essentialsaltes: (internet Disease)
Life is Strange is a choose your own adventure style video game, with the added bonus that your protagonist has a rewind power so that some mistakes can be undone. There are also some puzzles and meddling kids detection to be done. What starts with classroom bullies ends up in much deeper and darker territory. The game quite intentionally jerks you around, but it does so pretty effectively. The load screen talks about how the choices you make effect the past, present and future, and I remember mocking the idea that the game allows you to tinker with much more than five seconds of the past. Then 15 minutes later, I was gibbering in remorse at what I'd done to the timeline.

Ultimately, the game builds to a crescendo that it just can't support well in the last episode, which I didn't find very satisfying. But the middle was pretty strong. I'm curious to see what different choices and actions would do to the story, but like Until Dawn, I'm not sure I can stand to sit through that much teen dialogue again.

Apparently there will be a prequel soon, and later a 'sequel' with different characters and setting.
essentialsaltes: (cthulhu)
Prey has some roots in Bioshock, and I love me some Bioshock. It even starts with kindofa callback - getting on a helicopter. Unlike the planecrash in Bioshock, the helicopter arrives safely at its destination. Or does it?

Ultimately, you find yourself on a sprawling spacestation, overrun by nasty aliens and beset by some significant maintenance issues. As the game progresses, you inject alien goo into your head to give yourself superhuman and alien powers. Nice doses of funny and scary and a thin thread of story.


Trouble is My Business is a collection of four longer Marlowe short stories by Raymond Chandler. All good stuff, written with his characteristic verve. Golddiggers, casinos, fish-fanciers, and cops on the make, all in a Los Angeles you can still catch out of the corner of your eye when the light is just right.

There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen. 

essentialsaltes: (eye)
I enjoyed Horizon Zero Dawn quite a bit. It looks beautiful from beginning to end, and remains challenging even as you become more and more deadly.

After the Big Whoops, the earth is covered with angry quasi-zoomorphic machines. Their half-familiar half-machine design is one of the delights of the game, I think.  Human civilization has fallen apart to the level of tribalism. As a young huntress/Chosen One, you go out and shoot them and lay snares for them, and ultimately slowly learn all the background of the Big Whoops. How all of it came to pass is a wildly implausible, but satisfying story, that you get in dribs and drabs as you progress.
essentialsaltes: (empathyormurder)
It's a pretty game, and the story does a good job of showing the bond forming between you (as the kid) and the giant feathered cat with a chihuahua head. You can definitely see the influence of Ico on the gameplay, but instead of two equal human type people cooperating to traverse obstacles, there's a lot of freshness to having cooperation between big and small. Trico (the giant featered cat with a chihuahua head) can be an annoyance -- it moves slowly and even when you're trying to tell it where to go, the little hamster in a wheel brain (or rather the AI) is not very reliable. Not a hardcore game, but an enjoyable experience with some challenging puzzles.
essentialsaltes: (space invader)
Each year, The Strong National Museum of Play inducts a new group of toys to the National Toy Hall of Fame. This year, the museum inducted three new toys: Dungeons & Dragons, Fisher-Price’s Little People figures, and the classic swing. The recognition for fantasy roleplaying game Dungeons & Dragons is long overdue, as its innovative approach to playing complicated, creative games has had an outsized impact on the larger gaming world.

I love the inclusion of a non-commercial thing like the swing. It's also adorable that one of the previous inductees is the cardboard box.

But I confess this is the first I can recall hearing of the Strong. Or its benefactress, Margaret Woodbury Strong, who may well have married into some distant part of Dr. Pookie's family.

"Developing her youthful interests, Margaret became a skilled competitor in golf, archery, bowling, flower arranging, and collecting. She recalled later that her collecting began with miniatures, when she was allowed “to carry a small bag to put my dolls and toys in, and to add anything I acquired on the trips.” That small beginning led to an expansive task that dominated her later life. Margaret’s collecting included everything from fine art to the ordinary, all linked by the common themes of play, imagination, “let’s pretend,” and fun."

Another great detail is her father's perspicacity in selling high: "Margaret travelled the world with her parents beginning around 1907 after her father retired and sold the business started by Margaret's grandfather, The Strong and Woodbury Whip Company."

