Resident Evil: Extinction

I actually saw Resident Evil: Extinction weekend before last, but I figured I’d dig out my thoughts on it for a Zombie Wednesday post. There are going to be spoilers. You have been warned.

I loved the first Resident Evil film. I’ve never played any of the games, so I went into it with just the expectation of a zombie movie, and it delivered. The only mild disappointment I might have had with it was the open ending and the not-quite-zombie monsters at the tail of the film. The second movie was more of the same, until they introduced the boss mob. That was silly. But hey, it didn’t totally suck.

The third movie, well, I was hoping for the end of a trilogy. It even seemed like it was going that direction. The world is infected by the T-Virus, dried up. If people stay in one place too long, the zombies will find them, so they stay on the move, driving around the desert in a caravan. Meanwhile, Umbrella is still around and is actually searching for a cure, sort of, and they happen to be in the desert too. Alice is still running around trying to save the people she can, and Umbrella needs Alice to manufacture the cure.

There are some really cool scenes of the caravan and of Alice as they move through this dead world. Stuff happens, people die, things go wrong… the usual. But then the movie takes a left turn. See, there is this scientist who has been using clones of Alice in place of Alice, and its not working out well. So he decides to go after Alice, but only after he creates some super zombies to fight her. The doctor ends up getting bit by a super zombie, and instead of turning into a zombie or even a super zombie he turns into a boss mob with tentacles and other weird shit (I’m told it is Tyrant from the game). Its lame. And then Alice wins, and she tells all the other hidden Umbrella labs that she’s coming to get them, her and her army… of Alice clones.

There are rumors and allegations going around that they are working on a Resident Evil 4, and as much as I now dread it, I hate movies with giant gaping open endings. Leave a couple loose ends untied? Sure. But the end of this movie was just too much. They need an RE4, if for no other reason than to put an ending stamp on it.

The Challenge of One

An idea that I always come back to that I wish MMOs would figure out a way to feasibly implement would be to allow a player to have only one character (or one character per server). My main reason for liking this idea are for community and accountability. If people are who they always are, its easier to find them, to remember them, and reputations have a much better chance of sticking.

However, building a game that only allows one character would necessitate design changes to the existing paradigms, or major overhauls in player expectations. Assuming I can stick with this theme for a bit, I’m going to examine different elements of existing MMOs and how they would benefit from and/or need to change for a single character per player (per server) design.

This inaugural entry is going to begin to cover what I think will be the biggest impact from a single character decision: alternate characters.

The issues brought up by not allowing alternate characters are many and deep. The first and foremost is education. If a player is new to MMOs, they may not be familiar with the various archetypes present in the genre, so when presented with a character creation screen they might be presented with descriptions of what a warrior or a cleric is, but without game experience they probably won’t understand what that description really means.

One thing I would propose would be introducing the concept of a “trainer module” to the game. A simulation of the game. Let players build a character for the trainer, any level, any skill set, any stats, any items. Then throw them into a randomly generated dungeon, an instance just for them completely detached from the game world. On one hand, this will give players a place to try out and understand characters. On the other hand, it also gives you and your players a tool for testing character builds for bugs and flaws.

If this worked out well for solo play, let players do the same thing but run through the dungeon with a group. Even PvP if you wanted. This might also be a good place to work on that LFG tool so players wanting to test can find each other. Hook it up to an IRC chat server and players can even sit around discussing the game. And if the multiplayer aspect of it works, you might even consider throwing in raid training.

The catch is, nothing is saved. These characters are not persistent. You leave and they are lost. You gain nothing. No experience points, no items, no badges, nothing. If you want to test a buid over and over, you have to rebuild it over and over. Maybe if people complain you could allow them to store builds, but that shouldn’t be a first priority, the major objective here is giving the players the ability to understand characters without investing hard work and time that they’ll get angry about later when they discover the character does not play the way they interpreted the description.

A good idea? A bad idea? Of course, no idea can exist in a vacuum, and future entries I plan to explore more options and issues.

30 Days of Night

I went to the movies this weekend to catch 30 Days of Night. Overall, I liked the film. Great story idea. I wasn’t even disappointed in the cast. I’d recommend it to horror movie fans.

