Uncommon Nonsense

Video games, books, and day-to-day drivel



I was recently linked to the Video Game Tropes and Idioms wiki, which has some of the video-game-isms that we all know and love written up in detail with examples. Some of my favorites are the Insurmountable Waist High Fence and Die Chair Die.

It reminds me a lot of the List of RPG Cliches, which is pretty good. Can't we get away from some of these conventions *cough*RANDOM ENCOUNTERS*cough* by now?


Writing: Setting

So I've been working on developing a fantasy world for which I'd like to write stories (maybe books someday) and create at least one module for the upcoming Neverwinter Nights 2. I've always been a huge fan of pulp fantasy books (like DragonLance, Forgotten Realms, and many other series), and I think I'd like to try my hand at a little worldbuilding. It's an incredibly large task, so I've gone forward thusly: first I laid out some of the big details behind the world. Next, I'm working on finding the Grand Adventure for my world, filling in details as I write. It's going to start as a short story and we'll see what happens from there.

Here are some details on setting:
-A running theme is that humanity is much older and more widespread than many believe.

-This setting involves two planets, both very different, both inhabited by humans (or races similar enough to all be classified as human)

-One planet (where we won't initially visit) is an older, smaller world, with one main landmass. Resources are abundant. This planet has one government. There have been no wars in any recent history, and the culture is technologically advanced. Their main concerns are overindulgence, political schemes, and the enormous asteroid headed toward their planet. They see it coming from quite some distance and have time to prepare for several hundred years, and develop a means to leave their doomed world and set out for the nearest inhabitable planet (they hope).

-The second planet is a young and volcanic world. It is many times larger that Earth, and consists of five main landmasses. Each of these landmasses has its own culture and society. The world is poor in most resources, and the people are far less advanced than those on the other world. In this world, the humans have learned to harness an energy produced by the planet that allows them to manipulate the outside world to some extent (an interpretation of "magic", because what's a fantasy setting without some?). This is not widespread and is treated differently in every culture. The offworlders cannot harness this power at all. The seas on this planet are vast and dangerous, full of storms and undesirable creatures. As of the crash, only one group of the natives had been able to cross a small segment of the ocean.

--Continent One: A cold northern continent, full of pine forests and vast expanses of tundra. The people here are spread far apart and are primarily tribal in nature at the time of the crash. They are not affected by the newcomers for quite some time. Their magic-users are few and far between, but when they do occur they are often incredibly powerful; the stuff of legends. In history, a great lake, frozen solid, occupied the northernmost tip of the continent. A corrupting power dwelled beneath this lake, and warped many tribesmen that lived nearby. A man was able to band nomadic folk from many tribes together to conquer this power, and now a great city exists at the northernmost tip of the lake - they hold the corrupting power in bondage, forcing it to provide energy for their society.

--Continent Two: The largest continent on the planet, situated between the others. The other continents are likely the product of seismic and volcanic separation over many years from this one. This large continent is almost entirely untamed; there exist no people but a few extremely tribal and aggressive bands of people who live on its edges. The people of continents Two and Three set sail to escape this wild land. Here, energy is chaotic and rampant, and many dangerous creatures thrive. The interior of the continent is entirely volcanic. The people and creatures who live here are often affected by the chaotic energies erupting from this place.

--Continents Three and Four: Where my first story will take place. These peaceful farmers and shepherds (or herders of whatever creatures) are the descendants of escapees from Continent Two. They have a close-knit society that eventually spread througout the two small continents. They have one government ruled by a council of elders, all elected to represent each capital settlement (the land is divided into states). They are users of the energy of this planet to aid in farming, animal husbandry, and healing and medicine. They are not warlike, but are a fiercely loyal people. Trade between the far-strung cities makes a rich merchant class.

