I love you Beth Cooper

Every once in a while you can be surprised by a film.  I put I love you Beth Cooper on our LoveFilm rental list because the trailer had seemed quite amusing.  I’m so glad I did.

One the outside, this is a reasonably standard coming-of-age American highschool flick.  The main cast, a couple of newly graduated boys and a similar bunch of cheerleaders come together in amusing circumstances and learn lots about themselves, life and living.  But on the inside, it’s an always funny and often heartwarming story which is more than worth the time invested in watching it.

Denis Cooverman (Paul Rust) is convinced by his best friend Rich (Jack Carpenter) to be honest during his speech at the graduation.  He extols the virtues of honest during his speech and how people should take this moment to say the things they feel so that they don’t regret not saying them later.  Taking his own advice, he (among other things) declares his love for Beth Cooper (Hayden Panettiere), the head cheerleader and upsets her brawny, meat-head boyfriend in the process.

What follows is a collect of fast pace set pieces full of humour, some truly cringeworthy embarrassments and some entertaining and engaging dialogue.  There are almost no surprises, although you might not guess the exact outcome (which I actually thought worked really well), but there are some true laugh out loud moments and plenty of reasons to want to keep watching.

The wet towel fight is well worth watching.

Not as gross-out as the likes of American Pie or Road Trip, and certainly funnier than some of the more recent American Pie movies, I love you Beth Cooper is something I think I could watch again and again and enjoy every time.  It reminds me of Weird Science, and deserves to be just as much a cult classic.


I had mixed hopes for Gamer.  On the one hand, movies about computer games tend on the whole not to be very good, on the other hand it had a pretty good pedigree and some of the clips from the trailer looked promising.  The premise is simple, through the use of nano technology the human brain can be modified so that a person can be controlled remotely.  Some people will pay for the ability to control people, and those who are controlled can get paid.  The Sims made real.  Alongside that, criminals on death row are offered the chance to be controlled in live first-person-shooter style games, with the promise of surviving 30 games giving them their freedom.  The technology was developed and is sold by Ken Castle (played by Michael C. Hall) who is now a multi-billionaire.

Our grisly combat-savy hero (Gerard Butler) has survived 27 or so battles controlled by a young male gamer.  As he nears his 30th match, things take a turn south.

One could be forgiven for thinking this was a remake / reworking of The Running Man.  Certainly there are many similarities, prisoners given a chance at freedom for the entertainment of the masses, those in charge of the game being corrupt or manipulating the outcome and media interest in the whole thing.  In fact, there are plenty of comparisons to be made to the recent Death Race movie as well.  Given the plot in general isn’t that original, the movie really needed to bring something else to the table.

The pop culture references are entertaining, with the look of the Society game clearly modelled on many current real-world MMO’s, and there are a few pokes and prods at the mindsets of a certain type of game player.  The dialogue is okay, it’s no where near as cheesy as I feared, and the pace clips along pretty well.  The characters are interesting, but not very deep, and there’s a definite sense of having seen much of this film before elsewhere (the anti-establishment hackers in Johnny Mnemonic for example).  The action scenes are brutal (you’ll recognise the writers/directors from Crank and Crank 2) but give you a good sense of being inside a first-person-shooter.

The first two thirds of the movie are the strongest, sadly once our hero inevitably comes up against the bad guy, all sense of danger is lost and the story becomes almost a parody of itself.

Gamer was mostly enjoyable, and I’m glad I saw it, but I think it was a huge missed opportunity.  It could have been a classic, a solid action sci-fi movie with something serious to say about where culture is heading with on-line gaming.  But I don’t think the writers/directors quite had the balls to pull it off.  Maybe the screenplay was better and it lost something on the way to the screen, but the movie misses the mark too often.  Which is a shame, because it deserved to be and had the root of something much bigger than it turned into.

Pease Pudding

So, another go at pease pudding last night – no photo this time.  Used a much smaller amount of split peas, an in general, it’s much better.  For a start, it tastes like the pease pudding my mam used to make, and it’s mostly smooth and creamy.  We had to push it through a sieve to get it like that though.  Need to cook the split peas for longer, and not quite so tightly packed together (the ones in the middle were still mostly raw).  But in general, we’re getting closer!

I’m considering just putting the gammon joint into water, with the split peas loose, and boiling it until the peas go soft, and then straining the water away (for stock), rather than putting the peas in muslin.

Tesco – Coke Zero – It’s back?

So a friend reports Coke Zero in bottles is back in Tesco in Ipswich, and my wife told me it’s back in one Tesco in Nottingham as well.

Will we ever know what really happened?

Does anyone really care?

Anyway, good news for those of us who like the drink!

Random MMO Frustrations: #1 – varying difficulty for class based quests

I find a few things about MMO game design frustrating.  One thing that’s on my mind at the moment is when every class has to do something to get a class specific reward, but those somethings vary in difficulty (often by a great amount).  A specific example would be the Moria Class Quests for Legendary Traits in the Lord of the Rings Online.

The rewards are obtained by doing a little quest line, which leads up to a kill in one of the Moria 6-man instances.  Each of the instances in question supports two of the classes (who need different kills).  So, each class has one quest, that one quest takes place in one of the instances, two classes share an instance but have different creatures in that instance.

Now when the designers put the instances together, they made them vary in difficulty.   This is fine, I think MMO content should vary, some should suit certain style groups, and some should encourage people to look at their gear or their skills (or in Lord of the Rings online, their traits, etc.)

The problem comes when class X has no choice but to do instance Y to get their reward, while class B can do instance C.  If instance C is generally considered to be easier than instance Y, you’re going to generate unhappiness.  Easier of course is subjective.  Maybe it’s easier because the players have a lot of Hunters and no Guardians, or because their general tactics suit that particular instance.  But it doesn’t really matter why it’s easier, or even harder, that variation without choice causes friction.

Here’s a live example.  Our little group is struggling to beat one of the encounters in the Forges instance, we need to complete all the bosses so that we can get to the final mob for the Loremaster quest.  However, in the 16th Hall, once we’d worked the wrinkles out, we beat the whole instance quite easily, and not only that, but we only needed to kill the 1st boss to get to the Runekeeper quest mob.

There’s no good in-game reason for this.  It just causes friction.  Yes, it means you are forced to see all the instances if you want to see all the class quests, but being forced into stuff is never good.  It’s bad design.  I suspect it went like this.  Developer X designs a bunch of instances (or more likely, several developers do), and they vary in toughness and mindset.  This is find.  Deveoper Y is tasked with putting in the rewards for class traits somewhere in the game, and decides to put them into the instances, they pick them almost at random, and place the final mobs at random (behind boss 1, at the start, at the end) without really considering the different difficulties this will impose.

The instances and the quests were not designed together.

It’s bad design in my view.  And it could be easily avoided.  Each class could be told to ‘bring the head of a terror from the depths of Moria’.  The final boss in each instance could then drop 1 or 2 heads (or ears, or whatever body part makes sense).  People can then choose the instance they want to do to get their reward.   Yes, it means people can pick the ‘easy’ instance, but then designers should strive to make them all challenging.  But it would reduce the friction and ensure different classes didn’t get the short or long stick.

This is only one example, there are many (like the 2.0 Epic quests in EverQuest, where the final fights varied widely in difficulty, not to mention the run-up quests and mobs).

Content difficulty should always vary, but if you’re going to design a bunch of quests, one per class, then you should ensure each class can choose to follow an equally difficult route to their reward.