Blaugust Day 14: Hitman Agent 47 – Movie, Game and the Problem with Sequels

I’m really not current with these kinds of things, so it’s purely bizarre random chance that I followed a sequence of web links that led me to the realization that:

a) They’re making Hitman the video game series into a movie.

(Again. It’s a reboot, I must have missed the first, which appeared to have been roundly panned by most critics, save Roger Ebert, who might have decided to add a little more subtlety to his review after running afoul of the 4375+ comment responses to his statement that “video games aren’t art” the year before, but received a “ehhh, not too bad” from popular audiences.)

b) It’s coming out next week.

c) Hitman: Agent 47 was filmed on location in Berlin and in Singapore.

Whoooaaa. Come again? Singapore? Really? As in modern-day city-state Singapore, rather than fictitious not-at-all-anywhere-resembling-historical-fact-but-fantasy-cool Pirates of the Carribean Singapore?

Well, ok, they’re throwing in a hefty portion of superhero-like genetic super-soldiers and Hollywood-style explosions, so it’s not going to 100% reflect reality either, but still… “COOL.”

(P.S. Any Singaporean will tell you that there are not that many taxi cabs on our streets. Ever. Especially when you need to hail one down. They’re practically an endangered species.)

I think this is going to be essentially the first time that modern-day Singapore is going to be projected up on the big screen for a global (and specifically Western) audience in Hollywood fashion, not withstanding various TV documentaries (mostly about food, I’m sure), an odd Bollywood superhero movie or two, or a whole bunch of local/regional films.

Especially with the very recent additions to the Marina Bay skyline.

And I’m kind of strangely excited about the whole state of affairs.

Lazy pragmatic cynic I might be, but there’s still enough nationalistic pride left over from all that propaganda from our country’s 50th birthday and suspiciously-impending general elections to be thrilled that the world is going to see this crazy place we call home as a backdrop to a HOLLYWOOD action thriller movie, no doubt seeming as exotic as Hong Kong tends to be associated with, in that sort of action/spy movie genre.

Plus, I’m anticipating that the reaction in our local cinemas is going to be an absolutely hilarious mix of “oohs and ahhs” at the more explosively neat special effects and stunts, plus “ROFLs and LOLs” when we see some of our mundane landmarks dressed up in completely-nothing-resembling-reality fashion… like a plane hangar with black-clad rifle-bearing soldiers… that actually resides in one of our technical educational institutes for aerospace classes.

(It’s really going to crack me up if they use it as the set for the super-sekrit evil genetic lab base where superpowered Agents are made…)

Well, the trailers don’t look too bad… when judged from a brainless action movie flick perspective, mind you, I wouldn’t watch this for plot or storytelling. If it sort of manages to make coherent (if cliched) sense, it’ll already be great.

I think I’m just going to be thrilled to see home gussied up, Hollywood style.

Oh, and that they’re also cashing in on video game tie-ins these days, besides superhero and fantasy book-tie ins? Double bonus. So much mainstreaming (which leads to cultural acceptance) of my favorite hobby interests. Everybody wins.

… except I just downloaded Hitman: Codename 47 (the first game) off Steam – somehow I’ve collected the whole series in a sale and never quite got around to them – and am getting my butt kicked. Repeatedly.

I vaguely recall trying a Hitman game once upon a time, though I can’t remember which, and encountering a similar state of affairs.

Fans make a big deal out of the series giving you the freedom to complete levels via multiple solutions – some sneaky, some of the “gun them all down” variety – it’s done more often now, but back then, I think Deus Ex and Hitman were pretty much it.

What I keep personally encountering is a game series that is perfectly okay with you coming into the level completely blind, scouting it out a few times via unsuccessful attempts to get a ‘feel’ for the scripting of the NPCs and where the possible solutions are located, attempting the perfect execution of the puzzle solution several times more via death-and-repeat trial-and-error gameplay.

I think there’s a group of game players that really enjoy this sort of frustration in their gameplay. They clamor for ‘hard mode’ content like Dark Souls or Super Meat Boy where they have to bang their heads against a particular section repeatedly, dying and restarting, dying and restarting, until they either pass, or better, ace it with flying colors.

I’m a little less sure about how I feel about that kind of gameplay. It does usually tilt more to the frustration=no fun side for me, rather than the other way around.

