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[FOLLOWUP] In the shadow of the cargoes (Hunting Hitler, 2015-2016) or possible might not be plausible — 6 December 2016

[FOLLOWUP] In the shadow of the cargoes (Hunting Hitler, 2015-2016) or possible might not be plausible

In 2014 I was stating that Modern Family was getting boring. Now it is official, Modern Family should be stopped, to the point you have to wonder if they changed the whole staff of writers, it went that bad. Almost a year ago, I was commenting Hunting Hitler first season from History Channel. Same here, what was wrong then is still wrong in the second season.

They actually improved how they show their search engine bizzle looks like, what they called NIAD. It is no longer all-eye-candy-no-information. But it is still unlikely that what they show is actually the supposed software output.

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Apart from that, I wrote “I haven’t watched the whole series right now, only half: but I haven’t watched or heard one sure thing”. Still the same. Not one sure thing. Always the same process. They more or less demonstrate there was maybe a tunnel from Hitler’s bunker to Tiergarten, that it could have been possible to use Tiergarten as improvised airstrip, that it was possible to fly from there to Denmark, etc; and soon enough, they claim it was very likely since it made sense. Possible? Could be. But plausible? Likely? I begin to see a pattern, sure, though not about Hitler but about Hunting Hitler series.

So, nothing new to report? Well, at some point, allegedly their software mention Léon Degrelle, since he flew a plane from Denmark (not directly actually) to Spain. That is how they react:

If you have no interest in WWII history, that’s okay. If you are claim some expertise about it, that’s is quite different. Even one this blog, which is not often about History, Léon Degrelle was mentioned already. Because he founded and led Parti Rexiste, main collaborationist entity in Belgium. He is not central as Hitler or Mussolini, obviously, but you cannot seriously offer to look for Hitler whereabouts if you are that clueless about Léon Degrelle. Especially since the guy did not die then was quite noisy post-war. You cannot claim to provide insights and new views about WWII if you are that clueless.

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And how do they present him? Simply with one of Degrelle’s claim that is actually considered highly questionable (Jean-Marie Frérotte, Léon Degrelle, le dernier fasciste, Bruxelles, Paul Legrain, 1987, p. 190) -Degrelle being considered to be quite mythomaniac even by people that likes him-  source being New York Time… in July 2016.

So, not only the whole deductive process is flawed by design; but their general knowledge on topic appears as much flawed. The only alternative explanation would be that the dialogs are that much scripted that they pretend not to know Degrelle beforehand only for show: but that would be even worse.

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Mister Hyde ne disait rien (Witcher 3, 2015-2016 ; Gwent: the Witcher Card Game, 2016), Geralt trapped in Orcs Must Die!? — 15 November 2016

Mister Hyde ne disait rien (Witcher 3, 2015-2016 ; Gwent: the Witcher Card Game, 2016), Geralt trapped in Orcs Must Die!?

Gwent: The Witcher Card Game beta campaign is on:

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I won’t describe at lenght what is Gwent. Even if I, almost, never posted any article about the Witcher series, I refered to it many times. I do like the Witcher. The video-game sure, the original books indeed, even maybe the movie. I recommend them all, in any order – maybe not the movie first, ahem.

The Witcher 3 got some awards for best game of the year. It is entirely deserved. From the base game to the extensions, gameplay, graphics, plots and story, ambiance and dialogs, it is excellent.

So if you do not know what Gwent is, I suggest you start playing the Witcher 3. You’ll get familiar with this card game Geralt plays in taverns. Because taverns are a cornerstone in any decent RPG and do matter much in Geralt heroic-fantasy world, a world well inspired and designed from historic perspective (you might wanna catch up with the thread Kingdoms and their real-life counterparts: cards are well shuffled!).

I do enjoy Gwent in the Witcher 3. It is probably a reason why I played as much as around 162 hours to the game. Any tavern, any hero or villain, they all do enjoy a Gwent game.

Ahem, yes, I also obtained real sets of Gwents cards. It looks like (not my pictures):

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How is the Gwent real-life experience? Real-life deck selection part is a bit of a bore and might lead to very uneven games. Within the Witcher 3, it is not a concern since you improve your deck over time, so you keep within your deck best cards. But when provided with a full deck at once, you are flooded with both overkill and (useless) beginners cards. Beside that, during playthrough, some cards effects require to look in the deck during game, creating some bias. It is cool but far from being as enjoyable as within the game.

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So how the Gwent: The Witcher Card Game beta compares? My first impressions were not so great:

  • Cards are harder to understand, to read:  they removed some mini-icons that made easy to find out cards effects without paying much attention to the card ;
  • Effects (double power, etc) made on a card by another stays on even if the said another is removed : that alters a lot the game flow, cards are less of a set once played ;
  • Effects made on the board by a card seems to have no effect on cards added to the board afterwards : odd, you have the rain/snow/fog affecting only some of the units in some row ;
  • The whole concept (ability to transform real money into cards) might lead to some terrible pay-to-win ;
  • Graphics and sound are aggressive, more like some Orcs must die! battleground than a dark tavern in Redania ; quite obviously, it reminds of Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, precursor and likely competitor.

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This official screenshot gives an idea: it flashes and bangs all the time.