Buggy whips have become one of the go-to examples for product obsolescence. Getting out in 1907 was a pretty good move. (As was subsequently investing in Eastman Kodak.)

Anyway... field trip? Rochester, NY is a ways away, but maybe someday.
essentialsaltes: (secular)
Game 3 of the Risk Legacy campaign was pretty short. Gray hosted, and since Smaug scratched due to illness, Rob was available to fill in.

Rob did the Australia thing, Chun did the S. America thing, I did the Africa thing, Giantsdance wanted as little to do with us as possible and started in Yakutsk, while Gray cramped my style in SW Europe. I punched into Brazil -- despite Gray's closeness -- hobbling Chun, and Giantsdance hobbled himself smashing into Rob with lousy dice. So it was the Rob and Gray show for a while, but Rob was more cautious, allowing Gray the opportunity to grab Chun's HQ by going though me, and then grabbing my HQ by going through what was left of me. So Chief Gray added his name to the board of victors.

As for the board, Africa is a hot mess, but it's my hot mess (not that people are likely to let me get cosy there). Stickers all over including a new bunker in East Africa, and a Mercenary spawner in North Africa (both likely to be popular warzones). But fortunately, there are also some other attractive areas, there's a mercenary spot in SE Asia, adding a bit more to the lure of Australia, and the third mercenary spot is in Yakutsk, where Giantsdance put a small city. Gray put his major city in Greenland, which is already home to a bunker.

Essentialsaltes - 1
Smaug - 1
Gray - 1


Aug. 8th, 2016 09:56 pm
essentialsaltes: (shoot)
[ profile] ian_tiberius contributed to the Paranoia Kickstarter, and got some early access to the new ruleset.

Other players: [ profile] dark_of_night, [ profile] karteblanche, [ profile] zorker, and [ profile] bridared, which last personage may never have had an LJ, but who cares since none of these other people update theirs, either.

Now to justify the nostalgia tag, we have to send the Wayback machine to Origins 86, which I went to the summer after I graduated high school. Paranoia had won the Origins award the previous year, and I had a great talk with somebody at the West End booth, and bought (with my measly high school ducats) a shitload of Paranoia. And never regretted it. It's on my shelf today, and somewhere packed in there is some correspondence between me and West End in which my SASE is addressed to GAR-Y-SVN.

To amplify the nostalgia tag, [ profile] ian_tiberius [ profile] popepat & [Bad username or site: 'joemafi' @] almost ran a Paranoia larp sometime in the early 90s. And so naturally, for this present incarnation, I wore the t-shirt that was generated for the almost game.

Anyway, the general milieu is pretty familiar, with a few changes. The rules have been jiggered with more forcibly, but don't really get in the way of the fun, and possibly add to it. There are cards that can be played in combat (or elsewhere) with special effects -- not sure the mix is quite right, but for a one-off, it was satisfying to pull them out as needed.

It was a rare successful troubleshooter mission, with just a few total party kills, but not enough to go too deep into the clone stack.

And through the luck of the draw, and patient conservation, I was able to do some Once-Upon-A-Time-style strategizing. I placed myself in the vicinity of a broken gurney in a battle-chem induced frenzy, and then invented an impromptu weapon -- the broken gurney. And concluded with the discovery of a cake. As usual, you had to have been there.

A good time with good friends. Thanks to Ian for putting it together, and everyone else for contributing to a great time.
essentialsaltes: (secular)
On alternate Earth, north is north.

Smaug went first, choosing Khan Industries, and setting up HQ in East Africa (preventing me from starting in Lemuria). Giantsdance started in Venezuela as the Saharans. I Balkaniaed myself into New Guinea. The Atomic Messiah chose Iceland with Die Mechaniker.

