Superman + Batman movie announced!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on July 22, 2013 by halbard100

One piece of news from SDCC was DC’s announcement of the Man of Steel sequel basically being World’s Finest, the Batman Superman team up comic. Personally I wasn’t a super huge fan of Man of Steel. It felt a little awkward, unnecessarily dower, and stiff. That said, there was just a lot of nerd rage involved with it. Second viewing, it seemed more fun that initially. Maybe Marvel has ruined me, or just my preconceptions of Superman, but I wanted something more to aspire to. The Dark Knight trilogy, at least the first two, made me look up to Batman, want to aspire to be him, but leaving the theater, Man of Steel didn’t have me jumping to be one of the characters. For a movie about a superhero, that seems like a serious misstep. 
Going into the cross over movie, I’m apprehensive. The announcement didn’t hit me with delight. It honestly reads as a cash-in to me and trying to capture the lingering success of the Dark Knight trilogy to bring up Man of Steel. It also strikes me as a better stand alone adventure rather than a sequel for a single movie. While Avengers was a pay off for watching half a dozen other movies, it still functioned as a stand alone and hopefully S+B will be able to do the same. 
For speculation, I’d honestly like Lex Luthor but without the Joker, and having it work almost as a back door pilot idea for Batman to be introduced but by himself and not with a rogue. I assume that’s the idea at least. Lex offers a different villain that  Superman can’t just bunch through a building a beat, and Wayne offers the ability to challenge Luthor. 
It does offer some interesting possibilities. If Man of Steel had stuck with me more, I think it would have come across better, but the memory of the Dark Knight being so fresh doesn’t help things either.

New Godzilla details!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on July 22, 2013 by halbard100

New Godzilla details!

Personally I never watched the original Toho Godzilla films, and I’ve only seen bits of the ’98 Hollywood attempt. My affection for the big guy comes from the Saturday morning cartoons he was in (Yeah, Hanna-Barbera and the animated 98 spin-off). That being said, I’m loving the design work Legendary and Warner Brothers are putting in. With the bust especially, the head and jaw shape and having the nostrils higher back near the eyes makes a lot of sense for me and looks cool and unique. Think about it, he’s a water beast right? So it lets him come up for air kind of like a whale but get a quick peak of his surroundings. Goujira is a combination of whale and gorilla in Japanese, so whether or not that’s an intentional nod or just an appropriate biological inspiration, I really like it. Also really like the size of him, not just vertical, but how bulky the miniature is – hopefully that will be a toy you can buy! Though it makes him look a little cuddly in my eyes, it does create a powerful silhouette and solid form. At 30+ stories tall, he’ll just look like a giant monolith of destruction. Haven’t seen Pacific Rim yet, but I hope WB and Legendary do a better job exposing and marketing this to the masses, though they can probably stick with advertising massive destruction, and it work well for this flick. 

Sweet Catharsis

Posted in Video Games with tags , , , , , , , , on December 3, 2012 by halbard100

A friend said to me that we all get stressed out. I have to agree. Its that time of the year, the looming cloud of life, projects due, exams are coming up, and things you may not care about are going to have a profound effect on a little number that a chunk of the civilized word tends to use to judge you. I can’t think of a college kid that wouldn’t be stressed at least a little. We say that games provide a safe space to experiment and learn, but also as a form of relaxation to lose ourselves in. Like floating in an ocean without worry. I’ve got to agree.

Confession time, I haven’t actually gotten to play a “real” game in a while. April hit with exams and what not, so the PS3 got packed away, summer came around and the power bill was a worry plus more work, we get to the fall and, boom, more work. It finally got to the point where I just looked at a friend and said “I’m getting so swamped and overwhelmed with stuff I’m just going to set aside time to game. Just stop working on everything for just a bit” Up to that point all I had really played were some Facebook games if that and was wasting time on YouTube. Another buddy was at the apartment loading a game of his on my 3GS to test (It’s called Warp Tunnel go download it!) and we joked about my shelves of games. “I feel like it’s just become a status symbol at this point. ‘Look at all the games I don’t have time to play!'” I remember when a teacher said he’d gotten to the point where he had to make the choice between making a game or playing one. It’s a depressing realization.

