Cloudy With a Chance of Gaming -- 2/20/2011

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Welcome Home

Greetings, all! This is the second blog in my new weekly series, featuring whatever steamy thought vapors are floating around in that cloudy head of mine. This week I’ll be celebrating my S-rank of Forza 3, Introducing you to a great podcast, going back in time, proclaiming my love of Timothy Olyphant, and more! So watch, that, show! Wait, I’m not Conan; sorry about that. 

Solid Gold

At last! My long-running mission to achieve gold in every single race in Forza 3 has come to a successful close. I didn’t check my total playtime, but it has to be up towards 120 hours of racing now. I feel relieved to finally have my S-rank, but at the same time, I almost feel sad that there are no more races to compete in. I guess that’s where multiplayer will come in. I've sent a friend request to the GB Forza XBL account, so we'll see if I ever remember to hop into that.

The home stretch of this goal was a lot of fun. I decided to save the endurance races for last; I guess I just thought they would make for a nice finale. Endurance races are the ones that have you race a single track for around an hour each, so they’re pretty daunting. The way it’s set up though, there’s an endurance race for each class of car. Seeing that, I just decided that I’d buy a brand new car for each race. I ended up buying everything from a Saleen truck, to a Mercedes SLR, and even a Ferrari F50 GT. It always feels great spending a million credits on a single car. The final race was 9 laps around Nurburgring Nordschleife. That doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up to over 116 miles of racing. It was a great race to finish up with.

I never thought I'd see all of those boxes checked. 
I never thought I'd see all of those boxes checked. 
Forza 3’s a great game. Turn 10 did a fantastic job with nearly every aspect. It’s not perfect though, and I mentioned some improvements that I’d like to see in last week’s blog. I want to add to that. As you can see in the photo to the right, the game is simple. Race each of the events represented by boxes on this screen, and you’re done. To be fair, there is a season mode type deal in there that will select events for you and kind of walk you through a career. That’s really not much of an improvement though. I want to see Forza 4 feature some kind of in-depth career mode that requires a bit more managing than just “select that box, now race”. It’s just gotten a bit stale at this point. Maybe this is a bad idea, and not what these games are really about, but I think a real story could be interesting. Just a little something to give me some more motivation to beat these A.I. drivers. Speaking of those guys, they’re already pretty well established through their driving alone. M. Rossi for example. Damn you, M. Rossi! Maybe just a bit of clever backstory to these other racers would make things more interesting. Or maybe racing games should just be racing games. No need for drama.

All that said, if Forza 4 is released with just more cars, tracks, slightly better graphics, etc. then I could definitely live with that. As I typed Forza 4 in that last sentence, I initially typed “Forz4” on accident. I know that the folks at Turn 10 are better than to seriously consider something so easy. 


It was all of the long race hours of Forza 3 that eventually led me down the path of finding new and interesting podcasts. I’d already blazed through all of my favorites: Best of Hotspot (thanks again to ZanzibarBreeze), Bombcast, This Is Only A Test, Behind The Screened Door, NDX, and even a Portland Trail Blazers podcast. I was thirsting for more sweet podcasting goodness when I remembered a guest that was on Conan a little while back. I remembered his name was Marc Maron, and that he’s a comedian that now runs a podcast. I searched a bit and found his podcast, titled “WTF with Marc Maron” (Site potentially NSFW. Then again, anything this man does is potentially NSFW).

 Dubbya tee eff
 Dubbya tee eff
After listening to a few select episodes of this podcast, I’m finding myself compelled in a way that I hadn't anticipated. In the show, Marc conducts interviews with various famous people that are often--but not always--comedians themselves. What makes WTF such a great show is the laid-back style that Maron brings to the interviews. He successfully cuts out all of the bullshit and gets into real and interesting topics with his guests. They just talk, and it’s refreshing.

The first episode I decided to listen to was one featuring Sarah Silverman. This was a great one to start on since apparently Marc has known Sarah since she was like 17 years old and just starting in comedy. They dive into all kinds of topics involving their past history as well as Sarah’s parents, past boyfriends, The cancelling of The Sarah Silverman Show, and a bit about what’s in her new book. Also, Sarah apparently has a friend that’s 6’10” who joins in toward the end. Yo, that guy could have been an NBA player if he worked at it. Anyway, really good episode. It hooked me when I wasn’t necessarily expecting to be hooked.

From there I picked out another episode that I thought may be interesting. I chose one featuring the one and only Ira Glass of This American Life fame. This is probably my favorite episode that I’ve heard thus far (although it’s close with the next one that I’ll tell you about). I’d highly recommend listening to this one if you want to give this podcast a try. Marc and Ira get into some really deep and interesting topics mostly about what it’s like being a radio personality, and how the two of them have very different styles. Ira talks about his early career and how he never expected or planned to be on radio. The highlight was probably Marc’s pitch for a This American Life story. A whole crazy situation went down between Marc and his ex-wife that I won’t ruin by trying to paraphrase. After telling the story, Ira breaks down what it would take to turn that into an episode of This American Life. Great episode; go listen to this one.