Smaug settled comfortably into Africa, Giantsdance had S. America, I had Australia, and the Atomic Messiah struggled to get all of Europe. It was quiet for a time, and then the punches started getting thrown. I did fairly well, and if not for the rule that people who have won a game start with one fewer victory point, I would have won. Giantsdance was eliminated, which opened an envelope that will have repercussions next time. In the previous campaign, it took quite a while for someone to be eliminated; I think this earlier opening will have some greater effects. Ultimately, Khan Smaug won the day. Smaug founded the major city of Rio Zika in Brazil, like the pinhead he is. The Atomic Messiah made a minor city in China, and I created Irem in the Middle East -- "Of the [Cthulhu] cult, he said that he thought the centre lay amid the pathless deserts of Arabia, where Irem, the City of Pillars, dreams hidden and untouched."
essentialsaltes: (unleash the furry)
A few years back, Smaug invited me to a Risk: Legacy campaign, and now I got a chance to return the favor. He and I were joined by Chun and Dr. Pookie for the first game. Dr. Pookie took her role seriously in replacing Andy, who couldn't make it. Not only would she role-play the enclave of the bear, but she would role-play Andy role-playing the Enclave of the Bear. We all have some doubts about the accuracy of the portrayal, but anyway.

Chun got beaten up first, as Smaug captured his HQ, but Chun came back nicely, and soon spread like a rash through the New World. Dr. Pookie solidified control of Africa. Smaug took Europe, and I had Australia and east Asia. I punched into Smaug's HQ, and on the next turn, punched across to Chun's, winning the game. So I have a good track record on the first game of the campaign -- 2-0.

I founded the major city of Lemuria in Madagascar. And IIRC, there are also the cities of Blood Diamond in S. Africa, Hobbiton in Great Britain, and Chuntopia in the US.
essentialsaltes: (space invader)
Ancillary Justice won the Hugo, Nebula, and so on, so there's not much I can do either way for its reputation. But for what it's worth, I give it two thumbs up. Certainly extraordinary for a first novel. You can (well, I can) easily imagine the novel taking place in some part of the Iain Banks-verse. Not in the Culture, but nearby. So, if (like me) you like Banks, I feel certain you'll like this as well.

Fallout 4 is lovely, expansive, polished, enjoyable, but stretches the formula very little.

Star Wars ShootPeople suffers the usual problems of these things. The professional virtual soldier types level up and get even better stuff so they are even better at killing newbs like me. The single-player stuff is okay at best, and doesn't actually do a very good job of 'training'. But still, the Walker Assault multiplayer is still pretty enjoyable -- 20 on 20 battles, with the Rebels working on objectives to destroy the marching AT-ATs, and the Imperials working to stop them.

Until Dawn is a lot like the Walking Dead game -- a horror movie (or TV show) where decisions affect future outcomes, interspersed with occasional press-the-right-button episodes. Lots of unlikeable teenage-ish characters, but still strangely compellingly playable/watchable. I had hoped it has replay value, and maybe it does, but now it seems like quite a slog to get through all the watch-y parts. And I once again failed to save Jessica. Oh well.
essentialsaltes: (dead)
The Long Lost is a bit of an odd duck, and I can understand why many people (apparently) don't care for it, but I found it a pretty good read. There are only the vaguest supernatural happenings, mostly sequestered into the very beginning and the very end of the book. Most of the book is about the fates of a half dozen-ish friends and couples that get touched by the supernatural thing. And their lives... just... go... wrong. In ways variously banal and horrible... often fatal. Infidelity, ruined businesses, loss of hope, revenge... a catalogue of mundane disasters, perhaps, but Campbell's writing gives it all some deliciously horrifying verve.

Finished the followup to Metro, Metro: Last Light. More polished, but not necessarily a better game, though it may have the first nipple slip I can recall in a postapocalyptic FPS.
essentialsaltes: (we are different)
So I jumped into the Dragon Age franchise with Inquisition. The developer, BioWare, has been applauded in the past for allowing queer relationships, and "romance arcs will occur in reaction to events and variables specific to each character and include sex scenes". Woohoo!

But it turns out that, although the player can be a bisexual horndog [well, obviously, the player can be anything (and probably is) -- I mean the character the player plays] the sexable characters have their own preferences (and why shouldn't they?). And having now peeked at the hints from the nerds that have sexed all the pixels, it turns out I've been barking up all the wrong trees. And these replicants just don't have any convenient Chasing Amy programming.

And fuck you, Cullen. You like women, but not dwarven women? Just because we're small doesn't mean we don't have a lot of love to give.

