Monday, November 28, 2011

Review: SWTOR MMO Beta

I've examined the NDA for my beta test this weekend, so this post will avoid specifics and deal in only generalities.

The short version is: I liked it, but not sure I want to buy it.

The longer version is:

Jean and I played up to 13 or so over the weekend, in a real binge run that took most of Saturday and part of Sunday. I'm sure that if I wasn't binging, I probably would've liked it more. Jean stuck to the force-user healy class (shocking!) while I went with the blaster-wielding DPS. First caveat: the roles in SWTOR are NOT as explicit as the roles in WoW, so I'm being a little cagy about it.

There are some very clear Bioware influences, too, including the morality slider and lots and lots of social interactions that change the way the world sees and responds to you. It's quite nifty.

Also, as Jean pointed out, the morality is much more clear. Unlike in WoW, where both sides are roughly morally equivalent, it's VERY clear who the bad guys are in SWTOR. The bad guys in SWTOR make the Empire from the SW movies look positively cuddly and attractive in comparison. I can see the appeal of playing that side of the conflict, but I'm not sure I'm going to like those people much. I'm certainly not going to like the characters much.

Ask me again in a week, when I haven't just come off a 20-hour bender, and I might've changed my mind. Because there's a LOT of good stuff in the game.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Review: Wil Wheaton vs. Paul and Storm at the Aladdin

A caveat: I am a gigantic fan of everyone who performed on Wednesday the 16th -- the Doubleclicks were the opener -- so this particular review will likely not be particularly even-handed. There is no hate in this post, only love.

The Doubleclicks started the show, with a six-song set and five of the songs were new since the last time I was at a show for them. Sadly, I haven't been able to support them nearly as much as I wished, but they're starting to get a real name in the Nerdrock sub-genre, and that's very cool to me, considering that as a Doubleclique (the fan club) I have a serial number that, as far as I can tell, is the lowest number available. And I have a t-shirt with that serial number on it. So you could probably call me a fan, if'n you wanted. Aubrey (cello) and Angela (uke and guitar) are, as far as I can tell, a young and attractive female version of Paul and Storm. In the vein of Garfunkel and Oates, though really much more cerebral (not a knock on G&O; they're funny and good in their own way, but they're lots less... refined than DK).

Then Wil Wheaton came on and read some stories. Now, Wil Wheaton isn't exactly the most musically talented fella out there. But that's OK, because he's also the world's Alpha Geek and probably one of the better actors (voice and screen) of my generation. The fact that he's incredibly niche doesn't really matter in my ascertainment; he's brilliant, funny, moving, and a truly gifted actor. He read several stories, and one or two of them I've heard before, and two of them with musical accompaniment. And he hit it out of the park, a perfect balance of funny and moving, and a good breather between the laughs generated by Angela and Aubrey and Paul and Storm. It's been a real pleasure to be able to see someone who has found success in their chosen field by being true to themselves. I think it gives the rest of us hope.

The closing act was, of course, Paul and Storm. And it was as funny as expected; they did some of their old stuff, and some of their new stuff, and there were tons and tons of jokes, and thanks to Mr. Wheaton, there were a ton of Penn State jokes (of which Paul is an alum). Horribly, horribly inappropriate jokes, which had a number of people in the audience wavering back and forth as to whether they were upset or not. The cover band jokes were out in force as well, which is always a nice bit of comedy that takes both wit and cleverness on the instant. I'd love to say I was good at the game, but I'm nowhere near as good as the originators. As expected.

I have one complaint, just one, and it's going to be a repeating theme: not enough time. I'd've liked to hear one or two more songs from, basically, everyone (including Wil). I also understand why they weren't able to make that happen -- with the doors opening at 7 and the show starting at 8, to get out before midnight basically everyone has to do a short set, especially if the goal is to finish "The Captain's Wife's Lament" before the heat-death of the universe.

In summary, it was a great show, and well worth the money. The Aladdin Theatre is a great venue, and the performers were terrific. And I'm glad that my girlfriend was able to come with me, and had a good time. It was great to share it with her.