I was disappointed. Mainly because it really differed from what I was used to. Because it is actually not bad:

  • Cards are hard to read? As any card game, it is a turn-based game. But when you play a real card game, time is never lost, during your opponent turn you actually look at his face, you pay attention to what he is paying attention to, etc. With original Witcher 3 gwent deck, players would not look at their cards often, so each would loose the benefit of seeing the mouse of the opponent moving around the board ; what looks like a defect in first place could actually be a nice well-thought gameplay component ;
  • Effects on a card stays on? That is probably due to the overall increase of cards having such effects, over the whole board. Many cards do +4, +2 +n or -4, -2, -n to whichever other(s) card(s) the player wants. It would be quite hard to remember which one gave or removed what, over a whole round ;
  • Graphics and sounds are aggressive? Sure, but nice to watch. As suggested before, it gives a Orcs must die! ambiance, which is not bad per se. Distracting? Could be, but, once again, distracting interface can also be a nice well-thought gameplay component.

To sum it, it is not bad, actually.

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So what about the pay-to-win risk? I guess we’ll have to wait for an actual game release to check whether it really makes a difference. But I do not picture myself paying for a card. I’m fine paying to play a game but I’m concerned about paying to alter (improve) my gaming experience. Sounds lame, some weak sauce.

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We’ll see how it develops. I liked Gwent within the Witcher 3. This new gwent could be fine. But will it be, at least, as good as in the Witcher 3?

As far I understand, Andrzej Sapkowski distanced himself from any Witcher-related productions, beside his books, after the The Hexer movie release.

The movie was not a public success, when asked to comment, Sapkowski said:

427px-andrzej_sapkowski_-_lucca_comics_and_games_2015_2“I can answer only with a single word, an obscene, albeit a short one.”

 

 “I am a Polish Catholic, it is Lent now; I cannot utter swear words.”

After making proper games that are no shame to original Geralt, now  CD Projekt is at risk of botching the followup of Gwent, their own legacy. Quite a challenge to face it’s own Geralt!

Update : good, the first patch makes sure “Monster faction ability no longer keeps Gold units on the battlefield” (not so fun to get Monster player always playing Geralt only starting first round forcing you to waste time beating him immediately or being forced to face him once again, or twice again even).
Could you help me’ police on my back (Mafia III, 2016; This Is the Police, 2016) or back to the 60’s segregated america — 6 November 2016

Could you help me’ police on my back (Mafia III, 2016; This Is the Police, 2016) or back to the 60’s segregated america

For once, here comes a cross-review of two almost different type of games I recently finished. The first one is a famous big budget GTA-style followup of Mafia II, the second an isometric low budget sim-type game, both finished in approximatively 30 hours.

Gameplay

Mafia III gameplay is not much different from previous Mafia game – or from any other GTA-like game. It (fighting, driving) is nicely done though not innovative. There is a “simulation” setup option for the driving experience but it will still be arcade nonetheless. Most cars really behave the same, no matter how different they appear to be, and laws of physics rarely applies. You can go off road at full speed, somehow you do not loose grip; you can hit vehicules repeatdly with not much damage to your car. Strangely enough, you can loose some parts of the car (trunk, for instance), you can scratch the paint, but the body panels are never bent, no matter how many times and how hard you hit obstacles.

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Here you have the example of a car that just had a major frontal collision with another car, both at full speed. The trunk was lost but the rest is perfectly in shape. This is something strange from a game with graphics that precise to have a however completely irrealistic  damage setting. As a matter of fact, it is not worth it to try to drive any car properly since you can hit whatever wall at high speed with no effect. It is just much more efficient to drive on the limit all the time, which would, in real life, get you killed in half a hour. This makes the driving sequences quite unchallenging – boring, at some point.

How police reacts to you is quite odd too. Apparently it is fine to almost ran over cops at high speed. But if you just bump one of their cars at 7 mph, they’ll shoot to kill. Citizens also tend to report crimes by calling the police: you can kill them to prevent it but there no way just to dissuade them to. A bit odd.

This Is the Police gameplay is minimalistic. You are presented with an isometric view of a city and cards that represents the coppers available. Calls or missions come in an you have to send coppers accordingly.20161101144403_1.jpgThe game is not a sandbox but a story: missions are scripted, the same events will always occur on the same day, so the replay value of the game is relatively low. The game has been critized since some choices you do have no decisive impact on the game outcome. For instance, you cannot not work, even a little, with the mob, otherwise you get killed. It can be disappointing from a sandbox game perspective but, considering it as a story that unfold, it is fine by me.

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I am actually a bit more concerned by the fact that coppers on the beat are managed as if they were ambulances or fire trucks: in real life, police patrols are patroling, not waiting for the next call at the station. In This Is the Police, coppers are either on a mission or waiting at the station. The game would make more sense if, on each shift, patrols were, at least, assigned a sector. Distance to cover would then matter when assigning missions.

There are also cases to solve: image puzzles. I must say that they are not all tremendously logical. But the concept is interesting.

Ambiance, dialogues, story – and the racial issue

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These are the strong points of both games. Tied by the genre, you won’t be surprised like hell by plots. But the dialogues are well written and well enacted.

