Good news

In a most wonderful turn of events, the extraordinary Helen Trevillion is, despite some massive communication fuckups (mostly my fault), writing the music for The Strange and Somewhat Sinister Tale of the House at Desert Bridge. This is fantastic news, as I really can’t imagine anyone else being up to the task.

The game isn’t done yet – as I’ve mentioned before, when the deadline went out the window I decided to add thousands of insane little details – but the demo I compiled for Helen has almost the entire gameworld and most of the game logic in it (and it’s just 17MB). Which means nothing to you, but to me is a sign that we’re getting closer to a release, and also reminds me just how full of weird stuff it is.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Saw the preview yesterday.

Loved it.

The story is good, the actors are fantastic – above all Harrison Ford, but I was also very fond of Karen Allen – and it just feels right. This is Indiana Jones. The movie may not have a strong enough climax (it’s exciting, but it never builds to the levels of Temple of Doom or Last Crusade), it may be a little too short, Cate Blanchett’s accent may sometimes pop out a little (though she’s wonderful otherwise), all kinds of shortcomings may be found… but in the end, it’s an amazing, fun ride, and 100% Indiana Jones.

Which is what the fans, such as myself, were hoping for. What people who enjoy cinema were hoping for. As for the naysayers, they would have complained no matter what the film was like; for them, it’s more about portraying themselves in a certain light than about the movie. The same mindless snobbery that affected the Star Wars prequels is likely to happen here, too: people who haven’t even payed attention to the movie, who haven’t spent half a second of thought on it, but want to prove how “grown up” they are by dismissing things that are new. “In my time, movies didn’t have special effects, they had models, which are real, yes, they’re actually the size of the actual actors…” That kind of thing. And then there are movie critics, who generally hate anything that is fun and intelligent, and especially hate it when something is successful more than once. Ahh! Evil!

Go see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. You’ll have fun. You’ll have moments to remember. What more can one ask of a good adventure movie?

The Fall – Last Days of Gaia

The Fall (of Decent Design)The Fall – Last Days of Gaia is a post-apocalyptic RPG by German developer Silver Style Entertainment. The original version was plagued by bugs to the point of being unplayable, but there’s a “Reloaded” version out which you can get at “budget” prices (what a weird term).

Anyway, since I’m a fan of such games – Fallout 1 & 2 above all – and because I really miss playing good RPGs, I decided to give this one a shot. As with most RPGs I’ve recently played (Gothic 3, Two Worlds, a bunch of others) it is ultimately disappointingly stupid.

Now, I should be fair. I haven’t played the game much. Certainly not enough to be able to offer a completely objective opinion. The reason I haven’t played it much, however, is not because I didn’t want to. It’s because the flaws this game has are so annoying as to prevent me from playing for more than 20 minutes without banging my head against the keyboard and causing all the cornflakes lost therein to pop out. OK, that was both disgusting and untrue. There are no cornflakes in my keyboard. I have no idea what those things are.

Anyway. This is not going to be a full review, because I have neither the time, nor the in-depth knowledge of the game to write one. So it’s going to be a list.

  1. The graphics are very nice and very detailed. Unfortunately, since the camera controls are shit and you have to control a team of six people, you are constantly playing the game at minimum zoom. And it’s still annoying – like when a character is between two buildings and you can barely control him because the camera can’t go through the houses and you can’t get a useful perspective. This kind of nonsense happens all the time. It doesn’t help that the camera cannot range freely and is always tied to a character.
  2. The German voice acting is bowel-crunchingly awful. The lead character is a super-wimp, there is barely any emphasis, and I don’t think these people have ever even heard of the concept of acting. It’s all the more painful when I’ve just spent so much time playing Gothic 1 & 2, which have great voice acting. (Note that with both games, German is the original language. This is not a translation issue.)
  3. I am SO tired of RPGs with RTS controls. If I wanted to play a bloody RTS, I’d play one! Baldur’s Gate started it, but there it at least half-worked (though most strategic elements went out the window). In The Fall, it does not work. As usual, you spend most of your time fighting the path-finding AI rather than the game’s opponents.
  4. Speaking of which, considering this is basically a squad-based RTS, combat is just painfully bad. The designers apparently couldn’t decide how much control the player should have and how much should be done by the AI, so they decided on a mixture that incorporates the worst of both worlds. Even if you switch off all the automatic stuff, you still can’t control your characters decently – they still run around like headless chickens, straight into enemy fire. The idea of holding their position seems foreign to them. And the AI is just plain dumb. I mean, incredibly dumb. It makes lemmings look intelligent. It’s almost impossible to keep your characters from getting themselves killed every five seconds.
  5. The game incorporates all the good squad-based stuff: kneeling, lying on the floor, that kind of thing. It even has some very cool original features, like the ability to play dead. Unfortunately, none of this is any good, since you can’t really control combat, and since there is next to no interaction with the environment. (One of the first missions consists of defending a village. I love this kind of stuff. Positioning people where they have cover, putting people of roofs, setting traps, that kind of thing Doesn’t work. You just end up shooting around like an idiot and getting killed. Positioning people makes no real difference, neither does their posture.) Why could X-Com: Apocalypse do all these things in 1997 and why can’t The Fall do them nowadays?
  6. The game has a ton of great details. Getting flesh and fur off animals, finding water, looking for good places to sleep, etc. This is the meat and potatoes of RPGs, or at least of the kind of RPGs that I like, and is only rarely implemented these days. I was so excited when I read the manual. Unfortunately, I didn’t really get to do much of all this, because the gameplay and the controls and the graphics are SO FUCKING ANNOYING. Why didn’t anyone notice this? Don’t these people play their own games? Don’t they test them? WTF?

