chronovore: (Default)
EA Sports MMA arrived a couple days ago, but after its demo I wasn't inspired to drop my Rock Band 3 habit to experience Endless-Takedown-Attempt-flavored A.I. My lunchtime RB3 partner borrowed my copy last night, so I had a chance to crack MMA open. I started a career and ended up playing until after 02:00 this morning. Today I'm more than a little tired.

The Career mode grind is more fun than I expected. First off, in contrast to the demo, across 7 career fights and several free sparring sessions, I think I've seen only a couple takedown attempts (that weren't already part of the current training exercise).

Training mini-games are fun, but they're a little too easy after Fight Night's high difficulty bar; in FNR3 and FNR4 I can't seem to do their exercises to save my life. I get minimum points and always feel like I'm going to have to re-start my Legacy Mode fighter for having "wasted" so many chances to progress my fighter. In contrast, in MMA I get Rank A on the first attempt most of the time, consistently on the second. And your best training game performance can be re-used whenever, so there's unfortunately no need to repeat the exercise, even though they're effective at player training. It's as though EA heard players complaining about the Fight Night training exercises being boring and frustrating, took it to heart, made them fun and then ran too far with making them both easier and optional. Fortunately, more advanced ones open up pretty quickly

Clinching and takedown are a little too easy to lock in, and from clinch it's pretty easy to move the rope or cage, which becomes an overwhelming advantage. But it's problematic in the Training sessions, where the LT(away)+Y Button doesn't seem to register the same as standing clinch, but rather prioritizes pulling away from the cage in a clinch. This ends up breaking the combo, requiring the exercise to be re-done. I've learned to avoid the cage while clinched, just so I can finish my Training, but it's accomodating a hole in the control scheme.

When it's time to move to a Camp and learn additional special moves, my progress hit a wall. I went from scoring Rank A's in practice, and 1st Round stoppages in my professional fights, to having Randy Couture bitch me out ceaselessly while I try to progress from open guard to full mount. Bas may have ragged on me for a couple of biffed combos, but Randy clearly wanted nothing more to bail on my session and go get a protein smoothie. And it sounded like he was doing it over the phone, quality-wise, like they'd recorded pick-up lines using Skype. What got me though, is that I couldn't do the task. Today it dawned on me that, unlike the training A.I., the Special Move learning is probably subject to harsher completion parameters, and likely uses stronger A.I. and contests against the player-character's own skills and attributes. UFC 2010 has the same problem, where a beginning CAF has the option to attend a camp and make progress toward learning a new move, but in likelihood his skills are not going to allow him to complete the win-condition, leaving the new skill unlearned. I was entirely unable to get it, despite trying some exercises 20 times, each attempt with its own loading lag.

Speaking of which: Remember people complaining about UFC 2009's cumbersome menus and slow loading times? It is UNFATHOMABLE that I've not seen a single mention of EA MMA's loading times. God's pearlescent testicles, it takes forever to transition from your gym to the fight venue, and the fight is sometimes over within the first 30 seconds... and the trip back to the gym. And then a trip to another gym immediately if you "travel" get enhanced training. Sloooooow.

I looked around to see if any reviews specifically mentioned this, and found this link:
http://www.pastapadre.com/2010/10/20/ea-sports-mma-hard-drive-evaluation
So I'll be running it from the HDD as of this evening onward. It makes sense that the reviews don't mention it if preview copies are now largely downloaded from Xbox Live via code... they're not on disc, so they're not slow. But, man, I was feeling the wait like a weight last night, and it was heavy.

Overall the game is fun. There are some really spotty presentation problems in sound and non-fighter animation (referee is weak, the ring announcer looks like a stroke victim or an animatronic doll). But three hours flew by and left me screaming obscenities at my TV in the wee hours.
chronovore: (Default)
I was out of the USA in 1993 and 1994, so I missed the last two seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Despite Japan having just about every popular American TV series available for rental, TNG has not been available from any of the local places. A friend at work is a big fan though, so he lent me his Japanese-region collection of Season 6 and 7.Yahoo!

