Sunday, 28 February 2010

Of Steam, Steel and Murder

A little delayed, but we have another game! We get launched in the bigger arc, with so much going on that it took me a while to realise we have no mission!

Which isn't to say that there's nothing going on. Big events are happening, and big players are getting involved. Like, head of everything big.

Still, there's always time for fisticuffs...

Behold, Game 8.


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Literal Music Videos

I'm sure I've posted before on the start of this, but events have moved on as the meme has taken off.

The basic idea: take a music video, and have the song instead describe what's going on, on screen.

It was kicked off with Take On Me and Head Over Heels. Classic stuff!

Other people have taken it up. Look up "literal music video" on YouTube and waste many, many hours (as often happens on YouTube... sometimes due to waiting for the video to download! Zing!).

As with anything, some are good, some are... not. Ones to check out: Total Eclipse of the Heart. White Wedding. Anything for Love. Sweet Dreams. Safety Dance. Even Madonna: Like A Prayer (at least, it got good ratings. I don't speak... um, not even sure of the language, so can't give my own comment on it).

Many, many more, with a lot I haven't seen. Report ones you like in the comments!


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Thursday, 25 February 2010

What I Do Play

So I've said I don't play RPG style computer games, but I do play some games. The basic version is that I like me some puzzle games. The sort of thing where I can think about it, try a few different combinations, and, more importantly, don't get adversely penalised for getting it wrong, that's what I go for.

A good example is Electric Box. In the vein of The Incredible Machine, you have to put the puzzle pieces in the right place in order for the whole to work. Note that there is a range of games like this. Something like Fantastic Contraption may seem the same, but the answer is vague and can depend on putting the thing in exactly the right place and getting all angles right and... argh! Too finicky! I don't care!

But this also demonstrates a general style of game I like to play: Flash Games! Some say they aren't real games, but for me the casual aspect and not huge gameplay is a plus. Which isn't to say that some Flash Games can get really long and involved. I like Kongregate (which has badges!) and Armor Games as sites to get games. The Escapist's Alt-Escape highlights a casual game each week, so is also good to monitor.

Larger scale, I need to get back to playing Machinarium. I did have to look up one thing (I had gotten close, but hadn't quite got it), but otherwise am going entirely on thought... and some times I've had to have a really long think to get past certain puzzles (getting the dog was very tricky, can't remember the answer now). The main thing: it has puzzles, and you can't screw things up so badly you can't continue the game. Yep, that works for me.

Another game I have somewhere is Pandora's Box, the big thing about that is that it was developed by Alexey Pajitnov (I dare you to name what he's famous for without looking him up). That had some fun games, but also really tough ones. In that, there were definite bonuses for completing quickly, otherwise you had to do more puzzles. The Slices game (I think), where you had slices of a picture that you had to put back together (like it had been shredded) could get really bogged down as you tried to find exactly where the piece goes...

Anyway, that's the style of game I go for. Any games in this genre stand out for you?


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Wednesday, 24 February 2010

War on Scales 5

After getting to Overlook, we find out that the Orcs from the other side of the mountain (in an area called 'Orc Country'... could be something in that name, but I'm not quite sure) are getting through. However, they aren't going through the main pass, so the mountain is leaky! We get assigned a Dwarven monastery to investigate.

When we get there, the first clue that we are on the right track is the orcish chanting we hear while approaching the courtyard. Yep. There be orcs. Bah, what problem to us? We head in and start smacking... except we don't target the main baddies which come up and gank me! I try to get away, then the other orcs surround me and gank me harder! Cleric, heal thyself! I'm in trouble! Fortunately, I am able to get us some resistance, but that's not something I can do often. (About, say, once a day.) If we need that ability later well... we'd better not. Although there is some issue, we do clear the area.

Inside is a large room, some form of church area, where there are pews, an orc witch and lots of newly dead dwarven bodies. We move in, snipers appear, then the assassin one-shot kills the witch. Hah! Orcs spill in from down below, and I steal-kill nearly everyone else left in the room. That's just funny!

