argurotoxos: Midnighter holding balloons, waiting for his husband (Thief - Artemis)
The new Thief game (Thiaf, Thief 4, Thief (2014), etc.) came out the end of February to mixed but overall mediocre reviews from what I've seen. I don't have any intention of buying or playing it, though I'll probably watch a Let's Play at some point. It's unfortunate Fen's had health problems the past few months; I hope he's been feeling better, but I do miss his frequent Thief Let's Plays and he made my favourite comment about the new Thief in his, thus far, only Thief 4 video: "Is this a parody?" I also eagerly await Yahtzee's Zero Punctuation review, which should be out tomorrow.

The most bizarre thing about Thief 4 is that Square Enix (Thief 4's publisher) and Amazon are hosting a Thief Mod Competition. The catch? You have to mod using the Thief 1-3 level editors or The Dark Mod, a completely fan-built total conversion mod, because the new Thief isn't releasing a level editor. You also have to enter with videos of your mod, or an idea for a mod, as opposed to an actual fan mission for others to play. (Basically, you have to do a Let's Play for your own fan mission.) When I heard the news, I was sure it must be a hoax. But no, it is apparently legitimate. On one hand, it's a nice effort to reach out to the very mod-active Thief community, but how weird is it to have to rely on past games and fan efforts to promote your current game? The contest is also limited to US citizens, which is unfortunate given Thief's multinational - especially European - fanbase.

My current Thief kicks are part two of Grayman's William Steele series for The Dark Mod, which features lots of enjoyable rooftop exploration, and the hope that DrK will finally release part four of his phenomenal Night in Rocksburg series this year. I recently updated my Dark Mod mission list and there are more mission I haven't played than I realised, about 50. There's also the current 10 Rooms contest for Thief 2; sad to say I haven't played as many Thief 2 fan missions since The Dark Mod, though I downloaded all the missions.

At the end of last year, I started re-reading Stormwatch and The Authority from Warren Ellis' first Stormwatch issues. I'm currently at the end of the third Authority trade (Earth Inferno and Other Stories). To my surprise, I enjoyed the Stormwatch issues more than Ellis' Authority run. I never realised my first time through just how much Ellis focused on his own (future Authority) characters. I wonder how prior Stormwatch readers felt about that. That said, I think all the Stormwatch members Ellis retained had a chance to shine, and I still have a special fondness for Winter. It's unfortunate the series ended the way it did, and the last trade was my least favourite. (I also never cared much for the WildC.A.T.S. no matter how hard I tried.)

I disliked Mark Millar's Authority run even more than I did on prior readings and feel he negatively changed aspects of most of the characters, usually with throw-away snarky lines like Midnighter beating AIDS or Shen having a boob job. And, of course, there's the Doctor being a drug addict and general screw-up. Characters, especially antagonists, seem to have more knowledge than I feel like they should, even though The Authority interacting more with the media was a theme of Millar's run. Frank Quietly's art is not to my taste at all. One of the only redeeming factors of the third Authority trade is the excellent Angie one-shot story. The art on the first two issues of Earth Inferno is also pretty good, though it doesn't send my blood singing like Bryan Hitch's art.

I actually don't own the next Authority trade (Transfer of Power) as I hated the arc so much. I don't have any of the Robbie Morrison trades, either. His run was one of the first I read (a mistake) and I thought all but the Jenny Quantum story arc were garbage. (I still kind of want the second trade of his run just to re-read that story.)

After volume three, I've got a few single issues and Millar's Jenny Sparks: The Secret History of the Authority. After that, it's The Authority: Revolution by Ed Brubaker and Dustin Nguyen. I'm looking forward to this run as it's been a while since I've read it, but remember the writing, story, and character design being good, not to mention emotionally compelling.
argurotoxos: Loki from Thor: The Dark World (Loki - The Dark World | by ariyanaforeve)
After watching series three of BBC's Sherlock, my dad and I rewatched the two earlier series. Below is my list of favourite to least favourite episodes from series one and two with no spoilers.

1. "A Study in Pink" (series one, episode one; written by Steven Moffat) -- A very strong introductory episode that has a compelling plot, great characterisation, and several nice mysteries. It would be hard to ask for a better opening.

2. "The Reichenbach Fall" (series two, episode three; written by Stephen Thompson) -- I've seen this episode more than any other. This is my favourite appearance by Moriarty; his plan to discredit Sherlock is clever and we really see Sherlock under pressure.

3. "The Hounds of Baskerville" (series two, episode two; written by Mark Gatiss) -- An interesting update to one of my favourite Holmes stories, though I liked this episode less the second time around. One of my biggest problems is the completely unrealistic computer security.

4. "Scandal in Belgravia" (series two, episode one; written by Steven Moffat) -- I was surprised how much I enjoyed my second viewing of this episode as I hadn't liked it much the first time -- Irene Adler's portrayal was completely different from what I'd expected, and I was disappointed by the resolution to series one's cliffhanger. (In general, I think the Sherlock series fit together better when you watch them in a row; the year or more break between seasons builds up too high expectations.)

