Learn to get your swag on with Dance Central

With a two-step and a poker face, Harmonix glides into the dance game foray with Dance Central for Kinect for the Xbox 360.

Photo by Kenny Redublo

You've never had so much fun while embarrassing yourself while sober.

Ranging from dance jams from the 80s like “Funkytown” by Lipps Inc. to modern hits like “Poker Face” by Lady Gaga, the music rhythm game giants are taking the new tech of the Kinect and teaching gamers of all kinds how to bust moves like the pros, somewhat successfully and always embarrassing to onlookers.

Presented at the MTV Games booth, attendees were given the chance to demo the game with the help of some of the game’s choreographers. Though intimidating and down right odd at first, many couldn’t help to grin after their first slide step.

Dance Central is easy to play. Just get in front of the Kinect camera and start following the dancer’s moves on the screen. For the rhythmically challenged, there is the option to “break it down,” displaying step by step how to perform each move in the song. After practicing each move in detail, players can go and perform them to their best abilities. Like any Guitar Hero or Rock Band song, the game judges how well dance moves are performed and gives a star rating at the end of the song. Based on the difficulty setting, the number of dance moves can change, the less moves being on easy and more being on hard. The difficulty setting also manages how fast the dance moves come up, with hard resulting into a well stitched together dance routine. No matter what difficulty the song is on, the sight of seeing people trying to dance and claiming they’re playing a game can gather crowds, as displayed at E3.

Songs on the demo’s setlist included: “Poison” by Bel Biv Devoe, “Body Movin’ (Fatboy Slim Remix)” by the Beastie Boys, “Poker Face” by Lady Gaga, “Funkytown” by Lipps Inc., “Galang ’05” by M.I.A., and “Hella Good” by No Doubt. Each of the songs displays different styles of dance, ranging from hip hop to house to disco, showing how versatile the game can be.

With previous dance simulators requiring some sort of dance pad or remote control and giving a sense of just pushing buttons or waving arms, Dance Central seems like the game to finally motivate people off their couches and onto the dance floor. Dance Central releases alongside the Kinect for the Xbox 360 on November 4 and BYOB.

Originally published on June 19, 2010 @ StudentVoiceOnline.com

Original post: http://www.studentvoiceonline.com/e3-2010/learn-to-get-your-swag-on-with-dance-central-1.2275749

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Setting the world on fire with the new Twisted Metal


Photo by Kenny Redublo

The pioneers of car combat are back with Twisted Metal for the PlayStation 3. Straying away from the dark atmosphere of Twisted Metal: Black on the PlayStation 2, the series’ first foray on the PS3 hearkens back to their roots with the almost Running Man-esque game show feel mixed with Mad Max style factions and gang wars.

The demo shown at the Sony booth showcased the 12-player online multiplayer team deathmatch mode with teams named after series’ characters Sweet Tooth (clowns) and Dollface (dolls).The fight took place on the suburbs map, echoing its roots from Twisted Metal on the first PlayStation. Sticking with the original concept of the world being the Twisted Metal tournament’s battlefield, the map complements the chaos the car combat creates. With houses being demolished and city streets littered with explosions, this contrast of everyday life turned explosive is the series’ trademark.

The game essentially plays like its predecessors with modern refinements. Each car is equipped with a variety of firearms like missiles, napalm canisters and a unique special attack ranging from flaming chainsaws to hospital patients strapped to stretchers with explosives. It’s as insane as it sounds.

Sub attacks like freeze rays and shields were previously performed by combinations entered into the directional pad, but are now streamlined to just use one direction like pressing up to freeze opponents. With these refinements, combat is much faster and more efficient than its predecessors.

Though team deathmatch was the only mode on display, more are to be announced throughout the year and the details of single player campaign will be revealed sometime before its 2011 release window. With a 16-player online multiplayer and the quirkiness and solid gameplay of the original series, Twisted metal is a more than welcome return to the beloved PlayStation series.

