Monday, 28 February 2005

Second Impressions

Angel Season 5. Damn! I mean... Damn!

A little rushed toward the end, perhaps, but you can see why this would be, Joss says in a commentary that they were confident of being renewed at the beginning, and forgive it to some extent. Some of the comedy just wasn't funny and The Girl In Question was the worst offender in this regard (and what they did to Andrew at the end was unforgivably out-of-character just for the service of a lame joke, luckily his earlier appearence in the season made up for it). The lower budget showed a couple of times too, but I think the direction in most episodes made up for it. Oh, and what the heck happened to the Cyborg Ninja storyline?

In the overview featurette they say that season 5 was more episodic than Angel had been for a while -- well, season 4 was Angel Does 24. It didn't particularly feel that way though. Yes, each episode wrapped that episode's main story line up but managed to have bits in that when seen has a whole. Boreanaz seemed to get just a little more beleaguered with each episode until his eventual seeming capitulation became not just believable, but inevitable. As for the Wesley arc... Damn!

I could go on, but I'll just say after the last episode I felt that Angel Season 5 had just done enough to pip Firefly as the finest work in Whedon's oeuvre. As they say over at DVDVerdict: "If brutal sword fights, homicidal puppets, werewolf girlfriends, undead wrestling matches, giant monsters, vampires drinking otter blood, robots made by The Devil, and general apocalyptic wackiness may be things that may interest you, Angel: The Complete Fifth Season represents the best value in entertainment you could find"

Shorter Bunny Stuff

Save Toby. Cute pictures and a ransom note have earned one clever bloke 16 grand already.

Speaking Of Short and Funny...

But not shit, The Home of the Twisted Films of PES. I've only checked out the movie called "Roof Sex" here (but of course) and it's hilarious. And safe for work, unless furniture gettin' it on is frowned on at your place of work, though the sound might not be.

This post brought to you without mention of the Fred Durst sex tape.

A Parent's Primer To Computer Slang

Microsoft teach you how to be hep to the kids lingo, daddio.

This post brought to you by the need to post some shorter funnier shit. And, yes, I know everybody else had this last week.

Berry Accepts Razzie

Halle Berry turned up in person to accept her Golden Raspberry for Worst Actress, apparently.
"They can't take this away from me, it's got my name on it!" she quipped. A raucous crowd cheered her on as she gave a stirring recreation of her Academy Award acceptance speech, including tears.

She thanked everyone involved in "Catwoman," a film she said took her from the top of her profession to the bottom.

"I want to thank Warner Brothers for casting me in this piece of shit," she said as she dragged her agent on stage and warned him "next time read the script first."

Friday, 25 February 2005

Funky Tigger and The Billie Jean Gangbang

Yes, the Blues Bakery Thursday Night Jam Session was back with a vengence last night. And, yes, a funky version of The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers was heard as well as an attempt at Gangbang to the tune of Billie Jean and Join Me In The Blues Bakery, a reworking of Warren Zevon's Join Me In LA. Fun times!

Wednesday, 23 February 2005

Stop Me If You've Seen This Already

The web works in odd ways. I was checking out Gaping Void because I wondered if Cynthia over on the Free Love Freeway had said anything about a comment I'd made there and I saw the name in her list of Blogs that she reads. Anyway Hugh at GV mentions that it's alleged that he and Kathy Sierra are an item.

Damn! That's one fine Blog. Bookmark it immediately. I've already subscribed to the RSS feed. If she keeps on coming up with gems like:
I consider "There's no 'I' in Team" to be terribly depressing. It sounds, in fact, just like what the Borg said on Star Trek. There is most definitely an "I" in any team I'm on. I have value in, and out, of a team. I will not surrender my passion in order to be a team player. And any team who doesn't value that isn't a team I want to be part of. I do believe that a team can change the world, but it's still a team of individuals supporting each other in being brave, strong, innovative, and passionate.

Then it can only be worth it.

First Impressions

OK, so a couple of packages arrived for me at the office yesterday: Angel Season 5 DVD and Lucasart's Mercenaries for the X-Box.

