Saturday, February 24, 2007

Something Different

A little change of pace here, but this is impressive and thought-provoking.

Please don't be put off by the first image you see below. Just watch it.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Massive Effects

In my last post I stated that when I do get an X-Box 360:

"I'll get Rainbow Six straight away. Nothing else. I don't particularly like Halo. I have no interest in Oblivion. Assassins Creed looks nice, but not something I'd get on release. That's not to say I won't get other games eventually, just nothing grabs me like this one."

Oh how I lied to you, my readers. There is one other game I will be getting. It'll be long out by then, so I can judge how well it holds up to expectations, but I want Mass Effect. I want this pretty, pretty game so very much.

Which is odd. Because it too is strongly centred on FPS style gameplay. But it is so much more.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

My Obsession With Rainbows

Admittedly it's an obsession with the violent, terrorist killing kind, and not the colouredy, "light-spectrum-through-liquid-suspended-in-the-air" kind. Yes, I've started playing Rainbow Six: Vegas. And now it's in my every waking thought, and haunts me in my dreams.

I've never been much of a fan of the first-person-shooter, of FPS genre. In fact, the only time I've really enjoyed myself while playing an FPS was GoldenEye on the N64. Perfect Dark was ok, but just hadn't got the same level of sheer fun I felt playing as Bond. Battlefield I guess is another exception. The ability to drive vehicles, fly planes and crush the opposition beneath the threads of your tank kinda clinches it for me as a fun game. 2142 only goes further with hover tanks and mechs, and that had me sold from the first trailers. But for Battlefield it was always just the multiplayer. I tried the single-player stuff a few times, but I just never got into it. I enjoyed the interaction of player-on-player strategy and the thrill of killing, or being killed by an opponent you know is operating on the same level as you, give or take a bit of skill. We all know the computer cheats. No fog of war, it always knows where you are, precision shooting, perfect tactics. Yawn.

A few weeks back I watched Bob complete a Terrorist Hunt mission on R6: Vegas on the X-Box 360 and I loved it. I watched him die time and time again. From waves of terrorists head on, to sneaky bastards from behind. It was all so cool. My heart was racing just watching him, and if that was the case as a passive observer, I wanted to know what it was like to actually be there, within the playground of destruction, knowing two bullets in quick succession were all that stood between you... well, standing and not!

Last weekend I was over at Bob's place again, and we tried out the split screen multiplayer co-op mode on Terrorist Hunt. The map was Calypso Casino to begin with, the one I had seen Bob playing, giving me a chance to get used to the controls in an environment I (kind of) knew.

First off: Controls. Perfect. A great use of the controller, with the buttons just being where they should be. I grasped everything really quickly, and was nailing terrorist scum in no time. Simple, yet never lacking, the control method makes this game almost a "pick-up-and-play" concept, despite the stealth and infiltration style of gameplay.

Graphics are crisp and clean, even when played on a non-HD TV. Despite some minor graphical glitches that don't hinder gameplay at all, the models and environments are beautiful. Just watching this game is a joy, particularly in the Calypso Casino level, because everything is so bright. You rarely if ever see a gun poking through a door, or get shot from a bullet moving through the corner of a wall. Collision detection is spot-on, and bullets leave marks on everything, blood spatters across surfaces and explosions throw people like rag-dolls.

Enemy AI is fantastic. They circle around once they know where you are. They call for back-up. They try to ambush you at every given opportunity. There are a few exploits available based on the AI. You can step near a door to trigger a zone of influence, then back away and hide to shoot the terrorist that reacts. But when it works, it's such a rush! You shoot at a terrorist behind a corner, but fail to land the fatal wound. He rushes back down the corridor away from you and you suddenly realise in horror that he's trying to circle around through some other rooms! What do you do?!? You only have a few seconds to react. Race in after him, leaving yourself open to assault, or turn and face the other entrance, again leaving yourself open to assault? Usually a hail of bullets from one side or the other will help focus your thoughts, but by then it's often too late. There are a few problems, but they might just be a "handicap" based on the difficulty level we're playing it at. An enemy will race through a door littered with five of his mates without caution. Instead of just leaning over the balcony, an enemy will join you on a nearby rappel line to shoot you. Just little things. It is possible that the enemies are far smarter on "Realistic" mode. Right now, normal is fine for me, thanks.

