Thursday, December 31, 2009
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
That's not to say the game is without it's problems. The enemy sprites get to feel repetitive, and their AI can be quite thick at times and will sometimes do things like stand in the open during a gunfight or fail to notice commotion that should be in their field of view. One spot I felt the AI really shined though was the way enemies behave behind cover. Rather than simply popping out to shoot at regular intervals, they vary their timing and position and now and then seem to display a genuine sense of self-preservation.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Saturday, October 3, 2009
Right from the start, it's clear that the main aspiration of God of War is over-the-top awesomeness. The first level pits you against a massive Hydra and a legion of undead soldiers on a sundered ship, and the action rarely lets up as you travel through a beautifully realized fantasy vision of ancient Greece beating the crap out of all manner of mythological creatures. The combat is polished and visceral, but after your titanic clash with the Hydra (get it, 'cause you're on a sinking ship, hehe), there is a conspicuous lack of of epic boss battles, though this is mostly remedied in the sequel. I might have preferred if some of the more generic enemies were weaker and more numerous, but this may just be personal taste.
It is good that the combat is solid, since this is strongly the games' centerpiece, though the gameplay in God of War is actually surprisingly diverse, throwing in bits of platforming, exploration and puzzle-solving to keep things interesting. Predictably these other elements aren't as polished as the combat, since that was what the controls and camera were designed around. Some sections that involved pushing heavy blocks or statues around grew rather tedious, but I was actually surprised at how clever some of the puzzles were. The designers wisely refrained from trying to incorporate physics-heavy puzzles, and the solutions tend to rely more on logic than skill. They also didn't seem to repeat themselves. I was also surprised at how little the fixed camera got in the way compared to some newer titles. The climbing and swinging bits got decidedly amped up for the better in the sequel. It was clear that a lot of effort was put into these ancillary sections, and I appreciated the variety despite occasional frustrations. The game presents the option to lower the difficulty after the player has died one too many times at a particular checkpoint, and I appreciated the thought, but what was rather annoying was this only ever came up after I'd screwed up one too many times on a tricky platforming section, and the option clearly stated that lowering the difficulty would only effect the combat. This is rather like offering to lend a blind man a city map after he has just walked into another signpost.
This is essentially the videogaming equivalent to 300: disposable testosterone-fueled mindless entertainment. It's edutainment in that you might be influenced to learn more about some of the mythological personalities depicted, but that's sort of like saying S.T.A.L.K.E.R. teaches you about Russian cinema, or that The Lord of the Rings: Conquest teaches you 20th century literature. It doesn't come off as particularly mindless when compared to other games in the genre, which should tell you something about the general level of videogame plots. In this case, as with 300, everything is clearly meant to be over-the-top and larger-than-life. No punches are pulled, gleeful violence abounds, and that's a large part of what makes the games so fun to play. You are a man on a mission, you will let nothing get in your way no matter how much stuff you have to break, and the game lets you revel in that. Frequently the game actually forces you to kill innocent civilians who have gotten in your way or who must be sacrificed for the greater good. There's no namby-pamby moral choice here; you are a selfish, violent bastard, and your goal is to bust heads.
This pervading theme of violent retribution provides a necessary balance to the often frustrating challenges you are faced with. You will frequently be irritated with the tasks you are trying to perform between or during bouts of enemy attacks, but these very enemies also provide you catharsis. It all fits with the theme of fighting back against the uncaring Gods who mistreat you, though here "Gods" can be replaced with "Game Designers." It may sound like I'm giving this game an unwarranted pass on its frustrating segments, but I honestly felt everything fit together nicely most of the time, building up frustration and then giving you monsters to satisfyingly unleash that frustration on. The liberal use of checkpoints didn't hurt either.
A couple of parts did go over the line for me though. As with Castlevania, I found one or two sections involving gorgons exceedingly aggravating since they can temporarily turn you to stone, and if an enemy so much as sneezes on you while you are in this state, you shatter and die (yet it takes considerably more to shatter a stone enemy). Also, never jump near a Gorgon, since a three-inch fall when turned to stone is enough to shatter you. (Unlike the myth, averting your eyes doesn't help either.) This game is also one of the first to use the much-beloved quick time event, though here I find it fun rather than frustrating because, unlike the gorgon stare, it seldom means instant death should you screw up. Other developers borrowing the "press a button!" mechanic should note this important detail(!)
