The comedy of errors that is the Razer Store.

So, for many months now I’ve been extolling the virtues of the killer combo that is a Razer Blade paired with a Razer Core. I know of 3 colleagues I talked into the pair, plus many more whom I’ve planted the seed in and may or may not have pulled the trigger without me knowing. It’s a great setup, especially if you want to move away from having “too many computers” and, like me, have a core gaming desktop as well as a day to day laptop.

In August, my MacBook Pro’s video card started to give out. It’s 4 years old, so it’s understandable and no hard feelings. After much research I decided to take my own advice and buy the recently released New Blade from Razer and pair it with a Core with a 1080 inside. About the start of September, I went to pull the trigger and that’s where the fun began. What follows is a timeline of the absolute comedy of errors that began that is so ridiculous I can’t even be mad… and only just laugh at this story. It’s a long read, but that’s because it’s a meticulously detailed timeline of events for maximum impact and reliability. I promise you it’s worth the read.

Sept. 5th – I finally decided to pull the trigger and to order a Core and Blade combo to replace my desktop and aging (and literally melting) MacBook Pro laptop all in one go. First tried to go online to the special Partner store, since as a employee of a game studio partnered with Razer, I am able to get a few minimal but none the less nice discounts. Unfortunately, the promotion they are running for $100 off a Core when purchasing a New Blade is not offered on the Partner store. Also, no New Blade’s are listed on the store either, only the legacy ones. (As I learned later there is a 3 month lag for new products on the partner store. Lame, but I can rationalize the reasoning on that to some degree and no major complaints). 

I then went to the regular store url/login with my personal account. The promotional bundle was offered, but the New Blades were currently listed on back-order with no date for future availability. The only option is to sign up to be notified when on sale… so I signed up and eagerly wait!

Sept. 21st (ish) – I receive an email stating the New Blades will once again be shipping in October, and are preorder-able on Oct 2nd at 9 am PST. I set an alarm to remind myself to hop on immediately at that time and preorder one, just in case.

Oct. 2 – I hop out of bed bright and early in my hotel room at Twitchcon and ordered my New Blade and Core together at 9:02 AM just as it unlocked. The Core is listed to ship on Oct 14th, and Blade Pro is listed on back-order until Oct 28th. Remember this. 😉

While ordering, I found code online for a free $49 messenger bag if ordering a Blade. I put the code in, because I love free stuff! The order form accepted the code and confirmed the free bag. 6 hours later, the order confirmation was emailed to me (seems kind of long? Was a bit worried something went wrong up until then due to demand or something.)

I also discover at this time that the $100 off discount was not applied. Apparently you don’t get it automatically? The discount appears to be emailed as a promo code as part of the order confirmation email, once your order has been processed and subsequently confirmed. Instructions state it must be applied separately to a different Core order to be claimed?!

Oct. 4th – After chatting options with a friend at Razer for advice, I reached out to Support to find out how to get the $100 credit applied to my order. unfortunately, the support form is limited to 550 characters only. No email, no phone. Very hard to explain most problems in so few words but I managed it. The Support form gave me an auto email to expect a reply in up to 1-2 business days, as to be expected. Later in the same day, I received an unrelated email stating the following: 

“Thank you for ordering from the RazerStore. As indicated during checkout, one or more of the products you ordered is currently unavailable and cannot be shipped. You will receive an email notification when your order has been shipped.

Estimated shipping period

Razer Basic Messenger Bag: null”

Looking farther down email, there is an additional section: 

“note:The item(s) in your order will only ship once all item(s) are ready for shipment.”

Wait, does this mean that even if the core and blade are ready to ship, the whole order will be held for this mystery bag with a “null” ship date? In paranoia, I open second support ticket, asking about this issue in detail.

Oct. 5th – Support has replied to my first ticket. They explained that they are unable to apply the promotional credit, and that if I want to get the $100 off of my Core, I must cancel my order and start over by ordering the blade first, wait for the confirmation email with code, then use that code to order a core separately.

“Hi, J.

Thank you for contacting RazerStore.com

We are sorry that we are unable to add promotional code in any order that has already been placed.

https://store.razerzone.com/DRHM/store?Action=DisplayHelpPage&SiteID=razerusa&Locale=en_US

At this time, we can cancel your order and allow you to submit a new order. Please let us know if you want us to attempt a cancellation.

