Google Map Reviews

It’s been awhile that I signed up as a Google Guide, a service that allows you to participate in editing and reviewing locations on Google Maps. Recently (though I don’t want to brag) I reached by 100th review and I’ve seen some good and bad reviews.

Full disclosure of how I rate and review, Google uses a 5 star system. With it, I base all ratings on the following:

  1. Does the place physically exist? Kind of mandatory for most of the places I’ve been.
  2. How’s the customer service? How was my personal experience?
  3. How was the services and products offered? Were they everything I expected?
  4. How does the physical location look? Optionally, how’s the washrooms?

I don’t usually offer a 5 star rating which means from me, 4 stars is the most. However 5 stars just indicates I’ve had an exemplary time and experience. Meaning 2 through 4 were exceptionally greater than the places I’ve been. This is fairly hard since a lot of restaurants and shops provide the same amount of service and usually meets a pseudo-standard which seems professional but accommodating.

In terms of a written review, it follows a personal standard. First beginning with a preamble about the general location, nothing bias here. Then I move on to atmosphere of the place, products and services, then customer service. Along with it, I put down anything I’ve observed to be interesting to me and the last paragraph is for if I want to recommend this place or if I would visit again.

It’s likely not the best way to be labelled as a useful review however I’ve seen some really ridiculous reviews on there with a bunch of users saying they found it useful. On Steam it’s the same thing but that’s another story. Usually these reviews have no content besides from a star rating and the phrase “not bad”, “great”, or “would visit again”. If I was a stranger, I would like to know why people enjoy this place and something to really be convinced on going. The idea of a review is not to just let people know what’s going on here but to provide people a reason to go there or should not even bother. I know some people can be extremely critical (some of my reviews sound like that as well) but the idea is to be honest to provide feedback to a place while giving something a potential customer needs to go there.

Regardless I found a lot of places over Google Maps because reviewers have provided some good feedback. Then there are places with those 2 word reviews that turn me away because I don’t feel like going there. With a lot of users, I think Google should extend this Guide program to products. Perhaps a joint product review with Amazon but the Guide program does offer a somewhat credible system for folks.

Four out of five, will review again.


Exploring Home: One Restaurant At A Time

For me, I love to find a spot and stick to it. I never explore too far from what I know and like. However in the shadow of my footsteps along the Niagara, I think I should try to be a local tourist.

At home in the downtown metropolis, there are a lot of interesting smells, fowl or food. In this case I’m talking about the latter. You can’t go a block without a coffee shop or restaurant. Even amidst this diversity of food, I’m always crawling into the same places for my cultural food. Yesterday I was hurting for some pasta and then it hit me, I know nothing about this city enough to find expand my palette. Which brings me to here in this blog post, I know nothing about the food scene in this city.

I know I don’t have the money to dish for a high end, fine dining restaurant. I’m more into the rustic and street fair, homely and tastes soulful. From what I’ve learned from writing reviews as a Google Guide, it’s something the atmosphere and the smells that really draws me in and the taste to really sell me. I’ve really reached the end of what I can review from my small circle, I still want to expand my horizons and try all the food in this city.

Trying to avoid restaurant chains and places I’ve previous reviewed, I’m going to be daring and try some new places. I don’t know where I’ll go and how good the food is, but I’m willing to try the usuals and even some odd food choices in this city.

I promise I won’t get food poisoning.

Mass Effect 3 Demo – Review

The recent demo edition to BioWare’s sci-fi adventure, was release on Valentine’s Day. I snagged it to take a quick peak into the Mass Effect universe, to only find the traditional RPG with a twist.

Starting out wary for my system specs, I dove head first into the single player demo. First off the bat, I wasn’t really impressed by the texturing. Seems really flat; of course the developers expressed ridges of clothing and such, likely just hardware or software limitations on how far they can push the engine to render. With everything maxed out, I was just hoping it would be more stunning than it led on. The demo takes you through two parts of the story to exemplify the roleplay dialogue in cutscenes to the contrasting fast pace combat. Scrambling to move cover to cover is somewhat hard when being shot at from all sides; but when it comes moving to cover to cover, there are plenty of it from walls to columns and the occasional desk here and there. Though indestructible, they come very handy in co-op play. Not much to really comment on it, just your usual single-player in third person.

