Archive for May, 2012


Portal 2

Dwayne and I have just finished the multiplayer mode on Portal 2 for the PS3. I had played with my brother and my sister back before I moved, and I hadn’t realized we hadn’t completed the game. I’ve already played through single player mode, and I plan on playing through again. It’s a great game; it makes you feel more intelligent just for playing it. For simply being a puzzle game, the plot is very in-depth, and it’s highly fascinating as well.

I love how there are the two game modes – single player and multiplayer. It’s not just going through the single player mode with another person tagging along; since it’s a series of puzzles, that would have defeated the purpose. In multiplayer mode, you have to work together because it’s not possible to complete the puzzles with only one person (unless you were cheating and using two controllers, and maybe not even then because a lot of them require timing). I also love how it isn’t just the levels are re-done, but the plot stays the same; it’s like two completely separate games. It’s extremely well done, and I’m definitely not the first person to say I hope to god they make a Portal 3.

With that being said, has anyone else seen the (ages old) Portal Engagement Level Video? It’s very sweet. Here’s a video for those of you who don’t know:

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Anyways, what’s your favorite video game? I may play another soon, but for now, this one is my favorite.

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Dungeons and Dragons

Now I know this is the epitome of nerd-dom, and be that as it may, I can’t help but love a good campaign. I’m pretty sure the guys here would enjoy it if we could get a campaign started. Doing the typical good-guys versus evil-maniacs campaign would be fun, but so would an evil-genius versus good-sheople (sheep+people=sheople) campaign. I’ve played both before, and I’ve always found an evil campaign a great way to (peacefully) vent anger. It’s also a lot more fun getting into character, if the DM (Dungeon Master, for all you out there who don’t play) makes you play that way. Let’s face it, is it more fun to be a hero who has to save the peasant from tripping over her own skirts, or an evil genius who throws out maniacal laughter because the peasant tripped over her own skirts? So, I’m obviously biased, but being able to play as evil (especially considering almost all current games are good, or neutral at best) is refreshing and fun as hell. I’m not sure whether the guys would play an evil campaign over a good campaign, but we would have to figure out how to set one up anyways.

Unfortunately, my brother was the one who would DM for us, and I don’t have the books or know-how to do it myself.   I’ve found a site called http://www.newbieDM.com that has tips and information on how to DM, and I understand the concept, but the biggest pitfall so far is the books. Technically the lack of the books. I’m always shocked whenever I’m reminded how much more books and board games cost here in Australia than they do in the states. With the price of a set of beginner’s D&D books (Dungeon Master’s Guide, Player’s Handbook 1&2, plus a Monster Manual or two) being what it is in the states, I’m pretty sure it’s well out of my range here. Besides, I never wanted to DM. I would much prefer being in on the action than watching it from above and narrating and/or being there as a rule check. The way I think about it is: would you rather play the video game or code it? But at the same time, there are some points where the DM can annoy me to hell.

My biggest beef with DMs is what power they have and do not have, especially concerning storyline and actions taken by the player. There was one time we were playing an evil campaign and we had guards coming after us outside a merchant town a mile or two into the forest. Naturally, I wanted to burn the forest down, guards and city along with it, and make a break for the edge of the forest. What can I say, I was feeling particularly evil that day. My brother, our DM, strictly forbade me from taking that action because it wouldn’t fit in with the storyline he had in mind. That’s where I got pissed off. I understand the DM is there to reign in and keep players to the rules, but a DM isn’t a god. You can’t forbid me from doing something because it makes you unhappy. What’s next? You tell me I can’t slap a peasant because she’s important later on and you’ll have to change the storyline to accommodate her (angry) feelings towards us? Anyways, I think in a situation like this, he should have allowed me to try, even if he didn’t think we could run to the edge of the forest before the fire consumed us. So, roll the dice, try, and if we make it, then adjust the storyline. If we don’t, we go back to before I burned the forest down and we died along with it. No big deal, and it would have resulted in a lot less anger and hurt feelings. So where do you draw the line when it comes to what a DM is allowed to do or not?

Anyhow, with all that being said, I would love to have a set of books and dice, and some graph paper and pencils (I never got into buying the pre-printed dungeons; it’s cheaper and more fun to make your own as you go along). I could stumble my way through being DM, at least until I found someone else in the group willing to do it! I’ve considered trying to find a tabletop games shop and see if they have any campaigns running that I (we; I would most likely drag at least Dwayne along) could join. Or if I could befriend their DM and take him hostage to set up a beginner’s campaign for us!

What do you think? Have any of you ever played D&D before? Anyone in the Melbourne area want to DM for us? If you have played, what’s your favorite character (race, class, abilities, etc.) or your favorite event from a past campaign (did you attack that old grizzly drunkard who annoyed you only to find out that he’s a mage of uncompromised power?)

I was going to do a spotlight on The Legend of Drizzt, but there are so many of those books, and he’s written so many other good books, it would be difficult to do. Instead I decided to do a look at all his books, but that proved to be too long. This focuses on The Legend of Drizzt series, but also includes The Cleric Quintet since it is directly related to the series.I will finish off with the rest of his books soon, hopefully.

