There are some rare moments that the phrase “OMFG” was designed for. Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children has several of them. You may be aware that the film recently leaked onto the net. Usually I would try to hold myself back and wait for the big screen experience but in this case it seems questionable whether we will even get a European theatrical release. Having been waiting literally years for this gem (and possibly forcing you to sit through several trailers), my strength faltered and I snapped up the hi-res DVD rip as swiftly as humanly possible. Bad, I know, but I’ll be buying the DVD and seeing it the cinema if it does emerge and so help me I just couldn’t handle all these delays. The subtitles we produced by fans who have already translated it into several languages: it’s a real labour of love for something they’re clearly passionate about.
The film itself is like a homage to the fans, giving them a chance to see some of their favourite characters rendered in truly stunning detail. Due to Square-Enix’s long-running partnership with Sony, I’ve had very little opportunity to play the FF games, but as that alliance seems to have ended with the next gen consoles, perhaps things will change.
Although I knew very little about the preceding game, I was drawn in by 2000’s Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, a film of unsurpassed realism in digital animation. What they achieved at a time before Monsters Inc. and the other Pixar big guns, is nothing short of phenomenal. While that was a standalone project, for Advent Children it does help to have a working knowledge of the FF7 universe, its storyline and characters, since this is basically a continuation, following Cloud two years after the game’s events.
On this outing they have opted for a less realistic look than the previous film, remaining truer to the anime style of the games. The story unfolds slowly in the first half and while always beautifully rendered, things often seem to drag between the few moments of blinding action. In fact, it’s the perfect build-up, because once all hell breaks loose in the city…OMFG!! Describing the visual acrobatics, the style, the immense, majestically sweeping fantasy of it all is impossible; this truly must be experienced and felt to be understood. Penny Arcade’s fanboy warning is damn right.
Please play fair: watch it now but make sure you buy/see it later.
When hunting for photos for our theme title page in The Globalist, Steph and Alvin pointed me to morgueFile, a repository of high resolution digital images that are made freely available by photographers for commercial or public use. Morbid as the name sounds, a “morgue file” is actually a traditional name used by publishers for keeping reference material after it has been used for its original purpose. It also has a nice community forum where people swap ideas and generally critique and inspire one another’s work. Since we’d used one of their images, I figured it was only fair that I shared some of my own and set about creating a profile for myself. In just a day I’ve settled in and already had 118 views and 16 downloads of my photos. It’s strange to be suddenly reaching so many people in this media form, with which I’ve only recently started to feel that I’ve been improving significantly. Mostly I just like the idea that some of these photos will be used for a practical purpose rather than simply sitting on my hard disk.
Meanwhile I came across what are by far the funniest gamer-orientated videos I have seen since Red vs Blue. I’m not quite sure how it passed under my radar for so long, but Pure Pwnage (pron. Pure Ownage) from ROFLMAO Productions is simply genius. It follows the trials and tribulations of pro-gamer Teh_Pwnerer (pron. The Ownerer), or Jeremy to his friends. Be warned, however, that if you’re entirely out of touch with gaming culture it’ll make about as much sense as a that big black obelisk in 2001. If you understand “RTS” but not “uber micro” then you’ll be able to pick it up as you go along. It takes a few episodes to really hit its stride, but there are some fantastic homages peaking with a brilliant keyboard-wielding duel and a Red vs Blue parody.
Yesterday was Zaki’s birthday bash up at The Arches in Brixton. It’s a set of old railway arches beneath a trainline, and provides a very cool venue for a party like this. Travelling up by train with Katie involved prying apart tube doors with my hands after managing to catch the doors with her sleeping mat, which I was carrying, after she ran off ahead. Having gotten to the other end in one piece we shivered in the rain for a little while ’til Zaki arrived with his Exeter uni friends to get things stated. The arch we were in had electricity and lights, though he had opted for an atmospheric candlelit approach. Another arch further along was fully plumbed with a toilet, but a little else. It all had a very unique vibe and was a zany but chilled evening, which was very much what I needed.
