December 23, 2010

It’s the Hols! Day 3

Woke late today to an early brunch. At 1.45pm I popped into school to observe a Dungeons & Dragons (DnD) session. For those wondering what a DnD session looks like, here you go:

Yes, a bunch of grown men huddled together staring at pieces of paper (character reference sheets) while moving tokens on pieces of paper and talking in turns. It is pretty amazing how Final Fantasy, Dragon’s Age, World of Warcraft and pretty much most RPGs are evolved from this single idea of roleplaying using dice and a table of values. More photos of the guys, this time with a game board:

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December 22, 2010

It’s the Hols! Day 2

Woke at 7am, had a very hearty breakfast consisting of eggs, ham, mash, mushroom soup, buttered bread and coffee. Gosh I feel fat writing about it.

Started editing the Human Race GDD while munching through the spread. List of amendments (crossed out indicates completed):

  • Be pronoun-neutral where possible.
  • List advantages of target platform (half done).
  • Highlight strengths of Human Race as compared to other existing products in the market analysis section.
  • Combine Sample Playthrough together with Design Setting section. Sample Playthrough should be placed after General Overview.
  • Remove arbitrary constant in the fulfillment equation.
  • Determine the typical number of Myers-Briggs questions as the industrial standard (88) .
  • Create a section within GDD to accomodate sample questions for the Myers-Briggs questions. (Verifying questions for inclusion)
  • Fully describe the Sample Playthrough, particularly actions taken by player Bill within a stage. Playthrough should fully describe at least a single game “turn”, the smallest iteration of a player’s decision-action sequence.
  • Are Xbox or other USB controllers supported out-of-box? If so, list controls and state explicitly if the controls can be modified by user.
  • Rework menu/screen flow chart into a proper decision flow chart. Use Visio if necessary. (In process of acquiring Visio for home com)
  • Describe elements of HUD in text to supplement mock-up picture.
  • Rework Resources section in Excel.

Lunch was light considering how heavy breakfast was, and then I sat down and got in a lot of time with Ace Combat 5.

The “leveling” system to unlock new planes within Ace Combat 5 is fairly interesting, although I definitely prefer the Ace Combat Zero’s method of achievement-related unlocking. Having to buy planes for my wing-mates is annoying because they really do little to support my fights except to pick off tails on my 6. After 1 playthrough of the game over all 27+1 stages, I have 766 kills versus a combined total of 110 kills for my other 3 wing mates. Arcade mode in AC5 is the biggest disappointment; I was expecting something along the lines of a rail shooter a’la Afterburner, not some empty stage with a kill counter and a mission to destroy X number of planes.

Evening, went to the pool for a swim. Very much out of practice, I could only manage 10 laps. Topped up the tank at the gas station, pumped the tyres, home for dinner.

Finished 3 more readings, more AC5 (completed first playthrough of game at about 1am), sleep at 2am. No nice pictures to share this time, but AC5 really is the most innovative of all the AC games. First you sink 1 submarine carrier that does an AOE that hits all targets below 500 feet.

Some stunt flying next, and typical Ace Combat fare (bombing runs, close air support, air superiority battles). Next you have to shoot down a stratospheric flying fortress that fires a freaking laser beam at anyone under it (and all its launchers/engines are on its underbelly).

After this you discover that the enemy wants to drop a colony, I mean an artificial satellite on your capital city a’la Gundam, so you got to pull off a Stars Wars number and perform a Trench run on an underground facility to take out its control facility because the Army just cannot seem to get vehicles there.

If all that was not enough, you have to shoot down a falling artificial satelite that looks suspiciously like an [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Island_Three]O’Neill cylinder[/url]:

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December 21, 2010

It’s the Hols! Day 1

Starting from 20th Dec 2010, I have a 3 week break (lasting till 10th Jan). Just to keep myself motivated and focused on the stuff I need to do, I decided to maintain an informal log of my activities over this 3 weeks…

(Besides, I really need the practice in writing.)

