Thursday, December 23, 2010

Bow before Deathwing

I haven't posted in a while. I could say it's because I've been really busy at work. I could say it's because we're deep in the 'silly season'. I could even say it's because I've had a lifestyle change and I'm trying to stay off the computer as much as I can. Or I could tell the truth; I've been deep into WoW: Cataclysm every spare minute I've had. No one needs my opinion. The general consensus is that it's bloody awesome.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Solid gold suprise

Here's a surprise (as far as I'm concerned); Goldeneye 007 Wii is freaking awesome. When I first heard about this one I was, like many others, ready to dismiss it. The game takes the undisputed N64 classic, Goldeneye, and 'reinterprets' it with Danial Craig's version of Bond as the lead. This sounded absolutely stupid to me. Taking a game based on a movie starring Pierce Brosnan, 'modernizing' it and changing the player character to Craig? On paper it sounds like a wierd idea to say the least. But somehow Eurocom has pulled it off. It controls great (even with wiimote and nunchuck) and the 'reinterpretation' is done very well. The basic story structure is the same but the levels are a little longer and more complex and the story is tweaked to give it a tone more akin the the recent Daniel Craig Bond films. This is the best shooter on the Wii. I'm about two thirds of the way through the story and when I finish that off I think I might even give online multiplayer a go. Finally a serious Wii game that is seriously good.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Dean & Gene Ween

In an American high school in an eighth grade class two dudes named Aaron Freeman and Mickey Melchiondo met, fate conspired and then what might be one of the greatest bands that has ever walked the earth was formed. Ween.

I have not been a life long Ween fan, which is a real shame. My only exposure to Ween was in the mid nineties when, inexplicably, 'Push th' Little Daisies' became a huge hit for them. That video was on alot here in Australia and it consisted of the duo, who called themselves Dean and Gene Ween, performing in some kind of inebriated state a sickly sweet pop love song. I didn't get it. I think alot of people didn't get it and that was the last I heard of Ween for almost eighteen years. Then I come across some stuff about Ween online. I hear Henry Rollins doing a hilarious spoken word bit about them. I start reading about this huge underground following for this band on some alternative music sites. I hit Weens Wikipedia page and the bands website. Interest is picked and then enter the last six months or so. I grab a Ween album at random from itunes. The album is 'The Mollusk'. I listen to it. I'm hooked. This album is amazing. It's a nautically themed pop-rock record, throwing some satire on everything from 60's Brit pop with tracks like 'Buckingham Green' and 'The Mollusk', to Irish drinking songs with 'The Blarney Stone'. I immediately download the rest of Ween's library. Over the past several months I fall in love with this band. They seem to jump from genre to genre with ease with some great pop, some pretty kicking rock songs, some psychedelic experimental stuff and even an entire country album called '12 Golden Country Greats' (with 10 tracks on it). I listen to some of their live recordings like 'At the Cat's Cradle' and 'Live at Stubbs'. I hear a band having so much damn fun. Ween's appreciation for drug culture becomes apparent. When I listen to Ween I hear two guys (probably stoned) making the music that they want to make. This is the heart and soul of artistic integrity. Ween doesn't pander to trends, they skirt the lines of classic pop but the 'against the grain', alternative nature of their sound is always there. When you listen to some Ween albums its almost like listening to two guys with guitars and a DAT machine in a recording studio making music simply to amuse themselves and one another. There is no pretense there.

My big regret is that it took me so damn long to realize this brilliant band were doing what they do. I could have been listening to these guys all through high school. They would have been a serious part of my 'life's soundtrack', if you will. I suspect they still will be, I just wish I had been turned on to Ween before six months ago. Anyway, if you want some amazing, honest, unpretentious, psychedelic rock-pop then look no further than Ween. I will say it again; possibly the greatest band to ever walk the earth. All hail the might Boognish, may he grant you wealth and power.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Quest for Glory

I enjoyed writing about Hero's Quest in my last post so much that I decided to Dosbox my old Quest for Glory games. Then I enjoyed playing them so much I decided to start a blog about it. I plan on playing through the whole series with the same character and writing down some thoughts about the whole experience along the way. It will hopefully be interesting if you're into retro adventure games like me. Once I work my way through QFG I might try some other classics and put my thoughts down about them. Whatever happens I can't wait to get stuck into these awesome old games.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Game (and name) changin'

