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Comicvine.com is live!

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Well, I just launched comicvine . It's a user submitted encycopedia for comic books with some fun social network tricks thrown in. It was built along with Ethan Lance in under 3 months.

There's not much to say other then go check it out and let me know what you think. The user submission stuff is pretty off the wall and hopefully people will dig it. It was definitely the most fun site to actually build.

Random Music Musings

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Guilty pleasures... I love The Sounds on a Friday night with a couple beers in hand. The lyrics are probably the silliest you've heard since a Cardigans album (I love them too), but wow are these some catchy albums.

Random music thought:

Is it me, or are you not listening to much Belle and Sebastian anymore either? I can't sit through the last two albums of theirs.




Icewind Dale 2: The Years Have Been Good

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Heh, I haven't done a GameSpot post in a long time, but felt like rambling about one of my favorite games of all time: Icewind Dale 2.

It's funny you know, I have this amazing gaming PC at home (my work machine on the other hand is a Mac) and despite it being able to put my xbox 360 to shame I find myself regularly loading up a 2D based RPG released almost 4 years ago by a legendary, though now defunct studio. What has me playing Icewind Dale 2 instead of Oblivion (which is a great game that I still haven't finished)? Party-based gameplay, best of genre strategic combat and the most varied character creation of any game ever released. Years later I still can sit for hours thinking up clever names and picking portrais for my sad band of pixelated hereos.

I remember seeing Greg give it an 8.3 all those years ago and completely agreeing with the score. It was a great game, but there was virtually no story and even then its Infinity Engine graphics were below par for the time. Neverwinter Nights was released around the same time and IWD2 was seen by the press as this last gasp funeral for people that just couldn't let go of games like Baldur's Gate. NWN and Bioware were supposedly taking us to the future of RPG gaming that would bring the genre to the mainstream. Little did we know that it would be another old-time stuido, Bethesda, that would usher us into that new era with Morrowind and Bioware would start making neutered Star Wars games.

Since 2002 I have played Morrowind twice, NWN and it's expansions once and Icewind Dale II six times. I have played virtually every single-player PC RPG released in the past 4 years and found that nothing comes close to IWD2's depth or fun factor. Somehow this old "8.3" game has provided enough replayability for me to load it up year after year and take a party of 4 to 6 characters (with silly names like "Kelgar", "Dash" and "Vicor") across a bloodied tundra of 40 hours of non-stop fighting.

At this point I've figured out why I love IWD2 so much and why I've continue to come back to it. The game is both very hard and very fair at the same time. Unlike most hard games you don't feel like the game is cheating you or unfairly assisting its monsters in some way. When you lose in IWD2, you lose because you made a mistake or you weren't thinking about how to attack a situation. This is true regardless of your party's composition, and because of that it is always fun to play. Of the six times I've played it through, I've had a completely different party that needed to utilize different strategies to get through the same difficult scenarios. I've died dozens of times on the famous "bridge fight", a battle that finds you flanked on both sides, running out of spells midway through the fight and relying on some clever positioning to keep all your characters alive.

The best way that I can describe the variety of combat to someone who is used to RPGs, but may not have played IWD2 per se is that in IWD2 your most powerful spells have nothing to do with damage. Although there are a lot of RPGs out there that give you lots of spells most of them end up being worthless; you end up just spamming the high damage spell trying to kill a single character. Not so in IWD2, your most powerful spells are things like sleep, color spray, grease and ray of enfeablement. While you'll use that fireball at some point, it's only after you've neutralized your enemy that you'll even bother to attack them.

Why is this strategy (which is super fun and stressful) so common in IWD2 but not other games of its type? Simply because in this game its not uncommon to fight over a dozen enemies at a time. If you tried to just attack them you'd be overwhelmed. Unlike Oblivion you can't just run around the arena with your shield up casting fireballs at those 2-3 powerful guys, there's no where to run in this game, the enemies are coming at you in large numbers and there's nothing you can do about it but lay down some debuff spells, hold that holds half of them off and then concentrate your damage at what is now a pretty fair fight.

The tension and skill you find that comes out of these types of battles is intense, and because your party is always so different with each new game, your way of combatting the situation will always change.

It's a hell of a ride and one I will likely return to again next year. If you aren't afraid of a challenge and don't mind looking at a bunch of sprites I highly recommend you check it out. That 8.3 might have been true for its time, but like a good wine, Icewind Dale 2 has aged quite well.

Sopranos and Big Love Closers

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Finally caught the finales for both Big Love and the Sopranos. I'd have to say the Big Love one was the winner, with the last episode of the Sopranos being almost a snooze fest.

Slowly getting into the juicy pickup in Babylon 5 near the end of the 2nd season. Let's see, what else is up...

1. I'm really excited for Season 3 of deadwood.
2. I'm enjoying the new season of Huff.
3. Ethan and I are saying "pretty, pretty, pretty good" Larry David style at least once a day at the office. Maybe twice.

Sopranos on Demand

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Started watching the new Sopranos season finally. Thank goodness for on demand. I'm only 3 or 4 episodes in but definitely digging the vibe this year.

Boompa.com launched...

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I'm deep into Season 2 of Babylon. Thank god, the first season is painful.

boompa.com

On march 3rd Ethan Lance (also a former TV.comer) and I got an internet connection working in our brand new Berkeley office. Just 2 months later our first site is out the door, boompa.com . The build involved probably my most intense work schedule to date, with me sleeping at the office 3 nights out of six day weeks. Ethan did something similiar, except with a pregnant wife!

