wave of business I had to take care of upon returning.

First thing is first: a big Thank You! to the NBI for awarding me for the Most Interesting Content prize. I'm pretty surprised the jury awarded me this. I will do my best to respect the interest my blog concept has sparked and write regularly. I'm thrilled at the thought that even a few people are interested in these subjects.

The plan

 I'm going to shoot for about three posts a week. I'm looking to get the jazz part of the blog introduced this week or the next, with my Final Fantasy cover upload being delayed due to issues with the video and audio; I've decided to just rerecord the whole thing so that will take another week or so.

I thought about posting about Blizzcon but I'd rather wait and really get my head wrapped around the things they've announced, rewatching some of the VoDs available with the virtual ticket. But I'd like to do a quick run down on some things.


  • New Raid Structure: Had this come around in Cataclysm I'd probably still be raiding today. And with more people that I've known since the beginning or close to it. The flex tech is apparently fabulous and it's great to see their drive behind using it to fix what is essentially a social problem. Very stoked!
  • Draenor, the story, etc: A bit bummed that we're not done with Garrosh yet. I hope that we won't be fighting Orcs and Ogres during the entire expansion. Nor do I want to see an entire raid tier with some level of dedication to trolls again. But something tells me the Burning Legion will get some focus, perhaps in the second raid tier (6.1 or 6.2) before moving on to whatever it is we fight at the end. At least we've been assured that it's not Garrosh that awaits us at the end of the expansion. Phew!
  • I can't get excited about the zones. At least not yet. The premise of exploring Draenor before it all went to crap is cool though. I had no idea Black Temple had that kind of history (spoiler: It wasn't such an evil place) and I always love a good snow zone.
  • Lots of little things like bag management, (auto distribution, no more quest loot, heirloom UI etc) item overhaul, item squish and the fact that they're not adding lots of new buttons!
  • Garrisons a.k.a player housing! Some cool ideas there that once again can expand on what they already have.
  • I'm skeptical of the insta level 90 thing. Hopefully the flood of people that have no idea how to play their class will be somewhat limited and/or mitigated after a while.

D3: RoS

  • I was rather underwhelmed. A lot of the info was old news from Gamescom earlier this year.

    • It was clear that the audience was very hard to get super excited for Diablo 3 anymore. If you compare the enthusiasm for things demonstrated back before the game had orginally come out you can feel the difference. Even as someone who wasn't there! If someone was there and this wasn't the case though, let me know! 

    •  I'm still hopeful for D3 though. The basic gameplay is fun; I've spent countless hours as a teenager playing D2 and I managed to get my money's worth out of its sequel. They're on the right track, but as I'm sure everyone else feels, we have to really see the finished product to believe it. The brand is quite damaged. 


        I still have to let Heroes sink in; see more of it. Nothing really to talk about as far as Hearthstone is concerned. It's an awesome game and it's fantastic that they're moving to open beta by the end of January along with the announcement of an Android release.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Part Two of the MoP Pre-Post Mortem: Raids

Disclaimer: Still in Suriname so I can't go around taking pics to make the post fancy /cry LFR

Hah, yes it's laughable isn't it? The grand majority of raiding I've done in this expansion was with LFR. What was left of Adrenaline was able to finish Mogu'shan vaults, then we managed to down the first two bosses in Heart of Fear. After that the guild had to permanently end official raiding activities; we just couldn't get the people together again.
Back in Burning Crusade I wasn't able to raid due to the time difference and my stubbornness of not wanting to switch to the EU servers. I get very attached to friends, you see. Very attached. But I know that in TBC I wanted to see the raiding content to wrap up the stories told while questing and doing the dungeons. I constantly wished there was some way I could experience those things, and any kind of streaming video service couldn't really provide either.

So now with LFR in Mists, I wasn't too sad about losing raids. Once I get back home I'll probably re-up for a month to see the rest of the Siege of Orgrimmar and wait until the next expansion comes around.

But I'll tell you what, I definitely miss 'it'. Yeah, 'that'. If it's one thing I've managed to realize for myself from this it's the essence of why I love raiding. The story is definitely a part of it. Watching a 'tube video of all the bosses going down, with any RP that goes on between NPCs and the like is one thing, but experiencing it for yourself just brings in that DIY element you can't get elsewhere. 
But 'that' is the learning experience.

I suspect that the element dulled on me because I consider myself to be quite competent at raiding. I suck at a lot of video games but I've seen WoW as being a relatively easy game to play when it comes to execution. I learn pretty fast, and I'll admit that it was kind of frustrating when after 25 wipes across multiple raid nights the strategies still don't click with everyone to complete an encounter.

But now I know that what I love about raiding is the social experience of learning things together. I remember now that, despite how high school went for me, I loved to learn stuff. Always a sponge for learning new things. And after an expansion full of LFR I think I'm not the only one that has seen through this. I'll touch on flex raiding a bit later on. First...

