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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Games Review: Spirit of Wandering - The Legend

Alright! Continuing the blog-o-posting of Saturday - I originally meant Sunday but my class ended earlier than I thought - I giving out a game review to one of the new games in the Reflexive market.

Actually, I didn’t pay for anything but it’s a better courtesy for the company that I try to promote and give reviews.

There, my conscience is cleared. Almost.

No it’s not.
Yes it is.
It’ll be clearer if you’ll admit who gave you that game crack program.
Ooo, secret tool versus dirty conscience. Gee, such a difficult choice.

*whacks Brainy and Baddie selves*

ANYWAY...

I suppose it was the play of fickle fate when I played this game with a ridiculously long name called Spirit of Wandering - The Legend (let’s refer to it as SoWTL). I say fickle fate because I downloaded this on Valentine’s Day and this game turns out to be some kind of mushy romance quest (complete with a kissing couple in the starting menu).

Not that I’m complaining. I like romance as much as the next sorry-girl but I was hoping there’ll be more to this than meets the heart.

The game portrays the pirate ship Spirit of Wandering - hence game title - and you as the captain’s tragically separated bride of the pirate captain. On the eve of your wedding, the ship called the Flying Dutchman came and pretty much crashed the seas.


The spirits of your crew is connected with earthly items which you must find.


As the remaining survivor, you must rescue all your trapped friends and your love from the reality of limbo. The story didn’t say why the Flying Dutchman has a vendetta against your ship or why that captain has a grudge against your captain.

But the crew did have some mysterious background story you can only guess about. Apparently, SoWTL is the first is a trilogy.

I think after Hidden Secret - The Nightmare, this game has the best visual in any hidden-objects game. Most games in this genre were painfully bad to look at; just a bunch of photograph cut-outs jumbled into one 800 by 600 pixels image.

SoWTL tastefully recreated a 3D environment and thankfully avoided photographic cut-outs, allowing you to be able to seek the intended objects better. Unfortunately, that’s the best I can say about SoWTL.


As you rescue your crew, the seas become more visible to you.


The gameplay doesn’t stand-out much from the current systems, maybe because of the lack of more challenging puzzle quests. It’s just a short seek-and-find game with really nice visuals and a compelling story. Music and sound effects don’t stand out either (the same music over and over again).

Replay value is not much in my estimate. But I really like it for its style of visuals, almost to the par of Dream Chronicles. Would that other hidden objects games learn from this art style.

If you want a really good seek-and-find game, I still recommended Dream Chronicles. However, as SoWTL is the first of a series of games, it may yet deliver a surprise.


The advance mode offer a bit more of a challenge.


PS: Downloads for this game can be found in Reflexive Arcade. If you want the cracked version, ask me nicely.

Book Project: Myths of Suvon

I wrote earlier today about a book project I’ve been working on for several years. That one’s just for fun and (hopefully!) for this year’s NaNoWriMo.

Suvon Reality is my really serious book project.

This baby of mine was the pinnacle of those entire fantasy books I’ve indulged in, much to my folks’ horror (they are, if not, my least-determined support). It was from trying to create a historical society that I looked through Victorian England as an example and ended up being immersed in Europe’s mid-1800s.

So what is Suvon Reality project anyway?

I can’t describe it in a few words without comparing it to current fantasy bigwigs; but I do hope not to be sidelined against them or influenced by them. This project is my own and for me to keep it as my idea.

It’s an entire world really, complete with histories, politics, natural disasters... and magic. Yes, I’m working on a fantasy series.

I’m taking up common fantasy themes (like dragon, wizards, towers, etc) and making up my own ideas. I’m borrowing snippets of what’s around me, what I’ve read and real human issues to fuse them in a sequence of events around one female character.

The story spans millenniums, an age of ages, but the book starts when 16-year-old Zakia Azhara brought home a wounded crow to her Damansara Utama home. She thought she would help him heal or at least, die peacefully, but instead, she was catapult into a parallel world beyond anything she had ever dreamed of.

Or had nightmares about.

