Saturday, 30 June 2012

My Hand Has Been Forced

Greetings, I am Sir Thomas, though for once I do not wish you to remember my name. I am about to ruin your faith in humanity.

Fanfictions have existed since stories first began, and these days, with the multiple electronic devices available and the massive data sharing ability of the internet, it has gotten easier and easier to share your strange fantasies involving the cast of Power Rangers and Watership Down having a fight to the death over who gets to win Princess Daisy's hand in marriage. Before you search for that, I have a much worse one for you to ponder over.


I was going to save this until it was absolutely necessary. I was pushing the web log further and further back until I could find something else to write about, anything to write about. With every single one of our submitters missing yesterday, and with little movement today, I find that I am... forced... to reveal this to you. Ladies and Gentlemen, if this is the only submission today, you will no doubt be glad of that fact. I present to you, the worst Fanfiction ever written.

I present to you... My Immortal.


Lets get this straight. The video, that video that I just linked on this website, is not the worst thing in the entire world. No, the worst thing in the entire world, in the entire existence of the internet, is the written transcription of the Fanfiction.

This piece of writing is so bad, so absolutely appalling, that fanfiction.net demanded it should be removed from the site because it wasn't "up to the standards" of the website. This is fanfiction.net! They have made an entire website about hosting the strangest, most disturbing, and worst written literature of the internet. Sure, there are a few gems in there, some actually interesting things, but the majority of it is slurry.

Let us do some character profiling shall we? Not of the characters in the story, they are one dimensional author inserts with an obsession with Satan (or... Satin, depending on the spelling), I mean the woman who posted this. Tara Gelesbie.

This girl... this... strange... troubled girl... decided to one day write a Fanfiction. What did she decide to write it about? Not something she loves, not something she knows anything about really, she decided to write it about the Harry Potter Universe because, for all intents and purposes, the boys were pretty. Seriously. She saw the film, she barely got a grasp of the characters, but she knew who she wanted to sleep with. The answer was everyone. So she took the characters and she messed with them. She just... twisted and ruined them until they were what she wanted, and what she wanted was a bunch of Satan worshiping, over emotional vampires. But, you know what, this is Fanfiction. I could allow that, I could let this slide as a merely terrible Fanfiction, if it wasn't for her Author Notes. It is here that we see just how twisted her mentality was.

She constantly seeks self-assurance, to the point where she labels anyone who disagrees with her, or does not like her work, under one name: "Preps" She does not once imagine that her Masterpiece could possibly be tripe, a horrible collection of misspellings and terribly written sex scenes, butchered characters and violated grammar... No, anyone who doesn't like it is a Prep, and they don't like her because she's "Goffik". Her need to be constantly placated with soft (false) coos of praise even pushes as far as demanding good reviews or she would stop writing; at this point she was an internet sensation, people hated her, and they loved to hate her, so they kept feeding her... and it just... kept getting worse. I have never made it all the way through this... literary abortion, but I have heard bits and pieces... in the story, and the author notes themselves, there are hints of incest, paedophilia, satanism, self-harm, murder, suicide, plot holes, even bigger plot holes, accidental censoring, time travel, Good Charlotte, Vampires and the most painful use of the English Language I have ever seen.

There are 44 chapters, with author notes included, linked in the website above. It even has a video page, for... more physical torture. And... you know what? If this web log, this very one, gets enough hits, enough people posting their... support of the idea... I will read this. I will record myself reading this out loud, and I will no doubt record myself losing all hope in humanity part way through. I will do voices. I will do this pile of absolute effluence justice. And I will stick it up on here, for people to watch.

Good lord I can't believe I just said that.

Good day, my friends.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

What happened to the Star Wars that I used to know?



"You tried to make The Force make sense, so you introduced the midi-chlorians ..." Genius!

I thought it couldn't get better...

Sir Thomas, get it right, and get it done quick.

A really expedient update from myself, merely because I am waiting for the servers to load on TF2. No. Seriously. Don't leave. I know I repeated myself, I know my last post was about this, but this is a serious mortar shell that went off under the floor boards.

By now you've seen the Meet the Pyro video. If you haven't, may I direct your mouse over towards the link just there? It is rather necessary for this web log to make sense. Click it. I won't wait, you'll have to catch up.

Now, seen it? Good. You know that land of wonderment and joy that the Pyro sees every day? You know the sweet lollipops and baloonicorns that line every street and destroyed corpse? Well, good news, you can play there.



Pick your jaw up from boot level before I scrape some muck off on it. You put one goggles, on ANY character, and the animation turns to... well... what you saw in the video. I don't know how exact the transformation was, they definitely had enough time to pull it off, and the server still hasn't connected. But I advise everyone, everywhere, to start playing as soon as possible. Because if you don't play before the 5th of July, you won't get your pair of free Balloonicorn goggles. And you don't want that to happen do you?

Here's the Pyroland page. Go there and just... marvel at the sheer nerve of Valve. I am uncertain what fever dream they fell into to even consider something of this magnitude... but no matter the crippling brain scarring, it was worth it.

Good day, my friend.

I'd watch it...

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Salutations are in Order!

Greetings once again, it is I, Sir Thomas. You all know my name by now, and I am astounded that none of you are yet to actually use it.

Now, today I was informed of a wonderful occurrence. Team Fortress 2, a first-person-massive-online-multiplayer-shooty-game-type-thing has uploaded the latest and final "Meet the Team" video. What is "Meet the Team" you ask? Well I'll tell you, but you really should say "please" when making an inquiry from your betters.