The co-op experience is a nice touch to the game. In simplest terms, it’s one of those zombie wave deals; but with guns. With the two maps on hand, both provide the level of gameplay I think they want to release; a bit of long range and CQC (Close Quarter Combat). Weapon selection at first seems grim, but all the defaults. You got your usual weapons (despite the nomenclature.) Your know? Sniper rifles, assault rifles, machine guns, pistols, shotguns and submachine pistols (would be submachine “gun” but it seems the character stance in using them are similar to pistols;) anything under the rain in “Mass Effect” form. It pains me to say it, the recoil and damage seems to reflect on the advantages the weapons provide; so no automatic pistol sniper grenade rifle. Though I am hopeful this isn’t the “final” release candidate. The shotgun does have a spread, however it seems like it targets one NPC. Certain pistol upgrades change up the sidearm to a handheld sniper rifle and with the right skills, it can be comparatively the same if not better. Aside from bickering the about the arsenal, the cover system needs a bit of a change considering actions and taking cover is the same button (default the space bar…yes, no bunny hopping). Though the art in it is its simplicity since the only buttons you really use is WASD, keyboard numbers for skills and offhands, the obvious R button for reload. To encourage teamplay, the niftiness of seeing through walls where your teammates helps considering no map or compass is provided to navigate. Then again these things would be overkill so the game forces you to run through blind spots to link up with your buddies unless it’s a wide open space and they’re crouching behind the only cover. What’s disappointing though I mentioned about the cover system is there is little to no incentive for cover besides a really quick way to get your shield to regenerate. Of course from what I’ve seem, there is a bit of a weapons accuracy increase though it would have more in terms of intrinsic purposes. Though it would make sense to be exposed to give it some challenges.

Definitely not innovative nor impressive, but it terms of it’s entertainment value; it’s seems rather fun despite the two maps I have to play over and over again. Hopefully the full release will have more than three or four considering on the easiest difficulty setting, it would take under 20 minutes to finish. Maybe a good idea to put the hatred of the Origins content service aside for this one.

Warp Speed Ahead!

After a week and a half of this trial code I’ve found; thanks to sheer serendipity. Free-to-play Star Trek online from Cryptic Studios seems to have it’s certain perks and quirks. Seeming with a busy worlds and galaxy, it’s not stop adventure front to back. Fitting for every style of gameplay. Though the names and lingo changed from your usual fantasy, there are more roleplay elements and elegance to it.

Let’s begin with the story, here’s the summary that will pull you through half the game. Spoiler, but at least SOPA cant suck it. You start off in a battle between a fleet of ships and the Borg. because of the death of the senior staff, you now command your first ship. So now you begin to repel the enemy off you ship slowly being assimilated and dismantle to serve the Hive. Once you do that you are granted field command (a.k.a. captain a ship). And you begin to jump into the affairs between all the hostile races like the Klingons, Cardassians and the Romulans. With new tech comes new challenges where the old world of Trek now dissolves into conflict. You are now part of it to solve it’s problems before the Federation has to fight on all fronts.

Of course it wouldn’t be an RPG without a few things, like stats and skills. In this game, slight changes from your usual game but still same mechanic. Level up, get a skill, level skill. What’s new is since you have a team for single player missions, you can teach specific skills to them if you reach a threshold for the skill. For me, it’s unprecedented since most games with a buddy system would run it’s own skill sets or copy over player skills sets for your buddy. Of course, some skills are restricted to players; but most of all, these skills you earn are passive meaning levelling your bridge officers (your buddies) is essential to receive active skills to use like healing and damage dealing. However, the game is merciful so you are granted some abilities during ground based content through kits.

