Won over by Pratchett

A few months ago, I was cajoled into reading [tag]Soul Music[/tag], by [tag]Terry Pratchett[/tag]. Couldn’t stand it. I got at least half way through, and found it to be boring and the humor contrived.

A couple of weeks ago, though, I picked up [tag]Going Postal[/tag], and proceeded to laugh my way through 400 pages of wonderful stuff. I immediately read [tag]Monstrous Regiment[/tag] (WO’s only other Pratchett book here), and although I chuckled less, I appreciated the increased sense of suspense as much as I appreciated Going Postal‘s humor.

If WO has more Pratchett books here, I’d be tearing through ’em. As it is, I’ve started Palahniuk’s Survivor, which proves, as always with his works, full of useful information. Like how to remove stains of the violent sort. Or the protein-based sort.

Games Torment me

This summer has been an enlightening one for me in terms of my career as a gamer. (1337 gamer that I am.) For this summer, I started playing Planescape – Torment.

Now I have trouble playing just about any other game. I blame it on WO’s quasi-experiment to determine what kind of gamer I am.

[tag]Wizardry 8[/tag], which I’d been playing since last fall (dear god, that’s a long game!), seemed boring and annoying after Torment. Turn-based combat doesn’t appeal to me, and never has, although I endured that annoyance for the sake of the character development (and decent plot) of Wizardry 8.

[tag]Diablo II[/tag]… well, honestly. WO and I started playing this cooperatively at the begininng of summer, and as much as I like some aspects of the game, it’s… well, it’s Diablo II. Click-click-clickclickclick! It doesn’t help that I’ve beat it quite a few times already, and that the game is lonely when playing single-player. (Mama always told me not to talk to strangers on the Internet.) What I do love about Diablo II, though, are the character skill trees. Wizardry 8 was the only other game I’ve played that could match or surpass Diablo II in character customization in that way, although Torment is fine in this regard.

[tag]Baldur’s Gate[/tag]… heh. Another one WO and I started playing this summer, and my first official [tag]D & D[/tag] game. First, I found the D & D races/jobs to be hard to pick from. None of them seemed very interesting. So I made a decent little fighter and got… 10 hit points. Whoo. Now don’t get in my way, ‘cuz here I come! No, really. Don’t get in my way, because I don’t wanna get hurt. *mutter* Ten damn hit points. And WO played a mage, and mages are just awful in D & D, evidently. Four hit points and one spell a day. It was shortly after the 10-ish hours of Baldur’s Gate that I started playing Planescape – Torment. Much more highly-powered.

Torment‘s got its flaws, though. I think your alignment should be a little more strongly affected by the things you choose to say and do. I’m having a hell of a time creating a lawful evil character in a second game I’ve started. Hell, I’m having a hard time getting my “real” game to become lawful (he’s already neutral good). The fighting system is better than any other RPG-ish game I’ve played, but still takes a while to get comfortable with.

Oh, and I just about give up on [tag]interactive fiction[/tag] (IF). It’s just not fun. It’s either written to show off the author’s puzzle-making abilities, or written to show off the author’s froo-froo literary skills. The former are boring and both usually include “guess the verb” puzzles, even to someone who knows their Inform verbs. Neither are fun. If I want a puzzle, I’ll play chess, and if I want literature, I’ll pick up a novel. I know how to progress the plot in a novel, and it doesn’t involve guessing any verbs or going through all available conversation options. If I want “pacing” (a magic word in IF), I’ll get up and go for a walk, not solve some poorly-clued puzzle put there just to make the game long enough for the IF Comp of the year.

…Sorry. I live with an IF writer. Sometimes I want to scream.

So I like higher-powered games. I like party-based games. I like games with plot. I like characters with backstory. I like games where my character development choices actually affect the progression and outcome of the game–like intelligence and wisdom factoring into conversation in Torment. I like games with choices, although I prefer that the pacing be rather under my control (which was my problem with [tag]The Sims 2[/tag]–I don’t like timers). I loathe meaningless puzzles. I like long games; I mean, hell, up until a couple of years ago, my favorite game was [tag]Sim City 2000[/tag]. Really.