Originally published on June 19, 2010 @ StudentVoiceOnline.com

Original post: http://www.studentvoiceonline.com/e3-2010/setting-the-world-on-fire-with-the-new-twisted-metal-1.2275739

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Tactics on the Move: SOCOM 4 Impressions

Photo by Kenny RedubloSOCOM has always been for the hardcore tactical shooter fanatic ever since its debut on the PlayStation 2, but with the implementation of Sony’s motion controller, the Move, SOCOM 4 may have the potential to open the series to a more casual audience while keeping the tactical sensibilities intact.

The demo shown at the Sony booth demonstrated how the Move controller and sub controller will work with the game. The sub controller controlled the soldier movement with the analog stick and issuing squad commands with the directional pad while the Move controller handled aiming, shooting, taking cover and other gesture based commands. The controls were separated into three categories, each differing in the sensitivity of how the Move controller aims and turns the soldier. These do take some getting used to, but after some practice, these controls feel as responsive as a mouse and keyboard.

The demo takes place in a disaster stricken southeast Asian country, where destroyed cars litter the streets and train tracks lay in ruins. The player’s objective was to neutralize a coup, but it turned out to be a full fledged invasion. With an objective like that, one soldier cannot do it alone. The squad mechanic is reminiscent of the previous SOCOM titles, but simplifies the commands, leaving the squad’s artificial intelligence to choose what to do in a given situation. The player can command where each squad can go with just a point of the Move controller and press of left or right on the directional pad and the squad will cover the player, take out any threats and know when to move to the next objective, giving a cohesive feel to the squad and not a run and gun solo experience. The ability to calling in air strikes has also been added to the game with the Move controller making it easy to paint targets.

By streamlining squad controls and using the simplicity and responsiveness of the Move controller, SOCOM 4’s action is the fastest and most efficient it’s ever been in the long running series. SOCOM 4 is to be released in 2011.

Originally published on June 19, 2010 @ StudentVoiceOnline.com

Original post: http://www.studentvoiceonline.com/e3-2010/tactics-on-the-move-socom-4-impressions-1.2275744

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Feeling the sting of karma with The Sims 3

Photo by Kenny RedubloThe decade-long running franchise of The Sims has survived the tests of time through its consistent release of expansion packs, a sequel and even more subsequent expansion packs, keeping the life simulator relevant through the years.

With The Sims 3 coming to consoles this Fall, the established formula of controlling lives is still intact, but with a venture out into the persistent open world of the neighborhood.

The Sims 3 sim creation keeps many of the same staples of its predecessors, but tosses in some new features and refinements. One new feature is the addition of traits. Based on traits like “fun-loving” or “doesn’t get art”, sims are able to connect or distance themselves with other sims in their neighborhood, creating a more social element to the series.

Along with the social aspect of the game, the creative online community can share any of their creations through the Sims Marketplace. Custom clothing, items, houses and sims can be easily shared across Xbox Live or the Playstation Network. Players can also import any of their friends’ sims into their game to further expand the social nature of the game.

In contrast to its predecessors, The Sims 3 takes place in an open world, seamlessly going from neighborhood to the city while seeing every sims lives unfold in different ways. The guided demo transitioned from the big picture of an expansive neighborhood to the intimate interactions between sims in order to demonstrate the new karma feature.

Focusing on a typical sims party house, two contrasting sim housemates, Hunter and Michael, were the prime example of what karma can do. Hunter is the more laid back and timid type whereas his housemate Michael is the party animal and social butterfly. In this party situation, Hunter is shown as the introvert and bothered by his house being trashed and his crush being hit on by Michael. With the help of karma points accumulated through different challenges in the game like reading a book or going to work or gaining points at midnight, known as the hour of reckoning, the player can activate a karma event, where in this situation, Hunter is hit with a super positive boost to all of his traits, giving him the courage to join the party and meet his crush. As a contrast, Michael is hit with a negative karma event, pushing all his traits to a low and making him the most unpopular person at the party.

