Contemporary Role-playing

The release of Titan Quest, another Diablo clone pretending to be a role-playing game, almost made me gag with it's setting. Sure, Titan Quest might not be your typical fantasy game -no elves, goblins, and orcs- since the setting is in the ancient world mythology. But still, I had enough of sword and sorcery. So instead of getting Titan Quest, and play a primitive game in a modern way, I bought a D20 Modern Core rulebook and the Urban Arcana campaign book (for $50 only), and will play a modern game in a primivite way...the pen and paper way.

D20 Modern Core

The main reasons why I got a D20 Modern Core rulebook is that I've always wanted to play a RPG in a dystopian or post-holocaust setting, and I'm already familiar with the system. D20 Modern offers a lot of materials like new feats that are appropriate in a modern/future setting, freeform character classes, and starting occupations. All materials presented in this book are very adjustable to your preference offering you freedom and control over your game.

Urban Arcana

The Urban Arcana Campaign is an alternate reality setting, where Shadowkind species (Elves, Dwarves, Orcs) walk amongst humans but can't see them for what they really are. Only a few "aware" humans can see an Orc as an Orc. I really love the concept of this setting, fantasy creatures in a modern world. Elves use rifles instead of bows, Dragons dwell in subways and sewers, and Orc clans are a bunch of biker gangs.

It's been eight years since the last time I played a pen & paper/table-top RPG with my fellow "Magickeros" at the 2nd floor of Signs & Symbols. So I really need to brush up on my role-playing skills since I'm getting back to my roots. Now if can only find a couple of people so I could begin the campaign.


Reaping the Rewards II: Radeonated!

Last time, I was having a hard time choosing an item for my graduation gift. But, after much research and migraines, I finally decided to get a new graphics card and memory, which I figured out would be much use to me than a PSP or an Mp3 Player.

So today, I went to Best Buy early in the morning...make that REALLY early in the morning since I waited outside an hour before the store opened. When they finally opened, I wasted no time and proceeded to the computer area of the store. I immediately secured the items that I wanted: a 512MB PC3200 memory and the ATI Radeon X1600 PRO graphics card, and paid for them.

Upon the installment of the parts, however, I got a little bit disappointed when the service technician told me that my power supply unit is only 300 watts, and that the Radeon X1600 PRO requires at least 350 watts. I was glad that he was new and still in training. Another technician came to -rescue- me and explained that the graphics card can run at 300 watts if a system isn't loaded, and mine wasn't loaded. So he went on with the installation run a couple tests -installed and played a game and watched a couple of movies- to see if it functions properly, and it did

I hastily went home, after the successful installation of my new hardware, to try my newly buffed rig. So I loaded SpellForce 2 and all of a sudden my whole system restarted. I figured out that the problem was in the display drivers of the card, and not with my PSU. So I logged into ATI's website and downloaded newer driver versions of the graphics card, installed it, and fixed the problem.

I've been playing SpellForce 2 for hours now and, so far, I've never encountered any problems. The graphics of my games now are giving me a mesmerizing, tantalizing, and scintillating experience.


Torrential Downpour

I’ve been using BitComet since 2004 to download torrent files from the internet. However, just recently, I’ve heard a lot of good things about uTorrent, which is another torrent client. So I gave it a try and was completely amazed by it.

uTorrent, or micro torrent, includes many features that are also available in other torrent clients. However, unlike other clients, it only uses a small amount of your system’s memory. When I download one file, BitComet uses 18MB of memory while uTorrent only uses around 3MB. The other cool feature in uTorrent is probably the speed guide which automatically configures your settings based on your connection speed, and also checks if your port is properly forwarded.

After using it for a couple of while, I’ve decided to use uTorrent as my default client. When it comes to features, there’s nothing much different between uTorrent and BitComet. But uTorrent’s small memory usage is a big plus for me. It helps a lot when I’m playing games while running a torrent client in the background.

Torrent and Piracy

BitTorrent’s ability to distribute large amount of, easily accessible, files have been abused and misused by a lot of people. I might be one of those people but that depends on your point of view.

Movies, music, and games are usually the popular files. A person might say that: “I can’t hurt the industry, I’m just one person”. What a person does not realize is that there are millions of people all over the world saying that. In my case, I don’t download those files. I still go to theatres and rent movies. I still buy CDs because it’s impersonal to collect a bunch of files. I’m an ardent supporter of the gaming industry, and consider downloading games as a sacrilege.

