Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy 20th Birthday, Megaman!

This week marks the 20th anniversary of Megaman, so here's wishing the blue arm-cannon hero a happy 20th! I hope the years ahead will be kind to you; the last couple games you starred in were pretty rough.

Platformers.net has written an article re-collecting your past achievements, so enjoy this trip down memory lane, MegaMan. And here's wishing you a happy 20th birthday once again.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Geeky Game Art

I'm not sure if it's because PC/Video games are becoming more accepted or more mainstream. But it seems as though there is a greater growth in game inspired art being created nowadays. It heartening to see 1) gamers who break the stereotypical mold of a greasy coach potato, and 2) more and more talented people becoming a part of the gamer community.

Atomictoy has a series of geeky art pieces on the website, alongside other items. So do go and check it out, and see what the site offers. I attach here a piece of art from the website, inspired by the game, Beautiful Katamari.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Assassin's Creed

There have been a number of reviews online for Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed. And those reviews have been very mixed, ranging from glowing love sonnets to a somewhat more muted response.

There are two main criticisms of the game, which are that 1) the controls are overly simplistic, and that 2) the game is repetitive and gets old real quick.

Simplistic Controls
The criticisms in this area refer largely to the control of movement and combat, which are the primary aspects of the game. For example, the game is designed to be large and open ended, and movement is very free-form. All players need to do is hold down the desired direction and the run button, and Altair (the game's protagonist) will run down streets, scale walls and jump across roofs. Combat, another focus of the game, is also similarly simple, essentially boiling down to timed one button sequences. While Altair has a number of combat options open to him (grabbing an enemy, countering an enemy's attempt at grabbing him), most times the most effective option is to simply hold back, wait for an enemy to strike and only use the counter-blow button.

So while the criticism that controls in the game are simple, I feel that this helps to increase the experience of the game, rather than detract from it. Without having to wrestle with the control, and removing the need to memorise complex button sequences, players spend more time being immersed in the game. For example, when Altair is fleeing from the city guards, I don't spend time thinking, "up, up, down down, left, right, left right, A, B, start". I'm thinking, "I need to get away. I need to be safe. Where can I go?". I spend time surveying the road ahead of me, identifying the most effective escape route, and I just move. Movement becomes much more intuitive. In reality, one does not spend time thinking, "OK, I need to walk. Let's lift up the left leg first, plant it down then the right". One just moves; and this is the feeling in the game.

Similar comparisons can be made for combat. Altair is often faced by multiple enemies, and players can now spend more time being situationally aware, and thinking about position and spotting opportunities to strike.

Repetitive Gameplay
Another criticism is that the game becomes repetitive very quickly, as the number of tasks Altair is required to perform is very small. And in such a large open world, that limited number of tasks stands in even starker contrast. Altair's primary objective is to eliminate nine targets, and finding information needed to locate the afore-mentioned nine. Such information can be sought through eavesdropping, pickpocketing, intimidation, and a small number of random tasks (i.e. chasing down a set number of flags, and assassinating a secondary target). And that is all Altair needs to do... nine times over.

I can understand the repetitive nature of tasks can limit one's enjoyment of the game. There's really not many different things to do. But for me personally, each task does feel different each time I perform it, regardless of how many times I've done it before. And that's for a very simple reason: The city (or cities, to be exact. Three cities, specifically). What Ubisoft has done in this game is to create three extremely detailed cities (Jerusalem, Acre & Damascus). And not only are they very detailed, they feel like living, breathing cities, with crowds of people, markets, beggars, lepers, drunks, and preachers. And as you bring Altair through the city, it really becomes an experience, and one that is distinctively different from each city. And this is what makes each task so different from each other, even though you're doing the same thing. Pickpocketing in Damascus just feels different from pickpocketing in Acre, and therein lies the variety that one seeks.

In closing, I just want to say that I've enjoyed what I've played so far. I'm about halfway into the game, having invested about 7hrs. It's not a long game by any stretch, but the experience has been very immersive and enjoyable.

I leave you now with a retelling of one of my missions: I was off to Acre, seeking to take the life of Garnier de Naplouse, a doctor stationed with the Knights Hospitaliers. From the information that I had gathered, it seemed like the good doctor has been experimenting on a number of people; for what purpose I am unsure of. I make my way to the fortress of the Hospitaliers, where he conducts his monstrous experiments, only to see him ordering guards to break the legs of one of his patients. The poor soul had tried to escape from the doctor, and now his fate seemed sealed. It seems that my mission to take the life of Garnier de Naplouse was a just one. I make my way silently into the fortress, and into the hospital where my prey resides. I stalk him from a distance, making sure my concealed blade was ever ready to strike. I closed in on him, silently, dangerously. But when he was mere inches away from me, one of his blasted patients, no doubt crazed from whatever horrific experiements done on him, shoved me out of the way; I was now discovered! Abandoning all hopes of a swift, silent kill, I made short work of the guards now alerted to my presence, and continued my pursuit of the target. My prey bravely put up a fight, showing he was move than capable with a sword, but his skill was no match for mine and I cut him down like the dog that he was.

Assassin's Creed is available on Xbox 360, and Playstation 3.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Webster's Word of the Year 2007

We all know Merriam-Webster, right? They occasionally publish dictionaries? Well, they recently had an online poll asking users which one word best describes Year 2007.

We've got a winner, ladies and gentlemen, and the 2007 Word of the Year is:

1. w00t (interjection)
expressing joy (it could be after a triumph, or for no reason at all); similar in use to the word "yay". (E.g w00t! I won the contest!)

A round of applause to geeks/nerds around the world; more are being subverted to our ways. Now they use our vocablulary, and soon they will all bow down to us.

But honestly... unless you're using "w00t" in the ironic sense, you really shouldn't. And if you think that "l33t" speak is still cool, you probably should be stabbed... multiple times.

PS. I liked "Blamestorm" myself. It means, amongst other things: a meeting in which mistakes are aired, fingers are pointed and much discomfort is had by all

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Kharma Kettle & Rhapsody

Located at the corner of Cluny Court sits a brand new cafe named Kharma Kettle and Rhapsody. The spot was previously occupied by a quiet French restaurant which has since given way to this upstart. I've been here on 2 occasions now, and I have to say it is definitely worth another visit soon again.

Decor
The cafe is fairly small, but I think they've done well in maximizing the available space for customers, with a seating capacity of about 25 persons. Two large tables occupy the centre, and a number of smaller tables line the wall. The furniture is a simple mix of marble tables, and old-style kitchen dining tables, which lends a very nice, homely feel to the cafe. The walls are decorated with simple wall paintings and caricatures, and a number of framed pictures. The cafe makes you feel like you're stepping into someone's country home kitchen.

Service
Service here was excellent, responsive and attentive. But I felt that whoever was in charge should try to maintain a stronger control and awareness of happenings. While each individual staff was excellent, I got the sense that they didn't communicate enough. Each staff constantly had to check with each other regarding any sort of enquiries I had, and I saw that other tables had a couple of mix ups in the orders. Overall, the service was still quite good, and just needs a little bit more tightening up.

Food
The menu selection is fairly simple and small, but I think that helps in keeping the quality up. Aside from a selection of sandwiches and salads, there are around 6-7 mains to choose from. These mains include baked salmon, pork vindaloo, a mushroom dish, sausages and Shepard's pie. I've tried the sausages and shepard's pie during my visits there, and those were very satisfying.