I did have problems with the movie though… The pacing felt wrong, a little forced in places, and there were some logic flaws in how things went down. And once again I’m forced to ask why people who make movies have a hatred of “fade to black” cuts. Almost every cut in this movie is from a well lit scene to another well lit scene with no transition and sometimes they put text on the screen to let you know that time has passed. This kind of quick scene cut tends to heighten urgency, like you are supposed to be cutting from action to action, but when used between scenes that are supposed to be emphasizing loss and desperation, it just ruins the mood.

Example of quick cut:

Scene shows people locking themselves into a building. People settle down into corners, some near windows to keep watch. One person sets down a bag we previously saw get filled with supplies. Guy at the door says, “Looks like we’re stuck here for a while.” Quick scene cut. Text on the bottom of the screen says “Day 27”. People now look a little more tired, someone is licking the inside of a twinkie wrapper and the guy at the door says, “We can’t wait anymore.” …

Example of fade to black:

Scene shows people locking themselves into a building. People settle down into corners, some near windows to keep watch. One person sets down a bag we previously saw get filled with supplies. Guy at the door says, “Looks like we’re stuck here for a while.” Scene fades to black. Text on the bottom of the screen says “Day 27”. Scene fades in and people now look a little more tired, someone is licking the inside of a twinkie wrapper and the guy at the door says, “We can’t wait anymore.” …

This being a text medium and all, I’m not sure I’m getting my point across. Maybe I’ll need to drag out the video camera and shoot some short scenes, put them up on YouTube or something. I’ve just seen so many movies over the past couple of years that just didn’t communicate the passage of time.

30 Days of Night was a good movie. Semi-feral vampires are always better that Elizabethan top coat wearing gay vampires any day of the week. But at the end, it really only felt like 3 Days of Night at most. Worth seeing, but don’t pay full price.


Though I loathe the idea of joining an infinite number of community building websites, I am on MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn. And now I’ve gone and joined GuildCafe.

In much the same way I participate in, I’m interested in GuildCafe for the possibility of gathering statistics that might mean something. And maybe it’ll make finding my next group of people to play online games with a tad easier. Who knows.

Choices That Matter

Reading up my morning blogs, Tobold has thrown down a decent shot at the missing “good vs evil” elements of WoW. He’s right, of course, the design of WoW can be described as “colorfully bland”, its vibrant and exciting, but strip away the artistic elements and both sides are the same. Kill those guys, collect these items. Later on, they even share all the same quests in the “neutral” settlements and can choose the same side in the Burning Crusade’s faction division.

I’ve got high hopes for Fallen Earth. For one, a sci-fi apocalyptic MMO that works would be awesome. But beyond that, having had a chance to talk to the developers at this year’s Dragon*Con, they plan to have 6 factions, arranged around in a circle each one will have an opposing faction, two semi-allies, and two semi-foes. And they are working on making the factions matter. Since they can take over and control/influence a town, it will be important to help your faction win and to assist in the defeat of other factions.

Realm vs Realm was what attracted me to Dark Age of Camelot, sadly I found the PvE game (which was the only way to level up at the time) to be boring, repetitive, and exactly like EQ, which I was already playing and I just wasn’t inspired to start over. Had I gone to DAoC later when they put in battle grounds and other things the game might have stuck. World of Warcraft’s stabs at it had left me wanting. The battlegrounds were predictable and short, and not overly fun when raiders beat up on the non-raiders with their superior gear. The open PvP in WoW was a joke, and the tower stuff they added in Burning Crusade was great for about a week or two… then it devolved into a bizarre cooperative dance, each side letting the other side win, trading back and forth. Capturing was better than holding, so its better to let go and recapture, for both sides, that it is for either side to hold it, unless they have a strong desire to withhold rewards from the other side while reducing their own reward gain.

I really want to play an MMO where things I do, things everyone does, really matter. And the first person to suggest EVE Online will get bitch slapped. Call me when they allow me to get out of my ship and walk around the space stations and planets.

Gearing Up for the WriMo

Last year’s attempt to participate in the NaNoWriMo did not go so well. I’m hoping this year goes better. I don’t have any more unmarried brothers, I can’t afford any vacations, the open projects at work don’t look like they are going to surge, so this may just be my year.

