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Comment: Golden Age is difficult to read (Score 1) 165

by Leo Sasquatch (#47207013) Attached to: Recommendations For Classic Superhero Comic Collections?
The art is often really basic, and the stories are often not up to much, because the writers weren't paid very much, so they just made up random stuff each month. Ooh, let's send Batman into space again, to fight crime on the planet of the Celery-heads.

You want to see what the medium can really do, go by author, not characters. Anything by Alan Moore (Watchmen, V for Vendetta, Lost Girls, Necronomicon, Marvelman), Neil Gaiman (Sandman), Garth Ennis (Punisher, War Stories), Warren Ellis (late Stormwatch, early Authority, Nextwave), Grant Morrison (Animal Man, WE3, the Invisibles). These authors can all, on a good day, push the boundaries of the medium.

The Golden Age is useful to understand some of the later parodies and homages. You need to read some very early Batman with the Bill Finger/Dick Sprang artwork to appreciate the beautiful pastiche in the 4th season episode of the animated Batman. You need to read some 50's Superman/Superboy to get the whole gist of Alan Moore's run on Supreme. The Silver Age is where comics start to get properly readable - the socially relevant Green Lanterns of the early 70's where Speedy does heroin, or the gorgeously gothic Neal Adams/Dick Giordano early 70's Batman. Before that there's a bit too much Bat-Mite, Mr Myxyzptlk and Streaky the Supercat for my liking.

Comment: How terrible (Score 2, Insightful) 259

by Leo Sasquatch (#46844889) Attached to: Hulu Blocks VPN Users
I mean, it's not as if there's any other sites on the net where you can get streaming video, or canned video, or torrents, or people sharing their favourite shows.

It's not like it takes about 5 mouse-clicks to find an alternate source for practically anything. No, Hulu clearly have everyone completely over a barrel and we must just do everything they say if we're to be allowed to consume their entertainment the way they want us to.

Comment: Breaking the illusion (Score 2) 272

by Leo Sasquatch (#45180213) Attached to: The Battle For the Game Industry's Soul
I remember the first time I found I was able to shoot glass out of a window - Counter-Strike. I spent ages doing just that, because of the novelty value - here was a substance in game that reacted the way it would in real life. I recognised it as a limitation of the medium, way back in the day, but it always used to annoy me when I couldn't shoot out a window in Half-Life. Or any game where a locked door impeded progress because I didn't have the key, although I was toting 6 lbs of explosives at the time.

Try shooting the farmer at the start of Halo Reach. Your gun goes bang, and there's a damage splatter appears on the other side of his head, but he won't stop talking. If you keep shooting him, after 10 shots, you die, not because your squadmates have realised that you're shooting civilians and gun you down, but a vengeful god just smites you down.

It'll be interesting to see how far the new engines go in terms of world design. Obviously there won't be civilians, or women, or children, but it'd be nice to be able to shoot out the legs of a water tower and have it collapse, because that's what the objects would do under real-world-conditions, and not just because it's a pre-programmed set-piece and the only way to complete the level. It's be nice to see enemies who weren't Terminators - combat robots who have to be completely destroyed to kill them, that can take all but 1 HP of damage and still be at 100% combat effectiveness. Maybe sometimes some of them could realise that you've just killed everyone else in their squad, and simply decide to run away.

It's also interesting to see how narrow their definitions of 'realism' are - they'll model stubble, sweat, and the texture of equipment webbing, but nobody ever bleeds, or screams, or goes mad. They'll model the correct serial number on an 21st century assault rifle, yet it'll deliver a target grouping that would shame a musket.

And I think Just Cause 2 was the last game I played where you really seemed to have a huge amount of freedom over the order you did the missions in, and there was a whole lot to do if you didn't want to do a mission. I hate purely linear games, where you have to do one thing, and until you do that to the game's satisfaction, you're not getting to do anything else. As soon as you reach a situation where you *have* to do something, rather than *want* to do something, that's work, not play; and if I'm working, I expect to be getting paid, not paying for the privilege.

Comment: It's Bill Hicks with the puppets all over again! (Score 2) 509

"I think the locked-down PC-in-a-box on the left is my favourite"

"No, the locked-down PC-in-a-box on the right is obviously superior!"