My wife is willing to watch all manner of SF with me; we watched Millennium from start to finish in the US, all of Evangelion (and we both hated the ending together). She loves Fringe, enjoyed The Lost Room, and Firefly. But my wife hates Star Trek. She can't deal with aliens who are only differentiated by skin tone and some funky prosthetic glued to their forehead.

So I can't watch them with her, she's not interested; and the friend at work didn't want me to keep his pristine, perfectly kept mint collectors' edition sets for a year. And I didn't want to either, since my son has a tendency to get into my office, rifle my toys, and generally explore a lot. And by "explore" I mean "take apart, apply stickers, and otherwise damage."

Thank goodness for Handbrake! I've ripped all 30 or so unseen episodes to .h264 MP4 files and am watching them during my commute on the train each day.

Picard has the only haircut which has aged well. Troi and Crusher's hairstyles are pretty frightening, and Deanna Troi's jumpsuit, horrible even at the time, is leagues worse now. Dropping her in science blues was a good decision.

I'm looking forward to catching up. The show is still oddly inspiring.
chronovore: (Default)
I watched the Watchmen, the Director's Cut even. Thanks, Weezie! Your care packages save my life. Pros:
  • almost slavishly faithful to the comic, save the end -- and the end is more comprehensible than the comic's was.
  • casting seemed spot-on for all the characters, except Owl-Dude who was good, but seemed like a handsome guy playing a dork.
  • Rorschach. Wow. Perfect, start-to-finish, makes Bale's Batman look ham-fisted and overly well-armored.
  • The Comedian, surprisingly. I had no empathy for the character in the comic; he's still a horrible person in this movie, but the larger sociopathic ethos makes more sense in the context of his environment. Or maybe it was just the actor. Jeffrey Dean Morgan, holy shit that guy is going to be big, if he isn't already. I am stunned to see that he was in PS: I Love You, which I watched the other day. I could -not- remember where I'd seen him previously.
  • it made me want to re-read the comic, which I've not in ten years; the time before that was probably college, and the time before that was when it first came out in its original run of singles. Which I have somewhere. I think.
  • gorgeous cinematography, almost to the point of being distracting from the story. nearly too pretty, too luscious in its grime and saturation
  • um, yum, latex.
There are some serious shortcomings though:
  • the acoustic soundtrack was weirdly noticeable and somewhat jarring, and the licensed music choices were all cliché; they were the kind of choices I'd make, sadly. All Along the Watchtower by Hendrix, Koyanisqaatsiby Philip Glass, these all speak to our own timeline, so they seemed out of place in the Watchmen '80s timeline.
  • and what's with keeping the movie in the '80s? the comic was set in the modern age of its time; not updating it makes it a more accurate depiction of the comic book, but does it say anything valid about our current era, or is it only making the same statement about the '80s?
  • The last scene at The New Frontiersman felt trite and out of place. Not the story twist, but rather the acting, in some lame mockery of Perry White and Jimmy Olsen, or J. Jonah Jameson. "It's a comic book movie! Make the newspaper editor a caricature!" Lazy shorthand, where so much of the rest of the film had some nuanced characters, even for cameos like Silhouette and the original Nite Owl
  • Knot-Tops - the "samurai" gang; these felt out of place; there's no real nipponophile tendencies shown anywhere else in the movie, so these quasi-bushido gang members felt out of place. Were they in the comic? Was the Nite-Owl II and Laurie alley tussle in the comic? I felt the whole sequence was gratuitous, more so since it was clear they were looking for an excuse to get in a fight. It felt like a sequence from The Director of 300 more than a scene from an Alan Moore comic.
  • the aging makeup prosthetics for Sally Jupiter and the guy playing Nixon were distractingly bad.
  • the natural dangling motion of Dr. Manhattan's meat-and-two-veg was distracting, and better portrayed than ANY of his lipsynch animation.
  • why re-work the artwork for The Black Freighter comic in that world? Why not use the original. Better yet, since the sequence isn't portrayed in the movie except for ONE SHOT, why shot it at all? What does it tell the audience who hasn't read the comic? It's an in-joke for comic geeks.
Overall, this is one of the best comic book movies out there, but it doesn't transcend its roots like the original elevated the world of comics into grown-up entertainment. This is a work for fans, and as one, I'm thankful.
chronovore: (Default)
Pre-completion review of Brütal Legend: It's very good, despite a couple of serious missteps. (Full disclosure: I have several friends at Double Fine, some of them very dear to me, and I am very clearly biased.)

