Thursday, September 22, 2016

Zootopia Mini-Review - 5/5 Stars, One of the Greatest Animated Films of All Time

I originally wrote this for Netflix. Unfortunately, their review platform restricts how long your review can be and so I had to cut this down drastically for it to fit there. For that reason, I am copy-pasting the original here.

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Zootopia may just be the greatest animated film I've ever seen, and I've seen many. And I'm including the films by Japanese juggernaut Studio Ghibli in that, too. The reasons for this are many fold. There's the obvious; The animation is simply beautiful and perfection. You can tell that a number of very talented people poured their heart and souls in this, dedicating a substantial portion of their life to giving us this master piece of artwork. To give you an idea just how much effort went into this, Judy Hopps, the lead, has around 2.5 million animated hairs. That is ground-breaking, both in technique and in technology. The attention to small details is astounding and is a recurring theme in the film. A great example that you'll see early on in this is the train. A simple stage we will only see once and only briefly. Normally it would be relatively bland of detail, because why focus on such an unimportant (in the scheme of things) setting? But they did focus on it and there are tons of small things, such as security cameras (which helps set in your mind that this world mirrors our own, which is important in some portions of the film where security footage is used).

Then there's the voice acting. Simply perfect. The choices were great, of course. The voice actors fit their characters well, working to match themselves to their animals. This is shown in very small ways, such as Judy Hopps speaking quite fast, being over energetic to fit with the idea that Rabbits are fast. It's a small detail that adds a lot to the character, and every character is like this. Every single one.

The humor is there, too. With plenty of small gags, that are brief and fleeting. Then there's the larger gags that span the whole film, even if you don't notice it. You'll wonder why a Sloth is named Flash, and you'll think it's just an ironic name. All will be revealed, though. Like I said, a recurring theme of the film is the attention to small detail. It builds a world, and it builds humor. As time goes on and your mind notices and collects these small details, the jokes and gags get funnier as they make more sense within the context of this world that you are learning about.

There's not just humor, either. When you see the Disney opening at the beginning of the film, you think it'll be a simple child's movie with not much to it. That's not true. Far from it. It deals with a myriad of topics that you would think that Disney would want to stay away from. Some of these I'll get into later, but an example of this is love. And I mean real love. Not the Disney princess falling for the underdog who isn't a prince but sure acts like one, while the real prince goes after the princess and has a horrible personality. Two opposing personalities forging their way through the world with a past that has molded them into who they are, trying to find a way to be happy and not lonely and stumbling upon each other without expecting to. It's something I cannot explain in this paragraph, so I won't try to. But this is just one example of the deeper topics the film deals with.

And that brings us to the overall theme of the movie; Racism exists and it's bad. Unfortunately, some people (such as a reviewer here on Netflix) see this and take it face value, assuming that's it. For some reason they get so caught up in themselves and their preconceived notions that they can't see past this. I'm not sure how to exactly put this, so I'll try my best.

To put it very, very simply, within the film the Prey animals are essentially meant to reflect white people. The Predators are then meant to reflect the minorities. It is mentioned several times that the Prey vastly outnumber the Predators. This is further reflected by the fact that within the film, the Mayor of Zootopia is a Lion, a predator. Who could this be meant to reflect? Our current black president, Barack Obama. I believe this is here to show that while the Predators are, for the most part, the sole animals who partake in unsavory actions (such as the real world statics showing that minorities are responsible for a lot of crime, especially violent crime).

Major spoilers ahead.

The big crime to be solved in this movie is the number of missing Predators, and then what is causing the predators to go 'savage' (commit serious crime). Keep in mind that from this point forward, when I use parentheses I am making real world allusions. Now it is found that the reason these Predators are going 'savage' is because of a plant that when it comes into contact with an animal (Prey or Predator), it causes them to go crazy, aka 'savage.' This plant is being harvested by a certain group of Prey animal, who are then refining it (and turning it into a blue substance within a lab setting, a neat nod to Breaking Bad) and using it to infect key Predators and turning them savage. These Predators aren't important people, which is important because it shows that Predators are liable to go savage, at least that's how it is being presented within the news, causing many Prey who normally would have no issues with Predators to fear them.