But because of her actions in that parallel world called Suvon, she became entangled in a twisted fate that followed her back to her Earth life. She became from a refugee outcast to a caster of hope to martyred queen to a tool of rebellion to a broken spirit of survival.

Most of all, it is a story of a changing world on the brink of doomsday, from the life of a living catalyst.


I’ve always wanted something about mystery on the backdrop of fantasy or science-fantasy. Call it Final Fantasy disease. But unlike fantasy, the events that drive the story would be very real issues currently facing this world, like slavery, discrimination, corrupt judicial bar, caste levels, and everything else coming out of Pandora’s box.

And I’ve even created a native language for that world.
Neqi areasaiiy irione areuqanu
Asnut isnot saiya arealaas, esanasta.

I got the alphanumeric right but I’m working on proper pronunciations. This is a translation from a chorus on a Linkin Park song (heh...).

I don’t know how long this project will take, only that I won’t die without completing it first. I’m working on the background origins and histories, intelligent social species and the technical aspects of magic (from source to link to effect).

But mostly, I need to graduate and get a job to support myself first. No matter how big a world I can create, nothing beats the real thing...

Especially when the real thing wants your big fees due for this semester or you can’t enter the exams hall (Ack! To the bank! Get a check!).

PS: My monthly fiction writing, Ireulun’s Travels or Something-Like-It, is set in the world of Suvon, many years after the end of the book project. It helps to give me an idea or an outline of how I want my plot and the stories to be or not to be.

Prostitution (The Woman, the Others and the Effect)

The Woman

My name is Celine and I am a prostitute. I come from a poor but large family in the east coast and I came to Kuala Lumpur to become a sales promoter. But the pay is low, only about RM$700 and I have to send half of that to my family. But I like a luxurious lifestyle.

I got into this job with my boyfriend’s help. He needed money. So I got hired in this nightclub in Bukit Bintang. My contract says waitress, but the real work starts after midnight, when the customers are too drunk to drive home. I can make about RM$30 a night, RM$150 on VIP nights.



I dream of buying my own car and eating in hotels. But my boyfriend took most of my money and urged me to work more often. It’s tiresome really, to perform almost every night. The nightclub where I work always wanted newer, younger girls, some as young as fifteen. The customers always prefer younger girls.

That’s when I broke up with my boyfriend and quit the nightclub. This job ages a woman too quickly. A lot of these customers were rough handlers. They don’t respect you, just as I don’t respect my body. I manage to protect myself from disease so far and I have had two abortions.

I’m 25 now and too old to continue here. I plan on working overseas. The foreigners like Asian girls, a dream of the exotic. My former boss says that he could get me a passport to go to Thailand. From there, he could make arrangements to send me anywhere. New York, London, maybe even Amsterdam.



I’ve told my family not to worry. I told them that I was getting promoted and that I’ll contact them as soon as I reach my destination. They never knew about my night-job, as I didn’t want to hurt their feelings. It really is difficult to get out of this life once you started.

There are three strata of prostitutes. Within the top layer rests discrete call-girls for the affluent. The middle layer holds bordello-dwelling prostitutes or others in less subtle environments such as strip clubs and massage parlors that offer backroom services. Streetwalkers (harlots, hookers, nightwalkers, ...) occupy the lowest layer.

Source: http://www.liberator.net/articles/prostitution.html (2005) Mark Liberator, accessed Jun 2007



The Others

My name is Chanti. I am a fifty years old and I used to be a housewife. My life has been affected by prostitution. My husband and I were married for 23 years and had been blessed with children. Like any couple, we do have occasional disagreements but nothing serious. Our marriage was solid and stable.

Then my husband started traveling alone more often. He said he was taking mini vacations, traveling alone, to relieve some work stress. I was suspicious but I did not object. It turns out that his mini vacations were too expensive. His savings were running out and I would not let him withdraw from our joint account. That’s when his mini vacations stopped and our nightmare began.



