Sunday, 30 June 2013

How to be contrary: A lesson in obstinacy

I was looking through old folders when I came across a school of report of mine from when I was in reception (ah, the lovely stage between nursery and year 1...year 1 being the third year of school, what does that say about the UK education system, hmm) and it was quite the interesting read. It stated that I was a disobedient, unruly child who led the other children and provoked them, using only words, to fight each other words, at 4-5 years of age, I was the Devil in the classroom, and I guess, certain parts of that have never really left my being. The disobedience thing I found to be funny (it was a Church of England school, very religious, so I'm glad to see that even at a young age I was against that) but it was the making others fight thing that I found to be really interesting...see, that doesn't really sound like something I'd do. I love arguing but I like to be the one doing it, watching other people argue can be interesting (insomuch as it reveals aspects of their personality that they would normally conceal) and a lot can be learnt from it, but if I am doing the arguing myself then I can direct it, in a sense, make it follow the paths I want it to follow....which is bias, I know, but fun! 

One of the things is that I am often contrary, that is, I will argue view points that I don't believe in, hell, that I may even find to be abhorrent, just to see how well people can back up what they are arguing against....the thing I've discovered is that people tend to be very obstinate but without much reason behind it. A couple of examples, arguing with a friend about the benefits of vegan-ism, he mentions a bunch of studies that prove it to be beneficial, I mention studies on evolution (humans started eating meat to gain easier access to energy = bigger brains), he disregards it out of hand. Next example, friend argues that the Christian God is real, and has all the traits attributed to Him, namely that he is all powerful, all knowing and all good. I counter with the Epicurean Paradox, friend responds with "no, you're wrong" "why am I wrong? How so?" "because God is" blah blah blah. 

The first example is something that I am not completely at odds with, I like vegan-ism as I hate animal cruelty though the second...well, for most of my childhood I was brought up as a Christian, so I can't entirely shake the belief in some form of over-watching God-like figure however much I would very much like to...but my main point is that the arguments they present are flawed. They can't adapt to any new information that discredits them, they can't overcome any apparent contradiction or paradox that disproves them but still they argue the point, still they remain obstinate and use circular logic (i.e. I am right because I am right) and it really annoys me. I don't mind the stubbornness so much as I hate the refusal to acknowledge the merit of any view that opposes their own....I know, it's hypocritical, but there it is.

I guess the thing I really hate is "isms", because you can't really argue against them because they're almost exclusively based on faith and belief and so are subjective to the person expressing that view point. It doesn't matter what you present against it because they're not looking to be proven wrong, only that their "ism" is correct, and so will disregard anything that goes against it.

This is actually starting to depress me, just thinking about how fucking obstinate we all are and how we create all these divisions and definitions of each other....I think next time I'm just going to talk about video games again. later days. 

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

The Ghosts of Consoles Past

Okay, so, video games.....because I've not talked about them enough and, sad as it may be, they have had a massive effect (mass effect?) on my life....

It all started back in the summer of '09, I was a wild-faced child, enigmatic, full of youth and frosty dander....wait, wrong story....okay, yeah, I don't fully know when I experienced my first video game, but I do know when I received my first console (unless my last blog on memory proves else wise), and it was at night, when I was very young, maybe five, a sega master system (yes, I am fucking old) from my cousin. So, the first game I played on this console was either sonic 1 or alex the kidd (which was built into the console itself), I don't know which, but I was hooked. 

I was a sega child (as were all the "cool" kids, because Nintendo sucks dog testicles! yeah!....I later abandoned peer pressure, and discovered LoZ games...thank you whatever god is out there) and so I got a mega drive next, and enjoyed such great games as toe-jam and earl:panic on funkotron and altered beast (may have actually been on the master drive...I'm not entirely sure). I played other hits (which were cross-console, but I neither knew nor cared at the time) such as Disney's Aladdin, and Disney's Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck: World of Illusion (man, Disney used to make great games, what happened?! I played Antz once, nearly died of tuberculosis that I'm sure was caused by it....I'm sure!) and life was great.

With the next generation of gaming I moved onto a Nintendo console, the N64....I....loved it...Ocarina of Time, Mario 64 and Lylat Wars remain, to this day, three of my favourite games. About the same time, around where I lived there was this guy, who used to travel around in a small white van and rent games, and it was brilliant, because he'd come around every Friday, and it cost 50p to £3 (for the newer, more popular titles) to rent a game from him, and so I'd save up my pocket money and at the least every other week have a new title to play. It was one of the highlights of my childhood (....yeah, this was the secondary highlight of my week as a child, the first was staying over at my Nana Betty's every weekend, i probably spent more time there than I did at home tbh....) and so I'm glad for it.

I've already mentioned in my blogs about FFVII that I didn't get a PlayStation until quite late in the game (so to speak) I think it was 1999/2000 when I finally did get one (for reference, the ps2 came out a year or two later....I was always a generation behind until I got my own money) but, man, fuck the PlayStation. Don't get me wrong, it had my favourite games of all time on (FF9, 7 and 8 respectively, with an honourable mention to Grandia), but it was at this time (or there abouts) that I discovered the internet....yes, I played the original runescape....though now, for the life of me, I could not tell you why. It wasn't a game so much as it was a chat room with some mining play thrown in. I did enjoy it though, to be honest. I think a part of it was finding somewhere to play it, I didn't have the Internet at home so I had to play at school, or at my mum's boyfriend's house....which wasn't always possible. I'll talk about getting the Internet at another time, because (again, sad as it is, it's another landmark moment in my life) I can, and it's always fun to leave a subject for another day.

Then I got a ps2, and all was right with the universe.....except that I tanked on my GCSE exams. It wasn't entirely the fault of the console (or my fault, for being addicted to it) for my failing, I mean, other stuff happened, but it was definitely a factor. You see, I am very much a computer game could I not be? Life was basically shit for me, and video games offered some form of escape from all that, and the PS2 was the first console that really just offered the addict experience. It had good games, sure, but I can't really recall any one, specific stand out title, maybe Kingdom Hearts (but that's final fantasy and Disney combined and that's just cheating!) or Devil May Cry but other than that, it was just a lot of very good games, don't get me wrong, but nothing that should have claimed so much of my time. I did really badly on my GCSE's...I was expected to ace everything and I really should have, instead I barely scraped enough to get into sixth form. There was no excuse for it, I should have done better instead of playing computer games. I didn't learn that at the time though, no, I really didn't.

I got the Xbox 360 next, though, to be entirely honest, I was spending most of my time on the PC, playing World of Warcraft. The amount of time I've spent on that's the thing though, I don't really regret games have stopped me from getting where I want to be in life, there's no arguing with that, but, because I've been waylaid by it (heh, Baldur's gate reference) I've been granted the opportunity to meet so many amazing people, who've helped shape my life, and shape my views on the world and helped shape them for the better, and that's great, because that's what life is about, a learning experience. Now, maybe it would've been better had I succeeded at the first attempt, but I don't know and the me that's here right now would rather have failed at those times so that I could have lived like this and known the people I know now thanks to my fuck ups....I could probably word that better, but the main point is, I'm actually happy...and video games helped me to get there, there were a few hairy moments, where gaming was all that I had, but yeah, its all working out in the end, right? Right? I really hope so, have a great day folks, I'll write again soon.  

Friday, 21 June 2013

Memory in the minor key

So I've mentioned, briefly, in passing, in one of of my older posts that I have a theory about cartoon theme tunes. Simply put, I would argue that the catchier the theme tune is the better the show will be remembered/perceived later on. Seriously, how many Ducktales episodes can you actually remember? Not many I'd be willing to wager, but hum the opening bars of the intro and you instantly get lost in ill-remembered reminiscences, maybe even going so far as to claim it was one of the greatest shows of your childhood...but really, was it? Did you even really watch it past the song? Of course this doesn't hold true for all shows with great intros, Animaniacs has an instantly recognisable theme song and was also a mighty fine cartoon that's a hell of a lot of fun to watch these days. It's not entirely to do with music though, there's a sense of theme and style as well, shows like Batman:The Animated Series had a minimalist opening but it worked, it's memorable because it's visually striking rather than aurally so. 

