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Title: More or less
Posted: December 04, 2009 (06:31 PM)
I recently remembered Leroux's blog about stale and imprecise language from a little while back and thought about such language in my own writing. I noticed that one phrase I constantly use is "more or less." What the hell does this even mean? I use it all the time yet I have no idea. Upon further thought I realized that I seem to use it to deliberately make a statement equivocal. I think I'm going to use this phrase less from now on.
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Title: Reviewing Frustrations AKA I HATE MY LIFE
Posted: December 03, 2009 (01:54 AM)
I have my alpha game but I don't even really want to start (re)playing it yet, let alone writing a review for it yet, because I still have finals and my mind is cluttered.

In fact, lately I haven't wanted to play almost all games because my mind will be too cluttered to write reviews for them while I'm at school. I mostly just practice my muscle memory in SSBM (when I can't actually play it with a real human being).

I also don't want to work on the reviews that I lost when my laptop died until they can be recovered, if they can be recovered.

AAARRRGH.

Life is rough =(
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Title: Genesis Power Tower
Posted: December 01, 2009 (11:49 AM)
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Title: A glimpse of life
Posted: November 21, 2009 (06:44 PM)
A friend of mine who I have known for the past two and a half years woke up one day and just decided to start treating me like shit. It came to some level of tension on Thursday night, and because I am very sensitive it actually caused me a great deal of stress. I must have had a lot of adrenaline in my bloodstream because I had trouble getting to sleep that night. At 6:30 AM I went for a short run and eventually fell asleep at 7 AM.

The worst part is that the reason is extremely petty: a video game. I play Smash Bros. competitively, and I have a group of local friends who I play with. This particular individual's problem with me is that I am simply not good enough, and that is the basis for his mistreatment. I am a sensitive individual and I have very strong and developed values on friendship, so this episode has actually shaken me a bit.

Circumstances have forced me to move on with my life as best I can. I have a ten page research paper due on Tuesday, which I have not started writing and am currently procrastinating, but I at least have all my sources. Unfortunately, my laptop died earlier this week. I set out on Friday very late at 4 PM to work on it at a computer lab. Much to my dismay, all of them were closed due to UC-system-wide protests.

I attend UC Berkeley, and in my fifth and final year (which should not have happened had I been more responsible in the past) it has seen a resurgence of campus activism and protest. Friday's protest lasted from roughly 10 AM to 10 PM. Tear gas canisters were fired while I was walking over to another building look for a lab. The concerns of the protest cover a variety of issues, which include proposed 32% tuition hikes that will force low income students to either take a year off or withdraw entirely; the laying off of 38 custodians; unfair contracts for three immigrant-owned businesses that will essentially force them out of business; the saving of an extremely affordable apartment complex that is essential to low income students, and particularly the Latino community on campus; and probably many other things that I am unaware of because I am not personally very involved in the current politics.

While I was there, I ran into someone I met at the Berkeley Undergraduate Sociology Association. I mentioned my computer issue and he actually offered some resources for help. I declined for some reason but made sure I expressed my gratitude. I also ran into someone from my "Social Change in Latin America" class, and we talked extensively about many things. Both very nice people.

At about 6 I went back home for dinner. The people in my house were talking about meeting up to go back to the protest, and since it was not possible for me to work on my research paper, I went along.

I also knew that there was a Marti Gras party (or Party Gras) that night at my house that I had originally been anticipating very much. My mood had somewhat (possibly an understatement) deteriorated by my encounter with my (former) friend, and it was difficult for me to just enjoy myself as much as usual. I went anyway (hard not to considering I live there), figuring that there was still potential to have fun and that it might actually help my mood.

This party was crazy. Since the theme was Marti Gras, many people dressed up; many others undressed. I don't know how much I want to go into the actual details, but one way to express it is that what happened at the party are the kind of things that happen at the actual Marti Gras. I saw many naked bodies, both male and female. For my part, given my generally shy nature and my recovering-but-still-upset mood even while drunk, I was more of an observer than a participant. I did get a massage from a half-naked girl sitting on my back, and when I think about it that was actually really nice, but it was certifiably tame compared to what else went on that night.

My memory disappears roughly at the conclusion of the hot chocolate wrestling, though that was probably the apex of the night anyway, and it was conducted almost entirely in the nude. Why hot chocolate? Last year jello was used and it somehow messed up the tiled floor. The floor needed to be re-tiled, which cost the house many dollars. Hot chocolate is also hot, which is very nice considering Northern California weather is somewhat chilly at night in November.

Living in a communal house of 150 people (called a cooperative) provides a lot of opportunities for interesting parties. At one level parties can be separated into in-house and out-of-house parties. Most parties are in-house, which means the people who attend are primarily residents, and those who aren't are friends of residents. Out-of-house parties are advertised to the public; a fee is paid for entry; and they are generally massive. All of them are themed, and often involve costuming to some extent.

My best costume was the one I made for Halloween. Drawing on Kurando Inugami from Shadow Hearts Covenant and Jin from Samurai Champloo, I made myself a sort of samurai/ronin/Japanese swordsman outfit that turned out way better than it had any right to considering I safety-pinned bedsheets to a pair of pants. It wasn't technically a samurai because samurais wore armor, so it was more of a ronin. The problem with telling people that is it would generate responses such as "what the fuck is a ronin?" So I just told people I was a samurai if they asked.