5. "The Great Game" (series one, episode one; written by Mark Gatiss) -- The first Moriarty episode; I liked this episode more the first time around, and feel it's now completely overshadowed by "The Reichenbach Fall."

6. "The Blind Banker" (series one, episode two; written by Stephen Thompson) -- I thought this was a weird and boring episode the first time around, and had the same reaction the second time.

I've only see the series three episodes once, but if I were to add them to the above, the list would look like this:

1. "A Study in Pink"
2. "The Reichenbach Fall"
3. "The Hounds of Baskerville"
4. "Scandal in Belgravia"
5. "The Empty Hearse" (series three, episode one; written by Mark Gatiss)
6. "The Great Game"
7. "The Blind Banker"
8. "The Sign of Three" (series three, episode two; written by Stephen Thompson, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss)
9. "His Last Vow" (series three, episode three; written by Steven Moffat)

As you can tell, I didn't much like series three. "The Empty Hearse" is my favourite of the three, especially for the Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes interactions. Mycroft is one of the things I like most about the BBC Sherlock; his relationship with Sherlock is complicated and compelling, as is his relationship with John, neither of which are usually explored in other Sherlock Holmes media.

In general, I didn't think the stories in series three were tight enough; there was too much unnecessary drama and too much meandering with not enough focus on strong mysteries. I also didn't like Magnussen, the antagonist of the series, at all, not even in the 'I like to hate him' sense.

Some spoilers for Sherlock series three under the cut. )

Besides BBC's Sherlock, I've also been rewatching my VHS tapes of the 1954-1955 Sherlock Holmes series starring Ronald Howard as Sherlock and Howard Marion Crawford as John Watson. They're good fun, and I quite like Howard's more personable characterisation, as well as his chemistry with Crawford's Watson. You really feel like they're good, long-time friends.

Because so many of the Sherlock Holmes series I first watched were in black and white, I had difficulty trying to switch to Sherlock Holmes series in colour. It doesn't bother me when they're set in the present or future, like BBC's Sherlock or Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century, but it does when they're set in the late 1800s, which is why I don't think I've seen a single Jeremy Brett episode all the way through.

My dad and I have also watched a few episodes of Elementary, the modern US version of Sherlock Holmes. It's so disconcerting seeing modern Sherlock, John (Joan), Lestrade, and Mycroft, but looking and acting so differently from the BBC's version. We've been watching the episodes out of order and have only seen three, but Elementary just doesn't feel like a Sherlock show to me. It could easily be one of a hundred other crime shows with a quirky detective, and if I'm going to watch one of those, it would probably be Columbo.

My last bit of Sherlock news is that my dad and I are going to see the play Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure performed this Sunday at a local theatre. We used to go to plays, musicals, or concerts somewhat regularly, but haven't been in a long time, so I'm especially looking forward to it.
argurotoxos: Midnighter and Apollo smiling and laughing (Midnighter/Apollo - laugh | by cassshan)
When I went to bed yesterday, I discovered to my surprise that one of my amaryllis had bloomed! One they start growing, they really take off. I was afraid the stem would grow taller than my window.

Photos under cut. )
argurotoxos: Emilie Autumn sitting on the floor (Emilie - floor | by betterthanlegos)
I bought two amaryllis bulbs in the post-Christmas sales. They're on my desk next to the east-facing window in my bedroom. The second one I bought was already growing past the cardboard even without water or sun; I've been surprised how much it's grown just this week. The other bulb, however, hasn't done much. The blooms are supposed to be bright red (first/slow one) and reddish-orange with white lines (second/fast one).

Below are two photos of the amaryllis, plus new photos of my belly dance outfit(s) with commentary.

Photos under cut. )
argurotoxos: a scene from System Shock 2 with a ghost crewmember (System Shock 2 | by plant_boy)
Usually there comes a point where bands I listen to put out a new album that I don't care for. It happened with Nightwish (Dark Passion Play) and The Crüxshadows (As the Dark Against My Halo), with The Birthday Massacre (Pins and Needles) and Emilie Autumn (Fight Like a Girl). I only bought one song each off the newest Crüxshadows and Emilie Autumn albums, and it took a bit for that song to warm up to me.

The other day I was on YouTube and searched for Neuroticfish. I don't remember why; I have almost all their songs. I was scrolling through the results as usual and came across some song titles I didn't recognise. Strange, since as far as I knew Neuroticfish's last album was a compilation CD titled "A Greater Good" from 2008. Apparently, there will be a new album released this year. With some trepidation, I opened the first new song I found ("Silence"), waiting and fearing that, as with previous bands, I wouldn't like their sound as much as I used to.

My thoughts after the song? "Yup, that's Neuroticfish." Still going strong and still awesome.