Do you see where this is going? To me, it's fascinating the wide range of topics this film covers and how deep they go. Layer after layer. They add up to a story that reflects our real world in a way that most real-world, live-action films fail at. The writing for this was top-notch. I personally feel like these are important topics that need to be discussed and this is a great way to introduce children to something that may very well define their generation. Topics of racism, race profiling (For example, the Fox lead being profiled as a cunning con man, even if he is, and being refused service or not having his word taken seriously when he has important information on a crime), and race violence.

Now, you may think it's pretentious for me to assume all this. And perhaps it is. I haven't talked to the writers and I honestly have not read any reviews or interviews or any media on this film. So I could be wrong, I suppose.

In the end, I'm simply going to say that this is one of the most satisfying films I've ever watched. From the humor, to the beautiful animation, to the deep plots and topics that kept me thinking all throughout. Kudos to everyone who worked on this masterpiece and I look forward to what comes next from this studio, these writers, and the directors. Thank you for your hard work and the enjoyment you gave me. I regret the fact that I skipped the movie while it was theaters and waited all the way until it was on Netflix before watching.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Re: What makes AN MMO unappealing to you?

 Originally posted on reddit.

Too grindy. I don't mind if there's some grinding, but I hate it when the grind is the 'content' of the game. This is what turned me off of Black Desert. All of the content was just grinding. Money grind, gear grind, level grind, skill point grind, CP grind, etc... You grind just so you could grind some more.

Too gear based. I like the idea of upgrading my gear. I don't like the idea that I have to spend tens of hours grinding just to get a single piece of equipment so that I won't be completely obliterated in PVP. I liked Darkfall and Mortal Online because all of the gear was relatively easy to get. Sure, there were some 'premium' options that took a lot more effort, but they honestly weren't worth the effort. The standard sets of armor and steel weapons were more than good enough to be on par with the rest of the community, allowing for a nice even play ground where your ability to play did more than how much you could grind. This turned me off of Black Desert and ArcheAge.

Generic Stories. I hate it when I have to do a world-saving quest... that every player does at some point. That's why I tend to prefer sandbox games. You can be an amazing player and a huge part of the games history, but not because some sub-par game writer set up some quest that every player is going to do, making them all into the Chosen One. This is why I can't stand most themepark MMOs.

Bad Crafting. I hate generic, copy-paste crafting systems that almost every single MMO has. The type where you go out and grab a resource from a node out in the world, go into a menu, select a recipe, and then click for the product. I like it when there's some challenge... Like the PVP in Darkfall, the interesting mechanics of Mortal Online, the vastness and complexity of Wurm.

Persistent, non-changing world. I hate it when the world is always the same. No matter how many times players defeat the epic end-of-game raid boss, or how often two large guilds that contain 30% of the servers population go to war. This is why I can't stand playing themeparks for too long. Things don't get changed, the game gets stale, and I have to move on.

Reply: Istaria?

Originally posted on reddit.

 Posted by Laleeloolee
So tried this game out for the first time today. Seems decent. Has an EQ feel to it but with better crafting. I'm really liking it so far and I'm kind of wondering if I should invest my time into this game and would ask anyone who has experience with it to share their thoughts? How big is the world? Seems kind of small from the map on the wiki. Any big disappointments I should prepare for?

Also if anyone is interested in giving it a try with me, shoot me a message.

My reply to this thread was as follows;



Playing a dragon in Istaria isn't comparable to any other MMO experience I've had. I've never been much of an RPer, but I about five years ago I played a dragon on the Istaria RP server. I dabbled, but never really got into the RP community (a majority of which were content with logging on just to RP in the chat rooms and forums). However, I did still have a blast.

Leveling up in that game has a very nostalgic feel, because it's basically the embodiment of old school themepark. But the experience of going from a hatchling, to an adult, to an ancient is one of those gaming memories that will stick with you. Others are right in that it was grindy, but each step of the grind felt like it had a purpose, something most games can't manage.

The album uploaded backwards for some reason, so start from the bottom. I'm not sure, but I believe you can attain a similar experience as we did. I met the two other hatchlings that I ascended with early on. Both were more dedicated than I was, but we bonded because we had a similar goal. I've yet to have such a click as I did with those two in any other game. Sure, I've had great guilds and fantastic friends, but what we had in that game was more basic.