Despite wanting to plough through as much Angel as possible I gave Mercenaries half an hour. It's pretty good. Possibly great. Definitely great if I didn't know about GTA III as, essentially, it's that game with a better combat mechanism laid over it. In the first couple of mission you have to subdue someone and load them in a chopper, blow up buildings, protect a base with recoilless rifles and steal a truck. Fun stuff. I've heard it gets a little repetitive later on, but this is a great start. Plus Peter Stromare puts in a decent performant as the voice of one of the Mercs. I guess this makes it the third non-Star Wars license from Lucasarts recently (Secret Weapons Over Normandy and Armed And Dangerous being the others) that's been, at the very least, good. Pity they cancelled Sam 'N' Max...

Angel Season Five. Wow! They cancelled this, you know. Six episodes in and it's been funny (the spanking line in the first episode had me in stitches), scary (the Spike-centric episode has got to be the Buffyverse's creepiest ever) and morally amibiguous (the ending to the werewolf episode, in particular, was cruel). Damn!

By the way, I am so going to get this when it comes out...

Tuesday, 22 February 2005

Yay!

I had my first hit for "Hapland Walkthrough" today. As I told Jay:
Two things that help, I think:

1) You have to avoid getting that double headed arrow stuck, this requires timing

2) Once you've knocked the pole over you can click it to redirect projectiles, also requiring timing

That Jay link has a decent walkthrough, too, if you need more than hints. While you're there check out his whole site, especially his recommendations, and watch your whole week disappear.

In Essence

Michael over at Bookslut thinks ClassKC is the Enemy. Any body that's set up to:
To inform parents and the community about poor quality literature and vulgar subject matter (profanity, sex, occultism) in graded reading assignments

In their area isn't going to be all good. However, if you click on any excessive profanity link and you get a number of books broken down in to just their "bad words". It's truly great! Look at Slaughterhouse 5:
motherfucker, fucked, fucking, fuck, fucking, God-damned, Jesus, Jesus Christ, cocksucker, shit, piss, balls, pecker, whore, bastard, son of a bitch, hard-on, hell, damn

A phrase I intend to use in the pub as soon as possible. Though the "hell, damn" is a bit of an anti-climax. The distillation of Beloved is poetry indeed (if a little disturbing):
fucking, fucking cows,
dreaming of rape,
the men abused cows,
fucked cows

RIP Hunter S Thompson

The people over at ACME Music remember that he was a friend of Warren Zevon.
About Thompson, he said: “Every occasion with Hunter's different. Hunter was a great influence on the way I wrote songs, but Hunter is Hunter. He's a great American writer. When he chooses to be he's also a great Southern gentleman. If you want to pursue the subject, I suggest that we book two first class tickets to Aspen on VH1's budget and see what Hunter has to say about it. Why not? I'll take an oxygen tank.” And if the people at VH1 had any wit they’d have made it happen.

And also remember his style.

The Guardian has some memories from Ralph Steadman.
In 1974 we went to Zaire to cover the "Rumble in the Jungle" between George Foreman and Muhammad Ali for Rolling Stone magazine. Rolling Stone publisher Jan Wenner called it "the biggest, fucked-up journalistic adventure in the history of journalism". Hunter never delivered the story and the art director didn't like my drawings. Hunter sold our fight tickets to buy drugs or something, and told me: "If you think I've come all this way to watch two niggers beat the shit out of each other, you've got another think coming." This wasn't a racist remark. It was gonzo. He said it to be provocative. Then he snuck off to the pool with the whisky and a big bag of grass.


Steven Gilliard has a fine tribute, too.

Tuesday, 15 February 2005

Makes You Think

Ron Gilbert links, without comment, to an International Game Developers Association article entitled But Seriously, Folks, The gaming press needs to grow up. Ron recommends that you read the last paragraph, and it certainly sums up a lot that goes before it:
The shallow, fanboy press is one of the chief reasons that gaming as an art form remains unaccepted, even within the industry itself. How can developers look at what they do and call it meaningful if their own community doesn't? Perhaps the word "game" is our problem. "Games" are for children. We outgrow them. They're somehow different from movies or novels in this regard; to many, a thirtysomething who expounds delightedly on the joys of a game should feel somewhat abashed; immature at best and infantile at worst. Yet anyone who bothers to actually try one of today's games realizes almost instantly that there's nothing childish about them. Disciples of Salen & Zimmerman realize that games are just methods of communicating and exploring complex ideas. Maybe the press should start treating them as such.

