And all is right with the world.

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Keeping up the Fight

If you’ve been following along with us for any length of time, you’ve probably picked up a few quality Aether facts.  Such as that I am awesome and everyone wants to be my friend.  Or that I am almost impossibly sexy.  Or that I’ve been spending the past many years on a personal quest to beat all the games I own.

As much as I would love to talk to you about either of the first two today, let’s be a little bit more productive and spend some time on the third one.

So, just to run through the deets, basically, how this works is that I’ve been working my way up through my entire collection of videogames, in blocks equivalent to the console generations, starting with the oldest and moving forwards through time.  Every game, I do what I can to beat.  No matter how bad it is.  I mean, I forced myself all the way through Fur Fighters, and already we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel with that.  Now, there are some games I’m not capable of beating, some games that just fall apart due to bugs partway through, and some games that legitimately completely run out of new content long before you can call them beaten.  And I do give myself allowances for that.  Not many, because I am an absolute warbeast with the patience of a saint.  After all, I beat Fur Fighters.  I guarantee you know nobody else who’s done that.  But no, the point is, I’ve got a collection of games, most of which have fallen before me already, but not all of which that has.  One by one, I’m on a quest to bring them all in line.

My quest is not a quick one.  Nor an easy one.  In fact, I’ve been at it for years, and am now only around halfway through.  Since I started, I’ve lived in three different houses, gone through so many life changes, and have gained control of the power cosmic supreme.  Yeah.  I’ve got somewhere along the lines of 600-700 games in my collection.  When I’m trying to see them all through, yeah, it takes some time.

Sometimes, I wonder why I’m doing this.  I don’t have any inclination of stopping, but I try to draw my mind back on why I started, and, well, I don’t rightly know.

Which is okay, really.  When you’re as great as I am, sometimes, you just do awesome things on instinct.  But it is nice to know the reasoning behind it, at least.

Part of it does lie in the thought that games are some form of art, and art does have intrinsic value.  Yes, even Fur Fighters.  No matter how bad the actual game is, even the absolute shovelware, someone had to put a lot of time, devotion, and character into making it happen.  That’s something that may not be obvious until you start plumbing the depths and forcing yourself to find the gold in the straw, the diamond in the rough, the me in this unworthy world.  I’ve yet to find a game in my collection that, painful though it may be, did not have at least something to share.

And part of it is that I take some sort of ownership of the games I obtain.  I chose to make them part of my collection, part of my gaming life.  It feels like a disservice to myself to take them in and not explore them.  Like I’ve given myself an opportunity for an experience, and never taken it.

And really, there are some games that I just wouldn’t be touching if I didn’t make myself do something like this.  Games change, as they progress, and the experience at the end is usually, for better or worse, a rather different one than that you find at the beginning.  Even with the bad games, that can be something worse seeing.  Tastes change, too.  Once upon a time, Killer 7 topped my Top 10 Worst Games list on some random site.  I played it as part of this journey, and actually found myself mildly pleased with it.  I never would have touched Kingdom Hearts II again, because I had a really dreck time with the first time I played it.  Years later, it’s the same game, yet I enjoyed it quite a bit more.

It’s also interesting, following the lines that the development of the medium has been following.  How inspiration and creativity flows from one endeavor to another.  It’s one of those things that often only really becomes obvious in hindsight, but with the benefit of knowing where this is all going, you can really follow along with how this medium, an infant compared to most other, is really growing.

So I may not know why I started this, but I’m not going to stop until I have dominated this quest as I dominate all things.  And along the way, I feel it does help me enjoy the games I own in a way I wouldn’t have otherwise.

So what do you say we play some games, eh?

A Player’s Fatigue

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God of War should have been a great game.  It had everything going for it.  The mechanics, the design, the care.  And you know, it was a pretty revolutionary game.  It deserved to be, with everything the developers put into it.

But it had one big flaw that turned the whole experience way down, left it short of being truly ‘great’.  In fact, that’s something I’ve noticed a lot of games fall into.  One bit of wisdom that my quest to beat everything has given me.  So many games have it all going on, have got their groove pretty straight in pretty much all aspects, except it’s just one aspect that doesn’t get the attention they deserve or one single mistake that brings the whole experience down.

Anyways, God of War does that.  It has that one big thing that ruins it.  And you know, that one big thing is a big thing that it shares with a lot of other games.  God of War just happens to be a bit of a better example than most.  And that is the problem of the player’s fatigue.

You hear it all the time.  Games bragging about how long they last.  Those good old “100+ hours of gameplay!!!!!111oneone” that are supposed to show you’re getting your money’s worth.  Plenty of players, I’ve seen, have been justifying their purchasing decisions based on how much time a game takes to complete, too.  People don’t seem to realize that all that time doesn’t count if it sucks.

