Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Predators and Prey

Well this was a bit of an odd one. First this is five separate stories rather than a single multi-part one which I wasn't expecting. Although the writers have mostly been on Joss' teams before this makes for the much greater variety in style. However the biggest change is the reveal of the existance of vampires and slayers to the general public. In my mind that rocks the core of the Buffy universe way more than Buffy being gay, yet I don't remember this ever being mentioned. I could have missed it or maybe it's just me that thinks that way. Vampires known to the mainstream obviously can work for a story, True Blood being the most recent example of where it works, but I'm not sure if I like it in the world of Buffy. It does remain to be seen if the change will be permanent, I mean in the long run who is going to believe what Harmony has to say? Finally Dawn is back to normal again but it turns out there was no higher purpose involed as I'd predicted. It was as she'd said, simply the revenge of a Thricewise. A bit of a lull in the series I think, good but not great.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Blu-ray vs BD vs Giraffes

While writing my last post I found myself asking is "Blu-ray" a noun or an adjective or what? To me it's sounds wrong to say "a Blu-ray", I always feel the need to add "disk" after it. On the other hand I usually feel the need to capitalise it which is probably wrong but I guess that actually makes it a noun adjunct. Unfortunately "Blu-ray Disk" is long and unwieldy especially compared to "DVD". I've seen it shortened to BD in some places but that doesn't roll of the tongue very well and I still feel the need to add "disk" after it despite the fact that's what the "D" stands for. Looking at a large copy of the logo after finding one for this entry I see that's trying to suggest BD, still sounds a bit naff though. This is the main reason I wanted HD-DVD to win the format war as it's a much more sensible name! Though even the double D in that is a bit of a mouthful. So what does that leave me to call my shiny new high definition disks? Answers on a postcard please. I might as well call them giraffes or something equally as stupid.

Monday, March 29, 2010

End of an Era

I don't own a lot of concert videos. I have to really like the band or they have to put on an excellent show for me to consider it usually. It was admittedly a bit of an impulse but in my last Amazon order of the Buffy books I also picked up two new Blu-ray disks. One was Jennifer's Body which I've not watched yet and the other was Nightwish: End of an Era. Nightwish fall into the category of bands I like and bands that put on a good show. They're not a band I've seen live in person before and of course it's unlikely that there'll ever be another chance to see them with Tarja Turunen. Anette Olzon is pretty good but I don't think she has the power or the range that Tarja does which makes the Nightwish sound different these days. I don't know the history exactly but I presume from the title that this ended up being Tarja's last show with the band. The sound and picture are awesome, though you'd expect that from a recentish production on a high definition disk. The band's performance is top notch too, must have been a great gig to be at and the playlist includes most of my favorites too. Here's a few You Tube examples from the gig:
Dark Chest of Wonders
Over the Hills and Far Away
Wish I Had an Angel

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Time of Your Life

Wow, somehow I'd managed to never hear anything about this one. A Buffy/Fray crossover! An evil source of magic pulls Buffy into the future where she meets Melaka Fray. Written by Joss and drawn by the same guy who did the original Fray (Karl Moline) this story could possibly be my favorite of season eight so far. Wolves at the Gate was great as were all the others but Fray holds a special place in my heart which gives this one the edge. Also there's the elements of time travel and alternate universes both of which are concepts I have an interest in. There's also still stuff going on in the present. Dawn's a centaur now which is a little odd but it turned out to be useful. I suspect there's another power involved with her transformations as they seem to always be needed in some way, eventually. Kennedy is back too which is nice, though of course she's now slightly worried that the newly out Buffy might be interested in her Willow. I doubt that would actually happen but I guess you have to at least acknowledge the possibility. One word review, Fantastic.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Wolves at the Gate

I figured a Buffy comic titled Wolves at the Gate would be a werewolf story. I was wrong! Five more issues are collected in volume three of Buffy season eight, another one-shot by Joss and the four part Wolves at the Gate by Drew Goddard. I guess what people like to read is subjective but Drew Goddard is in the "Writers of stuff I like" group, having worked on Buffy, Angel, Lost & Cloverfield. He obviously knows the Buffy universe well and it shows with the perfect balance of humour, action and drama. Dracula is back, but is a bit of a shut-in after his last encounter with Buffy. Of course now they need to team up to fight some vampires with similar transformation abilities. They're the wolves! Giant Dawn verses Mecha-Dawn, genius! However I guess the most important part that will be remembered is the big reveal about Buffy. I recall there was some outrage in the fandom when this was first published. Now I've read it myself I don't see the problem. It felt perfectly reasonable to me that Buffy could be gay, seemed like a natural progression. It's not like she's even sure herself, at least at this point in the story. Overall, brilliant! On to the next volume...

