I know this one is late, but better late than never right?  This month a gamer I’ve know for a few years has gotten back in touch and I thought she would be perfect for this feature.  I first met her back on a NWN2 server called The Frontier Reborn, and there learned that she’s also into FPS games, and other RPGs and MMOs.  Her roleplay was great on TFR and her passion for gaming matches any I’ve seen in any other gamer.  Another perfect example that female gamers are out there, and they are into more than just the cutesy games for kids and families.  So, without further ado, here are Janet’s thoughts.

Q. What is your Gamertag?

NWN1: TundraGrrl
NWN2: Pleiades (my favorite star cluster)

Q. We are getting a lot of viewers outside the U.S. If you don’t mind everyone knowing, what country do you hail from?

 United States

Q. Gamer guild/clan affiliation?

None

Q. Console or PC?

PC! Sucker for great graphics engines and the ability to RP

Q. When did you start gaming?

7 or 8, but I recall playing my cousins Atari before then and thinking Pong was mind blowing

Q. What got you started in the world of gaming?

I was a kid when Nintendo first came out, Zelda was my passion.  Gameboy, thing was a brick but seemed like a technological wonder at the time, complete with bulky snap on light for sneaking in a dozen games of Tetris after the official bedtime. When I was 14 I took a college class and got my first 2400 bit/s modem, there was no internet as we know it today but I found I could use the university system to ‘telnet’ into servers called MUDs (Multi User Domains) and play in a text based game world consisting of only a black and white screen (descriptive words to paint the world around you), navigating using N, S, W, E.  I stumbled upon a RP MUD and fell in love immediately.  I  became a DM/writer there and played it well past the first popular MMORPGs. My first RP game with computer generated imagery was NWN1 and I was beside myself.

Q. Favorite game?

Very difficult question!  For blowing things up I absolutely loved playing Borderlands with friends, for RP it has to be NWN 1 & 2

Q. Currently playing? 

The Elder Scrolls Skyrim,  Team Fortress 2 Co-op, Portal 2, NWN1 & 2.  It takes me awhile to get through games now with less free time, I light up like a kid when I get a new one.

Q. Most anticipated future release?

Borderlands 2, I still smile every time I hear the song ‘Ain’t no rest for the wicked’

Q. Build your own or off-the-shelf PC? Any reason for preference?

Built it.  Really like to tinker and to tell the truth…I am stoked when a machine dies so I can put on my headlamp and build it faster, stronger!

Q. Favorite game type?

Immersive RP/Action

Q. Do you think there are any issues related to being a female gamer?

Not so much now, in fact it seems being a geek is very *in* now days, with women proudly labeling themselves.  Even my mom is calling herself a geek and I just recently taught her how to move photos from her camera to the computer!  When I first started gaming, spending time on a PC put you into a very misunderstood minority group.  The geeky computer guys in school had their place where they belonged and everyone seemed to think they were wizards of legend, but as a female teenager with cute cheerleader friends I was the odd duck out and they just didn’t “get it”.  Parents were the opposite of supportive.  Later when I moved and landed a tech job in Silicon Valley I had this surreal moment when my dad said to me “well I guess all that time on the computer paid off!”
So, there you have it ladies and gents.  If you happen to run into her out there, keep your wits about you, she knows what’s she’s doing around a keyboard!  Stay tuned for our first official event as press attendees to Gen Con Indy and much more.  If you know anyone that would be a good addition to this monthly feature definitely have them get in touch with us a magus_taliesin@hotmail.com.  We’ll be seeing you soon.

One of my coworkers suggested this awhile back, and I’ve finally gotten around to researching it and putting some thought to it.  Basically, we wondered what movies out there, based on video games, were actually good.  Of course there could be a lot of criteria for that:  do they stick close to the game, is the movie good, if it weren’t related to the game would it be good, the list goes on.  Historically movies based on video games are terrible.  Either the concept is so corney that seeing it on the big screen is just off, or in some cases the game itself was never that good and turning it into a movie only created more wasted time.  Since I didn’t play all of these games, I’m simply going with what I know, was the movie good, entertaining, and fun to watch.  In some cases I have either heard, or I know, whether it stuck to the theme of the game, but not always.  I looked at a long list of international theatrical releases and picked seven, but some of them are in series’ so we’ll wind up with four ranks so to speak.  So, without further ado, here is Frags and Beer’s picks for the best movies based on a video game.