Down below, there's a large Dwarf statue, and more orcs and orcish type creatures. They give the Warforged a run for his money, and task me with my healing abilities (I'm tapped by the end). It's amazing just how random these fights end out.

Heading on, we come across a set of stairways leading down with orcs heading up. We set an ambush, hit them hard, and the assassin still goes down, almost but not quite permanently. Fortunately, I'm good at what I do, and what I do is get my compatriots back on their feet. We lay the smack down (and the Warforged gets smacked himself a fair bit), and the last opponent makes good friends with the ground.

We head down and find a large cavern with lots of orcs, one large one who is beating up on a dwarf. We get ready to head in... (and may suddenly find ourselves with reinforcements, we shall see...)


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Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Electronic Pen and Paper

It has been pointed out that I do a few RPG games, D&D, Shadowrun, FUDGE... but what of the electronic versions? What of Baldur's Gate? Morrowind? Dragon Age? World of Warcraft? (And there is a really good reason to join WoW.)

The short answer is... No. But since that makes for a short post, here's the longer answer. There are a number of factors...

Time Sink. It takes time to play these things. I have a lot of podcasts and other audio, DVDs and another videos, books and another visuals... I don't have time for those! (I am trying to cut back on DVDs just because I have so many, but am still getting more!)

Money Sink. It costs, too! Dragon Age: Origins is... $90. For that I could get two seasons of something. Which links back into time sink, what is a better time/money investment? Two full seasons is... 30 or so hours. Dragon Age... could entirely vary, depending on how well one does goes after the main quest, or tries to complete all the side quests, etc, etc. I've heard time lengths of 100 hours. Looks like Dragon Age would win out there. However...

Combat. Most of these games comes down to 'beat this fight'. Um, yeah, not really interested. Doesn't help that I'm not that good at combat either if it involves "press this combination for SUPER DOOPER MASSIVE KILL THEM ALL combo, although one wrong press means you flail ineffectually". That doesn't excite me (partly because I'm not coordinated enough to be good). Alternatively, it's "press button to attack" and what happens is random aside from having to press the button. And a lot of games are just going from one combat to another (most MMORGs and many, many, many RPG games).

Story. I'm interested in the story, but have no interest in fighting through to find it. Fine, watching a movie, reading a book, etc., is far more passive, but the story unfolds. I'm not stuck trying to get past this boss fight, or trying to find Bob in the village, or whatever before I get to the next section of plot. Yes, I do cheat, but that's because I'm interested in the story, not in fighting the game (as opposed to fighting in the game) to get on with it.

Interaction. A really big factor... social! Bouncing off the wacky things other people come up with is emmensely fun! Even in combat, the weird things that can happen are beyond anything a computer experience could deliver.

DRM. I use a PC, do not have a console of any sort, and the tales I hear of SecuROM, online activation, limited installs, etc., etc., etc., do not inspire me to start installing.

I do have a number of games sitting in my drawer, but haven't played any of them recently. Not sure I can now. When I got them, Vista wasn't an option to be listed, and some games I did like (O.D.T.) wouldn't even play on XP.

Ultimately, I have other things to do.

But do you play?


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Monday, 22 February 2010

Running in Shadows

Nearly didn't make the start of the game. Buses packed and traffic stopped due to people coming back from the Run Around the Bays. No idea what announcements happened, but, hey, got to game.

A nice simple mission: extract someone. But then put them back. Without anyone noticing. Like some kind of extraordinary sleight of hand trick. Oh, and it's the head of a major corporation. Yeah, no problems there.

There are always several ways of doing these missions, and we have the knack of avoiding any combat whatsoever, and this was no different. We spent most of the time planning the mission and only about an hour actually undergoing it. Largely without issue... largely. (Really, the GM is far too nice to us.)

And now I'm one point off Initiation... one point! Ah well...


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The point of the car alarum is to alert the owner that something is going on with their car. One would think then, that the car owner would actually care if the alarm went of. Especially if it was HALF PAST THREE IN THE FRICKIN' MORNING!!!!

