It's been a while, and for that, I am somewhat ashamed. After sinking ducats into registering domain names and buying web space, it seems like I should at least be filling it with something on a regular basis. There are a couple of things I've felt like I could expound on lately, and it's certainly about time I actually wrote something of substance.
I've been reading up on WordPress theme creation - a topic that is both simple and confusing depending on where your information is coming from. While there are plenty of tutorials out there for making 'your first WordPress theme in under five minutes', most of them provide instructions without imparting any real knowledge or even providing explanations of what is written.
I was hoping to have a custom theme for this site before I leave in just over a month's time, though I'm less than sanguine about achieving this goal since I can't settle on a design I can bear to look at even for the duration it takes me to prototype it. In the spirit of this, I've been brushing up on my CSS skills and taking a look at PHP in depth for the first time. My experiences so far with theme development suggest that knowledge of PHP is not as integral as I had first thought, since WordPress seems to provide blog data through basic function calls which can be found in the Function Reference doc online. Simple and effective, I'm not sure why I was expecting anything more complicated just to retrieve and display blog posts.
Until I can get a handle on how to create themes properly (and settle on a design that doesn't make me gag moments after creating it), I've reverted back to the default theme that comes with WordPress. Hopefully I'll have something different to show in the next week or so, but this will do until then.
Enslaved: Odyssey to the West
I've been wanting to take a look at Enslaved since I saw the trailer last year, finally picking it up last week when I spotted it on sale at JB HiFi. A good purchase.
Firstly, it's nice to see a game in this generation (set post-apocalypse, I might add) that actually features colour. There are parts of this game that are littered with so much eye candy that at times, having the viewpoint attached to my protagonist seemed almost like a burden. Unreal Engine 3 does a great job of pushing out inspiring visuals most of the time, although there are plenty of technical issues that become evident after only a few minutes of play; most noticeably a severe amount of texture popping, especially during cut-scenes and scripted sequences where viewpoints change between different scenes or characters.
Fortunately these technical issues are negligible when you consider the set pieces this game offers up at every turn, most memorably the first level, which places you on the exterior of a massive prison ship as it coasts dangerously overhead of post-apocalyptic NYC. Considering that this first portion of the game also acts as a tutorial level, the tension produced by platforming elements in the context of careening through the sky on an actively exploding aircraft is comparable to scaling that train carriage in the opening moments of Uncharted 2. A lot of people seem to whinge and moan about tutorials in games, but as a necessary fixture for unfamiliar players, Enslaved really is a great example of how the first half-hour of gameplay should be structured. And not just in terms of level design, but cut scenes too.
The storyline for this game is probably only as good as I was hoping for, which isn't disappointing by any stretch of the imagination considering how high my hopes are for video games as vehicles for exposition. In this case however, the quality of the exposition itself exceeds that of the storyline serving as the foundation for the game. The re-writing of the Chinese fable on which the game is based (aided by fantastic cinematic direction and some pretty great vocal performances) seems worthy of a better plot and certainly a stronger conclusion, which only left me disappointed because my expectations had been built so high by the previous six hours of witty (and genuinely funny) banter between the leading characters and how they react and cope with their individual circumstances.
I could talk more about gameplay (particularly team combat and the vehicular sections) and the character and environment design (which alternates between awe-inspiring and sparse depending on what the technology will allow), but I think I've probably said enough. Appealing to the same parts of me that longed for Uncharted and Prince of Persia, fans of either franchise would do well to pick up Enslaved: Odyssey to the West.
And on the Matter of Dickwolves...
So this has been blowing up the internet lately, at least in the circles of gaming culture. As a brief overview; Penny Arcade apparently upset a lot of people upon publishing this comic, eventually pulling a related T-shirt from their online store and creating a rift in their readership in the process. Now there's a bunch of back-and-forth going on between people identifying themselves as 'anti-rape culture' and 'pro-internet humour' - a conflict that has rapidly shifted from forum-sparring to full-blown shit-flinging on both sides.
Mike Krahulik, after receiving death threats against his family over Twitter, urged the PA community (perhaps one of the most volatile communities online) to let the whole thing go, which to my mind is probably the only thing PA should have to say about the whole controversial mess (instead of what was a pretty tasteless illustrated response). The idea that an entire community comprised largely of juvenile and insensitive gamers could be governed (that is to say, controlled) by two individuals for the purpose of promoting 'rape culture' is largely ludicrous, not to mention very sinister for two individuals who also oversee an annual charity for hospitalised children.
I put the whole thing out of my mind until I read Leigh Alexander's response, which seems less to do with the comic itself and more in reference to how PA handled the whole debacle from a public relations standpoint.
Regardless of their own position Gabe & Tycho have an opportunity to speak up to at least encourage compassion and education within a gamer community that's so often self-absorbed, immature, entitled and outright hateful. I'm trying to understand what would make them want to pass on that.
This is a fair argument, though I have to imagine this course of action would be much less elegant in practice than when discussed as an ideal. It's true that the duo have immense influence over the community, but to say that they have enough clout with gamers - particularly those individuals who are 'self-absorbed, immature, entitled and outright hateful' enough to vilify rape victims for feeling entitled at the expense of humour - to manipulate their behaviour to correspond with more noble expectations is a gross overestimation of their prestige. This is also entirely separate to the issue at hand.
My opinion is that people will always laugh at jokes that toe the line of good and bad taste, nearly regardless of who it is telling them. My reaction, similar to Jerry Holkins' official response, is one of surprise; this is the comic that upset them? A joke in the second panel of a comic published last year? This doesn't make it OK, of course. People speaking on behalf of rape and abuse survivors should absolutely feel vindicated for taking a stand against this kind of humour, because something so despicable and evil is a poor choice of foundation on which to construct anything even resembling humour. But, with that said, I hate to think what might happen should any of these people tune into the wrong episode of Family Guy.