Hitman IMDB.com

In fourth place is where I would put Hitman.  Of the entire list this made it to the group that I actually found entertaining, a decent movie overall, but of that group the least so.  I have heard from a friend of mine, a huge Hitman fan, that it deviates from the game a lot, but even he agrees it was a decent movie.  All in all, if this were called anything other than Hitman it would be a good action flick.  From what I understand, even deviating from the lore of the game, the movie still kept with the theme, which is important.  The acting was decent for an action flick, and the effects were good.  The plot of the movie was good for the most part and the writing wasn’t too bad either.  It’s really what one would expect from a popcorn action movie, and they didn’t really push it as anything else.  I guess if a guy who takes a day off work just to play the new release of Hitman says it’s decent, it’s worth watching at least once.

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider IMDB.com

In third place on our list I am putting the Lara Croft: Tomb Raider movies, both of them.  They were both equally good it matching the theme of the games from what I remember.  The action was great and story were good, and even the acting was good.  For action movies they had good plot and writing, and they were both entertaining.  Besides that…Angelina.  I never played the games, but I know enough about them to know they are sitting somewhere in the action/adventure genre, and this movie delivers on both, with a healthy mix if clever gadgets, mysterious artifacts, and guns.  Yes, I like guns if you didn’t notice.  I’ve played my share, and enjoyed even, of games that had no guns at all, but if you are going to make this great, exciting action game, it’s hard to do without its share of explosions and gunfire.  Definitely worth seeing in my opinion.  Oh, before I leave this one, rumor has it a Lara Croft reboot is in the works and coming to the big screen in the future.  Let’s hope they can deliver the same fun that these movies did, because let’s face it, we play games to have fun.  Movies based on games should be more about fun than anything else as well.

Resident Evil IMDB.com

This was a hard decision, because I’ve really enjoyed these movies, but I have to put the Resident Evil franchise in second.  There are what, four of them now?  With a 5th on the way, so really a heavy hitter here, but I tried to judge them as if they are one movie to make it fair.  Now, I will admit this franchise had its ups and downs.  There were some moments that made me cringe, and not out of fear or shock.  Despite that, if you look back on the entire series so far I think you would agree that as a whole they’ve been pretty good, fun, action/horror flicks.  I know they didn’t follow the games that closely, though I am reading that the next one goes back to a lot of the game material.  I also read that the game has since borrowed quite a bit from the movies, probably blurring the line between which is following which at this point.  I think the first one was my favorite so far, not only the nude scene with Mila (comeon don’t judge me!), but Michelle Rodriguez is in it and there’s just something about her I like.  Mila is great, as usual, at playing someone who isn’t quite all there, the action, costumes, makeup and effects were all great.  It had enough action to keep it firmly in the action genre, but also enough gore, horror, zombies, blood and brains to dip into the suspense/horror field as well.  All in all, while the series doesn’t get it perfect every moment, I would definitely recommended these to anyone who enjoys anything zombie/video game related.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time IMDB.com

I’m sure this choice is going to inflame some readers, who knows, maybe I hit this one on the head, but hey, this is the internet so lay it on me.  Frankly, yes, I’m a sucker for fantasy.  If you hand me four movies that are all relatively similar in quality, the one that’s set in a fantasy/historical period will win out with me.  I like guns, but I like swords more.  For me Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time has it all, action, adventure, good acting, writing, sets and costumes, and swords!  Not only that but it seemed to fit well with the theme of the games.  I’ve not played the new ones but one of my first games back on my parent’s IBM 386 was Prince of Persia, a side-scrolling action game, and probably one of the first…what do they call it?…traversing games?  Not sure, I never did get into those types of games, I got out of console gaming before the new Prince of Persia games, or Assassins Creed came out and became popular.  Anyway, I think overall this move is my top pick from what I’ve seen so far.  The next few movies based on game have some pretty big shoes to fill with this list in my opinion, and knocking the Prince off the top spot is going to require quite a showing from the film industry.

