June 2nd, 2008

Party Guy


Happy birthday to hallan! And happy belated birthdays to djarums and chef_troy! Forgotten English (© Jeffrey Kacirk) all around!

cheating the devil

Softenings of very profane phrases, the mere euphemisms of hard swearing, as od's blood, dash it, see you blowed first, deuce take it, by gosh, and like profane preludes such as boatswains and their mates are wont to use.
—Admiral William Smyth's Sailor's Word Book, 1867

Queen's Birthday (NZL)
Bank Holiday (IRL)
Foundation Day (W AUS)

Feast Day of St. Elmo,

A patron of sailors. Christina Hole's English Folklore (1940) warned readers of some words and activities to be avoided on and around boats: "Clergymen and churches are rarely mentioned at sea. Cornish fishermen dislike to see a clergyman standing anywhere near the boats." She continued, "Other words also bring bad luck. The ill-omened word drowning is rarely used, the term spoiling being employed instead. On North and East coast boats, pigs are never named, nor are cats, rabbits, hares, and certain wild animals. The term lawyer is included in this list of banned words. … Swearing is usually barred when afloat. This is not so much because it is considered a sin but because throughout folklore it is an evocation of the powers of evil. In Lincolnshire no man, however profane, would curse the keel or gear, or spit on the net."

Then of course, there's also the Feast Day of Tickle-Me Elmo, a patron of really obnoxious toys that make you want to dash them as violently as possible against the nearest brick wall.

-The Gneech
NIMH Scariest Icon

I See Dead Pixels!

Periodically I just get an urge for something spooky, generally in either book or computer game form. I don't like "horror" in the sense of, well, horrible things — evisceration by mad slashers or kitten-eating baby-killers — but I do go for creepy ghost stories. To that end, when I wasn't drawing this weekend I went on a CRPG binge with The Lost Crown, the latest in a series of goose-fleshers by the British one-man game company, Jonathan Boakes.

The Lost Crown, like its predecessor Dark Fall, starts with a frantic train ride out to a tiny end-of-the-line town in the English countryside, where you promptly get stranded and, for reasons which are sufficiently vague that they boil down to "The plot's over there, get on with it!" you find yourself spending the rest of the adventure skulking around shabby places with bad lighting, wondering why the calendars have gone all wonky, and having the bejeezus scared out of you by things jumping out and going "Boo!" Sort of like Lost, except set in Cornwall and with better dialog. (But not better acting, unfortunately.)

In fact, to that end, so far The Lost Crown feels something like a "do it again, but bigger" of Dark Fall, with a lot of the same elements showing up again. Ghost-hunting gadgetry? Check. Phantom trains? Check. Something nasty in the bathroom? Check. Lots of ghosts with individual-but-connected histories? Check. Time and space getting all discombobulated? Check. ("What do you mean that place burned down in 1968? I just spent three hours completing quests in it!") Something wicked behind it all? Check, I think. (I say I think, because I haven't finished it yet but it's certainly looking that way.)

On the other hand, The Lost Crown adds several other elements that Dark Fall is noticeably missing — a big one being other people to talk to. Granted, they all have exaggerated diction and move like theme park animatronics, but it does at least make the game seem a little less lonely. One of the NPCs even comes along and helps you in your investigations for part of the way, providing some illusion of camaraderie and banter while the shapeless thing rises up out of the floor and attempts to do you in. But only attempts — taking a cue from LucasArts during their heyday, The Lost Crown is a game in which it's impossible to get yourself killed or into an unrecoverable failure. This blunts the suspense a little, but not that much given that in other games when you get yourself killed you just reload from a save anyway.

As far as technical issues go, I'm about 2/3 of the way through and I've just found my first bug, which is pretty impressive for a game made on the cheap. The visuals are very nice, mostly in black and white, which is a little weird, but with splashes of color to add highlights or establish a mood. The only real problems are that movement is wonky (stiff and artificial, as I say, like animatronics), and that the voice acting is generally not so hot. It's not bad per se, it's just "Very. Exaggerated. With. Crisp. Enunciation. And. Slow. To. The. Point. Of. Distraction." Even the witty repartee sounds something like a schoolhall recital. These two elements combine to create a game that feels a bit like it was made in 2000, rather than just this past winter.

Of course, with the way time slides around in the game, maybe that's intentional. ;)

I'll post a final review once I finish it. But so far, it's quite good. I just wish it would pick up the pace a smidge.

-The Gneech
Alex Spaz

Shrubbery! (dramatic sting)

Scavenging FTW! The office building here is remodeling their entire facade, which includes tearing out the various bits of landscaping, which they were offering free to whomever wanted to cart 'em off. So now we have a trunk full of free hastas — gotta love it when the universe hands you something you were resigned to paying for anyway.

Of course, the downside is that now we actually have to plant the damn things. ;P

-The Gneech
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"You heard that Sharon and Thomas broke up, right?" said Brigid.

"What?" said Greg. "No, I hadn't heard that. After she kicked out Ozymandias and everything, eh? Too bad." He looked over at the white cat, who was currently visible only as a shadowy white outline in the dark recesses under a cabinet. "You hear that? Your ex-roomie's back in circulation again."

"Meow," said Ozymandias, and went to sleep.

Greg looked back at Brigid. "About the attitude I thought he'd take."

"You've known her a good while now; ever thought of asking her out?"

"Is this about guy cred again?" said Greg, leaning his head back in vague amusement. "For what it's worth, I did think about it once, back when you first introduced us. But better judgment quickly prevailed."

"Hey!" said Brigid. "She's an old friend of mine! What do you mean, 'better judgment'?"

"My dear harpy," said Greg. "You know Sharon. And you know the kind of drama-magnet men she likes. The ones who aren't mean-spirited little tyrants or self-obsessed Lotharios, are couch-planting neanderthals who only speak when they want her to bring them more beer. I can think of nothing worse to say about a man, with the possible exception of 'he reminds me of Treville,' than that he's the sort of man Sharon would fall for like a metric boatload of lead bricks. And as such, even if Sharon were someone that I was interested in pitching woo with, I'm pretty sure she finds me unbearably dull and vaguely incomprehensible."

"Wow, when you're mean about somebody, you don't go halfway, do you?"

"I'm not being mean!" said Greg. "Just the facts."

"Well she must not think you're as bad as all that," Brigid said. "She keeps inviting you to her parties."

"That baffles me, too," Greg admitted. "I sometimes wonder if it's because she knows I'll drag you along — whereas she knows from hard experience that you hate being invited anywhere if crashing the place is an option instead."

-The Gneech

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