That last episode was so good that I, again, decided to listen to another one. I noticed a two-part Louis C.K. episode that I couldn’t pass up. I wasn’t at all aware going in, but Marc and Louis have a very long history. They were actually best friends for a long while, but have had issues maintaining the friendship due mostly to Marc’s jealousy over Louis’ success. It sounds like the plot to a poor day-time drama, but this two hour episode was pretty amazing. The two talk about going from best friends, to not answering each others emails or phone calls. Going into the interview, they still hadn’t even worked everything out. By the end though, you see them start to rekindle their lost friendship. It’s really kind of heartwarming. Listening to them reminisce about wads of cash, motorcycle crashes, divorces, and children, is all super interesting. It’s a bit more personal of an episode, but Marc admits to that up front.

I think what I like most about Marc Maron is his ability to put himself out there, flaws and all. He seems to bring real honesty and enthusiasm to the table in every interview, and that makes this podcast a great one, at least from what I’ve heard thus far. Go check it out if it sounds interesting. 

Timothy Olyphant-itis

   All credit goes to Navarro for this term
   All credit goes to Navarro for this term
I think everyone knows the feeling of wanting to be someone else. You’ve felt it at some point after seeing someone, on T.V. or in a movie, that’s just too awesome. If you're a guy, this feeling is commonly referred to as a “Man Crush”. Timothy Olyphant-itis is a very specific sub-class of this so-called man crush, in which Timothy Olyphant is the subject.

Timothy Olyphant’s a badass dude. He’s been in only a few films worth mentioning thus far, but he’s done a lot in recent television roles. He starred in the critically acclaimed “Deadwood” from 2004 through 2006. He also played a policeman in “Gone In 60 Seconds”. His latest role is the lead on the show “Justified”.

 I love this picture
 I love this picture
I’m not going to spoil any major plot points here because I think that all of you should watch Justified, and enjoy all of it’s surprises. The jist of the plot is that a U.S. Marshall named Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) is relocated from Miami back to his hometown in Kentucky after shooting a gun thug. Raylan's often in trouble for having a shoot-first approach to his work. After showing up in Kentucky, the chief asks what happened, “Tell me about the shooting.” Raylan’s constantly having to explain how the thug pulled his weapon first, and that “It was justified.”

The show has a present-day wild west dynamic, which works well. I think the first 5 episodes of season one all featured at least one person getting shot. I thought the streak would last all season, but, no luck. It’s still an amazing show though. Each of the actors do a great job delivering the excellent dialog. So far the supporting characters around Raylan are all interesting. The only exceptions being his fellow U.S. Marshalls. They get the job done, but can be a bit bland. Anyway, it’s a great show with a great theme song to match. Check it out below:  

You can also check out Navarro’s season one catch-up video if you feel like jumping strait into season 2, which is airing now.

I’ve just started watching Deadwood since I’m now waiting a week between Justified episodes. I’ve only seen one episode of Deadwood so far, but Olyphant seems to fit just as well into that old west setting, which isn’t surprising after seeing him in Justified. If you guys didn’t know, Timothy Olyphant also played Agent 47 in the Hitman movie. I’ve heard poor things, but I kinda want to see it now. Damn you, Olyphant! You’re just too cool of a dude. 

Tannen was git-gotten

 Lookin' good, Kid! >_>
 Lookin' good, Kid! >_>
I won’t go into a lot of detail here in order to preserve the story, but I finished episode two of the Back to the Future game titled "Get Tannen!". According to Steam, it took me just 2 hours to complete. That’s about what I was expecting, but I can’t help but wish there were more to each episode. Episode one did actually take me four hours somehow, so that was nice. I think I payed $22 for what will eventually be 10+ hours of game, though; I’m happy with that ratio.

Weird side-note: I stumbled across the voice actor that plays Biff/Kid on Wikipedia. Apparently the guy’s name is Kid Beyond (stage name). According to the interwebz, he’s a singer, beat boxer, and live looper out of San Francisco. Kid Tannen is voiced by Kid Beyond. Just thought that was interesting. Apparently he does voices for other Telltale games too.

I eagerly anticipate March’s episode. From the looks of the sizzle reel, we’re about to see some serious shit.

Good afternoon, good evening, and good night!

The NBA All-Star weekend wraps up tonight, so stop reading this blog and go check out the main event: East vs. West. It should be exciting, despite none of the Trail Blazers making the cut. We wuz robbed! I think it starts at 8:15 PM Eastern. 5:15 PM for all us cool kids.

Justin Bieber haters rejoice. There’s a new video for you to keep on loop for the next week or so.

That’s that for this week. Thank you for taking the time to read any amount of this. I know that it went a bit long. Come back next Sunday for continued Tactical-Blogging-Action®.