Sunday, June 27, 2010

Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning

I've recently completely my free month of this game and since I refuse to pay by the month for any game, that means its time to review it. I attained level 33 (out of 40) and had the chance to experience most of what the game has offer, so I figure this review will be pretty fair. First off, for those lazy people out there (which I estimate comprises over 50% of my readership) here is the tl:dr version:

Lacklustre PvE, decent and fun PvP, glitches/bugs can sometimes become annoying, interesting classes.

Now for the full review:

Let's start with PvE since there isn't much to say. For the most part it's boring and grindy. Virtually all quests follow the kill 10 rats formula and virtually none of them are challenging or engaging. Out of the hundreds of quests I completed during my stay in the Warhammer universe, only one stood out as being memorable (it involved climbing up and then jumping off a honking huge tower and was actually pretty fun). Then there is their much touted Public Quest system. These are a lot more creative and fun to participate in, but unfortunately even the easiest ones require other players to complete, a resource which, unless you're playing with friends, is often in short supply. But if you can get a group together then PQs are easily the best part of the PvE game, providing a good level of challenge, interesting objectives, and worthwhile rewards. There are also some instanced dungeons in the game which are composed of a number of PQs with an epic boss fight at the end of each wing of the dungeon. These are also a lot of fun, but require a more coordinated group than required for regular PQs (good luck getting a group together), and you'll also want at least one person who knows the strategies needed to defeat the endboss (so you'll probably need to find the appropriate wiki).

You'll only need to play WAR for a short time to realize that PvP is the heart and soul of this game. PvP is divided into 2 major components: scenarios and open Realm vs Realm. Scenarios are essentially instanced battlegrounds that you queue up for. I'll note right now, that until you reach the final tier of the game, expect very long, if not indefinite queue times. There may only be a small window of a couple hours each day where queues consistently pop, and if you miss that window then you probably won't be playing any scenarios that day. Once you do get into a scenario however, then you're in for some fun times provided teams are equal in number (or if your team has more). Most scenarios are some variation of battlefield objective control with some capture the flag thrown in here and there which can get a bit repetitive, but killing other players is plenty of fun and the renown rewards system makes it worthwhile.

Open RvR is the other major aspect of PvP in the game and its a bit more hit and miss. There is almost always a warband or two doing running around in open RvR areas, so its more reliable than scenarios, but often its a lot more boring. A good 75% of my time doing RvR was spent killing NPCs at battle objectives and then sitting around for 3 minutes while waiting for the objective to flip without encountering any players from the opposing faction. The remaining 25% was spent doing keep battles, which is where the fun and the best rewards are. Whether attacking or defending a keep, you're guaranteed to be in for some hot player on player action. At peak hours, over 50 players might be involved and at times like these the battle gets really intense. Personally I prefer being on defense (but that can be a real pain if you arrive after they've broken through the outer gates).

One problem of the game that I cannot overlook is the surprising number of bugs I encountered. Some were relatively insignificant, such as minor interface glitches where the casting time of a skill would remain on the screen long after the skill has been used. But others could really hamper gameplay. I ran into no fewer than 4 PQs which became impossible to complete due to glitches. Because they pissed me off so much I shall tell you about each and every one of these incidents. One stage of PQ requires you to destroy 4 cannons. The problem? There are only 3 cannons. Another PQ requires you to kill 7 ratmen. We killed 6, but the 7th had this interesting skill which apparently allowed him to phase in and out of existence. One PQ featured skeletons who could attack you from underground where you couldn't see them or attack them back. Compounding the situation was the fact that they were elite mobs which led to a number of group wipes before we just gave up. Finally there was the incident of the ghost lady boss who turned neutral (and thus unattackable) and spawned a couple low level mobs. We made short work of the spawns, but the boss refused to turn hostile again so we watched helplessly for 10 minutes as the timer ran down and the PQ reset. Ok I am done my bitching now.