The first misstep is the demo version of the game; it doesn't really show the game off for what it is. It touches only on two aspects of the core experience: epic, gorgeous, heavy-metal inspired environments, and third-person mêlée combat. There's a driving sequence that might as well be on rails, and a boss fight in an arena.

In actuality game is an open-world/driving action game (a la Grand Theft Auto), featuring story progression missions which usually focus on real-time strategy gameplay (think Warcraft). There are side-missions which consist of skirmish-level RTS with fixed unit resources (no resource management, but RTS controls apply), races, hunting, and a very occasional mission which focuses on using Team-Up powers in a new context. The depth of the gameplay is primarily invested in the RTS sequences, but the bulk of the time in singleplayer is in driving/exploring the world, and non-Stage-Battle missions.

This is really the second misstep: The game stops teaching the player about the complexity of the RTS portion of the game right about the point where it's needed the most. The game is fastidious about teaching the player how to attack, defend, drive a car, all stuff that could have been pretty well handled through trial-and-error. It doesn't teach the player about managing overall unit "Load" or improving their Stage (increasing their tech level). It gives very brief instruction on sending only a portion of massed forces out with individual orders. There's a really smart, complex game, an RTS reconsidered particularly for the controller-driven console market, but it isn't successfully conveyed to the player.

In fact, I'd been cruising through the singleplayer with nary a hiccup until "Dry Ice, Wet Graves" at which point I became seriously frustrated. The learning curve took an immediate turn for the vertical, leaving me running directly into a wall. I played it several times before looking up some strategy guides online, at which point it became fun. More fun that it had previously been, in fact -- a sudden insight into its depth of gameplay is all it took.

Part of me wonders if the expectation or hope was for BL to become a primarily multiplayer hit. Similarly to the way Halo smoothly brought multiplayer FPS genre to consoles, perhaps the desire was to bring RTS to the same audience. So far the attempts to do that have been overly complex; despite some clever button-chording, Universe at War and C&C Red Alert still focus on a tremendous complexity and depth, slavishly following the model of PC-based RTS games, allowing for homogeneous or heterogeneous unit grouping and orders. BL takes all of that and says "b'bye" and allows the AI to determine most unit behavior. This relegates the player to telling bulk groups where to go, thus freeing the player from unit-level micromanagement and replacing that activity with directly assaulting the enemy with their highly mobile, reasonably powerful avatar.

Imagine you're playing Warcraft or Starcraft, and your unit selection pointer, that gloved fist can travel over to the opponent's side of the map, dispelling fog-of-war as it moves, and then can begin flicking, snapping at the enemy units directly. Your "pointer" can diminish or destroy your opponent's forces. All I can say is "YAY!" Harrassing enemy troops is great, though if you linger too long your character can be destroyed, basically just resetting it to your own stage and awarding 50 Fans to your opponent.

Also, there should be a KLOS 95.5 sticker for The Druid Plow. Or whatever Schafer was listening to when he was in high school. But it was KLOS for Los Angeles, though I embraced my metalhood much later in life.

Along with having a fresh take on the RTS, the game tells an epic story through gorgeous cutscenes, fantastic voice acting and animation, and some spot dialog from interacting with the entourage at various points on the tour... er, "quest." On that animation thing, the facial animation is just spot on, start to finish. I recall some great stuff in Psychonauts as well, but much of this feels like a Pixar movie made for metalheads. Nothing's melodramatic and overblown, just believable, moving scenes with surprisingly endearing characters.

But artistically the thing that really gets me going is the world itself. I don't want to distract from what DF has accomplished with the RTS and story, but as an ex-world designer ("once and future world designer"?) I am very impressed with the world itself. Interviews prior to launch have mentioned they want the world to feel like it could be a heavy metal album cover, no matter where you look. I didn't know how they'd pull that off, but it's there. In spades.

