Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Look into the Fowl - part 1

    Hey everyone!  So I was thinking that I haven't written in ages and I wanted to try something new and see how I like it.  I'm taking a page from an entertaining blogger, Mark Reads ( who is pretty hilarious as well as insightful.  Basically, he reads through a book and then posts a blog on that chapter.  He has book predictions and insights with a mix of freaking out that seems common on the internet.  Now, I was thinking of reading The Way of Kings again and doing that but then I remembered that I'm not suicidal nor overly insane.  The Way of Kings is freaking long!  Instead I'm going to reread The Artemis Fowl books and do those!  They are easy to read and I love them.  I can't really do the same thing as Mark since I've read these before so I suppose it'll be more like the rereads that take place on I honestly haven't read them but the idea should be similar.  These may be boring, they may be pointless but I will try to finish at least the first book.  If it goes well I may continue and keep writing on reading.  Then read more well written writings and write further on said readings.  Pip pip and all that.


    First: a small bit of background on Artemis Fowl as well as our history.  Not me and Artemis himself, of course, but my enjoyment of the series.  Artemis Fowl is a book series by Eoin Colfer published in 2001 through 2012 in which the eighth and final book was published.  I own and have read the first 6 but not the last two.  Should I get that far, you'll be getting my first impressions!  In any case, I read the first few as they came out and I slowly stopped reading them as soon as they released.  It wasn't that they aren't good but my attention span was even shorter then than it is now and every time a new book came out I wanted to reread the older ones.  It was just too much effort and I fell out of reading the series.  That was around book 4.  So I've read these books a number of times before and as we go further into the series I'll know them less well.  Even so, it has been a long time and I've never before gleaned as much as I could from them but rather read it as a light story.  That isn't bad but now I'm going to try and look deeper, sharing anything I find with you! Now, on to the actual meat of this blog!



    The prologue here is short and sweet.  Barely a full page of writing, if even.  As such there isn't much to get from it but it does set up a few key points.  Artemis Fowl is a genius of unknown capacity and he dedicates said brilliance to criminal endeavors.  The story is "written" by someone who has studied these events as an outside observer via firsthand accounts.  However, it is mostly written as a normal story with only the prologue and epilogue reading as a case study.  The other things to note here are that it takes place in early 2000s, Artemis's family fortune is lost somehow and he is currently 12 years old. 

Chapter 1

Here's what happens:  Artemis Fowl and Butler are introduced in Ho Chi Minh City looking for something.  They meet up with an informant, Nguyen (which I still can never pronounce for the life of me.  Seriously.  Nguyen.), and after thoroughly scaring the man, they are led to an old healer with mottled green skin.  After they find her Artemis pays the man and strikes a deal with the healer who is, in fact a sprite of some kind. A fairy, if you will.  She is addicted to alcohol and with this; Atremis ruthlessly poisons her, giving her some made from holy water.  In exchange for a cure as well as something to restore her to her previous magical, non-addicted self, he wants a her book.  Make that her Book; it is capitalized with all the importance of a proper noun.  He only wants it for 30 minutes.  After she agrees he has Butler take pictures of it and sends those pictures back to the Fowl computer servers via email.  There is some history on the Butler family and then we learn a bit more about how Artemis operates.

Characterization: Alright, so that's what generally happens but what do we learn? What can we take away from this about the characters?  Well, the only two that really matter here are Artemis and Butler so let's start with Butler, a side character.  Butler is a bad-ass.  That's really the best descriptor for the man.  He is Eurasian which is a mix of (gasp!) European and Asian.  He is giant.  We don't actually get much description in this chapter, instead we let our imaginations run wild with the beast of a man.  We learn that all the Butlers get training in many skills to guard members of the Fowl family.  Starting at ten they learn "Cordon Bleu cooking, marksmanship, a customized martial arts form, emergency medicine, and information technology".  Butler has been serving Artemis for the entirety of the young Fowl's life and in fact, is the closest he has to a father figure.  We also learn that he trusts Artemis implicitly though isn't above asking about his plans for clarification.  He has full faith in him and is unwavering in his loyalty.  He is ruthless as is seen when he breaks a pickpocket's fingers without even looking his way.

Butler's Head is Shiny

    Next up is Artemis.  Artemis Fowl II to be precise.  Physically, he is a very pale and thin boy.  IN fact, he is described as vampiric.  It's actually pretty difficult to separate my own knowledge from what we learn only in this chapter.  He seems to remain very calm and is highly observant.  He is persistent in his goals as they looked at 6 places that all turned up as nothing before they got this find.  His observational skills are shown early in his interaction with Nguyen and it's actually very similar to the film or television adaptations of Sherlock Holmes.  He seems very ruthless and also enjoys tormenting the informant.  However, while he may enjoy it, I believe he did it for the more practical reason of making him more pliable and less likely to try anything to offset his plans somehow.  One thing is made clear in this chapter: Artemis doesn't leave things to chance if he can help it.  He does as much research as he can on the subject before even beginning his venture (which, considering he is dealing with fairies is actually very impressive as he has to sort out facts from the bull).  He poisons the fairy healer in order to assure her cooperation, he makes sure to send the picture files of the Book back to his home so they wouldn't be accidentally wiped by airport security, and at the end of the chapter we learned that he let the fairy live so that The People (who are just mentioned barely) wouldn't suspect anything.  He assumes that the fairy wouldn't talk about her showing the Book to a human but to make sure of it, he slipped a mild amnesiac into her second injection so that the entire last week will be nothing but a blur.  He operates like a chess grand-master and is always two steps ahead.  Something else I'd like to point out is that Butler is surprised that Artemis didn't have her killed.  This implies to me that he has done so before as a way to avoid arousing suspicion.  Oh yes, and Artemis is Irish. 

