Schedule for Remainder of January – February 16th

I know that just recently I posted my first blog relating to film, and now I’m here posting again (haha) because I have nothing to do. But no, I have actually made a monthly schedule pertaining to the rest of the month until the 16th of February.

Here are the planned posts and dates that will follow:

Thursday, January 17th = Film Hub Review: “Batman Begins”

Saturday January 19th = A Book For Your Thoughts: What the Greatness of Reading Can Achieve

Sunday, January 20th = Plugged-In Games Preview: Thoughts on the new Next-Gen Systems

Monday, January 21st = Film Hub Topic: Is Blu-ray Really That Great?

Wednesday, January 23rd = Film Hub Review: “Sunshine”

Friday, January 25th = A Book For Your Thoughts Review: “Halo: The Fall of Reach”

Sunday, January 27th = Plugged-In Games Top’s List: Top 10 Games of 2012

Wednesday, January 30th = Plugged-In Games Review: “Borderlands”

Saturday, February 2nd = A Book For Your Thoughts Topic: Which is better? Christian Fiction, or Horror Thriller?

Monday, February 4th = A Book For Your Thoughts Review: “Thr3e”

Thursday, February 7th = Film Hub Trailer Preview: “Evil Dead”

Thursday, February 7th = Film Hub Topic: Can A Remake/Reboot Best The Original?

Sunday, February 10th = Plugged-In Games Preview: “The Last of Us”

Monday, February 11th = Plugged-In Games Review: “Batman: Arkham Asylum”

Wednesday, February 13th = A Book For Your Thoughts Review: “The Legend of Drizzt: Exile”

Saturday, February 16th = Film Hub Top’s List: Top 5 Indy Films

So yes, it’s a busy schedule. But fear not, for I am determined to face the storm of due dates and provide what I promise. Until the 17th of January, stay tuned.

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Film Hub: A Perspective On Film

If there’s one thing I always talk about more than video games and books, it’s movies. Movies are like an addiction to me. I strive to watch and analyze as many as I possibly can, and let everyone else know afterwards. It’s just in my nature. To be quite honest I really don’t remember the actual date or time when I first started caring so much about film. It just…clicked. This next blog with go a little in-depth with the subject of film and how I am so drawn to it.

Back when Lego’s were the fad and Cartoon Network was in full swing, I swiftly watched animated film after animated film. Anything Disney or Pixar threw out, I enjoyed. Then it shifted to some of the late ’90’s action and monster films, such as Godzilla, Independence Day, Deep Blue Sea, and such. The ’90’s was a captivating era for film to me because not only does it bring back the most sacred of memories, but it defined my generation. And I know I’m not the only one that believes that; someone else has to be with me on this. But anyways, ’90’s films were groundbreaking back then because they didn’t rely too heavily on seriousness or believability (except for Disney and Pixar films, they were always one step ahead of the game when it came to being serious).  That was then, and the now is a much different battleground. We now live in a world where film has completely changed the way we view our media and cultures. More dedicated directors have stepped to the plate to bring us some of the most memorable films of the century, while others brought us some of the most laughable. Quite frankly, I’m glad to be here witnessing this generation in film, as much as I was back in the ’90’s. I don’t think it’s as memorable or full of remembrance, of course, but I do believe it was its own set of skills that were obviously not present back in the old days. Advancements in camera and computer technology have far exceeded what was originally used back in the ’90’s (even way before that even). I myself still prefer the good ‘ol practical effects myself, but some CG doesn’t hurt here and there. But even still, our generation has seen a drastic change in how film is operated, managed, developed, and displayed.

This post is in no way shape or form complaining about the differences between the old days and the present; I’m merely stating how different each setting is from one another and how beneficial it is that film has evolved as such as it is now. Sure, we still get excellent films from Disney and Pixar (more Pixar than anything else), but they’re further enhanced by how far we’ve come.

The object of care of this topic is one of gratitude; I am grateful of how film has succeeded its own barriers and how it still manages to surprise people year after year.

