Monday, October 29, 2007

Sending dogs to Crom

Prepare to meet Crom, dog. It is I, Conan, the Cimmerian. Crom sits in his mountain thirsting for blood, and I shall send him yours!

I have rescued many maidens, which gives me great joy. They are very beautiful.

Right now, I'm stuck trying to kill this demon elephant. May his tusks need root canals!

Let me get done with this stupid elephant, Crom, and I'll get right back on that blood thing for you. Sit tight.

... There. I did it, you big elephant ... dog ... demon thing. Report to Crom to be laughed at when you flunk the Riddle of Steel.

And I burned down the misbegotten ships, too, so Crom can play boats in his Mighty Bathtub of Steel beneath his Mountain. Meanwhile, I will enjoy the company of these fine wenches I found chained to the docks!

Who's laughing now? Crom is!


Rally to my banner

I finally figured out what my Halo 3 emblem should be.

I've tried several things. I first used a skull in a cowboy hat, but it just looked ridiculous. I've used a Spartan helmet for a long time because I like "300" so much, but it just didn't seem original.

Then I came up with this abstract image to represent what inspires me. The banner of the Bosom Brigade is very nice and I still like it, but I was concerned that it might not play well in mixed company. I reserve the right to come back to this one, though.

Today I remembered what would be perfect.

It resembles an original family crest that I created many years ago. I painted an emblem very much like this on hats for my dad, my brother and me. It's a crow silhouetted against the sun. Black and yellow are nature's danger signal: bees, poison tree frogs, etc. That's why we respond to that color scheme and they use it for highway danger signs. Danger, danger danger, as Steve Irwin used to say. And a bird in flight in a bright sky is always a glorious thing to see.

I hope that my brother and my cousins will join me in adopting this noble Sun Crow emblem. We'll be a perilous posse indeed!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Awaiting something completely different

My apologies, to all both of you who read my blog, for my laziness in posting during the past week or so. I've just about run out of things to say about Halo 3, and I think we're all tired of talking about it for now. I was holding out, thinking I would have something new to say because two new games I've been looking forward to were due out Tuesday this week: Conan, and America's Army: True Soldiers.

But thus far, I have been unable to get my hands on the Conan game, and America's Army has been pushed back to a mid-November release! So I'm still stewing, with little to say on the subject of games for now.

So, returning to this horse carcass to kick it a few more times: I did rank up to captain this week in Halo 3 multiplayer, which was by far the hardest rank I've yet achieved. But to my dismay, the rank unlocked no new Spartan armor components. I couldn't believe it.

I've also been tempted to vent about my frustration at people staging stunts to get achievements in Lone Wolf slayer matches. While this is not cheating in the glitching, hardware-thwarting sense of cheating, it definitely violates the spirit of the game. How can you consider this an "achievement" if you're not really earning it?

These guys basically call off the match and stand in a circle, taking turns shooting each other in various ways to fulfill the terms of this achievement or that. It's like an Elbonian firing squad. It cheapens the whole notion of achievements in Xbox Live, and I've lost almost all my enthusiasm for building my gamerscore after witnessing this silly phenomenon. If this is how you're building your gamerscore, it means nothing.

But, thank goodness, I have resisted the urge to say anything about this, because I know nobody wants to hear it. So I'll keep it to myself.

I have also started playing multiplayer without my headset most of the time. I've been concerned that I tend to cuss too much, and the best way I've found to avoid cursing online is to not put a microphone in front of my mouth when people are shooting me.

Witchy woman

A new Best Buy opened near my home, and the first thing I bought there is a DVD of the first season of a "Witchblade" anime series that I had never heard of. The artwork is very nice. In researching Witchblade art, I discovered an artist I admire greatly, Frank Cho.

I hope he will forgive me for posting this one image of his artwork, because I want to show you how brilliant the guy is and direct your to his web site. This Witchblade image is absolutely gorgeous.

Mass Effect book report

I finished reading "Mass Effect: Revelation" last weekend. I highly recommend you read it if you plan to play the game. I already feel comfortable in the Mass Effect universe, and I have a sense of some of the alien cultures and their personalities. So, without revealing any spoilers for the book or the game, here is a brief synopsis of what I learned in the book:

The novel takes place maybe 20 years or so before the game. A human officer named Anderson is the hero of the novel, and it appears he is your boss in the game, a good deal later in his career. The character is voiced by David Keith.

You're also introduced to Saren (sounds a lot like Sauron, doesn't it?), the turian on the cover of the book. Turians, who are described as a rather birdlike, dinosaurlike velociraptorish species, may be OK folks on the whole, but Saren is not a very nice person. That's all I'll say about him.

Krogans are like Klingons, warlike and strong. They're also described like dinosaurs, but not the birdlike ones. They're more like the squat, armor-plated tanklike dinosaurs.

My favorite alien species is the asari. These are the sexy blue-skinned women with tentacle things on their heads. They had me at "blue-skinned" (notice Cortana's pigmentation above), but tentacles on the head really clinch it. I loved Twi'leks already, especially Aayla Secura, and apparently the guys at BioWare do, too. What is it about the blue-skinned tentacle babe archetype that is so alluring? It's one of the great mysteries of sci-fi. As I always say, "Once you go blue, nothing else will do."