Another thing that I admire about the game is the class system. All of the classes have their own unique feel to them, yet Mythic still managed to balance gameplay so that no faction has more powerful classes than the other. For instance, I played a Magus who serves the forces of Destruction. He rides around on this funky disc everywhere and summons demons from the netherworld to do his bidding while firing off bolts of energy. His equivalent on the side of Order is the Engineer who summons turrets instead of demons and fires bullets instead of bolts of energy. Both serve a similar function, gameplay wise, but have their own original spin that no other class has. In this respect, Mythic did a pretty good job.

Also the Tome of Knowledge is pretty cool, and all MMOs should have a similar resource.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

How to Be a Geek

So, you want to be a geek do you? And not just any geek, but the most hardcore king of all geeks? Oh wait you don't? Well then you've come to the wrong place, because this here is a lesson in how to be just that plus a lazy, hackneyed introduction.

Watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail

I seem to talk about this movie a lot, but if you want to be a geek then you need to see it. And not only do you need to see it, but you also need to like it and think its the most hilarious movie ever made and be able to quote it in daily conversation. If you want to take it to the next level then you should know the names of all members of the Monty Python troupe and be familiar with their more famous sketches.

Read Lord of the Rings

This one is hard. The books are incredibly long and Tolkien isn't exactly the greatest writer, despite the fact that he pretty much created the high fantasy genre as we know it. It takes ten chapters and seventeen years just for Frodo to leave The Shire. And during that time absolutely nothing happens. I guess what I am trying to say is, there are boring parts. If its too much work, then you could probably get away with just watching the movies, but you'd better make sure its the extended version.

Log at least 10 hours of WoW

If I need to explain to you what WoW stands for, then there is no hope of you ever becoming a geek. When a geek baby is born, he/she instinctively knows what it means. Ten hours isn't all that long. Enough for you to understand the basics and pick up the lingo. If you really want to be the full package however, then you'll need to reach max level, participate in a endgame raid, and earn at least one piece of epic gear which is a lot more of an investment. Luckily its as addictive as crack, so it shouldn't be all that hard provided you don't have a job, family, or school (or at least don't care about them).

Play Dungeons and Dragons

When people think of geeks, this is one of the first things that come to mind. I must confess that I am yet to delve into this particular realm of nerdom, but I have several friends and family members who have, and I can tell you that there's no going halfway with this. Once you're in, you're gone. Try not to be the character who's a dick and has sex with everything. Everybody hates that guy.

Familiarize yourself with Star Trek

You can take your pick of any series in the Star Trek franchise, but most serious trekkies are divided into the Original Series and the TNG camps. Pick one to watch, but know the major characters in each. It is of vital importance that you can do the "Live long and prosper" symbol if you want to be taken seriously. If you want to be taken seriously by other trekkies but not the general public, then learn to speak klingon. Look forward to arguments over whether Kirk or Picard is the better captain.

Achieve MVP status in a round of Team Fortress 2

This one can take a bit of time if you're brand new to the angry, angry world of video gaming. I recommend focusing on one class exclusively until you become MVP and then move on to mastering the other classes until you become leet. Medic is a good choice as you can often avoid direct line of fire and rack up insane points if you spend most of the match healing your team's best player. Due to the nature of this game and the fact that most people would rather be on the winning team than have challenge, you may get a bit irate. My only advice is to keep calm and team switch the first chance you get. Also, expect and be prepared to witness furry porn.

Be able to argue why the original Star Wars trilogy is better than that new crap

This one requires watching all six movies, which isn't all that hard as by this point I am sure you've seen at least half of them. The whole series is pretty much one great big special effects extravaganza anyway, so you don't need to fully invest your attention. Make sure that you know the names of even the most incidental characters. When trying to make the original trilogy look better, I find it helps to focus most of your hate towards Jar Jar Binks while denying the existence of ewoks.

