Thursday, December 22, 2011

My Focus Bar is Empty

I read a graph the other day that was a pie chart listing "Things On My Mind The Week Before Vacation".  50% of HERP, and the other 50% was DERP.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Shush, I read it all.

Also, you haven't even finished Rage!

It's an End-Of-Year Thing

Everyone comes out with Top 10 lists this time of year.  LICD even whined about it in their comic the other day.  I will admit it's rather cliched, but that's not going to stop me from doing it.  This isn't necessarily going to be a Top 10 list, though.  It's more going to be a summary of the gaming world as it was in the year 2011. Or in most cases, mindless ranting!

First of all, I played a -lot- of games this past year.  And here they all are.  Every single one of them, in the order in which they were released:

DC Universe Online

Dead Space 2
Dragon Age 2
Crysis 2
Portal 2
Fable 3
The Witcher 2
Frozen Synapse
Hunted: The Demon's Forge
Red Faction: Armageddon
Alice: Madness Returns
Dungeon Siege 3
F.E.A.R. 3
From Dust
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Dead Island
Hard Reset
Dungeon Defenders
LA Noire
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Batman: Arkham City
Serious Sam 3
Trine 2
Star Wars: The Old Republic
One more game is coming out this year that I'll get getting, but probably won't get around to playing until 2012:

Postal 3

So that's quite a long list of games.  There are several notable games that came out this year, which I did not play.  To name four:  Battlefield 3, Modern Warfare 3, Duke Nukem Forever and Assassin's Creed Revelations.  None of these games will be in the lists provided below...since I haven't played them.  But the fact that they didn't interest me enough to play should tell you enough about them, anyway.  I actually did buy ACR, and plan on playing it eventually.  The other three I didn't even bother to purchase.

Also, it's interesting that The Binding of Isaac isn't on this list, and I'm now wondering how many other indie titles I've missed listing here.  I mean -- this list you see above is from a website.  It's basically a "2011 in Gaming" page that lists all the games released throughout the year.  Edit:  Also, The Baconing isn't listed.  I've been writing this blog post over the past three days, and that one just came to me.

Now for me to make up some award categories based purely on the list in front of me.  I shall start with the worst.

Worst Game of the Year

This game has just been proclaimed "Game of the Year" by MMORPG.  I dub it worst game of the year.  Everyone proclaims the graphics are better than WoW.  I find them bland.  Everyone proclaims the leveling experience is better than WoW.  I find it boring.  Everyone claims the choices you get are more in-depth than WoW.  I find them to be the same.  It actually hurt to play it.  It's all well and good if you enjoy the game.  I didn't, though, and I will never say a good word about it.

I can hear the fanboys gnashing their teeth at me, and I don't care.  I think it's a WoW-clone with less love put into it, and I think it's a bad game.

Runner-up:  The Witcher 2
Boring with a clunky combat system.

Worst Implementation of Co-Op Gaming
Hunted: The Demon's Forge

Y U NO make a game that works?  Y U provide difficulty settings if they change nothing?  Y U make co-op game if the NPC version of your co-op partner will always be superior to a real player?

Worst Way to Port A Game
Microsoft (in their release of Fable 3)

Stop publishing games, Microsoft.  Right now.  Let someone else do it, and let them do it correctly.  Because you can't.  Ever.  Fuck off.

Most Over-Hyped Game

I heard about this game consistently for about six months up until its release.  And then I never heard from it again!  I can write a review for the game in one word:  "Blah"

Worst Release Date

Things Gamers (or just humans in general) Need to Stop Saying (along with my response to such things)

  • You should be ashamed of yourself.  (Bitch, I'm me and there's no shame here.)  Context:  Self-Righteous gamers say this when a game developer or other such entity does something they find abhorrent.  For example:  Blizzard announcing the real money auction house for Diablo 3, which according to them is something even worse than a hate crime or even the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
  • That's the final nail in the coffin for me.  (Can it be YOUR coffin?  Please?)  Context:  Over-dramatic gamers say this when a game developer makes a change.  Any change.  For example:  Blizzard announces a revamped talent system for Mists of Pandaria, and therefore according to them it's the straw that broke the camel's back and the game is now dead.  The seas will rise and flood mankind, the rings of Saturn will implode, and a black hole will swallow the galaxy (and have a nasty case of indigestion afterward).
  • I've lost all faith in...  (You've now also lost the game.  Bitch.)  Context: Over-exaggerating gamers will say this when they don't like something (anything (everything)).  For example:  The response to Dragon Age 2 means that, according to them, no one should believe in anything Bioware does ever again for all eternity.  
  • Whine.  Whine.  Whine.  (Stab.  Stab.  Stab.)  Context:  Everything ever in the history of the universe.
  • This sickens me.  (No you.)  Context:  Very similar to the whole "You should be ashamed..." thing.  
  • They are completely out of touch with their playerbase.  (Maybe they are just out of touch with YOU...and thank Crom for that.)  Context:  Very similar to the whole "Final nail..." thing.
  • I don't see how you could possibly like this...  (I can only imagine you are pointing to yourself.  If so, then ME NEITHER.)  Context:  Usually a response to someone stating their God given right to an opinion.  Used in a disparaging manner to make the other person feel bad for actually being an individual and enjoying something that the dumbass gamer didn't like.  In other words, they WANTED to say "You are in idiot for liking that."  TB is actually really bad at this, and I wish he'd stop.  He very often says, "This is bad and you're wrong if you disagree."  Such poor critiquing skills.
Alright, I'm done ranting.  I think.  Before I get to the "best" categories, there are a few things that are worth mentioning.  Basically, covering games which have been out longer than just since 2011, but are still relevant.
  • League of Legends saw a dramatic increase in players.  They still release a new champion every two weeks, update the game every week, and have no intention of letting their game grow stale.  If I awarded a "Best MMO" award (which I don't), this game wouldn't get it.  (Ha, fooled you!) But it would be right up there with the best of them.
  • Civilization V got a bunch of DLC packs and some tweaks.  It's one of the few games older than a year that I still pick up and play.  (Well, at least it was.  Until a certain game of the star-sy and war-sy variety came out.)
  • WoW is still the same.  That's a very important sentence, and it's a double-edged sword.  It's still the same -- which means it's still good.  Fantastic even.  It's also still the same -- which means you've done it all before and you may or may not have had enough.  It's going to be interesting to see where it goes after the next year.  I always refrain from saying "Blizzard needs to change WoW to make it interesting again." because the game is actually fine in the way it plays now.  There are MANY features in WoW that I wish TOR had.  For example:  Achievements, Dungeon Finder, and Transmogrify.  But...I feel like I've played WoW.  Does that sentence make sense to you?  I don't want to say "I feel like I'm done with WoW", because I don't know that.  So that's the next best line I can come up with.  It's feels like I've done it all, and that feeling persists even when there's new content.  

Also, one more award!

Game that Would Have Done Better If It Hadn't Been Released Right Before TOR's Early Access Began
Batman: Arkham City

Do you hear me, Rocksteady?  If you'd released the PC version at the same time as the console version, I would have had enough time to play a lot of it, and it might have won an award.  But your inability to treat the PC gaming platform with respect has cost you any place on my list of best games.
And now, let's do some completely fabricated awards categories for good games! 

Best Soundtrack
BastionI dig my hole, you build a wall

I dig my hole, you build a wall

One day that wall is gonna fall

Gon' build that city on a hill

Gon' build that city on a hill

Someday those tears are gonna spill

So build that wall and build it strong, cause we'll be there before too long

Enough said.

