Champions Online…

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…is Free To Play now (since January 25th). AND I checked it out. Champions is actually the first license in ages which I am excited about.

I guess for most people, the name Champions means nothing. But for me it is my personal roleplaying game. For many years, pen & paper roleplaying was my main thing. Of the 15 games I own, still own, hidden in my basement, Champions is the only one I guess which I discovered myself, no recommendation, and which I promoted and defended for years, without ever meeting somebody else who liked that game independent from my doing. Rolemaster was my other pet roleplaying game, but I met totally independent groups of Rolemaster player several times. Champions was my thing.

Champions Online cost nothing to play now, but is a 3.3 GB (slow) download. Last night after work, I saw the download had finished on my laptop, so I clicked install: And a few default characters from the Champions books were shown: Defender, Dr. Destroyer… And now I realised, they really made Champions into a MMO. I did not expect any connection at all. But they took look and feel, the setting, some characters, the stats…  Maybe not much, but so nostalgic for me. This feels like they made your favorite movie into a game, a movie which you discovered by yourself and nobody you ever met had heard of.

I have like 30 books or so of Champions or the Hero System to which it belongs, the main book is totally worn, almost all pages loose. This morning shortly before I checked out Champions Online for an hour, I took a massive bunch of paper out of my roleplaying box: Old Champions characters. *good times*

The game looks great, cel-shaded, very good modeling: try the muscle fader or body mass fader during character generation. Your Sims or Guitar Hero will not allow you to make 400 pound fat guys in skintight suits. Capes wave in the wind, light effects, you can change your facial expression or favorite stance.

Of course, nothing can be as wild and free as the character generation in the real pen & paper Champions (where you can simulate with the rules any wild idea you might have). So, no I cannot time travel, turn enemies into cardboard boxes, shoot magic fruit or transform enemies into any item I can think of. It’s a goddamn computer game. BUT, the 10 archetypes feel OK, especially beast and monster types. I don’t know why we need 2 of 10 classes who just use guns. There is destroyable and throwable environment.

The other players in tutorial town where I obviously still am show how flexible the character generation is (obese mutants, tiny faeries, guys with robot legs, hot zombie chicks, monsters made from rock or metal or whatever) and it looks awesome.  You can customize for example two torso layers of clothing, shirt + jacket + lower coat part each separately, change form, material and inner and outer color scheme. They really got that look of the classic cartoon superhero.

I made Tony Lukado, my fav own Champions character from back in the day: A homeless-looking guy with a floppy hat (made from demon skin, the source of his power) and stobbles. And it worked quite well! I took archetype “Grimoire” = magic user which is very close to my old character (demon magic).

I can’t access the wild unbalancing powers of my old character, everything gets pushed into 10 well-balanced drawers, and you get more powers along a linear line as you level up. But, on the other hand, you might profit from other characters, you can team up. My “mage” so to speak can’t even hit somebody. I can’t make a guy that can do everything.

Disclaimer: I am a total MMO noob so I cannot make any objective comparison. I did not notice any apparent faults, on the other hand, the quests where much better than in any other fantasy MMO I checked out, and they were quite fluent, drawing you deeper in, with follow up missions, team missions, special emergency missions… I had to cut myself loose and to remember I have work to do.

So, wanna play? 3.3 GB download, no cost to play, all game except some additional content is fully available, no limited features. Drop me a line and we meet (I can play a few minutes every few months hehehe).

http://www.champions-online.com/

 

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Wikileads – Actually Kinda Hard To Love

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Help me out here. What am I supposed to think about Wikileaks? Who is hero and villain in this thing? I get confused if I read my Twitter stream and Facebook news feed… Somehow it doesn’t all fit together.

People root for privacy of their own data. Hate big brother 1984-like transparency. Love the Pirate Party which is all pro that. Dislike Stasi/Communist East Germany. Love Wikileaks. Hate the tax office. Like democracy and the constitutional rights we all enjoy.  And beat up snitches after school. There is a lot of Two-Face insanity hidden in there somewhere.

