Monday, December 16, 2013

[Geekly Weekly Report] Writerly e-books, The Hobbit and other stuff...

I'm later with this post than I intended to be, but since there wasn't really any RP to write-up an actual play of this weekend, I think I can get away with posting my geekly weekly report today instead.

Swag
Bought a few more e-books on Kindle this week, starting with Cormac McCarthy's 'No Country For Old Men'. It's one of the books on my 2013 A-Z reading Challenge list and it was reduced to £1.79, so I went ahead and grabbed it. If possible I'd like to clear that, The Knife of Never Letting Go, and Snow Crash from my reading list before the New Year, but we'll see how things work out.

I also bought a couple of writer's advice e-books: 'The 90-Day Novel: Unlock the Story Within' by Alan Watt, and 'The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression' by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. The latter had been recommended by listeners in a couple of the I Should Be Writing feedback episodes I've been listening to lately, and it appealed to me because conveying emotions in interesting ways - showing, rather than telling - is one of the weaknesses in my own writing. As for 'The 90 Day Novel', it's been on my Amazon wishlist for a while, and having just participated in 30 days of novelling madness, I thought I'd try this out; three months seems a bit more of a 'normal' time scale for novel writing than a month.

My 'Night Vale Community Radio Intern' t-shirt arrived this week too, just in time for my birthday.

Achievements Unlocked
I covered the roleplaying side of last Saturday with my recap of Doc's darkly comic superhero session, but I also played a game of Happy Fun Times Where Nothing Bad Ever Happens Ever Betrayal at House on the Hill. I played Peter Akimoto, who was cruelly shunned by Flash (played by Heather) which is probably why he turned traitor and trapped the rest of the gang in the house with his own nightmares made flesh. I thought for sure I'd be finished, being a weak and defenceless wee boy, but my win condition was a cakewalk, so I achieved it in no time.

After Saturday GUGS, Heather and I caught up on the last few weeks of Agents of SHIELD. There's still been very limited progress on the season's arc plot - yet another oblique reference to Tahiti being a 'magical place' - and the May/Ward hookup seemed to spring up out of nowhere. I knew there was some sexual tension between Ward and Skye - possibly one-sided on Skye's part - but May/Ward caught me by surprise. Maybe I just missed some hints in the previous episodes. I haven't seen the latest episode ('The Bridge') yet, but so far the series is still just okay. It seemed to be picking up steam in the last few weeks, but it's still not Grown the Beard, so to speak. I continue to live in hope that it will, but I'm really concerned that it's going to be too late if and when it does.

On Tuesday I ran the finale of my DWAiTAS campaign, Exiles of Time. It didn't pack quite the bang (either emotionally or plot-wise) that I would have preferred, but the Exiles managed to retrieve the Staff of C'Toni - which they now know is one of eight keys which, when combined together, form the Key of Infinity - from Anith's nanite-corrupted brother, Prince Adar. They also had to contend with one of their own team when an entity he had become infested with in a previous session briefly took over and turned him evil. They learned that a war is being waged across multiple universes and that it has arrived in the Whoniverse. And they lost their friendly NPC after she was corrupted by nanites and became one of the Enemy. They've got her locked up, so maybe they can interrogate her next season or something. We'll see what happens when we start again in the New Year.

Over the course of last week, I marathoned my way through season three of Warehouse 13, since it was about to be dropped from LoveFilm's Instant service. I also got to watch the first couple of Christmas specials and Season 4.0 on Netflix while visiting my friends David and Angela over the weekend (more on that later). Seasons three and four took a shift in tone from quirky and fun to dark and tragic. I'm not sure how to feel about that because, on the one hand I like dark storylines, but on the other the usual playful tone of the series is how they can get away with a lot of the absurd artifacts that feature in the show. That said, I like the new recruit, Steve Jinks, and the chemistry between him and Claudia. I also love that Claudia has come into her own as a proper field agent with him as her partner. (It was also great seeing Brent Spiner guest-starring as Brother Adrian in Season 4.) And in spite of the shift in tone I still love the characters and the world they live in is still one of 'endless wonder', so I'll definitely stick with it and check out season 4.5 as soon as I can.

Instead of attending Saturday GUGS, this weekend I visited my friends David and Angela. David started off the weekend by introducing me to a few videogames. The first was 'Grand Theft Auto 5', which had a lot of content that I didn't explore fully, because I spent so much time just free-roaming and raising hell.

He also showed me 'The Stanley Parable', a narrative-based first person exploration game where you play an office drone who mindlessly followed instructions to push buttons on his workstation until the day instructions stopped coming, and he stepped outside to find all his co-workers gone. Throughout the game your situation commented upon by a narrator, and whenever you come to a point where you can choose which direction to take, the narrator suggests which direction you should go. There are multiple endings, based on the route you take, and the game is both surreal and thought-provoking, with the narrator waxing philosophical about choices and free will. You may also wish you could find and kill the narrator after the first couple of tries.

Another game he showed me was 'Papers, Please'. It's a puzzle game in which you play an immigration inspector at a border checkpoint for the fictional dystopian country of Arstotzka. You play through each day, inspecting peoples' papers and checking for discrepancies, approving or denying entry based on your findings and, in some cases, detaining suspicious individuals. As the game progresses, criminal and terrorist activities prompt tighter border controls, giving you more criteria to check and resources to check them with. It's more fun than it sounds, and I'm seriously considering buying it on Steam when I have some cash to spare.

Since David opened my Christmas present, a copy of Forbidden Desert - the sequel to Forbidden Island - we decided to give it a go. It was pretty cool; it has similarities to its predecessor, but there's a lot more going on in this game. Instead of losing tiles to flooding, they get moved around and covered over with sand tiles by the sandstorm when players draw from the storm deck. These sand tiles block off routes, and stop you from excavating the tiles they cover, but you can still dig up the sand and uncover them again. Instead of having to collect enough cards to retrieve treasure, you have to excavate tiles on the board to reveal clues which will lead to the scattered parts of a flying machine you need in order to escape from the desert. Once both clues are uncovered, the part appears on the map. Your characters also have water tracks, which are reduced when a 'Sun Beats Down' card is drawn from the storm deck, and must be replenished by excavating water tiles to prevent death by dehydration. We lost when we ran out of sand tiles to cover the desert with, meaning we were buried by the sandstorm, but it was still a pretty fun game.

We had also played Pandemic earlier and we actually won that, probably because we started at the Introductory difficulty level. That said, we started Forbidden Desert on the Novice level and it didn't help us any.

On Saturday night, we watched The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Having read the book the year before, I was a little annoyed at the amount of padding added to the story for the film. Generally, film adaptations have to cut certain things out, rather than add new material. Don't get me wrong, it was awesome to see Smaug's capture of Erebor depicted on-screen in the prologue, and I can hardly complain at seeing Cate Blanchett return as Galadriel, but a lot of the extra material seemed unnecessary. Especially the framing device of old Bilbo writing out the tale for Frodo as he prepares to leave the Shire once and for all. I can see the Hobbit taking two movies to cover faithfully, but three? That aside, it was beautifully filmed, well acted, and Howard Shore delivered yet another epic score for the first installment of this new trilogy. Overall, I enjoyed it, I just wish they could have fit more of the original story into it.

Well, that was my geeky week. I'm not expecting there to be much geekiness between now and the New Year, with GUGS stopping for the holidays this week I'll be spending most of my spare time at home until it starts again. I'll probably use the time to catch up on some reading, do some DVD marathons, maybe play through the Mass Effect trilogy like I've been meaning to do for months.

I'll have another post up tomorrow. See you then!

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