26 January 2015

Archived Podcasts - Into the New Millennium/Some Bad Smells

Episode 79 - Doing It For The Fans

This description is going to be a bit lax for several reasons. Firstly, to play the sympathy card, Ian has not been well, hence the lateness of this ep. He edited the slippery customer, like a hero, but it's Leo here posting it. Hello.

Secondly, we recorded it together several weeks ago now and my recollection of what actually transpired may be a bit hazy. See, I can't even commit to how well I remember the incident. Shameful. I remember we were, unsurprisingly, talking about fans and how much of an influence they should be allowed to have on a creative project. Should one embrace them, or is that a disastrous move.

Should one, then, ignore them, or is that imprudent? There seem to be no easy answers, which probably explains why we chose it as an episode subject. So down the rabbit hole we go once more as we discover that the whole episode is, in fact, an extended discussion of why it is Leo has recently been working for payment in individual desk-based rotor air-cooling devices... Oh, the embarrassment.

Direct Link: https://archive.org/download/079DoingItForTheFans/079%20-%20Doing%20it%20for%20the%20Fans.mp3

Episode 80 - Films 2001 - The one with a monkey faced Lincoln memorial statue

Well, I won't pretend to be anything other than a wimp ... but I ... Ian ... am a tad unwell. So I'm going to shirk my duties and do a short write up this week. So to be brief: In 2001 Fantasy lands big time and gets much talked about.

Meanwhile the 90s goes through it's dying spasms with a heap of forgettable movies that should never have been made. Oh that was easy. I should be lazy more often! Incidental Music by Incompetech

Direct Link: https://archive.org/download/080Films2001/080%20-%20Films%202001.mp3

Episode 81 - So Bad We Smelt it Coming!

Every so often one becomes aware of a up coming film who's destiny as a much maligned flop seems so obvious that it's stunning it's got a cinema released at all. Surely somewhere in the process someone somewhere should have stepped in and said something.

Yet somehow at every single stage, from the initial pitch, to the casting, the choice of director and marketing there has been a dramatic failure in quality control. While it might be impossible to say for sure a film will be a hit until the movie going audience judges it the reverse is not true.
Indeed we here a the 80s Kids humbly submit that sometimes the stink of a movie can be so bad we can smell it coming a mile away. Most topically on our minds right now is the up coming 'Fantastic 4' reboot, of which we have heard very little that inspires any kind of 'Wait and see' sense of doubt about the radical re-imagining of Marvel classic comic series.

Every comment and leak seems to add another layer of dread and Leo and to a lesser extent Ian are all to happy to have a good moan about it all. This leads on to a wider discussion of bombs we saw coming in hopes of gleaning some kind of vital formula that we might disclose for the betterment of all mankind. Incidental Music by Incompetech.com

Direct Link: https://archive.org/download/081SoBadWeSmeltItComing/081%20-%20So%20Bad%20We%20Smelt%20it%20Coming.mp3

Episode 82 - Short Lived Noughty TV shows

This week Leo makes the bold claim that all Noughties TV series can be split into two categories. Those that had more than three seasons and those which had less.

Well, I expect most of you are thinking: "No Shit" but as Leo points out there are very few shows that got exactly three, normally if you get that far the fourth season is in the bag. So this week we tuck into the poor children who only had one or two years worth of shows before the deadly axe fell.

What we have is a collection of small briefly shining gems, unresolved arcs, curio eggs, the mundane, the muddled and directionless and the justifiably axed for reasons of public good taste. These shows for whatever reason occupy only a small space on the DVD shelf but today they're getting more time than their due as the 80s kids munch their way through these bite sized series.

Also Firefly. Incidental Music by Incompetech.

Direct Link: https://archive.org/download/082NoughtyTv1/082%20-%20noughty%20tv%201.mp3

6 January 2015

Archived Podcasts - Getting Our Feet Under The 2000s Table

Episode 75 - Video Game Cinematics

With our humble show progressing into the 2000s, Leo's thoughts turn to Video Games and the growing blur between what is a 'Cinematic Experience' and what constitutes a 'Game Experience'. In the days of old 'Story' and 'Character' were something of the text heavy RPG variety, be it the Story
Rails attached to a turn based combat system or the 'point 'n' click' puzzle game. Then all of a sudden the consoles suddenly got just complex enough that game designers could treat us to lengthy engagingly acted cut scenes that assured us our tough guy with guns was three dimensional beyond his polygon count.