I’ve been thinking about what I want to do, which story I want to write, and I’m still floundering, unfocused. So, here provided is a list of the things I am thinking about doing, cast your vote.

  • The Jumpgate War: In the future we have finally discovered how to travel between distant star systems, in two pieces, the jump ship and the jump gate. The ships are large hulking vessels, expensive and requiring monstrous amounts of power to jump the ship across space. There are very few of them. Once they find a suitable planet, the crew sets down and installs a jump gate and dials home, with a source at both ends the gates are far easier to use. The nations of Earth (and its nearby planets) have their own goals in the universe, and it turns out that we are not alone.
  • Superhero Harry Potter: Those three words are the easiest way to describe my idea without spending pages to lay it out. A girl, the daughter of superheroes, comes into her own abilities, has to deal with High School and maintain her secret identity.
  • “A Willful Destruction of Life”: This is a very odd idea, because it is no idea at all, it is just a title… the thought here is “Come up with an interesting title, then create a story that fits it.”
  • American Apocalypse: A story about the US after terrorists detonate a nuclear device in Washington D.C. on inauguration day, essentially wiping out the political side of the federal government.
  • Land of the Fairer Sun: A fantasy tale about the return of incarnations of forgotten gods, the rise of a brand new religion of a single god and the kingdom caught inbetween.

I’m also trying to put together a writing group this year to meet on a semi-regular basis, probably at my house, so we can cheer each other on and maybe keep each other from quitting.

15 days until go time…

The Donnas

Over the weekend, I went to another concert. Its getting weird here, as this makes like the sixth or seventh concert I’ve been to this year, and I think there is at least one more before year’s end. I don’t think I’ve gone to this many concerts in a year before.

Anyhooble, this time around it was to go see The Donnas down at the Earl.

First off, I’d never been to the Earl before, but its a pretty cool place. The front is this little dive bar/restaurant, you can get a beer and some eats, and then in the back they’ve got a room with a bar and a stage, probably holds a max capacity of a couple hundred, maybe less. Definitely worth going there if a band you want to see is playing.

There were actually three bands that night… the first was American Bang, who I didn’t think I had heard of but it turns out one of their songs is currently being used in a commercial or something, somewhere that I didn’t recognize it right away but when the chorus hit I had one of those “I’ve heard this song before!” moments. But that wouldn’t have mattered. While I was apprehensive at first as they took to the stage looking like a band from the 70’s that fell through a time rift, their music rocked. And frankly, you know an opening band has something when the headlining band all comes out into the crowd to watch them play.

Next up was Donita Sparks and the Stellar Moments. Its Donita and Dee Plakas from the band L7 with a few guys. Not bad, not 100% to my music taste, but it did not suck.

Lastly, The Donnas took the stage. It is unfortunate that you don’t really see a lot of girl bands that play hard rock music. I’ve been a fan for a while, even before they hit it big with that Take It Off song from their Spend The Night album, so its a safe bet to say that I thought they rocked. Worth it at twice the price (tickets were only $13).


Some time later this evening, shortly after eight I think, I will have officially survived thirty-three years of life.

Yay me.

I’m not the kind of guy who believes in omens, or the kind to prophetically announce that this will finally be the year that Fink beats the Stomach, but I do honestly believe that things have to change. I am officially a job burnout. One thing I have prided myself on over the years (well, at least after high school) is my work ethic. I go by the following rules:

  1. A job worth doing is worth doing well.
  2. A job that pays a decent wage is worth doing.
  3. If I accept the job for the offered wage, it must be a decent wage.

By those rules, if I take a job for the money they offer, I’m going to do the best job I can. Right now, though, I am just going through the motions, doing enough work to not get yelled at. I am Peter Gibbons. Even worse, I have noticed myself engineering situations with coworkers to properly lower their expectations so that I can do even less work.

Its a bad situation all around, and honestly its not because I care about the company I’m contracted at, it is because at the end of the day I am disappointed in myself. Add to that, I am officially thirty-three pounds overweight. Maybe I need to be putting a little more stock in these omens and signs and stuff.

My general down turn of attitude has also crept into other aspects of my life. I want a new job, but getting a new job takes effort and I’ve been avoiding it. I have at least a dozen unfinished projects around the house that could have easily been finished by now. I’m sure there is more, but I don’t have the energy to do a full self evaluation right now.

