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Well, I'm back from vacation... and it's only taken me all of four days to get around to updating. *facepalm*

Things acquired


- Galactic North (Alastair Reynolds)
- Revelation Space (Alastair Reynolds)
- Redemption Ark (Alastair Reynolds)
- Absolution Gap (Alastair Reynolds)
[Are you seeing a pattern here? I haven't fallen this hard for an author's books since I found Asimov at age 14. -Okay, so Arthur Clarke came really close-. It's just that case of finding an author whom you're so comfortable with that you'll readily buy *any* book they come out with. And really, I'm a big sucker for old fashioned space opera, with a generous side of technology. Side note: The bookstore I went to had EVERY book Reynolds ever published, and I can't tell you just how tempting it was to buy the whole lot all at once.]

- Lost & Found (Shaun Tan): I loved ST's graphic novel, The Arrival (which is one of the genre's most beautiful books ever published), and I love his art style; this is an opportunity to see how the man works with colours for a change.

- Hellblazer: Original Sins: Seriously? Getting started on the Hellblazer series is a bad, bad, bad idea because it just about runs forever. But I'm a big fan of the fellow from his appearances in the Tim Hunter comics (and that's the original blond, womanising bloke from Liverpool, thank you very much. Not Keanu Reeves), so it sort of makes sense to transition from BoM/NoM/AoM to Hellblazer. I think.

- The First Three Minutes (Steven Weinberg): There's just no escaping Weinberg, and Sean Carroll's From Here to Eternity (which I read on vacation. Yes, my idea of a vacation is reading physics books, apparently) was just the umpteenth reminder how I should track down his book on the early universe, once and for all.

- The Eerie Silence: Searching for Ourselves in the Universe (Paul Davies): Just because I hero-worship Stephen Hawking, it doesn't mean I necessarily frown upon making contact with aliens either, haha. The book synopsis alone makes me think of Sagan's work, and his theories on what form extraterrestrial life would take... and that invocation of the memory of Sagan alone is about enough to sell me a book.

- Post Captain (Patrick O'Brien): I would have gotten HMS Surprise as well, but would you believe it... the bookstore had EVERY book in the Aubrey-Maturin series BUT HMS Surprise. *facepalm*

Electronics & Misc

- GARMIN nuvi 2465 GPS navigator: Because I couldn't find my way around the block on my own if I tried. KIDDING. ... Okay, not really. My mother's constant worry is that someday I'll miss a turn and  find myself on the other end of the country. At least now if I do, I can blame it on a little GPS device for getting me lost.

- The Sims 3 Late Night: Okay, so I caved in. I have every expansion set that ever came out for TS1 and TS2, and it looks like the same is going to be true of TS3; compulsion keeps me collecting, even if the sensible voice in my head screams, "NO, not again!" Considering that the last ten games I've played consisted of a player character brutally maiming and killing other characters (or, in the case of Amnesia, the other way around), LN is a nice change of pace, *and* I get new Build/Buy stuff for my architecture/interior design obsession. Oh wait, I kill Sims too. Never mind.

- The Complete National Geographic: Every issue from 1888 to 2009, on six DVDs. I have no idea how long it'll take me to put even a dent in the 8,000+ articles in the collection, but I figure it's always good to have the whole set at your fingertips, right? Not to mention... 200,000 photos' worth of pic reference. I'm such a magpie.

- Pandemonium Tour CD+DVD (Pet Shop Boys): Home for four days, and I'm already burning a hole in this. ;) [But seriously, Neil Tennant, what the hell's with the dancing Christmas trees? ROFL]
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Just the other day, I managed to smoosh my left ring and pinky in between a couple of 45-pound weights while unloading the plate press at the gym. Admittedly, 45-pounders are pretty good implements where tenderising meat for hamburger patties is concerned... though not so much the Ethical Treatment of Personal Digits. And then, of course, my left thumb decided it wanted in on the fun and jumped into the kitchen drawer as I was shutting it, that same night. Final score: Fingers 3, Far 0.

I wouldn't have mentioned it, but for the fact that said thumb and pinky have had no time off because obviously it is not possible to practice the french horn with only two fingers. (If anyone knows of a way to get an A flat without using the third lever, please let me know). On the plus side (I think?), said pinky is now quite thoroughly numb from tonight's practice, and so does not feel like it's about to explode like an overcooked sausage. Har har.

In other news, a friend just linked me to the following awesome video:

History of the Soviet Union to the theme tune of Tetris!!!! <geeklove> Now, if only high school history classes had been conducted in a similar fashion, I might have been far more interested in the subject. (Though I did still get an A for my O levels-equivalent, which is probably the biggest mystery in the history of my education since I distinctly remember cooking up the entire Meiji Restoration bit).
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Thought I'd post works in progress from time to time, in case somebody somewhere wants to see them. Like, ha.