20th Dec 2010, Monday
Woke at noon, ‘coz I partied too hard at Audrey’s & Leow’s place the night before. Brunch, worked out some tasks to complete during the hols, list as follows:

  • Revise Human Race GDD as discussed in the meeting: schoolwork that has to be done, and the list of changes covers an entire A4 page.
  • Complete the DnD Character sheet for my half orc Warden: better do this by Tue so I can get Leonard to vet for the next chapter in his campaign.
  • Tar, Road & Santa v2 board game: I need to read my observations & analysis to get back up to speed on the changes the me of 2 months ago decided.
  • Start Push/Pull GDD: The germ of that game idea really needs to be put down on “paper”.
  • Finish the present batch of readings: Readings have been piling up on my inbox for the past month, it’s time to make a sizable dent.
  • Finish uncompleted games: Incomplete list of games uncompleted: Persona 3 (Last 2 months of the game-year), Ace Combat 5 (loan from Poon), Ace Combat Zero (3rd Ace path and Bronze Wing achievement), Front Mission 4 (Last simulator mission and last story mission), Fate Unlimited Codes (do 1 playthrough and figure out the mechanics), Shatter (2nd world and counting)
  • End of Year Budget: Time to tally up my expanses and see how much I saved over the year. I can’t make my 20k saving goal (income 1/3 of projection because I quit my teaching job) but I should still be able to make my saving/spending ratio.

So first up: Ace Combat Zero. Finished the Knight Ace playthrough, but Mission 18 ended in a A rank… no Bronze Wing. Unlocked the 2 super planes though (Falken and Morgan) which look really sweet, especially the 360 panorama view screen in cockpit view. I will push the Bronze Wing back together with getting all the Knight path assault records, need to make a list of names and stages.

Ace Combat 5 next. If there is 1 thing that Ace Combat 5 has, it’s cinematics. A lot of it. Finished up till mission 7 with a mixed bag of ranks. Having to repeat an entire mission if you die at any part can get extremely tiresome.

Dinner started late, at about 6.40pm. Had to rush through dinner because I have to attend this concert down at Singapore Conference Hall.

Still ended up late, missing the first piece on the repertoire. El Camino Real was not bad, the enka medley would have been better with a singer, the choice of Japanese anime theme (Galaxy Train 999, Space Battleship Yamato) is unfortunate because it’s not that well-known in Singapore, even with the “revival” Yamato movie out recently. My favourite would be the Riverdance piece, Rwinds should introduce more energetic pieces in future performances.

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November 2, 2010

Happy Halloween – The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe


The Raven, as performed by John de Lancie

The Raven

by Edgar Allan Poe

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore–
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“‘Tis some visiter,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door–
Only this and nothing more.”

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;–vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow–sorrow for the lost Lenore–
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore–
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me–filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
“‘Tis some visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door–
Some late visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door;
This it is and nothing more.”

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you”–here I opened wide the door–
Darkness there and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “Lenore?”
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “Lenore!”–
Merely this and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my sour within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping something louder than before.
“Surely,” said I, “surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see, then, what thereat is and this mystery explore–
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;–
‘Tis the wind and nothing more.

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore.
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he,
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door–
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door–
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then the ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore–
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning–little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door–
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as “Nevermore.”

But the Raven, sitting lonely on that placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if its soul in that one word he did outpour
Nothing farther then he uttered; not a feather then he fluttered–
Till I scarcely more than muttered: “Other friends have flown before–
On the morrow he will leave me, as my Hopes have flown before.”
Then the bird said “Nevermore.”

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
“Doubtless,” said I, “what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore–
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
Of ‘Never–nevermore.'”

But the Raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore–
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking “Nevermore.”

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion’s velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o’er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o’er
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
“Wretch,” I cried, “thy God hath lent thee–by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite–respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!–prophet still, if bird or devil!–
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate, yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted–
On this home by Horror haunted–tell me truly, I implore–
Is there–is there balm in Gilead?–tell me–tell me, I implore!”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!–prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us–by that God we both adore–
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore–
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

“Be that our sign of parting, bird or fiend!” I shrieked, upstarting–
“Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul has spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!–quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming
And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadows on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted–nevermore!

Resources:

Further Reading (Wikipedia):
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Raven

Full Text of Poem taken from Every Poet:
http://www.everypoet.com/archive/poetry/Edgar_Allen_Poe/edgar_allen_poe_the_raven.htm

August 22, 2010

Weekly Music Pick – Queen’s Blade Themes

This week’s music pick is an orchestral piece from a fairly recent anime, Queen’s Blade.


Queen’s Blade Main Theme 1

Queen’s Blade is an ecchi series of “visual combat” books, which are essentially books that lets the reader choose the protagonist’s path by turning to the relevant page.

