Saturday, July 13, 2013

Let's Play Hotline Miami

The Steam Summer Sale is in full swing, and I picked up Hotline Miami for just $2.49. I'm not sure why it took me so long to finally play it, but based on what I'd heard about it, I thought it might make for a good LP video to record my first half hour or so with it.

Towards the end, I pretty much go completely, violently insane. So I think we'll call this a success.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Fridays are Magic: Recasting FFVI, Part One

Pretty light posting this week, huh? (And by that I mean, zero posting whatsoever.) In my defense, I had midterms to deal with and didn't really have a chance to get out do anything worth writing a blog post on. But now it's Friday again, and it is my solemn duty to write something about ponies.

FiMFlamFilosophy is a name a lot of bronies might be familiar with. He's the mind and voice behind The Mentally Advanced Series and Rainbow Dash Presents, one of the two big Friendship is Magic abridges series' and a semi-animated, goofy retelling of some of the fandom's more messed-up fanfics, respectively. TMAS is a bit of an acquired taste--it takes a little getting used to the fact that one guy is voicing all of the female characters, and the humor is so dry it could be used as kindling--and RBDP relies on quite a bit of outside knowledge of the fandom, but as a member of both target audiences, I highly recommend checking them out.

Recently, he's been playing through Pony Fantasy VI, an overhaul of my favorite game of all time, Final Fantasy VI (or III, on the SNES in America), only with the main cast replaced by ponies. Combining colorful pastel equines with the greatest JRPG of all time should be right up my alley, and yet the more I see, the more frustrated I'm getting. Ponies and FF6 were never going to fit all that well together, but for all the effort the game's creator obviously put into making custom sprites and rewriting tons of dialogue, time and again he seems to have forsaken chances at doing something clever in favor of pushing some obnoxious bit of fanon or referencing a meme.

It's frustrating to watch, but Flam's done a damned good job already going through the game and pointing out its flaws. No, I'm not interested in critiquing Pony Fantasy VI; I'm just curious if a good story could have been made out of it at all.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Fridays are Magic: Adventure Edition!

I've been playing D&D for a little over a decade. I've been reading D&D books for far longer, but I didn't actually start playing until after high school, when I moved across the country and needed to build some sort of social structure to avoid turning into a crazed hermit (rather than the normal kind I became instead). I've played 3rd Edition, 3.5, 4E (and may I never have to play that again), and various spinoffs like d20 Modern or SpyCraft. I've also played a few other systems, like Vampire: The Masquerade and Legend of the Five Rings, though not nearly as many as I would actually like to.

Of late, though, my gaming group has finally settled on a single gaming system that we can all agree is pretty fun: Pathfinder, Paizo's revamp/overhaul of the D&D 3.5 ruleset into something bigger, better, and more fun than its predecessor. Pathfinder streamlines a lot of 3rd Edition's more complex oddities, introduces a few new ideas that add a lot of fun and value to the game, and comes complete with a setting vast and varied enough to contain any campaign idea you can think of, somehow without homogenizing everything into a bland soup like the Forgotten Realms. It's good stuff.

In seemingly unrelated news, a bit of boredom led to my discovery that some generous soul had taken the old program HeroMachine--a free, Flash-based costume designer/paper doll thingee my group had long used to create quick, cheap, and rather goofy-looking portraits for our characters--and updated it to a new version, with tons of new features and customization options. I immediately set about sinking far too many hours into it, hoping to learn its secrets and use this newfound power for my own nefarious purposes. To do this, I needed characters that I could design. Being a brony, well, it didn't take long to figure out who.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Weekday Review: White House Down

John McClane and President Barack Obama
in: Die Hard 4.
Hey, did you know that there was a new Die Hard movie?  It's pretty good. It's definitely a throwback to the original in a lot of ways; there's a single location that gets explored throughout the movie to give it a real sense of place, there's a lone badass-but-not-superhuman action hero dealing with a broken marriage and a strained relationship with his kid, and a crew of highly specialized bad guys (and a bunch of grunts) whose actual goal is slowly revealed throughout the movie. There aren't any cars being launched into helicopters, no one ever cruises through a city while hanging onto the wing of an F-16, and the action--while fun and exciting--never really strays all that far from reality (save for our hero's remarkable Constitution score).

I mean, it's not officially a Die Hard movie, but it's the closest we're going to get to a sequel. I mean, it's not like they're still making those.  I wouldn't complain if they did, of course, but they'd probably just turn them into stupid, mindless action flicks with none of the charm or uniqueness that made the original such a classic, and that would be terrible.

No, the movie's actually called White House Down. It stars Channing Tatum as John McClane. Er, John Cale. John's recently returned from Afghanistan after enlisting to flee his failing marriage, and is working as a bodyguard for the Speaker of the House in Washington, D.C. He wants to join the actual Secret Service, mainly because he thinks it might score points with his 11-year-old daughter and future PoliSci major, Emily, who has a few issues with her dad thanks to him running off to the other side of the world for eight years. The two of them are touring the White House when a team of Totally Not Blackwater mercenaries, white supremacist sociopaths, and treacherous, Arab-hating Secret Service agents launch a coup against President Barack Notobama, played by Jaime Foxx.

Yup, it's a Die Hard movie.
The rest of the film is, as I've alluded, Die Hard. John Cale creeps around the White House, up and down elevator shafts and through every window the place has, taking out the bad guys one or two at a time and slowly building up a respectable arsenal. There's a hacker set up in the heart of the complex, with a big ol' timer counting down to the completion of some objective.  The leader of the coup exchanges threats and demands with John's helpful friend on the outside who is constantly shackled by imposing authority figures (Maggie Gyllenhaal). One of the hostages with a personal connection to him (Emily, played by Joey King) eventually has that connection exposed by incautious reporters, and she's used as bait to draw him out. Eventually, our bloody and battered hero manages to whittle down the bad guys' ranks, he takes out the Big Bad in some suitably hilarious and awesome way, and then he's reunited with his family after finally earning their love and respect.

There's copying Die Hard's template, and then there's copying Die Hard. I'm not sure where the line is, but this movie is hovering right over it.

