Thursday, December 20, 2012

Max Payne (piano)

I've finished every single Max Payne game that has been released (including 3) and this piano theme has always stuck with me. I hope you enjoy it. It was fun to learn.

You can find the sheet music to this great arrangement here:

Friday, October 12, 2012

Guild Wars 2 - Fear Not This Night (piano)

Guild Wars 2 - Fear Not This Night (piano).  I love this song.  Too bad you don't actually get to hear it much in the game.  You will hear it in the last personal story mission (The Source of Orr) right before the last dungeon.  I've got a level 80 elementalist: finished the personal story, and all the dungeons in story mode.  I'm still working on explorable modes and working on a warrior alt.

You can find the sheet music here:

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Mass Effect 3 - I was Lost Without You (piano)

Mass Effect 3's love theme. This is another great arrangement by Sebastian Wolff. You can get the sheet music here:

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Mass Effect 3 (XBOX 360)

- Finished ME3 with 74% readiness with about 4 hrs of multiplayer.
- about 5300 effective war assets.
- Mined all resources (less than 1hr of grinding to finish up scanning the rest of the planets near the end)
- final save: 46h 15m
- Level 55 soldier, paragon.
- Normal difficulty level
- Got the ummm "perfect" ending.  Went back and played the other 2 endings just to check them out.

- I pretty much played most of ME2  back to back with ME3.  I had started ME2 back when it was first released and quit after about 7 hrs.  I guess I was a bit burnt out on bioware games having just finished Dragon Age on the pc so I gave it a long break.  I then went back and started playing ME2 again about a month ago, finished it, and went straight into ME3.
- Finished reading all the comics and about half way through the second novel so yeah I'm pretty invested in this universe.
- I have both iOS apps.  Infiltrator is ok though has some control issues.  It's not Dead Space quality.  The free data pad app is pretty neat with a galaxy map mini game that contributes to you war assets.  I like reading all the emails you get too which are different than the ones in game.  Also, you get access to the entire Codex with the voice overs.  It's really nice to browse the codex on the iPad.
- I actually went back and played the ME1 DLC: Bring Down the Sky because I had skipped it when it first came out.  It was a pretty bland mission with more mako driving (uggg!!!).  The graphics were pretty dated looking.  Combat has come a LONG way since me1.  Don't bother with this dlc.  It's really not worth it.
- Hit the import bug where it wouldn't import the face of my me2 character.  I went through a lot of trouble getting my xbox save onto my pc and then running it through a variety of programs and online utilities to get my character code and slider values except for makeup.  Even after all that my Shepard still doesn't look right.  To have that serious of a bug slip through QA and then still exist for months after release is totally inexcusable.  You invest 100 hrs into the character, and I better damn well be able to play MY shepard in me3.  Again, it's more signs of a rushed product that could have been better.

Mass Effect 2

I still think I inadvertently created Kelli Giddish

- I got the perfect ending and saved everybody.
- 52h.08m, level 30 soldier, paragon
- I completed all the DLC with overlord and shadow broker being my favorite.  From a game play perspective arrival was kind of meh but it's good to play as a bridge between me2 and me3.
- I felt me2 did a lot of things right.  It had a very large and interesting cast of characters.  Most grew on me by the end.  All their loyalty missions were quit interesting too.  The combat was much improved over me1.  I felt character progression though was a bit over simplified as far as gear upgrades.  
- Scanning planets for resources was just boring busy work after about 15 min of doing it.  Good thing I have younger children which I got them to mine enough resources to get all my upgrades. 
- I liked how crew loyalty and ship upgrades impacted the ending.
- Journal was well done always pointing you to where you need to go next and tracking every step of your missions as you completed them.  You always knew what state a mission was in.

- Lets start with the good.  The Combat is even better IMO especially if you have played gears of war.  The cover system gets a bit sticky though with one button doing too many things.  The combat rolls aren't bad.  Game looks as great as ever.  Load times aren't bad except for the odd 2 people guarding the load screen between the war room and the galaxy map.
- Quick save is awesome!!!!
- I like the class flexibility how any class can use any weapon.  The weight vs power recharge speed tradeoff is well implemented.
- The weapon upgrade slots are a nice customization and then having 5 levels of upgrades for all weapons and mods gives you even more progression.
- There are some HUGE incredibly well done emotional beats and payoffs throughout the game: Genophage, Geth/Quarian, and tons of wrap up if you saved everybody from ME2.  
- Music has always been fantastic in this series and even better in me3.
- I romanced Liara through all 3 games.  Though I did get the shower scene with Traynor before restoring to an earlier save.  The Tali / Garrus romance was cute too.
- Multiplayer horde mode is a lot of fun.  I like the unlock progression.  You either love or hate the random slot machine style of unlocks though.  In some ways I think it brings some excitement when you buy a pack with in game credits.  At least that is better than some of the crap you have to do to unlock the pro versions of perks in MW3.  On the other hand it would be nice to know you will unlock this race or weapon at a specific overall XP threshold.  Either way, it's different and works pretty well for the most part.  I liked how you got to preview the multiplayer maps if you did the side quests in the single player.  It seems like they could have easily added bots but didn't.
- Jessica Chobot: This game was NOT kind to her.  Her face seemed extra wide, and her poor voice acting really stands out compared to the rest of the excellent cast.
- What happened with the Journal?  It's pretty much crap in me3.  I'm not sure why they broke a working system.  You basically have no idea what step you are on in the mission, where to go, or anything.  It's pretty much useless requiring a lot of looking up in a wiki.
- The new resource mining is improved overall from me2 IMO though it is a bit silly getting chased by those reaper ships.  It's easy enough to escape and come back in until you get 100% resources gathered.  At least you don't have to worry about buying probes or manually scanning every inch of every planet.  It's a lot less busy work.
- Unfortunately, the two trips to the Citadel you have to make to gather up all these lame busy work side quests kind of suck.  It's worse due to the Journal system so you have no idea if you even picked up whatever random widget that person on the citadel wanted.  At least you are visiting all new sections of the citadel.
- The day 1 DLC: From Ashes is a greedy blatant money grab IMO and reeks with EA douchebaggery.  It's quite integral to the story.  It gives you so much needed background information not just in the flash backs with the Prothean but in all the crew interaction especially with Liara.  Liara's realization and misconceptions of what the Protheans are are really well done.