I really like Artemis Fowl stuff done in an anime style...

I didn't get much else out of these first chapters though we did learn that fairies can fly and also are magical in both nature and abilities.  They can heal and normally are (supposedly) able to use it offensively as well.  One thing I have to include is the list of weaponry Butler has just on his person during this outing: "... has a Sig Sauer in his shoulder holster, two shrike-throwing knives in his boots, a derringer two-shot up his sleeve, garrotte wire in his watch, and three stun grenades concealed in various pockets. ... Oh, yes. a good old ball-bearing cosh stuffed down his shirt." Also, "No, Butler could kill you a hundred different ways without the use of his weapons.  Though I'm sure one would be quite sufficient."  I'd like to reiterate that Butler is a bad-ass.


    My general impressions of this first chapter are positive (naturally) it makes the characters intriguing and pulls you into the story by making you wonder just what is going on; what are the fairies really, who are these two people, and most importantly: what do they have planned?  I unfortunately already know the answers to these but it'll be interesting to see how things go as I look into each chunk of the book more in depth.  I'll probably do more than one chapter at a time but it's really late and this took longer than I suspected as it is.  Hope you enjoyed! If so, you should let me know and I'll feel that I'm doing this for more than just myself.  Not that I mind of course, it's a good exercise even if I didn't want to read these books again!  The hardest part will be putting it down and writing these out!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Vaelina's Resolve

    The answer was death.  It had taken a long time for Vaelina to come to that conclusion but it really was her best course of action.  The light of the moon cast an eerie glow over the cliff edge and the silent figure standing at its edge.  It was high enough she figured; if it wasn't and she missed all the rocks, the water would certainly finish the job.  She looked to her feet, a flash of doubt coming into her eyes.  With a few thoughts she banished it, however. This wasn't a decision she had come to lightly...


    Tears were flowing freely down Vaelina's cheeks and she watched the second coffin descend into the sodden earth.  She felt as though it should be raining but the world didn't follow her emotions.  At least the sun wasn't shining and instead there were clouds covering the sky, thick with a downpour to come.  It was as if the sky was trying to hold back its tears at the death of her children.  The murder of her children.  This coffin was small, and it held her youngest, a daughter named Marie.  She had only been nearly a year old and her son had just had his fourth birthday.  Geoffrey and Marie were her reason to live.  They comprised her entire purpose in life and making sure they grew up well and happy was everything she wanted.  Watching them was the only thing that made her happy.

    Her husband, Lord Terrence Practon, wrapped his arm around her shoulders in a show of comfort for the other nobles who had attended out of respect for the distinguished – and quite rich – Lord Practon.  She flinched away instinctively but he held her firm.  Her tears started to slow though her sadness hadn't ebbed in the least.  She was growing angry; she was angry at The Powers, the world's cruelty, but most of all she was angry at her husband.  She loathed him.  Hated him.  Despite this, there was nothing she could do to that would help.  


    Vaelina had been married to Lord Practon in the typical manner.  Her father had seen his growing popularity and wealth so he forged a link between their houses using her to do so.  At first she had been against the idea.  She had always imagined finding the right man herself and her father would either approve or they would run away together, maybe head for Alandrast where you could live in peace so long as you weren't powerful.  That wasn't how it happened though and she couldn't help being disappointed.  However, it was short lived and she decided she'd make the most of her situation and be happy in spite of her father.  She began to ask around about her betrothed and learned quite a bit from other nobles that visited her father.  Unfortunately, she wasn't allowed to leave the manor and ask more reliable sources so that her purity would be the same as it was when her dowry was agreed upon.  She was fairly pleased with her father's choice though.  Lord Terrence Practon was said to be gentle and kind with everyone, even his servants.  He was loved by many in court and she was a point of admiration by the other noble women for landing such a fine husband.  He was originally thought weak due to his gentle disposition but he proved a shrewd and ruthless businessman and smooth-talker.  He won favor of many prominent houses which quickly made him many lucrative deals increasing his prominence further.  Some still looked down on him since his money wasn't old but few cared enough about that when he was such an important figure.

