Monday, December 29, 2014

Here's To You

Spent a great deal of time with 'Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes' over my Christmas break, and since the awesome first impression it left on me has now vanished, I've a new perspective I don't think I'd have had otherwise. It still looks great, and the sound design is still fantastic, but I now view it as more of an experiment than an actual demo.

Full disclosure: Apart from 'MGS1' and 'MGS3: Snake Eater', I've never gotten in to any of the storylines in a Metal Gear game. The seem to just drone on for hours and hours about things I've no interest in, as well as things I could honestly care less about and things that just don't make any sense to me whatsoever. Still to this day I just don't get the story of 'MGS2'. I have no understanding of it at all (Seriously, did anyone really give a shit about The Patriots?). But I still replay it once a year or so because it's fun to play. The gameplay is what keeps me coming back to Metal Gear. It's fun to sneak up on guards and interrogate them. It's a challenge trying to find every possible stealthy way to get from point A to B without being seen or heard.

In that sense, 'Ground Zeroes' delivers the usual high Metal Gear standard. It's loads of fun sneaking around Camp Omega and trying to extract prisoners without being caught in the act. What's not so fun about it is the grinding you have to do to actually understand who certain people are and why you should give a shit about them. Information is delivered via cassette tapes you find scattered throughout all of Zeroes' side missions. If you want the full story you have to play every mission and do a damn thorough job of searching every nook of Camp Omega.

For such a tiny level there are loads of places you'll probably never find until your 3rd or 4th playthrough (and if you're a completion purist, you will play every mission at least that many times). Why, if the stories on these tapes and these characters is supposed to be so crucial to the plot, they are split up between all of the missions is something I can't begin to understand. It just seems like a good way to only fill in the "hardcores" and leave the casual audience clueless. I had to listen to those tapes more than once to fully comprehend what was going on, and, for me, it wasn't even worth it. All the plot points contained within could've just as easily have been told via cutscene or as chatter over Big Boss' radio. And there are, as always in Metal Gear, elements to this games story that I'd love to discuss and dissect, but frankly I've no clue what they're about or why they are there, so I'm unqualified to do so.

'Zeroes' is pretty generous with trophies and achievements for a demo. And my God, will you work for them. They range from simple (Meet up with and rescue prisoner A or B), to somewhat challenging (Earn an S ranking on any mission), to downright frustrating (Complete Mission X without hurting a single enemy). The mission in question for that one involves you stuck in a chopper, providing cover fire for an ally spy attempting to escape the base who is being pursued by enemy troops. The trick is to just focus on the enemies actually shooting at him, and not the ones shooting at you. Let them hit you, you'll heal. He, however, will not. It's easy to go berserk with a machine gun and wipe out every troop in pursuit, but no so easy to very carefully precisely aim at their heads to take them down with a tranquilizer round in a constantly shifting helicopter. Especially the ones in vehicles. There's a part near the end where you have to take down an enemy chopper, which has 2 soldiers in it firing at you. Your best method to take down the chopper is to use a rocket launcher, but doing so will throw the enemies out of their chopper letting them fall to their deaths. Which ruins your flawless run. Both times I shot them with tranqs first they still fell and died. But you have to kill no one to get the trophy. Needless to say, I got an S rank on it long before I even thought of going for an S rank on it. I was going for the trophy. It's on the back burner for now though...

Another pain in the ass is the "Unlock All Challenges" trophy. Challenges are varied, ranging from "fastest extraction of prisoners" to "fastest takedown of all enemies" to "fastest collection of landmines". Each level has their own set of challenges, and each difficulty ("Normal" and "Hard", respectively) also has their own set of challenges. To unlock a challenge, you simply have to beat a mission once. That will unlock one challenge for that particular difficulty setting. Then you have to replay that mission and complete the previously unlocked challenge. This will, depending on the difficulty setting, unlock another set of challenges. So you're going to replay those missions on each difficulty setting at least 3 times to unlock them all. Your personal bests are then uploaded onto online leaderboards where you can compare your times with others from around the world. And if you don't give a shit about that, then it's just an "Alright. Whatever." feature. And if you're not a 100% completion purist and don't care about the trophy, save yourself the boredom and potential frustrations. While these missions are fun, they do get old on repeat playthroughs fast. Especially when you play one way and it goes flawless until one tiny little thing at the end and you're unable to re-create your playthrough with hopes of avoiding that one flaw again. It will happen at some point.

I'm still not sure of the homage to 'MGS1' level. It's a fun trip the first time around, and even more when you unlock the polygon Solid Snake skin, but it feels like a cashgrab type thing. I do not think it adds any value to the final product at all, and if I didn't actually play the original MGS I'd probably have no fucking clue what it was about. But I'm sure that's why it's locked away, only unlocked by collecting 9 (I think) patches from troopers' uniforms. It's for the hardcore, for sure. And it's kind of sad, in a sense. Kojima is such a creative guy and yet it feels like he thinks he'll never escape the shadow of the first 'MGS', so he feels he has to cater to a certain fanbase or piss them off. That's just my opinion, I could be wrong. I've read him say, in interviews with press for whichever Metal Gear is about to come out, that he's often thought of just stopping the series. That he's burned out and ready to move on. And yet, there the "Deja Vu" mission is.

I can't help but feel Kojima was just flying by the seat of his pants with this story. In the overall timeline of the series it just feels out of place and forced. Like Konami asked for another Metal Gear, he told them he was done with it and they said: "No, we're not asking, we're telling you." and he struggled to find something to have happen and to make it fit. And for all the emphasis MGS fans put on how "real" the series is, this one really cracks me up. So the argument is that MGS has always had more real world tech and storylines than any other military game out there. 'Cos, you know, every nation has their own bi-pedal walking tank with nuke capabilities that happens to scream like a dinosaur. And some nations even employ immortal vampires as mercs for hire, as well. Thematically, yes it's very real. Nuclear weapons are a very real danger to humanity, and Openheimer knew it all too late. Tech wise I think is another story. And the argument here is that people say this particular game is the most real of them all. So... the iPad has been around since '75 or so then? Well, that's pretty cool. How'd they convert tracks into MP3's? Oh, right. Big Boss carries a Walkman to listen to Chico's cassette tapes, so it was an early model iPad, hence the iDroid name. Gotcha. People always overlook the more fronted fantastical aspects of these games and focus on the more background reality they are based on. And I don't get it. These are video games, not documentaries. They may have serious tones and themes, and even messages, but at the end of the day, they are games meant for fun.

And I do not mean that as a disrespect. I think it's very admirable how Kojima can get his points across in even the most over the top settings and characters.

Finally, Big Boss himself. I love that character. It could've been easy to make him a very dislikeable human being, but he has 'Snake Eater' working in his favor. I feel bad for him, and honestly find myself hoping he finds redemption, even though I know how the story ends for him. It's easy to feel pain for a guy who has to shoot his mentor and possible lover in order to save the world. It's understandable how he can become bitter at humanity, lose faith in Governments, and even lose faith in general. Add in that his only person of comfort ended up being a Chinese spy who tried to betray him and leave him cold and alone having completed her mission, and you just can't help but feel for the guy. But with that being said, anyone who knows the U.N. is about to inspect his personal private military for hire base and has to destroy documents and hide a nuclear bomb before they show up is not a good person. This is a man wronged by the world, in his eye, and who has had enough of it. And I'm very curious to see where his journeys take him after Camp Omega. So with that impression left from this demo, 'Ground Zeroes' accomplishes its mission. But with only a B ranking. Which I think gets you a shotgun and a sniper rifle at the start of the level. Meh, they'll do the job.

