I read NOS4A2 several years ago and was pleasantly surprised. Today I saw the first episode of the series on AMC and was also pleasantly surprised, but after all Joe Hill, who wrote the book, is one of the producers and one of the writers. He seems to have a better feel for these things then his Dad.
NOS4A2 is one of those things that reminds me I'm not quite ready to cut the cord yet.
June 13, 2019
Mâku the Cook
That's an orc captain named Mâku and he was a pain in my ass, a sign that after five years I'm playing the game the way the devs intended. The idea is that you'll die and sometimes the same orc will kill you more then once. That's what happened with Mâku. He was a low level orc who made it to elite captain because he killed me several times. I'd always hit him in a settlement, and while I could handle him the fighting would draw other captains and I'd either die by their hand or have to run away.
This time I caught him and his band hunting ghouls far away from camp.The ghouls and I took care of his warriors and I was finally able to kill the bastard. I must admit, it felt good.
I may not finish this game but at least I'm not fighting it.
June 12, 2019
Those are the games on my drive at the moment, not counting World of Warcraft, and the one I've been playing recently is Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. I've started it and quit many times but I seem to be doing a bit better this time around, now that I'm trying to work with the game's mechanics instead of fighting them. So then, a thought or two on the game's plot.
In the year 2460 of the Third Age, Sauron occupied Dol Guldur, a tower in the southwest tip of Mirkwood. He didn't declare himself openly, instead calling himself the Necromancer. In TA 2941 while Thorin and Company were in the middle of Mirkwood, Gandalf and the White Council drove the Necromancer out of Dol Gulder. By that time they had more or less figured out that the Necromancer was really Sauron. In 2951 Sauron enters Mordor, declares himself openly and begins rebuilding Barad-dûr. The game takes place immediately before Sauron's reentry into Mordor. You're Talion, a Ranger of Gondor occupying fortifications around Mordor to make sure Sauron never comes back to the place. At some point you're killed in a ritual by a guy called the Black Hand of Sauron. The point of that ritual seemed to be to get a new body for Sauron to inhabit, however something screwed up, you're denied death and you share your body with a cranky ghost.
You want to kill the Black Hand and the ghost is trying to recover his memories. They fight orcs.
Tolkien's books have a lot of backstory and history. There was a watch kept on Mordor but that ended in TA 1636 during King Telemnar's reign. Plague hit Gondor and the watch was recalled. I'm not sure whether the game is following Tolkien's timeline or Peter Jackson's but it really seems like it's in its own sperate universe. There's no real way to reconcile everything and it's futile to try, you go with what works.
And that's it. But one more thing, Amazon is working on their own LotR series. I'm wondering if it will hew closer to Tolkien's books, follow Jackson's timeline or say fuck it and take place in the Kelvin universe.
June 11, 2019
Gandalf the Black
I've had that picture sitting on my hard drive for years, you can see a larger version here.
Here's the thing, with the possible exception of Tom Bombadil, there was nobody in Middle-earth who could resist the Ring's power and had Gandalf taken the Ring he would have been corrupted. Whether or not Gandalf could have mastered the Ring before Sauron was able to bring his forces to bear against him is one of those topics for a pleasantly boozy night at a friendly tavern. But had Gandalf won, Tolkien thought that the new Dark Lord would be worse then the old one, this passage is from one of Tolkien's letters:
In the 'Mirror of Galadriel', 1381, it appears that Galadriel conceived of herself as capable of wielding the Ring and
supplanting the Dark Lord. If so, so also were the other guardians of the Three, especially Elrond.
But this is another matter. It was part of the essential deceit of the Ring to fill minds with
imaginations of supreme power. But this the Great had well considered and had rejected, as is seen
in Elrond's words at the Council. Galadriel's rejection of the temptation was founded upon previous
thought and resolve. In any case Elrond or Galadriel would have proceeded in the policy now
adopted by Sauron: they would have built up an empire with great and absolutely subservient
generals and armies and engines of war, until they could challenge Sauron and destroy him by
force. Confrontation of Sauron alone, unaided, self to self was not contemplated. One can imagine
the scene in which Gandalf, say, was placed in such a position. It would be a delicate balance. On
one side the true allegiance of the Ring to Sauron; on the other superior strength because Sauron
was not actually in possession, and perhaps also because he was weakened by long corruption and
expenditure of will in dominating inferiors. If Gandalf proved the victor, the result would have been
for Sauron the same as the destruction of the Ring; for him it would have been destroyed, taken
from him for ever. But the Ring and all its works would have endured. It would have been the
master in the end.