And to many of the rest of us, these nearly identical (both inside and out) boxes look to have the same sort of power as the gaming rigs we built two years ago. A lot of people still haven't gone HD, and only a small fraction of gamers have gone much beyond 1080p. 1080p looks pretty good on most screen sizes, but for 99% of the consumer market, there's no point going past that because the display hardware in people's houses can't display it. So once you've got hardware that'll do 1080p, you'd better have something much cleverer as a selling-point in your game, because the last gasp of "Ooh, teh shiniez!" as a major selling point was probably about three years ago.

And so far, all they seem to have are pre-rendered demos that show off the shiniez, and Sony claiming to suck slightly less terribly than Microsoft.

Really? Is that it? You want $500 out of me in the middle of a recession, when I already have a 360, PS3 and a gaming PC? You're really going to have to try a lot harder than that.

Comment: Space science fiction is encumbered (Score 2) 268

by Leo Sasquatch (#43296057) Attached to: JMS and Wachowskis Teaming Up for New Netflix Funded Scifi Series
Not to mention expensive to do properly.

You have to postulate working anti-gravity without acknowledging the ramifications of that technology. Or spend more on wirework and/or CGI than can be coped with by a standard show's budget.

And you have to find plots that haven't been done before. Without resorting to reversing the polarity of the neutron flow or getting this cheese to Sickbay. There's what, about 800 episodes of Trek in all its incarnations, plus Galactica old and new, Babylon 5, and stuff that only made very short runs, S:AAB, Space Rangers etc.

All the science fiction from the last decade I can think of is earth-based, and I don't think it's because it's easier or cheaper to make, although it probably is. I think much of it is because any time someone comes up with an idea for a space-based series, it just sounds like Star Trek, The Nth Generation, or Babylon 6.

Comment: Thanks, Microsoft (Score 5, Insightful) 592

by Leo Sasquatch (#42818129) Attached to: Xbox 720 Could Require Always-On Connection, Lock Out Used Games
Just made the next few months so much easier, because all the hype, specs, leaks, teasers and general media d1ck-sucking can be safely ignored.

You've chosen to release a console that's less powerful than the PC I built 2 years ago, so heavily encrusted with DRM that it will get in the way of playing games I have purchased. Router bounces - say goodbye to your game session. ISP has problems - no games for you, you filthy thief.

Here's a little hint, MS - you are not the only game in town. There has never been such excellent choice in the games and console market. I can run MAME on my Raspberry Pi, or Skyrim at full shiniez on the PC. What do you have to offer that's so unique? Halo? No, that's not looking a bit tired at all. Halo 5? Wow, I wonder what you have to do in *that* game!? (hint: shoot aliens...)

My PC plays anything that needs heavy lifting - my 360, Dreamcast, N64, PS3, PS2 and Saturn all still work, and I have plenty games to tide me over your entire current console lifecycle. Really, what are you offering this time around to make up for all this shit?

Comment: Sounds like the gaming PC I built 2 years ago (Score 1) 284

by Leo Sasquatch (#42776383) Attached to: Next-Gen Console Wars Will Soon Begin In Earnest
which still plays everything at fullscreen and maximum shiniez - Saint's Row 3, Skyrim, Max Payne 3, Borderlands 2 - all look utterly amazing. Only two glitches on install - Rage, which required the special magic Catalyst drivers, and Psychonauts through the Humble Bundle which turned out to be a corrupt installer. 4 TB of HD space means all my movies are on the system and shareable with the 360s in the house through TVersity. 360 wired controller plugs straight into front USB port for racing games. It wasn't cheap, but it wasn't frighteningly expensive - it wasn't absolute cutting-edge hardware, it was the best bang-for-buck I could get at the time.

So if I could build a machine with this power 2 years ago, why are the front-runners in the industry only just getting round to it now? Are they always going to be behind the curve, because they're having to homogenise the hardware? By the time they've finalised the design, got the devkits out to the software houses, and prepped the factories for production of the final unit, are they're always going to be x amount of time behind the leading edge?

Maybe they're just counting on the fact that the bulk of console gamers will be impressed by 1920x1080 at 60fps.

