Archive for April, 2010

The House of Bot Hates Mankind (Part 1 of 2)

29 Apr

The House of Bot Hates Mankind

To Mr. Gabe Newell, Esquire, KBE, Viscount,

Sir or madam, this is not the first time I have approached you on bent knees. It was scant months ago that I came to you with apologies for whichever of our sins—and there are so many to choose from–moved you to place a tank directly outside of our elevator. At the time, I was certain that this was an act of malice or retribution on your part, but recent events have caused me to question this assumption. While I do not put it beyond your capabilities—nay, your privilege—to anonymously screw players over from miles away, recent evidence has come to light that suggest another party may have been involved.

My analysis of the situation necessarily contains a critique, so let me begin by saying this: your game has an abundance of good qualities. The disc is clean and aesthetically pleasing, equally suitable for framing or use as a furniture mover. The box is spacious enough to comfortably house all but the fussiest of beetles. And it is immensely enjoyable to play with friends, easily preferable to pre-L4D2 lan parties where we would gather around and stare blankly at our desktops. It’s fast-paced, it promotes teamwork, and it’s just a blast to play. I would go so far as to say that it has only two faults:

1.)    The subversive pro-communist rhetoric found frequently in Ellis’ dialogue, and

2.)     The fact that the bots are dumber than a sack of pudding.

It is upon this last point that I have fixated, to a mildly worrying extent.

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JibSkarn Character Sketches

27 Apr

First final of the week is tomorrow, so you get an art update.

A while ago, Jibar and I did a non-filmed funsies run of SR2, starting from the beginning and going through the first few campaign missions. This meant making new characters, which, naturally, meant a contest to see who could come up with the most ludicrous and borderline-offensive character concept. The results were, well, a gay cockney hoodlum and a murderous effeminate Spanish emo kid. I’ll leave whose is whose as an exercise to the reader.

Click for larger.

Note: keep in mind that the character concepts developed as we started piling in-joke on in-joke–essentially, these are dribble sculptures of random nonsense. I shouldn’t think either of them could actually be construed as offensive, but if for some reason one of them rubs you the wrong way, just remember that neither of us took this very seriously and neither of us set out to make what we ended up with.


Clod of Cthulhu: Haunted Blandsion

27 Apr

When I last abandoned Jack, he was drafted into a raid he was unqualified for, on behalf of an agency he is not employed by, all for an employer who is a sadist and a blackmailer. The thought of just straight-up either refusing to do this or running far away does not appear to have occurred to him; I think the last thought that went through his head was about fudge, come to think of it.

To be fair, the overall density of stupid decisions does sort of take a dive for the next few hours. While he’s still sticking his nose in places where it doesn’t belong and picking fights he has no earthly right to win, this isn’t exactly unheard of behavior for an adventure/action game protagonist. Hell, for him, it’s practically the cautious, reserved approach—he may be intruding on nests of ancient horrors, but at least he’s not taking a nap once he gets there. Gameplay’s on the upswing too—there’s some good stealth and combat sequences here, and the levels are fun to explore. Quality is up, irritation is down, and I’m starting to once again be entertained.

Needless to say, I’m furious.

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State of the Skarn

25 Apr

Right, time to get down to business.

We’ve got some solid content coming down the tubes this week. Among other things: an(other) open letter to Gabe Newell, the first of the Fighter’s Guild quests, an entire chapter of CoC, and, oh yeah, little thing, hardly worth mentioning, the last Vatsy and Bruno serial update I may ever post. Most of this content is already half-written, so trust me–I’ll get it out the door.

The first Rutskarn-soiled episode of Spoiler Warning has been recorded, but it shouldn’t show up until early next week. I have to say, it was a hell of a lot of fun, although I tended to be a bit awkward and blabby in areas–something I’ll tighten up as the series progresses.

After getting my tablet hooked up again, I’ve been going on a bit of a drawing blitz. Most of the stuff I did wasn’t worth sharing, but you may see some of the other stuff later on. I also mailed in my column/article/whatever the heck for May’s issue of Diversion, which hopefully will end up coming out just a bit more punctually this time. I shouldn’t talk guff, since I was a little bit responsible for the delay the first time around, but no matter.

Comment of the week goes to Davie.

That is a pointy teacup.

What kind of teacup would you expect a pseudodaedric dandy to have, anyhow? Stick that in your anachronistic corn-cob pipe.

EDIT: Fair warning, comments veer towards the spoilerish for Vatsy and Bruno. If you haven’t read it, and want to once I finish it up, maybe give them a miss.


Vatsy and Bruno: Cover Concept

22 Apr

Since Vatsy and Bruno is about two entries away from being finished, I’m gearing up for one big Final Edit. This will compile the three stories into one big .pdf or Word Document, which I will then make available for download. It’ll take at least a month after I’ve formally completed the story to get it all properly edited–I’m planning to go on a plot-hole hunt, stitch the parts together a bit better, work on the pacing in some of my problem scenes, and go back and retcon a few minor details just to give the thing a bit of polish. Don’t worry, it won’t be that different, and I’m not about to go Lucas on you. Any changes I make will be for the good of the work as a whole.

