Archive for September, 2011

Shooting Television

27 Sep

EDIT: No stream again–still looking into it. Apologies for the last week and a half, things have been pretty goddamned busy.

EDIT 2: Speaking of which, I promise I’ll work something out today, but I can’t see my way to a good post tonight. I’ll hit you after my classes tomorrow.

The following is a story I wrote for a class. This draft is a little rough, and there’s some profanity and slightly dodgy themes in it; other than that, I won’t preface it.

I’d blown the whistle on my supervisor because he was an asshole, and because he’d know it was me, and because once they transferred me out from under him he wouldn’t be able to do anything about it. That was all of my interest in the matter. It’s not like I gave a shit what he was using the holostudio for as long as he cleaned it up afterwards, and if the increased off-hours nanotraffic brought our profit margins down, I sure as hell wasn’t going to lose any sleep over it. My relationship with the network began and ended with my paycheck—barring the sort of low-level contempt anyone with a college education or a few brain cells gave them on general principle. HNT was dominated entirely by reality television these days, and a hundred years of pushing the boundaries of shock value and bad taste had left us with a programming block populated by living cartoon characters. It was a sort of running game among the casting crews to see who could get the most outrageous excuse for a human being onto the set—jackass DJs, jackass dilettantes, jackasses on welfare, jackasses on crystal meth, jackasses with elective nanosurgery, jackasses with spiked hair and genital piercings and tongues tattooed in languages they can’t even read. Casters were bizarrely proud of them, like big game hunters who’d just bagged twelve-foot tigers or rhinos with three horns.

The point I’m getting around to is that I had a pretty dim view of the people who cast these things, and when I got my reassignment tasksheet after the mandated one-week of paid vacation and found out I’d been promoted to Guy Who Casts These Things, I was less than thrilled. Especially when I looked in the pipeline and saw my first assignment was to pick a starting cast for the first season of Hot Target!, which I’d first heard about four months ago and had assumed would never make it into production. It’d had the stink of a fantasy project, of a fireworks show of cynicism and TV magic neither our audiences nor our legal team were ready for. Even after the Scope Act, assassins weren’t exactly respected members of society just yet, and dedicating an hour slot to them hunting down public enemies and separatists seemed like enough to alienate even our audiences. But no, apparently we’d already wheeled out a marketing blitz and put out the call for audition videos, which—as the brand spankin’ new Director of Desperate Fame Whores With Salon Haircuts—I was obligated to watch all of.

It took me a week to narrow the field down to ten people. They were the ones  that could confirm their work experience, put together a video that didn’t make me want to puke, and happened to fit our broad ethnic and demographic profiles. This was the process was the unpleasant part, but it was not the hard one. That would be the part that came next: flying out to each of those ten people, giving them the no-wrong-answers questionnaire, weeding out the ones that gave the wrong answers, and sorting out a time for all of them to be flown in so shooting could begin.

Don’t ask me whose job it was to cast the people getting shot at.

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A Word from Jibar, Eventually

24 Sep

Jibar, my many-times cohort, one-time spouse, two-timing bastard, and tea-timing jackass, wanted to come out and say a few words about Borderlands. As we have rarely found the time in our videos to discuss the intricacies of the mechanics, characters, story, and mission structure, he thought he would do so in writing and have me post it on the side. To this end, he entrusted me with a thoughtfully written several-page document that I almost instantly misplaced.

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The Cyrodiil Look: Cahmel’s New Travels (Let’s Play Oblivion, Part 25)

23 Sep

(FRAPs problems in general. No screens for the moment, I’ll get them in retroactively.)