The Halloween party itself certainly wasn't my favorite. It was an out-of-house party, which I like less than in-house parties, and I was recovering from sickness so I limited my drinking.

The Pirate party was also out-of-house and hence not one of my favorites, but what was even more fun was the "pirating," or advertising, that we did earlier in the week. About thirty to forty house members gathered to "plunder" the other coop houses and even a few greek houses. This basically involved running through their houses in costume while yelling "ARRR COME TO THE PIRATE PARTY." The fact that so many people participated and were in costume; the fact that they were so game, willing to role-play and get into the pirate character; the fact that we were drunk as a consequence of passing around rum handles; and the fact that we actually stole shit -- all of this combined to lend a sense of believability to the entire affair, to the extent that we were actually pretending to be pirates as opposed to merely dressing up as pirates. I'm 22 years old and I haven't done that since I was a kid.

On the subject of theft, it was mostly cheap consumables (ice cream, fruit, cereal). One person stole a container of Olive Oil, which is a little more expensive. A resident from the house that this Olive Oil container belonged to actually came to our house to take it back.

I had a similarly fun experience at the in-house Medieval Times-themed special brunch -- a combined feast and day party. At first I didn't have a costume and I literally felt awkward and uncomfortable because of this. It is a strange situation to feel awkward for not wearing something that under any other circumstance I would feel awkward for wearing. After a few sips of delicious, strawberry-flavored wine (a total girl drink), I began seeing the possibilities, ran to the corner convenience store to buy a pair of scissors, cut up and safety-pinned a costume together, and grabbed my enormous toy claymore that I had bought a year earlier. It wasn't the best costume I've had, but it eliminated most of the awkward feelings, which allowed me to enjoy myself more, and I did get comments on my sword.

The day itself was great. In addition to simple eating, drinking and socializing, there were a series of events that were a joy to participate in and watch. The best one was the jousting, which involved people riding at each other on bikes while trying to hit each other with ten-foot wooden shafts (pillows on the end). Two participated at a time obviously, and there was quite a crowd for it. As it commenced, excessively dramatic music (the kind you would hear at the beginning of a battle in Braveheart or something), mostly loud percussion, boomed from large speakers at an extremely high volume. Afterward people danced to (pseudo-)Medieval Times-themed music, dancing in ways you would never get the chance to at any other college party, such as locking arms and skipping in circles. Much like the pirating, there was some sense of believability to it all.

One thing that I have learned from this party experience is that there are basically five approaches to college costuming:

1) The Lazy approach -- Usually involves wearing basically normal everyday clothes, but also one minor costume item, like a bandana. This approach usually occurs with people who are too lazy or haven't found the time to find a full costume, but realize at party time that they want to be in the spirit.
2) The Store-bought approach -- This involves primarily buying costume items, particularly ones that are intended as costume items rather than as clothes for every day wear. It shows knowledge of accessible resources but little ingenuity.
3) The Home-made approach -- This involves using mostly clothes from one's own wardrobe, often in odd combinations. It also often involves cutting, safety-pinning, and, at higher levels of skill, sewing. When done well, it can be just as good as the Store-bought approach.
4) The Hybrid approach -- A combination of the previous two, and probably the most common one in reality. It often occurs when people home-make the clothes part of the costume and buy any accessories, such as toy swords. And finally,
5) The Sorority Girl/Pornstar/Videogame approach -- This is when girls wear lingerie and put on a pirate hat.

I have conflicting feelings of being grateful for a fifth year of college and at the same time feeling as though I am overstaying my welcome. The academic, political and, especially the social, experience of college, and particularly of UC Berkeley, is a unique one that I will never have ever again after I graduate in May 2010. I am doing my best to cherish it while it lasts. On the other hand, drinking doesn't do nearly as much for me as it used to, and eighteen years of straight education is really wearing on me, especially considering I have never liked the school aspect of school to begin with even though I have always loved learning.

School and learning have been at odds for me often because school typically fosters a certain style of learning that is more or less consistent across schools. It is mostly structured and narrowed, arguably even disciplined and regimented. My style of learning has always been anarchic and impulsive, and so when I am not bogged down by school work I involve myself in a lot of independent learning. I basically want to learn about whatever presently interests me and this has the tendency of either falling outside of school curricula, falling only into particular part of a class, or not lasting the entirety of a semester. I might wake up one day and decide that I want to read Edmund Burke, and will actually resent it if class-learning demands are intense to the point of effectively prohibiting or delaying my independent learning interests.

At this point my creative energy is more or less spent. Writing this blog has been has been both a great stress relief and a horrible act of procrastination, given the respective current circumstances. It's long, unrevised, and weighty, and I'm not sure how many of you will read all of it. Despite the overall positive tone, my mood is still only recovering in light of recent events, and I have essentially failed to make progress on my work. I'm going to go back to my house for dinner (cooked by a team of five house members), and come back to the lab after to try again.

