Welcome to the BURN CENTER!

Hey folks, Jonny Napalm here welcoming you to my charred little corner of the sky. Here I will be sharing views on all the things I love and adore and loathe with the burning passion of a thousand suns. Be aware.. my views tend to the nerdtastic, so... you are warned.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Where are the Freelancers?

Every time I plug a new game into any gaming system, I hope to find something new or interesting... Something that will engage me while entertaining me.  It's rare that you find one that can handle all those options... and the ones that have been appearing (though more frequent these days) are still exceptionally rare.  I've been yearning for my Wing Commander days back on my old Amiga and felt compelled to give the recently updated Dark Star One: Broken Alliance a try.  
It may be recollections of rose-colored glasses... but those games were still far superior to the one that I've been playing.  DS1 is, at it's core, a space sim, with some upgrade elements tacked on to make it slightly different from it's contemporaries and little bits of trade tacked on to keep up to par.  Still, even with it's HD upgrade.. it doesn't manage to hold up to games from 2003 specifically Freelancer... which in my last experience is one of the best space-sims I've ever played.  DS1's story felt very cobbled together using a great deal of inspiration from Freelancer, but without the inventive starship design that was developed for the different factions and cultures.  All in all the game is a weak diversion while waiting for the next generation of good space sims to show up. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

That madman in his magnificent blue box...

The first couple episodes of the new season of Doctor Who have aired over here at long last... and once again, Steven Moffat (currently considered one of the best episode writers the series had) is making his mark on the Doctor's Mythos.  He's made fun new villains and found a distinctive new way to mess with his audience using his distinctive sense of fun and silliness.   
Most folks have "their" Doctor.   The one who caught their attention and riveted them to his episodic stories when they were younger.  Moffat is no different.  Check out his Time Crash mini episode from the Children in Need special he did for the BBC.  It's a brilliant piece of work by David Tennant (our previous Doctor incarnation) that touches on many of the things that make the character unique and wonderful.  It also serves to show WHY so many of the good Doctor's fans were disappointed when Mr. Tennant hung up his Tardis key (though with the way things work in the Doctor's world, we could run into him again).
For me Tom Baker is most frequently the one that came to mind pre- 2005 series resurrection. Though his successors "The Caves of Androzani" remains one of my favorite episodes of Doctor Who to date.
The most interesting thing we saw when the Doctor made his return was the change in his nature... before he was the ancient traveller looking for things and friends to keep him busy while plunging though the extra-dimensions that we know are there... but he can see and feel.  With his return he was an old soldier... lost and alone... the last survivor of a race that no longer is, and struggling to find something to hang on to.  
The Doctor's first seasons (at least the new ones from 2005-2009) are now easily accessible via Netflix, and have some fantastic storytelling, almost all of which is self contained in each episode though Russel T. Davies "the Doctor as Messiah" tends to get a little heavy handed in the episodes that he writes. 
Steven Moffat (the Doctor's current showrunner) has some of his BEST work in these series.  Including Blink, a exceptional piece of television that only actually involves the Doctor tangentially. There are many things to expect from a show like Doctor Who... but the one that I enjoy the most is the un-adulterated creativity that pours into each of them.  While I love the classics of Doctor Who dearly... I there is nothing that I can recommend more than the new series.  It's fun, scary, brilliant, and shining and while it's regular cast is small even the guests for each individual episode work their utmost to make it an excellent viewing experience for everyone.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Revisiting the DC Wasteland....

