The birth of religion on our Minecraft server:

Yes, I know it’s backward.

Why is skyface so very disappointed? Perhaps it is our frivolous use of resources. Perhaps it is because we started beating each other to death with handfuls of dirt the very moment we logged into a shared server. Perhaps it is because of the donggarden.

You know what, I bet it is the dongs. I feel like most gods are represented as being pretty solidly anti-dong. Unless that’s what they happen to be the god of, I guess. Then it probably wouldn’t be all that upsetting.


A challenger appears!

Call of Duty: Black Ops (plus bonus rambling)

Pizza guy is my favorite.

Was it racist to assume that the cook was a pizza guy? I did base the assumption on his swarthy appearance. Also, the look on the chubby girl’s face is quite possibly the most adorable thing ever.

Before anyone gets an anal cramp about all the guns, I realize that this commercial basically appeals to the worst aspects of human nature. Most of them do. It just so happens that we derive most of what we consider to be fun from our less noble impulses. Here are some other things that you might enjoy while playing this game:

Ok, everything in that image isn’t totally fair. The Devil in Miss Jones was a decent examination of how human beings more or less decide on their own suffering. The movie actually cautions against being preoccupied with selfish impulses, because that is what ultimately damns the soul. I would comfortably say that it is worthy of the label “art” – much more so than many mainstream movies.

Speaking of the damned, I started playing Dante’s Inferno yesterday. The game clearly takes some liberties with the plot. For example, I don’t think Dante was a soldier fighting in the Crusades. Nor do I remember the part where he tames a rancor and rides it around hell.

Artistic license aside, the game is a lot of fun. It is graphically impressive and plays like Devil May Cry: Here’s a room full of enemies for your ridiculously huge sword or gun or swordgun to chew through. Attain combo points. Smash benches and jars to retrieve glowing currency orbs. Finish your enemies with a sweet quick time event.

Dante’s Inferno also has a light side/dark side point system – or holy/unholy in this case. The type of points you get to purchase powers is determined by whether you choose to punish lost souls or absolve them. However, while thematically fitting, I’m not 100% sure Dante would have the authority to do that. Also, being absolved looks a lot like being stabbed in the face with a cross.

The most awesome thing I’ve seen in the game so far is in the circle of Lust. There is a screaming maelstrom in which souls are trapped, eternally at the mercy of the winds of desire. As you approach it, the sound of wind begins to clarify into the moans and gasps of the lustful. The effect is subtle and seamless and fairly creepy. Though for some reason still way less creepy than limbo, where you have unbaptized babies crawling out of a flaming womb and dragging themselves over to you on their little blade arms.

STO is the New WoW

Star Trek Online officially launched last week, presenting an MMO that has the same draw for me that WoW had for most of the people I game with. Which is to say that I have, at long last, found a game that will be a terrible time sink, for which I will cast aside more fulfilling hobbies and/or actual human interaction. H-hooray?

Anyway, look at my ship:


It would be fair to say that my interest in the Star Trek universe is more than passing. At one time I held a smallish library detailing the various languages, cultures and technologies from the series. There may have been a Klingon language pocket reference – I don’t really recall. I have since handed off these lesser dork tomes to younger siblings and cousins. This is not to be interpreted to mean that I ever outgrew them, I just recognize that online resources mean I no longer need to actually display my shame on a bookshelf.

STO’s strongest selling point is the space combat. Actually, strike that – the strongest selling point is just flying around through space, period. I would still be playing this game if it was just space tourism, because it’s beautiful. If you can crank the video settings up, the ships are highly detailed, space has an impressive feeling of depth and attack effects render with enough detail to distinguish one from another visually. The last item may not sound like much, but when your attacks are all basically some variation of “laser beams, pew pew”, it is at least somewhat noteworthy.

Screenshots below (click on them for big, pretty pictures):

space is big space is big space is big

sectorspace purplespace greenspace

I personally find the away missions – or any period of time not flying around in a spaceship – kind of lackluster. They’re not terrible or anything, it’s just that this particular portion of the game doesn’t compare to other MMOs – which is fine, because other MMOs don’t let you fly around in spaceships1, so they can go eat a bowl of dicks.

If nothing else, away missions are the only time you really get to see the bridge crew you create – who, by the way, are always available to flesh out an away team if you are a lonely nerd with no friends to play with. My second in command is my favorite (he’s the one on the right):


1But what about Eve Online, you say? Fuck you, you are a Libertarian.

This game may have some communist overtones.

Which doesn’t really concern me, because as far as I’m concerned the game is summed up thusly:

Welcome to Mars. Here’s your complimentary sledgehammer and crate of explosives. Enjoy your stay.

