Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Bwogmetheus (Prometheus Film Mini-Update)

This article has some interesting ideas about the movie as well, some that we here in the Bwogosphere agree with and some that we don't. I've already made my review but I think it's really important to stress that there's a lot of "it means this, not that" but consider that a movie can have many layers and a film as loaded as Prometheus may, in fact, be about "this and that" at the same time. If you haven't looked at Rob Ager's videos on YouTube yet, do it right now.

Seriously. Go do it. Here.

With Brightest of (Multi-layered) Greens,

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Just Bwuase 2 Glitch Of Joyness (Just Cause 2 Mini-Update)

Life has been pretty quiet for ol' BW this week in the gaming department. A couple hours with Beedub in Skyrim and some casual gaming elsewhere was about it. I also started a play-by-post using the d20 Modern system which I'm wicked pumped about but I'll report on that later in the week with a broader bwog on RPGing in general.

Oh, and I discovered this glitch in Just Cause 2 where you start with a mini-gun all by myself.

Fill the rest of this post with the noise of unlimited ammunition screaming across a lush tropical landscape and making splodeyness of anything that comes close to Scorpio as he climbs through the Heat Levels faster than a Panau soldier on a motorcycle.

With Brightest of (Unlimited Ammunition) Greens,

Friday, January 25, 2013

Bwogmetheus (Prometheus Film Visual Addendum)

In my review of Prometheus I mention how I thought there was some alignment stuff going on. In 2001: A
Space Odyssey there are clues that the monolith in the film represents the silver screen - the movie is actually referencing itself (or at least its own medium). This has to do with the stars being lined up in a vertical row at the beginning (the way the monument is) and then later changing to a horizontal orientation (via the crazy laser light scene that suddenly changes its orientation). There's a far better explanation here from an amazing film analyst named Rob Ager. You have my permission to go watch all his videos right now.

...Back? Ok. There's a couple times in Prometheus that we see planetary alignment coming into play, though I think it's poorly executed in comparison, and that way I wonder if there isn't some sort of attempt at throwing an Inception-style red herring our way. If what I've read of the film is to be believed (and I haven't read tons, mind you), it seems the original script was very different from the final product in it's main story focus. It reminds me more of some of the Aliens comics that came out years ago more than any of the other Alien movies where plots were episodic and not too-tightly tied in with the major movie story. No xenomorphs escape the planet to terrorize Earthlings - just one at the very end - and neither Ellie or David is contaminated when they leave (which we have to assume they do because we see a ship blast off). The only way it could possibly relate to the franchise is if Ellie somehow crashes on LV-Whatever-It's-Called-In-The-First-Movie and her ship was carrying a variant of the black ooze that was more advanced (not the snakelike things that killed Mr. Biology but the facehugger types), but then you'd have to wonder about why there was a Jedi pilot in that seat and not a human skeleton with a robot head. Or it could be that Weyland - in the perpetually sneakiness typical of greedy corporate types - had sent a follow-up team that investigates afterwards, possibly even finding his body and the wreckage present. It could be a sort of espionage by a Yutani corporation too, which would dovetail nicely for the future.

The possibilities are endless of course, and I think that's a combination of my lack of knowledge of the franchise in general and a film that seems to have Lost Syndrome. Sadly, I've also just learned that Mr. Abrams will be involved with the next Star Wars. Expect a bwog on that later.

With Brightest of (Where Was The Acid Blood?) Greens,


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Fallen Bwarth #2: Launch of the Bwogonaut! (Fallen Earth Mini-Update)

Ladies and gentlemen of the Bwogosphere, I give you... Bwogonaut One!

Yes, I haven't played Fallen Earth since I bwogged about it and yes, I was disinterested in my old character so yes, I made a new one. His looks aren't terribly striking, partially because I had my little bwoglings helping me (there are currently three of them that love to watch me play anything on the computer). I plan to take a break from Skyrim for a bit and just play FE for awhile, so if you see me hanging around don't be shy (or stingy with the cotton - I love making flannel shirts)!

With Brightest of (Post-Apocalyptic Sunrise) Greens,

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Bwogmetheus (Prometheus Film Review)

"Good luck figuring it out!"

So when we critique a painting from a few hundred years ago we rarely know exactly what was going on in the artist's brain at the time. It may have been anywhere from "This will be my greatest work ever!" to "Meh. I'll leave it like that because I hate critics." It's my sincere opinion that we give far too much credit to folks who just did something first or, more likely, picked the right spot to keep the artwork so that it survived theft/burning/earthquakes/etc. only to be found centuries later and put in a museum where people pay lots of money to gaze upon its splendid mediocrity. I mention this context because I think it's important to keep in mind when reviewing anything - especially recent big budget space movies. Having said that, let's just pretend no one else is reviewing Prometheus and that we don't have any official words from anyone involved about anything. This is BW's review of the film after seeing it twice and watching the first few minutes of some boring videos about it on YouTube.

No, you don't get a link to them. I said they're boring.

Let's just throw some random things out there to begin with, shall we? No links or borrowing from other sources (although I'm sure someone else has noticed at least some of this stuff). Ready, set... evolve!

1) I think the "pattern" of stars Ellie and Charlie find in all those places is interesting only in one possible sense - it's a stupid constellation. But that's not fun, so let's go Inception-style on it: Notice the first time you see the ship (when it lists its vital statistics) that the camera pans across to reveal the engines and lights that seem to fit that same configuration. Sounds crazy, right? Leonardo DiCaprio thinks so too, but I'm not convinced. There are some extremely fishy throwbacks to 2001: Space Odyssey that have to do with alignment (among other things in the film) and it doesn't take too much imagination to just tilt the "stars" a bit and match up with the ship's engines. Just a little somethin' I noticed. Moving on...