--Continent Five: This continent's main feature is an enormous and ancient city. The city spans over half of the huge continent - a massive urban sprawl that dates back to what the inhabitants think must be the dawn of all time. It is speculated that this city was the first habitation of mankind on this planet. It is likely that volcanic and seismic activity broke this continent from continent Two a very long time ago. There may be corresponding ruins located on that continent. No one ventures within a great many miles of the coastline in the city - there are hundreds of miles of ancient city that is no longer inhabited and is rumored to contain mysterious and evil forces. The people of the city are highly religious. They use the planet's energy in meditation, worship, and mechanical tinkering. The portion of the continent not covered in city is a deep jungle-like climate, in which religious devotees craft enormous temples and places of worship or training. Political intrigue plays a large role in this society as well. There is a powerful religious warrior class.

-The offworlders crash into the city on Continent Five. This causes all sorts of chaos and religious and political uproar. First the newcomers are considered demons, a punishment. The offworlders are forced to flee into the jungle and attempt survival. Their numbers dwindle. Eventually they become somewhat established in the far reaches of the jungle. They are all interested in escaping this planet, but don't have the resources. As time goes by, they invent a method of travel across the treacherous oceans of the world. They make contact with many of the other peoples over the years, but are never warmly received - they are mistrusted and disliked by most of the natives they meet. In some places there is unstable peace, in others outright war. It is once they offworlders are established firmly on the planet that the first story takes place.

Alright, that's enough setting right now. I could probably go on and on and on, but I don't have time for that! I'll update occasionally with characters, setting information, and story ideas. There's so much here that it's kind of overwhelming. Even writing a pretty generic fantasy world is kind of difficult.


Victimless Crimes

Why in the world are the arrests for minor possession outweighing arrests for violent crime? It can only be one of two things: more people are smoking pot and committing less violent crimes, or the cops are spending their time and our money on the wrong targets.

Video Games: 9/19

This week is fairly dead so far as purchases for me go, but here's what I'm looking forward to this week:

Okami[PS2] - already getting awesome reviews, this stylized game is exactly my kind of thing. It's unusual, interesting, and looks like it will be a lot of fun. I can't wait to pick this up - maybe I'll even have time to play it someday.

That's it for this week. The season is really starting to get hectic, though, and I'm sure there will be far more games that I want than money in the bank with more than one title coming out per week for the next couple months.

I'm still a little disappointed that there aren't really many good 360 titles yet, but I have some faith at least (even though I hated my original Xbox for having only multi-platform releases or games that would look better on my PC). I do really love the XBLA stuff.

Here's an interesting article with a look of some of the "hottest" DS titles to be released this year. I don't agree with all of them (games based on movies and some Tomb Raider game hot?), but it's a look at some titles you may otherwise not know about - such as Elite Beat Agents (sequel to the Japanese-only Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan) and a Settlers game!


Music: Austin City Limits Festival

Wow, where to begin? I had never been to an ACL before, and I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I'd heard horror stories from last year; the festival fell on the hottest day of the year in Austin, somewhere around 107 degrees in direct sun with storms of dust and not enough shade or water. Of course, I'd also heard great things - there are tons of bands to see, people to watch, and all kinds of businees going on. Not to mention that you get to hang out in Austin, which is always a blast.

We got there Saturday sometime around 3pm after a trip filled with delicious BBQ and kolaches from the Czech Stop, which is the best and most legendary place to stop between Dallas and Austin. Once we got to Austin, we found parking in the city proper. They had free shuttles running to and from the park where the concert was held all day which were surprisingly efficient. It was warm, but nothing too intense. Once we arrived at the grounds, I was just amazed with how thick with people the place was. It was crawling with every type of person you could imagine, and some you probably couldn't. The grounds were enormous, and there were several stages scattered throughout.

We put on our sunscreen, secured our water bottles, and worked our way to see the Shins first. They put on a pretty good show, and I enjoyed getting to see them for the first time. The sun was to our backs, people tossed beach balls around in the crowd, and the smell of pot was already thick. I can't imagine being high when it's so hot outside - sweating and being high doesn't seem like as much fun as everyone else thought it was. The Shins played a brand new song and asked everyone to take video with whatever portable video capture devices they had. It seems they'll be making a music video from some of the footage that is submitted here. What a cool idea!

