Introduction (aka about this journal)
Hello and welcome. This is, fairly obviously, my online journal / blog / whathaveyou. I write about all sorts of things, including games, movies, and my cute nephew and niece. Come, put up your metaphorical webtravelling shoes; won't you have a read for a while?

I am also on Facebook. I have yet to work out a good and proper Facebook / Livejournal balance.
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Dec. 10th, 2014 @ 06:31 am A Dear Joe letter
Another crosspost from Facebook, because that's about the only way this ever gets updated these days. Le sigh. Anyway, here's something inspired by Australian politics.

Dear Joe,

Our relationship has problems. You're a "gunna" - you say you're going to do things, you promise the world, it all sounds a bit far-fetched to be honest, and then on top of that you never follow through.

But then you go and make it worse! Whenever I try to talk to you about your pie-in-the-sky ideas and how you never do them anyway, you always start talking about my ex. Seriously? I haven't gone out with the guy in more than a year. I'm over him, Joe, but you don't seem to be. Stop talking about him, and please start talking about us.

With love (I think),
The Australian People
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Dec. 9th, 2014 @ 09:39 pm Alienware 14 screen troubles
(Facebook/LJ crosspost)
Well, this past month has been bloody annoying. The screen on my Alienware 14 laptop suddenly went all weird. It would flicker cyan and purple and the top of the display would end up on the bottom of the display as well. (Makes using the start bar an exercise in faith when you can't see it!) Shutting and opening the lid would more often than not just result in a black screen, but very occasionally would make the screen fix itself.

I dreaded the screen turning off, and any time I would have to restart the computer. I knew I would have a massive battle just to get the screen working again.

The problem being so intermittent made me wonder what the cause could be.

I've been looking online to find out what was going on, and kept on finding wildly different answers, many of which were quite expensive! But the solution seems a lot simpler than dodgy cables or dodgy LCD screens - the driver! NVidia's latest driver seems to be the problem. After rolling back to the previous driver, I was able to restart the computer without the screen going wonky.

Here's an example of the screen flickering:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eaqRaqBqwog
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May. 2nd, 2014 @ 08:08 am Archiving here for posterity
The DVD's out on the shopfloor
I don't have to wait for it anymore
Who knew it would take this so so very long?

For months I've waited for this day
April thirtieth, on DVD and Blu Ray
Finally the day and DVD are heeere

But there aren't any special features
It is totally strange
I'm still not ready for the Blu Ray change

For the first time in forever
Frozen's on DVD, to own
For the first time in forever
I can buy it and take it home

Don't know if I'm elated or gassy
But I'm somewhere in that zone

'Cause for the first time in forever
I can see Frozen at home!

I can't wait to see everyone again! Anna, Kristoff, Sven and Olaf, and... Ooh, Elsa!

(Something I came up with yesterday... I'm posting this here before Facebook deletes it.)
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Feb. 9th, 2013 @ 04:36 pm One thought (amongst many) on the Wii U
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I still don't have a Wii U. I don't know if I'll get one. An awesome new Metroid game might make me get one. Mario... eh. There's a demo unit at a nearby Target store, and I played a couple of levels of the New Super Mario Brothers U demo. It is kinda fun, but I stopped 'getting' Mario quite some time ago. I still have to finish Super Mario Galaxy one.

Blasphemy, I know.

(Since I'm in a blaspheming mood, I'll also that I preferred Nero in DMC4, I didn't like Bayonetta at all, and the main reason I would get the new DmC Devil May Cry is because I'd like to see what Ninja Theory did with the story and storytelling.)

But what I really wanted to talk about was the new controller, and something interesting I saw when this little boy was playing the Mario demo. He wasn't looking up at the TV screen with its fancy "Mario's now in HD!" graphics. Instead, he was looking down at the screen on the controller.

At first I thought this was just another example of how Nintendo has lost the plot, but my brother had another idea. He said his 4-year old son just doesn't get games being on the TV. They have an Apple TV setup in their house, which means that my nephew could, if he was interested, put Angry Birds or Jetpack Joyride or Cut the Rope on the big TV. But whenever his dad does this for him, he's not interested. Instead he wants to look down at the iPad, where he can touch and swipe the screen and make funny things happen. (And sometimes ask, "did the Angry Bird just die?!?")

