Thursday, June 30, 2022

The World Con

 So, the world cup is almost upon us and I'm 100% determined not to watch, support or care about such a blatant example of bribery, excess and disregard for the world as a whole ... which seems at least a little ironic - especially when you were 'chosen' as the best candidate to host the world cup.

 

 

Why, do you ask? Mostly because it's taking place in Qatar; one of the most ill-suited locales for anything other than oil refineries, air-conditioned shopping malls or indoor ski slopes (well, for one of its neighbors, at least.) This smacks of 'because we can,' rather than providing any compelling reason why players would be motivated to play in 40-degree temperatures - nor be forced to change the game to suit this inhospitable environment.

I, for one, will boycott it and I would suggest you do the same. This is a travesty to anything resembling this once great game. I would welcome a world where we witness empty stadiums, mass bankruptcy and a world where just because you bribed people to get your little world cup doesn't mean the general public is as willing to go along for the ride. The writing is on the wall; all nations whose sole source of wealth is from oil production knows that this well will soon be drying up. The correct response to this realisation should not be to double-down on living in this inhospitable environment, but rather, to find an environment more conducive to life. That should be the logical conclusion, shouldn't it? Shouldn't it?


Tuesday, March 15, 2022

The man made of bat

Ah, Batman, you fickle mistress. You drew me in with Michael Keaton, spurned me with Val Kilmer and George Clooney ... and then bored me with Christian Bale, and yet, you still can't shake my devotion. Just when I thought I was past wanting to see heroes wearing their underpants on the outside you draw me back in.

 

And who do I have to thank for this return to form? A sparkly vampire, of all things. Perhaps it's not too much of a stretch for a vampire to be a good candidate for a batman but, still, I had my reservations. Even if Robert Pattinson was everyone's Mormon pin-up, that hasn't stopped him from forging a credible acting career - especially when teamed up with Dafoe. You no longer can simply pigeon-hole him as that guy from that teenage flick. He's transcended that - just like Baffleck has transcended acting ... but I digress.

That's not to say that this vehicle rests solely on his shoulders to carry; all main characters were inspired choices and was also helmed by very capable cinematography and direction. This was a team effort that paid off. It's been a long time since I've been physically impressed by a set piece - and yet, I was. Perhaps it was the physicality of the filming and the restrained use of CGI which kept me invested - it impressed me. This is the best comic book rendition of Batman that I've seen so far. It's also closest to reproducing the feel from the Arkham series of games which tickled my pickle.

Even though I enjoyed this movie, it doesn't make it free from criticism. If I had to say the choice to have Bruce Wayne play out as emo seemed a little strange. It is a pretty dark and very wet version of Gotham which may wear on some people. I do question some of the choices for the riddler - I particularly found it strange that he'd end up as some kind of a fan boy. It's also overly long and I would agree that perhaps one ending is generally all one needs.

Having said all of that, the final conclusion may be a clue to how the story arc of Mr Wayne will play out. What could be better than for the Batman to find a middle ground between vengeance and complacency? This may work out to be the most interesting rite of passage a hero has gone through. Having said that, all I'm hoping is it doesn't end up with me holding back bile while Bruce smiles on while drinking champagne in Paris. Make it so, Mr Reeves, make it so.

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Gloom Raider

Apologies for being so late to the party ... but I just played through the rebooted 2013 Tomb Raider and I'm not impressed. Perhaps I'm a little impressed but, overall, I'm not. Let me explain:

Back in 1996 a game company by the name of Core released the titular (puntastic) Tomb Raider which was known more for the ice-cream coned protagonist as it was known for pretty good hand-animated motions for Lara Croft, gameplay and ... wait for it ... raiding of tombs. Most of the actual gameplay focussed around traversing precarious environments, solving puzzles, shooting animals and retrieving treasure and this basic formula held strong for 13 (!) releases/re-releases. Naturally, by the later releases, this formula began to feel a little stale. Personally, I was kind of sick of the game after Tomb Raider 2 but, apparently, this was not the case for many, as could be evidenced by the sheer number of releases.

