Monthly Archives: July 2016

Reaction to Battlebots S2 E5

Okay, NOW my bracket is busted.

Episode Five was definitely the upset episode as three out of the four matches had a lower seed beating an upper seed with one of the matches beating a top eight seed! This was a good episode with crazy fights and awesome moves.   Let’s take a look!

Warhead vs Complete Control

This was probably the craziest battle yet this season and I LOVED IT. Flames, collisions, and a break-dancing robot tied everything together nicely. But seriously, the announcers got this right when they compared this fight to Rocky II when the fighters were so badly beaten and just need to move in order to win. Warhead gave possibly the best defeat this season through not only slicing open Complete Control but catching him on fire. It certainly highlights the biggest weakness for flame robots and their vulnerability to their own weapon. But man, Warhead is just nuts with his moves! I love it! And the best part is that Warhead has proven himself worthy after beating a worthy opponent. I hope you go far man, (my bracket is already busted at this point so who cares!).

Razorback vs. Ghost Raptor

Suplex! If Warhead vs CC was the best battle then the suplex was probably the best move for this episode. Razorback has jumped up in favorites for me as I just love how efficiently designed this robot is. Rb is like Complete Control 2.0! Strongly designed, able to right itself easily and very maneuverable, Rb is a great battlebot. Poor GR just didn’t have the power necessary to chew through Rb. That fight against SoW must’ve really hurt him hard. Again, looking forward to seeing RB in the next round!

Tombstone vs Escape Velocity

After this fight, people on reddit called EV “Walmart Bronco” and I’m not surprised. Even though “honeycomb armor” was promised it certainly did not deliver. Tombstone just chewed through him like he was another meal. Tombstone didn’t even break a sweat. Still though, gotta love how the builders of EV dressed up like hardcore nerds.

Poison Arrow vs. Son of Whyachi

Son of Whyachi’s unfortunately losing streak continues this season. It’s a shame that such an iconic robot continues to lose matches. Regardless, at least he went out with a huge BANG and not through some dumb thing like radio trouble. Poison Arrow joins Red Devil in being the underdogs and thanks to the both of them, the third quadrant is now wiiiiiide open. That section of the quadrant is now more interesting as unproven veterans and plucky newcomers will battle it out for the final four. But back to the match. It’s too bad that SoW didn’t give a good hit to Poison Arrow. SoW probably could’ve won this if they tried to go around PA and not full frontal. But they lost so now they’ll have to hope for their family members to avenge them. What such most about this is that I had SoW go to the final four so now my bracket is officially busted thanks to PA. So, bleh on you PA.

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Console Wars: 2 Good 2 Be True

For over a dozen years, I’ve been looking for a good book about video games. For such an influential media, it’s surprising that there are very few books that dive into this topic that are seriously good. When I heard about Console Wars, I knew I had to check it out and I finally did this summer.

Console Wars focuses on one of the most exciting years in video game history, namely, the war between the Sega Genesis and the Super Nintendo. And rather than being a standard nonfiction book (dry and full of references and quotes), author Blake Harris crafts a novel that’s more story than essay yet does not lose the flavor of reality. His book throws you into the early nineties and drops you into the heated moments and settings that shaped the era of videogames. The author’s love and enthusiasm for video games really comes through in this novel and as such, I had a hard time putting this book down.

One of the first things you’ll notice about Console Wars is how big it is. This book is dense but thankfully, does not overload the reader. Even though I knew a lot about video game history, mainly thanks to the internet, before reading this novel, I was surprised at just how little I actually knew, and that was great!

Some of my favorite moments in the book are those that seem like they’re straight out of a movie. I particularly liked the scene involving the recording of the infamous “SEGA!” scream used in commercials. Then there’s the part where the Sega employees were inspired to do a worldwide release of Sonic and Tails on Sonic 2sday. It’s moments like these that really help the book come together nicely.

