Not Enough Prey

It feels like it has been ages since a game was available as a demo. Lately it has been a sea of pre-orders and paid early previews. Aside from Steam’s policy of refunds if the game was only played for short time, to get into a game you just had to shell out. There was a nice smattering of episodic games that softened the blow a bit, but it just wasn’t the same.

The Prey demo sauntered in like a good friend that you hadn’t seen in years, covered in an aura of nostalgic demo glory. It promised a wonderful introduction into a game dripping with content that you just couldn’t pull yourself away from after you got your hands in it.

The first hour of Prey, while gorgeous, was empty for me. The corridors felt too familiar.  The setting felt too familiar. The story twist that was being setup was telegraphed hard enough that I figured it out from first few scenes. The combat almost had me intrigued, but still came up short.

The helicopter ride with the credits was quite beautiful. But after watching it, I was a little sad that it was just a pretty loadscreen meant to make the game seem grander than it was. There is a comfort dealing with the familiar, but I was not drawn into the atmosphere or engulfed in the gameplay.

Initial impressions brought to light that the Prey creators were fans of many previous games. They seemed to borrow so hard from other titles, that it sucked me out of the atmosphere and made me think about the other titles. No game is wholly original, but there needs to be something that is more interesting than slapping a pile of copies together.

Even the music left me wanting. At first it made me want it to be better and then it made me want it to stop. It was jarring and irritating, an amateurish attempt at amplifying a jump scare that wasn’t good enough.  I was relieved by the silences not because I wasn’t being pursued by monsters anymore, but because my ears were able to rest.

Prey just made me want to play Dead Space, BioShock and Dishonored instead. So I will.

 

Curse of the Critic

Everyone loathes a critic.

You cannot get four inches across the internet without finding someone who hates something just because it is. From YouTube haters to Twitter monsters to general comment supervillains, there is always an entity that just doesn’t bloody like whatever it is and thinks it/you/mystery item should die in a horrible series of events.

Somewhere in the midst of this atrociously hate filled revolution, subject matter critics have been lumped into this group. Having been hailed as experts and knowledge kings/queens in the past, these guys no longer get any respect. Any time they make a critical (which people seem to have forgotten is the basis of the term critic) observation it becomes a controversy of epic proportions.

  1. You think a show’s episode is just filler and give it a slightly lower review than one of the more information packed ones = you are the worst and why do you review this show that you clearly hate.
  2. You like the 2nd album of an artist a little bit better than this third one that came out 4 weeks later = you are anti-music and can’t possibly have ears.
  3. You think the game is just a minor repackaging of the others in the series, because it actually is = you eat children and are literally the devil.

All a critic really wants to do is present the pros and cons. There are cases where the person truly hates what they have to critique, but that is far less common than the world wants to suggest. Those rare cases also tend to be pretty obvious.

Unfortunately, even the most seasoned of critics can suffer from mediocrity fatigue. If your job is to look at something all day, you are going to see more cracks in it than anyone else. But a drop in enthusiasm is too frequently miscontrued as dislike or disdain.

People are too quick to forget that without the critic, everything would still be stuck on first drafts. Would you want to be stuck driving the first version of the car? Could you imagine your world if everyone was stuck with that first model of computer? We can all admit the first plumbing system can stay right in the past.

Please give your friendly neighborhood critic/reviewer/enthusiast a break when they break out the dreaded, “but” and let them speak their piece. Not only could that flaw they bring up present opportunies for improvement for the creator, but also for the world.

The Performance

She leapt at the chance to be on the stage. The sea of people staring back at her were fuel to her essence. None of them were prepared for what was going to happen and she enjoyed the knowledge that the length of their lives were to be decided on a whim.

Black liquid pooled into her eyes, filling them slowly as the temperature in to room grew hotter. The patrons could barely make out the subtle changes in her face as the lines deepened and her appearance grew more inhuman. Her hair then lifted up straight over her head in a pattern that resembled a grand crown.

One by one, the astonished onlookers began sweating profusely, their bodies unable to function normally anymore. In an effort to escape and cool off, several of those in attendance tried to flee outside. By the time they reached the doors, they were reduced to puddles of goo. The room was filled with little glop spots, the liquid boiling from the heat.

She smiled.

Old Dragon Down

Many eons ago in internet years, a little shack called Open Diary appeared and many people found community. It wasn’t always the prettiest place, but the folks were always there when they were needed. Most of them were on the site for 10 years or more so they felt like they really knew each other.

