New Eden, Page 11-The Color’s Revenge

It’s a bit of a rough week for me.  Standard Content will come shortly, but in the meantime, we’ve got some more of this content to fill the gap.

New Eden Page 11

At this point, I’m still working on getting used to using the markers, and I think it shows.  The acquisition of some lining markers helps, as it gives us actual outlines for what we’re doing here.  Still struggling with using the color to illustrate depth, however.

That Princess of Time thing is a bit of a relic that I’d be cutting out were I going back and editing this thing now.  Originally, everyone was supposed to have a class and an element.  The element relates to their powers and a main plot point we’ll be seeing later.  The class didn’t really have much in-story purpose, but on a meta level it was supposed to relate to their character arcs.  Lorelei, here, as the Princess character, was originally going to be struggling with the fact that she was thrust into a leadership role but nobody really expected much leadership out of her due to the strong personalities she was surrounded by, which would lead to her being largely used by other characters, particularly the Prince character, either as a motivator or as a tool towards their own ends until she learned to break out of it and stand on her own.  I’ve since dropped a lot of that arc, as well as the idea of using the classes, as a whole.  I feel that in the kind of story I’m trying to put together here, adding in features that aren’t justified in-story is just going to be causing problems.  Lorelei’s now just the Goddess of Time, rather than Princess of Time.

Transcript

Panel 1:
Ah, there we go.  Princess of Time?

Panel 2:

Well… won’t argue with that.

Panel 5:
This game!  So empowering!  I may just stick with these newbie mooks all night!

Previous Page

First Page

The Gays of Gaming

Gay_flag

A while back, I wrote a series of posts celebrating the left-handed characters in videogames.  At the time, I had pointed out that southpaws, while they are clearly stronger, sexier, and just plan better than the average person, are still one of the most underrepresented groups in videogames.  I almost called them the single most underrepresented group in videogames, but I wasn’t entirely sure of that.  Namely, there were two groups giving me pause before making that big, probably wrong conclusion.  And the gay, lesbian, and bisexual community was one of them.

Recently, I’d been thinking back to that.  Wondering which group had it worse in terms of videogames representation, and if the gay community had come far enough to beat out left-handers.  So I started doing a thought experiment, trying to think out how many gay characters have been in the games I’ve played.  And, I figured, since I was doing the mental work anyway, I might as well make a list and share it with the public.  Hence, this post.  Here, I’ve put together a roster of all the homosexual and bisexual characters I can personally remember in video games.  Hopefully, this will be interesting to someone other than myself.

A few notes on the composition of this list:

  • To be counted here, the character has to be, well, an actual character.  They need their own personality and name.  If I could count generic NPCs, we’d never leave.  They don’t have to be deep characters, but they do need to have something going on.  Player Characters are a little tricky with this.  In general, if they have some sort of demonstrable character beyond just following the player’s decisions as their only interaction with their world, they’ll count for this.  Otherwise, nope.  I’ve got a deep love for the blank player avatar, but they don’t really fit in with this project.
  • I’m not counting transgendered or intersexed characters on this list.  I know in a lot of ways the communities and social issues involved are very similar, but I personally view gender identity as a separate matter than where one likes to stick their junk, and this list is focusing on the latter.  Transgender representation in videogames is still a lot more problematic anyway.
  • The creator’s word outing someone as gay will be taken into account, but, as always, they present only one possible interpretation of their own work.  In-game content is king.
  • Much like the list of left-handers, I’m only cataloging characters from games I’ve played.  Just too complicated to explore any beyond that.
  • I’m only counting honest designations.  As much as I’d like to make note of how fancy the King of All Cosmos is, this isn’t the place for it.
  • In the end, if it’s not absolutely explicit, it all comes down to my personal judgement call.  Don’t agree with me?  Well, too bad.  This is my list, I can do what I want.  And that may well be different from what you’d think.  In fact, if you write fanfiction, I can guarantee this list is like a tenth the size of anything you’d put together.
  • As always, I was right.  Homosexual and bisexual characters are totally better represented than left-handers.