Anyway, one big package needs one big cover. I’ve got a few busy concepts, but one that I just finished that I sort of like is this one:

Yeah. Again, this isn’t a finished product, and it’s not that colorful, but I find myself kind of liking it. The one problem is that it isn’t terribly eye-catching, so as far as drawing in readers it’s maybe not the most effective thing I could do. You can bet I’m going to be circulating this bad boy as far as I can across the internet, so I want something that’s visually hooking.

Eh, plenty of time to work on it before the final launch. Maybe I should actually, you know, finish the story before I worry about this.


Crossfire Tango, Part 33

22 Apr

The two men led Vatsy back through the main area, one walking on either side, moving fast, making Vatsy trot to keep up. Revolutionaries stared at him as he went by. He smiled distractedly at them; they took nervous sips of their coffees and liquors and glanced uncertainly at the two men. The men didn’t return their expressions, or indicate that anyone was watching at all. They just crossed the factory floor, reached the doors, and pushed their way outwards into the black storm raging outside.

The rain had grown twice as bitter as before, and the thunder had matched it. The cloud-smothered sky stretched out overhead like a puddle of spilled ink, pouring a torrent of cold rainfall onto the streets and turning them into trash-strewn rivers. Rain cascaded off the men’s raincoats in sheets; Vatsy was soaked anew, and the wind bit straight through his skin and nonexistent fat to scrape the last ounce of heat from his muscles.

The wind blew the rain so that the alleyways were more or less dry, save the overflow dripping from overhead gutters. The men leading Vatsy turned right into the alley by the factory, nudging Vatsy along with them.

Vatsy trotted ahead into the dark dryness, shivering so violently his teeth sounded like a shaken bag of nails. He glanced behind—the men were standing a half-dozen paces away. “So, we just wait here, then?”

Neither man responded.

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In a Hostile Country: The Saga of Cahmel (Let’s Play Morrowind, Part 44)

20 Apr

It’s Massive Essay Week, so until I turn it in Wednesday, posts will be a bit on the slim side.

When we last left our hero, he was locked in an epic battle with oh screw this.

Do you remember when Cahmel was a brave, trash-talking wrecking ball that took down anyone who got in his way and wouldn’t take any guff from fools? Me neither. That may be because of all the brain damage the past 3134 beatdowns have caused, or maybe I accidentally repressed all those memories along with the sexual harassment stuff. More likely, it’s because I’ve got the coolness factor of a middle-school math teacher, along with about half the fighting instinct and a quarter of the earning power.

Much as I’d like to take down Gaenor, I just don’t have the resources for it. In addition to decent weapons and armor, I’d need Contraesque fighting reflexes, improbable luck, the perseverance of Sisyphus, a tub of healing juice you could drown a giraffe in, and a game that wasn’t buggy beyond repair. Currently, I’ve got mediocre weapons and armor, the reflexes you’d need for a game of Dora the Explorer Drawing Pals, the luck of an Egyptian archaeologist who’s pissed off a gypsy, the perseverance of a toddler on crystal meth, a few homeopathic healing tonics that are probably more magnetic water than alchemy, and a game that was programmed by Bethesda Softworks. In other words: I’ve got a recipe for consistent, impressive failure, the kind you could sell tickets to.

So I’m not going to fight it anymore. I’m not going to fight him anymore. I’d call my stubbornness up to this point childish, except I’m pretty sure a seven-year-old girl would be more effective in this fight than I am. I’m just going to do the mature, reasoned, sensible thing and flee the city forever, never returning for any reason.

That’s right: no more Mournhold (Light, Magic, etc). I am blowing this place for good, and I am never looking back. So far the place has brought me nothing but heartache and misery—I’ve been conned into acting as decoy for an assassination attempt, I’ve witnessed the death of my greatest friend, I’ve witnessed the death of some other guy who I guess I was technically friends with or something, and now I’ve died a thousand deaths against some beggar with the mental stability of a coked-out wolverine. This town has been a year-round carnival of abuse and humiliation, and I’m getting out while I’ve still got my last shred of dignity.

Wait. No, false alarm, I lost that back when I got Crassius to promote me by taking off my doffing my quietly fashionable bug pants and doing a jig. Yeah, I think I’m actually in the negatives as far as dignity goes. Getting aced repeatedly by a Bosmer panhandler who is, in the process, denying me access to an entire district of the city? A district that would be necessary to complete the main quest? That’s elementary school bully territory. It doesn’t get more pathetic than this without direct intervention by an unsympathetic deity.

So, what now? First order of business: get back to the mainland. Second order of business: as much alcohol as logistics allows. Once those are attended to, it’s time to get back to work.

