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TOG: Target & Other Games
Sat 21/09/19 10:37 UTC
Given the letters below, can you come up with words made from these letters. Letters may not be used more than once unless they appear more than once in the list. Words must have at least 3 letters, no proper names, abbreviations or foreign words allowed but plurals are! And to reach your target your answer must contain at least one word using all the letters provided.


Target number of words:
Good = 15 - 19
Very good = 20 - 24
Excellent = 25 - 29
Perfect = 30

PM or email your answers to me and I will provide the definitive answer on Friday. smile
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Role-Playing Games
Sun 15/09/19 17:30 UTC
I have been playing Final Fantasy XIV for quite a while now ... and sitting in front of me are the last four quests that lead to the climax of the latest expansion Shadowbringers.

I suspect many but not all of you know the story of Final Fantasy XIV. When it came out it was acknowledged as an absolute disaster. It was grindy, it lacked a good play system from both a story and gaming points of view, and after being grindy it was even more grindy. Square Enix knew they were in big trouble, to the point the president of the company wrote an apology letter to the players for letting something so bad get out to play. Most folks at the time believed, rightly so, that this was the death of the Final Fantasy franchise.

Instead, SE took a huge chance. Instead of closing down they took the original director off the project and gave Yoshida Naoki free reign to rebuild the game. And he did exactly that. He tore everything down and added story, plot, better mechanics and gave it direction. Not only did he successfully craft a new game - Final Fantasy FFXIV: A Realm Reborn, he didn't let the older players in the cold. The last gasp of the original XIV was the epic destruction of the old game that became the foundation of the new.

I am a recent player, when I started the game included two subsequent expansions: Heavensward and Stormblood.

Of course, roleplaying wise, in traditional terms there's only the roleplay you bring into it with the folks you are playing with. But if you take the true meaning of the term "roleplay" - that is stepping into a role of a person of another world, it succeeds far better than I could have ever expected.

I spent years playing That Other famous MMORPG. But there' a major difference. In WOW the story centers around the denizens of Azeroth - at least it did until I got bored of the continual same old, same old. The Heroes of WOW are the Heroes of Azeroth; at the best, you are active participants in their adventures but when you get down to the bottom line, it's their story that you are sharing. The endgame in WOW is straightforward - grind the end game dungeons to get the best gear.

Final Fantasy breaks this pattern.

Somehow, somehow, even though you know there are currently 14-16 million other active players in the game doing the exact same thing, they have managed to succeed the impossible:

They make you feel, they make you believe, that the hero of the story - the Warrior of Light - is you.

They invest the story in you. And in turn, you can find yourself invested in the world. There's a villainess by the name of Livia sas Junius. Of course she comes across as your straightforward only a little-over-the-top arrogant bad person. But I promise you, somewhere in the story the events change and she graduates from being a game obstacle to something that can only be summed up in a handful of words that need to be capitalized: LIVIA SAS JUNIUS MUST DIE.

The storyline hits you that hard.

Right now, as we look to the final chapters of the current story, things have gone horribly wrong. And you sit back, rationally, and go, it's just a game, of course we will succeed. To quote Captain Kremmen: We have nerves of steel and faith in our scriptwriters. But you know, how I feel about the game? About the story I've been swept up in? It sure doesn't feel like a good thing. And yet, as we finished our preparations for this last charge, as the rest of the characters in the game stepped forward, SE managed to do something else:

Not only do they make you feel like the hero, but they make you want to, in your heart, deserve the title.

They know how to write a story.

Is there a downside to Final Fantasy XIV? I've joked that the biggest downside seems to be that there' way too much to do. Like running dungeon-instances. Yup! you can! Do you like crafting things? Not only can you craft things competitive with dungeon or quest gear, it's a challenging mini-game in itself. There's the main scenario stories and many side stories. You can help the various non-humans (each expansion has four beast quests; three are interesting stories just in themselves and the fourth is hopelessly comedic. By the Twelve, someone please tell me how the Namazu - fish-folk who make Dory look like a genius - have managed to survive at all!)

