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Might revamp the site sometime!

Languishing due to more activity on Facebook with friends (so many photos there!) and less conferences and events attended, I must admit I’ve left this place a bit. Not even edited the automatic robots.txt so Google lost me.

However I feel I need a project and this one is just on the side of not-so-time-consuming that upgrading the gallery from Lazyest to Eazyest, finally removing WPG2 perhaps (so many left to remove!), and adding a better theme will help.

I can then start to do more posts and updates – I’m doing more photography, getting to grips with more cosplay work and doing more coding and AI, fun fun fun :)

Just Shut Up

Interesting and, for me, relevant short piece on ingrained media badness people do not know about or sometimes want to know about, such as Beauty and The Beast. I’ve had such “Just shup up” responses in actual conversations on really basic problems with some things before. Glad it’s not just me.

Resizing Windows Bootcamp Partition on my Macbook Pro

Finally got an update for my site! (I need to work on more, we’ll see). Useful information to post which I need to record mostly for myself if I ever do this again!

Basically resizing partitions can take a while; mainly due to moving data. My situation was that my Windows 7 partition was too small; I was down to 1GB of space (150GB was Windows, 600GB was Mac OSX on a 750GB drive). This likely, doing somewhat in reverse, could

In preparation I made a backup; not that I had much to backup. :) You may also want to defrag the drive fully (moving all data to the front) so it is slightly faster to extend; I’d recommend JkDefrag: http://www.kessels.com/jkdefrag/

Resizing Mac OSX partition

The first step was to resize the Mac OSX volume. This first required me to decrypt it; takes a while but after that the Disk Utility can easily resize HFS+ volumes. Simply find it in the Utilities folder, open it up, select your drive and click on the Mac OSX partition to resize it. Some oddities arose; I now can see the “Recovery HD” partition when I hold down Alt (the “Option” key) on bootup, so it moved that to the end of the partition. Who knows where it was before.

Resizing Windows partition

The second step is to resize Windows. I did this with one note, which I am not sure is entirely true but whatever; I left a 10MB space (apparently needs to be at least 512KB of space) between the last part of the Mac OSX drive and the Windows drive I was extending.

The tool of choice was GParted; http://gparted.sourceforge.net/ – just booted by holding Alt as normal. I changed the preceeding space to 10MB, and made sure it went to the end of the drive.

Another thing to note is that it said I had to do a checkdisk of my Windows partition. I did a full checkdisk – rebooted into Windows, right clicked the (C:) volume and chose Properties, selected Error-checking “Check now…” button under “Tools” and selected both checkboxes (essentially choosing /f and /r). Of course you can’t do it when it is loaded so after restarting it did the checks and I was ready to resize.

Problem: Windows is no longer seen!

Once Windows 7’s partition was resized came in the problems; the default bootloader (holding down Alt on boot) didn’t see the “Windows” partition anymore. I used 2 things to fix this.

The first was rEFIt; http://refit.sourceforge.net/ – this replaces the Mac OSX bootloader and has a nifty tool built in that I had to use – install it in Mac OSX using the DMG download. The problem with resizing Windows is that Mac OSX’s bootloader no longer knows where the Windows partition starts – there are essentially two layouts for the drive (GPT and MFT), which are now out of sync due to GParted increasing the Windows size. Once installed I restarted and used the Partitioning Tool, which automatically detected the error and asked to correct it. Once corrected Windows then was known to rEFIt properly; after a few reboots for me at least.

Final Fix: Inaccessible Partition Error

Last thing was that Windows itself now was bothered by the resize; generally this will also happen if you, say, had 2 Windows installs on a machine, deleted the one at the front of the drive and resized the latter to fill the drive. Windows thinks that the files to load the OS are located in a very specific place on the drive, which would now be wrong.

