Friday, June 22, 2012

Battlefield 3 Premium: Is It Worth It?

Some people feel betrayed that DICE went this route. A route that seems pretty much in the same vein as the Call of Duty franchise with their Elite subscription service. After all the bashing, mudslinging that EA has done to the opposition just to prove that they provided the better game and all other free features that Activision charged players for, here they are jumping on the same boat.

However, if you look closely to what Battlefield Premium is all about, it's not entirely the same as Call of Duty Elite. First of all, Battlefield Premium is NOT a yearly subscription. It's more of a one time payment for all the DLC packs including Back to Karkand plus a few extras. The distribution of the DLC content is the same as the non-premium players but the former get them ahead of time. It's like EA is doing us players a favor, especially those who failed to avail the Limited Edition of Battlefield 3 thus missing the Back to Karkand DLC pack, by offering the whole package for a discounted price. I can't see what's wrong with that.

Some of the controversy comes from the fact that some people purchased Back to Karkand. And now they want the premium to be discounted just because they won't get the potential savings they would get should they waited for this announcement. In all honesty, I feel for these guys but really, that's how this business works. It's the same as if you've bought Little Big Planet 2 for $40 just to find out later that it's offered for free for Playstation Plus subscribers. You bought Uncharted 3 the moment it came out for $60 and bought all its DLC separately then you find out later that a Game of the Year edition comes out which includes the game and all its DLC. That is just the way it is.

So what do we get from Battlefield Premium? Of course, and probably THE only reason you wanna buy it is all of the 5 DLC Packs: Back to Karkand, Close Quarters, Armored Kill, Aftermath, and End Game. The $50 value of the premium is pretty much worth it considering you want to get all the DLC packs for Battlefield 3. Assuming each DLC packs will be priced at $15, even if you only want the DLC packs and you don't care about the extras, it's still worth it. Even if you already have Back to Karkand from the Limited Edition, you still save a few bucks by buying the premium if you want all the future DLC content. Now it's a different story if you are not planning on getting all the map packs. I know a lot of people playing on console are not interested at all with the Armored Kill DLC pack just because we're still limited with 12v12 gameplay albeit the large maps and some people are not really interested with vehicles. They find it boring because there's not a lot of action going on unlike when you're playing on Operation Metro or Seine Crossing. However, I'm personally excited for the upcoming Armored Kill DLC, in which one of the additions is the AC-130 gunship. That will be totally badass. Now for the last 2 DLC packs, we know very little about them. All we know for now is that Aftermath takes place on an earthquake-ridden Iran and End Game will include motorcycles. But seeing DICE's record, we've seen how great Back to Karkand was, reimagining old maps from past Battlefield games into Frosbite 2 engine, we've seen footages of Close Quarters and Armored Kill, we can safely say that these last 2 DLC packs are gonna be great as well.

So what are the extras? Here's the complete list:
1. 2 weeks early access to all future Battlefield 3 expansion packs, starting with Close Quarters
2. Unique in-game knife, unique in-game dog tags, 10+ unique soldier camos, unique weapon camos. Some random crap that people might find interest in collecting.
3. Stats reset feature. Pretty cool feature really, if you're aiming for a good overall stats for your Battlelog profile. But then again, for me stats don't mean anything in the community if not at all.
4. 10+ unique Platoon emblem decals, increased Platoon emblem layers. Random crap for platoons.
5. Server queue priority. I'm not sure how this will work, but I'll assume this is gonna be an issue for people who want to play at popular servers. If there are several players on queue, premium players will given priority first and will be upped in the queue. I don't really think this is a good addition and might trigger some hate from the players.
6. Save up to five of your favourite Battle Reports
7. 5+ unique Assignments
8. Exclusive events. Hmm, competitions for virtual and real world prizes like COD Elite perhaps? Maybe exclusive betas for upcoming games from EA? We'll have to wait and see.
9. Exclusive Double XP weekends. Pretty cool stuff, unless you're already at max level.
10. Exclusive videos and Strategy guides. I don't know exactly what DICE has in store for this but Youtube alone has TONS of content from skilled players that the inclusion of "Strategy Guides" in this features list of the premium sounds like a big joke. I can give you a few names you can subscribe to if you want to learn the game from inside and out and from ground up. I really don't think this feature is necessary.
11. Additional bonus content.

