Peoria Journal-Star: Power Plays – Mega Man X5

(Here is my first freelance article: a video game article for the Peoria Journal-Star newspaper’s “Kids Journal-Star” section.)

Power Plays

April 2, 2001

Video game of the week: Mega Man X5.

Format: PlayStation.

Recommended ages: All ages.

How the game works: Mega Man returns in the latest sequel of the spin-off Mega Man X series. The overall feel of the game is similar to Mega Man X4 (also on the PlayStation).

If you have played any of the previous Mega Man games you will feel right at home with X5. Even those who have never played a Mega Man game will have no problems picking up a controller for the first time.

A meteor is on course to collide with Earth in 16 hours, and the Maverick Hunters (a group of good androids) are called upon to save the planet. At the same time, a deadly virus is affecting all robots on Earth. Little do they know that an evil menace is behind the virus and meteor threat. The Hunters have two devices capable of destroying the meteor. Mega Man X and his partner Zero have to collect the parts from eight bosses to rebuild the devices.

The eight-stage format will feel familiar to those who have played other Mega Man games. You can choose which stage to visit at anytime. Each boss is weak against certain weapons, and using the right weapon will make the fight easier. After the early eight, you face bosses from past MM games, as well as a surprise battle.

Collecting items is key to doing well in the game. Collecting heart tanks will give you more life, and finding sub-tanks helps you store extra energy. You can also find extra lives and armor upgrades to increase your abilities.

X5 has a few small problems, but they don’t take away from the game. The control is tougher to handle than the older Mega Man games. For example, dashing and jumping requires practice to get right.

Good points, bad points: X5 gets a B for graphics. The cartoon-like visuals are detailed and full of color (although not as great as games like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night). The graphics suffer due to being on the older PlayStation. A more powerful system like the Dreamcast would have helped greatly. The sound gets a B for the great music. Control is great, but can be a little frustrating for those new to the X series. It deserves a B-plus. In terms of gameplay, the game is a blast to play, but may feel too old for some. Overall, the game deserves a B.

The verdict: If you can get past the similarity to previous Mega Man games, Mega Man X5 is a fun game. It combines the best parts of past MM titles (including references to other MM games), as well as good graphics and cool music. It’s a keeper.

– Trevor Green

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MyGamer.com: What Defines a Classic Game?

(Here is an editorial I wrote for MyGamer.com in 2004. Enjoy!)

What Defines a Classic Game?
By Trevor Green at 2004-05-04 15:11:19

Every so often, I happen to stumble into an old-school gamer moment. For me, it often involves glassy-eyed reflection or wistful longing for the gaming days of yore. Ignorant gaming fanboys and shoddy sequels tend to evoke the bitter old man within with disastrous results. Lately though, it has been marketers and brainwashed kids claiming the newest mega-hyped game to be the next big thing. When I see how similar those games are to everything else, I yearn for the times where no one rushed to proclaim a game as the offering from the divine gods of digital entertainment.

Recently I had such a moment, but it wasn’t the usual heady rush of reminiscence. I was watching my 10-year old cousin play I-Ninja, and it was about two minutes in that the gears started turning. The borrowing of ideas from better games like Super Mario 64, the bonus games of the Sonic series, and the “pull the switch” tedium of every by-the-numbers adventure game reared their head. Now wide awake, Grandpa Old-Timer was mighty upset! “How can anyone like this durn game? It’s rehash! There’s no way it can be a classic! I’m tired and gassy.” True, the warmed-over escapades of bland ninja-platforming were a stretch, but I somehow snapped out of my tirade. The next-to-last sentence struck a nerve. Why did I care if this game could be compared to the gaming greats? Why would it matter?

I’m sure that it didn’t matter to my young cousin, who hopped and slashed away happily. But it got me to thinking. Somewhere along the line, it did begin to make a difference. I started grouping the newer games in their own category. Subconsciously, I was comparing the recent generation as if they were challenging the gaming throne. I was putting an unnecessary asterisk next to their accomplishments. Of course I played and liked most of the current greats, but the question still festered beneath the surface: “Can these games be considered classics?” And I knew that I had to find the answer.

