Friday, December 19, 2008

Published: Board & Videogames



I wrote a couple of posts some months back on board & videogames (Part 1 & 2), and the relationship between the digital and analog formats. I've been working on that piece since then to have it featured in issue 5 of Pixel Hunt, a local (aussie) videogames e-zine.

I'm pretty excited about it, and I'm really happy the way it turned out. I never written for anyone other than myself here so please do go check it out. My feature is on pages 11 to 14.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Singapore as the indie-game hub?

The Media Development Authority of Singapore announced today that they'll be offering grants to games developers in Singapore to make games for the Xbox Live Community Games initiative. They'll be offering up to S$50,000.00 to each successful applicant, which is extremely enticing.

What's surprising is that not too long ago, Singapore was on the fore-front of banning games, with titles like Mass Effect, Saints Row and The Darkness feeling the brunt of it.

I'm sure this will help to promote more small developers in Singapore, and I think it'll also spur higher quality as I'm assuming that application for these grants will be quite competitive.

Personally, I've been looking into learning how to make simple Flash games, from sites like Kongregate. It'll be a while before I think I'll be able to compete with other games out there. But I've got a few ideas that I think will translate very well to the digital format.

Channel NewsAsia: MDA offers grants to develop games for Xbox Live

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Chinese Sandwiches

A colleague and I were chatting yesterday about the food that's available on campus. She casually mentions how surprising that at the sandwich bar, those excellent sandwiches were made by Chinese people.

I'm sure she meant nothing by it, but it made me think, "What? So Chinese people should be doing stir-fry instead?"

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Left behind for dead; You'd be better off

If Left 4 Dead is any indication, I have a very low probability of survival in the face of a zombie apocalypse. You know those guys that are killed in the most horrible way at the start of any zombie movie to illustrate the severity of the situation? Yea, that'd be me.

And for good riddance too; You'd probably wouldn't want me in your team anyway. Things I'd do wrong include:

  • Shooting you in the back.
  • Shooting you in the front.
  • Attracting zombie hordes
  • Requiring you to save me every other minute from being overwhelmed by the zombie hordes.

Also, I might accidentally light you on fire with a poorly thrown molotov cocktail; I have a bad track record with throwing explosive devices.

In other gamey news, I've concurrently playing Mirror's Edge. It's been exhilarating and frustrating at the same time.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Deadly Space...

...So deadly that my Xbox 360 nearly gave up the ghost. Again. With three flashing red lights. A quick reboot resolved the problem, but I'm now filled with trepidation that it may croak at any time.

The game that caused my console to shy away in fear is Dead Space. And having played about 3/4 through, I can't blame the poor thing. Playing the game was terrifying enough. Having to ingest and process it must have elicited some form of defensive response.

Terrifying as it may be, I am completely enjoying the game. And I'm glad to say that I'm near the end, which is great. I don't often complete the games I own because I do get bored with them fairly quickly. But Dead Space has really hit a sweet spot for me, with regards to compelling gameplay and game length. I think it'll probably clock in about 10-12 hours in total, and that's great. It means that I'm done in about a week if I play a little everyday.

The game has had it's scary moments, but the thing it does the best is building an atmosphere, a high tension environment, a mood.

The story has been really intriguing up til now. While one might argue that it is generic sci-fi fare, it has been wonderfully presented. I just hope that the ending holds up and keeps the momentum going. I guess I'll find out once I play till the end.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Chanel Cake


When does culinary skill become art? When you make cakes like these. This was an entry into the cake competition at the Royal Melbourne Show a month back. Can the thing even be eaten?

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Fallout 3 Mid-Mortem

I've been devoting a lot of time to Fallout 3 over the past two weekends, but it has been a little tough getting into the game. As a huge fan of the original Fallout, I guess I was fully expecting this game to shoulder the reputation of its predecessors. I guess that harboring such expectations is entirely unfair. This excellent game stands on its own, and carries the series in an entirely different direction. Admittedly, it may be hard for someone like me to reconcile the new game with the ones that came before, but I can see a game that has been lovingly crafted, and it deserves our full attention.

One thing the game really nails is how utterly bleak and desolate the Fallout world is, and how immersive it is. It is not a pleasant place to be in, much less explore. And yet I feel attracted to it all, driven to return to it constantly, and to witness how much more horrible the world can get. The pockets of surviving humans, the run-down tin-shacks, the horrendous living standards and the disgusting food really helps to paint a picture of hopelessness. And juxtaposed to all this despair are people who are so willing to hang on to any shred of hope. There is a real, living world that has been created here.

This has made my gameplay experience especially compelling. Between the despair, and the people, there is a continuing burning need to push forward. And within that space, I have grown to identify and emphatise with my character, and to play the game as she would have lived.

That immersiveness was nerely broken when I murdered two NPCs just so that I can steal a gun off them. But my instant rationalisation that this action was taken by me, the human gamer, speaks volumes of my emotional investment into my character. I felt strongly that she needed to be absolved of any guilt, because the action was taken by an external third-party who had tried to game the system.

The things that I didn't like about the game were mostly technical. Managing the inventory can be troublesome sometimes, especially when buying/selling with in-game characters. There aren't many facial variations between NPCs, so many characters look the same. The voice-acting is a mixed bag (a character named Butcher from Reiley's Rangers has a oddly deep booming voice for someone so diminutive in size). Game-wise, many things have not been useful regularly as mechanics are geared towards combat; But combat remains uncomfortably straddled between an FPS and a turn-based strategy.

The one thing that I really didn't like about the game is the lack of memorable characters. The points I made above were more reflective of the relationship that I had built with my own character. Having played about 10 hours, I still haven't been able to form a similar link with any of the in-game NPCs. Perhaps this may change as I delve deeper in the core quest, but the side quests haven't produced any memorable moments for me as yet.

Monday, November 03, 2008

A Very Gamey Weekend


It's been a very gamey weekend, which is excellent. I've got so many things to play on my plate right now, it's absolutely glorious. I played a couple of boardgames on Friday evening (Manoeuvre & Roma), played Fallout 3 for most of Saturday and Sunday. I received Dead Space and Fable 2 in the mail, and tried the Mirror's Edge demo which was brilliant. I also picked up Wii Fit on Friday, which has quickly become the bane of my gaming life; Yoga, aerobics, and calisthenics? You've gotta be flippin' mad!

Impressions of these games to follow.

Friday, October 31, 2008

My New Laptop

This here is the laptop that I got myself yesterday. I managed to get a pretty sweet deal from JB Hi-Fi: A substantial discount, plus a portable HDD thrown in as a freebie. So overall I'm very happy with my purchase.

HP Pavilion DV5-1007TX
Intel Core 2 Duo T9400 (2.53 Ghz)
4Gb DDR2 800Mhz RAM
320Gb 5400RPM SATA HDD
Nvidia 9600M GT 512Mb VRAM
DVDRW Combo Drive
Bluetooth/WiFi/Ethernet
15.4" Display

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Giant Salami Warehouse

On my way to work every morning, I pass this by:

Being a brand of cold cuts, I'm guessing that those warehouses must be packed to the brim with hams and bacons and sliced turkey breast. I also like to think that maybe they store novelty meat items like a giant salami in there.

