Mysterium (PC Game)

A digital translation of a classic board game, Asmodee Digital’s Mysterium is a must-buy for anyone that is a fan of the physical game. The company has made a tittle that is bright, vibrant, and engrossing. Visual elements (animations, sound) are a nice touch to the game, with great enough depth to stay fresh after a number of games. The only issue that we experienced was the scrolling aspect; while it is a hard choice for the designers to have all the cards rendered visibly, it does take a minute to figure out what is going on.  Continue reading “Mysterium (PC Game)”

Line 6 Mobile In (iPhone / iPad)

I wanted to be in a band when I was younger. I spent a small time in a few bands, but I always believed that a key thing holding me back was my lack of money. Specifically, I was unable to go and purchase all the different pedals that I needed to truly make my guitar work reach that next level. The Line 6 Mobile In is an add-on for the iPhone and iPad. Just insert your patch cord into the guitar in, and one will be provided with 64 different amps to choose from.

Line 6 actually has emulated a great deal of their products released over the last twenty years, and one can honestly hear the difference between them. Line 6 has also included a tuner to the Mobile In, to ensure that one is spot on. The better quality of the iPhone or iPad over a $10 tuner will make sure that one’s axe is perfectly tuned. The price of the Mobile In is sufficiently low (about $80) that anyone that is truly serious about their craft will be picking one up.

The only thing that I would suggest after picking up the Mobile In would have to be a metal case for the Apple product in question – one would not want their $500-plus toy destroyed by an errant foot, instrument, or microphone. Line 6 has ensured that one is ready to use their Mobile In immediately after receiving it – it comes with all of the cords and cables that one needs. As the hardware already exists, I would personally like to see Line 6 continue to go through their (and any other companies that they could license from) stocks for crazy and otherwise off the wall pedals. Without a weakness to be had, I believe that studio music will be given a serious shot in the arm by the Mobile In.

Rating: 8.9/10

Line 6 Mobile In (iPhone / iPad) / 2011 Line 6 / http://line6.com/mobilein

iTeacherBook Review

It wasn’t too long ago that I considered becoming an English teacher. After being in school for two semesters, and getting used to the rituals of homework, lectures, and projects, I began to wonder what it would be like to actually have to plan and organize all of the things that my professors did every day. It soon came to pass that I also made friends with a graduate student at my school who would teach undergrad classes. She sometimes would have all sorts of things on her plate and would be rather disorganized. It was at that time that I showed her iStudiez Pro for the iPod touch. She immediately fell in love with it. We both wondered if the people who made iStudiez Pro would ever make an App for teachers. Then a couple weeks ago I got an email from my friends over at the iStudiez team saying they’d like me to do a review of such an App. I’m sure you could imagine both my surprise and delight. It was almost as if they had just picked out one of my heart’s sincerest desires and made it a reality.

I’ve spent the past few weeks working on kicking the tires, so to speak, and consulting a few teacher friends of mine, of whom have limited time, and we’ve all agreed that this App is another home run for the iStudiez team. Borrowing heavily from themselves, which is totally allowed, they have crafted the perfect tool for teachers to keep their classes in line.

The GUI is almost identical to the other iStudiez Apps, which is good in my opinion, and it feels like the logical next step for them to take. Along the bottom is the familiar four buttons; Today, Calendar, Assignments, and Planner. Each does what you might assume it to do. Today gives you a quick over view of the days events, Calendar gives you the months overview with helpful GUI elements like dots and paper clips to help you figure out what is going on at any given time, Assignments lets you add and track of your assignments, and planner lets you do the more detailed things like add classes, semesters, and keep attendance for those classes.

Planner has some more interesting features though. It gives you the ability toads students to your classes up to and including taking pictures of their faces for you to better learn their names and help keep attendance. Also you can track your assignments from planner and email them to students. You can add holidays or non-class days. Need a grade book? This App has got you covered too. You can keep track of individual students grades in here, too. So far I have not found one feature that I would have to go and get another App to accomplish what needs done in a typical week at school.