    They were married soon after the original arrangements and her life seemed to be looking up.  He stood in front of her with the priest at their side and his eyes seemed to pierce her soul forcing her to suppress a shudder.  They had never seen the other before and his eyes seemed... hungry.  She tore her eyes away from his to look at him and he was even more handsome than the rumors had led her to believe.  He was not too heavily muscled as he is noble but quite well sculpted.  His face was handsome and she had never dreamed she'd even see a man so beautiful.  His jaw was firm and he smiled lightly.  When she looked back at his eyes they were soft and kind.  She completely forgot her initial impression.


    Disillusioned was the best term she could think of for herself.  The other was often stupid but that's hardly best.  Her husband wasn't the angel he was known as socially but a demon in disguise.  Her side ached from the most recent night he was home.  Most of the other bruises had faded but not this one.  It was still large and discolored her skin along most of her lower ribs.  He had kicked her hard in the ribs.  He never hurt her face though.  If one of his noble friends wanted to spend time talking or drinking at Practon's manor she couldn't have her face affected.  If she misbehaved even slightly during these visits the beatings were worse that night.  She fought back each time but she was small and he could easily overpower her even when drunk.  She wasn't the only one he mistreated either; the servants were terrified and for good reason.  He was good about not killing them but he could make their existence miserable.  No one would care either should he decide to outright torture them.  They were only servants.  Apparently the rumor of his kindness was from social events and that none of his slaves had died from beatings since he arrived.  None of them would dare raise a hand to help her.  To them, she was just a bad as him for being born noble and she deserved how he treated her.  

    It had been a couple weeks since he was back and things had started to seem peaceful.  She was trying to devise a way to escape or fix things but it wasn't going well.  As his wife she was his property and had very few rights.  If she tried to leave the country they would check for her noble markings (and see her wife's brand) and be refused exit without her husband.  She couldn't just run away and stay either and he would organize a search and the beating that would follow being found... It was unimaginable.  She knew that staying here alone was pointless and would only bring her more misery and pain but she was scared.  She couldn't help it.  She wanted to fight back and disobey or leave and escape but anything she did was met with such pain... Her best recourse seemed to be trying to sneak past the border patrol and so, decided, she was going through her preparations to leave so she could the next time her husband did.  That way it would be longer before anyone noticed her absence.  However, as she was going over things in her head she realized something.  She was late.  It wasn't just a day either as that wasn't too unusual for her.  She was nearly a week late.  She was pregnant.  It wasn't all that surprising considering every beating had been followed with her husband satisfying himself but it was still shocking.  Nothing could have prepared her for the feeling inside her as she knew she was mother to her child.  Her child.

    She knew she couldn't leave while she was pregnant as she would barely be able to provide for herself even if she managed to get out.  She had to protect her child at all costs, including her own well being.  For the duration of the pregnancy her husband nearly killed dozens of servants since he was unable to do so to her.  Afterwards he naturally took many of them the same way he would have with her.  They were all his property and he could do as he pleased.  Only she held his heir.  Once the child was born her old situation came back to her but in spite of her anger and desire to leave she needed to do what was best for her children.  She had some reprieve around a year later during her second pregnancy.  Unfortunately her second son was silent as he was brought into the world already having passed from it.  It wasn't long after that her bones were being set by a doctor for her "fall" down the stairs.  She was only mostly healed when her life returned to its hellish ways.  Her son was growing up though and about two years old.  He was handsome and bright for a child.  A few months later Vaelina was pregnant once more.  After bringing Marie into the world, she was happy to keep her husband's attention on her instead of the children.

    A year passed in the typical manner but one night was different.  Geoffery had just turned four a few days ago and felt like a real man.  Lord Practon was already drunk when he got home and he drank even more.  The way he was looking at Vaelina made her wish she had some way to dull the pain.  That evening he was more brutal than normal and she was aching all over, multiple bruises forming.  He had just broken her arm eliciting her first scream of the night and he grinned wickedly.  She looked up at him and saw him grinning down like a feral demon excited by the blood and pain.  He told her to get up for him.  She knew if she didn't he may break more of her bones so favoring one arm she pushed herself up and to her feet.  Anger and pain flashed through her eyes as he grabbed her broken arm.  Seeing resistance in her he instinctively backhanded her across the face, splitting her lip and knocking her back to the ground.  Head ringing, she looked looked up through blurry eyes in time to see her son come in and run at her husband.  He spun around, grabbed him and threw him back toward the door where his head impacted with the edge hard and he fell to the floor, utterly still.  The ringing in her ears started to clear and she heard Marie's screaming and crying from the crib nearby.  Head aching and still rattled she was torn between which child to run to.  She needed to go to both but couldn't get up.  As she was struggling to clear her head and help her children, Lord Practon stalked over to the crib and kicked it hard.  It flew across the room and landed sideways, ejecting the contents even further.  The room was silent except for the ringing in her ears.


    Vaelina lay in her bed after the funeral hating the man next to her.  He ruined her life, beat her regularly, killed her children, and had the gall to try to keep up appearances by comforting her in public.  She couldn't do anything about it though.  The story was of a break in by a servant angry at the nobles.  Practon had killed one of them to make the story more believable   His body had been tossed into the desert to the east for the animals: the most shameful treatment of a body there is.  Vaelina wished that it was her husband treated that way but no one would believe her even if she did anything.  If she confronted her husband directly he would lock her away where she couldn't do anything.  Anyone else would think she had lost her mind along with her children and she would be locked up elsewhere.  She wasn't allowed to get a divorce unless he wanted one and that wasn't going to happen.  Escape was even more unlikely with him staying home for a while to "keep her safe".  There was only one thing left.