Daniel from Amnesia: The Dark Descent doing something utterly horrible that was only mentioned in a letter in the game:

 The pencil sketch set to multiply, with a greenish background underneath. Background details are marked in with dark brown.
 Changed the background colour to something less blah. I mean, it is a goddamn candlelit torture room, not the bloody sewers.
 What can I say, I don't care much for handsome protagonists. LOL. I do like the crazy ones, though.
 No self-respecting 1830s gent would be caught dead without his waistcoat, cravat *or* coat, but given that Daniel is doing something horribly messy, perhaps he can be pardoned.

It's still a damn sight better than the game concept art, which has Daniel wearing a coat that would've suited George Frederic Handel, and fully buttoned shirt/ belt/ zip-up pants. Did nobody do their homework?
 Um, Alexander? Stop distracting Daniel.
 Started splashing greens around because the picture was too boring in terms of colour.
  Started scribbling like a maniac on a new layer at this point. Then set layer to "Divide", which made the picture look even more psychotic than it already was.
  My beta liked the picture less saturated, so this was the final version I uploaded.

I admit to being partial to the more saturated version, but it does get painful on the eyes after a while.

Oh and yes, I lengthened the blade of the knife. Daniel deserves better than a sissy little carver.
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[I was going to play and review Wings of Prey but, surprise surprise, Mass Effect 2 actually finished downloading before WoP, so I decided to be reacquainted with my sniper rifle, haha.]

Unfathomable technology of dead, ancient civilisations should not be fully trusted.

For anyone who doesn't already know this, Mass Effect 2 is an action RPG by BioWare, the same company that made Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire and Dragon Age. The game is centered around an ancient technology called the Mass Effect, a physics phenomenon (and game equivalent for what real life physicists call "dark energy") that, among other things, allow interstellar travel using Mass Relay stations built all over the galaxy by an ancient, extinct race called the Protheans. At the end of the first Mass Effect game, Commander Shepard (the player character) and his/her motley crew of aliens and humans save the galaxy from invasion by the ancient predatory race of Reapers by shutting down the mass relay on Citadel Station and - depending on your actions in the game - either save the Galactic Council, thereby allowing humans to join the council, or allow it to be destroyed, thus opening the way for humans to step out as the new galactic leader. In ME1 my Shepard had gone after the Sovereign, flagship of the rogue Spectre Saren, which caused the Council to fall - a course of action that probably endeared Shepard to very few aliens!

Relays! Aliens! Spaceships! )



I never thought I'd see the day when I was unable to wear a nice branded shirt because size S was too goddamn big. But that's exactly what happened when I idly browsed the racks at Benetton yesterday and chanced upon a very nice shirt that I was quite taken with. M, which I normally wear, was big enough to hide several baby elephants; S was still enough to accommodate one baby elephant if it held its breath and was willing to be squashed a little. And of course the shirt didn't come in sizes smaller than that. Why must you make your shirts so ginormous, Benetton???

Also, I bought a Logitech Extreme 3D Pro joystick in preparation for my Wings of Prey gaming sessions. ^__^ I haven't been this excited since I played my first fighter sim as an adolescent. Did I ever mention that one of the things I wanted to do as a kid was join the Air Force and fly Tomcats and Flying Fortresses? (Never mind that our nation's Air Force didn't have F-14s, B-17s were long obsolete, and I was practically blind without glasses, among other things). I used to lament the fact that I was born in the wrong age for wars - an incredibly naive, childish thing to think, but I was young enough then that I only saw the glamour of doing loops and rolls and firing missiles at enemy fighters. Admittedly it was one of those things I never quite got over. I'll review the joystick alongside the game when I get around to it.
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So Tory and I were discussing Temeraire and dragon anatomy, and moaning over how Longwing markings should look. And since she wanted to do a dragon picture and had trouble with the anatomy, we both decided to fire up Deviant Art Muro and rough out the markings and skeletal system respectively. Here's my majorly screwed up half:

I'd have made the "humerus" for the wings longer, only I ran out of canvas space at the top - which just goes to show how awesome I am at planning pictures. [facepalm]

Has anybody any idea how Longwing wings can be "tipped with orange" *and* "edged with black and white markings"??? We're bashing up desks and tablets trying to work this out.

Amnesia Diary (spoiler!!!)
Finally finished the damn game! Agrippa - whose dead husk I found hanging in a torture area in the nave, but whose essence was perfectly happy to chat with me in a sprightly old voice - had me sever his head and toss it into the portal opened by the orb. This apparently caused the Shadow to kill not only Alexander, but me/Daniel as well. Only I woke up in darkness, with glowing blue lights in the distance, to Agrippa's voice telling his student Johann Weyer that I deserved so much more, and that he was to help me. The last thing Agrippa said before the credits started rolling was, "Don't worry, Daniel, it will be all right." Eh? and just what is Weyer going to do, bring me back to life? or am I joining them "beyond the stars"?