The relentless feeling of the game did also get to me at times. In the vaguely similar Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, the Prince is frequently conversing with himself or his female companion Farah, and these bits of dialogue did a lot to hold my attention and make me want to keep going. In God of War, the protagonist is silent, and you are forced to contend with seemingly herculean tasks before each tidbit of story is begrudgingly unraveled. This helps the overall theme, but it also makes the experience feel oppressive at times. You will be frequently presented with fresh new challenges, perhaps more so than in Prince of Persia, but you will be alone. It works with the theme they were aiming for, but at times I was tempted to pull out my iPod. Luckily the games’ music is excellent, and I particularly liked the score for the sequel.
There are some RPG elements here: different weapons and a few magic spells that can be powered up, which introduces the familiar issue that the experienced players will find all the powerups that make them stronger while the noobs face an increasingly difficult uphill battle, but then they can switch to a lower difficulty or play “tea party” or something. I also would have like the option to downgrade weapons and spells since for me the fun is in trying different approaches and combinations. It’s good that there is some long-term reward for killing things (experience orbs) since you’ll be doing it a lot, and the limited number of enemies, as well as the relatively modest change in your abilities, prevents grinding from becoming an issue. Aside from some nifty spells that can summon lightning or legions of the undead, there’s also a nifty rage mechanic which I feel works much better in the sequel since they included an off-switch.
If you look past the flashy combos and fine motor control, God of War’s combat can be seen as a game of resource management. You are attempting to preserve your health through an uncertain number of enemy waves, and you have a number of resources at your disposal to help with this. You use your magic and rage meters to deal with enemies in ways that are less hazardous to your health, and you pick up orbs from fallen enemies to replenish your meters. Treasure chests will completely refill one of your meters (depending on the type), but in battle these can only be opened if there is enough of a lull in the action, so when to go for them might be key. You want your magic and rage to get you to the end of the fight, but if the meters are left at full, then the corresponding orbs you pick up will go to waste. There are also the questions of which spells or abilities to use on which enemies, and which enemies to fight normally in order to recharge your other meters at the potential cost of health. It’s all a delicious balance, assuming you’re willing to go in expecting more than a button masher. (On the other hand, when a chest had the option of refilling health or magic, in the first game I invariably chose health due to higher spell costs.)
There are many other games that I’d look at in resource management terms, but this aspect of God of War is quite polished, and more importantly a lot of fun. The basic job of hacking up foes is great fun as well since it’s less about mastering combos and more about using the right maneuver at the right time against the right opponent. If you like action/adventure games and haven’t gotten around to playing these, I heartily recommend you give them a shot. I thought the sequel was a little better overall though a few aspects of the first game felt more polished to me, but with either title you can’t go wrong. They were on the cutting edge in a lot of ways when they were released, and they still hold up solidly today.
Alternatively the whole franchise was a big ripoff of Hero of Sparta for the iPhone.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Sunday, August 23, 2009
A’s for Atari the first of its sort
B is for BloodRayne who’s movie fell short
C is for Capcom with zombies about
D’s the Duke Nukem that never came out
E is for EA who think they’re your wife
F’s for FF which takes over your life
G is for Gradius, more guns came next
H is for HD for reading the text
I is for Infocom eaten by grues
J is for Jumpman whose name he did lose
K is for Kremlins who walk back and forth
L is for Link who plays tunes to a horse
M is for Myst which was somewhat surreal
N’s for Nintendo who switched up their seal
O’s for Okami a dog in reverse
P is for Playstation’s high-budget curse
Q is for Q-Bert, like Pac-Man but not
R is for Racecars, you see them a lot
S is for Spoony the bard and the show
T is for Tales and Sonic’s lil' bro
U is for Unreal Tournament pros
V is for Virtua Fighter combos
W’s for WoW and the fans who don’t move
X is for Xbox and Xs on roofs
Y is for Yahtzee who gave Portal cred
Z is for Zero Suit Samus, ‘nuff said
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
And now it's time for Unfunny and Comicaly Mispelled Meta-Humor!
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Yo mamma’s so fat, she brushes her teeth with mayonnaise!
