Good-Bye, Ralph. And Thank You.

If we're going to talk about people who shaped the future, names like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs get thrown around. But to gamers all over the world, there is but one to whom we owe much - Ralph Baer, the father of video games. 

And today, we say goodbye to him. Ralph Baer has passed on.

Ralph Baer lived a very interesting life. He was born in 1922. He fled Nazi-controlled Germany, and moved to America, right before the attacks on Jewish stores and homes in 1938. In 1940, Ralph graduated from the National Radio Institute. From 1943 to 1946, Ralph served in the US Army, where he became a recognized expert on military small arms.

In 1946, Ralph went back to school and graduated from American Television Institute of Technology. From 1950 onwards, Ralph would go on to design and invent a multitude of devices including surgical cutting machines and analog computers to track submarines. 

It was in 1966 when Ralph had the idea to use a television for gaming. On Sept. 1, 1966, Ralph pretty much wrote the very first video game document (so I guess he's the dad of GameFAQs also). And only 5 days later on Sept 6, 1966, Ralph drew up plans for the world's first video game system.

On May 7, 1967, the first ever 2-player video game was played. It's unfortunate that during this game, Ralph Baer actually lost, which makes him the very first person ever in the world to get pwnd

First ever rage quit.

On June 14, 1967, Ralph demonstrated the world's first light gun. 

November 9 to 13, 1967 - the first video game console was born. The first fully functional Pong game was demonstrated. It wasn't until Jan. 15, 1968 that he received the patent for it, though.

In July 17, 1970, he sealed the deal with the Magnavox TV-set, the world's first home video game console - the great, great, great grand father to your iPhones and PS4s.

In March 1972, the world was introduced to video gaming. 

All of this, thanks to one man's ingenuity and dedication. All those hours you spent enjoying the hell out of your favorite video game was thanks to Ralph Baer's curiosity.

Good-bye, Ralph Baer. And thank you.

Spider-Man Unlimited

I'm not the biggest mobile gamer around, but every time a Marvel game pops up, my interest is immediately piqued even if it is on a platform that only a few game types favor. So when I was told of a standalone Spider-Man game not based off any cartoon or movie franchise, my face lit up. Ooh, maybe it'll half motion controls for swinging. Mobile phones have gotten powerful enough to accommodate some pretty complex gameplay mechanics.

The game is called Spider-Man Unlimited, developed and published by Gameloft. 

What is it?

It's a Temple Run-type game, with a few additional mechanics that make it feel like a Spidey game somewhat and to innovate past what other Temple Run-type games have done in the past. The game feel a little more accessible to kids. It has a less frantic pace, which makes it more kid-friendly and probably a little less addictive to adults. Spider-Man Unlimited is actually quite similar to another Temple Run-style game Gameloft also developed, Despicable Me: Minion Rush. Having played a decent amount of both games, I would probably say Minion Rush is a little more enjoyable because of the way the tracks are laid out.

Read more: Spider-Man Unlimited

 

Steam Prices in PHP

Woke up this morning to a very surprising email. 

Great! So prices on Steam will now display in Php instead of the usual USD if you have a Philippine address. What does that really mean, though? Just a couple things.

Not Cheaper

Prices will be the same. Whatever they charge for games now will essentially be the same price they'll be charging you after the conversion. A $60 game will be worth Php 2,637 given today's current exchange rate. However, exchange rates do fluctuate. There will be days when that $60 game will only cost you Php 2,618 and and days when it'll go for Php 2,715 or so. And that is totally the same thing if you buy it with your credit card depending on the exchange rate that day. The Php price display will only really help doing the conversions for you. That way, it'll be easier for you to tell when you should pull the trigger on that game you've been eyeing.

I did some research and it seems that the currency display will change for 11 more countries including Indonesia (Rupiah), Malaysia (Ringgit), and Thailand (Baht). I think New Zealand, too.