There are differences, of course, mainly in the addition of a secondary heroic lead in the form of Django himself, Jaime Foxx. His character--President Sawyer--is probably the main reason you might have heard of this film.  He is, with absolutely zero subtlety or attempt at concealment, President Barack Obama. Literally casting the President--any President, really, save perhaps for Teddy Roosevelt--as the hero of an action flick is undoubtedly going to draw controversy, but when it's this already extremely controversial President, well, there's a bit of discomfort.

I'm going to need to talk politics just for a bit, in the interest of full disclosure. I've voted for President Obama twice, and I have never regretted it. I do not agree with him on every issue, nor do I think he hasn't made any serious missteps. However, I think many of his detractors severely underestimate the scope of the challenges and opposition he has faced every moment since coming to office--hell, since winning the election. I also think he's a good person; a politician, to be sure, guided by pragmatism and political reality before all else, but a basically decent human being. So, yes, the high concept of "President Obama with a rocket launcher takes on Blackwater, the KKK, and Dick Cheney" is pretty much all I needed to hear to be sold on this movie.

Pictured: the movie this should have been.
That said, President Sawyer's role isn't actually as superheroic as one might have been lead to expect. He's not a fighter; the two scenes of him doing action-y stuff in the trailer are pretty much it. That isn't to say that he's weak or useless; he's smart, reasonably athletic, and keeps a cool head in a crisis. Mostly, he's John Cale's sidekick, but he still has plenty of chances to show his own, quieter brand of courage.

It's also worth noting that one of the Bad Guys is an ex-NSA hacker turned anti-authoritarian anarchist. Given one of the big stories in the news the last few weeks, this is honestly kinda spooky. They even look alike. I don't know if discussing the similarities to Edward Snowden are a very good idea, especially considering that my own views are apparently deeply unpopular, though, so perhaps I should just let this paragraph end.

And, well, that's really all I've got to say. I enjoyed the film quite a bit, even if it wasn't quite the President Django vs. the World movie I was hoping for, and even if it was extremely derivative of Die Hard. I mean, there are far worse films to rip off, and I'm glad to see that someone's trying to bring the series back to life.

God, just imagine if they tried to keep making new ones with Bruce Willis. They'd probably give all the movies really stupid pun titles, too. Thank goodness Hollywood just let that dead horse lie.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Fridays are Magic: Fan Fiction

"Would you like to read my Lyra/Bon-Bon adventure 'fic?"
Way back when I started this blog (a whole not-quite-two-months ago!), I mentioned offhand that I've written Friendship is Magic fan fiction. As with most aspects of my broniness, I was initially really embarrassed by this, and it took a lot of... I don't want to say "courage," but something sort of like it... to come clean about what I was doing. I wasn't writing weird stuff or anything like that--no clop, thank you--but it seemed very, very strange to me that, after years of lethargy, the muse that finally inspired me to start writing again was a cute cartoon show for little girls.

As I've mentioned, I find FiM's world to be really fascinating. The show rarely goes into the history of the setting, but a lot can be extrapolated from the things we know and occasional glimpses into the past. The story of "Hearth's Warming Eve" shows us that, long ago, the earth ponies, pegasi, and unicorns lived in separate and culturally diverse realms. They eventually united to found Equestria, and some indeterminate time after that, Celestia and Luna came to rule it. During their reign, they came into conflict with a chaotic demigod named Discord and sealed him in stone. And, eventually, Luna was turned to the Dark Side by a shadowy force known as "Nightmare" and launched an ultimately failed coup against her sister.

Behold, the savage beastmaster.
A few other bits of setting detail hint at the past. The literal Gates of Tartarus exist--within a few days' gallop of Ponyville, no less--and are said to contain many of Equestria's greatest foes. The season three premiere featured King Sombra, the ruler of a once-powerful empire who used his sorcery to trap his subjects outside of time and space, becoming a creature of smoke and shadow in the process. Ancient pegasi certainly seemed to have a Spartan aesthetic, and we've seen at least three monsters straight out of Greek myth: griffons, hydras, and minotaurs. Are they related? Is there a common history between them? There are zebras, their culture apparently based on African shamanism; where do they come from?  There are mules and donkeys and cows that all seem to have human-level intelligence; what is their role within Equestrian society?

These questions aren't likely to be addressed within the show itself.  Some of them might be, eventually; the answers to almost all of them are, apparently, contained in the show bible Lauren Faust created several years ago. But for every question you could think to ask, you can bet that a fan of the show has already come up with an answer, and some of those answers might be better than even Faust's.

Quite frankly, from a world-building perspective, fanfiction is magic.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Crusader Kings II!

Paradox: great at making strategy games,
not great at making box art.
Guys, I think I might have a problem. After failing to get its hooks into me several times, Paradox Interactive's grand empire building/role playing/history simulating sandbox of insane proportions, Crusader Kings II, has pulled me into its gaping maw and swallowed me whole, and I'm too busy trying to keep my burgeoning young empire together to care.

Crusader Kings II is a hard game to love. It's obtuse and cluttered with menus that give you too much information and too little context. Hours of carefully-planned gameplay can be shattered in a heartbeat by a formerly loyal subject's sudden revolt, or a declaration of war handed down by a bigger, meaner kingdom.  The tutorial is a bad joke, and despite a surprisingly complex military simulation running under the hood, combat almost always boils down to who brought the most dudes.

I bought the game on a series of passionate recommendations and after reading a really cool Let's Play/chronicle on PC Gamer.  After around ten hours of bashing my head against it over the course of a weekend, I gave up.  Over the next few months, I reinstalled it a few more times, hoping to crack through the chitinous outer shell and into the meaty goodness within, but to no avail.  I'd pretty much written it off as one of those supposedly great games that I was just never going to be able to appreciate.

And then the latest DLC expansion for the game, The Old Gods, came out.  TOG adds a ton of new features, including an earlier start date and a revamped technology system.  Most importantly, it adds vikings, and all sorts of mechanics to let you be the bearded, mead-swilling pillager you always wanted to be.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Weekend Review: Equestria Girls

"Our movie didn't suck!"
That... was actually kind of good.