As I said, I'm not a fan of FPS in general. But I think that I'm just not a fan of the Doom/Quake style of FPS. I thrive on the stealth and strategy of Rainbow Six. I enjoy the slow pace the game takes, the emphasis placed on team-work and co-operation. I love covering a teammate, or knowing that as I advance, there is someone covering me. I enjoy closing doors, considering alternative routes to the target, doubling back to green-light an area or drawing enemies out. I thrill at using "Enemy on your six", "Sniper on the roof", "Cover me", "Reloading", "Go, go, go" and "Whoa, whoa, whoa" and having them mean something. I excite at pressing against a wall, counting down from three and then tapping "A" to open a door, never sure if there is an enemy on the other side. I quicken at seeing the enemy counter reach 8, knowing that this is where we died last time. And I delight in victory, punching the air and relishing the euphoria.

And I love doing nothing. I love feeling my heart pound in my chest as I keep my gun trained on a door to a room that may very well be empty, all because my teammate is blasting terrorist scum at the other door, and might have triggered an ambush. I love the feeling of my finger going numb, poised over the "R-Trigger", ready to flex at less than a seconds notice and unleash 50 rounds from the clip of my P90 in three round bursts into the chests of oncoming opponents.

I never really considered getting an X-Box during it's life. I didn't think about the 360 as a console I might like to own either. I have always been a Nintendo fan. Not necessarily a fanatic. I own a PS2 and love it very much. But Nintendo is my console of choice. It still is. The Wii is an incredible machine. But sometimes I want something different to play. Not "more", or "better", just different. There are games that make you sit up and think "Hey, I want this". Rainbow Six: Vegas is one of those times. I won't be getting it any time soon, I admit, but I will get an X-Box 360 some time this summer, once my exams are done and I have a job again. And I'll get Rainbow Six straight away. Nothing else. I don't particularly like Halo. I have no interest in Oblivion. Assassins Creed looks nice, but not something I'd get on release. That's not to say I won't get other games eventually, just nothing grabs me like this one.

Rainbow Six: Vegas has single-handedly sold me an X-Box 360. Only a few brief outings to Bob's place and I've already unlocked the achievement for killing 500 terrorists. Oh yes! I'm addicted!

EDIT: Just after posting this Noel and I were rappelling down the side of Calypso Casino and some guards came at us from above. They leaned over the railing and expertly placed a not insignificant amount of buck-shot from a Spaz-12 into each of our craniums. I love good enemy AI.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Hot Stuff

On Friday I went to the cinema with a bunch of friends. We went to see the new Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright movie, Hot Fuzz. Although it has been in the cinema since Wednesday, that was the proper start, and the cinema was packed!

But a good review should always start at the begining, so:

Trailers!
Spider-Man 3

I'm really looking forward to seeing this. Watching the full trailer again on the big screen was a thrill. I've seen this trailer before online, and it's great. Some more story elements, more shots of the main villians, the black costume, the action. All great. I like the "homemade" look to Harry Osborns costume, with a simple mask and armour. Though the new board he uses screams of "Tony Hawks" street-cred. I'm sure it will be fine. Actually, so long as Willem Dafoe as Norman Osborn at some point, either as a flashback or another crazy vision from Harry, the movie can do no wrong. He was incredible in Spider-Man, and the best thing about Spider-Man 2.

