Monthly Archives: June 2009

Podcast fun!

One aspect of the gaming scene that I’ve been really into for a few years now is game podcasting. I generally find it more entertaining and mentally stimulating to listen to spoken word than music when possible. I’m a big music fan and usually get too distracted to listen to podcasts while working or doing anything else that involves too much concentration so I certainly don’t listen to podcasts all the time but I find them to be a perfect fit for my daily commute. I’ve changed which podcasts I listen to and how frequently numerous times since I first began and since the topic has come up with a few of the people that I know read this recently I thought I’d quickly run down the list of what I currently listen to and why.

Rebel FM – I used to listen to GFW Radio and later its successor LAN Party along with 1UP FM so this combination of Anthony Gallegos, Phil Kollar, and Nick Suttner seemed almost too good to be true after the mass layoffs at 1UP earlier this year. Although I honestly couldn’t stand him at first (my first introduction to him was actually a forum thread largely bashing him) Anthony quickly became my favorite podcaster on LAN Party and I loved his “Anthony Gallegos on…” segments on 1UP FM. Phil and Nick have both since parted ways with Rebel FM but Anthony, Arthur, and regulars such as Tyler Barber and several of the Co-op crew, most notably Matt Chandronait lately, have kept the tone of the show largely the same. Rebel FM also barrows 1UP FM’s Backlog segment calling it Rebel FM Game Club which I find entertaining regardless of whether I’m playing along with the game they’re covering or not.

Out of the Game – Another bunch of 1UP alumni! Out of the Game is hosted by some of the all-stars of 1UP podcasts, and besides their popularity, they were some of the funniest guys on their shows. Jeff Green, Shawn Elliott, Robert Ashley, Luke Smith, and N’Gai Croal shoot the shit on what would normally be the much maligned off topic tangents on other podcasts but only totally on purpose this time. Sure, gaming comes up here and there a bit too. Hilarious stuff. Out of the Game isn’t released too regularly so feel free to subscribe even if you’ve already got a full roster. My only real hesitation about recommending Out of the Game is that it sounds like crap a lot of the time due to being quickly thrown together from a Skype conference call with no real time being invested in mixing or editing.

Idle Thumbs – A relatively recent discovery, Idle Thumbs has quickly become one of my favorite podcasts. It’s hosted by three guys who all work in the industry – two journalists and an actual developer. They cover the usual topics about what they’ve been playing and gaming news as well as answering the odd listener mail here and there though they often seem to come from slightly different perspectives than a lot of other podcasters I’ve listened to. The three guys also have a great chemistry and are often hilarious together. Oh, and the fact that they love old games as much as I do doesn’t hurt either. 😉

The Gamespy Debriefings – Anthony Gallegos recently got hired by Gamespy and when I heard he was joining the cast of The Gamespy Debriefings I decided to check it out. Anthony is, well, Anthony here so if you’re a fan this one is recommended. I also like some of the other cast members and am a bit disappointed that I hadn’t given it a listen earlier since there appears to be somewhat of an exodus of at Gamespy with a lot of the old podcasters leaving. Interestingly, Ryan Scott was recently hired by Gamespy and will be a regular member of The Debriefings as well which promises a return to the hilarious Ryan and Anthony dynamic of LAN Party before its demise.

My back up. If I need or want something else to listen to and the above haven’t taken up all of my possible podcast time this is what I go to:

Giant BombcastGiant Bomb’s podcast has got to be one of the better gaming podcasts currently in production. The hosts are funny and share a wealth of knowledge. These guys are all, every one of them, absolutely hilarious and are constantly making humorous comments and when they actually talk serious about games they’ve usually got a lot of interesting things to say. The only reason I don’t regularly listen to this, time considerations aside as it is a long show, is that the their constant playful quipping sometimes comes across as a little bit too snarky for me, almost as if they’d rather sit around making sarcastic comments than actually discuss anything. Even still I find myself returning to the Bombcast quite frequently.

My back up, back ups. Mostly podcasts I like but don’t listen to because of time constraints:

Listen UP – The successor to 1UP Yours after the 1UP layoffs earlier this year. Garnett Lee and John Davidson still keep the show feeling familiar but I found myself becoming more and more detached from the discussions they were having and decided to drop this one in favor of others, especially due to its often long run times. Garnett is somewhat of a polarizing figure to a lot of people, especially without an equally strong personality around to help balance the show out, though other than some of his silly tirades he’s never really got under my skin too much.

Gamers With Jobs Conference Call – Another podcast that comes highly recommended. The GWJ podcast actually reminds me a lot of a more chaotic version of Idle Thumbs. Like Idle Thumbs these guys seem to have different perspectives than a lot of other podcasters out there. The also love to talk about old and/or obscure games and go off on the oddest of tangents at times.

