Sunday 31 August 2014

Today I Smiled: Survived Blaugust!

[Post #32 of the Blaugust Challenge! :P]

Huzzah! It's with some pride and relief that Blaugust is over, and that I managed to meet this years brief (at least I think I did!). The bonus "about you" segments were becoming killers. Obviously daily posting is not for everyone as some burned out on the way or were about to burn out. Apart from that during the course of the event I certainly removed less blogs from my list over there, as most people were not only posting within a month but within a week! Hopefully that continues.

What's next for me? Well, daily posting is draining for me so I think I'll be taking a break tomorrow and then going back to my more relaxed 2-3 days per post. Might post more movie reviews as they've become quite fun to do but I'll try throw in more real life stuff too - and of course get back to gaming related topics. Also now's a good time to answer a question Rowan asked during Blaugust - "Why did you title your blog what you did? Do you think the name still fits?"

I named it the JVT Workshop because it's supposed to remind me to actually make and showcase my stuff! As the final Blaugust Bonus for my readers is that JVT are my initials, if you haven't actually guessed it after all this time. Does it still fit? Well, other than making noise via posts (and my NWO foundry creations) not really because I'm slacking off too much. At the beginning I even hand drew the images for each post. That obviously stopped a long while back because it was simply easier that way. Maybe I need to try get back on that horse.

For now though, let us all celebrate with the musical stylings of Pipe Guy!

Saturday 30 August 2014

Anti-Scam Tip

[Post #31 of the Blaugust Challenge!]

No blaugust bonus today since it's about real life anyway.

I was recently contacted on Facebook by an old schoolmate who lives overseas. She was asking for any amount of money to help her sick child since she was in a difficult financial position. I replied, asking what was wrong with the kid and what she told me sounded worrying but at least not life threatening. She was also very thankful for any help I could give her and provided me with her address and details. She also mentioned that the fastest way of getting support was through Western Union, which I know a bunch of people use but since I never have I decided to look up reviews of it in google. Hmm, apart from the possibility of extra hidden fees it sounded like they more or less always got the money to where  you wanted it to go. What they didn't do is ever take it back if you sent it to a wrong person or purchased a dodgy item for example.

Interesting. Next step was to look up my schoolmate. I found her twitter pretty easily. One of her latest posts read as "Don't know what happened to my account. I was only informed about the problem today." Hmm, possible security flag? To be on the safe side, I decided to get a simple verification check from her - one that would prove she wasn't a hacked account. I request for a current photo of the person holding up today's newspaper, where I can clearly see her face and the date and front page articles. The next step would be to check and make sure that whatever newspaper was depicted -actually- had a front page that looked like that.

She replied saying she didn't have a webcam right now and instead told me of memories from our younger years. Memories I don't remember (because I have a bad memory). Memories that could have been shared to others. I politely asked again for the picture proof before I sent anything. It's been eight days now and I haven't heard back. Maybe I'm just being paranoid, but I didn't think it was an overly difficult test to pass.

Friday 29 August 2014

Captain Phillips

[Post #30 of the Blaugust Challenge!]

A movie based on the real life hijacking of the Maersk Alabama, Tom Hanks stars as the clever captain of that ship which begins the morning before it set sails from port. It is quite interesting to see the countermeasures used by the unarmed container ship when a handful of pirates decide to try capture it for ransom, and the shifting of focus between the pirates and their prey makes for a pretty tense and exciting film. Can't really give away more than that as it might take away from the experience for you. While Tom Hanks does his "captaining" very well, everyone else does a decent job in the acting department (pirates included). Also funny to learn that pirates get their crew via ye old school yard pick.

Tom Hanks wishes he had one of those guns right about now.

That said there are some changes I'd like to see which I think would make the movie better. The first part at the beginning before Tom Hanks reaches the docks could have been chopped. Some other people in the later part of the movie traveling from point A to point B footage could also be removed and replaced with "they arrived". Lastly I would have liked to see the part where the US NAVY goes in and brutally kills every single pirate, their families, friends and pets at the "pirate base". 

Unfortunately that doesn't happen in real life either so I guess it's too much of a stretch. At least it looks like the Maersk Line learned their lesson and began employing security personnel on their ships. There are so many parts in the movie where I was saying out loud about the difference one or two armed dudes would make.

Anyway, before I get carried away further into real life vs movie life I'd better score this, and since I believe it is one that many people would enjoy I give it three and a half bullets out of five.

Blaugust Bonus: Writing Prompt time! "Do you collect in game pets? Various games have turned this into a mini game but are you a pet collector? If so why? If not why as well?" Yes and no, depending on the game. More on the no side though. There are three main barriers to pet collection for me. First, are they useful? If it's just a display item that you can get easily or by paying money then that holds no interest to me. An example for exception to this would be mini-Liadri in Guildwars 2, who while only being a "trophy" is one that I felt to be earned.

The second barrier is longetivity. If I need to take care of pets by any means other than occasionally healing it then it is too much of a hassle. Having to learn veterinary skills in UO for example (I think that combo was healing, taming, animal lore and anatomy) to maintain a viable ally was just not in my character. So, yes I had my mount and a random pack of critters for a short time, but it became too annoying to replace the pack as they died so I eventually dropped them altogether.

The last barrier is cost. If it costs real money then I don't buy it. Mabinogi is a huge exception for me here though as the pets are cheap, some freely earned, very useful (you can play AS the pet) and perhaps most importantly CUTE OVERLOAD. I don't classify as a collector though, as there are many I skip. My initial plan was just to get something to help me fight, followed by transportation. I sort of earned quite a few more in the process... cough. My current barn consists of: a mini bear, a thunderbird, a black unicorn, a giant eagle, a thoroughbred horse, a cobra, a thunder dragon, three flamemares, an armored pegasus and four bulls. Don't mock the bovines, I used them to help me defeat one of the goddesses in the game!

Thursday 28 August 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy

[Post #29 of the Blaugust Challenge!]

Hey, a somewhat current movie for a change! This story follows Peter Quill (aka "Starlord"), a rogue who unknowingly gets his hands on an important and powerful artifact and is subsequently chased by those who want its power and those who want the huge bounty on his head. Apart from the start, most of his interactions are with aliens of all colours who happen to be humanoid, some of whom look rather silly but hey - maybe aliens ARE just people with face paint? You'll probably overlook that for all the high quality CGI going on though. There are spaceships and explosions and 70's tunes aplenty and while some sections might make you go "WTF", the plot is quite enjoyable to watch having a good blend of comedy and tragedy.

Just give him back his walkman.

Now a quick word about my favourite character in the movie: it's tree-form Vin Diesel. You'd never know if you didn't read the credits. He also only says variations of one line so while it might have been an easy paycheck, this silly tree plays a big part in making the movie work for me. That's a pretty hard task when you think about it movie wise: you're introducing all these aliens who folks won't really identify with, or know about beforehand unless they were comic junkies. Definitely one I can recommend people to see, I give Guardians of the Galaxy four cassette tapes out of five.

Blaugust Bonus: I should just say writing prompt time huh? Belghast's topic for today is "What is the most thankless job in gaming?  I am trying to keep this broad on purpose because I am not meaning the holy trinity. There are so many roles from ore farmer, to sniper that are played in various games. What one gets the least credit?".

I think I'll be one of the choir here and say Healers (trinity or not). They are often the first scolded when a team fails doing something which is one of the reasons I avoid that class. I also try to be self sufficient so that I never should actually -need- a healer to survive. Hey if the paper rogue/stealthy guy can do it I'm not sure what's wrong with everyone else.

