ChiliDragon / Member

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ChiliDragon Blog

Get a job? I have a job!

PC Gamer, my favorite gaming magazine for several reasons, featured a column about Fable 2 in its latest issue. It was written by staffer Yahtzee Croshaw, after attending the Fable 2 presentation by none other than Peter Molyneux himself on GDC, and the column made me choke on my afternoon coffee, cough and then blink, and then finally think to myself, "what is wrong with that guy?" Then I decided to research the matter. I went to Gamespot's coverage of the Fable 2 presentation on GDC. I looked at IGN, I went to the official Fable 2 website, but none of it convinced me to change my initial thought: From a fantasy gaming perspective, there is something wrong with Peter Molyneux's vision. The first thing that is wrong is that the man scoffs at mini maps. If you tried playing Overlord on the 360, you know why scoffing at them is just wrong. Because without the mini map there is no way of knowing where we are, where everything else is, and where to go in a game. Apparently the reason the mini map is not there is to encourage players to explore, with the help of the marvelous dog that an entire 20-minute video was dedicated to. The video was submitted to Xbox live, in an effort to make other players as excited about The Vision as Peter Molyneux is. But as far as I am concerned, he has lost me, my enthusiasm, and the time I would have spent playing the game, and here is why: He has told me I will not be able to earn an in-game living on adventuring. According to PC Gamer's column, and supported by everything else I find, it is not possible to earn a living simply by adventuring. Especially not if you marry someone and start a family, because now your income needs to support them as well. As an extra bonus, by the way, if you play as a female, the extra weight, loss of agility, and over-all vulnerability of being pregnant will be a very noticeable factor in game-play. It appears that I am going to need a job to finance my death-defying adventuring life-styIe. According to Croshaw's column, Peter Molyneux spoke proudly, "with breathless enthusiasm", about the many extra features of game, and all the things that you can buy in the game... houses, furniture, villages, or dungeons. Monsters are not going to drop gold at all, instead you need to find gold elsewhere, either by hiring out as a henchman to another hero, by using the multi-player co-op function of the game, or by playing the Xbox LIVE Arcade mini-games, that will allow you to start amassing in-game cash for purchasing armor and weapons, long before Fable 2 hits retail shelves. I refuse to believe that I am alone in asking Mr Molyneux, in stunned disbelief: What the hell are you trying to do? If you are aiming for realism you are so far off it is not even close to making sense. Conan never settled down with a family, whom he then had to provide for, neither did Elric, Red Sonja, or the Grey Mouser and his far less mousy friend. Geralt of Rivia spoke for all of them when he stated that his high-risk profession, with extensive traveling, was not conducive to marriage, and if you want realism, shouldn't you factor that in? In fact, if you want to be realistic, shouldn't you take into account that none of the above mentioned adventurers want to settle down and start a family? They're all adrenaline junkies, commitment-phobic, not to mention that they are constantly broke. The reason they are broke all the time is because an adventurer has no retirement to save up for. Slaying dragons is a risky business, not to mention that all the loot inevitably is used up to repair or replace the armor and weapons that were damaged while slaying said reptile. Whatever is left over is used up on babes and booze (and if you are Conan, a second babe as well, for good measure), and that is why adventurers go back out on adventures, and why they take on mercenary contracts. They have nothing to save for, and no one to share with, and nothing to anchor them to any particular place, and that is the appeal and romance of sword & sorcery fantasy literature and games. But apparently in this game, I will have to take a second job to be able to go adventuring once in a while. I will not have a mini map to help that adventuring, and as an extra realism-bonus I will have to put up with an unhappy spouse who complains that I am never home. Once again Peter, what the hell are you trying to do here? Didn't Black & White 2 make it clear that however pretty your vision might be in your head, the rest of the world doesn't want to spend money on it? This is supposed to be a fable! A fairy tale! Give me a high-fantasy world, with high-fantasy realism. If I wanted to raise and feed an ungrateful family, I'd be playing The Sims.