Cheers everyone. Hope you're all doing well.
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Title: Laptops I own are cursed
Posted: November 16, 2009 (07:44 PM)
I woke up today and my laptop wouldn't boot up. When I press the button I hear the fan but windows never comes up. Last night it was working fine. I'm posting this from a library computer on campus. I hope it can be fixed at least temporarily because if not I will have lost about twenty reviews in progress.
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Title:
Posted: October 23, 2009 (07:01 PM)
I hate myself for letting myself get pulled into Internet arguments.
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Title: Freedom Fighters soundtrack
Posted: October 14, 2009 (03:57 PM)
I just wanted to let everyone know that it's fucking great. Really good game too.
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Title: Drugs
Posted: October 12, 2009 (03:49 AM)
I was talking with a bunch of people today, and we all came to the agreement that videogames are more addictive than any drug. I think part of the reason this is true is that videogames are not directly physically harmful. The only problem with this reasoning is that I think there are drugs that this can be said about as well.

I also personally came to the conclusion that alcohol is one of the shittiest drugs in existence. Hangovers suck, it tastes extremely shitty over 90% of the time, and you don't even remember of half of the night the next day.
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Title: What a week
Posted: October 04, 2009 (01:20 AM)
I was originally writing this as an HGmail to Janus but decided other people might find it interesting.

My original conception of my hiatus from writing is that I was dissatisfied with what I produced, and wanted to leave it alone for a while to prevent myself from forcing it. I've kind of been realizing that part of the whole reason I've been MIA from the community is that I actually I am too busy during school. It's probably not just a coincidence that I kind of stopped when I started going to college. I'm probably only barely going to be able to show for BWHY, but I may not be too active beyond that until I graduate. I do graduate in one year though, and will most likely be back into a habit of regular writing when that day comes.

But coming back has really made me realize how much I love the reviewer community. It's very skill- and performance-oriented. We all love reviewing, writing and gaming for their intrinsic, personal joy, but the contests are the glue that keeps us together and provides interpersonal joy. It kind of makes me sad for the people who tried hard but simply failed repeatedly to make a positive impact with their reviews, the biggest examples probably being espnking and fastkilr (if there is a Lord, He knows that the latter tried). I feel like their incompetence prevents them from fully partaking. If there's a lull in the scene, no one will email them with praise and encouragements to write again. By contrast, we always wish all reviewers who have ever left a positive impression on us would still write for us today. It's not just the Zigs, the Brocs and the Facts, even I have a message or two sitting in my inbox encouraging me to enter a contest. Regular competition compels us to bring our best and be amazing, and we regularly (but not universally) succeed in that endeavor, which provides a foundation for mutual admiration. We admire each other because we know we can rely on each other to make us happy. As a result, we have so many fond memories of and from people we have never technically met.

I was actually very unsure about posting these thoughts. I tripped on acid today for the first time in my life and went to Lovefest (LovEvolution technically), so I'm still riding a metaphoric and emotional wave of positivity and solidarity. I smoked weed with some friends in my 150 student communal college house and now am deeply lost in thought. At the very least I think what I wrote provides a more optimistic image of the community than some of my other, non-publicized rants. How fascinating it is to be deeply critical even of such senseless, unproductive musing.

I realized that my writing tends to be wordy because I have so many ideas but don't know how to handle them.

I have also been wondering...True, are you ever on drugs or something when you write your blog posts?

But I guess what I'm really trying to say in the end is...thank you, thank you all for memories that I will take with me to my grave despite having never been in your physical presence.
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Title: Memory of Lilica: Mega Man Zero
Posted: August 29, 2009 (08:31 PM)
Another old one no longer on GameFAQs or HG.

==========================================================

Capcom set the stage for a show stealing performance with Mega Man Zero. Action-starved GameBoy Advance owners couldn't contain their frothing anticipation for a straight-up old school action platform game, drool dripping from their gaping mouths at the thought of an alternative to Circle of the Moon's intelligent exploration and Lady Sia's lack of attachment to an overrated franchise. Even before Zero's North American release, such hard core, unbiased and fair Mega Fans as Zer0 prepared their witty 10-out-of-10 review taglines. It's no secret, Zero really is the star of Mega Man Zero. Imagine that. The android with the girlish blonde ponytail (that would be Zero) was also a playable hero in Mega Man X4: a more attractive, more entertaining game, released seven long years ago.

With credibility and objectivity now thrown out the window (fear not for it was already open), I should point out that the hype could have been worse. These people could instead have sudsily frothed over the GameBoy Advance incarnation of Revenge of Shinobi, a game which rates as recent memory's most shameful resurrection of a beloved franchise. At the very least, Mega Man Zero is acceptable. It occasionally even comes across as good.

The introduction performs its duty and introduces the aforementioned Zero and the youthful Ciel, who is a biotechnical genius and leader of the Resistance. With Ciel looking to be around twelve years of age, her overwhelming intelligence and importance are a tad unbelievable, but this is easily dismissed as a byproduct of an eccentric art style. Ciel isn't the sort of scientist to hide behind desks, seeing as the game begins with her running breakneck speed through a gorgeously coloured underground cavern. Turquoise pools of water ripple in response to drips from violet stalactites, this still scenery soon shattered by the ominous lurching of an enormous man-crushing tank. With pistons sliding smoothly in and out, this humongous machine (as humongous as can be on a small screen) demonstrates a great deal of graphical potential.

