Rants tag

Rants, ruminations, and rambling remarks from my mad, muddled, meandering mind.

Monday, December 31, 2012

QOTD: an Iowa Cowboy

Jim Kirk is an Iowa cowboy with a penchant for turning no-win scenarios into I-win scenarios . . .
Emily Asher-Perrin discussing Star Trek: Generations almost two years ago.
This just struck me as an awesome description of Captain Kirk.
Chris Pine, just to annoy the purists.

An Unexpected Half-Assed Review: The Hobbit

So I went to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey this weekend and—unsurprisingly—loved it. I should think that if you enjoyed the Peter Jackson-helmed Lord of the Rings trilogy, you'll like The Hobbit. There has been some criticism of the length (and "padding") of the film, as well as the choice to film it at 48 frames per second (the current film standard being 24 fps). I didn't see the film in 3D, and the 2D format is not being presented at 48 fps, so I didn't experience the effects those people are complaining about, but more on that later.
I could go into detailed analysis about the parts of the movie or maybe how Jackson diverged from the original text, but that's really pointless. Suffice it to say that, while The Hobbit was a children's book written years before the LOTR trilogy, the film is neither strictly for children (rated PG-13, in fact) and it must tie in more closely to the LOTR films both in its atmosphere and in the lore it presents.

I wanted to get my review of Cloud Atlas the book to go with my review of Cloud Atlas the film before the end of the year, but I am not quite done with the book yet. Books are better in many ways, but I've learned that we often do book-based movies a disservice by comparing them so meticulously to their source material. We all imagine the stories of books in the theater of our mind, to which a film can never match up. Films are not books; they have different requirements for maintaining drama and inserting comic relief. It's a different medium with different rhythms and vocabulary. So it is with The Hobbit.
For those that feel the "extra stuff is just padding," I would say they haven't read the book (or at least not recently) nor do they understand how Jackson is trying to tie this trilogy in with the prior one. This is not simply an action movie, it is more like a historical drama (though more lighthearted in some respects.) This isn't Die Hard in Middle-earth. It's not simply about the action. I found the songs sung by the Dwarves, for instance, to be both powerful  dramatically and a glimpse into their "culture."

Martin Freeman is perfect as the in-slightly-over-his-head Bilbo Baggins, and Ian McKellan is always great as Gandalf. With such a huge ensemble, many of the Dwarves faded into the background a bit. But there were some stand-out performances from Ken Stott as the world weary adviser, Balin, James Nesbitt as the cheerfully morbid and suddenly wise Bofur, and of course Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield, a worthy successor to Viggo Mortensen's epic hero Aragorn.
The score helps tie the movie to the other trilogy as well, and hit just the right emotional notes, I think. Howard Shore has done another amazing job. WETA's special effects are seamless, at least at 24 fps, with highlights being the CGI Goblin King and ever more realistic Gollum. I would comment further, but I don't want to have even minor spoiler in this review.

24 FPS vs. HFR

This article discusses the issues with the higher frame rate (HFR). I find it particularly interesting, because we got a new LCD HD TV, and the first thing I noticed was the seemingly harsh lighting of every live action production we watch on it, a result of the 60 fps standard of high definition. Tim J. Smith, of Birkbeck University in London, was quoted in the article: "That's why people are calling it the soap opera effect or bad TV movie effect. Because that's what it looks like, what it reminds us of." That's exactly how I feel about HDTV, I equate that look with the low production values of soap operas and older BBC productions. My conclusion is that it's just something I'll have to get used to. We'll probably all get used to HFR in a way that many will never get used to pre-hologram 3D.

This 124th post of 2012 marks another minor milestone: double the number of IHTtS blog posts from 2011, slightly more than a post every three days on average. I also reached 10,000 hits in a 30-day window as of last Friday afternoon (28 Dec), though that number is lower now.

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Cinescape, 2012

I watched more movies this year than I had for at least couple prior and was pleasantly surprised at how many of these shots I recognized. I love the way film (and the music) swells with heroes overcoming the odds, finding love, etc. I wish I could figure out how to craft a story that inspires that reaction. Maybe it's because the medium of film is more immediate.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

QOTD: I do not dance for you . . .

So I can’t really choose between the two, and since it’s my blog I don’t have to.
~Syp, awarding his Flushies to the best new MMOs of 2012.
I really don't need to say more do I? Every year, it seems a new MMO catches my eye. This year, it was two. Our mission as gaming bloggers is to seek out innovation and fun. Well there it sits. Perhaps more than any other MMOs in recent memory, The Secret World and Guild Wars 2 are moving the genre forward. Neither is revolutionary, but the evolution is going well.