Doesn't Solve The Bigger Problem

My initial excitement quickly died down as I realized that this won't solve the real issue. Only 5-7% of Filipinos have credit cards, and if the forums serve as any indication, not all gamers belong to that 5%. With no credit card, you'd be forced to buy those Steam cards from places like Datablitz, and those normally sell for much higher than the actual dollar value of the card thus making the automatic conversion moot.

If you want to take advantage of this new feature on Steam but you're not part of the 5-7%, there are existing ways of getting around the credit card issue. One such way is through mobile provider payment schemes, like SMART Money or GCash. Once you have a SMART Money card, it's just like having a Mastercard credit card, although it's pre-funded. Same goes for GCash. They're much easier to apply for than regular cards and can be used for online purchase. 

Eventually, Bitcoin might be the online currency of choice. And that might be safer than credit cards.

Still Good Though

Regardless of whether it makes it any easier for Pinoy gamers or not, it's definitely a step in the right direction. At least Steam has noticed the market potential in the country. Sony and Microsoft could be following suit.

 

Initial impressions: FTL: Advanced Edition

Last April 3 (4 here), the expansion for 2012's multi-awarded space rogue-like FTL: Faster Than Light dropped for the PC and iPad (iPad 2 and above) and started wrecking lives anew through time dilation (surprise, it's 2AM already!) and general ragequit-inducing RNG fickleness. Called FTL: Advanced Edition (FTL: AE), the expansion features a ton of new content including:

  • a new race in addition to the original seven and their ships
  • new ship layouts
  • new ship weapons, systems and sub-systems, and augmentations
  • new environmental dangers - going to rebel-controlled systems is now more dangerous with the other rebel ships now firing at you
  • new scenarios - and you thought space spiders were bad
  • a new Hard mode for those who find Normal boring already

FTL is still the same at its core: you're in command of a starship that's running from Rebel forces with intel for the Federation fleet which will turn the war to your favor, jumping star systems to get to the next sector, making decisions that seem small but may mean life or death for a crew member (who knew that survivor was a madman?), and hoping the RNG gods smile upon you (oh look, awesome weapon just drifting in space!).

Some highlights:

  • Members of the new race Lanius suck out the air in the room they're in, adding new twists to boarding mechanics. 
  • Hacking allows the user to disrupt the enemy on a per-system basis at the cost of one drone unit. Imagine hacking the enemy ship's helm, reducing their evasion to zero, then doing an alpha strike to all major ship systems. YES.
  • The cloning bay resurrects fallen crew members at the cost of some skill points. Suddenly, space spiders ain't so scary anymore, and boarding raids need more thought, since the cloning bay replaces the med bay.
  • Mind control allows for players to temporarily conscript enemy crew to do their bidding.
  • Emergency batteries now give you that extra juice when you most need it for some time

Read more: Initial impressions: FTL: Advanced Edition

 

Nice One, Gazillion.

On April 1, everyone does some kind of April Fool's joke. Some are more believable than others, while some are just heartbreaking. I actually look forward to checking out the best ones every year because they get crazier and crazier. My favorite one is still IGN's Legend of Zelda movie from five years ago. I think that prank may have been edged out today.

Gazillion, the guys behind my current addiction, Marvel Heroes, put out 5 new playable character announcements as April Fool's jokes. 

Doop
Midtown Madhattan Hotdog Vendor
Ego, The Living Planet
Taskmaster
Cow Commander Brevik

Out of all those announced, the only one actually viable was Taskmaster. As a Taskmaster fan, I felt that announcement was especially cruel. They were toying with my emotions... MY EMOTIONS!

However, to everyone's surprise and delight, Gazillion actually RELEASED TASKMASTER AS A PLAYABLE CHARACTER! They said "Some April Fool's are too good to leave as a joke..."

And that is just CRAZY! The entire community went BANANAS!

Read more: Nice One, Gazillion.

 
   

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