From out of the haze

Despite trying to get rid of a cold and needing to rest, I am still awake. I was suddenly seized by random thoughts of an old game my parents had for their ancient PC (286, anyone?). That game: Bowling. I remember three things about it:

1. It was ugly as hell, as was the style at the time. (the time being around 1990)
2. I still remember every note of the music.
3. If you went over to the right X amount of times every time, you bowled a 300.

Notice how one of those things wasn't the name of the game, hence no link or video. Lack of video is a godsend. Keep me in your prayers as the theme song plinks away in my head as I try to sleep tonight.


A little here and there

Hey look - a new post! Why's that? Cuz I'm actually playing some games!

Yessir, this Christmas I received a Wii game from my mom (the A Boy and His Blob reboot - yay!), two games on Steam via a Secret Santa program (Armed & Dangerous and Dark Messiah of Might & Magic), and I bought myself Painkiller off of Steam when I saw it was $5. Almost got Torchlight for the same price, but missed my shot, I guess. Either that or I was hallucinating. This weekend I resolved to play at least one of these games before they totally fell off my radar. I ended up starting Blob and Painkiller.

If you ever played the original Blob, you will notice one striking difference: the new one's not hair-rippingly difficult. So far the worlds are short; the only real "goal" is collecting three treasure chests per level, which open up a secret world, where if you get through it, you get to see extra content. So it's world, chests, world, boy-and-blob sketch, repeat. Not too earth-shattering. The art is, thankfully, as beautiful as expected. Backgrounds are slightly less in the background, with snails and dragonflies capering amongst brackish swamps and European-style forests. I'm very grateful for the inclusion of a "hug" button, which I use every chance I get. There's just something about seeing an amorphous alien blob smile that gets me right in the cockles.

For a delightfully demented 180°, there's Painkiller. Released in 2004 but playing like it's 1997 (and lauded by Yahtzee), it's a gothic Quake-style throwback that's all up in my wheelhouse. I haven't even gotten the rocket launcher yet (a classic in any FPS!) and I'm loving the killing sprees. Staking enemies to each other at 50 paces? Check. Spearing and dragging distant enemies so their corpses come flying towards you at breakneck speed? Check. Grinding up enemies like so much beef with a portable rotary blade? Check. I used to think Doom's chainsaw was the ultimate in ultraviolent melee gadgetry, but man, I dunno anymore. The physics are a bit wonky, though highly touted for the time. I guess being able to stick on random parts of wall by jumping like mad constitutes a "feature." I was also immediately miffed by the fact that you can't crouch...I'm more used to stealth in FPSes than I realized. Regardless, it was only $5, but with the fun this game provides, it easily paid for itself within the first five minutes.

We shall see what my schedule holds. The nice thing about single-players is eventually they will end. I'm suspiciously optimistic about being able to hold down a webcomic and still have time to play games, but who knows? It could all hilariously backfire and I'll never have time to do anything ever again. Always an adventure.


Playing favorites

I’m bored. I mean, like, near-fatally bored. Which translates into a new post for a blog I forget about 95% of the time!

I’d like to concentrate on games that have affected me throughout my life. That doesn’t mean they’re especially poignant or meaningful. These are games to which I somehow developed a strong attachment…there was just something about them that got to me, deep down.

Quake 3 Arena (PC)

I played Quake 1, or rather a mod of a mod of Quake 1, to death. Managed to skip Quake 2, although a bf of mine was rather keen on it. And then there was Q3A. Granted, I spent most of my time playing a total conversion called Urban Terror*, but I adored the vanilla game. The shiny graphics…the autobot smack talk…the smirking taunts…the satisfying punch of the railgun from across the map. Speaking of maps, it’s no wonder Q3A maps have shown up in later games. I still run through them idly in my head, when no one’s looking.

Zoarre (DOS)

Zoarre was a roguelike I played years before I knew what Rogue was. The particular version I played was gleaned from Big Blue Disk, the monthly tech news/graphic/games “magazine” to which my dad had a subscription. My tiny stick figure roamed the crudest of dungeons, fighting orcs and zombies and gelatinous cubes (from which my pet freen took the poison, saving my sorry butt). I never did get very far – hell, I don’t even know what the point was, other than to gain mounds of XP and treasure. Wait, didn’t I just describe every hack ‘n’ slash out there?

Nethack (cross-platform)

Ah, the granddaddy of all hack ‘n’ slash. I came to the Nethack table relatively late. Nevermind that it was still over ten years ago; compared to some of the games on this list, my interest in Nethack is woefully recent. A seemingly simple game, jazzed up by dynamic dungeons and the need to keep tabs on where you last came upon a bookstore or fountain (just in case you put on that ring of hunger by mistake). It’s like D&D without the bitchy DM!

