Bringing the Burn in Dark Souls

Last time, on Dealing Death in Dark Souls, I totally took on four ancient evils sealed away for years out of fear for their powers at once, and won without breaking a sweat.  I’m the best!  Send your accolades my way, ‘tis only natural.

After such a magnificent victory, I decided to celebrate in my people’s traditional manner.  That is, just screw around for a while.  Yeah, I come from a pretty laid back culture.

After I beat the four kings, a bonfire popped up in the midst of the Abyss.  I used that to port out, then returned to New Londo for a bit of grinding.  My glorious figure and all these beautiful, beautiful muscles don’t come easy, you know.  I need to do something to keep my shape up, and I can think of nothing better right now than smashing Darkwraiths.  I get a few drops off of them, mostly the usual titanite chunks, but one of them leaves behind something I find very interesting.

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Some kind of magic… hand… thing.  It can apparently steal humanity from others.  Is that what their grab move does?  That’s really nasty!  Well, it would be, if I ever lived long enough to carry a decent store of humanity, but all my repeated failure has a benefit, I guess?

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I mess around with it a bit.  I’m not able to pull off that grapple attack they did, but I am able to conjure up the defensive field they were using.  Not nearly as stable or as protective as my trusty shield, but it was a fun attempt, at least.

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Now that New Londo’s unsealed and the four kings are vanquished, I follow up with this guy.  Remember him?  My former best friend who possibly drowned all the people in this formerly great city?  He compliments me for slaying the four kings, as everyone should be doing, and remarks that now he’s not stuck in New Londo anymore, he’s going to head somewhere he can see the sun.  You know, I’d invite him to Firelink Shrine, but I’m not sure he’s going to fit in there.  We’ve kind of looked down on having mass murderers hanging about since that whole issue with the last guy.

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Last time, I found a Very Large Ember in the ruins.  I’ve been keeping it in my pocket since then, waiting until I run across a blacksmith interested in using it.  Rickert of Vinheim’s too good for embers, in pretty much his own words, so I take it to Andrei, who’s ecstatic at the thought.  This should allow me to further upgrade my equipment with his help.

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The Persona 2: Innocent Sin Retrospective, Part 5-Player Characters

Part 1-Introduction

Part 2-Gameplay

Part 3-Setting and Tone

Part 4-Plot

Persona 2 came out in a time where video games, as a medium, was starting to deliver more than just the gameplay through the game.  Developers were putting more importance on plot, on presentation, and yes, on characters, among many other features aimed at delivering a deeper experience, at giving you something to enjoy beyond the mechanics.  Perhaps the biggest advancement Persona 2: Innocent Sin made is how it handled its characters.  Your cast was remarkably deep for its time.  So what do you say we explore who exactly we’re dealing with, here?

THE RUMOR MILL

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Your team, this time around, is a group of mostly high schoolers from all sorts of walks of life, brought together by circumstance and kept together by that one guy who just really, really hates you all for reasons you can’t understand.  You’ve all got the power of persona, the ability to call on the manufactured personality you use to deal with the world to smite your enemies, but, aside from Revelations:Persona alumnus Yukino, none of you recall actually getting that skill.  In fact, all of you bar Yukino have some very noticeable gaps in your memory.  There’s reason for this.

As it turns out, most of you knew each other as kids.  Quite good friends, in fact.  You all played the persona game together and thus were given your godly superpowers, and a few of you even awakened your personae as children.  All well and good, right?  Except for one of your friends.  Rather than a traditional personae, he got the embodiment of humanity’s capacity for self-destruction, who messed with your memories, corrupted your friend, and kicked off this whole game.

Most RPGs will give you a pretty sizeable cast for your main party, plenty of members to build an active party out of, switching in and out as you see fit.  Not so, in Innocent Sin.  Your party is almost entirely static, with only one member changing, and entirely dictated by the plot.  You’ve got absolutely no input into your group, so you better enjoy the team you’ve been given.

Personality-wise, everyone’s very distinct.  You’ve got the strong, silent type in your main, the genki girl Lisa, the manly bravado of Eikichi, the peppy optimism of Maya, the stoic Yukino, and the dour, reserved Jun.  For the most part, they play along pretty well.  Your group is a little dysfunctional, and it’s not unusual for spats or various ill-conceived activities to break out, but overall your team is pretty thick.  They don’t start out that way, of course, but that is one of Innocent Sin’s strengths, in that you get to watch your team growing closer together as you all learn more about each other.

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Random Thoughts on Avengers: Age of Ultron

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I had the opportunity to watch Avengers: Age of Ultron last night, a whole four hours before it was officially supposed to be released.  I know, I know, it’s galling, such a thing.  Releasing movies early ranks among the level of software pirates, parking meter tricksters, and spree murderers on the scale of ethical lapses.  As you all know, I am a just and righteous man, so I was just going to stay home.  Unfortunately, I hang out with the wrong crowd, and my so-called friends kidnapped me and forced me to watch it.  How vile!  I am absolutely aghast that they would force me to counteract my morals like that.