The "revenge" ending - which I got, when I played the finale a second time - was far more satisfying: Daniel killing Alexander, and then walking out of Brennenburg Castle, apparently having been cleansed of his sins by giving Alexander to the Shadow.

Oh, and by the way, I finally found out just what had been chasing me in the darkness:

Seriously, Mr. Google-Eyed Slackjaw??? [dies laughing]

I guess it really  *is* a case of what you can't see being far scarier than what you *do* see. ROFLMAO!
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My dad's clinic was packed today, all the way to closing time. I asked him if the major complaint of his patients was overindulgence during Christmas. Force knows, we came dangerously close.

Christmas eve we went out for dinner and cheesecake, and to catch the Christmas performances at the mall. Christmas day breakfast at this spanking new dim sum restaurant (where hordes of people, most of them coming straight from the church, had similarly gathered), *and* dinner at my aunt's, my uncle having cooked up a giant vat of spaghetti. Then *another* dinner at the country club restaurant the following night, to celebrate my other aunt's birthday. Oi. Antacids all around, please.

Was pleasantly surprised to receive more unique coins from my parents for my (small but slowly growing) collection - two solid gold, one silver, all commemorating special national events - as I hadn't expected them to get me anything (and had certainly said as much!). Also - probably as proof of how much of a games nerd I am - received three games from friends this season: one of which is still scaring the hell out of me because I'm wussy enough to play it only when there's still daylight or when there are people talking to me on Steam (Amnesia: The Dark Descent); one which is something I would never have thought to get but which turned out to be highly entertaining (Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures), and one that I'm going to die of old age before I play it because it's taking forever to download on Steam (Mass Effect 2). And if you don't think that's already enough to last me many, many months, I went and bought Wings of Prey for myself as well because... well, it's a World War II fighter simulator, and I never quite got over my I Want To Be A Fighter Pilot phase. (Fighter/bomber sims were about all I played during my misguided adolescence).

Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures

This isn't the sort of game I would have ever tried on my own, let alone get, but playing it has disabused me of the notion that Lego Video Games are only for little kids. Tory actually got this for me so that we could play co-op. If she'd read the specifications a little more carefully, though, she might have noticed the words, "local co-op"... which effectively means that, unless we find a way to open a wormhole connecting our studies, we're not going to be playing together anytime soon. Which, actually, is a bit of a blessing, given the kind of havoc you can wreak with this game.

I haven't played all that much of it yet, but I can honestly say this: Lego Indiana Jones is singularly The Most Destructive Game I have ever laid my grimy paws upon, and I'm saying this as an action game fan, and especially one who has played Ghostbusters: The Video Game, where they tell you in your financial statement just how many thousand dollars' worth of government property etc you have managed to wreck while taking down your ghosts (my final tally being somewhere in the order of USD300+ K). To put it simply: *anything* made of Lego bricks can be destroyed. This includes all manner of plants, furniture, fixtures, decorations - and, of course, other Lego characters. Not only can you smash *anything*, even upright pianos, apart with your bare fists, the game actually rewards you for this wantonly destructive behaviour by giving you - gasp! - money for anything and everything you break.

Here we see Indy savaging an innocent filing cabinet as coins pour out of it:

Hilarious, I tell you.

Anyway, I digress. The game, as its name implies, is Lego brick-based... or at least Lego bricks rendered in beautiful, shiny 3D. All three original Indiana Jones movies are represented here, each with its own game: Raiders of the Lost Ark, Temple of Doom and The Last Crusade. In each chapter, Indy is accompanied by one or more other characters, each with his/her own special moves/actions/abilities: Indy has his bullwhip, of course; female characters, being more lithe, can jump higher; other characters may wield special equipment, like Satipo who, in Raiders, wields a shovel you can use to unearth partially buried treasure. Gameplay-wise, it's very much action-adventure style, with a hell lot of running and jumping, and finding keys and pulling levers. Only, this being a Lego game, you also get to *build* things to earn rewards or obtain objects for progressing.

It's a highly entertaining game - and not just for kids either. I suspect that it would be even more entertaining playing it with a friend because... there are endless opportunities for annoying the hell out of each other, seeing as you can push and shove and punch each other, and even put them in a position where they die every time they respawn. Of course, these being little Lego people, there isn't any blood when anybody dies, and they just come to pieces when they kick the Lego bucket. It's also interesting how much of the original story can be captured in a game that involves only hilarious facial expressions and body language, and absolutely no conversation, even if the game is more a humourous version of, rather than a faithful, accurate recreation of the original movies. (How serious could Lego Nazis possibly be anyway?).

