Dragging On in Dark Souls

Last time, on Dying Slowly in Dark Souls, I learned that I had been underestimating just how bad this undead life can be.  Sure, when you die over and over again, yet always come back almost good as new, it’s easy to forget the sting that death carries.  It’s easy to forget that sometimes it’s final.  And yet, just like Laurentius of Great Swamp before, death has taken one more good man.  My friend, Solaire of Astora, gone hollow, or at least driven mad by that maggot that had attached to his head, and put down by my hand.  And he won’t be coming back.

I feel a bit hollow.  No, not that kind of hollow.  At least, not much.  I don’t know what I’m supposed to do here.  Mourn?  Rage against the Lords?  Rail against the undead curse that allowed this to happen?  None of those would help.  Instead, as always, I can only move on.  Just one foot in front of the other.  My feelings don’t matter, I need to keep moving forward.  I can grieve when there’s time.  For now, much as I hate it, there’s some things I need to take care of.

I owe that much to Solaire, at least.

2015-05-29_00042

We’ve just got a few places left to explore in Lost Izalith.  The first on our plate is this obvious trap we had noticed but largely ignored last entry.  Now, I am a lot of things.  A warrior.  A genius.  A renowned sexpot.  One thing that’s not on this list?  A chump.  It’s obvious, just from checking out the lay of the floor in that room, that the ground is going to give way as soon as I put pressure on it.  I don’t know a way of going through without triggering that trap, though.  Hedging my bets, I stick to one side as I move forward, figuring that this will be less of a fall than walking in the center.  Specifically, I stay to the left.  Because it’s closer to the bait.  Which I know is counter-intuitive, but come on, treasure!

2015-05-29_00044

Sure enough, the ground gives way as soon as I step on it.  I fall.  For like a foot.  I had been walking directly over this root, which catches me, saving me from certain death.  For once, my greed saved me.  Of course, the bait disappears at this point, but I can’t complain.

2015-05-29_00049

I head down the root, which winds quite a bit before reaching the bottom.  There are these monsters below me.  I am really, really glad I didn’t fall in there.  What kind of beast eats with the crown of its head?

2015-05-29_00050

Hey, look at that.  It’s Sieg…. Something.  Siegmeyer, or Sieglinde, I can’t tell.  They both have those child-bearing hips.  Runs in the family, I guess.  Either way, I am really, really glad to see a friendly face.  I could really use that, right now.  I hop off the root when it nears the floor of this ruin, then make my way around to talk to them.

2015-05-29_00054

One of those tentacle pudding monsters tries to cut me off.  I slip past him then cut him down easily enough. Continue reading

Advertisements

New Eden Page 22: Reality Sucks

New Eden Page 22 edited

Panel 1

AGLA: Hmm?

Goon: The tablet!  Give it to me now!

Panel 2

AGLA: That’s what you were yelling about?

AGLA: Sure.  Here.  Take it.

Panel 3

Goon: Where did you even get that?  I thought they took everything off you when you got on.

AGLA: Sorry, I’m not quite fluent in English.

Panel 4

Goon: Do you even understand the situation you’re in?  You need to take things more seriously.

Panel 5

AGLA: You’re questioning me, right?  Aren’t I supposed to have a lawyer for this part?

Panel 6

Goon: If you were an American dealing with normal police, then yes.  You’re Japanese, flying over international waters, and we’re the CIA.

Goon: We can do whatever we want with you.  Now, tell us about your video game.

Next post

First post

Previous post

The Despair of Dark Souls

Last time, on this thing, we killed a fat wad of fire and a gigantic gross-out bug, then gained the ability to walk on liquid rock.  Unfortunately, we’re still stuck underground for a while yet.  I hate being underground.  Have I mentioned that?  Sewer levels, caves, volcanoes, none of it’s really for me.  I think I’m starting to understand why Lordran’s so full of those sun-worshippers.

2015-05-16_00090

Speaking of sun-worshippers, hey look!  It’s Solaire!  He’s my best friend!  Did I mention he’s my best friend?  Because he totally is.

2015-05-16_00092

Unfortunately, he hasn’t perked up any since we saw him in the Undead Burg.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  Dude doesn’t even notice that I’m here, so absorbed is he in his sorrows.  I try to offer some comfort, some support, but I don’t think any of it’s getting through.  He just keeps repeating the same thing.  I’ve got some business to take care of here, so eventually, I have to break off and press onwards, but for whatever it’s worth, I assure him that I’ll be back to check up on him once it’s all over.  I don’t like the state he’s in right now.

