Blogography Logo
spacer

   

Normal Difficulty

Posted on June 4th, 2020

Dave!I've played Minecraft Dungeons entirely too much. And it's strange. Even my most favorite games didn't result in my playing the levels more than a couple times... but there are levels in Minecraft Dungeons which I've played a dozen times. It's just so wonderfully replayable.

It's all because the game plays entirely differently depending on which weapons you choose and what enchantments are added to those weapons. Play with a super-fast dual-blade set and it's a radically different play than using a slow but lethal hammer. In other dungeon crawlers, you would have to restart the entire game and change your class to do that. Since Minecraft Dungeons doesn't have classes, you're free to change things up on a whim. Likewise, using a multi-fire crossbow makes for a different experience than having a more powerful single-fire bow. Throw in a switch to Adventure Mode or Apocalypse Mode, and the game changes again! Fun stuff.

The Minecraft Dungeons splash screen showing an adventurer slashing their way through a bunch of enemies.

Sure beats having to listen to the same exact dialogue repeat a hundred times in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. That got really old really fast, and I'm starting to dread playing it. Kinda makes you wonder why Nintendo doesn't offer a way to turn that shit off.

But the best part? Minecraft Dungeons is going to be adding new content... including an island. So even when you're done with it... you're not.

No, this isn't a revolutionary game, but it is definitely a fun one. And the total blast I'm having replaying it? That's pretty much all that matters when it comes to getting your money's worth... and Minecraft Dungeons costs $20 on my Nintendo Switch, which makes it an even bigger bargain.

And now? Back to "Creeper Crypt" for me.

NOTE: I should mention that Minecraft Dungeons has major issues on Switch once you reach higher levels with lots of enemies on the screen. Skipping, stuttering, crashing... it's pretty bad. Apparently even high-end PC's and Xbox have the crashes, so I guess I'll take the slowdown-stuttering if it means I can undock my Switch and take the game with me.

   

The Dungeons of Despair

Posted on May 26th, 2020

Dave!Today was not a great day.

The brain rewiring I've had to learn in order to deal with my dyslexia falls apart when I'm tired or stressed or upset, and today I was all three. This makes reading a challenge... but also creeps into my ability to speak properly when things get really bad. Today I had multiple times where I couldn't find my words, something that hasn't happened in years. It's frustrating. It's embarrassing. It's just plain tough to deal with.

It's the pandemic. It's the easily debunked conspiracy theories. It's the politics. It's the uncertainty. It's the inhumanity. It's the lack of empathy and kindness.

It's a woman in Central Park weaponizing her white tears in a staged 9-1-1 call in an attempt to "kill via police" a Black man who had the audacity to ask her to obey the law and please leash her dog.

It's all of it. It's everything.

The world we have right now is not conducive to my living in it, and I honestly don't know what I can do about it. Probably nothing.

But I gave it a try when I bought Minecraft Dungeons from the Nintendo Switch eShop.

After all things LEGO, my favorite genre of video game is dungeon crawlers. I love the exploring and discovery and secrets and, of course, battling monsters for loot. The Diablo trilogy... the Baldur's Gate games... even the cutesy RPG crawlers like Fire Emblem, Trials of Mana, and (of course) the myriad of Final Fantasy games... I enjoy them all (and it's thanks to the first one I played, Dungeon Master on my Atari ST computer).

And while I don't play Minecraft, I was intrigued when I found out we were getting Minecraft Dungeons because I could use a fun dungeon crawler right about now.

The game starts out pretty simplistic. Exploration is curbed as you learn to fight enemies and follow the linear path laid out before you. At the mid-point of the game, things become more challenging and, if I'm being honest, a lot more fun. There's more to see, explore, and do, and the enemies no longer roll over and die at the sight of you. I've likely got another hour or two of gameplay left, but right now I'm digging it because I'm having to put a little more thought into how I'm approaching a level. Would have been nice if they started here, but it's all good.

I'm not anticipating things getting absurdly difficult, but I'm guessing the end won't be a cake-walk either. Apparently once you beat the game you can replay it at a higher difficulty, so that might be fun. And since the maps are (reportedly) procedurally-generated, it might be a slightly different experience, which is nice.

If you've played Diablo, you've pretty much played Minecraft Dungeons. The similarities are striking, even if the visuals are radically different. Mojang Studios used the same 8-bit blocky graphics they used for the original Minecraft, but they're really pretty and polished in this game. Sure, sometimes it can be annoying because it can be tough to get a bead on things quickly, but overall I really enjoy the aesthetic they dreamed up (and would probably appreciate it even more if I was more familiar with Minecraft).

Another departure from this Diablo clone is the class and weapon enhancement system. As in, there isn't classes and weapon enhancements can be recovered and redistributed as you upgrade your weapons. Being able to define and change your play style by not having to commit to a character class is simplistic and unrealistic (in context) but I rather like it. And you're not going to hear me complain about being able to transfer enhancements (or "enchantments" as they call them) to new weapons I like.

Right now I'm playing solo, but Minecraft Dungeons allows for 4-player co-op, which is something I'd really like to try. It seems like the entertainment value from multi-player would probably allow me to more easily gloss over the shortcomings of a simplistic game like this. The problem is that I can't cross-play with my friends who are playing on a platform other than another Nintendo Switch. This blows and, when I searched for it on the internet, I found that Mojang Studios is planning on providing a free update that will allow it. Since the only other people I know playing this are not doing so on a Switch, I guess I just have to be patient and hope that they aren't bored with the game by the time cross-play is released.

