Titles Need Fixing

June 28th, 2012 | Posted by Emmett in Site Development - (1 Comments)
Quick update on the fix I posted a little while ago regarding apostrophes in post titles, specifically getting them to show up. It's something you can probably guess, but the change is overwritten when a new version of WordPress is installed or when an update replaces your baseline default-filters.php file. When that happens, you just have to comment out that line again. So far I haven't noticed any other issues causes by removing that filter, so that's nice. Secondly, I've discovered that my idea for a Late in the Game game review segment is aptly named for another reason, that being it's already been done (several times over actually). It's various parallels include Late to the Game, Late Game Reviews, A Late Review, and finally Late in the Game which is exactly what I wanted to do except much better in both its content and execution. Alas, I'll have to come up with something new, clever, and (ideally) original to call my reviews. It's one thing to have similar or even similarly named segments out there, but when someone else has the exact title you do, thought of it before you did, and does a better job with it, it's best to start anew. Alternatively, you could also get it trademarked before they do.
Batgirl #12 The Batgirl series yields a lot of good cover art, but this is one of my favorites. For those of you wondering why Barbara Gordon has blonde hair in this cover, it's because it's not Barbara Gordon at all. Created by Stanley Lau, who has some pretty awesome stuff on his deviantART page, the cover features Stephanie Brown as Batgirl. Brown was given the Batgirl mantle by Cassandra Cain after Batman's alleged death in the Final Crisis series. Aside from the obvious sex appeal, I like this cover for a lot of the same reasons that I like Rogue's X-Men Legacy cover from one of my earlier posts. The gritty side of comics and superhero stories is what I like the most, and so I tend to gravitate to comic art that incorporates that aspect of any comic universe. Plus, it's a pretty awesome picture.
I'm glad that my first post for this segment is true to form. I wanted to do a game review bit on this site, but I knew that I'd never really be able to keep up with (or afford) all the major titles that come out and write about them in anything resembling a timely fashion. So my thought was to come up with a segment title that represented the old news I was reporting, and so I came up with Late in the Game. Aren't these things better after they're explained?
Black Ops box art

I know it was released almost two years ago. I'm writing about it now.

Anyway, there will actually be a review of a game at some point, but in the interest of not pissing off my one reader, I'd like issue a warning that this post contains spoilers. I don't know if anyone has been staving off a need to play Black Ops just so they can play it back-to-back with Black Ops II; but if that describes you, you may not want to read on. I'll start out by saying that I own (or in the case of a Xbox 360 copy of Call of Duty 3, have owned) all the various iterations of the Call of Duty franchise. Call of Duty has been one of a few major LAN party staples for my group of friends (along with Warcraft III and UT) since my first, and this level of sentimentality has perpetuated (and will continue to perpetuate) my buy-in to this series. Even so, I realize that many of these titles don't offer much more than a good-looking FPS (depending on your specs and chronological reference point), but I think Black Ops managed to provide more than this. And by this, I'm not referring to the ability to take on the persona of Nixon, JFK, Fidel Castro, or Robert McNamara and shoot glowing-eyed zombies. Yes. What I am referring to is a good, original story and a creative method of delivering and integrating it with the gameplay. In my experience, a lot of storylines in first-person shooters aren't much more than a transparent means to get a character from one closed map to another. This obviously isn't the case all around (e.g. the Bioshock or Half-Life titles), but at the time of it's release, and especially when compared to the previous titles in the series, the story of Mason was pretty exceptional in several ways.
The main menu screen

Not exactly the kind of place you hope to wake up in.

