Flotilla.

Feb. 14th, 2011 01:10 pm
puddlesofun: (Default)
Just recently I have been playing Brendan Chung’s Flotilla, which has some interesting narrative design. The game at its heart is about turn-based space combat (the design of which is elegant, but it could do with better camera controls), but the framing story is that you are a spaceship captain with seven months to live, and are determined to make the best of it. As such the framing story has you rushing from planet to planet on a map, and at each planet you are met with a (randomly generated) encounter. Many of these are not space battles, but simple situations for which there are two possible answers. Such as the following:



It’s a very simple in conceit and execution, but it allows me to decide what kind of space captain I want to be. I decide that I’m a rebellious sort who doesn’t submit to bullying from authorities (“Hell no I won’t pay your space-toll/hand over my hitch-hiker who turns out to be a galactic fugitive!” *fights*), but also one who will never refuse a plea for help, no matter who it comes from.

Well, I break that last vow once, when I come across some white-collar criminal pigs (literally, with the ears and the little twisty tails) who are being attacked by a pirates. Ignoring their pleas for help, I instead steal all their stuff. A couple of planets later, a psychopathic leopard in an aviator cap says he heard about it and that he likes my style, and he joins up with my flotilla with his spaceship. Bonus! Did I mention most of the characters are various species of animal? There are Toucans!

Anyway, my point is that randomly or procedurally generated gameplay tends to call for new narrative strategies, and there are some nice new ones here, albeit painted in broad strokes. I think the “limited time to live” thing might become a classic trope in this kind of thing. It’s nice for things with a random element to have a short play-time for a single game, because it helps give the feel of a beginning middle and end, and because because part of what makes randomness fun is replaying and seeing what changes. Terminal illness is an effortless way to make such a restriction seem more poignant. It effortlessly justifies the limited gameplay the same way the classic old “you wake up with amnesia” chestnut was used in the past to justify the player character asking a bunch of obvious questions.

Did I mention making a game was on my list of things to do this year? Right after writing a novel. Yeah.
puddlesofun: (Default)
I saw Exposed: Photography and the Classical Nude at Usyd today (which is free!) and was quite taken by several of the works by Herbert List: plaster statues amongst the ruins of Berlin, that sort of thing. I'm sure people who are more knowledgeable about photography than me know all about him already, but I was excited, and I can't find a decent pic on the webz of my favourite piece of his from this exhibition, so just go look, ok? And there was of course lots of pictures of nude or semi-clad folks. The most interesting were early 20th Century (and some later) shots that recreated earlier classical poses and scenes, along with some even earlier stuff that just happened to have statues. If you like old B+W stuff, and/or pretty boys, I recommend this exhibition.

[livejournal.com profile] hecticred, I'm talking to you.

Last night I scored a last minute ticket to Dracula, with a new score performed by Phillip Glass and the Kronos Quartet. It was a bit weird as a soundtrack as it had no quiet parts, which is interesting for a movie that has dialogue. Some parts were very interesting, although I thought that Glass succumbed to the melodramatic nature of the piece a little too often. It was all sting and no rising tension at such times.
The movie itself was the 1931 version with Bela Legosi ("I don't drink...wine"), which I hadn't seen before. It was super hammy, and I'm sure picked in part because it dates from that short era before extra-diagetic music became commonplace in talkies. I did find the adaption structurally interesting, though. In the film Renton is a much more important character. It is he, rather than Harker, who travels to Transylvania as a soliciter, and there falls under the Count's influence. It's actually a really nice change. Harker is a boring, passive character, but with Renfield we see someone undergoing changes straight away.
Of course it is all done with the melodrama turned up to 11, but it got me thinking about the whole saga as about sex and sexual repression (well covered ground, obvs) and how the plot might be retold in a less, er, figurative way. Maybe even to the point where the vampirism could be removed (ok, that might be going a bit far). Renton (or Harker, if you want to swap them back) seduced by the Count. Or not even seduced - perhaps just obsessed on their own account? And losing it, craving the blood of tiny animals, in denial of or shame about their feelings?
The movie I am imagining would be shot by Christopher Doyle and everyone would be very attractive. Except Van Helsing.
Unfortunately, if someone actually made a film with this plot, it would probably be shot on VHS porn with fake acting and fake boobs. In fact, someone has probably already made it, but I'm not going to check. Nor will I check for fic, whose existence I am equally certain about.

There isn't any rule about LJ posts having a point, is there? No? Oh good. I'm off to bed then.
puddlesofun: (Default)
In an effort to be more productive, I am trying out the leech-block plugin for firefox, which lets you block certain sites at certain times of the day.

This would probably be working quite well, if not for the fact that valve's Orange Box was recently on special for $5, so I have been working my way through Half-Life 2, which was the next big thing in first person shooters as of about 5 years ago. Here are my thoughts so far, so I feel better for having wasted all that time:

*AAA games are really long. I've spent so long playing only wacky little indie productions that I forgot that big studios do more than just make their point and finish up. This thing goes forever. I started playing at 9 today because I figured I was right near the end so I could do it and then get on with the rest of the day. I gave up at 1 pm, still no end in sight. Valve does lots to keep it interesting, with aesthetically interesting levels, and constant new vehicles, weapons and situations.

*So. Damn. Linear. You can approach problems in lots of different ways, but for the whole game there is really no choice in where to go. I feel for the designers, they spent lots of time designing those set pieces, so they want you to get the benefit, but jeeze. It's a pity, because so many of the elements, like the physics system and the gravity gun, could have enabled a lot more creativity from the player if the game design allowed it (I guess that's how Garry's Mod happened). And playing the troublemaker in a police state would be a great idea for a more open world game.