Right now this App is only available for iPod touch and iPhone, but seeing as how iStudiez Pro is out for iPad, iPhone, and Mac, it stands to reason that there will be other versions coming down the pike soon. Right now the App sells for $4.99 here I. The states, and I feel it’s worth every penny. If you find some feature missing from the App, feel free to go into settings and hit the ‘request feature’ button. I’m sure the iStudiez guys will take care of you.

Kard Combat: How to turn Magic: The Gathering Into Mortal Kombat (iOS)

Taking a cue from Activision’s popular Mortal Kombat series, HotHead Games has released their effort in the virtual CCG arena entitled Kard Combat. At first blush this just sounds like a vain attempt at stealing some thunder from Mortal Kombat, but I assure you it’s slightly more cheesy than that. A “Kard” according to the in game tutorial is something like a Legend or General in the Magic: The Gathering Collectable Card Game, it’s function is to give you a magic type, along with some cards that fit in well with that magic type, and sort of set the pace for your game. If you want to be the priest, the unholy machine mage, or the Dominator mage etc. People can take matters into their own hands by learning the skills to develop the next awesome game.

The similarities between M:TG and MK go on though. As a player you can choose one of three modes of play; a single hand mode, played against the computer, a multiplayer mode, and the very familiar tower mode. In the tower, you line up against other Kards, in a Kard Combat Tournament. Just like Mortal Kombat, the Tower mode does not really reflect the traditional Tournament tree, you just have idiot lined up after idiot for you to kick the crap out of until you are crowned King Kard, or something like that.

While my comments might seem a little bit venomous in regards to Kard Combat’s naming scheme and blatant borrowing from the two games I mentioned, like calling the spell points to cast spells “Mana” (who would notice that?), the truth is though, the game is pretty good. If you follow the eight page tutorial, or play the tower mode for the first time, you can read how the game is played pretty quickly. In short, there are a number of slots on either side of the battle field. You can select a card from one of a predetermined types of Mana types that your Kard Mage can use, and place it into any of the slots above. The way that the battles work is sort of like having a gun battle against an opponent. If nothing is in the way of your gun, Kard, then the damage goes straight to the player, like a bullet. However, should something get in your way, like the opponent’s Kards, then the damage gets soaked up by it instead. The effects of the cards are pretty self explanatory, and spell cards do pretty much what they say without much explanation either. Much like M:TG, Kards have a mana cost to cast, and above each mana stack (and that’s just what I’m calling them for right now, I don’t know if they have an actual title) there is a number of usable Mana. If your Kard costs less than what you have in Mana, you can cast it – it’s that easy. Also, continuing in this borrowing trend, there are cards that fight players and other Kards that have an Attack Power, and Defense Points. I’m sure you can see how that works. There are also Walls that you can deploy to block damage from coming through. Most have certain effects to help you kick some Kard even though they don’t do actual battle damage like most Kards.

With three types of play to choose from, and three different skill levels for battling against the computer, this game turned out to be a pretty decent game in the end. You can pick it up for free, and then buy the full compliment of Kards, or just some “booster packs” basically that has a mage and some extra Kards to go with it. The Booster is $2.99, and the full game is just under ten dollars. For a fledgling CCG, you could do much much worse. And for the price? Again it could be worse. It could be as bad as my debilitating addiction to Magic: The Gathering. I swear, sometimes it’s either pay the electric bill or get more M:TG cards… that reminds me I better wrap this up quick before the power goes ou_