Otherwise, we're rooting for the burglers to get rid of the damn noisy thing...

On the other hand, it seems that only I noticed when it went off then... and also went it frequently went off over the next hours... I need my sleep back!


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Sunday, 21 February 2010

Placebos for everyone!

We ('we' being a vague general group of skeptics and scientists and careful minded folk) have known that placebos can have an actual effect. This has now been backed up by a new study. This isn't really that surprising. (I was thinking to think of a 'placebo study' joke about studying studies that produced no results... couldn't get it to work, so feel free to suggest your own.)

That there is a placebo effect at all means that any medical treatment needs to be compared to placebos in controlled trials to see if there is any actual impact outside of the placebo effect. This is the problem that many alternative medicines fail to pass (which leads to such things as 'even placebo acupuncture is as effective as real acupuncture!'... yes, but not in the way you are thinking). [As has been said before: what do we call alternative medicine that passes such trials? Medicine! If it provably works, it wouldn't be alternative.]

The results of this study suggest that the impact of placebos is stronger than thought before (a result revealed in the URL!). Human delusion is quite a powerful thing, and can lead to physiological changes. This has been seen in the trials mentioned above, but this study says 'it's better than we thought!'. If so (and one study does not a confirmed result make), then that power of mind over matter is something that needs to be examined. Perhaps 'good thoughts' will become part of a doctor's prescription...

...although I'm not sure how it will be delivered in some cases, especially for cynics like me. The real power of placebo is that you don't know you're being placeboed, but if these treatments become standard, and, more relevantly, known that this is what's happening... that's gonna be a toughie to pull off...

I am reminded of the Dilbert episode:
Dogbert: This'll cure you immediately.
Dilbert: Really? What is it?
Dogbert: A placebo.
Dilbert: A placebo? Now that you've told me it's a placebo, it's not gonna work.
Dogbert: It will if you think it will.
Dilbert: But I already know it's a placebo!
Dogbert: Maybe it isn't.
Dilbert: You just said it was!
Dogbert: That's precisely the power of the placebo.


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Saturday, 20 February 2010

Bring the Storm!

Another set of comic collections are about WUH! Particularly with the Avengers.

First up, we have the Kree/Skrull War. Although you'd be forgiven for realising there's a war on as it's mainly about Captain Mar-vell complaining about his life, and the Vision being a robot. What's that? The Avengers has people like Iron Man, Thor and Captain America in it? Not these Avengers! As far as that goes, these are the second stringer Avengers. In a war that's barely on the page. Bit of a let down really, but still a nicely produced collection, and it is referenced in...

Operation Galactic Storm! Now this is more like it! The Kree! The Shi'ar! Whoever they are! Yeah, never heard of them before, but they seem like people care about them. Moreover, these are the full set of Avengers, including the main Avengers we expect. More moreover, this is a two-volume set that includes all the comics involved (which spreads over half-a-dozen titles), some follow up issues, and the two-parter What If: The Avengers Lost Operation Galactic Storm? (Although, to be honest, I was never sure what exactly the "Galactic Storm" operation was. Was it the Avengers trying to stop the war? Was it one race's plan for beating on the other? No idea.)

I like reading about the big important events and, according to the PR, this is big and repercussiony. Great stuff!


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Friday, 19 February 2010

To Infinity And... Some Other Places!

I read comics. A lot of comics. Especially at the moment, where I've got this large stack to get through. Now, while I am more of a DC guy, I am enjoying Marvel collections at the moment.

One recent set of comics I highly recommend some works by Jim Starlin.

It starts with the Rebirth of Thanos, as kicked off in Silver Surfer. It has... surprise, surprise... the return of Thanos of Titan. While I have no idea who he is, he's a big powerful beasty and will be doing things cosmic. I like things cosmic. This collection includes the Thanos Quest, in which Thanos gets his hands on the Soul Gems, aka the Infinity Gems.