And ignore the fact that my drawing looks like two huge dongs.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Invasion is Imminent

This space invader was spotted lurking a short distance away from the University, obviously scouting the area as a potential target. I believe that there are more of these insidious invaders located around the city, and I will endeavour to seek them out. It is of paramount importance to ascertain what the intentions of these creatures from space are.

Invasion is a series of street art displays by an anonymous artist, with mosaic pieces inspired by the old Space Invaders videogame. First appearing in Paris in 1998, these invaders have been spotted in other cities including Los Angeles, New York City, London, Geneva, Vienna, Tokyo, Bangkok and even Mombasa. And the invasion is still continuing even as we speak.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Macross: Ace Frontier

I'm a big fan of Macross. Or at least, I'm a big fan of the Macross concept, but the execution always left me cold.

Watching episodes of the original show now only serves as a reminder to how outdated and old the show was. The animation, characters and stories that captured my imagination as a child has lost much of its shine.

The videogames were mostly mediocre as well, and I feel they have never truly captured the feel of Macross.

But there's no denying that Macross still holds a special spot for me, and this game could be the one. It looks bleeding awesome.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Red Ring of Death

Need anything more be said?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Hugging my Xbox360

So my Xbox360 wrote something decent about me over at 360voice.com:

"Ken Lee FH's Xbox - Sep 27 2008
I thought maybe the power was out yesterday... imagine my surprise when Ken Lee FH hit the switches! Gamerscore stands at 4,330. That is a profit of 275 points over last time! He rallied BC:Rearmed finishing 1 achievement, Mercenaries 2 adding an amazing 12 achievements, Castle Crashers, and then he almost hugged me, but I was like back off dude."


I vehemently deny any and all allegations that I was felt compelled to have any physical relations with my 360.

So maybe it was my Xbox360...

... that's a little wonky. I've had to re-evaluate my situation with Mercs 2, as it seems that it may be a hardware problem after all. I was playing Call of Duty 4 last night and the same problem occurred again: The game froze on me, leaving a still image on the TV with no sound, and my Xbox360 still running.

It's going to be a challenge for me to diagnose the problem. Potentially it could be the incompatibility of NTSC/PAL combo, or it could just be a console problem. But I've watched DVDs, played Bionic Commando and Bioshock without any hiccups before so there isn't a set precedent. And I can't test that because I don't have 1) a PAL Xbox360 to test with my TV, or 2) another NTSC Xbox360 to compare it to.

One possible (but seemingly unlikely) solution maybe that I remove my Wii that's been sitting on top of the Xbox360 for the past week or so. But right now, I'm almost willing to try anything.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Mercenaries 2: Shoulda, woulda, coulda

If I could have used one word to describe Mercenaries 2: World in Flames, it would have been fun. It should have been balls-to-the-wall fun. Everything about it should have been, would have been, could have been fantastic. But I may never know because the game continually crashes on me.

A friend brought me a copy of the game from Singapore which I needed for my Singapore-bought Xbox360; I brought it along with me when I relocated here. It was in turn hooked up to a brand new TV which I bought here. So I had a NTSC-J game inside a NTSC-J machine hooked up to a PAL TV. Everything worked beautifully with a bunch of my other games, including the ones I got off Xbox Live.

Mercs 2 started off brillantly: Lots of room to explore, lots of explosions, lots of cars and tanks and airstrikes and bombs and people running wild, with guns blazing and shouting and screaming and indignant pointing. So you know, FUN. I was having a ball of a time when the game froze on me, right around one quarter into the game. So I turned off my machine, give it a reboot and started the game up again. And about 5-10mins into the game, it hangs again. So reboot, start-up, and it hangs again. And again and again and again and again. I cannot get the game to run any much further than 5-10mins after each time I reboot.

I deleted my initial save game, started from scratch again and the same thing happens. Right around the same point, the game freezes and refuses to run. And each reboot ends in the same result.

I've updated the game, deleted possible corrupted save files, left the machine to cool before I run it again. I don't think it's a hardware problem, neither is it a problem with the NTSC-J game/console with PAL TV combo. I've called EA tech support but that's not much help at all. The problem persists and I don't know how else to resolve it. And it's frustrating as hell.

Mercs 2 shoulda, woulda, coulda been great. But at this rate, I wouldn't really know.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Albury, NSW

I drove up to Albury, NSW to attend BorderCon 2008 over the weekend. It was a leisurely, pleasant 3½-hour drive, mostly because I was in the backseat. We arrived there Friday evening, stayed in a quaint motel and immediately got right into gaming.

It was less of a convention and more of a game group meeting, but it was still loads of fun. I met many nice people and played a bunch of new games, which is always the aim of attending any convention.

Albury seemed like a nice town, and it was bigger than I thought it would be. I wasn't expecting a rural backwater, but I sure wasn't expecting clean, wide, well-paved roads with plenty of street lighting. The city centre was also bigger than I thought it would be. Overall, I'm pleasantly surprised.

Games played:
Battlestations x2
Cash & Gun
Container
Crokinole x2
Mystery Rummy: Jack the Ripper
Tikal
Tomb
Zopp x2

Thursday, September 18, 2008

My Xbox blogs

Apparently my Xbox360 has a mind of its own. Or at least, it always had one and now has finally found a voice. And it's been writing blog posts about me, most of which have been snarky remarks about how I don't play it often enough.

"Ken Lee FH's Xbox - Sep 17 2008
Ken Lee FH was nowhere to be seen yesterday... maybe he needs some new games or something... get some motivation up in this place..."

I played some Bioshock last night, so hopefully it'll have something a little more pleasant to say in a couple of days.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Getting Lost?

I take the train to work everyday, and sometimes there are interesting conversations that you can't help picking up. Maybe it's people talking about their failed relationships, or a funny story about a drunk mate of their's.

This lady, sitting two seats to my left, was chatting to friends about some country she visited (I didn't catch that part). And she casually mentioned how she could never get her bearings because over there, the sun rises in the west. And she couldn't drive on the roads, because although they were marked heading 'north' and 'south', she didn't know which 'north' and 'south' they were referring to.

Lady, you absolutely blew my mind. Wherever you were visiting, you must have been high the entire time.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Seeing it in new light

We just moved into a new place, and spent most of the weekend packing, moving and setting up. And we also got a new TV, which I promptly hooked my Xbox360 into. I'm getting some mixed results, and I'm not sure if I did everything correctly, or if I'm missing something.

Bionic Commando: Rearmed looks really good on it (I've been playing that alot recently). But the improvement on GTA IV wasn't great. I'm not sure if it's because 1) now that it's in HD, I notice the flaws more easily, or 2) I haven't hooked everything up just right to fully take advantage of the TV.

