Tuesday, December 30, 2008


You might have realized I didn’t post much this month. Or then, maybe not.

Fact is, I had a lot to do. Work was piling up, I was preparing for my next course (Flash-programming and game design) which I’ll start next year. And my wool madness got the better of me, too. Not to mention Christmas.

I have quite some funny pictures on my hard disk which I could post at a moment’s notice. I do have quite some ideas for new posts, too. But I also have to work between the years. So I’m not quite sure when all of it will happen.

At the same time I am looking back at what definitely was a good year:

  • In January, I got a new job (which I still have).
  • Around August I finished my webmaster course.
  • Even though there’s a crisis, we’ve still got a lot to do.

I’ve also gathered a lot of ideas for new stories. I hope I will be productive next year (and in the few remaining hours without work or sleep).

My wool madness (as I call it) is still present, so I’m knitting a pair of socks for myself. I used to knit scarves whenever it hit me - usually around September or October, it’s late this year -, but by now I’ve got a lot more scarves than necks. As it is quite improbably I’ll grow some more heads, I’ll be better off with one or two pairs of warm socks.

I also like the way my blog has turned out during this year (although there’s probably a lot more bitching coming up next year again). I feel more comfortable with my mixture of posts and pictures than I did with bitching alone. And no, I’ve not forgotten about Barbie’s Diary, but I still have to work out a basic plotline. Sorry.

This might very well be the last blog post of 2008, so I wish all people reading it a Good New Year 2009.

Old vs. New in a galaxy far, far away

If you browse the threads of various forums, you’ll sooner or later stumble over a discussion that doesn’t seem to die down the least: Which trilogy is better “Episode 1-3” or “Episode 4-6”? This is my own opinion.

Most discussions hover around two main topics: style and Anakin Skywalker.

Style is more easy to explain, as the style of the two trilogies varies greatly. This is not my reason for disliking the ‘new’ trilogy. It’s the same galaxy, but another time. Looks might vary, they’re even expected to vary. Okay, the ships of the old trilogy - set 20 years after the end of the new one - look older than those which are supposed to be older. But then, most of them look rather used anyway. Maybe the repair crews had to use a lot of old scrap.

Anakin Skywalker, on the other hand, is a character I never really got into. I could - just - live with the kid in “Episode 1”. Okay, I didn’t really think he was interesting, but he could have evolved. He did evolve - unfortunately. After getting a good look at his older self, I sincerely wished the kid were back. “Episode 2” isn’t just romantic, it’s sickeningly sweet and sticky romantic. It’s the kind of romance which, normally and without the clone warriors, would drive every guy right out of the movie theatre after five minutes. (People regularly reading this blog will know that I’m not exactly into romance, but I can tolerate some of it in a ‘non-romantic’ movie like “Star Wars”.) “Episode 3” is dark - the one redeeming thing about it -, but still shows a galaxy that’s practically earned its new Emperor and a ‘hero’ (and I use the term loosely here) I want to see in that well-known black suit rather sooner than later. As long as the “whinning adolescent emo with the mind of a cheesy poof” (not my words, I’m quoting a picture from roflrazzi.com I’ve already posted on this blog) is gone.

Yes, to turn against the Jedi (and his friends, like Obi-Wan), Anakin needs to be susceptible to the Emperor’s (well, future emperor’s) manipulation. Otherwise the war against the Jedi could have been a short one, ending with Mace Windu killing Palpatine. But Anakin is annoying and downright stupid. He could have been naïve instead. He’s secretly married - and worries about his wife’s life. Yet, in the end, he’s practically killing her with his own hands (knowing she’s highly pregnant with his children, mind you - every halfway logical maniac would have waited until after the birth). Anakin could have - and would have - fallen for a trap laid out by Palpatine, had he just been naïve. He could have been manipulated by other means than just this ‘I’ve had a vision with my wife dying and don’t want that to happen, so please, turn me into a Sith Lord and help me kill her myself’ spiel. (And yes, I know, he’s lost his mother in a terrible way in “Episode 2” and therefore is especially afraid of losing those closest to his heart.) I personally think Palpatine is able to do much better than that. He’s done it to the whole council, after all. Those were politicians and expected to know about intrigues and subterfuge. Anakin is a 20-year-old Jedi who probably never had a lesson about politics in his life (Padme will have had better things to teach him, given the fact she’s the older one of the two.)

And even with some people (especially one at my favourite forum) trying to show me young Anakin is a lot like Darth Vader, I simply can’t see it, sorry. They’re both good pilots and Vader tends to be a bit quick to anger sometimes (so is the Emperor, though, and I won’t start with other villains from different genres). But Anakin is a whiny kid who couldn’t see the truth if it dressed up in neon colours and held a sign saying ‘I’m the only truth out here, kid, look at me’. Vader might know a bit too much about the machinations of his master. Yes, he is twenty years older, twenty years wiser, but still, I can’t see the similarities clearly.