In the end, I find 'Ground Zeroes' to become stale and repetitive after the 2nd or 3rd playthrough of each mission. But if you're a purist, there is hours of material in it to keep you occupied. It's a very jam packed demo, but only for the purists. But it is fun before the monotony sets in. And it's fun for everyone.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Cold Blood

It's been a 7 day work week again, with only two more days to go. Nine days in a row, ten hours each, exhausted after the first 6. My knee was holding up alright until today when I had to kneel on it quite a bit doing loads of ducking under pipes and avoiding other overhead obstacles. Two more days, then home for a week straight. It'll be nice to get away from my co-workers for a bit and just relax indoors. The weather here has been rainy and dreary all week. There was no sunshine at all until today when it popped out from behind the clouds for about 5 minutes. Mud has been an issue for us all. It's more like clay though. We're working in the lowest elevation of the whole area and it just floods all the time from rain runoff. Today I had to switch gloves 6 times so I could keep a grip on my tools and what I was working on. Fucking mess. I lost a couple of tools to it because they were so covered at the end of the day I just could not find them. Cold, tired, wet and muddy, and just all around miserable. All of us, not just me. I was so glad to get out of there today.


Been on an Akira Yamaoka kick the last couple of days. I wish he'd do another full album.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Lost In The Headlights

I haven't slept well all week. The last few nights I've woken up on the hour, every hour and then spend 20 minutes awake before drifting off again. It feels like jetlag, but I haven't flown in years. And when I do sleep it's restless dreams for me, and waking up more exhausted then when I drifted off. I've had that particular problem for years now, but the wake/sleep/wake/sleep cycle is new. It's very annoying. I love sleeping. It's one of my five favorite things to do. And my dreams are restless, but are always interesting and, to a certain extent, entertaining to recall. I seek no deep meaning in them though. I've no doubt that dreams are the doorway to our minds true potential and can contain prophecies and deep tellings of the soul, but I highly doubt mine do. I certainly hope not anyways...

 The last few days have been hectic at work as well, which could be related to the sleepless nights. I don't stress work when I'm not at work though. I'm done thinking about it as soon as I clock out and want no reminders of it outside of it. That attitude will never get me a promotion or advance my career, but it'll save me some ulcers and some off the clock unpaid overtime. Fair trade? Meh, it'll do. I admire the people that can live for work. I can't do it. It's just a necessary evil in my eyes, work. It is satisfying, and after all the bullshit that comes with it I do like my job (I just hate the company & myself for signing the contract), but I go to work so I can live not vice versa. I may never build a business empire that way, but I will be happy. As happy as can be anyways.

I'm not going deep on any subjects tonight though, I'm too tired to make any valid statements or wax philosophical.

I will say that Machine Head's 'Bloodstones & Diamonds' is growing on me. Gave it a listen after work tonight and it's pretty solid. Not as good as 'The Blackening', but they'll never top that. I find myself gravitating less towards angry Metal and more towards music with musical melody nowadays. So I'm surprised I got into it as much as I did tonight. "Game Over", while now and then lyrically cheesy, has got a vocal melody that just hooks me every time and makes me sing along. And after smoking a cigar I sound just like Rob Flynn when I do so, so that's cool. Those guys can play though. They're going down in Metal History for a reason, and it's not because of their offstage back alley habits.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Surface Tension

After a couple of days of lying dormant with ice packs and pillows underneath it, I can finally bend my knee again and put my full weight on it. It's improved enough to where I feel comfortable enough to go to work tomorrow and see what happens. It'll be nice to get out of this room and actually do something. I'm not used to be still nowadays.

Spent most of the time listening to music and re-playing 'Tomb Raider: Underworld', which I finally got to play on PlayStation 3. Until yesterday I'd only played the PS2 version, which was chopped up so much so as to be able to run on older hardware it was almost unplayable. Enemies would just stand there looking at you, I'd frequently clip through walls, and 2 level sections had been removed entirely. It was worth playing for the story only. So it was nice to be able to finally get to experience it the way it was meant to be. Had some slight bugs in the early levels, and the camera was an absolute pain in the ass at times, but man, what a great game. The story sucks me in every time I play it and I just have to see what happens next after every level. Wish they'd continued it.  

Here's a bit of music I found myself getting lost in as well over the last 2 days...

Pelican's "Strung Up From The Sky"...

Trampled Under Foot's "Down To The River"...
Princess Superstar's "Life Is But A Dream"...
Russian Circles' "Hexed All"...


I'm looking forward to going home for the holidays in a couple of weeks. I miss my dog, and I miss being around my stuff. I'm not materialistic, but I like my comfort zone. And for some reason I'm looking forward to the drive home. I hate road trips, but I like driving. I haven't figured it out yet. Hopefully the weather will cooperate with me so I can go safely.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Mirror, Mirror

I am now unable to stand solid without the assistance of a knee brace on my left leg thanks to a very stupid accident yesterday involving a fencepost, a post driver, and myself. Let's just say it's not the post that took a shot straight to the knee cap. But it got the show of me hanging on to a co-worker and screaming obscenities at it, the bastard. Went to the medic tent where I was prodded for an hour and told it felt like there was nothing broken. I'm sure I'd know if something were. I can still bend my knee a bit, but not much. And it hurts like hell all the time. Especially when I take the ice pack off. Wah wah wah get me a Wahmbulance...

So today was "light duty" at work after waking up to find my knee was a bit better off, which is always better then a bit worse. Light duty consist of sitting in a chair with my leg propped up on another chair, right in front of the door to offices where I'm the first thing everyone sees as they come in, and doing paper work for the office folk. I don't mind paper work. I do it every morning in my crew and I'm good at it. And it's a side of my company that very few of us "grunts" ever get to experience. The office folk never talk to us other than a "Good morning" if we ever see them so we never really know what it is they do. For all we know they're sitting in cubicles playing solitaire or Farmville most of the day. And I'll be damned if we weren't right. But to be fair though it was Throwdown Thrusday. Whatever the fuck that means.

It was very boring. But it was a good chance to put faces to names and say "Hello". I was the days door greater, after all. Where I work you hear names. And you hear these names attached to powerful titles. But you will very rarely ever meet these people. You are instead supposed to respect them from a distance and "know" them from the mass e-mails they send out telling us how much money we've made and "Thanks for making dreams come true!" while no pay raises worth a shit are given out. The way of the work world nowadays, really. But today I was able to put some of those names to some faces and it was fucking awkward.

They come up to you trying to be polite and ask you how you're doing and wish you the best and all you can think is: "You don't give a shit. You just don't want me to have a lost time incident so your reputation isn't tarnished. Go away.". Try as I might I couldn't shake the thought. Especially when my pain meds started to wear off in the afternoon and I became uncomfortable and crabby. There really are only two kinds of employees in my work's culture: Us and Them. You're either one of Us, or you're one of Them. There is no middle ground. It's an industry only out for the money as all are. If you're one of Us you go to work sick, you push through illness and injuries and you do it only because you have to or else you become a target of Them. I do not know how this came to be, perhaps it's always been that way long before I got in to it and in too deep (I'm under contract for another 3 years), and it's not right by any means, but it's real. Anyone in my line of work who tells you otherwise is either trying to stay on the good side of Them or is trying to become one of Them so they don't have to be pushed around by Them. And don't let those people convince you otherwise.

It was, however, a relaxing day. In 10 hours I did 2 hours worth of paperwork and said "Hello" to people I'll never see again so many times I lost track. And no, not all of Them are bad. There are always exceptions. They just come far and few between sometimes.

