We Have Moved

As of April 24th 2011, I’m unfortunately no longer considering WordPress for my blogging needs and I’ve moving to Tumblr at www.nimblejack3.tumblr.com

Some of my posts from here will be re-posted there, as well as hopefully new content.

I hope anyone regularly watching has enjoyed my stint on WordPress, and continues to read my blog on Tumblr.

Webcomic Review: Scary-Go-Round/Bad Machinery

Scary-Go-Round is one of the newest webcomics that I have picked up and devoured, being about occultists, fish-men and life after death wrapped up in British suburban living with a dash of government education.

First time readers may be very confused about what looks like the existence of two-and-a-half different webcomics in the one place. The actual start of the webcomic (from 2002) concerns a college student’s efforts to pass her journalism course. This eventually fans out into the thorough enjoyable (and sadly concluded) story Scary-Go-Round, going through a sudden and major art upgrade a few years in (2005), that can confuse new readers.

In 2009, the writer concludes SGR with the graduation of the characters, upgrades the art again a little and fast-forwards three years.  The webcomic is given a better-looking site, and is renamed to Bad Machinery. Much of the original cast is gone and replaced by a new generation of students (some of whom were seen as young children during SGR), but a few faces remain in visible positions.

The art change mid-way through SGR is very abrupt, leaving you either liking or hating the new hand-drawn comic. It flickers on and off for a few storylines as the author gets it right, but eventually sticks with the outlines to this day.

Some of the characters are slightly thin, but this is more than excused due to the nature of the plot. It’s a topsy-turvy ride through living gasses, homicidal Easter bunnies and floating a stolen caravan down a river while giving the finger to the Welsh boat police. Most of the plot seems to be about whatever was on the author’s mind at the time, and it is every bit enjoyable for it.

I had fun reading Scary-Go-Round, and I am looking forward to reading more of Bad Machinery. Try it if you enjoy the strange presented as the norm.

Bad Machinery

YLoD, and Economics.

AUUUUGH.

That is the heart-rending scream I made as I realized my PS3 would only continue play if I inserted $250 AUD. My system has fallen victim to the latest wave of trendy hardware failures: the Yellow Light of Death.

It occurs when (among other causes) the console is left on for long periods of time, causing the lead-free solder to dry up and break. This in turn breaks electrical contacts on the motherboard, causing a system-wide hardware failure.

The symptoms start either during play, when the PS3 abruptly turns off, or the next time  you turn it on. When you push the button, the box will boot normally for all of 3 seconds before both the green and red indicators flash, producing the distinctive yellow light.

Then the PS3 shuts down, leaving the red indicator blinking and hundreds of dollars of electronics useless.

It’s a startling look at how shortsightedly modern products are developed. I’m not going to go on an old-man-rant here, but planned obsolescence is how commercialism works. If you sell someone a product, you want them to buy things again. They’re not going to do that unless they don’t want what they bought from you earlier.

Obviously the YLoD is slightly off in it’s timing, but it’s a part of the almost deliberate ignorance of long-term problems in commercial products. This practice has been in place since the start of mass-production in the 1920’s and 1930’s, and most of the time things made before that are still around today.

Look at Tudor-era houses in Britain, or Dynasty-era buildings in Asia. They’re regularly used. They’re iconic. And they’re a hell of a lot older than my PS3 while being in better shape. Hell, even my NES console (made in 1985 with a questionable lead content) is in better shape.

Economic discussion aside, I’ve still got to fork out $250 and wait at least 4 weeks for my PS3 to work again.It’s annoying, but it’s gobbled up MW2 and all my save data is on there. Wish me luck.

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The 6-Part Group Dynamic

In fictional groups like those on TV shows and in books, groups of half a dozen usually follow a pattern of personalities: the Hero, the Love Interest, the Reggie, the Big Guy, the Child and the Pet.

The Hero
The Hero is usually the captain or the leader of the team. He inspires the team to perform under pressure, and comes up with the rogue element that antagonists fail to predict and therefore succumb to. They’re the main character, and is always at loggerheads with the Reggie and may try to woo the Love Intrest.

The Love Interest
The Love Interest is the dominant female personality of the team, and acts as an advisor or right-hand to the Hero. She is a mother figure to the Child and the Pet, balances out the negative influence of the Reggie and might shut him up. She usually becomes attracted for the Hero at some point, but may briefly fall for the Reggie.

The Reggie
The Reggie acts as the voice of doubt and devil’s advocate in the team, pointing out flaws in plans the Hero produces. Their personality is often egotistic and/or logical, contrasting with the selfless, emotional personality of the Hero. The Reggie may have feelings for the Love Interest, but these are usually unreturned. The name ‘Reggie’ comes from the most famous example of this character, Reggie of Archie Comics.

The Big Guy
The Big Guy is the muscle of the team, the one who performs the Worf Effect or saves the above triangle from danger. He is usually black and muscled, the ‘big African guy’ stereotype being most appropriate for this character. They could easily be swayed by the antagonist, but always switches back through the power of love and friendship by the end, usually when he’s most needed.