Transformers
What's better than watching the Spider-Man trailer at the start of a movie? Having it followed immediately by the Transformers movie trailer. Sweet! This is the new one with lots of shots of the 'Formers in action, so to speak, as well as some close-ups on the human element of the story. Again, it's been online for a while now, so you may have seen it. This too looks impressive. I'm totally in agreement with the updating of the franchise and the 'Bots themselves. I love the new look. I admit that Transformers was never my toy as a kid, so I have no real attachment to the classic style. However, if this happened to GI Joe, I would be equally as happy. In fact, I pray every night for this to happen to GI Joe. The Devils Due comics rock, why can't we get a movie too!! Er... that's a little off topic. Suffice it to say, the Transformer movie trailer gets me all tingly inside.

Now, the main event.

Actually, even if this movie turned out to be rubbish, having seen those two trailers back-to-back, without any other trailers shown to take from their glory, this would have been a good trip to the cinema. However, that wasn't the case. Instead Spider-Man, Transformers, Ghost Rider, Shrek, Fantastic Four and all the rest due this year have a very high bar to reach now. I think this movie may well be the film of the year for me!!

Ok. Yes. I have been know to exaggerate. Sometimes. Eh. Yea. A lot. So why should you trust me now? Because I wasn't alone.

I've been to movies where, as the closing credits begin to fade in after the final scene, the crowd claps. Everyone acknowledges the work of the people involved and give a rousing clap to show their appreciation. That's nice. I know that in America, this is not uncommon, and in fact, people even clap during the movie to show their approval. Now that was something I had never witnessed here in Ireland.

Until Hot Fuzz.

Not only was the whole cinema rocking with laughter, but there was regular bouts of widespread clapping from the audience throughout the show! It was an incredible feeling. The energy in the room, the joy and laughter, the pure emotion of happiness from everyone. It was clear that this was a special event that we were all a part of. A magical movie experience shared by everyone present. It was, simply, great.

I'm not going to go on much more about the movie. There are hundreds of movie review sites out there if you want to see what people think of it. I just want to point out some of the things that I loved.

Obviously, the acting, writing and directing were all spot on. Everyone was incredible. It was a joy to see Timothy Dalton on the big screen again, and he was superb. But the things that struck me as extraordinary were the editing and the camera-work, both of which I would imagine fall under the directors watchful eye.

Scenes were edited together seamlessly, with some stunning little tricks and florishes thrown in. Watch the scenes around when Nick and Danny walk a local home after a night of drinking to see some great examples, but there are loads more throughout the movie. Without giving any spoilers, I also love the flashback scene where the flashbacks are shown in reverse. A great and unique technique that is handled masterfully.

I also love all the references within the movie. All sorts of things are either mentioned, quoted, refered to, directly shown or simply subtly hinted at. See if you can spot the fantastic RoboCop shot! I know some of the people I saw Hot Fuzz with didn't spot it, but again, it's expertly done. While you're at it, see if you can spot the blatantly clear Spaced reference that I totally missed. It's from one of the best episdoes of that series (weren't they all?!?), and I'm ashamed to admit I didn't spot it.

All in all, Hot Fuzz was far beyond my expectations. It is unfair to compare it with the crews other movie, Shaun of the Dead, as the humour and style are drastically different. Again, I'm being very biased here, but I feel that, having seen Shaun once I have no inclination to watch it again, nor own it on DVD. Hot Fuzz on the other hand, is a far more enjoyable movie for me. I would happily go see it in the cinema again if I got the chance, and have to get it on DVD around it's release, if not on the first day! I admit that I enjoy action movies more than zombie flicks, so that influences those comments on the two.

In conclusion, the trailers rocked, but the movie rocked more. I loved it, but that doesn't mean everyone will. Then again, the rest of the cinema reacted very positively to it, so maybe it has universal appeal! Whatever, I assure you it comes highly recommended from this "critic"!

EDIT: I wrote this originally back on Friday night, as soon as I got home from the cinema. But then I realised that posting it at that point would make it my 100th post, and I didn't want that. Thus, I'm only posting it now. Sorry.