Endings and resolutions
- In general I feel corners were definitely cut on this game.  What should have been their biggest and best mass effect game to wrap up this trilogy instead we get a good game that feels a bit rushed (budget? EA influences?) and not quite reaching it's full potential.  This game should have been treated like the half life series: take as long it takes to make the best possible game.
- After finishing the game I went back and watched all the endings and a lot of the different resolutions through the game because I really don't plan to play this game again.  I was really surprised by some of the outcomes that can happen like saving Mording, Tali committing suicide, Miranda dying, etc.  I was really impressed by some of the different paths you can take which makes the ending look that much worse.
- Tali:  The romance path really should have had a cutscene that showed her face as a payoff instead of a short glimpse of a cheesy photoshopped stock photo.
- Saying goodbye to everybody before the last mission was a great touch.
- All the resolutions you get with pretty much everybody you saved from ME2 was well done.

- In this case I feel artistic integrity is just another word for developer arrogance.  That sums up what I feel about what happened with the ending.  I'm not sure if the rumors are true but it really does feels like Casey Hudson and Mac Walters locked themselves in a room and wrote the ending without any peer review from the rest of the writing team.  I think they were too close to the material and couldn't see it from the outside (how the players would perceive it) and so a very poor ending was released.  I felt the writing and narrative choices were very consistent and made logical sense up until the ending.
- My biggest issue with the 3 choices are none of them matched in tone, belief system, or moral compass that I've been playing my shepard.  There was no way to object to the ultimatum the stupid star child presents.  I spent the entire game proving that organics and synthetics CAN coexist peacefully and can even mutually benefit from one another (geth/Quarian, EDI/Joker).
Destruction: This is what I ended up choosing but I completely reject that I have no choice but to destroy all synthetic life including the Geth and EDI.
Synthesis:  I've been fighting to preserve life, all kinds of life (synthetic and organic), and not force everybody in the entire galaxy to some mutant hybrid.  We fought against this very thing in ME1 against sovereign and saren (indoctrinated).
Control: I've been fighting TIM this entire time against the entire idea of controlling the reapers, how dangerous that path is, and that very notion is from somebody who is clearly indoctrinated.
- The star child's reasoning is that every 50,000 years the reapers have to come and destroy all ADVANCE life else the synthetic vs organic wars will destroy all life as we know it (including primitive organic life).  So the reapers exist to reset everything and let things evolve from the surviving primitive life again over the next 50K years.  I just proved that this cycle is different.  That there is a chance that synthetics and organics can coexist.  Yet, I never get a chance to argue that point.  Star child even admits I'm the first to ever get this far.  That this cycle is indeed different.  Instead, I'm presented with 3 choices that I do not agree with.
- The rest of the issues just makes things even worse with weird logic gaps: how does your ground party end up on the Normandy, why is the Normandy fleeing?
- The last FMV only differs by the 3 color choices and maybe 3 secs of actual cut scene that is different (and even then only very minor differences).  Dude spend some time and money and render different end cut scenes!  This game deserves it!
- There is no explanation why the mass effect relays have to be destroyed.
- fleets might not actually be stranded in sol if you believe this post?
- None of your war assets really mattered that much, and getting over 5000 effective war assets amounts to a confusing single breath from shepard (again spend the time and money here and add some optional cut scenes at least, branch it more, depending on level of war assets to make it feel more meaningful).
- It's these reasons why I'm pissed about the ending.  No where do I mention I want a happy ending or shepard even has to live.  I reject that all the general public wants is a happy award ceremony type of ending.  Take a look at another popular work of fiction: Game of Thrones.  Ned Stark gets his head cut off but you don't see the kind of outrage that you see with the me3 ending.  It's because that result fit the rest of the narrative;  it had an internal logic; the characters had motivation that made sense (a crazy Joffrey world logic but still consistent for his character).  No BS star child came down out of nowhere and lopped off poor Ned's head.  It was definitely not a happy conclusion to season one (and if you've read the books you know lots of bad things happen to the best, most noble, and likable characters).  But I think most people were OK with it.
- I do like the indoctrination theory.

Recommended.  ME3 compared to ME2 is like 2 steps forward but 1 step back.  There was so much potential to have ME3 be the best in the series but this game felt rushed and unpolished.  With 150 hrs invested into mass effect I expected a better ending.  The payoff just wasn't there.  An extra 3 months or so and this game could have been great.  It's too bad they cut corners all over the place.  But I have to admit what is there is very good (except the last 15 min) and still very much worth experiencing.  Maybe the free extended ending DLC will help some but I doubt it's going to make me completely happy for the reasons I stated above.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Mass Effect 3 - An End, Once and For All (piano)

The ending might have sucked but the soundtrack to this series has always been excellent. Here is the nice piano piece during the end sequence. This great arrangement was done by Sebastian Wolff. You can get the sheet music here:

Angry Birds (piano)

Here is a fun piece to play.  Kids really dig it!

Sheet music can be found here:

That link seems to be dead now.  Try this one:

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The New iPad (3rd generation)