Anyways, that’s all the boring stuff out of the way.  Shall we get to it?

1 and 2: Persona 2-Jun Kurosu‘s crushing hard on your main, Tatsuya Suou.  He’s not even subtle about it. Tatsuya himself can get into something of a relationship with either Jun or two of the women on your team, no fuss either way.

3 and 4: Fallout 2-This game was notable for having the first same-sex marriage in videogames, possible between your main and either Davin or Miria. This is followed by the first same-sex divorce in videogames. Fallout 2’s just that kind of game.

5 and 6: Fallout New Vegas-Veronica Santangelo and Arcade Gannon

7, 8, and 9: Kazuhira Miller of the Metal Gear series comes close, but I’m not willing to make the call based on what we’ve seen so far. Snake and Otacan are just dripping with the fangirl baiting, but still nothing definitive. Vamp, Raikov, and Volgin are very clear with their sexuality, however.

10: Killer 7-Kevin Smith was outed by the creator.  Got nothing in game saying either way, but it makes sense to me.

11: Zangief is specifically noted as disliking young beautiful women, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s into men. I’m willing to bet, however, that Street Fighter’s Eagle, being based on the famously fabulous Freddy Mercury, is.

12: The Elder Scrolls III Morrowind-Crassius Curio. Dammit, I really wish I didn’t have to remember him.

13 and 14: Final Fantasy XIII-Fang and Vanille.  According to the designer.  As if the subtext wasn’t thick enough already.

15: Bully-Jimmy Hopkins

16: Guilty Gear-Venom

17: Phantasy Star II-Usvestia. Literally more famous for being gay than any other reason.  Try searching his name and see.

18: Streets of Rage 3-Ash. I guess the walking stereotypes still count.

19: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic-Juhani. Only a romance option for the ladies. Also the first, and still one of only a few, gay characters in the Star Wars franchise.

20: Earthbound-Tony

21: Indigo Prophecy-Tommy

22: Fable-Reaver.  Gotdommit.

23: Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines-Jeanette

24, 25, and 26: Jade Empire: Silk Fox, Dawn Star, and Sky.  All the romance options, whether by deliberate choice on the part of the developers, a glitch, or a combination of both.

27 and 28: Heather from Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn joins your army purely to pick up chicks. Tharja from Fire Emblem Awakening is interested in your avatar of either gender.

29: I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream-Benny.  Knowing that actually changes the way you look at the wicked dealings in his past.

30 and 31: Gone Home-Sam and Lonnie. Their relationship is the main thrust of the narrative, so the game’s absolutely dripping with it.

32, 33, 34, 35 and 36: The Asari in Mass Effect don’t really count, given that they’re a single-sexed race in the first place. The female Shepard going for them in the first and second games definitely do, however, as does the male Shepard if you join with Steve Cortez in the third. Also, Kelly Chambers, Kaiden Alenko, and Diana Allers.

37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, and 43: Oh jeez. Let’s get this Dragon Age thing going. In the first game, there’s Leliana and Zevran. I don’t really count the Warden, as they don’t have much of an established character. In the second, we have Hawke, Anders, Fenris, Isabella, and Merrill. And I’m sure there’s more in the series, but I haven’t played all the content, so anyone outside of these just doesn’t count. So hah.

44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, and 50: OH JEEZ! Let’s see here. So Saints Row’s Pierce was always suggested as being interested in his own kind, but Saints Row 4 just went and made everyone open to both genders. So that gives us the Boss, Johnny Gat, Kinzie Kenzington, Shaundi, Matt Miller, and Asha Odekar (an aside, if you’re basing a character off of your real life child-aged daughter, please don’t make them a romance option. That just makes me feel icky.). King doesn’t count because his romance option is pretty platonic, and Keith David doesn’t count because, although he does have the romance option, he won’t take you up on it either way.

51 and 52: Shin Megami Tensei Devil Summoner 2 has Binbogami and Yabyogami, two bosses who are really, really into fighting (specifically, being beaten by) Raidou.  If only they’d find each other, they could leave me alone.

