Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Top Five: Songs That Got Stuck In My Head

  • While my beautiful wife falls in love with songs because of the lyrics, I get hooked solely based on the melodies. Many times I don't know what the words to a song are until long after I've been listening to it for days. The songs that stick with me, though, are the ones that evoke some emotional response with only the power of its sound. Here are five songs that, at one time or another, were placed on permanent repeat on whatever electronic device was nearby for days at a time. Beware: I can talk video games, comic books, movies, etc. until my lungs fall out, but I have no talent to discuss music. Fair warning.

  • The Killers, When You Were Young - The Killers have an amazing facility for writing catchy tunes. This may be one of their best. But even more than the music, the conflicting currents of hope and disappointment in the lyrics twist the song every which way. There are so many highs and lows in just a few minutes and I can't help was ride this rollercoaster over and over again.

  • MGMT, Time To Pretend - There is something to be said for great tune that is completely nihilistic. The song builds over its course so that the music is as bombastic as the lives that the singer portrays. It is a beautiful and terrible song that I cannot listen to enough.

  • Kelly Clarkson, Already Gone - I love songs that evoke melancholy and longing and this may be my favorite. Every time I hear it, I can't help but be washed over with a wave of sweet sadness. Clarkson's voice drives the emotion to powerful heights.

  • Cee Lo Green, Forget You - I'm going to admit something here. I was not listening to this version. For some reason, I'm feeling a little circumspect about embedding that video, but the two version feel very similar. Green's open aggression in the face of heartbreak is thrilling. It's everything that I would want to say were I rejected by a woman. And when he breaks down near the end, the facade fall away and you can see the pain behind his bold words.

  • OK Go, All Is Not Lost - When it comes to videos, you can't do much better than OK Go. So when the latest video came out on the Nintendo 3DS, this song hooked into my head and would not let go. If you were worried about me, All Is Not Lost stands in opposition to the songs that proceed it. Its message that we will come out the other side no matter what comes down the road. I'd not go in for hopeful songs too often, but that's because they don't connect with me the same way this does.

  • Of course, I did spend the entire time writing this post listening to Little Sister by Miracle of Sound. We'll see if it makes the next list.

  • If you are interested to see which songs my wife picked, check out her blog here.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Random Shots: Release Dates Are Big News

  • Something amazing happened over the weekend. At least six different blogs that I follow reposted the news that Star Wars: The Old Republic had a release date. I'm not reposting the date because 1) this isn't a News Filter post, and 2) you find it just about anywhere else on the Internet by now. Try one of those links above if you really don't know.

  • When I thought about writing about the release date, my first inclination was to point and laugh that so many people had so much to say about something so insignificant. On second thought, though, I think it says something about the state of MMOs and the anticipation of SWTOR in particular that so many people had so much to say about something so insignificant.

  • Where once we could count on release after release after release of new MMOs, we are now in a cycle where Triple-A games are few and far between. Sure, there are more MMOs being released now than ever before. But these are the lazy knock-offs and cash-ins that should have been cancelled years ago but somehow weren't. Only Rift stands out this year and that came out back in March. People are hungry from something new.

© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Random Shots: Your Fifteen Minutes Have Arrived

  • As I commented on Bronte's latest post, the Internet just gives and gives and gives.

  • Netflix recently announced that it was splitting up its DVD and streaming services, spinning the DVD rentals off to a new company called Qwikster. I would be indifferent to this news were it not for Jason Castillo. It turns out that someone at Netflix didn't Google the name because the holder of the Qwikster Twitter account is a stoner and a fan of Elmo. Evidently he's waiting for his payout. As Chris Remo tweeted:
    This @Qwikster affair is one of my favorite internet things to happen ever

  • And because things don't get any saner on the Internet, there was this little scuffle on the Twitter account of Mark Davidson. Evidently Mark pays ghost-tweeters to make him look good online. Only he fired one of them but didn't change his password. Hilarity, as it will, ensued.