  • I picked up a black 64gb 4g lte Verizon model.
  • The first thing you notice about the new iPad is the brilliant gorgeous jaw dropping display. It really is stunning and was worth the upgrade price alone. Text really looks sharp especially when reading magazines. There is a very detailed review over at displaymate.
  • The second thing you will notice is the weight. I already thought the iPad 2 was pretty heavy. The new iPad is .1 lbs heavier and I swear I can feel it.
  • Dictation was added instead of full Siri support. I guess they really want to push that iPhone 4s. I tried it out a little bit but didn't seem to work too well. Originally, I was planning to dictate this entire review. Yeah, I changed my mind pretty quickly. Instead, I'm testing out the blogsy app (it's pretty slick) and my iKeyboard.
  • The new back facing camera actually takes a decent photo now. The 1080p video is nice too. Still, you aren't going to catch me taking that many photos or videos with the iPad. That's just silly.
  • The main reason I went with Verizon is they include the hotspot for no additional charge with all their data plans which have no contracts. This means you can buy just during the months you need it. It's a title cumbersome since if you only want one month of service you have to sign up for a plan which will automatically renew month to month unless you cancel it. So basically you sign up and then immediately cancel. You still keep all the remaining time and bandwidth you have left over. I also wish it would save my cellular login data. It's a bit annoying having to login every time you want to check hhow much data you have left. Sd
  • I love Verizon's data plans though. They match up quite nicely with my walmart virgin mobile mifi including the 1gb for 30 days for $20.
  • LTE speeds are amazing. I ran the app all over town in different locations to get a good average. Over 14 sample I had an average of 14.6 Mbps down and 9.2 Mbps up. I had a max of 39 Mbps down and 19 Mbps up. Basically, surfing on LTE feels no diffent than my home Internet connection (max turbo uverse 25/3).
  • Retina display also brought with it some app compatibility problems. Zinio just got an update to fix rendering speed issues. It's faster but still not quite instant. Magazines on the nook app look fine even though I'm not entirely sure it's taking full advantage of retina since there hasn't been an update yet. Some magazines from newsstand that depend on the zinio engine is also having issues like all future publications (maximum pc). Text takes forever to render. You can see it paint in blocks. Hopefully they get updated quickly now that zinio has been updated.
  • Also, retina won't help if your content isn't high enough resolution to begin with like cbr files where the comic wasn't scanned in at a high enough dpi.
  • Heat. It's really not that big of a deal. Yes, it's warmer than the iPad 2 but it doesn't get THAT hot. Just basic surfing and reading the new iPad just gets very slight warm to the touch. While playing a more demanding 3D game like modern combat 3 it does get warm but not hot like a laptop.
  • As far as accessories I went with the same basic setup as the iPad 2. I'm using an icarbons brushed aluminum back only, dark grey smart cover, case logic sleeve pls9, and I'll add a crystal power support screen protector as soon as they release the new ones. Just see my iPad 2 review for details.
  • The "quad core" GPU will be a nice boost in gaming but the cpu is basically the same which is too bad.  A bit more oomph for decoding mkv's would have been nice.
  • Memory has doubled and is now at 1GB which is nice.
  • Nice touch that the iPad came fully charged out of the box.
Highly recommended. The screen and LTE 4G (in my book LTE is the only true definition of 4g. Hsdpa+, WiMAX, etc are all posers) are reasons enough to upgrade. Sure, there weren't a lot of other massive changes but those 2 reasons alone really do make a big impact on how you use a tablet on a daily basis.

Thursday, March 08, 2012



- One of the biggest issues I have with iOS devices are the lack of expandable storage.  64GB is not enough for a power user that likes to have a ton of apps installed and still have room for media (mostly video).   CloudFTP solves the problem and quite elegantly.
- This is the second kickstarter project I backed.  It was $69 when I backed it. It's available for order at hypershop for $99 but it still shows a 4-6 week wait.
- Semi official forums:
- The basic idea is this little box will connect to any usb storage device (usb flash drives, card readers, usb 2.5" external hard drives, etc) and create an ad hoc wifi network which your iOS (or really any wifi enabled mobile device) will connect to to access the content on the usb device that is attached to the cloudFTP.  You do this over a web page (cloudFTP has a little web server and ftp server running).  You also configure and change settings of the cloudFTP on that same web page.  The cloudFTP outputs 5v 1A on the usb port which is enough to power external 2.5" hard drives.  The 2600mah battery is suppose to be able to power a device for up to 5 hrs.  Since cloudFTP is charged from usb you can use any external battery that charges usb to extend that time (it still works while charging).
- I tried it out with a 64GB flash drive (ntfs), 40GB 2.5" hdd (ntfs, old ps3 pull), and a 320GB hitachi pulled from a macbook pro.  They all worked fine except the hitachi which I had issues with.  It wouldn't work formatted as NTFS but worked fine once I switched to exFAT.  I tried 3 different 2.5" enclosures and all worked fine so I would say compatibility seems pretty good with my limited testing.  It also supports many other file systems like fat32, HSF+, ext 2/3/4 so you should be covered.
- I picked up a 1TB samsung laptop hard drive for $110 from newegg.  I had all sorts of troubles getting this drive initialized, partitioned and formatted.  I have no idea if it was the enclosure I was using, the age of my motherboard, the esata docking station or what.  What finally worked for me was to format it to exFat using OSX disk utility on my macbook pro.  After that it seemed to work fine on my win 7 desktop and cloudFTP. I briefly tried HSF+ and that worked fine too but I'll stick with exFat for the greatest compatibility.
- supports 802.11 b/g/n.
- Can stream  up to 3 devices simultaneously.  I tried it on my iPad 2 and iPhone 4 at the same time and it worked great.
- I converted my videos to iOS friendly mp4 format using handbrake and the iPad profile.
- The web interface works great on iOS devices but is pretty much mangled and unusable on Android.
- I did find some apps that work well by streaming over FTP: goodplayer ($3 universal) and oplayer ($5 not universal) on iOS and es file explorer on android.  Both iOS apps have some compatibility and crash issues with certain video files, yet those same files play fine in quicktime from the web interface.  Out of the two though I prefer oplayer but neither is perfect.  Hopefully cloudFTP comes out with their dedicated app soon.  The advantage of using an app is you get better subtitle support and file formats like MKV without the need to transcoding first.  I find you can just barely play 720p files on the iPad 2.
- AcePlayer ($3 universal) is another app that I just started testing.  Video seems to freeze after a few minutes.  Right now I think I like oplayer the most.
- iFiles works pretty well as an ftp client to manage your files.
- You can also put cloudFTP into infrastructure mode where it will connect to a router as a wifi client.  Once cloudFTP is on your network it displays the IP address that was assigned so you can browse to it and access the files.  This could come in handy say you have a mifi (or some other personal wifi hotspot like a smart phone).  You connect the cloudFTP to the mifi and also your iPad to the mifi.  Now the iPad has access to the internet and cloudFTP at the same time.  The range is pretty short on the cloudFTP so make sure it's close to the router.  Performance seems a bit slower in infrastructure mode but other than that it seems to work just fine.
- If you need to connect to a hidden SSID while in infrastructure mode use this url:{set,infra,SSID,PASSWORD} 
- Has a host name already setup: cloudftp ( which you can enter as the url address in your browser or as the ftp server address.
- You can change the SSID and secure it with a password.  Both are displayed on the cloudFTP.  WPA2 is used.  This is the only level of security you have which I think is fine.
- The website claims the battery is removable but I haven't found a way to open the box.  UPDATE: Somebody just opened one.
- The site claims to have ways to backup to cloud storage sites like and dropbox in infrastructure mode but I see no way of doing it.
- The site also says there are suppose to be native android and iOS apps which have not showed up yet.
- All iOS supported media works like mp3, jpg, or even pdf.
- It also worked streaming to my macbook pro using safari.
- It has 8MB of space (drive X:) which will be used to install additional apps.  A SDK is planned to be released in the future so you can write your own programs to run on the cloudFTP.
- I went the the large 2.5" HDD route.  The other way to go is maybe use this with a tiny micro usb flash drive (up to 32GB) to make things as portable as possible.  You can see several examples here.
- Always shut down normally before disconnecting your usb device so it can be properly unmounted.  You can however connect one at anytime.  To force a shutdown hold the power button for at least 5 sec and then release.
- The web interface doesn't seem to sort the files list properly.  They seem quite random.

