Tenfold Hate


Sam Mendes Set to Bring “Preacher” to the Screen
October 30, 2008, 9:21 am
Filed under: Comics, Film

Sam Mendes, the guy who directed American Beauty, Road to Perdition, and Jarhead is slated to bring Garth Ennis’ comic book series Preacher to the silver screen. I’m happy to see another quality, non-schlock director at the helm of another quality, non-schlock comic book adaptation. Probably best known in mainstream comic book circles for his Punisher revamp, Ennis is a very talented writer who is worth reading.

Preacher has a unique, bastardized, Southern gothic feel to it, telling the story of a modern day preacher travelling through the west (accompanied by a former girlfriend and an Irish vampire) in search of God, who seems to have abandoned Heaven. Many supernatural hijinx ensue. I’m pretty sure you can pick up the whole run in a series of handy trade paperback collections.

One of my favorite mainstream Ennis storylines that many people seem to have missed is Marvel’s Thor: Vikings. It’s about a cursed Viking ship doomed to roam the seas for all eternity that washes ashore in NYC. The undead vikings start to do what they do best (rape and pillage) while beating the crap out of the Avengers in the process.

At its heart, Thor: Vikings IS a Thor story, and a damn good one. I never quite bought Thor in the Marvel Universe. I mean, why would a Norse god speak in Shakespearean English? He never seemed believable to me–even in a fantastic universe where folks don tights and swing from buildings. Though Walt Simonson’s run on Mighty Thor in the eighties was a lot of fun in an over-the-top, traditionally “comic booky” way, it was more Simonson’s fantastic visual style that appealed to me than the stories themselves.

Ennis gives the character three-dimesions and made me really root for him, as the normally omnipotent man-god finds himself defenseless against the viking invaders and must find a resolution outside of his brute strength and otherworldly wamma-jamma.

With a story rich in history, folklore, and mythology, I highly recommend Thor: Vikings–especially to hesitant fantasy fans who may have never caught onto the whole men-in-day-glo-tights-fighting-crime thing but want to jump into comics.

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Burnt
October 29, 2008, 3:15 pm
Filed under: Gaming, MMORPGs

WAR has thrown my MMO play habits completely out-of-whack. You see, spring and fall are when I tend to forsake my more hermetic pastimes (MMORPGs) for RL endeavors, only to return to fanatic button mashing during the sweltering heat of summer or that dreary, post-holiday tail end of winter.

But after a month plus of obsessively playing WAR, I’m starting to feel the fatigue of returning to an MMORPG full force. The elements of the modern MMORPG I find lacking (and bitch about constantly) are really impeding/killing my enjoyment of the genre. I feel like I’m at the end of my rope with static worlds, leveling, and generic, respawning mobs. And I just can’t solo PvE anymore. No matter how hard I try. It’s mindless. It’s not challenging. There’s zero skill involved. And all I achieve from it is another notch on the level bar that has very little significance to me anymore anyway.

This got me to thinking, “Stripped of their multiplayer/more “social” elements, would any current MMORPG be more than just a massive pile of regurgetated, recycled suck?” Though I’m playing devil’s advocate to a certain extent, there is some seriousness to the question. Sure, the breadth and depth of the actual landscapes/zones in most MMORPGs is just breathtaking.

But at the end of the day, when I’ve grown tired of looking at the pretty scenery, it’s the casual, pleasant social elements of being in an agreeable guild (or playing with RL friends) that’s kept me in every single MMORPG I’ve played long after the game’s “best before” date of fun had long expired.

I don’t think we as MMORP gamers give ourselves half as much credit as we deserve for breathing life into the often flat, monotonous confines we’re given to play in.

Pssst…PS3?

I haven’t picked up a console title since 2005. In fact, the last console I owned was a PS2 I chucked last month when I moved into a new apartment. I don’t want to jump into MMO’s I’m looking forward to (like TCoS ) with a bitter, burnt out gamer mentality when they are eventually released. So, I’m thinking of picking up a PS3 while I cool my jets and take a little mental health break from gnomes, dragons, and grinding. Why a PS3? For the Blu-Ray player.

I know the PS3 doesn’t have quite the extensive range of games as the 360, but the fact that the PS3 always comes up when NCSoft (and obviously SOE) talk about developing games for the console, I feel like it’d be the wiser choice for me down the line.

Any console advice–either wii, XBOX 360, PS3, or otherwise? Probably won’t be another month or two before I lay out the cash for a console anyway.



New Chronicles of Spellborn Video
October 24, 2008, 2:38 pm
Filed under: The Chronicles of Spellborn

Spellborn International Ltd., the European game developer who’ll be launching The Chronicles of Spellborn next month updated their website today, adding a new video and some other goodies. For anyone who hasn’t been following Spellborn’s development, it’s billed as a story-driven game that integrates PvE and PvP, non-turn-based combat, and is set in a post-apocalyptic fantasy world.