But, while I’m at it, I figured I’d at least put my thoughts down on the film.  Not so much a review, no, with a film release this big, you can get those anywhere, and I like to think that people come to Lost to the Aether for something a bit different.  And also, they come here because I am so smart, handsome, and interesting.  Anyways, if you want the bottom line, I enjoyed it a little less than I did the first film, but it’s still a good movie.  Beyond that, well, here are some completely random and unconnected reflections I have on the movie.

  • So, a big change in the way the film delivers its story, whereas the first movie was all about the individuals coming together as a group, then the big, bad, world invasion, the second film breaks things down to a human level.  It’s more about how each character is as a human.  The first act sees a good amount of the team just goofing around with each other.  It’s a film about personalities, rather than the group as a cohesive whole.  The central conflict comes about because of a few character’s personal choices, the film goes out of its way to round out some of the characters who haven’t gotten much spotlight on them, and everyone gets their little moments to let their guard down and show who they are.  It’s a more human-level experience, that I think really works for the sequel.
  • Unfortunately, this is tempered by the characters still being really flat.  I think that just comes from the age we’re in.  Big budget films need international markets to find success, and deep, complex characters are a lot more difficult to effectively translate between languages and cultures.  Still makes for a worse experience overall, no matter how necessary it is.
  • Hawkeye has himself a long-term relationship.  I’m pretty sure that only came about to remove him as a candidate for Black Widow, after all the teases in the first film.
  • Instead, Widow’s with the Hulk.  I never bought their relationship.  Their actors are really lacking in chemistry.
  • For that matter, I don’t really jive with the way they handled the Black Widow in this film.  The past movies she’s been in, like the Winter Soldier, Iron Man 2, the First Avenger, she really added to it.  She had her own unique part in the conflict, she dealt with things in a unique way, and she actively contributed to the plot.  Moreover, she was distinct.  Irreplaceable.  In this film, Black Widow’s just here to be the woman.  She has two scenes offering some brief glimpses into her backstory, sure, but other than that, her point in the movie is the play the traditional feminine roles.  She’s the matching girlfriend, the emotional support, and the damsel in distress.  Her character has degenerated.  She was once a distinct figure in her own right, now she’s just the Smurfette of the crew.
  • I’ve never read an Ultron story.  I have no idea what his personality’s like.  I’m pretty sure it’s not like this.  But that’s not a bad thing.  It would have been pretty easy to have him be the big generic death robot.  Having him like evil Iron Man adds a bit more to the character.
  • I don’t think you can call something an ‘Age’ when it’s pretty much wrapped up within the week or so this film covers.
  • There’s deaths in the film.  I won’t say who or when or how, but yeah, people die.  The movie gets absolutely no mileage out of it.
  • And you know, I never thought I’d be complaining about this, but I think I’m just getting tired of the Whedonistic snark.  It’s all nice and funny when you sprinkle the dialogue with clever quips.  When everyone’s doing it, and they do it anytime anyone does anything?  It gets a little old.
  • The creators did some nice work in building some leads for future movies.  And not just the next Avengers, either.  I’m pretty sure we saw the creation of a villain for the upcoming Black Panther, for instance, and I didn’t even notice until I slept on it.

And, that’s about all I got right now.  ‘Till next time.

New Eden, Page 19: The Calm Before the Storm

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So, the game in New Eden, this virtual reality everyone’s a part of, is pretty much a virtual reality MMORPG with a bit of Minecraft mixed in.  I’ve probably spent less than 10 hours playing traditional MMORPGs in my life, total.  And I kind of like the creative process that why.  I’m probably not going to create something that’s immediately recognizable, given my inexperience with the medium, but as a result, the setting, or at least this game, will be a lot more unique than if I tried to make a generic MMORPG with complete knowledge of the form, and hopefully, more interesting because of it.

I’ve got a lot of experience with MUDs, text-based MMO-style adventures, and that’s what I’ve largely been basing the game off of.  I have no idea if most MMORPGs will let you pull up a list of currently online players, like LadyHate mentioned last post, but that was a pretty common feature to MUDs, so in it goes.

Transcript

Panel 1

LadyHate: Agla?

LadyHate: Run?

LadyHate: What happened to Annie?

Panel 2

LadyHate: What the…?

LadyHate: Rain?

Panel 3

LadyHate: It’s never rained in-game before.

Panel 4

LadyHate: Clouds, too?

LadyHate: Annie, are you…

LadyHate:!!

First Page

Previous Page

Next Page

Flavor Matters

With most creative works, whether video games, books, movies, whatever, it’s often the little touches that really make the whole experience.  You can have a great plot, excellent gameplay, perfect cinematography, whatever, but if you ignore the tone, atmosphere, visual details, continuity, all those small details, it’s going to drag your whole work down.

