Saturday, May 31, 2014

PAD #9: Can't Be Bothered to Come-up With a Title 'Cause I Wanna Get Back to Wildstar

And Wildstar's early access has started today.  It's a game that's had my interest ever since their first trailer a number of years ago (which I was gonna link to, but couldn't find), but I never really followed it all that closely like one of my WoW guildmates did.  Now that the game is finally out (for pre-order customers, at least), we've all jumped into it with the hopes that we'll get into it like we did with WoW.  From what I've played so far (both of beta and live), it's an interesting game.  Probably my favorite part about it is how the combat varies from other MMOs.  Nearly every attack is AoE-based, with the area of effect showing on the ground so you know where you're targeting.  Some attacks will follow you if you move, where others will continue their effect based on where you were when you launched it or where you placed it.  So far I'm having a lot of fun with a Cassian Medic (though I wanted to be an Exile Esper).

The creator of "Rust" (who I didn't know was also the same "Garry" behind "Garry's Mod") chimed-in about the massive amount of games being put on Steam's service.  Short version, he sees it as a good thing.  That's undoubtedly going to ruffle some feathers, but I don't necessarily disagree with him.  His stance is that it's a good thing because it forces developers to have to step up and make sure that their game stands above the others; do a little extra leg work, as it were.  Basically the idea that more competition is a good thing.  Why play this game and not the dozens of others that play just like it?  Because this one has that extra bit of polish that I like, or maybe it has an art style that appeals to me.  I've always been on the fence about the whole issue, mostly because I know how to look for a good game and am not afraid to do a little extra skimming to find it.  Sometimes I wonder if maybe gamers just got too accustomed to the model where only "good" games were ever released, so now they feel a little spoiled for choice now that they actually have to filter passed a few lemons.  I'll definitely say this, though:  Gamers got what they asked for.  They just didn't consider the negative side effects of what they wanted.

Friday, May 30, 2014

PAD #8: New Look!

I got sick of that ultra-skinny template I was using before.  After skimming through a few, I think I like this one a lot.  Now my paragraphs look like paragraphs instead looking like the sidebar on a newspaper.  I might play around with colors and fonts later, but for now I like it.  Now to fire-up some music, been in a chiptunes mood, lately.

Seems there's a fair bit of controversy around Watch Dogs, which I guess is to be expected given the amount of hype the game received during the couple of years before its launch.  Long-story-short, the game isn't what Ubisoft said it would be.  Yeah, big shocker.  It does beg an interesting question though.  At what point do we draw the line between "the usual media hype" and "flat-out lying to their customers"?  The first warning sign was when Ubisoft showed-off some gameplay footage that had severely toned-down graphics compared to how it looked the year before, almost as if Ubisoft realized that the "Next Gen" consoles weren't going to be able to handle the graphics they originally had in mind.  Now the game is out, and there are videos comparing the game to GTA and videos that just look at the game on its own, and it's hard to deny that the game looks nothing like the "true next gen experience" that it was hyped to be, especially given that the reason for the game's delayed release was so that they could "win the next generation".  Instead, it looks like we just got a run-of-the-mill GTA clone that replaces the randomness of GTA with a hokey hacking mechanic that many criticize as being just a long-range "Use" button.

Read a bit more of All Hail Megatron today, and I am definitely digging it.  The most interesting part of the story so far has been the Autobots as they deal with trying to survive on Cybertron (which in this continuity, is basically a desolate wasteland that can no longer support life).  Meanwhile they also have to deal with the fact that they were betrayed to the Decepticons by one of their own, but they don't know who.  The reveal of who did it and why was an interesting twist, though astute readers will likely see the bread crumbs.  Also, Kup is a bad-ass, because of course he is, but he's just plain awesome in this story.  Haven't quite finished it yet, but I'm gonna have to track down some other comics from this continuity.  It's my understanding that another mini-series is called Maximum Dinobots, and there are just no words for that.  No words.  Maximum.  Dinobots.  Speechless.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

PAD #7: Something I Didn't Know I Needed

So I was nonchalantly browsing at Half-Price Books today when I stumbled upon something that might very-well have changed my entire life.  Well okay, so it's nothing that drastic, but it sparked a surprising amount of joy that I probably haven't felt since I was a kid; or perhaps when I first saw The Avengers, anyway.  I was in the comics and manga section when I noticed a book sitting on the shelf, it was a Transformers book called All Hail Megatron.  I picked it up, curious, as I had no idea what I was supposed to make of it.  Then I opened it up and I swear it was like a golden light had shown-out from the pages, and a rainbow sprang forth while an unseen angelic chorus "ah"ed at the splendor.  A recent-looking comic done in the style of the Generation 1 Transformers.  I knew right then that I needed this comic in my life.