Gandalf as Ring-Lord would have been far worse than Sauron. He would have remained
'righteous', but self-righteous. He would have continued to rule and order things for 'good', and the
benefit of his subjects according to his wisdom (which was and would have remained great).
[The draft ends here. In the margin Tolkien wrote: 'Thus while Sauron multiplied [illegible word] evil, he
left "good" clearly distinguishable from it. Gandalf would have made good detestable and seem evil.']
At any rate the image of Gandalf the Black had been around for awhile. I like the Eye of Sauron, impotently living at the top of Gandalf's staff.
June 11, 2019
This is the gameplay trailer for Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and it looks very good. However the devs said that it's going to be a lot lke Dark Souls requiring split second timing and a lot of patience. So as good as it looks, I'll wait for the reviews. I got to give them props for showing us actual gameplay instead of a cinematic cut scene. It arrives this November.
This is from Cyberpunk 2077 and it does look like a cut scene, doesn't it? But I don't care because it's by CD Projekt Red, the people who made Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt, a game I played for 178 hours. Oh, it also has Keanu Reeves in it, so yeah given the convergence of those two things, I'll preorder it. It comes out in April 2020.
June 9, 2019
I'm telling myself that I'm just fucking around with Outer Wilds, so yesterday I bought an Xbox controller. My first controller were destroyed in the wreck of my Xbox 360 back in 2011. I bought a second controller a few years ago and eventually gave it to my nephew. The other day I bought a third one for Outer Wilds and today I practiced landing a space ship in the little area I start the game in, a little village. It took me 15 minutes but I finally landed the practice space ship on the small landing pad.
I hated learning mouse look back in the day but I think I'll never have a better opportunity to learn how to use a controller. So now I'm going to watch television and tomorrow I'll practice in the village arcade again.
June 6, 2019
That's where my commemorative Watcher eyeball thing lived. When Newton was young he kept stealing it. Eventually he lost it and it was gone for five years but two weeks ago he found it again and the ball now lives with the toys I keep under my monitor.
That's one of the balls I bought for Newton. He'll play with it for a minute or two, then get bored. Then I put that it on my keyboard, right where I kept The Watcher's eye. Newton knows that fucking with the keyboard is verboten but that never stopped him before Sure enough the ball was unmolested for a couple of days then last night I left the office to get a can of seltzer, when I got back the ball was gone. Later on when I was in bed, trying to get to sleep, I heard Newton playing with the ball in the bathroom. The little bastard was playing in there forever.
Because illicit toys are a lot more fun then toys that are just handed to you.
June 5, 2019
I picked up Warhemmer Chaosbane on 5/31 for $50. It's now 12:30 in the morning on 6/5 and I just finished the main quest. So, was it worth it? Yes and no. The game is overpriced, the writing is pedestrian as are the visuals and the whole thing is Diablo 3 without the spark. But I don't regret the purchase. I just played two first person shooters in a row and I wanted something a little different, Warhemmer Chaosbane was an ARPG and I havdn't played one of them in awhile, so while I can't really praise it, I had fun.
If you're into this sort of thing and you can find it on sale for $20, it's worth it, just keep your expectations low. Meanwhile for my next game I was trying to decide between Outer Wilds, a strange game in which you have 22 minutes to stop your planet's sun from exploding and Void Bastards a rogue like science fiction game. I generally don't like rogue like games, I played them back in the day because that's what you did in the 90s but I never took to them. But this one was made by a few veterans of Bioshock. If I wasn't playing Wolfenstein: Youngblood next month I might have bought it, but Void Bastards has a first person shooter element and I want to hold off on that genre for a bit until WY unlocks at the end of July.
Besides, Outer Wilds is out of my comfort zone and I like to play a game like that at least once a year. It helped that since it was my first purchase from the Epic Store they gave me a $10 discount so it only came to $14. You can't ask for more then that out of a commercial transaction can you? I think it was this tweet by Sean Sands of Gamers with Jobs that sealed the deal for me:
That's what I'm in the mood for right now.