Anyway, over Black Friday, I picked up 3 games during GameStops buy-2-get-1: Darksiders 2, Borderlands 2, and Spec Ops the Line. So, sat down, and decided to play. Just an hour a day. Saturday, Sunday, and again today I’ve been playing through Darksiders 2. I really lucked out, the game lends itself well to hoping in and out. Saves are frequent and so far a dungeon is about an hour. It provides a nice mix of exploration and combat, so I get both those frantic moments of button mashing and having to sit down and think hard about how I’m supposed to navigate things. Plus, you can get burned out running around alone in a dungeon, and that also marks a decent stopping point. The point is, I’m not letting myself get so overly consumed that that 6 hours later I’m freaking out about deadlines. That would kind of undermine things.

And I feel great! Relaxed, more ready to go get things done, oddly focused and undistracted, it’s a weird feeling.

We live in an exciting time. There’s game available for everyone, in a number of consumable sizes. So I guess the punch line is: Take some time to yourself and game a little. Just play. It’s good for you.

Stay Golden. Bang….

Posted in Anime, Geeking out, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 1, 2012 by halbard100

Happy April Fools. Personally, as a child of the tech culture, April Fools gets tiring. There’s a lot of slick cool jokes, a lot of them I actually want to be real, and a huge amount of stupid ones. The internet fuels them, and half the time they are based on tired memes or old forum jokes. But sometimes, there’s one that’s not a troll, not false hope, just pure.


This was one of those moments.

I grew up in the 90s and look back to that time and miss the good old days. My desk and room are littered with the modern versions of the franchises I grew up with plus some more vintage stuff. Toonami was one of those grand childhood memories. I still throw on [url=http://www.tonnamiaftermath.com]ToonamiAftermath[/url] from time to time when I’m working. So, flipping on Adult Swim for some back ground noise and seeing they brought it back, was just a surreal moment. They could have thrown up old footage, but those guys went way above and beyond, even bringing back Steve Blum for some fresh lines as TOM the host. My friends and I just couldn’t believe it. I really can’t put into words my emotional state. I had the biggest grin in the world and just the purist bliss I could think of. No matter how much stress, I was just happy. Plain, simple, pure, happiness. Nearly brought a tear to my eye. Like I said, I grew up with this, it was like the best gift anyone could give me. It made it a good day. Thanks Adult Swim, you got me, right in the heart-strings. Kudos.

Stay Golden. Bang.

A long awaited return

Posted in Geeking out with tags , , , , on March 19, 2012 by halbard100

First off, this is going to be a fanboy heavy post, so fair warning. Though I hope that would be some what expected.

I am a huge, HUGE, Star Wars fan. I have been for nearly as long as I can remember. Watching the original trilogy on VHS with my family is one of those memories I’ve held onto with my dad reading the opening scrawl so my brother and I could keep up. Secondly, Darth Maul is by far my favorite character in that universe. The striking visual, his movement, that saber, everything, I just love the character. That being said, I’ve kinda enjoyed where he’s fallen into the history of the saga and with fans. A lot of fans love him especially given that he got so little exposure since he died nearly as fast as he was revealed. And as such, his essence has been attempted to be brought back a lot over the years. Personally, I’ve come to like that he was killed off so quickly. You always tend to elevate that thing you can’t have beyond what it really was. Darth Maul was awesome, and all the thinking about what could have been if he had more time just makes him seem even better, since you end up picturing what you’d like the most. On top of that, he’s gotten a sort of mythical presence in all the extend universe stuff. People just keep want to bring him back in some shape or form.

Despite all this, he’s never really been brought back whole-sale. Its always been some sort of bad copy never quite equaling the original. So hearing that LucasArts had decided to full on bring him completely back to life, I was just a little iffy on it. I had 2 concerns: A) He’s been messed with so much over the years, he’s got a pretty interesting back story, and the Clone Wars series has been making a lot of changes to the cannon, and B) one of the defining characteristics that (I thought) made him cool were his physicality and his demeanor. Ray Park really defined the awe inspiring abilities of the character. I’ve never thought a picture could capture that, and the down side of a CGI series is that you’re not able to give that since of speed, agility, and most importantly, flow and grace. As for demeanor, Darth Maul was a wraith in my mind. Going purely from the movie, the guy never talks, or blinks for that matter. He’s a specter looming or a dervish, and the show aimed to give him more of a voice. He had a few lines in the movie, but usually he was just there.