2) I'm not totally sold that those opening shots were of Earth anyway. It wasn't labeled, and we know these "Engineers" - who we'll call Jedi from here on - have terraforming capabilities. I mean, yeah, duh, we're watching a movie starring (mostly) humans who definitely find things in caves in Scotland... Ireland... Muir Island?... Northern Europe, but that doesn't mean anything. Taking things at face value, there's no reason this couldn't be the planet they land on or an entirely different one altogether. It really bothers me that the ship we see here is not the same as the ones later too.

3) The film is chock full of the re-birth motif, which just fits with the whole life/death thing anyway. Next time you watch it, count how many times someone goes into or comes out of something. Don't go overboard now, I'm just saying we have a discovery made in a cave, people sleeping in pods, Jedi in pods, people exploring a cave that looks like a ship and nothing at all like female genitalia (What? Just me? Okay then. Nevermind.), a life cycle that requires someone dying, another life cycle that seems to require a sacrifice, blah blah blah. It's hard to point all these things out so if you want to come over some time we can watch it together.

4) Something a little more interesting, in the form of a hipster question: Why was David carrying Ellie's cross in his utility belt? We saw him put it in a little canister. Intriguing.

5) Also intriguing: The story being presented is that an alien race created humanity through ritual self-sacrifice, humanity discovered their whereabouts, humanity begins to suspect that the aliens for whatever reason decided to go back and kill humanity but were prevented (from a slight weapons malfunction, no doubt, in the form of a black plague that blows up your chest if you catch it - which isn't clearly explained... were they drinking the biological weapons a lot?), humanity in the form of a guy named Charlie catches it too and decides it would be better if someone killed him rather than having it spread to the rest of his buddies, humanity accidentally reactivates the Jedi ship of earth-death and destroys it via self-sacrifice, humanity in the form of a gal named Ellie decides to hijack another Jedi ship with the intent on asking the aliens what the dilly is (accompanied by about a jillion of their grape jelly bombs). Parallel to this is humanity in the form of Guy Pearce trying to elude death and, in the process, be a horrible father. The one human who is actually trying to meet the Jedi gets killed by one and concludes that there's nothing (presumably alluding to an afterlife, or lack thereof) whereas the rest of the folks that were just trying to get paid or make history or whatever get pulled into this larger scheme of... whatever the movie is about. You really should just come over and watch it with me.

6) We're supposed to believe these Jedi were amazing scientists and whatnot but if their security is any indication - they were more like Stormtroopers than anyone under Palpatine. What kind of defense mechanism plays back three-dimensional footage of the final moments of a ship's crew in the event that someone accidentally finds the ship 2,000 years later? Same goes for the bridge when David gets there - is that a real hologram that the computer forgets isn't real and responds by giving David a real globe or... I dunno. It's not really clear to me what that's all about, other than "Hey, the audience is probably really bored and this is going to take another ninety minutes - give them a fuzzy blue Jedi hologram sequence."

7) In Alien we learn not to trust androids. In Aliens we learn they're our friends. In Prometheus we learn that androids are jerks but have a real knack for survival at all costs, which is fine if you have legs and they don't. And I think that begins to describe the film in general: it never really commits itself in any one direction and instead sits back while we buy midnight tickets and wax philosophical about hidden meaning or why studying ancient languages would help in any conceivable way to understanding the Jedi.

8) There are three people that repeat themselves noticeably in the film: Janek the pilot ("If you can't be with the one you love..."), David ("The trick, William Potter, is...") and Ellie (variations of "Oh God!"). I'm now going to offer an interesting piece of actual analysis straight from the Bwogosphere to your eye sockets: I think this is a holy trinity of sorts. See, movies these days like to steal all our money by dazzling us with dead-ends and red herrings and Nicholas Cages and Tom Hankses. Anything to create a buzz works, and religious stuff is huge for that. Usually though, if you look hard enough, you can find that they're all telling the same few stories over and over again.

Here we have Ellie (not Ellen, don't get lost now) who admits to being unable to bear children ("to create life" in her approximate words) yet through some miracle is able to. That miracle is, of course, the intervention of David - who's not quite human but seems to be pretty adept at human-ish things. This is a direct modern correlation to the immaculate conception. We wouldn't actually show a virgin on-screen because we're all hip and trendy nowadays with our sexuality, but the stated fact that Ellie can't conceive is a reasonable equivalent. David is described by Guy Pearce as never able to grow old and never die - these are attributes usually (and easily) associated with the Father personage of the Christian trinity. It's David that knows more than any member of the crew about what's going on (even so far as what others are dreaming), and he doesn't need to sleep or eat either. He orchestrates things in a way that seems to indicate an (almost) total knowledge of the situation. And who is it that saves humanity, who states that his sole reason for being in the film is to make sure none of the baddies make it back to earth no matter what the cost - even if it's his own life? Janek (this would be Jesus, for those of you following along at home). He even dies with guys on either side of him who seem to enjoy betting/gambling (questionably criminal behavior) like the criminals on either side of Christ's cross. So ol' BW thinks that's a pretty important component to the movie, and not a terribly original one.

Beyond the trinity theme, and the myriad birth/death themes, is the broader one of the saving power of faith. Ellie is repeatedly presented as a believer (presumably Christian, but it doesn't matter for the theme to work) - so much so that it's the only reason she's brought along (Darth Pearce mentions this to her, via Vickers I believe). The only time she takes her cross off is when David removes it and that's when we have the horrible alien birth. She quickly finds the ring that Charlie left her though, and I believe that is used to take it's place. Her faith in the Christian God has been sufficiently shaken (though not broken, I think) so she reverts to something even deeper and more intimate (in our Hollywood values system): True Love. She's constantly saying things like "Oh God!" but later, when she's on her back in the dirt before David radios her, she begins apologizing... not to God, but to Charlie. Her faith is what saves her, and she's the only member of the crew presented as having any. "Ah!" you say, "But David survives too!" And you're right.