Next we wandered through the shops and concessions in search of tea - I'd a small caffeine headache and also needed money from the magical money dispensing machine. That accomplished we headed to see a bit of the String Cheese Incident. I hadn't listened much to them before, but it was a fun and jammy time. It was also nice to sit down for a bit on the trampled and dusty ground with some cool tea. Shortly thereafter, it was already time to head to Iron & Wine. We met up with Cynthia and Roger there, and talked a little about the day while listening to the great bearded man sing. I really enjoyed them and wished that I'd paid more attention before it was time once again to move to the next show. We hurried over to catch a couple Willie Nelson songs, because I'm sure that seeing Willie is something you should do before you can't see him any more. We were pretty far back and it was hard to hear, but we saw a couple songs.

Next we went to the headliner of the night, Massive Attack. I was surprised to see them on the list of bands and was very interested in seeing them. They had a really great stage setup, with bands of lights like stock tickers in the background, and the cameras filming in a strobe-like fashion for the huge screen next to the stage. We met up with my friend Tatum for this show, and had a good ol' time. I was disappointed that they went really political for a while, but I guess they can do what they want with stage time. It's not like you're really spreading much of a message at ACL, where a good deal of people probably already agree with you, are too stoned to be interested, or some combination thereof. Massive Attack put on a great show - I love their sound and style, but was really let down with the political business.

The time was about 10pm, and it was time to be funneled through the human cattle sorters to get to the busses, which were amazingly efficient! They had everyone riding the public transit out of there within the hour - busses were lined up for miles, I'm sure, and they loaded them twelve at a time. It was really surprising how well the masses of people were dealt with, but I guess they've been doing this thing for some time now. We regained our vehicle, and went to meet my best friend and her boyfriend to have a beer and figure out where we were sleeping. We were ass-tired, but I wish we weren't and could've stayed out with them. Adam was kind enough to lend us his place, and after we found it, we both showered (and oh what a shower it was!), and passed out.

We didn't want to get there early, so we got some supplies (a blanket, water, etc), had some lunch, and then shipped off to the show, taking the bus once again. It rained that morning, so it was somewhat humid outside. We got there just in time to see Ween and The New Pronographers, which were both fun. However, it was very humid and I felt very gross and sweaty, and the sun kept coming out intermittently. Next it was time for what I was really there for... The Flaming Lips and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

The Flaming Lips, who I have loved but had never seen, put on just as great a stage show as I expected. It had dancing alien girls and santas, a huge ball with a man in it crowd surfing, huge astronaut, alien, and santa puppets. There was confetti, streamers, fake blood, huge hands, and great songs. They played some favorites like Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (pts 1 & 2), Vaseline, and Do You Realize, and just overall were great with the crowd. Everyone was singing and dancing and having a blast, and the band seemed to be just as happy. They said a few things in the way of politics, but not in the way I was expecting. He wasn't forceful or pushy like Massive Attack, but took more of a "we want to make songs and for people to enjoy them, and we want people to be happy, and we think wars are awful" approach. I appreciated his less aggressive and almost reluctant touch on politics. I hope to see them again sometime very soon, and wish they could have played longer. It was a really enjoyable experience.

We decided to stay put in the hour between the Lips and Tom Petty, knowing that if we left our spots we'd never get anywhere near. A shame we had to miss MUSE, but if we wanted to see any Petty we knew to stay put. We had some more tea and took a break as the sun went down. Storms were rolling in, and we were concerned. Tom Petty came on at 8:30. I grew up on Petty - I remember being out by the pool at our old house or in the car with dad singing along when I was really young, so it was exciting to finally get to see him. He played some great songs, but then the rain started. It took them about 30 minutes to get back together after it stopped - we could only stay for a couple more songs lest we miss the bus, so we headed out at 10. It was great to see what we did.