Before I started my quest, I consulted my dictionary for the definition of the word “classic”. Webster’s “Wal-Mart 97-cent special” defines the word as: belonging in a certain category of excellence, or having a lasting artistic worth. Not much, (after all, it is a Wal-Mart edition) but it was a good place to start. Both definitions contain the idea of esteem and merit; something that you won’t find in the millionth ad-blurb of big-name magazines. We tend to value something that holds special meaning to us, or stir up a fond memory. More often than not, we deem an item of quality to be of merit. After all, there is a reason that few people loved Superman 64 (and those who did should book a few sessions with a therapist).

Now is a good time to really grasp what is worthy of being classic. We are often bombarded with the word, to the point where it has lost the discriminating nature of its definition. Those magnificent (or malevolent) marketing ad-wizards of the media somehow managed to put the word in our daily vocabulary. Networks like “ESPN Classic” market recently played thrillers as “instant classics”. Everything from movies to food products and computer programs carries the word somewhere in its advertising. Someone wisely figured out that the word “classic” carries prestige, so why not use it to promote pork rinds or “You Got Served”? With all the hype surrounding nearly everything with money riding on it nowadays, it takes something truly special to earn the title.

The first definition, belonging in a certain category of excellence, holds up well. If we were to compare games to cars, would you want the gaming equivalent of a Kia Rio or a Lamborghini? Would you rather have the game that was crafted with love and care, or the economy model that does everything poorly? Any sane person would want the best gaming for their dollar, and games are a pretty penny. So then a classic game would embody the qualities that people seek out in a game. It might have great graphics, a good soundtrack, involving storyline and a healthy challenge. More than that, though, it would be fun to play. And above all else, it would rank up there with the best years down the road. Not many Kia’s could claim to compete with sports cars (not that they do), but a Lamborghini is a lasting favorite that does most things well.

The second definition, having lasting artistic worth, is a little iffier. Art carries a different meaning to different people. There are fans of horrifically-bad movies, giving them gratuitous cult-status. Therefore, artistic can be interpreted in numerous ways. When it comes to games, an extraordinary work is one that pushes the envelope in its aesthetics. Games like Yoshi’s Island obliterated the notion of 2D games, with a living and breathing storybook world that still amazes today. The Final Fantasy series offers warm, enveloping soundtracks that are timeless, as is their engrossing storylines. Super Mario Bros. 3 forever changed the way we view and play plaforming games, with a captivating adventure, dozens of helpful items and powers, secrets upon secrets, and loads of imagination. These games are often ahead of their time, and do not get their due until years later.

A great game a few years back may look and feel dated now. This is often the case with sports game franchises, in which the sequel often outclasses the previous model. For example, try playing Madden Football ’93 after a few quarters of Madden 2004. Meanwhile, another might play as well as back in the day because of the tried-and-true game play that launched a thousand copycats. A classic game is one that stays true to the age-old credo: simple enough to pick up, difficult to master. The true sign of a classic game, or any great game for that matter, is one that you can pick up and play years later.

The main key a game becoming a classic, like anything else, is time. In life, there are few greats and even fewer legends. Eventually, most only remember the true icons from past generations. The greats that are outstanding in their prospective qualities are those remembered down the line. The games that we love as kids are the ones that we wax the nostalgic about years later. They’re the ones that we drag out and dust off the old system to play. Out of thousands of potential options to choose from, the ones that brought us joy are those that we hold dear. As kids, we don’t find ourselves hung up on defining a great game, but we remember having fun playing it. The little things add up. And those rare games that deliver the complete package are the crowning achievements.

And that’s when it all came together for me. A classic game is one that stacks up well against those in its genre and its generation. The pieces of the puzzle- graphics, sound, play control, challenge, and replay value- work together in such a way to deliver a fun experience every time you pick up the controller. A classic game might not have the best visuals or tightest controls in comparison to others, but the combination of all the little details make it well worth playing. It is a game that makes a bold statement that sings to your soul. There is at least one aspect that always, and I mean always, brings a smile to your face when you play it. And that is worth more than its weight in hype.