Wizardry V: Heart of the Maelstrom (SNES)

A little mixture of hacking, slashing and RPG. This one was long and super-tough near the end…which doesn’t explain why, after I beat the game, I kept returning to the toughest parts of the dungeon to defeat blue and black demons. The music definitely burrowed within me. In fact, I could swear the Simpsons ripped off one of the in-menu melodies for “The Genesis Tub.” Maybe that’s just my interpretation. Oh, and the ghastly smacking sound when you walk into a wall? Priceless.

Zelda 1 (NES)

What can I say? I first saw it at my friend’s house, when her little brother was playing it in their living room. It only took a glance before I knew I had to bug the crap out of my parents to buy it. Screen after screen I drank it in, gathering potions and rings as I went.** Don’t even get me started on the dungeon music. Go ahead, laugh, but that shit was spooky.

Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES)

Zelda 1, but…more. Better. Faster! …But only because you get the running boots early on. *ahem* I pretty much loved everything about the game: graphics, music (sad boy in the forest, anyone?), puzzles, fairies, monsters, the many different dungeons. One of the few games for which I own a strategy guide.

Final Fantasy IV (SNES)

Some people took VI to heart; this one was my Dark Side of the Moon, as it were. I don’t remember why I had to have it, but by the time I wanted it it had fallen out of fashion. I had to convince my mom to drive me to all these weird vidja game-reselling stores (before Gamestop, gasp!). I think I actually called beforehand, too, destroying my crippling shyness. It was worth reaching out for the story alone. I won’t bore you with my take on the effusive sprites, the transcendent music or what a bitch those behemoths were. You already know.***

Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest (SNES)

First off, shut up. Second, as I imagine was the case for many youngsters, this was my first real intro to FF. I’d hankered for FF1 since seeing a full issue devoted to it in Nintendo Power, but never ended up asking for it. I know, I was weird. When FFMQ came along, I glommed onto it and didn’t let go. Typical story, sure, but I’m mostly fond of the items (damn I love those charm claws) and the music.

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (DOS)

There were two periods of HHG for me. My mom bought the game when it was all the rage back in “the day.” When I first played it, I’d never heard of Douglas Adams, a babel fish or manic-depressive robots. (give me a break, I was like five.) Nothing really made sense, which explains why I didn’t get very far. Fast forward to a time where I’d read two of the books and heard a bit of the radio play. Ahhh, much easier! …Wait, shit. Mom, you never told me these Invisiclues would fade after a while…

Beyond Zork (DOS)

Zork 1-3. A classic trilogy in its own right. However, the original Zorks seemed to lack something…intuition? Heart? Christmas tree monsters? Beyond Zork had all three, coupled with a rudimentary “you are here” graphics indicator. Christ, that made things easier. Sprinkled liberally with Frobozzian humor and more magical items than you could shake a stick (or stave or cane or rod) at, the thought of Beyond Zork always puts a smile on my face.

Team Fortress 2 (PC)

Now, I started out playing Team Fortress 1 way back when, which led me to the bastardized version, Mega Team Fortress. Notice I’m putting neither in this list, forsaking them both for their ten-years-in-the-making follow-up. Why? Because it’s just that good. Like any other TF1 disciple, my hopes were beyond low. Then Valve exploded onto the scene with their clever, aesthetically pleasing FPS that never fails to amuse me. As soon as I popped on my first server and saw the old 2fort and Well, my mind was completely blown. The visual style and cartoony action really appeal to me. Every time I play, I say to myself, “Goddamn, I love this game!”

* Fun fact: I own an Urban Terror shirt, but do not feel comfortable displaying my love for the game in public. Thanks, 9/11!
** Another fun fact: Chicago has two versions of public transport farecards. I chose blue over yellow because it reminded me of Link’s color scheme once he had the blue ring. Also, yellow sucks.
*** Fun fact #3: Despite his utter uselessness, I always had a thing for Edward. Ooo, a sensitive musician! *swoon*


Time passes...

Wow. I really started up this blog with the best of intentions. Little did I know that I’d drop off the gaming map almost entirely. I figured for sure I’d just be too lazy to write, instead of not having any material.

The irony is, playing games led me to something that has replaced games. Over Memorial Day weekend, I went to a convention with some TF2 peeps (for which I made my L4D medkit) and met a couple guys who do a webcomic. I’m a huge webcomic fan; at one point in the past I wanted to create one myself, in the golden days of Keenspace. (i never got far enough to actually look into hosting.) One of the guys used that Sunday to make a strip right at the con. I couldn’t help it; I watched the whole 10-hour-plus process. Ever since the con, he’s been drawing five nights a week on Ustream, where I have been a loyal groupie audience member. I’ve even been inspired to try my own hand at webcomickry, though that’s still a ways off.

Guess what has to give in order to delve into that world? That’s right…my nightly TF2 excursions have dropped to one night a week, and my DS has been forsaken for my sketchbook. I basically swapped out one addiction for another, except this one fulfills my need to create and may get me paid one day.