After that we needed to return our key to Adam, so we met up with them at a little dive on the East side of 35, where they were having a going-away party for a friend. We stayed and had some beers and danced to Sugg's favorite band (one of her friend's bands), the Bell Furies. It was great to see my friends, but we had to leave by midnight, and we hit the road. Got in at about 4am and here I am at work, tired as all hell.

We took tons of photos and I'm sure there is more to relate, but I'll have to do that once we get the photos uploaded and resized! Overall, I had a wonderful weekend, and the weariness is all worth it.


Music: Tool Concert!

They've still got it (not that I was afraid that they didn't). Every time I've seen Tool, this concert being the fourth time, they've been excellent. It is rare to see a show in which the musicians surpass their recorded albums with their performance, but Tool has always been such a show. Surprisingly, the show started immediately on time - I thought it was a rule that shows had to start late by at least an hour. I guess it's different with the American Airlines Center (which I'm not horribly fond of).

A band called Isis opened, setting the stage with emotionally-charged, almost exclusively instrumental and lengthy songs. They had a very rich and full sound, complemented nicely with an occasional third guitar playing lead and keyboards. The keyboardist had a Mac laptop with him, you could see the little apple glowing happily throughout the whole show. Isis wins the award for "skinniest overall band I've ever seen" - they may want to eat some hamburgers or something. I really enjoyed their set and thought they did a great job setting the mood and tone for Tool. They didn't say much in-between songs, but that's likely because their set was so short - would've liked to have heard from them a little, though! My only complaint was that their set was unusually short; it ran only about half an hour.

Tool took the stage about forty minutes later. Here's the setlist (may not be in order as my memory is unfortunately unreliable):

The Pot
Lost Keys/Rosetta Stoned
Wings/10,000 Days

I was surprised that so much Aenima was in the mix - surprised in a very good way. Unfortunately, they don't play much from Undertow anymore, though I'd love to hear it. You'll get the occasional Sober sometimes. Anyway, regardless of what they played, the set was incredible. I'm still not entirely used to the new album, but I have a much greater appreciation for it after hearing some of the songs live, particularly 10,000 Days, which was just an incredible experience.

Maynard came out in cowboy boots, blue jeans, a hugeass belt buckle, and a cowboy hat - it's good to see him express his love for Texas. I always forget what a strange cat he is on stage and how nasal his speaking voice is - none of those are bad things, though. Tool's presence is excellent - there enough that you know they're interested in communicating and putting on a great show, but not so talky that it distracts from the experience. Maynard let us know that even though he was sick, he was there, and you know, I can appreciate that.

The arena was full to the top and Richard and I had great seats about seven rows back. There was no pit for this show, and they'd filled the floor area with folding chairs tie-wrapped together. People on the floor rushed the stage a few times, but the security staff at the AA Center is pretty ubiquitous, and they sent tons of people back to their seats. Real bummer, that. However, it WAS kind of nice to be able to stand so close and not be jostled around.

The visual portion of the show was, as usual, really well done. The stage was built up with low white platforms, and Danny had white monitor speakers next to him. Behind the band was a wall of projection screens, and they broadcast their usual mix of music videos, fractals, and other strange otherworldly imagery throughout the show. The lighting was extremely well-done also, and near the end they pulled up from behind the stage a net with color changing lights in branching vertical patterns and fired off some pretty rad lasers.

Right before the band launched into Lateralus, Maynard complained to us that he really needed to piss, so he was only going to play half of one more song (riiiiight...). The complaint continued as they launched into Vicarious, and he made a token lame but appropriate joke right before beginning aenema, "you didn't read the part on your tickets that said 'doors open at 8 and don't forget to bring your ark in case Maynard has to piss.'" During Aenema, he replaced some of the "learn to swim"s with "got to piss", and sang a little about a urinal. It must've been difficult to hold in the pee singing that particular song, and as soon as it was over, Maynard was off the stage very quickly.

