21 June 2012

One Solstice Night, Pt 3

Last couple years on the night of the summer solstice I've stayed up till dawn, blogging my activities. It's already become something of a tradition for me, so no reason to stop now. For company this time I have a bottle of cheap red wine and (once again) some Pringles.

22:51 - Sunset. I begun the evening by playing a couple hours of Skyrim. I recently got back to it after a longish break. It's still fun. But I think I'll go with movies for tonight's main entertainment. I've already had a couple glasses of wine, and feel great. ;-) Just recently Troma Entertainment (known for such classics as Toxic Avenger) released a whole bunch of their old movies for free on YouTube. So what better opportunity to check out a turkey of two?

23:18 - My first movie choice is Wizards of the Demon Sword. Simply based on the cool name. And just ten minutes into it... wow, have I ever seen such a cheesy, cheap production? The costumes, the sets, the writing... words don't suffice... I'm loving it!

23:28 - Let's hear it for gratuitous nudity! (Edit after movie: one topless scene was the extent of it for this movie.)

0:30 - Brewed a cup of coffee. Still a long way to go till dawn, and the wine's affecting me... perhaps a little more than I'd care to admit.

0:54 - Movie's over. And yeah, that was so bad, I loved every minute of it. The 'sword' of the title was apparently just a dagger. And was this really made in 1990? Looked, like, twenty years older, easily... And in case you're wondering, its score at IMDb is a magnificent 1.9!

2:04 - Went for a little walk, something I rarely have the motivation to do at night. Which is a shame, really, since the nights really are the best part of summer – so cool, so quiet, so fragrant. Hardly a soul around. The sky, though, was so light I could hardly see a single star, even in the dead of night. Which is kinda spooky.

2:10 - The actual moment of the solstice, being an 'astronomical event that happens twice each year when the Sun reaches its highest position in the sky as seen from the North or South Pole' (according to Wikipedia).

2:20 - I still have time for another movie, so I'll pick... dramatic drumroll... A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell! The title itself simply boggles the mind.

2:38 - First surprise: it's a post-apocalyptic setting, rather than prehistoric. Second surprise: despite the name, the protagonist isn't blond, nor does she have large breasts. Other than that, as cheesy and cheaply produced as the previous one!

2:47 - Just finished off the wine. Not that a glass more at this point makes a lot of difference. The walk probably sobered me up some, and general tiredness is gradually taking over from tipsiness.

3:50 - Finished the movie. And wow, I hardly expected it to be worse than the previous one. Even less plot, and rather few dinosaur scenes in the end, too. (On the plus side, it wasn't really as sexist as I feared it might be, based on the title.) IMDb rating equals the first one, at 1.9!

3:55 - Sunrise! And I'm off to bed. Goodnight, world.

19 June 2012

Have Moogle, Will Time-Travel

So last week I finally got around to finishing Final Fantasy XIII-2. Like its predecessor, it was a reasonably interesting and entertaining game, though aspects of it again gave rise to mixed feelings.

My main complaints about FFXIII (here's the blog post from when I played it) were its linearity and lack of content other than successive battles. They obviously tried to change this in XIII-2. There are much more NPC's to talk with, optional locations to explore, and side quests. Almost too many, one could say. When I beat the game there was still a lot of content I could've explored.

They give you the option to keep exploring after you've beaten the game, of course, even unlocking additional stuff. However, having seen the main storyline through, the game could provide me with absolutely no motivation to do so. This seems to be a problem with many games these days that offer lots of 'post-game' content. I simply don't get the point of it...

One thing I really disliked about the game was that it only has two protagonists. Yes, two! The third slot in battles is filled by monsters you obtain along the way. Really, this is supposed to be Final Fantasy, not freakin' Pokémon! You need to spend a lot of time in menus levelling up those monsters, too, which is just boring. I'd much rather have had a full cast of regular characters. Summons, an old staple of the series, are also absent, replaced by special attacks of the monsters (which mostly seemed neither very effective nor impressive). The battle system itself is more or less the same as in XIII. And it is still pretty interesting and original. I don't think I prefer it to the classic turn based battles, but it is kinda fun.