So what do I download? A bunch of anime that are not available on DVD, or aired on TV. Missed episodes of my favorite shows. Also, and of course, I download pornography. You can’t hurt the porn industry. I mean, the pornstars, directors, and any person on the set won’t lose anything since their work is already the big reward.


A Hundred Games

I didn't realize that, when I logged in at PC IGN to add SpellForce 2 on my collections list, I've already reached my 100th PC games mark. That's all the games that I have in my possesion right now, and that list excludes other games that I played but do not own.

To most people, 100 games is probably a lot. But owning a hundred games during my seven years as an active gamer (1999 -present) isn't that much. I've missed a lot of games too, including classics like Anachronox and Grim Fandango. But it's always quality over quantity. I must say that an average score of 8.6 is good enough.


First Impressions: SpellForce 2

Today, I went to a couple of electronics/computer stores, and had a look at the prices of some graphics card for my upgrade. I was sidetracked, however, when I saw SpellForce 2: Shadow Wars displayed on the game shelves. I was waiting for this game since last May 2006 but I guess it only became available here, in the US, about a week ago. So I bought it, and hastily went home.

I've only started playing the campaign but a lot of improvements, since the first game, are already evident. The first thing I noticed was that the third-person view is much easier to control. The skill system is also presented in, the more organized, "tree" format. Your other hero companions can also gain levels, and you can even distribute some of their points. Unit commands are now available which helps a lot in micromanaging your units.

The gameplay, however, hasn't changed that much. Besides the new units, the real-time strategy elements are still the same. The dialogues are still one-liners, and the quests are horrible as before.

So far, I like SpellForce 2: Shadow Wars because, like its predecessor, its the only game, to date, that successfully blended real-time strategy and role-playing. Since it is most likely that the gameplay won't improve much later in the game, I just hope that the story will build up into epic proportions.


Reaping the Rewards

It's such a beautiful day. I don't need to worry about some certification exam and, today, I'm gonna claim my graduation gift. Although deciding of which doo-hickey I really want is a bit hard. So which one should I really get?

ATI Radeon X1600 PRO

My Radeon 9800 Pro died on me last March, leaving me with a 9200 card which can't run The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and Dreamfall: The Longest Journey 2. I already missed a couple of games and I'm gonna continue missing a couple more if I don't upgrade right now. Radeon X1600 PRO seems to be my only choice since I can't find a balanced AGP card (decent price and performance). I also need to boost my memory to 1GB, which requires another 512MB of RAM. The video card and the memory, will cost me $400.

30 GB Creative Zen Vision: M

A poor man's iPod. That's what most people say about Creative's Mp3 player. I say they're a bunch of conforming nincompoops. Creative Zen Vision: M performance is at par with iPod regarding sound. But the reason I chose it is because it has longer battery life and it's more compatible with Windows. Sure the look isn't stylish and it doesn't have iTunes. But hell, who needs iTunes? The Zen costs $300

Playstation Portable

Gaming on the go! The most advance handheld device out there. Not only it's gaming device, it could also play videos and music. A perfect device for a commuter, gamer, and music enthusiast like me. But there's a couple of downsides: storage capacity and battery life. PSP only uses memory cards, and 2GB is the largest. Although there's an option to add 4GB of hard drive which costs $200. Battery life is only 4 hours, and the only solution is to buy a lot of spare batteries. The PSP and hard drive cost $400

Right now, I'm still weighing my options. I need further research on all this stuff so I won't have any regrets.



Graduation, albeit it's a big accomplishment, it only gave me a false satisfaction. The root of my dissatisfaction: The Nuclear Medicine Certification Board (NMTCB). The NMTCB, the notorious five-letter abbreviation dreaded by every would-be certified Nuclear Medicine Technologist. It is so dreadful that a lot of technologists steer clear from it and, instead, favor the less prestigious American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) certification. Its reputation is so notorious that every time you mention of taking it, other technologists gives you their blessing -with a sympathetic filling- as if you've dug your own grave. But I took it and passed.

