Sunday, September 14, 2014

Skyrim review, by the wordsmith British Broadcasts

You gotta read this. :)

Via Steam user British Broadcasts, click name to visit his profile. I sure hope he works as a writer.

I was stacking books on a shelf in my house in Whiterun, one of Skyrim's major cities, when I noticed a weapon rack right beside it. I set a sacrificial dagger in one slot, an Orcish mace in the other. They were on display for nobody but me and my computer-controlled housecarl, Lydia, who sat at a table patiently waiting for me to ask her to go questing. The chest upstairs was reserved for excess weapons and armor, the bedside table for smithing ingots and ores, the one next to the Alchemy table for ingredients. I'd meticulously organized my owned virtual property not because I had to, but because tending to the minutia of domestic life is a comforting break from dealing with screaming frost trolls, dragons, a civil war, and job assignments that never seem to go as planned. It's even a sensible thing to do; a seemingly natural component of every day existence in Skyrim, one of the most fully-realized, easily enjoyable, and utterly engrossing role-playing games ever made.

Part of what makes it so enjoyable has to do with how legacy Elder Scrolls clutter has been condensed and in some cases eliminated. In Skyrim, there's no more moon-hopping between hilltops with a maxed out Acrobatics skill. That's gone, so is Athletics. The Elder Scrolls V pares down the amount of skills and cuts out attributes like Endurance and Intelligence altogether. There's no time wasted on the character creation screen agonizing over which skills to assign as major. You don't assign major and minor skills at all, but instead pick one of ten races, each with a specific bonus. High Elves can once a day regenerate magicka quickly, Orcs can enter a berserk rage for more effective close-range combat. These abilities are best paired with certain character builds – the High Elf regeneration is useful for a magic user – but don't represent a rigid class choice. Major decisions don't need to be made until you're already out in the world and can try out magic, sneaking and weapon combat, emphasizing first-hand experience over instruction manual study, letting you specialize only when you're ready.

It contributes to the thrilling sense of freedom associated with life in Skyrim. Do a quest, kill a dragon, snatch torchbugs from the air, munch on butterfly wings or simply wander while listening to one of the best game soundtracks in recent memory. Despite the enormity of the world and the colossal amount of content contained within, little feels random and useless. Even chewing on a butterfly wing has purpose, as it reveals one of several alchemical parameters later useful in potion making at an alchemy table. Mined ore and scraps of metal from Dwemer ruins can be smelted into ingots and fashioned into armor sets, pelts lifted from slain wildlife can be turned into leather armor sets, and random books plucked from ancient ruins can trigger hidden quest lines that lead to valuable rewards. Skyrim's land mass is absolutely stuffed with content and curiosities, making every step you take, even if it's through what seems like total wilderness, an exciting one, as something unexpected often lies just over the next ridge.

Many times the unexpected takes the form of a dragon. Sometimes they're purposefully placed to guard relics, sometimes they swoop over cities and attack at seemingly random times. In the middle of a fight against a camp of bandits a dragon might strike, screaming through the sky and searing foe and friendly alike with frost or flame. Momentarily all on the battlefield unite, directing arrows and magic blasts upward to knock down the creature, creating impromptu moments of camaraderie -- a surprising change from what may have been yet another by-the-numbers bandit camp sweep. Dragons show up often, their presence announced by an ominous flap of broad wings or an otherworldly scream from high above. The scale and startling detail built into each creature's appearance and animations as it circles, stops to attack, circles again and slams to the ground makes encounters thrilling, though their predictable attack patterns lessen the excitement after a few battles. In the long run they're far less irritating than the Oblivion gate equivalent from The Elder Scrolls IV, can be completed in a few minutes, and always offer a useful reward.

Killing a dragon yields a soul, which powers Skyrim's new Shout system. These are magical abilities any character can use, you don't have to specialize in spell casting to slow time, throw your voice, change the weather, call in allies, blast out ice and fire, or knock back enemies with a rolling wave of pure force. Even if you favor sword, shield and heavy armor and ignore magic entirely, you'll still be able to take full advantage of these abilities provided you find the proper words – each Shout has three – hidden on Skyrim's high snowy peaks and in the depths of forgotten dungeons, serving as another reason to continue exploring long after you've exhausted the main quest story, joined with the Thieves Guild, fought alongside the Dark Brotherhood, or thrown your support behind one of the factions vying for control of Skyrim.

Not only is this land under assault by dragons, long thought to be dead, it's also ripped in two by civil war. You can choose one side or the other, but so much of the allure of Skyrim is how, even outside of the confines of quest lines, the embattled state of the world is evident, and steeped in a rich fictional legacy. Lord of the Rings this is not, but with the release of every Elder Scrolls game, the fiction becomes denser, and the cross-referencing for long-time fans all the more rewarding.

