Friday, October 21, 2005

[Blog Entry] A Very Brief History of First Person Shoot-em-Ups

A Very Brief History of First Person Shoot-em-Ups

In light of Doom's theatrical release (haven't seen it, and I don't think anyone but The Rock fans will really watch it) and nostalgia for my days as a video game addict, I'll give a quick run-down on the 3D first person games that matter.

While Doom is what popularized the genre of first-person shooters, its roots can be traced to Wolfenstein 3D (which in itself is based on an even older game from the 80's). It had choppy, pixelized graphics but its mediocre success would pave the way for its successor, Doom. Another draw of Wolfenstein 3D is its story, as you combat the forces of a quasi-magical and scientific Hitler.

Next would be Doom, and is immortalized by a gamer's pop culture reference of the BFG (Big Fragging Gun). Perhaps what contributed to its popularity is the fact that it was a shareware game (shareware is essentially a program that gave you limited features of the whole program which you could use for free, and if you wanted to utilize its full features or use it indefinitely, you paid a fee to its creators). So Doom enjoyed much commercial success, despite the fact that it was virtually given away for free. (I won't even go into the violence controversy it spawned.)

Several Doom clones down the line, the mother of modern shooters is Half-Life. While not many people might be familiar with the name, one of its mods is extremely well-known: Counterstrike. The lure of Half-Life aside from gameplay is perhaps its ability to have mods, and free at that. Mods are important because they let budding designers customize the game, from giving it a facelift to adding new features, while still remaining faithful to the original system that spawned it. To non-gamers, it's pretty much like changing the casing of your mobile phone: same device, different appearance. What the masses didn't know was that instead of buying the game Counterstrike, you could purchase the cheaper Half-Life game, and download the mods off the Internet for free. And of course, Counterstrike remains the cornerstone of many Internet Cafes (only to be deposed by online gaming here in the Philippines).

There have been other notable shoot-em-ups, from Duke Nukem 3D to Quake to my personal favorite, Rainbow Six. But without the three games I mentioned above, the genre wouldn't have existed to begin with.

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Thursday, October 20, 2005

[Plug] Danton Remoto Invites You To...

Danton Remoto Invites You To...

Reading and launch of Truth and Consequence: Poems for the Removal of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Katipunan beside Rustan's. 6-8 p.m. Oct 27, Thursday, Editors are Joi Barrios, Jaime Dasca Doble, and Danton Remoto. P 180 per copy.

2. Reading and launch of AFRAID: The Best Philippine Ghost Stories. Powerbooks SM Megamall, 6-8 p.m. Ocftober 28, Friday. Danton Remoto is the editor. P 75 per copy.

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[Blog Entry] Isn't It Ironic?

Isn't It Ironic?

Admittedly, I write for a hodgepodge of audiences. Sometimes, I just want to segregate my blogs, but the last time I did that, the wrong people were reading the wrong blogs (LJ people for example got to read all the book reviews, and as much as I want to take pride in the fact that the 94 people who "friended" me are into books, they're not. The blogspot people who were interested in books, on the other hand, got to read my daily ramblings. And of course, in my other, more obscure blogspot account, no one reads my essays [I still think few people do].).

Of course currently, it surprises me at what entries people comment on. The ones I expect people will react to don't, while it's the trivial posts that sometimes elicits the most comments.

On my list of ironic things in life, lately, I seem to have developed a reputation outside of my fandom. I attended a press con the other day for work (because we're currently short-handed and I was more or less available) and *gasp* other people actually know me. Strangely enough, it's for my Neil Gaiman transcripts. I guess it sure beats my infamy in the anime community (who hasn't heard of The Stalker?). Or for my book pimping skills. Or for the people I know in the comics industry.

This month, I've been in a reading/writing slump. Books read for the month: zero. A sharp contrast to last month's two-digit number. Not that that's stopped me from buying books...

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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

[Blog Entry] Allergic Reaction

Allergic Reaction

In William Gibson’s novel Pattern Recognition, the main character is allergic to brand names, and uses this allergy to judge how potent the logos of various companies are. Of course she happens to get paid by the companies that employ her…

How I wish I could employ such uses for my allergy. For one thing, I’m allergic to chocolate, so those stuff are hands-off. On the occasion that I do take chocolate, the results vary, depending on how good the chocolate is.

Recently, I’ve come to suspect I’m allergic to milk. Ever since I drank the stuff a few weeks ago, I wake up with a lot of phlegm in my throat. Just the other day, I indulged in some Fruits in Ice Cream (FIC). Now what sets FIC apart is the fact that it’s made from real ice cream. That is, milk instead of the vegetable oil substitutes which other, local companies use. FIC must really serve good ice cream, because not only do I like the taste, I wake up the next day with one of the worst colds ever (if other people get rashes, I get respiratory problems).