It comes up as black screen error; if that doesn’t occur, great I guess :)

If it does, it requires either something like ERD Commander (known now as MS DaRT); I used version 6.5, but the same process is achieved through using a bootable Windows installation or upgrade disk; the Repair option will search automatically for such basic issues with a current installation and ask to apply fixes. Do so and it should allow full access to your Windows partition again :)

Again the CD was just booted through using Alt/Option key on bootup.

You could now remove rEFIt, I may well do so in case I want to re-encrypt my Mac OSX partition, since it likely would interfere (and most certainly is unsupported according to its own documentation).

Hope this helps someone else; certainly when I searched Google it took a fair few threads and posts to find all of this, since most of them point to (now) paid tools.

Where The Bodies Are Buried

Bad at updating my site eh? I’ll get on and upload some brilliant stuff I made recently, but nothing much else to report home about here except a short kind of review.

Finished reading Where The Bodies Are Buried – brilliant Scottish police drama book (ie; it isn’t a too standard police procedural with a lead male detective, huzzah!), I hope Chris “-topher” Brookmyre does more of them; witty, sometimes gruesome, very heartfelt, strong characterisation – good stuff (if somewhat slow to start and some clichés here and there the build up is momentous and had me pretty gripped) – perhaps not as strange as some of his other books but read it if you like anything crime :)

Additional to Facebook; I am probably giving this a glowing review since I’ve not seriously read reams of police procedurals; many of which would wear you down with clichés and haggard repetitive characters. I mainly see the core interest in the book as the non-police people, however I enjoyed reading a strong female detective rather then a brooding male.

I’d also highly recommend his other books, but only have read two; One Strange Day in the Middle of the Night and Quite Ugly One Morning, both brilliant too :)

3DS Thoughts

Some random thoughts on the 3DS I caught on Saturday;

  • The 3d is okay; but it varies a lot game to game. You have to keep still using it so obviously you would turn it off if you use the gyroscope inside (as with Monkey Ball – a real shame). Some games barely use it noticeably – a 3D in-a-sub-at-a-periscope-firing-torpedoes game was just so…flat!
  • My eyes “work with it” but it takes a fair few seconds to adjust then having to keep them steady, else you get just a holographic “double image at once” going on of course.
  • There are no games I immediately want to play on it having tried almost all of the demos available; fighting, sports, racing and remakes/re-releases. I guess Kid Icarus is new? Monkey Ball also was passable.
  • The augmented reality stuff is fiddly but pretty silly fun. Would be happier if it wasn’t so gimmicky (there was only one bit available to try).
  • Generally much better button placement (power, volume, d-pad, abxy buttons etc., although start/select are a bit out of the way) and the addition of the analogue stick is good. From the fighter players I’ve talked to they’d prefer two of them (even just realistically to support left handed players!)
  • Why is the bottom screen smaller then the top one? Looks goofy :(

When I might buy a 3DS:

  • Better battery life/extra battery packs. It’s pretty rubbish at the moment (2-4 hours, ouch)
  • The Professor Layton/Phoenix Write crossover game is out, or perhaps Mario Kart
  • If I really find a reason to constantly use wifi in a game; so can use WPA2 at home

Not going to happen for a while then, oh well!

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Games of 2010

While I’ve still got a major post (ie; involving lots of screenshots I’ve not finished yet) on a ton of indie games I got in packs in the Steam sales, this is a quick overview of the better games released in 2010 I’ve played; quick because I don’t need to bother with screenshots, huzzah! (I’ll also promise to myself to post more stuff here…). This was also posted on the WDG forums I frequent often, although expanded a bit with some late additions. Some of these games I should post about in more detail sometime.

The Verdict

Some good games; no real priority, certainly no stupid top 10 or rankings or numbers. Nothing stood out as “dammit beyond dying you must play this”. Wow, having revised this list it still has so many sequels…

The Games

Metro 2033 – Not finished the SP yet, for goodness knows what reason, it’s like the last level (expanded note: It was an annoying last level). Still utterly fun though up to that point. Kudos points for not being a sequel of any kind!