Comment: Side effect of realism (Score 2) 220

If the games were set in fictitious countries, they'd get dinged for it. An interesting writing challenge for these games would be to anonymise the locations - in effect, to amplify the murky nature of the operations concerned. "We were down in South America somewhere, some rathole of a banana republic..." or "We'd been travelling upriver for a couple of days, heading deep into African jungle..." The original Bond books did it quite well - the idea that the top echelons of the various intelligence agencies had realised that they were all on the same side (i.e. the side that likes money and power in quite huge quantities) and were running their own organisation that wasn't based on or in any particular country. And they weren't going to let any grubby little politicians mess it up.

Comment: The scariest monster should be the Doctor (Score 1) 170

by Leo Sasquatch (#42011091) Attached to: The New Series of Doctor Who: Fleeing From Format?
The Doctor has dealt with crises from a little girl with a psycho-active imagination, to genocidal extinction and universe-threatening cataclysms. He looks like a little, fussy man in a bowtie, but is a 1,000 year old alien with vast storehouses of knowledge and a very non-human perspective.

There are many ways this could be explored; where the Doctor has to do the right thing, which isn't necessarily the good thing. I also wish that the plot line they had in mind for Colin Baker's Doctor could have been done properly, instead of being mangled about by writer's strikes etc. For its time, it was quite revolutionary - the idea that the Doctor's regeneration had gone subtly wrong, leaving him more like the Master than the Doctor. The Sixth Doctor's arc was meant to be a slow descent into hell for the character, and any companions unfortunate enough to get caught up in his self-destruction, before his realisation that it had all gone wrong, and his deliberate suicide, in the hope that the next regeneration would correct the problem, because he was too dangerous to leave running around.

That arc would have made the Sixth Doctor a damaged and tragic figure in the Who mythos, not just the 'bit of a twat' he's generally regarded as, which I feel is a bit unfair to Colin Baker.

Comment: Collaborative Story-telling (Score 1) 197

by Leo Sasquatch (#41116031) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Explaining Role-Playing Games To the Uninitiated?
Or like an improvised play. Or like a half-written thriller novel, where you're trying to work out how it might have ended. Depends who I'm trying to explain it to, and why.

I got a job once because on the interview form, where it said to state an achievement I was most proud of, I listed a 3.5 year RPG campaign that I wrote from scratch, designed the system for and GM'med every episode on a weekly basis. When they asked me about it, I explained how this involves system design, small-team leadership, group discussion and input, fast reactions to new data and events, and a huge amount of thinking on one's feet.

What I didn't mention were the puns that could stun at 20 paces; laughing so hard that it felt like God herself had opened the top of my head and kissed my naked brain; and the ability to reduce grown men and women to genuine laughter and tears with a handful of pencilled notes on a piece of paper.

What I couldn't mention is that some things grow out of these adventures organically, and there exists no way to describe them to outsiders. There is too much context required, and you know their eyes would glaze over long before you reached the punchline. There are only a handful of people on this planet who will ever understand why: "Range to target?" "B flat!" is funny, or grok what we meant by "Warm up the anthrax cannons, the main speakers, and the rotisserie!", or know why the cry of "Death from above!" is *always* followed by the line "Chocolates from Switzerland!". And that's as it should be.

I'll never understand why anyone would care about the outcome of a game that they didn't have money riding on; the mundanes will never understand why we never stopped telling ourselves stories.

Comment: Flying cars, no. Personal flight, probably not. (Score 1) 381

by Leo Sasquatch (#40994931) Attached to: Could Flying Cars Actually Be On Their Way?
As many people have pointed out, a flying car is a bad amalgam of two vehicles that are designed to do very different things. There are a number of other alternatives for personal flight that keep popping up and just as quickly, being shut down. The Williams X-Jet, the Solotrek, the GEN H-4 personal helicopter and a handful of others that 5 minutes Googling would uncover. These are designed as point-to-point VTOL transport, suitable for short to medium range flights, and all run on standard engines, and standard fuel.

Personal flight is a game-changer. The powers that be don't really want it changed. It's not physics, engineering or fuel efficiency that's stopping it from happening - all those problems have already been solved. The only problem is people. Specifically, the people in charge. It doesn't matter how cheap this kit gets, or how safe and efficient, Joe Public will not be allowed to have one. Taxes and licences (and hardcore punishments for not having one...) will keep people earthbound, because no government on earth could cope with its people being given the freedom of the 3rd dimension. Borders and passports would become archaic reminders of a time when you used to have to ask permission from your government to be allowed to travel around. There would be diasporas from cities as people became able to live miles out of town, without the commute being an issue on narrow country roads.