It's so good to have new Neuroticfish music, and to actually be excited about a new album. This may be the first time I'll buy a whole, physical CD (and without listening to all the tracks before purchase) since The Birthday Massacre's Walking with Strangers.

Here's another of Neuroticfish's new songs: "Behaviour".

"You do ignore me
You don't listen to what I say
You do ignore me
You don't recall me
You do ignore me
A game that I won't play
You do ignore me
This isn't for me"
argurotoxos: an elegant half-nude woman standing in green skirts with head facing down and butterflies at her feet (Fée verte)
In 2013, I . . .:

. . . attended the funeral of my paternal grandmother.

. . . worked full-time at the same place all year and made two good friends.

. . . drove round-trip to Maine, New Hampshire, and Ohio (part way).

. . . took time off to visit with relatives and my best friend.

. . . experimented more in gardening.

. . . read a number of books, including two good, and very long, biographies (No Man Knows My History by Fawn Brodie [on Joseph Smith] and A prince of our disorder: the life of T. E. Lawrence by John Mack).

. . . started learning belly dance and expanded on my yoga.

. . . had both my laptop and my car upgraded. (I think the laptop was technically the end of last year, but I didn't have it fully customised or used as my default laptop until this year.)

. . . learned various corset lacing techniques.

. . . gained dental and limited health insurance. The former gave me access to the best dentist I've ever had, while the latter has caused me a three-month long, and still ongoing, billing dispute.

I've never been a radio listener, but we have it on most of the time at work to help the day move faster. We usually alternate between two stations, both of which tend to play rock from the 60's to the 90's.

There was this one song that came on ever few days, and I absolutely loved the instrumental section. I couldn't get enough of it and thrilled whenever it was on. However, I couldn't quite make out the lyrics or guess the name of the song. Fortunately, one of my co-workers/friends knew it and it became my song of the year: "Peace of Mind" by Boston.

"Now if you're feelin' kinda low 'bout the dues you've been paying
Future's coming much too slow
And you wanna run but somehow you just keep on stayin'
Can't decide on which way to go


Now everybody's got advice they just keep on givin'
Doesn't mean too much to me
Lots of people out to make-believe they're livin'
Can't decide who they should be.

I understand about indecision
But I don't care if I get behind
People livin' in competition
All I want is to have my peace of mind."
argurotoxos: Midnighter holding balloons, waiting for his husband (Weyoun | by stargater)

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and New Year!

(Screencaps from The Dark Mod fan mission demo A Christmas Present 2011 by Arcturus.)
argurotoxos: Midnighter and Apollo smiling and laughing (Midnighter/Apollo - laugh | by cassshan)
-I've set aside S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, The Dark Mod, and System Shock for now and am playing some of my enormous (300+ missions) backlog of Thief 2 fan missions with NewDark. My most recent was The Night Before Christmas by DarkShadow, a fun and beautiful Christmas mission.

-Still reading Loki/Thor fanfiction. I've become even fonder of Jotun!Loki AUs, especially stories with arranged marriages, intersex Loki, and/or lots of world building. The story I'm most looking forward to - and that happens to have everything I mentioned - is the next chapter of amberfox17's Wild Ambition Fortune's Ice Prefers.

-I hadn't looked at the Stormwatch preview pages in months when I heard the series is ending soon, and with it goes what little interest I had left in DC Comics. (And, of course, the last issue preview has the best Midnighter and Apollo art I've seen since the DC reboot started.) I still love Midnighter, Apollo, Jenny Sparks (and Quantum), Angie, Shen, the Doctor, and Jack, but never adjusted to their characterisation in the DC reboot, among other things. There are still a few older Authority issues I've never read, but other than that, it's just re-reading my favourite trades for me. Good times. RIP (again) Wildstorm.

(How weird is it that Apollo and Midnighter were married in the comics before same-sex marriage was legal anywhere in the US, but now that it's legal in over 15 states [including Utah of all places], they aren't married?)
argurotoxos: a scene from System Shock 2 with a ghost crewmember (System Shock 2 | by plant_boy)
My mom came down with a very bad stomach virus over the weekend. I got it yesterday, with vomiting, diarrhea, and chills. I'm feeling a little better today, but have been eating nothing but jello, broth, and Gatorade. (It's hard to get enough calories to do much of use on that diet!) I also called out from work tomorrow for the first time. It's left me feeling restless, but without enough energy to do much -- not even the Christmas presents I'd planned on mailing out today.

Changing topic, I've been sporadically looking for a copy of System Shock 2 for several years. When I first began my search, there were no legitimate downloads; now, you can get System Shock 2 digitally on both GoG and Steam. However, I still prefer to own the physical copy. What made the search more challenging, and more expensive, was I wanted a copy with the original box, and most of the used copies are CD-only.