Game Receives an 8 out of 10 possible points

RapidWeaver: The Definitive Mac Website Building App

It’s been fifteen or more years since the first time I tried to build a website. Back then, there was only three ways to make your website; Learn HTML, pay someone to do it, or to use a tool provided by a web hosting site like Angel-fire or Homestead. The last of those options would work, but it wasn’t always secure, options were limited, and themes were either pitifully slim, or non-existent. Another pitfall of the old internet based site builders, especially in the hay-day of HomeStead, was the inability to save your progress locally. If the site went down for maintenance while you were in the middle of your latest and greatest update to your webpage at three in the morning after picking just the right Spice Girls lyrics to use in a mocking tone to describe your ex girlfriend and you are about to hit publish when you get the dreaded error 404; Apica’s Load Testing Tool is a way around these problems. It was even worse if you did manage to hit publish, and it’s doing the “I’m working here Jack, leave me alone and go get some coffee and a bagel” dialogue box, and then your dial-up connection dies on you. Ah yes, those were the days of ripping out hairs and fits of rage with AOL’s name on your lips. Thankfully today there is a better way.
RapidWeaver, made by RealMacSoftware, is easy to use and quite functional. RapidWeaver has more than one method of making websites, so you can pick and choose what you feel the most comfortable with, or the ones that fit your needs. You can pick from a default number of themes, forty-seven themes in fact if memory serves, and you can, with no knowledge of HTML or other web-based programing languages, change the color of the text, it’s position, or any other element you want. With RapidWeaver, if you poke around on the internet for a little while, you can find a wealth of more themes, plug-ins, and random bits of HTML code that can really make your website stand out.
RapidWeaver is the best, most powerful tool I have found to build websites on the Mac to date. I have used iWeb in the past, and while I like iWeb for it’s simplicity, it lacks the power and range of options that RapidWeaver is capable of. I was going to try and have a good website built up and ready for you, my readers, to preview what RapidWeaver really can do, but to be honest I haven’t been able to find the time nor the inspiration necessary to do so. On the plus side, it’s a good thing that this review is a little behind. Apple recently confirmed that iWeb is about to be dead. iCloud, so it seems, will not let you do web-hosting like you could if you were a mobile-me customer in the past, which is a shame. Not only is that one of the only reasons most people really liked mobile-me, but it’s also a shame because that is one of RapidWeaver’s killer functions; the ability to publish to your mobile-me web hosting account. Fortunately, there is a fair amount of tutorials online for mobile-me customers to make the transition to other web-hosting sites.
If you decide to take the plunge and buy RapidWeaver, I can personally guarantee you that you will find it to be easy to use, and worth every penny you pay. Whether you use FTP or SFTP, you’re covered. And if you’re like me and plan on making Apple suck it for another year and get every penny out of your Mobile-Me account, you’re covered too. Bottom-line is – for my money – It’s RapidWeaver, or nothing. Also, if you act soon, RapidWeaver 5 is available through the Mac AppStore for $59.99, a twenty dollar savings over buying it online at the RealMacSoftware website.

App receives a 9 out of 10 possible points.

Blotter: The Showdown (Mac)

Not too long ago, I did a slew of reviews based on products I found while trolling through the Mac AppStore. During my quest to find something useful, and something worth my time, I found the very interesting App called iDeskCal. For those of you, like me, who are too lazy to go look up that review, here is an overview of what iDeskCal does. The App basically takes what is in your iCal database and streams it onto your desktop in a little see through glass panel. It is capable of being clickable or not, and it is pretty non-intrusive. The review went up, and every one was happy. Everyone except the guys over at WireLoad. They read my review, probably laughed at my awful jokes, and then sent me an email. Continue reading “Blotter: The Showdown (Mac)”

A Conversation With Patrick Rothfuss

It was a little over a year ago when I first picked up a copy of Pat’s book, ‘Name of the Wind,’ the first book of his fantasy trilogy. At first, I was reluctant to give a new author a chance. I had been a long time fan of a number of writers, and had a pile of their works collecting dust on shelves, or hidden in bins. A new author, in my opinion, deserves a certain amount of time and patience that I was not sure I could afford at the time. However, not a week later I found myself longing for something to occupy my mind in a way that only a good storyteller could. Without delay I bought an e-book copy and downloaded it to my iPad. I began to dive into the new fantasy world that this new-to-me-author offered up.

It didn’t take very long, just three short pages, and I was hooked. The introduction is the thing that did it. This arty, perhaps a little wordy, narrative made me think, ‘Wow, this is the kind of book I’ve been waiting for.’ After I had read the book, fortune, so it seemed, smiled upon me. Patrick Rothfuss was going to be doing a book reading/signing at a near by Joseph Beth’s bookstore just outside of Cleveland. As soon as we heard, my other half and I, quickly made the necessary arrangements to be present.