The "thankless" part of the question is pretty across the board though. "Thanks team," or "thanks for the revive," are the most common I hear these days. I've heard "Thanks for keeping us alive healer person," just as much as I hear "Thanks for killing that monster killer person,". If you're wondering, that number is zero.

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Attack Force

[Post #28 of the Blaugust Challenge!]

I'm pretty sure I've spoken about this before but as I've not yet done a proper review of it, I didn't want any of you to miss my thoughts on this outstanding film. Outstandingly bad that is. The story is that a drug dealer who has their hands on addictive yet DNA altering drugs is creating murderous and crazy people for ... SCIENCE!? One test subject kills a bunch of soldiers and thus Steven Seagal gets involved to hunt them down. Just as well too because said drug dealer is about to release the DNA altering drug into the water supply! Oh noes!

I made it sound pretty decent huh? Unfortunately the extent of "DNA alteration" just relates to giving people funky eyes, and for an action film the main hero remains in a sitting position for around half the movie. Also, some of his usually soft southern drawl lines were dubbed over by someone with a grindy and angry voice who sounds nothing like Steven Seagal. This is because the original plot involved aliens but they got changed post production into druggies. Yeah, they're pretty similar... cough.

Standard procedure for all druggies I suppose.

To top it off it felt like the director used ALL the footage he had for some shots. There are just so many that would have worked better if he cut some parts out. For example, there's a section where the military guys have a convoy on the move. We see car A enter the gate from a forward shot, then we see car A going through from a rear shot. Then forward shot of car B. Rear shot of car B. Again with car C. Then a long shot of the entire convoy slowly going down a road. There's literally five minutes of watching cars move at this point, with no voice overs.

I also suspect that towards the end there, even the director lost the plot as at least one pretty major plot point was forgotten and unresolved. It also makes it funnier. :P You will enjoy this more if you treat it as a comedy, but I should warn you properly by giving this film only half a bullet out of five.

Blaugust Bonus: Going straight for another of Belghast's writing prompts today - "Has there ever been a game encounter you were afraid of? For example I am spooked of tanking Garuda hard… has there ever been a fight or encounter you dreaded?". The grim reapers (aka walkers) of Wizardry Online quickly come to mind.

You can only encounter them when you are in the spirit world and thus cannot fight them so your only hope is to either sneak past behind their backs or sprint and zig zag like mad to a priest or revival fountain, often an interesting task since they enjoy patrolling narrow corridors. While they are quite slow when unalerted, they can easily boost faster than you and each time they catch you not only do they put you back at your corpse, meaning you have to try get past them again, but they also reduce your revival rate by 10%. Ten captures in a row and your character is instantly lost to permadeath. In the later dungeons there would be groups of these wandering together. Easiest solution to avoid them? Don't die. :P

Tuesday 26 August 2014

Bleach Online

[Post #27 of the Blaugust Challenge!]

Fans of the manga and anime Bleach now have another medium to enjoy their hobby... somewhat. This browser based game plays a lot like Blood and Jade and League of Angels except with Bleach characters and anime styling. I still question how they got the rights to do this but whatever. The game begins with the player creating a soul from a choice from 6 "new" characters (not seen in Bleach before). There is no customization apart from adding a name to your avatar.

You will then find yourself with what I am guessing is the only quest hub in game. A gigantic area where all the NPCs regardless if they are on Earth or in the Shinigami realm or I suppose in Hueco Mundo (didn't get that far) show up to talk to. A portal leads you to battle zones which looks like a map with chibi versions of opponents. There are no divergent paths though. You have to beat monster A to get to monster B and so forth. Actually it's quite funny that the first person you fight is Aizen (one of the big bad guys), followed by what seems to be the series actual plot. I'm still not sure why because the translation is hilariously bad in most parts.

Yoruichi handles the cash shop in a maid outfit. Woo?

Fortunately random characters decide to join your team for some fights. You can also hire them to permanently be on your team from the tavern or from winning a best of 3 rock paper scissors gamble. Sounds like childs play? Well each attempt costs something like half a million gold so good luck. That's still around 75% cheaper than hiring them out right. You can gain a lot of skills as you level up, but in combat each character will only use the one you select as active, every other round. That is the extent of your input as in battle you basically just sit and watch, even in the pseudo PvP arena where you take on other players teams. Oh, you can try enslave the other players too and force them to work at your homestead - because uh... that didn't happen in Bleach.

And then there are the... "bonus" events. There's a lucky cat and gift timer boxes that give you money and items just for being logged in. You can try strip some random females of Soul Society as a daily task. You also have a homestead that you can upgrade and hunt down female hollows to steal their bikinis which you then use to upgrade your girlfriend who lives in your home (i think the first upgrade costs 500 bikinis?). And by upgrade I mean ditch the old one for a hotter one with bigger boobs. Oh you can interact with them too. Higher level girlfriends can give you more rewards when you talk to them, party with them, or "accidentally" fondle their breasts. There's actually a button for that.

While they got some voice lines directly from the anime I think, the music that I've encountered is repetetive and is not of the quality of League of Angels for example. The best part I think is the quiz which lets you answer one question about Bleach everytime you gain a level. Get it wrong and you gain a little money. Get it right and you get a lot of money. Nowhere near enough to save it though, because I give this game just one bankai out of five.

Blaugust Bonus: These are getting harder and harder to do so again I'll go with another of Belghast's writing prompts, one that has a short answer as to not let this post get too long. "Do you follow a games lore? There is often tons of lore both in game and out of game, do you follow it and even track down the tidbits that are not obvious.. or are you mostly oblivious to it?"

Generally speaking, no. The in-game story or world has to give it right to me (or at least feeds it passively through tasks for example) otherwise I don't actively look for it. Doubly so for anything outside the game because it's outside the game.

Monday 25 August 2014

Man of Tai Chi

[Post #26 of the Blaugust Challenge!]

This Chinese martial arts flick follows the life of Tai Chi practicioner Tiger Chen, who is manipulated by a very charismatic antagonist in the form of Keanu Reeves to begin fighting for all the wrong reasons which causes all sorts of problems in Tiger's life. Balance is a strong theme here, and almost all the fights are spectacular displays of hand to hand combat. Yes, there is some light wire work until the very end where due to the nature of the combatants there is heavier use of it, and there is one unexplained (BS) move that might trouble the UFC die hards.

So fighting. Much intense. Wow.

As a story it works pretty well, though there are some questions not answered in the telling and obviously there are subtitles for those of us linguistically challenged. The hero is likeable enough, as are the female leads, but it's Keanu who steals the show as the slightly insane bad guy. I did have issue with the "fight announcer" lady though - her lines are wooden (possibly intentional) nor is she decent eye candy (given her dress codes I assume she's meant to be).

I also took some issue with not seeing the full length of some fights and for some inexplicable reason the movie tries to give you epilepsy right at the start and around halfway through with a burst of intense flashing lights. Obviously the heavier use of wire work for the final fight also makes it a bit of a let down after all the previous combats. Despite all that it is a decent film, one I give three kicks out of five.