Meet the Team is a series of videos where those wonderful mischief makers at Valve show you a little more about the unique and frankly appealing characters of TF2. Each class is a specific character model, and they treat these characters as people with completely different and sometimes rather disturbing personalities. The only problem is, this isn't a story based game, it's an online multiplayer.

So, to give these characters some more depth they add certain... differences to the reactions they have as you play.  The scout's mocking laughter and loud personality clashes greatly with the quiet confidence and soft spoken insults of the sniper. This wasn't enough though. They needed cutscenes about the characters. But they couldn't stick them in game, there was no place for them. So they decided to make the videos separate. They created the "Meet the Team" series.

The last one, the latest one, is about the most mysterious character in the game. A character who shows no flesh at all, who speaks in such muffled tones it is almost impossible to understand him... or her... or it. The Pyro.



Dear God in his mighty heaven above what did I just WATCH? This is some kind of abomination upon science, or psychology, or perhaps both! This reveals nothing, but everything about this character, and I'm terrified but intrigued as to how this... thing came into being. Is it a man? A woman? A little girl in a suit? An Alien? A robot? It says nothing, but we see the world through the Pyro's eyes for the first time, and I, personally, am terrified of this character now.

What can I say but... insanity. Pure insanity. Or... perhaps trickery. You might notice, when the camera is zoomed in on the Pyro's face, some words on his... her... it's mask. "Optical Mask". With more writing beneath it. Could it be, the Pyro is in fact, not exactly insane? Merely... innocent? A character of innocence that throws itself upon the enemy without fear because it believes nothing in this world can hurt it, because it cannot take that mask off itself? I smell something in the air, and that is the smell of the words "Property of Aperture Science" stamped across mask rubber.

Another troubling detail... at the beginning, with interviews of the Heavy and Scout and Spy, all scared stiff of the Pyro... they are RED team members. The Pyro's OWN team members. The Scout physically runs away from his own team member.

I need to go play Team Fortress 2 some more. It's free. Anyone and everyone can download it. I suggest they do. I shall be the one with a flamethrower and complete lack of control.

Here is a link to the Team Fortress 2 youtube page, for those who want to  view all of the available Meet the Team videos. I suggest they do, if not for the comedy, then for the interesting psychological character studies.

Good day, my friends.

Skyrim: Dawnguard


So, Skyrim's Dawnguard expansion is here; though for us primitives playing the game on PC, it looks like we'll be waiting awhile to play it. I'd be annoyed, but my capacity to mod it with all manner of wonderful toys has given me enough ner-ner moments as it is. Some of us have had dragonbone weapons for ages, man...

Sparkly vamps need not apply.
It's a big 'un, at ten to twenty hours worth. Not so big as Shivering Isles, but plenty big enough to renew interest in that old savegame, or make you start a new one. Vampire and werewolf perks, crossbows, new weapons and armour. The storyline can be completed as either a vampire hunter (though not in the Buffy tradition, I'm guessing) or as a vampire, with the implication being that you might just be able to permanently blot out the sun, making life a bit easier for the daylight-challenged.

Speaking of making life easier for vamps, the experience is apparently no longer completely an utterly painful by all accounts. Anyone who ever played one for more than five minutes should be able to tell you how irritating the experience is; sure, vampirism is traditionally a curse, but gaming isn't bloody supposed to be. You'll no longer be attacked on sight because you haven't found a sleeper in a while, bottled blood is available... and you can transform into the scary bugger above. There's also perks gained by feeding, and a similar tree for all you werewolf fans too.

Still, they'll be hard pressed to be cooler than the coolest vampire of all time. Say it with me, kiddies: "Vun immortal Dovah..."


IGN Reviews The Amazing Spiderman...


Hmm... think I'll pass on seeing this at the cinema... shame that.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

My kind of coffee...

Mass Effect 3: Extended Cut

So, Mass Effect's Extended Cut dlc goes live today, free content that expands upon the controversial ending to Shep's story.


Everything that possibly could be said on the subject has, I've no doubt, already been said. As someone who was a little disappointed in the vagueness of it all (note I said I was disappointed, not a frothing ball of web-based rage), I'm looking forward to this one.

Alas, in order to get the most out of it you need to load a save game before the assault on the Cerberus Base; and of course, I don't have one of those. I started my new game plus yesterday (and it is fun to have access to grenade launching pistols and anti-material sniper rifles from the off), so as soon as the schedule allows me to finish up I'll post a decent review of the changes. But for those of you who can try it straight away, the time is now!

Until then, enjoy a humorous sucky ending meme from some internet random. Because regardless of how you feel about the ending, everyone loves Councillor Sparatus and his sarcasm.


Be like Han

Monday, 25 June 2012

A Refined Palet

Greetings from Sir Thomas again. I'm sorry for the terrible lack of recent activity, but due to a certain lack of funds things have become... difficult for me. That and you all seem to refuse to state my name correctly. But, when a glove is thrown down I must pick it up. I am a gentleman, even in my current circumstances.

I am, of course, referring to the question about my favourite trailer to a game. And this leads me rather wonderfully into another topic. We shall take this in order however, and I shall explain what is my favourite game trailer, and why I find it tickles my fancy so.

The trailer, in question, is this:



I'm uncertain why, but the cartoon violence and artstyle, coupled with the amazing "Ain't no Rest for the Wicked" has made this advertisement remain in my head for the longest time. This is actually simply the introduction to the game, but was treated as a reveal for the playable character classes. The trailer is simplistic, the names, attitudes and specialisations of the characters being conveyed without excessive exposition. The game itself has its ups and downs, but I find this trailer always puts me in the mood to play the game again.

