marginalgloss

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About marginalgloss

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  1. Recently completed video games

    I finished Shadow of Mordor. (No, not the new one - yes, the one that came out in 2014. Gosh that seems like a long time ago now.) It was fine? It's enjoyable to play, aside from the murky visuals and the characterless world and a storyline which is totally devoid of interest. The climbing and stabbing and shooting is fun, and it's all carried off with a certain amount of flair. I skipped all the cutscenes without remorse - and I never skip cutscenes in games. But I think I broke the Nemesis system. I never had all the good orc dating sim experiences you're supposed to have with this game. Apparently this is not an uncommon problem! It seems that if you don't die often, you never use the 'Advance time' function, and you simply kill or brand every captain you encounter, the game doesn't really know how to cope with you. I ended up just rending these gaping holes in the orc army which were never properly filled. Once or twice I was ambushed unexpectedly by some captain…but then I just killed them, and that was that? Nobody ever seemed to want to hunt me down, and I never found a captain I couldn't handle. Often I'd get low on health but then I'd just run away, or scamper up the side of the nearest building, find some plants to chew on, then return to the fray and thin out the herd before exacting my revenge on the captain. In particular it's strange to me that 'time' - in the sense of the thing that enables orcs to move around their hierarchy - only seems to advance in this game when you want it to. And I couldn’t see any reason why I would want to hit the 'advance time' button. Perhaps there were system-related reasons that meant it couldn't happen any other way. But the problem with that is that the events in the game end up feeling like discrete instances that can be indefinitely postponed. I never felt like I was making any meaningful decisions between, for example, helping one captain ambush another, or helping one of my own captains build up their forces. Because you can do all of that, if you want. It's all just stuff. You never feel like the world is actually ticking away in the background without you. It's all very odd. I'm curious to see if Shadow of War handled all this in the same way - but I will probably never be curious enough to buy it now.
  2. Missions that made you quit

    What a great idea for a thread. When I was a kid it was almost every game. The Command and Conquer games were always particularly galling in this regard because it was always so satisfying to see the next cutscene (and so depressing to see the 'fail' cutscenes). Mafia, the original one, is a murderously hard game. A sadistic saved game system, fixed single-use medkits - no recharging health in those days! - and semi-realistic gunplay. I probably gave up on that game all the time back in the day. But I always used to find a certain satisfaction in squeezing my way through it. Even to this day the sounds of Stephane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt give me flashbacks. I don't abandon games very often anymore. If I do it's usually because I've lost interest, rather than because I hit a wall. I stopped Deadly Premonition for that reason, even though I really wanted to like it. There's a bunch of moments in Metro 2033 which are really rough, especially if you're playing on Ranger/Hard mode. And not even hard in a rewarding way: just wave upon wave of horrible relentless clawing monsters. But somehow I got through it even though I didn't really find it that rewarding. The one which I really did abandon, and which I sometimes regret, is Dark Souls 3. It remains the only game in the Souls series which I haven't finished. I got quite far but I set it aside around the time I got to Irithyll of the Boreal Valley. I can't quite explain why. It is in many ways a very good game. The difficulty was part of it, I suppose; were it an easier game I would have blundered through for the sake of finishing it. I guess it was just a sense of exhaustion - a feeling that, in spite of all the wonder and mystery, I'd somehow seen and done all this before. Or perhaps my real problem was that it wasn't Bloodborne, which is still (IMO by some distance) the best of those games.
  3. Marmite is one of those condiments which is relatively limited in what you can do with it, but I'd never want to be without it. As well as toast, it is also quite good with butter and spaghetti. You can also add a teaspoon of it to add that salty-sweet umami richness to other dishes, a bit like Worcester sauce -- some people like it with bolognese or chilli or onion gravy. You would never want to eat it straight out the jar. That way lies madness. But the endorsement of soft boiled eggs with Marmite soldiers was nice to hear. It is a favourite breakfast of mine. I used to have this extremely good Mario egg cup when I was a kid and I really wish I still had it. I was slightly confounded by the mention of the strange device for removing their tops. I've never heard of an egg clacker. It sounds rather indecent. For me there's a tactile pleasure in denting the top of the egg with the back of a teaspoon, followed by tapping a collar around its neckline with the tip; and then you wedge the spoon in the crack and lever the whole thing off, decapitating the poor creature. It's a delightful sensory experience. A soft-boiled egg accessory I would endorse is the egg cosy. It's a little hat for your egg! Boiled eggs have a rich and storied history. I think often about the moment in Of Human Bondage where the narrator's uncle, a vicar, allows him to eat the top of his egg if he's been a good boy -- it's a perfect little Dickensian image for stinginess masquerading as generosity. There's a great bit in Gulliver's Travels about a dispute between the 'little-endians' and the 'big-endians': two nations at perpetual war over whether boiled eggs should be cracked at the 'little' or 'big' end. (Interestingly these terms have since been adopted in computer science to describe something to do with the way bytes are arranged that I don't really understand.) The writer M. R. James was said to be able to time the cooking of his soft-boiled egg by the time it took him to finish the crossword in the Times; though how hot he had the water I suppose we will never know. Sorry for the digression. I could probably write a book about soft boiled eggs. I think it would make me very happy.
  4. Far Cry 5

