Archive for June, 2009

The New Firm: Est. What Year is It, Anyway

30 Jun

It was at least 50 years ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday. Okay, like it was last week. Point is, it left an impression.

It was halfway through Summer, somewhere around 4902. I was in town, less than 10 years old, and I’d been given a shiny copper piece by my stepmother  to buy a piece of candy with. Needless to say, I’d put it in with the four other pieces I’d hoarded and was headed straight for the pub.

I was almost there when I bumped into him. I really do mean that I bumped into him—he came up to me rather suddenly. He wasn’t there…and then he was, and he was as big and bold as the sun at noon. It was like walking downstairs and finding a god in your kitchen. Certainly, out there in the sticks, I had never seen anything like that outside of a picture book.

And yet, there he was, with his fine suit and his monocle, his top hat that I remember being the finest thing I’d ever seen. Almost everything he had was touched by gold, and I swear to any two gods you name, that included his eyes. There was this glint in them, like he’d had gems installed in his sockets. It was princely. It was incredible.

I couldn’t say anything. What could you say to that? Of course, it was just as well–he didn’t care about me. I wasn’t about to give him a shoeshine or a cup of coffee, so I was off of his personal map of Things that Affected Him. He was too rich to care about me.

I heard someone mutter, “Pompous twit,” after he left, and I remember getting almost angry at that. It was like blasphemy. I mean, I wasn’t offended that he didn’t pay attention to me. I was impressed. I admired that.

And I knew that someday, I’d want to be so rich that I could ignore me as well.

It was sunrise, and the daylight hadn’t quite warmed up the coolest touches of the canyon’s floor. Soft, bluish shadow fell over the rocky labyrinth, shading the insects below as they skittered furtively about. It was at that serene morning lull where the air was still and peaceful, save for the chittering of beetles, the soft caress of wind on stone, and the sound of someone doing a very poor job of sprinting across the jagged rock.

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From Breakfast to Hell, Part 11

30 Jun

Hurriedly, the mercenaries began to collect their firearms.

The leader pulled out his pistol, glancing around at the situation. “Right. He was the last one to move away from the ladder. They must have grabbed him there.” He thought for a second, staring into the darkness ahead. “It’s probably not going to launch a strike at this point. Might as well brief you.” He reached into his front pouch, pulling out a folded piece of paper and tossing it to Bruno.

“Ever seen one of these before?”

Bruno unfolded it, lowering it towards the lantern. The scrap appeared to have been torn from some larger document, and torn rather roughly and hastily at that. It was faintly gridded in pencil, and had an ink sketch of a finely crafted, incredibly intricate, and massive-looking engine on it.

Bruno shrugged. “Can’t say I have.”

Vatsy leaned over the schematic, sketching something that kind of looked a bit like the engine, as described secondhand by someone who’d gotten a brief glance at it while intoxicated. “Can’t say I’ve seen it before, but if someone asked me to describe what science looked like, that’s just about what I’d come up with.”

Bruno passed the note back, causing Vatsy to crane his neck awkwardly as he finished up his sketch. “That’s what you were asked to bring back?”

The leader sighed deeply. “Yeah.” He motioned for them to follow him, held his pistol at the ready, then paced around the bend in the tunnel.
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In a Hostile Country: The Saga of Cahmel (Let’s Play Morrowind Part 2)

28 Jun

When we last left our intrepid hero, Cahmel, he was being asked by a random stranger to perform a time-consuming favor without any promise of reward.

Is this the face of a useless twit with no sense of responsibility? Yes.

Is this the face of a useless twit with no sense of responsibility? Yes.

The woman had the following predicament, although I would hesitate to even call it that. Apparently, she was a woman of wealth and nobility, traveling alone with several expensive jewels and no way to defend herself.
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The Week to Come

28 Jun

Okay, over the past two weeks, I’ve put…geez…three different series to bed. That’s Quality’s Edge, Character Creation, and GotM. Two retired, one was fired. And now…well, now I’m kind of winging it.

This week…frankly, I barely have a better idea of what I’m going to be doing than you do.

Still, I’m going to give this “prediction” thing a shot.

This week, we’re probably maybe most likely going to have:

  • The Continued Adventures of Cahmel
  • Vatsy and Bruno
  • Self-Contained Short
  • Pretty Pictures
  • Wild Card?

Fun Fact for the Week: I’m sorry if the new page has crushed anyone’s hopes that I was actually the reincarnation of Richard Nixon.


Introductions All Around

27 Jun

Technically, the last post of the week isn’t a post at all, it’s a page.


In a Hostile Country: The Saga of Cahmel (Let’s Play Morrowind Part 1)

27 Jun

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is a great game, by a good company, with many exceptional qualities. It’s just that I can’t play it anymore.

With any other game, that would be an unremarkable statement. I got at least 60 hours out of it, after all—more than I’ve gotten out of three fourths of my collection. I’ve made countless characters, to the point where I once knew the entire first half-hour by heart. I played it until my fingers bled.

This would seem like an excellent value, then, except that I played its prequel more than twice as much and it’s fresh as a goddamn daisy. The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind is, to me, a far better and more replayable game.

For those of you unfamiliar with the franchise: The Elder Scrolls games, which are connected only loosely by the lore and background, are the most successful and vast open-world single player RPGs. These are games where the main quest, which is entirely optional and represents only a fraction of the gameplay, is usually viewed as more of an annoyance than anything. Indeed, by the time I got around to doing it with my primary character all those years ago, I was basically powerful enough to punch out the end boss while wearing only a festive belt and a plastered-on, low-res smile.