The Child
The Child is the innocent, child-like character who is there to take care of cute things, introduce a pure viewpoint and provide a reason for explaining something to the audience when it is widely understood by the characters. They usually care for the Pet and go to the Love Interest for advice and comfort.

The Pet
The pet is the animal-like mascot of the team, designed to appeal to children and be ‘lovable’. They can simply be an actual creature, or a person with animal-like characteristics. The Pet often plays an important role in maintaining the ship in sci-fi. They enjoy the Child’s affection and the Love Interest’s to a lesser extent.

Examples of the 6-part dynamic:

  • Star Trek: The Next Generation
  • The Space Between (webcomic)
  • Lord Of The Rings
  • Futurama

Note that multiple instances of the same character or a mixture of two different ones may be present. The 6-part dynamic does not translate to all groups.

Killzone 2: Long-Term Review

I’ve owned Killzone 2 for something like 12 months now, and I feel that a review from a long-term perspective is in order. Playing through every aspect of a game really changes how you view the entire thing.

The single-player campaign has a moderate amount of replay value, with enjoyable sequences such as the AA section of the New Sun boarding level interspersed with slow-paced and confusing sequences such as the battles between the antennas in the Tharsis Refinery level.

Gameplay begins to become rote as you replay, with certain weapons being near-useless and others becoming staples. I found myself using the Helgan SMG and the shotgun the most, simply because the SMG was so accurate and the shotgun’s flashlight helped to illuminate the game’s predominantly dark environment.

Taking cover becomes very useful for all but the most complex of environments, as many of the levels have a linear and progressive structure that prevents flanking of your cover. Only on levels like the New Sun can enemies move around you and shoot you from behind.

Online gameplay is slow, with a lengthy connection and game setup sequence for even the system-local bot matches. The online interface is confusing, making evaluating matches for ping and rules difficult. However, once a suitable match is finally found the gameplay is fun and fast-paced, with the starting weapon the most effective for most situations.

This avoids a problem at the core of Modern Warfare 2’s online gameplay in that newer players who didn’t play from launch are quickly beaten down by other players with significantly better weapons. MW1 and Killzone 2 solve this problem and make it easy for newer players to jump in by having reasonably good weapons available at the start, and make wins depend more on skill and less on quick XP farming and spamming.

Killzone 2 is a great game, with flaws and strengths that become apparent over time. I will continue to play this title with gusto, and await a third installment in the Killzone franchise.

Assassin’s Creed 2

Big long gap between reviews, as I have not had the time or money to purchase anything new.

Assassin’s Creed 2 is a large improvement on it’s predecessor. It includes the same basic concepts of investigation and assassination, but also include many new features that provide a much better play-through than the original.

Following the events of AC1 the hero, Desmond Miles, escapes the laboratory where he was held captive and joins the remaining Assassin’s in the fight against the modern Templars. He is once again shoved back inside the Animus (v2.0 this time) in order to train him using another ancestor’s memories.

The forebear in question is womanizer, troublemaker and all-round badass of Florence, Ezio Auditore da Firenze, who is certainly more fun to play as than angsty emo failure Altair, who never showed his face and had no back-story other than ‘he screwed up and now it’s his second chance’. This new assassin is every bit more enjoyable to play.

Gameplay is better not just due to the character upgrade, but also due to the shiny new gadgets Ezio can use. As of this writing I’ve only got the one hidden blade and a sword, but the trailers announced that Ezio would be able to use two hidden blades, smoke bombs and even a rudimentary gun. They are all repaired, designed or provided by a 30-year-old Leonardo da Vinci who is great to watch bounce around his home as he exclaims how intricate the workings of the hidden blade are.

Leo’s fizzing personality is only one of many new allies that assist the Assassin during the story, with much better voice acting, body language and facial expressions for everyone. In the first game there was a scary quality about eyes that put you off looking too hard at people, but it’s been fixed in the new game with more natural-looking curves in the faces that really, really look good. Big thumbs up there. Only nitpick is Lucy’s lips, which look like they’ve been put through a pumping machine ordered off a late-night infomercial. Erugh.

Techinical gameplay is also much improved, with hiding in groups of people no longer restricted to scholars. You can hide in stationary groups of chatting people, moving crowds and even quartets of 15th century prostitutes. A database is also now available, giving historical information about everything from important plot characters to locations. It’s great, and makes you remember that history is happening all around Ezio.

Assassin’s Creed 2 is a excellent game, with a well-told story, easy-to-use gameplay features and a really good characters. I recommend you pick it up from your local game store or even just try it.

Merry Christmas!

Happy secular corporate giftgiving day! Hope everyone is enjoying it and stuff. Got Assassin’s Creed 2 as a present, so I’ll be reviewing it shortly. It’s good!

Merry Christmas to all!