If we attempt the cancellation, you will be notified by email that the cancellation was successful. If unsuccessful, your order will ship as originally placed.

Hoping to hear from you for your decision.

Thank you for your time and understanding.

Sincerely,

Team RazerStore.com

Later that day, the other ticket is replied to saying that they cannot confirm for sure if the order status of the messenger bag would hold up the rest of the order or not. I’m told that it should not have actually been made available and is indefinitely out of stock and no longer officially offered as a promotion. Additionally, they are unable to make any changes or adjustments to my orders promotional codes and that if I wanted to cancel the order and start over they were happy to do so.

I responded to the first email confirming that yes, I would like to cancel the order and start over, in that case. (Especially in light of all the above nonsense). They respond they have “requested” a cancellation, and stressed this is not actually confirmation it has been canceled. Was told I need to wait for a cancellation confirmation email before it’s *actually* canceled. The confirmation eventually came about two days later. Why on earth does that need to happen or take so long? Who knows. I then tried to make two new orders. First I ordered the New Blade, in HD (not the QHD+) with a 1TB HD.

However, the order form rejected my billing address confirmation, telling me I needed to enter a “valid value” for State and country, highlighting them in red. Note: These are pre-filled drop downs, not text. I simply picked the options that applied (CA, US). It kept rejecting them over and over again, until I hard-refreshed the page, wiping out the form entirely and starting over.

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Oct. 6th – Still no order confirmation the following morning. Without it, I can’t order the Core, and I’m also becoming worried that I may slip back into a further batch of Blades. On a whim, I decided to check my order history, out of idle curiosity. It actually showed duplicate entries for every order! There were 12 line items for 3 simply orders, each repeated 4 times. This is really weird and confusing, and obviously a bug of some kind. Also still showed my recent order as “In Process” a whole day later.

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Later that day, roughly 26 hours after the initial order, I finally get my order confirmation with a discount code for the core. (Irony… the discount code looks to be the SAME as the one from the first ever order.. It’s apparently not a unique code? Either that or it’s keyed to my email or something and the same for just me. Had I known that, I wouldn’t have waited!) I order a Core it using this code, getting my nice $100 discount. Again however, I experience the EXACT SAME bug with the state/country drop down! I hard refresh once more, and this fixes it. I think it’s possibly related to chrome’s automatic filling of known address info at this point. At this time, it’s important to note for reasons below that the Razer Core still has a shipping date of October 14th and the New Blade is Oct 28th. Sounds good to me!

Oct. 15th – Still no shipping confirmation for my Core, which was due out the day before. I begin checking the order status page daily because I am an impatient nerd who wants his shiny toys! The store site still says it’s shipping Oct. 14th when I checked on the 15th, and 16th, and I believe I looked again on the 17th (my notes are fuzzy there). My order confirmation also says the 14th still, I checked to make sure I wasn’t crazy.

Oct. 18th – I check the order status, still no updates! However, the Core listing in the Store *now* says “back ordered, ships from 10/28”.  I was given zero emails or heads up about this new delay however. A silent stealth update to the site? Not great customer service experience. Totally understanding things happen, but an email/update would really have been nice.

Oct. 19 – A New Blade Pro has just been announced. Shit. Do I still want a New Blade, or do I want the Pro? Is a pro better for my needs? Does the Pro even need a Core with it’s sexy new gpu? It the Pro too big in size for my needs though? I almost have buyers remorse before I even have the product. I don’t know what to do. The New blade doesn’t ship for another week. Also I now know details about the rumored MacBook Pro refresh coming next week. It might be a better solution and at this rate will arrive sooner .Maybe it’s better to cancel and wait and see how reviews pan out? I reach out to cancel my Blade order (even though it risks missing out on another back-order window) to wait and see the right options for me, since this is no small investment. Definitely lots of sudden decision making to be made.

I am told by support that because I used the discount code for the Core, I have to cancel the Core order also. Fair enough, that makes total sense to me, so I cancel both orders. I am again told the order cancellation has been requested, but not confirmed, until I receive such an email.