Skyrim's residents are all aware of current events. They'll comment on the civil war, some sympathizing with the rebels, others thinking the establishment sold its soul. The peasants complain about the Jarls who control each settlement, the Jarls complain about the rebels or foreign policy, the overprotective College librarian complains when I drop dragon scales all over his floor; many characters feel like whole, distinct personalities instead of vacuous nothings that hand out quests like a downtown greeter hands out flyers for discount jeans. Characters stereotype based on race, they double-cross at even the slightest hint it might be profitable, and they react to your evolving stature within the world. It makes a ridiculous realm, filled with computer-controlled cat people and humanoid reptiles, demon gods and dragons, feel authentic, like a world that existed long before you showed up and will continue to exist long after you leave.

Friday, April 02, 2010

It's late again, but this is beautiful

The following are some of the most beautiful, hope-charged verses I have ever heard in a song:

This city doesn't know what's coming,
She doesn't feel the heat
This city won't know what hit her,
What knocked her out into the street
This city's thinking that it's over,
She's already fast asleep
But I'm breakin' out of here tonight,

We're given only what we need,
Only the chance to survive
And even then, it's a coin toss,
A roll of the dice
There's gotta be somethin' better,
Somethin' that feels more alive
So, I'm breaking out of here tonight,
I'm breaking out of here

You gotta feel it, girl,
Feel the wind pick up
It feels like somethin's gonna change
(Somethin's gonna change)
There's no use putting it in drive if all the wheels are stuck
There's somethin' wrong with us
(Somethin's wrong with us)
Like this whole city wants to scream,
But no one makes a sound

You gotta feel it, girl,
(Somethin's wrong with us)
So, I'm gonna find out what it is,
And I'm gonna tear it down

The engine's running, baby,
We don't have time for goodbye
I know you can't come with me,
I see that look in your eye
So, kiss me fast, 'cuz there's no time to lose,
Leave the light on, I'll come back for you,
When everything is said and done,
I swear I'm gonna make it right,
'Cause I'm breaking out of here tonight!

And I'm so tired of giving up,
I am so tired of giving in
You wake up knowing things should change,
Not knowing where to begin,
This city won't say where she's going,
She won't speak of where she's been,
But I'm breaking out of here tonight,
Break out...

(Ooh, don't turn your back on the city)
(Ooh, don't turn your back on the city)
(Ooh, don't turn your back on the city)
Say a prayer for all the children still sleeping
(Ooh, don't turn your back on the city)
Say a prayer for all the fathers who still remember
(Ooh, don't turn your back on the city)
Say a prayer for all the girls who learned to stand up!
(Ooh, don't turn your back on the city)
Say a prayer for all the boys who won't surrender!

Sometimes I just wanna drive until the streets run out,
I wanna burn until there's nothing left to burn about
This city's waiting for a better day,
When I get back, there will be hell to pay,
If I'm the only one that's left, I will not be afraid to fight!
And I'm breaking out of here tonight!

(from Breaking Out by The Protomen)

Tuesday, December 01, 2009


It's late, and my head hurts, which makes it hard to think. There's so
much to do, and so little time to do it in. There's so little money.

There never seems to be a break. Just falling asleep feels like work.

But some things are better, the overall sum is positive. It feels like
a constant escape across borders, from danger to danger, struggle to
struggle, but the overall elevation has increased.

Things are so much harder to plan now, because there are so many
unknowns. Too many factors that can't be eliminated. And the overall
sum is positive, but there's an impending balance coming, and I
constantly worry that I'm taking it too lightly.

I wish I deserved the life I thought I did. I wish we were farther
ahead than we are, just like we planned to be. But wishing doesn't
change the future or the present, it just hurts.

It would be easy to say that age killed these hopes, but that's not
true; they're still alive, tears unmoving down their cheeks, looking
away in silent protest. At least that's what I feel like doing.

Something mean and vindictive in me wants to call this growing up, but
there's too much venom, too much oppression and callous hate in that
idea. I'll always be full of vehement opposition to that, as long as I
have any sense of justice in me at all. I'm already there, I'm up. I'm
only going to get older from here. There never was a line, some haptic
bump that marked the passage from child to adult in my thinking, or if
there was it happened too early for me to realize. So, it's not
growing up. It's more like the removal of possibilities.

I won't die in this town. I won't live here. I can't raise our
children here. I can't. But like most unfortunate things, the whole
decision is crippled by the lack of money.

