Monthly Archives: December 2012

If I can, might as well…

It’d be a waste otherwise, right? So, taking my leave from my established loop of playing Runescape/writing stuff/reading Moby Dick, I hooked up my controller to my laptop and fired up Onlive. I think the last time I was playing games via Onlive was sometime in the summer so the Marketplace had a few games that I had only heard of but never actually played for the past six months. More to the point, there were more free trials to check out so check them out I did.

Yes, I’m going to be judging video games based on whether or not they can grab me in the first thirty minutes or not. To my credit, it’s not often I attempt to review things; it’s a nice break from the usual “what’s been going on in my life” posts that seem to dominate this blog. For those interested, nothing has been going on, literally, as I’m still on break. And now, without further ado, here are five games from the Marketplace that had a Free Trial feature for me to try out in no particular order:

Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II – Retribution
Honestly, the only things I knew about Warhammer 40K when I picked it were that there’s a tabletop version of it and that space marines are somehow involved. And that’s pretty much the gist of it, or at least of the prologue mission you can play as a sort of tutorial to how the controls work. Lots of clicking, a few hotkeys, and no use for the controller that I had hooked up to my USB port much to my dismay. I’m going to be perfectly honest and say that the only reason that I had signed up for Onlive was to turn my laptop into a console with a screen; it’s just how I prefer to control things.

Buttons aside, the game seems pretty lore-heavy, something that I expected from a game that’s akin to Baldur’s Gate. No, seriously, this game could’ve been Baldur’s Gate in a different setting with different names for the same thing. Instead of “characters”, you have “units”. Instead of fighting evil, you fight the Chaos Legions or the Orkz. It’s a real-time strategy game and, as my brother-in-law will tell you, I am not a fan. At all. RTS games make me feel a bit too removed from what’s going on ’cause it’s not my ass down on the map getting shot at. It seems perfect for those with a bit of a God Complex, though, so more power to you if you enjoy these kinds of games.

After the fairly linear Prologue and introductory cutscene, I got to choose which faction to play as. Of course, I picked the Eldar, which seem to be some kind of blue-green bird race that will be the “elves” of the universe. Everyone else seemed a bit more cutthroat and absolutely encased in steel armor out the wazoo, giant bodies with all too tiny heads. Is it really any surprise that I chose the slimmer and trimmer faction which also had a female lead character? I was five seconds into the first map when I facepalmed myself; I could have totally passed on the Prologue mission because, surprise, the first map pretty much takes you by the hand and tells you where to go. I’m grateful for the assist, but come on! I could’ve spent those fifteen minutes traversing the icky-looking (though that may have just been my shitty graphics card) marshland I got stuck in.

So, my thirty minutes were parsed out to about 50% Prologue mission, 5% obligatory, unskippable, and incredibly long cutscene that sets the entire universe up, and 45% getting halfway through the map as the blue-green bird people. As I was playing it, I was thinking to myself “I already have Baldur’s Gate and this is pretty much it.” Would I buy it? No. Would I play it again? Maybe with a longer trial period; I have a feeling that this is one of those games that needs to build up a bit of momentum before it can actually entertain. Odds are that it is a good game, but it’s not in my niche. I’m already a bit wary when taking on an RTS but the bulky space marine thing is not for me.

The Darkness II
Guns, demon-like things, and an emo character who has lost the light in his life because he’s a gangster. I don’t mind the mechanic of this first-person shooter so much as its plot because, honestly, what else was I supposed to expect from the flagrant gun-waving the game was showing me in its introduction? I did like how they introduced the game to me, though, via some guy shakily recounting the events of the prequel to me in hushed tones and jerky movements. It was a nice change of pace from the usual majestic and slightly boring way of doing things with the monologue and the panoramic scenes.

The first “level” is, as usual, a how-to-do-stuff routine. You learn the camera control by checking out the chick working the counter, you learn how to fight by getting tossed into the fray, and then the Darkness comes and you have to use it in order to proceed. That being said, the levels begin to turn generic. Run to this spot, killing people on the way, use cover to get around (or not, if there are plenty of car doors), et cetera. Again, plenty of guns, though I found myself sticking mainly to using my demon arms when I got to the subway. While you can dual-wield pistols, which is pretty badass, I was using my bullets to shoot out the lights.

All things being considered, The Darkness II seems to be your average, run-of-the-mill FPS with a bit of a gothic twist. I’ll admit that the story does a lot more for me than the gameplay and those demon powers are pretty freakin’ sweet, but is it enough for me to consider buying the whole game? Not really. If this ever gets made into a (good) movie, I’ll probably watch it, if only to find out what happens to poor Jackie.

