Friday, October 05, 2007

A little bit of self promotion.


Countless thanks to the Jon, James, and J.D. . Remember to read their comic at www.untitledcomedy.com

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Speaking of little crawling things

Well, I'm kind of bored today so I'll make a few reviews.


First stop, movies (animated ones to be exact)!


There were some big animated movies this summer, as usual, those included The Simpsons Movie whose title couldn't have been more apt, since it is exactly that but, unfortunately, not much else. If you like the cartoons you will like the movie, since it's to all extents an hour and a half episode with better effects. It does have some great gags, but you need to heed my warning: the Spider Pig will haunt you for the rest of the week! Muahahahaha


*cough*


Sorry about that!


Second up, Shrek 3.

Now, once the first reviews came out I started to decide and wait for the DVD (even more so I didn't had to see the dubbed version) but I recently did watch it. Thoughts? It did the job of being entertaining and still made me laugh. However it is vastly inferior to the previous two. Sure, it does have it's good moments, but for the most part it feels as if they're trying to hard. The new characters of Arthur and Merlin feel dumb and poorly constructed and the movie as a whole feels much smaller than the previous.


Then we have Ratatouille.


Let me get this straight, ever since I watched the Incredibles, and even more after reading his wikipedia page, Brad Bird has become my idol when it concerns animation. The Iron Giant has got pretty high on the list of past movies I want to see.

And Ratatouille does not disappoint.

While it is probably not the most original movie out there, it is so expertly crafted that you can't stop loving it. It can be exciting at times, funny, smart, and positively heartwarming. It's moralizing without being preachy, teaching us many important things that we often forget.

And I swear I started looking into my food in a completely different way.


Okay... And I believe that's everything in the movie section, so I'll now pass into videogames (sorry, no books until Making Money comes out).


Ever heard of Knytt? No?


Well then, go here and try it, I'll wait.


Dum di dum...


Back? Okay, so now go here and get this one.


...


Back so soon? Well, go back to the link and get the expansion pack.


A bit more seriously now, Knytt is a freeware independent game which is occasionally described as ambient gaming. You control a small guy which needs to explore a beautiful world seeking some small objects while solving several puzzles along the way. In Knytt Stories, the sequel, the objects even give you new abilities. It's an amazingly simple game in concept that can be rather addictive (and occasionally, difficult) and it can be a wonderful experience. Unfortunately the game isn't very long. Knytt Stories fixes that by including a level editor that allows anyone to create their own adventures.


And since you're at it, you can also try Within a Deep Forest, although that one, while good, can be too frustrating and hard.


Saturday, July 07, 2007

I saw Transformers!

So, if anyone comes looking for me, I'll be crying in the corner while devising new and ingenious ways of killing Michael Bay very slow a very painfully.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Prince of P(ain)ersia

That’s it?

No, really, that’s it?


This was pretty much my reaction as I finished Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. I remember this game to be vastly praised by players and critics alike, so you can imagine my disappointment as I fought my way through to the end of it.

But let’s start by the beginning shall we? The basic story is that a treacherous grand vizier (what a surprise!) allows the sands of time to be captured by the prince’s father’s army, and later tricks the Prince to release the sands, against warning from a beautiful princess, turning everyone except the Prince, the princess and the vizier into undead.
And… I’ve pretty much just told you the plot for the remaining 95% of the game and we still just played the first five minutes of this 10 hour game.

Nice…

Then we progress to fight some bad guys, then solve a puzzle, then we fight bad guys, then puzzle, bad guys, puzzle, etc… etc…

Really! Would it be so hard to actually fight bad guys while traveling between several points to solve one puzzle? Would it be so tricky as to make a puzzle that spawned more than one room? *Sight…*

Now let’s talk about the fights shall we? Early on, you only need to button mash and the guy will do a lot of cool looking things. Later on, half those tricks won’t even work against your enemies, causing you to spend most of your time holding block and then hope to hit someone as you strike with your sword while some three or four other enemies strike at you. Yes, three or four, no matter how many you killed, more will spawn, and no enemy will die unless you stab them while they are on ground, because if you don’t they will rise again.

And the beauty of it is that you need to kill all of them to have access to a save point and not only will you have to defend yourself but also the above mentioned princess (although she also fights).

On to the puzzles! For the most part they involve reaching tricky places through a series of jumps and running up or along walls (Really! The guy is almost as good as spider man regarding moving along walls.), the problem is that in most cases the place is infested with traps and any fall will be fatal (the traps are the easy part, by the way).

Now imagine my joy as I jumped from one wall to the other, walked over ledges, jumped from column to column or simply dangled above dangerous places and I happened to press the jump button a microsecond too late or five inches to the left.

Joy!

Fortunately the Prince has this dagger that allows it to move time back a few seconds (with limited use, of course), so you can misjump again and fall into nothingness yet again. But fear not, because from the point where you don’t have the dagger is exactly the one with more falls to nothingness.

Let me put this straight. It took me about one week to get 70% through the game (mostly because I didn’t have the patience to do more than one puzzle plus fight at a time), then I make a break and decided to replay Soul Reaver 2, which I finished in 3 days and felt like it was short (although it is another 10 hour game). It took me 2 days to get past the last 10% of this game! And the only reason I did was because it was the last 10%.

Now that I bashed the gameplay, let’s take another look at the plot.

I’ve made it clear how cliché it is by now. And in fact the only time where it appeared to have a chance to become interesting only ends up by spawning one of the most annoying puzzles ever seen and is in fact a dream sequence which adds absolutely nothing to the plot.