So naturally when I got home, the first thing I did was hit-up Google to demand answers.  I discovered that this was a part of a comic series that had been running since a couple years before even the Michael Bay movies were a thing.  Just let that sink-in, before the first Transformers movie, keeping in mind that the fourth is right around the corner.  Anyway, All Hail Megatron is a series that starts a little ways (a wiki article refers to it as the "second act"), and that one objective of the series was to serve as a sort of in medias res jumping-on point for new readers.  Basically, it starts-out with the Decepticons taking over Earth while the Autobots, having been defeated during a previous story arc, have been left desolated on Cybertron, and from the looks of things when I was flipping through the pages, have a bit of drama to sort-out before they can get around to saving Earth.  Probably the best part about it is that since they aren't being forced to adjust the story to accommodate a toy line (since there isn't one), they're able to actually tell a story without needing to worry about forcing-in new characters or contriving reasons to get rid of characters who aren't selling well enough.

Sign me up for that.  Depending on how All Hail Megatron fares, I might have to check-out the rest of this comic series.  Amusingly, and coincidentally, I also stumbled on an amusing Transformers parody on YouTube today based on when Optimus gets revived during Season 3 (or maybe it was Season 4).  I laughed quite a bit, I don't know if I should be ashamed to admit to that or not, but I did.  I've never actually seen the series of episodes where Optimus gets revived, probably because Season 3 was so terrible that I just couldn't keep watching it, and that's after surviving through Season 2.  SEASON TWO FOR FUCK'S SAKE!  We're talking about the season where one of the Autobots falls in love with some human chick after being tasked with being her bodyguard; the season where some Transformers and Spike time travel back to medieval times; the season where some big game hunter captures some Autobots so that he can hunt them for sport ; the season where... you probably get the idea.  Season 2 has a lot of very asinine episodes, yet Season 3 was somehow worse!  So yeah, that's my dirty little Transformers secret.  As much as I loved Generation 1, I haven't finished watching the entire cartoon series.  Though I think that those who have would tell me that it's nothing to be ashamed of, and that they're a little bit envious.

On that, and having added a number of new words to Firefox's dictionary, I think I'll sign-off for tonight.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

PAD #6: At Least I Don't Have Allergies

Oog... This weather is really doing a number on my head.  Hard to focus much when you constantly feel like you're wearing a hat two sizes too small that you can't get off.  It's the main reason I hate the late-Spring/early-Summer transition.  For some reason that sudden shift to warmer weather just kills me.  That's still no excuse to miss a day though, so I'll do what I can.

I guess that LeVar Burton fired-up a Kickstarter to revive Reading Rainbow.  To keep it up with today's trends, he plans to bring it to the internet rather than to TV, which I feel is a smart move.  He also wants to create a version specifically for classrooms.  Normally I'd say that you should rush over and support it as soon as possible, but he apparently met his quota within a few hours of launching the campaign on Kickstarter.  By all means you should still donate (it's a good cause after-all), but the urgency of the situation is slightly lessened.  I don't have any kids of my own yet, but my siblings do, so it'll be nice to have Reading Rainbow available for them.

Google has a new car out.  I haven't read much about it, but I've seen some pictures and... it looks interesting.  It's small enough that I honestly don't know how well I would fit in it.  Still though, the idea of a self-driving car (it doesn't even have a steering wheel or pedals, from what I understand) it kind of amazing.  It's the kind of the thing that you'd never expect to see in your lifetime.  Hope for, sure, but never actually expect.  I'll have to do some reading on it to see how it works.  I also wonder if it'll be street legal without a steering wheel.  Having never been too much into cars, I don't really know what all is required (though I've seen some of the crazy designs that are actually legal); I would have to guess that "a steering wheel" is part of the list.