To begin, his most well-known and most extensive series would be The Legend of Drizzt.  The first series (it was written as a series of smaller series of books) by publication date is The Icewind Dale Trilogy, and although chronologically should belong second in the series, I recommend reading this first, especially if you are new to the Forgotten Realms books. The Icewind Dale Trilogy contains The Crystal Shard, Streams of Silver, and The Halfling’s Gem. I recommend reading The Dark Elf Trilogy next, although it is the prequel. This trilogy includes Homeland Exile, and Sojourn. It makes more sense once you have a firm grasp on the world and the characters. After The Dark Elf Trilogy was published, came Legacy of The Drow. It follows The Icewind Dale Trilogy chronologically, so don’t get your storyline mixed up! This series includes the books The Legacy, Starless Night, Siege of Darkness, and Passage to Dawn. Next in the storyline is the series Paths of Darkness, including The Silent Blade, The Spine of the World, and Sea of Swords. Originally, Servant of The Shard was part of this series as well, but it has been moved into the next series for reasons I’m not sure of. I remember reading it, but I can’t remember enough of the plot to know whether it makes more sense in the original order, or the new order, so I’m writing these in the new order, since I vaguely remember the book we had as having it marked as an excerpt of something to come later. The next to come is The Sellswords, which is Servant of the Shard, Promise of the Witch King, and Road of the Patriarch, which is followed by The Hunter’s Blades Trilogy comprising The Thousand Orcs, The Lone Drow, and The Two Swords. To be completely honest, this is as far as I have made it into the series and it was all wonderful (with the exception of a beautifully written plot twist that mangled my favorite character and left me angry, but it was still well written). I was too busy reading other books to finish Transitions, which includes The Orc King, The Pirate King, and The Ghost King, but from what I have heard they are every bit as good as the other books. The series finishes off with (for now, I’m not sure if it will be continued) Neverwinter which has three books, the last is planned to be released August 7th, 2012. Their titles are Gauntlgrym, Neverwinter, and Charon’s Claw. For a total of 26 books in the main storyline, purchasing all the books is expensive, which is exactly what you will end up doing once you start the series.

I read these originally when I was in 5th grade (I had a rather high reading level for my age; I read the Little House on the Prairie books in 2nd grade 😛 ) so my memories of the plot are not amazing. Dwayne is reading it for the first time, and we talk about the plot every night. He’s constantly telling me he gets weird looks reading on the trains because he bursts out laughing while he’s reading. This is something I definitely remember, the characters have great humour and the books are highly enjoyable. Even so, these are not intended as comedy. The battle scenes are well written, intense and serious without being horrifically gory, and the adventures and fantasy aspects are well done also. Even the plot twists I don’t like are beautifully worked out. The characters are constantly evolving, yet they are timeless. The play between characters is well thought out, and even the characters who come into play once, and then come back several books after are consistent and well done. These will keep you guessing, laughing, and interested for a very long time. They are not as long as some of the books I’ve read recently, and Dwayne has been reading them in 3-4 days apiece, though I’ll admit he has had his nose stuck in them constantly!

Not following the main storyline, but including characters that come into play in The Legend of Drizzt books, is The Cleric Quintet. This series includes Canticle, In Sylvan Shadows, Night Masks, The Fallen Fortress, and The Chaos Curse. As per his previous writings, this is expertly written and an amazing source of entertainment. The plot will draw you in and surprise you, whilst characters are sticking their thumbs in their ears and waggling their fingers at you (literally). This is the back story of characters included in The Legend of Drizzt Series. Like all his other books, this is well worth the read. It was published after The Dark Elf Trilogy, so if you read it alongside the other books, I would recommend after The Dark Elf Trilogy but before Legacy of the Drow. 

Happy reading!

 

Here’s another song I’ve fallen in love with. Daughters of Darkness by Halestorm is awesome. I was singing it at work a few days ago, and my coworkers were enjoying my (admittedly terrible) rendition. Probably because they were laughing their butts off at me.

One of the things I love about Halestorm is the lead singer, Lizzie Hale, is unlike almost any female singer I’ve heard before. I absolutely hate whiny, sappy, sweet female singers. There are too many of them and most of their music isn’t original. I don’t know of many metal bands fronted by a woman though. Lizzie Hale has an *amazing* vocal range (I’ve heard her compared to Annie Lenox). Not to mention, she also plays guitar (which is pretty awesome; there are bands out there where the front can’t play guitar and sing at the same time *cough*Green Day*cough*) and she’s drop dead gorgeous. Not that that has anything to do with anything, but I just thought it was worth mentioning.