My point is, memory is a tricky thing. It tends to focus on remembering distinctive patterns but not so much the events relating to them, which is why you remember the intro, but not the events of the show itself. Sure, if you focus, you can bring up memories, but compare it to the instant recall when you hear "Life is like a hurricane", and even then if you do remember the show, you don't remember it in its entirety simply because your brain filters out whatever it deems's why TV shows, movies and games are employing more and more plot twists, because they maintain interest. No matter how forced it seems afterwards, it makes your brain take notice which is why people remember Bruce Willis is a ghost in the Sixth Sense (if I spoiled that movie for you, welcome to the world of 2013! I know, I know, it must be disorienting for you to have just woke up from 1998, the year before the movie came out, few other things to note, you managed to avoid nu-metal, you lucky bastard, but it appears to be making a come back, you unlucky bastard....America got a black president, but it's mostly the same as he just acts like a white guy.....oh the spice girls got back together, it wasn't great....and erm....oh yeah, Y2K.....well, as you can see, that didn't happen....some other things happened, but it was mostly boring...enjoy the future that is the present!) but you don't remember the scene where he's talking to the kid's mum, whilst casually eating a bagel.

....there wasn't a scene where that happened, that was a test, because you just went "what are you talking about, that wasn't in the movie...was it? I don't...."

And it's scary, in a lot of ways, because at the end of the day you are completely reliant on the data your brain interprets, and if it is ignoring random data just to focus on what it deems the important stuff (like the cartoon intros, the predictability is like catnip for your brain...which for the purposes of this analogy is a cat). There's something that happened to me as a child, my mum and nan left me in the house alone because I didn't want to go shopping with them. I was about two or three. But yeah, here's the thing, I remember, quite distinctly crying because I'd been left alone in a house I hated, alone, as a kid. However, my mum says she was watching through the window and says that I just turned the TV on and started watching it. One of these things is wrong. It could be that my memory of it is really flawed and distorted or she is lying or it's also possible that her memory is wrong. I don't think she's lying, because she was only talking to me about it, so she didn't have to put on a front or whatever, but that means that for one of us, the memory we have isn't correct, and it's debatable as to who is right.

I understand why it does this, I mean, if we had full access to the amount of sensory input our bodies experience, we'd go insane. Imagine being aware of your own blood flowing through your veins or trying to listen to someone but you're hearing every other sound within the range of your hearing just as much. Or some other third example. The point is the brain needs to edit what it is presenting to you but because of this, can it ever really be trusted? It's an annoying question, and I don't think there is any easy answer to it (well, other than...."maybe..."....but, you know, don't be a bag of arse troll about it).

Anyway, I'm going to wrap it up there for this one because I have poo brain as a result of drinking to excess last night, I'll come back to this topic another time, probably, I do tend to think about it a lot. So, yeah, later taters. 

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Ms A. Laney thoughts

SO I guess I've wrote a fair bit about video games huh...that wasn't originally my intention, originally my intention was for this to be a companion piece to a youtube vlogging...thing...I'm getting set up, but, because I basically can't start that until the end of June, and I'm impatient, I decided to start this early..because I'm like that, I get not so much bored but intensely interested (already talked about how I can get obsessed quite easily) in other things, other areas, other conversations or debates or stories, whatever...which is why I reviewed the pre-E3 conferences. That wasn't planned, hell, I didn't even have the idea until quite near the end of the first presentation, and I just thought to myself "hey, you know what would be a challenge? writing this shit up!" and I was right! it was a challenge! But it was a fun thing to do, I got the first three presentations written up within an hour and fifteen minutes of the thing finishing and I had to be fast, I was basically writing in the breaks between each one, which wasn't all that long....they're not my greatest pieces of work, but I think the exercise was a decent practice....I didn't do all of E3 because as I said, this wasn't planned, I basically had a day where I had nothing to do and these things were going on, so I thought I might as well use the time to do something constructive. So I took notes on the shows, read what people were saying, sifted through the hyperbole, it was deceptively fun.

So yeah, companion piece....see, I'm going to John Moores University in September, to study journalism, and I thought it'd be interesting to keep a record of that experience. Not necessarily in strict academic terms, but more just a recording, written and filmed, of the whole thing. Because it's something I've wanted to do for a very long time now, not the video thing (but yeah, actually, that also) but the university thing. See, I left school nine years ago and it's kind of...well, it's not been great for a whole lot of reasons. I wanted to go to university back then, so I went into sixth form at my secondary school to complete an International Baccalaureate...which the school closed down in its first year (it was a two year course). Which was a kick in the teeth. It didn't help that the girl I loved, and was going out with dumped me for my one of oldest friends and my other friends just straight up abandoned me (well, most of them did, a few didn't) because...reasons....went to college to try and get back on track, and did the first year fine, well, kind of, I dropped one of the courses straight away, psychology, basically because it bored me. I don't mean to sound big headed, but half the stuff I knew already and the other half of what was being taught was outdated and flat out wrong and I just couldn't reduce myself to towing the line just to complete a course. Basically, I was stupid and I cut my nose off to spite my face. Then in my second year I got my hands on money, a lot of money, and I died...well, okay, I didn't die, but it's honestly surprising that I survived. Because I started lot. I was a mess, just utterly depressed and lonely and life was just bleak. I've always been depressed, a born cynic, I still am to this day, but that year was the worst I've ever felt. I wanted to go to university, but I didn't really know what for, or what to do. I'd wanted to do journalism forever, but what kind, where, for what purpose and it just began to grate, this sort of seemingly unending spiral of existentialist questioning, suddenly I wasn't asking questions about education, I was asking them about every aspect of my life. Why bother with anything when you consider the enormity of existence? It went on and on. Every day seemed to bring a new low and looking back at it just leaves me numb, because I still feel that pain, that despair and honestly, I'm scared of that happening ever again.

Because it will, I'm a very emotional person. People who know me will be like "whaaaat? but you're always so calm and collected, so stoic and aloof." Yeah...the reason for that is basically to try and avoid the depression again. Because I get too attached to people, when they leave I feel lost and I over analyse everything. "Why didn't they laugh at that joke?", "That smile didn't seem genuine." "Why aren't they talking, what are they doing, why aren't they talking to me?!" and I do realise that everyone has thoughts similar to these, of course they do, it's human nature, but it's only recently that I've started to be able to get over that. It used to be that I would agonise over every little thing someone said or did, because I basically didn't trust anyone (I used to be massively trusting, and that just led to people seemingly going out of their way to destroy the trust I placed in them) and it was just so mentally and emotionally exhausting.

I drifted along for years on this exhaustion. It was just a kind of lethargy, a genuine apathy to doing anything really. About the only thing I did do that was actually constructive was read. I read everything I could get my hands on, mostly as a form of escapism. There was a better world out there, I just had to find a way to claw myself back up there. People often say that the first step is the hardest step to take, bullshit. The first step is easy, it's just a random movement forward that means nothing, the steps after that, however, the ones you take to keep moving forward, well they're the important ones. That's what I'm doing at the moment, just trying to keep focussed on moving forward, because if I stop I am afraid I'll fall back into that spiral, I don't know if I'd have the strength to pull myself out of it again.

I don't know, like I said at the beginning, I don't really plan anything, so this has been a bit of a moan and a depressive blog, and for that I apologise. These things are basically me just talking about whatever is on my mind at the moment and I guess this is what was there this time, just the need to explain (kind of) why I am the way that I am, the search quest ("quest" makes it seem more heroic!) for validation continues!

...I think next time I'm going to write an actual plan and (maybe) stick to it, instead of just waffling....    


Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Sony E3 Conference Review

Much like the Sony conference itself I am writing this review late...very late in fact (I had to sleep, the conference finished at 4 in the morning here in the UK) but here it is, better late than never as they say. The Sony conference started off very low key, as I said it was late (about half an hour or so) and Jack Tretton kicked proceedings off by talking about PS Vita and it's inter-connectivity (a redundant term, surely?) with the PS4 and how that's going to enable a new way of controlling games...what it sounded like to me was that the PS Vita will function as a Wii-u tablet....essentially, and that's grand or whatever. Then he talked about Sony still supporting PS3 even with the PS4 on the horizon, highlighting oncoming titles such as GTA5, Gran Turismo 6 and Beyond: Two was nice, but there was very much an air of formality about this section of the show, as though these details were a required starter to be slogged through before they could get to the main course.

The PS4 portion of the show started with the actual unveiling of the PS4 design (which, according to Sony is not actually a finalised design, but...) and it was very well received, if not spectacularly so. Then there was a ten minute section on the other media capabilities of the PS4 and Sony Entertainment and then it launched straight into the games and what to expect. The first sentence from Shu Yoshida (Sony's Vice President of Product Development) was met with laughs around the internet as Microsoft, who had been touting 15 exclusives within the first year was upstaged with Yoshida confirming at least 20 within that same time frame. This would be a recurring theme of the night. Yoshida showed game-play footage and trailers of games such as inFamous Second Son, Knack and The Order 1886, which blew away the game-play footage Microsoft had shown in their conference. 

After this Adam Boyes took to the stage and revealed that Sony would allow, and support, self publishing of Indie studios on the PS network (the diametric opposite of Microsoft's much maligned policy). The crowd went wild and Boyes invited several indie developers onto the stage to showcase their titles, repeating and affirming Sony's complete support to indie developers as they exhibited their games to the audience. Then there was talk about Diablo 3 (mercifully brief) and then a video from Tetsuya Nomura, who revealed two new exclusives to the PS4 range. The first was the re-branding of (what was essentially becoming vapour-ware prior to this point) Final Fantasy Versus XIII to simply Final Fantasy XV (so we didn't have to see the Agni's Philosophy video, again, hooray!) and the second was the long awaited Kingdom Hearts 3. There was game-play footage of both games, and as is well known Versus XIII (or Final Fantasy XV as we should call it now) has been in development for a long time...but there was no hint of a time frame for their expected release, but still, news of their arrival excited the crowd. We then had a game-play video of  Assassin's Creed 4 and Watch Dogs, and they were really amazing pieces of footage (except for the fact that the Assassin's Creed game died mid cut-scene), which I thought was a bit I said in my previous blog, the Ubi-soft show before this really could have used some excitement in it, something to have pepped it up and this footage would have certainly fulfilled that criterion, it seemed odd to me that they'd be willing to let another company have their (arguably) two main attractions as a mid show piece. It's a bit of an odd one. 

Next was the reveal that The Elder Scrolls Online would be coming to the PS4 and this was met with a very lukewarm response, the game itself looked very uninspiring and it was a bit of a low point in the presentation. Then a Mad Max game was revealed (which I, at first, thought was going to be a Fallout 4 reveal...I saw the one armed leather jacket and the car....thought it was the reference in Fallout to Mad Max, didn't consider it could be Mad Max's that for meta-thinking). No game-play footage was shown, just a video trailer, and I suppose that if it was done well it could be a very interesting story/game. Post apocalyptic tales are always so good because they make for good social commentaries, when the buildings crumble, do we let our morals and inhibitions fall as well? Or retain them as best we can...I know that the game is probably just going to be a shooter of some kind, but it would be fun to see if it could stick to that as well. 

I said before that a recurring theme of the presentation was taking little pot shots at what policies Microsoft had talked about and put in place, and prior to this point of the show, it had been relatively harmless. To talk about how the media side of the product is not the focus, but a bonus to the console or about how they (Sony) fully support indie developers by allowing self publishing, these are but minor jabs. But here, at this point in the conference, Sony stopped dancing around the ring and started to deliver crushing hay-maker after hay-maker. Firstly, Tretton came back onto the stage and announced that the PS4 would fully support the sale of used games with no restrictions placed upon the customer at all. You can sell it to a store, to a friend, to a neighbour, you can give it away for free for all they care, it's your game after all (was the general point they made, check out this video made in response to Microsoft's draconian used game policy). Secondly, with the crowd still cheering at this revelation, Tretton revealed that would be no on-line authentication needed for PS4 titles, whether that be upon initial purchase or once every 24 hours thereafter. At this point, the crowd was basically giving a standing ovation which covered the one, minor blip of this barrage, it will now be necessary to pay for PS+ in order to play multi-player games on-line, but Tretton quickly moved on to the beneficial side of joining the PS+ program, highlighting the fact that it will work across all three platforms for one price (Microsoft still haven't fully confirmed whether this is the case or not with Xbox Live over Xbox1 and the 360, it probably will be, but they're not talking to anyone at the moment to answer) and that users will receive free titles, discounts and access to game demos/betas and that it will remain cheaper (at $5 per month) than Xbox live. Thirdly, and perhaps to remove attention to PS+, Tretton introduced some game-play of Destiny. Put simply, the game is beautiful. The environments were fantastic, and the way the light danced around the inside of The Wall (the location the game-play was taking place in) This is a multi-platform title, but knowing that the PS4's specs far outstrip the Xbox1s it is hard to believe that it will be able to keep up. I will admit that prior to this I was sceptical of what Bungie were capable of, but if you've got a moment or two spare, I suggest you watch the video on you-tube ( though I am sure there are other better links out there somewhere), it's worth the 10 minutes or so. 

Lastly, there was some talk about Gaikai and to be honest, it didn't sound impressive. It won't be available at launch, and at first will only be available in America, so knowing Sony we won't see it in Europe until 2015 or something. But, this turned out to be a feint move, which allowed Sony to deliver the knock-out blow. I made a point of criticising the Xbox1 price point in a previous blog, because it was ridiculous that it cost all that much whilst providing so little...well Sony announced that in the UK the PS4 will cost £349 ($399 + €399, once again, the EU gets shafted) which means, for those of you playing the home game, that it costs £70 less, whilst being (at least on paper) far more powerful tech wise, providing more exclusives (20 by the end of the first year, 40 in development compared to 15 and no word on how many in development from Microsoft, I've heard it's only 20 at most, but I doubt that), having a lower cost to pay for on-line play and no ridiculous policies on used games nor requiring an Orwellian peripheral required to be permanently on (I know they say it can be turned off....but if it's always listening for the phrase "xbox on", it's not really turned off, is it?) or else it doesn't work at all? It's not even a contest at this point is it?

To wrap it up, the Sony conference was great on its own merit. The games it showed, as well as the brief talk about the other features of the console, were good and it could have stood on its own as the best conference up until this point. What really made it great though wasn't so much its own achievements, but rather, the ability to respond to the major failings of its main competitor. By setting itself against the antagonistic policies of Microsoft and actually just maintaining the status quo, it has elevated itself well into pole position for the next generation battle between consoles. Sony are no doubt loving this, we can see it in their presenters body language, in the troll clips of Sony executives handing each other games freely, and they've every right to enjoy it, they've won, convincingly, before it even started and with the minimum of effort required. Since the Xbox1 reveal, Microsoft have told us to wait until E3, just, wait until E3 and we'll set the record straight....they didn't even come close and may as well have just conceded  the title there and then to Sony.   

Monday, 10 June 2013

Ubisoft E3 conference review

So, my stream wasn't working for the first five-ten minutes or so of this conference and that kind of set the tone for the whole show. This was easily the most disappointing conference so far (which puts it in third place for those playing the home game) as it didn't really reveal anything new or exciting until the very end. So, I do apologise but this is going to be perhaps a bit shorter than my previous blogs about E3 simply because there wasn't all that much to take away from this presentation.