The sausages were a good portion of three large cuts, served with potato mash and sauerkraut. While this is a fairly common and basic, this dish was quite tasty; I would have preferred a different kind of sausage though. The Shepard's pie was even better, with generous servings of potato mash, minced beef, and baked in an excellent sauce as a base to the dish. The sandwiches served here are also excellent, with a good selection of breads and grilled perfectly.

Desserts here are quite interesting. They've got cakes and the like, different each day. But there's this thing called the Eton Mess, which is made of cream, strawberries, meringue pieces and marmalade. Yes... Marmalade. An odd concoction, to be sure, but apparently this is a traditional dessert served in Eton College on 4 June every year. And it is quite a tasty concoction, despite my initial hesitation.

Prices range around $10 for sandwiches, $13-$18 for mains, and $4-$6 for desserts. Coffees here are quite good too, and the hot chocolate is very rich, thick and satisfying. Incidentally, they also offer breakfast on weekends. Set menus are also available.

Summary
Overall, I think this cafe is well worth the price, and definitely worth a visit. The food is quite good, and there are a number of other things I could recommend from the menu. It is an excellent place for a quiet, satisfying lunch, and for some good quality comfort food.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Gerstmann...-gate?

One particular event has been setting the gaming community (particularly in the US) aflame for the past weekend. It was revealed on Friday, 30 November 2007, that long time editor of Gamespot, Mr Jeff Gerstmann was released from the company. It was alleged that his employment was terminated due to pressure from Eidos, which was currently advertising heavily in Gamespot to promote a new game called Kane & Lynch. Jeff Gerstmann had given the game a score of 6.0, and said that the game wasn't very good. Apparently Eidos was very unhappy with Gamespot, and Jeff, and pressured the company into letting him go. The rumour also goes that Jeff was only notified of his termination of employment when he turned up to work and found his office locked.

The problem here is twofold: 1) Gamespot is a financial entity and a business. Which means they have to maintain their revenue sources, of which advertising counts for a lot. It would be naive to assume that they do not have to manage relations with game publishers, where most of this advertising revenue comes from. 2) As a creator of content, Gamespot is in a position whereby credibility to readers is also of utmost importance. Editorial independence is key to maintaining a high readership, which would in turn make them even more attractive to advertisers. The problem for Gamespot is balancing one against another.

If the rumours are to be believed, then it would seem that Gamespot favoured one over the other in this instance, and capitulated to their funders. They have also since pulled the video review that Jeff Gerstmann made, although the print version is still available. They have also disabled the user submitted reviews after an initial backlash where users were submitting extremely low scores to the game as retaliation. Gamespot has also released a statement denying any wrong-doing on their part.

Having their credibiliy damaged is a hard blow to them. One problem with games journalism is the low revenue sources, or at least, the limited number of sources. As I have said before, their sources of funding comes either from readers (and by extension, subscriptions) and from advertisers. And as I also said before, it would be naive to think they do not court the game publishers for more and more advertising dollars.

As such, it is important for Gamespot to be able to deliver a large audience, and demonstrate that they have more clout than any other online or print magazine. And to be able to attract readers, who have such a wide selection of alternative sources, their credibility is paramount. To be percieved by the gaming public as a unbiased, independent source of reliable news is the cornerstone of their business. And as a journalistic enterprise, readers expect that level of professionalism, and this is what attracts more readers. However, this situation with Jeff Gerstmann, if to be believed, has just shown that Gamespot doesn't have that independence, will capitulate to external pressure, and will take measures against their own people who defy them and their investors. The fallout from this situation would be reduced numbers of readers, low confidence from external and internal parties, low morale amonst their staff, which would in turn translate to them becoming less attractive to future advertisers.

Mainstream news networks depend on the veracity and timeliness of their reports, and this applies doubly so to game journalism; it is such a small niche area with a large multitude of alternative sources. And I think that even if the rumours are untruthful, and that there was no wrong-doing on the part of Gamespot, their reputation has already been tainted, and it would take a long while before they can build back up the confidence that audiences have lost.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Expendability

Beowulf

Did you know that Beowulf is an animated film? Meaning a cartoon? I sure didn't. Imagine my surprise as I sat there looking upon a screen full of animated characters. I honestly searched for my ticket stub to make sure I was sitting in the right cinema.

But I think it works, using animation to tell a fairly mature theme. This is not one for the kiddies, I can tell you that. By freeing the film from real-world physical limitations, this film is able to accomplish much more in portraying a fantastical world. And it helps the audience to effectively suspend disbelief, which in turn would draw oneself further into the story.

Another uncanny thing about the movie is how realistic everything looks. Aside from a few tell-tale signs of animated movement, one could almost swear that one was watching a live-action film. Each frame is shot beautifully, and the quality of the scenes and characters must be seen to be believed. Look upon the face of any character, and you'd be fooled into thinking it was the real actor. Hrothgar, portrayed by Anthony Hopkins, looks frighteningly real.

The film also has a good story in it, and one can draw immense pleasure in the way it is told. I can't say for sure how closely the movie mirrors the myth of Beowulf; I've read the myth once before, but I can't remember much aside from some character names. And I think there are holes in the plot, but this may be inherent in to myth proper.

There are a number of things that leave me scratching my head, such as why Grendel would suddenly and viciously and continously attack the great hall of the king after years of peace. And why does the hearth fire turn blue when he appears? And whether Beowulf's illegitimate son was really a dragon, I can't say.

But all in all, this film was very enjoyable. The music is done very well, and match the tempo of the film excellently. Some scenes were truly exhilarating, and especially so in the final action sequence. The well-portrayed characters, which were also ably voice-acted, make it easy to identify with them. And scenes are carefully created, and there aren't any throwaway scenes; everything moves the plot forward. I also thought that the film is very well-paced. And I would heartily recommend this film.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Mass Effect

Mass Effect, an upcoming game for the Xbox360, was initially banned, and then subsequently unbanned by the Media Development Authority of Singapore. I was quite angered by the news, when the ban was announced on 12 November 2007. I am not the best person to gauge the reactions of the local gaming community, but I think a good portion of people were similarly enraged. However, the ban was lifted a few days later and the game was given a rating of MA18 instead.

The initial ban was based off a singular scene containing sex between yourself, as the main protagonist, and a non-player character. I guess that after some re-evaluation, MDA has decided that this particular scene was not sufficient to uphold the ban; that scene is a very small part of the game, not entirely central to the main theme, and more importantly, is not presented in a gratuitous manner.

There are a number of things that we need to consider when we consider the issue. Firstly, we have to recognise that video games is only a medium, and the content that is available on this medium is not always targeted at minors. Secondly, video games are not always for children. This may seem like a re-iteration of my first point, but I want to stress on the video gaming demographic; gaming is done mostly be adults, aged 18-36, most are degree holders, hold professional/executive occupations, and a fairly significant proportion are female (35-45%). This is important when we consider the type of content delivered through video games, and the intended audience.

I do think that we should prevent undesirable content, espeically those with mature themes, from being accessed and consumed by minors. And as video games are not always designed for minors, we do have to monitor and control the type of video games that they consume. On the other hand, I've always believe that intended audiences should be able to access the types of media that was meant for them. If a film/book/video game was intended for adult audiences, and I am an adult, I should be able to consume it. However, therein lies the challenge: How do we, on one hand control access to media content to minors, while on the other hand ensure that intended audiences can access it freely, especially in the field of video games? And an unintended challenge is the popular opinion that video games are still for children, and either no action is taken to control their access to it, or conversely, reactions have been overly heavy-handed?

