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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The Persona 2: Innocent Sin Retrospective, Part 3-Presentation, Setting, and Tone

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Part 1-Introduction

Part 2-Gameplay

Part 4-Plot

Part 5-Player Characters

Part 6-Other Characters

Presentation

Ah, graphics. That which game industry professionals have been telling me for decades is the 100% absolute most important thing in determining a game’s quality. If you don’t have graphics, than what do you have, really? If your game doesn’t make those graphics cards catch fire, you aren’t trying hard enough. In fact, you can totally predict a game’s quality based on how many of those p’s it has. So how do the graphics in Persona 2: Innocent Sin stack up?

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Well, not so great. It’s totally a Playstation 1 JRPG, and doesn’t really aspire to be anything more. The Persona franchise, hell, the Shin Megami Tensei series as a whole, has never been a graphical powerhouse. But that’s ok, those industry professionals are full of it anyway. It’s the art style that matters.

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And there’s where the game’s visuals excel. Also, where they flop. Art design’s kind of a mixed bag in Persona 2: Innocent Sin. The duology seems to represent a sort of transition time for the Persona team’s visual design department. When talking about art direction in Persona games, there’s two big names to know: Kazuma Kaneko and Shigenori Soejima. Kaneko’s got at least the tip of his brush in pretty much every SMT game out there, and is legendary for the demons that come out of his head. Soejima seems to work almost solely on the Persona series, and is renowned for his character design. Here, they’re both working on the game’s visuals, yet neither seems to really be implemented to the extent they will be in the future. Kaneko in particular seems to be peculiarly limited in application. You could argue that it’s his demon designs that made the series what it is today, yet here, he only develops the main characters, the main personae, and the bosses, and leaves everything else to the rest of the art team. Soejima’s still coming into prominence, still working as one of the art team grunts, and handles the design of the rest of the characters and the character portraits. So, this leads to the game’s characters looking excellent, the headlining personae looking awesome, and some quite fearsome bosses, but the rest of it, the rank and file demons, non-unique personae and dungeon design, looking a bit bland.

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The dungeon tilesets in particular I have to call out as being pretty bland. They’re serviceable, mind, they do get across that you’re in a cave or department store or bomb shelter or whatever just fine, it’s just that they’re small, repeated endlessly, and you’ll be seeing so much of them with very little variation that you’ll be glad for the random battles because at least they’ll give you something new to look at.

The music is… you know, actually pretty good. As I stated last time, the first Persona had two soundtracks made for it, one for the PSX release that was atmospheric and moody at the cost of any enjoyable listening, and one for the PSP that got your heart thumping but was pretty null at communicating any sort of atmosphere. The Innocent Sin tunes bring out the best of both worlds with some eminently listenable tracks that still succeed in bringing the proper moods across. I’ve even listened to the soundtrack for fun plenty of times, and most of it’s just as good on it’s own. The songs aren’t quite as memorable as those in the Persona 3 and 4, but it’s still obvious that the composers really knew what they were doing for this one.

The audio, while quite good, is noticeably a little different from the rest of the series. The original compositions aren’t quite as layered, and the instrumentation doesn’t evoke as much of a modern feel as the others. A quick glance through the credits reveals why. For whatever reason, Shoji Meguro, the composer behind literally every other game in the Persona series except for the Arena ones, was completely absent on this one. The composers who are here provide a strong showing, but Meguro does have a pretty distinct style that’s noticeably absent here. He did rejoin the team in the PSP release, remixing the old songs for a more modern sound, but they’re still mostly variations on the classic compositions. It’s definitely not bad, just noticeable, especially if you spend way too much time thinking about the series like some extraordinarily beautiful video game bloggers. In any case, both the remixed and classic soundtracks are packed into the PSP release, so you’ve got your choice of tunesets to listen to.

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New Eden, Page 15: Night of the Page

Hey, just a heads up, if you’re following along with my little comic series, make sure you go back and check out all the dialog on the previous page to bring yourself up-to-date.  I had forgotten to include the full dialog document when I had originally uploaded that, due to the whole working overtime every night things, so if you skip that one you might find yourself a little lost here.