Which leads into The Infinity Gauntlet. This is the collection of works around the big fight with Thanos as he holds the Infinity Gauntlet and has more power than anyone in the universe. I won't give away the ending, but here's a hint: the Marvel universe isn't under his thrall. Some other comics might tie in, but not included here.

After the Gauntlet is The Infinity War in which the Magus goes for the gems. While this has all the comics of the mini-series, it also includes extra comics relating to Adam Warlock. However, the comics are in the back of the collection, so if you want to read in order, you have to flip back and forth.

It's not over, however, as the end of the above leads into The Infinity Crusade, which has more religious overtones. Whilst not featuring the Infinity Gems, this does have another cosmic source. And, this collection is a two-parter, and includes the additional comics that complete the story tie-in. All written by Starlin. Great stuff.

While that is a great set of stories, there is also The Infinity Abyss (good luck find a cheap copy of that!). It still entails cosmic happenings, and yet is a more personal and intimate tale (if that can be said of an adventure which goes outside of time and space). Again just the miniseries is collected, any additional comics are not included.

If there is another part of tale, I'm unaware of it, but I recommend these to anyone who wants great story-telling.


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Tuesday, 16 February 2010

I am the Wolfman, goo goo g'joob

Never saw the original, but it's not like this movie has never been redone in any form before. In this version, a scientist gets infected with a genetic retro-virus that is activated on receiving a specific amount of reflected sunlight and leads to fact-acting mutations...

Ha! Nah, just kidding. Guy gets bitten by wolf. Guy becomes a wolf. It's a classic tale of man getting in touch with his bestial side. This movie doesn't waste a lot of time on the plot, although there is some. But it's largely there as an excuse to get on with the wolf attack scenes, and that's what we came for.

While the plot is weak, the effects are strong. Rick Baker knows what he's doing, and this is the movie he's been waiting for. We've seen many werewolf movies, and seen much bad makeup, but this is excellent and the wolfman is completely believable (in so far as a wolfman can be believable). You, too, will believe that Benicio Del Toro needs a shave. There are a number of wolf attacks, and they're all good.

Anthony Hopkins, surprisingly, doesn't steal the movie away, and has a rather restrain presence. Hugo Weaving is clearly having fun and gets some of the best lines (although I would like to see a movie putting him up against Sam Neil, just to see how could out smarm the other...). Emily Blunt isn't that impressive as the forced love interest, and Art Malik has dignity the rest of the movie doesn't bother with (who needs dignity, we got wolfmen!).

This isn't a movie you have to see, but if you do then have expectations set suitably for the type of movie. Plot blah, wolfman thumbs up.


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Monday, 15 February 2010

Because song-mashing is fun!

I like me a good mash-up of music, which is why I like Osymyso. (And don't forget Pulzar.)

The other day, I caught the impressive music of Victor Mix. Check out his Audiophile. 260 samples mixed up and delivered in 33 minutes! I defy anyone to work out all of them

In the mean time, check out this great mash of epic memes from REPLAYING :the game:. (How many memes do you spot? And how many does this cause you to go look up?)


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Sunday, 14 February 2010

Because there's Nothing for Science to find

Recently on Close Up there was a piece between the skeptics (as represented by Vicki Hyde) and the homeopaths (represented by Mary Glasier). One comment made by Glasier is (paraphrasing) "Science can't find how homeopathy works".

That's right. It can't. Because, as I say in the title, there's nothing to find!

If there was something in the preparations, the 10:23 movement (overdosing on homeopathic pills) would have a serious problem. They didn't. Recently, the big paper they had on their side, the Wakefields paper, was retracted by the Lancet.

Interestingly, the homeopaths claim that medicine has to be tailored to the person. The skeptics have asked the Homeopathic Council to join them in asking that chemists do not sell homeopathic remedies, because it isn't tailored. Heh. Like to see that come to pass. :)

And before you say "What's the harm?"... here's the harm.


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Saturday, 13 February 2010

Dark of Edgeness

Mel Gibson has been off the screen for a while (as an actor), but I did see his last movie, and now I've seen this one. This movie has a few issues, relating to what the hell this movie is, genre-wise.