This leads to, in my opinion, 3 possible responses: Industry self regulation, Government Regulation, or outright Government Restriction.

Government Restriction is difficult to justify. Yes, there should be some controls on undesirable media. But who gets to decide on what is undesirable or not? And if there is a reasonable response to that question, who then decides on the appropriate response? Should the government be the sole decision makers on the prevention of products being consumed? And if so, should adults be subjected to those same restrictions?

Government regulation also shares these same challenges. If I wish to consume a particular form of media, as a legal and consenting adult, should the government act as a barrier to that? My personal opinion is that this should not be the case, but this opinion could be coloured by my desire to play my anticipated games. I would be angered by a prevention/restriction on video games, but I could easily say I wouldn't be troubled much if the same actions were taken against music or film. If there is to be government regulation, it needs to be fairly balanced across all media forms, and our responses to it has to be similarly balanced. One media form is never better, or more important that another. My personal opinion is that government regulation and restriction should be minimal in all forms of consumer media, and I would not want government controls over the music, film or video games that I, as a legal and consenting adult, choose to consume.

This leaves the option of industry self-regulation for video games, as it should be for all forms of media. But there lies other challenges for such self regulation. I refer specifically to the retail side of the industry, where consumers accesses the content. I believe that the retail side of the video games industry is key to self regulation, and helping to prevent undesirable content from being consumed by minors. However, this is difficult to implement and to enforce, especially in Singapore. Most video games here are sold through small retailers, where competition is high and profit margins are minimal. If a game is rated at MA18 (like Mass Effect, for example), there is no guarantee that the local retail shops would uphold that ruling, and only sell to the permissible audience. If only one retailer fails to uphold the ruling, other retailers stand only to lose their sales and business. There is no essentially no gain for any retailer to abide by these restrictions, and sales of mature games to minors will continue. And as I mentioned previously, the video game retail industry is highly competitive, so this only exacerbates the problem for the local gaming community; the retail side essentially cannot be counted on to uphold rulings, and makes self regulation almost impossible.

The local film industry is vastly different, as the major cinema operators have shown that they are effective gatekeepers, and preventing minors from consuming film of an undesirable nature. And self-regulation is easily in reach for this industry. One more thing we have to keep in mind is that films are largely rated by themselves. In other words, deciding whether a film is PG, MA18 or R, is mostly determined by the film industry themselves, and they have done a fairly good job at being critical about their own products. Combined with efforts from cinema operators, the film industry in general (from production to box office) has been very effective in self-regulation.

What is needed, in Singapore in particular, is for the video games industry to galvanise in the same manner. The development and publishing side of the industry has done a good job in providing information regarding each game's content, as well as a fairly well-balanced ratings system in the ESRB (Electronic Software Rating Board). In addition, new initiatives such as What They Play, a website designed to explain game ratings and suitable games to parents, should be continually and strongly supported by the industry, government and all gamers. But more work needs to be done on the retail side of the industry, to ensure that retailers are not losing business by their compliance with regulations, and that there would be repercussions for retailers who do.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Obolo: Gourmet Cheesecakes - Patisseries - Desserts

Obolo: Gourmet Cheesecakes - Patisseries - Desserts

Audrea and I were walking along Joo Chiat Road just a few evenings ago, on our way to Parkway Parade. We were just strolling along, taking in the sights of the old town when we stumbled upon Obolo. It looked real nice from the outside, and wanting to take a break, decided to enter and sample their delights.

Anyone who knows me know I like a good cake, and I've been on a cake kick recently. I've tried a few places, like Canele, and Nectarie. And I always buy a few slices to share with the family. I'm a firm believer that you ought to get what you pay for, and good quality food comes at a price. And if an item is particularly well-made, then the cost is well deserved.

With that in mind, we decided to give Obolo a try, to see if their offerings justified their price, and if their products were up to par. And in this regard, I can give them a very well deserved, very firm "Meh".

Audrea and I settled down to a slice of their dark chocolate cake and were not overwhelmed at all. The cake had a very nice texture to it: crispy base, walnuts, dark chocolate mousse and dark chocolate sauce. But the flavour was a little bland, and far too milky and creamy, even for me; And God knows I like my cream. For a dark chocolate cake, there really wasn't much dark chocolate in it. Too sweet, too creamy, too milky, no bittersweet taste of a fine dark chocolate.

I took a number of other pieces home to sample: Tiramisu, Dome Exotique, Valencia, New York Cheesecake, and Strawberry Cream Cheesecake.

The Tiramisu, Valencia (chocolate mousse cake layered with orange creme), and the Strawberry Cream also weren't overwhelming, and not what I would expect at this price. And if I may say so, I felt that the cakes were fairly pedestrian, not outstanding at all.

But I did like the New York Cheesecake and Dome Exotique very much though. The New York Cheesecake was very rich, creamy and flavorful without being overly cloying. And the Dome Exotique was very very nice indeed. Consisting of a mango mousse, with a slight crisp outer shell, and a mango gelatine inside and dashed with rum on a biscuit base, the Exotique was an excellent balance of flavour and texture and flavour once again. The cake even just looks delicious.

So would I recommend this place? In a manner of speaking, yes. The cakes aren't terrible by any measure, and you could do far worse than Obolo. There are a couple of gems on their menu, and there are a number of things that are I'm tempted to try. They have another Dome cake which looks very good, as does a few of their other desserts (eg. their fruit tarts, and the Summer Berry Tiramisu). So I would probably give it a second shot. But if I'm not impressed on the second try, then I would say there's no real loss to you if you gave it a miss.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Two Tesla Coils Playing the Theme Music of Super Mario Bros.



This is some highly entertaining stuff. Two Tesla coils are assigned midi channels via a fiber optic link from a laptop, with the coils interpreting the signals with frickin' lighting bolts! There were no speakers involved, and the sounds are entirely from the coils themselves. Crazy stuff!

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Orange Box

I picked up a copy of The Orange Box for the Xbox360 about a week ago, and I've been playing the heck out of that thing. And I've really only touched 2/5 of that game, having only played Portal and Team Fortress 2. I haven't even begun Half-Life 2, and the two subsequent episodic expansions (unimaginatively named Episode 1 & 2). But that 2/5 of the package is well worth the full retail price of the game. I've been having such a blast, and staying up real late every night. For me, that's the best way to spend a day. Some would understand, but not many would.

Portal. Man, I've got only 2 things to say about that: 1) Portal is a Goddamn mind-bender and 2) THE CAKE IS A FUCKING LIE!! So if you ever get a chance to get your hands on Portal, give it a shot. It's well-worth it, even if you aren't a gamer.

The other thing I've been playing, like I just said, is Team Fortress 2. I was a huge fan of Team Fortress Classic, back when it was merely a mod for Half-Life in 1998. The sequel was supposed to been released since before 2000, but it has been in development for almost 7 years now. And I've got to say, those years have been put into good use. Check out some of these photos! Just the art direction would astound you.

And I have to say that I'm pretty good at the game, constantly getting decent scores each round. It's a team-based game, which I like. I find myself taking up mostly supporting roles, like the Medic. And even if I were to take an assault class like the Soldier or the Pyro, I'm mostly running defense and escort for my other team-mates whilst they grab the glory. It's my preferred role in games, and I guess, in life generally. But damned if I'm not having a ball . God, TF2 is so awesome.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Lars and the Real Girl

I saw this movie yesterday, and it was a most excellent film. I strongly recommend all to catch it, and enjoy the sheer joy that is Lars.

