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Everything posted by marginalgloss

  1. The Idle Book Club 13: Never Let Me Go

    Brief thoughts on the possibility of escape:
  2. Idle Thumbs 251: Signature Moves

    I believe Spelunky LAN play is only possible with a PS3 and a PS Vita, or a PS4 and a PS Vita – they just need to be connected to the same wi-fi network. I don’t think it would work with two PS3s or two PS4s on the same network. It’s a really great way to play the game, though, since two people can play together without having the camera locked to a single player. It can be a bit laggy with the PS3 but it’s pretty solid on the PS4. There are some cool extra things you can do, like when you die you can float around the level as a ghost and use your ghost breath to set off traps in advance (or knock the other player to their death). It’s actually how I introduced my girlfriend to the game. She was intensely sceptical at first, but she’s since racked up hundreds of hours playing by herself on the Vita, and she still plays it all the time even though she’s seen and done everything there is to do (other than the aubergine run). She is now so much better than me that whenever we play together she gets incredibly frustrated with my ineptitude. She doesn’t play many other modern video games, although for a number of months she got obsessed with Rogue Legacy and totally rinsed it before pronouncing it generally inferior. So while I don’t often pick up my Vita anymore, it has more than earned its place in our lives as a dedicated Spelunky machine. p.s. I liked the theme tune.
  3. This was a good podcast, though I would have liked to see a little more discussion of how the games of the 1990s engaged (or didn't!) with the technological developments of the era and that imagined cyberpunk future. I also really enjoyed Austin's contributions, even though I'd have to disagree with him about Codename STEAM; sure, it could have used a little more time in the oven, and it's sometimes frustrating, but I'm basically enjoying it. I saw a poster on the tube the other day advertising a new fashion collection 'inspired by the 90s'. It made my heart sink, because the main associations I have with that time aren't especially inspiring. Like Danielle, I was very young back then - 14 at the turn of the millennium - but here in the UK, it always felt like all the interesting tech-inspired stuff was happening somewhere else. Even if you had internet access, there was still no practical way to download or stream music and video, so in terms of multimedia access you were still limited to cinemas, movie rental and terrestrial broadcast TV. And most of that stuff was pretty bad! Lad culture and 'britpop' were absolutely dominant in a way that I found alienating; it was supposed to be disinhibiting and optimistic, but it was really just a reactionary way of asserting a new normal based on the worst aspects of the 80s. So it was all about cars and money and power and sex, and empowering women to behave just as badly as men, but with a supposedly self-conscious twist. Even if you look at something like PC Zone magazine (which is now regularly cited as a touchstone for games journalism) that thing was also not a million miles away from the awful worlds of Loaded and FHM. What crumbs you could get of alternative cultures were precious indeed. I remember it being an amazing new thing to hear at school that some other kid had satellite TV at home so he could watch this radical American show called The Simpsons - and that was light years ahead of anything that was happening on British television at the time. All of this is not to suggest that there weren't some great things to come out of the 90s! But there was a lot of dreck, too, and so much of the good stuff I've had to discover long after the fact. I wonder if this is how people who were young in the 80s feel about that decade.
  4. The Idle Book Club 13: Never Let Me Go

    This is just a random odd thing I noticed, but the Wikipedia article for this book is written in a really strange way. The descriptions are not wildly inaccurate, but they're just a bit misguided, as if they were authored by someone who didn't quite understand the book. Take the description of Tommy, for example: I realise I'm being extremely pedantic and that 'wikipedia is inaccurate!' isn't really news, but still, I think it's an interesting exercise. If you were teaching this book to a class of secondary school pupils, you could do worse than ask them to review this summary for errors.
  5. Automation: Where did all the jobs go?!