Best Story
Oh for the love of the Nine, why must I make such a decision?  Fine.  It's Deus Ex.  There, I said it.  And before you have a stroke, let me explain why it's not Skyrim and why it's not LA Noire.

You have to understand what a story is to me:  It has a beginning, a climax (herp), and a conclusion.  And everything along the way is engaging, dramatic, exciting, and/or funny.  Skyrim does not get this award because Skyrim is TOO BIG.  Being able to put off the main storyline for as long as you could possibly want is an amazing feature and for Skyrim it needs to be there.  But it breaks the flow and it dilutes the drama.  And that's why it loses.  If this award was "Best Story World", or "Best Open World Game", then Skyrim would win.  LA Noire does not get this award because it's a bunch of mini-stories wrapped up in a game.  All of those mini-stories are brilliant, but you're trading one final, huge, amazing climax (HERP DERP) for all of those smaller ones.  Also, some of LA Noire's stories are kind of convoluted.  Therefore it loses.

Deus Ex did it correctly.  One great flowing story, start to finish.  There are twists and turns along the way.  Mystery.  Intrigue.  Even some funny moments, although the game is very brooding most of the time.  It's what -I- want in a story.  It drove me.  (Hard.  Herp.)

And before all the fucking "LINEAR IS BAD" whiners start whining, Deus Ex was not fully linear, anyway.  A linear story can exist within a non-linear game, and it's not a bad thing.  Do you know why I think all those kids who proclaim "LINEAR IS BAD!" think that way?  It's because their parents won't let them do everything they want, and they hate that.  And y'know, the self-entitled little twats don't even realize it's for their own good.  Same principle.  Just because you -can- do something doesn't mean you -should-.

(How was my cynicism there?  I've been working on it!  I feel like I should have a 1-800 number for people to call and share their comments.  Something like 1-800-Y-SO-SERIOUS.)

Best Co-Op
Again...for the love of the Nine, why are you making me do this?  Sigh.  Alright...It's obviously between Magicka and Portal 2.  Pros and cons?

Magicka has a lot more co-op content (read:  THE ENTIRE GAME).
Portal 2 has a better story.
Magicka's gameplay is a recipe for hilarious disaster.
Portal 2's puzzles are oh-so-satisfying to solve together.
Magicka has this charm to it that you really can't explain.
Portal 2 feels more robust and looks better.

Magicka is an indie game with a small budget, but it's still amazing.
Portal 2 is a mainstream game with a large budget, and it's also amazing.


Portal 2 wins.

The reason Portal 2 wins is due to a few minor things.  One, I -adore- the two co-op buddy robots.  They have so much personality, and it adds so much to the game.  As much as "SUPRENDAY!" makes me laugh, it just doesn't stack up to Atlas and Peabody.  Next, the great story makes up for the entire game not being co-op.  And finally, the quality Valve put into the game exceeds the amazing job the indie developers did with Magicka.  It's just that simple.

It's also interesting because I've played a hell of a lot more Magicka than I have Portal 2, and that isn't solely due to the amount of content.  Magicka is replayable because of how fun the possibility of disaster is.  That doesn't make it superior in my eyes, however.

Best Graphics


I can narrow it down to these:

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Crysis 2
LA NoireWhich one?  I -have- to pick one.  That's the whole point of these awards.  Crom!  

It's Skyrim.  It has to be.  And what's funny is that it's not because it's a superior graphics engine.   I don't believe that it is.  I think that id's new ID Tech engine is superior -- I really do.  Rage was GORGEOUS.  But it was in a post-apocalyptic world.   It limits you -- you can try to make a sewer as pretty as you can, but it's still a sewer.  Oh CROM that game was pretty...but Skryim is prettier because the WORLD of Skyrim is prettier.  It was designed to be.  (I just had a flashback of Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, when Jessica Rabbit tells Eddie, "I'm not bad...I'm just drawn that way.")  Skyrim beats Crysis 2 for the same exact reasons.  LA Noire is on the list simply because of that GLORIOUS lip-synching.  It's the greatest lip-synching in a game ever. More of that, please, Rockstar!

So I guess I would have to say that in regards to presentation (which is really what we're talking about here), Skyrim is the winner.  If we were talking from a technical standpoint, or from a CAPABILITY standpoint, then Rage would be the winner.  I actually look forward to seeing what other developers do with the id Tech 5 engine.  The results should be amazing.

Also, I should mention that TOR looks very pretty as well.  But it's nearly impossible to get an MMO to look as good as a single-player game.  It's just not logistically viable, which is a shame, but that's the way it goes.  I just thought I'd give it a mention here regardless, though.

Best WTF! Moments

  • Trying to kill an unkillable monster before realizing it was unkillable in Dead Space 2.  (Hey I heard you like unkillable monsters...)
  • Blowing up yourself again and again in Magicka.
  • Shooting someone in the ass in Bulletstorm...and getting an achievement for it.
  • The mage animations in Dragon Age 2.
  • The ending of Portal 2.
  • The first time you summon a boss in Terraria.
  • Re-building what you destroy in Red Faction: Armageddon
  • Pretty much every 27 seconds of Limbo.
  • Playing through Bastion when -that- music kicks in during a battle.  You know the one I mean.
  • The finishing moves of Deus Ex: Human Revolution.
  • Having a shotgun pulled out on you when simply questioning a shopkeeper in LA Noire.
  • "I can go ANYWHERE in Arkham City?!"
  • Keeping your trigger finger pressed down for ten full minutes in Serious Sam 3.
  • The ending of -any- story based questline in The Old Republic.

Scariest Game
Dead Space 2 or Limbo?  Jump Scares or Subtle Psychological Dread?

I choose Dead Space 2.

And if these choices weren't difficult before...

Best Shooter
Oh.  Fucking.  Hell.

Deus Ex is eliminated.  It has talent points and conversation choices.  Therefore it is an RPG!  So that leaves...Rage, or Serious Sam 3.

It has to be Rage.  It's simply a better game.  Serious Sam 3 is brilliant for what it is -- unadulterated fun.  I don't deny being thrilled by every minute of it.  But Rage is...well, it's an id shooter.  Serious Sam is meant to be a "budget title", and it's meant to be a love letter to shooters from the time when I first starting getting into shooters.  Rage was designed to push the envelope, which it sort of missed doing because it was released a bit late -- Borderlands and Fallout already did what it does.  But it's also it's own game, and it does things differently.  It stands on its own, and when it really comes down to it, I enjoyed it more than I enjoyed Serious Sam 3.

Best DLC
This is tough only because I don't actually have a full list of all the DLC I've gotten this year.  I can remember several.  If I had actually managed to play the Deus Ex DLC by now, it might actually win this award.  I think PC Gamer gave it a 90% score.  But I haven't.  Sorry Eidos!  Your timing was horrible.

There's also all that glorious Magicka DLC.  I've played those!

And, there's the Portal 2 DLC.  I haven't played those.  Crap!

Well, this is going to be a rather misconstrued award, isn't it?

In any case, my choice is Old World Blues for Fallout: New Vegas.  It wins by a narrow margin against The Lonesome Road DLC, also for Fallout: New Vegas.  OWB wins for a couple of reasons, but only two of them are worth mentioning.  First, it gave me a home, which I continued to use forever.  Second, it was freaking hilarious.

Best RPG
Oh boy!  Time for some good 'ol fashioned CONTROVERSY!  Surprisingly, this was an easy decision for me to make.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

Oh God, my ears are bleeding from the sounds of people threatening to shoot an arrow in my knee.