The dungeons come in multiple flavors. Quest solo-duties (and they have a unique mechanism to ensure they don't become story-line roadblocks), 4-people dungeons (the majority) 8-people (important story events) and 24-people for those who do like raiding. They also have a very successful matching system, so you or you and your friends don't have to make up the group yourself. the best part of the bosses is that they have somehow managed to avoid WOWs fatal flaw - when I left WOW folks had discovered the most effective way to kill any boss was to simply burn them down as fast as possible. Period. Final Fantasy bosses are still tactics driven, you need to know the fight to beat it - they are a challenge, not a DPS race.

They also have a ton more jobs (classes) you can do - the best thing is that you don't need multiple characters to do multiple roles. For example, solo duties can become difficult for one job as opposed to another. My joy is Black Mage: best damage in the game balanced by worst armor and long cast times. Being able to switch to Dancer or Samurai - decent damage, better armor, faster cast times but dependent on the random number generator, often makes things easier.

So there's probably a job for anyone.

It's also gorgeous. Both Blizzard and Square Enix ave excellent art directors. But I'd have to give more kudos to Square Enix, especially when it comes to armor. Making your character unique is both easy and fun - changing how your armor is colored or looks is flexible. There are folks out there with kits that are absolutely gorgeous ... and others that you just see and raise a brow at, trying not to giggle because they are truly funny.

And, of course there are the three things all Final Fantasy games must have:

Materia - for improving your gear.

Cid - because every world needs a Cid and his airships

Chocobos - OF COURSE, there are chocobo mounts. Of course, you can race chocobos at the Gold Saucer. But even better you can train them to be your quest companion too! Mine tanks for my Black Mage.

As we approached the end of Shadowbringers I did get scared. It was like - this story is so good, how the blazes can they top this? But then I looked - the next expansion is already under development. Which means once I'm done this task there will be three or so mini-expansions to serve as the bridge from now to then.

But right now, this very moment? A world needs darkness brought back to it.

And it seems my little hero is the one who needs to do this.

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OTW: Resource Material
Wed 04/09/19 14:27 UTC

"Born upon the violent winds of Chaos, drawn in the blood of Gods, the Pattern took life from death... The Eye of the Beast, sundering reality from the void... Man came forth and the Creator was content."

The Book of The Unicorn, Chapter II, Verse III

The most widespread religious doctrine in Amber and the Golden Circle is the Church of the Unicorn. It is the official religion of Amber and its surrounding environs, but it cannot be called a state religion in the sense that no one is forced to practice it on the Primal Plane. A variety of gods and faiths are tolerated here. Some local doctrines that actually predate the formalized Church of the Unicorn are remnants of the ancient beliefs of the people who originally settled the area in the earliest stages of Oberon's kingdom. Others have been brought by later colonists or visitors to the Primal Plane.

In point of fact, for all that Amber may be considered the actual Cradle of the Church, it is probably one of the most permissive in that it absolutely refuses to endorse any religious credo. As official policy, the kingdom encourages its subjects to worship according to their individual beliefs, or not at all, if this is what pleases them.

This air of religious tolerance may be surprising to some, but it must be remembered that the Unicorn mythos is as much a product of the beliefs of the Amber Royal family as it is based on supernatural manifestations. Oddly enough, although the family honors the Unicorn with reverential devotion, few are formal members of the Church. The fact that many people see them as avatars of the goddess is amusing to some and embarrassing to others. The prevailing attitude is that the Unicorn is a physical being and if anything mystical at all, more of a good-luck symbol than a goddess.

This is not the belief of the Church hierarchy and certainly not of the rank and file of the faithful. Here the Unicorn is seen as a divine being in the truest sense of the word. With her prophet and companion, Dworkin, she is seen as responsible for the inscription of the Pattern, which is believed to be the major creative force in the universe from which all life evolved. As such, she can be considered no less than a goddess.