On the flip side, the controls make me want to throw my mouse at the monitor at times. Characters can get stuck in various odd places, enemies can spawn where you can't get to them, and you can trip over a ledge and fall to your death on a bed of spikes - and respawn right at the edge of said ledge to fall in and impale yourself again and respawn right at the edge of said ledge to fall in and impale yourself again ad nauseam. And to make it worse, characters you're not currently playing can block your path out of said hazards, keeping you locked in a vicious reincarnation-violent death cycle. Saving is also a headache: the game only saves after you complete a chapter, which is pretty dang long, so if you have to shut off your computer or go anywhere before you complete one, you can kiss your game goodbye. Oh, and lest you think you can play *any* of the three games at will... think again. I spent a considerable amount of time dismantling everything I could crack my bullwhip at in The Last Crusade, only to realise that, to progress to the next section, I needed a character I did not currently have, and couldn't obtain unless I played the game right through from Raiders and Temple. GAH!

All in all, though, it's a fun game for when you're tired of violence, blood and gore, and want a little good, clean stress relief. Unless of course you find yourself in one of those loops, in which case the game actually causes stress, and rather a lot of swearing.

Next up: Wings of Prey.

Quote of the Day:
 Linda: [On Christmas day, upon seeing that I'd launched Amnesia] "So you're celebrating the birth of Jesus by playing a game that causes you to scream out his name frequently?" ROFLMAO.

Amnesia Diary:
Do not ever assume, when reaching a door, that the monster you hear growling necessarily has to be beyond the door. Turning up a staircase in the sewer to a heavy wooden door, I heard the ominous rumble, and turned and RAN back around the corner - only to crash headlong into one of the goddamn freaks. Needless to say, Daniel's face got torn off in the encounter, and my heart jumped out of my ribcage in a panic and ran away with my lungs.
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Amnesia Diary

How big a wuss do you have to be to hit the EXIT button in panic halfway through a game? >.< That's what I found myself doing after encountering a monster and turning tail to run - only to realise that I'd lit all the candles in all the rooms, which meant I had nowhere to hide, and was therefore DOOMED. (I would've used my lantern instead of lighting all those candles, only I'd run out of oil long ago...). So I took the chicken exit out of the damn thing.

Epic fail.

By the way, I take back what I said about the game not being pretty. It's not clean, high-render pretty, sure, but it more than makes up in highly *effective* lighting effects. This is the one game I've played so far where no light = *complete* darkness. But it doesn't stay pitch-black forever; just as your eyes adjust to darkness in real life, Daniel's eyes also adjust to the darkness around him, which means that when you step into a lightless area, you see nothing at first... and then you start being able to make out shapes and structures. Pretty damn cool.

Oh, and I don't know what's worse: chancing upon a monster in the dark - which is exactly where you'd expect to find one, but which is scary just the same because you can't see it coming from afar - or having a monster appear from out of nowhere when you're someplace you'd THINK you were safe, like that very cosy, warmly lit guest room with the cheery fireplace, and the game suddenly sends you a warning that a monster is coming your way, you have no defences, so you'd better find a hiding place REAL QUICK OR DIE. I have never run for a closet so fast.

What the hell are those things anyway?


In other news, our annual concert is tomorrow. I've been shifted from the right end of my row to dead centre, which, in a way is good: the hearing in my left ear hasn't returned completely (and I think I have some kind of new superpower that lets me *feel*  very low frequency vibrations in said left ear... although it's pretty much useless for anything else), which meant that for the past few days I had trouble hearing the rest of the orchestra from my corner, but now the sound is a great deal more balanced. On the other hand, I do *not* like sitting right in the centre, so am getting a mild case of Nerves. Especially not when they've just dealt out a new  piece and I find that I have two very long duet parts with the trombone. Gah!

[No, this is not the best time to be playing a highly stressful survival horror game either. LOL.]
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... I'm cowering behind a cushion. Really.

I'm no stranger to survival horror, seriously. One of my two favourite arcade games has always been House of the Dead, particularly the third installment, where you're armed with shotguns powerful enough to send things flying. I can cheerfully run around in Left4Dead (1&2), spraying bullets at the infected while calling them names, and crowing every time I score an especially neat kill (like decapitating one with one smack of the skillet). At midnight. Ditto Resident Evil. And I certainly have no problem with stuff like Bioshock and Nation Red and Killing Floor either. Zombies? I eat 'em for lunch. With a side dish of bullets. Ghosts, like in F.E.A.R.? I just shoot them. Never mind that ghosts can't eat lead.