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 + Vietnam – I was late to the party, but loads of fun in multiplayer. The SP is passable and helps you to learn the weapons a bit. Vehicles, large maps and always team based gameplay with no silly perks appeals. One issue is the stupid levelling system, go go gimped new players…urg.

Dawn of War 2: Chaos Rising – Excellent expansion pack since I thoroughly enjoy the singleplayer; just so over the top action. Can be quite hard too which is great. Can redistribute your squads points after the first mission (thank goodness), so gets points redistributed to more powerful aspects for that ;)

Fallout: New Vegas – Everything Fallout 3 fell down on (factions interacting, banal main plot, out of character factions, some terrible weapon selections and the game being damn easy with insta-stimpacks, and also terrible companions) was improved and bettered. An interesting world with actual fascinating intrigue and a better enemy faction of your choice, and still retained all I liked about Fallout 3 – exploration and so forth. Improved massively with a radio mod for more tracks though.

Mass Effect 2 – Fast paced “epic” shooter-RPG-kinda-thing. The combat/RPG levelling was to me oversimplified and the combat, if not especially difficult, was certainly frustrating in places since it is basically only you killing things and you get limited ammo. Still apart from some blatant plot hiccups (bloody idiot Shadow Man being the most blatant and dumbfounding one) it had some more fascinating characters and places to visit, and I still love the voiceacting and sheer character of the games. Mining minigame can bugger off though, so much wasted time on that stupid thing. Extra points for being a sequential sequel – one where actions in the first game, some rather small, do have some kind of impact on the new game.

BioShock 2 – Dare I say a good sequel – enjoyable levels, nice upgrades this time (fear my drill and named sentry bots!), a more coherent plot throughout and some very inventive work put into some parts of the game and it certainly is much more fun to play. Bonus points for

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat – A great end to the first set of STALKER games (they’re making STALKER 2 now right?), being part of the military gives me the ample canon for a faction I otherwise was fascinated with but never got to talk to, the levels were well tuned and some more demanding decisions being made of me to actively do one thing or another, rather then general side missions (which more fully influenced the much more complete ending too). Was fun to decide what to do; and the AI was great this time (more times you played in a group, was good fun doing so). I don’t think I even needed a weight mod this time, but those are easy to find to stop the curses of inventory management.

Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth – A damn fun game. Not too challenging, but was rewarding and seeing you move around more actively was just more pleasing then static screens and more involvement in evidence use and “logic”. No courtroom drama is a real shame, but it still pulled something similar off, and was much better then the last Ace Attorney game (which suffered from a terrible main cast; this one actually has some good cast members, and I still love Gumshoe :) ).

Assassin’s Creed II – Still playing, but damn it is so much better then the first game. Sadly no skippable cut-scenes still, but they’re not hours long either (still a shame if you exit and have to re-watch them again if you close the game). Extra assassination missions outside of the main plot and more combat moves/enemy types make it very fun; you really feel you have the power to kill anyone this time. Slightly more checkpoints, mission restart/cancel options and less “stop playing the fun part of the game for 10 minutes of walking around a single room” experience then the first helps too (the over the top plot is instead ingested with minigames in the past world).

Pokémon HeartGold – Yes, addictive handheld nostalgic (but still good) play-on-the-bus fun. Best game in the series is still the original Gold and Silver, and this remake captures most of that again (missing is the much better AI that was always on in the original, the room decorating and Espeon from Red ;) also why can’t you flight from one side of the map to the other?). Now I am just waiting for Black and White… ;)

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty – Singleplayer == good clean, if very predictable levels (mainly) although utterly unsatisfying plot-wise (with points docked for horrible NPC’s, backstory “we knew each other all along honest” cutscenes, some really really awful actors, and no mention of the UED at all with most of the original game having seemingly not happened). Multiplayer still makes me wince, and I dare not go back there unless I had severe help.