Darksiders II
I’m a sucker for role-playing games, especially ones where you get to play as Death and go on a quest to save your brother, War, from a council that is pissed off because humankind was somehow exterminated in the events of Darksiders. I didn’t play Darksiders and, quite frankly, I don’t care what happened. I liked this game because there wasn’t any futzing around with the intro, you just dived into the action, scythes (and hammers, oddly enough) a-whirl.

The first level was fairly linear, with slight puzzle-ish elements tossed in to make travel at least a bit more engaging. I like the aesthetic and I like the combat, though about half of the things that I dodged still managed to freakin’ hit me. Not that it hurt, as I decided to play on the easiest setting (same for all of the other games I’m writing about in this post), but it was still annoying. Here I am, trying to get a combo on War with my attacks and this mofo’s all like “Nope.” and manages to hit me with an AoE sword slash that just juggles me up into the air. I was this close to kicking his butt but then my trial ended and I was left with no satisfying resolution.

Long story short: this is the kind of game that I enjoy. It goes without saying that I would probably buy this and play it, only to get stuck at a much harder level somewhere down the line, stepping away from it for about half a year, and then coming back to it, ready to kick some ass. It’s just fun. That’s all you need to know.

Sid Meier’s Civilization V
Now, I know that I’ve said that I’m not one for RTS games, but when I saw that Civ V had a free trial, I just had to go for it. Thirty minutes is nowhere near long enough to even begin to explore the game, though, so I had to speed through the (*sigh*) long and obligatory cutscene that establishes what the game is actually about and the starting screen. It looked as though there were a bunch of different settings you could’ve fiddled around with but, as I’m not entirely familiar with any of the previous Civilization games, I left well enough alone and just accepted whatever the computer dished out.

I got to play as Queen Elizabeth, which was pretty neat, although maybe I should’ve at least had a gander at who else I could have played as. I got to meet Prince Darius (who was kind of a prick, truth be told) and Montezuma (nice fellow, though his spearmen were a little too close for comfort), fight off a few barbarians, adopt a policy of liberty, and establish both London and York before my time ran out. Not bad, when you consider that these sorts of games can go on for ages. Still, I fail to see the hype my brother-in-law was drumming up when he was anxiously awaiting the release date. It’s alright, fairly user-friendly, and the graphics are nice and bright. Do I care for the tedium of building cities? Not really; I had my military units constantly on the prowl for more barbarians to kill. Would I play this game in full? Probably not; thirty minutes was already too long, if only because there was nothing else going on. It’s alright, though, all things considered, so it’s not like I hated it.

So, there you go! I saw quite a few other games with free trials to tempt me. And then there was Amnesia: The Dark Descent. Suffice it to say that I won’t be getting near that one with a ten meter pole, thank you very much.

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Midweek drabbles, or “Quickly! ‘Ere the lights go out…”

Exactly what it says on the tin, mate. My uni’s got a planned power outage and, according to the Office of Information Technology, I won’t have network access for a day and a half at the very most. I could’ve done this yesterday evening, sure, but 1) it was Christmas and 2) I rather relish a challenge very much like this to make my creativity spurt out all at once. So, let’s go!

The fluorescence which keeps me sane
is but shadow when compared to you.
I shan’t compare ye to a summer’s day
sunlight’s apex seems yet too blue.
Won’t you tell me, then, most brilliant one
what shadow pervasively clouds your brow?
Were you to smile and insist “None”
I’d think “I’ve made a liar now.”
************************************************
Multi-sided dice,
Keys to many fantasies.
Where shall I go, then?
************************************************
What’s the best way to find out if it’s love?
Knit for them. ‘Twill be clear soon enough.
As your fingertips ache, your mind slips away,
A scarf is not a scarf but a test of time.
Can you endure? Would you rather it end?
Purgatory, surely, is a long crafting project
with your only reward a fragile smile.
************************************************
Cheers to the lonely souls
as we celebrate the holidays,
medicate with food and drink,
and aggravate none, save ourselves.

Cheers to the hopeless ones
as we look to the new year, dewy-eyed,
yet seek to change nothing.
Next year’ll be the same, you know.

Cheers to the stubborn ones,
who also seek constancy.
So long as we’re satisfied
everyone else be damned.

Cheers to everyone, then.
*************************************************

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Sure, it’s the thought that counts…

But I’d still like for my gifts to not be shitty, y’know? Maybe it’s the latent perfectionist coming out of me after a long semester of being less-than-perfect but if I’m going to take the time to make something, it’s gonna be spot on. It just has to be. Of course, this also means that the gift’s going to a very close friend of mine; it’s not like I’m going to expend so much effort (and surprisingly bruised fingers) on something that I’m just going to get a mere acquaintance. I mean, of course I want to get everyone a little something, but I go the extra mile on purpose. I’d like to think that my actions are the one with the bullhorn, not my words.

