Happy Anniversary, Julie 
Saturday, 18 August, 2012, 18:13
Posted by Administrator
Happy 5 years, Julie :)

I had a long, drawn-out post typed out that criticized the early detractors of my relationship with Julie, but I figured I'd better leave that off for today, given that this marks the beginning of my 6th year of marriage to the most excellent wife a man could ask for.
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The Elephants Aren't As Big As We Thought 
Friday, 13 July, 2012, 01:47
Posted by Administrator
No, I haven't been stewing over the Mass Effect 3 endings since May, I've been busy :)

Earlier this month BioWare released a free DLC for Mass Effect 3 known as the Extended Cut. This DLC did not contain any new gameplay at all; rather, it contained a clarification of the original three endings. These came in the form of extended cutscenes, still images, and voiceovers. While some folks will stick to their guns and say that this DLC did nothing to improve the Mass Effect experience, I believe it resolved a lot of the questions that I was left with after my first playthrough.

Let's look at the color choices for a second. Mass Effect was all about choices and, based on these choices, the storylines diverged. When the player is called upon to make a decision, he or she must choose one of several possible responses that can be neutral, Paragon (often colored blue), or Renegade (often colored red). The original endings of Mass Effect 3 presented you with three choices: control, synthesis, and destroy. These were colored blue, green, and red, respectively. Since the encounter with Sovereign in the first Mass Effect installment, the player has been compelled to defeat the Reapers, which means they need to go with the destroy ending, colored red. So, if the ultimate goal is to defeat the Reapers, why is the preferred ending colored Renegade Red? Why is the Control option, which the Illusive Man has been trying to pursue the entire time, colored Paragon Blue?

It seems like a minor thing, really, but it kind of confused me. My first character was, by and large, Paragon. At the end of the game, I had to make one last decision that I have been working toward throughout the series a renegade decision.

The problem with the original endings was that I had no idea why this was a renegade decision. That is the purpose of the Extended Cut DLC: to clarify why this could be construed as a renegade action. In the end, it boils down to the fact that all Council races need to rebuild everything themselves, and that the control mechanism implemented by the race that originally designed the Reapers is now destroyed, paving the way for synthetic life to eventually eliminate organic life altogether. That honestly makes sense.

Similarly, the blue (Control) ending finds Shepard becoming a Reaper himself, controlling all other Reapers and helping rebuild everything that was destroyed during the war that played out in Mass Effect 3. This gets all Council races back on their feet again with minimal interruption to their space-faring ways, and it preserves the Geth (which matters if you decided to keep them alive to work with the Quarians).

I played through the ending with my first Shepard a second time. I chose the Control ending because, now that I knew what it was all about, it seemed to be a fitting choice.
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The Red, Green, and Blue Elephants in the Room 
Saturday, 31 March, 2012, 19:44
Posted by Administrator
You may have noticed this already, but I like video games. The Mass Effect trilogy happens to be one of my favorites. Think about it -- it's in space (which is awesome), is a shooter (awesome), combines in some RPG elements (awesome), and takes into account the choices you made earlier in the game (also awesome).

As you are likely aware, Mass Effect 3 was released on March 6th. There was a lot of hype surrounding this release -- more than I had seen for the previous installments. There were extended cinematic trailers and such airing during Walking Dead, and the trailers looked a lot like the game. Julie got me the game for my birthday (pre-order) and I was already playing it at 23:00 on March 5th -- digital download copies unlocked at the stroke of midnight on the 6th, Eastern Time.

Throughout the game, "this is awesome" floated through my head. Every mission, every cutscene, every action, every choice ... awesome. There were rumblings on various forums about the ending being supremely anti-awesome, but I wanted to see for myself. I read all of the ending spoilers and decided that I was ready to experience it, so I pushed forward.

I tasted a mild form of disappointment when I didn't get to see the Elcor cavalry, but that wasn't as bad as when I had experienced the ending. So far I have only experienced the red ending first-hand. Without spoiling it, I can safely tell you that there are lots of unresolved plot points and many new questions, which is not what the fans were promised before the release date.

So, to reiterate: I was disappointed by the ending. Does that mean I am going to uninstall the game and ask Origin for a refund? No, it most certainly does not. Did I fly into a fit of rage and throw things around the room? Did I punch my monitor? Did I get depressed and curse the very existence of EA? No, no, and no. It's a video game. Like many Mass Effect fans I, too, have spent hundreds of hours playing the previous installments, carefully making each choice in a way that fits my character's personality, molding my relationships with the crew and with organizations and species throughout the galaxy. Did EA/BioWare screw up? Yep, but sometimes we as fans need to step back, take a breath, and realize what we're complaining about.

Anyway ... I'm going to have to start my second playthrough. My first, Douglas Shepard, ended up dying on the Citadel after making the red choice. Daisy Shepard might have better luck.
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Took a little longer... 
Sunday, 4 March, 2012, 18:13
Posted by Administrator
...but I've got the Auto Show link over there in the sidebar now. Yes, we went on a Saturday; no, it wasn't as crowded as it usually is, but it was still difficult to get good pictures despite being armed with a Nikon D3100 this time. I was most disappointed by Honda because they didn't bring anything new to the show, while Toyota was slinging hybrids and fuel cell vehicles around in their massive display.

Acura brought their freshly-castrated RDX to the show, but they stuck it in a back corner, leaving the current 2.3L Turbo model out front for all to see. Then there was the ILX, which I not-so-fondly call the Acura Civic. I mean, come on -- didn't American manufacturers learn that excessive badge engineering was a bad thing? Learn from our mistakes, Acura.

Lexus relegated their new GS to a single floor model, and an overdone concept. That's not something you want to do for a model that your CEO wants to save here in the US. They lined up four LFAs in the middle of their display, and brought what appeared to be a hybrid version they called the LF-LC.

Pontiac, Mercury, and Saturn were inconspicuously absent. Lincoln brought nothing new to the show; neither did Buick.

It wasn't depressing, but certainly wasn't as exciting as in years past.
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It's February 
Sunday, 12 February, 2012, 18:26
Posted by Administrator
There is an event that occurs every February that I haven't missed in over a decade: the Chicago Auto Show. This year will be no exception. The difference is that I have a proper camera this year, and that Mario has figured out how to say the word "car."

I will go next Saturday, February 18th. Look for a new link in the sidebar later that weekend.
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