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In both, racial issue takes a central place. In Mafia II, you can hear to often racial slurs from NPCs, Kotatu summarized the debate that ensued. In This Is the Police, you are often presented by instructions as follows:

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Maybe it is not entirely surprising to see games that focused on racial issues while, at the same time of release of these games, from USA to France, every day street coppers are killed because they are so and are, at the same time, accused of being hostiles to black or arabs, while these, in both countries, are overly dominant in street crime.

And, similarly, even though the racial issue take a central place in these game, it does not matters truly. The main character of Mafia III kills for his own revenge and profit, he made friend with an haitian gang, none mix, they are all opposing others for their own benefit. The major or the chief of police in This Is the Police do not care either. The race is just a color given to selfish greed-driven or powertrip-driven hostility. It is not the root of evil but definitely a taint.

After singing “Police on my back” in 1968, in 1970, The Equals were telling us about the kids in the future : “They ain’t got no country They ain’t got no creed People won’t be black or white The world will be half-breed. You see the Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys“. In 2016, they could not have been more wrong.

He counted long, he counted loud, he waited for the shock (Stellaris, 2016; Hearts of Iron IV, 2016) on sandbox, purpose and gameplay vs else — 14 June 2016

He counted long, he counted loud, he waited for the shock (Stellaris, 2016; Hearts of Iron IV, 2016) on sandbox, purpose and gameplay vs else

So Paradox released not one but two strategy games, using their Clausewitz engine, at the same time. Hearts of Iron IV was expected since a long time, Stellaris much less.

Stellaris came out of nowhere. It seemed at first glance like some sort of Star Trek Deep Space Nine in game and reminded me of a game I played in the nineties I cannot remember the name. Maybe it was Master of Orion but I’m not entirely sure.

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After 15 hours of gameplay, I found Stellaris interface to be ok, the gameplay to be fine. I clearly benefits from Crusader Kings/Europa Universalis experience. But I got bored. Diplomacy there is a bit dull, that may be part of the problem. I guess it is mainly tied to the fact that the space does not relate to anything we know. With sandbox type of game, you need to need to set your own goals. And there, what could be set, beside from beating another entity that is just a visual blob on screen? It is not like in Europa Universalis making a small minor country conquer half of Europe or like in Crusader Kings rank up from count to emperor. The frontiers are vague, the world is just random – it’s space ! And it seems that since the begin, you are more or less surrounded, so it is not really like exploration game. Unlike in Star Trek world, you do not feel in deep space. You are not boldly going anywhere no one were before, the space looks like busy suburbs of any major european town. The space look crowded as a frontier/front line between South and North Korea.

Same engine, completely different setup: I must say I never really played previous Hearts of Iron games. Unlike Europa Universalis or Crusader Kings, you do not have the opportunity to start with a small country and grow progressively. In this series, you are thrown into World War II and that is all the game is about. There is no rest, no way out this all-out-war, so it is quite dauting. Too much to handle with aD-Day: The Beginning of the End big country, nothing to do with a smaller,  an interface sometimes confusing, that is I remember of my few attempts to play Hearts of Iron III. I had better times playing D-Day: The Beginning of the End in the nineties (yeah, it looks like this topics bring us back in time). Good news, Hearts of Iron IV interface is ok regarding basic major features (like production lines). I guess that’ll make some veteran of this game unhappy, because when you master something you tend not to see any point to make it simpler, but that’s fine by me. I’ll just comment a few things I found odd :

  • Regarding army management, you can either set armies with unlimited number of divison led by field marshal or smaller armies with 24 division max led by a general. You can promote a general to field marshal but then he loose all his specific bonus abilities. Why? No clues. Some people suggests that when you lead unlimited amount of division, you cannot follow them as finely, so you cannot assists them and give to all of them bonuses like this. Some people suggests that abilities share among to many troops would be bad for gameplay. The answer is two fold. From a logical standpoint, if a general cannot lead properly, without suffering the effect of a20160611154152_1 lobotomy, more than 24 divisions while you still need to make an army bigger, you would, in your sane mind, create an army group, led by a field marshal,  topping 24 division armies efficiently led by a general; no brainer. From a gameplay standpoint, there is nothing really specifically fun to promote to field marshal only mediocre and unexperienced generals from day one. So not only it makes no sense but it neither  serves any real game purpose.
  • Naval invasions UI is a mess. Not only the interface forget to cleverly inform you, for instance that you can only move 10 divisions at once (unless you research technology to move more) for a naval landing, but it fails to give you any proper feedback, especially on failure. Best it does is to put an exclamation mark saying the troops have no orders. But you can select troops and click thousand of times assign order to the landing to no effect, the interface never tells you what is wrong or that something is wrong. And when it is properly set, there is a timer (days of preparation) before you can actually lauch the landing: you cannot set it to start as soon as possible and there is nothing to tell you when it is ready. You just have to check it frequently to manually start it. Every possible user interface design mistakes are there.
  • Airplanes are assigned to a zone to carry missions. In some regards, it is a clickfest. Worse, you cannot actually make your planes focus on a specific objective, for instance on where you intend your troops to break through the front line. And the zones are half geographical/half whatever, so while your planes effective range depend on their fuel autonomy, their zone of activity is restricted in the most arbitrary way. So any coverage of some area is not really consistent and would requires tons of clicks to be.
  • The interface shows night and day. Ok, pretty for two minutes then it is just visual noise, especially at high speed. But I did not noticed winter/summer effects.
  • The world tension system actually sense to focus the game on ending to an all out war. Some people noticed inconsistencies with it  but I think important no to consider it as a clone of the bad boy/infamy system from others Clausewitz games. World tension is not necessarily bad. It is the way it goes. Some factions grow, that leads to confrontation with the others. And world tension is needed to achievement some goals or even just to be allowed to start wars.