All that said, damn did they ever give him an amazing come back. I can begin to describe how impressed I am with Sam Witwer’s performance. He just nails it. If you haven’t seen the episodes yet, currently they’re on starwars.com. He does an amazing job keeping that slightly quiet, cold voice of Maul. On top of that, the character growth he’s gone through is great. I was worried at first, but after watching the episodes, its amazing how much they could tell in less than an hour. They’re able to show a transformation from being crippled and insane into being even more cold that before. He’s spent his time wallowing in pain, alone, and consumed by the dark side. Broken. No explanation is given about how he got to where he is, but you can see it etched out across his broken form that it wasn’t easy. They’re able to keep some mystique about him. Then, they bring him back into form, or as close as they can, and we see an even stronger character. Sure, he’s not quite spinning around like he use to, but you don’t really expect that, and even then he does show some glimpses of it. One of the biggest growths is shown thanks to Witwer – the voice. He’s cold, cunning. Darth Maul is showing a sharp, dark intelligence and Witwer does an amazing job with it. It could have ruined the character, but the writing team did wonders and combined with Witwer’s voice talents, they really added to the character without ruining what made the character so striking to begin with.

Well done, I can’t wait to see where the series will take him in the future.

Looks like Metal Gear Rising is back?

Posted in Video Games with tags , , , , , , , on December 10, 2011 by halbard100

http://kotaku.com/5866933/the-next-metal-gear-game-is-brought-to-you-by-bayonettas-developers

I’m not sure how I feel about this. It has the finger prints of Platinum all over it. Not a bad thing, but you can tell this is coming from the same people as Vanquish and Bayonetta. Very stylized, very over the top, and very fast paced.

I’m a little sad at this change of direction. The old incarnation of Rising as Lightning Bolt Action, seemed more fitting of the MG franchise. I was hoping more for a predatory, stealth, almost ninja (not Ninja Gaiden though) style to it. I liked the idea that they were still keeping the MGS ideas, but making it a more pragmatic action game, or at least seemed to be. With there being strategy to what you cut and how you cut it. And then incorporating a faster, stealth nature on top of it. Instead of the slow moving Snake, you’re more limber, faster and using those tools to reproduce Raiden’s portrayal in MGS4 as kinda jumping out of the shadows, cutting and then vanishing. Like a ninja. The whole cut and take idea seemed to hit on that too. More pragmatism and strategy added.

Now, just kinda looks like a Platinum style action game. Polished, fast paced, stylized and fun, but not very inventive. Plus just being balls to the wall about it. At this point, cutting seems like just a fancy visual thing, without a deeper level of game play coming out of it.

Basically. Looks nice, but just kinda same old, same old. Old Rising seemed to want to break new ground. Kinda makes me think of Ninja Gaiden but with a fancy bullet time cutting system.

But who knows, trailers are usually really hit or miss. Developers want to showcase a specific thing, but you can’t really get a sense of the game. Maybe strategic cutting is still in there, plus the fast paced stealth

As a point of comparison here is the last trailer we saw for rising:

Difficulty you are a cruel mistress

Posted in A Philosophy of Design, Video Games on October 5, 2011 by halbard100

Have games these days made us a little to soft? Difficult curves are a corner stone to the game experience, especially when you look at it versus the consumer. These days, everyone wants to have a nice slopping difficulty curve, so the player won’t get discouraged. There’s a concept of Flow, this perfect state where an equally high difficulty of a game is meet with a equally high requirement of skill, the game is hard but requires you mastering the elements it presents you and ultimately over coming it. You reach this happy moment that in my mind goes a little something like “Fuck yeah! I am AWESOME.” You feel powerful from overcoming this grand obstacle. But, there’s a catch, that fight to succeed needs to feel equally rewarding even in failure. Note, its hard, you are going to fail, its just a fact of experimenting and learning. “Why do we fall Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves back up.” But each time, you are slowly mastering your environment, if not in actuality, in recognition. You see what you should be doing and how you are screwing up, but you still are learning and having that ‘Aha’ moment. One thing I hate in games, in a feeling of helplessness, not helplessness given by narrative, thematic, or to build tension for a climax, but feeling like you just have no control over what you are doing from a play perspective. Helplessness to eventually make the player feel powerful is one thing, helplessness of feeling like you have no control over actual play is another. The best example I can think of is fighting games. There is a concept called ‘zoning’ basically controlling space between you and your opponent with reach or projectiles. The problem is there is the possibility that you can do it so well, your opponent can’t doing anything about it. You’re stuck; helpless. I personally believe you can do the same with excessive aggression where you are stuck being attacked. Skill is taken out of the equation for you, and the burden of your victory falls to your opponent screwing up. Keep that in mind: burden of victory, skill, progression, and difficulty.

