Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Game, EA & Mass Effect

It's a sad time for the British high street, when it comes to gaming in particular. There are not a lot of dedicated games retailers anymore and those who are left are struggling along on second hand trade sales. Game and also Gamestation (same parent company now) announced today that they would not be stocking any new releases from EA this month, including Mass Effect 3! This was a shock to many people like me who had pre-ordered the game from them months ago. I've always liked Game, going to their big store in Manchester was always a huge treat when I was a child. These days though most of my games are being purchased digitally and most of those through Steam. It's no surprise that this has been hurting the brick and mortar operations. So little space in this shops is given to PC games these days. The one thing that kept me coming back to Game was that they tended to manage to get UK exclusive deals for many of the fancy collectors editions that I like to buy sometimes. The Mass Effect 3 N7 edition was one of those. It seems that the struggling company simply couldn't get the credit terms they needed to buy in the stock. However EA are the biggest publishers of games with many companies under their wings. It's not just Mass Effect, this is going to hurt Game in the long run and I don't see them surviving it. On top of lost sales they've given £5 credit for each cancelled pre-order. I would not be surprised if this time next year there are no dedicated game shops on UK high streets. We'll just be left with large supermarkets and HMV. For me and Mass Effect the collectors edition exclusive has gone and it is now listed at other web shops such as Play and Zavvi. I've re-ordered from Play but it is a bit short notice when we're less than two weeks from the release date now.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Third book in the Hunger Games trilogy and this time around the Games are a metaphor. Katniss is now accepting the symbol she's become and joins the rebels in their fight against the Capital. Although to be honest it seems she has very little choice in the matter. Here we have lots of propaganda followed by battles and then endings. I have to say that it did not end quite like I expected it to. That's not a bad thing, in fact it's probably good for things to subvert your expectations. Although that did make a few moments feel a little odd when the plot took an unexpected turn. Also at the end things did seem to get a little rushed. Be warned I'm going to spoil a couple of things now. There was so much going on when Finnick died there was no chance to let that fact settle in and mourn. The same happened later with Prim. It being a teen novel there is one thing you can't avoid and that is the love triangle which is beneath it all. That was another thing I expected incorrectly. I thought it was going to be Gale in the end. Personally I like him a lot more than Peeta. Overall it was good, though of the three books I think the first is my favourite.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Troll Hunter

This was absolutely brilliant. It's not often that you see a little subtitled Norwegian film get a world wide release. A group of film students start making a documentary about some recent bear attacks but it turns out there's more too it than that and the government are hiding secrets deep in the Norwegian woods and mountains. It's a "found footage" style film with the footage taken by the students shown as is. It's one of the best examples of this style I've ever seen. Thanks to the likes of Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity this style is mostly associated with horror. Troll Hunter gets lumped in to the horror genre as well but it really doesn't deserve it. Other than some mild suspense and a couple minor jumps it's really not that kind of film. It makes you believe that troll could be real.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Catching Fire

There was one thing which was obvious from the start of the second Hunger Games book. Even though it's not supposed to happen, victors are supposed to be set for life, but you just know that Katniss is going to end up in the Games for a second time. This does indeed turn out to be true but it didn't happen in the way I first expected. Still there are lots of other interesting things to take place before that happens as we learn more about the world outside the Games and Katniss' home district. We get a lot more of the politics in this one and of the unrest in the general population. There's new characters and new locations and it's all good. I won't talk about the plot as that would spoil too much but I enjoyed this book just as much as the first and I'm already reading the third installment.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Hunger Games

It seems the Hunger Games has been gaining a lot of popularity lately, at least in the Internet circles I'm a part of anyway. I've never know very much about it but it always sounded quite interesting. Now it's "Soon to be a major motion picture" so I decided it was time for me to catch and see what this was all about instead of waiting until years later like I did with Harry Potter.

The Hunger Games is a trilogy of books by Suzanne Collins. They're young adult science fiction set a in future North America, although it's not called that anymore. Once a year as a method of keeping the people under control 24 children (between 12-18) are thrown in to a battle to the death, broadcast live on TV. This is similar to another film/novel Battle Royale from Japan. Battle Royale came first in 1999, The Hunger Games was first published in 2008. I've only seen the film Battle Royale not read the book so any comparisons I make are to the film. The thing is though, aside from the children battling to the death aspect they are quite different. The worlds in which they're set are very different or so I thought. It seems there is a large part of the Internet that disagrees with me and calls it a complete rip-off. I only found that part of the web while researching for this post though. There are plenty of people who liked the books and didn't mind and similarities, myself included. At least compared to the Battle Royale film there is one thing The Hunger Games does much better and that is it gives you a much better idea of the outside world, how it works and the reason for the games. Battle Royale takes place almost entirely in the arena but only about a third of the Hunger Games does. There's a lot more of the modern Big Brother aspect to the Hunger Games as well with more emphasis on the television broadcasts and interviews.

