Tuesday, September 27, 2011

EC Studios is stumbling up!

Hey!  MY new site is in shambles but it's totally here:  EC Studios

Figured i should also mention that here.  There's more on the homepage.

Must get to sleep.  Never a dull day.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Tokyo Gore Police and some other things

   So this was an interesting watch.  Interesting insofar as it was one of the more surreal mind trips I've been on in a while.  to start off, it lives up to its title.  there are police, in Tokyo, with lots and lots of gore.  the version i was watching was a french dub as well, which just made it..  yeah...a bit speechless after the fact.  it's craazy in off the wall ways.  there are gallons and gallons of blood, putting films like Kill Bill to shame.
   As far as summaries go, I'll try as best i can, though most of the plot i understood later after a net searches later.  Auditions lead actress is now a bad ass lady cop/ merc out after her fathers killer while battling splicers called engineers who are transformed by another guy out for revenge called the key man.  engineers deserve mention as their gimmick is to grow weapons out of any wound they receive, which gets squicky very, VERY quickly.  though it does make for many 'What the- huh, now their- wait WHAT!?!' moments.  like the opening chainsaw duel.  yeah that's how it opens.
   The Tokyo painted is more under totalitarian regime rather than cyberpunk dystopia, what with the privatized police and the fetish clubs and the self mutilation promoted on TV.  live execution through your WII remote.  curious take on the future of entertainment, but I'll run with it.
   I liked the costume design on the basic police though.  The singular glowing red eye and the modernized samurai armour worked well for me.  the chief, not so much, but this entire movie is a demented vision.  at so many point it curb stomps logic that you really just have to sit back and go along for the ride.  questioning anything gets you sprayed with a few more gallons of blood.  so, so much blood.  
   i wouldn't go out of my way to watch it again, but i can definitely understand the cult following it might/has gained.  haven't seen anything like it before, for all the good and bad that means.

   Onto other things!  I'm working on a full site, so i can throw more things up.  there was another episode of UtD (Value of Nothing) and i should have Mogworld up next week.  i might have a two act for Psychopath Test and Waiting for Godot, the former i flew through, the later i should finish by weekend's end.
   New site here:  EC Studios
   Hopefully it should be up soon.  It won't be anything intense, but it'll give me something to do overarcingly, a word I've found my self using in the last week, which further explains my descent into grammar.  or maybe it's my morning and broken night of dreams.  either way, NEW SITE COMING!
   Got footage of the first part of my Link's Awakening Let's play.  audio lags a second, and that's before the over dub.  i think I'm going to try doing it all at once for the next.  I'll see.
   Autumns finally here.  Woo.  onto other things now.  Bai bai ^^

Friday, August 26, 2011

UtD - Bioshock: Rapture

  Episode 3 is up!  This week I dive underwater for John Shirley's Prequel to the Bioshock Franchise!


And thus uploaded, i feel happy fleeing up north to my friends cottage for a few days.  i'll try to have something quick up next week, maybe talking about books in general or my reading list.  dunno.  something a minute long without much cutting.  maybe a quick review of something that i don't want to bore people with.

And now to fold laundry.  I think that's all for the moment.  i'm tired, sleep well.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


  There's a certain something that makes me dislike joggers.  it isn't the actual act of jogging, nor is it the fact that they're like clockwork, or the houses that they jog.  i think it stems from the gear they use and the loook thy keep about them.  the mana sized water ampules set in utility harnesses on their bodies, the skin tight clothing leaving nothing *shiver* to imagination, all of it cries out wrong.  maybe it's because i don't believe jogging should be a 'thing' at all.  running is good.  sprinting is good.  both are useful, both practical, even in today's transport heavy society.  jogging, not so much.  if you're going to the corner store, you might walk, or if its important (your cake/other tricky baked paraphernalia will fall if you don't get more butter into it NOW) run, but jog?  not likely.  similarly, if pursued by a horror movie slasher or a velocraptor or fundraising sales rep, running is a useful skill to have trained.  jogging, not so much.  jogging is the idea of long distance travel by foot at a quicker pace than a walk, presumably to outpace and outlast the animals taht would eat you back in the day.  now we have transportation.  and if you need to get somewhere in a hurry, you would run, and rely on that stamina as opposed to a slower stamina sap.  
  And these thoughts have nothing to do with the fact that i'm going running tomorrow.  early.  gods will it be aggravating to get up that early.  
  Moving on, finished storyboards for tomorrows vids, definitly got a better process, a pity i started so late this week, but i still intend to have another episode of UtD up tomorrow, it just ight be later than usual.  than, cottage!  huzzah!
  Almost went to FanExpo today, but couldn't bring myself to wait ANOTHER two hours in the line i was in.  the day had to go on.  still, i think i'll get more into the con scene more in the future.  i like the enthusiasm and freedom of the people.  also, excuse to wear cat ears and a collar, so yeah.
  I think that's all for the moment.   oh, looking into getting a site to pull everything to a single place.  will advise as that goes.
 Bai bai

Friday, August 12, 2011

UtD - Hagakure

Ep 2 of Under the Desk now up on blip!, also youtube, but blip!


No such luck on the sharpies, but a new process for doing things, which worked better.  time ran a bit long but, as they say, it's a process.

Next UtD will be Bioshock: Rapture, which i need to finish.  yay, a good reason to actually spend some free time reading! Wooo!
In other news, It was my friends birthday earlier, so one more happy birthday before i move on to the next topic.  

The actual blip site is coming along.  i want to redo some of the banners with some sporadic colour and some cleaned up drawings, but at the same time, the charm, to me, is that their representative of teh content.  maybe i'll clean them up some...

Another thought was looking into Adobe Premiere or another video editor.  windows movie maker is...painful to use.  much like photoshop, i imagine Premiere has a learning curve, but hopefully it'll i can get used to.  

I'd like to make a font of my script to use as my word base.  Need to look into font builders.

I should do some writing.  And Sunday i have to run again.  And i have to buy climbing shoes.  And-and-and-

Friday, July 29, 2011

Under The Desk ep 1

First actual episode of under the desk is up!


