Visual Novel Theatre: OMGWTFOTL

I’ve had more than a few people call me ‘manly’. But what does that even mean? Is it even possible to define a trait or ideal that encompasses in some way nearly half of the human population? There are some who consider manliness to be the ability to provide for and serve others. There are some who consider manliness the act of being burly and old-fashioned. And there are some who consider manliness being ludicrously excessive and wild.

And you know, that last one may not be entirely accurate, but it does make for some good experiences.

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OMGWTFOTL (Odious Manly Genuflection With Terrible Fury, Only True Lamentation) fits pretty squarely into that last definition. This is a quick and simple freeware visual novel about the glory of excess and random humor. It’s very, very small. You can see everything this story has to offer in about a half-hour’s time, and it only has like five CGs and two background tracks. In fact, I’m making an effort here not to spend more time building this post than I spent going through this visual novel. But for that half-hour? It will rock your world. Seriously, I’m pretty sure I didn’t have this magnificent lumberjack beard when I started playing through it. That’s what this game will do for you.

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Plot? What do you care about plot?! There are skulls to be shattered. Fine, so OMGWTFOTL starts out with you in the middle of a fight with Osaka Bancho, a beast of a man who brought to heel 300 Kansai street gangs, raped your sister, and gouged out your best friends eyes. He wants you to genuflect. In fact, that’s what the game’s all about. Genuflection. Don’t do it, though. Well, I mean, you can, but that would fit well into the Odious Manliness and the Terrible Fury of the game’s title. From there, the VN pretty much plays out in a sort of stream of consciousness format. Random ideas are just spit out all over the place, with only the barest attachments to each other. Where the story starts has absolutely no bearing on where it ultimately ends, and very little on what occurs between points A and B. It’s all random humor. And if you’re into that, OMGWTFOTL does it among the best in the business.

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One of the really valuable things about such a short visual novel is that the writers are able to have every single choice lead you on a different path. There are a number of decision points in the game. Every single one of them, even the initial title screen, offers you the option to genuflect. And you can always take it. If you’re some sort of namby pamby. If you’re Sick Wicked like me, though, you’ll find yourself ending the fight with Osaka Bancho in one of three ways. Or you might die along the way. There’s plenty of opportunity for that. But at least your death will be sweet. After that, well, the world is your oyster. Maybe you’ll find love. Maybe you’ll learn something. Maybe you’ll storm an American military base naked with nothing but a katana. Who knows? You will, if you give this story a try.

And, I’m hitting about a half-hour of posting and editing for this half-hour game, so I’m calling this post right here. OMGWTFOTL: If you like random humor, if you like the Internet’s flavor of ‘Manliness’, you’ll like this game. Find it here.

The Drops of God

So, we’ve covered a lot of things here at Lost to the Aether. As it turns out, I’m a pretty multi-faceted individual. We’ve got the video games going on pretty much all day every day, sure, but we’ve also talked about drawing, writing, visual novels, cake, films, books, my good looks, and pretty much anything else that struck me as being wordworthy on that given day. Sometimes, I feel like doing something new. And right now’s one of those times. Specifically, I’m going to talk about a manga. But not just any manga. Well, to anyone else, it’d be just any manga, but it’s one that actually means something for me. Today, I’m going to be putting my thoughts down about a work that actually has some importance in my life, however much that may be. I want to talk about The Drops of God.

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I’ve been saying for a while now that you can find a manga about anything. Just on my shelf, I’ve got manga about running a bakery, a used bookstore, a whole series about American football, maiding, and that’s just the pedestrian ones. The manga audience back in the form’s homeland is large enough that they can support material on pretty much every subject matter, from the most fantastic to the absolutely pedestrian, and you get a lot of good stories that way. So it is with Drops of God; it’s a manga series about an everyday subject you’d think would be really hard to get a good story out of. In this case, it’s all about wine.

I like a lot of things in life. I like video games, as should be obvious to anyone who’s been on this blog before. I like stories. I love my hair. Seriously, I’d marry my hair if the stupid establishment would just let me. And I also enjoy wine. That wasn’t always the case, though. Way back when I was a little cub Aether but still totally of drinking age (obey the law, kids) wine was just another drink to me. Something to get drunk off of, something that may have tasted good, but nothing much more than that. Eventually, because of the efforts of the rest of the family to give me some sort of traits they weren’t completely embarrassed about at parties, I started to appreciate it more. Wine is a really complex drink, and it’s that complexity that’s given rise to whole industries, and after having enough, I started seeing that complexity, and began respecting the depth in wine. I wanted to learn more about it. And there’s where my problems started.

