28 September 2012

The Theatre Is Evil Post

OK, so last Monday I finally got my first ever Kickstarter purchase in the post: Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra's album Theatre Is Evil. (It took nearly three weeks to reach me after I was notified of it being shipped. But I'm not complaining, just glad to finally have it.)

I've listened to it a bunch of times since then. More than I initially expected, I must say. Some of the songs I've loved since the day I first heard them (like both the songs that have gotten music videos so far, 'The Killing Type' and 'Want It Back'), while others have grown on me more gradually, I think. There's some beautiful moments on the album, as well as many catchy, danceable moments. I can't say I fully understand every song, but even the ones I don't sound lovely (and the language is very poetic).

The version of the CD is the 'Limited Backer Edition', made exclusively for the album's Kickstarter backers. It came in a lovely book type format (about 18cm tall). The cover is black, with elegant silver coloured lettering, while inside there's plenty of nice artwork in addition to the song lyrics. In a nutshell, I like it. I like owning (physical) albums, and their aesthetic value is one of the main reasons for it. I love it when artists make an effort to make their releases look nice and original. The CD itself contains no bonus material (likely because the album is over 70 minutes long to begin with), although the 'deluxe' download version (included in the deal for all who bought the CD through Kickstarter) contains lots of bonus tracks (which are pretty good, too).

Included was a cool thank you card featuring a stereoscopic 3D image of the band. (With Amanda topless. She's not a shy person.)

So, bottom line, yes, I'm glad I participated in the Kickstarter, and glad I decided to get the CD version (originally I was going to just pledge a few bucks for the download).

I've been following AFP on Twitter for a while now, and she seems like a lovely person who really cares about art more than anything. Of course I doubt she'd be married to Neil Gaiman if she wasn't. And I'd probably have never gotten this album if it wasn't for Neil promoting her in his own posts. So he deserves a little credit too.

And as I've mentioned before, the download version of the album is being offered on a 'pay what you want' basis (free, even, if you're skint) at AFP's website.

27 September 2012

Nameless Anniversary Anxiety (Being a Poem About Life, or Semblance Thereof)

I still have the ticket, you know
tucked away with
miscellaneous memorabilia

I've hung onto others
for various reasons
but that was the first

the theatre's gone now
swallowed up by the
multiplex revolution

(and that is a
disturbing thought in
its own right)

the movie was OK
(I like Jeff Goldblum)
but it's the parting

I remember
sitting at the bus stop
not wanting the night to end

not 'like it was yesterday'
more like a distant dream
fifteen years ago


gods it sounds like a
long time said
out loud

but it's not old scars
I mourn, I think
(if ever scars there were)

no, not the fifteen
but the fourteen
scarless years

26 September 2012

An Infamous Review Thingy

Having thought about it for some time, I think I probably won't be writing any more video game reviews for the review section of my website. Bottom line is, they don't really serve any purpose, since my readership is hardly huge and the games I play tend to not be the newest thing anyway, and (perhaps most importantly) for a while already writing those reviews has felt more like a chore than something I really enjoy. But I'll probably blog about games I play, in a somewhat simpler fashion.

So just now I beat Infamous (or inFamous or inFAMOUS, however you wish to spell it). I'd had it on my PS3's hard drive ever since the PSN outage last year (I got it free as part of the welcome back package), and finally got around to playing it. It turned out to be a pretty fun action adventure, with a superhero twist.

In a nutshell, the protagonist, Cole MacGrath, is at the centre of a mysterious explosion. He survives and finds he has gained powers to manipulate electricity. Meanwhile, the city is placed under quarantine, and gangs of mutated people are wreaking havoc. An FBI agent recruits Cole to find the 'Ray Sphere', the cause of all the trouble... The storytelling in the game was OK, though I sometimes felt there would have been some room for improvement.

So basically you have a whole city to explore, in a fairly free fashion (outside areas only, though). One of the main themes of the game is agility. You can easily climb buildings and run around rooftops, or 'grind' power lines to move fast from rooftop to rooftop. It's a lot of fun. Story missions proceed in a relatively linear fashion, but there's also plenty of side quests and exploration to do. Frankly, the side quests soon get a little repetitive, though, and in later parts I couldn't really be bothered to do many.