With just these small events, the story of a sim can change dramatically, becoming ever closer to the spontaneity of real life. The Sims 3 is to release on September 26, 2010.

Originally published on June 17, 2010 @ StudentVoiceOnline.com

Original post: http://www.studentvoiceonline.com/e3-2010/feeling-the-sting-of-karma-with-sims-3-1.2275472

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Spending some time in a fragile alliance

Photo by Brennan WhitmoreFrom the harsh criticisms of Kane & Lynch: Dead Men, the sequel Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days is out to redeem itself with a daring visual style and an even more risky story set in the dark streets of Shanghai.

Heavy pixelation and washed out colors keep Dog Days looking like any other cover shooter out there. The shaky camera style helps keep the atmosphere tense and realistic as an eyewitness capturing the chaos unfolding. Lights bleed across the screen and explosions make the video stutter as if the whole game is one viral video uploaded on YouTube. Though games are taking their visuals to a next level with high-definition textures and lighting effects, Dog Days is bringing realism in a different way, adding style over technical prowess.

The multiplayer mode “Fragile Alliance” returns from the first game and was demoed at the Square Enix booth. This mode is a classic cops and robbers style game with a modern twist. All players start off as criminals escaping a heist with each an allotted sum of loot and have to fight their way though the police to their getaway cars.

The amount of money a player has acts as a shield, where if the player is knocked down by gunfire, their money is dropped and open for any player to pick up. The more money a player has, they are a bigger target to be deceived. A player can target their own teammates and use them as human shields to suppress gunfire. Doing so will label the player a traitor and a marked man with a bounty paid to any teammate who kills them. If the traitor is killed, they will come back as a cop fighting against their former brothers in arms and gaining more money in the process. Whoever accumulates the most money at the end of the round wins, but if the alliance is intact, the team gains an added bonus to their final score.

“Fragile Alliance” pairs well with the gritty, deceptive atmosphere of the game, but there needs to be more refinement of the gameplay like recoil level of guns and camera problems like the “camera man” aspect making camera control difficult. Since this was just a demo, the developers still have time to address these problems before their August 24 release date. With its visceral visuals and gritty atmosphere and story, Dog Days may be a saving grace for the franchise.

Originally published on June 17, 2010 @ StudentVoiceOnline.com

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Hard work celebrated at Moorpark College’s “PremierFest”

Photo by Kenny Redublo

PremierFest producers Coral Eisenbruch and Adam Mulligan share their thanks for the continued support for the festival before the presentations begin.

From big ideas to the big screen, Moorpark College film students showcased their hard work throughout the semester at PremierFest 2010 at the High Street Arts Center on May 12.

PremierFest co-producer Adam Mulligan felt the festival’s warm atmosphere led to its success.

“It was more of a family atmosphere,” said Mulligan. “Kind of like buddies than professionals and business.”

Students from every Moorpark College film class, from introduction to television studio to broadcast journalism to digital filmmaking, were showcased in a montage of their collective works. The works consisted of a variety of genres, from surrealist dreams and off kilter comedy to cop drama and non-linear suspense. The night led up to the premiere of “Crossing,” the department’s major full length project about controversies of the drug cartel, immigration and the prejudices against immigrants.

Crystal Sloan, a 20-year-old theater major and actor in the short “Hiking with Sarah,” expressed how professional the students have displayed themselves at the festival.

“The hard work, the dedication, the perseverance, these kids have it,” said Sloan. “But they still can have a good time. They have the perfect balance of professionalism, but still enjoying themselves at the same time.”

Though shown for just a snippet of time, each short in the student film montage was worked on throughout the semester. Levels of preparation may vary, according to film student Juan Lara, whose impulse kept him shooting.

“Honestly, I don’t prepare,” said Lara. “I move at the speed at thought—you write something down, you do it, you get it done, you talk to the people, you get things ready, let’s shoot, let’s do it, let’s go.”