    Vaelina looked at the water below the cliff.  It was beautiful; the rushing water reflected the moonlight.  She had always been thoughtful and resourceful.  Now, after her five years of marriage, she was also more experienced than any other 20 years old in the country.  Her marriage had been miserable and there was nothing left for her here.  There was only one thing left to do...  She steeled her nerve and pushed the unconscious drugged body of her husband off the ledge.  She watched as her old life fell limply toward its end.  It was high enough she couldn't hear a thing as the bastard's body crashed violently against the rocks and water below.  The answer was death.


Wiping her hands she walked off south in the moonlight toward Alandrast to find her future.  She was hopeful it would be happy but she knew better than to be too hopeful so she walked on.  The warmth of freedom from her bonds tinged with the cold of losing her children settled across her shoulders.  Her thoughts were running in circles so she focused on her plans to cross the border without getting caught and contingencies for if she walked, alone.  However, she wasn't actually alone.  Death must have though her a fine traveling companion and he walked with her, unseen, smiling at the thought of taking her husband where he belonged and the future of Vaelina who he really was rather fond of.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Exploits and Bugs Assignment

This was my assignment for the first week of my class and I felt like it made a good blog post so I hope you enjoy!

Pick a game you've played and discuss two bugs or exploits you encountered while playing. You will need to play close attention in order to find some of these bugs, but they are there. Write 250 words with your analysis. In order get full credit the analysis must include:
  • Title, genre, and platform of the game
  • How much time you played in order to discover 2 exploits
  • Full description of the bugs - what happened, when, where, what were you doing
  • Discuss if the bugs are software or design related
  • Suggest a possible solution for the bugs 

                As I began thinking about this assignment I was going over various exploits that I had found and used or decided against using more than particular bugs I had found.  Since the main two things I’m going to describe are exploits I will also include a third encounter with an easily explained bug I stumbled into.

                The first exploit I’ll get into is the simpler of the two and one I discovered completely on my own.  Skyrim is an enormous open world role-playing game which allows you to play in a ton of different ways.  It has more rich content than any other game I’ve played; it follows that it’s also one of the buggier games due to that though.  I play it on the PlayStation 3 and discovered this with my second character, so probably between twenty-five and thirty hours of gameplay.  The exploit is quite simple: when you pay a trainer to teach you, upgrading your skill, the money goes into their inventory and when those trainers are your followers you can access that inventory retrieving that money.  So one of the early followers, Faendal, can train you in archery up to I believe 50 skill level.  You can only be trained five times per level but near the start it doesn’t take much more than that to level up.  Faendal can be you follower and then after you train, ask to trade some things with him and take your money right back.   Not only does this allow you to level up very quickly, you also get a useful, if not main, combat skill upgraded.  Personally, I decided not to use this since it cheapened the game for me.  I tend to feel this way about exploits but for the most part I don’t mind them being in a game.  This one would be a pretty easy to fix one though as it’s a design feature.  You could simply remove the gold from the world entirely when you pay for a trainer though this would slightly lessen immersion since it would just vanish.  A better solution would be to put that money into the same type of inventory that keeps their clothes and extra weapons.  For example, Faendal will always have a set of clothes, a dagger, and a bow no matter how much you take from his inventory.  Then, you could have that gold drop should you choose to kill him.  The inventory you can access could be more of what he’s holding for you.  He wouldn’t likely just give you back all the money he earned from teaching you after all.  The gold could also be reset every so many in game days as well, just like most containers in the game.

I can never decide if he bothers me or not...
Ah well, better than Sven! Bloody Bards -.-
                This next exploit is quite a bit more complicated so I’ll try to keep it simple.  Fire Emblem on the Gameboy Advance is a tactical/strategic role-playing game.  I discovered the feature (as it is intended, just not exploiting it) on my own after about maybe 4 hours in or so the first time I lost a character.  When I restarted the game, it loaded right before the fight and I just lost the character again.  In essence I had discovered the slightly less than random Random Number Generator (RNG from now on).  I didn’t really understand though and only got a better inkling later when I leveled up after a fight and had almost nothing upgrade for my character. I wanted to make sure I hadn’t done something wrong so I looked it up.  I only properly understood with a fair amount of research about it on my part.  Fire Emblem uses a series of numbers previously generated that range from 0 to 99.  Every time there is a random event in the game such as hit chance, critical chance, chance of a special one-hit-KO activating, stats improving at level up, etc. it uses one to two numbers.

