Train Time

Posted in Baseless Musing on June 14, 2010 by Krazmaz

It could just be me, but I rather like time spent on trains.

The reasoning behind this probably does only apply to me, in retrospect, but goes something like follows:
- I don’t commute by train, so all of my trips are either to go do something sweet or to go home
- It’s immensely private owing to my choice of seat, travel time and plain old English reservation
- It gives me a slice of time that I truly have no control over and therefore am able to relax in. At home or anywhere else I know that there is probably something I should and could be doing but on a train I am busy traveling and have most options taken away from me. So I read. S’good times, to me.

But yeah, off to London tomorrow.

Calvin and Hobbes

Posted in Baseless Musing on June 14, 2010 by Krazmaz

So yes; I was at work the other day – working – and saw some guy wearing a bootleg Calvin shirt (which was French, of all things). This got me to thinking that I haven’t read any Calvin and Hobbes for some time now, which in retrsospect is something of a shame. I have rectified this now and feel the richer man for it.

You see, Calvin and Hobbes is not just good on a base, fundamental level but is also a pretty hefty part of my childhood and possibly an affecting influence on my growth as well. Or something. You get me.

Either way, I love it. I have maybe ten or so of the books – including two copies of the same one…I forget why – and about half of them are falling to pieces due to me reading them so much as a kid. Hell, one of them has literally fallen into two pieces. Cleanly down the spine, too; I guess I was pretty rough when I was a kid.

But the point is, these things are great, and coming back to them is great to. I was a dim kid, in my opinion, and while I lapped up the awesome drawings and general antics a few of the jokes I’m chuckling at now I remember distinctly not getting at the time. Frankly, I wonder how I went this long just leaving the books sitting there.

Shame on me!

On another note, Bill Watterson – who I finally saw a picture of; rather illusion shattering – gets half a thousand thumbs up from me for his principled stance on the licensing of his creation (not to mention the stips he made about the dispute, which amuse me).

Basically, there is no Calvin and Hobbes merchandise. I have – or had – a Calvin shirt somewhere (with swearing on it, of all things!) but it was a bootleg, like all Calvin and Hobbes merchandise. Bill Watterson never gave his permission for his work to be used by the syndicate for anything other than the strip, if you follow, which means that they weren’t able to churn out meaningless tat with Calvin and Hobbes smeared over it in and a shameless effort to gain more money for something they had little do with.

I may be a little biased here – being a man who writes…well…tripe, but still – but the fact Bill Watterson turned out what was probably quite hefty finanical returns in favour of maintaining the dignity of his work speaks volumes and the man is clearly a man of titantic conviction.

That could just be childhood rose-tinting, but I doubt it. The man seems pretty fucking solid.

Comfortably numb

Posted in Baseless Musing, Errors of the moment, Game talk on May 21, 2010 by Krazmaz

Life is a complicated mess, but if there’s one thing I know for sure it is that Painkiller is a sub-par game

Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t expecting amazement but I was at least expecting Serious Sam levels of slaughter and throughout this dribble you may find several unfair references to Serious Sam. Unfair because SS (unfortunate initials…I may stick with calling it Serious Sam) is a vastly superior game in almost every way.

In my opinion.

Also, as a brief aside, I do rather like the look of People Can Fly’s new game Bulletstorm and will follow it with interest. But for now, Painkiller is going to have an ire bath.

Painkiller, as a game in which you are entrusted to shoot many things, fails on numerous levels as a game where you shoot things. My mind is so aflame with its failure that I know not where to start. Well, as many journey’s start with a single step let’s start with walking: you are SLOW.

This may seem petty but this is supposed to be a fast-paced, frenetic kind of game and the protagonists’s pace just seems fractionally too slow. It feels like he’s walking around with two buckets of jelly attached to his feet. Of course, this is ludicrous as no-one with buckets on their feet could reach terminal velocity by bunny-hopping and this man can. In fact, hopping around like a maniac is possibly the only way to get some actual pace in the game.

And why do you need pace? Why, to go find monsters to shoot, of course. Now this is a large area, so let’s take things step by painfully slow step.

First up, the story is inconsequential. Blah blah hell shoot bang etc. Unimportant. What is important is how the story links in to ANYTHING you’re doing. Serious Sam had the story about you stopping some alien overlord by going back to a curiously unpopulated ancient egypt because aliens zzzz who cares. But at least the levels made sense! You start at one end of egypt and murder your way to the other. You follow a linear murder-path and the levels have descriptions (which you ignore; I mean really).

Painkiller’s first level – and I mean the first game, not Battle out of Hell; though the orphanage is…interesting – is in a graveyard. Why? Was that explained in the cutscene? Did you expect me to watch it? As it happens I think I have watched it and it is not explained why, after being hired as Heaven’s only hope again Hell, you’re dumped in a foggy graveyard armed with a glorified whisk and expected to kill skeletons.

And oh, you do kill a lot of skeletons. And witches. The first level has about three enemy types not including the boss; skeletones, tougher skeletons and witches. As I recall the first level of serious sam has maybe two or three variety of headless shooty dude, exploding headless dudes, biting one-eyed dudes and possibly something else. Variety is appreciated, guys.