But don't mistake me, I'm not plaintively offering this up as some
tragedy to be mourned over. This is more a declaration of war. It is
plaintive, in a way; it should be a statement haunting in it's
insistence, a forboding that sends trembles up the spine.

I won't sentence us to stay in this place, and I don't care what I
have to do to stop it.

I still have hope for the future. I don't think there's any way that
God plans for us to stay here. And I feel secure in asking Him for His
will. I feel a sort of military solidarity, an immobile sureness about

And because I feel it there, hard as marble, I am a little afraid.
There is always a chance. God is love, but He is stronger than I am,
and I can only hope that He doesn't mean to teach me a lesson, to
break that which feels so unbreakable. Because I'm so afraid of how
fragile I'd be without it.

Monday, May 04, 2009

THIS is the coolest thing I have seen on an MMO website, ever. :D
Once you click the Registration button on the main page of Runes of Magic (, you get a standard Registration page with the standard steps. They want you to pick a login username, a password, pick your country, subscribe to the terms, and that's it.
But this is the first MMO website I've ever seen that has the boxes in order, one right after another, on the TOP of the reg form, so you can speed through it!
Forgive me for gushing over this, but this is just the most intuitive MMO site feature I think I've ever seen. :D Bravo, guys!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Hi, Dad.

Hey, Dad. I miss you.

I wish I could have known you better. It seems like it was only a little while ago when I heard you had passed away, in a little rehab place in Texas. They said that you had been doing great, that you were a big help around the place, that you had been clean for a long time.

I wish you had thought of me! I wish you had tried to contact me. You remember your dad-in-law? He would've had a number for Mom, you could've gotten a message through to me somehow.

If you'd tried, you'd have found out that I was huge into the Internet; I had a username on every major IM service, and like 6 different email addresses at any one time. We could have talked, we could have shared new technologies as father and son! We could have talked about games, about phones, about the Internet.. We could have learned programming languages together, we could have competed, we could have partied up in some MMO somewhere! I could have had so many good times with you, even if only online!

We would have had such a special relationship, one that I wouldn't have had with anyone else, one that I would have kept so near and dear to my heart for years and years, one that I'd never ever forget about or let slide, one that I'd constantly work at and grow!

I want to talk to you, I want to listen to you. I want to hug you, and feel your whiskers scratch my cheek. I want to smell your hair. I want to shake your hand, and arm-wrestle you. I want you to tell me when I'm messing up, and what I should do, even if I don't want to hear it. I want you not to like my music.

I want you to see my brother all grown up, and his new little baby boy, who is the cutest baby I've ever seen, even with his one arm. I want your eyes to shine when you look at him and play with him. I want you to meet my beautiful wife, and talk to her, see how smart she is, and tell me how pretty she is in a whisper when she leaves the room. I want to go to a store every year and pick out the perfect Christmas gift to give you. I want to email you about every interesting news story I find, and every funny lolcat I see-my wife is so good at making those!

I want someone to play games with. I want someone to talk to, to give me advice, and chastise me when I'm wrong. I want someone to push me to finish school. I want someone who loves me unconditionally, so I don't feel like I have to bend over backwards to earn the approval of every peer group I come in contact with.

I love you, Dad. I miss you so much. Are you in heaven? Will I get to see you and talk to you when I get there? Nothing would make me happier!

Oh, God, I miss you so much. I'm so sorry for what you did. I don't understand why you left me here alone! I missed so much of your life, and you missed so much of mine!

I MISS YOU. I loved you, and I'll always love you. I love you SO MUCH, and I miss you, Dad. I can't wait to see you again.

I love you, and I miss you. Goodnight, Dad. Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Windows Mobile rant

Wrote this some time ago, but I still feel this way. I've been using my old Windows Mobile 5 touchscreen PDA phone (Samsung i730) for about three months now, and it's good and bad...

I've done it for half a year now, and I'm tired of it.

I am giving up my new Windows Mobile smartphone, my Verizon Wireless smt5800. Probably selling it, in fact.

Why would I do this? There are a few reasons.

1. The availability of decent games.
Before I had any PocketPC phone, I had an LG VX7000. This was right before Verizon's VCAST service debuted, and this phone was one of the last high-end phones they made without the service.

I used to buy one or two games every month for my device using Verizon's Get It Now application. I didn't worry too much about space on my phone, though it was very limited, to be sure. If I chose to download a new application or game, and my phone didn't have enough space, automatically Get It Now would remove the local content for one or two existing applications on the phone. Those apps were not gone; they still appeared in the list, in fact. But in order to run them, I'd have to redownload the content, which was free.