After this vividly animated and deceptively promising playable prologue of over-the-top selflessness, in which oddly-named characters perish one after another, Zero wanders around a quiet and downright boring military base, searching every nook and finding nothing but old men who tell long stories about their dead wives. Once you've had your fill of fruitless walking and pointless talking, the first mission begins. Destroy a Garbage Disposal center, where peaceful armed robots-but-not (they're called Reploids and the term is never defined) are being incinerated. In these missions, Zero is not working alone, for he has allied with the Reploid Resistance that freed him from his underground prison. These noble Resistance officers, each garbed in camouflage and silly beret, primarily fill the role of expendable plot device, each dependent on Zero for salvation.

The instruction manual informs me, these Reploids live with Ciel in the Resistance base. It even has pictures. Well I'm pretty sure the one in the middle called himself Aztec Falcon and tried to kill me and friendly Resistance members on the heretofore-unmentioned Harpuia's orders. After I returned from the meaningless mission (I won without ever touching the Garbage Disposal itself), Ciel didn't say word one about me having scrapped her Reploid companion.

Despite the blatant contradictions, I did enjoy the skirmish with Aztec Falcon. The boss encounters in this game shine due to the variety of attacks thrust upon Zero. At the far end of a linear train sequence (most levels are distressingly linear), an enormous mechanical eyeball turns on the juice, singing Zero's shiny red chest with jets of flame. During this battle, portions of the floor shoot up every few seconds towards the spiky ceiling, lancing Zero through the head. A simple dash to the side is enough to avoid impalement, but the demand for attention and quick reaction keeps combat entertaining.

In addition to Ciel and the Resistance, Zero is also assisted by cyber elves, known in other games as 'healing potion' or 'life of the four thousand gods'. Unlike former Mega Friends like Rush the Dog or that big dumb robot Forte, the elves are selected from the main menu, do their thing, and disappear. The elves are a dressier version of healing potions or life-bar extension items (or many other bonuses), with one key difference: you have to feed energy cells to the elves before they function. I can understand feeding elves to raise their strength or replenish hit points, but feeding them to even be able to use them? Unacceptable! When I discover an item or ability in a video game, I want to use it. After drying my tears of despair, I discovered the reward for feeding elves: after a single use, they vanish permanently. Bring back my energy cells, you ungrateful parasite!

Obtaining and activating an elf is a cumbersome and distracting process. Visit a data terminal, maneuver across several sets of menus, select an elf, download it to Zero's system, equip it, then feed it. Later, in the middle of a heated Reploid encounter, pause the game, select the elf from a menu, press a button to use it, then unpause the game. The elf flashily twirls around the screen, temporarily stunning all enemies. This stop-watch effect was accomplished in Castlevania by simultaneously pressing Up and B. And the stopwatch could be used more than once.

With all of their elf shenanigans, Capcom overlooked control improvement. Like his forebears, Zero can still only shoot (or slash) left and right, an incredibly irritating trait when jogging down an inclined plane, since Zero's shots (or slashes) pass harmlessly over the heads of lurking snaptraps below. More forms of attack can be earned by gaining levels, which is accomplished simply by destroying as many enemies as possible. Since the bosses are fairly difficult, I ran left then right again through the desert, slicing venomous robo-cobras into snake sausage for experience points. I don't recall any such old-time RPG shenanigans in other Mega Man games but, although the experience system detracts from the game's excitement, the abilities earned do in part compensate for Zero's mediocre controls. In part.

The game's overall concept is simple, but the unnecessary complexity obscures the action. All in all Mega Man Zero is not a bad game; however, it's a pointlessly irritating and ultimately unrewarding game. But not a bad game.

As if it matters. Mega Fans have already long since moved on, anticipatorily frothing over the upcoming double-numeric Mega Man Zero Three.
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Title: Memory of Lilica: Disaster Report
Posted: August 14, 2009 (07:48 PM)
I'm sure some of you are thinking how totally characteristic of me this is 8). I used the web archive to find Lilica reviews that are not currently on HG or gamefaqs. It's one of her earliest.

====================================================

You've already played this game, though probably under a different name. Taking place on earthquake-ravaged Stiver Island, Disaster Report desperately begs for attention with its innovative premise. Don't listen to its pleas. The execution limps across covered ground, delivering a half-baked loaf that tastes stale despite the fresh concept.

Disaster Report is an adventure game. Every review (mine included) establishes some link to the tired buzz-phrase 'survival horror' and it's my duty to inform you: there's no horror here. Nor is there action. Although demanding its fair share of survival skills, the excitement barely skirts the urban wilderness of Resident Evil 2, instead falling clumsily in line with adventures like Broken Sword. But let's not insult such a fine game Ė aside from standard adventure traits (third-person perspective and inventory management), Disaster Report merits no such comparison.

This third person is named Keith Helm, and he manages an inventory full of water bottles. Water bottles. After arriving on Stiver Island, the earthquake of the century derails his train, and Keith builds up an insatiable thirst while trying to escape. He drinks from the once-sprawling city's water fountains (doubling as save points) every ten minutes. Aside from water management, there are also several fetch quests. Fetch the rope. Fetch the key. Fetch. Unlike the classic Alone in the Dark, solutions to puzzles are obvious and spelled out, reliant upon obtaining an expected item to achieve an expected result.