Blaugust Bonus: I never was into sports of any kind during my school years (though I did like badminton) so I've always been quite unfit. Not enough to be fat or obese but just ... weak? :P It was only after I was working when I decided to try out capoeira. I can still remember the first class where I could barely do one pushup and that irritating noise of berimbau music. Well I soon found myself enjoying that music and while I never became Superman I did manage to shed a bit of weight. Being sore all over after each class became an awesome feeling, and I think it did wonders for curing some shyness. I stuck with it for a number of years but eventually had to give it up to concentrate my funds elsewhere (aka. I got married :P). 

Sunday 24 August 2014

Riddick (2013)

[Post #25 of the Blaugust Challenge!]

This is actually the third film of the Riddick series, where we find antihero Vin Diesel abandoned on a remote planet inhabited by many awesome CGI creatures that all want to kill him. In a bid for freedom he decides to alert random bounty hunters to try come and get him while he basically makes a play to steal their spaceship to escape (he's a nice guy :P). It's also pretty funny that in the second "arc" of the movie it is Riddick who is the monster, with panicked bounty hunters getting taken down by the incredibly sneaky Furyan.

You might say that in some parts. :P

Plot wise it's ok, though due to it being action focused it is very light and some people do really stupid things. There are also some parts that may not make sense if you didn't watch the very good Pitch Black and less good Chronicles of Riddick but you get enough information to get by. Be warned, your questions of how he manages to be so sneaky will never be answered. With a decent amount of action, some comedy, a little bit of full frontal female nudity and a lot of very well done CGI monsters who have a decent budget and aren't afraid of broad daylight, I give it three and a half bullets out of five.

Blaugust Bonus: Like Riddick, I like to play as sneaky yet violent characters in games. My avatars usually have more hair though. My standard order of preference begins with someone that has a stealth mechanic followed by someone that can easily out range opponents with use only of conventional (world dependent) means. I like the idea of magic or super powers existing but that doesn't mean I want to be one of the people using them. In fantasy worlds this usually leads me to playing a rogue or ranger type. My least favorite classes are any that rely on "magic" (either for damage or healing) followed by the straight up fighters and tanks. Being able to stand toe to toe against a boss is nice, but being able to beat the same boss without ever being hit is even better.

Saturday 23 August 2014

Taken and Taken 2

[Post #24 of the Blaugust Challenge!]

I had the pleasure of watching these movies back to back so I thought I'd review them both in one hit. Taken tells the story of a stupid girl who manages to get herself kidnapped by some very bad Albanians. Unfortunately for them, a borderline obsessive and sadistically psychopatic Liam Neeson is quite attached to her and happens to be excellent at tracking down scum and making them suffer.

While my summary might be brief, it is an awesome to watch Liam's character on the hunt. There are a few intentionally annoying characters, but they all get their comeuppance during the course of the film. There are also very good action sequences and plausible enough gun play (though there's a bad guy at the end who must have been drunk to have missed someone of the protagonist's size with an automatic weapon).

He does benefit from some good luck too.

Taken 2 continues the story where the relatives of the Albanians killed in the first movie are out for revenge, so they do the logical thing and try to kidnap the protagonist and his entire family. Of course this doesn't quite go as planned as Liam's kill count just keeps going up. Fewer annoying characters this time around, replaced by a truck load of stunt men and women on narrow roads during chase scenes. The combat here is also pretty good, though the bad guys are hampered somewhat by occasionally not using lethal force (the perils of capture missions).

Both movies do have plot holes, mainly dealing with "how the hell do you kill so many people or throw grenades into public areas and not get arrested," sort of thing but they are easily overlooked with the enjoyment factor while watching. I give Taken four bullets out of five and Taken 2 three and a half bullets out of five - slightly less than the first movie because I felt the plot wasn't as tight, but still very enjoyable. 

Blaugust Bonus: I don't really have a strong urge to travel to see the world, so instead I might just talk about another of Belghast's writing prompts today -  "What is your favorite game biome? Games often have the same kinds of generic climates spread through the zones and levels. What is your favorite type of climate and why?"

An environment that's pretty is common place these days, which is why I'm picking a strange one - an environment that puts the player on edge is my current favorite. I am talking about the infested ships circling Eris in Warframe, especially the hive missions there where you (and your team if you have one) are sent to eradicate the infestation spawning pools on warped and partially broken space vessels. Ok, more than partially as you have sections where there is no atmosphere and you take constant damage while on your space walk. Of course, the endless swarm of aberrant creatures have no problem with it.

If you aren't outside running out of breath then you are in the claustrophobic, twisted maze of broken metal melding into the disgusting infestated biomass of growths and tumors. Bodies of the previous inhabitants can be found here too, and the blood curdling violin music helps set the scene nicely. No, it's not a pretty place. It's not even a nice place to visit, but it is one of the best "horror" setups I've run into which perfectly fit thematically to the game.

Friday 22 August 2014

Neverwinter Online: Tyranny of Dragons

[Post #23 of the Blaugust Challenge!]

Neverwinter Online's Tyranny of Dragons has been out for a few weeks now and in my opinion it is a clever and resource saving way to expand. Instead of having entirely brand new zones like they did previously (though there is still a new dungeon and skirmish to unlock and for those interested a new race and class to try out), this time they just expanded a few of the existing areas and added the new encounter sets for the quite troublesome Cult of the Dragon in each zone, all at "skull" level which means the percentage of damage they take and receive is based on the level of the player they are fighting. It's a clever system as the first zone of Neverdeath Graveyard has people around level 30 still able to participate in the content and be just as effective against the enemies as the sudden influx of level 60s.

That said, there are campaign instances, again on reused maps but with the new baddies set at level 61 which may catch some people unprepared. The biggest draw card of course are the heroic dragon encounters out in these new regions where they and their timers are clearly marked. Zone chat has never been more useful in finding the soonest dragon brawl you can get into. As always, the campaign tree to unlock content and feats is grindy. At least this time I haven't found any PvE competitive tasks thus far, and that you can grind to what suits you. You can do a short 10 minute stint a day, or if you want to get ahead you can collect more currency items than needed so that you can either have rest days or have extras readied to unlock bonus reward chests and the like.

I think Tiamat is also waiting in the new dungeon...

Personally I quite like it, though I find the dragons (the first three anyway) much easier to fight at range. You have to be a bit more on the ball with the evades if you are up close. Standing on the side often lets you evade the tail swipe and breath attacks but all the dragons do a radial stomp that can kill an unprepared hero.

While we're on the topic I figure I should put up my latest foundry creation. You might have to hunt around for it though in the "New" or "For Review" tab. I tried something different this time and made it optionally stealth based, but due to that it can probably be finished quickly. :P Please give it a try when you get the chance.

Quest Name: Arroway Manor
Short Code: NW-DP3GLWRDP

Quest List so far:
Arroway Manor [NW-DP3GLWRDP] (8-15 minutes)
Spiders of the Glade [NW-DUWK7BEE7] (15-25 minutes)
Dirty Rats [NW-DGLB37WLW] (15-25 minutes)
Rebel Incursion [NW-DFHLFGNQY] (15-20 minutes)
One Step to Darkness [NW-DNJC9SK7A]  (1 hour running time)

Blaugust Bonus: I quite enjoy creating and playing through player generated content. Not only does it speak of the devotion of the said players to the game but it also usually produces some of my favorite experiences. I actually started making quests back in the free shards of Ultima Online by painstakingly hiding stuff around places, making flash animated "cut scenes", and getting guildies to help lure monsters to desired combat points (some across oceans) and act out parts of the quest. Soon after, I was invited to become a game master to even better my quest generation stuff which I gladly accepted. I did it again on a later shard and once more became a GM. Those were some great times.