But then you give me *one* game like Amnesia: The Dark Descent, where I don't catch more than a glimpse of what is stalking me, where I hear things walking around everywhere I go, and where my vision warps and goes blurry when I stay in the dark for too long, and I turn into a pathetic, whimpering wreck. Part of the reason might be that, up until now, I've always gone around with a powerful enough arsenal to raze half the continent, with more on the wayside. Take the weapons away, and there goes my security blanket. Not to mention the horror of having something stalking you unseen is far, far more traumatising than repeatedly coming face to face with the same monsters. I mean, after you get over the shock of seeing a zombie, the novelty sort of wears off, and you start treating them like just so many more bugs to squash... but how do you deal with your own *paranoia* creeping up on you?

For what it's worth, the developers of Amnesia have gotten the formula right. It *is*, as they promised, completely immersive: there's no introductory movie and no cutscenes to remove you from the action, no image for you to identify as the protagonist (or, for that matter, the antagonist), and nothing at all to prepare you for what awaits when the game starts. It forces you to experience Daniel's amnesia firsthand, and discover just what is going on through voice-over flashbacks and notes and journal entries that you find lying around the castle. The action is physics-based and seamlessly integrated into the gameplay: doors, boxes, drawers are all opened by drawing back the hand cursor; similarly, things can be tossed (especially to distract the monsters!), levers can be pulled up or down, and wheels are turned by making circular motions with the mouse. There aren't any pointless puzzles to distract you from the gameplay: where there are puzzles, they're in the form of locating parts to repair something, or chemicals to mix into a detergent, or something as simple as dislodging a stick obstructing a pulley.

But what really makes it work is the oppressive atmosphere. The game takes part in Brennenburg Castle, from its grand halls and cosy studies to dank cellars and flooded basements. The graphic's nothing to shout about, but who wants a game like this to be *pretty*? This is the sort of castle Lovecraft would have loved: dimly lit, with strange sounds and stranger fogs and winds blowing doors open and snuffing out the lights. Lit candles and torches (this *is* set in the 19th century) are few and far between; for the most part, you have to light your own, with tinderboxes you find all over the place, or shine your lantern, assuming you can find enough oil for it. Light is good - Daniel starts to go crazy if he's in the dark for too long (like The Call of Cthulhu, this game has a sanity meter), but slowly regains it in the presence of light - but then again, light can also be your worst enemy if you have one of the horrifying monsters, who roam the castle, on your heels. And, given that you have absolutely no defence at all against the monsters, you have three options when one spots you: run, hide or die. The shadows are a good place to duck into, but closets - thank the force for these! - are even better. I tell you, at the first sound of danger, I run and stuff myself into the first closet I find.

And if all this weren't terrifying enough, there's Daniel himself. It's bad enough running down dark corridors without knowing what awaits you at the end; when you have Daniel gasping and panting and whimpering in your ear every time he sees something scary, soon even the sight of your own shadow makes you jump. This game really is the worst of your fears come to life - and more.

[This game should, by all rights, be played late at night, in total darkness, with headphones. But I readily confess: I simply don't have the nerve. I play it while there's still sunlight. And even then, the damn game freaks me out.]

Is Amnesia worth playing? Oh yes. And it is a terrifying experience - even *after* you've saved and exited the game. If anyone needs me, I'll be cowering in my closet.



1. An invisible monster in the water chased me around the flooded cellar, while I threw books and decomposing body parts to lure it away, and opened and slammed shut something like a hundred doors behind me. Harrowing, I tell you.
2. While checking a study for tinderboxes and other usable material, I opened a cupboard, and out fell a pile of human skulls. Daniel gasped in fright. I simply jumped out of my skin.
3. Alexander must have been performing all manner of hideous experiments in his study. There are anatomical charts and bonesaws and stuffed animals all over the place... and the distant sound of dogs barking while I wandered through the rooms. I'm hoping said dogs are only the hallucinatory product of a deranged mind. Daniel's, not mine.
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I just logged onto Steam today to find that my friend Linda had bought me Amnesia: Dark Descent. ^____^ Just two weeks ago, I got her Left4Dead 2 (because she enjoyed the Zombieland movie so much), so she could watch and laugh her head off every time TankMagnet ran away screaming from a Tank/Hunter. Apparently she tried it then (alone) and got scared to bits. On my part, the Amnesia demo had *me* jumping several feet in the air every time a shadow moved. We're obviously going to be competing for the "Who Gets Scared The Most In A Horror Game" crown. LOL.

[goes to grab duvet and a couple of very bright flashlights. Because I really am that big a wuss.]

In the meantime, have you met Montgomery? He's my new 1861 Enfield musketoon (replica) from Denix:

Closeup of the percussion cap mechanism.