Know which superheroes/comic books are Marvel and which are DC

If you don't know the difference between Marvel and DC then you have quite a bit of work ahead of you. Wikipedia is a helpful resource for brushing up on who's who, but if you really want to learn then you'll have read the source material. If you want to be a snob about it, then you should read Watchmen and anything published in the DC Vertigo series such as Sandman, Preacher, and Hellblazer. If you're unsure what's good then anything written by Alan Moore, Frank Miller, Garth Ennis, Neil Gaiman, or Warren Ellis is a pretty safe bet.

Win a game of Settlers of Catan

The hardest part about this one will probably be finding other people to play with. Most people cannot comprehend the idea of there being a board game other than Monopoly or Risk. Once you get past the weird looks people give you then it should be smooth sailing. It's not that difficult a game to understand and with a little luck you should cement a win within your first five games. However there are some people who require a bit more time. Seriously Kevin, my sister won the very first game she played and she didn't know what a development card was. Of course there are many other great games beyond Settlers, and I encourage you to check them out, and I am not just saying that because I am president of the Board Game Club.

Follow at least one manga or anime show

I have difficulty with this one. At times, Japanese culture seems a bit strange to me. All I can say is thank god for Dragon Ball Z, otherwise I'd probably never fulfill this one. Of course real manga/anime nerds go far beyond DBZ. I am not going to judge whether or not they go too far, because upon reflection, a lot of what I do in terms of geekiness crosses a line. If you can't already tell, I don't know very much about this particular branch of geek culture, but despite my feelings, its definitely an integral part of it. All I can say is that Evangelion is supposed to be good and Pokemon doesn't count.

Become an expert in a very specific area of academia that has no discernible value
If you attend university, then this should occur naturally on its own. Given enough time and study, you'll eventually find your own obscure area of interest. However it should be noted the keyword here is "academia" which means becoming an expert in Star Wars lore or how to be most effective at Call of Duty isn't gonna cut it. Acceptable areas of expertise includes, but is not limited to: turn of the century Indian literature, the reign of King Henry III, and the dietary habits of the okapi. Every field of study has countless little niches to settle in to. It's just a matter of finding the one that's right for you. And then talking incessantly about it to everyone you meet.

Attend PAX, ComicCon, or any other equivalently nerdy convention

Once you've found a particular branch of nerdom that appeals to you, its time to attend a convention for it. There are tons of conventions out there that cover all areas of geekery, and if you live near a major city, chances are at least one will be coming within 100km of your home. All you have to do is purchase a ticket and go. You'll get to look forward to panels, booths, autograph signings, flashing lights, and sweaty fat people dressed as stormtroopers. You also probably won't get much sleep, but you'll have a blast anyway.

Dress as your favourite character from a comic book, video game, movie, or TV show

I like to think of this as the last step towards being a full-fledged geek, hence why I put it last on the list. Once you've been through about 3/4 of the other things on this list, you've most likely become obsessed with a particular movie, comic book, video game, or TV Show. And now you want to express that obsession via your body. That means its time to make a costume. The quality of your costume can range from awesomely amazing to soul crushing. If you want to maintain your dignity and any sense of self worth, I recommend that you aim for the middle. Some people make their costumes by hand, but if you lack the skills necessary, then you can probably buy most of the parts for it (or a close approximation) at your local second-hand clothing store. Once your have your costume, its time to show it off to the world. The most acceptable place to wear them are conventions. I highly recommend against wearing them at any other time other than Halloween when you can probably get away with it without seeming like a total loser to all your peers. But honestly at this point you probably don't give a fuck.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Why Zach is the Greatest

So I have this friend named Zach, and he's a pretty special guy. He's provided me with more heart laughs than the combined efforts of Woody Allen and Mel Brooks. The twist is Zach does this unintentionally. He's one of the funniest guys I know and he doesn't even try to be. Here are some of his more memorable moments.

I'd rape her for nothing!

One night the guys were all together and Mannu was asking Zach hypothetical questions. And like all of Mannu's hypothetical questions, they involved determining how much money Zach would need to be paid in order to perform base and disgusting sexual acts. The question was, "Would you rape your mother for a million dollars?" The answer is quoted above in bold, the first of many times that Zach would say something incriminating without realizing it.