David survives because he, too, has faith of a sort. He is on a journey of his own of self-discovery as regards whether he actually has a soul (note his face when Darth Pearce mentions this in his ghost-commercial introduction). We are left to believe he has died because he's only a head and the Jedi killed everyone in the room, right? Well guess what - he lived! It's a miracle! This is the curious android equivalent, I think, to life after death. He forged his own path, which was pretty jerk-like and selfish by most accounts, and when that all came crumbling down (and he lost his body) he was forced to make a choice to depend on someone else for survival. Something he was probably already leaning to already since he carried Ellie's cross with him into the ship and because he had already saved her life at least once (I suppose you could count wanting her to go into stasis with the alien baby as an attempt to keep her alive as well). In his own way then, he's dealing with faith and love.

"Okay BW," I hear, "Ellie and David both have these themes of love and faith - what about Janek though? If he's this Jesus-type shouldn't he get equal treatment?" Right again! He does. Aside from his song lyric quote (about love) he's the only other guy on the ship who, ahem, gets some. It's love in a simple form and he's a simple guy. His faith is equally simple: He doesn't care much about the details, he believes they've found some bad guys and believes he's the only one who can keep them from hitting earth. It's interesting to note that while there's no direct connection between his accordion and the flying of his ship, the Jedi also have pseudo-musical pilot/captains. Maybe they use the fabled Ocarina of Spacetime.

"Wow! I never thought about it like that!" you say. I know, and I don't think you really need to read too much into the details of the movie because you won't find anything other than cute little Easter Eggs. The movie was supposed to tell us all about the origin of the aliens and, well, you see what we got. It was a re-telling of some central themes wrapped in big budget effects and franchise lore specifically designed for the audience NOT to come to any conclusion. Instead, J.J. Abrams-style, we are meant to consider every nuance and deleted scene in microscopic detail without ever just saying "Hey! Where's Ripley?!"

And that's what you should've said, because if we can put a computer-generated Arnold in a Terminator prequel that doesn't really read like the rest of the Terminator movies, we can put Sigourney Weaver as her own great grandmother in an Alien movie that doesn't really have anything to do with Alien.

With Brightest of (Kryptonite In Front Of The Alien Mural?) Greens,

P.S. Yeah, there's tons more interesting things in there, but I don't care much about them. It's like a school of red herring decided to swim right through the middle of a documentary on Seed Theory and they were being chased by Dan Brown so some obsessed Alien fan thought it would make a better Ridley Scott film so he e-mailed the highlights and left the rest to computer effects. The noise that gets repeated a couple times (starting with the ship at the beginning), David's head being put in a bag just like the one he used to bring back the canister, how did that little thing that came out of Ellie grow to monstrous proportions, how everyone calls the structures pyramids and they have all this religious significance (statues, friezes, etc.) but there's no one else on the planet (it's like building a cathedral on top of NORAD after everyone dies in World War III, right?), why the black goo kills people but if they procreate before they die it impregnates the partner too and morphs according to the genetic makeup of the host (Ellie gets a supersquid, Jedi survivor gets a xenomorph reject, Mr. Biology gets... nothing because we forgot about him after the shock-scare), the straight up DNA match between the Engineers and humans which doesn't seem to mean anything, the anti-trinity of Pearce, Vickers, and Charlie, the alien head exploding... why?, Vickers' med pod only calibrated for males (doesn't sound like a good survival technique to me, even if it's for her cranky Dad), where did the "snakes" come from that attacked Mr. Biology and Doctor Rock McFacemelt (or how and why the good doctor appears outside the ship all twisted and froglike before assuming a completely normal stance to wreak havoc on everyone), Ellie genuflecting when the Engineer emerges from the pod and does he understand her speech, and how David's head is literally used to kill Pearce. And others... really, just come over and watch it with me already.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Bwogmetheus Review Teaser

"BW," you say, "you can't just leave for a whole week with nothing to show for it - especially now that you have some regular hits!"

I know. I'm still adjusting to a new schedule in the Bwogosphere, but I've also been finishing up Dune and re-watching Prometheus. And maybe I've been working on notes for a review of the film. And maybe my goal for the weekend is to post that for all the bwogonauts to read and yell at me for wasting my time.

With Brightest of (Genetically Engineered) Greens,

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Bwog Must Flow (Dune Book Review)

It's been a busy week for BW but I assure you it's worth the wait. Behold: BWS2K reviews the science fiction masterpiece Dune by Frank Herbert.

I suppose the picture above should be addressed first - it's from the classic film adaptation by David Lynch. That is, of course, Sting in the role of Feyd-Rautha and it's not the weirdest thing about the movie at all. If you could ever watch a two-hour movie based on a trillion page book (different counts vary but I'm going to say that five-hundred is a good minimum starting point for this lovely literary monstrosity) that begins by sharing some of the same character names and then ends in an entirely original, yet somehow completely alternate, conclusion... that's the 1984 Dune film. The Sci Fi channel (which will never be spelled "SyFy" by these hands) did a version in 2000, and then a sequel in 2003 incorporating the next two titles in the series (Dune Messiah and Children of Dune) which was not only substantially longer but closer to the original plot. And when I use the term "closer" here I mean it in the "that was a lot like the book but still left out major elements and characters almost entirely" way. Let me say it like this: I watched the Sci Fi series a couple times first, then read the book a few years ago, watched the series some more (it doesn't take long to find them on  YouTube), watched the 1984 film a few weeks ago (it was a Christmas gift from Mrs. BW, along with the books) and I'm currently about 3/4 of the way through the first book again (page 663 of 883) - and I'm still finding new things.

