Browsing the blog archives for November, 2006

Guild Wars Video Roundup

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Games, Guild Wars

The end of October was a pretty interesting time in Guild Wars. Despite prior accounts that the Halloween event would not take place, ArenaNet managed to pull it off. Simultaneously, the new expansion pack / standalone game, Guild Wars: Nightfall, was released for public consumption. I’ve got a fair number of screenshots and whatnot that I want to show off, but I figured that I’d post up a few video clips for those of you who may not play Guild Wars and aren’t familiar enough with it to put still images into context.

In any case, here’s a video montage from the Guild Wars Halloween event, showing off some of the fun extras the Guild Wars team put into the event.

These next three videos are previews for Nightfall, showing off some of the new environments, monsters, characters, and features.

Going to try and post up my massive collection of Halloween / Nightfall screenshots tomorrow, so beware.

NaNoWriMo Update: Week 1

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Personal

It’s been about a week of NaNoWriMo and I’m already feeling a bit disappointed at my lack of progress.

At the same time, I’m not ready to give up hope yet.

My current word count is roughly 2,000, which is behind where I wanted to be with a goal of 500 words per day, but it’s also not so terribly bad that I’m giving up all hope just yet. Last night I had the opportunity to spend some significant time writing and revising (yes, revising is against the spirit of NaNo, so sue me) and also thinking about where I want to go with this story. I’ve actually been thinking about this story for the better part of five years, so the difficulty here is less in planning where I want to go, but in remembering.

Of course, some things have changed in five years and I may not ultimately follow some of my predicted story paths, but at least I’m remembering what they were and am able to assess whether I should follow my mental plan or go in a different direction.

Social News is Dead

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Culture, Politics, Technology

I’ve been progressively getting fed up with social news sites over the past few months. It started when Digg 3.0 rolled out and a whole slew of non-tech related news starting coming to the front page of Digg, and it’s only gotten worse over time.

Since I primarily see these social news websites via PopURLs.com, I’ve noticed a similar decline in quality amongst most of the social news sites. A few days ago I came across this post by Arve Bervendsen summing up his reasons for abandoning one of the other popular social news sites, reddit.com:

* Politics. Yes, I know this is election year in the U.S. No, I don’t care. I’m not American, and I don’t care which republican or demcratic candidate performs voter fraud, lies, cheats or messes with Diebold voting machines.
* Religion. I just don’t care. See politics, and add to it that I think Richard Dawkins is just as evangelical as Ted Haggard.
* Gay sex. See politics and religion.
* Drugs. Not of interest. See politics, religion and gay sex.
* Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart. See politics, religion, gay sex and drugs
* Self promoters. See all of the above, since most of them are already linkjacked reposts of the categories I’ve already chosen to kill. In addition, they’re reposts of utterly unfunny youtube videos, bad financial advice and health scams. Or posted by people pretending to be programmers.
* Karma whores. See all of the above, plus their lame ass-polls.

Even YouTube has fallen prey to this problem. Two of the videos currently featured on PopURLs are overtly political, one of them being a speech of Howard Dean and another is some boy’s opinion on the election. The latter, in particular, has 77,000 views, which is a clear indication that the only reason his story is popular is because of a system of automated viewing scripts manipulating his viewing ratings on YouTube. This is a new technique that’s gained popularity over the past few days, when an expose revealed that many of the celebrities who seek to promote themselves on YouTube have hundreds of dummy accounts that auto-refresh their videos to increase their overall views, or to post automated comments to get their videos on the lists of “Most Talked About” videos.

I’d like to think that all of this political garbage will at least blow over by tomorrow, but if the “If we didn’t win, you cheated” contingent has their say (and they will, no doubt), we’re just seeing the beginning of the nonsense.

Dark Kingdom: The Dragon King

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Culture, Visual

Recently I managed to get around to watching this movie. In case you don’t know, it originally aired on the Sci-Fi channel in late March. It was four hours long, so I ended up putting it off a bit. The fact that it was titled Dark Kingdom: The Dragon King really did nothing to inspire me, nor did the fact that it aired on the Sci-Fi channel. As I’m sure anyone can tell, generic “Fantasy” tends to end up making bad movies. I think I need not even provide any example of Sci-Fi original movies to support the claim that they’re horrendous.

So I managed to put off watching the thing for a good half a year or so, but I did finally watch it. Imagine my surprise when it turned out this wasn’t “Dark Kingdom” at all, but rather the story of Siegfried, the knight who slew Fafnir the dragon. I find it beyond absurd that someone would thing to change the name of this movie from Ring of the Nibelungs to something as generic and uninspiring as “Dark Kingdom.” No doubt Sci-Fi played a part in this brilliant move. Now, it’s not a totally faithful adaptation to the version of the Siegfried story that I know, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

All in all, I thought it was an enjoyable movie. There were a lot of agonizing moments where I was astounded by the stupidity of the characters, but that is largely the legacy of the folk stories … Though I’m sure the movie could’ve done a better job at conveying the motivations of the characters in some of their actions, it’s hard for me to fault them for what is largely an issue of cultural drift. I was pretty pleased by the performances, though the female leads did have some moments of dramatic excess. The effects were excellent for this picture, and the best of them were Alicia Witt and Kristanna Loken.

