30 June 2011

Sleep (and Sanity) Are in Another Castle

It's a little late to blog about this now, but last weekend was the fourth annual Mario Marathon. (My friends will have seen many a tweet and Facebook status about it during the show, of course, and even before. Which probably reached more people than this blog post will, so this is more of a round up than a plug.)

I watched some of it a year ago for the first time (I think I stumbled upon it through a tweet by Felicia Day, or something like that), and was quite impressed. This is a bunch of friends from Indiana playing through the main Super Mario games, non stop, streaming it live on the Internet. Add humorous chatting, zany performance numbers etc. for a surprisingly entertaining and addictive package.

Oh yeah, and it's all for charity, of course. They raise money (and awareness) for Child's Play.

So, this year I caught the show from almost the beginning, and watched a fair share of it. Not nearly all, of course. Not even half, I'm sure, what with pesky sleep and other activities getting in the way. But the number of hours was certainly well into double digits.

And it just kept going on and on. By Tuesday the end was finally in sight, and I felt I really needed to see how it all turned out, having watched so much already. Well, as it turned out, it was 8:30am (Finnish time) on Wednesday morning when the stream was finally turned off, and I had stayed up through the whole night. I don't regret it, it was a blast, and I had no special plans for the day, so I could still catch a few hours of sleep.

By that time the marathon had gone on for something like 110 hours, and raised over 110,000 dollars for Child's Play. And yes, I was inspired to donate as well. You can't watch these guys for hours on end and not appreciate what they're doing.

I really hope we'll see Mario Marathon 5 next year! Thank you for a great weekend, guys!

Of Lies and Cake

Even though I have a certain fondness for Doom, first person shooters haven't really ever been 'my thing'.

Despite this, I finally decided that I should maybe buy The Orange Box, particularly since you can get it pretty cheap these days. (For the non-savvy, this is a collection of several games by Valve, namely those in the Half-Life series, plus Portal.) And yeah, it's the PlayStation 3 version. I've read that the port (by EA) is very bad, but I'm afraid that's still really the only viable platform for me to play newer games on.

Puzzle games have always been even less 'my thing' than FPS's. So a game like Portal, which combines FPS elements with puzzle solving, didn't, for a long time, really strike me as something that would much interest me. But I kept hearing so much praise for it, I decided to finally give it a shot. I started playing last night, and finished it this afternoon. No, it's not a very long game, and I'm not sure whether it has much replay value either, once you've figured out the levels, but it did last a little longer than I expected at first, though, and had adequate incentive to keep on playing till the end.

And yeah, it is a pretty cool game, I guess. The gameplay mechanic was interesting and original, and the game short enough that it didn't get too repetitive. I liked the eerie atmosphere, too, as well as the twisted humour. I've written a brief review, but it doesn't really say much more than what I've already said. 'Simple and short, but original and not uninteresting,' pretty much covers it. I guess I might get the sequel some day, but not until it is much cheaper.

Next up: I don't really know yet, got several new, and old, games waiting. I might give Half-Life 2 a shot, or possibly Infamous, which I downloaded as part of the PSN welcome back package. I really have been neglecting gaming too much lately. I need to somehow get back in the habit.

It feels strange that most of the newer games I've been purchasing recently are of western origin. I guess I'm getting a little less prejudiced these days. But what happened to the Japanese video game industry, anyway? Seems to be precious little there these days that really interests me...

22 June 2011

One Solstice Night, Pt 2

Last year on the night of the summer solstice, the shortest night of the year, I decided to stay up till dawn, blogging about my thoughts and doings. No reason to not do it all over again, then. I've got some booze again (the leftovers of a bottle of 'Salmari', a drink about as Finnish as they come, and I have no idea how much is actually left in the bottle, might be just a couple shots, or I might be getting legless, we'll just have to see), and some Pringles for snacking...

22:51 - The sun should have just set according to Wolfram|Alpha. And I still have no clue as to how I'm going to be spending the night. The actual astronomical moment of the solstice has already been, at around 20:22 local time. About five hours to go till sunrise. It's a bit on the cloudy side, so the night isn't likely to be as light as it could at best.

23:06 - 'Once you pop, you can't stop...' And I've got way too much of these. There should be a law against special offers on snack foods...

23:26 - Took a moment to 'like' John Kovalic on Facebook. He used to have a regular profile and accepted everyone as friends, but now he's changed it into one of those 'likeable' celebrity pages. Which I think is for the best, since I for one don't fancy 'friending' people I don't actually know. I still have no plans for the rest of the night. Current plan seems to be: get rid of the booze, then worry about the rest of the night.

23:55 - So, the booze in the end made for about five shots, although I think this glass is a little smaller than the standard 4cl. Enough for some slight tipsiness, but no serious drunkenness. And I'm only an hour into the night, so I'll have to think of other ways to entertain myself now.