I happened to be on eBay earlier this month looking for presents for a friend and ran through my saved searches, including System Shock 2, while I was there. There were still a few copies with the full box, all over $60, which was more than I wanted to pay. However, I did see a listing for the CD and the manual for $25. Thinking it over, while I quite like my complete Thief Gold original box, I rarely look at it and it's not something I would pay an extra $30 for, and having the manual was good enough. So, I finally have an official, hard copy of System Shock 2. Of course, the first things I did upon acquiring it were to go over to the System Shock 2 forums to download the mods and fan missions.

The first time I started it up, I played for almost an hour straight, which is rare for me these days. I thought it might be interesting to play System Shock 2 and System Shock side-by-side based on decks, but don't think I'll have the time or energy to carry through. (Vaguely related, I finally got to the Red Forest in S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, which looked completely different from what I expected. I spent most of the Red Forest sprinting past everything because I was tired of combat. I then lost interest again and haven't played for a month.)

System Shock 2 was the last computer game I had on my wish list. I've had recommendations for the Elder Scrolls series (particularly Morrowind) and a couple other games, but nothing has piqued my interest enough to buy it.

The second early Christmas present I bought myself on eBay was a pair of belly dance bracelets/anklets that look like the ones I got at a local Greek festival earlier this year. I initially ordered one pair of white anklets with silver coins and one pair red with silver coins, but the former turned out to be unavailable. (My belly dance outfit is themed black, white, and silver, but I sometimes like splashes of colour.)

argurotoxos: Midnighter holding balloons, waiting for his husband (Thief - Artemis)
Today I . . .:

-Had breakfast with a friend and co-worker.

-Stopped at work to visit with another friend and co-worker during her lunch.

-Did some shopping, both Christmas and non.

-Cleaned the bathrooms and repainted my finger and toenails while listening to podcasts (Mormon Expression Voices and the newest Mormon Expositor).

-Washed the towels.

-Cooked some pink lemonade cookies, chicken stuffing, and asparagus.

-Ate and read some fanfic.

-Folded the towels and did the dishes.

-I might bellydance or watch something with my dad before bed.

Somewhat more eventful than my usual days off.

Some photos from the past month. )
argurotoxos: a scene from System Shock 2 with a ghost crewmember (System Shock 2 | by plant_boy)
In late 2003, Ion Storm released Deus Ex: Invisible War, the sequel to 2000's highly lauded Deus Ex. Five months later, Ion Storm released Thief: Deadly Shadows, the third entry in the Thief series. Both games were built on the same engine and were the first in their respective series to be released for console as well as PC. And both games have a reputation of not being very good among fans (or at least on TTLG, which is where I go for my gaming needs).

I played Deadly Shadows back in 2008. You can read my initial thoughts on it here, though I don't like it as much now; it's the only Thief game I don't have installed. I think Deadly Shadows is worth a play, but it's definitely the weakest in the series for me and the only reason I even keep my copy is if I have the urge to play the Shalebridge Cradle again. (The Shalebridge Cradle is indeed a fantastic level, but I think the effect is lessened once you know what's going to happen next and you realise it's essentially a glorified fetch quest. [So is "Return to the Haunted Cathedral" from Thief: The Dark Project, but Lauryl (Deadly Shadows) is much more tolerable than Brother Murus (The Dark Project).])

Due to some confusion on my part, I ended up buying Deus Ex: Invisible War before the first Deus Ex. It didn't matter in the end, though, as Invisible War refused to run on my older laptop despite it meeting the system requirements and Deadly Shadows running fine. I've only played Deus Ex through once - which is a bit odd as I've played The Nameless Mod (a Deus Ex game-length mod) twice - but I spent over 50 hours on my run and had an absolutely fantastic time. Together with Thief and System Shock, Deus Ex is in my personal top three games and I believe I've played every long-ish fan mission there is (The Nameless Mod, ZODIAC, 2027, Red Sun, The Cassandra Project, Burden of 80 Proof, Hotel Carone) except the most recent (Nihilum).

So much has been written about Deus Ex, including Kieron Gillen's excellent review that captures a lot of Deus Ex's strengths, that I don't feel I can add much. So, moving on to Invisible War.

I started playing Invisible War back in August when S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl's focus on shooting was driving me crazy. (I'll review Shadow of Chernobyl once I finish it, though I've been playing on and off since January, so . . . it may be a while. In short, great atmosphere and visuals, not half as much focus on exploration as what I wanted.) What a contrast that was. Moving from Shadow of Chernobyl's lack of hand-holding and difficulty (I play on the easiest setting and it still kicks my ass at times) to Invisible War's, well, we'll get to that below, was like night and day.

It took me 12 hours to play through Invisible War. 12 hours, over the course of three months, when the original took me over 50 hours over the course of less than a month. (I had more free time and was much more engaged in the game.) And yet, I feel like Invisible War overstayed its welcome by at least three hours.