By the way, this post marks my 300th published, a goal I'd set for myself about mid-year. I'm also reaching more readers than ever, or at least more image hunters. Thanks for sticking with me. :)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

QOTD: To Pay or Not to Pay to Play

WoW kept me playing because I was paying for it. GW2 keeps me playing because I’m not.
~B.J.Keeton commenting at Game by Night blog.
I find myself with the same sentiment. When I first started playing MMOs, WoW was it, and I couldn't imagine playing more than one game like that. I was committed both by the subscription itself, and the feeling that I needed to get my money's worth. Over six years later, I find myself reluctant to commit financially and temporally to a game like that. I left off playing TSW because I didn't feel the subscription was worth the time I could commit each month. GW2 is perfect for that reluctance (as is TSW now), I can buy something in the cash shop if I think it's worth the money, but I'm not locked in.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Persistent, but Slowly Changing

One topic over which I sometimes differ with other MMO players is the idea of persistent worlds. Or rather, in what ways should the virtual worlds in MMOs should be both persistent and dynamic. The real world is not nearly as dynamic as people think it is, but neither is it static. Change happens slowly, like when you see new construction in your town. Quick, "dynamic" change in the real world is almost always catastrophic.
Coming along very nicely.
The above picture from Guild Wars 2 is a great example of the sort of thing I like to see in a virtual world. I noticed on a trip through the Grand Piazza of Lion's Arch that construction has begun on a replacement for the Lion's Court fountain destroyed by the Mad King around Halloween. I'm not sure when it started, but I am sure it will continue. Contrast that with the fallen statue of Danath Trollbane in Stormwind, still near the bottom of the moat over two years later. It is little details like this that ANet is getting just right.

Friday, December 21, 2012

My MMO History, Updated

I updated my MMO History page (is that cheating on a post?):

Guild Wars 2 is currently my main game. It's a ton of fun (the most important thing in a game), easy to jump into and play for a few minutes or a few hours. The game has a good skill/progression system, great graphics, plenty of lore, and just a touch of whimsy—without going overboard. My main, which I play with a character created by my lovely bride, Sctrz, is currently 72, eight levels away from the max of 80. I have several others that are lower levels.
I just picked up The Secret World again since it went sub-free. The "grimdark" atmosphere can be a little too much for constant play, but it's the smartest story and skill/ability system on the market, in my humble opinion. I currently have a couple toons in the Savage Coast area, and one in Blue Mountain.

I had a lot of fun with Star Wars: The Old Republic, from mid-December of 2011 into August of 2012 after pushing to achieve 50 (max level) and finish up the story on my Imperial Agent. I was initially very excited about the story-centric gameplay. The game has a lot going for it; but in the end, the way BioWare and EA have managed the game and community has left a bad taste in my mouth.

I loved Rift, playing regularly from the beta tests in January of 2011 through October of the same year, partnering in-game with my beloved Sctrz. I cannot say enough great things about this game, or the developer, Trion Worlds. It's not perfect, but the polish and responsiveness of the game and company are things other devs should aspire to. For reasons not really clear even to me or Sctrz, when our toons hit 50 (max level) the wind went out of our sails, and we really had no desire to continue playing the game.

I played World of Warcraft from June of 2006, when a friend got me hooked, until October of 2011. I have two level-80+ characters, plus many more lower-level ones. I tried the Pandaren starting area in the Mists of Pandaria expansion (in October, 2012), but got a "been there, done that" feeling from the experience.

I also played Star Trek Online from just after its release in February of 2010 until May of 2011. I tipped in a toe again in June of 2012, checking out the Duty Officer system and other developments to the game.

I have tried Lord of the Rings Online and Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures, but found them not my taste.

I need to update my character pages. Links above.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

NO SUB!! liminal Message

So it seems the hiatus I spoke of yesterday will be rather short lived. Karl, Hinageshi, and Samantha are rarin' to go. Much like Syp, I am doing a bit of a happy dance today. I just need to patch, which may take a while given that I went on a business trip this morning and have only a hotel connection. Which is also why I didn't scoop anyone on this.

