The 2013 Imagine Cup — Why It’s So Awesome For Videogaming

Photo courtesy of Microsoft Imagine Cup

If you’re new to Microsoft’s Imagine Cup, let me just tell you that it’s one of the most intriguing places to see what students today are doing in the realm of technology. Whether it’s the creation of innovative video games or upgrades to current technology, this is a place where you can see some truly innovative technology. This competition also helps students develop their pitching skills and get helpful feedback on something they’ve worked so hard on from the ground up. After watching this great video from Revision 3’s Anthony Carboni, I felt the urge to write about how videogaming does good for the world.

This reminds me of something that Dan Amrich said in his book, Critical Path: How to Review Games for a Living. Dan said that one of the best ways to truly understand a game would be to develop one yourself. Whether it’s a text-based multi-user dungeon (MUD), a story fleshed out on RPG Maker, or something coded from the ground up, knowing how difficult it is to create a game on your own only makes you more appreciative of what developers have to create from what is basically a blank screen.

As you might’ve read in my last blog post, you’d know that I’m pretty excited for the possibilities in what the new generation of consoles will be able to do, especially in the Xbox One. Yes, both the Xbox One and PS4 have similar architecture to a PC, but as a person who was raised on playing videogames with a controller, I’m pretty excited with the merging capabilities that these consoles will have with PC features. Is it too ambitious to hope that a new version of RPG Maker will soon come to Xbox One and PS4?

Steam has RPG Maker VX Ace and I’m already daydreaming of a possibility to create my own game on the Xbox One, save it to my console and the cloud, and hope that the story is compelling enough to where people around the world can play my game (as long as they can read English — unless there’s a translator built in — OMG!) and inspire the creator in all of us to make his or her own game.

Sometimes it seems like only the bad news spreads from the world of videogaming to the general public, but as the Imagine Cup shows us, there are plenty of people who truly benefit from videogames and I love that.

Xbox One or Playstation 4

Xbox One or Playstation 4

The console wars! Oh boy, there are people alive who’ve never experienced a new console cycle and it’s definitely apparent if you head to gaming related web forums and sub-reddits. I always find this time to be exciting, because you never know what to expect from new services, IPs, console hardware and more. It’s a great time to be a consumer with new consoles on the horizon.

The Xbox One Announcement

I have to admit that when I first heard of the DRM restrictions Microsoft had for Xbox One, I was a little turned off by it. I had begun to tell myself that the PS4 controller wouldn’t be as uncomfortable as the PS3 and that the indie games would be a big plus on the next-gen console. Then, Microsoft did what I seriously didn’t think they could do; they turned that ship around and removed the restrictive DRM that was going to be implemented on the system.

That move by Microsoft has continued my decision-making process in what next-gen console I’m going to purchase. I’ve been a big supporter of Microsoft ever since they fixed my consoles for free — yes, two of my consoles got the RROD — and supported them even more when Sony wanted $150 to fix my PS3. So, I’ve needed to evaluate my situation and tell myself what would work best for me.

Indie Games — Where To Play Them?

Indie games on the PS4 are a major selling point for the console, but I already have Steam and I’m predicting that even more controller support will be on it when indie developers begin making games with the PS4 and Xbox One in mind. Since I use Steam, I don’t find this a huge selling point for the PS4, especially since the games are inevitably always cheaper on Steam.

The Cloud And Next-Gen Gaming

I’ve heard a lot about how the offload of information to the cloud can free up computing on a system, which is definitely something that interests me. If you want to read more about it, I recommend reading this article from Jon Shiring, engineer at Respawn Entertainment — the company that’s making Titanfall, a game exclusive to the Xbox platform along with being on PC. I’m not sure how the game will play on Xbox 360 or on PC, but I don’t care much since I’m planning to play it on Xbox One. What’s everyone going to do when they can’t blame their poor playing on lag?

Giving Griefers Grief

Online multiplayer games are a lot of fun to me, but depending on the game, you can get some people that make the game … not so much fun. I was happy to hear that the reputation system is being revamped for the Xbox One, so that the haters hang out with their own kind and I can rock some multiplayer kills with laid back people like me. I’ll be interested in seeing how it pans out.

To Pause Or To Quit?

Switching programs on the fly or “SnapMode” didn’t excite me much at Microsoft’s initial announcement of Xbox One until I was playing a game one morning. The alarm went off for my breakfast and as I sat down with breakfast in hand, I had only two options: eat my breakfast with the game sitting on pause or save the game and turn it off so that I could watch a show on the YouTube app from my Xbox 360. That’s when it dawned on me that SnapMode can be awesome!