Mount and Blade: Warband – Multiplayer is a damn fun addition to the game actually – the c-rpg mod makes it a wee bit more persistent and less wacky then the normal one (which is still pretty fun but strange how gold is distributed in a kind of Counterstrike way). The revised map and actions in the game are okay too – much better then the original, more balanced, and you can become king/queen now – recommended if you’ve never played the game at all :D

Just Dance 2 – As a party game, utterly great silly fun you don’t need to “play certain things to unlock the good stuff”; yes I love silly disco dancing :)

Mafia 2 – Still playing this one, about half way in. Some major clichés and parodies/homages/references don’t stifle the quick-witted dialogue and actually likable main character and close friend, mixing some humour into the drama which moves along through mostly short cutscenes (which are skipable, take that Assassins Creed!). Reasonably fun melee fighting on top of cover-based fighting makes for a patient combat system, but is kept interesting by each mission essentially being setpiece upon setpiece. Exploring the pretty dead city isn’t great except for buying flashy suits since the police, for how little the missions actually involve them so far, do take some effort to get away from in the old cars (they don’t, however, do much unless you are speeding or hit them or a pedestrian, which makes navigating easier). Gets double points for basically including, so far at least, 2 era’s and separate seasons. Sliding around in an icy 1940’s or the summer of the 1950’s. Fedora’s look good in both ;)

Got to play more of: Alpha Protocol (why haven’t I played this? just…kinda left the disk and never installed it!), Napoleon: Total War, Civilization 5 (this just does not appeal still for some reason; I think I love civ4 that much more, I did try again recently…) Just Cause 2 (although should be completely insanely over-the-top), Batman Arkham Asylum (I only brought it this year…not even booted it up), Professor Layton and the Unwound Future (still playing…is it all a dream again? or is this going to go mental and be actually real?) and others.

Still not brought Golden Sun: Dark Dawn or Super Scribblenauts yet though. I’ve also played a wee bit too much AI War, League of Legends (still a PITA to install dammit, but good with friends) and Team Fortress 2 from earlier years, heh.

Man, I really should play Alpha Protocol; at least then the list of “original 2010 mainstream games” I’ve played will double from 1 to 2 (admittedly there are more originals I haven’t or wouldn’t or can’t play here). I’ve resigned myself to knowing next year will be little different according to what’s going to be released; I should probably do some kind of list…wait, no, lists with no content are terrible, and there is already one here (spoiler: almost all are sequels).

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GameCity 2010: A Report

Lego, of course always present
Lego, of course always present

GameCity 2010 was a while back; 27th to the 30th of October. This is a late report, with all the pedantry of trying to remember things from it that are worth reporting on!

Talks, Panels and Notes

Firstly, I have done some rather lengthy notes this year. This comes from doing them on my laptop at the time; so there are quite possibly errors and it isn’t a word for word account :) In any case, I’ll link to the relevant ones as I go through what was fun and so forth. I didn’t get to everything though, and I can’t point to a “Calendar of events” on the GameCity website (which was at http://my.gamecity.org/events ) since it has now disappeared.

Before the Event

GameCity was generally well run and fun this year. There was no horrible Gatecrasher venues, there was most of the events up in advance of the week, although knowing about things more then a few weeks in advance is something they need to strive for :) On one hand I was discussing this with someone and having less people coming keeps it more low-key and more a Nottingham feel, but I opposed this and say if I want friends to come I need to show it’s worth booking travel tickets, holiday time (they have jobs!) and hotels in advance. In any case I hadn’t the nerve to get anyone outside of Nottingham to come up, more the shame to me really – some would have enjoyed it :)

One oddity: you could “favourite” events which seemed to put you on a list for events. Stewards were weird, so I booked everything on the first day once I got almost turned away from something. I heard some people got turned away in spite of the rooms not nearly being full too…must try harder! either first come first serve, OR pay for tickets, not a bad mix of both. :(

The Tent!

The bomb with David!
The bomb with David!