53, 54 and 55: Grand Theft Auto IV-Bernie Crane, Bryce Dawkins, and, well, Gay Tony

56 and 57: The Last of Us- Bill and, as the DLC reveals, Ellie

58, and 59: The Walking Dead-Matthew and Walter seemed a bit closer than just friends.

60: Tales of the Abyss-Total judgment call here, and maybe my own little fangirl moment but didn’t Jade Curtiss seem awfully intimate with the way he kept teasing Guy?

Chilling Down in Dark Souls

We’ve faced a lot of challenges here, in Aether and his Dark Soul. We’ve broken through the death-trap filled fortress. We have lain siege on the city of the gods. We have conquered the broken home of the undead. And yet, all this is only the beginning, building up to a goal greater than any man dared dream. We saw the first fruits of that last time. We had reached heights that no one in Lordran ever thought possible. We completely broke through the limits of human possibility. We had finally seen our greatest accomplishment yet, as we dominated, completely and utterly… a tree. But not just any tree. It was an evil tree!

Yeah, I don’t know if any amount of editorializing is going to make last episode grandiose.

2014-11-22_00029

Still, it got us to where we are today, so it shall not be discounted. And here, we find our brave hero, steadfastly refusing the call of destiny in the deepest pit Lordran has. Although, actually, are we even in Lordran anymore? I have no idea. That tree took us down a long, long way, and there’s very little clue as to the nature of Ash Lake, here. Is this somewhere below the world’s surface? Are those pillars in the distance structural supports holding up the very foundation of everything we’ve ever known? Or have my travels through the Great Hollow taken me to a different realm entirely?

2014-11-22_00033

I don’t know. What I do know, is that there’s a bonfire to my right. Fire is life for those questing through Lordran, so of course I light it up here.

2014-11-22_00038

And a good thing I did, too. Just across from this bonfire is another large hydra. You may remember one of its brethren giving me trouble back in Darkroot Basin. Something tells me I’ll be needing that checkpoint soon. However, I’ve grown since then, both in strength and in will. Let’s see if that’s enough to give me an easier time cutting down this beast.

2014-11-22_00039

This hydra seems to have a far more limited zone of awareness than the basic one did. I manage to get a lot closer before he notices me and starts spewing his water balls my direction. I take a hit or two, but he can’t stop me from drawing into melee range.

2014-11-22_00046

From there, it’s just a matter of patience. I hang out as close as I dare, being careful not to fall in the water, and try to bait him into striking. As he moves, I dodge back, then strike his heads as they attempt to bite me.

2014-11-22_00048

All too easy, really. That’s the thing. Once you finally learn enough about your enemies to beat them the first time, they’re far less of a challenge revisiting them later. I’m wearing heavier equipment, so I’m a lot slower than the last time I fought one of these, and I still have an easier time breaking him down.

Continue reading

A New Eden Intermission

Hey!  It’s the holidays!  At least in America, everyone’s taking a break for Thanksgiving weekend.  Including me.  So I thought I’d give the characters in my learning to draw experiment a rest as well, and just post a bit of concept material for the story.

I’m a fair bit ahead of where we’ve gotten through the posts in New Eden, and it’s time for me to introduce a new character.  I’m having a lot of difficulty settling on a design.  I’ve sketched out a few possibilities, and thought I’d show the most likely one here.

DSCN0354

If you’ve been following along as I’ve been posting, you may have noticed I’m not really all that great at body proportions.  This design is my attempt to get more practice in that area.  He’s based on Greek statuary, which were built with a very specific set of proportion.  I don’t think I’ve got it exactly right here, but hey, that’s what the practice is for.  I’m not completely enthralled with this design.  I still think it’s got just a little too much going on, and the toga bottom and sash going up the side of the body throw a lot of the balance off.  Still, I thought I’d throw this design to the mercy of the internet as I work on improving it.  So hey, if you have any feedback on it, now’s the time.