What I’m saying is, they’re big, and they’re nontraditional. If most games are a guided tour of some famous building, the Elder Scrolls games are the keys to every building in the city and a couple of brochures to get you started. It’s a massively entertaining formula, and you’d think they’d improve on it as computers got more and more powerful.

In The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, I hated the combat. The combat in Oblivion is much better. In Morrowind, the NPCs are bland idiots that loathe you with a passion. In Oblivion, the NPCs are greatly improved. Morrowind was a vibrant salad of bugs, and Oblivion…was a vibrant salad of bugs, okay, Bethesda hasn’t learned anything there. Oblivion added more space, horses, purchasable houses, improved inventory systems, dynamic NPC AI…lots of things. And for some reason, I don’t like it nearly as much.

Now, of course, the first thing out of your cynical lips is going to be “nostalgia”. Well, no, I don’t really think it is. I’ve played many franchises where where I’ve noticed every game getting better, building up to . And I’ve been playing Morrowind, in preparation for this series, and I love it every bit as much as I used to.

This series is going to do many things. It’s going to be an analysis of why I prefer Morrowind; it’s going to be a travelogue and commentary on the setting, for those of you who have never played; it’s going to be an account of my many misadventures and abject failures at playing the game; lastly, and most importantly, it’s going to be an excuse for me to goof of and take lots of screenshots of Morrowind.

It’s also going to be about a bazillion posts long.

One side note: I will be using no mods or expansion packs at the moment. I may add expansions, but it’s highly doubtful I’ll use any mods–except one I myself make to fix situational bugs. I’m also playing realistically—not stealing everything, eating occasionally, sleeping at night, walking everywhere—and I’m trying not to reload unless I die or do something really stupid.

With these rules in mind, I started the game.
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The Future of GotM

26 Jun

I sat down this afternoon to finish writing the next GotM post. This is what I got instead.

I really don’t know about Ghost of the Machine.

I feel like I’ve botched the story so badly I can’t even look at it anymore. I know, some of you have said it isn’t that bad—I don’t know if you guys are just holding it to a lower standard than I am, or if I’m just blowing its badness out of proportion. Either way, it’s increasingly hard for me to even open up a word processor to write this series.

Now, I’m glad I started it, to be sure. It’s taught me a lot of things. Number one: always have some idea about how you’re going to pace a series. Number two: it’s extremely tiresome when you flit between characters so wildly. Number three: if you can’t work up the enthusiasm to see where a series is going, it’s probably going to end up crap.

Very, very rarely have I submitted an entry where I went, “Wow, I really nailed that sucker.” Rarely have I felt like anyone could care about the characters (who haven’t been established well) or the conflicts (which are kind of nebulously defined). I’ve drowned almost every character, emotion, and scene in mountains of ponderous exposition, and it’s been a powerful exercise in how I should not be writing.

Anyway. I just don’t know if I can continue this series, right now. I think I need to step away from it, come back, and reassess the whole thing and its value, both as a series and as an exercise. Luckily, this shouldn’t be much of a problem for all of you, since if I don’t feel invested in the series, I doubt many of you are.

I have another, brand-new series in the queue, and just so you don’t feel cheated this week, I’m going to post the first entry either tonight or tomorrow. It’s not a fiction series, but it’s one I’m excited about. Also, I’ve got plenty of ideas for fiction series that I’m excited about—I don’t think it helps that GotM isn’t really suited for a serial format.

I really am committed to delivering stuff I feel is worth reading, so I promise you that this is an issue I’m going to consider very, very carefully.

Feel free to weigh in below.


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Chocolate Hammer Screenshot Contest!

26 Jun

Alright, I’ve put this off long enough. Time to name the winners of…

The Chocolate Hammer Steam Group Screenshot Contest!

The winner receives the following fabulous prizes:

–The MVP position

–A mention here

–Absolutely nothing else

Now, without further ado, the winner…


What do you mean, this is all I have for the Pretty Picture post?

Now, with quite a bit of ado, let’s show you some of my favorite runners-up!
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Don’t Be Alarmed

25 Jun

It’s been a few days without posts, but this is, I must stress, entirely according to plan.

My posts are such that many of them must take place towards the tail end of the week, but you’ll get everything promised this week–and, unless things go horribly wrong in the interim, a bonus post as well.

So, hang tight.


From Breakfast to Hell, Part 10

22 Jun

Bruno hesitated, then quietly shuttered his own lantern. Darkness washed over them like the tide—they had only their shallow breaths and thudding heartbeats to keep them company in the silent dark. Carefully, gently, he brought it to rest against the rocky tunnel floor.
“Bruno?” Vatsy whispered.

Bruno placed one foot on the lantern’s shutter, letting it wrap tightly around the release catch.

“Bruno, does it seem abnormally quiet to you?”

Bruno leveled his shotgun.

There was a slight rustling sound, and the scene…exploded.

Bruno slammed the shutter of the lantern down, and a blast of light struck the armed mercenaries directly ahead. They staggered, throwing their hands up towards their eyes—wrenching away strange, wrought goggles that glowed fiercely as they were hit by the light.

In this unbalanced moment, Bruno flashed forward, sweeping up under the leader as random gunfire struck the walls of the tunnel. The leader stumbled back a step, but it was too late—Bruno was there, staring impassively up at him, both barrels tucked under the leader’s chin.

The others, off-balance, fumbled to bring their firearms to bear. Bruno said, in a loud, clear, completely calm voice that froze them like rabbits:

“Drop the weapons.”
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