Aside from these specific aspects, I noticed that in many discussions about Hearts of Irons IV features, the most generic reply is to state that “gameplay > historical accuracy”, even when it has nothing to do with history at all. While I do agree to poetic license –Dominion is a fine read-, while I do agree that if the game is exactly balanced as it should, the playthrough is bound to have often an unhistorical outcome (mainly because we all know that France and UK really started on the wrong foot – and when you know the war is inevitable, your are set to make better choices than they did historically, for instance strike earlier when you are actually stronger), still, any game that is so tied to a historic context cannot afford to explains all the shortcomings in the name of gameplay. Part of the game, part of the interest, is that the world you are in makes sense historically, something that lacks in Stellaris. You can simplify things in the name of gameplay. For instance, all far right regimes are described in the game as fascist. Anyone with decent background in History will tell you that fascism is specific to Italy – at least that using fascism so liberally is questioned. Some other countries harbored similar political entities but, for most of them, qualifying them fascist just blur the picture instead of explaining it – the series Nazis Collaborators already mentioned here is quite insightful about the heterogeneity of said collaborators. Nazis were not fascists per se, Japanese even less. Even if there were sort of fascists in France, Vichy regime does not fit the bill. It is not just a matter of choice words. Fascism designate a very specific mix of politics that does not relate conclusively to many other far right extremes of that period. However, in a broad, non academic definition, you can accept to use the word fascist, because there are probably no ultimate alternative. For the game purpose, which works because it reduces political systems to Democracy/Non Aligned/Communism/Fascism that could fine. They could have thought of something else, like Totalitarism/not, but that would be a different game. So ok, here, gameplay actually makes this historical inaccuracy acceptable. But it does not makes it a general rules. Otherwise, why not even having UK as Axis member, in the name of a funny gameplay?

So, what the conclusion? I doubtful about Stellaris ability to keep my attention captive, despite the game is well done. Hearts of Irons IV have half-baked areas -but that was to be expected considering its scope and size- but that could surely be fixed, with proper support. That is the problem with usual proprietary software development, you cannot expect to be satisfied on day one. He thought about the medic corps, and wondered what they’d find.

Nista se vise ne vidi u tami (Line of Duty 2012-2016) or said miasma of cynicism around the processes of law enforcement — 5 May 2016

Nista se vise ne vidi u tami (Line of Duty 2012-2016) or said miasma of cynicism around the processes of law enforcement

While I was looking forward return of GoT, I was took by surprise, after one year of no show, of Line of Duty, to the point I had to rewatch the two first seasons.

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Usually, in average random police related show, some guys are villains, some are heroes. In some other cases, heroes are kind of villain in some regards – think Vic Mackey of The Shield. In Line of Duty, while there are some 100% villains, most important characters are both, depending on where the case lead. Sometimes, they are villains because they are stuck and have no other option: and really don’t, because they are never stupid, they make most of them a lot of sense. Sometimes, they are villains because they are so self-righteous that they could not envision themselves being wrong. Producer Jed Mercurio pinpointed  exactly what a show about police of police, aka Anti-Corruption AC-12, should be about, as he stated: “I believe our police officers are generally honest and effective. Line of Duty isn’t a police-bashing show. All police characters in the drama know right from wrong and strive to do the former. But I wanted to explore how these decent people, who generally enter public service for idealistic reasons, can somehow slip off track. In many cases it results from a miasma of cynicism around the processes of law enforcement. Many dedicated officers now regard policing as an impossible job. What’s caused this cynicism?”

For instance, I would tend not to like DC Kate AC-12 character. She’s often way of the line in her way to treat and (de)consider fellow officers while her own behavior is not beyond reproach. But they paid attention to make her smart enough to perfectly understand and know the very limits of her own work: being undercover in police station, she often makes anti-AC statements that reveals that she’s familiar with how the very activity of AC, to which she belongs, can be critized. They also made her somehow efficient enough to go as far as being able to be undercover for a while in some armed response unit; but all the while, they showed that she was actually not able to properly perform in stress situation, as she would have probably killed, due to stress, a child bystander during some raid, which is quite something to apprehend, when your activity is to question activities of supposedly trigger-happy cops. Superintendant Hastings is interesting too. He always plays it like he has very high standards about policing. Nonetheless, on several occasion, he downplay serious offences made by influential people while he stomps over with no remorse the little cop. And it is obvious that he probably do not even realize how his high standards fluctuate.