So Comcast has this commercial they keep playing where they say that they've changed for the better.  The commercial has a customer (inexplicably riding shotgun with the Comcast service guy) and asking how he knows that they've changed.  From there the service guy rattles-off a few of the new features they're promising, and the customer is clearly impressed (because otherwise it'd be a commercial for their competitors).  Erm... except that a list of features doesn't mean they'll actually adhere to them.  The commercial does close-off with the tag line "Hold us to it".  "Or what?" is my immediate response.  Cable companies have been pretty good about staying in their own borders, so what am I going to do if they haven't changed?  Switch back to dial-up?  Then again, I've long since realized that commercials aren't really for me.  Once you understand how commercials work, they just kinda stop working on you outside of just making you aware of the product or service in question.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

PAD #5: Cowboys to Canines

Got into a pre-screening of "A Millions Ways to Die in the West".  Over-all, I'd say it was pretty good.  It has a bit of that vulgar kind of humor that wouldn't have been out of place in a South Park episode (or movie), so it certainly won't appeal to everyone, but I liked it over-all.  It was perhaps a bit on the long side, but I do wonder if it only felt dragged-out because a number of scenes shown in trailers are from such late parts of the movie that I kept thinking "So when's it get to such-and-such scene?"  It never necessarily felt like the movie was dragging along, so I'm thinking that maybe wondering about those scenes is what dragged it out in my head.  Still, it was funny, and at the end of the day that was its goal, so I'd say it's over-all pretty decent.  It was also the kind of movie that Charlize Theron needed after the bombs that were Prometheus and that terrible Snow White movie.

On the matter of previous movies for the actors, I looked through Amanda Seyfried's page to see what else she's been up to, and I completely didn't notice that she was the main character in Epic when I went to see it.  Man, that's a movie that came and went with little fanfare.  Honestly not sure if I liked it or not, but I suppose the fact that I spaced on it so completely that I had to visit the page because just the title wasn't doing anything for me tells me that it didn't have a lasting impression.  I'd say it's a case of a good idea that could have been implemented better.  It had its moments, but they were bogged-down by the rest of the movie being mediocre at best.  I would say its redeeming feature is that it didn't contrive a reason for the main character to stay small (or one of the small characters to grow normal sized) just for the sake of the romance subplot that was going on.  Instead it closed with a much more real feeling of "She went back to her world, and he went back to his".

So I guess Watch Dogs is out.  It looks interesting, but I've never been into that GTA brand of games.  I'm sure they're great for most people, but having played around with GTA3 way back in the day, it just never hit me as something that I had to own.  Still, Watch Dogs does bring-up a good question:  Is it really "one of the first true next gen titles" that Ubisoft promised it would be?  First was that bit of controversy when the graphics were toned-down compared to the original videos that they showed-off at a previous E3, and now that the game is out, does it really feel "next gen"?  If not, should we be mad at Ubisoft for hyping it as being such?  Of course, it's a slippery slope anyway.  If even one person asserts that he feels like it is, but everyone says it isn't, how can we definitively say whether it is or isn't "next gen"?

Monday, May 26, 2014

PAD #4: Burning Garbage!

So last night someone decided to set our garbage bin on fire.  Fortunately they were thoughtful enough to first haul it to the middle of the road, otherwise our entire garage would have caught fire, and likely the tree that stretches over it, and then who knows where from there.  It was in the middle of the night (apparently around 4am), so I don't think the person (or people) who did it got caught.  So that's something that happened this morning.  Most likely, it's the same guy who's been starting fires for the past couple of years.  He does it sparingly enough, and usually in the middle of the night, so he probably won't get caught until someone actually catches him in the act.  On the plus side, I got Chocolate Malt-O-Meal yesterday at the store for old time's sake.  Made it this morning for breakfast, and it's basically as good as I remember it from when I was a kid (though admittedly it was usually CoCo Wheats back then; probably not much difference, though).  All-in-all, an interesting morning.

I learned, today, that apparently there's some controversy over the Farcry 4 cover image, because of course there is.  It's hard to say where it all started, as it seems a wide-enough opinion that just about anyone could have said it first, but I just can't say I buy it.  In my head, there's just a difference between overt racism, and depicting racism in a story (be that story movie-based, in a game, a book, or whatever).  I don't really see the Farcry 4 cover image as having racist sentiments so-much as the guy in the picture is a dick, and would probably be treating that other guy in the same manner regardless of his ethnicity.  Even some of the people who are taking Ubisoft's side are saying that they're at fault at the very least for not providing context.  Um... I think the context is pretty clear.  I think this is less an issue of Ubisoft needing to provide context (they shouldn't have to), and more an issue with the knee-jerk lemon crowd spouting racism at everything they can.