It turns out that breaking things is a lot of fun. Blowing things up is way more fun. Neither of these things is as much fun as tagging an enemy with a sticky bomb and delaying the blast for a second or two so you can watch him frantically attempt to remove the device while his friends abandon him to his fate. (Giggle and/or titter)

I don’t remember why you’re blowing things up exactly – sheer entertainment value aside. Plot seems to have taken a bye here. I think you’re pissed that your brother is dead or something.

I have been reading a lot about Havok’s engine selections, which is what makes the game so engaging. I also ran across the announcement for Havok AI. I immediately had to divert my attention this, as any news on developments in the arena of artificial intelligence makes me immediately begin to convulse with powerful nerdgasms. On one hand, ever increasing complexity in characters would improve the overall sense of immersion in games and smarter opponents would constantly challenge your skills. On the other, I am left with problematic moral quandaries like “At what point do these little bots become something akin to an animal intelligence? To a sentient intelligence? When do I have to stop throwing grenades in their faces?”

I would also like to take a moment to address science fiction as a whole: we get it – no mining colonies on Mars. It will go badly. We understand this now, really. Shipyards are still ok though.

Marcon 2009

Apparently “British SciFi” is synonymous with “steampunk”, because we saw more than a few of these guys strutting around the convention center taking their shit very seriously.

I actually got to see the dude on the left assembling his costume in the dealer room. Well, I saw him buying the goggles and gimp mask anyway, which really sets the tone for what he’s going for. I guess. I’m not entirely sure what look he was trying to attain, but I am entirely sure he’s perfected it. In any event, he seemed exceptionally excited to have his new fetish gear, so good for him. I spotted him a few more times lurking about here and there, making it a point to move as slowly as possible so everyone could get a good look. Although, in the midst of his hilariously regal stroll through the food court, it occured to me that his slow and methodical gait might have been due to the fact that his airways were wholly covered by leather. I think he may be this year’s favourite. Either him or this guy, I can’t decide.

I nearly bought those same goggles, but couldn’t justify the price tag. It is worth noting at this point that I myself am not assembling a collection of cosplay gear. I just find the notion of mounting a heads-up display in something like this almost too delightful to contemplate. That might still count as Shadowrun cosplay though, I don’t know. Whatever, I don’t LARP. I don’t LARP.

Speaking of blending computer dork with fantasy dork, I found a couple of treats in the art room:

I was positively giddy over these things, which I was not at all prepared for. The art room is for hate and mockery, as it is typically the haven for 1.) jewelry vendors that want to hawk their wares a higher price than they might command in the dealer room and 2.) furry artistes that will lecture you on the importance of tolerance when you call them out on their soft core bestiality watercolors. (For the record, I do tolerate your work, freaks. I have not set a single painting, sketch or member of your abominable “community” on fire. But I have no issue calling a thing what it is.) I feel the need to applaud the convention organizers for their decision to give them their own section this year. In the corner. Behind a series of tarps with “admittance requires ID” signs all over. To be fair, I don’t know for certain that’s what the tarps concealed – I couldn’t bring myself to check. It’s just that I didn’t see any magnificent horsecock anywhere in the room, so I could only assume.

Some additional highlights –
Continue reading

Left 4 Dead (or, My Friends are Assholes)

I’m glad to see Valve continuing their proud tradition of Doing It Right. As I frequently make known to anyone within earshot, I believe it’s just a matter of time before the streets fill with the hungry dead. Thus, all media produced on the topic should be given at least marginal attention. Romero should be studied, of course – to a point. Thanks to him we know effective methods of dispatching your former friends and family, and ok, maybe a few people didn’t know that you shouldn’t try to tame the undead as pets. However, I draw the line at supposing zombies could form their own society, where they would like nothing more than to live in peace without scavengers from Bartertown coming in to steal their cigar and whiskey rations. And show them fireworks.

I don’t know why that’s pissing them off really – to my knowledge, they can neither drink nor smoke, and they really seem to enjoy looking at fireworks. Zombies are kind of arbitrary dicks even when they’re not eating you.

Right, so – the game. Behold:

This is the intro movie, which I have yet to skip when I start the game. I’m pretty sure this brief clip is the only time you ever see a cut scene of your group, but I was immediately taken by how real the characters were. I’m not saying that the voice acting is particularly stellar, or that the animation lets me see pores and liver spots. The interaction was just very . . . natural. That’s the best way I can think of to say it. Little details and mannerisms that a live actor displays without thinking are mostly absent in game animation. Obviously the better the tech you have to work with, the closer you can approximate natural human action, but I think it also has a lot to do with developers actually considering how people would react and taking the time to add that, even if it’s just a flicker of expression across a character’s face that might go wholly unnoticed by the majority of their audience.

