Archive | July, 2010

Quick Update

27 Jul

The descriptions of all of the books in the “My Published Works” section have all been updated. They have been improved from their previous versions quite a bit. They might make for a good little read.

A Quick Suggestion

27 Jul

I just thought I’d offer a quick suggestion to any new readers or readers who haven’t been here since day one: go read earlier entries. I’m doing that myself and I find it quite entertaining, to be honest. If you’re ever bored or have nothing to do, go look at the old Modster Madness reviews, or VERSUS. It’s cool stuff.

Wyndryder Publishing: The Official Site

25 Jul

Hey there everybody! Just thought I’d quickly point out that Wyndryder Publishing, the guys who get my books out into the world, has totally revamped their site. You can check it out at the link below:

www.wyndryderpublishing.com

My Thoughts On Inception

19 Jul

Some people might be upset that Christopher Nolan isn’t working on Batman 3, or whatever it’ll be called, right now. After seeing Inception however, I must say that anyone with that mindset shall forgive Mr. Nolan graciously. He truly has done a wonderful thing here. I’ll break it down into a few parts: plot (no spoilers), effects, cast, and the overall verdict. So now, let us dive into the dream world and let reality take a back seat to it.

THE PLOT: There’s two main concepts of importance in Inception. The first is extraction, which is essentially when a group of people go into a person’s dream, steal an idea of theirs, and then sell it to somebody or use it for espionage related purposes. The main character, Cobb, is one of the best (if not the best) extractors in the world. He’s very good at his job.

Then there is the seemingly impossible inception, which is where an idea is “implanted” into a person’s mind. The idea is that an idea simply can’t be drilled into someone’s head, but that he must be given something along the lines of the idea and come to the conclusion of the idea himself (I said “idea” a lot there, didn’t I?). It is a lot harder than just going into a person’s dream and doing that though. One must go into the actual person’s mind, and to do this is quite tricky. You’ll have to see the movie to find out how Cobb pulls it off, if he pulls it off.

One might wonder why Cobb would have to pull off such a difficult job. Well, you see, his home is in America. He can’t get back right now though because he’s in a bit of a mix up. It is believed that he is the man who murdered his own wife. He was framed, but that time has passed now. All he wants is to go home, and to do that he must pull off an inception for a very powerful man who promises a way out for Cobb. Cobb accepts the job and begins to assemble a powerful and loyal team to help him accomplish his task. And that’s a brief statement of the plot.

It’s definitely a movie for an intelligent type. I’m not saying the “average Joe” couldn’t watch it, although I must admit I saw quite a few confused faces exiting the theater. It starts off a bit confusing, but half the fun of the movie is trying to  figure out what happened at the beginning. Before I move onto the effects I want to congratulate any writers, namely Nolan, who worked on this thing. Just from watching it I can tell how hard it was to create such an elaborate story, and how it hard it must have been to pitch it to a producer. Well done.

THE SPECIAL EFFECTS: Holy crap were the effects in this movie fantastic. Some of the stuff that you see the team do during the inception is just badass. And some of the “dreamy” environments totally blew me away. There is one scene that I won’t spoil for you, but it is probably one of the most well done hallway fight scenes ever. It’s a hallway where the gravity of the room is constantly shifting from the floor, to a wall, to the ceiling, to another wall, and back again. It’s just great.

One thing I’d like to point out is how hard it is presently to “wow” me with effects anymore (ever since Avatar came out). I must say though, these effects were top notch and Christopher Nolan definitely did some great directing. How well timed everything was is just stupendous.

THE CAST: Talk about an awesome casting director! Holy crap was this some cast. It was like the cast of an Ocean’s movie. Everyone played their roles very well. If I had to pick favorites, which is hard because everybody did a great job, I’d say DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page and Tom Hardy did the best out of the whole cast. However I must give props to Cillian Murphy, whom I did not expect to care about that much in the movie (you’ll see why when you watch it). Great job to the whole cast though. I loved everybody in this friggin’ movie. Except Mal, but she’s the villain so I’m supposed to hate her (no but Marion Cotillard did a good job).

THE OVERALL VERDICT: Though one must definitely be thinking a bit while watching this movie, Inception is an awesome ride. I must inform anybody hoping for a perfectly logical film of something very important: it’s a dream. Nothing is supposed to make sense in terms of physics and such. Dreams are illogical, and that’s what makes some moments in the movie so good.

