Sunday, April 27, 2014

Yes, I am still alive

Okay, so a couple of things.  First of all, yes I am still alive and yes I am still working on projects.  Persons familiar with this blog will know from experience that I tend to be pretty bad at keeping blogs up to date.  Sorry, I just never think to do it.  Anyway, a couple of things.

I lied about putting the text of my novels on my website.  First of all, after doing some market research and soul searching, I have concluded that The Fapper in the Rye sucks, and I currently have no intentions of ever making it available to the public in any form with my name on it.  Forget I ever mentioned writing it.  The Battle of Denver is currently being revised and polished, but I have decided to attempt  some sort of formal publication for it, so the chances of the full text being available online for free are slim.  However, I will probably put an excerpt or something up there.

Here are some new screenshots from SFJ2.  Several people have mentioned to me that the old screenshots looked dark.  I had no idea what they were talking about until I started looking at them using different computers.  I don't know why, but the renders I did looked fine on the laptop I was using when I created them.  However, the images seem to look very dark on just about every other machine I've viewed them on, so I can only conclude that using that particular laptop has different monitor settings or something, I guess.  I don't really know much about color profiles and monitors and stuff; all I know is that if something looks good on the screen I'm using, I assume it looks the same on every screen.  Apparently that is a bad assumption to make.  In any event, I am now doing almost all of my work exclusively on my desktop system, which doesn't seem to have whatever issue the other laptop had, so hopefully these renders look okay.  Let me know if they don't I guess.

I have a new album coming out soon, entitled Zen Nihilism.  It was my project for FAWM 2014, and it is mostly an experimental electronic/new wave/synthpop type album with a freaky Residents vibe.  I think it sounds groovy as hell.  I am working on the master for it, and I also wanted to add another song which I need to find time to record.  Another album I've been talking about, Frozen Glue, is basically done.  I have just about all of the tracks I wanted to put on it recorded in decent final form; I just need to suture them all together and create a master, and also maybe do some sort of bonus content for the release.  Look for new Styop Quoons releases over the summer.

Also, it is mostly looking like the El Guapo ep isn't happening; however, that is because most of the tracks that were originally going to be on it have found homes in other projects.  A mop-up EP may be appearing soon to house whatever residue didn't end up on Frozen Glue or Zen Nihilism.  Also, I've been fiddling with some iPad experimentation while riding public transportation in Portland.  That may or may not become another project.  I should really stop announcing projects until I know for certain I am going to do them.  I need a personal assistant or something.  Anybody want to be my personal assistant?  I will pay you in street cred.

That's about it for now.  Also, I live in Portland now.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Updates, News and Other Bullshit

Hey, folks.  A few updates for everyone to digest.

First off, I have compiled the text for my two novels, The Fapper in the Rye and The Battle of Denver, and I am in the process of publishing them in full form on my website.  For those unaware, my website can be found here.  I will post an announcement once they are complete and uploaded, which should hopefully be soon.  I was planning on releasing The Battle of Denver on this blog chapter by chapter, but ultimately decided against it, opting for an html version on my webpage which will be easier to navigate and read, and keep this blog mainly for news updates and such.

I am also currently writing a third novel, which I am trying to make shorter and more concise than my other two.  The title is Muttering Goats, which some people might remember as the title to an aborted writing project I wrote one chapter of and posted on my MySpace page like six years ago.  Well, that project was actually an attempt at adapting an untitled, unfinished story that I started writing during my senior year of high school. 

I'd always liked where that particular story was going, and always wanted to do something with the idea.  However, looking at it as an adult I found the writing to be crude and infantile even by my standards, so naturally the thing had to be redeveloped and rewritten.  The first Muttering Goats chapter was an attempt at that; however, I never really got anywhere with it, and at this point I am too far removed from it to get back into it.  Plus, I lost the original word file.  Thus, I decided to start from scratch.  I am presently about 10,000 words in, with hopes of capping it off at about 15-20,000. There is a good chance it will end up longer than that, though.