Folks that know me are aware of how much I enjoy the simplicity of the console game environment.  It really is about as simple as things get.  Have the console, insert game play, probably enjoy.  When I took Fallout 3 for it's initial run back after its release, I had a GRAND time wandering the desert wasteland around what once was a nation's capitol and killing off mutants, slavers, radioactive roaches, and of course...the occasional nut who started shooting at me for no apparent reason.  Now the advent of DLC on both the XB360 and Playstation 3 have greatly extended playability for a good many games on both systems...then I grew curious.  The Fallout 3 story features an element called the GECK (or Garden of Eden Creation Kit)... a tool made available to the modding community by the good folks at Bethesda shortly after release, that allows for fundamental alterations to the game world and changes to the environment.  Now I'd been away from the Capital Wasteland for quite some time, but I was immensely curious to see what kinds of stuff folks have come up with for one of the best post-apocalyptic stories I'd ever experienced.
The answer?  A LOT.  There is a TON of new material available to extend or re-define your gameplay with Fallout 3 on the PC.  Granted a great preponderance are little cheats or god items or items of an AHEM, adult nature... but when you sift away a lot of the things that aren't going to increase your enjoyment... there's still a ton of material.  Theres quests by the cartload, new locations to be explored, new characters, and stories that folks are using the GECK to make interactive fan-fiction for all practical purposes.  One of my favorites was actually a mod that DRASTICALLY ramps up the difficulty of the game.  Making the acquisition of clean water a priority, by creating the possibility of dying of thirst or starvation was an intriguing additive. The game was an exceptional piece of work before and some of these good folks in the modding community went ALL OUT to increase that gaming experience. And for that I salute you good sirs one and all.  So, if you're revisiting old games on a PC, take a look around and see if there's any modders doing anything interesting with it.  You never know, it may just change the way you play the game.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Returning to the Age of Dragons...

So hopefully all the folks who checked out my previous post on the Game of Thrones did themselves the service of at least giving it a try, they may have guessed my reason I'm RETURNING to the Age of Dragons with this post (in more ways than one).  The primary reason?  I'm going to be covering my thoughts on Bioware's recent project, Dragon Age 2.  Since that's really the only reason I need... I'm going to keep quiet about the second.... but the observant from Game of Thrones will likely be able to figure it out.  
Now, Bioware has become the dominant force in Story driven RPG's lately.  A format that has been one of my favorites since I first picked up an AD&D book.  Set in the world of Thedas (literally, THE Dragon Age Setting), the first Dragon age story told of the rise and potential fall of the Fereldan Grey Warden as he attempts to halt the hostile Blight from destroying his home nation.  The game boasted deep story, excellent characters, and lots of great potential game play in a fast tactical environment.  The sequel on the other hand changes a number of the aspects of the original game.  Not all bad, but not all were terribly favorable...
The new game gives you great customization of Hawke... the primary protagonist, but makes customization of ALL the other characters involved in the game with you a challenge.  Generally speaking in an RPG, customization of the parties weapons, armor and capabilities the means of optimizing the survivability of your characters.  My primary issue DA2 over 1 is that the decision to completely eliminate allies armor in DA2 makes them immensely vulnerable and problematic to keep alive in the higher difficulties of play.  And while the "custom" skill slots possessed by each of your allies in the game are interesting, I'd have greatly preferred that they had more comparable skills to the variations of Hawke... in particular the ability to have more Healers available than Anders from the DA: Awakening expansion.  Now, I played the game on the Xbox360 and PC, and while both formats work well (the game was made much more action oriented for the gaming platforms) the tactical format works much better on the PC, much like the predecessor.  And while I'm sure there will eventually be some great DLC for the game, with the moding community online there is SO much more depth of game available to PC players it's ridiculous.
While I didn't enjoy ALL aspects of the game... I did LOVE the story.  Bioware is going all out with their games and crafting full rich stories for their customers and this one is no exception.  It will be really interesting to see how the implementation of the story aspects of the Star Wars: Old Republic game is going to be.
The primary lesson here is this:  If you're looking for a good RPG with a lot of action to it Dragon Age 2 is a great place to go.  Most folks will get by with rental or Gamefly... but for those of us who REALLY love our RPGs... Its a solid purchase.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Great Game...

George R. R. Martin's critically acclaimed series "The Song of Ice and Fire" has been in my library since it's initial publication.  And let me just say, there are GOOD reasons that the critics love these books.  The characters are deep and well developed, and the stories that Martin tells from the various characters points of view all follow actual evolution of all of them while each paints a bigger picture of the world around them.  And that's without getting into the deep mythology that has grown with the series (initially a trilogy, now projected into a 7 book series).  Now the folks taking a look on here may be wondering why I'm bringing this series up now... and for that I say... Isn't it obvious?   HBO has finally got their series project of "The Game of Thrones" up and on the air.... and it's every bit as deep and well made as it's original publication.  HBO shows their conviction to bring quality programming projects to their audience that I haven't seen since Band of Brothers.  No, I'm not being facetious...I think the quality of the work being done here is that good, though the subject matter is pure fiction, rather than history, it doesn't change the quality of the work being done.  The production team got a great cast set up all of whom fill their characters roles with apparently no effort.  Now, as much as I'd love to get into spoiler territory, I'm going to refrain... cause I feel everything presented in the story is much better if you just let it unfold as you watch.  What I am going to say is that there are few things I've seen on television that consistently impressed me throughout the full duration of the program....and the premiere episode of The Game of Thrones was one of them.  One other thing that I want to tell the folks who may read this is that if you thought that the storys beginning was impressive?  Jus hold on to your hats...cause this is going to be one heckuva ride.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Back again...with the Cape.