But it’s one thing to just throw in lots of padding or unpolished gameplay.  To waste your time in the interest of getting that number up.  That’s a horrible, horrible thing, and there’s been plenty of dialogue about that in the gamosphere already.  You don’t need a sexy genius blogger to tell you about that.  Rather, God of War’s problem, and those of its ilk, is a bit different.  A bit more subtle.  Although it hasn’t aged the best, God of War is definitely a quality experience, mostly throughout.  It rarely just wastes your time the way so many of those punchclock games do.  It’s got a lot going for it, it just stretches these things a little bit farther than they should.

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Things just take too long, in God of War.  There’s content for it, it’s not padding, it just takes too long.  Levels start stretching on and on, fights keep going as enemies pour in to replace those you’ve slain, and the gods’ whiny “omg got 2 kull areeeeees!” gets hammered into your skull over and over again.  Every little thing makes its point and then some.

It’s far from unique to God of War, too.  Remember how Persona 3 was super great, then you got to the Nyx Avatar fight and it’s a 14 stage final boss that takes half damage from everything and will charm you into fully healing her over and over again unless you’ve already beaten her and know to prepare?  You remember how every single level in Alan Wake was the same bloody forest?  You remember the final level in whatever the last game was that you beat and how the designers hit crunch time and just decided to start with the CTRL+C, CTRL+V model of game design?

So yeah.  It’s not a good thing.  For a very good reason.  Video games are very kinetic, much more than most other mediums.  Players should be feeling something.  Excitement.  Accomplishment.  Empathy.  Awe at how great that Aether guy is at video games.  Emotions naturally run high in games, as their active nature draws out whoever’s playing.  But emotions also take mental energy than a passive observer would be giving off.  And when you draw too much mental energy without cycling it with something, that’s where you run into fatigue.

Usually, this comes up when the player stops feeling like they’re being productive.  When the level goes on and on without changing, it becomes less “oh, what a huge level” and more “oh, I’m just not getting anywhere”.  Likewise, when God of War’s respawning new enemies in the middle of the fight that are exactly the same as the ones you just killed, kind of makes you feel like you’re just spinning your wheels in the mud.  It feels like grinding.  If you make a player go through the same thing over and over again, no matter how good the fluff or the mechanics, eventually it stops being fun and just starts getting to be work.

In most any progressive story, it takes a bit of a break or change to keep that mental energy up.  It’s an odd thing.  Although mental energy doesn’t really take any actual energy, it’s still important to manage.  That’s why books are always swapping chapters of POVs right when it hits the climax.  Just that small bit of change and variation keeps things feeling fresh.  When you go so long without that, that’s when things start to wear thin.  Then you get people on the internet complaining.  Who wants that?

So, in summation, if you ever find yourself playing God of War, remember to be appropriately grumpy about it.  It’s a good game, sure, but grumpiness is the order of the day all the same.

Visual Novel Theatre: Everlasting Summer

Hey, you remember when those degenerates at 4chan decided to make a visual novel, and how they were supposed to make something horrible and shameful and a blight on society but they threw a big curveball at us by actually making something really meaningful?  What if Katawa Shoujo wasn’t just a one off?  What if that exact same thing happened again?  And while we’re playing with our fun little vision, let’s imagine that everyone was wearing giant furry hats while they were doing it.

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And that brings us to Everlasting Summer.  No, it’s not a 4chan game.  Rather, this one came from the minds at… well, whatever they have going on at IIchan, a Russian imageboard.  Now, I don’t know anything about IIchan.  I got out of the whole chan culture around the time the edgelord thirteen year olds started flooding it.  Which, really, aside from the somewhat shared origins, Everlasting Summer doesn’t really have a whole lot in common with Katawa Shoujo that isn’t absolutely standard for the form, so let’s let the comparisons drop there.

So, Everlasting Summer is a romance story that you can turn into a sorta-eroge assuming you hang around all the right (or very wrong) places on the internet.  It’s Russian.  Very Russian.  It does its best to not be inaccessibly Russian, and does a very good job of that, but yeah, it’s Russian.  Be prepared for that.  Also, full of references to Russian imageboard memes that are guaranteed to fly right over your head.  It first seems a slightly oppressive dark paranormal mystery, then turns into a light fluffy romance with somewhat malevolent overtones, then, when you know where to look, those overtones start taking over and the mystery comes way to the fore, then the story just kind of peters out without going anywhere at the end.  Oops, spoilers.  I did find it to be a pretty enjoyable ride up until then though.  Also spoilers.  Sorry if you were hoping to whiteknuckle things all the way to the end of this rollercoaster of a review.

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Everlasting Summer places you in the surprisingly roomy pants of Semyon, an anime obsessed shut-in who spends his life on imageboards and who hasn’t had a meaningful interaction with another human being in years.  I am struggling so much not to ‘accidentally’ confuse him with one of the many other people I know who fits the description. Continue reading