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Television: Beauty and the Beast — Should it be cancelled?

Posted by JungleBoot on September 13, 2015

Beauty and the Beast recently ended its third season on a positive note — Kat and Vincent (or should it be Vincent and Kat?) finally got married?  Yeah!! But, I have a problem.  Too many shows are running far longer than they should — Supernatural comes to mind.  Vincent and Kat have been through so much — not to leave out JT, Tess, and Heather.  But, the premise of the show is long over.  Unless the viewers have forgotten, Kat discovers Vincent and begins a journey of discovery which leads her to so many unknown truths.  Well, most of those secrets have been discovered and are common knowledge.  Now, the cat is literally out of the bag.  Homeland Security knows the truth about Vincent.  Can you guess how season 4 is gonna go if we don’t stop the nonsense?

I’m sorry.  I like the show.  But, it seems like a good time to put Beauty and the Beast to bed.  I really don’t want to see the show drop into the weekly Police / Homeland Security procedural.  For once, just admit it’s time to move on and focus on your more popular shows that have more story to tell:  Arrow, Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow (hopefully).  It’s also time for CW to leave “Twilight” shows behind and look for new properties.  Almost Human was good.  At least, I liked it.  Maybe it’s time for a new Terminator series that takes into account events of the most recent film.  But, do something new.  Be original.  And for the love of God, give a show a real chance.

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SKYRIM — Another Player Rant

Posted by JungleBoot on July 7, 2012

All right.  All right.  Nothing new here.  It’s just another player rant.  You have the choice to not read it.  But, I have a few things I would like to get off my chest.  I’m willing to bet I’m not alone in these observations.

AUTOMATIC QUESTS

An automatic quests is one given to you whether you want it or not.  This happens very early in the game and exists in many locations.  As soon as you exit Helgen, you are given a quest to speak to either Alvor or Gerdur.  I understand it’s part of the main quest.  That isn’t the point.  It shouldn’t happen.  But, it does.  Todd Howard, Game Director at Bethesda Game Studios, stated that Bethesda employees worked really hard on that moment during his keynote speech at the DICE 2012 event.  He emphasized the importance of that moment.  “… You can go do whatever you want.  It’s gonna be all fine .. ”  But, that’s not the truth.  What if you don’t want to follow Ralof or Hadvar into Riverwood?  What if you want to head off towards Falkreath?  You can.  There is nothing stopping you.  You can head in any direction.  So, I have to ask.  Was it necessary to assign that initial quest?

I’ll stipulate that someone has to point the character in the right direction.  But, does it really have to be Ralof or Hadvar?  Let’s role play a little.  The character has just narrowly escaped death at the hands of the Legion and survived the attack of a dragon that appears out of nowhere.  Regardless of who you follow, you experience the ” … step out moment … ” (Todd Howard’s words).  In that moment, you see the dragon heading east towards Riverwood and  Hadvar or Ralof basically state the same thing.  “We should split up.  But, ….”  starting the Before the storm quest.  If you decide to follow either one into Riverwood, you are gifted with another quest — join the legion or join the stormcloaks.  Really??  The dragon is your problem.  I’m heading west.  That is a valid choice.  You can literally avoid the main quest 100 percent.  There is nothing anywhere that demands you do it.  However, avoiding the main quest prevents dragons from appearing.  Which also prevents you from becoming this savior called Dovahkin.  So, how do they get you to play the main quest? They just give it to you during that step-out moment.  They sort of rely on the mentality that views a task list as something that must be done.  Here’s a task.  Go do it.

Brynjoff is another example of this automatic quest system.  Attempt to use a merchant in Riften without drawing the attention of Brynjoff.  It’s possible.  But, you have to do a lot of maneuvering to accomplish it.  What if you don’t care about joining the Thieves guild?  Shouldn’t I be the one to make first contact?  Shouldn’t it be up to the player whether or not that first conversation takes place?  So, If I can really do whatever I want, why does Bethesda  feel the constant need to tell me what to do?  I’ll admit you can’t play a game of this size without some sort of guide.  But, the gentle nudges should come when I speak to the right person — not because I stepped into a trigger zone.

