Down Time

Posted in General on November 22, 2008 by B33

I suppose it goes without saying that I’ve been rather busy, as of lately. While it’d be nice to regularly update this journal, sticking to such a schedule would deter the quality of the said entries and the other various aspects of life I currently have ahead of me. I am nearing the end of the particular semester I’ve been attending to for the past few months. One last essential “cram” to the finish amongst the various other side projects I also tend to linger upon from time to time. Suppose I’ll present a brief of overview of what I’ve been pre-occupying the little free time I have with…

I was able to attend a screening of Zack and Miri Make a Porno on opening day. A full review detailing my thoughts on the film will be published in due time. For now, I will simply say that I was very impressed with the final cut of the feature and look forward to my next viewing of it. As far as gaming is concerned, picked up LittleBigPlanet and Resistance 2 and I am enjoying both titles immensely. I’ve also been playing through Half-Life, as it was marked down substantially in honor of the title’s ten year anniversary. The third Futurama film entitled “Bender’s Game” recently hit store shelves and is fairly enjoyable. Plenty of laughs to be had with a rather engaging setting and plotline. The pacing has been improved, although it’s not without it’s flaws…

With that, I’ll depart with a few exceprts of news circulating around the web. Aint it Cool News recently sat down with Spike Jonze in a rather extensive interview regarding his adaption of the novel “Where the Wild Things Are,” The PlayStation 3 recently hit it’s second year anniversary, The trailer to the final Futurama film entitled “Into the Wild Green Yonder”  has hit the internet, The Ghostbusters are back, The squid is out,  and the end of a hero?

“I was seldom able to see an opportunity until it had ceased to be one”– Mark Twain

First Impressions: Left 4 Dead

Posted in First Impressions with tags , , , , , , on August 31, 2008 by B33

After developing Portal and Team Fortress 2; Valve is now steadily at work on their latest title, “Left 4 Dead,” which will hit Steam and major retailers on November 4th of this year (2008) for North America and November 7th for Europe. Left 4 Dead was first unveiled at the end of 2006 under the helm of Turtle Rock Studios, which was later acquired (i.e. absorbed, merged, etc) by Valve (given both studios having good relations with one another), hence how they ended up jumping on board the project. The story to Left 4 Dead is as follows; A unnamed virus has swept across the world and everyone affected has become the essential equivalent of a zombie. You take the role of one of the four survivors of the virus who must fight the hordes of victims in a First Person style of gameplay (FPS or First Person Shooter). Sounds relatively simple enough. What sets Left 4 Dead apart from other titles of the same genre is the gameplay and actual assets featured.

Valve’s primary goal with Left 4 Dead is to spark a change in the Co-Op style of gameplay often flawed for various reasons. Clearly, a decent amount of forethought and planning has gone into the gameplay aspect of Left 4 Dead as it’s vastly encouraged you work together or else you yourself will end up dead (along with your other team mates as well) at the hands of the vast amount of zombies featured. Running off on your own to be the sole “hero” is not wise and it’s doubtful you’ll last long. Players must stick together in order to fend of the enemies present as well as help each other out when a particular team mate happens to fall into a snag (becoming overwhelmed, falling off a ledge and hanging, injured, etc). To even further mix things up for the player, Valve has added an intriguing new AI (Artificial Intelligence) concept they’ve dubbed “The Director.” As player’s progress; The Director will observe the group as a whole to decide upon the difficulty curve, pacing, number of enemies, etc. There are no set spawn points for enemies within the game. Everything is varied upon the given factors and circumstances of the players. If you have a team that works well together, has little friendly fire, and a decent amount of health; The Director will spawn enemies at a greater number and in a more diverse strategic manner to up the ante and make the game much more difficult. However, if you have a team that’s poorly performing with a low amount of health; The Director will ease up on the player and lower the amount of enemies and set the difficulty curve at a lower rate to offer a bit of a break.

The Director also affects the player’s individual perspective as well. Music and visual effects are implemented in a procedural manner to reflect upon the player’s particular condition and situation. Combine the procedural alterations between the variations of a player’s experience individually and as a whole; and you have a game that encourages a vast amount of playability that further drives the entertainment and value of the product. It’s a rather intriguing concept that makes up for the fact it’s yet another title in the over saturated First Person Shooter genre of gaming. One to four players may jump into the roles of “The Surviviors,” although you don’t necessarily need more than one role filled as The Survivors can also be controlled bots via AI. Co-operation, again, is the key as players have the ability to aid each other and any selfish player present will soon be corrected (and can ultimately be booted by other team members in a voting system present). Players can communicate through automated commands courtesy of quick menus present (certain commands will be automatically uttered when reloading or spotting an infected civilian). And to further drive a co-operative style of gameplay, the developers allow players to spot each other through walls, obstructions, etc by utilizing a green glow around each player when blocked by an object.