The problem with learning more about wine is that you have to deal with the kind of people who like wine. And a lot of those people are great, don’t get me wrong. But there’s also a lot of people who are so strung up on wine being so super classy or the drink of the gods or treat it as if it’s somehow sacred, and when you’re just trying to get started on it those people can be really overwhelming. The world is full of people who insist that the one true way to enjoy wine is at a party trying to tell as many people as possible about mouthfeel, or closing your nostrils in sequence and smelling it one side at a time, or by loading it up into a syringe and injecting it straight into your eyebrow. Even the people who aren’t infected with all the bull honky that surrounds wine still tend to treat it as if it’s that one hot girl with all the money from high school, unapproachable without the right pedigree. Wine is an excellent drink with a lot to offer and a lot of layers, but man is its world inaccessible to someone trying to make the next step up from layman.

That’s where I was in life when the Drops of God started coming out in America. I was starting to view wine as something more than just a drunkmaker but was having difficulty getting any further than that, and was close to giving up on the drink altogether. Then here comes this silly little manga about this silly little substance. And you know what? It just worked for me. Something that, even though it treats wine as a super-serious matter as so many other people do, is still pretty humble and down-to-earth in it’s approach to the subject? Something that has enough substance to teach a bit about wine, but is actually entertaining? Drops of God was exactly what I needed to get me over the hump I had at the time. I really enjoy wine today, and I don’t think I’d be able to on the level I do if it wasn’t for this manga.

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New Eden Page 17: Wordswordswordswords

I’ve mentioned plenty of times before that drawing a story takes sooo much longer than just writing it, and that’s changed my approach to storytelling.  Oftentimes, I ended up mentally developing the characters as I’m writing them, rather than having them all planned out in advance.  That happened with AGLA here, who, later on, turns out to have some minor importance to the plot.  He’s not completely out of character in this page, but the way I’ve written him since, he’d probably say the same things in a different way.

Also, no dialog breakout this time.  All the words are on the page.

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LadyHate: Wait…

LadyHate: Does that mean you’re sending me a present too?

LadyHate: You asked if I hadn’t gotten the package “yet”!

AGLA: Well… yeah.

AGLA: I sent packages to all the Midknights.

LadyHate: That’s good.  I was thinking you were maybe getting a crush on Annie.

AGLA: No, that’s not it.

AGLA: No offense Anke, I just wouldn’t want to make Silver jealous ;)

LadyHate: Hey!

Lorelei: Silver and I aren’t together.

LadyHate: I thought I was the only one who could speak smileys!

AGLA =^.^=

LadyHate: O.M.G.!

LadyHate: How did you do that?!

AGLA: I’m cheating a bit.

AGLA: I’ll have to tell you later.

AGLA: I’m kind of under the gun right now.

AGLA: I’ve got a couple favors to ask.

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Drowning in Dark Souls

Last time, on Deadly Dreaming Dark Souls, I slew a dragon! Which, I know, I’ve done before, but this time, the dragon was a real dick! And yeah, the whole fate of the world destiny of the Best Chosen One moved along too, but really, someone who deserved it got what was coming to them. And really, isn’t that what the holidays are all about?

Killing Seath left me with one problem though. I don’t have any direction now. Seath had been set up as a problem a while ago, thanks to a conversation with the Firekeeper Knightess. Now, all I’ve got are a few places I haven’t checked out yet, and nothing really pushing me to one or another. I’ve got no drive, no motivation.

Well, that’s what adventuring is all about, right? Going to a place to see new sights, rather than merely to save every living thing? That’s what I’ll do. I’m an adventurer now!

I pick my next pummeling ground pretty much at random. Off the top of my head, there are four new locations I have open to me now. Two of them seem to lead underground, so we’re going to put those off as long as we’re able. I’m just tired of underground levels. Of the remaining two, I go for this one based on nothing more than a vague impulse.

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To the edge of Firelink Shrine, beyond Anastacia’s cage, there’s a stairway leading down.

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The stairway leads to an elevator, which takes me even further down.

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The elevator lets me off in this drab, ruined city. See this? Ruins are good. I think the adventurer life may work out for me after all. There are a few corpses around, and I’m able to pick up some souls from them.