So what am I left with now? [tag]Planescape – Torment[/tag] and chess. Yes, [tag]chess[/tag].


On podcasts

Ah, podcasts. These things have saved my sanity throughout the summer. Some of these are worthy of linkage and sharing.

Not all–luckily, since I listen to entirely too many–but some.

First, the [tag]Performance Poetry[/tag] podcast I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. Amazing stuff.

Another favorite of mine is Next Big Hit. The announcer kills me and the music played probably won’t be the next big hit. That doesn’t make it bad, though, really. It tends to be pop [tag]music[/tag] (and there’s plenty of that new rock stuff I can’t stand), but has recently increased the number of R & B and rap artists played. A fun trick is to try to identify why the songs won’t likely hit the Top 40 charts. Sometimes it’s a singing style that’s out of favor right now; sometimes it’s a too-1990s beat.

The Gadgettes. Silly-ass, borderline sexist name, amazing podcast. Not a condescending, “Oh, girls like [tag]gadgets[/tag], too” podcast, but a podcast about gadgets done by women. And they’re funny. Very funny.

[tag]Bollywood[/tag]’s Best. The hosts act like two twelve-year olds with crushes on each other. So f’ing annoying. But it’s very worth it for the music, for I do love me some Bollywood hits.

[tag]NPR[/tag] Technology and Health and Science. Dude, it’s NPR. ‘Nuff said.

For the best in [tag]sci-fi[/tag] shorts, there’s Escape Pod. Through [tag]Escape Pod[/tag], I was introduced to [tag]Jennifer Pelland[/tag], one of the funniest short story authors I’ve read. (I mentioned her here about a year ago.)

Finally, I suppose I should mention that WO now runs a [tag]podcast[/tag] over at Ludus Novus. I think it’s hot, and I think there’s real potential for discussions on gaming that could transcend even what The Escapist is putting out weekly. At least WO isn’t likely to do series after series on female gamers.

Anyone know of podcast aggregators that play podcasts, track read/unread podcasts (at least as well as iTunes does), and is stable?

A software pet peeve

Why is there still [tag]software[/tag] that doesn’t save the user’s settings until the application closes? Why does software bother to have a “Save” button in their Customization dialog if the damn thing doesn’t actually save the settings until the program closes? I’ve worked on a (real-life) project where the software did that, and I’m currently playing chess in a program called [tag]Pawn 2[/tag] that does the same damn thing. It doesn’t help that I have to forceably close Pawn 2 after I hibernate or if my screensaver cuts on, so my settings are almost never saved. (It’s got some kind of video bug.)

This ain’t the 80s, and I/O just isn’t that expensive anymore. Save when I click “Save”!

Racism: how much of a bitch should I be?

I’m never sure how vicious to be when I encounter racism and have the ability to put a stop to it. For instance, last night, during a game at my apartment, Tookie suggested someone break a bottle and use it as a weapon. The excited response from Gimpy Phil was, “Nigger knife!”

Um, what? This shit ain’t happening in my damn house.

The moment passed just quickly enough that I wasn’t sure I should go back and harp on it. I was on edge for the rest of the evening, though, ready to jump in and tell some folks to take that shit elsewhere if they said anything else like that (whether about blacks or any other race). I don’t even know half the racial slurs these guys throw around, but I know how they joke, and I can usually detect when it’s something racial.

I won’t be one of those folks so anxious to fit in and to smooth over conflict that I’ll let people run over me in that way (or many ways, really). I had a friend in high school who let that shit fly just so he could hang around the skater types.

I’ll ban a few people from my home and never play another game with ’em again if that’s what it takes. No skin off my back.

“Nigger knife.” Honestly.