On the digital front, the SFJ sequel is progressing nicely.  I have designed a couple of new environments and will post renders soon.  I also recently obtained a vintage Macintosh Performa 550, which I bought off eBay specifically for the purpose of running System 7 applications and games.  In the process of trying to get this computer fully-loaded, I discovered that there is apparently a community of retro-Mac users out there, who play old games and such either through emulators or actual vintage machines like the one I bought.  Anyway, playing around with this thing and poking around on the internet has gotten me thinking about the reason I became interested in adventure game programming in the first place:  the old HyperCard adventures I used to make as a kid.

I have absolutely no idea what the user-base would be, if any even exists, for an all-new supplementary Stanley "Frankfurter" Jones short adventure, developed as a HyperCard stack and available only on a defunct, no-longer-supported platform, but I'll tell you this:  I intend to find out.  If nothing else, I've never been the sort of person to let not having a user base stop me from making and publishing original games.

In any event, lest you be revealed to all the world as a complete and utter toolbot, I would like to firmly suggest that you get yourself a classic Mac emulator, or obtain a classic Mac.  Otherwise, you might never be able to experience the glory that is:  Stanley "Frankfurter" Jones In:  The Case of the Missing Butt.

 On the musical front, I've been slacking.  Sorry.  I've just about completed the El Guapo ep, though, and I just banged out another track I'm pretty proud of for Frozen Glue the other night.

Also, I'm currently in the process of trying to pick up a second job.  While this will undoubtedly result in more money, it will unfortunately come at the expense of free time, which means my current projects will take even longer to finish than they usually do.  Fair warning.  However, you may rest assured that I will spend every hour of free time I end up with as productively as I can, for as long as it remains necessary for me to do this.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Random Dumb Stuff

"The monarch has his hands in many sinister soups."
                                                       -- The Monarch

Okay, so as if I didn't have my hands full with enough silly things, I've recently started making YouTube poop.  For anyone unaware, YouTube poop is the "art" of taking some sort of source material, such as an episode of a TV show or a bit of a movie, and editing it in a funny way and then posting it on YouTube.  I did a few of them using iMovie a few months ago, and they've been sitting on my hard drive since then.  More recently, while I was staying at a motel room in Portland and found myself with a few hours of downtime a night, I downloaded Sony's Vegas software and started experimenting with it, and created my first "professional" poop.  Anyway, as of a few minutes ago, all three of them are available on my YouTube channel:

I haven't done much recently on the musical front, however I wanted to feature my most recent release, Songs That Didn't Need to be Covered...or Did They?  which is probably going to be a Volume I.  Anyway, it features the best of a batch of cover songs I did and released on my website as well as partially on a podcast I made an attempt to start.  It is quite delightful and you can listen to it HERE.

In other random news, I have decided to post the entire text chapter-by-chapter of the first decent book I've written, Imaginary Diseases Book I, as a series of posts on this blog.  Then, when I eventually get it published and it becomes a worldwide hit and I make like mad dollars and shit, you can be among the handful of fortunates who can gaze down contemptuously at their friends and tell them that they read this New York Times bestseller back when it was just a post on some crappy little blog.  I just need to transfer the file from one computer to the other, maybe do one more quick proofread, and then it's up on the internet.

Stanley "Frankfurter" Jones II is going well and is going to be a delightful game.  The high-budget low-budget look of this really adds to the funniness of it I think.  I'll probably have a playable demo of the first little sequence up shortly, and I might try and do a trailer or something at some point when production is a little further along.  It is probably going to be released in chapters, both to compensate for the fact that due to the high-res graphics the game is going to be bigger in terms of space than a point-and-click adventure probably should be, and to help keep people interested by having more frequent releases.

Haven't done anything with Ravensbrook in a while; I'm going to have to get back to that one.

To conclude, here are a few brief, random thoughts about things I've been reading/watching/playing/whatever recently, which I feel slightly obligated to include since this is technically supposed to be a blog for reviews of things:

Elysium (film):

If missing your own point were an Olympic event, the creators of this film would not only take home the gold, they would flaunt that very gold in the faces of the millions of starving Mexicans populating dystopian Los Angeles.