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Not all the corpses are quite dead yet. The area’s littered with these zombies. Seems they haven’t entirely gone hollow yet, as they don’t attack me on sight. Instead, they just keep doing what they’re doing, which in this case seems to be going mad against the walls. I wonder about them. There’s a lot hanging out at this entrance. Who were they? Residents of this city before it fell? Wannabe Chosen Ones who drifted down here as their sanity fled them when it became apparent they weren’t as cool as I am?

I kill this one. I kill it because I don’t trust these former people to hold onto their sanity long enough for me to turn my back on them. It occurs to me that the old me, the me when I started this journey, wouldn’t have bothered a relatively innocent victim of the undead curse, would have just left them to live out whatever life we could be considered to have left. It also occurs to me that I don’t really care. I’ve died too many times to be concerned with the waning lives of others.

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Play Bad Games

I squirrel away creative works like nuts for the coming winter. I have an odd compulsion, once I own something that’s art to me, whether books, films, or yes, video games, we’re pretty much married. No matter its quality, I will own that work for life. Really, that means I possess works at all levels of quality, from the absolute worst to the “OMG how has this guy not gotten all the awards”.

Years ago, I had decided, during what must have been the truest moment of boredom-induced insanity in history, to play and, as much as possible, complete all of my games. My collection of video games is truly large, numbering in the hundreds, ranging from games produced long before I was born to the present day and beyond, thanks to some weird time shenanigans we won’t get into here. I’m still keeping this quest up today, and I’m still a long way from finishing. I’d like to say I’m a man of class and taste, and that most of the games I own range towards the high-quality end of the scale, but those would be blatant lies. That means that, over the past several years, I’ve played a lot of dreck. I have played games that made me doubt the existence of a kind and loving god, games that I’m sure I put more time into than the developers, games that had me questioning whether boiling my own head would be sufficient to remove the memories of them forevermore.

And you know what? Looking back on them now, it was actually quite a valuable experience.

Most of the people I’ve known will actively stay away from bad games. They might play something that’s kind of meh if the mood strikes them, but something that’s truly bad? Why would they? It makes sense. After the initial purchase, the thing video games really costs you is time, and why would you put so much time into something you dislike? Well, one thing that I’ve found by forcing myself to go through everything on my shelf is that the bad games have value, too. They can help you appreciate both the good games and the medium of video games as a whole more. And not just in a ‘this is so bad that everything’s better in comparison’ way, either.

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For the most part, there’s two types of bad games you deal with. There are those that tried for something and failed, and those that didn’t really try at all. Those that never tried, well, no matter how much I may attempt to rationalize them, there’s often not much in the way of redeeming qualities there. Those that tried and sucked are where the real magic happens. Those are the ones that, while they may not be traditionally enjoyable, might have something that’s worth your time. Maybe they’ve got a good story, even if the team’s not the greatest at putting the gameplay portion together. Or maybe they’ve got some really creative ideas that were just really poorly implemented. Or maybe the way the game was produced on a meta level makes it worth exploring. For example, I’m just now finishing up the Xenosaga… saga. There’s a game series I have every reason to hate. A three game series covering half the size and a third of the plot that was originally intended for it, a story that hits on so many of my pet peeves, a level of meddling from the non-creatives that absolutely crippled the development team, and a gameplay that makes it obvious that the developers were more interested in telling their space opera story than they were actually building a game out of it. And yet, now that I’m reaching the end of it, I find the experience so fascinating. The fact that they were actually able to improve in quality in the final game, in spite of being forced to cut out a lot of what made the engine unique? The way they were able to kind of pull off a game that’s mostly an anime? Having me forget like half of what’s going on, and still making some sort of sense out of it? I may not have been excited about playing it, at least until it gets better in the final edition, but man, it’s really fascinating to me.

