Showing posts from September, 2006

Fable 2 discussed

There are 2 game designers whose names, when mentioned, make me sit up and pay attention. One is American McGee. The other is the amazingly inventive Peter Molyneux.

My fondness for Molyneux's games is largely as a result of Fable, released towards the end of 2005. I have a very low tolerance for RPGs but I absolutely adored Fable, a stylised, action RPG-lite (with a healthy sense of humour) which chopped out a lot of tedious wandering in search of quests.

What was especially fun about Fable was its take on morality. Your actions, from kicking a chicken, to helping a sick child, to buying a brothel, impacted on how good or evil your character became, with your appearance reflecting this morality shift. Good = bright blue eyes, a halo and butterflies following you, while people cheer or fall in love when you approach them. Bad = balding, pale, growing horns, with people fleeing in horror whenever you are near.

Plus, events in the game also affected your appearance. You aged, picked u…

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Next to The Chamber of Secrets, Order of the Phoenix is probably the darkest and most 'hardcore' of the Harry Potter series of books.

Nothing seems to go right for our wizard messiah - no one believes that Voldemort and his minions are on the loose, Harry faces expulsion, he's being portrayed as a nutcase by the Wizarding press turning him into a pariah at school, there's the stress of the OWL exams on which his whole future depends, the vile Dolores Umbridge takes over Hogwarts, potential love interest Cho Chang can't get over Cedric's death, Defence Against the Dark Arts is toned down and Dumbledore seems to be avoiding him. Needless to say, Harry spends a lot of time in Phoenix feeling very angry and frustrated.

Anyway, the first offical high-resolution pics from the film are now online. You can see them at right HERE and HERE. These include pics of Umbridge and Luna Lovegood (who I always assumed was JK Rowling's projection of herself into…

The Coming Weekend

I’m so glad it’s Friday. Despite it only being a 4-day week I’ve pretty much been run off my feet at work the last few days. My copy creative director is working from home this week so I’ve been sitting here all alone (we're still one copywriter down), landing all kinds of fiddly jobs, as well as one giant one (all due by the end of Friday). And all the while being frustrated by Account Executives who don’t supply much needed answers and material, but are continually contacting me to check if their work is done.

Plus, the drive home yesterday was an absolute nightmare. Despite leaving after 5:30, there was gridlock for most of the way home. This despite this week being school holidays, and the fact that most people seem to be having a bit of a break right about now.

I got home frustrated, angry as well as mentally and physically exhausted. I also had to help Paul with updating his CV, so I didn’t get to finish my CD ripping to MP3 for my mother’s birthday party playlist. I’ll have t…

NAG October DVD

I know I'm advertising the competition here but the October issue of NAG magazine comes with a very nice DVD, which contains the following:

Bad Day in LA | Caesar IV | Call Of Juarez Multiplayer | Joint Task Force | Just Cause | Maelstrom | Painty | Paraworld | Perimeter: Emperor’s Testament | The Silver Lining | WH40K - Dark Crusade

ATI Catalyst 6.8 XP | NVIDIA ForceWare 91.47 XP

Defcon | NAG April 2000

Free Games
Bontago | FEAR Combat v1.07 | Toribash


Modifications & Add-ons
Unreal Tournament 2004 - damnation_v2 | Eternal Forces | junkwarv110beta_umod | KillingFloor20

Quakecon 06

Game Trailers
DarkStar One | Full Auto 2 | Guild Wars Nightfall | Half-Life 2 Episode 2 - 01 | Half-Life 2 Episode 2 - 02 | Half-Life 2 Episode 2 - 03 | Half-Life 2 Episode 2 - 04 | Half-Life 2 Episode 2 Trailer | Kane Revealed | Portal | Team Fortress 2 | Warhammer Online

Updates & Patches
Darkstar One v1.2 | FEAR v1.00 to v1.06 - v1.07 | Shadowgrounds v1.04 | Tita…

One week until The Open Door

OK, it's just one week until Evanescence's new album is available in North America. As for a South African release, well... I don't know... Sometime in October as well, I presume.

Anyway, according to Evanescence's official site, you can now listen to the whole of The Open Door streamed in its entirety on and AOL Music.

I'm kind of debating whether or not I should wait for my own copy, or listen to this now. So far I've managed to restrict myself to 2 songs.