  • And this is why I spend all day on the Internet, folks.

© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Comic Roundup: September 14, 2011

  • Things have been upside down recently, so I'm quite behind on comic reviews. I rarely get to the shop now. And when I do, I have less time to read. So I have roughly a full month of comics to go over. Better get started. In order of anticipation:

  • Mystic issue 1 - Marvel continues their renewal of the Crossgen franchises, this time with Mystic. I read very little of it in the first incarnation, but there is something winning about this version. The first issue deals with two girls who dream of escaping their orphanage to learn magic. It is a classic tale where the ending is written based on how it began. But the writing and art have me interested in how they execute it. I'm very likely to see this miniseries to the end.

  • Justice League issue 1 - The all-star team of Geoff Johns and Jim Lee take on the all-star cast of the Justice League, showing how the group came together. If I have a compliment to give it, it's that this issue reminded me of the Marvel Ultimate books. The story will obviously take its time to build, but that makes the anticipation that much greater. Assuming it holds up, there may be a second DC comic that I end up reading on a monthly basis.

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Nine issue 1 - Did you know this was happening? I certainly didn't. I lost interest in Season Eight as it went along as the story went real wacky there at the end. But considering how that series wrapped up, I was at least curious how this would go. This issue could very well just be the next issue in the series instead of a new number one. But I'm still curious what Joss does with Buffy from here. Especially since I get a strong Season Six vibe from the issue. And I intend that to be a compliment.

  • Danger Girl and the Army of Darkness issue 3 - This series continues to be the best Danger Girl since the original series. I don't know if adding Ash to the mix was required to make it good again, but some thing works.

  • Rocketeer Adventures issue 4 - As last issue in the series, it did not end on the strongest of notes, storywise. The Ashley Wood pinups at the end actually were amazing, but the stories did not live up the the great start. Nonetheless, I'm so happy that IDW has helped to bring the Rocketeer back to life with so many creative people. I'm sure Dave Stevens would be proud.

  • Warlord of Mars: Fall of Barsoom issue 2 - Like the first issue, Fall of Barsoom is an interesting take on Burroughs' world. As long as the quality keeps up, it looks like I'll keep buying Warlord of Mars books.

  • Warlord of Mars: Dejah Thoris issues 5 & 6 - Like these.

  • Warlord of Mars issue 9 - And this one too. I really hope they don't start any more series.

  • Batwoman issue 1 - I've been waiting for this comic for a long time. You could say I've been waiting since November 2010 when issue zero came out. Or you could say I've been waiting since April 2010 when her last issue in Detective Comics came out. It is worth the wait. J.H. Williams produces beautiful art with an amazing eye for how a page is designed. And his writing, alongside Haden Blackman, feels like a perfect continuation of the story that Greg Rucka started. If Batwoman fell off your radar because of the long wait, it's time to come back. (And it's time for me to fire up my Batwoman look-alike in Champions Online, I think.)

  • Criminal: Last of the Innocent issue 4 - I know that everyone love this arc, but I continue to be left cold by it. I think that it is because I lack any connection to the comics that it is referencing. It's a fine story. An interesting story, even. But it feels like I'm at arm's length from it because I'm not in on the joke. That may be my fault or the comic's. Either way, I hope that the next Criminal series speaks to me more.

© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Farewell To Ascalon: Let's Play Guild Wars - 4

  • Savich, oh my dear Savich. He was so sweet. Our love was bright, but fleeting. He could see how much I loved the gloves, but he could not meet my clothing needs. So he told me that there were others, brothers of his, who would be willing to trade for matching garments. He pointed me toward Fort Ranik and my destiny. I will never forget those ten minutes we spent together.
  • Fort Ranik is northeast of Wizard's Folly, but it is not a straightforward climb down the mountain. The path down leads through a cave full of ice elementals. Not that my Flare spell and I were in any danger. In a way, it was a very leisurely, scenic trip.
  • Have I mentioned before how beautiful this game is? Even this cave is beautiful. The game is six years old and it still holds up.
  • As we left Wizard's Folly (we being Gwen, my gloves, and I), we found ourselves on the bank of a river. Runoff from the snow flows through here out to, well, who knows where. We're nowhere near the ocean, right?