2015-05-16_00094

Ahead of me is a veritable sea of magma.  No way through without getting my feet wet.  Luckily, I picked up this ring from the oogy Centipede Demon that supposedly will let me just walk right across it.  I’m a little hesitant about it.  Like, what if I don’t stay afloat?  I know I’m effectively immortal, but drowning in red-hot magma seems to me a particularly unpleasant way to die.  I’m not sure if I could hang on to my sanity in that event.

Well, what good has my sanity ever done me, anyway?  I slip the ring on, and dart across towards the next bit of stone poking out.  Luckily, my footing holds.  And the ring works.  It’s not exactly comfortable, but the burn is lowered from immediately cauterizing me from the waist down to biting into a way too hot hunk of meat.  I can’t stay in it indefinitely, but it holds of the burn long enough for me to get where I’m going.

2015-05-16_00098

And where I’m going is Lost Izalith, apparently.  Guess I’m on the right trail of the Witches of Izalith.  Although why they would live below what was assumedly a home for demons is anyone’s guess. Continue reading

Freytag’s Pyramid vs. Non-endings in Storytelling

Man, Frank R. Stockton was such a punk.

So, there’s a lot of bad endings in the world of stories.  I’m not talking about downer endings, those can actually be quite good no matter how sad they may be.  I’m talking about those blatant sequel hooks, rushed finales, story threads you’ve been waiting for the conclusion on that never finish up, works that just skip the denouement entirely, and the like.  Narrative tricks that stop the story without finishing it.  Non-endings.  Non-endings have been around for quite a while.  Longer than you or I.  Frank R. Stockton punking it up all over the 19th century is proof enough for that.  It seems they’ve been getting more and more frequent in the modern age, though, as pretty much every writing industry gets more competitive, as serial fiction gets more popular, as more creators either get lazy or try to leave things open for the follow up.  It’s easy to see why.  Endings are really, really hard in the first place.  Keeping track of all the myriad threads you’ve opened up?  That’s for nerds!  And hey, if you set things up so that people have to keep with your story beyond the initial work in order to get a satisfactory conclusion?  Who cares if it’s manipulative as all hell!  There’s dollars/ego at stake!

Yeah, so non-endings abound, they’re getting more pervasive, and a lot of authors seem really, really attached to them.  They also make all of your stories worse, though.  And I’ve got the science, in the form of pretty line graphs and century old literary theories, to prove it.  And you can’t doubt any of it.  I got my Bachelor of Science degree.  See, “Science”.  It’s right in the name.

Anyways, once upon a time there was this guy called Gustav Freytag, better known to modern literary historians as the Frey-Dawg.  The Frey-Dawg was a novelist and playwright who wrote some things you’ve probably never heard of unless you’re European or something, but he moonlighted as a literary critic because nothing picks up women in the 1800’s like talking smack about Shakespeare that they’ll never understand.  Remember than in case you ever get your hands on a time machine.  It was in the latter field that the Frey-Dawg truly made his mark on history.  Check this out.

2000px-Freytags_pyramid.svg

This is Frey-Dawg’s Pyramid.  Also known as Freytag’s Pyramid or Dramatic Structure because your English teacher had all the personality of a brick wall.  This showcases what is just about the most basic plot structure you can have and still have a story anybody’s going to want to read.  That line could represent a lot of things, like tension, pace, reader’s interest, the amount of changes being made, whatever.  You could argue about that for years, and it really doesn’t matter.  It’s something you feel mostly by impulse, what specifically it is doesn’t make a difference.  Basically, this plot structure sees your hero kicking it in his crib at the start, spends a bit of time showing you the base level of what the story-world is, before shaking it all up with the Inciting Incident.  Said Inciting Incident starts up the rising action, with the hero progressing through the plot and leading up to the big “Luke, I Am Your Father” moment at the climax.  After the climax, the story stops introducing new elements and focuses on wrapping up the threads it does have, the mysteries have been uncovered, the hero is whaling on the bad guy, that sort of thing.  Then there’s no more to do, and you hit the denouement, where all the happily ever after happens, and the story sets the stage for the life you’ll assume the characters and world will have after you put the book down.

The Frey-Dawg built this pyramid strictly with five-act Greek and Shakesperian dramas in mind, but you can actually fit most stories ever since mankind was hanging around in caves telling tales of rocks mating into something approaching this mold.  Not only is this such a basic measure of storytelling, this also outlines what are usually the minimum requirements to tell what most readers will consider to be a ‘complete’ story.  This is generally what it takes to satisfy readers.  This is the structure that most simply fills the needs of storytelling.