Greetings once again to all you good folks out in the blogosphere... it's been almost 2 months since my last publication.  The initial hiatus was due primarily to the holiday doldrums and trying to figure out where I would be going with this fun little exercise...  and now I find myself drawn back to it, as the moth to the flame, to bring tidings of mediocrity and hope for the potential of things to come.
So what specifically has gotten under my skin to bring me back to the nebulous uncaring interconnected ocean of webposts?  To basically do as the samurai of old did and duel against something so vast and uncaring that it is an endless struggle of futility?  Finally seeing some of the potential showing up when a program seems to be going on its last legs.
The Cape... an interesting concept with a fantastic ensemble cast that seems to be finally finding it's legs.   On it's surface The Cape is a very basic hero style show.... the network keeps plugging it as a "superhero" show but it really doesn't fit the model left behind after Heroes died.  The problem that I kept running into with the show was also it's greatest strength...the cast.  The Cape/Vince Farraday played by David Lyons is an adequate hero...but no superhero.  As a soldier who transitioned himself to law enforcement, there are still a lot of elements the character that haven't been explored... forfeiting those opportunities to focus on the relationship between a father and his son... and while that could be interesting... with an adequate young actor in the role of the son it could have been much more engaging... but there's only so much of a vacant 100 yard stare that one can take and attribute to "acting", before you start wondering what the casting director was thinking.
James Frain has come solidly into his own as the engaging Chess, and his legal alter ego Peter Flemming... Very much in the model of Lex Luthor as the military industrialist who's getting his claws solidly into a city with some very entertaining twists.  The most intriguing that I find is that Flemming and Chess are actually opponents in their own game from which the criminal personality derives his name.  Flemming as the white king of order trying to control the surface board, while Chess controls the underworld as the black king.  It's a fun dichotomy that Frain plays with well.
The we run to our other primary... one of the fantastic young actresses discovered by Joss Whedon in his hay day, but who kept landing all her best roles on FOX network shows, that never really managed to get onto solid ground.  I speak of course of the incomparable Summer Glau as Orwell... an enigma who finds it useful to have some muscle to get her message out about the dark turn politics in her town are taking.  A terrific character, and one that I always enjoy seeing get more screen time... especially building on said character.  And there isn't a techno-geek out there who wouldn't love to see some practical applications getting those fun holographic computers she's using be real.
Still.. for me the part of the show that SHINES... are some of the "B" characters.  While Vince is focused on finding a way to clear his name, his focus in his family is almost always on his son, while his wife, played very well by Jenifer Ferrin, gets much more interesting stories, with the backlash of her husband being suspected as a mass murderer and trying to move on while still making an effort to prove he was a good man.  Some exceptional work there which, when it doesn't focus on the son, hits home more often than not.  Then... there's the wonderfully charismatic and brilliant Carnival of Crime players.   Keith David steals scenes easily as Max Malini, a ringmaster and ringleader looking to do something a little different with his skills.   Martin Klebba is brilliant as the diminutive Rollo, who still gets a lot of the best fight scenes.  A show focusing on ONLY the carnival characters would be fantastic and probably a lot more fun than what we've got now... but we make due with what we've got.

To summarize... while the show got it's initial draw from the geek/nerd portion of Chuck as a lead in (an admirable bit of programming) it's taken this Freshman far to long to get up to speed to get the momentum that the network needs for it.  I'll be a disappointed if the show doesn't manage a sophomore season at least... but not surprised, with the network already having cut 3 episodes from their order.  As it is...I'm loving watching some great actors get to show off their talents...