When the day arrived, we climbed into my horribly beat up car and did our best to make the poor dented Chevy fly. Once we were inside, we anxiously awaited his arrival. A little while after we showed up, in walked a slightly scruffy man. His hair obviously wind-swept and curly, matched his almost bushy beard, and something about his sunglasses, that were black as night and twice as dark, screamed ‘RockStar.’ I never had seen a picture of Pat before, so when I looked over someone’s shoulder, and I caught a glimpse of the photo that adorned the jacket of her copy of his book, then I realized who it was I was looking at.

Did I expect him to be suave, and well dressed? Maybe. Had I built up the image of some tweed wearing, stuffy professor type whom can’t seem to take his hand of his glasses for more than twenty seconds for fear of facing some unseen consequence? Perhaps. However, this jolly looking man, outfitted a ‘Joss Whedon is my master’ t-shirt, was not even entered  as a possibility into the simulation parameters of my  little fantasy. As soon as he spoke, suddenly, no other visage would do.

The event went smoothly, and was much more informative and laid back than I ever dared hope. Afterwards, he very kindly signed our books, and I was lucky enough to be part of a funny moment where he and I compared our thick and broad hands, and he mock-screamed, ‘Meaty man-paws of the world unite!‘ A year later the new book came out, and I found he was going to be somewhat nearby once again. I wondered to myself, ‘wouldn’t it be great to interview him?’ After ten seconds, I decided I had nothing to lose. I went to his blog, and sent him and email. Sadly, my email went unread for some time, and my original plans to get to Dayton had hit a snag. Imagine my surprise, no, really, go ahead – I’ll wait. Imagine my surprise, when I groggily checked the time on my smart phone, there was an email from Pat. And so the long conversation began.

 

Jesse H. – First, thanks for taking time out of your week to work on an interview with me, Pat.

 

Patrick Rothfuss – No problem.

 

JH – Normally, Pat, I write reviews on different Tech products, usually something Apple-centric, so I hope you don’t mind if we start off with a few questions about the technology you use personally and professionally.

 

PR –  It’s all good. Hit me.

 

JH – Alright, being the head of iOS and Mac reviews here at The NeuFutur, I should probably get the silliest question out of the way first. Are you a Mac, or a PC, or other?

 

PR – PC. I’ve used Macs in the past, but I really haven’t had any reason to keep up with them since I played the Escape Velocity.

 

I will tell you though, my assistant has an iPad, and I’m beginning to eye it with envy in my heart.

 

JH –  We won’t hold it against you. Promoting your work, doing book signings, and other such things, I imagine you’re on the road a lot. Is there a go-to-device or piece of tech that you take with you?

 

PR – I have a little netbook I got as a Christmas present a couple years ago. It’s portable, but it isn’t much use for anything except checking e-mail. Trackpads irritate the hell out of me, and small keyboards are useless if I want to write.

 

You see, when I write I use a model-m IBM keyboard. One of the old-school clicky keyboards. The thing is actually made of iron. It weighs five times more than the netbook, but it has great key action, and I love the tactile feedback. I’ve been using this keyboard for years, and by now anything else feels flailing and useless to me.

 

JH – Being a bit of a gamer yourself, is there a current console you tend to game on?

 

PR – Not really. I do most of my gaming on PC. Console gaming has always been more of a social thing for me, and I haven’t had console gaming friends in town for years and years. Not since my college days.

 

Now that I think of it, I don’t think I’ve really played a console game enthusiastically since I played Ocarina of Time back in 1999.

 

JH: Great game, but I still shudder every time I hear Navi’s voice.

 

PR: Heh. I had a friend who had “Listen!” as a ringtone for a while. All the proper geeks in the room would flinch when it went off.

 

JH – Moving away from annoying sprites- Do you have an all time, desert island, top 5 games?

 

PR – I could pick three pretty easily:

 

1.   Portal 2. I haven’t had a chance to play it yet, but it’s on top of my to-be-played list.

 

2.   Sims 3. I haven’t actually played this one either, but I was really impressed with Sims 2. Those games have a ton of replayability, so it would be good for the island.