I’ve discussed my view on the changes of film over the years, now I want to get into why I care. I care because, without film, I believe none of use would be who we are. There is always going to be that one film, or several in fact, that we can connect ourselves too in one way or another. There is always going to be that comparison in a film’s story or character that we can say “I can see myself in that person’s shoes” or “that film totally reminded me of how my life is!” That’s the ability of movie magic. It does exist, but not in ways some people would think. It is true that movie magic is how great and splendid a film is from a film-lover’s point of view, but true movie magic is when it makes you compare and contrast everything else around us to what is actually happening in the film. That’s when you know the film has done its job. Most of my favorite films are on my top lists because of this reason, that I see the messages behind them and how they pull them off. How they connect themselves with current events that are happening now or making you believe in the characters of the film for how real and sensible they are.

Much like video games, film is an art. Everything about them is an art. The storytelling, the directing, screenwriting, CG, practical effects, acting, costume design, setting, etc. It’s all a part of art. And I love it so much. Now you see my fascination with film and why I am so into it. It’s a plethora of knowledge and happiness just waiting to be explored and analyzed. And that’s just the beginning.

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Plugged-In Games – “Halo: Combat Evolved”: A Review.

Halo-Combat-EvolvedIn my last blog post, I went into specifics about my gaming career (although in brief detail) and the necessities of video games as an art form. This next blog posting will be of video games in the same nature, but will stand as a review. Seeing this as my first review, I will also post an upcoming topic relating to gaming that I’d like to share my interests in. But for now, let’s concentrate on the focus of this particular post, which is covering a review of one my childhood games, Halo: Combat Evolved.

There is no shortage of classic and unforgettable video games in the entertainment media. Mario, Crash Bandicoot, Zelda, Resident Evil, Donkey Kong, they all bring back instant memories for those who celebrated and rejoiced in the fun that they brought to the table. Out of all the classic video games, none stood out so uniquely as did Halo: Combat Evolved. Released for the original Xbox back in November of 2001, it was instantly recognized as the flagship game for the Xbox and the first true “killer app” for any console back in its time. Created by a development team known only as Bungie, they sought out to envision and create a video game unlike any other. Originally slated to be an RTS (Real Time Strategy) for the Macintosh back in 1998, Bungie’s development cycle for Halo was rooted very deep. Test-builds were presented and featured when the game was in its RTS stages, but Bungie’s vision for their product didn’t exactly feel parallel to what their original idea was. So they took a different route and changed the entire structure of the game, eliminating the core RTS design and instead molding it into an FPS (First Person Shooter). With the final design in mind, Bungie released the game in 2001. And right then and there it was acclaimed and applauded as one the industries greats.

The story of Halo: Combat Evolved is that takes place in a science fiction setting, during a time of space travel and intergalactic war. The basis of the story revolves around a group of humans drifting through space on a ship named the Pillar of Autumn. They’re running from an alliance of several different alien species known only as the Covenant. While trying to escape the Covenant from a battle that cost the humans one of their main planets, they escape to a remote destination farther into space, outside of a ringworld structure floating next to a huge gas giant. This ringworld, Halo, is of mysterious background and origin, and the only safe way for the humans to survive the Covenant is to crash land on Halo and fortify themselves. In the game, the player takes control of a certain “human” called Master Chief 117. He’s part human, part genetically engineered and physically augmented machine that holds much more endurance and stamina than that of an average human. He comes accustomed with a recovering shield and is fully armored in a green tinted battle armor, and a helmet with a reflecting gold visor. In physical form, he’s basically a killing machine that holds no emotions or anguish, only the need to kill as many aliens as possible and save humanity. While the story is really easy to follow and is dug deep into its science fiction roots, it holds one interesting element that gives the stories personal investment some weight. While the Master Chief doesn’t visibly have a face that we as the player can paste onto that visor, it gives us the perspective of witnessing all his actions through the FPS viewpoint. The essential connecting tone is that we are behind that helmet, and while the Master Chief doesn’t show off his emotions, it gives us as the player a need to do it instead. One of the many crowning features in Halo: Combat Evolved is the interconnectedness between the enigma that is the Master Chief and us, the player. Another powerful element to the story is the Chief’s relationship with the Pillar of Autumn’s AI (artificial intelligence), Cortana. At the beginning of the game, Cortana is infused into the Master Chief’s helmet, giving him directions on where to go, where enemies are placed, what objective is currently important, along with little snippets of story and emotion sprinkled throughout the game. Their relationship is the main component of the story of Halo: Combat Evolved, testing the theory of man’s relationship with machines and putting it to good use.

