Friday, 30 March 2012

those young people today

Yeah, I'm on a roll. It's totally just because I'm making up for having been offline a lot and not because I'm procrastinating, no, not at all.

So, I was poking around plot spoilers for a recent Mortal Kombat game on TVTropes (don't ask how I got there, I don't even know, it just came up somehow) and saw a reference to something that sounded like it might be interesting to watch, so I looked it up on Youtube. More fool I. You know, in a series that is all about super-powerful people beating the crap out of each other in show-offy detail, you would kinda expect a cutscene described as "X Kills Pretty Much Everyone" to involve a certain amount of awesome. NOT the villain just walking into the room, the heroes lining up to charge at her one at a time, and to each be taken down by maybe one or two punches which is somehow supposed to kill them, in comparison to the enormous amount of damage they take during normal gameplay which doesn't have any lasting consequences at all.

No awesome smackdown. No special talents used by anyone. Just *bap* *bap* *bap* *bap* all the heroes are 'dead'. This is what passes for big-budget entertainment?

That's not the only offputting thing. I have vaguely fond memories of MK even though I never played it for more than a few movies. The original game was iconic. The movie was fun (there was only one! that sequel did not happen!). But in recent years they've moved towards making the female characters look MORE and MORE ridiculous (It's not even the fact that they now have costumes the size of candyfloss, the graphical style that these weirdly distorted bodies with breasts the size of watermelons are rendered in is also really visually unappealing to me. So they've made them "sexier" and "uglier" at the same time, and I feel quite uncomfortable looking at them.) and making the game grosser and nastier and bloodier (Yeah, I'm kinda squeamish at heart.) Uecch. I feel dirty for even looking at it.

And there's a trailer going around for a new MK movie reboot that's aiming for Darker And Nastier Still. People are cheering that it's been inspired by Saw and other super-grotesque horror flicks. WHY?

I watched some beardy guy's video argument recently that it's completley natural for videogames to be mostly violent due to the nature of the medium. He wasn't totally wrong, but BOY was he oversimplifying things. Yes, video games lend themselves to spatial interaction and visual displays. That doesn't mean that it is inevitable that all games should turn into hyperrealistic heads being ripped off and fountaining blood. C'mon.

heaving bosoms ahoy!

Someone is Let's Playing Plundered Hearts, an old text adventure I am slightly ashamed to admit I have never played.

Only slightly, since I can say with reasonable certainty that I was never aware of it during the time that it was available for sale. It was slightly too early for me to have been really well-versed in shopping for computer games. (I definitely did see a Zork game in a store once, but I didn't realise at the time that it was a text adventure!) I did purchase the Magnetic Scrolls Collection but that was many years later (and I don't think it was full-price-new when I bought it either).

I don't think I ever knew this title existed until I stumbled into the free interactive fiction community. They were, reasonably enough, in stated opposition to anyone pirating those old titles (especially since the community enjoyed a fairly good relationship with Activision at the time). And since there were plenty of free games available, I never did.

There doesn't seem much point now, good luck finding anywhere to buy it, but after having NOT done so for so long, I'd rather continue to not do so and read someone else playing it. :)

Also ARGH GOOGLE WHY DO YOU DO THIS? Not only has their stupid country-specific blogspot code broken disqus all over the web (not a problem here), not only has it caused the quick edit button to mysteriously disappear off blogs (a minor problem here), but it seems that also they're redirecting or hiding the solution to the problem. Searching for my missing quick edit pencil, I found lots of google help links in the search results! Every single one redirected to a central blogger site rather than take me through to the question and answer. THANKS GOOGLE.

... yes, I did find an answer somewhere, but SHEESH. this has been a known problem for a long time, why haven't they FIXED it?

get loot. get more loot.

Wasted a few minutes playing BrowserQuest. Well, it's free...

pyrrhic even without the victory

So in today's adventures of trying to stop people from BUYING games, we have Sony blocking people from downloading games they've paid for. Fair enough on removing the game if it contained a security flaw, but surely people deserve refunds, even if they had a decent probability of being naughty people? (Edit - See comments, this may be reasonable.)

Also, apparently the new SimCity will require the shitty Origin software running, although at least they aren't complete (*&^#$nuts like Ubisoft and promise that the game will not self-destruct if your internet connection blips while you're playing.

Neither really affects me. I don't have a Vita. I have vaguely pondered it, since I cannot buy a 3DS due to Nintendo's intentionally crippling the things, but my games backlog being what it is, I'm not in a hurry to get a new console.

my subconscious author is fired

So, I dreamed that I was playing this complex visual novel / RPG cross set in an Ancient Floating City. It was both fully inhabited and a crumbling ruin, I don't know, maybe it was a ruined city on an otherwise inhabited flying island. And it was DOOMED. You were controlling huge numbers of characters who weren't related and having to jump back and forth to different locations to try and guide all of these people through all sorts of one-wrong-step-and-you're-dead situations to get them to the central chambers.

After having literally had a bridge dropped on some of my party and having to reload and try again, I finally get all my heroes to the central building.