More hours have been spent just tooling around and looking at the world than playing the game. I've looked for the "completion" items like Dragons and Legends and metal ViewMaster things, but I actually sit there in awe when the vista view is happening, and panning around the landmark for a larger view. These landmarks are all composed to make the world look like those old album covers which were so evocative of the feelings that the music brings. These need to be given away as wallpaper on the official site. They're gorgeous. They're so pretty in fact that I don't want to play the story missions, because I just want to drive around and absorb the feeling of being in the world. I was driving in my hot rod around the cliffs when the weather changed to a stormy night. Blue lightning flashed and lit the whole world in a stark, cerulean blue hue. Rain poured down as I tried to drive as close to the cliffs as possible, all the while the storm raged. It was just insanely beautiful.

COFFEE!

Sep. 24th, 2009 11:23 am
chronovore: (furious)
Peet's Major Dickason's Blend: OM-f'ing-G this is good coffee. First sip shot my eyebrows back with such force that my hairline has receded further.

mma

Jul. 28th, 2009 04:30 pm
chronovore: (furious)
Cheick Kongo-Frank Mir rumored for UFC 107 - ESPN:
According to MMAJunkie, Frank Mir might meet Cheick Kongo at UFC 107 on Dec. 12 in Memphis, Tenn. If so, Mir may well get the sharpest striking test of his career to date.
No, no, no. Round 1 submission. Kongo on the ground is a fish out of water, and Mir's submission game is tight.

covers

Mar. 13th, 2009 01:49 pm
chronovore: (Default)
Why do authors, hollywood, studios, etc. get angry at fanfic writers, but music bands never seem to get angry at other, lesser known, perhaps less talented bands for making weird, freaky, sometimes bad cover versions of songs?
chronovore: (Default)
Your challenge is to write crossover fanfiction combining A-Team and Johnny the Homicidal Maniac.
The story should use rape as a plot device!

Generated by the Terrible Crossover Fanfiction Idea Generator
chronovore: (mouthy)
I'm listening to Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog, and admiring Felicia Day's pipes; there's something almost liquid about her voice; syrupy maybe, but definitely flowing and beautiful. I wonder how many other roles she's had that have allowed her to sing. Not many, I expect, unless we're talking community theater.

This led me to wonder about my personal pick for best action hero of this generation, Jason Statham. Whenever I see him in a movie and he doesn't get to show off his martial arts, I'm gravely disappointed. It's like eating cereal without milk.
chronovore: (furious)
My copy of Mercenaries 2 (360) arrived in the mail yesterday from Play-Asia.com.

The first game is the first game which took GTA's formula and did it better. While GTA just added more bells and whistles to its core gameplay with each sequel (until GTA IV), Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction took the challenge of allowing players to sculpt their own means of gameplay, either completing missions stealthily and with minimal body count, potentially without the victim even knowing who was responsible, or tackling them head-on in a blistering, booming, destruction without discretion manner where nothing but the trees are left standing. (A joke in itself for Mercenaries veterans)

After 2 hrs. of playing, I can confirm that the game is basically MORE OF THE SAME -- which in this case I wholly endorse. It's Mercs, plus some resource management, full game co-op play, and TREES YOU CAN DESTROY.

Bring that noise. I want some.
chronovore: (Default)
Saturday, I saw Star Wars, which was prettier than it was good. It was better than Episode 1, maybe better than Ep.2, but most suprisingly it had more laughs in it than anything since Empire. Lots of fun moments and guffaws. But most suprising is the visual language; it was just gorgeous. Dark, but very painterly and lush.

Story-wise, I tried really hard but was unable to get past the damage that Lucas did to the franchise with the prequels. There is just no getting past the bad-ass Jedi being constantly unable to see the Sith Lord RIGHT in front of them. That may be the Siths' ultimate ability, but it's never explained in the movies, which otherwise go out of their way to over-explain anything else.

It's impossible for me to like the Old Republic troopers. They're stormtroopers. They're mass-created clone warriors who are fundamentally wired to betray those Jedi who have been fighting alongside them for the entire war against the secessionists. They're never cast as tragic in this regard; it's just a switch in their head, and as such it's impossible for me to feel like they're deserving of empathy or support.

