…not that there’s a cache of enslaved rice grains somewhere in the world that we haven’t been told about until now.

What I’m referring to is this: a site where you play a vocabulary game, and with each right answer, you indirectly donate 10 grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Program. …or so it says. I wouldn’t know; as my “About” page indicates, I’m frankly not interested in engaging in an endless debate on the trustworthiness of sites like these, or in the reliability of the whole notion of charity. Nope. I’m just here to introduce you guys to a pretty nifty word game that makes you realise that you maybe aren’t that forgetful when it comes to words…you just need a little prompting via multiple choice.

I maxed out at level 47. Floated between there and 39 for quite a while – you win 3 rounds to level-up and lose 1 round to de-level – before my brain protested against unwanted lessons in philology. (…which, by the way, is a word in the game).

How far can you get?



Play Luminara.

…Raaargh. I’m addicted to this online game.

I keep thinking of little smidgety cutesy voices squealing before my upgraded squirt towers. And I now have an obsession with closing up spaces. Closingupspaces. Last night I even dreamed about this awesome pattern I could make out of frost and bash towers.

I’d advise you to think twice before clicking that link. Or, if you already clicked it – consider closing the window before buying that first tower. It’ll change the next few days (weeks? months? oh god, how long am i going to be tormented with this addiction?!) of your life. Irreversibly.

Desktop Tower Defense ftw!

…die, flying evilthings.

What is so addictive about Desktop TD? It’s just a click-and-upgrade flash game after all; and, yeah, the satisfaction of watching your invaders dwindle away at the mercy of your mighty little hand-drawn towers is probably rather petty. But no denying it, I’m hooked, and I’m not the only one. 😀 Maybe it’s the satisfaction of laying out the maze, although I’m not very good at it. I can’t seem to get past the fast ones, or the flying ones, at around the 40th level of Hard mode.

Desktop TD, rarrrgh. Muarrhgh. Yearhg. Gaaaaah.

i watched Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige on DVD yesterday, loved it. the book it’s based on, Christopher Priest’s World Fantasy Award winner of the same title, has been waiting for me to get my grubby hands on it – it just has to go through 8 more pairs of grubby hands before it reaches my local library, and i’m especially keen on reading it because for a change, people have been saying the movie > book. now that’s really good news; it shows that you don’t necessarily have to compromise when you’re making a film adaptation. after all, you adapt it to fit your medium, and it looks like the Nolan brothers certainly did that, and well. but i’ll reserve final judgment til i actually read The Prestige.

can’t believe i missed out on watching it last year. think i’ll go look up more of Nolan’s stuff.

that’s it for regretful reflection. now it’s time for excited expectation! within the next few hours, OverClocked ReMix‘s newest project Final Fantasy VII: Voices of the Lifestream will be available online. free. 4 discs. yes! their very first official remix album from final fantasy, and from the pretty much unarguably most famous final fantasy to boot. what’s not to get excited over? the advance review seems to promise it is every bit as good as it sounds – sure, ocremix has churned out some less than likeable remixes on its site, and its also got its share of meh projects – the EarthBound one i found hard to appreciate in its entirety – but this is final fantasy. no one’s going to mess around with nobuo uematsu’s fine work in FFVII; i’m convinced this will be anything but mediocre. take the Chrono Trigger project as an example; fantastic, ingeniously remixed stuff. i love that it wasn’t just single tracks being reworked, but multiple tracks went into one remix, including material from Chrono Cross. So: OverClocked, receive my trust. it’s a small and insubstantial thing, but it’s all for you.

on a more personal note, me and a friend have decided to embark on a, uh, quest for enlightenment. spec fic enlightenment. *wry grin* we’ve drawn up a plan to read all the Hugo, Nebula and World Fantasy Award winners for novel, and probably the short stories too…and if we have time or we hear that a nominee for a particular year should have won instead, we’ll read the nominees as well. and maybe the novellas and novelettes. *ponders* we figure that since we’re still youthful and fresh-like, we might as well design a project for ourselves that’ll give some productive structure to our currently unproductive free time, and besides, the both of us love speculative fiction. and besides, i’m a damned literature student. why the hell am i not reading more!? argh! i’m an idiot! a big idiot! an idiot for idiots! an idiot of idiots! idiots call me idiot!

