Take Two.

06/24/2009

I saw Transformers 2 opening night. It was pretty awesome, sitting in there with all the 13 year olds and potheads, wondering why I was doing this to myself. By the time the movie ended, however, I was glad I went. No spoilers (if that’s even possible), but Transformers 2 is everything you hoped for and didn’t get in Transformers: A self-aware, insanely high-budget movie filled with girls, gun, and gratuitous robot-on-robot action. Also Michael Bay is a racist and a pervert.

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Disc is Bullshit.

06/24/2009

General Vezax finally convinced me to do the whole Holy/Disc dual spec thing, seeing as the two are respectively the worst and best thing ever for that fight. Absurdity of Rapture on that particular fight aside, it’s pretty insane. Obviously the tank healing is infinitely better than as holy, but what I wasn’t expecting was how good it is for raid healing. Giant PW:S plus a penance/flash at +25% haste is enough to save all but the most determined DIAFers. Also interesting, I barely noticed the lack of Empowered Renew. Not that I cast renew a whole lot, given that penance was right there waiting to be OP, but on the occasions that I did I didn’t really feel the smaller tics or lack of frontend. It also significantly diminished my appreciation for Surge of Light. I know it’s already becoming an outdated talent, but an instant no-crit flash thrown up against one that can with a tiny cast time just puts it painfully into perspective.

At first I did miss my CoH, mostly for it’s instant cast rather than a real need to hit multiple parties at once. I quickly discovered I didn’t need it though, as I could just spam PoH on everyone, forever. Mana issues for Disc are nonexistent. None. You may as well have a smiley face in place of your mana bar. And I’m not even properly geared for Disc. I had some concerns with my throughput, especially on fights where I would be raid healing (lacking the bigger numbers/area for AoE heals and smaller cooldown for PoM abuse), but these quickly evaporated. I was able to do nearly as much effective healing as Holy, before absorption effects were taken into account. So yes, not only is Disc far better at tank healing and mana, but at least for me, it’s also better at raid healing. In a word: bullshit.


Laaaaaaaag.

06/15/2009

This is actually old news, but weird enough that I think it’ll still be interesting. It turns out there’s one more step you can add to your excuses for failure. You had you Internet connection, your computer, your kids, your level of intoxicaion…now you can add in your eyes. Turns out that there’s about a .1 second delay from when light hits your retina to when it is processed in your brain. That mean you are actually seeing .1 seconds in the past. That’s 100ms latency base at all times, no wonder you suck!


Judgement Day.

06/07/2009

I’m not a real believer in the concept of a self-aware AI/robot apocalypse, but if I was this would certainly be a landmark on the road to our destruction. The surreal scene is actually a combination of two distinct pieces of technology. Project Natal, which is the interactive sensor that allows for things like the capture and transfer of paper to and from the digital world, swirling the water with ones’ hands, and the like is currently under development for the XBox 360. Looks like another step away from the traditional controller setup for games, and with any luck less liberal with its interpretations than the Wiimote. The other half is The Demitri Project, having gone through several apparent cancellations/re-namings, before emerging as Milo. It’s this “game” that is responsible for the facial recognition, speech responses, and other “AI” type responses. Even if it’s been carefully edited to remove the more buggy moments that I’m sure exist, the demo is pretty impressive. I know I’m looking forward to seeing more of this type of interface.


Fit This One With a Restraining Bolt.

06/03/2009

Oh, right, I suppose I should occasionally talk about that that whole WoW thing. TRI is still chipping away at Ulduar, though we’ve fallen victim to excessive technical and scheduling issues, as well as our own rather short raiding schedule. Our latest adversary is Mimiron, and boy that guy is a douche. By all accounts the hardest fight to heal in Ulduar, Mimiron tests both your heal teams’ ability to heal through massive damage, as well as their mana pool. It’s also one of the most fun fights in WoW.

Still, once you’ve seen each phase a couple of times, it actually becomes fairly simple. The damage spikes are very, very predicatable, and thus quick reaction times are pretty moot; it’s more your ability to calculate and execute some absurd throughput at various points. Movement and reactions to ‘Fire’ effects (don’t stand in them!) are both minimal and pretty easily avoided for a caster (yeah, fuck you too melee). Almost all of the Don’t Stand In This Shit abilities are insta-kills, meaning that you’re not going to be wasting time and energy trying to save people that screw up, they’ll just be dead.

This leaves mana management as the only real test of your abilities, and while it certainly does (I’ve started using mana potions for the first time in…forever), like every fight, as the team learns to tighten everything up, both in terms of taking damage and dealing it, the strain on the healers mana pool diminishes significantly. Even after one week of 25s and one of 10s, I’ve reached the point where I can stretch my mana pool to cover whatever is needed with intelligent application of cooldowns. I only expect this to get easier as we improve at the fight.  I guess it’s pretty refreshing, having a fight that’s not about raw numbers and spastic reaction times, but about coordination and synergy, which our heal team has in spades.