  • As we walked down the river, we were set upon by Giant Aloe Seeds. Ascalon is a crazy dangerous place. And here I thought the Charr were bad. You can't even walk through the countryside without being set upon by bandits, scales, and these freaking seeds.
  • Okay, we need to talk about naming things. Aloe Seeds are already giant when you compare them to regular seeds. Giant Aloe Seeds are not all that giant when you compare them to the already giant Aloe Seeds. Somebody has their scale set all wrong.
  • After we overcame many obstacles, we arrived at Fort Ranik. My goal was finally in sight.
  • The fort itself was rather barren. The soldiers must be out patrolling the countryside, right? Since it's so dangerous out there, right?

  • Savich's brother, Hatcher, was easy to find. He hadn't mentioned that they were identical twins. Be still, my heart. Hatcher was willing to trade a Krytan Robe in exchange for five unnatural seeds. Since I had harvested several from the Aloe Seeds, I handed them over and took my reward. The robe was more like a halter top with wings, but that's what he called it. The trip was already worth all the trouble.
  • Hatcher pointed out his other brother, Varis, also an identical twin! Three identical twins, if you can believe it. He was offering Krytan Leggings in trade for, um, something else.

  • "Did you say you wanted three spider legs?" I asked, hoping that I heard wrong.

  • "Yes, three spider legs," he replied earnestly.

  • I repressed a shiver. "Spider legs are pretty small, though, right? How about I just find you a spider and you can pick off the legs yourself."

  • "You misunderstand. I need the legs of giant spiders."

  • "Is that anything like the Giant Aloe Seed where they aren't much bigger than a regular Aloe Seed?"

  • He thought for a moment. "Yes, I believe that you are correct."

  • That calmed me down a little. "Okay. I've heard of giant spiders like tarantulas. Do you mean about that size?"

  • "Maybe a little bigger."

  • I bit my lip. I really don't like spiders. Really don't like them at all. But if I could get some nice new leggings in return for some a-little-bigger-than-tarantula spider legs, I would do it.

  • "You have yourself a deal," I told him.
  • When I left Fort Ranik, I ran across Mary Malone. The poor woman had been collecting apples, but was forced to leave her basket behind when she ran across some giant spiders. She had run all the way back to the fort and was hiding behind a tree. I told her that I would be happy to help recover her basket. And if I can find some spider legs along the way, all the better.
  • I followed the road to the south, keeping my eyes open for any spiders. The basket was sitting alone in the middle of the orchard, completely devoid of arachnids. Well, at least I can return it to Mary, right?
  • When I finally escaped the madness and dropped off the apples, I returned to Fort Ranik with spider legs for Varis to claim my prize.

  • And then I punched him square in the face.
  • Here ends part four. We are close to the end of Pre-Searing now. Next time we'll delve into the Catacombs, and then we're off to the Ascalon Academy. See you next time!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Random Shots: The Age Of The Dragon Is Over

  • I've come to the conclusion that I will never play Dragon Age II again. Not even that great song could get me to go back and play it. It was a mistake to purchase the game in the first place. And considering how little I enjoyed the first game, I regret even only having spent the twenty dollars for the game.

  • Having come to this realization, I dug back into the archives of the Gamers With Jobs Conference Call and listened to the Dragon Age II spoiler section in episode 234. I figured that I had already heard enough spoilers that going back and listening to an in depth discussion would not make matters any worse. Having listened to the podcast only cemented my decision. Although the individual character arcs seem interesting, the overall plot arc sounds like a complete mess. I'm not going to spoil the game for anyone else, but the ending sounds nonsensical.

