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May 28, 2008

I feel like... pwn1ng n00bs...

I know I'm behind the eight-ball here by about four years, but this deserves the word-spreading to even those already pwnz0red. With thanks to The Escapist, here's a web-comedy called Pure Pwnage; the story of a gamer named Jeremy and his ongoing battle to pwn all the n00bs.

And maybe get a girl.

If he's extremely lucky.

May 26, 2008

Feng Shui Forsaken

It was a pretty geeky weekend. Friday night saw some of The Forsaken Ones getting together for a training session. Karlos had found some neat cubbyholes in the geometries of the Halo 3 maps Guardian and Construct, so we spent a little time getting to know them before launching into a game of Team Oddball using the AussieXbox.net Team Rumble variant. I go into some more detail here, but suffice to say I found out a few things about how my fellow clan members play, especially those who reckon they despise the objective-based gametypes. I’m hoping we can get some more training in this coming Friday evening, and I want to try and give the session some more structure.

Saturday was busy. My former mentee got back in touch a couple of months ago, and Vickie and I have been hanging out with him and his family lately. Mid-last week he called and asked whether I’d like to go and play some laser tag at Crystal Cascades with him and his stepdad; unfortunately, when we got there for the early morning session no one else showed up, so I wound up driving back home a half an hour later. Kid and his stepdad are pretty cool, though, so I had a good chat with them in the meantime!

I was scheduled to go out again in the afternoon for the fortnightly Feng Shui session with Tracey, Patrick, Adam and Leon, so in the meantime I made sure to help Vickie with some housework; we wound up stripping the couch cushions for cleaning.

It’s good to be in a game that I’m not GMing; I’m having quite a bit of fun just kicking back and playing Ryu Shinzo, Ex-Killer for the Yakuza turned vampire hunter. I’m finding I’m pretty good with witty quips. Leon is an affable GM, and Tracey and Patrick are enjoying things, as is Adam, a player we recently met through the Meetup group. We’ve all bought into the Feng Shui ethos of wild stunt-laden fights and are improvising pretty well.

One problem I’m having, though, is that the pace is pretty slow-moving. I don’t have the book to hand, given I sold it last year, but I’m pretty sure a given Feng Shui session is meant to include three fights; after four sessions we’ve only had one fight in each. If we’re doing one story every three sessions, that means a month and a half with one PC in the spotlight, and as we pretty much did our characters up kind of separately, I can’t dig on (or feed) the other players’ melodramatic hooks because I don’t know what they are. From the selfish angle, I have no idea when I’ll have a chance to jam on Ryu’s guilt over his girlfriend who got turned into a vampire by his old oyabun (mob boss/"uncle") and whether there might be a cure. The possibility that it might be another two or three months is, well, pretty chafing. So I’d like to see the sessions crack on with a little more verve.

I brought my pacing concerns up after Saturday’s session. Although Leon reckoned that it was more “three fights per story” rather than three fights per session, I think his main stumbling-block is Feng Shui’s rules. They’re simple in theory, but there are a lot of twists and exceptions when it comes to shticks and powers. Leon seems to direct a lot of “help me out here” glances to me over rules questions, to which I could only reply, “I don’t know!” - like I wrote, I've not had the Feng Shui rules for over a year. He also has some trouble with number-crunching (I’m a little bit trepidated by his interest in running Cthulhutech, which doesn't seem particularly rules light) and he’s already outsourced management of the initiative system to me; when he brought up the rules complexity issue I suggested that he photocopy the sections on, say, sorcery and creature powers, hand them over to the players who use them (Tracey and Patrick, I think) and ask them to tell him what they’re doing and what he needs to do about it, trusting them to manage chi and shot costs. So hopefully things will start moving along more quickly!

On Sunday morning we were busy with shopping and young Seth’s second birthday party. I got in a few hours of Halo 3 in the afternoon, meeting up with some American players who were not only uninterested in smack talk but also very much into actual team communication during games. We parted company in the evening (early morning their time) but not without exchanging Friend requests; folks like that are diamonds on Xbox Live.