Thursday 21 August 2014

Command Performance

[Post #22 of the Blaugust Challenge!]

I didn't have high hopes for this movie so I was quite surprised that it started out pretty good... and then it went to the level I thought it would be. :P The gist of the story is that while the Russian president and his daughters are attending a rock concert "for a good cause", a band of angry separatists storm the place and kill all but a handful of people who they then keep hostage until their demands are met. Unfortunately for them, drummer Dolph Lundgren escapes the initial assault and is inadvertently trapped inside with them. He also has a penchant for killing people, because that's how he rolls.

He's a man of many talents.

This "Die Hard" like plot quickly unravels though with some poor acting from the secondary players (the military commanders and the child actors in particular who enjoy looking right at the camera after delivering a wooden line), some really quick and unexplained changing of emotions, and one hilariously bad prop piece when the bad guys are checking out the "escape tunnel".   

At least there is a liberal amount of killing in the movie, and because it actually had some promise before everything descended into comedy, I give it one and a half bullets out of five.

Blaugust Bonus: I come from a very musically oriented family. Personally I play the piano, fiddle with the guitar, try to sing, and once upon a time played the clarinet. It's probably why Mabinogi with features to compose your own songs in game resonates so strongly with us. My proudest (and at the time, most terrifying for me) solo performance was providing keyboard and vocal singing for my cousin's wedding. Kinda glad now that people talked me into doing that. :)

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Tower Heist

[Post #21 of the Blaugust Challenge!]

Due to an issue of misplaced trust, a talented building manager (Ben Stiller) puts himself and his coworkers into a pretty dire situation. Some more dire than others. His eventual solution is to put a few of them in even more danger to try save everyone else. I'm glossing over most of the story here because while this movie is marketed as a comedy and there are funny moments in it, there's a fair amount of serious business going on too and for me it was surprisingly good (though slightly predictable). I don't really want to spoil it since it was one of the strongest elements, at least up to the part where the heist itself comes in.

It's in that last part where you will most have to go "it's just a movie" as there are some pretty unexplained plot holes. Mostly you will question the observation skills of all the security personel, but I suppose that's like asking why all the bad guys in action movies can't shoot straight. You'll enjoy it more if you don't think about it. :P

Relax, it's meant to be a comedy!

In regards to the acting quality: Alan Alda (you may know him from M.A.S.H.) is very old, but that doesn't detract from his ability at all. Indeed, he and Ben Stiller have the strongest and most memorable characters here  (best acted too) while almost everyone else gets a small question mark as to why they get involved in committing what I would think is a pretty big felony. That aside, this turned out to be better than I was expecting so I give it three and a half rooftop swimming pools out of five.

Blaugust Bonus: I am scared of large bodies of water, especially anything deeper than my height. It seems to always want to kill me and is definitely not my element. This doesn't stop me from going to the beach or frolicking in pools though. Just from the deep parts. It's a bit weird then that I enjoy the feeling of waves either on a boat or on the shallows of the shore. I also collect sea shells. I don't do anything with them so I don't actually know why I do that. :P

Tuesday 19 August 2014

Max Payne (2008)

[Post #20 of the Blaugust Challenge!]

Max Payne is out for revenge of the violent nature. This movie picks up just as he learns of clues on who he can enact it on. Before I go any further I should mention that I've never actually played any of the Max Payne games, so I don't know how well it ties in there. That aside, Mark Wahlberg makes a decent grumpy and angry protagonist, though he speaks a bit softly at times. Everyone else does a not so memorable job with the pretty basic yet effects laden plot.

What does work well though are the many moving camera shots which often involve variations of light sources and floating particles. Also very cool is the extensive CGI used in key spots of the movie, often when characters get high on a particular drug called Valkyr. The audience gets to see just what all of them hallucinate about.

Tripping balls has never been so appealing!

As expected there is a little bit of gun play and shooting and while the "bad guys" still have a poor hit chance they actually do a better job here than in most other action flicks. Just as well because most of the fighting is over pretty quickly, and like me you might be left wanting a little bit more just as the movie abruptly ends. Maybe they were angling for a sequel? Still, it's a pretty entertaining ride and I give it three bullets out of five.

Blaugust Bonus: I've never taken recreational drugs despite hanging around acquaintances that did in my school days, nor do I drink any form of alcohol. I guess peer pressure is less when you are the odd one out? Saying "no" is pretty simple for me (actually I try to say "never," when offered as it drives the point home better). I also don't smoke, thanks to my dad. He used to smoke a pipe. When I was little I asked what it was like so he gave it to me then told me to inhale. After coughing out that disgusting taste he told me "that's what it is like all the time," and I never smoked anything again. He would eventually stop smoking too, after getting a quadruple bypass. Afterwards the doctor said to him quite plainly to stop smoking or die. I'm grateful that I never got into that stuff.

Monday 18 August 2014

Firefall: First Impressions

[Post #19 of the Blaugust Challenge!]

Future Earth is being corrupted and invaded by another dimension in this Free to Play MMO which I've just started trying out, so while I don't have a full grasp on everything that's going on I do have a whole bunch of first impressions, most of which are negative. Let's look at what I think is -good- first: Most of the voice acting, background music and the bits of the world I've seen get a thumbs up (level 18 only so far).  Having drop ships and glider pads that let you fly about is also good. Using cover does increase your lifespan. Dynamic world events and random invasions are also cool.

Seems I'm the only one that rides the air bus.

And now for the bad. There is no melee. Your secondary weapon (which for me switches between an SMG or grenade launcher) never runs out of ammo. Outside the tutorial I also haven't been able to -not- use a battle frame. They are the mandatory dress code. Jump jets are cool, but this made it lazy for them design wise as there are pretty much no lifts and very few staircases in game, instead forcing you to use this "feature".

There is no way to change your chat channel without knowing the typed commands to do so. The speech bubbles over characters heads look clunky, as does the inventory screen. I'm quite used to having my "pack" open at all times so for me, having an inventory screen that eats up a third of your window is quite annoying. There is also no way to find out what instance of the map you or your friends are on. Instead, after partying up, you have to again know the typed command to get everyone in the same map channel or you will never see each other despite standing in the same spot.

When partied up, only the leader can accept quests. You can also only have one main quest and one optional quest active. This makes for A LOT time wasting travel back and forth travel to quest hubs. I can see that some are meant to be done sequentially which is fine, but there are many others that should be able to be picked up simultaneously. Also the quest locations are randomized which sounds good on paper. In practice the place where I hunt the bandit leader, escort some civilians to a picnic, hunt a nest of spiders, search through garbage, tag a nest of birds, and deliver cookies to girl scouts is all the exact same spot.

Items also have level restrictions. This is somewhat more passable in say, Diablo where your character might actually not be strong enough to wield a sword effectively enough or lack the magical knowledge to operate a staff. Here, where everyone is basically walking in powered exoskeleton armor a level 10 player can't use a level 11 shotgun because...? The trigger is too heavy?

Despite all that the explorer in me wants to unlock all the SIN towers at the very least so I'll keep at it a bit more, just to see more of New Eden.

Blaugust Bonus: I prefer my MMO's to be medieval fantasy. This is partly because I like linking the same character throughout all the worlds I visit and it makes it difficult to do that when suddenly there are laser blasters everywhere. Also I don't really get the same epic feel. Facing down a horde of angry enemies with a blood stained sword is more intense and rewarding if you survive as opposed to facing the same horde with a gatling gun and jump jets. It basically becomes a "meh".