It's hard for me to put on a face and pretend to like and be buddy-buddy with someone I've no respect for. I just can't do it. So I had no problem telling The Big Boss today, whom I met for the first time today as well mind you: "I'll go back to physical work when I'm damn well ready. And I'll know when that is, not you. And if I need a doctor, I'm fucking going." when he asked how long I'd be down after mentioning the cost of doctors, X-rays, and a lost time incident for the company. Fuck Them.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Creeper

Productivity goes out the window and down the street to find a coffee bar that allows smoking inside when you spend 7 hours of a 10 hour day waiting for one person to come and sign a permit that allows you to do your job. So you spend those 7 hours bullshitting with the crew and watching the world around you, ever in awe of the things Man can accomplish when his mind is set on something. It's the only thing that keeps us at the top of the food chain, you know. We don't have thick skin to withstand claws of a predator, nor do we have a natural camouflage ability to hide from them. And we certainly don't have the sharp claws or teeth. Well, some of us have the teeth, but that's another subject...

Taking a break from constant online barrages against Square Enix, Crystal Dynamics, and Microsoft. Look, I get that people are pissed off about the "Rise Of The Tomb Raider" exclusivity. I get it, and I feel it, but sometimes it's too much and I need to avoid it. But at this point it is a timed exclusivity, and nothing more. It's an important word, that. And people seem to forget that the word was and still is used in press. Until proven otherwise I see no point in throwing stones at any of the parties involved, however tempting it may be. And it is tempting. Especially for the hardcores.

People seem to forget (or ignore) that Tomb Raider, great as it's always been, was something of a cult game series for the longest time. A big cult game series, but a cult game series nonetheless. And if you want to break out of that cult status you've got to make some changes and get attention. With 2013's 'Tomb Raider', Crystal Dynamics did just that. It was the biggest (and fastest) selling game in the history of the series. And it was fantastic. It has it's flaws and is by no means perfect, and for myself doesn't have the re-playability of older titles, but it's good. And when it was announced and adverts began to appear it unintentionally drew a line in the sand in the TR community. Some people were for the change while others despised it. But for CD & Square it paid off. The risk was worth the reward, and the reward was given.

So many new fans were soon in the TR community, and it has always been one of the most welcoming communities I've had the pleasure of being a part of. And it was many of the "elders" or "hardcores" in this community that felt outright slapped in the face and disrespected when 'Rise' was announced as an X Box 1 exclusive. Feelings of "We were here when you were nothing" were, and still are, felt. And perhaps rightfully so. I 100% stand behind the "We made you successful why are you fucking us?!" mindset I've seen. But at the same time, much like the reboot in 2013 proved, you need to do what's best for business in the vide game business. No one works for free no matter how much they love their job. There are bills and employees to pay, softwares to create and license, costly advertising campaigns, and loads of other stuff I probably don't even know about (I claim no expertise as I'm not in that industry).

The cost of a brand new video game nowadays is around $60. And I can remember very clearly games costing $60 back in the era of Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. It's one of the few entertainment medias that have not gone up in price as the decades have gone on. The cost of living, however, has risen incredibly since those days and still does and always will. If you've employees now, you can't pay them what the payscale was then. You could, but good luck with the results you get from an employee willing to live in the modern world on early 90's wages. Since the cost of games has remained (thankfully, mind you) stagnant, developers and studios have to find other ways to make enough money to cover all the costs of running a studio, developing games, and all the details involved within.

This is where exclusivity comes in to play. Now first off, another seemingly forgotten fact over the last few months: Tomb Raider is no stranger to being a console exclusive. Both 'Tomb Raider 2 & 3' were exclusive to PlayStation 1. It was only when sales began to slip and the contract expired that TR games graced other consoles. If one console's sales could've sustained the series, and if Sony had been interested in renewing even with the slump in sales, I firmly believe they'd have remained exclusives. But with a limited audience you can only sell so many copies of a game. When it becomes logical and necessary you have to branch out to survive. So in that respect, IF 'Rise' is indeed exclusive permanently, then TR has done nothing but come full circle. It's an "I hate this piece of the puzzle, but goddamnit it fits!" in the overall history of the series.

But I am not encouraging it. At this point, I am one of those upset about it and feeling disrespected by it. I'm just pointing that little fact out is all. Personally, I think IF it remains exclusive it's one of the stupidest business decision CD & Square could make, if not the biggest. With all the attention and money gained by the 2013 TR, it'd be incredibly stupid to limit and alienate the now swelled community. And if I were to be offered a contract for such a thing, I personally would want a little compensation for knowing I was about to alienate said community. You want a deal? Alright let's see here... Sony has sold X amount of consoles. I want the amount of money I'd get if EVERY owner of said amount of consoles purchased one copy of my game, plus the standard offer. That'd be my terms. And if the offer could be attained, fantastic. If not, "Sorry, but we'll take X amount of money for X amount of months of being an exclusive". With the way the XB1 has been financially failing as a console, CD & Square could get away with it. But keeping in mind the failing, it's also another reason why I'd personally not make the deal.

Your product can be amazing and change the landscape of your industry forever, but if no one sees or experiences it, it doesn't exist. And Square Enix have not been in business as long as they have been by making bad business decisions. They've made a few, but every business does. What matters is the size and severity of the mistakes. And keeping 'Rise' a permanent exclusive is a big mistake that would only benefit Microsoft. Someone in charge of keeping track of the money for Square had to throw up a hand and say: "Waitaminute! Bad idea and here's why!" when the deal was first brought to Square's desk. Every business has someone that keeps track of the money, and how to keep it coming in. That much I do know.

From the Official Square Enix Tomb Raider Forums, used with permission:


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Drought

I'm expecting to have the next three days off of work thanks to a massive storm making it's way from California and crossing over to the East coast. Should be here within the hour. It's been dark and ominous all day long here so I'm not calling it bullshit like the ice storm we were supposed to get today. It warmed up on Tuesday and has been warm ever since. Today was 53 with no wind, which is great weather to be outside in.

The last four days have been fairly counter productive. We spent the last half of the day Monday starting what should have been a one day project and just finished it this afternoon. The problem is the design of it. We had a plan on the first afternoon, put it into motion on the second and finished it, then was told by our customer it wasn't going to work. We knew what they were talking about and explained why we did what we did, but they were not convinced for some reason. So since they are paying the bill, we spent the third day taking it all apart and putting it together the way they wanted. Then they saw it again, saw how un-functional it now was, and asked us to take it apart and put it back together the way we had it the first time. Very frustrating, but in this business the customer is always right until proven wrong.

It happens all the time though. Things look great on paper, then you actually build it and look at it and examine it from every angle and there's always one or two unexpected flaws that render the whole thing useless. It's not that the designers don't know what they're doing (not all of them, anyways), it's just that sometimes shit happens. Sometimes it's something as simple as a nut or bolt being in the wrong spot thereby preventing the piece of equipment (or whatever) from fitting perfectly into s designated area like it's supposed to, sometimes it's a much bigger and more costly problem. But whatever it is, it's always annoying. You spend hours, days sometimes, working on something then have to go back to square one. A high tolerance is required.

As of this writing, five days from now 'Lara Croft And The Temple Of Osiris' will be released, and I'm getting pretty excited for it. I pre-ordered my "Gold Edition" goodies two nights ago and can't wait to get home to open them up. I'll be going home for Christmas so it'll be a nice self-gift. I've never been one for holidays of any kind, and I always tell people not to get me anything because I can count on one hand how many people I've actually given gifts or cards to. It's not that I don't care, I just don't see the point. Christmas, for example, does not mean what it is supposed to mean anymore and hasn't for a few decades now. We all love shiny stuff and pretties, and it seems to me it's just an excuse to get shiny stuff and pretties and not feel bad about asking for them. So I tend to just skip the asking and just tell everyone "Don't bother, I've got it" and get my own shiny stuff and pretties.

