Game Review: Destiny Beta

Destiny - Forbes
Source: Forbes.com
Premise/Summary:
     Bungie, the creators of the ‘Halo’ and ‘Call of Duty’ franchises have teamed up to bring us a new adventure: Destiny. The premise of Destiny is that an asteroid type thing called ‘The Traveler’ entered our galaxy and ‘landed’ on Earth prior to the game. For a while, everyone on Earth lived longer and stronger and what have you. However, for every good in the universe there is an equal evil, in this case called ‘The Darkness’. The Darkness followed the Traveler and has been attacking all of our planets for hundreds of years by the beginning of the game. Humanity has nearly been wiped out, and everyone left on Earth lives somewhere in Russia called ‘The Last City’. Just outside the city is a place called a Cosmodrome, which used to house a lot of research and weapons stuff, but is now just a wasteland. This is where your character starts, when you are discovered by a ‘Ghost’. The Ghosts are hard to describe. They look like little floating metal things that can scan objects and gain information, but they are also very much like the AIs from the Halo franchise. Each Ghost has a ‘Guardian’ – You – and it.. well it essentially possesses you and acts as your guide. Basically it’s your own version of Cortana if you’ve ever played Halo. For those of you that haven’t it’s like if your Google Glass were hooked up to your brain and could talk to you, I guess. Anyway, the Ghosts were created by the Traveler during the last stand (which was who knows how long ago). The Traveler now only has enough power to protect The Last City, which includes a special tower just for Guardians. As a Guardian, it is your job to push back the Darkness. At the tower, the game switches from first-person to third-person, and you can buy items to re-equip your character, from armor and weapons to space ships. The Tower is also a meeting place for everyone who is playing the game. You can meet new players and build your Fireteam here.
     Guardians remind me a lot of Spartans from Halo as well, but without all the fancy armor. The Guardians can be one of three different classes: Hunters (a Ranger), Titans (the generic Fighter), and or a Warlock (your basic everyday sorcerer). I chose to be a Warlock. The only differences between the classes are their melee attack (a ball of power versus a knife) and their special attacks (again, magic versus an actual item).
     The levels are relatively straight forward with your Ghost directing you through the Cosmodrome wasteland and killing ‘The Fallen’ (much like the Covenant in Halo), who are considered precursors of the Darkness (which I guess abated for a while and now is back). At the end of each level you end up in a rather large area with lots of monsters and usually a boss that is blocking whatever item you are trying to get. The second level puts you in a large, well-lit area, while the third level puts you in complete darkness with only your flashlight to see by. Needless to say, I didn’t get past level three. In total, the Beta version allows you to access around 5-6 levels including the special level that was only open Saturday afternoon/evening. Once your character level reaches 5, you also gain access to ‘The Crucible’, also known as Multiplayer Mode. My brother made it this far and then let me play on his profile so I could get a feel for it.
     The game features much the same controls as the Halo games, but has the addition of taunts – things your character can do in the game like pointing, waving, dancing, and sitting down. Now why would a First-Person Shooter Game have taunts, you ask? Because it’s not exclusively a single player game. Every level can be played co-operatively with 1-3 other players, and you can make sure those players are your friends by adding them to your ‘Fireteam’, much like the teams in Halo 4’s multiplayer mode. I would compare these things to Call of Duty as well, but I don’t have nearly enough experience with that game series to do so. Without further ado, let’s get on with the review!
I – Character Building:
     I was so-so about the character building. Once you pick you class, you have to pick your race: Human, Awoken, or Exo. Humans are normal, duh. Awoken are super pale, almost blue-looking with eyes almost like those in the movie ‘The Host’. I think they’re supposed to Alien-type people, maybe from Mars or Venus, since those are the two planets that are the most Earth-like in this game. The Exo I would call the Cyborg-Robot type people. I chose Human just to be generic. You can then customize face and coloring. The things that disappointed me about the character building was the lack of diversity in facial choices, and the lack of description for the Awoken and Exo races.
II – Storyline:
     I rather wonder if they made some of the levels so difficult because it is MEANT to be played as a co-op. I played the special level on Saturday with two of my brother’s friends and it was infinitely easier than I was finding level three to be, which strikes me as odd. I liked that each level had a general layout, but I hated how small of an area your flashlight lit up (granted I’m also the person who hates scary movies). I was rather surprised that the levels required so much strategy so early on in the game, but I think it was pretty cool. There is definitely some sort of understanding with the creators of the game that you have played Halo or Call of Duty before, since they never explained how to shoot or zoom with your gun, and you were just expected to know how.
III – Multiplayer Mode:
     The Crucible is intense. The only gameplay type available during the Beta testing is ‘Control’, which features three zones (A,B, and C) which you stand in for a set amount of time in order for it to change color and be controlled by your team. In order to steal a zone from the opposing team, you have to stand in the zone twice as long: half to undo the other team’s control and make it neutral, and half to make it yours. Teams are made up of 6 players and you bring in your own weapons. most special powers don’t work in multiplayer, which evens out the playing field a little. What I didn’t like about multiplayer mode was that the weapons are so powerful (Even at the level cap of level 8) that one or two hits with any weapon, even a pistol, would kill a player. The other problem I had was that every zone you needed to capture was always around a sharp turn, and there was only one way into each zone. This created the issue of the team who controlled the zone being able to see everyone coming at them, but those trying to capture the zone couldn’t even see the zone before they were killed. It angered a lot of people and players kept quitting out of frustration.
IV – Marketing Strategy:
     Even if everything was a bit on the difficult side as far as the first few levels of a game go, it IS only a beta test. The coolest thing about this beta test though, and reason I really wanted to write this review, was the marketing strategy that Bungie (the company behind Halo and the one releasing Destiny) used and is using.
     The game’s release date is set for September 9th. Bungie opened it up for pre-sale about 2-3 weeks before the beta test was scheduled to happen. When people pre-ordered the game, they were put onto a list for access to the beta testing. The game is being released on not one, not two, but FOUR different consoles: PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One. Sunday night of beta test week, they sent the PS3 and PS4 their codes. Players on those consoles got to play first. On Tuesday night, they sent the Xbox 360 and Xbox One players their codes. Starting Wednesday, the Xbox players could play too. But that’s not all. When the players received their codes, they found out that they got not only one code, but THREE codes, so they could give the extra two to their friends who hadn’t pre-ordered the game yet. Then, on Friday, Bungie opened up the beta testing to anyone with a console, and they started to live-stream their own teams playing the game online, so even if you weren’t participating the beta test, you could still see how the game worked.
     Now, the point of a beta test is for players to find faults in the game and to test the server strength. The Halo and Call of Duty game’s multiplayer modes are often overwhelmed and crash, so Bungie wanted to run the ultimate test to make sure that Destiny’s servers wouldn’t crash the same way. When they systematically opened the servers up to more and more players, they were really testing the strength of the servers. But even after they opened it up to everyone, there was no guarantee that they would get enough people playing at the same time to fully test the capacity of the server.
     Enter the most genius idea ever. Bungie released a special mission (and an achievement award, to be issued when the game officially releases) for JUST Saturday afternoon at 2 PM Pacific, 5 PM Eastern time for a couple hours. This ensured that EVERYONE would be online, playing Destiny, within a few hours’ time frame. It was crazy. BUT, the servers did not crash. I applaud the team at Bungie for coming up with this ingenious idea and for sticking to it. You have made a great many gamers incredibly happy, and a great number of marketers insanely jealous that you could pull off something like this beta test, with all its different components, in so short a time period. I salute you.
     Did you participate in the Destiny Beta Test? What did like/dislike about it? Let me know on Twitter @Ladywoods13.
Until next time,
Amanda

