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I wonder if you would even notice, if I posted a piece of art twice?
I have so much already posted, so let me give you a piece of advice.
Read two times to remember, read once only to forget.
Or, if you're clever, reading seven is the best option yet.

Week 48 - An Eventmore Week

One more week haseth passed! Christmas draws near; we've barely prepped the house for the first Sunday of Advent. Saffron buns have been baked however, candles have been burned; we all huddled by a turned off TV for a rare collective tea this afternoon. Curtains hang over chairs, decorations litter the tables and boxes line the floor, yet at the edge of this inner turmoil stars hang in the windows, and electric candles line the window sills. Bright lights in orange, silver and gold chase away the darkness outside. In the neighborhood: electricity bills soar.

Otherwise? I've recorded a few new tracks - but have yet to post any of them. I started playing Return to Castle Wolfestein a couple days ago - but have yet to complete it. I started translating a few old PHP scripts again - but have yet to finish those either. I've been to work, and I've been home, and what have I really been doing lately?! It feels like little when I ponder events I could post about for this weekly summary, but judging by the pace at which time flies it must have been more eventful than I recall.

I remember a quick Indiana Jones marathon at the start of the week btw... and I have watched Hit Man now! And Ant-Man. On the blog I've posted 6 movie reviews and this and that. And thus, a very concise post for an all but eventless week concludes. Here's last week (which turned out to have the same title as the same week last year!). Until next blogpost: toast and hog loafs! Ciao.

Return To Return To Castle Wolfenstein

I started playing Return to Castle Wolfenstein a couple of days ago, one of the (too many) games I purchased on GOG's latest Big Fall Sale. I've played it before, and had some vague but good memories of it before I started. I assumed it'd be a blast from start to finish, that I'd know the maps like the back of my hand (it's like riding a bike aint it?), and that I'd plow through foes as easily as I do whenever I replay one of the original DooM episodes (via a port, of course, enhanced graphics and all).

Yet the first impressions I'm getting aren't as positive as I remember. It all comes back. All the... aggravation!! All those moments where I was stuck, and died over and over again - countless times, and the victorious end-scene is like a hazy apparition at the end of this long, gray and deadly corridor.

The graphics are better than I remember them. Well, they're surprisingly bad compared to newer games, but considering the age of this game they're still better than I expected them to be. The curtains waver in the wind with utmost realism (you know they want you to pay attention to those since that's where the camera is), fire is HOT, and once in a while - nature is almost as bright and verdant as it was in Serious Sam. Almost.

The bobbing motion is a sign of age though, as are the character motions - how they sometimes just jump right up in the air, stand motionless by a wall, or drop weapons on the edge of an object (like a table) in such a way it seems they are hovering in thin air. There are plenty of other examples. Fuzzy textures. Blocky shapes. Little vectors, and a lack of detail and depth (all very notable in the early water, which resembles a still, thick puddle of azure paint).

As for the level layouts, I can't decide if they are a little bland and blocky, or actually pretty good. There is however a lot of concrete and castle walls so far, and the little scenery you see feels restrictive. The open world that waits on the other side of the stone doesn't seem very inviting somehow, it's cold and bleak, and the mountains are like a wall to limit your view of the world. Even when you venture into the green wilds of the world, you're stuck in a valley from which you cannot look out.

I'd just reached the catacombs when I started writing this, where the castle milieu gives way to a refreshingly hazy and Earthen maze of fire-lit corridors. The enemies aren't anything like the ones I remember, or was expecting. I barely remember anything from this part of the game at all, though I do remember the aggravation of falling into one of the pits hidden in the mist. I fell into one of those yesterday... then I gave up and quit, and when I started today I decided to start anew. Ran through the first three levels once more, with zero casualties this time, and that's all for now. After that: after the castle, is where it gets difficult.

Maybe I'll get used to the snipers though. Maybe I'll get used to sniping, too. It took me a while to realize I could actually zoom-in with the sniper rifle, using the 'alternate fire mode' key rather than the zoom in/out controls. (The scope is only usable after you pick up a 'scope' btw, it's not included with the rifle.) Yet some of the dead guys on this level are so hard to kill I wonder if I'm firing at them during some kind of cutscene, and the boss fight was similar. I wasn't sure I was making any progress at all until, after countless restarts, it died.

Overall the game feels a bit old and unresponsive that way. The silenced machine gun woke up a few memories, but maybe the best memories are the ones I haven't reached yet. When I reach the church and the core of the Paranormal Division (I thought my vague memories of the graveyard and ruins were from Bloodrayne), maybe it'll all come back again. When I remember ruins, and running along ledges of broken buildings in the dusky gray of a fierce yet deceivingly silent war zone, am I remembering a different game? Time will tell!

I reached the Defiled Church since I started writing this post as well btw, and beyond! The church was a refreshing change of scenery, and the elite female troops of Helga von Bulow's guard the most devious foes yet, but Helga herself was a disappointment, as was the monster she unleashed. Great build-up, but not much after that.

What comes after... is like a return to the castle again. Lots of gray after a little bit of green (and aggravating stealth). The chase for the Cobra plane reminded me a bit of Goldeneye, as do the scenes where you creep through air vents, as does the occasional stealth, alarm and... quite a few scenes - like the one where you run alongside a tank.

Other scenes seem inspired by the Where Only Eagles Dare movie, where a group of elite soldiers infiltrate a Nazi castle atop a mountain. And the supernatural aspects of the game remind me of Indiana Jones and Hellboy. Maybe this whole game is a mesh of inspirations found elsewhere? That said, they're all good inspirations if they are, and the game does have its moments. I'll post a recap when I clear the rest of it. Re: Return To Return To Castle Wolfenstein maybe? ;)

I've been sorting through screenshots of other games recently, which reminds me I need to take a few of this. A post with a hundred pictures would be worth a lot more than these these words! I'll keep you posted.