My eldest son is a good man, hard-working and honest. He works as a clerk in KL and sometimes comes home late. While driving near Jalan Imbi, he quietly told me that he and his co-workers saw his father, my husband, carousing in the streets with young girls. I feared the worse and quickly gathered my children and my belongings and left the house to stay with my parents.

But the worse came when I started to fall sick. I develop a cough and doctors told me that I have an ailment of the lungs, a side-effect of a declining immune system. I sought further advice from the doctors and they confirmed my worse fears. I am HIV positive.

Today, I have a weak heart and some difficulty in breathing when I do strenuous activity. The cost of medicine to keep me healthy is very, very expensive especially now that I must provide for my family. My daughter will drop-out from school next year to look for a job to earn a little more so that my younger children could stay in school.



My family is broken. My son has been shamed in front of his co-workers, my daughter’s future is uncertain and I kept my younger children in the dark about their father. I am living off my parents’ pension to buy medicine. Of my husband, the last I’ve heard of him was several months ago, that he was caught in a police raid near Lorong Haji Taib.

It hurts the woman, it hurts the children; that is an exploitative situation,. If prostitution is legal it affords men the 'excuse' to go find sex outside of marriage, when things in the marriage are difficult. That does nothing to enhance the relationship between a man and a woman.

[Prostitution] runs opposite to what relationships are supposed to be. Intimacy and love are not involved; it's just a purely physical act. It lowers both people to the lowest common denominator."

Source: http://www.prostitutionprocon.org/questions/marriage.htm (2006) Dave Quist, accessed 2007


The Effect

My name is John Hill. I am single and employed. I have financial and social security. I am close to my family and have many friends. I am able to provide for myself and for my parents back in the kampong. And I visit prostitutes every now and then.

I don’t call them prostitutes. I call them ladies. I don’t go to a brothel. I’ve tried them but I always fear getting caught in a police raid. Nowdays I sought an exclusive escort service. I would choose a girl from the ‘manager’ and he contacts the girl. She would dress-up looking very pretty and take me to a restaurant and later to a hotel room. I paid for everything.



Back then, I didn’t get all about the fuss. These ladies are working by choice. It’s just business between strangers. They provide, I accept. Call me mindset or in moral-denial but Malaysian would prefer legalizing prostitution. It’s the oldest profession in the world anyway. Of course, I didn’t tell anybody I visit these ladies.

But I was shocked when, out of the blue, a crying baby was deposited on my doorstep. With the baby was a newspaper article, with a picture of a bruised and battered very young girl. She was caught trying to dispose a dead fetus into a river. She also confessed that the baby had a twin and she gave it up to her boss in exchange for her passport.

I still don’t believe it. I confess that I knew the girl. Her name was Helen. But I didn’t know she was fifteen years old. For now, I’m at a lost. Should I give the baby up for adoption? Should I confess to my family and ask them for help? Should I try to contact Helen?



The baby is still with me, being cared by a hired maid for now, still kept hidden. She is becoming healthier everyday but every time I looked at her, I see her mother. I see her mother first as a glittering escort girl and then all too quickly, I am haunted by her mother’s battered and lost eyes.

Image Resources:
http://www.google.com.my
http://gvnet.com/humantrafficking/00-Graphics.htm
http://www.fotosearch.com/photos-images/child-abuse.html

Image: Charging Kudu by Bill Melvin

Shucks.

I wish I had some time management skills or something. There’s a course about it in Basic Business Skills class I had in my foundation year and I aced it. I think somewhere between foundation and final year, all them learnings must have leaked out of my head while I was asleep.

Bah, I was looking forward to the movie Jumper coming out in theaters on last Thursday. Wouldn’t it be cool to travel as fast as the speed of thought? Your Ferrari is nothing to my smokescreen.

It’ll cut down on a lot of traveling time too. No more queues, no more petrol money. Hey, I could sleep-in on Saturday and still be in time for class. I’ll just have to remember to change out of my pajamas first (don’t think Lec-Xercise would appreciate baggy pants with tiny printed blue flowers).

If you’re wondering what the heck the movie Jumper have anything to do with this week’s image critique... it doesn’t. I’m just filling up blabbing space.