All in all a great show. The sound was great, and Tool is as powerful a live experience as ever. My only complaint is that when I go see Tool, I have to be around Tool fans. I'm sure that there are some intelligent, enlightened individuals amongst the throng, but goddamn do I ever only see the mindless retards. I guess it's good that they like Tool, and I probably shouldn't be one to judge, but GODDAMN. Really this happens almost anytime I go to a show, so I shouldn't be surprised by how moronic some people are. I'm sure they think they're very deep because they listen to Tool.



I am going to the Tool concert tonight! This is very exciting, and I hope they play some of the songs from Aenima and Undertow. It'll be my 4th time to see them, and I can't wait!

Hooray for Tool! Hooray!

Critical Katamari

On a lighter note for the day, here's the beginnings of a critical review of Katamari Damacy. I don't know if it's (pardon me) critical that we critique games so in-depth, but it does a lot to prove that games area complex medium capable of narrative in several forms. Maybe if there were more "serious" critiques of games, like we see for films or other forms of artistic expression, it would be more obviously apparent.

Whatever you think, this is an interesting article - I learned a little bit about critique types and had fun exploring ideas for critiques of games. It's a little ridiculous, but that may be because we're not exactly used to taking this kind of approach when talking about games. I'll be waiting for the next parts!

the Danziger Bridge Incident

I was listening to NPR on the way to class from work yesterday. I'm not too horribly big on politics, so I don't want to talk about the political side of this upsetting occurance, but the story really struck a chord with me.

You can read CNN's article about this incident here to get some background. There's a good amount of response to it on the internet, but I haven't really seen the story anywhere else (this could easily be a product of me not ever watching t.v.). Maybe I missed it in the rush of Katrina stories - I'm really not good at keeping up with the news.

Regardless of the circumstances that caused this, it's really tragic. Maybe it was one big misunderstanding, maybe everyone was on edge and didn't know what to think or do, or maybe the cops were just out to shoot someone. It doesn't really matter. This story probably hit me pretty hard because I have a younger brother who has special needs. He suffers from a rare condition known as dismyelination - and underdevelopment of the white matter of the brain, which coats your brain and nerves. The thought of someone like him being gunned down for any reason, really, is saddening. The radio program interviewed a woman who had also been shot at, reportedly unprovoked, by police. She related being unarmed and terrified, hearing gunfire and feeling pain, trying to take cover behing a concrete retaining wall only to look down and see her arm lying severed on the ground.

In the case that this was some sort of misunderstanding (though it sure doesn't look that way from the opposing reports filed by the police and the citizens), it's a shame. If it's murderous aggression, it's just a sad reminder of how base and depraved people can become given the right situation.

Wii at Last!

The day I have been waiting for has finally arrived! Nintendo has announced the release date (Nov. 19th) and the price ($250) of the Wii console! According to the IGN article, they'll have four million units shipped by the end of the year (far out-shipping the PS3), and several classic and Wii titles ripe for the picking. Not that I'm a fangirl or anything, but I think I peed a little - that makes my day. Well, that and going to see Tool tonight.

I'll have to run and reserve my Wii ASAP. I need to get a reserve on Neverwinter Nights 2, as well, as I heard via Blue's that they'll be providing the toolset early for those who reserve.

I'm really excited for the Wii; I grew up alongside Nintendo (born in 1984), and Zelda, Mario, and all the well-known Nintendo franchises have been there with me for a long time. I can't wait to see the new console - not for the console itself, though the controller is interesting - but to see where the franchises I love are going.

Somewhere, I read that people were actually complaining about the price point. Uh... what? Versus $400 for the full 360 package and god knows what astronomical amount we're hearing for the PS3, and considering the PS2 and XBOX both launched for $300, isn't this a good thing? Games for the Wii are going to be $50 - thank you for that, Nintendo, and fuck you Microsoft.

Interestingly, Nintendo has announced some non-game-related features of the Wii - trying to keep up with the versatility of Xbox Live? They've announced weather, news, and a photo browser to be among some of the features of the Wii - having generally been so focused on games, this comes as a surprise to me. Doesn't change my opinion one way or the other, but it's interesting.