Ant-Man (2015)

Ant-Man (2015)

The latest Marvel work sounds kind of silly, doesn't it? An ant man? Can he really be a threat? He doesn't sound very threatening. Well guess what? You're right. He really doesn't seem very threatening either. Even when there's potential for great threat, they do their best to still make him seem like a... miniature hero. Assuming super is a size and mini is the antonym. The little, funny guy. The comedic sidekick. Only he's the main character. The antagonist does seem pretty threatening though, despite his limited size! The villainous miniature Darren Cross played by Corey Stoll is as ill a villain as you'll find! Lab mice, goats... what¨'s the difference? (There's actually a pretty interesting dual meaning there! They aren't really that different are they? In the sense that: all living creatures should be treated equally, not that they are all inferior.)

The story lets us follow the journey of cat burglar Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), as he gets out of prison and, for the sake of his daughter attempts to get his life in shape again. It doesn't quite work out at first, yet after a desperate (and failed) score, with the help of Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), he ends up planning and pulling off a heist that will save the world! And more importantly: reunite him with his daughter. And become Ant-Man. And beat up an Avenger. There's also Hope (Evangeline Lilly), the e4xpected romance of the story. Even if Scott isn't all that menacing a character, that's also what makes him a good character. He's normal - anyone can relate to him, and his heart's in the right place.

The miniature scenes are pretty awesome, and I can see a ton of potential for further footage here! Mixing together close-ups of real scenery and fitting in the Ant-Man in it, occasionally with some helpful CGI, just gives birth to... an endless amount of creative locations to explore! They do explore plenty, but I still feel like the bathtub and the railway fight are the only places where this potential is fully used, for some other scenes (like the battle in the briefcase) there is just too much CGI.

All in all it's a fun, charming story featuring an unlikely hero, whose progression we follow and partake in until... finally, he's ready to take on the world! It's like... like he sprouted Antennae? :P

Well, i's great. Also notable are the narrative scenes where characters are all filmed mimicking the narrators voice (the narrator in these cases being Michael Peña). It's a clever and creative tale featuring one of the Marvel Universe's minor heroes; still, one more great superhero movie! I'm curious to see how this particular character will tie in with the rest of the Avengers in time.

 rated 4/5: fo shizzle


Whatever Happened To Email Support?

I've been working on a comparison between three web hosts I recently stumbled upon, and have been thinking about signing up for (to be posted soon). One was great, I sent them an email right away and received an answer soon after. Impeccable support - even if they did try to sell me additional services and have me sign up for a more expensive plan than I want or need. The other two, however, didn't even have email support! Either you call in (and get put on hold) or you have to pop up their chat (and wait for someone to respond).

I haven't actually tried either phone or chat, primarily because international phone calls are hella expensive, but even more so because I like indirect conversation. I like being able to formulate my questions well before I send them, and I don't like to get questions I'm not prepared for. This applies to both phone and chat. The waiting time is a minor (but still notable!) thing compared to the luxury of being able to manage a conversation at your own pace. Send an email at your leisure, and compose a response when you have time for it. It's a very anti-stressful operation, and you have total control over what you say, when you say it, and better control over how you say it, if you take a moment to skim through the message before you send it.

What I don't understand is: how does the lack of email benefit them? It's not an expensive operation. They don't need to have staff ready to respond at all moments, nor do they have to pay for a subscription (as they do with telephone - usually at their own expense). I assume it all boils down to one of the following:

  1. They don't think people want email anymore. They think everyone wants a response right away, see that other companies are getting rid of email support, and then jump on the bandwagon.
  2. They know that people can make impulsive choices while having a direct conversation, and that they might sell more through support via phone or chat.
  3. They believe their employees aren't able to stall, slack or sit around doing nothing when support is in real-time.

My thoughts on these potential reasons:

  1. If they think this - they are wrong. GoDaddy - one of the big players in the hosting industry, recently introduced support via phone only. Waiting times were insane. People couldn't reach them when they really needed help. Not everyone could call in via phone. Google around and you'll see the debate on this change still flares high, and yet GoDaddy still offers no other alternative. One more reason to avoid GoDaddy. The others? Google and you shall find out!
  2. It's true they might sell more. They might also get customers who regret their decisions and use their 'money back guarantee' shortly after, or just unhappy customers. And on that note, maybe customers who enjoy email, like me, avoid them entirely? For those who prefer a direct conversation, sure, use it for marketing if you like, but don't take it out on the rest of us.
  3. If they truly reason like this, they're a company I wouldn't want to work for, and thus also a company I wouldn't put my trust in as a consumer. If employees are passionate about the company and what they do, such reasoning is moot. I believe that if the boss trusts their employees; the company is a good one, then the employees trust their boss and try their best to make it even better.

Well, whatever the reason is, I hope it's a passing trend. If you're a hosting provider reading this (or a company in any other branch of business for that matter), know that I'll do my best to avoid your services if I can only reach you via phone. Or chat.

Not to say real-time conversation doesn't have its benefit. If I really need to get in touch right away: if there's a serious problem I need help with ASAP, then I'll call. I believe there's a time and place for each communication method, and most times, for matters such as this email is the most useful. Support it, Support!


When the dirt and the ending was nearer, I looked up and everything was clearer
And we assumed our dreary tasks... as pallbearers

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