Saturday, 28 March 2015

American Sniper

50% Sniping, 50% PTSD.

The film follows the life of Chris Kyle (played by a believable Bradley Cooper), from his youth to when he becomes "the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history" and how it messes up with his mind in that he can't leave the war behind. As you might imagine, there's a fair bit of gunfire and violence involved but Clint Eastwood seems to know his stuff when it comes to that. Having an adversarial sniper (no matter how fictitious) was a good idea too.

A most gifted killer.

I know I might draw some hate by writing this next part since it is about a real guy, but I can only hope that part near the end where he is playing around with a real gun (or even a toy one for that matter) at home, pointing it at his family members and then leaving it cocked on a shelf somewhere was made up. That is never cool or a good idea (eg. "hey, daddy could do it, why can't I?"), regardless of how much training you have.

Also the final action part where he puts his team in danger by deciding to try get vengeance. Wow. That could have ended verrrrrry differently.

The true pity for me is that by succeeding to "come back" from the war mentally was probably what does him in in the end, as I don't see how his paranoid version would have let anyone get the drop on him.

Anywho, as a film I give American Sniper three bullets out of five. While he did what was right by him and his family, I would not pay to watch a good soldier lose his edge a second time.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Nameless: Punishment

[This is part of my Creative Writing Experiment.]

The three gladiatrices tried to keep under the shade of the nearby plateau as they continued their journey towards the first batch of bandits Drisana wanted them to silence. The caravan mistress had given them free choice of gear to bring but due to the heat they were wearing only light clothing with miscellaneous pieces of leather armor and carrying few weapons between them, opting instead to load up on a little food and a lot of precious water for the journey across the hot sands.

Indas, who was up front, suddenly spotted something in the distance and signaled the sisters to a halt.

Up ahead was an almost clear patch of desert, with one ominous looking black obelisk in the middle. Someone was chained to it.

"I don't suppose we are about to stop helping strangers now are we?" asked Nessa sarcastically as she took the lead, advancing quickly but cautiously with her companions in tow.

Finally reaching the imposing stone they found a blonde and brutalized, naked woman chained to it. She was still breathing. Not wasting any time the gladiatrices began to hack at the chains, causing the captive to rouse from her unconsciousness.

"Run... it's... coming..." was all she could mutter as Indas managed to break a chain on her side.

The ground suddenly shook violently and from a distance, Nerith could see something moving underneath the sand heading straight towards them. They worked quicker on the chains, hacking free all but one attached to the woman's left leg before giving up to instead face whatever was coming towards them. Only two seconds later did slimy grey tentacles burst forth from the sand, squirming quickly at each of them but none managed to get close as they were hacked and parried back.

A second set of tentacles then emerged grabbing the ankles of each woman and the legs of the captive. Having had enough of this beast Indas reached down and flexing all her muscles, not only freed its grasp from her leg but managed to yank the creature's bulbous, disgusting sack of a body partially out to the surface. Confused, the monster let all the girls go as it desperately tried to burrow into the sand once more but Indas dug her feet in and pulled even stronger, exposing more of it to the surface. Able to see their foe clearly now, the sisters quickly went to work on it with their blades, stabbing, hacking and chopping at it until finally it exploded, covering them and the entire area in it's white, sticky entrails.


"That was disgusting," was all Nerith could say as she spat out some of the vileness that entered her mouth.

With the captive finally free they retreated back to the shade and gave her some water, spare clothes and time to recover. Eventually she was strong enough to talk.

"Thank you for rescuing me," she began. "I am Jasmine of Gedrin."

"What did you do to be chained out here?" asked Nerith.

"You don't know?" Jasmine asked, truly surprised. "That is the punishment of any mage is caught refusing to work for the wizard king."

She suddenly began to cry. "Please, my people. My village. They need your help."

"Here we go again," muttered Nessa to herself as she rolled her eyes.

"Wyrmias, the man that... did this to me... he and his soldiers are still there," continued Jasmine. "He is a sorcerer of the king."

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Design: Empty / Scaled Maps

[Part of my MMO Design folder.]

Do you like empty maps?

I have a quick test for you all! Picture yourself running through a large zone in one of your games. Of the two versions below, which do you prefer?

A) The map is almost fully devoid of enemies, NPCs, and items to interact with and only serves as "travel time" from point A to B.

B) The map has a lot of NPCs you can interact with. Some to talk to. Some quest givers. Some to fight against.

Personally, I pick option B, because option A is stupid. Even if you are trying to show the scale of something having a player move through an otherwise empty map is not fun. Some good examples of this - Assassin's Creed 3 underground and getting out into the styx in Project Zomboid. There's lots of ground to cover. By walking. And walking. And walking. That's so exci..zzzzzzzzz....