On that subject, you’re probably why I'm still talking about The Forsaken Ones after last week’s big blow-up at gamers, where I said I was going to switch clans. Well, I got in a few sessions with the clan I was looking at joining and discovered that some of the members and at least one of the leaders not only dropped the F-bomb like it was mass-produced and slagged off “the Lebs” in in-game lobbies but also talked mostly about teabagging during matches (perhaps not coincidentally, they were males in their late teens). Sorry, fellows, but I’m not interested in that shit. Karlos might swear like a trooper and occasionally air his own prejudices but he at least knows when he's pushing it. I’m willing to grant that you might be personally experiencing trouble with ethnic groups where you are, but please don’t demonstrate that you’re as pathetically small-minded as the people you’re afraid of. I’ve got more interesting people whom I’d much prefer to spend my time hanging around online with.

And besides, I prefer to not make myself an easy target by teabagging.

So I’m back with The Forsaken Ones.

May 14, 2008

The Best Article on Gears of War I've Ever Read

Hot off the virtual press, The Escapist dedicates an issue to Epic Games, the makers of the Unreal series of games and, naturally, Gears of War - and the last article is "I've Got To Be A Macho Man", dissecting the broad critical agreement that the latter game is adolescent homoerotic trash that shouldn't have been the success it was.

Maybe I'll pick the sequel up after all...

May 13, 2008

Tabletop or Online, Gamers Are All The Same

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that Karlos had recruited me into a clan of Halo 3 players, with the intent of competing on a ladder. Well, I went and got all invested in the idea, going so far as to set a Yahoo! Group up and start pestering the others who’d stuck their hands up for the clan idea about getting signed up on the ladder website.

Then we got in touch with another clan, who turned around and challenged us to some 4v4 matches this coming Sunday. Naturally I was all for it, but it’s been a right pain just trying to get not only three other clan members (of nineteen) to put their hands up, but also any kind of training time. Just last night, two of the other three who finally said yes were online at various times; one wound up in a four-person Team Slayer squad of his own, and the other – the clan’s leader and the one who suggested training in the first place – went straight into playing Viva Piñata. If he read the messages I’d sent about training he didn’t bother replying to them.

Now, I’m not soured on the whole clan idea, I just figure I’ve better things to do than try and get the interest of people who – well, figure they have better things to do. Before anyone starts, yes, I know Halo 3 is just a game. But when people use that old saw in rebuttal, they forget or ignore the fact that any "game" which involves more than one person is also a social activity. People must make time for it. What really rankles is when one or more people treats everyone else's time commitment, and therefore everyone else, as trivial. It reminds me of the RPG scene back in Sydney, filled as it was with double bookings and misplaced schedules galore (“Was it this weekend?” “Oh, shit! I just realised I had something else planned for today! I can’t come!”); as Vickie’ so fond of saying, “It’s like herding cats!”

I honestly thought gamers online might be a slightly different breed. Their consoles are at home, so they don’t have to organise to go anywhere. They can dress as comfy as they like and supplies are on hand. Also, as they’re online, keeping in contact via XBL or e-mail would be a no-brainer. It's more convenient, so in theory organising should be easier.

On the other hand, online gamers don’t have to see their fellow players or clan-mates in real life, so there’s no personal connection. They don’t give out phone numbers, so organisers can’t nag them if they don’t show up online at the allotted time. Finally, it’s easy to ignore an e-mail or XBL message alert when you want to get straight into a game.

Still, there’s another clan I saw up on the clan ladder forums who were recently looking for more players, and I’m opening communications with the clan leader in the hope that his folks are actually serious about having organised fun - the fact that they have their own forum on which their members actually post regularly is a good sign. I'm going to stick around with the current mob until the clan challenge is done, just so I can at least hold to my own word as the guy who organised the match in the first place.

May 08, 2008

Thankfully, The Brain Scan Didn’t Reveal Anything

Okay, now promise you won’t laugh.

The renovations have been proceeding pretty well. This afternoon, I was helping re-hang a curtain rod in our room. It was somewhere between four thirty and five, I think, and I’d just done drilling holes for the mounting brackets. I turned around and hopped off the middle rung of the low ladder I was on. There’s a CLUNG!, a bright flash and a sudden throbbing numbness near the crown of my head. I land on my arse, cursing myself for an utter twit for forgetting about our chrome ceiling fan – our running chrome ceiling fan.

