Friday, June 29, 2012

D&D Next Annotations: Bestiary

Hey, it's a day of second-to-lasts! Have the penultimate D&D Next v1 annotations to go with some penultimate Midsummer Songaday!

"Next I want to zip through the Bestiary.
* It seems I have something like 32 monsters here. Makes sense - they want you to play the Caves of Chaos adventure, and these are the guys you need to do it.
* The first page here is a list of the monsters by XP. What strikes me immediately is just that - they're sorted by XP, NOT by level! Inching forward a page into the meat of it, I find that they don't HAVE levels! I'm astounded. Maybe it's just that since they want you to play Caves of Chaos they already have the encounters built so you don't need to know levels, but if there actually aren't levels I'll be very surprised. Instantly makes me think of Basic Moldvay D&D.
* Monster stat blocks, at the moment, look like miniature 3.5 stat blocks. Name, alignment, initiative, AC, HP, Ability scores, Space/Reach, Speed, Melee Attack, Special Traits, XP. It seems like some others, like Special Actions, Equipment, or Ranged Attack get added in when necessary, this list is just the ones the first monster (a Fire Beetle) has. There's a paragraph of physical description, the stat block, a description of their Special Traits/Actions (more on this in a second), a paragraph on their combat tendencies, a few paragraphs of Habitat and Society, and then a small note titled Legends and Lore.
* Back to the Special Traits: this is what I come to monster books for, and it delivers alright. 3e was, admittedly, very bogged down in monsters being able to do a ton of stuff no one cared about. Each creature here has one or two unique things about it that make it special, and these traits are where those come out. Using my Fire Beetle here, he has Glowing Glands, glands on his back that emit bright light in a 10-foot radius. Enough to make it stand out, not too much to become cluttersome (and I have no idea what people are talking about when they say that this stat block is clunky, it's half the size of a 4e one! The font is just big!)
* The combat section is short and sweet, giving vague instinct advice rather than precise "On turn one it uses x and then moves, on turn  two it..." thankfully. I like the Combat section for the Gelatinous Cube - it boils down to "It usually tries to engulf its victims" and that's pretty much it!
* Habitat and Society is the stuff no one will really ever know. It is the bread and butter of the Bardic Lore check. It could be interesting, but it could just as easily be entirely useless. However, I must say that I like READING this stuff, and I think its absence for 4e really made its monster books much more boring to read.
* Legends and Lore, on the other hand, is the stuff you might actually be able to use! It's full of interesting things for both the DM to use as cool flavor all over the place and for players to take advantage of if they can figure it out. If a player makes a Recall Lore check about a creature and succeeds, read them this. Seriously: The gelatinous cube's reads: Since gelatinous cubes cannot digest inorganic materials, cunning adventurers keep an eye out for floating coins, weapons, and bits of armor that might be suspended in the ooze's body." The Fire Beetle's reads "Miners and adventurers prize fire beetles for their glowing glands. Easily removed, these special organs retain their luminescence for 1d6 days after removal." I can use that all over the place!
* Okay, that's the format. I'm just gonna read the list now and point out anything that I find noteworthy.
* Oh boy. Hey Wizards, on the Giant Centipede, what does it mean that the Giant Centipede has scuttle or vermin as Special Traits? Because you sure as hell aren't telling us.
* Damn it, Wizards, that's a per Day power on those Dark Cultists. Mooks like that never see more than one day, and if they do, no one cares that that's how they get the energy back. 1/encounter worked great for 4e monsters, bring it back.
* Writhing Darkness though, that's a cool ability.
* Uh oh, that pile of immunities on the Special Traits of the Gelatinous Cube is NOT promising. Giant piles of immunities are tedious and boring for both GMs and players.
* Feed on the Weak, Demonic Frenzy, Pack Attack... I like Gnolls. The Arms and Armor list with the percentages is annoying though, I'll probably just wing it if it isn't specific in the adventure.
* The goblins' Dirty Tricks is just sneak attack basically, right?
* Gray Ooze corrosion, oh god, everyone will be terrified. I've never thrown a rust monster at my group either so this'll be shocking.
* Wait, what ability to crush minds? That's referenced in the Legends and Lore and is nowhere in the rest of the monster, and it would make it even scarier. I really like this one's L&L idea though.
* Thanks for putting humans in the monster book again, that really is a good thing.
* Oh my god, the Kobolds' Strength in Numbers is gorgeous in its simplicity. Even more like THAT!
* Hehehe, Snaky Hair. I don't think that's a real word, but it makes me smile.
* The wording on Petrifying Gaze's first half is very confusing. Shit, you made THIS the full on Save or Petrify? I thought you weren't gonna do that! Not necessarilly complaining, just shocked. Would have thought you'd use that same mechanic you used for the Sleep spell.
* On the minotaur's Natural Cunning: the maze spell doesn't exist yet guys. When it appears, I'm a big fan of this ability, it's extremely flavorful for he minotaur even if it will only rarely see use.
* Hahaha, I love the "A sizeable offering of food, a bag of treasure, or a halfling might appease an ogre long enough to let adventurer's pass unmolested." That's hilarious.
* owlBEAR hugs. Hell yes.
* Woooo, Troll Regeneration!
* Huh, Enervation is the Wight's new replacement for bestowing negative levels. I like it!

Okay, just got through the whole thing. I like it! I think you need some refinement on some stuff, but I'm satisfied with this framework for monsters for the Basic rules at the very least. Surprised at the lack of minions though, they were an interesting new thing that gave 4e some of its innovation and it wouldn't be too hard to carry that over."

So, later!

Oh yeah, real quick, what's to come. Tonight I'm going to see the first Matrix movie with the music being played live by the Seattle Symphony, directed by Don Davis himself! Tomorrow and Sunday I'm going to Go Play NW and should have even MORE AP to forget-to-write.

Midsummer Songaday: Day 29

DAY TWENTY-NINE: WITHIN TEMPTATION - MEMORIES
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bhzJO34SCoc&feature=player_embedded
To be honest, this is settling. I honestly could not pick which Within Temptation song I wanted to use - other options included Somewhere, Destroyed, and Jane Doe, but in the end I picked Memories because it was the first one I heard (through Pandora) and it got me interested enough to check them out more. By the way, if you noticed that all 4 of those songs I named are off the same album (The Silent Force) that's because it's the only album I have, though I've heard plenty of their other work through Pandora, enough to know I like them at least.
So yeah. One more day.

End Recording,
Ego.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Midsummer Songaday: Day 28

Well, I seem to have shot myself in the foot with the "not doing it late" thing.
DAY TWENTY-EIGHT: FUNKSTORUNG - MOON ADDICTED
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZM7JNl-aVYw&feature=player_embedded
I know absolutely nothing about these guys, I just know that I heard this song on Pandora like 4 years ago and still like the song a lot. I keep meaning to check out their albums.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Midsummer Songaday: Day 27

Getting back on board with early posts for the last couple days.
DAY TWENTY-SEVEN: NIER - THE WRETCHED AUTOMATONS
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D4VA8furPFs&feature=player_embedded
This was a tough choice between this one and this one. Both are great songs, and it's still up in the air which one I put on my disc version (the disc versions of my Songadays sometimes differ slightly from what I actually used).
Everything I know about NieR I know from chatting with Wesker. I have the soundtracks now but will probably never play the game, it just doesn't really interest me. Might watch an LP of it sometime though.

Anyways, thought I'd really quick talk about what's upcoming.
I've essentially given up trying to write full reviews of Snow White and MiB3, I'll probably just jot down some notes and put them up as one post. Light Speed Reviews or some such.
Wrath of the Lamb I actually have intentionally put off a little longer - with the rate that its been getting patched and changed and amended and altered I'm gonna let it stabilize first.
D&D Next stuff is still going good, I'm just giving a little more breathing room before I put up the Bestiary notes.
I've been having a problem writing up the Fiasco APs as well. I'll likely do them like I'm doing those two movies, doing a quicker overview and putting them together.
AotP will be back on soon, when Songaday ends, which is real close!