Since the day dad first brought home our first personal computer - a two colour lump of metal, plastic and cutting edge silicone, with a CGA monitor and no hard drive (it need a boot up floppy), I have had a love for PC games. In particular PC adventure games. They are an artform almost lost to time, except for the few adventure games that have managed to endure today such as Telltales Sam 'n Max and Monkey Island series. The classic adventure game, which had their golden age in the late eighties and early nineties, were a magical mix with less emphasis on action and more on puzzle solving and story and characters. Many video game enthusiasts who grew up in that era of gaming have fond memories for the early Sega and Nintendo consoles and characters like Mario, Sonic and Chun Li, but what turns my nostalgia dial up to eleven are classic Sierra and Lucasarts adventure games and characters like King Graham, Roger Wilco and Guybrush Threpwood. The adventure game was more cinematic (for it's time) and told stories and developed characters. My childhood imagination may have been inferring more onto these old games than I now know, but back then these games were magical to me and I spent countless hours solving their puzzles and quests. I think this trend towards games that have strong storytelling has carried right into my modern gaming habits. Although I enjoy the odd Modern Warfare 2 match my favourite games of the current generation are all story strong such as Mass Effect 2, Dragon Age and Bioshock.

If I had to pick a single classic adventure game that solidified my life long love of video games I would have to choose the original Hero's Quest: So You Want to be a Hero. This game blended adventure gaming with roleplaying in a way that captured my imagination back in 1989 when it was first released. First you picked a character class from fighter, thief and magic user (thief was my favourite), and assign some stats to some D&D like attributes and skills such as strength, stamina, magic use, stealth etc. and then you were thrust into a fantasy adventure game world set in a forested valley filled with monsters, magic and interesting puzzles. 'Ahead of it's time' is definitely one way I would describe Hero's Quest. I'm not aware of an earlier game that blended RPG and adventure so well. This game had multiple ways to solve it's puzzles based on your characters abilities, had multiple endings and even a night and day cycle. Designed by adventure gaming legend Lori Anne Cole and developed and published by Sierra using their SCI scripting engine, Hero's quest is a classic genre hybrid. However after the games initial release Milton Bradley, the board gaming company, began legal action against Sierra on the grounds of naming infringement of their board game, also called Hero's Quest. Subsequently Sierra re-released their game under the new name of Quest for Glory. I owned the original 5 1/4 inch floppy boxed version of the game called the original Hero's Quest. The game world was light hearted and had a great sense of humor throughout with Monty Python references (to gain entry to the wizards house his gargoyle would make you answer three questions such as "What is your name? What is your quest? What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?") and some slapstick moments. Although the 16 colour EGA graphics are basic by modern standards they were injected with nice details and some charming art design. The plot boiled down to your character entering the game on his own personal quest for adventure and glory and with the ultimate goal of becoming a hero. Soon you were fighting goblins and brigands, rescuing the local land baron's children and defeating the evil witch, Baba Yaga. If you were so inclined you could enter the game's town at night and rob the residents blind in some hilarious (well, hilarious when you're 9) burglary scenes. I'm sure you could solve this game in two or three hours nowdays if you knew what you were doing but as a kid I played this thing to death. I knew this game inside out and finished it with all three classes. The game was filled with great characters like the shady misanthrope's down at the local thieves guild, an eccentric old wizard with a pet talking rat, a weird little guy that lived up near the waterfall and Yorik, a crazy court jester. The game had several sequels and one of the great features was that you could carry your character from the end of each game into the start of the next one, character stats and all. I managed to get my hero, Gunther, all the way to Quest for Glory IV. Each iteration of the series saw your hero travel to a new game world. Part 2 was an Arabian nights style desert setting, part 3 was a fantasy African savanna and jungle and 4 was a dark Eastern Europe themed world with werewolves and gypsy's. This game was such an influence on my gaming evolution. This type of adventure/RPG hybrid led me on to play games like Baldur's Gate, Knights of the Old Republic and even World of Warcraft to some degree. The elements of character building, exploration and adventure were formulated with golden age games like Hero's quest and it's a shame to me that although characters like Mario and Link have their place in modern gaming Hero's Quest and games like it from that primal era are almost forgotten by all but the faithful few classic adventure gamers. I wish I could be carrying my original hero back from '89 into a new Quest for Glory adventure on current generation systems but I think the old Sierra adventure franchises are lost to time. They are not hard to find online, however, and there is talk of iphone ports for some of these old games so maybe they will never be entirely forgotten. If you are so inclined you should grab an old adventure game of yesteryear from the interweb and get stuck into some classic gaming goodness.