Licensing music for a video game is a tricky business; if you fail terribly, you owe people a lot of money you don't have... and trust me I know how that feels. But I think Borderlands hit the mark with the song choice. They tried something that most didn't dare to attempt, and it paid off with one of the most memorable trailers I've ever seen.

Now, to the news.

Borderlands has a sequel in the works. Yes, wonderful news indeed my fine chums.

This sequel shall no doubt contain the same insane comedy, over the top violence and powerful musket-rifles as the previous one. How can I be so certain you ask? Why, because I've been a fanatic of one of the writers for quite a long time.

Anthony Burch, and his sister Ashley, have no doubt consumed some kind of psychosis inducing beverage in their time, because their brand of humour seems to surpass mere strange and sidle into the realms of pure surreality. These are people directly involved with the creative process. When I heard this would be Anthony's premier project I almost choked on my pipe.

Let us examine a trailer of theirs, shall we?



Alas, they seem to be lacking the initial taste for music. You might notice a certain... dubstep style to their choice for this trailer. This is a common happen-stance in trailers these days sadly, but I find the trailer could be forgiven for it's use of self parody and humour. 96.5% WUB WUB still brings a smile to my face whenever I see it alongside other more po-faced trailers using similar tracks with no hint of irony or original ideas.

The trailer promises development from the old formula, not just more of the same, and I find that an enjoyable concept. The old characters are there, but are not playable, you are someone new, coming into a new and developed world. With, thankfully, a new (actually present) story.

Perhaps I am a victim to circumstance and hype, but I am looking forward to this game, these new developments. I am looking forward to visiting Pandora again in a new light. I am looking forward to... ah... how did they put it... "joy puking my face off".

Good day, my friends.

List of worthwhile DOS games.


Spotted this on Reddit, it was originally posted on Information2Share's blog.

It brought a nostalgic tear to my eye - recalling the days of editing config.sys and autoexec.bat on my old 386SX PC back in the early 90s.  Good times man, good times...

PS: In honour of the 1st game I ever played on my trusty 386 - here it is, playable in your web browser...





Sunday, 24 June 2012

A little perspective is always a good thing...

On a recent sojourn around Lincoln Cathedral with Elizabeth - I found myself in a beautiful building filled with the tombstones and plaques marking the lives of others who had lived out their lives in the belief that what awaited them after this life was something greater - that the life they had here was but a test, a prelude to something better which would follow should they be deemed worthy by some supreme being casting judgement upon their thoughts, ideas and actions.

I myself am a Science and Maths kinda guy, with a leaning towards some Buddhist philosophies on life .  Based upon the lack of empirical evidence otherwise I need to assume that this life is all we have, and that once our time is over, our consciousness ceases to be and the atoms which make up our bodies are returned to the universe to create something else.  You'd think this would be quite a sad or depressing idea - but I find it empowering - especially that we live in an age where science allows us as a species to begin to understand our place in the universe.  And upon getting a glimpse at "our place" - it kinda makes the issues we consider to be so big and important, a little bit less so.

You may disagree (it's ok - you're allowed ^.^), but I find the video below comforting.  To me it's life affirming and it underlines the need for us to keep everything in perspective...

"This excerpt from A Pale Blue Dot was inspired by an image taken, at Carl Sagan's suggestion, by Voyager 1 on February 14, 1990. As the spacecraft left our planetary neighborhood for the fringes of the solar system, engineers turned it around for one last look at its home planet. Voyager 1 was about 6.4 billion kilometers (4 billion miles) away, and approximately 32 degrees above the ecliptic plane, when it captured this portrait of our world. Caught in the center of scattered light rays (a result of taking the picture so close to the Sun), Earth appears as a tiny point of light, a crescent only 0.12 pixel in size."

Incidentally if you are ever near Lincoln, do pay a visit to it's Cathedral - it's beautiful. :)



Space Shuttle Endeavour Punches Through The Clouds


Space Shuttle Rising 
Credit: NASA
Explanation: The above image was taken from a shuttle training aircraft and is not copyrighted. Taken well above the clouds, the image can be matched with similar images of the same shuttle plume taken below the clouds. Hot glowing gasses expelled by the engines are visible near the rising shuttle, as well as a long smoke plume. A shadow of the plume appears on the cloud deck, indicating the direction of the Sun.

TeeFury

So, more often than not Facebook's advertising is a bit less hit and a bit more miss. But occasionally, like today, it's a hit. Am I a Labyrinth fan? Yes, yes I am!

And now I'm aware of TeeFury.com, a rather groovy site. Artists submit tee-shirt designs, and said tee-shirts are available for 24 hours or until they sell out, whichever comes first. Making me the proud fanboy owner of a limited edition artsy Labyrinth tee.


Even with shipping to the UK it only came to about twelve quid; American buyers should find them even cheaper at ten bucks each. Got some mad art skills of your own? If they select your design, you'll make a buck per tee-shirt that they sell, so that might provide some extra moolah for art supplies and berets.

Favourite Game Trailer

So, Paul wants to know our favourite game trailers. Tough one, in recent years there have been some seriously awesome ones. Off the top of my head though, it'd have to be this one:


I remember the "holy crap" moment I had when I first saw that. I don't even like MMOs all that much, but I pretty much decided then and there I was gonna give it a whirl...