Why Soul Searching is NOT my Theme Of The Year (TOTY)

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Source: Favim.com
     Every year as I near my birthday, I try to think of a ‘theme’ for the next year of my life. When I turned 20, my theme was Organization. I got my crap together and managed to transfer from a school I was drowning in to a school where I now flourish. This past year, my 21st, my theme was supposed to be Health. I took a weight lifting class and a horseback riding class, and I’m pushing myself to start a workout regimen that I can continue once classes start up again in September. In truth though, this whole last year has been about Soul Searching more than it was about Health. I wanted to learn about myself and how I felt about different things in my life. I am only just now realizing that this is not going to be a short process. Soul Searching is something that I am going to be doing for the rest of my life.
     So far, I’ve learned that I absolutely LOVE the beach. Way more than I ever thought I did. I love the sun and the sand and the smell of it. I love the sound of the waves, even if I don’t love nearly drowning in them all the time. Maybe it’s just because I was a Summer baby.
     Reading is my passion, but I also really enjoy writing, editing, and organizing, whether its a major event or just my desk. I love when everything has a place. It makes me feel powerful and at least somewhat in control of my life.
     I can’t live without sunshine and orange juice. Again, maybe its something to do with being a Summer child.
     I found out that I really need to get back into shape, and I love the idea of Yoga and Pilates, but I don’t know if I will ever really get back into running like I did in High School.
     After looking at everything I decided that just because Soul Searching is going to be a long process, that doesn’t mean it should be my only focus for the year. So, my plan for my 22nd year is to experience as much as possible before I graduate next May. I’ll be doing a work study in the Audio/Visual department of my University, and I’ll be serving as an officer on three different club boards: Program Director of my university Radio Station WESS-FM, President of the Television Production Club, and Vice President of Public Relations for my university’s chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). I am completly stoked to have been elected to these positions and I can’t wait to work with all of my fellow officers to make this year amazing. I don’t want to stop there though. I want to go a step further, push myself to ace my last 30 credits, and at the same time find new ways to learn things, whether through shadowing professionals, attending conferences, making new contacts and friends, and reading books on new subjects.
     Am I going to make myself a little crazy? Maybe. Am I work-a-holic? Probably. Do I wish I was Hermione Granger with a time-turner so I could learn even more and still get enough sleep? Absolutely. But where is the fun in life if you don’t keep challenging yourself to reach higher and higher goals? I honestly can’t wait for September.
     What are your plans for the next year? Let me know on Twitter @Ladywoods13!
Until next time,
Amanda