I’ll keep on playing the game, and trying to have some fun. If I manage to do so without going crazy, I will report back.

Wer hat uns verraten? Part Two

Marc-Uwe Kling returns with a new version of his brilliant song, with even better lyrics – which he proceeds to sing to an audience which is, as my friend Julian put it, visibly not amused. Ah, the joys of telling middle-class pseudo-progressive Germany the truth about the consequences of its actions.

Yes, the song and video are in German, so if you don’t speak that particular language, you won’t be able to enjoy this masterpiece. Don’t be sad, though; except for this and the original-language version of Gothic I and II, you’re not missing much. Goethe is overrated, Schiller couldn’t write to save his life, and most of the rest is better when translated anyway.

Is it any wonder I want to get out of this country? Rootkits on my computer, idiots in the government, hypocrites in the audience… and the weather still sucks.

At least they make good RPGs.

P.S. When I say that Gothic II is better art than the complete works of Goethe, I mean it. I hope some German art critic reads this and dies.

Fable: The Lost Savegames

You know, despite it being influenced way too much by JRPGs, and despite having some truly idiotic features (such as the system for saving, the lack of choices or detail in the main storyline, and the NPCs), I was enjoying Fable: The Lost Chapters , which Verena gave me as a present. It was quite a bit of fun, especially for someone as starved for a decent RPG as myself. (Most of the recent ones I’ve played were pretty, but boring.)

Until, that is, I started the game up this morning and saw that my profile and all its savegames were gone. Poof. Just like that. And no Mr. Game Designer, I’m not replaying the huge and mind-numbingly boring intro, nor am I redoing all those unbelievably annoying and tedious NPC quests again.

In other words, I’m out of gaming material. Again.

*sigh*

Scurvy!

MONKEY!Few things make me as deliriously happy as the song “Scurvy!” by Captain Bogg & Salty. There’s just nothing as cool as pirates, is there?

No, ninjas aren’t as cool. Not even half as cool. They’re only cool when they’re also monkeys. And even in that rare case, pirates are still much, much cooler.

And I suppose I have to put something else here, because otherwise the image screws up the formatting.

So, don’t forget: if there is scurvy on your pirate ship, eat a lime!

YARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!

Believers

Peter David has an intelligent and eloquent post about the Christian family that let their young daughter die of diabetes because they thought God would save her. It is profoundly depressing to see how deluded people can be (and I’m not referring to their religiosity per se; read David’s post). It is also a strong reminder of how little many Christians know about their own Bible.

The title is a reference to a Babylon 5 episode about the same topic (not written by Peter David). I was immediately reminded of it, and of the fact that some people think the story is unrealistic. How unfortunate that it isn’t. But the thing is this: in the B5 episode, the parents are deeply affected by their child’s state. Death by diabetes is slow and horrible, yet Kara Neumann’s parents didn’t seem to be moved by that, arrogantly trusting that they were the Chosen Ones to whom God would exclusively reveal himself. There is only one word for this kind of behaviour: madness.

No such thing as Global Warming, eh?

In the summer, most of the time it just rained. In January and February, we had days where it was so hot that you could go out in a T-shirt. (Not just one or two freak days, but quite a few.) And we’re talking about Germany here. We didn’t see an inch of snow the whole winter. Nothing. It rained sometimes, but often it was quite warm.

Now, in March, with all the trees in full bloom, it’s snowing. It has been snowing, again and again, for several days now.

And there are still people who claim there’s no such thing as climate change? Take a look around, people! The climate isn’t just changing, it’s completely fucked.

I wonder sometimes… when we have children, how will we explain summer to them? Or winter? Hell, what about autumn? These things will no longer exist, not like they used to.

It’s pretty depressing.

Arthur C. Clarke

Arthur C. Clarke is dead. Literature has lost one of its greatest visionaries and humanity has lost one of its most dedicated and positive proponents. He will be missed.

The good thing, however, is that as long as we’re around – and by “we” I mean our entire species, the species that Clarke had hope for when so many other writers have nothing but fashionable misanthropy – his stories and his ideas will be with us. Forever.

(And if there is an afterlife, I will find him and kick his arse for dying before someone could make a Rama movie.)

Finally someone who *understands*…

Stephen Fry is not only one of my literary heroes (and someone I hugely admire in general), he’s also a blogger (or blessayist, as he delightfully puts it). And since he recently broke his arm and can’t blog all too well, he’s now posting podcasts (or Podgrams, as they are called on site). (Look, it’s another parenthesis. They were on sale today.)

Anyway, his most recent podgram is called Bored of the Dance , and is all about dancing. (Or possibly about not dancing.) It’s hilarious, eloquent, and deeply, profoundly true. (For me. )(Not for most people.)(That’s it.)(Go and listen to it.)(Here’s the link again.)(I don’t like pork.)(Chicken is good, though.)