Before I get started, I would like to say that Aisha Tyler tried to pad out this presentation. She joked around a bit, she tried to engage the audience and she succeeded a few times, because she's a talented lady, but the crowd was there for games, and title after title was just "we've seen this before, we've seen this before, we've seen this before." Very little game-play was shown, the trailers were either short or ones previously released....and games were ones that we are all looking forward to but still, the show was very much "yep, here they are, we're still working on them guys." I personally thought they missed a trick by only briefly showing the South Park game The Stick of Truth, but then I suppose it may have been bad form to rub the now defunct THQ's face in losing the IP...but at least it would have been something, the show was very bland and plodding and at times seemed to be unfocused. There were a few exceptions to this however, The Crew (which to me felt quite like Midnight Club or the Burnout series) was mildly interesting, with an on-line world of customisable cars where you can group up with friends and complete missions. The Mighty Quest of Epic Loot looked like a humorous take on the tower defence game, in that you build up defences to your tower then your friends (or strangers, I would assume) can try and break into when you're not on-line and then steal your "loot" that you have stole from other towers whilst not building your own. It was a little disappointing to see such little game-play of Assassin's Creed 4 and not a single drop of Watch Dogs at all (game-play I mean, we were treated to a video trailer) and similarly to see Trials Fusion (yay!) linked to a mobile platform called Trials Frontier (boo!), and the less said about Just Dance 2014...the better.

The Division...up until this point, the whole show would've been completely unremarkable. I was debating over whether to even write up a review of it because it was just regurgitated nonsense and nothing was really exciting, innovative or newsworthy. The Division is what changed that though. It's a third person shooter set in a post-apocalyptic near future, and if I've interpreted it correctly, it is a persistent world survival RPG shooter...which sounds freaking amazing. The game-play that was shown of it was of course, very serious, very much in the style of role play, but you could see the benefits of working in a team, watching each others back as you scavenge the area (it looks to take place in and around New York) looking for food, weapons, first aid and whatever else, whilst avoiding the zombie-like monsters and perhaps the less prominent, but just as deadly rival groups of other players who will be out to steal your gear. It could go very wrong, but I really hope it works out for Ubisoft on this title because so far, despite having the worst show, they've unveiled one  of the best games so far. 

Sorry for it being so short, but really, there's little else to talk about....except for freaking Rabbids on television or whatever the hell that thing was, it was cringe-worthy. Hopefully the Sony show will give me a lot more to write about.    

EA E3 conference review

So, EA at E3...I never thought I'd be saying this, but well done EA. You actually managed to push away my doubts and engage me as a gamer rather than just a walking (rather small, admittedly) pile of cash. I know it won't stick but for now, lets talk about the good, the bad, the great and the grim parts of EA's E3 conference.

Starting with the good, this conference on an overall level felt more relaxed than the Microsoft conference. I didn't talk about it so much in the last review, but the people on stage were quite nervous and I can understand why, but didn't really cotton on to it as I didn't have a frame of reference. The people on the EA stage came on, knew what they were talking about, made jokes, were really enthusiastic about their product (in the case of Dana White, UFC president, perhaps too enthusiastic! but we'll let that slide) and it didn't feel at all cagey or defensive like the Microsoft conference. The games on display all looked to be cutting edge titles, the sports games in particular constantly drove home the advanced capabilities of EA's new Ignite game engine, going on and on about how virtual players react better, look better, move better in general, and if (as EA claim) that all the videos shown at the conference were actual videos of real-time game-play footage, then the new generation will finally be at the point where sports games become true sports simulations rather than arcade imitations.

Similarly, other titles in EA's portfolio have been given a new engine, this one supplied by Dice, and the frostbite 3 is spectacular. I'll go into it in a bit more detail when I'm talking about the "great" portion of the conference, but for now lets look at Need for Speed Rivals. One of the more worrying aspects of EA lately has been their intention to shoehorn multi-player sections into what are ostensibly single player games. Which is why we got a versus mode in Dead Space 2 and co-op as well in 3, a horde mode in Mass Effect 3, etc. etc. it's not been universally acclaimed to say the least. That's not to say the modes aren't fun, they are, but they've never really added anything to the single player game and some would argue that they have in fact detracted from that experience. Need for Speed Rivals is the first title, I would argue, that gets it right. In NFSR, a person playing single player can have his or her game become a multi-player mode, without even knowing, as a "rival" can join in their race as a cop pursuing the initial player. This, to be fair, has been tried before, with (off the top of my head, I'm sure there may be others) Resident Evil 6. But where as that was a specific mode that had to be picked, this is the blending of two modes in a sense, a game can start off single player and end up multi-player, without having to go back to a main menu or a pause in game-play, and if that doesn't excite you, then sir, you are not all that into gaming.

Now, for the bad side of the conference. This is going to be an admittedly small section, there wasn't really anything bad about the show, it was actually surprisingly done. Having celebrities come in on the EA Sports section just to introduce the titles (Drake likes FIFA I guess...lets get him in to stroke our egos! or something) was a little bit laughable for the most part, and on a personal level I would have liked to have heard more about Battlefront (they announced Battlefront! BATTLEFRONT! I felt a disturbance in the force, as though millions of voices cried out in joy and then were no more details were divulged....) and Peggle 2, but yeah, just announcing them was enough at this point.

Okay, now for the great. Battlefield 4.If you are reading this and you have not seen the game-play footage of BF4, you stop reading this, now, and you go search for it and watch it....because I hated Battlefield 3. I really did, it was very Call of Duty like, it was far more restricted in play-style compared to Bad Company 2, it just wasn't...its own game in a sense. Now, large scale destructible levels are back, more players in multi-player, back to a tactical battle-field (moving away from the CoD run and gun twitchy style of game-play). The game engine looks amazing, graphics are literally awesome (i.e. actually inspiring feelings of awe), with realistic physics, impressive details of characters and environments and of changes in those environments. Speaking of Frostbite 3, one other game it's being used on is the (oft rumoured, but now confirmed) Mirror's Edge was more of a tease than an actual trailer (as it said on the trailer "Coming out....when it's ready") but what a tease and speaking of tease, Dragon Age: Inquisition. The news that has been pushed back by a year was actually met with cheers. That shows how poorly received its predecessor was and how vital people believe more time developing is to the game (Dragon Age 2 had a notoriously short development time, especially for an RPG title). It looks very interesting, so hopefully we won't be disappointed...   

And then this leads to the matter how good the conference was (and it was really rather good, in my opinion) in the back of the mind is still the fact that it is EA behind all of this, and that it'd be daft to believe them entirely, to deliver what they are promising, based on their track record...but hey, hope springs eternal right. Overall, it was a fantastic conference, and I hope the rest of E3 at least maintains this quality. Ubisoft up next, lets see how that one goes.

Microsoft E3 Conference Review

Ok, so, where to begin...I guess I should start with a disclaimer, lest you think I'm a Microsoft hater or something, I'm not, or at least, I wasn't. I liked the original Xbox (you know, the real Xbox one?) and absolutely adored the 360, I thought they were brilliant, the 360 especially as Sony had apparently forgot that it was in the game console making business with the PS3 (though it did claw some of that lost respect back over the life of the PS3), touting it as media entertainment hub and what other nonsense...basically what Microsoft did with the reveal of the Xbox1, Sony did years ago with the PS3 reveal.

Now, I'm not going to go into detail on the Microsoft reveal have internet access and are, I assume, somewhat sentient so you should know or will at least have heard of all the rage surrounding it. Microsoft has done an amazing job by uniting the grand majority of gamers, albeit in opposition to them, and so were quick to point out that the REAL show would be E3. Yes, at E3, that is when they would wow the world with their impressive game titles and show the world that they mean business. Well, the conference ended in the last hour or so and if that was their attempts to wow us, to really make an impression, mission failed dudes...But before I go onto the negative, I will start with the things Microsoft did right, because the conference wasn't actually all that bad, truth be told, it didn't really have any moments that were jaw-droppingly awesome but neither did it have too many moments that were head-droopingly boring. In fact, had it not been a show touted as their chance to regroup and blow us away (to paraphrase their own words), it would have been an all right show. 