    Can your buddies die? I'm guessing there is no Far Cry 2-esque option to execute them while they lie writhing in pain... (God that game was grim. It seems inconceivable now that it ever got made in the way it did.) More importantly can the dog die? What happens when the dog gets hurt? Is the dog going to be okay? These are the important questions which the reviews do not tell me.
  5. Movie/TV recommendations

    Yeah I watched Annihilation over the weekend (on Netflix, in the UK) and I have to wonder if there isn't something iffy with the version of the film that exists there. Typically I have no problems with streaming a clean 1080p picture from Netflix - their own shows like Riverdale and 13 Reasons Why look absurdly crisp and bright - but there seemed to be something odd going on with the levels of saturation and detail in some of the scenes, and I honestly couldn't tell whether it was down to the quality of the picture or the quality of the film making. I had less trouble with the faces shrouded in darkness and the staring out of the frames (much of which, as you suggest, seemed deliberate); but some of the special effects looked amazing, and then some of them looked like cutscenes from a PS3 game. Very odd. I think it's a film where the quality of the image matters more than most but I feel like they over-egged the pudding on the effects front. Still! I liked it, with reservations. For anyone who enjoys unusual sci fi or weird horror fiction it's certainly worth a look.
  6. Best Third-Person Shooters

    Somebody smarter than me ought to write something about how the popularity of third person action/shooter games tracked against the popularity of those games on consoles. It always seemed to me that third person games feel better when controlled with modern game controllers rather than a keyboard and mouse - though no doubt a great deal of work has been put into them making them feel that way over the years. Resi 4 is an interesting example because the aiming in that game feels very unique compared to similar third person shooters of the era. With that laser sight, you felt like you were holding one end of a very long pole that extended infinitely in front of Leon, and trying to sort of maneuver the far end of that pole into the face of your enemies was a game in itself. It felt deliberate - an extension of the 'awkward deliberate' movement popularised with the tank-like movement controls in the original Resi games, perhaps. I really liked The Evil Within. It is a game that actively delights in brutalising the player, even more so than Resi 4, but if you're up for being brutalised I would recommend it. The combat is still super satisfying when everything clicks but it can also be quite overwhelming. Or you might just go straight to the second one, which has been received well and is apparently a bit more accessible (though I haven't played it yet). Nier: Automata has a neat, unique take on third-person shooting: you're doing melee combat with the face buttons but you're also locking on and firing constantly with this little drone that floats behind your head with the triggers. It's something like an extension of the way the guns are used in Bayonetta to distract enemies and carry on combos, but they do a bit more damage here. (I like also that the camera actually seems to be locked to the perspective of the drone, and not to the player-character's eyes - it raises the question of who's controlling whom in this situation.) Splatoon got a lot right in terms of the feel of movement and shooting. It helps that the weapons are splashy (splatty?) but I also really liked the subtle use of motion controls - you still use the analogue sticks for moving and turning, but you make little adjustments to the angle of the controller for fine tracking of your aiming. Interestingly, I think they patched this in to the Switch port of Doom - a sign, perhaps, that motion controls are catching on again... Tomb Raider (the 2013 one) is an obvious choice for a game that did everything very well. I love the way Lara tucks herself into cover in that game without you having to 'snap' to it. It's another one where the sequel is also quite good where, inevitably, I haven't played it yet. Oh and Metal Gear Solid V is probably the ultimate refinement of third-person stealth and shooting. I don't know that it's been surpassed yet in terms of mouthfeel (handfeel?). Just extremely smooth and snappy where when you get good you feel like you're unstoppable irrespective of the equipment you're carrying.
  7. Redo of the Colossus (Shadow of the Colossus thread)

    For some reason my first thought when I read this was 'oh of course they're doing Metal Gear Solid 4 next!' Which would not be totally outside the realms of possibility, given that they did such a great job on the MGS HD collection. MGS4 would certainly present some unique challenges - not least the frequent, loving and totally gratuitous references to the power of the PS3 - so I'm not sure it'll ever happen. It is perhaps a bit too niche, too expensive, too weird. More likely answer is Demon's Souls. Which is weird in its own way but people do love those Souls games - and there's a lot you could fix if you went back to that one. Ico could happen but I find it hard to imagine them putting that out as a full-price remake again.
  8. Modest Tech: The NX Generation (Nintendo Switch)

