Category Archives: Kurt

What I’ve Been Listening To…(The Extended Week Edition)

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Meanwhile at the podcave

I recently got a new job! A job which allows me to listen to music or programs during my shift. Sometimes all 8 hours of my shift (if I so desire). So I thought I’d share with you the best things I heard during my last week (and a half) of listening to podcasts (sorry no music, bug Sam or Ally for music).

During my week and a half I was able to finally get caught up on my backlog of podcasts I had accumulated. Partly due to the Thanksgiving Day weekend, and partly due to my last job only having a two hour block of time where I could listen to stuff. As such, I had quite a few different things to select as the best of the best.

I only wanted one best episode per podcast since some had more episodes then others due to me backlogging more serious shows. Rocket Punch has no entries on here because if you’re here reading my articles you probably already listen to our podcast. Enough with the explanations, on to the champions.

Champions of the Week:
What’s the Point – Building Pixar’s Landscapes: 12/3/15
An interview on how Pixar used data sets from the US Geological Survey to create the backgrounds for their upcoming movie The Good Dinosaur. Leading to backgrounds that are sweeping and familiar, and the use of more data in one scene (of The Good Dinosaur) then was used in the entirety of Cars 2.

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Mmm…water?

Freakonomics Radio – Food + Science = Victory!
Is it really the water that makes New York pizza so good? This question is definitively answered finally. I have many questions like this. So finding out that there was someone out there who approaches food from the scientific method is really exciting.

Undisclosed – Episode 9: Charm City

Undisclosed is a podcast for people who didn’t think Serial (first 1:30 for a quick description of Serial) went deep enough. This podcast really gets into the details of the case, and unveils more upsetting things about the legal system of Baltimore (if not America in all.) This episode deals with some of the more scandalous methods used by the Baltimore Police Department. And how they relate to the case against Adnan Syed.

Radiolab – Birthstory
Find out how 2 men + 4 women combined to make 3 babies. Oh yeah the story also involves 4 countries and 4 different languages. The difficult path of those seeking out surrogate mothers. And the odd story of the birth of 3 children. It’s a hell of a ride.

The Adventure Zone – The WHOLE Petal to the Metal story line
The Adventure Zone is a Dungeons & Dragons podcast by the brothers of My Brother, My Brother and Me, plus their dad. The most recent story line culminated in a massive car chase competition a la Death Race 2000, or maybe it reminds you of Fury Road (either way). The families oddball humor and sometimes bumbling characters, really adds to the fun. A great listen even if you’ve never played a pen and paper Role-Playing game.

The Nerdist – Kelly Carlin
I’m a fan of The Nerdist Podcast, and it got me in to Podcasts in general. Chris Hardwick’s interview style is more conversation then interview and is extremely humanizing. And it was really interesting to hear from the daughter of George Carlin. A physiologist and stage performer herself, I wasn’t sure what to expect. As a fan I knew her childhood had not been normal, or easy (from reading her dad’s memoirs.) But she was intelligent and funny, and fun. She’s also (not-so) surprisingly casual with her usage of the f-bomb. (Would this be nature or nurture?) Also in this episode “The pitch for the best movie ever conceived”.

The Total Soccer Show – Star Wars Soccer XI
In what has been this week’s biggest Reese’s moment for me, someone got Star Wars on my soccer and I discovered that Soccer names, are sometimes indistinguishable from expanded universe Star Wars names. This one was a lot of fun to listen to while listening to Taylor and Daryl pick their starting lineups using Star Wars characters, and debate who and why. By the way if you are interested in soccer, TSS is my choice for best podcast for soccer analysis and news.

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All ready for the sweet Sega Channel Cartridge.

Giant Bombcast – 12/08/2015
I haven’t finished this episode when I started writing this article, but at about a quarter of the way through was a story about how Eastern European pirates (tech, not seafaring) in the old days of tape technology would broadcast the audio code of video games on the radio. People would actually record these broadcasts and “download” video games this way. As my friend Jondar put it “It’s the Cro Magnon version of Sega Channel.” The only down side to Giant Bomb’s video game themed podcast is that it clocks in at two and a half to three hours long per episode. Might be a long commitment for some people.

Runner’s Up:
Lore – The Whole Damn Podcast
Since my wife introduced me to this podcast, I promised I wouldn’t write much about Lore before she could. That’s literally the only reason why it’s on the Runner’s Up for this week. (Ally will be writing more about it this weekend.) Do you like scary stories, mythology, monsters, superstition? Any or all of the above? Then you should probably be listening to Lore. My wife and I listened to this podcast while driving to and from Texas this Thanksgiving (hey Dad), and I finished up the last few episodes on my own at work. My only complaints are that it’s only biweekly and that it lost some ambiance when not driving through the middle of nowhere at the dead of night.

Freakonomics Radio – Am I Boring You?
The science behind boredom and how humanity really hasn’t done a ton of research into this topic despite it being a huge factor in so many peoples’ work, leisure, and social lives.

Sawbones:  The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits
This is a show about medicine and all the oddities that it entails. I won’t spoil the surprise here, but this story made me once again happy to live in society where science and medicine are rigorously tested and not just educated guessing. Plus this was an interesting story I’d never heard.

Radiolab – The Cold War
What happens when an ice cream truck rivalry goes south? The Cold War. A look at how conflicting takes on business and rules can make for a rough situation.

