Horror Movie Highlights from the Seattle Film Festival

For a few weeks in May and June, the Seattle International Film Festival highlights a selection of outstanding movies from around the world. As well as the usual dramas, comedies, and documentaries, SIFF is also known for their excellent horror / sci-fi program schedule including midnight movies every weekend. If you want to see some indie and foreign horror, this is the place to do it.

This year I was able to catch three films: Korean thriller Haemoo, Belgian camp horror Cub, and Kiwi comedy splatterfest Deathgasm.

Haemoo

Bong Joon-Ho (Snowpiercer, The Host) has joined that pantheon of directors whose work I will always check out, so when I heard that he wrote a movie I knew I had to see it. As an additional lure, Haemoo is directed by Shim Sung-bo who co-wrote Memories of Murder* with Joon-Ho.

Haemoo is not a horror movie as much as a grim thriller, although one with flashes of comic hilarity. Set during South Korea’s economic depression in the late 90s, the movie follows a beleaguered fishing boat crew that feels forced to turn to smuggling to make ends meet. Their plan goes relatively well until… something goes very wrong, and it pushes everyone to the edge of sanity.

Haemoo is very atmospheric, and the acting is terrific. However, it’s not a GREAT movie. It felt like a Hollywood blockbuster: well made, professional, but a little rote and a little too much focus on action over character development.

It was definitely enjoyable, though, and I would recommend it if you like reality-based thrillers.

* If you haven’t seen Memories of Murder you really should. It’s not a horror movie at all, or really even a crime thriller. It’s.. a really lyrical movie about finding the meaning of life.

Cub

Lately Belgium seems to be nexus of mean-spirited new wave horror, a role that France used to play a decade ago. One of the latest in that genre is Cub, a movie about a cub scout camping trip that really does not go very well for everyone involved.

I found Cub to be a little disappointing. To its credit it managed to be vicious without excessive gore or torture (I loathe torture movies), and the touches of humor were nicely done. However, the internal logic of the movie was really flawed. It wasn’t even fridge logic — even during the closing credits my viewing partner and I looked at each other and started to question what the heck just happened.

The movie suffers from a “twist” ending that is telegraphed from miles away, and a killer with Rube-Goldberg-style death machines that are needlessly complex.

I’d pass on Cub unless you are a serious horror fan, in which case it’s probably better than half the stuff on Netflix right now anyway.

Deathgasm
(note that this trailer is probably NSFW for reasons of gore)

Oh hell yes.

Deathgasm is a horror/comedy movie from New Zealand about a gang of small town metalheads who accidentally start a demon apocalypse. It’s incredibly bloody, very profane, and a remarkably great time. Demons are killed with chainsaws, axes, homemade weed-wackers, and… well, I won’t ruin the joke, but there’s a memorable scene involving a box of sex toys.

This movie is the spiritual successor to Peter Jackson’s delightfully gross horror comedy Dead Alive, which is pretty much the highest praise I can give it. If you like blood, metal, and laughing, I cannot recommend this movie enough.

Binging on Serialized Content in FFXIV
Jun08

Binging on Serialized Content in FFXIV

I’ve mentioned before that there is a huge amount of story content in FFXIV available once a player hits the level cap of 50. Like, a lot a lot.

Most MMOs unlock features based on a character’s level, whereas FFXIV locks things behind quests. Players start their main story quest right from the moment they first create their character, and it continues throughout the entirety of the game. Every major feature is unlocked by doing this questline, so it’s not terribly surprising that you have to finish all of the current main story quest before you can start on the new one in Heavensward.

Consequently, those of us who started the game late or are slackers (that’s me) have to hustle a bit if we want to be able to access Heavensward’s new features any time close to its launch. There are six patches of content to experience after hitting 50. One of these patches was pretty light on story content, but the rest have roughly 10 hours of quests a piece. I’ve finished the content for two of these patches so far.