Each project was a labor of love, like film student Aubrey Byrne’s entry “True Moorpark Story,” profiling the film department’s advisor Bill Goodman.

“From my own personal projects, that was probably the most fun I’ve ever had,” said Byrne. “Since I could do what I want and it was within the department—it was fun for everybody.”

After a 10 minute intermission from the student film montage, “Crossing” made its debut after its short, but strenuous creation. The film was worked on by over 140 people on production, 5 departments working on separate parts of the film and many others, from the dean of department, the dean of the division, department heads and students from all the film classes. Shot on location in Barstow and Apple Valley, “Crossing” deals with two Mexican women, Elena, played by Ilianna Andreade, and Maria, played by Sofia Yepes, crossing the border into the United States, but intersecting paths with two drug smugglers, played by Jeremy Hanes and Caleb Ellis, leading them into something much more dangerous than they expected.

With a runtime of 50 minutes and a hefty production, the professionalism of the film department has exceeded film advisor and “Crossing” producer Ferenc Gutai’s expectations.

“I am so proud because this is the most difficult production we’ve ever done,” said Gutai. “The team came together and we did this. Not one person, but it was an accomplishment of an entire team. We worked together to achieve something that you would see at UCLA.”

“Crossing” director Steven Mallett felt this premiere realized his dreams of seeing his ideas on the big screen and is one step closer to what he wants to do. With this experience, Mallett shared some words of advice to future filmmakers.

“If you want to pursue film, don’t let anyone say that you can’t do it,” said Mallett. “If anyone puts you down, no matter what happens, just get out there and shoot. [Regarding school transfers and the uncertainty of being accepted,] I won’t let a school tell me what I can and cannot do!”

Originally published on May 22, 2010 @ StudentVoiceOnline.com

Original post: http://www.studentvoiceonline.com/arts-entertainment/hard-work-celebrated-at-moorpark-college-s-premierfest-1.2268382

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Ripe for summer at the California Strawberry Festival

Photo by Kenny Redublo

The Berry Blast Off Recipe Contest provided patrons with easy to prepare recipes and pinned Merry Graham of Newhall and Rachel Barlow of Camarillo against each other to prepare the best strawberry dish in a timed challenge for judges.

Kicking off summer with the sweet taste of strawberries, the 27th annual California Strawberry Festival attracted visitors from all over Southern California to College Park in Oxnard on May 15 and 16.

With activities like live concerts and cook-offs accompanied by bushels of strawberry delicacies like strawberry wine and beer, the California Strawberry Festival was ripe with entertainment for any berry lover.

Hollywood resident Minal Patel and Santa Monica resident Kristen Mukae ventured down to Oxnard to cure their weekend redundancy.

“We were looking for something different to do on the weekend and I grew up on the east coast so I’m not used to [growing] too much fruit out there,” said Patel. “And we love strawberries.”

The California Strawberry Festival is an annual celebration of Oxnard’s number one crop. Strawberries are presented in many shapes and forms, from strawberry shortcakes to chocolate dipped strawberries to even strawberry beer.

Live concerts provided the jams as various as the strawberries, ranging from rock ‘n’ roll and country to Latin and blues.

Other activities included a fine arts and crafts showcase, displaying works from 300 artists, cooking demonstrations and healthy lifestyle presentations at the Strawberry Promenade and contests like the strawberry pie eating contest and Tart Toss.

The California Strawberry Festival started in 1984 at Channel Islands Harbor and after eight years, the event grew too popular for its original site and in 1992, the festival moved to College Park where it takes place today.

With Oxnard’s strawberries generating $366.3 million in 2006 and California exporting 17 million trays of strawberries and 21.9 million pounds of frozen strawberries annually, the quest to create this festival in the early 80s by then Oxnard mayor, Dr. Tsujio Kato, city of Oxnard officials and local strawberry growers has been fully fulfilled.

