Archive for January, 2010

The Week to Come

31 Jan

Hey, I managed to get all my posts in last week! Granted, the last one was actually posted about three minutes before you’ll read this, but no matter. Especially since my massive brain-crunching essay will by nothing but a caffeine-flavored memory after Monday, and it will be smooth sailing to PostWritingTown for the forseeable future.

I’d like to take a quick trip to Link Town, because there’s a few things I’d like to bring your attentions to. Firstly, the rough maiden issue of Diversion Magazine has been released, free for your reading pleasure. It’s an essay by me, and also (I’m given to understand) some other things, written by other people. I guess you can read those too. I’ve downloaded it myself, and my computer has not thus far contracted leprosy, so you guys should be okay. It’s a cool magazine, even though the editor cut out the numbering from my individually listed items (which makes it confusing) and technically spelled my name wrong once, but that’s okay, because so does the California schooling system.

I keep meaning to mention this, but regular reader Phase has been doing a Twitter experiment something like my stalled maudKAOS thing. He’s created a character, Dr. Manio (who I read as Dr. Mario every time) and just straight tweets about his everyday mad science happenings. It’s a fun read. I don’t know if there’s any overarching storyline planned, but to be honest, even the little side notes are cool.

Also: I hope she doesn’t mind me linking this, but SoldierHawke’s doing a Half-Life 1 LP that I’ve enjoyed watching. The Half-Life series throws a lot more visual cues and data at you than most games, and it’s interesting to see it from the perspective of someone who’s never played it before. Plus, I’m kind of a sucker for video LPs in general.

Oh, yeah, speaking of LP’s, Shamus Young’s LOTR LP has been picked up by The Escapist, and it looks every bit as good as his Star-on-Chest one. But then, you already knew that, because even if you’re a GitPer you’ve probably been following his stuff with interest. If not, check it out, promptlike.

Oh, right, my content. You guys know the drill:

  • That whole Morrowind thing
  • That freaky short story
  • I make fun of a game
  • I pull something random
  • I do a D&D post
  • Some random thing

Fun Fact for the Week: If Shakespeare were alive, he would get a nosebleed around this time every year from the concentrated, unabated hatred directed at him by irate essay-writers. As it is, the essays themselves just kind of make him spin around.

 

Clod of Cthulhu: Maybe I Should Squid While I’m Ahead

31 Jan

I’m not going to use the whole “when we last left our hero” schtick for CoC:DCotE. This is because he’s only a hero in the Homer sense: he does luridly stupid things, gets other people killed, manages to survive himself, and gets hailed as awesome because of it.

So, yeah. The last time we left our bumbling chowderhead, he had decided to poke around in a rural port town known as Innsmouth in search of a missing shopkeeper. Obviously, the first thing I’m going to want to do is check out the ransacked shop and see if I can find any clues.

The shop is on the main street. It has a couple of big windows and a door, the latter of which is badly broken and seems to have been recently forced open. I try to go through it, but apparently that’s not an option.

So, go in through the back way, then? There is a back entrance, which you can access by way of an alley. There’s just one slight problem: the large, hostile, spitting-mad policeman who’s blocking your way.
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The Magnificent 8

30 Jan

Warning: This is a very personal reflection on a pair of games that many of you may not have played. If you aren’t into Left 4 Dead, or don’t particularly care for unfocused rambling and personal opinions, you may want to go to one of those sites where they have the thing with the cats, instead.)

Left 4 Dead was a fantastic game, with excellent level design and well-balanced mechanics. When comparing the gameplay of the two, you have to consider many factors, such as pacing, intensity, strategy, challenge, intuitiveness, and design.

Which is, like, way too hard. So I’m going to compare how cool their characters are instead.

If you’ve never heard of them before: Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2 are both video games made by Valve, makers of the finest damn FPS products known to mankind. They’re both zombie apocalypse shooters where you move from one position of fleeting safety to the next, all in a desperate attempt to spend five minutes not grinding zombies into festive salsa. There isn’t much story in the first one, and only a little bit more in the second one; not much is needed, really. The hordes of brain-munchers and appealingly percussive firearms speak for themselves.

So it’s surprising that despite the lack of a strong plot in either game, the playable survivor characters themselves are uniformly fun and interesting. Each one is a source of complexity, personality, and witty one-liners in epic quantities. The characters work great, and work great together.