Perhaps fearing to cause an increased pulse, Disaster Report makes certain to slow the frame rate to paramedic-frightening levels during the most potentially thrilling scenes. When buildings begin to fall, expect them to fall slowly. The lethargic motion is inexplicable, as the polygon models and textures aren't even particularly impressive (not surprising, considering the game was essentially developed in Irem's basement). Unlike the slow down of the classic Life Force, the speed reduction here does not assist in avoiding falling buildings. Many ground or ceiling collapses are triggered simply by stepping on the wrong floor tile, linking directly and immediately to an uncontrollable vision of Keith's death (yet often without an eye- or ear-pleasing smash). I avoid these pre-ordained deaths by remembering not to step on that particular tile the next time through; if there's a better way, I didn't figure it out and no one's telling. The generally-silent soundtrack punctuates these depressingly unsatisfying moments with dramatic bursts of music, a technique implemented far better in Tomb Raider. Yes, you really did read that. I positively compared the reviled Tomb Raider to this game.

The serendipitous nature with which the save points are strewn throughout the city irritated me. As though a box of thumbtacks were turned upside-down above a map of the city, no rhyme or reason controls the haphazard placement of the water fountains. In one area, two save-fountains pointlessly lie but steps away from each other; yet, prepare for the worst! You may find yourself traveling through hell and back before reaching high water (and another save point).

During his tepid journey across once-bustling Capital City, bouncing from fountain to fountain, Keith encounters a mere dozen people, including the token female partner Karen Morris, a helpless but vocal college student drawn with abnormally large feet and unrealistically triangular breasts. Between this perpetual victim and the absurdly leggy Kelly, we learn an important lesson: women get in the way, men save the day. I tolerated Yorda from Ico because she had cause to depend on another. Blind to her surroundings, secluded from the outside world, Yorda possessed no self-preservational experience. I can understand and pity such a person. Karen and Kelly are different. Fully capable of helping themselves, they instead choose to whine incessantly and depend on the first male who stumbles across them.

The overwhelming majority of Disaster Report focuses on avoiding aftershocks and surviving in the wake of the cataclysm. Fair enough. Such lofty goals may come across better on paper than on screen, but even so, the concept's potential shines through the polygon-obscuring fog of Capital City. Frustratingly, for the finale, Disaster Report casts aside this fantastic premise, thrusting Keith into a ridiculous game of cat and mouse against an assassin trained in the arts of stealth and rocket-launching, two traits that mix like oil and water. By this point, since Disaster Report focused so single mindedly on survival, it's too late to care about the dark machinations surrounding Stiver Island. It all feels very silly, as though the game suddenly noticed its own glaring dearth of action. And so a missile-flinging maniac is brought into the fold. Either the hastily-introduced political schemes should have pervaded the entirety of the adventure, or the finale should have focused on an earthquake the scale of which dwarfs the catastrophe at game beginning. As presented here, the climax comes across as comical and Ė dare I say it? Ė unstable.

In the end, Irem sold out. They blew their load, delivering all of their literally earth-shattering quakes early in the game. In the end, they had nothing bigger to offer, no more natural disasters, and so they offered a faceless man for the finale. I hope a more talented development team steals this idea and turns it into something excellent.
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Title: TT 04 teams
Posted: July 21, 2009 (05:39 PM)
So I was trying to figure out just from memory what the 2004 TT teams were. I came up with the following:

Venter, NickEvil, Woodhouse

Leroux, Deathspork, Jihad

SnowDragon, SkinnyPuppy, Tachibana Ukyo

Zigfried, GUTS, Overdrive

Denouemont, Hangedman

Mariner, Tom Clark

NT220, Janus Operative

Retrogamer

Cyper

BillyKane

KingBroccoli

Assuming those are all correct, that only leaves two forgotten names. Team arrangements are a little harder.
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Title: More old tournament stuff
Posted: July 05, 2009 (05:27 PM)
After posting my original story up, I received replies from Bloomer who mentioned that he still had all of the judging and interviews saved from Summer Fever 2004. I asked him to send them to me, and they reminded me of a lot of the stuff I had forgotten.

I believe the draft went like this:

theREALbbobb picks Masters
Sashanan picks Lord Alan
midwinter picks Bobotheclown
Kobold Warrior picks Asherdeus
Kobold Warrior picks DJSkittles
midwinter picks Genjuro Kibagami
Sashanan picks Richo Rosai
theREALbbobb picks Lilica
theREALbbobb picks Ohio State
Sashanan picks Shinnokz
midwinter picks FFM
Kobold Warrior picks J Dog
Kobold Warrior picks Disco1960
midwinter picks Golden Vortex
Sashanan picks Dark Vortex
theREALbbobb picks Karpah

I know that I got the first pick and Kobold got the last, and I'm pretty sure Sashanan got second because I think I remember Lord Alan being the second pick. In hindsight, my picks for Lilica and Ohio State are probably two of the biggest steals ever in a reviewer tournament; hell, I knew at the time what a good deal I was getting. Fastkilr was also in the pool, and while he wasn't technically drafted, midwinter was nice enough to adopt him and rotate their line-up so Fastkilr could play.