It is worth reading the whole thing, though, and checking out some of the articles it links to.

One thing that got me thinking was the article on Planescape: Torment, it concludes:
If you want to see game design done well, Planescape: Torment is a game to learn from. Since it uses the AD&D model there's little that's new about the underlying mechanics, but as a world to explore I think it contains the most intense concentration of creativity I have seen in any computer game, past or present.

Unfortunately I only know this game by reputation, so I can't comment on it, but I do think that this is important: "Since it uses the AD&D model there's little that's new about the underlying mechanics". Computer games are getting to a point where there "engines" start looking the same and the novelty of having specular lighting, or whatever this months exciting new tweak is, is one that's getting diminishing returns. For those games that are concerned with their narrative, though, this may not be a bad thing. Creativity can be expended on telling a compelling story or acheiving an emotional resonance.

Except this isn't always appreciated, looking at the reviews of Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic II: The Sith Lords (KOTOR II, for short), most of them criticise the game for being built on the same (or slightly refined) engine as the last one.

The original KOTOR was widely praised as being one of the finest Star Wars products since Tie Fighter. It had a strong central story with a satisfying twist, it manages to tell quite a few other stories along the way, most of Polti's 36 plots, in fact. The games graphics, while not stellar, were adequate to convey what was needed. So why the need for extra novelty in the sequel?

OK, the original engine could be buggy, and in KOTOR II I've already managed to fall through the scenery, and the faces of the characters in close up are a bit in expressive, but I can't be the only one a bit shocked when T3-M4 is blown up early on and found HK-50 hilariously homocidal (and slightly disappointed that it wasn't HK-47, but apparently he turns up later). Then there's all the little things that refer to the earlier game(I've only just started playing, so some of these little things may get bigger) Carth's earlyish cameo, the fact that it's the Ebon Hawk and the constant echoing of the backstory that's already been established. So far, apart from my tendency to get lost, it's been fine story telling all the way.

What I feel is that the search for novelty means that games tend tell the same simplistic storys over and over again with shinier shiny than the last time. And it's partly this that is keeping them "childish". Until gamers accept that innovation in the story line is as important as innovation in the display this is going to continue to happen.

Thursday, 10 February 2005

Royal wedding 'will split public'

According to the BBC, that is. Yeah, I think it will. Between those who don't care and those who really couldn't give a shit.

Brits Up FA

Following on from The FA deciding no black British footballers have ever been better than at least 17 white ones, the Brits decide that over the last twelve months no-one black has released anything good music-wise. To such an extent that "Urban" now includes 18 year old white girls from Devon.

There's been some hand-waving about this to the effect of it being something to do with the "Radio 2 effect" -- something that's used to explain Jamie Cullum and Katie Melua having a career, too. It makes Terry Wogan the nation's No. 1 tastemaker, according to the Guardian.

If it wasn't for the fact Austrian radio makes this seeming daring and forward-looking, I'd despair.

Anyway, Joss Stone, the Devon girl, has seen the sunny side of this by saying "I'm so glad people are getting past that colour thing"...

Wednesday, 9 February 2005

I Can't Explain

Josh over at the Comics Curmudgeon (he reads the comics so you don't have to) has unearthed a really odd site. As he says you have to see it to appreciate it, but, in essence, they've taken several Garfield strips chopped off the right half and then mirrored the left half and added it to itself on the right.

Somehow, this simple process results in some of the freakiest comics you'll ever see.

Public Service Announcement

Those of you coming here for that Samarost walkthrough[1], please, for the love of all you hold dear don't try to play Hapland, there isn't even a walkthrough for it yet[2].

Link via the peerless Jay Is Games.