One of those ways, as I've mentioned already, was the delivery of the story. They put you into it right from the main menu screen; you're bloody, tied to chair that's been wired to a car battery, and all you can do is look around at your bleak surroundings as a modulated voice interrogates you. From there the game starts. You have no idea what's going on, but you're getting drugged up and the shit shocked out of you as someone in a shrouded booth yells questions at you that you don't know the answers to. It immediately puts you on the defensive, and you become sympathetic toward Mason and his situation. However, that sympathy changes as the story progresses and Mason's conditioning begins to surface more and more. This brings me to Viktor Reznov, how is perhaps my favorite element in the story. The full extent to the subtlety in the use of Viktor Reznov was not made clear to me until my second play through a few days ago. He is tied into the story and the gameplay so well that he never really feels out of place. I honestly had no idea who he was until the Rebirth Island mission where you're Hudson, and there's only Mason on the other side of the glass. Up until that point, I had no reason to suspect his as anything other than another character in the game. However, going through everything a second time, you start to notice things like how nobody else ever interacts with Reznov after Vorkuta. There were times where he'd just appear at your side to offer insight or direction, and in the missions he would show up in, he was always with you. I noticed that if I died and had to restart a segment, Reznov would appear in different places depending on where I went. If I used cover on the right side of a street, he would show up next to me; if I instead went through a building on the left, he'd be there as I came around a corner.
Reznov in Vorkuta

"He and us are not so different..."
-Reznov

Knowing who and what Reznov was also gave certain scenes an entirely different feeling on a second play through. When you're consciously aware of your characters psychosis, you start to picture how those scenes actually played out versus how they were portrayed in the game. In one obvious instance in the rat tunnels where a squad mate challenges Mason and tells him to "keep this shit together" when Mason is talking to Reznov, you first see that as someone telling Mason to be quiet so nobody hears them sneak up. However, when you know that Reznov isn't real at that point, it's just Mason talking to himself in the dark. Other times when Reznov helps Mason up after a close explosion or watches Reznov kill someone, you now know that it's just a survival mechanism and Mason is just projecting his own actions. It's elements like these that made the story, and the title as a whole, stand out to me. It's enthralling nature and cohesion with the actual gameplay was impressive, and I'm hoping it's a quality they choose to replicate in Black Ops II. As of now, that is scheduled for release on November 13, 2012.
I noticed when I published my first "Wednesday's Weekly Comic Cover" post earlier today that pages that aggregated posts (the main page or category/tag pages) would not display the apostrophe in the post title. While I'm certainly not a grammar expert, obvious lapses in grammar (like you're versus your) really annoy me, and that apostrophe being omitted was no exception. Fortunately for me, the fix was pretty simple. After reading around I found some of the code governing how post titles (and many other items) are displayed in WordPress's default-filters.php file. Specifically, I commented out line 131 which appeared as: // Display filters add_filter( 'the_title', 'wptexturize' ); While I haven't done a lot of extensive testing to see what other effects removing this filter will have, it appears to have fixed my issue with little impact elsewhere. So if you're having a similar problem, try this simple fix to see if it works for you.
Astonishing X-Men Saga For the sake of alliteration, I'm going to attempt to do this segment every Wednesday, but the title keeps stripping the apostrophe out of the title to make Wednesday possessive. It doesn't like a plain ' character or it's &rsquo equivalent on the main page. It will on it's individual page, but not on the main page and not on the category/tag aggregate pages. But I'll digress. This week's cover is from the aggregation of one of my favorite X-Men comic series, Astonishing X-Men. Simply called, Astonishing X-Men Saga, it's comprised of the first 12 issues in the series, which span the Gifted and Dangerous stories written by Joss Whedon. The cover itself, created by John Cassaday, features the initial Astonishing X-Men roster along with two others you may not immediately recognize - Danger and Ord - gathered around a copy of Astonishing X-Men #1. I like a lot of Cassaday's covers from this series, so you're likely to see ones from some of the issues in this set in the future, but I the comical (/wink) nature of the picture makes it stand out to me. Hence, it's inclusion here.
So this might still be a bit of a wonky solution by some standards (not mine), but it's the best I've found so far, and I can't think of how this could be a lot better. I've been trying to find a way to create a page that only shows posts for a designated category, and until now, my solution was a plugin that gave you shortcode to create a list of posts by category or tag. It worked, but the CSS was plain and wouldn't match what you had on the rest of your site unless you did a lot of matching up of elements and adapted the existing CSS to cover the material generated by the plugin. The other issue that I had with this solution is that the pages I want are already inherent in a WordPress install. If you have posts categorized, you can click on a given category and it takes you a page that shows only those posts and the CSS matches and everything is great. However, these pages were more of a PHP result than a actual coded page in the sense that I couldn't add it as a page to my template's header navigation or assign it a featured image that would display in my header or anything like that. What I wanted was to create a blank page that I could do that kind of stuff with and would also redirect a user to the URL I wanted when the page was actually visited. At first, I thought that maybe there was some shortcode in WordPress baseline that I could use to achieve this redirect, and for all I know there is. However, while I was looking through a forum thread about redirect shortcode, one of the posters mentioned a plugin called Page Links To. Page Links To allows you to change the permalink for a given page to anything you want; it works for pages, post, and anything else that has a distinct permalink. So using this, I cleared out the shortcode from the other plugin so all I had was a blank page with a title, it was my Comics page, and changed the permalink to end in ?cat=7. When I clicked my Comics banner graphic, it took me right to the WordPress default category page for my Comics category. It was perfect; thanks Mark Jaquith.

Weekly Comic Cover: X-Men Legacy #262

June 13th, 2012 | Posted by Emmett in Comics - (1 Comments)
X-Men Legacy 262 This weeks comic cover comes from X-Men Legacy #262 and features one of my favorite X-Men, Rogue. Designed by Mark Brooks, the cover depicts Rogue in her green and white uniform. The outfit is similar to how she's pictured in other story lines (like when Cyclops has her build her own team, which I think starts around X-Men Vol. 2 #191), except this time there's a white X on the chest and she seems to be missing the long, hooded cape. It's a cover I noticed when they were soliciting pre-orders, and I thought showing her in the aftermath of a fight was really cool. Rogue is a character that we've seen beat down opponents/vehicles/buildings for years, but I've rarely seen the physical toll of those encounters depicted, and I certainly hadn't seen them depicted on a cover until this one.
Despite that my first two posts related to something other than trying to put this site together both revolve around a game trailer, I don't like watching trailers. For me, they tend to reveal too much and take away from the story and experience that the final product provides, whether that product is a game, movie, or whatever. My usual responses when confronted with these things will be to try to hastily close the corresponding tab or browser window while shutting my eyes or running out of the room while covering my ears and yelling, "La la la la la..." I recommend keeping your eyes at least partially open when employing that last tactic. Despite my isolationist tendencies, the mention of a trailer for a new Star Wars game brought me running back to civilization, and now I am excited. Unfortunately, when caused by a game that doesn't even have a release date attached to it, these moments of excitement are soon tainted by a subtle, gnawing fear. It's an unconscious reaction caused by painful experience. Those of you who have been gaming for a while know the kinds of things I'm talking about. Even so, it's hard for me to contain my enthusiasm, especially since the E3 demos were all done on PCs. I've seen the term "PC exclusive" tossed around a few forums, but I haven't seen anything that officially substantiates that claim. The practice wouldn't make a whole lot of sense for a franchise as big as Star Wars anyway; why skip out on the console markets? I'm guessing they'll develop for the other platforms, but the demoed platform gives me - a proud PC games - hope; hope that the game will actually be released for PC, and maybe (just maybe), development for the PC will be given priority. I realize that last part is a bit of a long shot, but it is a hope after all.

Hitman: Absolution Trailer

June 5th, 2012 | Posted by Emmett in Games & Gaming - (0 Comments)

Usually the ads that appear on my Facebook sidebar are complete crap (e.g. one of your female friends likes "OMG Cats!", what a surprise), but today I saw one for the Hitman: Absolution trailer. I haven't been very proactive about researching game releases for a while now, even in the midst of an E3 week, so this was legitimately surprising. Absolution is scheduled to be shown on the last day of E3 this year, and I'm borderline giddy that they are continuing this franchise. Blood Money was the volume that came out during an optimal gaming period of my life; school work outside of school was almost non-existent, work was on a relatively fixed schedule, and I didn't have to sleep. Sure, the AI wasn't outstanding by today's standards, but I really enjoyed the replay value each level provided. The ability to accomplish each level in ways that were truly different was, and remains, something that I put a lot of value on in games. Just talking about it now makes me excited to replay Blood Money to catch up on any semblance of story line, and more so, to refresh myself on the game play mechanics. I may wait a couple months to do that though. At present, the Xbox and Playstation release date is November 20, and the PC release date is the end of the year.