Suddenly games could be immersive and engaging worlds and the player could at last experience something like actually being there. Some games based on film franchises dispensed with retelling an actual film and instead set their stories in 'Officially Licensed' enclaves of their movie universe's canon. Other built there own universes now followed and wiki'ed with detail orientated enthusiasm by passionate on line communities.

This week the 80s Trio reflect on the memorable video games they played that crossed the Story - Game divide. From the PS1 classics to the roaring days of the PS2 and Xbox, to the rise and fall of the MMO and to the modern Video Game triple A block busters.

Incidental Music by Incompetech

Direct Link: https://archive.org/download/075VideoGameCinematics/075-Video-Game-Cinematics.mp3

Episode 76 - Resurrection of the Noughty Children

This week the 80s kids dig perhaps not so deeply into their long memories and summon back into existence their Noughties counter parts as they recount their changing lives and cinema visits during the first decade of the new Millennium. From Ian's cultural high life in Bath to his exile in Victoria Australia. From Justin's struggle to make it as an illustrator and quest to find friends who share his passions to his fateful meeting with Leo. From Leo's job hopping, city moving adventures to settled married life.

The Noughties were a time of a grown up kind of change for our batch of now 20s going on 30s pod-casting heroes. But most importantly they recount their experiences of seeing the films of this period, when they were fresh new and all sparkly and what is was like to actually be there. It's our usual scout head prior to starting a new decade. And along the way lies all that came just before the slice of time we are all living now.

Direct Link: https://archive.org/download/076ResurrectionOfTheNoughtyChildren/076-Resurrection-of-the-Noughty-Children.mp3

Episode 77 - Whatever Happened to the Evil Genius

In horror and Sci Fi of old the trope of the Mad Man ascending to new levels threat with the use of his knowledge was a well established archetype. Be it the white coated scientist with his dangerous theories that set him above nature and God or the Alchemist or dark occultist out to seize forbidden esoteric knowledge. They include fictional luminaries from Victor Frankenstein to Forbidden Planet's Dr Morbius and even Dr Herbert West of the Re-animator. Once they were a staple of story telling, now they are all but extinct in film and cinema.

This week in a ghoulish Halloween episode of the 80s Kids the terrible trio muse of the curious absence of the Evil Master Mind and via the medium of an hour long discussion podcast they attempt to unlock the mystery of their disappearance ... toying with forces they barely understand in the process.

Incidental Music by incompetech.com

Direct Link: https://archive.org/download/077EvilGenius/077-Evil-Genius.mp3

Episode 78 - The Films of 2000 - A New Spring Time for the Kids

At last the 80s Kids land on the shores of the Noughties and set to work the task of reviewing the films of this fresh millennial year. A year that is not so much known for it's genre busting iconic films and more for necessary evolutionary steps.

No one could call the first X Men movie anything other than functional but it puts down another vital stone on the path to our modern cinema. And Pitch Black proves highly successful due to it's Riddick genes of course. But as with all Evolution there are dead ends, TITAN AE failed to find its audience and has only faded in time due to its virtue of being a cartoon.

And the old Terminator Arnie is besides himself in clone action thriller "6th Day" making him a very literal 80s fossil. But all in all, and obviously excluding "Battlefield Earth" there really wasn't anything so terrible or offensive about this new start. Other than Leo gushing about Battle Royal of course ... but as a former teacher I suppose he finds some glee in the messy affair.

Incidental Music by incompetech.com

Direct Link: https://archive.org/download/0782000ANewSpringtimeForTheKids/078-2000-A-New-Springtime-For-The-Kids.mp3

19 December 2014

Archived Podcasts-Farewell to the 90s!

Episode 72 - 2014 Film Rumble Showdown

The Time has come to review our predictions of the winners and losers of summer 2014 brutal box office film grinder. To this end Leo takes us genre by genre through the various players educating us on the ebb and flow of fortunes.