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Having to run from the Tank alone *once* is not cool. Having to do it *twice* in ten minutes suggests you did something very horrible in your past life, and your karma's now biting you in the arse.

Holy Flamin' Tanks! )


My sterling ability to make plans and then completely veer off course amazes me. [shakes head dolefully]

Given that I don't even *like* plants, why in space did I even feel compelled to put so many in this picture?
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Does anyone here play Portal? Because seriously, this crossover is made of win:

Re: Portal meets Les Mis by ~Meketaten on deviantART

Valjean as a test subject! Javert as GLaDOS! EPIC WIN.

[dies laughing]

The original Jonathan Coulton song from the game, for those not in the know:

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Here's an enlightening little conversation I just had with my mother:

[mum watches me remove a microwaved leftover pizza slice from the oven]
Mum: Didn't you cover that? You and your dad are exactly alike. Why didn't you cover the pizza?
Me: Because it's dry, and there's nothing to splatter all over the inside of the microwave?
Mum: But you should cover it! My friend told me all about MICROWAVE RAYS. What if those MICROWAVE RAYS get into the food?
Me: Mum, they're called waves. What do you think cooks the food?

It's both hilarious and appalling how many people don't know how their modern gadgets work.

In other news: MAFIA II WILL BE OUT IN TWO DAYS' TIME!!!!!!!!!!!

Seriously, I have waited for this game for six years. And god, how I loved the original. I really, really want this new one to be good.

You're never seeing me again.
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The previous week has been interminably slow and dull; my chief forms of entertainment for the past few days has consisted of watching my computer do primality tests for M23837323 and M23837659 for the Mersenne Primes Search (GIMPS), watching season 3 of The Guild and... playing Hitman: Blood Money. After four years. Seriously. It's embarrassing: I was such a big fan of the previous three games (and I wrote that exhaustive guide to the first game, that covered all the weapons and equipment, characters *and* different execution methods - easy and cheapskate - which should say something about my commitment)... and then I bought the fourth and let dust gather on it for FOUR YEARS before I finally installed it. I don't know why I never got around to it for so long (maybe Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and my then-newfound interest in art had something to do with it), but god, it's rekindling the joy of planning and pulling off the perfect Silent Assassin execution. Not to mention the frustration of occasionally botching it up because you accidentally bashed someone in the mouth instead of sedating them...

Enzyme Fever

In other news... my mother is caught up in the latest fad sweeping through town: ... making enzymes? Confused, I went poking around the internet for an explanation of what the hell they're actually doing, and found about a gajillion eyebrow-raising recipes with titles like "Making fruit enzymes"  and "Making garbage enzymes" and "Fruit enzyme drink". WTF?

Blatherfest )

On the Art Front

I also did manage to finish my painting of Volly and the cow in spite of the fact that all my betas were on vacation >.<. Proof that I'm ridiculously unsystematic when it comes to painting (I changed stuff so many times it's not funny):

Pointless Wippage )
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... Even if I *did* all but disappear off the face of the Internet for the better part of two weeks. >.<

I blame it on:

1. My obsessiveness in helping my conductor look for new scores for the orchestra (seriously. I tend to interpret statements like, "If you have the time, could you help look for some more pieces" as "Spend all your goddamn time searching everywhere, and transcribe the damn handwritten scores on Encore if it kills you").

2. My obsessiveness in playing The Sims 3: Ambitions. I blame this one on TankMagnet.

3. My obsessiveness in drawing the following exercise in insanity (and what is quite possibly the *worst* crack pairing in literary history):

by =DarthFar on deviantART

4. This one series that was recommended to me, that I wasn't even particularly keen to start - and now I can't bloody put it down and I'm reading it for the second time in two weeks. In fact, this is what resulted from said obsessive reading:

(If anyone has any idea at all where this is from!).

My apologies to everyone whom I've failed to reply to/comment on their journal/stories/etc. I promise I'll be back on track... soon?
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We played Johann Strauss II's Vienna Blood waltz tonight. Oh, there was blood all right: *MINE*. My trombone bit me.

You ask how this could possibly happen. If you were asking such a question, you would doubtless also be asking how the same person could have, the the past, hit themselves very hard in the *teeth* and the *head* with same instrument. (And the answer would be: Because it's *me*).


I can't begin to tell you just how much I love Text Twist. So when I found out that Yahoo had released a *sequel* to my favourite word game, well. Let's just say that I got absolutely no drawing done last week. (And very little of my dad's accounts either).

Ooh, shiny.