That's everything I'm late on. So what's new and upcoming?
Go Play NW: I'm going to this story gaming con this Saturday and Sunday! I'm super excited! I'm signed up to play Dungeon World and take part in the Lottery on Saturday and so far am leaving my Sunday open.
Mass Effect: I want to talk about stuff I found out during my completionist Perfect Ending Paragon run. Also, I should talk about the Extended Cut ending DLC that just came out! (ps I really really really like it a lot and it fixes everything I was worried about)
Halo: What? Halo? Yeah, over the past several days I've played through Halo 1 Anniversary, Halo 2, Halo 3, Halo 3 ODST, and Halo Reach. I'd like to talk about the series. This would take the form of a commentary post similar to the one for Mass Effect that I did a while ago. Mostly I want to talk up ODST.
Prometheus: I plan to see this tomorrow (the 27th) but I'd also planned to see it yesterday and the day before and those didn't happen, so we'll see. I do plan to see it though!
Stars Without Number: Still filling out well, will likely give AotP some space to refill in before I start talking about it in detail, but it's coming.

That should be all for now!
End Recording,
Ego.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Midsummer Songaday: Day 26

DAY TWENTY-SIX: NINE INCH NAILS - EVERY DAY IS EXACTLY THE SAME
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dqXmaFPn604&feature=player_embedded
Been enjoying this song a lot today. That is all.

End Recording,
Ego.

Monday, June 25, 2012

D&D Next Annotations: Character Sheets

Continued from:
How to Play Annotations!
DM Guidelines Annotations!

I've been meaning to post this for several days now. I did a lightning speed overview of the character sheets - there's not nearly as much content here as there was in the other two documents.
"Okay, so now on to the character sheets. There are five, a Cleric of Moradin, a Cleric of Pelor, a Fighter, a Rogue, and a Wizard.
First up is the Moradin cleric.
* Okay, so we have the generic description stuff we fill in (name etc), prerolled abilities, speed, HD, Init, Senses, Attacks (this guy has a warhammer), and Languages. All of it's pretty standard and unsurprising.
* Race: Mountain Dwarf. Oh goodness, we have subraces. I was really missing that. [/sarcasm] However, it gives a paragrpah of description and a list of the benefits it gives you (pointing you to page 2 for details).
* Class: Cleric (Moradin). Hmm, it looks like your Minor Spells and your Weapon/Armor proficiencies are based on deity, or domain maybe. Unsurprising stuff.
* Background: Knight. Hey, this gives a couple bonuses on "skills" - for example, check involving Animal Handling get a +3. I love it. This is vague and malleable, moldable into a lot of things without very specifically being "You get a +2 to Insight checks." Plus, there's a background feature! (get there in a minute)
* Theme: Guardian. You get a...feat? Wow, there's a word that hasn't appeared in the text until now. It's a simple thing, and it's pretty nice, I'm just shocked to see feats!
* Stuff, spells, spell known/prepared (these are pre-picked for you, one of the few things that point me to think divine and arcane spells might actually be split and that just wasn't defined in the book), minor spells. Meh, unsurprising.
* Race features standard, Class features standard (with the exception of an intersting take on Turn Undead through Channel Divinity, much more 4e than 3e and I think it'll work well), Background feature NOT standard! This is almost like a Dungeon World move here! More stuff like this and you'll have me back, Wizards.
* What to do when you level up, for levels 2 and 3. Hey, you get another feat out of your theme (though on the page it says your Guardian background, which is actually a theme - fix that, that's confusing). Nice to see that it keeps mattering.
* Then a big section for playtest notes.
* I didn't say it before, but AC and HP were both at the top of the first sheet. Don't worry, they're not missing ;)
Next sheet to fly through is the Cleric of Pelor.
* Thanks for putting the spell attack up with the weapon attack there, it's nice to have it all there together.
* As usual, humans get no features at all. Missed opportunity here guys, humans have features too!
* Nice full descriptions of antitoxin, a healer's kit, and a healing potion.
* The background feature continues to impress.
Next up is the Fighter.
* Hill dwarf. Ugh, subraces. Wait a sec, this guy is all on one page! The fighter doesn't even have enouh features to have a second page!? Come on guys. I know you've had a hard time, but...actually, scratch that. The simple fighter like this is what it should be in the Basic, AS LONG AS you give us a more in-depth fighter as a module.
* Wait a second, is the Hill Dwarf at all different from the Mountain Dwarf? Yeah, it's identical. What gives? Explain yourself.
* Yup, Slayer Theme is cool. Background feature is much less interesting than the others on this one, but potentially more useful in most field circumstances. But it's less interesting! Come on, that's the important part!
* I take back a little bit of the "boring class" thing if that Level 2 thing is from the class, Fighter's Surge is actually neat and, more importantly, the fighter is unlocking more abilities regularly that aren't just boring old bonuses. I can accept that.
* Oh my god, "Souvenir of previous campaign (weapon taken from enemy, scar, or similar)" under equipment/treasure along with a lucky charm and bone dice? That's sweet as hell. I approve wholeheartedly. The other two so far have NOT been that cool.
Rogue time.
* Lightfoot halfling? Fine. I'll stop complaining about subraces. Naturally stealthy is cool though. I'll be going a much more freeform approach to size when we're talking about that ability.
* "Commerce +3" for the Background? That's a crazy useful one, as is Folklore +3.
* Ambusher will get a LOT of play if I take a soft approach to hiding.
* Background feature is interesting, but likely to be mostly useless. Interesting though, so I'm not complaining.
* Auto-Thieves' Cant. YES.
* Skill Mastery is very nice, especially when combined with these very broad trainings.
* Nice sneak attack, I can accept it. It bothers me to not have it explicitly trigger off flanking, but don't change it, I'm in the wrong about that.
* Overall, the rogue looks really fun. If I was a PC, I'd be him.
Only the Wizard left.
* High elf. Of all of the subraced races, I accept the elves the easiest, mostly because I've resigned myself to the fact that the Drow are going to be coming back. Not sure why being a "Free Spirit" makes you immune to sleep, but otherwise the racial features are fine.
* All that lore in the Background! I love it! And the background feature is both interesting and useful, AND it makes for a great way for me to drive plot hooks.
* Lots of cantrips from the theme. Good, because I like the Wizard Cantrip chocies here, I'd have a hard time choosing.
* I'll need to wait and see about that familiar there. Not so sure about him, but not putting a ton of attention into him right now.

Okay, so a couple notes now that I'm through the basic reading of these guys. In general, I'm satisfied enough to not mess with them. However, something Sage brought to my attenton through his blog that I wouldn't have noticed is really bothering me just as much as it did him. In tiny fine print under the background and theme...
"For a more Old-School experience, don't use background and theme."
That is just BAD to me. First off, it's not really true. If anything, the background and theme are more old-school in tone than the race and class. I know the idea here is that the actual old-school games didn't have those two, but they are amazing fits for the tone of an old-school game, for that sort of experience. Please, kill the fine print. It is not good, and actually looks pretty much like blatant pandering to try to appeal to your old-schoolers.

However, that' pretty much all my complaints for right now. Next up will be the Bestiary!"

So that's it! Enjoy, and come back soon for the Bestiary, it's just about done!

Midsummer Songaday: Day 25

Home stretch!
DAY TWENTY-FIVE: RODRIGO Y GABRIELA - HANUMAN
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRfM8t6uvQw&feature=player_embedded
Hello, this is Rodrigo y Gabriela, a pair of brilliant Mexican guitarists. Their work amazed me on disc, and it blew my mind when I saw them live a couple months ago. It was really great, it was the first stop on a new tour and they had energy to spare and put it all into the music.
This is Hanuman off of 11:11, their 2009 album, and also my favorite album. More recently they released Area 52, which teams them up with the band C.U.B.A., and they were with CUBA when I saw them in concert. It's definitely different from their normal fare, but it was quite enjoyable, but I must note that I far preferred the live version to the album - the album moves a bit slow for me.
Anyway, have a good day, and sorry for being a bit late.

End Recording,
Ego.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Midsummer Songaday: Day 24

Goodness I'm late today. Sorry.