Some interjection is made by Justin and Ian, who can just about elbow a word in here or there as Leo descends down the results which seem to be both predictable and surprising at the same time. From the unloved "Edge of Tomorrow" to the retro childhood of Guardians, the sad fate of Noah and the 'boo hiss' winning but still somehow losing fortunes of Big Bay.

Were we wrong about everything? I do wonder why people listen to anything we say sometimes.

Direct Link: https://archive.org/download/0722014SummerReview/072%20-%202014%20Summer%20Review.mp3

Episode 73 - Top 5 Films of the 90's - The Redemptioning Part 1

As Winston Churchill once said: "This isn't the End, it is not not even the beginning of the End but it is perhaps the end of the frigging 90s!!" Yes it's that magical time again where 80s kids come together and finally fess up what their top 5 fav movies of that particular decade actually are.

This week we deal with numbers 5 to 3! Ian's number five is the charming tale of a small town entrepreneur starting a window cleaning business, Leo's Number Five is about a drawing contest and Justin's Number five was just well drawn.

Leo's number four is just so unreal, Justin's involves lots of bold men in leather, Sue's choice needs batteries much to Ian's annoyance.
Justin's Number three has skimpy outfits all round, Leo's number four has him quite beside himself but maybe that's because Sue's Number three choice has him looking like Death warmed up. Next week ... Number Two and One!
Incidental music by Incompetech.

Direct Link: https://archive.org/download/073Top5FilmsOffThe90sTheRedemptioningPart1/073%20-%20Top%205%20Films%20off%20the%2090s%20-%20The%20Redemptioning%20Part%201.mp3

Episode 74 - Top 5 Films of the 90's - The Redemptioning Part 2

And so the final hour of the 90s has come at last ... But as the sun sets on this much maligned ten year period the 80s kids have one final task to perform, finish their top 5 films of the decade they all claimed to have very little love for. Tricky.

Nevertheless our full quartet of 80s Kids will rise to the challenge: Sue's Number Two choice proves people will do anything these days to get off Television and Justin's number two involved a lot of confused children stopping strangers in the street and asking for directions in French.

Ian's Number one involves post apocalyptic babysitter getting into a crazy caper and Leo's Number One film of the 90s is famous for many things, one of which is spoon denial.

And with that done the Sun rises, FINALLY, on the 21st century and the 90s are now but a memory. This is what we call a happy ending!

Incidental Music by Incompetech.

Direct Link: https://archive.org/download/074Top5FilmsOfThe90sTheRedemptioningPartTwo/074%20-%20Top%205%20Films%20of%20the%2090s%20-%20The%20Redemptioning%20Part%20Two.mp3

26 November 2014

Archived Podcasts - Right Up The 90s And Other More Sombre Affairs

Episode 68 - Plagiarism

Although reasons vary for Leo's absence this week the fact remains that Ian and Justin are bereft of their verbose chum and must make do without him. Initially they were both excited by this prospect feeling a quick ten minutes worth of chattering was well with their ability ... then it was pointed out they would also have to fill in all the gaps where Leo would normally have spoken and a serious silence descended over both of them as to how they would fill this hour.

Lacking an original idea they have stolen one and decided a discussion on the subject of "Plagiarism" was a worthwhile idea. It is of course the age old trade of taking someone else successful work or formula and hoping you pass it off as your own for fun and profit. From film to TV, from comics to novels the cheap knock off is a common place thing but Justin opens up instead on the subject of animation where it's not uncommon for ideas to get stolen BEFORE they even hit the cinema.

So sit back and enjoy this cheap shoddy replica of an 80s Kids Podcast, this week very much lacking that official Leo hologram sticker.

Direct Link: https://archive.org/download/068Plagiarism/068%20-%20Plagiarism.mp3

Episode 69 - 1998 - Two Death Space Rocks and a Big Lizard

You know, I do try and think of something original to say in these blurbs other than ... "Oh look another 90s year and it's a mixed bag offal" but I find myself doing just that yet again. And we had high hopes for 1998 with gems like "The Truman Show" about but then you see the dross and boy does '98 have plenty of that!

A Woeful selection, from disjointed "Lost In Space" movie to the not even trying "Star Trek Insurrection", from missing the point "Godzilla" to the pointless "X Files Movie'. Seriously this decade can't be over with soon enough. At least some fun was had by Leo with "The Avengers" (not those ones), and Justin bizarrely loved "Meet Joe Black."... I'm not sure what Ian gets out of this year... oh that's right ... NOTHING!!