Ultimately I like this game. It feels like it's going to be a bit short and lacking the complexity I usually enjoy in a dungeon crawler, but it's also just $19 so at least it's priced accordingly. The fact that it's essentially a LEGO video game with different visuals is the real draw for me, however. In a time when the Real World seems like a void of despair from which I can never escape... being able to escape into Minecraft Dungeons is a welcome distraction.

   

All Hail Davelandia!

Posted on April 13th, 2020

Dave!I had big plans for today's post but I just can't Monday today. Everything that could possibly go wrong went wrong, and I just need to plug into Animal Crossing: New Horizons for a few hours and decompress.

And speaking of Animal Crossing...

My terraforming efforts to reshape my island into something I can live with is proceedingly nicely. This is an island map that I drew up last night in order to plan how everything fits together and so I could figure out where all my residents and buildings have to move...

My Animal Crossing Island Map.

I was originally going to build a literal Disneyland... which you can kinda see from the arrangement of my map. But without a train to circle it all, the endeavor seemed pointless so I went my own way...
      City of Daveport was Main Street
      Lord Dave Island was the "Hub"
      Brick Beach was Tomorrowland
      Dutch Gardens was Adventureland
      Cemetery was New Orleans Square ("Liberty Square" in WDW)
      Museum Square was Fantasyland
      Forest Park was Frontierland... etc.

And my original inspiration (which is actually "Magic Kingdom" from Walt Disney World)...

My Animal Crossing Island Map.

It's changed quite a lot since my original idea. You can still kinda sorta see where it was though.

And, with that, I'm off to Fantasyland. Or, er, "Museum Square" as it were.

   

Bullet Sunday 657

Posted on April 12th, 2020

Dave!I MAY BE GOING INSANE IN ISOLATION, BUT DON'T THINK THAT WILL STOP ME FROM BLOGGING... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Live? From New York! I am continuously impressed with the many television shows that have been carrying on during quarantine... namely the late-night shows like Trever Noah, Stephen Colbert, Samantha Bee, Jimmy Kimmel, and Jimmy Fallon. What was unexpected was that Saturday Night Live would do a show. I didn't find it particularly funny overall, but I was impressed that they managed to do it at all. The best part was the opening credits where they even got the band in on things before Tom Hanks' monologue...

The most successful bit was Weekend Update which doesn't really require direct interaction... and they even got Alec Baldwin to reprise President Trump as a call-in. Pretty great. The most surprising bit was a tribute to longtime SNL music coordinator Hal Willner by cast members past and present. Yet another person having fallen to Coronavirus-related health problems. Thanks to all the shows that are carrying on for continuing to entertain us during these strange and difficult times.

   
• Quarantine! Every. Single. Day. I wonder what it would have been like if the Coronavirus pandemic had happened while I was taking care of my mom. I'd like to think that something positive could have come of it...

Maybe at the beginning of mom's decline it could have. But near the end before I had to find a facility to care for her? I cannot fathom it. There's just no way. And if the outbreak had happened while she was staying at the hospital or at the facility? I honestly don't know. All I doo know is that I wouldn't have been able to visit. Heaven only knows if she would have survived this, because both places are hot-spots for outbreaks.

   
• Animal Cursing! I usually don't have a lot of time to play video games. Even in quarantine I have television, social media, work, housecleaning, and chores that need to be done. But ever since Animal Crossing came along, all of that has been taking a back seat to working on my island. I'm resculpting the landscape. I'm decorating my house and the exteriors. I'm crafting tons of junk to make my island exactly how I like it. Problem is the "Island Designer" tools are total fucking insanity to use. I thought the regular tools were bad... I seriously had no idea. The Island Designer tools are absolute shit. Wherever you THINK you're aiming, you're really not. Sometimes while paving pathways my character will randomly flip a 180º and hit BEHIND me. WTF?!? I keep thinking that surely I'll get the hang of it, but no. You can't get the hang of it. Add to that the stupid-ass "Bunny Day" bullshit that's plaguing the game lately, and I spend a lot of time resisting the urge to scream obscenities at my television (which I would except it scares my cats). But the worst thing? Finding out that where you placed stuff when the game was first starting is not where you want it once you get playing. All my houses and buildings have to be moved (1 day a piece), you can't move the Resident Service Center at all, and all my bridges have to be demolished (1 day) then rebuilt (1 day)...

My character in Animal Crossing wearing a pretty Spring dress and matching hat with army boots looking in dismay at a bridge that doesn't match up to a road and will have to be moved.

It's going to take forever to get everything straightened out. And... um... don't mind my Bunny Day dress and hat. I have to do something with all those fucking eggs that are popping up everywhere.

   
• Cursing Again! "Supreme Court Blocks Extended Voting In Wisconsin, Forces Voters Out To The Polls"...

I mean, holy shit. The "vote" has not been representative of the people in a very, very long time. It's outright manipulated to provide exactly the results that the people actually running this country want to see. We are not free... we're governed. Sometimes governed to death.

   
• Mail the Vote! As you may have heard, the US Post Office is in serious crisis. Our government is bailing out all kinds of businesses, but has ignored their cries for help... probably because the Trump Administration knows that if people end up voting by mail and don't have to jump through hoops to vote, they're fucked. Washington State has is all vote-by-mail, and I haven't been to a polling station in years. So convenient to be able to vote whenever I have time instead of trading to a voting station and standing in line! If you want to help the Post Office survive, go buy a sheet of stamps. The post office is an essential service. It costs what, 55¢ to mail a letter anywhere in the country? Do you know how much it woulds cost to do that with UPS or Fed-Ex? At least $15... probably closer to $20 if the destination is in a non-business, rural location. If everybody goes out and buys a sheet of stamps, maybe we can help the USPS weather this storm. There's plenty of cool designs to choose from, including this awesome set with military service dogs!

