Merry Christmas

May you all be blessed with the three “L”s of Christmas…

Life

Love

and Loot.

– from all of us, to all of you…

Enjoy!

Tis the Season

Or perhaps it isn’t.

I can’t help but think that something is missing this year. Of course, as with every year since her passing, I miss my mother. She really enjoyed Christmas time. And I have lamented before about the lack of Christmas TV programming, specifically It’s A Wonderful Life being shown nine million times on seventy channels.

But this year, there is something else missing… It seems that even though people dislike thinking of Christmas as a commercial holiday full of spending money, they’ve also managed to suck everything but the commerce out of it. I was at a mall last week and they weren’t playing holiday music, not even the old classical stuff, and they didn’t have much in the way of decorations at all. A few stores had up some bows or snowflakes, but the mall itself was clear of holiday cheer. The grocery stores all look the same as they do any other day of the year, as do the Target’s and Wal-Marts. Best Buy has adopted a gift logo for general use, so even though it might appear they’ve got “present” decorations up, it is really just their every day stuff. At restaurants, nothing indicates that any celebration might be going on, except maybe the occasional wreath.

Luckily, many of my neighbors, myself included, put out lights and other decorations… but many is less than half, and once I leave the neighborhood it becomes a rare occurrence to see anything in the spirit of the season that isn’t directly selling something.

Lots of people I know say they are having trouble getting into the spirit, and to me at least its easy to see why.

I suppose it might be considered insensitive to want to see more celebration of my chosen holiday… but isn’t it also insensitive to want to see less celebration of someone else’s chosen holiday? I really don’t care… I want to see more of everyone celebrating however they choose to celebrate it.

Anyway… I’m off to observe my holiday traditions… a bunch of nothing today, followed by a late night snacky supper (sandwiches with all the fixin’s), a fitful sleep, breakfast and presents over at Dad’s house in the morning, and a misfits family Christmas dinner at night.

So here’s to you, in all that you do, whatever you are up to. Merry Christmas!

Enjoy!

A Party of One

Of late I have been fooling around in Guild Wars. I’ve long been interested in the game because of its “no monthly fee” design, and because of a little idea called “henchmen”.

All throughout my table top gaming days, whenever we needed a class, skill, or knowledge that the player characters did not possess, we would head on down to the local bars, adventurer guilds, docks or slave markets to find what we needed. So when getting into MMOs, at first, the idea that I needed to group with other people for everything was strange. Standing around waiting to find a healer because we needed one seemed like a waste of time. I eventually got over it and made friends and tried to make sure I always had a group. But increasingly over the last half dozen or so years, perhaps because I’m turning into the grouchy old man yelling at the kids to stay off his lawn, I’m just not as inclined as I used to be to put up with the Internet toddlers who like to “pwn” and “lol” and “zorz” their way through conversations. So, playing World of Warcraft, City of Heroes and Villains, Lord of the Rings Online, I would group with the people I already knew and maybe the occasional non-infantile gamer I ran across. But more often than not, I would solo.

I’m still soloing in Guild Wars (my wife injured her hand and hasn’t been much for gaming this month), but when I’m about to leave town and hit the quests, I’ll snag myself a couple or three henchmen. Just as in my table top games, these people aren’t the brightest bulbs in the pack. I play a mage, and so I’ll load up with a fighter, a ranger and a healer, and they do exactly as their class suggests. The fighter charges in and fights, the ranger stands back and shoots, and the healer heals. In fact, that’s all they do. The fighter will stand and fight until he dies, he doesn’t run. The ranger shoots, at any range. And the healer heals, if a monster hits her, she runs around like a chicken with its head cut off until the threat is over. I’ve heard there are better henchmen, but I’m only level 7 and my henchmen are level 3, plus I only own the original Prophesies game, none of the expansions, so either I haven’t gotten to the better ones yet, or I am incapable of getting to them.

Overall though, I’m liking the whole henchmen system. They don’t replace good players, but they sure beat crappy players. I would love to see something like this implemented in other games. Imagine City of Heroes with “henchmen” style sidekicks, allowing you to change up the game a little while still playing alone if you wanted.

I’d love to hear other people’s opinions and experiences. What do you think about NPC pets and henchmen in games?

National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets

12 out of 13 nots
for Excitingly Questionable Accuracy and Fun

Much like the first movie, they take a bunch of historical facts, throw in a bunch of historical sounding fiction, make a few conspiratorial leaps and run with it. If you liked the first one, you’ll love the second one. More after the break. Oh, and spoilers too.

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Flight of the Living Dead

9 out of 13 nots
for Zombie Awesomeness and Silly Scream At The Screen Cheese

Being a zombie fanatic, when I saw the ad for Flight of the Living Dead I knew I had to see it. Snakes on a Plane had been kind of a let down. Sure, there had been snakes on the plane but the ending was just… crap. And frankly, being trapped at 30,000 feet with the undead has long been a scenario I’ve wanted to see play out on the screen.

The movie delivered. Living dead on a plane. It was even moderately believable. Moderately. Okay, I’m stretching it because I love zombie movies so much. Mildly? Look, there are reasons it only gets that 9 out of 13. But it was fun. Worth seeing.

More after the break.