Most people could care less about these extras though. Maybe except for the early access to future DLC packs.

So do I think it's worth it? It actually depends on what DLC you want to have. That's mostly the only reason you want to buy the premium, to avail all the DLC packs at a discounted price. The extras are just icing on the cake. If you're enjoying Battlefield 3 to the fullest, close quarters or large maps, and you can't get enough of it then I do think it's all worth it. It's just a one-time payment anyway, not a yearly subscription. I do think that for a hardcore Battlefielder, this package is a must buy. However, if there are aspects of the game that you don't enjoy like vehicles, large maps, and what not then I suggest you save your money and just buy the DLC packs that you want. And then wait for further annnouncements on what the last 2 DLC packs have to offer so you can decide if they are worth your penny.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Streaming E3 Through PSHome? Meh...

It's over...
I should have woke up earlier. Now I missed a lot of moments from probably one of the most exciting E3 I've ever watched. But as I made my last effort to watch what's left of Sony's E3 Live Conference, this is what it looked like when I streamed through PSHome. Man, I should have watched this through my laptop instead.

The sound is a bit too low even at max volume in my HDTV. The video lags so bad, and later at around 3 min onwards, listen to what happens to the sound... 

When I try to watch the rest on my laptop, I never had any problems at all though. Of course, streaming through PSHome might need more internet bandwidth than just streaming through a laptop or desktop computer, and this might not be a problem in other countries that have much better internet capability.

I don't really get into PSHome that much, but things like this tells me that I don't really have any reason to get into it.

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Monday, June 04, 2012

The Samsung Galaxy Y Review

I want to get this out before I buy a new phone, especially now that Samsung Galaxy Y Duos and LG Optimus L3 are out in the market. It's better late than never. This will serve as a comparison once I write another review. Most likely, I'll buy the LG phone though as I want to try another phone that doesn't have an "i" or Samsung on its name. Before anything else, let's take a look once more on its specs.

Display: TFT capacitive touchscreen, 256K colors, 240 x 320 pixels, 3.0 inches (~133 ppi pixel density) with TouchWiz UI
Dimensions: 104 x 58 x 11.5 mm
CPU: 830 MHz ARMv6 processor
RAM: 256 MB
Phone Storage: 180 MB
External Storage: 2 GB microSD (expandable to 32 GB)
Camera: 2 MP, QVGA @15 fps
Data: HSDPA 7.2Mbps 3G/EDGE/GPRS, w/ Wi-Fi Hotspot
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth v3.0 with A2DP, USB 2.0
Battery: 1200 mAh
Positioning: GPS w/ aGPS support
OS: Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread

This is probably the first time I'll review a smartphone so forgive me if my little rants here are not up to your expectations as I'm only going to review this according to my experience with the phone. This is probably something I'm gonna do from now on everytime I buy a new smartphone (which will not happen very often mind you).

Let's face it, the Samsung Galaxy Young is pretty bad for a smartphone. But then again, for people that don't have the budget to buy an iPhone or any high end smartphones out there, this is a good start. And I really applaud Samsung for introducing cheap entry level Android smartphones like this one. No wonder, it's selling like pancakes. With that said, I'm going to enumerate the limitations of the phone that I've observed so you can decide if this phone will suffice for your on-the-go mobile needs.

1. Sucky resolution. The resolution of the Samsung Galaxy Y is a measly 240 x 320. The pixels are very obvious so if you're meticulous about the resolution then steer away. For watching videos, the maximum resolution I can get to play is 360p. There's no way to play 480p and above videos. I tried to find a good video player in the Market and one of the best contenders is the MoboPlayer. However, upon using it the video just lags horrendously from its audio. I've given up. Looks like 360p movies is the best you can watch with this phone.

2. The phone has no native support for AVI video format. You normally can't play AVI videos on a Nokia N70 phone but with the right app, you can make it work and it actually looks pretty good. On Samsung Galaxy Y though, I haven't found a good app that can play may AVI vids smoothly. With the apps that I've tested so far, the video either lag behind the sound or the quality is oh so bad.

