E3 2019 – So far…

Everyone knows that E3 is the premiere gaming event in the nation.

This year has had it’s debuts and updates, and left very little to disappoint. So, let’s go through what we’ve seen so far.

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EA has received some well-deserved criticism over the last few years with their tactics in game selling, DLC, and pre-purchase bonus material. Most of the gamers of the world have gotten pretty fed up with them, and many have shoved them to the back burner. I think the breaking point for EA was Battlefront II, whose loot boxes, expensive heroes, and general double-edged tactics with “included” material left gamers very, very disappointed. Fortunately for gamers, they did this with a Star Wars IP, and we have to assume that The Mouse dropped the proverbial bomb on them to straighten them up. They have been somewhat better since then, and hopefully they’ll continue to improve.
That being said, their biggest introduction was more information on a game called Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. Check out the gameplay trailer here. The game was announced during Star Wars Celebration in April of 2019, but we finally got some gameplay. Ironically, when they first made the announcement, it came with Tweets like this one:
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That’s where we are in the world of gaming…
But, I also have a lot of faith in the development company, Respawn, who made games like Titanfall 1&2, and also the new hit, Apex Legends. With Respawn at the helm, I think we’ll have a delightful game in our hands with hours upon hours of gameplay. The Devs say that the game is a spiritual reminder of games like Dark Souls, difficult and requiring thought to proceed. As seen in the gameplay trailer, we see a less-than-intuitive deflection ability by the Jedi protagonist, meaning that maybe we’ll have to use the Force a little ourselves…

We also got a good look at their two most popular sports titles, Fifa 20 and Madden 20. Both games are looking to get some good work-ups, including a new and better intuitive system for dribbling, and teammate controls when in play, for Fifa, and a new exciting career campaign for Madden, with a work up on play options when the action is heating up. Check out the lengthy, livestreamed gameplay reveal for Madden 20 here, and Fifa 20’s introduction trailer here.

The last tidbit of EA’s lineup was a presentation for Apex Legends, the more-enjoyable (to this writer) Battle Royale compared to Fortnite. Their presentation focused on some minor changes and updates, including at least one character, and one new weapon. The speaker even announced a new gameplay mode, but without a lot of focus on the details. We’ll be watching that one with interest.

Next up:

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Xbox/Microsoft had a pretty smooth introduction this year, and their lineup and announcements were exciting. First of all, we got more information on Project Scarlett, which is their name for their next-generation console. They’ve left out the primary specifications, but let us know that it will process 8k graphics, 120 frames per second, and run about four-times more powerful that the Xbox One. So far, the only game announced for it is Halo: Infinite. By the way, that trailer made me kneek in the wees, I mean, weak in the knees. Especially after Halo 5 was such a let down… maybe you’ll be unfortunate enough for me to let you read a review on it later. /puke

The biggest event of their presentation was associated with CD Projekt Red’s new game: Cyberpunk 2077. The thing that made this particular game stand out, was that for it’s announcement, they had Keanu Reeves (yes, the immortal actor known for saving the Matrix and also for killing hundreds of men and women for killing his dog) come out and let us know that he’ll be voicing and acting in the game. Check it out here: It’s breathtaking.

But they also gave us some cool information on their new video game streaming service. Further beyond that, they displayed something like 50 titles with exciting names like Gears of War 5, Pyschonauts, Borderlands 3, a Lego Forza, Elden Ring (the new George R.R. Martin and Miyazaki title), and a Blair Witch game that left me feeling more than a little uncomfortable. (All of the aforementioned titles are linked to their respective trailers.)

Next in the queue:

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Their lineup, known for games like Fallout and Elder Scrolls, was remarkably weak. They gave us information on a new features for their less-than-eventful release Fallout 76, the highly-anticipated but heavily-regretted MMO shooter based in the post apocalypse. They gave a few other small titles releases, like a dungeon crawler Elder Scrolls for the Nintendo Switch, and a title called Deathloop. We did get a very excited announcement from Ikumi Nakamura, announcing a game called Ghostwire: Tokyo, that looks pretty neat.

I think most gamers, like myself, were hoping for more information on their more titular games like Elder Scrolls VI, and Starfield, both of which were strangely missing from their announcements.

And…

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The first of Ubisoft’s announcements was Watchdog: Legion, which gives us a cool look at a further-futuristic London, and a real “taking it to the man” type war.

Next, they’re taking us to a new Ghost Recon: Breakpoint, a game that looks like it takes elements from Wildlands, and reincorporates the squad tactics from the previous games and smashes them all together to take down Jon Bernthal’s character, who leads the antagonists called “Wolves”. We’ll see about this one. Wildlands let me down.