So, my goals for thirty-three:

  • Stop being a lazy shit and get my work ethic back.
  • Stop being a lazy shit and exercise to get my waistline back.
  • Stop being a lazy shit and find a new job that engages and excites me.
  • Stop being a lazy shit and finish some of these projects around the house.

I’m seeing a theme here… guess its time to stop being a lazy shit.

Fool Moon

Sometimes it must seem like I am a slow reader, and I am, but not as slow as it must appear if you keep an eye on my Currently Reading section. I read with purpose and with imagination. My mind paints full color images as I read, every detail being filled in from the prose, and my imagination filling in everything the author leaves out. I see books more than read them. I live and breathe them. And I also don’t get as much time as I’d like to enjoy them. A couple hours a week at best.

And the better the book, the slower I read. I envy Jim Butcher because Harry Dresden is the kind of character I’d love to dream up, and his world is a place my imagination loves to run free in. And here I am only in the second book of the series. I finally turned the last page of Fool Moon and extricated myself from Harry’s dangerous mystical Chicago, and all I’ve got to say is: Damn.

Seriously, its a good book. This time around Harry runs smack into a problem with werewolves, a few different kinds of them, and he’s in over his head from the beginning. Heart pounding and tense, I hated having to put this book down, craved it when I was away, and reveled in it when I could.

I can’t wait to dive in to the next book… I just have to buy it first.

The Best Things In Life Are Free

Have you ever felt the stars align?

I was checking my email on Tuesday while I was working and I got what at first glance I thought was spam email. It was Ticketmaster telling me about some concerts in my area that I might be interested in. At least, that’s what it looked like. I ignored it and did some other things, but about an hour later I was staring at it again.

It wasn’t spam. It was an invitation to get some complimentary concert tickets. Velvet Revolver with Alice In Chains and Sparta on October 3rd at the HiFi Buys Amphitheater. I suppose the reality is that the concert was not selling as well as they wanted, and rather than play to empty seats, they were giving away tickets. I “bought” 4.

Nobody went with the wife and I. It was too short notice and everyone had plans or something. Except one guy, but he had a bad day at work and decided not to go out. No loss though, they were free tickets, if no one went it didn’t matter.

We got to the show and it was worse than I thought. Ticket sales had been so bad that at the door they were allowing people with lawn seats to upgrade to reserved seats for no charge. The lawn was closed. Even with the free ticket offer they’d spammed out (likely to everyone who had purchased tickets to a “rock” show in the past 30, 60 or 90 days … I went to Def Leppard) they hadn’t given away enough tickets to fill the seats. The ones we got online were pretty good. Section 203, row QQ on the inside aisle.

We sat down and listened to Sparta. They did what a good opening act should do. They played, they played well, and even got me wanting to go find their CD and give it a listen.

When Sparta left the stage, we went back out to the Zune booth… oh wait, I left that out. On the way in, we got raffle tickets. After the first band, the Zune booth was having a drawing. We won a 30GB Zune. Been playing with it this morning, its pretty sweet.

Alice In Chains took to the stage next… I saw AIC for the first time back in 1991 when they opened for Van Halen on the For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge tour. I’ve been a fan since Facelift. When Layne Staley died, I figured the band was done. Well, they aren’t done. With new lead vocalist William DuVall, the band is tight. There were times during the night that I could swear the man had to be lip syncing. It was eerie, but also fantastic. They played through all the hits and fan favorites. I look forward to hearing more from Alice In Chains.

After another break, Velvet Revolver took the stage. I’m not a huge fan of VR, in fact the only song I really know is Fall to Pieces. Scott Weiland has decided, apparently, that he is a Mick Jagger impersonator, and his voice just doesn’t sound like it used to. Stone Temple Pilots was a great band that I loved. With VR, at least live, Scott sounds like he’s on helium or been kicked in the nuts, about an octave above what would sound good. They played a few songs I didn’t know and really at that point it wasn’t likely that their performance was going to surpass the previous band, it was a weeknight, and I hate traffic. We left.

All in all, a free concert, a free 30GB Zune… a good night.