Sunday, 31 August 2014

Today I Smiled: Survived Blaugust!

[Post #32 of the Blaugust Challenge! :P]

Huzzah! It's with some pride and relief that Blaugust is over, and that I managed to meet this years brief (at least I think I did!). The bonus "about you" segments were becoming killers. Obviously daily posting is not for everyone as some burned out on the way or were about to burn out. Apart from that during the course of the event I certainly removed less blogs from my list over there, as most people were not only posting within a month but within a week! Hopefully that continues.

What's next for me? Well, daily posting is draining for me so I think I'll be taking a break tomorrow and then going back to my more relaxed 2-3 days per post. Might post more movie reviews as they've become quite fun to do but I'll try throw in more real life stuff too - and of course get back to gaming related topics. Also now's a good time to answer a question Rowan asked during Blaugust - "Why did you title your blog what you did? Do you think the name still fits?"

I named it the JVT Workshop because it's supposed to remind me to actually make and showcase my stuff! As the final Blaugust Bonus for my readers is that JVT are my initials, if you haven't actually guessed it after all this time. Does it still fit? Well, other than making noise via posts (and my NWO foundry creations) not really because I'm slacking off too much. At the beginning I even hand drew the images for each post. That obviously stopped a long while back because it was simply easier that way. Maybe I need to try get back on that horse.

For now though, let us all celebrate with the musical stylings of Pipe Guy!

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Anti-Scam Tip

[Post #31 of the Blaugust Challenge!]

No blaugust bonus today since it's about real life anyway.

I was recently contacted on Facebook by an old schoolmate who lives overseas. She was asking for any amount of money to help her sick child since she was in a difficult financial position. I replied, asking what was wrong with the kid and what she told me sounded worrying but at least not life threatening. She was also very thankful for any help I could give her and provided me with her address and details. She also mentioned that the fastest way of getting support was through Western Union, which I know a bunch of people use but since I never have I decided to look up reviews of it in google. Hmm, apart from the possibility of extra hidden fees it sounded like they more or less always got the money to where  you wanted it to go. What they didn't do is ever take it back if you sent it to a wrong person or purchased a dodgy item for example.

Interesting. Next step was to look up my schoolmate. I found her twitter pretty easily. One of her latest posts read as "Don't know what happened to my account. I was only informed about the problem today." Hmm, possible security flag? To be on the safe side, I decided to get a simple verification check from her - one that would prove she wasn't a hacked account. I request for a current photo of the person holding up today's newspaper, where I can clearly see her face and the date and front page articles. The next step would be to check and make sure that whatever newspaper was depicted -actually- had a front page that looked like that.

She replied saying she didn't have a webcam right now and instead told me of memories from our younger years. Memories I don't remember (because I have a bad memory). Memories that could have been shared to others. I politely asked again for the picture proof before I sent anything. It's been eight days now and I haven't heard back. Maybe I'm just being paranoid, but I didn't think it was an overly difficult test to pass.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Captain Phillips

[Post #30 of the Blaugust Challenge!]

A movie based on the real life hijacking of the Maersk Alabama, Tom Hanks stars as the clever captain of that ship which begins the morning before it set sails from port. It is quite interesting to see the countermeasures used by the unarmed container ship when a handful of pirates decide to try capture it for ransom, and the shifting of focus between the pirates and their prey makes for a pretty tense and exciting film. Can't really give away more than that as it might take away from the experience for you. While Tom Hanks does his "captaining" very well, everyone else does a decent job in the acting department (pirates included). Also funny to learn that pirates get their crew via ye old school yard pick.

Tom Hanks wishes he had one of those guns right about now.

That said there are some changes I'd like to see which I think would make the movie better. The first part at the beginning before Tom Hanks reaches the docks could have been chopped. Some other people in the later part of the movie traveling from point A to point B footage could also be removed and replaced with "they arrived". Lastly I would have liked to see the part where the US NAVY goes in and brutally kills every single pirate, their families, friends and pets at the "pirate base". 

Unfortunately that doesn't happen in real life either so I guess it's too much of a stretch. At least it looks like the Maersk Line learned their lesson and began employing security personnel on their ships. There are so many parts in the movie where I was saying out loud about the difference one or two armed dudes would make.

Anyway, before I get carried away further into real life vs movie life I'd better score this, and since I believe it is one that many people would enjoy I give it three and a half bullets out of five.

Blaugust Bonus: Writing Prompt time! "Do you collect in game pets? Various games have turned this into a mini game but are you a pet collector? If so why? If not why as well?" Yes and no, depending on the game. More on the no side though. There are three main barriers to pet collection for me. First, are they useful? If it's just a display item that you can get easily or by paying money then that holds no interest to me. An example for exception to this would be mini-Liadri in Guildwars 2, who while only being a "trophy" is one that I felt to be earned.

The second barrier is longetivity. If I need to take care of pets by any means other than occasionally healing it then it is too much of a hassle. Having to learn veterinary skills in UO for example (I think that combo was healing, taming, animal lore and anatomy) to maintain a viable ally was just not in my character. So, yes I had my mount and a random pack of critters for a short time, but it became too annoying to replace the pack as they died so I eventually dropped them altogether.