Imagine, then, something like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings but lesser known and significantly more... human. I won't give any spoilers here, though I totally will at some point in a future Bwog (with plenty of warning). It's gritty - and I don't just mean it has a lot of sand. It takes place on Arrakis - a desert planet with large worm-like creatures that live in the sand and have giant gaping deathtraps for faces (not Tatooine, where they have the Sarlacc - that's completely different). It's the only place in the universe to get spice - a sort of hallucinogenic drug that keeps you young, turns your eyes blue, and somehow let's you see the future... or... something. I still don't quite get it.

I think what I enjoy most about Dune is that it takes it's time introducing characters and plot points. You don't feel at all rushed into the story or like you're being cheated out of someone's motivations just for the sake of writers' block - everything is explained in great detail. There's no one thread that begins neatly and wraps up nicely and then you're done. Rather, it's really like some sort of soap opera where you watch the show for about a month and understand the whole series for the last couple decades through clever references to backstory. Unlike a soap opera, however, it's something you actually want to watch (I'm assuming no one ever intends to watch them on purpose, it just sort of happens when you flip through the channels and your remote runs out of batteries and you stick around for a few years to catch the reason for that one little thing). Dune is a snapshot of Humanity in about eight-thousand years and explains how what we're doing now affects things then, and goes on for several more generations of characters into the future. That's a fairly terrible description though, because it's so much bigger than any one sentence could capture. It's not dark, exactly, or really even what I would call dystopian (despite Sting's wardrobe). It's not terribly happy go-lucky either though (there's no Federation of Do-Gooders here) - and that's what makes it so believable. I can imagine this is about what we might look like if we last that long (BW doesn't give human beings that much credit though, he suspects we have another hundred years tops). Each chapter is preceded by a little quote from otherwise un-referenced sources written by one of the main characters, as though the entire series isn't something from Frank Herbert's hand as much as a retrospective from those that actually lived it and chronicled everything for those that would come later, and I love that. Anytime you can give life to the characters outside of their immediate sphere of influence (whether through a dynastic sort of approach, butterfly effect, or authorship of the tale, like here) is just awesome.

I could go on and on about how great Dune is but without spoiling it I would just sound like the extras on the Collector's Edition of Lord of the Rings ("Peter Jackson is amazing, Tolkien is a genius... Peter Jackson is a genius, Tolkien is amazing...").  There are some critics who say the story is sexist or boring or too religious but I'll shut them all up in a spoiler-incorporated bwog later on.

Because they should shut up.

Because they're wrong.

With Brightest of (House Atreides) Greens,

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Bwogyrim #6 (Finishing The Chat With Luke Skywalker)

There's lots more of this chat-versation but maybe I'll share more later. Bwogonauts - I give you the third installment of my Skyrim chat with Luke Skywalker (it picks right up where our previous one left off):

LukeSkywalker: isn't that all elder scroll games?
BWS2K: If doing whatever I want makes me level up, where's the hide-behind-rocks-till-the-dragon-glitches-and-you-run-out-of-arrows-so-kill-it-with-shouts skill?
BWS2K: no no  no - the others didn't have dragons, Luke. Pay attention.
LukeSkywalker: no no the grinding
BWS2K: This is entirely different.
BWS2K: Yeah, but if you remember MW, you were rewarded for grinding in your class skills over other things.
BWS2K: The only way to level up, in fact.
BWS2K: So it's almost like you're, wait for it.... playing a ROLE.
LukeSkywalker: as opposed to being whatever you want
BWS2K: There's give and take to the experience, and it really could be different a second time through.
BWS2K: So you gain an even ground for leveling up but it leaves any and all character restrictions to you, so that if you play OCD like me there's no reason to really play a second time, you've already done everything the first time.
BWS2K: Like Deus Ex: HR
BWS2K: A good idea would have been to allow the leveling up like there is currenty, but only allow theives access to the theives guild (or whatever), or base advancement on attribute and skill levels (maybe they do this, I don't know yet I guess).
LukeSkywalker: hmmm
BWS2K: You can use most bows, but higher level bows have minimum requirements, and only people who chose such and such a class would have access to certain items/areas/quests.
LukeSkywalker: gotcha
BWS2K: Otherwise it's just a giant sandbox of fantasy. Which is totally fine, I'm not complaining about that, but let's call it what it is.
BWS2K: It's still got a huge emphasis on combat, so it's an action/shooter with RPG elements, which really just means you have numbers associated with how much damage you do.
BWS2K: You can craft, which rocks, but it's not -really- as well-implemented as they'd have you think.
LukeSkywalker: sounds like you have a 2 part blog brewing
BWS2K: Vendors still have limited gold, for instance, which means anyone who wants to play something like an armor-maker has to fast-travel all over just to unload all the equipment.

I'm relatively new to the whole world of roleplaying but I think I've picked it up fast - you play someone else. Just like I might play a character that can smash baddies in the face with an iron mace like he's playing Whack-A-Mole at the local arcade (...something BW can't do...), someone from Skyrim might dream of being able to scale a stone wall (...something which ol' BW can do and which hasn't been included in the latest three installments of the Elder Scrolls series... because our simulation technology is getting better?). There's never really anyone that can do everything - that's not the point of an RPG. If you're the kind of person that tries to find every nook and cranny of a level and try every skill/weapon/etc. - and you're able to on the first playthrough - then there's really very little motivation to play a second time. That's important to me because it seems to be a major selling point of games nowadays. That you can spend a jillion hours re-playing as another character should mean something other than "I looked different and I purposely chose all the jerk answers this time just to see what happened." A good RPG will include multiple exclusive choices - even if there's only one ending - that force a player to play the role he chose to play. It's not as bad as it seems though, when you consider that he should also have rewards that aren't accessible to any other race/class/etc. Please, consider the following...