June 5, 2019
On the third, Neal Stephenson's new novel Fall, or Dodge in Hell arrives. Dodge is actually the nickname of Richard Forthrast, a tech billionaire who's frozen after his death and wakes up in a virtual universe. I was all set to clear the decks to read it, Stephenson's books weighing in at 900+ pages so decks must be cleard, when a review reminded me that Dodge was also a character in Stephenson's 2011 book Reamde.
The beginning of this decade was stressful for me, at one point I weighed over 200 pounds! And while I enjoyed Reamde, I didn't remember too much about it, so that's what I'm rereading now, all 1056 pages of it.
So then, Forthrast runs a gaming company that make the world's most successful MMO, T'Rain. Forthrast's niece Zula and her boyfriend Peter are visiting him and Peter uses the opportunity to sell stolen credit card information to a guy named Wallace while Peter, Zula and Forthrast are at a restaurant. Unfortunately Peter burned the data to a DVD and Wallace's computer has no optical drive, so Peter goes back to Forthrast's table and asks Forthrast and Zula if either of them has an USB drive. Frothrast does, tosses it to Peter who transfers the info to the drive and hands it off to Wallace. Wallace verifies it and give Peter a bag stuffed with money.
What Peter doesn't realize is that Forthrast's USB stick was infected with ransomware called reamde. When Wallace gets home he finds his documents folder encrypted. The folks behind reamde will give Wallace a key to decrypt his folder if he gives them 1,000 T'Rain gold pieces (worth about $73). But Wallace can't afford to dick around because he's working for Russian mobsters...
It's great stuff and I don't remember much from my first read so most of the book will be new to me.
June 2, 2019
David Szymanski didn't have a good computer in the 00s when he was growing up, so he played older first person shooters like Doom and Half Life. Dusk is Szymanski's tribute to those older games. While he's using the Unity engine, he's emulating the look of those games from the 90s.Dusk owes most of its DNA to the game I finished recently, Blood an over the top 90s 2 1/2D shooter. Both games feature an unnamed protagonist trying to take down an evil cult, Szymanski refers to his character as the Dusk Dude.
Dusk couldn't run on a 1998 box, the levels are too huge, I'm going to post a video of the Neobabel level.
Like I said, a level like this couldn't run on a PC from the 90s. And I'm wondering if the game would interest people who never played games like Half Life or Quake. Maybe, I didn't grow up watching silent films but I still love Metropolis.
By the way, The guy who did the video has a sword, I had no idea there were swords in the game. I want one now.
May 31, 2019
Leon Redbone 1949-2019
There's a statement on his website:
"It is with heavy hearts we announce that early this morning, May 30th, 2019, Leon Redbone crossed the delta for that beautiful shore at the age of 127. He departed our world with his guitar, his trusty companion Rover, and a simple tip of his hat. He’s interested to see what Blind Blake, Emmett, and Jelly Roll have been up to in his absence, and has plans for a rousing sing along number with Sári Barabás. An eternity of pouring through texts in the Library of Ashurbanipal will be a welcome repose, perhaps followed by a shot or two of whiskey with Lee Morse, and some long overdue discussions with his favorite Uncle, Suppiluliuma I of the Hittites. To his fans, friends, and loving family who have already been missing him so in this realm he says, ‘Oh behave yourselves. Thank you…. and good evening everybody.'"
May 30, 2019
Dead Space 2
Dead Space 2 had 15 chapters and unfortunately I had to throw in the towel in chapter 14, it just got too tough for me. The situation reminded me a lot of my experience with Alien Isolation a stealth game that suddenly ratcheted up its difficulty during its end sequence.
Still I had a great time, great enough so that under normal circumstance I'd go to Wikipedia to find out how it all turned out but the fact is the game's story doesn't make any real sense, at least not to me. I do know that Isaac Clarke survives because there's a Dead Space 3. It didn't do very well, eschewing horror and claustrophobia for action and co-op. The developers were hoping to expand the franchise, instead it alienated its fans and didn't being in any new players, sort of like what happened with Ultima VIII back in the day.