So as I watched my cousin flip another switch in I-Ninja, I sat back and watched his intensity as he played the game. Maybe this will be his classic game, and maybe it won’t. If he’s still playing it five years from now, then that is cool. But as long as he is having fun with it, then that is all that should matter. That’s what gaming is all about, right? “You’re darn right, you crybaby!” the old-timing gamer shrieked.

At least I can agree on that.

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New Writing Samples Unearthed!

Sorry for the long break, but I’ve been busy excavating! What, you ask? Writing samples from the early aughts!

Thanks to the wonders of the internet, I dug up my first published samples from 2001-2004. The wonder that is the Internet Archive Wayback Machine (www.liveweb.archive.org) helped me locate and download files that I thought were lost to those damn series of leaky tubes.

So keep yourselves glued to this site as I mix up the UAT posts with features from MyGamer.com, GameFAQs, Bradley Scout college newspaper and the Peoria Journal-Star newspaper.

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A Variety of Samples Coming Soon

Hey all!

Thanks for the comments and follows so far. I appreciate the interest in this blog.

You’ve probably noticed the UAT-centric posts; they are plentiful because of my six-year-tenure with the company. I promise to add articles done for other outlets in the next few weeks.

Stay tuned!

UAT Student’s Car Stolen, Starts Over

(This was originally posted in 2008.)

UAT Student’s Car Stolen, Starts Over

Story by Trevor Green

Imagine that you’ve traveled cross-country, ready to start your first semester at UAT. But the day you’re about to move in, you walk out of the motel to find your car – and all of your belongings – gone.

That was the plight of incoming student Jacob Lanthier. UAT and Student Government (USG) are setting up a donation bucket outside during Free Food Day to aid the Albany, N.Y. native.

About to move into his housing, Lanthier left his Phoenix motel room to the surprise of a vacant parking space his car once occupied.

“I put our bags into the car, locked the car up, [went] back to the room, made sure we got everything, sat down for about 20 minutes, stood up, turned around … car’s missing,” Lanthier said. “Funny thing is that I wanted to leave a half-hour before I did, before I found out that the car was stolen – when my car was still there.”

Lanthier’s initial reaction was to dial 911 on his cell phone, alerting the police of the problem. Now without transportation, Lanthier and his father called a rental car service, moved the younger Lanthier into housing and attended orientation.

“There’s no need to go around and cry like a baby,” Lanthier said. “Some people would, but I have to be as strong as I can and deal with it. New Yorkers – gotta love them.”

Once on campus, Enrollment Coordinator Robert Marshall told Lanthier that USG was discussing his situation in their meeting. The group decided to assist in replenishing Lanthier’s items. According to USG Vice-President Erin McKinney, UAT and USG are securing a computer on loan; others are encouraged to donate items to help out.

When the car was recovered, a mere smidgen of Lanthier’s belongings – including all of his clothing, a laptop, two computer towers, monitor, and television – were found: a spare tire, bubble wrap, a pair of socks and a demo disc.

“They would still be looking for it if the [hotel] security guard, who saw the car for three days straight, didn’t call it in,” Lanthier said. “The police didn’t find it – the security guard did.”

Though faced with adversity, Lanthier is rolling with the punches, making the most of his time at UAT thus far.

“So far, from what I see, it’s going to be a really good college,” Lanthier said. “I was meant to be here, completely bare-ass naked except for the clothes on my back, and start completely over. I said I wanted to come to Arizona and start over – I didn’t want it to be taken literally!”

(During the Free Food Day, $93.07 was raised. Cuban Pete’s donated $.25 per pastry sold, raising an additional $80 for a total of $173.07. The IT Department also donated a dual-monitor computer.)

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UAT Student Creates Sword with 3D Printer

(Here’s another sample from my time at University of Advancing Technology.)

UAT Student Creates Sword with 3D Printer

Story by Trevor Green

University of Advancing Technology’s campus features a wealth of hardware and software to give creative ideas life. Special topics classes like ENG 415 – King Arthur literature, taught by Professor Micah Chabner, give students freedom to display their gained knowledge in imaginative ways. Student Josh Follis decided to exhibit his fascination with medieval weaponry by using University tech in an innovative way.