DAY TWENTY-FOUR: SONIC GENERATIONS - ROOFTOP RUN ACT 1
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0qNa7e_E7E&feature=player_embedded
I have yet to play Sonic Generations (ugh I suck at Sonic games) but from everything I've seen it looks really great. I immensely enjoyed Pokecapn and crew's LP of the game, and if I was any better at Sonic I think I'd have a great time with it. Congratulations Sonic on getting your mojo back!
Oh yeah, the music! This is Rooftop Run Act 1, which means it's Classic Sonic. Rooftop Run was a level from Sonic Unleashed, a less-good but still good Sonic game. This is a remix of the song, which was originally a bit faster than this and much more guitar heavy. Here's a link! That one very nearly got today's feature in order to save room for a different Sonic Generations song later, but only 7 days left! Other songs I wanted to use from Generations included the City Escape Act 1 remix (oh man it's so good), Speed Highway Act 1, and Crisis City Act 1. If you're noticing a trend, I tend to like Classic Sonic's remixes better. Wish they'd done an Ice Cap Zone remix. By the way, if you want to go get the soundtrack, I recommend against the official one, there was a soundtrack floating around a bit ago that had all the unlockable songs on it and such that was much more satisfying.
Oh, and Sonic Unleashed's soundtrack is also noticeably decent, though less nostalgicly amazing than Generations's.

End recording,
Ego.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Midsummer Songaday: Day 23

DAY TWENTY-THREE: PRINCE OF PERSIA - I STILL LOVE YOU
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dE9yAR-gZRw&feature=player_embedded
I didn't even realize this gem of a song was hidden inside my PoP soundtracks until it showed up on shuffle a couple days ago. This was apparently in Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones, but I haven't played the games (though I got 'em on Steam a while back and have been meaning to), so I'm not sure of the game's context for the song. For independent listening though, hot damn this is good. I think it does something that many game soundtracks struggle to do, and that's blur the line between general music and VG music. Bastion did it all over, and songs like this do it great. Proud to have this one on Songaday.

Gonna put up the D&D Next Character Sheet annotations later. Now that I actually have content I'm trying to only do one a day in order to give each a chance to get some of its own views.
End Recording,
Ego.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Game Review: Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP

Hey all, finally starting to get back onto the review thing. So I finished this game a bit ago, and I must say, I was extremely impressed.

First I should try to explain what the game is. S:S&S EP is, um, I suppose the closest thing I can call it is a point-and-click adventure game, but really this is kinda genre-busting. Developed by Superbrothers, an indie game development studio, along with Capybara Games and musician Jim Guthrie. In their own words: "S:S&S EP can be interpreted as a streamlined 21st century re-imagining of the point & click adventure videogames of yesteryear. Alternately, because of the primacy of Jim Guthrie's musical score, S:S&S EP can be understood as a prog rock concept album you can hang out in." By the way, if you check out their site, it's chock full of great info on their design process and the thoughts that went into it and links to the great meta-game stuff, so if you like that stuff you should totally go look. I wish more companies did that.
Basically, you play the Scythian, and saying any more of the story will ruin your experience. If there's any single phrase I can use to describe S:S&S EP, it's a "video-game poem." By this I mean it's a short, sweet piece of work, lovingly symbolic and self-aware, covered with gorgeous imagery and a melodic beauty to the sound that leaves you feeling fulfilled despite what could easily be a boring experience if reduced down to its gameplay alone. It takes a small thing and works it for everything it's got. Its power is greater than the sum of its parts.
I won't be giving a whole section to plot to avoid spoilers, but it's pretty great. The main means of conveying dialogue is through thoughts being recorded in the Megatome, which is a pretty interesting way to do it - as much plot as you care to read.

Gameplay: Very simple. Lots of moving aroudn in the environments moving, but with smatterings of combat, which is an interesting little mini-game. I would have liked some more variety in the combats - there's only a few enemy forms. The Trigon fights are a ton of fun though, and get very nerve-wracking, especially the third. I died several times trying to get the hang of their patterns. The strongest parts of the gameplay come from two things: interactivity and puzzles. The ability to double click pretty much anything and get a short comment on it was very nice, and I definitely double-clicked everything that was even remotely interesting-looking. The puzzles are when you're trying to find the sylvan sprites. Many were quite easy, but a lot were also really interesting and fun. The Reflect puzzle was awesome.

Graphics: Pure amazing. It's done in a very blocky pixelated style reminiscent of older times, but they're animated with the fluidity you can expect from a modern game. Motions have charm, but are not overly complex. The environments are nothing short of extraordinary. The interactivenss of everything blew my mind - click a bush sometime, or better yet, tap the water.

Sound: As a game with EP in the name, you would expect the music to be a big part of things, and you'd be right. The music is never actually a gameplay element, but it's always present, setting a perfect atmosphere. The game's lack of dialogue and voice acting means the music really comes to the fore (I actually wish there was a little more voice acting, I liked the voices I heard - in the Japanese one Logfella is voiced by Suda 51!). The music is really just great though, on its own or in the game. Since I got the game in the Humble Bundle I have a FLAC copy of the soundtrack, it's really nice. Jim Guthrie is selling the album himself on his Bandcamp, as well as a brand-new remix album. If you don't know him, Guthrie has been in a number of bands, but recently has been doing soundtrack work with S:S&S EP, Children of the Clone, and Indie Game: The Movie (soundtrack also available on his Bandcamp).

The Social Netowrk: The game has a built in function to tweet pretty much any phrase that comes up. I actually really like this because all of the lines seem like they'd be interesting tweets. I don't use Twitter though so I didn't get to experience this feature. They claim it enhances the experience though, so perhaps there's even MORE to this game.

Sessions: Here's a weird one. The game splits itself up into sessions, meant to be played in a single sitting, without the ability to save in-session. I made sure to never play from one session to the next back-to-back; it didn't seem like the intention, so I did the 4 sessions over 4 days. It drew out the experience and made it seem even more interesting. I still would've liked a quick-save though.

Conclusion: I am extremely fond of this game. Definitely my candidate for indie game of the year, almost definitel going to win it for best Soundtrack of the year for me, barring true excellence appearing (though it's gonna have competition - Halo 4's soundtrack is shaping up, ACIII and Borderlands 2, which will hopefully both involve Jesper Kyd. I love that guy!). The game is short and sweet and really the bottom line is that you'll get out what you put into it. If you just loosely pay attention and rush through with the sound low and everything, you'll find the game unsatisfying and short without much of a gameplay element there to support it. If you plug in your headphones, turn out the lights, and immerse yourself and simply explore the world and play, and generally just stuff your mind into the game, you'll find it an entrancing experience and a masterful reinvention of the point-and-click genre.
I simply feel compelled to give the game a perfect score, but I must admit that with the lack of variety in gameplay (other than the puzzles) and the requirement of pretty much full immersion and suspension of disbelief, I can't give it that perfect score. However, it's perfect if you enjoy the mentality and you can get into it, so don't discount it.
Score: 9.5/10, A.

So sing a song of sworcery, Scythians, and good luck on your woeful errands. Later.

End Recording,
Ego.

Midsummer Songaday: Day 22

DAY TWENTY-TWO: CUSTOM ROBO - HEAVEN
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0E6XGoRjAg&feature=player_embedded
I only played the Gamecube game Custom Robo (known as Custom Robo: Battle Revolution in Japan, and the fourth entry in the Custom Robo series. It was also the first released to the US). I gotta say, I really enjoyed it. I'd largely forgotten about it until I recently fell upon the soundtrack, and I heard this song, and I got flooded with nostalgia. This is a great game with a fun soundtrack. I gotta play the DS one.
Check out the game, and the soundtrack!

I plan to release my Character Sheet annotations for D&D Next today, and am finishing up the Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP review right now, so see you later today!
End Recording,
Ego.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Midsummer Songaday: Midsummer (Day 21)

MIDSUMMER, DAY TWENTY-ONE: MASS EFFECT 2 - SUICIDE MISSION
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTsD2FjmLsw&feature=player_embedded
Well, Midsummer, or the Summer Solstice, actually happened about 3 hours ago (it was around 11:00 on the 20th) but that's close enough for me to consider the 21st to be the day. I deliberated quite hard on what song gets to hold this special spot, and this song won out.
I must say, this is without a doubt one of my favorite video game songs I've ever heard, both in and out of context. I've heard dozens of remixes and loved them all, but there's something about the original. Thank you Jack Wall. I'm sorry this work of genius didn't get used or incorporated into other songs for Mass Effect 3. All I know is that this time, my whole team survived the suicide mission, and this music kept driving me on. I can't wait to get to ME2 in my Renegade Run.