Highly recommended!  This product is still very early in its development.  It has quite a few rough edges and missing features but the core functionality is there and works well.  I'm streaming very high quality video to my iOS devices on my own little battery powered portable wifi network which you can set aside and have nothing attached to your iOS device physically.  With a 1TB hard drive you can store well over 500 movies (typical handbrake ipad transcoded movies are around 1.5-2GB each). It is firmware updatable so I'm sure things will only get better and more functionality will get added.  There are a ton of solutions to stream from storage you have at home over the internet limited by your upstream bandwidth of your ISP.  This solution is great for those times you have either no internet or slow unreliable internet where cellular data is spotty, slow, or expensive with bandwidth caps (think planes, trains, ,and automobiles...or even hotels).  It's a bit of a niche product but I think it is an important one.

UPDATE: 3/9/2012

From CloudFTP

- I figured out my NTFS woes.  Apparently I had the hard drive initialized as GPT (guid partition table) vs MBR (master boot record).  Macs like GPT so if you are using a hdd pulled from a macbook it's going to be GPT and I found out the hard way cloudFTP does NOT support GPT.  It only supports MBR.  It's easy enough to convert between the two.  In disk manager just delete all the partitions off the hard drive and you can right click the drive and click convert to MBR.  Then, recreate your ntfs partition and you are good to go!  So what I know for sure GPT + NTFS doesn't work on cloudFTP.  I'm not sure about other combinations like GPT + HFS+.
- The drawback of exFat is you can't write to it through the cloudFTP.  With ntfs you can read and write using a ftp client like FTP Client pro and actually upload files from your iOS device (like photos and movies from you camera roll, albums, or photo stream) to the usb storage device.  Filezilla works well too on a computer.  So with the cloudFTP it pretty much can replace the usb camera adapter apple sells.  Lets say you shoot some photos with your camera.  Then you pop the sd card into a reader connected to the cloudFTP.  Fire up ftp client pro on your iOS device and download the images and move them into your camera roll or do a "open in" to open the image in your favorite photo editor.  Make your edits and save them back to the camera roll, and now you can upload it back to a usb storage device (maybe like a hard drive for archival) using ftp client pro.

UPDATE: 5/23/2012
- Did my first real field test with a 3 hour car trip using V12 beta firmware.  It worked great streaming 2 different movies: one to the hp touchpad running android and the other to the iPad 3.  The one thing that surprised me though is the battery life.  I got barely over an hour of use while streaming off a 1TB hdd.  Hooking up my external usb battery worked great (car usb charger would have worked fine too I'm sure), and let it run the entire trip.  The quality and performance were perfect.  The wife said it was like an in flight movie but with 200 movies to choose from.  The only thing missing were the peanuts and cranberry juice.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Logitech Tablet Keyboard for iPad

Logitech Tablet Keyboard

- I picked this up for around $50 at amazon.
- The size and feel is very similar to the apple bluetooth keyboard.  So if you are familiar and happy with that chiclet styled keyboard you should feel right at home on this logitech one.
- It has some nice iOS specific function keys.  There is also an android flavor version of this keyboard.
- The case is pretty nice though it's kind of odd it doesn't cover the entire keyboard but at least it covers all the keys.  The case folds out into a nice stand.  You have multiple angles and you can do landscape or portrait.
- iPhone works fine too.  Worked fine with the hp touchpad running android cyanogenmod 7.
- It's heavier than expected but still pretty portable for a full size qwerty keyboard.
- I type around 80-95 wpm which is just about the maximum speed I type on a regular keyboard.
- I like how this keyboard is more or less generic so it should work with future versions of any tablet, smartphone, or computer, basically anything with bluetooth.  Nothing is tied to a specific form factor like the case and keyboard combo devices.
- It uses 4XAAA batteries that are suppose to last 10 months.  Yeah! no proprietary batteries or chargers to deal with.

Highly recommended.  The keyboard feels great.  All the keys are where you expect it.  If you use a macbook or apple keyboard you will feel right at home.  Basically, you save $20 off of the apple branded one and you get a nice free case/stand to boot.  The biggest drawback though is having to carry something extra around with you but if you have some serious typing to do then it's hard to beat.

Monday, February 20, 2012

ARogan's Clean Room Technique

ARogan's Clean Room Technique for applying screen protectors (the dry, static cling type) to various electronics.

I've picked up these tips over the years from various sources and forums and I thought I would put together a little step by step on how I get pretty much perfect lint free, dust free, bubble free application of screen protectors from everything as small as an iPhone to as large as an iPad (nerve-racking).

- A couple of wood toothpicks
- Scotch tape (the typical 3m scotch magic tape)
- a lint free cloth
- a credit card or other plastic card to help smooth out air bubbles.
- Optional: distilled water/vinegar solution (maybe around 6 parts water to 1 part vinegar).
- UPDATE: This cleaning kit works GREAT from monoprice for about $4.