When we last left our crafty hero, he’d just asked two witnesses where his target was before nipping past them and stabbing him to death. This takes care of the practical portion of my exam; Lucy’s apparently used the same asspull bullhonkey mechanics he used to ascertain when I killed the first guy to monitor my progress on the second, so all I needed to do was find a place to rest and he’d swing by. The nearest place to rest up is back in town, so I needed to get going if I was going to make it before…

Actually, hang on a tick. It occurred to me that technically speaking, I was in an inn. Assuming they weren’t subsisting off the ten-gold-per-day Roo-fee-o was giving them for his little paranoia tax—and if they were, then they were in for a rude upset—they probably had other rooms. Go to sleep as the only other guest of the hotel you just murdered a man in? Heck, why not? Even if someone made the jaunt down into stank-ass lonely-old-man-land, apparently desperate to find out what a deranged senior citizen would be doing that would cause him to miss breakfast, and even if they managed to conclude that the murder was committed by the shifty questions-asking heavily armed traveler that had visited the victim right around time of death, I wasn’t in any real danger of prosecution. If they lodged any formal accusations, I’d just hide the murder weapon somewhere. Like their kidneys.

So I bought the room, and…well, okay, technically speaking I attempted to buy the room, realized I didn’t have enough money on me to pay for the crappiest room not occupied by Tommy Wiseau, put up with the innkeeper openly mocking my poverty, sold him a few flowers I picked by the side of the road, and then bought the room. And then I settled down for a nap, and before you can say, “Was he seriously waiting just outside or does he really get some sort of broken teleportation power,” Lucy was all up in my personal space. Dude’s lucky I haven’t slept naked since the wasps-in-the-bedpan incident.

Let me translate this from emo poetry into English: I killed the dude thoroughly enough to merit entrance into the DB, and as such, I get to know the location of their hideout and the password to get me through their evil talking glowing door. First thing I need to do is hit Cheydinhal.

Cheydinhal’s one of my least favorite cities in the game. It mixes the irritating sprawled-like-a-dead-ox layout of bridged cities like Bravil with the sterile suburban aesthetic that’s at its worst in towns like Chorrol. There’s a quest in town related to corrupt taxation that’s more or less worth doing, but other than that, I can’t say I recall anything particularly nice or pleasant about being there. Even the NPCs are mostly surly and annoying there.

I find the spot indicated as the façade on the outside of the Dark Brotherhood’s sanctum. They’ve holed up the basement of an abandoned house–because apparently, they’re as thick as a swimming pool full of lard. Seriously, this is just about the worst possible place they could be hiding.

Let’s say you’re a citizen, or politician, in a town of maybe a hundred people maximum. That’s a couple dozen houses at any given time, with most of the land within the city walls already built upon and real estate at a relative premium. The house for sale in Cheydinhal definitely falls on the expensive side compared to houses available in, for example, Bravil and the Imperial City. Wouldn’t it behoove you to seize any abandoned property and resell it to an interested buyer? Or to renovate said property? Or, at the very least, to have someone poke their head in and take a look to see if there’s anything worth auctioning? It’s pretty well implied that any disinherited property goes into the hands of the local government, so there’s no reason that place should be an exception. And the minute anyone poked their head in, they’d find a glowing red evil door with a massive handprint on it that screams, “Check it out, this is the Big Evil Bastard clubhouse. Please alert the Imperial Guard and have them camp outside here, apprehending anyone stupid enough to stick their head out.”

What’s to stop that from happening? The door to the house is locked, but with an “easy” grade two-tumbler mechanism that slowed me down only the thirty seconds it took to buy a lockpick from the pawnshop. Once you’re inside, the Dark Brotherhood’s big scary obvious front door is pretty much right inside the basement—and before you make an excuse like, “Well, they obviously just kill anyone who comes near it if they’re not in the club,” that’s demonstrably not true. Even if you’re not even aware of the Dark Brotherhood questline, you can come down here as often as you like and nobody will ever treat you as a threat. You can picnic down here for hours, cheerfully reading by the glowing red light of the door, and nobody treats you like a threat. If the game gave you the very reasonable option to go downtown and report this place—you can argue all you like that people consider the DB a myth, but there’s no way the Legion would just ignore a big scary evil door in the middle of a populated area—then half the guild would be rumbled before the week was out. The only two exits to the hideout are that door and the nearby well, and neither would be an inconspicuous mode of egress for a glowing-armored assassin in a Hot Topic hood. Sure, the Guardsmen can’t get in the hideout, but they have the advantage of a steady supply of food and water. Eventually the assassins would be forced to make a break for it, and without spoiling the future of this quest line, let me just point out right now that these guys are by no means unkillable. A proportionate force would make cut them into hash.

