Blu on Black

Samsung BD-1500 and other stuff I got from Best Buy.

Today's Black Friday and, despite the horrible deals and the rising unemployment, people were flocking the stores buying stuff like there's no tomorrow. It's a good thing I avoided all the chaos by planning ahead and did half of my shopping online. I did wake up early though (5:30 am) and bought some books (40% off), and an Iron Man BD at Amazon. Then I left the house around 7:30 am, which at this point there would be no lines outside the stores. I went to Toys R' Us first to buy some Lego sets. But all the good ones were gone. Instead, I got some cool Transformers toys for a total of $35. Then I proceeded to Best Buy to pick up my Blu-ray Disc Player, some cheap BD (Kung-Fu Panda and Ratatouille), and a couple games that I wanted.

By 11 am, I was already back in the house to install my BD player. However, the HDMI cable that I bought, which was the second expensive thing I got today [sucks], was too short. I didn't want to go back and get a longer one (costs about $80). So I just drilled a little hole behind our TV stand instead. When I finally got the thing to play, I was mesmerized. The image was just so clear. So clear that you could see boogers on the characters' noses. I didn't move in front of the TV after that, and did a BD/DVD marathon. I watched two of the BD that I bought today and watched a couple of my old DVDs as well.

So far, the BD player worked stupendously and it withstood a nine-hour movie marathon. Plus, with its 1080i upconverter, the image quality of my DVDs improved exponentially. Now, that we have a home movie player in our house, I expect more movie marathons on lazy afternoons around here. The only thing I need right now is that Unlimited, 3 DVD at-a-time, Netflix subscription.

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Black Friday 2008

Black Friday, it's almost that day again, the day when The United States celebrates consumerism after Thanksgiving Day. I took a day off at work so I could go this Friday and get my holiday shopping done with. I know, because of the huge sales, the stores will be bedlams. In order to avoid being trampled by rabid mobs of consumers, or getting killed by a mother over a Nintendo DS game, I checked out the leaked Black Friday ads over at BFads, to see what's what, before I head out.

A stampeding horde of Black Friday consumers.

It seems to me that this year's Black Friday is going to be horrible. I thought, since retail sales has plummeted down because of the economy, retailers are going to offer something more enticing so that consumers will pile up outside their doors as early as 3 AM. But the ads just look horrendous. I'm especially disappointed with the lack of deals on newer PC games. The only ones I found, that are worth getting, are Assasin's Creed and BioShock for $10 at Best Buy.

Samsung BD Player.

Nonetheless, there's still some good deals that are worth checking out. Toys R' Us PS2 bundle is very tempting (PS2 with 6 Free Games, "21" DVD and a DVD remote only for $130). Best Buy's Samsung HTDV (40" 1080p LCD for $800), Toshiba Laptop (AMD Turion 64 X2 Dual-Core w/ 3GB Memory and 15" Screen for $380), and Samsung Blu-ray Disc Player for $200 are also worth getting.

As for me, I decided to get a BD player and a Netflix subscription for my parents. We don't have Cable TV anymore and our DVD player died a couple months ago. So, there's little entertainment for my folks in the house. Besides I hate to see that 46" 1080p LCD HDTV they have in our living room go to waste. As for my two godchildren, I'm getting them Lego sets. Can't go wrong with a Lego. Anyways, here's my checklist.
  1. Samsung BD Player ($200)
  2. The Departed BD ($17)
  3. Kung Fu Panda BD ($17)
  4. Assorted Lego Sets x2 (40% off)
It's not much because I'm holding out on the stores. I've yet to see what Amazon has to offer. So, that's that. You guys enjoy your Black Friday, and I hope you find some great deals.

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A Timeline of Gaming Pt. 2

Here's the next, and the last, installment of my Timeline of Gaming series. During my last post, I covered the first five highlights of my 22 years in gaming. So, now, I'm going to list the last five highlights that happened from my teen years up to this date. Honestly, I wasn't that active as a gamer in the early 90's. It's because, during those years, I forayed into extreme sports (skateboarding) and was engulfed in the world of music. But gaming affected me profoundly by the time I got back to it.

And so it continued on to...

1996 - PC Gaming
Favorite Game: Fallout 2

During my last years in High School, the computer was getting common in households. Internet cafes were also slowly sprouting up in my area. Since I didn't own a computer until '98, I'd frequent the cafes to research and write school papers. Sometimes, when I get my work done early, I'd poke around their installed games, and that's how I got into PC gaming. The first games I played were real-time and turn-based strategy games like Red Alert and Heroes of Might and Magic. Their gameplay was so much different and advance than the Platformers and Beat 'Em Ups that I played on any Nintendo console. I was so astounded by them that I became a PC gamer for life.