Last week was a quick intro, this week an actual review.  Next week, i'm going to try for a longer episode, something closer to 3 or 4 minutes, and maybe some colour if i get around to buying those coloured sharpies...

In other news, i want sleep.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Wonderland Complex

The current build is mostly the ground layer of the world.  the maps are all in place, as are a few of the memories.  none of the voice work is done, and minimal text and events are done.  transfers was where i left off, so some doors lead where they should, others...do not.  kind of an apt analogy for the complex itself.  this project is going on hiatus , everything's being burnt so i've a backup and the file is being moved.  i haven't done work on it in 3 weeks now.  the motivation is gone, despite the finish line being in sight.  i have the pans to finish, i just need the motivation.  hopefully, next time i get the strong push to build a game, i'll finish this one.  First game project ECS takes on and it doesn't reach the ship stage.  better luck next time.  I've learned a ton from this project.

Wonderland Complex
Jan 2011 - Apr 2011


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Load In – 17042011, day 8

We spawned in a back yard.  I didn’t recognize the area, but it didn’t matter much.  We were in residential, so that gave us some space before the inevitable halls and lines that we’d have to get through.  Zoc had picked our load out and now I checked out what I had as we spun around, cleared our perimeter.

The moon was high, giving good visibility.  We were on a cobblestone terrace coming out of the back of someone’s house.  The backyard was marked off with chest high chain link fence, annoying, but useful at the same time.  There were sporadic gardens of small flowers, mostly well kept grass.  Cookie cutter back yards copy and pasted along my left and right.  Ahead of me there the flip of the street, more backyards.  Above us, hydro lines held up by solid wooded posts every few lots.  I made note that the posts had pegs high enough to be climbed, but would give us pause if needed.  Another version of climbing a tree to escape harm. 

Zoc spoke quietly.  The area was fresh, with no contact or devastation.  He was right.  Not a window broken or blood splatter to be seen.  We hopped a few fences, peering down the alleys to the street as we went.  After a few fences we decided to head down to the street, try to get a view of the landscape.

I tapped Zoc’s shoulder in the alley way as I checked out my build.  He had set us up with new accounts, so we had new weapons.  I pulled my guns out, curious to see what my tools were.  I was greeted by the shine of two silver and black pistols, k9’s with extended barrels.  My secondary weapons were black glazed teardrop throwing knives.  I holstered them after finding a comfortable grip.  I had rope around my waist and simple clothing.  Along my belt were clips and odd shaped objects, which had to be this rounds tool of choice. 

It looked like a bat with a flaming mouth, wings folded over itself.  I was debating pulling the hooked tail when Zoc put his hand on it.  He had a bat of his own and pulled the tail, holding it high.  The wings snapped open and its mouth shot off a wave of heat.  Looking up I saw Zoc holding his own bat, the mouth cheerily burning like a festive candle, giving out light where the wings are angled.  I was expecting a grenade, but this bat looked like something else, if less destructive then I would have thought.

From the bats light I could see Zocs build.  He wore simple clothes like me with a hunting rifle slung over his shoulder.  So much for a different build.  I couldn’t see his secondary weapon, but I trusted he’d put it to good use.

The bat’s light died and started climbing up the alley, feet spread apart against the tight walls.  We made to the room and got a look at the neighbourhood beneath us. 

We were sitting on the edge of suburbia.  Across the street were high sheet metal barriers, forcing us back into the honeycomb of houses beneath us.  The street was empty, which was good for us, but bad for whoever had the misfortune to deal with our quarry.  We decided to travel along the rooftops, hopping from one to another as long as we could.  We kept low, standing only when necessary to scout the area.  When we hit the end of the block we had another choice, drop to street level to go through a hole in the metal barrier, leading us who knows where, or stick with the houses.  The street had come to a corner, making a sharp right turn around the house we were sitting on, turning to avoid a park that bordered the housing development.  Across the park were several low lying builds, the closest to a main street this community probably had. 

Our choice would have been far easier, had we seen anyone.  The only movement was caused by the dead wind that scattered through the air.  We’d seen no creatures, no monsters, no mutations, no abominations of any kind up to this point, an experience fairly unprecedented.  I left it to Zoc to choose our path, who decided we should drop to street level and make our way along the park until we got to a road which led us into the town square.  I agreed and we climbed down a drain pipe and scurried along the parks edge, alone, nerves high from the lack of encounters.

               // Elysium and Zoc.  i should make character sheets for them both...

A session in the City - 14042011, day 4

“I don’t know where to start.”

“Start with whatever you remember. Let it flow back to you.  Grasp whatever you can, in whatever disjointed segments you can grasps.”

The light dimmed in the room.

“I’m inside a little shop. Its gourmet food and antipasto and some things.  It’s on a hill with a steep road outside.  The people behind the counters are old, white and grey hair, save for an unsure and timid little girl.  She looks miserable.  I’ve walked through the door and immediately to my left is the food bar.  There are plates of meat and right at the front; grand place is a white rectangular bowl with what looks like meat balls inside of it.  There’s no sign saying what it is, but it sounds delicious.

The room is buzzing with gossip.  I know of the people they’re discussing but I don’t know them personally.  I float through.  They see me and the girl greets me timidly before turning back to conversation.   It’s as if they can’t see me, like I’m slipping in and out.

The shop’s closing.  The employees are looting the place for food.  I’m going on a trip, across a long distance, I strip out their milk container and grab it for my own.  I head for the antipasto bar and find one of the male workers at the counter.  I ask if he's taking the meatball and he says absolutely, he's got it.  I want it as well, but don’t think he’ll take all of it.  He seems too cautious to really gorge while thieving.  He moves aside and I move in with a metal tine tray.  I drop the bottom half of a heavy burger bun into the tray and spoon in the meat ball mix.  The man tells me its meatballs, mushroom and another ingredient I can’t remember. It slips away every time he says it.  I layer it with strips of what looks like bacon in a cross pattern.  More sauce and meatballs, then there's this large hunk of cheese.  The man berates me for mixing flavours but I know better. I crush the cheese down so that I can put the lid on the tin.  I make sure to put in the top of the bun.  As I scrape the meatball dish clean, I use shards of a hard baguette, maybe some Italian bread, which shatters like ice if I push it too hard along the bottom of the clay pan.  My tin pan looks like a quiche, is what he says.  I agree with him after a few minutes.   I turn my attention elsewhere.