And lastly, Anakin himself, who was supposed to have been "seduced" by the Dark Side, who was supposed to have had a gradual, one-bad-choice-after-another slide into darkness, but instead basically does a big flip-flop at the most critical juncture in the story, and suddenly becomes the world-destroying analog for Hitler and Satan or whatever, he's the most difficult of all to feel any sympathy for.

He gets a charming, plucky Padawan, Asohka, with major attitude and skills to back it up, and he has to learn how to deal with being a teacher. Handled a little more skillfully, the story might have shown how this was another chance for Anakin to avoid sliding into the Dark Side, and then give a nudge or hint as to why it wasn't ultimately effective in changing his ways, such as the padawan being injured or killed, and that experience would further distance Anakin from emotional attachment or taking others into his care.

Nope.

Anyway, it was fun. I will probably buy the DVD, which I should have waited for to begin with.

Saturday

Aug. 24th, 2008 11:56 am
chronovore: (OMFG)
Yesterday was interesting:
Had lunch with The Wife's nursing students, as a kind of English conversation salon. It was fun; we have a local teppanyaki wine bar that's really a nice, relaxing place for hanging out. It went well but the aircon was hard-pressed to deal with the body heat and teppan heat while prepping food for 18 people. Never seen my son look quite so overwhelmed; he was acting really shy at first, because he probably couldn't decide who to try and charm first; a couple of the ladiez were incredibly pretty. Like, "if these two show up in a nursing outfit, I'd be expecting a porn bass-riff to start immediately." Va-va-voom. The boy eventually got over his reticence and dragged one of them out for a walk, little Casanova.

While we ate, we got to see the crowd headed for Daicon 7 at Namikili Hall. The restaurant's on the main drag between the train station and the hall. Lots of arrested development geeks, surprising me how much the geeks/nerds/SF dorks in the USA have in common with the ones in Japan.

After lunch we split up; my friend Jeremy from NZ and I went to check out the Con, and were suprised to find out it cost 13,000 yen to get in! We opted for a coffee at Starbucks and I checked the local movie times. Star Wars: The Clone Wars CG movie is playing, and I was determined to see it on the big screen. I went back and checked to make sure the pricing thing was correct, and lo and behond, it was actually FREE to get into the dealer's room and the 2nd floor galleries.

We checked the dealer room, which was tiny and pretty sad, like... really sadly lacking in anything. If I had been a fan of the fanfic manga, limited release DVD or CG-manga scene, I might have been excited to meet some heavy players in that scene, but it just isn't my thing. Then at one corner I saw some stuff from FEWTURE MODELS, with work by Yasushi Nirasawa, one of my HEROES.

On closer inspection, it turned out there was a book signing by him at 14:30, less than 7 minutes from that moment! I bought a book voucher and a t-shirt and headed up to the signing. I was the only foreigner there, and pretty much stood out readily. He greeted me in rough English, and I talked about how his stuff has been an inspiration. He looked stunned that he has had a foreigner fan for more than 10 years, since I got in with CREATURE CORE some 13 years ago. I asked him to push for a reprint, since I left my copy with Jeff Wilcox as a present prior to coming to Japan (thinking I'd be easily able to replace it). He also came up with a neat way of signing my T-shirt and book, and thanked me for the support. Daicon went from being a zip-bupkiss experience to being EPIC!

I'll post separately about Star Wars.
chronovore: (mouthy)
razbliuto
(n): the sentimental feeling you have about someone you once loved but no longer do
I really enjoyed GTA IV; I'm talking in past-tense already, because I'm mostly done with the game.  I'm probably at 90+ hours at this point, and 89-point-something-something percent complete in the game progress stat. I think I've got a few "Random Strangers" vignettes and maybe need to bring a few Friends on all activities to hit 100%. I've killed 200 pigeons, hit 50 unique jumps, some more than once, one 20 races, killed hundreds of people, and listened to a lot of radio jibber-jabber.