They’re taking a “European Art” approach with the tone and visuals of the game. Though I’m not exactly sure what that implies, the screenshots I’ve seen portray a richly detailed, deeply colorful world that I think will translate well to the computer screen–though the cartoonish avatars might take a little getting used to, IMHO. Another thing that piqued my interest in TCoS is the fact that gear is about character customization and personal preference. Any step away from the number crunching, stat-based gear game we’ve been indoctrinated into gets a big thumbs up from me.

Could this be a positive step forward towards the MMORPG’s role-playing roots, with strong storytelling and character taking precedence over stats, cold mathematic formulas, and linear progression?

/crossfingers

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WAR: Making Tanking Fun Again
October 23, 2008, 3:06 pm
Filed under: Warhammer: Age of Reckoning

This has been a week of heavy public questing for me in WAR. I’m probably as surprised as you are by that statement. It all started this past weekend. While waiting around for scenarios to pop for my Warrior Priest, I darted over to Troll Country to lend a hand to an RP and BW who were working on an Empire Chapter 6 PQ. At that point, my WP was rank 20 so I was able to breeze in and help them complete all 3 stages with relative ease.

We hit it off, and while shooting the shit and swapping our likes/dislikes about the game thus far, I mentioned, “Hey, I have a Swordmaster around your level if you guys ever need a tank.” A few nights later, who should send me a /tell but the Runepriest.

After spending way too much time repeating Stages 1 and 2 of PQs to max out my influence on my other characters (due to lack of primary healers and/or tanks floating around), I really appreciate the good fortune of finding a regular PQ group of like-minded players. A group that just happens, as fate would have it, to be a balanced group (tank, healer, DPS).

On any given night we’re all on, we’ve been able to spam regional chat, get a handful of group members, and barrel through 2-3 PQs. And as anyone who’s played Empire knows, that means it’s usually the 3 of us (SM, RP, and BW), 3 WPs, and 3 WH.

I just can’t get enough of the Swordmaster. So much so that my WP may take a backseat to her. Besides the standard tanking abilities any MMORPG player would expect, Swordmasters have a series of abilities that cripple their opponents spiritually as well as physically, including several sword maneuvers that culminate in a magic AOE burst and knockback–handy for grabbing aggro from multiple mobs–and even more fun as chaotic “crowd control” in the middle of a group of enemies in RvR.

The magic element of the class is key for me–cheers to Mythic for designing an elf tanking class that still retains some of it’s elfishness.

Prelaunch, the class was intended to be a shieldless tank, which is still an option, but it’s much more viable from a survivability standpoint to go with a one-hander and a shield. I find the two-handed swords look much more imposing than the High Elf’s signature tower shields and I’m hoping in future patches Mythic makes survivability for greatsword SMs more realistic, since its one of the unique attributes that distinguishes them from their sword-and-board brethren.

The only time I really use a two-hander at the moment is if I’m doing some solo PvE and wanna crank out a bit more damage–or if I feel like mixing things up in RvR–though I usually go for survivability over damage output in any player versus player scenario.

For anyone who enjoys tanking and hasn’t tried WAR, my recommendation would be to ignore the hype from both sides, and take a WAR tank for a spin. I bet you won’t regret it.



Giddy Up!
October 21, 2008, 11:00 pm
Filed under: Warhammer: Age of Reckoning

After close to a year of blogging, I finally discovered how remarkably easy it is to post photos on WordPress. One would think I’d have noticed the “Add media” bar a bit sooner. Duh. I generally post during downtime at my tedious job, where I don’t have access to my photo cache anyways. Shhh…don’t tell the boss.

Here's my Warrior Priest from the Chaos Wastes server on his brandy new horsie.



My Complete and Utter Ambivalence Towards a Proposed KOTOR MMORPG
October 21, 2008, 2:16 pm
Filed under: MMORPGs

Like every other red-blooded western male in my age demographic, I was completely enamored with the original Star Wars trilogy. I had the toys. The Atari 2600 games. The bedsheets. The garbage cans. Visually and thematically, Lucas’ films were light years ahead of their time, coupling cutting edge special effects with a unique blend of sci-fi and fantasy.

I recognize these films’ importance in their time and place, but outside of cheap nostalgic value, the Star Wars mythos holds little for me in the here and now. Don’t get me wrong, they are still entertaining movies. I’m just saying there’s no lasting depth or complexity–nothing that speaks to me individually as a grown-up. Campy dialogue from the mouths of great actors (Cushing, Guinness, etc.), visuals that have done an extraordinary job of weathering the last 30 years, and wookies. Very little to criticize there.  