Last year my self-gift was new tires for my car, this year it'll be the 'LC:T.O.O.' Gold goodies, the game, and, money permitting, a PlayStation 4. I'm not a tech guy so I'm still unsure of the difference between a 3 and a 4 other than graphics, but it is the new wave and slowly but surely the 3 will be phased out and become obsolete. And by the time the next full on 'Tomb Raider' game comes to PlayStation 4 (which it will at some point) the 3 will be dead and gone. Same for the new 'Silent Hill' as well.

So I fully intend to be caught up with the technological times soon. It just may take longer than I'd like, but is still sooner than I'd ever intended.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Games Without Frontiers

After a week home sitting in heat most of the days I'm really having trouble getting used to being outside again in bi-polar weather. When I left home yesterday it was 28 degrees with grey skies all around threatening... something at any moment. Halfway down here it was sunny with temperatures in the low 70's. What a difference a few hours and a couple hundred miles can make. It stayed that way until the sun went down, then somehow dropped to the low 20's overnight and stayed that way until 10a.m. this morning. Finally it hit its high of 32 around noon and stayed that way with brutal winds and, once again, threatening grey skies. I heard talk of an ice storm coming this way on Wednesday, but I put no faith in that. I fully believe ice storms are common here in the winter, and I expect them during my time here, but I also know you can't trust the forecasts here on any given day.

Did some Black Friday shopping and came back with some new music to listen to. Picked up In This Moment's 'Blood' and 'Black Widow'. I can't stand Maria Brink's voice. She has a good screaming voice, but her clean vocals just make me laugh. And the music itself isn't much better. I listened to both albums back to back on the way down and nothing stood out other than what's already being played on the radio. I don't even remember any of the other songs to be honest with you. Except their cover of Nine Inch Nails' "Closer", which could've been great considering 95% of what she sings about is sex and desire and her vocal deliveries. That's a song that just begs for a female vocalist to cover it and make it even more sexy than it already is. They do a good job until she decides to scream the chorus. At this point I'm convinced they'd be nothing without her looks to carry them. I'm surprised they haven't re-named the band yet. They might as well.

Also picked up Machine Head's 'Bloodstone & Diamonds' special edition, whose packaging is fucking massive and takes up a lot of space on the shelf. It's got good artwork though. The record itself is ok. I enjoyed it much more than 'Unto The Locust'. "Imaginal Cells" is great. I don't care if they didn't write the spoken word used in it, the effects they use on the spoken word is fantastic. A very moody track.

And picked up Judas Priest's 'Redeemer Of Souls', which is the best of the bunch I got. It's classic Priest, representing all eras in the way 'Angel Of Retribution' wished it could. And 'Angel' was written and recorded with the intent of being a love letter to the past. Halford kills it like no one else can. There's a part about 4 minutes into "Halls Of Valhalla" where Halford, in his mid 60's, let's out the best scream he's done since the 'Painkiller' days back in the early 90's. It doesn't have the wind behind it, but it's got the range. His voice has aged well more than almost any other vocalist I've heard. Even Bruce Dickinson's voice hit a turning point in the mid 90's. Not for the worse, mind you, but it was a change. I don't know what it is he does to maintain it, but I wish he'd tell other singers the secret. And from the first note to last "The Beginning Of The End" is hands down the best slow-tempo Priest has ever done. And it's vibe and tone could've easily made it the best track on 'Sad Wings Of Destiny'. It's the best record Priest have done since 'Jugulator' in '97 or '98, K.K. Downing in the band or not. Great album cover as well.
                        
 
 
 
 
Also got my mail when I was home, which brought me one step closer to achieving one of my life's dreams...

I can't wait.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Not Meant For Me

I've been thinking about Wayne Static's death the last couple of days and have been very sad about it. Static-X were never my favorite band, but I do own 90% of their records. Wayne was full well capable of writing a lot of filler on his records (see 'Cannibal'), but when he wrote a good song he wrote a good song. And his good songs far outweighed his fillers.

I can remember back in 1999 when 'Wisconsin Death Trip' dropped my friend Scott raving about it and never shutting up about "Push It" and Wayne's hair. I remember hearing "Push It" and not liking it at all, and telling him the same thing I told him about his DMX obsession: "You listen to crap.". Fast forward two years later and me seeing the video for Static's "Black & White" and just falling in love with it. The combination of the visuals, performance of the band, and the music made me go out and buy 'Machine', and that record reeled me in to the Cult of Static. It was so much more accessible for me than 'Wisconsin' was, but I was also in to Slipknot at this point ('Iowa' was just out as well) so take that for what it's worth. Tracks like "Black & White", "This Is Not", "Get To The Gone", and "Structural Defect" just exploded out of my car speakers and annoyed the shit out of anyone who rode with me that summer (Sorry, Raechel.). And any band that can take the experience of taking a shit on a tour bus and write a good song about it ("In A Bag") gets my respect.

My musical tastes vary from month to month. I listen to he shit out of a band for a month, move on to another, listen to the shit out of them for a month, repeat. After Static rode their course in my taste, Danzig came back in, then Priest, Maiden, Dream Theater, and others. I didn't forget Static-X, I just put them on hold. Then a couple years later 'Shadow Zone' came out and I re-joined the Cult full on. To this day it's one of the best metal records I've ever heard. The production was slick, the riffs were great, and the drums pounded. The technological elements of Static-X were used at heir best on that record as far as I'm concerned. Hands down, their best album. I played it for everyone, including my friend Johnny who didn't care for 'Machine' and had given up on Static after one listen to it. Even he couldn't deny that record.

To this day, I still have a copy of "Invincible" in my car and probably always will. Same for most of that record. All of Wayne's music was personal and he never tried writing 7 minute epics about slaying dragons or beating down the devil, but 'Shadow Zone' just felt more personal and relatable than the records that came before or after it. It had it's balls out "THIS IS METAL!!" moments, yes. "Destroy All" oozes that vibe, as do "Kill Your Idols", and "New Pain". But there's also "So", "The Only", and again, "Invincible". Lyrically they resonated with most people in ways that previous songs hadn't been able to do, from what I saw.

My life in the Cult of Static would continue on through 'Start A War', the last great album they did. I loved it at first listen. I didn't love it as much as 'Shadow Zone', but it was still fucking great. The title track is still a favorite of mine, and much like "Invincible", "I Want To Fucking Break It" has always remained in my car and probably always will. Not just for the lyrics and music, but the audio sample used in it that opens the track and flutters in and out of the mix. It takes balls for a metal band to use something that could be perceived as silly and use it in a way that kicks ass. Wayne's sense of humor was always clear on his records. For every "I Want To Fucking Break It" or "Love Dump", there was a "In A Bag", or in 'Start A War's case, "OtsegoAmigo".  I laughed my ass off when I first heard it and would never laugh at a set of intentionally funny lyrics in a metal song again until years later in Devil Driver's "I've Been Sober".

I'm not sure why, but 'Cannibal' just didn't hook me upon first listen, and it actually turned me off of them for a bit. Years later I'd go back and re-listen to it and finally was able to appreciate it and enjoy it. There's loads of filler on it, but also good songs. I think the problem with Static-X is the same problem with Marilyn Manson: The audience grew up, but the bands creations remained the same. You hear about bands saying they want to try new things because people grow up and tastes change and most times it's perceived as a sell-out of sorts. Bands like MetallicA and MegadetH are nearly crucified when they do so. But those bands always stay relevant and always sell out very big venues. Static-X never changed. Wayne seemed to  know what he was good at and he knew what got him where he was, so he stuck with it. And for whatever reason it just didn't work for me anymore.