The little boy at Target playing NSMBU and looking at just the touchscreen? This is probably because playing games on the iPad and iPhone are what he's used to. Like my nephew, he probably doesn't get games being on the TV either.

Suddenly the touchscreen controller of the Wii U, and the fact you can play games on the controller while others use the TV, makes sense. This is so that Nintendo can target the next generation of gamers, and have the touchscreen control that they're so used to, included right from the beginning of the Wii U.

I understand that Microsoft is looking at some sort of integration with smartphones, and Sony would be mad not to. Smartphones have exploded onto the casual/portable gaming scene in the past few years. To completely ignore them would be mad. However, Nintendo is far in advance, and has an integrated touchscreen controller with their new console.

If Nintendo can pull this off they will do massively well. They've got a ways to go - for example, NSMBU has very little touch controls involved.

The sticking point is, well, us, the gamers who are used to playing non-casual games on the TV with the console under it. We want fancy HD graphics and surrond sound and the abiltiy to frag our friends online in AAA summer blockbuster Call of Modern Warfare's Duty Special BLOOPS games filled with chest-high walls. We don't want touchscreen kiddie stuff.

Apparently. After all, I never really got into Dante or Bayonetta or the chest-high wall craze. What do I know about modern gamers and what they like?
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Feb. 8th, 2013 @ 12:12 am In Assassin's Creed 2 I have seen THE TRUTH! (Drumroll)
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It took me a while but I tracked down all the Truth glyphs and was able to decode them and barely sometimes had to look things up on the Internet. (I hadn't been to Florence for a while and found it very difficult to match Italian names to actual locations.) And some of those photo hunts were practically impossible. Still, I was able to use my own brain to solve some of them, including that final passcode.

The stories you come across while unlocking all these: Holy crap.

The "missing link" you read through in the final decoding session: Holy crap!

The video you get after decoding everything: (Neo) Whoa. (/Neo)
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Feb. 7th, 2013 @ 06:51 pm Assassin's Creed 2
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So there I was, writing reviews and review-type things in Livejournal every day! For a few days, then suddenly I stopped.

"Sigh," I imagine the audience saying, "this is Steve dropping off the face of the planet again."

Actually, it was just me finally playing Assassin's Creed 2, a few years late. More detailed thoughts on AC2 may come later. For now, I still have to finish the game! I'm close to the end (about ready to go to Rome), have all the codex pages, have the armor of Altair, have almost all the weapons, have all the paintings, etc. I'm going to finish the Truth glyphs first, then finally move on to Rome.

It's been even longer since I played the first AC, so it's difficult to compare accurately. In the first game, I don't remember Altair having much personality or character (apart from starting as an arrogant kung-fu guy), it was certainly extremely formulaic, and the end of the game had me scratching my head.

In comparison, Ezio's a definite character, the game mixes things up a lot rather than stick to a formula for each target, and the game is being very helpful in filling in the confusing background.

But then this will be old news to almost everyone.
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Jan. 28th, 2013 @ 08:11 am It is the coming of the rain, once again
For a moment there after waking up it sounded like the impossible had happened and the rain had stopped! Then came the sound of the wind and the rain again. Ah, but it is good to dream...

Not looking forward to the oncoming flood. It doesn't matter if it's not going to be "nearly as bad as it was two years ago", my electric power substation is *right* next to a creek and will likely go poof. When this happened two years ago I was without power for 5 days.

My work building is right next to the Brisbane River *and* a creek *and* the area is expecting some flooding. Can't help but wonder what's going to happen there, too.
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Jan. 25th, 2013 @ 05:27 pm The lifecycle of a genre
A long time ago - 10 years or more - I saw something on a message board or webpage somewhere about the lifecycle of a genre. It went roughly as follows:

1) A new game comes along that defines or defines a genre. With fighting games this was Street Fighter 2. For modern graphical MMORPGs this was probably Everquest. For MMOFPSes this was Doom. For adventure games this was Adventure. And so on.

