Friday, April 26, 2019

Spoilers Be Damned...

So, of course I don't want to see spoilers for Avengers: Endgame. I'm going to do my best to avoid them of course, but no matter what I might accidentally stumble upon, there's no way I'm NOT going to see Endgame. Spoilers would obviously be annoying, but they aren't the thing I'll regret. The only thing I'll regret about Endgame is the fact that my Dad isn't around to finish the journey through this arc of the MCU with me.

My Dad was a huge influence on me. You wouldn't think it to look at the guy but Dad was a nerd. I mean, the guy read books on String Theory, Astrophysics and Quantum Mechanics not because he had to, he was just interested in the subjects. He even planned to write his own book on these subjects for the layman that he planned to call The Stuff of the Universe. Total nerd. And in being a nerd I absolutely take after Dad.

Dad was also into Sci-Fi and Fantasy, and he definitely passed the love of those genres on to me, which I've loved my entire life. Pretty sure it was Dad's idea to take me to the first movie I have any memory of seeing in the theater; The Original Star Wars back in 1977 when I was 2. That was my gateway drug into as I said, a life-long love of fantasy and science-fiction, genres I write in, another thing I owe to Dad.

Over the years I ended up going to a LOT of flicks with my Dad, and those are all cherished memories for me. The last movie we went to together before he passed away was Iron Man, the movie that kicked off the MCU.

All throughout my journey through the MCU, there have been several times when I really felt Dad's absence. "Dad would have liked that", or "Man, Dad would've gotten a chuckle out of that." Even subsequent viewings of Iron Man, Tony saying "I never got to say goodbye to my father"(I didn't either), it hits me.

But even though he hasn't physically been here, I feel like Dad's been with me every step of the way, and there's no way we're not going to finish this journey. Even if I do it by myself. As Black Widow said in the trailer, I feel like I owe it to the person who's not in the room.

So, spoilers be damned. In the next few days I will be in a theater, box of Milk Duds(our traditional movie snack) in hand, and I will finish this journey I started with Dad around 10 years ago. Whatever it takes, to the end. Love you, Dad. Wish you were here, and thank you.

Carry on smartly, my friends.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Gamer Savings Time: Beating Bethesda at its Own Game(s)

Anyone that's a video game fan has probably heard about the Homeric Odyssey of PR rocks and shoals Bethesda's been through in the past few months. Bag-gate, messing up a bottle of whiskey, Fallout 76's critical scorching all over the internet, a pretty significant data breach, just to name a few. It seemed like Bethesda couldn't go a week without some fresh PR hell. Well, it isn't getting better, not yet anyway, because it looks like 2 other studios are poised to out-Bethesda Bethesda. Yeesh.

First, we have Obsidian's upcoming game, The Outer Worlds. I'm very excited for that game. Judging from what's been shown of it so far, it looks like Obsidian just went ahead and made the game that a lot of folks were hoping Bethsda's Starfield was going to turn out to be. From what we've seen so far, TOW looks like Fallout, Borderlands and Mass Effect went to space, got drunk and had a whacky threesome while rewatching Firefly. Then, someone got in The Family Way and that glorious little sci-fi RPG baby will be The Outer Worlds. And to dump just a little salt in that wound, they had to take that little shot at Bethesda in the Game Awards trailer. It was a bit immature, but funny. I'll admit that I laughed.

As if that wasn't enough, the Ubisoft decided to come in and steal Bethesda's cake. I know that last year, I was hoping for a good post-apocalyptic title. I was uncertain, but I had some hope for F76. Yeah, that didn't pan out. Then Ubisoft stepped in, gave us a hug and said, "There, there. We understand. Don't cry, Little ones. Here ya go, Far Cry goes Post-Apoc. Far Cry: New Dawn. BOOM! You're welcome." New Dawn looks to be a damn good Post-Apoc game, another squirt of lemon on Bethesda's paper cuts. I'm a big fan of post-apocalyptic games, so I'll definitely be keeping an eye in this one.

So, it does rather loom like Bethesda is getting beaten to the punch twice in 2 different games by 2 different companies. Ouch. I know it looks like I'm jumping on the Bethesda Hate Train, but that's really not what I'm doing. I'm actually hoping that Bethesda takes a hard look at all this, wakes up, smells the coffee and learns a lesson. I hope they take that lesson and realize they need to knock both Starfield and Elder Scrolls 6 out of their respective parks. Then, I hope they keep that train a-rollin' and come up with a new Fallout game that equals or even surpasses New Vegas.