In fact, the characters in Left 4 Dead worked so well that a lot of people got painfully attached to them—myself included. As the sequel drew nigh, my greatest concern wasn’t that the gameplay would be bad, because I knew it wouldn’t be, it was that the characters wouldn’t be as much fun as the old gang. If there’s something I’m trying to get across in my Cthulhu playthrough, it’s that sympathizing with your avatar is a big step towards getting into an FPS game. There were only very minor (alleged) differences between the first four survivors as far as actual gameplay went, but that didn’t stop people from bickering over who got to be Francis. They didn’t care whether it changed the mechanics of the game or not. They just liked knowing that when their character laughed, or grunted, or called for help, or announced the presence of guns, they’d do so with the voice and personality of an easygoing, sarcastic biker.

So, Left 4 Dead 2 has come out, and I’ve played it a lot. 35 hours, to be exact—paltry compared to the 135 I’ve spent on the first one thus far, but respectable nonetheless. I think I’ve gotten a good feel for the characters at this point. It’s hard not to—the characters have a lot more dialogue in the sequel than they did in the original, and play off each other a lot more frequently. Anyway, point is, I think I’m finally qualified to judge which game has the better cast.

Of course, I’m going to convey this judgment in the form of an arbitrary point-by-point comparison that pairs characters off against vaguely similar characters and makes a blanket statement as to which one is cooler. Then we’ll take a look at my results and judge which game is, by the laws of mathematics, better. Sounds absolutely foolproof, and not like at all like bait for a frankly Biblical flamewar that will require 24-7 maintenance to contain..

Before I begin, I want to make it entirely clear: though I am making judgments that some people might call subjective, this is in no way the case. It is an objective statement of fact, and I will not brook even the slightest dissent. If you disagree with one sentence of this post, you are stupid and probably a communist. I can’t imagine how anyone could possibly be so foolish as to not agree with some random guy with a WordPress account.

Now that we’ve established that, let’s dive right in.
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In a Hostile Country: The Saga of Cahmel (Let’s Play Morrowind, Part 33)

28 Jan

When we last left our hero, he was wandering the streets of Mournhold (Light, Magic, etc) and doing what he does best: solving other people’s problems, doing other people’s jobs, and getting bupley-squack as a result. Seems I got enough of that at home.

Actually, come to think of it, why did I come here, again?

Oh, right, because a Dark Brotherhood assassin tried to kill me. And…failed pretty badly. And in the process, gave me excellent and valuable gear. So, I guess I should do something about that? If I don’t go up against a fortress chock full of highly-trained assassins, I might get attacked by them one at a time in a time and place of my choosing, after a full night’s sleep.

Plus, there’s all kinds of new opportunities here in Mournhold (CoLCoM). I can pay exorbitant sums to babysit an NPC, or pay slightly less to babysit a disease-carrying rodent. And then there’s the…new…fashions? That are uniformly ugly and mustard-colored, and are covered completely by my armor anyway?

New flowers. Except I’m not an alchemist, and I’ve got a reputation to uphold Re: picking flowers anyway. Ever since rumors leaked out about the Crassius situation, I’ve kind of needed to run damage control on that sort of thing.

Oh! That short sword. The one I can’t use, and is too bank-breakingly valuable to sell at a respectful fraction of its price without resorting to massively broken vendors and questionably ethical trading practices.

Actually, come to think of it, why did I come here, again?

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Crossfire Tango, Part 24

26 Jan

The heavens were beginning to leak. Rain fell black and irregular, damping down the grit and the garbage and creating filthy rivulets to run into open gutters. It soaked Bruno’s fur, pulling him down, dragging at his limbs like weights. He ignored it. He pushed through and turned that weight into momentum.

The father followed behind, dead quiet, crowbar tucked under his jacket. He focused on running, stealing only fleeting glances at the charging silhouette before him.

The clock tower was barely visible through the rain and fog. Every step brought it closer.

In the stairwell, Striker and Worship stood alone, leaning against the walls and waiting. Muttering anxiously, Striker pulled one of his (remaining) pistols and popped the cylinder. He did a double-take. He crouched down into the flare light, squinting at the cylinder, whispering to himself. Then he tossed the gun aside, pulling out another, breaking it, pulling out another, breaking it…

“That son of a bitch! That cheeky son of a bitch! What the hell did he do with my ammo?”
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Crossfire Tango, Part 23

26 Jan

Worship was on the street when the lightning struck. For a moment, it threw the cracked façade of the clock tower into energized, vibrant brightness; then in an instant, the light and life left its face. Once more, it was dark and dead, a rotted spire of masonry piercing a stained heaven.