I knew nothing about them, they knew nothing about me. Yet we spent months together playing and enjoying the game. We were almost like siblings, which is something odd to say. The only game where I've managed to have interactions so pure was The Endless Forest, where there is no typing for communication. It was a true journey and achieving ascension to adulthood was a true quest. I'm doing a bad job of fully explaining the experience, but it's not something that can be really put into words. Almost like how a screenshot of VR can't really portray what the experience is truly like.

There was also a couple of older dragons, who I wish I could remember. I'm fairly certain they were German and a couple in real life. I could be wrong. But in-game they were always together. They acted as a sort of guide for me. They helped me a great deal, especially with some of the harder quests. They spent a lot of time sitting around in certain locations in the game, such as their lairs. Despite being able to PM them whenever, more often than not I would just visit the few places I knew I could normally find them and would talk to them in-person instead.

Another memorable player was a biped who I got help from repeatedly. He lent our group money so we could finance our first lairs. Myself and the other male of the group could pay for it ourselves, but the female of our group was a lower level and hadn't yet amassed enough gold in her journeys. I always felt bad that I never got to pay him back before I ended up quitting. He English wasn't the greatest, so trying to interpret what he was trying to say was an interesting experience.

The only reason I quit was because I moved to a different state and it wasn't until a few weeks after the move that I was in a position to start playing MMOs again. By time that happened, I had a much better computer. That, combined with the extended break from the game, made me more inclined to want to play other MMOs. I don't necessarily regret it... I ended up playing Mortal Online and arguably had more meaningful experiences in that game.

The world is... of a decent size. A lot of the game world seems rather barren, but that's because there is a land ownership/housing system. The games population isn't very big, so that means there's a lot of places that would have normally been populated left empty. During the months I played, though, I got the feeling I had only become familiar with a fraction of the locations. That could just be perspective, though.

As for disappointments, I would say there are two. First, the games population is quite small. Dedicated, but small. And second, the people that own and 'develop' the game are mostly in tweak mode. They aren't large enough or active enough to introduce much in the way of new features. So, that means if you like it when a game is constantly being updated and getting new content, you'll be disappointed. These two combined can make it feel like a dead game. I still suggest you at least try it, though. Preferably with a friend.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Back to Minecraft

After several years of neglect, I've decided to come back to Minecraft. Now is an amazing time to play the game because there are so many incredible modding projects going on. From MCMMO, Feed The Beast and all its modpacks, to Pixelmon and more. Personally, I've recently gotten hooked on Feed The Beast: Mage Quest and have gone so far as to create a server for my friends and I to play on. It's safe to say that I've got the Minecraft bug again.


Pixelmon has been one of my favorite Minecraft projects and is honestly the only reason I've even remembered Minecrafts existence the past few years. For the longest time, I would just check in every few months to see how Pixelmon has come along, not playing. There was a time when I played on a couple of servers almost religiously, putting in several hours a day. Playing on a good Pixelmon server is like playing the 3D Pokemon MMO fans of the franchise have always wanted.

Playing Pixelmon on single-player survival is a bit weird, though. The world feels a bit... pointless. Without people to play with, playing single player seems like a waste of time. The Pixelmon developers have been working to fix this, however, by implementing a new town system into the mod. This will replace the vanilla minecraft towns with something more fitting to the Pokemon theme, with NPCs, PokeCenters, trainers, and more. Though I'll probably stick to multiplayer even after that goes live.

Feed The Beast has proven to be something amazing. I've had friends tell me I should play in the past, but that only amounted to be thinking, "Feed the beast? That sounds dumb..." and then forgetting about it. I'm a bit glad that I waited, though, as there are a ton of Modpacks with some incredible mods included in them now. My personal favorite, so far, as been Mage Quest. This takes some of the biggest and most in-depth magic-based mods in Minecraft and puts them into one mystical world. These are Thaumcraft, Witchery (My personal favorite), Botania, and Blood Magic. A few "lesser" magic mods are thrown in as well, such as Necromancy and Archmagus.