This second game features not two gameplay modes, but *five*: in addition to the classic Timed and Untimed modes, there's now Word of the Day, Lightning and Crossword as well. Word of the Day is exactly what it says: every day you get one new word. The Lightning mode challenges you to unscramble single long words (called "Bingo words" in this sequel), with five words to each level. And Crossword is pretty sweet: it's a crossword with a twist. The bingo word is right smack dab at the centre of the crossword (which you have to unscramble, of course); radiating from the bingo word are a bunch of shorter words that you make from the long one. Of course, the trick is figuring out which goes where, which isn't always as easy as it sounds. Oh, and the game now has 8-letter words as well. Awesome.

Also, in the tradition of so many of the latest games, Text Twist 2 has trophies, ranging from the easily achievable (solve 5 bingo words without twisting) to finger-grinding (complete a Lightning round in 3 seconds or less) to sheer doggedness (twist 10,000 times). Of course, you realise that these trophies and achievements are what make games like Left4Dead and Half-Life 2 so addictive. Goddamn you, Yahoo!

Is there anything I don't like about this sequel? I mean, it's shiny, it's pretty, it has so much added gameplay... and of course, it comes with a price. Namely, 157MB RAM to juice it. (For a word game?? When *Portal* takes takes under 120?). Not to mention Text Twist 1's orderly tracking of your found words (in alphabetical order) is now gone, and your words are arranged in the order they're found, which looks hideously untidy to me. You no longer have the maximum number of words to find either: the number of 3-, 4-, 5- etc letter words are now limited, which I suppose makes it easier for people who can't solve the puzzles fast enough, but it's frustrating to bang out words at a frenetic pace, only to be repeatedly told that "You have enough words of this length". GAH.

Still, the Good is enough to make up for the Bad, and I've been enjoying myself pretty thoroughly. The only problem is: now how do I unhook myself so that I can get some work done?
darthfar: (Default)

My dreams are sometimes a better source of entertainment than shows on TV. The recurring themes are: war, gunfights, chases, the occasional mystery. Of course, since I'm an action game freak (who, as a child, wanted to be - among other things - in Special Forces), and since I'm usually very much aware of the fact that I'm dreaming, it's always a challenge to stay in that dreaming state to find out how stories pan out.

Last night, though...
Zombology... )


I love the new Bioshock 2 (the one that came out on 9 Feb), even if it seems to be at least a quarter shorter than the first game. (Having a thirteen-button mouse to play it with certainly doesn't hurt either). Without giving too much away, it's a retro SF-ish shooter set in a fictional 1960s underwater city called Rapture, with a backstory based on Ayn Rand's dystopic novel Atlas Shrugged. I'll probably do a review of it sometime later, but here are a couple of screenshots from the game, mostly for the benefit of Despard, whom I know likes vintage (although this might be a little "new" for her taste), diving and Art Deco, and would probably love to roam about the locations, even if she's unlikely to ever actually play the game:


Am doing an Art Nouveau-inspired picture for a friend for an art trade:


What the hell was I thinking, inking it digitally?! I could've done it in a third of the time if I'd used normal technical pens. [facepalm]

Still doing the base colours and gradients (a long way to go...):

It tickles me immensely that the picture is stuffed full of math and physics easter eggs that absolutely no one is going to pick up on (with the exception of TM, who was totally on to my nasty habits). What can I say, I'm a sucker for inside jokes.
darthfar: (Default)
We played a brand new piece at practice last night: Tan Dun's Internet Symphony, "Eroica". Check out the LSO's performance of the piece:


This was one of the times when, watching my partner look at the score and *facepalm* in annoyance/dismay, I was very, very glad that I made myself learn to read tenor clef. LOL. It wasn't as if we had notes crawling all around the staves, but still - being able to actually read said notes instead of having to rewrite them in bass clef like my partner did is a massive plus.

The video kills me. Just *kills* me. Wheel rims! Drum brakes! I'd love to see my conductor obtain *those* for our performance.

There's Something Fishy About You

I'm currently reading Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body by Neil Shubin. I'd already read a little about Jenny Clack's work on Acanthostega, as well as the role of hox genes in controlling the head-to-tail organisation of bodies in Carl Zimmer's very enlightening (and entertaining!) At the Water's Edge: Fish with Fingers, Whales with Legs, and How Life Came Ashore but Then Went Back to Sea, but Shubin's book traces not only our roots back to the first fish with wrists, but also our similar genetic heritage with everything else that has a body, all the way back to how the 'molecular rivets' in our bodies link us to the humble microorganism. As far as science goes, it's a little lighter on the technical side than some others, but I suppose that makes it more accessible to the general public than just to the scientific community (didn't Stephen Hawking's publisher warn him, back when he was writing A Brief History of Time, that each equation he put in it would halve sales? LOL). It certainly makes for a very entertaining read as well - I had a rather serious case of the chuckles reading the chapter "The Best-Laid (Body) Plans", and could not satisfactorily explain to the rest of the family just what could be so funny that came out of a biology book.