  • I've already learned my lesson from this experience. No matter how excited everyone else is about a game, it is not worth spending the money on a game that I have reservations about. It has been some time since I have bought a new game. I do not intend to do so until something comes out that I'm looking forward to. I like getting caught up in the conversation around a new game, but playing games that I'm not excited about is no good for anyone.

  • Especially if all we get out of them are lame posts like this one.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Farewell To Ascalon: Let's Play Guild Wars - 3

  • As it turns out, there was this one guy who asked if I had a devourer egg. Something about using it to lure a worm queen and driving the vermin from a field. It's not the work of heroes. But hey, I have an extra egg, right?
  • Upon my return to Ashford, I discovered that the place was overrun with pigs. None of them tried to kill me, but they certainly did not belong here. With a little effort, I corralled them and Farmer Dirk gave me 25 gold for my trouble.
  • This pig herding event is actually a hidden quest, one of two available in Pre-Searing. I'm not aware if this mechanic is used anywhere else in the game.
  • Pitney was happy, and a little shocked, when I returned with a devourer egg. We wrapped up the worm problem without any trouble. As we returned to Ashford, Devona mentioned that she wanted to investigate the rumors that the Charr had been seen south of the wall. Since killing Charr is the reason I came to the Academy, I agreed to help.
  • Devona was right. There was a real and actual Charr roaming the path from Regent Valley. The coward ran off before we could get to him, but we finished off his Grawl buddies who stuck around.
  • Not shown: me losing my chance at the Survivor title before I get out of Pre-Searing. Pathetic.
  • Devona was quite concerned about this Charr running loose, but she knew I had business in Wizard's Folly. As I left Ashford, she told me, curiously, "Think warm thoughts." Okay.
  • Wizard's Folly, it turns out, is up in the hills. As I made my way south, I came upon this waterfall. The sound of the rushing water was so peaceful that I took a moment to catch my breath and reflect on my journey so far.
  • This waterfall, overlooking Ashford, is one of my favorite sites in Pre-Searing, much less the game. There is no real reason to come up here other to take in the view. For as game-centric as most of the environments are, ArenaNet still found a way to put in these little explorable wonders.
  • Once I got up the hill, I understood what Devona was talking about. Snow, lots and lots of snow. What she should have mentioned were all of the elementals roaming the hillside. I can't help but wonder if this wizard's folly involved making too many elementals.
  • As Gwen and I made our way up the mountain, I discovered a small, green valley untouched by the snow. Since the frost was setting into my clothing, I decided to explore a little.

  • A number of tents and wagons ringed the clearing. A merchant and various people milled around the makeshift encampment. This must be Foible's Fair, I thought. Such a fitting name for the camp, a foible in the shadow of a folly. As I looked across the camp, I saw a woman with blue hair. An elementalist for certain. I walked over and introduced myself.

  • The woman drew herself to her full height as she addressed me. "I am Ralena Stormbringer, master of the element of air."

  • "Stormbringer?" I mused. "That would be a perfect name for a Charr."

  • "Do I look like a Charr to you?"

  • "Not in the least," I replied, although her expression looked just as hateful as one of the fanged beasts.

  • "Hmm," she said as she appraised me. "You have the stink of one of those fire fetishists. Well, there is more than one element in the world, you know."

  • "Oh, I only know a Flare spell. I would love to learn more about Air Magic."

  • "Would you? Very well, listen carefully." Ralena taught me how to cast Lightning Javelin and Blinding Flash. I'm not sure how a Lightening Javelin is any better than a flare, but I smiled and kept my mouth shut.

  • Ralena also let me know that another elementalist, Aziure, was performing research up at the tower atop Wizard's Folly. She asked me to go slay the Tower Guardian using her Air Magic and rub that fact in Aziure's face.
  • Really.
  • I thought that was a little bitchy, but I wanted to see Aziure anyway. If I could wipe out a guardian on the way, more fun for me. With Gwen in tow, I set out for the top of the mountain. We found the tower surrounded by earth and ice elementals. The guardian was easy to spot and easy to kill. It ignored all of the rampaging elementals, but it made a beeline right for me when I came into view. Not surprising really.