Additionally, a great deal of mythological legend surrounds Oberon, the first King of Amber and founder of the ruling dynasty. It is said that he is the son of the Unicorn, sired by Dworkin, and although there are still those alive in the Golden Circle who remember him as a temporal king, this doesn't seem to conflict with the prevailing religious beliefs.

It is difficult not to see Oberon as a figure much larger than life and a record of his exploits cannot help but seem as though he was capable of great miracles. If those who create and shape reality can be defined as gods, then perhaps the Church is not too far off the mark. The fact that the last of the 'miracles,' the repair of the Pattern, took place within the living memory of some of the dwellers of the Primal Plane and the nearest Shadows surrounding it, only reinforces these beliefs.

The dogma of the Church is based on The Book of The Unicorn. The text is attributed to Dworkin and relates the story of the creation of the Pattern, Amber and the Primal Plane and their consequent struggle to survive against the forces of evil. It is a matter of religious faith that denotes the Unicorn and her minions as 'good' while those who oppose her are considered otherwise. This is one of the primary causes for schism in the Church.

And if this doctrine causes problems for the faithful, it is extremely difficult for the Amber family to accept as dogma. After all, they are well aware of the basis for their existence. While most do not deny there is some mystical significance to the Unicorn, herself, they are pragmatic enough to realize that this puts the definition of good and evil in very subjective terms.

The individual nations in the closest surrounding Shadows are not always inclined to view the matter in mystical terms, either. Some of the closest see their roles in the story as being part of the creative process, and therefore, a matter of destiny. Others cannot help but see Amber as a temporal, political force.

The Church maintains that the faithful must not confuse Amber the kingdom, with the concept of Amber, the holy city, but for some, this is really difficult to concede. Oberon was obviously far from perfect as a king, and probably as a man, as well. His attitudes toward the inhabitants of the nearest Shadows were often somewhat cavalier and his decisions were arbitrary, to say the least. It is hard for many of the people in the region to visualize this man as a god, or even the avatar of one.

The fact remains, however, that he was capable of powers and abilities that none could match and only his direct descendants could even emulate to some degree. In the eyes of the Church he is seen as a creature of the Unicorn, designed to a perfection that he could not totally achieve in the form of a man. They do not argue that all, or even most, of his actions could be defined as 'good.' That would be self defeating.

Instead they perceive his actions to be the fallible attempts of an individual, greatly blessed but far from perfect, to achieve the greatest civilization that ever existed. As such, his foibles are explicable, if not wholly acceptable.

Also, the Church stresses, Oberon is not the Unicorn. It is quite possible that he misinterpreted some of her teachings. They also maintain, that everyone who opposed Oberon was not necessarily evil. Resistance to the will of Amber, the temporal kingdom, was part of a necessary growth process that would help define the teachings of the Unicorn for all time. The process was supposed to help Oberon (and therefore Amber) examine his understanding of the Shadows surrounding him so he could shape the 'world' into the Unicorn's image.
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Films/TV etc
Sun 25/08/19 03:59 UTC
Some people treat marriage like a game.

In the Le Domas family, they all treat marriage like a game- Sometimes it's a game of Chess or Checkers, sometimes it's Old Maid.

And, sometimes, it is Hide & Seek.

Enter Grace, a young woman who grew up in the foster-care system, yearning for a stable family with a sense of permanence.

Finding true love, she marries the man of her dreams, a member of the wildly wealthy Le Domas family, who built their fortune in the gaming industry.

Grace found what she was looking for, a husband who adores her, and an old family with history.

And, as she learns, family traditions- like on the even of a wedding, the family gathers to welcome the newest member by playing a game.

Grace expected some quirks from her new family.

Grace did not expect that they had made a pact with Satan.


Review of the movie:

Fun movie! Definitely worth watching, but perhaps as a rental or on a streaming service.

Cliche, not many surprises, but a lot of darkly humorous moments that make for an enjoyable view.

I saw it at matinee prices, and I thought it was a fun way to spend the afternoon- but not much will be lost for those waiting to see it on a smaller screen at a cheaper price.

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