If you haven’t seen Inception yet, you should go check it out right now. It’s well worth full price, and has an ending that’ll send chills down your spine (the good kind). I love it. And even though it’s as long as The Dark Knight, you won’t be getting that feeling of, “it should’ve ended way back there.” I was sucked in and never bored. I’m sure that most of you readers will enjoy it. I know I did.

My Thoughts On Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles

17 Jul

I dug through my garage recently and found something rather interesting: my old Nintendo Gamecube. For those of you who don’t know, this was one of Nintendo’s most popular game systems of all time (it came just before the Wii). My Gamecube was a bit dirty, but I had a Wii to play Gamecube games on so why did I need it anyway, right? Well, to be able to save your game on those Gamecube games one must have a Gamecube memory card. So when I found the Gamecube with both cards in tact, I got quite excited. Soon after finding the cards I ordered an old game I used to love over eBay. Now one thing I’ve noticed about most of these old games I used to play is that they’re never as good as I remember them. However, the game I ordered has proven me wrong. In fact it has proven me very wrong. The game I ordered is better than I remember it being. This game was Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles.

Let me start with the opening. You start a new game, and then one of the most beautiful opening scenes you may ever see in a game plays out. You can find it on YouTube, but let me make this known: it’s not the same on a tiny computer screen. And when I had it going on my big, flat screen TV, that has HD picture and a BOSE surround sound system, holy crap did it look and sound incredible. It was like a dream, only it was actually happening right in front of me.

And then there’s the first moments of the actual game. Now I must warn people that if you don’t like walls of text you will not like this game. Because even though they’re few and far between, when they show up they are long. There’s a lot of reading to do in the game, especially at the beginning. But if you endure it, you’ll find the game is well worth however much you paid for it (I got it for $23 on eBay. It is still, to this day, worth $40 to me).

In the beginning you get to create your caravan (more on that later), which can be up to eight characters. The four “tribes”, which I think we should just call races in this game since two of them aren’t even human, are unique in design and all have very aesthetic characteristics. There’s the Clavats who are essentially your generic humans with cool armor and swords, the Selkies who are basically your hot humans with little clothing on (although I think the males look a bit too much like women), the Lilties who I swear to God must be some of the most badass “little people” I’ve ever seen (they’re essentially the beardless dwarves of this game), and then there are the Yukes. I don’t really know what to say about the Yukes since they’re the more mysterious race. You never get to see their faces because they’re always wearing helmets, their bodies are covered in fur, and that’s about all I know about them. They’re very mysterious.

After creating your caravan you get to learn the story of the game. Okay, so the world is covered with this stuff called Miasma, a dark energy that slowly kills anyone who is among the four main races. All other creatures are either immune to it or have become one with it and turned into evil monsters that you’ll fight throughout the game. How the four main races defend themselves from the Miasma is with the power of the crystals. Every town in the game has a giant crystal that shields the people from Miasma. These crystals are powered by a resource that they need again once every year, called myrrh. To find this myrrh, crystal caravans must travel into Miasma covered lands and recover the myrrh from myrrh trees. To get to these trees without being taken out by the Miasma, the people in the caravans bring along a crystal chalice that not only holds a small crystal to protect these people, but carries myrrh for them as well. And lastly, each  myrrh tree is defended by an evil boss monster, which is usually at least four times your size (or in a Lilty’s case, eight times).

That’s a brief version of the plot. Remember, even after all these years I still haven’t beaten it, so expect other surprises throughout the game. Before I get into a few more good things, I want to talk about the only thing that I feel is a flaw in the game: the multiplayer. Now I’ve heard that a lot of people had fun with multiplayer in this game and that’s good for them. However, I think that the developers tried way too hard to “innovate” with this system. To play with friends you actually have to go out and buy multiple Gameboy Advanced systems (the handheld before the DS) and Gamecube connecters for each of these Gameboys and use these friggin’ things as your controllers. The excuse for this is that everybody has to have their own personal menu, but you’re telling me I have to go out and buy multiple handhelds just so I can play one game with my friends? I don’t think so.

Anyhow, that’s my one complaint. Other than that, the game is great. One thing that I forgot to mention earlier is that each race has an advantage in combat that the others don’t: Clavats have good defense, Lilties have good offense, Selkies are really fast runners, and Yukes are good with magic. And that’s my way of segwaying into combat. The combat in Crystal Chronicles is unique to Final Fantasy. It isn’t turn-based, it’s real-time combat that requires you to actually be strategic on the spot. You can’t just spam the attack button the whoe time. You have to be ready to quickly alternate between using regular attacks, to firing off spells, to using items, to targeting special attacks, etc. If you don’t like thinking, this isn’t the game for you. Crystal Chronicles requires you to actually think about what you’re doing, not just sit there button mashing all day.