    Yeah, it’s a depressing business. Certainly if I worked in a call centre, or as a driver of taxis, trains, or trucks, I’d be worried. Self-driving vehicles will probably be here sooner than we think. The recent protests from cab drivers in Europe against the spread of Uber seem like an echo of a future where automated taxis get trashed in the street by neo-luddites. I’d love to believe that this would result in fewer people having to work fewer hours while everybody maintains the same (or better) standard of living, but I dunno. There doesn’t seem to be the political will to make this happen at the moment. Whereas I can easily imagine Prominent Business Leaders arguing that in order to grow, they need to minimise their overheads by employing as few people as possible while squeezing as many hours out of them as they can. Given the de-fanged state of our unions, and the general reluctance of government to get involved in these markets, I guess it’s the cost of labour that will be the driver of change here. At the moment, it’s still just about cheaper to hire masses of human beings to do things that you could conceivably mechanise and automate – like packing and delivering my Amazon orders, for example. But that could all change very quickly.
  6. Movie/TV recommendations

    Last night I watched Coppola's 'One from the Heart', from 1981. Am I alone in thinking this is an absolutely incredible piece of work? As a piece of drama, it's a bit dull, with a pervasive sense of deliberate superficiality; but gosh, as a work of pure cinema, it looks glorious. The whole thing was shot on giant sound stages in a hyper-gaudy, excessively detailed replica of Las Vegas. It went horribly over-budget, and boy, you can tell. It's full of beautifully crafted and entirely gratuitous in-camera special effects: rear projection, dissolving walls, Pepper's Ghost, forced perspective, and probably more miniature buildings than Blade Runner. Nobody is ever going to make a film that looks like that again. It might be worth watching for that reason alone. And that's not even counting the soundtrack by Tom Waits and Crystal Gayle, which has some of his loveliest straight blues songs before he went all Captain Beefheart.
  7. The Nintendo Wii U is Great Thread

    I think we can be pretty certain that it will, if only because they've never given any indication that it could come out on anything else. Talk of a simultaneous release on the NX (whatever that thing is) is, so far, only speculation, and I actually find it hard to imagine them wanting to repeat the Twilight Princess experiment of a cross-generational release. It seems like a safe bet that the NX will be some kind of handheld, so perhaps they could try an approach which is complementary across devices. Imagine if the primary open-world 3D Zelda experience happens on the Wii U, but you can sync up the NX to it and get (or buy?) access to a whole other campaign of top-down dungeons for playing on the way to work, which would then feed back into the main game somehow when you get home. That’d be a lot of work for them, but it would also be extremely rad.
  8. The Idle Book Club 13: Never Let Me Go

    I finished the book today. I was rather tickled to encounter again the town of Cromer in Norfolk, where I spent a pleasant few days on holiday last year. Ishiguro’s descriptions are apt, though quite vague on the details. It’s a charming little place, if a little down-at-heel compared to some of the more bijou seaside towns, but it has a magnificent Victorian pier and very good crab (both of which he totally fails to mention). 'Very flat, Norfolk,' as somebody once said. Anyway, it was a little odd to begin reading this book with full knowledge of the central twist — I’d spoiled myself on its initial release years ago — but there was still a good deal about it that I found surprising. In spite of the cold-blooded prose, I think there’s actually a passionate and highly political novel lurking within the garb of science fiction here.
  9. Idle Weekend February 12, 2016: Mad Skills

    I’m always intrigued by games with multiple protagonists, especially where the switch entails some kind of distinct change in mechanics, systems or user interface. Splinter Cell: Blacklist has one mission where you briefly play as Sam Fisher’s buddy in order to get him out of trouble. The twist is that while you are playing as this other guy, the game suddenly becomes a first-person shooter rather than a third-person stealth game; I guess they basically took the camera and weapon models and animations they’d developed for the ‘spies vs mercs’ multiplayer mode and incorporated them into the campaign. But the implication of this in single player mode is kind of fascinating. It suggests to me that the reason Sam Fisher is such a brilliant stealth operative is because he has an almost superhuman ability to envisage himself from a third-person perspective, while his colleagues are limited to seeing the world as the rest of us do. And the game never comments on this at all! It’s really good and strange.
  10. What's for Breakfast?