1997 - Trading Card Game
Favorite Game: Magic: The Gathering

When Playstation was becoming the craze, I went low tech with trading card games. It started when I saw a fellow comics aficionado, from my elementary days, playing a card game called Magic: The Gathering. Desperate for more opponents, he taught me the rules and gave me a starting deck the very next day. After that, it was only a matter of time until I became addicted with the game. Addicted because I quit school and broke up with my girlfriend just to play it. While I only played Magic for two years (because I needed to stop before my addiction gets out of hand), I actually made a lot of friends through it.

1998 - Pen & Paper Role-Playing
Favorite Game: D20 Modern

A lot of people started playing Magic: The Gathering in my school, even the whole Tau Gamma Phi fraternity, and it started to feel like a religion. But if Magic was the religion, Dungeons & Dragons was the cult. An older fellow "Magickero" -who's also my English teacher and the theater director of my school- suggested that we should try playing table-top role-playing. Since I was already inside Geekdom, but haven't thoroughly explored it, I capitulated and agreed to the idea. Like Magic, I was hooked right away. For months, we spent plenty of hours on a derelict cottage behind a friend's house, pretending as fighters and mages, pillaging villages and raping elven queens. Not only the game was fun but it was also therapeutic, a quick and temporary escape from reality. Once you enter a campaign, all your problems are forgotten the entire duration of your stay.

1999 - Forum-Based Role-Playing
Favorite Game: RPoL.net

Before the end of the century, Internet Cafes where running amok in my area. Two main reasons that people go to cafes are either chatting or LAN gaming. I don't like to chat, and while I do enjoy a small dose of Counter-Strike, I'd rather be role-playing in a forum. After my RPG group went separate ways, I craved to play more campaigns. Since it's impossible to find a group in Iloilo (Philippines), I turned to online role-playing. This time, however, I was more than a player, I was also a Dungeon Master. But I was so new to the game I don't have mastery of the rules. So I failed as a DM, and my players started dropping out of my campaigns. Although, through planning and plotting campaigns, creating background stories for my non-playable character, I learned that I love writing.

2007 - Nintendo DS
Favorite Game: The World Ends With You

I never intended to buy any other gaming platform, not a console or a portable. PC already keeps me occupied. But when I was working night shifts, last year, I got so bored that I needed some form of entertainment. Reading was allowed but I'd get sleepy if I did. So I asked my boss if I could play some games on my cellphone. She told me it's fine if it doesn't disturb the patients and as long as I could hear the phones and overhead announcements. A month after, I got myself a Nintendo DS. Primarly, I thought the DS would only serve as a placeholder whenever I can't play PC games. But with its innovative and unique games, I just can't put it down even at home where I have access to my PC.

So that's the last leg of my short series, A Timeline of Gaming. I hope you guys enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

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X-Men Films, Getting A Reboot?

It looks like the X-Men film franchise is not dead after all. Fox has just tapped Josh Schwartz, scribe of The OC, Gossip Girl and Chuck, to write X-Men: First Class that will focus on the younger generation of the X-Men.

Fox has been leaning toward using the younger characters introduced in the previous pics in future installments -- teenagers with powers taught at the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning.

Resulting film would likely draw from elements of the Marvel comic of the same name, launched in 2006, and enlist such characters as Iceman, Rogue, Angel, Colossus, Jubilee and Shadowcat, who have appeared prominently or made cameos in prior pics.

Given Hollywood's penchant for reboots with new actors playing familiar roles, pic could also reintroduce characters. Comicbook revolves around the Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Beast, Iceman, Angel and Professor X.

I think Fox made a good decision of getting Josh Scwartz to write First Class. It'll have the teenage drama of The O.C. and Gossip Girl, and the geekiness of Chuck. But, seriously, did they have to kill Jean Grey, Professor X and Cyclops in the last installment just so they could have mutant teenagers parade their angst in the mansion and suck on each other's faces? Or even a total reebot? That sucks. I say, since Magneto is alive and Rogue has been depowered, let's go and start the Age of Apocalypse! (read my post about X3 and proposed X4: Age of Apocalypse here).

Anyways, you can read the rest of the article here.

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Upcoming Marvel Comics for 2009

I was starting to think that my comics pull list might become much thinner next year, right after Secret Invasion is done. I thought, since the next event will focus on Marvel's cosmic universe, which I'm not very interested with, I'd be done with Marvel's events and all the tie-ins. At least, for a little while. But Comic Book Resources just released a solicit information of Marvel titles that's coming out in February 2009, and it's a very enticing list. So, since I'm very susceptible to temptation, I'm definitely going to see my pull sheet blown out into ridiculous proportions. This sucks.

Nick Fury and his Secret Warriors.

I'm not going to add that much but I'll have two, three...or maybe more comics more than my current list right now. I'm definitely getting Secret Warriors because I love their little stint in the first issues of Secret Invasion: Mighty Avengers. Of course, there is Dark Reign, which will probably paint a post-Secret Invasion Marvel Universe, and the Dark Avengers. Then there's The Times and Life of Lucas Bishop. I'm not missing this one, Bishop is one of my favorite X-Man and I just want to know why he'd turn on his team just to kill a baby.