The game also makes a big point of morality, and periodically makes you choose a good or evil course of action. However, most of these decisions felt essentially pointless, because once you've chosen your path you basically have to stick with it, as unlocking many power upgrades requires a high level of either good or bad 'karma'.

Still, despite these limitations, it was a pretty entertaining game. Not too long for repetitiveness to really be a problem, not too short either. The challenge level also seemed appropriate for me (playing on easy difficulty, since I'm generally pretty bad at action games). I'll probably pick up the sequel some day, when I run into it cheap enough and actually have a little money... But now, I think, I want something different. Just don't know what yet...

20 September 2012

When Life Gives You Lemons, Ignore Them and Play Video Games

(This post may contain strong language.)

So yeah. Shit decided to hit the fan computer-wise, as it is wont to do every so often. In a nutshell, I ran an update for my Debian Wheezy system, which included a new version of AMD's video card drivers. And it turns out the new version doesn't want to play with my card... I spent a stressful evening battling with this, and none of my ideas for workarounds seemed to work (the open source Radeon driver actually started up the first time I tried it... but ever since has resulted in a segmentation fault, for reasons that are totally beyond me). So in the end I just went: 'Fuck it. I don't want to deal with this shit now.'

So I dug up my old crappy MacBook for basic internet use, and spent the next day playing video games. (Not necessarily meant to imply that the MacBook is crappy just because it's old. It may also be crappy because it's a fucking Apple product. But that is neither here nor there.)

The game I picked was Infamous. I'd had it on my PS3's hard drive for over a year now (got it free as part of the welcome back package after the PSN outage), but hadn't got around to playing yet. And I ended up playing it for a significant portion of the day. Which probably means it's not a bad game.

I think this change of pace was really needed. It's been a little while again since I last really got into a new game. It's always refreshing and exciting. The computer issue remains, a huge looming black cloud over my life, 'cause I'm really no guru who can fix such things just like that. But life goes on...

17 September 2012

Monday Night Ramblings, with Music, Ponies and Whatnot

There's a handful of websites I routinely check. Normally I just open a new tab, punch in the first letter or two of the URL and hit enter. It's a very fast operation, happens almost on reflex. Sometimes, if I'm bored, I might accidentally check sites I've checked only minutes ago, just punching in the address on reflex, not really thinking. And sometimes I seem to punch in an address that makes no sense for me to visit. Like Blogger. This has happened several times over the past few days, even though I haven't had anything in mind to blog about. Maybe my brain's trying to tell me something? So, like, whatever. Here I am, then, rambling about nothing in particular.

Item 1:

Music. Last spring I backed the Kickstarter for Amanda Palmer's new album, Theatre Is Evil. Well, the album was finally released last week. I'm still waiting for my CD (I wasn't expecting it to arrive very fast, seeing as it's coming all the way from the States), but I got the download version (with tons of bonus tracks for Kickstarter backers, yay) and have listened to it a few times, and yes, it's pretty darn good.

And of course you don't need to be a Kickstarter backer to listen to it. She's offering the album on a 'pay what you want' basis. Free, if you want. Here's a statement from her website:
'i firmly believe in music being as free as possible. unlocked. shared and spread.
i believe that in order for artists to survive and create, their audiences need to step up and directly support them.
honor system.
no judgment.
if you’re broke – take it. if you love it, come back and kick in later when you have the money.
if you’re rich, think about who you might be karmically covering if you really love this record.
the store below has two versions of the record. one is totally free, and one has a minimum price of $1.00 so that i can cover the cost of covering other artists’ songs.
we are the media.
LOVE, afp'
I only have one thing to say about that: respect. (I'll probably write more once I actually get the physical album.)