PLAYER BOUNTY

Smack a guard within the walls of Whiterun and there will be a bounty placed on you for 40 gold.  I can live with that and it’s as it should be.  Attacking a prisoner escort detail between Whiterun and Rorikstead out of sight of the watch towers, should not result in a bounty.  How is this possible?  Who is reporting the crime?  It’s just you, three Legion soldiers, and the escorted prisoner.  Yet, somehow the crime is “magically” reported.  If I’m to believe everything said during Todd Howard’s keynote speech at DICE 2012, the 100 employees, or more, were all playing the game ” … tons .. ” prior to launch to polish the game.  You mean to tell me none of those employees noticed this or any of the other multitude of problems this product shipped with?  I don’t buy it.  This may seem like a non-issue.  I promise you it’s the opposite.  It is an issue.  It means Bethesda made some “business” decisions to ignore minor and major issues in order to ship on-time.  Because at some point, correcting any problems means delaying product release.

NATURAL ENCOUNTERS

What constitutes a natural encounter?  It describes any event that takes place out in the game world away from populated locations or “staged” events.   Fix an image of a herd of horses in your mind.  How do they behave?  Where do they go?  Do they remain firmly within the bound of a predefined space or do they roam free?  In my mind, they roam free.  This is something the folks over at Rockstar got right with Red Dead Redemption.  The horses behave in a natural way.  They roam.  They aren’t necessarily bound.  Do they have total freedom?  No.  But, the space they occupy is large enough to allow more freedom of movement and random behavior.  This makes approaching a herd feel more natural — a natural encounter.

Skyrim has it’s share of “natural” encounters with wildlife — particularly deer and elk.  What is missing are natural encounters with the various creatures in the game.  Isn’t it possible that Draugrs emerge from dungeons at night and roam the surrounding areas?  I bring this up because an ongoing debate exists over fast travel.  Those against fast travel claims that you “miss” out some and that it “breaks” immersion.  If I knew I could have a “natural encounter”,  I might consider traveling by foot or horse more.  Otherwise, it’s fast travel.  Skyrim has a huge game world and a lot of it is just empty.

URGENCY

There  is an absolute lack of urgency to undertake the main quest.  Outside of the initial attack on Helgen, no other dragons appear until you confront the one near Whiterun.  You never feel the need to go there.  The only real reason is to gain access to shouts — a form of magic.  Shouts provide access to some spells in a different manner.  They also provide access to some unique spells.  But, they’re not required to play the game.  You can wander and wander and wander all day long in Skyrim never accomplishing anything.  Dragons are suppose to be at the center.  The hero/heroine should feel compelled to fulfill their role.  They are the Dragonborne.  But, meh, I’ll go over here to Riften and hide out in the Theives Guild for a bit.  Better yet, I’ll just stay there forever.

GUILDS

Guilds are cool.  Their stories could be more in depth and better.  But, that isn’t what is really wrong.  It’s the complete lack of choices.  Not only that, your choices have no effect on whether or not you can join other guilds.  You join the Thieves Guild and The Companions still welcome you with open arms.  Aren’t the Companions suppose to be honorable fighters?  It makes sense that a Thief might join the Dark Brotherhood.  Those two go hand in hand.  So, why isn’t there an actual Fighters Guild to compliment the Companions.

The adventurer approaches a Companion traveling from Riverwood to Whiterun.

Adventurer:  May, I join you?

Companion:  I’m only going as far as Whiterun.

Adventurer:  No, may I join the Companions?

Companion:  Let me have a look at you.  You appear strong and stalwart enough.  How is your blade and shield work?  Show me.

The Companion engages the adventurer in a friendly duel.

Companion:  You need training and work.  Go speak to Theolen at the Fighter’s Guild.  Train hard.  Work hard.  When you’ve learned enough seek us out.

This is how I see the Companions.  Yes, they are nothing more than mercenaries.  However, they are an elite group and not just anyone should be able to join — especially a member of the Thieves Guild.  They prefer to kick in doors and face their foes head on.  They relish the challenge and would prefer a sword in the gut over a dagger in the back.  It should mean something to be a Companion.