The festival also has a positive impact on Oxnard through offering more tourists and giving back to the community. With various food booths run by volunteers from about 30 local Southland non-profit organizations, more than $3 million has been raised to help these organizations with their cause.

Festival director Patrick Mullin explained that the festival not only provides fun, but makes generous donations back to the community.

“You’ve seen people coming from all over, people bringing their kids and we always try to present something that’s new and fun,” said Mullin. “We [also] give back to the community about $300,000 every year.”

At the most recent festival, the Berry Blast Off Recipe Contest provided patrons with easy to prepare recipes and pinned Merry Graham of Newhall and Rachel Barlow of Camarillo against each other to prepare the best strawberry dish in a timed challenge for judges.

Between Graham’s snappy shrimp and strawberry coleslaw with maple vinaigrette and Barlow’s strawberry bruschetta with lemon cream, Graham won by just a few more points, winning a four-night Carnival cruise vacation getaway.

The judges thoroughly enjoyed the competition since, for some, the contest was their first time judging food.

“I judge my wife’s food every day,” said Mike Reinwald, California Strawberry Festival executive board member and judge.

“Good answer!” said Linder.

For just two days, the California Strawberry Festival had shown its seeds for many around California and other states, spreading the sweet taste of summer.

Originally published on May 18, 2010 @ StudentVoiceOnline.com

Original post: http://www.studentvoiceonline.com/student-life/ripe-for-summer-at-the-california-strawberry-festival-1.2267088

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Learning from both sides of the pen

Convergence has helped progress our society through many aspects like communication, entertainment and creative expression. With the ease and power of the Internet, society can stay connected at all times. Through these connections and quick communication, getting published is as easy as voicing an opinion, but does this take away from the hard work of traditionalists?

Bloggers are a conflicted bunch. Anyone can be a blogger. Ideas clash, views clash, beliefs clash, but it provides an open for discussion. However, since blogging is such an open outlet, there is no filter for quality. Spelling errors, style errors and improper citing can plague most blogs.

Among the masses of blog posts, there can be some diamonds in the rough and those writers can be discovered by the larger publications. So how can that affect writers with previous experience?

It shouldn’t. What these outlets provide is a window to potential. With the pressure from professional publications, these unexperienced bloggers can get motivated to refine their style, voice or technique. The traditional freelancers shouldn’t see these bloggers as a threat, but as students and apprentices.

Putting legitimacy aside, what matters most is talent. A blogger can have awful writing, but their vision can be innovative and original. Likewise, a freelancer can have years of experience, but has gotten out of touch with what is relevant and develop stale ideas. Learning from each side of the pen is the biggest goal.

Originally published on May 6, 2010 @ StudentVoiceOnline.com

Original post: http://www.studentvoiceonline.com/opinion/bloggers-versus-journalists-learning-from-both-sides-of-the-pen-1.2260265

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Identity Crisis: A Blurb on Music Genres

No matter where technology heads, the ever-changing landscape of music can implement its fruits of innovation or battle against the flow.

Wherever music heads, people are following suit. To stay in one place is just counter-productive.

In the golden eras of music, fans stayed concrete to their music choices since innovation and technology were neck and neck, providing births of genres and styles.

Though many can debate the artists responsible for the conception of which genres, there was always a fine line between these styles of music.

Today, these lines have blurred to the extent that artists can consist of multiple genres and sub-genres and styles.

Looking too deep into what these genres classify can take away what really matters most, the soul.

What makes a song a “rock” song? What makes a band “progressive,” “industrial,” “post-hardcore?”

By being so concerned what requirements to fulfill in order to fit a certain group, how can there be any room to know how the song will make you feel?

Music is as moody as the listener. It’s a cause and effect situation. There is always a conflict among technique and soul.

Even if there is no perfect balance between the two, that disarray is what makes music that living entity, constantly changing and evolving.

How music makes us feel is purely an individual judgment. Different situations can illicit different moods, but a song’s ability to relate whatever the situation and mood shadows its status among a genre.