So it was definitely more convenient than juggling license codes. But that's not the only reason. The GAMES AVAILABLE through that service were just about amazing.

Here's a brief rundown on some of the most appealing games still available for my OLD phone, the VX7000 I got about four years ago:

Sonic the Hedgehog, VZW Chess, Frogger, Namco's Pac-Man, Tetris Mania, Scene It?, Dig Dug, Ms. Pac Man, Castlevania: Order of Shadows, SimCity (Used to have it, was AMAZING on my phone), Worms 2007, Might and Magic 2 (the original was so great), God of War: Betrayal, Doom RPG (played most of it, it was great), Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Paperboy, Insaniquarium Deluxe (I don't care if it's casual, it's still addicting), Metal Slug M3, Sims 2 Connected Edition, Guitar Hero 3, Solarola, Metal Gear, Age Of Empires 3, Puzzle Quest: Warlords, Sega Columns Deluxe (actually Columns and Puyo Pop), and this is all not to mention the fact that I still have Ys 1 & 2 on this phone, which is no longer available.

Are any of these titles available in some capacity on Windows Mobile or Smartphone platforms? Well, some are: Pac Man, Ms. Pac-Man, Dig Dug, and that's all I can think of off the top of my head. So, that's what, 10% of the titles available on my old phone?

Let's say those few games available for smartphone are all I'm interested in; let's say I'm not the semi-hardcore gamer that I am. This brings me to my next point:

2. Games: Price

This is the secret behind all those PDA phones on the market.

With Get It Now games, available now on most Verizon phones, there is a bit of a strange pricing scheme. Two prices are offered for most titles, one for an "unlimited" license and another for a "subscription" license. The features for each are identical, the programs aren't different in any way. The difference in the license merely refers to the payment scheme used to use that program.

A single game might cost $5.99 for Unlimited, or maybe $2.99 for Subscription. If you know you love the game, and want to buy it for keepsies, click on the Unlimited license. You pay a one-time fee of $5.99 on your next bill, then the application's yours, you never pay for it again. As long as you don't remove it totally from your phone (cancelling your license for it), it doesn't even have to take up space on your device; if you need the space it takes up, your phone will delete the local content, keeping the license intact, as explained above.

If you're not sure about a game/app and you just want to try it out, or you don't think you'll keep it long enough to warrant buying it Unlimited, you can purchase it for the Subscription price, which is usually about half of the normal price (or less). With this model, you'll pay $2.99 on your next bill, and $2.99 a month after that for every month you keep the program on your device. That provides kind of a protection against crappy games or all-but-nonfunctional apps; if you're not sure, pay the lower subscription price, and if you hate it, delete it; you've only spent $3 rather than $6 to find that out. Sure, it's not as good as a free demo, but it's a start. For mobile games that are beatable, if you can beat them in a month, you can get away with paying the subscription price for what is essentially the full game. I did this with the first Might and Magic title, actually, and loved every minute; that's a great mobile game, and deserving of every accolade it receives.

Here's the most important part of this: Average game price for Get It Now titles is from $5-7 Unlimited, $2-4 Subscription.

Average price for games on Pocket PC/Smartphone (Windows Mobile) platform? $20.

That's right. Same basic content, FAR more limited selection, MORE THAN DOUBLE the average price. The only redeeming factor with PPC/SP software is that most programs or games DO come with free trials, which are usually extremely limited; they're either missing some crucial feature found in the full version, time limited to work for an extremely short period of time like 3-5 days, or BOTH at once. Also is the fact that, even if a program is purported to work 100% with your flavor of Windows Mobile, there's a chance it doesn't work at all on your device.

This is the thing that drove me away. I could live with the reduced software catalog, if lots of the better programs were free or very cheap. I could live with the disadvantages of carrying a Windows Mobile device over a normal phone, of which there are many from where I sit. I could even live with the need to reformat my phone once a month, which is totally rediculous for a handheld device.

But I can't live with $20-30 games for a phone.

For these reasons, I am listing my smt5800 smartphone on Ebay. I can get at least $200 out of it selling it there, I believe, even in its used condition, even with the slight scratches on it. For a phone, I will use my still-working VX7000, which I love. For a PDA, I will use my old i730 with the phone radio turned off, running Windows Mobile 5 with a fast 520MHz processor, accessing Internet with a built-in wifi antenna.

I hate to do it this way. I don't want two seperate devices. I'm all about convergence, wherever it may be found. I BELIEVE in the possibilities of a combination cell phone & data device; I'm still excited by the prospects of the upcoming Android platform, as well as the possibilities offered by the recent unlocking of iPhone development tools.