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Tuesday, October 18, 2005

[Blog Entry] Something to Distract You

Something to Distraact You

So you think you're well read? Check out Time's All Time 100 Novels.

Those on broadband can check out the latest in Star Trek spoofs, Star Wreck.

Doesn't really surprise me that it would be coming from Pullman, but complaints against Narnia film.

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[Blog Entry] Neil Gaiman's Big Surprise

Neil Gaiman's Big Surprise

When Neil Gaiman left the country, he promised that he'd have a big surprise for the Philippines. Many suspected it was the signed letter that came with Anansi Boys when Fully Booked released it, but sources leaked that it wasn't.

Dean apparently stumbled into it, but sources say (well, an entire mailing list knows who this is coming from) that the news isn't that accurate, but at least fans have a good idea. =)

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[Blog Entry] Musings


Don't you have those moments when you want to strange people because they haven't upadted their blogs and desperately want something to read?

Until you realize, of course, that your blog hasn't been updated.

A lot of people feel that they're entitled to more things.

As if being given life wasn't enough.

Many look to others for leadership, for responsibility, and someone to blame in general when things don't work out.

Little do we realize that we're responsible for ourselves as well, and rather than seek others to lead us, we should acknowledge the leader in ourself.

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Sunday, October 16, 2005

[Blog Entry] Infinite Crisis: The Biggest Comic Book Event of the Year

Infinite Crisis: The Biggest Comic Book Event of the Year

Earlier this year, two of the biggest mainstream comic companies, DC and Marvel, officially launched their earth-shaking series that promises to shake their respective worlds. For the former, it was Infinite Crisis, at heels of its success with Identity Crisis. The latter, on the other hand, in a feeble attempt to combat their rival’s plans, launched House of M, a what-if story that nobody yet knows where it’s going to lead. The biggest difference between Infinite Crisis from House of M, however, is the fact that the former was well-planned, the seeds of which were planted in various comic titles several months earlier.

So what is the hype all about? Why is Infinite Crisis the hottest item to hit comic bookshelves ever, at least for this decade? Well, most fans would cite its predecessor, Crisis on Infinite Earths, which is a 12-issue miniseries that tied all of DC’s comic universes together. Actually, it was the perfect excuse for DC to cohesively unite its various titles, which existed in a complex multiverse (in part due to the fact that DC acquired characters from defunct comic publishers several years earlier). To summarize what happened in Crisis on Infinite Earths, the multiverse was reduced to one universe. The ones who appreciated that series the most was long time DC fans who were familiar with the convoluted history if its characters, but I caught on to it without too much difficulty (all you need to know is that well, there are different universes with different heroes and villains).

That was for Crisis on Infinite Earths. What’s the draw for Infinite Crisis, at least for myself? Well, it has to do with the build-up DC has been establishing. In Identity Crisis, we learn that the Justice League’s heroes are all too human, and they’re far from the boy scouts we’ve imagined them to be. Without spoiling anything, the story begins with a character death, and ends with much tragedy. You don’t need to be a comic book fan to get into it, although it’ll mean more for comic book fans who grew up with those characters.

(Character death in DC is perhaps more spectacular than Marvel. While the former have done their own share of character resurrections, some characters do stay dead, or at the very least have a lot of ramifications. The deaths of the Marvel universe are usually rehashes of the same event, from Phoenix’s sacrifice to the death of Avengers member Hawkeye. The only sacred cow Marvel never seemed to touch was Gwen Stacy’s death, who was pivotal in shaping Spider-man’s current views.)

And then there’s the four mini-series that all lead to Infinite Crisis: Day of Vengeance, Rann-Thanagar War, OMAC Project, and Villains United. While the four aren’t necessary to enjoy Infinite Crisis, they all build up to it, and thankfully, is available in trade paperback by November. The one with the biggest impact is perhaps OMAC Project, because here, the division between Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman become evident. If there’s anything DC did right, it’s the update they did for their characters. Batman isn’t the Adam West variety you saw on TV: he’s a Frank Miller-inspired, angsty modern detective. Wonder Woman, over the years, has had many incarnations, and perhaps the persona the present one exhibits is that of the warrior. And Superman, while still a paragon of everything that America stands for, has had many experiences that tore at him. (In the present DC universe, the man with the purest heart isn’t Superman, but Captain Marvel, although the public isn’t exactly privy to that knowledge.)

So DC has infused more character into its cast. So what? That’s what gave Marvel much popularity nearly three decades earlier. Perhaps what’s important is that they’ve been modernized, despite the convoluted histories they have. And Infinite Crisis promises to shake things up, in ways you’ve never imagined.