Most of the curry night crowd were there, along with Tom G, Borth and some locals. I think it was well established that if you plan to invite your family’s babysitter to a party, she should not be introduced to Dicko as “the babysitter”. Actually there were two of them there. Zaki met Izzy, the new one, when coming back early from uni to find this girl sitting in his house watching TV (the conversation allegedly went something along the lines of: “Who are you?” “Who are you?”…”Want to smoke a joint?”).
The thing about sleeping in a railway arch is that it tends to get rather noisy come the early morning. What with all the trains. Coupled with the concrete floor and a slight draft I woke not terribly well rested in the morning and travelled back in time for the quiet and sedate parish lunch at church, pretty much the opposite end of socialising spectrum. Oh, and don’t worry, those cars were in that state when we found them. They’re part of Zaki’s dad’s top secret experiments into bumper technology. I thought it best not to ask too many questions after seeing the beating the cars had taken…
Zaki, wicked party, dude. Katie, thanks for the mat; I’m holding it hostage until you come visit.
I always liked Return of the King but to be honest I never really understood why it was the one to gather up all the awards. Of the trilogy I saw Fellowship as being the visually incredible one with the breathtaking landscapes and scenic shots, while The Two Towers was the fantastic action-heavy accompaniment with the phenomenally lifelike creation of Andy Serkis’ Gollum. Watching it again however, I now understand the overall appeal of Return much better. It just has so many of those breathtaking moments, with the awesome lighting of the beacons, two of the most stirring cavalry charges ever, the beautiful (if strategically ill-designed) vertical city of Minas Tirith, and of course Legolas taking on an Oliphant in The Most Ridiculous Stunt Of All Time, Part III. And yet I still feel the whole trilogy was let down by its ending which is so unnecessarily self-indulgent. I’m pleased they chose not to end on a Hollywood post-battle high and yet they ignore the books’ own epilogue (many fans were disappointed to find no Scourging of the Shire in the extended edition) with the film seeming to run through about five different possible endings before ultimately reaching its conclusion. And here’s mine: there’s only so long that slow motion shots of hugging hobbits will hold my attention.
My previous post, I swiftly realised, was somewhat premature. I knew there would be some editing left after the “final” version was distributed but I wasn’t expecting the floods that arrived. Why is it that editors seem entirely unable to spot mistakes when, say, editing, until the entire article has been meticulously laid out already? Eventually, several marathon rounds of editing and image fixing due to last minute printing changes, at 6am I managed to get the whole file, now a massive 86MB (which makes me wonder about those “eNLaRGe yOUR PdF” emails – why on Earth would I want to make it larger?), off to our publisher to pass on the printers. It’s out of my hands and I’m officially done. In fact I’m under strict instructions from Steph not even to think about ___ _________ for at least a week. So now that my work is done and the time of printing has arrived, I suppose I shall go into the west and diminish or some such.
Toby was rather incensed that Tycho over at Penny Arcade stole his thunder by announcing to the world the existence of a game that Toby discovered several weeks ago, the knowledge of which he imparted to me in great secrecy. I shall not make the same mistake and therefore give him full credit for the discovery of Quantic Dream’s Fahrenheit (or Indigo Prophecy if you’re outside Europe). Rather than merely coming up with a game engine that requires a plutonium powered computer, degree-level physics, or just a very big gun, they’ve taken the bizarre step of producing a genuinely new concept. You essentially play director in this occult murder mystery, controlling the key characters as the story unfolds and playing out each “scene” in different ways, taking care to keep their mental state under control. Brilliant use of split screen lets you see what’s going on elsewhere, placing much importance on timing.
Wow, it’s done! Finished. Over. There’s a distinctly strange feeling associated with naming a file, “CG Issue 1”. That’s right, I’ve just finished producing my first magazine. The next step is to send copies off to Yale for the Foundation bods to take a look over, along with proofreading by the rest of the team here. But I now have a full Acrobat file with the entire magazine. Well actually I have two: the high-definition version for the printers is too large to move around, weighing in at a little under 38MB, so most people will be seeing its sprightlier 2MB cousin.