Post Of The Century

Wow! So here it is, my 100th post! That's quiet an achievement for me. I didn't think I'd get this far in less than a year. I started this blog way back in May 2006, explaining the title. Around the same time I got a Flickr account, and already have well over 500 pictures on it! Woo!

In my time here I've blogged about trailers, random stuff and all the things that interest me. I've written reviews on movies, talked about where I stand in Civil War and enlightened you all on the joys of rubbish TV movies. I've complained about WarCraft, and missed it. I could go on, but you get the picture. I've been busy.

It's been fun blogging. 80 posts in 2006, and 20 already in 2007! I would have written this sooner, but college kept getting in the way. Darn college stuff.

So, what do I want for the next 100 posts? More stories, more fiction, more reviews. More writing that challenges me to be better. And at least one post soon where I announce that I actually got a degree. Eventually.

But my 100th post should be special. It should have some announcement to make it memorable. It should be different:

I'm starting a web-comic, provisionally titled "Tomorrow, Maybe You'll Be Gone", the alternative title for my blog way back when. Images and early drafts should be up soon. Now that I've taken the time to announce it, there's no going back.

See you all in the funny pages!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Candlelight & Futurama

Just so I'm not accused of being insensitive or anything, my Valentines Day was pretty awesome in the end. We had a special dinner of warm chicken ceaser salad, picnic style in the living room. Strawberries and choclate for desert were nice, though the strawberries were a bit on the hard side. We watched Futurama in the soft glow of candlelight and chilled out for the evening. It was all very romantic.

Oh, and no Warcraft after 5pm-ish. Which was even awesome-er.

I loves her really. Aww...

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentines Day

Actually, dispite being in a great relationship, I'm not really doing anything for it. Right now, right this instant, I'm posting to my blog and my very own special Valentine is playing World of Warcraft and talking to other guys somewhere else doing a dungeon run. She's been at it for over two hours while I'm here, more if you include the fact I was in college earlier. And there are some people that get annoyed when I trash-talk WOW. I feel I have good reason.

Anyway, I'm not here to complain. Valentines Day is all about the love, and I'm expressing mine by letting her be. Besides, we have a nice dinner planned for later and I got strawberries and chocolate for desert. Mmmmm.

Meanwhile, I hope you all remember that today should be about showing people we care, not just that we want to revert to our baser instincts and get all sweaty. On that lovely note, I wish all of you, my wonderful readers that check this thing regularly, a very happy Valentines Day, especially the females. I'm all for the females! The guys can take three good slaps on the back and a stiff handshake.

Wait!! Strong! Strong handshake, nothing stiff about it at all!

Friday, February 09, 2007

The McSpuds

Seamus and Sheila have a new brother!

From Marvelous News.com.

Oh yes. He will be mine.

For those of you not lucky enough to remember or even know the Irish legend of preschool entertainment, Bosco, Seamus and Sheila were the two children of the McSpud family, a crazy stop-motion animation.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Why? Why?!?

I was on a beach-like place with overhanging plants, tall trees and a wide, cool stream running through the sandy ground. The place was sunny and very hot and the others were running at the stream, then jumping and grabbing a rope over the water and swinging from it, landing with a great big splash. I ran and grabbed it but swung out and wrapped around one of the trees hanging over the stream, making everyone laugh. I kicked off, swung back and let go. My body tingled in the cold water and I wanted to stay there forever. It felt so good.

We got out and went back to a straw hut with a bar that seemed to serve food. Stuff happened, but I've forgotten most of it. Now it seems random and jumbled, but when I was there, it all seemed so normal. There was a girl. Did we know her? We were talking to her so we must know her. Someone came up that we knew, or weren't alarmed at, but he attacked the girl. Of course! She was important. She had to be protected. That's why we were here. We moved to protect her, but another him attacked himself!?! The second one won, and pulled off the first ones Mission Impossible style mask, revealing the truth. The real one was a hero, but I remember knowing he was a superhero! We all went back into the hut to celebrate. The worlds first true superhero. But people inside the hut didn't seem to realise what had happened. We tried to explain. I tried to explain. This was an historic moment! We should all be celebrating. "Unless this is all just a dream" I remember saying. I remember that as the last absolutely clear thing. We laughed and kept on celebrating, but I don't really remember much more.