*cries onto her little dwarven rock-pillow after a long day of slaughtering heretics and getting friendzoned*
essentialsaltes: (nazgul)
No, not the film. Aaron McGruder's (and Reginald Hudlin's and Kyle Baker's) comic novel from a decade ago. It sat on my amazon wish list, and then it became unavailable, and then some years passed, and then I bought it cheap on eBay.
Glad I got it cheap, because I found it pretty disappointing. Not very satirical, not very funny, and not very well-executed really... it's clearly a slightly warmed over failed storyboard for a film that was never made. While ordinarily I might curse at a world where Tyler Perry can get greenlit and McGruder can't, I wouldn't have greenlit this either. Perhaps most interesting (in light of recent events) is Hudlin's Foreword describing life in East St. Louis back in the day (and the elements of that that show up in the story) like throwing your trash bags on the roof during a lengthy garbage strike so the feral dogs didn't get at them.

Shadow of Mordor was fun but started to overstay its welcome. I'm not sure whether to feel cheated or relieved that the final final big boss battle is a few "punch the button flashed on screen" kind of exercises that's over pretty quickly. Lots of orc killing fun, and I appreciate some nerd-level Tolkien detail that goes into the story and details.

The gameplay is sort of a ramped-up evolution of the Arkham/Batman gameplay of sneaking and fighting, with added bows and mounted warfare and monsters.

Although I don't know whether it really added much to the experience, I did like the way you could sort of check out the orc's org chart.


Sep. 29th, 2014 03:29 pm
essentialsaltes: (Empathyormurder)
I've played a fair amount of Destiny. The game looks and sounds absolutely beautiful. But there's a giant black hole where the interesting story is supposed to be. I'm not the first to say it, but it is Borderlands with better graphics (and no sense of humor). This applies equally to both games: "I enjoyed it, but it starts to get tedious/monotonous, as you carry out 'missions' that seem mainly designed to send you back and forth long distances across the maps so that monsters can fight you."

Multiplayer is fun, even if (as usual) I get killed a lot in the arena-style PvP games. Although I should say, one of the neat advances is that even the single-player game is sort of multiplayer. You can see other players wandering around the area and join up in impromptu ways to battle the monsters. One slightly maddening thing is that there are no communications. Apparently, you can only hear the audio of people you've friended in PSN and that are part of your group. This may keep the rape threats and fagcusations down, but it makes the environment pretty sterile for multiplayer. And it really detracts from the cooperative missions, where communication would obviously be of use.

It's fun enough that I'm keeping with it, but I can easily imagine that a few months after I set it down, I will have totally forgotten it.
essentialsaltes: (Dead)
This is what 45 looks like.


[For reference, this is what 40 looks like.]

The comment there about 'Sunday was lazy football watching and pizza making' remains fairly apposite, as here is dinner:


Prosciutto, broccolini, onion, olives, jalapeño, capers...

Yes, it was very, very good.

But I do not taunt you aimlessly, (maybe).

As I alluded before, a year from today will mark the completion of my 46th year. Twice 23. 23 years (arguably 92) since the events of 23 Skidoo occurred.

So I officially announce 23 Skidoo Times Two. September 13th, 2015 -- hopefully some of you will survive into September 14th.

This live game is not literally a sequel to 23 Skidoo -- especially since only a handful of people 'survived' -- but I'm certainly open to continuing lines.

My basic ideas...

The setting
Date: 1946
Place: Vienna, Austria
Venue: An auction of rare items and curiosae, much of it no doubt liberated by the vicissitudes of WWII.
Characters: to be written by players, and then adapted as needed by moi.
Primary filmic reference: The Third Man. Not that the game will necessarily be anything like this, but you must watch this peerless film, and thank me later.
Theme: Lovecraftian references will no doubt be present, and possibly of primary importance, but not necessarily overpowering. Postwar malaise. Black Market. Greed. Lust. Wrath. Other Deadly Sins.

The game: theater-style live game. In many ways an ode to the Enigma games of yore, but informed by the past few decades.

The players: I hope and trust, a great many of my friends, old and new, from Enigma, Wyrd Con, and beyond.

The details: In general.... TBA.

And so I ask... who's in? Contact me publicly or privately with your ideas, suggestions, concerns, etc.

In some months a more official announcement will appear, but for now this serves as an announcement of intent.