The double doors were large and cheap, and were unlocked. He opened them, started to enter, then hesitated, on the verge of shadow thick as smoke. He reached into his pocket, pulled out a match, and struck it…

He was facing down a half-dozen gun barrels.

Worship nearly dropped the match. The soldiers kept him in their sights, slightly gnarly expressions cold and disinterested. Just as he was about to speak, he heard a voice from behind their ranks say:

“No, no, don’t shoot him, he’s one of ours.”

Striker pushed past a pair of them. Smoothly, and without any embarrassment, the soldiers resumed a stance of attention. Striker shook his head, walking over to Worship.

“Glad you could join us there, preaches and cream. Don’t suppose you’ve seen Captain Hardcore Awesome Specialist Man anywhere?”

Worship shook his head. “Indeed not. I was far closer than he.”

“Great.” Striker moved to the door, glanced outside, and then shut it quickly. “You know what, he’s not going to get here before the enraged ape does, so we might as well get into position.” Striker motioned to the soldiers, and they stepped backwards further into the darkness of the clocktower’s lobby. “We’ll just let Spearhead know you’re here, eh? Make sure we know who’s where before the bullets start flying?”

“Indeed. For were not the hordes of the…”
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Random Art Interlude #32 (AKA Pretty Picture)

24 Jan

Paradoxically, the more work I have, the less time I have, the more I draw. I guess it’s my way of blowing off steam, but it doesn’t do wonders for my schedule.

Anyway, here’s this. As usual: don’t ask me what it is, don’t ask me why I drew it. The piece is somewhat interesting, as conventional wisdom has it that I don’t really draw girls. I do, but not as much as male characters, mostly because it’s easier to do a recognizably masculine face than a feminine one and I am nothing if not artistically lazy.

It’s not very polished, and the lineart is quite sloppy all around. Eh–it was a doodle. The day someone starts paying me for these is the day I go the extra mile and really clean up all the little glitches. Alternately, the day I draw something I really care about. Which has happened. Which, uh…what I mean to say is, it’s not every drawing…I mean, it needs to…what I’m trying to…

…I’m tired. Here is a picture.

There. Was that so hard?

 
 

The Week to Come

24 Jan

What with Vatsy and Bruno heating up at the speed of at the speed of reasonable plot progression, I’m probably going to try to get a pair of those out this week.  Considering that those are by far the most time consuming to produce, I’m in for a real fun week.

Anyway, as best as I can predict, this is what we’ve got.

  • Vatsy and Bruno
  • Vatsy and Bruno Also
  • More Adventures in Holding my Mourn
  • So Many Goddamned Fish Puns
  • Left 8 Dead

Fun Fact for the Week: Any college student who tells you that they work better under pressure is lying. In the case of all students, “better” is a euphemism for “only.”

 

Lord of the Scraps: Session Two, Part Three

24 Jan

(From now on, these D&D posts will try to skip over a little more in the interest of, you know, not doing these until I’m 65. Eventually, I’m going to try to cram entire sessions into 1 post. This may become easier as the sessions evolve. There’s a lot of wandering around and random conversations in the beginning, and then a little more of it much later on, but several of these sessions are mostly just combat punctuated by dialogue and planning.)

To recap: last entry, the players had offered to join Deathgrip as specialists. The local commanders were intrigued by the suggestion, and have ordered a colorful dwarven captain to evaluate their abilities and make a decision. He’s given them all a brief summary of the political situation, then hinted that they were about to get into some heavy violence.

The group is taken to an unoccupied (fallow) field. It’s getting later in the day. Crows are flying overhead, and the sound of labor is muted and distant here. The dwarf captain has brought with him a tall figure in a grey robe, their gait gangly and stumbling, their face covered by a long hood. There’s a suggestion of manacles or weights around their limbs, and they’re completely silent.

The commander folds his arms. “I am to be finding out how good you are, eh? How well you work as team. See if you are good as you think.”

He nudges the robed figure, hard. “Summoning six. Now!”

The robed figure winces, and raises its arms. There’s a burst of magic…

…and a massive, gnarled creature erupts into form before them.