True to their word following the reveal, they showed us games. Games, games and nothing but games. And cars. And smartglass apps. And social programs...but you know what, that's fine, in the context in which it was shown, all of these, even the smartglass app integration, was fine. It was relevant to the game, it brought the games up to a higher level (the artillery strike called in on Dead Rising 3 using the smartglass for instance....nice way to rip off the wii-u, but whatever) and that is something that I can admire if not actually use. It's nice to have more choices available to players, so yeah, that's good going on their behalf. One feature that was barely mentioned (in fact, I can't remember it being mentioned at all, only used on the Project Spark title and even then never named) was Kinect. That whole thing was downplayed to the point where even when it was used (voice commands for example) it wasn't named, which is smart given the outcry over its, so again, it makes sense for Microsoft to not bring attention to it. And I am really running out of nice things to say about the conference now...erm...Quantum Break looked bloody good, very interesting concept, it was the stand-out title in their range...or at least it 

So, the things that went wrong/could have been improved upon. It'd be too easy to say that they should have had more actual game-play footage for their games. Sony sure as hell won't later, EA won't, Square won't, Nintendo won't (well, maybe they actually will, I'm not read up on their Nintendo Direct thing yet), so it's not a fair thing to beat them with. The games themselves though could have benefited from it. Very few of the games actually looked interesting simply because they were, for the most part, apparently pre-rendered videos. It's all very well saying that the videos were taken from the game engine working inside the Xbox1, but it doesn't actually show us, the viewer, anything. We don't know how many takes each video took to get right, how much of it was edited to present as a free flowing video, it's the equivalent of a singer being accused of lip singing...and then the singer refuting those claims, expressing innocence, whilst the song continues on playing from the stage. This wasn't helped when one of the games, Ryse, supposedly taking place in real time (on two separate plays) used the same footage (check out when they first introduced it, and when the woman was playing it later before dropping out to play Killer Instinct). I mean, it's kind of an unspoken rule that what you see at a conference may be fake, but at least try to keep it believable...which I think they tried to do, by having her switch games so quickly, but that's crossing into conspiracy territory, draw your own conclusion on that.

Secondly, the smartglass app...I think it could be useful, but that it's based on a faulty assumption that everyone will have access to that technology. You see, its basically copying the Wii-U tablet in a sense, and that's great but where it goes wrong is that it won't ever be able to be put in as prime feature in a game. Take the artillery shelling in Dead Rising 3, that's a fun little tool and helps out the protagonist, it creates a new element of game-play...and if you don't have access to that technology, then boy are you screwed. You could argue that there'll be a function in game to achieve the same end (i.e. open a pause menu, select the strike, pick the location, boom) and you'd probably be right, but then that renders the additional tech as a redundant you see what I'm saying? It's a nice bonus, but you could never make it a vital part of your gaming system, not with such low saturation's not so much a bad thing, just a pointless one.

Finally, on the bad portion, there's the price...This, I feel, was the only really low point of the whole conference, the real kick to the balls. In America, it'll cost you $499, in Europe, 499 and in the UK £429...for those of you blessed with the power of math and the knowledge of International currency'll see that something here isn't quite right. Now, I'm assuming that there's some kind of import law and I know in the UK that we enjoy a somewhat higher tax-rate on entertainment and electrical products than the US at least...but if you check out a currency exchange site now, you'll see that the american customer will receive their copy of the Xbox1 for £100 less, or to put it another way, if an American was forced to pay the same price as a Brit, it'd be over $777...let that sink in for a moment. Basically half as much again. Bare in mind that in the UK that a lot of the things marketed in the Xbox1 big reveal won't be available, no cable, no NFL, none of that sport crap. It doesn't matter that no one would particularly want it, what matters is that we have to pay a hell of a lot more for a hell of a lot less. Think about that for a second. 

Overall, as I said at the beginning, it wasn't a bad show, it was pretty decent. I was a little disappointed Ryse turned from a Kinect game into a third person brawler (possibly the first time anyone has ever been sad that Kinect features have been taken out of a game!) but it still looks quite interesting. Other games, especially the hand selected indie titles looked best, and I was quite intrigued by the concept of the "drivatar" of Forza 5 (even if it did make me think that " my games are going to play themselves now...what if I stop playing, do they just play on forever...."), which makes it more the pity that it was trying to clean up the mess of the Xbox1 reveal...because it came nowhere close. The fact that in addition to this decent, if underwhelming, presentation Microsoft have called off their table meeting, and so won't be responding to any questions about their new games or console, the whole thing just very much reeks of far too little, far too late. If I were Microsoft I would be hoping very much that other publishers help them out during E3, because at the moment, they've managed to stop digging themselves a deeper hole, now they just need someone to drop them a ladder to get out. 

The Day I discovered Final Fantasy

listen to this link whilst reading... 

So, yeah, I am a massive Final Fantasy fanboy...or at least I was until the last few games came out, but whatever, I'm going to tell you why that, objectively, final fantasy 7 is the greatest game ever, of all time.

The year was...*cough*...and I was but a wee child, young and wide eyed with the whole world before me and ready to experience the infinite possibility that is life as long as that infinite range was held to be within the heavily restrictive boundaries of my delightfully mentally scarring upbringing. I was in a step aunts house as my mother and father were in Ireland because reasons and me and my brother had been left in this house where the people basically thought of me as a stain because I wasn't to them technically a part of "the family" (thank you God for sparing me the curse of that DNA!) and so was told to bugger off and make myself scarce, which I totally did because well, wouldn't you? You would if you knew these people. Anyway, me and my brother went upstairs and we found my step cousin's PlayStation, so we played a few rounds of Tekken 2 and I think Ridge Racer? or maybe Rage Racer? Some racing game anyway, but it gets boring and we look for another game to play to waste time. Why were we wasting time? Because the one, bright spot of this whole day of being abandoned to the wonderfully abusive step-family was that that night there was going to be a Red Dwarf marathon on TV. It was to celebrate some anniversary or something, and they were doing a countdown of the best episodes, with a blooper reel and cast interviews and blah blah blah whatever! The point is that I was looking forward to it before I knew that I'd have to be watching it in the step-aunts house and at the time I thought of it as the only thing that I would be able to take solace in during that trial. Anyway, the point is that I ended up missing the red dwarf night.

Going back to looking for things to waste time, I picked up a game called yeah, you guessed it, Final Fantasy VII. I was hooked. From the very first haunting notes of the lifestream sparkling against a black background as though it were stars in Space, to the green glow illuminating Aeris' face (Yes, Aeris, fuck Aerith...that is honestly one of the reasons I hope VII never gets a remake, because they'll call her Aerith and I will have to become a murderer) that pans back and the reveal of the grimy Midgar streets...It was brilliant, just utterly fantastic. I've said before that one of the things that I really, genuinely love in this world is hope overcoming sadness/despair...and just that scene, right there, at the very start of the game, of the flower girl finding a small thing of beauty in a city so dark and grim...well, I can't think of too many better examples in a video game, hell in any form of entertainment, than that...and certainly none delivered so effectively early on.

I played it for about....eight...nine hours that night. I got up to Kalm and heard the first telling of Cloud's story about Sephiroth when I fell, most reluctantly, to sleep. I woke up the next day, eager to play it, but my mum was already there to pick me up. I asked if I could borrow the game, I needed to finish this thing, I needed to know what happened next, what happened to Cloud, Tifa and Aeris...I got laughed at. Not even a no, just a condescending laugh. To be fair, I would have had to have borrowed the PlayStation as well, as I was still only on the Mega Drive (I wouldn't get one until....three years later I think, this will come up again later) at this point, so yeah, I could understand the reason for the no, if not for the style with which it was delivered.

I forgot the name of the game. It seems mad now, but I genuinely forgot what it was called, and this was an age without the internet (well, at least for me and most of the world I guess) so I couldn't just google the character names to try and find out. So I forgot it until about four or five years later, probably five to be honest, when I was walking around a HMV with my step-father and siblings on one of the (note:here there be sarcasm) always fun and entertaining outings he'd occasionally take us on after having been divorced by my mum. Normally those trips would involve traipsing after the bastard as he went about doing shady errands or hanging around the betting shops (which is now why I can't abide, it actually worked out alright in that regard, thanks asshole stepdad :D) or helping him complete gardening work as unpaid help with all the free kicks from step-cousins I couldn't dodge thrown in as a bonus. But this time, in HMV, I re-discovered Final Fantasy VII.