There's such a rich lore to the Elder Scrolls that it's a shame to waste it all in one shot. Imagine if you began by choosing your race, class, age, and profession. Each would have a minor affect on your starting attributes and skills. Now choose a starting location - this will affect not only where you start but a local reputation with merchants, guilds, and vendors. Your humble starting house will be determined by that as well. The older you are, the lower your initial stats may be (and they may even have a lower cap) but the higher your rep with folks in general because you've established yourself in the community (though this may be influenced by your profession, of course). I think in a game that features a pantheon so prominently you should actually be able to choose some sort of religious affiliation too (a patron god or daedra at least), and that would offer certain quests and prohibit others as well. Key behaviors and decisions could be tracked (we're already tracking how many people you kill anyway, why not use that number for something?) enough so that your patron or hometown or family or ex-co-workers would change behavior based on how you play. The same should hold true to guilds (you can't join them all, and some will be easier if you're already a member in a similar one). The main quest, whatever it may be, doesn't need to change from playthrough to playthrough but the experience will - and that's how an RPG should be.

And for the love of twenty-sided-dice Bethesda, we don't always want to start out as a prisoner.

With Brightest of (Exclusively Mutual) Greens,

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Bwogyrim #5 (Still Chatting With Luke Skywalker)

Picking up where we left off...

BWS2K: Well one of the things I hate about Skyrim, which seems like something that they would have reverted back to MW style, is that picking up a book reads it.
BWS2K: What if I don't want to level up a skill yet?
BWS2K: It doesn't make the same difference in Skyrim as it did in the other games I don't think, but still.
BWS2K: And why the FLIP don't you have a writable journal yet?
BWS2K: Little things like that.
BWS2K: A journal I can write in, and take screenshots in too, would rock - and not be that difficult I don't think.
BWS2K: And the tail thing. And guess what? You can wear faced helms as beast races... WHICH MAKES NO SENSE AT ALL.
BWS2K: You literally need to go through my screens and see Beedub wearing one of these. His beak just, like, disappears.
LukeSkywalker: ah role playing
BWS2K: That doesn't impress me at all.
BWS2K: lol, yeah.
BWS2K: It's just like - we have categories for everything under the sun, and one of them is Action-Shooter with RPG elements.
BWS2K: And that's what this is, mostly. But I'm cool with it.
BWS2K: And only a dozen hours in, so I have to remember that too. lol
BWS2K: The whole idea of saying "You're playing an RPG... but instead of choosing a class, you do whatever you want - and you'll get better at it!" only works ... brbv
LukeSkywalker: well now I must go play skyrim!
BWS2K: ...only works if you have a complete misunderstanding of what an RPG is to begin with. Minecraft allows you to do whatever you want, Skyrim says "You can do whatever you want and get good at it!" when they should really be saying "You start out crappy at everything, if you want to get better at something - do it over and over again!" ... which is not an RPG.
BWS2K: It's glorified grinding.
BWS2K: with dragons.
I think this it's pretty obvious that I have some pent up issues when it comes to Skyrim and I doubt Luke will be able to help much. I do have one more portion of the chat I can post tomorrow and then we'll have a nice review... and then I promise to take a week off Skyrim. Sort of.

With Brightest of (Maybe Morrowind Was Better?) Greens,

Monday, January 7, 2013

Bwogyrim #4 (Just Chatting With Luke Skywalker)

Just a little bwog for you today, courtesy of a chat conversation I had with a friend the other night. I'm not using his real name but this is otherwise unedited (to my typo-hating regret). I'll bwog portions over the next couple days - feel free to comment with your own thoughts!

BWS2K: I'm still not decided on it yet, it's too early to give a fair critique. I think something I expected, and which seems to be the case, is that it really just looks like Morrowind with snow. No real trees to speak of, everything sort of monotone ash colored, and sometimes just really dark.
LukeSkywalker: I don't know the 2 games enough to know how varied they are
BWS2K: I haven't played it enough for some of those things but I tend to agree. My horse was pretty slow, and the map is more of a best-guess experience.
LukeSkywalker: yeah the map and ui are the ones I'm most interested in
LukeSkywalker: there are 2 more articles about it though with more mods
LukeSkywalker: I'll have to peek back through
BWS2K: And yeah, lockpicking is so clearly meant to have a rumble pack or whatever.
BWS2K: I understand atmosphere and everything, but Oblivion was better in terms of just roaming the countryside. So far, the only baddies I run into are next to caves or something. There aren't really any bad guys out and about that I've found, which disappoints. But I only made level 10 last night, so we'll see.
BWS2K: And
BWS2K: The biggest I TOLD YO USO
BWS2K: is that they're praising things that Morrowind had.
BWS2K: The mods, specifically.
BWS2K: Or ease of modding.
LukeSkywalker: who's they?
BWS2K: That's how they do things - they do one thing, then "improve it" then "improve it again" by going back to the first thing they did.
BWS2K: Bethesda.
BWS2K: I never played Fallout NV, but everything they had in that game that was different (craftable stuff, hardcore mode) should have been in the first one. It's not like they used a new engine or anything, so it was really just a huge mod.
LukeSkywalker: sequalitis
BWS2K: Morrowind had tons of armor slots, Oblivion had three, Skyrim has... wait for it... four?
BWS2K: More than Oblivion! They say.
BWS2K: That's just lame to me.
So here we have the beginning of an on-the-fly Skyrim critique. I've already mentioned a couple things in previous bwogs (you've been keeping up, right?) that irk me and now I've got just a little more playtime under my gaming belt. The article cited above actually does a decent job of highlighting some of the things I mention but I was really surprised to see that lockpicking was such a big topic in the comments section. I think if lockpicking is a skill then it shouldn't be left up to us to try and play a mini-game - my "skill" at moving a mouse until I get it the pick in the right position and quick-loading if it doesn't work should be independent from any sort of check the game does on my character's stats. It's like in MW when they had the block skill being auto-checked instead of having a block button. That doesn't really make a good video game but it's exactly what's going on in most roleplaying games - you miss the die roll, you get hit. You can pretend it's because you didn't get your shield up in time or because it was up but the shock of the enemy's weapon against your shield still hurt your arm or because... whatever. It's supposed to make you use your imagination - which is something you know you're already doing just by playing a game as an elf, right?