Visually I found the game quite pleasing to look at. And the music wasn't half bad, either, even though it was no Uematsu soundtrack. I found the use of vocals in many tracks particularly interesting, and different from most game soundtracks. These mostly consisted of soft female vocals, mixed fairly low so they weren't too distracting.

So, uh, the story, then. Frankly, I'm not quite sure how to feel about it. It involves travelling back and forth in time, so it can get a little confusing. I'm not sure the writing is always the strongest it could have been. As with XIII there probably would've been potential for something a little more. But the world itself and its mythology are relatively interesting. (Knowledge of the first game's story is probably recommended, since it is often referred to.)

I beat the game in just over 40 hours (according to the game's clock), so it's a little shorter perhaps than many other Final Fantasy games. It wasn't particularly hard, either, and I did very little intentional grinding. (The game also offers an 'easy' mode, but I have trouble seeing the point of this. Easier modes make sense in action games, but less so in an RPG, particularly one that isn't especially hard to begin with...)

Warning: The last part of this post may contain mild spoilers

And then there's the ending. I'd managed to somehow not read anything about it, and was truly surprised. It basically ends in a cliffhanger, making way for another sequel. I'll say this much, it was a pretty efficient ending, got my adrenaline pumping. Cliffhangers can be both infuriating and exhilarating at the same time. I'm not aware if a sequel has been officially announced yet (I could find nothing about one at Wikipedia, anyway)...

18 June 2012

Player vs GM (An Introspection)

Last week was pretty fun and RPG-rich. I played in a couple of games and game mastered one, all very different. (Also finally beat FFXIII-2. It was a fairly interesting experience, and I may or may not get around to writing a blog post about that later.)

Somehow, though, I got to thinking about my own shortcomings again. You see, I've always felt more comfortable in the game master's chair than as a player. But why exactly is this, I wonder?

Well, for one thing, I've always been very bad at making decisions and coming up with ideas on the spot. This is probably my biggest shortcoming as a game master as well (in addition to my relatively poor articulatory skills), but since I'm then dealing with worlds and stories I created myself, and know fairly well how they're supposed to function, this slightly mitigates the problem.

I'm also more a 'big picture' than a 'little picture' person. I tend to be interested in the overarching story more than little details. I find it challenging to view the story from just one character's viewpoint, or, for that matter, really 'relate' to any particular character. I'm a pretty bad actor, too (like I mentioned above, I'm not a great articulator), which makes really getting 'into character' even more difficult. As a game master my NPC performances may not always be the most convincing due to these reasons, but the 'big picture' mentality probably mostly works in my favour. (And I guess I'd rather act an NPC badly for a moment than a player character continuously...)

I've never been great at team work. Probably largely because I am, by nature, fairly shy and quiet. In a heated discussion I often have difficulty communicating my ideas (when I even have them – like I said, I'm not good at coming up with ideas on the spot). When you're the game master, people have to listen (or suffer the consequences :-p). Then again, just being quiet sometimes and allowing the players to talk amongst themselves for a while can be a good strategy. You can often glean some good ideas from the discussions, and get a feel for where the events are heading.

I'm very self-centred. It's not something I'm particularly proud of, of course, but it's a personality trait I fully acknowledge. Despite my shyness, I love being at the centre of attention (yeah, kind of a paradox, I know). This mostly isn't a problem in RPG's. Challenges often affect each of the characters equally, and even if someone else happens to be more in the limelight than me, I'm quite capable of enjoying just listening to the story unfold (though if it happens constantly, it can become a little disturbing – not out of jealousy, but insecurity about my own lack of ideas and assertiveness). It may, however, be one more thing that makes me enjoy game mastering even more.