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To top how interesting are characters, comedians are good, credible, and dialogs looks authentic. It is no surprise that Mercurio, ibidem, states “we were able to secure advice from retired officers, plus covert input from some serving officers, as well as mining the rich vein of information contained in blogs”.

I recommend that you put Line of Duty on top of your list. Yeah, even while GoT just started back! Verujem ne verujem?

In the shadow of the cargoes (Hunting Hitler, 2015) or possible might not be plausible — 12 January 2016

In the shadow of the cargoes (Hunting Hitler, 2015) or possible might not be plausible

Earlier, I was pointing out how hard it is actually to bring something new to the table when producing a documentary about WWII. Well, History Channel proposes now some Hunting Hitler series, titled season 1 (how long could it go?).

Where does that even come from? Apparently, it started with recently declassified US Intelligence reports of Hitler being exiled in Argentina, instead of being dead in a bunker in Berlin. We remember that the Red Army entered Berlin so we can assume we don’t know anything for sure. And now we’re shown some official documents about Hitler being spotted somewhere in south america or about how he could have escaped.

It studies what is possible, what was of obvious interest for Intelligence services, and then it concludes it’s plausible, which is a bit too much.

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If you remove this bit too much, I guess you dont have enough to make a full series, you’be just adding hypothesis one after the other. I haven’t watched the whole series right now, only half: but I haven’t watched or heard one sure thing.

Worse, these wild hypothesis sometimes are backed by flawed deductions. For instance, they state there is no tracks of the death of Hitler in the bunker (only DNA sample available is not his, etc) and that would be a proof that he is not dead. If we admit this (lack of proofs) as true, I can nonetheless think of a dozen of possibilities as to why there would be none. For years, Hitler was made into a cult, how does it not make sense, if he were to die for sure, and definitely not in some glorious way, to intentionally cast some shadow, nacht und nebel, around it?

Beside from the declassified reports, we are also told that revolutionary new software contributes to new leads. How? We are for instance presented this “NIAD Nazi Interrogation Archiv Datenbank. It’s my understanding that it slurps massive amount of data, archives/declassified documents, and suggests some connections otherwise missed.

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The interface of this software is all eye-candy, with no practical use or meaning. So maybe they devoted time -money- in software development to get a shiny modern eye-candy useless graphical layout; maybe they made the layout up just for the benefit of the show, which would be confusing for a show supposed to shed some light on History. Both options are kind of lame.

Deep down, their software must be an optical character recognition tool, storing sensible strings in database, then being able to do some smart grep in this database. None of this makes for an eye-candy user interface, the concern should  be about how to scan the data and how to pick and select sensible strings. If you want to get something out of all of it, you have to discriminate data, heavily so you limit the number of results.

But from what we watch  here, they can just type two words and get less than ten documents selected out of hundred or thousands. This is clearly unlikely – for once, it is not a matter of being plausible, that is not even possible. So I’d be really curious to see what is actually this NIAD.

I’m not saying that it is all horseshit. There might be such software. It is just not what we have on screen. And I don’t get the point of pretending to document History while making it obscure to make it more sexy.

To sum up, this series is worth being checked if you are curious about post-war nazis exiles, about how CIA documents such topics,  about seeing a bunch of guys travelling around asking question to old people or testing fancy gadget to find maybe some uncovered ruins. That is about all. A policeman shines a light upon my shoulder

Have you ever been alone, enough to know it (Detectorists, 2014-2015) or when Sons of Anarchy gets real — 5 December 2015

Have you ever been alone, enough to know it (Detectorists, 2014-2015) or when Sons of Anarchy gets real

Did you watch Sons of Anarchy and felt that it was bit too much or not enough? Criminals that said all their crimes over the phone, that carried phones on every place they committed crime and still were never properly convicted of anything by simple phone taps and such?

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Well, the real deal is on. DMDC. Aka Danebury Metal Detecting Club.

All is there, the power struggles, the competition with rival gangs like the Dirt Sharks, the attempt to make the club run lawful businesses and exit crime, deceits, etc.

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Members of the DMDC has to live by a code, their life is centered over Metal Detecting. So when it goes to shambles, due to deceits and all, what’s left for them in life?

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It’s made by the BBC. Second season is on, 6 episodes of 22 minutes each. Differences from Sons of Anarchy and Detectorists, that is the name of the show featuring the dreadful DMDC, are a bit like between the Office UK and the Office US. The Detectorists are without gloss, without make up, that is the real hardcore deal. Will Paul James “Mackenzie” Crook (Gareth Keenan in The Office, Orell in the HBO series Game of Thrones) attempt to exit the club as Jax TellerTell me where are you gonna run this time!

 

Believe your bluff get rough (Elementary, 2012-2015) or how CBS can be more british than the BBC — 21 November 2015

Believe your bluff get rough (Elementary, 2012-2015) or how CBS can be more british than the BBC

I considered posting an article about Fallout 4 but it has already a tremendously media coverage. Enthuastic or not that much, both sides are probably right: the user interface is a mess, it is buggy, it is not visually astonishing (it’s nothing in comparison to The Witcher 3), still the game is enjoyable and I’m playing all the time these days. I could even compare it to Mad Max, featured here the other day, but truth is after Fallout 4 release, Mad Max just looks like some predictable (pleonasm) Assassin Creed.