Now truthfully, this doesn’t mean Console Wars is perfect. There are some problems I have which fortunately didn’t dampen my love for this book. One of which was the many characters. Although the photo section was helpful, I wish there was a simple group shot of the Sega team as I kept losing track of who was who. The biggest problem I had however was one of the big conflicts in the book; the Sega of America vs. Sega of Japan conflict was mainly from the Sega of America point of view. This, unfortunately, paints Sega of Japan as mean, subversive, and unpredictable. I wish we got more scenes from their point of view to understand exactly why there was so conflict between the two. Same thing can be applied to Nintendo as well. Nintendo in this book was like the antagonist in an action movie; we would get scenes of them every now and then and peek into their diabolical plans for their plucky foe. I wish we could see more of them to really help us understand what they were thinking.

But the thing is, that’s not really the point of the book, the point of the book is how Sega, through Tom Kalinske, president and CEO of Sega of America, was able to bring Nintendo to its knees and really shape the video game market. As such, “Console Wars” as a title is a bit off and perhaps a better title would be “the Rise and Fall of Sega” (but then it wouldn’t be catchy).

On another note, I’m pretty sure Blake Harris is a fan of the Angry Video Game Nerd. There are several spots in this book that seem a lot like what AVGN has said before. The casual reference to the porno Atari game, Custer’s Revenge, was too on the nose as nobody knew about this game until after AVGN did an episode on it. Even more obvious was the reference to LJN’s bad video games, I mean, that’s one of AVGN’s gimmicks! He hates LJN games! But I love it and I find it funny to think that Blake is a fan of the Nerd.

I was sad when the novel eventually finished as I would have liked to see the battle between the N64, Playstation, and eventually the Sega Saturn. However, part of me is glad that Blake did not talk about that. This is the story of Tom Kalinske and how he turned Sega from a joke to a star. That era of video games was not under his jurisdiction. As such, Blake Harris should seriously consider writing another novel on video games (whether it be nonfiction or fiction) as his love for the material is fantastic. Perhaps a book about Nintendo’s comeback via the Wii? Or on the Atari era and why it eventually collapsed? Or even why the Playstation 2 was such a huge success? All of these are great topics.

And yet, nothing can ever hold a candle to the Console Wars of the early 90s. So much was happening at that time that it almost seems unreal. New video game franchises were born, records were broken, the media boundaries were pushed, and deep rivalries formed.  I doubt there will ever be a time just like the early 90s for video games.

As for me, I’m glad I was finally able to read a book about video games. Thank you Blake, you kept me up late many times.

Reaction to Battlebots Season 2 Episode 4

In all fairness, things could be worse for my bracket.

So begins the first elimination round of Battlebots Season 2. Four battles were shown and not one of them was disappointing; even the more one-sided bouts began with uncertainty for the victor.   Perhaps the biggest disappointment for tonight was that ABC failed to squeeze just one more fight into this episode. There was a lot of backstory given during this episode and honestly I don’t think it was needed. Now, I’m all for the background of builders and what’s going down in the workshop but at this point of the game we are still in the first round. How much of this is really necessary? Save it for the later episodes when the victors deserve some praise.

With that off my chest let’s look at the battles!

Yeti vs Lucky

Arguably the best fight for Episode Four, this battle was flavorful and fun despite the ineffectiveness of Lucky’s weapon. What made the battle really interesting though was Yeti’s wheel loss. With Yeti handicapped, the odds swung towards Lucky who was now more maneuverable than his opponent. Despite such amazing, if you will, luck, Lucky failed to clinch the win. I have to applaud Yeti’s driver and his mechanic for not only designing a robot that can drive with three wheels but can drive effectively as well.

Minotaur vs Blacksmith

Ah, now this fight I could watch again and again. At first I was worried that Minotaur would not be able to hit Blacksmith but thankfully, I was proven wrong. So many things to comment about this fight like the fact that Blacksmith just kept going and going to the bitter end. Then there’s the fact that Minotaur seemed impervious to Blacksmith’s onslaught even when he gave several good blows. But the best part was the end when Minotaur stripped off Blacksmith, layer by layer, until it could chew away at the juicy insides. And I have to say, I don’t think I had ever seen a Battlebot explode so chalk this fight up as one for the record books. Also, I couldn’t help but laugh my butt off when I saw Minotaur’s driver whose eyeballs looked like they were trying to pop out of his skull. Good fight, good fight.