I wrote a few words about it on my Facebook, but I feel compelled to elaborate on it.

The movie is excellent on two fronts; both the technical and artistic aspects are both very well done. The scenes are very well composed, and evocative, and the music compliments the film very well.

But more than that, the story is absolutely heart-warming, in a quirky, off the wall way. The story will simultaneously make you laugh out loud and tug at your heartstrings. The simplicity of the story, of a man trying to come to terms with the inability to communicate, and the growth that he makes, draws you in and never lets go. It makes you an intrinsic part of his personal journey, his personal struggle. And as you delve deeper into the film, you start to identify with his inadequacies, and you're constantly hoping that he'll be able to dig himself out, re-discover himself, and find the qualities that were inside of him in the first place.

The fortitude that he shows, and the care and patience shown to him by those around him, will re-energise you, and make you feel great hope in all things. Go watch this show.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Portal: Still Alive

I would be remiss if I didn't post the ending credit song to Portal, because it is simply delightful. So please, do listen to the tune and enjoy. And if you know anything about Half-Life at all, this will make you smile even more.



This was a triumph
I’m making a note here: huge success
It’s hard to overstate my satisfaction
Aperture Science
We do what we must because we can
For the good of all of us
Except the ones who are dead
But there’s no sense crying over every mistake
You just keep on trying till you run out of cake
And the science gets done and you make a neat gun
For the people who are still alive

I’m not even angry
I’m being so sincere right now
Even though you broke my heart and killed me
And tore me to pieces
And threw every piece into a fire
As they burned it hurt because
I was so happy for you
Now these points of data make a beautiful line
And we’re out of beta, we’re releasing on time
So I’m glad I got burned, think of all the things we learned
For the people who are still alive

Go ahead and leave me
I think I’d prefer to stay inside
Maybe you’ll find someone else to help you
Maybe Black Mesa
That was a joke, ha ha, fat chance
Anyway this cake is great
It’s so delicious and moist
Look at me still talking when there’s science to do
When I look out there it makes me glad I’m not you
I’ve experiments to run, there is research to be done
On the people who are still alive

And believe me I am still alive
I’m doing science and I’m still alive
I feel fantastic and I’m still alive
And while you’re dying I’ll be still alive
And when you’re dead I will be still alive
Still alive
Still alive

The Orange Box is now available on PC and Xbox360.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The relevance of art and humanities

I just needed to pen this down, lest I forget.

Fields like business, medicine, and computer science seem “practical” because they are predictably useful. We can know in advance how to reap immediate gain from them. By contrast, the humanities are unpredictably useful; we cannot know in advance how they might serve us. The arts and humanities help us understand what it means to be human, no matter the contingencies of profession, economics, or current affairs. They offer insights into human experience that we need when all else fails. This is the knowledge that helps us recover from heartbreak, to make sense of tragedy, to combat the arbitrariness. They are the works that rub up against us, that comfort and bother us. We need them when we least expect it.

Taken from the blog of Ian Bogost. Mr Bogost is a professor in Georgia Tech, a videogame researcher, critic and designer. The blurb above was presented at his plenary address delivered at the first South Interactive Entertainment & Game Expo.

Halo 3

Two more have finished the fight today. And though this feat has been accomplished by many others, I'm pleased to now count myself to be one of them. And though there were moments where we thought our resolve would falter, we were able to stand strong, and win the day. The experience was tense, gripping, and more often than not, nerve-wrecking. Every battle was its own story, a tale of bravery to be shared amongst comrades. I now recount a few of the more memorable moments for you...

Once, we were advancing on a squad of Brutes, hoping to catch them unawares. We move cautiously forward but to no avail. The largest of them all, hands clasped around the terrifying Gravity Hammer, spotted us. With a mighty roar, it charged down straight at us. Shaun bravely stood in its path, firing round after round into the oncoming beast, whilst I turned tail and ran the other way. The beast shrugged off the bullets like annoying insects, raised it's deadly hammer and delivered a killing blow. Shaun's body crumpled limply, and as the beast celebrated its victory, I walked right up and placed three bullets into the back of the monster's head.

There was another instance, where our paths were once again blocked by the Brutes, who were standing guard around the shield generator we needed to deactivate. Sergeant Major Johnson was unable to complete the task and our immediate assistance was needed. However, our foes were many and fearsome, and we didn't have much of a chance; till I spotted an opening. Hands nervously fumbling, I grabbed a Gravity Hammer, discarded by a recently defeated enemy. With a sliver of desperate hope, I charged forward without care for my own safety. The first blow stunned my adversary. And as it stood there, dazed and disorientated, I swung unerringly once more, sending the beast into the abyss.

And how can I forget about the time in which Shaun single-handedly fought off the unending hordes of the Flood; infected and reanimated bodies of friends and foes alike. Their relentless advance, and their horrifying countenance would weaken the knees of any man, but Shaun's aim was true, and his courage unyielding. And all that was left after the skirmish was a field littered with corpses, and the echo of the last bullet he fired.

Ah... It was a day well spent. And we shall be re-telling many stories in days to come, of how we came to finish the fight. And lived to fight other battles in other times.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Last Night on Earth


I had the opportunity to play The Last Night on Earth today, which is a newly released boardgame. The premise of the game revolves around players attempting to escape from zombies, whilst fulfilling required objectives. I had a blast playing this game, and I think it should be recommended to people who may have an interest in 1) a very thematic game and/or 2) zombies/horror genre.

There are a couple things that may hinder enjoyment of the game, but overall I think it is fairly well-designed.

Summary
The game is played on a play area that is put together with smaller modular boards. Players either play either as the human characters attempting to escape from certain death, or as the zombie hordes trying to inflict said certain death. The human characters have a limited number of turns to complete the objectives, ranging from killing a set number of zombies, to fueling a getaway truck. Zombies have to either try to kill off the human heroes, or try to delay them from completing their goals.

Components
The components are of extremely high quality, comprising of plastic models for the characters and zombies, and thick glossy cardboard for the character sheets, tokens and other game markers. The game also comes with a deck of cards for both zombie and human players, and these are of very high quality as well. Overall, the game looks very well-produced, and buyers will get a good deal from this purchase.

Rules
The rules are fairly simple, which leaves players more time to enjoy the game, and less time to ponder over fiddly rules. Human heroes get to move their characters, exchange items with fellow humans, and fight. Humans also get the option to search for items in lieu of moving, provided they are within a building or structure. Zombies get to pick up special cards, move and spawn zombies, and attack heroes.

Most of the rules are fairly streamlined. Human movement is based on one roll of a D6. Zombies move one space, unless there is a special card dictating otherwise. Fights are resolved between dice roll-offs between humans and zombies. Humans roll a basic of 2 dice, zombies get one; however zombies win all ties. Any special rules to fights are dictated by cards picked up by both sides. These cards modify fights either by adding dice or adding modifiers (e.g. rolls at 2+ automatically win fights).

Pluses
The game is very thematic, while also remaining fairly well-balanced between the both sides. Human players get a real sense of desperation when the zombie hordes closes in, whilst the zombies players are filled with an unnerving determination as their undead forces shamble forward.

Both sides have an equally good chance at winning the game, with the game swinging back and forth throughout the game. Zombie players start to feel a little triumphant as the board fills with their underlings, whilst human players may see a slight glimmer of hope as they start thinning out the enemies. I've only played this once, but I suspect that the endgame should be fairly close, and coming down to the wire.