I was on the site about 13 years. Though I had multiple diaries, I still kept up with a group of people. We looked out for one another and saw each other through not great times.

I hadn’t spent much time on the site lately, the owner had other priorities in recent years. Accessing the web site had become difficult. I also tried to have a more public web presence by moving all of my writing here. It ended up making me write less, and it made me change what was writing about, but I don’t regret the decision.

Another reason I really stopped using it, was that I had needed to distance myself from a few members at the time. I’d kept in touch with others elsewhere, but I’m still thankful for all the folks that I got to meet from the service.

OD is currently in the process of shutting down.

Though OD may or may not have been the first social network, it was pretty much a template for those that followed.

Thank you, Open Diary.

Nemesis

Sometimes there is something lurking that you don’t want to write.

You push it aside and try to focus on other things, but it just starts screaming at you like a hungry kid that smells brownies.

You wake up and it’s sitting at the foot of the bed, drinking your coffee. It nags at you when you look in the mirror as you wash your hands. It has all the time in the world to wait, so it just lingers in the corner of your eye.

Maybe you’ll get drunk and it can sneak its way out on a stray piece of paper. It’s possible it could skip past you while you are working and find a home in a picture you doodled.

It lives. It whispers. It whimpers. It wields power that you didn’t even give it.

It will probably win.

Hemlock Grove Hems and Haws

Most shows don’t need 13-20+ episodes per season. Hell, many shows don’t need that many episodes total.

I’m a FIRM believer in 6-8 episode seasons.

Whether we want to admit or not, the people tuning into your show/movie aren’t trying to get into long novels. If they wanted that they would pick up the novels that the show is based on. Sure, there will be some crossover audience, but one set doesn’t want to sift through the stuff that works much better on paper than in video.

Part of the transfer from text to screen is ditching the extraneous descriptions to get to the meat and bones of the story. All the flowery prose describing the background needs to actually become the background, not really turned into janky dialogue that nobody wants to hear.

Blatant filler in a show works my nerves, and I’m a fairly patient individual. I watched almost all of Heroes and doing that was probably just me hating myself. Most of the public is not going to give you that much slack.

Hemlock Grove didn’t need to be 13 hours.

I really wanted to love Hemlock Grove. The werewolf transformation alone attracted me to the series and the actors lined up to star in it were a big fat Amber magnet. The combination of those things with gore-fiend Eli Roth working on it, should have at least had it somewhere in the range of awesomely bad if things took a turn for the worse.

Nope.

Half the damn show felt like filler. Probably more than that, but I would forget I was watching it and get up to do other stuff.  I went outside and did yardwork in the middle of episodes and missed nothing. Some of the later reveals which were ridiculously exposition heavy could have been peppered into the boring earlier episodes with little effort.  It could have managed to round out at a somewhat clunky 8 hours instead of a punishment 13.

It felt like there was a good 4 hours of Roman and Peter saying they needed to do something, then just sitting in the car for a while.  The camptastic dialogue that other actors got kept cycling the same conversations with different awkward wording. It’s ok to write some characters like that, but the whole town shouldn’t sound like they are the same weird person flopping out lopsided “cool guy” prose.

That sentence got away from me, but at least I’ll admit that it wasn’t pretty.

The best way to describe the accents would be to use one of those wave text tricks.

It seems that the show was littered with too many subplots for it to focus on any of them, so it doesn’t. The show doesn’t care that innocent-ish teenage girls are dead, so you don’t. The show also doesn’t want to flesh out any of the ideas in a reasonable timeframe, so you forget you are supposed to care about them. The boys don’t even bother to really try and solve the crime well. The villain just shows up and tells them EVERYTHING.

The actors who tried to take it serious did a pretty good job, and the ones riding the camp train hit all the right buttons in their own way. Just too bad the writers stretched the life out of it.

If the show didn’t have 13 whole hours to work with, some of these gaping  holes would be a little smaller and harder to fall in. Hemlock Grove is one of the big reasons that scaling back runs could improve quality. The novel wasn’t even long enough to merit such a hefty runtime. It could have just been a nice little 90 minute movie.

Seriously though, 6-8 episodes.

 

I’m An Evil Gamer

I buy games used. I go back and play old games that people forgot about. I play single player. When I do play with others I prefer my multiplayer to be split screen because they are sitting right there with me. I sell games to other people. I didn’t even notice when my Xbox Live Gold ran out. I take my games to friends houses and we trade.