Then out of nowhere a big glowing gem flies in through the window, flies past the heroes into the control chamber, activates itself, and saves the island, while all the heroes stand there looking confused and do absolutely nothing.

That, brain, is a BAD ENDING!

just what I needed

Arcanum is $3 on Good Old Games this weekend; I never did play it. GOodness only knows when I'll get to it. I haven't even been continuing with Icewind Dale lately because I've been frantically trying to write plot. But, you know, may as well add it to my collection...

Tuesday, 27 March 2012


So, if you're in the UK and a gamer you've probably heard about the big GAME/Gamestation meltdown.

Our local shop has NOT (yet) closed, but the looming disaster was enough to get us to go in and grab stacks of cheap console games while we still could. Mostly him getting PS3 stuff (Man, those games discount fast) but I also grabbed a Pokemon Mystery Dungeon title (I know NOTHING about pokemon, but I know someone who's enjoyed a Mystery Dungeon title, and it was five pounds) and Zelda Spirit Tracks. I would have gotten Henry Hatsworth if I could find it but they didn't seem to have a copy.

And a larger DS card carrying case because I've been needing one for ages, and if the shop DOES close then hey, branded keepsake! :) (Although I'll probably decorate it sometime when I'm bored enough. It's black, so perfect for painting on.)
(edit - hit the wrong tag there, sorry)

Monday, 26 March 2012

hand-wringing for headlines

Won't SOMEBODY think of the CHILDREN?

That's what the newest frantic attempt to raise a moral panic is, once again, aiming for. To quote the BBC article:

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers raises concerns about children spending hours a day playing inappropriate computer games.

ATL head Dr Mary Bousted acknowledged such activities could be difficult to police.

But added that parents needed reminding of their duties

Members of the union are due to debate a resolution at their annual conference in Manchester next week, which calls for tougher legislation with regard to such games.

Dr Bousted said some of these games were "very violent" and could have an effect on "tender young minds of children and young people".

And she was sure her conference would hear how parents are ignoring age restrictions of computer games.

Now, it's possible that the journalists are the liars here, as it's certainly not the first time journalists have gone out of their way to give the wrong impression. But it sure sounds like what's being said is "I don't have any actual evidence, but I'm sure it's a problem! And I know that nothing can actually be done about it, but we need new laws anyway! Pay attention to meeeeeee!"

And what does the BBC use as a graphic to accompany this story? An image of a little girl playing a Nintendo DS, the least violent games console in existence.

Then it rambles on about how kids playing computer games are 'not interacting' (A much more realistic problem is that many computer games ARE letting kids interact with each other, but in negative ways. Social culture in MMORPGs is often beyond toxic and little has been done about it. Approaching that problem in a positive direction might actually be useful, and thus is of no interest to her) and 'not exercising' (Fair point for computer games. Of course, many people use their Wiis entirely for exercise, and some portable games have mechanics based around going out and walking...) and 'not playing' (.... um. ma'am? I think you're having a problem with words here.)

It's just typical generic "kids are doing something different! society is collapsing!" panic. Sigh.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

oh, and

I got my internets back, but also developed a mild infection, and couldn't stop playing Monster Tale. So I've finished it now.

It's difficult to say how balanced or unbalanced the monster skills are. Certainly there were only a VERY small number that I ever used. I don't know if they were really overpowered or if it's just a playstyle thing. Most of Chomp's attacks just didn't seem worth it, but it may have been different for other people who naturally gravitate to different styles? I don't know. I was pretty much using nothing but a vertical spike until I got the extremely awesome drill power, and then it was that and Healing until the end of the game.

Still, Monster Tale is great and if you have a DS you should play it. :) Heck, it's currently listed stupidly cheap, buy it even if you don't have a DS and you'll find one or someone to give it to eventually!

Endings, and the rage they inspire

DISCLAIMER: I haven't played ME3. This shouldn't surprise you, I wasn't planning on it until it was super-discounted at best, and considering how much I hated using Origin for ME2 when it was _free_, it was gonna be a long time coming. I have been roughly told what happens at the end and I know a few events mid-story. Please don't feel the need to tell me any more. :) I don't really care much about spoilers, but at the same time, I DON'T CARE about mass effect and want to talk about stuff I do care about.

Is it right for consumers to be enraged by an 'unsatisfying' ending to a work of fiction?

Endings are hard. Many, many good stories are let down by disappointing endings. Most of the time, you shrug and accept it, or write fanfic for how it 'should' have ended, or simply invoke CanonDiscontinuity and claim it never happened.

The amount of rage tends to, in my experience, vary based on how much the ending's "fail" goes against what you liked out of the series in total. Many stories sort of peter out at the end, and that's sad, but it's understandable, it doesn't make you as the consumer feel INSULTED, just disappointed. The story ran out of steam somewhere. It happens. We can sympathise.