    More often than not my breakfast is porridge made with milk and honey, blasted in the microwave for two minutes and hastily consumed in the brief interval before rising and shuffling off to work each morning. Alternatively, if I have a bit more time: two good quality eggs, soft boiled for about four minutes. Two slices of wholemeal toast cut into soldiers, spread with butter and a little bit of marmite. Tea.
  11. Firewatch Spoiler Thread | Henry Two Hats

    I finally finished this last night on PS4. I liked it a great deal, and I’ll probably write something more in depth about it at some point, but here’s my general impressions: I heard those wind chimes on the first day, on my way down to the lake. I went back and forth for a while around the rocky area, trying to figure out where they were coming from, and because I couldn’t find them I decided that they were probably a deliberate musical touch intended to in some way evoke the mystery and majesty of the rocks around me — a bit like how, in the game Proteus, the features of the landscape all have specific sounds associated with them, which fade in and out as you move around them. The idea that these are actual windchimes did not at all occur to me, so it was delightful to re-discover them at the end of the game. My only moment of getting hopelessly stuck came when I was asked to return to the cave after finding Brian’s little camp. I thought I was just supposed to retrace my steps, especially as that little area seems to have a lot of rocks in a step-like arrangement — but of course I couldn’t get up any of them. I’d picked up the climbing gear, but it hadn’t twigged that I had to use it on the crack right by the camp. The role of nerd culture feels significant in ways I can’t quite put my finger on. It only occurred to me later that the D20 and the hand-drawn map found in the tower probably belonged to Ned and Brian. I found that really affecting once it all came together. The occasional easter egg or fun reference aside, at heart I don’t think Firewatch is an especially ‘meta’ game. But I found it interesting that at least three of the characters — Brian, Ned and Delilah — have related to fantasy stories or games at some stage in their lives. And there’s a very real sense of people who have had to put away those games and dreams in order to come to terms with the sad realities of the real world, which have nothing to do with stats or dice rolls. Perhaps that’s part of what makes the sight of Brian’s body in its tattered ‘Crypto Castle’* t-shirt so tragic. Games today are no longer just about dungeons and dragons; they’re about finding missing children who loved to play dungeons and dragons before something awful happened to them. And I think we can all agree that's great because it's good to have such a range of experiences available in any medium. But there’s something so haplessly charming about the way Brian and Ned are characterised that you can’t help but feel how wonderful it must have been to live that way. (Incidentally, when you’re approaching Brian’s body in the cave and the definition word over the cursor changes from ‘Figure’ to ‘Body’: this moment is perfect, and probably unforgettable.) * - I found it interesting to note that 'Crypto Castle' is also the name of a SF-based shared residence for hip young digital/creative/coder types. A coincidence, probably, but still...make u think...
  12. Enjoyed this podcast very much. I've only watched the Giant Bomb quicklook of The Division, and it looks very impressive but somehow also totally Not For Me. I wonder if there's something else they're keeping under wraps at this stage, and at some point the virus will mutate and the endless guys in hoodies will turn into fast zombies or Hulk-esque monsters or werewolves or vampires. Or will it just be military jocks vs guys in hoodies forever? English is my only language but for some reason my brain's first instinct has always been to read the '-ass' as being attached to the following word, not the preceding word. I guess this is because using a suffix as a modifier in that way is not so common in English. So I end up wondering about 'cheesy ass-people', 'big ass-burger', etc.
  13. Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain

    Re: 'Blood Runs Deep', one way to do this extra objective is to There isn't really any disadvantage to having a waiting room full of lower-grade soldiers. If you recover guys that are slightly better but still not as good as your main guys, the lowest-grade staff in the waiting room will automatically be fired to make space. You can also use them later on to populate your FOB platforms, when you get that far. The game actually does a surprising amount of base management stuff for you. The only thing it's really important to do is to go through and 'direct contract' (L2 on PS4) any guys who you definitely want to keep, either because they have special skills or because you just think they're cool people. If you don't do this, they could be accidentally bumped or possibly even sent on a combat mission and killed, and you could then lose the ability to research the items they enable. I've heard of this happening to somebody's Master Gunsmith, and I don't even know if they were able to get him back...
  14. The Idle Book Club 11: Fates and Furies

    I really enjoyed this podcast, though I haven’t read ‘Fates and Furies’. I’m going to try to read ‘Never Let Me Go’ before the next episode so I have something more to add! I’d certainly agree with Sarah’s point about ‘A Little Life’ and the weird sense of timelessness that book has. It’s not just the use of slang, but it also never seems to make many references to contemporaneous technology or world events within the fiction. It feels like an attempt to lend the book a timeless quality, which is odd because for the most part ‘A Little Life’ still very much feels like a novel that could only have been written in the 2010s. Still, I don’t think it’s an uncommon tendency in fiction, or a regrettable one. Perhaps you could say the same thing about the work of Henry James or Edith Wharton: their books were undoubtedly products of their time, even if they aren't necessarily about their time.
  15. Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain

    So a little while ago I 100%’d this game, and got all the sweet cheevos. This is not something I have done with a video game since GTA: Vice City, and tbh that game was ultimately way less fun (remember those ambulance missions?). But I did it here because I enjoyed the look and the sound and the feel of the game so very much that I always felt excited to boot it up. And at a certain point, once the initial thrill of each new mission had faded, the game became about messing about and seeing how far I could push the systems, which is something that brings its own unique pleasures. Anyway, some scattered thoughts on fully ‘finishing’ MGSV: The most useful tip for wherever you are at in the game is that whatever Kaz or Ocelot say you should be doing when you’re on a mission, don’t do it. Doing something unexpected often enables better results; and even if it doesn’t, at the very least the outcome is going to be really funny. When fighting Sahelanthropus, I agree with a lot of the complaints I’ve heard about the plot feeling half-formed. But I sort of…don’t care? Or rather, those complaints have nothing to do with what appealed to me about the game. And I find it fascinating how those criticisms seem to have been pre-empted and actually implemented into the themes and mechanics of the game in a way that is basically unprecedented for a production of this size. For example, I wrote a (lightly spoilery) thing on my blog here about how the way music is used in the game embodies some of its wider themes. Still, I wish the characterisation didn’t feel so sparse. Even now there’s something mysterious about all those locked doors on Mother Base. I wish I could go and visit Ocelot and Kaz. I wish that there were actual consequences to choosing not to take Quiet, instead of just seeing less of the game. I wish there were more tapes about stupid stuff. I don’t have strong feelings about Quiet’s outfit, but I wish she weren’t so…quiet. Chapter 2 is basically a gussied-up NG+, but some of the semi-hidden plot stuff there is absolutely astonishing. Most notably: Special mention also to the scene where I like that Donna Burke, who does the pleasantly understated voiceover for the iDroid functions (‘…Marker placed…Marker removed…’) is the same person who sings the ridiculously bombastic theme song for the game, including the ‘WOAH HOOOAH’ bits when you spark up your phantom cigar. Apparently she also does the English announcements for the Shinkansen trains in Japan. All of this is immensely pleasing to me. The one Easter Egg I loved best was The one tape I loved best was I never did any of the FOB stuff beyond what was explicitly required. I also never got invaded once in over 120 hours of play. But then I was careful to ramp up the security on all my platforms, so perhaps I just wasn’t an appealing target. Collecting all the animals is a pain in the butt. Even if you use a guide to put the capture cage in the ‘right’ place, there’s still an element of randomness that determines whether or not you’ll get the thing you want. Best left to the end of the game, if you want to try it at all. The scripting in the missions where you have to overhear enemy conversations is built like a house of cards. If you get seen by ANYONE — even if you’re only glimpsed, like when the white ring appears without an alert — then sometimes the conversations just won’t occur. And there is no way to trigger them again. I would recommend leaving most of the S ranks and extra objectives till at least the middle of chapter 2, when you can eventually develop stuff that make clearing those S-ranks and extra objectives much easier. In particular, get There are some extremely goofy and stupid ways to get an easy S rank on certain missions but I won’t spoil these. I could go on, but I think I’ve written too much already. I find it very easy to get carried away with this game.
  16. The games that made you buy the system