Bronco vs Chrome Fly

ABC played me like a fiddle because I was nervous before this fight began (Bronco is my pick for Champion). Chrome Fly’s deadly horizontal blades looked like they could chew through Bronco and leave him badly disabled. Needless to say, that did not happen and Bronco came out of that fight virtually unscathed. I have to say, super props to Bronco who did not underestimate his opponent unlike a certain high-seed robot…

Witch Doctor vs Red Devil

It was clear early on that the builders for Witch Doctor underestimated Red Devil and truth be told I don’t blame them. Red Devil looks fragile and the only reason why he won his last fight was because Wrex was a complete joke. But I got to hand it to RD, a saw is not the most useful weapon but in this case everything came out perfectly. If it was any other battlebot, RD would have lost. But Witch Doctor was built to such a degree that RD could grab-and-saw to his heart’s content. Now, RD is the underdog in the tournament. If he can win his next fight then he won’t be a fluke in the system. I guarantee that the next robot he fights, whether it’s Cobalt or Bombshell, will go all out on him. Good luck RD (but not really, I have Cobalt winning that on, fingers crossed!).

Pokemon Go, the National Park Service, and Our Drive to Collect Them All

Author’s note, this article does not necessarily reflect the views of the National Park Service or Fossil Butte National Monument. This is just my own personal opinion.

When I was a kid, I would bike to a nearby state park and walk through the woods in blissful delight. I would imagine myself walking through Viridian Woods, a fictional location in the Pokémon video games, and pretend I was catching forest Pokémon that lived in that forest such as Caterpies or Heracross. I would envision myself on a journey; to fight other trainers and travel across the land. This was only imagination but that never stopped me from hoping this might be true one day.

And now, Pokémon Go has given us that opportunity to get as close as we can to capture Pokémon in the real world. So many fans have responded positively to this App that its no wonder Nintendo’s shares have been soaring. There is a real sense of discovery, excitement, and wonder packaged in this app. And this app doesn’t take you to just localized areas in your city but across the country as well. To such places as the National Parks.

The National Park Service (NPS) is currently facing a rather perilous position on park visitation. On the one hand, such great and notable parks such as Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Grand Tetons are receiving too much love. The parks are super crowded and the park facilities are strained to their limit to deal with the massive amount of people that visit. On the other hand, some parks and monuments are facing too little visitation or simply aren’t viewed as parks as all. These parks go out of their way, whether it be social media, attending county fairs or visiting local communities, to connect to their local audience and attract those that live miles away. In my opinion, these are the parks that are on the forefront of innovation.

The NPS has had a history of adapting through perseverance. In the early 1900s, train companies would boast what national parks they go by, in the 1920s, roads were built and more eastern parks were established to attract a wider audience, in the 1960s, visitor centers and facilities were built to accommodate the large amount of visitors and in the modern age, parks are using social media to reach out in ways that would be impossible even 15 years ago. Our latest slogan, “Find Your Park,” encourages people from across the country to find nearby parks they should visit.

Now, who’s to say that the NPS shouldn’t use Pokémon Go or other geographic-depending apps?

Pokémon has had a surprising history of bringing people off the couch and together, even outside, since its birth. In fact, the main reason why Pokémon has yet to see a home console release is that the creators firmly believe it would devalue the branding (it is short for “Pocket Monsters” after all). Children would bring their Gameboys around and trade with each other. The DS generation got rid of cables and introduced global trading as well. It’s a very interactive game.

The Pokewalker was the best device that got people outside. The Pokewalker was compatible to Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver. You could transfer your Pokémon to this pedometer and walk around outside. Every step you took added another experience point to your Pokémon and as such, I would constantly find myself going that extra thousand steps to ensure my Pokémon would level up and get stronger. And now, people can do this not with the pedometer but with their phones! Hatching eggs and catching Pokémon is out there! They’re walking about ready to be caught! It’s exciting! And this is what the National Park Service should be capitalizing on.

Here’s the biggest reason why I think this could work.

At the National Park Service we sell such things as hiking medallions, pins, patches, and magnets. Each park, for the most part, have their own, unique, collectable items along with the iconic stamping stations. Visitors are incessant on acquiring these stamps and items. It’s sometimes one of the first things they do when they enter the visitor center. Two of the most common questions I answer are “Where’s the bathroom” and “Where’s the stamping station?” No other question even comes close to their popularity. The visitors desire to collect every stamp or item for each National Park they visit (sound familiar??).