Just like last time, you might notice that with this one the dialog extends well beyond what actually fits on the page.  In fact, working in dialog is one of the biggest challenges to my approach in building this graphic novel.  People talk.  It’s good for people to talk.  In most any story, it’s important, as that’s how you’re going to deliver any sort of background, characterization, and conflict.  Most of the stories I’ve created in my life have all been through text.  There, having people talk at length is no problem.  They just do it, the reader reads it, there’s no issue.  Working through graphic novels, a far more visual medium, lots of talking takes up lots of space.  So you’d either get a page of almost entirely text, or I’d have to seriously curtail the conversations and thus harm my plot delivery were I to put it all on page.  I took a third option with a lot of these scenes, and just wrote out the text in a separate document, which can then be added to the page.  It’s not a tactic I’d use if I was ever intending this to actually be printed and distributed, but back when I had no thoughts of having anyone else read this other than myself and a few close friends, it actually worked out really well.  Hopefully it works for you too.

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Dialog:

LadyHate: Well…

LadyHate: There he is.

LadyHate: Exodus 🙂

Lorelei: Wow. You just verbalized a smiley.

Lorelei: I didn’t think that was possible.

LadyHate: Never doubt the weird things you can say if you practice!

LadyHate: Anyways, there’s Exodus.

LadyHate: May not be real, but he’s still very pretty!

LadyHate: Maybe when they get the next update in, he’ll actually do something, like play his music, or kiss lucky passerby!

LadyHate: Oh swoon!

Lorelei: He doesn’t do anything?

LadyHate: Well, he kills players if they attack him.

LadyHate: He’s probably some big boss fight, but there’s not enough content here for anyone to get high enough level to beat him.

Lorelei: There’s not?

Lorelei: Why would they even put out a game like that?

LadyHate: Geez, Annie! Don’t you pay attention to anything about games anymore?

LadyHate: This is still a really early beta. That’s why the game sets are so cheap!

LadyHate: They’re still testing things out, and adding content as they make it.

LadyHate: I wish they’d hurry up. There’s like, nothing to fight around here.

Lorelei: Really?

Lorelei: What about those mooks in the newbie area?

LadyHate: Hm?

LadyHate: What mooks?

LadyHate: And what newbie area?

Lorelei: You know, the place I was and the guys I was fighting when you found me.

LadyHate: Whaaaaaat?
Lorelei: …

LadyHate: …

Lorelei: I don’t… was my English wrong again?

LadyHate: No, it’s just…

LadyHate: Those weren’t mooks. And there is no newbie area.

LadyHate: Those were players. High level ones, too.

LadyHate: You can tell because of all the metal they had.

Lorelei: Hm? But…

Lorelei: I just started the game. How could I have beat a group of high level players?

LadyHate: For that matter, where’d you get those spears! And that magic! I want them too!

Lorelei: They were just there when I started. Didn’t you get something too?

LadyHate: No! It was just the character creation bit, then I was dropped in the Ashlands almost naked with nothing to my name!

Lorelei: The Ashlands? Where’s that?

LadyHate: Everywhere. This world is the Ashlands.

LadyHate: The players call is that because there’s nothing but ash and darkness everywhere.

LadyHate: The rest is going to be added later. At least, that’s what the announcement says.

Lorelei: What announcement?

LadyHate: The one you get when booting up the game!

LadyHate: Geez, Annie! Don’t you pay attention to anything?! I thought you were supposed to be smart!

Lorelei: Hey!

LadyHate: Hehe!

Lorelei: I didn’t get an announcement. I didn’t even get a character creation screen. I was just dropped in the game like this.

LadyHate: That’s not fair!

LadyHate: I want awesome weapons like that! And magic, too!

Lorelei: Well, maybe this is part of whatever AGLA’s planning. Starting us all out with character’s he’s pre-played or something like that.

LadyHate: That would explain it. But that would mean that AGLA made your character, right?

Lorelei: Yes.

LadyHate: So why would he make you so…

Lorelei: What?

LadyHate: Curvy

Lorelei: Umm…

Lorelei: This is suddenly becoming a little creepy.