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And the fact remains that sometimes the important games, the ones that move the medium forward, are not always the greatest one. If you want to deepen your understanding of a craft, it’s important to analyze and consume not only the best examples, but the bad ones as well. This not only helps you understand where things can go wrong, but sometimes even poorly-made models can lead you places. Final Fantasy II is a great example of this. That game is probably the worst in the mainline Final Fantasy series, with so many gameplay features that seem designed to make the game a chore to play. I also consider it one of the most important innovators in the medium. As far as I can tell, Final Fantasy II is the earliest game to implement the plot alongside the gameplay. Sure, games before this may have had bits of plot to set up the next level, but for the most part, gameplay and plot had a pretty one-sided relationship. The plot would lead to gameplay happening, then you’d reach the end, then more plot would lead to more gameplay, and so on. Final Fantasy II was the one to add in the other half of the relationship, where you, the player characters, were not just being pushed along by the plot, but active participants in it. Things didn’t just happen at a rate coincident with your progress through the game, you made things happen, with plot events coming through as a result of your actions in gameplay. Final Fantasy II laid the groundwork that would be expounded on in Final Fantasies IV, VI, and finally VII, which built those same plot features into something that revolutionized the entire medium. The games very important, and an almost vital trip if you’re looking at playing through the history of games. Even though it sucks.

And, of course, there are times when what’s traditionally viewed as a bad game just clicks with you. Even though it’s reviewed low, it has a combination of features you just really enjoy, and you find it a lot more fun than anyone else. I’m sure everybody has at least a few games like that.

Whatever the reason, if you’re reading this, you’ve probably played your fair share of bad video games.  But maybe, even if the game was bad, the time you spent with it wasn’t so bad after all.  And maybe you should give that one game you’ve refused to pick up for the past decade another chance.  What do you say?

New Eden, Page 16: No More Easy Backgrounds

This next page is going to change the face of this graphic novel forever.  It kicks off a whole new era for this comic.  This has a feature that has not been seen since Lorelei first entered New Life.  For the first time, we have something in the background.  Can you believe the innovation?  I know I can’t and I’m the one who came up with it.  Can I seriously be doing this?  Is it even possible to draw a comic with backgrounds that are more than just two shades separated by a straight line?  Well, time will tell.

So, I’m not good at backgrounds.  Well, I’m not good at drawing much of anything, but I’m especially not good at creating scenery.  This graphic novel’s supposed to be a big practice project, so of course I had to add them in sometime.  We’ll have to see if I’m able to get any better at them over time.

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LadyHate: Well, there it is.

LadyHate: The Kingdom Spire

LadyHate: Pretty cool, right?!

Lorelei: So this is the more there is to do?

Lorelei: Hang around a ruined castle tower… thing?

LadyHate: It’s not ruined!

LadyHate: It’s just not finished.

LadyHate: Bunches of players, they’re building that.

Lorelei: So you can build?

Lorelei: I guess that would give you something decent to do.

LadyHate: Yeah, but it takes a lot of players to pull it off.

LadyHate: You can get blood from the Asheaters, and mix it with the ash to make a kind of cement.

LadyHate: Thing is, even the Asheaters don’t pop up often enough.

LadyHate: To build anything of decent size, you need a bunch of players working on a project, just to get enough blood to keep it going.

Lorelei: Makes sense.

Lorelei: I haven’t even seen an Asheater in the… however long I’ve been playing.

Lorelei: How long have I been playing?

Lorelei: I really need to get to bed. I’ve got work in the morning.

Lorelei: Hate, it’s been lovely talking with you, but I really have to get some sleep.

Lorelei: Maybe we can do this again, sometime. Explore more of the game together.

LadyHate: Yeah! Let’s do this tomorrow! And the next day! And then we’ll get Red and the rest of the Midknights to join in!

Lorelei: Well, we’ll see, in any case…

AGLA: Anke!

Lorelei: What?

LadyHate: Hmm?

LadyHate: What what?

Lorelei: Did you not hear that?

Lorelei: It’s AGLA.

AGLA: Welcome to Eden!

LadyHate: I don’t hear anything.

LadyHate: Just you.

Lorelei: Weird. Hey, AGLA. Hate’s here too.

AGLA: Really?! That’s odd. Just a second, let me see if I can find her.

AGLA: Hate? Welcome to Eden too!

LadyHate: Oh hey! Now I can hear him!

AGLA: Wait, that’s you, Hate?

AGLA: The young woman in green next to Anke?

AGLA: Guess you haven’t gotten my package yet.

LadyHate: In the flesh!

LadyHate: Err…. digital flesh. Nevermind! That’s a stupid saying anyway!