The Force Is Strong With This One.

06/02/2009

Holy shit, holy shit, holy shit. The latest trailer for Star Wars: The Old Republic, the MMO being developed by Bioware is out, and every person ever needs to watch it. Not only does it do Episode III better than Episode III, but given the flavor and level of detail put into this piece of eye candy, I have high hopes that this will be a game that manages to capture the essence of Star Wars in a way that so many recent attempts have failed to. And it will be a MMO, so I can lightsaber tards in the face. Or, after watching this, perhaps I can double-flamethrower them in the face. Either way, I am very much looking forward to the release of this game, and may have to abandon everything to go be ridiculous in space.


I’m Not Dead Yet!

06/02/2009

Apparently there’s something floating around that I’m allergic to. Itchy eyes for the past two days has finally added in difficulty breathing, and as I’m not quite in the exhausted-crash-no-matter-what state, this leaves me unable to sleep. Anyway, rather than spend the next few hours failing to fall asleep, I’ve decided to spend them doing things more productive.

I’ve just finished season 2 of Dexter. For those of you not familiar, you should probably stop reading because the rest of this post is full of spoilers. If you’re already seen season 2, or just don’t care about things like this, read on! Dexter as show manages to keep its nose above the suffocating waters of mediocrity I suspect largely in part due to its unique subject material rather than any inherent quality. Sure, the antihero is hardly new even in television, but serial killers have such a deep rooted and unwavering cultural response of “Evil!” that attempting to turn one into a protagonist is bound to be interesting. I just wonder where they can possibly go from here…kiddie porn?

The first half of the season was actually pleasently compelling. While it certinally wasn’t sweeping me off my feet, it did an exceptional job of developing multiple intriguing and interwoven plots. The idea of Dexter seeking some from of help for his ‘addiction’ was a fairly obvious plot arc, but the manner in which it was presented, as something that was surprising and humanizing to the character himself, and the profound way in which it began to affect him, were truly excellent. The backdrop of minor character aside, there were four ‘movers and shakers’ on the show besides Dexter himself: his sister Debra, his sworn enemy Sergeant Doakes, the FBI specialist Frank Lundy, and the odd woman from his support group, Lila.

As far as the minor characters go, the show really is never up to snuff here. Not only is it painfully obvious that no one but the five central characters matters even in the slightest, but the most of them attempt at least one sad little subplot in a vain attempt to convince the viewer that they provide anything but backdrop. Even Rita, arguably a central character, does nothing other than provide slightly wavering levels of disapproval and sad, puppy dog acceptance of Dexter throughout the entirely of the season. Bringing minor characters to life is what elevates a production to the next level, and in that regard Dexter fall flat on its face.

Now, as I’ve already said, the first half of the show is actually quite pleasant to watch. I may know that at the end of the season, one of the characters will have to discover Dexter’s identity, while another one turns out to be someone other than who they claim to be, but I don’t know which one of them will do which, and the outcomes of each would be so vastly different that it’s fascinating to watch and wonder. The tipping point, the point in which the show stops weaving in new threads and starts tying them off instead is Doakes confrontation of Dexter at the docks. And here’s where it all starts to go downhill rather rapidly.

Doakes discovery of Dexter’s nighttime habits was a long time in coming, and I don’t begrudge the writers for finally bringing that to fruition, but having him become the antagonist was just a poor move on their part. While Dexter takes episodes to painstakingly arrive at his conclusions as to what to do about Doakes, to the viewer it’s painfully obvious that he either has to turn himself in, thus ending the show, or kill Doakes, thus ending the show for all practical purposes. The idea of framing him holds water for about five seconds; even ignoring the actual relative levels of evidence the two could provide against each other, if something like that occurred, for the show to continue the entire thing would have to be regulated so far into the background as to render it absurd. So obviously Dexter can’t go to prison, as a show about a serial killer escaped convict would get pretty boring pretty fast. He also can’t kill Doakes, as that would ruin the entire dichotomy of good and evil within Dexter that is the essence of the entire show. The Protagonist Shield says that some third party must therefor come in and kill Doakes for Dexter, thus removing the threat while keeping him free to continue in his moral conundrum. Hoo hmm, that makes for some really suspenseful episodes. The conversations between Dexter and Doakes might have been interesting if it hadn’t been so painfully obvious the latter was headed straight to the grave. I think even the writers got apathetic about that one; the development seems halfhearted at best, as if they didn’t want to put the effort into a dead end character. My last bit of beef surrounding the Doakes character is the actual confrontation on the docks. Doakes is supposed to be an enormous badass, ex black ops, and the dude is fucking ripped. Dexter’s no slouch himself (I wish my abs looked like that), but he’s clearly outclassed in any sort of fight with Doakes. Despite all of this, a handcuffed Dexter manages to overpower and choke out an expert marksmen bodybuilder ninja with a fucking gun in a matter of seconds. Really, guys? Really?