Okay, just stop for a minute.  What does RPG mean?  Role Playing Game.  It's you, the player, playing a role.  When I play Skyrim, it's all very cool and it's all very fun to play.  When I play TOR, I feel like I'm a Sith Lord.  Do you see the difference?  TOR does RPG better.

Next, the most important thing:  Skyrim had amazing stories, an amazing world, and so much content to explore.  It feels more -alive- than any of the planets I've seen so far in TOR.  BUT - after I defeated Alduin...nothing changed.  My decisions, my actions, my involvement didn't feel like they had any weight behind them.  Also, other quests and towns BROKE as I progressed through the game.  People who I murdered were still mentioned by the common-folk.  When I make a decision in TOR:  My companion treats me differently.  My skin might start to blemish.  My eyes might start to turn red.  People comment on how evil I am.  The storyline shifts in a different direction.  There is CONSEQUENCE.  There is REACTION.  My decisions change things.  THAT'S an RPG done as an RPG should be done.  And that is why TOR wins.

There are other things as well:

  • Establishing relationships with your companions based on the decisions you make as a character.
  • Implementing a bit of personality and interaction into the crafting aspect.
  • The promise of continuing your character's storyline for many YEARS, through the addition of new quests, new planets, and new content over the course of expansions to the MMO.  
  • A very good and established intellectual property with a clear division of good versus evil, which is then turned on its head to allow you to be good on the "evil" side or evil on the "good" side.  Mind = blown.  
  • A unique and engaging story for each class.

Game of the Year
Also an easy choice.  Relatively.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

I know what you're thinking.  "How the fuck can you say Skyrim is game of the year, but not RPG of the year?  Raaaaaaaage."  Well that's quite a simple answer.  If I'm going to consider something to be the best RPG, it would have to be the best at the elements of an RPG.  Read what I stated under that category.  But, a game that is the best at being an RPG isn't necessarily the best GAME I've played this year.

Skyrim has its faults, but it provided me with the most engaging and enjoyable gaming experience this year.

What it has going for it:

  • Solid storylines.
  • A massive world filled with a mind boggling amount of places to explore, an infinite number of quests, dragons, and utterly gorgeous landscapes.
  • The ability to go anywhere and do whatever it is your want to do.
  • Combat that is very fun and diverse.
  • Lots and lots of things to do -- fighting, crafting, exploring, questing, stealing.
  • A single-player experience (more on this later).

And here's why it beat out other games that I really, really enjoyed this year. These explanations will also give you insight as to the games that I was also considering as the best.

It lost to Deus Ex: Human Revolution because of the exploration aspect of things.  Exploring in Deus Ex might lead you to a weapon cache or some praxis points.  Exploring in Skyrim leads you to a sprawling cave or dungeon with loads of monsters inside and piles of loot, and maybe even a quest or two.  I'm not being unfair to a linear game here -- I'm setting the bar for quality in a game that contains quests.  Deus Ex was a quest based game, not just a linear shooter.  Therefore, for it to beat Skyrim it would have to offer me superior quality in that regard.  It did not.

Now, in regards to The Old Republic, it was actually a very close race in my mind.  I'll try to explain what I was thinking about here, but I probably won't do a very good job.  The first thing is that I've only been playing TOR for about a week. With a game so big, that's not even close to enough time to form a final opinion on it.  That was one thing it had against it.  The next small thing was what I mentioned about a single-player experience.  I'm a very anti-social gamer, though not to the extent of Yahtzee.  I honestly get irritated leveling in an MMO when there are other people around me.  I just want them to fuck off so I can enjoy my game.  So you can see why Skyrim gained points with me here, with its single-player only experience that allows me to simply lose myself in the game without worrying about some fucking asshat jumping in front of me and tagging my kills.  I still had a hard time justifying this as a reason, though, given how often in TOR you enter an instance to quest.  But there are still plenty of open areas in the game, so other people are still an irritation sometimes, so my argument is valid.  In this same vein, I feel that TOR has too many group quests.  I know, I know, it's an MMO.  You're supposed to play it with other people.  Well, sometimes I don't wanna.  And actually, it's not even that -- it's that I don't care to play with complete strangers.  But I'll tell you what, this choice was still difficult.  I can't tell you the last time a game has made me feel like so much of a badass as TOR is making me feel.  I also can't tell you the last time I've been so IMMERSED in a game world.  Because of the Light Side/Dark Side choices and the Companion Affection points, I find myself actually thinking like my character as I'm playing the game.  It's incredible.

And it lost to Rage because it simply has tons more to offer.  There's really nothing else to say about it.  Everything that Rage did, it did perfectly.  Skyrim wasn't so perfect, but the sheer magnitude of the game makes up for it.
And now, to summarize, my top 5 games of the year, in order, are:

1. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
2. Star Wars: The Old Republic
3. Rage
4. Deus Ex: Human Revolution
5. Portal 2

And that ends what is probably the longest blog post I have ever written!  I dropped everything before this sentence into Word, and it's 4,095 words.  Heh.

Hm.  Let's see.  John, I know you're impatient, so this one's for you!  TL;DR:  Skyrim.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Taking the Grand Tor: Part 2

Okay, so if I don't make this blog post soon, the number of screenshots I have to share is going to make it utterly impossible to catch up any time soon.   So I suppose I'd better get to it.  


It's already strange for me to look back on these, because I feel like I've progressed so far since I took them.   It's funny, because at the start I didn't really think that my character looked "low level" in regards to what he was wearing.  It looked good.  Looking back now, I do think that, because of how much better I look now.

All of these shots are still from Korriban.  If I was better at organizing this stuff, I would make a post about each planet.  Sadly, I'm not.  This particular image is what a particular Sith Lord did to his apprentice after I informed him that said apprentice tried to get me to sabotage his research.  Silly little apprentice.

This is my master -- Darth Baras.  He's unstable, unhinged, and just an all around bastard.

Yes, that is me leaning against the wall like a boss.  The game never fails to make you feel like a badass.

I chose to be a Marauder, which means I'm playing a pure DPS class and wield two lightsabers.  This is me two seconds after learning to dual wield.

Choosing dark side options will change your character visually.  Your skin will become pale, you'll get blemishes, and your eyes will gradually change to red.   You can see some of the early affects here, as my eyes are orange.  (They are supposed to be green.)  I've turned the feature off -- it starts to make you look sickly, which I don't particularly like.  It's a cool (and accurate) affect, though.

I took a picture of him because he looks cool.  That is all.

Okay, well that put a little dent in the screenshots, anyway.  As for where I am currently, my Sith Marauder is level 22.  I'm now on Nar Shaddaa, and the place is gorgeous.  I love having gone from desert (Korriban), to swamp (Dromund Kaas), to open plains (Balmorra), and now to a metropolis.  It's a very nice variety of locales and environments.

As for what I think of the game -- well it should be obvious the I think it's fucking awesome.  I'm having a blast playing it, and I have to force myself to stop.  I have very few complaints.  Biggest one?  Needs an LFG.  If I could queue up for group quests and instances, I'd be one happy Sith.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Taking the Grand TOR: Part 1

Okay, since I have a queue on my server and need to wait before I can play, I'm going to take a few minutes to provide a few commentated screenshots of the game.  Lucky you! 


First of all, say hello to Saburo.  He's a Sith Warrior (not even a Marauder at this point, as I took this right when I first created him).  He's also an evil bastard.


Instead of needing to eat food to replenish your health after a tough fight, you simply meditate.  It's an out-of-combat thing, and each class has a different version of it.  This is mine.  He's channeling his hate.

The combat is really good.  After thus far 14 levels, I'm not even coming close to getting tired of it yet.  It's just well done all around.  Slicey slicey!


