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.

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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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!