The Cardiac Card Game

In an effort to avoid spending copious amounts on expensive workout equipment, I have started to use a deck of cards. It creates variety, while taking away all the effort and thinking that planning a consistent but varied workout would normally require. It's very simple. This is how you play: Every suite represents a muscle group or exercise. Diamonds are your abs, obliques and lower back. Spades are pectorals and shoulders, clubs are the legs, and if you draw a heart, you'll be doing cardio. Pick an exercise you like and stick with it. For diamonds, I do a yoga plank pose for as many seconds as the card value. A king is 13 seconds, and an ace is 14. (To avoid cheating I have my watch count seconds for me.) Spades are push-ups, clubs are lounges, and on hearts I do jumping jacks, mainly because they're easy to do in a small space. At least if you're not standing too close to the wall. To get started, do the following: 1. Take a deck of cards and shuffle it, very thoroughly. 2. Make sure you've changed out of those tight work slacks and that dry-clean only shirt into sweats or jammies. 3. Make sure you are not wearing high-heeled shoes or heavy and dangly earrings. This cannot be stressed enough. 4. Flip a card, and start the workout. The card is a nine of hearts, so you'll do nine jumping jacks. Next card is the Jack of spades, so now you'll do eleven push-ups. Next card is the five of spades, so now you get to do five more push-ups. After that you get the seven of diamonds, so now you'll hold the plank pose for seven seconds. Or do seven crunches, if you prefer. Important side note: You cannot train and build your abs, without also building the corresponding back muscles. Well, you can, but it will lead to very strong abs and back muscles that are too weak to balance it, your torso will be unable to stand up straight and instead be pulled crooked whenever you try to stand up straight, and excruciating back pain and injury will follow. Build your back and side muscles. Back to the card game. The two most important rules are to keep going, and to never ever skip a card. It's a cardio workout, and if you pause to catch your breath your heart rate won't stay up where it needs to be for the exercise to actually benefit you, and then all you did was waste 20 minutes and get sweaty for nothing. The only time you are allowed to skip a card is if you draw two face cards of the same suite right after each other. However, if you get the eight, five, nine, and four of spades in a row, you unfortunately have to suck it up and suffer through it. That, by the way, is why I suggested shuffling the deck thoroughly. Having a water bottle handy is also recommended.

I tried to avoid it, but they got me too...

I have been targeted by the most recent Gamespot blogging trend: someone has tagged me to tell my readers five things that I they don't yet know about me but would enjoy finding out. I have been skimming those blogs, watching as they slowly took over my Tracked blogs list, and now I have been asked to contribute and do my part to help them take over someone else's Tracked Blogs. I'm sure there is some profound and lesson about symmetry and what goes around comes around in this situation. But it is weekend and I don't want to care about serious things right now. I will refrain from tagging anyone though, for the same reason I never, ever follow the directions to forward the poem to "ten of your best friends, including the one who sent this to you. If you receive lots of emails back it means you have lots of friends!" But I will write up my list of five things you might not know about me, because they might be good conversation starters, and by posting them in my blog I will only have to write them once. :) 1. I (unofficially) collect tea mugs This should come as no secret to someone who has seen the shelves in our kitchen. I love tea and coffee mugs, in a selective sort of way. They need to be original in design and color, and match me, before they are worthy of being collected. Also, they must not match anything I already have. The only matching tea mugs I have in my collection were gifts. I hardly ever use them. 2. I have a navel piercing. I had my piercing made about two years ago now, and at the time, it looked very good on me. Since then I have gained roughly 25 lbs, and now it just looks white-trashy. Since I wanted and needed to lose the weight anyway, returning to a stomach that actually can pull off the piercing again is one of my goals and one of many things that keep me motivated. After all, there is no point having it if I can't show it off. 3. I love action movies John Woo is an unsung genius. Chow Yun Fat makes all American action stars look wussy and incompetent. Michelle Yeoh is beautiful, and Milla Jovovich is one of very few women who can be extremely tough and bad-ass while at the same time being astonishingly beautiful and feminine. Topping my list of explosive favorites right now are (in no particular order): Replacement Killers, Resident Evil, The Bourne Identity, Kill Bill 1 & 2, and Pitch Black 4. I love chocolate. By chocolate I mean real chocolate. Not the disgusting pale blend of grease and sugar that pollutes the shelves of grocery stores everywhere in the US. I mean Valrhona, Lindt's Excellence, and Cote d'Or. Valrhona and Cote d'Or are especially remarkable in that they are the only ones I have come across who carry milk chocolate that is not gross. It actually tastes chocolate, just not as bold as their darker products. Over-all the US is horribly behind the rest of the civilized world in terms of understanding and appreciating chocolate the way it was meant to be enjoyed. Words cannot express how happy I was to discover that the Cost Plus near our house carries my two favorite chocolate brands. 5. FPS games are boring, frustrating, and a waste of my time I started playing FPS games late in life, just a couple of years ago, and I don't like them. They have an extremely steep learning curve, too steep for me who isn't already familiar with the style of gameplay and have the necessary skills to navigate, shoot et cetera. Not to mention that most control schemes for console FPS are confusing and counter-intuitive, and the lack of peripheral vision drives me nuts. This leads to an exclusively frustrating playing experience, for obvious reasons. Add to that a complete lack of appealing characters and character development, and a story that is shallow at best, and there's just not enough fun in a typical FPS game for me to justify playing it over Neverwinter Nights 2 or The Witcher. There you go. Now, back to life and reality as we know it.