Korriban is the starting world for the Sith (Warriors and Inquisitors), and the place looks rather dead-like.  It's still very impressive, but when compared to the Jedi starting area, you can tell the environment of the Sith is a lot harsher and a lot more unforgiving.  It fits.


All the quests are voice acted  in a cut-scene, and I can't you how much of a joy it is to not have to -read- quests.  Having them spoken to you is brilliant, and I love it.


Flight paths are shuttle rides, and they are entertaining beyond belief.  There's a joke here about "riding them all day", but I won't even go there.

And with that, my queue is down to 37.  I'm going to go stare at it now.  Then it'll be some leveling, and getting some social points by grouping up with John and knocking out some group quests.  Onwards!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

SWTOR - Day 01

One good thing about this early access thing is that since I got in on the first day of it, I probably got to experience the least amount of in-game traffic until the game starts to lose it's popularity.  I enjoyed it.  There were times in the persistent world where I was the only one around doing quests.  It was quite relaxing.

So yeah -- TOR is here.  Well, it's here for those who pre-ordered the game.  Ok, actually, it's not even here for ALL the people who pre-ordered the game.  Just SOME of them.  I honestly don't know how they chose...perhaps how quickly you clicked BUY on pre-order day?  No idea!  In any case, I got my e-mail yesterday morning, and played for a few hours before bed last night.

It was an interesting parallel, because I had just spend a few hours prior to -that- going through the three new instances that Blizzard added to WoW in their Hour of Twilight patch.  It was an MMO scale of justice with a polished, well established game on one side and a new, scrappy game on the other.  It made it quite easy to make comparisons, and it was sort of like watching a boxing match, or maybe even a fight from a 1960's Batman TV show where the words of the punching sound effects flash on the screen.

WoW's animations are incredibly smooth and a joy to watch.  (Bam!)  TOR's quests make me feel more involved and engrossed in what's happening.  (Pow!) I can play something that doesn't look like a human in WoW.  (Biff!)  TOR has lightsabers.  (Whap!)

But unlike an episode of Batman, there wasn't a knock-out punch to be seen from either side.  Quite honestly, from a casual standpoint one could easily play both games without issue, aside from cringing at having two subscriptions to pay.  If you want to raid in either, though...well, you'd probably have to make a choice unless you have a ton of free time on your hands.  I don't, and I'm fine with that.

I'm having fun, and that's what's important.  And, unlike with the beta (because it was beta), I'm beginning to feel that attachment to my character that I also feel in WoW when I invest the time and make accomplishments.  But fortunately, I'm also -not- feeling that sense of urgency that I have gotten from WoW in the past (back when I actually played a lot).  I'm talking about that "OH MY GOD I NEED TO LEVEL QUICKLY SO I DON'T FALL BEHIND" feeling.  It's not present, and good riddance to it.  I stopped playing right at 11:30 PM last night, and was level 6.  I hadn't even gotten my lightsaber yet.  And I'm fine with that, too.

I took some screenshots last night (at least, I think I did.  I didn't check my folder to ensure TOR and Fraps were working together) so I'll make more posts later when I have access to them.  If anyone is playing the game or is about to and wants to look me up, I'm on The Shadowlands server.  I rolled a Sith Warrior, and his name is Saburo.  

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Define: Bittersweet

As I'm sitting here this morning scripting away at work, I'm trying to decide if the ending of 11/22/63 is happy or sad.  I finished the book last night around 2:00 AM.  The answer is both, of course, as most Stephen King books tend to be.  He's not a sympathetic writer -- he never has been, and I seriously doubt he ever will be.

The ending was bittersweet and, more to the point, basically it wasn't the ideal conclusion I would have hoped, but it could have been a lot worse.  In the last ten pages or so, the story got...well, bizarre.  Up until then, it was pretty grounded and based very much on fact.  Even the things that weren't true (in real life) were still based on fact or derived from analyzing the facts to make hypothetical assumptions.  It was believable.

I suppose you can't write a story about time travel without introducing some sort of fantastical elements.  The reader is going to want you to explain -how- your character went back in time in the first place, after all.  I won't go into it that much.

However, I do need to talk about the "Card Men" a little bit, because something has been on my mind ever since it was finally explained what their purpose really is.  At the beginning of the story, there was this hobo who was always around the area of the rabbit hole.  He had a card in his fedora, like a reporters press ticket.  It was yellow.  When Jake went through the rabbit hole the first time, it was orange.  When he went through the second time, it was black.  And the man had killed himself by cutting his own throat.

When Jake returned to the rabbit hole after saving Kennedy, another man was there.  With another card.  This one:  green.  Jake figured out that the card was sort of like those radiation badges that people at a nuclear power plant would wear.  Only these measured SANITY.  These "Card Men" were guardians of the rabbit holes, and staying near them slowly ate away at their sanity.  Green meant they were fine.  Yellow was okay.  Orange, and they were a bit mad.  And black...well, you know what happens then.

After it was explained that these men were guardians of the rabbit holes, and that they were human beings just like you or I, it occurred to me that they might be a certain kind of human being that we've seen in Stephen King's universe before:  The Breakers.

It's viable.  The Breakers are psychics, and their most notable appearance is within the Dark Tower novels.  They are slaves to the Crimson King, and are forced to use their telepathic abilities to slowly weaken and break the beams of the Dark Tower.  Thus their name:  Breakers.  It seems to me that guarding holes in time would be a job fitting their unique abilities.  There is no confirmation of this in the book, but I seriously doubt I'm the only person out there making this connection.

It also begs the question:  Who are they working for?  Are they still under the sway of the Crimson King at this point?  Roland took care of that, but had that happened yet when this story takes place?  I do not think they are, and I'll explain why:  The Crimson King's goal was to destroy the universe so he could rule the darkness.  That's why he wanted to break the beams of the Dark Tower and bring it down.  The Green Card Man said he was trying to -avoid- the universe, no REALITY, from unraveling.  If he was working for the Crimson King, he would have let that happen.  No, they are either on their own, or they are working for someone else.  Perhaps...the Turtle.  Or Gan himself.  

Werk, werk

My boss was in Europe last week for what's called a user group meeting.  Basically, our largest customer wanted to bring in a lot of the people within their organization who use our software, and get a bunch of feedback from them to find out what they would like to see as far as system enhancements and performance improvements go.  It all sounds very boring, I'm sure.  Trust me -- it is.

The side effect of this meeting is that it's probably going to mean a lot of work.  Not all of the news coming out of this thing was good.  I won't get into the details about that, because anything I say would be pure speculation on my part, anyway.  And it's, again, boring.

The entertaining things that came out of the meeting were that the release notes that our team re-wrote got rave reviews by the customer.  It probably embarrassed the hell out of the person who originally wrote them, and I find that very entertaining.  Also, the project plan I compiled for the customer acceptance testing also got rave reviews.

It's humorous, because these are all things that everyone else in the company said was unnecessary and a waste of time.  In yo face!

Also, I think the hundreds of thousands of records that I'm scripting into the database are starting to drive me insane.   Today I saw some records with the notation "River Craft".  This sent me off on a tangent:

"River Craft?  Who the hell calls a boat a river craft?  It's like something a snooty rich hipster would say.  'Yeeeesh, our cah-go was broot in on the river crah-ft.  But you've probably never heard of it."

Then, a little later, I was reviewing locations in Switzerland and came across one called "Verde". So of course that led to this:

"Have you heard?  Verde is the word!"

And you know the rest.

See, my plan is that if I keep the rest of my co-workers questioning my sanity, it'll work to my benefit.  So far, so good!  