The method for exploitation comes from the numbers all having been set up before you start and using the movement paths to figure out if they are generally “high” or “low”.   Say one character can move five spaces.  You set the movement path as one right, one down, two left, and one up.  You have used the max amount of movement to go one space left.  If you move the path one more space up, what path will be drawn?  Will it be up then left or left then up?  The creators decided to use the RNG to determine this.  If the next number is “high” (50-99) it will be left or right first and if it is “low” (0-49) it will be a vertical path first.  So you save the game (it autoaves after every confirmed action) and check movements from which you can get a list of high or low values.  Then you reset the game and you have a general list of all the random rolls you’ll get.  It’s impossible to be perfectly precise but this is still a huge advantage.  In fire emblem, lower is better.  If the chance of getting a crit is 25 percent then a value below 25 will succeed.

To use this knowledge you can either figure out the projected battle outcomes or use it to dramatically improve your stat gains.  The latter is more interesting and the only thing I considered using it for.  First, get a character close to level up and next to an enemy they can kill.  Then make a list of high and low values from the paths and find a string of mostly low values (7 is the best since that is how many stats might be improved).  Then you work backwards; you attack first, the hit chance is calculated with two numbers in every game released outside Japan, and if you hit, then there is a number for the critical chance.  If the enemy survives then they get the same thing (if they miss, there isn’t a number used for the critical roll) before a second attack that once again uses 3 numbers.  So if you are killing the enemy with one move it will only take the 3 numbers before.  If, however, you are killing them after their retaliation then it will be seven to nine numbers before (depending on if you miss the first attack and if they hit). Once you figure that out, you load up the save before you calculated the numbers and use the same trick of the path to use up the numbers before where the attacks should start.  After all your work, the character will level up and get a large number of their stats increased making them much more powerful than they would probably be.

This would make me smile.
Personally, I find this exploit to be not only a ton of work but not important.  I find it more interesting to have the random aspects of the leveling up prevalent.  It increases both excitement and replayability for me.  If the makers wanted to take this capability out of the game there are a few methods I thought up.  You could have the numbers recalculated every time you load up the game but then people could do something similar where they just keep reloading to get a good outcome.  A much better and simpler method would be to have the paths prioritize going either horizontal or vertical (I’m partial to vertical).  Then there would be no way to determine what the RNG numbers are even generally and it would be as if the game was generating a number every time.

Now, as I mentioned, I did want to do a third one quickly on the bug I found a while back.  My sister and I were playing Lego Harry Potter, an action adventure game, on PlayStation 3 when we encountered a game-breaking glitch.  We were playing very thoroughly and it was around 75 percent of the way through so we had probably played somewhere around 15 hours.  This was a software glitch, unlike the last two exploits.  We jumped into a trapdoor, down into a secret area.  It autosaved as we entered that place but after solving the puzzle, the thing that was supposed to bounce us up and out didn’t actually get us out, just up.  No matter what we did, we couldn’t leave that small room and since it had saved, there was no way to continue.  We had to quit and eventually play back up to that point.  They did fix this but at the time it was completely awful.  To fix it, I assume they fixed either the launcher or the room exit location so that it would actually get you out when it was supposed to.

Sirius only kind of dies. Cause... He's a Lego.

All RNG details were obtained from:
                “Random Number Generator FAQ” by Misael Villegas

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

On Magic

    I was having trouble thinking up something to talk about for this blog but I still felt like writing.  I wanted to type and I wanted to create.  There really wasn't anything coming to my head though so I decided to go back to some old topics I've considered writing on.  Now, I'm no expert by any stretch of the word on writing.  Despite that, I'd like to talk about magic systems in writing.  Most specifically "soft" and "hard" magic systems.  A lot of this information and these opinions are from a small work Brandon Sanderson did called "Sanderson's First Law" and I may touch on some topics he wrote in his second law as well.  Here's a link if you'd rather read about the laws:

    So magic is incredibly interesting.  In many novels it is the driving force behind all the politics, adventure, mysteries, etc.  Magic often helps if not outright carries the plot.  This isn't a bad thing necessarily!  In the Harry Potter Books, magic is so central to everything in the wizarding world and all the story can be linked to magical events or magic itself.  Harry Potter is also fantastic so this clearly isn't bad.  Magic is a wondrous force of some kind that helps define the fantasy genre though isn't required for it.

    Let's look at what I mentioned briefly: soft and hard magic.  Nothing about magic is defined in reality and fantasy can throw out the rules it wants to anyway so long as there's a good enough explanation.  However, some magic has very little explanation and this is called soft magic.  A lot of Sanderson's first law deals with how much characters can rely on the magic for your plot to be successful.  The less well explained the magic is the less it can be relied on or it will feel too much like deus ex machina.  That doesn't mean soft magic systems have no place in books mind you!  Just that the heroes can't solve all their problems with it.  For example, in Lord of the Rings there isn't much explanation of what Wizards are or how they do their magic nor the elvish magic.  Despite this there is well used magic throughout that doesn't hurt the story.

    An example of hard magic that comes to mind is in one of Sanderson's books, Mistborn.  Other than that I'm having trouble thinking of any good examples...  In Mistborn, the magic system is called Allomancy and the rules are defined very sharply.  They are also pretty simple for the most part and it's in tandem with everything else that makes it exciting.  There are also a few unexplained (to start) exceptions to the rules that keep a good amount of mystery.