It’s earlier.  I’ve walked out the door of the tiny shop; close after the small timid girl.  There’s a slight breeze.  She’s heading down the hill through there subway tunnels, beneath the mountain, all grey concrete and blue metal rising high.  She turns back to me, her back against the wall after she gets to the first landing.  She stammers out why I’m following her.  I move close, breathing slowly, till our lips are nearly touching, I can feel her shiver, so lose to me. My head lowers, my lips drifting along her neck and down to her exposed chest.  I hear her ask what I want.  The smile lights along my lips before kissing her chest.  What I want, I tell her, is you. Her hand comes to mine as I straighten and begin leading her down the stairs. I tell her that I’m going to take her to lunch. We descend the stair case.

Near the end now.  There’s an old man with wild bushy white hair, bicycling up the steep road.  He has blind eyes and an orange reflector vest.  He looks at me through blind eyes and I see his moustache cascade down, drooping as low as his tangle of hair goes.

The beginning’s slipping away.  There was a hotel that I was staying at, flashes now.  There was talk from my parents of a trip at the end of august, of them booking something and me wondering how that’ll fit with going to the cottage in November.  There’s something else.

Earlier, something that I should remember but can't   I’m trying to go back, but I keep falling into the water, out of the boat and through the mists, never grasping anything tangible.  I dint know what to do.  I need to go on.  I’ve missed the message, the big art, the first three acts of it.  Where’d it go? “

“Breathe deep, calm down, don't panic and keep going.”

“Yes, okay. 

I see a hill.  The same hill rotating along.  I see lines of gossip, as if people were dropping fishing lines, weaved around the hill. I see a room in a hotel/.  I’m sitting on the bed and I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do or where to go. 

I can’t remember what she looks like. How could I have been so close, had such influence on her, when I can’t remember her name, what she did beyond the glimpse.    Breath.  Breath.  Okay. 

What time is it?  It’s slipping away.  The mists around my boat are getting darker.  I try to push into them; it’s like sticking my arm through a grey wall.  It swirls around my arms, accepting but unyielding.  I can’t see anything beyond the boat and the mist.  The water is placid and doesn’t move, no matter how I sway in the boat.  I can pull back the images I just went through.
Another, I’m going through the gourmet shops kitchen and taking the milk container.  I've no idea why it’s needed now.  The inside of the milk container has a tiny whisk, as well as another metal contraption.  I try to empty them, empty it so I can put another bag of milk in.  I do and cut it, then poor it out into a container.  I don't understand why.  I think I need to cycle through the milk if I’m to take the container, but that doesn’t make sense.  There’s a tiny whisk and metal contraption in each container.  It doesn't make sense.  There’s light coming in through the window as I go through the tile of the floor.  I think the stores closing for good, just as I’m leaving.  Everything’s folding up, as I go. My departure, while welcomed by the townsfolk, signals the end of their world.  They don’t know, or don’t care. 

I try to hang on but it's gone.  Folded up and wire framed, the hill stripped.  I’m back to the memory of the concrete and the young lady.  Pushing against her and sliding down.  The soft kiss and pulling her away.  I can tell she’s overwhelmed through it, that’s why it works.  Someone who had more control over themselves, someone who had been on more dates would have pushed me off, would have had more attention would have known would have reacted differently.  But I was simple.  I said I wanted her.  She fluttered and I took her hand and told her I was taking her to lunch.  She’s followed numbly.  I didn’t look back.  She's blushing now that I see it.  I’m dressed in dark with a mid flair of jacket.  She was still wearing her waitress or attendant uniform.    Then it fades away again, folded into the mist.

It folds out again below me.  The same scene plays out from a different angle, cutting in close as I kiss her chest, seeing her lips quiver above my head; a small gasp slips past her lips, the flush filling her cheeks.  It cuts away to another as I watch us going down the steps.  It plays again and again.  Again.  Again.

 And then it peels away, the wireframe eating the concrete steps, dissolving the sun on the blue metal and glass on the high building above where the steps were, folding it into itself.  It warps and greys and highlights itself, the panels of materials on each surface peeling up and away, unthreading themselves, and then the racks of wires are left until they too peel away, leaving me back in the boat, no place left to reach out to, only the dying, withering memory of that small timid girl and I. 

I’m hunched in the boat.  The hull is empty.  No rushes.  Nothing left.  I want to cry.  I know I lost something lovely, something that if only I could remember it, would make a world of difference would direct me and tell me the answer, where to go. “

“I’m pullin' you out now.  Come back to me slowly; let the boat guide you out of the mist, back into the shop.  The boats docking. You feel a soft bump.  Your wooden bench seat rises up, shifting silently into the counter around you, the boats planks into the walls and shelves of the shop. You’re standing in your body, at my counter, your hands flat on the counter, my hands palm up, while your rest on top.  Breath deep.  Open your eyes and look at me.”

My eyes open slowly, gaze focusing on the wool covered women in front of me.  Her black skin and shinning bright hair made her look like a sheep had always made her look sheep like; beguiling the wolf form she lived.  My feet felt heavy on the floor.  My body sagged back as my muscles relaxed.  I looked around, tilting my head, hearing my neck crack.  My gaze returned to hers, small and black, buried in her face, nearly invisible save for the sharp shine on them.

“I’m back,” I said.

“Yez you ah,” she said, her accent winding around me.  “Did you fine whet you ah lookin' for?”

“I don’t think so.  Thank you anyway, you’ve always been a help,” I said.  She smiles and shakes her head back at me.  I put my hands back into my pockets and turn to the shelves, hoping I’ll see what I need, what I’m missing.  I sigh as I search in vain.  I raise a hand in parting to the old sheep behind the counter and she smiles as I leave a sad look on her face.
It’s raining outside her little shop.  The clouds are low over the dark onyx sky, the ceiling of mist resting on the rooftops of the streets tonight.  The dark hour is nearing its end and I need to get out of the bazaar.  Before it closes.  I dart down a side street and brush shoulders with a face I’ve seen before.  I resist the urge to double take and move through the shady throng filtering out through the exits.  I’ve seen her before at the market, buying food, a rare commodity down here.  She’s one of the Awake, like me, yet we’ve never made introductions.  Not surprising, given the scope of the City. 

