Saturday, July 23, 2011

Revisiting Oblivion, Part 1

Rediscovering the wonder of Oblivion through the eyes of children

To tide me over between now and Skyrim, last week I started playing Oblivion through for the second time. My two kids, Colin (4) and Maddy (5) were in the room when I started, so I told them it was the coolest game ever, and started through the tutorial. They were paying attention (rare) so I started reading my dialog choices out loud to them, so the responses would make sense.

That was the start of something. Two observations about the magic of this game; first, it's just as captivating the second time around (I wasn't sure it would be) and second, it is not lost on children. It wasn't long before I came to Kvatch, still a level 1. I was struggling to beat a single scamp at a time, but I went in there because my little cheerleading section demanded it.

The final path to the sigil stone was causing me total frustration; I had no business being there as a level 1 noob, after all, and I was ready to quit, but had one crazy thought. "Alright, guys" I said, "I'm going to try something. I'm just going to RUN."

So I did. I ran up the central spiral corridor, into the final hall, up the bone stairs, all the while gaining a larger and larger train of enemies, and my health fast-dwindling. I barreled toward the sigil stone like that Uruk-hai in the Helm's Deep siege, and grabbed it. As the room started to shake and everything started to go nuclear, I ran around like a panicked chicken, still taking hits and inches from death. And then the loading screen popped up. I cheered, I fist-pumped, and high-fived both the kids. It was fantastic.

What a moment. And they've been with me since then, getting more involved. I've been reading off the dialog choices and letting them decide. I've even been letting them play with the controls a bit. They're PopCap app junkies, and pretty darned good at Ragdoll Blaster, but this is big-league gaming. And they are digging it. My daughter's favorite thing so far is to make fun of my character's hairstyle every time I take my helmet off. Colin's favorite thing has been when I sneak up on something and "give em a WHACK!"

What's cool about playing the game this time through is that I'm sharing it with them. I had no idea how neat that'd be.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

IndiePix Unlimited: Streaming Indie Films

So IndiePix Unlimited is the streaming subscription service for IndiePix Films. In this entry, I will link to IndiePix Films in several places for info on specific films, just because then you can see the trailer and so forth. I have also watched films via the streaming sub that I've gone on to buy physical copies for, simply because they were too good not to own.

And by the way, they aren't paying me to write this. I've been approached by multiple services that wanted me to do that for various products, and I will never EVER do that. If I say something is awesome on this blog, then always know, it is actually, legitimately, full of awesome. At least in my opinion. Things like Kingdom of Loathing, the Michael Jackson Experience for XBox Kinect, Buttershots & Coke... and IndiePix Unlimited. Oh and My Little Pony Friendship is Magic.

"Why would I need another streaming video subscription when I have Netflix?"

If you're an indie film/documentary fan, the reason becomes evident very quickly. I have Netflix too, mind you. And Netflix has some good streaming independent type films and documentaries. The Garden, for one, and Food Inc., stuff like that. IndiePix Unlimited just has MORE of them, and so far anyway, the quality has just been predominantly awesome. I'm saying this partly because I just finished watching "We Live in Public" and it was fascinating. Oh, and the sub is $7.95/month. I frequently spend more at Starbucks in a single visit.

So I guess it is streaming content for a specific niche (indie film fans). But if you are part of that niche, the service is perfect for you. As it turns out, I am part of that niche. Especially with Hollywood remaking every film under the sun, refusing to let Guillermo del Toro do his Lovecraft movie because he wants it to be rated R, and generally lowest common denominating itself into a death of imitation vanilla (because real vanilla is awesome - I guess that'd be films like Inception and Cowboys vs. Aliens and such). I like mainstream movies, but indie is just so much more interesting. I want both.

Indiepix Unlimited is HERE! from Nicolas Doldinger on Vimeo.

So here's what I recommend, rather than my going on and on about why I love IndiePix and why it is well worth the monthly fee for me. Go there and sign up for the free month. Then watch these films:

  • Skeletons. My first venture into their non-documentary content. Loved it. Watch if you like quirky weird comedy and accents.