First published in 1934, this book was subsequently banned from being imported into the US. BY 1938, it had also been added to the list of banned books in Canada as well. In the UK, the only copies available were smuggled into the country. I have always been a fan of banned books, because usually the controversy is over political or religious views. But in the case of this book, it is due to the blatant vulgarity, obscenity, and profanity. This is not a masterpiece with revolutionary ideas hidden inside that world leaders refused to have available to the public. In fact, the only claims to fame this book has is being banned due to obscenity, and the fact that it is one of the most horridly written books on the face of the planet.  This is the review I wrote of this a few months ago:

Started this before I moved, and lost the book. It was found and sent to me, and it’s time to finish reading it. So far, I’ve thought it was very messily written, jumping from one idea to another to another, until you’ve lost the original thought and then crashing back into the original idea, in a shattering, lose-your-train-of-thought way. It doesn’t hold your attention, in that it seems to be trying to make you lose where you were, but the parts that make sense and flow smoothly are enough to make you lose yourself in it for a few minutes until the jarring writing snaps you back into wondering what’s happening. One of the strangest books I’ve ever read, I’m not sure whether this is interesting and engaging, or a worthless waste of time and money. I suppose it takes some level of genius to write a book people aren’t sure whether they should put it down and never pick it up again, but keep reading to the finish. Very strange indeed.

Even now, I think this is a pretty accurate description. The thing I hate most about the book is the fact that the ideas jump from one place to another, back and forth, or will go off on a tangent, then jump back to an idea 5 or 6 pages beforehand. It’s like wading through the mind of a man who has gone insane, and then been shaken so hard everything in his mind crashes together into a huge jumble. I will agree with other reviewers in that this book is a brutally honest look into one man’s life, but at the same time, this is more a drunken rambling of sexual exploits and god knows what else I missed.

So bottom line: Don’t read this book. If you want to read it for the vulgarity or obscenity, pick up a woman’s romance instead (I swear those books are most women’s equivalent to porn). If you’re in it because it’s a banned book, there are much more intelligent books that have caused widespread controversy waiting for you to read them.

I love music! While I typically stick to whatever’s on the radio, symphonic metal, alternative, or classic rock, I also love music that I can imagine doing a routine to (circus, dance, marching band, color guard, etc.). The one song I’ve become obsessed with is actually a cover of The Resistance by Muse. This version is by 2 Cellos, and the name describes it pretty well. Isn’t it amazing?

By the way, did you know that on youtube videos, you can type repeat into the URL between “youtube” and “.com” ? All it does is take you to a page where the video has been embedded and continously loops. That’s it. I use it all the time!

So I mentioned this book in my list of books that I loved and hated and wanted to read. Just to let you know, every book on that list that I labelled as being a recommendation or to avoid, I have read. I will not bash a book or gloat about it until I have read it and decided for myself. So, onwards to the review!

I wanted to mention Robert Heinlein’s Orphans of the Sky. It’s one of his short novels, but that makes it all the better. Personally, I’ve found his full-length novels drag on with a lot of filling, but not much plot. His shorter books are an afternoon read, but they keep you well entertained. The plot of this book is fantastic, and it gets 5 stars from me! If you have any used book stores in the area (especially such as Half Price Books in the US) try and pick up an older copy of the book. I paid 35 cents for mine. A great use for pocket change! Oh, and just another note, I use short books like this to clear my mind when I’m in the middle of a huge series that seems to be dragging on forever. A quick afternoon read to escape somewhere else, and you won’t have to worry about juggling books or plots. Plus it gets your mind out of the rut and makes the series easier to get through. Because face it, no matter how much you love reading, 14 1,000-page books is a bit of a challenge. So, onto the book. You can safely read the minor spoiler section… I’m just covering the premesis of the book. But make sure you don’t read the major spoiler section below! That’s my review and has info in it you won’t want to know beforehand!

**Minor Spoiler**

The back of the book (at least my edition) reads: The Universe was five miles long, and 2000 feet across. Men scoffed at the legends of such things as stars, or the demented idea that the Ship was moving… for the Ship was the Universe, and there could be nothing outside. Then one man found his way into a forgotten room, and saw the stars – and they moved….

The premesis of the book is that the crew of a spaceship, traveling to Alpha Centauri, mutinied and killed all of the officers and crewmen. Several generations down the line (it was supposed to take 2-3 generations, but when the crew was killed, the spaceship was shut down and simply drifted through space), the people aboard had forgotten that it was a spaceship, and believed that the ship was the entire galaxy.

I find the idea absolutely fascinating. I have never read anything even remotely similar to this, and it caught my attention from the get-go. If you’re interested in the book, don’t read on. It has spoilers. So go buy it! If you already have, read on to the bottom to see if you agree with my review.

**Major Spoilers**

Don’t read this until after you’ve read the book, or don’t plan on reading it. But seriously, go read the book.

Throughout the book, Hugh is talking to mutants and discovering more and more about the stars and the ship he’s on. It was really well written, and the characters were fantastically created. I loved the pace of the book; very little downtime or boring, dry chapters. My only complaint is the ending of the book seemed rushed (probably because at the length of the book, the end is only about 15-20 pages) and also a tad ridiculous. How is it that after magically escaping in a pod on the ship, they just magically happen to land on the one moon that can sustain life? How? I mean, come on. I would have been happier if they had all died! But aside from this mediocre ending, the book was amazing. Well written, and well worth the short read.