Maybe it’s just me, but I actually do feel pained when I have to parse out my gift-giving within a certain circle of friends. What do you give someone that you’d rather not be super close to so that there’s no room for ambiguity regarding your particular and slightly dubious friendship? Conversely, does giving someone I like gift upon gift upon gift render my feelings so transparent that they will only ever trespass on the other person’s will? And how about that friend that you’re honestly not totally over but you’ve made peace with the fact that whatever fantasies you can dream up in the middle of the night are nothing but pipe dreams? Just what do you get for them? I have no clue.

Is this gift too showy? Too cheap? Does it look like I stayed up the night before making it or is it peerless in design? Will they ever even use this? Do they happen to have a dozen of these in their possession already? When Christmas rolls around, I can’t help but fret.

But back to the recipients of said gifts. I’m not fond of leaving people out but you know what? I guess it can’t be helped. There are people that I’m more in tune with and there are people who should quit mentioning avocado ice cream because, seriously, a day trip with you, alone and in a city that you happen to know like the back of your hand, is not in the cards. Or a trip to the flea market on a Saturday; I work weekends so that I can have my late weeknights. Or Target. Or the dollar store. Or, basically, anywhere else. Seriously, your persistence is rather legendary, I’ll give you that. Now fuck off. Please.

Unfortunately for me, this person just so happens to run in the same crowd as all the rest of the people I know and like, so I can’t really gift anybody anything there. Maybe if I wasn’t so much of a cheapskate, I’d be a bit more disappointed. But do you know what this means? I can focus on the two gifts that are giving me a bit of a hassle: the gift that goes to The Current Crush and the gift that goes to The Former Crush. I can’t help it! They are both gorgeous in their own way and, dammit, I couldn’t call myself a gentleman of any sort if I didn’t wish them a Happy Holidays, shove my gift into their hands, and then proceed to smile like a doofus while they open it out of a sense of duty. They will be loved, if not by me then by the things I get to appeal to their sense of pleasure.

Sometimes I don’t know why I bother though. I mean, I can fret over whether it’s too much or too little until the cows come home, but that’s not going to change the fact that, to them, I’m just being friendly and nice. It’s a good thing, don’t get me wrong; regardless of how I felt or how I’m feeling, being friends is preferable to the alternative of not knowing of each other’s existence. Never that. But one’s just a little too dense and I can’t even tell what the other’s thinking half the time. There are times that we’re in sync and it’s funny how they happen to get a little freaked out (usually to the tune of “OMG how did you know I was singing that?!”), but neither of them seems to appreciate the depth of my emotions. Given that my emotions are basically a jellyfish, big, transparent, and just kind of floating there, this is a hell of an achievement.

So, where am I drawing this conclusion from anyway? How about Pokemon Day? I had come up with the idea to hand out Pokemon cards and I chanced upon a shiny Milotic while I was opening a bunch of booster packs. It was a pretty card so, naturally, I wanted to give it to someone that I think is pretty. But after going through all of the trouble of separating that card from the rest through devious and clever means, it hit me: she’s probably not going to appreciate it for the meticulously orchestrated event that it is, y’know? To her, it was going to be a product of random chance, not a deliberate attempt both celebrate her own beauty and stroke my implacable ego. So I did the sensible thing and give it to someone who definitely appreciated the effort, effectively scrapping my own designs.

Moral of the story: simply giving things isn’t going to make someone swoon. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give anything; if you feel compelled to do so by whatever happens to rule you, then by all means go for it. Just recognize that the recipient may take it as nothing more than a sweet gesture because they can. So, I’m going to give them both something for sure which leaves just one more question: who gets the biggest gift? The person I’ve known longer or the person that I’m in lesbians with in a big, big way?

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Cripes and crackers! The end of the world, you say?

Well, I wasn’t sleeping tonight anyway. Nope, not me. Not with everyone so fervently, adamantly hoping for the world to either end and take us all with it or (the more likely outcome) nothing to happen yet again so that they can have a great big laugh at the expense of everyone who had bug-out bags and canned goods at the ready. As for me, tomorrow’s just another day.

Oh! But then there’s that dinner thing I’m going to! As a reward for all of my hard work dutifully collecting data in the research lab, my grad student is going to take me out to dinner. I believe we’re having Indian and, before you ask, yes, I’ve stocked up on the Pepto Bismol just in case. My stomach’s normally made of lead, but you can’t be too careful with cuisine you don’t encounter very often. It’s obvious enough that Mexican-spicy is absolutely nothing compared to Indian-spicy or any other kind of spicy for that matter, but I’m still optimistic in terms for being able to handle it. The aftermath can only be contained, not prevented…

And, yes, that was a poop joke. Just wanted to make sure we were all on the same page here.