But I've been locked out by software pricing geared to the super-rich, and selection that caters to only the most casual gamer. I've been beaten down by exhorbitant $45-a-month data plan pricing by my carrier, and their physical removal of other data options (wifi) that are present on other iterations of my phone. I've had it with the hangups, the slowdowns, the ignored taps and button clicks, the crashes, the frequent reformats, and the cell-phone-side inadequacies of Windows Mobile in general.

Therefore I am relinquishing my new device, purchased all of four months ago, and moving to what I honestly believe is a better way of doing things. I came to Windows Mobile for the freedom, the possibilities, and what looked like greener pastures; it was a great heartbreak to me to learn that the possibilities are ignored, the freedom is all but free, and the pastures are actually much greener back where I started.

Adeiu, Windows Mobile. Sorry it didn't work out.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

I am so tired.

I am tired, but i'm not going to let that stop me.

If you see an occaisional misspelling or capitalization error, reference the title. Silly rabbit, no one reads this blog!

I woke up last night at 2:30am or so, and didn't go back to sleep until I made myself do so at 6. I then had to get up at 7:15 to barely make it to work on time, which I did, to my surprise. :) Had a fairly uneventful day. Like a typical nerdly, I had to play with new toys in entirely inappropriate situations, which lead me to use the new invitation Evernote 3 beta Windows client to take all the notes for an important software meeting. Speaking of which, now I have to log in and check on it, because I am somewhat of a jittery person.

Now I have to go open Scrybe, because it made me think of it.

And now I'm back. Evernote online is kinda like Scrybe without the calendar, which actually may make it a little less valuable. Although, Evernote has what seems to be superior tagging and search capabilities, especially image search stuff. But I think it was Scrybe that first introduced us to the concept of web clipping.

The world feels like it's happening to someone else. Everything is slower-moving than normal. Sounds don't seem to have any definition; everything sounds like a new CD, mastered into a dynamic flatline.

I read the news today, oh boy
About a lucky man who made the grade
And though the news was rather sad
Well, I just had to laugh
I saw the photograph

Things have been coming down from the rafters. The world roars, the buildings groan as they lean into the wind. Rain flings itself with abandon at the windows. Ten inches of rain is unheard of in these parts..

He blew his mind out in a car

Somewhere, there's a boy, and he's crying. He sobs as his eyes run down the grooved channel on the side of a dull black pistol. He knows there are ten bullets in the clip, and that not a one will look the same after it has been used as before. Bullets are beautiful at first; the machined grooves shine with a warm, brassy glow. The casings look like gold.

He didn't notice that the lights had changed

I am a police officer. Whatever else I want to be, first, I am a cop. My job is to stop evil people from doing unfortunate things to the innocent. I was at a woman's house earlier, I almost lost it. Her husband was both drunk and coked out of his gourd, and he had been whipping her with an extension cord. Her nose was purple, one of her eyes was bleeding from the bottom lid when we got there. We pushed him into the car, behind the bars, and he wouldn't look at us, or at her. She fought us as we did, and spit on us when he was safely inside. It took everything in me, much more control than I thought I ever had, not to physically knock her out with a single punch for her stupidity..

A group of people stood and stared

Something was there, that couldn't be contested. Some people thought it was some animal, crawled down into the sewers and lived forgotten for years before struggling back up to the surface. Some people said it wasn't real, some kind of ghost or something, even as others poked its obviously solid body with a stick. Some even said it had been a child once, or an alien, or both. But the fact was that the guy, the college-looking kid with the beard, had actually watched it pull itself desperately out of a storm drain and crawl pitifully to the curb before it stopped moving with a high-pitched sigh..

Nobody could really tell if he was from the House of Lords

The Cloth of Sacrament goes up, over the head, drapes on the back of the chair. The robe unbuttons behind the neck, and goes on the wooden hanger to hang in the tiny cedar closet. The skullcap just pulls off, and hangs on the back of the chair. The necklace goes into a small drawer in the closet, the talisman to be stored away for the next service. It depicts a goat's head with a knowing smile, tiny ruby eyes set in pewter sockets. The ritual complete, it's time to eat a Ding Dong or two and drink a tall glass of cold, whole milk..

I'd love to turn you on

I kneel in a closet. No one knows I do this. Well, I say that, but He knows. He and I alone share this secret. I don't let my left hand know what my right is doing. My knees hurt, but that's hardly a poor trade. I know what I'm doing is right. I know what I'm doing is beautiful to Someone, and I do it alone, in a secret place. And, here's the kicker; half of what I pray for can only benefit other people.

I am tired. Good night. We'll see you later.