The gameplay for most first person shooter comes down to the basics: a cutscene plays and tells you the objective, you start playing by mowing down enemies that stand in your way, another cutscene plays, and the cycle repeats again and again. Halo: Combat Evolved is one of those classic FPS’s that not only used this now-cliched formula but perfected it to where it mattered. The main story is divided up into ten levels, each with plenty of mission objectives. Although there is a lack of cutscenes in the game, focusing rather on actual gameplay to tell its story, the objectives are pretty straightforward. Objectives range of clearing LZ’s (landing zones), driving from point A to point B, killing this group of enemies, saving someone, escorting someone, retrieving an object that is vital to the success of a mission, and so on. In some of these missions the player is given free reign over which objectives to do in order they see fit. The game itself is linear, but the idea of giving them some breathing room during which objective to tackle first is a nice touch, as it isn’t restricting them to just one agenda. Along with every FPS is an arsenal of weaponry, and Halo has one of the most memorable. It features a pistol that is incredibly handy when dealing headshots from close and long range, a very resourceful and useful assault rifle that most players will probably want to stick with for the majority of the game, a shotgun that defines the word “overpowered”, along with some Covenant weaponry that is limited, but still very helpful when it comes to the more powerful enemies. Halo: Combat Evolved also sports the use of multiple difficulty settings, which are Easy, Normal, Heroic, and Legendary. While the first two will be the default difficulty for most, Heroic and Legendary will test about anyone’s reflexes and patience, especially the later levels.

What separated Halo: Combat Evolved from the rest back in the day was it’s revolutionary co-operative play. Here, up to eight to sixteen players could duke it out on thirteen multiplayer maps, with an additional six on the PC version. This is where I personally dubbed Halo as “the ultimate couch and pizza experience”, because back then when you had a house full of buddies all you wanted to do was play Halo: Combat Evolved and shelve out the pain. Out of personal experience it is one of the more engaging multiplayer games out there without the ability of online play. In this multiplayer, several game modes are available, including Slayer, Team Slayer, Capture the Flag, King of the Hill, and Oddball. The latter is especially interesting, as it requires each individual player to hold onto a skull for a given amount of time to build up points in order to win, all the while being stalked by other players who are looking to take it from anyone holding the “ball”. Back then, ingenuity was at its peak. Nowadays, multiplayer is nothing like it once was. And Halo: Combat Evolved, in my opinion, was the precursor to where we are in gaming today.

Visually, Halo: Combat Evolved is still a great looking game, even after eleven years and hundreds of gaming engines later. The visuals Bungie applied to the game speak volumes about how convincing and mesmerizing alien worlds and settings could feel and appear. When the player enters a structure of alien origin and it towers at least twenty stories in the air, even with all the small detail it’s still a marvel to behold to the imagination. The characters are also well designed, more-so the Covenant than the humans. The animation was great back then as well, but looking back it’s hard to ignore the gap between how far we’ve come and what was present at the time when it came to developing a game of such limited hardware potential. Some animations are clunky, more with humans than anything else, and at times look like animatronic robots. But even with it’s limited constraints, the devil is still in the details. The glowing compass on the assault rifle. The shimmering reflections in water. Dirt being sprayed from tire traction. Weapon reloads and firing effects. The way the vehicles bump around and react to the environment. Even events going on in the background add to the feeling of a real and believable world rather than just another video game dimension. It achieves something that most video games skipped right over, and that’s not only creating an engaging story, but also creating an engaging world that feels legitimately grandiose and symphonic in its own world, keeping the player locked in place until the end credits roll.

One final breathtaking feature of the game is its musical score. Composed by Martin O’Donnell, Halo: Combat Evolved simply has one of the more memorable scores out there. Using monks and chorus chants to feel out its emotion to using some truly creepy and unsettling synthesizers for some of the later levels is what made Halo’s story 1/3 of what it was. The music was just simply incredible. The theme song stuck in everyone’s head, and the impeccable use of drums and sound effects gave it a very science-fiction edge and otherworldy feel.

Halo: Combat Evolved was easily one of the best video games to eve be released, and to this day remains one the most legendary. The overall design and weight of the game was at the top of the pedestal, and its multiplayer revolutionized the way friends got together and celebrated by playing a video game for hours on end. Its legacy today still beats loudly within the halls of video game epics, providing one of gaming’s most celebrated protagonists and providing one of the best all-out gaming experiences of this century. Everyone owes it to themselves to get immersed in the addiction that started it all.