Friday, March 26, 2010

I want to be a cyborg!

The idea of technological implants and augments to the body is something I've always had some interest in. It probably started in my teens when I used to play a lot of the Cyberpunk 2020 role-playing game. That's only ten years away now! It'll probably still be a while before I've got buttons on my arm controlling display overlays directly to my cornea (with additional myopia correction of course!). Anyway I recently realized we weren't quite a far away from that as I thought. First I saw this video from TEDMED Eric Topol: The wireless future of medicine which particularly interested me. As someone with type 1 diabetes the idea of continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) sounds like a great idea. I meant to do more research on that at the time but must have been distracted by something as I never did. Then today I saw this in the news, Sensors turn skin into gadget control pad, which sounds like another great step forward, have a look at the video on that page. That reminded me of my previous thoughts so I did some more research and found that The Guardian REAL-Time Continuous Glucose Monitoring System (that's what the picture is) is available here in the UK. So I'm going to see about trying one and will be asking my GP about it soon. On a completely unrelated note I caved and ordered the next four volumes of Buffy season 8, so that will probably be what my next post is about!

Thursday, March 25, 2010


Annihilator are my favorite band without question. They've got a new album due out this year, two days after my birthday in fact, on May 17th. It's just been announced that a fancy deluxe box set will be available too (pic to right, click for bigger). I'm totally getting one of those! Unrelated to that, lead guitarist Jeff Waters sent out gifts to some of the regulars on the band's forum, see mine here. If you like thrash metal but have not heard of Annihilator check them out here.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

My first Blu-ray

I've been a collector of films and TV for a long time. First on VHS, then on DVD and now on Blu-ray. I've held back on moving to a high-def format for a while, mostly because I've lacked the hardware to play them. I've still not got an HDTV but my new PC has a Blu-ray drive in it, so I figured it's about time I caught up with the times. Almost everything I once had on VHS I've upgraded to DVD but I won't be doing the same with Blu-ray. I don't think the picture improvements are enough to justify that expense but I'll be buying Blu-rays for all my new stuff from now on. My first Blu-ray disk ended up being Cabin Fever which I bought on a bit of a whim. I'm not sure why I picked that one, maybe I'd just heard about how bad the sequel was. I am a bit of a sucker for dodgy horror films and Eli Roth knows that genre well. Tits, gore, tits & gore, death and destruction, what more could you want? If you're bored have a browse through my DVD collection.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


I've been saving this topic for a day when I was short on something to talk about. As a BSG fan I was excited when the prequel series Caprica was announced. I watched the pilot as soon as I could and enjoyed. However it wasn't anything like I'd expected it was going to be. I've been continuing to watch the series and mostly enjoying it but I don't feel like it's completely grabbed me yet, not like BSG did or Lost for example. There some interesting concepts, good characters and great special effects, but I'm not sure they're entirely sure what direction they're going with it yet. There's only been eight episodes so far and many TV programmes take much longer than that to find their feet. So I'll keep watching for now, but it's not up to the standard of it parent show yet. I just hope it gets the chance and isn't cancelled.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Thoughts on Awakening