    Most magic systems are much more in between than these examples and lean one way or another.  Harry Potter has a pretty soft magic system.  Some things are explained but for the most part you can do whatever you'd like with magic. However, the characters cannot due to skill or experience so they still have to rely on using other things to solve their problems quite often.  An example of a mostly hard magic system is the alchemy in Fullmetal Alchemist.  You could actually make an argument that this system of magic is entirely a hard system but it's tough to draw any lines with these.  In Fullmetal Alchemist you are able to transmute a set of materials to their equivalent in a different form.  If you want to make wood you need the proper elements to do so: to my knowledge that's entirely hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen.  So if you take something with carbon such as coal (which also has hydrogen and oxygen by the way) with the right amount of water you could create a tree.  Which means you could also create paper or a clock's body (you'd probably need metal for the gears).  However, it takes a lot of study as well to not only know how things are composed and work but how to concentrate just right with the magic symbol thing (transmutation circle).  They don't ever really explain why those are necessary (I don't think) nor why the main character doesn't need one.  So there are soft elements to the system, it isn't utterly explained.  Also, as a side note, what energy does it use to fuel the change?  Is it something inside the alchemist?  And what makes the glow?!

    I have to say, I enjoy hard magic more than soft magic as the constraints make for the most interesting methods and situations.  For example, should you not have as much mass as the person you are "pushing' in Mistborn you will go flying backward, not them, but if there is something with more mass like a building or the ground on the opposite side then the other person will go flying.  This allows for not only interesting battles but also clever tricks like using coins on the ground to "jump" around the city.  The possibilities for situations are incredible as well as difficulties for the characters in other ways.  In essence, I like what the constraints add to the story and the feel of the magic over the wonder and potential power given by most softer systems.  Hard magic makes me think and it makes my mind fly through possibilities then the author surprises me with their use anyway.  It's clever and exciting!

    One last thing I want to mention is the main aspect of Sanderson's Second Law: "Limitations > Powers".  In essence, it is the limitations of magic that often make them interesting.  Using Mistborn as an example again, the allomancer needs to have the metal (we'll go with steel for this one) ingested.  Steel allows you to use your weight to push on metal with your own mass (as well as mass that affects you like a wall).  However, you cannot push on metal inside someone else.  You only have your own mass to work with and you have to face the consequences of pushing something greater than you.  You only have a certain amount and the harder you "burn" it the faster it runs out.  In addition, extended use can have serious consequences on the body (shown with other metals more often).  You cannot surpass the limitations here and that adds so much that you can barely even think of to the action and the story.  This also means, the stronger something is the more its limitations have to be.  For example, Atium is the strongest metal to burn but burns out the fastest making it more of a trump card than a way to win every fight.

    I'd say read the laws for yourself as they are interesting and think about the magic of books you like.  Do you tend to prefer soft magic systems or hard magic systems?

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Vaelina Watched

    Vaelina sat at in her chair by the window watching.  Crying.  Her voice caught in her throat, now hoarse from yelling in vain.


     She had been looking out her window for a while now.  It was a hobby of hers to look out after dinner and watch the sunset.  Before then she would watch whatever caught her fancy and if she felt like it maybe she would draw some smaller things.  She had always been fairly privileged.  Some might even call her spoiled though no one had dared say so to her face.  She watched as an insect skittered across the sheet of glass that helped keep her from getting chilled.  Vaelina's father was the owner of a large portion of land and could afford rare luxuries such as glass for the main house.  The insect stopped moving as it reached the edge blocked by a small ledge.  It was nothing to someone the of her height.  She doubted she could trip on it if she tried.  Of course, she's also have to be able to walk on the window.  As she watched, the insect tried to climb up the comparably imposing ledge but as it struggled to gain traction it lost what it had on the glass and fell.

    Eyes following the small bug, Vaelina caught sight of one of their slaves, Shem, standing up in front of Torim, the manor's current slave keeper.  Shem was a kind man who was often the first to laugh and had told her many stories and fables over the years.  She often recalled his tales of life before working for them and how his eyes sparkled with something she could never place.  Now his eyes were filled with something else.  It was something darker. Something Vaelina had never seen before.  

    Shem spit directly into Torim's face with malice.  Torim reeled back in disgust wiping the saliva from his cheek with the sleeve of his jacket before launching himself forward.  As his fist crashed into Shem's jaw, dropping the large man, Vaelina stepped back from the window.  However, as terrified as she was, she couldn't tear her eyes away from the scene below.


    Shem tried to stand but as his lifted himself Torim's boot crashed into his chin from the side, causing his teeth to slam through some of his cheek.  He coughed, spitting up blood and tried to stand once more.  Torim knelt down next to him and grabbed the back of his hair, lifting his head by it.  He whispered something into his ear and scowled before slamming him back into the ground face first.  Cartilage cracked as his nose broke and his vision swam.  He collapsed to the floor for a moment but pride wouldn't let him stay down any longer.  He put his hand down to push himself up but halfway a boot smashed into the same spot.  Shem let out a howl and his back arched in pain as Torim's heel ground the bones if his fingers into the ground.  His lost all strength and collapsed back down but the horror wasn't over.  The heel lifted but quickly returned, just as hard as the last time, crushing his fingers against the hard ground beneath.  