 

3.   W.O.W. Yet another game that I haven’t played. I’d like to…. But I avoid  MMORPG’s like the plague because I have an addictive streak in my personality. If I started W.O.W. I wouldn’t get anything else done, ever. But that wouldn’t be a problem on a desert island, would it?

 

JH – No, let’s just hope they have great broadband options though. How about this? Is there any new tech, real or rumored, coming down the pike in the next year or so that has you excited?

 

PR – I don’t know if it’s in the works or not, but I’d like to see a new piece of solid intuitive tech that will replace the mouse.

 

JH – Something that isn’t trackpads, because they annoy you right?

 

PR- Trackpads are great for people who don’t care how much of their lives they waste dicking around on their laptops. Don’t believe me? Find one serious gamer out there that plays a fps with a trackpad.

 

When I’m on the computer, I want something that will get the job done quickly and efficiently. The mouse is the best option for now, but I’m hoping we’ll get something better soon…

 

Don’t get me wrong. The mouse was groundbreaking when it came out, and it works pretty well for most things. But the tech is more than 40 years old at this point. It makes your wrist ache if you use it for an hour or two intensively. And I have to stop using my other main input device (the keyboard) to use it. These things are less than ideal. I think we’re overdue for a leap forward in interface tech.

 

JH – Alright, I think that’s enough to fill my Tech quota, and enough for me to be able to keep my non-paying tech review gig.

 

PR –  Heh. I know where you’re coming from. I wrote a humor column for my local paper for over ten years. Never got paid either.

 

JH – Feh. No. Of course not, but at least I occasionally get cool free swag.

 

PR – Now I’m jealous. All I ever got was death threats.

 

JH – Alright, let’s move on to some writing-themed questions. Do you have a routine or ritual you go through before starting a new body of work?

 

PR – My most elaborate preparation is making a strong cup of coffee before I sit down and start writing. In my opinion, too much ritual just complicates matters and wastes my time. I try to avoid it.

 

JH – Any bad habits you’d encourage other people to break, or not to get started on?

 

PR – Everyone’s brain works differently. If you’re an outliner, you should outline. If you’re an freestyler, you should do that instead. If it helps you to listen to music while you write, you should put on your headphones.

 

But I encourage people not to get bogged down in pointless rituals. You don’t need to listen to music. You don’t need a cup of coffee before you write. You don’t need to have a 4 hour block of time to get something done. Every time you convince yourself of something like that, you’re chaining yourself down, making it harder for yourself to write.

 

JH – I think I’ve heard the psych majors in my writing classes call that ‘Conditional Learning’. Is that what you mean? You end up not being able to make anything happen unless all the conditions are met?

 

PR – I think that might be state-dependent learning.

 

But I’m not talking about anything so complicated. I’m saying that if you build up rituals around your writing, it doesn’t do much other than use up your precious time. I’ve known people with elaborate pre-writing routines. First they drink a cup of tea and watch an episode of Fraiser. Then they listen to some Bach and play minesweeper until they win a game. Before you know it, your pre-writing ritual is three hours long.

 

That’s no good. Just sit down and write.

 

JH –  Good advice. Ok, here’s one on my list, and I’m going to just come out and say it now; I hate Twilight. Movie was kinda ok, but I felt bad that I didn’t read the book, thinking it might be better – I was so disgusted I gave up after seventy-five pages.

 

PR – I haven’t read it either. Or seen the movie. From what I’ve heard, it’s not going to be my cup of tea….

 

JH – As I’m told being over the tweener age bracket and male puts us both at a disadvantage. What is your take on this recent wave of young-adult books that are all centered around Vampires, werewolves, and disturbingly, zombies everything?

 

PR – It’s just a fad. They come and go. (Pat shrugs) It doesn’t bother me one way or the other, though. There’s good stuff that’s vampire-centered, Buffy the Vampire Slayer being the shining example, of course. Some of my current favorite books have vampires and zombies. Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files books, for example.

 

JH – I agree. I personally just feel it’s being totally over saturated into pop culture now, it’s one of the reasons I like your books. Fearlessly not following the fad.

 

PR: Heh. You’re giving me too much credit. I was fearlessly not knowing what was going on while I was writing it…

 

JH –  Any advice you would give a new author to get himself noticed?