Well, I’ve rambled enough.  Stay tuned, we’re going to talk about a new magazine I recently found, the Zombie Research Society, more video game news, hopefully a surprise Gamer Lady in the near future, and Guild Wars 2 in twelve days!

Sorry it has been so long since my last post, things have been busy here trying to get my latest short story ready for a beta read.  In case you’re wondering it has already received the ‘thumbs up’ and edits from the wife, and is soon on its way to a friend, and very good critical beta reader, for final edit suggestions.  Then starts the long, heartbreaking road of trying to get a magazine to like it enough to publish it.  Anyway, onto the show…and book, yes this review is for both.

Game of Thrones on IMDB

I will start with the series, since that is where I started with this little gem.  I had heard of the books years ago, but being human, and with limited time, I have to be extremely choosy when it comes to starting new book series.  I have a lot of books in my library and quite a few series that I’m working on, so I try not to add new ones willy nilly.  Anyway, I had wanted to see this series since it was first announced, but not having HBO I had to wait several grueling months, seeing blurbs on the internet, reviews on TV, and in general listening to people rave about it before it came out on Netflix.  Finally the day came and we got our first disk, and popped it in.

I have to admit, the first episode didn’t grab us right away.  It wasn’t bad, the acting was great, the costuming, sets, props, music, was all great.  The writing was also very good.  There was just something about it that didn’t hook me right away, same with the wife.  I suspect that it was because there was no real introduction to our main protagonist, no lead-up, we were just kind of thrown into a story that seemed to have already been going on for awhile, like stepping into the middle of a movie.  I imagine this was intentional, and backstory would soon be given, it was just a different approach.

So, as we tend to do, if the first episode of a new show isn’t terrible, we watched the next one.  That changed everything.  I’m not sure at what point I forgot that I was watching a show, no idea at what part I was drawn in as thoroughly as if I were reading a book and lost to the world, but it happened.  Episode 2 ended and we both looked at each other and agreed, we would be devouring this series until it was over.

The shows themselves were very good, some of them spectacular.  There is a lot of political intrigue, but thankfully it’s presented in such a way that you can follow along.  At no point did I find myself confused by the story, or wondering what had just happened.  Well, there were some parts where I wondered what had just happened, but it was more disbelief that they had written something into a show, this is definitely not for kids, or adults who are easily offended.  Mr. Martin has presented us with a realistic depiction of a fantasy world, written for adults who don’t burst into flames at the mere mention of breasts, and HBO did a damn good job of translating that world to the small screen.  While many fantasy authors out there felt compelled to write kid friendly books that would be sold outside the ‘young adult’ or ‘children’s’ book categories, Martin unapologetically writes books for his target audience…adult fantasy fans.

Anyway, back to the show.  I think the casting was fantastic.  Sean Bean and Mark Addy, as Eddard Stark and Robert Baratheon respectively, were great together.  Robert, the king, and Eddard (Ned), one of the Lords of the land, are old friends who fought together in the war to unseat the previous king.  While they don’t show any of the pair’s past exploits, stories are told, and you do get the feel that these two have known each other for a long time, and were the best of friends.  The acting gems don’t stop there, some great known actors like Peter Dinklage, Lena Heady, and one of my favorites, James Cosmo, head up a cast of great young and unknown actors.  Even the children, some of whom have never acted in anything before, were great.  It’s not often that the children in shows, especially shows like this, are any good at acting.

To top it all off the sets, costumes, and props were top notch.  Too often fantasy shows are given the shaft when it comes to budgets, but that is slowly, and thankfully, changing.  As companies realize that yesterday’s young fantasy fans are today’s adult fantasy fans, they are starting to put more into these shows and movies.  They are starting to get it, that fantasy doesn’t have to be animated cartoons of dragons and unicorns, or stories that are all right to show on PBS after school gets out.  This show is definitely not that, so if you are waiting for it to come out on TV, don’t, at least not regular network TV.  If it did, it would be a sad, gutted, unrecognizable creature that would not be worth watching.  Did I mention they did a great job of translating the books as well?  There were only a couple of spots in the book where I noticed they had changed something major, otherwise it followed along very well.

For the show, I’m putting it up there with my favorites, Battlestar Galactica, Spartacus, Sons of Anarchy, Tudors and Rome.

I decided, after we finished the first season of this on Netflix, that I could, and probably should, work this into my list of books to read.  I did, and I wasn’t disappointed.  I have only read the first one so far, and so far I’m liking it.  As I said above, Martin delivers a decidedly adult fantasy series in a world inundated (now) with young adult, teen, children’s, and young adult masquerading as adult, fantasy books.  The books are deep, gritty, gory, sexual, dark, and well, honestly, realistic.  I know that seems odd to say about a fantasy series, the definition of unrealistic, but it’s true.  Characters act like people from a medieval era, they talk, sing, cuss, fight, and have sex like people from said era.

Also as I said above, the political intrigue is good, and not delivered in such a way that you get lost.  A lot of people try to write political fantasy, or thrillers, but tend to lose you in the complexity, to the point that you really don’t care who did what.  This book has a lot of honorable men and women, as well as outright craven knaves (that’s some medieval speak for ye).  What the book doesn’t give you is heroes.  Sure, there are people talked about like heroes, legends, great figures of history that did great things, but there’s no shining knight with a magical sword, out to save the princess.  That doesn’t mean every character in the book is a grim, cynical anti-hero, being as emo as possible just to express how dark and gritty the world is, it just means the characters are realistic and easy to relate to.  I like heroic fantasy as much as the next guy, don’t get me wrong, but this is a nice change of pace.

Speaking of pace, I was told the books were slow and too long.  While I can only speak for the first one, I can say that is not true of this novel at least.  It is long, that is quite true, but the pacing, to me, was good.  At no point did I lose interest or want to put it down for a different book.  It kept going, at a steady pace, delivering story, plot, drama, and action that kept me reading until I was finished, and excited to read the next book and see season 2.  I think it also helped that each chapter was dedicated to a different character.  Sometimes if you are reading about a character you don’t find particularly interesting, sometimes its hard to suffer through the story when they hold the viewpoint for half the book.  In this case, if one particular character isn’t to your liking, you know that the next chapter won’t be about them and it can make it easier to get through that character’s story.  Just so there’s no confusion, I didn’t feel that in this book at all.  I have before, in other books, but I liked the way every character was written in this book.  We’ll just have to wait and see if the other books can hold my interest like this one, but for the first book of a series, I was quite satisfied.

I would recommend seeing/reading both, but I’m not sure in which order.  There’s not much of that disappointment one gets when a book is turned into a movie, and major plot lines are gutted to save time.  The show did pay close attention to the book, which is good considering how long and complex the story is.  Whichever way you do it, I would recommended doing it close together, I think it will enhance the thrill.  One benefit of watching the show first, I guess, is picturing the characters faces from the show, and hearing their voices.  That adds a whole new level to the book for sure.

High recommended from us at Frags and Beer!

Welcome to another edition of Zombie Watch, where we keep our eye out for stories to keep you better informed so you can prepare for the worst.  Things have been fairly quiet on the outbreak, though a couple of stories have sprung up that I managed to find.  One of them is a video a friend pointed me to.

 

Does this not look like a news report right out of some zombie apoc movie?!  Sure, I know, this is a drug.  They aren’t actually undead, or rising from the grave, but honestly did you think the writers and movie makers were going to get it exactly right?  Boil it down to the basics.  Delirium, eating human flesh, suicidal tendencies, paranoia, increased body temperature, altered brain activity, nearly unstoppable, and harder to kill.  If you think the only option for a zombie apocalypse is corpses rising from the grave and slowly munching their way around the world in a slow, stead, trudge, well then stay away from my well-stocked bunker!

Hells, did you see the guy laying there panting like an animal?  Did that not look like something right out of a Romero film?  Or the guy throwing himself against the doors of that building…was he hungry?  Living humans inside?  I’m telling you, there is an epidemic coming in the future that they will call the zombie apocalypse, whether it be drug induced, or some sort of virus.  Either way, don’t be caught unawares.

I know it’s not much yet, but I’m sure we will have more for you in the near future.

I should have gotten this post up for you all, but I guess better late than never.  I spent the second day of the beta just running around and looking at everything.  I made a character of each race, and I have to say I’m very impressed with how each area feels different, and matches the racial history and culture that they have created for this world.  I didn’t want to play too far into the story, I’ll just have to do it again when the game releases, so I spent a lot of the time checking out the sights, looking at new features, and getting a feel for the game.

Country bumpkin in a big city
Click to enlarge

I was blown away by the scenery from day one, but the city and its features really took my breath away.  From a game development standpoint cities are hard to do, and make to feel alive.  You want to make this big city, with a believable population of NPCs that serve no purpose other than window dressing.  You have to get in the sights and sounds of a bustling market, when most of it won’t even be used by the player or his character.  From a player standpoint, large cities in RPGs tend to disappoint, and that was true even in Guild Wars the first.  They are generally full of buildings but not enough people, or you see places that you can’t get to, that you know were thrown in there just to make the place look big.  Sometimes they get it right and the place looks alive, but feel?  You sort of feel like a stranger watching life move around you while you stand still in this river of imaginary people.

Over the rooftops of Rurikton
Click to enlarge

With Divinity’s Reach, however, the team at ArenaNet managed to deliver a bustling city, that feels alive, explorable, and filled with purpose, but also makes you feel like you’re part of it.  Your character is greeted by strangers, for no other purpose than to greet him.  I was surprised at first, and realized I may have been missing it every time it happened, but I looked down at the chat text at one point to see “The baker waves Jondular over.”  Jondular being my character name, and the baker being the NPC (not 100% sure it was a baker, could not remember exactly who it was.)  There are NPCs going about their day, talking with each other in voice, laughing, music, all the sights and sounds one would expect in a large city like this.  I think the voice acting is what astounds me the most.  Not all of it is great voice acting, it’s the shear amount of it that will take your breath away.  I don’t remember the exact figures, but I do know that this game has more hours of voice recorded in game than several movies put together, and more than all but a couple of games.  I think it might even be topped only by LucasArts Knights of the Old Republic.  That’s not just story NPCs either, even NPCs who are there only for show, have conversations with each other that you hear when you walk by.

Divinity’s Reach from afar
Click to enlarge

One of the things that I always loved about Guild Wars was the way the horizon, and scenery, went on for realistic distances.  A lot of games favor fog, or blurring, or simply fading it away, to save resources, but ArenaNet has manage to, yet again, deliver on a concept that makes Guild Wars relatively unique.  As you can see, when you are in game, you can see!  The scenery on your screen will be displayed realistically, for distances that you would actually be able to see in life.  The city of Divinity’s Reach in the screenshot there, is a ways away from me at that point, still on the same ‘map’ but a good distance.  You can also see, there’s a very good level of detail from such a distance.  What you can’t see, but I can assure you, is that they stuck to their promise that Guild Wars 2 would be accessible to players without killer PCs.  My PC used to be killer, say 2 years ago, but now it’s fairly average as gaming machines go.  Still got a lot of years in her but no beast compared to others.  I did not notice any lag, slowdown, framerate drop, or other problems one might expect at high settings in a game that is so graphics intensive.  The developers have done a good job making this game efficient with the resources it does use.

Can Jumpz?!
Click to enlarge

Being able to jump and climb, not only adds a new dimension to combat and tactics in this game, but it also allows access to some pretty impressive vistas.  Here, my Char is up on a ruined wall that has fallen part-way over, leaving an inclined ramp of crumbling stone, that I could JUMP! up onto and climb to the top, giving this great view of the Char starter area.  Again, the level of detail in the distance is amazing, but at this point I’m too busy imagining all of the things that could be done with this new feature, completely absent from the first game.  Pinning enemies in a narrow passage while your allies climb up on the rocks and jump down on them?  Leaping across cat walks to attack archers that have your comrades pinned?  (I did that by the way, it was pretty epic feeling)  Needless to say, I spent a lot of the day seeing what I could climb on, which will be evidenced by a the next screenshots.

Anti-grav sidewalks?
Click to enlarge

You can see in the Asura area, they take elevation to a while new level, which will only make the ability to jump that much more important.  A lot of the areas you see, above and below you, are accessible in some way.  These floating rocks are all over the place in the Asuran area, something that was only hinted at in the original game, but due to the limitations of the game, inaccessible.  You can barely see Peggle, my little Asuran thief there in the middle, but shows that these areas are now open to players since you can jump.  It’s amazing how much a simple little feature has completely changed the look and feel of this game.  It’s going to make exploring Tyria much more exciting, and time consuming, but not in a bad way at all.

Peggle on top of the world
Click to enlarge

As for the Asura themselves, at first I wasn’t too sure about them.  Sure, they did a good job selling them in the previews, using Felicia Day’s voice, what geek in his right mind didn’t hear her voicing a character say “I want to tap…play that!”  (No offense Miss Day, please know that we, at Frags and Beer, admire and cherish your contribution to gaming and the entire industry.  [Think that’s good enough to ensure the above comment won’t ruin future chances at an interview for this publication?])  The Asura were annoying in the first game, not well fleshed out, and very alien.  They just didn’t seem to fit in the fantasy setting.  When they were announced as a playable race I preemptively wrote them off as something I wasn’t interested in.  To give you all a complete view of the game though, I made a character, and I have to admit I found myself impressed.  The faces, while sometimes cutesy, have serious options too.  Believable serious options at that.  It’s easy to envision a gritty, veteran asuran warrior, back from fighting in the wilds, complete with a grim expression and demeanor.  I’m sure there will be plenty of ‘cutesy’ asura running around, but it’s good to know that it’s not the default.  As you can see, they also did a much better job depicting the asuran culture with their city on the right.  It’s still somewhat ‘alien’ and all, but it fits Guild Wars now.

Spiritual norn
Click to enlarge

Finally, I dropped in on the Norn again, making a ranger this time. This is probably going to be one of my characters for the main game.  I stumbled upon this rocky outcropping that I missed during the first beta, and found this spirit wolf up there.  I just had to get a shot of it and share.  While it doesn’t show much of the landscape, or combat, or any of the bells and whistles, I think it’s just a cool shot.  The wolf is one of the animal spirits the Norn worship, naming their clans after the beings.  As your Norn rises in level they will be able to shapeshift into one of these animals, depending on the animal clan you pick at the beginning.  I’m going to go with bear, probably influenced by the first game.  So far my only critique of this area, and the game for the most part, is the male norn forms.  To me they all look like tall dwarves (fantasy dwarves that is), too wide, legs too short, arms too long.  The female forms are much better in proportion (not that kind of proportion…though those are nice too!)!  Other than that, overall my beta experience was fun.  I’m very excited to get the game, get into it, help my wife learn the ins and outs of the game, and spend a few years exploring the world of Tyria.  I hope to see you there!

Oh, by the way, Frags and Beer, hopefully, will be making its permanent home in the world that was created by ArenaNet as a tribute to a fallen gamer.  For details check out our last post about the beta here, featuring this sad, but uplifting story.

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Frags and Beer is open to guest writers now.  If you have a geek-themed article you’d like to see published, email us at magus_taliesin@hotmail.com and we’ll take a look at it.  Look back through our posts to see what we mean by the theme.  Nothing pornographic, too adult, political, or religious please.