After playing with FTB: Mage Quest in single player for a while, I couldn't help but think, "This would be so much more fun with other people" and went searching for a multiplayer server that used this modpack. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any. But I did find a fantastic server hosting service (CreeperHost, a partner of Feed The Beast). So I set up my own Mage Quest server and began inviting friends. As it stands, we're running FTB: Mage Quest, which is the only thing players need to download, with ForgeEssentials to enable plot claiming and an economy system.

For anyone interested in joining, head to ami-tab-ha.org to request access in the shotbox. Or you can hope on our TS3 server, ts3.ami-tab-ha.org, and ask there. We're set to whitelist (at least for now, that may change in the near future since we added land claiming).

That's about it for now. I'm thinking of setting up a second 'instance' on the server that runs Pixelmon but I'm not sure as of yet. Dragomon Hunter is the MMO I'm looking forward to in the near future. Aeria has a reputation (and not a good one), so I'm hesitant to put money into the game. But we'll see.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Age of Wushu Cash Shop Review

A thread popped up in the MMORPG Request section of the MMOHuts/OnRPG Forums, where people can request help with finding games for themselves to play, earlier today. In this thread, the user asked for a game that pay-to-win (meaning they could pay money to get good at the game) as they didn't want to/couldn't spend a lot of time in the game to get good and would rather pay money to be a top player. So, after thinking a moment, I replied with a suggestion for Age of Wushu. It's one of my all-time favorite games but there's no denying that it has become incredibly pay-to-win. Heck, you can even purchase unbound Liang (the currency used to sell items between players) from Snail USA now, completely bypassing the need for gold sellers. Though the gold seller do still exist and are still spamming the game horribly... Seems I can't walk through Chengdu without having to block at least six gold spammers.

That's what got me started on this idea to review the Cash Shop of Age of Wushu. Back when I last reviewed the game, I didn't really mention the Cash Shop. And, even if I had, the cash shop wasn't nearly as broken as it is now. Back then, you would have to pay a tops of $15 per month to easily stay on par with the rest of the player base. To me, that is a fair price as you could still be on par with some hard work and dedication and not spend a dime of real money.

But now it's different. Now you have the subscription ($10 a month, but you can upgrade to a more advanced form of premium account for another $5), mounts, Windrider's Potion, powerful skill sets that can only be gained through the Cash Shop, special lore items that range in cost from $30 all the way up to $300, bag expansions... It all adds up quickly. If you wanted to stay on par now, you would need to spend a minimum of $25 per month, or at least make enough in-game effort to be able to purchase $15 worth of cash shop items from players each month (as, so far as I know, you cannot trade any items that give premium subscription or send gold to other players, so it's impossible for non-payers to get premium).

  • $10 Subscription - allows you to have access to VIP-only content and the much-needed ability to cultivate skills while offline. 
  • $10 Mount - Needed for travel
  • $15 Windrider -  Potion that gives you a big bonus to run speed, but is only useable out of combat. Very convenient and necessary to stay on top during the "Script Stealing" events.
  • $9 18-Slot Bags - As the name suggest. It used to be that you could only get good bags from crafting.
  • (Optional)$9 Gathering Manuals - Vastly increases your gains from gathering, required to stay on par with bots when selling raw materials or for crafting if that's your thing.



So you would need to pay roughly $53 a month just to stay on par with the rest of the playbase. If you are a high-end player, you might be able to reduce the cost by buying things like your mount and Windrider's from players using Unbound Liang. But when you're saving up your your Liang/Ding, it's usually to purchase skill sets instead. Then there's the catch-22 where you will need a combination of high-end Mount and Windrider to be able to Script Steal just so you can make money, otherwise veterans will catch you and completely wreck you.

But that's not all. There are hundreds of dollars worth of items on the cash shop that can give you an advantage. And if that wasn't enough, Snail implemented the ability for players to purchase unbound Liang directly from them. However, I recently tried to click the "Silver Purchase" button and it brought me to a 404 page so I have to wonder if they are removing that service or if it's just a temporary error. I remember the price came out to a few dollars per hundred Liang, with one-thousand Liang making one Ding. The most rare items and skills cost several Ding.