Monday, November 8, 2010

(Post) Apocalypse Now

Despite the bugs and sporadic crashes I'm really enjoying Fallout New Vegas. The worlds that both Bethesda, with Fallout 3, and Obsidian, with New Vegas, have brought to life are really fun to explore. New Vegas has a slightly different atmosphere than Fallout 3. The interplay between the different factions is cool and I love what they've done with Caesar's Legion; a faction of militant marauders who sweep across the wasteland killing or enslaving anyone they come across. From what I understand many of the employees at Obsidian formerly worked for Black Isle, who of course made the original Fallout and Fallout 2. Apparently Caesar's Legion was conceived back after Fallout 2 was released and they were going to be in Black Isles Fallout 3 but, of course, Black Isle closed before that could happen. It's kind of awesome that those guys are getting to use that material now in New Vegas. It's just a shame the game keeps crashing and I keep running into broken quests...

Whenever I play a game in a certain setting, such as Fallout's post apocalyptic world, I end up wanting more in a similar motif so I usually go to the old DVD collection to see what I can find. Here's my top 5 post apocalyptic films.

1. Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior - Possibly the greatest Australian film ever made, a legend of the post apocalyptic genre. Mad Mel Gibson fighting for fuel out in the desert wasteland. Dark and dirty and great car scenes, don't need to say much more about this other than if you haven't seen it you really need to.

2. The Road
- I absolutely loved this book and I really liked the movie too. Cormack McCarthy's barren Central United States are among the bleakest settings I've ever seen and the film did a fairly good job of replicating the feeling of hopelessness. The story of the boy and his father wandering down the road, trying to reach the coast, in a dead world beset by marauding cannibals. A hard watch, especially if you're a dad (or mum), as the father (played perfectly by Viggo Mortensen) try's to shield his son from the horrors that surround them.

3. The Book of Eli - Denzel Washington traversing the wastelands of a desolate Earth and fighting with Garry Oldman and his goons over the last surviving copy of the bible. Some cool popcorn action scenes and Michael Gambon as a crazy old cannibal into the mix. Awesome stuff.

4. Waterworld - This movie seems to receive alot of ridicule I think because it's a Kevin Costner production and because it was a box office flop. I think you need to watch it for what it is. Sure, it pretty much is The Road Warrior on water, but I don't understand how anyone couldn't find this an entertaining watch. The plot; the Earth's polar icecaps are all melted and the surface of the planet is totally flooded, leaving the remnants of the human race to do battle upon the surface of the endless ocean and search for the mythical 'dry land' that is rumored to exist somewhere out there. Costner himself as the stoic lead and Dennis Hopper having a ball as the ridiculous bad guy.

5. Six String Samurai - A low budget gem sneaks in at my number five just for being so damn cool. The hero, Buddy (who looks suspiciously like Buddy Holly) traverses a post apocalyptic world with nothing but his six string and his samurai sword, on his way to 'Lost Vegas' the rock 'n roll capital of the future. This movie is all about having fun so don't take things seriously and you're in for a good time.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The old and the new...

Movie nostalgia is a seemingly immeasurable factor when thinking about your favourite movies from your youth. Are things really as great as you remember them or are you thinking about them through child's eyes? When you revisit movies that were important to you as a kid some things hold up and some don't. If you made a list of your top five movies when you were fifteen how similar would it be to the same list if you made it now? Sure, you loved ewok's when you were twelve but isn't it a tad hard to watch them ambushing all those heavily armed and trained stormtroopers when you watch Jedi these days? There was no problem with it when you were a kid because that filter in your mind hadn't developed yet. Movies were just something fun and a little bit magical and bullshit like whether a bus could jump a fifty foot gap in a highway overpass didn't enter into the equation.