There's a bit of 'ghosting' and motion blur when I pan the game camera quickly, and much of the background has taken on a slightly diffused look, with ambient bloom lighting all around. Is this the price of clarity? Am I now seeing the game in all its true technical detail? If so, someone please pull the wool over my eyes once again.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

New laptop? Maybe soon? Hopefully?

I've been thinking about getting a new computer for a while, and I've still torn between getting a desktop or a laptop. The benefits of getting a laptop is that I can use it in bed, and I am entitled to salary sacrificing (some odd procedure that allows me to pay lower tax or something?). I'll probably not be getting a mac... OSX is pissing the shit out of me. I use it at work, and I suspect it hates me as much as I hate it.

So I've got my eye on a couple laptops. And I'll qualify that by saying I really want to do some massive gaming on the machine. There's a slew of PC games I'm keen on, and I want a small monster to play it on. So my current choices are raw power versus even more raw power. A tough choice, really.

ASUS G50V
Intel Core 2 Duo T9400 (2.53 Ghz)
4Gb DDR2 800Mhz RAM
500Gb 5400RPM SATA HDD
Nvidia 9700M GT 512Mb VRAM
DVDRW Combo Drive
Bluetooth/WiFi/Ethernet
15.4" Display
Approx. AU$2499.00


Dell XPS M1530

Intel Core 2 Duo T9300 (2.5Ghz)
4Gb DDR2 667Mhz RAM
500Gb 5400RPM SATA HDD
Nvidia 8600M GT 256Gb VRAM
DVDRW Combo Drive
WiFi/Ethernet
15.4" Display
Approx. AU$2199.00

Monday, September 08, 2008

The Saga of Seven Suns

It's been a long while since I picked up a real book, so it was on a whim that I decided to buy Book one of Kevin J Anderson's series, "The Saga of Seven Suns". But once I got started, I couldn't put it down, and in a short span of 2 months, I've finished all seven books in the series. I've enjoyed his previous Star Wars novels, and I've heard praise for his work on the Dune series, so the decision to jump into a fictional world of his own creation was not hard to make. If you are a sci-fi fan, and love big, sprawling space operas, this is one to pick up.

The story, told from the perspectives of multiple characters, really helps to layer and weave a complex storyline together. While seemingly unfocused in the beginning, the story slowly becomes ever more coherent, and flows smoothly from one character switch to another. By jumping from character to character, Anderson allows us to see events through different eyes, as well as enticingly reveal new information that continually keeps you hooked in. Through this form of story-telling, Anderson draws a fascinating backdrop, filled with truly unique alien races, and political intrigue.

As with any space opera, the focus is always on the characters, and Anderson paints his with believable motivations and actions. And all the space battles and tech and politicking only serves to enhance the characters' personalities, revealing their strengths and weaknesses.

I really enjoyed the series, and I would highly recommend it. Book 1 may start off slowly, but it builds up to an resounding crescendo, and by the end of the series you will be throughly satisfied.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Finally completed GTA IV

After many gruelling hours and days, I've finally managed to complete Grand Theft Auto IV. And believe me, I tried my very best to do so. The final mission alone took me more than 2 hours, constantly replaying over and over after each failure. I think I may have replayed that particular mission almost 14-15 times. But despite several frustrating aspects of the game, I'm quite pleased by it overall. I've taken some time to digest the game experience, and there are some things I feel compelled to comment on.

Story-telling was one major aspect of the game, and it had been promoted as a cornerstone of the GTA IV experience from the very start. In this respect, I feel that the story has been very well-told, has excellent pace, and contains a level of depth that one would not have suspected. Arguments have been made previously that GTA IV is no Godfather, and I wouldn't argue otherwise. But as a piece of creative work, it is internally consistent, contains well-developed characters with believable stories and motives which are continually reinforced by their actions.

Some aspects of the dialogue could have been better crafted however. When characters are overly verbose, and share endless exposition without much prompting, it comes across as cheesy, and over-rehearsed. It was far more effective when the dialogue was kept simple, and it was more believable and natural.
Visually, the game is extremely captivating and immersive, and it really conveys the feel of a big city. You only need to drive along the Algonquin Bridge at sunset to understand what I mean; it really does take the breath away.

The main flaw is that for a game that espouses freedom in a sandbox environment, it was extremely restrictive. And this is due to two main reasons: 1) As the player, I do not have a sense of agency, and 2) the things that I am allowed to do are inconsequential and frivalous. There are so many things to exploe or do, and it makes the things that cannot be done even more obvious; And the thing that cannot be done is have an impact on the narrative.

My character can explore the city, take on additional missions (such as assasinations and street races), improve relations with friends, even go on dates. But aside from providing small benefits in game, these actions means nothing to the narrative, and more often than not, it is a annoying distraction.

And I know that the game's designers had a specific story they wanted to tell, which I happily accepted for most part. But there was an instance which nearly broke the game experience for me. Near the end of the game, my character was told to choose between killing the man who had betrayed him and his friends on numerous occasions, or to work for him with promises of money and power, which my character desperately needed. I sat there, with the controller in my hand, for a good 10-15 mins because I couldn't decide. Do I do the deal with the devil so that I may support my family financially, or do I take revenge and live a wretched life hiding from new enemies? Justice or life? The game offered me a tough choice, and I had a tough time making it. But the problem was that the end game after this moment was already set up in a very specific manner, and the choice I made had no impact on it at all. It was a false choice, and my personal moral dilemma accounted for nothing.There are a few other annoying things about in the game. The chase missions aren't fun, and can be quite frustrating. Reactions by in-game characters aren't consistent: My dates, for example, will comment on the clothes I wear and the car I drive, but won't react when I car-jack someone in front of them, or park a helicopter on their street to pick them up. Make me wonder if it were possible to pick up hookers in a helicopter now. The police is still annoying as hell, as all coppers are. And trying on clothes is a chore.

I still enjoyed the game immensely, but the lack of agency remains a flaw for me. The designers have tried to push the narrative boundaries of the videogame medium, and to tell a big story in a big city. For most part, I belive that they have suceeded. While maybe not as nuanced and subtle as The Godfather, GTA IV is a stepping stone in using the videogames medium as a showcase for story-telling. The challenge remains between showcasing a pre-defined narrative, and the amount of agency a player has to affect that narrative.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

I played Street Fighter IV!!



Imagine my surprise when I found out that there was a Street Fighter IV arcade in machine, just a stone's throw away from work? O.M.G.W.T.F.B.B.Q (in every sense of the word). Needless to say, it was imperative that I make a pilgrimage to the shrine of all fighting videogames, to sit up upon its steps, to drink in its wisdom and to learn the ways of the World Warrior.

Hyperbole aside, I really was extremely excited to get my hands on the game. I've always had a soft spot for Street Fighter, even though I was never any good at it. I've read each character's backstory, watched the anime and even the movie as well. So I dropped by Galactic Circus this evening after work, filled with anticipation.