The tent was good; I never bothered with the EA side, each to his own but exercise can’t be thrown at me like that (with the full set of crass marketing too. I suppose it’s all sponsorship money though). The other side was cramped but good enough – Crysis was well laid out at the side for instance, and the projector games generally were far enough at the back to not get in the way. The other odd thing was not enough chairs and tables, especially for Gambling Lambs! It meant a lot of standing around, and put me off staying there for very long, a shame really. However what went on there was fine even if I didn’t bother with Saturday’s Mario stuff, since I wanted more indie games dammit! :)

Oh, and on Gambling Lambs – it was great, got to play Dixit, which is a game where you have to describe a scene in a generic storytelling fashion but not be too accurate; it’s great to play a second time once you work out actually what to do. There were other games to be had too – and David Hayward put on a brilliant Laser Trap Scene Test at Lee Rosy’s, as in any good spy flick needing lots of smoke to see lasers to disarm the bomb! I did it successfully, and was very fun! :)

Shame there was no Kinect or Move playable demos. I have no clue what Microsoft and Sony are doing here (apart from Sony apparently hates GameCity) I just don’t know how you can get people to buy such interactive things without being able to try them. There was the Kinect talk, which was okay, but didn’t exactly let me try it ;)

Development; the office space was too small originally - foreboding for UK living rooms? :)
Development; the office space was too small originally - foreboding for UK living rooms? :)

Spy Party

Spy Party; the room
Spy Party; the room

A really standout game! I loved playing Chris Heckers Spy Party, I took notes from his talk, and am fully looking forward to the game itself.

To outline; it’s a deception and infiltration game, where you as a party guest have to mimic an NPC while performing certain tasks, while a sniper, a second player, tries to find out who you are and snipe them. As the base game mode, this is just brilliant fun in itself and I can see how it can be easily played online. Chris mentioned possible other modes, more players (multiple spies or snipers, working in teams even) and other changes; well worth looking out for. Gets the “Game of GameCity” award from me!

Jonathan Blow

Jonathan Blow had a double act; a nice sum up of Braid’s design, and his new game The Witness which looks interesting, but I hope doesn’t have too many tutorials; it could get annoying. Still, he’s someone you could rely on to really polish and make a very strong game, which is what I’m looking forward to.

The Witness: What are adventure games? What should they be?
The Witness: What are adventure games? What should they be?

Comedy and Music

OneLaughLeft - Simon Byron
OneLaughLeft - Simon Byron

There was an evening of Comedy by OneLifeLeft; the jokes were soemtimes groan worthy from the presenters, but still damn enjoyable and fun (although Ste sure is one who does very harsh critical humour!); they should think more highly of themselves for doing it. The comedians were a fine lot; some geeky stuff, some game related material, and one comedian who I’ve seen before at the Fringe (a shame; since I’ve heard some of his stuff before obviously). Well worth attending, had me in fits :) I’d give it 7 out of 10.

The Choir during the music of James Hannigan
The Choir during the music of James Hannigan

The music evening in the church was good pretty much because the composer James Hannigan did Red Alert 3’s main theme “Soviet March” – and it was done better live with the main part being sung by a woman then the theme in game! (I wish I could have recorded it!). The spy music from Evil Genius was good too – the rest, well, I’ll be frank and say that without them telling us what games they were from, which they didn’t, I had no clue if the tracks were Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, or any number of other different orchestral soundtracks he’s done – a shame really, since some were pretty fun to listen to. There was only the Pinewood Singers in attendance; not a full orchestra, which worked well given it was a church.

Retro Remakes, History and Parks

A Reproductive System
A Reproductive System

Finally, there was a good panel on retro remakes, the only thing that could have improved it was explaining what a remake was and giving some examples then and there. Coupled to the old stuff side is a panel I attended on game preservation, which sadly lacked the major major problem now occurring: DRM. The British Library might want to get a copy of every game made, but it’ll be useless if the consoles and platforms they run on break isn’t it? :(

Also an odd talk was done by Keita Takahashi who is designing a park for the nearby to me Woodthorpe Park; I’m looking forward to it, but I’ve no idea if any of the designs will actually be completed!