Anyway, enough yammering about ME2. Enjoy the song. We're on the final stretch of Songaday!
End Recording,
Ego.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Midsummer Songaday: Day 20

DAY TWENTY: KINESTHESIA - FLICKLIFE (ยต-ZIQ REMIX)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1fvgYZq3pj8&feature=player_embedded
Oh my god. I heard this song, I'm not even sure, maybe 5 years ago on Pandora. I spent years, PLURAL YEARS, trying to get a downloadable copy of it. I eventually found a torrent of the obscure album it was placed on (Miss Kittin's Radio Caroline: Volume I), but I am so unbelievably happy to have a found a real, full version of the song streamable. Thankfully I don't feel like an idiot - the video only went up in February. This is a full version, actually extended from the Radio Caroline original. God DAMN I'm happy about this.
Hope you all enjoy this incredibly good song.

Oh, don't ignore my D&D Next Annotations I just put up!
End Recording,
Ego.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

D&D Next Annotations: DM Guidelines

Hey there! So I probably owe you folks an explanation as to why I've been falling behind on stuff. Obviously I've been trying hard to not miss even a single day of Midsummer Songaday, which means I've been around, so I don't really have a great excuse for why I don't have anything else. Here's my explanations:
Art of the Pantheon: While I'm in the midst of Midsummer Songaday right now I haven't been doing much AotP. Now that I'm out of school, I've had much less downtime where just doodling works, plus I've hit the point where further developing things is getting harder. I have a couple ideas, but this project may stay slow for a little longer.
Movie Reviews: I admit, I've seen both Men in Black III and Snow White and the Huntsman in the past couple weeks and have just neglected to write them up. I'll probably not do as in-depth reviews as I usually do, but I'll try to get something up soon.
Game Reviews: I've had Wrath of the Lamb for a bit now and have been thoroughly enjoying it and want to talk about it, but it's been hard to compile my thoughts. I'll keep trying and give them to you. In addition, I've just recently beaten Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP, which was outstanding. That review will come soon too.
Actual Play: So there's been movement on this front. Since my last RPG post, I've played Fiasco twice and not written up AP for either, and they were really good sessions and I want to write them up. I'll probably put them together. Despite several attempts, I've not yet played D&D Next - starting is an issue with us, I'm simply not overly intrigued by the Caves of Chaos and I'm not given the tools to build an adventure myself. More on that in its post.
D&D Next: The annotations are on the move again! This post is, of course, the DM Guidelines, and I'm nearly done the Bestiary ones. Character sheets are nearly done too.
Stars Without Number: Hit the bottom of this post and you'll see my announcement about this!

Anyway, to the annotations! The same procedure as the How to Play; I go through, reading essentially in order through the text, making notes in a Notepad file as I go. I reference Sage Latorra's blog a couple times - it's the only other review of the game I've read, since I'm generally trying to sequester myself until I've made my initial impressions. The link to his blog is in the How to Play annotations. All of the annotations are in the same Notepad file, so I hope it doesn't seem too disjointed by putting them in separate posts. To the content!
"So I guess it's time to start the DM Guidelines, huh? For your reference, the document is 9 pages long to the How to Play's 31 pages.
DM Guidelines Annotations:
* ...I'm already in a good mood from these first paragraphs. Fun before Rules, failures and poor luck should be used to make interesting complications (I want to mention something about this in a moment), be fair and impartial, do NOT railroad, but give them a dangerous world to challenge them, don't be a pushover but killer DMs suck. That said, I disagree with much of the first paragraph, that the DM builds the world and akes adventures and is the only one to describe what the players percieve of their world, but I'm heavy on the collaboration thing.
* Just wanted to mention that we basically had a watershed moment while playing Fiasco last session (AP either already came or is coming very soon) with regard to failure being interesting. Basically, each member had their own point where they basically said "You know what? Go ahead and screw over my character, it makes the story even better that way." It really clicked for all three of us that failure is just as cool as success, especially when death isn't the consequence. I had already known this intellectually from discussion, but it really fits in my head now.
* Back to D&D Next, the next section is DM Basics, with the first subsection being When to Use the Dice. While a lot of this is common sense ("A character doesn't hnormally need to make a Dexterity check to walk across an empty room"), but some of this is really good to reinforce. This is where I see the largest vestige of Monte Cook's skill system from Legends & Lore, and something that really should be standard all the time for every game. If it's REALLY EASY, no check. If it's LITERALLY IMPOSSIBLE, no check. And the important bit - what is too easy or impossible is dependent upon your ability scores. A Str 18 guy can do an awful lot of strength stuff without a check, while the Str 9 guy is gonna need a check for something much smaller. Remembering that stuff will remove a LOT of superfluous rolls. My threshold for needing a check is pretty high though. I also usually use a concept stolen from Dread - you can elect to make a check for something in order to find something extra or get a bit more success than the default, but bad things can happen if you fail.
* I kinda want to see an alternate approach to saving throws where monster attacks are handled by saves, essentially taking the dice rolling out of the DM's hands. It means the players are a bit more engaged, and a monster's attack would just have a DC or something. This isn't exactly a new idea and I sure as hell don't think it's something that NEEDS to be in the game in any form, but I'm just musing about it as a possibility. Meh. Hell, maybe I could even use these DC setting rules to make it easy.
* Actually, I didn't notice it until now but it seems that the Proficiency bonuses attached to weapons are gone again. Huh. Makes everything simpler I guess. Seems like Monster AC is already pretty much just a DC since Attacks are just Strength (or Dex) checks with a damage roll attached.
* On a similar note, without skills at the moment DCs are easier to set than ever. I'm feeling like setting them on the fly will be remarkably easy, which I'm pleased about since I improvise my adventures.
* Options for Checks. Um... all three of these are great things that should always be on. As I mentioned last time, Sage Latorra talked on his blog about his impressions of Next and how one of the big missed opportunities is the lack of consequences for rolls, how a lower result than the DC is simply nothing rather than a consequence as it is in many indie games (and it's especially hardcoded into Apocalypse World and its variations). Hazards are a step in the right direction, basically assigning a consequence if they failed by a lot.
* Ability thresholds and requirements are essentially both just specific wordings to the two questions under When To Use The Dice. NOT having them on seems ridiculous (I'm not gonna allow a player to just do alchemy without any materials unless they can BS how it could work, and I'm not gonna make them roll to walk 5 feet out of combat - if you DON'T use these ability threshold ideas or requirements, please remind me that I am unlikely to enjoy a game run by you).
* Engaging the Players, or How I Learned To Stop Upholding the Rules at the Expense of Everyone's Fun. Thank you very much for including this Wizards (as too many folks DON'T do this in my opinion), but it's not of too much use to me - I discovered these ideas years ago. Though I must say that your example for Disadvantage involves punishing a player for not knowing the prince is an avowed pacifist even though you never told him. I wouldn't make the prince happy with them, but wouldn't give Disadvantage, since they're gonna call you on punishing them for unknown information. A more natural approach to this situation would probably be to simply have 2 DCs for winning the prince's favor: A high one for winning through displays/tales of violence, a low one for peaceful ideas.
* Ignoring the Dice. I actually have some thoughts on this one. More than anything, I feel conflicted. I used to think as this suggests as a possibility: if a lame dice roll impedes the fun, ignore it. However, I've since had my eyes opened to a truth: we have the system for a reason. If we start ignoring bad dice rolls, we might as well just tell a story and not be randomizing things. True, every now and then there seems like a really sweet ending one way or the other, and you might want to just do that way. Really, I think the key is in understanding and embracing the concept that failure is fun too. I could talk or a while about this, but for now, I say let the dice fall. When a bad roll comes up, bad things happen - but not just bad things. They need to be INTERESTING bad things. Even character death means interesting bad things (though it's often good practice to avoid death for lame things, leave it for climaxes).
* Multiple Checks...well, sure. For the full, final document, please round this out with reasons to allow or disallow rechecks. Also, maybe rename the section - I see Multiple Checks and I think about several subsequent checks (skill challenge style). Maybe call it Re-Checking or something.
* So, incidental actions sounded cooler than "free actions" or what? No matter though, I agree with the concept. Micromanaging actions is lame.
* Ew, always round down? My players are going to want to round up, I just know it. Oh well, it really doesn't matter one way or another really.
* Creature size: I suppose this is necessary for gridded play. Doesn't matter much to me though.
* I physically twitched at illumination, but on actually looking at it it's simple and easy. I hate drawing it (when everything's done in pencil on graph paper it makes all that really annoying), but doing it gridless should be fine.
* And this section is called Common Tasks! It's split into Exploration and Interaction. Let's see...Exploration has Balance, Climb, Escape Bonds, Find and Disarm Traps, Notice a Hiding Creature, Open a Door, Pick a Lock, Recall Lore, Search, Swim, and Track. Interaction has Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate, and Gather Information. So basically this is where they talk about skills without calling them skills.There's lots of precise DC guidelines for everything and I'm likely going to ignore them to go with my gut.
* A bit that I'm conflicted about is that every "common task" has a hazard written for it already. I prefer to come up with these as very situational things, but I guess some guidance is nice.
* Okay, Escape Bonds's hazard says: "It is rare that escaping bonds involves a hazard beyond failing and remaining trapped." BULL. SHIT. That's just poor creativity. Hell, just watch some movies where the heroes get tied up! The easiest escalation of danger when escaping bonds is to have that chair they're tied to fall over! Every movie does that, it's an easy thing to shove them in further trouble. Need a little more interesting danger? Maybe you've seen Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. If so, you probably saw Indy and his dad tied up in a castle. You may recall a series of simple events, all of which make sense, that culminated in the FLOOR being on FIRE. If that's not a hazard, I don't know what is. My point is that it's not rare, it's just not as amazingly simple to come up with as "you fall" for stuff like balance.
* Recall Lore is definitely inspired by Spout Lore. Hell, you even changed the name off the classic Knowledge check language.
* Ick, simulation rules for holding your breath and drowning. Not for me.
* The guidelines for the individual social interactions are fine (drawing the attention of the thieves' guild by screwing up Gather Info? Sweet, that's actually really interesting). However, the determining DCs section could definitely use some expansion - in particular, it really needs a discussion about talking out a conversation as opposed to resolving a conversation almost all with rolls. Neither should a "better" approach, and you should talk about how to treat the situation when players say clever things that would obviously succceed yet you don't want to just give them a free ride because of being a good speaker. In particular, the "Good Speaker with 8 Charisma" and "Poor Speaking with 18 Charisma" are cases that need to be discussed. No need to embrace a particular solution, but talk out their merits.