Military service dog stamps rendered in a cool graphical style... a stamp with a German Sheperd is featured.

So go buy stamps!

   
• Vegas Memories! Las Vegas is a city I visit often. I loathe to go there on my own for work because it feels like one of the loneliest places on earth to be. But it's a fantastic place to go with friends because there's so much to see and do. Usually by April I've been at least twice and end up going 5-8 times annually. This year I likely won't be going at all. It's strange how a city I both love and hate has been on my mind so much lately. Probably because I've had so many good times there when hanging out with people I care about. Right now I'd give just about anything to be pounding Long Island's and eating nachos with friends at Nacho Daddy...

A plate of amazing-looking nachos sitting in front of a Long Island ice tea.

Maybe in 2021.

   
• Watching the Watchmen! I think I've linked to stories by David Bordwell in the past. His site provides thoughtful and interesting analysis of film, and his latest article takes a look at my favorite show of 2019, HBO's Watchmen...

A really good read... even if you have no interest in the series. Hopefully it will make you want to be interested in the series though! It really is a brilliant bit of television.

   
And that's my bullets for today. Come back next Sunday for more bullets you didn't know you couldn't live without!

   

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Posted on March 27th, 2020

Dave!I've played all of the Animal Crossing games in the main series... どうぶつの森 (Animal Forest) on the GameCube, Wild World on the Nintendo DS, City Folk on the Wii, New Leaf on the Nintendo DS, Pocket Camp on the iPhone, and now New Horizons on the Nintendo Switch. For anybody not familiar with the series, it's essential a "life simulation" game where you live amongst animals and pass your time with activities like catching bugs and fish, digging up fossils, expanding and improving your house, and collecting clothing and furnishings to build a custom lifestyle. It's a relaxing way to spend time and forget about the world, and since the game progresses in real time, you're compelled to check in from time to time to see what's new.

The latest effort, New Horizons on the Nintendo Switch adds some important new ideas... while hampered by some really poor game-mechanics which have plagued the game since the beginning (with one notable exception, which I'll get to below). If I were rating it, I guess it would be four stars, maybe? I mean, I do enjoy it very much, but there are times it frustrates me so badly that I want to never play it again.

So let's discuss that, shall we?

This time, instead of moving into a forest (or city), you are dropped on a deserted island with the games business moguls... Tom Nook and his twin (sons? nephews?) employees Timmy and Tommy. The three of them are responsible for building and upgrading your home, selling you stuff, and pretty much run everything. All you have when you start is a tent, a simple bed, and a lantern... along with the clothes on your back. Fairly quickly Tom Nook will inform you that you no longer get the tools you need to survive... instead you have to collect tree branches and stones to craft your own. Like the bug net I made here...

My character sitting by a campfire in front of my tent at night time.

In short order you are informed that the "deserted island" will be getting two new inhabitants. For me this is a pink deer named "Fuchsia" and a body-building-obsessed ape named "Louie." Befriending them gets you advice and occasional gifts, which are much needed when you start the game.

One of the cool new features for New Horizons is the addition of the "Nook Phone." The phone has all kinds of nifty features. Like an app to catalogue all the fish and bugs you catch, your crafting recipes, and even a camera... which has surprising depth of field plus filter features for altering your images. It's a cooler way than a screen snapshot to record events on the island. Compare this image taken with the camera app compared to the screen-cap above...

My character sitting by a campfire in front of my tent at night time, but this time the background is gently blurred and it has some atmosphere to it.

Your early days will be spent collecting bugs, fish, seashells, weeds, flowers, and the like so you can sell them to Timmy and Tommy for "bells" which is the in-game currency. You need bells to pay off your loan for the tent so you can take out a new loan for a house. You also need them to buy stuff you might need for your home. You also need to collect branches, wood, rocks, weeds, and such for crafting tools, furniture, and accessories. Here you can see me sneaking up on a snail that crawled out when it started raining...

My character sitting by a campfire in front of my tent at night time.

New to this game is the idea of "Nook Miles" which are earned for completing certain tasks... catching this many bugs... talking to this many neighbors... selling stuff for this many bells... that kind of thing. Nook Miles can be exchanged for upgrades, specialty items, and (most importantly) a ticket for a plane ride to neighboring islands where you can plunder its resources and raze its vegetation for fun and profit...

My character taliking to Orville the Dodo at an airport ticket counter arranging a flight with Wilbur the Dodo to a neighboring island.

The ecological message here is really scary, albeit historically accurate. You essentially rip everything of value from the island until you are standing in a destroyed wasteland where once a beautiful island stood, all so you can improve your island...

My character sitting amongst the ruins of a once-beautiful island... everything plundered and cut to the ground.

Plunder and raze efficiently enough, and soon you have the funds to upgrade from a tent to a house...

My character sitting amongst the ruins of a once-beautiful island... everything plundered and cut to the ground.

Adding more rooms to your house only takes money. Ever-increasing amounts of money. But, since you can decorate your rooms however you want, that's where the fun is...

My home... crammed with all kinds of assorted furniture and other junk.

You can add progressively more rooms to your house, with each expansion costing more and more bells to procure. Most people turn the first expansion into a bedroom. I turned mine into a big bathroom/laundry room...

My character stands in a medium-sized room which is filled with various clutter and items.

Yes, you can absolutely sit on the toilet and take a dump. It even flushes automatically when you get up! Many items have features like this. The washing machine will start up if you close the lid. The little Nintendo Switch will turn on. That kind of thing.

My bathroom is serious business. I couldn't find a bathtub, so I used an oar-fish pool. The Nintendo Switch is handy so I can play games while taking a dump. The katana swords are there to defend myself if somebody intrudes while I'm taking a dump. Don't mind the fish in the corner, I ran out of storage in my attic.