- Pick a bathroom with a good surface you can work on and good lighting.
- Clean the surface you are about to work on.
- Wash your hands.
- Prepare about 4 strips of tape of 2 inches each.
- If you have central heating/AC turn that off.  We don't want it blowing while we are in our clean room.
- Do some trial alignments with your screen protector while leaving all the protective packaging layers on for now.
- Turn on the shower on full hot and point it against the back corner of the shower away from the opening.  Try and leave the door open/curtain drawn back a bit to let the maximum amount of steam into the room.  Close the door and wait 10 min or so for the room to get nice and steamy.  This keeps the dust and lint out of the air.
- Take off your shirt.  I kid you not.  Be naked from the waste upward.  A shirt is just another source of lint.  The 3 biggest enemies are lint, dust, and finger prints.  Without those present any air bubble is super easy to work out.
- Quickly enter the room with your electronic device and supplies and quickly close the door behind you.  You can probably turn off the shower now if the room is sufficiently steamy.
- If the product is new out of box then the screen is already pretty clean.  At this point I like to take LONG strips of scotch tape and then go over the entire screen.  Stick the screen with the tape and then lift to remove every last piece of dust or lint.  Be very careful to NEVER touch the screen with your fingers.  Use a new strip of tape after every couple of times you stick and lift.
- If the product was already in use and you need a good cleaning I suggest a highly diluted vinegar water solution.  Just spray a little of the solution ON THE LINT FREE CLOTH (never on the device,  you don't want water damage).  Wipe down the screen removing all oils and finger prints then dry with the dry part of the cloth.  But always go over the entire screen with scotch tape as the LAST STEP before you begin installation of the screen protector.  Don't be stingy.  Tape is cheap; screen protectors are not.
- Now, you are ready to install the screen protector as instructed.  I usually start on one side and start peeling back the underside protective layer while laying it down.  I keep one hand to hold the starting edge in place.  I almost NEVER get perfect alignment on the first try.  That is why I had you prepare some shorter strips of scotch tape.  Just take a piece of tape, lightly stick it to the top of the screen protector in a corner and then lift the screen protector back off while only touching the scotch tape.  Under no circumstances should you ever directly touch the screen or edge of the screen protector with your fingers to get it off.  Always use a piece of tape to lift off the corner and peel it back.  While still anchoring the starting edge with your other hand keep laying down and pulling back off until alignment is perfect.  Don't worry too much about air bubbles since our "clean room" should prevent any dust or lint to get under there while we are doing this process.  Remove the tape when you get it the way you want it.
- Once alignment is good and you have the screen protector installed try and smooth out as many air bubbles as possible with your hand.  Don't be alarmed if there are quite a few.  You should be able to work them all out.  If there is an outer protective layer leave it on during this process.  I find using a combination of fingers, credit card, and toothpicks to work best.  Out of all of these I find a toothpick works really well.  Break off a  pointy end so you have basically a blunt toothpick.  Use it to  rub out and work out any air bubbles.  Just work them out the closest edge.  Having the outer protective layer still on prevents the toothpick from damaging the screen protector and lets you do it with a bit more vigor.
- Finally, remove the outer protective layer if there is one.  Check all the edges and make sure there are no air bubbles.  You can use the toothpick but gently if you need to work out some final air bubbles.

If the surface stayed clean during the process you will have the perfect installation of a screen protector.  If you happen to get some dust or lint under the screen here is what you can do:
- Use a piece of tape and try and lift as little of the screen protector as possible, just enough to expose the piece of lint.
- Use a second piece of tape to try and lift off the lint.  You will need to figure out if the lint is stuck to the device or the underside of the screen protector.  The adhesive of the tape should be strong enough to grab a hold of the lint.  Again, never let your fingers touch the device screen or the underside of the screen protector.  Let the tape do all the work.
- Once you have extracted the lint carefully lay back down the screen protector, remove the tape, and work out any new air bubbles as described above.

This sounds like a bit of time and work and it is.  But think about how long you will be using that piece of electronics (years maybe).  It's worth investing the energy to do it right to have a great looking and feeling product.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

iKeyboard (iPad/iPad 2)


  iKeyboard was the first kickstarter project I ever backed. The idea of being able to touch type without having to lug around a Bluetooth keyboard really appealed to me. I figure it was worth taking a chance on. It is $35 at amazon.
  After several delays (months) the product finally arrived.    My initial reaction was how ummm unsubstantial the device looked.  It's a very thin light plastic frame with a bunch of clear plastic bubbles that make up the keys. It has a few rubbery adhesive strips around the edges to attach the keyboard to the screen.
  The initial experience was rather awkward. I wasn't sure what to expect but this feels like no keyboard I've used before.  I actually took typing in high school. I type all the time at work. I can typically type around 85 wpm without errors.  There are some things you have to immediately get use to. You want to make sure you press keys all the way down to the bottom to make sure each key press registers.  The travel distance feels ok it just you have to use more pressure than you are use to to which might lead to quicker hand fatigue.  The second big thing is the return key is where the apostrophe typically is.  You brain wants to switch into normal touch typing mode and you kind of forget you are typing on an iPad so you will get some inadvertent returns.  I'm sure that will get better over time with more practice. I also notice as you push for speed you have to make sure your fingers land on the actual bubble and not the frame around the bubble. This is made more difficult due to the size of the iPad keyboard since it is quite a bit more cramped and the keys are smaller than a normal keyboard.
  There is no arguing though.  You can definitely type faster with the iKeboard than without.  I'm not typing anywhere near 85 wpm but it's a definite improvement.  What is nice is you can type with just the iPad in your lap without the bulk of a keyboard or keyboard case. 
  I downloaded an app called TapTyping which the testing part is free. I was doing about 35-45 wpm without the iKeyboard and around 50-65 wpm with the iKeyboard after about 20min of practice. Also, without the iKeyboard I still had to glance down at the keys quite often and my hands had to hover over the touch screen where with the iKeyboard I never had to look down and was truly touch typing with my hands/fingers resting on the iKeyboard. So expect a 15-20 wpm improvement. That might get even better with practice.
  I use a powersupport anti-glare screen protector. I was afraid that sticking and removing this thing again and again would cause issues like air bubbles or lift up the screen protector. I just slowly peel the corner closest to the middle of the iPad. So far it doesn't seem to have messed anything up.
  The smart cover still works with the iKeyboard in the default location which is nice. What I'm not sure is what to do with it when I'm not going to be doing a lot of typing. I don't want the adhesive pads to get lint on it. I guess I could just put it back in its original packaging. It says to use scotch tape to delint the pads if they ever get dirty.