That’s not to say I’ve given up gaming entirely. I went to another con this past weekend (which had most of the same peeps as Play On Con) and played a lot of Rock Band and Arkham Horror, and a little TF2. I’m also planning on some engy cosplay at PAX, if I can track down a decent pair of overalls. But I get the hardcore cravings still…I miss being able to game for sustained periods of time. I miss Catacombs and Big Blue Disk and Infocom. I miss Nethack and Wizardry and Final Fantasy. I miss Doom 2 and Q3A and Hexen. And those are just the single players. I also miss Mega TF and Urban Terror and COD and, yes, even TF2. Games open up the realm of imagination and creativity, exposing the player to new mechanisms and thought processes. But they take up so much goddamn time, and I’ve wasted far too much already…

I don’t really want to go back to gaming as much as I did. Maybe one day I’ll manage to balance my time well enough not to sacrifice one vice utterly for another.


L4D Medkit: Completion

Oh yeah. Rumor has it I made a medkit once upon a time. As for the lack of an actual update on it, you know how it is...you dress up at a con, you return, you have to get back into the swing of things (i.e. work, sleep, TF2 with the spiper update), you keep forgetting to update your damn gaming blog. Well, here's the medkit itself:
Turned out pretty decent, I have to say. The side pockets, admittedly artistic license in the first place, started to unravel at the con.. I'll have to fix those back up. I'd love to make another one at some point.

Here's a cosplay pic, including the 'kit:
It went over pretty well and was a lot of fun. Didn't get to spout as many Zoey quotes as I wanted, but I did play a little LAN L4D, which is so meta it makes my head hurt. Me playing as Zoey playing as Zoey? It makes me want to go lie down...


L4D Medkit: Exhaustion

So, so close. The zippers are in. The cross/white background is ready to go. The top and bottom straps are on. I barely know what day it is. A decent night's sleep is but a quaint notion, a vagary so far off the horizon it wavers and dances in my vision. After all, I'm doing this thing for a convention.. and who gets any sleep at conventions anyway?

On the plus side, Zoey herself is 98% ready. Got my jacket yesterday; found some el cheapo Chucks at Target on Monday. I still can't believe they fit. (I'll see how I feel about that after wearing them for a May day around Alabama.) The only things I'm missing are a belt (which is negotiable; the jacket is long enough to cover the belt line), a white camisole (i've got a backup) and a pistol. Man, do I wish I hadn't thrown away my leaky water pistol. What will I pwn noobs with now? :(


L4D Medkit: Downtime

Posting from work (zomg!), where I can't work on this damnable thing. That's either really good, as it will prevent me from going totally mad, or really bad, since I can't finish it, which is driving me totally mad. Despite the lack of sleep, I kinda like the manic baseline of a crafting project: feverish concentration, long hours of production, subsistance on nothing more than PB&Js and Queens of the Stone Age. The funny thing is, the comparison to video game cycles is glaring, yet I can't see myself doing it. It's such a difference when one works with one's own hands.

Anyway, barring some sort of meteor hitting Chicago (or a shutdown of CTA trains, which is much more likely), I should be able to get the rest of my materials tonight. That means a nice, shiny cross for my front pocket. So far I'm 98% finished with the two side pockets, I've got all the padding stitched in (for structure/pillowy appearance).. next come the zippers, with which I have never worked. And the whole thing must be done by Friday. Woo!


L4D Medkit: Frustration, she wrote

These are the two pockets that go on the side of the L4D medkit. These two pockets have taken a day and a half. I shit you not. Mind you, only one is complete. Remind me why I decided to do this again?


Left 4 Bargains?

Funny how I'm doing two projects directly related to L4D...and as a result, I haven't played the game in like a week. Anyway.

Medkit's been slow going. I've got most my material, except white for the cross patch/"First Aid" background, and a zipper foot for my old Singer machine. Oops. Those zippers will be hella hard to sew without one. I've got a few leads, though.

The search for Zoey clothes is a little harder. Since her outfit is slightly out of season, I had to snag a leftover track jacket off of Target's website. The thing dropped price while I watched (woot), but I won't truly rest until it's in my hands. I've got the jeans and a white shirt, just bought a belt off of eBay...which brings me to my main beef. When did eBay stop being a place where you could buy anyone's random old shit? I'm looking for a pair of ratty black Chuck hi-tops on there, and all I get are sparkling new ones at $40 a pop. Blasphemy! Who's gonna believe I've been running from zombies in those? What happened to the world's biggest garage sale?


L4D Medkit: Status

Pictures of project, from all angles? Check.
Drawrings of project, from all angles and with measurements? Check.
Prototype? Check.
Materials? Check. (Well, most of them.)
Excitement level? Growing...

I've also decided to go as Zoey for Play On Con, or rather CP Con, a minor offshoot. I've never cosplayed before. Hopefully no assgrabbings will be attempted...and if so, hey, I've got pistols.
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