There is a particular backstory to each character, though there will be no cutscenes in the game to further flesh it out. Instead, the developers have recorded a vast amount of dialogue that will be featured pending upon the various situations the player encounters. This further encourages multiple playthroughs and keeps the gameplay at a solid pace rather than breaking it up with cutscenes or a linear timeline, as well. Overall, I’m very intrigued with what Left 4 Dead has to offer. The concept isn’t particularly original by any means; though the title makes up for it by introducing enforced principles on top of rather solid gameplay. There are additional modes to extend the experience and various other aspects to further add depth to the game itself. Though I still have doubts on whether the actual gameplay will grow repetitive; despite the measures taken. The fact that it’s a First Person Shooter also leaves me leary as the genre has become rather bloated and over saturated in the industry, as of lately. Left 4 Dead hits the PC and Xbox 360 this Winter, with a possible Playstation 3 port in the works. For more information, please visit the official website at www.l4d.com.

Halloween Horror Nights 18: Reflections of Fear Bloody Mary Unveiled

Posted in General with tags , , , , , , on August 28, 2008 by B33

For the eighteenth year, Bloody Mary brings forth history’s most terrifying Urban Legends to life at Universal Studios Florida when the sun sets and darkness descends upon guests.

8 Houses: Reflections of Fear, Scary Tales: Once Upon a Nightmare, “Creatures!,” Interstellar Terror, Dead Exposure, Doomsday, The Hallow, and Body Collectors: Collections of the Past.
6 Scarezones: Asylum in Wonderland, Fractured Tales, The Path of the Wicked, The Skoolhouse, American Gothic, and Streets of Blood.
3 Shows: Rocky Horror Picture Show- A Tribute, Brian Brushwood, and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure.

Opening night is September 26. For further information and additional content, direct your browser to www.halloweenhorrornights.com.

The Simpsons Ride

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , on August 25, 2008 by B33

Theme parks have always been a enjoy/hate affair in my eyes. Yes, I enjoy the attractions and atmosphere the park delivers upon; but yet I detest the crowds, the corporate affairs that affect the quality present, and insanely high prices littered throughout the parks. Out of the vast amount of theme parks out there, I personally enjoy visiting Universal Orlando Resort for various reasons. I enjoy the atmosphere and scenery, the rides, and the core message the park is based upon (“experience the movies”) even if that message has been skewed to a certain extent since the park first opened in 1990. One of the classic staples to the park has been the Back to the Future Ride which ultimately met it’s demise on March 30th, 2007 thanks to the ride being fairly dated and it’s appeal fading amongst this newer generation of the public (read: the wait times were becoming fairly low) despite the film being regarded as a timeless classic. Being that I’m a rather extensive fan to the Back to the Future Trilogy and enjoyed the ride and surrounding area as a decent tribute to the classic; I held the notion of trashing the concept in low regard and was even more displeased by what was rumored to be the new replacement to the attraction.

The two more prominent rumors that swirled amongst the Universal fanbase was the notion of a loose spin off to the “Fast and Furious” films or an attraction based upon The Simpsons television show. Being the admittedly extensive Groening fan I am (both The Simpsons and Futurama are deemed as classics in my book); I immediately thought of The Simpsons as a better concept than The Fast and the Furious as the show holds a more “timeless” appeal than the Fast and Furious could ever have (the films are already well forgotten). I still held a general distaste for the upcoming attraction at first and doubted it could very well surpass Back the the Future. Gradually, the attraction developed and construction began and ultimately transformed the building into something much more elaborate that magnifies the lack of complexity and flaws with the Back to the Future attraction’s original design.