Honorable mentions:

Co-op – The successor to the 1UP Show, Co-op is one of the few and surely the best gaming video podcast out there. The sketches are often a little bit hokey but will surely grow on you as you get to know the cast of the show. The game coverage, specifically the footage, is outstanding and the show’s overall production is second to none. I don’t watch this on a regular basis though I do tend to go back and check out the episodes I missed from time to time.

A Life Well Wasted – Robert Ashley, who I love by the way, puts together this podcast in a totally different way. Probably inspired by listening to too much NPR, each episode of A Life Well Wasted covers a specific topic and approaches it more like a documentary, or perhaps more accurately a thesis, using the interviews and discussions therein to explore a subject and/or support a point. It is pretty unique amongst its peers and its short run time and infrequent release schedule make it easy to recommend.

That’s it for now. I’m sure there are plenty more good gaming podcasts out there, more than I’d ever possibly have the time to listen to, but if anyone has any good recommendations feel free to pass them along and I’ll check them out!

The Tale of Garn Chapter 9

Warning: potential side quest spoilers ahead!

From the journals of Garn:

Who you gonna call?

I rise late from my Anvil inn room and leisurely wander the city streets for a while to attempt to overhear something that might turn into a lead but there doesn’t seem to be anything particularly interesting going on. After my brief glimpse of it the night before I figure the most excitement probably lays outside of the city walls on the Anvil docks.

Yes, it's a travesty about your crystal ball. What about those murdered sailors again?
“Yes, it’s a travesty about your crystal ball. What about those murdered sailors again?”

Before I’ve even made it half way across the waterfront I’m hailed by a Altmer woman on a nearby peer. She says that judging by my appearance I might be able to perform a job for her so I’m quick to hear her out. The woman is quite distressed – something about her hiring a ship to retrieve a precious family heirloom only to have the entire ship’s crew turn up murdered upon their return. She needs someone to finish the task for her by retrieving the item from below deck as the ship is overrun by the ghosts of the slain crew members. She must have spotted the silver claymore strapped to my back and figured I was prepared to handle the undead. She isn’t wrong.

I agree to help the woman and, torch in hand, head below deck. It is a grizzly sight – corpses strewn about, many of them obviously killed in cold blood. The crew’s personal belongings still sat next to them, undisturbed. Card games interrupted and bowls of chowder now gone cold, like pictures frozen in time. Odd that nothing seems to have been stolen. I barely have time to react to the scene when I hear a crashing noise coming from just ahead in the captain’s quarters and draw my blade. Just as the woman had claimed the spirits of her slain crewmen restlessly roam the cabins.

Err, yeah, how about you charge in first...
“Err, yeah, how about you charge in first…”

I quickly summon a flame spirit to aid me in the fight as a chaotic melee soon breaks out in the room. Items fly from tables and paintings are knocked off walls but soon the ghost is vanquished. I cautiously climb down to the next deck and continue exploring this ship of death. More spirits fly out towards me, clawing at me with corporeal hands and slicing at me with their sabers, their terrible moans filling the air. I’m more ready for them this time though and despite the close confinements I slay most of them with relative ease. Finally on the bottom deck I find the heirloom that the woman so desperately seeks, a crystal ball.

Compensate much, Garn?
“Compensate much, Garn?”

I quickly gather it up into one of my packs, survey the room one last time, and scramble up both sets of ladders and back out onto the main deck hoping to not have to fend off any more spirits. When I emerge the woman appears overjoyed at the sight of her crystal ball if not also a bit surprised that I succeeded in my task. As compensation she rewards me with a powerful enchanted cutlass which should fetch a pretty penny in the Imperial City’s markets if I don’t keep it for myself.

I quietly slip into the Flowing Bowl tavern to ponder the fate of the sailors over an ale. It isn’t long before an Imperial man steps in and takes a seat directly next to me. Before I have time to mentally question the curious nature of his seating choice given that I’m the only other person at the bar he turns and introduces himself to me. It turns out that this man, Velwyn Benirus, was directed to me by the Altmer woman from earlier. He tells me that he has a manor house in the city that he wishes to sell but it seems to be haunted. Hearing of my apparent skill at clearing out ghosts he offers me the job. Another opportunity so soon!

Velwyn shows me the house but initially refuses to go in. I insist and finally he gives me a quick tour around the premises. The place is covered in cobwebs and dust yet it is obvious from its general cleanliness that no one has been squatting here despite its abandoned state. Velwyn tells me that while all seems quiet now if I stay the night I’m likely to encounter the spirits. This whole situation sounds like a setup but I don’t get the sense that Velwyn is lying to me so I cautiously agree.

A magical necromanic seal, what every home needs!
“A magical necromanic seal, what every home needs!”

After Velwyn leaves I make another round around the house only this time visiting doors he had left unopened. At first I don’t discover anything all too interesting but soon I stumble upon the house’s basement. The basement is impressively large, filled mostly with old wine casks and smaller barrels – potentially a fortune down here providing any of these are still full. As I reach the end of the final chamber I spot an odd looking seal on the wall. Now this is curious.

Take a number and get in line!
“Take a number and get in line!”

That evening I warily bed down for the night in the house’s master suite. As far as I can recall this is probably the biggest, most comfortable bed I’ve ever been able to sleep in and I’m enjoying the concept of being paid to sleep in a nice room instead of the other way around for once. Sure enough, as I’m finally drifting off to sleep I’m startled by a blood curdling moan. I immediately spring out of the bed and take up my sword but before I’ve even managed to rub the sleep from my eyes I am surrounded by ghosts. I quickly summon a flame spirit and jump into the fray.

Bethesda gave me a hand with this quest. *rimshot*
“Bethesda gave me a hand with this quest. *rimshot*”

The melee ends quickly enough. As I’m surveying the aftermath I hear a loud crash coming from the room below the stairwell – more ghosts! I dash down the stairs but alas the room is empty however I do find an old jar smashed upon the floor. Amongst the debris lay the skeletal remains of a hand clutching a note. Naturally I grab the note and attempt to decipher it.

The scrap of paper appears to be a page ripped from the diary of a incensed necromancer. The necromancer describes building a secret chamber in the basement to keep his physical form while he transcends into the spirit world. He mentions leaving the spirits of his previous experiments around the house in order to protect it. He also mentions that only one of his blood line can open the portal into his secret chamber. I immediately grab my things and head back to the inn to attempt to find Velwyn to find out more about the history of this house.

And this is why I canceled my subscription to TV Guide.
“And this is why I canceled my subscription to TV Guide.”

At first Velwyn seems surprised by the contents of the note but after continuing to press him he tells me the whole story. Velwyn himself is the grandson of the necromancy in question who was killed when the townspeople of Anvil found out about his hobby. The body apparently disappeared and ever since the house has been cursed. I had a feeling Velwyn hadn’t been giving me the whole story! I convince him to come back with me so that I can finish the job of removing the curse.

After vanquishing a few more ghosts we return to the strange seal in the basement. It takes some time but eventually Velwyn is able to remove it though he doesn’t stick around to see what is beyond the portal. This large, secret chamber is filled with all kinds of necromantic tools and tomes not to mention a scattered selection of long decayed corpses. The centerpiece of the room is an alter containing a final corpse – no doubt that of the necromancer himself.

Going lich tipping.
“Going lich tipping.”

I reach out to examine the necromancer’s body when the entire corpse suddenly jolts and a disembodied voice begins speaking to me. It’s the necromancer, Lorgren Benirus, and he spins a sorrowful tale about how his soul has been trapped and how now he just wants to make peace with the Nine and finally rest in peace. To do this, however, I must join the severed hand I found earlier to the rest of his body. I somehow instantly knew that Lorgren was trying to trick me. Still, if I complied and Lorgren rose from the dead I might be able to finish him off and lift his curse from the house entirely.

As I predicted attaching the hand immediately causes the necromancer’s body to begin to flush with life. Before I can react he summons several skeleton warriors to distract me while he rises from the alter. I immediately summon a companion of my own and fight off the skeletons, beating a path directly towards Lorgren. Once I reach him it is all over for the necromancer as blow after blow from my silver claymore folds him in half until he falls, finished, onto the cold stone floor. The curse is lifted!

I search the secret chamber a final time before heading out. As I return to the tavern I find Velwyn sitting at the bar with an empty tankard of ale in front of him. He looks sick with nerves but that quickly changes as I tell him that the deed is done and the necromancer’s spell is broken. Elated he hands me a small pouch fill with coins and jewels, shakes my hand, and hurriedly runs out the door.

The Tale of Garn Chapter 8

Please take note that from this point on the Tale of Garn will shift to covering more quests and will therefore contain mucho spoilers. While I may change or totally skip over some elements of some of these quests for roleplay reasons I’m sure that what I do cover will be sufficient to piss off those who are easily offended by such things.

From the journals of Garn:

Odd Jobs and Odd People

Because of the events of my very first night here in Skingrad, psychotic guards and whatnot, I figured it would be a pretty interesting place to look for work. After a couple of days of wandering the streets, going from business to business, and hanging out in various taverns, I’ve begun to think otherwise.

I'm not sure if I should talk to it or punt it.
“I’m not sure if I should talk to it or punt it.”

That quickly changed as a wood elf awkwardly approached me in the streets. The Bosmer introduces himself as Glarthir and nervously whispers something to me about meeting him tonight behind the Great Chapel for work. I’m apprehensive about the nature of this meeting at first but after spending the rest of the day without any other leads, despite questionable talk regarding Glarthir’s sanity, I decide to take up his offer.