Takahashi LOVES the big catapult idea despite its flaws
Takahashi LOVES the big catapult idea despite its flaws

Finally…

Panel on being Independant Game Developers
Panel on being Independant Game Developers

On the indie side was a good panel called “What’s the Point?“; a shame it was over lunch (like the preservation panel) since it was harder to take notes, but in essence it was good to hear the two sides to working, what indie is, about game jams and other things. I did get to play several indie games too – apart from Spy Party, there was Ben Bradly’s Substream, much improved from GameCityNights, and I talked to the creator of VVVVVV a bit too (and the musician too), who are both totally cool dudes. I aim to play more VVVVVV – now I’ve finished some other games :)

Iain Simons doing his vision statement; shout it brother! Shout it loud!
Iain Simons doing his vision statement; shout it brother! Shout it loud!

The last thing really to note was the Vision Statement by Iain Simons – good points to note, he wants to do more GameCity and game stuff, but wants nothing to do with Sonys kind of marketing. It was a rather nice thing to see him explain about it and name some names, and I fully agree about many other things he went into detail – always needing the newest stuff, interactive entertainment and “now being mainstream”.

I missed several things however – the music of Limbo, an indie game producer from somewhere, and the morning panels at breakfast – I felt rather ill so got up late every day sadly – it wasn’t too convenient to get there, but sounded interesting.

So overall it was a lot more fun then last year in most places, although it felt more empty with much less to do at times, mainly due to scheduling no doubt. I say bring on next year with agusto, like I said, hopefully with some forewarning about what is going on before the month it is on :)

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Achievements Considered Harmful?

I want to bring up a good talk from Chris Hecker about achievements; Achievements Considered Harmful?.

Why? Apart from it being bloody interesting, it reminded me when it popped up from another blog – I had a discussion, ever so briefly, with a few guys at a GameCityNights event at the start of the month. All the common arguments came up from them – “can ignore them” and “new playstyles” (and of course “I enjoy them” – these were both men; seems research points to this kind of reward being less important to women). I am glad Chris went over these and I now know a reasonable way of explaining why they are invasive especially on design; he himself says he will try and do something as a test with the Xbox limitations.

You might realise I’m not a fan. To me they’re invasive, annoying, and change the gameplay in games to allow such actions to exist (for no other good reason). For instance I abhor all the Valve TF2 achievements – once I have the weapons I then ignore them, they’re intended to be a fun addition but instead turn into a complete barrier to progress. This is anecdotal, and I don’t care ;) These kinds of rewards are rubbish to me in any case and don’t encourage anything from me. No gnomes are going into space for me.

I however agree; more research needed (with less bias, hehe), and his Q&A is well worth listening to where he clarifies a lot of the things involved in his talk. I mainly also don’t want to ever play a game where you’re paid to play, urg…it’d be more like the gaming (gambling) industry then anything else.

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Baccano!

Baccano!
Baccano!

There’s a lot that can be aimed at the anime series Baccano! Schizophrenic, fast paced, action packed, comedic, supernatural. It flies between several parts of a timeline so much you’ll lose track when you realise you’re seeing things out of order. You have to go with the flow and hope for the best!

The backdrop is 1930’s America; high rise times of the mafia and tommy guns. These don’t factor into the story a huge deal other then, yes, it appears they’re all criminals in it – although most of the cast don’t seem to actually do much in the way of crime, and it certainly isn’t the focus of it. However it does add something to have a non-Japanese, fedora-wearing time – it is classy, and some of the music is very fitting, including the introduction theme which in itself is quite brilliantly done.