SKILL TRAINING — SPECIFICALLY SMITHING

The perk system is flawed.  It’s a good attempt at hiding numbers — just poorly executed.  How does the player become knowledgeable in smithing Elven armor, Dwarven armor, Orcish Armor, Daedric Armor, Ebony Armor,  and Glass Armor?  You’re not required to read a book or visit a master smith that has the knowledge.  So, how?  For that matter, how is it that anyone still knows dwarven techniques for smithing?  Haven’t they basically disappeared?  Learning a new technique could have been tied to an actual quest.  Go find this guy here and offer your services as their apprentice.  Make the player have to gather materials and actually smith X item under the tutelage of the master smith to gain the knowledge.    There are ways to make the search for knowledge and advance skills more compelling.  Doing something like this isn’t about technical skill.  It would be very easy to do.  It’s more about caring enough to make more aspects of a game interesting.

LEVELING

Basically, the whole process sucks.  Players on consoles have to “exploit, cheat, or glitch” their way to the character desired.  PC gamers just enter a few commands into the command console and they’re off playing the game.  It’s a huge disconnect.  By no means would I suggest removing console access from PC gamers.  I cringe at the thought.  The problem lies in the lack of replay value.  You read stories of individuals “role playing” different characters.  They must be playing a different game or playing on a PC with mods.  Every scripted action is the exact same every time.  It doesn’t change.  The companions will always be engaging a Giant as you make your way to Whiterun for the first time.  Hence, people soon turn to the internet looking for methods of training skills to 100 fast.  They can’t be bothered with leveling up.  They already know the perks they want.   Why not do away with the grind (leveling) and go ahead and award the 81 perk points?  After all, there are 251 perks spread out over 18 skills.  That is what drives gameplay — the individual builds.  In all honesty, Nobody who is gainfully employed or a full-time student has the time or inclination to grind out a character.  They just want to enjoy the game.  When did that become too much to ask for?  Nobody is suggesting Bethesda dumbs down the game.  Just get rid of the grind that people constantly look for ways to get past.

More to come .. . . . .

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Games: The Elder Scorlls IV – Oblivion

Posted by JungleBoot on September 17, 2011

Recently, I have spent a lot of time playing The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (PS3).  This is not a good thing.  Any game that forces you to spend tons of time in preparation has problems.  What do I mean?

To enjoy Oblivion, you have to be willing to spend the time in training your character in a multitude of skills.  There are 21.  Seven skills the player will make major skills (It’s how the character levels) and 14 minor skills.  This leads to a multitude of options with two major viewpoints that matter.  Option 1:  Care about the skills and how they propel the character to higher levels.  Option 2: Make 7 skills major skills that you could care less about and will never use.  Option 2 allows you to simply play the game while missing out on certain side quests.  Option 1 brings about “power leveling” and delaying the actual “game play” for hours on end.  But, I really want to discuss stuff that I would hope are fixed in Skyrim — the next title in the Elder Scrolls series.

01. Don’t you wish you could just start the game and get right down to playing without getting caught up in the whole “training”?  I do.  I would love to just “play”.  How complicated is that to achieve?  Character leveling is too complex and time demanding.  Bethesda should look at Demon’s Souls and how characters progress in that game.  It’s simpler and more direct.

02.  If you’re going to include a magic system, it should allow for powerful spells and removal of spells that are no longer needed.  A little house-keeping could have gone a long way in making Oblivion more enjoyable.  Instead, you have to lug around every basic, minor, major, severe, and legendary spell you purchase or create.  Talk about bloat and confusion.

03.  “Major quest areas” (areas that contain essential non-player controlled characters when a quest is active) should be protected until opened up via encounters or events.  This prevents accidental deaths that lock quests from being started / enjoyed.

04. How about some variety in essential and non-essential NPCs?  Everyone in Cyrodill must be related.  They all look alike.

05.  How about an “enemy scaling system” that makes sense?  By the time you reach level 36 in Oblivion, many of the “enemies” are of the boss variety — which is counter-intuitive.  There have to be underlings for their to be bosses.  I know they are trying to keep the game challenging.  But, that is what the difficuly slider is for.

06.  If you are going to introduce an expansion, ensure the expansion world scales with the primary product.  Shivering Isles does not.  It’s open season on all NPCs at level 30 and above.  They are ill-equipped to deal with the scaled monsters.  For example, Jayred Ice-Veins continues to wear basic light armor when glass armor is available.  The player, if they care, has to protect NPCs and not the other way around.