The play is divided between ground and space, meaning skill tables for each; one for space (for all 4 types, engineering, tactical, science, operations) and one for ground (your class you’ve chosen.) For most of the missions, you have a split between ground and space. Some balancing is required since you would have to spec for ground and space of single play and multiplayer PvP/co-op.  Of course if you want to a perfectionist, you can go one or other; but you miss out the fun of the other half. However, playing in three dimensions does provide some challenge since you have to align you arcs to fire a certain way and manage ship systems as you play. It’s not about the best ship with the most damage, it’s also a bit of mental prowess to manage 4-6 things at once.

Beautiful and accurate down the last movie chronologically in the Trek world (Star Trek: Nemesis), the artists and modellers kept the ideas of the Sovereign and expanded to accommodate a fresh 25th century look. Though some classics are still in, some have been meticulously textures to resemble it’s CGI counterpart from the shows and those of the ideas of fans and developers have mixed in the old world to the new creating some innovative ships.

The world itself sells it’s short. The galactic map is seperated into 2 to 4 sectors of space you load to. Though not a full galaxy since some stars and locales in the Trek universe are presented,  don’t expect a procedural universe. Though keeping true to it, every place has a purpose of being thus being in that place.  So are the social zones to congregate and simply to enjoy the sights. From the iconic Academy garden in San Fran circa 2409 to DS9 after the Dominion War where a periodical wormhole appears just beyond the great void. Memorable locales and locations you’ve always wanted to visit.

Yet so much is unique and only Star Trek can only provide. Remember Assassin’s Creed’s little assassin missions? That’s in here too but the probability of success comes in four degrees all jam packed into a convenient interface. Each of your little dudes you will never see has traits and an occupations fit for certain jobs and some would botch the mission if you put them in. Neat little piece for those who want to just sit back and let them do the work. Rewards can range from your usual currency and experience to rare weaponry and craft items.

Adoption of the free-to-play model has really brought up the playing populace to overcrowding, which only enriches the experience of a busy on going battle to maintain diplomacy and the unknown. There are inexhaustible missions from the lore to the user-generated content. Always imaginative and creative with the story, Gene Roddenberry would be proud.

Revisiting Global Agenda – New Zones and Such

This literally came just last night or so. The new update to Global Agenda, expanding on their “open zone” PvE has just got (slightly). I managed to download it and play it for about a couple hours last night. For those who are not familiar to the game, it’s an RPG sci-fi shooter set in the future where cybernetic humans have become a reality. From what I gather, some people don’t like that so much and then there’s a war waged against those who oppose (…or something like that). You play as an agent who is rebelling against the man and…well, you get cool looking weapons and items to toy with which will come in handy.

New zone’s set in North Sonora (I think I spelled it correctly, super lazy to check), where the Recursive colonies (robots…lots of robots) are looming ever closer to Dome City (aka safe zone, where you do most of your crafting and selling/buying of stuff). The new expansion takes the lessons from the first zone (“Sonora Desert”) and adds repeatable instances, much more difficult mobs to down (some you will need a group of people to do) and of course….new quests (both story based and repeatables).

From the start, it’s slightly difficult on where to go to receive the new quests or even where to go to really check out the zone (pro tip: talk to the guy you first meet at the end of the tutorial). But after some wandering, I figured out where to go and how to do it. At first sight, you are introduced to a lush and dry environment. the immediate area swarming with bots and allies holding off endless waves of intruders threatening the safe harbour. Just beyond the mouth of the canyon, you can barely make out distance structures of satellite disks and watch towers.