And the best part? Sometimes, the stamp stations are the only reason why they come. And when they come they are surprised by what we have to offer. Beautiful fossils preserved almost to perfection. A whole ancient ecosystem of fishes, birds, early mammals, plants, and insects are at their beck and call. Leaves have their veins intact, fishes have their scales, and delicate feathers are still attached to their host. We are unusual, that’s why we are a national monument. That’s why we are here. That’s why you are stamping your station.

Pokémon Go has tapped into that same desire of Catching Them All. We get off our couches and computer chairs and go outside! It’s crazy! Every day I read so many fantastic things that are happening because of Pokémon Go. People are interacting with each other, discovering new places and walking so much their legs get sore. It’s fantastic!

And how do we combine these two? Well, this is the best part (and I’m surprised no one has thought of this yet to the best of my knowledge…)!

As of the writing of this article, we have 57 (counting the three in the upcoming games) Legendary Pokémon. And ALSO right now we have 58 national parks in the United States! That’s crazy! It’s like the stars aligned for us because what if we could find a legendary Pokémon for each of our national parks?

Think about it.

Our national parks are treasured for their uniqueness. There is nothing else like them in the world. As such we protect them to make sure they are preserved for future generations. Likewise, there is only one Legendary Pokémon (i.e., there can be multiple Pikachus but only one Mew). So what if you were to go to say Yellowstone and go through one of the trails and find Volcanion (which is essentially a geyser Pokémon). Or enjoy Denali and find Regice? How about Celebi at Great Smoky Mountains or Heatran at Hawai’i Volcanoes? If your desire to catch them all is that strong then visit us. And be amazed at what you have to find here.

The biggest downside to this though is that Pokémon Go could depreciate the value of parks and even outright insult them. People working at parks that are more scenic or scientifically inclined would likely not care as much about Pokémon Go visitors as those working at monuments that value an emotional event. I certainly cannot imagine a case where the NPS would embrace Pokémon Go at such sites as Flight 93, Battle of the Little Bighorn, or Boston African American National Historic Site and that’s fine. We don’t have to do that. It is a tricky subject and I’m certainly not the guy to try to resolve that situation.

But for those of you that believe that Pokémon Go will devalue the parks consider this. A passage from Interpreting our Heritage by Freeman Tilden, one of the greatest books about interpretation in the NPS.  In chapter 2 Tilden writes

“A roster of the reasons why people visit parks, museums, historic houses, and similar preserves, though a fascinating excursion into human psychology, need not detain us here. All interpreters know from their experiences that the reasons are so many and diverse that merely to name them all would take pages of this book.

I go upon the assumption that whatever their reasons for coming, the visitors are there. What we should determine, then, if we aim at establishing our first principle of interpretation is: now that the visitor is here, in what will be his chief interest, and inevitably his chief interest, while he is with us?

The answer is: The visitor’s chief interest is in whatever touches his personality, his experience and his ideals.”

And from there, we must connect, our experiences, our ideas, emotions, feelings, and attitudes towards the visitor. Pokémon Go can act as a gateway to the NPS. They are here so perhaps we may find some connection with them on a personal level (why can you find an Articuno at Glacier?). And before you do so ask yourself, what is Pokémon all about? How can it be related to the NPS?

For me the two are similar in that they are a sense of discovery, exploration, social connection, and wonder. It harkens back to what I was saying earlier of my childhood. Walking through the forest and catching that caterpie. Now, I can do that for real.

And as for you. Will you Find Your Park today and decide to Catch Them All?

P.S.  Check this video by the National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis.  That’s awesome!

Battlebots Season 2 Bracket Prediction

The third episode of season 2 of Battlebots premieres tomorrow which kicks off the single elimination tournament. Luckily, ABC bestowed to us a bracket that we can fill out and post online. My bracket is below along with my reasoning why I picked Bronco to be the overall winner.