This will be full spolierific review of Dragon Age: Awakening, the new expansion pack for Dragon Age: Origins. If you've not played it yet you should probably go and do that first, if you enjoyed the original you should enjoy the expansion. First I'll talk about length. The game felt short, even considering it's only an expansion not a full game. However looking at the clock on my save game shows that I spent just over 16 hours on my first play through, so I guess it's not really that short. It's probably the fact that I did it in three long sessions rather being spread out that gives that feeling and in that time I did get from level 21 up to level 32. Companions are an important part of CRPGs these days. Here we got a handful of new people and one old one. Of all the companions from the original Oghren is the one who gets to return. They say he's a "fan-favorite", but not mine. Oghren does have some funny moments but for the most part he just annoys me. Once I had enough alternatives he rarely made it into my party choice, which for the most part was Anders (Mage), Nathaniel (Rogue), Justice (Warrior) and myself also as a warrior.
I did come to like those guys after playing with them for a while but I do wish there were more appearances of the originals. Obviously Alistair is now king so he gets a quick cameo at the beginning to set you off and I also met Wynne briefly. I would much rather have run into Leliana, Sten, Shale or my dog. Hopefully at least some of those will be in Dragon Age 2. I've seen quite a lot of complaints on forums about bugs. I did notice one or two but nothing that broke the game for me. They mostly seemed to be related to the fact that DLC items for the original are not available in the expansion along with one or two places with poor collision detection around objects. Game play is mostly unchanged. Only major change I can think of is the updated systems for getting to know your companions. You no longer get to go around everybody while you're in camp but are instead driven to talk to members of your party while out and about. This mostly seems to be change for the good, although it does mean you can't easily learn everything about everybody in a single play through. Unlike the original, the expansion is a lot more linear. It's true you can choose the order you do most of the quests but there's lot less mutually exclusive content when one choice cuts you off from the alternative. That's to be expected from a smaller scale expansion I suppose.
The story this time felt a lot less epic and seemed to lack detail at times. Near the end when I had to choose to join with The Architect or kill him I realized that I no idea what his game was and if I should like him or not. It was a really tough choice. I decided to side with him in the end but I'm still not sure if that was the right choice. I'll have to choose to destroy him next time and see what happens. I also got flashbacks to Crossroad Keep (NWN2) when I realized I was going to have to rebuild Vigil Keep, but luckily this wasn't anywhere as complex/tedious and mostly happened as you went along to places you were going for other reasons. It was always going to be hard to top the brilliance of Dragon Age: Origins, the Awakening expansion doesn't do it but that doesn't make it bad. Don't ask me to rate it exactly but it would probably get a top ten spot. Click the screenshots for larger versions or view my profile here.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

House of Suns

Due to spending lots of time on trains the last two weekends I've finished the current book I've been reading, House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds. I had a hard time getting started with this book. Alastair Reynolds comes up with some incredibly outlandish concepts for his books but this one is probably the most strange (so far). Add to that his tendency to use odd forms of writing, this one all being told from a first-person perspective but swapping between characters between each chapter, who are all clones of the same person. All this is a lot to get your head around at the beginning of a book. There were a couple of points early on when I nearly gave up. I'd been disappointed by the end of the last book I'd read of his (Absolution Gap) and this was his chance to redeem himself, which he nearly didn't. In the end I'm glad I carried on. It probably took till about half way through but eventually I was hooked and needed to know what was going to happen next. Towards the end as the pace picked up I was a little worried I was going to be let down by a quick resolution again, but luckily that turned out not to be the case and I was satisfied. Although it was nothing like a I expected it to be, but that's usually the case with writers like Reynolds. If you've read and enjoyed any of his other books then you'll probably like this too, however my personal favorite of his still stands as Chasm City.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

London Zoo

For a lazy saturday after a night out in London we decided to go to the zoo. I can't remember the last time I went to a zoo, I guess it would have probably been Chester zoo but I've no idea when. Had a great time, definitely something different.
Here's a load of photos

Friday, March 19, 2010

Dragon Age: Awakening

Just a quick post about Dragon Age: Awakening before I head off to London. I intended to install it and have a quick go and come back to it on Sunday after my trip but ended up playing for hours, oops. I guess that means I've been enjoying it! Beware of minor plot and companion spoilers. My biggest problem with rpg expansions in general is usually the companions. There's always new people and I find myself missing the old ones. For example when I first met Anders he just seemed like a magical Alistair to me. However after playing with them for a few hours I've gotten used to their company now and actually quite like them. There's a few small glitches I've noticed which strike me as a little unpolished. I guess the game was a bit rushed through QA but I'm sure Bioware will patch them out soon enough. None of the issues were game breaking. All in all it's a very playable expansion and I'll post again with more thoughts once I've finished it.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