Anyways, that's that. You can check out all the releases here and the X-Men releases here.

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Sacred 2, Almost Sacred

It looks like that the release date of Sacred 2: Fallen Angel has slipped under my radar because it's already out for Windows. The first Sacred is one of my favorite action RPG, probably the best next thing to Diablo II. While the game's narrative isn't interesting, it was the first top-down action RPG that utilized freeform gameplay and mountable horses. By the looks of it, Sacred 2: Fallen Angel is more of the same, as expected from a sequel. More skills and more bugs, that is.

Anyways, here are a couple of reviews from major game sites that I've found.

IGN PC - 7.5

As far as Diablo-style hack-and-slash action-RPGs go, Ascaron Entertainment's Sacred 2 is the best genre entry since Titan Quest. It offers a huge world to explore, tons of loot, plenty of monster types, and lots of ways to customize its six character classes. While it does have a quirky personality, it doesn't offer much as far as its narrative goes that's compelling, and the game suffers from numerous bugs and technical issues, including poor friendly AI, game crashes and performance problems, hopefully something that gets worked out over the coming months through patch updates. It's also not a game that tries anything truly novel, just a lot of tried-and-true quest, kill, loot, and repeat mechanics. With others online it's a much more enjoyable experience, but as of right now the US servers are more or less empty, something that hopefully changes in the days and months beyond release.
Fragland - 80%
Sacred 2: fallen Angel has become a worthy successor to Sacred. On all aspects this game knows a huge progress. Fans of this genre have already pre-ordered their copy of Diablo III and are awaiting anxiously for it to arrive, but why should you have to choose? Follow my advise and buy both!
Jolt - 8.0
We ‘get’ Sacred 2, but that’s because we have past experience with the series and we’re prepared to give it a chance despite its teething troubles. Not everyone will, and that’s a bit of a shame but also understandable. Out of the box bugs make a mockery of Ascaron’s hard work, making the difficult job of selling an already unfashionable genre even harder. But even we can recognise that despite everything, some of the sheen and charm has worn off the second time around. Whatever Ascaron has planned to make a success of next year’s console releases, they have some hard work ahead.
Besides the bugs out of the box, which can be fixed by a 500 MB! patch, I think I'll love this game. Too bad, it's not on my budget list. Hopefully, somebody will give me a gift card this Christmas.

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My Top 7 Women of 007

I saw Quantum of Solace this afternoon. Despite its shaky "handy cam" action shots, that almost made me nauseous, I really enjoyed it. There were a lot of props to old school Bond films in here, most notably is the dead girl's body covered in black gold. Daniel Craig seems to be shaping up as a great, but different, James Bond as well. He lacks the finesse but he makes it up with his roughness. Of course, he's still the man's man.

James Bond, the man's man. Guys love Bond films because everybody wants to be like him. Why not? He has it all. He's got the suit, the cars, the gadgets and -of course- the women. Ah, the women...they flow like fine wine in all 007 movies. I just couldn't imagine a Bond film without a Bond Girl. Forget the cars and the gadgets, Bond girls are much more important than those.

Speaking of which, in tribute to all the women that graced the Bond films, here are 7 of my favorites Bond Girls:

7. Claudine Auger as Domino (Thunderball)

Honestly, I don't like Domino as a character. Unlike most Bond Girls, she's weak and powerless. Although she's a perfect damsel in distress -imprisoned, betrayed and love-starved- for Bond to rescue. As for the actress, not too shabby and I can't say no to the classy beauty of Claudine Auger, Miss France 1958.

6. Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore (Goldfinger)

If the name is not enough for you, then let me describe her in detail. Pussy Galore is a smart and no-nonsense woman. While most Bond Girls are easily enslaved by Bond's charms, she's impervious to it and it takes Bond's Judo skill to win her over. While Honor Blackman is a beauty, I just wished she was more younger when she played her role as a Bond Girl.

5. Barbara Bach as Agent XXX (The Spy Who Loved Me)

Like Pussy Galore, this Bond girl is wicked in name and character. She's exactly the female counterpart of Bond. A KGB secret agent, she's as smart and as skilled as 007. The games they played throughout the film, outsmarting each other at every turn, was just entertaining to watch. Oh, and Barbara Bach is just stunning in this film.

4. Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder (Dr. No)

Ursula Andress, the first Bond Girl that set the standard for everyone to follow. As Honey Ryder, she's just more than a bikini clad, blond goddess. She's lethal as she's beautiful, and killed her rapist by putting a black widow in his mosquito net. She's also independent and doesn't slow Bond down. As for aesthetic quality, watch the popular scene where she emerges from the sea and judge for yourself.

3. Daniela Bianchi as Tatiana Romanova (From Russia With Love)

As a low-ranking officer in the Soviet Army Intelligence, Tatiana Romanova isn't that interesting as a character. But actress Daniela Bianchi, former Miss Rome, is very alluring and seductive. Because of her, I watched From Russia With Love (my very first Bond film) again and again. If I was a bit older, I probably would've done more than just watch.