Sunday 17 August 2014

Highlander: Endgame

[Post #18 of the Blaugust Challenge!]

One problem the Highlander franchise has is with continuity on a few (but important) aspects of the overall story so for the benefit of this review I'm going to pretend none of the earlier films, series or cartoons exist and just base it on what I saw here. The story focuses on a bunch of immortals, aka people who have "a hard time dying" if they don't get beheaded, one of whom has a huge grudge to another that he has held for centuries, literally. Unfortunately the grudge bearer and main villain happens to also be stronger, so the two heroes of clan MacLeod have to combine their powers to stop him.

Throughout the movie there are various flashbacks to whatever time eras are called for. This is both cool and annoying. Cool in that the sets and costumes department did their job well. Annoying in that the characters speak with different accents (often humorous) within them, and that there are SO MANY of them sometimes strung one after another. Oh, did I mention that they have multiple flashbacks of things that happened earlier in the SAME movie? Well they do! It's like the director thought you would have forgotten at that point. Gahhh.

There's also a redundancy in characters. The entire bad guy group could have been reduced to main bad guy and main female. More importantly Donnie Yen's character could have easily replaced Bruce Payne's slightly overacted and much less skilled martial arts (actor wise) main villain. Well, the grudge would have been slightly shorter but it would have still worked. In truth the best part are the fights, especially with Donnie versus Duncan (Adrian Paul). I wasn't surprised to see Donnie acting as the combat choreographer in the credits.

Best yet most pointless fight in the movie.

In short, this is quite a flawed movie (I'm skipping a LOT of flaws such as obvious stunt doubles and reusing the same fight footage twice) - one that would probably only appeal to regulars of the franchise like myself. I give it one and a half katanas out of five.

Blaugust Bonus: I think I'm going to use another of Belghast's writing prompts today - "What is your favorite boss encounter in any game and why? What makes that encounter stand out in your mind and what can be learned from it?"

Like any gamer I have a pretty big list to choose from here, but I think I'll stick with the final Queen's Gauntlet match of Guild Wars 2 - a petite necromancer named Liadri. It took 140 attempts before I finally won the match against her, which is almost as bad as some of those Super Meatboy levels. Why is it my favourite? Because it was challenging (for me anyway, I'm not like Wethospu), solo only, and forced me to adapt. Don't know how many trait lines I switched between in all those attempts before I got one that worked.

Most importantly you could watch and cheer on others while doing so. I remember throughout that week meeting new people as we took turns laughing and advicing each other in between getting our asses handed to us in the various matches. Maybe that's why it sticks out most for me - it was the ideal social soloists setup. It was awesome.

Saturday 16 August 2014

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Disney, 1996)

[Post #17 of the Blaugust Challenge!]

Hidden away in the bell towers of Notre Dame is the disfigured Quasimodo, a monster with fricking strong arm muscles, a great singing voice, and a heart of gold. He longs to mingle with the rest of the people in Paris but is rightly afraid that he'd be treated as an outcast so he instead spends his days looking down on them with only his (possibly imaginary) gargoyle friends to keep him company. A string of events lead him to meet the gypsy Esmeralda, who becomes his first true non-gargolye buddy. Alas, gypsies aren't tolerated for very long within the city as the main villain,  Judge Frollo quite enjoys setting them on fire.

That is a -very- rough outline of the movie's setup, and to be honest I was a bit surprised at how well all the main characters are developed. Being a Disney movie there's a LOT of singing, a lot of comedy, a fair bit of dancing, and a very light violence. I'm just curious as to why the movie wasn't titled "Esmeralda" as she is the main crux upon which Judge Frollo, Quasi and Phoebus (my favourite dude) revolve around. Basically they all want to get into her pants. Go DISNEY! :P

There's even a pole dance sequence!

I guess I should also mention that with Notre Dame taking center stage there are a few songs and themes involving religion, in case that should bother anyone. Last thing I want to talk about is the animation. For the most part it's very good as per usual for Disney but there's a little bit near the start where I felt they were using what I call "reserved animation" too much. The city is made with layering paintings and the animated characters in between them didn't quite seem to gel. That's quickly fixed in the next 4/5ths of the movie though so I just found it odd they didn't fix it fully. Regardless I thought it was a very enjoyable and entertaining flick and give it four bells out of five.

Blaugust Bonus: I go to mass every week. Never been to Notre Dame though. When I was very little I actually wanted to become a priest! That wouldn't have worked out so well I think, the world doesn't need another psycho preaching to the masses. Sooo, instead I setup a blog to do exactly the same thing. LOL. 

Friday 15 August 2014

Seven Samurai (1954)

[Post #16 of the Blaugust Challenge!]

The story in this old film has been reused so many times in various reincarnations that I would be surprised if you've never heard of it before. Basically a bunch of bandits plan on raiding a humble and poor village - luckily for the villagers they overhear the plan (by chance in this movie) and decide to try hire samurai to protect them. Obviously this is a serious issue since they don't really have anything to offer other than rice. Despite that (as the title gives away) they do manage to get a handful to support them.

Seven, actually.

Length wise it is a LONG movie, sitting at 3 hours and 27 minutes, but other than a handful of scenes that I thought could have either been shorter or cut altogether the rest of the time Akira Kurosawa does a masterful job of giving all the samurai and the lead villagers personality, most with little subplots that tie in very well with the main action. The only group you don't really learn much about are the bandits themselves who serve more as a catalyst than anything else.

The film is also in black and white, and as you might guess the special effects budget is pretty low/non-existent but that only goes to show that with good camera work, decent music and a decent story, you don't need explosions everywhere to get the audience invested. The only main negative I have is that for a period movie with samurai, there's not a lot of decent swordplay but that's just a minor nuance. Overall I give it four and a half katanas out of five.

Blaugust Bonus: I think one of Belghast's writing prompts fits in with the grouping theme today, though I don't really have any that involve six other samurai. :P

"What is your favorite grouping experience? Even the most staunch solo artist eventually groups up, what is the best thing that has happened while grouped with other players?" 

Wow, I have so many which is odd being a solo artist. One of my favorites was in Ultima Online. My guild was trying to open a portal to the realm of the Harrower (uber monster in the game) because we hadn't been there yet. Basically what you needed to do was face a champion spawn altar and kill the waves of ever increasing monsters that came out as fast as you could until enough candles lit up to spawn the champion. Killing said champion would open the gate we wanted for a few seconds.

We split into three teams and went to our designated areas to begin the champion spawn (it was faster that way, it took fewer hours) and eventually beat the champion. Only my teammate Juris and myself made it into the Harrower's room before the gate closed. The place was empty except for the creature's spawning altar. After marking a rune there (our main goal) we of course decided to poke it only to be greeted with a message saying "The Harrower has already been spawned," which was a little scary since it meant someone else had already woken it up and it was wandering one of the many dungeons in game.

Thursday 14 August 2014

Super Meat Boy

[Post #15 of the Blaugust Challenge!]

I know this has been out for awhile but I only recently got my hands on it thanks to one of my guildies gifting it to me. Simply put it is a challenging platformer and muscle memory game in which the player controls a square who is trying to save another square from an evil square. Yes, the graphics are quite on the simplistic side but the animation and humor makes up for it rather nicely. You've probably never seen squares this cute, or monsters so happy (most have a smiley face).