To say that I overplayed that game is a bit like saying "yeah, that sun thing, well, it's a bit hot really, isn't it?" whilst on its surface. I've got several saves with times well over 100 hours, and many more at about the 50-100 hour marks. I did everything in that game. Well, nearly everything...I never managed to beat Ruby Weapon because of that stupid instant killing move thing that just hits whenever, and I was always unlucky enough to get hit by it in like the first wave of attacks. I knew the strategy of the having the other party members KO'd before engaging and all that crap, but ultimately that fight is based on luck and well, that ties into the second and final thing I never got to do in the game which is experience the 7777 attack. You see, late on in the game when you've got the best or near best weapons and are hitting about 8k or whatever, there's a chance that the damage counter will land on 7777 and if it does, the character goes berserk, hitting targets with a barrage of attacks, over and over, every hit landing for 7777 points of damage...this was actually also a strategy for beating Ruby Weapon, just keep re-loading and attacking and pray you hit all the 7s....but yeah, come on, really? It can happen but that kind of defeats the point of the whole exercise, don't you think?

I didn't complete it for a long while. Another thing about me that I've talked about in the past is that I have trouble finishing things, I tend to only ever halfway complete things mostly because I get bored (though this was not the case with FFVII, if anything I just wanted to start all over again) but also because I hate completing things, I hate things that are final. I like to very much live in that moment of potential, where anything is possible and can happen and I realise how bad that is because ultimately, living like that, nothing does happen...but anyway, I did complete FFVII. I had to know what happened to Cloud and Tifa (I was all about the Cloud-X-Tifa! pfft on Aeris, pfft! nah, I like Aeris, but Tifa was special because of that loyalty thing she had going on, plus karate!) and of course, the story was great. I loved that ending, so ambiguous...FFVII:AC kinda ruined it by defining it....but yeah, I loved it...immediately started the game again, because YEAH!

So erm, yeah, I really could talk about this all day, and night, and I'm sure that I've already bored the socks off of anyone mad/bored enough to read all this, so I'm going to stop now...well, in a minute, because, and just briefly, I've got to talk about the music of Final Fantasy VII (hence the link at the, it's just really nice to listen to as you read this, is what I was thinking). The Nobuo Uematsu is a frelling genius and I can't say enough good things about him. Just listen to his FF osts, from 6 - 10 and tell me you are not moved in some way, by at least one tune....I'll probably have to talk about him and video game music at some point, well, music in entertainment in general (got a theory about cartoon intros and that) and how it changes our perception of said entertainment....ah well, whatever, that's enough for now, later taters.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Talking about Final Fantasy

Laguna was always the coolest part of Final Fantasy VIII. I mean, okay, he dumped Squall in an orphanage, but come on, Squall was always on a mood killing downer! I mean, remember when they thought Seifer was dead, and everyone's like "Sure, he was bad, but he was one of us..." and Squall is thinking to himself "Man, I wonder if this is how they'll talk about me when I'm dead....blah blah blah me me me" and then throws a hissy fit and runs away into Galbadia Garden....just one example of about a million that justify Laguna running off to be president of the most advanced and hidden society in the FF8 world!

Iono about you, but I was kinda hoping that Squall was lost in the time compression at the end of the game, stupid Rinoa, why'd you save him? I suppose she did kinda owe him one after the whole space/Adel (, Ultimecia was possessing Adel...who then possessed Rinoa....I...possessionception! must go deeper!) thing....okay, I'll give her that one. Besides, don't want his father Laguna, President of Esthar, the worlds most powerful country, and his sister Ellone, the worlds most powerful can-make-a-person-travel-back-in-time-and-live-out-their-ancestors-life-amancer (a living breathing animus?) after you knowing that you could have saved their Squall..

So yeah, I haven't ever really talked about Final Fantasy here, or anywhere, for a good long time...mostly because there hasn't been a good Final Fantasy since what, 2001? (Fuck you XI, XII, XIII, XIII-2, VIV and the soon to be released but no doubt spectacularly crap XIII-3...yeah, because that's what people want, a second sequel to the worst single player final fantasy of all time....well, except for FFV...which I'll get onto shortly) That was when Final Fantasy X came out, which, to this day, is still the only video game that has ever made me cry. (I'm not going to spoil it for you, go get the game, play it through and tell me that the end does not make you leak some liquid pride...if it doesn't, well then, you've just got no soul whatsoever) So, yeah, for that reason it's hard to talk about the newer ones because it basically degenerates into "holy fucking zombie christ! these games are terrible!" because they are, they've gone from titles centred around story telling to ones of "ooh! pretty lights! OOH PRETTIER LIGHTS!" basically, titles focused purely on graphical powers and little else, very much style over substance (though that said, they don't really have all that much style either).

So, old FF games are where it is at! My favourite? Well, and I might get some flack for this...but it has to be IX....I like it! My favourite parts in FF games were the parts where there was darkness, but it was over-masked with hope and happiness. For example, the train scenes in FF8 with Selphie, you ever look at those scenes properly? She's singing a song about how much she likes trains and how she's hoping they'll take her away and she can spend her life living on trains. It's a really happy, go-lucky kind of scene, because Selphie is the proto-typical manic pixie girl...and then you realise she wants to spend her life on trains so she can keep on moving away from her half remembered (because of those damn GFs) past in Edea's orphanage. All the characters in FF8 are like that, but it's only Selphie who overcomes it with cheerfulness. Squall becomes a stoic, Zell becomes neurotically defensive, Quistis becomes a bitch, Seifer becomes an angry man, the only other case that could be made would be for Irvine and Ellone, but even they just become detached. Selphie has a dark childhood and overcomes it by by being carefree. But that is just a part in FF8, in FF9 it is basically the entire theme. Zidane is searching for a way to find his real home, but he realises, even before the game begins, that home is where you make it, and bad things can happen to a person, but there's no reason to ever really let it get to you. The past has already happened and can't be changed, all you can do is try and make it a better future. And he does this all throughout the game. Look at when Blank sacrifices himself to save Zidane. The others want to go back in and try to save him, Zidane acknowledges nothing can be done at this point, and that going back would only end up nullifying that sacrifice, but also that he's sure there's a way to save Blank somewhere out there. It's that looking forward, instead of back, that I really admire about the game. The desire to accept the past and not let it break you down, because hey, you'll be spending most of your life in the future right?

My favourite used to be VII though, because it was the first Final Fantasy that I played, and you know what they say about first loves and all that...but yeah, I love that game, as my memory cards full of saves *just of that game* will testify to...because I don't know, it was the first RPG that I ever played, before then I'd only played platformers, or fighting games or puzzle games, games that were you know, you pick up a pad, play for a couple of hours and then you bugger off and go do something else. VII was the first game that had another "world" to explore in it. There was more to do other than go from point a to point b whilst collecting rings or coins, or screaming fatality whilst ripping out johnny cage's spine (yeah, my mum and step dad used to watch me play this, and laugh at the violence, and encourage more...I think I was six at the time....I always wanted to play Disney games, but they were like "no! you're playing mortal kombat!"...seriously...probably why I've never really been much of an MK fan). There were stories to be experienced, and secrets to be found and it was just a ridiculously rewarding adventure. And it is a cliché to say that FFVII is what got me into RPGs, but it is, and from there I went on to play all the FFs up to that point, and all of them afterwards...but the three that I just couldn't stand (the mmos aside, which I don't consider real final fantasys) are V, XII and XIII (and its sequels).

FFV, for me, was just boring. I realise that this is probably going to be the most subjective answer I'll be giving here.  It was boring and I wanted to punch the main character so bad and I don't even know why. It should've been great, it even had pirates in it! But it just wasn't, it was just a bland, by the numbers adventure and it bored the living crap out of me. I've never been able to get past the first couple of hours playing it without wanting to eat my own eyeballs out of boredom. I put it in my list of worst final fantasy's because I even cared more about the story in XIII than I did for FFVs...and that's fucking incredible, you know?

