Saturday, January 31, 2009

Random Thought #247

My wife just called me a "porn happy son of a bitch."

Man, she really does know me.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Weekend Plans of Nerd Kind (Jan. 30th- Feb. 1st)

TV and MOVIES: Resident Evil: Degeneration. Maybe. Robocop 1-3. Maybe.

GAMES: Fallout 3. Definitely.

BOOKS: Republic Commando: True Colors. Probably.

Wasn't completely happy with the second book, Triple Zero, which had a lot of strong character moments but a weak overarching plot, and ended quite anticlimactically. It sets the stage for True Colors, though, which is even more engrossing than the previous two novels. I can't believe how much emotion Karen Traviss gets into these stories - especially in Kal Skirata's scenes - and I almost dread reading Order 66, which is in the mail from Amazon. That one is going to be a heartbreaker.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Fallout 3 (First Day)

* My character is a skinny white nerd with glasses, wearing a brown leather duster and a matching brown fedora, and packing an assault rifle and a silenced pistol. In other words, exactly what I would wear on a daily basis - at work or at play - if I wasn't afraid of being laughed at and/or arrested.

* I got about three hours into Fallout 3 last month before I gave up on it, due to my previous video card's inherent crapness. Also, I spread my attribute and skill points too thinly last time, making the game far too difficult. Now focused on just two attributes (intelligence and agility) and a few skills (small weapons, medicine, energy weapons, repair, and speech). I could still be stretching those skills too thinly, but I wanted them all. So far, this pasty white nerd with glasses is kicking ass and taking names, then putting those names alphabetically into a well-organized spreadsheet on his Pip-Boy 3000.

* I'm currently getting radiation sickness to help out that chick in Megaton, the one writing the survival drinking out of a dirty, irradiated men's room toilet two doors down from her building. It was a quick, easy solution to this quest...but I'm not proud of this. Not proud at all.

* Never been a fan of Bethesda's games. But Fallout 3 has suddenly grabbed my attention and won't let go. Going to get back to it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (The Holy Shit Rant)

Holy shit, this is for real.

Finally, a book that the wife and I can agree on.

Call of Duty: World at War (Or, "What is it, Lassie? Nazi Fell Down the Well?")

The only thing worse than playing as a Nazi in World at War is winning as a Nazi in World at War. It makes me feel so...dirty. Every time it happens I just want to get a shower and then watch Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Star Wars: Deathtroopers (First Look)


A horror novel set in Star Wars? Don't know how that's going to work, but I'm willing to find out.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings (Wii Version)

It'll be hard to say no to punching Nazis with a Wii Remote, but I have my doubts. I'm going to follow the reviews closely and probably give it a rent first. I'm assuming that Staff of Kings was originally to be released on both the current and previous generation of consoles, like The Force Unleashed, and that the rumors are true: the XBOX 360 and PS3 Indiana Jones game first announced in 2006 has been canceled. I think Lucasarts is getting the Lo-fi version of the game, easier and cheaper to finish, out to the public to recoup on their investment.

Hopefully, Lucasarts will finish the game, and not just rush it out the door. The "sixth generation" version of The Force Unleashed wasn't too shabby, and even did a few things better than its big brother. It's certainly possible to make a great Indiana Jones game using that level of tech. You don't need all that DMM and Euphoria gobblety gook to make punching Nazis fun.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Clone Wars: Episode 14 - "Defenders of Peace"

George Takei, baby. George Takei.

Initially, I was a bit uncomfortable with him voicing a Neimoidian. I don't believe that George Lucas is in anyway racist. I think he gave the almost Charlie Chan accents to the Neimoidians in The Phantom Menace to evoke the 30's serials and pulps that he grew up with, one of Star Wars's biggest influences, but those stories were full of horrendous stereotypes and/or overt bigotry towards Asians. I'm not sure what Lucas was thinking with that one - but, man, I wouldn't have done it.

Luckily, there's no broken "engrish" of any kind - all Takei does is amp that awesome voice of his up to eleven. He clearly enjoyed the hell out of being the bad guy, which helps alleviate one of the sore spots I have with the prequels.

And this is one of the best episodes of the show to date. Unlike last week's episode, the story fits the runtime of the show comfortably. There's enough time for both the action scenes and the smaller character moments. Neither feel rushed and there are a lot of fun moments throughout the episode.