Remaining Defiant in Dark Souls

So, I like Let’s Plays. Gives me a good glimpse of games I never would have tried or am on the fence on, and it’s interesting seeing other perspectives of games I already know well. But I’ve noticed a big problem in all the lps I’ve been watching/reading. They’re always trying to make progress. Constantly trying to hit some sort of performance goal, or even (gasp!) attempting to actually beat the game. What’s going on with that? Where’s all the aimless wandering, the unfocused milling about, the pointed refusal to move yourself towards completing the game? Everyone knows it’s when you’re doing nothing of value whatsoever that you get the best material. Last time, on Aether’s Glorious Dark Souls Conquest Mk. II I tried to deliver just that sort of experience, but I failed. That’s becoming kind of a standard thing here, isn’t it? My failure. In any case, the game tricked me, and I accidentally ended up making progress.

Well, now I’m determined to not let that happen again. No more progress until I’ve exhausted all other avenues of effectively wasting everyone’s time! Will I succeed in this endeavor? Find out below!

After kicking Sif to the curb, I make my way back to Quelaag’s Domain, deep in the bowels of Blighttown. This is actually pretty troublesome, and not just because Blighttown is a hole that no healthy-minded being would ever even think about. No, the problem with Blighttown is that there’s no bonfires I can warp to in there, meaning that if I’m going to traverse it, I’ve got to get halfway through the blasted sewer level again. But I do it. Why? Because I apparently lost all sense of self-respect around the time Frampt decided to give me a saliva-bath.

2014-11-08_00001

Anyways, so I get to the lower level of Quelaag’s Domain, around where we killed the spiderbabe and rang the second Bell of Awakening. I notice that there’s a section of wall that isn’t covered in spiderwebs, making it oddly suspicious. The note on the floor claiming ‘illusory wall ahead’ is a pretty damning clue as well. I give it a good smack, and the wall fades away, leaving me with this view. Being surrounded by literally thousands of infant spiders in those egg sacs does not exactly strike me as a good time, but still, treasure. There could be treasure. I love treasure. I head into this new hallway.

2014-11-08_00005

No treasure down here, but that bonfire is pretty tempting. Blocking my way, though, is this unfortunate soul weighted down under so many eggs nested in his flesh. He asks me if I’m a new servant. Servant to what, I don’t know I’ve no interest in killing him just to get to the bonfire, so I humor him. He lets me inside for an audience with ‘Our Fair Lady’ before shuffling aside. The bonfire’s already lit. Usually the bonfires I’ve been finding out in the wild, I’ve been lighting myself. In fact, the only bonfires I’ve found that have already been lit when I came across them were…

2014-11-08_00010

those tended by fire keepers. Well. I suppose like everything else, ‘fair’ is in the eye of the beholder. I try to offer some conversation and pay my respects, but I just can’t understand her. She’s saying something, but not in any language I’ve ever heard, and her words seem to leave my head as soon as they enter.

Well, whatever. I have the option to join her covenant of bug-infested psychopaths, which I’m not going to do because seriously, no. Mr. Hive at the entrance, Eingyi, as he’s apparently called, does offer a weird list, the ‘Servant Roster, and some pyromancy upgrades for sale. I take the opportunity to boost my flame a few levels. I consider putting him out of misery, because seriously, did you see him? He’s more gross spider-baby than man, now. He seems pretty happy with his arrangement, though. To each their own, I guess.

On my way out, walking through the floor of Blighttown, I run into someone new. Someone I didn’t see here before. Someone just hanging out. Seriously? Who just hangs out in Blighttown?! All of Lordran to go chill in, and you choose the God’s Dungheap to spend your time? Something’s obviously wrong with her. She’s surprised to see me, claiming that only those with unique gifts can do so, and introduces herself as, well…

2014-11-08_00079

The fabled Mother of Pyromancy. The one responsible for granting the art of pyromancy to mortals through the Great Pyromancer Salaman. Apparently, I remind her of the historic flame-wielder, and offers to teach me pyromancy as well. The power to make more things burn better? Of course I’m up for that! She warns me that in pursuing her pyromancy requires giving something up. Heedless, I pick up two new spells from her, the first a more powerful version of my fireball and the second a spell that engulfs the area around me in flames. Both circumstantial, as I don’t get enough uses out of them to make them my mainstays, but I can see getting some good use from this. As I leave her, she gives me a warning to always fear the flame, else it will consume me and I will lose myself. Then…