And that's the DM Guidelines! Overall. they talk about some things that definitely needed addressing in the How to Play, and talked about some things that definitely put my mind a bit to ease that they were at least THINKING about some various things. My biggest worry is that these guidelines end up falling further and further down the path of the last section: a bunch of rules statistics that are only here instead of the PHB because for some reason players aren't supposed to know DCs (which I have always rebelled against - tangentially, I've never kept a monster's AC secret realy either). These are Guidelines. They should be more suggestions/advice/etc. as opposed to a pile of statistics.
A note after reading Sage Latorra's blog again: Sage talks about his hope that the DM booklet was going to be actual rules for the GM, like rules he is suppsoed to be following, not rules he can use on the players. I've never played a game where the GM is explicitly forced into doing something by his own rules, but if he means more along the lines of the Principles from the AW/DW(/I assume Monsterhearts and others) as things that the DM should always do, I wholeheartedly support THAT idea, I simply don't want a DMG that reads like the 3.5e one, full of statistics that don't really do anything to help GUIDE the DM.

So, that's the DM Guide!"

So there you have it, part two of the D&D Next Annotations.

Well, at the top I said I would talk about Stars Without Number. If you don't know it, it's a hard sci-fi RPG written by Kevin Crawford and published by Sine Nomine Publishing. It's strongly inspired by things like Traveller, and is a retroclone member of the OSR (Old School Revolution) movement that's appeared in RPGs in the last several years. No more on the system right now, but the RPG has captivated me with its exceptionally well-made random creation rules that trump pretty much any other random world creation I've seen in any sci-fi game. It easily creates interesting universes. I'm fascinated by it and have been working to create a fully fleshed out sector just for the hell of it. It is crazy fun and I want to share it with you so once I'm caught up on stuff and Midsummer Songaday is over I'll be posting it alongside Art of the Pantheon.
 It won't be daily like Songaday, but I'm gonna try to be regular with it.
Anyway, have a good day, enjoy the annotations, and I'll see you around midnight with the next Songaday!

Midsummer Songaday: Day 19

DAY NINETEEN: FAUNTS - M4 (PART II)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gISlB1IdUjI&feature=player_embedded
So don't get on me about how this was totally the Mass Effect 1 credits song. That WAS how I was initially exposed to these fellows, but I've actually been enjoying the rest of their work as well. This song is still one of their cooler works though. It's low key, but still interesting. I enjoy it a lot, and you should check out their albums - the Mass Effect songs are just the beginning.
I'll mention that while I prefer M4 Part II over Das Malefitz (the ME3 ending one), they're both amazingly good.

Hey there, keep your eyes open here, I'll actually have cool new stuff that isn't Songaday going up really soon, like, today at some point!

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Monday, June 18, 2012

Midsummer Songaday: Day 18

DAY EIGHTEEN: PHOENIX WRIGHT - TURNABOUT SISTERS THEME 2002
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P6JKz6k1boM&feature=player_embedded
If you don't think Maya Fey is an amazing character you can just get the fuck off my blog. Good night.

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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Midsummer Songaday: Day 17

Hey there, happy father's day, and sorry for being later than usual.
DAY SEVENTEEN: NO MORE HEROES - PLEATHER FOR BREAKFAST
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9TX9o6uZnEs&feature=player_embedded
I had a really hard time picking this one. I knew I wanted to use No More Heroes today, as the game is just chock-full of amazing music. All the variations on the main theme are great, and most of the boss music is great too. However, Bad Girl's theme just takes the cake. All the game's music makes for great stuff to work to though.
No More Heroes 2's music is also pretty good, but not as consistently great as NMH1.
Oh, and for reference, I've never played either game, just watched Chip Cheezum/General Ironicus's LP of the first and have been watching their ongoing LP of the second.

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Saturday, June 16, 2012

Midsummer Songaday: Day 16

Aaaand my connection issues just get worse. We seriously need to figure out why our network has been so shitty lately.
So what's the final day of the Indie Trilogy? Why, it's one of the most classic indie games to still enjoy wide spread success. It was made entirely, that's music, art, plot, programming, everything, by one incredible fellow. The game has, in recent years, been ported several times by a company named Nicalis, but the guy;s name is Daisuke Amaya. However, I'm sure you'd know him better as Pixel. That's right, I'm talking about Cave Story!
DAY SIXTEEN: PIXEL - OPENING THEME
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5SWwydoygeo&feature=player_embedded
The music for this incredible game has been redone several times over the course of the ports, but the original is still the best. It captures all the nostalgia of a fun old 8-bit platformer with the riveting gameplay that makes some modern games look like nothing. It really is the most lasting indie game - until Super Meat Boy showed up, it was basically the undisputed king of the indie industry (even with my personal recent favorite Edmund McMillen out making great games like Gish).
So here you go, Cave Story. Thanks for making everything better.

If you like remixes, check out the Cave Story Remix Project, or the Cave Story Remix Project II! Nutritious has an extraordinary remix of the final battle on OCRemix, titled The Unbroken.

Hey, so what indie game musics didn't make it into the Trilogy? Well, the easy answers are Bastion, Castle Crashers, and Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP - I've already used them before! As for runners-up, the choice gets a bit harder. Fez has a great soundtrack by Disasterpiece, and C418's Minecraft soundtrack is supposed to be perfectly suited to the game (though I don't play Minecraft so I don't know). But sometimes indie games can manage to put together great gameplay, great story, and even fitting music yet still produce a soundtrack that no one would listen to out-of-game. Things that fall into this are stuff like LIMBO, or Amnesia: The Dark Descent.
So who DOES do it right too? Who would be Indie Trilogy day 4? Bit.Trip. I love the music of the Bit.Trip series - all 6 games (though I'm not huge on Fate). They all have their own flair, and they all are simply amazing. Thing is, don't download or the soundtracks. Convert video playthroughs into music - the beauty is in the way the beats you hit enhance and modify the music. Check out Ambisagris's LPs of the Bit.Trip series. He's good enough at the games for them to sound natural, and it's a subtitled LP so you can convert and not be any worse off for it. Bit.Trip Flux's Epiphany is gorgeous, as is Bit.Trip Void's Id. Unfortunately, the series makes it hard to find specific videos to put up for Songaday. Really, my best advice is to go play the games.

