Monday, September 19, 2016

The Big Poll!

Hey all, CounterFett here, as always in constant need of reader input.

Basically, as work on my novel progresses (which is the cause of all the lack of posting lately!), I am trying to think of how to do this publishing thing. As much as I would love to have an actual physical release, I don't think that is very realistic to hold out for. So I'm looking for alternatives. I put up a poll on the top right, to sort of gauge how people feel about the top contenders I have found.

The options thus far are:
  1. Webnovel on a monetized site. I have a passing familiarity for how this would work, since it is essentially a blog. Upsides are that you definitely get credit for anyone who even looks at the page. Downsides are that these monetize slowly, and are the easiest thing for people to plagiarize.
  2. Smashwords for $0.99 each hundred pages. Basically, this was my original idea. Sort of like a serialized light novel or fiction magazine. Upsides to this are that Smashwords seems pretty accessible and legitimate. I also would receive 85% of purchase price. Downsides are that I've never worked with them before or know how their monetization thresholds work. 
  3. Smashwords for $3 for novel length. This could be a double edged sword, as the higher price point means less accessibility, but also a reduced chance people feel like you are ripping them off. Pluses and minuses are similar to #2, but one downside here is that I will not be able to get 'Volumes' out as often, reducing my ability to see faster return on time investment.
  4. Other Website / Length Combination. Basically, if you know of a better setup than what I've come up with, let me know. The poll is still important to let me know what people think would be a reasonable cost to pagecount, but if something better is suggested, I'm not locked into picking from the above options.
  5. Toilet paper, because my writing stinks. Well, this is entirely a realistic possibility. If everyone picks this, I might cry.
Thanks a bunch folks. Hopefully I will have this figured out and some decent material available to be read soon.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Writing Again.

Well, it's been a little over a year since I worked on my novel, but I got a bee in my bonnet late last night to get working on it again. I think I was inspired by anime and cartoons I had been watching with my wife, and wanting to 'write' what I wanted the characters to do for their unresolved issues got my creative juices flowing again.

I'll hopefully keep this streak going, and let you all know what's going on with it. If I finish and feel like it's decent at all, I'll probably make it available on some online publishing site for like a dollar. That way, people get cheap reads, and I get to pretend like I'm a novelist.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

(Not So) Obscure Video Game Review - Deus Ex Mankind Divided

Oh boy, I honestly hope I don't get too much crap about this one. This will be a spoiler free review, for the most part, but caution is always warranted.

Mankind Divided is the Nth installment (I don't remember how many there actually have been, three?) in the controversial Deus Ex series. What usually grinds people's gears about the series is that you have to make a ton of choices throughout the games, but they don't really impact much. Also, in Mankind Evolved, if you followed some of the instructions in the quest log, you actually screwed yourself for a significant chunk of the game. That's something gamers always find refreshing and never get upset over, right?

But anyway, enough about the past, let's examine Mankind Divided on it's own merits, shall we? Since I'm an old pro at this, let's start with the PROS.