My only big complaint with this episode is its ethical argument. The story was never designed for the audience to see the validity of the Lurmens' pacifist beliefs, or for the audience to see that the Jedi actually are defenders of the peace, since they seem to have quite a hoot with their ass-kicking duties. I wouldn't go as far as to say the message of this episode was "sometimes you just gotta kick some ass," but I wonder what kind of message this sent to kids - especially in these times, while our country is at war. It helps that even when the Lurmens do fight back, they do so in a non-lethal way. Of course, the only thing they fight is droids, so who really cares?

Leave the ethical dilemmas to Star Trek, guys - even if you do have George Takei on the payroll.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Weekend Plans of Nerd Kind (January 23rd-25th)

Fighting off a sinus infection, so I'm gonna make this quick.

TV and MOVIES: Babylon 5...maybe. Watched the episode that ends the Shadow War on Monday and haven't cared to watch it since. I can't think of a more boring explanation for the Vorlon/Shadow conflict or a more anticlimactic resolution to it - except maybe if their centuries-old conflict started because the Vorlon's drank Miller Lite because it "tastes great," while the Shadow's drank the same beer because it was "less filling," and this conflict was finally settled by a drinking contest, moderated by Captain Sheridan.

I don't know why they ended the show's main story so early in the fourth season, with 30 shows to go in it's intended five-season run.

Other than that, look forward to the end of the Irish monkey hippie two-parter on Clone Wars.

GAMES: Saturday is game night, and we alternate between Heavy Gear and 4th Edition D&D, depending on who shows up. Hoping for Heavy Gear. 4 Ed. is all right, but there's too many modifiers to keep track of, and the combat feels shallow and repetitive after only six levels worth of play. We have less players for 4th Ed., so I'm playing two characters, a dwarf fighter and a dwarf cleric. This is the first time I've played anything but a human in any RPG our group has played, and I'm loving the change. The cleric is growing on me more than the fighter, because the at-will, encounter, and daily powers work better with magic users, and don't totally sync with the martial classes.

Other than that, probably spend most of my time with the beta versions of Quake Live and Dawn of War 2.

BOOKS: About a third of the way through Republic Commando: Triple Zero. It takes awhile for the main story - Omega Squad getting their black ops on in downtown Coruscant - to kick in, but Karen Traviss takes the time to introduce new characters and expand on existing ones. It's time well spent, but I'm ready for the story to get moving.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Quake Live (Beta)

I was in such a hurry to get my frag on last night that I didn't bother to read the terms of agreement for participating in the Quake Live beta. So, I'm not sure if I agreed to a confidentially agreement or not, but I'm going to be a rebel and post some brief (and positive, ID, so don't cut me off, please) thoughts on the beta version of this free-to-play shooter.

First off, I've never beta tested a game before. I've signed up dozens of times for dozens of games, but never got a reply back from any studio/publisher. I don't know if I can put into words the feeling when I read the e-mail asking me - me - to beta test Quake Live, but it was like being asked to sit at the cool kids' table at lunch.

I'm new at the whole beta test thing, but I can't imagine this game has many bugs left to work out. The game is extraordinarily stable and runs like a dream - it looks almost exactly like Quake 3 and runs beautifully on my 2 and 1/2 year-old PC with the settings and resolution cranked as I high as they will go. And remember, this is going through a web browser.

Sign-up and installation took around ten minutes, including a separate sign-up specifically for the beta test. Configuring system settings and finding servers is all done through your internet browser, which works much better than I imagined, and the actual game can be ran in a window or fullscreen. I've only played it for an hour, but the game hasn't crashed or even hung up once.

The gameplay is pure Quake 3 - with much the same look, many of the same character models, and all the weapons that you remember from that game. How much you'll like Quake Live will depend on how much you liked Quake 3. It's not as deep as Call of Duty 4 or Team Fortress 2, but it's fast (I forgot just how fast), furious, and damn fun.

That being said, I'm going back to the beta now and hang out with the cool kids.

And you're not invited, loser.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Clone Wars: Episode 13 - "Jedi Crash"

As the final episode of the first season to go into production, Jedi Crash marks how far the show has come since the movie...and what needs to be fixed in subsequent seasons for the show to become the equal of the movies they're based on.

Only a handful of the episodes so far have comfortably fit into the show's half-hour format, with either too much going on or too little - and every episode but Rookies has followed too many characters. Even though this is one of the better episodes of the season, Jedi Crash is rushed and dramatically inert. There's actually two episodes worth of material here, crammed into twenty-two and a half minutes.