That's what I hope happens. It is possible, but given how lazy and cash-grab focused the AAA game industry can be anymore, I'm not going to hold my breath, and I'm not putting all my eggs in that basket, but I'll remain hopeful until I'm given a reason not to be. In the meantime, well, I'll just look forward to New Dawn and The Outer Worlds, I guess. Seems like a decent plan.

Mahalo, my friends.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Bookish Rumblings and Mumblings: The Wrong Stars by Tim Pratt

I read a lot of fantasy. I write the stuff too. I've always been a huge fantasy reader. Hell, The Hobbit and Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles are foundation stones in my geek sensibility. However, I also love sci-fi. The OG Star Wars is another foundation stone for me, as is The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by the late, great Douglas Adams.

The reason I say this is that not long ago, I realized that I'd been getting a bit burned out on fantasy, I needed a bit of a break. That, coupled with noticing that sci-fi's a bit under-represented in my personal library these days, I decided to remedy both of those things. So with gift card in hand, I headed off to a bookstore to both up the sci-fi section of my personal library and to pick up some palate cleansers to let my inner Orc recharge. Browsing the shelves, I happened to stumble across The Wrong Stars by Tim Pratt, and I'm damn glad I did.

The Wrong Stars takes place about 500 years in the future. Humanity has spread out to 29 other star systems and received many technological advances thanks to a race of aliens that humans refer to as The Liars because, well, they lie a lot. Captain Callie Machedo and the crew of The White Raven, an awesome bunch of space-going rouge-ish types, come across a derelict "Goldilocks" ship, colonization vessels humanity sent out centuries ago when everyone figured Earth was for. The ship is floating in Neptunian space, light years from where it should have been, sporting strange alien-looking modifications. When Callie and the crew bring the sole survivor left on board out of cryosleep, Elena wakes up screaming about First Contact with aliens. The crew breaks it to her that humans have been in contact with aliens for quite some time, but it turns out that Elena isn't talking about The Liars. The race that Elena is talking about could spell doom for, well, pretty much everyone.

The Wrong Stars perfectly fit the bill for me. It had awesome space-going action, a good deal of it really. It was the type of story and genre I was craving. I wanted a snarky Space Opera with some great writing, and that's exactly what I got. Pratt's writing is great and makes it a breeze to get through the novel. But what really shines for me is the interaction between the characters. Their interactions are top notch, and yes, there's a great helping of snark to be had. I could easily see the crew of The White Raven going out drinking and having a damn fine time with the crews of Serenity and the Raza. I really don't want to get too in depth about the book for fear of spoilers.

So I'll close this out by saying that if you're in the market for a kick-ass, fast paced space opera novel, then The Wrong Stars is for you. Tim Pratt's writing is a delight. In fact, I've put him in my list of Authors Who Are So Good, It's Irritating. Heh. My only real beef with it was that I burned through it too quickly because I couldn't out the damn thing down. Thankfully, the sequel is already out and I'm trying really hard to take a more sedate pace through that one. But yeah, gonna need Book 3, Tim. Hope you're on that. Heh. Seriously, jump on out and get this book.

Mahalo, my friends.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Gamer Savings Time: Resident Evil 2 1-Shot Demo

Just got done messing about with the RE2 Remastered, Rebooted, Reanimated, whatever they might be calling it. And I have to say that it did exactly what a demo should do. It got me interested in the game over the 30 minutes I spent with it.

I really didn't have much interest in the new RE2 previious to this, as I hadn't really cared too much about a Resident Evil game since 4. I played 5 and 6 a bit and did the demo for 7, but none of them really grabbed me. Yes, pun intended. Heh.

The new version of RE2 looks like Capcom went back, took a look at RE4 and said, "OK, we'll make RE 2 more like that, but with sharper, gorier graphics." And I'm absolutely fine with that. RE4 was one of my favorite games of the last console generation to the point where I went and dropped some cash for the remastered XBox One version for this generation.