And boy, did I get a pay off. First off, seeing the game in motion was an absolute treat; the graphics looked sharp, the art direction paid homage to the original game (which, as we all know, really was Street Fighter II), with a layer of crispness that heretofore was unmatched. The sound effects were a pleasure to listen to. Everything about it was great. And it played great too. The controls were responsive, and the moves weren't prohibitively hard to pull off; in fact, one would argue that the controls were a little more forgiving this time round.

I played about 5 games (which cost $2 each!) with a few other guys gathered there. They were a good friendly bunch, and we conversed a bit in-between matches. Everyone was quite gentlemanly about taking and giving turns, which was cool. Funny thing was that there was a guy there who read about the game through the same article as I did today. I guess I really shouldn't be that surprised; I'm not the only one to read Kotaku.

Now my hands are itching for more still, and I can't wait to get back there and try another game or two.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Field Commander: Rommel

I recently acquired a copy of Field Commander: Rommel, a solitaire WWII wargame, and I've been dying to get it on the table. In the game, the player controls the Axis, while the Allies make moves based on a pre-determined set of rules.

As luck would have it, my wife had to attend a company function tonight, which left me with plenty of time to explore this intriguging game. I just completed the Ghost Division campaign, which marked the events of the invasion of France. The game took about 2 hours, and I can safely state I am not the commander that Rommel was; I didn't even come close to the victory requirements.
The initial turns started slow, and my forces were not able to break through the Allies at Dinant. This caused a bottleneck, and a crucial delay that contributed to my failure. It took me a full two turns before I was able to subdue the Allied forces there. After the break through, I was able to bring my forces to bear on the Allies in Brussels and Cambrai, before proceeding onto Arras. This secured 2 victory objectives, but precious time had already been wasted. Additionally, I did not realise that there was one last victory checkpoint located at Cherbourg, which I had no hope of reaching at this point.
I was only able to barely hold onto Cambrai and Arras, whilst the Allies commenced their counterattack. I was completely hammered, and held on only by the skin of my teeth.

I really enjoyed the game, and I look forward to playing again (and hopefully winning too!). The moves made for the Allies posed quite a challenge, a lot more than I would have thought. But I'm quite sure that given enough tries, I'll be able to prevail eventually. There are two more campaigns in the game after I conquer this one.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Too Human - First Impressions

I just completed my first run-through of the Too Human demo, which was available on Xbox Live. Getting my Live account to work in the first place was a bit of a challenge, as I'm trying to connect my Singaporean set to the network from Australia. I'm not able to change my contact details to accurately reflect where I'm living now, plus I think I'm still connecting to the SE Asian service.

I've been looking forward to Too Human for a long time now. The premise was very intriguing: A sci-fi-esque reimagining of Norse mythology. Coupled with a high-quality action-RPG, I was sure that this game would be right up my alley.

But as of my first playing, I've become a little ambivalent about the whole thing, and I'm a little undecided now. At the very least, my enthusiasm has waned just by a little bit.

Positives
  1. The graphics, and the art direction, from what I've seen, is quite inspired. Wind swept, frost covered, cavernous ruins. Mystical forests where magic is seemingly alive. Menacing metallic robotic golems and goblins.
  2. Even at the very onset of the game, there are hints of a very deep character system, which allows of different skills sets and equipment. In addition, there's crafting, as well as customizable weapons and runic upgrades.
  3. Controls were not as hard to get a grip of at all. When playing, you do not attack with a button press, but rather push the right thumbstick in the direction of the enemy; your on-screen avatar would then slide a short distance and proceed with attacking the intended target. It works a lot better than I would have suspected, and contributes to very dynamic battle sequences, especially when there are multiple enemies on-screen.
Negatives
  1. The interface, especially in the sub-menus, is a little confusing, and not very intuitive. It took me more than a few minutes to figure out how to upgrade my skill tree. and there weren't any hints or help on how to do so. I also didn't know I had equipment other than weapons, as it was not made clear how I'd access these. I spent the better part of the demo without any armour because I didn't even know I could equip it.
  2. Combat movement can be a little sluggish at times when I'm trying to switch directions in mid-attack. It almost seems as if my avatar requires time to re-orient himself and not go dizzy from the abrupt change.
  3. Targeting in combat seems a little weird, and I haven't figured it out yet. It seems that with guns, I'm able to target specific part of large enemies, but I'm unable to do so with a melee attack. It's especially frustrating when I'm standing at the feet of a large golem, and I'm just slashing air and not doing any damage at all. I have to repeatedly jump and attack, which is an antithesis of the quick dynamic combat that the game promotes.
  4. Character designs of the avatar seems a little boring. at the onset Even with the new armour that I finally managed to get on, my character still looks the same no matter what. I'm guessing that later in the game, there's more stuff that I can individualise my character with, which would make him look far cooler.
  5. The demo doesn't allow me to try the other classes, but it seems that some are more suited to a team-play environment. There will be options to play as the Defender (as a tank) or as a Bio-Engineer (as a healer) in the final game, but I worry about their limited effectiveness in the single-player game. That's particularly worrying for me, because I've got a shoddy internet connection, and I'm not sure if I can play on Xbox Live at all. And if I'm not able to play multi-player, then my experience with some of the other classes may be diminished.
All in all, I'm still hopeful about the game. I'm slightly worried that the emphasis on multi-player may impact my enjoyment of the single-player campaign. The parts that I played were very fun, in spite of the bits that annoyed me. As such, I'm going to temper my enthusiasm a little, and keep a cautious watchful eye on the game.

Monday, July 07, 2008

No patience, not even for games

I've been playing Texas Hold'em Poker quite often in the past month, almost exclusively on the Facebook application I recently installed. But we played a few hands at home last night, and it was a blast. Hold'em really is quite an intriguing game, with opportunities to bluff and read opponents. There's still a lot of intricacies that I have to learn about the game, and I'm sure I'll pick it up the more I play.

About an hour into the game, we were on the last few hands of the game. Audrea was already knocked out, and there were only 3 of us left. And despite having a weak hand, even with the community cards on the table, I upped the ante, and in essence, threw the game. I had a very (very!) slim chance of winning, but I just threw the game. My patience ran out, and I just wanted it to end. I didn't have a problem with the players, I just didn't want to play. And more often than not, that's what I'd do on Facebook to get out of a game as well.

And it's the same thing when it comes to videogames. I really get into the game at the start, and I play it religiously for about a week or two, then I completely abandon it. I get bored and I lose patience and I can't be bothered anymore. The last videogame I completed was God of War: Chains of Olympus about 2 days ago, and before that was Portal and Mass Effect. And before that... well, I can't remember... It's might be Metroid Fusion, and that was about 5 years ago.

I just don't have any patience for long, rambling games that try to substitute depth with length. I didn't complete Bioshock, Oblivion, Half-Life 2, Dead Rising, Diablo 2, System Shock 2, Wind Waker, Super Mario Galaxy, and Metroid Prime 1, 2 and 3. I could name many more. Even GTA IV.