What's your favorite game trailer?


This is mine, it's now over two years old but, for me at least, it doesn't get old.


If you like the music, the games soundtrack is embedded below...



And if you fancy playing the game for yourself, you can find out where it's cheapest by clicking here.

Puella. The creepiest anime about magical girls I've ever seen.

So, on an earlier post of anime, I thought I'd step in and talk about an anime I've recently finished watching, that could BLOW YOUR MIND...maybe.

Oh, pardon my manners, I haven't introduced myself. Howell here, and yes, I could be all cute and talk about Howl's Moving Castle, but no. (But seriously, you should totally watch that too if you haven't.)

Anyway, creepy anime. Whereas in Gaf's post, he mentioned the creepy side of anime in Dance of the Vampire Bund's lolicon style, fear not, there's nary a tentacle nor underage scantily clad scene to see here. Except some of the transformation sequences, but that's more of a flash of light clothes change thing that most people have seen before. I mean, Sailor Moon got away with about as much.

Right, distractions. I should probably tell you what anime I'm even talking about. It's called 'Puella Magi Madoka Magica', also known as 'Mahou Shojo Madoka Magica'. Sounds innocent? And, looking here, it looks innocent. ((It's at this point that I mention, there will likely be spoilers of some description in here, but I'll try to refrain from character names (or descriptions) for the most part.))

Perfectly happy, colour coordinated magical girl anime, they're great for kids. Or not. Please don't show this to young children. They may have nightmares. As joky as I'm being, really, it scared me on occasion. And I laugh through most horror. So, what makes this anime so creepy? Oh, I'll get into that, but for now, I'll just show you an image from the first episode. Apologies if I'm putting a lot of pictures up, but in some cases, they're needed to give this anime justice.
Yes, that's right, thorns with scissors, and the most terrifying version of the Pringles guy I've ever seen. That's the thing with this anime, it lulls you in with cute characters, and magic, and then takes you to a horrible place, and breaks it all apart. It takes most of the usual tropes of Magical Girl Anime, and spits out pure terror. I should have seen it all coming of course. I mean, the opening theme begins as usual with a water droplet landing in the water, creating glowing ripples we've seen a million times in these anime, before the 'camera' shows that it's actually the main character crying. But aside from that, don't think of trusting that opening. It shows everyone happy (aside from the initial crying). And more importantly, it shows everyone alive. Yes, that's right, the first little spoiler. The anime is only 12 episodes long, I'll point out. So, you'd expect a death, if it were to happen, around episode 9 or 10 at the earliest. I'll keep you in suspense for a little bit, but I'll tell you the first death is in the first 5 episode. Oh yes, I said first death. And while I'm refraining from divulging the identities of the deceased, they are main characters. As in, one of the girls in the pictures seen in this post. And this isn't a namby pamby "they get better" death. They don't come back to life at the end of the episode.

I suppose much of the creepiness is justified. You see, the magical girls chase after witches, and the witches hide from the real world in these special dimensions. That's where all the creepy Pringles men, scissors, needles, body parts in jars, random cupcakes, and the monstrous witches are seen. Indeed, the witches aren't your pointy hat wearing warty women. Nor are they just carbon copies of the girls in darker colours (though they are linked). They are monsters that, in some cases, make the above Pringles men look normal. Apologies if this is putting you crisps for life.

So the girls become magical girls by making a contract with Kyubey. Everyone say hi to Kyubey!

Daww, ain't he cute? The little git. You see, everything seems nice. He even gives the girls a wish, and he'll grant it, in exchange for making the girls magical. Wait, isn't making them magical a good thing?
No. Not only does this mean they can hunt the Witches. It means they have to. They are given a Soul Gem, which contains their magic. They use it, and it get darker. If they kill Witches, they drop Grief Seeds, which can cleanse the darkness from their Soul Gem. If they don't cleanse them, the girls become Witches. I could go into more detail about the Soul Gem, but I shan't spoil that. Oh, and apparently, every good deed a ranger does, when they become Witches, an equal amount of bad happens. So there's that to worry about.

Next, I'll talk about one of the characters. Homura, for reference, is the black/grey ranger seen in the picture. Yes, I compared tis to Power Rangers, I really don't care. I might even just call them Homura Black and Madoka, the main character, Pink, to avoid confusion with Japanese names.

I should probably talk about the main character, but it's MY blog post, and I'll do what I want! I'll probaly just mix it up anyway. On that note, it's getting long, so I'll summarise. It might help avoid too much description in spoilers, so that's a plus.
Homura. First seen in a dream, then a transfer student in Pink's class. Then seen chasing Kyubey around to kill him. But he's all cute, and asks for help from Pink, who obliges. Kyubey is convinced Pink will be the strongest ranger ever. Black knows Kyubey's evil, tries to stop Pink from listening to him. So, she's seen as the series anti-hero. Later, you find out why she's trying to stop it. TIME TRAVEL. It's her power. Turns out, there's a big bad Witch coming, Walpurgis Night, who doesn't need to hide in the creepy dimensions, and is gonna destroy the world. And in every timeline, it wins. So Black Quantum Leaps back, and tries to stop her, fais, people die, leap.
Oh Boy...




And that's the basic tip of the iceberg. I won't spoil more. Go watch it. Enjoy. Be scared, feel sad, and all in all, feel more emotion than any anime has made me feel, even if the main one is 'creeped out'.
((NOTE: I've not watched Grave of the Fireflies.))