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Movie Reviewing Goodness

You might notice that there are more movie reviews lately (and more coming) and less game design talk. There are a few reasons for that, and I thought I’d take a moment to address them…

One. Its that time of year. Christmas, for me, is always a big movie watching season. Blame Hollywood. They stack the deck, both for revenue and for Oscars, putting lots of good stuff on the screen all at once. I hate them for it. But, I still go, because as much as I hate the price of going (more on that another day), the big screen experience is still something I really enjoy. A good crowd (as opposed to a message texting, cell phone yapping, movie explaining, annoying crowd) does enhance a film. To me anyway. So yeah, I’ll be going to the movies once or twice a week for the next few weeks.

Two. Its that time of year. This sounds like a repeat, but I need to stress that Hollywood wants your money. All the good DVDs all come out at Christmas too, just in time for gift giving. So many will be bought, or gotten as gifts, and with TV shows cycling down for the winter break (even moreso with the writer’s strike this year) I’ve got time.

Three. I’m not gaming a whole lot. I’m playing Rock Band, Dead Rising, the occasional game from XBox Live (I’m addicted to Puzzle Quest)… I play Urban Dead on the web, Conquer Club, I occasionally drop in to Guild Wars (got it for $9.99 on Black Friday), and spend a little time in a few betas that I am in, some I can’t talk about and some I can. I’ve just dropped out of all the MMO gaming I used to do. It got too expensive. Although, I am considering the Sony Station Pass thingy since I’d get access to a whole bunch of games, some of which might actually be worth playing.

Four. Since I’m not gaming a whole lot, my thoughts haven’t been focused around game design. Yes, I’m still working on my own wonderful game, and its actually beginning to see a foundation, but its a long way from daylight yet and I don’t want to talk about it anymore until I have at least something I can say is complete and functions.

Five… hmm… can’t think of one. Cool.

So, four reasons. Anyway, until things change, you’ll probably be seeing alot of movie and/or book reviews. I do want to get back to more varied content, and I will. Just bear with me.

I Am Legend

12 out of 13 nots
for Depiction of Isolation, and One Awesome Dog

For the short version of this review, let me just say that if you are a superfan of Richard Matheson’s book of the same name, and you’ve been itching to see it faithfully recreated on the screen… keep waiting. This movie is not the book. In some ways I was disappointed at that, but overall it didn’t matter. I absolutely loved this movie. The only reason I can’t in good conscience give it a 13 out of 13 is that I think they went a tad overboard with the monsters in this one, they are just on the bad side of unrealistic when it comes to CGI. When the monsters are on the screen, my brain screams “CGI!”. They just don’t blend in. Outside of that though, its a great film. Go see it.

More (and spoilers) after the break.

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A Book a Week

Some people are a little crazy… other people are freakin’ nuts! This time Kevin may be falling into the latter.

The idea is to read 52 books in 52 weeks, a book a week for a year. And you know, its not really that the idea is all that outlandish. I mean, when I was riding downtown every work day and spending two or three hours on the bus between home and work and back again, I was probably on that pace. Of course, I work from home now pretty much nine days out of ten, and reading time has been given over to sleep and game time. But maybe I need something like this to give me a gentle kick in the butt.

I won’t start now though. I’ll wait until January and start the year fresh. Likely I’m also going to choose to do 26 books in 52 weeks, a book every two weeks, because I know that unless I throw in some hundred pagers like the Hitchhiker’s Guide, I’m not likely to do it. And I know myself too well. If I fall behind a few weeks, I’ll give up.

So, January 1st, I’ll start my new reading regiment. We’ll see how it works out.

The WriMo Wrap Up

You might have noticed that during the entire month of November I did not post, not once, about the NaNoWriMo. Let me tell you why…

I got sick.

Yeah, its a lame excuse, but the wife and I both caught the creeping crud somehow and it put us both down for the count. To be honest, we should have gone to the doctor as bad off as we were, but without insurance those office visits add up. Even if we’d had insurance, what I can afford to buy on my own ends up having such a high deductible and covers so little, its really like not having insurance. Instead we stayed at home and doped up on the OTC medications.

Ultimately, NyQuil with the alcohol in it did the trick. But after nearly two weeks of headaches and congestion, coughing and aching, I just wasn’t in the mood to write.

I tried, a few false starts, but since I started the month sick I never settled on an idea, a place or character or situation, and I wound up doing what I always do, write half-assed outlines. I’ve got about six more of them now, all with plot twists or cool characters and not a single one even remotely close to being a full fledged story. All in all, I probably wrote 20,000 words in November, but spread out over a half dozen stories… well, it just sucks.

Next year, I’ll try not to get sick. In the meantime though, I’ve got a few other things going to help get the juices flowing, and with the Writer’s Guild still striking, I soon won’t have much TV to distract me.

Of course, there is always Rock Band…

The Golden Compass

8 out of 13 nots
for Steampunk Style and the Best Use of Polar Bears in a movie, ever!

All in all, I was not horribly impressed with The Golden Compass. After all the hoopla and hoohaa, I really expected something more subversive than this, you know, since the Christians are telling people to avoid its atheist message. Frankly, its no more subversive than any other fantasy film, and really the only problem I could imagine a Christian having with it is that it isn’t Narnia, a movie that positively drips with Christian themes.

More after the break.

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