anyway, come the mid-semester holidays, i’ll probably put up a pic or spreadsheet or someotherformat with all my intended readings on it, and tick it off as i go. 😀 what i’ve read off that list is uh, very limited. if anyone has any suggestions what i should start on first, go ahead and tell me, please.

Yeargh, but I hate when you gotta get up early, you’re still sodden with sleep because you hit the bed at 3am trying desperately to finish the book you were supposed to have finished for this morning’s class, and the coffee is cold and milk is sour.

Bad times.

Anyway, I have 15 minutes to get over the immediate post-coffee jitters, get dressed, dump the dishes into the sink for when I get back, and then rush off to catch the train. All while re-reading the other book I was supposed to have finished for this morning’s second class. … … … sometimes I wonder if you really can, like my friend Hwei San says – overdose on Literature.

I remember thinking in Shakespearean English for a whole day right after mugging (studying, for you non-Singaporeans) Hamlet and King Lear one loooooong all-nighter session.


Yes well, I did slack around last night, which explains why I’m in such poor condition today. Though *perks up* it was really rather educational! See, I was reading Interactive Fiction (*nudges Conscience away, who mutters something about playing Interactive Fiction.*) and applying my brain to solving fiendishly difficult logical puzzles all while enriching my vocabulary. No seriously, it was a proud moment for me when I realised I’d solved Half Sick of Shadows’ All Things Devours (recognise that from the riddle in The Hobbit? Yes, it’s a text game involving time travel. Which of course, instantly acquaints you with the idea of a game that’s all kinds of hell and all kinds of fun). This is the first game, after Plotkin’s So Far, that I’ve managed to get through, using only one small eentsyweentsy hint… and all that hint was, this time, was a reminder of the fourth dimension. heh. Great game. Recommended. (Plus, female PC. Everybody wants to play a female PC. They’re like, smart and everything.)

If I have that much trouble solving interactive fiction’s puzzles, I can’t imagine what writing them is like.

Oh, got to run. Got the post-coffee toilet urge.

Interactive Fiction.

Spider and Web

So I’ve just gotten into it. Strange, in an age where most people are leaving wordy passages and verbose descriptions and >what now? prompts for 3D swordflinging and spectacular lifelike tank-and-airplane crashes. But being an irrepressible gamer and reader both from as early an age I can remember (I have a video from my childhood with mini-me yelling at Mario to jump over the stupid green pipe), text gaming is naturally my element. Besides, one of the first games I completed was a text game – an Alice in Wonderland adaptation that I lost when the 3.86 crashed, and never found again. I thought it was great, a fantastic idea. That was back in, oh I suppose, 1994, so I’m no child of the golden era of text gaming – I really did stumble back into those hedges. I eventually tripped up Quest while doing some of that stumbling, and after MUDding a little as well, I realised how unpolished Alice was, and how much more sophisticated text games could be. Sure, they’re just games, and lots of them are made by ordinary people not in the gaming industry, but even games made of words and prompts can shine. *gleaming letters*. Not ‘shine’ in that sense. I’m using the overused metaphor. But see, that’s exactly what I mean – like art, interactive fiction is open to interpretation and adaptation. If one decides that blinking letters makes a good point, then blinking letters it is, and it doesn’t have to be tacky. (Check out shrapnel, by Adam Cadre for a good example of innovative style.)