Minuses
Some characters may be unbalanced, or at the very least, too well designed for their jobs. One character, Jake Cartwright, has the ability to draw two hero cards and discard one. This gives this character a huge advantage if the objective requires human players to search for specific items within the deck. In our game, Jake stayed in one spot for most of the game cycling through the deck while the rest of us kept the zombies of his back. While this may make some thematic sense, it doesn't lead to exciting gameplay, as that player sits back and continually draws cards.

Because the main rules of the game is fairly streamlined, and most of the rules exceptions comes in the form of the cards played, it creates the situation whereby contradicting rules are not fully explained, and players will need to resolve this using common sense. This could lead to situations where time is spent debating rules rather than playing. Thankfully, most cards are fairly well-written, but this problem is particularly apparent when dealing with the special event cards.

Overall
This game is very enjoyable, and with the right crowd, can be a downright blast to play. Best played as part of a Halloween event, or with a zombie movie playing in the background, this game will get your blood up! So if you have only a passing fancy for the zombie/horror genre, you should give this game a try. Recommended, and given my stamp of approval.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Portal - Flash Version


Portal is a really intriguing puzzle game (Xbox360, PC), and one that definitely deserves checking out. Bundled as part of Valve's The Orange Box, this game will bend your mind in more ways that you can understand. Cause and effect takes on a whole new meaning.

For those who don't have the requisite hardware to run the game, here's a flash version to give you a small taste of what Portal entails. Even in 2D, this version will give you brains a bit of a workout. Check it!

Portal: The Flash Version

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Japanese Comedy Skit, feat Zombies and Video Games



A comedy spoof of playing Zombie shooting arcade games. I LOL-ed! Check it out!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Bioshock

Before the month closes out, I thought I'd just pen down a few thoughts about Bioshock (Xbox360, PC). I haven't been playing this game as much as I want to, which we can all agree is a travesty. I haven't touched the game since last weekend, and as such, I'm filled with shame; The kind of shame that could cripple a man.

The game is very atmospheric, and it really sucks a player into suspending disbelief. You'd think, for a moment, that you really were walking about the dystopian underwater city of Rapture, set in the 1960s. The music, the sense of style. and the antiquated machines all contribute toward that total immersion.

And here, I draw special attention to the ambient sounds that form so much of the aural landscape. Eavesdropping on wayward conversations, hearing seawater flooding into the city, having the heavy bootstomps of the Big Daddy reveberate through your bones - These are just some of the subtle elements that highten the experience of the game to an undefinable degree.

"What was that?", I exclaim, swinging around violently, straining to hear the fading echoes of a woman's scream.

And as I journey through the city of Rapture (the setting of the game), so many elements help to bring the city to life. The visual style conveys almost a forlorn sense of abandonment, striving to re-capture a piece of its past glory. And gameplay elements such as picking up tape recordings of past inhabitants of the city paints a picture that is surreal, unfathomable, and at the same time, frightening. You begin to realise that the imagined utopia has been usurped by the deficiencies of humans.

What little I have seen of Bioshock has greatly impressed me. And I can't wait to continue on my journey into Rapture.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Blurring the lines between real and virtual



HP has just announced a fairly interesting device, one that seeks to blur the lines between the real world and the virtual world, and I think that this is a very innovative idea.

The device renders real world images into digital landscapes, with images, sounds and textures. Overlaid on top these landscapes would be additional information, such as GPS markers which would in turn affect game play. So you could conceivably convert the real world environment into any game world, complete with goals/objectives/targets. Imagine visualising a street, rendered into any scenario you like (medieval, sci-fi, etc). And now imagine it being done in real-time, as you are walking down that same street. Imagine turning real life into a game! Turning the world into a virtual playground!

That idea blows my mind.

Each piece of technology that can continually blur the lines between real and virtual excites me, because it can affect the way in which we percieve the world. It's like seeing the world through rose-tinted glasses, if those glasses included targetting reticles.

I am doubtful about the technical aspects of this device, because I'm not so sure I want to be carrying a clumsy device in front of my face the whole time I'm walking somewhere. But imagine if these were far more portable, or existed as implants, and you could see them straight with your eye. The very nature of percieving would forever be changed.

Everything you percieve is entirely up to you. And you can once again view the world as a child would; a world that is full of wonder and discovery.

Link to the story

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Talk like a Pirate!

Yarr! 'Tis be a most grand day, for it be the Internataional Talk Like a Pirate Day. Yarr! And all you land lubbers, and scurvy rats best be putting on your best pirate accent. Or ye be walking the plank, I tell ye! Gyarrr!

Yo-ho! Heave-to! Hoist my colours! Make sure those knots are sqaured off! We be sailing for sunset, and not even Davy Jones will be stopping me. Well, me hearties, feel the wind in your hair, taste the salt in the air! Yar!!

And fetch me a bottle of rum!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Appreciating Clouds

When was the last time you looked up and marveled at the clouds overhead? When did you last catch a glimpse of something, and it left you filled with wonder?

There are many things of infinite beauty around us at every moment, and it takes but a second to notice. And only a second before they are passed by as we hurry on with our everyday lives. Such passing, fleeting moments should be savoured, as each little thing enriches our lives.

When was the last time we looked up?

The Cloud Appreciation Society, I think, has got the right idea in mind. Capturing transient moments of beauty and taking the time to look up. We should always be admiring the beauty that surrounds us, and the jewel we walk upon. And always be thankful, joyful and delighted.

And I think we should spend less time with our heads hung low.

Friday, September 07, 2007

President Bush understands...



President Bush is truly able to see dangers around the corner, that we ourselves are unaware of. He may be able to save us once again.

We have to prepare ourselves, in the likely eventual zombie apocalypse. Damn you, Barry Lank! Do you not know what is at stake here? Our very freedoms are being threatened by zombies!

The Good Wife's Guide, circa 1955


Here are some tips on how to become good wife. Especially useful for prospective wives and mothers. Apparently, this is what it took to be a good wife in 1955.

Some choice tips:

Have dinner ready. Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal ready, on time for his return. This is a way of letting him know that you've been thinking about him and are concerned about his needs. Most men are hungry when they come home and the prospect of a good meal is part of a warm welcome

Over the cooler months of the year you should prepare and light a fire for him to unwind by. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a life too. After all, catering for his comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction.

Greet him with a warm smile and show sincerity in your desire to please him.

Listen to him. You may have a dozen important things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk - remember, his topics of conversation are more important than yours.

Don't ask him questions about his actions or question his judgement or integrity. Remember, he is the master of the house and as such will always excercise his will with fairness and truthfulness. You have no right to question him.

A good wife always knows her place.

Wow. We've come a long way, baby.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

30 Tips for Happiness

This really shouldn't have to be said, but I guess most people need a reminder sometimes. Happiness is something that we all need, and I dare say deserve, in our lives. But people get caught up sometimes, and forget about being happy.

So I'm linking to a page that provides 30 tips to being happy.

Some choice selections:

Think solutions. Instead of thinking about problems, move to the next step: how to solve it. When someone says to me, "Oh, this is so hard," or "Oh, I can't seem to do this," or "Man, we don't have any more of that," I just ask them, "Well, what's the solution?" If you develop solution-oriented thinking, you'll be much happier.

Notice small things. Along the same lines, try to notice when you feel good, or you're not suffering, or you are tasting something really delicious, or you feel something cold or hot, anything. Noticing the little things will help keep you focused on the present.

Treat yourself. Take a few minutes each day to give yourself a little treat, whether that's something like chocolate or berries, or a bubble bath, or walking barefoot in the grass, or taking a nap. Whatever it is, treat yourself. You deserve it.