It was clear that Lara would need to be redesigned for the current market, and so, the reboot was kicked off because, over the course of 17 years of stagnancy, many contenders had proved how climbing, level design and combat could be done better. But first, I will go over what I think were the main guiding principles used when designing this new game:

  • Revamp climbing model - like Uncharted
  • Revise combat model - like Uncharted
  • Focus on movie set pieces - like Uncharted
  • Focus on horror elements and gore - because?
  • Make tomb raiding just side quests - because?
  • Add obligatory collectathons / busy work - like Assassins Creed
  • Hunter sense - like Arkham Batman series
  • Implement a number of characters and MacGuffins - this was a good addition
  • Multi-use bow mechanic - actually pretty original and well thought out 
  • Zelda mechanics i.e. unlock new areas through new mechanics - I enjoyed this
Perhaps I'm a little nostalgic but it gets tiresome when every rickety railing/roof top gives way every time you climb on it. When Uncharted 1 did it for the first time it was fresh - but not by the time they reheated this same mechanic 8 years later. But perhaps that's not necessarily a bad thing - set pieces can be fun if performed well but where I draw the line is when they relegate tomb raiding to merely side quests. The main gameplay loop should always be centered around raiding tombs and avoiding booby traps. It seems quite insulting that you could complete the game without even raiding one tomb. This seems like a major sleight to anyone who enjoyed the original series. If, I had to assign a name which accurately describes this reboot, I'd assign it - you guessed it - Gloom Raider. Throughout most of the game it's windy/raining and then the first thing we're introduced to is a set piece around getting away from a cannibal who has an incredibly impressive collection of skulls and body parts (which is a running theme throughout this game.)
 
 


The main story revolves around an aggressive weather-protected island which also, seemingly has an unlimited supply of human bodies to sacrifice. Based upon the 'freshness' of the body parts and bloody swamps, I would hazard a guess that perhaps a thousand people are sacrificed across the island each day for these environments to be viable - or that the game director doesn't understand the concept of self-control. Almost every space you crawl through has perhaps a collection of at least ten human remains every few feet. Perhaps it's just my brain getting in the way of things but it just confused me why/how these bodies would be in places where very few humans would ever want to traverse. It's like some kind of demented Martha Stewart was brought in to zhuzh every cavern. Also, the hunter sense really detracted from the game, in my opinion. Its main benefit was for finding hidden trinkets/actionable items which meant (at least for me) pressing it every few seconds - just to avoid missing something - and destroying any immersion in the process.

But back to the side-quested tombs - perhaps the most underwhelming part of the game. Each tomb has been broken down into basically just a physics/navigation puzzle - and we never see the prize (a la Pulp Fiction) - nor does this tomb have any impact on the overall game. It's as if the game director said 'Fine! Here's your goddamn tombs, you ingrate. You happy now? Now, can I get back to adding an inordinately-large number of mutilated torsos on this island?' And I may be right. Because more care and thought was put into merely finding a chest out in the open than was ever shown to any of the prizes in the puzzle tombs.
 
 


But, having said all that, it's not a bad game - far from it; it's just not a Tomb Raider game. I played over 15 hours and got through ~95% of everything which could be got - but also enjoyed most of my time while doing so. I did initially find the combat quite limiting (until you get the necessary brawler perks) but it was satisfying to work my way through contributing my thousand to their daily sacrifices. Despite all the combat, the best parts of the games were spent when working through the puzzles and not sitting through unnecessary murder porn. Overall, I can't fault their change of tack - I'm just disappointed they weren't able to retain more of what originally made their games so popular

Friday, October 15, 2021

Chappelle is cool

 I watched the last release from Dave Chappelle ... and it was cool. Perhaps it wasn't ground-breaking. But it was cool - and yet people will still get on their high horses about it. In this case, the (I would presume) small minority of Karens in the trans community continue their agenda to attempt to bring down Chappelle due to a few jokes at their expense. Notably the 'team TERF' statement mid-way through his set. But, what they never fail to mention, is how he actively nurtured a trans comedian and gave her a chance many never would. He strived to improve her stand up and, when he was vilified after his first Netflix special, she defended him at her expense. Perhaps the retaliation from her community didn't drive her to suicide ... but it didn't help.

 

 
 
From all I've seen of Chappelle he uses his pain and frustration for good and to spread love. Your scape goat is not him. Go find yourself another martyr or, perhaps, learn to forgive and love instead. Even Bill Maher is on the side of rational thought ... which doesn't hurt one bit.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

I win

My mind regales back to an experience back in my youth where I was in a position to play a formerly hearing, but presently deaf, opponent at checkers - who was not even a native English speaker. And yet, he would attempt to communicate to us in English, despite it neither being native, nor within the realm of his hearing.

 

 

For, despite the onset of years, he was still a formidable opponent and would let out a blood-curdling and hearing-unbridled 'I win!' upon actually winning. And we couldn't do anything but accept our loss and reset the board while somehow winning from having experienced something so life-affirming - and at such a young age.

 It was a magical time. He may have passed on since then ... but I still remember.


Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Bitcoin is a scam

Ah cryptocurrency, how young you are. I am waiting for the day when I can travel to any country and not have to be extorted each time I need to buy something in your native currency, and so, bitcoin was born (perhaps.) 
 
It started its life under the shroud of secrecy, what with the need to use Tor and various other steps just to simply purchase any of its currency. And yet, even with a bitcoin's receipt it remained ethereal because all you gained was merely an encryption key to the coin - from a traceability standpoint (at least) it was very hard to determine the true ownership / transaction of a bitcoin - which was music to the ears of the underworld.
 

much wow


Maybe I'm jumping ahead a little. Perhaps I need to explain the basics of what makes a bitcoin. At its most basic, each coin has a ledger (or blockchain) of all the transactions which have occurred since first being created. As the number of times it's transacted increase, the complexity of the bitcoin increase as well. The ownership of said bitcoin is dictated by the ability to encrypt its next transaction which is handled by an encryption key. And, as an added layer of complexity, each bitcoin needs to go through a thorough a vetting process to validate its authenticity after each transaction.

- or in even-more layman's -
 
Bitcoin is an encrypted currency which becomes increasingly more complicated to validate as it's bought and sold
 
And herein lies the problem. Now, before you simply write me off as some kind of naysayer, hear me out. Even if you set aside the money laundering, human trafficking, drug dealing, murdering, illegal firearms and such, the one fundamental problem is in its complexity - or the effort required to authenticate each bitcoin. And this is where bitcoin miners come into play (think gold prospectors.) To offset the exponential amount of processing required to authenticate the latest transaction bitcoin (or perhaps investors) have turned to throwing out fractions of a coin to anyone willing to throw a few CPU cycles their way to alleviate the exponentially growing effort required. Bitcoin (as a whole) is already at the stage of being compared to multiple countries when it comes to how much energy is required to validate the next transaction. The fact that it's floating around $50,000 (!) per coin as we speak has afforded many entrepreneurs the opportunity to create bitcoin mining farms which has only proved to exacerbate the energy usage for this virtual currency - even if you may be able to buy a Tesla in the near future.

Unless something is fundamentally changed with the way bitcoin works I don't see the currency surviving. It is already at the stage of requiring multiple country's-worth of energy to validate its transactions - how long until it requires a worlds'-worth of energy? Perhaps with the advent of quantum computing this can be alleviated - but, fundamentally, don't you think bitcoin has to be doing something wrong?

Ask yourself: how can this be our future currency?

Friday, December 11, 2020

Where there's money there's bias

A long, long time ago I came to the realisation that almost all mainstream award shows carry no weight to what is truly great. When there are obvious biases, agendas or picketing involved in getting the winner across the line then why would you even care what the result is?



As a classic example we have The Last of Us Part 2. A game where (I would estimate) at least 50% of fans from the first one did not enjoy playing. Dare I say it, I don't think even Naughty Dog enjoyed making it, considering the multi-year 48+ hour-week crunch to get it across the line. Personally I think the sequel was always in for an up-hill battle considering the first TLOU ended so perfectly. In the wonderful PC/SJW-compliant world we now live in, Naughty Dog (or should I say the simp going by the name of Druckmann) went full woke and created an agenda-laden game which subverts expectations so he could try and feel smart. Perhaps I'm not seeing the point but a game's main purpose should be to entertain you, shouldn't it? Having to play through forced set-pieces involving killing dogs, torture porn, sex scenes (you would rather not be involved in) and characters you wish you did not have to murder (or save) is not my idea of a good time. Maybe in a post-apocalyptic world this is seen as entertainment - but we're not quite there ... just yet.
 
And all would be fine if this game just faded away into the ether of things I do not care about - but, oh no, somehow they thought we should all recognise this masterpiece in mediocrity. And the people spoke and Druckmann was welcomed by the cold, hard facts of reality of the people preferring another game (a really, really good one at that.)
 
And then we have the 'actual' video game awards (where judges account for 90% of the final vote.) To note: Sushi Ghost did not win as much as it should have. And that is that. I put far more weight in the public's vote because, even if certain people have an agenda, any personal biases are washed away by the power of numbers. I played through (the much-awarded) God of War (at a deeply discounted price) and I still maintain that the game really isn't much fun. It's a beautifully produced game which has some fun puzzles opening chests ... and that's about it. The gameplay was boring, annoying and a slog and I got no enjoyment from hanging out with Boy - even the Blades of Chaos weren't enough to warm me up. The end-game conclusion also was dissatisfying and I can honestly say that outside of production, graphics and sound design that game should not have won much else. This was not a fun game to play and, really, isn't that the point of games: to be entertained?