Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Lord of the Rings Online Review

I posted a little while ago about Star Trek online, but lately I've been much more enamored with another online roleplaying game: Lord of the Rings online. I don't believe that there are many people throughout the world who have never heard of this monumental achievement in literature. The books almost single-handedly established the modern genre of fantasy and I am hard-pressed to name ANY fantasy novels published since that don't have a core that shares elements with Tolkien's work. The amount of history that he was able to pack into his fiction is inspirational for anyone who has ever considered sitting down and writing.

Because of this insane amount of detail that Tolkien included in his writings, which include more than just the trilogy, the creators of the Lord of the Rings Online didn't need to stretch too far to find inspiration for this game. From the moment I set foot, figuratively of course, inside the world created on the computer I was mesmerized by the scale of it all. With the help of my new memory card, which finally started working thank God, it looks absolutely amazing on my 22" widescreen monitor. All I want to do is visit all the places that I loved from the books and the movies (though this game legally has no ties with Warner Bros and the movies) but this isn't possible right away except through pictures and clips posted all over the internet.

The gameplay is fairly standard for anybody who has played World of Warcraft, they borrowed a great deal of the mechanics from this industry giant. I was pleasantly surprised by the writing and the polish that seems evident throughout the game and I can only imagine that it gets even better throughout the rest of the game. There are a few technical issues that I have noticed that seem to make certain things difficult to accomplish such as finding one Quest giver out of a sea of NPCs (Non-player characters) and there doesn't appear to be an option to zoom IN on the little mini-map in the corner of the screen.

Another thing that gives me some pause is that the world doesn't seem as populated as I would have hoped with human players. However, I did see enough and from browsing the internet I have no cause for alarm as the game appears to be going quite strong and the latest expansion, "The Mines of Moria" sold quite well and even garnered a few awards with its content.

I have yet to meet anyone from the movies, with the exception of a brief appearance from Elrond, or interact with any scenes straight from the novels but I have been assured by many articles that it is only a matter of time. This brings me to what I think is the single greatest strength of this game: longevity in the market. So many people are knowledgeable about the books (thank you Peter Jackson!) and they know the plotline that Turbine's decision to have the game parallel the events is absolutely inspired. What is even more inspired is how they have chosen to do it.

When the game first came out about two years ago the epic storyline (which loosely follows the plot of the trilogy) ended around the same time period as the council of Elrond. Through a series of free updates (nice!!) and larger expansions to the game, the developers would seem to have a very long timeframe in mind. For instance, they just released "The Mines of Moria" which sees the Fellowship into Lothlorien where they meet Galadriel for the first time which is still within the first book of the trilogy and it has been out for two years!! At this pace, they won't get anywhere near the conclusion of the saga for at least a decade which is simultaneously scary and really fun to consider.

In the end, I really like this game and am looking forward to being able to feel a part of this preeminent fantasy epic. Anyone who likes WOW should at least try this and get away from the potty-mouthed children who always seem to play World of Warcraft. The people playing seem more mature and willing to help a noob like me.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Computer Woes

Yesterday I couldn't wait to get home and play with my new computer! Geeky, I know but there you are. I had been checking all day to see if my new video card had been delivered and around 3 oclock I received notification that it had been dropped of on my doorstep. Needless to say, the last couple of hours were difficult to get through. I could see myself playing games at levels I hadn't experienced with computers before because I'd always had laptops which don't have the best video cards. With visions of this dancing around in my head I went home, became deliriously excited when I saw it on my porch, and fell flat on my face when I couldn't seem to install the damn thing!?!

Granted, I was probably getting a little cocky with how easy it all seemed to be at first but I didn't expect this at all. I should have, but like I said.... cockiness! Lesson learned. After the first couple of tries with nothing to show from it (a blank screen, in fact) I gathered myself and proceeded to try many different things with many different settings..... FOR SIX HOURS!! I'm laughing about it now because I feel like I still had fun while doing it and I know alot more about how computers work now than I ever did by reading. I'm laughing because I was seriously pissed off last night when it didn't work. All I really wanted to do last night was download a game that I had been waiting anxiously to play and see it in glorious 1650 x 1080 with all the graphical options tuned to their highest degree. Instead I spent as much time on the floor fiddling with connections and inputs, which is no small feat for someone still healing from a broken leg! Jess will be happy to note that I did wear my boot for the duration of it.

I don't know what's wrong with it even now. I've been reading forum posts and information from the manufacturer's website but until I can get back to the computer and try some things out its all speculation. I'm hopeful that I can get it working during the weekend, and I can only hope Jess is prepared for me sitting in front of the computer for long stretches..... OUTSIDE of work! If I still haven't figured it out, my IT guy at work is going to run a diagnostic on it to make sure that the card itself isn't malfunctioning. Quite nice of him, I think.

This is all part of the ongoing saga of a man who thinks he knows all confronted by things he knows nothing about!! :) Peace y'all.

EDIT: After working with a Facebook friend from High School I have figured out what the problem is. Now to go home and test out this new hypothesis.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

New Computer

I just checked online and the new computer that I ordered has finally arrived, piecemeal as it is. I'm really looking forward to building the computer as much as I am actually using it. I know that Jess would love me to build it as fast as possible so we can finally have a computer with a little more speed than either of us is used to. As I've never done this before it will be very interesting to see how long it takes though I don't anticipate it being a major problem. Mostly, I just hope that the computer components all work!! That would be great.

As soon as I get home I'll start to delve into it but tonight is Lost night so I really won't have much time during the evening. I might be staying up late though..... More on this computer later.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Watchmen Review

I've heard many different people saying many different things about the Watchmen movie and I am quite frankly confused. I went in having never read the book, intentionally, and having no idea really of the plot, also intentionally. I think this gave me a good perspective of the movie and allowed me to view it free from preconceptions. This is something I did not have when I went and saw the Lord of the Rings trilogy and I sometimes wonder how my take on those movies might have differed.