As time goes on, you'll be able to get even more buildings added to your thriving island community. Like a Resident Services Building...

A party popper celebration being held in front of the new Resident Services Building.

Every time a new structure is built in town, there's a celebration. But there are other seasonal celebrations to be had... including your birthday...

As time goes on, you'll be able to get even more buildings added to your thriving island community. Like a Resident Services Building...

My animal friends throwing me a birthday party.

The villagers in my hood are a strange lot. The ape is obsessed with working out and injects it into every conversation you have. He can mostly be found wandering around the island with his ass hanging out...

My character sneaking up on a snail on a rock with a bug net.

The airport also allows players to fly to their friends' islands over the internet, or have them fly to you...

My character looking at the float plane which allows you to fly off the island.

A flight information board showing somebody flying to my island.

At the airport they also have a stationary rack where you can write letters to everybody that they will then deliver for you by the next day. I like dashing out notes to them because they will think you like them and give you stuff. Doesn't seem to matter what you write, they still love getting your letters. As an added bonus, I usually attach a gift of something I have left over...

My letter to Louie which says HAVE A GREAT LIFE, YA DAMN DIRTY APE!

My letter to Fuchsia which says YOU'RE PRETTY, BUT YOU STINK! HAVE AN ORANGE, BABE!

After you get rich enough and have the materials to craft enough, other animals will move to your island. I always welcome them with a warm letter greeting then do a follow-up in-person visit. Here's my letter to Sherb, who looks like he's a goat...

My letter to Sherb which says WELCOME TO THE NEIGHBORHOOD, GOAT FACE!

After a while, a stoner dog named Harvey will show up and invite you to the photo studio on his private island. And, yes... it's as creepy as it sounds. If you have Animal Crossing Amiibo statues, you can transfer them to the game and have them pose for photos with you. My Amiibo for KK Slider the musician, Timmy and Tommy the entrepreneurs, and Mabel the clothing magnate worked just fine. For whatever reason my Amiibo for Cyrus and Reese (the alpaca husband-and-wife duo who make furniture) wouldn't work. My guess is that they will eventually be added to New Horizons in the future, and will likely work when they arrive. The photo studio itself is filled with various rooms, props, and wardrobe so you can pose and create various scenarios for your pictures. I don't have that kind of time to waste, so I just photographed us in front of a brick wall...

My letter to Sherb which says WELCOME TO THE NEIGHBORHOOD, GOAT FACE!

I'm not sure how else Amiibo will figure into the game, but I hope it nets me some cool stuff.

And speaking of cool stuff, eventually Blathers the owl will come to the island to collect and catalog the wildlife and any fossils that are found. Like in the other Animal Crossing games, Blathers will build a full-on museum after you donate enough specimens and artifacts...

Don't be fooled by the building. It may be rather small on the outside, but it is absolutely massively huge on the inside... housing an entire wing for bugs, another wing for fish, and a basement full of fossil displays. It's spectacular. If the museum existed in real life, I would absolutely visit it. All the environments are great, and the way that the fossil exhibit tries to follow evolutionary patterns is cute...

Inside the Museum: Donosaurs at the museum.

Inside the Museum: Donosaurs at the museum.

Inside the Museum: Donosaurs at the museum.

Inside the Museum: Fish at the museum.

Inside the Museum: Fish at the museum.

Inside the Museum: Fish at the museum.

Inside the Museum: Bugs at the museum.

Inside the Museum: Bugs at the museum.

My real goal... more than anything else... is to complete the museum collection. I've never done it on any other Animal Crossing game, but maybe this time? How awesome would that be?

So... pretty cool game, right?

Not completely, no. Let's get to the bad stuff here...

REPETITION. The first couple times your character catches a bug or walks into the museum, the conversation bubbles that show up are cute... charming even. But after a couple days you want to put your fist through the television screen every time. You can speed up some conversations with the B-button. You can speed up the crafting session with rapid A-button presses. But you can't eliminate them entirely and it's such a stupid, boring waste of time. For heaven's sake... LET US SKIP THIS IDIOCY.

TOOL ACCURACY. I have no clue why Nintendo doesn't fix the most horrifically frustrating part of the game... the total lack of accuracy in using tools. Whether it's fishing or digging or catching bugs, it's a crapshoot to determine where your tool is going to land. People keep telling me "You'll get used to it!" But in all these many years of Animal Crossing games, I NEVER have. I face to where I want my tool to hit... and inevitably end up going somewhere else half the time. You can literally see it in these screen captures. You face in one direction, your tool hits in another... and don't think you can compensate because your character will shift in random ways...

Using a net while facing one way...

...and having the net hit somewhere completely different.

How hard would it be to have a cursor show you where your tool is going to land as an option?

A target indicator showing where the net will land.

I may have hated the way that the iPhone version... Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp... added pay-for-play to the game, but at least you could tap the screen to specify where your tool will hit and save a lot of frustration.

CRAFTING. Crafting is new to the console version of the game. I like it. A lot. You collect rocks, sticks, wood, and minerals and get to make new stuff. It adds new depth and gives you something more to do. But, in addition to having to suffer through the crafting animation every damn time, there's no way to craft multiples of an item. Have seven clams and want to craft seven sacks of fish bait? You have to click through the menus and go through that stupid animation SEVEN TIMES. Good Lord. Nobody wants this. Give us the opportunity to specify multiple crafted items at the same time.

CRITTERPEDIA. The Critterpedia, which keeps track of all the bugs and fish you manage to capture is a fun tool to look at...

Critterpedia is open showing the varieties of fish that I've caught.