0:05 - A word of two about alcohol in order? I might sound a little cavalier about my attitudes towards it, but I really don't drink very often, nor very large quantities at a time. However, I won't deny that I enjoy the occasional stiff drink, or even the sensation of getting a little tipsy. Heck, it's been a part of human culture pretty much since there was human culture. Even animals are known to get high on fermented fruit. Everyone has their vices. Thus far this vice, for me, has been well under control. But obviously it is not for everyone, and I have nothing but respect for those who choose not to drink (and sadness for those who can't control it). I'm sure they have vices of their own, though. Life would be pretty boring without them...

0:46 - For entertainment, I decided to go with Nightwish's End of an Era DVD. I've probably seen this concert film more often than any other (even counting such masterpieces as Tom Waits's Big Time), but I don't seem to get tired of it. Once again some angry feedback for the DVD's producers, though. 4:3 letterbox format? WTF? What is this, the 90's?! (Strangely enough, I recently dreamt I met Emppu on a bus...)

1:14 - Brief break to brew some tea. Starting with the booze may not have been the best of ideas, I think it's making me feel drowsier than I would otherwise be. Also, a whole tube of Pringles has already vanished. I rather hope I'll have the willpower not to pop another one tonight...

1:30 - Forgot about the tea... Well, should be well brewed by now. Oh, and BTW, \m/!

2:30 - DVD finished. Still well over an hour to go... Must admit I'm feeling a tad tired (and I'm pretty sure it's no longer just the booze affecting me). But I'm not about to give up after coming this far. It's not like staying up this late is even particularly rare for me.

2:45 - Just devoured a nectarine, probably my last snack for the night, while trying to think of something intriguing enough to keep me awake for the last hour. And even though it's still pretty gloomy outside, it is noticeably lighter already than an hour or two ago.

3:35 - Didn't come up with anything worthwhile to do, in the end. Just idle thoughts and web browsing. Except there appears to be sporadic problems with Internet connections. The universe just doesn't seem to be on my side this solstice night...

3:55 - Dawn! And about bloody time, too. It never ceases to amaze, though, just how fast the light grows before dawn this time of year. But now I'm really off to bed.

20 June 2011

The Rise of the Odd Idea

I doubt many people who read this blog aren't actually aware of this already, but of course you never know who might stumble here by accident...

As you might know, I'm a geek and a gamer. Which probably implies that many of my friends are such as well. And creativity tends to go hand in hand with these qualities. Earlier this year, one of my friends had the idea of sharing some of his stranger ideas via his Facebook statuses, ranging from realistic alternate history concepts to surreal fantasy and sci-fi. The idea behind this was, basically, to allow these ideas to entertain others, since not all of them could obviously ever be realised in RPG's, fiction or other media, as well as to possibly provide inspiration for other creative people.

The posts soon acquired the tag 'outo idea' (Finnish for 'odd idea' ), or just 'OI' for short. Occasionally myself and others have also shared ideas using the same format, although we haven't been nearly as prolific. (Some of mine have since been written up in more detail in the RPG settings section.) It hasn't quite become a global meme yet, perhaps, but I guess it has become something of a staple in our circle of friends.

So, as a natural evolution of the original concept, my friend has recently opened up his imagination to the rest of the world, in blog form. You can find his writings at odd-ideas.net. It could be useful as a source of inspiration, or simply as entertainment. But you don't have to take my word for it, go check it out for yourself. :)

13 June 2011

Teya'o Iva, One Year Later, and Other RPG Musings

Last year, in June, I wrote about finally getting started with my big new fantasy RPG campaign, Tales from the Teya'o Iva.

A year later, I'm happy to report the campaign is still going strong, and has been played at a fairly steady pace throughout the year. I've neglected to keep a precise track of dates we've played, I'm afraid, but mostly I think we've been playing roughly once a month, sometimes even more frequently.

I realised the web page for the campaign was getting rather lengthy with all the summaries of events. So I finally decided to split it into several pages. The first year's worth of events is now designated 'Season 1', while future events will go under the (huge surprise) 'Season 2' heading. No, there's no big transitions story-wise or anything, but this seemed like the best time for such a split.

In other RPG news, I've recently obtained the Pathfinder RPG Bestiary and the official setting book, The Inner Sea World Guide, to accompany the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook I've written about buying earlier. I've been browsing these books, and have quickly grown quite fond of them. It's been a while since I've acquired this many new RPG products. I guess I'd almost forgotten the pleasure just reading rule and setting books can be. And they look good, to boot.

I'm fairly confident at the moment that the next game I run for my other group will be set in the Pathfinder world. As I was writing in my previous post, I've come to feel that convenience should be a major factor in the choice of setting for a D&D style game. My creative energies are better put to use in other aspects of the game, or other projects entirely, than in trying to come up with a perfect D&D setting.

That being said, there are many aspects of the Pathfinder world I actually quite enjoy. The sheer variety of environments, leaning towards a pulp adventure-ish feel, is nice. From jungles ruled by giant apes, lands of undead or demons, empires and frontier lands, to barbarian kingdoms mining superscience devices from a wrecked spaceship and other cool curiosities... It's as if the writers have tried to dump in everything they possibly could, while remaining true to D&D traditions. It's a world obviously created for RPG's and no other purpose. And a GM could have a lot of fun there.