Invaribly, I always reach a point in the game where I lost all interest and patience. You mean I've gotta sail this boat to that island to get the iron boots so that I can go back to the other island to walk into the cave (Wind Waker)? Or I have to exact revenge for your lost wife and child when some phantom guy blows up a submarine just because you told me to over a walkie-talkie (Bioshock)? Or I have to deal with one crazy person after another while wading through throngs of zombies (that part was fun), walking back and forth an ever enlarging game map to get the news story on some government plot while waiting for the helicopter to come and rescue me three days later (Dead Rising)? Can't be bothered, mate.

The one game that continually stays fresh in my mind as something that I absolutely felt driven to complete was Grim Fandango. An adventure game with an interesting premise, the thing that drew me were the characters and the simplicity in the gameplay. And more that anything else, a story that was so simple yet so beautifully told. A man, attempting to make amends for mistakes long past, encounters a woman with an unfortunate fate. While he makes all effort to save her, he in turn saves himself. Never mind the fact that the main protagonist is a walking skeleton and grim reaper, and his driver is a bumbling orange-coloured demon. I felt compelled to experience the whole game, and it suppressed my natural instinct to otherwise abandon it. The style and the pacing did enhance the experience, but it was the story that kept me coming back. A well-told story, with narrative depth, fleshed out interesting characters is what will keep me in the game.

It's sad to say that I haven't yet experienced game that matched those same levels of compulsion. Portal came close, but that was easy to finish because it was so short. Mass Effect was just a good sci-fi yarn, which has always been a weakness of mine. Besides I blew through that game as quickly as I could, and I can't say I remember much aside from the main plot. I can't even remember any of the characters' names. But I do remember the names of Manny Calavera, Mercedes Colomar, Domino Hurley and Glottis. And there's a very good reason for that: I was absolutely charmed by their story.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Boardgames on the table again

I can't believe how long it's been such a long time since I last played any boardgames, it's almost unfathomable. Ever having moved here to Melbourne, I haven't been able to find any opportunities to join in any of the local groups for various reasons.

Weeknights are generally not a good time for me, when Billabong Boardgamers and Gamers@Dockers meet (Tuesdays and Thursdays respectively). I'm usually occupied on weeknights; Dockers is also in the city, which is a fair distance to travel for me.

So it's with absolute joy that I attended EuroGamesFest yesterday afternoon, in Kew. I was feeling a little anxious about going to a strange place meeting strange people, as I often do in any new social situation. And I had never been to that part of Melbourne before. But the lure of games was too much, and I had been going through the longest dry spell I could remember.

First game I played was Race for the Galaxy, with Audrea and two other people we just sat down with: Ryan and Maya. It's an interesting card game, that required quite a bit of orientation, as Audrea and I kept getting lost in the different phases and different abilities of each card. Essentially, each player is trying to put down cards representing planets, or tech developments, which will in turn produce goods which one then turns either into currency (more cards) or victory points. It's quite a clever game of hand management, as the cost of each card placed down is paid for by discarding cards in hand, and one needs to pick the right combination of cards to be placed down to generate goods more efficiently. My main gripe with the game is there is very little player interaction, and as such, no cause for direct player conflict. I was doing quite well in the game, until Ryan starting collecting 2x victory points. We ended the game with him 10 points ahead of me, a gap that I could have easily closed had I started churning victory points far earlier.

The next game I played was Last Night on Earth, which I've talked about previously. I played the game with another group of new people: Daniel, Martin, KK and Chew Yien (I think that's how his named was spelled, I didn't catch it clearly). We played the Escape in the Truck scenario, and we had to scramble about the map, looking for keys and gasoline to a truck, so we could drive off to safety from the zombies. It was one heck of a game, with many close calls. Martin was almost taken down by zombies while hanging on to the keys and gasoline. Lights kept shorting out, leaving us in the dark and unable to find new items and weapons. The waves of zombies were relentless. And in the end, Martin and Daniel jumped into the truck, and drove off leaving the rest of us in the dust, and to our demise. Those bastards.

It was a fantastic day, and I hope to get back to there for the next gathering next month. Thanks for the games, guys.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

A very PC year.

Now that I have just seen the gameplay trailer for Diablo III, I'm really getting excited about PC gaming again. I can't wait till I get a decent computer to play an ever-growing list of PC games.

I've been wanting to play Sins of a Solar Empire for the longest time now. I bought it when I was still back in Singapore, waiting for the day I get a new PC to play it on. It's been sitting in my suitcase, beckoning to me to rip open the plastic wrap.

Starcraft II is also something that I'm eagerly looking forward to. I was never any good on the original, but it was heck loads of fun. I forsee many nail-biting multiplayer matches, most of which I will get my ass handed to me.

I want to play Team Fortress 2 on the PC too. I've got it for the Xbox 360, and it's quite good on it. But honestly, it's the sort of game that needs to be played on a keyboard & mouse combination, with my face about 10 inches from the monitor.

Valve's upcoming Left 4 Dead is looking very good. 4-player cooperative multiplayer? Zombies? 8-player Adversarial mode with 4 players taking the roles of zombies? Winning formula!

I have also been keen on making the jump into a MMOG, and there are a few I've got my eyes on. I have been thinking about starting Lord of the Rings Online for the longest time. It looks very nice, and from what I've read, seems suitable to solo-play as well. That's good because I might not always be in the mood to play with other people all the time. EVE Online seems like such an captivating world that I'm seriously contemplating joining. I've heard the crazy stories of intrigue and politics that spill into real life which absolutely fascinates me. Jumpgate Evolution seems like it'll scratch my fetish for space opera, spliced with edge of seat dog-fights in space. There's also a persistent rumour that Star Trek Online will eventually be published, which is already making my head spin with all sorts of sci-fi goodness. Then there's Mythos, whose action-heavy focus, and pick-up and play experience seems to be right up my alley.

And now there's Diablo III! The Witch-Doctor has a spell called Wall of Zombies! How bloody awesome is that!? I swear I almost creamed my pants seeing that. It sure seems like all of the years' outstanding PC games are made especially for me. It's going to be a very Ken-friendly PC year.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Boardgames and Videogames, Part 2

See part one of Boardgames and Videogames here.

I previously talked about the long-standing relationship that boardgames had with videogames, and how boardgames has left a thumbprint on videogames.

Here, I'd like explore how boardgames, especially in recent years, has been drawing a lot of inspiration from videogames as well. Boardgames has seen a bit of a resurgence especially within the last 10 years, this being prompted in part by the increase of German-styled (or Euro) boardgames becoming available in USA (and by extension, worldwide). This is coupled by the increase in production of various other genres of table-top gaming (e.g. wargames, RPGs and miniatures). There is also a sizable overlap in the demographics between videogames and boardgames. In addition, anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that many new boardgamers specifically sought out a different gaming experience because they were burned out on electronic gaming. One of those reasons is the lack of (or minimal amounts of) social interaction; Being able to sit across a dining table and enjoying a shared gaming experience is often cited as a pull factor of boardgames. So at the beginning of the decade, we have more boardgames, more boardgamers, and gamers who had more than a passing knowledge of videogames. It would seem inevitable and obvious that crossovers would be emerging before long.