As is more explanation. I know a lot of onus is placed on ‘brainless shooting’ but Painkiller is just ‘motivation-less shooting’. Yes, hell is bad, but what are these skeletons? Serious Sam has a whole little encyclopedia chip in your character’s head full of useless information about your enemies which at least gives you some purpose. Would it have been so hard to give the Painkiller guy some mystic tome that could say these skeleton were the Undying Legion of Kraxoth or something? Why should I shoot them? Just because they’re there? So is that gravestone!

And oh God the enemies don’t get much better. Fabulous designed and fully ragdolled yes, but dull and in many cases just stupid. Take the second level, where the bulk of your foes are large, axe-wielding monk-types. Daunting, no doubt, if you’re daunted by slow moving, unthreatening things for you to shoot but otherwise rather useless. My favourite part about them, however, is that they throw their axes at you. They only have one axe, however, and after they throw it they die. Who knew monks had so much in common with bees?

The weaponry of this game – much vaunted by some – I find underwhelming though this could possibly just be me. Hell, what am I saying, this is all me; let’s go nuts. The titular painkiller is pathetic and dropped from usage the moment (about five seconds in) that you acquire the shotgun; a weak gun that offers little satisfaction in the offing of bad guys. At one point in battle out of hell I stood, stock-still, with my finger on the mouse button while a screaming line of demonic children ran willingly into my rain of shot. A hero I was not.

And, more to the point, WHY WAS I SHOOTING DEMONIC CHILDREN IN A HELLISH ORPHANAGE?!

Ah but there are more guns beside; a stake gun that while powerful fires too slowly to be of much use against the games paltry hordes; the shuriken shooting lightning gun…thing that is basically a machinegun but…no, it’s a machinegun. Wihout enough ammo. The guns are functional. Not fun, but functional. Amazingly well designed, yes; they look a treat, but entertaining to use they are not. There’s not enough visceral feedback. Sometimes foes keel over, others they fly backwards and still other times they gib. There’s no connection to your actions. You could be somewhere else and they’d probably do that.

Hell, the monks are all up for killing themselves already.

I could go on. Bland levels (hey look, more hellish destruction! And grey!) – agreeably imaginative at times and with some nice touches – the INDESCRIBABLY ANNOYING soul-collecting aspect (seriously, why do they take so long to spawn?); the criteria to unlock the entirely superfluous cards (the requirements in the aforementioned orphanage level is to not get hit. You start the level with a melee weapon. Do you see the problem here? Yes I’m fully aware the painkiller has a ranged ability but seriously, if you’re contorting that much to earn this card what’s the point?) and more besides.

And yet, I’m still playing it. Heh, who would have thunk it?

Ah well, I’m probably wrong anyway. I just don’t get why it’s such a ‘cult classic’.

Nadir – The Flood

Posted in Baseless Musing, Errors of the moment, Game talk on April 23, 2010 by Krazmaz

Allow me to talk about games for a moment. Specifically Halo, and specifically why the Flood was the best in the Halo:CE.

Now initially I was going to try and write a longer thing about how everything to do with Halo story-wise was better in the first one but it got rambling and useless so instead let me focus entirely on the Flood; the biggest of the big enemies in the series as they are out to kill everyone and everything. Well, ‘kill’.

A wonderfully creepy enemy in theory the Flood is some kind of extra-galactic omni-parasite with an aim to consuming all life in the galaxy. A good concept; unreasoning, infinite in number and intent on thoroughly violating everything in your body in the process. Somthing no-one could sympathise with, and rightly so.

In the first game they appear suddenly and from nowhere and lead you on a panicked retreat through the facility you just worked your way deep into. Actually, the first time I saw them it took me a while to work out what they were (possessed bodies of elites and marines) but then I needed someone telling me that headcrab zombies were zombies, so maybe it’s just me. The level where they first appear is good as well; a slow burning, tension building level with surprisingly little fighting up until their appearences with lots of little touches designed to put you a little on edge. Very well done, if I do say so.

But yes, these snarling, clawing, leaping, shooting hyper-zombies of doom are a little on the intense side as there’s a lot of them, they’re fast, they’re tough, they shoot at you and they also thoroughly tear through all those nasty alien you’ve been being killed by this entire game. In short, a good relentlessly enemy. Then the Gravemind appeared in the second game.

Oh dear.

Again, this is a personal thing but it really did just add a voice and a face to an enemy that needed neither. The Flood don’t need a guiding intelligence to be scary, or if they do it doesn’t need to talk (and not in that weird rhythmic fashion that the Gravemind talks in!). Look at the ‘Hive Mind’ of the Tyranids, if you will, and see how just hinting at a nebulous, gestalt guiding force works just as well. It doesn’t need to interact with characters and in fact it’s far better if it doesn’t as then the enemy remains utterly different and therefore scarier. Having the gravemind yak on at you turns the flood from a terrifying, civilization destroying force to some guy with a deep voice sending his goons at you.

