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Moving house!

January 31, 2011

Moving house to http://marrkle.tumblr.com. Bringing only my year 2011 posts with me. See you there!

Let’s Talk: Moscow Airport Attack

January 30, 2011

So there was this incident in an airport in Moscow (the Domodedovo airport; nice name) where these suicide bombers ran in and blew themselves up, killing 35 and injuring many more.

I really couldn’t care less about the suicide bombing, actually – this kind of thing happens all the time, and while I do offer my heartfelt condolences to the victims and their relatives, I’m not in a position to legalize any legislation. Crank up the security, don’t piss off anyone; we should be fine.

What I can’t stand is when the media blames video games for it. As with many such events of this magnitude, an underdog has to be found. It works even better if the entity being blamed is mysterious and misunderstood. Many parents today still misunderstand video games, and the countless media reports about cases like these aren’t helping in the slightest. Video games are not that different from movies or book; they are simply a means of conveying information. No one is as fool to claim that COD MW2 caused the attacks – the suicide bombers were motivated by extremist jihadi views, not a computer game – but some people are drawing parallels between the level and the bombing.

To each his own, I suppose – but the practice of blaming video games for horrific events is getting more and more widespread. People need to understand that video games are just another medium of expression. The interactivity of the medium doesn’t change things in the slightest. Just because the suicide bomber’s attack was similar to a level in COD:MW2 doesn’t make the game responsible for the bombings. It’s a coincidence. Let’s leave it at that. I highly doubt the public outcry would be as large if the medium in question was a movie that had a similar scene. The video game genre is a fledgling one and the last thing we want to do is to stifle it with blanket moral judgements that are just plain stupid.

Minecraft

January 28, 2011

I recently picked up Minecraft again (a bit popular in 3I2, it is). Had lots of fun with it, and there are a lot more new features that have been implemented since I last played. The Nether is one, sandstone is another, mods and texture packs yet another, new trees, fire-starting, fishing, cake… the list goes on and on. The game is much more beginner friendly with additions like charcoal, watches and sandstone.

There are a few gripes that I have with the game, though. One, why the bloody hell is there so little iron?! Iron’s not exactly rare, per se, but the material is so versatile that it has to be used in everything. Flint and steel. Railroad tracks. Minecarts. Powered minecarts. Iron doors. Its usage is only rivaled by wood, but wood is so much easier to obtain.

Two, the game still puts you in the middle of nowhere with nothing in your hands. While very refreshing, it can get very tedious when building a new world. Notch should make a mode where you start with diamond tools and 64 of everything… good for the veteran player who just wants to get a new world up and running.

Also, the graphics look dated, there are some things that you should be able to do but can’t (why can’t you make a sandwich by crafting 1 bread – 1 pork – 1 bread) and there are some things which you can do, but don’t make any sense (a bookshelf, when destroyed, gives nothing)

It’s still a whole lot of fun to play. I heartily recommend it.

The Prince

January 21, 2011

I’m going to be departing from my normal gaming posts. I borrowed The Prince from the school library yesterday (where it appears, unfortunately, that I have accumulated 17 dollars in overdue fines) and have read it from cover to cover. (The Harvey C. Mansfield translation, if you’re interested.)

The book is super-awesome.

Why? Well, what book do you know that says (constantly) things like “For in truth there is no secure mode to possess [citystates] other than ruin them.” Huh? And what book do you know that says “But above all, he must abstain from the property of others, because men forget the death of a father more quickly than the loss of a patrimony.” How awesome is that? The Prince is a manuscript of satire and very, very dry wit. Machiavelli summarises things with a precise, astute conciseness, and the best (or worst) part is that he is most of the time completely correct.

Though this book certainly has its educational side (after all, it was dedicated to a certain Lorenzo de’ Medici) and it does show in quotes like “I say that whoever considers the discourse written above will see that either hatred or disdain has been the cause of the ruin of the emperors named before.”, some of its assertions are really very, very shocking – and utterly hilarious. They aren’t hilarious in the sense of person-slips-on-banana-peel, nor in the sense of amusing wordplay. What makes it funny is the entire unexpectedness of some of Machiavelli’s assertions, and the nonchalant way in which he proclaims these statements.

The book was an amusing read from start to end. The end bit, about Exhortation to Seize Italy and to Free Her from the Barbarians was a bit of a downer, though, because it read like emotionally-charged, political rhetoric what I expected The Prince to be in the first place. But otherwise, The Prince was a fantastic read.

Now off to sleep.

Dissecting TF2

December 27, 2010

I’ve been playing TF2 the past couple days (as you might have known), and I’ve been wondering what makes TF2 so addictive and fun to play. It’s the most fun game I’ve ever played yet, so I want to find out what exactly makes it so fun in the hopes that I can buy similar games next time. (I’m not too hopeful, though). Penning my thoughts down will help to structure and streamline my thought process. So here goes.

0) Is it because I paid for it?