2. Eva Green as Vesper Lynd (Casino Royale 2006)

Ah, Vesper Lynd, the only modern Bond Girl that I really liked (Actually, I like Michelle Yeoh too. But not Top 7 material). She got the smarts of Pussy Galore, the elegance of Domino, and she's the only girl that Agent 007 truly loved. Truly a classic Bond Girl. Eva Green did a perfect job on playing her too.

1. Jane Seymour as Solitaire (Live and Let Die)

Ok, Solitaire is probably the weirdest Bond Girl. She's a virgin pyschic that'll lose her power if she loses her virginity. She's weak, wimpy and kept being saved by Bond. But, she has this "Will you protect me from bad men?" look that'll make you commit Seppuku if she said so. Jane Seymour maybe a withering B list actress right now, but, to me, she's still the prettiest Bond Girl.

Well that's 7 of my favorite Bond Girls. I know there's a lot of them, so I want to know who are your favorites.

Pictures taken from james bond multimedia.

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NYCC 2009

I stumbled upon New York Comic Con's website earlier today and, boy, their guest list is amazing. Top comic book artists such as George Perez, Leinel Yu and Jim Lee will be there. David Hajdu (The Ten-Cent Plague), J. Michael Straczynski (Thor) and Art Spiegelman (Maus), writers that I'd really love to meet, will attend as guests too. So I really want to attend this convention.

Man, Art Spiegelman alone is enough reason for me to attend. It will also be much cheaper than going to the International Comic-Con in San Diego next year. I have cousins in NY and I can crash with them, saving me a hotel. I also know how to commute in the city, and it'll save me some cab fare. But the problem, like always, is money. I have none. If I really want to go, I have to act now and buy a plane ticket before prices go up.

Although, even if do have enough money, in a time of an economic recession, I don't think I'll spend $500 just to talk to my favorite writers/artists for 3 minutes, take a picture with them, and get their autographs. If I win the lottery, or if my employer allows me to work overtime again, then I might consider going. Right now, I'm not so sure. But I really want to.

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A Timeline of Gaming Pt. 1

I had a chat with a friend of mine from my elementary school days. It was quite nostalgic because we talked about the things we used to do at school. We talked about our classmates and our teachers. We talked about the cartoons we watched and the comics we read. But most of all, we talked about the games we played. I know that I've been playing games ever since. But I never realized that I was playing games for 22 years now. Wow, time flies when you're having fun playing video games indeed. So, in tribute to my long years of gaming, I wrote a little timeline to document the gaming highlights of my life.

It all began on...

1986 - Atari 2600
Favorite Game: River Raid

I was six when my mom's cousins moved next to our house. Being well-paid seafarers, both of them filled their pad with a lot of toys that'll astound kids. They have every kind of remote controls, from motorcycles to airplanes, and an awesome train set. But what really made me a frequent guest at their place was their Atari 2600. It was my first time playing a video game, and it was one of my childhood experiences that I'll never forget. To be able to control an avatar on a TV, eating dots while dodging ghost-like figures or flying a plane through small spaces, was just mind blowing to me.

1987 - Nintendo Family Computer (NES)
Favorite Game: Mega Man Series

I became so enamored with my neighbor's Atari that my mom had a hard time keeping me at home. So she told my dad to buy me one as well. When he came home, however, he had with him a Nintendo Family Computer. At first, I was very disappointed that he didn't get me an Atari. But the moment he turned it on, I was instantaneously mesmerized. Its graphics was even more vibrant and its games were much more advanced compared to Atari's. From then on, my mom never had trouble keeping me at home. She did, however, found it hard making me study or do my chores.

1990 - Nintendo Game Boy
Favorite Game: Metroid II

Back then, the only portable gaming device was a Game & Watch. But my parents thought it was stupid and they never got me one. So, instead, I turned to my aunt from New York and asked her for it. But when she came home during Christmas '90, me and my cousins received a Game Boy instead. It was the first time we saw one, and we were flabbergasted. Unlike the Game & Watch, its games were dynamic, not static, and it has interchangeable cartridges. To us, it was like a mini Family Computer and it turned us into AA Battery addicts. I may not have that Game Boy anymore but it's still the best Christmas present.

1992 - Nintendo Super Famicom (SNES)
Favorite Game: Secret of Mana

I never had a SNES. My parents said I was "big enough" to be playing games so they never got me one (although they still buy me GI Joes). But that never stopped me from playing. Although I have to scrape my weekly allowance just to go to gaming stations and rent a console for hours every Saturday. So it was really a challenge to be playing long games like Chrono Trigger or Secret of Mana. But it was also fun since I get to hang out with school friends outside the school grounds.