    I’m one of the many people who installed Steam simply in order to play Half Life 2 on release day. It’s easy to forget about how everyone was really annoyed about this back in 2004; even if you’d bought a disc, as I did, you still had to activate it via this new-fangled proprietary network. And I can’t recall if you could even buy and download entire games from Steam at this point — it was only really used for multiplayer matchmaking. This was especially frustrating for me because I was in my first year of university at the time and my dorm room didn’t have wireless or wired LAN internet (!) so I think I had to carry my laptop to an IT lab and jack it in to get the game working. I bought a PS3 Slim in 2011 or thereabouts because I’d been reading things about Dark Souls and it sounded absolutely enthralling (and it was). It also seemed insane that it would ever see a PC release. I suppose I could’ve bought a 360, because I desperately wanted to play other cross-platform stuff like Deus Ex: Human Revolution as well, but by that time it seemed to me like the PS3 had a back catalogue that was better attuned to the kinds of games I like. The Vita seemed like a good idea at the time. The PS4 was for Bloodborne and MGSV and Alien: Isolation and The Evil Within. But it was mainly as a kind of extension of all the kinds of things I liked about the PS3. The Wii U and 3DS were because I wanted to play Nintendo games. The Wii U was actually my first ever experience of a Nintendo system, and it’s become pretty much the ideal way to discover their back catalogue. Playing Super Metroid while hunched over the gamepad, with the music oozing out from those little stereo speakers, is (for me) a more compelling and intimate experience compared to blasting it up on a big TV in the living room. I really hope they build upon their Virtual Console back catalogue rather than starting from scratch again with the NX. I do wonder if there’s still such a thing as a ‘killer app’. Digital storefronts, cheap software and multi-purpose devices mean we simply demand more from a purchase these days. People don’t just expect to buy one extremely cool game and play it endlessly: they want endless moderately cool games that range from blockbusters to indie titles and everything in between. That’s why the PS4 has done so well this generation: not because of the success of individual titles, but because they’ve created the perception that it’s the best place to get all this stuff you want. I suspect the first company to make a success out of VR will be the ones who can convince the world that their platform is both viable and affordable for the many kinds of experience that people will want to have with it.
  17. Started playing this on PS4 yesterday. I’ve only got through the first day, which took me at least two hours because I was investigating everything I could find. Thoughts based on Day 1 only: All things considered: it’s really impressive so far, and I can’t wait to get back to it.
  18. At one point I think Nick described William the Conqueror as ‘the first king of England’. Strictly speaking, this isn't really true – England had plenty of kings before William – but without wishing to be pedantic, I've been thinking about the implications of this statement. You could make a case for saying that William was the first ‘modern’ king of England, in that he was an absolute ruler who imposed forms of centralised administration, organised religion, and hi-tech military power on the populace in ways that had never been seen before. The castles and churches he built still stud our landscape as symbols of control to this day. And the guy William deposed, King Harold, is sometimes referred to as the last English king because his death at the Battle of Hastings broke the Anglo Saxon line of succession that stretched back to the tribes who emigrated to Britain in the first few centuries. William’s crowning was very much the product of a brutal invasion by a foreign power; in fact, his reign was the last time that England was ever occupied by anyone. It used to be said that 1066 is the one year every British schoolboy knows because of its association with Hastings, but it’s commonly overlooked today just how violent and catastrophic the French/Norman invasion probably was have been for the average English person in the middle ages. All of which, of course, makes it an exceedingly interesting period for a video game! For further reading on this subject, there’s a short essay by Paul Kingsnorth here which describes the English resistance, both active and passive, against William’s occupation. He also wrote ‘The Wake’, which is a fantastic and very unusual novel that explores this period in a little more detail.
  19. New people: Read this, say hi.

    Hi everyone, I’ve been listening to Idle Thumbs for quite a long time. I think I started working through the oldest 'casts around the time of the hiatus, while the Kickstarter was underway (…2012?) and I’ve been a fan ever since. I always enjoyed scanning the forums here to check out the accompanying discussion on each episode, and it has finally occurred to me that perhaps I’d like to post here. Some things about me: I’m almost 30. I live in London. I have played video and computer games for as long as I can remember. I was brought up playing PC games in the shareware age, which is probably what drew me to the podcast in the first place, but these days I mostly play on Sony and Nintendo platforms for the sake of convenience. The games I enjoy most are probably those still based on formulas that pioneered on PC, with ambitious open worlds and detailed ‘immersive sims’ being some of my favourites. But in recent years I’ve come to appreciate other trends that would once have been associated more exclusively with console gaming; in particular discovering the Souls games, and encountering Nintendo for the first time, has been a revelation. I like cooking and ironing, though not at the same time. I read a lot. I write a fair bit. I like writing about books and games, and sometimes movies and other things. I have a blog where I share this stuff that can be found here. I’m also pretty active on goodreads, where I’ve been cataloguing and writing something about every book I’ve read for the past few years. And inevitably I’m on twitter. Looking forward to meeting you all!