3. Very low system memory. The 189 MB system memory of Samsung Galaxy Y feels like a slap in the face. I don't even have a lot of apps that eat that much memory except for Facebook and Tweetcaster. I had to erase some apps that I don't use that much like Google Plus (and it's a whopping 23 MB!) because of this limitation. But even then, I can't get the free space to more than 25 MB unless I clear apps data and cache and by doing so, I'll only be freeing around 14 MB of space. Of course, I have the option to root my phone so I can install my apps on the micro SD instead but it's something I'm not willing to do as of now as it will void my warranty.

4. Sound is a little too low and flat. For people who likes to watch Youtube videos, I suggest to put your earphones on, especially if you're like me who likes to watch video game commentaries. The sound is too low even at max volume. For watching movies, I suggest using Meridian player over the default movie player. You'll definitely notice the sound boost with the Meridian player. It's also an issue when you select your ringtone, though not a big deal if you don't want your ringtone to be too loud. It's very noticeable that the quality of MP3 ringtones is pretty bad, so I selected .m4a format for my ringtone (you have to change the extension to .aac though). Listening to music through the included earphones is decent though.

5. Camera plainly sucks. The 2 MP camera of the Samsung Galaxy Y takes decent pictures when there's sufficient lighting. When I say sufficient, not so much light and not too low either, having any of them will destroy the picture. If you can remember my article about the INC Grand Evangelical Mission in Quirino Grandstand, the first picture that I've posted there were taken through this phone. You need a steady hand when shooting photos as a little shake will blur your photos badly. That's why I don't recommend this for shooting fast moving objects and sports. There's some notable features like panoramic shot but don't expect any excellent shots with it. I don't use the video recorder that much but it happened to me once, the sound of all the videos I took got suppressed. I had to restart my phone to fix it. It might be attributed to the phone's pretty low RAM (256 MB) that even when there's minimal applications running in the background, the phone is still hogging around 75% CPU usage.

Check out some pictures below taken with Samsung Galaxy Y.
A not so beautiful free throw shot.

6. Not so good default image viewer. I have a few documents that are saved as jpeg files, like damage calculation tables, frame data in certain games that I play. Guess what, they all look like doo doo pasta when I zoom in through my Samsung Galaxy Y. Not really a big deal if you can download Quickpic through Google Play Store, and I'd definitely recommend this image viewer to anyone who wants to view their pics in their SGY with better quality.
Left: The picture as can be seen from Samsung Galaxy Y through its default image viewer.
Right: The picture as can be seen from other handsets.

7. Pathetic battery life. Battery life is like a joke really. You'll be lucky if your fully charged Samsung Galaxy Y gets to around 8 hours throughout the day. If you're like me that connects to wifi once in a while, check out email and Facebook, download and watch a few videos through Youtube, as well as receive occasional calls, you can easily drain this to around 5-6 hours. I don't recommend leaving the phone on data network mode throughout the day as this will easily drain the battery to around 4 hours. Playing games with this phone will discharge its battery to about that long as well. No kidding. If you have fewer open apps then you might be able to squeeze an hour or 2 more but overall, this is probably my biggest gripe about the phone.

8. Not very good performance. The moment I used the Galaxy Y, I already noticed that the Menu and Back buttons are a bit unresponsive and requires a bit more pressure register. To add to that, I noticed some lag when closing applications using the Back button. I get pretty impatient at times with the back button that I push the Home button instead to close apps. Hang ups and sudden restarts happen occasionally as well when you have too many open applications. Browsing through the default browser can be a bit stressful because this is where you'll feel the lag. Overall, the performance, though not very stellar, is pretty smooth when doing your usual tasks like social networking, messaging, reading e-books and playing some light Android games like Angry Birds and Sudoku.

This handset is equipped with an 830 MHz ARMv6 processor, and as you browse the Play Store you'll notice the limitations. Some applications like Firefox for Android are not present in Google Play Store as well as popular games like Temple Run (though I don't really recommend playing games with this phone).