So let’s talk about Elementary, instead, what I’m watching when I’m not playing Fallout 4. That’s a modern pick on Sherlock Holmes – yeah, a lot about Holmes these days. By nature, such contemporary adaptations are risky. For the record, I never managed to watch a full episode of BBC’s Sherlock; it simply bored me (maybe I should try once again, maybe the time was not right), I’d rather watch Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes even though they are mostly action-based than deduction-based, which is odd.

Anyway, I was immediately seduced by Elementary, despite the set. What about the set? Well, John Watson is now Joan Watson, an asian woman. WTF, would you say. Is it some sort of contemporary political correctness bullshit? But it actually works like a charm.

It has surely to do with how properly dialogs and stories are written, which definitely matters for this kind of series. Let’s say it once again: the dialogs are smart, the stories are in the spirit of Conan Doyle. So you cannot consider that this whole John Watson being an asian woman approach being just about giving the people some mind-satisfying odd melting-pot. It is not forced into the story (unlike Inglourious Basterds black character in the middle of Paris during WWII) but plausible and opening the door to further developments. Not bad at all.

What surely helps, also, is the performance of Jonny Lee Miller, enacting Sherlock. He really sounds Holmes to my ear, much more than Benedict Cumberbatch enacting the same character in BBC’s Sherlock. It is probably a shame that American CBS gets a better Sherlock Holmes than the BBC, if you ask me. Miller playing styles reminds me of Tim Roth in Lie to Me. In addition, minor roles are also often quite enjoyable. For instance Vinnie Jones makes a great Sebastian Moran. Rhys Ifan is not bad as Mycroft either.

Thinks he’s too tough too clean, Needs to be mean

Cygańska dusza we mnie gra (Mad Max, 2015) or another Just Cause/RAGE — 8 November 2015

Cygańska dusza we mnie gra (Mad Max, 2015) or another Just Cause/RAGE

Remember RAGE? Not that there are not enough post-nuclear-apocalypse game these days, from This War of Mine to the about to be released Fallout 4 and all the Wasteland 2, etc. But it is really to RAGE that Mad Max, the 2015 game (yeah, if I were to present all the Mad Max related movies and games, it’ll be long) relates most. You travel through some sort of open world with your car, you improve your car and character, etc.

So, how does it compares?

clipping in 2015

RAGE had nasty stupids bugs. For instance, something called “smart v-sync” had to be activated on my config to avoid mad screen tearing. But this setting was never saved and had to be set each time the game was started. Mad Max is not obviously better. For starters, with my CrossfireX setup, unless I create a specific application profile that forbids adaptive multisampling and use supersampling instead, I get mad flickering of some textures and artifacts. That is probably very specific to CrossfireX. But there are also numerous clipping issues, something you would not expect from a game released in 2015, as if we were back in the first days of the 3d era. You can often throw objects that’ll end up on the opposite side of a wall, or get stuck within the wall (as on the screenshot here: some melee weapon is within a wall). Also, if you decide to walk with gasoline cans, on some places, you can easily get blocked and, eventually, stuck by invisible walls. Not to mention that often, showing the map make the car engine sound to be low for a while. Not perfect, but the game is perfectly playable though.

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Gameplay wise, Mad Max is not inventive. It relates to Just Cause 2. And writting this article, I just found out that Avalanches Studio, the developer, made the Just Cause series too. Both games share the same in-house engine called Avalanche Engine. It works but there are no specific original ideas. And some features are a actually bit messy. The character cannot really properly jump for instance – which was not a problem in Just Cause due to the grappling hook but small rocks looks like massive obstacles for the said Mad Max. Driving is a central part of the game. Still the car engine at max RPM sounds like coming out for a soundcard from the eighties. Still the car physics are questionable: for instance, when you are in swampish ground you get the same effect as if you were going uphill on an asphalt road, instead of having the wheels loosing traction and turning fast. Worse, you have no handbrake – strange on an arcade driving game. Even worse, there is an odd input latency while driving. Why? There is a reason why car games cannot be played with a keyboard: because steering is not a binary action, there is a notion of angle that matters. Instead, car games are played (at least) with a controller which makes possible, in one movement of the stick, to steer more or less. But no, not on Mad Max. On the animated image here, you see the result of steering immediately from maximum right to maximum left. I counted, it takes approximatively 4 long seconds. 4 seconds to steer from max left to max right, seriously?

That being said, the story and the characters, while overly out-of-the-ordinary for the genre, are well done. Quests does not looks overly FedEx even though it’s the law of the genre. The game is enjoyable, without the childish ambiance of RAGE.

To sum up, it’s not perfect but neither it is bad. Gdzieś pośród ale jednak obok nas.

Prospects were high till provisions ran low (A Most Wanted Man, 2014) or how to make a two hours movie ends in one — 7 November 2015

Prospects were high till provisions ran low (A Most Wanted Man, 2014) or how to make a two hours movie ends in one

Watching A Most Wanted Man, it took me a while to remind where I had recently seen the young (female) lawyer that accompanies the chechen refugee target of Günther Bachmann/Philip Seymour Hoffman said, “unconstitutional, covert government team that seeks to recruit local informants with ties to terrorist Islamic organizations”, as described by wikipedia. The Annabelle Richter lawyer character is played by Rachel MacAdams which I also recently watched in season two of True Detective. And her character in the movie is as confusing and confused as this series last season: too much and not enough in every regards.

