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Joe McGuffin

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South of the Border [Sep. 3rd, 2009|06:13 pm]
Joe McGuffin
[Tags|]
[mood |dj hero]
[music |all of it]

So my copy of Ribbon Drive turned up a few weeks ago, and a couple of us got together to try it out. RD is basically the make-your-own-road-movie RPG, powered by mix CDs made by the players beforehand. Since we were doing this on such short notice, we broke the rules somewhat and made playlists on our mp3 players instead. And this post turned out so monstrously long, I'm going to use multiple cuts.

The Pre-GameCollapse )

The CharactersCollapse )

The GameCollapse )

The EpilogueCollapse )

So, we had a lot of fun, especially with all the weird synchronicities on the soundtrack. We had a couple conceptual problems along the way-- we kept forgetting who entered the scene last, and hence had the right to introduce Obstacles, and we also forgot to properly alternate scene framing rights, but that was more minor. We're not sure if any of us would have deliberately gone to see this movie, but we'd all end up enjoying it if we did.
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(no subject) [Jul. 31st, 2009|01:39 pm]
Joe McGuffin
[Tags|]
[mood |timeshift]

Today I got up out of my desk, got in my car, and hit the interstate, driving West, straight into the storm clouds pooling overhead. Not going anywhere, not thinking anything, with the stereo cranked as high as it would go, feeling the wind hit my face.

Then lunch break ended.
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Media Diary 87: Drag, Burn, Guard, and Thug [Jun. 21st, 2009|12:51 am]
Joe McGuffin
[Tags|, , , ]
[music |Helmet - Milquetoast]

Movies
Drag Me To Hell: The ads all sold this as a straightforward horror flick. They lie; this is really Evil Dead 4 in all the ways that matter. The lead actress can't quite fill Bruce's shoes, but really, who can? There's still more than enough splatstick, improvised weaponry, and general can't-believe-they-did-thatitude to make it a great way to kill a Saturday afternoon.

TV
Burn Notice, season 3 eps 1-3: Damn I love this show. Season premiere was a bit limp as a follow-up to last season's amazing finale, but the show quickly got back on track and has everything I love about this crazy series. Bruce Campbell is so much fun to watch.

RPGs
Mouse Guard: Didn't finish reading buddha_davis' copy before playing (and have never read the comics, or Mice Templar, or more than one Redwall book... what is it with swordfighting mice? Reepicheep has much to answer for), but I enjoyed myself regardless. This is basically a slimmed-down version of Burning Wheel, cutting down most of the insane complexity I hated and seemingly taking a page from robin_d_laws' Hero Wars in abstracting the combat rules enough to be usable for pretty much any dramatic conflict, be it a fight, chase, or debate. Not bad, but it mostly made me want to try running Hero Wars again.

Star Thugs: I got this on a whim a while back, mainly for the back cover proudly proclaiming "Written rules for 'PC Glow'". It's yer basic self-parodic grimy space opera setting (think HoL, or Lexx, or even Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, or, god help us all, Tripping the Rift), and apparently a tie-in to some podcast I've never heard of. The rules, however, are pretty interesting, showing a lot of influence from Magic: the Gathering-style collectible card games, where ship combat involves "tapping" your crew to do this, that, and the other thing. It looks like it'd be a much better Firefly/Serenity game than the official one. I'll have to try this out soonish.

The oddest thing about this game is that there's absolutely no publishing indicia, so I have no idea when it was published (it has an ISBN, so I guess it's copyrighted), and they don't seem to have trademarked the name. Oops!
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Hey, you got your Gradius in my Final Fantasy Tactics! [Jun. 16th, 2009|07:11 pm]
Joe McGuffin
[Tags|]
[mood |we'll never fight alone]

I'm five stages into Knights in the Nightmare and just beat the first boss, so this is probably a good time to take stock of things.