[1] Click stuff, click it again, click something else then click it again. Repeat
[2] Click stuff, click more stuff. Realise you're stuck. Reset. Click stuff, click more stuff. Realise you're stuck. Slowly make progress. Wonder what's happened to the day. Realise your timing sucks. Reset. Repeat.

Tuesday, 8 February 2005

Shocker...

Apparently there was no wardrobe malfunction at this year's Superbowl. What did manage to get through, though, was a foam rubber hand, in the shape of a mildly novel sexual practice called the Shocker.

What's funny from the article is this:
“No one over the age of twenty-five knows what it means, but I guarantee you that ninety per cent of college students know what it is,” Josh said.

A quick glance at it, though, and it's perfectly obvious what it is and I'm 33. And, you know, it's no three eyed turtle or Butterfly of Venus.

Of course, these things have been going on for some time...

Monday, 7 February 2005

A Good Fisking

The New York Times has an op-ed by Micheal J Behe that is pro-intelligent-design. My recommendation is that at the end of each paragraph you raise one eyebrow and say in your best patronising voice "reeeaaally?".

I mean, the thing starts off:
In the wake of the recent lawsuits over the teaching of Darwinian evolution, there has been a rush to debate the merits of the rival theory of intelligent design.

Which is wrong on so many fronts: there's no rush, no merits and the debate is mostly scientists looking at ID and wondering where people get such damn stupid ideas.

Anyway in the interests of fairness the people over at The Panda's Thumb do take Behe seriously, in their way, and give it a thorough Fisk.

Really, though, when someone can come up with rubbish like:
The first claim is uncontroversial: we can often recognize the effects of design in nature. For example, unintelligent physical forces like plate tectonics and erosion seem quite sufficient to account for the origin of the Rocky Mountains. Yet they are not enough to explain Mount Rushmore.

Aren't you just ready to listen to what else he's got to say.

One thing that always gets me about ID is if there is a designer why was he so shitty. In which part of the design document was there that bit that says lets make it possible for humans to be addicted to all manner of stuff that's bad for them?

Did I mention I've been off the fags for a week?

Quality Games

Jamie Fristrom asks "What is 'Quality', anyhow?" and fails to come up with an answer that convinces him.
Total Quality Management would say that Quality is an absence of defects. That doesn't apply to video games, because a video game that has nothing wrong with it is still not necessarily worth playing. This attitude helps lead to the "highly polished turd" phenomenon. Unless we start writing bug reports that say things like, "This game lacks Tim Schafer's genius. To reproduce: 1) play game; 2) note absence of genius."

A related question is "How important is quality?" I've just finished "Beyond Good and Evil" (the game not the book) and it's probably one of the best designed and compelling[1] games I've ever played. Yet because of the poor sales the hinted at sequel will probably never happen.

You can offer all the quality you want, but it doesn't guarantee that people will want what you're selling. As far as I can tell the gaming industry is still at the point where popular usually means good, be there's always aberations and it's getting to the point where well-known is often more in important than well-reviewed.

[1] It can be played in about 10 hours or less (probably less if you're actually a good gamer) so I should have finished ages ago, except I took a break for Pro Evolution Soccer. That's not to take away from it's compellingness it just show how easy it is to distract me with something new and shiny...

Wednesday, 2 February 2005

Chris Crawford On Games

The Guardian's Game Blog has an interview with opinionated games designer Chris Crawford. Insightful stuff.
What is the essence of interactivity, from your early games to the products you’re working on now?
It’s the choices, giving people lots of interesting choices. Actually, that’s Sid Meier’s definition of a good game too. It’s just that you have to give choices that are intrinsically interesting, and that’s why we have so intrinsically failed to address the female market. They are not interested in choices involving spatial reasoning and guns.

Social reasoning is one of the primary entertainment impulses for women. You know, figuring out who likes whom, allies and enemies and that sort of thing. That’s a major part of a woman’s psychological or emotional life. That’s what we should be doing. However it’s a lot more complicated. It’s easier to measure the trajectory of a bullet, but chasing people’s feelings is a much more difficult job.