Sunday, September 25, 2011

Video Game Review: Creeper World

Every real time strategy fan is familiar with the dream of an RTS game where you can "just build," either because they share the dream themselves or because they know someone who does. It's the player who builds turrets and power plants instead of infantry and tanks, the player who believes if you win a battle before you reach the highest tech tier available then you've failed. They're called turtles, and their goal in an RTS is not to defeat the enemy, but to create the perfect, self-sufficient base.

Sadly, there's not a lot of games available for turtles. Strategy games like Command & Conquer usually include base-busting superweapons that make turtling impractical, and tower defense games ramp up the difficulty so fast that before long even the most perfect base won't be able to hold off the enemy anymore.

Creeper World, which you can get for 10 dollars from indie developers KnuckleCracker, claims to finally give the turtles what they want: a strategy game where it's just you and your base against the creeper, a literal flood of destructive evil that can only be, at best, held at bay.

Does it live up to the claims? Not really. The creeper stops feeling like a threat after about the second level when you realize you can completely lock it down forever by putting a single blaster next to the spawn point. As for base building, the network system usually ends up creating a clunky mess, and the fact that there are only about 9 types of structures you can build ever means you won't have a lot to play around with.

Aside from the developers' obnoxious non-stop boasting (For example, the developers' real answer to the question, "What is Creeper World?" : "You ever play a game and then years later you talk about that game and how cool it was? [...] Well that's Creeper World.") there's nothing particularly wrong with this game, it's more that there's not anything particularly amazing about it either. I wouldn't spend 10 dollars on it myself, but I guess I can see how someone else might.

KR Rating: GOOD

No, what I really have a problem with is....the fans...

The fans rave about Creeper World!
The following are real comments posted about the level pack Creeper World: User Space.

william1647:
Best game ever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Psilo707:
Best game I've ever played. Ever. 5/5

relaxrelax:
I bought starcraft because of the creep description, it was supposed to... well do what the creep does in THIS game! Slowly take over everything!!

Seeing comments like these is like hearing someone say that american is the best kind of cheese, or that they decided to try filet mignon because they heard it was similar to low grade hamburger meat soaked in ammonia. I'm not sure whether to call them stupid or just feel bad for them. Their taste in games is so primitive and backwards it still thinks the wheel is a fad.

Particleman:
That'ssss a very nice civilization you have there. It would be a ssshame if something happened to it.

Now that a lot of people have played Minecraft it's hard to hear the name "Creeper World" and not think of the green suicide bombers from MC. Apparently if your brain is made of cheddar it's equally hard not to bring up that coincidence in the comments. You literally can't go for more than 10 comments without someone bringing up Minecraft. This comment wins for mentioning the similarity in the most obtuse and roundabout way possible.

GoeyJoe:
This is the BENCHMARK for a perfect strategy game. No planes, knights, killers etc. Everyone just needs to quickly and effectively to reach our goal. The upgrades are a great idea. Units, menu bar, the informations are extremely well thought out. !!! A STROKE OF GENIUS !!!

This guy almost started to make a legitimate point about simplicity and purity of strategy (or something) but quickly got distracted by his own stupidity. I'm not even sure what he's trying to get at here. How is a strategy game with knights worse than a strategy game with, say, marines? What the hell does he mean by "killers?" Did he forget that this game does actually have planes (well, aerial drones), or that upgrades have been a regular feature in RTS games for years? What does everyone need to quickly and effectively do? Move? Shoot? Molest a goat? What?

The comment has no answers for you. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, marinated with the unknown, baked in a puzzle for an hour at 450°, and then garnished with a conundrum.

Near the end you can see where the commenter's brain exploded and the shards of shrapnel from his skull managed to type out the rest of his post. Sadly, most of the pieces seem to have hit the exclamation key.

Friday, September 23, 2011

CERN to World: "We Broke Physics. Our Bad."

According to researchers at the CERN Institute in Geneva, the neutrino particle could be capable of moving faster than the speed of light, something that until now was widely considered impossible. How could this be? Let's start by examining the theory of relativity itself, shall we?

