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When you need IBM’s Watson for tax deductions – It’s time for a flat tax

I found it rather ironic that H&R Block is using a super computer to help you find all of your tax deductions. Has it really come to this? Our tax code is so convoluted that you need IBM’s super computer called Watson to help figure it out? I think it’s time for the fairtax! It’s time to get rid of our current tax system. 

H&R Block’s Super Bowl IBM Watson commercial:

Which game engine should you choose to create your own video game?

Video Games

Are you thinking about creating your own video game and don’t know which game engine to choose? Here is a look at 3 of the best game engines available.

Unity3D

Unity 3D can be used to create games that have quality as good as the AAA game companies. 2-D and 3-D games can be created with Unity3D. They also have an asset store where you can buy various characters and objects for use in your video game. All of your game’s actions will need to be coded using the C# programming language. If you are just getting into game development there will be a steep learning curve to getting that first game developed. If you are comfortable with programming in C# then you will be right at home with Unity3D. This game engine runs well even on older computers, so it is a lightweight program in terms of it’s usage of ram.

Unreal

Unreal is a very powerful game engine that has very similar features to Unity3D and is also used by the big game companies.  This is the Mercedes of game engines, but if you don’t have the Mercedes of computers,  then it will be hard to get this game engine to run on your computer. I have a Mac Mini with a dual core processor and Unreal requires a quad core processor and a lot of RAM (it crashed on my computer). If you own a high end computer then I would suggest learning Unreal. This game engine has an in-depth editor for every facet of your game’s development. This also means that there is a high learning curve. Unreal uses a visual scripting tool which they call Blueprints. I like this approach to creating gameplay, especially if you are like me and don’t want to get bogged down with code.  Visual scripting allows you to see game events triggered and everything is connected in something that looks like a mind map.

Goo Create

Goo Create is a HTML5 game engine that runs in your browser and all game development is saved in the cloud on Goo Create’s servers.  Goo Create also uses visual scripting for creating your gameplay. The huge difference is that it is a very lightweight game engine in terms of RAM usage. Since it runs in the browser there is zero compile and build time, you can even do live edits while the game is running. Having tried all 3 of these game engines, I found Goo Create to have the most intuitive user interface for building games. Everything in the game development was simple to learn and just makes sense. A huge benefit of being a HTML5 game engine is that you can quickly publish a demo of the game and simply share a link to a playable demo. I see HTML5 games as the future of game development because it allows you to create a game that can be played in any web browser and you can also export the games for publishing to the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store.

I’ve decided to build my first video game using Goo Create. It has all of the features I need in a game engine.  The next big decision to make….what kind of game do I want to create? I think I’ll start with a basic game and work my way up to creating a Virtual Reality game. By the way, yes Goo Create can create VR games as well!

The History of Future Folk – A Quirky Fun Musical Odyssey

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When I stumbled upon “The History of Future Folk” on Netflix, I decided to finally give the movie a viewing. I had heard about the movie but never realized the genius of this film. The movie is a combination of science fiction, romance, comedy and the pseudo history of a sci-fi folk band all rolled into one. Once you embrace the geekiness of this movie and just go with it…you’ll be glad you watched it. Sure, it’s special effects are cheesy but it fits the vibe of the film perfectly. The premise of the movie is that aliens from the planet Hondo have come for our planet and are about to wipe us humans out, but they hear our music and everything changes.

Their songs of Future Folk have their own unique quirkiness with song titles such as: Space Worms, Over the Moon and Sting Theory. As a musician who writes geeky lyrics with my own band, I really enjoyed how well-crafted and funny their songs are. They are a real band that tours and has a community of followers. Fans enthusiastically show up at gigs wearing Hondo helmets.

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It’s great to see such an original film about a band that saves Earth. Stop what you’re doing and watch the History of Future Folk.

Hondo!

Watch the trailer for The History of Future Folk:

All images courtesy of Future Folk.

For information on Future Folk, visit their website.

Independence Day: Resurgence – A Fun Sequel Worth Seeing

Independence-Day-ResurgenceIndependence Day: Resurgence is the sequel to the 1996 blockbuster, Independence Day. I had read bad reviews of this movie, before seeing the movie, and I fully disagree with the critics. I fully enjoyed this movie. Most Roland Emmerich movies are known for mass destruction and destroying most of the cities on the planet. This movie had its explosions but there were interesting plot points that expanded the Independence Day universe.