Loken1

Loken2

Above is Kristanna Loken. Probably the weakest actor of the bunch, a fair number of her lines come off problematically. Still, she’s physically the perfect fit for her role, and fairly convincing. Besides, who can resist a blonde Valkyrie in wolf-furs or battle armor?

Witt1

Witt2

Above is Alicia Witt. She’s definitely the more refined of the two in the film, though her pictures here don’t really do justice to that. You just have to be partial to her hair, which is both red and very luxuriant. She is definitely princess-like, as befits her role, and some of her dresses had me pining for the days when women might have actually worn such beautiful clothing.

Exploding Books

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Personal

Apparently, books can explode.

This was news to me as well, but I discovered it was possible while doing a bit of cleaning today. I strive to be reasonably organized but typically I have so many things going on simultaneously that things tend to spiral out of control until I take a step back and get a handle on them. So I took a bit of time today to clean and try to organize my physical environs.

Now as I was cleaning out my closet I took a look in one of my light travel bags. As a bit of explanation, whenever I travel anywhere for more than a day, and sometimes even then, I will take a certain book with me to read. About two years ago my first copy of this book, though still my favorite, became too worn for me to feel comfortable carrying it around anymore. I decided to purchase a new copy. As I was ruffling through my bag I saw this book lying there, sprawled out, covers split apart, pages twisted and bloated. Once I folded the pages back into some semblance of order the whole thing looks like it’s an 800 page tome stuffed into the binding of a 200 page book.

I have no clue how this managed to happen: I haven’t touched this book since I set the bag down in my closet, there’s no excessive moisture in the air, and I certainly didn’t manhandle the book or set it down in such a way that it would ruin the pages and the binding. The only thing that even hints to me at what happened to the book is the black stains that appear occasionally on the edges of pages. My first throught was that it was mold, but the black stains are somewhat dusty and could very well be charcoal (I keep a set of sketching pencils in the bag as well, though they are contained in their own sealed plastic container…)…

All in all I find this very disconcerting, especially since whatever happened to this book also happened to my passport. Now I am going to need to replace both. I’m betting that the new book might have had acidic pages, or something of the sort, that underwent some strange reaction due to one or another factors. I just hope it’s not mold, or else all the other papers in the bag that look visibly fine might spontaneously burst into elaborately crumpled forms and destroy themselves.

NaNoWriMo – The Beginning

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Personal

Today has been a day of twists and turns, comparatively speaking. And, as one might guess, twists and turns aren’t good for NaNoWriMo unless they’re of the novelistic variety. Still, it hasn’t been bad, per-se, as I came to it with a rough idea of what I wanted to do.

So here I am, thinking about NaNoWriMo and what its future holds. I’m kind of tempted to turn the NaNo project into this blog for the next month or so, but I don’t know that anyone would care to have this blog turn into even more dreck. The real dilemma though is whether I want to do that, and on that question I’m still undecided. It’d certainly be a motivating factor in turning NaNo into a performative act, but at the same time NaNo does not exactly put one’s best foot forward. There’s also the concern that dedicating effort to NaNo on this blog would crowd out other things that I could be talking about but wouldn’t if I were regularly updating with NaNo writing.

I’m going to be thinking about this for the next week, most likely, but for now let’s see how NaNo goes.

D&Dud

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Personal, RPGs

So as you may tell from the title of the post, our latest D&D session did not turn out so well. Things started off fairly promising, with everyone showing up on time and our DM for this campaign instructing us all to level up. However, what was promising went sour pretty quickly when group frictions arose over turning D&D night into a babysitting exercise. The initial frustrations lingered on for a few hours until people just began snapping senselessly at each other, and so we decided to cut the game short until some people could let their heads cool.

In retrospect, I think the imperative to level up our characters was probably a mistake. Although everyone welcomes the opportunity to level up, in a non-trivial way, leading with a level up takes you out of the game. There’s really no excuse for having levelling up third level characters to fourth level taking over an hour, but because there was no established interest in the game yet, it did. I kept thinking back to the idea which was talked about on the D&D Podcast of leading a game with a combat to catch everyone’s attention and bring them into the game. It doesn’t take a lot of acuity to realize that, after levelling up, telling the players that a year has passed in game time and that we should think of what we were doing for a year is not going to get anyone involved. Follow that up with two hours of talking to backwater locals in some town and you’ve got a recipe for bickering throughout the entire truncated session.

Though I can’t say whether a more interesting session would have calmed tensions and let people concentrate more on the game, it seems likely. Instead of leading with a year long interlude we should have led with a decisive battle and, if desired, then an interlude. Further, the ominous threat plaguing the backwater town we spent hours walking around in should have presented itself early instead of allowing the session to limp onward without a strong sense of direction or conflict. Maybe next week.