You know what. I'm just over it. I really am... It's blurb time and I can't be bothered. Who reads this anyway? Can our bleak nihilistic journey through the 90s get any worse? Oh... and we get to talk about a Robin Williams movie where people who commit suicide get sent to dark hideous hell where they're emotionally tortured by their twisted inner demons forever in a haze of madness without any hope of escape or relief EVER. Humm .... yeah ... our "What Dreams May Come" discussion feels kind of awkward now.

Well I guess that puts all my 90s moaning into perspective. Incidental Music by Incompetech.com

Direct Link: https://archive.org/download/0691998TwoDeathSpaceRocksAndABigLizard/069%20-%201998%20-%20Two%20Death%20Space%20Rocks%20and%20a%20Big%20Lizard.mp3

Episode 70 - 1999 - The Phantom Baytrix

And so at last the 80s Kids face this last final servings of the 90s years and boy are they going to party like it's 1999. The calendar period once dubbed "The Year That Changed Cinema" comes for closer examination this week, and while it does gloriously have "The Matrix" ready and waiting to drag us into the new millennium it's not without it's normal convoy of 90s clown car flicks.

From the muddled Schwarzenegger apocalypse action thriller "End of Days" which features the dullest Satan yet conceived in fiction, to the 'nothing happens' shoddy student home movie "Blair Witch Project" whose camcorder yawn-scares still plague films to this day.

Also there was another Pierce Brosnan Bond movie ... we're just not sure which one, they kind of all blur together. And of course, sitting like some kind of 90s end of level boss is the "Phantom Menace". And yet there is good here.

"The Matrix" of course, twisty endy "Fight Club", and 'totally saw it coming' twisty endy "Sixth Sense" (yes we actually liked it), "South Park" turns it's offensiveness up to 11 and "The Mummy" ... yes ... "The Mummy". It was a solidly fun adventure film, so there.

And here we are in the twilight of the 90s ... this week we send that wretched decade down one of Lucas's bottomless shafts with a swirl of our light saber... then all walk slowly away Hollywood style as the 90s explodes behind us.

Direct Link: https://archive.org/download/070PhantomTheBaytrix/070%20-%20Phantom%20the%20Baytrix.mp3

Episode 71 - Robin Williams

The news of Williams's tragic death shocked the world. He was beloved by millions as both a great comic and serious actor. The people who knew him spoke of a generous warm human being who took much time to be concerned with the welfare of others.

Perhaps that is why the grim knowledge of his depressive last hours seem to cut so deeply. If only he had known that the world was ready to pour out it's affection, love and support for him. And in many ways it's that fact that looms largest in our minds this week as we cast an eye over his vast career.

No one disputes he was a great 'funny man' and yes he could effortlessly draw the audience to sympathize with him in his more sentimental roles but when you take a moment to really stand back and appreciate his body of work, his abilities and the values he strove for it's hard not to feel ashamed of not noticing all this before his death.

Williams was a gifted comic genius and an acclaimed actor who starred in a number of classic films and by all accounts a very decent human being too. It's hard to call his life tragic if that is what he left behind for us. Incidental Music by Incompetech.com

Direct Link: https://archive.org/download/071RobinWilliams/071%20-%20Robin%20Williams.mp3

18 November 2014

Pivots Please - An ACIII Post-game Exploration

Hmm... there seem to be quite a lot of them. Hope the devs
properly supported my predator-esque bouncings.
So back in June I was mulling over a puff piece that was generating hype for ACIII and looking at the gap between what the devs promised and what actually turned up. One of the promises I couldn't be sure about was the opportunity to emulate everyone's favourite killer of both humans and xenomorphs, the predator; but in an Assassin-y kind of a way.

I must admit that I had never tried this approach to guards on the frontier, opting instead, as Robocop would have put it to "stay out of trouble". This is due, in part, to the fact that I like to role play AC games a little, I go for what the character might have done in the situation, not for what might, possibly be the most amount of fun.