Oct. 20th – The email confirmation that my Blade order was successfully canceled arrives. (but I failed to notice there was not one about my core).

Oct. 24th – 4 emails came in at the exact same time together (3:39AM) in one batch with identical time stamps.

  1. Shipping confirmation of Core stating it has just gone out.
  2. Email stating they were unable to successfully cancel my core order (duh?).
  3. Email stating they have put in a request to issue a return order for my core as a courtesy due to my existing cancellation request. (Wow thanks!)
  4. Email confirming the cancellation request and accepting my return order, with return instructions and a mailing address. (With the implied instructions that I need to pay the cost of shipping myself to return it to the listed address in Hong Kong, to get the refund.)

Then, at 9:30 am that same morning my core arrives at my office suddenly!

Yeah. That happened.

I run the numbers on FedEx and UPS to estimate shipping costs to return the core for my refund. Retail costs for a one-off shipment of this size and weight come back at $300 and $250 respectively. Totally impractical to do in order to get a refund on a $400 order! Both return-related emails come from “do not email this address” accounts so following up on this hurdle is now difficult for me.

Well, I guess I’ll just sit on this Core for now… I may still end up with a blade, and in THEORY it’s supposed to work with any USB C laptop, including that plan B mac.

Oct. 27th – After reading initial reviews on the Pro, it seems it really isn’t the laptop for me. Additionally I am not satisfied with the details on the new MacBook Pro so I went ahead and placed a fresh order for the New Blade, in the HD 1TB model. Since I’m stuck with this Core that I can’t really return easily, I figured why not. I placed the order, and as expected, I was told it is still on back-order, due to ship on October 28th (the next day) as before.

Oct. 29th – Checking to see if my Blade has shipped yet, I now see that the QHD+ model is currently shipping as of the day before, as is expected, but that the HD model that I had ordered now reads “Available for Pre-order. Ships from 11th November, 2016.” It would appear it has slipped 2 weeks… sadly for me this is the day after I leave for Japan for a week so it leaves me without the laptop for my travels. 🙁

Nov. 2nd – On a whim, I’m not sure why, I felt the urge to check the pre-order status of the laptop again. It now reads the following: “Available for Pre-order. Ships from 28th November, 2016.” Well, guess we had ourselves yet another stealth slip it would seem… *sigh*

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Nov. 4th – I woke up to the following email:

Hi.

Thank you for your order of Razer Blade with FHD – 1TB.

Order number: ****************

We regret to inform you that due to unexpected shipment delays, we can ship the product only from November 28, 2016

Our bad. We are sorry.

We do have ready stock of the upgraded Razer Blade QHD 512GB or Razer Blade QHD 1TB, and would like to give you priority to purchase it. In addition, we will offer you a Free Gift of a Razer Blade Armor Caseif you wish to take up the offer.

To take up the offer to upgrade,

  1.       Please make the purchase within the next 5 business days

http://www.razerzone.com/store/razer-blade

  • Provide us the new order number so we may cancel the old order.
  • Once your new Razer Blade QHD 512GB or Razer Blade QHD 1TBhas shipped, you will receive an email with your tracking information.
  1.       Instructions to redeem Free Gift of a Razer Blade Armor Casewill follow 7 days after your order ships.

Should you choose to continue to wait for your Razer Blade with FHD – 1TB, we will go ahead to keep you in our waiting list.

Once again, our sincere apologies. We value your business and appreciate your patience and understanding.

Sincerely,

Team RazerStore

Well, at least you guys emailed me this time I guess… Though 2 days late. I then went to the store to look up the listing for shits and giggles. The order page for the 1TB HD Blade no longer has a “preorder/shipping 28th” status. The purchase button has now been replaced with a “notify me” button, and the release date has been replaced with “Register your interest”.

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Oooookaaaaay. Let’s just say at this point I have zero fucking confidence that this thing is actually shipping Nov 28th.

After sharing this story around with some friends, I learn from one of them they had a very similar experience and ended up buying theirs on Amazon.com. Wait what?! I look and lo and behold Amazon has them currently in stock!! I just ordered it there, right now, with overnight shipping for an additional $9, and requested to cancel the previous order via the Razer store once and for all.

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JEEZE!!!