To not give everything away, here’s a list I’ve made of things you will see or able to do in this new playground:

  1. Teleporter network (awesome if you want to go somewhere quickly)
  2. Larger mob concentration (in certain areas)
  3. Team based area for your team based activities (cookies can be found at the intersection, wink wink)
  4. New PvE mission variety (Defence missions and the usual raids)
  5. Lots of people wanting to group up (for the social types)

I’ve managed to complete the story within a day. But I have to say, the terrain makes the map seem larger than it is. Filled with ruins and mounds, without that map button I would be lost most of the time. Though currently somewhat buggy and annoying (i.e. you die and respawn in the middle of nowhere.), I have to hand it to Hi-Rez to deliver on progress. At level 26, doing all the story missions will provide you enough experience for 3 and a half levels. Overall, still repetitive since it’s either you’re raiding or defending some instance. Though I do see progress in more escort/extraction missions, I feel certain areas of the map are just quest places and nothing more. As a player, I’m never going back there but I would like missions which take you everywhere. As for everything else, not much added except for North Sonora. Oh wait, I did find terrain continuity errors. If you looks at the north gate in Dome City, you can see another dome and open terrain. When you load into that area, that dome is 3km away and the first thing you notice is that you’re in a middle of a canyon which disrupts the view from that oh so distant dome. Though it doesn’t ruffle my feathers about that terrain problem.

So what do you guys think of the new Recursion update?

Vintage Review – NavyField: Resurrection of the Steel Fleet

As I mentioned awhile ago, I use to play a large variety of video games and as up to date with all of them. Recently, I’ve started my aggressive campaign to stop my addiction a second time, it’s recurring but it’s happening less and less (making progress). But more that in my person blog posts. So recently I’ve looking a game I use to be in love with because of the sheer monstrosity of the PvP battles. After awhile I stopped playing because of technically problems, then I stopped completely because of them.

(This all from the website and from my memory so I apologize if I can’t get you something more current)

NavyField: Resurrection of the Steel Fleet is pretty what it sounds like. But for the non-history buffs, it’s a WW2 naval MMO where you play the large players of the time; US, Germany, Japan and Britain (New since I left, Russia and France). You play by outfitting your “historically accurate” ship with your weapons, crew, engines, fire control systems, and aircraft (if you choose the aircraft carrier role). The gameplay allows you to jump into a room with many players and fight large sea battles with a mismatched fleet from every nation. All over it is played in a isometric view which is doesn’t provide much detail to the ships, your more or less like a chess piece (you might all look alike, but with different stuff helping you). Of course each nation is specialized like the tank/knight, mage/priest and ranger/archer archetypes we see in every other Korean made MMO (Yes, this game was made by SD Enternet which is a small time Korean company). You buy new ships as you level up; well you must have a bridge operator to be able to get new ships, and naval guns work the same way. Both crews and ships have tech trees where you can align the abilities of the crew to what you want to do. So from the start, you are a lowly frigate. Don’t be discouraged, these are beastly annoying if you can survive since they’re the fastest of any ship but with the lowest engagement distance. As your operator levels you unlock new ships to be purchased; destroyers, then cruisers and subs, all the way to battleships and aircraft carriers. But as you bridge operator levels and you unlock, you can’t switch ship classes. This means as a battleship, you cannot operate a carrier unless you have another bridge officer who is given that class of ship. Though this gives lots of variety, the crews is much more linear in their tech tree. As you level the crews, you can assign them to different roles like gunners, support crew, and even a generic crewman. After that, you choose more specifically what you want the crew to do. So you can have an engineer to buff your engines, a medic to heal your crew (yes, they can die in battle) and anti-aircraft gunners to name a few. Each nations gets a slightly different scheme to their crew tech tree to allow some nations to be better in certain departments. This game is not much on cosmetic features, just a heads up to those fashion divas who want a pink ship.