1993 - Arcade
Favorite Game: Aliens Vs. Predator

When I entered high school in the early nineties, there was a rise of arcade joints in my area. They were just popping out everywhere. Arcade games were much more cheaper, especially if you're good at them. So I ditched SNES gaming stations in favor of arcades. Of course, as a rebellious adolescent, I also ditched school so I can play games like Captain Commando and Cadillacs and Dinousaurs. I even got suspended for two weeks when I got caught for cutting classes during a random school faculty raid at my arcade. But I didn't really care, because it actually gave me the free time to play arcade games without ditching school.

So, that's about it for now. These are the highlights of my gaming life, from when I was a kid up to my early teen years. I'll continue next time with my mid-teen to young adult years. So keep an eye on it.

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Featured Band: The Samuel Jackson Five

Nowadays, my search would always end up with a post-rock band every time I try to find new artists to listen to. It must be the genre's gloomy, but relaxing, sound scape that appeals a lot to my boring self. But when The Samuel Jackson Five came up on my search results, I quickly clicked on their link. Excitedly, because of the band's name, I thought The Samuel Jakcson Five was a comedy band much like Tenancious D or Flight of the Conchords. It would be a welcome respite to listen to such a band, amidst my "noisy" and "loud" rotation. But I was wrong. The Samuel Jackson Five is another post-rock band.

The Samuel Jackson Five.

However, I'm not disappointed with my find. Yes, my mp3 player is crowded with the new album of Mogwai and the Russian Circles, and music from other post-metal/post-rock bands. Yes, I was getting sick of listening to them all. But when I heard The Samuel Jackson Five, I fell in love with the genre all over again. Their sound scapes is just amazing, sophisticated. If you head to their MySpace page, I suggest you listen to their song "Goodbye Melody Mountain". The song is an aural candy that'll bring you joy.

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Fallout 101: Character Creation Guide

Character creation has always been my favorite part of the RPG system. It's just fun creating and playing different types of characters. Whether it be a cunning rogue, a brutish fighter, or a boisterous gunslinger. I've probably created tons of characters for table-top and desktop RPGs, from Dungeons & Dragons to Fallout. Now, I have another game to tinker with: Fallout 3.

Fallout's character creation/development system isn't as complex as other RPG systems, like D&D for example. But, I know, a lot of people are new to this game. So, to help those guys out, I decided to write this quick guide on how to create a character.

Fallout's attributes are special. By that I meant Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agiility and Luck (S.P.E.C.I.A.L.). These attributes, like in all RPGs, affects other game mechanics. In Fallout 3, these includes the dialogue, skills and abilities such as critical hits.
I don't recommend increasing the attributes past 9 points. The reason because there are bobble heads scattered throughout The Capital Wasteland that will permanently increase your attributes by one. So if you throw 10 points on Agility, the Agility bobble head will be wasted.

  • Strength
Skill Bonuses: + to Melee Weapons
Abilities Affected: Increases Carry Weight and Melee/Unarmed Damage

Max Points Suggested: 5
Min Points Suggested: 1

If you don't mind carrying small amount of loot, or constantly traveling to a merchant to unload your junk, a point here would do. But if you want heavy weaponry, like missile launchers and flamethrowers, then this is a must because you need to be strong to be able to carry all the big guns. Plus, since big gun ammo is a bit scarce in The Capital Wasteland, a bonus to melee weapons is nice if you want to resort to using your sledgehammer.
  • Perception
Skill Bonuses: + to Energy Weapons, Explosives and Lock Picks
Abilities Affected: Faster Threat Detection
Max Points Suggested: 7

Min Points Suggested: 4

A good number of points in Perception is very useful, especially to a sneaky character, since it immediately marks a red line in your compass if there's any threat. But if you're the run and gun type, who prefers an all-out frontal assault with all guns drawn, then you don't need much points in here. Unless you're the Rambo type who uses a laser gun and a lot of grenades.
  • Endurance
Skill Bonuses: + to Big Guns and Unarmed
Abilities Affected: Increases Hit Points and Resistances
Max Points Suggested: 6
Min Points Suggested: 2
If you're a long range fighter, who likes to snipe enemies from afar, then you don't really need much points in here. But if you prefer to fight at close range, or often utilize melee weapons due to lack of ammo, then throw some points in here because you'll need a lot of hit points. Endurance also increases your skills in Big Guns. So, throw some points here if you use weapons like miniguns or missile launchers
  • Charisma
Skill Bonuses: + to Speech and Barter
Abilities Affected: Improves People's Disposition
Max Points Suggested: 8
Min Points Suggested: 4

Charisma was an entertaining attribute in Fallout 1 & 2. Sadly, since my character has a fairly low Charisma, I couldn't say if it's the same with Fallout 3. But I suspect it is. So if you want to have some interesting dialogues, then dump a lot of points in here. If you can't spare the points, keep it at 4 at least so people won't hate you that much.
  • Intelligence
Skill Bonuses: + to Medicine, Repair and Science
Abilities Affected: Increases Number of Skill Points
Max Points Suggested: 9