I'm kind of all over the place in the chat but it mostly breaks down to these points:

1) "No real trees to speak of, everything sort of monotone ash colored, and sometimes just really dark."

That's pretty straightforward - the landscape looks a little too post-apocalypse to me. It's supposed to be a land that gets lots of snow, not a nuclear winter.

2) "So far, the only baddies I run into are next to caves or something."

Granted, it depends on where you've been - but I've seen plenty of rabbits, foxes, elk, butterflies - and not a whole lot of bad guys. The occasional wolf pack has jumped out at me (I think three so far in total) but when you couple this with the lack of any real foliage it just means staring out across a sort of passive lifeless wasteland of not-Oblivion landscape (and no, we can't all play on Ultra graphics settings). That's less original and more vanilla bland grossness. Maybe they thought we'd be looking up more often for dragons, I don't know.

3) "Morrowind had tons of armor slots, Oblivion had three, Skyrim has... wait for it... four?"

The chat goes in the direction of defining a roleplaying game in general but this is a huge one for me. How can you take a game that offers you eight armor slots and "improve" it by halving that amount? It's just so totally wrong in so many ways. I want boots, greaves, breastplate, pauldrons, gauntlets, and helm at the minimum. We'll take about why you thought that changing the slant of my character's chin was a good trade-off for that another time.

With Brightest of (Low Graphic Setting) Greens,

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Fallen Bwarth #1 (A M.M.O.BW.P.G. - Fallen Earth Game Review)

Welcome to Fallen Earth, a Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game that BW heartily endorses. It's also completely free to play (I play through Steam), which is exactly the right price for BW to endorse.

Now let it be known that I have a soft spot for post-apocalyptic themes to begin with, though I often find them ultimately shallow and narrow in scope. Not so with FE. I'm not a big MMO player and this was the second one I ever tried (after Dungeons and Dragons Online, which just didn't do it for me) and every other one I've tested since has left me unfulfilled. I've mentioned before that not everyone who plays a Star Wars game wants to be a Jedi - not everyone in the future wastelands wants to kill people either. Ol' BW likes to make tee-shirts, for instance. In FE this means harvesting some cotton plants, and maybe some other raw materials (depending on how advanced a tee you're aiming for), and have a seat while you wait a few minutes for it to be done. That's it, and there's skills to make food items, weapons, ammunition, armor, vehicles... pretty much everything in the game can be crafted (except the special unique people-that-pay-to-play things).

Being free-to-play usually means being limited too, but in FE it simply means waiting longer. You can only have one character at a time and you can only craft one item at a time, without making any lists of things to automatically craft while you're offline. I don't think it's very expensive to upgrade this but one cultivates patience in the Bwogosphere by engaging in such exercises. I made my first character (...because of course I've made more than one, we've covered this already) and spent about thirty hours learning the ropes and recipes to be a successful contributor to life in the dystopian utopia by way of providing decent clothes and armor (did I mention you can make dye to change the colors of things too?). The big selling point for most players is, naturally, crafting their own vehicle (not horses... you have to just buy those) - and there's plenty of work to put in before you see any results. You're talking weeks of real-time before you have a nice car so most folks stick to the ATV, which is actually part of the main-ish quest. It involves finding/buying parts, crafting parts, combining those parts into other parts, and so on. Nothing compares to the first time I saw a purple corvette with yellow highlights pull up into Starterville though - the cred from driving one of those demands attention.

The community is pretty helpful and the chat has many different filters/channels (help, auction, and local, to name a few), so rookies will be just fine as long as they don't abuse the chat. That gets you kicked for sure, as there's almost always and Admin around. The game is very forgiving though, and if your the type that just wants to go it alone without any buddies that's cool too. You'll want to stay stocked up on ammo and health if you start to wander into territory that has baddies way above your level... but maybe that's a lesson best learned firsthand.

A piece of advice: Avoid blood rabbits at all costs. You think you can take them. You can't.

With Brightest of (Lonely Tumbleweed) Greens,

Friday, January 4, 2013

BWRPG #1 (Star Wars Saga Edition Game Review)

A couple years ago I received an Amazon Gift Card for Christmas. This, coupled with some earnings I had from a social marketing website called Crowdtap, allowed me to purchase the Star Wars Roleplaying Game: Saga Edition. I had never really played a tabletop RPG before (other than some goofing around with GURPS, which I'll bwog on later) and thought "If only I had some friends, I could play this!" Well. You may or may not be aware of the format referred to as play-by-posting but it's a fairly big deal on the Internet for folks like myself who have no friends or, more commonly, who just prefer to take advantage of a slower pace and some of the awesome gamer aids out there (like, for instance). I searched around for a site that played Saga and finally landed on Galactic Campaigns. It's a small community but fun and I've had some great times as both player and GM there over the last two years. There was also a site literally called, but it recently went under and I think GalCam is pretty much your best bet for Saga games. I mention all this simply because my experience with the game is almost entirely in the play-by-post format and that differs from sitting across from your buddies, eating pizza and drinking blue mountain dew.