In conclusion, this hideout is a.) very likely to be discovered, b.) a deathtrap the moment it is, and c.) cliché anyway. This is another example of the DB’s obsession with romanticism and gothic posturing getting in the way of their doing a good job. They were so wrapped up in getting a suitably dark, badass hideout that they didn’t consider getting an actual house.

Advantages of using the basement of a populated middle-class home as opposed to a rotting two-story:

1.)    City officials rarely poke their noses into private residences.

2.)    The coming and going of people would not be considered suspicious.

3.)    The use of a higher-quality lock wouldn’t attract any attention.

4.)    Just, less suspicious in general. If someone were to look through town for the location of a cabal of murderous assassins, they would be more likely to check the abandoned structures than some guy’s house.

5.)    Doesn’t smell like spider farts.

Yeah. This was going to be interesting.

Next: Cahmel’s first job! As in, his first assassination job, not his first regular-type job. He’s never had one of those.

 

Streamcap

23 Sep

Some of my Oblivion screenshots are really craptacular, and since this next part is pretty heavy on visuals, I’m gonna need to go back and get some new ones. I’ll re-shoot and post the thing after classes tomorrow. Right now, here’s another Dark Messiah streamcap:

(If the video’s dark, it’s still uploading)

In addition to the Oblivion, I’ll have something a little extra coming at you this afternoon. Stay tuned.

 

 
 

Streamwise Gamgee

21 Sep

There won’t be a stream today, but there will be a double-length (?) experimental one in the immediate future. Still weighing the options.

~45 minutes of Dark Messiah footage and a Cahmel post coming up tonight.

 
 

The Something New

19 Sep

The last couple times my stream failed (an increasingly common occurrence; see the post coming up this week), I killed my own and everyone else’s time with a little bit of CYOA–less succinctly known as Choose Your Own Adventure. What I’d do was post a setup in the form of text adventure-style expository text, solicit commands, and pick my favorite to drive the thing forward.* As a result, the game would progress forward in something approximating realtime. Anyway, this has seemed to go over well–and it’s fun to do–so I was thinking of making it a semi-regular event.

Question is: what’s the best way to do this? Since it’s based off of reader-submitted content, something that would allow a large amount of attendees would be ideal. Here’s a few important considerations:

1.) Needs to be easy for people to access.

2.) Should be easy to copy/paste the text into a post at a later date.

3.) Should be free.

4.) Should not be an Ernest Borgnine fansite.

5.) Shouldn’t require any complicated accounts to access or post on.

Other than that, I was going to ask for suggestions. LiveStream’s chat is a little glitchy and hard for me to save records of, and has ads besides, and also screw that site. Let’s constrain our list of potential websites to one that that kills fewer moments of pure joy than, for example, kitten SARS.

*Yeah, I know this is how MS Paint Adventures started. He wasn’t the first person to do it, and there’s no reason he ought to be the last–excellence notwithstanding.

EDIT: IRC seems to be gaining a lot of ground. I’ll look into it.

 

The Week to Come

18 Sep

Facts, as expressed in bullet pointilism:

    • This week’s updates will consist of more Dark Messiah footage, more Borderlands footage, more Dwarf Fortress, more Cahmel, something new, and the text immediately preceding and following this sentence. That sentence is not counted as content, for reasons I shan’t disclose. It knows what it did.
    • I am once again located, geographically, on campus. This is irrelevant to most people who are not me; if it was relevant to one of you, I would have very reasonable grounds to inquire as to why.
    • I’m going to try to fix my streaming capabilities. As such, there will be tests early this week that may or may not be invitational, and when Thursday rolls around, I can’t promise I’ll have anything for you. Extremities crossed.
    • Kennedy was actually assassinated by William Taft.
    • Now that I’ve told you that, he’s coming for me.
       
