I'm not really a big anime/manga fan. At least not anymore. I guess I just got tired of the big talk-fight-talk sequences, and the brooding main characters and comical sidekicks (or vice versa). Though there are some anime/manga that I still like. Dragonball Z, Rurouni Kenshin, Wolf's Rain, and Full Metal Alchemist are amongst the few. But my favorite anime/manga of all is probably Naruto.

I started reading Naruto three years ago. During that time, I was just curious about the anime since every forum I visted seems to have a discussions about Naruto. That's why I got a copy of the manga. I instantly fell in love with the series after reading it because it has everything (action, drama, and comedy). The main character, Naruto, is also one of the strongest characters I've read in a story. He's cunning and stupid, funny and sad, and pefectly flawed.

So now that I got hooked with the series, I have almost 200 anime episodes and more than 300 chapters of the manga sitting in my hard drive. Though I haven't downloaded any Naruto anime episodes for quite some time now. But to be more accurate, I'm trying to avoid the episodes since the crappy filler arcs are just chipping at my patience. I prefer to read the manga version since it's updated weekly and it's faster to download.

If you also want to join the action and the hype. You can always download the manga version, from the start to the current issue, at Naruto Central. It's free and they update it regularly.


Leisure and Game Design

Game developer and writer, Chris Avellone (Fallout 2, Planescape: Torment, and Knights of the Old Republic II), had a guest spot as a blogger over at Game Tycoon. He wrote some stuff about researching in game design. I really enjoyed reading it and knowing that game design research can be done at a leisurely pace. Plus, I've picked up some tips that will help me a lot with my Neverwinter Nights 2 module design. Here is the excerpt that I really liked:

"...the best advice for “game” research - read a lot of history. It’s better than any fiction (and sometimes far more unbelievable), although you could argue whether or not it’s “fiction” depends on your perspective and who actually won. But in the depths of the history books is not only good settings and terminology to bring to games, but some of the craziest folks, events, and conflicts than you could imagine."

I agree as well, I've read the Sun Tzu, Mein Kampf, books about ancient civilizations, and some historical fiction, and all of them has given me plenty of ideas about my current module's setting, characters, government, and religion. In addition, it was also fun and educational.


Toying with the Toolset

Lately, I've been tinkering with the Electron Toolset (for Neverwinter Nights 2). I must say that its more versatile than the Aurora Toolset (for Neverwinter Nights) was, since it has plenty of options to make your modules look visually good. However, the toolset is more complicated than before and the interface is quite a mess. So I immediately stopped dabbling with the toolset after my first try. Though, after reading a bunch of tutorials, I stepped in again. It's still awkward to work with but I think I'm coming through.

So far, I've only finished one area (8x8 area size) and one magical item. But it took me almost two hours to work on both (while it'll only take me thirty minutes, or even less, to work on an area and an item with the Aurora toolset). So I imagine, with my time spent on just one area and an item, it might take a year or more before I can finish my epic module. Still, I'm pretty satisfied of how my area looks. It has different textures and surfaces. It doesn't look dry and bored compared to the ones I made using the Aurora Toolset.

For now, I'll just continue building all the areas for the prologue, and then I'll finalize my story so I could start creating the characters and conversations -which would be even more difficult than making the areas.


Episodic Contents

A couple years ago, every time I finish a great PC game, I wished that developers would soon release an expansion to that game in order satiate my cravings. I also hoped that, someday, the game expansions would just keep coming like TV episodes. At that time, it was just that...a dream, a wish -and an absurd one to be sure. But now, that dream is already true and that wish have been granted -and far from absurd. Because episodic contents are invading the game entertainment.

It just started last summer (2005) when they released Half-Life 2: Episode 1 and the first episode of Sin. Then came Sam & Max, which is currently at its second episode. Now, BioWare had also joined the fray by announcing that they will be having episodic contents (this really excites me more than you will know) for their PC games such as Jade Empire: Special Edition and Dragon Age. Then there's also the upcoming sci-fi game called the Seeker, which story will be told in episodes.

So it seems more and more game developers are embracing episodic contents. And why not? It's faster and cheaper to develop compared to a full expansion. The downside to it is, since its faster and cheaper to develop, they'll probably release 2-3 episodes a year. That will cripple my wallet.