Friday, December 09, 2011

Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds

Okay, you may remember that a few weeks ago I posted a YouTube video for the song "If I Had a Gun" by this band.  It's a good song -- something you can sing to.  I'd like to talk a little more about the band now, though.

First of all, if you aren't privvy to your 90's British rock, Noel Gallagher is pretty much one half of arguably the most famous rock band of the 90's:  Oasis.  (Damon Albarn of Blur would probably like to have a word with me regarding that statement, I'm sure.)

In any case, Oasis has come close to breaking up about 500 times since their inception, and this time seems like the most serious of splits.  Both of the brothers have new bands now, and that's a first.  So there you have it.

To me, Liam was always the one who in my eyes was Oasis' lead singer, even though the two of them shared the responsibility.  I always liked his voice better -- he's the one singing Wonderwall, Champagne Supernova, and pretty much every other Oasis song that was a major hit.  I didn't like Noel's singing, at least not then.

Oddly enough, almost any list of "The Greatest Oasis Songs" will list "Don't Look Back In Anger" as the -greatest- Oasis song.  Likewise, any list of simply the greatest rock songs will have that song on the list as the highest ranking Oasis entry.  I say it's odd because that song is sung by Noel.  It was the first time he was the lead vocals on an Oasis track.  I never liked that song much.  Certainly not as much as Wonderwall or Champagne Supernova...or Go Let It Out for that matter.

So I was surprised when I actually liked "If I Had a Gun...", which is the first song that I heard from Noel's new band.  He wasn't singing like the Noel from Oasis.  Quite honestly, he's singing more like the -Liam- from Oasis.  Ironic, that.  It was one of those cases where the song was good enough that I knew I had to hear the rest of the album.  It was almost a guarantee I would like something else from it.

The thing is, when I listen to this album, I hear Oasis.  Depending on which hipster music guru you listen to, it's possible Noel had all these songs written even before Oasis broke up.  So there's really nothing aside from the band's name that doesn't make them Oasis to begin with.  It's a shame, really.

Anyway, this is my favorite song off the album (thus far):

The intro is the best part.  All the way up to "I'm gonna take that tiger outside for a ride..."  What a brilliant line.  

Thursday, December 08, 2011

It looks fine!


Also, I can't see a difference between your mod and the original game.  U mad?  

Monday, December 05, 2011

I'm Batman. Again.

Alright, so I started Arkham City just now, and played about 30 minutes of it.  (I tend to do that with new games -- a short playtime the first night, and then  delve more into it from that point forward.  It's my thing.)  Basically, I did one mission. 

Things look really good from this little bit of exposure.  Graphics are in the same noir-y style of the first game, but you can certainly see the improvements.  Also, the city is...well, daunting!  Right after I got my suit and got my first mission, I just sort of looked around going, "Ummm...WTF am I doing?"  I had no idea where to go, what to do, or anything.  Then I was like, "I'm Batman.  I can do whatever the hell I want!"  And then I started jumping from building to building.  It was glorious.

Well, if there's any sort of video that I should show you regarding my short playtime this evening, it should probably be putting on the suit.  I would like you to pay very particular attention to the MUSIC in this short clip.  Because it is very good.  Allow me to set this up for you:  Batman had a plan regarding Arkham City, but it went a little...Strange.  (OH I'M SO PUNNY.)  Anyway, Bruce Wayne was arrested and thrown into Arkham City, so you spend the first 15 or so minutes as the billionaire playboy.  This video is where he gets his suit on.

Here's a short amount of screenshots as well.

This first one is my first view of Arkham City itself.  (You can see that I'm still Bruce at this point.  I had just won a little brawl with the Penguin's goons.  Ol' Cobblepot isn't happy with me.)

Here's Harvey Dent (or Two-Face if you prefer).  It looks like they took the design choices from The Dark Knight film when they designed him, and I think he looks fantastic.  His voice is very similar to how Aaron Eckhart did it in the movie, too.  Very good choice there.

And here's Batman and Catwoman having a little chat.  Interesting enough, the first time you're in control of the game itself, you play Catwoman for a little scene.  She steals some kind of location data chip from Two-Face, which sets up him capturing her (from the screen above).

I feel quite overwhelmed by this game.  I'm not sure yet if it's a good thing or not -- we'll see.  However, I have a feeling that once I get my bearing in this game, it's going to become fantastic.  Stay tuned.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Seriously Finished

I finished Serious Sam 3 last night.  I'm sure you're very happy about that, because it means an end to the corny blog titles with the word "serious" or some form of the word thrown in.  Seriously.  In any case, the game didn't disappoint in regards to all the promises it made.  In other words, it was a triumph.  I'm making a note here:  HUGE SUCCESS.  It's hard to overstate my satisfaction.

The final level was quite insane.  The precursor to the final boss fight was running through a winding cavern while killing literally thousands of enemies.  It had to be thousands.  I'm thinking there was between 200-300 of each type of enemy in the game charging at me through that cavern at some point in time.

After that insanity, it was time for the final boss fight.  His name was The Guardian of Time, and naturally he was as tall as a skyscraper.  The fight started with him wrestling with the large sand worm creature that had existed in every level throughout the game.  (It's designed so that if you leave the designated level area and wander out into the desert, the big sand worm would come out of the sand and eat you.  That way, you stayed on course.  It's basically how the developers made it so the desert LOOKED endless, but you couldn't go walking out into it, thus eliminating the need for invisible walls.  It was a good thing.)

So anyway, the Guardian of Time is wrestling the huge sand worm.  (Sam comments, "Are you two having an ugly contest?  Well guess what, you -both- win!")  It took me a bit of time and many deaths to figure out this fight.  It was a large area with several small huts filled with ammo -- mostly the ammo for the most powerful weapons.  Also, the entire time, endless waves of enemies were spawning -- primarily the most powerful ones.  I assumed that I simply had to whittle down the boss' health while keeping the endless wave of enemies to a manageable level.

The problem was that the boss' health regen'd faster than my most powerful weapon could damage him.  And that was when I would focus ONLY on the boss and completely ignore the spawning enemies.  So in other words, it wasn't working at all.  I didn't know what the game wanted me to do.  I saw these large javelins on the ground that I could pick up and throw (just like a spear, really), but I didn't see a place to hit the boss with them.  It was very confusing until I accidentally hit the jump button at one point.  When I did, I went flying up into the air.

I had a jetpack and didn't even know it.

Looking back, the jetpack must have been sitting among a pile of ammo that I had picked up, and I just didn't notice it.  And just now I remember hearing Sam, at one point, say "Who needs a chopper?"  That must be when I picked it up.  I just didn't see it, nor would I have noticed it on my back -- I'm in first-person so all I see of Sam are his hands and the weapon he's holding.  But in any case, I figured it out!  I had to grab a spear, jetpack up while the boss wrestled the sand worm, and throw the spear at the soft fleshy area on the creature's back.  When the boss wasn't distracted by the sand worm, I had to strafe away from it while thinning out the hordes of spawning enemies.  It all fell into place once I learned what I had to do.

The game ended just seconds before the very first game begins.  (It's a prequel, after all.  The full name of the game is Serious Sam 3: BFE.  Everyone assumes BFE stands for "Before First Encounter".  Since the first game was called "Serious Sam: The First Encounter".)

I have a very, very strong urge to play the other games now.  I own them, and they are the HD versions.  But I must resist.  I have Batman and Assassin's Creed to play.

Also, I mentioned in my previous post that I had two other videos to share regarding a few amusing bits of gameplay.  I've linked them below.  Enjoy!

Thursday, December 01, 2011

This is getting Serious.