One of the first few high-profiled videogames to be converted to the table-top format was Warcraft. The game attempted to recreate the feel of the videogame, by requiring players to gather resources, establish buildings and bases, build units and engage in combat. The boardgame was not well received however. Main complaints about the game were that the gameplay was too one-dimensional, and it was quite bland, with barely any differences between the 3 main races. Part of the appeal of the videogame was the vast differences in each race, but in trying to balance it for the boardgame, most of that appeal was lost.

One of the next major videogames to be converted was Doom. Released in 2004 by Fantasy Flight Games, the same company that produced Warcraft, the game was initially panned by what players felt were glaring oversights in the game rules. Many players, including myself, felt that the game was extremely unbalanced, which made the experience extremely frustrating. In trying to re-create the foreboding sense of claustrophobia and terror, the game was initially skewed too widely against the player, by essentially crippling their abilities to progress in the game. It did not help that Fantasy Flight Games did not handle post release backlash very well. However, they have since refined the base mechanics, and released an excellent game based on the original system: Descent: Journeys in the Dark.

Sid Meir's Civilization: The Boardgame (Eagle Games, 2002) is a particular example, as I had earlier pointed out. The 2002 version of the boardgame was inspired by the PC game that was inspired by the original Civilization, published in 1980.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Office Nerf War!


http://view.break.com/521743 - Watch more free videos

Sir Lord Baron Von Vaderham

I find the lack of Penne ala 'Arrabiata disturbing... Enjoy!

Monday, June 09, 2008




What's the best way to add mainstream appeal to any activity? By including karaoke, of course! And that's no different when it comes to video games. Team Fortress + karaoke = unrivaled awesomeness. Or in this specific case, total annoyance.

Hit the link for: Team Fortress presents Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Boardgames and Videogames, Part 1

There is considerable overlap between boardgames and videogames (both PC and console), though it may not always be apparent. And moving forward, I think we will see even more of such overlap.

Some of the classic videogame franchises that we see now had their beginnings as boardgames. This is no more apparent than the Civilization series of PC games, which was inspired by the 1980 boardgame, Civilization. Spawning 4 sequels, the PC game even made the transition back into modern boardgames in the form of Sid Meier's Civilization: The Boardgame, released in 2002.

Another game that made an impact on videogames is the Battletech series. Originally published by FASA, the boardgame had players facing each other off through the control of squads (or in Battletech terminology, lances) of heavily armed metal behemoths. And Battletech: The Crescent Hawk's Inception was the first in a line of PC and videogames over the course of 17 years. In addition, these games (especially the Mechwarrior series) have also helped in creating an entire genre of videogames. Today, the boardgame still enjoys a healthy following, having just released a revitalised ruleset. Other spinoff games include a collectible card game, and a collectible miniatures game.

These 2 games were not the only ones to make the transition onto the electronic format: Full Metal Planete (Infogrames, 1990); 5th Fleet (Avalon Hill, 1995); Wooden Ships and Iron Men (Avalon Hill, 1996); Europa Universalis (Strategy First, 2000). An in-depth search will reveal even more of these games.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

New Car

Holden : Barina : 2008 : 1.6L : 4-Door Sedan

Friday, May 02, 2008

Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

I've been watching Audrea play the Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess for about a week now. She's been sneaking in playtime when she should have been studying for her CPA paper. But who am I to stop her? If she had used that time to do anything less constructive (such as chores or bathing or eating), I might have objected more. But she was playing video games, and I can fully understand.

I felt as though the designers have tried to shoehorn Wii motion controls to the game, and it feels really gimmicky. I don't find those motion controls adding anything of substance to the game, and it really bugs me.

So far, I've only seen the Wiimote (and nunchuck) being used to swing a sword or to aim. And when you're not doing either one of those things, there's no discernible difference to a regular controller: You'd still use the left thumbstick to walk, and face buttons to open up menus. And as a result of trying to implement motion controls into this game, there are two things that really annoy me.

1) Imprecise controls
Waving the Wiimote about swings your sword, and that works in most situations. Unless you want to do something specific, such as a stab. The player is supposed to simulate the motion with the Wiimote, but more often than not, the on-screen result is not what you intended. You'd be stab-stab-stabbing at the TV screen, but the motion just doesn't register accurately. Her character only just learnt how to shield bash using the nunchuck, and she hasn't been able to perfect that move yet because of the controls. And not only does the game not register her motions accurately, the timing is a bit off too; there's a slight delay in the reaction time. And what this makes for is frustrating gameplay. It all lacks a certain sense of finesse.

2) On-screen cursor
The Wiimote works really well as a pointing/aiming device, and it was brilliantly implemented in Metroid 3. It works alright here, when you actually do need it (i.e. aiming your bow & arrow, or boomerang). But when you aren't using it, there's this fairy cursor that flutters around the damn screen. And since you aren't aiming for most part of the game, that accursed thing just lingers on-screen, and annoying the piss out of me. I guess you could try and hide it at the corner of the TV screen by pointing your Wiimote elsewhere, but there's always a part of that fluttering cursor showing. And I hate that. It's a distraction and an annoyance, like a little flicker at the corner of your eye you can't get rid of.

To me, the motion controls just doesn't feel integral to the game. It might sound cool to have players physically swing about as though they were really doing so with a sword. But that doesn't not always translate well in implementation. There was more than once I felt that a button push might have presented a much more elegant solution.

Friday, April 11, 2008

ESRB Ratings Widget

I am generally against the censorship of video games, especially since as an adult, I feel that I should have the freedom to choose the type of media that I consume. I guess I can also say that I am against most forms of media censorship as well.

However, I can understand the need to restrict the access of inappropriate materials by children. And in this instance, I think that the best methods of doing this is self regulation by the industry, increasing information about game ratings, and getting retailers to enforce these restrictions.

As I have ranted before, the sales of inappropriate video games to minors often continues due to either 1) parents buy these games for their children without knowing that they are, and 2) retailers selling them to said children.

The Electronic Software Ratings Board has done a fairly good job on accurately rating these games, and parents have a good amount of information to base their purchases on. And they have just created a widget that can be added to any website or blog, giving users the tools to check out the ratings on any game. I have added this widget to my page, because I feel that I share the responsibility in helping to highlight the available information.

If you're a gamer, I hope you feel the same way too.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Iron Man: The Movie: The Action Figure

As you may already be aware, I am filled with anticipation for the new Iron Man movie. He's always been one of my favourite characters, alongside Batman. I guess the idea that normal humans can exceed their limitations through technology, discipline and training is appealing to me.