07.  Enemies shouldn’t “change” tactics to take advantage of player character weaknesses.  Example:  During the recommendation phase of the Mage’s Guild quest line, a rogue mage is described as using frost magic and the adventurer is given scolls of frost protection.  However (in my case), the rogue mage uses shock magic.  A little consistency would be nice.

Hmmmmm …. I think I could go on.  But, I won’t.  If I find something else that truly annoys me, I might edit this post.  How about you?  What would you like to see fixed in Skyrim?

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Television: Stargate Universe Series Finale (WTF??)

Posted by JungleBoot on May 9, 2011

I have been an avid fan of Stargate since the original movie came out starring Kurt Russell.  The franchise has had a nice run with two successful series (Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis) and a not so great Stargate Universe.  Stargate Universe was slow to start and never really amped up the imagination.  It tried to be too many things at once.  It tried to bring the soap opera of Battlestar Galactica into the Stargate universe.  It tried – and failed – to be true to Stargate canon.  It ignored the stories Stargate fans enjoy —  gate to planet X, meet new people, encounter a crisis, solve crisis, and return back to the point of origin having made new allies or enemies.   Because I’m a fan, I kept hoping each episode of Stargate Universe would return to the formula that works.  It never did.  There were moments of hope and reflections of past success.  It just never solidified.  This brings me to my distress over the finale.  It sucked.

The finale to Stargate Universe is so painful to watch.  It’s just one long drawn out goodbye.  The ship is in trouble.  They can’t figure out how to deal with the drones and Eli has a moment of clarity.  “We’ll just use the stasis pods and calculate one long-ass FTL (a Battlestar Galactica term) jump into the next galaxy. It’ll take three years and there is the chance we could fall short of our target and drift for — oh, I don’t know — forever.”   Now comes the long drawn out worthless goodbye.  The show recieves no resolution what so ever.  We’re just left with Eli sacrificing himself for Dr. Rush (Seriously!!!!) and Col. Young (the father Eli never had).  All I can say is this — It started shitty and ended shitty.

If I’m a betting man, I would allow myself to believe the following.  The creators of Stargate Universe left things as they were to have the capability of continuing the story in another format (books, comics, another movie, etc.).  Maybe they think someone will show them sympathy and the show will get another chance.  But as far as I know, this is it.  The Stargate franchise ends on a crappy note.  The movies that were in the works have been put on hold.  There are no television series in the works.

JB

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CERN’s “Big Bang Machine” and Relativity Question

Posted by JungleBoot on April 2, 2011

First off, I’m not a Physicist.  Like you, I can search the net and gain a rudimentary understanding of what CERN is attempting to do.  Which brings me to my little brain tease or hypothetical question. 

My understand of CERN’s efforts is they are attempting to understand the very early stages of the Big Bang by “creating” a smaller version of the bang.  My understanding of Relativity is that time is relative to the observer.

My Question:  If CERN was ever truly successful at creating a “Big Bang” event and it only lasted for a micro-second in the eyes of the scientist, would sentient life emerge and perish in that instant?  Keep in mind that time is Relative to the observer.  All the scientist would be aware of is the flash of light — a light that has a specific moment of origin, a specific point of origin,  expands outward, and finally ceases to exist.  How does that rattle your brain?

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Fallout: New Vegas — Allocating Skill Points

Posted by JungleBoot on November 12, 2010

This will probably be your biggest concern and where you will make the most common mistake.  There is no need to raise any one individual skill above 80.  Take the comprehension perk and skill magazines will boost your scores 20 points to give you 100 for those isolated needs (ie: very hard terminals and very hard locks). 

That said — we could reduce that number even further.  Each skill has a total of four books that may be read to increase your score by 3 (or 4 with comprehension) points per book.  That is a total of 12 (16) points.  You take away 12 points from 80 and 68 is your magic number.  You take 16 from 80 and 64 is your magic number.

For obvious reasons, there are only a few skills worth having 90 or above points in:  Barter (more caps equals more purchasing power;  don’t forget about the Roving Trader outfit when considering this score as well),  Guns or Energy Weapons, Repair (90 points needed for Jury Rigging perk), and Speech.  Honestly, you can stop at 80 with speech.  I’ve never encountered a speech chanllenge tougher than 80.