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Anime on Netflix

So, turns out that crashing with the folks for the summer comes with a few perks. One of these perks is that my parents own a PS3 from their child-minding days, and that said PS3 comes with Netflix. And Netflix currently has a stack of anime available, so I figured I'd give it a whirl and see what was currently available.

I should point out that these are gonna be first impression reviews; tempting as it is to spend the entire summer sprawled on the sofa eating junk food, drinking beer and giggling at animated boobs and violence, it's probably not all that practical. So the following is garnered from the first episode or two, and is only a small portion of what's currently available.


Astonishing X-Men




Okay, so the first anime review isn't actually an anime, it's an animated comic from Marvel Knights. So sue me. The hybrid comic/animation thing takes a little getting used to at first, but once you do you'll be in for a treat. The three seasons cover most of Joss Whedon's run on Astonishing X-men; Gifted, Dangerous and Torn, with only Unstoppable being absent currently.

Look, I was a total fanboy for these comics back when they came out and these animations are pretty much a direct adaptation. If you like Whedon's writing (of course you do), and you like the X-Men (duh), go read the comics. And then watch these. Even if you have some sort of savage personality disorder and only like one or the other of Whedon or the X-Men, you'll still like it. If you don't like either, get the **** off my page. We don't like your sort around here.

Oh, and seeing Wolverine psychically regressed to his childhood state is a total nerdout for anyone who's ever read Origin.

Sound of the Sky


Sound of the Sky wasn't exactly what I was expecting; despite the World War styling, this is the most peaceful anime that I've seen in a while. It follows the (mis)adventures of Kanata Sorami, a young girl who enlists in the army as a bugler in order to learn music, and aside from the setting it seems fairly standard anime stuff; she's clumsy but enthusiastic, and text-book cute. The only other character in the first episode to get much screen-time is equally as cut-out, a stern young woman who I'm sure, if you cut her open, would have 'mentor' written through her like a stick of rock. It's cut and paste stuff, you've seen it all before.

That said, there's definitely something here, something a bit slice-of-life. Like I said, it's peaceful; a quaint coastal town that's either Spanish or Fake-Magical-World Spanish (the later, I think), with adorable festivals and gulls overhead and sunshine and everything else. And the music is spectacular; heavy on the bugle and trumpet, but with flamenco and resonator guitars that made me want to doze off in a deckchair in the sun.

I'll be giving this one a few more episodes I reckon; given that I already don't want the wonderful peace and quiet shattered by the horrors of war it should have the potential to be genuinely moving. But even if I don't get into the show, I suspect I'll be grabbing the soundtrack at some point.

Dance in the Vampire Bund



First up, a confession; I'm a sucker for vampires (no pun intended). I grew up on Anne Rice and Vampire: the Masquerade, and while Twilight managed to kill most of my interest in the genre I still keep an eye out for decent examples.

Not sure this is going to be a particularly decent example, though. The first episode was shot interestingly enough to make me check out the second, but there it started to fall apart. Fairly typical teen drama, fairly typical supernatural fight scenes, and completely bloody creepy lolicon stuff. Mina is an ancient and powerful vampire stuck in the body of a pre-teen kid, but this isn't enough to stop the writers having her oiled up half way through episode two. 

Don't get me wrong, I like my vampire stories creepy. But not this particular flavour of creepy, as a rule. This sort of topic can be handled well; Lolicon takes its name from Nabokov's Lolita, for a good example of how to handle said topic. Anne Rice nailed it pretty well with Claudia too. But here it feels like any other kind of fanservice, which is just a bit squick.

And what the hell is a Bund anyway?

Emma: A Victorian Romance


Ah, Victorian England. Who doesn't like to pretend it wasn't all Imperialistic racism and floods of poo running down the streets of London? There's a reason Steampunk is so popular, and that's because if you take away a lot of the real-life bull you're left with a rather delightful setting of fabulous clothes and real, actual manners. Remember those? 

I'm always a fan of the Victorian setting, and it's actually quite nice to see it without vampires or giant steampunk mecha for a change. The animation is slick with a faint Ghibli vibe, and the soundtrack evokes the setting nicely. It is a little tricky to give a decent review for though, as you can't get a real feel for a romance series on one episode.

Currently it doesn't quite live up to its tagline as a story about crossing class boundaries, as the cast seems to be made up of the only three members of Victorian society with no sense of propriety whatsoever. Presumably that comes later; if it handles it in a realistic and meaningful way this might actually become a favourite of mine. If it takes the clichéd crap route, I'll be skipping it. 

Birdy the Mighty Decode


Everything about this screams retro-anime, so I wasn't surprised to find out the original manga ran back in the mid-80s. But the old-school concept is packaged in a thoroughly modern way, with an art style that put me in mind of a lot of Satoshi Kon's stuff. As someone who started off on old 80s anime, it's always pretty cool to see what it looks like with modern production values.

The story follows Birdy, an intergalactic cop who gets stuck sharing a body with a teenage boy whilst on earth. Just about all the old-school wacky conventions are here; cute robot sidekick, faintly demonic aliens, constant boobs. 

Actually, constant boobs is a little unfair. One look at Birdy's crime fighting outfit (seriously, she fights crime in a suit Katie Price would find tasteless) and you'd be forgiven for thinking this one would be all about the fanservice. But while there is a fair amount of it, it's a hell of a lot less than you'd expect and doesn't really detract too much. 

All told, this one is fairly middle of the road. I didn't find much wrong with it, but nothing much was particularly great either once the old-school/new-school shtick wore off. I'll probably give it another episode or two, see if something picks up.