Keep in mind that, as Snail only sails gold in packages, I am giving these prices in the closest package worth. For example, 50 Cash Shop Gold cost $15. So, while Windrider only costs 45 Gold, I put down $15. This causes you to put more money into the game than you need, though it does eventually sort of "even out" as you can accumulate enough 'extra' gold to purchase premium for a month or get yourself a month or something.

There you have it, a small break-down of the Age of Wushu (Snail USA) Cash shop. It's really disappointing, too. Back in the day, when the game was just just coming out of beta and was still fairly new in the West, at most you would need to pay $15 - a price that most people can deal with and accept. Occasionally they would come out with something expensive like a ferret - which I suppose was the first indicator. In the end, the amount of time and money I would have to invest to just to have a chance in PVP against those who have put hundreds or thousands of dollars into the game makes it unplayable for me.

I still enjoy logging on from time to time, doing a bit here and there, but I can't justify spending money on it nor spending any decent amount of time. Especially when the Customer Support is universally regarded as non-existent and when it does show up, it's usually in the form of broken or impossible to understand English. Unfortunately, I'm sure I'm not alone in this and that has lead to Age of Wushu suffering a population problem. It makes me wonder how long Age of Wushu will last. Maybe SnailUSA will pull off a miracle and save the game from itself? I can hope.


Friday, April 10, 2015

Haunted Empires + some other stuff

These past few days I've been playing a mobile game called Haunted Empire - Ghosts of the Three Kingdoms. This your typical "MMO"RPG mobile set-up, where you can summon units, discard those you don't need to improve the ones you do need, fight in the "arena," and plenty of other junk to keep you occupied. It's not a bad game, but it does do some odd stuff. Such as the combat being completely automated. Most games of these types (Brave Frontier, Summoners War) allow for at least some input while the fighting is going on. That's not to say that you aren't given some control; there are plenty of pre-battle options to tweak, such as your formation.

The game is fun, though perhaps not the best game of this type I've ever played. Summoners War still (for now) holds that title. One neat thing is that you really don't need to spend cash on the game. Sure, if you want to be the whale-of-whales and be the absolute top of the server list, paying will probably benefit you. Especially if you start on the server late. However, the game literally hands you gold whenever it can. For example, it gave me 300 gold just now for logging on today and that reward grows each day I log in. The game also likes to hand out ten gold coins for every other thing you do. I'm currently reviewing the game, so I should have the review out in a week or so and I'll link it then.

Another game I'm playing for review is Running With Rifles. It's a fantastic top-down shooter that I've been having a blast with. It's actually one of the better shooters I've played in general. Unfortunately, this is a game I haven't gotten a chance to play with anyone, so my sessions are usually short. Just a match at a time, usually. I'll be finish this review up today or tomorrow.

In other news, I've been getting a Harvest Moon bug again. With Stardew Valley development coming closer to release, I've been itching for a farming game to play. I broke out my old GameCube to play Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life and I've also stumbled upon an amazing Harvest Moon-like game called World's Dawn, which is completely free and already has a partial release. I've been having fun with World's Dawn the past few days, playing infrequently. I'm only about four hours into the game so far, but it's been great.

And that reminds me. I've downloaded a PSP Emulator to check out some of the homebrew games they offer. And that got me hankering to play a few other PSP games. So I dug that out. The games I want to play are (surprise!) Harvest Moon: Hero of Leaf Valley and Persona 3. Hero of Leaf Valley is actually a sort of remake of my least favorite Harvest Moon game, Save The Homeland for the PS2. The remake should be a lot better, as they add in the marriage system and tweak a few of the features to be more in-line with the Harvest Moon style.

I've never played a Persona game, but when I asked it was suggested I start with the third game before checking out the fourth. I don't know quite what to expect, just that it's sort of a life simulation game mixed with the fantasy elements that come from the Persona story. So hopefully it will be fun. In the past, I've thought of trying the game but I never end up going through with it. I'll also probably be checking out Rune Factory 3 within the next few weeks.