Perhaps most importantly: interactive fiction isn’t quite the same as text games – the latter can arguably be said to have its emphasis on the gaming aspect, and the former can arguably be said to focus on the literary aspect. Storytelling, like Cadre says in his (brilliant) game Photopia, where you tell the tale as much as I do. You absolutely have to get the idea out of your head that text games are just made nowadays because they’re considerably easier to code than graphic-driven ones – if there’s one idea we all should do away with, that’s definitely the one. What I have played of interactive fiction leaves me breathless, excited, astonished, addicted. It can be like literature. It can be literature. I’m practically hyperventilating with the absolute expanse of things you do with interactive fiction!

At any rate, you should stop listening – metaphorically speaking – to me fawn over interactive fiction, and try out some of these games… here’s the link to the Frotz interpreter archive. It’s what you need to play the Z-code games, which are all I’m playing at the moment. I’ll move on to TADS and the other kinds of files soon enough. I downloaded the WindowsFrotzInstaller, if that’s any help. Now go to Emily Short’s IF ‘Notables’ listing, where she categorises some of the more significant or prominent games according to Playable Character style and personality, Gameplay and structure, interactivity of NPCs, etc. Very good if you’re into playing unique, stereotype-bending games, which I am.

I’ve played quite a few games, but finished less – some are tough, and some are outright incompatible with my still nooby brain. I *did* manage to finish Andrew Plotkin’s (brilliant) espionage piece Spider and Web with only a small hint about grilles , and that means you should be able to do it too. Just hone your exploratory skills. Pay attention to everything that’s said or described, and examine, search, try everything. Trust me, the chair puzzle alone, when you solve it, is worth all your effort and time. I finished Babel by Michael J. Roberts and Sting of the Wasp by Jason Devlin too; the last took more time than the first, and has a wholly enjoyable streak of malice running through it. *grin* Schadenfreude! Babel, while possessing a rather cliched plot and premise, has sufficiently evocative descriptions that I was wearing a sweater and a jacket and the heater turned up high when I was playing it. Right now I’m handling two activities: playing as Adam Cadre’s delightful little Machiavel of Varicella, and currently swearing at the NPC in Jon Ingold’s Fail-Safe. That last primarily because I’m convinced what I’m stuck on is a guess-the-verb problem more than a real block on my part. Fail-Safe‘s got a very interesting idea working here though, so don’t let my being stuck stop you from checking it out. All games can be found at Baf’s guide to the IF archive… here.

…and other Promisance games.

While I’m usually not picky when it comes to games, especially free online games, I do have my likes and dislikes, and there are those little things that just get to you when you play the game too often. Promisance games’ main fault is the fact that they’re carbon copies of one another: play one, and you’ve played them all. Not that it’s really their fault. Gameplay also gets a little stagnant after awhile, and I’ve seen other players testify to this: quitting when they’ve defeated everyone else, because ‘peace is boring’. Well, true. The fun of playing online games is the online aspect, the interactive aspect. But I’ll discuss that more later, first: what are Promisance games?

Promisance games are war-strategy, browser-based, turn-based, and text-based games based on the Promisance game-engine. You set up an ’empire’ or a ‘tribe’, you seek to become the most powerful in the game, which is to to have the highest ‘networth’, and you do it by battling and gaining land from other empires, farming, trading, training, selling, buying, building, whatever normal countries do that would work in a game, and you do it with ‘turns’ that are allocated on a timed basis: perhaps 1 turn every 3 minutes, or some such. It’s very effective, very efficient, and very simple to learn: and can provide hours and maybe even a month of fun.

But you’ll find that that month does come to an end, and the game does start to wear off. The problem perhaps, is that Promisance games tend to have a plasticky, mass-produced feel: they work really well, but have little individuality because of their efficiency. There isn’t anything to improve on, and people who use the engine don’t usually add on anything particularly interesting to the system.

But you were mentioning Fire Emblem Empires…so talk about it!

Fire Emblem Empires is another game based on the Promisance game engine. It does it to fairly good effect, using graphics from the latest Fire Emblem games and terms from the games that brings a nice FE feel to it. It’s interesting that this allows FE gamers to experience a different kind of war-strategy play style: instead of dealing in direct (more…)

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