    Recommended. I think a lot of people's initial reaction is that is all you get for $35? From a straight materials perspective it looks to be more like a $5-$10 product.  From all the kickstarter updates I can tell there is probably a substantial R&D cost he is trying to recover. You really can tell a lot of thought went into the design.  I can't think of what could have been done differently to make it better off the top of my head except maybe somehow make the frame around the buttons a bit thinner (but maintain structural integrity) and the bubbles a bit easier to push (but still spring back quickly enough). I guess the bottom line is are you getting $35 of actually usefulness out of the product. If you want improved touch typing while keeping the iPad as portable as possible without having to lug another device around that you have to keep charged then there really aren't that many options.  Just keep your expectations in line (don't expect apple Bluetooth keyboard like speeds) and I think you will be pleasantly surprised. I for one think this will be great for taking notes in meetings. Oh, and of course I typed this entire review in Pages with the iKeyboard. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Playstation Vita

PS Vita

Some very early impressions:
- Got the first edition bundle from amazon $350.  It came in yesterday.  It comes with a 4GB memory card (proprietary, yes FU sony), a pretty nice case, and the Little Deviants game.
- Yes I wanted 3G but I won't ever use the outrageous at&t data plans.  I'll be using my walmart virgin mobile mifi if I ever need internet on the go.  I figure the 3g will be handy for any gps location based services though it apparently will approximate with just wifi.
- I also picked up Uncharted Golden Abyss.  Uggg $50 from amazon:
- I also picked up the official screen protector made by sony for $10 from fry's.
- A class 10 32gb sdhc card cost around $33.  A 32 gb vita memory card is $100.  FFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU SONY!!!!!!!!!!
- I installed the screen protector pretty much perfectly without issue.  It has a handy alignment sheet that makes it pretty easy to get it on right.  Just do the usual clean room technique (steamy bathroom, scotch tape to lift every last bit of lint/dust off the screen before applying, smooth out air bubbles with a toothpick, use a piece of scotch tape to lift and re-position if you don't nail it on the first try).  It's very clear and feels pretty good to glide your finger across it.
- It's big and pretty heavy but it does look nice as far as the actual physical design and feels good in the hands.  I can say after a few hours of play it still feels quite comfortable to hold.
- The analog sticks work better than the psp and tons better than a touch screen but don't expect the precision of a full sized controller.  There just isn't enough travel distance in those tiny analog sticks so you have to use a gentle touch or turn down sensitivity a bit in games like Uncharted to make aiming easier.  I need a real fps to give it a really good try.
- Battery life states between 3-5 hrs while gaming.  From drain tests I've read it out performs the 3ds by quite a bit.  I played uncharted for about 1.5 hrs last night and the battery only went down maybe 25%.  So far I'm quite impressed with the battery life.
- Battery is NOT removable.  FU SONY!!!!  Having had a battery completely die in one of my recent dual shock 3 controllers this does NOT bode well.  
- It comes with a 5v, 1.5A power supply and a usb cable that terminates to the proprietary vita port.  You can also charge off of any usb port but that only supplies 500ma standard so you can't do it while in stand by.  You must completely power off the vita.  I love how nobody follows any standards for > 500ma usb power charging.  Apple, hp touchpad, vita, all these devices won't charge at > 500ma without their own proprietary charges.  There really needs to be a global standard for high amp usb charging.  FYI, my iPhone chargers don't seem to work at all but hooking it up to a pc does work.  So it seems pretty picky about what usb chargers will work with this thing.  Make sure you enable usb charging in the settings.  It's a checkbox you must check.  I believe it is off by default.
- The big OLED display is rather stunning.
- This thing has a mass of ports and slots: you have the sim card slot on the left, the memory card slot on the bottom, headphone jack on the bottom, the vita game card slot on the top along with an odd accessory port.  
- A2DP stereo bluetooth headphones work great.  I can even prioritize using the mic on the headset over the built in vita mic.
- It's awesome that every game released on retail shelves you can buy and download through PSN.  These download version seem to be around $5 off the full retail price.  Games take a lot of space though.  Uncharted is 3.2GB and wipeout is 1.6GB.  If you are going to go all download then you'll probably need that 32GB memory card but I think that beats having to keep track of a bunch of tiny game cards.
- It uses a sheets metaphore that you can then rip off and discard to close running apps.  It's similar to the cards in webOS.  On the sheet there are usually links to the game's website and if there is an update there will be a little download icon.  I like it! 
- The basic home screen is very similar to iOS except landscape oriented.  It works fine.
- What is up with background downloads.  It seems to work fine when just messing around on the home screen but as soon as the system goes into standby the download stops.  Worse yet you can't turn off auto stand by (only adjust between 1-5 min) EVEN when connected to the power adapter.  The only way I can make this thing stay on is to take a few pictures with the camera and then set it to slideshow mode.  That seems to be the work around to keep the device on when you are trying to download multi GB games.  UPDATE:  It seems that backgrounds DO work if you let the auto sleep kick in.  If you manually put it in stand by then the download stops.  If you let 1 - 5 min elapse without touching it (depending on your setting) then downloads will continue with or without power.  Still, it would have been better if it was more consistent (again more silly sony confusion).
- The first thing you need to do when you turn it on?  You guessed it....system update.  What's worse about it is it won't let you sign in with your existing psn account until you update but the initial setup wizard won't let you finish until you sign in to psn so you have to do this really confusing thing and pick demo psn account or something just to get past the initial setup.  After that, you can do a system update and then sign in with your existing PSN account.
- Tried remote play very briefly with the ps3.  It works but I don't think I'll use it much.  There just isn't much support for it.
- Since the memory card is proprietary it's a good thing it has a built in content management app.  This thing lets you backup and transfer data between your Vita and a ps3 or your pc/mac (after you install a little tray application).  You can transfer individual pieces of media both directions including your downloaded games and saves or do an entire system backup/restore.  It will be handy when moving from the 4GB to the 32GB memory card.  FYI, vita shows up in file explorer but doesn't list anything.
- Packaging is almost non existent.  Apparently Sony no longer prints any manuals.  Games come with just the game card in the box and NOTHING else.  There isn't even a printed vita manual.  They want you to get all that stuff either on the vita or the web. 
- It has the usual mp3, video player etc and some location based social network thing called near.  I'll have to dig into that more later.
- UPDATE: I just got my 32GB memory card.  I had recently did a complete backup of the 4GB and just restored to my new 32GB and it worked great.
- I did have one case where the vita completely locked up.  I was testing the camera and shot a few photos.  Then I tried a movie and at 10 sec it just stopped and saved "saving" and there it sat.  To force a power off you have to hold the power button down like 15 sec.  The movie mode worked fine the second time I tried it.
- OLED still looks pretty bad in direct sunlight even at full brightness.