Realize that you deserve it. You deserve happiness. That simple statement is actually profound for many people, as they don't believe they really deserve to be happy. It's often unconscious. If you feel that within yourself, you need to first realize that you deserve happiness. Repeat it if necessary.

The article was written by Leo Babuta.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

My childhood imagination

I was at a friend's party over the weekend, and it was a fairly good time. We were at the Fairypoint Chalet in Changi Village, which had an excellent view. Sometime during the night, Adrian, Mark and myself set off to Changi Village to get some drinks and the like.

And whilst on our way back to the chalet, we walked past a couple of kids playing with some toy cars; the sorts with weapons and all (Crush Gears, if you must know). And they were playing happily with the requisite lasers, gunshots, explosion noises that children make (PEW! BANG! KA-PA-BOM!).

The level of immersion and imagination that these children had, with their toys, is something that I have lost over the years, as I become an older, wiser, grumpier, fatter, impatient old man. I can barely capture the magic of a simple toy in my hand, and the power of my mind's eye, and my imagination.

I had a number of toys when I was younger, as most children do. And each toy could entertain me for hours, if not days. I remember my GI Joe action figures (I only ever had two), who'd go on death-defying missions to save their non-existant counterparts. I had only one Ninja Turtle (Leonardo) and I could conjure up the images of the remaining turtles to battle the forces of Shredder, Krang, Bebop and Rocksteady. I had two M.A.S.K toys (Raven and Condor), and they would travel my imagined world to face off agents of V.E.N.O.M.

And when I didn't have toys available in my hand, my mind kept me equally occupied with creations of my own - Superheroes, fantasy warriors, a captain of a spaceship. There was no limit to my creativity and imagination. I should tell you of some of the characters I had fantasised about being.

And as I look upon the two children I walked past, I remember the days in which simple pleasures would suffice. Everything seemed bigger, more significant, and the adventures that I created for myself seems to become a matter of life and death. I had to save Leonardo from being swarmed by the Foot Soldiers. I had to defend Castle Greyskull from Skeletor. Their world, and mine, depended on me.

On some days, when I'm really, really quiet, I can still capture a bit of that magic that I thought was lost. And for those few fleeting moments, I remember what it was like to be a kid again.

Friday, August 03, 2007

I'm such a geek

Those closest to me know that there are big things going on in my life right now. I'm setting ourselves up for a great adventure, and I think it'll be a blast.

But I was doing some random surfing around, and I stumbled upon this:

When I finally have a kid, I'm so going to get it to wear this. It's a level 1 human!

I'm such a geek. And Audrea's gonna kill me...

The product above was taken from Jinx: Clothing for Gamers & Geeks

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Batman!

Now it seems I've been copping out quite alot recently with just posts of photos and videos that are found on the internets. And on some level, you'd be right. But since I only post things that resonate with me, just looking at those things should give you a quick snapshot of myself as a person, my likes/dislikes, and maybe even my psyche if you so choose.

Well, everyone I know knows that I like Batman. I think Batman is awesome in so many ways, and not just because he's got a cool car. In this character, I see the epitome of human conditioning, and how discipline and training can take a person onto a wholly different level. I also see a deep psychiatric trauma in the character, bordering almost on insanity. Imagine a person driven to project the same fear that one has felt onto others; to inflict pain/vengence/penance onto those who would otherwise do with same without remorse. Both these concepts/aspects appeal to me.

In one of the comics, Batman declared that the identity of Bruce Wayne was the disguise, and that Batman was his true personality. And that Bruce Wayne would be discarded as it no longer suited his needs. This has always left a deep impression on me.

So here's another reimagining of The Batman. The artist, Mike Mitchell, conceptualised Bruce Wayne as being middle-classed and was never rich. An interesting concept, and an interesting image.
This image was taken from Mike Mitchell's blog

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

OMG! A real Transformer!

This here is pretty awesome! See a real Transformer in action!

O RLY?

Apparently, girls who complain about their problems are at a greater risk of developing anxiety and depression. Hmm... Interesting...

In a research done by a professor from the University of Missouri-Columbia, it was discovered that "discovered that girls co-ruminate* more than boys, especially in adolescence, and that girls who co-ruminated the most in the fall of the school year were most likely to be more depressed and anxious by the spring".

The researcher, Amanda Rose, said "When girls co-ruminate, they’re spending such a high percentage of their time dwelling on problems and concerns that it probably makes them feel sad and more hopeless about the problems because those problems are in the forefront of their minds".

Of course, we have to keep several things in mind when reading the article... 1) This is only in the case whereby there is excessive communication, and 2) most of the subject group are in their early adolescence (5th, 7th and 9th grade students). Still, it's an interesting read.

Other interesting things to note are:
1) Co-rumination (both boys and girls) "was associated with positive friendship quality, including feelings of closeness between friends".
2) Boys who co-ruminate "did not develop greater depressive and anxiety symptoms over time".

*Co-rumination: excessively talking with friends about problems and concerns

Here's a link to the article: Girls who complain about their problems at greater risk of developing anxiety and depression

Monday, July 09, 2007

Airport Security

The photo above was taken from sirbrent84's flickr page.

Monday, July 02, 2007

I believe in a thing called love!

I believe in a thing called love
Just listen to the rhythm of my heart
There's a chance we could make it now
We'll be rocking 'til the sun goes down
I believe in a thing called love
Ooh!

It's the first days of the second half of 2007, so let's rock out! Enjoy!

Saturday, June 30, 2007

My constant companion

It occurred to me that I have changed a few phones in my lifetime, and I thought it might just be nice to talk about them for a little while. Almost a walk down tech memory lane.

My first phone was the Nokia 3210, which I bought from the M1 shop at $280 together with a 2 year contract. This phone was bulky, heavy, and a piece of shit. But it was mine, and no one else's. It's almost like a first love, only it was really a compromise, and everyone just got together cos no one had any reason not to.

I next got myself a Nokia 8210. Well, it was given to me by my older sister, who had been given a new phone by her then boyfriend. I loved this one so much. My sister had it tweaked with blue LEDs so the screen gave off a really nice glow. And it was the smallest, lightest phone I have ever carried. I don't think any of my following phones could match this one in terms of form. However, this was sadly stolen from me in my bunk while I was still in National Service. Word of warning to future NS boys: Keep an eye out for your own belongings, kids!

Ah... The Nokia 8310. The slightly pudgy cousin of my previous phone. It's like the kind of girl that was kinda cute... but would look really hot if she shed a couple pounds; Dressing nice helped a little, but we all knew the score. The thickness of the phone was slightly more than the 8210, and the width slightly smaller. It just felt a little chubby in my hands, but hey... some people like that sort of thing. For me, it was a rebound phone, having just lost my 8210. You're cute... but really not what I'm looking for.

My next love was the Nokia 6610. I was pinning after this phone ever since it was first announced. This phone was also one of the first few with colour screens, which made it all the more attractive. But the fates kept us apart, and so I stood in silent admiration from a distance. It was really my wallet my prevented us from being together, that cold hearted bitch. I finally got together with the 6610 in 2004, when it was offered for $100 (with contract) by M1. Ah... This phone served me very well for the following 3 years, and I'm still currently using it (cos the next one is also a piece of shit).

Tempted by it's sleek design, and revolutionary metal casing, my sister bought this phone for me at $400. And that, for me, is akin to an expensive date with a stupid, air-headed slag. Aside from its good looks, there isn't much that I like about this phone. It was like a trophy phone... except everyone else had the same damn trophy. And using the damn thing got on my nerves so bad. The texting was a chore, transferring contacts from SIM to phone was confusing, bluetooth was a joke... I could go on. I sold this phone for $60 to a second-hand dealer... That's all you're worth, Moto. Be grateful.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Starcraft Sunday

So Adrian and I spent the entire afternoon playing Starcraft, and it was most excellent. We've been on a Starcraft kick, since I bought myself a second-hand copy of the game. And hearing the recent news of the sequel has re-ignited our interest in the game.

We used to play the game quite often back when we were much younger, and when LAN shops were all the rage. We essentially spent all our leisure time between this and CounterStrike.

We played two rounds today, each time teaming with each other against the computer. We both aren't too good at the game (he's better than I am), so the computer proves to be a more than sufficient challenge to our skill. We played against the Zergs and the Protoss, with us using the Terrans in both rounds.

There were times when things got a little hairy. I mean, with those damn Zergs, there are just wave after wave of those pesky zerglings and hydralisks. And we kept getting slaughtered by the templar's psionic storm ability. But we were able to pull out wins in the end, and only because the AI isn't brilliant. If we were playing against a human opponent, we'd have no chance in hell.

But hey... A win is still a win! Siege Tanks FTW!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Play! A Video Game Symphony

Adrian, Audrea, Aedan, Mark, Shaun and myself just attended the last performance of Play!, at the Esplanade Concert Hall. A part of the Singapore Arts Festival, I believe that this performance was the most popular of all. I have also heard that all 3 Play! performances were totally sold out, the only sold out performances in the Arts Festival this year.

The entire experience was exquisite. The music arrangements were excellent, the selection of songs were spot on, and hearing those tunes played by a full orchestra was mind-blowing.

Games that were featured included: Super Mario Brothers, Lost Odyssey, Blue Dragon, Shenmue, Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy (VI & VII), Halo, Castlevania, Chrono Trigger, Oblivion, World of Warcraft and Zelda. If any of those names are familar to you, then you did yourself a dis-service by not going to this awesome performance.

And even if you don't know the musical scores, the experience would still be extremely satisfying. The music from video games are true works of art, and is an enjoyable aural experience. It was an excellent performance all round, and for geeks, just a little bit more extra special.

Friday, June 15, 2007

What is Love?

What is love
Oh baby, don't hurt me
Don't hurt me no more
Oh, baby don't hurt me
Don't hurt me no more

What is love
Yeah

Oh, I don't know why you're not there
I give you my love, but you don't care
So what is right and what is wrong
Gimme a sign

What is love
Oh baby, don't hurt me
Don't hurt me no more
What is love
Oh baby, don't hurt me
Don't hurt me no more

Whoa whoa whoa, oooh oooh
Whoa whoa whoa, oooh oooh

Oh, I don't know, what can I do
What else can I say, it's up to you
I know we're one, just me and you
I can't go on

What is love
Oh baby, don't hurt me
Don't hurt me no more
What is love
Oh baby, don't hurt me
Don't hurt me no more

Whoa whoa whoa, oooh oooh
Whoa whoa whoa, oooh oooh

What is love, oooh, oooh, oooh
What is love, oooh, oooh, oooh

What is love
Oh baby, don't hurt me
Don't hurt me no more

Don't hurt me
Don't hurt me

I want no other, no other lover
This is your life, our time
When we are together, I need you forever
Is it love

What is love
Oh baby, don't hurt me
Don't hurt me no more
What is love
Oh baby, don't hurt me
Don't hurt me no more (oooh, oooh)

What is love
Oh baby, don't hurt me
Don't hurt me no more
What is love
Oh baby, don't hurt me
Don't hurt me no more (oooh, oooh)

What is love?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Transformers: The Game

This clip features a short interview with Peter Cullen, the voice of Optimus Prime.

When you hear him say that famous line, "Autobots, transform and roll out", it will send a shiver down your back.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Bad food

It is a rare occasion that I would not finish my food, even if it is only mediocre. And so if it happens that I do not finish a dish, I must really abhor it. And once I have tasted something that is extremely unagreeable, I lose my appetite and I feel the need to wash my mouth out. With soap.

This happened once before, when I had a Thai beef noodles at a food court in Vivocity. The broth was weak, and had a really odd after taste, and the accompanying beed was tough and tasteless. I didn't finish it. It was bad.

This happened again yesterday, when I had a pasta dish at Cedele in Wheelock Place. It was the strangest concoction I've had in a long while, and I barely ate 2 bites of it. I told the waiter to remove it from the table.

Normally, I'm fairly satisfied by the food at Cedele; They have excellent soups, cakes and bread. So yesterday's meal was a revelation, to say the least.

I had the Crab Lime Pasta, which I did not enjoy at all. The taste of lime was too overpowering, and completely masked any other potential flavours. And do you know that bitter taste when you bite into a seed of a citrus fruit? The dish had that same after-taste, and it was very strong. The only other flavour that was not masked was the chilli. And so the pasta I had was sour, bitter and spicy. To my palette, that was not a pleasurable combination at all.

On the postive side, the serving was quite generous, and there were a lot of chunks of crab. But I did not eat much of it.

And I have to note that the staff at Cedele are very good, and offered to exchange the pasta for something else on the menu for free. I declined, as I really did not have the mood for food. But I did accept their offer of a slice of chocolate cake. Service at Cedele is excellent.

Friday, May 25, 2007

World Of Warcraft: Dancing

We all know that dancing is cool. So how do we make it geeky?

By having computer animated characters doing the dancing. Specifically, characters from a MMORPG, that was based on a RTS. Awesome!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Guitar Hero II

A: Wow... That's a pretty piss poor video...
B: Haha... Yea... But look at that fat dude go! He totally sucks!
A: God... He's just embarassing himself...



Haha... I hope you guys enjoy my poor attempt at Guitar Hero II, on my Xbox 360. And have a good laugh while you're at it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

When Pigeons Attack!

If this doesn't bring an evil smile to your face, I don't know what will.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Wii for the Dead

When I eventually do pass on, I want one of these to be burned for me: Wii for the dead.

I absolutely insist that someone burn me a bunch of the latest gaming consoles, all accessories, and a whole selection of games. I'm going to need it wherever I'll be going. I hear that the afterlife is gonna be quite a long time.

Also, I insist that along with the paper gaming consoles, that boardgames and comics to be burned for me too.

Friday, April 27, 2007

WWE in Singapore, 28 July 2007

Finally, The Rock has come back... to Singapore!

Not exactly, as The Rock doesn't really wrestle anymore. But WWE is coming back, on 28 July 2007! I am so going to be there.

Details have not been released yet, but there are some big names on tour. The Smackdown and ECW brands will be coming, and the wrestlers slated include: Batista, Chris Benoit, Bobby Lashley, Rob Van Dam and CM Punk!

I was there for the very first WWE show in Singapore ever, almost 6 years ago. It's been so long that I don't remember exactly when it was, but I think it was in 2001. Honestly speaking, the production values of that show were pretty low: low-impact fireworks, dimmed yellow lights that made everything hard to see, limited roster of wrestlers. But hell, I didn't care cos it was FUN! Everybody was up and jumping and screaming, and the atmosphere was electric. There was an excitement in the air that was palpable, and for that moment, everyone felt vindicated for even liking pro-wrestling; there were so many other crazy fans there.

Tickets go on sale 21 May 2007, at SISTIC

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Original Sin

Audrea and I went out to dinner last night at a rather decent restaurant: Original Sin, at Jln Merah Saga. It's located near Chip Bee Gardens, near Holland Village. It serves vegetarian food, done in a mostly western style, meaning pasta, pizzas amongst other stuff.

Decor
It has a very pleasant decor, with a slight Mediterranean feel to it. The walls were painted a warm orange, tan coloured floors and dimly lighted with candles on each table. The kitchen and bar are both visible to the dining area. There's also an alfresco dining area. The overall setting makes the dining experience a more relaxed and comforting one. The thing I didn't particularly like were the seating arrangements, particularly the indoor seating. What I didn't like was that there were a couple tables set right at the door, and there'd be people milling about at all times.

Service
Service was excellent, and each person that served us was very attentive. They were prompt with requests, and were very polite. Plus they were easy to pick out in a crowd, as they were dressed in blue. Their uniforms clashed in colours with the rest of the restaurant, but it did make them easy to spot.

Food
They had quite a varied menu, which slightly surprised me as I didn't really think you could do quite so many things with vegetables. The appetisers looked rather interesting with a selection of bruschettas and salads. They also had a couple novel items like an Eggplant Tofu Gratin. Mains included vegetable stew, baked tomatoes, and moussaka. Audrea ordered the lasagna, and I had the Quattro pizza.

The lasagna was layered with spinach, onion, zucchini, mushrooms and capsicum amidst sheets of pasta. It was quite tasty, though I did find the tomato sauce a little over-powering. When a particular mouthful wasn't full of veges, you could only taste the tomato and pasta. But overall, a decent dish.

The pizza was quite good. It was served with 4 quarters of different ingredients, including feta cheese, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, asparagus, roasted capsicum, tomatoes and olives, on a tomato sauce and mozzarella base. The pizza bread is not the super thin type that you find at some Italian restaurants (like Al Dente Trattoria), but it was still quite good. Having 4 distinct flavours was quite delightful, and I enjoyed this one very much.

Overall
The meal was quite a good one, within a comfortable setting and excellent service. The entire meal cost us $52 (including tax). It's not overly expensive, but it does place itself in the upper tier of eateries. One other review I read noted that the ambience was a romantic one, but I'd have to disagree; it feels more casual, relaxed, and unassuming. A good choice for a quiet evening, and pleasant conversation. Not a place to impress the ladies with, but it real nice place to get to know someone. But do not get that table by the door; it's a real buzz-killer.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Virginia Tech

My heart goes out to the friends and families of those killed in the shooting at Virginia Tech. It is a real tragedy, and I can only begin to understand the pain and sorry that they are going through at the moment.

And not to make light this particular tragedy, but it brings to mind all the other tragedies that occur daily, that do not garner the same sort of news coverage that this one has. Stories of abuse, destitution, hunger, and suffering that affect thousands of people everyday. And you don't see these stories being covered in the news, not on the level that the VT incident has.

And why not? Because the news isn't sexy? Because it happened in a place that no one knows, let alone cares about? Because it didn't happen in the biggest country in the world?

My heart is heavy with sadness for those affected by the VT shooting, but it is also weighed down by the many that suffer daily, without a voice to speak on their behalf.

Monday, April 16, 2007

On leave

I'm on leave at home today. It's 10.30am, and I only just got out of bed. I haven't brushed my teeth even. I love days off.

Last week was particularly long for me, and I'm glad that it's over. I had to put together another event, and I was very anxious regarding the success of it, considering that there were significant problems 2 weeks back.

But things went smooth, and I'm glad that it's over. But the week had taken it's toll on me, to a point that I wasn't even looking toward organising SOG this weekend.

But I'm glad that I did. Because despite having to run around a little to put things together, SOG was another extremely enjoyable experience. We had a total of 47 people turn up for games, and there were all sorts of games being played. I met with some old friends, and met a bunch of new ones. One of the new persons to come game actually lives in the same block as me. I've see her a number of times in the morning whilst going to work, so I was surprised to see her stroll in on Saturday afternoon.

I managed to play a game of Imperial (though I got a major rule wrong), which I've been wanting to do since I bought the game a while back. I also managed to play a bit of Pitchcar and A Game of Thrones. All in all, I'm glad that SOG went on without a hitch. Of course, I gotta thank Mark for coming by to help out.

I'm meeting Alexis to play Combat Commander tomorrow. Ah... Good times.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Thinking about what I just said...

Wow. That post beneath just sounds like a sales pitch, no? But I am keen on that game, and am looking forward to it.

Pacman VS

Namco will be releasing a collection of their classics for the DS in a few months time. Usually I'm not too concerned with such compilations of classic video games, but this impending release has me quite excited.

Pacman VS. will be a part of this compilation, and I'm really keen on getting my hands on it. Originally released for the Gamecube, Pacman VS was a multi-player version of Pacman whereby one player plays as Pacman, and the other players played as the ghosts. Whilst one player attempts to eat as many dots as possible, 1-3 other players try and hunt that one person down. What made is difficult to play on the Gamecube was that it required each player to own a Gameboy Advance, which was linked to the 'Cube.

With the upcoming release, and through the use of its Wi-Fi capabilities, I'll be able to enjoy multiplayer mayhem on my DS with my friends. So I'm watching this one really closely.

Meanwhile... here's a geeky image for your enjoyment.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Super Mario 2



Some friends and I will be going to Play! A Video Game Symphony sometime in June, and in view of that, I present to you here, a percussionist performance of a musical piece from the old classic game, Super Mario 2.

Enjoy!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

April Fool's Day

I hate April Fool's Day. Absolutely abhor it. I can't stand it, and I detest it, and I think it's a horrid day.

Why? Mostly because I'm a stupid gullible fellow who gets tricked easily.

As we all know, people take this opportunity to play tricks and pranks on friends, and to have a good laugh. That, in itself, is a worthy endeavour. I'm fine with that. One should always take amusement at someone else's expense. Unless the victim is me. Then it's just not right.

I've had friends tell me tall stories and I totally believe them. Because I trust them, and wouldn't have expected them to tell me a bald-faced lie. I've had people pull tricks on me and it would totally work. Because I'm not quick enough.

But the one I hate the most is when people take my stuff and hide it. That just burns me up. I really can't stand it when people do that. Because it takes me forever to find it, and I never do. I'd be scrambling up and down, and I never could figure out where it is. And the longer I take, the more frustrated I become, and the more pissed off I get.

April Fool's Day is the culmination of all those things that I hate, and as such, I hate this stupid day. Death to the pranksters! Unless I'm the one pulling the prank. Then... Yea Ken!!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

BGG.Con 2007

Work has been a whirlwind for the past 2-3 weeks. I've been working late almost everyday and the pile does not seem to get any smaller at all. It's really quite horrible.

But there has been one single shining beacon of hope: BGG.Con 2007.

Registration for the con opened a few days ago, and the moment I saw it, my heart was aflutter. My breath drew short, my cheeks flushed, my heart quickened its pace. I have such sweet memories of the last one, and I want to re-live those moments again.

I am sorely tempted to make a trip to the States again to attend the con. Crazy? Maybe just a little. But I want to spend days playing games with people I barely know in a foreign city. And the friends that I had made at the last Con have asked if I'll be able to make my way up again. That's really heartening to see, and it makes me long to go even more.

And it's also a good reason to visit Shyam and Div again. I love those guys, and I wish we got to meet up more often. It's just not possible with them living there, and my being here. I miss them dearly, and wish they would move their frickin' asses back here to Singapore.