Super-self-centered Blog: My birthday presents

Tonight, we finally went out for family birthday dinner... it's a bit late, but the whole family hasn't been able to make it until now. We went out for a great dinner together, and then we went back to our house and played Rockband. And of course opened presents. I took pictures of the loot, because it is pretty. And no snide comments about the Resident Evil movie. Milla Jovovich is a gorgeous woman, and may be the best female action hero in movies today. One of the greatest dreams of my life is to have abs and legs like her. The Loot

New toy! Finally... (and new picture)

For Christmas, I got a wonderful and very thoughtful gift: a portable iPod speaker dock. It was a great idea. I hook up my iPod to the dock, and now I have a portable radio/stereo that can play all my music for me anywhere in the house. I love music, so it really was a great idea, and I do appreciate the thought behind it. Even though my Creative Zen Touch didn't fit in the dock. Fortunately the givers of the gift did not take offense when I revealed that, but instead told me they purchased the dock at Best Buy, who is notoriously generous with gift exchanges right after Christmas. They even gave me the receipt, to make the exchange easier. I took the dock and gift receipt back to Best Buy and exchanged them for a gift card, while I browsed their website for cool gadgets and toys. A couple of days ago, they finally received a shipment of the ultimate toy, that I have craved for almost a year now:

My Precious

I bought that one game with it, for now, and I have ordered a screen protector online, since the stylus might hurt it if I play too hard. Now all I need to do is drop broad hints that cool accessories or a DS Top Toy would make for a great birthday gift next week, and I'll be all set. In the mean time, I am saving Desch and the world. And it is awesome.

The Awesome Game

The Mandatory If-You- Don't-Give-Me-A-Diamond-You-Don't-Love-Me-Day Blog

(Disclaimer and fair warning: This is a pretty drastic departure from my usual blogs. This is an open and kind of personal letter, and if you don't like reading very emotional and sappy stuff, you probably shouldn't read this. There. You have been warned.) Lover, You know I have never liked the whole Valentine's Day hype. All the commercials hint broadly that men who don't spend a fortune on small but very sparkling jewelery are cheapskates who are not fully committed to their wives, and the implied assumption that any wife offered a tiny sparkling rock in white gold will immediately reward the giver with enthusiastic sex, is even more insulting. The entire commercial circus surrounding Valentine's day just makes me tired. I don't like the idea of having to have a special day just to show some appreciation and affection for the love in your life. But there is also something to be said for taking a day to step back, and look closer at our relationship, and focus on what it is we have that is so special, and what makes it worth all the negative things that are inevitable when you live as close to a person as a married couple is supposed to be. It irritates me that Hallmark and the discount mall jewelers are taking over a day that was supposed to be about why we are together, and are turning it into a commercial glitz and schmaltz fest of tasteless necklaces and pink cards with lace on the front. Lace...! Lace should never be allowed to be on anything but women's underwear. So I thought I'd try to take the special day back, by ignoring the lace cards and the mass-produced jewelry, and put the focus back where it belongs: Us. After all, who needs diamonds when I have you? The only diamond I own has yet to try and cheer me up after a long day of work, when I am exhausted and unhappy, and doubting myself for any bad reason. Not to mention that it doesn't rub my shoulders when they ache, and it certainly doesn't make dinner for me. There is something very soothing and de-stressing about coming home to the smell of cooking and a warm hug. But I'm getting side-tracked. I was going to tell you why I'm so happy we're together, and are going to do everything in our power to stay together for the rest of our natural lives. And when our lives become super-natural we will be super-together! (And that was the obligatory Hallmark moment... now on with the letter.) I have decided that I am just going to thank you instead, for some of those good things that we are supposed to focus on. Forgive me for forgetting some of them, because I know I probably will. Thank you for always being on my side. Thank you for practically forcing me back to college. Thank you for believing in me and encouraging me, and pushing me to try harder, no matter how much I object. Thank you for giving me my confidence back, and for being there for me when it failed. Thank you for taking the edge off the self-destructive side of my cynicism. Thank you for seeing that all it was, was idealism that had been disappointed far too often, and for bringing some of the faith back. Thank you for being patient with me while I searched for a purpose, and finally found it again. Thank you for listening when I need someone to talk to, and for actually hearing me. Thank you for trying so hard to cheer me up when I am unhappy, and for succeeding surprisingly often. Thank you for the laughs, and even for tickling me. Thank you for not telling anyone what a hopeless romantic I am, and for pretending that you hadn't noticed. Thank you for understanding that what is romantic is a very personal thing, and that the commercials have no idea what I like and what would make me happy. Thank you for buying me a big water bottle and for the mp3-player. Thank you for unexpected back rubs and for bringing me coffee in the morning when I least expected it. Will you be my Valentine? /Me