I can't wait to play with my Wii... I still feel weird saying that.


Video Games: 9/13

There are a couple games that I would like to purchase this week:

Cooking Mama[DS] - a very cute game from Taito (boy did we ever play the hell out of some Taito Drum Master) where you are directed by Mama to cook meals using the touchscreen, chopping, slicing, frying, and all sorts of kitchen fun. We couldn't find this one anywhere today, but as soon as I can get my hands on it, I will!

Harvest Moon[DS] - I have to admit that I love the Harvest Moon games. Another cutesy title - I promise I'm not THAT kind of gamer, it just happens to be a cutesy week in gaming. I can't wait to play this and hope I have time to when I get home.

Those are the only two titles I was excited about this week, but the Christmas season for games is coming soon with lots of titles I'm really looking forward to.

I bought an Xbox 360 not too long ago. I refused to up until this point because of the lack of impressive titles, but then Dead Rising came along - I'm actually pretty fond of it. I thought I wouldn't like my 360, but I've been really excited about the Xbox Live Arcade and the ability to get demos, videos, movie trailers and more via Xbox Live. I still don't like the lack of impressive titles (as far as my tastes go), but it remains to be seen how well support goes, as making titles for the next-gen consoles is always rough for the first little while.

I've been replaying Disgaea in preparation for Disgaea 2 (and also so I won't rush out and buy it yet - I need to watch my spending! I hear great things, and I forgot how much I love Disgaea. Thanks, NIS!

Comic Books: 9/13

Every Wednesday, as many of you probably know, new comic books hit the shelves! I try to get in every Wednesday to pick up some new reads and follow the series I like. I've only recently really gotten into comics, so I'd love to have some new recommendations and whatnot.

Recently I've been reading Civil War and all of its spin-offs (except She-Hulk. I will NOT read She-Hulk.), a series called Solo, a new series called The Boyz, and I'm re-reading the Sandman.

Today I got the Civil War Ms. Marvel and Civil War Files. Too bad Civil War (the main series is delayed).

The Google Homepage and Me

I'm not one for having a "homepage", generally. Firefox usually just opens up to the Firefox default page and that's that. Recently, I've seen Richard using the Google Homepage. He raves about it all the time, so I decided to give it a look, and holy christ on a cracker is it ever cool. Ever had a site that you thought was cool but never remember to check? Don't really like RSS feeds coming to you via e-mail or whatever client? Put it on the homepage. There are tons of widgets and news feeds and all sorts of business you can put on it. I may be way behind the times (I'm pretty tech-savvy if I do say so, but sometimes you just miss things, you know?), but here's the list of things I have on mine so far. You can add these to your homepage by setting up a google account and editing your homepage, then searching the homepage content for the titles.

Important World News Extravaganza column:
-BBC News | News Front Page | World Edition
-Wired News: Top Stories
-Google News: Top Stories
-New Scientist: Latest Headlines
-Institute of Physics News
-Science @ NASA
-NPR Topics: World
-NPR Topics: News
-NPR Topics: Technology
-NPR Topics: Books
-Reuters: Oddly Enough
-Discovery News

Other Business Middle Column:
-Gamasutra News
-Gamasutra Feature Articles
-Good-tutorials.com: Newest Tutorials
-London Review of Books
-Rotten Tomatoes: Movies
-SciFi Wire

"Of the Day" Right Column:
-German Audio Word of the Day
-This Day in History
-How-to of the Day
-Dictionary.com Word of the Day
-NASA Image of the Day
-Quotes of the Day

That probably says a lot about me. Also, that is a ton of shit to look at. Now I'll probably waste more time than ever reading things on the internet when I have schoolwork and all kinds of other business to attend. Oh well.

A Grin Without a Cat

"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"

"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat.

"I don't much care where --" said Alice.

"Then it doesn't much matter which way you go," said the Cat.

"--- so long as I get somewhere," Alice added as an explanation.

"Oh, you're sure to do that," said the Cat, "if only you walk long enough."