Categories: "Hobbies"

A Game Worth Watching

  03:37:05 pm, by   , 859 words  
Viewed 17717 times since 03/05/11
Categories: TV/Movies, Hobbies

I think it was about 18 months ago, or it might have been even longer, that Timenn and I were chatting in IRC about books. It turned out we both share similar interests in fiction so were swapping titles to give each other a few new items for their wish list. I think I recommended Adrian Tchaikovsky's (then new) series Shadows of the Apt - and I recommend it to anyone who likes good fantasy novels - and in return, he suggested George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series.

Somehow, I'd never heard of this guy, and I have to confess that after a couple of searches had informed me that he was known as "The American Tolkien", my heart sank. I love J. R. R. Tolkien's stuff. I got a copy of The Hobbit on my 11th birthday. I know this for a fact because my copy has the message "For Robert on his 11th birthday & for passing to L.R.G.S. 26/4/84, From your father and mother - We hope it will not be too hobbit-forming!" Unfortunately, this last hope proved false, because Tolkien was to prove hugely habit-forming over the years. Since then, I've read Lord of the Rings over 30 times, learned huge chunks of The Silmarillion by heart, read all the Unfinished Tales and every other book Christopher Tolkien released, and generally become a bit of a Middle Earth nerd - although not, I must emphasise, enough of a nerd to learn Elvish. The reason I mention this is not just to establish my nerdly credentials, but to help you understand why somebody described as a Tolkien has got a hell of a lot to live up to.

It doesn't take you long to realise that the comparison is total rubbish. It always is. Whenever anybody is described as "The New X", it's merely lazy journalism. Lionel Messi is not "The New Maradonna", Wayne Rooney never was "The New Michael Owen", and George Martin isn't "The New Tolkien". He and Tolkien both write rather good fantasy novels, but that's all they have in common - apart from the two "R"s in their initials. When I read A Game of Thrones, the first book in the series, I was impressed. A lot of fantasy books seem to have been written from a cliché checklist: ancient fight between good and evil? check; low-born character eventually saving everything? check; improbable love interest? check. Many books fall into the trap of thinking they're mysteries, so we get sudden plot twists for no good reason. This isn't necessary: was anybody really expecting Frodo would fail to destroy the ring, or that Harry would fail to kill Voldemort? An ending that you're expecting isn't a Bad Thing by default - a book is about the journey, not the ending.

Anyway, so the books were good. That's not why I'm writing this. The point is that the books have been made into a ten-part TV series on HBO called Game of Thrones after the first book. For once, we can see it in the UK with only a 24-hour delay instead of the usual months or years, but only if you subscribe to Sky Atlantic. Obviously, if you don't subscribe it would be totally wrong to download the episodes using BitTorrent from the huge number of sources that appear within minutes of the program ending on Sunday evenings (US time).

The series gained a lot of hype on the Internet, and when you see the sort of clips that were released ahead of time, it's not difficult to see why. It stars Emperor Martin Boromir Sean Bean, who gives a typically good performance as Lord Ned Stark. A lot of the other cast members are British too, the locations are all in Europe (Ireland and Malta, mainly), which raises the question "Why can't the bloody BBC make stuff like this?" Unlike most of the BBC's output these days, which seems to target the 10-15 age bracket and hopes that adults will be interested too, Game of Thrones sets out its stall from the first moments as Adults Only. After about ten minutes of the first show, the corpse count is already in double figures and we've had two beheadings. That's not even the most outré moment, the award for which probably goes to a scene where a dwarf is in bed with four naked prostitutes. Yup, this isn't for the children. Now I'm not advocating sex and violence for the sake of sex and violence. It's just good to see a program that doesn't set out to be safe for once. The disregard for safety can be felt in the story too. It doesn't take long before you have three or four different stories all progressing at the same time. Too many films and TV shows assume that the audience can barely follow one story, so this is a major departure.

I've waited until three episodes have come out before saying anything because I wanted to make sure that the quality stayed high. So far, so good. If you don't watch this program, you're missing a real gem.

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Why Morrowind Was Better [Guest Blog]

  04:48:19 am, by Cactus   , 1453 words  
Viewed 40537 times since 29/12/09
Categories: Games, Elder Scrolls, Hobbies

Gosh, it's beginning to look like I can't write for myself. And that I'm bias towards Morrowind. Well, wrong on both accounts. Personally I love both games. Truth is no one has come forth yet for Oblivion. I may have to write one myself. Anyway, it's time for a new guest blog, this time by UESPer Kestral.

The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind for many was and is the epitome of the Elder Scrolls series. Morrowind came before Oblivion, 4 years to be exact, and does lack some things that Oblivion had. I seek to delve into what is missing on Morrowind’s part, but why Oblivion is still the lesser of the two.

I remember the first glimpses that I saw of Morrowind. A foggy view of the Temple Canton of Vivec, thinking of it as a high and mystical place. I researched into Morrowind very much, and did find it to be interesting. I discovered that to me, Morrowind would be a difficult fit.

There not being Fast Travel, no map markers, and a varied level of gameplay intimidated me. I did not care for the graphics, I accepted Morrowind for what it was and not what it looked like.

I went ahead and picked up an Xbox GOTY version of Morrowind, picked my stats, and went on. I met Jiub, surfaced from the underbelly of the ship, into a strange new land. Seyda Neen, passed the pleasant Redguard, and went into the Offices. I was greeted by the lovely man who asked me what my background was. I filled the forms out myself, and was a tad concerned on what to pick.

I chose for a magic character with a bit of combat in. I went though the offices and I was done with the Char Gen portion. I went through Seyda Neen, passed by the nice little Wood Elf who misplaced his ring; I paid no mind and went on with his ring in my pocket.

Vvardenfell was truly an alien land to me. I knew none of the cities, methods of transportation, skills, people to know, what comes first, and what doesn’t. I followed up on what I was told with and went to Balmora. Not noticing the large bug that I later found that could take me to Balmora easily, I walked to Balmora.

I thought how frustrating it was to walk across a seemingly wide expanse of land before me. And I thought that how difficult it would be to get from here to there in later portions of the game. Needless to say, I continued on and was startled by a loud yell.


A Bosmer mage had fallen out of the sky... certainly not something in Oblivion. I checked his body and took his loot. I figured that I should save and did. I was intrigued by his scroll of Icarian Flight. Unknowingly, I used the scroll jumped, I soon fell to my death somewhere near Balmora.

I reloaded myself, and cursed myself for using the scrolls and told myself to never use them again. I soon discovered a scrib. I had an extensive fight and thought to myself ‘Why can’t I hit him!?’ I killed the thing and went on with my journey. I later discovered that I needed to use a weapon with a favored skill, and a have a better agility skill.

When I reached Balmora, I saved the game and stopped.

For a month.

I thought Morrowind was good and all, but not my thing. I had put it on hold, and kept it tucked away in my room somewhere. I soon was bored one day, and researched further into Morrowind. I learned of what I should’ve done. The early quests, the ring, exploits, and such.

I made a new character and did the aforementioned. I had more fun doing the quests, and traveled to Balmora by the newly discovered Silt Strider. I then gave up at Balmora because I got bored.

It wasn’t for some time- and several instances of playing the game and stopping, and even getting the PC version- until I appreciated Morrowind to its fullest.

I was inspired one day to make a new character, inspired by our resident Cactus. I made my new character, a Dunmer battlemage of sorts, Darvinum, and loved the game from thereon. I played the game, only used exploits for things like speechcraft, and left the rest to pure gameplay.

I went from place to place. I cannot remember which guilds I did, but I remember at least 2 guilds that I went through, I also remember going through the Imperial Cult. I loved that Cult.

I went from here and there and no longer minded the no fast travel. But what I did mind were the directions. ‘Go north from this road until you reach a specific tree, then head east.’ I frequently got lost and had distaste for the Ashlands. I plundered the Vaults of Vivec later on with my full chameleon outfit, and made large amounts of money. I went around, training, and just doing quests. I became Nerevarine, and was known throughout Vvardenfell.

Darvinum must have been my most favorite character I ever made in any Elder Scrolls game. I did so much with him, and remember doing so much in a little amount of time.

Now, this play through let me examine Oblivion to Morrowind in their fullest. Oblivion looked much nicer, I’ll give it that, and Oblivion had a much more similar mechanic, but there was something bland about it. To begin with, the voice actors. Morrowind had fine voice acting, everyone was different from each other. The Nords were Nords, and not Orcs too. The Elves were their own race, and not their own. The Dunmer especially, had a better voice than any other race.

Another was the items. In Oblivion, you’ll merely find a wide variety of the same type of items. In Morrowind, there were many items. Not merely Iron, Steel, Glass, Daedric, Leather, etc. There was Netch leather, Nordic armor, Ice armor, Ordinator armor, guard armor, Chitin, and some more. The same goes for Weapons and clothing. Oblivion had a limited wardrobe, while Morrowind had a large one. The weights and prices were realistic considering. Daedric armor and weapons were to be precious, and not found in every single dungeon. They were to be sprinkled out through the whole land, and not in the hand of every Marauder aspirant fresh from the cutting block.

The quests also were better. Even though Oblivion was larger in landscape, Morrowind was surely more refined and detailed. Almost everyone in town had a quest affiliated with them, and there were a lot of people needing some assistance. That isn’t enough? Join a guild! And not just the Mage’s, Fighter’s, Dark Brotherhood, and the Thieves Guild like in Oblivion; how about the Imperial Cult, or a Great House, or the Legion, or the East Empire Company. Oblivion had a lot do, but Morrowind had even more.

Almost everything Oblivion had, Morrowind had and more. It’s been well over a year since I’ve been playing Morrowind, and I still play with it then and again. Whilst I have played Oblivion more in total in hours, and it still is easier to get more engrossed in Oblivion (my new character already has 20 hours knocked on), Morrowind was still better.

Morrowind takes a different kind of person. Not someone who is more in touch with classic RPG roots, but someone who prefers a more action adventure RPG. Someone who enjoys a richness of an environment, the realism, and the uniqueness of it. If they are a DND’er, perhaps Daggerfall, another fine title, would be more of their choosing, but for me, Morrowind is.

But Morrowind is not everybody’s game. A more ‘modern’ gamer, who is more interested in games with nice graphics, and a more shooter spin on things, would not like Morrowind. I know several people who like RPGs, but who do not like Morrowind. It’s a strange thing, and I find it difficult to think why they dislike it just accept for what it is, and go on.

Morrowind truly is a gem, and I wish to hold onto my copy until the day something unfortunate happens and it is destroyed. Even then, I will still carry on the memories of Morrowind. For those who refuse to try Morrowind, please do; and for those who have, and didn’t like it, so be it. Morrowind truly was the greatest Elder Scrolls title. The series which- as of late -the series is in need of another one.

This is the Cactus speaking..

  02:18:45 pm, by Cactus   , 437 words  
Viewed 66602 times since 05/11/09
Categories: Welcome, Games, Elder Scrolls, Hobbies, UESP

My name is Ricky and I'm a Moderator over on the UESP Forums. I just thought I'd bring a touch of the forum life over here to the blog. I'm not even sure what that means, but it sounded good in my head when I signed up for this.

Oh, an introduction? Is that what you want?
Le'see, I'm called Cactus on about 90% of the internet and surprisingly by several people in the real world, too. I've been a member of both the wiki and the forums since September 2007. I'll admit I'm not much of an editor on the wiki, more of a reader, but I've fixed my share of typos. I've been a Mod since late 2008.

My interests, aside from video games, lie in writing and music. I've been writing since I was about 14 and I've finally gotten good enough I don't hate everything I write. I'm still too lazy though. I've been playing drums since 2004 or 2005. Until recently I was in a band called Optical Delusion. We released a single album in 2007.

I'm recently (and voluntarily) unemployed in preparation for a rather significant change in my life--I'm moving to Germany to continue my education and hopefully end up as an architect.

I love jumping on bandwagons and looking cool by mimicking others, so I'll share the games I've been playing recently since everyone else did. &#59;)

  • Oblivion:
    This is a rather recent addition to my "current" games. I was obsessed with it for over a year and it finally got old. A new Argonian assassin has rekindled my love for this beautiful game.
  • Fallout 3:
    This is an obsession that won't die. I've played through it so many times and just as the fire was going out, the DLC came out and I've been loving it all over again.
  • Spore:
    This is a really great game, I think. It really supports creativity. If you don't have it, get it. The expansions add quite a bit to the game, as well.
  • Sims 3:
    I could practically write a post on this game and the series in general. I've been absolutely obsessed with Sims games since I played SimCity 2000 on my first computer back in 1998. Since then I've played SimCity 3000, SimTower, SimCopter, Streets of SimCity, SimSafari, Sims (and all expansions), Sims 2 (and all expansions) and probably some others I've forgotten. It's like they've somehow taken drug addition and packaged it as a computer game. Truth be told I'm probably a bit more passionate, though less obsessed, with this series than Elder Scrolls.
  • Morrowind (Deutsch Version:
    In preparation for my move I've been playing this in German. It's.. not easy.

What an Elliot Does

  07:12:29 pm, by Elliot   , 308 words  
Viewed 11024 times since 10/10/09
Categories: Games, Elder Scrolls, Misc, TV/Movies, Sports, Hobbies

Hey there readers! In order to keep up with the minor tradition, here is what I am playing at the moment.

  • Nothing!

I know, it is rather upsetting, but my 360 received the infamous red ring of death way back in March. I haven't been able to get a new one, but I plan to mooch one off of my parents for my upcoming birthday this week.

So to provide more insight into how I play games, here is my Top 10 list:

  1. Mass Effect
  2. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
  3. The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
  4. Kingdom Hearts
  5. The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall
  6. Bioshock
  7. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
  8. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
  9. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
  10. Halo: Combat Evolved

Yeah... I don't necessarily go outside my comfort zone in video games much. Mass Effect is my top because of the depth of the game, and the fact that I nerd out hard to space fantasy (SG-1/SGU anyone?). Also, the combat game is beyond fluid, so it is comparable to reading a book. Of course, TES games are on there as well, except Arena (because it sucks). I have always been a fan of the Zelda series, even though it does predate me. And last, Halo is a great game, and the story in the first one is exceptionally done.

So more about me. I am a huge sports fan: the Colts, Pacers, Fever, Carl Edwards, and Michael Phelps are my favorites in their respective areas. I can basically watch all of the with the same enthusiasm, so I don't have a favorite except the NFL. So I might make some sports posts if people show interest (but most people who like video games and wikis... don't like sports :p ).

So that is basically my generic Welcome post, hope you enjoy reading in the future!