A little context: Sting is a teeny little Japanese developer that's spent the last decade mainly doing weird handheld RPGs. Riviera: the Promised Land was basically Campbell's Condensed RPG, boiling down any and all time-wasting filler, to the point where a town is basically just three or four screens, each with a handful of objects and/or people marked as menu options to interact with. Rather than feeling cramped, this pointed out how little there actually is to do in most Japanese RPGs, that spread the same amount of interactive content across mostly empty towns and dungeons and pad out their straightforward stories with lengthy cutscenes. Their next game was Yggdra Union, which apparently similarly stripped down strategy RPGs, but I didn't really play it because it was far too ambitious for the Game Boy Advance and crammed way too much visual and textual information into that dinky little screen. Now KitN moves into real time and onto the DS, integrating bullet-hell shooter elements into their previous games' turn-based strategy. Here, have a video or three to get some basic context, then come back and I'll break down what's going on.

BREAK OUT!... TL;DR WITH THE WISP!Collapse )

So, this is a terrifically complex game, and I even left some things out! There's so much crap to remember while threading your wisp between hails of bullets, it's like playing chess with someone yelling in your ear.

So far the storyline is fairly minimal; it's deliberately obtuse, and keeps jumping between the "present" of knights chasing the ghost you're controlling, and the "past" of how your roster of characters died and joined your party, a la Valkyrie Profile (oh yeah, everyone's a ghost. I think that's the justification for monsters not hurting your troops). I know there are multiple endings and an unlockable alternate storyline, but I don't know if you get to keep anything from a previous playthrough.

Bottom line, this is not a game you play for the story. I'm still not sure how much I like it, but I definitely don't hate it. It's keeping my interest so far.
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Media Diary 86: Overt Ops [Jun. 5th, 2009|05:12 pm]
Joe McGuffin
[Tags|, , ]
[music |Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne: Tokyo Conception]

Movies
Fido: Not quite what I was expecting, and I'm not sure whether I mean that in a bad
way or not. It does spend a little too long going for the easy deconstructing-the-Fifties jokes, but every now and again it does some clever things with the implications of the "zombies as ubiquitous labor" premise. It's definitely much more on the "comedy" side of comedy-horror than, say, Shaun of the Dead.

RPGs
Storming the Wizard's Tower: Pleasantly, this worked out about as well as I'd hoped. There seem to be a couple really obvious stress points (like, I don't see any reason for anyone not to take a familiar spirit if their GM gives them the option), but it's a clever design that seems to flow pretty well in play once everyone gets their head wrapped around it. It's definitely going for the "less-is-more" spirit the D&D 0th edition cultists rally around, but, you know, actually learns from the last thirty years of RPG design and has a flexible central dice mechanic and guidelines for using it, as opposed to just expecting the GM to come up with a house rule or make a snap decision on every situation that isn't explicitly accounted for.

Wilderness of Mirrors: Another day, another John Wick design that I want to like more than I do. It definitely has clever bits (like the very heist-movie schtick of giving the players mechanical incentives to brainstorm up a detailed plan before play even starts, and letting the GM introduce an unforseen complication every fifteen minutes of real time that pass), but ultimately it doesn't seem fully baked. In particular, there are no actual rules for the characters to be meaningfully threatened or hurt, so I wasn't feeling much tension when I got shot. Houses of the Blooded is a much more successful, "gamier" take on the whole dueling narrative control thing. Also, there seems to be way too much incentive to betray your team and not enough to actually help them (and few ways for anyone to stop them, since you can't really hurt or kill anyone), so our mission failed completely because the crucial link in our plan had no reason not to go rogue. Worst spies ever.

Videogames
Henry Hatsworth and the Puzzling Adventure, world 5-1: Man, this game has abandoned all pretense of mercy. I'm not entirely sure why I'm playing it, beyond a strong love of Tetris Attack. The game has a lot of style and charm, but by the point I'm at the actual platforming gameplay is just filled with loathing for the player. I'm not even sure it would be playable if doing the puzzle sections didn't refill your life (though not consistently enough).
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Media Diary 85: I'm Still Afraid Of The Sleestak Noise [May. 26th, 2009|11:50 pm]
Joe McGuffin
[Tags|, , , , ]
[music | House to Astonish - Episode 15: Every Issue Is Somebody's Last]

Comics
Modern Masters 20: Kyle Baker: KB's work is pretty hit and miss for me lately, but reading this interview has given me a newfound respect for the man. To hear him tell it, his entire career has been a chain of ridiculous setbacks, but the man has an amazing level of hustle; he refuses to let the things he can't affect get him down, always has several projects in the hopper, and always keeps moving forward. I could stand to remember that.