  • Graphics. This is not something I usually think much about, as many of my favorite, or what I consider most innovative games, do not have what you could call stunning graphics (Terraria, North and South, etc). Still, Mankind Divided's visuals', while not earth shattering or revolutionary, are pretty good. The dystopian, Blade Runner-esque locals are interesting, and while a little overwhelming to navigate sometimes, look pretty good. Character facial animations are above average, and dropped and interact-able items in the world look good and act right.
  • Inventory Management. I think I mentioned EONs ago that the inventory system in Deus Ex was handled better than most games. It still is. You have a limit to what you can carry, but you can expand it by using the upgrades, and manage it intelligently by simply not grabbing crap you aren't going to use.
  • Voice Acting. This IS something I usually think a lot about, and the VA in this game is decent, if, again, a bit uninspired. Adam Jensen, the playable character, is apparently the spiritual successor of Inspector Harry Callahan, and while your options for emotional responses seem limited between cranky and very cranky most of the time, it's the writers' fault, not the voice actor's. 
  • Pacing. All story driven games have an ebb and flow. Active and recovery. Brave and Default. Whatever you call it, it's important that the slow portions feel meaningful, and the fast portions seem rewarding. Otherwise, players are going to feel irritated by one or the other. For me, Deus Ex does neither well. The fast portions are really fast, and hampered by an odd control scheme. The slow portions are really slow, and seem almost interminable. Most of the tasks you perform in the slow phase, at least in the early game, feel like they should have been quickly addressed in the tutorial, or not included in a final product. The gun range teaches you how to shoot AN HOUR after you survive a furious 10 minute gunfight. The freedom to pillage uninhabited apartments sounds neat, but in reality, it just makes places like future Prague seem like a confusingly well-lit ghost town.
  • Confusing Controls. There's nothing I appreciate like a well crafted and intuitive control scheme. It would be great if this game had one of those. Having to hold, release, and press combinations of buttons to perform simple weapon tasks is silly. Use a radial menu that you can assign frequent tasks to, and use a conventional menu for the rest. Seriously, Mass Effect had this system nailed down years ago, it's not a new idea. Even Skyrim has a better quick menu system.
  • Silly Missions. Street cops detaining and diverting high ranking Interpol Agents is laughable. Seriously, this side quest early in the game is ridiculous. It is even more so in that you do not have an option to avoid it. It's not even really a side quest. There's no way around it. You have to spend a good amount of the early game trapped in one city block because one cop (who most of the other police officers nearby admit is not even really a cop!!) is running a forged paperwork scam. Explain to me how an Interpol Agent would not have a contact on his cellphone that would get this guy thrown in the slammer in minutes, if not seconds. It's just stupid, and it sours your suspension of disbelief for this game real early. It's like how if you start the day mad, everything else makes you mad for the rest of the day. Mankind Divided annoyed me fast, and I stayed that way for most of the duration.
  • Crafting and Upgrading. Usually character customization is a strong point of modern games, as it lets you play the game how you want, or differently on multiple playthroughs. Unfortunately, most of the upgrades Jensen can get are incremental, rather than revolutionary. Many of them are things that are  much less convenient to use than simply shooting the bad guys. Others are just roadblocks, like the hacking skill that blocks many areas. Got level one hacking because you are in the first area of the game? Well good luck, because this terminal is a level 5. Enjoy backtracking later if you want to see what's behind it.
  • Repetitive. Sometimes minigame gimmicks are fun and immersive. Like lockpicking in Skyrim, or hacking in the original Mass Effect. In Deus Ex, they are repetitive and feel entirely random. Click the node, hope you don't get caught. Repeat. Sometimes you get caught, sometimes you don't. The hacking upgrades are supposed to reduce your chances of getting caught, and that is reflected in the percentages shown, but like Fire Emblem hit chances, whether it's an accurate reflection of the real probability is up for debate.
I usually don't like doing out and out negative reviews, as I am one of those rare people that was raised to not say something if I don't have something nice to say (for this reason I am not reviewing No Man's Sky, lol). Still, for a modern, full price, main market release, Deus Ex Mankind Divided has a lot less going for it that it should.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

LEGO 60120 - Volcano Starter Set

I found this the other day at TRU when I was trying to get a grey base plate for my wife, and it was a decent price, so I grabbed it for her as a sort of surprise present. The title alone gives me questions. Volcano Starter Set? Is it a set focused on people who start volcanoes? Like they use a superweapon to create a volcano so they can use metal detectors to harvest the Pizzazium Infinionite that it spews out? Or is this possibly the starter set to an upcoming LEGO series focused on geology?

Neither of these things seem that likely.

Still, I thought this was a good source of some olive drab bodies. Plus some neat parts. The crystal and lava pieces are a pretty good score, and I'm always down with getting my hands on female faces and cameras.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Toys For Wargaming - Playmobile Dark Colossus

I got this on clearance at Toys R Us, and I was pretty happy to have found it, since it is nearly precisely what I was looking for. It checks off two boxes, namely as an oversize Death Knight to go with my LEGO figure of Ainz, and also as a figure of the Overlord (from the video game) to tower over my LEGO goblin army. So it's a big guy for Human size LEGO, and a normal size guy for Goblin size LEGO. A twofer!