This is not your trophy. Sorry.

Freakonomics Radio – Ben Bernanke Gives Himself a Grade
You may not care about an interview from the guy who was the Fed Chairmen when the financial crisis hit, but I find long-form interviews often humanize the famous, and this interview is no exception. His obsessive interest in the Great Depression, and FDR’s policies (despite appointed chairman by a conservative president) were surprising. Add to that the story of his wife responding to his appointment with tears (that were not of joy), and you may soon find yourself enjoying an interview that is partially about monetary policy.

Have I missed any of your favorites? Please feel free to send in any podcasts (or just single episodes) I should be listening to. I’m always looking for an interesting story.

And of course congrats to the podcasts which won, if you guys are in St. Louis let us know on twitter will meet up for a drink and hand you over your trophy.

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Randomizers, New Saviors of Classic Gaming?

Back in 1987 I got a NES and I really loved the NES but the first game that really captured my attention was the Legend of Zelda. Since we only had a few games my mom would rent games from our local independent strip mall video store. (I don’t remember the name.) The Legend of Zelda was the first game I wanted to rent two times in a row, and my mom said “If you like it that much we’ll just buy it.” Thus starting an multi system obsession.

But we’ve all played the Original and the 2nd quest, so what’s left? There is a version of the original (NES) Legend of Zelda where people have randomized the items locations.  (As well as entirely new quests made this way.) How did no one tell me about this?

I’ve watched a couple videos of people playing this game and I got to say I need more roms of classic games altered. Anything that has item collection and exploration elements. This seems to me like the ultimate mix of nostalgia and surprises. So far I’ve found that there is a Zelda and a Super Metroid Randomizer.

It seems as those these were originally created to breath new life into games for speed runners and completionits, who needed a new challenge, you can actually find races between speed runners trying to finish the game, but not knowing which items you’ll get.

Sorry this is a short post but this is a warning to stay tuned for streaming of these on twitch as I am going to need to play these.

My Week with the Steam Controller

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The box is not blurry in real life

First a little background. I bought the Steam Controller on September 20th. I then had to wait, patiently playing Rocket League (which came free) until my controller arrived last Tuesday (November 10th).

 

One thing I think I can say is this: the worst part about this whole experience has been the waiting. But not to be over shadowed, the second worst part has been learning how to play Rocket League, and then having to relearn it with a new controller after I’m used to playing it with my wired X-box 360 controller. Negative transfer is kicking my ass.

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If you prefer a wired experience it plugs in with a standard Micro-USB.

Ultimately, the question of ‘should I, personally, buy a Steam Controller?’ boils down to two questions:

  1. “Are you really excited about playing mouse and keyboard games on your TV?”
  2. “Are you willing to retrain your muscle memory to learn a new controller?”

If you answered no to either of these questions, you’re probably better off  sticking with what  you’re used to. In fact, I would suggest Rock Candy’s knockoff Xbox 360 controller if you want something cheap and good.  (It’s a bit small side which might not make it ideal for those people with large hands, but that also makes it a great fit for some more compact dudes and lady gamers like my wife who have slighter digits. Plus they come in a couple colors, which my wife tells me is very exciting. You can find them for $20, I’ve ssen them at Target and Gamestop)

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This is the battery case and the extra two triggers.

However, if you answered yes,  here’s the good news: After a week I can tell you yes this controller can play keyboard and mouse games adequately. In the last week I have used it to play Rocket LeagueThey Bleed Pixels, and Torchlight 2. Three very different games resulting in three very different experiences.

The feature to download someone else’s controller setup for Torchlight 2 worked well – the only negative thing I can say about playing Torchlight with the controller is using the haptic feedback for this was as frustrating as using a touch-pad for the first time; I felt clumsy and slow. Once I started getting more mana and powers though I needed to be less precise and I started getting used to the pads a little more.

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Banana for scale.

They Bleed Pixels is almost identical to playing it on a 360 controller. Platformers seem mostly unchanged between my two controllers. The Steam controller maybe feels a little looser, however again this could just be negative transfer I have been playing PC games on a 360 controller since Christmas 2012.

Rocket League reinforced the difference in the two controllers having to relearn hand placement as the Steam Controllers ABXY buttons and joystick are lower and more towards the middle. My muscle memory kept trying to tell me my hands were in the wrong place. But eventually I adjusted.

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For the love of Gaben, Steam.

Biggest and somewhat nitpicky complaint: Seriously Steam can you not hide pieces of the controller in the bottom of the box in a another unmarked dark black box under the main packaging? I might have thrown that away if I hadn’t read the packing list. The other odd issue I had was that the batteries in the handles wiggled free of the housing and caused me to think that my controller had broke within a few days of it’s delivery. Luckily that was not the case, and hopefully this was just a one off type of thing as I could see this being a problem with prolonged game play if it’s a constant issue.

Final thoughts? There is a definite and somewhat frustrating learning curve, but I think you have that with any new controller. This one being so different that others before it, it’s not very surprising that there would be a bit more of a “breaking in” period. In the long run I think it will be a great controller, I don’t think it’s going to set the world on fire.

I wish I could either love or hate this controller, but as it stands it’s a solution to a niche problem, so if your not looking to play all your PC games on a couch and with a controller, you probably don’t need this controller. However if this is a problem you have then this controller will be the solution and an excellent investment.