Skyrim: Ooh, shiny!

I couldn’t have been more than seven or eight, I guess, when I saw my first UFO.  Maybe not even that old, since Star Wars came out when I was around four1, and I define everything in my life from that moment, and I wasn’t thinking about Stormtroopers when I saw it.  Call it 1978, then, when I saw the UFO gliding silently back and forth just above the backyard fence line.  Back then, there was nothing but vacant lots behind us, so I had a clear view, and there was no mistaking it: it was a narrow band of white lights rotating vertically in the air as the craft itself moved silently back and forth, almost as if it was looking … or, maybe … hunting … for something.

It was night, and I’d never seen a UFO before, so I had no way of knowing how far away it was.  At one moment it seemed little more than a speck in the distance; the next, it might have been hovering directly over the fence.  And while that would have made it a very small UFO, that wasn’t much comfort to a pre-K rugrat who was witnessing an alien invasion in his own backyard.

Naturally, I ran inside screaming at the top of my lungs.  Fortunately, and further proof that life rarely meets its full potential for comedy, the babysitter didn’t faint or have a panic attack.  Instead, she pointed out that what I was seeing was a night-flying advertising plane:

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But it’s an alien plane, I tell you!

I don’t know if they even have them anymore, but back in 1978, advertising planes were the hottest thing next to the G Channel Saturday night movie2.  During the day, they’d tow banners for for insurance companies and tire stores.  At night, using esoteric technology we still do not fully understand3, they’d use a lighted banner that ran across the wings:

 

Tell me that isn’t a UFO.  OK, maybe the propeller noise gives it away, but my personal UFO was too far away for me to hear that.

Ever since that day, I’ve had a fascination with lights in the sky, like the reflections of car headlights across low-lying clouds (my second UFO sighting) or the test-firing of a Polaris missile of the Pacific Coast (seen at the drive-in, which went the way of the Edsel, the dinosaurs, and the G-channel movie).

Which is why Skyrim is messing with my head.

Fallout, too:

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So … SHINY … 

But I think Skyrim’s visual style makes those lights more tempting – I’ve walked through parks that looked a lot like Riften, but I haven’t yet walked through the urban ruins of a post-apocalyptic city4,, which means there’s less to relate to in the darkness of Fallout.

So very often I’ll be roaming around Skyrim late at night and I’ll see, off in the distance:

And … I … just … can’t … help … myself!  Like a moth to the flame … and usually with the same results, ’cause it’s not like anything wandering the wilderness of Skyrim is looking to sell you Amway insurance5.

Granted, the light isn’t in the sky, precisely, but it makes up for that by reminding me of a jack o’ lantern.  In fact, maybe it’s not just lights in the sky, but lights in the darkness, or unusual lights in the darkness …  the actinic glare of streetlights, or the dull tint of taillights; even the cheerful glow of a porch light is too common, too expected.  But the flickering orange grin of a jack o’ lantern in the warm velvet night of October, or the electric flash of a radio tower aircraft warning beacon… something is happening with them.  There are secrets to be found.

In Skyrim, those secrets are usually fatal:

 

But I just can’t help it! I see a flash in the darkness and I wonder if it’s a video glitch, or maybe the alcohol is beginning to dissolve my optic nerves … then I see it again … is something there …?  There is!  And it turns out to be a pyromancer hurling flaming death at a dragon, all of which had nothing to do with me.

That’s part of the appeal, I think – you don’t expect to come across activity at night, in the wilderness.  You’re not expecting anything to be happening, out there in the woods, except for the occasional wolf.  Fantasy is about the forgotten, the lost and lonely – ancient dungeons, untravelled wilderness.  And especially at night, when horrors abound, you don’t expect to see people about.  And the glow in the distance is the mark of something active, often something intelligent.

Of course, when those others are a void demigod and an Elder dragon, that’s probably a party you don’t want any part of:

So I’m trying to restrain myself, although I’m not sure why, since in any video game, the general rule is, if you can see it, you’re gonna have to kill it.  Which makes me wonder why Lydia is always screaming “I’ll kill you if I have to!” ’cause, c’mon Liddie Bug, it’s not like there’s some other way this fight is gonna turn out.

I thought I had a pretty good handle on my peculiar obsession, until I moved up here to cow country.  From what I hear, there are more UFOs than people up here, and the only reason we have any cows left is because the aliens won’t go near all the secret military bases.  Now I find myself listening to the police scanner and watching the horizon for that telltale glow.  Which is when Skyrim decided to go meta on me, because I went outside last night and discovered …

… my neighbor has a drone.

Yeah, this is not gonna help the schizophrenia.