After collecting three drops of myrrh you’ll return home and celebrate your victory, which is always cool to watch. The game’s art style makes it cool just looking at the characters. And while we’re on the subject of art I should mention that the music in this game is superb. Every time you go somewhere you know you’re going to get music that fits the environment, the characters, etc. Especially the boss fight music, I really love that track specifically. It’s great.

Overall this is a great game, and at this point in time it is worth double what you’ll probably pay for it. Crystal Chronicles is charming, powerful, and if you own a Wii and a Gamecube controller (and a memory card) you should definitely pick it up.

New Book Ready!

13 Jul

Check the “Published Works” section for my latest, fully edited book!

My Thoughts On Mass Effect (1 & 2)

12 Jul

Gaming is an art form. It is, like films and books, a way to tell stories that people love, or hate even. The greatest thing about gaming however is that the viewer participates in the story and doesn’t just sit and watch as things happen. And the greatest thing about gaming these days is that many times the participant is able to choose his/her path in the story. Prime examples of this are Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and Heavy Rain (which I review recently). Both of these games have you make decisions that have a crucial impact on your story, including how it plays out and how it ends. These go from choices such as what to say to somebody, to which direction you’ll go in some area, to whether or not somebody will live or die, to even (in Heavy Rain’s case) whether your own characters will live or die. It truly is wonderful. And when you start playing a game like Mass Effect, and its sequel as well, you realize how incredible it really is.

In the Mass Effect games you play as Commander Shepard (whom you can customize in many ways: male or female, skin tone, etc.). You can choose his/her origin story, his/her profession, and many other things that actually have an effect on the story of the game and where it goes. Commander Shepard could be a ruthless, cold, calculating leader who does what he/she needs to in order to get the job done, or he/she could be a valiant hero willing to give his/her life for his/her team and willing to do anything to save the galaxy. It’s your choice, and that’s what makes it great.

The games both have their own stories that are somewhat separate yet somewhat linked. The big difference between the two is that the first one focuses on the big epic storyline and the sequel focuses more on you and your crew’s relationships with one another. An interesting feature that Mass Effect 2 has is the ability to import your character from the first game into the next game, so the choices you made and side-quests you completed will come back to either please you or haunt you. It’s really cool when stuff like this is featured in a game, and should be used more often (maybe in a Heavy Rain 2?).

The big epic story of the first one is that a deadly A.I. civilization known as the Reapers has returned from hiding after about 50,000 years. Just before their first disappearance they wiped out an organic civilization called the Protheans and were never seen or heard from again. It is now Shepard’s duty in this game to stop the Reapers from doing the same thing to the rest of the galaxy, which faces extinction. It really is quite a wild ride, especially because of how many people you meet along the way, what they have to offer to your tale, and the twists and turns that can be caused by your actions.

The sequel, which honestly is the better of the two, involves you continuing your fight with the Reapers. This time they’re using another race known as the Collectors to do their evil bidding. This game gets a bit more intense since the only way to reach the Collectors’ base of operations is through what is known as the Omega 4 Relay, a massive teleportation hub that warps ships to an unknown part of the galaxy. No ship had ever returned from going through the Omega. You plan to be the first. Here’s the catch however: the decisions you make throughout the game can determine whether you, or any of your crew, make it back alive. That’s right, you can die in this friggin’ game and not be able to load your Mass Effect 2 character into Mass Effect 3. Talk about a lot of pressure. And any characters that die in the “suicide mission” are dead because of your choices. It really makes the game much more intense than any movie you’ll ever see for quite some time.

One might wonder how you can save yoursef from certain doom. Well, the trick is to gain the loyalty of all of your crew members. If their resolve isn’t strong enough, they will fall. Trust me on that. Also, upgrading your ship would be wise, since it has an effect on who lives and dies as well. I’ve cmpleted both games and after beating the second one I’ve lost only one crew member, and it was the one I liked the least so it’s all good.

Essentially what I’m trying to ge across here is not what I thought of the nitty-gritty parts of the game, such as mechanics and what not, just how I felt about the tale the game told. And let me tell you, I thought it was told beautifully. I could not have asked for a better role-playing game to hold me over until The Old Republic (another BioWare game) comes out. I recommend that anybody who loves story in games, and loves a good action packed sci-fi adventure go pick up the games right now. And play the first one first because the character import sytem makes it so much better, honestly.

Well guys and gals, thanks for reading and I hope you have a wonderful day. I’ll be posting much more frequently from now on, so stay tuned!