As one can clearly see the entire building and surrounding area has received a complete overhaul between what was once the Back to the Future attraction and now The Simpsons Ride. The redesign to the building’s appearance really does liven it up in a better way and reflects more upon the The Simpsons as a whole. The general idea is for the ride to be a visit to Krustyland (run by Krusty the Clown) which is essentially a rather humorous parody with multiple jabs on the various theme parks around the world. The view from the outside of the building appears much more busy and while it’s a bit over the line in terms of overkill; it’s suitable for the concept and ultimately lives up to grabbing one’s own attention and drawing crowds in. The queue (line) to The Simpsons is rather impressive as it has been reworked a bit with better intentions in mind as well as providing a visually intriguing experience through the design and what is on display. The outside of the queue features numerous humorous clips from various episodes within The Simpsons television series as well as recently produced material that features The Simpsons reflecting the guests by waiting in line and parodying the different aspects of theme parks in general while doing so. As guests transcend the ramps and move to the queue within the actual attraction, much more detail and laughs are granted. There’s quite a bit to see and multiple walkthroughs are required to catch everything.

After guests wait in the inner queue for an particular amount of time (varies pending on the crowds) they are then asked to enter the pre-show chamber and view the video displayed on the television screen featured. The general idea is as follows; Sideshow Bob is on the loose as Krusty The Clown opens his latest attraction and The Simpsons family are picked (with the help of Bob himself) as the first family to ride it. As pre-show ends, guests are then ushered into the chamber that features the motion based simulator attraction. The Simpsons family are thrown through another adventure as you loop, dive, and crash through Krustyland. New and rather convincing effects are added to further sell the simulated experience and are rather impressive. Aesthetically, The Simpsons Ride is enjoyable from the newly implemented technology present and re-designed queue and external area as well. Furthermore, the Kwik-e-Mart created from the remains of BTTF’s gift shop is well crafted and one will more than likely feel a sudden state of nostalgia wipe over them at the sight and ultimate walkthrough of the store.

Though as fresh as the new technology present happens to be; the attraction lacks a particular aspect that Back to the Future genuinely had. Take note of the blatantly disparate state the animation between the actual video within the ride and the art style found throughout the queue, store, and park; which stems from the actual animation style featured on the television series. It was rather jarring and, in the end, disheartening growing up with the animation of The Simpsons and seeing it’s likeness sprawled throughout everything encompassing the ride; except the actual ride itself. To the Computer Generated Imagery style of animation’s credit, it still retains a few cartoon style traits to it; although animating the Simpsons in a 3D style rather than 2D ultimately appears awkward and unfamiliar. Hence why I think BTTF contained more of a genuine amount of spirit and integrity rather than skewing itself from the source material due to production costs, time constraints, etc.

Despite the ride’s flaws; the attraction still manages to be engaging and fun. Multiple viewings of the attraction itself and queue are encouraged as guests will more than likely not catch every little detail throughout their first outing. While it’s always a shame to witness an attraction be disassembled for another; The Simpsons is suitable enough to be an acceptable replacement for the once classic Back to the Future Ride. Hardcore and casual Simpsons fans will get a kick out of the attraction while those who hold disdain for the series won’t be coverted nor swayed by it. It’s an enjoyable experience that’s indeed flawed, though ultimately still accomplishes the task of providing a fun excursion through a familiar town that has become a staple to the television industry and has been enjoyed by fans for nearly twenty years now with plenty more to transpire.

Reloading

Posted in General on August 18, 2008 by B33

Lately I’ve been sort of neglecting this journal in favor of working on a side project and coasting for the remainder of my Summer break, which has just ended as of today. Though the recent emergence of a tropical storm has since given a day of school off which will in turn cause regularly schedule days we will normally be absent to now be reinstated. Though I’ll take what I can get, regardless. At any rate, the side project I’ve had some focus upon will be unveiled in due time and I’ll resume my normal routine of posting reviews, thoughts, etc on this journal shortly. I’ve been toying with a few ideas within my mind for a new short story that I’ll get around to writing after I finish a couple other things. There’s yet another project I’d like to tackle, but it’d further add upon my workload and intrude upon my free time; thus I’ve further delayed the project for a indefinite amount of time.

As far as news goes here’s a brief overview; Kevin Smith’s latest film lands an R rating on appeal, Fox wants in on the profits from the film adaption of Watchmen, It’s been a little over 100 years since the first animated film emerged, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was delayed by Warner Bros, the next Futurama film has been dated and the cover art has been released, and it seems that the sky is indeed falling as it appears a newly announced Batman video game will finally have an intriguing concept not grounded in the realm of mediocrity.

On a side note: the stats to this journal have grown at a impressive rate. Perhaps they’ll become even more “impressive” when I actually get around to writing more entries within it. And with that, I’ll end this entry.