No Future For You

So I finished reading the second volume of Buffy season eight and really enjoyed it. I must now resist the temptation to rush out and buy the next one, I promised I'd pace myself a little. There's two stories in volume two, a four part Faith story followed by a single one involving Buffy and Willow meeting a demon. Although these are on the old side now I'm going to write about them without major spoilers (without prior warning anyway). You never know what people have or haven't read, I can't be the only one still catching up. So first was "No Future For You" by Brian K. Vaughan. I can't say I'd heard of him before now but after looking him up I see he's written for Marvel, DC & spent three seasons on Lost which is a pretty impressive background. He got a good grasp of the Buffy universe, nothing feels out of place and the characters act like they should. The artwork continues to be great quality but I'm afraid I'm even less familiar with the artists than I am the writers. I'll have to do something about that. To end there's the one-shot "Anywhere but Here" this time by Joss Whedon (I know who he is!) which is an interesting looking into the hopes and fears of Buffy and Willow. The future doesn't look so good. So who is Twilight? (no spoilers please!)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Batman & Robin

I have fond memories of this film, not because it's any good but because of the circumstances under which I first saw it. It was the first time I'd been away on holiday with just friends rather than family or school. We decided we'd see this film on one rainy evening. We all thought it was terrible but it was still a fun experience and because of that I can't completely hate on this film like a lot of people do and there's quite a lot to hate. The film starts without messing about, bat signal goes out and the heroes race to the action. No time is spent till later introducing any of the characters. Then after saving all that time they waste it later with a pointless motorbike race. The design of the batmobile has been getting sillier and sillier over the films and this one with it's glowing neon bits is the worst. The film is packed to the brim with corny lines ("lets kick some ice!" lol) it's just missing a few ka-pows and it could an Adam West Batman. Gratuitous Bat-Butt shots, what's with those? Though I have to admit Alica Silverstone's is quite nice, certainly more so than Clooney's. On the subject of George Clooney, I just don't think he works well as Batman or even Bruce Wayne for that matter. To me he'll always be Doug Ross which is a bit of a hindrance. Still it's all kind of entertaining in a "So bad it's good" sort of way.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Long Way Home

I didn't have time yet to finish my Batman marathon with Batman & Robin so instead I'm going to take a moment today to write about Buffy Season 8. I started reading scans of this when it first came out but I only ever got as far as issue 7. Now I understand they're up to somewhere around issue 30-something so now I've decided I should catch up. I picked up the first two volumes of the graphic novel compilations which includes issues 1 to 10 and I've just finished reading volume 1. I've read these ones before but they are still good a second time around. It probably helps a lot that Joss Whedon wrote it but it definitely feels true to the Buffy universe and is a good continuation of the series. So now there's two which I've read before to go and then it's stuff that's new to me. I hope they can keep the quality going.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Random Links

Blue Wizard Needs Food
Huge LOLs! There's some other great stuff in the gallery too.

Dragon Age 2 Coming
We all new Dragon Age 2 would be coming at some point, but now we have date! February 1st 2011. That's a long way off but at least Awakenings is out this week which should keep me entertained for a while.

How much is your Steam account worth?
Oh dear, £358.69 is quite a lot of money! Though to be honest I'd expected it to be higher. Also I have to point out that at least half of those games were bought while they were on offer.