What I didn't like and still don't like

I get that professions should have some roll in the game, but honestly I've always disliked consumables. Heck, if there's one thing I'm bad at in MMOs it's handling cool downs. I'm a pretty conservative person IRL (not in a political way) so I feel very walled up when it comes to using buttons with longer cool downs. But that's not the point, I can learn to use that stuff. I'm still pretty horrible at it but I have improved.

What I hate is the preparation. Getting the gold/mats together for flasks, chanting new gear, gemming, food. All this nonsense. I just want to get to the meat of the game. LFR lets you do this, but to my knowledge you need all these things to be in tip top shape for every other form of raiding.
But in regards to this, I must say that Mists has made the best effort to make this part of the game somewhat enjoyable. When being level 90 meant you were hip the game was insanely overwhelming, professions included. But the facilities were there to make your outside-of-raiding-life easier. And for that I'm thankful.
I'm curious to see what they'll do in the future to support these systems. I'd love it if they continue to use the Pandaren farms, it gives the continent that much more relevance in the future of the game. And let's be honest, Pandaria is a pretty cool place to be!

Flex Raiding - Our Savior?

"And they said unto the Lord: "How the hell did he do that?"..."

Really, hats off to Blizzard. Once again the introduce some ballsy system no one thought would work. Flex raiding has, for the relatively short time it's been out, been heralded as a saviour of raiding and probably even guilds. It fundamentally taps in to the philosophy of bringing the player. If you wanted to do 25 man raids you needed 20-23 really good players, 25 if you want to do the more challenging heroics. Now a system is in place that allows you to forgo a diluted experience and instead make something aimed at a very pure experience. This is quite a good development. 

When I return I really want to make an effort to do a Flex raid to try it out. It should bring back the element of learning encounters (hell, even trash!) and interacting with people in a more consistent structure. And when it comes to preparing consumables and the like I will just have to bite through the sour apple. That's a dutch expression, in case you're wondering.


Well I'm actually a little stuck on whether or not I should do another part. I don't do PvP. Perhaps I'll dive in to the Legendary quest series once I actually manage to complete it. I've had horrible luck with those Runestones!
If there's a system you'd like me to cover in WoW, I'm totally up for writing about it in more depth. That way we can have some active discussion! Perhaps a question like "Why did Blizzard do this? Change that? Implement this crazy thing?" I love those kinds of questions; I see on fan site forums and the official forums plenty of people that don't get the picture of why Blizzard at least tries certain things out.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

NBI: Poetry Slam

Lady Syl comes up with some interesting ideas sometimes.

If I was at my desktop right now with an active WoW susbscription (it ran out) I would post a screenshot of the lovely poem she sent me. I sent her a wonderful Christmas present in the mail with a an equally adorable poem attached to it. She replied in a suitable manner.

Here's a handful of things I've come up with. I had a damn good haiku in the plane to Suriname but I was sleepy and didn't bother writing it down. A familiar mistake I make all too often with composing music, too.
So without further ado, here are my contributions.

A Wind Waker at Sea
Sailing upon a vast sea
An innocent Bokoblin stands
Who does he think he is, with that silly spyglass?
"Give me your Joy Pendant!" I plea


Warcraft Behavior

Bustling city here
Much to do and see in town
Just stand and idle



In a Galaxy, far far away
There was a Mon Calamari
who healed and played music each day
Always running with a carbine at hand
Always jealous of the Teras Kasi band
A harvester here, a harvester there 
the burden of being a Combat Medic had him grow hair!
This fish ends his tale in a humble house called home
where memories of planets and hunting can be found in a tome

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

In Suriname

Hello everyone,

I've not been able to post anywhere near as much as I want to,  I apologise I will be in Suriname (a small country in South America) until November 4 for work. But I will be posting as much as possible despite the situation.

As Mr. Iwata says: "Please understand."

Being late to the party in Wotlk Dungeons

So, I'm going to start of by saying something a bit strange about wotlk's dungeons: they were hard. You may have had a different experience, but they were actually challenging. Of course, this is assuming you didn't have that fancy LFR buff I think they implemented sometime (or was that Cataclysm?) or you're decked in epics. Mostly the latter.

How it all began

So here I am, freshly leveled Paladin at the lovely new cap of 80.  I did what you had to back then, get decked out in blue items and whatever relatively easy to get epics you could. That basically meant crafting and 5 man normals. So far everything's cool. Once I was fully prepared for doing heroic five mans...I apparently wasn't.

"OMG this is taking forever. You suck."

In I go, tanking gear at the ready. I actually do quite well, making normal pulls that I feel comfortable with. Unfortunately, everyone else is decked out in epics and is only interested in getting to the end a.s.a.p for their precious Justice/Valor. Here's an example, I remember it vividly.

In Halls of Stone - yes that dreadful place - there is a room with about three sets of dark iron dwarf pulls. The room itself is like a hub, splitting off to towards 3 different wings, the tall lady, the cave place with the giant dude and the exhibition of Brann's poor hacking abilities.