9. Small Screen. The first time you try typing with the phone you're greeted with a QWERTY type keyboard on PORTRAIT MODE. That's right. With its small screen and cramped keys that's probably the most frustrating experience with this phone. Fortunately, you can change the keyboard settings to a 4x3 keyboard which is similar to a regular mobile phone keypad. But even then typing with the Galaxy Y is kind of stressful. It's pretty hard to not make input mistakes even with landscape QWERTY mode because the keys are still kind of cramped on each other. 4x3 keyboard is probably the way to go given its handy design if you're into texting a lot or posting in Twitter or Facebook. I got used to it through time and now I don't make mistakes as much the first time around.

Did I tell you that internet browsing with this device is stressful? Aside from the occasional slow response of the touch screen while browsing you have to constantly scroll left and right if you're reading articles due to the absence of a text reflow option.

Despite the cons that I've outlined here, there are several features of handset that I really liked.

1. Very handy design. It fits very well in my small hand and I can easily write a text message with one hand alone due to its handy design. That comes with a compromise of course - the small screen, the low resolution, among others. I don't find these aspects a burden for the most part, everything can still be read clearly. Just replace the default QWERTY keyboard with a 4x3 so you will have an easier time typing.

2. It's an Android phone! And a very cheap one at that. The Samsung Galaxy Y rocks with Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread right out of the box which other handsets that even have higher price ranges failed to have (most come out with Android 2.2 Froyo instead). Being an Android phone, it gives you access to a vast collection of applications and games through Google's Play Store. It has limitations, yes, but for an average guy it gets the job done for all the usual smartphone tasks that he needs, from browsing and posting in Facebook and Twitter up to finding your way with Google Maps and GPS. The phone also comes pre-installed with Quick Office which lets you view and edit your document files, but again you might find that task rather stressful due to the small screen.

3. USB and WiFi tethering. It's a nifty feature that helped me a lot of times when my Globe Superstick can't find good signal. The device can support up to 5 wifi devices but I don't think you would want to do that given its weak processor and battery life. The device will only last up to 3 hours with wifi tethering on. Overall, it was a life saver for me during those times that I needed to work remotely and Globe Superstick can't help me get the job done.

Though I find the Samsung Galaxy Y lacking in many aspects due to compromised CPU, a measly 2 MP camera and small screen, it's still a good entry-level phone that many people especially first time smartphone users will find attractive because of its price. It will satisfy you in most aspects, except if you're a bit impatient because of lag or you want to play Android games. This handset was priced at only P5990 during the time I purchased mine, so I'm pretty sure it went a little lower now and some retailers might be selling this now at around P5000+ mark. If you want a larger screen though, a much better performance when it comes to applications, or maybe something you can play on with Android games, and you have extra money to spare then I won't recommend this phone.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Do You Think Street Fighter X Tekken is Worth Buying?

This article will serve as my own review of the game as well as my opinion if the game is worth buying despite the issues and questionable rumors circling around the game for quite some time now. Take note that by reading this, I assume that you have read a little about the game's mechanics from other sources as I don't want to make this article too hurtful in the eyes.

If you recall my last post about this game, I kind of despised it due to how Capcom is trying to milk the game with questionable DLC propaganda, which I'll discuss a little later. With that said, Street Fighter X Tekken is still a solid competitive fighting game. And with all the hype surrounding the game, the reality show Cross Assault, as well as nostalgia, I gave in to temptation and bought the game at last.

If you don't know what Cross Assault is, it's a first ever reality show produced by Capcom based on a fighting game. Basically, there are two teams, Team Tekken and Team Street Fighter with 5 members each who all came from a competitive background on the games that they represented respectively. The two teams would break down the game Street Fighter X Tekken, which at that time was not released yet, and compete for a grand prize of $25,000.

Apparently, Capcom wants to build the hype amidst the controversies that they're going through. And guess what? I couldn't resist the hype myself.

Just for a second, let's look past the bad business decisions that Capcom went through way back and see what this game has to offer. I'm going to enumerate the things that I like and I don't like in the game, things that you might consider in buying it.

1. Region locked? I never expected that Capcom would go this route with this game because both Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and Super Street Fighter IV are not region locked as far as I know. Not a big deal though but I normally use my US PSN account to buy DLCs, now I have to load up my Asian PSN account just to buy any future DLCs because I bought the R3 version.