The theory starts out with something that's more or less inarguable: as you move faster, everything around you appears to move slower. If you're driving down the road and you pass someone walking on the sidewalk they appear to be standing still because their speed, relative to you, is so much slower.

Einstein, took this a step further. He decided that everything didn't simply look like it was moving slower, but that it actually was moving slower. That is to say, that as you move faster time slows down. He went on to theorize that you could place yourself into a sort of suspended animation by moving very fast, that if you were to travel near the speed of light years would pass for everyone else in what would be -to you- a matter of mere seconds. Furthermore, he declared that the speed of light was the ultimate limit, that at that speed time would stop completely. Therefore, he concluded, moving at or beyond the speed of light was physically impossible.

The problem with this theory, if you haven't figured it out yet, is that it's based entirely on ignorant conjecture. It follows a three-step process of idiocy to create something that's more akin to superstition than science.

1. Take a subjective observation. (We've never seen anything move faster than light.)
2. Declare that subjective observation to be an objective fact. (We've never seen anything move faster than light because nothing can move faster than light.)
3. Assign arbitrary magical properties to explain your new "fact." (Speed somehow controls time, and the speed of light is where time breaks, therefore nothing can move faster than light.)

And if we really want to be nitpicky...

4. Defend your "fact" by calling it "common knowledge" and accusing anyone who questions it of being stupid and arrogant. (Einstein said it was true and he's smarter than you, therefore it's true. Or are you claiming you're smarter than the greatest scientist who ever lived?)

Honestly, the only reason anyone took the theory of relativity seriously at all is because Einstein was the one who put it forth. If literally anyone else had suggested the theory of relativity it would've been laughed at, but Einstein gave us E=MC2 and so therefore -in the minds of the scientific community- nothing he said could ever be wrong.

Every genius is allowed at least one stupid idea, aren't they? Well, relativity is Einstein's one stupid idea. Personally I've been waiting for someone to disprove this ludicrous theory for years.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Movie Review: Dungeons and Dragons

This week's review is for 2000's Dungeons & Dragons, the labor of love of a then...well, really still pretty much unknown Courtney Solomon, driven only by his desire to make a movie about the famous role-playing game. Though a critical and financial failure (according to IMDb the movie lost 1.2 million dollars worldwide) I must admit that I actually enjoyed this movie, which is exactly why I decided to write this review slamming it.

Don't worry, it'll all make sense by the end.

Let's start with the actors. Even if you're capable of looking at Justin Whalin and not seeing Jimmy Olsen, who he played on the TV show Lois & Clark, he's still just a bit too irritating and childish to be heroic. Zoe McLellan creates a female lead so wooden they could have subbed her out for a cardboard cutout and no one would notice. The most enjoyable performance in the movie is Jeremy Irons as the villain, as he enacts his evil plot to chew up all scenery everywhere, which is sad because Jeremy Irons hated this movie and intentionally overacted as revenge against the director. To put it simply, when Marlon Wayans gives one of the best performances in your movie (and your movie isn't Requiem for a Dream) you have a problem.

Even worse than the acting, however, is the plot. This is due mostly to the deleted scenes, many of which are actually kind of important to the story and without them the already grandiose plot just becomes incomprehensible and ridiculous. Without them we don't know why the hero hates his dad, why he wants to find the magical McGuffin despite repeatedly stating he doesn't care, why it's so important that the villain be defeated, or any number of other important things. The editing is so bad that we don't even find out the name of one of the main characters (Elwood the dwarf) until we see it in the credits, because the scene where he introduces himself got cut.

As much as I did enjoy watching this movie, there is only one rating I can logically give it.

KR Rating: 2 BAD

The reason I decided to do this review is to prove a point. That being, that how good a movie is and how much you like that movie are entirely seperate concerns. The fact that you like a movie does not automatically make it good. Case in point: I like this movie, but it is, objectively, bad.

At the same time, liking a movie that is bad does not make you stupid, or show that you have poor taste. There's definitely something to enjoy here, as long as you're willing to put up with the movie's flaws. The movie had ambition, ambition that was mostly squandered granted, but ambition nonetheless.