So the teams looked like this:

theREALbbobb - The Anonymities The Dream Team
theREALbbobb (captain)
Masters
Lilica
Ohio State
Karpah

Sashanan - Spaceman Spiffs
Sashanan (captain)
Lord Alan
Richo Rosai
Shin
Dark Vortex

midwinter - The Axis Of Machismo
midwinter (captain)
BobotheClown
Genjuro Kibagami
FFM
Golden Vortex

Kobold Warrior - The Fear
Kobold Warrior (captain)
Asher
Skittles
J Dog
Disco1960

There was a six week season, with every team facing each other twice, one home and one away game. Then there was a one-game playoff.

I am retroactively renaming my team The Dream Team because the old name is stupid and brings me much shame. Now, in my original post I mentioned that victory did not come too cleanly for The Dream Team. Upon reading the old judge reports, I realized that I had made an enormous understatement. Our ultimate victory was actually nothing short of miraculous, a comeback of massive proportions.

All manner of unexpected hiccups in the start slowed us down. Lilica lost her first two matches to Richo and then Skittles. Masters won his first against Sashanan, but then lost three matches straight to Kobold Warrior's Metal Slug 3, Midwinter's Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow, and a rematch to Sashanan's Neptune Daughters. The former two were the infamous synapse verdicts. Ohio State, while acknowledged for his incredibly entertaining and funny writing, also received some complaints about his writing being loopy and exhaustive to the point of being exhausting. I personally used some reviews that today I consider horrible (though some of them won at the time). Karpah had the best individual record out of anyone on my team by week 4, which was 3-1.

So after the fourth week of a six game season, it seemed like The Dream Team had imploded. We were in dead last: our team record was 1-3, with a total individual record of 10-10. Zigfried said that in the reviewer chats everyone laughed about my team. Besides how stacked it looked, I imagine they also laughed partly because of how well my team was not doing. Granted, I don't think they blamed me, or anyone on my team, for the situation. Instead, they blamed Bloomer, particularly for the two synapse verdicts against Masters - a judge retort, if you will.

But you all know the happy ending, so the only question left is how we turned it around with only two weeks left in the regular season. For one, things started going better for the heavy hitters. After starting off 0-2, Lilica went undefeated afterward. Likewise, Masters went undefeated for his remaining three matches. I personally won my last two matches of the regular season, being particularly instrumental in game six, using two reviews that I actually feel okay about today. Karpah, like the other woman on my team, would end with a 5-2 individual record.

In week five The Dream Team experienced a major breakthrough. We were up against Kobold Warrior's team, the leader of the tournament at the time with a team record of 3-1. The lineup was different from our last match against them since they had home court advantage. Kobold put himself up against me, leaving Asher to handle Masters. It didn't quite work out for him. I defeated Kobold with my Suikoden review, which isn't that great, but I usually think of it as my first good review ever. In the grand scheme of things, The Dream Team swept Kobold 5-0, the only such occurrence in the entire season. Week five also experienced another interesting development as Vegita replaced FFM as a member of midwinter's team after FFM had one of his infamous review tantrums after losing.

This dethroned Kobold as the leader, putting midwinter's team in first. The Dream Team was still only in third, although we somehow managed to have the best total individual record at the time with 15-10. Conveniently enough, in the sixth and final round of the season we were up against midwinter's team. We didn't sweep; instead, we merely won 3-2 with a bbobb-Masters-Lilica victory.

At the end of the regular season, Kobold had regained the lead with a total team record of 4-2, defeating Sashanan who ended up in last place. The Dream Team's defeat of midwinter brought the two even in team wins of 3-3, but our week five sweep gave us the better total individual record, better than even Kobold's, which put us in second and secured the playoff spot.

The final I sort of already covered in my last post. I think Kobold received home court advantage because he was the season leader, but it didn't matter too much in the end. He put me back up against Asher, and took Masters on himself. We won 4-1, the only loss being myself. For some reason this tournament had a rule allowing reviews that had already be used before in the final, so bloomer basically judged a bunch of reviews he already judged before. This was fortunate for me, since my teammates all had great reviews that were easy to find for the final.

And that's about it! I would go on to captain a major league team of Autorock and FFM to the playoffs next year but fall short of victory, and then eventually take a long, four-year hiatus from reviewing. Lilica would soon realize her enormous potential as one of the best reviewers this community has ever seen, winning official and unofficial Beat-Zig's, penning PDO, before disappearing, reappearing very briefly, and then disappearing again. Karpah and Ohio disappeared, and as far as I know have not been seen to this day; bless their souls, particularly Ohio, who was an amazing writer and personality.

Masters is still kind of around and shit.
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Title: Some thoughts after completing my first review in four years
Posted: June 25, 2009 (12:05 AM)
My Shadow Hearts: Covenant review was truly done as a process over time. I started with just writing down scattered ideas, and each day over the course of a little over a week I would add a bit more. The first draft was an 1800 word monstrosity that was pretty incoherent.