One of the most gratifying aspects of music is to connect individuals no matter where they are in life. Even though the Internet can unleash a plethora of information to anyone, sometimes all it takes is a guitar and a microphone to get a message through.

Artists that inspire are categorized in genres to lead hopefuls in the right directions. Genres are needed for a catalyst, but what lies ahead after that reaction is up to the musician.

Genres are like the lines in a coloring book, you don’t always have to stay in the lines. They are guides for us to make our own path.

Music is a living entity. It reflects the way we feel, the way we act, the way we interact.

With whatever restriction may be built, music can find a way around it. Wherever music goes, we will follow.

Originally published on April 20, 2010 @ StudentVoiceOnline.com

Original post: http://www.studentvoiceonline.com/opinion/music-is-a-form-of-artistic-expression-that-can-t-soley-be-defined-by-labels-and-genres-1.2233119

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Pulling our virtual heartstrings


Illustration by Kenny RedubloFor every choice, there is a consequence. One decision can shape an entire outcome. From saving a life to ending one, these decisions are final, until you hit the reset button.

In an interview with g4tv, David Cage, director and writer of the video game Heavy Rain, feels that his game should be like real life, without a reset and just one chance.

“I would like people to play [Heavy Rain] once,” said Cage. “Because that’s life. Life you can only play once–I would like people to have this experience that way.”

Heavy Rain bases itself on one question, “how far will you go for someone you love?” Without being pushed, the question is hard to answer. Heavy

Rain strives to push the player, presenting pressures to pull emotions that can lead to an honest answer for the question. While other video games immerse players through imaginative worlds and expansive universes, Heavy Rain’s basis in reality provides a different type of immersion, choice.

Heavy Rain follows four characters, all under different circumstances but is related through one factor, the Origami Killer. The murderer has chosen a new victim and with this occurrence, each character is pushed to extreme measures in order to save something they love. A journalist who will do anything for a story. An FBI agent who will stop at nothing to solve a case. A private inspector who will go to any lengths to stop the killer. A father who will sacrifice everything for his son. How far each character will go is up to the player.

Pushing the medium closer to the level of cinema, Heavy Rain’s presentation rivals those of any dramatic film. Heavy Rain is presented through vignettes from each character with the player dictating the decisions of dialogue, thoughts and actions within the given situation. Shaking the controller to escape struggles, holding individual buttons to mimic the action of climbing a hillside, each situation is represented through the controller naturally.

Though the game’s controls are unorthodox to any other title, it gives players more opportunity to appreciate the mise-en-scène. The cinematography, and much of the game’s style, bears influence from the film “Seven” with its moody lighting and muted color palette, matching the dark issues of the story.

Heavy Rain also uses “performance capture” of actors to accurately convey emotions of characters down to the most subtle actions like the cold shiver of someone standing in the rain. Many games like Uncharted 2 and Metal Gear Solid 4 have successfully used this technique to provide a more cinematic feel to the games and the film Avatar has recently popularized the technique, giving film and video games a larger canvas for experimentation.

With its presentation as close to a film as possible, Heavy Rain has stated that it is an “interactive drama”. The studio’s previous effort Indigo Prophecy bared the same genre, but with Heavy Rain, the vision of an interactive drama has been realized.

A game like Heavy Rain is what is needed for video games to become as serious as a medium like film. Heavy Rain shows that games have a place among the art house films and Oscar winning dramas and how much the industry has grown up. The fun is in how these games can elicit such emotions and seeing the potential of what else can be pulled from our virtual heartstrings.

When pushed, people can see a whole different side to themselves. Whatever decision is made, consequences must be faced, with or without a reset button. How far will you go for someone you love?

Originally published on March 24, 2010 @ StudentVoiceOnline.com

Original post: http://www.studentvoiceonline.com/opinion/geek-culture-a-video-game-that-pulls-our-virtual-heartstrings-1.2200429

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