LadyHate: I mean, I know your characters are usually pretty hot, but it’s just a little weird when he does it for you.

LadyHate: Still!

LadyHate: Weapons! And magic! Gotta be worth it, right?

Lorelei: I don’t know. I don’t really know how the game’s meant to be played.

LadyHate: Normally, AGLA giving you a pre-made character would be skipping all the fun of the game.

LadyHate: But seriously! Leveling up is so slow here! And any sort of weapon is very rare! And I haven’t even seen magic before!

Lorelei: Well, what do you have, then?

LadyHate: Same as most other players. I’ve managed to kill enough asheaters to make a dagger from the best pointy bits of their bones! And I used their hide to make the clothes I’m wearing.

Lorelei: You can use magic too, though? You were doing that teleport thing, right?

LadyHate: Nah, that’s not magic. Every once in a while you find some ‘Unliving’ monster. They’re a lot tougher than the asheaters, and they’re pretty much the only place to get metal our other rare equipment.

LadyHate: Once, I joined a group that was fighting against a pack of them. I survived getting hit with an arrow, and got to keep it! That’s the only metal I’ve been able to find. Maybe I’ll make a bow sometime, and I’ll get to kill one thing with it.

LadyHate: Anyways, one of the Unliving had a teleport stone. The group already had one, so they gave it to me as my loot!

Lorelei: Huh.

Lorelei: So what exactly are you supposed to do in this game? Other than stare at Exodus all day?

LadyHate: 🙂

Lorelei: How do you do that?!

LadyHate: Well, most people play it for the VR experience, and to hunt the random Unliving. And to get ready for when there’s finally more to go on in this world than just the ash.

LadyHate: But there is a bit more to do.

LadyHate: C’mon, we’ll port again. I’ll show you.

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25 to Dark Souls

Last time on Dirty Deeds Done Dark Souls, The Man finally caught up to us! And The Man is a dragon. Funny how that works. Anyways, I got beat up then found myself in prison. Not my proudest moment. But still, it’s only a temporary measure. They’ve got nothing on me! That was all self-defense! Besides, I’m pretty sure that only a few people I’ve killed are actually dead anyways, thanks to the whole eternal undead curse thing. I’ve just got to wait for Lordran to get some sort of government back together, rebuild its judicial system, then finally get around to reviewing my case, and I’m home free.

Yeah, maybe I should think about breaking out of here.

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First things first, though, I’ve got cell-mates! I should go say hi, then we’ll bond over our shared misery, talk about how we didn’t really do anything, then build long-lasting friendships that will endure all through our huge, elaborate escape attempts.

Or instead, I’ll kill them all because they PUT ME IN A CELL WITH A PAIR OF CRYSTAL ZOMBIES! Not cool, Seath. Not that they can last long enough to pose a threat to me, but still, I’m offended by the principle of the thing.

So what is this, anyway? Some ploy to drive me hollow? Or are they holding me here for some sinister, future purpose. I can’t imagine they’re expecting me to just rot in here, given the whole ‘I will never truly die’ thing. This place isn’t nearly as secure as the Northern Undead Asylum was, and if that place couldn’t hold me, what makes you think this will?

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Hey, you know what’s a good, traditional celebration of prison life? A good shanking. Unfortunately, I just slew the only two people within easy reach, but luckily, one of the guards decides to take his smoke break right next to my cell. They hadn’t been able to disarm me; presumably Seath just had some weird magic that connected me with the bonfire in here rather than the usual one upon my resurrection, so nobody actually laid hands upon me after I died. Maybe the guards don’t even know I showed up here. In any case, I’ve still got all my pointy implements. I put them to use, and show this guard where his spleen is.

Fortuitously enough, he had the key to my door. I reach through and grab it, then quickly affect my escape. Unfortunately, I don’t go unnoticed.

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One of the serpent men sounds the alarm. Well, if they didn’t know I was here before, they certainly do now.

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Someone else opens a cell door, releasing a horde of these… things. Pisacas, I later find out they’re called.

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They march out and start filling the lower level of this… combination library/prison tower? Whatever I’m in.

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