First Impressions: Assassin’s Creed Unity

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Tale as old as time

Song as old as rhyme

Arno and Elise

Les Misérables. The Count of Monte Cristo. Tales of hardship, revenge, and redemption. Classic literature depicts the nation of France as a country fueled by passions. Life is never easy. Royalty forever corrupt.

Assassins-Creed-UnityI started playing Assassin’s Creed Unity last night (3/25/15). The war of the Templars versus the Assassins is in full swing. Lightning swords, hidden blades, and historical tourism are loving rendered in next-gen console glory. The game is the most realized Assassin’s Creed game I have ever played. Much like Assassin’s Creed Black Flag, Unity runs on an engine that allows the game to soar. There is rarely ever any distracting slowdown. The loading times are, for the most part, quick–more so miraculous for how much the game is loading–. Unity is both limber and taunt, ready to take the player on one heck of a roller coaster ride.

Buckling in

Arno Dorian is Unity’s protagonist. He is the French counterpart to Ezio, from Assassin’s Creed Ezio Trilogy. This is the highest compliment I can pay the game, at this point (I am a big Ezio fan). Assassin’s Creed III fell flat in the character department as did Black Flag. All I want is a character I can somewhat like, Arno delivers in spades.

1024px-Prise_de_la_BastilleMemory sequences of Arno’s childhood build back story and player empathy. The use of Arno’s father’s pocket watch, as a symbol of something lost, is fantastic. I also enjoyed the prison escape framed against the Storming of the Bastille.

Unity features slight game control tweaks that serve the series well. For instance, Arno now has the ability descend buildings in a quick manner. Sounds like a simple mechanical change but it is often breathtaking and crucial to game flow/movement. Sword fighting seems like a Black Flag upgrade. I can’t tell if I like it or not. First impression: Doesn’t feel tight but reminds me of Batman Arkham Asylum. Go figure.

I am excited to see where the Templar/Assassin romance could be heading. SPOILERS! Can love cool revenge? Can love overcome death? I can’t wait to find out.

(This is the 600th post on my blog. Woo hoo!)

Rewind Wednesday – Backpack Life

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Note: I think this is one of the first pieces I ever posted to JBG. Thought I’d share once again. – Bryan

Life is full of in-betweens, periods of time spent waiting, watching, and listening for the events that mark one transition to the next. We spend most of our lives in transit; out of our comfort zones, away from the stability that normalcy provides. I believe God uses these periods of change to remind us that there is a great need for Him.

Not knowing personal direction (job, relationship, etc.) keeps us, as humans, searching for solid ground. We find ourselves desiring black and white answers, all the while demanding that God illuminate our current life path. We are scared of the unknown; we find ourselves in need of our Creator.

In the transitory periods of life, the time spent living out of a backpack, we long for God the most. I know I do. The journey from childhood to adulthood is unmarked by any specific event. The world around might say having sex is the mark of an adult, while others might say voting in an election is. No specifics are given as to what qualifies as a transition, we live life without a hint book.

Perhaps one of the greatest errors society makes is the lack of specific transitory ceremonies. I can only imagine what such a ceremony would entail. A starry night comes to mind as a campfire burns in a forest. Communion with nature somehow mixed with pain. Pain always seems involved with transitions, whether they are physical or mental.

The notion that God is good becomes bedrock while searching because ultimately God is good. Stripped down of unneeded thought or theology, we can find ourselves resting on the firm foundation of God. Now I’ll be honest, God’s foundation is not always easy to find but is indeed there. I am not saying that God’s foundation moves but that there can be trouble areas in our lives that keep us from finding him. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. I take comfort in God being good and Lord over all. During the times when you cannot fathom where life is leading, times which grip one in fear, remember the solid foundation that is Jesus Christ. Living out of a backpack isn’t all that bad when one knows that the journey has already been written and has an end. An end no movie sequel can hope to resurrect.

Scary Close – Dropping the Act and Finding True Intimacy by Donald Miller

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“The strongest character in a story isn’t the hero, it’s the guide.” – p16

“Sometimes the story we’re telling the world isn’t half as endearing as the one that lives inside us.” – p22

I first discovered Donald Miller in college. I was at a point in my life where I wasn’t sure about my Christian faith anymore. There was a disconnect between the Christians I read about in the Bible and the Christians I met everyday. Tired of the hypocrisy, I found honesty in Miller’s Blue Like Jazz. Someone was finally writing from a perspective that felt authentic. God used Miller’s words to remind me of the freedom we have in Christ; He used Donald Miller to bring me back to Him.

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“The problem is this: those of us who are never satisfied with our accomplishments secretly believe nobody will love us unless we’re perfect.” – p44

Throughout the years, Don and I have checked in, though he doesn’t know it. His book on growing up without a father, Father Fiction, helped me to heal wounds of the past. Father Fiction encouraged me to be a dad who is real with my son. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years taught me the importance of living the story God is writing with me. Don always seems to come along and speak into my life when I need it most.

“Love can’t be earned, it can only be given. And it can only be exchanged by people who are completely true with each other.”