In any case, the site itself is a car, motorcycle, scooter, atv, plane...whatever has a gas pedal and gos community. If you like tweaking your rides, you'll prolly dig it, though we've got a long way to go and will need a lot of community involvement to succeed. It takes some ideas I've always wanted to attack (how to build a better message board/commenting system, how to make user submission easy, how to build an entire site out of community content, then how to provide that content free back to the userbase) and throws some new technology on top of it to make things elegent and fun.

Now that's not saying that it's anywhere near complete. As a 1.0 release it's missing some of the bells and whistles from previous sites I've run, and definitely a lot from sites that have had time to mature and find their voice, but it's a good foundation to start with. And hell, if we can build an entire website from scratch in 2 months, just imagine what we can do in one month to improve it! Or hell, what will the next site have in store?

I'm proud of it not only as a website, but as a case study for how to build for the web fast, lean and hopefully scalable. With companies spending millions of dollars to launch products with a similar core featureset, it's pretty cool we can replicate that kind of proffessionalism with two guys and a budget of a few thousand. Of course, a lot of this is hot air from someone proud of their work, only time will tell if people will actually use the damn thing. A nice site is one thing, but a nice site with traffic is another. Heh, and a nice site with traffic that can pay the bills is yet another.

Either way, it was worth the rush and was fun to get back to my roots and design/code again. Let me know what you think while the site still has that new car smell. Signup is pretty painless. Enjoy.

My boompa profile and blog is here. I'll prolly go back to strictly TV posts here.

Babylon 5 in the mail...

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First off, go see the movie "Brick", which is out in theaters at the moment. A great flipside noir.

And now for the reason I'm popping up to blog on TV.com at 330am when I can't sleep...

For some reason, two nights ago whilst drunk I purchased all 5 seasons of babylon 5 on Amazon. Now, while I definitely consider the series flawed in some respects, I had to pick it up now that the price isn't so crazy.

The core reason for the purchase though was that Smushmeg has me watching Farscape, which I'm having a real hard time enjoying. Don't get me wrong, the special effects are top notch, but the series has a corniness/cliche factor of 9 and it's wearing thin now that I'm into season 3. It's kinda like dude where's my car in space... or make that New Zealand.

Maybe I'm just a Stuffy Stufferson, but the show lacks any real heart. You've got this "living" ship, that doesn't really live or react to much. It just has this mushroom headed koopa trooper who tells you what its feeling, and only when the plotline needs it. The characters that live within the ship are hardly original, you've got your kirk, your klingon, your ferrengi, your telepath and your scary looking bad guy, because remember folks, if the bad guys look scary, that means they're evil. Worse yet I'm guessing the series was doing horrible attracting viewers so every episode they externalize their personal missions over and over. "Do you know that I haven't seen my son in 3 cycles"? Yes Dago the Klingon, because you've told me every episode.

In any case, struggling through Farscape made me realize just how good Babylon 5 was and how much I missed it. Sure it had some hit and miss acting (don't get me started on season 1 or Garabaldi) and has dated effects, but the G'Kar / Londo pairing totally tilts the show and in my mind is the best hot / cold duo in Sci-Fi. You heard that right Bones / Spock fans. You found pure shakespeare in G'Kar and the whole serial based "novela" storyline just makes for the kind of TV we're just now (10 years later) getting spoiled by with Lost and HBO. Plus the show has the type of epic sacrifice and tragedy that fans of George R.R. Martin would enjoy. Again, it's not perfect, and is far from my favorite show (see Scuba Wars), but if you haven't checked it out and can get past early 90s low budget special effects I highly recommend it.

As you can tell I'm looking forward to returning to the series, even if I have zero time to watch it these days. Between a girlfriend with little tolerance for sci-fi (luckily we share a love of HBO) and a reminiscent 80 hour work week (I'm working on a new site) I don't know when I'll get to watch it.

I'll admit to one thing though, it'll prolly be before I finish Farscape.

PS: a belated huzah! to the TV team for speeding up the site and polishing the chrome. It's looking both dandy and familiar.

Shout outs to the TV.com community, nice to see the same faces popping in and out of the boards. Sorry for the lack of updates, I've been busy lately working on a new site.

Caught the plague...

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Allo duders. As fate would have it I've caught a nasty virus and started the new year horribly sick. It's definitely been weird not making the trip to work each morning, but I'm starting work on my new projects and getting really excited about starting with a clean slate. Here's the breakdown of my media habits over the break: Syriana: *** stars Pretty good hyperlink flick and I enjoyed it much more then traffic, the directors other movie. It loses a star for having a very all over the place plot, which is pretty unavoidable in hyperlink movies, but this one seemed overly vacant. Munich: *** stars Speilberg movies are always good even when they are bad. This one loses a star for being a little too hammy in it's message. While I agree with what its agendas I think it was a little too straightforward. Loved seeing Caesar from Rome in in another part though. Battlestar Galatica Season 2: ** Picked up the DVD set over break and made my way through it. Seemed extremely short and not as tight as the first season. The ending felt thrown on at the last minute and everything just seemed to move too fast. Serenity: **** The film version of Firefly hits all the right marks and is quality entertainment. If you are the guy who thought the new star wars movies lacked a cool han solo character, you should check this one out. I really hope the dvd sales help allow for a sequel.