I just got back from seeing Equestria Girls--literally, I just walked in and sat down, and am trying to tank some cat aggro while I type. Only one theater here in town was playing it, and with only two showings. It's kind of odd how small of a deal it actually was, theatrically-speaking, considering it's been such a constant source of arguments and discussions among the brony fanbase. The rest of the world was lining up for Monster University or World War Z, while I was packed into a theater with a hundred or so enthusiastic (and somewhat obnoxious) male fans of the show and a small handful of children.

And I've got to tell you, I didn't want to go. I woke up this morning and gave very serious consideration to just turning off my alarm and going back to sleep. I was worried that when I got there, I'd find myself surrounded by bronies who hadn't gotten the memo on that whole "ambassador for the fandom" thing, wearing costumes and having long-winded, high-pitched conversations about some weird aspect of the show's mythology that would leave everyone around them with the impression they were either insane or seriously autistic.

There were those guys--I sat directly in front of them, to my dismay--but for the most part, people seemed sane and rational aside from their willingness to plunk down five bucks to see an animated film about cartoon ponies.

But, you ask, what about the actual movie?

Friday, June 21, 2013

Fridays are Magic, Except for This One!

Hey there, everybody. No Fridays are Magic post today, I'm afraid. I've got a topic I could write about, but I'm also planning to see Equestria Girls tomorrow, and my review of that should more than fill my pony quota for the week.

Instead, I'd like to share something semi-pony-related that was drawn for me by my sworn brother, Morgan King. Some time ago, a post on Facebook posited the idea that, if the universe is infinite and there are an infinite number of universes, then there are an infinite number of worlds where your favorite characters watch shows or play video games about you. I was kind of amused at this idea, and extrapolated it a bit further.

"Somewhere, there's a universe where Edgar Roni Figaro, Donatello, Twilight Sparkle, and Frog are collaborating on a fanfic about me."

Yesterday, Morgan sent me this, and it is completely freaking awesome.

See you tomorrow, folks!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Weekday Review: Man of Steel

The Grand General of Meh.
There's a character in Koei's Dynasty Warriors series called Lu Meng.  His most interesting attribute is always how completely and utterly average he is.  He's a decent fighter; he does decent damage, has decent defenses, and a decent moveset.  His appearance is always aesthetically pleasing, if unremarkable, and his voice acting and writing is always serviceable without being particularly noteworthy.  He is, essentially, the embodiment of "eh, not bad."

(As a note, the actual Lu Meng--the historical, or rather, "historical" version--is actually one of the more interesting and admirable characters in the Three Kingdoms saga.  It's just his video game incarnation that's decidedly slightly-above-average.)

My unofficial brother and I have long used "Lu Meng" as an adjective to describe things that weren't particularly good, but weren't really bad, either.  I've seen a few other attempts to describe that particular brand of mediocrity elsewhere; Young Justice coined the term "whelmed," and there's always the old standby of "well, you know, it was okay, I guess."

Man of Steel was, for me, decidedly Lu Meng.

That isn't to say that it was bad, not by any means.  There's a lot to like here, and some of the complaints about the movie being too grim or too "Nolan-y" are unfounded.  The movie certainly has a serious tone, and there isn't a lot of humor to be found, but it never seemed like a depressing slog of tragedy and violence.  Superman may not crack jokes, but he does act like Superman: he isn't resentful, he doesn't bear those less powerful than him any real ill will, and he goes out of his way to save the lives of those around him... even when they were just shooting at him.

Perhaps the movie's greatest strength is Henry Cavill, who plays the eponymous Man of Steel.  Cavill really has nailed the inherent goodness and nobility that make up Superman's core, the things that make him the moral center of superheroism.  He gets to show a decent range of emotions, all while maintaining an air of calm, confident resolve that what he's doing is the right thing.

The film also has some amazing action scenes.  Just having action scenes in a Superman movie is amazing enough--looking at you, Superman Returns--but the fights here really sell the power of the characters and the unchecked devastation they can cause.  There's plenty of bits that wouldn't look out of place in an anime, and that is by no means meant as a disparaging comment.  The fight Supes has with Evil Kryptonian Lady and Evil Really Tall Guy is a particular standout, with some great choreography and bone-crunching impact.

If only the film had a better plot to go with it.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Weekend Reviews.... ?

No reviews today.  Sorry, folks.  Not only were there no TV shows to watch, but I've yet to be able to see Equestria Girls and I was hesitant to go see Man of Steel after hearing so many conflicting and contradictory reviews.

However, I am planning to go see the Supes movie with a couple of friends tomorrow night, and from what I've heard, I think I'll have a lot to say whether I enjoy it or not.

Also, Equestria Girls releases locally this Saturday.  If I'm able to see it sooner, there will be a review sooner.  If I'm not, I'll put on my Doctor Whooves shirt, head down to the theater, and hope my fellow local bronies aren't too weird and embarrassing.

The bit of word I've heard so far is that, to my intense surprise, EQG's actually kind of good.  Of course, this is the first movie that the fandom's had to form and discuss opinions for.  I'd love to hear from a more experienced movie buff who is also a brony, like Chris Sims or Bob Chipman, but no word from them yet.  Hell, it would be nice to hear opinions from people who went in, like me, expecting it to completely suck.  I could probably find some if I cared to look.  But by the same token, I'd like to avoid having my own review influenced by other peoples' gripes and insights.  So, y'know, c'est la vie.

Check back Wednesday (or maybe late Tuesday night) for some more write-y type stuff!

Oh, and if anyone's wondering about the Let's Plays: my headset has died (sigh), meaning I have to use my speakers.  Speakers + microphones + in-game recording are a terrible combination.  It's like Voltron, except that instead of a kickass giant robot, you get a deafening, ear-piercing screech.

Once I replace 'em, I'll be back in business.  In the meantime, you can just watch the funnier and better-equipped guys from Achievement Hunter play Grand Theft Auto IV's awesome multiplayer.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Fridays are Magic: Equestria Girls (sigh)

Not really, but pretty much.
I haven't had much of a chance to blog this week; I started my summer classes, and I'm still getting into the rhythm and trying to figure out what my workload is going to be like.  Fortunately, I don't have class on Fridays, so I can still do my weekly post about ponies!  And let's see, what did I plan to write about today?