Min Points Suggested: 4

Intelligence increases the number of your skill points every level up. So I suggest that you should increase this early in the game. If you start out with 9 points on Intelligence, you can immediately increase it to 10 if you get the bobble head at the start of the game. That'll leave you with 20 skill points every level up. But if you don't want to be a skilled person, then 4 points in here would suffice.
  • Agility
Skill Bonuses: + to Small Guns and Sneak
Abilities Affected: Increases Number of Action Points
Max Points Suggested: 8

Min Points Suggested: 5

Agility is the most useful attribute since it increases your action points. AP is used for VATS, a really cool and effective targeting system, which I highly recommend to all gun wielders. The more AP you have the more you can use the VATS. So put a lot of points in here. Unless you want to play Fallout 3 like first person shooter game.
  • Luck
Skill Bonuses: + to All Skills
Abilities Affected: Improves Chance of a Critical Hit
Max Points Suggested: 7

Min Points Suggested: 3

Luck isn't really that important nor useless. So it's up to you if you want it or don't. But it's good to have a few points in here if you like to be a "one shot, one kill" since it increases your chances to have a critical hit.
There are a lot of skills to choose from in Fallout 3. A select few are necessary, most are pretty fun to use, and a couple of them are just entirely useless. So, to make it easier, I grouped the skills you need and want into two: Priority and Secondary Skills.

Priority Skills
These skills are essential and will make the game much fun and easier for you. Also these are the skills that you should consider tagging. Tagged skills have 15 points bonus. You can choose up to 3 skills to tag at the GOAT exam in Vault 101.
  • Lock Pick, Science and Speech
There are plenty of computers to be hacked, locked doors to be opened and stupid people to coerce in The Capital Wasteland. So Lock Pick, Science and Speech are the skills you'll often use. They have great benefits and rewards. Like getting better loot, avoiding enemies or getting out of a fight, coercing useful information from people, and getting into places where you shouldn't be. So, if you can, dump a lot of points in these three skills as early as you can.
  • Melee, Unarmed or Small Guns (pick one)
Energy Weapons and Big Guns are scarce in parts and ammo. So I don't recommend you take those as your method of attacks early in the game. Instead, choose Small Guns or Melee and Unarmed Attack. Small Guns include pistols and rifles, and there's plenty of them to be found early in the game. If you plan to carry heavy weapons in the middle of the game, Unarmed or Melee are the best attack skill early on.
Secondary Skills
There are skills in the game that will help you out a lot. Although it's not necessary, or even advisable, for you to dump points in here until you've maxed your priority skills. But when you do, then it's time to put those skill points on these skills.
  • Repair
Unless you fight with your bare hands and travel the Wasteland naked, then you won't need this skill. Other than that Repair is a very useful skill as it keeps your weapons and armor in pristine condition. Weapons and armors that are worn out are less effective in combat (less damage and protection). So if you want that sniper rifle or that power armor to be in top shape and fully operational, dump points on Repair as soon as you can. Unless you fight with your bare hands, then you don't need it.
  • Sneak
A highly recommended skill if you're the sniper/assassin type. Combined with the Bloody Mess perk and a high chance of Critical Hit, this thing is a lot of fun doing a sneak attack criticals on the enemies. But other than that, it's not really necessary since there are a lot of Stealth Boys around if you really need to be sneaky.
  • Energy Weapons and Big Guns
I'm happy with my Lincoln's Repeater Rifle. But from time to time, I'm tempted to use a Minigun and tear my enemies into small ribbons of meat, or a laser rifle to reduce my enemies into a pile of dust. But both weapons are not necessary. Especially at the beginning of the game since ammo are scarce for both weapon types. But if you want to indulge yourself, go ahead.
Useless Skill
Barter is the only useless skill I can think of. I don't have the skill but I have 10,000 caps right, and I don't know what to do with it. So don't invest in here.

So there it is, my quick-start character creation guide for Fallout 3. If I finish the game, I promise to write a detailed guide on how to create a Small Gun specialist. So keep an eye on that one.

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Indie RPG Round Up

I haven't played a lot of indie RPGs. But not because I don't enjoy them. Games like Geneforge and Avernum has occupied my time, especially back when CRPG was having a dry spell. It's just that, right now, I don't have much time to play them with all the good games coming out. But after Tales of the Rampant Coyote, a blog about indie games, posted an indie RPG round up I think I'm going to try some of the games when the "holiday games rush" die down. Anyways, here are the games I'm looking forward to play:

Age of Decadence
By Iron Tower Studio
I've followed the development of Age of Decadence for some time before but lost track of it. The main reason that drew me into this game is its unique world, which an alternate history and post-apocalyptic setting inspired by the fall of the Roman Empire. Like most indie RPG, this one too pays homage to the traditional style with tons of skill based dialogues and a turn-based combat system. Unfortunately, this title is not out yet and I don't know when will be the release date.