Not A Very Modest Proposal

It is inevitable in any group, that a very strong feeling of "us against them" develops. It helps the group stay together, and helps the members not only identify with each other and with the group, but it also helps them interact. It's one of the most fundamental of group dynamics, that the members of any group actively as well as subconsciously search for a common ground and once they have found that common ground they point it out to each other, often and in several ways, as a way of keeping the group together. It is also an important way of keeping the ones outside of the group on the outside, and it makes it easy to distinguish the outsiders from the real friends. From those who belong. Every group has it. For any religious congregation, it's the common faith. For Republicans, it seems to be a passionate hatred of paying taxes. For sports fans, it's our team, that we support loyally through victory or defeat. And for gamers, it seems to be the fact that we are unjustly persecuted in the media. In the only union I have bothered to join, three of the top six threads in the forum are about the unfair bias against video games in the media today, and about helping each other find arguments against the likes of Jack Thompson and his friends. Almost every day, someone on my list of tracked blogs has written a passionate defense of our hobby, often spent a lot of time doing research, and often it is a very eloquent defense. (The bloggers I track are good writers.) I fully admit that I am guilty of this as well. The three research papers I had to write in my English 102 class were all about video game violence and why it isn't as bad as it might seem at first. However, I can't help but wonder if we aren't wasting all that research and eloquence by posting the products of both here? This is Gamespot. This is a gathering place for other gamers. And, no offense to anyone who has spent that time on research and writing already, it is very easy to preach to the already converted. It's a very safe thing to do. No one who has a membership on Gamespot is going to seriously challenge your arguments. I presented the third revision of my paper to a class filled with non-gamers, who in most cases didn't even know that the creators of M-rated games are intentionally targeting an older crowd. They were honestly not aware that anyone over 18 years old actually plays video games, and their ignorance and curiosity about the issue led to a very good class room discussion. It is that kind of audience that you need to reach. Anyone who comes to Gamespot to read your union forum post or your blog already agrees with you. Your time and efforts are wasted on your readers here. I'm not saying that you shouldn't defend a hobby you feel passionately about, especially not since I still do, whenever I think it's needed. Nor am I saying that you should stop doing your research and that you should stop constructing solid arguments. What I am trying to say is that when it's just us, when the only ones around you are other video gamers, it would be a nice change of pace if we could focus on something else that we have in common. I'm sure we can think of some common thing that we all feel strongly about, if we just try.

The Product That Gamespot Censored

I have finally found it: A product that will automatically be censored on Gamespot. There is a certain irony in that, since the product in question is considered an absolute necessity in the industrialized world today. Indeed, most of us spend a fortune on it every year. We have our favourite brands, we have our favourite models, and a surprisingly large number of consumers shop around for a long time before picking that favourite. Studies how shown however, that once the average consumer has found their favourite brand and model, they are surprisingly loyal to it. Enlightened self-interest and personal comfort are both powerful motivational forces. This product is being censored not because of what it is, but because of its name. It is, in fact, such an offensive name that prudency demanded some liberal use of GIMP's airbrush tool, before it would allow me to post an image of the offending item here: \This may be the best product name ever "We reject the idea, which other companies have advertised for years, that toilet paper is only soft if the roll feels squishy in your hand. The truth is it doesn't matter a bit how soft the roll feels, since it's not the roll you will be wiping with!" Is this not marketing genius?