    Stunned, Shem lay there as Torim circled to his feet.  Nothing happened for a moment but the reprieve was short, broken by a flash of pain even more intense than the feeling in his hand.  Torim pulled back sharply and the claws of his whip, embedded into the top of Shem's back, tore free pulling strips of skin and muscle with it.  Blood arced through the air, following as if reluctant to sever the connection with the now missing flesh.  The skin on his back screamed along and his voice channeled the feeling.  His back felt... looser.  The skin no longer tight across his muscles.  The ends of the whip snapped back into Shem's back hitting his side this time, digging into the area under his ribs.  He had hoped the pain would be less this time but was disappointed.  He would continually be disappointed as the taskmaster's whip continued to tear his back to shreds eliciting screams of pain that reached far into the twilight.  

    After what seemed like hours of pain to Shem, Torim walked around to his front and gestured to two other nearby slaves who cringed instinctually but dutifully, fearfully, came over and picked him up but his arms.  Shem's hung there limply, groaning as blood flowed down his legs.  His shirt was falling off and any skin that remained on his back hung off of him limply.  Torim came up in front of Shem and punched him in the gut causing more blood to leave his mouth.  He didn't even notice as some of it landed on the boot of his assailant.  Whether that would have satisfied anything in him or just filled him with terror no one could say.  Casually, Torim reached up with his hands to the sides of Shem's head, and swiftly twisted.  Shem's pain faded from his eyes and his body somehow slumped even more in the other slaves' arms becoming literal dead weight.  

    In a quick gesture, Torim tilted his head back and to the right toward's the lake.  The slaves carrying Shem quickly complied almost running to go dump yet another mutilated body in the waters.  Torim walked back toward the house where Vaelina's father was sitting in the porch's shade with his wife.  He sighed and lightly shook his head at Torim's actions.  Now he needed to buy a replacement.


    Vaelina sat at in her chair by the window watching.  Crying.  Her voice caught in her throat, now hoarse from yelling in vain.

    Eyes red from her tears shed for the slave, Shem, she managed to shuffle over to her bed before collapsing onto it.  She tried to remember the twinkle of Shem's eyes and the sound of his laughter but it was lost.  All that could come to her mind was his flattened hand, the thunder of the whip's crack, his body's limpness after his neck was broken, and the piercing screams of pain.  She still heard them in her head and they wouldn't stop.  Delirious, uncontrolled screams that drowned out all other thoughts.  Choking on her sobs she cried herself into a fitful sleep.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

This is for... McSleuthburger!

    What is it about stealth that's so exciting to me?  This is what I'm gonna talk about and explore via blogging about it.   At this point I can't say for sure why and hopefully we'll find out this way!

    So stealth... let's see... there's always the tension involved?  When you are sneaking about and following someone there's that feeling of nervous excitement.  In addition to them having no idea you aren't there, you never know exactly what people are going to do.  In video games enemies generally patrol along pretty specific routes if at all.  It's interesting and makes for good gameplay because actual sneaking is incredibly difficult.  I do quite enjoy stealth and I tend to be fairly good at it.

    Hmm... Let's look at it on a game by game basis and avoid real life stealth for now.  Let's look at thief first as I've played that pretty recently.  Thief has one of the more robust stealth systems and for good reason.  Unlike many games you are somewhat weak; you are able to knock people out and kill them should you desire but if you get into a fight, chances are high you may not make it.  So in that game you have to worry about the sound of your footsteps which is based on speed of movement and floor surface.  Then there is the darkness of the area you're in and of course, where the guard (or whoever you're avoiding notice of).  Combining these you come up with a game system that makes you play more intelligently.  Maybe that's what I enjoy about it?  I like the way you have to watch and plan what you do, you don't run straight in and kill everything.

Thief has one of the more tactical stealth engines.

    On the other hand, I've been playing Bioshock pretty recently as well.  In that I decided to take a lot of plasmids (upgrades) in the direction of stealth, speed and melee.  With my character this way i run around fast (though magically silent) and hit things with a wrench.  It's pretty fun and there are some stealth aspects involved.  In this case however, it is completely different style of stealth since the people are much less observant, it moves very quickly, and isn't all that risky; I can take on a group of opponents without much worry.

This guy won't know what hit him...
It'll be a wrench, by the way.

    I have one more game I want to look at though this obviously isn't covering everything about stealth nor the attraction in crime games/shows.  In any case, the last game for this log which is taking me way too long to write is Sly Cooper.  In this game, maybe because I've played them all a couple times, I can combine the feeling of speed and agility with intelligent style of stealth.  In the Sly Cooper games you make incredible heists of skill and daring.  I'm stoked to play the new game.  There isn't much tension in these even when I wasn't as... practiced.