If you made the two lists, childhood versus adulthood, how much crossover do you get? Is there anything you loved as a kid but can't watch today without cringing? Here are my two lists.

Top 5 movies when I was a kid;

1. Raiders of the Lost Ark
- I've watched this film at least 100 times. It spoke to my imagination like nothing else ever had when I first saw this at about age seven or eight. Indy was the definitive action hero and Raiders was the definitive adventure movie. I'm pretty sure I didn't even know what a Nazi was back then, they were just like villains from a Bond movie to me. I think I loved Raiders so much because the action and characters were great, the 'good guys' and 'bad guys' were very black and white which spoke to a kids understanding of what was going on and I thought Ford was the coolest guy I had ever seen. This near obsession with Indy spilled over to the two sequels and the old Fate of Atlantis adventure game that Lucasarts put out in the early nineties. I loved this movie.

2. The Goonies - When this first aired on tv back in the eighties it was the first thing I recorded with the brand new VCR that dad had just bought. I watched that old video cassette until it was worn out and chewed up. As far as light hearted kids adventure movies went this one was my favourite. What can you say about Goonies? Kids going on an adventure looking for pirates treasure...what more could you want when you were seven? Data, of course, was my favourite. Not only was he from Temple of Doom but he had all the cool gadgets. When I see this one as a adult it is still endearingly charming. It's also amusing how much they could say 'shit' in a kids movie in the eighties. I've recently heard rumors about a remake of this one. Only time will tell how that turns out.

3. Return of the Jedi - There was only one rule for growing up in the eighties; you had to be a Star Wars fan and Jedi was my favourite. The third movie from the original trilogy felt the most 'swashbuckling' to me, with the awesome scene on Jabba's sail barge, the speeder bike chase through the forest and the ewoks, oh the ewoks. I wanted to go live in an ewok village and have ewok buddies and become 'an honorary member of the ewok tribe'. Plus you got to see Darth Vader with his freaking helmet off! That was a mind blowing moment for a young geek. I think Jedi still holds up great these days. Not as well as The Empire Strikes Back maybe, but there is Mark Hamil's performance in Jedi, which I believe is underrated. He is great and when Vader goads him in the last act and Luke looses his composure and lashes out he is so believably on the edge, so close to falling to the dark side. It makes you wonder why the same character duality is handled so clumsily with Anakin in the prequel trilogy.

4. Lethal Weapon 3 - Cops and robbers is one sure fire way to entertain a kid craving some action and Richard Donner's Lethal Weapon series were among my favorite of the 'old school' action flicks. When you watch these today it's clear the first movie is the strongest but back in the early nineties I was all about Lethal Weapon 3. Mel Gibson back in his prime acting days could piss pure charisma and Danny Glover was like the African American second dad you always wanted. As ridiculous as these 'buddy cop' antics were I'm sure I believed this was what cops were like when I was ten. There was something about this that captured my imagination perfectly that I can't clearly define. The 'cop killer' bullets? The exploding buildings? Leo Getz? Who knows.

5. Jurassic Park - When my dad took me to see this at the movies in '93 I didn't really know what I was in for. I remember this movie being hyped to high heaven before it came out and I was keen to see it as I was in the mid stages of collecting dinosaur magazines that came with a bit of a plastic t-rex model every week, so I was into dinosaurs at that stage. Then Spielberg worked his black magic or whatever it is he does and drew me so deep into his world that I made dad take me back to see Jurassic Park four more times. This is an incredible movie. The plot, the special effects, the performances and everything else about this movie owned me for the two hours or so that I sat in that cinema every time I went to see this. I recently watched this again with my five year old, and it is a testament to the directing of this film that when the t-rex shows up it is truly suspenseful. My kid watches alot of stuff with me and it's rare anything effects him too drastically, but when that huge, razor toothed maw is trying to get the kids through the perspex roof of the car my kid freaked out and made me turn the movie off. The iconic build up of that scene and the tension injected into parts of this film are amazing. Dr. Grant and the kid trying to get out of the tree before the car falls on them, the electric fence and any scene with those raptors; this stuff is all so good. To this day whenever I see the words 'objects may be closer than they appear' printed in a rear vision mirror I smile and think of Jurassic Park.