But incomplete and hardly efficient. First of all, no listing for the fossils you've collected. Second of all, you can't tell at a glance which items you've donated to the museum. You have to click through on every individual critter to find out...

Critterpedia showing details of a swordfish I caught... including that it's been donated.

Add a fossil checklist. Add icons to each of the caught critters showing if they're in the museum. Make it ACTUALLY USEFUL AS A TOOL instead of a novelty.

SAVE ME. Saves are automatic. But I'm not sure if they are saved online... even if you have a Switch Online account? And you can't transfer your save data to another Switch, making it impossible to have a home unit and a travel handheld unit both be used for the same game. I am assuming that this has something to do with people not wanting to have multiple saves of the same game, but that's absurd. Surely they can make it be a check-in, check-out situation for people who need it.

ONLINE? It's great that you can travel to the islands of your friends and invite them to your island... but why is it so hard to communicate otherwise? In order to send a gift or a message, your friend has to be online at the time? Why? What if your friend lives across the world 12 times zones away? This is phenomenally idiotic. The Switch is online all the time. How hard could it be to allow messages and gifts and such to be sent whenever and retrieved whenever?

SWITCH TOUCH. The biggest problem I've saved for last... the touch-screen when your Switch is in handheld IS NOT USED! I think you can type out letters on the keyboard that appears when you compose a letter. AND THAT'S IT! Shocking. And stupid. You can't tap to do anything. Even stuff it would be perfectly appropriate for. I have no idea... none why this is the case. Every model of the Switch has a touch-screen, and to intentionally ignore it is criminal.

And that's about it.

It will be interesting to see if this iteration of the game will capture my attention longer than the previous games. I always start obsessed with collecting everything only to get bored and frustrated as time goes by.

   

Bullet Sunday 654

Posted on March 15th, 2020

Dave!We all may be in social distance, self-quarantine exile, but you're in good company... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Rise? I both liked and hated Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker when I first saw it. On one hand, seeing many of the original trilogy characters come back one last time was pretty great, and the special effects were visionary and sublime. On the other hand the script was complete and total shit. JJ Abrams perverting The Force into whatever he wanted it to be in order to fill in a few of the many, many plot holes in his crap story was embarrassing and insulting. And the fact that almost nothing in the movie made sense, had past precedent, or was ever explained, was ten buckets of lame. Nowhere was this put into such vivid relief than in a reply by Elijah Wood(!) to one of several expositional chunks of story left out of the film, but dropped in fucking tweets...

On Friday I got an email from Apple telling me that my digital copy of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker was available to watch (a few days early because Disney is doing their part to keep people home). I ordered it when I didn't think I'd make it to the theater to see it... then forgot to cancel after I finally saw it. And so I watched it again. Now I've totally changed my mind on the film, I just outright hate it now. What a shitty, SHITTY way to close things out. My only consolation is that the shitty sequel trilogy was marginally better than the horrendously shitty prequel trilogy when taken as a whole...

My ranking of the Star Wars movies from Perfect to Complete Shit in this order: Empire, Rogue One, Star Wars, Awakens, Solo, Sith, Skywalker, Last Jedi, Jedi, Clones, Menace.

Thank God that whole mess is over. Now just let the Skywalker crap finally die like it should have done after Return of the Jedi. As the excellence of the Disney+ series The Mandalorian has shown us, there's far better things to do with the Star Wars Universe than continuously rain shit upon it.

   
• Do You Want to Build a Snowman? Along with the digital release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Disney also released Frozen 2 three months early. I guess they figured they might as well try to drive up subscription numbers for their streaming service since they've had to shutter most all of their movie/television productions...

I'm going to be perfectly honest... I am not a fan of musicals. Some of them I like more than others, such a The Lion King, for instance. Live-action is more difficult, but tolerable if I like the soundtrack (like Grease and Xanadu, for example). The first Frozen was annoying musically, but I loved the character of Kristoff (wonderfully brought to life by Jonathan Groff). And so I tuned into Frozen 2 to see what his character was up to. Turns out he's acting weird and being made to play the fool while a really tacked-on story unfolds. It's not that this was a bad movie, it's just that I didn't get what I wanted out of it. Still, better than nothing, I guess? Or is it? I can't help but feel that things should have been left alone after the first one. Except... the animation and design is phenomenal, beautiful, mind-blowing stuff.

   
• Joy! In addition to crap Star Wars and an unneeded animated sequel, I've been delving back into all five seasons of Killjoys. The show always amazes me. It has fairly good (but not extravagant) production values which are complimented by complex stories and multi-faceted, highly interesting characters. Every episode feels as though they made the best possible use of budget and resources while never losing sight of the big picture of the universe they were building...

Smart, funny, violent, serious, disturbing, and all-around good sci-fi, this is the whole package. My amazement only grows as I rewatch it from the beginning (the fifth and final season ended last September). The series follows three "killjoys"... bounty hunters... as they work through their personal demons while trying to skate a moral divide between doing good and doing their job. It started strong. Got better. Kinda dropped off a bit at the end, even though I can't really complain about how it ended. It probably was good to cancel it before the show bottomed out, but I can't help but think there were more stories to tell. And could be more stories still if we get some movies or specials or something.

   
• MAR10! March 10th is known in Nintendo circles as MAR10 (MARIO) because a number of games and Mario products end up with a discount. One of the games on sale was Yoshi's Crafted World for $20 off, so I snatched it up. The game itself is a simple, fun, and clever platform puzzler which has a cool "handcrafted" look where everything is made from paper, cardboard, and other crafting junk...

Yoshi games have always been fairly easy to play... slightly more difficult to complete at 100%... which makes it a perfect choice for a casual gamer like me who wants a distraction instead of a serious challenge. Oh yeah... it's adorable too.