According to folks who make games, I’m the scum of the earth.

This completely ignores the fact that I purchase the games in the first place. No matter how many similar-than-siblings sequels they release, I still keep pushing them cash for the ones I like. I don’t even complain about the Day 1 DLC that most others hate if the game is enjoyable otherwise. I buy stupid outfits that do nothing but make my character have a bigger closet. I pay to upgrade weapons that I wasn’t using and I  buy the silly toys that come with some of the games.  Expansion packs are like drugs to me – Hell,  I get the ones that only add like an hour of gameplay.

But I’m still a thorn in the side of “good” because I want to play a less than $60 game with someone who doesn’t have an awesome internet connection that is sitting on the couch next to me.  Blasphemy, even though I have pretty much done that my whole life.

I don’t want to play uninventive multiplayer modes where I join and a bunch of people with scads more free time take me out before the map loads. I don’t want to be always connected for a single player game because a few jerks modded something. I also can’t afford to buy EVERYTHING new.

I guess I am the bad guy.

It sucks that most of the customer base is too.

Swill

Attempting to quiet the murmur of its misgivings.
All the while creating a smoke screen to overtake the mist.
Instead the only air to receive is in short breaths.
Just enough for dizziness and disarray.
Escape into the mind of another, their voice amplified as text.
All the better to block out the thoughts of suffocation.
Lined with infatuation, but not condemning–
I drink of the cup
Getting ever so drunk and disoriented.
There is no cure for a hangover but time. 

Back in the Day – Shenmue

Do you know where sailors hang out?

I have to admit that I dramatically flutter from love to hate with this game. I ran out and bought it when it was released because it was the prettiest game on the Dreamcast at the time. Sometimes I think back to the hours I spent trying to beat it and wonder if I was just bored or hated myself.

Shenmue wasn’t like all the titles I usually played. Up until that point, I was big on games that had to be approached with at least one other person. Even when I had played single player games it was a play until you get stuck or died, then pass the controller deal. Shenmue was just me vs the world and I was determined to complete my mission of vengeance.

Shenmue existed, at least for me, in the time before those big fat strategy guides and folks on the internet with maps and video aids. When I wandered the streets in the town, I was really just wandering.

It took me eons to find those damned sailors.

To finish the game I think I had to talk to and follow every NPC on the disc. I continue my belief harboring feelings of self loathing when I think back to the “ninja training” provided in the game which consisted of what felt like one punch and one kick until the end. That wouldn’t have been so bad if the final battle in the title didn’t have the player fighting 70 dudes at once.

QTE’s are evil.

This was the first game that I could remember ripping me from otherwise normal gameplay to tell me exactly what button to push by taking over the screen or making me replay the entire sequence over. Sure, I’d died many a time on other games for essentially not jumping at the right time, but it’s much worse when it glaringly flashes a sequence of what feels like random button presses in the middle of the screen to do stuff that you already had a button for. If I need to duck and I have a duck button, having me press something else just to screw with me is dirty.

For all the real nerds, this game was filled with what were technical marvels like varying weather and the setting was rich with the history of the region. The world was so detailed that you could get lost for hours searching cabinets and drawers before even observing all the different NPCs going about their lives. You even had time to lose yourself in that horrible, but well done, job at the waterfront. There is even a ragingly awkward love interest thrown in the mix to top it all off.

This was continued in the second game to a lesser extent in order to make the playable area more expansive. If only more folks had checked the game out, there would have been more titles. The money they had to throw at the series to make it so nice was pretty much lost at launch and Ryo will likely never get his revenge.

 

Polychrome

I was reading something the other day where some folks with atrocious reading comprehension were staunchly sticking to their idea that the characters in the book they were reading were white. They were worse than those tacky dimwits on Twitter dogging The Hunger Games cast.

I’m as cool as I’m ever going to get with the majority of people defaulting to white when they read vague descriptions of characters in books. The less described the person is, it does make it a bit easier for the reader to relate to. I must be a bit off because when I read works with “flexible” protagonists, the narrative fills in the blanks and they tend to all look different in my head. Reading something over at a different age has yielded different results at times.

But when I write, the person in my head is non-white a vast majority of the time. Even the comic, in its deceptively lazy black and white color scheme, is pretty colorful.

It’s odd to me to imagine nothing but people that look like me.

That’s also kind of creepy.