Of course, tastes in narratives change over time.  While this structure fit a lot, possibly even most, of stories up through the early 1900s, most modern authors and readers alike prefer something considerably more complicated.  Modern storytelling tends to extend the rising action greatly, pushing the climax back into the endgame, and adding in a lot of mini-climaxes or complications on the way there.  Both the exposition and the denouement tend to be shorter, establishing the baseline and wrapping things up a lot faster compared to the time spent on the main thrust of the plot.  You have little bits of falling action interspersed among the rising action, then the main fall happens over a lot less time than Shakespeare would give it.  So, for an example of how Frey-Dawg would work that structure around a modern story, here’s the pyramid for an absolute masterpiece I just spent the last five minutes thinking up.  Man, I’m awesome.

Modern story freytag

Don’t get too stunned by how amazing I am.  We still have some talking to do.  So, the important part, at least for our discussion today, is at the end there, the bit starting right after the climax.  Even in modern-day stories, where the post-climax period is a lot shorter, our stories still have a period where they wind down, then plateau before THE END.  That is vitally important.  That is what you need to have a good, satisfying ending, no matter how happy or sad your conclusion is.

And that is what all these various non-endings fail at.  Frey-Dawg clearly showed future generations just what it takes, and our storytellers are just stomping all over it.  These endings suck because they fail to take into account the basic needs of a finale, as demonstrated by Frey-Dawg’s Pyramid.

Let’s take a look at exactly how these work out.  There’s three main structures these bad endings tend to fall into.

Continue reading

Double Dipping in Dark Souls

Last time, on Losing It in Dark Souls, we managed not to make the crass joke that was begging to be told.  Seriously, that took some willpower.  We also lowered the lava level in the Demon Ruins, allowing us to progress onwards towards the whole saving the world thing.  I’m sure that’s worth something, too.

2015-05-03_00078

With the Ceaseless Discharge (hehe) gone, this is what the landscape before me looks like now.  Considering this was flooded in molten magma just minutes ago, the stone underfoot should be hot enough to cook me all the way through in the stockpot that is my armor.  I’ve never let something so minor as the laws of physics keep me down.  I stride onwards, down the hill, and find myself faced with a choice of two paths when I reach the bottom.

The path to my right has something shiny on it, but it looks suspiciously like the way I’m supposed to go.  The path to the left has at least seven big hulking monstrosities on it, who are more than ready to turn me into some sort of ugly paste.

Eh, but who wants to go the way you’re supposed to?  There’s adventure to be had!  I arrow the nearest one.  It doesn’t do any damage, but it draws the monster’s attention.  The beast charges.

2015-05-03_00092

Hey, I recognize you.  It’s the Taurus Demon, from way back in the Undead Burg!  My eyes dart around rapidly as he approaches, but nope, there’s no easily accessible ledge to abuse this time around.  A pity.  I’ve absolutely no experience in fighting these guys fair.

2015-05-03_00095

Luckily, I’ve grown considerably stronger than I was the first time I faced these.  Two hits puts it in critical condition.  The demon clocks me with that great axe of his once in the meantime, though, and sends me flying.  Dude’s strong.  Still, he’s slow, and his tells are long.  I easily duck around his blows and put him down with a third strike.

After that, I feather another, and start the whole process over again.

2015-05-03_00100

Obviously, it’d be suicide to charge them all together.  More than one, maybe two, at a time, I’d be minced.  Luckily they’re not very smart.

2015-05-03_00102

Strong, yes.  Intimidating, maybe the first one.  But their grasp of tactics is minimal.

This turns it into a battle of attrition.  Their numbers against my estus.  I take a few hits here and there, but it’s still decidedly in my favor.

2015-05-03_00108

The second to last one is even kind enough to leave his weapon behind.  I’ll need to give that a try, sometime.

2015-05-03_00110

I charge the final one, ready for our climactic battle.  He hits me once, dealing damage through my shield.  Not nearly enough, though, and I put him down as easily as the rest.