Any one of these things, or even two, is likely a minor annoyance, but the combined force of this ridiculousness is beyond ludicrous. C’mon Razer 🙁 Just ditch Digital River as your store vendor already and do this in house. I know you could do so better at this if you  just put a vested ownership into the experience!

EDIT- 11/6/16:  Just got the shipping confirmation from Amazon.com! The laptop HAS shipped. a Razer Blade DOES physically exist with my name on it and is en-route! It was set for next day delivery, and due to ship out Monday, so there is even a chance it may arrive tomorrow!

EDIT 2 – 11/7/16: So everything wasn’t *quite* as sunshine and rainbows as the last update seemed. For the next stage in the saga, check out part two of this adventure!

So I finally got around to The Witcher 3

I was a bit late to the Witcher 3 party. I’ve owned the game in my expansive (5 figure count) steam library for some time, but just never played it. I saw the praises, I saw the awards, I saw the review scores… but for some reason nothing ever made me feel compelled to play. Then, this summer, I took the plunge.

Wow.

I know you’ve probably read a million reviews, or played the game yourself. Still, I want to write my thoughts down, if anything, for myself. I understand the praise now, I truly do. I play a lot of games… a lotYet nothing compares to this experience. I truly feel, without any hyperbole, that this game was the best game I have ever played.

RPGs are tricky beasts. You want a lot of engaging content, but that means you need to fill that content out thoroughly. Usually, even the best games of the genre have this quasi three-tier system to their content: The main story, the secondary stuff, and the tertiary random filler. The first of the three usually has well thought out, well scripted, well voiced content that’s fully engaging and advances the story. The second, usually is a little less on those marks, but still of an okay quality and sometimes affects the story as an option. Lastly, the third is basically quickie throw away “go fetch me X number of Y” content, sometimes without even VO and interactions. With this game however, it’s more like a two-tier system, with the second tier only barely sitting below the first. Even the most fluff of fluffy filler content felt compelling, engaging, fun, and I had to stop to think to even realize it wasn’t actually part of the main quest. The “secondary” quests felt every bit as well thought out and written as the primary arcs, and there was never a time, ever, where I was off killing something or collecting some item going “why the heck am I doing this? It means nothing to the end-game! I should be getting back to getting into Yennifer’s pants!”

Few of the games mechanics or systems felt like they were without thought or careful design as well. The one complaint I had was, quite frankly, that I’m a busy person and I don’t have time to devote to “busy work” within a game like I used to. Because of that I loaded up a few basic mods to make my life easier… I removed the rather restrictive weight limits and enabled the ability to fast travel from anywhere, not just a sign post. That was pretty much about it, other than graphics tweaks however.

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The scenery and views were amazing, I caught myself framing perfect shots for my collection just because. (having a beefy enough system to run the game at max helps with this!) The world is so open and fluid that it was a genuine treat sitting on top of a fortress on a mountainside, looking miles off in the distance, across the water at times, and seeing buildings and towns far away that I knew I could just walk right on over to any time I want.

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The characters were endearing, well fleshed out, and quite personable. I found myself looking forward to engaging with them and continuing the story, and did not find myself perusing romantic engagements not on a whim but because I had a natural desire to see my Geralt grow as a person and find some sense of harmony in his turbulent life.

Then there is the writing, the VO, the Lore, the environment design, just… man it’s overwhelming, the content and world.

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For the first time in my life, I have put down a game and felt a sense of loss. There is a part of me that now feels empty and hollow because I am no longer Geralt of Rivia. I wore him like a second skin in my free time for weeks, and now it just feels weird to close that chapter for good. (DLC not withstanding!)

Before I go though, I have to admit one thing, the game is not without it’s bugs. Aside from one that broke a side quest that basically prevented me from accomplishing something major that I really wanted to do for the game-world to make it a better place, they were mostly comically and quickly went away. I think I’ll share my favorite with you because it left me in stitches for the entire day…

The (not so insane) case for omitting Punkbuster in Battlefield 1

The early 2000s were a dark time in the FPS world. In the days of old, cheating was rampant, as anyone from the original Counter-Strike days can tell you. There is a saying in the anti-cheat world: “Build a better mousetrap, and they will build a better mouse.” The problem, however, was that for a many number of years, no one was even building mouse traps.