2014-11-08_00096

Aww, I’m touched. So far, all the pyromancers I’ve met have been such nice, caring…

2014-11-08_00097

Ok, less touched now. Still, the Mother of Pyromancy. Here in Lordran. Quite an awesome opportunity! I’ve got to tell Laurentius. A quick port later, and…

2014-11-08_00098

He notices my pyromancy has grown, already, under Quelana’s tutelage. I let him know about the Mother of Pyromancy, thinking that he’ll be interested in it just the same as I. After all, just sitting around Firelink with nothing to do is sure to kill your hope and drive you hollow. He was kind to me, giving me a part of himself through this pyromancy flame. The least I could do is give him this one positive note to keep his sanity afloat. He resolves to reach her on his own, claiming himself enough of a pyromancer to be able to handle it himself.

And hey, while I’m here, do you remember Frampt? The primordial serpent? You can feed him items in exchange for souls. A wide variety of items, including one that I’ve been picking up over and over again in Blighttown.

2014-11-22_00113

Hey, you remember when he decided to transport me inside his blasted mouth? The indignity of it? Yeah.

2014-11-22_00114

Down the hatch.

Continue reading

Themes of Sacrifice in Tales of Symphonia

Hey, just a warning, we’re going weapons-free on spoilers here.

tos

The Tales series of video games intrigues me in a variety of ways. There’s the relatively unique combat system, the fantastic way they integrate your character’s random conversations, and their balls-out methods of world-building. What I usually appreciate most after I turn off the game, however, is the way they make a point of deconstructing a fantasy storytelling trope or cliché with every game they make. It’s really interesting to me, both as a writer and as a video games consumer, to watch them build towards a really rote story then twist it around completely, providing a fresh and new take on familiar material. That they do this so reliably is really a testament to their strength as creators. Every game takes something so overrun in modern fantasy storytelling that it makes most people try to scoop their own brains out with a spoon and runs it through a unique lens, analyzing how that trope would work in situations far removed from its typical element. Even as far back as the Super NES era, they broke new ground by giving their obviously evil genocidal villain sympathetic motivations in Tales of Phantasia, then followed it up by breaking down the traditional damsel in distress love interest in Tales of Legendia, the chosen one in Tales of the Abyss, the anti-hero in Tales of Vesperia, and used Tales of Symphonia to take down the commonly held idea of…. uh…. erm….?

Yeah. That’s always been a problem. Tales of Symphonia is probably one of the most important games in the Tales series. In terms of gameplay and characterization, Symphonia moved the series so far into the modern age, and is probably the reason most gamers in the west even know of the franchise today. It is a game that definitely earns its place as one of the best of the series. However, that quality has all been carried by the strength of its characters and the quality of its gameplay. Its plot, on the other hand, is generally regarded as unoriginal, rote, and cliched. Cliched! The game’s often accused of being the very thing the Tales series is founded on circumventing. And most oddly, nobody can agree on just what, exactly, Symphonia’s supposed to be deconstructing. The idea of the chosen one seems to be the most common guess, but Tales of the Abyss hit those notes a lot better, and besides, the way Symphonia handled it, having a member of the church find out the church kind of sucks, is way common in its own right. Also, spoilers, I guess, but come on, seriously, it’s a religious institution that plays a major part of the plot in a modern day video game. Those things are just evil by default. Others have guessed it breaks down the traditional stubborn moron lead, but I haven’t seen those that posit that offer much in the way of evidence towards that hypothesis. More minor estimations I’ve seen include breaking down racism, the goodness of humanity, heroism, and dudes in speedos. Everyone’s sure they’re deconstructing something, but nobody’s sure what that is. It could be they’re breaking down several things in a lot of small ways. Or it could be that they’re focusing on one subject, but doing it so subtly that nobody’s picked up on it. I recently did another playthrough of the game, and this time, I resolved to devote the full force of my big sexy brain to figuring it out.