Well, actually she’s not particularly fat. Apparently she suffers from an injury she sustained as a child which impairs her sense of smell, consequently causing her to occasionally mistake the tastes of radically dissimilar substance. It’s rather unfortunate really.
She is kind of fat though.
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How many economists does it take to screw in a light bulb?
Well, since the average grownup has little trouble screwing in a lightbulb themselves, and economists are likely to be adults who have reached a level of education at least marginally above that of the general public, the odds of such a task requiring more than one economist seem minimal at best.
They just don't know jack about the economy :P
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Monday, July 20, 2009
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Monday, June 29, 2009
Having recently watched the fourth installment (though admittedly I dozed off a few times between explosions, having been up late the night before, or at least I'll assume that's the reason), I will now give a very brief review and once-over for each individual film simply so as to collect together in my own mind the various fragmented elements of an iconic sci-fi series which has so amply explored the spectrum of quality. Yes there will be spoilers, and also you were adopted.
Let's start at the beginning. Or is it the end? It's all a bit muddled since Terminator's protagonist, Kyle Reese, shows up in the '80s on a mission that he won't be sent on 'till after the fourth movie. He's sent back so that he can protect (and knock up) Sarah Conner, who will one day be mother to the hero of the human resistance against machines in a post-apocalyptic future littered with an implausable abundance of human skulls. Wow. As movie concepts go, that's as mind-blowing as the first Matrix, and considerably more mind-blowing than Ghost Dad. By now it's all old hat, but can you imagine going into a theatre in 1984 without knowing anything about it ahead of time?
The film starts as a fairly ordinary thriller with Arnold Schwartzenegger killing off everyone in town named Sarah Connor for reasons that are at first unclear, and which are later explained by one of the most awesome backstories in movie history. Sure some of the effects are a bit outdated, and everyone already knows the story by now, but Terminator easily deserves a rental, and is still the optimal movie by which to be introduced to the franchise, particularly if you've been living under a rock and have no idea what the films are about.
Next is Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Awesome. I won't argue with the consensus that this is the best in the series as it showcases great action, an awesome villain, a dark yet compelling plot, and the perfect role for Arnold. However there are a number of things that begin to bug me at this point. Arnold's T800 allegedly has to be sent back in time buck-naked and without any weaponry because only organic matter can be sent through time (why?). "But hold on," you may ask yourself, "isn't the T800 a robot? Surely it's made of metal." Aha, but the T800 is living tissue over metal endoskeleton! (and don't call me Shirly) So they couldn't have given him a futuristic energy-blaster inside his forearm why?
And then we have the T1000, which is made of liquid metal and can take any form. I'm willing to believe that a blob of mercury can function as a living organism, and even that it can refract light to take on different appearances, but how can a blob of metal become living tissue in order to be sent back through time? Living tissue is fairly complex. If it can do that, then why can't it turn it's forearm into a futuristic energy-blaster? Or a nuclear warhead, just to be on the safe side? Luckily Sarah Connor is wiser and more jaded than in the previous film, and she has a T800 to protect her rather than a normal dude, so she is able to defeat the T1000 and escape SkyNet's wrath once again. Which makes me think... why didn't they send the T1000 back to deal with her in the first film? They could have sent him alongside the T800 they sent, and finished her off then. If SkyNet had the resources to send back exactly 3 Terminators (4 counting Summer Glau), why send them to different points in the timeline? And why not at least send your most advanced Terminator to the point when the enemy is at her weakest, and not to when you've already given her 11 years' warning?!
Alright, next we have Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, and here is where the series begins to go downhill. There isn't anything particularly bad about T3, and personally I rather enjoyed it, it just doesn't really bring anything new to the table. In this installment, SkyNet sends back Bloodrayne to fill in for Silver Surfer, and she inexplicably has a futuristic energy-blaster inside her forearm?! It might make sense that SkyNet is figuring out new tricks with their Terminators except that they're all presumeably being sent from the same point in the future, not to mention this incarnation seems considerably less powerful than the T1000 (who easily could have survived getting smooshed a little). She's referred to as the T-X, which means she's either 80-times less advanced than the the T800, or SkyNet fell victim to the Hollywood formula for naming sequels.