They worked in a new mobile game, and a new Dance Dance Revolution game, and new DLC for For Honor.

Another neat announcement is Rainbow Six: Quarantine, which looks like they may have taken their test time from Rainbow Six: Siege, where you fought off these crystalline, alien, monsters that infested human bodies, and turned it into a game. It was a trippy ride, and it looks like it became a game of its own.

Following behind it was The Division 2 (check out the presentation here). The new DLC looks pretty cool, but I wish I had found more love for the game back when it came out. They announced several new locations, and a new raid.

Last but not least, they announced a new subscription service to play Uplay’s games for $14.99 a month, called Uplay Plus or +. Or Plus.

Last, but not least so far…

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New fighter announcements for Super Smash Brothers from the Dragon Quest series were first up, followed shortly by an announcement for Luigi’s Mansion 3, and exciting announcement with fun features.

Next in line is a brief glimpse at  Dark Crystal game, and an over-the-top Legend of Zelda title.

One of their announced games is the next Fire Emblem game, titled Three Houses. It looks beautiful.

More Resident Evil titles being ported to the Nintendo Switch.

There are probably a dozen or more other titles being announced, but the biggest one that got announced was Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2. This one looks like it really has potential, as the first one did.

 

All in all, E3 had some really cool titles and announcements, and I’m sure we’ll see some more trickle out as the days go on. It looks like 2019 and 2020 are going to be some exciting times for games!

 

Photo by Sebastian DC on Unsplash

 

 

Movie Monday

Don’t you like all my recent cliché titles?

Giving myself certain tasks to write on gives me a guide to go by. Keeps me in line. That being said, there will always be a chance for variation or a second article. And fortunately all of these things are things I enjoy. So, hold onto your butts.

The first movie I’m going to reference is kind of part of a week-long piece I’ll do, and as I write, I think you’ll see the reason why. The first movie I’ll review is: Chef. I’m sure that those of you who read pretty regularly are wondering why it isn’t Star Wars… well, that’s because you expected it to be! Just kidding.

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Chef is a movie for just about everyone. First, let me say this: I’ve been on a cooking trip for a while, and this movie perfectly captures what it is to cook — to really cook — and to enjoy being a person who prepares food. There are differences there, too, because when you cook and you’re just doing it, it doesn’t taste as good as a person who does it because they love it. The starring character, Carl Casper, played by (and directed by) Jon Favreau. Let me also say that there may be some bias, because Favreau, as an actor and a director, is one of my favorites. He’s also framed by other actors like John Leguizamo, Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman, Sofia Vergara, and a quick cameo by Robert Downey Jr. Check out the trailer.

I first discovered the movie, thanks to Binging With Babish, a YouTube channel that caught my eye on his third episode. I’ll address that this Friday, for the Food post, guarantee it. Now, onto the spoiler free review:

Carl Casper is essentially a dad who’s too busy for anything besides his restaurant, and even there, he’s limited by what he can do. Chef is about a man finding his way, his passion, and his love, all over again. It’s about lovingly preparing food, and it’s about really just… loving. It’s also sort of a coming of age film, as it follows Carl Casper and his son’s relationship. Martin (John Leguizamo) fills the important role of the sidekick, but he’s also the spirit of the movie. Everybody has to have the go-to guy to get something done, and that’s him. Always present. Always ready to help. He’s the Samwise Gamgee to Carl’s Frodo Baggins, and that’s the best way I can describe it.

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Carl’s life is all but torn asunder, and he’s left windless after making some (albeit uneducated-ly) bad decisions, and he has to find his way again. Fortunately for the viewer, him finding his way is a journey of epic proportions, and easily relatable to the audience. Anoter really cool fact, is that every restaurant he visits on his journey — aside from the restaurant he starts the movie in — is a real restaurant. Keep that in mind as you watch the film.

The acting, directing, locations, and the food in the movie is what brings it all together. But the presentation of cooking — not shirking the fact that it is long, hard work — and that it is a labor of love, through and through, is what makes this movie a gem. Truly, a diamond in the rough. And I absolutely love it. I could watch it over and over, and it’s because of the food, because of the relationships, and because of the pure joy that the crew seemed to have while filming it.

If you’d like a Spoiler-included review, drop a comment, I can go back and amend this writing with the necessary information. I’m not a fan of spoilers, however, so I won’t likely ever include them unless the reader’s prefer it that way.

You can watch the movie Chef on Amazon, rented or purchased, although at the time of this article posting, it is not available to stream anywhere. Click here to view the movie.