Invisible War has some of the same problems Deadly Shadows, likely influenced by being released on the first-generation Xbox. Maps are relatively small and there are plentiful loading zones. No swimmable water, although Invisible War at least never draws attention to it. (Going to jail for falling in the water was one of the stupidest ideas in Deadly Shadows.) On the other hand, I thought both the player character and NPC movement was less stiff and smoother in Invisible War, though jumping and crate stacking are worse.

I started off Invisible War with the idea of playing a stealthy hacker, which, ever since Thief, tends to be my default character. The interface provoked much irritation and was clearly designed for a gamepad -- 'yes/no' prompts you have to use the mouse for; no keyboard support for custom-naming saved games, manually typing in passcodes, or writing notes in-game; no quick-save or load; no screenshot key (which is why there are no screenshots in this review, because Invisible War isn't worth the effort of using a second program); the minimum HUD is still rather invasive, and inventory management is a mess. Skill points were eliminated, as were different ammo types (yes, all firearms in the game use the same ammo, just in different amounts), the conversation log, and location-based health management. In short, the only ways to customise you character besides your play style are through your appearance, the weapons you use, and your biomods (augmentations). (I barely include dialogue choices, since there aren't very many and most don't seem to matter.) However, you can now choose to play as either a male or female.

Much more under cut. )

In summary: Deadly Shadows may be my least favourite Thief game, but it is at the minimum a decent game and a far, far better game than Invisible War. I don't think Invisible War is completely irredeemable - I did finish playing it instead of throwing my hands up in disgust after all - but there's not much to recommend it, especially compared to its predecessor.

So, what's good about Invisible War? The voice acting's not bad. There's a good mix of male and female NPCs. Invisible War actually does reward exploration, or at least what you can do in the small maps; as in Deus Ex, you can find ammo, equipment, etc., in somewhat out of the way places (under desks, behind pipes, and so on). Trier has a surprising number of readables that are actually decent. The ApostleCorp lab was somewhat neat, except that Invisible War cannot do horror or atmosphere. The Antarctic Versalife facility was better, and even had a nice ambient track!

If anyone wants to play Deus Ex: Invisible War on the PC, I will give you my copy for only the cost of shipping. (If the shipping's less than $6, I'll even pay that, too.) I have the CDs, both in very good condition, plus the manual, hardcover box, shiny slipcase, and even the kidneythieves card. I bought it second-hand, but there are hardly any signs of wear. The edges of the slipcase are the worst part, but still in good condition. There are a few photos below.

Deus Ex: Invisible War photos, up for sale. )
argurotoxos: fanart of Lady Loki amused (Lady Loki - snerk | by etrangere)
I went to a matinee showing of Thor: The Dark World with my parents the Saturday of opening weekend. (The only other film I think I've seen opening weekend was The Avengers with my aunt.) Other than various trailers and photos from Tumblr, I'd only been spoiled about one particular plot point, so didn't know what to expect. Overall, though my parents and I all agreed that the first Thor was better, I still really liked The Dark World. I think I enjoyed it even more than Avengers as I felt The Dark World gave me more of what I really craved -- deeper looks at the characters (Loki in particular was back to being more ambiguous) and a more personal approach.

I also re-watched the first Thor with my dad this past weekend; I still love it and am impressed by it, my favourite of all the Marvel films.

More thoughts on Thor and The Dark World, no spoilers. )

Additional thoughts with spoilers. )

One of the seven trailers that was shown was for the next Captain America movie; despite Black Widow and Nick Fury, it didn't pique my interest at all.

(Edited for tense and a few additional thoughts on 20 November 2013.)
argurotoxos: Emilie Autumn sitting on the floor (Emilie - floor | by betterthanlegos)
Our October was warmer than usual, but unfortunately the forecast for today is rain and clouds, wich means few trick-or-treaters.

Since the weather was better yesterday, my dad dressed up then as the Phantom (from the Phantom of the Opera) and rode his bike around playing Halloween music. (He's modified his bike a lot this year, including multiple speakers, lights, and cameras.) I can't remember the last time my dad dressed up, so this was a treat!

I did another Sylvia Ji/beautiful death-type face paint. I had a rough design sketched out based on the patterns and colours in the dress, but improvised a bit while painting. I'm pretty happy with the way it turned out, especially since I haven't used face paint in over a year. The paint took about two hours from start to finish.

Photos of both under the cut.

Halloween 2013 photos. )
argurotoxos: a scene from System Shock 2 with a ghost crewmember (System Shock 2 | by plant_boy)
The Dark Mod, a Thief-inspired Doom 3 total conversion mod, recently updated and is now stand-alone! In other words, all you need to play is a computer that meets the system requirements (which aren't very high -- my 2005 laptop can run it on low settings) and the ability to download and save at least ~3 GB, which includes the Mod itself plus several fan missions. You don't need a copy of Doom 3 or any of the Thief games. You don't even need to have played Thief before, though I think it helps and am sure the vast majority of The Dark Mod players and mission authors are Thief fans.

