Tuesday, 30 December 2008

The Matrix Online: Things to do part 3

Merry Holidays to all

Seeing as it's currently running in-game then I figured it was time to let you know about the MxO Winter Holiday event that's been running for four years now and is a lot of fun for all players. One of three big annual events in the game this one is almost certainly the most popular with special missions, new "winter clothing", and of course tons of snow! So allow me to run you through some of the fun and frolics to be had in Mega City this winter.

Snowfall and Snowballs

A treat devised during the first winter holiday and a continuing feature due to it's popularity is snowball combat available during the winter period. The mass of snow that rains down is pretty, but it doesn't stick so players have to go and hunt to have their fun. Dotted around the city are snowmen from which players can acquire four different types of snowball to add to their arsenal. These can then be traded to a "Holiday Helper" for a 'festive hat.' Once one of these hats is worn then battle can commence with anyone else wearing a hat until the hats become destabilised and unwearable, making 'last hat standing' a fun game - the hats come in red and green so teams can be organized. The helpers also trade shiny 'party hats' that shoot confetti.

Presents and Prizes

The following year new content was added in the form of winter missions. A charitable organization contracts players to give out presents to people in need of cheering up over the winter. On the way they are attacked by giant monsters made of snow who throw deadly snowballs, but when defeated drop 'perfect snowflakes' that are valuable and can be traded for special clothing. This has slowly built to a collection of 'formal' clothing, such as gloves and hats and other winter items such as large coats and snow boots. The missions have stayed the same since, but new items and variations have been added such as 'ruby snowflakes' which can be traded for red and white versions of some items.

I'll leave you with some images of this year's clothing items, which come in a myriad of colour beyond the examples shown - which are yours to acquire this holiday, only in The Matrix Online.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

SF at the Movies - December 08

We've rolled on into December so let's have a quick peek at what's on offer for the geeks.

The Day The Earth Stood Still

Released 12/12/08

A remake of a classic Sci-Fi thriller, this modern version, starring Keanu Reeves and Jennifer Connelly manages to put a 60s shocker into a modern setting without losing any of the thrill or pace of the original. A vast, glowing sphere lands in Central Park, and from it emerges a man named Klaatu, who must get past the nervous U.S. government and military to complete his mission to "save the Earth." But as he does the scientists who help him realise his intentions might not be what they understood them to be and that saving the Earth might come at a terrible cost... Well worth seeing, a good bit of engaging cinema.

And that's it as far as I can see, next year is set to bring some big hitters with Terminator 4 and Star Trek 11 well under way and there's a few Fantasy hits such as popular vamp romance Twilight and classic Jim Carey in comedy Yes Man so we won't be short of entertainment this month.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Power Trip 6 - Empathy/ Ability Acquisition

Woah, it's been a while since I did one of these...again! Well series 3 is trundling along nicely so I think I'll take another peak at some of the characters in the show and the powers they possess. The third series has really stepped up and made things very interesting for our heroes and none more so than Peter Petrelli, who'se ability has made him a closely watched subject by more than just the viewers.

Peter has an ability known simply as empathy, he is able to take on the abilities of others simply by spending time with them and then 'unlocking' that ability in himself. Initially he only had abilities in the presence of others or for a short duration after meeting them, but in the thrilling episodes of series 1 he discovered that he could call up any ability he'd encountered at will, though his control was a problem for much of the early series - especially when he got the power of nuclear explosion! Peter has since learned much greater control over the multitude of powers he has 'absorbed' but things don't get any easier for him!

I'm struggling to find any 'classical' references to empaths of the kind that Peter is, though my searches are admittedly a lot more cursory than the in depth academic exercizes I once envisioned. I guess it's because people with 'powers' weren't as prolific in classical writing as they are in contemporary fiction. People with abilities generally were Gods or blessed by the Gods for something, and someone who could nick their gifts wouldn't fit well into the story I guess. Empaths of another kind have been around for a while, these are generally seen as people who heal by empathising with, and even absorbing, another's pain or sickness. A contemporary example would be Sean Farrell of The 4400.