Conclusion

So, halfway through the current selection and it's a fair mix of stuff. Nothing has completely leapt out at me yet (aside from X-Men, but that's sort of cheating), but nothing has been particularly awful either; even Vampire Bund might be more than just a squickfest given a bit more time. Anime fans who haven't seen any of the titles might be interested in checking them out, but there's nothing I've seen so far that's particularly likely to convert non-fans.  

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Morning Glories

So, I finally got a chance to read the first two volumes of Image Comic's critically acclaimed Morning Glories series last night. And I can see why it's so damned popular, fair play.

Understatement: don't be fooled by the pre-teen cover designs.

It's been described by its writer as a mix between Lost and Runaways, and that's a not a bad start. But it's probably a bit of an understatement; for one, it's worth pointing out that so far the series is far more early Lost than late Lost. And while a comparison with Marvel's excellent Runaways series is not inaccurate, these kids have far more in common with the dysfunctional cast of Skins than anyone who has appeared in Runaways. It also utterly fails to prepare you for the ultraviolence that crops up; if popped teenage eyeballs aren't for you, I'd give this one a miss.

Dysfunctional as the kids are, the staff are terrifying.
It also reminded me of that late-90's run of high-school thrillers; remember The Faculty and Disturbing Behaviour? Think along those lines and you won't go far wrong. Writer Nick Spencer is excellent, and backed up by Joe Eisma's pencils and ink. I'm a sucker for a consistent art style when the art style works, and it's perfect here. Rodin Esquejo provides the cover art, and rather than clashing the whole thing comes together in a really pretty package.

If I've anything like a criticism, it would be that the series jumps into the weirdness far too soon. Suspense is high, and taking a few issues to build it would have been great. But that's a criticism for the TPB, and if I'd been reading the serial I'm not sure it would have worked. One thing's for certain though. Volume 3 is out shortly, and this geek can't wait to find out what the unholy hell happens next. 

The Avengers and Gods ...


Monday, 18 June 2012

A Feast Fit For A (Clash of) Kings

You know the dilemma. Your liege lord has sent a raven explaining that he'll be paying you a visit three days hence; suddenly you need to prepare a feast for him, his family, fifty household knights and three hundred men-at-arms. You had your chef beheaded yesterday, and takeaway pizza hasn't been invented yet.

We've all been there. Fortunately, there's now an answer.


That's right, now you too can cook the finest in pseudo-fantasy medieval cuisine. Featuring a whole host of recipes - including the wonderfully decadent sounding 'quails drowned in butter',  which if memory serves Janos Slynt chowed down on before having a disagreement with Tyrion -adapted for the more modern kitchen. Not impressed by that awful word modern? Fret not, apparently they also include the originals too.

It's a bit on the pricey side (well, it's actually about standard for a hardback cookbook), but this has gone firmly on my Amazon wishlist. If I ever get off my rectum and buy it I'll be sure to give a proper review, along with photographs of the ensuing carnage and a charming story about how "a friend" burned down the mead hall...


Update! Turns out that long before they made the cookbook, the folks who wrote it were already writing a blog about all this wonderful food. I'd go have a looksee if I were you...


Sunday, 17 June 2012

Among the Sleep

It is I again, Sir Thomas. I threatened that should be repeated until you should correctly address me as such, and as you can see I am a man of my word.

Now, please do excuse my absence for the last few days, while I have lucrative accounts and a slew of friends and benefactors that might back me up should I become overburdened by monetary issues, things have fallen rather... flat of late. In fact I've recently had to move my place of living to one of a much lesser standard, the dreaded family abode.

But never the less, I shall endeavour to complete my given task, that of keeping the unwashed masses up to date with current and interesting news. Just so long as they do not touch me. Ah, the marvels of electronic communication.

Now, the item I wish to discuss today is a rather intriguing one. I have a fondness for horror, as many of you may ascertain from previous web logs. One of the tropes of horror is the inclusion of children. It ranges from large headed children stumbling through large murderous worlds, their innocence being spoiled repeatedly with every vicious grisly action they see performed in front of their eyes, to children with some indication of a mental handicap who wield vast and terrible powers beyond the comprehension of mortal man.



Either way, horror certainly loves to throw children into the mix, and occasionally into large spinning blades, so it was only a matter of time before someone attempted to take it one step further. This is where it gets interesting.

Krillbite studio, a Norway based developer, have decided that their flagship game should set a pretty high mark for controversy and censor inducing. To achieve this they decided to put the player in the position of a child. A very small child. In fact, this game decided to make their protagonist so young that it could be the first FPC (first-person-crawler) we see on the market. As for the genre, you might have come to the conclusion already that it's a horror. I suppose things seem scarier to a two-year-old.



That's right. A two-year-old. The game, which is called 'Among the Sleep' is placed in the perspective of a two-year-old. Don't believe me? Well it's true, and I have video to prove it, but you should trust your betters. Try to improve on that.


This game looks as if it's gearing up to be quite... interesting. Certainly playing it will be an experience. The child's mind is somewhere between reality and imagination, where every shadow and noise could be a monster of creature sneaking up to attack them.
This game will no doubt stretch the borders between what is real and what is fantasy, and no doubt both will be deadly.



Well, perhaps not deadly. While I give credit to the Krillbite team for daring to approach this concept, I'm uncertain that they would be allowed to animate a toddler being thrown from a rooftop, or eaten by a terrible beast, or hit by a threshing machine. I digress, they would likely be physically restrained before they animated the first disproportionately large eyeball dislodging from the brittle skull.