The last barrier is cost. If it costs real money then I don't buy it. Mabinogi is a huge exception for me here though as the pets are cheap, some freely earned, very useful (you can play AS the pet) and perhaps most importantly CUTE OVERLOAD. I don't classify as a collector though, as there are many I skip. My initial plan was just to get something to help me fight, followed by transportation. I sort of earned quite a few more in the process... cough. My current barn consists of: a mini bear, a thunderbird, a black unicorn, a giant eagle, a thoroughbred horse, a cobra, a thunder dragon, three flamemares, an armored pegasus and four bulls. Don't mock the bovines, I used them to help me defeat one of the goddesses in the game!

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy

[Post #29 of the Blaugust Challenge!]

Hey, a somewhat current movie for a change! This story follows Peter Quill (aka "Starlord"), a rogue who unknowingly gets his hands on an important and powerful artifact and is subsequently chased by those who want its power and those who want the huge bounty on his head. Apart from the start, most of his interactions are with aliens of all colours who happen to be humanoid, some of whom look rather silly but hey - maybe aliens ARE just people with face paint? You'll probably overlook that for all the high quality CGI going on though. There are spaceships and explosions and 70's tunes aplenty and while some sections might make you go "WTF", the plot is quite enjoyable to watch having a good blend of comedy and tragedy.

Just give him back his walkman.

Now a quick word about my favourite character in the movie: it's tree-form Vin Diesel. You'd never know if you didn't read the credits. He also only says variations of one line so while it might have been an easy paycheck, this silly tree plays a big part in making the movie work for me. That's a pretty hard task when you think about it movie wise: you're introducing all these aliens who folks won't really identify with, or know about beforehand unless they were comic junkies. Definitely one I can recommend people to see, I give Guardians of the Galaxy four cassette tapes out of five.

Blaugust Bonus: I should just say writing prompt time huh? Belghast's topic for today is "What is the most thankless job in gaming?  I am trying to keep this broad on purpose because I am not meaning the holy trinity. There are so many roles from ore farmer, to sniper that are played in various games. What one gets the least credit?".

I think I'll be one of the choir here and say Healers (trinity or not). They are often the first scolded when a team fails doing something which is one of the reasons I avoid that class. I also try to be self sufficient so that I never should actually -need- a healer to survive. Hey if the paper rogue/stealthy guy can do it I'm not sure what's wrong with everyone else.

The "thankless" part of the question is pretty across the board though. "Thanks team," or "thanks for the revive," are the most common I hear these days. I've heard "Thanks for keeping us alive healer person," just as much as I hear "Thanks for killing that monster killer person,". If you're wondering, that number is zero.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Attack Force

[Post #28 of the Blaugust Challenge!]

I'm pretty sure I've spoken about this before but as I've not yet done a proper review of it, I didn't want any of you to miss my thoughts on this outstanding film. Outstandingly bad that is. The story is that a drug dealer who has their hands on addictive yet DNA altering drugs is creating murderous and crazy people for ... SCIENCE!? One test subject kills a bunch of soldiers and thus Steven Seagal gets involved to hunt them down. Just as well too because said drug dealer is about to release the DNA altering drug into the water supply! Oh noes!

I made it sound pretty decent huh? Unfortunately the extent of "DNA alteration" just relates to giving people funky eyes, and for an action film the main hero remains in a sitting position for around half the movie. Also, some of his usually soft southern drawl lines were dubbed over by someone with a grindy and angry voice who sounds nothing like Steven Seagal. This is because the original plot involved aliens but they got changed post production into druggies. Yeah, they're pretty similar... cough.

Standard procedure for all druggies I suppose.

To top it off it felt like the director used ALL the footage he had for some shots. There are just so many that would have worked better if he cut some parts out. For example, there's a section where the military guys have a convoy on the move. We see car A enter the gate from a forward shot, then we see car A going through from a rear shot. Then forward shot of car B. Rear shot of car B. Again with car C. Then a long shot of the entire convoy slowly going down a road. There's literally five minutes of watching cars move at this point, with no voice overs.

I also suspect that towards the end there, even the director lost the plot as at least one pretty major plot point was forgotten and unresolved. It also makes it funnier. :P You will enjoy this more if you treat it as a comedy, but I should warn you properly by giving this film only half a bullet out of five.

Blaugust Bonus: Going straight for another of Belghast's writing prompts today - "Has there ever been a game encounter you were afraid of? For example I am spooked of tanking Garuda hard… has there ever been a fight or encounter you dreaded?". The grim reapers (aka walkers) of Wizardry Online quickly come to mind.

You can only encounter them when you are in the spirit world and thus cannot fight them so your only hope is to either sneak past behind their backs or sprint and zig zag like mad to a priest or revival fountain, often an interesting task since they enjoy patrolling narrow corridors. While they are quite slow when unalerted, they can easily boost faster than you and each time they catch you not only do they put you back at your corpse, meaning you have to try get past them again, but they also reduce your revival rate by 10%. Ten captures in a row and your character is instantly lost to permadeath. In the later dungeons there would be groups of these wandering together. Easiest solution to avoid them? Don't die. :P

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Bleach Online

[Post #27 of the Blaugust Challenge!]

