Monday, January 29, 2007

Things

There's nothing like updating your blog when you're downloading something big and need to waste some time. Whenever I write, it seems like it always takes longer than I had expected. But I digress. (And I haven't even started yet!)

It ocurred to me that I haven't really talked about my Christmas loot yet! It's been a while, so there's a risk that something will forgotten.

Movies:
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and House of Flying Daggers.

The Hitchhiker's Guide I can only say was mostly disappointing. There's no point in me yabbering on about all the points I didn't like since they mostly mirror the popular opinions of the interwebs.

House of Flying Daggers, on the other hand, I really liked, as I guessed I would, having enjoyed both Hero and Crouching Tiger in the same genre. (I guess this completes the "trilogy" of movies with stylized martial arts starring Ziyi Zhang.)

A gift-card for books.
Might come in handy for the "Japanese literature" course.

A Slinky.
Probably the most popular present in the household this year. It seems like noone can resist the slinky.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. book.
With my like for old spy-shows fairly well documented, it was interesting to get a glimpse at the making of the show.

Money.
Money makes the world go round. I've managed to hang on to my allotment from the festivities, but it seems like some sort of decision would be solidifying. I still haven't set anything in stone, though.

Monday, January 22, 2007

〜ながら, and the English word-weight

In the text-book we use, in the 〜ながら-section, it was explained that the second action is the more important action, and it gave the examples:
コーヒーを飲みながら、手紙を書いた。
I wrote a letter while drinking coffee.

アルバイトをしながら、大学で勉強した。
I went to university while doing a part-time job.
Now, while I understand the Japanese sentences, the English sentences seem to me flipped around. I see the use of "while" to refer to the first action, with basically the first action happening only during the timeframe of the second action; just like in Japanese, I feel that in English (and Swedish) the focus in the sentence lies on the second action. So in the first example, if going by the English translation in the book, the character was sitting down to drink coffee, and just started to write a letter as a side-thing.

I did a search for the word "while" and came across this informative Wikipedia entry, which says the primary meaning is "during the time that". Now, with that in mind, let's see the example sentences from the book again, with "while" replaced with the whole phrase.
I wrote a letter [during the time that I was] drinking coffee.

I went to university [during the time that I was] doing a part-time job.
I think that it becomes clearer there how the 'weight' of the action lies on the second part.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Metal Gear Solid 2 & Half-Life 2

By most accounts, these should be two excellent games. At Gamerankings.com the Xbox versions are currently at 86.6% and 89.5% respectively. Edge magazine gave the PS2 version of MGS2 an 8 while HL2 for PC got a 10!

Yet I couldn't stand playing either for any longer time.

I got MGS2 on Thursday, thinking I'd start it up after I finished Broken Sword. Which I did. And I noticed quickly, besides the cheezy voice-over for Snake, that me and the MGS gameplay do not get along. I had wasted half a clip of tranquilizer ammo before I realized that there was no specific way to see where the fuck you were shooting. Except for entering the first-person mode, of course, which means you can't move and it seems the weapon is only raised when you press the button to shoot, and there's no cross-hair, which means you will basically always fire half a clip before you hit anything.

Of course, you could try to sneak up on the enemy, except that with the sneak-button you start crawling on the ground when you move.

Basically, the impression I got from MGS2 was that it was trying to be a sneak-and-shoot game where you couldn't sneak or shoot.

Half-Life 2, then. Selected as Game of the Year by everyone when it was released. It started out so-so; having gotten interested in first-person shooters from Goldeneye on the N64, I always preferred to have forward-backwards & turn movement on the left analogue stick and strafe & up-down look on the right. The first-person shooter I've played the most after Goldeneye is Halo, which also allowed you set the controls to mimic that of Goldeneye. Unfortunately, this is where it became clear that HL2 was a pure PC shooter, trying to emulate the mouse & keyboard combo by having movement on the left and look on the right. Fair enough, and after a while I almost got used to it, being able to walk around with only a moderate amount of bumping into things. And I thought, "hey, this is pretty cool." And then the shooting started. OK, so you're now equipped with a crow-bar and there are half a dozen guys shooting at you from elevated positions and the game plops you down in a railway-yard with blockades on either sides and you start running around looking where to go constantly being shot at by these guys. And the developers then think that you're going to be cool-headed enough to realize that of course the way forward is to go into that train and stack the boxes on top of each other to reach the hatch in the roof.

Anyway, I played until I got to a point where I found no obvious way forward, and by that point I was so stressed out from being chased around without knowing where to go that I just shut it off. It was at that time that I also became aware of a strange nausea. Motion sickness? Odd if it would be since I've played FPS games before without problems, but maybe it could be due to the unfamiliar control system? Maybe I'll give it another try later, because it seemed like a superb game except for high stress-level and the fucked up controls.

In any case, I'm glad I didn't pay full price for either of the games.

Luckily for me, I "found" the two first Broken Sword games, which I'm guessing I will enjoy a lot more than these.

Krazy Katakana vol.2

As a continuance of an earlier post, here are some more Japanese loanwords.

ムック: Combine a magazine with a book and you get a "muck".

オブジェ: An object.

スタバ: Another one of the abbreviations that the Japanese are fond of, Starbucks.

ナチスト: Nazi.

チューター: Tutor.

バン: This is one of the weirder ones, since removing the last "g" makes it so removed from the original word, "bang".

ギャラ: Guarantee/fee paid to performing artists; I had big problems with this word, because when I first came across it, it was used in a context where the English meaning of "guarantee" wasn't appropriate. Only after a bit of digging did I get the second meaning, which proved much more suitable.