He is gigantic, a leviathan sculpted from fat and muscle. He’s dressed only in belts of human skulls—some of which are still encrusted with rotted flesh. He has a single eye, shut, the lid scarred and mangled. He gropes about blindly, snarling and drooling, a massive tree trunk of a club in his fist.

Combat with the cyclops is lengthy and punishing. Dirk skirmishes with it, managing to avoid serious injury, with Kevin the dog nipping at the cyclops’ heels. The cyclops stomps on Kevin, injuring him severely. Eyda summons vines to entangle the creature’s legs, and finally, they bring it down. Its body dissolves at it’s returned to where it came from.

Defeating the cyclops turns out to only be the first half of their initiation. To work as a specialist, one need demonstrate good teamwork, but one must also prove their loyalty. With this in mind, they’d have to complete a simple trial mission before they would be officially welcomed into the rank and file.

They’re to follow a Deathgrip scout to the location of a gnomish encampment. Supposedly, inside the encampment is a piece of extremely important equipment that they are to appropriate and bring back. Any gnomes in the encampment are to be killed.

The scout turns out to be a thin, pale, taciturn fellow. He doesn’t actually say anything—he just stops occasionally to make sure the party’s following him, and occasionally will wait, eating an apple and watching their progress. Finally, he stops at the edge of the gorge, watching the party expectantly.

The stealthy members investigate ahead. They see several small tents, big enough for single gnomes, as well as a large one that could probably holds quite a few. Additionally, there’s a rather large object covered by the tarps. A few gnomish sentries patrol outside.

They devise a plan. The druid summons a badger, then casts a spell to make it appear that it’s on fire. The badger is sent into the middle of the camp, where it promptly draws the attention of every gnome in the camp.

…profit?

Several of the guards scramble over to it, calling to one of the tents. A gnome scrambles out—dressed not in armor and kit, but in civilian clothes and spectacles. He looks at the badger, balks, and begins shouting in alarm.

I’m still not exactly sure what the whole badger plan was meant to accomplish.

Anyway, the party attacks. The rogue leaps down, skewering one before the others can even pull their weapons. The fighter follows, hacking several gnomes to bits in one swing.

One soldier runs out of the tent, scrambling for the tarp. He’s shot down by Kelcinator, and a ring of keys tumbles out of his hand. Another soldier leaps desperately for them, and is skewered. The party rounds up the combatants quickly.

The doctor tries to run for it. Dirk cuts him down without a second thought.

A dead silence falls over the clearing. A few members of the party move over to the tarp, whipping it off—underneath is a massive, armored, troop-carrying truck.

Dirk moves into the big tent. Inside are at least a dozen terrified gnomish civilians.

They’re unarmed, dressed as laborers, farmers, and mechanics. As soon as Dirk enters, they edge away nervously, speaking to him in gnomish. He speaks the language, and gives them a few empty placations. The party hesitates, not quite knowing what to do.

Meanwhile, Roberto peeks into the last of the small tents. In it, he finds a gnomish woman, huddled in the back, rocking back and forth and sobbing.

He leaves the tent, unsteadily, and rejoins the others.

The party debates, and decides to ask the scout what to do about the innocent gnomes. As Kelcinator treks back up the cliffside, Dirk asks Roberto if there was anyone in the tents.

Roberto hesitates. “No,” he says.

Kelcinator reaches the scout. “There are a bunch of gnome civilians down there. Do you want to take them as prisoners, or…?”

The scout takes another bite of his apple. “Just kill them.”

Kelcinator relays this message. Dirk shrugs and draws his sword.

Roberto stands aside, conflicted. After a minute, he draws his knife and re-enters the last tent. He walks out a moment later, his expression distant.

Seventeen gnomes are killed. Of those seventeen, five were combatants.

Well, they did say they wanted to be soldiers. Unfortunately, it turns out that war really sucks.

 

Clod of Cthulhu: Intro to Innsmo

21 Jan

When we last left our hero, he had…jeez. Oh, wow. With the running into a building full of…and then the…and the portal to…Christ.

Oh, wow. Did I really…and then…and…

Wow.

Okay, short version is, our hero has shown an amazing aptitude for putting himself in danger, getting people killed, and screwing with things he has no business screwing with. If you asked this guy to crack down on drug trafficking, he’d find an illicit warehouse, run in, talk to every drug dealer he saw, then start grabbing random substances and injecting them into himself. It’s like a LucasArts adventure game, only in first person and played deadly straight.
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