The Prince/princess relationship is also dully clichéd, since although the story takes place during one day, it is sufficient for them to fall deeply in love and the prince actually considering proposal, although the dynamic between the two are among the very few good things of the game.

The game’s atmosphere is nice, but also one of its weak points. There is no evolution! The game takes place all in the same place and even as one progresses there isn’t an increase in tension. And considering that by midgame you’ve pretty much faced every type of enemy, the only way to know you’re closer to the ending is that the save screen tells you what percentage of the game you finished.

I can only compare this game to one of hollywood’s summer blockbusters, looks cool, lot’s of cool effects, but shallow and clichéd.

Through all the bashing, let me tell you this is not necessarily a bad game, but it was highly overrated.

Oh, and it has one of the most pointless and anticlimactic endings ever seen.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Late for Hogswatch.

Well, since I don’t post here for some months now, let’s go for an express review, shall we?

As may or may not know, around last Christmas the British television channel Sky One released the first real-life adaptation of a Discworld novel: Hogfather.

Being a huge fan of the series, and not living in the UK, I quickly arranged a “not quite legal” way of watching it. Here are my thoughts on it:

First I would like to say it is probably one of the most faithful adaptations I’ve ever watched. Most the dialogue and scenes were taken directly from the book, and although several scenes and characters had to be cut (notably the Librarian) or had its part reduced it brought the point along nicely.

The acting was quite good, and the characters were quite similar to the book. Both Susan and Teatime played quite well, and the only one I had some reservations was Albert which felt a bit too jolly.

However, while it is possible to enjoy the two episodes without reading the book, it is highly advised that you do so, since many scenes and characters work much better if you know details from the books.

Oh, and if you do see them, once you reach the “in next episode:” part, please turn off the monitor. They pretty much do tell the whole bloody thing in those few minutes.

So, in short: This is a great first adaptation from a Discworld book, and I hope they keep coming with this quality (hear that Sam Raimi?).

Monday, October 16, 2006

Incoming

Right now, you're scratching your head and wondering, who the hell is this guy? I don't blame you. I've fell off the face of the earth, and if Xocrates wasn't such a nice guy he would have shot me a long time ago.

For reasons beyond my control (yeah, right) I'm going to have a lot of free time on my hands from now on, and I want to do something usefull with that time. So I'm starting a reading program: one book, one post/review. The first book I'm going to read and post about is Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. Oh yeah, I love the classics. See you in a few days.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A word at a time: Intro

They say to write about what one knows! It’s a good advice.
Personally, I think it’s a better idea to write about what no-one knows!

Actually, if you analyze the past two sentences, you’ll notice they are not quite the opposite. In fact they both appeal to one thing: write about something that others cannot prove you wrong.
It’s true, if an historian writes about ancient Egypt, then there is a good chance he knows what he’s talking about and at most some other will disagree in a point that has never been fully proved, which brings us back to the second sentence: they disagree about what no-one knows, and therefore the historian did not, technically, made a mistake.

Now you can argue that what he could actually have done was a “suspension of belief”, that is intentionally telling a lie in the attempt to improve the story he was telling. We’ll be back at this shortly.

The point is that the first sentence works well, but only for specialists. You can argue that non-specialists can do research, but that either means they become specialists or, very likely, will get something wrong.
The second sentence gives you a lot of freedom, since it is much less restrictive than the first. There are shades of grey between the two, of course, but those would need a post all for themselves.

This is why I think fantasy to be a great genre to write about, because you set upfront that whatever you write will be set in a world that we have no knowledge about and therefore there is nothing you can’t justify (even if the explanation is “magic” you’re still right), but overall any type of speculative fiction possess these possibilities.

However, even in the more mundane types of fiction the second sentence usually takes priority over the first. A good example is love stories!
What do I mean with “love stories”? Well, how many of you know exactly how a relation is supposed to go? Anyone...? No-one…? Oh wait, you in the back! Oh! You just want to go to the bathroom. Second door on the right!
Most love stories usually include someone doing something that no-one in their right mind would do, but that doesn’t mean that someone wouldn’t do it. You can say it never happened, but you can’t prove someone wasn’t disposed to do it.

Suspension of belief is a sort of grey area, it usually involves things that can be proved wrong but that people accept in the context of the story. Like a fictional street on a real city or the ability to clone dinosaurs. However the use of suspension of belief must be used with some care.
While you can justify basically anything in a fictional world, even the most ludicrous things, with a bit of story development and good sense, suspension of belief usually implies the reader (or viewer or whatever) knowing that things are wrong. In fact, one can say that suspension of belief follows a normal curve in which the left side represents what’s too ridiculous to accept and the right side what’s not ridiculous enough to know it’s wrong. The height of the curve represents the amount of acceptance.
What this means is that people are willing to accept an otherwise normal people would survive an explosion, but wouldn’t accept the same person surviving a meteor strike.
Similarly if I said Nero burned Rome was I telling the truth or not? Most people are willing to accept this to be true, however there is no proof that he did and in fact is rather unlikely. This type of suspension of belief can be dangerous if not used with care.

I intend to make “A word at a time” a regular feature of this here blog, focusing with each post a different aspect of story writing. Obviously it will be a personal account, so you’re free to disagree and comment.

See you next time!

Edit: It has been called to my attention that it appears I consider fantasy superior to what I call "mundane". This is not true! I simply meant that I find it easier to write for the first. I used mundane to describe stories that generally take place in the "real world" and not, as it might seem, to describe common literature.