My Super Ex-Girlfriend

We saw My Super Ex-Girlfriend last night, and while it’s instantly forgettable, the lightweight comedy does have its moments, and isn’t as bad as some people have been making it out to be.

I suppose you’ll get more enjoyment out of the film the more familiar you are with superhero conventions. My favourite scene in the whole film involves a jealous Jenny/G-Girl (Uma Thurman) on a date refusing to stop the demise of New York because she wants the night off.

Speaking of Uma Thurman, she’s great in the film, giving her all to portraying a nutty, all-too-powerful heroine. Luke Wilson, on the other hand, has a weird smirk on his face for most of the film, and is less convincing as the film’s hero. Worst of all in terms of casting is the total waste of comedian Eddie Izzard as the film’s ‘villain’.

So, yeah… you can do worse than My Super Ex-Girlfriend, although I wouldn’t pay full price for it.


Anyway, before the film we saw quite a few trailers for films that look entertaining to goofy to …

The Long Weekend

I’m not going to do a day-by-day recap of the weekend. Rather, here are some of the highlights:

Say hello to little Trent, my first ever cousin! He was born on Friday evening, and weighed in at a hefty 4.02kg. We were very worried about him on Sunday when he went a bit jaundiced and was still refusing to feed, but yesterday he finally latched, and has been enjoying some time in the “sun booth” to break down the enzymes that cause jaundice in newborns.

On Saturday and Sunday morning Paul and I were up from 6:30am to head to the Expo Centre and set up Paul’s company’s stall for the Small Business Exhibition. We had to hang around there for a while on both days, and, man, was it bo-oo-ring! Really, what Durbanites are interested in start-up companies on a long weekend?

Anyway, Game had a special on one of their off-road bicycles, so we went to check it out on Saturday morning. Unfortunately the seat of the bike was too high for me. Browsing the racks we found the following bicycle, which wa…

Trailer Tuesday: The Grudge 2

Apart from an ending in which things tended to fall apart, The Grudge was a pretty effective, creepy horror film. While characters weren't really developed you did share in their fear as that horrible croaky noise started up in their suburban Tokyo home.

As a remake of a Japanese horror film The Grudge ran rings around The Ring - excuse the pun ;). Now, the sequel, The Grudge 2 (also directed by the Japanese original's Takashi Shimizu) is about to open in North America on Friday, 13 October, and it looks to continue the paranormal stalker horror.

Speaking of anticipated horror films, The Descent opens in South Africa nationwide this Friday.

Monday update

As promised, here's my Monday Public Holiday post. It's an amazingly beautiful beach-perfect day in Durban and I'm stuck inside working. Bah! At least we'll probably be going for an afternoon cycle in the game reserve, and I can put my new bike (more about that later) through its paces.

Anyway, as a filler, here's my feature article that appeared in the September issue of GEAR magazine:

Girls In Games

It’s a fact that more women are playing games. The ESA (Entertainment Software Association) reports that almost 40% of all gamers are women. According to Microsoft as much as 70% of all casual game players are female.

The question needs to be asked then if there are more game-playing women, does that translate to more girls IN games? Where can female characters be found? More importantly, are the women anything more than pathetic princesses in peril, bland background characters or eye candy for male gamers? A look at the main game genres produces some interesting, sometim…

Plans for the weekend

It’s a long weekend in South Africa, with a Public Holiday on Monday. Thank God for that because I really need a break from the monotonous 5-day work routine. More than that, I need to get away for a complete break. It seems that everyone has been doing that in the past few months except me… and I think it’s rightfully my turn.

Except… leaving it to Paul, we’ll just end up camping in the Berg again (where he’s totally anal retentive about his camping equipment and doing anything in the rain). At the moment, however, I’ll settle for anything.

Anyway, I’m not going away this weekend. As of 6am this morning my aunt’s contractions were 10 minutes apart, so chances are that this evening we’ll be heading down to Westville Hospital to see my little cousin (my first, ever) for the first time.

Other than that there’s a special on off-road bicycles at Game so I’ll be taking a look before Sunday with Paul. The big thing here is that I feel comfortable in the seat, and am able to have both my feet …

In Noelle News

In non-entertainment related news, I got a submission via elbow lock last night at Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu… Shortly afterwards my opponent got his revenge by choking me (although, as I think about it, I probably could have held out instead of tapping).