Now we come to the game that has spurred this: Dark Souls. I love epic dark fantasy and action rpgs, and hearing a game is hard feels more like a taunt than anything else. That and shinny free if pre-ordered collector’s edition art book and stuff. Anyway, there’s been a lot of talk about the difficulty in this game, which got me really excited it. I love that fighting through and the feeling of victory after overcoming the obstacle. But I was meet by something a little different with Dark Souls, it wasn’t so much as the game was difficult as it was difficult to play. I hesitate to use the word cheap but so far I’ve had this overwhelming feeling of just getting pushed around not because I was bad at the game but because I wasn’t allowed to be. With action oriented games, combat is a big deal. Tooling, tightening, and retesting that combat so it feels just right, gratifying and rewarding, often times becoming a puzzle or dance between you and your enemy; a deadly ballet if you will. But this is something that has hung me up with Dark Souls, it doesn’t feel very tight or tooled. There’s a lag to when I attack or try to dodge, there just isn’t a crispness that I feels needed in a game that’s so unrelenting. I miss an attack and the lag from recovery or even wind up gets me killed. Over and over and over again. Its not so much hard as I just can’t do shit. I’m shackled into getting railed, smashed, stabbed, burned, gang jumped and I just can’t react to the moment at hand. Remember that principle of learning from your failures and flow? Yeah, I’m not learning much besides ‘Don’t get hit.’ since if I screw up because I wouldn’t dodge as quick as I press or I get mashy with the button and an extra action pops out and causes me to get smacked and I just die. That’s it. Done. I’m not seeing where I went wrong, not realizing how to play the game and getting that happy moment. I’m getting frustrated, pissed off, and discouraged. There’s no recognition of where I went wrong, and I don’t feel like I died because of my lack of skill but because of the game forcing me to be open to attack. And then there’s just the ration of the damage I dish out and take versus what I’m up against. Even with the weak enemies, I have to work so hard to get a single attack in that deals maybe a fifth of their health, probably less, and yet, they get one hit on me, I’m left open by that initial attack and then the follow up and finally the death blow. Boom, you’re dead fool. And when that victory finally comes, it doesn’t feel gratifying because of pushing me to my limits and knowledge of the game, but instead I feel like I lucked out and just have a ‘Thank god I don’t have to deal with that again’ feeling.

However, conversely, there is something that Dark Souls is reminding me of that I’ve been sorely lacking in my playing and a lot of games these days: patience. Because of the lag in attacking, I have to wait and plan my attacks and pick and choose my moments. I can’t react on a split second. Its rough. Its really rough. And a little frustrating at the same time, because I want a more active role in my playing experience, not a passive on in waiting for an opening. But in a way, this is a throw back to old platforms, you had to keep reactively dodging and taking your time analyzing your environment or your enemies pattern. One aspect of Dark Souls is the parry and riposte system. You parry the opponent’s attack, then respond with what so far appears to be an instant kill against lower enemies. The only problem is that overwhelming onslaught of life ending attacks and I’m leaving myself open as I get ready to try and parry the enemy I’m focused on. Maybe its going to take more practice on my end. I really can’t figure out the timing for the thing to work most of the time. I am personally one who likes to be very forward, direct and active in my combat, usually using a number of whams to make my point, I like sweeping, damaging attacks with a lot of reach, but Dark Souls seems to be pushing me into a more defensive, predicting style of combat that’s not really my strong suit. But as a whole, Dark Souls is poking holes in a lot of the more modern styles of design. Unrelenting and unforgiving. No hand holding, you died, you fucked up, live with it or go home. Like I said earlier, its rough. I think of games from when I was little, the same thing happened, but I never really gave it a second thought. Sure I got frustrated but what choice did I have? Whine, or go back in. Like I said initially, I feel like Dark Souls is taunting me. Laughing at my futility and fueling a fiery rage to destroy it and stand up to proclaim my dominance of it. Perhaps my stubbornness has some how caused me to shift where I am in that concept of flow. Has it pushed me into flow because I want to succeed or has my lack of patience done the opposite and put me into the frustrated zone? Who knows but for some reason I keep going back for more. Okay Dark Souls, I’m ready for my daily ass kicking.

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