Let's chat a bit more about Serious Sam 3, because I feel it rather deserves it.  First, I want to point out a throw back from the days of old school shooters.  Try to think back to the likes of the original Half-Life.  Doom 3.  Quake 4.  And pretty much any pre-2005 shooter worth it's salt.  Do you remember what would happen about 50-75% through the game?  Hopefully you do.  I'm talking about the infamous point where you're either captured or knocked out, and you lose all of your weapons.  Then, you pick them up again one by one in a sort of sped-up version of how you started the game.  I freaking love that!  Serious Sam 3 just did it to me.  They were telling the truth when they said their game was "a glorious throwback to the golden age of first-person shooters where men were men, cover was for amateurs and pulling the trigger made things go boom."

Ok, next!  Do you remember in my previous post, I mentioned a new enemy?  Well, here's the bitch right here:

I -hate- her.  She hovers in the air, and she's telepathic.  If you are in her line of sight when she appears, you will be stunlocked until she disappears again.  So difficult to fight!  Rockets work best.

How about a few more screenshots?

Remember that other screenshot with the monster sitting on a throne, and I said if the thing had been alive and moved I would have shat myself?  Well, the monster above was sat in a throne and moved when I approached.  I shat myself.

I got the portable cannon tonight.  (That actually reminds me -- I haven't gotten it -back- after I was stripped of all my weapons.  How strange!  I'm sure I'll get it back soon enough.)  The cannonballs got a lot larger than previous games -- look at them!

That's a whole lot of kleers charging at me.  Luckily, I have a minigun.

Mmk, next I would like to introduce you to the space monkeys.  These little bastards are incredibly fast, and cleaning out a room full of them is actually one of my favorite things to do in this game.  They're hard to hit, and I like that!  It's a challenge sometimes.  In any case, I can't really explain them to you properly with screenshots.  Therefore, I have made a video of me cleaning out a roomful of them.  Enjoy!

I thought I had also recorded a cut-scene that I wanted to share as well, but unfortunately I must have pressed the record key twice.  Therefore, instead of getting the scene I wanted, I got footage of me going through the game menu to exit out.  Balls!

BUT, I do have two other videos to share.  They'll have to wait, thought -- they're not done uploading to YouTube yet.  I'll probably post them tomorrow or something like that.  

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

"Ah, my old love."

I got the mini-gun in Serious Sam 3 last night.  It's Sam's trademark weapon, and that line, "Ah, my old love.", is the same line he utters when he gets the gun in the first game.  I smiled at that.

I'm obviously not at home, currently, so I'll refrain from talking about the game anymore since I don't have access to my screenshots.  There's a certain new kind of enemy new to this game that I want to mention, but I'd like the picture to go with it.

So instead, let's discuss how things are faring in 11/22/63.  I did more reading than I did gaming last night anyway.

When last I left our intrepid hero, he had just returned back from the past.  Before he committed himself to actually going back and stopping Oswald from killing the president, he wanted to change something smaller and observe the "butterfly effect" of his actions by returning to 2011.  In the back of my mind, I wondered how this was going to work.  The portal always takes you back to the same instant in the past, and every time is a reset.  That means, if you go through the portal a second time and then immediately turn around and return to the present, you'll erase everything you changed during your first trip.  That meant Jake was going to have to save Harry Dunning's family twice.  I wondered how King was going to pull that off without boring the reader.  (Why would we want to read the same thing twice?)

I assumed he would either make the second time a lot quicker, or he'd make it different so as to keep it interesting.  He ended up doing both.

In any case, Jake observed the impact his changes made.  One thing shocked me, and it did so simply because it shouldn't have.  I should have seen it coming a mile away.  Jake saved Harry from being crippled by his father (and saved his mother and all but one of his siblings, too).  His goal was to see if Harry would still be a janitor at the school where he teaches in 2011.  After all, if the guy was no longer a cripple nor slow from having his skull caved in, he probably wouldn't be a janitor, right?

Turns out Harry dies in Vietnam instead.

So instead of saving him from the life of being crippled, he basically takes at least 40 years off his life.  Oops.

Jake's pissed at first, of course, damning the whole thing, the portal, and even the guy who showed it to him.  But after calming down, he realizes something:  If he does it again, and also stays to stop Oswald from killing Kennedy (which is his ultimate goal in the first place), there probably won't BE a Vietnam War.

King fits this together so very nicely.  It's master storytelling at work.

The one other thing that I found fascinating was the idea that the past doesn't want to be changed.  It's obdurate, as King puts it.  As Jake gets ready to stop Frank Dunning from murdering his family, several things try to stop him.  Actually, that's not right.  Several things -happen-.  It's time itself that's trying to stop him.  He wakes up with a blinding migraine.  (He's never had a migraine in all his life.)  The banister for the stairs snaps, sending him nearly tumbling down them head first.  A hole appears in the pocket of his new slacks, nearly causing him to lose his keys.  The battery cable in his car comes unfastened.  Two of his spark plugs corrode.  His spare tire is flat.  It's directly suggested that all of these things are the past's way of resisting change.  It's trying to stop Jake from meddling, and I find that fascinating.

It's also suggested that eventually you can "break through", and it all stops.  When Jake does "break through", his headache subsides almost immediately and he's able to change we he came to change.  It's also stated that the amount of resistance time itself will give is directly proportional to how big the change is.  Stopping Frank Dunning probably affected a -lot- of people.  He ended up not murdering his family, so all of them would live and affect the lives of who knows how many?  That's a pretty substantial change, and look at how big of a fight the past put up.

Imagine how many lives will be altered by stopping Oswald.  It utterly boggles the mind.  I cannot imagine what kind of resistance Jake is going to encounter trying to do this, and I can't wait to find out.  

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


I have a very strong urge to yell really loudly right now.  Serious Sam has that effect on me.

Let's take a step back.  Ten years, to be exact, because that's when the first Serious Sam game was released.  (Don't get me started on how fecking ridiculous that fact is.)  The year, 2001.  The world was simpler then.  Fuck, the world was a -lot- simpler!  The game came out in March.  That means 9/11 hadn't even happened yet.  Talk about an innocent time.

ANYWAY, a little game called Serious Sam came out, and it filled a void.  That void was left by Duke Nukem, who had been missing in action for quite a long time EVEN THEN.  There was always something different about Sam, though.  The sexism and crude humor that sort of turns me off when it comes to Duke wasn't there.  And it was refreshing.

The point of Serious Sam was to basically throw a metric fuck ton of enemies at you all at once, and give you multitudes of weapons to deal with the problem.  Simple.  Fun.  Hours of entertainment.  No complexity.  No thinking.  Just fun.  It was a lovely detour on a road of games that were becoming increasingly more realistic.  Even then.

That was then.  This is now.  Fast forward to present day.  Serious Sam 3 has been released, and a lot of people are inclined to ask:  Is this franchise still relevant?  Things have changed a lot in a decade.  Is there still a place for Sam?  After all, Duke is back.  Right?

Well, I'm here to tell you that Sam has just kicked Duke's ass clear across the galaxy.  Croteam have irrevocably captured the spirit of the first game, and brought up into the present day.  All the fun I remember having then, I'm having all over again, and it is fantastic.  Having been neck deep in Skyrim for the past 18 days, this game is -exactly- what I needed.  No worries.  No bothers.  Just murder everything in sight and crack jokes while you're doing it.  Yes, please.