Well, hell.

Okay, then.  I guess it's time to talk about Equestria Girls (sigh).

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Twenty Sided Hangouts

Do you read Shamus Young's blog, Twenty Sided?  Do you comment occasionally, or maybe even visit the quasi-secret forums?  Do you play PC games, have a Steam account, and want to hang out and play computer games with fellow Twenty Sided readers of varying (but generally poor) skill level?  Then you're in the right place, you lucky duck.

To help get our occasional hangout sessions organized, we've created a public Google calendar for everyone.  If you're pretty sure you can make a session, PM me on the forum, comment here, or send me an email and I'll put you on the list.  If you'd like administrative access to the calendar to add your own events and whatnot, the same procedure applies; I'll just need your email address.

Without further ado: here it is, all fancy and embedded.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Weekend Review: Game of Thrones S03E10, "Mhysa."

"I don't always orchestrate the brutal slaughter of my enemies, but
when I do, I have it happen at a state wedding and make sure
somebody else takes the blame."
"The Northerners will never forget."

"Good.  Let them remember what happens when they march on the South."

Tywin Lannister is kind of a dick.

After the Red Wedding last week--and the massive cauldron of anticipation that had been bubbling up inside us book-readin' types for weeks--this episode could've easily been nothing more than an examination of the massacre's fallout.  And while it did cover that ground, it also was surprisingly eventful, setting up a few of the big stories that we'll start seeing in the next season.

But first, let's talk about the Lannisters.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Brony Bookclub!

Yeah, I'm breaking my "pony stuff only on Fridays" rule, but it's not like weekends tend to be all that exciting 'round these parts.

A couple of nights ago, I got to co-host another episode of "The Brony Bookclub" podcast with my buddies Roy and Sam.  It was my third time being on the show, and my first being a proper member of the team instead of a guest.  Of course, the actual guest sort of never showed up (Roy's fault), so we just ended up talking about Rainbow Dash, Rarity, and various fanfics featuring them.


Friday, June 7, 2013

Fridays are Magic: Being a Fan

I sort of expected Equestria's Middle Easterners
would be camels.
If you're a brony, you're an ambassador for this fandom.

I know.  Maybe you don't want to be.  It's a responsibility you didn't ask for, and honestly, it's really not fair to expect anybody who devotes a reasonable (or unreasonable) amount of time to thinking, writing, or creating art about ponies to also have to shoulder the burden of playing diplomat to the masses.

Nevertheless, it's true.

While the general opinion of bronies seems to have gradually shifted from "those guys are weirdos" to "eh, whatever," one can still stumble into corners of the internet where the mere mention of ponies (cartoon or not) can start a war.  Some of the folks who react so violently are just judgmental idiots, absolutely.  But just as many--perhaps more, based on my anecdotal experience--are just sick and effing tired of bronies forcing their fannishness down everyone's throats.

Pictured: weird.
Yeah, I know the counter-arguments.  "Anime fans do it, too!"  So do Adventure Time fans, so do Whovians, so do Futuramians (my word), so do sports nerds and gun nuts and political junkies and yadda yadda yadda.  The sad fact is, though, that all that other stuff falls well within the realm of cultural acceptability.  Nobody feels threatened by Finn and Jake.  But add Twilight Sparkle into the mix, and suddenly things get weird.

Why?  All I've got are guesses and strawmen, and I might be completely off-base with some of them.  Nevertheless, here's what I think.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Let's Play Chivalry: Medieval Warfare

I picked up Chivalry: Medieval Warfare on Steam for a few bucks a week or two back, and figured I'd give it a spin.  By my estimation, it's roughly halfway between Battlefield 3 and Two Worlds II, so it kind of fits.  Right?

Anyway, the game itself is fun, though it's tough to compete online with a ping of 100+.  The game's all about precision and timing, and when you're trying to compensate for latency, it becomes damned near impossible to really have a chance.  You can always play a bot match, but the AI is really limited.  As you shall see shortly, I think.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Weekend Reviews!

Trololololo, lololo, lololo...

You know that huge spoiler in Game of Thrones that everyone who's read the books has been annoyingly hinting at for months, maybe even years?

That was it.

If you had it spoiled ahead of time, I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry. I can only imagine how furious you must be. For the rest of you? Trust me. It was just as shocking in the books, and we've all been waiting with desperate anticipation for you to catch up so we could talk about this.

My friend Noah's only started reading the books recently; his wife, Jenn, hasn't yet. When he got to last night's events in A Storm of Swords, he flipped out and threw it against the wall. He couldn't explain to Jenn what had happened, because he didn't dare spoil it for her. Instead, we had a text-based conversation with a whole bunch of capital letters and exclamation points. Because holy shit.

Okay, I've danced around this long enough. Here's the break. If you press on beyond this point, things will be spoiled. If you haven't seen "The Rains of Castamere" yet, and you've managed not to have the ending spoiled, you should stop right the fuck here. Because you absolutely deserve to go in with fresh eyes and get the full impact from what happened.


Saturday, June 1, 2013

Let's Play Battlefield 3, Part 6: Flank Them From the Canal?

And we're back in Black... burn's perspective again, fighting a chaotic, confusing, too-dark-to-see-anything ground war in Iran, being repeatedly told to do things that don't make any sense and being expected to basically shoulder the entire war effort ourselves.

Also, apparently Russian(?) mercenaries aren't fans of Queen.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Fridays Are Magic: Musical Edition!

"Yes, fine, I suppose I could become a staggeringly
popular character among the brony fanbase
despite never having an actual line."
What? No, I'm not planning on singing. I mean, even if I was, how would you hear it? This is text. I mean, I guess I could write this post in prose, give it a rhyme scheme and a definite meter, but... nah.

No, this post is about another one of the aspects of Friendship is Magic that I dearly love: the musical numbers. Yeah, that's right; if the brightly colored magical ponies weren't threatening enough to one's masculinity, they went and made them sing. And, with a few exceptions, they're pretty great at it.