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Dark Souls and Dragons

Last time, in Escape from Anor Londo, our sins finally caught up to us. What sins, I don’t know, because all those guys totally deserved it, and I’m sure there’s a statute of limitations on these things, but still, we had to do some hard time in the big house. Not a whole lot of hard time, though. We broke out within our first few minutes. And I totally shanked a guy! Did you see that?! In all my video game career, I’ve broken out of prison hundreds of times, but I never just straight up shanked anybody. I almost want to get thrown back in so I can do it again!

But we can do that later. Right now, there’s a dragon I’ve finally found a reason to be pissed off with, and I’m going to see if I can’t take it out on his hide.

So last time, we had opened up a staircase down into some sort of workshop, but never really explored beyond it. This time around, I do so, passing through the fog gate and ending up in…

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a forest? Outside the archives? Can’t say I was expecting that. I take the ladder down, then press on for a few steps.

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I quickly draw the attention of a crystal golem, who slowly lumbers towards me. No big deal, I’ve already handled dozens of his kind. I hold back, and wait for him to come to me. Maybe if I’m fast enough, I’ll be able to carve him up like an ice sculpture before his corpse fades away. This is going to be simple.

At least, that’s what I think. I dodge backwards as he leaps towards me, then find myself right before another golem that was sneaking up on me. I dodge away once more as the second one raises his arms, and narrowly avoid the field of crystal he creates.

That’s the thing about Dark Souls combat. Fighting two enemies is exponentially more difficult and complex than fighting one. They tend to be able to really cover for each other, staggering the timing of their attacks and making it really unsafe to strike. I’ve learned to avoid fighting multiple foes as much as I can, and most of my current fighting style is built around drawing enemies out one by one. Taking on two at once presents problems for me.

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Well, most of the time it does. Here, though? They’re slow, I’m well versed in their moves, and I’m patient. I pick my moments, strike and dodge, and focus on wearing one down at a time. They never even touch me before they shatter.

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Looking around, there are crystal golems all over the place. I spot a gold one near the center of the forest here. I’ve only faced a golden golem once before, when I freed Dusk of Oolacile from it in the Darkroot basin. Does this one hold another captured being? I’ll have to crush it and find out.

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First, though, I’ve got to clear some space. If I remember right, the golden crystal golems are a fair bit stronger than the store brand, and I’m don’t want to be inviting any more of them to our dance.

With that one down, I take a quick survey over the area. There are a few more crystal golems in sight, but I don’t think I’m even close to reaching any of their spheres of aggression. Ok then.

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C’mon, big boy. It’s go time.

The golden golem is larger, stronger, and tougher than the garden-variety crystal golems. He uses the same moveset as them, though. No surprises in store there. As long as I can keep reading his moves well enough, he may last longer but he’s no more challenge than the vanilla version.

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And, of course, when I put those words out there, I’m going to eat them. I get him to within two hits of dying, then, in a moment of mistimed aggression, try to interrupt his attacks with one of my own. I strike him first, but not hard enough to stagger him, and he clocks me. Seriously, one punch did most of my life in damage and sent me flying back. Not enough to kill though, and he’s pretty slow, so I had enough time to swig some estus and rejoin the melee. This time, with him on his last sliver of life, I don’t need to play so cautious. I smack him one as he’s rearing up for an attack, and that’s all that’s needed.

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Much as I expected, the golden crystal golem held someone trapped inside. I wasn’t expecting to see such a familiar figure, though. Siegmeyer, that’s what, the fourth time I’ve had to save you? Are you sure you’re really up…

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Siegmeyer, you sound a lot… prettier than I remember.

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Oh! Well! I guess that explains it. Siegmeyer’s daughter, actually. She’s been trying to track him down, but got caught up by that golem in some way that she doesn’t remember. I mention that I’ve been seeing him around, and that seems to pick her spirits up. She resolves to head off after him. In the meantime, I’ve got a dragon to punish so I break away as well.

There are quite a few crystal golems in the area. Most of them seem to be guarding corpses. I hope you don’t mind if I skip over these. There’s only so many ways I can say “I dashed another one harder than the fist of an angry god” before it starts to get a little dull. Rest assured, I am awesome, and none of them even came close to scratching my armor. I found a bit of treasure, mostly titanite, although I did also pick up a full set of crystallized armor, the same type that the warrior in the tower before I fought Seath was wearing.

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Eventually, I started to run out of opponents. I moved closer to the edge of the forest, where the earth started to give way to a mass of solid crystal. I’m guessing that this is where all of these golems spawned from.

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