Continue reading

The Persona 2: Innocent Sin Retrospective-Part 6, Other Characters

Part 1-Introduction

Part 2-Gameplay

Part 3-Setting and Tone

Part 4-Plot

Part 5-Player Characters

ANTAGONISTS

The Masked Circle

 Masked_Circle_soldiers

These are the longest-lasting enemy group in the game, who you’ll be romping with for almost all the game’s plot.  The Masked Circle is a doomsday cult, led by the Joker, who seek to gather enough ‘Ideal Energy’ to destroy the world and drive humanity into a new golden age in space.  Yeah, the rumors allow pretty much anything to happen.  Those who make their wish with the Joker find themselves first forced to be a part of the Masked Circle, then sacrificed for their goals, their Ideal Energy drained from them until they’re left motivation-less husks.  Their leadership is made up of pastiches of your own group, as Jun seeks to replace your childhood crew with his own creepy cult fellows.  They lose a lot of steam after you break Jun out of his Joker guise, leaving them pretty much without leadership, but they do maintain a presence up to the end of the game, being one of the few organizations able to make a stand against the Nazi invasion.  Of course, they don’t stand for long against them, and they’re only fighting them towards their own twisted goals, but still, at least you’re not the only group putting up the fight.  You’re constantly running roughshod over them, interfering with whatever they have planned, but most of the time you figure out the full extent of their plans just after they put them into action.  Your interference only seems to make them stronger, too, thanks to your spreading the word about them and the power of the rumors at play.  At least until you start knocking off their leadership.  Once you reach that point, there’s no recovering for them.

Joker

 JOKER

If you call your own cell phone number, the Joker will appear before you and grant you one wish.  At least that’s what everyone says.  Except that your crew tries it in the early game, and instead on sending you on a shopping trip to buy those larger pants you’re suddenly needing, he just sics a bunch of demons on you.  As stated previously, the Joker is Jun, still really, really pissed off at your crew thanks to the influence of Nyarlathotep and the false memories he has of all his childhood friends burning Maya to death.  To say his feelings towards you are troubles is an understatement.

 JokerPortrait

Joker is the head of the Masked Circle, he who directs their activities towards the fun, fun goal of destroying the world.  Making you suffer seems to mostly be a side project of his.  The Joker is all about ideals.  He highly values his own ideals, he respects other’s commitments to their own ideals above all else, and he thinks largely in terms of ideals.  As twisted as it is, he honestly believes that the destruction of the world and the ascension of its people are honestly what humanity wants.  Thing is, he’s much more of a big picture guy, and doesn’t much care for the individual.  So, the fact that thousands of people don’t really want their ideal energy drained away in pursuit of the Earth’s destruction doesn’t much matter to him.  He is completely serious about the Masked Circle and their goals, focused on them above all else.  He doesn’t even use them to go after you until you start messing with the circle first.

Like Guido/Kandori of last game, Nyarlathotep is his persona.  And like last game, Nyarlathotep ends up taking him over for his final battle in this guise, then flees his form once he’s defeated.  Free of Nyarlathotep’s corruption, Joker reverts to his old form, and joins you in undoing the mess he’s created.

King Leo/Tatsuya Sudou

KingLeo 

Tatsuya Sudou’s dad is Japan’s Foreign Minister.  Tatsuya Sudou’s dad is a bad, bad man.  Growing up in that environment did him no favors, compounding the troubles he already had with his schizophrenia.  He found a father figure in Jun’s dad, however, who helped him make some sort of sense of the voices he was hearing, believing them to be some sort of alien prophecy and codifying them into the Oracle of Maya doomsday thing the Masked Circle is buying into.

Some time after that, Sudou snapped.  Depending on how far back the rumor thing was in effect, this may have been a result of other’s beliefs about him, conflating his schizophrenia and his father’s bad reputation and thinking he was a violent figure.  Either way, he became a serial arsonist, and burned down the shrine kid you and kid Maya were hanging out in.  You broke out, Sudou stabbed you, and you awakened your persona and burnt out his eye.  I’m going to say you got the better of that one.  After that, he stalked Maya for a good long while, then joined up with the Masked Circle for reasons that are mostly up to conjecture, and serves as King Leo, the second in command to the order.

download

Tatsuya Sudou, as should be obvious from the name unless you did the right thing and change your protagonist’s handle for something wicked sweet, is the counterpart for your lead.  Given Maya’s history with him, he serves to some degree as the Masked Circle replacement for her, too.  He’s an arsonist, so he likes blowing things up.  Throughout the section you’re dealing with him, he leaves behind clues that will lead you to buildings he’s rigged to blow.  You usually have two buildings at a time to choose from and have to pick the right one, enter it, and find the bombs in order to properly bring a halt to his deeds.  Or, if you’re of a lazy mind, you can choose the wrong one and skip a few dungeons entirely.  It culminates in a big encounter in an aviation museum where you have to rescue an entire field trip, beat him in a big slogknocking fight, and jet of there in an exploding blimp.  Probably one of the high points of the game, in all.  As you might guess, he gets a sadistic glee in death and violence, and actually burns a man alive by means of introducing himself.  His persona is Reverse Vulcanus. Continue reading