Then I woke up. At first, I didn't know what had happened. I was still there. On the beach. I could feel the last of the streams cool water on my skin, the grit of the hot sand on my soles. But I wasn't there. It was this morning. It was February, probably cold outside. Probably freezing.

I've woken from dreams glad to be back in the real world. Glad to know what had happened was just a dream. I have woken laughing, but not knowing what at. I have even woken in the past wishing the dream was real.

But never like this. I could hear my own voice in my head joking at how it could all be a dream. I could feel by heart breaking, knowing I had already begun to forget those amazing feelings. My heart was pounding.

This morning, I rolled over and pressed my eyes tightly shut. The alarm was a world away.

I wanted to be back in the water. Tingling. Alive.

Photography

While I was wandering to my morning lecture I spotted a wealth of opportunities to get some really nice photographs. Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera with me. In future, I'm going to try to start carrying my digital camera where-ever I go, maybe just have it in my bag at all times. I'd like to get more into photography, and with Cian, Karen and Jonathon all thinking the same, it would be a good time to do so. We could compare and contrast, learning from each other.

I'm not going to buy the crazy expensive equipment the guys have. Their cameras could get me a lot of action figures!! Besides, I like my camera. It takes some great shots, and does what I want it to do.

I simply have to try harder. Put in an effort to see my surroundings. Stop photographing toys.

Efficiency

Because I am repeating this year in college, I am sitting in many of the same lectures. Slide for slide, an awful lot of these haven't changed. But that's not a bad thing, especially for me!

What I have noticed changing though is the time it takes to give lectures. Take this morning for instance. I start Monday mornings with a double Sociology from 9am until 11am. It was agreed early in the term to start at 9:20 and run through until 11, giving us those precious few extra minutes to get out of bed. But this mornings lecture ran from 9:20 to just 10:25! A total of an hour and 5 minutes! And he got everything he wanted done.

This isn't a rare occurance, either. It seems that all the lecturers are in a rush to get out. Most of my double lectures finish early, sometimes only lasting an hour!

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Hamster Spin

Look at me!! I'm gone crazy blogging. I wish I could post less but more often rather than these fits and bursts! But whatever! I'm at home and surfing the net. It want to share all these things with you. See, I really do love you all.

Right now, life is awesome. We live in an amazing world of potential, and because of that, we can do anything! Anything! Even film hamsters displaying the principals of centrifugal force on themselves.

Are You Game?

Check out this cool quiz to see if you are the ultimate computer gamer. I got 82%, a score I am very proud of! Granted, I'll admit that some of them were guesswork, but it was balanced with getting some really easy ones wrong. I can't believe I messed up "who didn't drive in Super Mario Kart?"!! How did I not get that? I've played it to death!

And no cheating. It's all very easy to look up the answers while playing, but that's no fun. Post your scores in the comments if you're interested.

T-Shirt Folding

This is fairly awesome, except there are two small cuts in the footage, making it difficult to reproduce at home. Difficult be not impossible. I can do it, and once folded all my T-shirts like this. It's great fun, and amazing at parties!

Late Night Posting

I really have to try to do posts earlier. These are coming out far less coherently than they sound in my head at this hour (it's now just gone 1am, local time).

Still. Here's a quick lesson on endorphins, an endogenous opioid (I learned that phrase in a lecture this week! Though I have to look up Wikipedia to find out how to spell it.). That means that it is our bodies naturally produced happy-hormone. It's also the reason morphine is so effective on us. Both chemicals have very, very similar structures, so the brain is able to use morphine easily. Endorphines are released when we laugh, cry, eat chocolate, exercise, have sex and lots more besides. They are the reason all these things make us feel great, even crying. I love a good cry. It just feels so good afterwords. I guess that's why that thing called "make-up sex" is so popular. You get a good cry in, and sex! Double your pleasure.