Neverwinter Katanas

For more than 2 months since its release, I'm still playing Neverwinter Nights 2. It's a great game with an awesome replay value, and I just can't get enough of it. I've beaten the game so many times already, using different characters, but it still have some interesting secrets left for me to discover.

Take these two katanas (shown above), for example. I just found them awhile ago when I was shopping to improve my Weapon Master's equipment. The katana's names clearly states that it was inspired by Rurouni Kenshin's (Samurai X) Makoto Shishio, a katana-wielding samurai who looks just like a mummy.


Flight Manual Excluded!

X3 Reunion was one of the games I missed in 2005. I didn't get it because of the bugs that plagued the game, and my hardware wasn't cut to handle its graphics. But I bought the fixed version -which was released last month, and has some additional contents included. It's a great game, probably the best space simulation since Freelancer, and the fixed version is ironed out and bug free. Unfortunately, the fixed version was shipped without a manual, .pdf file or hard copy. Since X3 is a very complex game, and without a manual, I just mostly wander around deep space trying to figure out how things work instead of playing.


Battle Lord

I was just browsing around the net, looking for some new PC game, when I decided to visit 1C Games' website. Apparently, they're developing a game called Battle Lord, which is scheduled to be released sometime this year. According to the game's description, it's an adventure game with turn-based combat and RPG elements. Here are some info taken from the website:

"Gameplay is divided into two major sections: adventure mode and battle mode. While playing in adventure mode the gamer controls their character in real-time.
With several classes available at the start of a new game, the player moves through the adventure map seeking various treasures, fighting monsters and accomplishing quests tasked to him by the local stewards. Once in battle mode the gamer assumes the role of a war chief, leading his troops in tactical turn-based combat. Battles take place on land or sea, in dungeons or castles or even in some items! The hero himself doesn't participate in the combat, but can assist his troops by casting spells or summoning different creatures."

This game really looks promising, and has the "old school" PC gaming appeal like Space Rangers 2. I just hope 1C finds some publisher willing to release this nice game here in North America.


Games for 2007

Last year was a good PC gaming year. I've played plenty of great games like Neverwinter Nights 2 and Dreamfall, all of which from genres that I love. But this year is going to be even better. With Windows Vista, a new Microsoft OS, on its way to the market, I'm sure PC gaming will blossom. Unfortunately, I'm still going to limit myself with the games. But here are the ones that I'll definitely have (in particular order).

Jade Empire: Special Edition

This far eastern and martial arts inspired RPG is one of the most highest ranked games in XBOX. It will do so, again, in the PC. I'm just ecstatic BioWare decided to share this XBOX game to us PC gamers. It's been four years since their last game, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.

Dragon Age

BioWare's latest RPG epic exclusive to the PC. Not much information has been released about this game, so I know little. But BioWare hasn't failed me before and I still have faith in them as one of the best PC RPG developers.

The Witcher

The Witcher is based from a popular book in Poland. So I know this game is gonna rock my socks off. Plus, its fantasy setting is filled with plenty of grit and grime for mature gamers like me. Its original release date was actually summer 2006 but they delayed it, unfortunately. However, since the release was pushed back, I assume that the developers had more time to polish this promising game.

Disciples III: Renaissance

I'm a big fan of turn-based strategy games, and the Disciples franchise is my favorite game in this genre. So its return is a very welcome news to me.

Hellgate: London

Hellgate: London is a RPG/FPS game from ex-Blizzard guys, developers of Diablo. So I have little doubts about this game. In addition, the ex-Blizzard guys can't seem to get away from their demons, this game is set in a biblical post-apocalyptic world where you can shoot demonic creatures with a holy, sawed-off shotgun.


1st Hollywood Crush

Went out to catch Blood Diamond today, which stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Connelly. The movie was about conflict diamonds, diamonds which are mined in war zones and are being sold to fund the war. I was aware that this film was good -that's why I paid $8.00 to see it- but it has exceeded my expectations.

But the real reason I wanted to see the movie was Jennifer Connelly. I had an instant crush on her -my first Hollywood crush- when I saw The Labyrinth as a wee boy. She was a charmer and a screen scorcher back then, and she still is now -even at 36. Although, in Blood Diamond, she didn't set the screen on fire with her voluptuous figure like she did in Waking the Dead and Mulholland Falls.