Of course, it may just be non-polished issues with the first game. The default controls are anything but. They started out in a numpad layout. There was a “WASD” option, so I hit that, and the usual S key for backward?  It was walk forward… because W was taken up with run forward. And they shifted walk backward to X. ‘R’ didn’t even stand for Reload, a convention that I thought has been in place for years of first and third party shooters that offer guns. I had to rebind practically everything before starting to play.

There were no save mid-game functions… so every time you screwed up – and you can’t help but screw up when you’re coming into it blind and don’t even know what to expect – you began all over again, mission briefing clicking and unavoidable cutscenes included.

*twitch*

Then there’s the funny thing about me and game series, which I daresay is also a problem for other people too.

I feel distinctly odd if I attempt a game sequel (or game 4 or game 5), without having played through the early games in order.

It’s like… aren’t I going to miss a significant part of the story this way, or some of that ‘historical’ experience other gamers would have had, by playing this game series in sequence?

And yet… something about game 1 or game 2 ends up being off-putting, because they’re more primitive and more raw, without the benefit of experience and iteration smoothing out those rough corners, and I find I can’t actually complete or continue the game… yet am reluctant to move on to later sequels.

I have similar problems with Assassin’s Creed, Torchlight II, Orcs Must Die 2 and so on…

(Baldur’s Gate 1 and 2 would have been a similar case, except that I did get through 75% of the first game – and finally gave up with the endless side map explorations and charged through to the story’s end via walkthrough – and decided that qualified me to graduate on to 2 when it came out, which was excellent because 2 was a much better game than 1 in so many ways.

And I can see someone getting stuck on the Batman: Arkham games in a similar fashion too, though I thankfully liked that series so much I played through really fast.. just some completionist stuff on Origins left, and waiting for Arkham Knight to not suck.)

Dunno.

Maybe I just need to get over it, especially since I have plenty of hard disk space now, and install the later games and just start and -try- them.

Maybe one will click, and I can use that as a jumping off ground to play the later sequels, and treat the earlier games then as “prequels” that may or may not be played later.

This post was brought to you by the letters B for Belghast and Blaugust, and the numbers 14 and 47.

Drowning… But in a Good Way…

What do I do now? Let me count the ways…

GW2

Draining half my resources appears to have successfully rekindled a fire in me to start making a list of things to do (which will also coincidentally earn some gold, plus some that might take the stockpile in the opposite direction.)

I need to get my new-ish asura warrior to a waypoint in every map that has a dungeon, as he is the one character that is 100% meta compliant (as opposed to 95%), and more importantly, isn’t overloaded with 101 “fun” fireworks, tonics, spare gear sets and assorted Silverwastes junk. That kinda gets in the way of the ideal “zoom from dungeon to dungeon without pause and earn tons of gold” routine.

I suddenly have the intense craving for a number of Scientific weapon skins from the Black Lion vendors (or TP), which means I either need a ton of gold, or convince myself to spend the equivalent of a month’s subscription on being sorely disappointed on Black Lion’s Chests (or trade in the equivalent sum for gold, which would guarantee at least one skin) and/or farm Black Lion Keys and trade time instead of hard currency. To even figure out where to begin, it seems like a good idea to watch a video of all the skins first and prioritize “must-haves” versus “nice-to-haves.”

It occurs to me that I have a number of basic collections and left over collect some coin or badge or other item from Dry Top/Silverwastes that I have yet to complete. Those should be far easier mini-milestones or goalposts for the feeling of mini-wins than building a legendary…

Speaking of which, I have now used up my two Gifts of Exploration from world map completion, which means another alt has to circumnavigate the globe at some point. Each map is another potential mini-goalpost.

Speaking of alts, not only do I have alts that should be brought to level 80 -some- day, I had the vague desire to take nifty screenshots of my characters and discuss my relationship to my in-game avatars in similar fashion to Rowan Blaze, who has also been inspired by Syp to wonder about how various players fit on the roleplaying versus puppeteering spectrum with regards to their characters/avatars.

And and, if I want gold, I should really get on Silverwastes chest farms or an easy world boss train cycle to replace all those ectos nommed up by Kraitin.

Steam Sale

I have been feeling a little more financially solvent recently, and this has manifested itself in an enthusiastic attempt to clear my Steam wishlist (which dates back to 2012 and earlier.)

I haven’t completely lost my mind or loosened my purse strings entirely, but I decide it was time to actively re-look at the wishlist and ask myself hard questions as to whether I really wanted to ever play the game and/or buy it when it reached 75% off. (Yeah, my wishlist is mostly to keep track of when games I’m interested in hit that threshold.)

