Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Good weekend: I am home!

Back in April when I made my lols-tastic, colour-coded "SMAC alert system", somewhere between alert levels green and brown I should have inserted orange for "Ben has gotten home from a really awesome tour and is totally slacking off from blogging while he catches his breath".

So yeah, following the madness of (the yet-to-be-fully-blogged-about) Jo Fo Euro 2011 I've gone into a pretty major blog-hibernation, but as of now I'm hoping to fix that, starting with my first Good Weekend post in 2 months!

Unfortunately this weekend wasn't much to write home about. It mostly consisted of frantically working on the fist job of my yet-to-be-officially-unveiled animation collective “Cool Your Jets”. The deadline on this job was pretty absurd, seeing us doing the graphics for four 15 second teasers and one 50 second promo between receiving the footage on Friday and delivering everything on Monday morning. Getting this done meant Matt, Werner, Gugs and I spent most of our weekend staring at screens, holed up in an incredibly cold little room. But considering the scale of this job and the fact that our collective is still yet-to-be-officially-unveiled, I'm surely not complaining. Hanging out with the boys was pretty damn fun anyway and it's not like there weren't some awesome not-work-related times over the weekend too. On Saturday morning Anja flew into town!

It's been six months since she left Johannesburg to return to Cape Town and things are pretty different here. We got to hang a little before I had to get down to Cooling my Jets. And later that night we undertook a great adventure, traveling across the city to go to a house party at Ri's place!

Back in 2007 Ri threw what would turn out to be my favourite house party of all time. The night was highlighted by the most lovely group of invited guests, people in animal suits for no reason and 3 of our favourite bands (Us Kids Know, Desmond and the Tutus and the very sorely missed Greenisforturbo) playing in Ri's lounge. Memorable moments included Sigmund delivering a package to me from Anja in Cape Town and Ri, Chad & I jumping up to do some backing vocals (see: yelling “HEY!” repeatedly) with Cam during Greenisforturbo's set.

Now, 4 years down the line, Ri did it again. Us Kids Know were playing again, although now with GIFT's bass-playing Cam in the band. Sigmund was there again, but this time he didn't need to deliver me packages from Anja because she was there too! And while our now dead or world-famous band-friends weren't able to complete the old lineup, Ri and I played DJ sets to full the void. Ri's was fantastic, turning his lounge into a wild little dancefloor. My set was somewhat less successful, featuring moments of mad dance action, punctuated by moments of me playing Kenickie or Super Tennis or The Thermals or something else I really love and can't usually play out because no-one other than me would really wanna dance to it.

It was a really fantastic night, Us Kids know were just stellar and the crowd rocking out to their set just as wonderful. The band even had a major surprise waiting for me: Cammy Lo Lo made noises into a mic with his pie-hole! This is big. In the five years the band have been wowing me, this is the first time I have ever seen the instrumentalists make use of the human voice. Cam wasn't exactly singing, but what he was doing worked perfectly as the next progression for this always evolving band. And then it was awesome dancey times and then all too soon it was close to 1AM and the realisation that in a few hours I'd need to be back at work.

So sunday was just animation-station till stupid late into Monday morning – not much exciting there other than listening to the new Go Team album a few times over.

But the cool thing about having quit my job at YoTV so I could JoFoEuro is the concept of weekends is now a rather abstract idea to me. Having worked through most of the weekend I decided I'd make Monday my Sunday, delivering the animation we'd labored over, heading home, collecting Anja, dropping her at MK and then proceeding to blow up hundreds of bad robots!

For as long as I haven't been updating this blog regularly, it's been even longer since I blogged about videogames. This is because, after moving out of Lothbury in February, I haven't had a TV to run my beloved X-Box through. But like some divine miracle all that has changed, when last Thursday I bought myself a beautiful, huge TV and fired up my console for the first time in over 3 months. So this brings me back to Monday afternoon, piloting a giant mech and blowing up stuff in "Front Mission Evolved", a game I've been wanting for ages and finally got hold of while in the UK. It received mixed reviews, averaging 58 on Meta-critic, but in my books the game is a god-send. If, like me, you love robots, then you'll feel the same. You get to build, customise and pilot a giant robot through futuristic cities and this is something there surely isn't enough of in the current-generation of gaming. There are mountains of games where you can pretend to be an American douche-bag “spreading democracy” with an assault rifle, but there are hardly any where you can be a little man piloting a big robot. The only other title for X-Box that I could dig up in the genre was “Armored Core For Answer”. Other than a grammatically wrong name, AC4A featured action so fast that it made me feel like a really slow round-eyed-devil, illogical controls, ugly graphics and a robot customization system so complex it made me feel like a stupid white man all over again. Front Mission evolved on the other hand made me feel like a robot-piloting ace, tearing through bad robots and spending ages on competently customizing my giant mech. Okay, wow, I'm really geeking out here, and this isn't even the end of my Sunmonday gaming fun!

I headed back to MK to collect Anja, we headed home and then clumb into bed and popped LA Noir into the X-Box. With Heavy Rain having been our favourite-ever game to play together it just made sense that LA Noir would be a new favourite for Anja and I and needless to say it didn't disapoint.

Between the gruesomeness of being a traffic department detective Anja and I kept things cheery with some help from 2 wonderful Arcade titles, Double Fine's absurdly original “Stacking”:

And the super loveable this-is-the-closest-I'll-get-to-Little-Big-Planet-on-my-X-box-and-I-get-to-swim-around-and-make-pretty-plants-grow platformer “The Undergarden”.

Good times.

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