Unlike the Malevolence arc earlier this season, there's enough story here for three episodes, because there are three acts to this story: the Jedi arriving on the planet, the Jedi surviving their first encounters with the planet's wildlife and befriending the locals, and finally, the Jedi protecting the locals from The Trade Federation. This episode should have ended minutes after the ship crashed, and the second episode should have ended right about where Jedi Crash actually ends.

The opening battle - enjoyable as it is - ends just as it gets going. The emotional core of the story takes the biggest hit, though. There's actually some intriguing ideas in this episode: the Jedi's attitudes towards attachments is cast in a slightly different light, the pacifist nature of the local villagers, and an interesting - and persuasive - argument that the Jedi are no longer the peacekeepers that they imagine they are. The problem is that these ideas remain nothing but ideas, merely dialog spoken back and forth between characters without any true dramatic conflict.

All in all, still a pretty damn fun episode. Another that I'd recommend to casual fans.

* * * *

Postscript: Did anyone else find it odd that the French Jedi was a badass, while the Irish/Scottish monkey hippies (which begs the question, do monkey hippies have more fleas than human hippies?) were, quite literally, a bunch of surrender monkeys?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Weekend Plans of the Nerd Kind (January 16th-18th)

TV and MOVIES: Clone Wars, obviously - if Itunes actually posts it on time this week. I've got four or five episodes left of Babylon 5's third season, and I need to take care of those.

All five seasons of the show came in on DVD at once back in November, and I'm watching it from start to finish. Before this, I'd never seen an episode of the show. But I wanted to give it a try because I rather liked Straczynski's run on Spider-man. Also, being a fan of Deep Space Nine, I was curious to see how much Babylon 5 had in common with DS9, since I understand there's still some controversy over their similarities. Even in its third season, its still rough around the edges - though the quality of writing, acting, and production is decidedly improved from its first season.

GAMES: A little Left 4 Dead, surely. The wife and I are trying out Dokapon Kingdom for the Wii, and we're both enjoying the hell out of it. Though, it must be said, being an evil, backstabbing bastard comes much easier to me than it does to her. She actually hates playing competitive games with other people, unless it's Scrabble or Mario Kart, where she becomes an incredibly poor loser and even poorer winner, due all the boasting, gloating, and smack talk.

If Gamefly gets off its ass, there are two more Wii games coming this week: Harvest Moon: Tree of Tranquility and The Force Unleashed. I'll let you guess which one is for the wife and which one is for me.

BOOKS: More Star Wars, sad to say. There are times where my spare time is not solely devoted to the Wars, I swear.

I'm actually not a big fan of the Expanded Universe. I believe that the saga ends with Return of the Jedi, and it is a happy ending. I've got no problem with anything before Jedi, or something like the Legacy series of comic books, which is set a century or so after the saga ends with all new characters - but I hate just about every thing that every single novelist has done with every post-Jedi story featuring Luke, Leia, and Han.

But I do pick up a Clone Wars book now and again, if - only if - the story interests me. I decided to spend the first of '09 reading the entire Republic Commando series, by Karen Traviss. I read the first book, Hard Contact, when it came out a few years ago, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I don't know why I never read the others, but I'm starting the series over.

Karen Traviss does something that few other Star Wars writers can manage: she makes the universe her own and tells a story her way, on her own terms, while still telling a tale that is fundamentally Star Wars. She brings a lot of teeth and heart back to Star Wars, after the ups and downs of the prequels. With the exception Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon, and their performances by Ewan MacGregor and Liam Neeson, I found the clones to be the most compelling part of the prequel trilogy. And they're at their best - and most tragic - in Traviss's work.

Left 4 Dead (Amendment to Previous Posts)

One of my friends, who occasionally reads these posts, who picked up Left 4 Dead a short while ago on the Xbox, said to me the other day: "Man, that game is awesome. I can't believe you gave it a bad review." I then told him what I'm about to tell you.

First off, not a single post I've written here is a legitimate review. I'm just goofing off and having fun. It's a mental warm-up before working on my script (halfway through the first draft - the second half is going to be the real bitch, though) - or something to do because I'm stuck on said script. I write these things off the cuff, without any planning or forethought, as quickly as possible, which explains the typos, missing words, etc. I do this because the more I rewrite something, the more I sound like a person who has a B.A. in English with a History minor. I'm trying to replace five years of bad writing habits with all new bad writing habits.

