I’ve been a big fan of No More Kings from the moment I heard Sweep the Leg. Even bigger once I’d seen them live and listened to the entire first album. Then bigger still after getting my copy of their second album and listening through that. Both albums are always on my MP3 player and I love every song. That’s pretty rare, to love every song by a band. Even some of the “best bands in the world” like U2 or The Rolling Stones have a few songs I can’t tolerate. But No More Kings has joined Better Than Ezra and Seven Mary Three in the short list of “can do no wrong” for me.
They don’t have a new album out (though I’m hoping for one), I haven’t seen them live recently, nor do they appear to be coming to town anytime soon. So why am I talking about them?
Because it’s Zombie Wednesday here at Aim for the Head, I didn’t have any other zombie news to post, and I love this song (not the video so much, it’s not done by the band, but it lets me hear the song, so it has that going for it):
I missed last week because it was Thanksgiving and I was sick, but enough about that and more about this week’s movies…
The cast looks good with Tobey Maguire, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Natalie Portman, but I’ll be honest and say I know nothing about this movie, so let me look it up. One moment please… hmm, sounds depressing. Maybe I’ll watching it when it shows up on Netflix or something. Pass.
I went to a screening for this, we arrived early as usual, but the line was so huge that we didn’t get in. That happens sometimes. I really do want to see it and might go this weekend. I love me a good holiday movie about family.
So, I saw this last night at a screening. The short of it: six employees of an armored car company decide they are going to rob their own hauls and things don’t go according to plan. The thing with a movie like this is that it has been done before. A lot. So the point here isn’t really to be original, especially since crazy originality in heist movies tends to lead to implausible stretches of believability, but to simply do the story well. Armored starts a tad slow, mostly because the movie wants you to be introduced to the characters, their environment, and to almost painfully lay out exactly the reasons why the heist is going to happen now and point out all the reasons why it has to be done this way. For example, the man in charge of the officers explains that next week they’ll be getting new trucks with GPS, informing you that right now they rely on radio contact and so are blind between scheduled check-ins. However, once they get the money in the trucks and begin to commit the theft, the movie really picks up, and it does everything from that point on fairly well (except this one chase scene which if I had been the writer I’d have done without and put in a different tension element). No, Armored probably isn’t worth the full price of admission unless you’ve got the spare cash to burn, but it was fun and well done. Worth seeing.
The only movie opening this weekend and I did not get a chance to see a screening. I’ve seen the trailer, and it looks like it might be funny, but there is no way I’d spend $10 to go see this in the theater. But the moment it drops on DVD or Netflix, I’m sure I’ll see it.
Its not a done deal yet, apparently, but it is close. And considering the bang up job that AMC is doing with Mad Men (it being one of the best shows on television), hearing that they, with Frank Darabont at the helm, will be bringing The Walking Dead to the small screen is just awesome.
From the moment I first read The Walking Dead I always felt it would make for good TV, that making a movie of it would actually hurt the overall impact of the story and make it “just another zombie movie”. But TV would allow it to tell longer, more complex stories, and yet able to have each episode tackle a complete story of its own as the people try to make their way.
For my inaugural GameTap review, I decided to hit one of the original games designed for the service – Sam & Max: Season One. If you don’t know who Sam & Max are, take a moment and quickly skim through the Wikipedia entry. As a kid, I read a few of the comics, but I wasn’t a collector. And at 18, I played the video game. I always enjoyed the humor, and I’m happy to say the humor isn’t lost here in Season One. Playing through the game was fun and funny for the writing, the dialog.
Actually playing the game, on the other hand, was alternately boring and frustrating. Sam & Max is one of those “click on everything” games. You drag your mouse pointer around the screen and when an object is highlighted, you click on it and you’ll either interact with it, pick it up, or talk to it. Items in your inventory are picked up, your mouse pointer changes and now when you click on things you’ll try to use that item on the object. Its also one of those “you can’t lose” games. There is no time limit. Every mistake, no matter how bad, loops back into the story, in fact, is actually part of the story if you want to hear all the witty dialog. When I say boring and frustrating, what I mean is that the puzzles in the game were either a) painfully obvious and amounted to just making sure I clicked the objects in the right order, or b) painfully obtuse. I won’t ruin the game by using an example from it, instead I will use a classic maddening example from the walk through of the old Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy text adventure:
Firstly, eat the nuts. If you don’t, you will die of protein loss. Take off your gown, and hang it up on the hook. Then, get the towel and put it over the drain. Wait until Ford is asleep, then nick his satchel and put it in front of the panel. Put the junk mail on the satchel, then press the dispenser button. A babel fish will land in your ear, and you will be able to understand all languages.