Watchmen is indeed a difficult story to tell with its emphasis on different time periods being interwoven. As it is a piece of graphic fiction, it is an extremely visual movie that Zach Snyder (of 300 fame) used quite well. Again, I hadn't read the book before seeing the movie but I could certainly tell that certain scenes were most likely pulled straight from the novel as they weren't your traditional cinematic camera angles. For the most part, and I'm discussing this first because it is such an integral piece to the movie, the visual style of this movie is flawless. There are some less than desirable shots that sometimes pull you out of the movie a bit but they are so few and far between that I simply didn't care.

The acting in the movie was overall a mixed bag which is par for the course in a movie that employs relative nobodies in the lead roles. The standouts in my opinion were Rorschach, the walking talking Rorschach test, played deftly by Jackie Earle Haley and the Comedian played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Of all the onscreen personas they made me the least aware that they were acting. They became these characters to such a degree that it was truly a sight to behold. Going briefly to the Lord of the Rings parallel I drew before I would hold this up to Sir Ian McKellan's flawless performance as Gandalf (with one small irritating moment at the Mines of Moria aside!). The rest of the cast were adequate individually. As a whole, however, I truly felt they all did a commendable job for such a difficult piece of fiction.

Now, some of the detractors for this movie have made such a fuss over showing Dr. Manhattan's anatomy a little too much. I agree that it was onscreen much more than most fans of American cinema are used too but with his character it made no sense for him to cover up anymore. He simply doesn't care anymore. The book may have been better at hiding this particular feature of his anatomy but those camera angles wouldn't have made as good of a film cinematically. You can't handicap the cinematographer simply to deal with our over-sensitive take on nudity. I certainly didn't hear many, though there were some, complain about the amount of female nudity in the movie.

The other big complaint I kept hearing about the movie is that it is difficult to follow the storyline. Again coming from the point of view of someone who has never read the book I must say that I didn't have a problem understanding the plot. Is it intricate? At times it is but the movie does a very good job at leading the audience through the plot to its conclusion. Perhaps if people would quit texting during the movie or checking box scores they might come to the same conclusion. The problem here isn't the movie, I feel like the problem is that we as a society have such a small attention span though I think that may be the topic of another blog posting entirely.

The success or failure of any movie is tied in with how the movie comes together as a whole. Small miscues here and there can be forgiven if the core of the movie is strong enough and if the audience gets sucked in. At 2 hours and 45 minutes the movie is long but other than the strong urge to pee I couldn't say that I was completely aware of the length. I was mesmerized by much of what was going on, though I was surprised at the level of violence. There were times where I felt like a little boy looking out into the vastness of the universe and truly beginning to comprehend it. This may seem a bit out there but most of these times have to do with Dr. Manhattan who is a truly unique character in cinema.

If I am forced to distill this experience into a five star rating I would have to give it a four, which many websites say means excellent. You may go to this movie and have a completely different experience which is one of the great achievements of this particular medium. I would caution, however, against taking negative reviews at face value as they are misleading and will keep you from judging for yourself.

Star Trek Online

I've recently become rather addicted to the new Massive Multiplayer Online Game Star Trek Online. This is particularly odd because the game hasn't even come out yet but the website, at www.startrekonline.com, is very good with alot of great information for fans and non-fans of the series alike. There is so much history behind the series, that has been created through 10+ movies and 5+ series (if you include the animated series) as well as multitudes of novelizations, that a game based on this information is quite exciting.

I'm also kind of looking forward to starting an online game like this from the beginning to see how it changes over time. All of this will be moot of course if I don't get a computer that will be able to handle the graphical requirements which I am currently in the process of researching. I don't honestly anticipate this game to come out before the end of the year but I'm hopeful. I know this earmarks me as a nerd but I'm okay with that.

The other concern that seems to pop up with any online game is the potential to become addicted to it. I've been playing games for years and I can honestly say that any addiction to it has never interfered with my normal life though I'm sure there are some out there who feel that this may not be true. Regardless, it is really sad that some people do escape so inexorably into these shady dimensions and imagined worlds that they sometimes DO neglect the outside world. This brief musing aside, I will certainly never get to this point.

In the end, this should be an interesting experience once it finally comes to fruition. There is something so magical about what video games provide with their escapist notions that I am genuinely surprised that more people aren't into them.

I'm Baaaack!

Well, a lot has happened since I last took up the digital pen and scribed on this here blog. By my reckoning its been about 7 months! That is a very long time indeed and I have very good reasons why it has been so long but it all really amounts to laziness. Honestly, my computer at home is so much of a hassle just to start up that I hate starting it up. Luckily, I've started the first stages of building my next computer so I'm very hopeful that I will soon have a computer that will take less than 10 minutes to start up (with 4 Gigs of RAM at least this better not happen).

In other news, well alot has happened. Work is going pretty well and I generally enjoy what I do on a day to day basis. I've been struggling with keeping my hobbies a part of my life which is mostly a concern because it seems like I have a million things that I like to do that I end up doing none of them as much as I would like. Between video games, tv, reading books, writing, etc. there never seems to be enough time to do what I want. It really is quite frustrating in the long run and starting up this blog again is part of my current push to force myself to manage my time better so that I have a better life in general.

I'll end this post here but promise that I will continue writing on at least a semi-regular pace. Stay tuned and make sure you use RSS feeds or Google reader to keep track of little old me. All I want is some friends (cute puppy dog face emoticon --> I have to write it because this site has no emoticons that I know of).