I have said repeatedly that TSW's mechanics and skill/ability progression system is my personal favorite of all the games I've played. The grimdark meant I would only play occasionally and I couldn't justify the subscription when I was spending so much more time with the no-sub Guild Wars 2. There are a lot of other people who have said they'd play if it were sub free. Given that there don't seem to be any restrictions on non-subbers, only perks for those who are still paying monthly (or did lifetime subs), Funcom seems much wiser than EA/BioWare at this point.

As MMOGC pointed out, we've known Funcom had the infrastructure for F2P in place from the get-go. They tried subscriptions, and struggled for a couple months. Then came GW2, with its box-only pricing plan (with cash shop). It was only a matter of time, sez HZero. I think this may be the way to go for MMOs going forward. They need to have a plan for making their money from box sales and cash shops, not subscriptions. And I'm glad I haven't sprung for any lifetime subs (for STO, Rift, SWTOR, or TSW). I haven't played any of them for long enough to recoup the expense. As Arkenor has pointed out, lifetime subscriptions increasingly seem like a bad bet, even with perks given to lifers when the games go sub free. Now, paying a box price (dare I say, $60+) isn't too bad, if I play for a while.

I'll probably be running with the TSW branch of the Knights of Mercy on Monday nights; I wonder if Sctrz will want to join in.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The State of My Game: GW2

It's been a while since I reported on my my gaming activity, so I thought I'd do that today (lol, this is a gaming blog, after all). I continue my casual, but steady, march to 80 on Heide Uhrmacher, my Human Engineer in Guild Wars 2, alongside my lovely bride, Sctrz and her Human Ranger, Reina Echowald. I reached 66 last night, but have used transmutation stones to keep Heide in the Pirate garb you see above for about 20 levels now. I love the ability to keep a look I like; which—along with the dye system—allows me to maintain a fairly unique look. I love picking new random dyes and deciding whether to use them on this character, save them for later, or transfer them to another character, with a different color scheme. I'm also glad to not have a mask on anymore, which seemed to be the only choice for medium armor wearers throughout the early levels of the game.

One of the things that has slowed my leveling down is Structured PvP, which is the most fun I've had doing PvP in any game, but gives PvP points instead of XP. I'm like level 11 or something (Deer level), which is account wide. That is, no which character I play, I'm ranking up in sPvP.

After messing around with turrets for a while, I took the advice of a few people on Twitter and Bio Break and shifted to using Flamethrower almost exclusively. Apparently it's not too common, because I've had several people comment on my flamethrower or ask where I got the weapon, without knowing it is an Engineer kit skill. Just last night, I was able to maintain aggro on an elite jungle troll, while other players wore him down. I'm also improving my dodging and staying in motion to avoid damage. Members of KoM got together last night and took on some world dragons—massive events with dozens of players participating. Sctrz and I had a lot of fun doing a couple of them, and I'm glad we're finally getting into levels where we can participate more with the rest of the guild.
Last week, Maric (@PaganRites), one of the founders of Knights of Mercy, and I were discussing the fact that my lovely bride and I had reached the late 50s on our main characters, but had yet to go through even the first dungeon, Ascalonian Catacombs. He suggested we get some peeps together on Friday night, and that's exactly what we did. So on Friday evening, @sctrz and I traipsed over to the Charr starting area and joined Maric and @DeganIMC, with @seawhitten leading the way into the catacombs.

Since others have reviewed AC itself, let me just say I had a lot of fun. @seawhitten did a great job leading the group, and I'm not just saying that because she could probably rip me apart IRL. :P I had a lot of fun throwing boulders at the bosses. Anyway, this is us, I'll get input on characters' names from the krewe but here we are below: Eir Stegalkin (a major NPC), Degan(the short one), Destrominator (Seawhitten), Maric(the tall one), Heide(me), and Reina(Sctrz): Three Rangers, a Mesmer, and an Engineer.
For those who are curious, I would love to still be playing TSW. But alas, circumstances are such that Karl, Hinageshi, and Samantha are on indefinite hiatus.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

QOTD: Happy Blogoversary to Bio Break

I cannot write enough good things about Justin "Syp" Olivetti, though I have attempted to in the past. Anyway, it's the fourth blogoversary of Bio Break, Syp's general gaming blog.
Google now places this as the first result for anyone bored enough to search for “bio break.”  Not bad for one of the 20 worst business buzzwords, yes?
It's pretty awesome actually. Wait, did you do that search while not logged in, Syp?

P.S. This post also matches my record of YTD posts at 116, set my first year blogging.