She’s tall and gaunt, with a coat wrapped around her.  Beneath the brown folds is a tiny body, wiry and taught, with pale skin.  I’ve made out a few tattoos of her before.  Perhaps we’ll run into each on a more formal occasion soon.  Any Awake who live long enough to get into the flow of the city without becoming a part of it are good to know.  She probably knows Cassandra’s organization.  I’ll have to make inquiries tomorrow.  I pull up my hood and blend into the crowd.  My eyes shine as I spot a curtain lying on a wall nearby, unobtrusive to the crowd that flows by. 

I step close to it and pull it aside long enough to step through the wall into a low ceilinged passage way.  These shortcuts should lead me out of the market and back to the corner of the city near the airplane graveyards, assuming it hasn’t moved again.  I trudge along the passage go through the door at the end.  I’m in a different part of the city, near the tenth district.  It’s not where I wanted to go, but it could’ve been far worse.  I turn down the cobblestone street, lined with dying grass and make my way back to my where I make my home.  It’s been some long nights.

                //Rob never talked much outside of his few confidents, at least here he found a therapist, of sort, even if it is dream siphoning and memory regression.  another tale set in the Mad City of the Undermaze. 

Laura's Morning - 12042011, day 2

I woke up to light blinding me.  I turned my head to the left; hiding under the shade of the steeple that blocked a fraction of the light out my window.  At first I thought it was the sun, but I hadn’t seen the sun in several years. 

I rolled over, away from the light.  I never woke up being blinded.  Usually the cries of the sellers below me pulled me from my light street.  The night previous I had been woken by the screams of some poor thing freshly awake, being pulled apart by Tock’s officer’s in the street outside my window.  Not something I’ve ever wanted to wake up to, but it got me sharp in a hurry.  I was on my feet, locking down my room before the covers had fallen off me.

My clock chimed as the dark hour neared its end.  I pulled my coat across the floor, not bothering to rise from my sprawl.  Fishing out the pack of cigarettes from the inside pocket, I lit up for the first time since I’d been to the market, several weeks past.  I rolled onto my back and exhaled a dark sparking plume of smoke curling in the air above me.  I watched it flicker, opaque and full of slivers of light.  I wondered what was casting such a light from outside my window. 

In the four and a half years I’d been in the city, I’d never seen a sliver of sunlight.  It was against the purpose of this place, I guess.  I breathed in deep and felt my chest heat up with the swirl of memories that came with each drag. 

Pulling myself to a sitting position, I curled around myself as the sheets under which I slept bunched around me, long since abandoning the edges of the bare mattress where I had spent the last week holed up.    Outside my window was an orb of light, high above the rooftops.  Through the maze of pipes and chimneys I could see it hanging above, casting its light down onto the city. 

It wasn’t the sun.  I stared at it without blinking for some time, my eyes never feeling the near-forgotten scorch that the true sun would have brought.  It certainly was a new, entrancing any of the city’s denizens who happened to look up.  It looked like a ball of fire, frozen in place.  There were cresses in the flame, what looked to be hollow spots of dark smoke.  Tilting my head I could make out a demented face, half on its side, made from ash, smoke and flame. 

I heard the clocks chime as the dark hour ended, signalling the beginning of a new day.  I had got maybe an hour of sleep, far too much to be safe.  I flexed my arms and legs as I finished off the cigarette.  My body was thin, skin stretched tight over my slim frame.  What little chest I had was covered by the tattoos which covered my body.  The dragon that rested on my stomach stretched and yawned wordlessly as it flew across my skin, finding its place on my shoulder. 

Pulling myself from my bed, I started cleaning the room.  Striping anything that I may have touched.  I folded the sheet I had slept under and pushed it into my bag.  I pulled on my coat before stripping the bare room.  I dropped the stub of cigarette into a tin that was buried in one of the pockets of my tattered brown coat.  Leaving something like a stub behind was a sure way to lead people after you.  All it would take was a single needle nose bloodhound to catch a scent and then I’d be done for. 

Finishing the room, I closed the door behind me.  The darkness of sleep had done me some good.  My body stretched as it shook off the pains that had plagued me the night before.  I got into the alleys behind the townhouse I was in, slipping past the silent figures that flowed along the street in the early morning. 

The sky was dark as always.  Morning was gauged by the clocks that grew like flowers throughout the city, and the fires in the lamps that shed light on the maze like streets.  Morning meant that the flames were low in their lanterns, barely giving any light as I passed underneath them.  The occasional street lamp gave off its weak cone of light, recovering from the intense light it had spewed forth before the dark hour had hit. 

I turned a corner of the alley and found myself on a street lined with dying grass.  I was nearer to the outskirts of the city than I would have liked. The warrens, the area outside of the city, were a useful place to know, but it was too confusing to me.  The tall, pale grass scared me.  The staircases that wound their way up into the mists that blanketed the ceiling unnerved me.  I looked down the street to my right and saw that a few blocks away, the city died off with stunning abruptness, a Cliffside canyon spilling forth into the fields of the warrens.  I turned my back to the empty sky and walked along the road, back into the heart of the city.
 //seems that the Mad City from DRYH seems to be blending into the Nonaverse's Undermaze, tainted by heavy Echo Bazaar use.  it makes for on interesting setting under the misty ceilings of teh Undermaze. - A

Another Set of days and updates

A few days ago, seven or eight ish, i decided to start writing daily again, as much to keep it going as to add yet another thing to my daily to do's.  Any that have been refined enough for common reading i'll throw on here.  why not, better than keeping them on file to be released ten years down the line.

wonderland complex is falling behind, though I've a new build (0.4) with the ground work of the world done.  i'm working on transfers which is taking a remarkable amount of time.  it stuns me how much effort it takes to make sure where a door opens to opens back up to a similar place.  with the focus I've been putting on WC, Under the Desk  has inevitably suffered.  i haven't done any more sketches, nor pieced together any of the frames more than i had a week past.  

i did finish Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, which was a terrific read.  anyone who's ever worked as a line cook, or has ever entertained thoughts of professional cooking, this is a must-read.  Busy days ahead as the end of April rushes towards us ever faster.