Anyway, I really enjoy grappling with someone of the same experience level as me. We get to try a number of different moves and sweeps without being soundly punished. Although, this said, you should see the bruises dotting my left arm. I look like I’m in an abusive relationship, or an incompetent heroin addict.

In other news, my cousin has yet to arrive. Little Trent is now 5 days past his due date.

And speaking of babies, Paul’s Pietermaritzburg cousin has undergone a dramatic change of life course in the past few months. She’s gone from having sponsorship to study Dietetics at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (with dreams of going to her father in Australia upon graduating), to flunking the course, to taking up a BA with the intention of t…

300 Trailer

OK, it’s not Trailer Tuesday but this one can’t wait until next week. The first trailer for Frank Miller’s 300, directed by Zack Synder, has hit the Net over at iFilm. My God, it looks amazingly, and so beautifully stylised!

Brace yourself for badass Ancient West vs. Middle East conflict!

EDIT: The trailer has vanished from this link above, as well as from Aint It Cool News. However, you can still view it at the following blog:

Link 1

300’s plot synopsis, from Superhero Hype:

The movie is a ferocious retelling of the ancient Battle of Thermopylae in which King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and 300 Spartans fought to the death against Xerxes and his massive Persian army. Facing insurmountable odds, their valor and sacrifice inspire all of Greece to unite against their Persian enemy, drawing a line in the sand for democracy.

Have a Hannibal Christmas!

When it comes to commercial reading, I have quite a fondness for crime and serial killer themed novels. And my absolute favourites are Thomas Harris's Red Dragon, Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal, which feature and focus on cannibal-psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter.

Forget for a moment Anthony Hopkins' hynotic on-screen performances as Hannibal the Cannibal. The Hannibal of the books is far creepier, as readers are exposed to his psychological inner workings, his special 'place'. He's the one literary character I'm careful what I say about... just in case he pops up behind me in a dark passageway one day. He's my cross-over-into-reality Candyman as it were.

Anyway, I'd heard vague mentions that Harris was working on another Hannibal book, but forgot about it. Now it looks like Hannibal Rising (focusing on the serial killer's formative years) is going to be in bookstores just in time for Christmas this year. So be sure to check that it's really turkey…

Monster House

Paul and I saw Monster House last night.

I’ve seen a few people raving about it on their blogs, and while I don’t think it’s as superb, or emotionally affecting as they’ve been saying, it’s a refreshingly different animated film that steers clear of fairy tales, talking insects, fish and anthropomorphic cars.

Focusing on an old, creepy house that seems to consume anything that ends up on its lawn, Monster House has a dark, fright focus that you’d expect from executive producer Robert Zemeckis. Co-executive producer Steven Spielberg also wrote and produced my favourite haunted house movie of all time, Poltergeist.

I think I’ll go out on a limb at this point and say that Monster House has better “human” character animation than seen even in The Incredibles. I was particularly captivated by the adult supporting cast which includes a gothy babysitter, 2 inept small town cops (one of whom is exceptionally trigger-happy rookie) and geeky video game champion.

The storyline is pretty straightfo…

What's your pirate name?

Today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day. But what's the use of being a pirate of you don't have a really cool name that has your enemies shivering their timbers? Click here to complete a quiz and discover your pirate alias. Then comment with your results.

My pirate name is:

Dirty Bess Rackham

You're the pirate everyone else wants to throw in the ocean -- not to get rid of you, you understand; just to get rid of the smell. You have the good fortune of having a good name, since Rackham (pronounced RACKem, not rack-ham) is one of the coolest sounding surnames for a pirate. Arr!

Get your own pirate name from
part of the network

Trailer Tuesday

First things first, happy international Talk Like A Pirate Day. Aaarrrgh! Ye betterrrr make an effort or ye carrrbuncle encrusted arrrse will be keel-hauled. Aaarrrgh!

In other news, as the title suggests, I’m starting up a tradition on this blog, called Trailer Tuesday. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying watching streamed trailers on YouTube, so basically every week I’ll link to, and comment on, a trailer for a film that has piqued my interest.