Scary Close chronicles Don’s journey to define and live out relationships that are healthy. His relationships with family, career, and even his thought life began to change as he cast aside the masks that prevented him from finding true intimacy. The book is set against the backdrop of Don dating his now wife, Betsy. His courtship of her, witnessing positive relationship examples in her family, only served to spur his change. The season before marriage sheds light on things before held in darkness and forces one to deal with the past. Reading Scary Close is to watch Don transform into the man God has always called him to be. Not perfect, no, but healthy and more whole.

God used Scary Close to remind me of the importance of being honest and open with others, especially my wife. He also reminded me of why I love her so much, of all of the neat parts that make up who she is. As Don puts it, “Intimacy means we are independently together.” Relationships can easily become unhealthy. Sometimes it takes an outside perspective, such as reading a book like Scary Close, to make one see things for what they are.

I enjoyed my time with Scary Close. As Bob Goff said in the forward, “This book will help you sort the junk mail you’ve been bringing to your relationships.” Definitely pick up Scary Close if you have a chance.

Quotes to share:

“I’ll add this to the mix too: I believe God is a fan of people connecting and I think the enemy of God is a fan of people breaking off into paranoid tribes. And I think all the clanging pots and pans in the kitchen to scare people from the territory we feel compelled to defend is playing into the hands of dark forces. I think a lot of the shame-based religious and political methodology has more to do with keeping people contained than with setting them free. And I’m no fan of it.” – 124

“…kids with parents who are honest about their shortcomings seem to do better in life.” – p157

“I remember growing up in church hearing about how there was a hole in our hearts that could only be filled by Jesus, but later in life when I became a Jesus guy myself I continued to experience the longing. He simply wasn’t doing it. The experience was so frustrating I almost walked away from faith.

Later, though, I read in the Bible about how there will be a wedding in heaven and how, someday, we will be reunited with God. The Bible paints a beautiful picture of a lion laying down with a lamb, of all our tears being wiped away, of a mediator creating peace and a King ruling with wisdom and kindness. The language is scattered and often vague, but there’s no question something in the souls of men will be healed and perhaps even made complete once we are united with God and not a second before. What differentiates true Christianity from the pulp many people buy into is that Jesus never offers that completion here on earth. He only asks us to trust him and follow him to the metaphorical wedding we will experience in heaven.” – p214

I was given a copy of this book by BookLook Bloggers. All opinions are my own. I was not required to write a positive review.

Off Campus – Theology Gaming Podcast #65: The Worst Games

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Last week, I had the privilege of sitting down with Zach, Ted, and Elijah to talk about some of the worst games ever. Expectations, marketing, and questionable game design elements fueled our discussion. I encourage you to tune in if only to listen to Ted sing a small portion of a Paula Abdul song. Yes, really.

Listen to the podcast here

What are some of the worst games you’ve played?

Radiance Game Dev Podcast Review

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Back in the beginning of January, my friend Josh set out with fellow adventurers and created the Radiance Podcast. The format of the podcast is simple:

  • Life check-in + a brief discussion on what games everyone has been playing
  • A featured guest interview that explores faith, life, and game development.
  • Last but not least, an exploration of the featured game of the week. The guys dissect design elements and seek out lessons Christian game developers can learn/apply.

The Good

Perhaps I am partial because Josh is my friend, but I think he does a great job keeping things on track and offers a unique perspective. In a sea of developers, he provides the listener with a lifeline into the world of design.

For their first test season, the Radiance Podcast has featured a solid line up of guests. I have appreciated hearing their individual life stories and different expressions of faith.

The Bad

The podcast is edited in a way that does not sound natural. Laughs are cut off, potential dead air space does not exist, etc. There is a feeling of heavy production and a lack of organic sound.

Personal Preference Alert! I wish the music/interlude music sounded more game-like and less stuffy/church-like.

The End

The meat of this podcast, the interviews with the developers, are where this show shines. If it were me, I would take out the beginning “what are you playing” segment and just dive on in. For example: The GameChurch Podcast does a fantastic job of focusing on the interview portion and less on the small talk.

Bottom Line: I think Radiance Podcast needs a second season to get comfortable and find the podcast groove. The audience is out there, Radiance Podcast just needs more time to find and connect with them.

As of now, Radiance Podcast has completed it’s first season. You can check them out on their website or on iTunes. Make sure to give them feedback either way. The second season of the show hangs in the balance based on feedback received. UPDATE: A second season of the podcast will occur. Just a matter of scheduling/recording.

Cultivate Your Thoughts

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Our reaction to change can either be positive or negative, depending on the mindset we choose to cultivate.

My church is in the midst of a building project that includes a brand new two-story children’s wing. Breaking ground this Spring, we have had to merge the nursery and children’s department together. This will allow us to demolish the current nursery and begin work on the new building. This is positive change.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to serve with the kids. During one of the lull periods, I found myself in a brief conversation with one of the volunteers.

“Those kids are so loud.” said the volunteer with disdain.

Now, I do not know this person at all, but I detected a consistent negative thread to our conversation. So, I changed the tone.

“Have you seen the new virtual tour video on the church website? I uploaded it yesterday.”

I went on to talk about how exciting it is that we are moving forward with the building project. I’m excited about where we are heading and I wanted to share that enthusiasm. Doing so ended our conversation on a positive note.

Funny how we get upset over temporary things and fail to look at the big picture. We can make the choice, with God’s strength, to view our current situations through a healthy lens. Yes, I’m preaching to myself.