From a creation standpoint, it’s really easy to forget that.  It’s just habit to try to direct the audience’s focus wherever most of the creator’s efforts are going.  After all, I just delivered this big shiny fight scene with such vibrant imagery!  Did you see the way Brick Stronggroin just shot that guy’s head into the air where it exploded like an Independence Day firecracker, before he stagedived into the Sea of Tits?!  That’s high art!  I should be showered with awards!  So what if the costumes are not really appropriate for the tone of this work, or the soundtrack at this part is all bloopy reggae jams?   Who cares if I had previously established that Brick hated explosions of all sorts owing to the death of his entire home planet in a freak explosion accident?

The thing is, creators experience a work differently than consumers do.  Creators, even when going back and reviewing their own creations, tend to look at it piece by piece, breaking it down by its components, and naturally giving more importance to the little bits they spent more effort on.  So it’s easy for creators to forget the impact of all the little touches, such as internal consistency, the atmosphere they’ve built, continuity, and all that jazz.  All those little pieces combine to form the flavor of the work.  For consumers, who, unlike the creators, usually view a work as a whole, more concerned with how well the parts work together than the quality of each individual bit, flavor is generally just as important as every other component.  Flavor matters.

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A great example of that comes in Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel.  There is a game that is just reviled.  It’s hard to find anywhere that has anything good to say about it.  Fallout fans are absolutely disgusted by its existence, even nonfans have soundly marked it as decently below average, and its sales were incredibly low and likely a large contributing factor to Interplay’s bankruptcy.  Perhaps most damning, the owners of the Fallout franchise has determined it completely non-canon, in spite of the fact that it seems to have fewer plot inconsistencies than Fallout Tactics, its fellow side game.

I played Brotherhood of Steel recently.  If you take the flavor out of the equation, this is a decidedly average game.  The gameplay is uninspired but doesn’t have many major flaws, the visuals are functional, the controls are tight enough, and the plot at least makes sense.  Compared to its contemporaries, the game at least hit par.  Without the flavor, it doesn’t nearly deserve the heaps of scorn it’s gotten, and it’s probably worth at least a few points more than reviewers have been giving it.

Yet, even so, the game is rightfully remembered as downright foul.  And it all comes down to flavor.  The flavor in this game is so bad it drastically impacts ones enjoyment of the game.

For the Fallout fans, the flavor inconsistencies are obvious, even as the plot roughly matched up.  Fallout is almost defined by its retrofuturist aesthetic.  Everything is built around the 1950’s idea of science fiction.  And yet, in Brotherhood of Steel, the characters look as if they walked out of the pages of Heavy Metal magazine, the soundtrack was a decidedly modern roll of droning metal, and the game featured product placement from a brand that didn’t even exist until the late 90s.  Even ignoring the other games in the Fallout series, the flavor was wildly inconsistent in its own right.  Matching the 50’s aesthetic with all the features mentioned above just creates a level of cognitive dissonance that’s absolutely baffling.  Moreover, the game swears so much the English language itself starts losing any meaning, the soundtrack is flatout bad, even without the dissonance, and the visual design is flatly uninspired.  The game is bad.  And it’s bad because of its flavor.  It’s bad because this one link in the otherwise average chain is so very, very poor.

It’s easy to go too far with this.  I think everyone can remember finding some discussion somewhere where one consumer placed flavor so far above everything else in terms of importance that the slightest inconsistency absolutely shattered their suspension of disbelief and their enjoyment of the piece as a whole.  Even so, flavor matters.  Flavor is an important component of enjoying a work, and it’s not one that can go ignored.

Digging Deep in Dark Souls

Last Time on Deftly Dominating Dark Souls, we drained a drowning pool. It wasn’t pleasant.

What do you say we finish up and get out of here as soon as possible?

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Seriously, so many corpses, all over the place. This area’s depressing me. I just want to finish up as soon as possible. I head into this shack up the stairs.

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I spot a darkwraith casually walking forward, into the other side of the shack. I don’t think he’s spotted me. I park myself to the side of the entry way, and wind up for a stronger attack, a powerful forward lunge. It does significantly more damage than my usual slash, but it takes a bit more time to prep for it. It’s not so useful in the midst of combat, but now, when I have the drop on the enemy? The perfect time.

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Well, in other circumstances, it’d be the perfect time. I underestimated him. On two levels. My thrust is not quite enough to kill him in a single blow, but it leaves me way open as I pull my weapon back. Then, he busts out a combo I wouldn’t have guessed he’d have, slashing me for times in the second it takes me to recover from my own attack. Dude is fast. Naturally, that’s more than I can bear, and I fall before him.

So, waaaaay back to the beginning for me.

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