FFXII....I....hate....Ivalice....for those of you who don't know, originally Ivalice was a fucking cool setting. It was the location for both the original Final Fantasy Tactics and also one of Square's greatest titles, Vagrant Story, and originally, Ivalice was a pretty grim-dark place, full of political intrigue and was very renaissance Europe-y, but with magic instead of technology. There were all powerful churches, there were regicides and political assassinations, there were very interesting grey aligned characters who were neither all that good or all that evil either...that changed, I think originally with the release of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance on the Gameboy advance, where Ivalice became the middle east as imagined by Disney, i.e. it was full of cutesy animal-people, the political intrigue was gone, all the shades of grey morality were gone, the church was still around, but its sole function was to "judge" people, nothing deeper. It was the grossest bastardisation of a universe since Lucas decided that "you know what people really want? Fucking Phantom Menace!" and now that I think about it...that's actually probably where the desire to change Ivalice sprung from (it came out a couple of years after phantom menace). So anyway, Final Fantasy XII kept this new, bastardised version of the once great and interesting Ivalice and did fuck all to improve upon it (oh, actually, side-note, the GBA version turned out to be a kids dream, so, can be excused i suppose...however, the sequel and FF12 never contained that framing device, and the designer Nomura (not the original designer btw) has said that it's actually canon now, i.e. the real thing...fucking....yeah). And then, to compound the issue, and to allow the fight scenes to be more spectacular (it didn't really work out all that well) they took away control of the other members in your party. Yep, they fought by themselves. Sure, you could give them basic commands like "use a healing potion at 50% life" or whatever, outside of battle...but here's the thing, they came up with the idea to do so after Kingdom Hearts came out. And Kingdom Hearts did it right, their fights were manic, over the top affairs, with lots of movement, lots of action, so it made sense to relegate goofy and donald (or the disney character helping you at the time) to AI FFXII, the fights were slow and stolid, and the AI controlling your party was fucking dumber than a fox in a barrel of sardines. And the characters were laughably shit and uninteresting. The "main" character, Ashe, was basically Aladdin but without the wit, style or amusing monkey sidekick. He had all the personality of a sponge left out in the sun too long. And the entire cast were like that, with the possible exception of Balthier, who was pretty fucking pimp, I'll give them that one, but even then he was only pimp in relation to the other characters. In most other FF games, he wouldn't even be in the top 10 characters of that game.

Final Fantasy XIII...where to begin with this terrible piece of flaming shit...well, lets start off with the story because...there isn't one, well no, that's not entirely true, there is, but it is a short one and it is stretched far beyond breaking point. It's a one and a half, two hour at most movie plot that's been made to last for...I don't know. I stopped playing after the first disc because I'd spent eight hours playing and not a damned thing had happened worth mentioning...there wasn't even any dramatic hooks to keep you in there, you know, no mystery to keep you playing. Honestly, the first disc, the entire disc, felt like a bloody tutorial, and the second disc started off that way, so I just put it to one side, said "fuck it, you know, I got more entertaining shit to do" and then I went and watched the paint dry that I'd put on the grass growing in the yard. Then there were the characters, how Ali Hillis gets work is beyond me because she is the aural equivalent of kristen stewart's face...she can not alter her voice to display emotion and I get that that's meant to be Lightning's whole spiel, that she is an emotionally dead soldier, but then there's scenes where the action takes place before she's dead inside, and scenes where it's meant to show her ice heart melting, and Hillis just fucks it up, portraying it as emotionally dead as ever. You could argue that she or the director just messed up, but no, go play Mass Effect, she's the exact same way with Liara, as monotone, as void of nuance and expression as an air raid siren, just carrying on with the same tone and pitch no matter what's taking place, mistaking volume for variety....and that's one character...all the characters are like that. All incredibly limited performers who're just putting very little effort into the work, just happy to pick up the paycheck at the end of the day. Ok, so terrible story, terrible voice actors, at least the game play might save it? right? wrong. they kept the worst part of the preceding Final Fantasy which was the automated battle, but, in a twist, automated them even more! So now, you're in control of the character even less! Just what people wanted! Which is why they made a sequel! And a sequel to that! Because Square-Enix has not a solitary clue of what the fuck to do anymore! Like, have you seen what they're doing with the Deus Ex franchise? iOs games yaaay! and Legacy of Kain....multi-player title! with confirmed stripped down story and puzzle elements! woo hoo! What's really bad about it though is that their fans are vocal, very much so, and yet they deliberately antagonise them, releasing shit they don't want, or shit they do but "modernised" or "changed to fit a wider audience". It doesn't make sense to shaft your old and loyal customers to chase new ones, if you're going to change aspects of a world you do it over time, you don't burn your bridge whilst you're still on it. Anyway, whatever, moving on

Actually, before we do I've got to give a special mention to FFX-2....I actually liked this game. It wasn't a traditional final fantasy, by any means, but the characters were fun, the game style was fun, the story was amusing, and it had freaking dance numbers, whats not to like?! The ending....I mentioned before how FFX is the only game that has ever made me cry, properly, with real emotion...well, if you 100% X-2, it completely destroys the reason for the FFX ending and all its feels. Again, I won't spoil it, but if you do go and take my advice and play FFX to experience the ending, stop there, don't pick up X-2, and certainly don't play it enough to see the real ending, it just ruins the whole thing.

So originally, this was just going to be a link to that black mages song and a quip about how awesome laguna is....instead I've basically wrote an essay about how much I love Final Fantasy (and hate some of it too, lets be fair)...and that's cool, the lesson to take away from this I think is the lesson from FF9, you can't change what has been done, but you can change what you are going to do about, I really wish I hadn't said such a corny comment, but there it is, it's been done, and it's not like I can go back and delete it...well I could at this point, but nope, I'm too far gone now, it'll have to stay...anyway, I could stay and write more about final fantasy (i didn't even talk about the mmos and why they're all kinds of wrong!)...but honestly, I don't think I should have wrote this, the time its take and I don't really have the time to be wasting, but then time is fun to waste :D anyway...back to real work!

It's mad to think...

It's mad to think that it's been nine years (well, give or take a few months)...I wander where I'd be had I not crumbled think that I would not have met the people I now know, nor developed the friendships I hold dearest to me had my life gone the way I'd planned it much failure, but I guess that's how it is meant to be, you know? Plans are perfect until they're exposed to the real world, it's just....insane....who would take your place? Would anyone? What would it have been like to have gone to university on the back of the International Baccalaureate...with all that money I had....I think I'd have flunked out in the first year...I think. With what happened, and the way my head was after...well, it would have been a disaster, and with little chance of fixing. Couldn't imagine going to uni for a second time, without money, without loans, maybe it was a good thing it took me so long to pull myself back together...gave myself a chance to learn, to understand, to get over it all.

I remember when I was young, about five or so, my family went to a party, I think it was hallowe'en, or new years, or something, anyway, the party was at my step aunt and uncles because yay, extended family  but yeah, the party was going on, and everyone else is off, adults were doing adult stuff like drinking and being shits to one another, and the other children were off doing kid stuff, like playing games and being shits to one another, meanwhile, I hid. See, there was this room that we weren't allowed in, and it was naturally I stole the key and hid inside it. It was a playroom kind of area, toys, video games, comics etc. and I still don't know why we weren't allowed in there, or why it was locked, but I didn't care, I went in there, made a pile of soft toys in the corner of the room, found a book (an old batman story, can't remember much about it other than it had the penguin in it) and hid under the toys reading it. So anyway, I stayed there the whole night. People looked for me, but didn't find me, and they gave up in the end (fear my ninja skills!) but what I remember is my mum (talking to a friend) looking in the room, not finding me, then as leaving the room saying "oh don't worry, he'll turn up in the end", then they went back to drinking...the other kids didn't look. Anyway, the point of that story is that my family (well, it was only my mum and step family there to be fair to the rest of the family) suck balls. I could've been anywhere, this house was built by Jericho Lane, it was a new housing development, other houses were in the process of being built, vacant lots and power tools everywhere as well as being right by the Otterspool promenade, you know, a place with a less than stellar reputation now, but much, much worse 20 years ago (holy fuck, that's two decades ago....this story takes place two freaking decades ago?!) and all the doors, front and back were open in this house...but no, "he'll turn up in the end"...that's going to end well isn't it?!

