What the hell was I thinking.

I bought Rock Band last week and then jumped right back into World of Warcraft this week. For the first couple of days of Rock Band, John and I were playing it near incessantly, taking breaks only for food, work and sleep. Then a friend of ours got a new computer, started talking about WoW again, and it was like hearing that an ex I never quite got over was suddenly back in town. One thing leads to another and now I have to awkwardly explain to my other games that I won’t be finishing their richly developed storylines because I’ll be spending the next two months running errands for random trolls that inexplicably require four spider legs and three bear pelts from everyone they encounter.

There are things to be said regarding Rock Band. Unlike Guitar Hero, this game allows you to play beyond the time that your hands cramp into gnarled lumps at terminus of your wrists – you are now provided with the tools to do irreparable damage to both you vocal cords and feet via compulsive repetitive action. It may be due to the way I sit on the couch when I play, but after a few songs using the foot pedal, my foot threatens to seize up. John claims that a drum stool might help with the issue. He also wants to buy a mic stand so he can play guitar and sing at the same time. I can’t help but feel that at the point that I start buying legitimate band equipment for this game, I’ve somehow earned the mockery that’s been thrown my way for playing it in the first place.

I like that you can now see how much progress you’ve made toward five-starring a song while playing. Accumulating additional energy (star-power) while using it is a nice touch too. The performance animation is far better than it has ever been, with particular emphasis on the lip synching. The grain filter looks so much better than the enhanced textures in GH3, making each performance something that is actully tolerable to watch if you’re waiting your turn to play. Plus, you get loading screens depicting publicity photos and billboards of your band/solo artist. It’s really sweet to see a big tour bus with “Vegeta Bahlls” printed in the side of it.

I do not like the new guitar – the strum bar is way too . . . soft I guess is the way to put it. Possibly it will grow on me as I learn to use it. It seems to require a much lighter touch than its predecessors, and once I figured that out, playing long string of notes became much easier. I still can’t reconcile that it doesn’t click though. Buttons of any kind should make a clicking noise when pressed. I don’t even like keyboards that don’t click – the clicking of the keyboard is the only outward evidence that I even do anything all day. I now have a sort of pavlovian response. No click is bad. Unproductive. Failure. Click means good girl. Salivate. Bowl of food.

Overdrive never seems to activate properly for me. I have basically flailed the controller over my head to no avail, but a slight shift in my position on the couch will trigger it. It’s either broken or I’m doing it wrong. It may be because I sit on the couch when I play instead of stand. I’m lazy, I don’t stand if I don’t have to. If I were in a real band, every concert would have a couch on stage. Mine is a restrained sort of rocking out.

We now have three guitar controllers. They hang from this lamp which I now think of as a sort of tree that bears guitars as its fruit.

Really, it just feels eternal.

It is my birthday today. I am 30. Commence celebrating in whatever manner feels appropriate. Call me old or send me some cake. Or pictures of cake.

I got zombie related gifts from two people yesterday. Of particular note, John got me the first couple of books from The Walking Dead series. I finished them both last night – very good. Go. Buy them. Read them.

I finished Eternal Sonata last night, and I still couldn’t really tell you what my feelings are toward that game. I’m mostly just feeling relieved to be done with it. It’s *very* pretty – the game renders its doe-eyed protagonists in full cell-shaded glory, and even the most tedious dungeon crawls are made palatable by the beauty and detail of each location. The combat system was nicely done too. It’s not the same “select your set of actions from a menu and execute” routine that you get in most RPGs. You actually take part in the combat – meaning that executing your super-powerful moves requires a bit more finesse than just selecting Thundaja from the menu. You not only level your characters, you level your party, which leads to more powerful, but more complicated combat tactics.

As much as I enjoy the hands-on approach, I will admit that when it came to just grinding levels, I wished I could just set up my gambits and not think about what I was doing anymore.

The game is set inside the head of Frederic Chopin as he lays in a coma during the final hours of his life – a bizzare premise that justifies the purchase on its own. Completion of each chapter earns you snippets of Chopin’s history throught cut scenes and musical interludes, both of which seem to take up more time than actual gameplay. Near the beginning in particular – you have about 5 minutes of active playing. Now here’s a boss battle. Now here’s a cut scene. Now here’s a slideshow of Vienna.

Wait, what?

Anyway. The game took me forever to get through. Part of this is my own fault, as I have to explore every area of any game I play. Part of it is the level designer’s fault for making complex dungeons, but completely pissing on the notion of any kind of map feature. I spent about an hour looking for maps online for one dungeon in particular. Gave up. Made my own maps for a couple of levels. Realized there were another 10 levels of this bullshit that I’d have to sketch out and decided that there had to be a bigger nerd than me out there that had already done this. Success! Maps for Mysterious Unison are here if anyone needs them. Spoilery info there, obviously.

