Buzz… Or Maybe, Howto Not Buzz.

Still not sure what to make of this whole Google Buzz thing.  On the one hand I see its usefulness– instantly linking and gathering your individual social networking services, contacts out of Gmail, add some visibility to your Google Profile are pretty nifty things.  On the opposite end it has a lot of problems, namely– instantly linking and gathering your individual social networking services, contacts out of Gmail, and adding visbility to your Google Profile.

I think the reason that different social networking circles have cropped up is because they each have their own unique audience–Twitter is great as an outlet for this site, GeekApproach.  I can communicate with some personal folks and post some random stuff that drives traffic back here.  Flickr is still somewhat legacy for me, but I enjoyed its simple interface and great respository of images it once supported, even though it seems Picasa has superceded it.  The main reason I don’t have a Facebook account or ( shudder) a MySpace page is that I just don’t want to interact with people I might’ve met.  I’d rather talk with those people in person, or really, want to talk to me enough to seek me out via other means.

I feel like I maintain rather visible avenues of communication: I freely publish my email address, you can instantly call me via Google Voice (in the right sidebar over there), this website is public, my twitter feed is public– I’m even on LinkedIn.

Sometimes I get the feeling that Google is turning a bit into Microsoft, and I’ll explain why.  When you’re at Microsoft and you use the combined Microsoft suite of things, it actually works out really well.  You start to see how all of these individual pieces of hardware and software, the social interaction of doing work…they all work very well together.  It’s crazy, but its true.  When you’re in your own environment and you’re only using a subset it becomes much more difficult to actually use their tools.  Maybe Google is suffering from the same sort of issue–Internally, I’m sure they thought all this integration was fantastic but externally?

At least they’re listening to the masses– I can’t fault them for having a fast turn-around time with changes.

Mass Effect 2 Impressions (X360)

I hate posting reviews of an item that I have yet to finish. I think its rather horrible of me to act like I’ve played something through to the end, report it as “good”, and then maybe suggest you spend your hard-earned cash on the same item. Therefore, I’ll call this an “impression” because I have yet to finish the game. (And that’s a good thing; I really want to savor this.)Mass Effect 2 CE (X36) Box Art

I’ll spare you the boring details of ME2 that you’ll find elsewhere on the web. The critical thing is that the game is good, better than ME1 but in a different way. The converation trees are deeper, the consequences greater, the characters more refined, and the technical and artistic design of the game quite beautiful. More importantly: the universe is far deeper.

Let me give you an example: Without sharing too much of the story, you spend most of your time (as well as I can ascertain anyway) on a new station called Omega. Its sort of a rogue installation far away from the Citadel and its usual cleanliness. Back-alley deals go down here; people get shot all the time, and you can get in touch with your seedier side if you so wish. The nightclub areas are a step up, oozing feeling and I find myself thinking “This would be an awesome club if it actually existed!”. And that’s what I mean, all over this game I find myself really wishing this universe, this storyline actually existed. I haven’t felt that way since watching Star Wars as a kid.

One of the better things about ME2 is how it seems to integrate into the trilogy arc as a whole. Just like the first game there is an entire galaxy to explore, but it assumes you’ve played the first one. The whole “right side” of the galaxy map is the area you explored in the first game and wouldn’t need to see again. The Citadel, once an area of great exploration with stores, clubs, C-Sec, etc. to explore is like a small afterthought– you’ve been here before, now go explore these new stations and planets. Even the exploration of planets has changed– where once you used the hulking, lumbering Mako vehicle to actually land on planets and explore them, you now scan from space from the comfort of the new Normandy SR2. It is the inclusion of the light, mini-games within the Mass Effect universe that I think is so cool.

I am a bit disappointed to see that I now have to pick up ammo clips to replace my own, and that there’s a decreased amount of things to pick up. However, I can’t argue with the simple inventory system and the fact that I don’t have to have 47 versions of the same armor stacking up my precious inventory spaces. I’m mixed about the increased reliance on shooting abilities– I really liked that ME1 was an RPG first, and a shooter second. This one seems to have flipped that around, but apparently the Internet disagrees with me: Glowing reviews suggest that it was the right way to go.

ME2 Screenshot

ME2 Screenshot

I’m about 12 hours into what is being touted as a 30-hour game and I’m loving every second of it. I’m taking my time with all of the side-quests but I want to get done before next week’s release of BioShock 2. It appears there is a larger plan for DLC– there was Day One content released, but I get the feeling we’ll be seeing some of this stuff for the next year or so.

Well done BioWare! You guys rock as always. Maybe you’ll hire me one of these days…

Mass Effect 2 Videos: