Fifty Thousand Words

For the first time ever, I have won the NaNoWriMo.  By focusing on word counts over content, I was able to bang out over 50,000 words in 30 days…

… and I feel dirty.

In my time on this Earth I have written a number of things of which I am ashamed, but after the first fifteen thousand or so words this year’s WriMo project turned into the worst piece of shit I have ever created.  I will set it aside and sometime in January I might review it, and in all likelihood I’ll delete over 35,000 of those words and pretend they never existed.  And that’s if I can ever bring myself to review it, which I may not, because it really is a piece of shit.

Next year, I think I’ll go back to focusing on content and return to my previous years of losing with style.  I’ve never felt so poorly about winning in my entire life.

Movie Round-Up: April 23rd, 2010


What would Earth Day be without a documentary about the planet or animals or both?  These movies always look impressive, but not a single one has actually gotten me in the theater to see them.  I’m not exactly sure why.  I like nature.  It just seems odd to spend $10 to watch something I could see on TV.  Is this in 3D?  It probably should be in 3D.  That might get me there, but still unlikely.

The Back-up Plan:

I feel a little bad for Alex O’Loughlin.  He’s featured prominently on the poster, but he didn’t get above the title billing with J.Lo.  Sure, he’s not as big of a super-duper-mega-star, but still, he is the male lead in this romantic comedy.  Which I happened to see thanks to GoFoBo.  So this is a movie about a woman who has decided to go ahead and get pregnant using a sperm donor and within an hour of being inseminated meets the perfect guy.  First she doesn’t tell him, then she does, then they decide to give it a shot, then things don’t work out, then they do, and so on.  You don’t go to these sorts of films for shocking twists and turns, you go for the funny.  And surprisingly I found this movie to be pretty funny.  Also, the most graphic, wince inducing, yet hilarious birthing scene I’ve ever watched.  If the premise of this movie sounds good to you, then it’s probably worth your money to go see it.

The Losers:

It was a busy week, with The Back-up Plan, a movie that doesn’t drop until mid-May, and this one.  (Thanks again GoFoBo!)  Like last week’s Kick-Ass, this film is based on a comic book.  I’ve never read the comic, but I saw the movie and it feels like a comic.  The action is way over the top.  Despite the large amount of violence in the movie it keeps its PG-13 rating by keeping that violence as clean as possible.  That doesn’t really hurt the film, and in fact helps keep it lighter and fun.  All in all, I enjoyed this movie a lot and I’d say it’s worth seeing on the big screen.

Dragon*Con 2009: Day One

The day began as no day should… waiting in line for registration.  However, once let inside, well, lets just say that a couple hundred geeks in a room being forced to walk a maze of a line can be pretty hilarious.  Some people shot video of it, I’ll provide a link if I ever see it posted online.

After a spot of breakfast I headed off to the “Write a Story in an Hour” panel, which I visit every year, because its funny to hear people shout out story elements and craft a beautifully weird story… not by the panel, mind you, they tend to ignore the really out there stuff, but there is always a group of us taking the best ignored suggested, like a typewriter possessed by the ghost of Hunter S. Thompson that requires a bottle of liquor to be poured on it before it will function, and making our own ridiculous plot.

Then it was off to the Fallen Earth panel where we got to hear that people who work on games tend to like working on game, and that crafting is the center of the game, and that they have no current plans for a series of Fallen Earth novels, but everyone would like to see that happen.

Next up… the Crypt of Trailers, where we watch movie trailers and make snappy jokes, like how the new Twilight movie, New Moon, would be much better if they just added a Predator, or some Aliens… yeah, Aliens vs. Predator vs. Twilight.  Hollywood? Are you listening?

After that I got to sit and listen to a panel of writer’s talk about how fun it is to destroy the human race in the Apocalypse Writer’s Roundtable.  John Ringo, S.M. Stirling, Kevin J. Anderson, Walter Jon Williams, Michael Z. Williamson, and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro.  They were a very talkative and funny bunch, while also being very knowledgable and open.  Excellent panel.

Down into the bowels of the Hyatt I went to join the wife for a panel on Steampunk.  Steampunk, if you didn’t know, is the new Goth, or perhaps the new Vampires.  Everyone is steampunking it up, and it is awesome.  I’ll post some photos later as I take some around the con.  Beautiful stuff.

The third rule of Dragon*Con (the first being: shower, and the second being: sometimes you must go down to go up – if you’ve been, you know what that means) is don’t forget to eat.  Nothing ruins a party like drinking on an empty stomach and passing out early, so remember to feed yourself.  In accordance with this rule, we took a short break for sandwiches and chips.

With a full belly, I hit the Machinima panel.  I have an odd relationship with machinima.  The idea behind it is very cool – to take a game/game engine/game art assets and make a movie out of it.  Some of the best machinima, however, is clearly rendered in professional tools just using assets, while items rendered in the game engine often look stilted and of poorer quality, especially when it comes to characters talking.  Anyway, the result is that I generally don’t like the machinima people actually create, but I respect the ideas and effort that goes into their creation.  That said, Ignis Solus is just awesome:

I decided to end my day of panels with the Zombie Walk, which in hindsight was a poor choice.  Not enough zombies showed for it to be really great, and I never did complete my Francis from Left 4 Dead outfit, so it ended up being about 20 zombies walking through the con… I gave up and left them half way through.  Maybe next year.

The way a day at Dragon*Con should end is with parties, but I lost my enthusiasm for the Zombie Prom, and the line for the Time Travelers Ball was too long, so I hung out with some friends for a bit and then made my way to the All-Night (5am) Global Agenda party where I played absolutely zero Global Agenda.  Instead, I spent a good hour or more, maybe two rockin’ the mic in Rock Band.  Thank you Atlanta!  Good night!

Day One at Dragon*Con is a wrap!

Fallen Earth

This isn’t exactly zombie news, but…

Over the past few months, I’ve been participating in the beta for Fallen Earth, an upcoming post apocalyptic MMO.  Before I get to the good stuff, let me just get the bad stuff out of the way.

The graphics.  And I don’t mean the style, but the performance.  My PC isn’t exactly new or top of the line, but I beat out their required specs and I play a great number of games released in the last couple years very well.  When I venture off by myself or in a small group, this game plays great.  But when I get to town or any large gathering of people, the game turns into a slide show.  Unplayable.  Obviously, I could buy a new PC, but my PC should be enough to play if I turn all the effects off… it doesn’t help though.  Even with minimal settings, low resolution and playing in a window, the game gets better, but never what I would call good in busy areas.  To make matters more confusing, if I stand still in town, I can sit and watch everything run great, but the instant I try to move or turn, slide show.

That aside… Fallen Earth captures the post apocalyptic world perfectly.  First off, the world is huge, so when you run off into the wilderness, you are literally running off into the wilderness.  One day I just picked a direction and started running.  Two hours later I was still running… I’d seen one other person and some critters, some salvage and ruins, but little else.  The best part of this… I started to get worried.  Am I lost?  Where is everyone?  I’m gonna die out here… This is what a world after Armageddon is supposed to feel like.  In other MMOs I would complain about all the empty space, because those games are littered with NPCs and stuff and are supposed to be full of people, but Fallen Earth is supposed to feel empty, and it does, and it works.

The combat is a little different from your standard MMO.  Ranged weapons require aiming, and melee weapons have standard swings but need you to be facing the target.  There is no auto attack or auto aiming, you don’t automatically hit something just because you have it targeted and hit your attack button.  This makes fighting moving targets more difficult, and it makes movement matter in combat.  Speaking of movement… you know how in real life if you are running and then jump, you pause when you land?  You know how strafing is slower than turning and running?  Both are true in this game.  So, if you are looking for typical First Person Shooter mechanics of jumping around like a coked up jackrabbit all while running sideways at full speed in a circle perfectly nailing your opponent all the while, you won’t find it.  Personally, I love it.

Another aspect of the game that I really enjoyed is the crafting.  Not because crafting is so awesomely fun to play, but because so much in the game can be crafted.  If you are familiar with EVE Online, it works like that.  People go out and scavenge from the wilderness, then craft items (and the crafting is all done “offline”, meaning you don’t sit at a bench and make stuff, you just set it to be made and it will be done in time).

In fact, the EVE comparison is important, because, to me at least, this game plays a lot like a ground based version of EVE.  While I could never really get into flying around space in a ship mining materials and joining corporations, I could easily get lost in walking the Earth, surviving.

I’ll make another post later with some screen shots, but to close off this post I’ll just say that if they can get the graphics issues sorted out, or if I win the lottery and can buy a new PC, I’m definitely on board for this game.  If I could take this game’s design and put in zombies, I think I’d have my perfect MMO.

The Twenty-fifth Century

Thanks to Netflix and their streaming through the Xbox 360 feature, I’ve been watching the complete series of Buck Rogers.  The show is awesome… -ly bad.  The concept is there, but they threw in all this weird alien and spy stuff that detracts from all that the show could be.  I don’t blame them for making the show the way they did.  It ran from 1979 to 1981.

But it gets me to thinking… if I were to be in charge of production and make that show now, what would I do?

The first thing I’d do is take a cue from Battlestar Galactica in that a science fiction show can be serious.  I’d craft the tale like this: Buck Rogers is an astronaut, and while the first manned mission to Mars is being prepped, other scientists have been working on solutions for deeper space travel.  The field of cryonics has advanced and while tests have proven it can work on Earth and even in orbit, the final human test is that of prolonged space suspension.  Buck’s turn in the rotation has come up and his mission is to take a craft into space, park it in an orbit around the moon, and then seal himself in the cryonics chamber.  After one year, Buck is to be remotely revived and make his way home.

While Buck’s tale is the foreground story, in the background elements of global problems are evident.  Global warming, overpopulation and starvation.  The Mars mission is becoming more important as initial studies of water and other elements found on the planet make it possible to terraform it, but it needs to happen sooner rather than later.

Buck’s launch happens and he makes his way to moon orbit.  Shortly before settling in the ship suffers a mechanical malfunction and begins losing its oxygen.  It is decided that Buck needs to seal himself in the cryo-chamber to save his life and that another craft will be sent to recover him as soon as possible.

500 years later, Buck’s craft, long since off its lunar orbit, is discovered by a salvage crew working the “Earth Junk Ring”, a collection of satellites, crafts and other objects left to hang in orbit around the planet.  Reawakened on Earth, Buck discovers that after he was frozen a few small wars broke out, mostly over the need for food, and that his rescue mission was lost in the shuffle of taking more resources to the Mars missions.  Eventually, years later, a private organization did send up a shuttle to look for him and didn’t find him in lunar orbit.  (Buck learns from his own computer readouts that another failure caused one of his attitude jets to fire, altering his course and sending him tumbling through space.)  Eventually, after ecologic and economic disasters and more small wars, large wars broke out.  Everything collapsed.  More than a hundred years later when countries began to reform out of the rubble, many of them turned to computers and logical models for decision making.  Birthing schedules based on workforce needs and food supplies, etc.  The human race are not slaves to the machines, but they are cared for and controlled by them.

At the time of Buck’s awakening, Earth, or at least the city state he has found himself in, is finally seeing constructive advancement into retaking the damaged parts of the world, the wastelands created by chemical and nuclear warfare, and looking at moving into space again, mainly in an effort to reconnect with the lost Mars colonies.

The crux of the series would be Buck learning about and from the mistakes of the past, while the people around him learn about all the things they lost and the control they’ve given up to the computers.  The world is full of people who have only known logic and survival, and Buck is from a world where many people never thought about survival.

I wouldn’t want to have this series run very long.  In fact, a couple or three twelve episode seasons would probably do just fine (or even be too much) to breath life back into humanity, settle differences, and reconnect with the “Martians”.  You could even end the series with Buck, who has finally come to terms with his 500 year shunt through time but still feeling like this isn’t his world, captaining the first deep space exploration cryo shuttle headed for a distant star.

Anyway… those are my thoughts on the subject… but what do I know?


What if there was a virus that somehow affected only people who had gone through puberty and killed them, all over the world?  That is the stage that is set for the TV show Jeremiah.  Don’t bother looking for it in your local listings, it ran on Showtime from 2002 to 2004.  The first season ran 20 episodes and the second season ran for 15, and I enjoyed every single one of them.

The major saving grace of this show is that they avoided mutants and monsters, it is just about people.  The show begins fifteen years after a virus killed off all the adults, making the oldest people on Earth around thirty years old or so.  The world is in disarray.  Since kids generally don’t know how to run complex machines everything eventually stopped, and not many kids know how to grow crops so starvation was a big problem.  They learned to fend for themselves.  And now, fifteen years later, towns run by bullies have solidified and barter cultures have arisen, and some kids have even spent time reading books instead of burning them trying to regain the knowledge they lost in “the Big Death”.

I was worried, of course, as I always am when watching shows that were cancelled that it would end poorly.  But Jeremiah managed to tell two seasons worth of stories and even end well.  So, if you are a Netflix user and you own an Xbox 360 with a Live Gold subscription, I highly recommend throwing this show into your instant queue and giving it a shot.

Fly Me to the Moon

4 out of 13 nots.
for wasting 3D on a film not worth seeing

I went an saw Beowulf in 3D and I liked it.  I saw Journey to the Center of the Earth in 3D and I loved it.  In Fly Me to the Moon they went for the gusto and used the absolute most 3D they could possibly cram into every single scene and I hated it.  There were so many things going on on so many levels that it physically hurt my eyes to watch some scenes.

If that weren’t enough, the movie itself was boring, the plot had giant holes you could launch the Space Shuttle through, and it wasn’t even very funny.  Unlike other kid’s movies, like those from Pixar, there is nothing in Fly Me to the Moon to appeal to the adults who go see the film with their kids.  In fact, most adults will probably be bothered, like I was, by the inane story and aforementioned plot holes.

The entire film seemed like a bunch of ideas thrown together to use 3D and mesmerize toddlers with pretty colors.  But don’t think just because the movie is aimed at kids that your kids will love it.  If you go see it in a 3D enabled theater, your kids will need to wear the glasses for the whole 84 minutes, and if the population of my theater is any indication, half of kids will “ooh” and “aah” and laugh at the funny flies, while the other half cry at all the things coming at them from the screen.

All in all, I really, honestly, can’t recommend this film to anyone.

Journey to the Center of the Earth

12 out of 13 nots
for thrilling family fun and 3D awesomeness

Nearly two months ago I was lucky enough to be able to go to an early screening of Journey to the Center of the Earth.  Rather than just simply retelling the Jules Verne novel in the present day, this movie takes the approach of “What if the character in the book had been real, had gone to the center of the Earth, returned, and told his tale to Jules Verne?”  So you wind up with a scientist (Brendan Fraser) whose brother vanished ten years ago while doing research on seismic activity, and now the same seismic pattern is appearing again, so he goes off in search of answers, with nephew in tow.

This movie is pure action adventure family fun.  And I highly recommend it to people with kids… and even people without kids.  Even as an adult I certainly was never bored.

One of the best things about this film, however, is that it is in 3D.  And it is not the old red/green blurry 3D.  This is the new digital 3D like you may have seen in last year’s Beowulf or the 3D version of The Nightmare Before Christmas or to some of the IMAX nature films.  Filmed with a pair of digital cameras that approximate the distance between your eyes, without the special glasses you’ll see two images nearly overlapping, but with the glasses on you’ll see the action almost literally jump off the screen.  And to top it off, the movie only blatantly abuses the 3D angle a few times at the beginning with shoving a couple of things toward the audience for thrills and laughs.  After that, you just feel like you are watching an enhanced film where many scenes just feel more real than you are used to.

Definitely, if you are going to see the movie, try your hardest to see it in a theater that is showing the 3D version.  It is worth it.  I just hope more movies get made in 3D, because it was a blast.


12 out of 13 nots.
for making me care about a lonely robot… and maybe the planet too.

Every time I see a Pixar movie, I find myself saying, “They have done it again.”  I am almost waiting for them to release a film that isn’t great… but don’t get me wrong, I love the great.

WALL-E is the story of a robot (the title is his name/model), possibly the last of his kind, left on Earth to clean up the mess while humanity took off into space for a vacation while the hard work got done.  Its that ‘last of his kind’ thing that hits home, and as usual the Pixar people manage to bring life to the non-living.  WALL-E goes to work cleaning up the mess (compressing junk into cubes and stacking the cubes as high as skyscrapers) and comes home each night to watch an old musical and dream of something more than what he has.  Then EVE arrives.  Another robot, EVE is searching for something on Earth, and WALL-E is stricken with her.  When she finds what she came for and a spacecraft returns to take her away, WALL-E hitches a ride into space to be with her.

From there, the story takes some nice turns and into some crazy chases and situations.  I really enjoyed it, and so did all the kids in the theater.  Its as good as all the other Pixar films.

Oh… and don’t be late to the film.  In Pixar tradition, there is a short film before WALL-E called Presto, and it is hilarious!

Fallen Earth Announces They Are “Feature Complete”

I have to admit, seeing a game company announce that their game is feature complete while still in the alpha stage gives me a tingly feeling all over. I am tired of games getting into beta and still adding classes and entire sections of game play.

So what does this mean, this “Feature Complete”? In theory, it means that they have implemented some rudimentary form of every game mechanic required to play the game in all the ways they intend the game to be played. The nuts and bolts. If true, it means that now they will begin overhauling each feature looking for bugs, making them more robust, and polishing them until they shine.

Of course, I will believe it when I see it… I really do hope this game turns out well. After talking to these guys at Dragon*Con, I want to see them pull this off, and I want to play it.

Read their announcement yourself.