2. Representation of the Tekken characters. The Tekken characters are a little bit off when compared to their real counterparts. I mean, come on, Steve and Jin having projectile moves? Some people have noticed it quickly and are pretty pissed off about it especially Raven and Julia fans. Not really a big deal if you ask me, I already expected this to happen. It's a crossover game running on the Street Fighter engine so Capcom would have their own renditions of these characters. This is to be expected as well for the Street Fighter characters when Tekken X Street Fighter comes into fruition.

3. Controls. So far I haven't found a way to turn off the analog stick. Like in Tekken 6, it just gets in the way if you leave it on while using the D-pad and thankfully you have the option to turn it off in that game. Though I'm more comfortable with the D-pad, using the analog stick to perform special moves actually works, you just have to turn off L3 and R3 as Quick Combos are assigned to these buttons by default. You don't want to

Some hardcore SF players think the controls were dumbed down, all QCFx2 or similar commands are thrown out of the window. To do a Super Art, you just have to input a certain Special Move motion like Hadouken (QCF or quarter circle forward) then hit three punch or kick buttons depending on the character. For example, QCF+PPP gives Ryu his Super Fireball. Boost Combo + Cross Rush (otherwise called the ABC combo) provides a very easy tag combo for newbies. In addition to this, the player can use assist gems to further make execution easier, making special moves 2-button presses. This comes with a drawback of course, as wearing the said gem will decrease the damage of all your attacks by 10% as well as lose access to some important unique attacks. For example, you can execute Ryu's Hadouken by hitting -> plus any punch button but you'll lose his overhead attack (f+MP) and Solar Plexus Strike (f+HP). This might help alleviate a newbie's frustration due to the rather strict timing of cancels but in my opinion, it only takes away players from the game's real core. The tutorial, challenges, and trial modes are always great ways to teach a newbie player the basics because the game, being a tag fighting game, already boasts a lot of new game systems that will keep anyone's hands for a while. Which leads me to my next point...

4. Gameplay and Difficulty. Though the game is running on Street Fighter engine, Capcom devs was able to incorporate some of Tekken's gameplay mechanics, namely the launcher (not the ABC launcher but the character specific launcher moves) and juggle system, forward roll and backroll on wake up, etc. The tag system is somewhat similar to that of Tekken Tag Tournament as well, wherein if one of the characters lifebar reaches 0, his team loses. These mechanics, combined with Street Fighter's combo system make up for a complex and deep yet very fun and creative gameplay.

If you've been playing the Street Fighter series especially since Street Fighter IV, you'd definitely feel at home here. You'd need a little bit of work if you're from the Tekken scene though. But overall, the basics of this game is not really that hard to learn when you compare this to something like Tekken or even Virtua Fighter. And in some ways, it seems as if Capcom is holding up the new players' hands by giving them tools like assist gems, preset combos, and whatnot that can at least help them hold their own against experienced players while they are trying to learn the game further. High level tactics are a different story of course but you don't have to worry about it for now.

Though Capcom may seem to be catering to new players by giving them these tools, the game still requires practice of timing and execution, patience as well as experience.

5. Online and Offline Multiplayer Matches. The Paired Battle Mode is probably my favorite feature in the game. It reminds me of Street Fighter EX3 in PS2. I know some fighting games have this functionality as well but I can say that this game has done it correctly and made this extremely fun. As a result some tournament organizers are adapting this 2v2 matchups in their SFxT tournaments.

Basically, you play the game normally but as 2 teams of 2 players, playing the game in tag team style. The 2 players playing together need to have great coordination skills to make the most out of their combos and setups as well as save each other from KO. This 2v2 setup can also be brought on your online games so you can team up with your online friend, though this functionality did not make it to the Xbox360 version of the game due to resource issues of the hardware.

The game also offers Scramble Mode, in which all 4 characters are onscreen at the same time controlled by players, beating each other's teams. It's more of a fun side mode for me and will most likely not become a tournament standard.