- I love the series and have finished the first 2 games.  I'll pick up #3 when it's a bit cheaper.  With about 1.5 hrs into it so far it's almost every bit as good as the ps3 versions.  The graphics and framerate are great. The writing isn't quite as sharp but the voice acting is still solid.  There is a variety of control methods.  I like how there are in many cases 2 -3 ways to do things either with the newfangled touch  (front and back) and tilt or traditional controls.  This game really does try to accommodate every type of player.
- They really beefed up the collecting aspect and some of it seems a tad less optional.
- I found aiming a bit more difficult with the tiny analog sticks so I turned on auto aim (it's off by default) which helps a lot.

Little Deviants
- I tried it for like 5 min.  It seems like your typical collection of mini games that demo every input aspect of the device with augmented reality gyro stuff thrown in.  I'll have to spend a bit more time to get any kind of real impression.

Wipeout 2048
- I decided to buy this game over PSN.  The graphics are great!  It's the wipeout that you know and love.  Load times are pretty horrible.  PSN purchased games of course work just fine without an internet connect.

Super Stardust
- Picked up the complete package for $15 on PSN.  It makes really nice use of all the input features of the vita.  Dual sticks work great obviously.  Tilt is only used to make some camera angle adjustments which you can reset what neutral is.  Back touch pad is used for making black holes.  It all works really well.

Recommended with reservations.  I think it's a bit pricey right now for what you get.  It's proprietary all as heck and  they price gouge you at every opportunity.  In the age where we are use to 99 cents - $10 games on tablets and phones that look pretty good trying to swallow a $50 game is kind of hard.  Yes, you can see how much more meaty, high production values, AAA ish the titles are but that is a LOT more money to ask for.  $30 would have felt more appropriate IMO.  I don't think 3G is worth it so the $250 base model is probably the better deal.  Just realize you pretty much have to buy a memory card and if you plan to go all download just eat the $100 and get the 32GB.  The 4GB really is too small.  If you have the disposable income and you crave that ps3 like console experience with real controls in a portable package then yeah I don't think you will be disappointed.  If you are an uncharted fan then that alone justifies the system purchase at least for me.

UPDATE 2/24/2012:

From ps vita
Thanks to the anonymous comment that posted a link on how to modify a usb extension cable so you can charge the Vita with pretty much any usb charger.  I decided to give it a try.  The modification took maybe 10 min to do and wasn't hard at all.  Just make sure you cut carefully and you won't even cut the red and black wires.  I tested it out with a variety of usb chargers, iphone charger, and external batteries and they all worked great while the Vita was completely off and even in stand by.  I added more photos to the album.

- I tried a bunch more demos.  Unit 13 is a pretty good 3rd person shooter.  The aiming with the right analog stick seems to work better than uncharted.  I might get the full version when it comes out.
- I was never a Rayman fan or really that much into platformers but I completed Rayman Origins demo, and it was a lot more fun than I expected.  The graphics and art really are great, and the controls are spot on.
- Lumines is well a really pretty lumines.  I remember playing it quite a bit with my launch psp but I think I'm pretty much done with lumines.
- Asphalt is your typical iOS gameloft game.  It's not a bad burnout ripoff but it isn't particularly great or inspired.  Same with Dungeon Hunter.  I have pretty much all the gameloft games (I always grab them when they is a 99 cent sale), and at that price point I think they are much more worth it.
- A bunch of apps came out.  Netflix looks nice on the oled and works well.  There are also flickr, facebook, twitter, etc apps out now.
- Have you noticed almost nobody includes a wrist strap anymore?  Anyways, I found some on ebay.  You get 20 for $3 shipped (seller: supersaving360).  

Friday, February 10, 2012

Skyrim (XBOX 360 and PC)

Yes, I like the game so much I bought it twice.  I picked up the 360 version on launch day but didn't get around to playing it until much later (I was trying to finish Rage first....yeah don't ask).  I just picked up the PC version this week since it went on sale for $40 on steam and to check out some of the cool mods.

WARNING: There might be what some people consider to be very minor spoilers but nothing plot related.