During the first half of A Most Wanted Man, you wonder what they are trying to achieve, all of them. Then, when it looks like the lawyer is just some left-wing activist trying to help a wanted man she thinks is a genuine refugee, both monitored by the said Bachmann covert government team trying to determine if the wanted man is really a threat or can be turned into an asset, everything crumbles. God knows why, the lawyer asks the refugee/terrorist/whatever to shave his beard and change his appearance, as if it was obvious he was wanted, seriously wanted. And as if she was an accomplice of sorts. And, on the next day, the lawyer and her protégé escape surveillance with the oldest trick in the book (getting in a subway car and suddenly out at the last moment, checking if a moron follower does the same – spying lesson 101;  and I won’t even comment about Bach, head of the “covert” team trying to find them back arriving by car making the engine roar and the tyres scratch). The intentions of the lawyer? No clue. She does not seems to be a terrorist but she nonetheless helps this guy that mumbles about allah, no questions asked.

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From that point, there is no longer any real questions about any of these characters intents. Turns out the refugee is that, just a refugee with no intent to be involved in terrorism. Turns out the lawyer is that, just a lawyer trying to help a refugee. But nothing is strange about them trying to escape from spies. And the movie ends, despite the fact it actually goes on for one hour more.

I guess it’s a twist on the plot that actually, for Bachmann, there is no absolute wanted man, since he intends to make of each man he grabs an asset to grab a bigger fish. It makes sense but it is not that thrilling – which is annoying for a thriller.  Prospects were high till provisions ran low .

Remember when you tried To kill me twice? Oh how we laughed and laughed (Portal: The Uncooperative Cake Acquisition Game, 2015) or from the video to the board — 3 November 2015

Remember when you tried To kill me twice? Oh how we laughed and laughed (Portal: The Uncooperative Cake Acquisition Game, 2015) or from the video to the board

Long time since you played Portal or even Portal 2?


Portal started, as far as I remember, as demo game to show the  features of Source, the Half-Life² engine. It requires some thinking to envision a board game derived from a game mostly based on degenerated physics. But they, Cryptozoic Entertainment, managed to do it. First impression: worth it!

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As advertised, it is totally non-coop. In this game, each player put its (colored) test subjects on the board. The board constituting chambers changes over time, as the chambers in the video game. Some (colored) cake slices are thrown on the board. The game ends when one player has no test subject alive anymore, then we count the cake slices (per color/player) on the board.

So is the game is about collecting cakes slices? Is the game about throwing the opponents cake slices to the incinerator?

Truth is, according to my research (it is science, you know), the cake is a lie there too. Out of two games so far, it was about either choosing the right moment to kill the opponent test subjects or the right moment to kill our own test subjects. I used to want you dead. Still.

Unhappy faces ain’t gonna get you in II. (Life Is Strange, 2015) — 21 October 2015

Unhappy faces ain’t gonna get you in II. (Life Is Strange, 2015)

I went over the final episode of Life Is Strange. It was a painy process. The interface is still as annoying, as described already in the review from the first episode (). Want fresh examples? Enjoy the keypad with a mouse where you cannot actually click the keys:

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If it was not enough, the first half of the episode is tremendously boring. The main character should be used to her situation and power – but she behaves as if she had no clue and seems to care so much about stuff she anyway plan to change with a snap of the fingers in a few minutes. I would expect her to be ironic about definite state of things but that’s the contrary. I would expect her to stand on higher grounds, to breathe and speak confidently since she actually does have time to think, but she speaks even more with an annoying childish self-absorbed kid voice, with tremoloes as if she were on the verge of crying at every second. And she does speak a lot. A lot. Stating the obvious then saying complete nonsense, then the obvious, then nonsense, nothing in between. And if boring monologs aren’t enough, you are presented with dialogs branches such a as (warning, spoiler if you did not play previous episodes) :

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Yeah. Second half of the episode is better. Just better, probably because there are less dialog. Not enough to be good. And the end? Whatever. I probably won’t consider buying next season.

Walk right in, sit right down (Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments, 2014) — 6 July 2015

Walk right in, sit right down (Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments, 2014)

I contemplated getting Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments for a while. It looked old school. And by old school, when it comes to mystery point and click game, it often rhymes with clumsy. At some point, it was on sale so I got it. But haven’t tried it on the spot.

Not even the previous post, clearly on topic, made me try it. To be honest, it did but I quit after seven boring minutes.

It felt small, this baker street flat. And it looked more tied to the recent Guy Ritchie movie than to anything mentioned in my last post: more action than mystery. I was not in the mood for an half-baked mystery game.

Then, hitting another blocker damned bug in Shadowrun: Dragonfall, I gave it a longer run.

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And I was positively surprised. Despite some mad screen tearing by default (v-sync must definitely be set on) and too many times out for the game to load locations but also dialogs, the ambiance is there and, almost at the end of the first investigation, I have still no set opinion on the culprit (that’s not necessarily good, though).

