Thursday, August 2, 2012

Review: Ducky Shining

The Ducky Shining DK9008S:

After increasing aggravation due to the decreasing performance of my keyboard, I finally decided it was time to upgrade to a mechanical board. 

I researched many options and educated myself on the various mechanical switch types out there.  After much consideration, I decided on Cherry MX black switches, and ideally, a backlit board - since most of my real keyboard use is spent gaming after the Mister has gone to bed. The board I decided on is the Ducky DK9008S “Shining” with white LED backlighting and Cherry MX black switches, ordered from tiger imports.

The board was in stock, and shipping only took a few days via FedEx home delivery. I found the shipping box and packing material inside more than satisfactory. The actual Ducky box was sturdy and nice looking. The keyboard itself came in a velvet-like slipcover bag, and had a molded plastic cover over the keys - I assume to protect the keycaps from scratches. I was surprised at how heavy this keyboard is, the construction looks and feels very solid.  I found absolutely no issues in the finish of the case or keycaps.  The keycaps are translucent white plastic with a dual coating of matte black textured paint. The legends are then laser etched away from the top surface, allowing the backlighting to show through.

The box also included:
• the USB cable, which is separate and connects to the board with a mini-B plug - nice.  
• a USB to PS/2 adaptor
• a plastic ring-style keycap puller
• a set of red alternate WASD keycaps (didn’t even know those were going to be included)

Backlighting on the Ducky Shining has several options in mode and brightness. Modes include: Off, WASD and Esc only, everything but tenkey lit, full board lit, and full board lit with a pulse effect. I find the lowest brightness completely adequate even in a dark room, but there are increased brightness settings to choose from.  Caps lock, num lock, and scroll lock are only lit when “on”, which is a nice minimal way of handling the indicators, IMHO. The board’s light leak is negligible. 

The appearance of the board overall is minimalist. Enter, Backspace, and Shift only have their corresponding arrow symbols instead of the traditional “word above arrow” legends. The arrow keys have simple triangles pointing the appropriate direction. The num row keys have the numerals above the symbols, so the numerals are more strongly lit (the LEDs are positioned at the top of each key.) There is no branding on the board aside from the small Ducky logo on the front of the spacebar.  

As far as switch type, first I was leaning towards Cherry browns, since I like tactile feedback when typing and they have a lower actuation force than black switches. Then, after a particularly frustrating night of gaming, I noticed crappy rubber dome boards have turned my delicate little fingers into veritable key-hammers, and the slightly higher actuation force of Cherry blacks will not likely cause fatigue for me.  Sure enough, now while typing I find myself either bottoming out, or overcompensating and making mistakes. Gaming, however, I have nothing but pure joy to report. I’m glad I went linear. However, If I did more typing, I would definitely want a tactile switch. The Mister does more typing than I do, and we’re talking about getting him a board with browns or clears. (I like blues, but he didn’t like the noise.)

The only media/macro keys are 4 shortcut keys for Calculator,  My Computer, Email, and Home, found above the tenkey. Ducky did away with the menu key and replaced it with a Fn (function) key, which is for backlighting adjustments and the media controls on F1-F7. All the bigger keys feel solid and stable with straight up-and-down action, even when struck off-center. 

*After a few months of what I’d call heavy use, I am happy to report that the keycaps do not show fingerprints. The surface of the keys remains a nice matte black with a very slight texture. 

Conclusion: I couldn’t be happier with this keyboard. When I buy a second mechanical board, which *will* be happening, there is a strong possibility it will be another Ducky Shining with a different backlight color and different switches. (maybe purple backlit with MX blues...)


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Art. Gaming. And life getting in the way of the aforementioned two

     OK, ok. I've been bad. I admit it. I have not upheld the sacred pact that is the New Year's Resolution.  While I have done more drawing than in previous months, it has *not* been every single day.  I resolved more than I could deliver, methinks. So, in order to ease myself into the habit, I've been mulling over the idea of a "30 characters in 30 days" type exercise. April. 30 days. BAM. (I may be hitting up friends and acquaintances for ideas by mid-month, so I don't bore myself or inadvertently stay too far inside my comfort zone.)