You can download The Dark Mod 2.0 here. Windows, Linux, and Mac are all supported, though the Mac version is back at 1.08 and so requires Doom 3. The Dark Mod has a built-in mission downloader, but you can also check out the complete mission list and download missions manually here. If you're interested in building missions yourself, you can download The Dark Mod's level editor, DarkRadiant, here. For more information, there's an introductory video on YouTube (and you can always search for Let's Plays), plus a Wiki, among many other resources.

Though I was a bit late playing The Dark Mod - I waited until 2012 to buy a used copy of Doom 3 - and had several problems on my older laptop, The Dark Mod's run flawlessly on my newest laptop and I really love the mod. To be honest, it's somewhat hard going back to the older Thief games and fan missions -- I haven't even tried NewDark much yet [the newest patch for Thief: The Dark Project/Gold and Thief II: The Metal Age] as I've been playing The Dark Mod missions or other games. I'm not completely sure why -- I definitely like mantling and object interaction more in The Dark Mod, and there are a few things I miss from the older games, such as the original Haunt design (graphics and sound). The only things I've wanted while playing through The Dark Mod missions are more and higher quality voice acting (which I believe has been updated in 2.0) and a dedicated run forward key, as in the first two Thiefs.

I haven't updated to 2.0 yet as I don't want to redownload all the missions I currently have. I've played about 30 missions, and there are about 45 I've yet to start.

Below are my mission recommendations based on what I've played so far. Like most fan missions, the difficulty varies by author and mission, so if you're just starting out, trying a few missions on the easiest setting would be my suggestion. (If you've played Thief before, you can start at any setting -- whatever you usually play the game at. [For what it's worth, I haven't played any The Dark Mod missions that are more difficult than some of the Thief 2 fan missions.]) I also played these under older Dark Mod versions, and you should be aware that The Dark Mod comes with a training mission.

-Sound Alert & Blackjack Trainer by The Dark Mod Team. Not a mission per se, but an easy way to get a feel for the loudness of different surfaces are and the AI's sensitivity level.

-Pandora's Box by Jesps. I think this would be a nice introductory mission as it's fairly short (I finished in less than 30 minutes) and set in a unique location (an airship).

-Too Late by Nielsen74. A smallish warehouse mission that would be nice for a quick play. Plenty of boxes, crates, etc. to mantle on and some neat places for loot.

-William Steele 1: In the North by grayman. My favourite The Dark Mod mission to date. A fairly large mansion-type mission, beautifully decorated, designed, and textured. There are some puzzles and optional objectives, plus plenty to explore and read.

-Flakebridge Monastery by Jesps. A large undead mission in an abandomed Builder monastery. Lots to do, including some optional objectives -- I spent about 4 hours playing and still had one bonus objective and quite a bit of loot left. Some good characterisation, especially for the guest wings, and several different routes.

-Swing by Komag. I had to include this one because it was so different! This is mostly a jumping and climbing mission, and the only time I've felt vertigo while playing a computer game.

-House in Blackbog Hollow by stumpy. I debated over including this mission as I haven't finished it yet, but I've been impressed with the design, especially the sound, and it's great for Halloween. One of the reasons I really like this mission is it's horror-themed, but with minimal undead use. (I don't mind undead, but have to be in a certain mood to play missions with them, which comes into conflict with the fact that I do enjoy [certain types of] horror.)
argurotoxos: an elegant half-nude woman standing in green skirts with head facing down and butterflies at her feet (Fée verte)
We've had lovely weather lately, sunny and in the high 60s to low 70s. Only a few of our trees have changed colour.

There's a squirrel family living in our backyard, about three or four in the same tree hole and at least one of them not fully grown. I've seen them tearing off leaves to carry into their home, and their various comings and going.

A few photos behind the cut. )
argurotoxos: Midnighter holding balloons, waiting for his husband (Wolfram and Yuuri)
I had an absolutely amazing weekend with Kun in which we did many things. Inspired by our talks, there are several anime series I'd like to re-watch:

-Hikaru no Go. I started re-watching this series earlier this year and really enjoyed it, but stopped only ten episodes from the end as seeing Hikaru fall into his depression and having the focus temporarily switch to Isumi, dealing which his own loss of confidence, was difficult. I'm finishing the last few episodes now.

-Kyou Kara Maou. This is a series I haven't watched in years, and I think I even lost interest as the second season was airing as there are many episodes I don't remember. I'm up to about episode 22 now -- I'd forgotten how much development all the characters receive, and the show isn't quite as cracktastic as I recalled, though it does have its moments. Since I stopped following Kyou Kara Maou, there's been an OVA, a third season, and a musical!

-Kashimashi. Kun and I watched this series together several years ago and it was a very emotional event, not to mention that this series is one of the few (only?) shoujo-ai series we really loved. We watched the first two episodes during my visit, so I have 11 more to go.

[lower priority]

-Gankutsuou. Another series I haven't re-watched since my first viewing many years ago. Very emotional and good memories.