The game itself is pretty straightforward and easy to grasp, once you have a few core concepts down. It uses something loosely called the d20 System that uses a twenty-sided die, with modifiers based on circumstances, to determine success or failure in a given situation. Saga also grants characters things like Destiny Points and Force Points to help modify rolls just in case you need the extra boost. The five main classes (Jedi, Noble, Scoundrel, Scout, and Soldier) serve to give a decent array of who you'd encounter in that galaxy far, far away, and then there are prestige classes (Crime Lord, Elite Soldier, Force Disciple, and Gunslinger, to name a few) that you can get later on. This game served as a good launching point into the world of roleplaying (I'm still not counting GURPS) as those basic concepts are found in the majority of the games out there. The Saga game is now out-of-print and you have to borrow or buy used to play it, but it's totally worth the money to spend on at least the corebook if you've a hankerin' for bustin' Stormtroopers.

In short - you should try this game out if you can, even if it means just asking for a pre-generated character to test it out on a forum somewhere. I'll probably return to SW:SE at some other time, but I just wanted to get it out there that the Bwogosphere isn't just about video games.

Blah blah blah review. Now for the bwog you came here for.

My first character ever was a droid that I wanted to be a sort of scout on the junk planet of Raxus Prime. The idea was to have him search around for parts and use them to build things like speeders and blasters and sell them to make a living. Very boring but I like that sort of thing. We can't all be Jedi (and we don't all want to anyway). My Gamemaster had me exploring a partially covered ship hull out in the middle of nowhere when it suddenly dawned on me - I had no flashlight. I was about to travel deep underground, armed with only a hunting rifle, without any light because I thought it would be cooler to purchase magnetic feet instead of nightvision. I searched for some flammable things for a makeshift torch and continued on my merry ignorant way. Guess who I met? A droideka.


These guys have problems with flashlights too, but it's mostly because they can't hold them very well... what with laser machine gun blasters for hands. I attempted to talk to him but that didn't work out so well and I woke up two weeks later on a spaceship full of droid pirates with a restraining bolt and the role of "guy-who-floats-across-to-the-other-ship-and-disables-its-antennae-while-the-rest-of-us-kill-all-the-passengers". It was totally unexpected and I loved it. I'd like to say I learned my lesson, but I have at least one other character that forgot a flashlight that I'll talk about some time. For those of you forming a psychological profile of BW based on the way he plays his characters - please be patient. My naked Argonians and can't-see-in-the-dark droids are just the tip of the bright green iceberg.

With Brightest of (Nightvision) Greens,

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Just Bwause 2 (Warning: Math Involved)

So after making various claims about the size of Panau in previous bwogs, I decided to actually try and math it out. Now my degree is in studio art - well known to be the polar opposite of mathematics in nearly every conceivable way - but if I can cram enough video game into the equation sometimes I can survive a little bit of algebra. Let's see how I did...

I flew a plane (a Peek Airhawk 225, decidedly not the fastest aircraft available) from the far Southeast of Panau to the far Northwest. I'm going to consider these to be the extreme distances in either direction but I know they're not, and I'm going to round the distance traveled to 40km (you can see on the left that it's a little more). I'm also going to mention that this wasn't technically a straight line since I had to adjust altitude and bearing fairly often by minor amounts, but we're going to disregard that as well. It took, conservatively, ten minutes and thirty seconds (that's 630 seconds or .175 hours). So our math looks like this:

40km/.175hrs or 228.5km/hr for the speed of the plane (which is, of course, faster than Scorpio's running speed but we didn't test that so this is mostly arbitrary warm-ups for more complicated equations that we might just give up on anyway)

Let's just say, as an off the cuff guesstimate, that Scorpio runs a third as fast as the plane. I have no data to support this hypothesis because I spent so much time making that image in GIMP but what's my degree in again? That's right. So if Scorpio runs a third as fast as the plane flies that means it would take him more than thirty minutes to run from one corner of the game map to its opposite - if he ran in a relatively straight and flat path, which is simply not possible. Aside from all the water, Panau has some impressive mountains... and military personnel armed with machine guns and unlimited numbers of jeeps that they drive like toddlers when alerted to your presence as an Agent of Chaos. Suffice it to say, bullets travel in straight lines and so Scorpio does not.

So what did we learn from all this? Well, I don't know. I played the junk out of Morrowind back in the day and I seem to recall someone saying they crossed Vvardenfell in about twenty minutes. I don't know if they were using levitation or not and I don't care anymore really - just know that when I say "Panau is really big and you should play this game," I mean it. Twenty years of gaming experience and four years of a studio art degree from a state school lead us to no other conclusion.

With Brightest of (Distantly Rendered and Yet Somehow Reachable) Greens,

P.S. I should add that the more astute observers of you may notice that the map didn't add the little arrow to show my location. I'm not sure why and I didn't notice until afterwards, but you can tell where I'm at from the picture on the left. Good eye, Columbo!

Bwogyrim #3 (On the Horses of Skyrim)

I had my first random dragon encounter the other night. It was everything I expected it to be (read: significantly harder than a wolf) and many things I did not, namely a lesson in my own inferiority.

What you see captured in the above picture is the dragon being a total jerkface by ignoring my arrows and going straight for my horse, Allie, who was content to watch the battle from afar. Or maybe eat computer grass on that island until I came back to get her, weighing considerably more from all the Dragon Loot in my pockets. "Oh no!" I cried, "Not my horse! You stupid floating lizard - you're supposed to fight me!" He didn't pay attention... and neither did the others.