   
• Go West! And so... the third season premiere of Westworld is finally here. I had read some seriously mixed reviews of the first four episodes that were made available to the press. I, of course, have only seen the first episode. It was... interesting? I mean, they've completely jettisoned what made the show be the show... i.e. Westworld... so it's pretty much just fake people on a murder-spree in Futureworld, but I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing...

Watching Delores go full-on Terminator in a wonderfully-imagined future is pretty great... so even if that's all we get, I'll keep watching. The thing about the first season which made it so fantastic is that it was so beautifully plotted and deep in concept. The second season was far shallower, but attempted to compensate by going non-linear with the story to poor effect (the first season played with the timeline amazingly well, so I don't know what happened there). It looks like they are not bothering to play with the timeline this time around... unless this really IS Futureworld and Delores is a GUEST? How mind-bending would that be? Well, Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, and Jeffrey Wright are phenomenal, regardless, so I'm hoping this reduced 8-episode season is worthy of their talent.

   
• FIVE! Tonight was also the finale of Avenue 5, a fantastically funny space farce starring Hugh Laurie. I have been loving the show, even when it took a decidedly dark turn last week (in a way that was actually still pretty darn funny). The ending isn't an ending, which would have me furious if not for the fact that HBO has already renewed it for a second season...

It's surprising that HBO is fostering such a delicious series when I know that the twisted humor is not going to appeal to the masses. But it very much appeals to me, which is all I care about. I am really hoping that they can manage to expand on the show for next season instead of retreading what they've already done (something that was already starting to happen at the end). And thank you to HBO also for giving the show such a massive special effects budget. I mean that... the sets are expansive, beautiful, and look like they cost a fortune. Worth a look if you haven't seen it yet.

   
And that's enough of that... keep washing those hands, everybody.

   

Bullet Sunday 652

Posted on March 1st, 2020

Dave!We may be at the beginning of a pandemic, but the bullets are still flying... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Hertz! Michael Hertz has passed away. He is largely responsible for one of the most beautiful and elegant map designs you'll find. It's the New York City subway map, which sought to simplify and clarify the depiction of the various lines by making them easier to understand...

New York City subway map by Michael Hertz.

There were other versions of this map over the decades, but this modern version from 1978 is the one most people today are familiar with. It was proceeded by an equally beautiful (yet slightly more confusing) version by Massimo Vignelli...

New York City subway map by Vignelli.

My first dozen times visiting New York City I ended up buying a new fold-out pocket subway map each time because I always forgot to bring an old one with me. Now, of course, I've just got the map on my iPhone. But I'll always have a place in my heart for the map I used for decades to get me around the city.

   
• Nygaard! Another designer who passed away that's definitely worth noting? Jens Nygaard, the guy who created the LEGO minifigs...

The technical drawing of the LEGO minifig.

An assortment of LEGO minifigures lined up.

As somebody who started with LEGO before the minifig was introduced, this was absolutely a game changer. Prior to the minifies, which I believe I first got in the LEGO Space sets, we just drew a face on a stack of bricks. The "official" people of the LEGO Universe were a fantastic addition to the toy which took it in a fantastic direction that continues to this day.

   
• Dyson! Completing the trifecta of those who passed away this past week... Freeman Dyson. This brilliant mathematician, physicist, and astronomer (among other things) was such a huge influence on me that my pen-name, Maach Allon Dyson, was in honor of him. Because, seriously, just look at some of his accomplishments from his Wikipedia page. Though the thing that he's likely best known for... especially by me... is the Dyson sphere...

The idea is that a technologically advanced civilization would have the ability to maximize use of energy from their sun... by surrounding it with a sphere or a sphere of rings or a sphere of panels or something like that. It's a mind-blowing idea that would require mining materials from a huge number of celestial bodies (such as comets and asteroids) in order to construct. Pretty fantastic stuff.

   
• Apps on Parade! I ran across this video and had to laugh at just how frickin' brilliant it is at showing the sheer absurdity of Adobe's "Creative Cloud." I pay $57.34 per month to use exactly four of them... Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and Acrobat. I also use Lightroom Classic to catalog my photos, but it's not something I need to have. Which means I essentially use less than 1/10th of the apps I have to pay for...

I would be willing to bet that this is the case for at least half of the people paying for Creative Cloud. Hardly getting our money's worth here, but that's what happens when you've got a lock on the industry. My only hope is that eventually another developer... most likely Affinity... will get to the point where Adobe will not be the only option for me. But until then? Blergh.

   
• Manga Mac! Apple released a clever new commercial which shows various times that Macs have appeared in Japanese manga animation. It's pretty great...

Just makes me want to rewatch the hundreds of manga that I've loved over the years.

   
• New Horizons! And speaking of ads in Japan... Nintendo really knows how to hit all the feels in their advertising...

The new version of Animal Crossing called Animal Crossing: New Horizons drops on March 20. It's one of those games that always starts out interesting, but I grow bored with fairly quickly. There's only so many fish and bugs you can catch before it gets old. Though maybe the online collaboration will keep it interesting for longer? I don't know that I want to spend $60 to find out.

   
And with that, bullets have come to a close this fine Sunday. Wash your hands!

   

How Old Am I Again?

Posted on February 6th, 2020

Dave!I haven't had a chance to play video games in months.

I bought Untitled Goose Game the day it was released on Friday, September 20th, played it through the weekend, then never picked up my Nintendo Switch again. The brand new LEGO Jurassic World game I bought for Black Friday hasn't even been taken out of the wrapper. That's a darn shame, because it looks like big fun...