This poor cube dies a lot. :P

Difficulty wise it is more forgiving than I Wanna Be The Guy, at the start anyway, and slowly ramps up as you play through each stage and then through each dark world zone which contains similar maps just harder with more traps and/or in reverse. To unlock dark world zones you have to beat a set time limit on each Light world zone. These range from 3 to 60+ seconds depending on the map. Personally, while I have cleared all the Light world stuff some of the Dark World remains unplayed for me (15% to go according to the stats) and I've not yet completed all the extra warp zones nor collected all the other collectibles in game. The Kid from IWTBTG is actually a playable character too, so you can guess the difficulty level once you reach him.

There are also leader boards which add some reason for re-playability if you like having small numbers next to your name. My best rank was 12,325. What is most impressive for me, after some of the deviously designed stages, is the soundtrack. Each zone has a theme done three ways. Light, Dark, and 8-bit for the warp zones. This is on top of boss fights and cut scenes, and given there is no voice or speech the music carries a fair bit of weight. 

Lastly I should mention that the loading screen always highly suggests a controller to play too, though I'm doing just fine on a standard PC keyboard (which is my personal preference anyway). Maybe it's easier with a controller but given the nature of the game... why the hell would you use a controller anyway? All up I give this frustrating yet addictive game four whirling saws of death out of five. Just be sure you have a patient temperament to dying well over 9000 times before getting it.

Blaugust Bonus: One of my favourite foods is spaghetti and I love almost all types of it as long as they avoid seafood. Anytime I go into a new restaurant it's one of the first things I look for to order then judge the entire establishment based on that. I think it's one of the easiest things to cook, so if they can't get that right then there's no point in coming back to order anything else. It's just one of those things I can eat all the time. I'd just get fat(ter). :P

Wednesday 13 August 2014

A Good Day to Die Hard

[Post #14 of the Blaugust Challenge!]

The basic story here is that police veteran John McClane has an outing to Russia to find his estranged son and by doing so causes many violent deaths and enough property damage to rival Terminator 3! Unfortunately the plot is a little convoluted and for the first 10-15 minutes you might be wondering what the hell is going on. Fortunately it explains most of it well enough, but there are questions left unanswered such as: "Are there no police in Russia," and "Can you really survive taking x amount of damage and not going to a hospital?"

Instead of Bruce Willis, here's the eye candy of the movie! ;)

Acting wise it's passable but Bruce Willis looks a bit tired, grumpy and basically "been there, done that" which to be fair - his character has. I really disliked him yelling out incomprehensible stuff during the chase scene though. If that was to solidify that he's "a little crazy" then it did its job well. Overall though there are two main problems for me. Firstly, the bad guys are stupid. Yes, bad guys are expected to be stupid to a degree but wow, these guys take it to a whole new level. Some would probably qualify for the Darwin Awards.

The second problem is a bigger one, especially for an action movie of the "Die Hard" franchise. There are not enough BAD GUYS! Especially towards the end, I was wondering what happened to all the hired help. Maybe they were so stupid that they killed themselves off screen? That can't be right. According to the kill count, McClane kills around the same number in the previous two movies (and more than the first) so ... what gives? Basically, he kills them too easily. Too quickly. Possibly even offscreen. You don't even realize they died. Due to this I give it two and a half bullets out of five and would think it is one of the weaker "Die Hard" movies.

Blaugust Bonus: Speaking of Russia I've always wanted to visit Pripyat and Chernobyl, mainly because of the STALKER franchise (No not the rogue tenno in Warframe). That first person game series that put you into the heart of the deadly zone is one of my favourites, as those who have been reading this blog for awhile might know. Of course there aren't any (or should I say, as many) horrors out there in real but I thought it would always be a nice place to explore. In accordance to this, just like my one brother likes anything with a picture or the word "Dragon" on it, I'm pretty drawn to any movies, games or documentaries that take place in and around Chernobyl. Other than concerned family that tell me not to actually go for myself, the main reason I don't is the cold. I don't like the cold, and I've never seen snow in real because of it.

Tuesday 12 August 2014

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

[My thirteenth post of the Blaugust Challenge!]

Arnie is back from the future to once again save John Connor from a Skynet time travelling killer in the form of Kristanna Loken. Let's just ignore the huge plot holes of time travel (I'm sure you can think up of a few) and focus on the rest of the movie. Acting wise Claire Danes is great and everyone else is ok. Arnie does well as a machine and his humor works half the time which isn't bad. This incarnation of John Connor is passable too especially if you haven't seen any of the other Terminator movies for awhile.

Kristanna Loken doesn't really get a lot of lines and doesn't give off the threatening vibe but hey, as an assassin that might actually make sense. Convenient that the cops chose to ignore chasing her too, despite her killing one (I assume she did, or he got super lucky?) a few minutes after her arrival. My two favorite scenes are where we get to see the original, dinky looking terminators and a chase scene that involves a ton of property damage.

Ok, make that three favorite scenes. :P

All up it's a pretty fun action movie as long as you don't poke holes into the plot's thin fabric of space time. I give it three bullets out of five.

Blaugust Bonus: Hmm, since I'm running into writer's block I think I'll pick up one of Belghast's suggested topics today - If you were an NPC in a video game, what type of NPC would you be? I would be a rare, wandering boss type monster that is incredibly difficult to defeat. Possibly harder than the instanced bosses available. Warframe's "Stalker" opponent would be a pretty good example. He hunts down players who have recently killed a boss, can show up on any mission you do, will be 15 levels higher than the mission ranking and has a ton of cheap tricks (a mix of powers from different warframes) that can wipe out a team pretty easily. Also, you can never actually kill him.

Hurt him enough and he will vanish. The same if he defeats all the players once (ticking them off his list). Best of all is his intro. Since he's also a space ninja the only warning you get is flickering lights on the HUD and a change of music. If this happens in quick succession then you'd better pull your team together into a defensive position. Basically he is the Terminator of space! That "oh shit" moment is awesome, and one I'd like "NPC me" to emulate

Monday 11 August 2014

Alien vs Predator (2004)

[Post number twelve of the Blaugust Challenge!]

Having detected a strange heat signature beneath an icy whaling station, Weyland Corp begins recruiting a bunch of red shirts to go down and discover an ancient temple that serves as a proving ground for extra terrestrial beings who just so happen to be part of pretty popular franchises. Said aliens are done fantastically well and through clever writing you even get to distinguish a few "champion" class ones. Ok, maybe just one or two. There's a lot of killing, a few explosions, and a ton of work done on the special effects which really make the movie shine.

Also whoever thought up of how to put a Pepsi sponsor in an otherwise remote location is genius. Acting wise everyone is decent enough (even the animatronics) but for the humans you don't really get attached to them before they get squished between the rock and the hard place. They do try their best but essentially they are second fiddle to the monstrosities running about, and that actually works just fine given that people would be expecting the focus to be what the title suggests.

We'll be OK... right?

Overall I score it a pretty decent and suitably entertaining three and a half acid blood splats out of five, and would recommend it to any looking for a light on the brain, action flick. 

Blaugust Bonus: I once went into the horror section of a museum (somewhere in San Francisco I think) with my brothers and at one part you could either go up a bridge to a slanted and odd looking house above some greenish water or go around safely on the side. Being afraid of the water I opted to circle around while my brothers went into the house and since I was watching them while walking along I was caught completely by surprise when a life sized alien sprung out from the wall beside me complete with dripping saliva from its mouth and mouth within a mouth. That scared the heck outta me!