So, what else have I been up to since the start of Winter Break? Nothing much, really. I’ve just traded one routine for another, mornings in the lab followed by evenings at home. Don’t know what I’m gonna do when PG&E are going to do some maintenance on the university’s power grid, though. Maybe I’ll put a dent in Melville’s classic, Moby Dick. Or I could just spend my day writing and drawing. Or cleaning the apartment. I’m getting rather fond of cleaning, actually. It’s generally soothing and it takes my eyes away fro the computer for a bit so that they can recover.

Other than that, there’s not much to tell. It’s just been nice to have some time to myself and my thoughts. I managed to pass all of my courses, but not in the way I would have liked. I still like that certain someone quite a bit, but I find myself growing more and more content with just leaving things the way they are, with the two of us as good friends. I may be physically isolated from the rest of my folks, but I’ve got my autonomy, I’ve got my ambitions, and I’ve got my sights set on graduation and beyond. It’s not satisfaction, but a sense of everything being just so. Does that make sense?

Anyway, see you Sunday!

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It had quite a punch for something that’s touted as being mini…

So, I’m officially on break and not a minute too soon! To be honest, I was getting rather close to losing sight of just why in the world I’m working towards my bachelor’s in the first place. Needless to say I’m enjoying the ever-loving crap out of my time off. And what better way to kick off Winter Break than by going to a mini-con?

Maybe I shouldn’t call it “mini”, despite a few con-goers’ reactions to the fact that it was smaller than the full convention held in the summer. I may not have been able to have gone to the “big” con, but there were a LOT more things that I was expecting! Then again, I suppose I wasn’t expecting much in the way of things that actually interest me. Given that I only ever heard about this con from someone whose interests are more towards the realm of superheroes and comic books, I’ll admit that I had sort of written this event off as something interesting but with nothing to interest me.

Clearly, not the case.

My interests lie more in the anime and manga sub-culture that seems to overlap with the comic book scene at times. Don’t get me wrong, I know a bit about the X-Men and I loved Thor and The Avengers. And you know what? There was plenty of stuff for me at the mini-con! I chanced upon a booth that had Yu-Gi-Oh and Magic card singles, I got two little Chocobo plushies for a song, and I even managed to make it early enough to get a free copy of Avengers vs. X-Men. All in all, a lovely Sunday with some friends. Why can’t all cons be like this?

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Let’s see how many of these I can do! 😀

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Midweek drabbles, or “damn, that’s a lot of haiku”…

I like fruit. You like
fruit. It just so happens that
I am a green fruit.

I imagine you
as a small, tart blueberry.
Mind if I eat you?

Am I a man? Well,
does that really matter, love?
Let me surprise you.

You seem listless, drained.
Is there anything I can
do to ease your pain?

How about some math?
Dinner, your favorite film,
a couch, you, and me.

I ask not for things,
as “things” are not permanent.
Just…understand me.

Getting addicted
to writing haiku; why can’t
I read them to you?

I don’t have to see
you in order to get lost,
consumed utterly.

I prostrate myself,
completely at your mercy.
You only smile.

I kind of wish that
you weren’t so damn feminine.
But, fine, whatever.

As I sip my wine,
I think of all the things that
I could say. I don’t.

I wonder…does it
brighten your day when I say
just a simple “Hey”?

Honestly, you do
motivate me to work out,
eat better. So, thanks.

Please, don’t tell me that
you feel like offing yourself
when you’re far away.

You seem to be cold.
Let me get close enough to
change that, warm you up.

Can reciprocals
Come together and negate
each other at all?

Karmic vampire.
If it makes your day brighter,
then take it all, love.

A suit would suit you,
of that I am certain. But
I have yet to see it.

How many haiku
will it take to say “Hey, there”?
Twenty, and counting…

Is it weird that I
can see us together with
a pet cat, happy?
*****************************************
[Funny thing about this post; I actually wrote it down sometime in September, if you can believe it. I found it saved in my Drafts folder and when I reread it, I couldn’t help but chuckle. There are a lot of outdated and obsolete feelings, sure, but this is how I actually felt at that time. Flash-forward to now and I just don’t feel the same, y’know? I find it rather insightful, though.

And then I added a few more haiku, lest I feel guilty for taking a bit of the cop out approach. Again. No worries; I should be done with Finals Week soon!]

Is it weird that I
can’t see us as a thing but
wouldn’t mind it so?

It’s no surprise that
the river has flooded out;
I just broke the dam.

I am quite polite,
quiet, smiling. Is this how
we must be? I guess.

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