When I first started, I was fairly curious on a large naval game. I started with the frigate and I just began to skyrocket in experience. After awhile, I topped out at the light cruiser class for the US. After that it was fairly much a grind since the only way to really gain is to play against players with larger ships which means larger guns which also means a monstrous crew level with more stats than you. So from the short month from frigates and destroyers to cruisers, it took me about three months to earn the first carrier. And then after that, it just gets harder. Though the aircraft controls are very responsive during the time, it was really hard to down fast ships so I focused efforts in sinking the larger targets like the heavy cruisers. Though at times, I would take down a battleship but those were very rare times. After awhile I settled into the role, then the destroyer of all my fun rolled into the proverbial harbour. A patch which updated the game that would be my last. I spent the next months either crashing or lagging. Even times when the game just freezes my whole computer. I did what a normally do to games that run into technical trouble; troubleshoot and if all that fails, get angry and take it out on the company that insurrected such primal nature. I tried my best to convey it as formally to the company but they just kept responding in broken English that the problem is being solved and provide random technical solutions that I’ve already tried. As insistent as they are that these solutions worked, I just got tired of them of putting me in a loop of answers. So I gave up with a big “screw you all, hope you die, and have a burning sensation when you pee”. From then on, they are on my list of “D-bag Devs/Publishers” topping off with GamersFirst (I’ll tell you more about it in a later review). Recently I tried to come back to the game after they revamped their site. Unfortunately, more bug problems that just bar you from playing. I once again tried troubleshooting with the three solutions in various combinations, here’s what happened (you are going to be as confounded as I was). I tried replacing the files, even deleting and letting the launcher to to redownloading files. Next, I tried a full uninstall/install then a restart. After that I when through it all over again, it worked; got me to the login screen. My hopes were increasing as I begin to input my username and password. Guess what? Data files are corrupted. So I looked up the problem. The forums told me to to move and replace certain files, didn’t work. I tried it again, didn’t work. After the third try, I noticed a pattern. I kept copying the same files over and over again. Then I noticed it, a game that deletes itself. ARE YOU MOTHERF***ING SERIOUS?! A GAME THAT DELETES ITSELF?! First time ever as a gamer I’ve ever encountered this. I laughed, I smashed a few things, I even went out and ate fistfuls of food in sheer hysteria. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good game to play from time to time. But how are they making money if they cannot allow you to log in? Apparently not, I know the signs of a failing .com game company. First the fault; then comes the angry customers who are en masse leaving. Then the announcement of “we’re merging servers, yay!”. After that, the people dumb enough to stay now leave. What’s left? the people who can just barely stand it since now the server population is just the same people and now you’re either frustrated or bored that you keep killing the same people and want a challenge. Either case, you would then drop out unless you have a mindset of a drug addict (Use it until you find a way out. P.S. I don’t condone illicit drug use. Stay in school/get a job, kids).

For the most part from my fond memories, it’s a very fun game. I would recommend it; however with all it’s problems, you should re-evaluate the time and effort you will be putting in to just get the dang thing to work for probably a month or until the next patch comes out. When you’re in, be prepared for a long 120 level grind and cash farm. Hopefully there will be events to help you out since the cash you get without it is miniscule compared to the sheer amount you need for a multimillion credit ship. Same with the crews, I only have my best wishes to bestow you if you choose to accept yourself as a lowly person spending a long time to get this game from deleting itself (Emo joke: This game is so sad, it deletes itself. Yeah crappy joke, I know.) Without this terminal flaw, I would give it a positive rating of “try it for at least a week”. However with it, it’s more of a “you’re better off playing heads or tails with a dime in scuba gear submerged in a murky pond of fecal matter.” That is all.

If you did get the game and it doesn’t work, please leave a comment and unleash your dissatisfaction. If it works, please leave a comment about your experience and how to fix it. Until next time, have fun!

“Best Game Of The Year”? In April?

Portal 2 came out recently and already the industry is already giving positive reviews. My opinion is still out on how accurate on how these magazines and media outlets are getting this information or it’s their own opinion. For one thing every time something comes out that you have to pay 20 dollars and over, PC Gamer seems to be like “OMG this is nice. Game Of The Year, published April 2011”. This infuriates me considering how one sided that big coin is, imagining someone behind a desk making probably 50 grand a year just to say “Game Of The Year” for the next 365 days or until award season is out.