PROS: – Meaty story with great characters and interactions
– Refined FPS gameplay that stands the test of time
– Remarkable visuals for an already dated and aged engine
– The godsend that is the multiplayer
– One of the most memorable and decorated video game scores ever

CONS: – Some quirky animations due to the limited capabilities of the engine
– Minimal use of cutscenes
– One particular level called “The Library” will drive about anybody insane

9.7 / 10

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Gaming Career Summed Up (Mostly) and Reflections on my Views of Gaming

As far back as I can remember, I’ve been involved in video games since I was ten years old. I first remember when my sister bought me a Nintendo 64, with a few N64 classics such as GoldenEye, Perfect Dark, and Super Mario Brothers ’64. I remember GoldenEye didn’t work because the cartridge was scratched on the inside and the N64 wouldn’t recognize it. But to my luck I still had two other games to dive into. I played the death out of both Perfect Dark and Super Mario Brothers ’64 and couldn’t get enough, then it jumped to WWF No Mercy, where my days soon became nothing more than wrestling, wrestling, wrestling. After awhile I jumped to a first generation GameBoy, playing the Red, Blue, and Yellow versions of Pokemon. Then it jumped to the Playstation 2 (I jumped the PS1 for some unknown reasons), where my gaming collection really started getting underway. Games such as WWE Smackdown: Here Comes The Pain, The Lord of the Rings, Jak & Daxter, and other huge classics were instantly burned into my memory (and to this day still are).

After a few years of the PS2, the Xbox soon took precedence. It took the Xbox a little while to adapt due to the already huge library building up for my PS2. As I aged, the desire for more complexity grew, and I slowly edged over to the Xbox when it came to Fable. This was very interesting to me for a game that was so different than what I previously played. The Xbox collection soon started blooming after Fable came in, and on Christmas of 2004 I officially began playing Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2. And trust me, I didn’t play anything else for at least a full year after that up until the Xbox 360 came out. Jump forward to November of 2005, when the Xbox 360 was released. That was a crucial part in my video gaming career because in order to jump from all the systems I already owned, I would have to sell them, or at least sell the Xbox seeing as how I could play the games I already owned on the 360. So I ended up selling the Xbox and focused primarily on the new version, the future of gaming back then. Over the years I then purchased a first generation PlayStation 3, sold it not one year after I bought it to a close friend of mine, then went back to Xbox 360.

As of today I currently own a 2007 Elite Xbox 360 and a third generation PlayStation 3. I did buy another one primarily for the Blu-ray feature, but I still buy and play games on occasion. And I’ll run both these consoles until they are nothing but nuts and bolts.

With my gaming career mostly summed up in the basic understanding kind of way, I want to also take the time to go into detail about a certain topic that I wanted to express about gaming. Gaming, in it’s own thriving community, is an interesting realm for potential. While the parts can be narrowed down to development, technical, and concept, the real power behind gaming lies behind the artistic quality within. Each game was created by art, whether it be through digitally applying all the detail to constructing the art that inspired levels and even to writing a coherent story with likable characters, they all are the product of dedication and hard work.

Of particular interest is a game called Alan Wake. Originally conceived back in early 2005 for the Xbox 360 and developed by Remedy Studios (the creators of Max Payne), it took several years to actually hit store shelves. It originally had three separate release dates scheduled for Spring of 2006, pushed back to Summer of 2007, then to Spring of 2008, then was never heard from again until E3 ’09, where it was slated to finally be released Spring of 2010, which it was on May 18th. The long development cycle was mainly due to the technology put into the game, such as motion capture and deciding whether or not to render the whole game in an open-world environment or make it linear, but at the same time make it open to the player. Looking at it from a designer’s point of view, the artistic choices came down to telling the story through an episodic format, much like a television show. Another key decision was choosing between open-world and a linear world, and it ultimately came down to linear, but with some sweet bonuses. Although each episode takes place in a limited area for the player to explore, the developers digitally mapped, designed, and created a living, breathing world where everything was connected, to the town, trailer park, gas stations, endless wooded areas, various cabins in the woods, and mines. It was all one huge world without giving the player the freedom to roam around. When one thinks about it it’s pretty daunting, as it adds a huge layer of realism.