It helps that I’ve now decided I can watch and enjoy Youtube videos via streaming to the TV, which then helped me throw out some titles whose setting and potential story intrigued me, but whose gameplay I was left very hesitant about after seeing other peoples’ reviews. (Solution: Find a Let’s Play of the game on Youtube, watch someone else play through it for me while I do other constructive chores around the house.)

Other games, I decided to toss entirely, like Dungeonbowl – where the vitriol about it being horrendously buggy and not having any singleplayer worth speaking of suggested that I’d never actually play it (may as well just cut out some paper miniatures and play my own solo game via tabletop rules if it’s that bad) and the Walking Dead Season 2 – its setting/theme/characters just doesn’t strike a note with me, for some reason.

(I valiantly struggled my way through the first Walking Dead, alternately bored with the mundanity of everyday America and uncontrollably metagaming every time an obvious “no-win” moral dilemma scene/scenario came up. I limped my way through two or three vignettes of 400 days, and then decided there was just no way I could stay interested in these characters, which were either fated to be killed horribly by some other mortal or mortal turned zombie. Nihilism / Anomie 1: Jeromai 0. Except I guess I also win by choosing not to buy or play any more goddamn seasons.

Perhaps I’ll keep an eye on Tales from the Borderlands once it finishes, that seems a little more lighthearted and up my alley, as opposed to something like *ugh* Game of Thrones, which doubtless contains more blood-grimdarkness-politics-nowinscenarios, I’m guessing.)

Despite those that didn’t make the cut, there were a LOT of suddenly-now-75%-off games on my wishlist that were mostly under $5 that didn’t have any obvious reasons for why they shouldn’t be bought and given a try…

Self-control 0, Steam 1 (or 19, rather:)

whatselfcontrol

(Plus a few more in the $10 range that were just too tempting, solid reviews though.)

So…uhhhh… yeah… I need to find the time to install and at least -try- the games for an hour or two. No plans to complete them entirely, but I really should play them and have fun with the lot.

It’s only Day 3 of the sale. I’m doomed.

Free-2-Play Games On the To-Try Someday List

I mentioned my new TV channel surfing habit of flipping through “recommended”  Youtube videos, right?

Some random dudes made a Top Ten list of Free 2 Play Steam games, that probably turned up on my suggested watching list because they mentioned Dota 2 and my TV channel surfing account has a bunch of Dota 2 related channels on subscription, and I suddenly accumulated a list of free-2-play games that I ought to try for fun. After all, they’re free and on Steam, right?

Warframe, Robocraft, and TERA are all stuff sitting in the back of my mind, poking me every now and then that I should make a go at them, if only for a night to get some initial impressions.

They mentioned Marvel Heroes, which is one of those games which are just so colorfully attractive in terms of IP, and yet equally intriguing to me is the “Is this all there is to it?” question that hits me every time I dive into it. Kill a metric ton of PvE mobs that put up no fight whatsoever, accumulate many numbers on many things, find increasing numbers and wear those things to kill even higher metric tons of PvE mobs that put up no fight whatsoever? Surely there’s -more- to Marvel Heroes than what initially hits the casual eye… (who knows, I’ve never made it beyond the second story mode difficulty because it got so damn boring and I end up diverted running cycles through Midtown Madness instead to increment higher and higher numbers.)

Then they talk about Path of Exile, and I’m like, YEAH, THAT GAME IS AWESOME. And I’m SO going to be back when the Awakening expansion is finally done and I get to play Act 4.

And they close with the utter king of Steam Free-To-Play games… Dota 2.

Dota 2

Uh… right. I was supposed to be playing a match every day.

Except I got busy, and then distracted doing a whole bunch of other stuff.

I still -do- intend to keep playing it, and learning more, of course.

And apparently they’ve JUST announced a rework of their client, calling it Dota 2 Reborn.

Which is kind of awesome, in more ways than one.

Being all newbie and stuff, I’m especially intrigued by the advertised new tutorial, as well as the feature that will allow one to “demo a hero” to try out their abilities and practice last hitting, which seems like a quick and convenient way to get a feel for various heroes and learn their abilities, as opposed to having to click a bunch of buttons to start an entire bot match just to do so.