Then the blood started to pour down my face.

Vickie immediately dashes for the kitchen to grab a clean towel, re-assuring me that scalp wounds always bleed a lot. Thank God that woman knows how to keep a level head! Her calm keeps me calm, and I ask her whether calling the ambulance is a good idea. She says it certainly is (a hopeful sign of the severity, or lack thereof, of the wound). One turns up within minutes (there’s a depot just up the road), and I join the crew in some good-hearted humour at my own expense. Vickie agrees with the crew that as the cut isn’t long, only two to two and a half centimetres, I don’t need a trip into the Cairns Base Hospital, so she calls the local medical centre and lets them know they have a minor emergency on the way.

I spend a while on the bed in the med centre’s emergency rooms – they’re always pretty busy – then one of the doctors has a look. It seems what I didn’t have in quantity I made up for in quality; the fan blade made it down to my skull. However, that didn’t mean he couldn’t handle it. Some local, a little more waiting, some cleaning and some shaving later and I get stitches both internal and external. I was finally out of there around half past seven, and Karlos came to pick me up.

The odd thing is that even without the anaesthetic I was expecting it to hurt more than it actually did. The nastiest stings were from the syringe needle when the doctor administered the anaesthetic.

Anyway, because the doctor’s worried about infection from the fan blade (we keep ours clean and rust-free, though) I’m on a course of antibiotics and will go in on Thursday morning to have the stitches pulled. I’m a little worried that I’m really going to start hurting once the local finally wears off, but in the meantime I’m staying as relaxed as I can. Right now, I’m sitting at my PC with a pad against the wound and a compression bandage holding it in place.

I ought to get a photo.

Cheaper on the PC?

Dan, you bastard, I know you’re going to be gloating.

As is still occasionally my wont, but with much less frequency than it used to be (at least fifty percent of my recent shopping centre visits have not included a browse), I stopped in at EB Games on the weekend to have a look at what was out and what was coming out. DoW: Soulstorm is now on the shelves, but considering that I’ve not touched Dark Crusade in freaking months, why bother? Same with the Guild Wars expansion, Eye of the North; I’ve not even finished any of the Prophecies, Factions or Nightfall campaigns, so no need for the expansion.

No, my current temptation is Iron Man. Loved the comics for years, thoroughly enjoyed the movie, so naturally I’m keen on the game. $100 for the console version is still off-putting, though, especially right now. On a hunch, though, I had a look at the PC version – and lo and behold, it’s retailing for $50. Half the price of the console version.

Oddly enough, Activision did exactly the same thing when the Transformers game was recently released. It seems like an odd decision at face value, but I have some thoroughly unsubstantiated theories on the reasoning behind it. Perhaps it’s because the console versions can be guaranteed to be running at their best resolutions/framerates/whichever, while the PC version is naturally dependent on the very individual hardware of the given PC it runs on. Or, perhaps it’s a recognition that someone could easily purchase the game for around $50 at retail in the US and have a friend ship it over here (or from a download service like Steam, as I did with Team Fortress 2 and am tempted to do with Sins of a Solar Empire), which you can't do with a region-locked console title without some warranty-voiding physical tinkering.

Can anyone confirm or clarify this?

Hm? Sorry, what was that? Oh, will I buy Iron Man? I'm not sure. Most of my gaming time lately has been dedicated to Halo 3 (gotta improve my Battle Rifle accuracy for the league ladder, you see) and I have other fripperies that I'm even more keen on splurging on.

May 02, 2008

Fan Controversy Over Adaptation of Trailer

Before I get stuck back into renovating the bedroom, I just thought I'd let you know about a news story broken by online agency The Onion, detailing fan concerns that the feature film adaptation of the Iron Man trailer might ruin the much-beloved ninety-second action-fest with almost an hour and a half of extended scenes and additional dialogue. I'll be going to see the adaptation this evening, so I'll make my on call then, but I'm heartened by blogger Mr. Teuflel's comment that the film does indeed do the trailer justice.

Another hot story also broken by The Onion is veteran NASCAR coach Dan Amon's revelation of the strategy for success used by every race winner: Drive fast.