Sly leaves a signature behind during his heists;
it's one of my favorite things about him.

    However, you can't really combine all of these aspects. Maybe that's part of it.  Even when you know what you're doing and you're still just sneaking around or behind enemies it's always new and exciting.  There's something they all have in common though: fooling your opponent.  When you can sneak through a level and steal a priceless treasure leaving no witnesses or disturbances other than the one missing piece you feel so awesome.  When you dispatch your foe without them knowing you were there despite his paranoia and attentiveness you feel like a bad ass.  When you pull the wool over someone's eyes and they never say it coming it's such an exhilarating ride.  Also, going along with stealth is often roguish charm and the appeal of a fast, smooth talking charmer should never be overlooked.  Now, I'm going to go keep watching my crime show, Leverage, and wish I had the money to get Dishonored.  At least I have Assassin's Creed 3 pre-ordered! This time next week I'll be playing that and you can bet that for the most part, I'll play stealthily.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Random Ramblings. Quite So.

    So I don't have a definite topic on my mind today.  I feel a mixture of boredom and depression though so I'm going to ramble for a bit on a few things plus whatever comes to mind.  Okay?  Okay.

    So today was a pretty good day mostly though I have some things I'm going to complain about.  I really hate feeling unimportant.  I'm not sure if that's a selfish feeling or not but as much as I like when people want to be around me and want to be talking to me it feels better when someone needs you for something emotionally.  I wish I could be there for my friends more than I am but no one really needs any help.  If they do then they have someone more suitable to turn to.  It may just be that I've been feeling lonely while surrounded by people these last few days but I feel redundant even when I'm the only one there.  That doesn't make much sense does it?  Ah well, all of that was mostly written to get some thoughts out of my head and on to something else.  It's a better way to deal with things than other ways I often do.

    That is actually something I was considering typing about.  I deal with stress and depressing moments in a few ways, some pretty good and some pretty awful.  Of course, it all depends on who you ask as I sometimes feel, even after wards, that the awful methods of dealing with things work just as well as anything else.  Anyway, one way I started using again is obviously writing about things   I have kept journals in the past but they often felt like more of a responsibility than something that I was doing to help myself and sort through my thoughts.  There're more times when I write due to an inspiration of some sort though and thus it isn't the huge help it might be able to be.  Another way I deal with things is by losing myself in something.  I often play video games or watch movies or shows for fun but also when I am feeling less than fantastic.  The same thing goes for books of course but I'm hesitant to read things I haven't before when in a bad mood as I often find myself associating something with the emotions that I had at the time and I'd rather not color books with such a bias.  This goes for games/movies/shows too of course but to a lesser extent as those can pull me in more quickly though often not as much.  It's a bit hard to explain the distinction I have between them.  I've mentioned before that Twilight and Kingdom Hearts are two of my escape paths.  Either they have really strong feelings attached to them or they may be tied to happier memories but either way, I often find myself with one of those when things are spiraling out of control.  Things aren't always that easy though.  I often feel the need to do something more extreme and nothing seems to scratch the urge.  It usually involves hurting myself in some way.  I try not to do it as those who manage to notice are rarely pleased with me which doesn't really help anything.  Nevertheless, I've felt it also helps.  I'm sure many people would argue that it really doesn't though and it may very well not.  It's not really something I worry about as much as a lot of people probably would think that I should.  What is most scary is when I don't actually feel bad at all but I have the desire to do it anyway.  In any case those are the most common ways I deal with things.

    Anyway, another topic I wanted to address was about Guild Wars 2 which I've been playing a lot more lately.  I still haven't gotten very far with any characters at all  since I keep making new ones to try the different styles out.  In any case, I finally chose a definite favorite race.  The Asura are technical geniuses who not only build amazing mechanical wonders, they also understand and can manipulate powers of an arcane nature with incredible ease.  These guys are my favorites by far!  I do enjoy the Charr, a large feline/canine race who make really bad-ass warriors and such as well as engineers (they do a lot of war machine stuff in their society) and rangers.  Now, they can just as easily be other professions but I always tend to play classes with races the feel right to me.  I also do the same thing with genders.  I feel that a berserk warrior is more naturally fit to a male (this is only for me as simple preference, I would never object to others playing nor being a bloodthirsty female of any race).  I also don't mind the Sylvari though they can be a bit strange in ways.  Despite that they are a fascinating race that I haven't seen the likes of previously.  Humans are a bit dull and the Norn sometimes are more annoying than awesome but at times they can be cool.  The Asura are a bit silly but not in a way that detracts from their awesomeness to me.  Their buildings are based strongly around cubes and is a mix of magic and technology which is way cooler to me than the Charr's city of hard metal.  Though there is more, I'm going to top it off with the fact the the Asura has the best dance by a long shot.  The others pretty much look silly when they dance while the Asura do incredible pop and lock dancing; that is my favorite style, by the way.

Meet Zojja and Mr. Sparkles!
    So this has been fun and taken a long time to write, which was half the point.  Some of it may not be the best stuff to have on my blog but I doubt most people will read it anyways.  Hope you enjoyed!