Nothing in Sam & Max is quite that bad, but sometimes it does feel like it, especially when you are missing just one element of the “logic” and failing over and over again.
Overall, I love the art style of the games, and the humor, but as a “game” I’d almost rather be watching a cartoon or reading a comic book.
It has only been a week since I decided to make a concerted effort to hold the Munford Cinema in Urban Dead, and I am ditching that location. The rotter revive center just proved to attract far too much attention. So, I’m now on the prowl for another theater to take.
At the moment I’m hiding in the Hildebrand Mall gathering supplies and checking my city maps… and recovering from being dead three times in a week.
This experience, to me, really illustrates the one major design flaw in Urban Dead. In most games, death might have a penalty, but you always get back on your feet. In this game, dying actually makes you the enemy. If you and ten of your friends are hiding out in a building and a couple of zombies break in and kill some of your friends, your friends are now zombies. Reviving them costs 10 action points each. The net sum of the game is that you will lose. No questions, at some point you’ll die and have to either play zed or just wandering around looking for places where people might revive you. I don’t want to play a zombie, its boring. I want to be a survivor running from building to building looking for supplies and hiding for my life.
Anyway, I’m still playing and still going to be trying to build up the MCP, but its absolutely going to need to be somewhere safer.
At the last possible moment… okay, not the last moment, but close… Saturday, I decided the wife and I would play Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar. So, I threw a copy into the Amazon shopping cart, changed the quantity to two and placed my order. The reason I started by saying it was a close call was that the game released on Tuesday, and you had to order it before then as a pre-order to get the super cool Founder’s bonus stuff, most importantly the $9.99 a month rate. Since the normal rate would be $14.99, $5 a month times 2 is $120 a year savings.
If we end up playing for two years, I might kick myself for not taking the Lifetime subscription, but then again, if I paid $200 and then canceled after six month I’d kick myself. Damned if you do…
Back to my point though… we ordered our two copies of the game and then I went to the digital download section to claim our pre-order key… wait. Key? Singular? Shouldn’t I have two keys?
Why yes, yes I should.
So I call Amazon Customer Service… or rather, I go to the web page, enter my phone number and click the button to have their help desk (helpfully located in India) call me. The woman is nice enough, at least the broken formal English she is reading from her CS manual is nice enough. After many unsuccessful attempts to explain how the pre-order, account registration and all that is supposed to work, and trying to point out that I ordered two copies of the game but only got one key… to give a quick example, it went sorta like this:
Me: “I ordered two copies of the game, only got one pre-order key.”
Her: “Order shows one item.”
Me: “With a quantity of two.”
Her: “Not two, just one item on order.”
Me: “There is one item, with a quantity of two.”
Her: “Sir, your order has only one item. Digital downloads are given one per item.”
Me: “The item cost $50, my invoice is for $100 because I bought two.”
Her: “But there is only one line item.”
Me: “With a quantity of two.”
Finally, she grasps the concept… one item, quantity of two… and determines that she is not capable of resolving my issue. She says that I should have ordered the items at separate lines, then forwards my problem to another department, says they will email me the resolution, and hangs up.
Now, there are many things I am not, but one thing I am is a Web Programmer. You would think, if Amazon has an issue with providing digital content on multiple quantity single line items someone over there might be able to trap a flag and issue a warning to the user, or even not allow multiple quantities for items with digital content. A nice little pop up that says, “This item includes a digital download and product key, please add multiples to the cart separately.”
In any event, we are now waiting to hear from Amazon. They owe us a pre-order key, or they owe us $5 a month. Let’s see how long this takes to resolve…
Update: As bad as the first call was, my follow up 48 hours later was good. The woman was pleasant, contacted the department needed, got us all on the phone, got the issue reviewed and resolved, and she apologized for it taking a second call to get the work done. Apparently the first woman hadn’t actually forwarded my issue to the other department. All is good now.