So it's been bugging me this whole time, and I finally figured out from which dark nether of my subconscious my mind found the title for today's PAD:  Futurama!  For a while I was thinking maybe Archer, but I couldn't think of which episode of that show it would have come from, when suddenly it hit me; it's the episode of Futurama where a giant ball of garbage was about to smash into New New York.  So now that's gonna stop bugging.  Maybe I should see if I can make that into a trend; naming each of my PADs after a line from Futurama.  We'll see.  I do have several seasons from which to draw.

PAD #3: Better Late Than Never

Whoops!  Got sucked into watching some Game Grumps and completely spaced on getting a post in today.  I guess technically it's tomorrow as of thirty minutes ago (at time of writing), but I haven't gone to bed yet, so I'm counting it. =P  Bastion did it's fair share as well.  Yeah, after a bit of Transistor, I felt like playing Supergiant's premier title.  Partially for nostalgia, partially because they added a few new achievements that I never got around to earning after 100% it the first time around.  It's been niggling at me for a while, but for some reason I never felt compelled to actually get them until now.  So it'll be good getting that outta the way.

As it turns out (and admittedly this is a few-days-old news), Total Biscuit has been diagnosed with colon cancer.  That is absolutely terrible, but I've seen in discussions that it can be one of the easier cancers to have to deal with.  Silver linings and all that.  Perhaps worse than his condition, though, is that there are honestly people celebrating this.  Really, people?  Like him or hate him (or his work), you just don't celebrate that kinda thing.  There is nobody I loathe enough that I would wish that kinda thing on them.  Certainly there are people where the news wouldn't phase me much, but I still wouldn't be glad to hear it.  There's disliking someone, and then there's just... I don't even know how to describe that level of depravity.  Whatever, though.  They are terrible people, and hopefully TB isn't letting them get to him.  Soldier on, you Cynical Britt.

After listening to the soundtrack a fair bit, I've decided that In Circles is my favorite song in Transistor.  There's just something about the emotion in that song that I love.  You can really feel the contempt towards the character in question in the singer's voice, and it just gives the situation a powerful feeling while you're fighting that boss.  By which I mean that the song actually makes me feel somewhat sorry for that character during the fight.  Without wishing to get into spoilers (even though it's an early event in the game), you definitely understand Red's desire to see this character killed, but at the same time the character has lost so much of her mind that - between In Circles playing in the background, and the boss's only semi-coherent ravings while she fights - the battle almost feels more like putting down Old Yeller than plain old fashioned revenge.  It's probably both my favorite and least favorite part of the game with how well they make the player feel sorry for the boss, but at the same time making it clear that there's no redeeming her at this point.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

PAD #2: Days of Blunders Passed

As I said, I was hoping to go see the new X-Men movie today, and I did.  My thoughts?  Eh... it was okay.  I tried my damnedest to not let the plot bother me, but there were just so many times when I was stuck wondering about this or that inconsistency.  If you're not one to get too caught-up in the plot, then you'll probably enjoy it, since the strongest moments of the movie were when they tossed the plot aside to have an action sequence.  The crowning moment, at least in my eyes, being that movie basically said "Never say that creating portals is a shitty power".  Blink gets to indirectly kick a lot of ass during the future scenes; including one part in particular that you could be excused for thinking took it's queue from Portal.  Seriously, if you're a gamer, you won't be able to watch that scene without thinking "Now that's thinking with portals".  Given that we live in a world that would usually dismiss her powers as "lame" and not give her anything to do, it was a joy to watch her be awesome.