Crom, where to begin?  Let's start with the tone of the game.  Playing Serious Sam is very akin to watching a James Bond movie.  You know 007 is going to win.  You know the super villain is going to lose.  So as you're watching one of those movies, you're just sitting back, relaxing, and enjoying the show.  That is -exactly- how you play Serious Sam.  In any other game, that would -kill- any intention anyone had in actually playing it.  If there was no dire threat of defeat in Skyrim, would you really want to play it as much?  Probably not.  No one knew how Skyrim was going to end.  Everyone knows how Serious Sam is going to end.  AND THAT'S OKAY.  Because how it ends isn't the -point-.  It's playing through it.  This game is designed to take you by the hand, sit you down, and say to you, "Now, just lay back.  Relax.  I'm going to take care of everything for the next couple of hours."

That is exactly why I play the game.  I can listen to Sam crack jokes and not worry what's going to happen around the next corner.  (I know what's going to happen -- there's going to be lots of enemies, and I'm going to kill them all.)

So, things Sam does better than Duke?  I thought you'd never ask:

  • Sense of humor.  It's not sexist or crude.  It's not tasteless.  It is -definitely- corny, but that's okay!  I find myself laughing every time Sam says something, no matter how bad the joke is.  His superior yells into the speaker, "Do you -have- to blow everything up?"  And he dryly replies, "As a matter of fact, yes, I do."  It's an old joke.  It's a bad joke.  Is it even a joke?  I dunno, but I laugh at it because of the way he says it.  It's masculine and laced with testosterone but it's not over the line.  (Duke was over the line.)
  • Weapons.  You can carry ALL the weapons!  I'm currently carrying a pistol, a shotgun, a bigger shotgun, an assault rife, a rocket launcher, a better rocket launcher, and dynamite.  And a sledgehammer.  And a wristband weapon.  AND I CAN RIP OUT EYEBALLS, HEARTS, AND TONGUES WITH MY BARE HANDS.
  • Setting.  It's in Egypt.  At the pyramids and ancient ruins.  THIS ALWAYS WINS.
  • Enemies.  You hear a loud "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!"  It's a Kamikaze -- a human with no head and a bomb in each hand that runs at you intending to blow you both up.  Do not ask how it's yelling when it has no head.  That's part of the charm.  Sam yells, "Ah, shut up!" after killing it.   Twenty more then run towards him.  "Uh-oh."  It's brilliant.  

So basically, Sam is better in every way imaginable.  Shock horror.

I'm typing a mile a minute here.  I'm just so damned happy that Croteam made this game.  I just saw a newspost about them.  Apparently the game is selling very well on Steam, and they took a jab at the bigger developers.  They said, "Well, with quality games like Skyrim and our own Serious Sam 3 coming out, gamers will gladly pay for awesome."  YES I WILL PAY FOR AWESOME.  This was a direct jab at developers like Ubisoft who whine -constantly- and declare that the PC gaming platform has a 95% piracy ratio.  And Croteam's response to their whining was "Gamers will pay for awesome." I fucking love it.

Also -- I'm just putting this out there now:  If Jesse from OMFG doesn't do a playthrough of this game, it will be a CRIME AGAINST NATURE.  The entire time I'm playing, I can imagine parts that he would find utterly hilarious.  I can hear his laugh as I'm laughing.  This game is practically made for him.  I've already send OMFG a message stating as much.  You're welcome.

And holy spaceballs that's a lot of text I just wrote!  How about some footage in the form of screenshots then?  I should warn you -- Sam's horrible sense of humor has rubbed off on me.  The captions on these will be horrible jokes!

Dark, moldy hallway.  What could possibly go...WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT?!

Hi!  You're ugly!  Y'know what you could use?  Holes.  Allow me to fix that for you!


Yes, I did all that.  With a shotgun.

Torro?  Torro?  Ole?  Aw fuck it.  BLAM!

"Ah, shit."

When I saw this, the first thing that came to my mind was, "When a very religious mother has a son, she probably tells him that a woman's vagina looks something like this, so that he'll be too terrified to have sex with a girl and maintain his "purity".

The second thing that came to my mind was the desire to kill it.  And so I did.  With a rocket.

I don't always aim, but when I do, an automatic turret steals my kill.

Not gonna lie -- Sam looks cool.

Oh look, a harpy.  Nothing could possibly go...


Think of all the bird poop...

All joking aside, Egypt looks fantastic.

I guarantee you, if this thing would have come alive as I walked up to it, I would have shat myself.

This picture does this room no justice whatsoever.  Look at the FLOOR.  It reflects -everything-.  Even Sam's image as I walk across it.  I could see his reflection as I looked down.

"Ah, finally.  Some sci-fi mumbo-jumbo."

Diablo's cousin?

I'm six levels/four hours into the game.  All of that except 20 minutes was done tonight.  MY WRIST IS GOING TO FALL OFF BUT I DON'T CARE.  

Monday, November 28, 2011

Why you stuck up, half witted, scruffy looking, nerf-herder!

Sorry.  I saw that line in reply to someone whining about TOR being bad on the PCG forums, and I just had to repeat it.  What a brilliant reply.

Also, here is a brilliant snippet of song lyric for you as well:

"There's a party inside my head.  And no one is invited."

Anyway, I'm here today to discuss something completely unrelated to the Star Wars beta.  It's a book, actually!  11/22/63.

This is Stephen King's newest title.  I will admit that I don't read as much as I would like -- the amount of free time I have to do so just isn't there with all the other interests that I have.  (I'm looking at you, gaming.)  But I do it when I can.  This primarily means that I'm reading in bed long after I should be sleeping, but I digress.

I recently purchased the new Amazon Kindle Fire, because as the very first entry in this blog will tell you, deep down I am a trendy son of a bitch.  If someone asks me why I purchased such a device, I will undoubtedly tell them it's because I hold a certain amount of disdain for hardcover books.  When I'm trying to read them in bed, their corners seem to enjoy digging into my nipples, or do other equally unappealing things to my body.  The Kindle is a sleek, thin little device that is quite pleasant to hold upright as I lay in bed enjoying a good yarn.

The real reason, though, is that naturally it's new and shiny and I wanted one.

In any case, the Kindle arrived at my door on Wednesday, which was perfect because it gave the two of us a long 4-day weekend to get acquainted.  The first thing I did was purchase 11/22/63, which I had wanted to get as soon as it came out a couple of weeks ago.  (But I didn't, because of the whole I-hate-hardcover-books thing.)  I started reading the book (which seems strange to say now, since I don't actually have a BOOK) that night, and have been whittling away at the chapters each night since.

I have a love-hate relationship with Stephen King.  I love reading his books, and I hate the fact that when I'm reading a book not written by him I find myself missing his distinct style of writing.  I honestly can't explain this.  The man simply writes in exactly the way I like to read words.  That's the best I can do.  There's this certain sardonic sense of humor he has that really appeals to my cynical nature.  When I'm not reading a Stephen King book, I'm wishing that I -was- reading one.  It's both good (because it means that I will probably enjoy any one of his books), and bad (because there are countless other brilliant authors out there that I should be reading).

To go off on a weird tangent here for a moment:  I have a new philosophy in regards to what it takes to make a good story.  You have to make your reader believe that the events happening in your story are the most important things in existence at that point in time.  While I'm reading this book, I know damn well that Roland is out there questing for the Dark Tower so that he can save the universe.  I know that IT is not really dead, and only sleeping, and will awaken again in 28 or so odd years.  I know there are many other things happening in Stephen King's fictional universe, a lot of which are more important than a guy going back in time to save one man's family.  But Stephen King writes his stories in such a way that you forget all of that and you are solely focused on -this- story, because he writes it in such a way that you're so drawn into it, that it becomes the most important thing at that point in time.  That's what makes a good story.