Sunday 10 August 2014

Today I Smiled: Then got slightly Worried :P

[Post number eleven of the Blaugust Challenge!]

No blaugust bonus in this post since it's about real life anyway.

While cleaning around the house today I discovered EXCALIBUR in the garden! Who knew such a legendary weapon was just lying underneath some dried leaves? I did expect it to be longer and perhaps have some wet, gorgeous lady guarding it or have it lodged in some rock but oh well. Silliness aside it's obviously not King Arthur's blade, but what are the odds I'd find a similarly named thing just lying around?

Insert Fanfare music and beams of sunlight as I held it up high! :P

The blade is rather dull and the hinge that lets the blade fold into the handle has rusted severely. Obviously I'm curious as to how and when it came to be in my garden. None of you happen to be stalking me right? For some strange reason as much as I love swords and want to learn proper long sword technique, I've always been afraid of knives. Especially my father's knives. He liked keeping all of them razor sharp and often warned that each blade was always seeking out blood so you had to be careful. The same with all his cutting tools. I learned quite quickly not to mess with any of them.

Saturday 9 August 2014

Hotel Inferno

[Post #10 of the Blaugust Challenge]

Yet another offering from Necrostorm (who made Adam Chaplin and Taeter City), this movie is entirely shot in the first person perspective of a hitman which is VERY cool. A simple assassination task in a hotel goes very weird, slightly scary and very violent when it turns out that the hotel is actually crawling with psychos and a demon. Plot wise it's pretty interesting and the lack of acting skills don't really matter here as most of the acting comes from the protagonist who you never actually get to see and his off screen contacts so it's really just voice acting which in the dubbed version anyway, is good enough.

One of the worst places for a vacation, that's for sure!

While the gore is still higher than your average movie I believe it's been toned down a tiny bit from the previous two movies. Strangely what lets it down are the FX. It doesn't do as good a job as its predecessors in tricking your brain that said person got smashed with a hammer or got exploded, though they are brave to do some of this in broad daylight and otherwise well lit areas.

Much like other first person horrors some people might experience motion sickness while watching this, but where this is different is that while the protagonist is running around he manages to kill a LOT of the baddies chasing him. Score wise I give this two and a half bullets out of five. If you've seen the Doom movie, liked the first person segment there and can stomach a bit of blood then this is probably for you.

Blaugust Bonus: Air pistols and air rifles are the extent of my firearms knowledge and experience. Tried a .22 once and the recoil made every shot miss so I didn't really get into higher caliber weapons. I really should try that again now that I'm stronger and a fair bit older. I got a firearms license before I got a drivers license!

Friday 8 August 2014

Taeter City

[My ninth post of the Blaugust Challenge!]

From the same bunch that made Adam Chaplin, the gore fest continues in Taeter City. A place that solves crime by broadcasting a silent radio wave that forces potential criminals (and only them, because FUTURE SCIENCE!) to harm (often mutilate) themselves. This gets them the attention of the "Bikers" who then come around with ludicrously high powered weapons to finish them off. The corpses are then brought to the meat factory for processing because criminals taste good! Better not try eat anything other than criminals either or you might find yourself on the menu.

There are lots of things wrong with this movie even if you look past the setting, the bad acting (duh) and the tons of visceral gore. The ruling body called "the Authority" keeps interjecting ads throughout which kill some pacing, there's no real protagonist being followed, there is a very obvious stunt double in some parts (with close ups on the face) and most annoyingly there is a strange camera effect throughout the whole movie that while making it easier for the director to add his FX, will probably give a number of viewers a headache while watching it.

At least all shots of boobs don't have this problem.

I give this one a score of one and a half bullets out of five, and would probably recommend skipping it unless you really wanted a gore "fix".

Blaugust Bonus: I played with the thought of learning to ride a motorcycle in my youth but my mother was strongly against it. As a joke I would tell people that riding a motorbike would be fatal for me since my mom would kill me, but after seeing and hearing about a few of their fatalities I'm glad I don't ride one. Regardless of how the accident occurs there's really just too little protection for my liking. Take care on the roads everyone!

Thursday 7 August 2014

Adam Chaplin

[Post #8 of the Blaugust Challenge!]

Starring and directed by Emanuele De Santi this Italian film at its core is a revenge story that happens to be VERY VERY GORY. The basic plot is that Adam comes home one day and discovers something nasty done to his loved one. Seeking vengeance he does what any normal person would do: summon a demon from hell and sell your soul to it to become ultra powerful. Then you can smash and dismember all the bastards who did it and anyone else who gets in your way!

Yup. I seriously summarized the plot in that paragraph, but what a fantastically bloody journey it is to behold. From the very first moment you see Adam you know that he's more angry and violent psychopath rather than tortured hero out for justice. Also you might notice he is super fit!

This is one of the tamer parts of the movie.

There isn't much good acting in the movie (Adam himself might be the only passable one), but each new person that appears is a potential bloodsplotion waiting to happen so you tend to enjoy more fodder showing up... if you like your gore and violence that is. However, if you don't like seeing people getting their faces exploded, cleavered, set on fire, impaled, dismembered, chopped in half, and literally torn apart into seas of blood and intestines then this movie is probably not for you.

For everyone else I give it three righteous fists of demonic fury out of five!

Blaugust Bonus: I don't really have a problem with gore, maybe its because my older brothers let me play Doom when I was a child. The other thing they made me do is learn the weakness of all the creatures in Monster Manuals I and II of Dungeons and Dragons in case I ever ran into them. I still think that's pretty cool.

Wednesday 6 August 2014

Warframe: Mad Cephalon

[My seventh post of the Blaugust Challenge!]

And now to another game with ninjas and guns, Warframe has had some major updates while I wasn't looking. Honestly I don't know what the "Mad Cephalon" is, but boy did a lot of work go into this game while I wasn't looking. There is a new tutorial for starters (optional for existing players) and everyone gets their own little spaceship which they can upgrade. The melee side of things have also gotten an upgrade with players now able to block incoming weapons fire and use various stances to better kill all your enemies with.

A bunch of baddies have also gotten upgrades and some are just totally new, just to make things even. This is on top of the new weapons, maps, and missions that are regularly added anyway. You can certainly get your Spacehulk fix by doing Invasion missions where you assist the Grineer or Corpus against Infested forces.

Furthermore there is a quest system now, and while there's not yet a lot in there I can see how it can grow easily. The one I'm currently working on is to create an incubator to hatch my own pet Kubrow (dog thing) - which again is a new addition to the companion section. Whatever they're doing, the makers of Warframe are certainly going well and they've made it better than ever to try out being a ninja in space! Not bad for a free to play game.

Now with ninja dogs!

Blaugust Bonus: I used to play Warhammer 40k and Necromunda with a bunch of school friends. Since the Space Marines, Orks, Imperials and Tyranids were already taken I decided to make my own army, complete with their own codex and lore. I made sure obviously made sure that everyone else was happy with them though before playing. Became a pretty balanced force in the end I think, and much like everyone else I was winning as much as I was losing. Those were good times. Expensive, but good.

Tuesday 5 August 2014

Alive (2002)

[Post #6 of the Blaugust Challenge.]