As a quick aside how rubbish were the Forerunners if they with the capability to construct whole ‘shield worlds’, rings that can kill everything in the galaxy (except the flood, somehow; probably a lore point I missed) and AI that scoffs at your armour by calling it sub-par were still killed off by the flood. I know the flood uses races technology and intelligene against them but seriously, Master Chief managed it by blowing something up. And his armour was only class two! Plus, why do sentinels suck so much? For machines made to contain and eliminate the flood they’re very bad at it. Grr, rage. I think this is just me venting my perenial greivance of “It’s hard to emphatise with allied characters if they’re rubbish”, best exemplified by the marines who I’d feel a lot more attached to IF THEY KILLED SOMETHING ONCE IN A WHILE. Grr, rage. Again.

But yes, the flood.

So where was I? Oh yes, in the first game an enemy with the briefest amount of explanation. Super parasite, yada yada, kill everything in the galaxy, blah blah blah, start the rings and the stop them. Huzzah! Sounds like a plan. So off you go through the Library and if you survive that without actually physically killing yourself then you find out the truth about the rings which is that they’re designed not to kill the flood but to starve them into dormancy by killing off the races they parasite on. A bit of stretch but go with it; it’s actually a pretty neat twist at the time, made all the better by 343 who I actually like in this game (which makes his ignominus transformation into ‘end boss’ in the third game all the more grating…).

So you finish the first game and the gravemind appears in the second one, as I said. It’s not that bad in the second; the flood loses a bit of its menace due to this big green geranium that talks to you about bollocks from time to time but it’s okay, they’re still quite scary. And hey! They take over that big Covenant city! Wow! Nasty stuff eh? Fine times.

Then the third game. Oh. Oh God. Oh God why.

By this point I really am venting but as a man who likes to write stories and who likes to read stories and who likes sci-fi what they did to a formerly scary thing is just painful to look at. The gravemind is still around but dear God this time is he a whiny, philosophical bitch. He’s forever going on about this and that and usually while taking control away from you. How Bungie thought that method of storytelling was good I will never know; probably the same way they thought anything the gravemind said in that game was deep and meaningful.

Gameplay-wise the flood is at it’s – nngghh – best in this game, but that doesn’t help much when they actually act as speakers for the gravemind to bitch at you. And the pure forms! Argh!

But yes, what’s my summation for this useless, insulting, subjctive rambling? The following; read it as my conclusion:

Enormous, planet and species consuming enemies are a staple of science fiction and with good reason; they present a great anatagonist for people to unite against and also form a magnificent enemy as they can be gleefully killed with no guilty feelings and also present a daunting task due to their infinite, ravenous nature. The flood did this very well before ‘purpose’ and ‘drive’ was forcefully shoved into their perfectly solid paradigm. Had they been left as an insaitiable, all-consuming parasite who could not be talked to in any way the game would have been better for it. I mentioned Tyranids and I mention them again; that’s a faceless, ever-hungry enemy I can run away from.

But then I don’t get paid millions of dollars to make smash-hit games, so I’m probably wrong.

Holy shit!

Posted in Holy shit! on April 6, 2010 by Krazmaz

This is some ‘Weekend at Bernie’s’ shit right here

Quick re-jig

Posted in Failures on April 5, 2010 by Krazmaz

I’m going to remove all the short stories from this blog, as what’s the point of having them here as well as the other place, eh?

I plan to overhaul this…I’m in the mood. FOR LOVE.

And hauling.

Angel of death

Posted in Baseless Musing, Game talk on April 5, 2010 by Krazmaz

So yeah, for no reason I blew money on a game called Legendary (a game I knew to be less than excellent; more fool me, eh?) and it’s furthered a little theory of mine. Well, two theories. Well, sort of.

The first is that in games and sometimes movies and maybe books…hell, just media in general…the protagonist is like some sort of Angel of Death. When they’re not actively bringing the death they carry it with them like a shroud. In Legendary, as the example, I keep running across people suffering from grevious wounds who choose the EXACT moment I show up to finally pop their clogs. It’s uncanny, and it keeps happening! It’s enough to depress a person.

The other thing is the theory I shall call the ‘I have no sympathy for the characters I run into because they die in five seconds’ theory; which is based around the principle that I have no sympathy for the characters I run into because they die in five seconds.

This happened in the new AVP game too, if I’m going to go for recent examples. You’re pottering along, being all protagonisty, when you run into a friendly person. They’re usually a bit rattled, which is fair enough, but you’re happy enough to finally have found a friend (and usually a friend with a gun, too).

Then they die. Pow, just like that. And this keeps happening. After the second or third time you barely stop to say hello and are deaf to their screams as they get killed in some contrived manner. In AVP there’s a marine who, if you don’t approach him, will happily shoot at unseen enemies forever while yelling at them. If you go up to him he will turn, surprised, and then seem overjoyed that another marine showed up. Then he gets killed.

In Legendary a police officer opened a door for me, we had a little chat, then he opened a shutter. A werewolf then killed him.

I know this sort of thing is supposed to show how serious any given situation is but it has no impact if you introduce people and then take them away in the same breath. Let a character run with you for five minutes, give them some fun dialogue, make the player like them THEN kill them. That’ll actually have an effect.

But that’s what I think…

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