I have never heard 'The Cult of Static' or Wayne's solo record 'Pighammer'. I do not know why Static-X broke up, other than online rumors of Wayne being tired of free loaders in the band (which is believable, read the writing credits in any liner notes of any Static-X record), and I never knew he was on drugs. He mentioned getting high in lyrics before, but I myself have written several works about drugs and have never once touched any of them. I never met him or saw Static live. I do not know, as of this writing, if Wayne's death was indeed the result of his history with drugs catching up with him or if he relapsed. But I do know the metal community lost a true innovator and great lyricist.

Top 10 Static-X songs, no order...

 
 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Anesthesize

Was up entirely too late last night for no reason at all. I went to bed around 8:30, which is the norm for me now and actually way later then I'm used to, and just could not fall asleep. I laid there for hours just listening to the sounds of the outside world. This is a very peaceful area after midnight judging by the sounds. All except for the trains. Then when I did fall asleep it was restless dreams again. They're fairly common for me to the point where I haven't woke up going "What the Hell was that about?" in years, but always exhausting. I always wake up more tired then when I fell asleep. Went in to work on maybe 3 hours of sleep and we were asked by our boss: "Is everyone ok with only working 8 hours today?" Fuck yes, let's get it over with...

Had the chorus to Porcupine Tree's "Anesthesize" in my head most of the day: "I simply am not here/No, wait I.../Shut up, be happy/Stop whining please". It very much fit the day...

Monday, November 17, 2014

19 Witches

After the franticness and long hours of last week I was very relieved to find tempers had eased over the one day weekend, and not that disappointed to hear we'd almost run ourselves out of work last week and would have to work a couple of eight hour days this week to let ourselves get buried on a couple of things so we can "catch up" later this week with ten hour days. It's either that or get everything done in two days then have no work for three or possibly four. We were all in a playful mood today, and it turned out to be one of the best moral-wise that we've had in a couple of weeks. It's always nice to relax a bit and crack some jokes with people you may not always like but will always respect. And people you'll probably never get to work with or even see once the gig is finished up. Our way of life and culture is an odd one and not everyone will fully understand it, so for lack of a better way of describing it, a brotherhood is commonplace in this line of work. And days like today only reinforce and strengthen it. Still, everyday can bring new conflicts within...

What little snow and sleet we got yesterday was fully melted away by 9a.m., but it's still fucking cold out. I think it might have got up to 24 degrees by lunch time and hovered in that area for the rest of the day. The trick is to dress warm enough so that you're not freezing, but not dress warm enough so that you sweat when doing the physical bits of the job. It's a tricky balancing act that I've never been able to learn. The sweating isn't bad, and most times not even noticeable, until you stop moving for a bit. You've got to stay in constant motion and continued physicality to not feel the chills it brings on. Much of a risk as it is though, it's nice to be outside this time of year. Mainly for the fact that fewer and fewer pain in the ass higher ups come to piss and moan at us as the temperature drops.

And we can smoke while we work.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

There's No One Coming For Us

I'm currently in a state of dread as the first sleet fall of the season began about an hour ago here. I'm am not a fan of sleet or ice, or even snow for that matter. Given the choice I'd rather have to drive in snow, but also given the choice I'd rather have it all stay far away from me, preferably California far, and take the cold with it. Much as I'd love to visit Alaska sometime in my life I highly doubt I could tolerate the weather conditions. I don't see how the people that live there deal with it.

Felt like a fucking idiot earlier when I actually had to go out and buy an ice scraper for my car, as I didn't even think to throw mine in the trunk last time I was home. Also forgot to throw the cinder blocks in my trunk for weight. Could be fun these next 24 hours. I'd have bought more weight but my card limit for the day was reached with the purchase of the scraper and two pairs of cold weather socks. I love how my bank considers Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to all be one day. Must remember to plan ahead better next year...

Errands are run though, and I'm spending the rest of the day in the very warm motel room, locked in with food, water, and 'Parasite Eve'. Good coffee as well. And the stack of books I need to remember to read at some point today now that I actually have time. We've been working 14 hour days this week and after one of those days I don't feel like doing anything other than taking a hot shower, eating something, and then crawling in to bed. I do not mind the paychecks for overtime but I despise the lack of alone time the schedule takes from you.

We're all to the point now in my crew at work where we're getting a little bitter with each other. Spend enough time around someone and you'll find the tiniest thing they do will piss you off and ruin your day, especially if they're not related to you or you aren't sleeping with them. Even something as stupid as the way they drink their morning coffee. Factions are being formed within the crew with political moves being put into motions. What political moves? Well, the days of the working man getting his due rewards are long dead and gone. Nowadays it's a combination of working hard and who you know and how well they favor you. And sometimes one very much outweighs the other. It's not right, it's not fair, but it is the way things are in any line of work from what I've seen. I try to remain neutral to these factions because I really don't give a shit for workplace politics. It's too much of a hassle and I do not need to rule the world, I just need enough to get by. My perfect boss to worker relationship is one where they leave me the hell alone and let me do my job. By being the one who will do the pain in the ass tasks and not complain about it I am almost always able to establish this sort of relationship. Do I get rewarded? Financially yes, politically not so much. I am treated with respect from my direct supervisors that see me work and know what I do, but not the corporates in the offices. I will never be employee of the month or be rewarded with a desk job of some sort. And for right now that's fine. My dignity and morals are in tact.

Sarah McLachlan recently announced dates for a small U.S. tour this next year. Checked into it and saw she'll be not even 45 miles away from me in March. Priced tickets a day before they went on sale and found the cheapest were about $400 each. I understand some artists are worth paying a good penny to see live, but I have never heard one $400 worth. I was very disappointed as I've never seen her live and one of her shows is a "Must see" for me and has been for a few years now. So I some digging the next day and came up with balcony seats for $85. Yes, my ticket is purchased. I'll be going alone since no one else wanted to go with me. I'm not sure if they were thinking I was joking when I asked or if it's the long drive they'd have to make. Now the only tricky part is getting back home to pick the ticket up since the website wouldn't let me put in an alternative mailing address...

I found it pretty ironic the tour was announced last week though. When I was home last I'd watched the "Afterglow LIVE" dvd again and kept thinking to myself: "I've got to see her sometime". I just wish now that I hadn't been such a cheap ass and had broke down and spent a couple hundred more dollars for backstage passes and front row seats. Regardless though I'm looking forward to it. Putting in for the vacation day (the gig is on a Tuesday) tomorrow and squealing like a little girl with anticipation every time she pops up on my MP3 player.

This will be my 2nd concert other than the yearly summer Blues Festival held in my hometown. My first was MegadetH and Iron Maiden last summer in Kansas City. It was my way or re-paying my dogsitter for looking after my child while I was away all last summer. It was him, myself, and one of my best friends, and it was a great gig. Loads of pyro during Maiden's set and a set list that had the hits and "lesser knowns" like "Afraid To Shoot Strangers" (which they played fantastically) and "The Prisoner". MegadetH was fantastic as well, opening with "Hangar 18" which blew out of the P.A. so hard I could swear it knocked me back a bit. I'll never forget that night, so Sarah has a lot to live up to in terms of experience. I'm sure she'll deliver, just in a much more but equally great way. And I found a picture of myself and comrades at the Maiden gig a few months later on Maiden's website, which was also cool...





Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Duke Of Supernature

Back on the road once more after a week home. I'd gotten off work last Friday with the intent to leave for home first thing in the morning as my night vision isn't what it used to be. After getting to the motel and taking one look at the bed, I said "Fuck it.", packed my bags, and headed home. It got dark maybe 2 hours after I left, and I began to see dead deer by the side of the road about once every two miles or so. This is not an exaggeration. I'm a little guy, I drive a little car. A deer would fuck my world all up if hit at 75mph. I drove with extreme caution the whole way, sure that one of the cute bastards was going to try and cross the highway in front of me at any time. It was nerve racking.

Made it to my father's house around 10p.m. to pick up the mail, then finally got home around 11:30 after catching up a bit. I was exhausted. Then I was up at 3a.m, wide awake and not liking it. I hate my biological alarm clock. I can never sleep past 5a.m. anymore. If I do it's because I've been up all night drinking, which isn't a bad idea really. It's been awhile...

Took care of laundry and did a bit of car maintenance first thing in the morning, then headed off to Barnes & Noble to finally do some book shopping. It was fantastic. I walked around for 3 hours, and came away with some (hopefully) good buys. Picked up the new Tomb Raider book, "The 10,000 Immortals", which is ok so far. I'm only 20 chapters in so I can't say 100% if it's good yet, but it does go back and forth. Sometimes I wonder what age demographic the authors were aiming for with it. It just gets... silly sometimes. Good read otherwise.

Also picked up "My Life With Deth", which is David Ellefson's autobiography. I can't wait to dig into that, as he's always seemed from the outside looking in like one of Heavy Metal's nicest guys. Possibly the only one. I must admit, I'm curious as to how much of his side of the story of some things will be 100% opposite of Dave Mustaine's. I like dirt, and I know Mustaine smudges the truth sometimes to make himself look like a good human being. Shame, 'cos he's always seemed like one. Just crazy now and then is all. Always a brilliant lyricist tough.



Also picked up two 'Alien' books, which I didn't even know were out, and two 'Dead Space' comic book TPBs which are terrible. They're good stories, and the art is good, but the letterer did a terrible job. If you want to get rid of word balloons, I'm ok with that. But don't make your letters the same color as the images behind them. I gave up trying to read one of them halfway through and just looked at the visuals and made up my own story to them. It was pretty good. I've missed my calling, perhaps.



Spent Sunday at home, just relaxing and taking home in. Got some good quality time in with my dog, which is always nice. Also got to play 'Alien: Isolation' with surroundsound for the first time and Jesus was that intense. I finally beat it two weeks ago now, but I had to hear it in surround. Great game. Best survival horror game ever hands down. Off to class on Monday which could have gone better. I'll be the first to admit I am not the best student. I very rarely want to be there. And school is so boring. It's trade school, so it's important, but I'm a visualist. I need to see the parts of an electrical system I'm learning about, not just have it described to me. And the whole week of schooling was pretty much like that, ending with me failing a test I need to pass to progress to the next year. And this was the last week of my current year. What happens now? I honestly have no idea. Always nice to have something to worry about...

Out shopping yesterday which was spurred on by my order of Pelican's entire discography coming in. Did some thrift shopping (Gotta pop those tags) and found some good deals. Leather trench coat for $20 in my size, great condition. I'd wanted one for years and finally found one in the exact style I wanted. Also came off with this, the prize of my hunting, for $2....


Say what you want about wrestling nowadays, I won't argue naysayers. But Bret Hart was the person who taught me the importance of respect. Maybe not taught, but definitely influenced. He was always honest and real. And if the worst someone can say about you is you couldn't keep it in your pants (his words from his autobiography), then you're an ok guy. He was, and is, a real hero and an inspiration. It'll be a vey sad day when he passes on.

Left early this morning to drop the dog off at the sitters, then Oklahoma bound for another 2 months. I played Pelican, but I couldn't tell you what songs specifically as it was my first time hearing some and I was driving. Great stuff though.

And now here I sit, once again a stranger in a strange land, awaiting my time to deal with the elements, and praying for a safe tenure so I can make it back home and one day live a "normal" life. Per chance to dream...

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Clouds Over California

Just heard the news about John Boecklin and Jeff Kendrick leaving DevilDriver. It's very sad, as that whole band was/is phenomenal,  but Boecklin stood out. The accuracy that he maintains at the speed he plays is unlike any other drummer out there, and for me was one of the biggest draws to DevilDriver. I'm not singling him out as the number one reason, like I said they all are all excellent musicians. Here's a bit of DevilDriver in memoriam of a stellar line up making absolutely killer records, and here's hoping it's not the end of the band...






 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

20 Miles To Texas, 25 To Hell...

Been wanting to take in a museum, as it's been years since I've done so. After a quick google search, the closest one of any slight interest is 90 miles away, and is a science museum. Bit of a trek for a subject I'm really not that fascinated by. I was hoping to find a good history museum, but all I found for those are the kind specifically for the Old West. Again, not my thing. I'd prefer one with more of an Ancient History motif.

I do remember years ago, maybe around 1994 or '95, going to the Will Rogers Museum here in Oklahoma and being absolutely bored to tears. I had no idea who he was. It was on a trip with my Grandparents and I just remember hating it. And it was all I thought about when I saw the signs for it when I crossed the state line for the first time months ago. I very briefly entertained the idea of a re-visit, but I can't bring myself to it.

My continued search for a bookstore is coming up empty as well. I've found an address for one, but when I tried to go last weekend after work I couldn't find it. But I'm home next week and will need something to do, and it's a good excuse to get out of my apartment and small town and just venture into adventure. I hate the city, and I hate being in constant motion, but I also hate being bored.

Being home after being away for so long is always bizarre. The first two days are usually spent trying to remember what the Hell I used to do before I was always in motion, and the others are spent trying to find a happy co-existence of both mindsets. Right when the "happy medium" is found, it's time to go again. And as far as people go, I have enough time to get caught up on recent events, then have food for the "time moves on without you" thoughts on the drive back. The ones I do not get to see, either myself or they become angry because one of us doesn't have time for the other. You spend a couple of months with barely any contact with a person, and then when you finally have the chance to see them it just doesn't work out for one reason or another. It's never really anyone's fault, but it's frustrating sometimes. But this is the life I must live for now, and there's really nothing else I'm qualified for at the moment. Suck it up, lie to yourself, move on...

I do not have it as bad as those I know who do this as well and have families waiting back home. Most of them have it much worse, and go to extremes to numb themselves of the loneliness/depravity. And they can give me all the shit they want to (and you can as well) for just playing video games in my free time, but I'm not the one blowing all their money on drugs and alcohol, and I'm not steadily becoming a walking train wreck.

Any issues I have now have always been present and have not needed my current lifestyle to grow or evolve. And as fucked up as it sounds, I am very proud of that.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Strung Up From The Sky

I've finally earned my "Bait" trophy for 'Alien: Isolation'. If you've done it as well, you must know the joy and moreso relief that comes with it. Well earned, and I'm already ready to have another go at it. I'm not finished with the game, maybe 3/4 of the way, but in a way the experience feels complete. I did it yesterday and today all I could think about was how great of an experience this game has been. Video games rarely get recognized as an art form and it's no one's fault but video game developers and studios. Very few devs and studios are good enough at their craft and put enough thought and TLC into their projects to warrant much respect.