       

      The Cyrodiil Look: Cahmel’s New Travels (Let’s Play Oblivion, Part 24)

      15 Sep

      I love to see you go, but I hate to watch you leave.

      When we last left our cunning hero, he was on his way to perform an assassination pro bono because a strange man told him it was a good career move. Something to think about, isn’t it? I mean, I’m not implying that this whole ritualistic cult murder thing doesn’t seem legit—perish the thought—I’m just pointing out that I have to take it on some faith that once I’ve killed my target, I’m not going to get left out in the middle of the woods with no follow-up visit while Lucy heads back to his bosses and says, “What, Rufio? Yeah, I took care of him. No problem. Now, what are my next ten assignments?”

      The journey to the location is more or less uneventful. Funny thing about Oblivion is that half the time, traveling on the road seems to lead you to more areas of interest than wandering around off the beaten path. That might seem intuitive, at first—except that it means there’s a bunch of ruins that have been sitting around in heavily populated areas, bursting with ancient treasures, significant historical artifacts, and monsters poised within striking distance of main roads…for centuries. In a realm where the two most popular professions appear to be:

      1.)    Working for a guild centered around some genre of murder

      2.)    Hanging out in the woods, killing people and things, exchanging the loot for yarn and wooden spoons

      It’s the classic Fallout problem of, “Why hasn’t someone been to this supermarket full of perfectly good food and drugs in two hundred years, when it’s right next to a settlement with no obvious food source?” When combined with the level scaling, which warps every living creature in the realm to however good you are at violence, it kinda ruins the illusion that the world is their for anyone’s benefit but yours. You get the vague sense that NPCs sit around town smoking cigarettes when you’re not there, and all scramble back into costume when they see you riding over the horizon—proudly brandishing the goodie bag they’d left for you in one of their vast, gloomy activity centers.

      Morrowind didn’t really have this problem. This was partially because the roads were generally winding, unclear, badly labeled, and dangerous enough that you generally just wanted to use the fast travel. This was partially because the enemies were not level scaled, and after the sixth or seventh time you got your ass fried for getting to close to Asharganafukuwup, you got a sense of why people steered clear. It didn’t matter that you’d eventually be able to level up and take the place on—hell, that’s what made it feel great when you did. It was like, “I, Outlander O’Utlander, am the only jerky-gnawing enchant-abusing mark-recalling wrecking crew who is a bad enough dude to clear this place out, and dammit, I had to work to get that way.” That worked for the higher level places, anyway–and generally, the low-level areas would be quaint, easy-to-miss cave doors, either temporarily occupied by banditos or crewed by ancestral spirits and skeletons the natives would have compunctions about messing with.

      Whereas in Oblivion, it seems like half the dungeons have obvious superstructures that can be easily seen from the main trade roads—broadcasting an invitation to all potential looters/archeologists/mages looking to stomp necromancers unmentionables. And since you know you can take on any one of these dungeons at any time, it becomes harder for you to see why anyone else wouldn’t—especially when you’re first level, and every undead, goblin, bandit, and necromancer has the striking power of a hair dryer and the structural integrity of a baking soufflé.

      Anyway, the point—which I think I dropped behind the seat cushion three or four paragraphs ago—was that a lot of major dungeons are clustered along the road, and if you walk off the road, you might go some distance without bumping into one. It does partially depend on where you are, and how straightforward your path is, and how unlucky you are, and whether or not you can read the compass properly. In my case–apart from a little shrine where you can give yourself a temporary piece of armor that looks silly and is of debatable application, much like those rub-on tattoos of dolphins and M&Ms you can buy at pizza joints—I bumped into buck all on my journey to the Inn of Ill Omen. Which is just as well, I suppose. It meant I’d be able to save my strength and wits for the job, which I already got the feeling was going to be tricky.