Enter Punkbuster, a creation of a coalition of angry gaming community people who were tired of the rampant cheating. At the time time, it was a godsend. You, the run-of-the-mill server administrator, could drop this module into your game server, tweak a few settings, and now the mice had a mousetrap to contend it. Was it perfect? No. Was it infallible? Nope. Did it at least help? You betcha!

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The mice evolved, and so did the mouse trap. Over time the storied tug of war of hacks vs. anti-cheat escalated as they always do, but this option held back the great unwashed masses of many an offender. There were false positives, there were people who would steal others GUIDs (Global Unique ID) and get them banned for fun, and there were other headaches… but it was an opt-in system. A game server admin could elect to turn on or off any part of the system at will, (or the whole system entirely). The cost benefit analysis was up to the server admin and their community to agree upon, so there were few surprises and consequences were manageable.

This brings us today… 2016. A far, far cry from the early 2000s. These days, first party anti-cheat systems are on the rise… and they are quite impressive pieces of technology. Blizzard’s “Warden”, Valve’s “VAC”, and so on, have set the standard for first party solutions. These systems outclass Punkbuster in many ways, especially in the false positive category, but most importantly, they are in house. The studio using them, also controls them. This is key! Accountability of the actions (and results) of these systems lie within the same walls as the platform on which they operate. It’s quite easy for Blizzard to go “oh crap, something went sideways for this guy, let’s reverse this ban.” or, as has happened before here at Riot, for a player to be banned for botting, only for our support staff to see clear evidence of an account compromise during that time frame and go “yeah it’s plain as day this wasn’t you” and reverse the ban during account recovery.

So, let me explain why this whole thing is in my head, and why I think Punkbuster has no place in Battlefield 1…

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In 2011, when Battlefield 3 came out (and repeated again with BF4 in 2013), DICE made the curious move to incorporate Punkbuster into the game as a required component. If a Battlefield 3(or 4) server is publicly accessible (meaning, not flagged to private and locked out to most folks), PB *must* be enabled on the server. No exceptions. This wasn’t, to the best of my knowledge, common before now. Some other studios had indeed bundled PB with their game’s dedicated servers, sure, but a forced-on implementation was a new one, at least from my understanding. Now, to be sure, it helped. It kept the game a lot saner than it could have been, that’s for sure!

Now, BF3 was one of the first major EA releases to come out in 2011 after the launch of Origin, and as such, was only available on that platform. One of the side effects of this was that your GUID tracked within Battlefield (and consequently PB) is keyed off of your Origin ID. No longer a hash of your computer hardware and game-specific username, this new format essentially “follows” your Origin account wherever it may be logged in, regardless of the computer in question.

For a while, when Origin was new, it was a bit behind in some technical areas. Having been around the team during that time, some really tough decisions had to be made about what was required for launch and what could be added down the road. This is a common decision making process at any studio and tech company, to ensure something was there for players in time for some key milestones and dependencies. This meant account security was a bit hit or miss for the first two years due to a lack of 2 Factor Authentication, for example. As a result, in late 2013 or early 2014 (my memory is hazy) there was a rash of account compromises in bulk that were seemingly part of some form of data breach. I, like many people, had my account compromised by (what at least appeared to be) a conglomerate of Russian hackers.  This went unnoticed by me for a few months, as no new releases came out to garner my attention and warrant logging into Origin. Then, along comes Dragon Age: Inquisition, (SUCH a good game by the way!) and I tried to log in. Uh oh! I went through the account recovery process, turned on the newly established 2FA, and life was good.

Then recently, in a wave of nostalgia with friends, I fired up Battlefield 3. Imagine my shock when I find out that every server I connect to instantly kicks me. Reading through the logs on a server I had control over, I come to find out my GUID is on the Punkbuster master ban list, and was added to it in early 2014! This ban extends to not only BF3, but *ANY* game that leverage Punkbuster who’s authentication methods stem from Origin. (IE all Dice games).

I have a string a documentation proving my account was compromised, Origin willingly acknowledges this issue. Punkbuster? Not a care is given to this. If one tries to appeal to Origin, they response is always the same “We have no control or authority over Punkbuster and all concerns on that need to be addressed to Even Balance.” On the Punkbuster side, any appeals to Even Balance fall on deaf ears. “We have no ownership over account security for Origin. Our only concern is that your GUID was linked to cheating, and placed on the master ban list. All decisions are final and irreversible.”