"Appendix D of The Lord of the Rings says that our New Year's Day (January 1) corresponds "more or less" to the Shire's "January 9", and in standard years our September 14 and the Shire's "September 22" [i.e. Bilbo's and Frodo's birthday] both fall 256 days after that date."
essentialsaltes: (essentialsaltes)
Our house continues to slowly creep toward the state of being someone else's house.

Tomorrow will begin the great adventure of tenting & fumigation. Also known as the adventure of living with two cats in a hotel room.

We've made offers here and there, and have a couple out at the moment, but so far nothing definite. Got outbid again on the hipster palace, which popped briefly back onto the market.

Two weekends back, Jackie&Andy invited us over for some brats & games with some other good folks. Got another chance at Risk Legacy, but since I got to place my HQ last, I was in a tight spot from the start. I convinced people to attack Dr. Pookie, so at least I caused connubial strife. I survived, but was never much of a threat to anyone.

One weekend back, we got visited by Dr. Pookie's friend from high school, and her three kids. We grilled up teriyaki chicken and (mostly) kept the wee ones entertained. Good times.
essentialsaltes: (Danger)
Brief article in Smithsonian. Can't seem to find much about this online.

"... the people of [Roman] Ephesus, Turkey, were crazy about board games. Hundreds of intricately patterned playing surfaces are scratched into streets, steps and porticoes there. Scholars don't know much about who played, or the rules they followed, but Ephesians will soon offer the best window into how ancients spent their leisure time, thanks to Ulrich Schaedler, director of the Swiss Museum of Games, who is documenting each and every potential playing surface in the ancient city..."

Some of his findings are part of a current special exhibit on Roman play.
essentialsaltes: (jasmine)
I remember liking the demo a long time ago, so I finally picked up a used copy on ebay. It's sort of a game and anime series rolled into one (I guess they did ultimately create an anime series). You and your plucky squad of vaguely WWI-era soldiers carry out bigger and bigger battles against the enemy. And in between, you click through story elements and movies. The action is sort of first-person shooter/strategy, which is kind of cool. Your squadmates each has a limited amount of action points for movement, and each can only fire a weapon once during a turn. So you have to run for cover, or make sure you end your turn hiding behind your tank, and so on.

The variety of battles is good, but one of the annoying things is that usually there's a stupid trick to a battle that only becomes obvious after you've lost (possibly many times). I think the worst case is one where there are some gun emplacements on a cliff-face that will just kill your dudes as they run up the beach. The trick is that you only place a couple scouts, who can move far & fast enough to avoid the guns, take a poorly defended enemy base, and then use the base to summon the rest of the troops once you're past the guns. Why didn't they do that at Normandy? Anyway, it does teach you the lesson that you don't have to fill up your roster at the start of a battle, which can be a valuable tool.

The story's not terrible, and although Dr. Pookie didn't care for the pastel anime Photoshop-filter look of the artwork, I appreciated that at least it looked different. All told, I liked it, and it's too bad the sequels were made for PSP instead of PS3.
essentialsaltes: (Dead)
[ profile] aaronjv ran Endgame last night at Wyvern Manor (a perfect setting and many thanks to Pam and Lianna for hosting).

The game is a 1920s murder mystery, so... I don't want to spoil things. But I did have a very good time, and it's a very solid game that is complicated enough to be interesting, but simple enough to be pretty easy to run and play. (So if you have an ambition to run a larp, here's one you can download and get cracking. That's what these things are for.)

The player mix was good, and I only knew a couple of them well, and a few more somewhat more vaguely. So at least half the people are now people that I'll know only by their character names...

I don't have any criticisms, but I'll mention one detail, just because my mind would not let it go. The setting is left vague, but the reference to Prohibition places it in America, but the character names all read to me as quite English (Harringdon, Stirling, Fairfax, Smyth-Montague...) more so than even the WASPiest of enclaves on the east coast (at least I imagine so -- I'm not invited to those parties). This is somewhat reinforced by the inspiration that the larp lifts from Dame Agatha.

OK, two more details from the run:

I wore great-great-grandfather's watch.

Favorite dialogue:

Rattled Suspect: It makes no sense to accuse me. I had the opportunity to kill him numerous times on other nights.
Me: So how many times did you kill him tonight?


essentialsaltes: (Default)

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