Good job Zach!

That 4/20 Gang must be pretty big, I see their graffiti all over town.

We were on a camping trip, just sitting around the fire discussing the recent increase in gang violence when Zach made this winning observation. At this point I realized just how sheltered Zach's existence had been. I don't know what I found more surprising, the fact that he didn't know what 4/20 was, or the fact that he thought violent organized crime syndicates concern themselves with petty crimes of vandalism. However, 4/20 is probably the tamest of all the uncomfortable subjects we've had to explain to Zach over the years which includes, but is not limited to: special brownies, rimjobs, golden showers, and of course premature ejaculation. Some of the things on that list you're better off no knowing, but I still don't understand how one person can get to 19 years of age and not know half of that stuff.

Zach, at his most manly.

Milk me Snake-Eyes, milk me!

Yeah, this one was just weird. I was offering people some milk when Zach enthusiastically shouted this at me. I cannot even begin to fathom the thought processes that led to him to decide this was the right thing to say. How do you not understand the implications of that sentence? More importantly, why would anyone want to say that regardless of whether or not they understood its meaning? A normal human being would have just said, "Yes please, I'd like some milk," but I guess Zach is just special like that.

Zach, in a rare moment of knowing when to keep his mouth shut.

Oh no my cat just died. That's ok, I'll just dance my problems away.

Zach spouted this odd line while playing Cranium. He was tasked with impersonating Shirley Temple, but unfortunately all he knew about Ms. Temple was derived from an episode of The Simpsons that spoofed her. So, in a pathetic attempt to imitate an 8-year old girl he spread his legs apart, brought his knees in together, flailed his arms about wildly, and screeched the above line in the most high-pitched voice he could muster. I believe it was at this exact moment that Zach gave up on dignity. To add insult to injury, it was his birthday.

I am a champion!

Because that never happened!

This one takes a bit of explaining, but trust me when I say that this is the greatest Zach moment of all time, and one that he'll never live down. So we were playing the fun party game, What?. For those of you unfamiliar with the game, I am too lazy to explain it to you, just look it up on Anyway, Zach was the judge and the question was, "What would you do if you won three million dollars in the lottery," and Taylor wrote down, "Make Zach have sex with a baby duck." Zach chose this answer as the one he'd read out but he changed "baby duck" to "jakalope." When Taylor asked him why he didn't read it out properly Zach responded, "Because that never happened." I then proceeded to laugh harder than I've ever laughed in my entire life, even harder than when I first saw the elevator scene in Revolver or the flower shop scene in The Room. My friend since grade 8 had just admitted to fucking a fictional animal. I still can't fucking believe it happened. Apparently it was a reference to one of Mannu's hypothetical question, but it doesn't matter now. The damage is done. And that's why Zach is the greatest ever.

Best friends forever, right Zach?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Funniest Movies

I've seen a lot of comedies in my lifetime. Some were droll while others were retarded. Some were insightful while others were bizarre. Some were romantic while others were British. And some were brilliant while others were so bad they were funny. All of these were humorous in there own way (well some were pretty bad) and for different reasons, but only a handful do I recognize as being downright the most hilarious movies ever made. If you haven't already seen them, then it is your duty this summer to remedy the situation.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

I've already reviewed this movie previously and you can read that here, but if you're too lazy to do that then suffice to say that this movie is the more quotable than The Godfather and every scene is a classic. Monty Python is arguable the greatest comedy troupe of all time and nowhere is this more apparent than in Holy Grail.

Best Lines Taken out of Context:
"When danger reared its ugly head, he bravely turned his tail and fled. "
"Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries."
"Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony."