I found the book to be extremely compelling and got through it in only a couple of days and then went straight on to book two which I'll talk about tomorrow. Katniss is a great character and I can understand why it's become so popular. I wasn't really getting excited for the film before, but I am now. I also glad that I hadn't bothered watching the trailer before reading the books as well, although I had seen a couple of pictures, so there was nothing to taint my imagination.

Friday, February 24, 2012


At the end of last year I talked about the website iCheckMovies where you can make a list of the all films you have seen. There's a similar site, which I realize I'd heard about before but rediscovered today, where you can do the same for books. It's called Goodreads and today I created a profile for myself. I've read a lot less books than I've seen films and for the most part all of the books I've read I also own. That means that unlike iCheckMovies I'm much more certain that this is a complete list, at least since I was a teenager and not including anything I read for school or before. Only 103 books read (including graphic novels). If you'd like to see what you can find me here:

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Metal World

An interesting map showing the number of metal bands per capita from each country. What is it about the Scandinavians? (click for large version)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Hobo With A Shotgun

This film started life as a fake trailer in Quentin Tarantino's Grindhouse double bill. If fact most of those fake trailers were so loved that nearly all have now become full films. This film has been made to look like an old eighties exploitation film, with a synth score, old font styles, over saturated colours and over the top blood effects. It pulls it off perfectly. You could be excused for thinking this was a 20 year old film, not one made in 2011. Rutger Hauer is great as The Hobo as he becomes a vigilante with a shotgun in a town of crime lords and corrupt police. He's one of those actors who you know has been in a lot of things but other than Blade Runner I can't actually think of any. He becomes a character so well you don't associate the face with other roles. Brian Downey did a great job as the crime lord but his face I do recognise, he'll always be Stanley Tweedle from Lexx to me. Lots of over the top blood and action here but still with a heart and a message. I really enjoyed this.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Attack The Block

I've been meaning to see this film since it was first released but I missed it at the cinema. Even though I'd not seen it I decided to pick up the blu-ray anyway. New British science fiction always needs to be supported and of course some of the Shaun of the Dead/Hot Fuzz team were involved in making it. Also written and directed by Joe Cornish who I've not actually heard a lot about in recent years but I was fan of The Adam & Joe Show back in the late nineties. The premise is simple, aliens invade a London council estate. The problem is there isn't much more to it than that either, youths fight aliens and swear a lot. It was fun but I was hoping for something more. The one saving grace was Jodie Whittaker's character who was well acted and seemed to be the only one with any common sense. Without her the film would have fallen completely flat.

Monday, February 20, 2012

So Far

Feeling a little reflective this evening so lets look at the year so far. I've had plans and goals but if I'm honest I've not been very successful with them up to this point. On the personal front there are late blogs and missed videos, while my backlogs of games and films is not getting any smaller. On the business front there has not been enough new work and existing projects are moving slowly. Overall there has been a distinct lack of organization. You have to stop and check these things if you want to make improvements so that is what today has been about.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Chell and GlaDOS

One more quick picture post and another piece of Portal fan art. This one's a old one I've had saved for a while but it occurred to me not everybody has played Portal and this would help with comparison to show why the cats were so cool.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Sheffield By Night

Walking back from a friends house last night the route takes me over a big hill looking down on Sheffield. It was quiet and clear, this was the result.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Caterture Science

An excellent rendition of Chell and GLaDOS as Cats by GryphElyse.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


I've been a bit rubbish at keeping up with the blog this week and keep cheating. It's week like this that I should probably take some time off or something. It doesn't feel right though when I'm so close to my second anniversary of started this. Even though technically I failed my one post per day thing a long time ago by post-dating something I've done quite a few times now, but this week has been the worst. I always say I should work a day or two in advance so there's a buffer but that's easier said than done and I always end up using it up really quickly. This week has been filled with work and poor organization but that's all over with now so it's time to catch up and finally get on top of things, maybe!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Masters of Cinema