6. Comebacks and Timeouts. In our day and age of fighting games in which comeback mechanics are prevalent, Street Fighter x Tekken doesn't seem to have something like Tekken 6's Rage, Marvel vs. Capcom 3's X-Factor, or even Street Fighter IV's Ultras. I know for a fact that comebacks produce an exciting gameplay, but I honestly don't like comebacks that are artificially produced by rewarding a player with a highly damaging move or additional damage boost for getting hit or decreasing his health bar to a certain level. Street Fighter X Tekken game doesn't have anything similar outside of Pandora Mode or maybe the Gem system (and that still depends on what kind of gems will be offered in the future). The former is an untapped potential that is designed with comebacks in mind but is more of a gamble than a comeback mechanic. I have yet to see people incorporate Pandora effectively to their gameplay but the game is still quite young and I'm pretty sure there will be much more to discover in this game during its life span.

With that said though, comebacks hardly ever happens in this game. Timeouts almost always happen just when you're about to regain momentum and nail that last ditch of effort to turn the tables around. Though 99 seconds seem long enough considering the amount of damage you can dish out in a tag combo, you'll be surprised at how fast that time runs out considering the length of certain attacks, combos, animation of super arts and cross arts that doesn't freeze the timer. It's no big deal if you ask me and of course, timeout is a legitimate way to win, however for new players and people that might want to try the game out, it looks pretty lame and unexciting to watch people jumping and running away from their opponent after chipping their lifebar to 50% once the timer hits 30 second mark or less. I hope Capcom fixes this in a future patch, increasing the time to something like 120 seconds.

7. Balance, Bugs, and Glitches. I can't really say anything much about balance because the game is too young at this point. Of course, there are characters that seem stronger and more popular than the rest of the cast like Ryu, Raven, and Hugo while there are some that seem underused like Paul and Yoshimitsu. However, being a tag game, if you play your cards right you can get away from lopsided matches like Zangief vs. Dhalsim by tagging your partner in. Let's say you want a team that utilizes Zangief as your main, you can choose an anchor character that can cover Zangief's weaknesses. 

At the first week of the game though, a couple of infinite combos were found, one of the most dangerous being Kazuya's due to how easy the execution is. A few character bugs were found as well, namely Megaman's fly glitch and Jin's overhead move glitch. With Street Fighter X Tekken being a straight to console game, it can't be helped. No matter how skilled the testers are in exposing the bugs and glitches, there still some that will get through seeing how complex the game is. Fortunately, Capcom promised that these shall be fixed in a patch soon. I wonder though, for how long will Capcom keep supporting this game? Last time I checked, they released new editions of the game instead of a patch. I would be pissed if they release a Ultimate Super Street Fighter X Tekken Turbo Edition or some crap like that after 6 months.

8. Gems, DLC Character, and Other Additional DLC Content. Probably the most controversial aspect of Street Fighter X Tekken, the Gem System has drawn a predictable ire among the community. Basically, they are claiming that the gems will be an important part of the gameplay and yet Capcom announced that some gems will be offered as paid DLC. It's kinda like you're "paying your way to victory" that's why a lot of fans are not in favor of this mechanic.

Another issue at hand is the 12 DLC characters that they announced being locked on disc. I totally think this is outrageous despite Capcom's justification. Come on, DLC stands for Downloadable Content, not Disc Locked Content!

But then, I read this somewhere in the Shoryuken forums, that it's possible that the DLC characters were unfinished at the time that the game was submitted to the manufacturer, Sony, and Microsoft for approval. Kinda make sense.

And even if the fans, however unthinkable it may be, all united and decided to not buy any game with on-disc content, Capcom will just change their DLC model and force the players to download it later. But then again, why do you have to milk the game like this Capcom?!

It's a shame that the casual fans are sending this game early to its deathbed just because of the way Capcom handles the marketing of this game. I definitely believe that Street Fighter X Tekken is a great competitive fighting game and this is probably what I've been yearning for all these years since Capcom killed the Street Fighter EX series. The gameplay mechanics and some of the tag mechanics are kind of similar to Street Fighter EX3 and this is what I will be discussing in one of my next articles.

So do I think Street Fighter X Tekken is worth buying? If you're into fighting games and playing competitively and you don't mind Capcom's shady business practices then I'd definitely recommend this game. I'm definitely having a lot of fun in this game and if you think you'll have fun as well then buy this game and give it a try.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Battlefield 3 Playlists?