Photo by Noom Peerapong on Unsplash

Fitness, First

I’m going to give you my history with fitness, first.

I have a tenuous relationship with fitness. Not doing the actual workouts, because I love being at the gym, but staying fit. Diet is where I suffer the most. I’m going to take you way back to the beginning, though, so hold tight.

I was a skinny kid, up until puberty, then I was a chunky kid. Fortunately I’ve been tall since I was 13, and stalled out around 6’1” or 6’2” depending on your measurement. That’s inches, by the way. Between 13 and 15 I was heavy — around 230, I guess. However, by August of the year I was 14, I had lost down to below 200, and was playing High School Baseball. It helped that I had found a girl to keep my attention, too, and drive to stay fit (that’s my now-wife.) So, I hovered around 200 for several years, until I was 19, when I joined the Air Force. When I graduated USAF basic training, I weighed 174lbs. I looked sick, but I was also pretty healthy. My Air Force career was cut short, and my wife and I ended up expecting our first child shortly after I came home. I put on a little weight while she was pregnant, bringing myself back up to around 200 lbs again. A little after our baby’s first birthday, I went to Dragon*Con in Atlanta, GA. (It still had the asterisk in the name, then.) And when I came home, I was certain that I wanted to be in better shape. SO! Over the next several years, I was up and down in weight and muscle size and definition, finally gaining up to around 225 in 2016. I didn’t like it, so I hopped on Intermittent Fasting (LeanGains 16:8) and chiseled it away. Now, the thing that made IF (Intermittent Fasting) easier than other diets for me, was that I could pretty much eat what I want (in my calorie window) as long as it fell within my feasting period (that is, the eight hour window allotted.) It worked, too. Now, I’ll say this: IF is a lifestyle change, more than a diet, and it worked tremendously well. I ended up taking a promotion at my day job, and put it all back on, and found consolation in my eating. Bad, bad, habit. Now, I write this in 2019, currently down to 228lbs, but I was weighing in at 239 at my highest. I was unhappy with myself. Now, it’s time for me to do something about it. I have a new child, almost a year old, and a nine year old. They need a healthy, fit dad.

All that history behind me, I want to talk more about IF (Intermittent Fasting) because it’s done so much for me, and I’ll touch on my weekly regimen right now at the gym… Intermittent Fasting has so much going for it, including different ways to attack the change in your eating habits. 16:8 (that’s fasting for sixteen hours, and eating for eight) is the most popular method, because it’s also the easiest to achieve. I usually do my eating between 2pm and 10pm and my fasting from 10pm to 2pm the next day. The best part of that is that 6-8 hours of the fasting time is spent sleeping. Now, going without breakfast may sound awful to you, but recently published findings say that people who eat breakfast have an overall heavier weight than those who don’t. You get used to it, though. It’s hard for me, as a man who really enjoyed pancakes, bacon, and sausage, you just have to have breakfast for dinner sometimes. But in the case of breakfast, your mom was wrong. It isn’t necessary. The tough times really come when you’re in between when you wake up and when you finally get to eat, and that gets easier too, but sometimes you get hunger pangs that are rough. (And no, when you start having hunger pangs, you aren’t in the early stages of starvation!) When you finally get to your feeding time, then you get to have the fun. As long as you take in your daily recommended calorie totals (use this calculator), you can eat whatever you want. Just remember to include your beverages, and still stay away from soda, if you can help it. Then, finally, at the end of your fast, you put everything that has calories in it away, and ride on the feeling of a full tummy until it’s time for bed.

Now, this has worked for me time and time again, and it’s working for me again, already. Having started two weeks ago on IF and watching my calories, I’m down to 228lbs (fully dressed, and with a phone in my pocket). That being said, I also hit the gym pretty religiously. Currently, I’m going five days a week, here’s my basic split:

Monday:
1 Mile of Cardio (4.5 speed on treadmill, or bike.)
Chest Day
Tuesday:
1 Mile of Cardio (4.5 speed on treadmill, or bike.)
Back Day
Wednesday:
1 Mile of Cardio (4.5 speed on treadmill, or bike.)
Arms (Biceps, triceps, and forearms)
Thursday:
1 Mile of Cardio (4.5 speed on treadmill, or bike.)
Legs (Glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves)
Friday:
1 Mile of Cardio (4.5 speed on treadmill, or bike.)
Shoulders, Traps, and Abs

I take weekends off the gym, right now, because I’m usually doing something active at home (whether it’s to-do lists, playing with the kids, or planning something, but I’m rarely dormant). On the days I’m at the gym, I usually spend between 1 hour to an hour and a half.

Maybe if I get brave enough, I’ll include progress pictures. We’ll see.