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Friday frag frenzy

Say hello to my little fre'. This appears to be a "P-40" flamethrower. I have learned, to my dismay, that the P-40 is a treacherous friend. I'm almost as likely to incinerate myself with it as the enemy. It sure is fun, though, when you light 'em up!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Massively interested

Not content to wait until Mass Effect comes out on the Xbox 360 on Nov. 20, today I bought the novel that's supposed to lead into the game. I think I should score some geek points for reading a book about a video game that's not even out yet. I would have bought the novel sooner, except I haven't found it until today. I've been watching the book aisle at Wal-Mart for months, but I finally found it today at Books-A-Million. I had to ask the clerk if they had it, and they had only one copy. BioWare should prod their merchandisers a bit. Will they have Mass Effect action figures, too? It remains to be seen.

I've read only one chapter so far, but so far so good. I'm enjoying it. The author, Drew Karpyshyn, wrote "Star Wars: Darth Bane," and it was pretty good.

I also bought a Star Wars Insider magazine, a Heavy Metal magazine, and a collection of original Robert E. Howard Conan stories called "The Bloody Crown of Conan." I felt like falling back on the classics.

Speaking of Conan, I played the new Conan game demo that's a free download on Xbox Live. It's definitely worth a look. The game is an obvious "salute" to David Jaffe's God of War, but it's Conan. And it's fun, judging from the demo. I found the most screen shots for it at the THQ site for the game. The artwork is reminiscent of Frank Frazetta, who is my favorite artist, so that's a great big plus. Note that the Mature rating includes nudity, which is entirely appropriate for a Conan story, as any fan of Frank Frazetta's art knows.

And I recognized two actors' voices. Ron Perlman is doing the voice of Conan, and he's a great actor, but the way he's playing Conan, he sounds just like Hellboy. (Perlman is also in production doing the voice of Conan in an animated feature called "Conan: Red Nails," which looks promising. It has Clancy Brown in it, too, aka the Kurgan and Mr. Krabs.) I imagined Conan to be a little less snarky than Hellboy and more heavy and dark, but I've got to read the original Robert E. Howard before I form a firmer opinion. In the meantime, I respect Ron Perlman's interpretation. The guy played a really good caveman in 1981's "Quest for Fire" long before the Geico caveman, for crying out loud.

Furthermore, the woman from Farscape, Claudia Black, does the voice of the hot barbarian babe warrior queen. That's her character in the screen shot above, courtesy of THQ, God bless 'em. Could she be the cause of the nudity rating?

Life just gets better and better.

Monday, October 8, 2007

The Spartan officer's helmet

The helmet I unlocked when I was promoted to lieutenant yesterday is the coolest one yet. It's reminiscent of a Greek helmet with its eye slits and cheek pieces. Compare those features on my new helmet, above, and King Leonidas' helm in "300."

I also learned an interesting tidbit about Spartans: they wore red cloaks so enemies would never see them bleed. The Spartan red was adopted by the Romans and later the British redcoats. I'm not sure if that's true, but it sounds plausible.

I've discovered a knack in Halo for splattering enemies with the Ghost. Look at this poor guy's neck and right elbow as I splatter him against a rock in Snowbound.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Cleared for takeoff

This is the reason video games were invented, as far as I'm concerned. Look at this picture from Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation, due out Oct. 23. I would not have believed it possible for this to be gameplay had I not already played the demo.

I bought my first serious computer to play X-Wing and Falcon 3.0, which came out in 1991 (see image at right). Up to that point, all I had was a floppy-disc churning box that was good for nothing but word processing -- a glorified typewriter. X-Wing was fantastic fun, because it played better than the old booth-style arcade Star Wars game that let you fly a wire-frame X-Wing with a yoke control. But Falcon 3.0 had realistic flight characteristics, with freedom to look around the sky and "padlock" the view of your foe, so you could maneuver onto his "six," the 6 o'clock position on his tail.

As computers and flight sims got better, I advanced to Jane's U.S. Navy Fighters, Jane's WWII Fighters and others. But flight sims seem to have fallen out of favor in recent years. I got tired of the endless rat race of upgrading my PC to play games, and I got tired of sitting in front a PC to play when I'd already been sitting in front of a PC to work all day. I've migrated to consoles for play, but there haven't been any flight games for console that really pulled together the best traits of the genre, such as realistic flight controls, and lots of padlock and view options.

Ace Combat 6 for Xbox 360 might finally be the game I've been waiting for. Judging from the demo on Xbox Live, the flight characteristics are sufficiently realistic, it has good view options, and the graphics ... See the picture at the top. It's absolutely incredible. It just looks real.

I've been telling people, if only they'd come out with a flight controller for a good flight sim on the console. A real joystick, not just a gamepad thumbstick. And here it is, Ace Combat Six: Fires of Liberation with Flightstick Bundle.

We'll be able to dogfight over Xbox Live with this. I really, really hope this game lives up to my high hopes and expectations. I'd hate to have to eject.

Halo 3 highs and lows

I've hit Halo 3 hard lately, playing for an hour or two after work most nights this week. Then Saturday, I played most of the day. Late Saturday afternoon I got into a huge team battle with a bunch of my online friends. It was great fun. The big team battle slayers are super, but I discovered that I don't particular care for one game mode that many of the others seemed to enjoy, Infection. More power to you if you like it. It just seemed pointless to me, because eventually everyone gets infected. It's a depressing little demonstration of how a pandemic could wipe out civilization. Everybody loses.

In other game news, my padawan learner, Fortiscule, just beat a big boss battle in Stranglehold that brought a big triumphant whoop from the den and a earned him 25 gamer points. That game looks dizzying. Congratulations, Fortiscule!