Battlebots Season 2 Bracket Prediction

So I had to deal with two big problems while filling out this bracket. The first of which was that a lot of the battles were relegated to just clips. Its thanks to the Battlebots Youtube channel that we even get to see a few of these in the first place. As such, a lot of the robots are basically unknowns. What’s their driver like? How powerful is the robot? Does the robot have any outstanding faults? Did the robot sustain serious damage during its last bout? These are questions that I had to deal with and it was quite frustrating.

This ties into my second problem, since Battlebots is a reality show, and not an actual sports program, what does ABC know that we don’t? Are the Battlebots that are relegated to the clips portion ones that won’t go far in the tournament? Normally I would say yes but last year, Stinger was only given a clip for its first battle yet it went far last year. So this makes choosing a winning robot frustrating.

As such, I couldn’t help but predict veteran robots as the Final Four. I know what these robots are capable of and I have seen them in action. It’s hard to pick upsets when you don’t know the competition very well. Even the people who seeded the robots favored veteran robots in the top seeds. Six out of the top eight seeds are returning robots; Son of Whyachi (6) and Minotaur (7) are the only new robots that break the top eight. This is incredibly bias as 16 out of the 32 robots this year are veterans from Season 1.

It was very easy determining who would win in the first round but after that it got much tougher. Battlebots has so many upsets that I couldn’t help but throw a few of these in. The biggest upset I have planned is Lockjaw beating Tombstone in the second round. I honestly think, after that battle with Yeti, that Lockjaw is a strong and capable Battlebot, Lockjaw has incredibly agility and traction so I think it could easily swing around Tombstone and push him up to the deadly screws. Lockjaw would then get a face full of steel by Icewave in the following round and lose. I also had Overhaul beating Beta as Overhaul has won its fair share of battles and Beta looked pathetic in its qualifying round.

Biteforce and Stinger I feel will face each other and defeat their respective opponents. Both look so strong and durable that I honestly think they can bear the brute force that their opponents can dish out. Stinger will then upset Biteforce and go to the Final Four.

Bronco will win his division candidly even going up the likes of Minotaur. As such, the best battles to watch here will be the Minotaur ones has he is essentially an unknown. I also think Warhead is simply too big for Complete Control and will burn his opponent right up.

Son of Whyachi will also make his triumphant return here and drive forward to the final four. By far the trickiest spot in my bracket to fill in was if Witch Doctor or Cobalt would win. In the end, I gave it to Cobalt, more on guts than on anything else really, but on the manner that Cobalt seems strong and Witch Doctor has lost before. Cobalt may even be the dark horse in this race. That would be sweet.

I think Bronco will redeem himself last year and win the Giant Nut as such. With a simple extension to his flipper he will get underneath both SoW and Icewave and flip them onto their backs. All he needs to deliver is one blow. Icewave will also defeat Stinger I think because Icewave has a very strong horizontal spinner and I think that will be enough to defeat Stinger.

Alright, there’s my predictions, looking forward to the rest of the season and seeing how wrong I was!

Reaction to Battlebots Season 2 Qualifying Rounds

Battlebots is back for season 2 and I’m glad it has returned!  This season has introduced new robots without sacrificing the quality (for the most part) of the fights.  Things are already better than the first season but first, let’s take a look at the bad.

-Once again, I have to question why some fights were relegated to the clip show while others we saw the whole thing.  Beta vs. Lucky for instance was by far the worst fight so far.  Even though the fight between Stinger and Nightmare was much shorter, I’d rather have seen that than see B v L.  Thankfully, some of the clips we saw were from fights that seemed lackluster so good call there.  Thankfully, an unedited version of the fight can be seen below.

-Continuing on from the previous complaint, why were many of the veteran robots, like Tombstone, Stinger, and the returning champion Biteforce, not given full coverage on their battles?  Again I would like to see their fights than Beta vs Lucky or Chomp vs Disc O’ Inferno.

-Nitpicking big time here but I’m disappointed in the lack of wedges and lifters.  Battlebots like Biohazard in the past would win by sheer simplicity and not by outlandish design (*cough* Ghost Raptor *cough*).  This is nitpicking though as I’d rather have a lot of launchers, clampers, and spinners than the other way around.

-Also, ABC, you REALLY, need to upload that Bronco fight on YouTube.  I would watch that fight again for sure.