For more on IF, check out the Reddit page here. I’ll include more information on my transformation, and what I do on specific days that yield the best results.

 

 

P.S. I used the word “Now” a lot in this post.

 

 

 

Photo by George Pagan III on Unsplash

Throwback Thursday: Florida Keys Edition

Throwback Thursday might be cliché at this point. Oh, well.

 

I figure since I’m doing video games on Tuesday, writing prompts on Wednesday, I’ll at least do throwbacks on Thursday. Makes sense, right? Maybe not, we’ll see.

I’ve touched on a good portion of my history throughout my blog, in past posts. This is as good of a time as any to do it again. I’ll try to recall specific events in my life on the blog. Since it’s getting to be really good and hot outside, (it’s the boiling summer in the southern US) I’ll do a recollection of some our beach trips. Specifically, our longest one. The Florida Keys.

Now, what I’m not sure if I’ve touched on in the past, is that I’m a rather big Jimmy Buffett fan. I like his music and his writing, both, a considerable amount. I’m even a fan of Landshark Lager. But I don’t think I really found my love for his lifestyle and music until I went to the Keys. My parents were actually taking some time off work anyway — they did some household renovations, and we planned one big trip that summer — and I was eleven years old, I think.

The trip down was long. From where we lived at the time, it was all of seventeen hours in the car. Instead of making the push straight back, we stopped in Naples, and stayed the night. Naples is nice, but it isn’t the focus here. The next day, we carried on. Instead of taking the Turnpike, which gave you the best travel from Orlando to the Keys, we took the road that let you pass through the Everglades. Now, there is tons of wildlife down there. Alligators, snakes, turtles, birds — I mean, you name it. It was a really cool experience, too, but still… not our focus.

Finally, we arrived in the Keys. Key Largo is the first stop on the way, and a neat island, but it’s super commercialized in comparison to the rest. For whatever reason, it was more like staying in Miami, than one of the Keys. It was just different, and that’s really the best way I can describe it. We didn’t stay there until we were on our way out of the Keys, so I’ll touch back on it later. When you arrive in the Keys, though, you’re greeted with a long series of bridges, one in particular called “The Seven Mile Bridge” which, at the time of its construction, was the longest bridge in the US.

After catching a delicious lunch at the 7 Mile Grill, We pushed on until we reached Key West, where we stayed at a little place that probably would be a VRBO these days. It was a nice little apartment, ground level, with pool access. I want to say we stayed there 3 days. But it was such an experience. The whole island is a different lifestyle — really — and when we went they were having one of their Pride celebrations, which, as a child raised in the Bible Belt, was really my first welcoming introduction to the world beyond heterosexuality. I was pretty sheltered. Accidentally, of course, my parents were very progressive and welcoming people, but I did attend a private Christian school. Again, I’ll touch on all that later… I’m detouring.

I digress… the food, the weather, the vistas; all those things were something that I’ll take with me for the rest of my life. And I’ve since been again, and I took my wife for our honeymoon. Specifically, though. We hung out at the Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square, which was set up right at the end of the island, where you could look out and see a beautiful, unadulterated sunset like none you’ve ever seen. I guarantee it. As a matter of fact, I had started photography with a Nikon 35mm film camera, and took a photo that won first place that year in a photography contest. That photo, to this day, is among my favorites. It captures the allure of Key West — the Keys, in general — like very few other things can. One other fond memory of Key West that I carry, before we left, was snorkeling at out at the breakers in the ocean, beyond the Naval Base beaches. Snorkeling out there was super cool; it was deep on the back side of the breakers, and in the center, but I got to see more aquatic life than I ever had in my own life. Urchins, barnacles, tropical fish, and one experience that nearly made me have a heart-attack. As I skirted around the outside of the deeper end of the breaker, I ran face to face with what might as well have been a boat-sized barracuda. I came up out of the water fast enough that I’m not sure I didn’t run on the surface. I’m pretty sure my dad cackled all the way back to shore!

Our next stay in the Keys was actually my favorite, and would later be the place I stayed with my wife during our honeymoon. Coral Bay Resort, in Islamorada, Florida, may have been the most beautiful single destination we held — rivaling the sunset. The little place had cabana-style houses that you stayed in. It was small, but it was so endearing, and the management staff at the time was some of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met.  The hotel — resort — kept fishing rods for the visitor to use. To this day, some of the best fishing I’ve ever experienced. We used raw shrimp, and almost as soon as the hook hit the water, a fish was on the line. I remember seeing stingrays, barracuda, sea snails, and an amalgamation of other sea creatures. One of the other really cool parts about Coral Bay was their snorkeling pool. It was separate, but connected, to the ocean. So, when you got down into the water, you were in a protected pool. It was full of little fish, and awesome little treasures at the bottom. By treasures, of course, I mean shells, coral, and other neat little things. Just another super-cool little tidbit.