Eye of the Storm: Social Media and Hunting

     They say when it rains it pours. Social Media finds a hundred new things every day to lift up onto a pedestal, and even more to tear down. This segment looks at what is in the Eye of the [Social Media] Storm at this very moment. Sound off on Twitter if you agree or disagree with how the world is handling these topics.
Social Media and Hunting
     In this day and age, having ‘haters’ is a thing people are becoming used to. However, being hated for no reason is completely different than people hating FOR a reason. Lately people have been directing much of their hatred towards hunters, particularly those who specialize in big game. Women like Kendall Jones and Axelle Despiegelaere are being criticized very publicly for their African safaris.
     Jones has been hunting with her father since she was a child, and went on her first African safari at the age of 13. Now a cheerleader for Texas Tech, Jones is becoming a public figure, and her public Facebook page became a war zone after she posted pictures from her more recent safaris.
Source: Clash Daily
     When Belgian student Axelle Despiegelaere’s photo was taken at the Belgium-Russia match at the FIFA World Cup in Brazil, her face went viral on the Internet and landed her a then one-time modeling stint in an online L’Oreal commercial. The company was considering about using her again in the future when the commercial did well. Then came the Belgium-USA match, and everything changed. Despiegelaere posted a photo from her African safari last year with a caption that joked about “hunting Americans” in relation to the match, and the Internet blew up yet again. Despiegelaere was subjected to much of the same criticism as Jones was, but on a world-wide scale. To make matters worse, L’Oreal officially ended her contract.
     According to an ABCNews article, Kendall Jones claimed that the safaris on which she goes cost a lot of money, and that all of that money goes into the protection of endangered species from poachers. Typically, big game hunts – also known as trophy hunts – are just that: for the sport of it. But that doesn’t mean that they are killing these animals simply to take their horns, or their heads, or what have you. True hunters would never do that. Any part of the animals killed in these hunts that is edible is usually sent to families in the region who would otherwise not have enough to eat. Not only are they raising money to stop poaching and assisting in population control, but they are also feeding the hungry. Most people with a good Internet connection are not the same ones who are going hungry. As people come to terms with “Sustainable Hunting” as it is often referred to in the United States, the outcry over the big game hunts will die down. Severly regulated hunting is a tool that is often used while trying to control a population. It’s sounds about as backwards as getting your hair trimmed so you can grow it longer, but it is necessary in order for the endangered herds to grow stronger and more aware of the dangers in the world.
     Many people are wondering if the true cause of the hatred stems from the big game being killed, or from the fact that these hunters are teenage girls. You have to admit that you don’t see any of the big game hunters from Animal Planet or the Discovery Channel being publicly criticized and humiliated.
     Someday, the people who are in an uproar right now about a cheerleader and a model going big game hunting might feel just as silly as these people who thought Steven Spielberg actually shot this animatronic Triceratops:
Source: Fogs Movie Reviews
     So, what do you think? Should African safaris – or big game hunting in general (NOT POACHING) – be allowed? Do you think it’s alright as long as hunters are not posting about it on social media? Let me know what you think on Twitter @Ladywoods13.
Until next time,
Amanda.

Book Review: The Boys in the Boat

TheBoysInTheBoatCOVER

Source: Goodreads

     The Boys in the Boat chronicles the lives of the men of the University of Washington Rowing team and their journey to the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin Germany. It’s a historical sports book, but it is so much more than that.