Hopefully this gets out before the big patch for Battlefield 3 comes out. If you're a little out of the loop, DICE just released an announcement that they are gonna deploy a really big patch for Battlefield 3 in PS3 this coming March 27, with release date for PC and Xbox360 stated as "soon". There would be a lot of changes here especially in weapons balance, vehicle and infantry balance that I didn't bother to read everything in the patch notes. I feel that DICE is changing a lot of things all at once but one thing is for sure - this patch will definitely change everything.

Now in preparation for this upcoming patch, DICE and EA servers went through maintenance last week. And guess what happened afterwards - "playlists" was implemented in the server browser. For a detailed explanation of the server browser playlists, watch the video below from dontrevivemebro:

TL;DR? When you look at the map rotation of servers, some of them feature only large maps like Wake Island, Caspian Border, and Operation Firestorm while some of them let you play only on close quarter maps like Seine Crossing and Operation Metro. The most notable change in the server browser is the alternating game modes. Some servers switch between Rush and Conquest modes every round, some switch between TDM and SQDM, while others rotate all these 4 modes. The only mode that's left out on its own is Squad Rush.

Some people liked this idea for variety. While I have no problem with this setup, apparently some people didn't like this as not everyone is accustomed to all game modes that Battlefield 3 has to offer. And while official EA servers still have those normal Conquest Mode only servers, I failed to find any Rush Mode only server. All servers that have Rush Mode also have Conquest Mode in rotation. I can't find Hardcore servers that are Conquest Mode only as well.

A lot of my comrades only like playing Rush Mode on Hardcore servers so they don't favor this change at all. I do agree with them that the map rotation kind of kills momentum because you have to change your play style every match. I'm not sure if this change is initiated due to popular demand, but I'm pretty sure that a large portion of the Battlefield community still favors Rush Mode over Conquest.

Honestly, I welcome this idea of letting you play on just selected maps depending on your choice of play style, whether you want close quarters type of combat to get more personal, or large maps with all vehicles. Rotating maps is a good addition for people who like variety but I hope DICE will include servers that are Rush mode only for people that don't like to play Conquest. I don't want this to be a reason for people to opt paying to rent a server so they can customize their own matches.

In my next article, I'll try to get into the differences between Normal and Hardcore modes. There are obvious differences of course, but I will get into more detail as to why people favor one over the other.

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Thursday, March 22, 2012

I Hereby Declare Globe Superstick Totally Useless for Online Gaming!

My relationship with my Globe Superstick has been in a downhill lately. At first it was pretty decent, with download rates reaching maximum during off peak hours and more or less 50% otherwise. But now, I'm lucky if I could maintain a 3 Mbps average, which is even below 50% of my subscribed speed. The average I could get right now is a little over 2 Mbps during peak hours. Honestly, I can live with that, I don't really do too much downloading or HD streaming lately that I will need the full 7 Mbps speed that I've subscribed to. However, it seems like my speed is getting worse and worse by the day, and now my Globe Superstick is completely useless for online gaming.

Yes, I posted some tips recently on how to improve your connection for online gaming but the thing is it's very hard to find that time of the day with optimal connection that will let you play as smoothly as possible. I also said that I could still use it during weekdays when network traffic is pretty low but lately I've been trying every morning to no avail. And even if I succeed on connecting to one of the servers in Battlefield 3, I get kicked out of it after a few seconds. The connection is very very unstable and it's frustrating to play knowing that the connection will drop a few moments later. And yeah, I've tried on other online games like Starhawk beta so it's not with the EA servers or the game.

My Superstick is also now useless in my work, I get dropped out of VPN after a few minutes. Conference calls always drop as well, pretty embarassing when I'm talking to a client counterpart from overseas. It could be the same problem with online gaming but I can't really tell what's wrong.

I've exhausted all workarounds that I can think of and maintained a consistently low ping rate but all my efforts were in vain. I've tried asking my friends in Globe but it seems like there's no other way to solve this but to subscribe to a wired connection like DSL, which means I have to terminate my current subscription (I can have both of course but that would be impractical and costly).

I've weighed my options and thought about it if this Superstick subscription is worth keeping but it doesn't help that old subscribers like me are still paying the same subscription price since day 1 (P1299) while newer subscribers can get the same maximum speed for only P999. I asked Globe's Customer Service earlier and they don't allow any downgrades for my subscription, but then again, why downgrade if it's still useless in online gaming and my work?