Decisions like these are art. The developers obviously thought everything through in because they wanted their game to stand out, which it did. But they also took their precious time with it, guaranteeing that everything stuck together and the end product resulted in something extraordinary. Not many games go through this process unfortunately, but the ones that do are always promising in my opinion. Even if the higher levels of society mock some games by being blamed for senseless violence and inspiring others to perform violent acts, the one key piece remains: behind every design is lies an artistic quality.

I’m very applicable when talking about video games. They aren’t “pointless getaways for wasting time”. If one actually took the time to admire and reflect on all the troubles most developers goes through to deliver a game before its deadline, they would actually come to appreciate the comfort of the controller in their hands.

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A New Beginning Hence Forth

It seems like years since I first began searching for a method for which to publish my work. It certainly feels like the effort has caught up to me. But here I am, finally publishing on WordPress.

My name is Glenn. Ryan Glenn. Sorry, but I’ve always wanted to borrow from James Bond’s persona as an introductory. Anyways, my name is Ryan and I’m a writer. Not a famous writer or one who earns a living off posting on the internet. This is actually my first time posting something on my own customized blog, even if it took so long to find one to stick to. Perhaps I was always nervous to post my interests? Or maybe it has something to do with my fear of people not taking me seriously? I’ll never fully know.

But as it stands, I’m blogging as I type and as you (possibly) are reading this. I always told myself that if I could manage to have someone read something I put my time into writing and get credit for it, that I would call it a success. Sure, I have a small personal fan base that loves to read what I type and print out, but what about the people around the world that I want to give the ability of reading it? What about them? Blogging, of course! And what would I be blogging, you say?

I have a precise amount of topics that I’d love to blog and share to everyone; they range from three main topics. They list as:

Film: I’m an avid film lover, capable of watching anything and giving an honest opinion afterwards. I’ve always been fascinated with film itself because it’s such an intricate thing to talk about and analyze, as much as it is making the actual film in terms of its complexity. Over the years I’ve written numerous reviews from all sorts of different genres; I’m not bias but I’m unbiased as well; I won’t stick up to a film that is obviously trash and I won’t fully defend a film that I love and receives as much praise as it did from critics. I’m straight to the point but also very in-depth with how I view each film. I normally review in terms of story, acting, themes, presentation,  and sometimes even DVD/Blu-ray specs.

Video Games: Much like film, I’m also gamer. Not a huge, self-indulged gamer that plays everything in sight and goes for the Guinness World Record for Most Achievements Earned or Most Time Playing A Game. I’m a more toned-down gamer, willing to expand the horizons. I love games that take original ideas and formulate a whole game out of that core idea. I usually play 3-4 games at once, from both the Xbox 360 and PS3. I don’t often touch PC games or Wii (unfortunately). When I finish a game, I normally discuss it with my friends (or in some cases play it with them). And often times I will get into debates with them as well, and I mean SERIOUS debates that would seem so pointless to some but yet it’s very personal to us. They ain’t the record-setting kind of gamers either, and even though we don’t set off for records we play and discuss for the love of the game. Pun intended.

Books: On top of all I revealed so far, I’m ALSO a huge reader of virtually any and everything. It don’t matter what genre it is or how long or short it may be, I will end up flipping through those pages and getting absorbed into it. I prefer fantasy for the most part, but I also get involved with science fiction, mystery thrillers, religious fiction, romance, etc. The only thing I don’t touch is comic books; and take it from me being a nerd/geek, I’m ashamed that I don’t. Although I’m quite possibly the biggest Batman-freak ever and love Marvel and DC, I don’t touch comic books, odd it may be.

These three main topics are what comprises my writing experience. So far I’ve mainly written, saved, and printed reviews in each of these topics, but never have I actually posted them for people around the globe to see. And having the privilege here amazes me. It amazes me in how I am sitting here right now, typing away thinking “Someone is going to read this hopefully and say ‘this guy sounds serious’ or ‘he sounds promising, I’ll give him a shot.'” I sure hope this goes somewhere. I’ve been writing for years, finding a way to share my passions with others.

My name is Ryan Glenn, and maybe I’ve caught someone’s attention.

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