Dungeons and Dragons set out to be great and ended up bad, but the fact that they tried gave the movie individuality and heart. Comparatively, the sequel, 2005's Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon God set out to be "okay" and succeeded. The movie is objectively better as a movie, the plot makes more sense, the acting is better, but the movie has no soul. There's absolutely nothing differentiating it from any of the hundreds of other generic fantasy movies out there.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Television Review: Star Trek Enterprise

For those who've been living under a rock for the last ten years and don't know what Enterprise is, it might help if I start a few years before the show came out. In 1999, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace hit the big screen to more or less mixed reviews. Despite complaints, the movie was a massive financial success, earning nearly a billion dollars worldwide. Prequels became the next big thing. By the time the craze finally ended it gave us a large number of -mostly awful- prequels, including the 2001 show Enterprise. Set a century before the events of the original series, Enterprise claims to tell the story of Captain John Archer, captain of the USS Enterprise NX-01, in the early years of space exploration.

Other reviewers have already said a lot about the lack of character development, or the way the show blatantly rips off stories and scenes from previous Trek series, or the silly and sometimes cartoonish plot points. Those are all valid criticisms, but personally I'm not going to be talking about them. I'm going to talk about something else, both for the sake of providing some actual fresh insight, and also because as bad as those things are I don't believe they're even cose to the worst aspects of this show.

No, the most irritating thing about the show in my opinion, and the reason I feel it would have been awful even if it was well written, is the extreme political bias. Now, don't get me wrong. There's nothing necessarily wrong with being either liberal or conservative as long as you don't drift into fanaticism. Unfortunately, the writers for Enterprise seem to have left "fanatic" in the dust a long time ago as they sprinted straight for "retarded" at top speed.

Nowhere does this show more than in their portrayal of the military, specifically Starfleet. Yes, Enterprise is a military vessel, however peaceful their mission may be, yet the show's portrayal of military personnel is about as accurate as the average Appalachian redneck's idea of an african american.

This is a problem that could be easily remedied with research. Stargate SG-1 is a great example of TV getting the military right. Sure, it wasn't always perfectly accurate but they did a pretty good job specifically because they did research. Enterprise could have done the same, but that might have required talking to actual military personnel, and as near as I can tell from watching this show, the writers' idea of military personnel is a grunting neanderthal trying to think up excuses to kill brown people.

Faced with the problem of trying to make the target of their hatred the protagonists, they set out to design a "better," "smarter," and "more moral" version of the military for their show. What they ended up with was a league of incompetent poofs who ignore procedure, make stupid decisions that get innocents killed, and try to solve every problem with slapstick and passive-aggressive posturing.

KR Rating: 1 HORRIBLE

As much as I try to keep the blog non-political, in this case it can't be helped. Despite what many internet denizens believe, ignorance is not the sole province of conservatives. The writers of Enterprise are about as ignorant as they come, and the show suffers a lot because of it. Their misguided attempt at writing a "better" military obliterated any shred of believability in the plot or likability in the characters. Yes, the show got better as it went, but it didn't matter. Even if the show had been well written from the beginning, the writers' political stupidity would have killed it anyway.

At multiple points while watching the show I tried to figure out how other Trek captains would have handled the situations Archer finds himself in, yet every time I tried I realized that no other Trek captain would have been in those situations to begin with. Picard would never have sent his crew to an uncharted planet without even so much as running a single scan to find out if it was safe. Archer did exactly that in season 1 episode 3: A Strange New World. Kirk would never have brought his pet to an alien planet knowing it would almost certainly offend the locals. Archer did that in season 2 episode 5: A Night In Sickbay.

In the real world the military would never take orders from a foreign power the way Starfleet kowtows to the Vulcans, they are not in the habit of sending either personnel or vehicles into combat zones unarmed, and believe it or not the military's policy toward stupid captains who get their subordinates killed is not "forgive and forget." Any captain like John Archer would be court-martialled less than a month into his command. It's as simple as that.