Monday when I got home I had to tear apart my media center to diagnose why I had no internet. I discovered pretty quickly that one of the cats was underneath and hit the fiber box so it dropped and came unplugged (found a toy there and the security cameras showed Jenny was the culprit). Since I had it pulled out, I unhooked everything and started re-wiring everything from scratch. Since I had gotten rid of cable internet and satellite TV and wired speakers and such, I was able to rip out a bunch of junk that was adding clutter for no reason.

I was seriously considering not plugging my Nintendo Switch back in and tossing it in the drawer with my PlayStation 3, Xbox One, and Wii-U. Why bother to have it out when I'm not playing it?

On one hand, this is pretty sad. I love video games and would dearly love to have more time to play them. On the other hand, I have hobbies like woodworking and drawing/painting that I'd much rather be doing over playing video games.

Which has lead me to the conclusion that the Nintendo Switch will likely be the last video gaming console I buy. And boy does that make me feel old. I mean, ME, NOT PLAY VIDEO GAMES? Insanity.

Not wanting to be this old this quickly, I plugged the Switch back into my media center. Who knows if I'll ever have time to play it, but at least it fends off my impending decrepitness for a while.

   

Bullet Sunday 630

Posted on September 22nd, 2019

Dave!I can't believe the weekend is already gone! But all is not lost, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• FAKE FOOD! Like many large cities, Tokyo has several districts which specialize in various goods. If you want to see electronics, head to Akihabara. If you want Western fashion and high-end restaurants, you need to go to Ginza. That kind of thing. One of my favorite places to look around is Kappabashi Street, which specializes in restaurant supplies. Pots, pans, dishes, utensils... and a staple of Japanese restaurants... fake food. Because most all restaurants have their windows filled with representations of the dishes they specialize in so people will get their mouths watering and want to come inside. Most of the plastic foods you can buy here in the US are crap, whereas in Japan it's a true artform...

Yes most of the stuff has a bit of a high-gloss sheen to it, but once it's wrapped in plastic to keep it from getting dusty it's pretty darn realistic. The above video is a fascinating look at how it's made.

   
• Goose. After a long time of reading about it being "released in early 2019," Untitled Goose Game is finally here! The object of the game is to be a complete asshole, which is something I can totally do...

I blazed through everything in just one morning, which is disappointing, but it's a pretty fun game otherwise. Nintendo's eShop has it on sale for Switch at 25% off for a limited time.

   
• Drugs are Bad, Mmkay? This commercial where the girl takes off her seatbelt and runs her car into a dumpster so she can get more Vicodin? More disturbing than any horror movie I've ever seen...

   
• X-Pan I had no desire... none at all... to see X-Men: Dark Phoenix. For one thing, it's the capper of a slew of shitty X-movies, after which Marvel will be bringing the X-Men to the MCU and completely rebooting it to (hopefully) something that doesn't suck. So it's essentially a wasted effort and makes no difference. And, if this hilarious "honest trailer" is anything to go by, it's a pile of shit anyway...

Maybe if it shows up on Hulu or HBO or Disney+ or something I'm already paying for, I'll invest my valuable time. But buying or renting it? Not even a little bit.

   
• Name. An interesting article: Names That Are Unfamiliar to You Aren't "Hard," They're "Unpracticed"

My first "real" international trip was to Japan in the late 80's for work. In Japanese, the "V" in my name doesn't exist as a sound. The closest they have is a "B." And yet they made an effort to say the "V" as best they could, even though it was a struggle and unnatural for them. That kindness has never left me, and I feel incredibly blessed that I learned how important a name can be so early in my travels. Which is why I try my very best to listen when I hear names and put my every best effort into pronouncing them correctly.

So many times I've had co-workers, friends, and people I meet who have "difficult for English speakers to pronounce" names who will say their name... then follow it with "But you can call me..." and give either a completely different "English" name... or some butchered version of their name. Whenever I can, I've asked about their actual name, worked with them to get an acceptable pronunciation, then ask if they mind that I use their real name. And the result is always the same appreciation that I felt that first trip to Japan so many years ago.

Your name... whether it's yours by birth or the name you've chosen for yourself... is key to your identity. Endeavoring to respect a person's name by listening, working to pronounce it, and saying it with your best effort, is such a small thing, really. But it means so much.

   
• Emmys. I do not watch the Emmys. The television I like is rarely represented, so I just don't bother. That being said, I do read the results the next day and have some thoughts...

  • DRAMA: The fact that Game of Thrones can take the big prize seems odd given what a pile of shit the final season ended up being, but okay.
  • SUPPORTING ACTOR, DRAMA: That being said, Peter Dinklage 100% earned that Emmy for his performance in the final season. He elevates any material to new levels, and this was no difference.
  • LEAD ACTOR, DRAMA: This was kind of an absurd category because winner Billy Porter from Pose was about the only one who I felt deserved it. Maybe Jason Bateman from Ozark, but Billy owned this and I'm glad he won.
  • COMEDY: I would have taken Fleabag, Barry, Russian Doll, or Schitt's Creek... but was secretly hoping for Schitt's Creek. Yet... not the least bit upset that Fleabag took the prize.
  • VARIETY: I am really torn here. Yes, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver deserves tons of recognition. But overlooking The Daily Show with Trevor Noah is really a tough pill to swallow. Trevor is killing it every night.
  • LIMITED: I would have liked if When They See Us won because A) It deserves awards, and B) It deserves attention. But Chernobyl was incredible. So good. I ended up watching it all the way through twice because it's such a powerful story.
  • DIRECTING: That being said, Ava DuVernay should have gotten the Emmy for best director when it came to When They See Us. Oh well.
  • COMPETITION: I was very happy to hear that RuPaul's Drag Race won this. It is, by far, the most entertaining of all the nominations.
  • LEAD ACTRESS, COMEDY: While I would love for Catherine O'Hara and Natasha Lyonne to get recognition for the incredible work they do, Phoebe Waller-Bridge earned this one for Fleabag.
  • LEAD ACTOR, COMEDY: I'm thrilled that Bill Hader took the Emmy for his work on Barry! The show is 100% bananas in the best possible way, and his work there is just above and beyond.
  • SUPPORTING ACTRESS, COMEDY: I simply do not get the appeal of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, as I find it neither funny nor entertaining. But Alex Borstein definitely does a fantastic job in the show, so I'm kinda torn on this one. I would have preferred that Kate McKinnon won for Saturday Night Live, however.