There are probably many other reasons as well, but I'll leave it here for now. The human psyche is a strange thing indeed, and getting to grips with even your own (or especially your own?) is by no means an easy task...

13 June 2012

No Place for Old Bens

(Yeah yeah, one of those late night angsty poetry-ish things. Just found myself feeling vaguely uncomfortable tonight, and a little lonely, which is weird 'cause this is actually one of the most socially active weeks I've had in a while. I'm not sure why exactly I feel a need to express this stuff in words, but for some reason I do, so bear with me...)

One of those days
hot and oppressive
though the meter's hardly touching record highs
so I wonder
is there any clime I'd feel at home in?
all I ever know is 'too hot', 'too cold'
and isn't it just the story of my life
an ill fit
the puzzle's not missing a piece
there's a piece too many
no place for old Bens in this world
no careers
no significant others
even faiths elude me
so I suppose pleasant weather as well is too much to ask for
and "I wish I had an angel"
I hear my headphones serenade me
"For one moment of love"
and wouldn't that be just the thing
to rest
just a moment
in the cool shade of her wings
on a hot and oppressive one-of-those-days day

11 June 2012

I've Got a Potato and I'm Not Afraid to Use It

So I finally got around to playing Portal 2. And I liked it a lot. I wrote a brief review. (My first this year, apparently. I really don't play enough games these days.) In a nutshell it says it's a lot like the first Portal, only bigger, and that I liked it a lot. And, uh, yeah, that's basically it.

I haven't played the co-op part of the game. And I'm not sure I will, any time soon. Mostly because I just don't play games online. I feel like I need to be able to communicate more directly, particularly when it comes to a co-operative game. (I don't even have the technology for playing online, like headsets and stuff, 'cause I've never been interested in it.) Of course local multiplayer is a possibility, but then we're into logistics territory and finding a mate to play with etc... Also a problem with this sort of game is that both players need to be on the same level, and if one has already played the game and the other hasn't I imagine it basically ruins it. So yeah, I can't say I really get the online gaming phenomenon in general. Just give me quality single player games, please, and I'll be happy.

4 June 2012

Things I Really Hate About Twitter

Just a quick rant, for a change.

While Twitter is mostly OK (I don't use it as much as Facebook for connecting with IRL friends, but I've got a handful of online acquaintances I mostly connect with on Twitter, plus celebrities I follow), there are a few things about it that sometimes drive me nuts. These are (mostly) related to the users more than the technology, though (unlike on Facebook, where the occasional buggy behaviour is usually the worst annoyance).

Firstly, there's the 'replace X with Y' hashtag memes, where X is usually something like songs by a certain artist or movie titles, and Y is some random, silly word. The problem is that the wording of the hashtag is, semantically, completely wrong. If you replace X with Y, it becomes Y, and nothing but Y, and not some (supposedly) funny hybrid of the two! Yet these hashtags pop up in the trending topics often enough to drive me absolutely crazy. Seriously, language matters, people!

Slightly less annoying, perhaps, but still annoying, are the frequently trending 'national something or other day' memes. Seriously, people. Which nation? Why only them? Why am I left out? News flash: the net is global, folks!

Lastly, the one major technical flaw in Twitter is the fact that they allow animated profile images. This is something I really hate. Any unnecessary movement on a web page is an instant turn-off for me.

None of the people I follow participate (actively, at least) in these faux pas, I'm happy to say.

3 June 2012

I Don't Seem to Write as Many Poems These Days

'I don't seem to write as many poems these days'
I ponder
as the beauty of the night goes on around me
does it not touch me like it used to?
are emotions in me
at long last
calling it a day?
'dead end, fellas
turn back
someone else needs us more than this bloke does'
where's the verse now to shout
'get off your soddin' arse
you lazy bastard
write me!'
and I would
if I found you
but you're lost, in the darkness
and I'd gladly be lost as well
in that beautiful night
if I hadn't forgotten how