This week’s movie trailer is Apocalypto, the new film from Mel Gibson as director. Now Mel isn’t exactly known for his filmic subtlety, but Apocalypto looks very intriguing, and action-packed.

Featuring a cast of unknowns and using the ancient Mayan language (just as Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ used Aramaic and Latin), Apocalypto focuses on the internal combustion of the Mayan civilisation before the arrival of the Spanish. Fearful of omens that their world is ending, Mayan priests insist that thousands of their people are sacrificed to appeas…

A Chilled Weekend

Like the title says, I had a very relaxed weekend. In Durban it was overcast, raining and cold for much of it, so there was no real incentive to be out and about.


On Friday evening, Paul and I just chilled at my place, watching last weekend’s episode of Rome and starting to watch Return to Oz. It had been a long week though, so we were both micro-sleeping by 30 minutes into the film. We were in bed by 10:30.

Making amends for our fight on Thursday, on Friday evening I gave Paul a belated anniversary card (with a long meaningful message, of course), and Season 3-4 of ‘Allo ‘Allo on DVD, which, if it hadn’t been an anniversary gift was going to be part of Paul’s Christmas present. I know I had a brilliant alternate idea for Christmas, but I’ve forgotten it, and will need my memory jogging in the interim.


While Paul programmed during the day, I worked at home. After finishing my November GEAR column for a Monday deadline, I then scanned and resized around 95 photos for my moth…

Weekend Plans

Yay! The Take2 order that I made at the end of last month arrived yesterday. Included in it is a hardcover copy of Frank Miller’s Eisner Award winning graphic novel 300 (which I’ll get to after finishing The Watchmen), DVD Season 3-4 of ‘Allo ‘Allo for Paul (either as a Christmas present or late anniversary / peace-making gift), and a DVD of Return to Oz.

This last purchase is significant because when I was about 5 or so I was obsessed with this sequel to The Wizard of Oz, starring a very young Fairuza Balk. In fact, I got into a bit of trouble in pre-school because of my obsession, which had me painting plenty of pictures of The Wheelers, crazy, limbless people who pursue Dorothy in the dark sequel. My report card stated that I had an obsession with darkness, wizards, witches… and sharks.

I’m really looking forward to watching the film this weekend. I just hope it won’t shatter my fond childhood memories.

Plot Summary
Dorothy, back in Kansas, can't stop thinking about Oz, and even be…


Not much interesting news on the entertainment front. I started reading Alan Moore’s graphic novel The Watchmen last night, and it’s really amazing. I’ve only read the first chapter but the depth to the characters is way beyond anything you see in comics today.

You can see why The Watchmen (one of Time magazine’s Top 100 novels) is one of the must-read, seminal graphic novels, alongside The Dark Knight Returns. Actually, The Dark Knight and The Watchmen do share several similarities, the 2 biggest being that they take place in utterly corrupted cities, and that all superheroes have been forced to retire unless they work for the government. In The Watchmen, former masked heroes start turning up dead, and it’s up to the remaining heroes to discover what, or who, is behind it.

Anyway, I popped my elbow at Jiu-Jitsu again last night. Damn these people who do super fast arm-bars. I’m quite happy to submit to avoid the damage but when your arm is hyper-extended before you can tap out, it’s a …

Chinese, South Park and Extreme Shaving

It was our friend Kate’s birthday yesterday so Paul and I joined her and a group of 15 or so other friends at the Foon Lok Nien Chinese restaurant in Westville. I haven’t been there in a good few years, or even had dinner at a Chinese restaurant in that time, and it was a great evening.

The menu is very competitively priced (you get big portions), with the set multi-course menus especially very good value for money. And they’re very accommodating. As opposed to a bigger Dinner set menu (where you get 2 more courses), Paul and I both had Lunch Set Menu B (after 7pm, mind you), which is, if you can believe it, much more manageable:

Chicken soup starter
Crispy prawns or prawn omelette
Sweet and sour chicken/pork/beef/kingklip, or beef/chicken chop suey with bottomless noodles and rice
Bowtie and ice cream
Chinese tea.

What’s especially great about a proper Chinese dinner is that the multiple courses extend the evening. No one rushes through their meal and leaves. Instead you chat. Kate’s geol…

Good News for Gummi Bears Fans

There have been online petitions for years, and now it’s finally happening! Come November, at least in North American Region 1 format, Disney’s Adventures of the Gummi Bears Seasons 1 – 3 will be available on DVD.