The Queen’s Blade books enjoyed cult success, and in 2009 was made into an anime, enjoying 2 season runs of 12 episodes each. Personally, the anime’s plot was terrible, a stereotypical hero’s journey involving scantily clad women with out of the world proportions. If that does not stretch your disbelief, try a slime shaped in a busty woman that shoots acidic milk out of her mammaries (Melona for those wondering), or fighting that involves more cloth ripping than blood spilled.

What saved the anime from eternal damnation were a few pluses: the pacing is better than most anime and voice-acting is top notch, involving famous names in the field like Rie Tanaka, Yuko Goto and Rie Kugimiya etc. Another major factor is the memorable soundtrack, especially the pieces that play during high tension scenes.

The main theme of Queen’s Blade, simply titled “Queen’s Blade Main Theme” in the OST, is actually 2 songs, part 1 and part 2. The 2 parts differ in the introductory section and the portion prior to the main refrain, mainly because of the situations in which they were used: Part 1 was used in the anime’s introduction while part 2 plays during comebacks from a disadvantageous situation. In both cases, the main theme actually refers to the main refrain, a series of string sections that form a rising crescendo. Continue reading

August 18, 2010

Weekly Music Pick – Raise Me Up

For those wondering, Derek Redmond was a favourite coming into the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, after a shock victory over the American athletics team in the 1991 World Championship 4x400m relay.

The fateful event happened during the semi-finals. As stated within the video, 150m into the race Redmond tore his hamstring and collapsed on the track. As paramedics came to assist, he would wave them off and then started to hobble towards the finish line, 250m away. 65,000 spectators watched in silence as Redmond and his father, having braved security to support his son, hobbled the remaining distance to the finish line. At the end, Redmond finished with a standing ovation from the spectators.

2 years after, Redmond would retire from athletics due to injuries, but he never gave up on representing his nation in other events.

This week marks the first week of YOG competitions, so something a bit more uplifting is in order. “You raise Me up” is a 2002 song originally sung by Irish singer Brian Kennedy for the Secret Garden album “Once in a Red Moon”. The song sold well in its home market but true popularity would only come after several notable covers, WestLife among other acts.

The melody of the song is derived from Danny Boy, a popular Irish folk song (lyrics written by an Englishman), which in turn was based on Londonderry Air. A copy of the songs are listed below for your listening pleasure/comparison.

August 9, 2010

Weekly Music Pick National Day Edition – Baby I’m a Fool

This week’s music pick coincides with National Day, but instead of blaring some nationalistic song, why not kick back and listen to some cool groove as we welcome this new day?

Baby I’m a Fool by Melody Gardot is a jazz piece, reminiscent of such 40s-50s era crooning songs such as Fly me to the Moon and Dream a Little Dream (of Me).

August 2, 2010

Weekly Music Pick – August

This week’s pick is a tribute to 2 persons.

As a decade, the 2000s was marked by the growth and maturing of the Internet as a medium. That maturing within the music industry often takes on the feel of a crusade, with the RIAA leading the charge against weapons of mass destruction, real and imaginary. It is funny how amidst the bullets between RIAA and the greater public that 1 of the greatest hopes of the Internet was to showcase independent acts that otherwise would not have the muscle to step into the limelight.

Julia Nunes, an independent singer with her own (cute) homepage and (very commercial) music selection, is 1 such act.

For those who fancy her singing, you can go to her homepage and gawk at her repertoire of pieces (3 EPs, 30+ songs and counting).

Julia Nunes Home

Or, you can support music and pay that dollar to own the right to play those songs on your Ipod/Iphone/Iwhatever.

Julia Nunes Songs

I am NOT Julia Nunes. Just to be perfectly clear, of course.

July 20, 2010

Weekly Music Pick – Wanderer on the Offensive/The Opened Way

This week’s music pick is not just 1 song, but rather almost 2, namely a remix and its original arrangement. This should cover my earlier absences, due to my overseas trip to the US.

Below is the OC-remixed version, entitled “Wanderer on the Offensive”. The remix re-imagines “The Opened Way” from the Shadow of the Colossus, if the Wanderer was an offspring of Dante the Demon Hunter that is. (Hint:  DMC)

For those unfamiliar with the term “oc-remix,” it stands for OverClocked Remi, which is the term given to remixes produced by what is possibly the largest video-game community Continue reading

June 21, 2010

Weekly Music: Sekai ga Owaru made ha

This week’s pick comes from the famous Slam Dunk anime back in the mid-90s. Band that performed this song is called Wands (ワンズ), which was disbanded in 2000.


Short version Continue reading