The point of this story is that I never really had anyone care for me, well, except my Nana Betty who was great, everyone else just treated me like a chore...When I was seven, I was ran over, and had this thing called an external fixator placed on my leg. It's basically screws drilled into the bone which are fixed together by an external rod, and they're used to realign/mend fractured bones, anyway, the salient point here is that it's basically giant metal screws sticking out of my very painful and also requiring scrubbing everyday to prevent infection...for a while my mum did it, until she got bored, then I had to do it myself. You understand I was seven years old at the time. Seven year old boys don't get in the bath when they're told, try telling one to painfully swab the pus drooling open wounds on his near destroyed leg...well, I did do that. Three times a day, everyday, for about six months. The point of that story is, I was very independent...I had to be, I couldn't rely on anyone else to look after me when I was growing up (again, except for my nana betty, thank god for her)....little side note to that story, I always thought my mum was actually showing concern for me with the whole cleaning the wound thing for a while, and the wheeling me to school everyday (prior to my being bound to a wheelchair, I walked to school, since what? the age of five? after I could walk again, I walked alone again, or rather, I was forced to walk my brother and later my sister to school as well), turns out she was claiming DLA on my fucked leg...and she was making a show of being the caring put upon parent because her friend in the benefits office tipped her off that she was being monitored for potential fraud. Yeah...another side story, she had me tested for depression when I was four years old, I was actually diagnosed with depression (how shit does a household have to be for a freaking four year old to get depression...especially to be diagnosed with that in the freaking 90s!), but then my mum found out she couldn't claim benefits on the back of that (it being the freaking early 90s and that) and so stopped taking me to the therapist.

Anyway, the point to all this is I am a messed up individual who can be very anti-social, very independent, and I know that this can cause a lot of friction, make me appear haughty, or condescending even, but I'm not, I just find it very hard to be natural around people, because I don't want to push people away, even though that's what the eventual outcome is anyway, a self fulfilling prophecy....For a long time though, I blamed others, I blamed my mum, and yeah, a lot of it is her fault...but then, I should never have let it get to me. We can't choose what happens to us, only how we react to things, and I reacted pretty fucking poorly. I'm still reacting poorly, I'm getting much better though, I think, I hope. I know I'll never be fully normal, I can't be, not after how I was raised, all I can do is keep moving forward and trying to be a better person....anyway, rant over, go back to eating cheese, or ramping motorcycles or whatever it was you were doing before reading this....if you read this at all...I'll put a tl;dr at the bottom....

TL:DR, bad things happen, wah! maybe for reason? oh, I'm getting over it, hopefully, yay!

Random piece 1

Test scores in schools are down, kids simply aren't interested in learning, teachers are burnt out by ridiculous levels of bureaucratic bullshit and nonsensical policies from the state, but ladies, gentlemen, I have a solution, in fact nay, not A solution, THE solution...and it's been staring us in the face all along...

Achievement points. How many times have you heard a friend complain about how bullshit a gaming achievement is, but still stick at it, trying for hours, days if not weeks on that one problem just to improve some arbitrary "gamer-score" imagine it applied to schooling. "Congratulations! You completed 100% of homework and handed it in on time. You earn 100 School points!" "You solved an especially hard Math question, You earn 25 School points!" "I got bored thinking up examples and so you made up your own example, you earn 50 School points!"

It doesn't matter that the points are completely arbitrary and mean basically fuck all, people will strive for them all the same, and work hard for them, trying to get 100% complete education. Of course there is a potentially unethical side to this....I mean, it would basically be deceiving children and we'd end up in a society that is ultimately geared toward the pursuit of ineffectual goals that mean nothing and advance no one in the pursuit of what is societally determined as the right thing for individuals to strive for and acquire...but taht the masses have little chance of actually getting....

this started out as a piss-take, but it has become dangerously anti-capitalist all of a sudden.....

Arcade times

Remember when you were a kid and you'd go to the gaming arcade, and on every machine, every fucking machine there'd always be a dude called AAA with the high, I always wanted to meet that kid, I mean, he was obviously rich as fuck, because he could spend all day playing computer games and because of that he'd be getting perfect scores, none of this "200 193" bull shit, no, he'd always get "200 000" or "50 000" or whatever, he'd get that perfect round number every you know how hard that is? to not only soundly beat other people's scores, but then just drop the controller on that perfect score and be all like "game, you're not even worth any more of my time." Dude must have obviously been hardcore.

He had friends, BBB, CCC, DDD, sometimes EEE and FFF....I figured they were part of some travelling gang of gaming gods, all perfect scores, all top scores, on every machine....and i wanted to join them so badly, to learn their ways, to aspire to that perfection....

but then i got older, and the obvious truth dawned on me...they weren't a gang of kids playing every arcade cabinet in every arcade i'd go were obviously a group of older, jobless men (or women, lets not be discriminatory here), beards crusty with dirt (yes, the women also had beards) because all they did was play arcade games, and because they spent all their lives there they would be smelling like arcades too, that horrible bitter tang of musk and electrical, these were no gods, they were merely lost souls, addicted to clay fighter, street fighter dream warriors, gauntlet and whatever other games were in arcades during the 90s...fucking virtua cop....and not just addicted to these titles, but beset with OCD about scores, dropping out as soon as a number was reached. I felt sorry for them, but then I went about my business because things don't get done if you don't do them. Tru fax!

Once someone tried to tell me that these high scores were just programs, built into the arcade cabinets, and I told him to shut up, video games can't play themselves, let alone set the high scores...but then Final fantasy 12 came out and i was all like "ooh, i was wrong..." so I apologised most profusely...except well, I didn't, because I hadn't seen the kid in like 15 years, and it would have been very strange to have tracked him down then turned up at his door and be like "remember that argument we had 15 years ago, well, turns out you were right! well, good bye!" but if he were here, I would have, because I am as humble as I am great, which is to say very.

Anyway, back to the point, sometimes I think things that are very wrong...everyone does...and I don't mean wrong like "hey, that rabbit....would you? I totally would..." because that's a different kind of wrong altogether, I mean wrong like "I am telling you that coca cola invented father christmas! i read it on the internet! and it was on QI...probably...i have partial evidence!" but, you don't, not really....what you have is an opinion, and don't get me wrong, opinions are really fucking important, they are what define us, and that really is great...but there's a saying i really like because it's true, "we think of others what we know of ourselves", that is to say when we judge someone else we judge them according to our own world view, but that is not necessarily a correct view...the example i always think of is people trying to lose weight, they see someone else, someone skinny and it's "that bitch! why can't i be like that!" know don't put any real effort into working toward the goal, or rather, maintaining the effort required..."why can't I have that life?!" ...because you aren't willing to accept the sacrifices it requires. If you're going to be jealous of someone, you have to be jealous of everything that person has wrong with them as well as what you perceive them to have right. "oh they're so smart" yeah, that's because they read books for 10 hours a day, every day because they came from a broken home. "Oh, they're in such good shape, why can't I be like that?!" because they're exercising properly for hours and over days. "I can't believe that celebrity is moaning about whatever, if i had his/her life..." you'd be living a vacuous existence, unsure of whether your friends are really friends or people just exploiting your money and fame...

There is no life that is perfect, and it simply makes no sense to wish you were someone else because they have problems as well. You might say "well, i could deal with their problems, those are some small problems compared to mine." of course they seem like smaller problems...they're not yours, but if you had their life, then you'd be just as worried by their problems as they are now. Equally so, it doesn't make sense to chastise people for their problems and lifestyles, you don't know what they have to deal with outside of their interaction with you. You could have a very firm idea of someone in your head that is only the merest palimpsest of their actual personality, their life and responsibilities, how they feel on subjects, what they've had to deal with in the past, it would be the right view, but it would also be a very incomplete view.

Anyway, I think this all points to one thing....I really should not be allowed to drink tea, it makes me too bloody pensive and oddly hyper...which is an unusual combination I grant thee, but whatever...i guess I should really get back to work