I'll polish and post what's presentable from the past few days in the next few minutes (read: short time ish)

bai bai

Thursday, March 31, 2011

EC Studios

I find myself branching a few different projects into an actual group as of late, and as such i've set up anotehr email to deal with it and all EC related work, etc. 
Echo's Corner Studios  ecs.toronto@gmail.com
That's all for teh momment, my current project is taking up a good slog of time.  I'm working on part 6 of Awakening, other writing and Wonderland Complex, the game that's being built.  all in all, busy days.  hopefully some content put up again within the next week.  I'll try to put a link up for the most recent build of Wonderland Complex, as more playtesting is always better than less.
Also, Under the Desk, book review ala crude picture montage, is underway, after a long time stagnation.  Many thanks to the three inspirations; The Spoony One, Yahtzee, and Daniel Floyd.  That should be up in the next few weeks if i can get it done.  So much on the horizon, so much fun. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thoughts On...Limitless

   I got a chance to see Limitless last Monday, and what a time.  All I had heard before going in was that it was a remake of something back in the day, as so much is currently.  I also caught the trailer sometime in the months preceding.  This also marks the first time I’ve been out to a theatre in some time.  It takes an intriguing movie or persuasive people to get me into a theatre, and it was the people this time, not so much the film.  Personally, I’ve been thinking of going to see Red Riding Hood, but that’s because it looks so delightfully camp, and I’d like to give the director a shot when she isn’t working with the Twilight series.   Back to topic.    Oh, and I’ll be touching on mild *SPOILERS*

   Bradley Cooper’s character explains himself as a muse-less writer, burnt out and in the gutter, so to speak, until a chance encounter with an estranged ex-brother-in-law provides him with a miracle drug.  NZT, our deus-ex, acts as a jacked up, adult version of Ritalin, with no real downside or side effect, if used as directed (overdose causes memory lapses and psychosis).  As our protagonist pulls his life together, he starts moving up in the world, learning ad mastering skills, languages and perception in seconds rather than the requisite 10,000 hours it takes everyone else.  He moves into the world of finance and business, gets in trouble with a loan shark, and meets DeNiro’s character at the top of the corporate ladder.
   As for what didn’t sit well, the start up bugged me.  I think I’m just getting burnt out on “Tarantino-ing” movies, starting with the end and then recapping.  Limitless pushes it a bit though, which is a nice twist.  The film starts with our suited protagonist on a ledge with pounding at the door behind him, ready to jump.  Then comes the first two acts as narrated flashback to bring the audience back to the ledge.  It works, but it’s probably just me who’s getting to dislike the quick peek forward before being brought back. 
   As a good note, the film doesn’t end with a swan dive away from pursuers, but goes on to end the scene and then provide a fast forward epilogue.  It’s a good time, but outside of a handful of one-liners, isn’t that memorable.  The acting is good, but nothing worthy of stunning praise.  Bradley Cooper’s transformation from a dishevelled writer to the sleek and suited business version of himself was that dramatic a moment as it should have been for me, but then I find makeover scenes a tad insulting.  Still, the glimmer and gloss of Cooper’s blue eyes once he’s back on his wonder drug feels wonderfully simple and effective.  The film was dynamic and constantly in motion, yet everything was visible and at no point was I unsure of what was happening on-screen.  The stretched zoom-shots were dizzying at times, but were used to good effect for the time segues.
   The only thought that still stands out to me is something that I saw when coming out of the theatre.  On ticket booth was a small poster which looked to be advertising the drug of the poster and my thought was this:  there aren’t many drug tie-ins with movies.  I’ve seen plenty of toys, books and games, but not many pharmaceutical’s marketed alongside movies, which is a pity, because if there was ever a drug to buy, NZT would be it, closely followed by some of the health care products provided by Umbrella Corp.  I haven’t looked in to it, but what a fun concept.  The entire movie can be treated as an ad for a miracle drug with the profitable message, stick to the dose, don’t skip daily usage and your life will improve drastically.  You’ll acquire fame, fortune and the illusive lifestyle of those who have it, along with all their toys.  Such build up for an enhanced concentration drug.

   Overall impression was good.  It’s not the smartest movie out there by any margin, but it’s fast paced, good to look at and coherent.  What complaints I level at it are drowned out by the good time I had; it was fun.  If the trailer was a good time for you, give it a look.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Thoughts On...Heroes of Mana

   Last night i spent an hour or so playing Heroes of Mana (NDS) and found it enjoyable.  One of the main reasons i had a good time with it was that I've played far too much Warcraft III over the years.  I've also sunk literally hundreds of hours into all three Final Fantasy Tactics games.  both of these lend themselves well, as the art is done by the same guy as FFT:A2, Ryoma Itō.  It's nice Character style, but very easy to spot.  
   One of the issues i found was that after the first twenty or so minutes, i was skipping through the dialogue and story, moving as quickly as i could to get to the combat, the plight of the people and why they were fighting as forgotten as most things that aren't shiny enough to hold my attention.  The crazy thing was, I wasn't missing much.  whenever i did slow down enough to grasp what was going on, the plot was so unbearably by the numbers that it might as well have used the stylus to connect the dots.  does this sound familiar?
A small unit of soldiers featuring a rookie, a grizzled veteran, a a swordsman, a glass canon mage, a female thief, an archer.  they are sent into enemy territory a a diversion while their armada invades the capital to seize a McGuffin.  upon their arrival to the castle, they're turned on and have to fight against their own side.  plot twist which is so overused it might as well be a light curve in the road.  
   I don't know, but the lack of originality on the plot side bugged me.  still, it's a safe product, which is how i have it in my hands. WC3 is fun.  Square RTS's are fun.  throw in a standard plot that allows the player party to get in a lot of fights and we're off on a good time.
   It left me wanting something other than WC3 port skinned and codded by the FFT crew, glorious though they are.  The mechanics work well.  Units are selectable with more accuracy than a mouse would allow, something impressive for hardware, but it doesn't push the envelope far enough.  a bit more freedom on the over world would be appreciated.  
    Maybe my issue with it is it's like many games i enjoy, but not enough like certain ones.  Were it more free roaming like the first FFT, or dare i say it, Mount & Blade, one of the pinnacles of wide open sandbox games, i might have enjoyed it a bit more.  As it is I i might play it more, but I'm pessimistic that it will surprise me.
   Fun, but didn't do enough to distinguish itself on its own merits.