It’s been a pretty wild ride putting this together literally from scratch. Whilst thoroughly enjoyable, it was a real slog towards the end, especially with the palaver over the themed section that resulted in me seeing the final draft of one article for the first time this morning (I won’t miss the working ’til 3am or the not eating ’til 5pm). Steph’s been awesome and really kept me going through a lot of it, and the rest of the editorial team have done a great job despite being spread across several countries and continents. The sun, it would seem, never sets on The Globalist Empire. The down side being, of course, that more work can arrive at any time of the day or night.
After a well-earned celebratory rest (and probably a celebratory bottle of wine once the final version is sent off to the printers) there’s still some work that needs to be done on the website before we’re ready for the launch. I want to set up a newsletter to which people can subscribe to hear about new issue releases and the forthcoming launch party. I’ll be pestering Van, our publisher, for details about that and we also need to liaise regarding website adverts for our sponsors (absolutely no pop-ups, you can rest assured!). But other than that it’s finished. And trust me, you’re going to love what we’ve done.
Thanks to everyone who kept me sane over the last few weeks and see you at the launch party in October!
I listened to my first ever podcast today. Frankly it was not so much an underwhelming experience as a complete waste of time (aside from comically suggesting that perhaps the forthcoming Halo movie will be “at least as good as Super Mario Bros.“). First off, the name “podcast” implies some bold new step in the digital world led by our brave new world leaders at Apple. Actually what it means is streaming compressed audio over the internet. In other words, yes, downloading an MP3 file from a website. Sure, “podcast” is easier to say, but it has absolutely nothing to do with the green fruit company. However, they have made it popular. What we’re actually experiencing is much like the blogging explosion, a phenomenon where suddenly everyone had an opinion which they wanted heard not just by their friends, but by the other 700 million net-connected people too.
Now that’s all well and good of course. It would be ever so slightly hypocritical (even by my standards) for me to fault them for that in my blog. However now instead of being able to scan through the dross and swiftly extract the information I want (not to mention the fact audio can’t be indexed by search engines, so finding the damn things will be nigh impossible), I have to listen to it being spoken by incoherent muppets, complete with “umms” and “errs” that extend a two minute read into a 30 minute Apple-branded test of patience. It’s sort of like playing solitaire while blindfolded with cards that have a habit of drunkenly swaying back to their previous positions without warning. In short, I’ll sit this fad out thanks.
Meanwhile, with the electoral roll data collection forms flying around once more, people are discussing the unfair system of expecting the head of the household to be responsible for submitting details of all adults living there. The alternative is, of course, to make it a criminal offence for anyone not to be on the register, rather than simply the nominal head of the household (it may be somewhat telling that no other country shares our system). The ancillary suggestion is then to make it compulsory to vote. Whilst Chima will naturally blanche at the very suggestion, I’m not entirely opposed to this. However, people must be aware that the only thing worse than people not voting is uninformed people voting. Currently a large portion of the apathetic voters do not bother to politically educate themselves either. I would hope that that once people realised their time was going to be “wasted” by being forced to vote anyway, they’d feel they may as well find out what’s going on. So if you’re worried about democracy being subverted by all those extra votes, I encourage you to display one our new “Careless Votes Cost Lives” posters. After all it was those people who voted Labour back in and just look at the bodycount now…
A brand new copy of the digpak UK release of Within Temptation‘s new album, The Silent Force arrived this morning in an exemplary display of Play.com‘s efficiency (ordered on Thursday afternoon, dispatched Thursday evening, arrived Saturday morning and with free postage to boot). The album, besides looking gorgeous in this special UK digipak edition, is another phenomenal performance from the Dutch band. Maintaining the distinctive style that brought them acclaim in Mother Earth, this record sounds a lot fuller despite lagging with a slight repetiveness towards the end (though the orchestral arrangements actually improve). This is the band I often highlight as one of the main reasons I have no time for Evanescence and hopefully The Silent Force will be listened to by enough to dispel the “orignality of Evanescence” myth. Sharon’s voice remains as gorgeous and powerful as ever. “Angels” strikes a personal chord for me, hence being my favourite song from the album, and the previous single, “Stand My Ground” is a great rockier second choice.