And so, without further ado, I present to you my ten favorite songs from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. And we're kicking it off with the Cutie Mark Crusaders, so have your insulin and toothpaste on standby.

Thursday, May 30, 2013


Nathaniel Graves, by my brother-by-another-
set-of-parents-entirely, Morgan King.
Years ago, I came up with a character for a play-by-post Mutants & Masterminds campaign named Graves. Graves, by day, was a geeky CompSci major at Freedom City University with a slight obsession with comics. By night, he donned an old duster and Stetson hat he'd inherited from his grandfather, and, using the mystic powers contained within them, fought crime as a ghostly and mysterious gunslinger with the ability to manipulate shadows and mold them to his will.

Little did Graves know that the powers granted by his costume came from a demon trapped inside of them. Long ago, back in the 1880's, a small-town sheriff named Nathaniel Graves was framed and executed for the murder of his wife and daughter. Just before the rope tightened, he offered a prayer to anyone who would listen: Let me get revenge.

Someone answered.

He rose from the grave three days later and began cutting a bloody swath across the Old West, tracking down and exacting revenge upon those who wronged him. The more he killed, the stronger he grew, but the more he lost himself in bloodlust. Near the end of his journey, he met an Iroquois mystic who told him the truth: he was possessed by a powerful spirit of evil, and once he had completed his blood-soaked vengeance, it would completely consume him and be free to wreak havoc in the world.

With the mystic's help, Graves performed a ritual to trap the demon's power and return himself to the grave.  As they were underway, however, the last of Grave's targets arrived with plenty of backup and started shooting. The mystic was wounded in the initial volley, and Graves was forced to start shooting back in self-defense. It came down to the wire: just him and his last victim, the leader of a bandit gang he'd run with upon a time, with the demonic bloodlust churning and boiling inside him and urging him to kill this one, last man and free it forever.

Fortunately, there was just enough of the old sheriff left to hold his ground. While he stood there, barrel of his ghostly revolver pressed to his enemy's head, a silent war raging within his mind, the mystic managed to complete his ritual. Nathaniel Graves died, and the demon was trapped in a nondescript couple of relics: the old gunslinger's hat and duster.

As I wrote Graves' backstory, I realized that the tale of Nathaniel Graves' bloody vengeance was a far more interesting story than his descendant's. I started fleshing things out and building the basic skeleton of what would, I hoped, become my first true stab at writing a novel.

A few months ago, I found out that Deadlands existed.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Let's Play The Ballad of Gay Tony, Part 2: Oh God, There's Two of Them?!

Luis' mom is a spiteful idiot, her loan shark goes out of his way to be loathsome, and his cocaine-addled club owner boss/partner is forcing him to work with a character who is, somehow, even more annoying then GTA IV's Brucie.

Maybe I should have played The Lost and the Damned.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Let's Play Two Worlds 2, Part 5: Heroes of Meat and Magic

Finally, I get to start my real adventure: wandering a huge, open world, pursuing quests, helping the downtrodden, and slowly growing in power until I can stand strong against the evil machinations of Dr. Doom.

Y'know, as soon as I'm done talking.

Monday, May 27, 2013

A Game of Thrones: The Board Game!

So I sort of expected I'd be writing a Weekend Review post today.  There I was, fresh from hanging out with my buddies over a rousing moderately frustrating game of Illuminati, expecting to watch "The Rains of Castamere" and bask in the ensuing warmth of the internet exploding.

And then I found out they were taking a week off.  Dammit, HBO!

Fortunately, I was still able to get my fix of Lannisters and Starks thanks to A Game of Thrones: The Board Game.  It's something I'd purchased back around 2004 or so, and in the intervening near-decade, played a grand total of twice.  Each attempt was marked by frustration, confusion, and the realization that we'd horribly screwed up some fundamental aspect of the game by skimming over one very specific sentence amidst the walls of text and not-particularly-helpful diagrams in the game's manual.  Fortunately, after the last failed attempt several months ago, I'd taken the time to do some research on the game, and felt I had a decent grasp of the rules this time around.

GoT: The Board Game is basically an amalgam of Risk and Diplomacy, mashed together on a map of Westeros.  Each player takes control of a noble house--the Starks, the Lannisters, the Baratheons, the Tyrells, or the Greyjoys (and the 2011 Second Edition adds House Martell; if you only watch the show, you haven't really heard of them yet, but you will)--and sets out with the goal of controlling the largest number of cities and fortresses by the end of the tenth turn.

Last night, it was just me and two of my friends trying to conquer Westeros; my friend Noah got the Starks, Andrew took the Baratheons, and I claimed the Lannisters.  This is the recommended setup for a three-player game, as it gives each faction a good amount of room to spread out and flex their muscles before the war begins in earnest.  In a five-player game, the southern half of the continent tends to turn into a massive, ongoing maelstrom of violence between the Lannisters, Baratheons, and Tyrells, while the Greyjoys troll the Starks.

Prepare yourself; description is coming.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Let's Play Battlefield 3, Part 5: Failing With Flare

I may have lost part of my mind while recording this. I'm not entirely sure. But at least I'm never going to have to copilot a fighter jet through a crappy, frustrating rail shooter segment again.

... Right?

Friday, May 24, 2013

Fridays Are Magic: The Best Pony

When I started watching the show, the last pony I thought would become my favorite character was Rarity.  Prim, proper, refined, vain, slightly neurotic, and obsessed with girly-girl foofarah, Rarity seemed like the sort of generic stock character one would find on any show targeted at young girls.  No, if I'd had to guess, I would have expected to favor Twilight Sparkle, my fellow nerd, or Fluttershy, the adorable introvert, or even Pinkie Pie, the comic relief.  Those were character archetypes I'd enjoyed in the past, and I didn't think things would be any different with a cartoon show about brightly colored, magical ponies.

Fast forward a year and a half later, and there is no doubt in my mind: Rarity is the funniest, most complex, and overall most interesting character in Friendship is Magic, and I am prepared to back this claim with a probably-too-thought-out essay.

It's about to get fabulous up in here.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Let's Play Battlefield 3, Part Four: Leaving on a Jet Plane

You know, I was wondering when I'd finally get to do some vehicular stuff in this game.