For example: Let's say every year 150 video games are released. Of the 150, only 25 will be considered by critics and consumers as good and worth revisiting upon completion. Of those 25, MAYBE 2 or 3 will be considered art and will become timeless. Again, this is just an example and not to be taken as fact. Art, much like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. And in my mind's eye 'Alien: Isolation' is one of the handful of games that we nerds can throw back at naysayers when they say "Video games can never be art". Yes, there is no moral lesson to be taken from it. You will have no better appreciation for politics or care about the homeless or give to charity anymore than you do now once you've played it, but it will most likely resonate with you on an emotional level or some primordial instinct and make you say: "Wow.".


It's not the jump scares that make this game what it is. There is nothing in this game you've not seen in movies or other games. But it's the way everything around the scares is handled that sets it apart. The music, the atmosphere, the anticipation. Much like a great musician knows when to stop showing off and just grove, so do great developers. You find that groove, get people locked into it, then you change the pace without warning and let the people experience.

I'm sure I've said this before, and will probably say it again sometime. And who knows? Maybe 'Isolation' fizzles out in a years time. Maybe Creative Assembly will lose their blessing from the "Gaming God" and never put out an enjoyable or quality game again. But for right now, 'Alien: Isolation' should be on every gamer's Top 5 list, and it should definitely earn a place in the medium's history in the category of "The One's That Broke The Mold".

And it's available for Virtual Reality as well...

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Fathom

Taking another break from 'Alien: Isolation' as it's just too much sometimes. After finally getting nailed by the bastard in the main campaign a couple of days ago, I've not been able to play this game right since. I'm playing well as far as stealth games go, but I'm just not playing right for this game. He's completely random in his movement patterns and spawning points (per game designers choice) and a few levels in he either moves in your favor, or he doesn't. He's not been moving in mine for awhile now.

Save points are scarce, and checkpoints are non-existent, making each save point worth a sigh of relief and a "Thanks for that one, mate." to your higher power. But they can also work against you. Each save point requires inserting a key card and waiting 3 seconds for a computer system to recognize it. An audible countdown begins, one light comes to life, then another, then another, and then you can save. And you are stuck facing this wall mounted device (an emergency telephone) the entire time, standing tall, totally exposed. It's the perfect opportunity for someone or something to catch you from behind. Which happened to me after playing cat and mouse for an hour earlier tonight. I'd done well at hiding under desks, keeping a slow pace behind him when he drops from a vent and walks in the direction I need to go, and really becoming one with my motion tracker (as you have to). I felt confident enough to explore the full level, gathering every map and blueprint and scrap item I could. He never found me once. It was flawless.

Then I got greedy and decided to save my game when I passed the phone on my way out the door. That's when (I think) he dropped out of a vent behind me and got me. I say I think because I didn't actually see it happen. I was stuck facing the phone. Then I was stuck looking at his spear tipped tail protruding through my chest. As frustrating as it was, I still loved it. It's the old "Risk vs. Reward" cliché, and in this game you will constantly weigh the two on a scale. Every reward is worth it though. You need  those items. You need  that blueprint for a new distractive device, and you absolutely NEED to save your game whenever you can.

Back in the old days of gaming, if you had only certain save points and played 3/4 of a level and then died, you had to re-play that 3/4 again. This was a staple for years as there was technologically no other way to do it. Then the X-Box and PlayStation 2 came out, and the technology was there to have save points. Dying no longer meant re-playing 3/4 of a level, now it was just a specific 1/16 of a level you had to do over. And like all technological advancements some people complained about it. Some felt games became too easy and had a diminished value in caring about your character and keeping them alive. "Why bother worrying? It's not like I'll have to start all over again.". To those people I say: "Welcome to your gaming fantasy. May you never complain about checkpoints again"



One thing I really love about this game the most are the Working Joes. Working Joes are androids, but nothing fancy like you've seen in movies (the "Alien" series including) and TV. These are androids for companies who pinch pennies on their "why-pay-a-human-when-the-doll-will-do-it-better-and-not-complain?" labor. They have a basic rubber skin texture, and expressionless face, no hair, and glowing red eyes and a voice that is absolutely chilling. Of the goosebumps this game has given me, it's the first time I encountered the Working Joes that so far stands out most.

                                      ...................SPOILER BELOW......................



Early in the game you are trying to reach the communications deck of the space station to hail your ship and call for help. On the way to the deck you meet a Working Joe working reception who tells you to "Please take a seat and someone will be with you shortly." in an obviously synthetic emotionless voice that is just threatening enough to throw up a red flag, but also probably just the way these droids on the cheap sound (You get what you pay for, and sometimes we pay for what we get.). You inform him it's an emergency, and you don't have time for this, then storm past reception down a corridor, where you encounter another Working Joe doing... something. He tells you you the coms deck is a restricted area and the ships main computer has shut down all access. Then he asks that you please turn around and go back to reception. "Fine, I'll find my own way there" you say. And as you walk past him down the corridor, the exact instant he's behind you he says: "I wouldn't advise that..." in that now 100% menacing voice. I can't do it justice in text, it's one of those "You have to be there to get it" things. But it's blood chilling. And it's amazing. And I'm sure you can guess what the rest of your encounters with Working Joes will be like...

And it's the things such as that which make 'Alien: Isolation' great. It's not just the Alien, it's the whole package. Every leaking steam vent, every automatic door that takes too damn long to open 'cos it's so old and damnit it's coming up behind me HURRY UP! It's the game that fans of the "Alien" series (and survival horror fans in general) have deserved for years. And what took game developers so long to recognize that?

Friday, October 10, 2014

Orchidia

I like things of a dark and disturbing nature. Arts that are viscerally disturbing fascinate me for some reason, and I'm not quite sure why. When it comes to horror, I'd much rather have something of a psychological scare then a jump-out-of-shadows-"Made you shit yourself haha!" scare. So the 'Silent Hill' series and myself were made for each other. Each trek into Silent Hill brings new disturbing images and experiences that are much more beautifully disturbing then gory, and a sound design that compliments the images 100%. If I were forced to pick my #1 game series of all time, 'Silent Hill' wins.

And then a few months ago I finally got to check out 'Dead Space', and I met my #2 series of all time. It's very much like 'Silent Hill' in terms of mood and atmosphere, and sound design, but admittedly it is more gore the psychological. But it's done brilliantly.

So it was with high hopes that I fired up 'Alien: Isolation' for the first time on my PS3 the other night. I'd been excited for the game for awhile, and was hoping to death it would do Ridley Scott's 'Alien' justice, as well as prove to be a disturbing and dark and (most importantly) fun video game experience. It not only does Ridley's film justice, it could easily be mistaken for being helmed by him. The starting pace is just as much of a slow and sturdy buildup as his film that I was chain smoking maybe 15 minutes into it, and I hadn't even seen anyone or anything yet. I could definitely hear something though.



Many times while walking down an empty corridor crouched low to the ground so as not to attract too much attention to myself, I could hear various bumps in the air duct above me, following my every step. The sound design of this game is great, and my one regret about playing this game is I'm not at home to enjoy it in surround sound. When I say "sound design" I don't just mean the sound effects themselves. They are excellent, no surprise since they are (thankfully) the exact same ones used in Ridley's film, but what I mean in this instance is use. The corridors of Sevastopol Station are long and tight, and the sounds will drift down the corridors towards you. And when the Alien (I've named him Marvin) is moving around in one of those corridors, you know it. If he's angry, that is.

As of this writing, Marvin hasn't got me yet in the main campaign. When I've met him so far, he's angry, but also curious and cautious. Things intrigue him and he doesn't seem to mind having a look around. His footsteps are fairly soft, given his size, and his breathing is somewhat calm. It's easy to sneak around him. The tricky part is knowing where he's at (at the points where you don't have a motion tracker yet) when he's in this "calm" state.