This book was recommended by fellow blogger Carly Heitlinger of The College Prepster. At first, when I read her post about it, I thought “Yeah, I’m sure it’s just like every other sports book. You probably only liked it because you did crew, just like I love Running with the Buffaloes because I’m a runner.” I have never rowed crew before, and besides talking to my friend Charlie about his rowing team in high school briefly this one time, I have rarely even heard of rowing as a sport anywhere except in England. However, I am a naturally curious person and it sounded mildly interesting, so I picked it up before Independence Day Weekend to keep me busy on the beach. Boy oh boy was I wrong about it only being ‘mildly’ interesting.

This book is not only about the sport that is rowing. It is not only about a team who did the impossible, as every great sports book will say of their protagonists. This book is a vital piece of our history. There are so many components of it that it is impossible for you NOT to get sucked into the lives of the University of Washington Rowing team, their coaches, their friends and family, and at the same time the lives of Hitler’s closest confidants and even Hitler himself. This book has everything.

I am a huge believer in the smallest details, and this book nailed them. I especially loved how it was able to capture snapshots of the world in the 1930’s at a variety of different levels. From the singular life of Joe Rantz, to Coach Al Ulbrickson viewing the team as a whole, to President FDR trying to heal the United States in the middle of the Great Depression, to Leni Reifenstahl capturing the essence of the Nazi Regime, and even to Joseph Goebbles attempting to brainwash the entire world into believing that Hitler was different, The Boys in the Boat was able to get across all of the events and ideas seamlessly as if they were happening simultaneously in front of your eyes right here and now.

As a reader, I was swept up in the writing. I cried, I laughed, I felt their nerves and their stresses, their fears and doubts, their pain and their triumphs. I could not be any happier with this book. As Daniel Brown writes at the end “if books can be said to have hearts and souls” then I have to believe that this one has them. This book is as much alive as the Husky Clipper was with Bobby, Don, Joe, Shorty, Gordy, Stub, Johnny, Chuck, and Roger her with a perfect swing. This is definitely a book I will treasure and read over and over and over again.

 HHC Rating: 5 Stars

Travel: Another Day in Paradise

SHANANDAMANDA
     My Independence Day Weekend was spent out on Martha’s Vineyard Island off the coast of Massachusetts. I absolutely love it up there with the sea breezes and sunshine. My favorite part though, is getting to spend time with one of my best friends in the world, Shannon (The blond one). The pictures above are us in 2009, my first time on the island, and this past weekend, 5 years later (sea breezes = perpetually messy hair). Shannon and I went to high school together and usually going up to the Vineyard is the only chance I get to see her during the summer. This year was great because Shannon had a couple days off, and despite the tropical storm that came through Friday evening we had a blast. Besides the requisite beach bumming, we wandered around Oak Bluffs and Edgartown (two of the towns on the island) and chatted, stopping for coffee or smoothies and taking in the sunshine. At night we went out to dinner with her family and wandered around some more. Because of the storm, everything was postponed until Saturday, but we still made it to the Parade and the Fireworks, even taking in a Vineyard Sound concert in between.
     Because Martha’s Vineyard is hours and hours away from New Jersey and I was driving up after work on Wednesday, I needed to take a breather in the middle. Luckily for me, my mom’s side of the family relocated to Connecticut, so I was able to stay over with my Grandmother. My aunt, uncle, and cousins came over for dinenr and we a grand old time. Since she moved up there roughly two years ago, I don’t get to see my Grandma all that much, and I think this was possibly the first time I’ve ever gone to visit her by myself. I loved it. You probably won’t believe it, but she and I stayed up until 1am watching old black and white movies and chatting about life. It was just lovely. The next morning we got up and had a nice breakfast before I had to get on the road again to make my ferry. I didn’t have a chance to stop by on my way back down because I had to be back in New Jersey for work on Monday morning, but I’m glad I had the time when I did. The whole weekend was relaxing and energizing.
     Keep scrolling for some great pictures from my trip, courtesy of moi and Shannon.
Photo: The Gazebo in Oak Bluffs, courtesy of Shannon
Photo: Ready for the Beach. Already hooked on my new book: The Boys in The Boat.
Photo: Gorgeous State Beach, courtesy of Shannon.
Photo: Balancing Rocks on the way from Oak Bluffs to Edgartown
Photo: Patriotic Porch Lights. I want these!
Photo: Vineyard Vines Whale Hats at the Independence Day Parade. Haha I love it. And I may or may not have followed the girl in front of me as she chased down the person handing them out in order to get one.
Photo: Independence Day Fireworks over Edgartown, courtesy of Shannon.
Photo: Blue Skies across the island from South Beach as I headed back to Shannon’s to pack up and head home.
Until next time,
Amanda