Lies, Damn Lies
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Mr and Mrs smithThere's a bad film. I watched this last night, hoping I might see something at least vaguely agreeable. I did not. This is a stupid, stupid film, that appears to exist in a fantasy world which undermines much of its point.
The concept, two assassins in rival agencies married and not knowing of their lives, is entertaining enough, and part of this idea is the notion of mixing the mundane and the fantastic. They live mad secret lives, but they must be secret. If they, say, started carrying out massive gun fights in the middle of the city, one might suppose someone would notice. The police do turn up at the main characters door's once, but are quickly led off, and after a massive massacre later in the film, no questions are asked about the police maybe turning up.
The plot is ridiculous. While initially it sort of makes sense (with the agents being told to kill each other, fine), after the "twist" it is revealed that both agencies want them dead. OK... so why not just kill them earlier on? These agencies have seemingly infinite resources, and had the element of surprise, and seem to go to unnecessarily elaborate lengths to kill two people they could have just shot in the back long ago. This becomes more ludicrous as the Smiths proceed to kill dozens of agents sent to dispatch them with stupid ease (seriously, at the end they jump out in slow motion, exactly like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Except they kill everyone shooting at them. Mostly by STANDING IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROOM AND SHOOTING!).
All this could be forgiven if the film was particularly funny, but it really wasn't. Occasionally there were a few jokes that hit home, but mostly this was a soulless affair. This film is what happens when the producers buy the talent first, then get a film later.
Monday, September 28, 2009
Fog of WarMany games have a fog of war. This will descend where your units are no longer present, representing your lack of knowledge without units to scout it. Its an admirable idea, and works well, but I wonder if that idea could be taken further.
I like the idea of a simulated game where you are truly a general, marshalling your troops. You have a physical presence at your base, where you can recruit your armies/have them already. You will have an idea of the landscape, and maybe the general direction of the enemy, but otherwise there will be a fog. The area around you will never have a fog, but your units won't disperse it.
Instead, you can send a scout to an area, order them to take a look, and report back. They would head out, remember what they saw, and report back to you. That area would then become visible... with what the scout saw. The scout might have been ordered to wait until he saw troops, and noted that they were heading east (with a projected path possibly drawn), but you do not know whether they kept doing so.
You could extend this to actual battles, with the choice of sticking close to your army, and being able to command them directly, but be in danger of death, or hanging back, and being forced to give them more general orders, altering them as you heard from runners from the battlefield.
I envision such a game being close to turn based, or at least with a pause menu, with decent AI so you could issue reasonable commands to your forces ("hold this position, fall back if forces outnumber you 2 to 1") ("Advance until enemy sited, then hold and wait for more orders"). Its not something I've ever seen done in games, and I wonder how well a game based on the mechanic would work.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Lemmings!We all know that Lemmings don't really commit suicide. Its a very silly assertion that survived long enough to bring us one of the greatest video games of all time, Lemmings. What I didn't know was that Disney helped create this myth by encouraging lemmings to kill themselves
Sunday, September 20, 2009
A disturbing discoverySo our internet has been acting up recently. I was annoyed, assuming we had some kind of spyware slowing us down. I downloaded various things to speed up my connection, but none of them seemed to work. I checked various websites, and one suggested my wireless might be an issue. I scoffed, but checked anyway. When hard wired... I had a nearly 8 mb connection. I went to the router, changed some settings (upping the security and changing our password), and went back on the router. It now works fine.
Seems someone was leeching our internet! And I laughed when it happened to others....
EDIT: occam's razor always applies.. looks like my router is too weak
Friday, September 18, 2009
continuityA reasonably entertaining article on the continuity, or lack therof, in the Buffy universe. It doesn't delve into the wild inconsistency of magic, but thats probably a good thing.
The world of warcraftWarcraft, or warcrack, as it is called by some wags over the internet, can come in for some stick. The grind, and the repetitive nature therof, is often targeted, with a suggestion that warcraft is a terrible game. I admit to thinking this for a while, having burnt out on warcraft.
Of course, what I forgot about at the time was that I had burnt out after putting more time into it than I'd put into most other game titles I'd ever played. Few game mechanics can survive scrutiny over hundreds of hours of play, and Wow is no exception. It must be noted that some people do still play Wow, playing different content and mode that is wired into the game. Its a fantastic creation, no doubt, and theres a lot of fun to be had of it. That said, the main points against this game really do stand:
Wow is best played intensely. If you only have half an hour or so a day to devote to it you will end up frustrated, because you will find many activities deeply inefficient, and you will be unable to experience much of the more interesting content- the instances, or raids if you reach higher levels. If you have the time to sink into it, it is fantastic.