Again, why wasn't this model sent back to help out the T800/1000? If SkyNet wanted to cast their net wider or something by sending the Terminators to different points in the timeline, why send your most primitive model to the point when you have the most chance of success? And if SkyNet sent back the T800 before it had developed the T1000, and then realized later that Arnie hadn't done his job, then why not send another Terminator to help him rather than sending it to a different point in the timeline, or at least split the difference and send the T-X back to help the T800 and the T1000 to some other point? I'm probably overanalyzing all this, but none of it compares to the intense tomfoolery displayed by SkyNet in...
Terminator: Salvation (seriously, spoilers). Now here's where I think the whole franchise runs off the rails. It's not that this is a bad film, and the craft is definitely there. The problems only really start to emerge in the last act. In this film we have Batma- er, John Connor heroicially leading the remnants of mankind by shooting stuff and getting injured, and we have Kyle Reese as his extremely young father, which is slightly unsettling. We also have Marcus Feni- er, Marcus Wright as a sort of half-terminator who thinks he's human and has been sent to lure John into a trap. This trap involves having Kyle captured and brought to SkyNet HQ, and then having Marcus disable the defenses so that John can go in and be murdered by UNARMED-NAKED-CG-ARNOLD! As evil supervillain plans go, that's pretty retarded.
What's more, after Marcus has done his part, he is filled in on the plan by SkyNet's representative, Helena Bonham Carter (who I actually quite enjoyed in this film, and who I think could have totally pulled off the Borg Queen). After realizing he's been a pawn this whole time (which should have been bleedingly obvious due to the fact that he's half-terminator), Marcus predictably yet stupidly rips the control-circuit from out of his head, and runs off to save John Connor. A sign of a bad movie is when there are plotpoints which are both blatantly nonsensical and also painfully predictable, and this film has these in abundance. A better list of plotholes can be found here, but allow me to go into a few of the reasons why T:S makes no freaking sense.
Now it makes sense that the SkyNet in 2018 knows that John Connor is apparently vitally important in the future since I'm assuming emails can be sent back in time if living tissues can (or they could send back a post-it note made of skin), and I'm even willing to accept that they know Kyle Reese is important, but considering the fact that they can mimic human voices, why not simply kill Kyle Reese and pretend you have him held hostage? If he never gets sent back in time, then logically John Connor shouldn't exist at all. (In fact, John Connor shouldn't exist at all since Kyle never would have gone back in time if it wasn't for John, but that's another issue.) And if you're going to go to all this trouble to lure John into an elaborite trap 15 years in the making, couldn't you at least give CG-Arnold a gun? Or, like, a switchblade? Or a pointy stick? You're not sending him back in time this time people! By this point, the only rationalization I have for these movies is that SkyNet's AI chip was severely damaged somewhere along the way, and it just happened that the bit that researches time machines was the only part left unscathed.
Now all the perimeter defenses have been shut down because of Marcus, but if this was part of the plan, then couldn't you just pretend they're shut down until John walks in. I'm not a programmer by any means, but this sounds like something I could code up, and we already see that the machines are capable of playing dead because they do so in response to a magical signal that the resistance is testing out to see if it will disable them. A perfectly sensible plan would have been to have Marcus think he's deactivated the base's defenses, and then when John walks in turn everything back on and blow the crap out of him. An even better plan would have been to outfit Marcus with some of those nuclear power cells (which SkyNet conveniently leaves out on tables in the middle of their headquarters), and have him detonate as soon as he meets John Connor. In fact if Terminators have explosives inside them and can detonate Predator-style, then why not do this in the previous films?:
"Hey kid, c'mere a minute." Boom!
I guess the answer to that last one is obvious: because then we wouldn't have a franchise. These movies are best enjoyed by turning off that voice in your head and just going with it. Sure the whole thing begins to unravel if you look at it too hard, but that can be said about a lot of films (like The Matrix), but the point is to enjoy the high concept, and half of that comes from making fun of it. I just wish they had been willing to explore the ideas more fully. Like so many Sci-Fi franchises before it, all the interesting ideas are presented in the first film, and the rest just start to feel like cash-ins. There are so many interesting ways you could take a story that involves time travel and the apocalypse. There were numerous rumours floating around the internet about how the fourth film was going to end, and each of them was far more interesting than the way it was actually handled.