Game design a lot like dealing drugs
I've always enjoyed Will Wright's games. I've played a lot of Sim City, The Sims and Spore. It's a shame Spore didn't quite live up to the grand expectations he'd imparted in all the pre-launch publicity. Still I'm sure I'll try whatever he comes up with next.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Happy Mothers Day

Wishing a Happy Mothers Day to all Mums out there. Especially mine of course who I'm currently visiting. Though I guess that only applies to UK mums, elsewhere and you have to wait until later. Here's a random picture of a robin taken while out and about this afternoon.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Batman Forever

So it's all change in the world of Batman with Batman Forever which is generally considered to be the beginning of the downfall of the series. My first observation would be that it feels less goth than the first two and instead is closer to sci-fi. My biggest problem with the film is Jim Carrey. I've never really liked him as an actor, he just gets on my nerves and I don't find him funny. One thing that is improved is the martial action. I don't know if that's Joel Schumacher or Val Kilmer's influence but Batman looks like a better fighter in this one. Another problem is the loss of Danny Elfman, the music sounds lot cheaper to me now which is a real shame compared to the previous quality. Also there's an interesting couple of famous names in very small parts. The first more obvious one being Drew Barrymore who barely has four lines. The other is Rene Auberjonois (Deep Space Nine if you're wondering) who gets an opening credit but only has one short scene right at the end. I'm away for the rest of the weekend so Batman & Robin will have to wait until Monday, though I should probably skip it entirely!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Batman Returns

Of the four films in this era of Batman this is the one I remember the least. Compared to the first this is very much more of the same. That's not a bad thing at all, the first was great so why mess with it. It feels properly like a direct continuation, with the minor issue of the lack of the Vicky Vale character. Again we're plagued by more outrageously sized glasses this time on Selina Kyle, though I think Michelle Pfeiffer pulls it off better than Kim Basinger does in the first. While I'm on the topic of looks, what's with Christopher Walken hair? Seems a bit over the top! Though that is not the only thing that could be considered silly, such as the plastic duck boat/car thing. This is definitely not the serious Batman we've got used to after Batman Returns and The Dark Knight. One thing that really doesn't make sense to me is the origin of Catwoman. I've never read any Batman comics so I don't know if there are other takes on the origin, but how does falling to your death out of an office window then getting licked/eaten back to life by a bunch of stray cats make any sense at all? Best not to think about it and move on to Batman Forever.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


I decided to watch Batman last night. It's been a long time since I've seen this film. Back when this first came out in 1989 I'll have only been 10 so I think this could well have been my first exposure to Batman. I remember there were posters on bus stops of just the bat logo but I couldn't see the negative image. I only saw the gold part and thought it was some kind of mouth! I don't think I'll have actually seen it at the cinema at the time as I was only 10 and the film was rated 12. Watching the film now it definitely shows its age. Some hand draw animated effects and model shots stick out to me compared to films today. Also Vicky Vale's ginormous 80s glasses don't help! I'd forgotten that Billy Dee Williams was in it, though his part is fairly minor still cool to see. One thing that isn't dated is the score. Danny Elfman's music is still great especially the opening theme. Tonight I'll continue with Batman Returns.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sim City

I'm not sure what happened but I suddenly felt the urge to play Sim City so I grabbed my discs and reinstalled Sim City 4. Although Sim City 2000 is without a doubt the greatest installment in the series I remember enjoying Sim City 4 when it first came out. Unfortunatly this game does not seem to have aged well. The interface feels very out of date, no smooth scrolling and slow detail level updates. The game doesn't seem to be able to make any use of a faster computer to improve performance. With a bit a of research it seems I need a patch, I'll have to give that a try later on or maybe see if I've still got a copy of Sim City 2000 lying around.

Edit to add: Patch did help performance a little, but also made the game crash. My first Blue Screen of Death with Windows 7 in fact! Crash could have been unrelated to the patch but you can never know for sure with these things. Either way my random need for some Sim City has mostly gone now.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Tron Legacy

The Iron Man 2 trailer yesterday looked great but this looks even better. I've been a fan of Tron for a long time, I even wrote a light cycles computer game many years ago (Bob Tron). You can click the image on the right for a larger version or view the trailer here.

I'd not really been following the production of this other than seeing the older teaser trailer, but I'm definately looking forward to this now. People are all "Yay! Jeff Bridges" after the oscars, but I'm more excited to see Bruce Boxleitner. Of course it's the Babylon 5 fan in me that thinks that.

Having to wait until december sucks though and it may even be longer until the UK release. I might just have to re-watch the original later on.