Kick Ass 2 (film):

If I were to describe in detail everything that Chloe Moretz's performance in this film made me want to do, I might finally achieve my dream of having my website receiving hundreds of thousands of hits.  Unfortunately, most of them would probably be from the FBI.  Seriously, though, this movie was good.  I don't think there was any aspect I didn't enjoy.  I especially like the way it somehow manages to simultaneously be a complete fucking cartoon, and at the same time a brutally realistic depiction of what would probably happen if you actually put on a costume and tried to fight crime as a superhero.  The whole thing is very cartoonishly surreal in a way that I think the Scott Pilgrim movie was trying to accomplish but couldn't seem to pull off quite as well.  I need to read the comic at some point.

Higurashi When They Cry (game, anime, manga, and probably some other adaptations I don't even know about):

This is pretty much one of the best things I've ever played/read/watched.  Seriously, I've not been this engaged in an anime-type fandom in a long time.  I wish I'd known about this back when all the other weebs were into it, so I'd have had people to discuss it with. The anime is basically the readers digest version of the story, and is probably the weakest of the adaptations of it.  So, I would definitely recommend starting with the games or the manga if you have no familiarity with the story.

Plinth (band):

I found this group because this guy named zippy72, who bought one of my records on Bandcamp, had this in his list of artists he supports (along with me:) ).  I haven't had the chance to listen to more than a few songs, but what I've heard is AMAZING.  Seriously, play this shit in a pitch dark room:

Kujibiki Unbalance (anime):

This show is weird.  The three episodes that they made as supplements to the Genshiken universe were good.  Unfortunately, instead of finishing the series that they started making with Genshiken, they for some reason decided to make a completely different series, that was supposed to be a re-boot of the original (that they never even completely made in the first place).  They really should have just made the original show.  This new one is okay, but it's not great.  Why didn't they just make the original show?  That show was good.  They should make it.

Southern Gods (book):

I haven't actually read this yet, so I can't review it.  However, I picked it up completely at random and read the back of it, and bought it immediately.  Here is a sample:  "A Memphis DJ hires recent World War II veteran Bull Ingram to find Ramblin' John Hastur, a mysterious bluesman whose dark, driving music - broadcast at ever-shifting frequencies by a phantom radio station - is said to make living men insane and dead men rise."  I am really excited about reading this book, and plan to start it pretty soon here.  Thought I'd alert people to its existence. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Stanley "Frankfurter" Jones Screenshots

Okay, so I promised news and here is some news.

Got a couple of screenshots from the new Frankfurter game hot off the press.  Nothing terribly fancy as of yet; just a couple shots that show a couple of new rooms and help you get a feel for how the game is probably going to look:

As you can see, this game features higher resolution graphics than its predecessor, as well as smoother animation, nicer looking environments, etc. etc.  In this game, the player will also be able to toggle back and forth between Stanley and Stinky Pete as playable characters.

I hope to have a short playable demo up for this game within the space of a couple of months.  Here's hoping.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Okay, sooooooooooooo.............

Here is my first post in three years on a blog I swore that I was going to do something with three years ago.  I feel kind of bad, reading all of the comments of encouragement people left me.  Oh, well, the important thing is, I am now going to try, ONCE AGAIN, to finally do something with this stupid blog.

This was at first intended to be a review blog for stuff, which it may still be at times.  I may also post occasional random things, writing samples, or anything I happen to feel like posting.  However, I was thinking  that I would like to start up a development blog for the projects I'm working on, and then I realized suddenly that I already had a perfectly good blog set up that I never use, so here we are.

So, anyone who is interested can now check this blogspace for the latest updates concerning the various moronic projects I undertake, as well as probably some other stupid and random stuff as well.  At present, these projects are as follows:

-- The Legend of El Guapo (now with 40% more terrapins!):  A completely stupid short EP I am working on.  It consists of a bunch of orphan tracks that I've recorded in the last year or so that I haven't been able to do anything with, as well as one new song written especially for the EP, all of which are sutured together with a series of audio collages based on my collab song with sci from FAWM, "My Gold Plated Terrapin Connector".  This one is just about finished, and I hope to have it out within the next two weeks.