Now I'm wondering when I get to stop.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Today, NCSoft--a publisher you might recognize from other MMO's like Guild Wars, Lineage, or Aion--released a couple of new videos discussing one of the many cool features of their newest project, WildStar.  WildStar, as you might guess from the pedigree, is also going to be a massively multiplayer online RPG, this time with a sci-fi/fantasy bent and what I feel can be best described as a "sexy Disney" art style.  And I am completely freaking pumped for it.

Today's videos discussed the "Path" system.  Paths are kind of like character classes, and are chosen in addition to them; while the class dictates how your character fights and what gear he or she uses, your choice of Path lets you define what kind of side content you want to experience.  Soldiers get missions to go out and prove themselves badass against huge bosses or waves of enemies; Explorers get to do jumping puzzles or find hidden areas and scour them for loot; Scientists get to scan all of the things and are rewarded with items, XP, and most importantly, lore; Settlers support their fellow players by building shops, fortifying towns, making vehicles, and generally just being the kind of awesome roadie that would make Eddie Riggs proud.

It sounds cool on its own, yeah, but it reflects the game's overarching philosophy: it's an MMO for people who liked World of Warcraft and its clones, but who got to the endgame and ran headlong into the Wall of Endless Grinding.  Maybe that doesn't sound terribly ambitious to you E.V.E players, but as a guy who starts foaming at the mouth whenever someone says the words "Golden Lotus," it's right up my alley.

The combat itself seems to incorporate a lot of the movement and positioning that made NCSoft's previous release, Guild Wars 2, really fun to play for the first, oh, thirty hours.  Dodging, jumping, strafing, blocking, it's all in there.  The Path system will, in theory, add a ton of variety to spice up the level grind, tailored to players' personal preferences.  And the devs have opted to return to the Holy Trinity of MMO design (tank, healer, DPS), which should make the game's dungeons and end content significantly less frustrating.  And by "frustrating," I mean "GRAAAAARGLBRGLBRGL DIE DIE DIE."

The "WildStar Flicks" videos are undoubtedly a big part of the reason I'm so excited for the game.  From the initial announcement trailer, starring Ben Grimm, Flynn Rider, and Twilight Sparkle, to the individual videos introducing the classes and factions, Carbine has pumped each "flick" with a ton of appealing personality and humor.  Even the non-CG DevSpeak videos radiate enthusiasm.  WildStar really seems like a genuine labor of love.

Oh, and there's player housing.  Not just player housing, but customizable, expandable player housing.  No neighborhoods, sadly--it seems Lord of the Rings Online still holds the crown in that department, not to mention a couple of others--but being able to deck your place out with crafting stations and resource nodes makes me a happy geek.  I love crafting in most games, as long as it's not just a massive and ultimately pointless drain on time and resources.  (Cough, WoW.)

So, yes.  I'm excited.  And some day, presumably some day within the next several months, I'm going to be building taverns and storefronts across the face of Nexus.  Feel free to stop by and kick up your feet.  Maybe Carbine will even rip off LotRO's music system, and we can have ourselves a jam.

Click below the break if you'd like to see some of those videos I was talkin' about, all gathered in one convenient place.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Let's Play Two Worlds II, Part 4: I Like Swords

Not much to say about this one.  I finally get some armor and the ability to use all these swords and sticks I've been lugging around, and then I spend half the episode shouting at a blind orc blacksmith to shut the hell up and get on with the crafting tutorial.

Next episode, we should begin adventuring properly.  Y'know, roaming the countryside, doing sidequests, that sort of thing.  That is, unless Dar Faq feels the need to spend thirty minutes explaining how the equipment changing feature works in-universe.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Weekend Reviews!

Well played, Moffat. Well played.
So long, Doctor Who. See you again on Nov. 23rd. You know, if you'd asked me a few weeks ago, I wouldn't have thought I'd be so excited for you to get back. I mean, this season--not just the half-season, but the whole thing--has been kind of disappointing. Especially for a new fan who bulldozed through the excellent runs of Chris Eccleston and David Tennant on Netflix, only to run into the gradually faltering adventures of Matt Smith.

Not that I think Matt's a bad Doctor. The show, under Stephen Moffat, has just gone a different direction than the one Russel T. Davies was taking it, and I preferred the latter's style. (Which seems strange to me, given how frickin' awesome Sherlock is.)

But with the reveal of John Hurt as... well, we don't really know what, yet, I'm suddenly in dire need of a TARDIS of my own so I can find out where they're going with this. Coming up with theories about the direction of a show's overarching plot is always a fun mental exercise--see Lost--and I've already come up with or seen a number of really potentially exciting ones. Is this the Doctor's final regeneration? Is it the original man, before he took the name of the Doctor? Is it a "lost" regeneration, between the incarnations we knew as Eight and Nine, the man who fought and won the Time War?

(Seeing as the latter theory came from a possible leak on the show's writing staff, it's most likely that one.)

Whatever the case, I'm thrilled. John Hurt's a damned good actor, and man, that intensely sorrowful, weary expression along sold me on his character. I want to know his story. I want to know what he did that was so terrible that the other versions of himself have shunned him. And I suspect he'll bring an element of gravitas that the show's been sorely in need of for a long time.

But enough about that; let's get on to the actual reviews.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Let's Play Two Worlds II, Part 3: Burns, Bridges, and Baffling Brassieres

So, yeah, I felt a little bad about giving up on Two Worlds II just because I was too dumb to save my game, so I decided to give it another shot.  To my surprise, I'm actually starting to find things to like! The magic system is kinda nifty, and... well, actually, most of the cool stuff I learn comes in the next episode.  Spoilers.

Anyway, in this twenty minute section, we have a mysteriously de-synced "Yakety Sax" sequence (seriously don't know why there's a pause at the beginning), a collapsed bridge, fireballs, and another arcane spellcaster chick in impractical and revealing clothing, complete with nipple bumps.


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Let's Play The Ballad of Gay Tony, Part 1: Practice Swing

That's right, it's time for another Let's Play series! This time, I'm dusting off a game I've purchased twice but never really gotten around to playing: Grand Theft Auto IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony.

And no, this isn't replacing Two Worlds II.  I actually went ahead and gave it another shot, and to my surprise, the magic system is actually kind of cool once you get to play around with it.  There'll be a new episode posted tomorrow, so stay tuned.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Fridays are Magic: The Comic

The Friendship is Magic comic is so much cooler than it needs to be.

Now, I'm not going to say that it's the best comic ever, or that it belongs in the same conversation as Watchmen or... well, okay, nothing belongs in the same conversation as Watchmen, but you get what I mean. It's not going to go down as one of the Legendary and Important to the Industry as a Whole comics.

But it's still really frickin' fun.

The comic is, in essence, "by bronies, for bronies." Though never going off into truly "adult" humor, it's definitely written with the show's older fanbase in mind. The first story arc, spanning the first four issues, was basically a Lord of the Rings parody with references to David Bowie, Indiana Jones, and Miami Vice thrown in. It was funny and entertaining, though I have to admit that if the series had kept going permanently in that direction, I probably wouldn't have kept reading for long.

The second arc, however, has me absolutely hooked. Everything about the comic seems to have stepped up a notch or two, from the writing to the art. What's more, the team is actually telling a real story this time. A serious story, in fact, one that makes sense within the setting and adds a lot to it, but which isn't something you'd ever see on the show. And considering that, like I said last week, one of my favorite things about the show is the setting and the way it hints at darker things lurking just outside of this peaceful realm, this comic is hitting me right in the Geek Spot.

(Yeah, take a second to process that pun's mental image. I'll be over here.)

The story involves the return of the Nightmare, the strange force that corrupted Princess Luna a millenium ago and turned her into the evil Nightmare Moon. Unfortunately, while Luna was freed from its power way back in the show's first episode, the Nightmare itself survived, and now it needs a new host. Being an intelligent and rational eldritch monstrosity with an appreciation for complex characterization and subtle humor, it decides that the only appropriate vessel for its power is the Best Pony herself, Rarity.

Behold, the savage beastmaster.
I mean, come on, who else is it going to pick? Twilight Sparkle, the most powerful and potentially destructive mage in Equestria? Rainbow Dash, a flier so fast she can shatter the sound barrier and to create massive explosions? Fluttershy, who commands the loyalty of an army of woodland creatures and who can bend cockatrices to her will? Screw that, what the Nightmare wants is fabulousness.

And so, Rarity is abducted, the the rest of the Mane Six, plus Spike and Princess Luna, travel to the moon to save her. (By having Applejack lasso the moon so everypony can tightrope walk across to it. It makes sense in context.) There, they encounter an army of shapeless, shadowy horrors twisted eons ago into the Nightmare's service. Mostly, they look sort of like bunnies. After the vampiric jackalopes in the first arc, I'm starting to suspect this series is co-written by Anya from Buffy.

As you might have guessed from all the panels I keep posting, I think the art is gorgeous. The moon and its inhabitants all have this cool, dark color scheme that nonetheless pops right off the page. The characters look great--definitely better than they did in the first few issues--and everything has a vaguely ephemeral, dreamlike quality to it. It's really friggin' purdy.

The writing's been strong, too, with a good mix of serious storytelling--particularly, Luna's murky relationship with the Nightmare--and humor. Pinkie's the primary source of laughs, as should be expected, but the interplay between the Nightmare's minions is fun as well, and Spike's quest to save Lady Rarity with the Power of Interspecies Statutory Infatuation has actually been pretty touching. Poor li'l Spikey-Wikey.

The latest issue (#7) came out this week, at least on Comixology. Assuming the writers are sticking with four-issue arcs, next month should mark the finale of the Nightmare Rarity storyline. After that, who knows what mysterious part of Equestria we'll get to see next? Maybe we'll learn more about the griffons. Or journey to the gates of Tartarus. Or learn a bit more about the legendary archmage, Star Swirl the Bearded. Or maybe something else entirely.

Whatever the case, I'm on board. This comic rocks.

Here, have some more random panels below the break!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Let's Play Battlefield 3 - Part Three: Clear the area of enemies!

At some point, I hope, I'm going to be part of a huge group of soldiers, driving tanks and APCs and whatnot to capture and hold important locations within a warzone.  When I think of Battlefield games, that's my mental image: huge battles, tanks and mortar shells thundering in the distance, dogfighting planes roaring by overhead.  I do not think of crawling through a bombed-out city, alone, and being solely tasked with responsibility for killing every living thing I see.

I didn't install a Call of Duty game by accident, did I?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Let's Play Two Worlds II - Part 2: Can I stop playing yet?

So.  In this section, the game taught me how to fire multiple arrows at once to kill my enemies from range.  It did not teach me how to switch weapons when my puny little bow failed to incapacitate my enemies and they ran up to hack me apart with swords that apparently they can use but which are too advanced for me.  It also did not teach me how to dodge, if in fact this ability even exists.

I heard a lot of good things about this game.  I really did.  Sure, I put off playing it, but that was mostly because I bought it around the same time as Skyrim, and come on.  Skyrim.  But now that I was actually playing it, even in the context of a Let's Play which, by its nature, means making fun of the game to some degree, I was looking forward to seeing why a lot of people really seemed to love it.

I think I know, now: they are masochists, and they hate joy.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Weekend Reviews!

Another thing that's going to be happening 'round here is me talking about the shows I watch.  There aren't very many of them, even during the "busy" seasons, though it's really slow right now.  In fact, the only two shows I'm regularly following at the moment are Doctor Who and Game of Thrones.

Where's everything else?  Let's see...

Breaking Bad: Still on hiatus until August 11th, 2013.

The Walking Dead: Currently shooting, due to return in the fall.

Sherlock: Who the hell knows?

Community: I have sadly fallen several weeks behind.  I love this show, to quote a great man, "super huggy much," but I just haven't been able to keep up with this season.  On the bright side, there is definitely going to be another season!  Saved from the brink of oblivion once again, this show.

Big Bang Theory: Pretty much ditto, though I'll be honest, I don't love it nearly as much as Community.