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So, this brings me to the point of this post: EA/Origin, by way of DICE, has turned over the keys to the kingdom for account bans for a subset of games to Punkbuster, a community controlled system. This third party, with no accountability or liability to EA, has the ability to say “you are hereby banned from all Origin games using PB” (which is this case is all DICE titles), because We Say So.

How is it, that a multi-million dollar publisher thinks it is a player-friendly, pro-consumer policy to say “you know what, let’s allow this other company whom we have no influence over to unilaterally ban our players, with no avenue for recourse by them or even ourselves.” Seriously. How does this make sense to anyone? If Battlefield 1 decides to ship with Punkbuster support, my account will be locked out of playing in any public online servers because of an account compromise that was beyond my control. Why on earth would I pay money for that experience?

Cheating is bad. It needs to be guarded against… but why can’t Dice/EA/Origin, make an in-house solution instead? One that they can have oversight on? Blizzard does it. Valve does it. Riot does it. Tons of studios do it. You are telling me EA thinks this is a better plan? Please.

Edit – 5/17/16 @ 10:23am: Curiously enough, when I woke up this morning I discovered my GUID was no longer on the master ban list. How it was removed I do not know, and I while I am grateful I can play again, it doesn’t really change how I feel about this situation, or the intent behind my post. Still, I am grateful to whomever looked me up and removed it.

RetroPie – Quick and easy rundown on your own Pi based Retro console!

I recently made a facebook post about setting up my RetroPie, and it spawned a lot of questions from folks on how I did it, how hard was it, etc. I figured if I just made a rundown on here about the whole process, it would be much easier to link to it than to repeatedly regurgitate the info over and over again.

…I’m lazy like that.

So, first off, the magic of having a retro “console” with a plethora of various platforms easily at your disposal comes thanks to the magic of the tried and true Raspberry Pi. Pi’s are powerfully little computers on a board the size of a credit card. The latest and greatest, known as the Raspberry Pi 2 are surprisingly powerful, with the B model (which have more USB ports) clocking in with a 900mhz quad core. They also have 1GB of ram, a dual core GPU, 4 USB ports, HDMI output, Ethernet, and a multiport GPIO block for various “shield” modules to be attached (TFT screen anyone?), all powered over a standard micro USB port… for about $39.00

In the case of mine, I went the “easy” route and got the CanaKit
off Amazon. It has a RaspberryPi 2 B, a power adapter, wi-fi adapter, 8GB micro SD card, HDMI cable, and plastic housing all-in-one for only $69.99. It basically covers everything you need to make a RetroPie, minus a controller! (May I suggest an Xbox 360 controller for that part?)

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After snapping it all together, the card already has Raspbian, the custom Pi-friendly flavor of Ubuntu, and you’re technically ready to go to setup RetroPie the “hard way”. To make life easier however, I just downloaded the latest RetroPie image off their repo over at github, as it has a Raspbian install with all the RetroPie components as well as the slick UI called EmulationStation ready to go.

Once you image the file to your micro SD card with the tool of your choice (I just used the tools native to my Macbook Pro) you simply boot it up with an Xbox 360 wired controller plugged in, while connected to your TV, and you’re set! It really is THAT easy! It will auto boot right into EmulationStation, calibrate your controller, and then load right in. There are however a few extra steps to get the very most out of it. These are all covered step by step in the RetroPie how-to, but essentially it’s just a matter of going through the menu and expanding your file system so that the install sees the max SD card space available, and configuring your WiFi to remove the need for an ethernet cable.

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To get ROMs onto your Pi, there are a few options available to you. The Pi will show up as a network share, and you can just drop the ROM files directly into the folder for the relevant console emulator from your PC/Mac. Alternatively, you can plug a blank USB thumb drive into the console and give it a few seconds to sync. Once done, you can pull it back out and place it into any PC/Mac you want, and you’ll now see that there is a new folder tree, named for each emulator platform. By dropping ROMs into the right folders and plugging it back into the RetroPi, it will automatically synchronize the folders with your Pi each time you do so. It’s handy, but I personally just stuck to dropping files into the network shares.