The expansion "Crew Expendable", however, is a much different story. In it, he's very pissed off, very loud, and much more bloodthirsty. You could probably locate him easily without a motion tracker by just listening for him, but it'd be too late for you when you found him. In both settings he moves incredibly fast, and you're a one-hit kill from him. You have weapons, but they're no good on him. I've heard you can scare him away with the flamethrower but it hasn't worked for me yet. The Alien is FINALLY a 100% terrifying, ultra-violent killing machine again. Every time he strolls into the room you're in, or drops out of an air duct right in front of you, I dare you not to hold your breath or actually careen your neck to peek around the desk you're crouched behind onscreen. This is a terrifying creature in a terrifying environment, as it should be. And the androids and human scavengers aren't much better, either. But at least you can actually kill them.

I'm trying not to say much about it because this is a game I don't want to spoil for anyone that hasn't played it yet. I'm not reviewing it, these are merely my experiences and opinions of it thus far. I'm sorry if that makes this read a bit "What the fucking HELL is he talking about?!" and nonsensical. It's also very late, and I'm getting tired. But this is one of those games that I think every gamer, and even non-gamer HAS to play at some point. Out on PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox 1, check it out.

After a few hours with it each night since it's release, I can officially say that 'Alien: Isolation' is the most intense and frightening game I've ever played. I haven't been afraid of a video game this much ever, not even for 'Silent Hill 2' or 'Dead Space'. And that's saying something.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Monolithic, Baby!

In an excited mood tonight, looking forward to spending the next couple of hours with 'Alien: Isolation'. I don't think I've looked forward to a game this much since 'Silent Hill: Downpour'. The thing about 'Alien' for me is the concept. What took a game developer so long to make an 'Alien' game based on the first film, and not one based on Cameron's "Aliens" or "Alien vs. Predator"? This is an entity that's SUPPOSED to be terrifying and dreadful, not simple cannon fodder.

Also excited for the news of Monster Magnet re-releasing 'The Last Patrol' in November (in the same week I get to go home, no less). As much of a "Meh, this might be the last record, it might not" as Dave Wyndorf is, anything from him is cause for excitement. A lot of folks heralded not just 'Last Patrol', but 'Mastermind' as a return to what makes Monster Magnet great, saying they were back and whatnot, but they never really went away. They may have veered a bit into more straight up rock and roll after the success of 'Powertrip', but those were still great records. Admittedly though, 'Mastermind' is my favorite. It IS "classic" Monster Magnet with modern productions, and you can't deny "All Outta Nothing", "Gods & Punks", or the title track.

Also excited about going home in November. I'm ready to be with my dog again, just hanging out on the couch. Got this from my dog sitter earlier today, and it makes me smile...
He doesn't like the cold either.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Ice Cream

Been listening to the lovely Sara McLachlan all afternoon today. You can laugh if you like, that's fine I'm used to it. I get asked a lot why I listen to her when she's so "poppy" and "artsy". Musically, yes, she can be extremely poppy, folky, and upbeat. But lyrically she can be darker then most metal bands I've heard. Forget PETA, "Angel" is about sitting in a hotel room, lonely and broken, and shooting heroin. That's straight out of her own mouth (see the 'VH1 Storytellers: Sara McLachlan' dvd), and if anyone ever bothered to actually read the lyrics I'd think it'd be clear. But I'm sure she often thinks that as well. I think it's the juxtaposition of dark lyrics with upbeat music that confuses people. Some peole hear music, others listen to it. There is a difference.

This is off of 'Laws Of Illusion', which is a pretty strong record. There's a couple of tracks for me that I skip, as with all of her records since 'Fumbling Towards Ecstasy', but it's a much better album then 'Shine On'. Production quality varies, as there were 3 (possibly 4) different producers on various tracks (including one Mr. Bob Rock, of MetallicA coat-tail riding fame, who produced 3 tracks for the album.), but overall it's a good buy. Just ignore the album cover. This was also first released on her best of record 'Closer', though I don't own that so I'm unaware if there are any variations of versions.

                                                    "U Want Me 2"...


I don't understand why she always puts out these concept videos. They're usually clever, yes, but more times close to pretentious. I'll just be honest and say this is a terrible video for a great song. And the sounds of all the fans used must have been deafening. I think her videos are at their best when they actually show HER at her best: playing with her band. She's lovely to look at, but first and foremost she's a killer musician. I'm pissed off I missed her tour in America this year. But I didn't even know 'Shine On' was out until 6 months later when I saw it in a record store. Nice job of promoting, Arista.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Not Your Kind Of People

Tonight's soundtrack is provided courtesy of the Gangsta-wannabes staying two rooms down. It sounds like a lovely party, with plenty of Natural Light (Well, judging by the empty cans outside there was at some point) and Cypris Hill and Sisqo for all.

Today was spent breaking in members of other crews who've slowed down to the point where they will only be getting 20 hours a week if they don't work with us. Given my crews reputation as general mischief causers (thanks to our first former supervisor, who was fired after some... expensively destructive "incidents"), I'm sure it wasn't an easy choice. Respect is something that seems to be lost upon most people nowadays, but in my line of work still very much exists, and is a bit like cigarettes in prison in terms of value. You must earn it in order to survive the culture.

In this culture, the alphas prey on the fresh faced "weak", as with most animal kingdoms. They are bullied, betrayed, and forced into absolute shit tasks because that's the way the "elders" were brought up. Much like a parent, it worked when they were being brought up, so it still must work. Being the new guy is rough. You very rarely make any true friends, and you will always be the focus of all jokes and pranks. But endurance earns you respect. And as the respect grows, things get easier for you. People will very rarely talk about any of the things you do right in my line of work. Your good deeds, perfect attendance, and positive attitude will be ignored by anyone who is anyone. But fuck up ONE TIME and everyone will know across all 50 United States. But if you've one person that can say: "I know him. He's a good guy, always shows up, does his shit, then goes home. Fucks with no one." you will survive.

I am not saying this is right, nor am I saying I follow this unwritten culture code. I pride myself on treating everyone equally, new or seasoned. I remember being the new guy, and I promised myself I would never put anyone into situations I was put into, or that I've seen others put in. And if a person is worthy of my respect because of how they treat myself, others, and the job, I show it. And if they're not, new or seasoned, they don't get it. Respect is key, and it's one of the few things I admire about our culture.

So it was an interesting experience bringing the new flock up to speed in the ways of "that shoddy group that destroys things", as our 2nd former supervisor said we were once called by others. Another thing about this culture is it's all about safety in numbers when it comes to "swimming with sharks". They will look you in the eye, person to person, and tell you they're comfortable and enjoying the work, and boy-howdy is this crew great! Get a group of 2 or more of them around each other, and it's all: "Fuck these idiots! I'm just here for a paycheck! Fuck the integrity it's not my project!".  Today we had 6 of them. Guess what we were all hearing just barely audible when we had our backs turned? Of the days annoyances...

I fell in love with a zippo lighter at a cigarette shop the other day. No idea why, but I saw it and just had to have it. So I picked it up. Being a somewhat believer in superstition and (to an extent) faith, I engraved a couple of good luck saying/blessings on it in runes. Call me stupid or foolish if you like, but I do a dangerous job, with my life in jeopardy sometimes. I'll take all the luck I can get. Anyways, passed the lighter to a co-worker today when he asked for a light. My new nickname is "The Satanist" thanks to the runes. I easily forget that most people I meet do not posses the knowledge about some of the things I do, and are probably not the kind of people to look into such things anyways to dig beneath the surface. And it still takes me aback when that is thrown into my face, after all these years.

But at the same time, I am never really shocked by it. Stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason...