Archive for Reviews

Out of the Shadows

I picked up Shadowrun Returns around the start of the month, but only recently started playing it.  And of course, once I did, I was sucked in pretty heavy, which the sign of a good RPG, despite what people said about the main campaign being railroad-y.

I ran a combination decker/rigger dwarf and the story felt very Shadowrun.  It also to my pleasant surprise tied into the novels, though I can’t say which one without it spoiling the end of the plot.  I only ran it on normal and got what felt like probably too much karma, but it felt fairly fluid going between handling the drones and into decking the times it was needed.  The only downside was I couldn’t put the drones on auto-overwatch and they just hung out wherever they were at when I jacked in rather than returning to my side.  I liked the character enough actually i may recreate it in regular Shadowrun if I ever get to play it again.

For the second DLC campaign I’m trying an elven shaman/mage/face, at least as much as face is a thing in the game.  That’s one of the things I’m actually slightly disappointed in: the skill system.

It has all the trappings, but it cut out all the social skills and made them perks on the Charisma stat track, which cuts out most of the point of the Face character.  Dialogue conversations also don’t seem to “roll” like it might with Bioware and similar games, but just gives you additional options if your appropriate stat is high enough.  The meat of the game seems to be the combat here, as far as ties to the game system.

Speaking of which, one thing that would have been nice as well is a combat log.  The combat on the surface seems to have little resemblance to the actual Shadowrun combat rules, as all it gives is HP and percentages, rather than dice pools and so on.  I like that they actually include cover though!

In the end though, it still feels very Shadowrun, despite lacking the dice transparency that some of the D&D-based games have had.  it also looks like there’s a bunch of player-made modules ala Neverwinter Nights, so whenever I get back to playing through Dragonfall, I might toy with those after that.

Leaving the gaming arena, the art situation has finally moved on as well.

  • The badge from Asyd is in the sketching stage now, though there’s still higher priority stuff for her to finish first.
  • Tanraak has basically retired from drawing for now as he has not been happy with any of his drawings the past few months, so he is sending out refunds as he is able to.  I still would like to get this concept sketched, so I’m back to watching for artists.  I’m also kind of wanting to wait though on the new referance sheet to be finished.
  • Miss Maverick’s made a bunch of adjustments to the planning sketch for the reference sheet from my input and we just got it to a point today where everything is pretty much right.  As such, she’s going to be starting on the colors next.  I’m not sure how long it’s going to take but I think I’m going to be very satisfied with it when its done..  It’s also a bit more pricey than any of the other pictures I’ve gotten, but that’s standard for ref sheets due to the detail involved and multiple pictures inherent to it.
  • As to the picture from CurioDraco of my dragoness and myself?  Well…

Llewelyn and Kaitlyn

Let’s just say we were both very happy with the results and leave it at that. ^..^

ADDITIONAL UPDATE

Extra special bonus round!  I just found out I got picked from Fortuna’s freebie list!  Yay for extra special bonus art!

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Botcon Hasbro Toy Panel Thoughts

Just a quick little thing, now that the Hasbro panel is done and all the reveals are out.

DO WANT tier:

  • Arcee – That is SO G1 Arcee.  Animated Arcee is so replaced.
  • Brainstorm – He looks so perfect I don’t feel a need to get the original figure anymore.  Also HEADMASTER!
  • Powerglide – Perfect representation of one fo the first TFs I ever owned.  First Tailgate, now Powerglide.  Thanks Hasbro!
  • More combiners in 2015 – WTB a new Computron!

Kinda want tier:

  • Bombshell – Looks like I’ll need to get Shrapnel now, especially since Kickback is also on their list
  • More Hasbro MPs – Kinda iffy on these since I got my G2 Sideswipe MP already, and I don’t have a strong attachment to the 84-85 guys, but they are good toys.
  • Leader Megs – Looks like a perfect G1 almost, apart from turning into a tank

Everything else revealed is pretty much pass for me right now.  Still the WANT is strong with this group.  I might actually have to do some preorders depending on how distribution works.

Now back to waiting…

Spring 2014 /m/ season a.k.a. stuff I’m watching

A bunch of series I had been following all wrapped up end of last season, but only a few new ones started.  It makes for a good time to try and catch up on the massive backlog I’ve built up.  The only problem is it’s mostly older toku, so I need to be in the right mood to watch it

Captain Earth

2 episodes out so far and it’s a fairly entertaining and fairly typical Super Robot show. The characters aren’t annoying, and even better, it’s all hand-drawn so there’s no sudden 3D taking you out of the moment.  I’d thrown a lot of technobabble at us though, but most of it seems like stuff that’ll be explained later.

Kamen Rider Gaim

This actually started last year, and looks to be wrapping up by the end of summer.  A very good series reminiscent of the early Heisei Kamen Rider series.  You wouldn’t think fruit samauri karate bugmen would be something that you could get a serious series out of, but this has done it well, without going over the edge into grimderp.

Garo: Makai no Hana

The 4th season or series on the Garo universe, this one is following the son of the main character from the first two seasons.  Well, he seems like he’s supposed to be but they have yet to officially state it.  After last year’s Garo season that deviated rather heavily in style and other factors, this one is feeling a lot more like the original series so far.  Unlike the other two above, I think it’d be better to watch the previous seasons/series as that explains and sets up a lot fo the world, and this so far seems like it expects you to be somewhat familiar with it already.  Not to a heavy extent, but enough that it’d explain a lot of things otherwise that you may not get.

Oddly enough, that’s pretty much it for this season, apart from Shin Ultraman Retsuden, which is waaaay behind on subs currently.  I’d thought this would be a bit meatier before I actually started writing.  Ah well, it is what it is!

Law And Order: Magical Victims Unit

Well the new season of anime has started across the ocean, and I”m not really finding much to interest me thus far as far as new shows.  Then again, I don’t really keep up with them like I did back in college.

The first one I picked up was Buddy Complex.  The premise is giant robots where the two pilots sync up to power up, and time travel.  The first episode took heavy cues from Terminator, plot-wise, then threw the protagonist into the future, at which point it feels like it’s become Gundam Lite with added “random engrish hinting at teh gay!” tossed in.  So far it hasn’t lost me, but now that the plot is in motion we’ll see what happens, since it’s supposed to be a short series.

The other one I just found out about tonight led tot he title of this post.  It’s called Wizard Barristers and the best description so far is action wizard paralegals in the near future. It takes the procedural style of all the various “law” shows, adds in magic and the usual “energetic child prodigy” stereotype, who has a perverted frog for a familiar.  And did I mention they can summon giant magic golems? I’ve never been big into the “law” shows, but I’ll give this one a couple episodes to decide, I guess.  So far it hasn’t turned me off of it, but it’s one of those I just don’t quite know what to make of it.

And older series I’m watching?  Pretty much the only anime still airing is Saint Seiya Omega, which is rumored to wrap up in about 11 more episodes.

There’s also Juuden Sentai Kyouryuger, which is also close to ending, and so far I doubt I’ll be following it’s sequel.  If so, this’ll be the first sentai since Go-Onger I’ve skipped.  On the other hand, I have Kamen Rider Gaim to carry me through that, as it’s feeling a hell of a lot like early Heisei rider, and I’m enjoying the heck out of it. It’s got a good 30-40 episodes left.

And then there’s that new Sailor Moon anime… wonder if they’ll work form the manga or try to tell a new story.  Well, we’ll see.

Transmetrowhat?

So last night I got ahold of the Transmetropolitan comic.  Once I started reading it, I had to keep reading, just to see what would happen, as well as a few other reasons.

For one, I sort of feel we’re in this sort of world already these days, minus all the “Posthuman” and “transhumanism” portions of the setting.  Maybe it’s just me being cynical, but then again, the entire comic is one big cyncical story, with a small grain of home buried in it.  Only difference is we don’t have very many “Spider Jeruselem”s in the real world.  There’s been a couple lately, but they’ve been strung up, villified, or had to flee their own country.  It doesn’t help that most of the mass media doesn’t seem to care to take a stand for the truth anymore, either.

Setting aside how we’re sliding into this/Cyberpunk 2020/Shadowrun without magic, another great detail was, well, all the detail in every scene. It seemed like on half the city street scenes I’d have to pause in reading just to look over the entire scene for all the little details and hidden jokes.

One thing I did find funny(though it probably was the correct choice) was the lack of a lot of non-human humans wandering around.  The foglets showed up quite a bit, and the transients based on the “Greys” were a major story focus for a couple arcs, but apart form a couple wolf cameos and a Temp-ing dolphin girl, there was no sign of any furries running around.  (No, I’m not including the police dogs or non-anthro horse, as they aren’t on a humanoid body plan.)  The furry community grew majorly with the internet, and you know that given the option there would probably be a large portion Temp-ing into a anthro animal for at least a while(and given the way the Transmetropoliton world works, dedicated brothels of women gone furry) though it does make sense they may still be heavily outnumbered by normal-looking humans.  Not a complaint, just an observation.  For a no-prize level explanation, perhaps it was because the majority of the story is spent among the lower levels of society, who can’t afford changes like that.

A friend back in college recommended it to me, commenting on that it had to be good to start with “Up a goddamn mountain.”   Still, I somehow never got around to reading it before now, and then I ended up staying up until 3am reading.  Now I just wonder why I never got around to reading it before now.

Shame there’s probably no good way to make a movie out of it ala Sin City.  And the world needs more Spider Jerusalems(though maybe with a bit less asshole-ness).

Smaug

So I saw the second Hobbit movie yesterday.  It added or changed quite a lot, and actually ended at a earlier point in the book than I had been expecting.  It’d been a while since I read the book, so I found myself keeping comparing it with the old Rankin-Bass animated adaption.  One thing I think they very definitely got right(which should be no surprise because Del Toro) was Smaug.

The reactions and expressiveness were pretty much perfect.  His movements looked fairly natural throughout the whole set of scenes with him.  When he talked, it looked like legit talking.    There’s more I can I mention, but spoilers(highlight to view):

I didn’t really care for that whole extended fight scene between the dwarves and Smaug.  I did like it looked like an actual dwarven hall instead of the cave of Rankin-Bass, but it felt like they wrote themselves into a corner by trying to emphasize that this was the One Ring.  In the original(and in Rankin-Bass) Smaug knows Bilbo is there somewhere but can’t see him.  He doesn’t make allusions to Bilbo having The Ring, and that was a huge part of why he went to attack Laketown.  He’s never smelled hobbit, and never sees Bilbo, so after the complimenting(and he was definitely just as much of an egomaniac) and the riddles made him think Lakemen.  In this version, that almost seems like an afterthought, after the long tussle through the dwarf halls.  The dwarves are still right there, but he leaves anyways to go after Laketown.

We also missed out on the “My tail: an earthquake!  My breath: death!” line from the riddles/egostroking. :<

If they’d kept it close to the original, I’d have expected the end of the movie to feature Smaug attacking Laketown, getting shot down, and then the cliffhanger would have been the forces on all sides marshalling for the Battle of the Five Armies.  It was originally two movies though, so when they decided to extend it to three they had to do it somewhere, I guess, and it got us more Smaug, so there were upsides.

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One other non-spoiler thing though I did not like was how they emphasized The Ring in a few specific scenes.  In the original, there was only a couple hints at it until the end, but it was very much its own story.  Here, it felt like they felt they had to epic it up and push the connection, though it really didn’t need pushing.

Overall, it was still a pretty good movie though, taken on its own.

FurAffinity vs SoFurry vs Weasyl

Hopefully this post will be a bit shorter since for once this isn’t an end-of-day post, but something that had been on my mind as something I wanted to discuss.  Now I’m not exactly an artist, as I haven’t drawn anything in years, but I have written some stories here and there.  I’ve also commissioned some art in the past and more recently, just to give you an idea of where I’m coming from in my opinions.  A heavy user/artist might look at things differently, etc etc.

FurAffinity

One of the oldest art sites still running, bar VCL(if it still exists) and Furnation(If that really counts, as it is more of a general webhost).  Over time due the the lack of a TwitSpaceBook site for the furry community, the community sort of shangahied it into that role, despite the best(and continuing) efforts of the admins.  Their intention is a place to put up art that was done “by you/for you” but over time they’ve narrowed that definition, and clarified parts of it.

For example, Second Life.  Originally, there were very few restrictions on what could be uploaded of SL pictures, then there started to be a large force of furs who put up random pictures of their stock avatar(about 75% of the time probably in a sexual pose).  This annoyed a vocal minority of users who disliked Second Life in and of itself, and the admins added a restriction to the number of shots you could have of each avatar.  Eventually that wasn’t enough and they then moved to only allowing collages and requiring a significant amount of user modifications.  Their justification each time was that the users could post the pics on Imageshack or TwittTumblrBook if they wanted to share them as there was no creativity involved, and there were too many for them to police themselves.

Eventually, they banned SL content all together on everyone’s main gallery, despite there being actual heavy creative work involved whether modding(like my avatars) or work form scratch, just because they didn’t want to deal with the arguments and fights any longer.  All because some users wanted to post pictures of “themselves” and their friends, just like they would on any other social networking site.

In the years since I found the site, it has changed very little on the outside.  A new color scheme, but mostly lots of back-end work to keep up with the heavy demand.  There was talk years ago of a FA 2.0 but so far it has yet to materialize.  The front page layout lends itself well to art of a visual nature, taking top billing, with seperate sections below for literature and for audial art.  All it shows though is a bunch of thumbnails, but mousing over gives a small pop-up of the description, not leaving you totally in the dark.  It also only shows the most recent uploads on the front page.

User pages are fairly basic as well, with places for your most recent favorites, most recent uploads, a shoutbox, a spot to feature your favorite submission, a slot for a visual profile ID thing(one of the few actual new features I can recall being put in), and a spot above it for all the text and icons you may want to put in.  In practice, from what I said above about the community looking at it more as a social networking site than a pure art site, that profile box will sometimes take up a full monitor screen’s worth of space before you get to any submissions as they try to squeeze in all the detail they would normally have elsewhere.  it’s also the only place you really have any customization beyond that provided.

Overall, it probably compares favorably to DeviantArt, with less customization on the user profiles, and some disagreement between the admins and the userbase on the purpose of the site.

SoFurry

Once upon a time this was purely an erotic story archive called YiffStar, before it changed hands and became the more general art site it is today.  This has both good and bad points, but one theing they haven’t done is stay stagnant, with a 3.0 of the current site already in testing.

The front page has changed with the versions, and true to its roots it feels a lot more suited to posting stories than either FA or Weasyl.  In large part this is because the stories submission, instead of just giving you a thumbnail, gives you a title, 5-star rating, and tags to give you an idea of what the story is about.  It also gets even billing with the art at the top of the page, though still separated.  Art is shown as thumbnails still, but that is also fitting.

The purpose of thumbnails, you see, is that it’s supposed to give you a quick idea of the contents of the submissions so you can decide if you want to actually look at it or not, rather than making it a throw of the dice.  i’d argue that their current approach to story submissions is really the text version of a thumbnail, and more appropriate for the medium than a possibly somewhat-related random picture in a tiny square.

Below that, they have photos and music separated out into their own sections.  I kind of like that they have photos separated, as it leans towards preventing the kind of kerfluffle that led towards a lot of FA’s restrictions.  The photos have normal thumbnails(as is proper) but the music has tags and rating, like the stories.  If it were me, I’d probably have a 10-sec or 15-sec clip you can play from there to act as a true music “thumbnail”.

Another nice trick is that they have an option to view the most “popular” submissions, instead of most recent.  It is the default as well, however, so it somewhat ends up in a feedback loop that drives certain submissions higher and higher.  It’s sad to say(and I wish it were otherwise) that if you were to look at it with all filters off, maybe twice in a week will there be something non-sexual in the “most popular” section.  Still, they also provide true filters(working via the tagging system) so you can hide what you don’t want to see, and the algorithm that picks what to display will adjust accordingly.

The user page itself is similar to FA’s, but with a bit more customization.  Stories take top billing here, and content is again separated by type, as opposed to FA”s “lump it all together”.  Journals are moved to the bottom, discouraging use of it as a blogging platform.  In addition to avatars, you can add a banner here as well across the top of the profile page, and both banners and avatars will automatically adjust what is available based on the maximum rating you set; from G all the way to X.