I guess that's something to be said up front... a little after the fact in this case, but up-front from this point forward at least.  I tend to be very critical of movies, and really just about anything.  At least more critical than the average person.  The slightest plot inconsistency can really niggle at me, so if the movie doesn't make-up for it in other ways, it can be the bullet between the eyes that kills the whole thing for me.  This isn't to say that I'm quite "Honest Trailers" or "Cinema Sins" stickler, I'm willing to allot some degree of leniency if the movie is good enough on the whole, or if it's a movie where I'm basically expecting the plot to take the back seat, like a sitcom where the plot is really only there because otherwise it'd be a stand-up skit. *Ahem*  In any case, I tend to hang on details that the average person wouldn't care about, if they even noticed it, is the point I'm getting at.  So if I absolutely slam on a movie, take it with that grain of salt.  I might be nitpicking at a detail that you won't give a crap about.  Case in point, I hated the latest Spiderman movie, most of my friends enjoyed it.  What can ya do?

I'm thinking I should start making it a point to keep a notepad and pen on me at all times.  Seems that when I'm not at my computer is when everything that I could be talking about tends to spring to mind, or made apparent to me.  Being able to scrawl it down and then reference it later when I'm actually able to sit down and articulate my thoughts seems like it would be a prudent thing to do.  Either that, or there's more than likely an app I can get on my phone that lets me jot-down notes.  It'd be a little on the slower side while I queue the app up, as opposed to the pen and paper being right there, but it'd probably be a little more discreet since most people would assume I'm just sending a text or some-such.  Meanwhile I could picture people seeing me scribbling in a notebook and insisting on wanting to know what I'm writing down.

Friday, May 23, 2014

PAD #1: Introducing the "Post-A-Day" Challenge

Bleh.  Seems every time I want to revive this thing, I fall back off the wagon.  Maybe I was just feeling too pressured to write about relevant content that I ended-up just not writing at all.  I dunno.  In any case, I've decided to start a new challenge: the PAD, or Post A Day.  Basically, I want to start logging onto here once per day and just write.  About whatever (though I'm going to avoid politics as much as possible, because it's just a headache to discuss with most people).  Usually it'll be something nerd-related because hey, I am who I am.  My hope is that I can ramble at least 3 paragraphs-worth of stuff, and that it'll lead to me wanting to elaborate more on something that I mentioned during a PAD, which will lead to me creating more coherent and focused posts about stuff that people might actually want to read.  So I can't guarantee that every PAD will be interesting, but this is a little more for my sake than anything else.

So Transistor finally came out this week, and frankly, I loved it.  Loved it!  I love the music, I love the art design on the levels (just the art in general, really), I love the skill system, I love the story, and I definitely love some of the little touches that technically don't even do anything, like being able to press a button that causes the main character to stop and hum along with the background music.  This isn't to say that the game is flawless, just that the flaws that it does have were smothered under all the other things that I adored.  Seems the big controversy with the game (if you can take games seriously enough to use such a serious-sounding term, but it's a thing being discussed a lot among the community, so the term fits) is that it's a bit short for the price.  Admittedly, yes, it is a short game.  I don't mind that so-much though.  It's one of those things that got smothered under all the good.  Is Transistor short?  Yes, but it's such an amazing experience for the time that it lasts that I'm not bothered by the price.  It's a short game, but it's a game that I've already beaten twice, and am still itching for another run-through.  To me it's a matter of quality over quantity, which is why I always hate when people start talking "time to beat" as a means to measure whether or not a game is worth buying.

X-Men came out today.  Hoping to go see it tomorrow, and my hopes are still on the low side.  On the plus side, MovieBob gave it a not terrible review, though I'll have to see if I agree with his observation of how the X-Men movies have apparently been time-locked in the era when the first movies launched.  His point basically being that despite a decade's-worth of movies having passed between now and when the first X-Men movie was launched, the most recent one feels like it could have been released in that same year.  On the one hand it isn't necessarily a bad thing, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" as the saying goes.  On the other, it's worth noting that the first X-Men came out when movies were still too afraid to embrace their comic book nature.  Bear in mind that it predates everything related to The Avengers, a movie that basically proved that comic book movies can look like the comics and still appeal to a massive audience.  So I dunno, I guess we'll have to see.  Maybe I'll be watching the movie and feeling like it looks a little antiquated despite being a brand new release.

And with that, I feel this is a good place to close today's PAD.  With any luck, this will have me well on my way to getting used to sitting down and just typing.  I also hope to improve my spelling and grammar a bit, because I can't be a grammar pirate if my own writing isn't up to snuff.  And if anyone sees a topic they'd like to see elaborated further, feel free to comment and I'll do what I can.