The  new RE2 will have that same third person, over the shoulder perspective and a very similar control scheme to what got used in RE4. Also, it looks a hell of a lot, well, prettier isn't exactly the right word, but you can see the new hardware strength of the current generation at work.

Also, just from the demo it looks like the RE series has gone back to more of a horror game than an action game. Even in the 30 minutes I played there were a couple of times I just about jumped out of my skin, and that's something I have been missing from a Resident Evil game since 4. Nothing creeped me out like the regenerators in 4, but I was only playing what I guess is a very early level, so we'll see what happens when the full game releases in a couple of weeks.

I will say that I am looking forward to it now, even though it more than likely won't make me abandon my usual policy to not buy games right at launch. I may get it out of a Redbox if that's an option and spend a few days with it though.

If you decide to take a run at the 1-shot demo, just be aware that once you start playing, you're only going to have 30 minutes to play. Basically set aside a little block of time and make sure no one bugs you. Hehe. Some people might complain about the relatively short time limit, but I think that the demo did exactly what a good demo should do. It hooked my attention, got me interested and was a great little appetizer for the full game.

If you're a fan of survival horror, and you've got a bit of time, give this one a look.

Mahalo, my friends.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Gamer Savings Time: The Fall(out) of Bethesda...

Yes, I'm extremely late to the party when it comes to talking about what is probably the biggest dumpster fire in gaming news that was the reception of Fallout 76 and the way that Bethesda reacted to it, and indeed continues to react to it. Hey, I told you guys in a previous post that I'm not going to be an Out in Front type when it comes to gaming stuff. But basically, I just felt like running off at the fingers about this for a bit. And it's my blog, so I will. NYAH!! hehe.

Anyway, I'll preface this whole thing that even though it may look like it, I'm not jumping on the Bethesda Hate Train. I don't hate Bethesda, I'm not even really angry at the company, what I am is disappointed. I'll also give the caveat that I haven't played Fallout 76 myself and honestly I don't intend to. Not right now anyway. I may check it out at some point in the future because I WANT it to become a good game because I love the Fallout series. Hell, I love more than one of the series of games that Bethesda puts out. I've lost countless hours to Fallout 3, Fallout 4, and my all time favorite Bethesda Era Fallout, New Vegas(quick aside, I will say that I'm hyped as HELL for The Outer Worlds coming out this year from Obsidian. But that's another story for another time).

Anyway by now, you've probably heard about all the ways Bethesda has bungled the response to more than one PR disaster after another surrounding F76 so I won't repeat them here. If you haven't well, you can just go and find TONS of stories, YouTube videos and blog posts around about BagGate, RumGate, the 500 Atoms, what have you.

Like I said, I'm disappointed in what Bethesda's been up to for the past couple of months, apart from seemingly making one of, if not the, most lambasted game of the last few years. I'm not going to pile on. And if you're one of the people that actually likes or even loves Fallout 76, that's great! Seriously, I'm glad that you like the game. I don't want people to be disappointed in the things that they buy, and like I said, I really hope that they'll do something to fix F76 and make it an actually good game. Time will tell.

And I'm not particularly worried that this whole thing will kill Bethesda as a company. Although it seems like with the regularity with which they keep shooting themselves in the foot, PR-wise, I can't help but occasionally wonder if this whole thing as been some kind of odd, The Producers-esque scheme to get out of the business. I doubt it, but the idea has occurred from time, mainly because my brain loves a good Mel Brooks reference. heh. Anyway, it's been bad for them for the last couple of months or so, but they can take some comfort in the fact that people on the internet have VERY short memories and attention spans.

Seriously, if Bethesda could just avoid shooting themselves in the foot for a month, Hell, even a couple of weeks, I think most people would largely forget about all the cattywampus around Bethesda and Fallout 76, the whole thing would blow over, and they could get back to doing what they're supposed to do, and folks won't be kicking them in the teeth on a daily basis.

That's not to say that there won't be any lasting consequences from this whole thing. There will. Bascially, I think that Bethesda has pretty much burned up their entire stock of Community Good Will with their fan base. Basically, Bethesda REALLY can't afford to mess up again. Both of their main upcoming games, Starfield and The Elder Scrolls 6, and probably at least a couple more future titles have to be simply awesome. I mean, I think they need to make Game of The Year contenders for at least the next 4 games they put out as a studio. That's about the only thing that's going to replenish that stock of good will at this point.