A last bit of news: I've started a Sandbox group on Steam. If you'd like to join, head over to here. Over the next few days I'll be updating the group with recommended sandbox games and whatnot. I'll also be writing a couple of other blog posts over the next few days. I'm currently working on an "Age of Wushu: Cash Shop Review" to help give people a more in-depth view of how the cash shop in AoW works, as well as a general descriptions of the stuff you can get with real money. I also want to compile a list of awesome Harvest Moon-inspired games like World's Dawn.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Mobile Suit Gundam Online: Battle Operation for the PS3

Earlier this morning I decided to look into a Gundam game I had read about a couple of years ago. That game, as the title of this post suggests, is Mobile Suit Gundam Online: Battle Operation. I was bummed to find that the game is restricted to Japan. Or that's what I thought, anyways. Further reading proved that it was quite possible to easily play the game from North America and that there was even a decent English-speaking community.

Flailthrough's videos were quite helpful when figuring out the game!


I'm not the biggest fan of Kotaku, but they did have a detailed guide (with pictures!) on how to set up your very own Japanese PSN account. No VPN is required, either, which is great. The gameplay of MSG:BO is essentially what I look for in a Mech game. First and foremost is what I call 'weight.' I absolutely hate it when a mech feels like there is no weight behind it. If I'm piloting a massive mechanical monstrosity, I want it to feel like it.And MSG:BO provides that feeling.

After that is "cockpit" view. This is where, at least as far as I can tell, MSG:BO falls short. It's a third-person shooter. There may be an option to play in a "first person cockpit" view, but I haven't been able to figure it out. If you read this and you know how, please tell. Anyways, MSG:BO doesn't meet expectations in this area, but this is about the only real disappointing thing in terms of game mechanics.

Next is customize-ability. You're able to customize various components of your mech and you can even paint it how you like. I've seen some videos of more advanced players that have some really odd looking mechs. There are also decals you can get, such as a "Sieg Zeon" sticker. I haven't messed with this part of the game yet, but the options are there.

One feature I always look forward to seeing in mech games is the ability actually get out of the mech and walk around as a person. This is the reason I loved MechWarrior: Living Legends (An extensive mod for Crysis Wars) so much. However, it's also a feature I rarely see. In MSG:BO, you CAN get out of your mobile suit and it is GLORIOUS! You can run around and make use of a jetpack. You will have several useful pieces of equipment at your disposal. Such as a rifle for taking out other pilots out of their suit, a bazooka for helping out against mobile suits and other armored units, flash grenades, and even a repair tool to repair your mobile suit. 

While you're out of your suit, you can also get in other vehicles. For example, there's a hover-bike type vehicle that comes with rocket launchers and a machine gun that is very maneuverable. I've also seen (and piloted) tanks. I'm not sure if there are more, as I've only played on a couple of maps. You can eject out of your mobile suit if it's taking heavy damage. The mobile suit is also on a different respawn timer than yourself. So you might eject out of your mobile suit, get stepped on immediately, and then respawn and find yourself without a suit for a little bit.

I know there are various game modes you can play, but so far I've only played a sort of Deathmatch-capture the point mix. Getting a fair fight can be difficult at the beginning as the basic suit you start out with is essentially trash. So your first few battles may not be very fun. Thankfully the "OH WOW!" factor should still be in play, so you can probably stick through it. It's last me about five games so far. And, as I watch videos and read guides, I'm learning more and more on how not to get completely destroyed by the pink laser-sword wielding Federation mobile suits.

I suppose I can say that I'm not a big fan of the games F2P Model. The biggest issue is the "Credit" system. Each match takes one credit. You can either buy credits for real money, sometimes get them from in-game means, or you can use the free credits. One free credit takes two hours to generate and you can have up to a maximum of three free credits at any one time. That means as a completely free-to-play play, you'll be able to play a maximum of three matches per six hour period. So, essentially, you'll play three matches, go to sleep, and then when you've come home from school/work/whatever, you'll play three more and that'll be it.

So far, though, the game seems like it may be worth investing in. It's kind of old (it originally came out in 2012), but the game play is very solid so far as I can tell. And between Dragonball Xenoverse, Mobile Suit Gundam Online, and SkyForge, I've gotten addicted to this sort of style of play. Speaking of Xenoverse, I may make a post about it soon. I haven't played much recently but I do have a character at about level 50. 

That's it for now. I'll more than likely make another post in a week or so that gives a better overview of the game. Also, the lack of pictures is because I currently do not have a way to take screenshots with my PS3. Other than my phone, anyways, and that wouldn't look that good.