Is that dark enough? Yes, I believe it to be a fine way to end that discussion. The game looks interesting, and I suggest that people show their support for this new development team. At least they're not producing another first-person-shooter with Russians and a heavy reliance on multiplayer. You know which one I mean... the one with the vehicle section.

Nevermind. I'm certain that you can fill in the blanks there. The official website for the game is here. Please, give them more traffic, give them support, give them money if you should have any, and they should be willing. I look forward to needlessly throwing this toddler into harms way in the future.

Good day, my friends.

Promo First Look at Kenneth Rocafort's Superman

Exciting first look at Kenneth Rocafort's promo image of the new Superman comic! From the image on newsarama.com, it looks a bit good but it'll be a little while yet before die-hard fans can make a final decision on whether Rocafort has hit the spot or missed the mark, but I'm sure the promo pics will whet the appetite for the time being.


The Avengers... on a budget by @Table8Online.

I'm not sure why I didn't stumble across this sooner, but it made me chuckle - so I thought I'd share...


The outtakes are also worth a look...


For more stuff like this, check out www.table8online.com

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Assassin's Creed II : City of God by @deadendthrills

Dead End Thrills is one of my favorite blogs, it showcases the work of Duncan Harris, who specialises in capturing screenshots from games, applying professional photographic techniques and then shares the fruits of his labour with the world.

You can view all of Duncan's work here.


Assassin's Creed II : City of God by @deadendthrills

Friday, 15 June 2012

↓ ↘ → + P

21 years.

Has it really been that long since I pulled off my first Hadouken? Blimey I'm getting old.

In 1991 I was 13 years old and Street Fighter 2 was the greatest game I'd ever seen - it was the reason I pestered my parents for a SNES a year later (a request which was denied) and the reason why four years after that, many a night was squandered during my first year at university playing on my flatmates Megadrive in nightly "winner stays on" tournaments.

My characters of choice were (and still are) Ryu and Ken as they've got (imho) the most versatile move sets & are capable of taking on any other style of fighter - Ken being my favourite of the two because he had the best stage music - so imagine how pleased I was to stumble across this, Psycho Krusher's version of Ken's theme...


Ah... nostalgia.

Which also reminds me, for those of you who play(ed) Street Fighter & havent yet seen the now legen-wait for it - dary comeback that tournament player Diago made in 2004 at EVO then you need to watch this:
"The last hit Daigo (ken) took left him so low that even if he blocked a single attack he would die from the chip damage.  Chun li used her super knowing that any hit would have killed him.Daigo used a technique called parry in which you press forward exactly as a hit connects with your character, negating all damage.  He had to do this for every hit in the video, then managed to combo chun li from half health before she could react."


A full breakdown of this, dubbed "The most famous minute in competitive gaming" is available to read here.

Incidentally if watching this has given you an hankering to bust out a dragon punch and lay the smack down with a hurricane kick then you can get your SF2 on, for free, here.



Thursday, 14 June 2012

Book Review - Star Wars The Old Republic: Revan

So, time for a good old fashioned book review. Unlike the delectable EJ, I'll be sticking to boring old written words rather than a video. I'm camera shy. Honest. It has absolutely nothing to do with that really embarrassing video of me dancing the Macarena. Really.

So today's offering is Revan, by Drew Karpyshyn. I'll keep it as spoiler-free as possible, but only so far as the book itself goes. If you haven't played Bioware's Knights of the Old Republic and its sequel, stop right here, spoilers abound. Mind you, if you haven't played at least the first game in that series, I'm not entirely sure you'd even want to read this, it being the 'proper' third instalment of that series, more so than Old Republic itself.


Right then, are we ready? Nobody here that shouldn't be? Okay. The first thing worth mentioning here is that I was not really a fan of Karpyshyn as a novelist. I'd previously read Mass Effect: Revelation, and struggled to get to the end. Despite being set in the über-awesome Mass Effect setting, and featuring none other than Saren Arterius in a staring role, it just never managed to capture that Mass Effect vibe.

"But I'm a writer's dream, damn you!"
Not that he's a bad writer, of course. Were talking about a bloke who worked on some of my favourite games ever; Baldur's Gate II, Jade Empire, KOTOR, and the Mass Effect series. But writing a novel and writing a video-game (which I assume is a bit like writing a script, rightly or wrongly) are two different kettles of fish, and Karpyshyn didn't seem to have found his feet for that one.

But I went in with an open mind, I promise. I mean, this is Revan we're talking about. He's pretty much a blank slate as far as characterisation goes, but still manages to bring a massive amount of awesome to the table. Let's face it, finding out who Darth Revan's real identity was about a thousand times cooler than Vader turning out to be Luke's dad, and like Vader he also had that awesome, iconic look.

"Ignore my fugly apprentice, there's a reason
the artist made me look taller than his two
meter ass."
 So needless to say, I was a bit disappointed that the way Karpyshyn deals with this setup is to take a brand new character and split the book fifty fifty with him. I can understand the reasons behind it, but lets be realistic; 90% of the people who pick this up are probably doing it to read about Revan, not Lord Scourge.

Yes, Lord Scourge. In the long line of bad villain names, that one deserves some kind of award. I'm not sure Karpyshyn named him mind, seeing as he's a character in the new Old Republic game, and has his name mocked within the narrative, but it's still cringe worthy. It doesn't help that despite half the book focusing on a Sith warrior, at no point do we really get any insights into the Sith themselves, or the rise of the new (or rather old) Empire Bioware have created for Old Republic. Instead we're left with what feels like a really long introduction to a fairly two-dimension character. 

Revan himself fares much better, though he still comes across a touch bland. He's not you're typical Jedi even after his redemption, and still seems unable to resist winding up those he doesn't like (his meeting with the irritating Atris from KOTOR II is one of the more entertaining moments), and when he's not playing the family man with Bastila he's spending time in cantinas with Mandalorian sociopaths.

Canderous Ordo: Apparently Mandalorians are
so cool even being stalker-ish Revan fanboys
doesn't make them any less badass.
But even here, Revan doesn't seem to really pop. There's no real characterisation, just Revan as a sort of pop culture icon swinging a lightsaber from time to time. And that's a problem; nobody expects these sort of books to be amazing examples of literature; I don't expect a Warhammer 40k book to be the new Kerouac, and I don't expect Shakespeare from Star Wars. But books based on IPs stand or fall on their representation of the setting and the representation of their characters.  

So, all in all not great. So the really surprising thing? Despite all that, I actually didn't hate it. It's not a good read but neither is it a difficult read, so it didn't take long to finish. For me, the real enjoyment was in closing the story started in KOTOR; frankly, Old Republic doesn't do that at all. It's not what I hoped for, but for the sake of a few hours it was nice to revisit things. 

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Left 4 Dead: The Movie

Greetings, I am Sir Thomas, and I will continue to say this until you get it right.

It appears that it has fallen on me to guide the average internet plebeian in the ways they should distribute their money yet again. While I am certain many of you have viewed my previous web log submission with a certain amount of glee that you can actually eat this week instead of feeding your crippling addiction to games, I'm afraid I have found a better use for the money saved by partaking in the Humble Indie Bundle

Yes, instead of feeding yourself, or any kind of dependant children, or purchasing any kind of medication, I strongly suggest you throw all of your saved money into this:



That's correct my friends, a movie based on Valve's hit videogame: Left 4 Dead.

This is, first of all, a fan movie. Now don't fret over this, or consider it somehow a lesser product because of this. Sometimes the finest creations come out of force of will, lack of resources and true consideration going into the work. A hand crafted table will be finer than any furniture created simply by process and assembly.

Now, I hear you exclaim, 'How on earth shall I distribute wealth to these people? And for what purpose?'
It is simple. The project is non-profit, and mostly self-funded; to assure quality however, the project has turned their hearts to the internet, asking for a little monetary donation in order to refine their work. And, of course, they are offering a little... shall we say... recompense for those generous enough to come to their aid. The more generous you are, the more you get in return.



From all signs available a majority of work has been completed, and they just need a little push forward to emerge as fully fledged movie makers, and I say do it. The milk of human kindness is shared too little among the average man, together, you can do great things. Together, you can stand up again those who suppress you. Though I do hope you all remember who was the man who guided you towards this consideration when the uprising begins. Me. It was me.

The donation site for the Left4Dead movie can be found here, the production team's Youtube channel can be found here, and the Facebook page for the movie can be found here.

Now, let it never be said that I do not present you with interesting new developments.
Good day, my friends.

Garbage Version 2.0, now in 8-Bit

Seems I'm something of a music theme here today. Just stumbled across this, which produced a nerdgasm measuring 9.5 on the richter scale. The entirety of Garbage's Version 2.0, only in 8-Bit game soundtrack format. I'm not sure who this Daryl Banner chap is, but he must be some kind of god.


For someone obsessed with both video-games and 90's music, this makes me obscenely happy. And even better, you can download all the tracks! Check out his other stuff too, there's some Lady GaGa and a version of Michael Jackson's Thriller for your geeky enjoyment too.

Truly Awesome Dark Knight Trilogy Poster



An Amazing TV Spot

Greetings, it is I, Sir Thomas. I shall continue to repeat that until you get it right.

Now, what with the current obsession with the Avengers Assemble movie (not to be confused with the Avengers movie, as Sean Connery in a full teddy bear suit is not a sight that many wish to behold), I have felt that there is a biased in this blog. Yes, Avengers Assemble was a marvellous movie, and I congratulate Mr Whedon on continuing his wonderful career as  one of the Geek culture's greatest Directors/Writers, but there are other things on the horizon my friends.

One of those who have been missing from this blog is the upcoming and stupendous movie, The Amazing Spiderman.To this end I feel it is my duty to share with you this trailer.



That's right, an unlisted Amazing Spiderman trailer! I can't tell you the exhaustive minutes of research it took for me to accidentally stumble across this and decide to display it on this web log. I do so hope you enjoy.

Good day, my friends.

PS, due to this whole situation being rather... strange and new to me, I am uncertain how to post the videos on the page if they are unlisted and thus cannot be found by searching Youtube itself. If anyone knows how to correct this slight inadequacy, please do contact me through the comments. I refuse to hand out my email address any more. Much more... personal inadequacies were suggested then.

Portal Soundtrack

As a quick follow up to Paul's Portal Post (alliteration is sexy), and also in keeping with the gaming on a budget theme, I figured it might be an idea to let you all know about the Portal 2 soundtrack. Namely, that it's free!


Three discs of musical fun, and you don't have to pay a penny; personally I like to dance along and pretend I'm in the Afterlife club on Omega, it has that sorta vibe. You don't have to though, if you're a little more grounded in reality than me.

So go, and get your free music right here!