In the actual ending, John Connor is injured by getting thrown around a lot, but is saved by a heart transplant. I'm not even going to go into how stupid that is. Once again money triumphs over artistic merit, and another potentially interesting series is lost to the unwashed masses, or at least to the Hollywood producers' vision of them. But me, I have a little more faith in humanity. I feel that as long as you have an acceptable quota of explosions and giant robots, you can still tell a proper story.
Now if you'll excuse me, I need to get back to some proper Sci-Fi. Doon's calling, and the demonic martian sandworms are running amuck in the spice reserves again.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Monday, June 15, 2009
Saturday, June 6, 2009
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Sunday, May 31, 2009
Sorry. Anyway we've posted another video on YouTube, now with much-updated art.
And we were also recently featured in the electrozeen TechVibes (thanks for the kind words, Henry!):
NeverBored Studios Set To Launch ThreadBound For The iPhonePosted by Henry Finn on Sat, May 23, 2009 9:42 AM
Waterloo based startup NeverBored Studios is days away from submitting their debut title ThreadBound to the Apple App Store. The game will cost only .99 cents when it hits the app store yet provides unlimited entertainment with hours of game play, multiple challenges and even a level editor.
Unlike most games where players control a character, ThreadBound lets its users control the platform. In the insect themed game you control a 'stick bug' that assists a 'thread bug' trying to work its way across each level. You can also interact with several other elements in the games environment, for example; coat your 'stick bug' in honey to make it stickier or use it to swat away enemies.
ThreadBound offers a huge amount of value for its low price. The game is incredibly sophisticated for a casual iPhone title. For only .99 cents the game includes 54 levels with over 4 hours of game play, additional challenges for the hard core gamers and NeverBored has also included an option that allows users to listen to their own music while they play. Another innovative aspect of the game is the level creator. Users can create their own levels, submit them to NeverBored Studios and the best levels will be included in future updates.
NeverBored’s members Jimmy Ho, Thomas Ang, Orin Bishop, Morgan Hall, Steven Truong and Chris Killoran are primarily former University of Waterloo students working with several artists based out of British Columbia. The team has a great mix of talented individuals with some solid game industry experience. Jimmy Ho formely worked for Microsoft and Electronic Arts on Xbox and Wii titles. Thomas Ang another former EA employee gained experience developing sports titles and is responsible for ThreadBound’s physics engine. Orin Bishop brings a different kind of gaming experience to the team; he has been actively developing board games, including Nameless Island published by Steve Jackson Board Games.
If you enjoy gaming and own an iPhone keep your eyes peeled for ThreadBound’s launch.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
Now let me start by saying that I was quite young when I first saw Menåce des los Phantasms, but at the time the concept of midi-chlorians didn't really have an effect on me. I was old enough to understand it logically (to the extent that there is logic to be teased out from Qui-Gon's somewhat feeble explanation), but I guess I wasn't yet at the age where one needs to actively seek out wonder and mystery in the world.
Now that I'm a little older and wiser and jadeder, I believe I can understand some fan's ire at the concept of trying to explain a mystical and omniscient force away with microscopic organisms (though ironically if you turn that around, you get religion). It still has never got to me though. I agree that the midi-chlorians explanation is kind of lame, but it is also so hand-wavy that I find it impossible to be particularly disillusioned by it. In my opinion, the whole thing speaks to how quick we are to assume something is understood once we have applied a name to it. How does the force work? Midi-chlorians. Why do things fall? Gravity. Why am I afraid of chopsticks? Consecotaleophobia. How are the Rolling Stones still performing? Spackle. You get my drift.
The truth is that midi-chlorians explain practically nothing about the Force, they just raise more questions. Why do microscopic organisms in my blood allow me to send an object flying across the room? Do they send a telegram to it's molecules in the preferred format, politely requesting a relocation? Do they fly out of my hand in an invisible cloud and manually carry the object away? Do they all just wish really hard? No, I'll tell you how it works: Magic. The same way it has always worked.
Now I guess Lucas wanted to use midi-chlorians partly as a plot device, so he could explain why Qui-Gon was so insistent on bringing Anakin along, and also so he could explain Anakin's divine conception without getting sued by that guy who wrote the Bible. Personally though, I feel that the whole thing would have been better and more interesting if he'd instead had a conversation with Obi-Wan that paralleled and foreshadowed Vaders ominous talk with the Emporor in Strike-Back des los Impériosøs.
OBI-WAN: What is thy bidding, my master?