It’s something I’m particularly excited about because as far as I’m concerned the series is probably the finest Saturday morning cartoon series ever made. Apart from continuing to have fond memories of my childhood favourite, I borrowed some video tapes from Ashley last year, and was pleasantly surprised to find that the series still holds up superbly, offering entertainment for children and adults alike.

My mother showed the same tapes to her Grade 1 class and, despite having never been exposed to the Gummi Bears in their lives, the children loved it.

Zummi, Tummi, Cubbi, Gruffi, Sunni, Grammi. I remember donning my Zummi mask, drinking grape juice and bouncing everywhere, pretending I had taken gummi berry juice. Then there was the appeal of poor little Toadwart and the com…

This Weekend

As with Sunday, Friday evening was consumed with playing Titan Quest multiplayer with Paul. My battlemage Gothicus is now Level 26+ and has 2 parts of the Egyptian-style Ramses’ Royal Armour set. The following is what Gothicus will look like if/when the set is completed:

On Saturday, after a brief shopping excursion to the Pavillion, Paul was doing some programming work so I lay out in the sun and finally finished Volumes 3 and 4 of The Goon.

I’ve mentioned the award-winning Dark Horse comic series before – Depression era gangsters meet zombies and other creatures of darkness. Finally in the Volume 3 and Volume 4 collections, the rough and silly edges are filed away and the series finally ‘works’ in all aspects. Sometimes, surprisingly, it’s even quite emotionally resonant.

This is the descriptor text for The Goon Vol 4:

Giant man-eating eyeballs from another dimension, mad scientists, rampaging killer robots, and the Ghost of Christmas Past-nothing out of the ordinary in the world of t…

Music Video Monday

I'm kind of sick of the usual music video bullshit, so I've given up on watching them. However, it's now less than a month until the new Evanescence album (The Open Door) is out, and the music video for their debut single, Call Me When You're Sober is stylised Goth super-chic. Think Little Red Riding Hood meets Interview With The Vampire. With a total Ken Doll for Amy Lee to glare at.

Down with the sarcasm

So I was over on American McGee’s blog, where the game developer is quite open about the mixed reviews Bad Day LA has been receiving. Of course, every review seems to spend more time slapping down McGee’s views on the US’s international relations and his decision to use cheap Chinese labour to make his games. So I’m still inclined to reserve my own opinion, and give the game, apparently a South Park style satire of America’s Fear Culture, a chance.

Anyway, on McGee’s blog, someone made the following comment about sarcasm-saturated website Something Awful, who have laid into the game. The comment really amused me because it sums up exactly how I feel about people who instantly resort to sarcasm when they feel the need to be critical. Sarcasm is endurable in small doses, but continually getting off on shredding someone’s work or opinions is just not cool. It doesn’t even classify as wit. It’s weakness.

Don’t worry, SomethingAwful is a place full of pretentious wanks whose sole purpose is …

Stardust set pics

Author Neil Gaiman recently pointed out on his blog that Stardust illustrator Charles Vess has also just started a blog. It can be found here...

What's really exciting is that Vess posted some pics from the set of the film adaptation of fantasy novel Stardust, and confirmed that Michelle Pfeiffer as the Witch Queen will be seen in ageing hag make-up. That's a first time for Michelle!

Anyway, here are the pics:

Charles Vess, posing by a replica of one of the Lilum, impaled on the wall of the set of the Witch Queen’s palace.

The crew busy prepping a scene on the Witch Queen's palace set.

Clare Danes, who plays fallen star Yvaine, between takes...

Charlie Cox (or his stunt double) on set.

Charles Vess and Neil Gaiman in the rain while in location in Scotland.

September GEAR column

More Frustrating Than Fun?

Sometimes I wonder if deep down all gamers are masochistic. Or at least, now and then, enjoy a little self punishment. Because, the more I think about it, if pastimes are meals, gaming is a main course served with a hefty side order of frustration.

We’re all familiar with rushed, bug-riddled titles that freeze or crash at crucial moments. Wrestling with badly conceived controls can also ruin a good gaming session. It’s a recipe for screams and a smashed keyboard. Meanwhile, long load times trigger tantrums or shaky withdrawal symptoms in gamers who like instant, delay-free entertainment.