Turns out, I didn’t have to work so hard. As you may have suspected, everyone in the world is stupid. Including me, until now. And you, too, because you’re reading this post and have just received enlightenment. Seriously, this post will gain you entry into nerdvana. See, Tales of Symphonia does cover a lot of modern fantasy tropes, but there’s one that it focuses on above all others. And it’s not subtle at all, given that the characters will absolutely not shut up about it. Tales of Symphonia as a whole, is all about Sacrifice.

Peter_Gertner_-_Crucifixion_-_Walters_37246

Personal sacrifice has played a part in storytelling literature since way back with the blazing Epic of Gilgamesh. Since the mid-3rd millennium B.C., or possibly even before, we as a race have been fascinated with the heroes who are willing to lay it all on the line for the good of others and the villains who have been willing to risk all for their own sake. Those who are willing to give it all up to achieve their goals make for strong, satisfying characters, no matter what side of the alignment line they’re on. In 5000 years of storytelling, we’ve always treated sacrifice the same way. Sacrificing yourself for the sake of others is good, sacrificing others for the sake of yourself means we should be telling your mother or something. And yet, Tales of Symphonia turns that all on its head.

Sacrifice factors into either the backstories or the arcs of most of the characters you get in your party, as well as showing up in a lot of the events that occur over the course of the plot. Blazes, the world of Sylvarant itself, with two different worlds forced to ‘sacrifice one another in order to survive’ as the game calls it over and over again plays into this theme so very strongly. The theme’s most prevalent in two instances though; the character of Colette, the character of Lloyd.

Colette_Brunel_(TotW-ND3)

Of the two types of sacrifice I mentioned earlier, the idea of sacrificing yourself being good, and sacrificing others evil, Colette really takes on the former. Colette is Sylvarant’s Chosen One, a being marked from birth and raised with the knowledge that someday the heavens are going to call to her and she’s going to have to go be Jesus. Since she was born, she knew that someday she was going to have to sacrifice her soul in order to save her world. That’s a duty that she takes up readily, out of love for everyone else in her world. And that turns out wrong. So wrong. This most apparently presents itself in the fact that the organization forcing her to go be Jesus is actually the big evil of this game and her sacrifice of herself is actually pretty bad for mankind. The theme lasts in her longer than the first act twist, however. See, Colette’s known that she would need to sacrifice herself all her life, and has developed a full-on complex because of it. She is constantly suffering throughout the course of this game, and she never tells anyone, always bearing her burdens alone and in silence. After all, that was how she was raised. She’d lived her life knowing she had a dour fate but that she and she alone could handle it, and she’s just learned to live that way. It causes so many problems for our group. She suffers alone, and in silence, letting her injuries and maladies grow to the point that your team often has to drop everything to save her. In many circumstances, Colette causes more trouble to your team than any of your adversaries. She is more than ready to sacrifice herself for others. And that is a very, very bad thing.

Lloyd_Irving_(TotW-ND3)

Then there’s Lloyd, our viewpoint character of this piece. He runs into trouble early on, get’s some destruction indirectly caused through responses to his actions, and vows that he will make it so nobody will ever be sacrificed for his sake again. He uses pretty much those words, too. That vow is a big sticking point with his character for almost all of the game. And the plot, as well as several of the other characters hammer it into him over and over again that that’s just not possible. No matter what he does, no matter how much he tries, it is impossible for him to avoid collateral damage in his fight against evil. His actions set of a series of events that destroy towns, that drown innocent prisoners, that get people killed for his sake. This reaches its height near the end of the game, where two of your more pragmatic members privately make the decision that they are ready to give their lives to make sure Lloyd gets a shot at the big king wicked, entirely because he has the best chance of succeeding in battle against the bad man. And they almost do give up the ghost to get him through. Lloyd causes a lot of people to suffer in his quest to right the great wrongs of his world. He knows that, and it eats away at him. Yet, while the game never presents it as a good thing, it is absolutely clear that this is a necessary thing. The only way to save everybody in this world is to leave a few of them behind. Lloyd sacrifices a lot of others for his sake, and while it’s not a just thing, it’s something he has to do so that all may live.