Monolith should put the Tron 2.0 game up on Steam to cash in on the new buzz. I'd play it again. I never did complete it the first time around and I don't have a copy anymore.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Random Links

82nd Annual Academy Awards
I don't remember ever hearing of The Hurt Locker before now, I should probably check it out. I thought Inglourious Basterds might just win, I never really thought that a sci-fi film could win although my personal favorite of the year was District 9. No surprise that Avatar won best visual effects. Nice to see Star Trek get one too, even if it was only for makeup.

Ubisoft DRM Servers Go Down
That's a laugh! Ubisoft are going to take a huge hit from this. I already wasn't planning on playing Assassins Creed 2 as it's not really the sort of game I usually play and doesn't help its cause at all. Hopefully other game companies will learn that this is not the way forward. I heard rumours that some people were organising a DDoS attack, I'd bet that's what's happening.

Iron Man 2 Trailer

Looks pretty awesome, looking forward to that.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Knights of the Old Republic

At first I wasn't sure what I was going to post today. I almost wrote something about the Activision vs Infinity Ward lawsuits, but then I realized that I don't care enough and people suing each other isn't really that important. I also considered a bit of an appeal to the metal community after being mildly inspired by a post on the Annihilator forums but I already started getting preachy and uninformed on there so I'll drop that.
That leaves me with games as the best option again. In particular, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. I've played nearly all of the Star Wars games (for PC) over the years, but this one has always stood out as favourite (closely followed by X-Wing vs Tie Fighter). I've been replaying it again recently after picking it up in the Steam january sale. I'm about half way though it and still enjoying it despite the fact I've played it many times before. They got the feel of the Star Wars universe almost perfect in this game both in the tone of the characters and the look of the worlds. The graphics still look good (even for a 7 year old game) and it's got a good story which is well balanced with the combat. Oldly though I've never played the sequel which is something I'm going to have to fix before the new MMO comes out. Though I am aware that the second is generally not considered as good as the first, hopefully it won't be too disappointing.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


As a kid I was never really into the whole comic book thing. Looking back I'm not entirely sure why, I was totally the sort you'd expect to be. I even frequented the shops, but it was always for other things, dice and role-playing stuff or trading cards. It's probably a good thing really otherwise I'd probably have hundreds of them by now and no place left to store them. Joss Whedon changed all that with Fray. As a hugh fan of Buffy and a big sci-fi nerd the story of a future slayer was pretty much irresistible. I've read quite a lot of comics since then but I have to admit they were mostly scans. However that's something I plan to change, I just picked up a copy of the graphic novel version of Fray to start with. I'd forgotten how good it was, awesome artwork along with a great story, I kinda wish there was more. I'll have to settle for catching up with Buffy season 8 instead!

Friday, March 5, 2010

More on Supreme Commander 2

So I eventually got to play Supreme Commander 2, it was unlocked on Steam shortly after midnight. Had the chance to play some of the campaign and a couple of skirmishes before it was bedtime. I'll probably finish off the story this weekend and then venture into online multiplayer.
I've had a brief look at the Steam forums for the game and I see there are quite a lot of people complaining that the game has been over-simplified too much so far that it doesn't feel like Supreme Commander anymore. Now while I'll agree there are differences I don't think it's quite as drastic as some people are making out. Though I guess it is usually the minority who are the most vocal (especially on web forums!).
The main thing that struck me so far was how much extra "story" there is in the single player campaign. I suppose that's the Square Enix infuence, but the commander ringing his wife seemed a bit out of place. I thought I was supposed to be the commander?

Thursday, March 4, 2010


Started this on a bit of a random whim and now I don't really know what to write on it! I suppose it doesn't really matter as it's likely that no-one will read it. If I manage to keep this up it will probably end up being about the games I've played and the books I've read as they're the things that take up the most of my time, other than work of course. So I guess I'll start with that and the release of Supreme Commander 2 tomorrow. Like usual when you pre-order online my copy arrived a day early. Unfortunatly this wasn't a bonus for a change. I hadn't realized that it uses Steam for online authentication, so I can't play it until Steam says I can despite the fact I've got the disc here on my desk. Oh well, just a minor disappointment really, the game will apparently unlock in approximately 8 hours. I should probably do something useful in the meantime.