I knew that there would be a toy line coming out for the movie, and I was eager to go check it out. Based on the images I saw online however, I was a little disappointed. The toys looked a little... underwhelming.

That left a bad taste in my mouth, so I decided to check out the real deal at Target, at a nearby shopping mall. And I have to say, the damn thing looks a whole lot better up close. The photos had the figure in a odd pose, and I think that worked against it.

I think I might just go and pick up one for myself.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Deichkind - Ich betäube mich

Fresh it up. Mega Ultra Wow. 1000% Yes.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Stealthy like a Ninja

I went to GameScore yesterday with the express purpose of picking up a cartridge case for my DS games. And while I was there, I couldn't resist picking up Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword for the Nintendo DS, along with Burnout: Paradise for the Xbox360.

I've heard some good buzz for Ninja Gaiden, and I was keen on checking it out. So far, it hasn't disappointed, but I'm still fairly early into the game. But I've got one minor gripe with the game. Or at least, a gripe with the opinions of the gaming press regarding the game.

Over at 1up, there have been claims that the game is too easy, and that it isn't much of a challenge. All I can say to that is... Bullshit.

I only just defeated the second boss, but only by a whisper; And it was on my second attempt. The first time I tried, I got my ass totally handed to me... by a leg-less pig ogre. And that's not counting the number of times I died getting to the boss in the first place. Apparently there are werewolves in the world of ninjas.

And I swear, things are going even more crazy now. There are ninjas that look like demons, and demons that look like dogs. And there's some chick with half a face and a tentacle for an arm who calls herself "Ultra-Fiend" or something like that.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Applications are Currently Open

We are looking for fellow adventurers to form an adventure party to traverse the lands of Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Rings of Fate. If you are a fun, dynamic team-player, eager to seek treasure and phat loot, this may be the dream position for you.

We want someone with creative brilliance, able to commit to both long and short adventures and possess great survival skills.

Responsibilities include:
  • Killing monsters
  • Healing fellow party members
  • Casting spells, and creating Magicite crystals
  • Tanking
Personal attributes we're looking for:
  • Outstanding communication skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Able to work in an intimate team environment
  • Able to multi-task
  • Able to make tactical decisions in a high tension situation
  • A proven track record in escaping from dungeons and caves
  • Team player
Prior experience preferred but not necessary.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

GTA IV versus Iron Man

A very interesting article just surfaced over at Next Generation. According to the article, at least one analyst has proposed that the launch of GTA IV will eat into the ticket sales of the Iron Man movie when it opens a few days later.

Ostensibly, this is due to the fact that both products are targeting the same demographic: The young male gamer. And this would not be an isolated event, as earlier in September, Hollywood executives blamed the release of Halo 3 for poor ticket sales during that same period.

I guess one could probably see a correlation between the two, though not necessarily a causation. And it is not a stretch of the imagination that if a person is presented with two equally excellent choices that some would choose one over the other.

But let me tell you how this situation would affect me personally. And I think that it will... quite profoundly. Once GTA IV is released, I'm going to play the shit out of that game. And then when Iron Man opens, I'm going to take a break from my hours-long vigil and watch it. And then I'm going to go back and play some more GTA. And if Iron Man turns out to be as excellent as I hope it to be, I'll probably go and catch it again that same weekend. And maybe a third time.

Food, sleep and toilet breaks are not mandatory.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Thebes

I finally had a chance to play Thebes, by Queen Games yesterday at SOG. I've been wanting to play this for a good while now, and I'm glad I finally had the chance.

In the game, players control archaeologists who travels around the western world gathering knowledge, equipment and assistant. All these preparatory work will then allow players to gain better success when they finally travel to five different archaeological sites to dig for artifacts. Players score victory points based on the number of artifacts found (valued anywhere from 1 to 7). Players can also score VPs based on exhibitions they might put up, conferences they conduct, and if they have the highest amount of specialised knowledge. VPs are calculated at the end of the game.

One interesting mechanic that must be pointed out at this moment is the resources that players use to gather knowledge and organise digs. Each action (travelling, researching, digging) requires a number of weeks to complete, but there is an overall cap on how much time there is available in total. In the 4-player game I played, there were only a 104 weeks available to complete as many tasks as possible. But do not think that you have the luxury of time, as most tasks require multiple weeks to complete, not counting travelling time. For example, one could spend 3 weeks traveling from London to Vienna and then another 3 to gather general knowledge; equipment and cards are marked with the location they are available. Players move from one location to another and make one action, and then move their marker forward on the time track. In order to balance the usage of time between players (preventing one to use up all 52 weeks in a year), turn order is determined by whoever is last on the time track.

Players have to balance between gathering more knowledge to increase their chances to pick up more items, and being the first at a site to pillage and ravage it. Once they have the ability to dig at a particular site, the number of pieces they can draw out of a bag is determined by their knowledge level, plus assistants and equipment. But not all the pieces are valuable; a large number are blank pieces representing dirt and sand. What is most intriguing is that as you dig at a site, the valuable pieces are claimed by the player, but the blank pieces are thrown back into the bag. So in other words, the more a player digs, the more the returns are constantly diminishing. In my game, one player completely ravaged Egypt which left the rest of us with only 4 sites remaining to fight over.

Some people might not like the game for the luck level involved; The rewards on digging is sometimes hard to determine, and the cards for knowledge and equipment can be quite random. In a spate of good luck, I was able to secure a car and multiple conference cards in the same location. But therein lies the key to the game: managing luck and reducing its effects on your strategy. Balancing between spending time researching and time digging is a pressing concern, and balancing between getting to the right site first and increasing your returns on the dig is also key.

I found this game to be wholly enjoyable, as I am not bothered by the luck factor. In fact, I think it helps build the theme of the game very effectively. It's not easy going for archaeological expeditions, and even the greatest knowledge does not guarantee that one returns with the prizes to show for it.

Always Open to Gaming

I just hosted my last SOG for the forseeable future, and I now leave the group to very capable hands to continue in my stead. As some might already know, I will be re-locating to Australia, and I ought to be gone within the month.

SOG has been a constant in my life for the past two years, and I've been at its helm for 23 sessions; There was that one time I was absent when I traveled to the States. SOG has been my one highlight, the one thing I look forward to every month, and the one thing that keeps me going.

I cannot overstate how much each session means to me, and how much effort I take to make sure everyone who games with me is enjoying themselves. When I would go around, making sure I knew everyone on a first name basis, you would know how important this was to me. And my closest friends would know what little weight I put into remembering peoples' names and faces in any other situation. But SOG... That was different. It was my creation, my endeavour, the first time I was the creator, and not just another consumer.

And the thought that I won't be in that room, playing with people whom I've grown to consider friends, pains me. I'm sitting here, in my chair, and I'm ready to tear. I feel a strain in my chest, an ache where my heart is. And I'm struggling to find the words to describe my sense of loss.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Iron Man



I have such a man-crush on Iron Man. And by extension, Robert Downey Jr.

