Tag Archives: video games

Once more unto the breach…

Making a habit out of this is harder than I ever give it credit. I want to write. I have the ambition to. I even have the motivation. But then other things distract me, like video games, or… working out. So I end up… not. It does give me good fodder for updates though.

So it’s been… nearly five months since my last post. Since then I’ve dropped “several” pounds (30 or so), played some video games, written some stuff and, in general, been a very busy boy. I proposed to my then girlfriend, now fiancee, and Christmas has occurred. A busy time for all, and no time for anything.

This, of course, doesn’t make me special, or stand out from any of the hundreds of thousands of other people who did probably much of the same over that time period. However, it does mark several momentous occasions in my life – notably the proposal. Of course, it would have been far more interesting if I had updated here around the time that had happened (Halloween, for reference), but again – busy.

So the question is… why am I updating now?
Good question.

The answer, I guess, is because I want to. I want to write more, I really do. I just always get sidetracked. I sit here waiting for a scheduled Google+ Hangout with a group of friends from an online forum and I was thinking “Hey, now’s a good time to knock out a blog post.” And I was right, it is. But what to say…

I recently beat Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, which was an excellent game. I’m looking forward to picking up the… third in the series? Lords of Shadow 2 when it comes out next month (Note: I probably won’t get it next month). Yes, “2” is the third in the series. A Nintendo 3DS game, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate, is the direct sequel to the first title, and it was released for the Xbox Arcade in October. So I’ll play that next.

The game relaunches the Castlevania franchise with a new storyline and approach to the classic series. I appreciated what was changed with the game, what was kept, and how subtle nuances that made it feel like a Castlevania game were worked in. The biggest change… “feel-wise” for me was the music. The Castlevania games have always had amazing soundtracks, and this title was no exception, but none of the classic songs were there, like “Vampire Killer” or “Bloody Tears.” They were missed, but I enjoyed the game’s soundtrack nonetheless. Mechanically, it felt much like playing the Playstation 2 Castlevania titles, but more polished. Overall I’d give the game a solid 8/10.

Since then, I’ve started playing Dishonored, which is fantastic so far.

Other than that (and the proposal) life has been… normal. Work, food, gym. I just got over debilitating illness – my first in a year – and my stomach is still touchy about what I put in it, but all in all things are looking good. Band stuff has been steady, the Call of Cthulhu game I run has been good. All in all times are good. And I’m not even waiting for the other shoe to drop… what has become of me?

Look for another update this weekend, hopefully… and more time in the future. For now, I go to listen to music, prepare for the Hangout and dream of dark skies and madness.

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World War Z – No Longer an Oral History…

World War ZIn 2007, Plan B Entertainment (the production company owned by Brad Pitt) acquired the rights make a movie of (the sequel to) the book that one could argue ably say returned zombie to popularity in 2003. World War Z. Long time fans were excited. New zombie minions groaned with anticipation. And then we heard very little. For a while. Then we heard about early leaks of the script, which all looked promising. Faithful to the book. Starring Brad Pitt, which is never usually a bad thing. Excitement abounds! Then Paramount brought another writer in to rework the script. And that’s when things started going downhill.

Paramount, in a press release earlier this month laid down the plot outline for the World War Z movie, slated to be released in December, 2012. And it’s not the book. It’s barely related to the book. Infact, I’m not even sure I recognize any of the character names from the announced characters. Any many, many fans are unhappy about this. I have yet to hear rumors of boycotts, but I’m sure it will happen. You see, fanatics are a fickle group of people. They like things to be exactly the way they want them to be. It’s a slippery slope movie companies have to climb when making an adaptation. On one hand they want to remain faithful (hopefully) to the source material. This makes the fans of the original work happy, as well as the creator of the original work. On the other hand, they want to make money. This is kind of the point of backing a movie (sadly). And when you a cater a movie to the people who were fans of the idea in the first place, you tend to alienate everyone else. So they have to change things to try and make a movie with broader appeal. Sadly – this is difficult to balance, and most production companies lean more towards money making than remaining faithful. So we get movies like World War Z, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (which I still like), and… anything by Uwe Boll based off a video game

Bloodrayne Movie

Really? Ben Kingsley, you should be ashamed. Actually... you all should...

But, returning to World War Z… You take a book that is originally a “Oral History” of the zombie wars… with a interviewer meeting with various people discussing the actions they took and things they witnessed during this zombie war… and you collect these stories into a narrative. Excellent premise, great result. Now take World War Z the movie – A UN representative racing against the clock to stop the zombie pandemic from destroying the world. Stereotypical zombie movie. Guaranteed to fill the box office (if people aren’t sick of zombie movies by now). And also a stereotypical action/thriller. Nothing new, nothing innovative. Boring premise, great result (if the only result you’re looking for in ticket sales). So the original fans get screwed.

RedNow… obviously this doesn’t mean the movie will be bad. Many great movies are based off of other media and make drastic changes to the source material. Just look at Red, a movie based off Warren Ellis’ short comic. They had to make changes and add material because the comic was a oneshot… there wasn’t enough material to base an entire movie off of. But they did a fantastic job and made a good, enjoyable movie, that remained faithful to the feel of the comic. And of course there are others. But with a book like World War Z, which is a best-selling novel and has garnered thousands, if not millions, of fans – why deviate? The book is already an amazing tale with a strong fan base, why change things? Well – movies are of course a drastically different animal than books. It’s easy to be entertained by a book about someone interviewing people. In a movie though… that’s about an hour and a half of two guys sitting in a chair talking. I wouldn’t really mind that… but a lot of people would.

So on one hand there’s an action/suspense movie of a man racing around the world trying to stop a zombie apocalypse from happening. And on the other hand… a bunch of phenomenal actors sitting around being interviewed about a zombie apocalypse that was diverted… Personally… I’d like to see both made. But I wouldn’t call the first one World War Z.