   
• SNUBBED! A few nominations that should have been made...

  • Ricky Gervais for acting and/or writing After Life. I am still a bit shocked he got no recognition at all for this one.
  • Tracy Morgan for The Last O.G.. That show is hilarious, and his performance is fantastic. For either to get some recognition is not out of left-field.
  • While I'm not sure The Good Place deserved all the nominations it got, I am sure that D’Arcy Carden should have gotten nominated for Supporting Actress, Comedy... AND WON IT. This is criminal.

   

And... I'm spent. See you in a week with more bullets.

   

Easy to Learn, Hard to Master

Posted on August 21st, 2019

Dave!With the new television season a month away, I'm in an odd position of having very little television to watch. Since I like background noise while I work, this means I've been re-watching shows I like or checking off shows and movies I've been meaning to watch but haven't gotten around to.

One of these being Easy to Learn, Hard to Master: The Fate of Atari which is currently streaming on Amazon Prime...

Easy to Learn, Hard to Master movie poster featuring a graphical spaceship with lasers coming out of the bottom.

This was not the first movie which chronicled the downfall of my video-gaming childhood... there was Atari: Game Over which came out three years before... but Easy to Learn, Hard to Master was the one which had the most interesting assortment of talking heads discussing the rise and fall of Atari in the video game arena. Nolan Bushnell, Al Alcorn, Howard Warshaw, Steve Wozniak, David Crane, and more were all interviewed. It also included insight from Manny Gerard and Ray Kassar from the Warner side of the disaster.

The movie was a good watch, even though I didn't learn anything astonishingly new. Atari's meteoric rise and fall has been commentary fodder for decades and is well-known. It did, however, get me thinking about the whole video game revolution that was my childhood. Along with comic books, the Atari 2600 was probably the most important part of my childhood...

The Atari 2600 Video Game System with controllers!

As I've mentioned before, I coveted the thing from the minute I was aware that it existed. I think it was being sold at Sears, and my non-stop begging eventually wore my parents down. I finally got one for my birthday or for Christmas or something. And from that moment onward... I was playing video games, saving my money for video games, and begging for new video games at every turn.

I amassed quite a collection.*

Well, not really... I managed to get 32 of the 532 games that were available in North America.

Which brings me to my next movie: Nintendo Quest...

Nintendo Quest Movie Poster featuring two guys in a van hopping around North America with NES cartridges flying everywhere.

In this movie, a guy named Jay Bartlett attempted to collect all 687 Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) games that were released in North America... in 30 days... but without using the internet. Nope, he drove around northern North America trying to find them.

To be honest, I was more than a little bored throughout it. The actual collecting didn't have much going on. It was the stuff in-between than made it worth watching. And remembering back to so many of those awesome NES games!

And my last video game movie? A "mocumentary" film that was clearly trying to be the This Is Spinal Tap for video games called Going for Golden Eye...

Going for Golden Eye Movie Poster featuring video gamers ready for action!

While nowhere near the level of This is Spinal Tap, I thought it was a pretty good effort. It definitely had some funny moments to make it all worthwhile.

And I think I've had my fill of video game movies for a while.

Until the next one comes along, I'd imagine.

   
*And here's the Atari 2600 titles I ended up collecting...

  • Air-Sea Battle
  • Combat
  • Indy 500
  • Star Ship
  • Basketball
  • Breakout
  • Casino
  • Night Driver
  • Superman
  • Bowling
  • Adventure
  • Circus
  • Dodge 'Em
  • Space Invaders
  • Asteroids
  • Missile Command
  • Warlords
  • Bezerk
  • Centipede
  • Defender
  • Haunted House
  • Pac-Man

Third Party Games...

  • Skiing
  • Freeway
  • Kaboom!
  • Stampede
  • Atlantis
  • Chopper Command
  • Demon Attack
  • Frogger
  • Pitfall!
  • River Raid

   

  Home  Newer Entries

spacer
Welcome:
Blogography is a place to learn and grow by exposing yourself to the mind of David Simmer II, a brilliant commentator on world events and popular culture (or so he claims).
Dave FAQ:
Frequently Asked Questions
Dave Contact:
dave@blogography.com
Blogography Webfeeds:
Atom Entries Feed
Comments Feed
translate me
flags of the world!
lost & found
Search Blogography:
thrice fiction
Thrice Fiction Magazine - March, 2011 - THE END
I'm co-founder of Thrice Fiction magazine. Come check us out!
hard rock moment
Visit DaveCafe for my Hard Rock Cafe travel journal!
travel picto-gram
Visit my travel map to see where I have been in this world!
badgemania
Blogography Badge
Atom Syndicate Badge
Comments Syndicate Badge
Apple Safari Badge
Pirate's Booty Badge
Macintosh Badge
license
All content copyright ©2003-2020
by David Simmer II
   
Creative Commons License
This weblog is licensed under
a Creative Commons License.
ssl security
Comodo SSL