There here is a brand new trailer for Iron Man. Enjoy.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

For the Love

There's a new online game that's captured my interest. And the more I read about it, the more excited I become.

The game, Love (as in For the Love of Game Development), is designed entirely by one person, Eskil Steenberg, and I think he has demonstrated a very unique vision for this game. This was displayed at GDC, and reported on by Kotaku, and Rock, Paper, Shotgun.

Part FPS, part MMO, and part adventure, this game will allow gamers to both create and explore the world around them. And what makes Love so compelling is the art style. It creates such a rich canvas that makes the gamer want to wander around, and become part of the environment.

One of the key ideas for the game is that is a not a massively multiplayer game; it is a moderately multiplayer one. Gamers interact intimately with a small, close-knit group; Friends who you would take with you on an adventure.

Moreover, gamers are given the tools and the freedom to create and modify the world that they are in. One could build walls to defend their cities, or dig tunnels. I'm not sure what are the limits to this freedom, but it all sounds so intriguing.

Art + interaction + creation = a winning solution to me.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

An Ode to FAB: The Bulge

Sweet, sweet FAB: The Bulge.
How I have waited for you;
Long into the night have I teared into my pillow.

You arrived on my doorstep,
But there was no welcome waiting.
The postman took you away, and there was one more joyless night.

The sun arose this morn,
with the promise of new life.
At the post office I received you, which made me late for work.

Original bad poetry by me; Photos taken at my desk

Oomphatico's

The whole lot of us had dinner last night at Oomphatico's, and it was a very pleasant experience. I think that overall, it is a very nice restaurant, and definitely worth another visit.

Decor
The decor and overall layout of the place is very nice. If I had to use adjectives to describe the overall feel, it would be lush and whimsical. The room was brightly and warmly lit with ceiling and wall mounted lights. The walls were colourful with very pretty wallpaper. Tables and chairs were well spaced so one would not feel cramped. The furniture was very comfortable with thick cushioned arm chairs, in a myriad of colours and tones. There's a chic casualness about the place, without being pretentious, and it gives the guest a very relaxed atmosphere to dine in. Most of all, just sitting there is a delightful experience.

Service
Service was excellent, with plenty of friendly staff to attend to our needs. We didn't have to wait long to be served, and the staff were very attentive. One lady (I assume she was either the boss or the service manager) made sure to go around each table and chat with the guests, which made me feel very welcome. In addition, the staff were more than willing to do separate bills for each person around the table, so we didn't have to wrangle with who had to pay who at the end of dinner. Two thumbs up.

Food
The food overall was of a good quality, with many interesting items on the menu. You really need to give the menu a good once-over to fully understand the kinds of items available to delight your palate. I had a very delicious pizza topped with mushrooms, bacon, greens and egg, and a very yummy juice of pineapple, mint, ginger and lime. The risottos were quite yummy, the salads looked fantastic, the Thai green curry was flavourful and the pancake lasagna was very good. The sandwich was a bit of a mixed bag because the bread may have been over toasted, but the fillings were ample and fresh. We didn't have any dessert or coffee after, so I hope to go back to try it soon. And we barely scratched the surface of the menu; there were so many different items on it. And we also didn't have a chance to sample the breakfast menu.

Overall
I think the restaurant is definitely worth a visit, and I will be going back there again; I'd really like to sample the rest of the menu. Guests will feel very comfortable there, and will be delighted by the food. It's a great place for a relaxed Sunday morning lunch, or an afternoon coffee, or a casual date. I highly recommend Oomphatico's, and I hope everyone will give it a try soon.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Photos from our wedding solemnisation



Photos from our wedding solemnisation, held on 11 November 2007.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

You shouldn't be doing anything else.

Picture taken from VG Cats

Happy Valentine's Day

Well, this here is Audrea's gift for Valentine's this year: A Toblerone Gold 'Jumbo'. This baby measures just under a metre, and weighs in at a whopping 4.5kg.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Sunday, January 27, 2008

It's cold out there

I've never been to a place quite so cold before. This has been, and continues to be, an eye opening experience. I'm currently sitting in my room in Shanghai, overlooking the Huangpu River, typing on the computer which came with the room. The tv is turned on to HBO, I'm dressed in sweats, and it's near time to sleep. I've had a long tiring evening walking about Nanjing Road.

It snowed earlier this afternoon as I stepped out of the airport; I have never seen something so delicate and so annoying at the same time. I've been dressed in 4-5 layers each time I walk outdoors, with gloves on my hands and a beanie on my head. I've felt my nostrils freeze over, and my fingers grow numb from the chill. But it was far far colder back in Beijing.

I had an interesting dinner tonight. My colleague and I walked to Huanghe Road which apparently known as a food street. We ordered a claypot chicken stew, which comes heaped with chicken chunks and veges in a thick sauce. And to accompany the stew, we can pick up all sort of raw veges, noodles and random food bits which you then dump into the stew to cook, like some sort of funny steamboat. It was a good good way to fill the stomach on a cold cold night.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

AT-43

I don't often get excited about a game that's been released for a while. Usually, if a game doesn't grab me from the get-go, it's hard to get me interested again. But AT-43 is an exception, and there's a very very good reason for this:

Gorillas in power armour, with giant laser cannons strapped to their backs. Bloody frickin' genius!

AT-43 is a miniatures strategy game, along the lines of Warhammer 40k, or Warmachine. But I have been fairly ambivalent towards it; I'm generally not a fan of miniatures games. Most games in this genre require assembly and painting which I do not enjoy. But AT-43 comes fully pre-assembled and pre-painted.

Opinions have been positive overall, but I'm still undecided if I should dive into it. Cost is always an issue, and I'm not sure how popular the game is. But the miniatures look super sweet, and I'm having good feelings about it. Good feelings in my special places.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Super Mario Meets Halo


Wow! This is, like, 15 different kinds of awesome. Super Mario and Halo? I'm sold! Sign me up! I've got a fight to finish!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Monday, January 14, 2008

New Year Resolutions

1) Watch more movies
I've always enjoyed watching film, and it's one of my most favorite hobbies. Back in Australia, I'd take every opportunity to go to the movies, even if I had to go on my own. Especially if I had to go on my own; I've found that enjoying a good film was a very personal experience. Since I've been back, I haven't seen as many movies as I'd like. And I hope to remedy that in 2008. I saw Dan in Real Life on my own on Sunday morning and it made me remember how much I enjoy going to the movies.

2) Lose weight, and reach my target of 85kg
I've always had a problem with losing weight: Laziness. And to a lesser extent, boredom. I start an activity, and very shortly after I'd become too uninterested to continue. I tried to start Taekwando, but I stopped going after a month. I've been walking, jogging, cycling and swimming but I'd end those fairly shortly. I've been to the gym and that hasn't been effective either. I never see things through to the end because it becomes too tedious, too bothersome and too uninteresting. This is something I need to change.