We all know the movie starts with Craven's daughter getting killed. And Craven feels sad about it. Yet this movie is not about Craven sitting there weeping, so somehow the movie has to move from being 'sad drama' to being 'action drama' or possibly thriller. There is a clear point where we switch from 'sad drama' and move into... and here's another problem. Action? No really. Here's a secret I'm revealing: action movie this ain't. I've seen action movies, and this isn't one. Thriller? Um... to be honest, it's not that thrilling either. Government/Conspirady? Lamely (see belwo). Let's just stick with 'drama' and hope people come to see it expecting an action movie.

Another issue is the plot. As in, there barely is one. We are presented with people mumbling in low tones as if what they have to say is dramatic, but there were many times when I was lost as to what was going on. But, unfortunately, there were many moments (often the same moment) where I didn't care. The big reveal of "something bad going on" was so incredibly facile that you wonder if the script writers even cared about coming up with something. "Let's rip off a TV series and see if we can remove anything interesting from it." Bad things happen, Mel Gibson uncovers it, people die... yeah, why did I go see this again?

Oh, for the drama moments of Craven caring about his daughter. To be honest, they are well acted scenes, and emotion is well conveyed without suggesting even slightly that it is anything more than grief (such as slipping into insanity - an otherwise easy choice) driving it. They were the most enjoyment parts of the film! Go on ya, Mel!

To say that I was bored would be to give a negative impression of this movie and suggest you shouldn't see it... I was bored.


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Friday, 12 February 2010


I was reading Stuff, as one does, and saw this article "Can you be bored to death?" It's about how boredom can be associated with other factors that lead to poor health and early death. Entirely possible.

However, something else occured to me as I read it. (The sad part is, I suspect others leapt to this connection without having recent reminders!) Recently, I've been watching a lot of Deep Space 9 episodes, and when I read this, I flashed back to In the Cards.

Allow me to quote: "Dr. Giger plans to use the supplies in the construction of his cellular regeneration and entertainment chamber – a device designed to keep the cells of the body from getting bored, thus prolonging life indefinitely."

...what? It's real? He was on to something? Dr. Crazy-Pants?

Worse... does this mean Star Trek is real? We can only hope not...

But, perhaps, we should be looking into building our own cellular regeneration and entertainment chambers...?


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Thursday, 11 February 2010


The latest direct-to-the-recycle-bin movie features large bugs. This movie takes a brave step of having the hero be unlikable, and implausible that he is able to step up to the bat to do anything at all to survive the post-apocalyptic bug world.

About five minutes into the movie the bugs strike and all of a sudden we switch to a world where slacker-boy is a hero, and he gains a group of people, each more incompetent than the last. Aside from the female lead, which is the only person worth rooting for in this movie. Why couldn't she have been the main lead? A far more interesting character than anyone else. Anyway, it's up to this ragtag group of heroes to defeat the bugs and revive the world. 'Cos that's a believable story.

Fine, some group of people were likely to accidentally stumble across the answer and deal with the bugs, but the people we are presented with are more likely to severely injure themselves in a garden implement accident than survive even one bug let alone a swarm. Sigh.

One measure of a movie is the names attached to it (although not always: who would have thought how big Evil Dead would have been way back when they were all unknowns?), and there are some really big names that... are nowhere to be seen. We do get Linda "Enterprise" Park, but the big draw would have to be Ray "Twin Peaks"/"Reaper" Wise. Now there's an entertaining man to watch! Now the two leads Chris Marquette and Brooke Nevin have substantial IMDB entries, but I'm not seeing anything that prompts memories of them. Yeah, big names...

But this movie is supposed to be about the bugs, and there are a lot of them. There are some compositing issues, but they are bugs and bugs have been done well before, so they mostly work.

Not a breakout hit, or even a rare treat. If you miss it, you aren't missing anything.


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Tuesday, 9 February 2010

How far can you go?