But the Star Wars films fall flat because there’s very little left once you hack through all the tauntaun fur with your lightsaber. Take the first couple Planet of the Apes movies, Donner’s Superman, or Blade Runner. They offered me something as a prepubescent kid who needed fantasy, adventure, and that intangible “cool” factor. But they still offer me something upon revisiting them as an adult.

Once the smoke clears and the villains are defeated, these movies pose questions like, “What does it mean to be human?” and “What are the lines between right and wrong (or between human, animal, or machine)?”

I always liken the Star Wars thing to comic books through the early sixties: visual masterpieces with largely forgettable, poorly scripted stories. Stan Lee may have created Daredevil and the X-Men, but Frank Miller and Chris Claremont made you give a crap about them.

Out of high school, I learned that Lucas was heavily influenced by the films of Akira Kurosawa and the writing of mythologist Joseph Campbell. If you explore either of their works (which I really encourage, Star Wars fan or not), you’ll discover colorful worlds of ideas, characterization, and mythology that make Return of the Jedi look like Birth of A Nation.

I’ve been playing EA games since Bard’s Tale on my Apple ][e and Bioware was responsible for the last single player game I gave a shit about (Neverwinter Nights) so I’m sure they have something exciting down the pipeline. But I’m no more worked up that it’s potentially KOTOR than if you told me a Krull or Willow MMORPG was in the works.

* Please note I didn’t even touch on the Star Wars “prequels” which only serve to drive my point home by stripping the Star Wars mythos of the “nostalgia factor” and leaving us with three mediocre, shoddily written sci-fi films.

IF YOU’RE BORED, CHECK OUT SOME
OF THE FLICKS MENTIONED IN THIS POST
Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai
Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner
Richard Donner’s Superman
Franklin J. Schaffner’s Planet of the Apes

OR, IF YOU’RE FEELING REALLY MOTIVATED,
HERE’S SOME SUGGESTED READING
The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell
God Loves, Man Kills by Chris Claremont (graphic novel)



/getalife
October 20, 2008, 12:30 pm
Filed under: Warhammer: Age of Reckoning

The Chicken Little “Sky is Falling” brigade has come out in full force for Warhammer Online. WAR is not a perfect game. Nor is it a game for everyone. Some fixes and rethinking need to be done on the part of Mythic regarding some pretty big issues, including getting players out of scenarios and into the open world and doing something with PQs so they don’t turn into the oft-ignored, unmined gems they seem to be turning into across many zones on many servers.

The thing is, WAR needs a hell of a lot less fixing than 90% of MMORPGs on the market. That’s why I can’t help but sigh and throw my hands in the air when I hear some of the more outlandish criticisms being leveled at this title at the moment.

My personal favorite? WAR is a failure because several shut-ins with too much time on their hands reached “endgame” and staged a successful city siege. The problem? No developer has yet had the foresight to thwart determined players with no goals, responsibilities, or obligations outside of “beating” a game. Though I’ve heard whining of exploits and bugs in endgame throughout the troll-o-sphere, I think we all need to take a deep breath and reevaluate something: WAR is one of the sole titles that actually bothered to release with an endgame to participate in.

If this were Vanguard or Age of Conan or World of Warcraft a month into release, players would have reached endgame to find…nothing. Nada. “But, but, but,” stammer the naysayers, “But it was so easy. Endgame’s not supposed to be so easy.” Yes, but endgame in WAR is about player combatants versus player combatants. If 3/4 of your opponent’s army is still in boot camp, guess what? You’re probably gonna win the war, and win pretty easily.

And why are MMORPG players so concerned about what the other guy (or woman, or greenskin) is doing anyway? Why should the fact that people invested way too much Mountain Dew and Hot Pockets into maxing out their characters in two or three weeks and toppled a city detract from anyone else’s fun? Who cares? It’ll easily be another month or two before I max out one of my characters in WAR–and since there are substantial numbers leveling at my pace (or well ahead of me on the leveling curve), I’m guaranteed a pretty challenging fight once I eventually make it to the gates of the Inevitable City.

I’d level the “epic fail” not at the development team, but at players who gloss over content to race to the end of the line, failing to stop and smell the roses and appreciate the gorgeous world a lot of designers put their blood, sweat, and tears into. I’d level the epic fail at players who are so single-mindedly driven to rush to their destination, that they’re blind to the random encounters and casual socializing with other people that color the journey. It’s fitting that their destination was as empty as their frantic sprint to get there: a bunch of scripted NPCs to fight, just like any other MMORPG. Devoid of the life and spontaneity that other players bring to the mix.

Until more of these folks realize it’s not what you experience in an MMORPG, but how you experience it, and who you experience with, there’ll always be the chronically unsatisfied legions knocking on the gates of the castle, only to find nobody home.