Now that the story's over, the city feels pretty lonely. Where friends and girlfriends previously called with an annoying frequency, sometimes in the middle of a job, or while I was on my way to a race, or looking for a pigeon to kill or a jump to launch from; they rarely call anymore, and they're suddenly picky about what they're willing to do to hang out with me. I've even been dumped by one girlfriend, which was pretty surprising. I actually enjoyed picking up and hanging out with friends, but the activities to do with them, darts, pool, bowling, eating, are largely free of skill requirements, and therefore boring. Catching a show with them takes a lot of time staring at a cutscene, and skipping the cutscene results in "leaving early" - so that's no fun. The most fun activity is actually getting drunk, because it messes with the ability to navigate on foot (and in cars) and is pretty hilarious to boot. Oh, also you get to hear a whole different side to your friends' dialog, "just like real life."

Note: Apparently the word "razbliuto" has been debunked a fugazi, but it's too good a concept to not have a word associated with it, so I will continue to use it.

More to come, shortly; in the meantime, here more negativity:
Nega-review: Grand Theft Auto IV - Joystiq.

To continue: Couple more hours in; Stats are 93.235%, 84 hrs. 28 min. I feel like I want the 100% and 100 pt. Achievement too much; I'm getting frustrated when I can't figure out what I'm missing, and at this point it's just to progress a percentile, not to finish a game -- I've finished the game. I don't want to ruin what I liked about this game in the same way I kind of ruined Bioshock for myself by doing a deathmarch playthrough. ah, I'm at a loss. but this game didn't do for me what even GTA Liberty City Stories did.

More basically, here's what didn't work in the game:
Cover-shooting. This mechanic works OK in the singleplayer game - essentially it slows combat down to a manageable pace; but the AI never attempts to flush you out, charge your position, or even lob a grenade at your entrenched spot. I felt more challenged by the enemy troop AI in Halflife (1), ages ago.

The story. It started out great, a kind of immigrant's tale of loss, family, trying to start over in a new land... and halfway through it changes to a half-hearted stab at a mafia tale, viewed from the outside, and then they try to tack that onto the previous immigrant/family story. And nobody's really served by all the seriousness. There's a big effort to make a respectable, emotional, serious story; but there's nothing here on the level of a decent Elmore Leonard or T. Jefferson Parker novel, or even a decent caper movie like Confidence, The Heist, or even a decent episode of The Sopranos. GTA has had a successful vibe to the story

Here's what I liked:
The revised driving scheme requires a lot more skill than GTA III-era games. At first I may have listed this in the not-liking category, but this actualy is pretty neat. It's squirrely and easy to spin out, harder to stop, and a lot more difficult to feel completely in control of the vehicle. It was easy to powerslide through corners in previous games, but now if I've made it I feel like I've really pulled off a stunt.

Shooting does not suck nearly as badly as previous versions. It still is auto lock, but the flick-switch with the same controls as look (right stick) is consistent.

A couple of radio stations are really stand-out. Radio Broker has introduced me to new music that I really, really like. I am a hipster poser waiting to happen, apparently. Juliette Lewis is a pretty kewl DJ. But really, Iggy Fucking Pop on Liberty City Rock is just amazingly cool to hear; I keep listening to that, just hoping to hear more sass that hasn't yet been randomly cued. And The Journey's computer DJ is also a source of near-endless nihilistic amusement. Radio Vladivostok is also pretty great, but I'm not into it enough to go seek out Russian rap and pop acts outside of the game. I've used the Zit! feature on my cellphone to scope out tracks on several stations.

Speaking of that, the cellphone as the main interface for starting in-game missions is very well implemented. Having so many choices managed on a believable, internally consistent, and intelligently designed UI is slick as hell.
chronovore: (OMFG)
[Error: unknown template video]
Prince establishes total ownership of the song at 3:30 or so. I began cackling maniacally soon afterward.
chronovore: (Default)
Maverick Swedish Pop Star Reveals What Britney Could Have Been: This one's for [livejournal.com profile] jjgalahad since he originally hipped me to Robyn's exsistence. RAWR.
chronovore: (furious)
Engadget is home to the dorkiest article title I have seen in years: OLPC hacked to run Amiga OS. And, no, it's not a "geeky" title, it's dorky. BeOS would be "geeky."

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