Well, maybe. There might be some psychological theory or whatnot, but I’ll quite sure that a reason why I’m playing it so much (and finding it fun in the process) is because I paid 9.99 USD for it. You know, sunk cost theorem and all that. Moving on…

1) Is it because it’s multiplayer?

Duh. Singleplayer games are no fun at all.

2) Is it because I don’t have to wait for a game?

Definitely. Normally, when I play DoTA, I have to wait for friends so I can inhouse, and that takes quite a long time everyday or sometimes just not at all. I could pub in Garena, but firstly I’ve become accustomed to playing with friends and secondly pubs don’t really appeal to me anyway. I think the spontaneity of TF2 and its matchmaking system is what draws me to play it again and again. Add to that the fact that I can stop whenever I want (when I lose, or when I need to go for lunch/dinner/whatever) instead of having to slog it out the entire duration of 45-60 minutes and 2) is a very compelling explanation as to why I like TF2 so much.

3) Is it because I like the genre?

Well….. no. I’m not a big fan of the first-person shooter genre (I personally like third-person viewcams and RPG games more than FPSes). I’d say the genre of TF2 actually puts me off it. But TF2 plays the FPS genre reasonably well.

4) Is it because I like the art direction?

Yes! A thousand times yes. I love the stylized art style. It’s clean and smooth and means that my junkpile of a computer can run it (albeit at DirectX 8). It’s a refreshing change from a nitty-gritty, realistic shooter along the lines of Modern Warfare 2 (or the entire COD series, in fact). The art direction also means the game feels brighter and more fun to play, so even when I’m losing I don’t feel too bad. I love the art in Team Fortress 2. Huge draw.

5) Is it because there are many different classes?

Yes. Variety is a good thing and hardly ever hurts (unless you have way too much, like in DoTA). Nine distinct, unique classes is a good number and it manages to accommodate many different styles of gameplay. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a huge fan of the Spy’s gameplay, though I occasionally dabble in the Scout, the Heavy and the Medic. (I never touch the Soldier, the Sniper or the Demoman.) In addition, the ability to switch your class anytime you want (well, in the resupply room or when you’ve just spawned) with no hassle is a great boon for gamers like me (read: gamers who completely suck). Big draw for me as well.

I think that’s enough for today. It’s 1:30 AM in the morning and my uncle is arriving from Hong Kong tonight, so I should be sleeping now. But let me just sum up what makes TF2 fun for me: ┬áits varied classes, its art direction and its spontaneity. Yet it’s integral FPS gameplay is a real downer. A feature to toggle between third-person and first-person would be very well recieved by yours truly.

So, what game to buy next? A third-person, multiplayer RPG game with a cel-shaded art style. Where can I find one of those..?

Team Fortress 2

December 22, 2010

I’m stoked! I bought TF2 last night and have been playing it non-stop from morning till now.

TF2 is a landmark game for me for two reasons: one, it’s the first legit game I’ve owned, and two, I bought it with my own money.

Downloading and installing from Steam was a breeze, though I had to leave my computer overnight and then afterwards wait a bit more, but no major hitches. The first problem, though, was that my computer’s graphic card (Intel GMA integrated piece of shit) couldn’t handle TF2 on it’s lowest settings. So, after some frantic Google Search-ing I figured out the problem – I couldn’t run DirectX 9 (what a shame). So I tweaked the launch settings to use DirectX 8 instead.

Now the water is white and completely opaque.

Anyway, TF2 is a hell lot of fun. The graphics style is right up my alley, the gameplay is fast-paced and fair, it’s very easy to get into and the maps are really very well done. Personally, my favourite class is the Spy but i’m absolutely terrible at it. I tend to bump into enemies while trying to backstab them, which makes it rather awkward and gives the game away. The other classes are far more straightforward and a damn sight easier to play. Overall, TF2 is a fantastic game…

… but I’m not too amused by the lack of game modes. It’s either arena, CTF, or attack/defend. Where is the no-holds-barred, AWESOME super-fantabulous DEATHMATCH mode? (Yes, I am aware it exists, but no one ever hosts it.)

That’s just a small nitpick though. Be right back. More TF2 action.

DoTA Reflections

October 2, 2010

I realize writing a blog post (about DoTA, no less) is a rather stupid decision to make in the face of the End-of-Years.

Meh.

See, I usually play pushers (mainly the heroes which push down the opponent’s towers, hence the name), ignoring team battles and just focusing on pushing. You see, the problem with this strategy is that a push is very easily countered by another opponent hero, since the tower hits the creeps and you sure has hell are not going to stay there in case of a surprise attack. So all your effort will be gone to waste.

I also tend to play carries, which farm the entire game and then rape lategame, but I am of the opinion that such behavior is boring and unsporting. I also tend to find that my teammates are unable to fend against the opponents’ attacks, putting pressure on yours truly.

I dislike supports because they are weak individually and never get any credit. I like the credit.

I love playing gankers. Yet no one ever coordinates ganks.

What can I play, then? Well….