Now, I don't know about you, but these pulls hurt. When the game was fresh, I remember you had to line-of-sight pull each one separately. And to pull two or more packs either meant a lot of cooldown usage, stress and panic, or a timely demise. And it's from this perspective that my Paladin should be played. Of course, by this time the norm was to pull the whole room. Anything less is unforgivable, a clear lack of skill and it is made clear that you are a blight among the community of WoW players.

"Well do a run with guild mates then!"

Yes I wish I could have. Unfortunately the reality doesn't allow this. At least not in Adrenaline at the times I played. And chances are there was a fat chance of it happening in your guild either. Most of our guild members didn't log on outside of raid times, and I sure as hell am not quitting my most beloved guild and healing team because I can't have some fun with my alt(s).

To sum it up

So there you have it, the story of my life. Well not really. It comes down to this: if entry level content is kept relevant to highly geared characters, the effective balance of the dungeons breaks as you get characters of the entire gear level spectrum trying to do them. This, in my experience, leads to an almost disgusting after taste. In fact, so far the only other thing that has really felt revolting to do in this game was the PvP quest of the legendary series of this expansion where every second of just having it in my log was blegh!

But I have to wonder, was I alone in this? Because that was the other awkward thing: I seemed to be the only one with this problem.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Pre-postmortem on Mists of Pandaria

I have spent a considerable amount of time in Azeroth. A lot of that time raiding, some of it leveling alts and not raiding at all and for a while I even PvP'd.
I am fascinated with game design philosophy, and WoW is arguably the game that interests me the most. So while I've only done core 10 man raiding for the very beginning of this expansion I'd still like to give my own premature postmortem report on Mists of Pandaria. I will admit upfront that it's incomplete due to inexperience but try to see it as a different perception.

I will be discussing several systems spread across a series of posts.


 Overall I feel that Blizzard has done an excellent job at taking feedback about questing from Cataclysm and creating a fluid questing experience. Story telling through questing is better than before with far less cut scenes where you lose control of your character (I'm looking at you Ulduar!) and a lot more voice acting than ever before. After having spent a considerable amount of time playing SWTOR I knew that one of the best ways to enhance an MMO'S narrative is by using voice acting and this concept was confirmed to me in this expansion.

As for keeping folks grounded, it's a mixed bag. I totally loved being grounded to the world and I really think Blizzard should continue to do this in future expansions as flight effectively negates any form of level design. I do feel for the folks who are leveling their eighth alt and probably don't care to be grounded anymore.
Still, I think there is a way that you can be deprived of flight but still have an ok time leveling so many alts. I'm not really convinced it's all that bad but hey, I didn't play many alts this time around.



Too few! If you take a peek at the dungeons via the Dungeon Journal it's instantly apparent.

Mists is currently in an awkward place when it comes to dungeons. They served their purpose early on in getting people the items they need before raiding, and they all tie up loose ends on the stories each zone have to tell. But ever since 5.2 their role has dropped significantly. And now with the Timeless Isle I don't think anyone cares about dungeons. If  they started the expansion with ~12 dungeons they wouldn't have gotten any attention now.

Obviously we can all assume that there is a direct relation in the quantity of dungeons and their relevance to the game in the long run.
The Burning Crusade and Wotlk expansions had even more dungeons but Blizzard also made them relevant to a great number of players. Especially in Wotlk the five man heroics were important as you could accumulate valor points to get those oh so valuable Tier piece tokens.

Personally, I'm actually kind of relieved to see 5 mans the way they are. It is sad to see so few of them, but I like that they're very easy. There's a bit of a long story to tell as to why that is that I absolutely want to share with you, but that will be another post - possibly the next one before the next post for this series!

Dungeons have returned to their most basic form of fun, and those who seek challenge can find that in the challenge modes. Those haven't quite entirely turned out the way some had hoped for as you still hear stories of people just following along for the free shiny loot, but I found them to be quite challenging. Anything is relatively more trivial if you obsess with min-maxing, after all.

The really interesting point of discussion however are Scenarios. Until next time!


Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Meeting the Jazz Panda!

Hello one and all and welcome to my blog! I am a humble gamer and Jazz pianist by profession and education. An odd combination certainly; I've yet to find one like myself in this aspect.

Rather than giving you an extensive introduction to who I am, my likes and dislikes, I will simply mention what I'd like to write about in the future on this blog. You can get to know me along the way!

As game design philosophy fascinates me I will be sure to write a piece or two with that theme in mind. World of Warcraft and Diablo 3 are recent favorites, but it's probably safe to say that I'm generally interested in (MMO)RPG's.
Fun fact: I used to be one of Syl's slaves healing buddies in WoW in our guild, Adrenaline.

Furthermore I'll be writing about gaming in general and music. The music stuff could get slightly technical, but that's just because I tend to geek out when it comes to Jazz. Naturally, these elements (music and games) will be mixed together. Occasionally you will see me post one of my creations/covers from my youtube channel and you might be familiar with one that, while extremely old, has apparently been viewed many times! The channel is very rusty but I'm trying to breathe some life in to it.

Jazz and pandas are two of my favorite things in life, and just how the combination of jazz and games is a bit odd, this blog is sure to be more of the same odd stuff.