  • Candyman: The David Klein Story. This is how I discovered IndiePix. Loved it. Watch if you like jelly beans.

  • A Life Among Whales. Sad and beautiful. Watch if you like The Discovery Channel.

  • We Live in Public. My most recent viewing, will be buying this one for my collection. Watch if you liked The Social Network.

  • Rock, Paper, Scissors: A Geek Tragedy. My favorite doc type is geekumentaries, and this may be the best one I've seen. Bought it. Watch if you like The King of Kong.

If you have a chance, I'd love to hear what you thought of the above, and if you discovered any other films in their library I should check out!

Or, if that's too much committment, here's "Canary" streaming free on their site right now. Here's a synopsis:

Ernest Mayo is attempting to break the world breath-holding record with the assistance of his best friend and trainer, Barrett. The record has long been held by the deceased Russian athlete, Red Fleet naval officer and amateur dramatist, Nikolai Petrovich. Will Ernest succeed? Will Sally be an unwelcome distraction? Will Barrett spur his protege on to glory? Will Ernest suffer the same fate as Nikolai? How many calories are there in a Quattro Fromage? All these questions will be answered in 'Canary' a new short film by Jack Noddings and Oli Hudson. Based on 'The Memoirs of Nikolai Petrovich'.

Friday, June 3, 2011


OK, so I know I've been very lax about updating this blog. And in the wake of splashes like Roll a D6, too, for shame!

Bear with me. Working on my own geekumentary has sucked away all my free time for the moment. You can check out the latest on THAT here. Yarp, my movie comes with a designer board game of its own. Because making a film for the first time with no prior experience wasn't hard enough all by itself; I had to add board game publisher to that. Yeah.

Anyway, the blog is not dead. I'll do better, I promise!

Roll a D6 from Connor Anderson on Vimeo.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Geekumentary: Candyman, The David Klein Story

Candyman: The David Klein Story tells the story of David Klein, inventor of Jelly Belly jellybeans, and also the man who said, "In life, you only need to be a genius for 15 seconds." One of the more quotable quotes I've heard in a long time.

I don't want to give away everything about the story arc, but you know it's not going to be rainbows and unicorns when David kicks off by saying that he wishes he'd never invented Jelly Belly, because it ruined his life. Ouch.

In fact, I've come across a lot of similar stories of late. A book called The Billion Dollar Monopoly Swindle, for one, and, really, The Social Network movie I finally got around to seeing last weekend. They all tell tales set in the murky waters of intellectual property rights, and our legal system. They're not all the same circumstances, but the theme of somebody having an idea, and then having someone else try to take it away are prevalent in all three. I believe Def Leppard said it best when they said, "Everybody wants a piece of the action." Combine that with an open, trusting, and well-meaning individual, all too often things turn sour. If you've invented something, the truth is that these are dangerous personality traits to have, and that may just be reality, but it is still SAD.

As someone who is both these things in spades, I find that troubling. I'm also a realist, and I get that human nature is what it is. As long as money makes the world go around, people are going to be looking for ways to get more, and ultimately, we are self-serving organisms. I'm not going to rant on our legal system, but it does make it very easy for outcomes that just don't feel "right" to transpire on the back of technicality and ignorance of legal nuance.

Back on the topic of the film, it's obvious from my reaction that the main character is very likable. David Klein is one of those people who lives for making other people happy. His son muses that he is addicted to doing so, and I think that's probably true, in the same way that people who go to the gym sometimes get an endorphine high off working out. It also seems that his main regret may not have been the lost revenue, but the lost recognition, that Joe Public, even the ones who LOVE Jelly Belly beans (I'm one of them) don't know him as the inventor.

And that's where one of the strengths of independent documentary shines through. Maybe the mainstream public won't know who created Jelly Belly, but now the story is there, and people will find it. Some people will know.