That’s really it, I had a good time watching it and sure it’s corny and stupid but I love it.

One thing I have to compliment are the hosts who were the same as last year, their chemistry has really taken off and I really like the banter they give both during and in-between the fights.  I now look forward to their commentary although I still miss the interviewers from last year who were down in the pits.

Also, I’m glad that Battlebots has continued to dive into the builders’ lives and tell us who they are and how they got here.  People find them boring or pointless but I love it.  When I root for a robot, I not just want to cheer on it but the builder as well.  They struggled to get here and you really get sad when their robot gets destroyed.  My heartstrings were particularly pulled when Witch Doctor easily handled Rotator.  The backstory in Rotator was like that from a movie with the builder’s father helping him out even when he was sick.  ABC really pulled the rug under us when Rotator lost its first round (but seriously dude, even before the match I couldn’t help but comment how there were NO guards around your two wheels, not the best design choice…).

I think ABC has now wised up and are showing us backgrounds of builders even when they lose.  It keeps us guessing who will win and lose.  It’s almost like Game of Thrones how you become close to characters and are stricken with grief when they get the axe.  Now that I think about it Rotator was like Oberyn Martell when he fought the Mountain, he was gone too soon from this world.

The big thing though from this season is the introduction of not only projectiles but drones!  That’s awesome.  Unfortunately, the drones seem only mildly effective if not completely worthless.  I think the best example of this is the Complete Control vs. Bombshell where the drone just straight up crashed into the arena.  Luckily, Bombshell is still in it so hopefully it and Poison Dart can redeem drones.

One weapon that got redeemed was fire.  In the last season, fire was all bark and no bite.  Just a flashy distraction to win the audience and judges over.  The problem with fire was that it only grazed the robots and not damage it.  However, Complete Control (and Warhead) showed us that you can win purely by fire.  That was beautiful, absolutely beautiful, when Complete Control had Bombshell in the air and was burning him alive.  I think after this fight there will be more robots that will use a grab-and-burn technique since it seems to be a winning combination.  Also, Complete Control, we respect you again, welcome back.

Creativity is also overflowing big time from this season as these robots were just freaking crazy.  Walkers unfortunately were rare but that was made up by other weirdos like Razorback and Deathroll.  Obwalden vs. Warhead was particularly nuts as it was like a dragon fighting a knight.  Obwalden seriously reminded me of that one-and-done mascot that Battlebots had in season 2 called Y2K.  It’s too bad that Obwalden barely functioned but damnet I think it was awesome nonetheless.

Let’s talk about the battles, by far, the best battles came from the second episodes as you had such fights as Rotator vs. Witch Doctor, S.O.W. vs. Ghost Raptor, Burtus vs. Moebius, and Lockjaw vs. Yeti.  You had a great mixture of close calls and brutal knockouts.  However, Bronco’s fight from the first episode was great though as well as Complete Control vs. Bombshell; Minotaur’s fight was also amazing.

I already mentioned the sad fight between Beta vs. Lucky but Chomp vs. Disk O’ Inferno was also subpar as well.  The biggest fail though of the first couple of episodes was when Moebius just self-destructed big time against Brutus.  That was hilarious.  Moebius and Captain Shederator really highlight the risky nature of full body spinners.  On the one hand, they are powerful and robots have a hard time trying to hit you.  But on the other you can be extremely unstable if you aren’t built right.

Son of Whyachi had made his triumphant return as well.  The former heavyweight champion really stuck it to Ghost Raptor (which was amazing) and boasted its devastating power.  Unless something major happens to S.o.W. early on, I can easily imagine him going far.

Finally, the best fight of the qualifying rounds was probably the aggressive and intense battle between Lockjaw and Yeti.  Sure, it wasn’t a KO or totally one sided, but that’s what made it so much fun!  One thing you’ll notice about these two bots is how hyper, energetic, and aggressive they are on the box.  They were just zipping through the arena like racecars trading blows and trying to get the upperhand.  Lockjaw was surprisingly durable given that it had a face full of spinning drum for a good portion of the match.  I’m looking forward to what these two bots had to offer in the future matches.

That’s it for now, I’ll be publishing my predictions of the tournament soon.  Looking forward to the rest of this season!