2) and 3) Lots of copying and innovation goes on and the genre matures. People remember the first game with rose-tinted glasses, but realise that they’re a bit clunky to the Really Cool Things that are happening in the genre right now.

4) Saturation – There are far too many games in the genre. There’s little innovation left, and the new bells and whistles being added to new games in the genre just add increasing amounts of complexity that drive away newcomers.

(For example! Capcom vs SNK 2. I loved this game but it was a clear example of Saturation. This was a crossover fighting game between the two big heavyweight companies of its day, with oodles and oodles of complex systems and a bunch of characters with complicated histories. When choosing characters, you had to choose how many characters you wanted on your team and how powerful each one was. Then you had *six* different game modes, which you had to carefully choose based on which characters were in your team. Then once in the game proper you had a bunch of meters to watch, and one of the more complicated and newbie-unfriendly combo systems of the time to deal with.)

5) Decline – After a while, lots of the old guard are leaving, the genre has lots of little quirks and oddities and conventions that make it impenetrable for newcomers to join in, and the whole thing thing stutters to a stop, or goes into a very low output ‘maintenance mode’.

(You might call the above common sense, but as we all know common sense is not very common these days. It was predecased by its cousin common courtesy long ago and is survived by its annoying sibling the common cold.)

At the time I saw this, it was in the context of fighting games, which were clearly going down the gurgler at the time. I've just been reminded of this because of an article I saw on the decline of MMOPRGs. (http://unsubject.wordpress.com/2012/12/20/the-single-biggest-problem-facing-mmos-today/)

I'm posting this here so I can have it on LJ and link back to it later. It would have really helped if I'd posted this on LJ years earlier, when I might have been able to remember who to thank for the above lifecycle.
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Jan. 24th, 2013 @ 08:26 pm Wrecking it, old-school style
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Australia has this Boxing Day thing that happens with movies. If a big name movie is coming out around the end of the year, then there's a very good chance that we'll get it on Boxing Day. This is to catch all the people who've stuffed themselves silly on food and alcohol on Christmas Day and can barely do anything more than drag themselves to the cinema on the next day.

I had three Boxing Day movies last year, Wreck-It Ralph, The Hobbit: An unexpected journey, and Les Miserables. It took me a while, but I eventually saw all of them. My favourite was Wreck-It Ralph.

Warning: Probable spoilers for Wreck-It RalphCollapse )

Next up: The end of Amazing Spider-Man, which went for 700 comics, and the beginning of Superior Spider-Man. Or possibly some thoughts on the Wii U. I might even write about the recent Les Miserables movie, which as I understand is only recently released in the US. I haven't decided yet. Or maybe all at the same time, because I don't know if I'll post anything tomorrow night.
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Jan. 23rd, 2013 @ 12:52 pm Operation Post More: v2.0: #3: The Hobbit: An unexpected trilogy
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Yes, I'm reviewing the first The Hobbit movie. Because I can. I might be mentioning stuff that happens later on in the book and will likely happen later in the movies, and so theoretically I should say that there are spoilers ahead. But really, the book is 80 years old. Do I really need to put in spoilers for a book that's 80 years old?

Reviews of The Hobbit: An unexpected Journey seem to comment a lot on the fact that a 300-ish page book is being stretched out to cover 3 movies. "Far too padded out" and "far too stretched" and "oh my god the beginning bit in the Shire takes FOREVER" are mentioned. "How on earth is this possible!" and "This offends my sensibilities" and "This offends my wallet" and "They're doing this for the money the dirty moneygrubbing bastards!" seem to be implied.

If you ask me, that's not the real problem. The main issue is that originally, The Hobbit is very much a kid's book. Tolkien did some edits to The Hobbit later on, to tie it in better with Lord of the Rings, but it is still at heart a kid's story.