 

PR – Write something good. Anything else is just pointless attention-whoring.

 

JH –  Ok, one more writing question. With two best sellers in the fantasy genre, a mock-children’s book, and a published collection of your works from your days on the college newspaper under your belt, are there any other genres or types of work you would like to break into?

 

PR – I’d like to try writing stories for video games.

 

We have amazing technology these days. Using that technology, we can make beautiful games. But pretty only goes so far. How about some good dialogue? Some good characters? How about a well-constructed story underpinning the gameplay? Without these things, most games feel kinda pointless and shallow.

 

I wrote a blog on the subject a while back. I got a friend to illustrate a comic that shows how ridiculous some game mechanics are….

Ars Ludi (The Art of the Game)

 

JH – Well, here at the neufutur, we have sort of an unofficial motto about reviews, which would be ‘If you can do something with it, and assign a rating system to it, we’ll review it.’ With that in mind, I’m sure some of our readers would love to hear some random human interest questions that have nothing to do with my tech corner, and nothing to do with writing. So, how about you fill out this questionnaire while I attempt to beat your high score on Dig Dug here.

 

PR – Bring it. I am the Dig Dug master.

 

 

JH –  Less talking – more scribbling.

 

 

a. Favorite book?

 

The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle.

 

b. Favorite drink (alcoholic or non)?

 

Orange Dream Machine from Jamba Juice.

 

c. Favorite food?

 

Burrito. Chipotle burrito.

 

d. Favorite band? Or Music Artist?

 

Bare Naked Ladies.

 

e.  Your next big goal in life?

 

I would like to eat an entire wedding cake.

 

PR –  There you go.

 

And so the two meaty-handed writers, button mashed well into the night. The next morning, when the sun rose over the hills, and the shrill call of their female counter parts found their sleeping ears, Jesse quickly realized, as he was running for his life, he  had forgotten to finish his interview. Fortunately, this transcript was found next to his body when the investigators arrived at the scene of his grizzly demise.

 

==================================================================

 

For additional reading check out Pat’s blog and official website at www.patrickrothfuss.com

 

and be sure to check out his blog about his desire to make games safe for intelligent people everywhere at

http://blog.patrickrothfuss.com/2011/01/ars-ludi-the-art-of-the-game/

DeskScribble (Mac)

Ever wanted to take notes on top of power point, I mean hand written notes? Ever wanted to draw on your Mac to help someone with a tutorial? I have too! Luckily for the both of us, there is such a thing as DeskScribble. This App does exactly like you would imagine after hearing it’s name, it allows you to scribble all over your desktop. Not only your desktop though; DeskScribble also allows you to have a black-board or a white-board to draw on. This utility I can imagine would be a solid option for students and teachers who have Macs, but can’t afford a smart board set up. Originally, I had some major complaints about DeskScribble, but as if they were reading my mind, a recent update solved nearly every issue I had. Alright, Boss, let’s get another Short List rolling. Continue reading “DeskScribble (Mac)”

Let Your Emails Fly With Sparrow

It has been said, time and again, that Mac’s “are the computers for the rest of us.” And while this is a true statement, there are a few select things about OSX that could use some updating. It is also true that OSX is about to get a new update this summer, Lion (for those keeping track), and with said update some of the basic Apps will be re-imagined; the rest of us are still stuck with some Apps that are nice, but could be so much better. This is where Sparrow, a new mail client for the Mac, can really get it’s chance to shine. Continue reading “Let Your Emails Fly With Sparrow”

iDeskCal: A review (Mac)

If you’re like me, and iCal pretty much runs your life for you, then I have big news for you; iDeskCal has hit the Mac AppStore. iDeskCal is a simple App that has only one goal in mind, which is to make you a more efficient person. Are you like me and find it just too much of a bother to load up iCal just to take one quick look at something, just to close it again? Does it interrupt your work flow having to stop and find the icon, let it load, and then search for your next doctor’s appointment? Wouldn’t it be nice if all your calendars were just floating above your desktop? Well, wait no longer and stop over at the Mac AppStore today and buy iDeskCal. Continue reading “iDeskCal: A review (Mac)”