-Yuu Yuu Hakusho. We watched an episode from the Sensui arc during my visit, plus some extras that I'd never seen before. I only have parts of this series on DVD, including all of the Sensui arc, which is my favourite.

-Hunter x Hunter. I've only watched one episode from the 2011 series, but there are a few episodes from the Chimera Ants arc I'd like to see as they had some of my favourite scenes in the manga. I also haven't followed the manga for a couple of years and am at least 20-30 issues behind. I don't know if I'll re-watch the original anime, but I do want to see the second musical again.

-The Prince of Tennis musical. I didn't see much of the anime or manga, but I had a good friend in college who was a fan and showed me parts of the first musical. I still have it and have never watched it all the way through; there are some catchy songs, though my version isn't subtitled and my Japanese isn't as good as it used to be.

-Yami no Matsuei. This is the series Kun and I keep coming back to again and again and have cosplayed more than any other.
argurotoxos: a scene from System Shock 2 with a ghost crewmember (System Shock 2 | by plant_boy)
As it turns out, I wrote my eulogy for the wrong vehicle.

It should have been for my dad's truck, a 1981 Ford F-150.

Our mechanic said the problem with my brakes was linked to the anti-lock braking system and fixed with one wire. The fix required disabling the anti-lock brakes, which I've never felt active as long as I've driven it.

My dad's truck, on the other hand, had a leak in the brake system that was deemed not worth fixing, in addition to having a leak in the gas tank that necessitates keeping it only half full. (It still passed state inspection, though!) The truck wasn't driven often, and had higher gas costs, but it could of course transport large items that the the Accords couldn't.

My dad is still keeping the truck for now, but had the plates and insurance taken off and transferred onto our replacement car, a 1997 Accord, that we bought less than two months ago.

It was a novel experience being able to listen to my MP3 player and use air conditioning for the one day I drove my mom's car, but the tradeoff of having none of that but a manual transmission is worth it to me, at least for shorter trips. I find I'm always learning new ways to fine-tune my clutching and driving requires more strategy than the basic stop or go of automatic transmissions, not to mention that my moods are readily apparent in how smooth my clutching is. I also miss using the power of downshifting to slow down in automatics.

I still do not anticipate my car lasting to next year, unless it's semi-retired and only driven occasionally like my dad's truck [our driveway is narrow and such that only one car can be taken in or out at a time, so the car parked last is rarely taken out unless intentionally], but it is so good to have it back again for now.
argurotoxos: Midnighter holding balloons, waiting for his husband (Loki - upset | by the_last_shadow)
My car finally died. It made it 21 years and about 171,000 miles.

I drove it to and from work today, nothing unusual. My dad took it out to run a quick errand in the afternoon and when he came back he said there was something wrong with the brakes and to take everything out of the car. Even though neither of us feel it's worth it to invest much more money in the car - the air conditioner and radio haven't worked in over a year and the frame is rusted, especially near the rear tires - he's going to bring it to our mechanic tomorrow, if only for curiosity.

We do have a replacement we bought at the end of July specifically to replace my car - a 1997 Accord, almost identical to my mom's - but there are some things that need to be done to it first, including registration, plates, and an oil change.

Even though I stalled the car many, many times while learning to drive, and I had to have it towed at least three times over the past year, I will still miss it. Our of all the cars I've been in, I think the '92 Accord is still one of the most comfortable and aesthetically pleasing. It's been a good companion. I'm surprised it wasn't the clutch or the winter that killed it -- I expected it to last until mid-December, as it was after that when I had problems last year.

I wasn't going to take my car to New Hampshire this coming weekend, but thought my mom would have mine around to drive! My last vacation, with my mom to Maine in June, we took a rental car as hers was flooded shortly before our departure date. My mom's car was in the shop last week for a fan problem. As soon as hers was done, my dad brought his truck in for a state inspection, and it's still currently at the shop.

In the end, though, I should be - and am - grateful to have a car to drive at all.
argurotoxos: Midnighter holding balloons, waiting for his husband (Midnighter - balloons)
Two posts in one days after a long time of not updating, I know, but I had this drafted before the events of the other post occurred.

Fandom Update in One Minute

-I've put S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl on hiatus and am currently playing Deus Ex: Invisible War, which has many issues, but not enough for me to stop.

-I'm almost through watching FenPhoenix's Thief 2X and Thief: Deadly Shadows Let's Plays.

-My most recent library books have been about T. E. Lawrence ('Lawrence of Arabia'), Norse mythology, Egyptian mythology, and science fiction in literature and film.

-I'm still reading Thor-based fan ficion and am looking forward to Thor: The Dark World.

-I've been learning belly dance.