The other notable thing about the intro is that it is also your tutorial. I won’t go into detail, as others already have, but I will say that everything you need to know about the game is presented to you.

I’m still honestly trying to figure out why I like the gameplay so much. In reality, you play as one of four characters who differ only in appearance, using a basic set of weapons and making your way through maps that also lack much in the way of variation. The only real difference between each of the four “movies” you play through is where they start you and where you’re supposed to end up.

In the end, I suppose it’s all build up and atmosphere. What you hear and imagine as opposed to what you can actually see. L4D uses that visceral “what the fuck is out there?” reaction very effectively. Only you know exactly what it is, and that it shouldn’t be, and that makes it much worse.

That’s not to say you don’t see zombies. Clearly you do, otherwise there would be nothing to shoot. It would be fair to say that seeing a handful them shuffling around a hallway or staring off at nothing in particular is unnerving. Then there’s the moment when one of them has *noticed* you, and the aimless staggering to and fro shifts instantly to focused attention. Or when you see the shadows of horde rounding a corner in a parking garage. Even in a virtual environment, it can still cause half a second of dumbfounded shock.

Additionally, the game is stingy with supplies. You each can carry one (1) first aid kit. And to use it, you make yourself totally vulnerable for a few seconds, so someone has to cover you. You really do have to stay together and cooperate with each other in multi-player campaign or you will die. This fact left little impression on my friends and me, as our game immediately descended into pumping shot gun shells directly into each other’s faces. When we ran out of shells, we just started beating the shit out of each other with the guns – up and down stairs, out into the streets. The zombies mostly tried to ignore us, not wanting to get involved.

When brute force grew dull, we moved on to even bigger dick moves like locking each other in closets. And locking a single person out of the safe room.

Multi-player is still more than worthwhile though, for the versus mode. Mostly because you alternate between survivor and zombie – essentially the same as Team Fortress. Except that one team is utterly without specializations of any kind, while the other has a selection of lethal special moves. It would be nice if you actually could select the type of zombie you spawned as, but I can understand not wanting to allow for the possibility of an all Boomer zombie team simultaneously using their special attack. I imagine it would look something like stumbling into a roomful of feral cats.

Marcon 2008

Sometimes pirates steal your cargo. Sometimes pirates play unlicensed games. Sometimes they just stand around in bars being fierce bitches that think your shoes are cheap.

Marcon was this past weekend – I’m sure some of you noticed a jedi or two wandering around the North Market. It’s been days since the event, and I’m just now posting. I’m a lazy shite, I know.

Honestly, I wasn’t that moved to take too many pictures this year. Anything worth photographic evidence I have mostly already documented1. It seems like people put a lot of effort into one costume and wear it year after year. Not that I can say I blame them. I don’t know that I could look at myself in the mirror if I continued to sink hundreds of dollars and hours every year to lovingly recreate every permutation of the starfleet uniform.

In lieu of taking pictures, I suppose I could move on to ear tagging and tracking of migratory patterns. I dunno.

I hadn’t seen this guy before though

Normally furries can die in a fire, but this guy gets a pass for embracing the Tank Girl franchise. That would be my friend Alex high fiving the anthro-roo.

We played a couple of board games we hadn’t seen before, though we didn’t actually playtest any unreleased ones this year. There was one game in progress at a table near us that caught my attention. It involved hats. This fascinated me. Everyone was wearing hats. Somtimes they switched hats. I noted that one hat in particular seemed to be undesireable, as its new owner was mocked while reluctantly placing it on his head. I felt like an anthropologist peering into a new and altogether alien culture. With each new shift in this strange hat-based society, I reported back to my associates, who mostly seemed irritated that I wasn’t following the rules of our game. I couldn’t be concerned with that – there had apparently been a major power shift at the next table. One man was now wearing two hats. Two! I narrowed my eyes. While I knew neither the rules nor customs that allowed one to acquire an auxilliary hat, I sensed that the peaceful equality of free hat exchange had just been irrevocably sundered.

This was the same weekend my cousin Jenna came to visit. She was spending the night with me after paticipating in a friend’s wedding on Saturday. So of course I dragged her to the nerd-meet. Thankfully her late arrival spared her the worst of the cosplayers – they had wandered off to their respective clans and yiff piles, while the remainder of the day for us was spent playing games and drinking at the various room parties. If you really feel the urge to see pictures of nerds rolling dice, playing StarCraft and getting drunk, I have more pictures up in a gallery on myspace. It was either that or take the time to repair my site gallery.

1The exception to this would be the elusive gothapotamus I saw wandering the area near the convention center. I saw it as I was searching for a place to park, so I didn’t get a picture. Naturally I assumed it was heading to the convention, and that I would have my chance to capture the majestic creature on film later in the day. Sadly, it made no further appearance.

I should probably grow up a little.

Tonight I started playing a Final Fantasy flavoured version of Sim City called Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My life as a King. It’s one of the new WiiWare titles. I’ll overlook the fact you’ll never be able have more than three WiiWare titles on your system without additional storage, and that after purchasing the game, you still have to buy half of the content as add-ons. I’ll ignore both of these facts because the game is extremely addictive – it’s simple and engaging. You build up your town, hire adventurers to get you money and resources and clear out dungeons. All the activities that you perform (or direct your subjects to perform) are completed in short one day cycles that make it very easy to lie yourself that you’ll do “just one more day” before turning it off.

As with most RPGs, you are given the opportunity to name yourself in the game – in this case, you get to name yourself and your new town. Once upon a time, the naming of characters in a new game was a long and ponderous task for me. Depending on the character, I needed something appropriately suited to the class and heritage. In the event that I would need to hand out lables to an ethnically diverse group, I would consult my nearest Tolkein reference for something that sounded stout and bearded, or something in wispy script with a glut of ‘e’s and ‘l’s meant to roll, song-like, off the tongue like vomiting flowers.

I have moved past that as an adult.

All hail King [Jor-el], master of the lands of [SODOM!].

Note the exclamation point. Subjects are required to present due enthusiasm when speaking of their homeland.

** EDIT **
I feel that it is worth mentioning that getting to see “SODOM! : Day 1” printed across the screen as I started my game completely justifies my immaturity.

I has a brick.

I should be playing this right now:

I should be indulging my asiaphile predilections to the extent that my loved ones become concerned. I should be sitting here on my couch amidst 36 flavours of pocky, guiding my race of tiny ocular savages through their musical rise against oppressive potbellied dragons and trees that vomit axes. Instead, I am left staring resentfully at my shiny paperweight. I think perhaps if make my displeasure at its behaviour obvious enough, it will be given over to contrition and show a menu screen once again.

I looked around for any information on “unbricking” a PSP. Mostly it’s just a bunch forum dwellers saying “LOL – way to go dumbass. You’re screwed, shouldn’t have tried to downgrade your firmware.” Thanks a lot for the help, you judgemental shits. I didn’t even screw around with the firmware. I picked the thing up to install the Patapon demo, and it just wouldn’t turn on anymore.

I’m going to go set up an ebay auction for PSP parts. And leave my monitor right where my fussy little handheld can see it. Its fate is in its own hands at this point.

Walmart thinks you won’t catch on.

This morning the bf sent me a link announcing a pre-order sale for Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Seems Walmart had the game listed for $19.99 when everyone else was listing it as $49.99. Naturally I rushed over to place my order. Moments after my order had cleared, going to the same listing on showed the game as $49.99. Obviously someone screwed up and listed the game at a lower price than intended, hence the rushing to place the order.

So, I get my order confirmation and, a few minutes later, my confirmation e-mail. Hours pass. Another e-mail shows up telling me they are processing my cancellation order. Wait, what? I mean, I expected that I might get an email politely explaining that a mistake had been made, apologizing for any inconvenience and ultimately worming their way out of honoring the posted price. But, uhh . . . telling me I cancelled the order myself? I realize the typical Walmart patronage might make such a ruse seem viable, but I refuse to believe that’s actual policy. It makes me think that, should I ever need to complain to actual in-store management, they’d simply cover their eyes and declare invisibility until I became confused by their witcheries and wandered back to my still.

The official word from Walmart is that the distributor cancelled the order, and they will re-list tomorrow at the correct price. I would like to point out that my order confirmation e-mail from Walmart states “If you are paying by credit card, we will not charge your credit card until your order ships” and “Once an order has been placed and confirmed, it cannot be canceled.” My order was placed and confirmed, and lo – my card had been charged. I feel once it has reached that stage, the store just eats the cost of the mistake and lets it go.

I used to scour ads for Circuit City, Best Buy and the like looking for good deals. I recall once I found a hard drive in CompUSA’s ad for a significantly lower price than was typical. It had been a misprint. However, I not only got the cheaper price, but since they were out (they had a run on the drives, can you believe?) I got a raincheck for the same product. That’s typically what any store will do – they list something wrong and you find it before they catch on and you benefit. Instead Walmart catches me as I’m leaving the store, yanks away my purchase and shoves my money back into my hand and tells me I was just at the return counter. Slick.