Movies
Eden Log: Futuristic, forgettable French tree morlock action. Has the most excruciatingly slow opening I've seen since the dude in Stalker took what felt like half an hour to get out of bed and put on his pants.

S. Darko: My opinion is possibly tainted by only seeing the last twenty minutes of Donnie Darko (I loved Southland Tales, if that helps), but this movie suuuuuuuuuuucked. Every character was intensely shallow and hateable, and none of the interdimensional jibberjabber was interesting to think about or look at.

RPGs
Storming the Wizard's Tower, character creation: I'm very bad at judging game mechanics just from a read, but I'm really liking the ease of taking multiple actions in this... it's an interesting approach to making characters feel heroically supercompetent, and I also dig the interesting conversational mechanics. detritus9 is planning to run this using an awesome Etruscan-based setting; I intend to essay the role of a heroic tuba player.

TV
Land of the Lost, plenty: Spent most of the day watching Sci-Fi's marathon. It holds up way better than I expected, mainly because it was always one of the weirdest shows on TV. You have to make some allowances for the thirty-year-old special effects (it helps to love stop-motion animation), but the sets are actually quite clever given their budget; lots of twisty catacombs, lost temples, and tesseracts hanging in the void. The writing is also surprisingly decent, in that none of the (human) characters are annoying or make Idiot Plot-driven decisions. Having several actual SF writers on board definitely helped. No idea if the movie version will be worth a damn, but this was a day well wasted.

Also, I completely forgot how much banjo music was in this show.
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Media Diary 84: We Have To Find Out Who That Robot Rockin' The Hot Chocolate Bod Is [May. 18th, 2009|10:38 pm]
Joe McGuffin
[Tags|, , ]
[music |Meanwhile Super Gaming Podcast - The Reign of Greg Stolze]

Well, let's see what I've been up to when I'm not working seven days out of the week.

TV
Burn Notice, season 2: Wow, this show is kind of great. I had no idea I was jonesing for a good heist series until I got one (complete with Bruce Campbell's best role in decades). Perhaps I should get around to watching the first season too.

The Wire, season 5 eps 1-3: I didn't recognize Clark Johnson at all, shame on me. And of course, it's only now that we're on the final year that a season finally starts in high gear instead of spending 3 or 4 eps simmering.

Videogames
Super Robot Taisen: OG Saga: Endless Frontier, 4 hours: Ah, I do love a game with a protracted subtitle (and yes, I also picked up Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner 2: Raidou Kuzunoha vs King Abaddon, but that has to wait its turn behind Persona 4 and the first Raidou).

But anyway. SRTOGSEF casts aside the series' traditional giant robot strategy RPG gameplay in favor of what I can only describe as Marvel vs Capcom: Benny Hill Edition. The fights are all about juggling your enemies in mid-air and swapping characters in and out of your reserves to keep the combo count rising, and the story is an amiable mishmash of dimensional portals, furry shopkeeps, and boob jokes aplenty. So the question is, can you tolerate, nay, enjoy the stupid? I seem to be managing so far. Just met up with the fan-dancing mecha-piloting oni princess.
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I should also mention [Apr. 30th, 2009|12:19 pm]
Joe McGuffin
[Tags|]
[mood |mario's missing]

My mother accidentally bought a T-shirt that refers to a geopolitical dispute between Japan and South Korea.
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The Tao of Shavery [Apr. 30th, 2009|06:24 am]
Joe McGuffin
[mood |karnov]

Through empirical study and research I have determined:

One day's stubble is sexy

Three days' stubble is sloppy

Five days' stubble is a style choice, AND retroactively reclassifies Stage Two.
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Sometimes I just love Wikipedia [Apr. 27th, 2009|05:48 am]
Joe McGuffin
[mood |demon's souls]

Holy CRAP

Taken from here. Man, I could mine an entire Over the Edge campaign out of this.

Heh, speaking of which: "The only difference between Washington D.C. and Freedom City is here the drug dens and brothels are in the good part of town and are very exclusive."
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