Anyway, most of the methods of releasing endorphins are impossible to relate to you in a blog. I can't give you chocolate, or make you exercise. I really can't give you sex, especially if I want to keep this a PG-13 blog (and I do)! But I can give you laughter, leading to tears. This video made me laugh so much I cried. You don't have to watch it all to the end, but give it until about 1:30 mark to get to the good bit.

Enjoy. Laugh out loud. Breath deeply. Feel all those wonderful endorphins coarsing through your system. You deserve it.

The Seven Deadly Sins

And how mixes of them result in many not-so-deadly things.

Click to see a much larger, clear version. Well worth a look.

Friday, February 02, 2007

In My Day...

Wow! UCC has changed since I was last there. Not just physically, but also what seems to have become acceptable. Again, "acceptable" both in terms of actions, as well as the intelligence level of the student body. Allow me to explain. Lets start with the physical changes.

Well, rather dramatically there is an entire new building; huge, shiney and with lecture theatres to boot! The Brookfield Complex is sweet. Very cool to be in. And the restaurant is very nice. Great food, cheap prices. Though I was talking to someone who was complaining about the prices, but I think that's because I'm still stuck in non-student prices mode.

Also new is the current addition to the Boole Library. The biggest problem with this is, that it's not done yet. This means that you can be in studying, or photocopying when a piercing drilling sound vibrates through the building, causing everyone to look up in annoyance. It's not going to be even done in time for any of us final years to care about it enough to put up with it.

Right, on to what has become acceptable, starting with actions, though this flows nicely into the intelligence issue also.

A little anecdote:
There is a particular girl in my class who was the first to sit beside me and talk to me. This was nice because I'm a repeat, and none of the other students know me. Also, the fact that I'm working mornings means I'm missing out on tutorials, the perfect time to learn about the others or get to make some associations. Anyway, I digress. This girl sits next to me and then proceeds to talk throughout the class. Sometimes to me, sometimes responding to things the lecturer says. Sounds ok, right? Only if she doesn't get heard by the lecturer, she repeats herself. Over and over. Until she gets attention. And she makes stupid comments. Really stupid. Like she catches two words in a sentence and calls out an answer. Rarely, so far has she even been close. Then she misses something in class and gets the lecturer to repeat herself one-to-one. She fell asleep in a lecture, completely distracting the lecturer. She was in the front row!! Seriously, how is this acceptable?!? All this: one person! And she answers her phone during lectures! Not to hang up or say "shhh. I'm in a lecture. Ring in an hour". No. She spends 5 minutes whispering making plans for a trip to Galway at the weekend. Gah!

How does someone like this get into 3rd Year Early Childhood Studies? And this girl of even less attention span than me wants to be in the UN!! If that happens I'm moving to one of those countries that didn't sign whatever bit of paper made the UN. I don't care if it looks bad now, it'll be better than UN countries in a few years if she's their quality standard!

Inteligence is dropping rapidly. I realise I'm no high level to aspire to. I may be a smart guy with a decent IQ, I just don't have the attention span to match. But I try to pay attention in class... this time. I have sufficient respect for the lecturers not to disrupt their class. The levels of sheer ignorance and lack or respect for others displayed by students in my year is staggering.

I'm not really sure where this is going. It's not really supposed to be a rant. It's more of a description of what I see. Obviously my own views strongly influence what I've written. It's not exactly an impartial description of how things have changed.

Just take it as a short essay, poorly written, lamenting the lack of repect among the youth of today. I'm only 26 (and two thirds) and I'm appalled at people just a few years younger than me. Was I that bad? Is it an age thiung? Will they get better in just three or four years? Would you let people like this look after your kid? You tell me.