Seems like next week, they’ll make some kind of announcement regarding custom games, likely building it in as part of the client’s UI and streamlining the process of downloading/trying out/joining custom games, which might make the subgenre more popular and possibly attract more folks to work on such stuff, potentially yielding all that player-generated content that saves the devs from needing to focus on such things.

(Hey, maybe we’ll eventually see a few maps/modes that support singleplayer gameplay, which would be amusing to try out. Casually skimming the existing list of custom games reveals a great deal of apparent junk, but also a few intriguing sounding maps, such as survival against various enemy waves or a new map that is almost RPG-esque in its looks but presumably plays like a normal MOBA. Presumably good stuff will rise to the top in time.)

Regardless, there’s plenty of extra shiny that seems to be coming Soon(TM).

Gratuitous Screenshots of a Real Life Kind

With this many games that I could be playing, what have I been doing instead these past weekends?

Playing tourist in my own country.

Beyond visiting various heritage enclaves (Chinatown, Geylang Serai, etc.) and sampling all the highly recommended food therein, the family finally got around to visiting one of the newer attractions the other day – Gardens By the Bay.

dragonflylake

The infamous boat atop the Marina Bay Sands, as seen via the Dragonfly Lake in the free public areas of the Gardens.

To my surprise, it was a lot better than I expected. Seems several years passing has given the plants a chance to settle in and look a little less sorry.

supertree1

The iconic, yet rather weird-looking, Supertree structures.

Ostensibly some sort of marriage between urban modernity and nature, the outer layer is covered by a vertical garden and apparently lights up like a Christmas tree at night (something I have yet to get around to seeing.)

We found ourselves more impressed by the “green” sustainability story around these structures. There are apparently photovoltaic cells atop them that store energy during the day and provide the power to light themselves up at night (and maybe a nearby fountain or two.) Some of them help to vent air out of the cooled conservatories (aka giant greenhouse domes,) yet another plant-like function.

supertree2

The lighting’s poor in this one, but hey, there’s actually plants managing to ascend and partially cover the horribly bare purple and green metal “fake branch” canopy on this particular Supertree.

I suppose they might actually look tree-like in another decade or so… assuming the vines don’t barbeque in our tropical sun and wilt, falling off the structure (seems someone may have been a tad idealistic in hoping the plants would cooperate regarding this design.)

The cooled conservatories, which are ticketed, were really quite nifty.

Ah, the irony of the tropics. In temperate countries, people build greenhouses to keep their plants warm and create humidity. Here, we air condition the greenhouse to make it cooler and more temperate.

The Cloud Forest aims to simulate a tropical or subtropical environment at higher elevations, atop mountains and so on. So only the temperature is cooled and the humidity is left to run hog wild.

cloudforestwaterfall

A seven-story concrete structure covered by plants to simulate a “mountain,” er… “a hill,” er… ok, ok, a “mound.”

cloudforest2

It really is pretty though. And the cool, damp environment is extremely pleasant to walk around in, as contrasted with the outside weather.

We managed to be in the right place at the right time to catch one of the scheduled mistings.

cloudforest3

Feeling a little like stepping back in time to the Jurassic.

Then I turned around and went, “OMG, GW2 god rays!” (sure sign one plays too much) and started snapping like a madman.

cloudforest4

*dreamy sigh* Right out of an Anet landscape… Heart of Thorns, eat your heart out.

bromeliad

This bromeliad was pretty cool. Looked to be one of those that form its own mini-pond community, aka a tank bromeliad that has a phytotelma. (Ah, the things one learns from Google and Wikipedia.)

pitcherplant

A rather sizeable pitcher plant.

pitcherpond

A metric f–kton more pitcher plants.

waterfall1waterfall2

Amusing myself with different shutter speeds.

I managed to burn through a new set of batteries (forgot spares) before we even hit the Flower Dome, which left me a touch sparse on good pictures.

The climate in there was glorious though. The air is run through some sort of dehumidifying system, along with being cooled, and it absolutely felt like walking around in a temperate country. Definitely going to revisit again. Cheaper than an air ticket.

flowerdome

I’ll just leave this photo here which seems to encapsulate most of its contents. Brilliant succulent garden, a collection of baobabs/bottle trees, a lot of plants enthusiastically blooming.

Oh, ok, maybe one more. Because I love these little critters.

stoneplants

And this is a gaming blog, right? So here’s your mini-game: how many stone plants are in this picture?

(Stay distracted. Kthxbai. Back later with actual game stuff. I hope.)