"The Others?" you say, "This isn't Lost, BW, it's a singleplayer game about fighting dragons and catching butterflies and dual-wielding battle axes!" And you would be mostly right, except it isn't exactly a singleplayer experience for ol' BW. A couple individuals who aren't in the above picture contributed to the action without bothering to ask if the Dragonborn would mind a little help. A fisherwoman, who decided to start attacking me halfway through the battle (and afterwards seemed to forget all about and take her nearby seat like nothing out of the ordinary had happened) and the greatest NPC of all time. This is him:

Sorry about the quality of the picture, I was crying from the dragon attack and my complete unpreparedness for the battle overall. This guy, however, was on fire, standing on his horse, also on fire, shooting arrows and talking trash to the dragon (you can see his wing at the very top of the screen) like this was some pre-arranged afterschool beatdown because Puff refused to give up his lunch money. I've only been playing the game for about a dozen hours but this guy has my vote for being the Dovahkiin (sorry about the spoiler, the game's been out for over a year and I'm assuming some basic knowledge on your part about a game with a dragon on the cover of the box). I did eventually win the encounter and I'm not afraid to tell you - it wasn't because of me at all. I literally hid behind a rock and stuck my neck out only to shoot a couple arrows at Alliebane and rush in for the loot. This guy, who we'll evermore call Deathstar, continued to attack the dragon without any cover - or fear, presumably - at all. In fact, I'm pretty certain he got the last hit in.

And then he goes over to the carcass to stare at it, like: "Whoa, never seen one of these before. Help yourself to the loot mate, I've already got the Bow of Infinite Arrows, Invincibility to Flying Creatures of Death, and Cinder (Allie's fireproof cousin). Good luck with that quest thing!"

Allie survived too, which confuses me. Am I playing the game wrong when the horses and NPCs are better at fighting dragons than me, the Human playing the game about being Lord of the Dragons (or whatever. I haven't beat it yet so I don't know what they're calling it.)? Only time, and considerably more playtime (and maybe actually purchasing some perks instead of hoarding the points like Pokemon), will tell.

With Brightest of (Planet Destroying Space Station Laser) Greens,

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Just Bwause 2 (Just Cause 2 Game Review)

I was given Just Cause 2 about a month ago by a friend and played it for about twenty hours in the first couple days. If you've ever played any of the Grand Theft Auto franchise, where spreading destruction is the main way to progress through the storyline, you've played JC2 to a lesser degree. I say lesser because I feel like I could fit all of Liberty City inside the bounds of Panau at least twice over and there are no load times. Let me say that again: You can run, drive, fly, swim, glide, and freefall from one side of the map to the other with absolutely no load times. There's so many little things that are kept track of you'll be playing for days before you realize why any of it matters (if, in fact, it really does - I think some of it is just fun little statistics to make you feel like you've accomplished something that your friends haven't yet).

Take the screenshot above, for instance. That's Scorpio (your character) para-gliding his way to the coast with a machine gun, grenade launcher, and RPG. How did I do this? I used my grapple gun of course. I targeted a spot about a dozen yards away and as I was being pulled Spiderman-style towards my destination I opened my 'chute. This caused me to instantly float upwards a little ways and I grappled the ground in front of me (while still in the air) to pull me along and gain more lift. It's one of the simplest ways to travel, and a quick way to retreat if things get too hectic...

...and things will get pretty hectic sometimes. The island is policed by the local military and gangs (who sometimes pull over to fight each other as you're driving by, which is hilarious) who make fairly easy target in small groups but who can rapidly grow in numbers. It's usually only a matter of time before the military sends in air support in the form of attack choppers. Lesser men would fall to their knees and beg for mercy before being cut to pieces by the unlimited ammo in twin large millimeter cannons floating in a holding pattern just overhead. Not Scorpio. Scorpio says, "Air support? Thanks - I needed more bullets." He bides his time until they arrive and then grapples onto the underside of one, then leaps to the front of the windshield, dispatching the co-pilot who was leaning out, then jumps to the side and headbutts the pilot quicktime-style before going all Apocalypse Now on the confused soldiers below. If he gets lucky, they'll respond by sending one of the choppers that shoots unlimited missiles next.

There's a plot, and unlockables, and some semblance of who the bad guys are and aren't, but in a game where nearly everything explodes and you earn something literally called Chaos Points for crashing cars into other cars, or gas stations, or planes, or bunkers, or... well, you see where I'm going with that. You don't cause havoc on Panau for no reason of course, you do it Just Cause you can. 2.

With Brightest of (Poorly Organized NPC Military) Greens,

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Bwogyrim #2

This is Beedub the Argonian. He likes dual-wielding steel daggers and running around in his loin-cloth, but for the sake of practicality (and decency) he wears Light Armor and runs away from anything more dangerous than a wolf. He did  manage to beat up some draugr with their own weapons recently, barely, and appreciates the sunlight - and un-undead baddies - so much more now. He also bought a horse who was subsequently killed by a troll, henceforth he has declared vendetta on all trollkind. Luckily, he forgot to save anywhere near where the murder occurred and had no choice but to go back to way before the encounter. Way before.


My biggest weakness (other than making new characters without progressing down any major storylines ever in any game) is that I tend to make my characters travel light. Extremely light. I call it roleplaying but really it's just being suicidal. I imagine I could carry a hundred pounds of gear with me all the time too, but how else will you experience the sheer terror of facing a fort of elemental mages with only, say, two daggers and no healing potions in the middle of the night? This picture, for instance, represents Beedub carrying the Light Armor he's wearing, two steel daggers, and I think maybe a set of clothes. That's pretty much it. Also... he's level 6 and I haven't bought any Perks yet.

You see why Beedub's Horse met her death so quickly.

With Brightest of (Evil Troll) Greens,