-- Frozen Glue:  My next full-length album, which I actually think is turning out pretty good.  Going slow, though.  Most of my recent musical work has consisted of half-formed, spontaneous ideas I have at random points throughout the day, which I then sit down at some point and try to bang out in more or less one shot.  The end result is turning out to be a little bit reminiscent of The Residents' Commercial Album, if I might toot my own horn a bit.  Anyway, here's a short sample to whet your appetite (this one was also a songfight entry, although it didn't win):  This one is moving slow, but I will provide periodic updates and samples of new tracks.

-- You Know It Really Hurts (to have your hymen torn):  Another short EP, which contains a bunch of even older orphan tracks, some of which have been re-recorded.  This one is sort of like the Muffin Records equivalent of a yard sale; I'm basically taking a bunch of old songs that have been lying around in my garage for five years or more, wrapping them up in an album concept and slapping a cover on them that is just as old, and putting it out there for anyone who is interested to come and rifle through.  This one is also just about done.

And now, on the interactive front, as some people might be aware, I've been playing around a bit with adventure game development, using the AGS engine. 

My first complete adventure game (at least the first one that was actually any good) is called The Adventures of Stanley "Frankfurter" Jones and is a real hoot.  It can be obtained for free right here:

Anyway, here are my ongoing projects in the realm of indie game design:

-- Frank-Further:  The Further Adventures of Stanley "Frankfurter" Jones:  As you may have guessed, this is a sequel to the original Frankfurter Jones game.  This will eventually be a full-length, bona-fide adventure title, or at least bear a close enough resemblance to one to be able to fool most people.  The story will be set in the world of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and will feature both Stinky Pete and Stanley as playable characters.  Also of note about it so far:  considerably better graphics, better scripting, better music, and...pretty much the same sort of ridiculous story and offensive content that comprised most of the first game.  I have screen shots and some other stuff, and will post them along with detailed progress reports as I go.

--Ravensbrook:  My first ever attempt at a serious title.  I am still using AGS, although I think I am pushing the bounds of what it was intended to be used for a little.  Nevertheless, it's a very versatile engine and I have high hopes for this project.  It is a first-person horror title in the vein of The 7th Guest, although the format centers less on solving individual logic puzzles and focuses more on story-based puzzles as in traditional adventure games.  The story is set in 1924, and centers around a family who are summoned by the head of the family to a creepy mansion in the middle of the woods.  People start getting murdered, and really weird stuff starts to happen, and it is the player's goal to hopefully survive long enough to piece the mystery together.  Again, I will be posting screen shots and progress updates and demos and such as I go.

Also, the first novel in what will probably be a series of some sort of length is now nearing the end of the editing phase.  I will probably post an excerpt here at some point in the near future.  Not sure what I'm going to do with this book just yet, but the title is Imaginary Diseases:  The Battle of Denver, and so far I think it is shaping up to be an interesting story.

Anyway, that's my first blog post in 3 years.  I will try to stay consistent with updates on the above projects as I work on them, and post random nonsense and reviews of stuff whenever I don't have any news worth reporting.  Here's hoping.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Lol I haven't used this in forever

Shit, I'd completely forgotten I had this blog. Well, folks, I originally started this to be a topical blog about music, anime, games, etc., but obviously, I was too lazy to do that. Oh, well. I'm going to try to use it more, but I can't promise it will be either topical or informative. I'll probably just write about whatever.

Sit tight, moar to come.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Prince of Persia: Warrior Within

Prince of Persia: Warrior Within
Ubisoft, 2004

Platform: PlayStation 2
Overall Rating: A-

Okay, folks, so I finally got around to using this blogspace for something. Hopefully, someone will actually read it. Now then.

Warrior Within is the second game in Ubisoft's PS2 trilogy based on Jordan Mechner's 1992 game Prince of Persia. I played the original game quite enthusiastically when I was in fourth grade, so when Ubisoft (which I believe is the company that acquired Red Orb, which acquired Broderbund, which was the publisher of the original POP game, as well as Myst and a few other of my old favorites) began continuing the franchise in 2003 with Sands of Time I was quite excited about it.

I'm going to assume, for the purposes of not having to write a separate review for another game, that if you are reading this you have played, or are at least familiar with, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. If you haven't, then it would probably behoove you to play it first before reading this or attempting to play Warrior Within, as it is the second game in the series, and to play a sequel before an original would just be silly. Also, this review draws heavily on comparisons between the two games, so if you haven't played the first one you probably won't know much of what I'm talking about. Now then.