      Okay, take it easy. What you’re about to do is gain access to the room of a man so paranoid, he’s holed up alone in the middle of nowhere, and kill him without attracting the attention of any guards, or private henchmen, or bystanders. This is obviously going to take a certain amount of finesse. Approach this as you would any treacherous and multifaceted mental exercise: methodically.

      Step one was to find Rufio’s exact location. That meant worming it out of the proprietor. The proprietor was a calm, guarded man—easy of disposition, but with an air of worldliness and caution that instantly put me on my guard. He looked at me, and his expression was nothing but smiles and good old folksy hospitality, and I knew that he could smell what I was. The moment the door swung open, the stink of my sins and deceit reached him, and he withdrew into his fortress and barred the gates. This man didn’t just roll off the turnip cart. He was a worthy opponent. Getting this information out of him would be my first test.

      I walked up to the bar and ordered myself a drink. He served it up on the bar, a midrange Surille’s of adequate vintage. I thumbed the cork open, took a long, casual sip of wine, and opened with: “Nice weather we’ve been having.”

      “Sure is.”

      “Where’s Rufio?”

      “Down that trapdoor. End of the hallway, first left. Door’s unlocked.”

      “Thanks.”

      “No problem.”

      "Heya. How've you been? Name's Cahmel. C-A-H-M-E-L. If some guards come through here asking who killed Rufio, could you be a dear and let them know it was me? Only sometimes, I forget to leave a note."

      Like a shadow, I walked across the well-lit barroom, nodding politely at the other patrons, and climbed the ladder downstairs.

      Rufio was, as the bartender had promised, down the ladder—waiting for the end of his life to come, borne by me on semiswift wings. Perhaps the only way to give you an accurate impression of the chaotic, blood-pounding, tooth-and-nail battle that followed is by sharing the following pictures with you:

      Well, that was a close one. I was dangerously close to falling asleep myself.

       

       

       

       

      Streamcap, Part 2

      14 Sep

      I’ve got a lot of raw footage to churn through, so I might as well start uploading it. Going forward, I’ll probably just post when I’ve got several of these to upload.

      More good news: after a slight misstep, I’m caught up on my gameplay buffer, which means more DF and Cahmel coming up. Stay tuned.

       
       

      Messiah? I hardly knew ‘er

      12 Sep

      EDIT: It’s being processed, but the first ~30 minutes will appear right here.

      It’s been on my priorities list for a while now to upload my massive backlog of FRAPsed Messiah footage, especially since the most recent stream–and a few others, historically–have verged on the laggish. Part of the reason I’ve been deadlocked is that I’m not sure how to handle the footage from the first few chapters.

      See, I’d be uploading it largely for perusal by those who weren’t there during the streams. So it seems fairest to give people the original video footage, complete with embedded comment thread, so they can get the same experience as everyone else. Only thing is, the audio balance on the earliest videos–call it the first few uploaded chunks–is a bit on the warped side. The commentary is suppressed, and occasionally eclipsed, by the game audio. It’s not a deal-breaker, and it’s at its most obtrusive during infrequent peaks–e.g., the odd cutscene, the part where the cyclops roars–but it might prove annoying for some.

      I can take the time to do what I did for the first uploaded video, namely re-recording it, but I can’t help but feel I’d be depriving viewers of the original experience. I have no idea what people would prefer–technically, of course, all the original records can be found on my Livestream channel, but the video quality is terrible, the video streaming experience is unpleasant, and there are interrupting video ads that lately have literally been written to annoy to the viewer. I’m looking at you, “Check it out, I’m a puppet who’s turning up the bass on this car stereo to willfully obnoxious levels! It’s like you’re actually stuck next to a buzzcutt douchebag high schooler at the intersection!”

      So I’m pitching it to you guys. Would you prefer I upload the original footage, or would you prefer I re-record at a better audio level? Either way, I’ll turn it around and upload it tonight.