“If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend six hours sharpening my ax”-Abraham Lincoln

Movie Etiquette

Posted in Nifty Stuff with tags , , , , on August 17, 2008 by B33

External link: ATHF Movie Etiquette

Above is the introduction that was inserted before the main attraction within Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters in both the DVD edition and theatrical release. I found it to be rather humorous. Perhaps theaters should start inserting this before each and every movie, rather than the alternative which is often disregarded.

Impending Outlook

Posted in General with tags , , , , on August 7, 2008 by B33

It’s been quite some time since my last casual post. Lately I’ve been preparing for what lies ahead after the passing of Summer time… And by “preparing” I mean sleeping, watching films, and various other activities that utilize the free time I have for the time being. With all that free time, you’d think I would have updated this journal much more often, but then the thought of my lack of motivation and the actual realization that my free time is diminishing more and more by the day comes to mind and it all seems clear. In terms of my current situation and actions; I’ve been steadily going through all the garbage that has built up these past few years and have nearly sorted though it all in preparation for a future departure (the exact date of this said departure is unknown at this time) of my current location.

The “future” seems to be the main topic of interest as of right now since focusing only upon the past blocks our sight of the present and ultimately what is in store. The future is a particular aspect drilled into our minds at a young age that enforces the concept of a plan. Though the key detail to plans is that their often broken before they can go into full effect (regarding one’s lifespan) or some event or detail changes that forces us to go back to the drawing board and start again. Some choose to give up and coast while others go back to the board and attempt to make up another plan and hope it succeeds. It all rests upon one’s own perspective and will.

Though whether we decide between ambitious ideals or logically sane methods is another aspect many become torn over. A individual who strives to become a famous musician clearly has the odds against them and the likelihood of them ever reaching the realm of stardom is laughable at best. Though the message we try to push upon society is “You are special”, “Don’t let anyone stomp on your dreams”, and “There’s no limit to what you can set your mind to and ultimately succeed at” to name a few. There’s a line between reality and delusions. Becoming a famous musician essentially falls into the bin of delusions because your merely one of the millions of individuals attempting to reach the same point when really it’d take someone with a vast amount of talent which is a rarity in itself. Though becoming a technician for say, a theme park, isn’t really delusional because with the right aspects; you could ultimately achieve that goal if your dedicated enough.

There’s clearly a line present between delusions and reality that is often ignored by the overly optimistic and dismissed as being too pessimistic in an attempt to shelter their minds from the actual truth and ultimately leave what little shreds of hope left behind after the wake of reality sets in. Not to say looking at the bright side of life is a bad thing; just that it’s irrational. Kudos to you if your one of the overly optimistic individuals, but I’d rather be secure in the realm of reality rather than stumbling around with a blindfold wrapped around my face. That’s not say I’m always negative either. If something is genuinely good, then of course I accept it as much. Though if something is bad, I’m not going to go into denial and pretend it’s good. There’s a line between “good” and “bad” and those are the two options granted. Though this way of looking at things in general greatly depends upon the given situation. Negative isn’t necessarily the viewpoint I utilize but more of a derived form of it known as a “cynical” disposition. Which, in itself, is a humorous aspect. If you can look at the humor of things in a cynical manner and coast along life, it’ll be a much more intriguing journey than sulking or being overly sappy (read: optimistic on a sickening level).

In the end. I suppose this boils down upon the future and what exactly lies ahead. I don’t believe there’s a predetermined path we follow (i.e. “destiny”), but more or less a rough outline that results from our everyday actions that affect the general outcome. In other words, the future isn’t set in stone quite simply because it has yet to arrive. We’re ultimately the “masters” our own “destiny” and it’s on this planet we follow the course of time and determine our own timeline. I’ve heard some say “Everything happens for a reason” but I believe this to be too broad and essentially stating a particular aspect that is blatantly evident. Yes, everything has a reason; from the buildings to the insects present on this planet. Everything is of course present for a reason, but whether the particular reason in question is useful or not is ultimately left to the one utilizing it to decide upon on their own. Trial and error, evolution, survival of the fittest all play into the general idea of “design” and why everything has a particular reason for being present. Though there are times where particular aspects are replaced because the time and era ultimately changes and we’re left with better reasoning behind this said action. Essentially, with time becomes a altered perspective that allows us to see the the past from a better angle and ultimately clears up the picture to allow us to improve upon the flaws and create a better vision of the future which is not clearly defined and in the hands of this generation and the following generations.

“If I were given the opportunity to present a gift to the next generation, it would be the ability for each individual to learn to laugh at himself.”– Charles M. Schulz