Hey, Speedgamers is going now!
http://www.thespeedgamers.com/
Almost 6500 dollars raised of the 50,000 goal for the week in just 12 hours! Come enjoy, and donate! 100% of donations go directly to ACT Today, a charity supporting autism research!

Anyway, 'night.
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Friday, June 15, 2012

Midsummer Songaday: Day 15

DAY FIFTEEN: MAGNUS "SOULEYE" PALSSON - POTENTIAL FOR ANYTHING
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uj8MsbgpjaQ&feature=player_embedded
Well, if you don't know him Souleye is a cool guy who makes sweet 8-bit-style music and who recently did the excellent music for this excellent indie game, VVVVVV by Terry Cavanagh. It's a hell of a lot of fun, and it's really hard until you get the hang of it. Learning how to play that game fast and well is one my more prideful indie game moments - at the moment I'm down to being able to do it with about 55 deaths in 25 minutes (did a 24:28 run earlier, a record for me!). Seeing as my first 20-trinket run was 1400 deaths over 4 and a half hours, I'm pretty happy.
Anyway, so check out the game and play it! It's cheap, the music is amazing, and you'll either have a ton of fun or rage at it for a few hours while having tons of fun.

Oh, hey! TWO shout-outs for things to go check out!
The first is the Let's Plays of RidgeTroopa! This is a cool dude I know from DeviantArt, he's an amazing pixel artist. More relevantly, he used to do LPs a few years back but took a break to just occasionally do some marathon streams. I saw some of those, and they were damn entertaining, so hey, check him out at his Youtube and Twitter feeds!
http://www.youtube.com/user/CheepCheapPlayers
https://twitter.com/#!/CheepCheaps

Okay, the other one is TheSpeedGamers. These are a bunch of guys who are now a little bit internet-famous who livestream them playing through a whole franchise of games in like 3 days with 24/7 live commentary. The whole time, they're collecting donations that go entirely to charity. In December, just by playing video games live on the internet, they raised $20,000 in four days for a selection of charities.
As per their usual schedule, Summer comes with not a 3-day marathon but a WEEK-LONG one. This year, pokemon. Every single Pokemon game, every spinoff, catching every pokemon, one-at-a-time live on the internet, collecting donations for ACT Today! Want to support a great cause? Want to hear hilarious people talk and do ridiculous things for donations (dairy challenge? shots of the most powerful hot sauce out there? hell yes)? Want to see guys play through games at mach speed? The  come join us starting tomorrow at 4pm PST!
http://www.thespeedgamers.com/
If there's one thing that can curb my Mass Effect addiction, even temporarily, it's these guys. Hope to see you in the chat there!

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Midsummer Songaday: Day 14 Double-Up!

Hey, welcome to the Indie Trilogy! Today, tomorrow, and Saturday I'm going to be featuring the music from three indie game composers that I just love. Who are they? Well, I guess you'll have to come back and see...
But today, I'm forced to bend my own rules. As it were, two of my favorite indie games share a composer (and a designer!), and I refuse to only showcase one. So today you get TWO songs! Who could I possibly be talking about? Why, it's Danny Baranowsky! He's a remixer originally (with mutliple songs on OCRemix), but more recently has been doing soundtracks, including ones for a pair of very successful Edmund McMillen games...

DAY FOURTEEN: SUPER MEAT BOY - FOREST FUNK
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3xHttYIwocY&feature=player_embedded
It's questionable whether Forest Funk is truly the best song in the game, but it sure as hell is the most iconic. This is one of the first songs you hear, and really sets a tone. Other champion songs include The Battle of Lil Slugger and Can o' Salt.
But seriously, this game's music is out of this world.
FamilyJules7x did a Super Meat Boy medley last week, a Hot Damned Hell remix a while back, and an extraordinary remix of The Hospital - so extraordinary that it got on the soundtrack.
And what could the other game be...

DAY FOURTEEN: THE BINDING OF ISAAC - THE BINDING OF ISAAC
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H5mnDcZu0I0&feature=player_embedded
I can't say enough good things about this game (or its expansion, but I'll finish that review soon). This is the title screen music. This games music runs the gamut from creepy and light like this song to full on intense action music for boss fights (check out Thine Wrath, it nearly beat out this song for the feature!). It really is just a great song and game.
Just go buy the soundtrack, seriously. Hell, if you check his Bandcamp page, on the Binding of Isaac Soundtrack page you can get tracks 29-37 for free if you want more samples.

So that's Danny Baranowsky's double feature. Come back tomorrow for the next Indie Game gem! (and no, the three days will not include Bastion or Superbrothers since I've done them before. They would definitely be here though if I hadn't).

AGH fucking network connection keeps failing every thirty seconds! This is really annoying!
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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Midsummer Songaday: Day 13

DAY THIRTEEN: OCEANIA - PUKAEA
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=epyxn-OsCKI&feature=player_embedded
Now here's some obscurity for you! Wikipedia doesn't even have a page for these folks, and google does its best to try to make you look for something else. From Last.Fm: "Oceania is a New Zealand band which combines Maori music and modern music. The band’s lead singer is Hinewehi Mohi. Music is written and performed by Mohi and Jaz Coleman of Killing Joke fame."
Here's their page on the album: http://www.last.fm/music/Oceania/Oceania
And the singer's website: http://www.hinewehi.com/
Okay enough linking, about the song. This is the first song off the 1999 album, and like everything else in the album it's sung in Maori. But the album itself is still a huge breath of fresh air into things, and remains one of my favorite examples of world music (along with stuff like Niyaz). So seriously, the album is great, give it a listen (if you can) or totally buy it, it's good stuff.

Hey, guess what? The Mass Effect Trilogy Perfect Ending Replay Run completed! I got 100% of quests in all three games, 100% paragon the whole way through, saw the Perfect Ending. I've been sitting here wondering what the hell I'm supposed to do now that I don't have any more Mass Effect (writing up all those posts I owe this place didn't come up). Chances are it won't be long before I start an Mass Effect Trilogy Renegade Run as female Shepard. Ended up doing a bunch of Stars Without Number stuff though.
Anyway, later.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Midsummer Songaday: Day 12

DAY TWELVE: LISA MIKOVSKY - STILL ALIVE
Wow, I could have sworn I used this in February. But no, so it comes today. I love the song, it was made for and used as the main theme for the game Mirror's Edge, which is an excellent game, and one of the most interesting modifications to the standard FPS formula in recent years along with Portal. Speaking of Portal, I'm aware that both of these games used a song named Still Alive - as much as I enjoy the Portal one, this one is a much better song to listen to listen to as music (though Portal's was excellent in context of the game).
So yeah, enjoy. There's a good deal of mixes out there if you want to look.
Come on EA and DICE, bring on Mirror's Edge 2 already!

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Monday, June 11, 2012

Midsummer Songaday: Day 11

So sorry folks if you were looking this morning, I went to bed way early and didn't put up this up before I went to bed and have been busy all day.
DAY ELEVEN: CIRQUE DU SOLEIL - INCANTATION
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vgb0Na6SD-s&feature=player_embedded
So aside from doing excellent live shows, the music from the Cirque Du Soleil shows (they're an acrobatic troupe if you somehow don't know of them - they're pretty fantastic) is also excellent. This is from Quidam, and the music coming from Quidam is probably my favorite of all of them despite having never seen the show myself (though my parents have and it continues to be their favorite. It's pretty much the top of my want-to-see list from them). The whole soundtrack is excellent and worth a buy. Other good ones are Varekai (also the first Cirque du Soleil show I saw) and Mystere, and Zed is a newer one with some pretty excellent music.

AGH my left headphone just died while I was in the middle of typing :/ Goddamn it, at least my headphones are cheap to buy new ones of.

Anyway, I intend to have real content up in the next couple days for sure (maybe even some new AotP!). Finished Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP, so add a review of that to my list of things to do.
Back in a couple hours for tomorrow's Songaday!