On a technical level, the story flow and content are great, and they do an admirable job of not making anyone out as a pure villain, which must have been hard to resist, all things considered. Documentary is supposed to present the facts and let you decide (as opposed to the Michael Moore films, for example, which he has specifically stated himself are NOT documentaries). Candyman also finds a way of ending on a high note, though I can't really put my finger on how they do it exactly.

I give it very high marks as a documentary, and it's one I would and will watch again. That's not always true, even of the really good ones, so it's worth mentioning here. It also made me want to go get some jellybeans.* :) I actually felt guilty enough to check with David Klein on whether or not he was cool with that reaction, and it is not really surprising that both he and his son are. They have nothing against the product, and acknowledge that for now at least, they are still the best jellybeans on the market.

The film is available in, with multiple purchase options - physical version, download, or on-demand "rental." Any fans of indie documentary will rejoice at having so many options; most of the time if I find an indie doc that looks interesting, buying a physical copy has always been the only choice. I happen to like owning physical copies, but this is the digital age, and I expect I'm no longer in the majority there. :)

* Pear is my favorite flavor, though once a long time ago, I had some knock-off versions in cranberry, and that was an awesome flavor too. We also had a LOT of fun at a poker night when we secretly introduced the Harry Potter flavors to our friends. Grass and pepper are actually interesting, but booger... nasty!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Geekumentary: An Adventurer is You!

The modern-day fairytale is people making a living doing what they love. This applies to all industries from video games (MineCraft) to board games (Dominion) and on. Kingdom of Loathing is such a story, and you can hear the tale in An Adventurer is You!, a documentary about KoL.

Kingdom of Loathing is a free high-sarcasm low-graphics RPG you play online. It's riddled with pop culture references such as the Monster Squad's famed wolfman gnards, and a parade of painful puns. It's silly and pointless, and I for one love it. I hadn't played it in a year or two, though, and I really didn't know the origins story until I heard about the documentary (which you can buy on the KoL store).

An Adventurer is You! from Adam Brown on Vimeo.

This is one of those "bunch of guys in their basement coding" type stories, and I mean that in a positive sense. As in, they get to make a living coding a game in their basement. Part of why they get to is through the generosity of the masses. Some players donate to keep the servers running, some buy merchandise from the KoL store. It's that desire to support a venture that gives you something of value but does not require paybacks. Akin to the honor system that made "The Humble Bundle" work. It's similar to the concept behind Kickstarter, which is all the rage all of a sudden.

Anyway, it's a fun little documentary, but this kind of stuff really appeals to me, so I might be a little biased. I recommend you give Kingdom of Loathing a try, and that will basically tell you whether or not you want to check out the documentary. And honestly, even if you don't play Kingdom of Loathing, you need this shirt:

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Abney Park: I've Been Steampunked!

I've been meaning to make a post about Abney Park for quite some time. They are a steampunk band I was introduced to about a year ago by a colleague at work. I didn't really know what steampunk WAS before that day, but I did dig pirates, and the album, Aether Shanties, was really just wonderful. I became a true fan at that point, and they are the first band to threaten the place of my all-time favorite, Stereo MCs.

Recently they released another album, The End of Days, and people were saying it was even better than the last one. I found that hard to believe as I waited for my autographed copy to arrive in the mail, but as it turns out, the argument can definitely be made.

So they are this really awesome talented and friendly band making music I love, and last night they sent out an email about a series of computer issues. Bottom line, they need to replace their computer, and they could use some help. So now was the time to write this blog post.

If you like pirates, or steampunk, or just great music with an exotic feel and captivating story elements, you should try these guys out. You can buy their albums through their store here (and don't worry, on the final screen you can choose PayPal or standard credit card payments). Now's the time to do this, too:
"For every purchase made this week (1/10 – 1/16) I will send you a coupon for one free album download! Every CD sold this week, Kristina and I will autograph at no additional charge! (typically autographed CD's sell for $30 or more from our site) Here is a great opportunity to get a full set of autographed CDs!"
- Captain Robert

So help out if you can. Great creative forces shouldn't be hobbled by technical difficulties!