  • Rather than an epic quest to save the world from a terrible foe, the quest is to help some dwarves get their gold back.
  • A tense showoff between Bilbo and a vicious nasty little creature who wants to eat him is solved by a game of riddles (and then some running away).
  • The One Ring at first comes across as a Deus Ex Machina - it lets Bilbo turn invisible right when he needs to be invisible.
  • The eagles come across as another deus ex machina, rescuing everyone right in the nick of time.
  • There's a major battle at the end of it all along with a very angry dragon, and Bilbo's asleep for a lot of it and the dragon is felled by a guy who's a crack shot with an arrow.
  • There's not that much distinction between the dwarves, because it's only really Thorin that's important.
  • Bombur is the designated buttmonkey and keeps on being made a fool of.
  • The plot comes seems very "this happened and they got through it (because Gandalf saved the day) then this next thing happened and they got past it (because Bilbo was clever) then this next thing happened and they got past it (because the Eagles saved everyone) then they got to the end of the quest and the day was saved, yay Bilbo (and dwarves)!" It's really suited to reading one chapter a night to your kids right before bedtime.

No, I'm not trying to say The Hobbit is bad. I'm just saying it's very obviously a kid's book.

The movie tries its best to be Darker and Edgier, but at heart it's still the same kid's story. All those things I mentioned in that list? They have to be there, otherwise it's not The Hobbit, but in being there the movie comes across as still a bit kiddie and twee. It's a bit like a kid trying oh so very hard to be a grown-up.

I should mention the violence and fighting. It gets pretty nasty. Heads and limbs go flying, dwarves are burnt alive by a dragon, an attempt at killing an orc swiftly and silently goes awry and is messy and noisy, the Great Goblin is eviscerated onscreen, Gollum beats and kills a goblin (and eats it?) offscreen, the dwarves are almost cooked by the trolls (but fortunately get better)... it's all pretty scary, and would give the kiddies nightmares for weeks! So a movie that feels like a kid's movie trying to be grown-up (and not quite succeeding) can't be shown to kids. There's something deeply ironic there.

The dwarves
The dwarves are far more than just "Thorin and the other 12 dwarves" this time. Being a movie helps a *lot* in this regard. They all have distinctive looks, and there are little throwaway lines that help establish, if not personality, at least character quirks. They have cool beards.

I really like Balin, the old white-haired one with the long forked beard. Possibly because he's one of the dwarves that speaks and does more than the others.

Bombur, sadly, doesn't have any speaking lines (that I can remember, anyway) and the movie still makes fun of him and how fat he is.

I'm hoping that in the next two movies, the dwarves will become more distinctive.

Epic riddle battles of history
So yeah, Bilbo gets lost under the Misty Mountains, picks up this strange ring, meets this curious vicious little creature that wants to eat him, and has a game of riddles with it. Which he cheats on to win.

I can't remember how much "running for his life from Gollum" was in the book, but I rather like how in the movie, they start with the riddle game, but then it escalates at the end anyway. Because seriously, if there's a nasty vicious little creature that wants to eat you, asking it a riddle it can't solve isn't really going to save you. Especially if you cheat and the riddle is, "what do I have in my pocket?"

If by some chance you don't know what the One Ring is, then I suppose the "it makes you invisible!" revelation almost comes across as a Deus Ex Machina, until you remember Gollum reaching for it (and not finding it).

On reflection, I quite like how the movie handles "Riddles in the Dark". I have only one annoyance. In the movie, Bilbo actually *does* work out the "time" answer by himself, instead of getting it by accident. Is this because he's the Designated Hero?

Added stuff
We get to see Radagast the Brown and the White Council and the Witch King of Angmar and The Necromancer. We learn that Gandalf is in on all this because he wants to remove Smaug from the reckoning of things, and why he's helping out the regular people of Middle-Earth.

We get to see a segment about the dwarves and their history and the coming of Smaug.

It all helps give a bit of context to the story, rather than have it be just a quest to get the dwarves' gold back from a dragon.

The Battle of the Five Armies at the end of the story should be exciting, given that the team behind the movies has had lots of practice at bringing big battles to the big screen. I can't help but wonder if Bilbo will be asleep for it in the movie version?

Overall...
...I still liked it. It's The Hobbit, which I read a lot when I was a kid, and it's Middle-Earth, and I have *got* to see the battle of the Five Armies and Bard taking on Smaug, so I'll be watching the next two movies.

Next up is Wreck-It Ralph.
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