-My dad and I finished watching Netflix's streaming episodes of Columbo and have moved on to Through the Wormhole (a science/philosophy show narrated by Morgan Freeman) and various BBC episodes, the most recent being a series on Ancient Greek theatre.
argurotoxos: a scene from System Shock 2 with a ghost crewmember (System Shock 2 | by plant_boy)
I was looking for reviews for either The Dark Mod or Thief 4 on YouTube and found this commentary on some Thief 4 gameplay by Woodsie at ThePCelitist. The video was interesting and articulate (though I was surprised Woodsie didn't say anything about XP points) and I've since watched a couple other videos, including the first two installments of The Case for PC. Woodsie and Shepard brought up some good points, but I didn't feel much of what they talked about lined up with my own reasons for being a PC gamer. And so, I present six reasons why I am a PC gamer (a.k.a., why I will probably never buy a console).

1. Most of the games I'm interested in playing are only available on the PC. The first two Thiefs, both System Shocks, all three S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games, Unreal Tournament 2004, Vampire: the Masquerade - Bloodlines -- all of these games were only released for the PC. I could name many, many more. There is a console version of the original Deus Ex, but I understand it's quite changed. On the flip side, I can't think of a single console-only title I'd really like to play.

2. Tied in to (1), fan mods and missions are very important to me. Many of my favourite gaming experiences have happened while playing Thief or Deus Ex fan missions. None of these fan missions, or total engine conversions like The Dark Mod [a Thief-inspired game using the Doom 3 engine], are available on consoles. Though I don't make fan missions myself, I have played around in DromEd [Thief's level editor] a bit. Texture and visual updates, such as John P's High Res Textures for Thief: Deadly Shadows or New Vision and HDTP for Deus Ex, and general patches like the multiple unofficial Bloodlines ones, are also, to my understanding, unavailable on consoles.

(Fan-created and shared material - be it art, fiction, videos, playlists, mods, cosplay, and so on - is key to me for most series. I can enjoy a show, or a game, on its own, but if it doesn't have an active fanbase, or if fan-created materials are discouraged by the creators, chances are I will quickly move into other fandoms. One of the sad trends of modern games has been a reluctance or refusal to release level editors, thus making fan mission creation very difficult.)

3. The PC is what I grew up with. Aside from a black-and-white Power Rangers Gameboy-type device, I never owned a console. I never played Mario, Zelda, or Sonic the Hedgehog. Instead, I was playing Myst, SimCopter, Tyrian, and Commander Keen. The PC has always been my gaming home and I still play DOS games through DOSBox.

4. Mouse and keyboard. I took a look at my control configurations for S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, The Dark Mod, and Thief 2, and I use an average of 37 keys plus three mouse buttons for each game. In Thief 1/2, I use nine keys just for movement: 'w' for run forward, 's' for walk forward, 'x' for walk backward, 'space' to creep, 'q' for lean left, 'e' for lean right, 'k' to lean forward, 'f' to crouch, and 'shift' to jump. When you include things like multiple weapon selections, quick save/load, zoom in/out, and other inventory hotkeys, it's easy to take over most of the keyboard, and I like it that way. I feel I have quicker access to the things I want to get to [e.g., I can hit 'alt' for water arrows instead of scrolling through a weapon selector] and more fine-tuning over my movement and view. Most of the games I play also give the player great flexibility in creating their own control scheme; the first two Thiefs even allow you to save multiple control layouts.

5. It's impractical for me to own a console. In addition to (1), most consoles hook up to a TV, and I hardly ever watch TV unless it's for VHS tapes. I think I would be perfectly happy without either a TV or cable. All my other media watching is done on my computer, whether it be online steaming or DVDs. My computer is my one-stop machine: email, gaming, multimedia, internet, word processing, exchanging files with my MP3 player or cell phone, etc.

6. The PC makes it easy to interact with game files. I can edit screencaps or make them my desktop. If the game I'm playing doesn't have a built-in screencapture, I can run another program in the background. Same with audio or video capture. I can back up my saved games and user files, or make custom edits to the user ini. I can transfer my saved games easily to other computers or hard drives. I can explore the files within the game; e.g., I can extract the audio files and find dialogue I missed during the game itself. (I've done this with both Thief and Vampire: the Masquerade - Bloodlines.) In short, I have a degree of transparency and flexibility with the games.

As my PCs are always several years behind the cutting edge, being able to play with the highest graphics setting has never been a priority for me. Since there's been very few recent games to pique my interest, this is rarely an issue. (I've been happy to finally play S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl on my current laptop, and may play the rest of the series [Clear Sky and Call of Pripyat] after, but there are very few post-2005 games on my recommendations list.) I acknowledge that gaming PCs have superior technology compared to consoles, and that gap does become an issue with how developers design games, but it's not one of my personal reasons for gaming on the PC. Neither is the ability to custom build my own machine.

(What type of games I look for and why I enjoy them is another post, but Briareos H's TTLG post on First-person exploration games tickled many of my gaming likes.)


argurotoxos: Midnighter holding balloons, waiting for his husband (Default)

March 2016



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