The first thing I should probably say about Warrior Within is that I haven't finished it yet. I am presently stuck on an extremely difficult fight, but I have a suspicion that I am nearing the end of the game. I picked this game up used in early 2006, didn't get around to starting it until late 2006, got fed up with it in mid 2007, and didn't pick it up again until a couple of months ago, at which point I needed to start over because my sk1llz had severely deteriorated.

The fact that it has taken me this long to hammer through this game is in itself an illustration of the vast difference between the two games. I bought Sands of Time a short time after it had been released (November or December of 2003, if I'm not mistaken) and had beaten it for the first time within the space of about two months. I've since played it through again several times, because I thoroughly enjoyed it. By contrast, it has taken me, what? Three years, give or take, to get through this one? Obviously, I haven't been playing it continuously for that whole time, but still. It's a much harder game, by cracken.

In terms of gameplay, Warrior Within is a dramatic improvement over Sands of Time. The fighting system is >9000 times better, the environments are more challenging and take longer to navigate, puzzles are more difficult, and the game's progression is less linear. However, many of the elements that made Sands of Time such an enjoyable experience are lacking in Warrior Within: mainly that the game focuses less on story and more on fighting and trap-evasion, and the environments overall tend to be less varied and interesting.

In Sands of Time, the fights were more tedious than anything. You only had a couple of techniques at your disposal, and most of the time I just found myself dealing with barrage after barrage of the same two or three types of enemies by vaulting over them and slashing them, over and over and over until the fight was done. Warrior Within offers a much more interactive fight system. In addition to the Prince's standard one-handed sword, you are also able to use his other hand to hold a second weapon (since he no longer posesses the Dagger of Time, this hand is now free). These can be picked up from the hundreds of weapon racks scattered throughout the environment, taken from slain enemies, or (my favorite) stolen from enemies during combat and used against them. Nothing quite so satisfiying as taking an enemy's knife out of his hand, jumping over his back, and slitting his throat with it. Just my opinion. Extra weapons can also be thrown as projectiles, a technique which comes in handy when having to fight while balancing on rafters.

In addition to extra weapons, the fight system itself is far more flexible than in SOT. The Prince's acrobatic abilities can be used much more effectively and creatively, and in combination with various attacks. As well as standard thrusting and cutting attacks, you can now also employ combo attacks. The combos are simple, so a button-masher such as myself can easily learn to employ them effectively, without having to memorize complicated button sequences. Attacks also function differently depending on whether you are fighting one handed or two handed. All of this combined gives a player quite a bit more flexibility when fighting, and enables you to develop your own particular fighting style.

However, that said, in my opinion this game tends to go a little overboard with the number of fights that you have to engage in. In Sands of Time, there were usually cut scenes or visual/auditory clues which gave you some sort of warning that you were about to be beset upon by ruffians. In the Fortress of Time, however, the guard staff seems far less interested in that type of fair play. Fights are frequent, often unexpected, and tend to last much longer and take more out of you than in SOT. There is also a particularly nasty kind of enemy; a female ninja-type character who will descend from above without warning, and if you're not careful, lock you in an attack that costs a great deal of health and can't be escaped from. Other obnoxious enemies include exploding dogs, invisible birds, giant trolls, and shadow creatures that attack from a distance and have the ability to teleport. In reasonable doses, all of this can make a very challenging and enjoyable gaming experience, but when you are being constantly barraged by regeneration after regeneration, fight after fight, it can get a bit nerve-wracking after awhile.

Also of note is that the frequent fights have a tendency to consume your health over time, and health-restoring water fountains are often few and far between. You will often find yourself emerging from a fight beaten and bloody, only to have to go through several more fights before having the opportunity to restore health and save the game. Bear in mind that you will also have to do all of this while navigating through the assortment of nasty traps that are pretty much standard in a Prince of Persia game. The end result is that you will often find yourself having to play the same environments and fight the same fights over and over again before being able to progress.