By Iron Tower Studio
Iron Tower Studio is becoming a force in indie RPG development. While they're still finishing up with their ambitious title, Age of Decadence. They've announced yet another interesting game in development, Cyclopean. Not much is known about this title yet, because it's still in its initial development stage, except that it's based on H.P. Lovecraft's stories and mythos. That, as a fan of Lovecraftian Horror, I think, is enough for me.

Mount & Blade
by Tale Worlds Entertainment
Horses in Mount & Blade really piqued my interest. Horses are a big part of the fantasy/medieval world. Yet not a lot of RPG has horse combats. Elders Scrolls IV: Oblivion have horses, but they're easy prey during combat. Sacred also have horses, and you can trample your enemies with it, but nothing more. Mount & Blade, howerver, the mounted horse battles is just astounding. This game has already been out, and you can download or buy the game at the website.

Hopefully, I'll have some time next year to play these games. But for the rest of you out there, if you want some cheap and fun RPGs or if you can't play new games because of a low-end PC, check out these games and tell me if you like them.

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Book Review: Shadow of the Silk Road

Shadow of the Silk Road
9.4 of 10
by Colin Thubron

My father and his father were travel nuts and history buffs. Traveling is part of their work and their work pays for their travels. They also like digging the history, through people or books, of the places they're visiting. Point any country in the map and they'll probably know something about the history of that place. But I, on the other hand, am a shut in. I'd rather stay at the comfort of my home, fiddling with my guitar and PC games. But that doesn't mean I took to my mother's side entirely. Because even though I'm not a history buff like my dad and my grandfather, I like history too. That's why I enjoyed reading a travel book like Shadow of the Silk Road, because of the history it presented.

I don't read travel books. I don't think I'll like, or even understand, them. But Shadow of the Silk Road is of a different ilk. I only picked it up since, for the longest time now, I wanted to know the history of the trade routes that heavily contributed to the great civilizations such as China, Rome, Persia etc. But, to my delight, I got more than just a travel book. Colin Thubron, the author of the book, writes a lot of interesting things about the places he visited along the Silk Road, without overwhelming the reader, from its obscure history and various interviews of its inhabitants. He also compares the current state of the places, especially the communist states, to the time during his initial visit, 20 years ago, when Communism was still in reign.

Shadow of the Silk Road is, by far, the best book I've read this year. The author just writes so fluidly and covers a lot of topic. At one point he's eating noodles in China, talking about politics and history, and before you know it he'll be in the tomb of Gawhar Shad in Afghanistan, talking about culture and religion. But best of all, I learned a lot of cool stuff in this book. Like how much China has progressed in just 20 years, and yet some of its regions are still desolate. Or that a village in Northwestern China, now known as Zhelaizhai, has inhabitants with Caucasian traits, which are theorized to be the descendants of Roman soldiers that has settled in that area a long time ago. If you're into traveling or in Asian history, then I highly recommend this book.

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Obama Wins!

Damn, first time I vote for a Presidential Candidate and he wins. Obama had 306 electoral votes, while McCain only had 145. When he finally came out from the primary, defeating Hilary Clinton, I never really thought he'd win. But he did. So I feel like a winner too.

I wish I was in Grant Park right now, celebrating.

Now, I do hope he deliver on that tax cuts of his -which will probably in effect 2-3 years from now, and only to be trampled down if he doesn't get voted for a second term. The bigger the tax cuts, the more money I'll have to help the economy by buying comics, games and music.

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The First Election

I hadn't voted for any Presidential Candidate in my life. I was 4 months shy of being 18 years old during the 1998 Presidential Election in the Philippines. So I couldn't vote. I was only an Immigrant during the 2000 and the 2004 US Presidential Election. So I couldn't vote. But, today, as a US Citizen, I finally did.

I went to the polls at 5.45 A.M. and the line was already snaking in front of me, probably almost a hundred people. Then more started pouring in behind me. By the time they opened at 6, there are probably, more or less than, 300 voters waiting in line. I thought this was normal. But the lady in front of me told me it wasn't. Later, I found out that there were more registered voters this time around. Maybe a lot of people are that sick of the Bush Regime that they really want to see some changes. But whatever their...our reasons, we became part of a historical election in the US.

Historical, indeed. But not in the sheer number of registered voters alone. If you look back 40 something years ago, Black men and women had a hard time voting, even though they have the right. They have to take literacy tests and have to pay poll taxes which makes it harder for them to vote. Their employers would fire them, and landlords would evict them from their homes, if they tried to vote. Now, we got a Mulatto (half-black, half-white) running for presidency (who seems to be looking good in the polls as of now). That alone will tell you that the United States have come a long way in just a short period of time.

Anyways, I'm really glad I did vote today, even though I was late for work. You could also tell that other people were happy to vote too. The excitement in the polls is just palpable. Even the weather was so cooperative (70 degrees in a November!). So I did my part and whoever wins tomorrow, McCain or Obama, I don't really care. But I'll definitely wake up to a President who's not Bush. Unless he declares Martial Law tonight. Then this was all for naught, and that would majorly suck.