Top 5 movies now;

1. Raiders of the Lost Ark - Some things don't change and for me the top slot is still the same as is was twenty years ago. Raiders is, and I believe always shall be, my favourite movie of all time. The pacing is perfect the plot if simple and fantastic and the action is so entertaining I never get sick of it. I love the way Indy gets put through the wringer; the guy is not James Bond. He's never on top without even breaking a sweat. Instead he gets thrashed half to death in just about every scene but always manages to come out on top by the skin of his teeth. I love the way Indy is a Catholic but has a lackadaisical attitude towards religion; he believes in the historical importance of the ark but quote "I don't believe in magic, a lot of superstitious hocus pocus" is his attitude about it when Marcus warns him. Something must be said as well about John Williams score for this film. It is so iconic and so well executed. Many movie scores are incidental to the film but I believe this one is so important to the movie and the characters that it could well be my favourite film score.

2. Children of Men - This movie is something special. It is that brilliant kind of science fiction that makes you think and makes you look at the world you live in differently. The fundamental question Children of Men asks is what happens to the human race when it is suddenly faced with it's own mortality. The answer, in this dystopian, near future, is that it tears itself apart. This movie is comment on society, immigration, religion, terrorism and war. It's put together so frighteningly realistically that all this violence and hopelessness feels almost too real. The hand held shaky camera work and the long takes that don't cut for ten minutes at a time speak to that part of your subconsciousness that recalls seeing this kind of violence on the news or in documentaries. I love the way Clive Owens central character never picks up a gun in this film, even though he has ample opportunity to. Children of Men is what I love about movies. It makes you think and it makes you feel.

3. O Brother, Where Art Thou? - The Coen brothers. What can you say about them? They have certainly left their mark on modern cinema and, personally, O Brother is my favourite of their work. An epic, ancient Greek poem put in a 1930's southern United States setting? How could that work? I don't know how but it certainly does. This movie is eternally charming, funny and brilliantly acted. You come for the Coen trademark writing, wit and directing flare but you stay for the performances. George Clooney, John Turturro and the late, great Tim Blake Nelson are each wonderful as the three escaped convicts on their 'odyssey', having chance encounters with fame, a hilarious John Goodman as the intimidating cyclops and a run in with the Ku Klux Klan are among some of the best moments in this film, not to mention this great folk and blues music that is featured throughout. This is one of those films that you can watch over and over and never tire of it.

4. Leon aka. The Professional - The story of a hitman that takes a young person under their tutelage is almost a cliche' now but this film does it with so much style and a real, human relationship between Jean Reno as the assassin and a very young Natalie Portman as his understudy give this movie a gravity that imbues it with some emotional punch, where it could have just been another disposable action film. Reno's Leon has learned to suppress his emotions in order to be the consummate killer but those suppressed emotions surface when he finds someone to care about in Portmans young, orphaned Mathilda. Gary Oldman, in the role of the movie stealing corrupt, violent and psychotic cop, is not to be missed. Luc Besson's directing and action scenes are typically awesome and it all makes this film another of those movies you can watch time and time again and never get tired of.

5. The Fellowship of the Ring - Since reading The Hobbit as a kid I've been waiting for Middle Earth to be brought to life on screen. I wasn't quite prepared for just how epically and faithfully Peter Jackson's production was going to do it before I saw this movie for the first time in 2001. Differences in the source material aside, this filmaker understood the world he was bringing to life and captured the spirit of Tolkein's work in incredible fashion. I love fantasy adventure and there is so little of it that is truly good on film, so I was blown away by Fellowship. It is my favourite of the trilogy I think because I have affection for the whole 'party of adventurers on a dangerous journey together' aspect of the plot that speaks to my love for Dungeons and Dragons and fantasy novels. This movie is an example of what fans of a fiction can get when someone who is both talented and loves and understands the source material is in charge of making the film adaption.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Return of the Pretty Hate Machine

It was recently announced on the Nine Inch Nails official website that NIN's first album, Pretty Hate Machine, is going to be remastered and re-issued. This, I have to say, is very good news. I have always loved Pretty Hate Machine since I was first exposed to it in early high school. It is a fantastic album from start to finish. The record is almost entirely electronic, even more synth heavy than any of Reznor's later NIN albums. Reznor wrote and recorded Hate Machine when he was barely into his twenties, and although it lacks the sonic complexity of later stuff there is no denying the importance of this album not only to Nine Inch Nails fans such as myself, but also to the progression of modern music itself during the early nineties when it was released.