That’s really all there is to the basics. There’s a lot more customization and such you can do, but it’s sort of beyond the rundown I intended to provide here. This is more of a quick and dirty recap for my friends than meant to be an all-inclusive how-to for the internet at large, but there are TONS of other resources out there if you need more info.

One last thing.. if you *really* want to kick things up a notch, you can buy a module that plugs into the GPIO ports on the Pi and add SNES controller ports to your console. I’ve thought about it, but truth be told I’m pretty happy using an Xbox 360 controller. That said, I’m currently working on 3D Printing a new case that’s shaped like a (miniature) classic NES. Let me know if you want one printed! 😉

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Happy gaming!

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My Shepard had a choice

Let’s talk Mass Effect 3. I finally beat it last night, and was finaly able to look at all the internet rage under a microscope. I have been avoiding so many gaming sites for a week because of all the rage, and now that I am caught up, I am flabbergasted. (WARNING: HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Let me be clear, my ending, was amazing. I was left in awe.

First of all, the Mass Effect universe is a grand opus Bioware has crafted over 5 years. It is one of the deepest, richest, most engaging Sci-Fi universes I have ever seen. To have given it a sunshine and rainbows ending where everyone lives and all the world is at peace would do it great injustice. It would also be illogical and impractical.

My ending, I learned after the fact, was the best you could have. Presumably most everyone came out of it intact, and even Shepard was hinted at being alive at the last second. (more on that later).

First off there is the complaint of it being “too short”, I think this is ignorance. The “ending” did not start after your conversation with the Citadel’s entity and as you made your choice. At the very least the ending was as you stepped into the beam, or alternatively could even have arguable been when you landed on Earth and began the assault. If you really want to take it a step further, you could arguably claim that the end of the story started at the very beginning of ME3, and that the entire game was the unfolding of the end.

Along the same vein, there is the “that last cut-scene that matters most, and it isn’t good enough or different enough between the choices.” Folks, the resolution of the story is far more than a simple 4 minute cut scene. If you NEED to rely on a carefully scripted video that spells out every little detail for you in order to get closure on the story and are unable to think for yourself and use your imagination to fill in the blanks, then an RPG is not the right kind of game for you.

Next up is the whole “all choices were the same” bullshit. I don’t think so. You have three options available to you, that indelibly burn the future of the galaxy into your own personal cannon. In all cases, yes, the mass relays are destroyed and everyone loses their easy to access travel around the galaxy… technology created BY the reapers and the citadel entity for the sheer purpose of guiding organic life to its own whims. But you know what? So what. The choice you make DOES matter. In your own personal Shepard story the future is entirely decided by you. Do the reapers get wiped out? Do you seize control of them and make them work along side life in the galaxy to help nurture it? Or do you merge organic and synthetic life into a new form of intergalactic DNA? These are SERIOUSLY major differences that affect the future of the galaxy.

The “deus ex machina” complaint is silly as well. From the very opening cut scene, the stage is set for this. It’s hard to accuse Bioware of taking the easy way out and dropping this in as an ending, when they presenting to you the beginning of this in the first 20 minutes!!

Lastly, the whole “if you get the best ending, Shep wakes up in the rubble of London, this is proof the whole thing was a dream”. No it’s not. The citadel is a sentient being, you were beamed up to it using its own inherent technology, what is to stop it from choosing to beam you back down to save you at the last second? Attaching the crucible, according to it, opened up a world of new possibilities it was not prepared to expect. Along with that, when breaking the cycle you may have very well also opened its eyes to other things it could do, such as save you.

In the end I think everyone needs to sit back and take a deep breath. The people of Bioware chose to tell us a deep and engaging story, one of life, death, and consequences. One of you cant always get what you want, but where if you try to make a difference you can. You might not win, but those you sacrifice for will benefit. If you don’t like that story, that’s fine. But you wouldn’t demand someone retcon the end of a movie and re-release it, you don’t demand a republication of a good book because you thought the ending sucked. You take what the artist gave you for face value and either enjoy it and walk away entertained, or you just say “nah that wasnt for me”.

You don’t rage like a 10 year old and threaten to take your ball and go home…