For no topical reason, here is a spriggan carrying an egg

For no topical reason, here is a spriggan carrying an egg

For those who have been at level cap for a while, these patches were released almost precisely every three months. For those of us just catching up now, of course, we have over a year of serialized content to consume at a fairly brisk pace. When packed all together and done with a mild sense of urgency, the generally well-written story can easily become a long series of fetch quests and rousing speeches. I find I need to remind myself that there’s no rush, or else it all starts to feel overwhelming.

I figured my opinion would be universal, honestly, until I asked around a bit and it seems an equal number of last-minute slackers enjoy experiencing the content this way. My questing partner compared it to mainlining a television show on Netflix — you never have to wait for the next installment of the plot. Just play the next episode, or start the next quest in the chain, and you can consume the story as fast as you like.

I think it’s easy to get too focused on a new expansion and feel like you have to be “done” with everything when it launches, but assuming you’re not a cutting edge raider or crafter it’s healthy to keep in mind that there really is no rush. We will all get there in time, even if Minfilia has to stop and give a lengthy inspirational speech every step of the way.

Public Cash Shop Shaming: round two!

Hey! Go vote in the NBI 2015 Screenshot Safari! It’s a fun way to support newbie bloggers!

Every few years I visit Las Vegas and one of the things I like to do there is play video poker. I’m a nerd, which means when I play video poker I research where I can find the machines with the best payout odds, and I practice with a game trainer so I can execute near-perfect mathematical strategy. Sometimes I end up with more money than I started with and sometimes less, but I enjoy the game and free drinks and generally I have a great time playing.

Once, though, I went through a losing streak right out of the gate and started throwing good money after bad. I panicked and wildly overspent. I felt terrible in all respects — not just upset, but sweaty and sick to my stomach. I could get out of this hole, but I just needed one good hand. One hand. It never came.

I chose to spend that money and I accept responsibility for it, but being in the middle of a city that is designed to keep you playing certainly didn’t help things. The feeling I had that day is similar to the feeling I used to get when I looked at how much money I’ve spent on Hearthstone, although it’s a lot less than I lost in Vegas that day.

Anyway, on to the numbers. Behold my shame!

Cash Shop Reckoning #2

FFXIV Cash Shop: name change: $10.00

Neko Atsume: golden fish: $2.00
Neko Atsume: golden fish: $1.00

Puzzles & Dragons: magic stones: $9.99

Total Spent: $22.99

  • Neko Atsume is an adorable Japanese cat simulator, and while my $3 in golden fish were impulse purchases they are not ones I regret. I had to buy modern decor for my cat-filled house!
  • I created my previous FFXIV character name on a whim and it never really resonated with me. As well my Free Company has a ton of Twitter and blogger types but it’s hard to tell who everyone is, so I wanted a name that made my identity more obvious. My character is now “Aesa Lioresdottir”, and I am very pleased with the change.
  • As for that last expenditure.. allow me to quote from the previous public reckoning: “I hereby declare that [P&D] will not get another penny from me.” That resolution lasted just over two weeks. Ugh, Liore, you’re the worst.
Cat Context 76: Fly No More in Warlords of Draenor, E3 Anticipation
Jun03

Cat Context 76: Fly No More in Warlords of Draenor, E3 Anticipation

cat-context-vertical

This week Liore, Ellyndrial, and Arolaide are joined by blogger and Twitterati C.T. Murphy to talk about Blizzard’s confusing decision to discontinue flying in new content and what we’re looking forward to hearing about at E3.

Last week Blizzard proved once again that they have the strangest PR Department in the industry when lead dev Watcher slipped into an interview that, oh by the way, flying would never come to Warlords of Draenor content. Even anti-flying Liore thought it was pretty silly. All of us understand that there are restraints on programming time and effort, but dropping a feature while still selling flying mounts in the cash shop seems confusing at best and terrible at worst. Murf pitches some ideas for keeping flying in-game but in a way that reduces impact, while Elly seems strangely happy to pilot a waddling pink ground dragon.