The Colossus (or Overlord, as you please), assembled. I like that the decals for his shield come unattached, so you can decide if you want to keep it metal toned, as I have. His sword is a two piece affair, that locks securely. Strangely, the buckle for his chest harness is a separate piece. I could live without that, but whatever.

One really neat feature of this figure, is that he has two levels of grip in his hands, so he can hold colossal weapons, as well as those meant for regular playmobile figures. I don't have any these days, but it's a nice feature.

His sword slots into a scabbard that you can stick on his back. Again, a separate piece, but it stays put, so I can live with it.

I think we'll be seeing more of this guy.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Penguin Lady, Babysitter, Pirate, Elsa - LEGO Wave 16 Part IV

Hey all, CounterFett here with the long delayed and probably slightly anticipated final installment of my descent into LEGO madness.

Antarctic Explorer. Because she has a camera and a penguin, see? Okay, we got a few of these, because this is the wave of the penguin or something. Hmm, makes me think about all the Space Penguin smugglers and scumbags in starbound.

Babysitter and Baby. Aside from totally wanting to  turn the girl into the protagonist of Lollipop Chainsaw, the whole reason to get this is the baby. Seriously.

Pirate. The anchor tattoo on his arm is pretty dope, I guess. Otherwise this one is pretty meh. I wish he had at least come with the cool new cutlass that the Ninjago pirates have.

Elsa. I don't know why they just didn't release this in the Disney wave. Because, umm, Elsa. She has cool ice rays to shoot from her hands, which is probably the best part of this one.

And that's it. Sorry this one was a little brief and uninspired, but there's a reason this batch got saved for last, and it's not because I thought they were the best.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Obscure Video Game Review: Overlord!

Who has been reading my blog long enough to remember Obscure Video Game Reviews? It's the feature where I play through an old, obscure, or terrible video game, then tell you all about it so you don't have to.

Well, I got in a bit of a rut with not feeling like posting, and sick of being a goody two shoes. So I went and played some Overlord! It's a pretty fun game, and can be had for quite cheap used (if you can find it). In it, you play the titular Overlord; an undead master of an army of goblins. Your predecessor was killed, the Dark Tower destroyed, and the goblin tribes scattered to the four winds.

You need to make this right. Er...wrong? Wrong again? Wronger?

Basically, it's Evil Pikmin.

It's cute, fun, and tongue in cheek. The Overlord is a silent protagonist (antagonist?) with an axe and some spells. You can chop your enemies if you like, though honestly, it's more efficient to let your little gremlins do the heavy lifting. And the fighting. And the turning of capstans. The Overlord does learn some cool spells as you progress, if you want to be a little more hands on, though I have honestly only used Fireball thusfar.

  • Fun re-imagining. Sure Pikmin was a revolutionary game, and this is a pretty blatant take off. Still, Nintendo's super G-rated stance makes the game somewhat unapproachable for a more mature audience. Hell, the Overlord has mistresses.
  • Silent Protagonist. The Overlord doesn't talk, or try to influence your decisions with morality, or ruminate on the meaning behind his actions. He swings his axe, guides his minions, casts his spells, and looks cool doing it. BYOB: Bring Your Own Backstory.
  • Minions. Most of your important actions are done by minions, which remind me of nothing so much as Gnoblar from Warhammer, if you know the reference.
  • User Interface. I don't think of 2006 as particularly being in the dark ages of game development, but the controls in this game do show their age. For instance, the camera controls are a little old fashioned and clunky. If you forget how a particular mechanic works (like, for instance the sacrifice shrines, which use a different combination of buttons than any of the other mechanics), or, god forbid, miss the tutorial, god help you, because nothing else in the game will.
  • Maps and Waypoints. This game has neither. It's a relatively open world game, a credit to early 360 capabilities, but a lot of the countryside looks the same, and there's no map or waypoint system to help you find your way around. It can be tough getting lost between the human village and halfling village early in the game. 
It's a pretty decent title, for an entry in this feature. I got both this and Overlord II, so I will likely post a review of that as well, at some point. For now, though, I am contemplating ways to create an Overlord in LEGO. Other that Ainz, I mean.