Gaming-related stuff: 
     The D&D 4e campaign I'm in has been going strong since October. I am enjoying it immensely and have taken up the job of scribe for our adventure log, and do a lot of the wiki editing.  (We're on Obsidian Portal) The game has also given me plenty of inspiration for drawings. I'm beginning to think I'm a worldbuilder at heart with how much background I've created for my own character, whether or not it is needed for the campaign. (I play a male Eladrin Wizard, for the curious.)
     I have been putting some time into playing Bastion on PC lately. What a gorgeous game. Some of my observations so far: The look of classic RPG whimsy coupled with rich details and textures - invoking the feel of a watercolorist’s patient and loving brushwork. The bittersweet bluesy soundtrack paints a layer of moodiness atop the colorful landscapes. A narrator was a risky move, and easily could have been annoying or distracting. It is well implemented, however, and gives insight into the world without taking away from the player’s own sense of discovery.  I cannot imagine the game without Rucks’ voice telling the tale. 
    My 30th birthday yielded a backlit mechanical keyboard and a nice laser gaming mouse, which are nothing short of magical after dealing with the declining performance of the cheap hardware I'd been using. I'll likely get around to writing up proper reviews of my new toys in the near future.
     I *finally* got the Mister to give Borderlands a proper chance, and now he's enjoying it. A friend at work is also playing through for the first time, and I feel like some kind of oracle or sage, giving advice and commiserating with their hardships. I, myself, re-invigorated by the talk, have gotten back into playing regularly: I've gotten a second character up to max-level, and have nearly completed my no-commerce run.

     In other news, we moved. Back to the wretched, poorly-planned infrastructure that is C-ville. Nice apartment, but we've had more issues in the 2 months we've been here than I care to think about.  Not the least of which is my car getting totaled - backed into by the garbage truck. *sigh*  It was only a few weeks of irritation before the truck driver's insurance got sick of me and gave me a rental car and a decent pay-out. Our clothes dryer sounds like a there is an angry banshee rolling around inside it every time you turn it on.  But hey, at least we no longer have a roommate, or roommate's dog, or roommate's drunk friends, or roommate's boyfriend to deal with anymore. *commence happy-dance, naked, in my living room. 'cause I can do that now.* It appears we will only be at this place for the duration of the 1-year lease -- After the 2012 holiday season is over, the Mister has been approved for a transfer to the bay area market. SJSU, here I come. Though I can't wait to get back into school, being a 30-year-old college junior will be... interesting.


Monday, January 2, 2012

Oh hi 2012...

So life, as it is wont to do, got super-busy by mid-December and is just now getting back to normal. The Mister and I are ravenously hunting for a new apartment, and I can't wait to get it over with. I hate house-hunting, packing, moving. We'll be staying in the same general area, for now.

My New Year's Resolution: (I actually have one this year) I will draw every day of 2012. As the interwebs as my witness, this I vow! In anticipation of *someday* getting back into school for illustration, I need to hone the skills, yo.  Even if it is just some doodling in a sketchbook, I will draw something every day this year.  Maybe I'll even keep record and put up some posts of my work - we'll see.

In other news, the Steam Holiday Sale was kind to us. We got great deals on several of our wishlist titles, but sadly, many will not see installation or play any time soon, I'm sure. This is mainly because we have one machine between the two of us, and it is also the media server. We're working on rectifying the situation... It has become apparent that our next hardware purchase will need to be a good mechanical keyboard. For reasons *ahem* unknown, the "W" key seems to be wearing out on our crappy Dell rubber-dome board.

Since it is now January, and the Casting Page for Gearbox Software now says they "have reviewed all applications," I'm guessing this means they've found their Lilith, and she is not I.  *shrug*  Welp, that means I can take my mohawk back to its original glory, with a 3-guard buzz on the sides.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Deus Ex, and commentary on modern games

While the rest of you in the *modern* gaming world are Skyrimming yourselves into Oblivion, (HA! get it?!) I am working on my maiden playthrough of Deus Ex -yes, the first one.

Before I began, I was skeptical Deus Ex could live up to the devotion paid it by Reddit and my PC gaming friends. Nevertheless, it was clear I would be missing out if I did not play this game, and took the release of Human Revolution as a firm slap on the ass to get going.