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Sunday, June 10, 2012

Midsummer Songaday: Day 10

Wow, 10 days in. So anyway, like I said, today is Castle Crashers.


DAY TEN: CASTLE CRASHERS - RACE AROUND THE WORLD
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X0egB9CVDUw&feature=player_embedded
Crediting the CC soundtrack is weird... I can put the game name, the developer name (The Behemoth) or the artist name, but that's sometimes a bit hard to track down with this one - they accepted submissions and put songs in the game. Most of the music comes from this fellow, Waterflame, a Newgrounds member who has done several video game soundtracks. Jumper, this, The Show, Swamplands, and others. However, numerous other folks submitted and got things into the soundtrack. This and Jumper are my favorite songs in the game for how they handle the crazy battle killing action with such amazing cheerfulness. They're just happy, bouncy songs. However, after those two, my third favorite is Winterbliss, made instead by Cycerin (another newgrounds member). It's damn good.
By the way, if you're looking for an opinion on the game, I haven't played much but I like what I see. It looks extremely fun if you can pull a whole group into playing it, but I haven't done so yet.

Oh, I would be lying if I said I didn't want to talk about FamilyJules7x. He's a youtube guy who does amazing covers of lots of video game songs, and he's done THREE Castle Crashers ones - a medley, the Necromancer's Theme, and Winterbliss. All three happen to be extraordinary, a dozen cuts above the usual youtube-cover quality. I plan to give him a whole day later this month, so I won't post much more. This paragraph is covered in links should you be interested right now. In fact, tonight's whole post is studded with links.

Sorry for neglecting all the other things I need to post. On the final leg of my Mass Effect Trilogy Perfect Ending Replay, approaching the finale pretty quick. I'll have everything ready for you all soon enough.

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EDIT: Hey, look up at the page header! I have a real logo now! Finally!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Midsummer Songaday: Day 9

Sorry for being a bit later than usual, network's being uncooperative.

DAY NINE: THE HUNGER GAMES - KATNISS AFOOT
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QEArc9Dz2kE
As should be obvious from my review of the movie, I liked it quite a lot, and the soundtrack was excellent. This song introduced Katniss in District 12. It's definitely a certain kind of sound that I like quite a lot - if you're not paying attention to all of these songadays, check out Day 1 if you liked this song, they're pretty close in tone in my opinion.
Between this and the song that follow it on the soundtrack (Reaping Day) for favorite song, though in significantly different ways.

Cheers, hope you like it. Hey, if anyone actually reads this, is there a preference for favorite Castle Crashers song? Cuz that's probably tomorrow and I have a hard time picking one representative from that excellent soundtrack.

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Friday, June 8, 2012

Midsummer Songaday: Day 8

Wow, over a week already. It's gonna be really hard to adjust to getting almost no daily views again once I'm done with the month, I'm really enjoying the ~25 per day.
Oh, guess what? I post up advertising Humble Bundle, and what do they do? They add more games! Braid, Super Meat Boy, and Lone Survivor are all part of it now, and thus part of my collection. Go check it out.

DAY EIGHT: LACUNA COIL - AGAINST YOU
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7v6zzn5qgc&feature=player_embedded
Been enjoying Lacuna Coil's latest album Dark Adrenaline lately. Very out of my genre, but still good. A lot of the songs look amazingly similar on Audiosurf, which is kinda hilarious. Maybe I'll take some pics or something.
Heard a remix of this album's song Trip the Darkness on the Underworld: Awakening soundtrack. That movie's actually giving me more music than I thought it would. Anyway, just wanted to get off of videogame stuff for a day.

Spent the whole night with friends (coming home at 11 at night from hanging out with friends? I haven't done that in...I don't think ever), now it's Mass Effect time. I'll probably finish the ME2 segment of my perfect paragon run tonight, super-excited to watch the Suicide Mission again. Later.

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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Midsummer Songaday: Day 7

DAY SEVEN: JIM GUTHRIE - DARK FLUTE
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F8y_6o8UvR4&feature=player_embedded
So this is from the soundtrack to Superbrothers: Sword & Sorcery EP, a beautiful little game I pulled from the Humble Bundle today (everyone go support it, and get free games! Bastion, Limbo, Superbrothers, Amnesia, Psychonauts, their soundtracks, and likely more to come! Pay what you want!).
So far, the game has just entranced me. It's goddamn beautiful. I've seen little tabletop RPGs that have been described as "roleplaying poems" and if there's such a thing then this is definitely a "videogame poem." Short little session pieces, gorgeous imagery, a fun game, but more than anything, atmosphere. I'll review it when I finish.
As the game's name suggests, there's a whole little album to go with it. This is the first song on that album, and the whole thing is very nice. Check out the game, the bundle, and the album! Bye!

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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Midsummer Songaday: Day 6

DAY SIX: LuIzA - LIES WITHIN DREAMS
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=djiwwuY22Qw&feature=player_embedded
I was going to try to avoid a video game song today but I've been really enjoying this song all day so here it is. This is Lies Within Dreams, a remix of the song Deep It Lies from the video game NiGHTS: Into Dreams. This is part of the OCRemix Project Lucid Dreaming, which was entirely composed of mixes of songs from NiGHTS, and it's a great album. Sinks a bit into the pop side of things sometimes, but I consistently enjoy it.
...Seriously, that oboe section. God DAMN that sounds good. I like how the song takes the melody on guitar, passes it to the piano/synth which passes it to the oboe and back to the guitar at the end. Overall, just a great song. Check out the rest of the album.

Saw Men in Black III tonight, it was actually good! Review soon, along with all this other stuff piling up on me.

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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Midsummer Songaday Day 5

DAY FIVE: MARK LANEGAN - BURNING JACOB'S LADDER
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YlVxDBhJcc4&feature=player_embedded

This song was created for the video game RAGE, which I played through and reviewed here!
Anyway, this song very much models what the musical tone SHOULD have been in RAGE, but it wasn't. That game instead opted for a weird horror-esque screeching that sounded more appropriate in Dead Space than RAGE. This song finally showed up at the credits.
LISTEN TO THIS BEFORE YOU PLAY RAGE. Seriously. It's a good song, it'll give you a good idea of the mood for the first bit of the game, and if you hear it in the credits first it'll probably leave you with a bad taste in your mouth thanks to the amazingly abrupt and unsatisfying ending it comes directly after.
I don't actually know anything about Mark Lanegan though. Oh, and sorry if the video has some crackly quality to it in the latter half, all the videos I could find did that. I don't think it's that way in the soundtrack, but I couldn't find a better video. Cheers!

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Monday, June 4, 2012

Midsummer Songaday: Day 4

DAY FOUR: COLDPLAY - EVERY TEARDROP IS A WATERFALL
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fyMhvkC3A84&feature=player_embedded
Wait, I thought I used Coldplay last month! Looked back at the lists though and I don't think I did, so no guilt about posting this.
Every couple years these guys come out and put out a single song that's just pure awesome (which is then spammed over the radios and loses much of its charm). I could have gone with much more obvious pieces like Clocks or Viva La Vida (which I do love) but I figured I'd put something a bit different. This is last year's hit by them. I still like it, the guitar work is nice, and the vocals sound good, even if I don't care about what the lyrics are actually saying (though those aren't that bad either). I need to be in the right mood for Chris Martin's voice though.
Had a hard time deciding on a song tonight. Got a lot of potential video game tunes, but I'm trying to include a good amount of real music too. Have a great day folks.

Typing of other stuff is still happening, I keep getting distracted from writing the APs.

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Sunday, June 3, 2012

Midsummer Songaday: Day 3

DAY THREE: DIABLO SWING ORCHESTRA - BALROG BOOGIE
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gsmAF9cVPm4&feature=player_embedded
I actually subbed this into my disc copy of a previous songaday (since Nyan Cat is entertaining, but not disc material). Not all of the Diablo Swing Orchestra songs are great, but this one is pretty great.
If you're curious, they're a, um, "Swedish avant-garde metal band," according to Wikipedia. Formed in 2003, they've got 3 albums out - this is from the first one, released in '06, titled The Butcher's Ballroom. I recommend youtube sampling through it all, it's worth going all the way through, and it's got some nice variety so even if you're not huge on this song other ones may appeal to you.
Quick day today!