Food is one of my weaknesses. I struggle with what I eat all the time. So much so that I spend time in the gym just to make sure that I can just about eat what I want. The food was incredible the whole time we were down there. I love seafood, though, so it’s even a greater weakness for me.

Finally, our stay in Key Largo. This will be brief. We only stayed one night, but the night we stayed was okay. It was very commercialized, like I said. As the largest island, it also had some of the largest buildings, which really ransacked the view. The hotel was basic, and it felt like it was basic. Cookie cutter. I’ll bypass Key Largo for Islamorada or Key West any time I visit. Sorry, Key Largo.

All in all, it ranks in my top trips that I’ve made throughout my life. I have some great memories in the Keys, both from this trip, and my later honeymoon. But like I said early on, it’s the lifestyle down there that really captures you. It has a large homeless population, simply because the place is so perfect to live — even without a home. If I have it my way, when I retire (obviously as an incredibly successful writer, and epic visionary), I’ll retire to the Keys. If they’re not underwater by then.

TL;DR Go to the Keys. You’ll thank me.

 

Photo by Bruce Warrington on Unsplash

Wednesday Writing Prompt

Posted on r/WritingPrompts on Reddit, the original post is here.

The Writing Prompt is based on the anime/manga One Punch Man; specifically, the character Mumen Rider.

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[EU] You are visiting your grandfather for the first time, after a couple of days he takes you to the garage, shows you an old bicycle and says – “I think it’s time for the Mumen Rider to ride again”

“The hero association hadn’t been around all that long when I got my start.” He says as he dusts off the handlebars. He had to feel his way into the garage — he was blind after all — since he dismissed my offer to help. I was blind, too, but I had taken the chance and had a cybernetic upgrade from Kuseno Corporation so that I could see. I watched and listened intently. “I’m sure you think I’m crazy, or it’s dementia, but it’s not. As a young man, I became the hero Mumen Rider. I defended the cities as a hero of the Association for many years, prior to my retirement. I…” He smiled as he touched the bicycle. “I will need to make some upgrades to her before you begin your training.” He turned his blacked-out glasses gaze toward me, “It’s time for you to take up the bike and ride.”

I had no idea what to say. At first I was taken aback, and I held up my hands. “Grandpa, I know Mumen Rider.” I looked at the bike — it really did look like Mumen Rider’s bike — “And that looks like his bike. So, you’re telling me that you’re Mumen Rider?” I inhaled, and exhaled the following words with haste. “For real?”

I watched the old man who was my father’s father smile. It was so genuine, so pure. The man had been a beacon of what path to lead my whole life. He supported me, built me up, and helped me rise to the top of my Judo, my studies, my strength training, and even an healthy eating regimen. He nodded. “I was. I suppose I still am, in some sort or another. But Mumen Rider needs to ride again, and you are the perfect candidate. You are pure of heart, you search for justice, you help others, and you believe in making the world a better place. If anything, you are an even better candidate that I was when I first took up the bike.”

I still didn’t know what to say. My heart swelled with pride, and tears threatened to stream down my face. “Of course, grandpa. I would be honored.”

For the next several months, I spent nearly all day and night with my grandfather. He taught me things I didn’t already know, and honed the things I knew. Strangely, when he was teaching me all that he had to teach, he never once seemed to need the assistance that he pretended to need when he was at home. This man who was schooling me on how to become a hero, was all the hero now, that he was thirty years or more ago. This old man was still Mumen Rider, just as sure as I stood before him. One day, near the end of the four month span I spent training with him, he came to me with a very upgraded version I saw of the bike on the first day. That same day, he presented me with an upgraded version of his classic outfit. And finally, on the very same day, he took me to be graded by the Hero Association.

After giving it all I got, I ended up being classified in C-Class. Even now, I’m just thankful to be a hero. As we left that day, my grandfather said something to me that I’ll never forget. He said, “Mumen Rider,” calling me by my new hero name, “if you ever happen to run across a man by the name of Saitama, tell him I said ‘thank you’.” I asked him why, of course. My grandfather’s answer? “He taught me to love mozuku.” I didn’t pry any further.

So far I haven’t run into this “Saitama.” But I have encountered by first Dragon-class monster, and I was blinded again. In honor of my grandfather, who has since passed, I opted to not have my cybernetic eyes replaced.

I have a legacy to keep, after all.