And now I've successfully derailed myself.  What was I talking about?  Oh yes.  So the book is really good.  I'm pretty far into it, and we haven't even started on the whole 11/22/63 thing yet.  The main character is going back and changing something smaller first, because he wants to see what the "butterfly effect" of it is going to be.

So far, my favorite (I use the term loosely) portion of the book was how descriptive he was regarding how this guy used a sledgehammer to murder his oldest son.  I can't honestly say I've ever imagined that a hammer could split someone's head down the middle all the way to their jaw.  Thanks for that, Stephen King!  I'm so glad that after all these years, you're still capable of giving me nightmares.

I hope the rest of this book is as enjoyable as what I've read so far.  I have this fear that I won't find the remainder as interesting, because so far the main character has been spending his time in the past within the town of Derry, Maine.  I love Derry, because there's something wrong with Derry.  "Something wrong.  Something bad." as Stephen King puts it in the book.  Derry has been the setting for other stories -- most notably IT.  The town is evil in and of itself, and going back to Derry has been utterly fascinating for someone like me, who has read the other novels taking place there.  There's this eerie familiarity that creates tension and keeps me enthralled.  I hope when we move on to Dallas to stop Oswald, the book keeps me interested.  We'll see!  

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Ok, I think I'm done!

With Skyrim, that is.

There are a couple of things that led me to this conclusion.  I'm sure I'll put in a lot more time, an hour here and there, but I think the evenings consumed by this game are finally at an end.  (Seriously, I was doing nothing but playing this game for every scrap of free time I had.)

That being said, I am prepared to share with you my final thoughts on the game.  While eating a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, no less!

Skyrim is still in the same position on my top games list as it was the last time I announced where it stood -- a solid third, beaten by only Half-Life 2 (at #1) and Fallout 3/New Vegas (at #2).  I'm actually in the mood to explain exactly why that is.

First, here's what Half-Life 2 does better:

Story.  Skyrim has an amazing story, and amazing -side- stories.  It's got more lore and more content than Half-Life 2 by far.  But one of the problems I have with Skyrim's stories is that a lot of the times, you do not see the consequences or benefits of your decisions.  Half-Life 2 may be quite linear by today's standards, but the story -moved-.  You felt a sense of urgency.  That's something Skyrim lacked.  Yeah, you saw dragons around.  Ok.  Buuuut...where was the world ending danger?  You knew it was there only because people say, "If you don't do something, the world will end!"  It's one of the balancing acts that you have to walk when you make an expansive, open-world environment.  It's not really Skyrim's fault.  But I have to make that assessment because of how freaking good  Half-Life's story is.

Characters.  Alyx.  Dr. Breen.  Dr. Kleiner.  Dr. Vance.  Barney.  G-Man.  All of these character have these very unique personalities.  They are their own people.  Skyrim really doesn't have any strong secondary characters like this.  The closest I can think of would be the Jarl of Whiterun, or Delphine.  But still...they don't feel -completely- unique, or fully fleshed-out.  Not like the characters of the HL universe.  I -cried- when Eli died at the end of Episode 2, it was able to evoke that strong of an emotion out of me.  There were no moments like that in Skyrim.

As for Fallout, this was a bit harder to determine.  A lot harder, actually, to the point where I had to really think about it.  It was a photo-finish right up to the end, man!  But in the end, I chose Fallout as my #2 for the following reasons:

Setting.  I will not argue with anyone regarding the beauty of Skyrim.  It is probably one of the most beautiful game worlds I've ever seen.  But Fallout is more -my- kind of setting, and therefore it will win every time.  When John looks at Skyrim and sees a snowy hillside, it cries out to him for exploration.  I'm sure that's true for a lot of people.  But for me, nothing says "Explore me!" like an office building after a nuclear holocaust.  I think one of the main reasons for this is because when I scavenge through that office building, I'm finding remnants of a world that I live in, but somehow different in ways that were unexpected.  Bottlecaps...that are -money-.  Batteries...that power my -weapons-.  Money...that is absolutely useless.  You get the idea.  Exploration in Skyrim is also incredibly enjoyable and rewarding, don't get me wrong about that.  But Fallout's appeals to -me- to a greater degree.  Also, the idea of exploring a world that was once inhabited, and then destroyed, just fascinates the crap out of me.  When I was in school, I loved learning about Pompeii for that very reason.

Combat.  There's not much to say about this.  Skyrim's combat is brilliant, but I will choose guns with the VATS system over anything else, ever.  Besides, you know me -- I'm a gunslinger.  Skyrim doesn't have pistols.  /sadface.

All of that may seem like a hell of a lot of complaining, but in reality it's not. Consider that I'm directly comparing this game to two of what I would consider the greatest games ever.  I'd say it fared quite well, and besides, I'm not done talking yet.

First, allow me to explain the title of this post.  That is, why I feel I'm now (mostly) finished with the game.  The first is that I've done just about all of the -major- story lines.  All that's left are the simple ones -- find a book, kill something, deliver something, etc.  I've done all the really interesting ones.  Next, I'm running into situations where I cannot proceed on some side quests because I've already done other things in the game.  For example, I was sent to retrieve a certain item from a certain cave somewhere out in a certain bit of nowhere.  Well, I was to turn in this item to a certain Jarl in a certain city -- but the Jarl is no longer in his palace, but in a common house.  Which is locked.   I was undaunted, so I sneakily picked the lock and went inside.  Unfortunately, he's not happy with me due to my decisions during the "Reunification of Skyrim" questline, and therefore I cannot turn in the item or complete the quest.  This may not seem like a big deal, but I am a completionist, so this is incredibly frustrating for me.

The final thing was my house in Windhelm.  I thought I took a screenshot of it, but I don't see it in my folder.  In any case, it's not hard to explain.  Basically, I did a quest in Windhelm that involved a serial killer.  He was hiding out in an abandoned house.  When I bought my house there, -that's- the one they gave me.  Complete with blood stains all over the floors, skulls in the closets, and butchered flesh in a hidden room.  I spent nearly 20,000 gold on the house and all the furnishings, and yet I have all this -mess-.  Really?  The part that annoyed me the most was that I probably would have liked that house the most out of all the ones in the game, because it has a cool armory where you can store your cool weapons in display cases.  Such a shame.

Crom, that's enough bitching.  You'd think I hated this game or something.  Hardly.  I had so many good experiences, so many surprises, and so many cool things happen that I can't even begin to explain them all.  And besides -- spoilers!

And now, how about another round of screenshots?  I will use them as a medium to reassure you of how awesome this game is.

Why yes, he is a badass.  Thank you for noticing.

Pretty landscape overload.  Commence head exploding.

You can imagine the dragon saying to me, "Careful with that thing!  You'll poke someone's eye out."

Oh, come on.  It's a game with infinite dragons in it.  You can't be surprised that eventually I ended up riding one!

All together now:  "Ooooh, pretty!"

Rejected captions for this image:
"This way to the Dark Portal!"
"The Witch-King would like a word with you."
"Oh no!  Dementors!"

If you get each one of those references, I'll give you a cookie.  (If you get each one of these references -and- you're John, you get something -else-.)

One word about "Team Jacob" and I will maul your face.

I've killed a lot of dragons, but -every- time I am compelled to stand and watch the death animation and the soul absorption.  It just never gets old, and that's true for a lot of the things in this game.  There's a lot of repetition, sure.  But it's presented so well that you really don't care!

And that's the last of the screenshots that I currently have.  Hey, I might post some more later on, especially if Bethesda delivers with the DLC content.  So don't worry about that!


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