Blazing Saddles

Mel Brooks has made a lot of funny movies, but I find this one to be his most memorable and most hilarious. Essentially it's a spoof of westerns, but you don't need to be familiar with the genre to appreciate the humour. There are plenty of sight gags, one liners, and enough slapstick to keep anyone entertained. But the biggest laughs come from the jokes that break the fourth wall. Which are incredibly frequent. In fact Blazing Saddles took one look at the fourth wall and told it to fuck off. Not to give anything away, but the film ends with a massive brawl that consumes an entire Hollywood lot, and nobody seems concerned with this at all. In fact the characters seem aware that they are characters in a movie. Also this film gets a tip of the hat for most bold and innovative use of the word, "Nigger."

Best Lines Taken out of Context:
"Mungo only pawn in game of life."
"Tell me schatze, is it twue what they say about the way you people are... gifted? (zip) Oh, it's twue. It's twue. It's twue, it's twue."
"As honorary chairman of the welcoming committee, it's my privilege to present a laurel and hearty handshake to our new... nigger."


This movie has more jokes packed into it than any other movie I've seen in my life. It would not be an exaggeration to say that there is at least one joke every five seconds. It's like a non-stop barrage of craziness. The best part is their fondness for wordplay. It's hard to describe exactly how they do it. Often they take what a person has to say literally (It's a completely different kind of flying, altogether). Or twist around words to give them new meaning (like the famous "stop calling me Shirley" line). Sometimes they just order words in a certain way that make sense in context, but sound weird when you consider what it is they're actually saying (like the Hamm and Mayo line quoted below). Suffice to say they're very clever about it, and you'll probably miss a few the first time around, especially when you're distracted by all the sight gags, fourth wall breaking, and other jokes going on. What I am trying to say is: watch it twice.

Best Lines Taken out of Context:
"Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue."
"Joey, have you ever been in a Turkish prison?"
"Alright, give me Hamm on 5, hold the Mayo."

This Is Spinal Tap

Dubbed as being a "mockumentary" This Is Spinal Tap follows the misadventures of a washed-up British rock band as they tour the USA in a documentary-style fashion. Unlike the previous entries on this list, the characters in this film play it straight, as if their lives weren't laughably ridiculous. They say and do the dumbest things, but remain as oblivious to their own stupidity as they do to their own failure. In a way its tragic. But in a more important way its hilarious. So hilarious that when I first saw it, I actually rolled off the couch laughing. Only like maybe ten other things have made me do that in my whole life. And most of those involve Zach saying something retarded. My point is, this movie is really funny.

Best Lines Taken out of Context:
"I think the problem may have been that there was a Stonehenge monument on the stage that was in danger of being crushed by a dwarf. That tended to understate the hugeness of the object."
"You can't really dust for vomit."
"It's like, how much more black can this be? and the answer is none. None more black."

Dr. Strangelove

Who would have guessed that a man who named his blog after Dr. Strangelove, would rank it as one of his all time favourite comedies (in fact I'd go so far as to say that it's my all time favourite movie)? This film is played so straight you might almost mistake it for a tense drama. Which is unsurprising given its content. The Cold War and the ever-growing threat of nuclear annihilation are hardly fodder for comedy, but Dr. Strangelove takes these dire situations and serious issues and reveals the sheer absurdity of it all. It takes a nuclear holocaust, puts on a little Vera Lynn music, and laughs in its face. Of course the whole joke would fall apart if everything wasn't convincing, and the director, Stanley Kubrick, pays careful attention to detail to make sure everything is just that. How convincing was it? When Reagan was elected president he asked to see The War Room, which as it turns out exists only the film (perhaps that's a bad example though, I don't have much faith in the intellectual capacity of a man who named his nuclear defense program after Star Wars). The set for the bomber startled the air force with its accuracy. This attention to detail allows the actors to say ridiculous things and act/react in equally bizarre ways and come off as being completely serious, as if this were completely normal.
The end effect: If you are ever in doubt as to what satire is, just watch Dr. Strangelove. There is no better example.

Best Lines Taken out of Context:
"Gentlemen, you can't fight in here. This is the War Room!"
"I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids."
"Mr. President, I am not saying we wouldn't get our hair mussed. But I do say no more than ten to twenty million killed, tops. Uh, depending on the breaks."