//Images blatantly ripped off of Google.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

The Awakening – Part V

   Something which occurred to me after bouncing around a few sites was that I’m going about this process with a slight miscalculation.  The elements of these games are more akin to myth arcs of heros than to the fairy tales that plague children with nightmares.  What I mean by this is that they will always contain a level of action as well as exploration, rather than exploration and adventure which happens to have action.  Survival horror overhaul not so much.  Action horror overhaul yes. 
   So what’s the difference?  Well, for one, the tropes that both rely on are different, to a certain degree.  Vulnerability in a protagonist isn’t mandatory, and indeed, Link is nothing if not an adaptable antagonist whose vulnerabilities are downplayed as game play progresses.  Vulnerability is still in place, but not at the forefront.  A parallel would be Dead Space as action horror against Silent Hill as survival horror.  The protagonists are both vulnerable and capable, but Dead Space’s lead is encased in armour and weilds a number of power tools while the lead’s of Silent Hill games are underpowered and mostly stay that way.  The difference is the focus of frailty. 
   This doesn’t deviate that far from my original intent.  Survival horror would have Link negotiate Koholint with a shield and a limited supply of magic powder and that’s it.  Action horror gives him a full complement of tools (see below) while still keeping his frailty (and fatality) a pressing concern by ramping up the difficulty of dungeons and the damage dealt by monsters. Genre change doen with, onwards!
   Legend of Zelda has become, over its many iterations, formulaic.  Link goes about the over world, exploring, uncovering minor treasures (pieces of heart, rupees, etc) and talking to the many inhabitants which he meets.  He is directed, after some story events, towards the first of several themed dungeons.  He makes his to the dungeon.  Inside the dungeon he finds a new tool or weapon which he uses to negotiate the puzzles he encounters and to defeat the boss which guards the quest item.  Link’s new tool might then be used to open up new passages in the over world, allowing for more exploring. 
   This is something which sees some variety (Link finds his new toy before the dungeon, to gain access to it, the boss isn’t beaten using the newly acquired tool) but has, for the most part, become tradition.  This game is no different.  All of the tools and weapons link acquires fit into or overlap between three categories: offense, defence, environmental/ease of access.  What follows is the item placement and the flow.  I’ll go into detail of specific items afterwards.
Wake up/On the Way (OtW) – sword.1, shield.1, magic powder (from mushroom)
Level 1: Tail Cave – Roc’s Feather
OtW – Bombs
Level 2: Bottle Grotto – Power Bracelet
OtW – Shovel, Ocarina
Level 3: Key Cavern – Pegasus Boots
OtW – song, (date with Marin), sword.2
Level 4: Angler’s Tunnel – Flippers
OtW –song
Level 5: Catfish’s Maw – shield.2
OtW – bow, (reveal, life boost)
Level 6: Face Shrine – daydream cloak
OtW – rooster, shield.3
Level 7: Eagle’s Tower – Rope (hookshot replacement)
OtW – sword.3 (seashells)
Level 8: Turtle Rock – fire rod/lamp
OtW – boomerang
Wing Fish/End Game
    For the most part Link’s tools fall under multiple categories.  The sword itself is both ease of access as well as the primary offensive tool.  Bushes that block Link’s way are cut down (ignoring the logic of just jumping over bush, of climbing about it, but that’s game logic so we’ll move past it), opening new paths.  Come to think of it, most all the tools that Link acquires are used to get past broken bridges at one point or another. 

  • The Sword – The battered sword (fist level) does one quarter damage and is found on the beach.  The steel sword (second level) does regular damage and is found in caves on the way to Anglers tunnel.  The Seashell Sword (level three) is found in the seashell cottage and does double damage as well as sending out sword beams at full life.
  • The Shield – Link gets a wooden shield (first level) from Marin before he explores the beach at the beginning of the game, which last fifteen to twenty hits before breaking.  The solid bone shield (level two) is found in Catfish’s Maw and doesn’t break, but can still be stolen by like-likes.  Link finds the mirror shield (level three) before Eagle’s Tower.
  • Magic Powder – Made from a mushroom found in the Mysterious Wood, this changes a few enemies but is mostly used to set things of fire.  Sources of light are valuable and finding refills are important.  Fire and light plays a larger part when night comes and shadows need to be kept at bay.
  • Roc’s Feather – Let’s Link jump.  No change.
  • Bombs – Bought from the Mabe shop, these now cause far more damage, doing a full seven hearts of damage to Link.  Link is warned about their damage when he buys them from the shop.
  • Power Bracelet – Pick up pots rocks and other things.  No change.
  • Shovel – Allows Link dig in the ground.  Bought from the shop in Mabe Village. No change.
  • Ocarina – Plays songs and is found in the dream shrine in Mabe Village.  Link learns a few more songs, the Ballad of the Wind Fish, Frog’s Song of Soul (resurrects the dead or asleep), Manbo’s Mambo (teleports Link to different ponds on the island), Muse’s Melody (progress the time of day to dawn), Hero’s Anthem (repels monster’s), and Richard’s Requiem (learned upon Richard’s death near the end of the game, this restocks inventory items (bombs, bow, powder, etc).
  • Pegasus Boots – Using the boots allows Link to dash as well as charge.  Holding down the button makes Link run on the spot before charging forward.  Tapping a direction without holding down to charged makes link dash in a direction, acting as a dodge backward and a strafe to each side.
  • Flippers – Allows Link to swim and dive.  No change.
  • Bow – Buy from the shop for a very large sum.  No change.
  • Daydream Cloak – similar effect to the Cane of Somaria from A Link to the Past, this turns link intangible and invisible, visible only by his shadow, allowing him to bypass traps and the gaze of monsters, but not holes, or damage by contact.  This is one of the items that is heavily influenced by the reveal of just before Face Shrine, where Link finds it.  
  • Rope – The rope is found in Eagle’s tower and, if used with the bow, acts as a makeshift hookshot.  Used alone it immobilizes enemies, tethering them for a short period of time.  Sword and rope makes a wide spin attack, while equipped with the power bracelet it can be used to pull, lift and throw things from a distance.
  • Fire rod/lamp – The last tool Link finds in a dungeon, and the last mandatory weapon to equip before Link heads off to wake the Wind Fish, this lantern sends out a stream of fire (link the fire rod) which burns things alive.  When equipped, it also produces a radius of light which repels shadows and nightmarish creatures that thrive on the dark.  This makes traveling the over world far less threatening, as Link now has a constant source of light during the night periods which keep monsters away.
  • Boomerang – Traded in a cave on the beach for one of the items in your inventory.  No change
   Those are the items Link comes across.  A few changes, but for the most part, tinged towards a more defensive and reactionary style of game play.  Part VI looks at the dungeons of Koholint, more story and more ways to shift the game towards action horror.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Awakening - Part IV