Now there aren't many empaths in the Bible, but I will slip in a few references if I may. The 'powers' that occur in the Bible, primarily in the Old Testament, such as superhuman strength and speed come through God the Holy Spirit and abilities always come at the direction of God when he appoints it. This might not be particularly relevant, but when we tie it into to Peter's intense sense of destiny it is quite intriguing. Peter feels he is meant for something greater and is satisfied when he gains his abilities, though a great destiny isn't all it's cracked up to be. The Bible teaches that God is in control of man's destiny and it is at His discretion when gifts are given. The gifts He gives and the purpose of our lives might not be as dramatic, but the Bible teaches that all people are of extreme value to God and to those He has saved He gives gifts and blessings that don't involve flight or telikenisis, but are enough for them to depend on and to fulfil His purpose for them. That might not be clear enough, if so let me know.

The most famous character with the same ability is Rogue of the X-Men. She also has the ability to take the powers of others, though it affects her in a different way to Peter. When Rogue touches someone she absorbs their knowledge, skills and, if they are a mutant, special abilities. However when Rogue does this it drains the person she touches to the point of unconsciousness or death, making physical contact or relationships impossible for her. I find Rogue to be one of the most real of the X-Men as her ability does grant her power, but it does have an enormous cost on her life rather than just having something that's handy in a fight.

Well I said that Series 3 was making things interesting for Peter and when longtime villain Sylar has found out that he is in fact Peter's brother things get even more so. When they both confront Peter's father Peter himself loses all his abilities, but Sylar is trying to find redemption and has learned to take abilities through empathy and satisfy his 'hunger' without his usual method of removing the skull, making him much more like Peter, who now has to struggle to find out what his purpose is without any abilities - but then again with the Eclipse in this week's episode, he might not be the only one to ask that!

Any other empaths we should know about Sam?

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

SF Masterworks # 13 Martian Time-Slip

It's been a long time since I've read this so to attempt a review would be perhaps a little foolish, buy I've never made it my aim to be a reviewer on this site, but to write about things I enjoy and to share them with you all. One of the things I do enjoy is reading classic Sci-Fi and in particular Philip K Dick, whose gigantic presence in the Masterworks list marks him out much better than my vast appreciation could. Anyway, I do think you are entitled to a review of sorts, and so I'm going to be cheeky and borrow one from www.sfsite.com who have an excellent database of the masterworks series - hope you don't mind guys (I also pinched the image from there!)

"First published in 1964, this is recognized as one of Dick's better novels. Although he was certainly a man of vision with consistently brilliant ideas, his writing style is not at all consistent. Sometimes, it seems to me that Dick's writing reads like a translation from another language. Perhaps this aspect contributes to some of the humour in this novel, for it has some very funny moments.

Jack Bohlen is a repairman on a desolate, dry Mars, inhabited by poor colonists and the remnants of the poorer native population, the Bleekmen. Jack's bored wife is addicted to barbiturates. His father is a ruthless land speculator. His neighbour's young son, Manfred, is an autistic with untapped paranormal abilities. His new boss, Arnie Kott, has a virtual monopoly on the available water on Mars. Arnie wants Jack to devise a contraption to communicate with Manfred in order to capitalize on the boy's theoretical ability to glimpse the future.

It's an odd setup, but the payoff is stunning. The same scene in Arnie Kott's dwelling, the same moment in time, is played over and over again, each time shown from a slightly different perspective. Which interpretation of reality is really real? Are any of them? It's a chilling, haunting, beautiful piece of writing." - by Neil Walsh

A lot of the detail is foggy in my mind, but it was still an excellent read, bringing classic PKD themes such as colonisation and precognition, but giving them a fresh and original context. The Martian setting was entirely believable and I can still catch glimpses of the more memorable scenes in my head as I write this. The autism angle made it particularly interesting for me, but what really captivated me was how engrossing and believable the world and characters were - which is also a typical PKD trait. It is typically mind bending and yet easy to follow and while it isn't my favourite of the authour's works it isn't because it's bad, it's simply that some of his books manage to be even better than this one - quite an achievment considering this is a "Masterwork"

I can highly recommend this one to you, and I'll try and keep up with these posts and I'll do another book soon and...guess what? It's another Philip K Dick!!

OK, that probably says just as much about my reading...but we'll ignore that eh?