At its current state as a more or less finished product, it's still 1600, which is over my old regular. I used to write more around 1200, with my maximum usually being around 1500. These weren't personally enforced measurements, just habits.

My active vocabulary isn't as big as it used to be, and a lot of words don't come to me as easily anymore. Still, the review still reflects my old style to an extent, somewhat wordy and a little over-sophisticated, though I think it's still pretty clear.

Despite how in the past I usually had trouble just getting enough information for a complete review, I practically had too much stuff and even had to omit stuff. I had a paragraph that was basically GRAPHICS, though I think I kind of fit it in at first, but it was eventually axed. It also included a bit about Yuri's fusions, and I was hoping to talk about the cool high level fire and earth fusions, big suits of armor and rockbeasts with crystals jutting out of their backs respectively. In the end I never even used the word fusion in my review, deciding that it was a technical term that would need to be defined, and that demon transformation was a more accessible phrase.

I also had some things to say about music. A lot of people actually have a lot of positive things to say about Covenant's music, though not me. It's often noisy, and when it's not noisy, it's forgettable. At best it can be called experimental and does a good job of capturing feelings of insanity. While other games often put a lot of attention into their music and it adds a lot of experience, Shadow Hearts: Covenant has crappy music but the rest of the content is strong enough to stand without it. In this sense, I consider it the polar opposite of FF8, in which the great music is far more enjoyable than the entire rest of the content combined.

There may have been even more things to say, but I was trying to determine what was important and what wasn't. I wanted the writing to be at least somewhat lean, and I definitely didn't want to write a bloated review.

But now I'm going to play an even better RPG: Lunar SSSC!
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Title: Reflecting on my past Team Tournament experience
Posted: June 22, 2009 (02:35 AM)
In 2004 I participated in what was called ďthe minor leagueĒ Team Tournament by Fact and other AIM chatroom people involved in the regular TT. The format was strange: four teams of five people, bloomer as sole judge because there was simply no one else to spare with two TTís going on. I donít know the reason for this nor do I know how this played out in the week scheduling.

I suppose part of it may have been related to the fact that the draft pool for this TT covered a much wider range of skill levels than in the regular TT. Part of the reason it was called ďthe minor leagueĒ was that the draft pool consisted of the leftovers from the standard TT draft who didnít make the cut, as well as many people who didnít bother to enter the standard TT because they felt they werenít good enough to be drafted. I was among the latter. By then my name had become known, and I think I was on the ROTD schedule, but I was not personally confident in my abilities and felt overshadowed by what I saw as a community full of more experienced and talented writers.

The minor league TT was meant to be all-inclusive however. What made me comfortable was that a lot of people were entering who I felt I was at least as good as, and in some cases better than. I donít entirely remember why, but whereas I hesitated to enter my name into the standard TT draft due to lack of confidence, I signed onto the minor league TT as a captain. To my surprise this was accepted and welcomed, and the first thing I did was develop a draft plan.

The draft worked in the same way as the normal TT, except with four rounds. The draft pool wasnít devoid of talent either. In addition to major league TT draft leftovers, it included people who didnít think to enter the regular TT or simply didnít come around in time to enter. Such individuals included Masters, the most coveted draftee in the pool, and the legendary wordsmith and then-Zigfried-in-the-making Lilica.

In truth, I wanted Lilica more than anyone else, but I knew Masters was the most desired person in the field, and I had the first pick. I took a calculated risk: I used my first pick on Masters, hedging my bets on the likelihood that none of the other captains knew how good Lilica was, or that she was any good at all, since she had then joined only recently. My plan worked, as I watched the other captains draft reviewers like Lord Alan, Asherdeus, and DJSkittles over her. I had the two heaviest hitters in the field on my team. Shinnokz and Karpah rounded out the ranks of my gender-diverse, five-person team.

Despite my apparently stacked team, victory did not come as cleanly as would have been expected. I donít remember exactly how many weeks there were, but I think Masters finished with a total record of something like 5-3 or 4-3, not quite his expected performance. The reality of the situation was that while he was a great addition as a writer, he was somewhat difficult to work with. An odd character, he was initially difficult to communicate with, and eventually he was incommunicado altogether for unknown reasons. This meant that I had to pick reviews for him to be used for the contest, and I recall him having a very large catalogue, one that made poring through it almost prohibitively difficult.

Lilica turned out to be the real performer on my team. I think she had only one loss and she even took over captain duties one week while I was away, though she faced the same difficulty in selecting a Masters review. My other teammates performed well, and the ultimate result was the victory of the minor league TT. The final was against a team captained by Kobold Warrior, which included Asherdeus, DJSKittles, Disco1960, and one other I canít remember. We won 4-1, the only loss being my review of Chaos Legion versus Asherís review of Metal Gear Solid Twin Snakes.

I like to believe that my shrewd and focused captaining had a lot to do with my victory, but at the same time I think having an immensely stacked team helped as well. There was some controversy over bloomerís judging, particularly when he gave a win to Sashanan over Masters with his justification being the particular synaptic firings of his brain. I didnít personally care all that much. I just looked forward to the rest of the tournament and how I could win it. The most amazing thing that year was how there was so much interest that two Team Tournaments were held, even if the minor league was often forgotten.