QUI-GON: There is a great disturbance in the Force.
OBI-WAN: I have felt it.
QUI-GON: I just met some kid -- Anakin Skywalker.
OBI-WAN: Yes, my master.
QUI-GON: He can race pods.
OBI-WAN: He's just a boy. I disbelieve his ability to race pods.
QUI-GON: The Force is strong with him. I totally believe he can race pods.
OBI-WAN: If he could be made a Jedi, he would become a powerful ally.
QUI-GON: Yes. Yes. He would be a great asset. Can it be done?
OBI-WAN: He will join us or else have to make Jingle All the Way 2, my master.
Monday, April 27, 2009
Monday, April 20, 2009
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Friday, April 17, 2009
-Marin Independent Journal's Rick Polito - synopsis for The Wizard of Oz.
I stumbled across this delightful list of "uncomfortable plot summaries" of various movies and tv shows (spoiler warning obviously). Here are some highlights:
BATMAN: Wealthy man assaults the mentally ill.
FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF: Amoral narcissist makes world dance for his amusement.
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST: Peasant girl develops Stockholm Syndrome.
ROBIN HOOD: Disgruntled veteran protests taxes.
RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK: American yahoo murders soldiers and desecrates religious artifacts for money.
FIREFLY: In an analogue of the post-Civil War west, a white man on the losing side bosses around a black woman.
V FOR VENDETTA: Dystopian government overthrown by faceless conformity.
STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE - Religious extremist terrorists destroy government installation, killing thousands.
STAR WARS: EMPIRE STRIKES BACK: Boy is abused by midget, kisses sister, attempts patricide.
W.: Unspeakable disaster afflicts America. Then terrorists attack.
GROUNDHOG DAY: Misanthropic creep exploits space/time anomaly to stalk coworker.
ALIENS: An unplanned pregnancy leads to complications.
TERMINATOR: An unplanned pregnancy leads to complications.
TITANIC: Crazy old widow disregards lifelong memories of husband, children, and grandchildren in favor of that one time she fucked a bum.
THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST: Mel Gibson fulfills fantasy of showing a Jew beaten to a bloody pulp and killed on-screen.
THE GOLDEN COMPASS: Critique of Catholicism upstaged by polar bear fight.
LORD OF THE RINGS: Midget destroys stolen property.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Character growth and development in fiction is something that must come from more than mere combat prowess, but it is a common element of fiction that a character will grow more experienced at whatever they do over the course of the story, be it slaying goblins, baking bread or baking goblins. The thing is, their increasing expertise at this task usually has some ramifcations on the story. Harry Potter figures out how to summon a patronus and is able to repel the dementors, and Zoolander figures out how to turn left and is able to finally open a centre for kids who can't read good (and who wanna learn to do other stuff good too). In a good game like The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask (to pick a hugely underlooked installment), finding the hookshot allows you to do new things, and it appreciably changes the gameplay somewhat. In an ultra-conservative design like World of Warcraft, you will never find anything other than a sword or a helmet or a breastplate which gives you bigger numbers. Then you can travel to some strange new land with different scenery and fight enemies that have bigger numbers, but you'll be prepared because of your bigger numbers.
Now, to be fair, part of the difficulty here is with the open-world design of a game like World of Warcrack-*cough*-craft. Zelda, being a much more linear experience, is able to lay everything out so you find your hookshot at the right time, rather than finding it too soon and errently pwning a bunch of noobs who were minding their own business. WoW on the other hand involves gaining items and skills pretty much at random (at least as far as the developer's concerned), so very little plot or gameplay ends up being built around particular skills or items unless they are special McGuffin quest items. (On the whole, WoW is a very conservative game. Things like the Corrupted Blood incident illustrate how entertaining the game could be if the designers ever decided to start taking some risks. But I'll get back to the many reasons why I don't play WoW in a future post.)
Games that have even less of an excuse are single-player RPGs which may be as linear as Donkey Kong yet still refuse to confer anything to you that results in anything more than bigger numbers. Sure, as in WoW, there will occasionally be a semi-interesting ability which perhaps stuns an enemy or heals your party, which should change gameplay dynamics a bit, but you are likely to have something of every type fairly early on, at which point the game just starts jacking up the numbers. "You can already heal? Well now you can heal twice as much! You can already encase a party member in a protective field of energy? Well now you can do it for 1.3 times as long! Hooray!"