Item 2:

Gaming. I don't think I've actually properly blogged about my My Little Pony RPG, have I? Yes, you read that right. After (half jokingly, perhaps) suggesting one last year, it received a very enthusiastic welcome from some of my friends, and I finally begun running it this spring. We've played a handful of sessions over the summer, the latest being yesterday. It's been a fun experiment. An opportunity for some fairly simple, light-hearted, a little zany adventures. (Which, of course, may not be all that different from most of my RPG's. Just a little more... innocent, perhaps.) (And for those wondering about a grown man being into My Little Pony... Well, Friendship Is Magic really is a pretty good, and frequently hilarious, show. And, in my mind, suitable for all ages.)

So this last session I ran. I basically drew most of the inspiration for it from Portal. And, basically, all I can say is, I just love being a Game Master. I can cook up some amazing, sometimes borderline ludicrous, tributes to things I enjoy, and make a group of people smile and laugh while playing them. What more could a person wish for?

I've got some more serious games coming up soon as well, though. My long-running fantasy steampunk airship pirate game Tales from the Teya'o Iva is still going on, with some interesting twists happening of late. And it looks like I'll soon be running some Pathfinder again after a break of several months. Yay for that! I love Pathfinder. Plus I've promised to run a vampire themed one shot adventure around Hallowe'en, which should hopefully be pretty cool. Lately I've been itching to try something new and exciting. Something with lots of big plot twists and stuff. (Not that my current games are unexciting or without big plot twists, but, like, whatever...)

So yeah, keeping myself busy GMwise.

Item 3:

Current events. I'm... just not even going to say anything about it. The way this world is still wrapped in such cycles of hate and violence is just... so depressing. But I want to go on record saying I believe in religious freedom, and I believe in freedom of speech. Mocking another's faith is stupid and distasteful, however there is no such thing as blasphemy. What others say or do should not matter. If you let it... well, basically, I guess it means they win.

OK, I think that wraps it up for today. More ramblings when I have something worthwhile to ramble about.

7 September 2012

Unboxing the Bestiary Box

I just picked up a parcel at my post office and figured it was blog-worthy.

So yeah, I play a lot of tabletop roleplaying games, as any reader of my blog is likely to know. The majority of the games I play are heavy on narrative and light on rules, meaning we mostly don't mess about too much with stuff like grid maps and miniatures. But we have played some with miniatures too, at times. And, as you may know, last year I got back into more oldschool gaming with Pathfinder, a game whose combat system is very much based on the concept of miniatures and grids.

Miniatures, however, have always been the source of some angst for me. Firstly, they're not free. I've bought a handful of figures for specific needs over the years, but most of the miniatures I've used in my games have actually been 'borrowed' from various boardgames, like good ol' HeroQuest. (For one game I used printed paper miniatures, but the quality obviously didn't quite compare to proper ones.) Secondly, to get the most out miniatures one really should paint them, and I really suck at that.

So, the parcel mentioned above. It contained the brand new Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Bestiary Box. This box contains a collection of cardboard miniatures for use in tabletop gaming. Not just any collection, but basically most of the creatures featured in the first Pathfinder Bestiary volume. (Which, of course, contains much of the same material as the 3rd edition D&D Monster Manual, so tons of classic D&D monsters are covered.) With multiple copies of some of the most common enemies. That's a total of over 300 miniatures, and over 250 different creatures.

So, basically, the moment I heard about this product I knew I would have to buy it. I seemed like the perfect solution for a financially limited, paint-hating GM.

OK, finally hands on, opening the parcel. The box is nice and sturdy, printed with quality artwork (as usual for Paizo products). The pawns (as Paizo calls these cardboard minis) are printed in colour (naturally) on fairly sturdy cardboard (about 1mm thick). The artwork, I believe, is mostly the same as is featured in the Bestiary (though I think some may have been redrawn to better fit the dimensions). Included is a more than adequate number of plastic bases for creatures of all size categories (except gargantuan and colossal – these creatures have been, understandably, omitted).

All in all feels like good value for the 35€ I paid for the box. How good they actually look on the table remains to be seen, of course (I imagine some of the images may be a little hard to make out from a distance, especially if lighting is less than perfect). But I'm pretty sure I'll be stressing less about obtaining and painting decent miniatures for my games in the foreseeable future.