    I'm so pleased that Captain Toad is coming to both Switch and 3DS. The game's an absolute belter. Okami and Crash Bandicoot HD coming to Switch really feels like a bit like Nintendo thumbing their nose at the dream of the PS Vita. I've no interest in those games but they'll probably sell a lot of copies. I was very excited to see the first Luigi's Manse coming out on 3DS. Dark Moon was fantastic; a rare example of a 3D-ish game that my girlfriend and I could get enthused about. AFAIK the first game isn't quite so well-regarded by comparison but I'm sure they'll have tidied it up a bit. One thing everybody seems to have forgotten about is that Nintendo originally announced a brand new, full-fat Fire Emblem game to be released in 2018. They've kept very quiet about it since. I guess with Smash coming this year we have to assume it's been delayed? I mean, I don't care too much, but if that were coming out tomorrow I'd march out and buy a Switch right now. (So I suppose I do care a bit.)
  9. Pre-Discussion: The Odyssey

    A brief addendum: here is Emily Wilson on Twitter, offering a brief lesson on gender biased trends in translation regarding the figures of the Sirens in the Odyssey. The internet is good sometimes!
  10. South Park

    I don't really watch South Park any more. I watched it all the time in the early days and thought it was brilliant, and I remember watching the movie and thinking it was really funny. I wonder if it would stand up if I watched it again today. Little of what I read about the current direction of the show makes me want to do any of that. But I was thinking the other day about Isaac Hayes in relation to South Park. It's so weird that one of the most important funk/soul musicians of his era had this second life as a character in a TV show where a big part of the audience probably had no idea who he was. And for a while it was great but then I remembered how he left and I felt very depressed by the whole thing. After he quit it felt like they threw him under the bus by killing off Chef in a particularly gross and egregious way when Hayes wasn't in the best of health and there was still some confusion about exactly what he had and hadn't said. Was that punching up or was it just making some quick comedy capital out of a bit of controversy? I don't know. Everything about it just seems really sad to me now. People will still be listening to the Theme from Shaft in the ashes of our new society when South Park has been forgotten about, so I guess there's that.
  11. Recently completed video games

    I finished INSIDE. My partner and I played it all the way through together. She likes platform games but I was a little was worried the morbid tone would put her off. But she was totally engrossed throughout, from the moment you have to pause in front of that car to keep from getting caught right at the beginning. (The game doesn't tell you what to do - it doesn't even tell you you're being hunted - but when I saw her pause, and the little boy just tuck himself against the vehicle, with that beautiful animation - god it's so good.) It is one of the few games I can think of where it stands alone, so confidently, as a complete work of art unto itself. The ways in which it is 'about games' are certainly there but they're also not especially interesting. You might as well say that Mulholland Drive is 'about movies' - it's not wrong but there's so much else going on there. I almost can't believe that this is from the same team who made Limbo. Comparing this to that is like that bit in Amadeus where Mozart takes one of Salieri's compositions and does the 'wouldn't it be better like this…' thing to it. A magical reinvention that takes everything that made that earlier game quite interesting and, effortlessly, turns it into something really, really great. One of the best games I've ever played.
  12. Pre-Discussion: The Odyssey

    Finished this today. Some thoughts: This is the first time I've read The Odyssey from start to finish. I've never really read or studied much in the way of the ancient classics, aside from the occasional foray into extracts from Aristotle and Plato as part of studying English Lit. In my case most of my prior knowledge of The Odyssey probably came from reading Ulysses. Joyce's novel is perhaps more generous with its interpretation of Homer than is commonly supposed, but in a strange way I think it helped. Although trying to map one directly on to the other is mostly just an exercise in frustration. At any rate, I know very little about prior versions of The Odyssey in English. Reading the translator's note - which is a wonderfully passionate piece of writing in itself - I was struck by Wilson's insistence on producing a translation which was both proper, in the sense of presenting the truth of the original text as far as possible without unnecessary embellishment; but also right, in an ethical sense. (This is touched upon in the interview posted above as well.) She's very precise, for example, in referring to characters as 'slaves' when they might once have been called 'servants'. These are deliberate, thoughtful decisions. And she doesn't shy away from depicting the immediate brutality in the story, even when this might affect the sympathies we hold for the characters. I think this idea that an author or translator might have an immediate moral duty towards their audience is perhaps the most modern thing about this translation. I found it easy to imagine earlier translators who might subordinate what is right or what is correct to what is beautiful, but Wilson puts this the other way round. There is no sense here of a writer who has tried to imagine themselves into the moral codes of another era by framing something awful as something righteous. A rose is a rose is a rose: a slave is a slave is a slave. Wilson seems to be operating on the idea that art is no longer entirely for art's sake; some of it might be morally good or bad after all. That this translation has been so positively received is a sign perhaps that it's entirely fitting for our era, in which we seem to expect a higher moral standard from artists (or at least evidence of some moral standard). We don't want the author to be dead; we want them very much alive, and responsible for their texts. Ideally we want them to be good people as well. And yet I never had the sense, reading this, that this ethical imperative was overriding the aesthetics of the text. It's kind of the opposite: first we have the ethical choice, and what proceeds from that is aesthetic effects that might have unexpected resonance. Wilson has a remarkable talent for creating imagery that lingers in the mind as it might in a particularly affecting horror movie. There's so many wonderful scenes here but the one that haunts me as I write this is the ghastly picture of the slave women brutally hanged by Odysseus and Telemachus near the end of the story: At that, he wound a piece of sailor’s rope round the rotunda and round the mighty pillar, stretched up so high no foot could touch the ground. As doves or thrushes spread their wings to fly home to their nests, but someone sets a trap – they crash into a net, a bitter bedtime; just so the girls, their heads all in a row, were strung up with the noose around their necks to make their death an agony. They gasped, feet twitching for a while, but not for long. But she doesn't loom in judgment over the text. The translator isn't here to tell the reader how to feel about what happens every time Odysseus does something reprehensible. It is just there, plainly. 'A bitter bedtime' - what a phrase. The whole thing is very beautiful. Did I mention that? It's very beautiful.
  13. Books, books, books...