In order to give my twitching eye (see previous post) some time to recuperate, I stayed away from my PC and books for the past two days. So instead of reading, blogging, or summoning the undead to decimate the conformist populace, I re-organized my room...a little bit.

It took me some time to clear my room since I live in the basement (yeah, stereotypical. A jobless 26 year-old with no girlfriend and loves Dungeons & Dragons). Cleaning and throwing things is one thing but it doesn't take time. What takes time is when you sort the crap, find things, and wallow in nostalgia. Like finding an old photograph and letter, you thought lost, caught in between the pages of a magazine. That takes time. First you'll lose your thoughts just by staring at the picture for countless minutes, and then you'll read the letter, or the magazine, and reminisce the good times for hours.

More space for my PC games after clearing out old magazines.

The other thing that takes time is making a decision to throw or keep a certain thing. I hate that kind of conundrum. In my case, I really had nothing important to throw away (I already threw my life away...LOL) except for my old PC game boxes and old magazines (the dirty ones included). Yet for some reason, I really had such a difficult time parting with them. Though part with them, I did (I even had to throw my stuff at night so they won't discover the dirty magazines).

Now, my room and shelves has much more space for the new year. The only thing I must do right now is to get a job, so I can buy many things to fill up my spacious shelves again.


Twitching Eye

My left eye is continually twitching, and it slightly annoys me. It's probably caused by my "hectic" schedule and "strenuous" daily life as an unemployed nuclear medicine technologist. Come to think of it I've been straining my eye 19 hours each day, mostly reading, writing, or playing games. To prove my point, I laid out my daily schedule so you can judge for yourself wheter I'm using my ocular muscles too much.

08:00 am to 08:30 am - Preapare and eat breakfast.
08:30 am to 09:30 am - Watch CNN and local news.
09:30 am to 11:30 am - Surf web (look/apply jobs online,
check/send e-mail, RPG Watch, Friendster.)
11:30 am to 12:30 pm - Cook/Prepare and eat lunch.
12:30 pm to 12:45 pm - Take a shower/bath.
12:45 pm to 05:30 pm - Play PC games (Company of Heroes,
Neverwinter Nights 2, or X3 Reuninon)
05:30 pm to 06:30 pm - Cook/Prepare and eat dinner
06:30 pm to 03:00 am - Write blog, play more PC games,
or read a book ( currently reading The Baroque Cycle)

Well, that's about it, my daily schedule. Just one look at it and there's no doubt I've been punishing my eye, causing it to quiver. By the gods and all their mothers! I'm too predictable (and boring). I need to try out that thing called spontaneity sometime soon.


The Best 6 of 2006

Well, another year has ended and started. But 2006 has been good to me. I finished school and passed my certification board. Though finding a full-time nuclear medicine gig is harder than expected. Nevertheless, my unemployment is a mixed blessing. I don't have income but I had plenty of time to relax. So I was able to watch movies, listen to music, and play a lot of games, and 2006 have birthed many excellent games, music, and films. To recap all of my favorite movies, games, and music that came out last year, I've written a very long list.

Top 6 Games of 2006

1. Company of Heroes
(9.4 of 10)

2. Neverwinter Nights 2
(9.3 of 10)

3. Galactic Civilizations 2: Dread Lords
(9.0 of 10)

4. Dreamfall: The Longest Journey
(8.7 of 10)

5. Space Rangers 2: Rise of the Dominators
(8.7 of 10)

6. SpellForce 2: Shadow Wars
(8.5 of 10)

Top 6 Movies of 2006

1. Pan's Labyrinth
(9.6 of 10)

2. Letters from Iwo Jima
(9.2 of 10)

3. The Departed
(9.0 of 10)

4. V for Vendetta
(8.7 of 10)

5. Apocalypto
(8.4 of 10)

6. The Prestige
(8.4 of 10)

Top 6 Albums of 2006

1. Mastodon - Blood Mountain
(9.8 of 10)

2. Muse - Black Holes and Revealations
(9.5 of 10)

3. Isis - In the Absence of Truth
(9.3 of 10)

4. The Blood Brothers - Young Machetes
(9.0 of 10)

5. Tool - 10,000 Days
(9.0 of 10)

6. Portugal. The Man - Waiter: "You Vultures"
(8.8 of 10)

Well that's the list of my favorites from last year. So what your favorite from last year?