In my opinion, I don’t follow large outlets and use my own personal experience to rate games. However I always put down a small disclaimer as part of my opinion so people know “this guy likes this type of play style and genre so he’s rating from his perspective” rather than “is it really that good? I’ll take a chance”. For the most part most of my reviews are within circles of people and it’s usually pretty honestly on engine utilization, controls and overall content. I’m well focused into mechanics and story since most games now lack highly such making a cookie cutter game. I would give a few examples but it would cause backlash from some large groups of fanatics (-cough- Call Of Duty, Medal Of Honor, Battlefield –cough-), nonetheless the ratings and raving reviews from a professional level seem more from a fan boy than from a critic. Have you ever heard of a negative game review? Probably haven’t since people want to sensationalize every review so the companies can suck you out nice and hard; not in a good way.

To my fellow players and bloggers if you  are reviewing games on your WordPress, Youtube, newpaper articles and every piece of media; this is a plea to use better phrases to not generalize reviews like it’s good for all ages or for just something to pull out so everyone can read it then buy it  Make the reader think about and consider it for themselves and not just tell them. Such language in certain articles is how you put down “Game Of The Year” and other similar abstract phrases. If it’s April, you can’t whip it out and say “Game Of The Year”. This probably not unlikely to impossible. Say this only if it’s the last month of the whole damn year. This goes for “Month”, “Day”, and “Of All Time” (I’m talking to those people who like to follow the shoes of Kanye West). “Of All Time” may only be appropriate if you absolutely are going to die within 48 hours or an apocalypse will doom all electronic media and you want to just let it all out.  Secondly and yes, I’m not done yet. When you write a frickin’ review, put down “in my opinion” or “I think” since a review is mostly an opinion piece unless you are just breaking down the game into it’s artistic elements. If you don’t know what art is, visit a gallery; I implore you so to view actual art to understand it. Also introduce yourself to the read as what kind of gamer you are; “I’m in it for the visual appeal”, “I like games that are very team based involving communication and such”, “The fast paced action is really appealing to me and thus why I like this game”. On top of that, explain why and back it up with stuff from the game no matter how detailed you have to get into the game whether it is a specific area of the game or the story; whatever it is, back it up. Finally, don’t repetitive put down “best game ever” since it shows no class and no recognition of a good game in the point of a review or critic since “best game ever” is neither an opinion or a method of backing up anything except your lack of understanding of such matters. Using it is like reverse levelling in World Of Warcraft; I know it’s not possible, but that’s what it is if you say it.

If you are from marketing for one of those big game companies, unfortunately this is truth. Even truthfully saying, you really have no choice but to put it up as a catch. For that, I pity you greatly. My recommend you release a demo and let players take a crack at it and maybe you would see some more interesting views on your product. Also for those who don’t follow reviews and go from what you know as a player and rebel against such atrocious reviews, I admire you for defying the odds into buying games that are worth playing; that is overall legendary in this industry and you have my respect as one of those people. To everyone, just think critically when you buy games. You are the bottom rung that supports both crap and golden games; when you buy, you are support more than just your favourite game. You are supporting how they are operating and how they’re taking the game and industry. You are unofficially buying into something that may turn out a dud or complete genius; this genius is either making a good game or robbing your gullible ass every 70-80 dollars per month. In short, if you buy; buy for yourself and not because a review said it was good. “Because they said it’s game of the year” or “it’s good because of this guy saying it so” is the equivalent of that very reviewer with shovel in hand taking pleasure into burying your head in the sand.

As for Portal 2, I recommend a try on the original. If you like the first one because of the mechanics and story appeal as a interactive narrative of a troubled AI, think about getting the second one. It might not be “Game of the Year” material, but the new characters introduced to you kind of play parody on the success of the original character. Still a FPP (First Person Puzzler), but with a tad more with the new Source engine that seems to be the same one from Left 4 Dead and it’s successor. Definite try only if you played the first; otherwise, try the first for the sake of wondering what happened.

Peace out folks, until next weeks instalment. As always, raving or raging this article? Feel free to leave a bit of something here. Maybe I’ll get back to you if it’s good. Also, I’m kind of filtering out spam. But as long as I know you’re blog is legitimate, you won’t be marked down for spam (I’m looking at you, people with “enhance your Facebook/MySpace with backgrounds”).