Let’s look at the latest data Wikileaks have received: Sensitive data about bank accounts in Switzerland. It appears they want to disclose the names of supposed tax defaulters soon.

Judging from the past, nothing will be blocked out. Everything will be public. Private information about people who may or may not have dodged taxes or broken laws. Wait a minute, you hate the guts of the IRS and “tax office should go to hell”, you hate that any big brother like thing peaks into your privacy…  And this you love? This is an invasion of privacy clusterfuck. What about any innocent ones among the list? They might lose everything (job, position, trust, business partners) and will possibly never be able to  prove their innocence. Think it through.

And how about the guilty? They have rights, even murderers get protection in a constitutional state, remember, those very rights you love and the lack of which you protest against when discovered in certain countries east of here. Not full public stripdown even before any trial! They are not even properly accused.

And I am not even starting about the list being possibly cleverly forged. Drop a few enemy names here and there, everything else is legit… It’s quite easy. You know just what will happen, if you can make a good fake and throw it at Wikileaks, they will not have any good taste or any moral regrets to smite your enemies by Select All Upload All like the seeding monkeys they are.

I have friends who have been in custody for 6 months because of wrong accusations of tax fraud. I turned out the government couldn’t find anything in those 6 months, which is the maximum time they can lock you up without a trial in Germany. They was an anonymous tip,  but they failed to find any slice of proof, nothing to even start a trial. Funny, heh? You see, anyone can accuse anybody else, and harm them. Like, well, the STASI!  Remember GDR/DDR, communist East Germany? Somehow NO-ONE thinks they were cool. But they had private persons sniffing into the affairs of others (guilty or not), putting it in neat files. At least they didn’t upload them!

Just saying. There is too much blood on the tights of this Robin Hood. Wikileaks is as elegant and reserved as a steamroller. If you need to upload info, why can’t you block out the information that might be hurting innocents? Or possible innocents? Or even kick the rights of suspects. Isn’t that kinda dictatorshiply? Why don’t they give the names to the police and upload everything removing ANY Names. This is as interesting to read, and does not harm anybody without a proper trial. Just saying.

Now, I will close all browsers, work on my sound design here, and wait for the next headline: “Wikileaks Publishes List of Witches – Public Burning Scheduled For Saturday”.

Seen: Kick-Ass ★★★★★

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I feel a bit ashamed that all I seem to post is movie reviews lately. I am still too busy for my year in review post, which will take me a few hours to write. But I am not too busy to watch movies while I need to finish writing  jobs or comb my inbox.

Kick-Ass is as awesome as the internet says. I watched it 3 times. 2nd time with audio commentaries on, which were very insightful, 3rd time showing it to somebody else.

1st time around I was not happy with the last third of the movie. The movie, which is about real-life wannabe teenage superheroes, does only focus on Kick-Ass in the 1st half of the movie. They make me feel for the character, something superhero movies usually do not accomplish with me, because how can you really cheer invincible Superman or root for Know-It-All Batman? And they basically take him from the plot. He has only 1 action in the showdown, the 30 minutes before that he is absolutely useless. Even the big “final plan” leading to his only action makes no sense at all. “I do everything, you do nothing and then at the end you do that one thing”. A plan of genius.

Instead they switch over to Hit Girl. I have mixed feelings. In the beginning, I bought the moral system Kick-Ass is placed in, and Hit Girl seemed horribly violent (from that point of view). I thought the movie wanted me to react that way. “Look, she wanted to do good but fell to the Dark Side”. But at the end I realised, they want me to love that violence. So, why do they do that brilliant job of pulling me into the world of Dave/Kick-Ass, feeling for him, and then they suppose I desert him for the super girl who uses brutality that alienates Kick-Ass.

So, 1st time it felt like a deus ex situation. Like “we take it from here, shorty”, and you root for the sympathetic child hero instead of the big FBI bully.  It should have been about Kick-Ass. They sort of gave me that but it felt hollow. My imaginary FBI bully would fight crime for 40 minutes, and at the very end lean down to the child hero and say “But YOU deserve all the credits.” That’s lame, and has a bitter taste.

Director Matthew Vaughn says, he always compared his plots  to Star Wars. Here, Kick-Ass is Luke, Hitgirl is Han Solo. Yea OK, and now imagine Han Solo doing everything after half a movie, Luke not growing at all but just contemplating that he is a failure. NO, it’s the other way around. Han Solo want to quit and has his one last action, shooting the Death Star. Kick-Ass is my hero. In your movie, Kick-Ass is Short Round, and Hitgirl is Indiana Jones. (Or rather, Kick-Ass is Bastian Balthasar Bux and Hitgirl is Atreyu, but in Neverending Story, Bastian at least has universal power at the end). I feel bad when he is pushed aside into the dirt and you deny me the full satisfaction of his rebound from that.

BUT Hit Girl is so cute. Actress Chloe Moretz is 11 years, plays all stunts herself, because there are no 11 years old stuntmen (quoting the director). What a brilliant performance. 2nd and 3rd watch I really loved her and was OK with her violence, because I knew then that the movie does not want me to hate the violence. Now, I felt for her. A lot (CUTTTEEEE).

Therefore I still give 5 stars.  What the fuck, why not? I have never seen a movie 3 times in a row before, and brilliant story otherwise, cool references to modern age (Youtube, Myspace), funny, good dialogues, a lot of cool scenes. That’s a super hero movie for 2010.  I NEED a sequel. And I hate sequels.

Music is great! Several composers were worked really hard by the director according the audio commentary. Danny Elfman gave them a cue as a gift. 2 songs by prodigy. And the main theme at the end + DVD menu is totally cool.

Things I learned from the audio commentary:
1. The director supposedly worked for free but kept the Mist Mobile which was done by the Pimp My Ride guys.
2. The girl in the big billboard ad (which you can see about 20 seconds in the first meeting with Big Daddy) is is the director’s wife.
3. Director and Main Actor are british, the latter needed to speak American (good job). The comic author is so totally scottish, what an accent!
4. Lindsy who played the love interest Katie made a scene because she misunderstood the crew. They suggested doggy-style for the sex scene on the trash cans, she somehow understood anal sex and got totally mad. It happens to all of us.
5. I am happy and content as a game composer, when I hear the director saying things like “I feel sorry for the composer, because I made him redo the music for this scene again, and again, many many times  just to get it RIGHT”.  Ouch.

Seen: Shutter Island ★★★★✰

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(uh great I need a serious writing warm-up for a script, so here it goes)

Shutter Island. Hurts. This could have been a 5 star movie for me. But, I don’t know… BITCHING–heavy post ahead, close browser now!

Quick introduction: It’s not really a horror movie, more a mysterious mindfuck. Leonardo is a marshall, investigating the case of an escaped mental patient on an asylum island, 1954. I don’t want to spoil anything (because I got spoiler’d when I checked out the Youtube comments of the trailer, something you should NEVER DO). But I hope it’s not a spoiler if I say there is something to spoil.

OK, maybe we have another case of my pet topic – Expectations – because I had them. The trailer was outstanding, the mood and setting dark and mysterious like the things I like the most (Gabriel Knight, Angel Heart…). It felt relevant to the game “Asylum” we are helping with sound-wise. Can a movie only disappoint me when I expect so much? Maybe.

Yes it’s good. So what do I complain about?

It is not “a work of art”. It could have easily been.

Why? Because when I watched it again, it should have made perfect and complete sense. Like “Fight Club”, one of my all time favs. For me it’s harder to accept an “almost brilliant” movie than a weak one. It seems like they almost avoided all the possibilities, all the little symbolic moments and scenes you could have made.

Watching it twice, I counted 8 little clues I missed the first time around, and my internal love meter went up (not what you think you naughty bastard). But these were all in the first third of the movie. Then, it actually got worse. Knowing the end, it should all have made artistic sense. Like a good Agatha Christie novel (of which I have read 50). “Knowing the murderer”, so to speak, it all should be completely clear, how could I have missed it.Do you know that smile on your face when you see how you were tricked and fooled, the little telltale signs you missed the 1st time? They are there! But almost all at the beginning. Then nothing. Then one or two in your face ones, extremely watered down by obvious misinformation (a no no). A sign of a bad mystery writer.

I don’t want to spoil, but let’s dance around it. Imagine the crime author giving you a perfect alibi for one suspect, presented in a way which is absolutely fool-proof, then later the story tells you the alibi was false. You read the alibi scene again, and it is not presented vaguely, it does not appear in a new light, it is obvious misinformation to make the  riddle harder to solve. For example, there is solid and perfect proof that the suspect must be male and over 30, and the author presents 100 witnesses for that, God steps down and says Aye, and the surprising resolution is: the suspect was a female dog. You read the book again, and it does NOT make sense at all in 10 scenes. It could have been very artfully done, in no scene we said it’s a human, but no, it is shoehorned, there is a man on the cover with an 80ies haircut and a bloody knife. That’s exactly how I feel.

Sorry, back to the movie, there is a scene which supposedly “really” happened, not imagined, which the movie claims gives away the truth, yes it does, but before and after that moment in the same scene it doesn’t, it claims the opposite.

Again we are at logic, another of my reoccuring rants. For me, there must be a completely solid logical foundation under any adventure or mysterious movie like this one. So why is the 2nd half so weird. It doesn’t feel true knowing the end. Even though in an asylum insanity is obviously a theme, and hallucinations, I am not buying the movie’s resolution completely.

It might be that the novel the movie is based upon is perfect. It might be that the screenplay is perfect, and for the sake of a good shot, smooth cutting or a nice actor performance, the inner harmony and symmetry had to take a step back. Many people think that way. Creative license my arse. Story reigns supreme. Then female nude scenes, then nothing, then the rest of the movie.

What are we left with? A movie which gave me 10 ideas of scenes which would have made it awesome. I need a spoiler button on this damn site to discuss my spoiler-heavy ideas with you. Scenes which could have been read in two ways, like Sixth Sense or Fight Club. It could have been a masterpiece you want to see 10 times. But, I think it is… (swallows) a good movie. Nothing more. AND I CAN’T MAKE THE MOVIE IN MY HEAD because it would be too similar! The chance to make this movie in perfect is gone.

Bashing over? Naaa. MUSIC. What the fuck? This movie has no composer. Being a composer, I can only hate the fact like cashiers hate self serve cash registers. The music editor has simply chosen orchestral pieces by mostly temporary composers and arranged them. It is inconsistent, and sometimes quite out of place. Bohoo. There are some great pieces in there, of course, and it is definitely not you normal heartless horror score, but hey, modern classical music composers, don’t crap where I work, OK? Ohhh god I hate when THEY come over into our country, taking our jobs, stealing our daughters, those filthy modern classical guys.

AHHH stop before I forget it, I can copy this from half of my reviews, stop hurting children! What’s wrong with you? There is horror without threatening babies or killing children, OK? Can’t we please stop that? What the fuck? They ban our video games for nothing, but every movie which is rated R18 thinks it’s a matter of good taste to hit a baby in the face? Can you imagine boxers taking a break to torture little children, because otherwise it’s not violent enough? Did Hitchcock sneak up on you in the cinema to stick scissors into your eye, because otherwise you would not be frightened enough?

I don’t find it funny, interesting or necessary. It’s very important in “Shutter Island”, I understand that, exceptional permissiom granted. But see “1408”. A perfectly cool, dark, creepy movie and then we need to cut to a little girl dying of cancer. Now I am having fun. Fuckers.

I think it’s tasteless. I need to distant myself from the movie in those scenes, as I am a father which is like emotional surgery, and I hence get ripped right out of the suspense of disbelief. There are a few things which are taboo, things I don’t want to be “entertained” with, that is dying children, rape, and doing taxes.