Okay, onward. Debra’s plot development didn’t really disappoint me so much as fail to inspire. She makes her way past her issues with the Ice Truck Killer within the first few episodes, and beyond that she stays pretty static. Though she’s a central plot piece, often pushing or pulling Dexter in various directions, the character herself stays disappointingly undeveloped. A slightly calmer, more assertive Debra is what emerges at the end of the show. While this is probably a realistic depiction of the level of personality shift a person would undergo in such a time frame, it still leaves me with a very bland taste. Since when is TV ever about realism at the expense of entertainment anyway? I honestly expected Debra to be the one to discover Dexter. The conflict of keeping her brother, whom she loves and relies on out of harms way, all the while knowing and hating what he does would have made for some excellent season 3 material. Oh well, such is life.

Lundy I actually had pegged as our plot twist man. Like Dexter, I spent the entire show expecting him to know more than he did. I even toyed with the idea of him being a killer himself, and the like mind being what lead to his success in catching his peers. But no. In fact, Lundy proved to be exactly what he appeared to be: a smart, old guy that catches bad guys. And nothing more. I spent the entire show waiting for something, anything interesting to emerge from this character, sure that they would not have talked him up so much at the beginning to just leave him a cardboard cutout special agent. Alas, I was to be disappointed. The sad attempt to provide a subplot between him and Debora was trite at best, and entered the truely laughable when it was abruptly cut short in an obvious case of Kayyouwereagueststarnowwegottagetridofyourattachments-itis. I was impressed with his adherence to facts, and his willingness to change what he believes in the face of evidence to the contrary, but as far as being an interesting and compelling character, he may as well have been a water cooler.

Lila I’ve saved for last as she was the one character in the show that remained interesting from beginning to end. From the moment you met her you knew she was trouble, but you needed to see where it lead. Her sponsorship of Dexter, especially her subsequent seduction and rather considerable breakthroughs with him were superbly written, and her portrayal of an unstable obsessive woman spiraling out of control was nothing short of brilliant. The constant yo-yo effect between Dexter and her was morbidly fascinating to watch, as it captured the dysfunctional relationships all too common in the real world in a depressingly accurate fashion. The character herself seemed a better cast of Dexter than Dexter himself even: messed up, dysfunctional, recovered(?), understanding girl with an apparent heart of gold presents far more shades of gray than Dexter’s own fairly polarized self. They were perfect for each other, in a twisted sort of way, and the confirmation that she suffered from the same sort of emotional disconnect as Dexter only served to strengthen this idea. The betrayal of the two of each other, for the final time, whispered of ripples for seasons to come. And the fact that she had killed, taken his tools, gotten away, and was pissed? Oh man. She could be a new mass murder, his unwanted counterpart. She could hold her knowledge of his identity over his head in fascinating ways. She could find inner peace and return to share it with him. The plots were ripe for the picking. And then they killed her. And not even that they killed her, but they killed her as a fucking afterthought. The show was clearly over, the main story wrapped, and then for no reason at all other than the writers are apparently allergic to loose ends he kills her. It’s terribly done. An isolated event that serves no purpose, and in fact lessens the entire season in its execution, is stuck in there at the very end to do what? Make sure the show can’t get interesting again? Really drive home the point that they don’t want that actor back? What the fuck point was there to it?!

And of course, there’s the man himself: Dexter. The internal conflict of the man is what drives the show, and for all my complains it’s there. There’s several problems with the character in season 2 however, and they are as different as they are glaring. To being with, the entire first half, which is devoted to this beautiful unraveling of Dexter’s self identity, is all undone by the end. Questions, doubts, hesitations, sparks of humanity, solving a problem without killing it, all of them are evaporated. Dexter is in the exact same spot he was as a character at the end that he was at the beginning, despite a marvelous story arc that should have added depth to him. The clumsy dives into his past are another problem, not so much in their execution as what they do. Which is nothing. They can’t seem to decide what sort of message they want to convey via old papers and flashbacks, and the net effect feels much like they took a bunch of half baked ideas and threw them at a wall, hoping some would stick.  Then there’s the actor himself. I realize that Dexter is supposed to be emotionless, but the more I watched the more I got the feeling I wasn’t seeing a detached character so much as bad acting. I’ve seen sociopathic, detached, or otherwise emotionless characters done well, and I really don’t think this is one of the cases. Keeping a roughly similar expression in the face of emotional situations is all well and good, but good actors will give off tiny inflections in voice or body language, even subtle changes to their expression that convey that their character is in fact reacting, despite being unwilling/unable to properly respond. Standing there with the exact same expression plastered across  your face regardless of the circumstances is not inspiring.

I’m not sure how I feel about the next season. I’ll probably watch it just to itch my own compulsive urge to finish things, but I’m worried it will be more of the second half than the first. Though, I suppose half of a good show still beats out most of the competition.