I asked them about termination fees and since my lock-in period is not yet through, I have to pay P4995 for the device (the ZTE MF60) which I get to keep and P550 for the admin/termination fees. Fair enough I guess.

I'm not saying that Globe 3G is all that bad. I know a lot of people are getting into mobile internet these days and that's probably one of its best selling points - mobility. The idea that you can check your email as well as your Facebook feed anytime anywhere is a great thing, and in the end it all goes down to purpose. If you're always on the go and want to receive your important emails anywhere you are then I highly recommend this. If you're that social network junkie who wants to check your Facebook or Twitter feeds anywhere you go then I highly recommend this. If you want to download HD movies or any large files at high speed rates then I can recommend this to you as well. If you're like me who wants an internet connection to use for competitive online gaming then this is not for you. If only I'm not playing online games...

I will have my subscription cancelled after Holy Week and then subscribe to a DSL connection but the thing is, this device is still with me so I'd probably snap in a prepaid sim or subscribe again to a consumable plan depending on how often I would need to get online remotely. Who knows, once Globe have upgraded the cellsites here in my area to HSPA+ (take note that I'm trying to avoid the term 4G) I might have the interest again to have a postpaid subscription to Globe SuperStick, especially that they released recently a new SuperStick unit, the Huawei E355. But for now, so long Globe SuperStick. Nice knowing ya.
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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Nokia 808 Pureview - To Capture Every Single Detail with a 41 MP Camera!

For about 6 years now, I've never been amazed by any other Nokia phone since the very day I got my hands on my Nokia N70. If you're reading some of my articles for a while, you know by now that I'd never replaced my Nokia N70 until late last year when it finally died. During those years when Nokia was fully dominating the smartphone market, I'd never seen any reason to replace it with anything that Nokia released, no matter how better their specs were. I'm not sure why, maybe because the newer Nokia phones didn't really have any mind-blowing feature that was reason enough for me to ditch my phone. Not until now...

During the Mobile Web Congress last February 27 to March 1, Nokia surprised the world with a stunning revelation: a smartphone with a 41-megapixel camera! So how does it work? Well, let's take a look at Nokia's information on the phone on its press release.

"The Nokia 808 PureView features a large, high-resolution 41 megapixel sensor with high-performance Carl Zeiss optics and new pixel oversampling technology.  At standard resolutions (2/3, 5 and 8 megapixels) this means the ability to zoom without loss of clarity and capture seven pixels of information, condensing into one pixel for the sharpest images imaginable.  At high-resolution (38 megapixel maximum) it means the ability to capture an image, then zoom, reframe, crop and resize afterwards to expose previously unseen levels of details."

Honestly, I can't tell if an image still looks good at such a high resolution as 38 megapixels. I'm no professional photographer, but I can tell the amount of detail that the Nokia's sample images has. And honestly, I'm stoked!

The downside of the phone is that the other specs aren't really that stellar, and especially, the OS is still Symbian Belle, which is gonna die 4 years from now. Nokia explained that the Pureview technology was a result of 5 years development and at that time, the OS of the Nokia phones was still Symbian. However, the Lumia handsets that will come out later will have the Pureview technology. I'm very excited to see this.

However, some people are already underestimating this phone. They try to reason out, "Why would I need something like this? I would take DSLRs over this any day of the week." In my opinion, this phone will not in any way replace your much more efficient DSLR. However, cameraphones still have some advantages over DSLRs, one of which is portability. I don't think you'd ever want to take your DSLR on the go so you can shoot those rare moments. Also, there are places where you can't bring your DSLR and a cameraphone is the only thing you can get away with. 

Other people might ask, "Why would I need a 41-MP camera phone? 8-MP is enough for me." Yeah, that's exactly what I thought 6 years ago when I had my Nokia N70 and I told myself, "2-MP is enough for me." Improvements like this are always welcome for me. 8-MP camera phone might be the norm now, who knows what could be the norm next year or even 2 years from now?

And now that Nokia has announced that the Pureview technology will also come to future Nokia Lumia handsets as well, I wonder if this is the trump card that Nokia needs along with Windows 7 phone to beat the competition.

If you want a more detailed explanation on why this cameraphone is revolutionary, I highly suggest reading this article.

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