While ripping the album to my computer I also made my first submission to the FreeDB CD database. It’s a freely available source of CD track information which is supported by a host of programs including the Nero burning software and Audiograbber, which is still the best CD ripping program around when combined with the LAME codec. This means you can pop in virtually any CD from your collection and click one button to send a request off to the database which will then provide full track information to the program in question. It covers compilation albums too and because its knowledge is based on its vast userbase, it holds thousands of obscure entries too. It was nice finally to be able to contribute since this album is a brand new release from a band a little out of the mainstream.
The Globalist is taking shape properly now. I think we’ve passed the halfway mark in finalising article layouts. The photospread is done which is the part I was dreading in terms of painstaking positioning and text wrapping. Steph and I have been keeping each other going and make a pretty good team. A huge thanks to Lucille at Make Poverty History who secured us rights to use the photograph I wanted to use for the front cover (see early design). Yes, the first magazine I ever produce will have Fearne Cotton emblazoned on the cover! It should be suitably eyecatching methinks…
Every gamer knows that summer is inevitably a dry spell after the sensory barrage of the E3 convention, and particularly so this year with all attention focused on the upcoming release of the next-gen consoles. However, there has been one ray of light that’s kept me going: Conker. The foul mouthed, money loving squirrel started life on the N64 with Bad Fur Day being much loved but released right at the end of the console’s lifecycle so that very few people played it. All dolled up, Rare’s masterpiece is now one of the best looking Xbox games to date and adds a in-depth multiplayer component to what overtly seems to be a cutesy Frogger-esque platformer. It’s not. Our introduction to Conker is him vomiting in the street after a particularly heavy night out and the story twists through creative movie references and amusing vulgarities peppered with Conker’s charismatic wit. And if you’re a Conker fan, make sure you head over to the official site and check out the Celebrity Squirrel trailers in the top right (turns out Conker was Bungie’s first choice for Halo…).
The other notable gaming news was the announcement of a sequel to Sin. A great first person shooter from Ritual, it had the misfortune of being released at the same time as another little game called Half-Life. Ritual wanted to retain full creative licence over a possible sequel, and after pitching their ideas to several publishers without success their saviour was none other than Half-Life developer Valve. They’re allowing Ritual to use their Steam system to distribute Sin Episodes. Released episodically, the way the game is played by the community will direct further development of the game, including continual updates to the game engine which can then be applied backwards to the previous episodes. The engine is none other than Valve’s Source engine but Ritual are giving it some serious upgrades. Definitely one to watch.
Meanwhile things are looking pretty bad in Louisiana with hundreds, and possibly thousands, dead in New Orleans. Stephen is requesting donations to FEMA since it can provide relief swiftly and time is now of the essence with the currently slow arrival of aid to those affected. Perhaps this will be a wake up call as to just how skewed our countries’ budgets are when it is believed that billions can be poured into wars abroad but we cannot look after our own people when it is needed. Jenna has said that with so many people living in tents around Baton Rouge it’s beginning to feel unsafe going out after dark, and petrol stations are running out of supplies. Americans must be disappointed not only with the country’s slow aid response but also with the behaviour of their own citizens. Much as they may wish to believe they would rally together in a time of crisis, New Orleans is instead experiencing violence and looting. Taking food is understandable, but one new Wal-Mart was stripped of its entire gun section. Attempts to airlift people out of the Superdome were halted yesterday after shots were believed to have been fired at a helicopter. I cannot say that the reaction here would be different, but it is both sad and incredibly disappointing to see.