The worst of all this is that in many games, the abilities have no bearing on the story or the gameplay outside of the battles. Again, the problem is that the game may not know exactly when you will have gained a particular ability, but why in the bloody hell can't you cast cure or use a phoenix down on a wounded ally outside of combat? I'll tell you why. Because, in the words of Yahtzee, "the story and gameplay are kept either side of a rought-iron fence made of tigers."
Anyway, I don't mean to give the impression that I hate all RPGs (just most of them). I have no particular problem with numbers in games going up, just as long as I don't have to waste my time grinding through uninteresting battles in order to get my character to the level at which he can defeat the next boss. This is called filler, and it has long been one of the vilest scourges of the gaming industry. But rather than get totally derailed, let me get to the point of today's ravings: in-game purchases are a load of bull. You shouldn't have to waste valuable time or money just to get big enough numbers to play a game properly. It's like if you went out to have a good game of tennis, only to discovered that your opponent had bribed the judges into letting him use a Maxim gun instead of a racket. That may be a poor example, though, because it would appreciably change the gameplay.
The only ethical way I can see of doing paid content is if it actually opens up new parts of the game to you. Paying to download new levels or areas seems fine, as you are getting more of the game. Paying real money for a digital sword that does x2 damage goes against everything that I stand for.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
I was hoping they might get Sam Raimi to direct, and maybe even Bruce Campbell as the lead. I feel Raimi might have shot the film more provocatively, and I'm sure Bruce could have added that extra touch of charm. Sadly, they seem to have left this sort of intricate drama behind in favor of more surreal, arthouse-style films, and were both tied up with this other project:
(Bruce Campbell is playing the tambourine in this scene. He is expressing the transient irony of reactionary postmodernism.)
(Or he's just shaking it randomly.)
All in all, I feel that Noir to Hide the movie was a solid effort, but I'm not sure if I'd want more of my work to be adapted. I feel that some of the subtler messages are inevitably lost in translation, and there's simply a technological limit to the number of banana slugs that can be rendered simultaniously.
Saturday, April 4, 2009
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Obviously a lot of the art is placeholder, and the audio also has a ways to go, but we are hoping to release it on the apps store in late-April or early-May, and at a limited-time discount. Buy it now! (or rather, then!)
(I'm the one playing, my friend Thomas is the one trying to centre the iPod in front of my laptop's camera. Just pretend this is Blair Witch or something.)
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
I also remember that we were totally smacked upside the gob when the trailer declared - and this may count as a spoiler if it's possible to spoil a trailer - that Jean Reno was a character in it. I mean, he doesn't just add some voicework, they've got his likeness in there and everything, fighting alongside a ninja in feudal Japan against an army of, uh, demons apparently.
Um - setting aside for a moment the fact that Jean Reno kicks ass - why?
Well, because apparently the demons are invading present-day France as well as Feudal Japan, so we need a French guy. I guess I'm just dissapointed the demons aren't also invading Mars and Krypton so Superman and Marvin can join the fray. Actually I don't see why they couldn't join the fray, but apparently Jean Reno is just a prick who doesn't care about Feudal Japan and only cares when his own Jerry-loving people are in peril.
(It's interesting how in this context, Jerry could refer to either Jerry Lewis or Nazi Germany, and they're conveniently both offensive.)
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Speaking of irreverent mashups, there's a new book called Pride and Prejudice and Zombies which is exactly what the title implies. There is also a similar-sounding movie coming out called Pride and Predator, produced by Elton John. That's like if...
...nah, I got nothing.
All I can say is, I'm gonna feel really jipped if they doen't have the actual Predator in the movie. And zombies in pre-Vctorian literature are awesome. If you have doubts, read Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.
To be academicaly honest, I learned about both of these lovely Jane Austen butcheries at Wondermark, one of the very few webcomics I read. This guy David Malki swipes pictures he finds in 19th century periodicles and combines them with word balloons for surreal and often hilarious results. He also has an enlightening and sobering section called The Comic Strip Doctor where he valiently tries to fix the zombie-like abominations that are todays newspaper 'funnies.' This was where I found out about the wonders of the Garfield Randomizer, but that's a post for another day.
Seriously, read Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. Jean Reno demands it!