I took the exam this afternoon (June 15 2005), around 1:30 PM, at the District City Colleges of Chicago, which is just behind the Sears Tower. I left home early to avoid the anxiety of being late. I took the CTA Blue Line train, which was filled with Chicago Cubs fans, and Chicago Cubs female fans on sweat drenched tanktop shirts. I arrived at the test site around 11:30 AM, 2 hours prior to my test. Since I was too early, I grabbed a chair at the Sears' Skydeck Plaza, reviewed my notes, and took a gander at the sweat drenched ladies that were passing by infront of me until 1:00 PM.

I went inside the test center around 1:00 PM, and immediately took the test. The booth I was in was uncomfortably hot. I even have to turn off the fan because it was blowing warm air all over me. But as soon as I started the test, the uncomfortable warmth was all but forgotten as my nerves broke and my skin turned cold and clammy. The test wasn't easy. I was presented with confusing math problems, in which you need to pick the words apart in order to form the correct equation. The first 30% of the test alone took 50% of my time allowance. Though after the 40th question, although it's still hard, I was sailing a bit smoothly and was able to catch up with the time. At this point though, I never expected myself to pass or even finish 100 questions. But at the 80th question, the test stopped. I answered a couple of survey questions, and then the result of my test came up. I passed.

This time, I'm really satisfied and glad to see the result of my hardwork -and the sacrifice of my gaming/blogging time. Because passing the NMTCB was no small feat, I am proud of myself. But challenges are always abound, and my next ordeal is finidng/keeping a job.


Last Mutant Standing

Comics-to-film adaptations are usually cheesy, shallow, and colorful. However, some film makers are smart enough to paint a more realistic setting by taking characters, and their origins, out from the comics but eschews their colorful spandex. Two of those films are Batman and the X-Men series. Today, I took my time off from my books and went to see X-Men: The Last Stand, the latest, and last, installment of the series.

The first series of the trilogy, released in 2000, was an enjoyable film. X2: United was a sublime sequel, with a much deeper plot, better characterization, and more emotional than the first one. The lastest installment, however, has lost momentum and was a little bit of a disappointment.

The core element in the X-Men setting is present, a conflict between humans and mutants and the X-Men standing between the two forces. The conflict this time comes in a form of a serum that can cure mutation. Magneto and other mutants who considers this cure as a weapon to assimilate the mutant society, wages war against humans. I find no flaw on the film's central plot, but the story was presented poorly because of other distractions, such as the return of Jean Grey.

There is also less characterization in this film. The Dark Phoenix, the new persona of Jean Grey, only had a brief description regarding her origin, and for a Class 5 uber-powerful mutant her role was downplayed. The love conflict between Rogue, Shadowcat, and Iceman never made enough spark to be very convincing and interesting. It was also disappointing to see characters like Colussus and Angel without any depth and detail.

As for the actors, Kelsey Grammar did really well on his role as the Beast. Ellen Page (left), although she didn't have any spunk, she fits well in Kitty Pryde's shoes. She's also sweet and cute enough and makes the film worth your while. Rebecca Romjin also did good, but I loved her especially when she morphed back to her "true form".

All in all, because I expected too much, I find the movie disappointing. Nonetheless it is still enjoyable and did well on ending the trilogy with its memorable scenes. But do the series really ends here? I think not!

X4: The Age of Apocalypse (Warning Spoilers from X3)

This is just my own idea of what would happen next. Mostly, it is based on the Age of Apocalypse mini-series, a big event in the X-Men and Marvel universe. In Age of Apocalypse, Professor X died saving Magneto. For his attonement, Magneto now fights for Charles dream for a peaceful co-existence between mutants and humans, and now leads the X-Men. The interesting thing is, in this series, Magneto and Rogue fell in love with each other and had a telepathic child, whom they named Charles.

In X3, Magneto had been depowered but it was clearly shown that it's only temporary. Magneto will probably develop empathy towards humans, having lived as one of them, once he regains his power. Since the Professor X died, Magneto will finally embrace his former friend's dream and will lead the X-Men.

Now about Rogue and Magneto, I don't think it will happen in the film. But I would guess that, Rogue, with her new found powers of procreating life, she and Iceman will have a telepathic kid, whom they will also name Charles.

As for the new characters, since both Jean and the Professor are dead, the X-Men will need psychics to use the Cerebro. So they'll either have Emma Frost or Psylocke (the two most hottest women in the X-Men), and for the villains there's Mister Sinister and, of course, Apocalypse (both are more mad and bad than Magneto).