Earlier last week, Infinite Crisis just arrived. The biggest surprise for fans was the last page. It’s a big spoiler, and I won’t mention it. Everyone seems to be saying “I didn’t think of that!”. Personally, I find it bizarre. Reading the first few pages of Infinite Crisis, I already knew what the last page would be (freaky considering I’m not a comic zealot). As a whole, the first issue had one of the best comic writing. The dialogue was unrestrained, everything you wanted to say to the heroes but couldn’t. And yes, that goes for non-comic fans.

So is Infinite Crisis #1 really that cool? Well, for existing comic fans, it’s a must-have. Get it, and get it now. For the non-aficionados, my best recommendation is to wait for the trade paperback, or at least until issue #2 is out. Issue #1, while great, might leave readers unfamiliar with Crisis in Infinite Earths going “huh?!”. The writers promise to give a quick and brief explanation to everything in issue 2 though, so the uninitiated shouldn’t fear.

Infinite Crisis sets the stage for something really big and perhaps what’s more important, something very dramatic. Those who followed the four titles I mentioned earlier, as well as the four-issue series Return of Donna Troy, will catch a glimpse of why it’s called a crisis, and where it’s all leading to. What sets it apart is the same reason why Infinite Crisis will be more successful compared to House of M: because there’s lots of history, and the groundwork has been laid down for several months now. That’s not to discourage newbies from entering the fray, but is an example of how epic things are going to be.

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[Blog Entry] Lonely Saturday Evening

Lonely Saturday Evening

I was supposed to go out with friends last Saturday evening, but one didn’t reply to the text message I sent, while the other backed out at the last minute. Stranded in E.Rod., I had to take a cab to go to Greenhills, and grab a breather before I went home.

Of course while I was lurking around the restaurants of Promenade, I ran into a blockmate of mine, and of course, the question I get is who am I with. If you’ve read my blog entries from a few years back, that’s a question I’d often get, whether I’m in malls or at conventions (be it anime, SF&F, or comics). No matter who asks the question, the answer’s always the same.

Not that I begrudge my solitary existence. Sometimes, you need time with yourself. You don’t need to be with someone to take a stroll in the mall, or to watch a movie, or to have lunch.

But of course, if you’re expecting company, company should show up. It’s one of the modern conveniences of having a cellphone. Unless, of course, the other party doesn’t answer their phone, have no credits, or turned it off.

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[Blog Entry] Blog Updates from Carl

Blog Updates from Carl

It's been months since I last saw Carlo Vergarda, but thankfully, there are now updates from his blog. And if you're too lazy to click on that link, perhaps the juiciest part for Zsa Zsa fans is this line:

For those who've been asking me when the auditions for Zsazsa Zaturnnah the Musical will be, I was informed by Tanghalang Pilipino that it should be taking place around late-November or December. And yes, dearies, you still have to audition even if you just want to be a zombie.

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[Blog Entry] Evolving Language

Evolving Language

While it’s important to be faithful to language (i.e. using correct spelling, grammar, tenses, etc.), I think that it’s also important to bear in mind that language itself isn’t static but a dynamic entity. Take a look at English. Not so long ago, cute meant shrewd or clever, a word shortened from the word acute. Now, it simply means pretty. Or look at the word nice. Currently it denotes something positive, but its original meaning was foolishness or stupidity.

Filipino English has its own evolution as well. I mean our Spanish Tagalog has some big differences from its Spanish counterparts, why would English be any different? (Take for example the Filipino word “diretsyo”, which is our directions for straight ahead. In Spanish, “derecho” means turning right.)

I was hoping there’d be an account of Filipino English etymologies. Here’s some that I’ve came up with:

Plastic. Adjective. 1. Fake, not real. 2. Insincere. Word History: Plastic probably alludes to jewelry, the fake ones being made of plastic. In the Filipino context, it is used to describe people as well, indicating that one isn’t being honest in their attitudes and behavior.

Salvage. Noun. 1. Murdered and thrown into the river. Word History: The first person who was salvaged was probably the result of some people trying to recover items from the river or a dump site for trash. Instead of finding junk, they found a body. Currently, salvaged means a person who was killed and the body of which is usually found in dumpsites and rivers.

And then we have the expression “in the province”, which doesn’t translate well into English. I mean when Filipino use the word, we use it in contrast to the metropolis, which is busy, hectic, and noisy. A lot of Filipinos have provinces, and their idealized version of the province is a calm and peaceful place. So when they’re asked what they did for vacation, when they simply utter “we went to the province”, Filipinos understand. Foreigners would not.

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