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The mini-games are fine and the system to process leads so far seems smart. On a specific lead, you can pick two likely options and decides which you think more relevant. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s a bit too assertive. In one of the cases, looking for an accomplice, you are forced, for two suspects, to set them either to had time to do this or is not involved because had no time to do this. On what planet the fact that one suspect did not do this rules out the possibility he could be accomplice and have done other part? Worse, you cannot set both to had time to do this while actually they had. Should such elaborate clues system ends up on an almost random pick?

So even though this a game definitely worth being played more than seven minutes, sometimes, the results are a bit frustrating. I guess they designed it for the player to still have something to think about when all the clues are found. Otherwise it would just be a matter of clicking here and there. But for a future version, they should really work on what is truly disturbing: avoiding false dilemmas. Daddy, let your mind roll on!

Much too cleaver (Ripper Street, 2012-2014; Sept détectives, 2012; Mr. Jack, 2006) — 27 June 2015

Much too cleaver (Ripper Street, 2012-2014; Sept détectives, 2012; Mr. Jack, 2006)

Already missing Game of Thrones characters and still not getting any proper news about Telltale’s next episode?

Assistant to Spooks/MI5 Matthew Macfadyen enacting Detective Inspector Edmund Reid (yeah, historical character, head of CID of the Met Police at the time of Whitechapel Murders of Jack the Ripper), here is Jerome Flynn, that you also know as Bronn, playing Detective Sergeant Bennet Drake.

Sergeant Bronn Drake

In episode S01 E05, you may also see Ser Jorah Mormont, aka Iain Glen. Solid cast. Solid setup, nice costumes and good stories, as you can expect when someone dares to use XIXe century London as environment.

One of the latest Sept comic-series episode is also cast in Victorian period. That’s a good example of the best this series can provide -some episodes were unfortunately not overly good-, a series with no set genre, authors, characters, but just focused on this number : 7 (sept/seven). Selected authors are to come up with a story focused on seven important characters from a specific genre. And this one is named Sept détectives.

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Not a surprise, the seven detectives are inspired by the classics of the genre. Inspired but consistent, all of them. Graphics are good. Finally, and that’s probably what matters most in this genre, the story is well written, twisty I might add. I was not familiar with Herick Hanna’s work, the scenarist. Pretty pretty pretty good. Looks promising.

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To stay in context, you’d be wise to give a try to Mr. Jack. That’s a two players board game: one is trying to get the ripper on the large, the other behind bars. I found it well-balanced and properly designed. It does not takes hours to grab the rules neither does it gives too much room to luck. There are extensions to add cards or change scenery (New York version) that I have not tried but would be willing too.

After all, the streets of London can never be safe!

Unhappy faces ain’t gonna get you in (Life Is Strange, 2015) — 22 June 2015

Unhappy faces ain’t gonna get you in (Life Is Strange, 2015)

I waited a while before giving a try to Life Is Strange. It’s made by a french studio named DONTNOD Entertainment and, over years, I grew wary of frenchness/ubisoftness in video games: repetitive gameplay with teenager philosophy in disguise of an inconsistent plot.

Plus Life Is Strange is a point-and-click adventure game and, these days, with Telltale Games, the standards are quite high.

Gameplay wise, Life Is Strange forces you to click and move the mouse to a text string like “Do this” to do anything. I guess they thought it would be practical in case there are many actions possible. But in most cases, you actually have one or two possibles actions. And when there are two actions, usually the first one is “Look at” which is utterly useless since you are already looking at the said object. The game is labelled “graphic adventure” but you are forced to focus on some meaningless text strings. It’s not intuitive neither graphical at all for me.

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For instance, here’s you opening a door : there is a door handle but a click on it does nothing. You have to click in the circle then move your mouse to the string “Enter” you’ve read – and not follow the arrow that starts from the circle and point to the handle. Everything is confusing there: what you see and what you are supposed to do. The interface tries hard to look smart but forget she’s there not to be smart but discrete.

After fighting a bit with the interface – despite how primitive the gameplay of a point-and-click game can be, next thing you notice is the childish attitude of the main character: poor student in art-whatever wants to cry because, huh, because she’s shy, so she runs to the toilet. Sob.

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Poor girl. Skater boys dont like her. Did they made here totally ugly and not the style of skater boys? Are they having a laugh? Next character: the mall cop/university security nutcase that bullies students and wants to cameras to be installed everywhere. So unexpected!

Least to say the very first impressions of the game are not so great. Plonk then?

What about the story itself? Telltale Games have this notion that your choices tailor the game. Smart way to say that even though a game story can  branch, if there is a real story, your choices cannot change it all. DONTNOD does not tell how much you can influence the story. In Life Is Strange, you dont have to decide fast like in Telltale Games at some crucial moments: you can take as much time you want and test the alternatives before you decide. But since I’ve only played the first episode so I cannot tell really how it unfold and how much the choice you make influence the game.

I can tell however that playing the first episode in full made me acquire the rest of the season. Yes, despite the poor gameplay and simplistic characters design, I’m curious to see where it leads. I think that qualifies the story as interesting enough – at least to be bought during steam sales. Come on feet, teach yourself to move.