And I WANT them to succeed in doing that. I mean, I'm huge fan of Sci-Fi games so I definitely want Starfield to completely knock my socks off. I'm a huge Elder Scrolls fan. Hell, I bought Skyrim for the 360, bought all the DLC, and then got it AGAIN when it got remastered for the XBox One. And Skyrim has spent a huge amount of time living in my various consoles. It's a very rare thing when Skyrim spends more than a couple of weeks not loaded into my console. So yeah, please give me an awesome EC 6.

Basically, I'm disappointed in Bethesda, but I want to see that they've learned a lesson from all of this and they'll actually take that lesson to heart. Basically, I hope they've learned to stay in their wheelhouse. And their wheelhouse has always been engaging, single-player, story-driven RPGs, not Online-Only Multiplayer games. Please Bethesda, go back into your wheelhouse, make Starfield, EC 6, and at least your next few titles just gobsmackingly awesome. Not only should it be your goal anyway, I think it'd do a huge amount towards getting you back a lot of the good will that you had. Just my many cents. Heh.

Mahalo, my friends.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Gamer Savings Time: The Slow and the Slothful

So, I'm the type of gamer that the current AAA game industry couldn't give a wet slap about. I don't much care for multiplayer, I prefer story-driven single player games. I almost never pre-order, I tend to not buy special editions and season passes until they've been deep discounted for a holiday sale or something like that. I also avoid loot boxes and microtransactions like the digital plague they are. I mean, if I see something really cool that I can get with the game currency that I actually earn I'm game, then I may snag it. But I'm certainly not going to spend real money on it. No thanks.

I also have limited time and cash to game with, as well as actual adult responsibilities, so my income and time aren't disposable in a way the AAA industry would like. So when I review a game, it could he weeks, maybe even months after the initial release. But that could be a good thing, since I'll be talking about games from the perspective of a dude with limited time and cash, so is this game worth it?

Also, the fact that I'll be way later than other sites can be another good thing. Given the fact that more and more AAA publishers seem to have the philosophy of Release Now, Finish/Fix it Later, or Get Our Mod Community to do it, me waiting a few months means there's a better chance I'll be reviewing an actual, finished game. Hehe.

So if that interests you, pop back once in a while and look for the Gamer Savings Time label. It'll be some gooood eatin'! Hehe.

Mahalo, my friends.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Writer Tip: By Grabthar's Hammer! What a Savings!

I will admit that I'm absolutely addicted to notebooks. I mean actual paper notebooks, especially Moleskines. I adore Moleskines, and I've found that the combination of a Moleskine with a Uni-Ball Signo med. gel pen makes handwriting just glide across the damn page like wordy butter. It's glorious. I'll frequently write things out in a Moleskine that way, then type them into my laptop later.

Now of course the problem with Moleskines is that they're a bit on the pricey side. I personally think it's worth it because I love the damn things, but I'm always on the lookout for savings. Each year, I tend to get one of their excellent Daily Planners for the year and use it for a daily writing notebook so that I'll be sure to do at least a little bit of writing every day. And this year was no exception, my family got me yet another daily planner to scribble in. It was as I was scribbling(my handwriting is terrible) that I had an idea.

I remembered that Barnes and Noble tend to sell the year's daily planner for 50% off once New Year's Day has come and gone. and even though I already had one, I decided to see if B&N was continuing the practice. They were. Then it hit me, the "Well, DUH!" moment. Why not just go and get a couple of them with the Gift Card cash my wonderfully enabling family always gives me on gift giving occasions, ignore the Daily Planner aspect and just use them like regular Moleskine notebooks. It was a forehead slapper. Something that should have been incredibly obvious that I'd just never thought of before.

So the upshot is that now, I'm the happy owner of 2 Moleskine 18-Month Daily Planner Journals probably a good 3 times thicker than the standard Moleskine ruled hard cover journal for only a few bucks more than the price of one of those bad boys(which I still love, but this opens up so many new avenues, heh).

So, writer friends who like to hand write and are in search of a deal, go check out your local B&N! You may find a couple of these puppies hanging out on the shelves and BOOM! You've got some nice, thick, high-quality notebooks!

Here endeth the lesson. Hehe.

Mahalo, my friends.