However the thing with Pretty Hate Machine is, that by modern standards, this just isn't a very well produced record. It sounds very 'tinny' and the lower bass tones are very understated. This gives the album a dated sound and it has always bothered me. To hear such brilliantly written and arranged tracks so under-produced dates this album so much. I can't wait to hear this thing once Reznor has put it through the sound lab and gives these songs a new life.

The currently announced release date is the 22nd of November. I will be making sure I have space cleared and ready on my mp3 player come November.

Friday, October 29, 2010

A new Splinter Cell Conviction co-op mode

I'm always looking for something interesting to play co-op with my son and step-sons. Trent, my five year old, was into Lego Star Wars in a very big way for a while, Halo co-op was a blast for him once he got the hang of it and he's no longer content playing 'little brother mode' on Mario Galaxy 2, so the latest game we've been playing together is Splinter Cell Conviction. I was a little dubious beforehand, Splinter Cell being a fairly complex stealth game, but after a few rounds on hunter mode we are both having a blast. It is a very different game for me now. On your own hunter mode consists of skulking around in the shadows picking off heavily armed terrorists one by one, trying to avoid detection, but all of sudden Trent is thrown into the mix and suddenly aside from me and the 10 to 20 bad guys there is a KGB operative with mad cow disease running all over the map firing an automatic machine gun with careless abandon. Now I have a new goal; try and keep this schizophrenic Russian alive, while every bad guy in the level descends onto his position. Now I'm flanking firing squads that are filling the air with hot lead, trying to pop head shots into the guys that occasionally grab Trent and hold him at gunpoint, I'm stunning the half dozen guys that have surrounded Trent with an EMP and then racing to defribulate him before he kicks the bucket, all the while trying to avoid Trent's own grenades and sporadic gunfire. What, at first, I thought was going to be a fairly tiresome experience I am finding to be a blast. It gives the game a certain urgency that it didn't have before. I'm thinking perhaps Ubisoft could implement a mode like this so everyone can try it. They could call it 'protect the heavily armed NPC that has recently suffered a severe head injury mode', or maybe just 'mad cow disease mode' to keep it short.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


I've just been looking at the Cataclysm release date and intro movie. Typically awesome stuff from Blizzard's video team. I must admit that I do kind of miss the early World of Warcraft intro movies with the different races and classes tearing shit up. But still, this new one has me totally psyched for Cataclysm. I can't wait to get stuck into some new WoW content with some friends. Hopefully I will get a second account and something to play it on organized before December 7th so I can play with my step-son, Brad.

Friday, September 3, 2010

First Level

Here's a Warcraft troll. I tried some basic stuff with the sun and lens flare. You can do some cool/easy/cheaty effects with the old photoshop I'm discovering.

I guess this guy is about level one or two, hanging out in Durotar on a hot afternoon, breathing the dust, killing some boars and scorpions.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Here's my first blog post. This blog is basically something a little creative for me to do, just for fun really. I might post some art (if I ever do anything I'm happy enough with), I might post some game or movie impressions if I see anything worth talking about. We'll see how things go.

I've been mucking around with CS2 lately. I'm trying to learn a thing or two about a thing or two. I can draw a little but this digital editing thing is arcane to me at this point, but some of the things people are doing are so impressive I will hopefully persevere and figure things out. There are a ton of online tutorials that I'm trying to get my head around. I've always loved drawing but I'm way out of practice. Hopefully I'll get my mojo back and make some cool stuff that I can post here.

Anyway, here is an early attempt at some digital coloring. This character is no one in particular, just some kind of teenage wizard girl. The shading on the coat is horribly rushed but despite that I'm pretty happy with how this one came out.