イメージダウン: Ruining one's image.

タラップ: Ramp. I have no idea where that comes from...

リュック: Backpack. Equally stumped...

サンダー: Thunder. This I was incredibly perplexed by; "sander", perhaps..? But in retrospect, it's obvious that the English "th" would be substituted with a simple "s" sound.

スリーサイズ: Three sizes, refering to bust, hip and waist. Well, where in the world could I have come across this expression? *whistles innocently* Oh my, looks like rain, doesn't it?

サビ: Refrain, chorus. This was another really tricky one. I had come across it on multiple forums, most in musical context, so I had a hunch it could mean that. In the end I eventually fould confirmation on the Japanese Wikipedia, doing a search for the word.

ユーモア: Humour. Ha ha!

Bonus 1: Strange how movie titles can change across continents... Karate kid becomes ベスト・キッド, "Best Kid".

Bonus 2: Not strictly a katakana word, but something I came across, started wondering about and eventually found a meaning for: the phrase "kwsk". Seemingly random letters, no? Well, it's short for "KuWaShiKu", 詳しく.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Splinter Cell & Broken Sword

With these two games being the two latest I've finished, I started thinking about similarities and differences between them, and how they fit into the scores they were given by Edge (which is basically the single biggest factor in me deciding whether I should get a game or not), which were 8 for Splinter Cell and 9 for Broken Sword.

They are both third-person games that are clearly influenced by movies. In the case of Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory it's anti-terrorism and action movies, while with Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon it's more easy-going adventure movies like Indiana Jones. But the approach of the two are entirely different; Splinter Cell goes for realism and action and guns, and it shows in the graphics. It's a finely polished game, and I would imagine that especially the Xbox version that I played has been tuned to perfection and the versions for other platforms have then been scaled back to suit the hardware.

Broken Sword, on the other hand, has more basic graphics, foregoing realism for a more stylised look (tying back to the look of the first two point-and-click adventure games, I've heard). It's interesting to compare the two graphically, because it brings forth an ever-true point about graphics in games: no matter how good (or bad) a game looks, you will eventually get used to it, and thereby it will seize to be a terribly important point.

This also leads to another thing that separates the two; a point where Splinter Cell falls flat while Broken Sword shines.

With the focus on realism in Splinter Cell, it falls victim to a long line of games that have tried the same that just ends up with characters that look like puppets. This is called the uncanny valley; we recognize the similarity to humans, but there is something there, or perhaps isn't there, that breaks the illusion and makes the characters look more like puppets. This is where Broken Sword excels. Using lip-syncing and facial animation, while keeping the characters derived from the hand-drawn original characters, keeps them on the same level as an old-style cartoon. It is this, in combination with the great script and voice-acting, that makes the characters in Broken Sword have more personality than the characters in Splinter Cell.

In the end, Broken Sword just made me smile and laugh a lot more than Splinter Cell. And that's what matters.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Clever title

24 hours back I was busy studying for a test I had today, cramming as many kanji-compounds as I could inside my little head. To clarify: the bigger of my small heads. But it turned out to be quite in vain since none of my favourites came up in the test; no "safety valve", no "stain", no "income tax" or "inheritance tax". But it went alright anyway, I guess. It could have gone a lot worse.

Though it wasn't a breeze-through by any means, I felt that it was a bit easier to get through than the last kanji-test where I basically stalled when it came to the compounds, so perhaps it did do some good to study them extra this time around.

***
And now that that's done I can do some serious relaxing! After I had come home and had some food I plopped down and played a big chunk of Broken Sword 3: The Sleeping Dragon, which is only one of the games I've gotten during the latest month. Though I didn't get any games for Christmas, I've been busy scouring local shops, webshops and online auction-sites for treasure; and I have indeed found some.

It all started after I saw Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory for around 10€ in a supermarket. I hadn't quite enough cash on me to get it that day, so I thought I'd pick it up the next day. But the next day it was gone! (As noted earlier.) Well, I was so set on getting it after having read up on it that I searched it out on an online auction and got it that way. And it continued from there...

First I searched out Broken Sword 3 from the same auction-site. After that I noticed Half-Life 2 for 17€ at an online shop. Then I stumbled upon Metal Gear Solid 2 in the same supermarket I'd seen SC: CT in, picked that up for around 10€. And now today after I came home from the test, I decided to bid on Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. That'll be five (5!) games in the timespan of one month! Crazy, but as the first Xbox is on its way out, many good games are going at great prices. For a bit over what a completely new game would cost, I've gotten my hands on some good pieces of gaming.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

An inquiry

I got a strange message on my phone today that it said couldn't be displayed. There was no number attached to it, only a name: "Kyo." (Or at least I think it's a name.) Which was strange, because I don't have any such person in my telephone-list.

The message was received at 17:39:43, so if anyone tried to send me a message, or anyone knows someone who tried to send me a message, or if you ever went to class with someone whose cousin's grandfather's brother-in-law's illegitimate bastard child might know about it, speak up.

Edit: After swapping cards with a newer phone, I got the phone number attached to the message. I sent it off to a service that tells you the name and adress of the sender, but since it was a foreign number there were no results. On a hunch I plopped it into Google and struck upon relevant results at once. It was a scam alright.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Don't Panic

Or on the other hand, why not? I've spent most of the Christmas holiday slacking off, and it's now just one week until the test. I have an eery feeling that I'm going to have problems passing this one.