XBOX 360 / General Info
- Looks great to me.  Having three 360's and cloud saves lets me easily switch rooms depending on what the family is currently occupying.
- Finished the main quest line at level 50, 83 hrs with companions and all but the last thieves guild quest (I wanted to keep the skeleton key).  I'm currently working getting the remaining words of power and then I'll begin the Civil war quest line.  I'll probably go stomrcloaks with this character.  The Imperials almost took my head off and  yeah I don't forget or forgive!!!
- I stuck to first person POV for 99% of the time.
- I really like two wiki's.  The first one is great for general information and quest info.  The second is good for looking up locations:
I'm not going to link a whole lot in this article since you can just search for it in the uesp wiki.
- My build was a very traditional one: one hand sword, heavy armor, block, with archery for some ranged firepower, and during the mid game I dabbled a bit in conjuration.
- Smithing and enchanting are both super powerful and worth leveling.  Though once you hit level 50 or so you pretty much 1-2 shot everything including dragons.
- If you decide to power level some professions I suggest you sink your talent points into your main build areas.  So for me that would be the ones I listed above.  That way you don't end up getting out leveled by the enemies around you.  It doesn't happen that much anyways in Skyrim as compared to Oblivion with the way scaling works now.
- I did choose to power level smithing (create about 450 - 500 iron daggers will get you to 100 smithing, faster if you have the appropriate stone buff).  During this entire time, every time I leveled I would go train with one of the companions for free (make them a follower first, train your 5 levels, trade with them and get your gold back, dismiss them and pick back up the follower you prefer to use).
- Enchanting was a bit tougher which I didn't max out until I was in my mid 40's level wise.  I would buy up every single lesser and petty soul gem I could find (filled or empty).  There are at least 3 people who carry soul gems in whiterun (your wife,Belethor,Farengar) .  Try and find a weapon (sometimes merchants will have one for sale) with a soul trap enchant on it and learn it so you can enchant your own weapon with soul trap (1 sec duration, max charges).  Then go crazy trying to fill as many soul gems as possible while questing.  Come back and enchant all those iron daggers you made from smithing with the priciest enchants you have (banish is by far the most profitable with absorb health being second, do both once you max enchanting).  Now you can sell these enchanted daggers for big profits.  Soon, money won't be an issue at all.  I'm sitting on over 80K gold right now.
- I did the black star quest pretty early on, and I went with the black star choice which can absorb any soul.  If I'm on a quest with humanoid enemies I would recharge my soul trap sword with the black star before I killed another humanoid which would just refill the black star.  You keep doing these frequent recharges, and it also helps level up your enchanting.
- Once you max out enchanting make sure you spend perks to get dual enchants (I picked all perks except the far right branch).  Read this on optimizing.  I didn't go quite that crazy since I hate alchemy.  Even with alchemy in the 20's I was able to create a one hand daedric sword with base damage of 361.  The key thing is using 4 fortify one hand enchants that ALL STACK that increases your weapon damage to crazy levels.  Add to that a fiery soul trap (3 sec duration) plus absorb health (max absorption) enchant and you become pretty unstoppable.  For the bow I tried to make a mage killer: paralysis and shock.  I'm thinking now though I should have probably went with fiery soul trap + paralysis.  For the rest of the pieces I went with a mix of increasing max health, stamina, block, and heavy armor and a bit of magicka on the helm.
- Remember, once you enchant an item there is no undo.  This also means once you get dual enchant you can't add a 2nd enchant to an item already enchanted.  I you have to start with a clean item and then put both enchants on at once.  It's nice that the process only takes 1 grand soul gem though.
- On the other hand you can continually improve weapons and armor through blacksmithing.  So as you improve your blacksmithing (or have a better fortify restoration pot) you can go back to the grinding stone or workbench and further improve your gear.
- For armor I'm basically in dragon bone.  For weapons I'm using daedric.  If you are short on materials on either of those try ebony.  The ebony ingots are pretty easy to get from the 3 blacksmiths + general merchants in whiterun.  Basically, if you are selling enchanted daggers usually the merchants don't have near enough gold.  So I would always buy up all the ebony ingots they had and then sell them my daggers and drain them of all their gold.  I now have 100's of ingots which to cheaply craft ebony weapons and armor which I can experiment with different enchantments or give to my follower.  The main things I always buy from merchants are lockpicks, ebony ingots, and high end arrows.
- Go get married early to pick up a nice food buff, sleeping xp buff, and a cozy little profit.  I married Camilla Valerius in Riverwood since you should have already met her quest requirement (golden claw).  She also becomes a merchant which is just another source for you to sell your stuff.
- Fast travel is very convenient and you can pay a small amount of gold to ride the carriages (there is one right at whiterun stables) to get to any of the major cities to unlock them.
- I started with Lydia as my follower for about the first half of my play time.  I recommend switching to Mjoll if you want a good melee 2 hand/archer follower.  She's a bit chatty (some people like that) but it seems like she can't be perma killed (unlike Lydia which I had to reload many times b/c I found her dead after some of the harder fights).
- For follower enchants I used fiery soul trap + paralysis on all their weapons.  Give them a few soul gems and some empty ones and they will be self sufficient as far as keeping their weapons charged up and filling a few soul gems to boot.  On armor I stuck on fortify health and carry weight wherever I could making them the best pack mule they can be!
- My horses keep dying or getting lost.  I'm thinking about doing dark brotherhood just to get Shadowmere.  I had Frost but he somehow died or disappeared.  Yeah, I have bad luck with horses.
- Steed stone is by far my favorite especially for heavy armor.
- Keep visiting the greybeards for more words of power locations if you are trying to collect them all.
- When looting always look at the weight to value ratio and not just the value.  You want to pick up the stuff that is worth the most for the least amount of carrying weight.
- There were some odd performance issues that happens maybe once every 15 hrs.  The framerate would just tank to single digits and become pretty much unplayable.  It only seems to happen in certain dungeons.  A reload of a save usually fixes it.  It doesn't happen that often but when it does it is quite annoying.
- Lately, I crafted a new set of ebony and enchanted it all out for archery.  I'm experimenting with an archery build and then dual wield as backup.  On this bow I decided to use fiery soul trap and paralysis.  It takes longer to kill things but it's definitely a lot of fun especially after you sink a few points into the archery tree.  I'm basically getting all the skills up the left side of the tree.  Dual wield does pretty crazy damage even without any points in it.

- Trying out a pure mage High Elf destruction build.  I'll probably hit the mage's college early on to check that quest line out.
- Graphics look even better at 1080p + the new free hd texture pack dlc.
- I love the quicker save/load times.  This is by far the biggest difference I notice.  Even with the disc installed on the 360 load times take way too long.  Quick save/load is also a very nice pc only feature.
- Mods Mods Mods which is the main reason I bought the PC version too.  My 360 game is my pure experience while I plan to mod out the PC version quite a bit.
- First of all I'm not really using steam workshop as of yet since without a search feature it's pretty much dead to me.  Instead go here for all your modding needs:
(UPDATE: As I was writing this steam workshop finally got a search bar and most of the mods I listed are there too).
- Make sure you install this first:
which makes managing your mods a lot easier.
Current mods I'm using:
SkyUI - The best UI replacement.  You must install SKSE first though (read the readme.  It's easy).

I also wanted to make skyrim with a bit more ummm eye candy but still making it safe to play around family.
CBBE (with the nevernude option, Make sure you follow the .ini modification needed if you have the texture pack installed)
Better females by Bella (for that glam look.  I still hate bethesda faces.  They were a bit better in skyrim though).
Killer Keos Skimpy CBBE V2 Armor Set -Work In Progress (for ummm more interesting looking armor)
- I've only had the PC version for a few days so I'm still exploring the mod scene.
- Regardless of what the title says I think these console commands would make you feel like a cheater but still these could come in handy:
- Runs pretty well on my macbook pro 15" mid 2010.  I actually got the cider wrapper to work but it was still a pretty big fps hit even at low settings (felt at least 10fps slower than bootcamp).  In bootcamp I'm getting a very acceptable 30-45 fps with a mix of low - medium settings.  I'm using the dropbox symbolic link trick to keep my save files in sync between this and my gaming desktop.
- Runs at a nice clip of 30-50 fps at ultra settings with the hd texture pack.
- UPDATE: So I deactivated all my mods in nexus and subscribed to them all in steam workshop.  When you launch the regular launcher it downloads all your mods and will check for updates too.  This is tied to your steam account so it carries across multiple installations/pc's too which is very nice.  Just make sure before you play you at least fire up the regular launcher to get any mod updates, close the launcher down, and then launch skse like usual.  Here are the equivalent steam workshop links for the mods I'm using:
Better females by Bella
Killerkeo's Simpy Armor Pack WIP

Highly recommended.  Any game that has me coming back for more even after 83 hrs and "finishing" the game and then getting me to buy it twice says something.  It's vast in content and yet all of it feels high quality and dense.  It's open ended open world yet it has so many really good solid plot quests.