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First Impressions: Fallout 3

The most gruesome and enjoyable V.A.T.S.

I finally spent some quality time with the sequel of my favorite post-nuclear apocalyptic RPG, Fallout 3. I must say that I really had a hard putting it down just to write this entry. It's so much fun and enjoyable. From NPC interaction, combat with the V.A.T.S. (Vault Assisted Targeting System) and down to exploring "The Capital Wasteland". There's just so much to do in here. Although the whole feel of the original Fallout games is lost in this one. I sometimes feel I'm playing S.T.A.L.K.E.R. rather than a Fallout game until I see Nuka-Cola bottles or worn-out 50's styled posters. Nonetheless, even though its not the kind of Fallout I used to know, this game is still awesome.

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Comics Bundle 10/22 - 10/29: No Skrulls This Week

I thought I won't be able to write a comics review this week, with Fallout 3 barricading the way. But I need to this to get better at it, or at least stop hitting the walls. Anyways, I transfered to a new comic store last week. While I liked my former comic store, and its owner, they just don't offer me enough. My new comic store has a lot of perks if you join their pull service. First, I get 20% off on everything in their store because I have 20 something titles on my pull sheet. Secondly, they bag and board all the comics you buy from them. Sadly, their store looks like a dilapidated junk house.

G.I. Joe #0
8.0 of 10
Writer: Too many to mention
Artists: Too many to mention

I was a G.I. Joe geek before I became something more. I just love the toys and the cartoons. I even vigilantly followed the comic book series that was published by Marvel back then. But I didn't know how to properly maintain a comic book before, and so I lost them all. Fortunately, after many reincarnations from various publishers, G.I. Joe is returning to the funny books, this time under IDW Publishing. While the series will start on January 2009, IDW was nice enough to release a #0 issue, that contains three short stories, so we could get a glimpse on the new Joes. By the looks of it, I'll be adding G.I. Joe to my pull list. They're still the old Joes that I knew (they still yell Yo Joe!), except that they're in a contemporary setting and they've all matured.

Thor #11
9.0 of 10
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artists: Oliver Copiel, Mark Morales, Laura Martin

Honestly, I think Thor is the best super-hero comic book that's out right now. It has great art and great writing. But this issue is the best...yet. How they managed to fit this big story in one -$2.99- issue, without leaving me dry, is just marvelous to me. While Thor/Don is trying to catch up with those he had left in the mortal realm, and sought closure to those who left him, Loki's insidiousness moves the larger plot by beguiling Balder with the fruits of Midgard. I'm excited to read the next issue already.

Unknown Soldier #1
8.7 of 10
Writer: Joshua Dysart
Artists: Alberto Ponticelli

If you start going through my short box of comics right now, two publishers you'll see in abundance are Marvel and Vertigo. While the former is widely known mainstream the latter isn't, which is a shame. If people only read Vertigo titles I'm sure it'll change the way how they see comics. Take their new series, Unknown Soldier, for example. It takes the superhero duality concept into a mature level. A pacifist, Dr. Lwanga Moses, Harvard caliber medical doctor, whose aspiration is to rebuild and unite their war-torn country only through words. But he has this mysterious undertone that whispers to him, turning him into a vicious killer when the need arises. It's violent, and it's smart. So, if you need to fill out a longer pull sheet next time, jot down Unknown Soldier.

Wasteland #21
8.5 of 10
Writer: Anthony Johnston
Artists: Christopher Mitten, Ben Templesmith

This is a week of post-apocalyptia for me. First, it was the release of Fallout 3. Then, I discovered this comic book series called Wasteland. I've never heard about this book before. But its title was so enticing, especially to a post-apocalyptic nut like me, and I just had to pick it up. Honestly, however, the story is all blurry to me. Hopefully its because of my lack of familiarity with the series, not of sloppy writing. But its setting is amazing. It's not in a post-nuclear war world but it's a century after the "Big Wet", which I assume was a huge flood. The black and white artwork is nothing short of magnificent too, much like in The Walking Dead. It's a bit pricey ($3.50) but it's worth it.

Wolverine: Manifest Destiny #1
7.3 of 10
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artists: Stephen Segovia, John Rauch

If you go into a comic store right now you'd see a whole shelf dedicated to Wolverine. I mean with all the comic book that he's in right now (3 X-Men series, 3 Wolverine series, X-Force and The New Avengers). Then, he gets another mini-series, Wolverine: Manfiest Destiny. But I guess living for so long the guy has a lot of stories to tell. The story is set in Chinatown (San Francisco since it's part of the "Manifest Destiny" event), where Wolverine goes back to make amends about what he has done in the past. What did he do? Well it was never mentioned in this issue since they were too busy laying the foundations of the story (the woes of a first issue). But, whatever it is, it must be big because the townsfolk has been holding a grudge on him for decades now.

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