King of the Nerds: Oh, hey, I need to send in my submission...

Young Justice: Canceled, along with Green Lantern, because Cartoon Network hates money, good story telling, me, you, and God Himself.

Avatar: The Legend of Korra: Expected to return before the year's end.

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic: Will probably be back in late fall/early winter.  But the Equestria Girls movie will be out on June 15th!  Because Hasbro responded to the legions of fans who wanted to see their beloved cast of interesting, funny, non-objectified heroines turned into knockoff Bratz dolls and shoved into a generic high school "running for prom queen" movie!

... I may be going into this with some prejudiced opinions.

Adventure Time!: Still has a few episodes left in the season, but I'm not actually caught up with the show.  I was really excited to see it on Netflix, but they've only got the first season of it.  (And of The Venture Brothers.  I am disappoint.)

Archer: Gone until next January, most likely.  Though they're definitely getting a fifth season.

And that's about it.  I don't watch a ton of TV, and most of it that I do, I watch with friends.  Ah well.  At least I've got the Big Two to talk about.

So, without further ado...

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Let's Play Battlefield 3 - Part 2: Man the LMG!

I'm not kidding when I say I'm a terrible shot.  I really am, at least when compared to people who play shooters regularly.  Ironically, among my friends I'm considered a highly skilled Halo player, but that's mostly just because they're all sort of terrible.

Sorry, guys.  Just because I learned how to circle strafe in high school doesn't make me pro.  This video should be all the proof of that you need.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Let's Play Battlefield 3 - Part 1: Stay away from the effing cars!

Recording the first part of the Two Worlds II LP was fun, volume issues aside, but I decided I'd run a slightly more action-packed series alongside it.  After taking a look at what games I had on hand, I remembered I'd bought Battlefield 3 on Origin (ugh) a year or so back, played just a bit of the campaign, and then went back to Mass Effect 3's awesome multiplayer.  So, I dusted the old girl off and decided to see if I could have more fun with it by playing as a socially-conscious, reluctant soldier with a slight grasp of the Middle East's geopolitical climate.

Turns out, I could.  Hope you folks can, too.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Fridays Are Magic

The keen-eyed and observant among you may have guessed that I am a fan of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

It's nice that I can say that without feeling the need to qualify the statement.  A year ago, coming out with my broniness was a slow process of shame and self-abasement.  I'd admit to my friends that I liked it, sure, but I also liked boobs and Gears of War and fixing monster trucks or whatever.  Today, though, I wear my love of the show on my sleeve.  (And, occasionally, on my chest.)  I say "eeyup" and "nope" when people ask me questions.  I've analyzed the show's themes and mythology, and have constructed an intelligent thesis as to why Rarity is best pony.  I've even made a ponified portrait of myself my default avatar across the interwebs.

I don't know if public perception of bronies has changed, really.  I think it has.  I mean, anyone who's cared to see the show has done so by now.  Even those that didn't fall in love with it generally seem to consider it harmless.  While even mentioning ponies on certain sites still lets slip the dogs of flamewar, the number of folks who hate it with a mouth-foaming passion seems to have decreased over time.  I think the show and its fandom are gradually settling into the groove they belong in: a geeky thing that some people are really passionate about, and others don't get at all.

Keeping that in mind, I've decided to try and limit my pony-related output to just once a week.  Thus, here on Another Geeky Blog, Fridays Are Magic.

Now, then, let's enthuse about some ephemeral equines.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Let's Play Two Worlds II - Part 1: Can I start playing yet?

One of my other reasons for wanting to get this blog properly underway is having an excuse to both play some games that I never got around to properly trying, and to record the proceedings and see if I can't turn out something entertaining.  The first game I wanted to try out was GSC's S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Shadow of Chernobyl.  Unfortunately, it kept crashing.  So, I went with another weird, Eastern European game I picked up on Steam for a few bucks.
So, without further ado: let's play Two Worlds II

(Sorry about the background buzzing; my computer is insanely loud, and despite my best efforts to position and insulate the microphone, it still kept getting picked up.)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


Heya, folks.  My name's Ed.  And this is, I believe, the fourth time I've written an introductory post for a blog I've eventually left to rot.

Well, no more!  (I hope.)  This time, Another Geeky Blog is here to stay.

Why should you care?  No idea.  I'm not anybody famous or influential.  I'm smart, but I'm no engineer, nor do I have fascinating and unique insights into aspects of our popular culture.  I'm a good writer, but I have trouble finishing things, and all the discipline and fortitude of a goldfish.

I am, you see, a bard.

See, bards are usually the butt of jokes among pen and paper nerds.  Even Blizzard went out of their way to make fun of 'em.  The irony is that bards, more than any other class or fantasy archetype, embody what it is to be a modern-day geek.

Bards are the jacks-of-all-trades.  They dabble in a little bit of everything, because damn it, adventuring is fun and why would they want to limit themselves to swinging a sword or casting spells when they could do both?

At a table full of Dungeons & Dragons players, you've always got folks making references to Star Wars or Princess Bride or (at least with my group) My Little Pony.  In an actual D&D world, though, it's the bard making those same jokes.  When a Bardic Knowledge check turns up that the monster's one fatal weakness is peach cobbler, he's not just pulling that out of thin air; he's remembering a story he read, or a song he heard, where the good guys prevailed by that same method.  He's a student of pop culture.

Sure, a wizard studies in his tower, learning the mysteries of the world and dazzling mortals with their knowledge and power.  A bard can do that, too, if not as well.  Maybe he can't chuck fireballs, but he can still carry on an intelligent conversation about magical theory and have fun with Prestidigitation and Ghost Sound.

Most of all, though, bards are enthusiastic.  It's their defining attribute.  Sure, somewhere out there, there may be a guy who plays bards that mope around and quote Edgar Allen Poe all the time, but they're the exception.  In every game and every story, bards are the heart of the team.  They love what they do, and they share that joy with their friends and companions.

That's my goal, here.  I want to tell you about things I think are awesome, and I want to infect you with just a fragment of my enthusiasm for them.

Now I just have to decide which of my many obsessions to talk about first...