In the US there is a special collection of DVDs known as the Criterion Collection. Criterion pick the best of the best films, source the highest quality original prints to transfer, commission new and informative bonus material and generally treat film and DVD collection with as much respect as possible. The problem is with me being in the UK, all the Criterion Collection is region 1 and therefore no good to me. I don't like to faff about with multi-region players, my entire collection is region 2. However I recently found out that there is a company in London who do similar things in region 2, Eureka's Masters of Cinema series. I actually already posted about one of these back in December (Silent Running) but I never talked about the rest of the series. I picked up Silent Running and Metropolis simply as a science fiction fan but I was hugely impressed by the quality of the film transfers, the extras and the packaging that I decided I wanted to know more. There are quite a few gaps in my film knowledge outside my sci-fi/fantasy/horror comfort zone. I now intend to use the series to learn about films I would probably have otherwise never seen. They obviously know what they're talking about and pick great and influential films for good reasons. I think that (eventually) I will attempt to complete the series. So since December I have picked up some more, I now have 7 out of 46. You can see some pictures here which were originally posted on a DVD collection forum I frequent.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Today the demo for Mass Effect 3 was released. A lot of people were excited but personally I've not bothered to play it. I don't need convincing to buy the game, I already pre-ordered months ago. Also I don't want to get in to the game only to have it end after two hours. I will just waiting until March 9th and play the full game. This did remind me of something else I was going to mention though and the the forth Mass Effect tie-in novel, Deception. I've not bought this either and this time that turns out to be a good thing. A new writer was brought on board for this one and it seems that he doesn't have the same love and attention for the Mass Effect universe as the previous writer. Some people are also calling his writing plain horrible, but I've not read it so I won't go that far. The book is apparently full of inconsistencies compared the the games and the other books. No continuity, incorrect character traits and apparently a story that doesn't even make much sense on its own. The fans have been in uproar, so much so that BioWare have stated they are going to have the book rewritten and republished. I don't think I've ever heard of anything like that before. Poor William C. Dietz I wonder what he's thinking now. He probably thought he had quick and easy video game tie-in job, something he's done a lot of before (for Halo, Resistance and even Star Wars) and now he's the subject of Internet hatred. Part of me still wants to buy the book to see how bad it is and how it compares when its re-released.

Monday, February 13, 2012

So Behind

Weekend editing took far longer than I had originally planned and I'm behind on a lot of things now including blog posts. So no full post today instead I recommend you watch the trailer for the new film Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, which is a very silly concept but it looks great!

Sunday, February 12, 2012


Normally I would be editing a video for my You Tube this evening but unfortunately, although I have a plan I have not had time tor record anything yet. I'm still editing though, however it's a last minute work related video instead which is far less interesting to you. I'm not going to wait until next Sunday to record the next You Tube video though as there's already a plan for that one too. I'll will catch up during the week sometime although at this point I don't know exactly when that will be.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


It has been many years since I last saw this film and I did not remember many of the details. The only thing I did remember was the ending was confusing. Turns out that is still very much the case. I suppose what happens does make some sense but you're still left with little idea as to why. When they made it they probably presumed you'd already read the original manga. Still it's managed to become a well known classic in the genre thanks to stunning animation and production values. All above and beyond the usual standard in 1988, future Tokyo is extremely well designed. In fact I believe it was the highest ever anime budget at the time and it shows. So despite the slightly nonsensical plot it's still a treat to watch.

Friday, February 10, 2012

More Magic

I've been playing more Magic The Gathering recently and I hope to do more in the future. With that in mind I recently bought some new cards. Also I've started cataloging them in an online database, so now you can view some of my collection online here:

I've not added them all yet but one thing I found interesting it how much value they still have second hand, there's almost no depreciation. Sure a lot of them are only worth a few cents but there are others worth $7 or more. Overall they're still worth as much as I paid for them. Although that's an estimate as I don't know an exact value because I've still not input all my cards. Also of course I'm sure the market fluctuates. I'm not actually planning to sell my cards but it's interesting to know. I guess that's one of the benefits of Magic being the most popular trading card game.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Sunrise at the Old Man of Storr

Random nice picture time, due to lack of a topic for today. The Old Man of Storr on the Isle of Skye. (click for big)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Skyrim Creation Kit