Fully-functional personal flight devices - flying cars, if you like - already exist, and can cost no more than a luxury car (Gen H-4 for $60K), but the chances of you ever getting off the ground in one are slim. Red tape will keep them down much more effectively than gravity.

Comment: The Year of the Sex Olympics (Score 1) 1365

by Leo Sasquatch (#40915969) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What's the Most Depressing Sci-fi You've Ever Read?
by Nigel Kneale of Quatermass fame. 30 years before it actually happened he nailed the whole concept of reality television. Only a B/W print survives due to the BBC being a cunch of bunts, but it almost works better that way. I've seen shooting stills, and the 1968 day-glo colours on everything might make it look dated. The shots of the sniggering proles when it all starts to go pear-shaped are still disturbing to this day.

Most depressing story I ever read, I can't remember the title of - maybe someone can help. Short story, being written from the point of someone who is Atoning. What is she Atoning for? Well, humanity found this abandoned world. All beautifully laid out, slightly odd architecture, but ready for humans to just move in. And food in abundance, with the most delicious vegetables. Who turn out to be the inhabitants, who go dormant every so often, like 17-year locusts. They wake up to find this strange alien race camped out on their planet, chowing down on their unborn children. Worse than that, they're such an advanced species, they forgive us. We weren't being evil, just very stupid. So the human race Atones by returning parts of their body to the biosphere of the world, and the reveal is that this person is largely artificial now, because she'd been on-world for so long, that she was mostly composed of local proteins.

Cracking story, totally alien aliens, and the idea that we hadn't invaded, or attacked, we'd just buggered up the evolution of an entire species that would take generations to fix, because we got it horribly wrong.

Comment: Use a colour palette with actual colours (Score 1) 201

by Leo Sasquatch (#40849191) Attached to: How Much Detail Is Too Much For Games?
I'm sick of games using a colour palette muted to the point where a state-of-the-art game contains black, grey and 18 shades of brown.

Spec Ops: The LIne balances stunning opulence against desert ruins, but even the desert has more colours than Rage managed in the entire game.

Too many devs seem to think that colourful=cartoony, so you only get Ratchet and Clank games that actually remember your TV can actually do red, green and blue as themselves. And too many devs would rather put all the effort into extra textures and lighting, rather than using it to handle more realistic environments. I want more cars in GTA V, not just higher-res versions of the earlier ones. I want to be able to shoot out the tyres and every window, not have it be a hyper-detailed texture applied to a rolling brick.

Do many of these devs not do beta-testing? If a level is incomprehensible within the canon of the game - you designed it wrong..

Comment: Good writing is hard (Score 1) 197

by Leo Sasquatch (#40695161) Attached to: The Decline of Fiction In Video Games
Good acting is expensive. Good plotting is complex. Game-makers have limited resources. Most developers seem to want to put more effort/time/money into polishing the shiniez than producing an elegant story. Probably because the reviews will slate them solidly if the game looks a bit ropey, but weak acting, plot etc. gets much less abuse.

I was put off ever playing Heavy Rain when I learned that there's only one killer. What are you going to do - play it twice and act surprised at the ending? I'm sure it would have been technically possible to set the game up so in each new game the killer was any one of a number of possible suspects, but the amount of plot-tracking that would require means it didn't make it into the finished game.

Some games do an excellent job of combining story and plot (which aren't the same thing). Half-Life and its sequels all have a very simple plot - escape, but the story of how you go about it is beautifully detailed. Both Witcher games do an amazing job, in that the consequences of your actions aren't always visible until much, much later. Mass Effect 1 had a good try, and all the Geneforge games have huge, rich backstories running through them. But the player should drive the story, not just be subjected to large arbitrary chunks of it for no reason as in MGS4.

Video games have the same capacity for storytelling as any other entertainment medium, but the producers have to be prepared to pay for it on creation, and the public have to be prepared to pay for it on delivery.

Those who can, do; those who can't, write. Those who can't write work for the Bell Labs Record.