A gaming we will go…

Tabletop Gaming at PAXHello, my name is Ian, and I’m a geek. I’ve been gaming since I was young, probably since I was old enough to talk. My mother and I used to play board games and card games all the time. I was brought up on games, books, and music far more than television (hell, I don’t think we even had cable till I was in 8th grade…). Besides the usual suspects of Uno, Clue, and Scrabble, we played Backgammon, Checkers (also known as Draughts), Milles Bornes (a French card game), and Mancala, a game my mother learned where she grew up – Africa (and a game I used to know as “the bean game”). Now don’t get me wrong, I spent plenty of time outdoors also, I used to love playing in the woods, climbing trees, riding my bike, and swimming. But playing games with my mom is probably my fondest childhood memory, next to reading.
And then, probably a few years after its release, I got a Super Nintendo. Tons of fun, some of my favorite games of all time are from that console. Final Fantasy VI will forever remain the penultimate gaming experience for me… laughing at Gau’s antics, shedding a tear during the Opera scene… ah, the wonders that game introduced to me. And let’s not forget Mario, of course… ah Mario… the howls of laughter at watching my mother consistently drive backwards around the track in Mario Kart (and this is the person who taught me how to drive… frightening). And of course… Lord of the Rings. For Super Nintendo, this game was particularly frustrating, because not only was it almost impossible to figure out how to beat on your own, but many of the copies of the game were released bugged, so you couldn’tbeat the game. I was never able to figure out if ours was the bugged version or not… by the time we got the internet and I was able to look the game up I never got around to playing it again…
D&DAnd then… Middle School. A harrowing time for many boys just hitting puberty. School didn’t worry me. I made friends, I had fun. But this was the year it happened. I was placed in the high school band because I play trombone, and they needed a good trombone player. Here I met a guy named Kyle. Kyle discovered that I was pretty knowledgeable about computers, and told me about an issue he was having with a game he had bought. So after school that day I went over and showed him how to fix the issue he was having. And he showed me his Advanced Dungeons and DragonsPlayers Handbook. I was entranced. A version of Final Fantasy I could play with friends? Where I controlled my character? Where the story could go on forever, and I could change things far more directly through my actions than in any video game (at the time…)? Yes! Sign me up!

This was of course only one of many new games I encountered over the years. From AD&D I discovered White Wolf’s World of Darkness, specifically Werewolf: the Apocalypse, and from there Vampire: the Masquerade… Now, Vampire was I game I could get into. The mix of darkness (and by this point I was a teenager in high school, so I thought my life was pretty dark…), political intrigue, history, and ripping people’s faces off? I was there. I immediately devoured all the material on this game I could and started running a game with my friends. A game that I ran for four years straight. Now… those of you not familiar with gaming might not think much of that, but those of you who are familiar will know that four years is a damn long time to run a game. But I did, almost every weekend. For four years. And it was glorious.

Then came college. I changed a lot in college, as I’m sure most people would say. A lot. For one thing, I stopped gaming. I knew I wanted to do well in school, and focused on my grades. Well… I tried to anyway. Or at least I started focusing on my grades after I changed my major twice… but that’s another story. I stopped gaming. Sure I played the occasional computer game, a little Counter-Strike, but it stopped being the center of my free time. I hung out with people, did a lot of new things. I really dove head first into the whole college experience. Then a friend introduced me to World of Warcraft (thanks Will…). And I was, once again, immersed. A free-form RPG that I play online with thousands of other people? Wow (pun intended). Of course, it wasn’t all fun and games… $15 dollars a month starts to add up… and by the time I had moved off campus and delved into my final choice in major (Philosophy), I was done with WoW. Enough of the late night gaming sessions and wasted hours farming materials for crafting. No more!

And then my best friend, and roommate at the time, Brandon asked me if I wanted to come to his Sunday D&D sessions with him. A new version of Dungeons and Dragons (3.5) and a 10th level rogue/shadowdancer later… I was back in the game.

Now that I’ve graduated, moved away from Boston (for now), and jumped into the “real world,” I still game. Of course there’s XBox 360, and Wii, and PC games still… And I still run a World of Darkness game, or play D&D with friends. And once again I’ve discovered the joys of board games… now that I’m older I’ve discovered all the “adult” board/card games… Dominion, Munchkin, “We Didn’t Playtest This At All,” Catan… But when I look back over the years the thing I remember best is the thrill of a new game, a new character, a new adventure. In an age where children are brought up on television, watered down educations, and books like Twilight, it’s no wonder that geeks are the ones leading the way in innovation. When you think of the most important aspects of the last ten, twenty… even thirty years, what comes to mind? The internet… smart phones, GPS, CERN and their Large Hadron Collider. And who are the people behind these inventions? The guys and girls that grew up rolling dice and slaying dragons in their parents’ basements… in their college dorms. The kids that spent hours jumping on mushroom guys and turtles till three in the morning when they had school the next day. The teenagers who would have rather been learning the rules to that new board game than swinging a bat or throwing a ball.

Don't worry... this isn't mine.

Lately I’ve wondered what my life would have been like without games. Even if you leave the board games there, but take out the Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: the Gathering cards… Would I be the same person? I couldn’t tell you, because I don’t see how my life could have gone any other way. Would I still want to be a writer? Who knows… I don’t care.

As a final note… take a look over at Critical Table. Soon you’ll start seeing some articles written by me floating around on the site. I recently struck a deal with Courtney, the creator and owner, and I’m really looking forward to joining the team over there and writing for them. And if you’re looking for any advice on new games to try out, feel free to ask. I’m always looking to let someone know about that awesome card game I played last week…