Fans of the manga and anime Bleach now have another medium to enjoy their hobby... somewhat. This browser based game plays a lot like Blood and Jade and League of Angels except with Bleach characters and anime styling. I still question how they got the rights to do this but whatever. The game begins with the player creating a soul from a choice from 6 "new" characters (not seen in Bleach before). There is no customization apart from adding a name to your avatar.

You will then find yourself with what I am guessing is the only quest hub in game. A gigantic area where all the NPCs regardless if they are on Earth or in the Shinigami realm or I suppose in Hueco Mundo (didn't get that far) show up to talk to. A portal leads you to battle zones which looks like a map with chibi versions of opponents. There are no divergent paths though. You have to beat monster A to get to monster B and so forth. Actually it's quite funny that the first person you fight is Aizen (one of the big bad guys), followed by what seems to be the series actual plot. I'm still not sure why because the translation is hilariously bad in most parts.

Yoruichi handles the cash shop in a maid outfit. Woo?

Fortunately random characters decide to join your team for some fights. You can also hire them to permanently be on your team from the tavern or from winning a best of 3 rock paper scissors gamble. Sounds like childs play? Well each attempt costs something like half a million gold so good luck. That's still around 75% cheaper than hiring them out right. You can gain a lot of skills as you level up, but in combat each character will only use the one you select as active, every other round. That is the extent of your input as in battle you basically just sit and watch, even in the pseudo PvP arena where you take on other players teams. Oh, you can try enslave the other players too and force them to work at your homestead - because uh... that didn't happen in Bleach.

And then there are the... "bonus" events. There's a lucky cat and gift timer boxes that give you money and items just for being logged in. You can try strip some random females of Soul Society as a daily task. You also have a homestead that you can upgrade and hunt down female hollows to steal their bikinis which you then use to upgrade your girlfriend who lives in your home (i think the first upgrade costs 500 bikinis?). And by upgrade I mean ditch the old one for a hotter one with bigger boobs. Oh you can interact with them too. Higher level girlfriends can give you more rewards when you talk to them, party with them, or "accidentally" fondle their breasts. There's actually a button for that.

While they got some voice lines directly from the anime I think, the music that I've encountered is repetetive and is not of the quality of League of Angels for example. The best part I think is the quiz which lets you answer one question about Bleach everytime you gain a level. Get it wrong and you gain a little money. Get it right and you get a lot of money. Nowhere near enough to save it though, because I give this game just one bankai out of five.

Blaugust Bonus: These are getting harder and harder to do so again I'll go with another of Belghast's writing prompts, one that has a short answer as to not let this post get too long. "Do you follow a games lore? There is often tons of lore both in game and out of game, do you follow it and even track down the tidbits that are not obvious.. or are you mostly oblivious to it?"

Generally speaking, no. The in-game story or world has to give it right to me (or at least feeds it passively through tasks for example) otherwise I don't actively look for it. Doubly so for anything outside the game because it's outside the game.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Man of Tai Chi

[Post #26 of the Blaugust Challenge!]

This Chinese martial arts flick follows the life of Tai Chi practicioner Tiger Chen, who is manipulated by a very charismatic antagonist in the form of Keanu Reeves to begin fighting for all the wrong reasons which causes all sorts of problems in Tiger's life. Balance is a strong theme here, and almost all the fights are spectacular displays of hand to hand combat. Yes, there is some light wire work until the very end where due to the nature of the combatants there is heavier use of it, and there is one unexplained (BS) move that might trouble the UFC die hards.

So fighting. Much intense. Wow.

As a story it works pretty well, though there are some questions not answered in the telling and obviously there are subtitles for those of us linguistically challenged. The hero is likeable enough, as are the female leads, but it's Keanu who steals the show as the slightly insane bad guy. I did have issue with the "fight announcer" lady though - her lines are wooden (possibly intentional) nor is she decent eye candy (given her dress codes I assume she's meant to be).

I also took some issue with not seeing the full length of some fights and for some inexplicable reason the movie tries to give you epilepsy right at the start and around halfway through with a burst of intense flashing lights. Obviously the heavier use of wire work for the final fight also makes it a bit of a let down after all the previous combats. Despite all that it is a decent film, one I give three kicks out of five.

Blaugust Bonus: I never was into sports of any kind during my school years (though I did like badminton) so I've always been quite unfit. Not enough to be fat or obese but just ... weak? :P It was only after I was working when I decided to try out capoeira. I can still remember the first class where I could barely do one pushup and that irritating noise of berimbau music. Well I soon found myself enjoying that music and while I never became Superman I did manage to shed a bit of weight. Being sore all over after each class became an awesome feeling, and I think it did wonders for curing some shyness. I stuck with it for a number of years but eventually had to give it up to concentrate my funds elsewhere (aka. I got married :P).