Fighters gonna fight, you see. I might be tired of this particular battle, but Cahmel can’t go more than a few days without hacking somebody’s extremities off or else he starts to get the twitches. I need to find a battle, but it has to be one that’s a proper challenge. And by that, I mean it has to be one that even I can win.


That's a 41-post callback, motherbotherers.

Next week: Just call me The Exterminator, because that sounds a lot cooler than Professional Rodent Duelist.


State of the Skarn

18 Apr

When we last left our intrepid blogwright, I was trying to implement a regimen to get back on the straight-and-narrow. It went acceptably, for a first week. I was pleased to find that I was capable of using my muscles without them snapping like chewing gum, and that jogging around for fifteen minutes produced only a mild, almost recreational heart attack. Maybe there’s something to this whole “exercising” thing after all. Wouldn’t be surprised if it caught on.

I already do get a bit of running in–I have a history of running to places even when I’m bang on time. This has gotten me many funny looks, and I’m not exactly sure why. Maybe it’s that Slackafornia has a deep-set tradition of not hurrying anywhere unless the space you are currently occupying is on fire, maybe it’s that I’m not wearing designer running shoes and a pair of $300 Gore-Sweat-Pro shorts that can wick up a spider’s tears from fifty yards away. Maybe it’s just that I run like a windmill falling down.

Anyway, usual stuff this week. I’ve already kicked you over to Diversion, so just scroll down a bit and you’ll get a linky there. Jibar promised he’d update again soon, so I’m going to use this space to guilt him into doing so. Guilt. Guilt.

Did a character sketch. Bit of a rush job, sorry. If you’d like, I can actually do you a colored version of this, but here’s the lineart.

Comment of the Week comes from bbot:

I read the Smiling Man’s dialogue in the G-Man’s voice. FYI.

Not because that’s how I wrote it, because it’s not, but because that’s how I’ll be reading it from now on. No matter what.



Clod of Cthlhu: Someone Set Us Up, The Bum

18 Apr

You know, Jack has a pretty poor track record as far as helping people goes. Jack’s very first mission was to help the police with a tense negotiation. A simple enough procedure—too simple for Jack’s tastes, apparently, because boring talking didn’t contain nearly enough opening a portal to madness for his refined tastes.

This fiasco concluded, he was asked to find a man named Robert Burnham and reunite him with his family. He was sought out specifically for this job, despite the fact that he doesn’t even take missing persons cases, because the father decided Jack was the only man who had a chance of rescuing his flesh and blood. This assumption is entirely correct, if by “rescue” you mean “get killed, and also get his girlfriend killed, and some random little girl, and her father, and a town drunk, and another woman.” This is a very selective interpretation of the word “helping,” and might be said–by linguistic purists–to be an entirely invalid one.

So, up until this point in the game, Jack’s been about as much help as colon cancer and is statistically more likely to kill you. So it really warms the cockles of my heart that I’m able to be of so much service to Hoover in these missions, running all of his errands flawlessly and succeeding where his highly-trained men failed. I guess the lessen here is that to access Jack’s hidden reserves of competence, you must first torture him for no reason and then threaten to ruin his life. All of the other saps he tried to help made the fatal flaw of being nice to him, trying to pay him, or trying to help him avoid meeting a gruesome fate at the hands of his enemies. If they’d just had the initiative to stick a hot iron into his nostril and threaten to punch him in the crotch every day for the rest of his life, they might still be alive right now.

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17 Apr

Got a Clod of Cthulhu coming up later tonight, but in the meantime, issue 3 of  Diversion Magazine is out. Go read it.

My article is not a subtle parody, but I will elucidate here nonetheless. While I celebrate the culture of snarking the internet has produced, and have produced many series ridiculing games and movies, I’m of the opinion that there’s a line you shouldn’t cross–there’s a border separating acceptable targets from innocent bystanders. When it’s a professional writer who’s received a paycheck for something that makes your brain curdle, that’s an acceptable target. When it’s some 12-year-old kid who likes Pokemon and wanted to write a story about it that other people can read, putting up a 20-minute-long video in which you compare his story to pig offal is the work of a colossal jackass.

On a lighter note: you may notice that Diversion is holding a contest, and this may fascinate you. You may be paralyzed by the idea that you might win something–that a thing or service that is not rightfully yours, currently, may be visited upon you if you exert some small effort. You may also realize that only like six other people read the magazine, so you’re almost guaranteed to win if you enter. That may be something you realize.

But then again, perhaps–and this is almost unthinkable, but it is possible–you hesitate. Perhaps you think to yourself, “Well, prizes are okay, if you’re into that sort of thing, but only one prize? Get that weak nonsense out of my face, yo. That’s at least one too few prizes for me to be bothering.” Sir and/or madame, I have exactly the thing to address your grievance, for I will stack prize on top of prize should you be the chosen one.

This sentence is included only to give visual balance to the article, because I know for a fact that you’ve all sprinted to your printers to begin passing out the fliers immediately.