If you're wondering on other progress, still writing the DM Guideline annotations, the Fiasco at Salem AP, and now ANOTHER Fiasco AP as of today! We played the Boomtown playset and it was really fun! Wrath of the Lamb is fun and a review will come soon. Cheers folks.

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Saturday, June 2, 2012

Movie Review: Battleship

(Don't forget to check out today's Midsummer Songaday as well, it's right under this review!)

So, finally got to the theater to see this. My verdict is that it's definitely better than I expected. I was expecting pretty much nothing though, so improvement wouldn't take much. However, I'll still say that it's a good movie.

Plot/Writing: So this is both a weak point and an okay one at the same time. Basically, the weak points come from the actual execution of the plot and the forcible shoe-horning in of the Battleship game mechanics. While it didn't seem like actual nonsense at any point, it did seem superfluous and convoluted.
On the other hand, the aliens were sweet. They had interesting concepts and a couple spots where they could have easily said more about the alien race and made it into a legitimately cool alien invasion movie. A lot of them owes to the excellent work performed by concept artists and designers and not the plot writers though - if the writers knew what was good for their movie, they would have given us a lot more on the aliens. One scene in the movie involves a captured one that suddenly wakes up and, upon locking eyes with the lead character Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) Alex has this vision (looks like the aliens destorying a world or something). This  imparting visions and such could have made for a very neat element and created a communication link between the two, but instead the vision is never explained and that particular ability is never mentioned again.
That's not to say that the plot itself is bad all the time. It has high points, and watching Alex struggle into his field-promoted command position was very humanizing actually, as was his subplot with Samantha - I expected it to go quite cheesily, but it managed to be underplayed enough to be nice and the characters had enough quirk to make it worth seeing those bits.
Probably my favorite little plotline was the Mick character (a double amputee)'s regaining of the will to fight. It's a progression, not all one rush of courage, and it worked for me. Samantha's role in it was a bit underwhelming after the first scene of them, but his own arc was nice for me.
I'll say one thing about the beginning: wow does it give an odd tone to the movie. It set up the three characters (Alex, Stone Hopper, and Samantha) quite well, showed us who they were, and succeeded at being regularly funny. I expected to be swept up by the action in this movie, but I didn't expect to laugh in the way I did with that opening scene. Chicken burrito indeed.

Acting: So Taylor Kitsch has been showing up quite a bit lately, hasn't he? Playing John Carter, this, and acting in the upcoming Savages. He does a decent job with it, and his quiet moments are just as good as his action. Good job man.
Liam Neeson was sorely underused. The scenes with him doing anything more than saying "What's going on in the dome?" were always excellent. However, he probably would have overpowered the rest of the cast. He did a good job, especially when he was showing his humorous side.
Brooklyn Decker as Samantha was fine - not particularly special, but not really bad either.
Rihanna. I wanted to talk about this one. Here goes: Good job gal! I was worried about a pop star's ability to act, especially when surrounded by Taylor Kitsch, Liam Neeson, and others. She didn't falter! It helps that her part wasn't exactly too involved (mostly shooting and yelling military jargon, though her interaction with Ordy especially at the beginning was very nice), but she did a good job with what was there. I know she said she took it because it didn't seem like too big of a role, and I agree - I didn't want to see the "Rihanna is in a movie" movie, and her involvement was sufficiently underplayed. Keep it up, and I'm actually hoping to see you in a serious acting role in the future should your music career allow it.
So yes, I just complimented Rihanna on her acting. Shut up.

Visuals (SFX + Directing): They were fine. A couple interesting shots, but nothing that stays with me hugely. A lot of great CG and explosions, as we all expected. The sci-fi look of inside the alien's visors (and indeed the whole alien design, suit look, and ship design) was very cool and were the main thing to spice up the movie with something I wasn't expecting.
One note to the visuals team: who turned and said "I think signal messages to space should be giant flaming glowing laser beams."? Because you're an idiot.

Sound: Boom bang bang crack crack whirr snap crack bang bang bang sheeeoooooom BOOM. Anyway, they brought in the guy who did the Transformers soundtrack, Steve Jablonsky, and they featured Tom Morello on a few songs. By the way, Jablonsky has a decent track record for scores - aside from Transformers his film soundtracks have pretty much all been horror, but for video games he's worked on Metal Gear Solid 2 (along with Harry Gregson-Williams, of course), Gears of War 2 and 3, and Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands. He does a good job, I enjoyed the actual composed stuff quite a lot. There was some AC/DC in there too. I must say, seeing those aliens marching around in power armor with AC/DC going really just made me want to go watch Iron Man.

So yeah, conclusion stuff.
Watch This Movie If You Like: the Transformers movies, big action flicks.
Don't Watch This Movie If You're Expecting: A movie that could get an Oscar nomination for anything other than special effects.
Final Score: Quality-wise, it's probably a 6.5/10. Fun-wise though, I'd be willing to go as high as 8/10 (though that's a tad generous, but not by much).

I'd recommend seeing it, and I'd DEFINITELY recommend seeing it in theaters - movies like this need either the theater or a damn good home theater system to make it work, average viewers won't get the best experience out of their TVs.
Cheers!

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Midsummer Songaday: Day 2

Hey there, song time!

DAY TWO: ANAMANAGUCHI - MERMAID
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gtq9oYVGSH8&feature=player_embedded
Definitely too many damn A's in their name. Anamanaguchi does chiptune-y music with no relation to video games, despite their synthesizers being a hacked NES and Gameboy. Their stuff is sweet, check it out.
That's not to say that they haven't done sweet stuff for video games too. They did the whole soundtrack for Scott Pilgrim: The Game, which is pitch perfect and is an amazing fit for the both of them. Bit.Trip Runner also used Blackout City as their menu theme and Mermaid (this song) as the credits song. Mermaid is my favorite song by them, followed by Blackout City and then Helix Nebula.
Check 'em out!

Be back with another song tomorrow! In the meantime, I'm also posting up a Battleship review in a minute.
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Friday, June 1, 2012

Midsummer Songaday: Day 1

Hey, I kinda wish I didn't have to knock the Next annotations off the top so fast, but I get the feeling that's gonna become a standard feeling this month. Oh well, I'm excited to bring you Midsummer Songaday, aka ANNUAL SONGTACULAR SONGATHON (thanks Hanz :p) though I guess it's certainly happening more than annually - this is the third within a year! But whatever, both of them sounds better than "June Songaday."

Oh wait, I probably gained some readers since last time, or maybe you just have no idea what Songaday is! Songaday is a month-long game started by Frausky on Kakariko Graveyard that I have done three times, once in September and again in February (posts with the February Songaday tag). The rules are that every day for the whole month I post a single song. The song doesn't need to be a favorite, but I have to like it. I also cannot reuse artists. In February, I acted with the restriction that I couldn't use anything from September either, but this time round I'm losing that - I can reuse artists from previous months, though I can't repeat within the month and I'll always prioritize new stuff. Gotta keep it interesting!
So, without further ado...

Day One: Xenosaga Episode II - In The Beginning, There Was...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1RVAGn3joRo&feature=player_embedded
I've actually never played the Xenosaga series (or Xenogears) but I've always enjoyed the music. This is one of the more haunting opening tunes in recent memory. Without knowing the context of the game surrounding it (or the cutscene it played over) it evokes the image of a cold, hardy plain of short, tough green grass, with rocky outcroppings jutting up into the landscape and distant mountains over the horizon. The camera probably has a grey filter over things. Basically, it makes me think of a slightly more tundra version of the landscape shown as District 12 in The Hunger Games movie. I really like the feel.
Yuki Kajiura really outdid herself on the Xenosaga Episode II and III soundtracks. Both of them are definitely worth a listen. If you want another specific song to check out, Communication Breakdown from II is excellent,.
For some sort-of-unrelated goodness, check out the Xenogears soundtrack as well - it's an entirely different feel, but Yasunori Mitsuda's work there is also fantastic. Just thought I'd mention it while I had Xeno- on the mind.

So that's today! If I can, I'll try to get these out for the morning crowd. I'm working on giving myself a Midsummer Songaday logo as well, and all this is on top of writing D&D Next annotations, my Fiasco AP, a Wrath of the Lamb review, and any movie reviews in the next couple days. So that's why Art of the Pantheon seems to have disappeared. Later!

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