You should also keep an eye on how your SPECIAL and equipment effect your skill scores.  This can alter your magic number by a few points.  Someone somewhere is going to work this all out.  I don’t have the time or inclination to do it.  But, I can at least give you some basic things to think about.  And no matter how hard you try, there is no way to have an all-around uber character like in Fallout 3.  Some skills are going to have to take a back seat (like explosives, sneak, medicine, unarmed, etc.)  The choice is yours.  I hope this helped.

JB

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Fallout: New Vegas — Ranger Armor / Power Armor

Posted by JungleBoot on November 12, 2010

The armor on the game case looks cool.  However, it provides no benefit of any kind.  It is a unique NCR combat armor for the NCR Rangers.  It also doesn’t appear until you reach a certain point in the main quest — a condition is met.  I think it has to do with the OS upgrade to Mr. House’s securitron’s or secret army.  So, I’m not convinced it is tied to character level.

Power Armor isn’t widespread until you reach a certain point in the Brotherhood of Steel sidequest.  All of a sudden NCR soldiers will be seen wearing Power Armor.  No training is required to wear their armor and their armor provides no benefits.  It’s kind of pointless.

These two short paragraphs are to help you realize one thing.  Armor scales to the world around you.  If you put off the main quest until you are level 20-something,  the cool looking NCR Ranger Combat Armor won’t appear.  If you never deal with the Brotherhood, Power Armor won’t be seen.

The other annoying issue with armor involves faction reputation.  Putting on the uniform of a faction negates your standing.  Everyone will be neutral towards you except for named NPCs that can see through your disguise.  That alone makes wearing some armor (like the cool NCR Ranger Combat Armor) pointless.  Your reputation drives how the world reacts to you.  You worked hard for it.  You should reap the rewards.  If NCR loves you, they should still love you when in their uniforms.  It just doesn’t happen that way.

JB

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Fallout: New Vegas — Camp Searchlight Police Station

Posted by JungleBoot on November 11, 2010

You’ve cleared Camp Searchlight of the ghouls and can’t access the Police Station or Fire Station.  A key is required to enter.  This is because access is tied to a side quest.  There are two churches in town.  The one closest to the NCR camp  is your destination.  Enter the basement and speak to the mercenary leader below.  This will initiate the sidequest.  Enjoy.

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Call of Duty: Black-Ops — Some Thoughts

Posted by JungleBoot on November 10, 2010

Overall, disappointing.  The story for single player campaign was interesting.  I liked the whole brain-washing angle and time period.  However, the A.I. needs work.  Several times during the campaign A.I. soldiers would take cover in the same spot I chose.  They often got in the way.   I had the same problems with Medal of Honor.

The whole campaign is run-and-gun.  There is no requirement to clear an area.  The only objective is to reach the next “waypoint”.  In that sense, everything happens fast and you barely get to enjoy the game.  It would be nice to have one mission where the enemies didn’t respawn and you could actually judge your progress.  This was missing.

The zombie arcade game is fun for about ten minutes.  You get to laugh at the whacky lines and enjoy some mindless “killing”.  Then you start to notice the limitations on weapons and ammo.  I’ve made it through 7 rounds max.  Most of the time I wind up being over-run.  Maybe you have better luck 0r skill.  It doesn’t matter.  It just gets old quick.

I’m so glad I rented this game.

JB

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Fallout: New Vegas — Roving Trader Outfit

Posted by JungleBoot on November 8, 2010

Believe it or not, you can acquire this outfit early.  Head east on the road leaving Goodsprings until you discover Jean Sky Diving.  Enter the building and look around.  You should find a unique bottle cap.  It has a blue star.  Pick it up.  This simple act triggers the Malcolm Holmes event.

Malcolm Holmes will approach you in the wasteland and explain he’s been following you.  His sole function is to explain the caps with blue stars.  That’s it.  This is good news.  It means you can “sneak kill” him for his Roving Trader outfit and not suffer any bad karma.  The Roving Trader outfit and hat boosts barter for a total 10 points.  Enjoy.

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