The actual supernatural part, although not revealed how it works until later in the series, surprises you right in the first episode (here is that surprise!) that some of the character are immortal and can’t die. It is…interesting, and while not particularly delved into too much philosophically or morally, for better or worse it drives some of the plot along; after all, eternal youth is obviously something everyone would want, right?

Some of the large cast; not all of these even appear in the Anime (it's an ongoing light novel series)
Some of the large cast; not all of these even appear in the Anime (it's an ongoing light novel series)

It is a series that decimates the leading protagonist trope too. The series stars plenty of offbeat characters; amusingly many are quite unhinged and almost all are cheerful (except the real bad guys of course). To counter this are a lot of much more normal characters, who in their own way are enjoyable to watch, but have more toned down personalities. Having such a large cast, while sometimes confusing, allows for a whole load of interesting situations to arise, with some very coincidental meetings. Obviously these meetings make up a large part of how the plot evolves.

Isaac and Milia; most of the comic relief
Isaac and Milia; most of the comic relief

To top it all off, and causing much of the mayhem in a very Laurel and Hardie way, are a couple – who are completely cheerful and insanely stupid. They’re a treat to listen to in Japanese – the voices just are brilliant (you’d have thought a series set in America would have a good English voice cast too!). They do the most outlandish things, double-commenting and bring good comic relief to the series. Even with what happens, it never gets melodramatic and comes off as quite lighthearted.

The plot and series as a whole suffers a bit from the rather wacky pacing it uses; slipping between around 3 different stories; one pre-Train, one on a Train and one post-Train. This is actually called out immediately in the first episode (along with the lack of main character), so you do understand that it is meant to be that way.

The Flying Pussyfoot - one of the stories is set here
The Flying Pussyfoot - one of the stories is set here

Each story thread contain overlapping characters; you’re never quite sure (until the end) the exact progression of events, but the pre-episode summaries are short and sweet enough to keep you informed. The cast is also rather large – just check the intro credits. This can be confusing having it move around so much with subplots in plots and mini-arcs within arcs, but it keeps it moving – you’ll never be bored at least, and you keep getting surprised – the plot doesn’t fill up with cliches and subverts a lot of typical plots with rather outrageous circumstances. Each time it shows you a shot of something really strange happening it simply raises the interesting question of how that happened, which happens a lot! It quite likely would have worked fine in chronological order, but was an interesting take on telling a story in a strange way.

The final thing to say perhaps is that, while Baccano! is fast paced and enjoyable, if you don’t like the characters just don’t bother; the first few episodes set the scene well enough, along with some rather gory violence to boot, but the basic plot perhaps by itself isn’t too enjoyable with it being very disjointed. To me, I might have preferred a series with no supernatural stuff, since the parts without it were possibly the most interesting and 1930’s America is rarely visited in animation, but since I enjoyed it might well have been poorer if that was lost. Give it a shot if you in any way like fedoras too ;)

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5 Minutes…

Since Margaret Robinson did a nice feature of 5 minutes in Geometry Wars’ Deadline, deconstructed, I posted this massive list of 5 minute moments for myself on her blog. It just seemed something worth doing at the time! I still need to post about some of these fabulous games…

5 minutes near the start (just after the train) of Half Life was pretty damn impressive at the time. Talking to NPC’s, sauntering around, without an alien in sight. Usually the start of the game immediately has an explosion of some kind or an immediate enemy to fight (even the popular Halo does this with agusto), it’s still rarely done; and also it sets up the action well for later. Half Life 2 does a similar thing; roughly 5 to 10 minutes, at the start of it too.

5 minutes of exploring the darker areas of STALKER’s world is a possibly terrifying experience – especially the underground segments. Away from the slightly more secure areas by yourself, you have to be quick witted…probably getting more scared of your own shadow then any enemy. One underground location in the game has basically only one enemy in it, it makes you paranoid! Wish I could remember which underground it was, heh.