Mass Affection!

And because this is supposed to be partly an art blog:

Garrus Vakarian from Mass Effect, for TankMagnet who was evil enough to get me the game, and who has a massive crush on him. Although I can't, for the life of me, wrap my mind around how exactly you're supposed to romance an alien that's built like a lobster.

Tory, if you're reading this - I want my pod crab. ;) That was another subtle hint.
darthfar: (Default)
I just stumbled upon this new shop on the top floor of the mall I frequent, that sells replica weapons, ... and well, gosh, I love weapons that date back to periods when it was all about beautiful craftsmanship. (Although, due to airport customs, I've never had the guts to bring in replica firearms from abroad - which was about the only place you could get them then). Aside from daggers and katanas, they've a nice selection of Winchester rifles I'd buy like a shot (ha!) if not for (1) the price, and (2) the fact that my mother would freak out; and 18th and 19th century pistols and blunderbusses.

In fact, I'm almost tempted to add this to my limited - if bizarre - arsenal, for this year's birthday1:

An 1825 Italian Percussion Lock Pistol <3 <3 <3 (non-firing, of course, but with functional lock mechanism. I'm a little annoyed that you can't remove the ramrod, but given that nobody's going to actually ram in real shots, I don't suppose it matters)

On the other hand, can I handle another embarrassing conversation like the one I just had at the shop?

[long conversation with shop assistant about swords and guns. Seeing that I'm practically drooling , SA takes out and lets me handle an authentic 16th century wheelock pistol, and shows me some of the pistol replicas.]

SA: All these come with licences. Of course, you have to be over 21 to buy these replicas.
Me: Uh, *I'm* over 21.
SA: Wait, you're getting this for *yourself*? You're not 21!
Me: Yes I am! over!
SA: But you look like you're like 16! or 18!
Me: [facepalm]



1The other running candidates being a Razer Lycossa gaming keyboard (which I absolutely do not need but love), and a Hamilton X-Copter (being a Hammy fan), which I'm probably no longer going to be able to get since my upcoming trips overseas have been cancelled.
darthfar: (Default)
So I've been missing from the Internet for the past week or so. What can I say, Jade Empire pretty much took over my life.

Beware of games that go on sale. Particularly those going for three bucks on Steam, and turn out to be highly addictive. And I don't even like RPG, usually.


I never tire of watching Sebastian's antics around the house. Seriously. Oh, he *knows* he's not supposed to come inside, but he does it anyway if there's nobody around to order him out (and he knows very well I'm the last person who will; he housebroke himself long ago anyway, so he's never so much as licked the furniture, let alone satisfy his hormonal doggy needs on them. He's quite content to just lie on your feet. No, I don't mean "at"; this dog knows all about taking hostages). Anyway, tonight I'm in the sitting area of the dining room, folding the laundry, when he wanders in and pokes his wet nose under my arm. I scratch him behind the ears, and then (because my mother does not appreciate having her freshly laundered clothes smelling of Eau de Stinky Dog) send him back out. Less than five minutes later, he returns, this time to sniff curiously at the fruit side table before disappearing in the direction of the bathroom (which I suppose must exude heavenly scents, if you're a dog), and reappearing in hope of getting more lovin'. He doesn't get it this time, which I imagine must come as a letdown, and pokes his head through the living room door in hope of getting attention from my mother - although getting yelled at probably doesn't figure in the equation. Exit dog. ... Another two minutes or so later, he reappears again - in the kitchen. I get up and watch in amusement as he walks around, sniffing at the cupboards curiously, before going out to dinner. (Yes, this is the same dog who will happily forego food to play with humans...). I imagine this is how dogs acquire juicy household gossip. Or maybe it's just because he's confused as to why the whole house reeks of fruit (visitors have brought so much stuff - not just fruits - that we could practically open our own grocery shop).

Much later, I go out to the living room, where my mum is sitting idly, waiting for my dad to come back inside. Sebastian's right outside on the porch, so I sit down at the door and he comes over, plonks down contentedly on his haunches and repeatedly tries (in vain) to lick me in the face as I scratch his ears. And then my dad comes out from the porch, sees Sebastian at the door, and snaps at him, "Out, Bas. OUT!!"

Now, "Out!" is a word that Sebastian knows very well (as well as "In!" when we want him back inside his doghouse), but he conveniently manages to forget what it means when other people say it in my presence. In this case, Sebastian decides to look up at my dad with an expression I can only describe as "Huh? what was that?"... and proceeds to lie flat ACROSS THE THRESHOLD, thus barring anyone from coming in or going out of the house, and leaving my dad stamping his feet in annoyance and me on the floor snorting with laughter.

The danged dog is just too cute, sometimes.

July 2016

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