It’s just that Jumper is a noun from a verb becoming an adjective, I found one image from CGSociety.org that fascinates me as a ‘jumper’.



Definitely something for the desktop - that is, if your computer is fast enough.

This is an artwork of a charging kudu by Bill Melvin, an award-inflated artist with his website at http://billmelvinart.com. He made it as part of a mini art contest in the CGS forums, and then later decided that it would look great in a stormy African setting.

I got to say that this is a really cool rendition of a beast in running flight. I liked how he drew the accurate proportions of the deer to the real thing. However, I did not like the expression on the deer is too flat (one would have thought he would be panting, then it’ll look more real).

Oooh, yeah. Speaking of jumping and running, it’s my hour with Lec-Xercise now. Must learn VR theory. I wonder if Jumper did any VR scenes or they just used a dummy and burned it in speedy ash?

Book Project: Marigold’s Masquerade

I like to read romance. I’ll admit that.

What I won’t admit is that I’m working on a romance book myself.

Oh.
I just did.

Well, actually I’m quite shy of confessing of writing something like this. My biggest dream since I was 9 - when I managed to spell ‘insignificant’ correctly all by myself (also a word that would haunt me for too long) - was to become a fiction author.

Call it whatever you think I’m inflicted with. Singles awareness, bluestocking-loner, never-been-kissed, overly-sensitive-biological-clock, day-dream-addict, always-the-bridesmaid-never-the-bride status.

Just don’t you dare call it post-Valentine’s blues.

This is a serious project I had been working on for some years. It’s been put on hold due to my approaching final year. Another problem is that the market for fiction books in Malaysia is pretty darn small, so agents won’t take a pile of printed dust from an IT undergraduate,

Hahaha, enough crap. I’m finally admitting it because I don’t want to forget this venture of my heart. Kind of like a second stowaway compartment from my under-used PC folder in my hard-drive.

This story is a mystery-cum-romance set in the era of Victorian London in 1855 AD. It was also the same year that the British Prime Minister, Lord Aberdeen, stepped down because of poor management of the Crimean War.

It was not the overseas war against the Russians that Nate, Lord Evans, had in his mind recently. After his farms in Ireland had been struck by a potato famine, he was the secret owner of a domestic employment agency that had a dual-purpose; helping to replenish his income and find new positions for his Irish tenants.

But something was trying to bring down his small business enterprise. First it was just devious rumors. Then some near-fatal accidents. It was not long before those accidents were no longer so near-fatal...

Then came Marigold, a young girl of the London slums, desperate to find a maid’s job and keep herself and her sister off the streets. Nate knew it was fate in a flash of light - right at the moment when Marigold delivered a stinging right hook to his eye.

Annie Bright was torn between finding the murderer of her elder sister and securing safety for her younger sister from the darker denizens of London. When Lord Evans offered her a job, as a maid-of-work in his household - even after she blacken his eye - Annie knew it was fate brought with dread. For Lord Evans was her chief suspect...

Between the backgrounds of London, countryside Norfolk and gardens of Kent, both individuals danced a game of intrigue and danger while trying to hide both motives and secrets. Neither knew that their destinies were intertwined in one conclusion.


Cheap, it ain’t.

I have a lot of fascinations about England’s industrial revolution and the era of society during Queen Victoria. I’ve made a lot of research about how they lived, how they worked, what enlightens, what shames, etc. I just couldn’t help making up a story in a certain situation.

I plan to write Marigold’s Masquerade as the first of a series called The Wildflowers. The continuing tales looks at the many changes as England progresses, like the last of France’s Napoleonic dynasty, the pirates’ activity in the East Indies and the rise that triggered the American civil war.

Like I said, it ain’t cheap.

I’m working on the second chapter of this book and currently I’ve got 5/6 of the series plot outlined. My plan is to put it as an entry in 2008’s NaNoWriMo and the rest of the series as private collection (no, I won’t publish it until I’m more sure of the local market). I hope this doesn’t count as cheating.

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