Okay, first there was the Discovery Channel video. Then the xkcd strip. Then there was the video of the strip...

(Find out who these people are.)


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Sunday, 7 February 2010

Of Steam, Steel and Murder

Game 7, and Gavin is obviously the Man in the Know. Dramatic narrative was obvious in some case, but there were aspects that were just more in Gavin's perview than others. What exactly is going on with him, then?


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Watch this Space!

By which I mean, watch the space above us... and the earth! Courtesy of NASA sticking a camera on the International Space Station and feeding it through, we can now sit at our computers and stare as the world goes by... from space! Woo!
(Currently going around, but again ultimately the BA again.) And they have other channels for the space nut.


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Saturday, 6 February 2010

Bruce's Juice Smackdown

From the Dragon's Den. Here's what not to do!

(Thanks to BA. Let's send this viral!)

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Friday, 5 February 2010

Dungeons and Chickens

The latest D&D play podcasts (featuring "celebrities") has been released... and it's people behind Robot Chicken! No, not Seth or Matthew, but Tom Root, Dan Milano and others. Check out the intro:

So far, there is Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. These are YouTube links, but if you sign up to the podcast, you can download them and see them in much bigger-vision!


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Wednesday, 3 February 2010


Hey, it's LittleBig Planet, the movie! At least, that's what the figures reminded me of. Never played that game... or seen the gameplay itself, but the art totally matches.

So, it's the Apocalypse and a lone band of heroes might unite to fight a final horror before the planet can be reclaimed... except that the heroes are these little puppet robot things (so cute!) and the big bad is something they do. But, unlike other movies where the hero does something stupid then angsts over it for another hour before finally confessing to his friends who shun him only to forgive him later (see, for example, the last animated movie I reviewed), this guy totally owns up straight away. 'My bad! Let's go defeat the thing!' I like that.

The puppets, as I said, are well done, and have this lovely hand crafted look to them. And the creatures are amazingly techno-cool as well. Huge plaudits to the designers here. The colour scheme is a little samey, we could do with mixing it up, but it is supposed to be after the downfall of the planet so it tonally correct. The vocal talent is a good mix and don't overwhelm the character, although at times one is going 'hey, that's Elijah Wood' more than 'hey, that's 9', but not all the time. The other voices I did recognise, but couldn't name names until the cast list.

Enjoyable movie, and definitely one to see on the big screen.


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Tuesday, 2 February 2010

What of the Year???

Okay... what's wrong with this picture? Beyonce won Song of the Year... for Single Ladies???? Okay, fine, it's a bouncy song, she's shaking her thang, not exactly a thought inspirer... but SONG OF THE YEAR??????? This is why I don't pay any attention to the charts any more... (at least she doesn't auto-tune...)

(And what's up with that cyber arm?)

Edit: Note, I'm not saying this ia bad song, simply that it's no 'Song of the Year'. Oh, and *snicker*:
Beyonce's Birdy Song


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Monday, 1 February 2010


Here's something you wouldn't expect from me: I agree with Jay-Z. Not about death threats, but that Auto-Tune shouldn't be used.

Now, it's not like people haven't played with their voices before. Check out Peter Frampton and, say, Cher. But then we have, as exhibit B... T-Pain.

Now, I've read various points of view, but what my major gripe with this is one basic fact.

Auto-Tune should not a career make.

The difference with Peter and Cher is that they have a perfectly good career with their natural voice and adding effects is merely a tweak to add on. But now, we are getting singers who are Auto-tuning themselves to cover a lack of talent. Or maybe not. Maybe they do have talent, but who can tell? Auto-tune is covering more than sins. It's a crutch that people are leaning on.

And then we kick it up a notch. We get people who think that putting a straight (non-music) video into a blender, then auto-tuning the soundtrack makes them into a musical genius. Hint: no, no it doesn't. Auto-tune is again used a crutch to pretend to have talent.

And yes, I am aware of various skeptical music videos featuring Carl Sagan, etc. I can understand their sentiment... but still not forgiving the Auto-tune use...


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