Pete and Re-Pete were paddling a canoe when Pete fell out, who was left in the canoe?
-first grade humor
Now take a moment to consider that. If you don’t get that joke, please, please… stop reading my blog. Encapsulated in that joke is the one thing that really irritates me most about MMOs. Just the other night in World of Warcraft, my group and I went off to collect the heads of some thieves. Now, when we killed each of the offending people and take their heads, my suspension of disbelief allows me to equate that fact that each of us gets a head to be taken as we have evidence of the head, or since we all plan to go back together that there is really only one head that we share. Of course, one of our group had killed them and taken their heads and turned them in for the reward two days prior.
People in EverQuest used to make jokes… “Oh thank you!” quest giver Sarah tells you. “You found my mother’s locket!” She tosses it over her shoulder into a box full of identical lockets.
I realize that designed content is limited, and players will exhaust content faster than it can be created, so I’m not sure what the answer is here… except to stop generating content. The one thing that EVE Online does better than any other game I have played is to encourage you to get involved in PvP. Honestly, unless you really enjoy playing the economy game of buying and selling goods (I have a friend who makes a billion isk a month and rarely ever leaves his hanger), or grinding the same twenty missions over and over, there isn’t anything else to do. Of course, EVE Online is a niche game.
And that comes to the real point… its one I’ve made before and will continue to make: the world needs more niche games. We need more companies who plan properly and would be happy with fifty to one-hundred thousand players, maybe less, maybe more. We need more companies who actively do NOT want to be the next big thing.
The one thing that sucks most about having your car stereo stolen is driving without music for several days until you get it replaced. I’ve never been one much for keeping quiet when I drive… singing or talking, there’s usually something being said or at least thoughts rumbling around in my head waiting for the right moment to come out. But music always fills in the empty spaces. Driving now is creepy… when I stop talking to myself, I can hear the tires on the road with perfect clarity. I can hear the changing sounds of cars switching lanes. I hear the plink of little bits of road debris plinking in the wheel wells.
Silence has always kinda creeped me out. When people ask that question, “If you had to choose, would you rather be deaf or blind?” I agonize on it for a long time, but ultimately come down on the side of blind. I think I could handle not being able to see… but living it a world of silence, I think that would be too much for me.
Anyway, my replacement stereo arrived today by UPS, so I shouldn’t have to put up with a music-less drive for much longer.
I’ve seen two movies recently, and figured I’d take a moment to give them the once over for ya…
The first one, Legally Blonde 2. It was cute, funny in parts, but the main reason I went was to cheer up the love of my life. And it worked. Essentially, if you liked the first one, you’ll like the second one… Just ignore the “Snap Cup” scenes and you’ll be fine.
Next… The Medalion starring Jackie Chan. It was good, but like almost all Jackie Chan movies, the story takes a back seat to the action. There is a feel to the film, if you pay attention to it, that is common in alot of anime and other films from that region of Asia, of disjointedness. The story jumps from one plot point to another with little in the way of transition. Plot point. *pop* Plot point. *pop* Action Scene. *pop* Plot point. *pop* Chase Scene. *pop* Plot point… etc. And the cuts between scenes are about that abrupt. And of course, when dealing with a Jackie Chan film, you’ll see the usual people speaking their native tongue that is later dubbed over. Sometimes the choice to do this is odd.. They are in China, you would expect them to be speaking chinese with subtitles, and they do speak chinese, but its dubbed over in english, and then when the same actor is in a setting in England speaking to non-chinese speakers, he’s still speaking chinese with english dubbed over… Its just one of my personal nit picky problems with dubbing. I hate it. And lastly, the movie gets to a certain point, decides “Its been 90 minutes, lets wrap this up.” And it is, in about 3 minutes.
That said… I go to see Jackie Chan films for the action scenes. And this movie delivers on that respect. The only issue is that for whatever reason… Jackie getting older, wanting a different feel for the movie… whatever… they used alot of cable work as opposed to the normal stunts that Jackie usually pulls. Normally, I walk out of a Jackie Chan film saying to myself “Oh my god! I can’t believe he did that!” Things like jumping from one building to another without a safety harness, etc, etc… But in The Medalion, its clear in many places that its not just Jackie… its Jackie and the guys pulling the wires. And seeing that… it makes me a little sad.