Archive for the ‘Introspection’ Category

Scenes from a Rearview Mirror

At a stop light on my commute this morning, a pristine SUV pulls up behind me.  The driver is a beautiful woman in her early 40s; aristocratic, high cheekbones, hair pulled up and knotted atop her head, wearing overlarge sunglasses.  Next to her sits a boy of perhaps 16, a mop of dark unruly hair tumbling down over his ears, his expression filled with tightly controlled anger.  The driver’s head is cocked over and down, as if viewing the radio, but it’s clear from her body language she’s trying to be open to him speaking to her, without pressing him – she watches him from the corner of her eye.  After a while, she straightens her head, her neck long and birdlike, her movements delicate, her expression carefully neutral.  The boy doesn’t move at all, his eyes fixed straight ahead, his stony silence radiating disapproval.  She looks over at him for a few seconds, her expression unchanging, then looks straight again.  Neither of them speaks.

I watch them and wonder what the context is.  Did he do something to earn punishment he feels is undeserved?  She clearly wants him to open up to her; she seeks an end to the detente.  Did he learn of some indiscretion of hers?

The light changes and I drive off.

Epic Necromancy, the Wii, and you

So, yeah.  It’s been months since I posted here; life’s been pretty busy for me, with a divorce and moving to a new location.  “Nuff said.

Anyhow, I took a few months off from gaming (gasp!) but have started up again.  Since I’m moderately burned out on existing MMOs and await the next batch – which involve bright costumes and superpowers – I’ve been getting my gaming fix through my new Nintendo Wii.  It’s a decent little system.  The graphics aren’t overwhelming, but they’re decent, and the controller allows some very unique gameplay options.

The games I’ve enjoyed the most thus far are Ókami and The Godfather.  I know, I know, these aren’t new games, but they’re new to me.  Ókami is set in feudal Japan, and the protagonist is a wolf-avatar of the sun goddess Amaterasu.  The wiimote is used for conventional movement and camera controls, but also and more engagingly as a Celestial Brush, which allows one to e.g. repair damaged features like bridges or windmills; create wind; cause wilted plants to bloom; etc.  It’s an engaging fantasy MMO with a unique tone, but I will say it does have one drawback – I’ve found it to be quite easy to defeat more or less every foe I’ve come across.  The character customization is also a bit lacking… basically you can increase your health, Celestial Ink pots (which allow use of the brush techniques), food bags (which serve as extra lives if you ever die, which hasn’t been an issue for me), or the size of your gold purse (which increases the maximum amount of gold you can carry; again, not an issue for me thus far).  You gain points to customize your character by gaining Praise, which comes from healing the plants, feeding the animals, and defeating the demons that plague the countryside.  It’s a decent enough mechanic.

The Godfather is an excellent translation and extension of the basic storyline of the first movie.  Virtually all of the actors from the movie are doing the voice work for their characters, so e.g. when Tom Hagen talks to you, you hear Robert Duvall’s voice.  That makes a substantial difference in the immersion of the experience, especially if you love the movies as much as I do.  The game is a sandboxy action-RPG, a bit like GTA or Saint’s Row, with a lot of freedom to do what you want in New York, and a linear storyline you can pursue or ignore as you wish.  You get reminders from time to time to head out and meet Clemenza and the other members of the Corleone family, but you’re free to take your time in getting there – meanwhile spending time extorting money from businesses and taking over rackets.  There’s a fairly decent level of customization available; you gain Respect by doing missions, bribing cops, performing contract hits, taking over businesses, etc. – and then spend it to increase stats like firearm accuracy, movement speed, negotiation skill, etc.

The sequel is coming out in a few weeks, based on The Godfather II, so though this review isn’t terribly timely, it’ll lead to one that’s moreso.

Turn and face the strange ch-ch-changes

So I’ve moved back from Oz to California, then went to Puerto Vallarta for my friend’s wedding, which has meant I’ve had very little time of late for blogs and such things.  This ought to change as I get settled down.

PV was lovely; a little strange though.  EVERYONE’s hustling all the time it seems, and every time I went into town I was accosted by (at a rough estimate) a third of the total population of the city, offering me deals on all sorts of goods and services in which I generally wasn’t interested.  Highlights included riding on a 6 peso bus (roughly 50 cents), crowded to overflowing with locals, and a 3-piece mariachi band who stood in the aisles and played.  Wacky fun.

Beginnings

“Dixitque Foolsage, ‘Fiat blog!’ Et facta est blog.”

Well, that’s a suitably pretentious and self-conscious way to start.  I’m not sure if I’m satisfied yet though.  Perhaps something a bit more in media res?  Ok, ok, second try.

“I’ve been reading blogs for years now, some more assiduously than others; so it was reasonable enough for me to agree when my wife gently pressed the carving knife to my throat and sweetly suggested I consider starting my own blog.”

Yes, I think that’s captured more of the flavour I was going for.

This’ll be a place for me to ramble about my interests.  I’ll talk about games and game theory, and game design, and game playing, and, well, things involving how games are made and enjoyed in general.  I’ll also from time to time share thoughts on media I’ve consumed (books, films, TV shows, webcomics, et alia) as well as news in general that interests me.  There’s a good chance of some digressions on topics like language/linguistics, sociology, and ethics.

On the one hand, I recognize that most popular blogs remain fairly focussed.  On the other hand, my interests are fairly diverse and often dovetail into each other, so in the interests of experimentation, I’ll mash everything together.  We’ll see how it works.