  1. Yes, the original New Hope one, back in 1978. I’m old.
  2. The G-Channel was the cable company’s TV channel. Back when cable had those A/B switch boxes. It played a movie on Saturday night. One movie. Usually five years after it was out in the theatre. And that’s what was happening, on Saturday night. Nothing like the G-Channel movie and a big bowl of popcorn drowned in butter, salt, and MSG. Then you’d go play Space Invaders on your Atari 2600 with the wood paneling. Hey, all you kids get off my lawn!
  3. Roswell space alien technology, is what we now think.
  4. Post-apocalyptic suburbia, yes.
  5. Do they even have Amway anymore?  Or is that another of my antiquated 70’s references?
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The Space Bankers Have Arrived

I’m glad someone’s taking the time to publish the important news:

Thunder Energies Corporation Announces Apparent Detection of Anomalous Entities in Tallahassee, Florida

Not a story I’d normally expect to see on Yahoo!, let alone Yahoo’s Finance page.  I guess they’ve realized the presidential campaign is just a front for the real powers that run the world, and are finally ready to print the Truth.

It’s probably because we finally have the proof.  This high-powered telescope was apparently able to take a direct observation of these “anomalous entities,” whatever they are … the article doesn’t actually say.  Nor does it say what makes them think they’re entities rather, than

thunder red 1

lens flare.

Although it would go a long way to explaining Florida.  And when you’re dealing with the kind of brilliant mind that can detect antimatter galaxies, probably explaining why orange blobs are entities, or what makes them anomalous, or why you even bothered turning your telescope toward another building rather than, say, the sky, is all just too trivial to bother explaining.  So I’m sure we should totally take this article at face value, especially because it was on Yahoo’s Finance page, even though, as far as I can tell, it doesn’t have anything to do with finance.

But what really worries me isn’t that we might be surrounded by invisible and yet ominously anomalous entities, but that they were found at a Tax Collector Building.

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Srsly.  “Tax Collector.”

Which … I just … shouldn’t the sign say IRS?  Or at least Merrill Lynch?

But I can’t worry about that right now, because this means we might have our first positive photographic proof of The Space Bankers!

Obviously, they’ve come to monitor the presidential election, possibly even intervening in world affairs to make sure Trump gets elected.

It’s the only explanation that makes sense.  Because if that’s not the explanation, the only alternative would be that some whackadoo paid Yahoo to run his story.

And that’s just crazy talk.

 

Call of Cthulhu Video Game: First Trailer

I haven’t been blogging as much ’cause I’ve been sick.  The doctor says it’s just a cold, but I’m pretty sure it’s zika, even though they’ve been spraying for mosquitos …

… hmm.

Actually, I got sick right about the time they started spraying.  Coincidence?   If I were going to test a secret Army bioweapon, I’d look for a small, isolated town in the middle of nowhere, ideally with limited road access, so I could blockade the population if it turned into a pandemic.

This is a map of Modoc County.  The red dot is Alturas.  The white space is miles of untracked cow-haunted wilderness.  There are no other towns with a significant population in the entire county.  There are two roads out of the city: one leads to hellish badlands of the Nevada desert, the other to mountains that are impassible when it’s snowing.  We could be Ground Zero for the zombie plague, and no one would know until the weekly beer delivery at the casino.

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Attribution: By Arkyan – My own work, based on public domain information. Based on similar map concepts by Ixnayonthetimmay, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2486002

Yeah, I’m surprised we’ve lasted this long.

So this may be my last post, although as bioweapons go, “bad head cold” probably isn’t going to terrify the Chinese.

Speaking of certain and utter doom, the first trailer is out for Cyanide Studio’s Call of Cthulhu game.

Okay … see … I just … you know that old joke about what happens if you drop a nuclear bomb on Cthulhu?  How he reforms fifteen minutes later, only now he’s radioactive?  And how you’ve heard it so many freakin’ times you swear you’ll slap the shoggoth out of the next drooling fanboy who tells it to you?  It’s like the joke that is as undying as the Big C Himself?

That HPL quote about “the oldest and strongest emotion is fear” is kind of getting that way for me.  It’s everywhere!  Is there a form you have to sign or something, that says you’ll use that quote whenever you talk about Lovecraft?  I mean, here are some other Lovecraft quotes:

I am well-nigh resolv’d to write no more tales but merely to dream when I have a mind to, not stopping to do anything so vulgar as to set down the dream for a boarish Publick.
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/h/h_p_lovecraft_3.html

I am essentially a recluse who will have very little to do with people wherever he may be. I think that most people only make me nervous –
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/h/h_p_lovecraft_3.html

“But as for jam or jelly—I am your utter opposite, for I like it so well that I pile on amounts thicker than the bread which sustains them!” (to J. Vernon Shea, 10 November 1931) from http://www.hplovecraft.com/life/interest/foods.aspx

But no, it’s always gotta be “the oldest and stongest …” yada yada yada.

Lemme tell you, buster – if you open a horror game with an HPL quote about strawberry jam, gamers would be wetting their shorts with terror.  What’s that?  What’s jam got to do with horror?  That’s my point!  What does it have to do with horror, and can our febrile minds survive knowing that unspeakable gelatinous truth?!?

You see?  You have to think outside the box, especially because in non-Euclidean geometry, the box actually looks kind of like one of those Blair Witch stick men:

sticks

https://www.etsy.com/shop/BehindTheRowsStudio?section_id=14925676

But I think I’m getting sidetracked.  Oh, right – Call of Cthulhu: Far Harbor.

No, stop that, Raymond!

Although you do have to admit:

Far Harbor

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The similarities are eerie, although I’m going to assume in the Cthulhu game you don’t have a machine gun.  ‘Cause we did once, in a pen-and-paper session, and while eldritch monstrosities might strike fear into professors of antiquarian literature, they don’t do much against a 7 foot Rastafarian with a Thompson gun.

Not that it would matter – if you shot Cthulhu, he’d just reform in 15 min… <taze>

Thanks, I needed that.

From the trailer, it appears that our hapless investigator has stumbled on a sinister plot to raise up Our Lord and Destroyer, Great Cthulhu.

Investigator
Be in a Cthulhu game, they said.  It will be fun, they said.

So we know right away that you won’t be able to customize your character – no battling the unspeakable evil as a 90 year paraplegic with asthma.  Which is disappointing, as part of the fun of Cthulhu games was designing ludicrously inappropriate characters, then loading them down with crippling shoggoth-induced neuroses, until the game became a race to see who could overdose on lithium the fastest.  Good times!

One the other tentacle, the plot will be more involved than just survival horror.  That will be a nice change of pace.  Also, apparently at some point you will have to fight Casper the Friendly Ghost:

Sheet ghost

So let’s just hope to heck Wendy doesn’t show up, ’cause she can mess some sh^t up.

Call of Cthulhu is releasing some time in 2017, assuming we aren’t all dead of the zika virus, or whatever it is they’re testing up here.

Fallout 4: Minecraf … er … Far Harbor

Sigh.  Should have known they were gonna screw it up.

I’ve really been enjoying running around Far Harbor; it has an atmosphere to it, a sense of place that I think was missing in the base game.  Between the fog and the dark and Maine’s primeval forests

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If this is Far Harbor, that’s probably a preschool.

bordering on the ancient and unchanging ocean depths that probably hide horrors too unspeakable to contemplate …

… I am really craving sum fish and chips.  And it didn’t help when I met this guy:

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Trust the Gorton’s fisherman

I developed an excessive interest in the doings of Far Harbor, from Small Bertha and Tom’s undeveloped stories to wondering if I could romance the Mariner.  (Ans: no.)

Plus I found me some cool armor that makes me look like Boba Fett:

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At its best, it became rather like Skyrim: a fun place to spend a few hours, a place you might want to live, if it didn’t have all that radioactive fog.

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And like in Skyrim, I spent a lot of time hunting.

Heck, I didn’t even mind when I ran into this guy, despite him looking like the black and white TV I used to watch Petticoat Junction on as a kid:

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Have you tried adjusting the rabbit ears?

After all, Fallout’s gotta have its robots, and a moody, philosophical robot who quickly draws you into a conspiracy centering around his vague, shadowy, and best forgotten past is just what the game needed.  It was a good plot twist, and they did it right.

So, of course, they turned it into Minecraft:

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Why, Fallout?  WHY?!?

You have to access Dima’s memories, and rather than just have you hack a terminal, like you have been doing in Fallout for the past 10 years, they turn it into a minigame where they replace the relaxing, somber colors you’ve been enjoying with something out of an 8-bit nightmare.  I swear to Tron, I think this is where bad cartridges go when they die.

The point is to destroy firewalls, which look like (get ready for this one) walls.

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Oi!  Where’s my lightcycle?!?

Then you can build bridges over the ridiculously inconveniently incomplete pathways using “code blocks” because apparently “code” isn’t the important part of that term

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Master Control Program?  Is that you?

so your “Data Retrieval Bugs” or whatever they’re called can go upload the data

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And … bloody hell this is not what computers look like!!1!

Look, I don’t even write code and it hurts my geek brain to look at this!  The Internet is not a giant Lego!  You don’t need visual metaphors to write a freakin’ program!

Worst of all, the old hacking minigame was fun! It also fit the vibe of Fallout perfectly.  If they wanted to make it harder, there were probably a dozens ways to do so while still keeping that retro future feel to it.

But no.  Minecraft’s popular, so they made Minecraft Lite!  Oh, and did I mention it involves puzzle solving?  You have to figure out which paths to take, how to align the “decoder” (it’s a fcking laser, ok?  Just call it a laser.  A decoder is an algorithm, it doesn’t shoot green energy.) and yada yada yada.

I play Fallout to fck sh1t up, not to solve physics puzzles.  When I want to solve physics puzzles, I play Portal, or – just to up the geek ante – I tutor physics.

Oh.  And there are 5 levels of this.  Longest part of the game so far.  By the time I was done, I no longer craved fish and chips.  I craved beer and bloody vengeance on whoever designed this stupid level.

I even tried doing some hacking in the metagame, but I couldn’t even use console commands to clear the quest.

Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned the best part?  Are you still with me here?  Remember when all we wanted to do was take the Mariner out, buy her some clam chowder and go sailing around the island?  Those days are over, buddy.  No clam chowder for you.  Just endless hate when you discover that the mechanism they used to build their hated minigame was the equally hated settlement workshop mechanic:

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Perspective is for sissies!