Follis combined his love of sword design and the fabrication technology of 3D printers for his King Arthur-themed blade. The 4-foot long plastic weapon, created and constructed via 13 interlocking parts, is the largest design sourced from the University’s Dimension uPrint Personal 3D Printer.

He came up with the idea in the first week of class, tasked with the creation of a midterm and final project relevant to the subject matter. His list of ideas – one being a card game – conjured the memory of the 3D printer. The sword designer, with several wood-carved sabers to his credit, decided to try a new medium for his passion.

“I thought, ‘Why don’t I design a knight sword for my final?’ So I got to thinking and I figured the long sword version of it would be about right,” he said.

Follis initially planned to create a miniature sword with the 3D printer with his first concept sketch, but a change of heart led to a loftier plan.

“The idea ran across my head to make it full-scale and I got to thinking, ‘Nothing’s ever been done that big, not on the 3D printer.’ And to date, I haven’t had anybody disagree or prove me wrong that there is anything physically larger to come out of the 3D printer.”

Inspiration included designs from the Knights of the Round Table lore and more modern fare – the sword handle mimicking the Holy Hand Grenade from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

The conversion from idea to physical product involved help from student Dennis Porter to recreate the plan in Maya 2012 3D modeling software. Porter drafted the complete model and broke it up into segments to fit in the printer. Lego-like extension bits were added to construct the pieces like a puzzle.

The sword took approximately 120 hours to print and complete. Three print sessions – which constructed 4-5 pieces at a time – each took 20-26 hours. (Every print session concluded with an 8-hour acid bath that dissolved the supports that held pieces in place.) The sections were then sanded and painted.

UAT freshmen saw the final product at the recent CONNECT orientation as Follis, a CLP leader, used the sword to break the ice. He relished the shocked faces when they learned it was for his English class.

“I really wish I had a camera for half of them because they’re like, double- and triple-takes and, like, ‘What? Your English final?'” he recalled. “I modeled and printed a sword for my English final!”

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UAT: Armed Forces Student Profile: Benjamin Dauber

Here is a profile I did on a UAT student that served in the military.

Armed Forces Student Profile: Benjamin Dauber

Story by Trevor Green

Digital Video student Benjamin Dauber is facing a new challenge at University of Advancing Technology: creativity. The former Network Security student is trying his hand at filmmaking after enjoying his introductory class, DVA101 (Digital Video Fundamentals), and the chance to stretch his imagination.

“I get a chance to really be creative, and I’ve never, never done that before,” he said.

Dauber’s previous trials were not as relaxed. An U.S. Army veteran, he suffered memory problems after a landmine accident in Iraq. He enrolled at the University after going into the reserves from 2006-2008 (and in 2008, Inactive Ready Reserve), intrigued by the Network Security program.

Trying new classes and interests helped him to find a major in his wheelhouse:

“It’s hard to grasp new material in the NetSec field, so I’m going to go with more of a liberal arts [major]. Plus, I love that class [DVA101].”

He served 4 years of active duty in the Army (2002-2006, the majority of his time in Iraq), with his Military Occupational Specialty (92 Fox ASI H7) being a petroleum supply specialist and a commercial truck driver.

The time spent in the Armed Forces turned the formerly-timid Dauber into a more assured and take-charge person in all aspects of life – the latter coming from leadership development training while in the Army.

“Even if I know that I don’t have the skill set required to do a task, I’ll still give it a good effort… I’m not afraid of failing in front of people.”

This confidence extends to the classroom and helps absorb knowledge – though his self-awareness and desire to include his classmates keeps his eagerness in check:

“I’ve actually had to tone down trying to take the lead, because so far, every project we’ve done I’ve been the force behind it – this is what we’re going to do, we should do this, we should do that – and everyone kind of follows in line a little bit [laughs]. I’ve been having to stand back and be like, ‘No, you guys, come up with an idea.'”

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