This is probably because I am invested in AC's ridiculous historical pot-boiler plots, I love them, a lot; to the extent that I am writing an AC fan fiction for Nano. So in-game I find it incongruous to run everywhere, upsetting citizens and getting in regular scrapes with the guards. I like to slink through the cities, admiring the view.

But now the story of ACIII is over, the game temporarily recasts you as a hacker running Connor's environments as a sandbox for something called "counter hacking" and trying to pick up little vector unicorns called pivots in order to open up Animus Hacks.

This is a part of the game that many people don't see, and of those who do see it many more just find it confusing. It's a triangulation game, essentially, where you plant the pivots you already have to find the pivots you haven't. Pivots create lines on the map and the location of the pivot you've discovered exists, but have not located, are filled in green.

Sacre Bleu! The only screenshot I could find was in French!
Still you get the idea.

As exploring games go, it's a winner. To the extent that when I had found the 12 pivots in the game I was unconscionably sad that the game was over and wished it would begin all over again. Not least because whilst you are tromping over the map to place your next pivot where you think it should go you are bound to run into opportunities for mischief and mayhem and, well, why the hell not? So as I counter-hacked around the frontier I got a big opportunity to see if I could totally predator up the wandering guards, with mixed results.

At first, strangely, I just couldn't find a damn patrol anywhere. Lame in the extreme. I did nobble a couple of guys who'd decided to go out for a stroll, but this hardly told me anything about the AI. I picked off the one at the back first and then ran up behind his companion and hidden bladed him in the back. It was fun but the second guy didn't even know I was there. What I wanted to see was how they reacted if they knew I was about, but couldn't see me.

So I went pivot hunting and eventually I did find a group. Twice on the bounce another predatory animal, once an elk, once a bobcat, did for one of the guards on patrol setting off the "fallen comrade" AI. This basically makes the guards stand around looking a bit thick, in a circle with their weapons drawn, looking outwards, classic predator.

Guess who's coming down your chimney... that's right
Assassanta Claus is coming to town and you've all been very naughty! 

Then the shortcomings of the environment started to come into play. Not having an invisibility cloak the assassin has to use the environment to stealth about. There aren't enough trees connected, or enough stalking zones to make "pop-up, kill, disappear" a viable tactic. Usually I would pick off one or two, then run into the centre of the rest, hurl down a smoke bomb, kill some more and then fight the one or two that were left. Which was fine, but not exactly as advertised.

The best experiment, which, honestly I could stand to do again with more practice, was when I decided to plant a trap in the form of a well placed trip mine. Unfortunately I chose to plant two of the available three where rabbits occasionally zipped across the path, so I got some badly charred rabbit meat for my troubles, but not much else.

Still I did manage to plant one and it remained as the guards approached, scaring off the rabbits, and I hid in a well placed thicket and said tee-hee. I also knew that the guard patrol in question would check the thicket on their way past, as I had observed them come that way once from a tree. Sure enough an officer came out with a sword to poke at the tree but... none of the others stood in the trigger zone of the mine! Bastards!
There were no good screenshots of trip mines, so here's a rabbit instead.

I popped out and killed the officer in time honoured tradition and the rest, obviously went nuts trying to kill me. I ran around a tree in a big circle trying to make the mine the shortest distance between me and them. It took a couple of tries but then, bingo. They charged me and killed four of them in one immensely satisfying explosion. After that I smoke bombed, to kill the remaining three... just in time for a second guard patrol to approach from the west.

Out of trip mines I dived for the thicket and hid just in time for the new patrol to send a couple of scouts. One checked the bodies whilst the other came for the thicket. Disappeared inside and never came back again, muahahaha. This triggered a second set of investigators, and I got one of those too. This went for one more cycle before the rest decided to give it up as a bad job and leave their fallen behind. I wasn't having that. I charged the remaining five. Smoke bomb, stabby stabby, quick duel. All done.

That was fun. But it wasn't predator. So, the official verdict on that particular ambition is, nice try, but cigar-less. Also, when I was hopping about on rooftops looking for the New York pivot I saw nothing that resembled an upstairs chase breaker, so I still think that was a basic fail.