   Right into objectives, Zelda games have always been fairly simple as far as the types of goals they present their players and this is no different, nor should it be changed.  There are game arc goals (escape the island) and the host of objectives necessary to complete them.  To give a rambling explanation of the breakdown:
   Link is told that to escape the island he must wake the Wind Fish.  To do that he needs to find eight mystical instruments, each buried in a dungeon and guarded by a boss.  To defeat each boss he has to negotiate the dungeon, more often than not themed around the item, tool or weapon that link finds within said dungeon.  To compound issues, each dungeon is placed in areas that are barricaded, blocked, guarded or generally difficult to get to, making the journey to, and entrance into, each dungeon a leg of the journey.  Once Link has all eight instruments, he had better have found the ocarina (first instance of music involvement in the games, huzzah! Outside of the whistle in link to the past which was more a teleport than a narrative tool), so that he can play the melody to wake the Wind Fish outside of it’s egg, after he’s learned the melody of course.  Playing the melody doesn’t wake the Wind Fish immediately though, as the nightmares that are plaguing the dream that Link has found himself in make a final stand, only after Link makes his way through the featureless maze that is the Wind Fish.  Then Link has to beat THE Nightmare, an amalgamation of many serious enemies, and only after that can Link meet the Wind Fish and then wake up, escaping the island.  Of course Link is still stranded on a plank of wood in the middle of a large body of water, but that’s outside of game play, at the end of the game. 
  Each step breaks down into large goals, which then break down into mid level and immediate goals, providing direction behind the ever looming goal of survival. This is a way with storytelling in most games, and not a bad way to go about it.  Survival Horror tries to veer towards a more expanded story, residing comfortably in act two and three, while feeding act one back to players, usually through logs or narrative that gives exposition.
   Link’s Awakening has little to no act one.  It doesn’t really need it.  Even to those who have a cursory glance of gaming know Link.  He’s the generic hero, the green glad lad who journey’s forth to save the land by beating up the big bad, whoever that may be in whichever landscape he finds himself in.  Lots of the Zelda games have featured three act plots, and they’ve been the better for it.  The plot that Link finds himself in gives a fraction of a first act in the games intro cinematic.  Link’s at sea, struck down by lightning, washed ashore, go.  It doesn’t NEED a complex story, In Medias Res works with such a long running franchise, if the continuity is muddled.  But it can still be fleshed out.
   The Wind Fish is the element that the game revolves around.  Waking it from its slumber brings link back to consciousness.  The entire game is the dreaded dream sequence, loathed and abused by so many TV shows.  It doesn’t need to make use of exposition, because in the broad view of the game, there is no exposition.  The game’s a dream.  Link triggered a dream apocalypse, destroying any exposition revealed about the game.  But it didn’t have to be this way.
   So the climax hits, Link goes to the egg to wake the Wind Fish.  At this point the player knows, for at least a dungeon or two, that the world they’ve been exploring is a dream.  So why not enforce this destruction?  After Link takes out the last nightmare in Turtle Rock (last dungeon) the world could undergo a massive shift.  Nothing overtly menacing, but desperate.  Every NPC Link runs into could act sickeningly sweet, all the time begging Link not to destroy their home. Once the world is on the precipice of destruction, it’s changed.  The monsters of the land are no longer the enemy, Link is.  Monsters do their part to destroy Link, Townsfolk do their part to try to keep themselves alive by keeping Link with them.    She might want to leave the island, but her island is her home, and now that all the NPCs feel the island quake and twist under the pressure of the force trying to end the dream (aka Link) they try to hold on. Marin might actually stand in front of the Wind Fish’s egg, protecting it with herself.  Link might be continually called into question with his actions. 
   And what if, here’s a fun thought, Link has to break his character of “the hero” to do so?  His goal is a very selfish one in this game; escape the island at all costs, even if it means destroying the island full of people you’ve interacted with, people who nursed you back to health.  What if Marin stands opposed on the hills of Tamaranch Mountain?  Link might brush past her and into the Egg, ignoring her pleas for her island. What if the second last form of the nightmare that haunts the Wind Fish isn’t that quick sliding speck of darkness, but in Marin’s form, begging one last time?  Forcing the player to cut down a woman he’s saved, who’s nursed him back to health, who’s gone out on a date with him?  
   The Nightmare takes the form of Marin, who begs him to stand down, to let the world live?  If the player cuts her down where she stands, she transforms into the final form, wailing in agony.  If the player talks to her, she gives them a chilling choice:  Link closes his eyes and wakes up, happy and well in Mabe village, with Marin by his side, or cut down the woman who so resembles the Zelda of his mind, the woman who pulled him from the shores.
   The possibility for a more twisted narrative is there, but it requires tough decisions, ones that can be easily glossed over, but questions which the Zelda games have never asked.  This is that chance.  Part V is going to take a look at the items and the dungeons they deal with, sticking to the thematic formula, but breaking the way they go about it.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Awakening - Part III