This wasnít so in the next year, and I participated this time in the only team tournament, again assuming the role as captain. I must have had the third or fourth or fifth draft pick because my first pick was Autorock. He was my heavy hitter and a great writer. What ever happened to him? In any case, there wasnít the depth and overall quantity of quality reviewers in 2005 that there was in 2004. With my second draft pick I chose Scott ďJust a DabĒ Clemmons because I deemed him the best of the remaining draft hopefuls. The historical record makes Scott look like a savior, and while itís true that my team could not have gone as far as it did without the wins brought by his reviews, the reality of the situation was that he was just as much of a liability as an asset.

That Scott lost his first match against Gruel and then won his next six makes his performance sound like something of an inspirational story, like the ones in sports movies such as Hoosiers and Remember the Titans.

What happened was that when Scott saw that he was up against Gruel in the first round, being Scott, he scoffed and figured that there was no way he could possibly lose. So thatís precisely what happened: he posted a horrible review for the match and lost. In retrospect, perhaps I should have used my captain power to intervene, but I must have put enough trust in him at the time and did not want to be too commanding.

The loss devastated Scott, and he immediately announced that he quit the TT, completely without regard for the fact that he signed on to a team participating in a seven- to nine-weeklong competition. I suppose itís possible that I could have signed someone new, but I didnít think of it at the time, and Iím not sure if there actually was anyone else to sign on. My course of action was similar to what I did with Masters a year earlier: sift through his catalogue and post the reviews myself.

In a way, it was easier doing this for Scott, because he had a much smaller catalogue, so it was much more manageable. At the same time, it was harder, because it had nowhere near the depth or quality of Mastersí catalogue. I did what I could, analyzing all six of his upcoming matches in the week following his defeat to Gruel. I had to sift through his reviews, finding the ones of acceptable-enough quality for tournament use, saving his best reviews for his hardest matches. It worked, and the 6-1 record is primarily what the historical record sees. Autorock had either a 3-4 or a 4-3 record, his major moment being his upset against Fact. I must have had either a 2-5 or 3-4 record; unimpressive, but the combined team record was enough to bring us into the playoffs.

But by the time playoffs rolled around, we had kind of already blown our load. Scottís catalogue was simply spent: there was nothing left in it worth using, and because of his tantrum there was no hope of him writing new ones. For the semifinals I simply could not count on his match being a win and it wasnít one. I think Autorock won his match, but my review of Splinter Cell lost 2-1 to Emp, and that was the end of our ride.

I brought that team as far as it could have possibly gone. In all honesty, I donít think Scott would have had the record he ended up with had he stuck with it and chosen the reviews himself. Though it brought me some fortune, I think drafting him was the worst overall action Iíve taken as a TT captain, while my subsequent manipulation of his catalogue was my best. Autorock had only an average record, but the fact of the matter is that he had all the hardest matches. He was the heavy hitter so he had to go up against all the other heavy hitters, and given his victory against the previously undefeated Fact, I think he performed spectacularly. The one factor that I felt I did not control well enough was my own performance. I did not produce as much as I had hoped, though the few reviews I did produce in that time are probably among the best Iíve written.

It is now 2009 and it has been four years since Iíve participated in a TT or even written a review for that matter. I was actually entirely prepared for the possibility that I wouldnít even be drafted since I havenít done anything in a while, and the few times I entered a contest, I flaked. I figured that if I was picked however, it would probably be one of the captains who has been around longer, and I turned out to be exactly right! Not that I would have minded playing on anyone elseís team, but I am particularly glad that Iím on Janusí team. Although I donít usually think of him as one of my primary inspirations, reading his recent reviews of A Fading Melody and Sonic the Hedgehog has reminded me of what a great writer he is, and the truth is that he has always been one for as long as I can remember. He has the formal excellence, the personality and the insight.

Besides the fact that I just plain didnít sign up in time, I entered as a draftee rather than as a captain because I didnít want to assume the burden the role entails. However, I am aware that this burden is partially imagined and self-imposed by me, and that not all captains view the position the same way. Thatís why I still assume it a bit anyway. Iíve been looking at the field, trying to figure out ahead of time which reviews I plan to write I should use against particular reviewers. The only problem with this is that itís been a while, and not only am I not acquainted with the newer names, but Iím not familiar with how the writing of older names may have changed. How much have people like Golden Vortex, True and Disco1960 improved?

Perhaps more than anything else, the reason I have entered the TT is to get myself writing reviews again. Those few times I entered contests but flaked, I entered them knowing that I could flake if I had to, and that there wouldnít be too much consequence for it. But this is a Team Tournament, and Iíve committed myself to at least seven weeks. As of now, I have about one review about 70% of the way done, which I plan to finish in time for the first round. Itís actually looking alright. Iím trying to get used to the idea of writing as a gradual process of development as opposed to an hour or two of hyper-focused concentration and inspiration. I have about ten other reviews in the making, mostly just ideas I jotted down while they were fresh in my head, though some of them are already pretty significant. Iím not sure which ones to write next, part of the reason being that Iím wondering which will make the best ďtournamentĒ reviews. But the most important thing for me right now is that I just get with the writing again.

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