A lot of people have been waiting for these and now they are available, mod tools for Skyrim. The Skyrim Creation Kit can now be downloaded from Steam, it's in the Tools section if you can't find it, I couldn't find it to start with. AS you probably know I've dabbled with many game editors over the years but I've never really have a lot of experience with Bethesda's offerings. I did a little experimentation with the Morrowind editor but that was many years ago. I never did anything with the Oblivion tools as I was still mostly working with Neverwinter Nights in those days. So opening the Skyrim tools is basically a brand new experience for me. My first impression was to be completely lost. That's fairly common for a program like this so I started reading the documentation and tutorials. It didn't take too long to grasp the basics and I added a new building to the world just outside Whiterun. Nothing complicated really but an interesting experience. The only problem I had was with the 3D navigation. Unless I'm missing something it seems to be one of the worst implementations I have ever seen. If these are the tools the developers used to make the game then I'm am seriously impressed with their patience. I suppose you would get used to them but that's not something I really have the time to do right now.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Catch Up 2

It's late and I suddenly realise that I have nothing to post about here. I suck at planning sometimes. I've reviewed all of the thing and there's nothing else interesting going on here today. The Skyrim Creation Kit has just been released which I'm looking forward to trying out, but I've not had the chance yet. Perhaps we'll talk about that tomorrow.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Catch Up

I've been getting behind on quite a few things this last week, the blog included. I need some time to catch up with things so no major post today, sorry. It's been a while since I've had to do a short post about nothing like this, but sometimes you just need a day off.

Sunday, February 5, 2012


Winter has finally arrived in Sheffield. I started to make a little timelapse thingy when the snow started, but the majority of it happened overnight so there's a big jump. I decided it would work best as a simple slideshow.

Saturday, February 4, 2012


I've been saving this picture for a rainy day. It turns out I needed it on a snow day. It's something I've done once before in the test phases but there is no record of that. In The Old Republic I've reached the point where my character now owns his own spaceship. Of course this is slow compared to many of the people who are level 50 already but I've been playing other things too.

Friday, February 3, 2012


The other comic I got for Christmas was the next in Dark Horse's Knights of the Old Republic series, Vindication. This series has had its ups and downs but this one was a good one. The fact that this volume contained lots of conclusions and epic battles probably helped a lot with that. When there's an end in sight it makes for a much tighter story compared to some of the earlier issues which dragged at times. Here Carrick finally manages to clear his name, which you could probably guess from the title and the begins to plan his future. While this is not the end of the Knights of the Old Republic series as a whole, it is the end of most of the current plot threads. So while overall I have enjoyed reading these I'm going to leave it here for now. There are only so many things you can be invested in at one time and for now Buffy and X-Men are enough for me when it comes to comics. They've been much more consistant to me so far.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Spike: The Devil You Know

The comics I got for Christmas had been sat on the shelf waiting patiently for too long. Time to read them, starting with Spike: The Devil You Know. This seems to be a short spin-off story from IDW's After the Fall. However it appears to be set after After the Fall. Again IDW's release schedule fails to make sense, how can this be out when the full After the Fall run isn't all out in paperback yet? I have no clue. Still it doesn't effect the enjoyment of the story. It's one of those standalone pieces which doesn't require you to know what has happened previously, it only requires you to have a basic knowledge of the characters involved other than the newly introduced ones of course. The art here is good as is the story, although it's not my favourite. As interesting diversion with Spike beating up lots of demons. A couple of threads are left open for a possible continuation but I'm not sure that will ever happen. I know the rights for Angel have now passed back to Dark Horse. I don't actually know where Spike fits in all that but I expect he's back in Buffy Season 9 now and IDW's Whedonverse comics are at an end. Still have to wait until August before volume one of Buffy Season 9 is out in paperback though.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Diary of the Dead

Now with film number five in the dead series we have what Romero called a "rejigging of the myth". We go back to the very first night when the zombies appeared and follow the experiences of a new group of people. However it's also all moved up to the present day (2007). A time when we all have the Internet and everybody in the first world has some kind of camera. It is shot using the "found footage" style made famous by the Blair Witch Project and presented as if it was a documentary made by the people in the film, recording as they go. This gives it a very different feel from any of the other dead films but it's not a bad one. I think I like it better than Land of the Dead because we're back to a small group of people struggling against the odds and learning about zombies. Although this time a lot of their knowledge comes from You Tube and MySpace, at least until the mobile carriers stop working, which is something I can understand. It's not perfect though. They are many moments when the camera work is far too smooth for a student with a camera on his shoulder and there are even more times when people would have survived had they just put the cameras down and helped a bit. Still overall a much closer return to form from Romero when compared to Land of the Dead.