Welcome to Mabe
Link walks about in the morning sun. The village looks quaint and friendly, if not a bit secluded. The atmosphere is upbeat. He finds a field of grass, a store, a crane game store, an odd shaped weather vane statue, a few houses, all lined by forest edge. To the east the path out of the town is blocked by dense trees and a weighty boulder. To the north he finds the entrance to a forest blocked by tall grass. It looks shadowy and ominous even during the day.
As he walks about the village, he finds the sun moving over head. He makes his way past the town library to the path that leads to the beach he washed ashore on. He finds a small group of children playing ball.  Past them, Marin stands near the gate.
Marin informs him that the monsters of the island have a keen nose and that if he’s been wounded, they’ll zero in on him and continuously attack [bleeding tutorial]. To protect him, she gives him a wooden shield, telling he that he can use it to block enemies and turn aside their attacks. Unfortunately, it’s only a flimsy wooden shield [lvl. 1 shield get!] that she bought at the town store some time ago, so it will break after enough abuse. Marin warns Link to be careful, asking again if he really must leave the safety of the village. She closes the gate behind him, telling him that he’ll be able to pass through if he knocks with his shield nearby.
Link makes his way through the octoroks and pushes his way through to find a battered sword lying amidst what’s left of the ruins of his ship. As soon as he goes to claim his sword, an owl flaps down and starts talking.
The monsters of the islands are acting up and Link is to blame. The owl claims that link has come to wake the Wind Fish, for that is the only way Link can escape the island. It then directs link north, to the mysterious woods. After exploring the beach, link notices the sun dropping and heads back to Mabe village, through which he’ll find the entrance to the next step in his journey.
   So much happens in so little time! The bleeding tutorial requires few lines of dialogue and then the player is left to figure it out on their own once they get in a tangle with some enemies. At this point Link can engage enemies and get a feel for the inventory system. The player can swap both items between the buttons, setting up their control scheme for the problems they have to face. The shield Link is given breaks after about twenty hits, which gives the player a vulnerable defence. The sword Link finds, chipped and battered but functional, deals a quarter damage of what a new sword would.

   This presents a chance that some players won’t notice. The store in Mabe village sells shields, a new sword, a shovel, and three hearts to heal what ails Link. One of the easter eggs of Link’s Awakening was the ability to steal from the store, dashing out the door while the clerk is facing away. Once outside, the game says “Guess what? You got it for free. Are you proud of yourself?” This does save time on some of the high ticket items (bow and arrows especially) but upon entering next time, the clerk electrocutes Link to death, and from then on all the NPCs call Link , not by his name, but Thief. The Awakening keeps the same thing, only adds a bit more injury. Players who steal the level 2 sword (does regular damage, four times what the lvl.1 does) are no longer allowed to buy shields. The clerks recognize Link and tell him to put them back. This gives thieving players the opportunity to increase their attack at the cost of never being able to buy a shield again, as well as the name change and the death once Link walks back into the store.

   One departure from the original that might rely on higher tech would be a day/night system. This wouldn’t be a real time system (like the Game Boy Colour Pokemon games used) but would alter depending on screen navigation. Every dozen or so screen shifts advances the time.Morning shifts into Day, which shifts into Evening, which shifts into Night, which shifts into Dawn, which shifts back into Morning.
Once back in Mabe, Link notices that the sun has set. The kids playing ball are gone, as are the chickens that roamed about the village. Putting it out of his mind, he goes north, towards the entrance to the Mysterious Wood.
   A full day cycle would take between 70 and 80 screen shifts, the average change being between twelve and fifteen screen changes. The cycle is also skewed towards darkness, with three of the five parts presenting worse visibility. The difference and point is to change the types of enemies, give the game a bit more depth and to limit visibility, making light an essential point.

   On the NPCs, it’s good to note that those that Link does encounter already have a bit of the uncanny floating about them. This is lost on the player game logic breeds players who exept the eccentricities of the game world. People who stand in a single spot, quest givers that require specific items with no practical alternative, NPCs who trade meaningless items which work in a linear fashion towards an end prize. Games are littered with these tropes, and Zelda games are no different, creating its fair share. The trading game (which was first featured in this game) is another example of bizarre behaviour we now take for granted.

   The day/night cycle and the dreamscape motif provide for creativity which the game misses, as well as plenty of opportunity to provide dread. New among the wandering monsters of Koholint are:
  • Veils – these appear during the three night cycles. They spawn as small shadows from the scenery, stretching out and pulling Link in (eye pulse pull mechanic), damaging Link upon contact. They often aren’t clearly visible, only drawing Link in when he’s within a certain range, as opposed to an event triggered by entry into its screen. They can’t be killed. If Link equips a light source, he isn’t affected.
  • Morphs – morphing shadows, blobs of inky blackness that cycle through enemies depending on proximity, bleeding effect. Morphs aren’t a cycle of enemies, but a black cloud that shifts between enemies attacks and vague forms. And octorok bullet requires an octorock head, which may sprout if Link passes by within given conditions. These resemble the final nightmare, to a far lesser degree. They run from light, can only be damaged by fire (powder, fire rod, best sword beam, fire/light source).
  • Lesser Nightmares – these are periphery monsters, creatures who act intelligently, provide dread and speak in the same style as the bosses. They’re akin to dungeon-less bosses who lurk behind the scenes, slipping off screen whenever Link gets close by. The first one Link encounters is responsible for stealing Bow-Wow, who Link has to go retrieve in order to gain access to Bottle Grotto, the second dungeon.

   This makes me think that I need to spend some time talking about the Zelda dungeon formula and the new complement of weapons and items Link finds through his journey. Also, the many tiered objectives I haven’t gotten too yet, as well as Link’s journey through the Mysterious Wood to find the Tail Key and make his way to the first dungeon. Part IV coming up.