E3 is coming up in a couple of weeks, so the crew talk about what they want to see at the event. (Beyond excellent live Twitter snark, that is.) Murf is literally wearing his love of the Fallout franchise on his sleeve. Aro and Liore would like to see more about Mass Effect 4, even if it’s just a second tree. Elly points out that E3 is not great at exposing new IPs, and instead serves as more of a sequel showcase. That being said, he’s still excited to hear more about Uncharted 4.

Aro is unsurprisingly mad about World of Warcraft lore! Liore is so close to buying a PS4! Elly criticizes other people’s game choices even though he’s still playing that stupid mobile mining game! Murf wants to nuke the shit out of some dinosaurs!

Like to watch? This podcast has a livestreamed video version:

If you enjoyed this podcast, please “Like” or “Favorite” it in your media consumption method of choice! It makes us feel nice.

* Murf’s Twitter account
* IGN’s list of games that will probably appear at E3
* Polygon’s interview with dev Watcher
* Aro’s screenshot tumblr, a.k.a. Cullen central
* Free Music Archive page for our theme, in THE crowd by The Years

The Eternal Payment Model Debate: part 284

There was a pretty vibrant discussion between MMO bloggers on Twitter over the weekend on the subject of pay-to-win. I know I’ve already delivered my final word on MMO payment systems and I really intended to keep to that because, let’s be honest, F2P has won as the dominant model. But you guys, people are being so wrong on the internet.

To be fair the current discussion is less about free-to-play in general and more about the concept of “pay-to-win”. Specifically, I recently learned that to a growing number of people the P2W model is totally acceptable now. I dislike this.

What is best in life

I think some of the conflict between bloggers on this topic comes from the fact that MMOs don’t have a consistent win condition. It varies wildly from game to game, and from player to player. Perhaps you feel that you’ve won an MMO by completing the hardest group content, or maybe you’re an ArcheAge player and you “win” by being dominant in PvP.

I like collecting cosmetic items, and I evaluate my gaming success by getting the “best” hats and mounts and such. For me, the common practice of locking the premium cosmetic items in a cash shop is already “pay-to-win”. RIFT did this shortly after going free-to-play, and it was the primary reason I quit playing. The game went from having quest chains and reputation grinds and time-sensitive holiday events to .. lockboxes. It wasn’t even pay to win, it was “pay to gamble and maybe win”. Ugh.

And I guess that’s my underlying problem with the P2W model: it encourages predatory shenanigans by publishers to separate us from our money without us even noticing. I mean, that’s the fundamental principle of free to play, right? We’re supposed to make so many little payments that we don’t notice that we’re spending more than we would with a subscription. Over the entire playerbase, free to play is more expensive than subscription. If it wasn’t, then these huge companies with very well-educated finance departments would look at the numbers and go back to the subscription model.

A common reply at this point is something like, “well I don’t pay anything so who cares if that player over there pays twice what I do”. And I guess that’s fine, but .. for me personally I just am not comfortable knowing that some of my fellow players are getting screwed over by lockboxes so I can play a game for free. That doesn’t seem very neighborly, and being neighborly is one of the reasons I like the MMO genre in the first place.

(Amusingly enough I saw one supporter of pay-to-win say that those against it border on.. GAMING SOCIALISM. Check under your bed, folks!)

“Who gives a shit?”

The “who gives a shit” counter-argument seems to come up a lot in these discussions, and I’m not sure why.

I mean first, I’m an MMO blogger. Having opinions about game mechanics is kind of my gig. Not caring about stuff sounds cool I guess, but it doesn’t make for a very interesting post.

But primarily I care about this topic because what we do now will influence the games of the future. The audience is not the sole pilot of the game industry, but we do get to contribute to its trajectory. Think about this: three years ago when people were talking about Guild Wars 2’s F2P model the dominant line of thought was “free to play is fine as long as it’s not pay to win”. Now it’s changed to “pay to win is fine as long as I can pay”. What a difference a few years makes, huh? I wonder what we’ll be so accepting of next year.

And listen, I’m not saying that I want to burst through the walls of anyone who likes pay to win, Koolaid Man style, and smash their computer or something. Have fun, play your games, rock out. There is room for different opinions here, on both sides of the aisle.

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