That all said, the preview of the 3.0 version of the site I’m not sure is better.  Rather than having all the media separated by type, it puts them all together, fitted into a grid ala Windows 8. There is supposed to be a list option too, but no preview of that yet.  Stories will have all the current information it looks like, but with a short description added, and possibly limited on the number of displayed tags(as that part isn’t clear).  You can still toggle between the various types instead.  Bio/profile and journal also share space, with a toggle, which I’m not so sure is an improvement.  Favorites don’t appear to have a display by default at all, just a link to get to them.  It all feels like a lateral move rather than a straight improvement(apart from the fact it fixes some scaling issues).

Overall, great site for stories compared to the others, but if you’re looking for visual art, it tends to be a bit of a second-class citizen in some respects.  The redesign coming aims to fix that, but we’ll see if the story focus is still there, or if literature becomes a second-class like FA.

Weasyl

I’ve got probably the least to say about this site. The newest(relatively) on the block, they’re still technically in Beta, but it might as well be a Google-style Beta at this point.

The front page in some ways feels like a darker-colored clone of FA’s, except that the “recent submissions” section puts everything together, with standard image thumbnails.  When you mouse-over, it gives no extra information on it other than title, so no way to tell if it’s a story, image, or something else.  If it had the FA-style description popup, it wouldn’t be as bad, but currently I’d rate it the poorest of the three in regards to the new submissions section.(On the other hand, as started they were still iterating and this could change.)

Below that however is a nice new feature where they display 10 random submissions from the entire site.  A good way to promote older work, without running into the feedback loop of making popular stuff more popular.

The bottom of the page, besides the standard set of links, also offers promotion of artists wanting critique, and current streaming.  SoFurry does the latter, but not the former, and FA does neither.  An excellent idea to help growing artists.

The userpage design is somewhere between FA and SoFurry, and probably the cleanest of the three in presentation.  In keeping with the non-separation of content, there is a filmstrip-style row at the top of the screen that shows the most recent submissions of that user.  Like SoFurry(and unlike FA) it also implements folders to organize your submissions, and shows those below.  It also displays your most recent art upload, but only for a time..  This is actually a rather nice idea, because it means you aren’t going to have the same image displayed prominently for long periods of time.

One innovative feature it has is a new submission type called “characters”.  Unlike the other site, it has a place to put all your “OC donut steel” creations, complete with a visual piece about them, rather than having them lumped in with other artwork submissions.  If you’re a heavy commissioner, I can see that as being a godsend, as you can simply link the artist you hire straight to a refpage and description, and easily keep it updated.

The other trick it has going for it is a feature called Collections.  Aimed at commissioners, when an artist uploads a piece they can send a message to the person who commissioned it, and if the person accepts, it gets added to their Collections page.  This way, it avoids duplicated content(one of the things causing FA’s back end to groan) while still allowing the commissioner to display their purchase with all their other stuff.  However, it depends on both commissioner and artist being on Weasyl, and the artist sending the collection request.  Originally you had to be the artist when Weasyl first came out, but because of the limitations I just mentioned, they changed their minds and just like FA you can upload anything “by you/for you”.

Overview

FA is the 800-pound bobcat on the block due to user intertia.  It’s the most basic of the three, but between artists wanting to go where the most users are and users wanting to go where the most artists are, it keeps trundling along on that feedback loop and user inertia.  It’s best suited for traditional art in my opinion.

SoFurry, true to its roots is the best place if you want to post stories and literature currently, but if you want to post any non-adult work of any kind, be prepared to not see much response unless it’s really good. (To be fair though, that last part is a failing on all three really, due to the nature of the userbase.)  The revamp may or may not change that, but it’s still a ways off as it was still in the alpha stages a month ago.

Weasyl feels like FA+ right now.  It has a similar bias towards traditional art, though more through the nature of their thumbnail system than by design.  The design in general though looks like someone got fed up with FA not updating, took a long hard look at it and asked “how can I do this, but better?”  Due to FA having the lion’s share of activity however, the only time it sees a lot of traffic is when FA is down, and from all reports it’s level of traffic is inverse to FA’s.  After the last FA downtime I’ve seen a minor push from artists to move to Weasyl, but we’ll see if that continues.

 

…well this ended up being the longest entry yet.  I guess I got a bit more into going over the details than I expected.