Uhh, yeah... sure Glarthir.
“Uhh, yeah… sure Glarthir.”

I creep out of my inn room and carefully walk to our arranged meeting point. Glarthir is already there, ecstatic to see that I’ve actually shown up. He explains that he believes he is being watched and only someone like me, an outsider, can safely help investigate. He says he has a list of conspirators that he wants me to follow. In turn I’ll be rewarded handsomely. Sounds like easy money.

My first assignment is a young Breton woman who lives quite close to Glarthir’s residence. I follow her for the entire day but her daily routine seems, at best, inconspicuous. She goes to the chapel every morning and then to work for most of the rest of the day at the Tamika Winery. I report my findings to Glarthir that night and despite being surprised about the outcome he rewards me and gives me the name of another person to investigate.

Just look at all of those goddamn conspirators!
“Just look at all of those goddamn conspirators!”

The other two people, a noble who seems to have no responsibilities but enjoys loafing around Castle Skingrad and going on leisurely horseback rides and then David Surilie of the locally famous Surilie Vineyards, also seem to lead routines devoid of any suspicion.

As I give my final report to Glarthir he becomes enraged and accuses me of being in on the conspiracy. Given our secluded location and the time of day I have no choice but to defend myself then and there and end up killing him. News of Glarthir’s death spreads quickly but, oddly enough, no one seems overly surprised or even concerned. Perhaps he isn’t as crazy the other townsfolk say after all? Maybe this isn’t just paranoia?

The diary of a mad man. Wait, the Blades have a secret?!
“The diary of a mad man. Wait, the Blades have a secret?!”

The next night I take it upon myself to sneak into Glarthir’s house to perform one last investigation for him. While Glarthir has more books than the prison library I don’t see anything suspicious in his home. I do find some of his notes on the plot which seem to lend themselves more to the notion that Glarthir was simply disturbed and paranoid, however.

Given how fruitless looking for work in Skingrad turned out to be and the fact that I just murdered one of its residents I decide to make my way back to the port city of Anvil.

Unique? This guard has a obviously never been married.
“Unique? This guard has a obviously never been married.”

Practically as soon as I step into Anvil I catch wind of the fact that people are in somewhat of an uproar regarding a local gang of women who have been seducing men and robbing them. This town is getting interesting already! I inquire about the possibility of lending a hand to the situation and am told to talk to one of their recent victims, Gogan.

Err, I'd love to know what it is that she thought I was thinking.
“Err, I’d love to know what it is that she thought I was thinking.”

When I arrive at Gogan’s home his wife unfortunately opens the door before he does and gives me her very poignant opinion on the situation. More importantly, however, she explains that when Gogan was robbed a precious family heirloom was stolen and she’s paying a reward for its return. Gogan himself tells me that the gang often works a tavern near the docks so as to target sailors and other travelers who probably won’t be sticking around long enough to attempt any sort of retribution.

My plan is simple one. I’ll go to the bar and hope I run into one of the gang members and go along with their directions. When they try to rob me, however, I’ll resist. With any luck I’ll be able to force them to return Gogan’s stolen possessions. Fool proof if you ask me.

Wait, I'm still not following. You want my silverware set? Not a chance!
“Wait, I’m still not following. You want my silverware set? Not a chance!”

Sure enough it takes little time once I take a seat at the bar of the Flowing Bowl for a pair of attractive woman to approach me. It is more than obvious from their demeanor that these are the gang members I’m after. How many other people have fallen for this routine? I just got out of prison and have spent the majority of my free time since wandering the wilderness and I would have still been more suspicious than interested.

Faster, faster! I'm on an important mission!
“Faster, faster! I’m on an important mission!”

The women ask me to meet them at a farm house outside of the city walls later on in the night. As I arrive I’m greeted by only one of the women who insists that I get undressed for her while her other two friends get ready. Yeah, right. When I refuse and put my hand on the hilt of my sword the woman’s mood changes instantly, declaring that she knew this was a ruse and calling the other gang members out of hiding. They draw their weapons and lunge at me in an instance. Prepared as I am I defeat them all rather effortlessly.

Way ahead of you, baby...
“Way ahead of you, baby…”

Almost as soon as the commotion is over the front door of the house swings open and Gogan enters, though this time wearing the standard uniform of the Anvil city guard. Gogan tells that they sent me in as a semi-unwitting participant in an undercover sting operation, thanks me, and then pays me for my help. Now I’m a little richer and in good with the Anvil City Watch – I’m starting to like this town!

Apparently I need to start paying better attention to lighting when I take these screenshots. Most of these look damn horrible. Also, apologies for not nabbing any decent action shots this time around.