    I remember thinking Dharma Bums a much better book, though it's been a very long time since I read that and On The Road. Desolation Angels had its moments, too. I've always found Kerouac very difficult to go back to. His stuff can be patchy in the extreme, and there's a lot that could be said, and has been said, about quality vs quantity in his work. He was probably an important writer for his time but for me his thing just isn't quite interesting enough compared to some of the other more considered writers of mid-century American fiction. Truman Capote was being a bit mean when he said 'it's not writing, it's typing', but...
  14. Kingdom Come: Deliverance

    The comments on the Eurogamer review have inevitably devolved into a total cesspool but this detail from one of them made me laugh quite a lot: Some top notch squat systems at play here.
  15. The Big VR Thread

    So I just tried virtual reality for the first time in maybe twenty years via the Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire experience which is currently parked in the atrium of the Westfield shopping centre in Shepherd's Bush. (It is also available at various Disney parks, I think?) This thing is operated by The Void, which is a bespoke multi-room immersive VR system – I think I heard about it previously on a podcast (either Giant Bomb or Idle Thumbs) where they did a production based on Ghostbusters. Basically you are divided into teams of four, and you put on a VR headset which is attached to a little backpack and a haptic vest. You then wander through a series of little rooms which become the VR environments around you, and at various times stuff vibrates and blows hot and cold air at you. At one point you pick up a blaster (which is an actual working prop) and you can blast stormtroopers with it. It's very impressive. That said, I now understand what people talk about when they talk about the 'screen door' effect, and the noticeable limitations of the field of view of these headsets. I had an odd problem throughout with my left eye, which didn't seem to be focussed properly. But the immersion worked in spite of all of that. At one point I was walking along a little bridge over a lake of lava, and I really had that feeling of 'don't fall into that lava!' even though I was only ever blundering around a mostly-empty room in a West London mall. The motion tracking worked pretty much perfectly, aside from a bit of weird dithering when looking at my teammates. And yes, picking up that blaster and actually putting it to my eye and shooting stormtroopers was really fun! Who knew! These are probably old stories for anyone who is into VR at this point. Judged by the standards of a video game, it would be a pretty terrible game. You're just kind of blundering around a series of small rooms which look out on bigger rooms (which aren't really there, of course). There's not a lot of detail, and the graphics are just about good enough to carry the whole thing. 'Impressive' feels like exactly the right adjective: I wasn't truly engrossed, or awestruck, or fascinated. It was just really fun and kind of silly. I think I would have enjoyed it more had it been a solitary experience. As it was, I had to go in with a couple of strangers who were chatting and chuckling together in French the whole time; but it would have been equally distracting had I gone in with friends, too. I was highly aware throughout of having to keep up with them, not bump into them, etc. But I think what I want from games in general is, essentially, a solitary experience. Overall I'd recommend it if you have the chance to give it a try, though perhaps moderate your expectations. It left me feeling like VR is certain to become a popular attraction in theme parks and arcades, but also kind of doubtful that it's going to find a wider audience in homes anytime soon. It still feels to me like we're paddling in the shallows of what's possible in terms of VR software. I've looked once or twice at picking up the Playstation VR but the games still seem super limited, the setup seems overly elaborate, and now I'd worry about getting the focus right for my eyes as well. But I'm still intrigued by VR. I remember being a kid, trying VR rides the first time round, and thinking: this is definitely a thing I want more than pretty much anything else in the world, and it's definitely going to be the future of everything. There's still a bit of me that wants that, but it still feels like there's so much in the way.