Secondly, I don't think I gave Left 4 Dead a bad review - or whatever you want to call it. The game was, for some reason, not exactly what I expected. It took some time to appreciate it for what it is, which is a game that kicks ass in that certain, special way that only Valve can kick it. I was, as always, voicing those opinions quickly and off the cuff. I looked again at my previous Left 4 Dead rants, and I see how someone could view them as negative. Not my intention at all, people.

But I did go about playing the game all wrong, which is why my appreciation of the game has come in three stages: the "eh" phase, the "OK...this is pretty damn good" phase, to the "why the hell am I spending time at work or with my wife when I could be playing Left 4 Dead" phase. I will chronicle these quickly to you, then I must go do chores.

Phase I - "Eh": Here's where I went wrong with Left 4 Dead: I played through the campaigns in single-player mode first. I wanted to get the hang of it before going online, to avoid any form of zombie-killing faux pas. Looking back, that makes absolutely no sense, since I bought the game on day one, and everyone was, to use a term I thoroughly loathe, a noob. I should have just jumped in, accidentally shot a car alarm or startled a witch, and just had fun.

After playing through the campaigns, all I could think was, "That's it?" I didn't touch the game for a week or so after that.

Phase II - "OK...This is Pretty Damn Good": I started thinking this after playing it online - first trying out the versus mode, which I still enjoy more than the straight campaigns if I'm playing with strangers, then going through the campaigns several times with whoever was currently playing online. It's right about here that I posted the previous rant, as the game was growing on me.

Phase III - "Why the Hell am I Spending Time at Work or with My Wife when I Could be Playing Left 4 Dead?": This is where I'm at right now. Right after Christmas, the game was on sale at Gamestop, and my brother and dad - who I usually do my co-op with - bought the game for the Xbox. So, I double-dipped - as I knew I someday would, since I'm weak and frivolous like that. It was finally then, a month after the game came out, that I played Left 4 Dead as it is meant to be played.

Playing this game with friends is a completely different experience than playing alone or with strangers. It has multiplied the tension, excitement, and exhilaration by several orders of magnitude. I now believe that Left 4 Dead is the equal of Counter-Strike and Team Fortress 2, and, in certain ways, it surpasses those games. Though, it must be said, my heart will always belong to TF 2.

I would say this, though. If you're thinking about buying this game, I wouldn't do it unless you have friends that will regularly play it with you.

End of line.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Ricardo Montalban (1920 - 2009)

Man, that sucks.

To be fair, making it to 88 is a damn good run - but it still sucks. I always loved watching this man work - and not just because he was Kahn, though that's certainly part of it. Don't ask me why, but the guy always struck me as a class act, along with being a very gifted actor. I'm glad he had a role as good as Kahn in his career, one of the most memorable film villains of all time.

I don't know what else to say, so let me just shout "KKKKKAAAAAHHHHHNNNNN!!!!!" like every other nerd on the internet and then have a moment of silence.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Legends of Zork (Press Release)

I don't know about you, but I'm ready for some grue grinding.

Being a complete Infocom fanboy - who cut his gamer teeth on old adventure games for the PC - this has made my morning. I've never cared for how Activision has managed Infocom's games.
I don't expect Activision to give out games for free, even old text adventures, but I'm still clueless as to why they went out of their way to acquire Infocom's catalog just to completely abandon these titles.

Why these games haven't shown up on Gametap, Steam, or Good Old Games is beyond me. Even with PDF scans of the original packaging and a compiler to run the games, these titles would take up only a few megs of server space a piece. Even though I own every Infocom text adventure - save for Leather Goddess of Phobos, which, for some reason, I refuse to download illegally - I would pay for them again if the price was acceptable, in order to get high-res scans of all the packaging, maps, and manuals.

So it's nice to see that Activision is finally doing something - anything - with this property. If Legends of Zork can capture that old Infocom feeling and create an enjoyable MMO, then I will happily give them way too much of my spare time.

Even though there are a wealth of big PC-exclusive releases this year - including Dawn of War II, Dragon Age: Origins, Starcraft II (maybe), and Diablo III (maybe) - there are several casual, play for free titles, like Zork and Battlefield Heroes and Quake Live, coming out that may get a lot of gamers like me who have jumped ship to the consoles back in front of their keyboards for more than just e-mail, Facebook, Hulu, and porn.

The Clone Wars: Episode 12 - "Gungan General"

Let's get the obvious hate out of the way: I need more Jar Jar in my regular Star Wars consumption like I need a papercut on my scrotum.

The character doesn't work. He will never work. He's less annoying in The Gungan General than usual, but that's still very, very annoying, indeed.

And, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, it takes valuable screen time away from the main story, which is actually pretty good. As silly as the "buddy" scenario with Dooku, Anakin, and Obi-Wan is, it works. Sure, it's hard to imagine this story is "canon" - but every once in a while, you just gotta say "screw canon" and have some fun. That's what separates the Wars from the Trek. Though if Anakin and Dooku keep bumping into each other every few episodes like this, they're going to have to retcon Anakin's line to Dooku in Revenge of the Sith from "My powers have doubled since the last time we met" to "My powers have doubled since we met last Tuesday."

Still, the dialog in their scenes - and for their captor Hondo Ohnaka, a surprisingly likable character who is high on charm and low on brains - is solid and enjoyable and above average for this show. Without Jar Jar, this could have been one of the best episodes of the series.

As it is, it's merely tolerable at best.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Aliens: Colonial Marines (Q1 Release)

I usually don't buy into rumors, but the fact that SEGA hasn't been hyping the shit out of Colonial Marines for the last few months made me question whether this game would ever be released.

For me, Aliens is on a very short list of movies - the "desert island" list, if you will - that truly shaped what I want out of a story, in any medium. It's one of the stories I fell in love with as kid that made me want to tell stories of my own. Really hoping this one doesn't suck, or that SEGA isn't rushing this one out, which would explain it's lack of press and the first quarter release.

Both the AvP games for the PC rocked, so it's a proven fact that a game featuring everyone's favorite xenomorphs can be done. Gearbox's experience with the Half-Life 1 expansions and their Brothers in Arms titles makes them the perfect developer for an Aliens game, in my humble - and obviously right - opinion.

Oh well, looks like we won't have to wait too long to find out.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Random Thought #12,235

Two questions:

1) Where would a guy go to buy a Theremin?

2) Where would a guy go, after successfully acquiring a Theremin, to get Theremin lessons?

Dawn of War 2 (System Specs Announcement)

Phew. Looks like I'm just squeaking in on this one.

To my complete surprise, a good chunk of the games I'm looking forward to this year are on the PC - Starcraft II, Dragon Age, and Dawn of War II. I thought I'd either buy or build a new PC this year, but it's just not in the budget at this time. I did use my birthday last month (turned 30 - not that big a deal, yet more of a trip than I thought it'd be) as an excuse to make a Fry's run.

Ah, Fry's... If there's an afterlife, I want it to be like Fry's...with, of course, the minor additions of beer and boobs, to make it truly like heaven.

I dropped about two hundred on new parts for my current computer. I added two gigs of RAM, bringing the total up to three gigs. Also bought a new DVD-ROM drive since the old one is crapping out and replaced my GeForce 7300 with a one gig 9500.

It's made a incalculable difference to Left 4 Dead and Team Fortress 2 - and Fallout 3 is actually now playable on my computer. I forgot how much I enjoy gaming on the PC, where I cut my proverbial teeth as a gamer, save for the original NES. This is the first time in years that I've been able to run a current game without sacrificing a lot of graphic fidelity to get a decent framerate. Here's hoping she's got enough junk in the trunk to get me through this year and its big releases. 'Cause I plan on getting me a shitload of space marine lovin' in 2009.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Clone Wars: Episode 11 - "Dooku Captured"

The short, short review: Dooku Captured had a Weequay pirate with a peg-leg, Gundarks, and a Jawa getting punched in the face. Enough said.

* * * *

The bit longer review: A solid episode, that captures the spirit of A New Hope and the first half-hour of Revenge of the Sith. Getting another chance to see Obi-Wan and Anakin together when they actually liked each other is always welcome. It's a shame that the basic plot, Dooku being captured by pirates and then turned over to Obi-Wan and Anakin, is a superfluous, unnecessary story at its core, since we already know Dooku won't be incarcerated for long. And it doesn't help that the writers already did this exact story with Nute Gunray earlier this season.

Dooku Captured marks the middle of the season. And while it has some flaws, the quality of this show has improved dramatically since the movie came out last summer. Soon I may be able to admit in public that I watch it.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles (and Reason #5327 That I Married the Right Woman)

The following conversation comes from the wife and I's first encounter with a "fast" zombie while playing Umbrella Chronicles tonight (on our new Wii, by the way).

Julia (shooting frantically): What's with this zombie? Is it on steroids or something?

Me: I believe zombies prefer to call them "undead enhancing drugs."

Julia: Funny, I thought they called them "uuuuuggggnnnhhhhh...."

* * * *

Damn, that's hot.