There is a lack of permanence to your actions, in that if you kill someone they will return a few hours later. Blizzard are actually looking at tech to improve this, and ultimately its just a staple of the genre you have to accept. Its hard to get involved in the plot because of this, however.
The players. This can be the biggest strike against wow for me, is that many players do really treat it like homework. Instances are some of the best fun you can have at lower levels, as a team fighting through deadly enemies and defeating powerful bosses. Those who take the game "seriously" however, will repeatedly play through the same instances several times, because there are certain loot that drop randomly. Not only does this drain all the fun out of doing the instances, its also a bit pointless, as within five levels or so you'll find better loot anyway. One simple way to stop this would be for the bad guy to drop sufficient amounts of loot for everyone. There's no reason not to do this, as encouraging players to endlessly replay the same bit of the game really isn't going to sell you on the experience. One other issue with instances is that you can use a high level friend to kill everything for you. Do not do this. It is not fun.
Even if you manage to find a group to do these instances with, they can still suck. They can either not take it seriously enough, messing about to the point of distraction, or take it far too seriously and reprimand people when they make some stupid mistake. Other people are extremely irritating online, and were one of the reasons I played left 4 dead left. Ideally you want to be able to play with friends in wow, but you have to level at the same rate or you won't have the same experience.
I could go on, but these are the major things that spring to mind, only the latter is really fixable, the other two are sort of staples of the genre- I can't see a way round either really.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Dear internet websitesWhen I hit back on my internet browser, that probably means I want to go back. It probably doesn't mean I want to stay on the same goddamn page.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
The longest poem in the world!This is a nifty little site, scanning twitter for rhyming couplets to produce poetic nonsense
Tuesday, September 08, 2009
Action in super hero filmsSomething that has bothered me about super hero films for quite a while is that they are meant to be action films. The fights should be fun, tense, and thrilling. This is frequently not the case. Ghost Rider is for me the most notorious example of this for me, with the fights against the cgi enemies mostly lasting all of 10 seconds and maintaining absolutely no tension. I hate that film so much...
The problem is not unique to bad films. Iron Man suffers from it: the only really big battle is at the end, and its not terribly inventive or interesting. The only films which actually manages decent fights are the Spiderman films- look at the battles between doctor Octopus and Spiderman for some excellent examples there.
The best? Easily the Incredibles. I know I go on about that film, but the wonder of it is not just the excellent story and fantastic humour, pixar also do great action. Each fight is compelling and clever, with enough genuine tension. Sure Mr Incredible is tough, but he's fighting in a lava flow against a robot who can cut him. Sure Dash is fast, but he's getting chased by guys in nasty flying things. And so on. The secret is not just to have two guys bashing each other, its about two guys of near equal competence (for various reasons, some tactical advantage can give this) fighting in interesting ways, with the fight flowing and ebbing. A lot of final fights works exactly like this:
Both sides fight. One gets the upper hand. The bad guy gets the upper hand. The hero thinks of something clever. The hero does it. While this is usually an ok formula, it has to be executed well, and many films utterly fail at it. I think all super hero film makers should be required to watch the Incredibles for hints in future. Or The Princess Bride for that matter....
Monday, September 07, 2009
Charity Shops=awesomeIt started fairly innocuously, a spotted backgammon set in a shop in lyminngton. Then an amusing political creed of a game in Anti monopoly II. Now... its a little bit of an obsession. I just can't resist bargain games in charity shops. Other than those two examples I have bought:
Lord of the Rings role-playing game
My latest coup is my best, I managed to pick up the well rated Last Night on Earth. Ever since playing the extremely disappointing zombies!! I wished for a better incarnation of the living dead on the board, and this provides. Its still fairly random, with dice and cards leading the way, but the favour and theme is lovely, with the undead closing in on our heroes, each of which is a stereotype straight out of fiction. Unlike zombies!!, one side plays the zombies and one side plays the heroes, a mechanic which makes far more sense than the bizzare competition that the other game inspires. I've only played it once and am already eager to play again- theres a reasonable amount of tactical choices to be made playing it, so its not just brainless, and the game is full of wit and humour (my favourite zombie card is called "uuuuuuurggh".
It only cost me 4 pounds, and its mostly intact, even including the cd with atmospheric music (seriously, could this game be more charming?), there are, I think, a couple of components missing, but absolutely nothing major. I hope to play this a lot over the coming months!