Game… Review?(???)

I think about lot about stuff – video games in particular, but I never write them down. It’s occurred to me that it might be good to solidify them as pixels or ink once in a while.
So if you’ve somehow found yourself in a predicament of watching paint dry or the lawn grow or molasses in January, this wall of text might provide you with slightly higher entertainment value.

I’ve just finished playing Mass Effect: Andromeda and as a fan of the original trilogy (OT), I have many thoughts about it, but as I tumbled the ideas around in my head, I realized my gripes about the game are less to do with this particular title and more to do with open-world games.
And before the internet army decides to nuke me from orbit, this is not a condemnation of open-world games but my ramblings on why open-world games often fail in the story department.

So it goes like this: Role-Playing Games are centered around a strong narrative story and characters, for a story to be considered “good” it must have well controlled pacing – this I believe has been widely agreed upon by lots of people.

Now comes the perhaps radical proposition: I believe that open-world games and well-paced narrative cannot co-coexist, they’re oil and water.

Good pacing demands that the narrative hold a tight leash on the unfolding and passage of events; when to let the leash relax for a short while and then to gently reel – or abruptly yank it back in, creating a roller-coaster ride – a flow of events with contrasting slow and quick passages of time.

What happens when there is no one to hold the leash? The dog (replace with your preferred animal) is free to roam the city streets – it is free to pee on every and any lamp post, it will bark at the oncoming dog who is three times its size, it is free to drop its solid waste excrement where innocent pedestrians will then have their day ruined. Of course, these are just dog things and it will do them with delight.

When on a warm summer afternoon, you give the dog about three dollars fifty and set it on a daring quest to the nearest convenience store to pick up a 1 litre bottle of full fat milk for your mushroom pasta sauce (this is the core story/main quest, and yes I realize the irony that this is a fetch quest), it is going to encounter various bushy squirrels that will lead it to dead end alleyways or running in circles around some large Oak (meaningless side quests), the dog glimpses some kindred dogs in the park and frolics for a while (more meaningless side quests), the dog will befriend a homeless man and bring him a brief moment of warm joy (maybe relevant(?) side quest).

Amongst all this excitement the dog pauses and stares blankly down the humming street towards the asphalt horizon, the dog feels a nebulous wisp of memory whispering something about “one litre full fat milk” but the vaporous thought is dashed to shreds by the abrasive, static sound of a megaphone declaring “hot deals, everything must go! Step inside and see!”.

Maybe the dog is content to forfeit all commitments and spend the rest of its days wandering the marvelous scenes of Skyrim the city streets, but perhaps instead the dog feels a pang of longing for someone to hold the leash so that it could be guided on intricately crafted emotional journey, feel the highs and lows, from the anticipatory tension to the stomach-churning twists to the resolute climax.

Is this about games or dogs? I’m not sure. Thanks for reading if you made it this far.

Cintiq 13HD Review

Going to have a go at this review thing.

I thought it was finally time to retire my trusty Intuos 3 after roughly 6 years of service (and still going strong!). My decision making was certainly fast forwarded when the work place decided to treat us with the Cintiq 24HD.
After that, my mind was set on acquiring a screen tablet for home use but I certainly wasn’t about to drop $3000+ on one… Enter the Cintiq 13HD.

Here I’ll be giving my impressions after a few days of use and also comparing it against it’s behemoth brethren.

The summary:
PROS: beautiful display quality, device is solid and well designed, light-weight.

CONS: no touch strip/ring, screen surface seems worse than the 24HD, the adjustable stand is trash.

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Size comparison against my Dell 17″ laptop

Firstly, whoever supplied the display panel components are fantastic; it’s just brilliant.
This is where the 13HD actually has the advantage over the 24HD; cramming the 1080p resolution into a 13″ screen obviously yields a much higher pixel density screen, while it’s certainly no ‘retina’ quality display, it looks noticeably nicer than the 1920 x 1200 resolution of the large Cintiq spread over a 24″ screen (which to me feels like looking at the screen through a fine mesh, due to the fact that you’re working up close to the screen).

Viewing angles are no problem, as you might expect from an IPS panel and the colour range/accuracy looks great to me; at a glance it seems to be identical to my Dell 22″ 2209WA which is well above the average panel.

I do feel that the 13″ screen is still on the small side for doing any serious work (especially on larger canvases) but that’s not unexpected.
Wacom needs to make this tablet again but a little bit bigger.

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I have encountered some issues with the screen surface. I’m unsure whether it’s a different material to what’s on the 24HD but it definitely feels ‘grittier’ which results in more friction against the hand.
What’s more concerning is that there are already micro scratches on the screen, and not from use but from wiping with the supplied micro-fibre cloth.
The 24HD I have at work does not have a mark on it after months of heavy use and wiping with tissue paper.
I’m not amused in the least.

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The stylus has received a cosmetic upgrade, which looks spiffy indeed but otherwise functions the same as always. If you’ve used a Wacom tablet before, you know what to expect.

Something that I’ve been pining for is the touch strip/ring which are present on the Intuos 3 and 24HD respectively.
It’s something that I’ve grown so accustomed to that I didn’t realized how I relied on them ’til they were gone (I’ll have to write a tragic song about this).
I only had one purpose for the touch interfaces and that was brush size adjustment but it was something I would be using constantly.
I know some people don’t use any of those shortcut keys at all, so this will evidently not be a problem for these strange folks.

The replacement rocker-ring and other buttons have a pleasant ‘powdery’ surface but are otherwise standard affair, if somewhat on the stiff side (what is it with Wacom and their stiff buttons?).

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Manufactured trash

The saddest part of the package is no doubt the adjustable stand; it’s flimsy, it does its job barely, it’s poorly designed.
Certainly not fitting with Wacom’s supposed ‘premium’ quality standards.

To sum it up, if you do a lot of digital artwork and are in the market and have an expendable $1000 lying around, go for it.
Otherwise, you may like to wait for something better or cheaper.