The maker and some of the cast of Versus are back in yet another manga-like production, again dealing with prison and prisoners. The main character, a man who violently killed a bunch of rapists, actually begins the movie on the electrocution chair but after a strange turn of events finds himself trapped in a different environment (a large room) with a convicted serial rapist. The two are free to do whatever they like (except leave) and can order from the supervisors monitoring this "experiment" almost anything they like.

Up to there it's a pretty good premise, but then they add a third female prisoner - one possessed by an evil alien spirit and things get a bit wonky when she starts messing with their heads. Then comes the last third of the movie where I think the script writers went "Yeah, that's enough intrigue. Let's just start everyone getting killed!" Usually I enjoy when the crazy violence starts but here it's almost out of place, especially when they bring in another genetically modified alien spirit fighter thing for a showdown. What? Wouldn't they be better off trying to placate the overly powerful being instead of surrounding it with automatic weapons that are ludicrously within arms reach?

Mysterious for all of two seconds.

While the story is more cohesive than the last outing alas all the good fighting done in Versus is missing here, switched out mostly for special effects. This brings its score down for me to another two bullets out of five.

Blaugust Bonus: Some of you might be wondering whats with my scoring system, and why I don't just leave it as simple as 2/5 in this case. Basically it is Tom Vasel's fault! For those who don't know, Tom Vasel is one of the board game reviewers for the Dice Tower and when I started getting into board games it was his clear and passionate reviews on Youtube I would turn to first to get a feel of what I should and shouldn't buy. In his later stuff he gives everything a numbered score followed by something relevant to the game which I obviously found cool hence I am trying to emulate it here.

Monday 4 August 2014

Versus (2000)

[My fifth Blaugust post!]

This Japanese action film is a bit of a mix mash in its content AND its story telling. Starting out by following two escaped prisoners to their getaway group sounds like an interesting enough setup. Until I mention that the same getaway group has brought a kidnapped girl with them, and the forest they are meeting up in is spawning zombies (armed with firearms no less), and the big bad guy uses swords, guns and magic. By the time the two comedic policemen come looking, one with a still bleeding decapitated hand, you might have forgotten that there were escaped convicts to begin with.

It's also like the director was trying to make a manga in some shots where you have all the actors standing in somewhat un-natural positions, not looking at each other while they talk (sometimes for an entire dialogue) but they are all visible and posed for the camera.

Plot aside, the comedy and the acting is a bit hit and miss but at least the action and violence makes up for a fair bit of that. It's pretty aptly named too since everything else is just a big wrapper of fluff around the good guy vs the bad guy. 

One can never have enough weapons!

Definitely not one to be taken seriously, but if you enjoy a bit of brawling, wire work, gun and sword play and can endure Japanese humor (and a little gore) then you might actually enjoy this one! I give it two and a half bullets out of five.

Blaugust Bonus: I began enjoying foreign films after I got into anime, which led me to getting used to the whole subtitle thing. As a strange bonus, I've watched so many Japanese ones that I can sometimes tell when the subtitles have a wrong translation for some of the words - despite me not being able to speak Japanese in the first place.

Sunday 3 August 2014

Meanwhile, in Mabinogi

[My fourth post of Blaugust!]

There are ninjas and guns! Yes it's been a long while since I've set foot on the continents of Uladh and Iria and wow have there been some changes going on. Not just in the usual "let's add more crazy skills for people to master" but also an upgrade to both Vales and Filia and a peppering of new Mana Tunnels all over the place. Furthermore these and the Uladh Moongates have been upgraded to keep them open now regardless of the day or night cycle they used to follow.

Also, dragons everywhere!

Obviously someone decided that continent was way too big to fly or ride around on, and for the most part they would be right. While there I also decided to complete "G18: The Saga - Iria" and was suitably challenged by new foes and old. What I found really cool though were the RP quests, something that I've not seen in any other MMOs. One example: My character is told of an assassination attempt so I predictably go to try stop it. During the mission though I PLAY AS THE ASSASSIN. That is both awesome and educational since she uses the dual gun skill set I've not yet experimented with.

After you fight your way past the guards, guess who stops you? Your own character! Now that is totally cool! This also means when you face her you know pretty much everything she can and can't do, because you were using all her skills to get up to that point. Telling a story is definitely one of Mabinogi's strong suits and I was hooked from beginning to end. :)

Blaugust Bonus: I've been on Mabinogi NA for over five years now. I think that would make it my second longest running MMO that I play (with some gaps). Ultima Online is at the top spot, sitting on around twelve years of play (also with some gaps) but the clock on that isn't going up anymore as I no longer have it installed.

Saturday 2 August 2014

My Best Friend's Wedding (Movie Review)

[Post number 3 of the Blaugust Challenge!]

Oh boy, another Julia Roberts movie and like the last one I reviewed she is again the "bad guy", despite the movie focusing on her. Basically her ex-boyfriend but still best friend (how does that work?) calls her up out of the blue to invite her to his wedding. Queue Julia freaking out because in her head that guy still belongs to her and not to the very beautiful and overly sweet Cameron Diaz whose only two flaws are constantly driving dangerously and being too trusting.

Personally, I don't think the guy that the two girls like is all that much of a catch but regardless, Julia decides to try stop the wedding by going through the most underhanded, devious, bully like and plainly evil methods available to her - despite repeatedly being advised by her other man friend (who is way better than the leading man) to simply tell the truth.

The bad, the good, and the ugly.

I should mention there are a few singing numbers in the movie too, in case that bothers anyone more than the actual plot. Basically this movie is all about missed opportunities, jealousy and bullying. Just as well that I give you the opportunity to miss it then since I score it two songs out of five.

Blaugust Bonus: Like Julia's character, I've had a few missed opportunities in my life but I'd like to think I didn't go that crazy about them (maybe just a little). The very first I remember was having a massive crush on this girl I went to primary school with. Despite the years I had opportunity to do so, I never -ever- spoke to her due to a mixture of shyness,  stupidity and cowardice. Would be years before I got over that combo. Nowadays I'm mostly just stupid! :P

Anyway she's got three little kids on the other side of the world now and it didn't end up so bad for me either. As you might have guessed with these two latest movie reviews I am actually married.

Friday 1 August 2014

Flatlining Heartbeat: Wizardry Online

[My second Blaugust post!]

I didn't quite make it on at the appointed hour but I did manage to login early. There were no large "goodbye" parties (on the Bareaux Bareaux Server anyway) that I saw. No special events, no GM spawning stuff for one final hurrah. Just a rather quiet global chat where one or two people were giving their final goodbyes to their peers who I think, with lack of anything else to do, were still camping the Loitering Armor to up whatever final score or level they were keeping track of.

Myself, I decided to see how far I could run into the Azarm Trial grounds, a level 50 zone that people avoided for good reason. I do mean run in the literal sense too as everything there could one shot me, and dying meant evading the many reapers wandering the halls. Not that it really mattered though. After coming back from the shops I was greeted with this.

And that was the end of Wizardry Online.

Blaugust Bonus: Much like MMO developers keep an eye on player numbers, I've been keeping a rough count of how my blogroll on the right there is going. As I said near the beginning of the Newbie Bloggers Initiative, I would be constantly culling any blogs that failed to at least put up one post every four weeks. Now before I add the other Blaugust participants I don't yet have, I just wanted to ask if this is too aggressive? Why do I ask? During the NBI I had around 145 links over there as I added everyone and then some. I also had to shrink the list to only show the latest 25 (by default) since it was quite ludicrous to scroll down. As of this post only 77 remain. Is there a lot of silence out there or am I just not waiting long enough to listen?