One of the tips when designing Neverwinter Online Foundries is to not scale your maps unless there's something of interest there. You have a huge castle? Awesome. It better be filled with lore, explorable stuff, important details and/or NPCs. If the only room with interaction is a room in the highest tower then screw everything in between. Design it so the player goes immediately there (or at least has a clear option to) or prepare for a low score.

Unlike a tabletop D&D session where time and movement are really dependent on the dungeon master, computer games where you are literally controlling every step of a character takes can get boring and tiring quickly (if that is all you are doing), especially when moving through "purely decorative" environments. What do you think? Do you agree?

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Today I Smiled: Second Wind

Sorry for the post frequency slow down, that last daily run really burned through my prepped content (and me) but don't worry, it will probably be back to that in a few weeks when I catch my breath. This is just a small post just to say that one of my Neverwinter Foundry Quests got second place. Woohoo!

I lost by .9? DAMN!

While there wasn't actually a prize for second place, I still got 132,000 Astral Diamonds for tying in the Best Story section. Woo! At least I won something... ;P

I also learned a few things since my last post, such as not counting the word "The" in alphabetical listings (so I fixed my lists on the top right there), that all snakes are deaf (but can "hear" vibrations), and that 3D pens are actually a thing (a must see for artists).

Lastly I'll leave you with an video links for an old but funny Mountain Dew Ad, a talented tight rope artist, and a silly site where you compare meerkats. Hope you all have a great day!

Sunday, 22 March 2015

The Interview

Stupidity to the max but also incredibly entertaining.

In this movie James Franco is a really stupid yet semi successful entertainment show host who attributes most of his success to his slightly less stupid producer, played by Seth Rogen. By chance they learn that the supreme leader of North Korea actually is a huge fan of the show and agrees to do an interview. Cue some secret agent people showing up, tasking duo the unlikely mission of trying to assassinate the man.

Hilarity ensues.

Despite being thick with sexual innuendo, constant references to Lord of the Rings, and a lot of extremely low brow humor especially for the first act I found it to be a very funny film. It helps that the primary antagonist had such a talented actor in Randall Park to portray him. Yes, it's a silly show but would I pay to watch it again? Definitely! I give the Interview three and a half pieces of gum out of five.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Space Hulk (2013)

The Emperor has dictated your weaponry.

The third video game based off the two player board game (as in - an exact copy), this once again sees space marine terminators boarding derelict space ships (aka "Space Hulks") to eradicate them of dangerous DNA eating aliens called genestealers within the dark and claustrophobic passages in turn based combat. It's almost impossible to have everyone survive every mission.

Certain doom.

Having played the very first video game (1993) I can safely say this one is better in all respects except perhaps for the intro. The easiest way to describe the gameplay would be XCOM light. You (and your opponent if you are doing a two player game) get action points each round to do various things. For terminators they get 4 AP to spend on walking, shooting, turning, etc. For genestealers all actions are just 1 point and with 6 AP each they can move a lot faster than the humans. You do not get to name, arm, or dress up your squad - just have to live with what is given to you.

Each round the marine player does get to roll for "bonus" AP though, earning 1-6 more points for the entire squad so there is that element of dice rolling randomness to take into account. I've had peoples guns jam three times in a row (within a single turn) as well as had one terminator bash up over 10 genestealers in close quarters so it goes both ways.

Unfortunately there are only 15 missions and not much of a finale, but it is a pretty solid game regardless and I recommend it to people that either like the Warhammer 40k universe or like XCOM like turn based action. I give this iteration of Space Hulk three storm bolters out of five. If you have played the board game though, there's probably nothing new for you here apart from tweak-able difficulties so you can probably skip it.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

MMO Design: Getting Players back in the Game

[Part of my MMO Design folder.]

What does your MMO offer as enticements for long absent players to return?

In Vindictus (Australian server anyway), the answer is a "Tour of Duty Box" and a "Redeployment Pack", both are non-tradable, character bound items that can only be obtained by not logging in for x amount of time (I think 30-90 days?). The Tour of Duty Box contains random consumables like precious healing potions or time-restricted performance / XP boosters. They also come with another Tour of Duty Box you can unlock as you level up. This is pretty neat but I think can also be found in some other MMO titles.

The Redeployment Pack however is new to me. It comes with full sets (armor and weapons) of near end game equipment, enabling you to curb stomp your way quickly up the levels. All this gear is also zero weight and costs mere pennies to repair. The catch? You can only use them for 30 days at which point they vanish. That incentive of a 30 day curb stomp rampage is a pretty decent one for me, and one I haven't really come across elsewhere.

I'm just wondering what your previous MMO's offer you to come back after a long absence?