One strong advantage that WW has over SOT is the deviation from the linear format of previous POP games. In SOT, you progress from area to area in a direct sequence as the story progresses. This is no doubt based on the basic level system of the original POP game, where the goal is to climb through the Sultan's dungeon level by level.In WW, you are given various objectives to accomplish, which will often lead you into new areas of the Fortress, then require you to backtrack to a previous point and follow a different path to acheive a different objective. You are also often presented with more than one objective, which means that the game does not necessarily have to be played in the same order every time. And if you get stuck, sometimes you can backtrack and try something else before moving on.

Another interesting feature of WW is the addition of time portals. As well as posessing the old time-manipulation powers of the Dagger of Time (although this time your powers come from the Amulet given to you by Farah in the last game, since obviously you no longer have the Dagger), the Fortress of Time also contains various portals, which transport you back and forth between the present era (i.e. medieval Persia) and several centuries in the past. The several-centuries-ago version is apparently the fortress at the height of it's glory, but in the present-day it has become an overgrown ruin. You navigate the same areas of the palace while jumping back and forth between centuries, and the same rooms present completely different obstacles in each era. Oh, and by the way, in the present day version you are being constantly chased by a gigantic demonic beast called the Dhaka, which you accidentally unleashed when you went fucking around with the Sands of Time in the previous game. Have fun with that.

Unfortunately, in visual terms, the environments of WW are not anywhere near as beautiful or as interesting as in SOT. In SOT, you navigated through a series of diverse and visually stunning locations; however, the Fortress of Time basically maintains the same drab, stony, vaguely Gothic decor throughout. The present-day Fortress can get especially monotonous; although, to the designers' credit, I suppose there isn't really a whole lot you can do aesthetically with a ruin. However, this is mostly just a minor aesthetic quibble on my part; the look of the game was probably intended to be consistent with the generally darker tone that WW takes overall. The Prince, as a character, is also much darker here, and much of the humor and lightheartedness present in SOT is gone.

While we're on the subject, I would also like to bring up another feature of the game that was probably the result of the designers trying to "darken" things up a bit. While I may have a couple of gripes against WW, I have to say that overall it is a very fine game, and it's high points definitely make up for most of its flaws. However, one thing they added that I have to say is pretty much 100% fail is the inclusion of a Disturbed song on the soundtrack. Thankfully, they only included the instrumental track, but still. I've got nothing in particular against Disturbed, but what the hell is the same song that was used for a Navy recruitment ad doing in a game set in medieval Persia?!? I'm running away from the fucking Dhaka, not getting down with the sickness, you buttholes. z0mg. I really hope someone got fired over that.

Anyway, what was I talking about? Oh yeah. Another (in my opinion) unfortunate direction that this game takes is the exclusion of a second main character. While as a gameplay element, Farah in SOT tended to be more of an encumberance than an asset (especially in battle; I couldn't tell you how many times I threw my controller at my TV because that dumb bitch got herself killed), her continuous presence made it possible for the game's story to develop through dialogue and frequent cut scenes. The back and forth bantering between the Prince and Farah not only made for a much more engaging story, it also provided frequent breaks from the monotony of incessant running, jumping, climbing, and fighting. While the story of WW is not bad, it is definitely a less story-based game than SOT. As I've mentioned before, the environments can take awhile to slog through sometimes, and what little story advancement there is tends to occur at pretty long intervals. Sometimes I get so bogged down trying to get to a particular objective that I forget why exactly I'm trying to get there in the first place. But that's just my opinion; a lot of gamers seem to dislike complicated storylines and superfluous cut scenes, so whatever. Go play HALO or something if that's you.

Anywho, I think that just about wraps it up for this edition of The Opinionated Quoons. To summarize my point: Warior Within is a pretty good game overall. In terms of gameplay, it makes numerous improvements over Sands of Time; however, I found the story to be less engaging, and it tends to be a bit lacking in warmth and aesthetics. However, it is still well worth playing, particularly if you are as big of a Prince of Persia fan as I am. For my part, I intend to finish it and move on to The Two Thrones, which I bought like a year ago and still haven't gotten to yet, mostly on account of being quagmired in this game. Thank you and goodnight.

Overall rating: A-