Not Another Christmas Blog

My exposure to anime ended several years ago, mainly because I own no anime myself, and the friends that did are still in Sweden, whereas I am here in the United States now. I still have fond memories of the Ruroni Kenshin episodes I watched (only made it to 14 or 15, I think), mainly because of the supporting cast and the outstanding Japanese voice-acting. My love for katanas was started by Kenshin, and the novel Musashi built on that. (That book is amazing!) I think Japanese RPGs and games are so popular in the US mainly for two reasons. The first is that they capitalized on the Anime boom. If something is Japanese, it is exotic in a cool and fashionable way in the US right now. The second is that today's average gamer is just below 30, has a decent paycheck and is of the generation that grew up when consoles and videogames just came to the US, and the Japanese don't get enough credit for the fact that as far as RPGs go, they were first. It's to a large extent nostalgia. The first Final Fantasy games, The Legend of Zelda game, and the greatest one of them all, Chrono Trigger… I played them, loved them, and remember them very fondly. So fondly in fact that I don't remember that the things that bother me about today's Japanese RPGs was there back then as well. I just didn't see them, and if I did, I don't remember them bothering me. One of the most fascinating things to me about cultural differences is the ones that you have to look closer at to see the full extent of. The fundamental ways of thinking, the subconscious assumptions that the thoughts are based on are drastically different... so different that a person from one country may learn the language of the other, but still not be able to understand them. For example, the English language has no equivalents to the suffixes the Japanese put after names, largely because social station is not nearly as important in the US as it is in Japan. In fact, the English language goes to great lengths to erase differences in social standing. The Japanese on the other hand, have to signal those differences in order to even be able to have a conversation. Because they are so very important, and because they have no English equivalents, the translators of Persona 3 had no choice but to leave them in the game as they translated the dialogue, leading to a mixture of Japanese and English all too familiar to viewers of Anime in the English-speaking world today. When I was younger, it didn't strike me as odd to play a game in which a 15-year old was the main Hero that saved the world. When you are 15 years old yourself that is an old age, filled with maturity and wisdom, and to save the world is something that every teenager dreams of. We want to be heroes. We know we could be, if we only had half a chance. And then I grew older, and realized how self-centered and immature teenagers are, and it irritates me that each and every one in these games is a kid. Why can't adults save the worlds for once? Maybe it is because youth symbolizes purity in most of Asia? Heroes should be pure, after all, and why stop at making them pure in thought and deed, when you can add multi-layered symbolism to the mix? The Japanese more than love symbolism; their written language consists of it and their way of thinking is based on it in ways that is difficult for Europeans to comprehend. Or maybe it's simply a matter of children in a Japanese culture growing up faster than in the US? Where the US thinks of and treats you as a child until you are 18, though your body and mind may be mature in every sense of the word, the Japanese expect responsibility and adult behavior from their children at a younger age, and consequently they receive it. That's a vague theory of course, since I haven't really studied contemporary Japanese culture that much. I prefer to stay with the nostalgia of the samurai novels. It is also interesting that the typical American hero, the nameless vigilante that operates outside the law, is a negative thing in Japanese culture-they were the Ronin, the cast-off samuari that served no master, had no honor and no principles. They lived outside of society's strict framework of defined roles and rules, and by doing so they automatically threatened that framework. One of many reasons the 360 isn't doing so well in Japan, perhaps? Speaking of that, have you ever noticed that the villains in Japanese RPGs surprisingly often are tall, blond, and have blue eyes? The evil that threatens the world is European in appearance... as a former history major, I find that fascinating. I enjoy Persona 3 because the parts of Japanese culture that I liked in the animes and novels are there. The delicate balance between a collectivist culture and a strong individualism, between personal ambition, and the expectations to put the welfare of the group above the welfare of the individual. The insight that although something can matter a great deal to me personally, that doesn't automatically mean that it actually is important, and death is a perfectly natural part of life, and not by far the worst thing that can happen to anyone. And what perhaps is the biggest obstacle of all for an American audience: A story does not necessarily have to have a happy ending, to have a good ending.
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