Monday, April 27, 2009

Stupid Internet...

I can't believe someone's already used my idea!

Monday, April 20, 2009

NeverBored Studios - YouTube Channel

We now have a youtube channel.
More to come soon.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

New Car

There's a distinct lack of ads here at blogger, so this will have to do: I absolutely loved Friday's xkcd comic.

...oh, and Gene Wilder wants you to buy this terrifying baby.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Uncomfortable Plot Summaries

"Transported to a surreal landscape, a young girl kills the first person she meets and then teams up with three strangers to kill again."

-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

Be Fruitful and Multiply

It's time to address some shenanigans which I feel have been allowed to continue for far too long. I'm speaking, of course, about RPGs. Now don't get your controllers in a knot, I'm not bashing every RPG, and I'm definitely not bashing every game that has "RPG elements" (though for the record I find that term rather silly, but we'll talk about that another time). What I want to talk about now are those games about inflation, where the goal is to achieve ever-higher numbers to keep up with the enemies. Where the gameplay at level 1 is fundamentally indestinguishable from the gameplay at level 55 except that you're dealing 6000 damage per attack instead of 8. Now I know what you're probably saying: "The bigger numbers make me feel like I've developed my character and really come a long way." Well that's stupid because the game is exactly the same.

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

Noir to Hide - Film Adaptation

Well, the bigwigs in Hollywood apparently took a liking to my short period piece, and they have already released the theatrical version. Obviously it doesn't hold a candle to my original, since you don't even have read it or anything, but I do feel it to be quite a faithful adaptation, all things considered.

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

Noir to Hide

The following is a short novella I wrote in the irreverent style of Marcel Boulestin, or perhaps the late Thomas Keller.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Noir to Hide - Ghostwritten by Orin Bishop

          "That's some office," I mused loudly as I decried the Mesopotamian wallpaper and crocheted egress. I regretted leaving the keys inside.
          That's when I saw, for the first and third time, the dame who would change my life so tangentially. She didn't seem to regard it as an egress, and strode through it with something resembling the character of someone who was once confident, but who lost it all one day to the blind yammerings of lady liberty. She opened her mouth loudly to speak, but I already new what she was going to say.
          "You want me to find the man who killed your husband." I absentmindedly tipped my ashtray out the window to the familiar and comforting screams of the city. She looked at me with surprise, her flawless features diminished somewhat by her sad eyes and dripping gun wound.
          "No, my husband's fine; he's been dead for weeks. I want you to find the man who nearly shot me."
          Apparently I hadn't known what she was going to say.
          "Ma'am, I think he more than nearly shot you." I indicated her charming laceration.
          "This? No, I tripped on the stairs on my way up here. The man who shot at me was..."
          She paused, scanning the room with the air of an ardent quadruped. After several hours, her gaze fell upon the shadowy figure atop my desk.
          "That's him! On your sofa!"
          "It's a desk," I pointed out, with the manner of a tollbooth operator who has just been refused parole... again.
          "I'm not a desk," said Bob.
          "Look," I offered, attempting to lighten the mood by hurling a Molotov cocktail, "perhaps we can discuss all this over some cold jazz and a warm martini."
          "Alright," acquiesced my bleeding client as she loosened her sombrero, "but I must warn you that I like mine practically scalding."
          I took this as a sexual advance, and called the police on speed dial. It seemed I needed an adult.