My final thought, however, remains that ACIII is unfairly maligned. The story's over complicated, Connor is a the most goonish of protagonists, sure. But I had a good deal of fun with the bits I did post story and I still have some privateer, delivery and assassination missions left to do. The game's main problems (now that the apparently awful launch glitches have mostly been patched away) are about balance and the gap between intention and result. The hero is too stoic and humourless, the intentions too poorly served, the ambitions too diluted. Even so, it's not impossible to have fun in there, just takes a little effort and imagination, oh, and pivots, lots and lots more pivots please.

14 November 2014

Plastic Bags, Extension Reels, Tarot and Levercastle

At last! The wristband to meet all of my wristbanding needs!
And Lo! There was networking just to the side of the M4 and people looking for new pals did come and the world of the small business saw that it was good.

Starting out at the ungodly time of 6 AM for a 6:45 start (networking breakfast for the win!) I approached Cardiff's Village Hotel before the sun had risen in order to join a cohort of other slightly bleary but otherwise enthusiastic but lovely people for a morning of getting to know yous.

I literally found out about the event two days ago when David of Books & Pontyclun messaged me to ask if we were "still on for Friday", My response: "were we doing something on Friday?" This may signal my level of preparedness at this early rising start of business but not my engagement with the process.

After spending a jolly time learning who was present and then enjoying a quick discussion of regional accents and paying for plastic carrier bags with the lads from DevelopMy I moved on to the main business of the day the Sterling Integrity business show, I had come along primarily to video David's talk in which we will discover why this image

Just another day at the bookshop!

has proven central to David's Facebook marketing in recent days. More, obviously, to follow on that in a short while.

When I actually looked at the venue  where I was to film the talk I noted that I would need that cable extension reel I totally forgot to buy yesterday. So, off to the supermarket I went, good job the weather was glorious for November, really.

Once I returned to the venue I worked out the other thing I'd failed to have adequately prepared for, the mandatory gaffering down of trailing camera wires. Not wanting to be sued I begged for an assist from the kind gentlemen from LNP Sound and they sorted me right out for which I must offer heartfelt thanks as must all the people who failed to break their neck tripping over my cables.

After David's talk I talked to a couple more people, not the least the delightfully enthusiastic Mary Collin, with whom I managed to get into a conversation about Levercastle and Tarot, one of the most interesting conversations of the day! After this I had to leave as time was wearing on and, well, I really wanted to get home and put that order in for a big reel of white gaffer of my very own.

12 November 2014

Assassin's Creed Prediction Machine (official!)

A few scant months ago I posted this the point of which was that if everyone was so jazzed for AC:III and ended up being so bitterly disappointed surely that all the hype around the new next-gen AC could do with coming down a notch or two; in the minds of fans if nowhere else.

Take the plunge! The assassining is fine! Or not.

Well, the reviews are in and it would seem my hesitation to get all in a lather may have some basis in reality. In actual fact many people appear to superficially like the game but Stephen Totilo's review has left me feeling less than enthused for a couple of reasons.

The general gripes are a worry, of course. It sounds as if Unity is very much back to basics for the series which isn't a massive surprise as it's new development on an entirely new platform using new dev tools. I guess going ultra-conservative isn't a terrible decision from that point of view. I'm hoping that when I finally get my PS4 and Unity that I will be able to live with the new controls and stuff. I tend to find the history play of AC suitably entertaining so I should be fine.

Of more concern is the fact that the modern day story line has been all but abandoned. Thing is, I think Ubi throw stuff like this at people occasionally to see what they think. For years the internet has been rife with whingeing about the modern day angle of the AC series but happy fans don't whine as we have learned. So now it's time for me to start whining.

The modern day part of AC is like the stupid flavoured frosting on a bonkers alternate history cake. Cake with no frosting is still cake but it's sadder, less impressive cake. Also people have been saying for a while that they wished there was a bit more to the modern day stuff, it never feels quite substantial enough.

For random internet moaners a confection of history, sci-fi and Fortean conspiracy goo may be too sweet for their precious troll teeth. For hundreds of thousands of core fans, happy fans, silent fans, this is what an AC game is. Take away one part and the rest of it seems, lesser, surely.

I am hoping that Rogue fills in for the gaps in Unity's experience this year, and I'm also hoping that future iterations of next-gen AC and, for that matter, Watch_Dogs live up to all the work Ubi have done laying a foundation for the next wave of development.