An Extension Of Yourself

As I mentioned earlier, I was in the process of convincing myself that the PS4 controller was going to better than the PS3’s. The controller is like another appendage when you’re playing videogames. You want something that ergonomically feels comfortable for long periods of time. A controller that provides feedback in how the buttons click and how it vibrates. A controller that utilizes the placement of the control sticks, buttons, and triggers for the best experience. It sounds like both Xbox One and PS4 have made major improvements, but at this point I prefer the Xbox One control layout. Of course, I won’t know for sure until I get both controllers in my hands.

The Verdict

Overall, it was being denied the right to play a used game — including rentals — and having to constantly ping a server in order to play a game both online or offline that really had me leaning away from Xbox One. But with these changes, I believe I’m set to purchase an Xbox One this year. I’m not pre-ordering one, but I’m definitely keeping my sights on one.

What are you looking forward to playing this holiday season? Are you buying a new console on the launch day or will you wait until next year?

Cider Weekend in Portland

Cider Weekend

I have a confession: I think I love cider. Not that sweet, sugary swill that corporate behemoths try to pass off as cider, but the dry and off-dry cider a whole new wave of cider makers are creating right now. The Portland Cider Summit was on June 21 and 22 and, my goodness, there was a lot of cider in my life that weekend.

Kickstart Your Cider-Loving Heart

Bluegrass music group

Before the weekend began, I was already celebrating with Nat West of Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider and many of the other Kickstarter backers who donated to the construction of the tasting room at his new cider house. It was a fantastic party atmosphere with a wide selection of ciders available, crazy amounts of pizza from Sizzle Pie, a bluegrass band playing some great tunes, and awesome people. If you’re a craft beer fan, Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider is probably the cider brand that you’d appreciate, because his approach to cider is the same in many respects. In fact, I worked with Geoff Kaiser from Seattle Beer News to have him travel to Portland and visit Nat’s cidery and see what his styles are all about. Read all about his visit on his website.

Scaling The Cider Summit

Cider Weekend

Armed with my Timbers Army shirt, sunglasses and tasting glass, I began my trek through more than 30 different cider makers at the Portland Cider Summit. Two of my clients were there — Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider and Virtue Cider — both of which had some of my favorite ciders. Baird and Dewar’s 2012 Constitution was one favorite that day. The spiced dry heirloom cider aged in rum barrels clocked in at 9.8% ABV and definitely made for a good winter warmer, even though it was closer to 90 degrees fahrenheit outside. Similar to barrel-aged beers, ciders can taste remarkable when aged in barrels. Sea Cider’s Prohibition was another barrel-aged cider that tasted great with its smooth mouthfeel and hints of rum and molasses. It definitely didn’t taste like it was 12.5% ABV.

Cider Brings Out Some Great People (And Dogs)

Portland Cider Summit Dog

What a great weekend to meet new people! I finally got to meet many of the people who work at Virtue Cider as well as taste two new ciders of theirs that I haven’t had before. I’m in love with Virtue’s awesomely sour Sidra de Nava. Abram Goldman-Armstrong from Northwest Brewing News was a pleasure to meet and it was interesting learning about his new cider venture, Cider Riot. Corey from The Cider Times — whom I previously met during a tasting event for Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider — was down from Seattle for the judging of the Portland International Cider Cup as well as to hit the summit. Geoff Kaiser from Seattle Beer News was experiencing the tastes of cider with his wife that day and it was great to talk cider, beer, and food in Portland and Seattle with both of them. Alex aka Cider Monger was working at the event, but it was rad meeting a guy who’s so into cider and who was super nice to chat with. I also met a rad dog.

Winning With Timbers And Cider

Cider Weekend

As Sunday arrived, it was like the Rose City — you cannot stop us. After seeing another epic Timbers win at JELD-WEN field, Yaicha and I went to The Cleaners at Ace Hotel for a Virtue Cider kick-off event for their distribution expansion into Portland, Oregon. They had RedStreak, The Ledbury, and Sidra de Nava on tap as well as cider cocktails developed by Jeffrey Morganthaler. The fantastic music was DJ’d by Kyle Webster while the food was artfully made by Ned Ludd’s Jason French and Beast’s Naomi Pomeroy. Virtue Cider’s founder and cider maker Greg Hall gave a rousing speech about his love for Portland and their move into this market. Needless to say, this event was nothing short of awesome.

That’s A Whole Lotta’ Apples

Although I still have a huge love for craft beer, I can’t wait until cider is just as popular as craft beer is in America. If you haven’t had cider made from some of these cider makers, I urge you to try it. If you have, tell me, what’s your favorite cider right now?