Now I need something to tide me over until Wolfenstein: Youngblood arrives at the end of July. The Warhammer franchise is coming out with an action RPG next week and I may take a look at that, I can use a good Diablo clone right now. The Warhammer universe started out as a pen and paper war game in 1983 and there's been a shit ton of games set there. I'll see what the word is about it next week.
May 27, 2019
Kids These Days
In one of the Ultima games, Ultima 5 maybe, there was a dungeon sequence where you were locked in a room and then some 20 feral children came out of holes and started to attack you. The game only gave you two choices, you could refrain from attacking them, in which case you died, or you could kill the lot of them. In that case the door unlocked and you could continue your adventures. In the 80s that was pretty serious stuff and some people were traumatized by the whole thing.
Dead Space 2 does something similar. In the game an alien life form is animating human corpses, turning them into necromorphs. In the first game you're on a mining ship but in the second game you're in a space station on what remains of Saturn's moon, Titan. It's a city and so there are schools and families there.
The sequence with the woman and baby is very good indeed. The NPC doesn't see a parasite infesting a corpse, she sees a suffering child. The game doesn't let you try to attract her attention but it doesn't matter, once the necromorph notices her she's already dead.
May 25, 2019
In 410 Alaric, King of the Visigoths sacked Rome. By that time Rome wasn't the capital of the Western Roman Empire, it had been moved to Ravenna. I'm not even sure that Emperor Honorius ever visited the city. But it had huge symbolic importance and when news about Alaric got around it shocked and horrified just about everyone. Almost everyone, the Visigoths were pretty happy with the way things turned out. After 410 the Western Roman Empire was living on borrowed time and the whole shit train went off the rails in 476 when Odoacer, the real ruler of Italy by that time, got tired of pretending that Emperor Romulus Augustus was in charge. Odoacer pensioned him off and ruled as King of Italy.
So for 66 years the Empire was living on borrowed time but it was fascinating to watch Classical Europe just disintegrate. You'd think that a lot of novels would be set in that period but Avram Davidson's two books, Peregrine: Primus and Peregrine: Secundus are the only ones that I know of although I'm sure there are more. But L. Sprague de Camp wrote a great novel set in 6th century Italy, Lest Darkness Fall. In it Martin Padway, an American archaeologist circa 1939, is zapped back to Rome in 535. He knows that Emperor Justinian of the Eastern Roman Empire is going to send General Belisarius to conquer Italy, destroying the Kingdom of the Ostrogoths there and in the process turning Italy into a wasteland. So Padway, who knows everything about the Gothic War starts intervening, becomes an aide to King Thiudahad of the Ostrogoths and Belisarius' invasion is stopped dead in its tracks. Italy becomes an enlightened state and Western Europe starts to revive 900 years early.
Dear me, I'm getting all nostalgic now for 20th century science fiction writers. At any rate time travel stories normally don't interest me but Lest Darkness Fall is the exception and I recommend it.
May 24, 2019
The Epic Game Store opened on 12/8/2018 and from the start it challenged Steam. The store's biggest coup was grabbing Metro Exodus as an exclusive after Steam spent some time promoting it. Epic makes a random game free for a two week period twice a month. I've grabbed a few of them but I haven't actually bought anything there. That will change later in the year, Obsidian's upcoming RPG Outer Worlds will an Epic exclusive.
And I've mentioned this before but today something interesting happened. EA has its own store, Origin. Last year they used to give away free games too. They haven't done that in awhile but today they announced they'd be giving away Sims 4 free until 5/28. And Uplay has some free stuff too. Right now Uplay and Origin are company stores but I'm wondering if they're thinking about challenging Steam by selling third party games somewhere down the line.
There are a lot of folks who seem upset over the number of game stores on the net. In some cases I'm sure it's because of limited disk space. I've six storefronts installed and I can see how someone with a 500 GB drive might be pressed for space and a little annoyed, at least if they're gamers Other people are concerned over Epic's relationship with Tencent. Tencent is a Chinese game company, the largest video game company in the world, and it owns 40% of Epic. I presume that the folks at Tencent have access to information about what Epic game I own, how often I play them, and for how long. Of course Steam has the same information but Steam is a Murican company run by good old Gabe who would never, ever do anything untoward with the data his company has collected.
At any rate Epic has certainly stirred thing up and I expect they'll be more free stuff dangled in our faces before the dust settles.
May 22, 2019
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