5 minutes towards the end of a Phoenix Wright game, you know, with music ramping up, the evidence being laid down with agusto, making tough decisions and beating the real bad guy into a self-confession – and finally the confetti reigns down, huzzah! Can never put them down in those parts. The way what basically is a interactive book does that well is really good.

5 minutes of Katamari Damacy – I’ve honestly never completed any one game, but man in short bursts (since it is a timed game) it is immensely engrossing, especially playing it for the first time on the first level.

5 minutes of most Grand Theft Auto games doing what players like to do – which is, usually, blowing lots of things up and being chased by the police, can be exhilarating and fun and an absolute contrast to the (more serious) cutscenes and very linear structured missions. Utter mayhem at it’s finest; a escape from the structured game and bending what accounts to the rules of the simulation – such as getting to locations the police cannot, or using the biggest weapons you can find. In this mode, you don’t get cutscenes and invincible NPC’s, or escort missions, just a playbox to do with what you like (as long as it involves blowing things up).

The first 5 minutes of the original Fallout does, in 5 minutes, what most games take ages to show you tutorial-wise; rats are bad, you shoot them and they die, etc. It stands out as the game does – being a very tough opening dungeon (if you do it wrong) and it make sure you’ve read the manual first! It helps to also make sure you don’t have a character that will simply die in any harder combat situation. You’re alone, against the world, it sinks in very quickly you’ll be over your head shortly if rats are that tough…

The last 5 minutes of a Left 4 Dead finale of course sticks in the mind. The rest of your game is progression to a goal – the goal so close you can almost feel it, yet so far away since the timer is still ticking down. Finales almost make the rest of the game pale in comparison; no wonder they added more slow-down or defensive variations for mid-mission obstacles in the second game. Doing it in Versus mode also is very tough – not just playing against the AI now, but vindictive and cunning players. Planning your places, what guns you use, where defences are placed…all crucial to making it through.

The opening 5 minutes of Sim City, well, 2000 being what I randomly play; the starting of planning, the big ideas, the laying down of groundwork that will make up your city. It’s fascinating giving the same map to different people and seeing what they immediately try and do. The simulation and planning aspects evolve from the initial designs after all.

This opening thing applies to other games such as RTS titles. How you scout the enemy, or work with teammates to begin a level. What you build, and how fast you order troops, which has progressive effects on later moves you can make and decisions you take. Not just ones with building either – the Total War series, 5 minutes can last a lifetime planning opening moves which affect the rest of the battle.

Some games are hard to get a 5 minute “worthwhile” part which isn’t just a cumulation of existing effort though. Long hard battles – what part do you choose? The final hit? the early time you almost died before getting spells up? It’s almost fascinating (since I don’t play them) that more spreadsheet-like battle systems, especially the Tank, Healer, Damage trio ones or turn based RPG games are fun for someone to play since to an outsider it mainly consists of numbers floating up from people :)

5 minutes fighting the first Big Daddy early on in Bioshock was immensely fascinating (even if some of the rest of the game isn’t so much fun). Every other enemy dies in a few hits; this one doesn’t and is angry and armed with a big drill. It also is an optional enemy too, so the design of how you can pick and choose to fight it (using the environment to your advantage) makes it much more unique then any other FPS game’s battles.

If you’re going beyond videogames, in Dominion, while perhaps not 5 minutes worth of game time, and I’ve not played it a great deal but once you get a almost perfect hand – the one that will get a gazillion cards drawn, with a gazillion actions to be played, in perfect order – and you meticulously pull it off to the groans of other players, is fascinating since it takes some careful planning to pull off and a moderate amount of luck. It can take a while to play such a glorious hand, but perhaps 5 minutes is stretching it :)

If you can ever do it, 5 minutes in the harder continuous random-game modes of Warioware is an ever-faster-paced rather harsh set of minigames that sticks with you as an experience. In the normal singleplayer, you play a few rounds of each type but these are what you do after that – play a large variety of faster paced challenges. Very tough, and very fair.

I could go on…heh.

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