Without giving too much away, I will say that while Mysterious Unison is optional, you won’t get the complete ending to the game unless you do it. Without it, the game ends with what amounts to ten minutes PSAs and life affirmations that stop just short of actually saying “The more you know”.

Oh, and when I say ending, what I really mean is recovery period before you embark on your second leg of the journey. In order to truly complete the game, you have to play the goddamn thing twice. Now, I have replayed games before – to go on missions that I skipped, to try different classes out, or just because the game was that freaking good. But I strongly dislike the fact that I am denied true closure with this game because it’s designed so that a second playthrough is required.

For now I’m done with it – I have Assassin’s Creed laying on my shelf and Metroid still waiting to be completed. So I should really stop typing now. I have work to do.

Instant Hell Murder

I wanted to have a cleverer title for this rather than simply a descriptive, but then I realized this could be the only opportunity to ever use this specific title.

I occasionally play CCGs – the only one that’s been getting any attention from me recently is UFS. This is due mostly to my friend Alex who is sort of a pimp for their product. Anyway, they have previews for upcoming cards and he sent me this one today.



That’s all really – I just felt that needed to be shared.

Oh, and he also presented this to me today. I’m not entirely sure what to expect from Mushiking, but it does appear to be very Asian. It looks to be sort of like Pokemon, only all the pokemon are beetles. And instead of collecting all the pokemon cards, you buy cards from a machine, then put the cards back in the machine where you pay to play with your cards. And your cards can change sometimes, so the card you put in may not be the card you take back out.

From the website:

The cards contain beetle data from all over the world, and cool attacking moves you can use. Collect lots of cards, and create your own powerful beetles!

The site also claims render the beetles on your cards using “super-realistic computer graphics”. From the site, it mostly just looks like they use a bunch of pictures of beetles.

MarCon

I attended MarCon (sci-fi nerdfest convention for you normies) this weekend – and accumulated a gallery of assorted freakery. I would like to take this opportunity to mention that I have an exceptionally shitty camera. I open the lens and it takes about thirty seconds of “warming up” or whatever before I can take a picture. By that time, whatever example of sweet dork drag I wanted a picture of has already passed by, cape sweeping majestically in its wake. Most of the nerds spend a considerable amount of time on their costumes and are all too happy to strike a pose and hold it for as long as you need to get the picture. They probably spend hundreds of $$ on the getup and admiration from the rest of us is the only way they really justify the expense.

I don’t really want anyone posing for the shot though. Like any good photographer, I know it’s the candid shots that really capture the essence of life. Like these pictures of folks enjoying the food court:



I took these pictures with my phone btw, not my actual camera. Because of my camera I missed some of the best shots – I don’t know why, but I deeply mourn the loss of an opportunity to get a photo of a Nazgul hanging out in a parking lot having a smoke.

Anyway, I am pleased to have obtained photographic evidence of Satan getting his knob polished by one of his concubines


Satan Scores!

Judging by the audience, I’m going to go ahead and assume that this is part of some dark ceremony meant to praise their lord. Never one to judge based on religious beliefs, I merely documented the ritual in a photo-journalistic fashion and moved on.

After taking in the costume show & playing a couple games, we headed up to check out some of the parties. The convention center is adjacent to a couple of hotels, and some of the more affluent nerd coteries host parties that occupy entire floors. We could have partied with either the Highlanders or The Order of the Scorpion (Klingons). We instead chose to hang out on the Barfleet floor. I had hoped that the immortals and the klingons would be drinking on the same floor so I could watch kilted nerds get into a drunken brawl with some dude wearing a latex headpiece. No such luck.

Barfleet did not allow you to bring cameras on to their party floor – dude checking IDs saw one in my purse and wouldn’t let me in until I got rid of it. After we got in, it became apparent that the reason for this was that several of the rooms had various levels of clothing optional policies. One room had a stage set up where they were having a lap dance contest.

Hilariously, even though cameras were prohibited, I spotted at least ten people with camera phones. So, skanky chick at the bar showing your boobies for tips – you just might end up on the internets after all. Same goes for you freaky naked guy with duct tape covering your penis – I really hope you shaved first, cause that’s gonna be twelve kinds of hurt otherwise.

I’d also like to share an exchange I had with a guy who really liked the shirt I had on and wanted to show it to his, um, friend.

Dude: Oh hey, it’s you again – that is such a great shirt
Me: oh , yeah – thanks
Dude: Can you come over here a sec I’d like to show it to someone
Dude: *Motions to a girl in a group*
Dude: I’d like you to meet my submissive
Me: . . .uh . . .hi!
Dude: Isn’t that a great shirt
Sub: *reading my boobs* Oh, that’s great!

I just loved the very matter of fact way he introduced her. I do enjoy an open and accepting environment.

On a final note, I’d like to offer a safety tip: wizards dislike being caught unaware. They become nervous and may strike. Approach them with caution.