*Plot wise, it's okay. Most of the characters are passable, and more importantly, none of them are annoying. I like the villain, your old lab supervisor, who is now dictator of earth (proxying for the malign alien force who is really in charge). His belief that collaboration is humanity's only chance for survival seems touchingly genuine. Can't wait to shoot him in the head.

INCERPTION

Aug. 1st, 2010 04:02 pm
puddlesofun: (Default)
Firstly, I must say that during Joseph Gordon-Levitt's variable gravity punch-up in the hotel corridor, I couldn't help but be reminded of this and its sequel:



One or two spoilers, but nothing you couldn't figure out yourself, honest. )
puddlesofun: (Default)
nb: mostly spoiler-free

So on Tuesday myself and some peeps marathoned our way through the rest of the first season of Battlestar Galactica.

My initial dislike of the series, motivated by its unceasing and very American focus on the military and government of the last of humanity* has waned considerably as certain themes have come to the fore. The most interesting of these (notwithstanding the sound of Sophie sighing everytime Starbuck winks or punches someone, and yesIwilladmit, I myself am not immune to the charms of incredibly butch starfighter pilots mmmm) being dehumanisation, which pretty much all of the human characters find a fairly easy concept to apply to their not-human enemy. A lot of the bad things that the humans do could perhaps be ethically justified on a utilitarian basis, but they are more often morally justified with “You’re just a machine,” or “You don’t have a soul, just software.” Which makes this a show about war, and the horrible trap it can be to people’s thinking. People don’t often make balanced ethical assessments, let alone leaps of sympathy, when they feel constantly threatened. And of course it’s understandable and unsurpising that people would avoid sympathising with the Cylons at any cost, given that the series starts with the Cylons committing the biggest act of genocide in the history of humanity. So everyone you know is dead, at what point will you start to sympathise with the Cylon? When it speaks to you? When it sweats? When it bleeds and cries out in pain? When the Cylon loves you? When you have loved the Cylon? When it is carrying your child?

It seems like the answer many of the characters on this show would like to give is “Never”, which is depressingly beleivable.

Religion is the other big thing the show seems to be taking a stab at, but I'm not sure yet where it is going with it. The most popular religion amongst humans (not an organised one in the sense of institutional heirarchy, it seems) is a polytheistic creed echoing greek myth and incorporating a precursor story (our precursors left earth, who left Kobol, who then founded the 12 colonies). More interestingly, the Cylons appear to be monotheistic in something resembling the judeo-christian concept of a god. And we don't know at this point how individual the Cylons are. We know that each has their own will and makes their own decisions, but we also know that Cylons can be created from scratch with a prefabricated set of beliefs and memories in their brain. So we don't know whether religion in this case has been pre-installed as part of keeping individuals compliant to the larger war machine, or if it is something that developed amongst cylons as part of their own hopes/fears/philosophies.

The wartime thinking aspect is obvious here, too. Religion either as a tool for propaganda, as a way to make peace with death, or as something reached for in desperation: At the end of the series, the president ends up making decisions based on myth and scripture (once again: how very American). Of course, prophecies in serial narratives are like guns in first acts, so it remains to be seen how the prophecy will play out, and whether this becomes as much fantasy as sci-fi (I hope it doesn’t).

Reviewing it at this point is like reviewing the first 5th of a movie, but thought I would at least collect my thoughts and give this show a cautious thumbs up. It is more interesting than most.
____________________
*I mean, there’s this President who’s making all these policy decisions, right, but you never actually see the people who are most affected by them. There they are, a few thousand refugees floating in space and trying to make it with their limited resources, but you never see where the real desperation is because the camera is pointed exclusively at either those in power, or those with guns.

* Also, I think there are a few things that Gaius does that are just plot-gimmes the writers have used for their own convenience, thinking “oh well, Gaius is mad, his actions don’t have to make sense”, well guess what, fucker, THEY DO. With the invention of possibly the guiltiest man who ever lived, you have a rich seam to mine and you aren’t using it well enough.
puddlesofun: (lights)
I saw Kill Bill today. It is pretty much what everyone says it is, and for some reason reminded me a lot of various anime (not just because of the animated section). I think it's the hissing sound of the arterial spray gushing out of a newly opened neck that does it.

BTW, I have just figured out the difference between homage and unoriginality. Uma Thurman wearing a two piece yellow tracksuit as she cuts swathe through enemies is obviously a homage to Bruce Lee. If it was a one piece, then that would be a ripoff. So now you know, it's that simple.

*

'Cause I'm bored, and staying up late to watch Ben Lee program Rage, I'm going to attempt to start an argument with any cinema geeks reading.

Top 5 Sword fighting scenes in movies
Taboo: All of the dojo scenes. If you haven't seen Taboo, it's a Japanese movie that teaches us that there are two types of samurai: The gay kind, and the kind that didn't think they were gay until the cute new novice comes along and turns everyone's head. Well, what did you think all those men were doing to keep themselves amused?
The Princess Bride: Atop the cliffs of insanity "I think I do it with my left hand. If I do it with my right, is over too quickly. I get no satisfaction."
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon:Maggie Cheung versus whatserface.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Okay, I'm running out of ideas.
Return of the Jedi: That should get an argument going...


P.S. I figured out the detective, I think. So I'm not stuck in my planning any more. It just takes a while.

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