PC gamers have the additional time wasting annoyance of customising settings if they wish to maximise a game’s performance on their systems. It’s a tedious process of continual testing, fiddling and re-testing. With graphically advanced titles like Oblivion, tweaking can demand the precision and steady hand of a brain surgeon.

Then there’s the issue of irritating game difficu…

Titan Quest Girlz 'N' Games

Finally, it's done!

Oh, and in other news, I actually got a triangle choke submission, during the grappling session of in Jiu-Jitsu last night. They are really fun to pull off and extremely effective. I felt quite proud of myself.


We saw Hoodwinked last night. The film has its moments, but it is probably the most mediocre of the recent batch of animated movies.

This one, from the Weinstein Company (not big animation guns like Disney, Pixar or Dreamworks), presents the story of Little Red Riding Hood as if it were a police investigation. The perspectives of delivery girl Red, investigative journalist Wolf, goodie-magnate Granny and wannabe-actor The Woodsman are each presented in turn, and it’s an interesting choice of narrative structure. Unfortunately, that’s where Hoodwinked’s originality ends. You can see the influences of many other recent animated movies. There’s even a hyped-up squirrel who is forbidden coffee.

Hoodwinked could have really done with Shrek’s pop-culture spoofing, but instead it sticks to a completely vanilla approach, with a shortage of knowing winks to adult audiences that were promised in the trailer.

Hoodwinked does have a few strong points though. Patrick Warburton and Glenn Close give o…

Evanescence goes Nightwishy?

It’s now less than a month until Evanescence’s much anticipated 2nd album is released on 3 October. I’ve been doing the good fangirl thing in the build up period. I finally got around to buying Anywhere But Home, the ‘live’ album recorded during the band’s Fallen tour.

While lead singer Amy Lee often seems to try a bit too hard to force her vocal acrobatics on stage, the album does feature an awesome cover of Korn’s Thoughtless. And the CD really showcases the polished brilliance of the rest of Evanescence’s line up.

Anyway, there are a few previews of The Open Door already floating around the Net. Rolling Stone Magazine’s online exclusive article can be read here.

Meanwhile, New York Magazine had the following to say which suggests a classic/metal hybrid sound more in line with Finnish rockers Nightwish. Just ignore the article’s whole Christian music focus, which Evanescence has distanced themselves from.

Losing Their Religion
Evanescence, caterwauling Christian rockers, suffer a crisi…

Weekend in a nutshell

Ow, I’m stiff this morning. The warm ups for Jiu-Jitsu were particularly strenuous last night – 100 star-jumps, followed by Indian push-ups, squats, assorted back and leg stretches and a few exercises that has us lifting our own body weight.

Anyway, apart from squeezing in a few bites of pop culture on my blog, I was super busy at work yesterday, with the one copywriter having left. I’ve pretty much picked up 2 workloads. Anyway, here’s my weekend in a nutshell…


One of the guys at work has developed a Little Britain fixation, and he’s been circulating his DVDs of the BAFTA winning BBC comedy series among the creative team. Catch phrases like ‘I’m the only gay in the village’, ‘Computer says No’, ‘Bittea’ and ‘It’s a ladies’ drink’ are now regularly yelled out.

This weekend, on Friday and Sunday evening, Paul and I watched all 6 episodes of Season 2. The show - a series of skits starring Matt Lucas and David Walliams - is hilarious. Basically it pokes fun at English culture and a da…

Lost figurines

I really love a well-crafted collectible figurine, but I don't have any space for them so I only own a single dragon that was a birthday gift. Anyway, my non-existant collection doesn't mean I can't get excited about a new range, and here's a beauty:

Lost Season 1

McFarlane Toys' Lost Series 1 captures six fan-favorite characters from the series' first season. Each 6-inch Lost figure comes with a detailed base and photographic backdrop, capturing an episode-specific moment in the character's story. In addition, each package includes a detailed prop reproduction central to the character's story, enabling fans to "own" a piece of the show's mythology.

You can collect:







And a Hatch box set

Pity there's no sexy Sawyer or Sayeed though ;(

Click here for more on the Lost collectibles series.