I’m actually glad that Will Smith wasn’t in the movie, he would have probably just had some funny one-liners and would have made the movie cheesy. There was just the right combination of the introduction of the next generation of characters and the passing of the torch from the older characters from the first movie. Jeff Goldblum was great as usual and he had a bigger role in the sequel. One of the more interesting parts of the movie was seeing how Earth had taken the technology of the aliens (after the first movie) and used the technology to vastly improve our space-faring abilities.

I believe some critics are forgetting what they are watching. This movie isn’t trying to win any oscars. Independence Day is all about the human race standing up and keeping up the good fight as we struggle to survive. You must go into this movie expecting to enjoy a great popcorn flick that is fun and will let you escape your troubles for a few hours. The original Independence Day is a movie that I always enjoy watching when it’s on cable. I would enjoy watching the sequel multiple times as well. I give it 4 out of 5 stars. If you liked the first movie, then go and see this movie.

Watch the Independence Day: Resurgence Trailer below:

Image courtesy of 20th Century Fox.

Virtual Reality News Recap: 6-12-16 through 6-18-16

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Virtual Reality is a very hot topic right now and for the foreseeable future. This week Ubisoft released the trailer for Star Trek: Bridge Crew VR game and had Star Trek actors playing the game in a group. The game looks very cool. The following are some of the most interesting VR News for this week. Follow @GeekSmacked on Twitter to keep informed of all of the latest breaking Virtual Reality News.

This Week’s Virtual Reality Tweets Recap:

Kirby Krackle – Fun Nerd Rock Inspired by Geek Culture

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I found Kirby Krackle while searching for music to feature that was related to Geek Culture. I have found a treasure trove of geek-related music with this band! The band has released 6 independently released albums since 2009. The fun thing about listening to Kirby Krackle is that their songs are about quirky geek related topics like comic book superheroes or the zombie apocalypse. The songs are catchy and are definitely Nerd-rock. The songs are very well produced and the song writing is great. The videos are just as creative as the music. My favorite song right now is called Ring Capacity. The video for the song is all in the style of an animated comic book, even the band is animated in the video.

Kirby Krackle has wisely embraced using Patreon to help fund their songs and videos. Their business model for making music and new videos makes complete sense. When you support Kirby Krackle on Patreon, you automatically become a Kirby Krackle Music Fan Club member. Members receive 2 brand-new exclusive songs monthly, and only certain songs will be released to the public for sale after 4 months. So the die-hard fans get more music than the casual listeners. Once again cool idea, this is a great way for them to churn out music and then publicly release select songs.

I need to see this band live if they make their way down to Florida.

Support Kirby Krackle on Patreon.

Website: kirbykracklemusic.com

Watch the video for “Ring Capacity” (Green Lantern song):

Watch the video for “We Had a Good Run”:

Virtual & Mixed Reality Headsets will become one in the future

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Virtual Reality headsets close you off from the real world and is the ultimate escapism form of entertainment. The Hololens is mixed reality and superimposes objects into your real world surroundings as holograms. These headsets have very different goals but both include entertainment and real world applications. What if the two different devices merged into one headset? In the near future I can imagine someone with VR glasses that simply look like sunglasses that are more of a rounded band that would cover you eyes and block out the real world. Then with the push of a button the glasses optics would be able to switch over to the mixed reality view.  Computing power is only increasing as the years go by, the horsepower to power a combined headset like this would be a challenge…but I think it will eventually happen.  A big part of the need for such a device is the social situation that you are in. If you are at a party watching football you’ll want to utilize all of the benefits of the Hololens mixed reality technology for your experience. If you are at home after a long day at work, you’ll want to just escape into VR for awhile and forgot about your troubles. Your experience with the technology has to be painless and very intuitive. It will take great design engineering and a downsizing of the current technology to make this really work well. We are in the early days of virtual and mixed reality. The future is bright, I got wear Virtual Mixed Reality shades while I enjoy my commute to work in my self driving car. 

Soulless – Game Being Developed by High School Students

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Indie games need to be unique to stand out from crowd. Soulless is a game in development that has a very interesting visual aesthetic.

Details about the game from the Indiegogo Campaign page:
Soulless is an atmospheric 2D puzzle platformer set in a world of silhouettes.