Then you get cases where someone who isn't the creator dislikes the ending and forces it to be altered before release, even if the new ending is jarringly disconnected from the work as a whole. Two infamous cases are the play "The Doll's House", which in early performances after showing the complete breakdown of a marriage, had the wife... decide to stay with her husband because Divorce Is Bad. Playwright was not happy. I don't think even audiences were happy. Progress marches forward and real ending was restored. Another, more recent example is the movie "I Am Legend", which spent the whole movie building up to a specific realisation, only for some exec to decide they didn't like the realisation, thus cutting off the movie right before it happens and going down an entirely different route. Leaving all the foreshadowing untouched. The end result is a movie that's vaguely watchable as some sort of sad action flick but completely lost its thematic integrity, or any relation to the title of the film. The "real" ending was shipped on DVD anyway.

This sort of ending-censorship tends to provoke anger because it feels patronising. The execs are saying that we can't "handle" the real ending. They think we are too X to appreciate whatever was there to begin with. It is therefore reasonable that the reaction is to argue with it, to insist that actually we are just fine with the real ending, why are you treating us like this?

Not all ending changes are because of that. Sometimes an author gets rather worn out by the end of a story and decides to kill everyone off for shocks, or because they're tired of writing these bozoes and want to stop, or because they're depressed and want to demonstrate the futility of life, and so on. There's at least one well-known movie that was originally meant to end with the main characters dying for no real reason, and the execs stepped in and said "WTF?" and talked them out of it. Movie (and series) is better for it. But sometimes it doesn't get caught, and Rocks Fall Everyone Dies.

If the reason was that the author was depressed, many fans can understand that and be upset at the result but not filled with anger. If the reason was that the writer hated the fans and wanted them to go away and stop making em write this crap, is it not reasonable that the fans feel a bit insulted by this? :) Especially if they were paying good money to be insulted?

Special benefits go to the category of bad ending where the writers not only introduce a sudden and jarring change, but drastically undermine the entire point of the work at the same time. My case in point is the ending of the Xena TV show. After however-many series of working for redemption and doing GOOD to balance out the evil of her past and showing how just dying would be taking the easy way out and struggling to do good is a much harder and nobler thing, at the very end she... decides that actually she has to die for her sins. SO APPARENTLY THE WHOLE SERIES WAS A WASTE OF TIME THEN. Rage does not begin to describe the reaction. Fans felt personally insulted, because everything the show was about, everything they'd been drawn in to watch, they were suddenly being told was worthless. Apparently the producers were surprised by this. What were they smoking? (This was later officially declared a canon discontinuity - at least as far as the ongoing comic book series goes. That Never Happened.)

Another great way to piss the consumer off? Intentionally fail to resolve the plot at all and leave it hanging for the next installment which you intend to demand more money for. There's a balancing act here. If you're writing a series, or you think you might ever write a sequel, you don't want to tie up EVERY loose end. But at the same time, each installment needs to come to some sort of conclusion.

Imagine if you had been playing ME2 and just entered the big nasty scary relay and got a tense scene of hurtling through super-space and then - you got a black screen with 'Please insert $60 to continue'. You'd need to buy a new monitor, because you would have just punched a hole in yours.

I threw a book across the room once and swore never to read anything by the author again because it ended with absolutely everything the heroes had done up to that point having been utterly pointless, plz buy the next book. No. Screw you.

Let's put it this way. Epic stories are designed to stimulate the emotions. If you work up the reader's emotions and cut them off in a very badly-resolved way, you should not be surprised that they go crazy.

Now, do players have the "right" to "force" developers to make things end better? No, not really, and the idea of lawsuits to get your money back from a shitty ending is just stupid IMO. On the other hand, there are circumstances where I feel it's quite reasonable to be angry and insulted by what you've just played/read/watched. And if you feel insulted, obviously you should feel free to express that.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

a sudden silencing

I have not been posting because my internet was suddenly cut off. It is still cut off. I am still pissed off. It is a long and boring story which involves little but average everyday paperwork and incompetency, but which was not in any way my fault. :)

In the meantime, I have been working on writing a project which I have shown hints of here in the past but never quite publicly announced (and still can't, because I can't upload anything)... it's at about 26K words now.

I have also been playing lots of Icewind Dale. I am in Lower Dorn's Deep feeling a bit guilty about the nameless neutral svirfneblin who KEPT spawning and walking straight into the lingering effects of the cloudkill I threw at the armored sentries, thus instantly dying and leaving me with a nice neat row of dead gnomes. Big green clouds should be a giveaway, guys!

Today workpeople were SUPPOSED to come (and didn't) so I was off the computer and digging into my DS backlog. Monster Tale is adorable. It is really more in the Metroidvania category than Wacky Puzzle Platformer but I don't currently have a tag for that (edit - but now I do kinda). But really, it's just what I needed - not too difficult, not patronisingly easy, fast-moving enough that I don't get fed up with being on a console (console RPGs often feel really draggy to me) and cute. The amount of available world is a good size for me to mentally keep track of places I wanted to go back to and check again when I got new powers, without needing the ability to notate maps. The only downside is that I suspect it's not all that long. (Well, and the lack of any ability to warp around. But the world's not THAT big so at least so far I don't mind.)