  • The amiable Aziure was quite happy to have the guardian gone. In fact, she even asked if I would help her with her research.
  • It turns out that she wanted me to help by acting as a bodyguard. Since I am just a novice, she taught me how to cast a Fire Storm and the Glyph of Lesser Energy.

  • Aziure began casting her Ward Against Harm which immediately drew the attention of all of the elementals in the area. As she taught me, I covered the area with Fire Storms and the elementals melted away. Take that, Ralena!

  • Her task complete, Aziure gave me her thanks and went about her way. Without teaching me how to cast the ward. To make sure the day was not a complete waste, I collected the various lodestones that had energized the elementals. Some sorcerer would find a use for them.
  • As we walked down the mountain, we passed a shrine where an odd man was waiting. "Hail, good lady," he called to me. "I was hoping you might help me. My name is Savich and I am in need of icy lodestones to help a friend. I have no money, but I could trade you these gloves which are too delicate for my rough hands. If you have the time, I will share with you a tale that will..."

  • "Shhh, shhh," I said to him, reaching out to take his hands. "You had me at gloves."
  • And here ends this episode. For a second time because Blogger ate the first version. You might think that having a second go would let me polish the story, but mostly I'm just annoyed. At least it's done.

    Join us next episode when Khilesia says "AAAAAAHHHHHHHH!" See you next time!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Random Shots: Gaming Superstitions

  • As promised by Nintendo, the 3DS Ambassador Program has gone live and the ten NES games are now available. I played and enjoyed a number of those games back when they first come out. In fact, one of the first things I did when we moved into the new house was hook up my Nintendo and slap in The Legend of Zelda.

  • As I fired up the games, memories came rushing back to me. Zelda, Zelda II, Metroid, and more. I can't wait to relive these classics on my fancy little handheld.

  • As I've played through these games so far, I find that I've fallen into the same patterns as before. There was an unspoken rule that I always followed. Whenever an item drops, I take the time to pick it up even if my energy/hearts/missiles/bombs are full.

  • Somewhere along the time, I came to the conclusion that if I passed up a power up I did not need, I would not receive a power up later when I really needed it. It's almost as though there is some gaming god who would punish me for turning away from their gifts. And even though I know that item drops are decided by a random number generator, I still follow this old behavior. I doubt that I could overcome this superstition even if I wanted to.

  • Are there any gaming superstitions that you still observe?

© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Played Lately: Panzer Corps: Wehrmacht

  • In a moment of weakness, I started the main campaign, 1939 - Early Blitzkriegs, on the Easy difficulty. I tell myself that I just want to see all of the scenarios that I wouldn't be able to reach under a real difficulty and that I'll go back later and try the other campaigns on Normal or harder. In reality, I just like things easy.

  • Panzer Corps: Wehrmacht starts with the invasion of Poland. It was hear that I discovered how the difficulty is implemented. All of the opposing units are at half strength. So while combat is not super tense, I still has to plan my attacks to insure that I'm not taking costly casualties. Even as I took my time, I easily rolled over all of the objective cities and reached Warsaw well within the allotted time.

  • I followed the conquest of Poland with an invasion of Norway (quite a maneuvering challenge), the Low Countries, and finally into France. My troops bowled over the defenders quite satisfactorily and with plenty of turns to spare. I would like to say that the lack of challenge was no fun, but I did enjoy myself immensely. Next up will be the 1940 launch of Operation Sea Lion to take over England. On a normal difficulty, I probably wouldn't see the mission outside of the scenario menu.

  • That said, the farther I go, the more I'm interested to see if I really have the mettle to take on a fully equiped opponent. I may do well, but I hope to surprise myself. But I'm not ready to do it yet. I have a world to conquer first.

© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.