You play as a cute creature called Elin whose main goal is to save his friend, but to do that he has to jump down the rabbit hole into a magical world which is unknown to him.

He is guided through the world by a light, that shines with hope, however the further he goes, he realizes the world only gets darker and darker and that he has to face his deepest fears.

Who is developing the game?

Two 18 year old high school students are developing the game and they are dreaming big. They call their game company Frisky Fatal Games.

Reasons why you should back this project:

This game has a simple goal but takes an abstract approach in allowing the player to fill in the blanks of what exactly the game means to them.  The art in the game is beautiful and I would play the game just to see all of the amazing visual aspects of the game. I am very interested in playing this game. I loved the music in the trailer for the game, it fit the mood of the game perfectly. In the description of the game, it is mentioned that the game mechanics change from level to level. If you watch the trailer it appears like you are watching a short animated film unfold. Even after only seeing this short trailer I am intrigued by the simple and abstract concept for this game. Support this game now!

Click here to visit the Soulless Indiegogo campaign page. Click here to visit their website.

Watch the Soulless Game Trailer below:

Best Crowdfunding Sites for Indie Game Developers

Crowdfunding for game developers can be a challenge. There have been many Kickstarter campaigns that never reach their goal and then any money that was pledged is lost when you don’t reach the goal. The all or nothing crowdfunding makes no sense to me.

I recommend that Game Developers use the following sites to Crowd-fund their game development:

indiegogo

Indiegogo.com – This site only takes a 5% fee on transactions. Indiegogo has 2 funding models, the first being like Kickstarter where it’s an all or nothing funding. The 2nd option which would make more sense for Game Developers is the Flexible Funding option. This option allows you to keep the money from any funding even if you don’t reach your funding goal.

Check out their Gaming Section of their Site.

patreonLogo

Patreon.com – This site only takes a 5% fee on transactions as well. Patreon was created to support artists and creators. The Games section of their site isn’t as widely used. Game Developers should use this opportunity to get more attention for their games, since their isn’t as many developers using Patreon yet. I like the business  model of Patreon. You basically allow people to pay you a recurring monthly amount to help support your creative endeavors. This could be used in an interesting way if you were to have a game that had multiple chapters. Your fans on Patreon could help fund the creation of new chapters or levels of your games. You could offer special rewards to fans on various subscription tiers. Maybe the higher priced levels of support could be offered for fans that would get first access to the beta versions of levels of games in development. Another possible use of Patreon would be to offer behind the scenes videos of the game in development.

Suggestions for other ways to support Indie Game Developers? Please mention them in the comments.

The Jungle Book Movie is a Masterpiece

jungle-book-movie-imageThe original Jungle Book Disney animated feature was a favorite of mine when I was young. The song “the Bare Necessities” was one of those songs you never forget. When I first heard that they were doing a live action version of the Jungle Book I thought it would be just a retread of the same old story. I had heard good reviews from friends, but you know how that goes, you have to see it for yourself. 

I have seen the movie and it is a masterpiece. The casting of the young boy “Mowgli” was perfect, the kid did a great job acting. The voice overs for the animal characters were superbly chosen. Bill Murray as the voice of Baloo was a great choice. Ben Kingsley was exceptional as the panther Bagheera. 

The movie’s visual effects were flawless. It’s amazing to think that the entire movie, except for some props used by Mowgli, were all CGI. The advancements in computer animation in the last 20 years has reached a point where animals that speak become believable and look incredibly real. While watching the movie, I never felt like I was watching computer animated characters, there was never a distraction from the story. 

The movie was filmed with the young actor in a Los Angeles warehouse with voice overs done months after the filming. The director Jon Favreau did an amazing job directing a film that would rely so heavily on CGI. It all comes back to the story and the pacing of the movie. I felt the movie was very well paced. There were moments of story exposition and then fast paced action, I never felt like there were any slow moments in the movie. 

I recommend this movie for kids 6 years and older because there are some darker moments of the movie but I think the movie balances the darker moments with plenty of comedic and emotional moments to make a well balanced movie. 

See this movie in a theater, it’s a visually stunning movie that you will be glad to have seen on the big screen and well worth the cost of a high priced movie ticket.

Watch the Jungle Book Trailer: 

Images courtesy of Disney.

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