Damn it, with “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” Lucasfilms proved they can do it, making new movies with old heroes which still work. Why didn’t they get it done a bit earlier? Even the new “Star Trek” looks more promising than “Episode 2” did - and it’ll be a prequel, too.

The Prince is back!

Once upon a time in the Near East, there was a young adventurer who climbed the palace wall of the caliph’s palace to see whether the caliph’s daughter was as beautiful as people said. She was and he fell in love with her - much to the anger of grand vizier who wanted to marry the princess himself to become the new ruler of the country.

With this story, although not in these precise words, the first game with the name “Prince of Persia” began. The princess was given 60 minutes to decide whether or not to marry the grand vizier (and the player only had 60 minutes to complete the game, otherwise everything was lost). The player spent 60 hectic minutes - probably various times, because I highly doubt anybody could solve the game at the first time - saving the love of his life ... only to find himself in another load of trouble in the second part.

“Prince of Persia” was a Jump’n’Run in the beginning, the levels were designed rather ingeniously and difficult to master at the beginning, but the prince moved well, jumped reliably and was easy enough to steer. As various instalments were produced over the years (“Prince of Persia”, “Prince of Persia 2 - The Shadow and the Flame”, “Prince of Persia 3D”, “Prince of Persia - Sands of Time”, “Prince of Persia - The Warrior Within” and “Prince of Persia - The Two Thrones”), they developed further and further from the original tale - and the original principles. The latest instalment, though, simply called “Prince of Persia” again, sets things back on the right tracks.

The main character was switched in the third game (“Prince of Persia 3D”), which can also be considered the weakest of the games (as almost all 3D-versions of successful 2D game series). The prince only by name became a real prince. In addition, the games were switched from Jump’n’Run to action adventures. The latter is still the case in the newest game - but good action adventures are great -, the first isn’t.

With the new “Prince of Persia” a ‘commoner’ is back in the place of the hero. Called ‘Prince’ by others, he’s a soldier of fortune, an adventurer always looking for gold, but usually losing it again rather quickly. When he stumbles into a sandstorm and loses his donkey (carrying, as it were, a load of gold), he stumbles over a nice young woman (well, she falls on him). The woman’s name is Elika and she’s a princess on the run.

Elika’s father is trying to free the dark god Ahriman, because the god has promised him to resurrects his dead wife. Elika tries to stop him - but mostly in vain. And after meeting her, the hero follows her for a while and finally becomes her protector.

Well, they protect each other, as it were. Elika is strong with magic, but she’s not a fighter, while the hero is an agile swordsman with a lot of interesting fighting styles. The enemies (not as many as in other games, but therefore each of them can only be vanquished by both together) are special.

The fighting system is both intuitive and easy to learn. By attacking again and again with various means (Elika’s magic, the sword, the young man’s iron-covered glove or an athletic move), combos are created which will cost the enemy a lot of energy. After a few tries during the tutorial, the fights are still challenging, but they are not frustrating.

Apart from fighting, Elika is also helpful throughout the jumping and climbing. She can pull the hero back from a certain fall and assist him with various means (most of which are gained by picking up light seeds after an area has been cleaned from the shadow influence of Ahriman). In exchange, he sometimes carries her on his back while climbing and protects both of them in a fight.

For a woman in computer games, Elika is extremely useful. While during most games, the heroines are there to be protected and to get the hero into trouble, Elika is a helpful companion and absolutely indispensable during the fights. She isn’t a nuisance and talks with her (possible wherever the two can stand still for a moment), are enlightening and usually quite funny. She’s a woman with an opinion, after all, so they quarrel quite a lot.

The graphics of the game are great, too. The whole look reminds me of the drawings you get in some versions of “Arabian Nights”, both in style and in the chosen colours. The whole game has a slightly ‘drawn’ look that fits well with the topic and makes the unrealistic parts (and due to Ahriman, there’s a lot of them, like crawling darkness or enemies who look like they took a bath in a tar pit) more believable. A painting doesn’t have to be realistic. And as long as the main characters move as quickly and smoothly as they do in this game, I’m all for this new look.

The Prince is back and though his new enemy isn’t a grand vizier, he’s going to kick some serious ass!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Weekend Update

It’s the last weekend before Christmas and here’s the weekend update:

  • DVD to watch: “The Dark Knight”
  • Book to read: nothing planned
  • Game(s) to play: building my neighbourhood in “The Sims 2” and entering a haunted mansion in “Return to Ravenhearst” again

A few free days lie ahead during the next two weeks and I am definitely going to enjoy them.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas is approaching

I know Christmas is approaching, because I broke out into random Christmas songs yesterday while surfing the net. And believe me - you don’t want to hear that.

I don’t remember the lyrics of most of those songs really clearly ... so a lot of my actual ‘singing’ goes along the lines of “la la la” or “hum hum hum”. At least I remember the melody.

So, Christmas is approaching inevitably. Good for me, I need a few days to sleep in - and all the fuzzy, warm feelings that come with this holiday.