[Ok, the rest of this post is me thanking FSM for this divine gift of gaming, and I'm sure many of you are like "Duh, Paige. Where WERE you in 2000?" I was quite busy in the late 90's and early 00's, pretending I cared about popular culture, going "clubbing," and dating vapid but pretty dudes.]

I am now 40 hours in to Deus Ex, and nearly at the end. You guys! THIS GAME! It is constantly blowing my mind with its depth and the sheer number of possibilities in gameplay. I am already salivating at the thought of my next playthough, and what I will try differently. Yes, dialogue is painful to watch since people are made from maybe 5 polygons. But hey, I don't care, because the story is so good. I have never agonized about my decisions like this. I have never been this wrapped up in a game.

"But Paige," You all interject, "What about Borderlands? Have you not logged over 500 hours into that game?"

This is true, but Borderlands is a fun, unwind after work, play after a few drinks and still succeed kind of game. Deus Ex definitely takes more attention of the brain-meats, at least for a first-timer. Much of what I have come to appreciate about Deus Ex is its age, actually. The fact that I have no marked way points or maps, and every interactable object is not garishly highlighted as soon as it comes into view.

It is clear that many modern games focus more on smooth realistic graphics than solid story and engaging play. The product itself becomes just an excuse to show off the latest and greatest in graphical advancement. Meanwhile, story and character development fall by the wayside. Hold my hand and babysit me from cutscene to cutscene. Yes, I get it. Your Graphics Dept. is amazing, and they deserve to jerk off and call it playable art. Vapid but pretty. I've grown up, Gaming Industry, and I desire more.

Deus Ex is such a great game because it becomes the kind of game you want it to be.

Stealth -Of course. There is always an alternate route and a sneaky way to bypass obstacles. (my personal motto has been "Hack all the things!")

Run and Gun -Yep. Upgrade your skills, augs, and weapons appropriately, and you won't have to crawl thru vents or memorize guard routes. Blow everything to gibs and stroll in.

Talk to everyone and find everything -You bet. Who you have on your side, and when, depends a lot on your actions. The game rewards exploration and creativity like a kindergarten teacher with gold stars. Gold stars of XP.

If you are like me, and *somehow* did not play this game when it was shiny and new, I recommend you do so now. Do you have a PC from 2001 or later? Do you have $10? Yeah, thought so.

Oh man, so many people are re-installing right now...


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Channeling my inner Siren, Borderlands style.

Recently I was made aware, through every possible channel, that Gearbox Software was holding an open casting call for a Live-Action Lilith in upcoming Borderlands 2. Hopefuls could either apply online, or attend the open call in Dallas, to be held Dec. 7th. I sent my online app last weekend, after literally 2 days worth of preparation. (Hey, 5 years worth of black hair dye isn't going to turn itself red...)  If nothing else, this was a good excuse to get updated headshots done.

 Now I wait. Constantly checking my email with bated breath.

Here's the thing: If they like me, they'll contact me to set up an in-depth screen test. Which means I have to get to Dallas on my own dime, and remain there for an indeterminate amount of time (at max, the first 3 weeks of December.) I have a feeling my place of employment will be less than thrilled, should I suddenly need to go on vacation. Right before Christmas. When another gal is about to go on maternity leave. Meh. Mutha-truckin' Lilith in Borderlands > 30 hour a week retail job. Still, not looking forward to the possible conversation with my manager.

I like to think I have a chance at this. Most of the avenues Gearbox used to advertise seemed to reach mainly male audiences. Of the females who've heard AND are interested, I figure many are simply unable to get to Dallas. Of those, I bet there are some who do not fit the demographic.

I was already highly eager about Borderlands 2, and have been ravenously seeking out all information released. I will be getting this game as soon as possible. But playing it and having *me* pop up in my HUD? It'd be weird. Good weird.

I figured now was an opportune time to start a blog, to keep a running update for those interested. That and I just want a place to talk at length about my maiden run-though of Deus Ex (yeah, the first one), the imminent building of my gaming PC, and the random stuff the Mister says.